Don’t Forget The Process!!!

Kenny’s Tip of the Day – Don’t Forget The Process!!!

The process of making records, whether you are an Engineer or a Record Producer has always been a big reason why many of us do this. I grew up loving the idea of working in a real recording studio. Hopefully with 100+ channels and as many tracks as possible. A big huge room full of double paned glass, leather couches and wood cut on an angle on every surface.

I loved the idea of working with five to ten amazing musicians, setting them up and spending the day getting great sounds. Dozens of microphones sprawled out across the room and enough microphone cables to circle the block ten times over. All neatly organized and taped on the floor to prevent tripping but also to look professional.

I couldn’t wait to dive into that control room, fire up the tape deck and see my huge analog meters dancing from side to side to the beat of the first song we were about to record.

Everyone was excited. This was a day we were all looking forward to. For some of the musicians it may have been years of planning and preparing. And when that Red light turned on, telling everyone that we were recording, my heart would explode as the magic was about to happen.

Everyone was playing real instruments. The drummer was hitting real drums with real wooden sticks. The guitar players were plugged into awesome looking tube amps that you could fry an egg on. It was an amazing spiritual and inspirational environment. And I dedicated my life to figuring out how to spend as much time as possible in just such a place. And luckily, I did. For many many years.

Fast forward a couple of decades and records are being made very differently. People are writing software to allow us to record and mix everything in a computer. We no longer need all these great musicians. Drummers are being replaced by drum software. Guitar players are still being used but their tone has become completely simulated. The recording space itself has been impulse responsed to sample the room that no one was ever present in.

The piano is a group of multi-sampled piano tones. No one is moving air and the tactile surfaces we used to use to manipulate the audio has all been replaced with emulations of the original units. Whether it be a real console or outboard gear that has now been reduced to pictures of the gear I used to touch. To feel. To manipulate like a craftsmen.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Look at this old guy mourning for the good ole days where records took way too long to make. Time has passed this obsolete luddite by.

Maybe. But I have definitely been one of the first of my peers to embrace technology. I used amp sims when there was only one available. I was one of the first to use IR reverbs and I was also one of the first of my group to buy a full Pro Tools rig and start mixing completely in the box. Many of my friends laughed at me and told me it would never sound the same. And of course, by now, they are all doing it this way too.

So I definitely embrace changing technology and appreciate the benefits of all of it. Being able to recall a full mix in seconds. Matching guitar tones that I tracked months ago. Tuning a vocal that had the perfect amount of emotion but just had some pitch issues. I’m not looking to go back. I love progress.

But have we lost something? Have we lost why we started doing this in the first place? I remember recording a guitar solo for one song on a record and we literally spent the whole night (and a fifth of whisky) doing nothing but nailing that solo. That was a great night. The studio was filled with smoke and we knew that are only purpose this evening was to get this solo. A solo that the audience may listen to and feel for many years. Yet now we spend no more than 15 minutes on that same part. No whisky. No smoke. Get it done and move on.

Have we lost the appreciation for the process? If I can get the same drum sound as CLA in 10 minutes, do I have any appreciation for that accomplishment? Does it mean ANYTHING if everyone with $14.99 per month can get the same sounds that I have? What’s the point of having a Neve console on my computer if everyone has a Neve console on their computer? Do we still enjoy doing it if it’s going to be this easy?

Ignoring the fact that it might sound exactly the same or that the audience will never “notice the difference” doesn’t it matter that we do? That making records has become a solo isolated effort that has been reduced to a laptop and a pair of headphones? Is this what I was dreaming of when I was a little kid?

I can go on forever but I’m going to close this with two quick stories that illustrate my point. The first one shows my love for doing things to get a reward. Cooking is a great example. If you spend 4 or 5 hours cooking a great meal, the reward is NOT just the meal. It’s the feeling of accomplishment that comes from being able to create this meal. People don’t climb mountains because they want to be on the top of the mountain. They want the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing something that is very difficult. Even if the result can be achieved by taking a helicopter to the peak of the mountain quicker and with less physical effort.

