Tag Archives: Entertainment

Let’s Stand Together :)

Let’s stand together.

Let music join us all.

Join us tomorrow night for our FREE CONCERT at 8pm to raise funds for the ‘Save The Dominican Church Fund’.

I promise you it will be a memorable show.

Special concert tomorrow night!
Special concert tomorrow night!
Drogheda Independent Feb 2015
Drogheda Independent Feb 2015
Drogheda Independent January 2015
Drogheda Independent January 2015

Catch the Full Moon Boogie Band in Cork and Dundalk this January!


The Full Moon Boogie Band are on the road and are on their way to a town near YOU!

We are a five piece band, made up of passionate, energetic and professional musicians, playing songs from Elvis to Rihanna, Wanda Jackson to Beyoncé, all with a full moon rock n roll flavour.

This Sunday we are playing The Spectacular Vintage Wedding Fair in lovely Corks’ The Imperial Hotel cork with Escape Salon & Spa… There’s gonna be tons of gorgeous vintage style clothing, yummy food and of course bopping’ tunes.. Do come along and if you’re looking for something a little authentic for your Big Day, tis the perfect place for ya!

Cork Sunday 20-01-13
Boppin at Cork this Sunday 20-01-13

We are also heading up to Dundalk next Friday the 25th of January for a good old fashioned, rock n roll show at the Spirit Store! We promise to create an awesome party atmosphere with our rockabilly sound! Check out the Facebook event here: Fri 25th January Full Moon Boogie Band Tickets €5.

Come along, you don’t want to miss these shows!

Party time!
Party time!

Studio Session 2: A Reflection :)

I must be getting old or I must just be a hard worker! After the 3 hour session in the studio this morning, I was left absolutely exhausted for the rest of the day! Teehee! Only now, at 11pm after a long, hot shower and a couple of headache tablets do I feel like my normal self again! 😀

Studio session number 2 for “December” went fantastically well! In short I got everything I hoped to record committed to virtual tape/disk/the digital land that is Pro Tools! 😀

I recorded 3rd Year Applied Music student Ciarán O’Brien first thing this morning. Ciarán is an expert in all things bass! Armed with a double bass and a bow, Ciarán gave me unexpected goosebumps, I couldn’t help but squeal with the sheer audio-pleasure! Hehehe! I literally could have listened to that all day long. But time was precious so we had to get to business straight away and track pizzicato bass for “December”. We had to keep a very strict schedule as I only had 3 hours from the minute I entered the studio to the minute the gear is checked off when I wrap up! So working quickly, I set up a Neumann U87 about 14 inches away from the bridge of the bass. Time was ticking faster than I thought and we got 4 takes (20 minutes-the song is 5 minutes long). I will have to comp a little here and there but I’m absolutely delighted with what Ciarán played. He’s a little star, a pleasure to work with, very professional!

Ciarán O’Brien and the Neumann U87

Next was the recording of my own 12 string acoustic guitar. My assistants Shauna Kearney and Shane Taaffe were absolutely brilliant help here. They set up my microphones as I required; an AKG C414 in a corner, cardioid pattern, 1 overhead, omni-directional for some room ambience and a Shure SM57 at the 12th fret. A sparkly 12 string with some bass presence. The corner idea may seem odd but trust me, the warmth it offered works in the production.

Myself in my multi mono mic set up

In case you were wondering, Shane played the guitar in the style of the song while I monitored the sound in the control room and asked Shauna to move the mic here and there, an inch or two closer etc! Only after I was happy, did I sit down (on my cajon actually, brought it with me just to sit on it-best seat in the house for guitar playing!) while took over the recording process for me.

Ever watchful of the ticking time, I spent exactly 30 minutes tracking my part. The only problem I had was of my own right hand on one part which decided to have a mind of its own, when I got over that, we had a few takes which I will comp together later.

Following that was Keith’s 6 string guitar parts using the same multi mono mic set up. Keith owns a gorgeous Tanglewood jumbo guitar which a lovely bass presence. His parts are complimentary to mine, filling in single strums for the chorus’s (two separate takes, one left and one right for the mix-down), an arpeggiated fill for the final chorus and of course the big solo. Keith was so in the zone he played the main rhythm and solo in the same take, much to my delight and the ticking clocks! The arpeggiated fill took the longest to record like myself, one finger refused to be told where to go! It happens to us all huh? 🙂 But Keith is also a pro and nailed it.

Keith recording in studio

Looking at the watch, 20 minutes left? Let’s record one more thing before we leave! Pop the Shure SM57 in front of the Marshall Valve-State combo (to one side of the cone), whip out that Fender American Stratocaster, plug in the Boss DD6 Digital Delay pedal and pop that bottleneck slide on your finger please Keith! Make me some noise, anything at all! Soulful cries of a Strat, yes, this is an element I wanted indeed for that final chorus.

Keith feels it out on my Strat 🙂
Excuse my mess but with minutes to spare, Keith tracked electric guitar like a pro 🙂

Ten minutes left…. tidy up, fast! All hands on deck as we backed up the project, tidied away the mic stands, leads, guitars etc!  Bang ont he stroke of midday we were ready to hand over the studio to the next session team!

Not a single minute was idle and I have to thank my production team for working so hard, they deserve a well earned drink! Thank you Keith Caffrey and Ciarán O’ Brien for your artistic skills, very creative and especially appreciated before 12 Midday! Morning studio sessions are never easy! 🙂 Thank you Shauna Kearney and Shane Taaffe for the technical side, you were both stars and complete professionals with the equipment!

So next to do on the list is some minor edits and minor comping. Then we get ready for our last session in 2 weeks time where we nail the lead vocal, harmony vocal and creative element track! 😀

And after that? A small mix and Christmas drinks! 😉

Dance the Night Away With the Full Moon Boogie Band!

Rock n roll Steffy!

I’m back and I have returned with my off-white Fender Stratocaster playing good old fashioned rock n roll music with the ultimate party band: the Full Moon Boogie Band!

Full Moon Boogie Band, the name says it all – bringing you home to the land of rockabilly and rock and roll with a twist and lots of style!

