Make Music Weekend
Text and interview by Yoma Schertz
Learning how to work with a DAW like Pro Tools doesn’t make you a music producer yet. Just like knowing how to arrange a song doesn’t make you an instantly successful songwriter either. Essential aspects of becoming a music professional are collaboration, preparation, communication skills, adapting to change, working with deadlines, building a portfolio, and understanding the music business. In one phrase: it’s about ‘real-life experience’.
That’s why we have introduced the 3-day Make Music Weekend, which taps into the essential aspects of collaboration and professionalism. Make Music Weekend is one of the highlights in the artist and musician development of our school. It’s an event that takes place over three days, from Friday until Sunday.
Last month we had our second edition of Make Music Weekend. In this blog, we want to share some of the aspects of the learning experience.
Make Music Weekend
The first Make Music Weekend organized in April by our Abbey Road Institute was a huge success. Three days full of music, inspiration and creativity. In total nineteenth songs were created by several groups of talented people.
The Vision behind the Weekend
The second edition of Make Music Weekend was in August. Each day started with an introduction in studio one in the morning, provided by Nick Ribbens. Each day was from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., and they were jam-packed with music—the result: several songs for the students’ portfolios.
After the introduction, all groups were divided over the four studios. Students can use a complete setup drum kit, surrounded by microphones, including the Steinway, Wurlitzer, electric pianos and multiple microphones installed. Our students are good to go!
So, what does make music weekend look like?
First, the students are divided into groups — Folk singer-songwriters can work together with beatmakers and classical trained musicians and producers. Any genre is possible since creativity has no boundaries. The idea behind the weekend is that students learn to collaborate with different artists, create a portfolio, work under pressure and experience actual songwriting and producing studio situations. Think about it as writing sessions that reflect real-life industry situations in a professional studio environment.
During this weekend, they work on a song collectively all day long. The students create lyrics, beats, guitar parts and they are allowed to use all kinds of instruments and sample packs. Because everything is technically taken care of by the staff in advance and lunch is provided, the musicians and producers don’t have to worry about the technical side of the recording. Instead, they can dive straight into the production process, be creative, and focus a hundred per cent on writing songs.
Besides the creative collaboration part, several important topics are addressed, like the business side of creating a song and the psychological side of collaborating with different artists. Especially when students decide to release the tracks written during the music weekend, it’s essential to make clear agreements and understand each other’s position. A lot can happen during these sessions, primarily when different personalities work on the same song.
Supervised by Nick
Nick Ribbens supervises the Make Music Weekend. Nick is a Dutch pop producer, composer and songwriter, also known by his artist name Instatic. He started as a drummer and toured with several bands before discovering house music and started touring through Asia. Since 2016 he has been entirely devoted to producing music in the studio. Several songs he worked on reached the hit charts, and two songs he produced for artist Maan became number one hits. Daily he works in his production studio, which consists of an analogue setup. In addition, Nick is a part of our senior lecturing team and provides Logic Pro lessons, music production classes and assists students in the creative process. We asked Nick what he thinks our students learn during Make Music Weekend:
“It’s super exciting to see how enthusiastic the students embrace the project and how committed they are. Although everybody works with the same setup and DAWs, all the songs created during the weekend are radically different, which is part of the fun. It’s my job to guarantee everything goes well and to help out if necessary. I am not there to contribute to the creations but to make sure the group dynamic is good, and that technical issues are solved. During these weekends, we focus on the simulation of real studio situations, and we give the students an opportunity to work on their portfolios. In addition, students expand their network because we make sure all different classes (part-time and full-time) work together. In the end, I believe that our Make Music Weekends has the potential to become a great crossroad between the course and the music industry.”
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“Do everything within the boundaries you created” – Nick.
get out the Split Sheets
The creative process and collaboration play a significant role during Make Music Weekend. But let’s not forget about the business side of making music as a team. Before they start, students have to fill in a so-called split sheet provided by Abbey Road Institute.
Back in the day, split sheets were transparent. The lyrics and those who wrote the music got a fixed percentage for the publishing rights – the copyrights. Most of the time, the studio became the owner of the master rights of the song, and the producer and the sound engineers get paid for their duties. Nowadays, things have changed. Due to the many possibilities provided by the streaming services and the internet, it’s easier to work with more songwriters on a song and split sheets become even more critical. Furthermore, producers often want to get a so-called producer’s cut instead of getting paid – that means the royalties, the streaming income, and not the publishing rights.
“Make sure you talk about the splits before you start the collaboration”, says Nick. An excellent point to keep in mind. For a good collaboration, it can be helpful to express the different expectations. In some collaborations, there is a clear division of who does what: one person writes the lyrics, the other the music, and another mixes the song, for instance. Especially when there are, like four lyric writers in the room, make sure to be clear and transparent about your expectations and listen to each other’s opinions. In other words: listen carefully and don’t forget to speak up.
Another important aspect worth mentioning is that our students own the rights to the music and songs created during those weekends and all other studio sessions at Abbey Road Institute! So they can release the songs they’ve made while keeping entirely in charge of all music rights. Hence the importance of the split sheet. Music is business, after all.
Bridging the Gap
This weekend closes the gap between being a student and becoming a music professional. Also, releasing music becomes more effortless. We asked Ben Bultrini, one of our part-time students from Italy to share his personal experience with us:
“I have fully enjoyed each Make Music Weekend session I have been part of, surprising myself and creating music I am proud of. During the studio session, there is one goal: finishing the song. It teaches us to work under pressure, make decisions and deliver on time – a practice I have carried throughout my sessions. You don’t have time to ask questions. The result is often quality songs worth releasing, despite technical issues and limited time.”
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Ben continues: “Our first Make Music Weekend was two weeks after course start and was a great way to meet our peers across other cohorts of students and enter the course full of energy. The second round extended the session time from four to seven hours, resulting in better mix and song completeness. I got invaluable insights into their workflows and their creative and technical approaches (and favourite plugins) by working with my peers. And I find myself writing music I probably would never make on my own.”
During our Advanced Diploma program, students learn every aspect of music production and sound engineering. Make Music Weekend is the cherry on top, real-life experience, expanding their portfolios and most importantly, a memorable weekend.
We can’t wait for the next edition of Make Music Weekend!
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The Abbey Road Staff is looking forward to all the Make Music Weekends full of inspiring collaborations ahead of us.
Edits: Dennis Beentjes
Pictures: Jasper Derksen & Dennis Beentjes
Read more about the Psychology of Recording