sky harbor studios

My letter to those who want to start making their own music

Greetings newly minted audio engineer! Here are many tips to make you sound as professional as possible!

Getting started

First off, you need a DAW. (Digital Audio Workstation) Some of my recommendations include Windows Media Player, Audacity, and Window’s classic Sound Recorder.

Mac or PC? This battle should end right now. I find that producing works best on Windows XP.

You need a room with great acoustics. I would suggest renting out your local cathedral rather than adding a tedious reverb plugin.

Make sure you go out and buy the most expensive gear before you know how to use any of it!

General mixing tips

Mix as loud as possible! It’s okay to clip! Mixing at over 90db is preferable since your ears naturally start compressing for self-protection at this level so you don’t have to add any!

Record everything as close to the microphone as possible. 1-3 inches would work best.

Slow computer and can’t afford an Apple PowerBook? Many audio professionals believe you should record at a 96 kHz sample rate and use as many plugins as possible to make sure you hear every detail and overloading your CPU makes it run faster.

Can’t hear the singing? Make room for the vocals by panning the drums hard left and the rest of the instruments hard right.

Need effects? Record at a 1024 buffer size to make sure you have a delay so you don’t have to add it later.

Need more bass? Boost the EQ from 100Hz and below to add bass to things that are lacking it. When dropping the bass make sure it goes below 20 Hz so you can really hear and feel it.

Use auto tune on all the instruments as well as the vocals so everything matches.

Mixes too quiet? Turn up the master fader!

Never use a reference track; it will only hurt your self-esteem and confidence and make you question your motives.


It looks fantastic and sounds even better, and at the end of the day I am thrilled to be the proud owner of such a fabulous studio. — Adam Young

New “SKY HARBOR STUDIOS” (August, 2014)
Sky Harbor Studios is the personal recording studio of Adam Young located in Owatonna, MN.
To compliment the log cabin’s interior and exterior setting, the studio was constructed entirely from natural wood.

Mobile Orchestra by @owlcityofficial
Released July 10, 2015

In his fifth studio album, Adam Young A.K.A. Owl City weaves a labyrinthine sonic novel of Homerian proportions. Mobile Orchestra is a collection of 10 impeccably crafted electronic compositions. Each track plays like a short film with different characters and arcs, soundscapes and tempos, colors and styles, and in the end (which Young proclaims “This Isn’t”) the listener is left with a diorama of memories to observe and ultimately let go of. For this journey Young calls upon a small army of globally talented contemporaries such as Aloe Blacc, Hanson, Jake Owen, Sarah Russell and Britt Nicole. Their individual talents shimmer in the dreamscapes Young designs for them.

“ain’t too sure what I believe in, but I believe in what I see, and when I close my eyes, I see my whole life ahead of me” A mercurial and contemplative Aloe Blacc utters, almost as if questioning himself in a rare moment when one’s guard is let down and we are able to listen in on one’s inner monologue. Like a friend from long ago, Young’s voice chimes in, “these are our hours, this our time”, accompanied by high hats and arpeggiated guitars. A quick EDM rise accelerates into the first chorus of the album. This subtle coloration of introspective verses and soaring choruses sets Young apart from his contemporaries. In “I Found Love” Young delivers an unconventionally structured ballad full of orchestral strings and arpeggiated synths. It should be noted this may be the first deliberate personal love song in a five album catalog. And while the subject matter may be second nature to most normal suburbanites, Young is neither. The artist known for writing stories of strange cosmic journeys may have found a new story to tell here on plain old earth.

Thunderstruck is one of the most innovative EDM songs we will hear this year. Sarah Russell delivers a beautifully nuanced vocal performance, her angelic voice lilts perfectly within Young’s agile sidechaining synths. This is Owl City’s space, and he does this sound better than anyone in the world. He made is name doing tracks like this that combine wildly melodic vocals and berzerk electronica. Young knows this territory like the back of his hand and it shows in this perfectly pitched smash.

My Everything is a revelation. Music is older than the internet. Believe it or not. And Young expertly draws on eternal themes to propel this song forward. Hallelujahs fill our ears once again, as they have for thousands of years or more in this modern hymn suitable for arenas and headphones. Unbelievable with Hanson plays incredibly well, as seen on The Today Show. Full of sugary energy, the song bounces around 90’s nostalgia and lands on the floor laughing at 3 a.m. Bird With A Broken Wing is new territory for Owl City, one of his largest sonic productions, chugs along under a quadruplet pattern, harkening a full band sound reminiscent of Brit Rock circa Doves, Starsailor, and Travis. In Back Home with Jake Owen, Young tries his poker hand at pop country. How’d the river treat him? Aces up. If Adam wanted to retreat into the safe walls of his picturesque Sky Harbor studio and become a kajillionaire producing and writing hits for country acts, he could. Can’t Live Without You is a daft Americanized Armin Van Burenesque festival anthem designed for live performance, which we’ll get to hear in his tour of the U.S. later this fall. You’re Not Alone with Britt Nicole is a lovely contemporary Christian ballad reassuring the listener, and himself, that we are indeed, not alone. In this musical prayer it is clear Adam Young is driven by forces beyond popular culture. Instead of an album of slick EDM bangers, we are given stories and affirmations, questions and quasi-answers. This Isn’t The End closes the album on a bittersweet note. A mildly sordid tale of abandonment, suicide, and atonement. Amid atypical key changes and lilting drums, if one isn’t paying attention, one will just hear the surface production, which remains coated in iridescent lacquer throughout. But this is an Owl City album and nothing is as it seems, that would be too easy. For some reason Young takes the road less traveled once again, mixing genres, utilizing quirky production techniques, collaborating with unconventional artists, ignoring blogtastic fads, further proving he is on his own journey, fulfilling his own destiny, regardless of what anyone says or thinks. This is just the beginning and time is on his side. - Brian Bradley, August 5, 2015.