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WEEKLY NEWSLETTER July 11, 2016 by L. Swift and Jeff McQ

‘What is a Grind Opp?,’ you ask? It is a job opportunity. A help wanted ad.

Where it all happens: Recording Connection student
Mario Ramirez works at his dream studio!

Caption: Mario Ramirez and Charles Godfrey at Sonic Ranch, El Paso, TX

Mario Ramirez and Charles Godfrey at Sonic Ranch

Most of us have a certain style of music we connect with more than others. For Mario Ramirez of El Paso, Texas, it’s Mexican indie rock.   “I’m really into indie…really into [the] music scene that’s going on in Mexico City,” he says. “There’s something about the Spanish language that really blows my mind…something about Mexico City indie rock.”   It turns out that most of Mario’s favorite records were produced in his own backyard, at the world-renowned Sonic Ranch in El Paso. Little could he have guessed that by age 18, he would be learning one-on-one in that very studio and by 19, he’d be working as an assistant engineer at the legendary studio, but more on that in a bit…   Mario says his love for music started at an early age, when he would go to church with his parents and look at the drummer “like he was the most important member of the band.” He eventually took up the drums and started playing in a band as a teenager, which is when he said he also developed a love for audio.   “I just think it was more the fact that I wanted my band to sound good,” he says. “I think that was what triggered my interest in sound in general, basically. And I think recording professionally for an album is the highest level of recording you could possibly do with your band, and I wanted to do the best job I could, record the best sound we could…I knew if I wanted to do something in the music business, I really wanted to make it big, I wouldn’t just do it with half of my effort. I would really commit to it.”   Finances were an issue, so Mario began looking for inexpensive schooling options that would allow him to stay local. When he discovered that the Recording Connection could train him affordably in a real recording studio near where he lived, he was hooked. It’s no surprise that he specifically asked to be placed at Sonic Ranch, the nearby recording studio that was already producing most of his favorite Mexican indie rock records. Even so, Mario remembers being more than a little intimidated the first time he came through the doors. “I was really curious to find out what Sonic Ranch would be just because a lot of my favorite records had been done here,” he says. “You can tell that there was something special about this place…coming here was definitely something really nerve wracking for me at first.”   But when he met his mentor, producer/engineer Charles Godfrey (Mudvayne, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sublime with Rome, Beach House and Portugal. The Man), he was set at ease. “My first impression of Charles was like I have never seen anyone so excited about music and so passionate about it,” says Mario. “And just the way we worked with that high energy level and always positive, and just try to do our best, I really know that something is special in that, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.”  
Mix Room in Sonic Ranch

Mix Room in Sonic Ranch

Mario was supposed to attend the studio twice a week for lessons and do his homework on his own. To his delight, Charles gave him the opportunity to toss that schedule out the window.   “He was so cool,” says Mario. “He said, ‘You can come every day if you want, and we can just go through the chapters here.’ So…I would go every day to the studio and then I would read the chapter and Charles would go over it with me. And as the session was going on, he would teach me…he would always be just like pointing out little things here and there that wouldn’t be on the chapters for example, or he might think would be really important to know.”   That routine helped Mario gain a real-world understanding of the studio that he never could have gotten in the textbook alone. “I definitely do think that it is important to learn the stuff that’s in the textbook,” he says. “Everything I learned has been really useful. But I think it’s also important to think outside of the textbook sometimes, and especially with creative things…I gained a lot of knowledge through the textbook that is offered through the Recording Connection, and also I gained a lot of knowledge just watching producers come in.”   Now working as assistant engineer at the legendary Sonic Ranch, Mario is giving it his all and Charles says, “He’s doing nothing but great work… I can see him growing into being a producer and growing into whatever he sees fit.”   Constantly learning and striving for excellence is the creed Mario is bringing to his work every single day. “[Charles] wouldn’t settle for something that was not great…I think if you really want to be in the music industry and you want to be a professional, you have to constantly be on top of whatever is new, and that means you have to be learning all the time. And there’s always new things you can try out and experiment with… It’s a continuous learning process.”   
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A Day in the Life of Our Students

   Imran Vasanwala Recent Film Connection grad Imran Vasanwala (Stamford, CT) recently had some great screenwriting advice:   “Momentum is the key. Keeping those energy levels high, keeping a steady pace, continuing the writing process without any stops…keep going, build those characters, make them suffer, give them rewards, give them life. Do whatever you want with it, but keep the story interesting…”    tyron-brickhouse Recording Connection grad Tyron Brickhouse (aka Teflon Treys), who just completed his apprenticeship at Engine Room Audio (New York, NY), recently shared a few words about his experiences in the program: “I am so grateful that it humbled me because I understand the value of the situation that I’m currently in. In the beginning, I didn’t think I would feel this way in the end. Celebrities such as: Fat Joe, Remy Ma, Charlamagne Tha God (Brilliant Idiots), Angela Yee (Li Service)…Kelly Rowland, a few Broadway recording artists…Finally making my own beats. And my engineering skills have matured thanks to the info given through my e-book and the lessons I’m learning at the studio. My mentor has shown me everything I wanted to know and need/needed to know. I’m very grateful for the experience given by The Recording Connection. Everything has worked out better than I thought it would and now I feel confident and eager to go out into the world as an audio engineer, songwriter and beat maker.”   
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NUGGETS OF TRUTH: Recording Connection mentor
John Terrell talks studio etiquette

