beat studio headphones Students create a song with pros at music camp
Meanwhile, in an upstairs classroom at Turbine Flats, Khari “Needlz” Cain was schooling a handful of guys in the art of production while crafting a beat and layering in the track for the song being recorded a floor below.
“What I hear off the top is the hi hat going crazy all the time,” Cain said. “It would be cool to make a track and separate it out.”
Using his MacBook and ProTools, he did just that, along the way explaining to the high school students concepts like gating, transients and EQ, dropping in references to Dr. Dre and urging them to pay attention to what he was doing.
“One hundred percent of professional work happens in ProTools,” Cain said. “This is the program you guys need to learn, for sure.
The 15 or so campers were selected from applications that required them to have some kind of musical proficiency.
Close to equally split between boys and girls, they came from Lincoln high schools, middle schools and as far away as Geneva to get hands on experience, writing songs, recording and producing under the tutelage of Combs, who’s had his songs on the radio; Griffin, who mixed for the likes of P Diddy when he was based in New York and Cain, who’s worked with Drake, Lil Wayne, Kendrick Lamar and Bruno Mars.
On Monday, Malcolm Opoku, a Lincoln High senior who’s aiming to make his life making music, was locked into watching and helping Cain, focusing on the producer as he rapid fire pushed buttons on his AKAI MPC Live, a new top of the line sequencer and sampler.
Then Cain handed the AKAI over to Opoku, letting him make the beats that would underlie the song.
“It was really cool working with Needlz equipment,” Opokusaid. “I have a beat maker, but it’s nothing like that. The quality of it is way, way better. He’s a pro. It was really cool having him give me mixing and mastering tips. It’s not every day producers that big in the music industry are in Nebraska. That’s what I want to be one day.”
From his point of view, Cain, who frequently does these sort of workshops, says Okopu and the other Lincoln campers might just become producers.
“They’re really on it,” he said. “I’m really impressed with a lot of them, how serious they are taking it and how eager they are to learn. We’re catching them fairly young. It’s kind of like planting seeds for what they can do. I wish I’d have had this opportunity when I was coming up.”
On Tuesday morning, Grace Lundy and Micah Stanley headed into Turbine Flats to help finish the song they’d worked on for the previous three days, starting with its writing.
“I learned a lot about making music as a group,” said Lundy, who carried her acoustic guitar throughout the camp. “I learned a lot about collaborating and supporting others and about having confidence.”
Stanley, who was about to record the rap in the middle of the song, said the camp was inspiring.
“It made me remember why I wanted to do this in the first place,” he said. “I learned a lot of things about production from Needlz. It was very inspiring to work with him and see how it works and how we can do it.”
By late Tuesday afternoon, the song, titled “Nobody But You” was coming into shape with its catchy pop R melody and hook broken up in the middle by Stanley’s rap.
“It’s one of those songs people will love, but hate it at the same time,” Lundy said.
But the song was hours away from completion. Griffin was arranging a stack of tracks in ProTools, preparing to pick specific voices for each passage, blend them and add, if needed the EQ, compression and reverb that Cain had educated the students about.
“We’ve got a song, for sure,” Griffin said. “I’ve still got some work to do on it. And it’s got to be mastered. But it’s going to turn out good.”
Good enough that, sometime soon “Nobody But You” will get played on Red 94.5, an occasion that will likely bring the group, which the girls in the studio were calling the Originals, back together.
And, then, next year, Men With Dreams’ Brandon McWilliams said, another Inspire to Dream Music Camp can provide the same opportunity to another 15 or so Lincoln students who have music in their dreams.