We are a five piece band,made up of passionate, energetic and professional musicians, playing songs from Elvis to Rihanna, Wanda Jackson to Beyoncé, all with a full moon rock n roll flavour.

The Full Moon Boogie Band

We are currently available for bookings. Our show is fantastic entertainment for any event, from weddings to corporate events, we shall bring fun and a bop shoo wop to your event. We come with our own swingin, jivin’ and very alluring Full Moon dancers to add that extra sparkle to the show.

We have a full PA, Sound engineer and DJ that can be included. Also softer ceremony music can be included as part of the package.

For bookings and info, please contact us by email at fullmoonboogieband@gmail.com or by our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/fullmoon.boogieband 🙂





FACEBOOK EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/464840443547520/

TICKETS: http://entertainment.ticketsolve.com/shows/873485499/events

The Burlesque & Cabaret Social Club

Check out below for some samples of our sounds:

Myself performing at the Sugar Club in August 🙂
Sarah and myself 🙂
Drumming sensation Paul!
Lady of the bass, Sarah and Marc!


Have You Heard the Voice That Belongs to Monica Heldal Yet?!

Monica Heldal 2012

I’m so excited to share this with you! This is a project that I have been working on for a couple of months and I’m delighted to introduce you to one very talented young lady- Monica Heldal.

Monica is a singer-songwriter from Bergen, Norway and at 21 years old, she has already taken the international music scene by storm and is one very busy lady! Her love for American country-blues and the music of Irish legend Rory Gallagher has brought her on a very busy musical journey so far. After playing the Rory Gallagher Festival in Ireland last year, Monica has been invited back to play again this summer during her busy Norway-Netherlands-France tour.

I have produced this song “Silly Willy”, a personal favourite from Monica’s original set. A delightful, bluesy, shuffling song which brings a smile to everyone’s face who’s heard it already! Monica exhibits raw, natural talent in her advanced acoustic guitar fingerstyle performance and in her alluring vocal on this recording and I think you’ll agree with me when I say that this lady is blessed with a gift!

Drums were performed by Daire Stanley, bass was performed by Sean Moher, electric guitar was performed by Darren Mc Eneaney and my recording assistant was Shauna Kearney. I recorded, produced and mixed the song and threw in some additional keyboard and electric guitars.

I really enjoyed this creative process and I’m pleased with the mix-down. This was my first full-band mix on Pro Tools (Logic Pro user!) and I hope you enjoy the song as much as we do 🙂

You can find lots more Monica material on her Facebook artist page: Monica Heldal.

Monica Heldal
See Monica perform at the Rory Gallagher festival this month

The Impact of Electronic Broadcasting Media on the Music Industry


Electronic media broadcasting plays a humble yet imperative role in the music industry: simply bringing music to the masses.

The aim of this blog post is to research and discuss one aspect of music technology of particular personal interest. I have chosen to look deeper into the media side of the music world and discuss one technological aspect of electronic media broadcasting- radio in its analog and digital format, in context of its impact on the music listening consumer and ultimately, the recorded music industry.

Firstly the development of music radio from pirate to Internet and digital broadcasting is explained. This blog also discusses the impact of traditional radio play on record sales, investigating the symbiotic relationship between the two industries. Finally, the subject of the impact of the iPod/MP3 player on the radio industry is raised and discussed.

Introduction; The Beginnings Of Electronic Broadcasting and the Fathers Of Radio.

Electronic broadcasting began in 1881 with telephone broadcasting as a result of the invention of the Théâtrophone (“Theatre Phone”) system. French electrical innovator Clément Ader invented the telephone-based distribution system, which transmitted live opera and theatre performances in stereo over telephone lines to subscribers located more than two miles away.

It developed into a system, which not only played music but also news bulletins and entertainment and was widely popular in Paris until 1932, when the théâtrophone officially succumbed to the rising popularity of radio transmissions and the phonograph.

Above: The Théâtrophone. (Bowblog, 2011)

A similar telephone-distributed audio system called the Electrophone was popular in London from 1895 until 1926. According to an article by British Telephones online (2010), the service was provided in the listener’s home at £5 a year. Alternatively listeners could pay via a coin-in-the-slot machine. Because the electrophone was technically complex with its hard-wired system, radio was called “The Wireless” for many years.

Above: Electrophone users enjoying a theatre scene in 1908. (British Telephones, 2010).

Although no man alone can claim the title of the founding father of radio, it is generally accepted that Nikola Tesla, Guglielmo Marconi, Alex Armstrong, Lee deForest, Reginald Fessenden, Edwin Armstrong contributed to the invention and development of radio.

While the theatre telephone communications were popular, radio frequency energy was born as a result of experiments being carried out by Nikola Tesla. Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi built a wireless system capable of transmitting long distance signals and in 1901, the first successful transatlantic communication was conducted.

Fundamental improvements enabling clearer and stronger transmission quality were made slowly to this early radio technology. These included Ernst Alexanderson’s high frequency alternator and Lee deForest’s three-element vacuum tube, called the Audion, which amplified signals and generated oscillations.

On Christmas Eve 1906 Reginald Fessenden made the first AM radio broadcast where he made a short speech and played the first music ever heard on communication equipment. Ships at sea heard a rendition of “O Holy Night” which he played on his violin and a reading from the Bible.

With good quality, wireless long-distance transmission now invented, the radio was ready for commercial broadcasting.

The Development of British Music Radio

The Golden Age of Radio (1920’s to 1950’s)

In the beginning of commercial and public radio, AM (amplitude modulation) broadcasting was the first means of delivering sound on a radio signal.

Independent commercial company, the BBC (British Broadcasting Company,) began its licensed radio services in 1922 and this new way of delivering news bulletins and music was exciting and revolutionary at the time. Andrew explains online that:

 In 1920, the idea of plucking a voice or music out of the air from hundreds or even thousands of miles away had a magical quality that is difficult for us to imagine given the technological advances since then. . .Never had anything caught the imagination of the science-oriented youth the way AM/FM radio did. Recently we saw the same type of enthusiasm take hold with the proliferation of personal computers and the Internet. Back then AM/FM radio was just as radical to most people as the computer may have been to the older generation recently. (Andrew, 2012)

Radio became popular quickly and programming became very important. Scottish engineer John Reith became Managing Director of the BBC in 1923 and he proposed the BBC’s mission must be “to enrich people’s lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain” (BBC, 2012).