Recording Connection mentor John Terrell

Recording Connection mentor John Terrell

As a long-time musician, producer and engineer, Recording Connection mentor John Terrell is a music industry veteran who works with acts ranging from rising alt-pop act Lost Element to rapper A$AP Ferg. Operating out of Soul Haven Studios in Virginia Beach, VA, John has a passion not only for teaching, but also for helping his students find their own place in a diverse music industry (the mark of a true mentor). During a recent conversation with RRFC, John offered some great insights on why the mentor-apprentice method works so well, as well as sharing helpful advice about studio etiquette and how to make the most out of an apprenticeship. We’ve mined the best nuggets from that conversation for you below.  
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  ON HOW HE GOT HIS START IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS:   “When I was 14 or 15, I started playing guitar and writing songs, and then…got a little tape recorder that everybody gets at some point. Started doing that, started recording, and then I got a little drum machine, and then I started recording vocals, realized how bad of a singer I was. But I loved the process of recording, and putting together tracks, and ended up getting a copy of Fruity Loops and figured out how to make beats and compressions and stuff. So I would sell that to the kids in my high school who were rappers, and found out…I wasn’t charging any serious money at all, but I was able to make more money than I would at McDonald’s…And so that’s where I locked into the production side of things.”   ON WHY HE ENJOYS TEACHING APPRENTICES:   “Both of my parents were educators, although I would never teach in a traditional school setting, I definitely have that skill set of both being able to educate, and also understanding whoever’s coming in, like where they’re coming from, and how I can shift my teaching or mentoring style with them so they can understand the material, or whatever needs to happen.”   HIS TAKE ON THE BENEFITS OF LEARNING AS AN APPRENTICE ON THE JOB:   “I had dyslexia, and I struggled through school until I had a music teacher who put a little more energy behind me, and music became my obsession…so I think, even on a grade school level, traditional school isn’t really for everybody. There’s so many different ways to learn, and it’s about finding stuff you’re passionate about…The two people I’m mentoring now, one is a military veteran who has so little technology experience, so a lot of our lesson is just getting comfortable with computers, and then implementing the lessons. Another student I have is super great with computers, and just seeing…I’m sharing more of the music side of it with him…That’s the beauty of this program, is you don’t have to go in with some base level, ‘Okay, you have to have these credentials. Now you can go.’…I think it’s about finding your pocket, and the beautiful thing about this industry is there’s so many different things you can go into…It doesn’t matter how you learn or what you have difficulties with, you can find something for you, and that’s the beauty of this industry.”   ON WHAT HE IS LOOKING FOR IN AN APPRENTICE:   “Someone who’s really engaged, and they don’t necessarily have to be the best by any means, but just ready to work. A lot of it’s just working harder than anybody else. Being very respectful in sessions and with other people, a lot of…I get a lot of kids from the local colleges that come in, and as soon as they start talking to me, their phone comes out…I know that’s not a person engaged. So someone who’s able to be in the moment, focused, and willing to learn.”   BRAGGING ON ONE OF HIS STUDENTS, BRIAN POWERS:   “He’s kind of like a Swiss Army Knife. He plays a little bit of everything…From day one, he was all in. He’s one of these guys who’s always prepared, always knows what’s going on, but in a super respectful way, assistant-wise…if we’re in session or whatever, he writes down all of his questions, [and] we’ll get to tackle them all later…He’s just super bright.”   HIS ADVICE ON PROPER ETIQUETTE IN THE STUDIO:   “When people are in the studio creating, it’s a very sensitive environment. So you have to figure out the level of humor in the room…There’s some clients you can make an offhand joke and it’s fine [but for] some people, it throws off the game. And so you have to figure out the relationship in the room, who’s leading the session, and then understand the pecking order. You’re the assistant, and so if you have something that you want to suggest, like, telling people, ‘Hey, this would work well.’ If you go to the artist and say that, now you’ve bypassed the producer, engineer, and the other members of the band, when really you’re just there to take notes and move a mic. So understanding the order in which things need to happen, and how to creatively suggest things…Also, making sure the needs of the room are met. So if somebody looks a little uncomfortable, just sort that out. But yeah, etiquette is everything in the room…So much of this business comes down to, ‘I don’t like that guy.’ So you just need to be the person everybody wants to be around and be honest and genuine.”   ON HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF AN APPRENTICESHIP:   “Have a focus. So if you’re someone who wants to engineer hip-hop or someone who wants to mix rock records, know that’s your end goal, but be open to whatever the mentor has in front of you, because you never know when whatever knowledge is going to come into use in your career. And just be open. Be open to anything, because you never know what’s going to come through the door. Yeah, I mean, just be open minded…I think everybody in here should have a little home studio…like Brian has been kind of recording covers on his own, and so he’ll bring in what he’s working on…that’s the other thing. You know, you can be educated and have the book all day, but unless you’re doing things actively, and that’s half the battle anyway. Get as much as you can. Get your hands on any project you can.”   
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