Hip Hop Production: Masterclass with Focus… (Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar)

focus... masterclass hiphop production

In this video, acclaimed hip hop producer Focus… (who has produced Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, Beyoncé) reveals his tips and tricks for hip hop mixing and production.

Topics include:
How to make a beat from scratch
Manipulating drum samples to stand out
Translating ideas and feelings into music
Making space for lead vocals in arrangements and mixes


0:00:10.7 –>
and here we are hello everybody i’m cassidy i’m your moderator and we’re here with waves open sessions and today we have a very very special man who has produced people like dr dre kendrick lamar busta rhymes rick ross eminem and the list goes on and on his name is focus and here he is what’s happening nice to see you man nice to see you too thank you very much for having myself and the waves family in here to the studio to show us what you do man i’m honored i really appreciate that no problem so everybody sit back and enjoy here we go [Music]

0:01:04.2 –>
so [Music] hey guys welcome back again we’re here with my man focus and we’re going to be learning hip-hop tips and tricks and secrets that you won’t learn anywhere else this man has a very identifiable sound if you don’t know already you’re going to know by the end of this and it’s very special how it gets to these things it’s not just put in a plug-in there’s a little bit to it so you’re just going to have to watch very carefully and take notes if that’s what you do so i just need to go over a couple of things before we kick this off and the first thing has to do with headphones so i’m just going to read off the page here we encourage you to listen to this webinar with headphones or suitable monitors not from laptop speakers that way you can have the best possible listening experience the thing is we’re going to be working through all frequency ranges right and if you don’t

0:02:01.5 –>
have something that can hear or display all those ranges then you’re going to be missing out on something so please take care of that right the next thing is we have a question and answer session that happens with focus right and there’s already questions coming in keep feeding them to us through the q a through the chat you won’t see your question because we have so many of them but please understand they will then show up at my computer here and i will read them to focus and he’s going to answer them so that’s going to come up the other thing great about this waves open session besides being here with talented people like focus is the giveaways right so the giveaway um uh for this show is going to be a digigrid d sound grid um and you can see it right there on your screen uh and the way this is going to work the way you’re going to win it is we’re going to get these questions in

0:03:00.2 –>
um and we’ll ask them to to focus here but we have our own question that we’re going to answer ask you guys and then you’re going to answer through the chat and the first person to answer that will win this awesome in out device okay so we’ll be getting to that um the last thing i have to say before focus takes over is that um there’s a special bonus uh courtesy of waves to everyone who watches this live event at the bottom of this live webcast page on waves.com you can see a special 25 percent discount code you can use it to get any waves plug-in or bundle in the next 24 hours the discount code is only available for the people who are watching the live version of this so if you’re watching the uh pre-recorded then that code will not work so it’s only the people watching the live one all right so get that code and then you have 24 hours to use it so go ahead and get that done all right that’s about it for the

0:04:00.7 –>
formalities now on to the good stuff so i’m going to give it over to focus here and what we’re going to start with is he’s just going to tell us a little bit about himself how he got here and kind of bring some of us who don’t know him up to speed so focus yeah dallas uh born uh in new york um my father is bernard edwards from chic so my mother and father my mother used to sing as well so they met in the club and uh they got uh married and had me and i’ve only been around music you know i’m the oldest of six kids and we all are musically inclined you know so it is one of those things that uh it’s been a i guess you can call it a calling you know because it’s all i’ve ever known so uh definitely i got it all from pop you know and did you think it was something that you were going like did you know you were going into the music land or you just kind of

0:05:00.1 –>
were fed there it’s funny my dad didn’t want me to do it okay no he never he didn’t want me to do music but um you know when you tell a kid not to touch your oven you’re gonna touch the oven yeah so uh i touched the oven and i got in the oven yeah turned the oven on and stayed in there you know i said i like this yeah like but um that’s pretty much it like i really just wanted to i wanted him to be proud of me that was that was my whole goal i just wanted my dad to be proud of me you know i’d probably say yeah that’s the case so guys what we’re gonna do is this is really cool because i wasn’t expecting this and focus wasn’t expecting this but he’s going to create something on the spot so as if we were just showing up in the studio and we’re working together and focus is going to do what he does so watch and watch very closely to every little thing he does because he he doesn’t do anything just for fun it’s it’s a thought out process now some of that has taken a while to get there

0:06:01.2 –>
but some of it is very natural so keep on point with him all right focus all right for sure so um normally when i get into uh the creative space um i just want to find something that i like and mind you only have five minutes so you guys uh i have a couple of things up that um i like you know um i didn’t start anything but i have a couple of things up i like so i’ll go through um just how i would normally you know go through something so um of course i’m going to pull up something crazy kodak what is that codex from waves and um it’s super dope it’s super dope arpeggiated uh sense and and that seems to be the wave you know everybody talks about the wave but um the sounds in here are crazy so i’m just gonna you know i’m just gonna do something and guys mind you this is five minute beat uh whoever tries to judge me on a five

0:07:01.1 –>
beat um you know it’s not my fault all right and he didn’t know this was coming so here we go yeah i that feels good so what i would normally do is just this uh i’m just gonna create a texture [Music] [Music] there’s so many things i can do with just that right there now this is the thing called kickstart it’s just something i want to use to give it a pose now one of the things i always do when i do

0:08:00.7 –>
anytime i’m making anything with chords i i always go to sound pitch shifter okay every time so um there is a proper place that a chord and a uh and a chord progression lives and it’s a feeling okay you know i i honestly believe that um when you really are going into a creative space you have to be in tune with your emotions but you have to be in tune with the heart you know and it’s it’s a feeling so let me do this here so sometimes the key that you started in might not be the right one yeah and and the funny thing about it is it is there’s no such thing as a wrong one it’s just one that makes me feel good right you know okay [Music] all right this is the thing that