The other example I want to point out is the way we get from point A to point B. Have you ever walked to the store? Have you ever ridden a bike to the store? Have you ever taken a car to the store? Most of us have. But if your goal is to get to the store and nothing else, then taking a car is the most obvious choice. The result is the same but it’s quicker. But it’s not without its drawbacks. If you rode your bike, you’d be getting some exercise. Maybe see the sun. Spend some time in the outdoors or possibly see a friend or a person in need. And you can stop and help them out. If you walked, you would also gain those things but you would also be forced to appreciate every piece of ground in front of you. You can’t look too far ahead because you’re not going to get there very soon. So you look down. You look around. You really experience the world around you. In real time. Maybe someone offers you a ride. But you will have an experience during this walk.

My point is that the slow way is not always a bad thing. There is no finish line. When you finish this record, you’re going to make another. Life is a journey. So why are we always trying to get there so quick?

I hope this message finds you well.

Kenny Gioia

Create Something. Everyday.

Create Something. Everyday.

Much like my tips of the day, it is important to keep those creative juices flowing. Whether you feel like it or not. I force myself to write these tips because it sets my day in motion. I have created something today and now I can build on it.

So if you’re a songwriter, wake up each day and write a song. Maybe only a verse or a chorus or just a title. Write something.

If you Produce, produce something. Whether it be a quick electronic track or groove. Make something.

Create something everyday and you will be amazed how easy it is to stay creative whenever you need to.

I hope this message finds you. Well… – Kenny Gioia

Stop Being Negative!!!

Stop Being Negative!!!

 It’s easy to be a critic. It’s not hard to point to other professionals and say that their work isn’t first class. That you can do better. That music isn’t made as good as it used to be. That everyone uses Autotune or Beat Detective and bangs out hit songs that are cookie cutter and boring.

 Nothing special about this way of thinking except that it’s common in people that NEVER achieve their desired success. It doesn’t serve you. Creative and successfully creative people (as I’ve observed) do NOT waste time pointing out the flaws in others.

 In fact, other artists actually INSPIRE them to be better. Being around creative people, whether it be physically or just surrounding themselves in their music, makes them realize that they are part of the current music revolution. They’re NOT just watching it. They are making history too.

 See the greatness in other artists or their music. Even if you don’t love all of it, figure out why others do. There has to be something that connects people to the popular music of today. And successful people focus on greatness. In themselves and definitely in others.

 I hope this message finds you. Well… Kenny

Stop Copying Your Idols!!!

Stop Copying Your Idols!!!

I understand the desire to be able to Write, Produce or even Mix like your heroes, but I can promise, it doesn’t serve you. Especially NOT in the long run!!

During the learning phase, it can be helpful to study how others work. How they accomplish their sound. And it’s good to have these tools in your toolbox. But if your goal is to be “Great” at what you do, then mimicking other’s work will never get you there.

Let’s take Mixing for example. Let’s say that there’s a big name mixer who goes by the name BFD. So you love his mixes, maybe you buy his drum samples, and try to make mixes that sound like his. But in the end, what have you become? Does the music industry need you? They already have the real BFD and he has proven to sell records.

You will never become a legend by sounding like other legends. You must create your own path and more importantly, you must understand why these other people have become successful.

In my BFD example, he is NOT successful because his records sound great. Or radio friendly. Whatever that means. He’s successful because he “sells” records. Period. When he stops, people will stop hiring him. They’ll say his sound is old or dated.

So what do you need to do? You need to figure out what sound you like and how to achieve that sound. It needs to be original (but not too original) and it needs to be yours while also connecting with an audience.

When you can do that, you will always get work. People will always hire someone who gets results. And nailing that CRACK on the snare is NOT how you get work. It’s creating what people enjoy. Work with great people, with great songs and create great productions with great mixes that people enjoy. It’s really that simple.
And then, people will be pulling their hair out trying to figure out how YOU got that great vocal sound. I promise.
Good luck. Kenny

The Importance of a Constant over Variables in the Studio!!!

When first starting out in this craft of recording, it is important to understand that while it does makes sense to try every option available when you’re still learning, it is also not the goal to continue that practice once you become a professional.

Pros in this business do NOT try every microphone, every mic preamp and every other variable when trying to capture a performance. We just don’t. A client does not want to sit around watching us learn our craft. And more importantly, the flow of a session is thrown off when you’re spending time figuring out these minute decisions.

When you spend decades recording, you learn about all the tools available. You figure out what tools work best for what application and you create your own toolbox or templates that you tend to stick with.

In my experience in working with some very great and accomplished engineers, they tend to stick with what works for them 95% of the time. There is an occasional “this mic isn”t working let’s try something else” but it’s an exception. Not the rule.