Above: The rising popularity of radio. (Wired, 2008).

On December 31st 1926 the BBC’s license expired and the company was replaced with a public authority, becoming the British Broadcasting Corporation with the granting of its first 10 year Royal Charter. The BBC continued to broadcast talks, varieties and concerts but it was not allowed transmit news bulletins until after 7pm (after the newspapers of the day had been sold), in an effort to save newspaper sales.

During the 1930’s no other broadcasting organization was licensed in the UK but the BBC did face serious competition from the IBC (International Broadcasting Company) who bought blocks of airtime from radio stations based in mainland Europe. These stations followed the American format of broadcasting which was much more focused on entertainment and commercialism than the BBC.

All of the stations except for Radio Luxembourg, were muted during World War Two and the BBC had to adapt its programming to suit the situation. News bulletins about the war and debates were given priority and classical music was broadcast in the evenings. Anne Frank commented in her diary of the effect of radio music on her when in hiding:

There was a beautiful Mozart concert on the radio from six to seven-fifteen; I especially enjoyed the Kleine Nachtmusik. I can hardly bear to listen to in the kitchen, since beautiful music stirs me to the very depths of my soul. (Frank, 1944 p. 250)

Pirate Radio

In 1964 rebellion broke out in the radio industry. The BBC held a monopoly on the industry and was not threatened by any competition; therefore it aired whatever it felt appropriate. In doing this it didn’t provide for one particularly important sector of the music loving public – teenagers. One type of music it didn’t playlist was the new, exciting and radical sounds of rock-and-roll. British veteran DJ Johnnie Walker recalls the effect of rock-and-roll on him as a teenager in his autobiography:

The fantastic noise pumping out into the night air showed me a way to break from conformity. It almost hypnotized me with its promises of freedom and self-expression. And I wasn’t the only one. The seed of sixties’ revolution were being sowed right here, through the eager ears and into the minds of young people, with music as the driving force. (Walker, 2007 p. 16)

The only station within the BBC network that provided some popular music was the Light Programme and it aired contemporary music show “Pick of the Pops” only once a week. It’s important to mention here that the Light Programme was the first station to broadcast using FM (frequency modulation) in 1955 and that this new method of broadcasting offered higher sound quality.

Above: The Light Programme listing in 1945. (Radio Rewind, N.D)

Because the demand for rock-and-roll was so great, businessmen set up radio stations in old, converted boats, docked just outside of Britain’s territorial waters (to escape prosecution). These rebel stations made profits from advertising and were hugely popular. Two famous examples are Radio Caroline and Radio London. Interestingly, Radio Caroline was established by Irish entrepreneur, Ronan O’Rahilly in Dundalk’s Greenore port. Caroline played music all day and therefore was a huge hit in both England and Ireland.

Above: Radio Caroline advert. (Pick and Mix, 2011)

Legalized Radio

Although the pirate stations continued to survive until the nineties, privately owned radio stations obtained licenses to broadcast in the seventies and the number of these commercial stations increased with every decade. The BBC took note of listener’s demands for popular music and adapted their programming to cater for their audience.

FM became the dominant broadcasting method because of its high fidelity and great signal strength, AM broadcasting took a back seat, typically being used for talk and news programming.

Above: BBC Radio One promo (TVArk, N.D)

Internet Radio

The Internet has more recently become an important means of transmitting audio. Internet radio shows are streamed and these are also known as webcasts. These streaming webcasts are like traditional radio because they cannot be paused or replayed and should not be confused with podcasts which are downloaded. Internet shows are usually available to listen to from anywhere in the world.

The very first Internet broadcast took place in 1994 and the first legalized American Internet radio station was created by Edward Lyman which broadcast live on Sonicwave.com 24 hours a day. The sound quality compared to that of AM radio.

Above: Webcasting can be done easily at home. (Hack A Day, 2011).

The success of Sonicwave.com attracted investment and media attention in the late nineties and Internet radio became very popular. According to an article online, Yahoo! Bought Broadcast.com for $5.7 billion in 1999 (Searls, 2002).

Internet broadcasting is closely linked with traditional radio stations these days, broadcasting their shows in real time via their website and using social media websites to keep in touch with listeners. I recently interviewed local DJ Andy Clarke of LMFM Radio and asked him about the place of social media in today’s radio industry.

 I think you’d be stupid not to use the likes of Facebook and Twitter social media now. It used to be, all those years ago, you’d ring the local station and you’d get your request on, you’d get your name on the radio. The texts came along and free texts which is quite handy. But now, I see it myself, you wouldn’t get as many texts as everyone’s now on Facebook . . . it’s instant though which is very, very, very, very good. You can stick up what you’re thinking, you can nearly pre-plan what you’re going to talk about in the next I suppose talk break or link. So if I was thinking “Aw, I’m hungry, what’s good to eat?” I can nearly stick that up on Facebook, it doesn’t go on air, get peoples opinions and then you could air the good comments out of that . . . it’s a lazy prep service for you in a way, but it’s very good to interact with the listeners. . . It’s an extra dimension. (Caffrey, 2012).

(If desired, listen to the entire interview here: Andy Clarke Interview – The Impact of Electronic Broadcasting Media on the Music Industry by Stephanie Caffrey on SoundCloud – Create, record and share your sounds for free.)

Digital Radio

Digital audio broadcasting (DAB) is the future of radio broadcasting. It is a new technology and is mainly used in Europe at this point in time. The UK embraced this technology and over 50 BBC services were made available in this format in 2001.

DAB can offer more stations with better reception quality to its listeners that live well within its coverage area and it is more cost efficient than FM. On the flipside, DAB uses digital signal processing which causes an overall delay. This means DAB radios are not in time with live events and can cause a confusing mixture of sound if a user is listening to a broadcast using a combination of analog and digital radios in their house.

Above: Digital Audio receiver. (AV Review, 2007).

