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Studio Pass with Joey Sturgis

Lesson 29 of 29

Joey's Advanced Production Workflow

Joey Sturgis

Studio Pass with Joey Sturgis

Joey Sturgis

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Lesson Info

29. Joey's Advanced Production Workflow

Lesson Info

Joey's Advanced Production Workflow

This next uh, thing that we're talking about is ah mei workflow and this is going to be I think this might be a little bit overkill for some people, but I do feel like sharing it because I think it's it's definitely unique toe how I do stuff um so we always start with a song every band tries, we try to get it so that every band comes through in the studio with a demo and what we can do is we can import that demo into a session and, uh, start to critique the song and that that's the very first step that I do with any band, so I'll go in, I'll make an empty session like this and this goes back to the pre production stuff that we were talking about yesterday, but I'll start with, um just the song so let's see like here's the demo literally import that to the session and then I usually play the demo and I I'll figure out what temple the song is so ill like just tapped to it ah, looks like it's about to five, so go in, set my tempo two till five and then try to get the song the line up with...

the clique theo, wait might be off a little bit on the tempo, but don't you get it closed? You could figure it out so that's literally the first step is opening session importing the demo and going from there a lot of times we get the demo and it doesn't have our it'll it'll be in the form of stems instead of just like one stereo track like because I can't separate like drums and guitars from this um will actually request stems and if they don't have any then we'll try to make them so that we can we what we want to have is a version of the song that we can kind of mold and tweak and change you want to be able to go in and like guitar parts and copy and paste them around and you know, shorten parts of songs and stuff like that um so I'll actually adit this file uh teo to carry out my ideas um and like I said in the first day one of the first steps I do is just play the song and when I hear stuff in my head I'll just I have this middie track here and I'll literally just draw a blank many event and then type into it now this type notes so I could remind myself myself what I'm hearing um see and then the great thing about this is you know, after you've made like actual song changes you just bounce it out and send it to the band and so then you can kind of convey what you want to do um now in general we I have three sessions that we're working on at any given time we're working on one session for vocals one for guitars and bass and one for drums um so the session the reason why we do this basically is because of processor power uh it's really hard to be working on vocals in one session but having the drunk mix effect how much cpu power is available to your vocals so we we usually have in the vocal session we have the song that's printed and that'll be the first track just like we have it here on the q base um the song that's instrumental we'll just be a tte the top in one track and then they'll just be aton of vocal tracks for all the vocal production. Then on the guitar session you'll just have one stem of drums and then a bunch of bass tracks and guitar tracks and then for the drum session will have one stem of just guitars and then all the tracks for the drums and then, uh I actually don't really engineer stuff I kind of have engineers do it for me and the reason why I do that is because I always want my ears to be fresh on the material I don't wanna have tio hear the song fifty million times because then it'll it'll affect my decisions I would rather hear the song I would rather have other people engineer it and hear the song many, many times and and they'll be uh kind of stale on it and then I come in and here there you know the result of all that work and I might say you know that guitar part could be better but they might have spent four hours on it so if you're in you know, in the room and you're spending four hours on apart you're going to be a little bit more reluctant to say we should try that again because you've already tried to get one hundred times but what's nice is that I can come in at the end and say I don't know how many times you've done this but it still sounds bad so let's fix it and sometimes that's the uh the objective thing that we do I I also work with all three processes so I'll keep up with you know what's going on with the vocalist ok he's working on songs two and four but the bass is doing songs three and the guitar is going to do song six so I and consistently managing three different like uh engineers at once or sometimes we'll have two engineers that just trade off on doing certain things and then uh at the end of each day we will sink up everything that we've done so if we've changed apart in this song on the guitar session we'll bounce that out and then put it back into the drum session or back into the vocal session so every session gets updated uh and everything stays up today um do you have any questions about this so far? No one thing that we talked about earlier was do you backup your files right yeah and you basically have a redundant backup if you're doing it that way if you're working on the same project in two places you have a backup yeah and and the question is should you back up rat you know what I mean? That's the thing that we haven't quite figured out yet but if you think about it there's three sessions for every song so should you make three backups um I mean I guess the right answer is yes, but we're dealing with so many files that we can't really do that um but by doing it this way like you mentioned it automatically creates backups because you have to copying the project to so many different different computers so it's nice to have it like that. Okay, so this kind of demonstrates what I'm talking about this slide here um we have the demo and then once we've put the demo into the project we do our pre production and our feedback changes directly in the project we have are no tracks I can also write notes to engineers specifically I ca n't tel the guitar engineer like hey pay attention to the pitch on this chorus because it has a weird cord and I'm sure the guitar is going to give you trouble I'll write that into an actual no tracks so that when he goes in to record the song he opens up all the notes that I've written out and he can see like oh I better pay attention to the guitar chords on this chorus um so then that goes splits into three different sessions the vocals guitars and drums session and each session is goingto have pretty