Horns On Hand is the brainchild of Nik Carter and Jack Birchwood, two talented horn players from the UK. It is a studio service that they set up 5 years ago to make music! It is a fully functional online recording studio to provide quality recordings of brass and woodwind, in any setting, in any combination, for any project, as quick as a flash. Nik and Jack are a part of the ‘Blackjack Horns’ - a hardhitting and soulful horn section, who have rapidly made a name for themselves as ‘the’ brightest, dynamic, young horn section being used in the UK and abroad, for tours, TV, and hired for studio recordings. The studio came about after Nik and Jack finished touring with UK pop artist Lily Allen, at which time they were already recording in studios in and around London, but wanted to be able to record from the comfort of their own home! They then set about seeking advice from some well-known musicians, intheir-own-right masters of their craft in the studio and live, and producers and studio engineers the pair have had the pleasure of working with, about the greatest techniques, mics, software, plugins, compressors, and everything horn players should know for recording, playing and mixing the best possible sound of horn playing for a professional project. Horn players such as Gary Barnacle (Level 42, Elvis Costello, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Tina Turner, Jamiroquai), Harry Kim (Phil Collins, Earth, Wind & Fire, American Idol), Rick Baptist (US session trumpet player), Lenny Pickett (Tower Of Power, Paul Simon, SNL), Dave Woodford (Metallica, Aerosmith, Tower Of Power), George Shelby (US session sax player), Dave Koz (US saxophone artist) and more helped with not only playing in a studio setting, but recording as well.
Whilst there maybe plugins galore for replicating strings,drums and other instruments, brass is never the same as the real thing. You cannot replicate real power, phrases, style, flair, dynamics, and articulation with synth brass. That’s why we’re brought into to replace midi brass. The session scene today has become fraught with cutbacks and cancellations, which makes recording a great project, and making it sound great even more difficult. But that’s why we’ve thought of this service, thinking that time and money are often enemies of producers, and when up against it, they will settle for cheap imitations, or none at all. We have come in to the session scene not to undercut, but to offer a service that can work for everybody. Our studio is available 24/7, so we can meet the demands producers and writers face, when under pressure and working within strict deadlines. Horns On Hand offer an efficient, top quality affordable service, whether it’s replacing synth midi brass, playing solos, or arranging brass to suit the track, we rise to the challenge and can help you achieve the results you want.
Nik plays all woodwinds, including soprano, alto, tenor, baritone saxophones, flute, clarinet and bass clarinet. Jack plays all trumpets and flugelhorn, and trombone. Between us we can engineer and produce our horn recordings, arrange horns for any track, and have it done on the same day, if not the next day. With that selection on brass to hand, we can record anything from a muted trumpet solo right up to a full big band (5 trumpets, 4 trombones and 5 saxophones). Below are a few examples of the more common horn section line-ups we provide. However, we are always keen to experiment with various brass/woodwind combinations.
Remember, if you are unsure of what instruments to use, but know what overall sound result/vibe you want, let us do the thinking.
SOLO INSTRUMENTS Perhaps quite obvious but itâ€™s still a major feature of songs and popular music. of the instruments we play can be played as a solo in any style, from a mariachi trumpet solo, a roaring pop sax solo, to classical flute!
TWO PIECE SECTIONS
Flugelhorn & Tenor sax, OR
Flugelhorn & Flute, OR
Trumpet & Trombone, OR
Trumpet & Tenor Sax, OR
Tenor saxophone & Flute.
THREE PIECE SECTIONS Trumpet, Tenor Saxophone and Trombone // Artists such as Tom Jones, Lily Allen, James Morrison and other pop acts or indie bands use this combination, as this is an even balance of strong, punchy brass. This is a good line up when wanting your brass lines or padding to be heard, as the trombone and sax together gives a big sound in the middle/low registers whilst the trumpet leads from the top.
Trumpet, Alto Saxophone and Trombone // Trumpet, Alto Saxophone and Tenor Saxophone // These two line-ups were used by Prince in his 30-date appearances at the O2 Arena, and used them on many of his albums. It gives a top heavy sound, reminiscent of the soul era of James Brown.
