Grammy®-winning producer/remixer Dave Audé (Sting, Rihanna, Selena Gomez, Lady Gaga) shares how he produces for A-list artists and discusses the 8 essential plugins and instruments he's picked for his Dave Audé Producer Pack.
With over 150 #1 Billboard dance tracks to date, Dave Audé is considered by many to be the music industry’s go-to remixer. We sat down with Dave to discuss which sounds are his favorites, and how he achieves them with the plugins and instruments he’s chosen for his Dave Audé Producer Pack.
Dave, with all the work that you do – remixes for Rihanna, Beyoncé, Sting, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars – how do you not repeat yourself?
I always repeat myself! When I say ‘repeat,’ I mean that I have certain sounds that I love, and certain synths, instruments and mixing tools that I use creatively over and over. The key is how you use these tools and what you do to sharpen your skills with them, so that each time you still bring something new to the table.
Seems like working fast and effectively would be part of that?
Yes, producing records is really about being able to make decisions, and that's definitely the hardest part of my job. It’s what separates effective producers from the rest. When I’m working on A-list songs and remixes, I try to figure out a good direction first – style, tempo, maybe a new chord progression – and I try to make those decisions fast, so I don’t to lose the essence of the original song.
This is where having go-to tools come in. We all love gear. Every producer wants better sound, more gear, more choices… But with experience, I’ve found that if I narrow it down to a few tools I love, I can keep focused and get more work done without overloading my brain with unnecessary information.
So, for just about every song, I have a group of plugins, pianos and synths that I find essential. A few years ago I chose my favorites and put them together in my Dave Audé EMP Toolbox. But it’s been a while since then, and in the meantime I’ve found new keyboard instruments that I keep using again and again in my remixes, and also new vocal and drum plugins that I love, so I put together a new bundle, and that’s what you’ll find in the Dave Audé Producer Pack.
Here’s what I picked:
1. Sibilance: Vocal De-Esser
Everyone needs a de-esser for producing or mixing any type of vocal. And the Sibilance plugin is a really unique de-esser – it sounds very clean, very transparent, and it has just as many knobs as you need to get the work done fast. You place it in your vocal chain to take off all those nasty ‘s’ sounds, and once you do that you can EQ the vocals to make them really bright without any harshness.
But here’s another little trick that’s less obvious: You’ll find you can push your overall mix a little bit louder by inserting the Sibilance plugin on your master bus instead of an EQ. By adjusting the threshold, you can sort of balance out how much high-end junk you want to remove, instead of cutting it out entirely with an EQ. When you’re smashing the hell out of your master bus, this trick will help you gain a little level. I suggest you do that when you’re working on a track and you want to hear, for your own reference, what it will sound like after mastering. If you’re looking for little tricks for your master bus, this is a good one!
2. OneKnob Pumper: Auto-Sidechaining Effect
Sidechaining has always been a great technique for creating space and giving things like synths and instrument tracks that pumping effect. But who really has time to set up sidechains?! For years I was using compressors with key inputs to make sidechain compression. Once I started using the OneKnob Pumper for automatic sidechaining it became a staple in every session. It’s so much easier and quicker to work with it than setting up sidechains – and it’s perfect for making space for four-on-the-floor kicks, which I do in pretty much everything.
3,4 & 5. Iconic Electric Pianos
There are three keyboard sounds I love which dominated certain eras of pop and R&B music. They always inspire me when I create dance tracks: Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer for funk and R&B-style sounds from the 60s and 70s; and the Yamaha CP-80 which really inspired that big classic House piano sound. For my Producer Pack, I chose three Waves keyboard instruments that give me those sounds:
Electric 88 Piano is a great-sounding 70s Rhodes-style piano – ultra-dope with built-in effects that allow me to go from clean and mellow, to fuzz or distortion-type effects.
Electric Grand 80 is great for that classic CP-80 sound, which never gets old. I use it if I need an authentic big and bright dance piano.
Electric 200 Piano is a Wurly-type piano for when you’re looking for that classic Supertramp-type sound. It suits anything from retro 60s, 70s and 80s to modern pop and R&B.
6. Smack Attack Drum Transient Shaper
Another essential tool for any modern producer is a transient shaper for shaping kicks and snares. I use Smack Attack in every session – it’s a very flexible way of shaping kicks exactly the way you want them, and it can be used for all kinds of additional tone-shaping tricks. When I listen to a song towards the end of a mix and I find that a certain percussion track is getting lost in the mix, I use Smack Attack to pop it up and help it get noticed. You can also use it on loops to soften up a kick or snare part which might be fighting with the main drums in your mix.
7. Codex Wavetable Synth
If you’re producing anything that sounds new and modern, you need the Codex Wavetable synth. If you want to sound original and not use the same sounds and patches as everyone else, then you need to dive head first into this one.
8. Bass Slapper
Slap bass is a great way for bringing a funk and disco-type feel into my productions. One problem… I don’t play bass guitar! But I do play the piano, and for I a long time I’ve been searching for a keyboard-based instrument that emulates slap bass in a truly realistic way, which isn’t easy to do. Bass Slapper is an amazing sample-based slap bass instrument and as close to a real slap bass player as you’ll ever get. My favorite thing about it is being able to move the fretboard, and the FX are a big bonus.
What advice can you give aspiring producers and remixers as far as pushing your productions to the limit, one track at a time?
In today’s world, I think it’s more exciting than ever that you can work on so many different types of music on any given day in any given place. I would always suggest that you try and make music that you believe in. Make music that you wanna listen to over and over and play for other people. Always be open to new tools and new ways of doing things. There are a million ways to make music and nobody’s system or DAW is better than anyone else’s. So be open to using tools in ways nobody else is. Your best tool is your own ears!