This week we had the honour to interview Josh Liebman. Josh is an New York based music technologist, most known for his work as a producer, engineer and film composer.
Josh is trained as a multi-instrumentalist and in theory and composition. In 2013, he was accepted into the highly competitive Music Technology program at New York University, receiving an accelerated bachelor’s and master’s degree. Since relocating to NYC, Josh has studied in every facet of sound, audio, and music and learned from the industry's best.
In the spring of 2015, he refined his skills studying at IRCAM in Paris, France, the world-leading institute for acoustics and computer music. And in the past, has worked at some of the best studios the city has to offer, working with and learning from award-winning producers, engineers, and artists—including work at Studio G Brooklyn during their work on High Suspect's Mister Asylum, nominated for 2016 Best Rock Song and Album of the Year. Josh currently works primarily as a freelancer and as an engineer at Moon Recording in Brooklyn.
If you have any questions for Josh or help on a project, comment below.
When and how did you decide to start a career in the music industry?
My first year in high school, I was exposed to music production, and that was when I knew that was what I wanted to do. I began working in Logic, making Mashups and making beats. Eventually, I began investing in microphones and recording equipment. Just before college, I was able to secure an internship in a local studio, and the story continues from there.
How did you get interested in music?
Growing up my parents had a deep appreciation for the arts. I grew up going to museums and seeing broadways shows. My father, especially, was a huge music fan and my house was always filled with Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Yes and much more. They encouraged me to learn an instrument an I began playing the saxophone and the drum set in the fourth grade. By the time I reached high school, I knew I wanted to pursue music.
Why did you choose to focus on the technical part? (mixing and mastering)
It started with those aforementioned experiences in high school that exposed me to the technical side of recording and producing music. Through my early career and my schooling, I began to learn and focus more and more on these aspects, and I simply fell in love with the process.
How do you approach the process of a mix? Are there certain steps that you follow?
There are very few steps that are always consistent as every project has its own specific needs—and what works for me might not work for you! What I can say is that I always begin with general levels, without processing, to begin and to better understand the song's potential. I usually start with the drums (being my primary instrument, and the first instrument I recorded, I am the most confident and comfortable starting here) I then move through the rhythm section, to the lead instruments, and finish on the voice. I continually rebalance the levels as I begin to process.
There are a whole bunch of tried and true techniques that I often fall back on, but there is too much enough information there for this interview. Maybe another article…
How do you approach the process of a master?
If I am working with a collection of tracks, my first step is to level match the tracks. Not bringing them to their final loudness, but just to make sure each track is the same volume as each other. This makes working on them much easier. I usually then listen to the tracks in their entirety, to get a feel for them and what they might need. If I find any persistent issues with the tracks, and exaggerated low end, for example, I apply processes to all of the tracks to deal with this issue. Then I go to the track to figure out what each one needs. These processes can be EQ, dynamics, harmonic exciting, and sometimes a little reverb (usually VERY minimal, if at all). Once I have applied these individual processors, I begin working on making the tracks radio level. Without destroying the dynamic range of the track, I work to make the records as loud as reasonable.
Like the mixing process, there is no right answer or one way to work, this is simply what I have found works best for me. Mixing and Mastering is an art, not a science…