Audeze sits down with NYC mixing and mastering engineer Gabriel Schuman

July 02, 2024

Gabriel Schuman is a mixing engineer, mastering engineer and producer living in New York City. After getting his start working with Nick Hook at his studio in Brooklyn, Gabriel went on to work as an engineer for Oneohtrix Point Never, working on his album Age Of and mixing his score for the Safdie Brother's film "Good Time." Since then, Gabriel has worked freelance, mixing for artists like Azealia Banks, Bladee, Aminé, and Princess Nokia. In addition, he has been doing Front Of House mixing work for Arca, Drain Gang & Yung Lean.

Gabriel Schuman in the studio with his Audeze LCD-X headphones
"I've always preferred working on speakers, but after using my LCD-Xs, I’m almost re-thinking my need to have my own studio..." - Gabriel Schuman 
Here's our chat with Gabriel:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?

An early highlight of mine was working on Aminé's breakout hit, "Caroline." I mixed that in my bedroom, and over the course of a year it became a bubbling SoundCloud song to consistent play on mainstream radio, which was a pretty surreal experience for me. More recently, my work with Swedish artist Bladee has been very fulfilling, as we’ve developed a vernacular for our work together both on studio records (Good Luck, The Fool & more) and his live shows. Our work together has led us to his latest project, Cold Visions, on which I served as executive producer.  Along with mixing and mastering, I did production and over-arching transitions and sfx to create a cohesive 30-song project. This let me assert my creativity more and craft an overall sound and world for the mixtape.

How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?

My work is always in the service of the artist to lift their music to the place they imagine it. Sometimes that's simply just getting the music to hit hard and bang, sometimes that's adding additional instrumentation / production to the music, and sometimes it's deconstructing the song and re-shaping it. It depends on the artist, and I'm fortunate to work with a lot of artists with whom I've developed a relationship where we can unite to create a sonic language together.

How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?

Growing up in Los Angeles, my parents were big factors in my gateway to music. They both worked at Rhino Records, and they had thousands of CDs I could dig through as a kid to get turned onto music. There were CDs from artists like Joy Division, Kraftwerk, Smashing Pumpkins, Portishead, Gorillaz and Radiohead, which still to this day are enormous influences on my taste. My dad is more of an Alt-Rock head, whereas my mom is more into Funk / Soul. She also was the one who fostered my love of Rap, taking me to concerts like Kanye & N.E.R.D as a kid, allowing my musical vocabulary to be pretty wide from an early age.

Can you name any factors that influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?

Like any person who gets further down the career path of music, I've had countless role models, mentors, and heroes to inspire me. A big breakthrough for me was working at Nick Hook's thespacepit studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I had reached out to Nick when I was 18 years old about how to break into working on music when he had an advice column on the electronic music blog XLR8R. At that time, I was at Georgetown University in DC studying History. After Freshman year, I chose to transfer to NYU to study music and once again reached out to Nick to see if he needed help at his studio. In the span of 6 months, I went from working as an intern there to being the engineer before turning 21. He put a great deal of trust in me and I got to work with some of my favorite artists at the time and learn how to run a studio at a very fruitful time in New York music (2012-2015). I'm eternally grateful to Nick and from that jumping-off point I had a crash course in engineering, studio decorum, and everything in between, while still learning the technical aspects of music at the Clive Davis program at NYU.

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?

I got into production as a teen, making music in my bedroom on Logic. I was always frustrated because I was baffled at how good my influences at the time (Flying Lotus, Nosaj Thing, and other artists from LA) got their music to sound, and how my work couldn't compare. I knew nothing about production, plug-ins, etc. - I thought they were doing everything with stock sounds in Ableton - and this was a little bit before the time YouTube tutorials were omnipresent. Little by little I learned a bit more by meeting other kids who were into the same kind of music I liked. Going to study production formally at NYU gave me a foundational understanding on which I could then build on and I'm certainly a type of person who likes to understand what I'm doing more rather than float unaware. Would I do it differently - no! Being a bit naive makes you stretch your sense of creativity further, and while it's amazing you can find a tutorial on YouTube for just about any aspect of music production nowadays, finding your own way of doing something after learning the basics gives you your own swag - an integral part of the process.

Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?

Unlike the majority of engineers, I work exclusively in Ableton. While I've worked in Pro Tools, Ableton at this point is an extension of my brain. I'm able to work super fast in it and it gives me the opportunity to use Ableton-exclusive creative tools that Pro Tools users simply can't. I work almost all in-the-box, and a more recent discovery is Softube's Console One. It integrates within Ableton seamlessly, allowing me to mix like I learned on an analog console without touching the mouse, and has sped up my workflow by double.

Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?

I think if you have the passion, you'll find a way, you just need to be persistent, hungry and put your ego aside as much as you can. I'm a firm believer in putting yourself in the position to have luck on your side. A great deal of my opportunities have come from me reaching out to someone online, going out and seeing music, and just generally exposing myself to allow good fortune to happen. If you're a good-natured person, work very diligently and say yes to opportunities, good things will happen.

How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?

I've always preferred working on speakers, but after using my LCD-Xs, I’m almost re-thinking my need to have my own studio haha! I'm finding myself increasingly away from my studio, as I've been doing more and more live shows that take me away from home base for months at times. With this change, it's become integral to my flow to have reliable and accurate headphones to do mixes on the road with my mobile set up. Some of the mixes I’ve done while on the road have become some of my favorite mixes - they translate to speakers well and everything feels tonally balanced.