0:09:01.3 –>
everybody asked me about every time i do anything it’s about my drums so i’m gonna use uh one of my friends in the industry ill mine uh his drums are ridiculous so i’m just gonna use uh something from his stuff cool yeah we’ll make it uh yeah let’s see i’ll make it real i don’t know maybe hip hop we’re not doing country today well you know i don’t think they’re ready for me in the in the country world yet so when i do uh a drum track i like to do it all together and then i’ll separate right so like a drummer exactly because it you know i don’t know a drummer that sits there and plays the hi-hat first and then does the snare that’s a little awkward it might not work so let’s see let’s see what comes out

0:10:10. –>
[Music] me all right so i’m gonna go with that copy paste yes [Music] right so automatically i’m gonna duplicate these tracks [Music] and what i do is drag [Music] so it’s all the same thing okay and now what i’m doing here is just i

0:11:00.3 –>
gotcha yeah you know exactly so that’s my kick turn around and get rid of that second track will be my snare got it top one will be my hand so now from here i’ll go into quantizing i like my snare to be a little bit earlier okay um right now i’m swinging it just to give it a little human feel i’ll bring my shift a little bit earlier for this nice my kick i bring that a little bit later still a human feel hi-hat same thing give it a human feel it’s a swing and i’ll push that later than a kick okay so right now i like i like what’s going on i think it could be a little bit faster [Music]

0:12:02.7 –>
it’s funny because before you did that i was moving left to right just a sway but now i’m bobbing my head yeah you want to find a sweet spot with with the pitch and you want to find a sweet spot for the temple yep you know yeah so um let’s work on the snare for a minute so uh i like to eq my snare first and i’m just using what’s on logic at the moment um but everyone that knows me knows that i go right to rvox and uh it’s funny this is this is not really i have to but this is my go-to it just pops it the gate is so forgiving i say it all the time so it just gives me a really good feeling um there’s my snare hi-hat you really don’t have to do anything to make it sizzle you know i’ll take low end out if it if it’s a sampled

0:13:01. –>
hi-hat um so real quick that was the eq for the hi-hat for the highest dropped out all the stuff that really isn’t there anyway right it’s not going to register it’s not going to it’s just going to be noise uh right now we’re here with the kick again i’ll go to rvox okay but let me let me eq first get a little bit more pop out of it [Music] and when you’re going like it seemed like you were going just below 200 is that a general spot where you can kind of start and then move it or not i like i i start um normally when i start over here uh at 200 i’m going for punch okay so i’ll start to push up punch first to see how much i can get okay and then i’ll give it i’ll round it out below 200. um and another cool thing that you can do with a kick everybody uh knows this i’m sure um because waves doesn’t have any ignorant followers but uh rbase is a really cool thing that you

0:14:00.7 –>
can put on um kick as well just to uh to boost the frequency and and play with the frequency maybe you want to soften your kick so now i have a rounder kick yeah you do you see you put the exactly or maybe you want to turn around and get a top okay a little bit more pop you know so it depends on what you’re looking for in those sounds but it’s really cool uh to dial in with something like that so for me i like the kick as it is i’m gonna go for the rvox just bring it up a little bit yep and get a nice clean stop all right [Music] so let’s see so this sorry to interrupt but you have these two things and they’re working so where did your brain go like you know what right now i that’s that’s the funny thing i don’t know where it is like i really really like to just kind of dive into

0:15:01.4 –>
if i can i like to dive into the creative pool you know what i’m saying so i try i try not to let the walls closing on me out of the ceiling come down on me so right now um just for the sake of time i’m gonna play around with a piano grand rap city from waves is really really cool you can really hear the pieces of a piano where um you know most plugins will just give you the piano sound but you’re actually getting the innards the guts of the piano so you know it sounds really really good um so we’re gonna see let’s see what we can come up with [Music]

0:16:19.9 –>
so let’s just say if i if i wanted that to be my idea so uh i’m gonna do that i’m gonna put this over here oops it’s live folks this is really live i’m not ready so i’m gonna get myself yeah you know so uh we’ll make it even let’s see [Music] so let’s try this [Music]

0:17:12.8 –>
all right nice so we already know that logic doesn’t like to cycle like that but for something like this okay um i’m gonna eq it and what are you hearing in in what you want to fix like what is it about the piano that you wanted to eq well the funny thing about a piano it’s there’s so many um levels to a piano there’s so many levels to all instruments but it depends on what you’re trying to get out of it the top end of the piano the tiny part the the the metal part of it is what i like i like that aggressive feel i like that you know i love when the the hammer hits the uh the string yeah so i’m i’m going for that i’m going for a little bit more of the top edge of the

0:18:00.8 –>
piano so you know [Music] so for something like this maybe i’ll try something different doubler is always dope it widens everything out and it also puts it in [Music] so with that that you pulled up just now did you kill the center i killed the center just for the purpose of giving it a different texture okay you know um it’s not a go-to method i’m sure that everybody would like to still be able to feel the music because if you if you don’t have uh good headphones you know you kill the center it could really mess up the actual experience of the song but it’s just it’s a different texture that’s all so and then on top of that i’m now feeling like this it’s a little bit more morbid so i’m gonna uh go up three

