Time-Align And Create Realistic Doubles - Grammy-Nominated Ryan Benyo
Kid Pan Alley is an organization that works with a lot of different schools and their mission is to empower and inspire children to work together to become creators of their own music. They want to rekindle creativity as a core value in education so we spoke to producer Ryan Benyo to find out how they incorporate Synchro Arts software into their editing workflow.
How did you first get involved in Kid Pan Alley and what’s your role?
I started to work with Paul Reisler, the founder and Artistic Director of Kid Pan Alley back when I was in high school. He’s always been a great mentor of mine. He taught me a lot about songwriting and the music industry.
I originally started as an artist myself, songwriting and recording and then fell into the world of production through necessity. I was doing this at a good time when the accessibility for someone of a young age to record themselves and get acquainted with digital audio platforms was great. I found myself learning about the recording and production process and as soon as I found out that it could become a career, I chose that path and never really looked back.
I then went on to study music production at McNally Smith College Of Music in Minnesota. After I graduated from college, I moved out to Los Angeles and started working at an artist development company, doing production for them, producing a radio show that’s syndicated all around the world called ‘Passport Approved’ and I had a studio of mine on the side that started getting really busy. After a few years of working with A&R Worldwide, I decided that I would work full-time out of my studio and just have a few consulting clients.
"Revoice Pro comes in handy because our team is based in different locations across the country and we record remotely. Revoice Pro has helped us combine these different recordings and tighten things up in the process."
I joined Kid Pan Alley almost 2 years ago as Director of Licensing and Creative. At Kid Pan Alley, what I’ve been doing is helping record our vast catalogue of 2,500 songs written with over 35,000 children in our residency programmes, releasing albums and landing other publishing opportunities in Los Angeles as well as working with innovative companies to spread the word about what we’re doing. One of our songs has even been nominated for a Grammy and our albums have featured a number of high-profile artists including Amy Grant, Sissy Spacek, Delbert McClinton, Cracker, Kix Brooks, Nashville Chamber Orchestra, Corey Harris, Suzy Bogguss and many others.
I also work with Paul in the classroom, writing songs with the children and accompanying them in concerts.
So what stage is Kid Pan Alley at right now?
Besides recording the music, we have a number of different programmes that are offshoots of our songwriting residency called ‘Music Of Art’ which is a program that takes children to museums where they’ll choose a work of visual art to become the inspiration for their song. We also run the ’Stand Up And Be Heard! One Little Song Can Change The World’ character development programmes. It largely focuses on respect. Respect for each other, the community, the environment and oneself. We are also working on an album of music to accompany that programme, including a series of lesson plans that teachers can use throughout the year. We’d really like to see the album distributed and available in school libraries across the country.
"Hiring in horn sections can be pretty expensive so it works out a lot cheaper and easier to find one really great trumpet or trombone player for example, and have them record multiple doubles and layer up their parts. Revoice aligns the parts really well and makes them sound like a full horn section playing and ending together."
Do you also teach music production or primarily songwriting?
We use songwriting to not only empower children but to teach creativity again in the schools. We live in a creative economy, but there is precious little training in creativity. We want the kids to stay focused on the group creative process so the materials and process we use in the classroom are oriented to the songwriting, not the production. We accompany the kids on guitar and piano. It’s a big group co-write. The kids come up with both the lyrics and the melodies.
And how have you been incorporating Revoice Pro into the process?
Not every song we write is always intended to feature children singing and for the initial recording and arrangement sessions for our master recordings, we always use session musicians and vocalists. That’s where Revoice Pro comes in handy because our team is based in different locations across the country and we record remotely. Revoice Pro has helped us combine these different recordings and tighten things up in the process.
We have also recently found Revoice Pro really handy when producing horns. Hiring in horn sections can be pretty expensive so it works out a lot cheaper and easier to find one really great trumpet or trombone player for example, and have them record multiple doubles and layer up their parts. Revoice aligns the parts really well and makes them sound like a full horn section playing and ending together. Even when your working with the best players, it’s difficult to know when one note is going to end and the next is going to begin. You have to recreate that group setting and Revoice really helps to smooth things out and makes everything sound unified.
Is there any particular ‘go to’ feature you use the most in Revoice Pro?
We mainly use Revoice for time alignment like VocALign but we also use some very subtle re-tuning on certain notes. The Quick Doubler is great and certainly saves us session musician fees; and the ‘slightly loose time and pitch’ preset is one that I use all the time because the tighter preset phases out too much for me and can sound undesirable - although it really depends on the instrument or vocal performance your working with. We then like to sync all of the other parts so that everything is lined-up perfectly and in-tune. That is what’s amazing about the software and what really saves us time - especially when it comes to re-pitching and re-timing big brass bands.
However, we’re really lucky to work with some amazing musicians so we rarely need to make any major adjustments, just very subtle changes, A/B’ing as we go. I used to make edits by hand in my DAW and there was a lot of guesswork involved with edits often being heard - but not anymore. I find Revoice Pro far more transparent. It opens up quickly, it never crashes, it’s easy to audition and set-up an audition path and selecting and spotting regions makes it really simple to do a lot of things at once without getting confused. Engineers don’t like to admit it but quite often, multi-tasking in the studio can take its toll. You’ve got the singer yelling one thing at you in one ear and the bass player and guitarist trying to learn their parts in the other, all while you're trying to sync up the vocals! So it’s just nice to be able to edit time and pitch quickly and know that it will work every time without fail.
"The Quick Doubler is great and certainly saves us session musician fees; and the ‘slightly loose time and pitch’ preset is one that I use all the time."
Finally, what would be the most valuable piece of advice that you would pass on to someone starting out in professional audio?
Start young, learn an instrument and be a musician first and foremost - before moving into production. Learn about songwriting, develop your skills and technique and have fun playing in bands first. You can’t fake that and it’s invaluable to develop your love of music before moving into the more technological side of things. For example, you could be in a studio working as a tea boy, assistant or runner and a piano player doesn’t show up for a session. If you can play piano well, quite often the band or artist will let you record the parts instead - and that will always get you more kudos and respect in the long run.
The second piece of advice would be to develop a strong business sense and learn the industry inside-out. Run your life like a business, run your studio like a business and run all of your musical aspects like a business.
Find out more about Kid Pan Alley over on their website here.
Listen to some of their songs over on their Soundcloud page here.
For downloads and more information on getting the best from using Revoice Pro, click this link and select your DAW.