How To Communicate With Audio Engineer

how to communicate with audio engineer photoOne thing that I love doing is to work with unestablished artists. It’s why I have Pheek’s Coaching Corner, and it’s why I price my services at a reasonable price. Working with new artists is fulfilling as I often find artist’s earliest work to be their most creative, and raw. It’s in these musicians that you find stuff that can be truly seen as original, having the vestiges of being an entirely new genre. It’s this sweet spot that exists before they start to become either derivative of their own work, or pivot to fill more socially acceptable shoes. However, unestablished generally means inexperienced in the rest of the music industry. There are certain things that both artists and engineers should understand while working together, simplified by good communication. If you are able to put things in a language the engineer understands, your experience will be much smoother. In this guide, I will provide tips, tricks, and methods to make this process as seamless as possible. Therefore, here’s how to communicate with audio engineer.

First, it’s necessary to lay out what a mixing and mastering audio engineer does and does not do.


What An Audio Engineer Can Do

1. Their Job Is To Facilitate And Mediate

People come to someone like me to either get guidance, or have access to a set of tools that they would otherwise not invest in. At my disposal are a bunch of plugins, and hardware that are specific to making sure things sound great, and translate well across as many mediums as possible. Additionally, I have access to creative tools that artists may not even know exist, yet could be applicable to their sound.

Additionally, artists come to me to get advice on where to go with their sound. Do they need additional elements to fulfill its intended purpose? Are they having writer’s block, or their skills limit them in what they want to do next? It’s my job to find resources that will help them reach their goals. These resources are something that I will touch on later in this article.

2. Their Job Is To Understand The Genre They Are Working With

how to communicate with audio engineerNot all genres are the same, and they require different equipment. If you were to record a cowboy outlaw record, it’s probably not the best idea to go to a micro house producer. However, I have had rock bands come to me because they wanted their album to sound electronic in nature, despite it being a rock album.

If you were to come to me as a micro-house producer, I’ve been in this genre for a while, and have a lot of resources. Therefore, it’s easy for me to tap these, and find things like reference tracks, or communicate with other artists who have tricks to help your track get to the next level.

Additionally, this genre understanding allows me to reverse engineer aspects of the music, and apply it to your track. Having a problem with simulating a certain textural effect that you heard in a micro-house track? Chances are I know how we can get pretty close to that with the resources, and experience I have.

Additionally, we understand how to reign in things like low-end if you are creating a song that you expect to be spun in a club. Remember, you’re competing with common frequencies of another song, like the kick, or the hi-hat. It’s good to know how to moderate these things for a club environment, and that’s where engineers come in.

3. Audio Engineers Understand The Technical Aspects Of A Release

Do you know how many LUFS the loudness of a track bounced out of the limiter needs to be to normalize correctly on Spotify? How about SoundCloud, or Beatport? Each platform has different loudness variations in their codec, and often if your tracks aren’t uploaded with these standards in mind, then there can be translation issues. This is where audio engineers come in. We understand this boring, uncreative stuff, and how to achieve it in the mix and master, so you can concentrate on being creative. Then again, if you want to learn, we can also play the role of instructor.

4. We Help Accent The Best Parts

Let’s say that you have a killer bridge. We can recognize this, and help bring that out in the mix, or even add elements that will help it transition better into the next part of the song.


What An Audio Engineer Cannot Do

1. An Audio Engineer Cannot Please Everyone

Perception is reality, and some people have different perceptions on what things are supposed to be. Especially when dealing with their art. With audio, producers often get married to their sounds, thinking that they should be specifically in this spot in the mix, when, in reality, it probably won’t translate the way you want it to. This may come from hearing said sound over and over again in whatever room, or on whatever medium they were listening to while they were making it. However, in a well treated room, with calibrated equipment, or conversely, in a club with a good, or poor sound system, it may not translate exactly how you anticipate. Some people are more judicious about this, and accept the reality. However, some you just can’t please. So is the way of the artist.

Therefore, I take the approach that it’s best to do the least amount of damage possible to a track, while still allowing the frequencies to properly breathe, and translate to whatever medium the artist imagines it being listened to on.

This is why it’s important to know how to communicate with audio engineer, so we can both come to a mutual understanding through the techniques I will discuss in a bit.

