More than three years experience in the Gym, Audio Engineer, YouTuber, and Host for Pro Studio Live, @Cato Zane is this month SoundGym Hero!
So how long have you been on SoundGym?
It looks like I joined back in 2016. Time flies!
What was your first connection to music/audio?
Growing up, we had a living room with no TV, and my dad and I would play vinyl records on the record player in there. He got me into bands like Pink Floyd, The Beatles, and The Beach Boys early on. Sometime in elementary school, I got a little canopy bed, and I convinced my parents to get me a surround sound system for my bedroom.
I set it up so that the subwoofer was under my bed, and the surround speakers were hung from the corners and crossbars at the top of my canopy bed.
I remember blasting Pink Floyd in that bed and absolutely loving how the music just surrounded me. I think that`s the moment when I realized how much audio engineering parameters could affect your experience emotionally, and I knew I wanted to learn how to impact that.
By middle school, I thought the canopy bed was *way* too girly for me! But, I never tried to get rid of it because I loved that sound system setup. That bed was my little pod of sound.
Did you get a formal Sound/Production education?
Yeah, in a way. I went to a 4-year liberal arts college in Connecticut and got 3 degrees in Music and Technology, Economics, and Computer Arts and Technology.
The Music and Technology major was very music composition focused with added tech classes, and my Computer Arts and Technology focus was on sound and technology. But, I guess just like every kid just coming out of school ever, I realized I was lacking a lot of information when I graduated.
We did use Pro Tools and stuff in my school, but the focus was really on theory, history, and other facets of Music and Technology that wouldn`t become obsolete as quickly as software updates. So, I realized my weak points were the strengths for a lot of guys that I ended up working with because they were coming out of an audio school with more of a focus on technical training.
But, I mean, it went both ways, and their weak points were my strengths, and I did end up taking Pro Tools cert classes and learning a lot after working for a handful of years, so there`s that.
Tall as about your work at the Pro Studio Live website?
Pro Studio Live is run by a great group of people! They found me shortly after I quit doing live sound to get back into studio work full time, and I couldn`t be more grateful that they gave me the show host gig!
They run these shows where they bring very successful people, mostly audio engineers and producers, into the studio to actually *show* us, and discuss, their process and their work.
They were willing to work with me on my overwhelming awkwardness and camera shyness, which I`m very thankful for. I seriously felt like I was going to throw up when we were about to start our first live stream where I was on camera! But, I allowed myself to be awkward and push through it anyway, and I`m so glad I did.
I want to continue learning through my entire life, and hosting Pro Studio Live episodes has really helped me do that. I`ve had the privilege of meeting and engaging in hands-on learning experiences with some behemoths of the industry, and I couldn`t be more thankful for that! It`s hands down been my favorite gig yet.
You recently released a 'SoundGym Review and Demonstration' video on your YouTube channel (thank you for that!), when did you decide to start creating your own content it and why?
Well, there were a few main reasons. It was a means to establish my professional credibility, and to help push more freelance clients my way. Besides, once I started working with Pro Studio Live, I became more comfortable with the idea of getting in front of people and producing my own content.
Also, to be honest, Pro Studio Live would occasionally get comments from viewers about my experience level. People would wonder if I was even an audio engineer, or make unfavorable comparisons between my experience level and that of men on the show.
The thing is, I would often have just as much, if not more, experience than these men. So, I figured something to build professional credibility wasn`t a bad idea. Pro Studio Live was also kind enough to give me my own series called Pro Tools Authority, where I went through the more technical details of Pro Tools, and that helped bridge the gap, and get me started on creating my own content.
Have you made any music today?
Kind of! I made some ambient musical sounds for the score of a film today. I think that counts!
Tell us a bit about your workflow at the studio?
Well, I do a hybrid of recurring gigs and one-off freelance gigs. So, I`ve learned to do calendar blocking to make sure I have enough time to complete everything, and to make sure that everything is fitting into my work week. That`s been a great help. I`ve also been working towards building up my home studio, and doing more work from there. So, when I`m working at home, I like to take frequent short breaks to help keep my ears fresh.
