Freddie Tapner, Author at London Musical Theatre Orchestra

How to record the music for a TV musical

By Simon Nathan, LMTO Principal Orchestrator

Over the last decade or so, it’s become increasingly rare for large orchestras to record the soundtracks to TV programmes. But earlier this year, LMTO was asked to record the music for Channel 4’s Prince Andrew: The Musical. A satirical look at Prince Andrew’s life with a focus on his famous interview with Emily Maitlis, the programme features just over 35 minutes of original music, penned by Kieran Hodgson (who also takes on the title role in the episode) and LMTO CEO & Artistic Director, Freddie Tapner.

Time in the studio is incredibly precious, so an enormous amount of preparation must be done in advance. Seven songs (six by Kieran and Freddie, and a seventh by comedian Munya Chawawa and composer Pippa Cleary) were written earlier in 2022, and were handed to me as piano/vocal demos. My job was to flesh them out into full orchestral scores. Once these first drafts had been completed, the vocals were recorded and then the whole show was shot.

When the filming was over, the orchestrations were sent back to me for a process I call “Mickey Mousing”: matching movements on screen with musical gestures (as Disney did in all their musical films until recently). A real example of this was adding woodwind runs while one of the characters is spinning the other around. Once the visual edits were complete, there were a few musical corners to tidy up, and then there were just five days to create, print and bind over 1000 pages of sheet music.

There are very few places in London able to fit 32 players in one room, especially when you consider that certain loud instruments (like drums) need to be sonically isolated from the rest of the players, in order to avoid something called “mic bleed”, in which louder instruments dominate the sound picked up by all microphones. We opted to record at the beautiful and recently reopened Angel Studios – one of the most famous and acoustically stunning studios in the world, which had both plenty of room and plenty of booths to isolate the louder instruments. Freddie, spearheading the whole project as Music Producer, took up the baton to conduct the sessions.

We recorded over two days. The first day featured drums, guitar (electric, acoustic, 12-string and banjo), bass (upright and electric), piano, harp and strings (8 violins, 2 violas and 2 cellos). We recorded these instruments first because they provide the backbone of the arrangements, making it easier to fit the other instruments on top of them later.

On the second day we recorded six woodwind players, playing an esoteric selection of instruments as only musical theatre pit players can. We completed the lineup with two french horns, three trumpets and three trombones.

Prince Andrew: The Musical was conceived as a “love letter to musicals” and each song has a very different flavour, meaning that all the instruments were very differently busy in each one. The strings had to shift from playing Gilbert-and-Sullivan-esque accompaniments in A Different Kind of Duty, to lush Phantom-of-the-Opera countermelodies in Ex-Wife, to soaring pop strings in My Profiterole. The winds and brass were playing classic Broadway swing in I Nailed It one minute and whirling filmic passages in England Expects in another. The drums, bass, guitar and piano were creating oom-pah grooves for You’re Always Gonna Need An Andrew before tackling Pippa Cleary’s unmistakable pop style in Obey.

The recording engineer, Mat Batram, had to work closely with Freddie conducting in the live room and with myself and an assistant, Declan Corr, in the booth. Between us, we needed to try and faithfully recreate the notes on the page in as short a time as possible. We only had around 9 minutes to record each individual minute of music, so it was important to note any errors quickly and efficiently before moving on. Luckily the players from the London Musical Theatre Orchestra are the best in the business and there were more than a few moments in which the first take (which was essentially sight-read) made it into the final product.

While we were busy in Angel, others were beavering away in home studios to create extra tracks. Tristan Butler spent a day adding in all the percussion, while Andy Philip played in some additional guitar parts. Finally, I added the odd twinkle and sparkle with sampled instruments like celeste, organ, and even the odd choir here and there!

Following LMTO’s two days in the studio, Freddie and I attended “comp” day – the day in which the music producers sit around and choose which takes to use for every moment in the score. It can take a long time, but fortunately we managed to get everything finished in “only” 10 hours. We then sent our final version to our recording engineer, Adam Miller, who was left to do his magic. The music editor, Dan Brown, then took the files and ensured that each moment of music perfectly matched the picture onscreen, ready for dialogue and sound effects to be added on top. Within one week of setting foot in Angel Studios, we had a finished product ready to have dialogue and sound effects added in.

Freddie attended the dub (the session where all the audio elements of the show are pulled together) to make the final adjustments, in particular some fractional re-balancing of orchestra and vocals to make the jokes land as well as possible and to make sure that there was as seamless as possible transition between dialogue and song.

All of us at LMTO are delighted to have been involved in a project of this scale and ambition, and can’t wait for the broadcast at 9pm on 29th December 2022 on Channel 4. You’ll be able to listen to the album on all streaming platforms that same week.

