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During this year’s visit to Abbey Road Studios our Year 3 participating students were able to take time out from a busy recording schedule for an hour-long tour of BBC’s Maida Vale studios. Organized by Declan Vink in a gesture of thanks to our students for their involvement in recording the BBC Introducing Balcony Sessions over the past year, this was a fantastic opportunity to explore the labyrinthine environment of a building with a long association with the British recording industry, including many BBC Introducing broadcasts and Live Lounge sessions.

Our knowledgeable tour guide was Jacob Breach who regaled us with many interesting facts and anecdotes concerning the history of Maida Vale and the numerous artists who had recorded there, including The Beatles, David Bowie, Slipknot, Coldplay, Madness and Blondie. In addition, Maida Vale has also been the home to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (best known for the Dr Who themes) and sound effects recording for BBC radio drama broadcasts.

The crazy staircase

Among the standout moments were the opportunity to visit the Maida Vale drama studio, typically used to make recordings for Radio 4, an area of the building unique for the multiple acoustics available to be employed in the simulation of a wide range of atmospheric environments. This included the so-called ‘crazy staircase’ which is furnished with wood on one side, carpet in the middle and concrete on the other (which students were given the opportunity to climb), the sound effects room containing many physical materials for producing sounds, and the famous ‘dead room’, the quietest acoustic space in the building.

student sin the original BBC Live Lounge

The Original Live Lounge

Our tour also took us through a number of recording spaces, including the large Maida Vale Studio Three with its SSL-J specified control room and the original recording space used for the earlier Live Lounge sessions, now a dumping ground for equipment.

Home of the BBC Symphony Orchestra

Along the way the students encountered a number of rehearsal sessions in progress ahead of broadcast performances scheduled for later in the day, which brought the environment vividly to life. On hearing that the Maida Vale studios had recently been purchased (by film composer Hans Zimmer), it quickly became apparent the students had been given a once in a lifetime chance to visit the studio in its historic guise prior to what are likely to be significant changes in its interior structure.