Shayne Fontaine

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

I started mixing UK Garage in 2001. I had a group of friends that all started mixing around about the same time and we used to meet up and mix together. In 2004 one of our mates started learning to produce using Reason. This rubbed off on to the rest of us and I later then made my first attempt of music production in 2005 whilst I was at university. I started using Reason and began making grime and hip-hop tracks but I really had no clue what I was doing and gave up on it after a couple of years. Once I graduated I sold my decks and stopped mixing for a few years but in 2012 I began to get really into my Tech House and Techno and decided to start mixing again. This later led me back to wanting to try production again in the past couple of years. I bought a load of equipment (audio interface, studio monitors, midi keyboard etc.) and began learning Logic Pro but I never really learnt any remotely advanced techniques and only really knew basics. I made a shed load of 8 – 16 bar loops but never finished a track and often got stuck in the cycle of turning an idea into a loop and then moving onto the next idea. At the beginning of this year I made a commitment to myself that I’d really start making more time to learn to produce properly and actually put the equipment I bought to good use.

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

I’ve been a massive fan of Toolroom for many years now and have been signed up to their mailing list for a while. Earlier this year I received Toolrooms email update regarding the Online Production Certificate. I’d previously looked at Toolrooms Face-to-Face tuition but didn’t have the budget for it at the time. Seeing the Online Production Course I felt it could be more affordable to me whilst still getting similar value. I contacted Toolroom Academy and was explained the 12 week syllabus along with an overview of the Tutors. I wasn’t as familiar with Pete Griffiths but the fact he leads Toolrooms A&R really highlighted his level of experience and I was already very familiar with Ben Remember as I have been following him and buying his tracks for a few years. The 12 week syllabus alone was appealing but the thing that made this course really stand out above others was:

1. It was being taught by Tutors with real experience in the Tech House scene/industry who are responsible for signing and releasing tracks in the Beatport Top 100 currently.

2. All students would receive real A&R tailored feedback from the tutors every week.
The only challenge I had was that the course was being taught in Ableton, which I’d never used before. I had been learning Logic Pro but Toolroom Academy advised that if I was able to learn the basics and was able to make an 8 bar loop in Ableton, I’d have no problem doing the course. The course is tailored for beginners to advanced. I decided to take a chance and enrol and in the months leading up to the start date I learnt the very basics of Ableton. The advice I was given was spot on. My low experience of Ableton really did not slow me down as the syllabus takes you on a journey where you learn more advanced techniques as the weeks go on.

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

Yes it did. I buy a lot of Tech House and Techno tracks that really do span across all the sub genres of both genres but week 1 made me really focus on the sound that I wanted to target in my initial productions whilst learning.

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

Every module brings it’s own value so I wouldn’t really pick any modules in particular over others as they are all heavily linked but for me specifically, ones I’ll mention are:

• The week on basslines; this was quality as we were taught three different methods to creating our own basslines (one of which was sampling other bassline and transforming them into a brand new bassline. I would never have ever considered attempting that before).

• The week on arrangement gave me a lot of value as it taught me how to lay down a track and get out of the 8 bar loop cycle I’d often get myself into. This same week also taught us about automation so there was a lot of new learning for me in that module which I was able to instantly apply to my track.

• The Module that combined production techniques with a Marketing Session taught by Toolroom’s Brand Director Miles is also one I will mention. The session really made think differently around social media, promotion and the difference between projecting yourself as an Artist as opposed to a Producer or DJ.

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 12 week course is fairly intense due to the weekly assignments you have to submit. You really do have to commit and dedicate the time if you want to get the most out of the course You get a limited amount of time to complete and submit the assignments so the time pressures make it a bit more challenging. Although it adds pressure it also prevents students from procrastinating or fixating on one idea.

It made me a lot more focussed in pushing on and implementing the techniques I’d learnt. The order/structure of the modules does help and I felt the course is taught in quite a logical order that comes together nicely each week. Putting the time pressures aside; some of the techniques you have to implement in assignments were challenging but the aim of the course is to push all students so I never expected it to be easy each week. Don’t let me scare you though, nothing was too challenging. I submitted my assignments every week and my production skills were pretty limited before the course.