0:19:01.2 –>
uh and just to see what it feels like [Music] oh i did this wrong please forgive me let’s see [Music] so it feels good to me that’s a good night thing i would turn around and probably play live bass on it you know what i’m saying just because it has a good feel you know but i would i would give it movement with the bass i would give it movement with guitar i would give it movement with organic stuff because the piano feels so organic got it so when you need movement this you could translate that to live instrument or not necessarily i that’s that’s a personal preference got it you know there’s a lot of kids that um and a lot of these new producers they’re super dope and they’re in their their texture the way that they

0:20:02 –>
use timing and texture with just hi hats i think is intriguing you know um it’s not something that i came from even though you know that 16th that rattle hat um jimmy jam and terry lewis used it on 7-7 93-11 you know um and they used it with sherelle they used it so these are people that i’ve already heard that rattle have but to hear them go from the rattle hat going into the triplet or you know and just just playing with timing like that i think it’s it’s truly uh genius yeah you know so um there’s ways that you can do it it doesn’t have to be live yeah um i used to be uh an advocate for live you know you need to know how to play an instrument but then um you know a lot of these kids are very talented without that you know so i’m not i’m not putting walls or ceiling or floors around them they’re they’re allowed to float in creativity like i am which slightly important when you’re trying to create if you’re right yeah exactly right so well i think that’s awesome that you did

0:21:02.1 –>
that guys we took a little longer than five minutes but i mean in the comments please let focus know he literally did just create this i know he does it all day long but still we put him on the spot in front of thousands of people right and he created this so i want to thank him thank you focus for doing that and now now we’re going to go into um another session that he has already right so he’s going to open that up and as he’s opening that up i’m going to get to a question real quick so let’s see what we got here in the chat josh asks do you like blending two or three different tonal colors of snares when you create a drum track that’s a good question um the funny thing about it is i do not like to layer drums i don’t like to okay but sometimes the track will call for it and why don’t you like it i don’t like to just because i i feel like if i want to get the sound there’s a direct way to do it okay and if

0:22:00.1 –>
there’s you know they say the the easiest uh way to get to point b is a straight line right you know so if i’m stepping from a to b i want to go that straight line i don’t want to do the roundabout way got it to get to be and and um that’s just something that’s always been a way that i’ve i’ve dealt with my career so if i don’t have it i’ll make it and um and i’ll make sure that it has the same impact as three or four or five snares but it’s just a personal preference got it you know it’s that’s awesome i love it so let me do one more um some identifying uh let’s see let me re-read that uh how do you okay we kind of there’s a question about how do you get your uh kick and snare to knock but we kind of talked as rvox right as one arbox is gonna give it its top snap it’s gonna get rid of all the the noise at the end it’s a forgiving gait and i i say it all the time but i don’t think that people understand how important that is like because for me i used to sample drums from vinyl got

0:23:02.2 –>
it so you’re getting dirt you’re getting dirt from the needle to the vinyl and then you know what i’m saying so it’s uh it’s really one of those amazing gates that uh you don’t get the click uh you know so it doesn’t cut off the the natural part of the organic part of the the the wave so it it really is uh important but when it comes down to knocking you have to turn dials you have to learn eq you have to understand the bands of eq because that’s where the natural part of the knock is going to come from and then everything else is is like uh makeup on a woman a woman is beautiful inside and out but then it’s just something that she puts on to enhance exactly so and so guys i want to say guys and gals focus talks a lot about feeling and vibe right but that always translates to something technical so we might not say that but like he just said he took time to understand frequencies you don’t just magically understand frequencies that’s

0:24:01.6 –>
not how it works he took the time to study that once he understood that then you can forget it and go about your business right yeah yeah and i think that a lot of people negate feeling and it’s just like in school there’s book smartness street smart that’s right um but the the way you live life is the melding of the two there’s not one book smart person that is going to outlive a street smart person and vice versa you have to meld the two and this is the same thing with the creative world let’s show show them one of your tracks so this one is called the cr the contribution it’s a record that i put out um i forgot what year was but i was super bored and when i get bored and you know idle hands you start just creating things so it’s a three-parter in one song um and this is the third part this is the more creative part so this is why i use this one so i’m gonna let it play for a little bit okay [Music]

0:25:19.7 –>
so [Applause] [Music] so this this it comes up to a verse so thank you so much um so this was this was literally my emotion like if you listen to it as it grows i

0:26:01. –>
played live bass on it i literally just i’m i’m a theme for chords so i really wanted to make it an experience so that’s why as a three-parter each part shows a line of aggression um the contribution was a contribution to young listeners because i didn’t want them to think that i was bashing them but it’s at the end of the day there has to be some substance so not just giving them substance on the top end i wanted to give them substance on the bottom end so there’s nothing wrong with musicality there’s nothing wrong with it and and for them to accept r b from drake yeah you know you got to accept it from everybody else you can’t just be one-sided so um let’s go into some of the fun stuff in here um again like i told you if you look through this session and i can just keep clicking through you’ll find a sound shift on there because i wanted it to be the right pitch i’ll show you the piano here when i originally did it it was a step down okay i’ll play it

0:27:02.7 –>
[Music] now for me just the way the piano sounds by itself it sounds morbid it sounds you know it sounds it is heavy but at the same time the mood of it wasn’t supposed to be heavy it’s supposed to go this is the climax of the song right you know so i had to bring it in into a place where it felt climactic um it felt victorious at the same time so uh when i did it i turned around and i started pitching up and i found it at plus one semitone which is weird because it’s not that big a move no but i’ll play it and you can almost feel the life of me it brightens yeah but a half semitone like that i mean a semitone though a semitone yeah it’s one semitone it’s it’s not even that that big a deal but it is when you just when you’re going for a feeling you know

