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Maurice Gainen Productions


It’s safe to say that most coffee drinkers are familiar with Starbucks’ ever-expanding catalog of Hear Music CDs. Many of these releases are thematic compilations of diverse tracks that require a highly skilled mastering touch. Since 2003, musician/engineer/producer Maurice Gainen ( has put his skill set to use on more than 60 of these offerings in his private studio in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake district. Gainen’s Starbucks credits include Remember: John Lennon and The Age of Aretha from the Opus Collection, and Artist’s Choice Series CDs including those from Norah Jones, Sheryl Crow and Joni Mitchell. But Starbucks is only one loyal client.

LISTEN: Must Play

LISTEN: Must Play
John and Sean Lennon

Maurice Gainen in his control room

Photo: Norm Zeller

Gainen also produces, records, mixes and masters album releases for indie and major labels in a wide variety of genres. His clientele ranges from L.A.-based artists and bands to projects for Disney, Clear Channel, Virgin Entertainment Group and Hallmark. Gainen has also produced two solo albums — Jazz World Colors (2004) and Jazz Flute Jams (2006) — and is currently working on a third. “I tell people the best thing about my engineering is my saxophone playing because I approach it from a musical angle,” Gainen says. “The gear is just an extension of my musicianship.”

A graduate of the Berklee College of Music, Gainen took an interest in the recording process as a session musician in the late ’70s. “I was always curious about what the engineers were doing,” he remembers. “I would ask questions, and I learned a lot through working as an arranger and a producer.”

In 1988, he moved his gear into a 16×16-foot storage space with a concrete floor within a six-unit apartment building that he owns with his father. “The building is up on a hill and it’s on a wide street that doesn’t have any through traffic,” Gainen notes. “All the walls and ceiling were insulated and have double drywall and Celotex. The window has a custom soundproof cover.” In 1996, Gainen took over an adjacent 175-square-foot room with wood floors for use as a control room. “I installed a split-system heating and AC for near-silent temperature control. The rooms are separated by a wall, and the control room is about two-and-a-half feet lower than the live room.” To compensate, Gainen installed a video camera in the live room for visual contact.

Gainen’s control room houses a dual-core 2.5GHz Mac G5 running Apple’s Logic Pro Version 7.2 and a Pro Tools HD3 system with a Digidesign 192 I/O audio interface. “Logic works great with Pro Tools hardware as the front end, and I can use the TDM stuff in Logic, too,” Gainen says. He relies on plug-ins from Waves, Logic and Bomb Factory, among others; Apple Loops libraries; Spectrasonics soft synths; and Tascam’s GigaPiano. A Yamaha P-60 88-key weighted keyboard serves as a MIDI controller. A MOTU MIDI Timepiece A/V routes MIDI data, and an Avalon Design VT737SP is critical to his recording chain. He works with four sets of monitors: Genelec 1030A speakers and a 7060A active subwoofer, Tannoy Reveal 6.5-inch near-field monitors, Alesis Monitor One speakers and JBL Control Micro monitors.

Microphones include a Neumann U87; AKG C-414, D-12 and C-1000S; Shure SM57s; and MXL condensers. “The room mics are important,” he says. “I do track entire bands at once. If I have acoustic bass and drums in the same room, I have a fold-up Futon that I put around the bass. LISTEN: Must Play
Raunch Dressing
Last week, I recorded tabla and sitar and did the same. LISTEN: Must Play
Sitar and Tabla If it’s a rock band, I take the bass direct and put the guitar amp in the storage area. LISTEN: Must Play
Misbehavin’ I usually have vocalists in the live room, except if they’re tracking with the band — then they would be in the control room with me.”

Gainen uses a Logic control surface for mix automation and masters in Logic with Waves’ Platinum TDM and Restoration bundle plug-ins. LISTEN: Must Play
You Belong to Me, With Orchestra

LISTEN: Must Play
You Belong to Me With Vocal, 1947 “I’m monitoring through my [Yamaha] 02R, and with one button I can easily switch from listening to the mastered version to the unmastered version to an example track in the Logic file,” he says. “Once I started mastering, I started mixing differently. It’s just a question of throwing all the songs into one file and taking a look at them as a whole. It’s all very interrelated. I’m relying on my ears, but I’m also relying on the client’s.”

Matt Gallagher is an assistant editor at Mix.

Additional MP3s: “One Step Ahead Mastered” and “One Step Ahead Unmastered” from Starbucks Sense Working Overtime (’80s compilation). Example of pre- and post-mastering.

LISTEN: Must Play
One Step Ahead, Unmastered

LISTEN: Must Play
One Step Head, Mastered

Maurice Gainen visits Starbucks’ corporate headquarters in Seattle in May

Gainen in his live room with a 1923 Fisher upright piano that has been in
his family since 1960.