From Ashok Shukla to Eric Pillai and from Aslam Khan to Shantanu Hudlikar, ever wondered what these stalwarts from the sound industry do behind the scenes to produce mind-blowing outputs?
Sound engineers and music producers like Eric Pillai, K.J. Singh, Ashok Shukla, Ashish Saksena, Clinton Cerejo, Meghdeep Bose, Srinidhi Venkatesh, Aslam Khan and Shantanu Hudlikar have literally ‘redefined’ the way we perceive sound. We, at Seamedu School of Pro-Expressionism, believe in inviting the best minds in the industry to interact with our students so that the sound engineers and music producers of tomorrow gain an open perspective and insight into what it takes to make it big in the world of studio as well as live sound.
On that note, we have put together some eye-opening anecdotes and advice from the masters of the game here in this article. Read on and find out what these amazingly creative and technically sound professionals have to say about their experiences, background, projects and the current state of affairs.
1. K.J. SINGH
From Vishal Bhardwaj’s Maachis to the more recent projects by A.R. Rahman and Rabbi Shergill, national award winner K.J. Singh has been around since forever. Having worked with the likes of Rahman, Indian Ocean, Hariharan and a host of live shows, Singh’s interactions with his western counterparts has opened an entire new world of possibilities for him. Here are a few excerpts from some of his interviews about sound engineering.
On sound engineering being a creative process
“Sound engineering is a very creative job. We are not just technicians – we are part of the creative process. I like getting inside the head of a composer – what he or she wants to present, what the end objective is, what existing pieces of music they might have referred to.”
“I don’t believe templates are the way to go. Once a piece of music is completed, you just cannot say ‘I want to make something like this again’.”
“Embracing new technology and the knowledge of how to handle gadgets is a must apart from a great understanding of mathematics and physics. Turning knobs just for the sake of it would be robotic and stupid. You need to understand the treatment that you want to give to a track.”
On sharing trade secrets
“I travel a lot for live shows and meet a lot of engineers from the west. We share ideas and pass on some trade secrets to one another.”
On composers going gaga over software
“Apple should give a lot of credit to Rahman for the software’s popularity in India. A lot of composers and producers began using it because they thought they would end up creating the kind of music Rahman did just by using Logic Pro. Alas, they lacked the musical sensibilities that AR has!”
2. MEGHDEEP BOSE
Meghdeep is a highly accomplished contemporary music producer who has worked on the music for blockbusters like Azhar, Tiger Zinda Hai, M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story, Hichki, Mukkabaaz, Airlift, Kaabil, Dangal and Befikre. Having learnt the intricacies of music arrangement and production from Raju Singh and having worked extensively with Amaal Malik, here is what he has to say about being a music producer.
On being exploited by people in the industry
“If your content is good, present yourself and your work confidently and no one will ever take you for a ride or exploit you.”
On becoming a music producer
You cannot simply buy Logic Pro or Ableton and turn into a phenomenal music producer overnight. You need to understand the fundamentals first – learn the art of arrangement. When you do projects for yourself, it is all hunky-dory. Your real test starts when you start producing for others. There are no shortcuts to success in this arena.”
On expanding your horizons
“Don’t restrict yourself to your home studio and your computer. There is a lot to learn out there, so go and meet new people, listen to them, take lessons from their experiences and evolve yourself every day.”
3. ASHISH SAKSENA
Having worked in diverse fields like advertising, in-studio mixing, films and now live sound, Ashish has an illustrious list of partnerships, including Leslie Lewis and Hariharan (Colonial Cousins), Shaan and Sagarika, Vishal-Shekhar, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Ram Sampath and Farhan Akhtar.
On not having formal training
“I fortunately had the opportunity to learn it all on the job, so I chose to not go to an institution for sound engineering education. Over two decades of experience in ads, studios, films and live gigs has taught me everything that I know today.”
On the state of the live sound industry today
Things on the live sound front are evolving rapidly with every passing day. We keep finding new ways to do everything. It is an exciting period for live sound engineers.”
Advice for young aspirants
“The new generation is more computer-oriented. They need to look to broaden their scope while working with live sound by seeking advice from experienced pros. For instance, understanding and learning the ideal setup for a band, experimenting with mic arrangements and using plugins (like the ones Avid’s VENUE console offers) to make their job easier and enhance the output quality.”
4. ASLAM KHAN
A highly experienced sound engineer who has worked with artists like Asha Bhosale, Ustad Sultan Khan, Talat Aziz, Pankaj Udhas and Rakesh Chaurasia, Aslam Khan’s approach towards sound and music is something that young students and engineers can learn a lot from.
On his experience in the world of sound
“I started out as an electronics engineer, working with Philips in the audio department. I was part of a band in college and that is what got me interested in music and sound. Subsequently, I did live sound with bands, ghazal events and classical concerts.”
On playing with equipment and technology
“I built my own 12-channel console back in the day! Understanding equipment – mics, instruments and gadgets – is a necessity for a sound engineer. I study the specifications of any equipment thoroughly before buying it.”
On developing his style of working
“I grew up in the live era where we recorded all kinds of instruments, so that helps immensely in understanding tones and compositions. I still record a lot of live stuff for the feel and authenticity. The live sound experience with established artists helped me a lot. I don’t work with templates or presets – I like to cook my food fresh every day.”
Advice for young sound engineers
“Don’t chase perfection – chase the feel. I learn every day by talking to other sound engineers, artists and even from my assistants. New sound engineers should learn tones and spend time on learning tracking. Once the tracking is rock solid, the mix will automatically be enhanced. You cannot say, ‘Mix mein dekh lenge’.”
5. SHANTANU HUDLIKAR
Most of you who are pursuing sound engineering or music production courses must be aware of the much sought-after chief engineer at YRF Studios. A master of sound, mixing and mastering in his own right, Shantanu is a treasure trove of knowledge.
On the current situation in the music world
“Today’s tracks sound like they were made in someone’s bedroom – which is true to an extent! People are coming up with substandard content every day because they do not take the time or efforts to understand the fundamentals of sound and music.”
On the advent of technology
“Having spent 20 years in the sound business, I am a great believer in technology. But people today don’t use it correctly – they get into bad recording practices because DAWs have become so affordable. The ‘art’ of recording has been forgotten and there seems to be too much emphasis on mixing and making it all okay. Honestly, you cannot mix something and make it fantastic if it has been recorded badly!”
Words of wisdom for aspirants
“Focus on the acoustics, understand the nitty-gritties of instruments, arrangement and tonality. Read about the history of sound, listen to concert recordings, attend live gigs, collect well-recorded and well-mixed music and analyse it. Learning the theory is important, but knowledge without application and practice is of no use. Time, effort, knowledge, honesty and patience are the keys to becoming a successful sound professional. Avoid working in substandard studios and beware of the ‘chalta hai’ attitude.”
Seamedu, India’s first and only Ableton Certified Training Center, delivers Sound Engineering and Music Production courses that have been designed by industry experts keeping in mind the aforementioned advice! We focus on experiential learning, enabling students to learn the nuances of sound while also allowing them to experiment with new techniques and technology. Check out our degree courses and diploma in sound engineering for more details!