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PBLA Instructor Spotlight: GRAMMY Winning Engineer, Steve Baughman

At Point Blank, you can expect to be taught by some of the best in the business. Each of our instructors is selected for their combination of talent, music industry experience, and tangible success – which they pass on to you in the classroom. Each is a true professional in their field and our team in Los Angeles is no exception. For this Instructor Spotlight, we will be interviewing GRAMMY winning mixing/mastering engineer, Steve Baughman.

If you’d like to study the Art of Mixing with Steve, or any other courses at Point Blank LA, sign up here. Additionally, if you’re not in LA, you can always study a degree course with us in London and Online.

What first piqued your interest in producing and mixing music? When did you know it was the career path you wanted to take? 
Growing up in a family of music teachers in Sacramento, California, I was surrounded by a rich musical environment. The pivotal moment came when, armed with a 4-track setup, I started recording my friends in a makeshift sound booth within my walk-in bedroom closet. This hands-on experience ignited a passion for shaping and refining the auditory experience.

When I decided to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Recording Arts at California State University, Chico, the technical aspects of music production became increasingly captivating. It was during this time that I realized the profound impact music production could have on storytelling and emotional expression.

The decision to make music production and mixing my career path was a gradual yet inevitable one. Working my way through studios in Los Angeles from 1995 onwards, I found immense joy and fulfillment in the intricate process of creating and refining music. The moment I earned a Grammy and collaborated with multi-platinum artists like Michael Jackson, Usher, and others, I knew I had found my calling.

The fusion of technical expertise, creative expression, and the ability to contribute to the sonic landscapes of renowned artists solidified my commitment to this career. Music production and mixing aren’t just professions for me; they are the channels through which I bring the nuances of sound to life, connecting with audiences on a visceral level.

What producers/engineers do you take inspiration from or who you looked up to when you were starting out?

Through my journey in music production and engineering, several remarkable figures profoundly influenced my artistic vision and technical approach. Among these, Dr. Dre stands out as a beacon of inspiration, particularly for his unparalleled talent in mixing. Observing his work, I was captivated by Dre’s ability to sculpt sonic landscapes, emphasizing the importance of meticulous mixing in bringing out the nuances of every element within a track. His prowess in achieving a perfect balance between elements has been a guiding principle in my own quest for sonic excellence.

Additionally, Dave Way played a pivotal role in shaping my understanding of the significance of balance in music. Watching him masterfully mix tracks showcased the delicate art of creating harmony within a composition. Dave’s emphasis on achieving the right balance between instruments, vocals, and other elements highlighted the transformative impact that a well-crafted mix can have on the overall musical experience.

As an engineer and producer, you’ve worked with some iconic names, including Brent Faiyaz, The Pussycat Dolls, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, and more. What is your creative process like? Any pro tips to share? 

Working with iconic names has been a privilege, and my creative process has evolved through each collaboration. When it comes to producing and engineering for artists like Brent Faiyaz, The Pussycat Dolls, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, and others, my approach revolves around a harmonious blend of technical precision and artistic intuition.

  • Understanding the Artist’s Vision: The foundation of my creative process lies in understanding the artist’s vision. I engage in extensive conversations to grasp their musical aspirations, influences, and the emotional narrative they wish to convey through their work. This initial dialogue shapes the trajectory of the project and ensures that my approach aligns seamlessly with their creative intent.
  • Tailoring Techniques to the Genre: Each artist brings a unique style and genre to the table. Adapting my production and engineering techniques to suit the nuances of each genre is crucial. Whether it’s the smooth R&B vibes of Brent Faiyaz or the dynamic energy of Snoop Dogg, I tailor my approach to accentuate the distinct qualities that define their sound.
  • Collaborative Exploration: I view the creative process as a collaborative exploration. Every member of the team, from producer, artist to engineer, plays a vital role in shaping the final product. This open exchange of ideas fosters an environment where innovation thrives, and unexpected creative breakthroughs occur.
  • Attention to Detail in Mixing: In the mixing phase, attention to detail is paramount. Achieving a balance between each element of the track, ensuring clarity, and preserving the authenticity of the artist’s performance are key objectives. 
  • Staying Tech-Savvy: Embracing technological advancements is crucial in today’s music landscape. Constantly staying abreast of new tools and software allows me to integrate the latest innovations seamlessly into my workflow, enhancing the overall quality of the production.
  • Pro Tip for Aspiring Producers/Engineers: Surround yourself with a diverse network of talented individuals. Collaborate with musicians, fellow producers, and engineers who challenge and inspire you. Learning from those with different perspectives elevates your skills and contributes to a richer, more nuanced creative process.

In essence, my creative process is a dynamic synthesis of technical expertise, open collaboration, and a deep respect for the artist’s vision. It’s a journey of exploration and refinement, where each project serves as an opportunity to push creative boundaries and deliver an exceptional sonic experience.

You’ve been nominated and won a GRAMMY at the 45th GRAMMY Awards for Eminem’s “The Eminem Show.” Could you share more about that experience and what it means to you?

