Josh Harris is living proof that with hard work, a kid from St. Louis with a four-track cassette recorder and a dream can make it big. Beginning on the piano at age seven, Harris got into classical and pop music. After a Berklee College of Music summer session at age 15, he decided to pursue music as a career.
Moving to Chicago after graduating from Lawrence University with a degree in music theory and composition, Harris hustled to get into the commercial music scene while playing in local bands. He was certain he’d be happy in that role until a chance conversation with Bruce Hornsby prompted Harris to follow his heart and create music for music’s sake—not for film and TV.
Apparently his heart had gone to Nashville because Harris decamped to Music City. There, he further honed his production craft while adding songwriting chops. He later moved to New York, where he spent several years working intensely on remixes for major-label artists, including Seal, Madonna, The Killers, and Korn. The relationship with Seal even turned into a touring gig as music director and keyboardist. In 2012, Harris was tasked with assisting James Murphy with mixing the live DVD release from LCD Soundsystem. Currently, he is focusing on his original projects, Bastinado and Kosca, and is an instructor for lynda.com, for whom he created Up and Running with Studio One, a two-hour course of video instruction.
Harris’ path to PreSonus® Studio One® is a familiar story. “A friend of mine, Fred Campbell, told me about Studio One about 18 months ago, and I told him that I didn’t want to learn another DAW!” recalls Harris. “He had switched over from Logic and was really happy with the change. For years, I have been a heavy Pro Tools and Logic user, and while I like them for what they are, I found myself getting frustrated with their respective quirks. About six months after Fred and I had initial our conversations about Studio One, he bugged me about it again. Thanks, Fred! So, I started watching Teddy Riley’s Studio One videos and immersed myself in tutorials before I even had a copy of the program.”
Switching to Studio One was clearly the right call. “Studio One has become my favorite DAW to compose and write songs in,” states Harris. “I think that when it comes to music software, you have to use the programs that make sense to your brain. Workflow is key for me, since I work on so many different projects at one time. Also, I hear music in my head constantly, so getting those ideas down quickly is paramount. I love Studio One’s drag-and-drop approach; I have never before been as fluid with my creativity as I am now!
As a remix artist, easy integration of loops is of critical importance to Harris’ workflow. “If I had to pick my favorite feature of Studio One,” Harris says, “it’s the ability to stretch imported audio to the session’s BPM. This allows me to audition third-party loops from my personal loop library in a seamless manner. I also love the region-consolidation feature. If I have duplicated a 4-bar loop 4 times, and I want to edit it as a continuous 16-bar region, I just hit the “G” key to group them, and my new 16-bar region is instantly created. This really helps with arranging because I can visually arrange sections of the song so that all of the tracks have the same region length. I also like how easy it is to drag-and-drop different groove templates into the Groove Quantize window. It’s so easy! I love the feel of the MPC 3000 quantization; I mostly use that template.”
As an experienced remix artist who has used many DAWs, Harris is well-equipped to compare Studio One to the competition and finds it to be a suitable blend of the new and the familiar. “To me, Studio One has taken the features that I like the most from Pro Tools, Logic, and Ableton Live and fused them into a very intuitive work environment,” Harris opines. “The code used to create Studio One is new, and I have always believed that some of the older DAWs are chained to their old coding, which results in odd workflow quirks. For me, the real test of working in a DAW is how burned-out I feel at the end of a long session. Because of Studio One’s well-thought-out design and functionality, I don’t feel nearly as tired at the end of a long day in the studio!
“The ability to export stems is extremely useful,” Harris continues, “and since I work with people who are not Studio One users, this can be a huge timesaver. Also, I have barely had to crack the Studio One manual, as I have been able to figure out most of the program by just working in it and watching a few tutorials. I think that speaks volumes about how easy it is to learn Studio One.”
Harris closes with some insights for producers who are new to Studio One. “Spend the time to set up your own customized templates,” Harris suggests. “This is a huge timesaver when it comes to getting a track off the ground or preparing for a tracking session. Also, whenever you are working on multiple songs by the same artist or band, take advantage of saving your channel-strip settings so that you can quickly load the plug-ins that you have used on previous songs. If nothing else, that will give you a great place to start!”