Nineteen year-old Anna Clark works as a Grammy-nominated vinyl mastering engineer at Welcome to 1979 Industries. Nine years ago, she founded 501(c)(3) organization Guitars 4 Gifts, which has given over 1,000 youths access to their first musical instrument.
As a lifelong singer/songwriter/musician, Anna has performed live on Lightning 100 (Nashville’s premier independent radio station), she holds a Certificate in Music Business from the Berklee College of Music and is currently on track to graduate from Belmont University in 2022.
When not working on one of her passion projects, Anna loves to spend time with her dogs or attend concerts with her friends and family.
Let’s find out more about how she’s been navigating through and actualizing all of these different creative sonic environments!
What hardware and software tools help you with your audio work at home these days?
I currently use a StudioLive 16 mixer, a Central Station Plus, HP4 headphone amp, a pair of Sceptre S6 monitors, and Studio One DAW software.
Originally, a friend introduced me to your monitors and I basically fell in love with using them. Because I work in many different areas of audio engineering, I needed products that I could use for any area that I was working in, so that I wouldn’t have to have different setups.
I use my StudioLive mixer pretty much every day. It is great because I save different scenes so that if I am recording a guitar/vocal demo, I have some EQ and compression settings saved, and I can bring them up super easily. I love that I can A/B EQ settings using the A/B button, and I also love the vintage EQ and tube compressor. I also have scenes saved for full band sessions, piano/vocal sessions, and more. The StudioLive mixer makes it super convenient for me to walk up and start working. I will also say that I carry it with me everywhere to run sound for live shows and recordings, and have even used it for a live broadcast of a show. It has never let me down and has always been very easy to set up! Because I am able to save settings from my recording sessions, it makes it even easier to set up for a live show.
Basically, I have various synths, mics, instruments, etc. that I leave set up so that I can record an idea at any time and they go directly into the mixer. From there, I use the Central Station which outputs to my Sceptre monitors along with other monitors and a PreSonus HP4.
We’re curious about your work as a vinyl mastering engineer… can you tell us about that sound-world?
The first thing I do when I’m mastering a project for vinyl is look at all of the files and create a session for them. I then check the length of both of the sides. For each speed and size of disk, there are certain limits for how long the side can be. Next, I typically adjust the overall level of the project. Usually, the project is too loud, even if it hasn’t been mastered before. The louder the project is, the wider the grooves are. If the grooves are too wide and take up too much space, the project won’t be able to fit on the lacquer (the type of disk I cut on to make a vinyl master). I then mono the low end and use an EQ to filter out any frequencies that may give me problems. Sometimes if the vocal has too much sibilance it can cause issues, especially if there are also a lot of hi-hats/cymbals. I then run the project down to make sure it will fit and also to make sure there won’t be any trouble areas. If everything looks good, I’ll cut the project after that! Before I cut a lacquer, though, I have to use a microscope to look at a couple test cuts and make sure the stylus is working properly and that there is enough space in between the grooves.
Moving back to your home studio working environment; tell us more about how you’ve been using Studio One and what led you to our DAW?
For producing, tracking, mixing, and mastering. I will also occasionally use it for live recordings with my StudioLive 16 mixer. It has been a very helpful tool!
One of the main factors that lead me to it was when I was producing, being able to bounce between ideas easily and combine ideas from different files. I tend to either work with an “engineer” mindset or a “creative” mindset. Because of how easy Studio One is to use, I am able to start tracking a song while I am writing it, and I am able to keep my “creative” mindset. It helped me when I would be writing and producing at the same time, because it allowed me to be able to keep my creative hat on while still being able to engineer a track.
It is very quick and easy to use, which is helpful when recording live shows. It makes the show go a lot smoother when you’re not having to worry about having to spend a lot of time setting up a session, etc. I also love how well all of the PreSonus gear works together; it is extremely nice to have products that all communicate together so that I’m not wasting time trying to fix something. If I have an idea, I can walk right into my studio and know that I’ll be able to get everything down fast.
This was especially helpful when I was just getting started as an engineer, because everything was very straightforward when I was setting it up.
All of the PreSonus products work in many different settings. For example, I originally purchased my StudioLive board for live events, but I use it in a studio setting as well and love it there, too!
Finally, let’s talk about you as a creative musical artist!
My main influences for my own music are artists like Maggie Rogers, Florence and the Machine, and St. Vincent. I have a love for analog synths and was lucky enough to get my hands on a couple for this project. I used a Roland Juno 6 and a MOOG Sub Phatty for most of the songs, and then had a drummer/guitarist/bassist add parts to each of the songs as well. I love using basic tools like EQ and reverb to make new sounds that I haven’t heard before. Typically, I will use the Pro EQ plugin that comes with Studio One to take out certain frequencies. The majority of EQ’ing I do is subtractive, because I like to make sure that every instrument has its own space in my songs. A lot of my time is spent experimenting with lots of different effects to try to get the sounds that I can hear in my head. I love the depth that an analog synth and live instruments can bring to a session, but I also love being able to edit a project easily. Even though I’ll record a lot of different instruments, I like to be able to edit each of the parts so that you can feel the song “build up” from each of the verses to the chorus. Studio One makes it really easy for me to audition different parts and figure out what I like. I am also known for creating a bunch of different versions of the same song, and Studio One is able to make my workflow seamlessly. I use the Scratchpad function because I typically write a song while I am also recording it, so I am able to try out different ideas without having to commit. That is one of the things that Studio One does best, is it works for Engineers, but also Songwriters, Artists and Producers of creative content these days online.
I feel very lucky that I found your products because it has really helped me grow my studio and career. Thank you, PreSonus!