 

The London Musical Theatre Orchestra line-up

Strings

Violins: Nicole Wilson, Jeremy Isaac, Patrick Savage, Helena Wood, Sonya Fairbairn, Ed Bale, Non Peters & Dave Larkin

Violas: Nick Barr & Polly Wiltshire

Cellos: Bozidar Vukotic & Nick Squires

Woodwinds

Flute & Piccolo: Nina Robertson

Flute, Clarinet & Tenor Sax: Hannah Lawrance

Oboe & Cor Anglais: Ilid Jones

Clarinet, E-flat Clarinet & Alto Sax: Paul Saunders

Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Bb Contrabass Clarinet & Alto Sax: Jay Craig

Bassoon & Baritone Sax: Colin Skinner

Woodwinds for I Nailed It: Mikey Davis

Brass

Horns: Dave Oxley & Carys Evans

Trumpets: Pablo Mendelssohn, Luke Davies & Andrew Gathercole

Tenor Trombones: Phil Judge, Ryan Hume

Bass Trombone: Simon Minshell

Trombones for I Nailed It: Chris Traves

Rhythm

Guitars: Andy Philip

Guitars and Bass for I Nailed It: Phil Donnelly

Piano: Liam Waddle

Harp: Catrin Meek

Bass: Harrison Wood

Drums: Scott Chapman

Drums for I Nailed It: Matt Whittington

Percussion: Tristan Butler

LMTO Guide: Using an iPad/Tablet for Sheet Music

Full disclosure: LMTO is not affiliated with any of the products listed in this blog

As the world becomes increasingly paperless, musicians are moving their sheet music to digital form. Here’s LMTO’s guide to using a tablet for reading sheet music.

Equipment

iPad

We recommend an iPad over other tablets. It’s the industry standard, and you’ll find the software available for iPad over other tablets is superior.

In general bigger is better, but you don’t need huge processing power or storage.

  • 12.9” screen is best for two-stave instruments (eg piano/harp), 9.7” minimum for single-stave instruments, and ideal for singers.
  • 32GB is more than enough storage.
  • Second hand is fine. Any iPad made since 2016 which is compatible with Apple Pencil will be good enough to use.
Other Hardware
  • Apple Pencil. Essential tool for marking up scores quickly.
  • Page turn pedal. Recommended tool for easy page turns, even without bars rest. Recommended option is this one.
Software

Forscore – industry leader.
• Do not use iBooks, PDFReader or similar. Forscore is optimised for sheet music and will not fail you.

iPad Settings

• Do Not Disturb (avoids embarrassing messages flashing up on the screen)
• Silent Mode (avoids embarrassing sound alerts in the quiet bit in Music of the Night)

Forscore Settings

These are suggestions built up over ten years of use, but the user may wish to tailor them to their own preferences.

Settings are found in the Forscore menu, top right of the menu bar.

Navigation

Up next

OFF. Not a useful feature, can be annoying,

Gestures

• Swipe controls OFF – prevents a tap on the right turning into a swipe *to* the right
• Tap controls ON
• Double-tap TOGGLE NAVIGATION BAR – prevents a single middle tap causing trouble
• 2-finger tap OFF – clumsy page turns begone
• 3-finger tap LINKS – best feature immediately accessible
• Tap and hold ANNOTATE
• Tap and hold with 2 fingers BUTTONS
• Tap and hold with 3 fingers LINKS – best feature accessible however you use 3 fingers

Page transitions

CURL. We sat with OFF for a few months, but found you need to see that a page has definitely turned, and curl is the least intrusive.

Flip between scores

SETLIST. ALL is really annoying because you feel you never get to the end of a piece. OFF is hopeless because the joy of setlists is that they flip between scores.

Appearance and Metadata

Leave all as default.

Annotation

Apple Pencil

• Automatically enter annotation mode ON
• Automatically exit annotation mode LONG or NEVER – we keep trying SHORT because it’s quicker, but it’s a fraction too short for our style. LONG can be frustrating to have to wait to turn pages, so most users end up at NEVER.
• Prevent finger drawing OFF – if your Pencil runs out of juice you’ll want your finger
• Variable Width settings all ON

Annotation Tools

• Set your default to be an actual tool (we recommend a dark grey pen medium thickness) as opposed to NONE

All other settings can be left as the default.

Forscore Setup

Some Useful Annotation Setup Suggestions

Enter annotation mode (1 finger tap and hold anywhere on the page) and create the follow useful preset drawing tools:

• Dark grey pen medium thickness which looks most like a pencil colour (we set this as default)
• Black pen very thin for writing small instructions
• Red/orange pen medium thickness for pointing out really important bits
• White max thickness for covering up any printed material you want to hide (NB not the same as eraser!)

