Masterclass with Rodrigo Rodriguez

Internationally known Shakuhachi master, Rodrigo Rodriguez also has an incredible skill in producing chillwave and future garage.

12-months on from their first official Insight label release and the beginning of exhilarating partnership, Rodrigo Rodriguez and Insight Music present this exclusive masterclass session.

We take a look the current studio setup of the artist whilst discovering the recording techniques of their latest Insight single release ‘So High‘, and how they capture the pure organic sound of the ancient Shakuahchi flute. Dive in as the Shakuahchi master guides us through their recording process. Sharing their incredible musical journey and rich musical heritage. You can also read their 2021 Insight interview here.

 

The ever-inspiring collaborative sound of the ancient shakuhachi flute and future garage has inspired a community of ambient, chillwave and future garage listeners. How did you discover this perfect match of shakuhachi flute and future garage?

When I heard future garage for the first time, I smiled. I told myself, Shakuahchi would match very well with this style of music. In previous years I had already featured Shakuhachi in similar genres such as Chill, or Trip Hop. Future Garage carries a different energy and character, which I really enjoy. Whilst living in Tokyo, seeing how modern technologies coexist with the traditional was always impressive. This is clear example when I think about Future Garage and Shakuhachi flute. In my mind, this is harmonious Japanese dualism, like Gin and Yan.

The fans and listeners of the Future Garage genre are also looking for introspective and spiritual intellectual sounds. It does not necessarily have to be with an old instrument, it can be found in modern beats, synthesizers, pads or dream-like vocals you can find this sounds to help find this mind. I think music that moves the mind and sound aspects is what really motivates me.

 

Shakuhachi Master and Producer Rodrigo Rodriguez Inside his Home Music Studio.
Rodrigo Rodriguez at his home studio.

 

We’ve seen you feature on countless interviews about your rich history and love for teaching, but where and when did your passion for music materialise?

Well, my whole life has been dedicated to music, I started this journey when I was 10 years old. After I finished my studies in Japan, and with a lot hard work and dedication, gradually music became my daily work. Teaching shakuhachi is one of my main pieces of work, in which I myself have learnt from the students.

Since I was releasing music during my studies, fans of the Shakuahchi contacted me in hope to become my student. Was it too early to teach? yes! but I did it, because teaching is also part of the learning.

 

“Carefully listen to each sound, because each sound is an extensive landscape.” – Rodrigo Rodriguez

 

Your music over the past 18 months has seen incredible support from the entire community. How do you feel about your progress so far as a musician and music producer?

My journey as a music producer started in the early 2000s. I started studying music production and experience working in recording studios in Spain. ‘Balearic Chill Out’ (because I grew up in Mallorca island), or ‘Trip Hop’ was very influential. Those genres back then was the music of the underground. After those years, I moved to Japan to spend time focusing on studying Shakuhachi. Whilst there, I dedicated myself to classical Japanese music.

At that time the production only revolved around recording and producing Japanese music discs with the shakuhachi. It wasn’t until the beginning of the Pandemic that I became motivated to work on electronica, but on this occasion with a new style and sound within the Ambient music scene. BLUME is the most collaborative channel where my music found a sweet home, and I am totally grateful. It is inspiring to see how the Chill, and Ambient Music evolved during this two decades.

 

Peaceful‘ is an 80-minute chill mix dedicated to the music of Rodrigo Rodriguez.

 

Let’s talk about your single release ‘So High’ on Insight Music. This track takes on a slightly darker element, with a more atmospheric edge. However along with the shakuhachi flute, you’ve captured a truly unique future garage sound. Tell us how this track first came together, what were the first elements you used to create the foundation of the single?

The first element in the process of making ‘So High‘ was the rhythmical part (beats), selecting all the sounds for building the foundation with loops and beats. I am a Maschine + user, so first of all once I found all the sounds I had in my mind for the rhythmical part, I’d then transfer them over to Maschine +.

 

Music Producer Rodrigo Uses the Maschine 4 Hardware.
Rodrigo using Maschine 4 during music production.

 

Can you tell us a little about your studio setup and some of the VST’s/Software you used to produce your music?

My studio setup is based on MAC, and use Maschine + for the beats and patterns. On my laptop I use two DAW’s, Protools and Luna from Universal Audio. I feel comfortable to mix on Protools but the final mastering I am doing in Luna. There are many plugins from Universal Audio that I love using for Mastering. When I am producing in my studio in South Asia, I am using Yamaha HS8 Studio Monitors, and while I’m in my studio in Spain I use Tannoy Reveal. Even you have the best tools for music production, the important thing is spend time seeking sounds, a variety of sounds will give more room for better production and selection. I am enjoy spending my time building a bigger and better sound library.

 

Rodrigo shows us his workstation DAW from inside his music studio.
Screenshot of the DAW used by Rodrigo.

 

And how about the shakuhachi flute, how do you capture the pure sound of such an ancient instrument? Which technique was used in ‘So High’ that allows the flute to sit perfect in the mix? Any effects or processing you use?

When recording an ancient instrument such as the Shakuhachi, the best results will always come from the positioning of the microphones, in which they should not be too far or near the instrument. Finding right spot takes time, be patient!

Once the raw recording is done, I then find a quality reverb convolution and EQ for the flute to make the listener comfortable with the frequency of this exotic sound. Usually in Future Garage or Ambient Music, the Shakuhachi has more space and reverb than my traditional records.

 

Shakuhachi Master Rodrigo Rodriguez Playing the Infamous Shakuhachi Flute.
Rodrigo is often referred to as a ‘Shakuhachi Master’ by his many fans and peers.

 

Your percussion style is always so clean and often quite complex, are there any secrets you can share with others in how to create/mix percussion elements for future garage music?

In the shakuhachi path, and practice we always search for the purity in sound, ‘Ichi on Jo´butsu: Seeking the Buddha‘ through a single tone is one of the Buddhist concepts. Keep this in mind. I apply to many, if not all my recordings, even if it’s from outside my tradition. For the percussion elements I mainly use foley sounds that we hear in everyday life. As I mentioned before, always use modern technology and plugins to process.

Were there any new aspects to music production/mixing that you used whilst producing the single ‘So High’? Any new pieces of software or techniques you used that are unique to this single?

In particularly, I dedicated most of my time recording the Shakuhachi flute, as I wished to create a more distant sounding feeling. What I was searching for was a dreamy flute mix with the modern futuristic feeling. Mostly I used Maschine + from Native Instruments for beat making, and for the shakuhachi recording Protools DAW.

How about music mastering? Do you have any tips for fellow producers on how they can mix and master their music?

For the mastering, I mainly used my natural sense of hearing. The sense of hearing allows us to capture the sounds that occur in the environment, a fundamental ability to locate ourselves and to act. For mastering there is no mistake if you give many trials and listening sessions. Sometimes a couple of days between session can help to rest the earring, and be more efficient for the final results.

 

Screenshot of the DAW processing.

 

For those who are starting out and producing future garage music for the first time, what words of wisdom do you have for them?

Carefully listen to each sound, because each sound is an extensive landscape.

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Support Rodrigo Rodriguez via Soundcloud, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, or read their featured artist profile via our website here.

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