House Studios in Washington DC


Dave Pensado: What’s up, everybody? We’re going to hang out in D.C. with my my friends Yudu, he owns house studios in D.C. They do a lot of amazing recordings there, and are somewhat known for their vocal production, and vocal techniques. So, I thought this would be a great opportunity to bring him up, and get some instructions from Jake and Chandra. Yudu, how are you doing my friend?

Yudu Gray: Good. How are you doing, Dave?

Dave Pensado: Man, I’m doing great. Last time we talked the weather was kind of ugly. How are you doing now, everything moving pretty good?

Yudu Gray: We cleared out all the snow, and we’re back to work.

Dave Pensado: You staying pretty busy? I imagine so, with everything you’ve got going on there, huh?

Yudu Gray: We are. We’ve learned to trick people into thinking that we know what we’re doing.

Dave Pensado: Well, the word on the street is, and you know I live on the streets a lot. So, you know, I know that. But the word on the street is that you guys are doing some incredible stuff. Jake, my friend, is the engineer there. Jake, how are you doing?

Jake Vicious: Very good, Dave. Nice to meet you, man. I’m a big fan of Pensado’s Place. I do Recording Connection’s stuff, and I teach a lot of students. And actually one of my students is here, but every student I have I direct straight to Pensado’s Place because when I was coming out of school, believe it or not, dating me a couple of years back now, but I was listening to you guys when you guys were first getting started in the old studio, with you and Herb. So, big influence on what I do, so very nice to actually sit down with you in the flesh.

Dave Pensado: Well, thanks for that Jake. I was talking to Yudu a couple of days ago, and he had nothing but good things to say about you. So apparently, you learned a lot from watching Pensado’s Place. Not really…

Jake Vicious: You can take all the credit, you can take all the credit.

Dave Pensado: Jake, forgive me, but I forgot your last name.

Jake Vicious: Grotticelli is my last name.

Dave Pensado: Cool. And Chandra? Pleasure to meet you, my dear. How are you doing?

Chandra: I’m good. How are you?

Dave Pensado: I’m doing good. They’re treating you okay there? I mean, are you getting to learn some stuff?

Chandra Lipford: I can’t complain. Yes, it’s been a good experience.

Dave Pensado: What’s your last name Chandra?

Chandra Lipford: Lipford.

Dave Pensado: Say it again.

Chandra Lipford: Lipford.

Dave Pensado: Too cool, too cool. What’s, at this point in your career, what is it that you’ve learned at The House that surprises you the most from what you were taught in school? What was the most different than what you though it would be?

Chandra Lipford: So, I guess with this program, I didn’t go to school for it. So, this program is more like an apprenticeship. So, you get a lot of real time studying, and real time experience. So, I guess, my surprise was I didn’t realize as an engineer all that went into it. Like, I had some sort of idea, but I didn’t realize the recording aspect of it, and mic placement, and all of that, and how that all ties into the final sound.

Dave Pensado: Oh, that’s cool. I mean, that’s a sign that you’re at a good facility, too. In terms of what you’ve learned so far, did you realize as much care, and as much expertise and skill went into getting vocals to sound right?

Chandra Lipford: I did. Going into it, I did think that some work went in to mixing vocals, and making them sound like how you hear them on the radio or on a CD. And House does a good job of kind of showing you different ways to make the vocals come out the way you want them to. So, it’s been fun.

Dave Pensado: Cool. Hey Jake, have you got something you want to share with us, in terms of different things you do there at House Studio DC?

Jake Vicious: Well, happy you should ask, Dave. Yeah, I definitely have some stuff pulled up. So, we do a lot of really cool programs. We’re known really well for a couple of things, but we’ve done a lot of the hip hop records that you guys know, and see on the radio, especially stuff from the D&V area. And so, when you’re getting into hip hop records, especially contemporary stuff is, you would know, Dave. You get into a lot of vocal correction, but not just that, but all augmenting performances, because you don’t always have so much time with the vocalists. Like, say an industry R&B singer’s only in town for a couple of days, or they’re coming back from a show, and you have to get what you have to get. But sometimes you have to create those vocals. So, what I was going to go through, is I have some stuff setup. And I want to kind of show you guys some cool waves tuning effects, and different vocal and pitch shifting effects. So that listeners at home could see how to take basic vocals or the vocals they have with one take, and turn it into something like you hear from Imogen Heap or Rihanna, or something like that. So, that’s kind of what I was hoping to go through.

Dave Pensado: Chandra, are you ready?

Jake Vicious: Oh yeah. Always ready. Cool, so we have a song setup here. This is from an artist named Brittany Swilley. She’s really cool. We do a thing called the Artist Grant program, where we pull artists from all over the country, and we give them free recording time with different producers, and different engineers. And so, we only had a few days in the studio with her. So, I’m going to play you the hook, and show you a feel of what we already have, and where what we want it to go. So, here’s the hook in the song, as it was right now.

Jake Vicious: So, obviously a beautiful vocal. You know what I mean? Obviously, she’s an amazing performer and the demo is unbelievable. But we wanted to give people a deeper view into what it could be. So, what I would do, is I would take this vocal, and I would create the harmonies that you hear, and all the sounds the radio. Create everything that you need to hear. So, I would take this main track, I would duplicate it. Let’s do twice, because we’re going to build chords, we’re going to get some kind of cool music theory. And often, I’ll take this main vocal, and I’ll just duplicate it over these two tracks, to create the feel of multiple singers or multiple harmonies being made. People use different auto tunes, and different pitch shifting software. I like Waves Tune, a lot. It’s one of the ones that I use, a lot. So, I’ll pull that one up right now, and what’s cool with Waves Tune, I’ll make two copies, like I said, you’ll see more later. But if we watch as the Waves Tunes goes, I’ll pull it up on the screen, Waves Tune will write along with the vocal, as it goes. So, we’ll play through the hook.

