Grammy-winning VocALign User David Kim (Kendrick Lamar, Nipsey Hussle, Hit-Boy) Shares His Story
Based out of Chalice Studios in Los Angeles, double Grammy-winning and multi-platinum engineer David Kim has added some big artists to his CV - Kendrick Lamar, Nipsey Hussle, Hit-Boy, DJ Khaled, and Future to name but a few. But it's not always been that way. David started out in the music industry as an unpaid studio intern, has put in crazy hours over many years and patiently worked his way up to the top.
After we found out David was a big VocALign fan, we got in touch to ask him a few questions...
How and when did you get into engineering?
My intro to engineering was recording my friends in my parents garage. Back then, I didnt know what engineering was, but it lead to me enrolling into the Audio Engineering program at Musicians Institute, Hollywood.
Can you tell us more about what an engineer actually does?
Engineers capture and manipulate sound to create a result pleasing to the ear. Recording engineers are responsible for capturing the best possible performance of a source, whether its an instrument or vocals. Mix engineers take all the components of a song, piece by piece and blends them together to achieve a set goal, usually radio play or some sort of chart.
How did winning a Grammy change your career?
The first Grammy was more of a checkpoint, there was still some doubt, considering I didnt feel a lot of responsibility for the win. The second Grammy, for Nipsey Hussle's 'Racks In The Middle', was from a song that I fully mixed, so it felt like validation. I still consider any type of accolade as a checkpoint, rather than a destination. More than anything, it was an amazing feeling gifting them to my parents.
From an engineers perspective, do you think Hip Hop vocal production has changed much in recent years?
Yeah, hip hop vocals are pumped out at a faster pace than they used to be. I remember at the beginning of my career, an artist would take more time on each song, but I think with the development of producers and engineers, each song is now completed at a faster pace. Plus, with the accessibility for anyone to create music, the audience has gotten less patient.
You're known for Hip Hop but we know you've worked in other genres too, does your approach to engineering change depending on the genre?
Definitely. I've been in sessions all across the board. From, country to rap to pop to Kpop, I feel my experience in these different genres helped me understand the differences in the creative processes. Certain artists love to build a song from scratch with their producers, which may take a full 12 day or sometimes even 2. On the opposite end, certain rappers come and knock out 4-5 songs in one night. As an engineer, we must be able to accommodate to these different paces, along with the different energies and vibe that come with them.
What are the biggest challenges you come up against as an engineer, especially in relation to vocals?
Mixing poorly recorded vocals. With the rise of the youtube era and affordable equipment, a lot of artists now record themselves. This is fine but there is a lack of quality when the person recording is multitasking and sometimes that leads to neglect in recording quality.
You don't have to name any artists, but do you mind sharing a recent example(s) of when you used VocALign?
Anytime I record or mix songs with multiple vocal stacks, I pull up VocALign Pro. This is an everyday occurrence. If VocALign didn't exist, it would definitely disrupt my workflow.
What do you feel is unique about Synchro Arts software?
Synchro Arts makes it really easy to do something that would take hours to do, while sounding natural.
Do you have a favourite project that youve worked on and why?
Hands down, Nipsey Hussle's 'Racks In The Middle', based on sentimental value, timing of the record, and the impact of his death on the city of Los Angeles and Hip Hop Culture. He was one of my favorite artists and I'm grateful to have been able to work with him.
What advice would you give to aspiring engineers?
This engineering game is not for the faint of heart. It took me years to even set foot inside a studio, even longer to work with big artists. The grind is grueling but at the end of the tunnel is a possibility to work with your favorite artists and have a hand in sculpting their sound. Practice and patience are key, especially in our darkest moments. Engineering, just like everything else, is a roller coaster ride, full of wins, losses, and humbling moments. Everyday I go from thinking I'm on the verge of greatness to thinking I'm the worst engineer in the world. It's all about believing in the process, not the moment.
Huge thanks to David for talking to us and here's a great tutorial he recently posted about using VocALign Pro;