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

This was so important and one of the biggest selling points of the course in my opinion. I really cannot describe how much value you get from the videos Ben and Pete put together each week. The feedback is specific to you, specific to your track and specific to your production level. The webinars coupled with the tailored feedback videos really made my production capability and knowledge noticeably grow each week.

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

I was really happy with the track I made. I not only finally finished a track but I actually have a fairly polished track I am proud to show people. I’ve shown it to other producers I know who were impressed with it. Also in the final week our tracks got played to Toolrooms A&R team and all the other students. I was given quite positive feedback on my track by the Toolroom team and other students. There were some small areas of critique but bearing in mind the track was assessed as if I was an established artist submitting a demo so that wasn’t a surprise to me. When I compare the track in the earlier weeks to the track I submitted at the end of the course, I’m really happy how far I’ve come.

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

I’ve touched upon this in some of my earlier comments but the things that make this course unique in comparison to some of the others I’ve seen are:

1. Ben and Pete, the tutors, have real industry (and still active) experience for one of the biggest Tech House labels in the world so you know training you’re getting is very specific to the industry you follow.

2. The weekly A&R feedback videos from Ben and Pete really do take things to a whole new level in terms of learning. They will both highlight the things that work well and tell you how to enhance them but also be candid in highlighting the areas that need adjusting and guide you on the different directions to take to improve those areas. These videos are all specific to you and the track you’re making.

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

It’s difficult to quantify how much I‘ve learned with numbers but what I’ll say is that: I’ve gone from only ever making an 8-16 bar loop, having no Ableton experience and only really knowing beginner techniques –to- producing a full track with automation, audio effects, and a full arrangement which was then put in front of Toolroom’s A&R team and the rest of the students from my class. Overall feedback was positive with minutia critiques. I hope that helps explains how much I transitioned over the course.

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

Yes and this was another great thing about this course, we had a diverse group of students with different levels of production experience geographically spread. We all got along brilliantly. I’ve made friends with like minded producers from UK and wider Europe all the way over to America and the Carribean. We have a facebook group set up where will keep in touch and continue to share our own tracks, production journeys and general banter with eachother.

How would you rate your tutors – Ben Remember and Pete Griffiths?

Ben and Pete as tutors are second to none. Their experience shone through every week of the course. They both bring their own element to the teaching to the syllabus. Combining Ben’s creativity and technical ability with Pete’s industry knowledge ensured we got real direction week on week. They made amazing tutors and both have an incredible pair of ears for music. Also, they are both just quality geezers in general. Although each week was packed with learning they still made the course interpersonal and we often found ourselves having a laugh and joke with them through the webinar group chats. They made it a really great learning environment for us.

Would you recommend the Production Certificate to other producers?

Yes 100% and I’d recommend it to people at all stages of the production journey. In my class we had full on beginners to people that already had tracks released and signed. I spoke to students at opposite levels of production experience from my class and each said how much they were learning. For me this course has been an investment that has already given me a great return.

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

Toolroom Academy is brilliant and it’s evident that the Academy is really trying to help up and coming artists break through the industry barriers that often seem extremely daunting. Although I’ve mainly focussed on the Online Production Certificate course in my previous comments I’ve also been able to experience other positive factors from Toolroom Academy. After signing up to the Toolroom Academy mailing list I often received email bulletins that focus on different industry techniques/advice (from producing, to planning live sets, to marketing) which I’ve found really useful. Also I was able to experience a number of Toolroom Academy Live workshops earlier this year at Brighton Music Conference. I attended a full day of seminars with some high profile Toolroom artists. Each of them focussed on different aspects of production. All the artists were friendly and really down to earth. By the end of the day all the attendees and artists had the opportunity to network and connect with each other. The Academy created a great atmosphere for everyone and I will definitely attend future events.

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