Andy Clarke shared his view on DAB in Ireland during my recent interview with him:

 I suppose digital in Ireland hasn’t kicked off just yet and it probably won’t do for another year, if not longer. The UK has kicked off and they really are pushing it over there. In Ireland, they did try to do it a couple of years ago and some of the local stations went for it as a trial basis but then, it didn’t seem to be doing anything for them. People aren’t ready yet for digital radio and we still have analog in cars. Very few, well a lot of people would have digital sets, I have a digital set at home but I’m into the scene so, I suppose it’s an interest but a lot of people have yet to buy and it’s going to cost them money to do so, you know. (Caffrey, 2012)

In a world already hooked on the Internet, the digital platform is ideal for the next generation of radio consumption.

The Symbiotic Relationship

In the 1920’s the popularity of radio initially had a negative effect on the music industry, crippling record sales and putting companies out of business. Morton (2000) explains on page 26:

Record companies welcomed the subsequent transfer of electrical technology from radio and motion pictures to the phonograph industry, but hated the effect these two new forms of entertainment had on the record business. Radio was the biggest threat. On the eve of broadcasting’s debut, between 1914 and 1921, record sales had doubled, largely because of sales of popular music. With the inauguration of network radio in the middle 1920s, the market for popular recordings collapsed, resulting in a number of companies leaving the field or changing ownership. (Morton, 2000)

Because record companies wouldn’t allow the broadcasting of pre-recorded material, musicians were brought in to radio stations and performed music live. Radio stations spent huge amounts of money in an effort to better the production of the original record.

This wasn’t the only reason records were not played much on the radio during this time. The BBC employed its own orchestra and these musicians were part of the Musician’s Union who imposed a ‘needle-time restriction’, decreasing the number of minutes recorded music was allowed air weekly. This sustained the need for live musicians providing them with better job security.

It was in the 1930’s that the relationship between recorded music and radio began to improve, this was due to improvements in radio technology, such as devices that acted as gramophones and radios, but more so because the rise of the disc jockey. DJ’s would introduce the song they were playing and give information about the artist and record. Radio stations had to keep a huge supply of records to keep up with the popular artists and this in itself helped keep record sales steady.

Above: John Peel helped launch new artists. (Tumblr, 2012).

Playing the records on air gave free advertising and promotion to artists and record labels and this in turn generated listenership loyalty for the station. Because of this symbiotic relationship, radio stations did not have to pay royalties to artists when their music was played on the air.


When record companies noticed radio play influencing sales, they struck up illegal deals with radio stations and DJ’s called payolas. These illegal deals involved the record company paying for repeated play of the music they wished to sell. The more time a song was repeated on the radio, the more popular it became and the more records it sold.

In his study on the symbiotic relation of the two industries, Stan Liebowitz (2004) argues that this means of practice benefited the promoted artists and took sales away from others.

Above: The definition of payola! (Forowebgratis, 2007).

Why Do People Listen to the Radio?

Radio provides a more personal, intimate and thought provoking experience to the individual than other media outlets. Television combines audio with visual, feeding imagery directly to our minds, so we merely just absorb what the director wants us to absorb. Radio just provides the audio and leaves the imagery making to us, whether a DJ is interviewing a band, plugging a concert, describing the weather, reading the news or talking about the current state of affairs in our daily lives. Radio travels with us easily, we can listen on the move, driving a car, going for a run, even cleaning the house. We can listen and still carry out our lives tasks, whereas when we watch television, we have to give it our 100% undivided attention or risk crashing the car, running onto the wrong side of the road or knocking over that expensive vase!

 The relationship the listener has with radio is unlike that with any other media.  Radio is almost like a friend.  It can be there burbling in the background when you are busy and wherever you are busy but when you get those rare moments alone when you can ease your shoulders just a bit, radio softly turns up its volume inside you and your mind can be transported elsewhere for a few moments while carrying on with your life. (Penwald, 2012)

There are two different types of listening when it comes down to the music consumer tuning in the radio to their favorite station. The first type is listening for pleasure, where the music fan listens in purely for enjoyment, having confidence in their station of choice that will play music they enjoy. According to his paper in 2004:

 The fact that individuals spend, on average, almost three hours per day listening to the radio would seem to imply that there is in fact a rather important consumption element in radio listening. (Liebowitz, 2004)

This may be viewed as being harmful to the recorded industry because in this case, radio replaces or substitutes the need for buying the original recording. Why would the casual music fan pay hard-earned cash for a full-length album, when the two or possibly three songs they enjoy most on that particular album are available on the air for free listening?

The second type is listening for purchase, where the music fan listens in to discover new music to add to their personal record collection. Liebowitz calls this the exposure effect and states:

Note that the exposure effect doesn’t necessarily have an impact different than the substitution effect. Learning more about a product prior to purchase may allow consumers to derive great utility from any single purchase. At any given price, however, they may purchase fewer units because they become quickly satisfied. Producers, therefore, may discover that their revenues fall when consumers can better sample the products. (Liebowitz, 2004, p 97)


Obtaining updated and reliable figures to provide evidence for the effect of radio on the music industry in the UK has proven difficult and expensive so I will use Liebowitz’s graph from his paper to demonstrate record sales in US dollars for the first half of the 20th century as seen below.

Above: Record sales in 1983 dollars (Liebowitz, S. 2004)
Above: Album sales in the UK from the seventies onwards. (Kovtr, 2010)

Is the iPod Killing the Radio?

We’ve seen in my previous paragraphs that music and radio have a positive symbiotic relationship but a new development in music technology is said to threaten the radio industry-the iPod/MP3 player.

Most of us own one of these devices and use it on a daily basis. It’s the control element of the iPod that threatens the radio business- ordinary people can choose the media they wish to consume in a handy, pocket-sized device. Advertisements can be blitzed and undesirable songs can be skipped. This idea of user control must have radio corporates shaking in their boots.

The latest iPod Nano includes a built-in FM receiver which allows the user to pause, and rewind live radio- great for FM and commercial radio but what about DAB? This attribute is a big disadvantage and works against the next chapter of radio history instead of with it. After all, FM radio is expected to be removed by 2015, leaving DAB as the main means of radio consumption.

Above: The latest iPod Nano boasts an integrated camera and FM receiver. (The Guardian, 2009).