Jake Vicious: So again, as you know, it already sounds great. But the main key is C minor, right? So, we want to add those background harmonies while we can. So, if you even go to your guide on the Waves Tune, you can hear. So, we’ll be going up, and let’s try and grab. So, C would be our main note for the fourth.

Jake Vicious: So, while we get that main chord play, as opposed to hearing just that, we would go up to the next note on the scale, which should be. C-E-G would be our chord, as the guitar players know. So, we’ll build off that E. And I’ll take that main line and move it. So, we’ll get something like this…

And you get this feel, obviously, that we’re going go through the whole track an Imogen Heap-y, Kanye West kind of thing.

Dave Pensado: Wait, ho ho, play that again! That sounded good. Let me hear that again.

Jake Vicious: It’s kinda cool, right? We’re gonna go through the whole vocal.

Dave Pensado: I didn’t hear any artifacts.

Jake Vicious: Two of these, which is gonna be crazy. But I’ll play it one more time for you, too. So, this is it with the tune. And then we’ll watch it draw, and I’ll draw it again. So, I’m gonna pull it up, one more time…

Cool. And so, the same things happens here, right? So, I’d make my harmony.

Jake Vicious: What you noticed, that one didn’t sound, obviously, as good because she bends her main note. So, what we’ll do, is we’ll actually make that note a four. So, if you look on Waves Tune, one of the reasons I love this so much, is because you can physically see it, as well as make it. So, I’ll make the note bend, as you can watch the waves move down, and then back up. So, you almost have this real creation of…

Jake Vicious: And all of a sudden, you have two different vocalists in a whole new world. And obviously, you’ve heard a ton of this stuff in every record you hear on the radio. But this is kind of a cool thing. And then, so after that, let’s even take it one step further. So, we’ve built our main harmonies. Cool, main harmonies are really nice. Let’s add the third now. Like I said, we’re guitar players, so we know our chords. So, C-E, the last chord is gonna be C-E, what? There you go. My man, Dave, obviously knows. So, I’ll pull that out…So, adding that G, I get this beautiful chord now…

So, from something where we had just one note, and one chord, and, you know, a demo cut. We now have something that sounds like it’s fully vocally produced, without having to have the artist in here for six hours, and having to have her have perfect takes.

Dave Pensado: That’s pretty cool.

Jake Vicious: So, it’s kinda interesting. It’s something we do a lot. I loved Waves Tune, it’s something I’ve worked with, all the time. This is a very basic way. I don’t really get in and actually draw every single note, and really get dive deep into my mixes. But you could see how something like this now, in context with the whole song, sounds really great…

So, at the end, you have something beautiful.

Cool. And so, it sounds effortless, it sounds…

Dave Pensado: Man…

Jake Vicious: It almost sounds like a Dave Pensado mix. You know what I mean? Something like that.

Dave Pensado: Well, I don’t know about that. But man, thanks for sharing that with us. Chandra, what do you think about that?

Chandra Lipford: I think that’s pretty dang on remarkable, in a way.

Dave Pensado: That’s cool.

Chandra Lipford: So, not have to have the artist in here to…

Dave Pensado: I’ll check back in with Yudu in a few months, and with Jake there at the The House Studios. And I want to see you do that. Do you think you can show me that, next time I get that way?

Chandra Lipford: If you ask me, I will definitely learn how to do it, and make sure I can do it.

Dave Pensado: Well, I’m slightly teasing, but I think you should learn how to do it anyway. I am planning on coming to D.C. real soon. So maybe, I hope, I can stop by and meet you guys, in person.

Jake Vicious: Yeah, we’d love for you to visit us.

Yudu Gray: Absolutely.

Dave Pensado: Jake, man, great job, my friend. That was really, really impressive. I have just never thought to use that plugin. I’m a big Waves fan, so I’m going to have to run, look that up, and check it out.

Jake Vicious: Yeah, definitely should. Like I said, people use…obviously, you’ve taught many things about Melodyne, and Evo, and everything in between. But Waves gives you an opportunity to really dive into the notes. This is why I like it. And really be creative, as a vocal producer who doesn’t have the time.

Dave Pensado: Yeah, we’re blessed nowadays with so many, so many tools. You’re entering into the profession, Chandra, at just the right time. Hey guys, we’re almost signed off. Is Yudu somewhere around where I can thank him? Or did he…

Yudu Gray: I’m hiding in the back corner.

Jake Vicious: He’s slightly off to the side.

Dave Pensado: Okay. Yudu. Hey man, great facility. Jake is an all-star, man. What a great engineer. Thank you for sharing that with us. Chandra, I want to see you on the charts in a couple of years, my friend. And Yudu, maybe I’ll see you soon. As you know, we’re probably going to head out that way soon.

Yudu Gray: Absolutely, you’re always welcome to…

Dave Pensado: Hey guys, over and out. Thank you so much.

Yudu Gray: Yes sir, thank you.

Chandra Lipford: Great to meet you.

Dave Pensado: Okay. Bye-bye, guys.

Jake Vicious: Bye.

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