2. Audio Engineers Can Never Say What Does And Does Not Sound Good, Artistically

Kind of expanding on the idea of doing as little damage to a track as possible, it needs to be noted that like all other art, music, and sound is subjective. Sure, there are best practices to get something to translate, and upload to platforms properly, but as far as the timbre, and aesthetics of a sound are concerned, that’s so subjective. There is a reason why techno fans can’t agree on all techno being good, despite it being the same genre. Where everything else is the same, it’s the sonic grade that ultimately defines a song.

Extremely, there is a reason why some prefer the frantic shouts and pounding SH101 basslines of Nitzer Ebb to the soft musings of John Prine. As a matter of fact, they might detest John Prine, and John Prine fans might detest Nitzer Ebb. Does this mean one is better than the other? No, because our realities are subjective.

It’s my job to help you get to the sound that you truly desire, using references to other tracks, or having clear, simple communication.

However, it needs to be noted that we know what sounds good, technically. Like, for instance, if you’re making pop music, or if people are casually listening to your music (alternative or pop), they like mids, because mids translate the best on common speaker systems, and headphones. Chances are that if you submit your track to a blog, it’s not going to be listened to out of a soundsystem – it may be listened to out of a phone, laying in bed, which are mid intensive.

3. Provide Critique Without Having A Solution

Talent is subjective. So is if something sounds good. Therefore, if an engineer gives feedback, or says that something could be better, it’s their professional duty to have a way to fix it. That’s what we are hired for. However, if you aren’t looking for that sort of feedback, it’s good to have that role clearly defined beforehand.


Tips On How To Communicate With Audio Engineer

1. Keep Things Simple

how to communicate with audio engineerEngineers get that artists have a lot of things to say about their work, and may use poetic language in order to communicate it. And this prose sometimes leads to elaboration. However, there is a saying in sales, called K.I.S.S, which stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid. This is because people understand things if they are simplified. No need to get technical, or elaborate. Just say what you mean. A good way of easily communicating is to provide examples of things that already exist. Let’s be real, nothing is new under the sun, so if we can pinpoint where that idea is coming from, then maybe it can be recreated, with a flourish that makes it your own.

No need to write out a full page of diction. Instead, just Keep It Simple, Stupid. Also, don’t use vague words like, “I want it to sound tight.” That doesn’t mean anything, and is subjective. Which brings me to my next point…

2. Provide References

Expanding on what I said earlier, we are all borrowing ideas. Even if your track borrows many different ideas, and creates something new, if you think hard, you can find tracks that provide the feeling you are going for, which can give clues to the frequencies, and mastering qualities you want to match.

The references also don’t have to be sonic, instead they can be cultural. Let’s say that you imagine your song being played in an after-hours spot. This means that the song will likely be played in a place with little treatment, or in a long, narrow venue that isn’t typically used for music. This requires specific mixing, and pre-mastering to properly express its full potential.

Also, there are moments where something is created that doesn’t exist. There is no way for me to know how to create something if there is no reference to it, so don’t ask for that, since it’s impossible to know without endless tweaking.

3. Contact Us Before You Buy

This is true especially if you have doubts. You wouldn’t hire someone without vetting them normally, so why should this be any different? If you have a song that you think might fit my aesthetic, but not quite, then let me have a listen to it, and I will let you know if I think it’s worth working on. Believe me, I don’t want to work on projects that are unnecessarily difficult, just like you don’t.

You’d be surprised at what projects I have worked on. For instance, even though I make “underground” music, I worked on an EDM project, because the producer liked that I didn’t sound EDM. 

4. Know Some Basic Terms

As producers, many have at least some basic knowledge of the audio engineering spectrum. Most know what equalizers, and compressors are, as well as reverb or delay. They also know what mono and stereo means. However, there may be more specific things that they don’t know – like for instance the difference between a transparent and colored master. A transparent one is where you have a mix you’re happy with, but you want everything to be properly balanced. A colored one is where you aren’t totally satisfied with the mix, and want some more textures, and other elements, such as compression, and saturation added to bring out new elements. In other words, you don’t mind things being changed.

Other common terms used in studios to describe frequencies are:

Muddy: Too much bass.

Boxy: Too many mids.

Tinny: Upper mids or lower highs need reduction.

Bright: Similar to tinny.

Airy: The high register frequencies. The ones that can break glass.

Warm: Reducing high end, or boosting the lower mids to give it a toasty feeling.

5. Don’t Micromanage

Do you hate being micromanaged at work? Well, so does everyone. By micromanaging, you’re distracting away from the work that could be getting done on your project by pointing out things that the engineer recognizes, but hasn’t got to, or may not even be necessary once another process is done. We’re professionals; let us be professional.



