MAY 23, 2019

Recording tracks quickly with Pro Tools

Nalani-and-Serena record with Pro Tools2019_1862x1040

Photo credit: Jim Farrell


Nalani and Sarina began their music recording careers at 19, and in just a few short years, the duo's blend of traditional soul-rock and modern pop music along with their personal, emotional lyrics have taken them far beyond their Flemington, NJ start. With two full-length CDs, two EPs, and a host of Homey Awards and nominations, Nalani and Sarina are moving quickly beyond the Northeastern club scene.

Nalani and Sarina's 2018 album, The Circle, is reaching new fans and garnering impressive reviews. Legendary music critic and SiriusXM radio host Dave Marsh has called their material "some of the best music being made today." David Bianculli, TV Critic for NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross, raves, "In addition to being charismatic and confident singers and musicians, rotating among guitars, keyboards and ukuleles, their secret weapon is their songwriting." Thom Duffy of Billboard, writes "Like other great songwriters, Nalani and Sarina are channeling the emotions of their era."

Nalani and Sarina

Moving quickly with Pro Tools

"Nalani and Sarina were up for five Homey Awards in Delaware this year, and won four," notes Julian Herzfeld, who along with Greg Drew, manages and produces the duo. "They're up for best album. Best song. Best video. And Greg and I are up for best producers. They won best single, best live act, best video and artist of the year. They're touring more outside of the Northeast. And, we're working on another EP. We're moving forward quickly on writing songs and getting the material together and out there. With all this going on, the speed of Pro Tools is really important."

Herzfeld uses Avid Pro Tools digital audio workstation for creating, recording, editing, and mixing Nalani and Sarina's music. "Pro Tools is fast and flexible. We can put a track together recording it all in two days or sometimes entirely live in the studio." 

Capturing organic sound

Herzfeld and Drew have been working with Nalani and Sarina for close to seven years. One of the first things they did as producers was to bring the duo into the studio with other musicians, so they could become fully invested in the creative process. "I like to use organic sounds," explains Herzfeld. "Putting musicians in a room is a lot different than just sitting down at a workstation and sequencing a whole song yourself. There's the interaction, and the interplay, and there's a lot of different factors that can come into it."

"When we first went to the studio, we weren't sure how it was going to work because Nalani and Sarina were only 19 years old, and we put them in the room with legendary and seasoned studio musicians Will Lee, Joe Bonadio, and Tommy Mandel," adds Herzfeld. "Nalani and Sarina not only kept up but pushed them to exciting results. Now they work with a touring band in rehearsals by themselves, without Greg or I there; they get the band prepped for road trips or for the studio, whatever we're doing."

I love the fact that I can do separate playlists and go into Pro Tools and build a vocal across it that way, or I can just build in mutes for one section or another section on a sample track, and then go to the live drum track, and then back to the sample track.

Julian Herzfeld, manager and producer

Getting the perfect performance

Herzfeld notes that as a producer, the biggest challenge is making sure he has the performance he likes, whether it's from the band in the studio, a vocal, a guitar, or any other part he is recording. Pro Tools ease-of-editing and features such as play listing are critical to Herzfeld's ability to produce high-quality music quickly.

Production on Nalani and Sarina's CDs and EPs generally follow two workflows. Often, Nalani and Sarina send Herzfeld and Drew songs or an acoustic guitar and vocal track they've recorded at home. Hertzfeld drops them into Pro Tools and together they work on the tracks in Pro Tools. No matter what DAW they start in, the song is always finished in Pro Tools.

"On the last record, there are some tracks that were sequenced in the box and others where we went into the studio with a live band and everybody contributed to the arrangement. And, there are some tracks that are hybrid," notes Herzfeld. "If you listen to their song, 'Get Away,' from the EP Scattered World, I actually recorded the samples with our drummer, Jim Hines. We combined them with a live kit, and we still had live musicians. Will Lee played bass on it, Nalani and Sarina played keyboards and guitars on it. Oscar Rodriguez played guitar. So, there's a hybrid of the different production techniques."

"I love the fact that I can do separate playlists and go into Pro Tools and build a vocal across it that way, or I can just build in mutes for one section or another section on a sample track, and then go to the live drum track, and then back to the sample track," adds Herzfeld. "I can take a Pro Tools session, send it to Oscar Rodriguez up in Brooklyn. He can open it up on his system, lay down a bunch of guitar tracks for me, and then send it back to me. I can have it tuned around in a matter of minutes. And, with Pro Tools I can move stuff around in a track quickly," continues Herzfeld. "I can go in, audition all the different takes, and move takes around. If I want a drum fill from one take, I can grab the group, grab the section, the couple of bars I want, and easily move it to another section. I can use a bass track from one take and a drum track from another without a problem. It's all done with keystrokes as opposed to scrolling through menus."

Pro Tools is fast and flexible. We can put a track together recording it all in two days or sometimes entirely live in the studio.

Julian Herzfeld, manager and producer

Capture the right sound with plugins

Herzfeld loves using plugins to enhance his sound. "I really like using plugins for getting the effect of organic sound and with Pro Tools if I'm looking for a certain sound, I can find the plugin to do it."

Herzfeld uses a number of studio tape emulation plugins from UAD, including Studer Plug-in and the Waves Kramer tape plugin. "With UAD, I can mix tape formulations, and I can process the drums with tape emulation to get a little more fat out of them, and I can do the bass and the guitars at a different speed and a different tape stock if I want to. I really like being able to audition that stuff, select it, and if I want, go back and try something else."

DIY recording with Pro Tools

Herzfeld believes that tools like Pro Tools can help musicians who are starting out to create high-quality professional music, themselves. "I don't think that you need a big record company behind you at this point, a lot of it can be done DIY," states Herzfeld. "With Pro Tools you can do it yourself, and still do really high quality. For me, Pro Tools is very intuitive. I can mix and match preamps and pretty much choose any converter I want that's compatible, and there are a lot of really good I/O interfaces out there."

"It's tough out there, but it can be very rewarding," concludes Herzfeld. "There are a lot of frustrations along the road, but at the end of the day, it's really worth it because if you love your art and you love your music, and people are listening to it, well that's the point of it. Isn't it?"

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