Audio Recording, Mixing, Orchestration and Production
The Playroom is a purpose built recording studio with live room, vocal booth and large
comfortable air-conditioned control room. A fabulous, friendly environment to record in.
Great gear – Great vibe – Great sound
All costs and requirements are discussed and quoted on an individual basis.
We have hour, day and week rates. Engineer included with all bookings. Drop us an email and come and visit.
Great rates – Great results – Great fun
Also from The Playroom:- ‘remote mixing‘, send us individual
‘stems’ (i.e. guitar, vocal, backing vocal) recorded
elsewhere (even your bedroom!) when you’re ready for mixing and we’ll mix
Mike is a highly experienced mixing engineer, music producer, arranger and orchestrator with extensive experience across a wide range of music genre from pop, rock and musical theatre through to the classics and jazz. He works with both solo and group artists including Dee Palmer from Jethro Tull, Simon May, Sandy Grigelis, Jo Francis, Tom Fitzpatrick, Brand New Groove, Buddhalicious and TV stations including BBC and ITV. www.playroomarundel.co.uk
We recorded, mixed and mastered ‘Bonito’ at The Playroom, Arundel earlier this year. Multi-instrumentalist Charlotte Glasson approached us late in 2021 to record her new album with her band. After some time playing calendar tennis we got the musicians together to record in January 2022.
‘Bonito’ is a collection of tunes in a ‘World-Jazz’ style depicting memories and influences from Charlotte’s life.
The very talented group of Brighton-based musicians spent a couple of days at the studio recording the 8 tracks on the album.
“This album is inspired by art and the people who are very close to me.” – CG.
Musicians Charlotte Glasson – Tenor Sax, Soprano Sax, Flute, Violin, Melodica, Saw and percussion Mark Bassey – Trombone Chris Spedding – Electric guitar Chris Kibble – Piano Sam Dorrell – Sousaphone Lloyd Coote – Double bass Sam Glasson – Drums and percussion
Peter Peregrine is the second album of original compositions that Terry Pack has recorded at The Playroom, Arundel and as we have come to expect it is a big one!
It is well-known that Terry writes, arranges and orchestrates for large bands such as his ‘Trees Ensemble’ project and Peter Peregrine, though not a Trees recording, is no exception.
Rather than being a collection of individual tunes, this album takes the form of an instrumental story. The music tells of Peter Peregrine, an Anglo-Saxon peasant, whose life is changed forever when he is enlisted as his Norman master’s squire. He is marched across Medieval Europe to take part in the Third Crusade of King Richard ‘the Lionheart’ to wrest Jerusalem from the forces of Saladin, the Sultan of Egypt.
Recording took place at The Playroom, Arundel during 2020 and 2021, in-between national lockdowns due to Covid-19. Basic parts were put in place by Terry using Sibelius and Logic Pro midi instruments that were ultimately replaced with live players.
Tom Phelan came in during the early days and helped give the album its sound, playing keyboards – Dolceola and Accordion. The album is littered with older traditional sounding instruments, the Dolceola (an early 20th Century zither-like instrument with a piano keyboard), Lute and Bansuri (a traditional wooden flute played brilliantly by Kate Hogg) being a few of them.
Now that the recording of the album was underway, and there was a brief opening up of the country from restrictions, Terry called on old stalwarts from The Enid (a band he had played in with international success in the late 1970’s), The Cloggz and other musician friends to come to the studio individually or in pairs (socially-distanced in the booth and live room) to add to the recording.
From The Enid, Tony Freer (Oboe/CorAnglais) added melodic lines and motifs throughout. Nick Magnus wrote some beautiful keyboard parts, including strings and sound effects (The Chair Monster is a firm favourite!) which were added before Francis Lickerish and Jonathan Beedle (from Francis’ band Secret Green) spent a day recording electric and acoustic guitars and Lute. And, from Three Friends came Terry’s good friend, local guitarist Andy Williams playing acoustic and electric parts in his fabulous jazz/blues style.
Also from Secret Green came Fran Freer playing the Cello parts magnificently (and some Viola parts on Cello). The sound of the album was coming together nicely.
Drums and percussion play a huge part on this recording. Some of the tracks are very dark and full and needed a lot of rhythmic support to portray the gravitas of Peter Peregrine’s exploits. Dave Storey, from The Enid, came to the studio for a couple of days to record Drum-Kit bringing with him his classic ’80’s 6-piece Yamaha 9000 Recording Custom kit (green)… looked big… sounded big! The couple of days with Dave really changed the vibe of the recording by putting a lot more body and drive into the tracks. The temporary drum-sampler parts could now be deleted which, though useful in building the track, were linear and uninspiring.