All said, if you learn how to communicate with audio engineer properly, you are making yourself better at what you do, because you are furthering your education by understanding the terms. Also, you’re making yourself easier to work with, and at professional levels, easy to work with can get you far.

This skillset will also help with other artistic undertakings, such as remote music collaboration, or doing collaborative DAW projects, or even online collaborative DAW ones.

Hopefully this proved to be a valuable guide to helping artists with how to communicate with audio engineers. Like in most things in life, solid communication, means a solid experience.


Social Dilemma Of Social Media For Minimal House Producers

If you’re like me, when you watched the new Netflix documentary, drama hybrid, The Social Dilemma, you felt a sense of disgust. The main takeaway: social media isn’t addicting by chance, it’s addicting by design.  The effects of social media for minimal house producers is no exception.

Facebook, Google, Twitter, and the other media conglomerates invested an obtuse amount of resources into making sure that there was an active dopamine response from your brain when you use their platform – the same response people get from using drugs, or drinking alcohol, or having sex. 

They hired the brightest neuro, and behavioral scientists to work hand in hand with interface designers to keep you hooked, and make their investors money. This, on top of an algorithm that feeds you tailored content based on your previous interactions, has led to the consequence of the spreading of fake news, lies, and polarization between our communities. Admittedly, this wasn’t their intention from the get go, but often the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

However, it’s a necessary evil in a lot of ways. While marketing used to be reserved for the well funded, and tightly networked, social media has opened up a sort of democratic ecosystem, where, if you play the game right (the algorithms), a budding producer can now reach a targeted fanbase with little to no investment. 

This has allowed for many bedroom producers to have a shot at success based on savvy, and talent, rather than relying on a suite of marketing consultants. But with that, bears the responsibility of ultimately, these artists, no matter how big, are fueling the machine of dopamine release for ad impressions that is psychologically encouraged by these mega corporations.

However, some artists have stepped out of the rat race of social media, and forged other ways of networking. Some of these methods are creative, while others are dangerous. In this post, I hope to lay out my views on the advantages and disadvantages of social media for minimal house producers, ways to detach from the grasp of these mega corporations through alternative media channels, and techniques you can use to have a healthy media balance.


How much are we responsible, as artists and labels, for people’s addiction to social media?

As “content creators,” we are the fuel for the proverbial social media engine. By creating stuff that people interact with, we are reinforcing the reward pathways in our audience’s brain. Every time we create something quality, we are responsible for a brief dopamine release by our audience. This is what keeps our fans coming back to our page, to listen to our music, to interact with us. However, this ultimately keeps people on the platform longer, allowing advertisers to solicit them, and quick information to satiate them, which influences their opinions.

However, it’s not necessarily a bad thing if content creators are creating something that people ultimately want to see, especially artists. By putting a song out there, unless it has a greater purpose beyond just being enjoyable to listen to, we’re not creating misinformation, we are not eliciting fear, or promoting division. However, by keeping them on the platform, we provide more opportunities for these bad actors to impact our fans. We must remember that every time someone comments on our stuff, and gets a response, negative, or positive, we are stimulating that neural pathway, and keeping them hooked to the platform. 


Benefits of social media for minimal techno producers

1. Promotion 

This is pretty obvious. In the past, you would have to spend days sending demos and press releases to media channels to get syndicated by them. If you were more digitally savvy, you could build an email list, but that took time through creating a simple way for people to sign up for it at shows, on your site, or through general networking. 

If you wanted to advertise, you would have to buy a spread in a magazine, flyer, or get on someone else’s mailing list. Spreads in magazines are expensive, and have no trackable Call To Action. Flyering is expensive too, and doesn’t have any way to track, or target. Joining someone else’s mailing list costs money too, and isn’t necessarily targeted either, as it’s someone else’s fan base, not yours.

Now, with social media, you can put a post out there, and your biggest fans will ultimately see it, because algorithmically, they are important. Additionally, if you want to promote something beyond your following, you can drop it into the hundreds of targeted Facebook Groups that exist, use hashtags, or spend somewhere between 1 and 3 cents per targeted advertisement. Sure, there is more noise now-a-days than there used to be, but you know that your ads are getting in front of people who care, and you’re not killing trees from all the paper you’re printing. 

