The Grammy winner who teaches you the key to making “successful music”

Allan Tucker ne was born in New York and from the age of two he was surrounded by music. Whether touching her, listening to her or thinking about her. He learned to play the clarinet and guitar, and turned that taste into a professional form by earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from The City University of New York.

Tucker is chair of the Music Technology and Production program at School of Humanities and Education of Tec de Monterreyhas been nominated 26 times at the Grammy Awards and has won six of them for his work on albums by Metallica, Gil Evans, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, John Coltrane, Joe Henderson and Ravi Coltrane.

With more than 50 years of experience, he had a brief career as a recording artist, but life led him to be an audio engineer, producer and masterizer.

He says that being a visiting foreign professor at the Tec has been one of the things he has enjoyed the most in his life, because he shares with his students the experiences that have allowed him survive and succeed as an independent producer in New York.

He cares that his students learn that the most important thing to make their way in such a competitive market is talent, develop a critical listening and creative force.

“They have to show that they are not robots, that they don’t have to hit a button and execute a combination in fancy software because almost everyone can do it.”

In music there are many imitations, if a style is successful everyone wants to use it, although in the long run those “hits” do not last in the audience. Tucker goes in the opposite direction, in his creative process he always questions and breaks down the components of a work until he understands its essence.

In an interview for Tech Reviewshares some of the philosophies that he has developed and that have helped him to work in your recording studio Tucker Sound At FootHill Digital on more than 3,500 albums by artists such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane Y Dave Brubeck.

“Today nobody listens to a whole album, we listen to one song and then another song, but we don’t soak up the atmosphere around it.” (Photo: Alejandro Salazar / CONNECT)

hit music

What is your creative process like when mastering a work?

Everything in recording, including mastering, is about understanding the project. What is the intention of the musical work? What are the producers, singers and artists involved looking for? They have a goal and my creativity seeks to feel and understand the emotion of the music, the audience, how the work will be promoted, the work behind its development, how complicated or simple the process was, how many musicians worked on it.

My goal is to channel my creativity to make music as satisfying as possible. Making music is a difficult process, but I’ve learned that once it works for me, it works for them.

What aspects do you take care of?

For mastering to be successful it must go in two directions: each song must be excellent, sound wonderful and beautiful to the listenersand –also– it has to be related to the songs that are part of the package.

my job is to find out what does a song or a group of songs need to be successfulmake sense and flow.

The song moves through the album, it feels logical in the sequence and in the style of the songs, the rhythm, dynamics, tone. All those things should flow between one song and another.

Today nobody listens to a complete albumwe listen to a song and then another song, but we don’t soak up the atmosphere that surrounds it.

Has digital production affected the quality of the musical medium?

Most listeners don’t question the quality of a music product. They can listen to it and they may or may not like it. On the other hand, producers, musicians and engineers do focus on the quality of the recordings.

I think digital dominance and the technology to make music has become very cheap, at least for consumers. Inexpensive enough that everyone can make music on their computer, which for me is not always a good idea because there is a lot of music around. In the digital domain there are no record companies, there are no gatekeepersor record labels. Anyone can compose and upload their creations to Spotify or YouTube. It is much more difficult for the audience to find music that is well done.

allan tucker photography

“Critical listening is being able to recognize the individual elements of a complex mix.” (Photo: Alejandro Salazar / CONNECT)

How to be more critical?

What does it mean to listen critically to a work?

Critical listening involves understanding the internal structure of the musical content, the elements that are there, and the emotional purpose of the song.

It is listening to the relationships between sounds and asking: ‘why are they there? why is there a saxophone? what is the quality of the space? what is the tone of the piano?’

Critical listening is being able to recognize the individual elements of a complex mix. There may be four instruments or 40. Critical listeners can follow an individual instrument and discuss the qualities of each: its tone, its position in the piece. It is the opposite of enjoying a song.

What trends do you see in the music market?

In the 50 years that I have been working, I have never known how the market is going and by market I mean people who buy music, which is good for the industry.

There is a lot of imitation in productions, if a style is successful, everyone wants it. And it may be a trend, but I don’t think it’s not something that the audience is looking for in the long term. People want to hear fresh sounds and ideas. And sometimes it seems to work but it’s not something I want to do.

Read: Diana Urquiza, an entrepreneur moved by music

A magical place

How has your experience as a professor at Tec de Monterrey been?

I have loved being here. It has been a creative and challenging adventure. I was born in New York, I grew up there, I did almost my entire professional career there, so the opportunity came with the invitation of a program director from the Monterrey Campus, who came to study with me and then invited me to collaborate at the Tec.

I am not a professional teacher, I am a producer, audio engineer and musician, but I became a teacher at New York University Steinhardt.

I share my experience of what it’s like to survive as an independent producer in New York with all kinds of experiences, some successful and not so successful, because it’s not a linear career, however, I’ve been very lucky.

What should the new generations of audio engineers learn?

A recording studio is a magical place, anything can happen there, but you need to respect it. My work space is very quiet, it is a sacred place and I try to convey that to my students.

Because of the access to technology, anyone can make music, which means that the field is very difficult. You can make music with a computer and a microphone.

The new generations of engineers have to discover that our industry is not about technology, our industry is about talent.

It means that engineers have to prove that they are not robots, that they don’t have to hit a button and run a combination in fancy software because almost everyone can do it. They must demonstrate their creative strength and learn to trust themselves.

If they do, they will be able to be engineers and find clients, producers and artists who want to work with them because they will not be robots, they will be irreplaceable and unique.

What have been your greatest satisfactions in life?

The great satisfaction comes from achieving an equal working relationship with the artists with whom I have had the fortune to work.

There are engineers who are successful at doing exactly what they were told to do. I’ve never been that kind of engineer: I’m invasive, I get into the process, sometimes I get in trouble, because I give my opinion and say ‘no, this is horrible’. And you should never say it’s horrible unless you have a suggestion to make it better, otherwise you’ll come off as a troublesome person.

They look for me because they like the style of my work. My clients expect a competitive voice, a contrarian voice, a voice that sees the other side, or another way of doing things. The best thing that has happened to me in my career is finding people who like to work that way.

This is what I try to convey to my students: that be able to express their opinions, be honest, creative, proactive and show that they can listen critically.

It might interest you: Neil Young helped Spotify combat misinformation about Covid-19

We would love to give thanks to the author of this post for this awesome material

The Grammy winner who teaches you the key to making “successful music”