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When Jimi and Brian get you working on the job, you’re in a real-world setting where you can hone your skills while getting your feet planted in the industry. Read below about a Recording Connection student who is gaining inroads into the Nashville music industry while learning to fine-tune his mixes from a Grammy-winning engineer!
Recording Connection student Jones Nelson: Learning the Art of The Mix
Recording Connection apprentice Jones Nelson recalls the first time he set foot in his mentor Jamie Tate’s studio, The Rukkus Room in Nashville, Tennessee:
“I was supposed to be meeting with my mentor on a Wednesday,” he said, “and I got a text message from him that morning that said, ‘Hey, we’re actually going to be doing a tracking session this evening if you’d like to swing by.’ It was just kind of ad hoc, but I thought, ‘Well yeah. We’ll swing over there.’ I went in and…they had a session band in, and the session band was going through and just recording a bunch of different artists that would come in…What was really interesting is that these guys, if you even accidentally have listened to country music over the last 10 years or 15 years, you likely heard some of these folks on the record. The drummer, I know his work, toured and worked with Reba McEntire for like 15 years. The guitarist that was in the recording, I think he got the Nashville Guitarist of the Year or something last year…It was that moment that I realized that I was standing amongst giants and really had, at least somewhat, stumbled into the big leagues.”
Jones Nelson and mentor Jamie Tate at Rukkus Room, Nashville, TN
As a serious blues-rock vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, and having had some previous experience in radio, Jones was not entirely unfamiliar with the studio environment. He’d even been doing home recordings of his own music for several years. But coming into the Rukkus Room as a Recording Connection apprentice meant taking things to a different level—a chance to polish his skills. “I’ve been in and around production rooms and audio studios since I was 15 years old,” he says. “I just kind of gleaned different tips and tricks over the years, but this is my first time in a real professional studio to where my sole objective is to learn…You think that you kind of have a handle on how sound is put together and how a mix is put together. When you see somebody do it just completely differently and much better than what you’re used to, it’s just like very awe-inspiring.”
Perhaps the most important thing Jones is learning as an apprentice is the art of the mix, and how the mix can make all the difference between a good recording and a great one.
“Every producer does it differently,” says Jones. “Some folks really like to get in there, carve out the frequencies and really try to poke holes in the mix. My mentor Jamie, his approach is a lot more ‘record it right the first time, and then just mess with it just a little bit.’ I had a problem with one of my mixes and I had carved out frequencies…He looked it and said, ‘Man, you’re zapping a lot of real frequencies here.’…After he went through and just did some minor tweaks, my mix was sounding much fuller. He said, ‘At the end of the day, these frequencies are really supposed to be there…All those frequencies could really live together. It’s just all about blending them.’”
Jones says he learns a lot by just watching his mentor at work. “[Jamie] mixed a tune on a record,” he recalls of a recent session time with his mentor. “He was actually remixing something that he’d done earlier, trying to beat an earlier mix that he had done. It was really neat to be able to see that deconstruction occurring…to see kind of how he can breathe new life into something else, and kind of make it better…He even said during the course of mixing it, he’s like, ‘You know I’m spending all this time for something that really and truly I’m probably the only person that can tell the difference, from mix A and mix B,’ but he said, ‘I know, personally, that it’s going to be better by the time I’m done with it.’ I just think that’s awesome.”
How is Jones’ in-studio training helping his own mixes? “I feel like my vocals are able to float a little bit better within the mix,” he says, “going into it kind of with the idea of how the compressor is going to work or work with my voice…It’s one of those things that certainly has been helpful and a tool to be able to kind of grow with that.”
It turns out the connections Jones is making in the studio are helping with his own projects, as well. “I’m working on a solo record that hopefully we’ll have out the end of this year, beginning of next year,” he says. “I’ve been recording all of the pieces myself. I’m a singer first, guitarist second, [then] everything else. So I’ve been doing everything, all the instrumentation myself and the writing myself—which is fine, I enjoy doing it—but I think one of the big things in working with Jamie and being able to be around some of the tracking sessions and just seeing some amazing studio musicians is to be able to procure the services [of] some folks that do this for a living, bringing in a professional drummer, a professional guitarist, because those little touches will make an enormous impact on the record itself.”
As Jones finishes up his apprenticeship, he’s got his eye on the future—not just for producing his own music, but also for putting his newfound studio skills to good use. “Ideally, my five-year goal is that I’ll be running my own studio,” he says, “so that I’m able to work with new bands and new artists and so forth to the point where I’m able to help them kind of realize their dreams and aspirations, while at the same time have the perfect conduit to be able to record my own music.”
Meanwhile, the opportunity to learn in a world-class Nashville studio alongside a top industry engineer has been priceless for Jones. “I think it all comes back around to being in the real world,” he says. “You can’t be taught the real world out of a book, you know…I mean, [Jamie’s] got a Grammy hanging on the wall…So I think more than anything, the big difference, if I had to say what the big difference would be going this route versus another, is that you’re getting a shot of real world confidence, because you know that you’re quite literally just one step away from being in the mix, so to speak.”