2. Networking

photo of checking social media for minimal house producers

Nathan Dumlao

Labels, artists, groups are all on social media. It provides a channel for you to make yourself known to labels before you solicit them. You can like their posts, comment on their stuff, send them DM’s on Instagram, and tag them in your Twitter posts. After doing this enough, unless they are a huge label, they will recognize your name, and thus be more likely to check your stuff out when you eventually send it to them. In psychology, this is known as the “mere exposure effect,” where if someone is familiar with something, even subconsciously, they are more willing to engage with it. 

As a producer, you most likely want to have your music spun by DJs, and respected by your industry peers. These artists are mostly all on social media. Doing the same “mere exposure” thing as you would with labels, with a little effort, you can make your name more known to them, and thus increase your odds of having them listen to your track. These artists can also provide a valuable gateway into networks that you would otherwise not have access to. By making friends with these artists through social media, you too can have some of this access.

Also, one must never underestimate the usefulness of Facebook Groups. For instance, Pheek’s Coaching Corner, the one that I run, was created to find like minded people who were into what I am into. I have made many valuable connections through it.

3. Artist pages 

Most labels expect you to have a social media presence (except in rare exceptions, which I will get to), since it shows a sense of professionalism. It also allows for promoters, and other industry people to gauge marketability, thus leading to more opportunities. 


Disadvantages of social media for minimal house producers:

1. Takes away time for creative things

Social media is distracting for the same reason why it’s useful – it produces dopamine release for you just as much as it does for fans. By interacting with social media, you are participating in this neverending feedback loop. Therefore, this feedback loop can distract minimal house producers from actually creating. As Chris Liebing recently said on his DJ’s and Beers podcast, every time he replies to someone’s comment on Instagram, that is just one more thing that is keeping him away from making music. 

While larger artists like Liebing might be more desensitized to their social media interactions, since they get so many, for a small artist, a new comment, or new like can be very distracting, since it produces a high, in a way. Every time your phone vibrates, or dings, you are being pulled away from whatever you are working on at the moment, and will eventually affect the outcome of whatever that is.

2. Mental Illness

Using social media for minimal house producers can be dangerous. 73% of musicians report suffering from a mental illness of some sort, and are three times more likely to suffer from depression

Additionally, research has shown that social media use is causated to increased depression. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical and Social Psychology, researchers concluded that, “What we found overall is that if you use less social media, you are actually less depressed and less lonely, meaning that the decreased social media use is what causes that qualitative shift in your well-being.”

This combination is volatile, and can lead to some serious consequences, if not properly managed.

3. Private life being used for commercial interest by bigger companies.

artistic representation of tracking social media for house music producers

Tony Liao

A quote that stood out to me in The Social Dilemma was the business adage, “If a company isn’t selling you anything, then you are the product.” Every interaction that you make on social media is analyzed by algorithms designed by data and cognitive scientists who are vetted to be some of the best and brightest in the world. To think that these algorithms are oblivious of your deepest personal secrets and desires is willfully ignorant. They exist to hyper target you, and sell you products, so advertisers keep on using their services. Unless you install plugins, and software, these algorithms track you well beyond the platform, looking at how you interact with all websites, not just theirs, using tracking cookies, and pixels. They listen to you on your phone, and translate what you say into text to analyze (if you think that talk to text was just a convenience, think again). That time you looked up something that only exists in your medical records? Well, that’s recorded too.  


How to detach from social media for minimal house producers

You don’t necessarily have to be a slave to social media; there are artists who get away with not using it at all. Ricardo Villaobos doesn’t have a social media presence, and he’s a shining star in the minimal house scene. Nils Frahm doesn’t have one, and he’s considered one of the greatest living pianists. Burial doesn’t have one either. Neither does Aphex Twin (or at least one that is maintained in any serious manner). However, with the exception of Frahm and Burial, these artist’s careers flourished before social media was a thing.

So how are these artists able to get away with this, and what can you do as an alternative to social media for minimal house producers? 

In the case of Ricardo, he made his connections by partying excessively. Late nights with promoters, PR professionals, and A&R allowed for chemically induced promises to be made, which he followed up on. While Ricardo doesn’t have a social media presence, memes of his sweaty, sleep deprived visage certainly do. 

a photo of Ricardo Villaobos not using social media for minimal house producers

With Frahm, he had a social media presence up until 2017/2018, when he decided to deactivate it before working on All Melody. By this point, he was already a globally recognized artist, whose label and publicist got him all the promotion he needed to sustain his career. He also studied under Nahum Brodsky, a protégé of Tchaikovsky, so he was obviously connected.