Professionals create a bag of tricks that they feel they can safely go to on a regular basis or when all else goes wrong.

For example, over the years I have purchased my own musical equipment that I know works. Even if the artist has their own, I feel more comfortable knowing that I have benchmark pieces to compare it to. Those include a Black Beauty snare (best money I’ve ever spent), a Fender P Bass, an assortment of Fender and Gibson guitars and even a few guitar cords that I know work every time they’re plugged in.

In addition, I have my templates in my DAW that already have my reverbs, delays and master buss processing already ready to go. I stray from this set up 5% of the time at most. I have folders of drum samples with maybe 5 – 10 options of each drum. I own thousands of drum samples but I’m not going through them each time I’m trying to create a track. That completely kills the vibe.

Plus, it makes it easier to find new tools to add to your toolbox when you have constants that you can trust. How do you know how good that mic is if you can’t trust the monitors you’re listening to it with? If you can trust everything else in your chain, you can more credibly test out a new addition to your arsenal.

Find things that work for you. A set of tools and choices that work most of the time and realize that that is how most professionals work. Learn to trust yourself and your craft and don’t caught up in the idea that you must try or buy new tools every time some manufacturer decides to make them.

I hope this message finds you. Well… Kenny

Find a Mentor!!!

Find a Mentor!!!

I can’t stress enough how important it is to watch a professional work in their given field. Either with you watching and asking questions or even if you just observe while not speaking at all.

People who love to learn will absorb information in this way like Osmosis. Which is the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas or knowledge while standing very close to the work actually being done.

Quick story – Very recently I was painting my house. And while I had painted the exterior of a house before (once) it wasn’t something that I really had great knowledge of. So I hired a painter to help me do the job faster. What I absorbed in just 2 days of working with this guy was more than I could have learned painting by myself in years. How to work with a ladder, painting techniques, where to start and end and even the proper way of cleaning off brushes. I have spent years teaching this stuff to myself and learned so much more by watching an actual professional do it.

Obviously, this applies to Writing, Recording and Producing records just as much. If not more. There is a mystery that swirls around what we do. But when you watch someone who really knows what they’re doing, you will pick this up so much quicker. So much of this is confidence in knowing that you know what you’re doing. And when you observe others do it and how they do it, it makes it all come together 10X faster than working by yourself. Being self taught.

Now I’m not saying that video tutorials and books have no effect. Of course they do. But having a person in the room with you will tie it together on a completely different level. Even if it’s just for a short time.

So go out there and find yourself a Mentor. Good luck. Kenny

An Instrument only Sounds as Good as the Player!!!!!

Kenny’s Tip of the Day – An Instrument only Sounds as Good as the Player!!!!!

This seems kinda obvious but for most young engineers and novices, it’s really not. If you’re struggling to get a good piano, bass, guitar or drum sound and you don’t know anyone who can actually “play” the instrument, you’re going to think it’s your engineering skills. Or lack thereof.

The truth is, that it’s NOT you. I’ve heard amazing performers being recorded under terrible conditions and they still sound great. And no amount of engineering skill is going to fix a bad performance. Even with the best equipment in the best studio. It’s just NOT going to happen.

A quick story. When I was working at a high end studio, we had a standard drum kit set up for drummers who didn’t have their own or if their kit wasn’t very good. We had a set of Zildjian New Beat high hats set up and they were pretty old and dirty.

A young drummer comes in to play and I turn to the studio owner and tell him that we really need to get those old high hats replaced. They sounded like two trash cans rubbing against each other with no top end and no definition. Almost unusable.

Fast forward a week and Bernard Purdie comes in to the studio to record a few songs for the day. We’re getting the mics set up and I go into the control room to see how it sounds and I’m blown away. I turn to the owner and ask him where he got THOSE high hats. They were the best I ever heard!! Very clear and incredibly defined. Turns out. Yes. Same high hats as last week, different player.

After that situation we started doing things a bit differently. We would get drum sounds using the band’s drummer, but if we were really struggling to get the kit to sound good, I would go in the music room for a bit and play the drums. I’m no Bernard Purdie but I’m actually pretty good at my approach to hitting the drums. Being around great drummers tends to rub off as you see what they do right and others are doing wrong. If the drums sounded fine with me playing them, we knew that it was the player that was the issue and not the drums or our equipment.