Trumpet, Tenor Saxophone and Baritone Saxophone // This line up hasmade a comeback in the last 5 years or so, with artists such as Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson, and Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings employing it to recreate that Ray Charles/Stevie Wonder ‘soul/motown’ sax heavy sound, where the trumpet and tenor sax would often play hooks or stabs, and the baritone sax would provide the big ‘parp’ at the bottom.
Two Trumpets and a Trombone // This is a good line up when wanting a certain latin/spanish flair to the track, with bands such as Mumford & Sons utilizing it to play brass lines and padding, with that extra flair and sizzle from the two trumpets, making that sound reflective of cuba and the Buena Vista Social Club.
FOUR PIECE SECTIONS Trumpet 1, Trumpet 2, Alto Saxophone and Trombone// This was the line up of the great Phoenix Horns and the Vine Street Horns, both of which featured live and recorded with Phil Collins and Earth Wind and Fire, amongst other artists. Having an Alto sax in the section as well as two trumpets gives this line up an incredible punchy top end, with the alto sax being closer inrange to the trumpets than the tenor sax but it has a distinctive timbre which when voiced appropriately, and/or coupled with the depth of the octave-below trombone, sounds awesome.
Trumpet (Flugelhorn)1,Trumpet (Flugelhorn)2, Tenor Saxophone and Trombone // This is an example of one of the most commonly recorded horn section line ups. This formation was used by Jerry Hey - probably one of the most influential and recorded horn section players and arrangers there has ever been. This line up can be heard on Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Bad albums, along with albums by George Benson, Toto, Al Jarreau, Quincy Jones, Earth Wind & Fire, Barry Manilow amongst others. It has the ultimate punchy sound with all areas being covered, whereby the trombone and sax cover the bottom and middle ranges, and the doubled trumpets provide the phattened sound up top, alongside the option of switching to two flugelhorns, which when played with smooth sax and trombone, gives a beautiful, balanced, smooth and soft sound to anything they play.
FIVE PIECE SECTIONS Trumpet 1, Trumpet 2, Tenor Saxophone, Trombone and Baritone Saxophone // This is one of the five piece line ups used by Jerry Hey, in particular this section can be heard on Michael Jackson’s ‘Working Day and Night’– of which the section is recorded twice, with the arrangement making both ‘choirs’ of brass interweave each other, giving it a great punchy, clever chopped up effect.
Trumpet 1, Trumpet 2, Tenor Saxophone 1, Tenor saxophone 2, Baritone saxophone // This is the line up for the monster horn driven band ‘Tower Of Power’. These guys have used this line up and varied it only very slightly throughout a career spanning 40 years. They sometimes would replace Trumpet 2 with a Trombone and in the 80’s there were a few tracks that featured the Alto sax being added to this big line up. A variant of the above 5-piece line up.other, giving it a great punchy, clever chopped up effect.
SIX PIECE SECTIONS Once you begin working and arranging for six or more horns you would probably be heading towards the big band sound. Commercial Artists such as Michael Buble and Robbie Williams’s ‘Swing When Your Winning’ demonstrate this sound well. This is of course notforgetting the great big bands of the day such as those of Duke Ellington and Count Basie.
OTHER PLAYERS We have had the pleasure of working with some talented and indemand brass players, who are happy to work with us. In the case where we agree we need another excellent musician to add to the sound of the recording, we can make that happen for you, and include it in any cost.
We have selected all our gear to provide what we think is a great recording, for any and all of our horns. • • • • • • •
Mac Pro M-Audio Projectmix Digital Desk Yamaha HS-80 monitors ProTools 8 Logic 8 Sibelius music notation program Drawmer 1960 Mic Pre-amp/Valve Compressor • Rode NT2-A mics • AKG 414B-ULS Our studio is equipped with a booth, which has been padded out to siphon out any extraneous noise, whilst retaining a bare sound of instruments inside. Outside of the booth works well
as a ‘live’ room, letting the instruments breathe, giving the recording a live sound. This means we have the option of recording in either environments, to suit your needs. Another benefit of the location is that we are close to the FX Group (www.fxgroup.net), with whom we have a good working relationship. They provide rentals and sales of almost any recording equipment, protools rigs, microphones. The team there have provided us with specific microphones,pre-amps and compressors that previous clients have requested, and they have such a huge collection, that they really can provided us with anything we want!