It’s not easy to tell whether radio has a positive or negative impact on the record industry due to lack of statistics and research. Despite the initial decline in record sales in the 1930’s, record sales have gone strength to strength since. The music industry is currently threatened by a bigger force; illegal file sharing, but this has little to do with the subject at hand.

The future looks bright for radio and music. Radio has ever been the unseen companion to the music listener and with the world consuming social media websites on a daily basis, discussing their favorite music, digital is the obvious path for radio to turn to next. As long as the radio continues to generate positive messages to the public and interact, there is no reason why either industry should be threatened by the digital format. 


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Ala-Fossi, M., Lax, S., O’Neill, B., Jauert, P., Shaw, H. (2008). The Future of Radio is Still Digital-But Which One? Expert Perspectives and Future Scenarios for Radio Media in 2015. Journal of Radio and Audio Media. 15:1, p.  4-25.

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The History of Sound With The Moving Image

An essay I wrote in 2010…


The purpose of this report is to explore the key technological developments in the sound and motion picture industry from the early beginnings in the late 1800’s to todays’ complex digital technology. I propose to present my findings on the history of this subject including the devices used for recording, editing and projecting sound along with their forgotten pioneers.


In this report I am going to discuss the evolution of technology of sound recording, production and projection in the motion picture industry.

Although we think of films as essentially a visual experience we cannot afford to underestimate the importance of sound in that experience. Thomas Edison’s research and inventions of the moving image were originally intended to serve as visual accompaniment to recorded sound.

When sound was finally synchronized to motion pictures successfully in the 1920’s, films received a new life; actors could talk, music could convey emotional impact and sound effects added realism. The popular belief is that Warner Brother’s The Jazz Singer is the first film with sound but it actually is the first film with sound that was commercially accepted.

There have been many innovations in the way sound has been recorded, edited and amplified for the film industry, my aim is to address the innovations of the gradual evolution of sound-synch technology.

Development History

In 1887 Edison invented the tin foil phonograph, the first device that played back recorded sound. This was in essence a diaphragm mounted with a steel needle which recorded sound vibrations in the grooves of a cylinder.

By the end of 1888 Edison had his improved cylinder phonograph on the market which didn’t deteriorate as much as the tin foil phonograph. Edison conceived of his Kinetoscope (1891) as an optical counterpart to the phonograph. To Edison, the motion picture was a visual addition to the phonograph. Edward Kellog explains that

Edison invented the motion pictures as a supplement to his phonograph, in the belief that sound plus a moving picture would provide better entertainment than sound alone. But in a short time the movies proved to be good enough entertainment without sound. It has been said that although the motion picture and the phonograph were intended to be partners, they grew up separately. And it might be added that the motion picture held the phonograph in such low esteem that for years it would not speak. Throughout the long history of efforts to add sound, the success of the silent movie was the great obstacle to commercialization of talking pictures. (Kellog, E. 1951, quoted Ulano, M. 01.11.10)

In 1886 a device called the Kinetophone was invented by Auguste Baron which combined sound and visual scenes. Microphones installed above a set were connected to a separate sound booth where the transmitted signals were engraved in copper. A single motor drove the camera and the phonograph simultaneously at the same speed. Baron with the help of Felix Mesguich set up a studio in which he shot four-minute-long films of people singing in 1898. Baron would soon abandon his work due to lack of financial support.

The French Lumiére Brothers had begun the first commercial projections in 1895. Apart from live musical accompaniment of dialogue and effects, the synchronization of the phonographic cylinder with film was not very successful for two main reasons, firstly phonographs were not sufficiently sensitive in recording- actors had to position themselves very close to the phonographic horns which were therefore visible in the shot- nor were they powerful enough for reconstituting the sound and secondly the synchronization of the phonograph and the projector during projection was still very rough. This led to further experiments in the early 1900’s such as producer Léon Gaumont who had his actors record their text on the cylinder and then act in front of the camera whilst moving their lips in time to the recording.

Henri Joly experimented with the recording of sound on the image track itself but it was electro- acoustical engineer Eugene Lauste who conceived a system for the optical recording of sound on a narrow band alongside the image on film instead of on a cylinder.

The first movies shown to large audiences were silent movies which actually were rarely silent. A piano accompanied the projection in order to cover the sounds of the projector and to emphasize the emotional effects of the film. Each cinema would have a lecturer who both animated the show and ensured that its content was understood as well as important dialogue or explanations of actions. Sounds were also imitated to enhance the effects of actions or moods.

By 1913 there were two big problems in the sound film industry- synchronization and amplification. Edison failed to find the solution to projecting synchronized sound and moving image which caused the giving up of the idea of talking pictures and the success of silent movies. Harry Geduld summarizes the attempts of the early 1900’s;

Carl Laemmle imported Jules Greenbaum’s Synchroscope from Germany in the summer of 1909 and British film pioneer, Cecil Hepworth brought out his Vivaphone in 1911. In fact, no fewer than a dozen other manufacturers tried to market competing systems during this period. Names like Cinematophone (1907), L.P. Valiquet’s Photophone (1908), Animatophone (1910) and Orlando Kellum’s Photokinema filled the trade journals with claims of perfection in the art of talking pictures. (Geduld, 1975)

In 1926 a major break-though occurred that revolutionized the entire industry. Warner-Brothers in conjunction with Western Electric introduced a new sound-on-disc system called Vitaphone. Sound effects and music were recorded onto a wax record that was later synchronized with the film projector. The first feature-length film that exhibited this technology released by Warner Brothers was Don Juan which had synchronized sound effects and a pre-recorded score. It did not have spoken dialogue.

Fox in conjunction with General Electric invented a system called Movietone. This was the first commercially successful sound-on-film system which added a ‘soundtrack’ directly onto a strip of film. This method is called the Tri-Ergon Process which converted sound into light beams which were recorded onto the film strip then reconverted to sound in the projection process. This system replaced the Vitaphone system soon after because it was easier to synchronize the sound.

The first feature-length talkie was The Jazz Singer released by Warner Brothers in 1927. Although it only had about 350 spoken words, it was a box office hit and revolutionized the industry by causing the beginning of real commercial acceptance of sound, music and dialogue to films.