0:28:00.8 –>
uh let’s see the drums uh and and this was a drum fill that i kept playing and i was throwing it through luber raider okay looper raiders one of my favorite things to use because it can take any any kind of audio wave and just manipulate it however you know however you want it glitching whatever you want so all i did was just displace this drum fill that i was playing over and over again uh so i’ll play that real quick and is that is this from a live drummer or you well it’s actually from it’s actually from a drum kit that i have okay so it’s it’s um you know how they have uh single drums and then they’ll have fills yes got it got it it’s just one of those okay so uh just starting from the top i’m just gonna play it [Music] so i’m literally just playing this drum

0:29:01.5 –>
loop so i wanted it to feel a little bit more beefy okay you know you got to go to torque torque is one of those plug-ins that for any body that has drum loops anybody that’s using drums anybody that’s using uh just even like the the out of the box stuff you know like the stuff that just sounds so rudimentary you’re you’re able to dial in to places in this drum to give it life got it it doesn’t matter how bad this the snare sounds it doesn’t matter how bad the kick sounds you can give it life with torque so in this it’s just i wanted it to feel a little bit more meaty it’s cool i like it yeah but i want to love it so this is without torque [Music] oh when those toms hit you see oh yeah so you feel you can and you can even feel it in the kick so it’s giving a little bit of meat to the snare head

0:30:00.5 –>
it’s giving a little bit of meat well a lot of meat to the uh the um tom and when i say meat guys i’m talking about actual just um how would i put that uncreatively uh substance i guess i guess when you turn around and you hit a tom there’s a body there’s a you know there’s a roundness to it and when you’re properly miking drums you’re going to get that every hit that’s right you know so this is this is me loosely miking my drums the way i want them got it and torque gives me that you know so um that’s definitely a tool that i use all the time so maybe something that people want to use their little discount to buy torque would be top three maybe i i dare you where where there you go yeah the r bundle is is ingenious it’s ingenious i love it especially going for the bass uh now this one is going to be funny i played live bass

0:31:01. –>
um and i played different pieces and i pieced it together because i wanted it to feel like i’m a dope bass player when i’m not got it oh yeah did everybody hear that yeah you see he just admitted that he’s that he had to piece it together i’m just not i’m not if you want to put me on stage there’s a bad it’s going to be bad so that’s why he’s in the studio y’all yeah he’s not a dummy hey but um so i used vocal writer and i really i smushed the uh i got to stop saying it smushed but i i i really uh brought the the range in very tight okay and for me i just i really wanted to get every nuance of what i was doing on the bass even if it was a mistake it’s a texture okay you know what i’m saying so there’s a way that you can hit it uh this is without vocal rider okay [Music] this is with vocal rider

0:32:01.7 –>
so if you just look at the fader it’s it’s just like old school back in the day we used to automate you know so it’s a wonderful feature that now is giving these kids [Laughter] a way to automate without having to know how to do it in the ssl without having to engage the motors right you know so it’s still uh the integrity is there the importance is there um but you understand the purpose because you used to sit there and automate right i still do i still do like we’re we’re currently in in a mixing phase now and one of the greatest things about being at aftermath one of the greatest things about working with dre has been the fact that we keep it old school when we push our music through the board we’re not mixing in the box and it’s not not everybody has that it’s not at everyone’s leisure you know i’m not gonna tell uh people that their mixes in the box sound like garbage it’s that’s wrong you know it’s a different

0:33:01.2 –>
day and age but i have the honor and privilege and blessing to mix to ssl and i know how to do that i watched my father do it you know all the way up to watching my mentor do it so you know i’m still learning i’m still learning and and dre is still teaching me how to dial into certain frequencies you know and not be afraid of pushing it to the red and pushing it to the uh to the limit so you know it’s it’s it’s one of those things that i i hold near and dear to me because i know that at the end of the day my mix will sound different than anybody else’s mix because of you know the tutelage got it yeah yeah so let’s go dive back into the track because some of us don’t know it as well as you so is there any other um so we did the drums right and we did the bass um no vocals on this one right well there is a vocal but it’s mine and i i that’s up to you my friend hey you know what i’ll i’ll share a little bit here we go everybody here we go all right

0:34:01.9 –>
y’all gotta listen but you said fearless all in your soul i’ve been feeling this since i was six years old i came from a generation where i paid my dues i’m driven but for some reason i’m still paying these tones and like there ain’t no easy passes if god didn’t call me i’d be intrigued with passing but now i live with a purpose and i lead with passion not just words i’m living it just read my actions need i’ll say i’m free like i said it’s just gonna be a little bit but yeah it’s one of those i was listening to the story man that’s a story yeah that’s the whole song the whole song is a story and i started from a humble place of getting chastised from people that are you know telling me you keep complaining about where music is make the change got it you know so that’s where i started from and then in the middle i got mad so i said a verse from that and then this one was like i’m not mad it’s just it’s time for change like what are we doing so you try to group the people around you that are like-minded so it

0:35:01.6 –>
was you know the three levels or the three stages of being upset about something so that’s what the contribution was i gave them my emotion as a contribution so first for this like i said i’m always going to go to vocal rider okay i keep it super tight okay um only because i’m using vocal rider for the exact reason it’s been invented for the automation i want i want regularity in my vocal okay i want regularity in my volume i don’t want to have to turn around and automate it so i’ll keep it super tight and i get a natural response out of that um and that’s that’s pretty much it like the rest of the stuff is very very simple very easy if you look there’s not a lot of plug-ins on each instrument yeah i keep it very simple uh i believe that most of the the stuff that you do on in your imprint is going to be eq-based got it you know that’s when you start finding your sound that’s when you start finding the sound of the sound and finding your sound

