Ayanna Depas is a Grammy award-winning recording engineer based out of NYC. She has worked with artists such as Dave East, H.E.R., and Mary J. Blige. Ayanna is also the founder of the annual beat battle Clash of the Beatmakers, where music producers compete in front of industry judges and spectators for cash prizes.
Here's our chat with Ayanna:
Can you pick out any favorites from your work that you're particularly proud of?
I’m proud of many of the milestones I’ve met thus far but If I had to choose a favorite it would be the H.E.R. self titled EP. I was able to witness the entire creative process from writing to production to mixing. My contribution as engineer and the hard work of the team resulted in a Grammy win, making the experience one of the most rewarding and priceless of my career.
What's the best place for those new to your work to become familiar with what you do?
You can visit my website to learn all about me and download any cool loop kits I have available. You can also follow me on Instagram for real-time interviews, events and more.
How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on?
My main role as a recording and mixing engineer is to help artists and producers bring their vision to life. They provide the blueprint and I enhance it.
How did you get started in music?
When I was in college, my friend and I took on the role of managing my cousin who was rapping at the time. We’d scrap up what little money we had and book studio time. As time passed we realized the sound was not sufficient and that’s what inspired me to study engineering professionally. Honestly, before that experience, I never knew what a recording engineer was.
Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?
One time I sent a mix to an artist for review and they told me they wanted it to match the reference track. This was a challenge because I wasn’t aware of the reference track and I was very happy with the mix I did. To keep the artist satisfied, we sat together and re-edited the track. The next day the artist changed their mind and decided to stick with my original mix. What I learned from this experience is to always ask upfront if a reference track exists. I also like to have a conversation with the artist so I can have a better understanding of their vision for the song and always do a “Save As” lol. I found that these minor things save a lot of time in the end.
Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?
These days I find myself working in the box a lot more. The technology of plug-ins has come such a long way over the last 10+ years that you can really get a great mix using solely plug-ins. My go-to plug-in company right now is Acustica. Their plug-ins could be a bit CPU heavy but I never do a mix without using at least one of them.
Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire to get where you are in their own careers?
I would say resiliency is key. At least in my experience. Keep working on perfecting your craft and always trust your ears. Network often as possible because unfortunately, talent isn’t always enough.
How long have you been working with headphones, and what inspired you to start including them in your workflow?
I’ve been using headphones since the very beginning stages of my career. One because that’s how the average consumer will listen, and two because I can really get a feel for the stereo imaging and how I used it in my mix. Especially when it comes to panning. When mixing you’re creating an experience and you don’t want things to feel out of place.
The clarity and depth perception of the LCD-X headphones are a dream come true. Not only can you get a true feel for the stereo imaging of your mix, the overall accuracy of their frequency response and bass translation is unmatched.
What have you been working on since getting your LCD-Xs?
Hopefully they will both release what we’ve been working on in the near future.