Talkies had the effect of initially stiffening the mobility of the actors because they could only move from one microphone to another which would have been hidden for example in a flower arrangement. The camera movement skills developed in the silent era became for a short while compromised but within a few years techniques such as the booming of a microphone (a microphone on the end of a long stick held above the actors out of shot) and post production dubbing were developed.


In 1940 the first multichannel format film Walt Disney’s Fantasia was released. This film is a benchmark as important innovations in sound technology arose from this which include: the click track, pan-pot, overdubbing of orchestral parts, dispersion-aligned loudspeaker system with skewed-horn, control-track level-expansion, simultaneous multitrack recording and the development of a multichannel system.

Leopold Stokowski conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra which were recorded on eight optical recorders which allowed sections of the orchestra to be handled separately during mixdown, a new concept at the time. A special system was devised for playback of Fantasia called Fantasound. This used two projectors- one projected the picture and had a mono optical mix of the entire soundtrack. This mono mix was a backup for the main soundtrack. This technique is still used today in all successful digital sound systems. The second projector employed four mono optical sound tracks as follows: 1. control track; 2. screen left; 3. screen right and 4. screen center. Fantasound led to a variety of magnetic techniques and eventually to Dolby Stereo.

Disney’s chief engineer, William Garity had the challenge of trying to simulate sound moving back and fourth across the screen. He determined that fading between two speakers might create this illusion. He created a device called “The Panpot” which was a special 3-circuit differential junction network which enabled Disney to mix down to a three track master. Mixdown was performed much like a modern film scoring session as Stokowski conducted pans and level changes in real time. Many consider the panning to be “ping-pongy” but one may forgive this for bringing the Panpot into existence.

Fantasia was re-released several times until 1990. In 1956 (the third release) the four track magnetic format was mixed in stereo but had no surround information. The 1982 release had a brand new soundtrack recorded by Shawn Murphy on a Soundstream four track digital recorder using a sampling rate of 50kHz which had better fidelity than was possible in the Forties but had a inferior performance and much more radical panning than the original. For the 1990 re-release Disney’s Terry Porter cleaned up the magnetic master track (the optical master disappeared) eliminating 3000 pops, hum, noise and distortion. Porter then did a Dolby Stereo SR mix of the cleaned up tracks.

Progression of Monophonic Sound to Quadraphonic Sound

It was in the 1950’s that stereophonic sound (the division of sound across two channels, left and right) became industry standard rising from monophonic sound (one channel) and Fantasound. Stereophonic sound enabled the listener to experience the correct sound staging of an orchestra recording where certain sounds emanated from different parts of the stage however, monophonic elements are also included for example when a vocalist is singing from the “phantom” center channel. Stereophonic sound does have limitations such as some recordings having a “ping-pong” effect (when too much mixing into the separate channels has occurred) and a lack of ambience.

The late 1960’s and early 1970’s brought Four Channel Discrete and Quadraphonic Sound. Four Channel Discrete was extremely expensive as it need four identical amplifiers to reproduce sound. Quadraphonic sound was a more successful approach to sound reproduction because it was a format that consisted of a matrix encoding four channels of information within a two channel recording. This was in essence the forerunner of today’s Dolby Surround.

Dolby Surround

In the mid-70’s Dolby Labs (founded by Ray Dolby), with breakthrough film soundtracks such as Tommy, Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, unveiled a new surround sound process called Dolby Surround Sound. The Dolby Surround process involves encoding four channels of information- Front Left, Center, Front Right and Rear Surround into a two channel signal. A decoding chip then decodes the four channels and sends them to the appropriate destination, the Left, Right, Rear, and Phantom Center. The result of Dolby Surround mixing is a more balanced and realistic listening environment in which the main sounds derive from the left and right channels, the dialogue emanates from the center channel and the ambience comes in from behind the listener. Unlike quadraphonic sound, Dolby Surround quickly gained marketplace acceptance.

Dolby have gone from strength to strength through the years with innovative technology including Dolby Pro Logic (which adds more accuracy to explosions, planes flying overhead etc), Dolby Digital (known as a 5.1 channel system where the .1 designation refers to the subwoofer channel) and Dolby Digital EX (where sound directionality are more precise).

Today Dolby have moved to the next generation of surround sound- Dolby Digital Plus. The benefits include superior audio quality, up to 7.1 channels of theatre-quality sound which unlocks the full audio potential from Blu-ray Discs, HD broadcasts to ensure the listener hears audio precisely as it was intended.

On-Location Recording and Production

Film soundtrack begins with location recording. Great sound supports and enhances the story the film maker is trying to tell and subconsciously draws the audience into what they are viewing. The better the soundtrack, the less it is consciously noticed.

Preproduction planning is essential so that excessive ambient noises are dealt with appropriately, checking the boom operator and production crew have enough space to move without compromising the picture. Plan which microphones are suitable for the subject to be recorded. The positioning of the microphone(s) is also important. Every operational and technical need must be anticipated, important equipment and materials include; tape, back-up microphones, cables, connectors, mic accessories, clip leads, AC power checker, glues, flash light, pen and paper, recording tape, pocket knife, stopwatch, tape measure, tool kit, headphones, log sheets, scripts and rundown sheets.

Recording and Synchronization of Sound

The quality of location tape recorders have improved dramatically through the years. The leading professional field recorder is manufactured by NAGRA Audio- Kudelski Group who have developed and marketed a complete range of analogue and digital tape recorders. Nagras are appreciated for their sound quality, reliability and ruggedness. Their physical appearance with the single transport selector and reel-to-reel tape deck are still the stereotypical image most people have of the professional tape recorder.

In 1951 Stefan Kudelski invented the Nagra (meaning “will record” in Polish) which was revolutionary- a portable audio tape recorder that was light, small, portable and high quality. In 1962 the Nagra III was equipped with Stefan Kudelski’s “Neopilot” system which replaced the “Pilloton” system, this resulted in better synchronization of audio recordings with moving pictures and became the industry standard until the 1980’s. The 1970’s a miniature version (the Nagra SNN) was designed to be a pocket recorder for cinema actors to carry and used cassette width 1/8th inch tape. The Nagra IV-S allowed musical performances to be captured in stereo in a portable format using a revolutionary frequency modulated central track for commentary or pilot information. This device had dual level pots, limiters and equalizer pre-sets. The Nagra IV-S Time Code is seen as benchmark in terms of sound recording for cinema productions and has been used on film sets all over the world.