Jones Nelson is also 1/2 of Nonskid Blondes. He and bandmate Nigel Pawson’s full-length release entitled “Unlike Skylight” hits October 27th! Hear a track in Apprentice Media below.
Film Connection student, Anne Marie Cummings (Los Angeles, CA and originally from New York) just signed a contract with Intrinsic Value Films for both her culinary romantic comedy feature, “Eat Bitter, Taste Sweet” and the fresh, half-hour TV series she’s currently developing. So how did it all come about? Anne Marie was meeting with her mentor Aimee Schoof when she asked her if she would like to hear her idea for a TV series. Upon hearing it, Aimee told her, “I’m not gonna let you not do this.” Flash forward to today and Anne Marie is busy writing the TV pilot while her screenplay is in circulation getting coverage. More on this in an upcoming issue!
Recording Connection student Jordan Robertson (Baton Rouge, LA) is recording and mastering a full-length LP for well-known funk band The Easy. When he’s not doing that, he’s working a hip-hop/dubstep Christmas song for rapper ROCK. Well jingle, jingle all the way! We can’t wait to hear the new tracks!
Film Connection student Michelina Friss (Lancaster, PA) is being coached by her mentor Sebastian Triscari in effective storyboarding. Although she was initially intimidated by the idea of storyboarding, Michelina has found it to be a very effective way of catching and getting her ideas down visually so she can communicate them to other pros!
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Whether your musical interests are in rock, country, hip-hop, beat making, electronic music production or live audio engineering, the Recording Connection can tailor your apprenticeship to help you achieve your goals!
NUGGETS OF TRUTH: Recording Connection mentor Patrick Heaney weighs in on pressing through the early stages, finding the right sound
From touring DJ to producer/engineer to film score composer, there’s little in the business that Recording Connection mentor Patrick Heaney hasn’t done. Starting at an early age playing drums and recording in his attic, Patrick went on to tour as an electronic musician under the moniker Shark Attack, sharing the stage with the likes of MSTRKRFT and Deadmau5 before “settling down” in his twenties to build his first studio, which was designed by none other than Phil Spector. As a producer/engineer, Patrick has worked with the likes of Tiesto, Franz Ferdinand, Passion Pit, Icona Pop, Cage the Elephant and a host of others.
Today, Patrick owns and operates Phaser Control Recording Studio in San Diego, CA, where he is glad to pass on his knowledge to Recording Connection apprentices. In a recent conversation with RRFC, Patrick bragged on a few of his students and offered some great advice on topics like finding the right sound and persevering through the difficult early stages of a new career. The best nuggets from that conversation are shared below.
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ON HOW HE FOUND HIS WAY INTO MUSIC AND RECORDING:
RC mentor Patrick Heaney
“I have been playing drums since I was five, between four and five I started playing drums. Then I actually wanted to keep on playing and start recording. When I was 16, I got my first Pro Tools rig…I started recording up in my attic with my drums and I got a, I think it was like groove tube microphone, something cheap and I just started recording guitar, and my brother was a guitarist so we’d just play and keep on recording…I think that looking back on that, I obviously care so much more about sound now. But some of the coolest stuff I’ve ever done does have squeaks and creaks and it gives it more of a feel to the music.”
ON HOW HE WENT FROM BEING A LIVE DJ TO OWNING A STUDIO:
“I’d been producing music for quite some time and, I decided to try my hand . . . I was on tour with this band…I told the guy who writes all the music for them, I was like ‘All these DJ’s at all these places we’re playing are terrible.’ And he says, ‘Do you think you can do a better job?’ I go, ‘Yeah, I could do a better job.’… I started DJ’ing with them and playing different music, and I was like ‘You know what? A lot of this electronic music I think I can do better.’ I was 18, 19 at the time with a fake ID going into bars and DJ’ing, and I started making some electronic music and it kind of took off from there. And instead of spending all the money that I made touring—we toured with MSTRKRFT, Bloody Beetroots, Deadmau5— … I knew that touring constantly wasn’t for me, and I really just wanted to be the kind of guy who is behind making everything sound perfect, sound really good. So I opened my first studio when I was just 21 or 22, and from there it’s just kind gone uphill.”
ON THE STRUGGLES INVOLVED WITH BUILDING A CLIENTELE:
“When you first start out, it’s tough to prove that you can [do it], especially if you’re going for electronic music. It’s tough to get clients in there that are musicians and they go, “This guy doesn’t play music, he just writes electronic music,” [when] really I have been playing drums since I was five, I have played guitar, and bass, and cello, violin, and piano all my life. So to actually prove that I can do all this–…you just kind of have to give in to people that take a risk and come in, and then it starts to blossom from there. You can’t [say], ‘I’m going to charge $600 a day.’ You have to build up your own resume . . . you’ll be hurting for a while, but it’s worth it if you have a really good product. And my main thing was to not let anything I wasn’t extremely happy with leave the studio. So if it took giving people discounts to get them in there and then making a really good sounding album, it all comes around.”
