SoundCheck: June – Declan Reid

This month, we would like to introduce you to Declan Reid. Declan has been at the college since doing the Access to Creative Industries course and has since completed an NC, HNC and is about to finish his HND in Sound Production.

On top of his busy schedule of classes and coursework, he has volunteered to work as an assistant technician within the department, helping full-time technician Chris on daily maintenance and repair work.

We asked Declan for a few comments on his time at the college and here is what he had to say:

What originally made you interested in Sound Production?

My interest in sound production began when I was about 13/14 years old, where I was doing very basic live sound for cabaret acts in a bunch of different bars & restaurants. Although it was very easy work setting the PA up, operating a small 4 channel mixer and balancing one or sometimes two vocals against a backing track, it gave me the chance to see what could be involved in Live Sound.

I then got into music production using a very sketchy version of FL Studio and got to do a weeks work experience in a commercial studio, so I’ve always been curious about the technical side of making music.

What has been the most fun elements and experiences of doing your HN at NCL?

The most fun parts of this course have definitely been the opportunity to organise my own gig at Nice n Sleazys & engineer acts during the event for sound reinforcement. Along with the studio access available, I’ve had the chance to work & play with some very talented musicians and bands through different studio based modules, which has allowed the creation of some very cool tracks over the past couple of years.

What kind of tasks have you been involved with as an assistant technician this year?

Tasks cover everything that would be expected from an assistant technican, such as maintaining the studio facilities and ensuring they are kept clean and organised, to preparing equipment for studio bookings. Overall, the main tasks were to ensure that the studios could run smoothly, and I would be one of the first points of contact if there was a specific issue during a session. I also can’t forget the cable repairs…so many cable repairs. I’ve also been able to get a better understanding of the studios, from more in-depth use of the SSL consoles and patchbays for advanced signal routing, to understanding the tie-lines between the studio control & live rooms, headphone amps and patch bay cupboard.

What are some of the knowledge and skills you will take away from this tech post?

The main skills I’ve gained from the assistant technician post is a huge improvement of my soldering abilities – a key skill to have, no matter what field of sound production is involved. I’ve also seen a big increase in my understanding of fault-finding and troubleshooting within studio environments, which has allowed me to create a mental checklist of potential issues that are commonly encountered, both within the college facilities and in outside locations. Being able to properly diagnose problems effectively & efficiently allows me to worry less about something going wrong mid-session, and focus on ensuring the project I am working on goes as smoothly as possible.

What are you looking to do and achieve in the future after completing your HND?

As for the future, I am excited for University to progress my skills further and expand into other areas of sound production that aren’t focused upon during the HN courses. I also have a huge interest in electronics currently that I’m looking to develop further.  Once the HND course is finished, I’ll be finalising the tracking stage of my bands debut album before spending a very intense month mixing & mastering the tracks before doing lots of promotion through a series of gigs to build excitement and interest.

I hope to continue working & creating new exciting music in the future as well and I certainly have plans of carving a spot in the list of greats in the industry, driven by my passion to succeed. With the skills I’ve gained throughout my 3 & a half years studying at New College Lanarkshire, along with the opportunity to work as an assistant technician, I am ready to tackle the Creative Industry!

Thanks Declan and best of luck in the future! We’ll leave you with a couple of tracks from SPotify, recorded and produced by Declan himself:


Sound Check: Jamie Lee

This week we are launching the first of our new monthly feature called SoundCheck. It intends to spotlight the work of a Sound Production student at New College Lanarkshire who has done particularly good work in recent months and deserves being showcased to the wider world.

This month, we would like to introduce you to Jamie Lee, whose work is featured in a recently released video game called Minitime, developed by the Norwegian indie studio Minibyte.

We asked Jamie a little about how he got involved and how he found his first experience of making music for a video game:

“How did you end up being involved in the Minitime project?”