0:36:00.5 –>
personally got it you know yeah so in any car there’s a certain way somebody listens to their music they might like more trouble right less bass more mid so you start dialing in on a car yeah uh ssl is like a car on steroids you know because we have every band allowed to us right you know so yeah it just that’s i believe that that’s where my fingerprint starts got it yeah and that’s a hard one to reproduce a little bit yeah because you don’t unless you have the ssl plug-ins or something like that it’s i just think no just eq period i think eq there’s there’s so many ways to hear just one instrument you know you might like uh your bass muddy you know back when i lived in new york that’s all we wanted was our drums to knock and and and they hit the woofer and this and that when i moved out to the west coast and i met dre it’s dre doesn’t just want the woofers to move he wants the tweeters to move got it i’m like that the tweeter’s moving i’m like how you know

0:37:02.6 –>
so it’s one of those things that you start to learn things and and you have to be open to that uh different characteristic a different culture different whatever you want to call it is different and people listen to music different that’s why it’s a universal language no one gets the same feeling from one song you know totally a beautiful thing totally agree all right i think we’re going to go to another question real quick here because we got them flying in um d-r-o asks how do you like to pan things can you give your top panning advice for drums or vocals sure um in my whole career i’ve learned that everything in a track has its own space uh back in the day if you listen to a lot of drums um from the 60s maybe even the 50s you’ll notice that the drums were always panned all the way to one side so you

0:38:00. –>
were able to pan to the left and just get music and vocals and then the drums and the bass and everything was living on the right side but for them that was that was polyphonic that was that was stereo you know instead of them truly dialing into it so now we have the ability to understand that a kick coming down the center is not going to hurt anything a snare coming off a little bit to the left i’ll go maybe two clicks to the left just to give it its own space a hi-hat going a couple of clicks to the right is going to give it its own space and you’ll notice that now you have so much room in the middle to play with now you can make sure that your vocals are resting in the right place you can make sure that that synth plate uh that synth that’s playing could be playing um a little bit louder or it could recess and fit right so um there are perfect places to put things or if you have three different hats i know that i’ll i’ll turn around and do a couple of clicks to the right on the hat and if i have like a rattle hat i’ll go all the way to the left maybe about uh nine o’clock you know and

0:39:02.1 –>
then if i want to have an offset hat i’ll go all the way to the right and i’ll go three o’clock just to give it give you an experience in your headphones you know again learning under the tutelage of dre like not if you put on the headphones at any of his records you’re always going to find something new dancing around yeah yeah yeah so yeah that’s it excellent all right let’s get one more let’s see uh this one’s going to be a tough one but i’ll throw it at you anyway what’s the best thing i mean there’s there’s quite a few but what would you say is you know your top thing you learned from dre i think what do you think is the is it a technical thing or is it more of a life focus you know like how i think that the biggest thing i learned from dre is to never accept what i can do as the final say-so there’s always more there’s always bigger there’s always

0:40:00. –>
better there’s always reaching out to an uncomfortable place and finding comfortability in that and not expecting perfection but being a perfectionist you know and those were the things my entire my entire stint here at aftermath has been that like stop being okay sitting in the chair just making beats yeah what else yeah you know and you push yourself he doesn’t have to push you for you to push yourself because you see him doing so much more right and at his age at his age in the game at his age and behind the boards and behind beats and behind movies and behind everything he’s done he does it with the same passion you would think he’s still 20 you know and he still comes into the studio and he’s the first here and the last to leave you know so i think that that’s that that’s the biggest thing that i’ve gotten from being an aftermath and and i like being pushed i like being uncomfortable for the sake of

0:41:00.3 –>
comfortability you know and he just wants you where he’s at right yeah i think he just wants me to understand that you know there’s a way that you can get where i am but you have to find your own way and he’s not going to turn around and grab you by the hand he’s not but he will open up the door and show you like okay this is the door that would have taken you a long time to get to then go through the door and do your thing right you know so he’s given me a lot of a lot of teaching without knowing that he’s teaching a lot of direction and then at the same time he’s giving me a lot of opportunity but i bet anyth like about anything you were like you got it uh-huh sounds good you were always ready for that information that he wanted to give you yes opposed to thinking you knew more than the man i would never do that yeah and i would never do that even um you know growing up my mother taught us to teach the janitor uh treat the janitor like you treat the ceo right so um you never know when the janet is going to become the ceo but it’s not the

0:42:01.1 –>
reason that you treat it as a person behind that title so at the same time um i’m always learning i learn from my wife i learn from my kids you know my kids are younger than me you know but i learned that uh not every situation needs to be sweated i don’t need to be uh so overwhelmed with life that i’m not living life you know so i learned from everyone someone tell a quick story really quick to the audience when i was uh at lunch with focus and our friends from waves uh a friend said hey focus we need to start early for this session so we’re ready and we’re gonna start at six is that okay with you and focus like you got it i’ll be there like there wasn’t a hesitation and the reason i say that is because look at where he is in his career and somebody told him to be somewhere at six o’clock in the morning even though he’d be mixing very late and he said you got it and i have to say in my experience in my life that’s what makes

