A guitar player’s guitar player, Phil LaBarge is also a savvy producer, engineer, and composer. Detroit-raised and Las Vegas-seasoned, Phil settled in Boston, where he attended Berklee College of Music (Class of 2010) on a scholarship, graduating Cum Laude.
A veteran performer at a young age, LaBarge earned first place in the Luxor Hotel Las Vegas’ 2007 talent show, followed by an honorary performance at Excalibur Hotel’s 2007 talent show. His compositions and performances have been featured in The Jackass Penguin Show and in the Berklee Performance Center. He recorded jingles for Sound Advice Studios in Singapore and served as a session guitarist for Robert Gillies, the Grand Award winner of the 2009 SongDoor International Songwriting Competition. Currently, he is hard at work on his debut solo record.
LaBarge uses Studio One Professional exclusively for all recording, mixing, and scoring to picture in his home studio. While many users cite ease-of-use or sound quality as the first features that drew them to Studio One, what drew Phil’s attention is a bit different: “A co-worker of mine, knowing my passion as a mixing engineer, recommended I look into Studio One for its ‘ease on the eyes’ during long sessions,” he relates. “So many DAWs aren’t comfortable for long sessions, with color schemes that are too bright, over-cluttering, small text, etc. On top of its ease of use, the lack of visual headaches is one of Studio One’s biggest triumphs.”
Well aware that Studio One Professional’s beauty isn’t just skin deep, LaBarge is quick to point out some serious production advantages, including clever effects routing. “A tip I picked up from producer Andrew Schepps, and one I’ve been integrating more and more, is busing compression—similar to the way we bus tracks for reverb, as opposed to putting the compression on the track itself,” he explains. “The benefit to this is two-fold: one, you’ll retain 100 percent of the natural timbre of the instrument, and second, you’ll maintain the balance of the mix. Ever notice how after adding compression to tracks, you have to go back and rebalance the levels of a mix? While mixing, always use a reference track! Yes, it’s illegal to copy melodies—but copying the mix of a David Foster or Quincy Jones production is Mixing 101.
“While diving into Studio One 2,” he continues, “I was anxious to try out the comping feature for chopping up multiple takes into one perfect track. Without doing any research on how to use the feature, I was blown away at being able to guess its process, comping a five-take solo in just a few short minutes. I would challenge anyone testing Studio One for the first time to see how many times you can guess an action; you’ll be surprised to find you’re right most of the time. This is the most intuitive program I’ve used.”
LaBarge also demonstrated his astute skills with PreSonus’ Ampire XT amplifier-modeling plug-in. A video of LaBarge emulating Steve Vai’s guitar tone with Ampire sounds so much like Vai that one would be hard-pressed to tell the difference until the camera zooms back to reveal the young imposter.
Notes LaBarge, “So many amp-modelers have the dynamics of an on/off switch, leaving subtle phrasing out of the question. The first trait of Ampire I noticed, other than full-bodied tone, was its ability to clean up when playing softly. That’s mandatory for any guitarist who is serious about tone.”
Phil LaBarge’s presets for Ampire XT can be downloaded here.
Keep an ear out for LaBarge ‘s new record, Cheers, expected to be released in the summer of 2012. If you can’t wait until summer for your Phil fix, bookmark his SoundCloud page.