Meet our Alumni: Graduating class record at Abbey Road Studios London

Recording at Abbey Road Studios London is every music producer’s dream. It came true for the graduates of the Abbey Road Institute. Under the guidance of resident engineer Stefano Civetta, the Berlin and Frankfurt graduates each had one day to realize their own projects. Yannick Sahlmen, newly graduated from the Berlin Institute, tells us how he experienced the session. 

The graduation ceremony on the eve of the Session Recordings was quite an emotional experience. With pride – and a dose of melancholy – we received our „Advanced Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering“ from our head lecturers. And we were asked not to forget to mention Abbey Road Institute when we received our first Grammy. Even if this sounds humorous at first, we felt that there was actually a lot of trust and conviction in these words.

Recording Session at the Abbey Road Studio London

The big day we’ve been waiting for started at 9:30 am. The night before, we had a meeting in Studio 3, where the preparations for the recording session were already going on, and to get to know the Abbey Road Engineer Stefano Civetta.

After setup and soundcheck, we started by recording the instruments in different blocks: First together as a band, with drums, piano, electric guitar, bass, and a few shakers. Then we overdubbed the famous Hammond organ, a few notes of the infamous Beatles piano (wow!), Bongos and finally my vocals and the backing vocals.

In the beginning, the tension was palpable. I was especially anxious, as the song that we would record was my composition. But thanks to Stefano’s support, we swiftly recorded a fast number of tracks, the song became fuller and livelier, and all the instruments were taped way faster than we had anticipated. Cue a collective relieved breath. You simply do not want to make a fool of yourself on these hallows grounds.

Piano | Piano-Recording | Abbey Road Studios London | Abbey Road Institute | Yannick Sahlmen | Music Production | Sound Engineering

Yannick Sahlmen

Stefano „Ninja“ Civetta on the SSL and Pro Tools

I’ve never met anyone in my life who musically impressed me more than Stefano. The graduates of the previous course had named him the „Ninja“, thanks to the insane speed and professionalism with which he operates the desk, an SSL 9000+, as well as Pro Tools. As a side note, Stefano told us that he recently mixed an entire album in 2.5 days. Madness! He also has the best “ears” I’ve ever had the fortune to observe in a musician. That helped me a lot in finding the harmony voices.

Lead and backing vocal recording

After only five and a half hours, the vocal recordings were the only thing left to track, which came as a relief because they would be the most stressful for me. So any added pressure due to lack of time was a non-issue. After all, I had to deliver this part completely on my own – in the same booth, in which so many amazing vocalists recorded legendary songs.

Another of Stefano´s strengths is that he knows exactly how to work with a musician. In no time he calmed me down. Part after part we added takes until we had all the vocals.

This was followed by the four-voices choir recordings, consisting of me, two other graduates and our head lecturer Stefan Weiser. Even during the warm-up, we sounded great thanks to the acoustics of the room and the microphones we used. Some last ad libs of mine, Stefano’s final tips, a few takes and about four hours earlier than expected, the recording part of the session was a wrap.

Stefano Civetta and the graduates behind the SSL desk in Studio 3

Stefano Civetta and the graduates

Mixing in Studio Three

So we had a lot of time for the mixing part. Hours spent with a mixture of amazement and curiosity to watch Stefano as he made the song sound better and better.

I enjoyed this time. And slowly we all realized what was happening here. Recording at Abbey Road Studios, which is what most musicians and producers dream of and have on their bucket lists, was by then something we got to experience right at the start of our careers.

At 8 pm the studio session ended and we left the studio overwhelmed. Later that evening in the pub we let this day pass review. Incredulous, if all that really happened, or yet was a just dream. We just could not stop smiling.

An intense year at the Abbey Road Institute

We talked about how far this very intense year had brought us – musically and personally. The dream of living from making music had become a concrete plan. Networks were established, bands were created, labels launched, already songs and albums have emerged. You can´t say how the year would have been for any of us without training at the Abbey Road Institute, but one thing is for certain: today, each of us is glad to have decided to enroll in the programme.

Die Absolventen aus Berlin im Studio 1

A final group picture in Studio 1

Future plans for a career in the professional music business

My plan is to start a studio and label in Berlin Neukölln with two fellow graduates from the Berlin Abbey Road Institute. Our emphasis will be on songwriting and producing for artists as well as companies. Just the way I have always wanted to. And thanks to my time at the Abbey Road Institute, I’m now convinced that my career in the music industry will be successful.

Be the future Sound Makers

If you too dream of a career in the professional music business, all I can do is to advise you to get in touch with the people from the Abbey Road Institutes in Berlin or Frankfurt, visit an Open Studio Day and a Study For A Day and look for yourself if it is the right path for you. It sure was for me!

Here you can listen to the finished product of the song „Youth„.


Text: Yannick Sahlmen  Edit: Susi Schiller