What is it like to record original music you wrote in a professional studio? This past week, the Contemporary Performance Lab had the opportunity to find out. Students spent two days recording their original music at The Noise Floor, a professional recording studio in Dover, NH.
About Contemporary Performance Lab
The Contemporary Performance Lab is an academic course that consists of student musicians who demonstrate a high level of proficiency in a musical instrument, including voice. The class focuses on live performance and the students get to perform numerous times at various school events, including the Winter Music Concert, School Meetings, and Family Weekend.
They arrived at The Noise Floor on Tuesday morning, excited for a long day of recording and met Chris Chase, Owner and Head Engineer. The original song they’ll be recording is “Do You Want Me?” written by Emily White ’19 and Mikayla Williams ’18. The students had already come up with how the song should sound, but talking with Chris gave them the opportunity to fine tune the specific sound and structure of the song.
After discussing ideas and the direction of the song, the students got to work setting up the drum kit, breaking out instruments, and getting ready to record the base of the song, with the piano, lead vocals, drums, and bass guitar.
Working with a Sound Engineer
Chris Chase helped direct and define the sound of the song by setting up the various microphones around the studio and selecting specific vintage amplifiers and instruments for the students to use. When it was time to record, the students waited patiently in silence with their headsets on, listening for Chris to give the signal to begin recording.
From his control room, Chris communicated with the students and monitored all their instruments, making adjustments, recording new takes, and providing feedback. Over the course of Tuesday and Thursday, the students in the Contemporary Performance Lab recorded lead vocals, background vocals, drums, bass guitar, rhythm guitar, solo guitar, and electric piano. It was a lot of work, but the students loved recording and learning about the recording process.
“I wanted the students to go through the process of writing a song from beginning to end,” says Kyle Masterson, Director of Music and teacher of the Contemporary Performance Lab. “It is a difficult process and it really requires a high level of collaboration between the members of the group. There is a lot of give and take needed to make the arrangement successful and to allow everyone a sense of ownership. It is rewarding to watch the song develop to its final form after the completion of the recording process.”
A Better Understanding
Leandro Yang ’19 plays drums in Contemporary Performance Lab and gained a better understanding of what it takes to record music professionally. “After I came here, I learned that music has structure, it’s like writing an essay,” Leandro says. “…You have the thesis statement first, so you have the basic structure first, like the drum part and the bass part and then after that you can add something like an explanation, such as guitar, piano, solos, background singers. All that stuff added together creates the ‘final draft’ of the music.”
Emily White ’19 has musical aspirations and this helped her gain a deeper understanding of what it takes to be a professional musician.
“I think this process is really helping me grow as a musician because it’s helping me understand what people are really doing in the real world and it shows me what kind of careers are available for me when I want to pursue music,” says Emily. “The fact that New Hampton School offers this opportunity leaves me feeling so grateful, because I would have never gotten this experience otherwise.”
The Finished Song
Here is the finished “final draft” of the song, professionally mixed.
You can view more photos of the recording experience at The Noise Floor on Flickr.