Timecode provides a time reference for editing, synchronization and identification. SMPTE time code is an industry standard frame numbering system that labels a specific number to each frame of video in the format of hours, minutes, seconds and frames as defined by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers in the SMPTE 12M specification. SMPTE time code is important for accuracy and repeatability, every frame of video is given its own unique identifying number. Once recorded, that time code/video frame relationship will be the same every time the tape is played. In 2008 SMPTE revised the standard set in the 1960’s and now have a two part document: SMPTE 12M-1 and SMPTE 12-M2 which includes important new explanations and clarifications.

Due to the flexibility of production and postproduction equipment and time code, it is possible to record on location using the multi-camera or single-camera production style regardless of the medium for which the production is being made. The invention of time code made video editing possible and led to the invention of non-linear editing systems.


Postproduction is the final stage in the production process when all previously recorded material is edited and mixed. Editing is an art which demands the ability to see a complete work and build towards it while it is still in small parts. Editing is a tedious job whether it is done in an manual or computer environment yet seldom gets recognition except professionally because a good edit is never heard therefore it is known as an “invisible art”.

In linear editing recorded material is edited successively on a film positive (not the original negative): one section at a time is physically cut from one part of a tape or magnetic film and pasted to another part using a splicer and threading the film on a machine with a viewer such as a Moviola or flat-bed machine such as a Steenbeck. The work is very physical and done by ear.

The Steenbeck (patented in 1934) is an analogue film editing machine which works with continuously variable elements (light and sound waves), inscribed in a durable object (film). It holds picture and sound film reels and has a two-picture screen which allows the editor to preview and edit before cutting the film. It is available in 16mm and 35mm or a combination of the two formats.

Nonlinear editing (also known as random access editing) is a digital process that allows one to assemble a sound file in or out of sequence and take it from any part of a recording and place it at any point of the recording at the touch of a button. Today this is done digitally using specialized software such as Avid or Lightworks on IBM, Macintosh or Atari computers.

Analog Versus Digital

Both methods of editing are reliable yet very different to each other causing a split in film makers who each stand by their preferred process. Editor Tom Rolf misses “having the film in [his] hands, around [his] neck, in [his] mouth” (Weiner 26). An interesting argument is “Human beings are incapable of observing digital information in the same way that they observe continuous analog information” (Goodell 183). Therefore, “an image or sound that has been translated into digital information must be translated back into analog for us to hear or see it” (Goodell 183).

Pro-digital editors claim the Steenbeck machine is obsolete and editing on a computer is safer and quicker. No longer do editors have to wait days for the edit to come back from the laboratory plus no edit decision can ruin or distort the original information.

Amplification Developments

Reproducing recorded sound to a large audience was a major issue in early cinema. In the early 1920’s Dr. Lee Forest invented Audion vacuum tubes which amplified the sound coming out of a speaker without causing distortion. In 1925 a loudspeaker invented by Edward Kellog and Chester Rice surpassed its predecessors in sound quality. This was the first moving coil cone loudspeaker with an electrically energized magnet system. In 1927 Bell Telephone Laboratories produced a horn loudspeaker as John Aldred describes with

a moving coil mechanism driving a diaphragm and a powerful magnet system with a battery energized field coil. This gave a power efficiency as high as 25% which enabled sound to be reproduced at much higher levels and with improved quality. This was important since the amplifiers at that time only had an output of 2 watts. The driver unit was attached to an exponential horn, curved so as to conserve space behind the screen, and multiple throats which allowed 2 or more units to be attached for increased output. (Aldred, J. 27.11.2010)

Equalization (the balancing of frequencies) was introduced in 1931 into theatre amplifiers and new power tubes became available that were cable of giving 8 watts.

Edward Sponable became aware of the high background noise of photographic sound tracks and together with Western Electric he invented noise reduction systems. In 1938 the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences set up a committee to study the standardization of theatre sound equipment and the acoustics of theatre spaces.

The 1950’s saw the introduction to multi-tack magnetic sound from Cineamascope, Cinerama and 70mm release prints which led to the standardization of loudspeakers being changed in the 1960’s as John Aldred explains to:

two 15in diameter bass units in a reflex cabinet (available in several sizes), and high frequency horns (also available in several sizes) with multi-cellular flared openings. Large auditoria would have two bass cabinets bolted together for each channel, with side wings to increase the baffle area,and two or more high frequency horns. (Aldred, J. 27.11.2010)

Today 6 out of 10 Dolby equipped movie theatres worldwide are fitted with JBL loudspeakers making JBL the industry standard. JBL are unparalleled in experience with nearly eighty years in the industry and are famous for their high quality components. JBL loudspeakers also grace the stages of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Samuel Goldwyn Theatre, The Directors Guild of America and The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.


This report has described the various innovations in multichannel cinema from the early beginnings of Edison’s phonograph to today’s modern digital technology. The industry is however currently going through the transition from analogue to digital. There is great choice for budding film editors today as both methods are being taught to students around the world.

I am personally excited to see what the digital age will bring next as I prefer working with virtual information because I always have the option of hitting “undo” if I make a mistake and the entire process (in my view) is more specific than analogue. Nonetheless I understand and respect if it wasn’t for the old methods none of todays effects we take for granted would have been invented.

With exciting digital technology available today we can expect multichannel cinema to become richer and ever more varied with time.


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THE AMERICAN WIDESCREEN MUSEUM SOUND STAGE (2000) Telling the Story of Sound Motion Pictures Through Contemporary Writings. [WWW] The American Widescreen Museum. Available from: <http://www.widescreenmuseum.com/sound/sound04.htm&gt; [Accessed 01.11.10]

TOULET E. (1988) Cinema is 100 Years Old. Trieste: New Horizons

Download My Original Track “Breathe” (Instrumental Mix 2012) For Free on SoundCloud!

