The imminent launch of a new BA Degree course in Music Production has inspired Middlesex University London to revamp one of its music recording studios so that it can offer students the very best facilities for their course.
The University, which is based in Hendon, already has two stereo production suites that are DANTE linked to a recording booth, a 5.1 Avid mixing suite and a 24 track recording studio (Studio B), which has its own live room. The University’s existing Studio A, however, had many sound spill issues that needed resolving and it was decided that the best approach was to build a new acoustic space from the ground up.
David Clements, Technical Tutor for Sound and module leader for Recording & Production, is responsible for development and upgrades in the University’s sound spaces, as well as teaching in them. He enlisted the help of studio design consultancy White Mark Ltd to transform Studio A into an acoustically accurate control room, live room and booth. The facility can now handle stereo and surround sound projects, thanks to the inclusion of a monitoring system that gives students the opportunity to mix in 5.1 and 7.1 formats.
“Prior to this upgrade, Studio A was effectively a converted classroom that looked and sounded like one,” David Clements says. “Having a custom built, properly diffused and acoustically considered environment now means we’re getting a lot more out of the equipment we already had, which was actually very good, but let down by the space it was housed in.”
Studio A is equipped with new furniture and Dynaudio stereo and Adam 7.1 monitoring. The desk, mics and hardware from the old Studio A have been relocated into the space along with a Steinway C 6ft piano and various guitar amps for the live areas.
“We spent a lot of time getting the planning right, and even before that presenting the concept to the university executive and getting the project approved,” Clements explains. “Once we actually had workers on site it took approximately 16 weeks to complete the studio.”
White Mark Ltd was chosen for the project on the basis of its previous track record. “I liked the rooms they’d done at Modern World studio in Tetbury, and once we discussed the project with David Bell [White Mark’s Managing Director] and his team, they drew up a design that we really liked,” Clients says. “We were looking at a few configurations of the space and White Mark’s plan to make the live areas one large room divided by a folding door into two booths just seemed to make the best use of the space.”
Air conditioning for the new studio proved the biggest challenge as the University has initially hoped its existing system could be utilised. However, that wasn’t possible so a lot of new mechanical and electrical equipment had to be fitted into small spaces in the roof and walls, which complicated the original design
“White Mark worked with people from the university estates to overcome that, but for a few weeks it did feel as though we were having almost daily meetings about air conditioning,” laughs Clements.
Middlesex University’s new degree course in Music Production will get underway in September 2020. For now, students on the BA Popular Music, BA Music and BA Jazz courses are making the most of the new facilities.
"The rooms sound great - the live room has a really nice, small ambience considering the size of the space and doesn’t have that unpleasant ‘roomyness’ on the mics that some smaller rooms can have,” Clements adds. “It’s very diffused, controlled, but not over-controlled. The finish is great, too, with no 90° angles, sloping windows or ceiling cut outs - and the diffusers all sit flush with the walls rather than jutting into the room.”
The investment in Studio A marks Middlesex University’s commitment to music production as a core part of its delivery. It is also a very practical institution, Clients adds, and one that values hands-on learning.