Next up… percussion. Nick Magnus had created some marvellous percussion loops using samples at his studio. These added great feel to tracks such as Harbinger and Eclipse. We wanted to record these sampler-loops live so that we could mix the individual percussion instruments to suit the different sections of the album. After an hour or two listening to the pre-recorded percussion loops with percussionist Richard Horne (R.P.O., Raymond Gubby Orchestra, Evanescence and Hugh Jackman) we had worked out most of the individual percussion instruments and patterns required to make the recording. We arranged for a couple of days recording where Richard would bring a van load of gear to studio and we would piece it all together.
The magnificent orchestral bass drum Richard used is 36” in diameter with calf heads and has, for the techies, a significant low frequency range centred around 30hz. Fantastic!! … we have now rehung the pictures on walls of the studio and all the glass survived! You’ll hear this throughout the album but particularly in Brindisi and Harbinger.
The Timpani were also a challenge. The larger drums were too big to fit through the existing doors to the live room (new wider doors have been fitted since!) so the 4 timpani were set up in the Control room. We don’t recommend this! Even quiet, they are LOUD!
But, Richard played them brilliantly and no damage was done to anyone’s hearing… though we did immediately adjourn to the local pub after the final hit, to get over it – ears were definitely not going to be reliable after that onslaught. (Any excuse!)
Simon Webster came in for a day to play traditional Darbouka and Djembe on some of the tracks too. There is a full percussion list in the album booklet – it was hard work but we are pleased to be able to say that there are no sampled percussion or drum sounds remaining on the final recording and it shows by the natural development and tone changes throughout.
So to the blowers. With all the heavy duty rhythm work going on below, the album needed some powerful top-line playing. Trumpets (Chris Coull, Martijn Van Galen and Nick Trish), Trombones (Mike Hext and Ellen Campbell) and Woodwind (Beccy Perez-Rork, Kate Hogg, Charlotte Glasson and Andy Pickett) were added at various times during the period of recording and provided this.
On top of the sound some additional remote recorded violin parts from Richard Jones and Charlotte Glasson helped give the sampled orchestral string sounds a live feel.
Mixing was a challenge as Peter Peregrine was more like one complete piece of music divided into 11 sections rather than individual tracks or ‘songs’. Keeping the overall picture in mind was key, like a soundtrack from a movie. Mike Saunders was at the helm, some of the tracks had 40 or 50 channels so sub-grouping made life a lot easier.
Keeping the low-end tidy was a particular focus. In addition to the bass drum, the rich string sounds, keyboards and the drum kit, Terry had played up to 5 double bass parts on some tracks so there were a lot of opportunities to end up with an undefined woolly mush.
It’s always easier mixing excellent musicians, which we definitely had on this recording, so that made the job a lot simpler than it may have been. Final mixing and mastering was completed late in 2021 at The Playroom, Arundel.
To complete the project, the fantastic original paintings by Jo Luckman (www.islandretreatswithjo.co.uk) and the full length story of Peter Peregrine, written by Terry Pack, were collated and put together in a 32-page booklet for the CD packaging and the album was complete.
This was another huge project for The Playroom, Arundel, and we are very pleased to have been involved. Definitely a huge achievement for all involved.
The album is available to buy (CD Digipack with 32-page booklet) and download from Bandcamp:
This is how Lewis Harding’s excellent debut jazz album ‘Palm Thievery’ started, here’s the story behind the recording.
Regular client, Lewis, was at the studio one day having just recorded a couple of his new tracks with Kate Hogg featured playing Alto and Tenor Saxophones. The two tracks (‘Above’ and ‘Hue 6’) were originally destined for an ambient guitar-based album, but had taken on a definite jazz feel with Kate’s lyrical Sax melodies and improvisations.
“Maybe you should write a jazz album”, someone said to Lewis.
As the world came to a grinding halt in early 2020 Lewis, out of gigs and the studio closed, used the time to write more melodies and chord lines with a jazz feel in mind.
Before long there was an album worth of tunes and as life briefly eased up Lewis came to The Playroom to start laying down guide chords and melody lines so that we could work on the arrangements. The challenges of recording an album when so restricted with opening hours and numbers of players at once became the next hurdle.
Next a call to Tom Phelan (another regular at the studio) who Lewis had met years previously and we were recording piano parts. This gave Mike Saunders (resident engineer and orchestrator) enough of a framework to write horn section parts. Later on in the process Tom returned to record some fantastic piano solos (‘Above’, ‘Octopods’, ‘Hue 6’ and ‘Palm Thievery’).