Burial had a couple things working for him. The first, is that his marketability was in his enigmaticism and mystery. Having a social media presence would have worked against him in a lot of ways. He also started sending demos to Hyperdub in 2002, years before social media was a necessity. One thing that can’t be ignored either is where Burial grew up. He went to the same school as Four Tet, Hot Chip, The XX, and dozens more. In other words, this guy was connected, whether his profile leads you to believe that or not

So what can you do if you weren’t blessed to go to private school, study under a world renowned mentor, or aren’t willing to sacrifice your health with copious late nights and consumption?

  1. Find out a way you can help the scene and make connections. Volunteer at events, become a journalist, throw events, become a radio DJ, intern and eventually work at a studio. These are all options. 
  2. Do things old school – hand out fliers after shows, solicit journalists with a solid press kit, and a compelling story. Not all stories need to be about your music. If you were a refugee, or had a parent who was a murderer, or you survived cancer, these are all stories. Think of alternative publications as well. If you are really into healthy eating, you can get a story published about your diet while touring on health blogs.
  3. Trim down your network of relevant people to 5. It’s like real life, you don’t have a ton of really close friends. Concentrate on the people who really care about what you do, not the people who kind of care. Only care about the people who will provide honest feedback, and encourage them to help you make connections.
  4. Find a mentor. Just like Frahm had a teacher, so can you. They all won’t be protégé’s of fabled Russian composers, but they will have their own set of connections that when the time is right, you can capitalize on. However, it’s sometimes easier to connect with these people on social media.

Alternative social media for minimal house producers:

1. Telegram

A great social media for minimal house producers. For instance, there are 640 members in the minimal techno channel. Telegram doesn’t monetize through ads, as it’s an encrypted network. This encryption means more privacy as well.

2. Discord

Just like Telegram, there are music networks on here. Here is a list of channels.

3. Twitch

While not necessarily a forum, this is a place where established producers have opened up a community to watch them do things like DJ sets, and produce music. Artists like Kyle Geiger have been doing almost daily tutorials for music production, and answering questions. If someone has something interesting to say in the chat, you can private message them, and make a connection that way. You can also ask Kyle questions, and send him tracks. He encourages it.

4. Reddit

More anonymous, and focused, these groups, also known as subreddits, can be an excellent place to find like minded people. If you can think of a genre, there is probably a subreddit for it. People ask for feedback on tracks, DM people who they want to connect with, find playlists to be a part of, and even promote their own tracks on these forums. Major artists are often found on reddit, doing question and answer sessions, called IAMAs. It’s generally a helpful community, but beware of being too self promotional. 


Ways To Moderate Your Social Media

1. Install tools to restrict access

Tools like OffTime can limit what apps on your phone you can use, between certain times, or with certain permissions. It will also track the amount of time that you use apps, which could be humbling.

If you use Chrome, there is an extension called Work Mode that allows you to block all social media URLs between designated times. Stay Focused is another great extension.

If you use something like Mozilla, there is an add on called LeechBlock, that allows you to block certain websites.

If you are concerned about them tracking you, plugins like AdBlocker and UBlock restrict this. However, keep in mind that if you end up advertising on their platforms, you will have to disable these blockers so that you can monitor your own ads.

2. Only interact with certain people so the algorithms only show you those things.

Ultimately social media will display things to you that you want to see. If you don’t want to see anything about politics, or celebrity gossip, don’t interact with it. This will tell the algorithms that you aren’t interested. Conversely, if there is something that you are interested in, then interact with those things, and the algorithm will reward you with more of that.

3. Outsource

Get someone else to manage your social media presence. You can use places like Fiverr, and UpWork to hire virtual assistants who can create, and post on your behalf, for a reasonable price. Therefore, you will have a presence, but not have to be managing it day by day. There are also apps and bots out there to streamline this process, such as HootSuite or InstaZood


Hopefully this post provides you with some resources that you can use in order to make an informed decision about how you want social media to impact your routine as an artist. There are ways to step out of the social media game, but to do so prematurely will have long lasting effects on your success. Therefore, strategize carefully, and see what you can do about limiting your access to it, rather than disconnecting entirely. If you do feel the need to remove yourself from the algorithm’s grasp, there are ways, but it will require a lot of effort, and can be less cost effective. 

Social media isn’t going anywhere, so we can either lament at its destructive capabilities, or harness it’s potential to benefit ourselves, while using tools to reduce its negative impact on our health, and society’s perceptions.