VocALigning Hip Hop Vocal Takes For Dr. Dre’s Record Label - Quentin Gilkey
As Aftermath Entertainment’s Chief Engineer, Quentin Gilkey (Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar and Earl Sweatshirt) believes that people perform at their best when they’re challenged and uses VocALign on “a great deal of vocal and instrumental stacks.” He also believes that “manual alignment is too time consuming and still very inconsistent” and VocALign’s fast and accurate alignment helps him to be “effective, efficient, and organized.”
For Quentin Gilkey, music has been the driving force for everything in his life. Growing up playing classical piano before transitioning over to jazz, music performance remained his primary focus until his junior year at college.
“Every night I performed at concerts or played jazz at local cafes, weddings, and other events. It was all I knew. I never questioned how a record was actually made.”
After a while, he and his friends wanted to start making beats and writing rhymes for fun. So he purchased some basic recording equipment, including: a small Shure mic, Pro Tools and a pair of speakers and began a new journey into the recording process.
“For the first time I was behind the glass and no longer the performer. Not long after, I had a faculty advisor explain to me that there may be a career path in audio engineering. He told me about a school in Phoenix, Arizona, called The Conservatory of Recording Arts. After extensive research on the program, I knew audio engineering was what I needed to pursue.”
After graduation, his journey from an assistant to full-time engineer afforded him the opportunity to work with a number of unique artists in several studios, and try out different recording techniques. Fast forward to today and, after being in the right place at the right time, he’s currently Chief Engineer at Dr. Dre’s famed Aftermath Entertainment, a division of Universal Music.
"I have never been challenged as an engineer the way Dre challenges me. I strive to work harder, be better, and improve every day. Working for a man that constantly gives 110 percent, forces you to match that energy. And, I can honestly say it’s made me a stronger engineer.”
“Six months after moving to Los Angeles, I was hired as a runner at Paramount Recording Studios. Paramount owns and manages several other recording studios around LA. Dr. Dre happened to be leasing one of their studios in Burbank and, after a few months, I was transferred as a runner at Paramount to his location called Encore. I was introduced to his production manager and we clicked. He took me under his wing and that is really where my relationship with Aftermath began. After some time, I transitioned from a runner to assistant engineer, working the night shift with writers. I slowly worked my way up to assisting Mauricio Iragorri, Dre’s main engineer at the time. I idolized his work ethic and his approach to making a record. Logging countless hours with Mauricio, I actively watched his process mixing and recording and soon began to adopt his style. As my role evolved and I became Dre’s main engineer, I knew everything about his setup, how he communicates, and how the people around him work, allowing for a smooth transition. I thought I knew it all, until I locked in my full-time position as Chief Engineer. I have never been challenged as an engineer the way Dre challenges me. I strive to work harder, be better, and improve every day. Working for a man that constantly gives 110 percent, forces you to match that energy. And, I can honestly say it’s made me a stronger engineer.”
So what’s been Quentin’s favorite piece of studio equipment so far?
“This may sound weird, but strangely enough my speakers are my favorite piece of studio gear. We use PMC twotwo6’s. I think we all have plugins on top of plugins and while I do have my favorites, they don’t get used on every record. My speakers do. I need them to evoke a certain emotion.”
"As audio engineers we are at the wheel. We have the power to regulate the momentum of a session in terms of how fast or slow we work. Manual alignment is too time consuming and still very inconsistent. It’s vital to have many tools in your arsenal that help you to be effective, efficient and organized. VocAlign does just that for me.”
As part of his engineering workflow, he uses VocALign on every record.
“We do a great deal of vocal and instrument stacks. Whether on rap lead backgrounds, hook lead stacks, or even quick stabs. It is incredibly useful with percussions, rhythmic pieces, and guitars when in need of a quick and accurate alignment of stacks. As audio engineers we are at the wheel. We have the power to regulate the momentum of a session in terms of how fast or slow we work. Manual alignment is too time consuming and still very inconsistent. It’s vital to have many tools in your arsenal that help you to be effective, efficient and organized. VocAlign does just that for me."
After working with such an impressive roster of hip hop and production legends over the years, Quentin is happy to share his advice with audio professionals just starting out.
“Learn how other people in your field work. I used to get Pro Tools templates from every engineer I could. It really helped me find speed and improve efficiency in my workflow. It’s like a pianist learning to play piano. They listen to other players.”
For a free, 14 day trial and more information on getting the best from using VocALign Project or VocALign Pro, click this link and select your DAW.