I should also mention, that when I’m talking about “Performance”, I’m NOT just talking about timing and pitch. As we all know, those CAN be fixed with tools after the fact. But those are just a tiny piece of the puzzle. Performance comes from how you “approach” the instrument. Finesse, aggression and subtlety all come into play. The energy in the spaces matters as well. You can’t cheat experience with tools after the part has been recorded.

So keep this in mind with any instrument you record. You can’t control everything. We’re here to capture the event that is taking place. We can’t create the performance. Guide younger more inexperienced players to get better at their chosen instrument as it is such an important part of how the instrument actually SOUNDS.

I hope this message serves you… Well. Kenny

The Pareto Principle or the 80/20 Rule

The Pareto Principle or the 80/20 Rule

What this basically says is that 80% of your income is coming from just 20% of your clients.

So how do you apply this to your business model? Pretty simply. You need to recognize who those 20% are. You then need to prioritize them. Nurture them. Make them feel like they are your only clients.

Now, common sense would state that you should now ignore the other 80%. Of course not. But you do need to consider where they fall in your list of priorities. Do they demand too much of your time? Are you going to lose one of your 20% clients in order to keep this 80% client happy?

Sometimes, you do have to let clients go at your choosing. If they are too “high maintenance” they can lead you down a path of serving them as the squeaky wheel while your competitors are stealing your “cash cow” or top 20% clients while you’re sleeping on them.

Keep this principle in the back of your mind at all times. Think about each of your clients and where they fit. And nurture the people keeping you in business.

I hope this message finds you well. Kenny

ALL Mixes sound Different on Different Speakers and Headphones

ALL Mixes sound different on different speakers and headphones.

This is something I struggled with for many years as I noticed that my mixes sounded very varied on every system yet the HIT songs from the radio seemed to translate or sound exactly the same everywhere. Why?

They don’t. The problem is that you have just spent 8 – 10 hours mixing your track. You are HYPER focused on it. Every nuance and frequency expands in your mind. While the reference track doesn’t suffer from this same issue. You’re just listening to it once or twice and you’re not intimately involved with each and every track.

Now this doesn’t mean that your mixes do translate from system to system like many other great mixes do. They may not. But you might need to take a break and listen to them fresh. After an hour break or even the next day. Going from system so quickly after you have cemented your mix in your brain may not be the best thing to do in that moment.

Get a great set of monitors. (I use the Yamaha NS10s) and learn them. Learn how things SHOULD sound on them. Listen to other great mixes on them and notice how the frequencies respond on them. Eventually you won’t need to go from system to system. But don’t get depressed when your mixes don’t translate on first listen. They probably won’t. For any of us.

Good luck. I hope this message finds you. Well…

The Reason why Yamaha NS10s have been the Industry Standard for Decades

The Reason why Yamaha NS10s have been the Industry Standard for Decades.

A bit of backstory here. I bought my first pair (I have 5 now) when I was 17 years old. With excitement and passion I opened up that box and wired them into my studio. I thought to myself, “FINALLY. I will get to hear the way music was meant to be heard. All of my favorite songs were mixed on these. So they will sound their BEST on these speakers”.

I put on a CD and sat in my chair and listened. My jaw dropped to the floor. What was wrong? Where are the Lows? Where are the Highs? Did I wire one of the speakers backwards? It was… in a word… TERRIBLE.

I forget what happened next but I obviously decided to keep listening and working on them. Mixing and comparing my mixes on other speakers. It was a huge adjustment. I remember making the super high end (10kHz) too bright at first as I wanted things to sound pretty. These are NOT pretty speakers.

So why are these speakers so popular in the control room? Why did popular mixers use these as their main speakers?

To me. It’s like this: They are a magnifying glass for the mid-range to upper mid range. And this IMHO is the most important area to work in. This is where our mixes sound “up front”. “In your Face”.

The high end and the low end are going to vary with every speaker you listen to. So as much as that’s still important, you can’t really control what the listener will hear. But the mid-range is pretty consistent from speaker to speaker. Even if you’re listening with an iPhone. You’re hearing mid-range.

And what instruments live in the mid-range? Let’s see. We have the Vocal, the Snare, the Piano, the Guitars, the Attack of the Kick Drum and the Clarity of the Bass Guitar.

Pretty much. EVERYTHING!!!! And these are the things that are “fighting” for the listeners attention. If you can get all of these things to co-exist in this space, you’re 85% to 90% of the way there. The High End doesn’t “fight” nearly as much. Even the Low End only has a few contenders looking to be heard.