Well the opportunity to work on the music for the game came around because of a few things. For one, when I was about 14 years old, I was composing stuff on GarageBand for the iPad in my bedroom, even when I was on holiday! A couple of years later I became friends with a guy who livestreamed Mario Kart on the website Twitch and said that he wanted to hear my stuff. This pushed me to upload my tracks to Soundcloud and one of the viewers named Thea liked the songs I had made and we became great friends!

She now works in video games, doing artwork and animation for an indie team named Minibyte. When working on Minitime, she remembered my fondness of composing video game tracks and so forwarded my name to the rest of the team she was working with. In the end, it was decided that they wanted two composers involved, myself and a German composer/producer named Hunga.

It just goes to show that you can find amazing friends and opportunities in the strangest places sometimes. Casually playing Mario Kart with viewers in a livestream, befriending them, can lead to doing the music for their game a few years later.

“How did you find the experience of working on sound for the game?”

I was initially scared that juggling college work and doing composition for this game at the same time would be difficult, but fortunately, I discussed this with my lecturers and they allowed me to use it as a Graded Unit portfolio artefact.

Communication mainly stayed between myself, Kristian (The Dev Team Leader) and Hunga within a Facebook group chat. The game consists of a large number of short minigames and Kristian would let us know when he had new content for us to play. So whenever there were new minigames added, we would choose which of us would compose the music for that particular section. The physical distance between us made communication a challenge at times, but we managed to make it work despite our busy lives and other commitments. (Shout out to Kristian and Hunga for being the coolest guys to work with!)

After the launch of Minitime on Steam, I got a ton of compliments on my work on the soundtrack.

“What software and tools did you use on this project?”

I didn’t get very technical with this project as it’s meant to just be dumb fun! The whole project was done within Ableton Live using my Arturia Keylab 49 that I bought after I was taken onboard by the team. Something funny I suppose I could mention is that Minitime’s main theme song was composed and played entirely on my PC’s keyboard!

I feel like Ableton Live 10 is fantastic in nearly every way and it was extremely suitable for this kind of project since it was heavily MIDI based. I implore anyone who is interested in composing for video games to get Ableton Live 10 Suite. I emphasise the Suite version because its better to be overwhelmed with instruments and various other options rather than scavenging the internet for that one French horn sample you desperately want for your victory fanfare.

“What was your compositional approach to the minigames”

I would open up the game and get a feel for the minigames that I would be composing for. I took into consideration the characters, the background/area, situation, game feel and pace. If a game was fast paced, it’d be obvious to just increase the tempo, right? The majority of the tracks are 120BPM to keep consistency between the minigames. Minigames, like the Guaca Mole and Tank, were influenced by what you see visually. You control a tank, so I composed a military style track using orchestral influence, yet kept it bouncy and light hearted. The Guaca Mole track was set within a jungle, so I felt that instrumentation such as steel drums and marimba would work with this setting. Its one of those instances where you need to use your own intuition to make a choice on what is most suitable for the setting.

“Can you outline some of the things you’ve learned during the process?”

In a project that is constantly changing and updated, communication needs to be really tight. If nobody else is communicating with you – be the one to ask the questions! You’ll get an answer and even get a conversation and discussion going where you may find more ideas. I found its best to be yourself and talk to the people you are involved with as if they are your friend. We all bonded because we’re all big Nintendo nerds. Having a wide variety of musical influences on hand, be it from YouTube or other places, can really help you find what you are looking for from a compositional or tonal standpoint.

When it comes to finding instrumentation or mixing techniques, I found it useful to study other peoples work to get a feel for what I was looking for. For example, I wanted to have the feeling of a Nintendo Wii Sports track in the Bowling minigame so I studied and replicated the music of this to find similarities and potential techniques used.

“What are your plans/hopes for the future?”

Professionally, I want to be obtaining opportunities everywhere, even in areas I am not so confident in as I feel the potential of failure allows you to grow as a person. However I am always optimistic that I can do an amazing job! I think the dream end goal would be to be picked up by Nintendo, its always healthy to be a big dreamer!

Places I can be found are:

Email: uberleezyyo [at] gmail [dot] com

Minitime is available to buy from Steam for PC, here: Buy Minitime