0:43:00.4 –>
it that’s the other part to this equation one of it is this musical talents but the other part is the ability to get along with other talented people so nicely done man thank you so much so let’s get uh i think we probably let me see if there’s another one no let’s uh i think we’ll do the trivia question okay let’s let’s throw in the trivia question and give people time to answer it hopefully they’ll be pretty quick and then as we’re waiting for the answer we’ll get to the next strategy sure cool all right people here we go so i’m going to read off the script so i don’t mess this thing up here um okay okay so at the start of the show we said we were going to ask you a trivia question and the first one who sends the right answer via the chat will win so don’t yell at your screen it’s not going to do anything you got it you got to type it in okay so um don’t forget what you’re winning and if you have forgotten let me remind you

0:44:01.2 –>
what you’re winning here is a digi grid d sound grid audio interface so it’s an in-out device so you can get your sound into your daw okay and does some other cool things as well so now this little beast like i said is a perfect i o for a bedroom producer somebody who’s just starting out but it also can be good for somebody who works in a studio like this but then wants to go mix at the beach you can take that with you so it’s it’s really for everybody also if you connect the right components to it it will able you to record and process in real time with plugins and this is what today’s trivia question is about so here we go the director is going to put the question on the screen and i’m going to read it and here we go name two components you need to add to digigrid d in order to benefit from real time processing and low latency monitoring with plugins

0:45:00.3 –>
go send your answer via the chats and in a little bit so i’ll come back and see who’s won but in the meantime let’s get back to business with my man focus and we’re on to our next track all right cool this one is um from a beat cd that i put out called for some reason um and it’s the last track on on the uh cd and it literally is just it’s more of the aftermath sound that i’m known for piano driven heavy drums so i’ll play it real quick and then we’ll go through it [Music]

0:46:17.4 –>
so again like i said it’s a beat cd um not too dynamic on the beat uh it literally is something uh that i’m known for uh it’s a sparse beat there’s enough space for any vocalist to live whether you’re singing or rapping but some of the things that i like um doing in this beat the snare for instance i can go right there to the snare and show you now i mentioned torque earlier this is the snare without torque you can hear it’s more mid driven uh there’s some top end to it because there’s a clap over it

0:47:00.4 –>
so i wanted it to be a little bit more round so i’ll dial down minus 210 and torque the frequency here is amazing um and i got to show this i showed this to everybody do it i love this filter man they got it they got to make it to where i could just automate it but i i just record it if i need to but this filter is ridiculous is it on oh it’s not engaged that’s a whole nother snare yeah so i love that so go oh sorry to interrupt but going back to that point earlier about the question so this would be that moment where you’re like well i’m not doing three snares this is my snare and i want to make it what it needs i’m going to make it work and the thing about it is before you would detune you would eq you would do this but now torque is giving it to you right there and it’s it’s really an easy tool you’re gonna have to dial in there is no

0:48:00.5 –>
magical uh sense there’s no magical trim there’s no magical there’s nothing magical that i can give you to make you understand your drums got it you have to dial in okay and that’s what i love about being creative like there’s no there should be no uh gate in front of you no wall in front of you you know so for this like i said i wanted the snare to have a little bit more body okay engaging torque this is how the snare sounds you can hear the tone drop now even if i wanted to to be a little bit lower yeah you drag you’re gonna have to dial in dial in to find out what that snare is going to do you start to hit it you see you start to yeah you start to hear more tone yeah now i don’t want it to have tone right i’m not going to go for tone enough for this one

0:49:00.5 –>
if i wanted it to be lower it’s one snare it’s perfect this is a perfect thing for any anybody that wants to do showers [Music] and are you doing this as well as eq yes okay yes okay so even the trim you want to turn around and experiment find a snare that works that might not be the snare that works for this song in my opinion but [Music] now there’s a way that i can make that work though of course you did here he goes watch him so the snare is powerful to me so i’ll boost some made and just see if if i can get it to explode

0:50:02.2 –>
all right yeah there’s a lot of tone in there yeah now you’re getting all that body yeah you have the snare a lot of tone so yeah it’s it’s a dialing experience and you have to literally be okay with just sitting there for a little while and stop trying to make the immediate trap sound or the immediate trend sound of the wave or whatever and just dial in and find find a real happy place that you can exist and create from and it seems like from the short time i’ve talked to you that it’s every track is a creative process for you and i know that sounds silly but you know other people there there’s like they’re a little more cookie cutter they know they can do this they go to this they go to that eq that you know but it seems like you’re different every track and you love that i do i that’s the part that gets me excited is the creative aspect of even working with what and artists just learning

0:51:00.7 –>
new creative energies um i’ve had the honor and blessing of working with some really great young talent here uh on the production side um and their their energy is just ridiculous it’s through the roof so just even trying to keep up is like you know an old man trying to run five on five with some high schoolers you know what i’m saying but at the same time they teach me so much you know and they’re they’re even open to listening you know and just being like you know what you’ve been in the game long enough let’s just we’ll glean from you you glean from us yeah you know let’s see how we can make this work so it really is one of those great places i don’t have to worry about i have to create this way i got to make 808s and i got to learn how to bend my 808 in this i know people that do that i can call anybody to do that because i have great rapport with the people but at the same time um i know what i do and i know how to be an expert at what i do yeah you know yes you do that’s for sure so there’s a question that that came in

0:52:02.3 –>
um and i want to kind of expand on it and we chatted about it before we went live which is uh if you’re doing a track like this and then you’ve got three major artists on it and you know typically the vocal is the most important thing so what do you have what do you do when you have three most important things like how do you balance that and they’re singing at the same time like at least keys in the background or something that somebody’s rapping or you know whatever how do you balance there’s a way to balance it but at the same time they understand the position in a song um if somebody’s singing background let’s just say um and i’ll give you a prime example i did a song called respect my conglomerate for busta runs buster rhymes had jeezy and jadakiss on the first version and then it was little wayne and jadakiss those are three important rappers but at the same time everyone got to showcase because they were all front rappers they were just different verses got it so you make sure everybody