In the meantime, taking the opportunity of being allowed out of our houses, we arranged for Terry Pack (Double Bass) and Dave Cottrell (Drums) to record for a couple of days (Terry in the booth, Dave in the live room) which gave all the pieces a real lift as well as finalising the feel and layout of the arrangements.
Studio friend Richard Horne popped in to record the fiendish vibraphone parts. ‘Octopods’ particularly was a ‘bit of a headache’, but as this was a ‘no cut, copy and paste’ album, (all you hear on the album is played for real by all the musicians), we took time to rehearse and perfect. His 4-mallet chord work on the ballads is sublime.
Time to get noisy! On to the horns. Mike had written parts for the horns for all the ‘heads’ and sectional work so it was easy to adhere to social distancing by having one player at a time come to the studio. With such a solid rhythm section already in place, timing was never an issue.
First up:- Julian Nicholas came to record Baritone Sax and Tenor Sax. After the heads and section parts were recorded we let him loose on some free solo sections in ‘George’s Salamander’, ‘Palm Thievery’, ‘Nine Steps Between’ and a marvellous show-stopping Baritone Sax solo on ‘Octopods‘.
Charlotte Glasson spent a morning recording Soprano Sax and Alto Sax to the sectional parts, and added some gorgeous clean lines of improvisation on ‘George’s Salamander’ and ‘Clues in Bhutan’.
And finally for the horn section Martijn Van Galen, an old friend of the studio, came to top-off the sound on Trumpet and Flugelhorn. Great playing and marvellous solos on ‘George’s Salamander’, ‘Octopods’ and ‘Nine Steps Between’.
So to the finishing off. The beauty of being the boss was that Lewis could wait to add his final guitar parts and solo sections at the end of the recording process. A couple of weeks of popping in and out and trying ideas and we had them all down. Just right.
The final stage of any recording is mixing. The secret of this album was to get the overall balance of each of the tracks to sound similar, to ‘join up’ the horn section and make the recording sound like the band were together and recorded at once, when actually, as we know, it was recorded in bits and pieces over a long period of time.
‘Mixing great musicians makes the job easier,’ Mike said. So actually it didn’t take long. And, as the world was still ‘closed’ there was no real rush to finish which gave time for long breaks between listening and a real chance to find the little bits that would ultimately end up being annoying if left. Once finalised, the mixes were sent to Simon Gibson at Abbey Road Studios in London for mastering before being sent for duplication.
So, we give you ‘Palm Thievery‘, Lewis Harding’s debut jazz album – we hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we have enjoyed making it.
MusicalTheatre Review’sJeremy Chapman had this to say about the recently released show soundtrack CD Guy Fawkes the Musical by Ben Durkin, Terry Newman & Dave T Rolleston. Orchestrated, recorded and mixed here at The Playroom, Arundel by Mike Saunders. Mastered at Abbey Road.
Review:- When theatres eventually get the go-ahead to entertain us, there will obviously be a queue of musicals old and new looking for a stage that’s not already booked.
So Guy Fawkes, a first musical by composer Ben Durkin with book and lyrics by Terry Newman (additional lyrics by David T Rolleston), will have to wait its turn but if it plays as well as it sings, it will be well worth seeing.
Many of the 25 numbers on the double CD are first-rate and the wistful promo ballad ‘Where is the Man For Me?’ by Francesca Leyland is a real “keeper”. Shetland Islander Leyland plays chaste Viviana Radcliffe, who has to choose between Fawkes and Gunpowder Plot mastermind Robert Catesby. Hers is not a big voice but it’s a pure one.
Not to be confused with Treason, another new musical about the shenanigans of 1605 which is being filmed live at London’s Cadogan Hall and streamed next month, the only common factor, subject matter apart, is that Waylon Jacobs, who sings the role of the Pursuivant here, appears in both cast lists.
Guy Fawkes features the wonderful bass-baritone of Adam Pearce, whose moving ‘The Greatest Star of All’ as fading movie star Norma Desmond’s devoted minder Max Von Mayerling was such a high spot in the recent Curve Leicester concert stream of Sunset Boulevard. I mention that show because it was the Lloyd Webber hit Durkin saw when taken to London as a young teen in 1993 that sparked his love of musical theatre.
Pearce, due back as Hotep in Prince of Egypt when the Stephen Schwartz musical resumes post-Covid at the Dominion, plays Fawkes while opposite him is Leyland, whose duet with Pearce on ‘Be As A Father’ is another winner. The Pearce solo ‘But Do I Love Her?’ is also a stand-out and the one reprised number ‘A Faith of My Own’, with Pearce and Leyland joined by Tim Ede as Father Oldcorne, makes for a fine finale.
