Sergio Aldana Triana is a music producer, a student (and native member) of the digital age. His work has covered many different genres and has brought him to Los Angeles, where he has continued his habit of uses innovative methods to tell original musical stories. He also recently won the Brady Watts Bass Sound Challenge, which was judged by the legendary producer himself.
What follows is a conversation we had with Segio, in which we talk about is creative process, his impressions of Los Angeles, and how he copes with the proliferation of digital production.
Tell us about your process for making your winning submission to the Brady Watts Bass Sound Challenge.
Aldana Triana: The process was very intuitive and fun. The challenge was about making a song out of different bass lines provided by Brady and Indaba. I got really inspired by Brady’s bass lines and actually, I spent quite some time choosing what bass line I would make the song out of. I got the chance to work out the lyrics with Lyusi Simon, who is super talented and very fast when writing lyrics. I first created the beat and also established the form of the song. I wanted to win this contest and there was almost no time left when I heard about it. So I tried to put the song together as much as possible before Lyusi came to my home studio. Once she came in, the vibe of the song was kind of set up and she wrote the lyrics right after. We recorded the vocals the same night and after that, I spent a few hours working on the mix and on polishing last details.
Which of your work are you proudest of so far?
Aldana Triana: I think I feel very proud of the four songs I composed and sent back in 2012 to Berklee [College of Music] to apply for a composition scholarship. I got the Writing and Composition Scholarship and that gave me the opportunity to study at the school of my dreams. I haven’t really touched those songs since then, in the sense of rearranging or re-recording them. I prefer to preserve them the way they are and the way they were written.
Do you prefer to work within certain genres of music?
Aldana Triana: I don’t think so. I haven’t really found that preference yet. And I think it’s because I enjoy working on versatile and different projects. Sometimes you get a call to do something you haven’t really done, and once you accept the challenge and start working on it, you realize you have learned new stuff, and on top of that, you realize that it was actually a fun project to work on. Also, I consider myself really young, musically, and I think I still need to learn more, write more, and explore way more music to certainly get to that preference.
How would you describe the music scene in L.A.?
Aldana Triana: Huge. There is a market for everyone in the music scene in LA. It is really diverse. It can vary from jazz cats to rock shredders, composers and producers with all kinds of musical backgrounds. Super talented people are around all the time and I think the beauty of that is that you get your hands dirty on real-world projects with experienced people that you can learn a lot from.
The majority of people that I know here mostly play and write or produce music for artists, films, and TV shows. Constantly, you keep developing a new skill, not just because you have to work on different music projects, but also because you are surrounded and get to work with very talented people who are willing to show you new stuff.
What’s some of your upcoming work that you’re excited about?
Aldana Triana: There are a few. There is a documentary film that I am writing the music for. The director Florencia Krochik and I are excited about how the film and the music are working together. There is also a music video release on our first single ‘Parrapa’ and a few other singles coming out from my band called El Feeling, a Latin alternative music project. I’m also working on the production of an EP for singer-songwriters Abe Mc and Lyusi Simon and I’m excited to put them out in the world.
Has working as a producer changed the way you listen to music?
Aldana Triana: Absolutely, almost every time I listen to a song, no matter how many times I’ve heard it, I’m listening in a critical listening mode, which is nothing more than paying extra attention to every detail of the song in different aspects, such as harmony, melody, prosody, song form, vocal production, the mix and so many more. Of course there is so much you can learn just from carefully listening to records. With practice, listening to music that way becomes second nature, and in fact, it’s rare for me to not listen to music that way.
Do you have a creative philosophy that you apply to all of your work?
Aldana Triana: When producing a song for someone else, I try to keep in mind during the whole production process my first emotional reaction to the song or demo. I think there is no chance for a second impression. Lots of the ideas that come into place during the production process and the final product come from that first listening. Sometimes a different production approach or direction may be needed for the song, but I still use that first impression to stay grounded on what the song conveys to me and what we would like to convey with it.
What is your advice to other musicians trying to become professional producers?
Aldana Triana: There are a few underestimated and sometimes forgotten aspects involved in the music production. There are different profiles of a music producer, but the bottom line is that a good one is a great leader, not necessarily all the time, but when one has the hat of producer. That way, you may be interested in learning and developing strong skills of good communication, managing, logistics, and even business foundations when it comes to building your own brand or company.
I think is also essential to have a mentor, whether at school or out of it. Mentors can help you a lot in your learning process with all the technical and theoretical aspects, but they can also help you with advice that can keep your music career grounded and make things more efficient when pursuing your goals. Lastly, listen to old records, and read and listen to interviews of your favorites.
Do you enjoy that production can be done 100% digitally now, or do you prefer to work with actual mixing boards and other hardware devices?
Aldana Triana: Most of the work I do is done at my home studio and probably 80% of that is digital. I enjoy that because of all the possibilities and control you have in such a fast and efficient way. Of course, I get very excited when I get to record drums, guitars or vocals at a studio. Very often the possibilities of running the whole production process at a studio, home studio or in the box are determined by the budget of the project.