But everything is happening in the Mid to Upper Mid Range. And that’s the focus of these speakers. If you “live” in this “playground” for 85% to 90% of your mix, your mixes will be consistent on every system they’re played on.

And this is WHY most mixers still prefer the Yamaha NS10s. Because they understand where the focus should be and how well  these speakers translate when they’ll be played back on different systems.

I will add that I have a Genelec sub-woofer that I absolutely need to work with the NS10s. It took me years to perfect the balance of the sub-woofer with my Yamahas but I really don’t need to listen to anything else. I keep a Sony boombox in the back of my room that I listen to as I’m printing to check for anything I missed in High end Mid range relationship. But that usually would be a Tamb. plus or minus 3dB adjustment at most.

I hope this message finds you. Well… Kenny

A Great Song creates a Great Production. A Great Production creates a Great Mix.

A Great Song creates a Great Production. A Great Production creates a Great Mix.

This might sound obvious but it really is amazing how these things fall into place. I’ve worked on many great songs (ok a few) and I’ve worked on many good songs and quite a few terrible ones (ok many 🙂 ).

When you have a Great Song to work with. I mean a song that just jumps out at you and hits you over the head. The Production ideas just flow like a fire hose. For real. You can’t record them quick enough. Every idea is a great idea and they all work. Nothing sounds bad when it’s being held up by a Great Song. You’d have to be an idiot to miss the musical ideas and creativity that are flying through the air right in front of you.

Sadly. The opposite is true. When you’re working with a mediocre song, no production idea seems to work and you find yourself adding part after part, layer after layer trying to find “something” to make this piece of art say “Hey look at me. I’m great”.

The same holds true for a Mix. When the Song is great and the Production is stellar and on point, you can’t create a bad Mix.

It’s already there. You can just put up the faders and the Song and the Production does all the work for you. You can EQ, compression and reverb but it doesn’t even NEED it. Your goal is to not muck it up. You’re trying to get out of the way so people can hear the song and the production. You don’t even want people to notice there’s a Mix.

And again. Sadly, the opposite is also true. If you don’t have a Great song with a Great Production, you will be toiling and sweating over that Mix for days. It will NEVER be enough. You will be trying your best to make something stand out and say “Look how good I sound” but nobody cares how good you look if you’re not doing anything worth looking at.

So keep theses things in mind. Can I write a better song? Can I make a better production? Am I beating myself up over this mix?

I hope this message serves you. Well… Kenny

Sonic quality IS affected by What and How you Play!!!!!

Sonic quality IS affected by What and How you Play!!!!!

A quick story – I was working for a studio many many years ago. The owner and I were getting sounds for this project that we were going to be working on for the next few weeks. This was a live band who were very well rehearsed. In fact, they were one of the biggest “cover” bands in the area. Very tight players. But they were still kids. They were NOT seasoned session players.

So we’re about 2 or 3 hours into getting sounds for all of the instruments as the band is running thru their songs, and we’re just not feeling it. It wasn’t “sounding” very good. We would swap out microphones, try different placements, a bit of compression. It just didn’t “SOUND” great. Sonically.

So after a bit, the band gets bored of playing THEIR songs (these were originals) and they break out one of their cover songs. I believe it was “Bad Company” by the band “Bad Company.

OMG. Our jaws dropped to the floor. I looked at the studio owner and he looked at me and I said “What just happened? It sounds AMAZING”

The studio owner turned to me as it occurred to him that the only thing that had changed was the song.  And obviously the parts and arrangement of this song.

It changed everything. Suddenly the Snare sounded like it was coming from the heavens. The Bass dropped down an octave and was completely separate from the Guitars. Even the Vocal sounded better.

Everything they were doing was now solid, and they just hadn’t applied any of that to their originals. So we sat them down and showed them the difference and over the next few weeks we tweaked their parts and performances to make them sonically SOUND more professional.

But I will never forget that moment. Where I realized that the way things “SOUND” are NOT a constant. Sonic quality IS affected by What (song and arrangement) and How (performance) you Play!!!!!

How I hope this message finds you. Well… Kenny

The Jar and Two Cups of Coffee!!!!

The Jar and Two Cups of Coffee!!!!

When things in your lives seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the jar and the 2 cups of coffee.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous “yes.”

