Legendary producer Hugh Padgham (center) gives an overview of the console at British Grove Studios.
Most people entering the recording field might dream of someday working inside Abbey Road Studios or learning from the master producers who shaped hits by Paul McCartney, Elton John or George Harrison. Recently, a select handful of students from Berklee College of Music got to do both.
Earlier this summer, nine students in the Music Production & Engineering department at Berklee College of Music spent a week observing and recording with producers Hugh Padgham and David Hentschel at both Abbey Road and British Grove Studios in London, England.
Chosen based on academic performance, the nine students were able to work with Hentschel (George Harrison, Elton John), watching him produce up and coming artist Seasfire and get a hands-on view of the recording process. The students worked at Abbey Road for two 12-hour days, and another three days at British Grove.
Students with David Hentschel, staff assistant engineer Paul Pritchard in center, Seasfire band member, songwriter, bassist, keyboardist Joe Labanowski far right, in Abbey Road Studios.
“We got to watch them work and participate with the band,” Daniel Thompson, professor of Music Production & Engineering at Berklee and one of two teachers that traveled with the students to England, told Pro Sound News. “The band brought in fairly well-formed demos and we were essentially replacing things like drums and live instrument parts to their existing tracks, with the goal of ending up with two fully formed tracks.”
During the three days at British Grove Studios, the students were tasked with providing a more musical aspect while recording musician Lydia Baylis, added back up vocals and some students played instruments for the tracks. Producer Hugh Padgham (Paul McCartney, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, The Police) worked with the students on the project.
“It was nice for the students to witness the skills of production, but also see how different influences can impact Lydia’s[music],” Thompson said. The trip was funded through Berklee’s Wayne Wadhams Endowment Fund, which is dedicated to providing students in the Music Production & Engineering department with new educational opportunities geared towards music production.
Berklee students, MP&E Chairs and faculty, plus David Hentschel and Paul Pritchard on the last day at Abbey Road Studios.
“The fund was founded on the principle that you could learn the craft of audio production, and that was very much the spirit of this trip by having the students interact with the producers,” said Rob Jaczko, Chairman of the Music Production and Engineering Department.
“We had a number of goals on the trip,” added Thompson. “We wanted (the students) to revere in the history and importance of the British music and recording scene, specifically working with these two iconic studios. The other concept was to bring the students out into the world and meet the rest of (this industry) in a production environment. It’s one thing to talk about it, and another to actually be in the studios.”
With the success of this inaugural trip, Thompson said they plan to offer more trips to other studios in the U.S. and other countries.
“It’s such an unusual and transcended experience,” Thompson said. “The students get transported into a real production scenario happening at the highest level, and that’s the thing that has them pinching themselves—one day they are in the classroom at Berklee, and the next day they’re in Abbey Road.”
If you could learn from any producer, who would it be and what would you ask about? Share your answer in the comments below!