BlueJam runs regular holiday and weekend music schools, and Tom’s studio production and composition workshops are always popular.
He works with small groups, generating tracks from their ideas and is able to work really fast. It is as hands-on as possible, and already quite a few young people are now able to take on bits of his role and help other people create their own music in the studio.
BlueJam worked in partnership with Soundwave and Brewery Arts on a youth singing programme from 2013-5. Our focus was jazz, songwriting and recording and we made some great tracks.
This heritage film and soundtracks project (2015) teams up Tom Leah (music soundtrack) with Richie Johnstone (film) and Ella Jarman-Pinto (composition) to help a group of 15 young people make their own films.
In this session we did our own studio composed re-interpretation of Jess’s song “Bright Lights”.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of this sort of project is seeing people find the roles they themselves are most comfortable in, as there are a many possibilities once you include the roles of recording engineer, producer, performer, etc.
We recorded two signals from the guitar. Firstly, we recorded the acoustic sound of the instrument using what most people deem to be one of the most straightforward microphones in the industry, the SM58. This provided a nice sound, though I did find that in processing the recording from this microphone I bumped up the EQ towards the middle area of the frequency range.
At the same time as recording with the SM58, we also took a DI (Direct Input) from the electro-acoustic guitar, meaning we had two signals to work with. This is always worthwhile practice as you provide yourself with more scope for reproducing the sound you want from your recordings.
For the Vocals, we used the Rhøde NT2A. We switched the polar pattern to the “Figure of 8” setting, with singers Jess and Megan placed either side of the microphone singing towards one another. This felt like the most appropriate way to get the best performances from both of them. In this respect, comfort of your performers and instrumentalists is important to take into account, as you’re more likely to get that special performance you’re after. For me this is one of the most important parts of the process.
When recording Jack on the Saxophone, we used two microphones. We placed the NT3 Microphone into and just off centre off the bell of the instrument. This provided a nice high frequency response, although in hindsight, perhaps this was a little bit too squeaky. I might have preferred to use something a little softer to catch some more of the breath of Jack’s playing. The other microphone we used was the Rhøde NT2A, placed towards by the bend in the body of the instrument. Although this recording alone may come across as slightly muffled, it helped provide some of the more mechanical sounds of the instruments, such as the moving of the pads, whilst also helping give a bit more body to the overall production of the saxophone.
For the bass guitar, we simply plugged the instrument straight into the audio interface, capturing only a DI recording of the instrument. My experience with this is that you can capture great recordings this way. However, this is a lot more dependent on the pickups of the instrument itself and in this instance I think that perhaps we might have benefited from using a Bass guitar amp.