much a final version of what's going to be there so we've got the final version of what the guitars were going to do but they just sound bad because they came from the band or they came from a demo or something like that so it's just a matter of going over top of those parts and re recording them so we just re record all the final version's a lot of times I tend to have the demo vocals in there as well so we can figure out what kind of conflict ing melodies or harmonies do we have when we are looking at the song you know big picture um but the drummer you know he doesn't care what the vocalist is doing he just needs to worry about rhythm and patterns so in his session you might have the vocals muted but they're still in there because I might walk in and say, hey, that drum fill your playing is going to conflict with the vocal pattern and let me show it to you and I'll actually ian mute the vocal and play it for him and then he's like okay, I need to do this instead so then we go into reiteration mode where you're just sinking all your changes every time you make a change you think it to all the other sessions there's really? No automatic way of doing it we just pretty much do it manually when just bounce out the audio and then trade the files and then finally all of it gets combined into a master session. So once we've finished everything and all the edits are done, then we do track archives of all the vocals, track archives of all the guitars and then track archives of all the drums and then import all those into a master session and then that's what gets mixed and mastered so this is just a, uh this is just a recap of the entire thing. Um, I I wanna stress that the manual way of doing things tends to be the best I don't like letting the computers um, do anything for me, I think that, uh I hope that I've proved to you over the course of these last two days that doing like being more hands on and having more control over every individual element of the song contributes to a greater product and doing these short cut things like beat detective and uh all these other things that are designed to, like save time I feel like it's just it's kind of a waste of time in the end because then it ends up being more stuff for you to fix, um, magical moments plus calculated decisions equal great results I think we've seen that now you think we've seen how we've come from the demo and journey all the way into this final version? I think you guys still remember like, how blown away were by hearing the difference for the first time. So is it's a little bit less like now that you've seen behind the curtains and you know how the magic trick works? It's not as er mind blowing, but I think that's part of all of this is like knowing that when you work on a five minute song it's actually going to take you like fifty hours or maybe even more to turn it into that five minutes that that ends up being, um you just have to have patience and you need to be prepared to pretty much sacrifice a ton of time if you want to do this on this scale um this is kind of the motto the production is the sum of a thousand tiny choices, but a great production is the sum of the right one thousand choices that just comes with experience. I think the more and more you work with bands, and the more you work with songs and projects, the more you're going to learn, like the very first, a song that I ever recorded in a computer didn't have a click track, and I didn't know what a click track wass and even the first album I recorded on a record label didn't have a click track either. Uh, yeah, uh, so it's, you can start anywhere. Um, the devil's in the details, there are no short cuts. That's a perfect point. I think if you are finding yourself doing shortcuts, maybe you should learn how to do it the more manually just because the more you know, like the more you know how to do something more manual, the more you can rely on yourself. If you walk into a studio and their beat detective doesn't work on their computer for some reason, then what are you going to do? You need to know how to actually do these things. Like with your bare hands, I guess. For lack of better words um understand how songs work and how to make them better is what makes a great producer the technical skills can be learned you can open up a book and read about a compressor and understand how it works but if you don't do the right things with the compressor than it won't matter so you you are assumed to know how the tools of your craft work you need to know and I and I hope that I've showed you how some of these tools do work and I know like the when we went into detail about the guitar now that you know a little bit more about how guitar actually works, maybe you're going to be able to do more creative things with it um and finally don't assume anything always asked the artist and make sure they're being heard that's just communication skills I think, um you should honestly just really spend a lot of your time communicating with your clients and making sure you're on the same page with what they want to accomplish with their music and their art and making sure that every decision you make is getting closer to that accomplishment. Um so yeah, now I I mean, you're no better than when you started with the course um but at least now you know what to do to get better? Yeah, awesome question yeah, so the whole being able to make a song sound better to become a producer as opposed to somebody you could just turn knobs um what process or what did you do to eventually learn how to improve a song structurally and make the song um basically at its best capacity yeah, I think when I started I probably didn't know how to do that um and if you listen to my earlier material, you'll probably hear a lot of stuff that's kind of funny in comparison to now it's just a learning process is just a the process of having someone literally hand you their song and then saying, you know, help us make the song better and you learn tiny things just, you know, you listen to music that is being successful and you take inspiration from what it's doing um, you know, song structure, a lot of my song structure ideas just come from listening to great songs and thinking okay, well, I noticed that in this song they made the pre chorus half is long the second time that it happened, I'm going to try that in this other song that I'm working with because it kind of seems boring there and you just start to learn like these tiny little techniques overtime and you start to try them out and you get a little bit more confident as you as you are given opportunities to try those out and what I like to tell a lot of people who are starting out is go record your friends and just do were crap with their songs because they're good they're your friends, they'll