This week on the Journal we interviewed UK based Music Producer and Sound Engineer, Aubrey Whitfield. She told us about her journey into the world of music, offered her top tips for budding producers and much more!
Hi, Aubrey. Firstly can you tell our readers how you got involved with Music Production, Engineering & Teaching others in this field?
“People always get surprised at this, but I am completely self-taught! I started very young though. I was in recording studios at the age of 11 and I taught myself how to use basic analog equipment and then my dad taught me to play the keys and guitar. But….it was never my intention to become a Record Producer. It never crossed my mind once for about 20 years!
I was an artist for many years and I played in various bands, did a couple of solo EP’s and I signed a publishing deal with Broken Music Publishing to remix some tracks for their artists. It was around this time that I started to get disillusioned with being an artist and I figured that my skills in songwriting and production would be better served by producing other artists. Being a producer is a tough job – you need to be able to produce, write songs, mix, understand basic mastering, manage lots of projects and have good communication skills. So it was a huge learning curve for me over the years – but my hard worked has paid off!”
Musically, who are you influenced by?
“Trevor Horn is my producing hero. He produced ‘Relax’ by Frankie Goes to Hollywood which I personally think is one of the best-produced songs of all time. For the era, it was incredibly advanced and innovative and I often use his work as a benchmark. I have very eclectic musical tastes, which is always a good skill to have a producer! So I tend to get influenced by songs I hear rather than particular artists.
In my teens, I was heavily inspired by Oasis and their music shaped a lot of what I wrote and produced for many years. More recently, I have been listening to artists such as Chvrches, Pale Wales and The 1975 which has had a huge impact on the style of music I now produce.”
A pretty broad question here, however, what are some of the quintessential pieces of advice that you would offer to a beginner starting out in the music industry?
“I think it’s important to choose one DAW and stick with it, to begin with. Learn it inside out – it will ensure you can navigate your DAW without even thinking about it, which is something you will need when you are in the middle of a high-pressured studio session with artists and labels asking you to do a thousand things at once! So become an expert in your DAW.
I would advise aspiring producers to listen to different genres of music as much as they can, even if they don’t like certain genres. Music appreciation across the genres will make them a better, and more creative, producer.
My 3rd piece of advice would be to not copy what every other producer is doing. There are too many songs that are sounding formulaic at the moment. There is a lack of diversity and a lack of innovation. We need more producers who are willing to take risks and learn from what other producers are doing, but not be afraid of making their own sound. Be unique and don’t be afraid to be different – that’s how super-producers are made.”
How do you feel the industry as a whole can encourage more women into being at the forefront of Music Production/Sound Design & Sound Engineering?
“I think this is quite a complex area with no easy solution. From what I have seen, I don’t think women are necessarily ‘put off’ going into producing or engineering roles, I just think a lot of talented female musicians are more focussed on being an artist and don’t even consider transitioning to producing. After all, I was one of them.
I was an artist for 20 years and I self-produced during that time but I never once considered going into producing. I think it’s important that producers like me, who have been lucky enough to carve out a successful career, are as visible and vocal as possible so we inspire more females to come into the role.”
What are some of your favourite tools to use in the studio when creating music? (Hardware or Software)
“I am a huge fan of Soundtoys plugins. What I like about them is that they are different from everything else and they create a really different sound in my productions. Hardware wise, the best piece of studio kit I ever bought was my Universal Audio Apollo Quad pre-amp. Recording vocals is an important part of my job so this pre-amp gave me amazing sounding vocal recordings, but it also meant I had access to the UAD plugin suite which has some incredible hardware emulation plugins which I use regularly (API Vision is one of them).
Also, I heavily rely on Sample Magic’s ‘Magic AB’ plugin for comparing my own mixes against commercial mixes. That is such an important tool for mixers and producers!”
Finally, can you tell us what you’ve got in store for the rest of 2019? Any projects our readers should know about or get involved with?
For the first time in my career, I am now starting to release pre-made productions and sample packs. I have just released around 15 pre-made productions for licensing and released my first sample pack called ‘Modern 80s drums‘, so there will be a lot more of that in 2019. I’m also focussing on what I’m calling ‘producer resources’.
As my Instagram followers will testify, I like to educate other producers, so I’ve started developing a section of my website which will feature a whole range of producer resources; such as DAW templates, producer guides, cheat sheets and free samples. I’m hoping to launch that shortly and any aspiring producers can sign up to my mailing list at www.aubreywhitfield.com if they want a slice of the action!