Thomas McKay: A Day In My Studio Life

Posted by Thomas McKay 14 comments

08:00 am – Time for Coffee …

In the morning, I typically review new demos and check for new mixes from award-winning mix engineer Vic Florencia who mixes most of the records I make.

Today I’m listening to the most recent Dani Doucette mix of a song called “Post It”. I listen at a low volume end to end first. The A77X studio monitors let me know if the vocal is right and if the fidelity and clarity are where I like them to be. I then give it more volume and listen to the kick vs vocal. Is there a balance there where the vocal cuts and the rhythm section is banging ? That’s where the Sub10 MK2 subwoofer works it’s magic. All the sub info is revealed and I know whether we’ve gone too far or whether we’re good. Then I play it quite loud for a few seconds to see what it does to my system. I can play “Levitating” by Dua Lipa or “Boyshit” by Madison Beer quite loud and the mix sounds balanced so I know that it is possible to sound great at high volume.

THIS is why I work with my ADAM Audio A77X studio monitors and Sub10 MK2 subwoofer every day. I trust these speakers implicitly to reveal what is in the recordings that I’m producing. I rely on ADAM Audio’s accuracy to help create a clear path to the mix stage with no surprises.

10:30 am – Let’s do some recording

After the A&R part of my day is complete, I set up mics and signal paths. The first session commences at 11:00 am and goes until 3:00 pm. Today, it’s with an artist named Favvkes. Typically these sessions involve overdubs with drum programming, louder synths, electric guitars, electric bass and vox through amps.

Today we’re tracking her Les Paul through my Marshall Plexi,  Shure 57, Royer 121, BAE 1084’s, Distressors and finally into the Pro Tools session. Favvkes likes it loud and the volume in the control room goes up. I record a ripping guitar tone that fires the X-ART tweeters up til’ they’re toasty, but they’re solid.

03:00 pm – Quick Break

The A77Xs and Sub 10 MK2 rest for a 1/2 hour. They never look like they need a rest. In fact, I swear I can hear them whispering “Let’s go!” while I’m eating lunch.

03:30 pm – Another overdub session

Often Pianos, Woodwinds, Strings, Arranging and Writing during this time of the day. This is where the A77Xs shine. Hearing the detail in the music, the edge of a bow, the air around the embouchure of a flute, the sizzle of percussion. All these sounds can be tracked faithfully.

Today, we’re tracking cello on a Peter Serrado song. I put my Telefunken 251 a foot and 1/2 away from the right side of the instrument and the rest is up to the player. Getting results with complex tunings and intonations requires clarity. The A77Xs reference perfectly and any sounds that aren’t right are identified and adjusted pre keeper takes.

06:30 pm – Quick Break

My monitors and I stop for a 1/2 hour. I go to the garden and rest my ears and eat some vegetables. I love home grown vegetables and music!

07:00 pm – Final session of the day: vocals

The grid is quieter now and singers are in form when the moon is out. Today I have an artist named Childlike singing into my Telefunken 251, Great River 1NV, Retro 176, and again into Pro Tools. Childlike has incredible control and is always ready, so we track a lead and most of the backgrounds in just 3 hours. We know having the right playback sound for singers is crucial and the Adams always help me here. The voice always shines and sounds full bodied through the A77Xs. This builds confidence.

10:00 pm – Time to go home

Another great day! I power down, turn off the lights and thank my studio.

About the author

Author: Thomas McKay

Thomas McKay is a producer with an A&R heart. From tracking and touring with pop/rock band “Five Guys Named Moe”, touring the house classic “Push The Feeling On” as a member of “Nightcrawlers”, to founding the rock band “Joydrop”, he has always stood by the maxim “the song is king!”.

Thomas facilitates the success of musicians, providing production, song-writing, multi-instrument skills and engineering in an Equity and Diversity Inclusive safe space that thrives on delivering resonant and honest music.

See all articles by Thomas McKay

  • Chloe Watkinson says:

    I’ve worked with Tom several times, and it’s always been a pleasure! Whatever hat he wears, he wears it well. As good a person as you can hope to meet, and an extremely talented producer.

  • Katey Morley says:

    He never sleeps, he never slumbers… til the record sounds like a million dollar affair!!

  • Such a talented and incredibly hard-working musician! Fabulous.

  • Dani Doucette says:

    Thomas is a master 🙂 a complete professional

  • Love the way Thom McKay tracks my voice. He’s the best! Everything always sounds great in my headphones which gives me all the space I need to really let go and make magic!

  • matt says:

    I’ve been in this studio and the monitoring is top notch. Ya Thomas!

  • Dave Dysart says:

    Hi Thomas. Nice one ! Congratulations from your friends at YSL Pro !

  • I’ve worked closely with Tom most of my professional career. His passion, and love for music comes through in everything he works on. Tom’s musical palette is wide and diverse, and his instincts and ears are, sensitive, keen, open, and sharp. He’s a skilled multi-instrumentalist, a gifted collaborator/songwriter and a hell of a producer that elevates any project he takes on to levels that the artist never even imagined. Trust me, I know … Tom has produced both of my Leh-Lo solo albums.
    Great snapshot of a day in the life of one of the hardest working people I know!

  • Bianca says:

    Tom is an amazing producer and I love working in his studio – the sound is incredible! I love the sound of his monitors.

  • I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Thom in action producing his magic. He runs his studio like a Swiss watch with those Adam Monitors. They sound amazing!

  • Andrew says:

    This is an awesome and well deserved feature on Thomas. He is an amazing producer, really wonderful to work with, and one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met in the industry. Oh, and ALL of the tracks I’ve ever worked on with him are total bangers…bravo!

  • Doc MacLean says:

    Right on! It has been nothing but a pleasure to track in this studio. It was good before, but the recent upgrade to Adam Audio has really put it over the top. World class.

  • Maureen Honoré says:

    All the wonderful accolades Thom gets, he absolutely deserves! It’s a privilege and pleasure working with him – I trust his ear and instincts with my precious songs, plus he’s just really great people (and everything he makes sounds GREAT!!!!!)

  • McKay has been producing beautiful sounds out of Exeter Sound Studios for over 15 years now. I visited from Ireland last summer and his set up (including his Adam monitors) was sounding strong. I’ve never met anyone who lives and breathes music like this man. Be sure – once you’ve got him on your team, he’ll go the extra mile, no nonsense, no agenda, just honesty, passion and know how. Tom is all about the music.

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