I don`t know if that counts as workflow, but I feel like it might count, right? Is that the type of workflow that you were wondering about? Otherwise, I tend to keep my sessions very neatly labeled and organized, taking lots of notes as I go. But, I can be fairly distractible and random about what part of a project I`ll approach when. I like to think it helps keep my mind fresh to sometimes impulsively jump to a different sound or section within a piece.
Any habits you have before starting a session?
Yeah, I have a handful of templates that I`ll draw from, and I like to get that set up with any raw files ahead of time. I`ll often do that a day or so before the session actually starts. I also drink a ton of water and like to prep a fresh, full bottle of water, and sometimes some tea and snacks as well, so I don`t feel the need to get up and get more once I get going. Another thing is I like to set the mood in the studio a bit before starting, by doing things like checking the thermostat and dimming lights a bit. It sounds silly, but I think it can have a big impact.
What is one of your favorite production technique?
Does interacting with people count? I mean, don`t get me wrong, I do a lot of work by myself nowadays, and I don`t mind that. But, audio and music can be such a social art, and I think people often undervalue or take for granted the importance of maintaining good and healthy communication and interaction with others as part of the process.
If you`re working with a band, for example, truly listening to their opinions and assisting their communications with each other can obviously be such a crucial part of the production process. But, even if you`re just working on sound effects by yourself, what we hear can be so subjective and psychologically impacted, it`s important to get feedback from fresh ears about what your sound effect actually sounds like to others.
One Free plugin that you recommend?
Oh, I`m not sure…I almost exclusively use Pro Tools, but I`m not even sure which of my Pro Tools plugins were free off the top of my head. I got pretty into the Melda Production Free bundle a while back. Nowadays, the free plugins that I use the most are definitely the noise reduction processes that come with Adobe Audition.
I don`t know how much those count, but they do come with free with Audition, and they`re great! I actually did a Youtube video on those recently, where I walked through what you can do with them, and how to work with them. They`ve just been such a lifesaver for me when working on film projects and podcasts, and it`s amazing when you consider how expensive some of the competing plugins are.
Which three plug-ins you can`t live without?
I love Fabfilter. I have most of their plugins and I just love them. I use their EQ and limiter a ton. I also like messing around with the reFX Nexus plugin for generating noises, instruments, and sounds. They`re a lot of fun to play with! I also really like a lot of Waves plugins, and I like to play around with their different analog-modeled plugins, like the SSL master buss or channel strip, or the CLA-2A.
Favorite piece of studio gear?
This might be cheating the question, because it`s more of an instrument than gear, but I just got a theremin this year and it makes me smile every time I use it! I haven`t gotten any good at it yet, but it`s so much fun to use on projects for noise generation.
Any advice you have for women who wish to enter this field?
You`ll find pockets of the industry where it`s still very much a good old boy`s club, and that can be very frustrating. But, if you really love it (and you`re stubborn and work hard) then you can do it, and for me, it`s been worth powering through that nonsense. It can be very rewarding and a ton of fun, and I`m rooting for you!
What does the future hold for Cato Zane in the music industry?
I`ve actually been recently shifting my freelance focus away from music and more towards sound effects and sound design. I love working with sound textures and the emotional impact of sound design, and I`d love to do more of that. I`m particularly fond of horror and suspense sound design. So, who knows? Maybe there will be more of that in my future.
I`ve also been taking night classes and recently completed the first half of an electronics technician certificate course so that I can work on, and maybe build, sound gear. So, I'll be looking for exciting ways to use that knowledge soon!
Last question, What is your favorite SoundGym Feature, and why?
Well, my main focus has been on doing the daily workouts. So, I love how you can earn sound coins doing that, and trade them in for sample packs and for artists' sounds to be incorporated into your training. Especially with the artists` sounds, it really helps me feel like I`m making progress, while also expanding my workout to make it a bit more challenging and effective. Oh! And I also like the vodka. I`m a vodka girl.