While I was doing Transition Year at school, many of the things we would normally have done were not possible due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. However, my former school asked me if I’d like to get involved in a STEM project they were doing, by recording the music soundtrack to a short film they were hoping to make.
The film was going to be called Saoirse (the Irish name for Freedom) so I used the same name for the music soundtrack as well. I also asked my Dad to help with the project so he played the electric guitar while I played my acoustic guitar.
A few people have since asked me how we did the soundtrack so I decided to write a little bit about that here.
The first thing we had to do was sort out how we would record the music. We tried a couple of ways to do this, including using a Loop Pedal (Boss RC-2) and a USB Audio adapter connected to a Mac (with GarageBand). However, these proved to be a little too complicated for our needs and, in the end, we decided to just record the music using the Audio Recorder app on my iPhone, placed close to the amplifier.
Some of the first recording we did had a little bit of echo and background noise from the acoustic guitar strings so I faced the other way from the iPhone when playing and this helped a lot.
We used the following equipment to play and record the music we created:
- Acoustic Guitar: Epiphone PR5-E (Florentine Cutaway Electro Acoustic Guitar)
- Electric Guitar: Epiphone SG-400 Vintage
- Amplifier: Roland Cube Street
- Smartphone: iPhone Xs
The guitars were both connected to the amplifier, which was placed in front of the iPhone to record.
After we took the music off the Audio Recorder app (by uploading it to Dropbox) we trimmed some of it using the Audacity app on my Mac, which is free (and open source). Because the iPhone app only records in Mono we also had to convert the tracks to stereo using Audacity. This was a simple matter of duplicating the mono track and saving both tracks as a MP3 file.
We were also able to enter some song/track details into the MP3 file when exporting from Audacity, which made sure these appeared in iTunes/Music apps later on, which was handy.
Some of the scenes in the movie were shot near a beach (and during a storm) so we also recorded some waves at our local beach (placing some socks over the phone to cut out the noise of the wind) and mixed this with the music we recorded. We did this mixing in Audacity too.
Once the filming of the movie was underway, the teacher was able to tell us more about each of the scenes that would need some music. This helped us to name the songs, as follows:
- Banú (meaning Dawning) became the song for the opening scene, which shows a young girl walking on a beach. This track has some wave sound effects too.
- Réadú (meaning Realisation), which has some thunder sounds mixed in, was used during a storm scene.
- Amhras (meaning Doubt) was a short filler track between two scenes.
- Machanmh (meaning Reflection) was used during the closing credits.
Once the filming was finished and the editing process started, the teacher was also able to tell us how the music tracks needed to be. We made some adjustments to the chord (and sound effects) here to get the track lengths correct, once again using Audacity.
The finished movie was recently launched and actually won some awards in a national school drama competition.
While it took a while to compose and record all the music, and we had to do a lot of takes to get versions of each song that we liked (and that were the right length for the film), we were really happy with the results, especially when we finally got to see them in the finished movie.
I learned a lot about music production and editing too, which was quite interesting and I’d definitely recommend using Audacity for this as it’s very flexible and easy to use.