WHAT DO YOU NEED FROM ME? (I.E. YOU) Mainly what we need is a bounce of your track. This can be a rough mix with or without vocals (or the solo instrument) in any audio format. Including that, just let us know what you want us to play on the track. If you have a concrete idea, then great, we can go ahead and record. If you are unsure, we are happy to lend a helping hand with arranging any brass and working with you to create and harness your ideas. When it comes to recording, if you have the exact manuscript music for us to play, then that makes it easier for us. Otherwise we both have excellent music college-trained ears to pick out exactly what notes you want us to play, even if you are singing it to us down the phone! Then itâ€™s just a case of identifying what sample rate and bit depth you want us to record in (as a standard we do 24bit at 48kHz), and what file format you want those files, from SDII, to aiff and wav, just let us know.
HOW DO WE GET THE FILES â€“ THE STEMS? If you have a preferred online file storage system you use, please let us know, and we will be happy to use it with you. We otherwise have used Yousendit.com to transfer files in the past. You will receive an email and just click download.
CAN WE ATTEND THE SESSION? CAN WE ENGINEER THE SESSION? You are most welcome to attend the session; because horns on hand can operate 24/7, we can schedule a time that is convenient for you to attend.
*Please see the Contact us section for details of how to get to us.
Horns On Hand operate globally as we are an online service, so we can also schedule skypeTM calls for you to virtually â€˜sit inâ€™ on our session. If you want to Engineer the session in person we are happy for you to bring your laptop/computer, alongside any amps and compressors you want to use, and we are happy for you to use our HS-80 Yamaha monitors to monitor what you have recorded.
CAN WE HEAR IT BEFORE YOU SEND THE STEMS? Yes you can! We will do a quick mix of the brass incorporated with the track. We will then bounce it as a simple aiff or mp3 audio file and email it straight to you. If you are happy with the parts, we will then send you the individual clean stems so you can mix as you wish, or we can mix, eq, compress, and add on any acoustic reverb, tape delay or other effect we can offer that suits you.
HOW MUCH DO YOU GUYS COST? Please checkout our rates section on the next page.
Horns on Hand are happy to negotiate and discuss rates according to your project. We realise everyone has their own budget, and itâ€™s not going to be the same every time. We can always discuss and accommodate. We can change our rates to match whether you want to quote by the hour or by the day. Contact us with your requirements and we will be happy to quote you. We will always work in accordance with the Musicians Union (UK) guidelines and rates. We can provide release forms and stress the importance of these when performing on music that is to be released on any media. We WILL NOT sign anything that isnâ€™t recognized by the Musicians Union UK.
TESTIMONIALS “Thanks to Horns On Hand for a speedy and efficient service, they provided me with nice, clean, well recorded punchy brass lines which brought the project to life.” Patrick Duffin – TV composer (Loose Women, Come Dine With Me, TV Book Club)
“Working with Nik and Jack has been a fantastic experience. They are true professionals and their understanding of production and the techniques that can be used to help producers puts them leaps and bounds ahead of other session musicians. The parts they recorded for my album and for my production on Tom Felton’s album were brilliantly scored, played and recorded. I wouldn’t use anyone else!” Sam Roman - Artist “I’m in Los Angeles and was in a pinch for live brass. I sent Blackjack Horns the parts and stereo instrumental via the internet. They returned a hi-quality recording session of their performance in just a few days, and all I had to do was drop their parts into my Pro Tools session for mixing. The fellas have an excellent vibe and it was pleasure to work with them.” Casey ‘Schpilkas’ Dunmore (http://www.schpilkas.com/) “Horns On Hand - Just what we needed on a fast turn-around project. Glorious brass lines delivered overnight enabling us to continue simultaneous production in our studio. It works! Thanks Guys.” Alan Coates / Kim Goody – TV Composers
â€˜Horns on Handâ€™ Studio Unit 218J Safestore, 5-10 Eastman Rd, London, W3 7YG.
We have parking permits so parking is available outside the studio.
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