0:53:00.2 –>
sits right but if everyone’s singing at the same time you’re gonna have to understand that okay if alicia keys is singing background for beyonce beyonce still leaves sure so her space is there and then you give alicia her space and then whoever the third person is you give them their space and you allow them to exist and coexist but you still have to play that position and i think a lot of people negate that because they think it’s a star they need to be pushed up no it’s not part that’s the the most important part of a song is the composition right not the artist right the artist is what helps us showcase the song but being truthful if the song is wack then the artist didn’t do anything nothing happens yeah you know so we have to make sure that the composition for the sake of the composition is great totally agree all right so let’s get back to the track okay are there any um let’s let’s go to the bongos just for fun did you do anything special to them tuning them or anything yeah okay there we go this is a little thing i like to

0:54:01.5 –>
call smack attack no waves has this plugin called smack attack smack attack is a transient it’s really really cool um and again it gives you the same exact pliability that torque gives you so for something as small as this little um i’ll just highlight this piece right here as small as this little turnaround for the bongos i just needed it to hit a little bit more and give it just a little bit top end so this is without it i like the texture of it this is was it so you hear a little bit more hand action yep if i want more you just dial in more it’s like you got to go record it again almost like you got to move the mics a little closer and 100 and then you get to turn around and really understand just texture texture like these things help you start to dial in on texture and texture is important you don’t want

0:55:00.5 –>
your drums all sounding like they’re just regimented two four beats or one you know like texture is really important and it just gives it a very organic and human feel you know so was one of your favorite texture tools then or here i got one for you how about this sure if i said okay this is amazing focus but i need the snare to sound silkier oh torque okay yeah that’s easy but i think that’s it did everybody see that because in my experience that’s what happens people tell you know somebody like focus hey i need this more aggressive i need this bigger i need this fatter i need and then you have to translate that into a plug-in or something right but the thing about it is that they don’t care how you get there they just want you to get there right you know so um and what i appreciate about these tools um is that it’s a quicker way to get there right it doesn’t mean that you can’t get there any other way right you know um there’s millions of companies that are turning around and putting out millions

0:56:01.1 –>
of plug-ins you know but um waves makes it to where it’s easy like you know i can slap that on and i know how to get there and i know how to uh to engage this plug-in it doesn’t feel like bringing brain cancer or you don’t understand rocket science like i’m i’m not hurting uh just trying to get a sound so yeah and it seems like most of them that you use are maybe 10 buttons at the most yeah yeah yeah and you’re using five of them yeah you know what i mean but the thing about it is you have the pliability and the and the reach to do all ten you just have to dial in and see what you’re trying to do that’s right and nobody like everybody plays it safe i want my snare to hit hard and i want there’s nothing wrong with a with a a big beefy snare there’s nothing wrong with it a lot of the motown records were made with those snares you know so forever yeah exactly and those those records translate just as big now they did back then agreed yeah great so do you have anything else that you wanted to

0:57:01.7 –>
show your fans of people watching or say anything special because we’re rounding out this awesome session so is there anything that you want to convey to your fans or you want to get across i honestly want them to understand the importance of creativity talent is a wonderful thing but if you’re not a creative talent then you just have a talent and you’re following a trend understand what your heart is telling you understand what the emotions are people think that emotions are soft but they’re not you know they’re not that’s where the best songs come from from real life from from just tangible situations that you reach out to people like doing this right now what we’re doing live you guys can ask me any question and i want more questions i want more interaction because that makes me tangible that makes the situation tangible and you get the answer you need i can sit here and regurgitate information all day long but it might not be what you want so if you don’t ask

0:58:00.6 –>
the question then you did yourself a disservice because i’m here totally agree so we better take another question then after all that okay uh and and i will announce the winner we have the winner so give me just a second uh let me see if i can get another question um so i guess it’s again back to vocals this tryst says your vocals have a very full sound how do you get such a stereo sound but keep them sitting right in the mix and i agree you when i was doing my research and listening to all the tracks it’s like you have such little instrumentation but it’s so full but it’s not stepping on each other’s toes so how how are you getting focusing on the vocal how are you doing that it’s it’s again and i appreciate that chris um at the end of the day everything has its space to exist and again learning under the tutelage of jury seeing the simplicity of certain beats that were huge for him but how he

0:59:02.6 –>
made it dre wasn’t showcasing himself as a beat maker and he wasn’t showcasing himself as a rapper he was showcasing himself as an amazing producer that knew how to put together a composition quincy jones does the same thing any broad temperature you can name any producer they don’t just sit there and worry about one uh fraction or one element of a beat you know no matter what if my father was a basis he didn’t just sit there and worry about the base you know he made sure that the composition together with his partner now they made sure the composition was round so the thing about it is every time i go into it this is just me but when i go into any uh composition i’m not there to showcase who i am i’m there to create a stage for the vocalist so the first spotlight they get is in the studio this is way before they even hit the stage this is way before the record comes out so they have to understand that you’re selling our record right