The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things–your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions–and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.

The sand is everything else–the small stuff. “If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

“Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take your spouse out to dinner. Go surfing! There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first–the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the “coffee” represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a cup of coffee with a friend.”

I hope this Story finds you… Well. Kenny

Giving is it’s Own Reward!!!!!

Giving is it’s Own Reward!!!!!

If you’re doing something for somebody, whether it be offering up some advice or actually providing a service, if you EXPECT something in return, you’ve created a transaction. Which is NOT the same thing as giving.

If you pet a cat, and it starts to walk away or scratches you, you could get mad. As if that cat now owes you something. But if you pet a cat because it feels good to you, if the cat doesn’t enjoy the experience, there’s no reason for you to get upset. You didn’t expect anything in return.

Similar to giving your significant other some attention. If you’re doing it with the expectation of receiving equal attention, you’re not giving. You’re giving in the hopes of getting. And this behavior will leave you unhappy in the end. As it is you who set up the framework of this situation. Expecting others to give you what you want is setting yourself up for failure.

As the title suggests, giving is it’s own reward. Give because you are the one that gets. Petting the cat feels good to you. A nice touch on your girlfriend’s leg is pleasing to you. Not just to her.

And to stay on topic, giving to your clients is advantageous to you. You’re making a better record. You’re showing them how their music can stand out. Their successes are your successes. When they win, you win.

Sure. You’re probably being paid too. But that’s beside the point. That thinking allows you to hold back if you’re not getting your full rate. If you’re not being paid enough. You think you should be working on a better gig. That you deserve better.

That thinking will only hurt you in the end as people will notice the work you do. And nobody remembers the guy who did just enough to help his or her clients.

Do a better job than you’re being paid for. Donate to a charity without telling anyone. Share every music making tip you know. Make other people’s efforts better.

NOT because it’s your job. But because it feels good to do so.

I hope this message finds you. Well… Kenny


Where are you Positioned in your market?

Regardless of what you do. Be it an Artist, Songwriter, Producer or Mixer, you need to consider “Positioning”.

What is positioning?

Positioning refers to the space that a brand (you) occupies in the mind of the customer (client) and how it is distinguished from products (you) from your competitors.

I know. It sounds like marketing speak. Or BS. Yes. But there’s gold in this one. Because, like it or not, every one of your heroes fits into this description in some way.

And trying to be the best at everything, usually ends up with you NOT being the best at ANYTHING. We’re talking about specializing.

Think about the people you idolize? Do they do everything? Or do they do ONE main thing so well that everyone considers them to be the best at that thing. So much so, that their name comes up in a discussion about that topic.

Let’s pull out some examples. Mutt Lange was known as one of the best producers at one time. He did some great work with many great artists but his style was very obsessive and over-bearing to the artists that worked with him. He wrote and re-wrote everything he worked on to the point that he was as much of the artist as the person he was producing. That was his style and it was what he was known for. If you wanted that over-produced sound, you hired him.

Compare that to someone like Steve Albini. He’s quite the opposite. Famous for letting the artist do exactly what they want. Almost to the point of malpractice. Again, if you wanted that approach to your productions, you hired him.

Both of these people are successful because they understand positioning. They are the examples we can use to describe an ethos. An approach.

This can be applied to any situation that you’re currently in. Are you the cheap studio? The studio with the biggest drum room?The guy who can re-write songs for you, produce them to sound like hits and get you a record deal? Maybe you’re the best drum editor in LA?

What is it that makes you special? That people will want to work with you instead of someone else? That people will HAVE to work with you instead of someone else?

And if you can’t put your finger on what that is, you need to change. Focus. Be the best, at what you are the best at. And hopefully something you love doing. Good luck.

I hope this message finds you. Well… Kenny

Recording is a Boutique Business – Everyone doesn’t have to like what you do!!!!!

Recording is a Boutique Business – Everyone doesn’t have to like what you do!!!!!

Many young and inexperienced Artists, Producers and Mixers make the mistake of thinking that they need to appeal to everyone. That everyone needs to like what they do.

Nothing could be further from the truth. As an Artist, if you could get 10% of the world to love your music, you’d be the biggest artist of all time. And as a Producer or Engineer, you can make a great living if that number is .000001%.

Think about this. How many Artists do you need to work with this year to be successful? 10? 20? Maybe even 50 depending on what you do. So why are you trying to appeal to a mass audience? You only need a handful of clients to build a career. And only THEY need to love what you’re doing.

