Student Spotlight: Allie Alvarado on Learning to Think Like an Engineer – Soundfly

Soundfly

Home for the Curious Musician

Student Spotlight: Allie Alvarado on Learning to Think Like an Engineer

This reflection was written by Soundfly alumna Allie Alvarado, an LA-based songwriter and producer, and details her experience working with Sırma as her mentor in a recent Soundfly mentorship session.

By Allie Alvarado

I started working on a sketch for a new EP when I was doing some touring in Europe last year and felt inspired. It had been a few years since my last release so I want to regroup and think about starting something new.

I’d been writing songs for a while in Logic Pro, so I knew how to record myself singing and get the kind of instrumentation and sounds I wanted. I’d never tried mixing the tracks down myself so I was up for a new challenge. I also really wanted to update my vocal chain and see what new vocal production techniques were out there.

Sırma’s Modern Pop Vocal Production course launched shortly after I signed up for Soundfly and after doing some exercises on my own it made sense to dive in more deeply with some guidance.

I was working on a track called “Syllables of Love” which I thought would be a good song to use as an introduction to the course because I envisioned a lot of vocal harmonies. The song is about the healing power of love. Sometimes it’s easy to feel isolated because of hardships in our lives but feeling separate is just an illusion.

You can listen to the current state of my demo of “Syllables of Love” here.

There’s a force that unites us all together and like the lyrics say it’s “a language full of hope” that is inclusive of everyone — a feeling that we’re all in this human experience together. I wanted there to be a choir of comforting voices supporting this message in the song.

In fact, I did end up with a lot of vocal takes and tracks and Sırma guided me through all of the editing and production needed to get a nice tone for my voice and polish the stacks of harmonies.

“Learning to think about sounds as overlapping frequencies, like an engineer would, helped me bring out the most important elements of the song in a cohesive way.”

Some of the highlights were learning about using reverb and delay busses with multiple settings to create more depth. I also enjoyed automating momentary effects to add movement and intrigue to the song.

+ Learn on Soundfly: Join Modern Pop Vocal Production and learn to produce vocals at home that sound modern, polished, and professional without a $10k mic.

I had such a great experience and was so happy with the result that I decided to just go ahead and finish mixing the rest of the song with Sırma’s engineering help. When I wrote the song, I wasn’t exactly thinking like an engineer so I tended to have a lot more sounds than I actually needed to express what I wanted in the song.

Learning to think about sounds as overlapping frequencies, like an engineer would, helped me bring out the most important elements of the song in a cohesive way.

“I got a chance to reflect on why I was choosing certain sounds or cutting or boosting frequencies. It made me so much more present to what was actually happening in the mix.”

Sırma helped me focus on getting a solid, simplified drum and bass groove to lock down the song’s foundation along with the vocals. Then I started to slowly add in a few more melodic and harmonic components, like an electric piano and guitar, and worked on warming up those sounds with saturation and other effects. Finally, I added back all of the atmospheric sounds that filled in the vibe and helped glue parts in the arrangement together.

I got a lot of detailed feedback during these sessions and it really opened my eyes to a more intentional way of writing and mixing music. I got a chance to reflect on why I was choosing certain sounds or cutting or boosting frequencies. It made me so much more present to what was actually happening in the mix. I knew I wanted to be able to bounce ideas off of someone and it was great to have a mentor who could steer me the right direction.

I really surprised myself with my first attempt at writing, producing and mixing a song on my own; but I definitely couldn’t have done it without the support I got from Sırma and Soundfly.

Ready for a session of your own?

Soundfly’s community of mentors can help you set the right goals, pave the right path toward success, and stick to schedules and routines that you develop together, so you improve every step of the way. Tell us what you’re working on, and we’ll find the right mentor for you! 

Sign up here for Soundfly’s weekly newsletter.

Guest Writers
Guest Writers

Soundfly welcomes new voices each month to offer unique perspectives, shine a light on unexpected musical worlds, and help our readers find their sound.