Winning a Grammy at the 45th Grammy Awards for Eminem’s “The Eminem Show” was a momentous and surreal experience in my career. The recognition from the music industry’s highest honor was not a personal achievement but a validation of the collective effort poured into that album.

That moment served as both a milestone and a source of inspiration. It motivates me to continue pushing creative boundaries, refining my skills, and contributing to projects that resonate with audiences. It’s a reminder that each project, regardless of scale, has the potential to make a significant impact.

In essence, winning a Grammy for “The Eminem Show” is a cherished highlight in my career. It symbolizes the power of collaboration, the pursuit of excellence, and the profound connection that music can create.

What made you want to become an instructor at Point Blank L.A.?

Becoming an instructor at Point Blank L.A. was a natural progression in my journey, driven by a desire to share my passion and knowledge with the next generation of music producers and engineers. Several factors influenced my decision to take on the role of an instructor at Point Blank L.A.:

  1.  Passion for Education: Throughout my career, I’ve found immense joy in sharing my expertise and insights with others. Teaching is a fulfilling way to channel that passion for music production and engineering into a structured, educational format. The prospect of inspiring and nurturing emerging talent was a compelling motivator.
  2. Giving Back to the Community: The music industry is built on a sense of community and mentorship. Joining Point Blank L.A. allowed me to actively contribute to the growth of the music production community by imparting practical skills, industry insights, and a deep understanding of the creative process.
  3. Staying Connected to Evolving Trends: Education is a two-way street, and being an instructor keeps me closely connected to the latest trends, tools, and techniques in music production. It’s a continuous learning experience that benefits both me and my students, fostering an environment of mutual growth.
  4. Fostering Creativity: Point Blank L.A. has a reputation for fostering creativity and innovation. Becoming an instructor provided me with an opportunity to be part of an institution that values pushing creative boundaries and encouraging students to explore their unique artistic voices.
  5. Building a Community of Future Professionals: Guiding students through their educational journey means not only imparting technical knowledge but also helping them build a network within the industry. I saw the chance to contribute to the development of a community of future music professionals who can collaborate and thrive together.
  6. Embracing a Dynamic Learning Environment: Point Blank L.A.’s dynamic and hands-on approach to education aligns with my own philosophy of learning by doing. The interactive and practical nature of the courses allows students to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world scenarios, preparing them for the challenges of the industry.

What can students who take your course expect to learn?

Students who enroll in my mixing course can expect to gain comprehensive knowledge and hands-on experience in the art of mixing. The course is designed to cover a range of essential topics, providing students with the skills and insights needed to excel in the field of mixing. Here’s what they can expect to learn:

  1. Fundamental Concepts of Mixing:
  • Understanding the basic principles of mixing, including signal flow, balance, and spatial placement.
  • Grasping the importance of frequency balance and how it impacts the overall mix.
  1. Technical Aspects of Mixing:
  • Learning the functions and applications of various mixing tools and processors, including equalization, compression, and reverb.
  • Exploring advanced techniques such as automation and side-chain processing to add dynamics and depth to mixes.
  1. Mixing in Different Genres:
  • Adapting mixing techniques to suit the characteristics of different musical genres, from pop and rock to hip-hop and electronic music.
  • Analyzing case studies and examples from a variety of genres to understand genre-specific mixing nuances.
  1. Use of Technology and Software:
  • Mastering the use of industry-standard mixing software and tools.
  • Integrating the latest technology and plugins to enhance the mixing process.
  1. Critical Listening and Analytical Skills:
  • Developing critical listening skills to identify and address issues within a mix.
  • Analyzing professional mixes to understand the choices made by successful engineers.
  1. Collaboration and Communication:
  • Understanding the collaborative nature of the music production process.
  • Communicating effectively with artists, producers, and other professionals involved in the project.
  1. Real-world Application:
  • Engaging in hands-on projects and practical exercises to apply theoretical knowledge in a studio environment.
  • Receiving constructive feedback and guidance on personal mixing projects.

Overall, the mixing course is crafted to equip students with a holistic understanding of mixing techniques, technical proficiency, and the artistic intuition needed to create professional-quality mixes. The goal is to empower students to confidently navigate the intricacies of mixing and contribute to the sonic success of diverse musical projects.

What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects coming up?I’m currently finishing an album (that I co-produced with Alex Elena) with a local artist from Los Angeles, Fiona Grey. I have a couple of international projects going, including a song with Brazil’s Rapadura. I’m also continuing to do mixing and mastering projects with many of today’s biggest artists from Snoop Dogg to Brent Faiyaz. 

Shameless plug: You can find me on Instagram @in2mixin also check out my production page at: www.twobeardsproductions.com 

Thinking of joining us at Point Blank LA? We offer a plethora of courses in music production and DJing that will teach you new skills or enhance your existing ones. Find out more here. Not in L.A.? No problem! You can join our global campus with Point Blank Online.

For additional information, contact an Admissions Advisor or, if you’re in the USA, give us a call at (323) 594-8740. If you’re calling internationally, use the number +44 20 7729 4884.

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