let you do that and if you have kind of a guinea pig to mess around with, you'll end up finding that you can explore you know those kind of things and start to find your own identity as a producer and as a song a ranger one of the tiny question relating to this have you worked with any artists who are such good songwriters that you have actually come away from a session of working with them with better ideas about how to make songs better just from being with them every day? I think I learned most of what I know just from working with other people and you don't ever get the guy that comes through and teaches you everything so you just learned little bits and pieces as you go along like somebody comes into the studio and they just know how to write really great guitar riffs and you might walk away with ah little tidbit on how to write guitar riffs better or you get somebody that says that writes really great like chorus melodies and now you absorb some of that and you walk away with some more so I think I'm in specifically specifically the result of the last ten years of all the artists I've worked with I think that's molded me into the producer I am because I didn't really like read a book about how to write course melody's instead I worked with hundreds of bands and what I know about course melody's just comes from their melodies that they wrote or me helping them you know try to write better melodies and also just listening to a lot of music I'm pretty open minded when it comes to music I'll listen to any kind of music I'm not going to say oh country socks or anything like that like you should actually listen to country and respect it for being a different kind of music and try to learn something from that and apply it to your favorite kind of music awesome we have some kind of wrap up questions somewhere a little more specific than others but sort of catch all for the for the whole course you want to go through some of this yeah let's do it alright study wants to know can you explain the reason for not using ox sense for delays and ferb yeah that's a great question um I mean I just like to think of audio in terms of just pretty much linear chains I don't like having the uh all of the extra routing and having to worry about the send levels and all those kind of things for me, it's just easier for to wrap my brain brain around one signal path for every single track that I'm looking at what I'm looking at a track I don't want to know okay what other tracks does this route to and if I put a distortion on here is going to be going through the delay or after before and um it just less confusing for me and also I don't think it really matters that much that's why there's a mixed knob on the plug in so awesome um casey wants to know could you elaborate a little bit about your use of max base? Oh max bass yeah um well, just anyone who knows what max bases um probably doesn't know what it does. I think a lot of people just hear about it and then they try to use it or something. I would recommend that anyone who's interested in max base to just actually read the manual because the manual is written in a way that they tell you like why they made the plug in and what it's good for and that's what I did I actually read the manual every plugging that I use because I'm like really dorky like that so there's a lot that you can learn from the from the manuals um I pretty much just use it on my uh sometimes I use it on my bass track if you have a bass that's like tune super low, you could put max based on there, and it'll add in some lower frequencies, but it puts them in a higher register, which makes it like so if you're listening to it on a laptop, you're still going to hear the bass notes, but if it wasn't sorry, excuse me, that wasn't there. You wouldn't hear those low in notes because the aa, the low end of the laptop speakers drops off on a certain frequency. So it it kind of duplicates the harmonics. Awesome. Uh, do you export? And then do you do the mastering or do you mix and master in the same project? So any anything that I export out of the project is mastered because the mastering changes always on gotcha. Yeah. Sewed all in the same place? Yep. And even if I do stems, my stems are all mastered as well. Okay, awesome. Um, how do you prevent the kick in the low end of the base from clashing showed a little bit of that. I tried to show a little bit of that. And I think when I showed the tip earlier today where we started putting the kick drum in key that's one way, you can actually do it, um but there is there's always going to be a moment in some every song where the base is playing one note, but to kick the low end of the kick is doing something different. Yeah, so, like really it's just a matter of carving out space in the low end. So you have to decide you have to make a decision between do you want the sub of your kick to be below or above your base? And once you've made that decision, then you khun, do your eq u curves the way you need to like if you're if the sub of your kick is going to be below your base, then you're going to do a notch out on the sub frequencies of the bass track and leave them there for the kick, or if the low end of your kick is going to be above the base, then you would flip it. You would do the opposite, but yeah, like it's all it's all about you and just using your ears toe to make the right choices. Do you check your mixes in mono? Yes, absolutely. Okay, I do know that if someone is trying to ping me on the fact that my guitars kind of disappearing, my motto mixes, I don't give a crap because nobody nobody here's an in mono okay, but I do check it because that you can make certain decisions. Like when you put it in mono, you can hear how much how loud your bases compared into comparison with your drums. And does the base swallow your vocals? Those those two things air nice to check. Awesome. Um, you said that producers, I have to always meet certain deadlines. Did you ever fear not finishing a project in time? And if so, what did you do? Has it happened? Was every project wire? Yeah. I mean, you just you get a deadline, you try tio, stick with it and you do the best you can, I think my efficiency workflow that I tried to show, I think I could spend a lot more time talking about that if I was given the platform to do so. But basically, you know, you have to come up with these ways of doing this professionally and efficiently. The label is trusting you like, hey, we need to put the album out this month, so that means you have to have it done by this day. So it's kind of up to you to figure out how to do that and the the ability to record any song at any time with any musician. Is the way that I figured out how to do that because you might get a band that comes in the vocalist is ready