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In the studio with Rafasan
Jaz from the RepostExchange Team
Jul. 13, 2023

Join us as we spotlight Atlanta-based music producer and DJ, Rafasan. With a decade of experience under his belt, Rafasan offers unique insights into his music-making journey, revealing his loyalty to Ableton Live and his love for Rupert Neve gear. From self-learning through YouTube tutorials, earning a master's degree in music production from Berklee Online, to developing a keen ear for critique in music production Discord groups. Read on as Rafasan shares his industry tips, favourite pieces of gear, and the thrill of playing his rework of John Summit & Hayla’s 'Where You Are' at his shows.

How long have you been producing music and how did you learn? 

I’ve been producing music and DJing for 10 years now. I started in high school and self-taught myself through various YouTube tutorials. I grew very passionate about production during high school and enrolled in Full Sail University after graduation, where I received a Bachelor's degree in Music Production after 20 months in their program. From there, I moved back home to open up my studio while working toward my Master's degree in Music Production from Berklee Online which I received in 2021.

What DAW(s) do you use and why?

I have used a handful of DAWs through the years including, Logic Pro X, FL Studio, Reason, and Pro Tools, but my first and main DAW has always been Ableton Live. I find it the most intuitive and it has always fit my workflow best through the various iterations of my musical process.

What are your favourite pieces of gear and why?

I’m a big fan of Rupert Neve gear. I have a Shelford Channel that I run the majority of my recorded elements through as well as an RND Satellite summing mixer, Master Buss Processor & Master Buss Converter which I print my tracks through as the final step in my mixing process.

What are your favourite software plugins and why?

Fabfilter Pro Q/Saturn, Xfer Serum, iZotope Ozone & the Soundtoys bundle are among my favourites. I find these very intuitive, easy to use, and they have a good selection of presets to help me get my work done faster. Besides those, I try to stick to Ableton’s stock plugins when possible nowadays. I have a lot of Universal Audio plugins as well, which I love, but I found them tough to use while producing on the road, so I’ve tried to simplify my plugin workflow to make it easier when transferring projects between my travelling laptop and my studio computer.

How would you summarise your approach/workflow when creating a track?

This largely depends on the style of music that I’m working in and whether I’m producing for myself or someone else. But for my own music, I’ll first listen to some music on Spotify to draw inspiration. Once something hits me, (whether that be a drum groove, synth sound, or particular rhythm, etc.) I’ll try to do something similar but put my own twist on it. I also utilize a template project that helps me get started really quickly so I’m not having to set up a project when the inspiration hits.

What resources do you use to improve your craft?

At this point, I mostly just use a lot of peer feedback to get second opinions on tracks and ideas. I find this is also a good way to jumpstart collaborations between artists. I would definitely recommend joining some sort of community or making friends that are into producing to bounce stuff off of. Even just getting friends who may be into the same style of music you make to give you their first impressions, as a set of fresh ears can be very valuable.

What is the last YouTube tutorial you watched that you would recommend to other Re-Ex members?

If you’re working in dance music, Kick & Bass and also Zen World have awesome tutorials. They’re typically my go-to’s if I’m going to check out new YouTube tutorials.

What knowledge or advice do you wish you'd learned earlier?

Don’t compare yourself to others. Using a song as a reference is one thing to try and match something in the mixing phase. Still, as far as composition and songwriting, I would try to make stuff that inspires you and that you’d listen to in your free time rather than emulating something that has already been done.

What challenges related to making music do you face and how do you overcome them?

For the longest time, I felt like my music wasn’t matching up to the commercially released music I was hearing. After years of practice and trial & error, I realized how to make my music sound like the other music I was hearing. Referencing. Literally by dragging that song into my project & comparing each element of your track to make the mix sound as similar as possible.

Can you share any killer tips or techniques?

See the answer above, referencing is a huge game changer.

Do you use any online tools to assist with the production process?

It may sound funny, but Google! I Google so much stuff, especially when making remixes. This could be the key, BPM, or chords of the original song. Fadr is also a great site for separating the individual elements or stems of a song for sampling.

Do you try and get feedback or suggestions to improve your music? If so, how?

All the time! I’m in a handful of music production Discord groups where we’re always sharing music for feedback. I know I mentioned community earlier in the interview too, but this is super important.

Which track are you most proud of and why?

It’s not out yet, but out of the ones that are, my latest edit of John Summit & Hayla’s Where You Are has gotten the biggest reaction I’ve ever had since I started releasing music. Very proud of that one & it’s also very fun to play at my shows.

Has RepostExchange affected the way you make music? If so, how?

RepostExchange has definitely helped me to reach a wider audience, and that in turn motivates me to make more music!

Desert Island Gear

Top L-R: Ableton Live, iZotope Ozone.

Bottom L-R: Focal Trio6 Be, RND Satellite summing mixer, Audeze headphones.

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This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.