1:00:02.4 –>
so when i do that that means you’re dead center stage you treat your vocalist on every song you treat your vocalist as the vocalist as the entertainer so you put them dead center stage that’s where i put my vocalist when i turn around and start doing backgrounds you have a stereo feel that opens up as wide as you need it put vocals everywhere got it you don’t have to always go left right with all backgrounds and then put your vocals in the middle okay because now you’re you’re limiting yourself you didn’t deal with a whole bunch of stereo field from zero to you know whatever you widened it out to be yeah so now you’re negating all of this space so you want it all to be an experience and you want somebody to find a vocal that they can engage with like i like that note yeah right but it might be over at two o’clock sure man i like that note but it might be over at seven o’clock you know yeah and just give them give them their own space and music is very easy

1:01:02.2 –>
to get the vocals to sit on top of music like the proper toppings because what you wanted to do is be a whole dessert stop worrying about what’s louder or my kick has to be louder this no you want to make sure the whole thing rounds out and that’s what i’ve always done every time i go in i just i don’t want the vocal to sit ahead of the beat i want it to recess into the track so it sounds like it’s all married so are you knowing that you have a vocal coming eventually on a track are you mixing and arranging knowing that’s coming or do you kind of wait for the vocal and then see what happens okay okay i’m a producer at heart first um and when i say i’m a producer i could be a vocal producer but i’m a music producer first so my whole thing is to get the music exactly where i want it i want it to all be impactful i want my drums to knock your face off i want every frequency to melt your face i want it to i want it to be an experience by itself and then when i get the the vocal

1:02:00.6 –>
i just carve the space out nice i hope that’s good for y’all i mean i’m sure he could go on and on and on but that will be part two of this series if you have it part two if you want a part two you gotta tell the waves people give us part two give us part two because focus and i will do part two no problem but you got to tell the waves people thank you all right so before i forget we got to uh get back to the trivia question and announce the winner because uh we got to give this thing away man i mean focus wanted it but i said i’m sorry i’ll take it yeah sorry man i’m sorry all right so but before we tell the answer i just want to read the question one more time okay so the question was name two components you need to add to digigrid d in order to benefit from real-time processing and low-latency monitoring with plug-ins okay so the answer was there’s actually a few components both

1:03:01.1 –>
hardware and software that you need to connect your digi grid d in order to record and monitor with plugins in real time and so here they are so you could have answered any of these four okay we only needed two so one of them is a sound grid server number one number two a sound grid compatible network switch so you can’t just take your old aol network switch that you’ve had since 94. that’s not going to work you got to get one that is compatible all right otherwise you’re going to stop the process so make sure you if you’re going to do this you get a compatible one all right so that was one answer sound grid compatible network switch the next thing you need is an ethernet cab cable and that’s how everything connects it’s a really cool system so you can usb or anything else just the one ethernet okay and then you also need a computer that’s running the sound grid software such as sound grid studio and that’s a free plug-in so again sound grid server sound grid compatible network switch ethernet

1:04:01.7 –>
cables and a computer running sound grid software such as sound grid studio okay so let me get to the chat here and see who won okay andy riviera my friends nicely done sir a little golf clap from focus and i just for you sir you’re welcome and his answer was the sound grid server and switch so i will expand on that switch part don’t forget it needs to be compatible that’s the only thing i’ll say there but nicely done andy uh we will get your information and get that out to you asap okay so i think let’s see let me get to chance um okay so we got that i think that’s about it so i’m gonna go with the outro then i think anything else you want to tell anybody or uh no if if you guys ever wanna um get in contact with me

1:05:01.4 –>
um i answer everything that’s that’s sent to me uh so um i’m always on instagram brandon myself and that’s at focus the number three d-o-t-s and if you ever need me just hit me up i’m here to uh connect with people you know very nice of you somebody is very busy that’s really nice so if he doesn’t answer you right back cut him some slack would you i mean come on now give me a little break all right so uh here’s my little intro outro rather i prepared um so i have to say in the short time that we’ve spent together you definitely carry your dad’s legacy i mean you really do those albums that he created were they’re still amazing right we still love those albums you’re doing the same thing i mean you’re gonna we’re gonna go on in in 60 years and still go like this to your beats wow because you can’t not every time i would put on a beat i i just find myself doing

1:06:02.1 –>
this and so it’s like why am i doing that why am i doing that and so i thank you very much for taking the time to kind of explain to all of us how you get that that beautiful sound um and so i have to say in my opinion you’ve hit the timeless zone like there’s there’s records that come out and they’re great for that summer right aw so awesome great five years but then there’s the timeless ones you know kind of blue and so on and so forth that that will never go away yeah like so for me you and dre really have put a stamp on you’ve made your mark man and so the last thing i’ll say um for all of y’all is you’ve seen how kind he is right i hope it’s shown through because talent’s one thing musically but if he’s not a sweet guy and humble dre is not going to work with him and neither is anybody else so i have to say you need kindness you need understanding you need seasoned ears with a wide musical experience and once you have

1:07:02.3 –>
that then you can start to fall in line with this man all right so start with the music get that going but make sure you’re always good to people and always assume the person you’re talking to knows something more than you all right so that’s my little thing now i’ll do the official waves goodbye so that what wraps up waves open sessions um this my second one and i can’t wait to do more and we thank you again focus thank you so much we really do um if you like the event make sure you tell us uh in the chat on facebook and um make sure you hit up focus and tell him what you like on his instagram so it can blow up um don’t forget to subscribe to the waves youtube channel um so you can see more events like this one and uh that’s it that’s uh that’s me done for waves open session thank you very much

Other Engineers

3 Golden Rules for Low End Hip Hop Mixing with Lu Diaz

How to Mix Rap Vocals with Leslie Brathwaite (Pharrell Williams)

Best Home Studio Set up

14 Mixing Tips for Creating EDM