Music Producer Josh Monroy’s Tips for Being Productive in Studio with Your Clients
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Josh “iGLOo” Monroy started his music career in Atlanta where he worked with artists Elton John, Shinedown, Justin Bieber, OutKast, The Notorious B.I.G. and helmed the post of head engineer of The LudaPlex, Ludacris’ private production studio. During his time there, Josh earned several platinum and gold certified records including one for Justin Bieber’s “Baby” and a Grammy for Rap Album of the Year for the work he did with Ludacris.
Today, Josh co-owns Studio 1 Zero in Los Angeles where he recently produced, co-wrote, and recorded several tracks for pop/R&B star JoJo’s Mad Love, including the title track. The producer and audio engineer’s work also includes the Walla hit song “101” and original music for commercial clients including Acura, Harley Davidson and The Simpson’s!
We recently caught up with Josh to get his advice on how ambitious producers can be available and productive for the artists they work firstly, by knowing what’s in their own libraries and secondly, by getting smart about the way they manage their time while in-session with artists and clients.
KNOW YOUR LIBRARY.
“Sometimes you need days or hours just to explore your sounds and get a good knowledge of what is held in your library. Before going into any writing session with an artist, know your library, know where to find your stuff, know how to get the sound for whatever hip hop artist or whatever rock artist or alternative or indie dance kind of thing you will be working on. Melding of these genres is what’s making music so special these days, so knowing the different genres and where to find those specific things, that’s extremely important.
Maybe one day is spent just working on Omnisphere and learning all the sounds they have to offer. Maybe the track you walk away with isn’t that great. But the intent wasn’t to make a hit track. The intent was to learn a specific plugin, and without doing that, you’ll never know that Omnisphere has great pluck sounds, synths, and cool human voice sounds.”
WHEN THE CLIENT’S IN, YOU’RE IN ‘PRODUCTION MODE.’
“When the client is in the room, you should be quickly going into production mode, using the time that you’ve already spent going through your library, and know where things are to achieve the sonic palate that you’re looking for, that your client needs.
A problem I often see in people who are just starting out is that they want to spend all this time screwing around, tweaking a hi-hat or spending like 20 minutes getting a kick drum sound the way they want it. But until you have a song, none of that matters, because if your song sucks, who cares if the hi-hat’s dope? Who cares if the kick drum is the best kick drum you’ve ever designed, if the song is sh_t?
When your artist gets there, make sure you’re not fumbling around, you know, looking for a kick drum for half an hour. If you’re spending more than 10 minutes finding one sound, you’re losing your audience.
It should be about the song [and] moving the workflow efficiently and when you’re going back to your library of stuff, you know where to find it. Now, you’re a conduit. You’re not searching. Instead, you’re letting your knowledge, your confidence, and your library lead the way, and the creativity is just flowing left and right.”
BUILD YOUR ‘BAND.’
“I have a quick rule that I use for my production apprentices (externs). Basically I tell them, “Look, you need to develop a band.” So your band is what? That’s a drummer, a bass player, and some type of instrumentalist. That’s a band…
So your drummer is all your drum parts, your kick, your snare, your hi-hat, maybe a crash, maybe a sound effect here or there, or a percussion element, right? So once you have those three parts, your bass, your drums, your instrumentation, whatever that instrument’s going to be…you need that one extra sound that makes it super special, so some type of lead sound, normally. That could be a vocal sample, it could be a lead guitar part, it could be a multitude of things. With those four elements, your drums, your bass, your instrument, and your plus one you have the makings of a song.
From there I tell my people they can start arranging. That means start putting verses together, figuring how the verse leads into the pre-chorus, or if it just goes straight into the chorus…
Arranging what is there, so that you have sections of a song for people to sing or rap to, there’s the chorus, our repetition, our hook, that’s the meat and potatoes of a record.
Do that and now everyone in the room is happy with you. Now everyone can hear the song in its barest skeleton form and they’re satisfied enough in their ears to know that, ‘Hey, okay, this is the record. I hear bass, I hear drums. I hear all the parts of what I would assume to be a song.’ From that point you can start looping certain sections, say the verse or the chorus, and adding to anything, and then go into tweaking your hi-hats for 10 minutes or whatever, while they’re writing and stuff.”
YOUR MAIN GOAL FOR EVERY ARTIST SESSION.
“They walk in the room and there’s no expectation, and then they leave six to eight hours later, and there’s this whole freaking song made, and it’s special, it’s about them and it’s encompassing their influences and what they love. It’s not just this generic track…That’s what I show my apprentices, is how to get inside someone’s head in a short period of time, use your time wisely so that the artist walks away satisfied.
I do two-hour drills with my apprentices where they have two hours to make a track, and there has to be a full-on song, or music bed for a song anyway. That means intro, verse, chorus, the whole nine yards, Not just an 8-bar loop that’s looped over and over again for three minutes. I don’t want to hear that.”
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