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Happenings

Interview Series (Studio Microphones): Geoffrey Low, Renowned Local Sound Engineer, Senior Lecturer from Singapore Polytechnic

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxLVGmXrvnMInterview for Geoffrey Low

 

1. First of all, we would like to know a bit of your background story. How did you get involved in the pro audio industry?

I had a fascination for Hi Fi when I was very young. I was this 6 year old boy messing with my parents' tape reels and helping them transfer their favorite songs from vinyl to cassettes. As a teenager, I picked up some music, played the bass and keyboards, formed a few bands and we recorded our own CDs. However, I soon realized that my strengths were in audio engineering rather than being a musician. Thus, I started my first home studio business at the age of 20, got myself a Diploma in Advanced Audio Production & Masters in Music Information Technology. Thereafter, I worked at a famed recording studio called The Audioplex for 6 years. The Studio was probably the best studio Singapore ever had. When it eventually shut down, I went freelance for a couple of years engineering sound in studios, live concerts and on TV shows before joining Singapore Polytechnic (SP) where I am now a senior lecturer for the Diploma in Music and Audio Technology programme.  This is also where I started Soundfarm Production Studios with my students. 

 

2. What made you want to continue this as a career?

Purely based on passion and simply the love of it. I live and breathe music and audio. I can’t imagine living without it. I feel that I fit the lifestyle and enjoy the collaboration I have with artistes and production people.  

 

 Geoffrey Low clearly in his own element at Studio B @ Singapore Polytechnic

 

3. Do you prefer studio or live, and why?

No preference. Each of them has its own excitement. A different focus is required for both studio and live but they are equally fun!

 

4. What projects are you currently involved in?

Recently I have been spending quite a bit of time renewing the recording and mixing curriculum at my work place, Singapore Polytechnic. It has been a busy year indeed. Despite teaching everyday on what I love, I started the year mixing Stefanie Sun’s Single “Radio” and her performance at the countdown show as well as the Thye Hua Kwan charity show for TV. I then engineered FOH for Olivia Ong's concert and presented a workshop on Surround Production at ABU Digital Broadcasting Symposium. From March to September, shooting began for The Final One Season 2 where I was the music mixer most of the way. Throughout this, I assisted producer David Foster in a vocal recording session with May in Philippines for MTV Evolution live multi-tracking and surround mix. I then did FOH and recording for Kit Chan concert and SG50 Sing Love project featuring a host of local artist where I mixed a couple of the songs and mixed monitor for the launch event. August saw the mixing of JJ Lin’s NDP 2015 theme song as well as new local talent Gentle Bones' “1965” movie soundtrack. Not forgetting, the pinnacle SG50 concert where I supervised the live recording and mixed the entire concert for TV. Following this, I became the monitor engineer for Jimmy Ye's concert and headed up to Kuala Lumpur for MTV World Stage to track and mix in surround for the worldwide broadcast. In November, I began mixing for Kit Chan and Charlie Lim's live recorded material and now, in December, I am looking forward to sorting out the FOH for my former student, Shun Ng for his Rhythm of Christmas concert. 

 

5. What Audio-Technica microphones are you currently using and how are they working out for you?

I have the AT4081, ATM450, ATM350 and they are working great!

I find in general that A-T mics have :

  1. Exquisite design. AT has specifically purposed mics which can come in useful at times.
  2. They have a particular sound that is consistent throughout the range. If you get comfortable with it, the mics can make your life easier. 
  3. The mics have excellent value for their performance and are pretty accessible when it comes to pricing

 

6. Are there any particular microphones that you feel are indispensable to your sound? 

I don't have any particular microphones. I probably have a “go-to” list at the back of my mind but it’s definitely not concrete. It really depends on the environment and the source you want to capture. I like to keep a variety of microphones to be able to experiment. I still seek to surprise myself by applying a different microphone or a different placement on the same source. For example, for grand pianos, I range from a pair of AKGs 414s, AT-4081s, Audix SCX25A, DPA 4099P. Sometimes I am constricted due to reasons other than sound. For example, in broadcast recording situation, the hi hat microphone standing vertically may block the camera from getting a clear shot of the drummer. So we have to apply a side address microphone like the ATM450 and position it horizontally to get it out of the camera’s way. 

 

7. What problems do you see inexperienced sound people making?

Firstly, not realizing they are squeezing too much audio into their mixes. Secondly, not realizing that a mic pointing an inch difference away can affect the sound. Thirdly, not realizing that it takes time and experience to get good at this. They must be patient and keep trying. I am still very much trying today.

 

8. How would you describe the music scene now compared to when you first started out.

When I started, the music scene was great. Everybody made money from playing, recording and releasing music. It was the CD revolution and the biggest moment the music industry had. Today the music industry is a big question mark. Nobody knows what will be of it. But the passion prevails. People need music and there will be people who will do music so that the world will have it for all and for “free”.

 

9. What are your plans for the future?

Of course, to continue doing what I love and perhaps find “Ikigai”. I would also like to continue to share my experience and knowledge with my students. I do see a lot of talent coming up and it will be a waste if we do not nurture them to greater heights.

 

Geoffrey Low training broadcasters from Malaysia on surround sound production

 

10. You have mixed numerous acts so far. Do you have any advice for aspiring bands and mixers?

Specifically for aspiring sound engineers, I think it’s best to get some sort of formal education before you enter the industry. Although it’s true that these days you can learn a lot from the Internet, formal education provides you with the context of the skills, experience and knowledge that you will not be able to really grasp from just reading online. It takes time, a lot of effort and commitment to be remotely good at music or audio. It is definitely not instant noodles! Some form of passion will keep you going. If you are thinking of this as a career, I will say start now and grab every opportunity to meddle with it, so eventually you will see the best in you.

 

 

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