Pastel Blue

Pastel Blue

Production Certificate

Tell us about your production journey so far – how long have you been producing? What drew you to it in the first place?

I’ve been a musician for about as long as I can remember, starting out on the sax when I was a child. Since then, I’ve performed in various capacities from playing piano at church and in my high school jazz ensemble to competing with the world class drumline, Rhythm X, while in college.

I always wanted to write music in addition to performing, so I started producing hip hop beats in high school on FL Studio. However, my time was eventually too consumed by drumline to focus on production. When I graduated four years ago and was no longer involved in organised music programs, I dove back into writing my own music.

What made you decide to enrol on the Production Certificate programme?

After spending four years learning production on my own, I stumbled upon the Toolroom Academy while browsing the label’s website. Toolroom has released some of my favourite records and is my go to label for new tunes, so I was very excited to see they also offered courses. Initially, I was very interested in the Masterclass but at the time, it was only offered live in the UK. Since I’m based in Chicago, that wasn’t an option, so the Production Certificate seemed like a perfect alternative.

My key reasons for enrolling were that I would receive professional instruction in a “classroom” setting, I would learn about the specific sound I was after, and I would be able to network directly with the Toolroom Family and like-minded students.

Week 1 of the course focuses on artist identity and positioning. Did this make you analyse your sound in any way? How would you describe your sound?

Week 1’s session was a perfect introduction to the course and really set the stage for the remaining modules. I had to critically examine my goals and pin down the key elements I wanted to focus on for my sound. My “aha” moment was realising how important it is to also be clear on what I didn’t want to focus on.

As far as my sound, I stick to making house with a 90s vibe: classic synths/pianos, jacking drums, and soulful vocals. This is the sound that I fell in love with and that continues to inspire me.

What other modules really stood out to you throughout the 12 weeks?

All the modules were fantastic and interdependent, so it really is hard to narrow it down. I will say that the marketing/branding module was very eye opening and shed light on what it means to be an artist, rather than just a producer. It also gave me actionable ways to start developing an identity without having any official releases.

How did you find the weekly assignment work? Did you find them challenging? Did the structure help? Was it an intense amount of work?

The weekly assignment work was great because it helped cement in my mind what was taught in each week’s module. The recordings were invaluable as you could go step by step through your assignment while reviewing the methods taught in class. Plus, you were always guaranteed to catch a few golden tips and tricks you may have missed or hadn’t fully digested in the live setting.

The progression of the assignments was very natural, which helped alleviate the challenge of writing a complete, high quality track. The most difficult part was having the discipline to produce with intent at every step of the assignments, knowing that you were being judged on the quality each week. I thought the workload was certainly manageable but was also a factor of how intensely you were willing to work. You could have spent less time each week and technically satisfied the requirements of the assignments, but things like finding the “right” vocal can take awhile.

How important was the A&R feedback throughout your journey?

For me, the A&R feedback was what took this course to the next level. This was my first time consistently having ears on my music from a top-tier label. Then, to have a professional A&R and artist in your Ableton project, making adjustments and providing feedback was honestly surreal. I’m not sure what could be more valuable than that.

The recordings were invaluable as you could go step by step through your assignment while reviewing the methods taught in class.

How happy were you with the track you made over the course of the 3 months?

I am very happy with the track I made in the course. It is the tangible evidence of my growth as a producer. Also, it was great to hear my final track during the live A&R session and get so much support from the team and my classmates. I still have things to work on, but I was able to achieve a high quality product that was leagues better than my previous work.

What do you think was unique or different about the Production Certificate compared to other programmes/schools out there?

Here are a few of the unique selling points of the Production Certificate:

• Weekly tailored feedback from an A&R and artist who are actually involved in the scene and doing so successfully
• A focus on the current sound of house/tech house with tutors who have deep knowledge of how to achieve that sound
• The opportunity for students to go straight from classroom study to a signed record on a top-tier label in a short period

How would you compare your production ability/knowledge now, compared to when you started the course?

My production ability has increased dramatically compared to when I started the course. I feel that this program has given me the tools, techniques, and most important, the mindset I need to produce at a professional level. Before, I thought it was the mixdown or the mastering that was holding my tracks back, when my basic approach was what needed an overhaul.

Has your ability on your DAW improved since you’ve taken the course?

Having switched from FL Studio to Ableton about a month before the course, I was just starting to learn a new DAW when we began. Thankfully, we were restricted to using native Ableton plugins, which allowed me to get truly comfortable in the DAW without the crutch of 3rd party plugins. I would say I am now quite proficient with Ableton as we covered and practiced all the essential tools and features over the three months.

Did you manage to connect and built relationships with other students on the course?

Through this course, I’ve been able to connect with a new group of producers who have a similar goal and sound. People regularly posted in the Facebook group with open questions, tips, and tricks. In the class, we generally had a lively chat going, whether it was questions, ideas, or just jokes. Even after the course, we remain in touch and follow/interact with each other on social media. Additionally, the group is very open to providing feedback on WIPs, which is essential as an artist. It’s an awesome network with talented and ambitious people.

I feel that this program has given me the tools, techniques, and most important, the mindset I need to produce at a professional level.

How would you rate your tutors?

I couldn’t have dreamed of better tutors. Pete and Ben are the real deal and each session was bursting at the seams with amazing lessons on every facet of being an artist, even beyond just producing music in a DAW. On top of having very in-depth technical, musical, and industry knowledge, they are also great teachers and overall people.

What was the single best experience you had on the programme?

For me, having the 1-to-1 video chat was the single best experience. While you do feel like you get to know the tutors over the course, getting to chat face to face really solidifies that connection. Being able to ask exactly the questions on your mind (on any topic related to music, DJing, the industry, etc.) and get genuine answers directly from the source is something most new producers can only dream of.

Would you recommend the Production Certificate to other producers?

I would 100% recommend the Production Certificate to any producer who is serious about improving their craft. Whether they are beginners or advanced students, the course can be tailored to their specific wants and needs. In my opinion, what you receive is even better than what is advertised. I only wish that I had taken the course much earlier in my career.

As a graduate, what are your thoughts on the Toolroom Academy overall?

The Toolroom Academy shows how committed Toolroom is to building up the next wave of artists and breaking down the barriers between us and labels. You’re treated like a member of the Toolroom Family and get a level of access that no other program or school provides in the house realm.

What is next for you in your creative career?

Next, I am spending some time homing in on the specific areas of improvement that Pete and Ben recommended to me during the course. In parallel, I will be implementing some of the branding techniques discussed in the marketing module to improve my social media presence. Then, I plan on enrolling in the Creativity Unlocked course in April to continue improving my productions.

Production Certificate
Our flagship programme. Embark on an intensive 12 week journey, that takes you step-by-step through the essentials of building a credible and relevant track to a professional standard. Enjoy continuous A&R feedback and mentorship throughout the course.
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