STUFF HE’S BEEN WORKING ON:
“I just finished my [own] album…I play everything on it and it’s like a really mellow ambient kind of like explosions in the sky mixed with M83 type stuff. It’s like half electronic, then half all real instruments kind of mixed together…I’m shopping it right now, but just literally got back from mastering on Monday.”
ON TEACHING HIS STUDENTS HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT SOUND:
Control Room in Phaser Control Recording Studio
“I always tell my students and I tell anybody that I meet, you kind have to pair your singer with their microphone and their mic pre because everybody is different…There’s no set template for exactly like—when someone comes in, you’re not going to go ‘Okay this is my vocal mic that I’m going to use every single time.’ It just doesn’t work that way. Same thing with drums; there are no set templates of what’s going to sound best on everything. You can have a rough idea, but I tell all students that you really got to learn your microphones really well, because if somebody has a very rusty voice you’re not going to pull out the crystal clear beautiful microphone that you would for a pop singer…Taking the time to really learn and understand what style they want and what they want to sound like is . . .it has a lot to do with how you’re going to get clients…All my students they’re amazed when . . . one of the lessons when we get to microphones, I’ll set up a guitar amp and I’ll put 15 or 20 different mics on that guitar amp and have them go through and listen to each one. And they’re absolutely floored that these microphones sound so different with the exact same guitar. Everything is the exact same, but they sound insanely different.”
ON THE PROGRESS OF SOME OF HIS KEY STUDENTS:
“It’s absolutely crazy to watch how fast they progress. I just had Philip [Robledo], he’s about to graduate probably next week. He had no idea what different mics did when he [first] came in, and he ran an entire session by himself, and mixed the entire thing by himself, and mastered the entire thing by himself. And in the middle of mixing or the middle of mic’ing up stuff, I’d be thinking, ‘Is he going to correct that?’ And he would listen to it once, walk right out, correct it…He now knows all these microphones like the back of his hand. It’s pretty amazing how much he’s learned in the short amount of time…I was extremely proud when he could work that quick and could hear all that stuff when he had no idea about any of this stuff when he first walked in.”
“Kemal Erdem…He just graduated from SCSU to be a mechanical engineer and realized that that was a boring field. He’s always wanted to produce music and never knew how to actually do it, and the second we started working , he’s like ‘I want it to be like this,’ and I was like ‘Alright. Let’s take it step by step about how you’re going to get that sound.’ I think teaching how simplifies the work …They think it’s going to be so hard to get this sound and you teach them how they work, and then they go ‘Oh sh**. This is actually pretty easy.’… Colin Leske is doing some crazy funk stuff: he’s doing the producer class and the master’s class…He comes to a lot of sessions too. He’s like a big sponge, and so it’s always cool working with him. Same with Joe Cronin, he’s on week eight and he sits down in front of Pro Tools, he had no idea how to even get into Pro Tools a couple of weeks ago, but he’s been in so many sessions that he can jump on wherever he is. It’s crazy how fast these kids can learn.”
ON WHAT HE LOOKS FOR IN HIS APPRENTICES:
“I don’t want someone who wants to do the least amount of work possible. A lot of the guys that I end up choosing who want to do audio, they’re in here for every session and they’ll stick around for eight hours. Sometimes they’ll come in early, sometimes they’ll stay late and they’ll be here for nine [or] ten hours, and some of them are being able to run sessions by week eight, week nine because they’re in here so much. And I always tell them I move quick. When we’re in sessions, don’t ask questions, just sit back and watch, but you’re not going to learn by me just talking and talking and talking and telling you about it. You’re going to learn by setting up all these things and it’s going to be trial and error. ‘Cause there’s no right way to do it, but if you can hear that it doesn’t sound right, then I can explain to you how to correct it.”
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Recording Connection is proud to sponsor the 7th annual Afterglow which takes place every year following the AES Convention. This year’s Afterglow takes place on October 31st at the gorgeous, state-of-the-art DiMenna Center for Classical Music, just steps away from the convention.
AES Afterglow will be a masquerade-themed event drawing on influences from Motown and the golden age of recording. Attendees are strongly encouraged to dress in black and white. Masquerade masks will be given out at the door. RSVP here.
This year’s Afterglow is presented by Vintage King and AES (Audio Engineering Society). Recording Connection is honored to join sponsors Focal Press, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, Gearslutz, Barefoot Sound, AVID, Slate Digital, Sonic Scoop, Genelec, Neve, Focusrite and Audionamix.
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Dr. Drew endorses the Recording, Radio & Film Connection, and CASA The Culinary Apprenticeship School of the Arts.