AC Beatmatching Madness from the UK – Enter Chris Ward

Chris Ward, Imaging Director for Real Radio in UK emailed me a few weeks ago and sent me an incredible piece of audio. He really got me tracked down on this AC piece, which he called a ‘Mini Mash’ (and as I get a lots of audio all the time, this is not easy)

But check it on your own.

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Sure, I had to interview this guy and find out more, how he creates those ‘mini mashes’. Check out more audio from Chris and some more Imaging wisdom including screen caps and tricks – Enter Chris Ward

Chris, how did you create those Beatmixes?

All of these beat mixes were produced in Audition. The biggest challenge with these is to find songs on the stations playlist that will work together without having to be pitched up or down horrific amounts.

How did you match the key? did you used acapellas / instrumentals, did you reproduced / composed parts of the songs to match keys etc…

The first step was to take the stations entire playlist and work out the BPM and Key Signatures of everything we play. I used a piece of software called “Mixed in key” to do this – it works pretty well and is accurate about 99% of the time.

From there I’d select songs I thought would work well together and check their key and tempo manually. You’d almost always have to pitch something up or down a semi tone or so – and tracks would almost always need to be sped up or slowed down a little to make them fit together properly.

I was very keen that everything sounded “natural”. I really didn’t want it to sound like we had been forcing these tracks together – I tried hard to avoid pitching or speeding tracks up or down too much.

Many of the mini mashes have been produced either using acapellas or by using heavily filtered versions of the original tracks. In places I’ve had to add in extra beats or remake part of the instrumental backing track. The most common thing I needed to do though was added in a solid beat behind the whole piece in order that I have something that can help “lock” everything together.

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Which production system do you use and why?

I use two systems – Adobe Audition 3 for audio editing and Pro Tools for any music / beat creation. Both systems run the waves plugins – I use the gold bundle and a couple of extra “choice” plugins that I’ve found.

I find audition excellent for audio editing – it’s just so quick and stream lined. Plus it has a few unique features that – for me are just awesome. However when it comes to music / beat creation pro-tools really does reign supreme for me.

What are your favorite plugIns (including screenshots)?

My personal favourites (in no particular order) are……….

Waves Renaissance EQ – it just has a great sound – a little bit of “grit” but not too much – perfect.

Waves L1 – So long as you don’t go crazy with it – it just doesn’t colour the sound.

Waves MetaFlanger – again another really clean effect that you can create some awesome sounds with.

Vengeance Philta XL – for me this is the perfect dynamic EQ – if you want to really automate an EQ to create effects in your beat mixes etc – this is the one to have.

Waves Super Tap – there’s just sooooo much you can do with it

Waves Tune – just awesome for “forcing” music into a certain key.

How do you schedule your work (priorities…..)?

I try to work through things in the order in which they are required on air or by the sales teams. Often however many things have the same deadline – when that happens I will try to vary the work so I’m not spending hours working on one type of project.

For keeping things in order etc – I’m a big fan of the calendar in Microsoft office and I’ve always got a pad with a “to do list” on it.

What do you love about being the Brand Producer @  REAL Radio?

I think I’m so lucky to have this job. I get to be creative, work with some of the best people in the industry and can spend all day mucking around with music or scripting fun things. What’s not to love?

What is the best Pro Tools or production trick anybody should know?

This is a bit of a cop-out – however I think for me it would be make sure you leave time machine on the Mac running all the time. I’ve had a few HDD failures in the last few years and having time machine making constant backups has been an absolute god send. If you’re running a mac – I’d strongly suggest you leave an external drive connected running time machine.

How do you get inspired and what do you use as source of creativity?

I don’t think I have “one trick” for finding inspiration, Movie trailers are great for ideas, music wise DJ Earworm and DJs from Mars do some really cool and clever things with music. And of course listening to other people’s production is always a great source for inspiration.

Who were your radio production idols, who influenced your work as a  producer?

When I first started learning about radio production I was incredibly fortunate to have met Steve Pigott – he’s a truly incredible producer and his production and sound really inspired me.

Further on in my career, people like Ben Needle were a great source of inspiration and his work is first-rate.

Most recently however I’ve been working closely with Chris Stevens who is the group deputy program director of Real Radio & Smooth Radio UK. He’s a fantastic boss and just outstanding when it comes to anything musical. Over the last 12 months he’s really helped shape my production and helped me “focus” the sound of Real Radio.

What would be your 3 key pieces of advice for a youngster?

Understand the brand you’re working for, just because what you produced might sound awesome on “Kiss 100” it doesn’t mean it’s right for “Lite FM”

Smile, be friendly – it’s radio – it should be fun.

Don’t tell your mother you’re going to be a Doctor and then change your mind at the last-minute and go into radio………………seriously they’ll be disappointed for YEARS and YEARS!

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