Hozaifa Sayed has been at the forefront of Audio & Music Technology Education in India. Being a resident faculty for Seam edu Institute – an audio school based in Pune for over 5 years, He is adept at teaching subjects across music production & audio engineering. Don’t just take our word for it; the man is certified by leading audio technology giants – Ableton & Avid as a trainer. He also owns and runs his own mastering services company called ‘Waves Krāft Mastering’ and has over 150 tracks under his belt so far, spanning indie and commercial artists across different genres, with several masters released on labels worldwide. We got in touch with Hozaifa to share some of his experiences, insights and more for our readers.
Growing up listening to popular music featured on MTV Select and Channel V may sound like an ordinary story for a lot of us but for Hozaifa, it meant constantly listening to varied styles of music that can sway from Daft Punk to catchy bollywood remixes and looking back, he has definitely used this to his advantage. He reminisces his early years grooving to Daft Punk, Bob Sinclar, The Chemical Brothers, ATB, Tiesto and Dirty South among others. His love for exploring different genres of music grew over time.
First encounters with Sound
Hozaifa developed his interest in sound early on during his pre-university years, chasing his favourite Djs across festivals and venues. His passion led him to learn Djíng from a close friend and went on to play local opportunities, winning a few Djing competitions as well. Although things seemed to be taking off, Hozaifa kept his Djing stint relatively brief. His ever growing appetite for sound – a curiosity to understand the art and craft of working with sound had him take up a diploma in audio engineering after finishing his schooling & eventually pursue Protools training abroad.
Working with Live
Hozaifa started using Ableton Live since version 8 and has been his first and only full fledged music production tool since. The framework of Live threw him off at first, but spending time on it helped him realize its potential in taking on the artist’s personality. In his opinion, Live stands out as the best music software when it comes to offering flexibility in workflow. “…love that you can do arrange[ment] on timeline, jam in the session view, play and perform live while including instruments that you play outside of the software.. [natively built in] tools packed right in to inspire and help you create.” Hozaifa has moved all his mastering workflow to Ableton Live as well.
Ableton Trainer Certification Program
Getting through the trainer certification program has been one of the most challenging task for Hozaifa, but equally rewarding. Being an educator who teaches an ableton live music production course, he really looked forward to the opportunity. “It is designed to put your production and software knowledge to the test and suggest to you better practices to teach holistically,” he adds.
Love for Teaching
Hozaifa feels fortunate to teach some of the subjects he really loves. Alongside teaching music production with Live, he enjoys teaching specific topics like Signal Processing, Synthesis, Sound Design, Studio Equipment and Ear Training from the perspective of an audio engineer. He keeps the sessions interactive. The only challenge he sometimes faces with students is distinguishing ‘Internet learned opinions’ from ‘Facts’ but helps him keep his understanding in check.
Waves Krāft Mastering
Well before starting his own mastering company, he once thought this ‘dark art’ was beyond his understanding. His earliest experiences doing Mastering work were chance encounters; helping out his students who wanted to release their finished tracks. This aligned with his genuine interest in audio and critical listening. He took time to understand the art better and fast forward to now – over 150 tracks later – he is quite happy & overwhelmed with the releases he worked on. Some of the releases (and yet to be released music) he loved working on are Deliverance by Blot!, The midnight zone by Tatsama, Tattva by K-aos theory, Awadh by Yuvraj Yadav (his student), Psy for a producer friend MetaQube and an awesome new 10 track ambient compilation EP.
Mixing & Mastering in a nutshell:
For most musicians, the difference between mixing & mastering can be sort of a grey area. According to Hozaifa who runs his own Mastering Services Company, mixing is all about achieving balance. “..[it] ensures the guitarist’s mom won’t complain that she can’t hear him amongst the other band members,” he adds with a dash of humour.
Being the final stage in the creative process and the first step of the release phase, mastering conditions the overall play out of the track with a focus on stereo field balance, levels, low end management, and other spectrum based nuances. “..the whole point of mastering is having fresh perspective from an ear uninvolved through the creation process.. to have fine tweaks made right before release”.
Hozaifa’s Mastering Tips for the Uninitiated
Anyone getting started with mastering must understand that it is very experiential and practical in nature. The thought process behind it is essential as the tools might mostly be the same used for mixing. A good listening environment, decent monitor selection and placement, deep understanding of a few tools (plugins/ audio effects) rather than brief understanding of many; these are critical things to bear in mind to venture into mastering territory. He advises mastering for others music instead of one’s own. Especially mastering one’s own music right after mixing will substantially cloud the objective outlook required for the art.” He tops it off with a humorous analogy – “We know how we’d like our hair done, but do we ever cut it ourselves?”.
Hozaifa’s Mixing Tips
It is vital to achieve the best mix and balance you can. Time is of the essence but never rush through the mixing. Headroom typically around 4 to 6 dB is good enough. Never overwork the low end frequencies of your track. “Keep the stereo spread in check and most importantly EQ like it’s the only tool you have, work away with it and sculpt away resonances and anything sounding brash.”
Most Prized Possessions:
When it comes to music production, Hozaifa loves using Ableton’s Natively built in devices – Instruments namely Analog, Operator, Drum Rack, Collision, Tension and Wavetable; Audio effects emulating analog hardwares like glue compressor, echo, pedal, dynamic tube; and the endless craziness that is Max for Live based add ons. For his mastering work Hozaifa relies on Fab filters Pro Q 2, T racks clipper, UAD Oxide tape emulation, SSl G Bus Compressor and Ableton’s Multiband dynamics are some of his go to favourites.
To Music Or To Master?
When we asked Hozaifa what excites him more, he assures he loves them both equally.
“It is the state of flow that leaves me feeling ecstatic and I strive to be in that creative space as much as possible.” Making music can be experimental, and he often finds inspiration from the music he listens to while exploring his artistic inclination. For mastering, it’s about being objective and critical about achieving the necessary sonic details across the spectrum.
2019 and beyond
Hozaifa is hopeful to fill many more pages in his mastering dairy. Parallely he is working on a live set, which he might drop anytime soon. Besides continuing to train and inspire up and coming producers in Ableton Live, musicians and producers in and around Pune can expect Ableton user group meets in the near future.