Don’t get caught up in trying to be the next great Artist, Producer or Mixer. It really doesn’t matter. Get a small group of very loyal people who will see what you bring to the table as valuable and nurture that situation. Thinking small will payoff BIG. Good Luck.

I hope this message finds you. Well… Kenny

Ignore the Loudness Wars!!!

Ignore the Loudness Wars!!!

By this I mean, stop worrying about your mixes getting crushed by Mastering or radio or whatever. It’s out of your control. Yeah. It sucks. It’s killing all the dynamics in your mixes. But you only have three choices. Whine and complain about it, start your own “Loudness Wars” support group or simply “Deal with IT”.
It’s a given. People like loud music. Labels LOVE loud music and you’re not going to escape it. If you’re doing a spec mix and your mix is 9dB lower than mine, you just did a spec mix and I just got the gig.

Let go of the “audiophile” in you. Brickwall Limiting is a given. It’s not going away. Embrace it. Use it to your advantage. Make great music and mixes “despite” it being crushed to hell.

While you can’t control how crushed your tracks are, you can control how they sound WHEN they’re crushed. Consider this processing in your mixes. Make it sound amazing even AFTER it’s crushed.

Arrange your songs and production ideas to work within these limitations. Pull sounds in and out. Sure. It will still be the same volume in the end but you will create Dynamic moments by using song arrangement. Pull out the guitars for a verse. Filter the drums in the breakdown. Create Dynamics with impact that can’t be created with volume.

If you don’t want to send your mixes CRUSHED to the Mastering engineer, that’s OK. You shouldn’t. But you should at least monitor them with the effect on there so you can hear how they will sound once the dynamics are gone. You need to control what people hear in the end and you can only do this if you “embrace” this technology.

I hope this message finds you. Well. Kenny

You’re Mixing Too Loud!!!

You’re Mixing Too Loud!!!

Turn down your monitoring while mixing. You don’t need to mix loud to get a great sounding mix. In fact, the opposite will be true. When you’re monitoring at a loud level, the distance between each instrument is going to be bigger. So the tolerance will be wider as well. So if the balance sounds good loud, it might not sound correct at a low level.

If you mix lower, the different balances of instruments will be smaller. So when you play that mix louder, that balance will be preserved.

Also, if you can make a mix sound great at lower levels, it will only sound better when you crank it. As everything expands and more air will be moving. It’s harder to get a great mix when it’s quiet but you will be rewarded in the end.

Another benefit is that it takes many hours to create a great mix. And cranking your track will cause fatigue over time. Making it harder to make good decisions, and limit the amount of time you can faithfully work on the song. Mix lower and you can mix all day.

Of course, you should still play it loud at certain points to compare it both ways. You will hear things that jump out when it’s loud that you didn’t hear when playing it lower. And it’s also exciting to hear music blasted. So check it loud from time to time but you should spend 85% – 90% of your time listening at fairly quiet levels.

Most of us are not listening in the perfect listening environment. The louder you mix, the more you excite your imperfect room. Those reflective walls, windows and any extra ambience in your imperfect room will be exacerbated when you crank your monitors.

So what are good levels? Without using numbers, I would suggest keeping the music at a low enough level so that you can have a conversation while not having to turn down the music. You can hear people speak to you while also hearing the track.

So turn those monitors down. Save your ears. You’re going to need them if you’re going to be doing this for 30+ years. And more importantly, create better mixes that will translate better in the real world.

I hope this message finds you. Well… Kenny

There is NOTHING more important than WHAT you record!!!

There is NOTHING more important than WHAT you record. Everything else is meant to support the “what”.

Many engineers or producers get so lost in the gear talk or what DAW to use and with what plugins, they forget why people listen to music in the first place.

Nobody is listening to the device you’re capturing audio with. They’re listening to the source. And what the source is conveying. Consider both of those things. What is the musician playing? What is the singer singing about? What part is the drummer playing?

Are any of these things “interesting? Then you should move on to what these things sound like. Do the Drums sound good in the room? How is the guitar player’s tone? Is he playing the “interesting” part correctly?

Once you get past these two things. Then. And ONLY then can you focus on capturing this brilliance.

Play a mix for a friend. What do they notice? Do they mention the EQ? The parallel compression? No!!! They mention the song. The singer. The message. How it makes them feel. Do they want to dance? Bang their head? Crash their car into a wall?