on day one well if you don't work like I do then what are you going to do? You don't have any of this sorry you don't have any of the songs recorded so you can't record the vocalist but if you do it the way that I do then you at least have a demo that the vocalise would be ableto sing over so you can take advantage of that opportunity where the vocalist has come in and said I'm ready to go let's go so boom you take advantage of that and later on he gets sick or something and you like ma'am glad we recorded all those vocals before you got sick totally yeah marcus wants to know how did you get your mix so loud without destroying it especially in the low end so the low end is very carefully crafted with the fact that we split that base into two tracks and having that low in track basically on a fader allows you to kind of okay you're mixing your song you're going along like it sounds a little bass heavy so now you have a fader dedicated to controlling how much based there is in your mix and it's just so simple to go back and just move that knob down a little notch now if that was combined with the grit of your base, then you would be turning the great down, too. And so now you're like, well, now I can't you know, the bass is undefined now I can't hear it, but by doing it the other way, you can keep the definition of the bass playing, but also changed the low end later, and by having the ability to do that as you make certain mix decisions, you're going to see how it effects, uh, it affects it, and then you can go in. And just for that, the other thing that I have going on, at least in this mix is ah, a multi band compressor is on the master bus, and I'm using that to kind of make, like, tamed low end a little bit more. Ah, eddie wants to know how do you create live backing tracks for bands after a studio recording? Right? So I don't know if you guys remember looking at the session from earlier when I opened it up, but everything was grouped in the folders, so there was a top folder that said drums then we had the base folder of the guitars, so literally the process of making stands is just soloing that fault folder and hitting export well. So what do you put a click in at the beginning or I would you just give it to them and let them do that? Yeah, typically I'll make a click track for him at the end I'll bounce out all those stems and then I'll just add an instrument track uh that has the click sound on it and then I'll just bounce that out too and then I let the band kind of decide okay? How many accounts do youwant to have before your song? You know, you you khun import these stems into your dog and make that extra click count if you want, so I don't really do that for them I'll just make the stems and be like, okay, here's, what we'd recorded you can use it however you want, right? Yeah. Okay ah on what criteria do consider production to be better musically rather than technically? Or is it one client's ears or what could be more experienced ones? I think, uh for me, what I like the most is when I hear if I hear a song and I don't think about the snare or I don't think about the guitar sound that's what I know it was done right? You just you walk away from that song going man, that was a great song so that's when you know the job is done now, as far as doing that for yourself objectively that's, pretty difficult, you can only do the best job, uh, that you can so you just try your hardest try to improve the song as much as possible and, you know, and then move on, otherwise you'll just be stuck in one place forever. Uh, I also you know, now that I have the technical here that I do, I'm finding myself listening to a lot of music from the sound quality point of view, but I noticed that when I hear a really, really good song or a really, really great production, it just kind of even even for me and knowing how to do all this kind of stuff, it's still will blow my mind like there are songs out there that I hear and I'm like, holy crap, how did they do that? So even I am still, uh, kind of a student to the craft, I think we all always are super rad. Um, I think we're ah, I think we're good on questions. There is one question that we had can you please go into detail about what you're listening for in trying to achieve when using a clipper? So the clipper just basically allows you to, uh, like, the audio peaks go up in amplitude, and they there's always a ceiling with digital audio so was with digital audio you can only go up to zero so you could only turn something up so loud before it starts to go over that uh point with the clipper does is it allows you to keep turning it up and then chopping off the peak at the top so as you're chopping off that peak you're getting mohr volume and more saturation out of your track uh I could actually demonstrate that really quick so essentially you're just gaining control over whether or not it um ends up clipping you are forcefully click clipping it and the algorithm that you're using allows that to sound um less crappy because the digital clipping sounds like crap but if you're using a clipper it's been designed to sound good um let me just bring in my drum tracks um but if I could bring it like a snare that'd be cool yeah cool so here's a snare track okay so I can only turn the snaps allowed before it starts going over zero okay, so then if I put a clipper on there I can actually keep turning it up and it'll still stand zero so that's a whole twenty four decibels louder than I would have ever been able to do uh otherwise so like starting at zero this is the right now the stairs snare is as loud as you can turn it up just using volume so now I just made it twelve decibels louder and it's still under zero on then if you hit this switch you can actually go to twenty for and it still sounds like a snare drum like it's not completely demolished so that's why we use the clipper because you can just basically kill your head room and get tons of volume out of it and it works better on drums and that's what it was designed to do but you can do it on likes synthesizers and stuff to yeah this is jst clip so you just goto jst clip dot com if you want it cool it's awesome any final thoughts it's been two amazing days of content joey's I want people to go make music and then show it to me yeah that's awesome. I hope that you guys have learned some cool stuff for me. I tried teo show you a little mixture of of what I thought you wanted to learn about and also what I wanted to show I guess what I wanted to show the world about what I've learned from producing. Um I kind of want people to not ever asked me to edit vocals if they're having me makes a song so if if you guys could please do that that'd be awesome to yeah because mixing is not editing fantastic well, thanks so much joy for being here

