Recording Connection mentor Dylan Drake on Seeing the Lightbulb Go On
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Recording Connection mentor Dylan Drake of Forte Studios believes every career in audio should be built upon a strong understanding of the fundamentals of the craft. From sound waves and acoustics, to composition, to setting up the patchbay, learning the ins-and-outs the right way, then being able to do the work independent of any oversight is the mark of someone who’s ready to work in the industry. We recently reached out to learn more about Dylan’s approach to mentorship, and to hear about a star extern of his, Osman Trigo.
So Dylan, what’s your approach to mentorship? What are you trying to instill in the students you train?
“I definitely try to think of things holistically as far as seeing it from the perspective of the artist, always relating it back to the fact that we don’t do this work in a bubble… Even as producers or artists ourselves, someone like Osman who’s on the artist track…there’s still so much collaboration that happens in that world… [So]we’re constantly asking, ‘Does the artist feel comfortable? Are we establishing trust?’
And that’s going to come from us really knowing our stuff, being very knowledgeable about the technical side of things so that [the artist] doesn’t need to worry about that. Being knowledgeable about songwriting, the structure of things, the arrangement, and then, of course, how other commercial releases sound and the whole technical side. Thinking about what the artists need, it takes care of a lot of needless talk. You’re able to always relate it back to ‘What does the song need and deserve?’ and ‘How do we build that trust with the artist?’”
Tell us a little about Forte Studios. What are you all focused on?
“We are focused on serving the Midwest. The whole idea here was to really build a facility, an excellent facility, a place where people could come. They didn’t have to go out to Nashville or L.A., they could stay in their region and record great music…
Certain ways we give back is helping artists out on the backend with business planning and helping promote the releases. I also have some contacts in sync licensing and things like that which we try to get them plugged into. We’re also doing things like free monthly workshops. We’re helping artists connect with others in the studio who otherwise they might not usually meet, and teaching them things about lyric development, music theory, how to build a better brand image in business…just so that they’re equipped and we can really start to see a community come together along with the really good music that accompanies that sort of thing.”
That’s awesome. You recently mentioned your extern Osman Trigo as being especially dedicated to his training. What makes him stand out?
“He’s very driven. He has the support of his family, which I think is a huge step for anyone trying to make it in the industry. He is working his own way through the program, helping out with his dad’s business. He’s always showing up very dedicated. He’s determined and is not going to let anything stop him from learning. And I just think that mentality in this industry is really one of the most important things that any engineer, producer, or artist can have.”
He’s on the Recording Connection for Ableton Live Electronic Music Production Ableton-specific track….He came in not really knowing much of anything about programming, about the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), about electronic music production….[For me] being someone who has taken a lot of leaps into things that I don’t necessarily know how I’ll get myself out of, it’s really encouraging to see someone that bold who would say, ‘I don’t really know anything about this, but it’s what I want to do, I have conviction about it. So here I am, what do you have to teach me?”
What kinds of things are you teaching Osman while he’s there at Forte with you?
“We do a lot of one-on-one time [and] practical application where we’re focused more on making music than necessarily going a textbook approach or something like that. We’re definitely using the material, but in that we’re trying to get back to what he would be doing on a day-to-day basis as a producer and as an artist himself…
Even though that’s not his specific focus, I think there’s so much value to being able to learn about microphone techniques and just the physics of sound and how you set things up in the room and overcome just simple things like gain staging and signal flow applications, all of those things. What I really like about the Recording Connection and that aspect is that everyone is getting a very holistic view of what happens in the studio…[There’s so] many different facets and ways that Osman can take those things and use them in his own production. It gives him an edge over people who may be just self-taught or YouTube-taught or any of those things…It’s great to be the antithesis of that with one-on-one mentorship.”
So why to you choose to mentor for Recording Connection?
“It’s so fun seeing the lightbulb go on and you see their eyes light up… [It’s] that same thing I recognized in myself when I was going through school and learning things. There’s nothing more exciting than figuring out how to do something that you’ve always wanted to do, something that you may have thought was impossible. We all grow up hearing these sounds on records that we love, and we just think, ‘Well, that was like a one in a million chance. They got lucky and there’s no way to recreate that.’ It’s so fun when you can sit down with someone and say, ‘Oh, that’s easy. Here’s how it’s done,’ and you watch their hair fly back, going, ‘Wow, this is the real deal. I’m actually learning how to do this!’”
Learn more about Recording Connection for audio engineering, music production, live sound, Ableton, beat making and more.