Music Production

Greg Henderson is no stranger to the Malaysian local scene. This Aussie fella started in Sydney since 1984, moved to Singapore in 1995 and has been in Malaysia since 1997. Hired as a senior engineer at Synchrosound Studio and worked on local female rockstar Ella on her El album, which won him an Anugerah Industri Muzik  award in 2000 for that album. He has worked with big guns such as OAG, Pop Shuvit, Anuar Zain and so many more. We asked Greg to shed some producing knowledge on us. Here goes.

With the advent of the computer, the art of record production is slowly being lost. Whole studios have been replaced by plug-ins, virtual instruments, virtual cabling, virtual everything. It seems as if it’s only a matter of time before the artists themselves are replaced by virtual virtuosos. What a sad, numb world we have created for ourselves, where instant DIY music is available to any pleb who can spell “torrent”. It’s a damn shame.

Me? I’m from the old school. I don’t believe in virtual shortcuts to success in music, or in any other area of life for that matter. I firmly believe that in order to succeed as a record producer, one must begin at the very beginning: with the fundamentals of production. The earthy basics. The stuff we learnt back in the 80s.

So here, in a JUICE exclusive, I shed light on a few of these long-forgotten rudiments of studio craft. The essentials, just as they were taught to me during my earliest days as an assistant engineer at EMI Studios 301 in Australia, 1984.

Making Coffee
Good studio coffee is served piping hot and fresh from a percolator. Purified water is dispensed in the boiling chamber of the percolator prior to turning the percolator on. The studio assistant then takes 1 coffee filter and places it in the filter holder inside the percolation chamber. Approximately ¼ cup of fine imported drip filter coffee is then added, and the lid closed firmly. The percolator is then switched on. At the completion of the brewing process, the assistant pours the coffee into 2 porcelain cups. The cups are then placed on a tray with cream and sugar on the side. The spread is then offered to the engineer and producer in a cheerful and respectful manner. Especially proactive assistants may also serve biscuits with the brew. Or a light snack. Chocolate is also good.

Taking The Blame
As every engineer knows, recording studios are complex places where any number of things can go wrong. Often, expensive mistakes can be made. For example: irreplaceable performances can be accidentally erased, coffee can be spilt down the faders of the recording console, precious vintage microphones can fall off their stands onto concrete floors, corrosive cocaine can be flicked down into a patch bay-these are just a few potential disasters that can befall a recording session. It is thus recommended that assistant engineers be willing to accept blame for any mistakes the engineer or producer may make during the session, especially the expensive ones. This kind of attitude makes life easier for the production team and is an excellent way to show how grateful you are to be allowed to participate in sessions with these gifted and experienced people. It also could help to persuade the engineer to allow you to use some of the session time for your own educational purposes, or your friend’s band. Just a thought…

Keeping Notes
Look, in all seriousness, the very best thing you can do to learn the craft of recording music is to find a producer/engineer whose stuff you really like and ask if you can sit next to him for a mix. During the mix, take as many notes as you can, ask as many questions as you can and observe with all your attention. Treat the time you have with him/her like gold. This is how I essentially got started learning to be a producer. After the coffee and the coke and the blame was all done, I was lucky enough to sit next to some really fantastic producers and engineers. I watched them work. I observed them with all my energy. I asked as many very specific questions as I could think of and I wrote a hell of a lot of it down. I think it’s one of the best things you can do.

And once you’ve done that, get into your own home studio and practise. Practise. Practise. Practise!