Get to know Tucker Burnes.
Learn some recording techniques.

Tucker Burnes knows sound, and the proof is in the resume. He picked up his chops playing bass for the jazz band and played drums in marching band at Jefferson High in Cedar Rapids. He did the rock band thing also. The major turning point was the move from performer to composer using MIDI technology discovered during his 1st year of college. After completing typical undergrad music theory studies and becoming disillusioned with composition as a focus of study, a career in professional audio engineering became his main focus.

Does the recording arts school Full Sail ring a bell? He scored a degree from that respected institution. After graduation, Tucker said to himself “New York is the place I want to be!” So he spent a week in the big apple doing interviews and Sony Studios offered him an entry-level position on the spot, which transitioned into a full-time audio engineering gig. That's correct, Sony studios where the big-time artists received up-front advances from the record label to record their projects back in 2000.

DMX's "…and then there was X" release? He assisted on that one. Michael Jackson is having problems with the monitors in Studio “B”? Who is there to troubleshoot it? You guessed it. Tucker Burnes to the rescue.

The Sony internship was off the hook...Time consuming, financially draining, and soul sucking. Tucker had to escape from New York.

Who wants to work for "the man" anyways?

Tucker brings over 15 years of solid audio engineering experience to the table. We're talking acoustical analysis, studio design, stereo and multi-track studio experience, remote recording, editing, mixing & mastering. No matter the place, circumstances, or personalities involved...Tucker is on the job.

Let's sit down and chat with Tucker Burnes one-on-one.

Tack: What up Tuck, thanks for taking the time out of your schedule to do this official interview.

Tucker: My pleasure Tack. I’ve been looking forward to this.

Tack: We've chatted a few time before this interview, and I wish I could have recorded some of those conversations, those Sony studio stories are pure gold!

Tucker: The Sony experience was different from internships at other major studios. Before 2001 major labels were throwing money at projects. “Sillmatic” by Nas was being written in the studio when I first started. It was a place to hang out and make the album at $2,000 bucks a day. My job was to provide support. Every day I had to run across the street and buy five blunts and two bottles of Hennessey before the entourage would show up in the morning.

Sony Studios (2006)
Tack: Describe the layout of the place...a little background info.

Tucker: Sony studios was this massive complex in Hell's Kitchen section of Manhattan. Five recording rooms, a large stage where they broadcasted game shows and things like MTV unplugged sessions, a basement for tech shop, equipment locker, writers rooms, a whole floor for offices...it was huge.

They shut the doors in 2007, sold the building, and I understand luxury condos are holding down the spot. It's a shame...lots of music history was created and recorded in that building.

Anyway...the internship at Sony is where I really learned the hip-hop scene and the production style along with the sound behind the music. My schooling at Full Sail, my knowledge of other forms of music and hanging out with the hip-hop guys in the equipment locker really broadened my education. I can’t emphasize the experiences off the clock.

Tack: So you made the move back to Iowa and purchased some of your own recording equipment. What are we up to in 2016?

Tucker: I have many different roles nowadays. I do live sound recording for Kirkwood Community College, a day job at the local Guitar Center launched me into consulting (helping put a sound system together for clients) and on-site instruction. I also have my own recording set-up, it’s all under the banner of audio engineering.

Tack: I'm sure you've encountered just about everything when it comes to hip-hop production and the devices some these cats carry around with them.

Tucker: When it comes to hip-hop, every producer has different devices that they recorded their primary tracks on.

Tack: You've worked with Coolzey in the past. What's his workflow like?

Tucker: An artist like Coolzey prefers to do things in real time with his MPC. He wants to perform on his equipment rather than program. His MPC 1000 has only 4 outputs to transfer audio, so those 4 outputs go direct into my computer. (for example: hi-hat, snare, kick, and sample) After the tracks are transferred we can add other overdubs and vocals. Once the dubs are complete, we can move on to the mixing. It’s typical to have the snare and kick in the center. Cymbals or hi-hats may get panned a little off to one side to represent how a real sounding drum kit would be recorded, and to open up room for the vocals. If I’m working with mono samples I may put effects and reverb on it so the sample is spread across the stereo spectrum.

I’m trying to create space for everything. Coolzey calls it “teeing it up.”

Coolzey- Producer/Emcee

Tack: You work with another recording artist at your studio, what's his approach like?

Tucker: I've been working with Nod G and he's at that level now where he's buying the beat tracked out. (instruments are all separated from from each other, not mixed together in one track) Sometimes we'll edit sections in terms of length and composition, the re-assemble it. You could almost call it a re-mix. The key to our working arrangement is setting up the proper mic straight into the recording system.

Tack: Give us a description of the set up.

Tucker: Large diaphragm condenser mic positioned on a shock mount 5 inches away from the pop filter.

Tack: How important is mic selection for an emcee or vocalist?

Tucker: One thing I learned though out my audio engineering journey is mic selection. Choose the right mic and there's less processing in post-production, and it will fit better. Finding the right mic is as simple as going to the music store and testing out the wide selection...with a good pair of headphones.

Tack: Describe how you like your vocal takes to sound?

Tucker: I prefer to keep it dry, uncompressed and unfiltered. I trust Nod G with his style, delivery, and clarity. He's also a good critic of himself. If he feels it's not working or sounding right, he'll go back and do it again.

Nod G- Rapper/Vocal Artist
Tack: Give the readers some "inside the recording studio" type tips when you mix down a track.

Tucker: Ok...my mindset right now is focused on "subtracting eq'ing" rather then turning things up. If I don't like something in the mix...a bottom end sound, like the bass being too thin, I just won't blindly boost it. I look to the low-middle band, and I start working in that realm of the frequency range and starting sorting things out and fine tune the balance.

In other words, let's look at what's getting in the way of things instead of adding things.

The A/B comparison of anything is crucial when you make frequency adjustments. But, it HAS to be level matched. I want to keep the dynamics and the tone changes separate from how loud it is.

Tack: And then the final stage...what I call the "sugar on top".

Tucker: Remember, when you master a track you enhance the final mix which involves equalization, compression, and limiting...you can change the whole perception of the balance when you make everything louder. It can make the bass sound smaller. The quality of the beat will affect everything down stream. Basically, once the vocals are laid I can begin the process of overall balance and get more familiar with the whole picture.

Tack: So what is the goal when you master a track?

Tucker: Mastering is its own art and science. Mastering has a purpose, not just to make it louder, mastering is the last step to balance and enhance the overall sound. Plus this is where the order of the songs, the time between songs, all the things that make albums flow…EQ and compression is used to give the track the final polish. You shouldn't hear mastering unless you compare it to the final mix. The focus should be on fidelity, not level.

Tack: Hey man, thanks for kick'en us some knowledge...if you're an artist or a business entity that needs audio services...and you dwell near the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids corridor. Look Tucker up at his facebook page. Tucker Burnes Audio Engineering