We asked Gordon Hulbert about some of the qualities he brings to his recordings and how they can practically benefit clients.
S0, how does orchestral training help in pop and dance productions?
“I think people regard orchestral training as being only useful for ‘classical’ or ‘serious’ music, when actually the mindset it creates can benefit absolutely everything on a project, be it tracking, mic technique, balance, perspective, mixing and dealing with any kind of complexity, be it sonic density or musical content.”
“I’ve worked with many producers and top session guys who are unbeatable when tracking parts, but who are totally unable to pull back and focus on the piece as a whole at later stages in the project. The discipline I learned from conducting and orchestration allows me to focus on the complete picture above and beyond its constituent parts, which means starting either from scratch or a remix or whatever, very often with the finished product in my head. After clear discussion with the client and understanding what they want, every move from then on is simply another step taken towards that agreed goal, which greatly enhances the flow of creativity.”
“When you’re on a deadline or have limited time in the studio, it’s crucial to focus on the essentials without being distracted. It’s easy to obsess about relatively small details that the end listener will never notice. Understanding the dynamics of complex musical arrangements and how they fit together helps me to prioritise and focus on the important stuff. Hearing a project as a finished product from bar 1 and making every decision a move toward that is not only a time saving device, it makes for much more homogenous sounding recordings and mixes. This is how the best and most productive mix engineers also operate”
“On a more practical level, projects requiring brass or string sections benefit enormously from having an arranger and orchestral player who can give clients an authentic sound based on advanced knowledge of the voicings and registers of the instruments used, rather than the ‘toy’ sound that often occurs when keyboard players directly transcribe their own parts for orchestra. I can always hear when this has happened and you’d be surprised at some of the acts who have let this happen!”