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Recording Connection mentor Don Heru
(Brooklyn, NY) knows all about staying agile and in-demand in today’s music business. He’s worked with artists like Mack Wilds, Wale, Trinidad James, Mobb Deep and Rick Ross. But ask him what’s the secret to his success and he’ll tell you vibe and having the right studio etiquette is a big part of it.
It’s a vibe thing. When you get in the room and people are working, it’s a very intimate thing. They’re trusting you to make whatever vision they have happen. So it’s always important for you to facilitate whatever it is they need to let their ideas and creative juices flow and to have an amazing session…Just make sure that the artist is comfortable at all times.
You have to actually set a vibe that kind of sets yourself in a place apart from where else they could go. So the little things count.”
So what qualities does Don look for in potential externs?
I want them to have a very open, inviting spirit in the studio… [And] I’m looking for enthusiasm, I’m looking for genuine work ethic, and I need to see that they actually want to be great at their craft.
With the amount of information that’s out right now, sometimes people might believe that they can just watch one or two videos online and then they’re an engineer or producer or whatever the case is. While that does help and that’s a tool that you can use, because I subscribe to a lot of pages such as “Pensado’s Place” and I learn a lot of great things from people who’ve accomplished a lot more than myself, I still know that in order to be great at what you do, you have to put the time in and you have to actually have the real-world experience.”
What’s your approach to mentoring Recording Connection students?
I ask them questions: What makes them want to be a part of this program and how long they’ve been doing music, so that I can get a feel of their preference and style…I learn as much about them as they do about me so that I can actually teach them the way that I think they absorb information.
Once I bring my apprentice into the studio with me I make sure I introduce him or her to the artist and everybody else that’s in the room. I have them close to me while I’m working. I ask them questions and I’ll actually make them be a part of the process. [However,] I do try to stress to my apprentice [extern]… that they be a part of it without getting in the way of the session. If I can’t explain something at that moment I’ll tell them, ‘Ask me when I’m finished tracking or after the session,’ or they can write their question down. That way I can give the student the full attention that’s needed without taking away from the creative process in the studio.”
When asked what gets him most excited about producing music, it’s clear that Don Heru sees technology as a tool in service of the art.
I would say using my technical expertise to bring out the creativity of a project, I think that’s what’s dope about it. Because at the end of the day I think what speaks to people is how they feel. I can listen to a song that’s in another language, and I can feel the expression and I can feel the passion that the artist might have had without fully understanding their words. I think that’s the goal of music, to really bring that energy out in whatever song, make every song feel like a record where the emotion and words and production and everything is just glued together that just kind of sticks with you…The technical aspect is important, but the I think the creativity and the feel of it is more important.”
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