Maida Vale Studios

Maida Vale Studios

From skating palace to orchestra HQ and residential to The Beatles and Dr Who theme too. Steve Sutherland on the ability that performed a singular half in pioneering British music

You can argue all you want over the best single ever launched. You can commerce opinions on the best debut album ever made, and dispute the best guitar solo ever recorded… You can bandy phrases over most issues. But in relation to the best TV present theme ever, there’s just one winner: Dr Who.


Plaque on the constructing’s exterior

An otherworldly composition of pioneering electronica, it was created within the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, one of many models of the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios on Delaware Road, London W9, in 1963. The Workshop, which was initially arrange in 1958 in rooms 13 and 14 at a value of £2000, was shaped with the categorical intention of manufacturing incidental sounds and new music for radio and tv reveals. Under the modern stewardship of Daphne Oram, a self-taught composer who avidly experimented in manipulating taped sounds, the Workshop was quickly offering sonic miracles for all method of programmes. Dr Who was the jewel in its crown.


Co-founder of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Daphne Oram

Unsung Heroine

The rating was written by Ron Grainer, an Australian composer who excelled in soundtracking stuff for TV. In 1961 his theme and incidental music for the Maigret detective sequence had received the Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Composition For Film, TV Or Radio and he was well-known for different compositions created for fashionable reveals equivalent to The Goon Show, Steptoe And Son, That Was The Week That Was and the like. His piece for the brand new sci-fi weekly Dr Who was long-established within the Workshop by Delia Derbyshire who, effectively earlier than the supply of economic synthesisers, realised an aural masterpiece past the imagining of the listening public. What was that sound, individuals wished to know, and simply how was it performed?


Shot of the Maida Vale Studios on Delaware Road taken in 2015

Derbyshire, who got here from a working class background in Coventry, left Cambridge University with a level in arithmetic and music solely to be informed on making use of for work at Decca Records that the corporate didn’t make use of girls of their recording studios. After stints as a instructor, she joined the Beeb in November 1960 as a trainee assistant studio supervisor, shifting to the Workshop in April 1962. Once ensconced, she stayed for 11 years, creating sound for some 200 radio and tv programmes. Her work on the Dr Who theme topped the lot and led to her latterly being recognised as ‘the unsung heroine of British digital music’.

Bring The Noise

Here’s how she did it… Each notice was created by chopping and becoming a member of sections of analogue tape. On these had been recordings of a solitary plucked string together with white noise and harmonic patterns generated by test-tone oscillators whose precise objective was to calibrate tools quite than make music. These sections had been sped up and slowed down to realize the specified impact.



Bing Crosby in 1951. He undertook his final ever recording session in Studio MV3 in 1977 the place a plaque now marks the occasion

As for the primary, pulsing bassline that drives the piece, this was made utilizing a recording of 1 plucked string. This was performed time and again in varied patterns by chopping and mixing copies of the recording. To obtain totally different pitches and notes, the pattern was performed at totally different speeds. The flowing melody and the decrease bassline had been created by altering the pitch of oscillator banks by hand, to a predetermined sample.


In the early ’60s The Beatles had been common guests to Studio MV5 for broadcasts made by the BBC

A keyboard hooked up to the oscillator banks was employed to conjure up the ‘non-swooping’ elements of the melody whereas the hissing sounds had been created by chopping up recordings made on tape of white noise run by means of a filter.


Pink Floyd recorded periods for John Peel’s Top Gear programme within the late ’60s

And there’s extra! Each sound was modified after it was made. Some sounds had been initially produced in any respect the mandatory pitches instantly from the oscillators. However, others needed to be adjusted afterward by various the tape playback velocity and recording the sound onto one more tape participant to alter the pitch. This course of was repeated till each sound might be performed in any respect the required pitches.

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November 11, 2023 at 02:18AM

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