These are the reasons we make music. Get the important things right before you labor on how and with what tools you are going to “capture” this creative masterpiece.

I hope this message finds you. Well… Kenny

Experience is Much More Important than Gear

Experience is Much More Important than Gear.

Although, most people with decades of experience also have used and prefer higher end gear,
where the mistake lies is in that people seem to think the shortcut is to simply mimic the gear.

As if, buying a race car makes you a race car driver. Of course, it doesn’t.

But telling you to do what I did for the last 30+ years doesn’t sound like a good solution for those wanting to record right now. So the next best thing is to simply use what the pros use.

But the real answer is that neither way will get you the desired result. Settling for cheap gear or buying expensive gear. As expensive gear in the wrong hands isn’t going to do anything meaningful for you except line the pockets of the people that make it.

But like I said. Nobody wants to hear this and it’s even more difficult to sell a product based on this conclusion. Whether it be a book, bass traps or plugins that emulate expensive vintage gear.

But the good news is that you are getting more experienced every day.

I hope this message finds you. Well…

Kenny Gioia

Kenny’s Tip of the Day – Crabs in a Bucket. Don’t Be One!!!!

This comes from the story of catching crabs in a bucket. When you catch a crab and place him in a bucket, the first thing he’ll try to do is escape.

Now, if you put two crabs in a bucket (hence the plural form of ‘Crabs in a Bucket’) and place them in there together, as soon as one tries to climb up out of the bucket the other will grab the escaping crab by the legs and try to escape itself, to which the process gets repeated to the point where NO crabs end up escaping.

How does this apply to you? Do not apply your success or lack thereof to other people in your field. You’re aiming for the moon. Hopefully. Forget what others are doing or how well they’re doing. It has nothing to do with you. And more importantly, it LIMITS your success. Because you’ve created this battle that shouldn’t exist.
You DON’T win because someone else LOSES. You win when YOU win. And you can win while others win. Or lose. There is no correlation. But the negative waves you’re putting out into the universe actually affects you negatively.

You’re focused on the wrong thing. You’re looking around at the field instead of keeping your eyes on the road. On the prize. On what you want to achieve.
Also, your peers can be allies. Not everyone can do every gig offered to them. So they’re going to recommend you for a gig that betters fits your strength. But only if that makes sense to them.

If you’re out there running down everyone else in your profession, not only are they NOT going to help you succeed. They’re going to cheer your demise. Happily.
Be the asset among your peers who not only succeeds, but sends the elevator back down for the next generation to have their chance to.

I hope this message finds you. Well… Kenny

No Greater Truth

There is no greater truth in making records than this: “The recording is governed by the performance.” This may seem obvious, but many times the implications of this are not. There are two main areas where this truth manifests itself. The first is in the emotional impact of the music and the second is in the sonic signature or sonic possibilities of a recording.

Even with the best gear in the world or fancy recording techniques, the heart and soul of a recording is the emotion and the feel of a performance, and of course the songs. When I have discussions with musicians about production and they begin to confuse production with “great drums sounds”, I tell them that good production is about getting the songs and the performances to a point where the drum sound does not matter, and then getting great drum sounds. Many of the recordings that are classics in the history of rock, pop and jazz actually sound quite bad when compared to other records of the same era or many records of today. Some of these recording are marred by unintentional distortion, poor mic technique and downright awful drum sounds, but these classics still stand up on the radio next to modern multimillion dollar productions because the songs and the performances are great. A great song and a great performance will transcend any limitations of “sound quality”.

– Ronan Chris Murphy



My good friend Tim Gilles just discovered that “Ball Busting” sessions are nothing new. I’m sure he was just kidding and probably knows 100X more about this stuff than all of us put together but I wanted to remind him of a term called “Flyting”.

Flyting is a ritual, poetic exchange of insults practiced mainly between the 5th and 16th centuries. The root is the Old English word flītan meaning quarrel (from Old Norse word flyta meaning provocation). Examples of flyting are found throughout Norse, Anglo-Saxon and Medieval literature involving both historical and mythological figures. The exchanges would become extremely provocative, often involving accusations of cowardice or sexual perversion.

Basically – We didn’t invent flinging crap my friend. Maybe just doing it on the Internot. Love ya. Ho Ho Ho XOXOXOX