Stamps

Stamps is the top left annotation tool and you should create your own stamps which you might use often. Useful examples:

  • page turn symbol
  • patch change symbol
Shapes

Shapes is the second from left annotation tool, the most useful of which we’ve found to be the white box for quick ‘erasing’ of large sections of music for cuts.

Usage

What follows are highlights of the very best features/use cases. This section is best practised before a rehearsal/gig.

Links

3-finger tap. These allow you to navigate repeats or cuts really easily. Tap the left hand page for where the bit of music ends, tap the right hand page for where you want it to jump to.

Bookmarks

Found in the main menu top left. Let’s say you have a single PDF containing multiple songs. Using bookmarks, you can say that pages 1-7 are called “Song 1”, pages 7-9 are called “Song 2” etc. Those bookmarks are then listed when you search for songs – so you can then use them in setlists.

MD usage: within PVs, bookmark each song. Means that you can find Defying Gravity or Bring Him Home quickly at those impromptu sing-a-longs.

Setlists

Found in the main menu top left. Put all the charts for a single gig into one setlist, and they flow neatly from one to the other. Particularly powerful when combined with bookmarks.

Crop

2-finger tap and hold. Page not filling the screen properly? This will sort you out.

Dropbox/File Integration

Use the menu to download files direct from your Dropbox or any other cloud provider (once you’ve signed in).

Mark up and send

Want to mark up a score and send to a colleague? Mark it up on Forscore, then go to the menu, click share and Annotated PDF. Or – if they’re on Forscore, send as 4SC – it keeps all of the links and the annotations can then be edited.

Annotation Tips

Pretend it’s paper. Don’t think of it as a screen. Because of the wrist rejection algorithm, you can lean on the screen with your wrist/hand just as you would a piece of paper.

MD usage: when working on a new show and you need to keep track of notes, change the default drawing tool colour each day. Means that when typing up at the end of each day you can just look for eg the blue pen. Likewise if you’re making notes across a week’s worth of shows, colour code each show-watch so you can be show-specific with your notes.

Layers

MD usage: Let’s say you use the same chart but with different cuts/articulations for different gigs. This is where layers come in. Once in Annotation Mode, top right is the layers button. You can create a new layer for each version of the chart you need, and then turn each layer on and off as you desire.

Rearrange

Copyist miss out a page of your chart, or need to rotate a page? Rearrange is here for you. Access via the top right menu. You can add other PDFs into your current PDF using the ‘+’ at the bottom, you can reorder pages by clicking and dragging, and you can rotate pages using the arrows bottom left of the screen.

The Night Before Usage

Download all charts and import into Forscore.

Put iPad on charge overnight. Unplug when you wake up, plug in Apple Pencil while you’re having breakfast.

Always bring a charger!
Always bring a charger!

and

Always bring a charger!

Last Word

Whenever you use an iPad for LMTO, we will always have a spare on hand, but in five years of use across hundreds of users and iPads, we have never once experienced an issue with using the combination of settings above. Freddie, our conductor, even uses it to conduct from for any scores which print to B4 or smaller.

Zorro Star Cast Announced

Zorro’s legendary story of good versus evil comes to life in ZORRO: THE MUSICAL IN CONCERT at the Cadogan Hall retelling the dramatic tale of this romantic hero set to the famous red-hot Gipsy King beat.

Initial star studded casting for the concert at Cadogan Hall will feature Ricardo Afonso (Jesus Christ Superstar, We Will Rock You) as the titular Zorro & Diego. Lesli Margherita (Matilda/Broadway, Dames At Sea/Broadway, Zorro/West End) will reprise her Olivier Award-winning role of Inez.

Four time Olivier nominated actress Emma Williams (Half A Sixpence, Mrs Henderson Presents, Zorro) will also reprise her original role of Luisa. Further casting to be announced. The Gipsy Kings are that rare thing – an international household name famous solely for their music.

The Gipsy Kings began with two bands of brothers, the Reyes (Nicolas, Canut, Paul, Patchaï, André) and the Baliardos (Tonino, Paco, Diego), and after 25 years is still fronted by the two songwriters and producers Nicolas Reyes and Tonino Baliardo. In 1987 the Gipsy Kings’ self titled debut album introduced the world to ‘rumba Gitano,’ the sound of South America’s rumba rhythm married to flamenco guitars. With ‘Bamboleo’ the Gipsy Kings scored a huge international hit, and since then the Kings have never stopped singing to the world. Their total album sales worldwide now exceed 18 million.

Direction by Fabian Aloise (Evita, The Rink, The View Upstairs), Musical direction by Freddie Tapner, along with a stunning band featuring the London Musical Theatre Orchestra (LMTO). The evening will also feature Projection Design by George Reeve. Book and lyrics are by Stephen Clark, and feature additional compositions, orchestrations and arrangements by John Cameron.

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