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Md technical process

Discussion in 'Ask Justin Meldal-Johnsen' started by danengland, Jun 17, 2014.


  1. danengland

    danengland

    Jun 18, 2007
    Newcastle
    Hi Justin

    I've had a look through the forum and didn't find anything on this specific issue, but sorry if I am bringing up a question that has already been asked.

    I'm interested in learning more about MD-ing - specifically the technical side and learning to use Ableton and MainStage to recreate elements from records and build a strong live set that cohesively blends tracked and live elements.

    Would you be able to go through your process when you are starting a new project as an MD?

    Do you start with the stems from the record and then plan what will be tracked and what will be live?

    Would you send the live players the specific parts/sounds you want then to play?

    Do you normally get much freedom to add parts to arrangements from the artist's records as you see fit?

    When a particular sound needs to e recreated would you normally prefer to emulate it rather than playing the sound from the record via MainStage?

    How do you approach layered drum/drum machine parts in terms of what is tracked?

    What do you recommend for someone trying to learn about the technical side of being an MD?

    Thanks

    Dan
     
  2. jmjbassplayer

    jmjbassplayer Justin Meldal-Johnsen Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2005
    I think every time I've done it, the process changes based on the circumstances. Every situation needs a different touch, and obviously has strikingly different technical requirements, if any.

    When the discussion comes up about tracks, yes: I tend to start from stems. However, the stems are very often not enough. I usually need the whole session. With stems, you're relying on the mix engineer's choices as far as how he groups things. But of course, when you want that one synth part broken out from the rest during that chorus for whatever reason, that opens a can of worms. So, I usually cut to the chase and say give me stems, but also a drive with the last operative sessions from the record. I've never been able to use stems only.

    Yes, then there is song-by-song discussions about parts. Who plays what, what gets triggered, what gets played on tracks (if at all).

    Yes, I do get freedom to change arrangements, and often do.

    As far as emulating vs. playing the exact sound...again, that's circumstantial. Sometimes, when chasing a sound, you go down that rabbit hole of programming for a while then you realize that you should just cut it up and make a Kontakt patch out of the original source. However, sometimes I've "beaten" the sound by programming something more a propos for the show.

    Layered drum/drum machine parts: this isn't something I can answer. Every situation is different, so the nuances of it dictate many variations.

    Being an MD, in my opinion, requires a great deal of subjective live experience. There's no school for any of this. It is a lived/learned job only. There is no substitute for many years on the road. Along with that, some kind of savvy as an engineer/programmer/producer is also required. I think the best MD's just get there with time, ambition and experience in these two sides. It also takes a very cool head, a sense of conviction about things, knowing what you want, and believing in your opinions. Not to mention, a good amount of social skills and awareness of all the subtleties of dealing with managers, artists, producers, mixers, etc. Walking into a high profile MD gig with one of these areas deficient is not recommended. Confidence comes from experience, and is hard to fake.

    J
     
    gillento likes this.
  3. faulknersj

    faulknersj Supporting Member

    Apr 4, 2008
    Scottsdale Az
    Very cool thread! It seems that a successful MD must combine the skills and technical abilities of an artist, manager, band leader, and producer. Thank you both.
     

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