Durkin got the idea for the show when shopping for food for a Bonfire Night party. He has been working with a dramaturg to tighten up the script as it is too long in its present incarnation and will then do a live performance or staged concert. It has been a fair while gestating as it was back in 2015 that Durkin released the 21-track concept album Guido – The Gunpowder Plot which formed the basis of the full-stage musical. What better day to launch it than 5 November!
The show, which is scored for a band of 12 (orchestrations by Mike Saunders who also plays bass guitar and sings in the ensemble) is based on the 1840 novel Guy Fawkes Or The Gunpowder Treason by William Harrison Ainsworth. It turns Fawkes into a doomed hero and is full of magic, romance and the supernatural.
Also in the cast on the 95-minute recording are Sandy Grigelis as Catesby, Danny Edwards, Caroline Lowe, Becky Morgan, Jackie Watts, Craig Dacey, Nick Forrest, Antonia Forrest and Lucy Forrest. Do give it a listen. The one flaw is the back cover which has the singers in red on black, a colour combo that’s virtually indecipherable.
Released today, 5th November 2020 – Guy Fawkes the Musical. 6 years of work, 27 songs, 12 piece band, West End performers (including Adam Pearce, Francesca Leyland, Waylon Jacobs and Sandy Grigelis) all on a stunning new Double-CD.It’s been a great project.
A new rock musical soundtrack is released today (5/11/20). Orchestrated by Mike Saunders. Recorded at The Playroom, Arundel by West End musicians and mastered at Abbey Road, by award winning engineer, Andy Walter. Music written by Ben Durkin and the script by Terry Newman. Lyrics by Terry Newman and David T Rolleston.
More about the plot of the show:- The year is 1605. Guy Fawkes cements himself in history after failing to detonate 2,500 kilograms of gunpowder, intentionally hidden beneath the House of Lords at the heart of the British parliament. Ever since the failure of that night, the Guy Fawkes story has invoked a varied response from subsequent generations. Guy Fawkes the heretic; the revolutionary; the anarchist. The famed Gunpowder Plot held many secrets, a tale captured and embellished by a Victorian novelist, William Harrison Ainsworth, where Guido (Guy) Fawkes became the doomed hero of a best-selling novel, now long forgotten, yet full of magic, romance and the supernatural.
A cobbled street on 5 November in Victorian England, a gang of ragged children carry a battered effigy of Guy Fawkes in celebration of Bonfire Night. Unbeknownst to them, they stop outside the house of the old writer, William Harrison Ainsworth famed author of ‘Guy Fawkes or The Gunpowder Treason’. After scaring off the gang, Ainsworth mystically brings the effigy to life, making the straw-stuffed figure of Guy Fawkes appear before him. A bemused Fawkes urges Ainsworth to explain himself, desperate for its origins and asking who he really is? Ainsworth begins to tell him the story of Guido Fawkes, reliving the pages first told and expressed in his infamous novel.
While following in the footsteps of his past, Fawkes’s story becomes one of a battle for religious freedom, fought against a background of dire prophecy and prognostications from departed saints. His faith is bent to breaking point when he is torn between religious freedom and the chaste maiden, Viviana. A battle to decide between earthly love and the divine, the country House and the Tower of London, or between marriage and widowhood. As the plotters converge on London, Guy Fawkes must choose his destiny.
Now as an aged Ainsworth retells the famed story to the battered effigy of Guy Fawkes, reanimated on that fateful night and desperate for its origins, we follow the story of Fawkes as another generation viewed him. With nearly thirty new orchestrated songs, Guy Fawkes the Musical reveals how magic can help reveal secrets from the past, transporting the audience to new worlds.
We see no reason… Why gunpowder treason… Should ever be forgot!
More information on the orchestration and recording process can be found here.
Also available via iTunes (more expensive). The CD includes a 12 page booklet outlining the characters in the show and the history of the Gunpowder Plot For more information about the show and where to buy the CD here:- www.guyfawkesmusical.co.uk
Today (25/04/20) sees Wyldman release his first tune ‘Uhambo’, and it is great! A lovely juxtaposition of ambient, chilled live instruments (Violins, Bansuri, Guitar and even Recorders) and Ibiza style dance rhythms. All played and recorded by Wyldman himself. A brilliant debut. Mixed and mastered here at The Playroom, Arundel by Mike Saunders.