Hey folks, as I’m in a super-generous mood today, I’ve decided to release my instrumental mix of my original song “Breathe” for free download on SoundCloud for a limited time! (See link above! grab, grab, grab!!!)

I composed and performed this music last year using my favourite DAW Logic Pro 9 and with the help of Keith Caffrey (the other half of my acoustic-rock duet Shock Sorrow- no relation!), lyrics and vocal melodies were added soon after. The full version was received really well amongst my friends and colleagues and even got played over-seas on a TKS Radio podcast in Canada, Manic Mondays hosted by Fallon Bowman (my vocal idol!) and Andrew “Draco” UnaSchulman. Draco reacted to the song extremely well and his comments were actually hallarious! He made me cry with laughter and Fallon herself made some really lovely, positive comments.

The original podcast can be found on YouTube: [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKkqq0VtnUM]

I have uploaded an edited version that skips directly to the comments: [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGjRldtOFno]

So enjoy the free download, this mix focuses on the instrumentation and I’ve included some backing vocals for good measure!

I do wish to release the rest of my chilled-electronic solo material in the very near future! Watch this space!

Follow me on SoundCloud, get in touch!

Steffy x

Black Svan Rock Out at the Spirit Store, Dundalk!

The Spirit Store opened it’s doors last night to rock out with two of Ireland’s busiest metal/rock bands; the powerful force of original metal that is Black Svan and headliners Thin Lizzy tribute “Bad Reputation”.

I attended the gig to catch up with Black Svan (I’ve been following them since August 2009 but haven’t been able to keep up with them in recent times since their blast of non-stop gigs all over the country, following their incredible European tour with monsters of rock, Fozzy and Stuck Mojo last year). Last night was my first time seeing/hearing their new line-up, Mo Clifford on second guitar, Kenneth Bell on bass and Joe Toal on drums accompanying founding members, vocalist Keith Caffrey and guitarist Jagger Murray. The powerful wall of sound instantly struck me as the most solid, tight, heavy (and may I add, the loudest!) line-up yet!

Black Svan rock the Spirit Store 27-12-11

Opening with the killer riffage of “STD”, Black Svan instantly owned the stage and captured everyones full attention straight away. Keith’s vocal was not drowned out by the rhythmical hammering of Joe’s kit and wall of guitars that screamed Jagger’s signature fat, full-bodied, properly distorted (no fizzy fuzz guitars here) sound, Keith’s vocal soared, strong, confident, clearly. The anthemic bridge “Talk to me, yeah, yeah, yeah….” filled the room.

Personal favourite “Sickness” came early in the set, a surprise to hear it played on guitars down-tuned to a bad-ass C, a full tone lower than the album teaser on the band’s MySpace page (BLACK SVAN | Free Music, Tour Dates, Photos, Videos.), I personally would have preferred to hear it in its original key as I felt the song lost something, some vocal power, or maybe it’s a just a case of demo-itis on my behalf! Perhaps if it was played in the original key, it would have sounded weak in comparison to the rest of the set, all the new songs are written in C and sound awesomely heavy!

Keith Caffrey and Jagger Murray, metal overlords

Without a shadow of a doubt “Dream Forever” was the song of the night, a finely crafted song, crushing riffs and seriously powerful lyrics and melodies from Keith, a hint of Iron Maiden influence peeps though with Jagger and Mo’s close guitar harmonies in the short link to verse 2. “Dream Forever” will be the track to listen out on the debut album when it’s released next year. The band completed their recording very recently, the highly anticipated album is sure to be a hit both here and abroad, thanks to their army of loyal fans in Europe. We were also treated to a very new song “Immortal”, ultra-tight, very heavy, very big- an album definite, even title track, according to the band’s Facebook profile!

Wrapping up with the awesomely heavy, monster of a track “Killing Time”, Black Svan left us begging for more. Black Svan will rock McHughs of Drogheda tomorrow night, 9.30 sharp, wrapping up a musically fulfilling 2011 which saw the band’s biggest Irish dates so far, Vantastival, Jam for Japan, Killybeggs Tattoo Convention to name but a few. 2012 is sure to be the year of the Svan, the Black Svan.

Black Svan 2011 https://www.facebook.com/blackswaninfo

Aztaria Live Acoustic Recording

Last night was Aztaria’s 2nd rehearsal in Dublin after our summer break. To ease ourselves back into the swing of things, we decided we would rehearse our entire set acoustically. And sure while we were at it (seeing as I never leave home without my iMac, microphone and magic recording box!!!), why not record the whole session as well?! 🙂

Paweł, David and Arianna share a joke in rehearsals!

As you can see above, many a giggle was had and it felt as if we never had a break, in a good way of course! Were any of the naughty jokes captured on video-camera? Perhaps! 😉 Aztaria Rockumentary coming soon!!!

I set up my trusty Rode NTK microphone in the far corner of the rehearsal room, as far away as I could get from David’s kit (no offense to David in any way, it’s only natural he’s the loudest member of the band! :)) and Sandra positioned herself in front of the mic. I sat to her left with my Tanglewood acoustic guitar and Paweł sat next to me again. He wished to use his (hot and sexy) Cort electric guitar with his new guitar rig which includes his Boss GT-10 effects processor, Boss V-Wah pedal (love the sounds he’s making with this new toy!!) and a host of Marshall and other racks to compliment his sound! Arianna sat nearby on her bass amp (playing her electric bass as as she’s saving for a new acoustic baby!) and far, far, away all by his lonesome was David using his full kit with brushes 😉 We set up a 58 over his kit to make use of the second input available on my Roland Cakewalk UA25EX audio interface (aka my magic recording box!) and recorded straight into my iMac. Not the most acoustically soundproof room but I was surprised after a brief soundcheck of the clarity of our realtime mix (leaning closer and further away from the Rode mic as appropriate and playing/singing louder and softer when necessary), we recorded 4 tracks, 3 of which we may use!

It was great fun to do something different together and make something productive! Aztaria are back and ready to rock and roll!!!

Arianna, Sandra and David chilling out during a break!
Aztaria grrrrrrrrrrrrls Sandra, Arianna and myself posing outside the rehearsal room!