Class Description

Joey Sturgis is the producer behind some of the biggest names in metalcore, including Asking Alexandria, Of Mice & Men, and I See Stars. His style is one of the most sought after sounds of the last decade and in Studio Pass he’ll show you how he produces it.

There is no magic bullet to Joey’s sound. It’s simply the combination of a million little decisions that add up to something incredible. In this class – for the first time ever – Joey will demonstrate his entire process: pre-pro, engineering, mixing and mastering, from A-Z. 

You’ll learn:

  • Writing and arrangement tips that take a song from good to great
  • Recording, editing, and mixing tips for guitars, vocals, bass, drums, and synths
  • How to get stuff to sound loud, super clean, and tight

Joey is a hands-on engineer – he’ll talk about how he works with bands to develop their writing and ideas so they are working with the best possible raw material. He’ll show you the specific signal chain he uses for mixing guitars, vocals, bass, drums, and synths. And he’ll give extra focus to vocal tracking, editing, tuning, compression, and effects.

If you want to transform your recording and engineering process, don’t miss your opportunity to learn from chart-topping metalcore producer, Joey Sturgis.

Class Materials

bonus material with enrollment


What is Vocal Production

Autotune Pitch Correction Modes and Tools

Understanding Pitch Graphing

Timing and Quantization

Vocal Mixing

Separating Lead & Background in Mixing

Mixing Harmonies & Adv Production Technique

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



I have been following Joey's work since the early Prada days... This is one of the best discussions any producer has ever contributed to digital audio. I love the amount of transparency. He simply reveals everything and guides you on a very wise path on how to become a in-the-box producer like him! Turns out, the answer is -- a ton of hard work! Plus, this has to be the best use-case on his own awesome and super-affordable plugins. I have watched almost every popular producer/engineer workshops and have also sat-in on Eddie Kramer, Alan Parsons and Quincy Jones producer workshops and believe it or not... This is the best one yet.

Adam Train

I'll be honest, I'm not a fan of the bands Joey records. The only reason I bought this class was because I enjoyed the Periphery one so much. Joey takes modern production techniques to the absolutely extreme. He takes punch-ins and editing to a level where it's not even funny any more. If you're looking for tips on recording and mixing in general, this class is not for you. If you're looking for editing tips to see how far you can possibly push the strive for perfection, this is pretty spot on. If you're a beginner, don't take this class to heart - Joey's workflow is borderline psychopathic - go and get the Periphery session instead. If you've been recording for a while and you're looking to see how far editing can take you, it's worth a look.

a Creativelive Student

Easily one of the best investments I've made. There is so much information here that you'll have to watch it multiple times to really catch everything. Looked up to Joey Sturgis for a long time and this is literally a dream come true to get a behind the scenes look into his talent. He delivered the material in a very understandable fashion and was extremely clear with all his examples. I love creative live =)