Who are you and what do you do? How long have you been a working musician?
My name’s Giulio Carmassi. I’m a Film Composer, Producer and Multi-Instrumentalist. I’ve been working professionally in Music since age 12, and I’m 30 now.
What is your educational background? Are there any schools, courses, or books you recommend?
“The Study of Orchestration” by Samuel Adler is invaluable to learn about the different arranging possibilities, and “Mastering Audio: The Art and the Science” by Bob Katz opened my eyes on audio engineering.
I found that here in America, the “hands on” part of the learning is massive and incredibly more useful than spending time on books.
I dropped out of regular school at age 14. I then graduated as a classical pianist from a conservatory, and graduated from Musicians Institute as a recording engineer (one of the best schooling experiences of my life) and as a film composer and director from UCLA Extension.
What hardware are you using?
The Mic Pres I use are mostly The Don Classics NV73 (a Neve 1073 clone, best Neve sound I’ve found), the D.W. Fearn Vacuum Tube Mic Pre (the best Mic Pre on the market today), the Chandler Germanium (great when you want character but very noisy) and LTD-1 (wonderful all around single channel), and the Millennia Media Pres (the sweetest Pres, will transform anything harsh in pleasant).
Compressor wise I like the Retro Instruments 176 a lot on anything, and then the Fearn Stereo Compressor (best stereo buss compressor) and the Summit Audio DCL-200 (a bit gooey and confused, but really great for the money in the used market).
I use mostly Paiste Signature cymbals (crisp, bright but sweet and washy at the same time), Yamaha and DW Drums (both maple) drums. Nord keyboards (best organ and electric pianos I know of). Yanagisawa 991 alto and tenor saxophones (very easy to play), a Barrington soprano sax (very cheap but great sounding), and Harrelson trumpets (great great manufacturer all around). I love Sadowsky basses (it’s my ideal sound, a jazz bass sadowsky) but use a lot of vintage Aria knockoffs of Fenders and Gibsons.
My speakers of choice have been for years the Dynaudio BM15, because I never get tired and they are slightly scooped in the mids and that’s exactly how I like music, so that when other people hear my mixes somewhere else they are not as scooped as I like but they are balanced.
I use mostly Peluso mics (incredibly value for the money), but I adore the DPA 4011 as over heads, guitar and piano mics, and I love the AEA R44 ribbon mic on anything. It’s the most flattering mic I’ve ever tried.
What software are you using?
I record on Pro Tools 9 (I tried Logic and hated it very very much for its million bugs). I edit video on Final Cut 8 (simply perfect, but I did all my first videos for 2 years on iMovie and it was a nightmare).
I love the Altiverb reverb for how natural it sounds. I hardly use plugins and don’t have autotune installed on principle. I mostly mix with my outboard gear and with volume and panning and reverb. I hate EQs, but detest digital EQs (I think real EQing should be done with mic placement).
What would be your dream setup?
I’m pretty much happy really. I’d like an old Martin guitar and a set of vintage Zildjian cymbals from the 40s and 50s. And an old upright bass. Another piece of equipment I love is the Ear 660 compressor. Really life altering.
Can you describe your creative process? Is there a particular routine or schedule you stick to?
It’s really painful to write. I procrastinate an entire day. I have long walks. I look at Manhattan from the Brooklyn side for a couple hours. And then when I’m exhausted and it’s midnight, I’ll sit at the keyboard and write what I needed to write in one pass, improvising, and it’ll be “it”.
The “post” work is mostly related to BPMs, instrumentation or similar, but I trust very much the notes that come out from a simple improvisation. I also sing a lot a cappella, so that no instrument can get in the way of creativity. And I arrange, orchestrate, and sing all the parts in a one pass improvisation while the main theme is played on a piano or electric piano.
I tend to create better late at night. The day is for studying or for sending work e-mails. Make countless lists that I never respect.
Where do you shop for and discover music?
YouTube, and friend’s Facebook walls.
Any highlights from your latest musical discoveries?
What’s brewing in your studio?
I’m about to release a new music video, and it should be fun. I’m working on an animation musical, and should be working as an orchestrator soon on a full-on broadway production.
Any production tips & tricks you’d like to share?
Automate the click! In everything I do the click is always oscillating to recreate the natural fluctuation in time that you’d get from a real band. Record first the song in MIDI on a stable click, quantize everything, and then start playing with the click track and make certain parts, certain bars slightly slower or faster. You’ll love it!