Good times! Studio One with Jerry Barnes and Ralph Rolle

We all collectively freaked out at the opportunity to be in Studio One with drummer Ralph Rolle and bassist Jerry Barnes of The CHIC Organization yesterday: Two incredibly talented musicians and producers, both with long, successful careers. Our March students were extremely lucky to be in the control room as they worked on some soon-to-be released tracks. Jerry and Ralph in turn were incredibly generous with their wisdom, advice and knowledge on building a successful career in the industry. Here are just a few nuggets from yet another amazing Abbey Road Institute recording session…

Engineer: Toby Hulbert
Assistant: George Oulton

music is business, and you are a brand

Ralph: I grew up with some killer musicians, but they’ve never really excelled outside of where they are because they only saw themselves as being players. That’s fine if you’re comfortable with that, but is it sustainable? You want sustainability. No one has to know who you are, as long as you’re someone people are calling because your individual skill set and brand is important.

Jerry: Without the product, social media marketing means nothing. The product is the song, your talent. Your product has to be legit.

Handle your business well

Ralph: It’s about making wise choices. Don’t show up to work smelling like a party. Bring your best work. You can be good, but you also need to be professional. If you make these wise choices now, and you get used to practicing those wise choices, your brand as a professional only gets stronger. People will trust you, and can rely on what you give and it keeps snowballing. That’s how (success) happens.

Checking out the mic setup for the horns…

On producing

Jerry: As a musician you have to honour the song. As a producer, you have to honour the artist. You have to make the artist happy. If you’re not doing that, you’re not a good producer.
Ralph: Be humble to the process. I don’t care what you’re doing, being in the business of music is a very humbling position. You have to understand that you’re serving something that is so much bigger than you. It’s not about you, it’s never going to be about you. It’s always going to be about the music. Find your lane, and be there.

Never stop learning

Ralph: Always ask questions; Am I accessing the right information for the session? Is that what you’re looking for? You’re looking for what the feedback is, and apply it to whatever the next forward motion is. It’s very important for me to ask questions, and to be excited about learning, and growing.

Jerry: Don’t think too much. Don’t get in the way of yourself. Taste comes from listening. Pick something to listen to and make it your teacher, your inspiration. My taste came from listening to certain records, and I wanted to sound like that. I think taste is homework; you have to spend some time learning some artists’ music. Some artist has to be your example.

Hands on with Jerry’s bass!

It’s not about the money

Jerry: This is the time to decide if you really want to do this. Music is a tricky thing; you should be doing it because you love music, but not for money. The money’s a lottery ticket when it happens. If you’re here to be a star, that’s a super lottery ticket. The key thing is, are you in it for the long haul?

The rejection process is the real test of whether you’re doing this for the right reasons. Can you handle rejection? Can you handle your phone blowing up when you should be practicing? These are the things to ponder now.

Ralph’s drum kit in the Studio One isolation booth

the best music is honest

Ralph: We have to make ourselves more honest. Music is more disposable so we have a responsibility to make something that captures the heart and the soul. It can’t be disposable. There’s no great record that’s disposable.

Jerry: Be honest. Honesty is music. If you write something that you’re feeling, that’s going to be the best song you can write. Even if you’re doing mumble rap, if it’s honest…it’s going to be hot. A lot of the best producers are very honest, they don’t try and copy anybody. Do what you feel, don’t worry about judgement.

Ralph talks to students in the control room

The importance of composition

Jerry: You have access to all the plug-ins you need, so you have no excuse not to make your tracks sounds great. What you need to work on is composition, and that you have to practice. You have to be willing to learn a song on guitar, learn the melody and learn the lyrics so you can get it in your system. After you get it in your system you’ll naturally have a vocabulary of content. I think that’s really important.

Ready to Dance, Dance Dance your way to a long-term career in the music business? OK, dancing might not be the right way to go about it, so why not check out our Advanced Diploma in Music Production and Sound Engineering instead? Or, simply contact us for more information.