When a client walks into Eleven Studios, first they’ll chat with owner Zackk Barazowski. Then, it’s business. They track down a background beat for the song and it’s downloaded onto Barazowski’s computer.
The sound engineer has two microphones in his vocal booth, one for rapping and one for singing. He will pick one depending on the desired sound, check the sound levels, and then recording begins.
“I’m self-taught — I learned all of this from YouTube university,” Barazowski said. Before he got into studio work, he played in bands and even went on tour, spending years in the local music scene. “This got me interested in the technical side of things.”
Barazowski’s studio sits in a converted 1940s bungalow in downtown Vancouver at 1012 Grant St. It hasn’t always been in the house, however. Barazowski, who moved to the area from Chicago as a child, started his business in 2014, working full time out of his apartment. Then it took over a room in his house and finally a shed in his backyard.
Eventually, he decided to rent out a studio space to separate his home from his work. Now his studio includes a mixing room, a vocal booth, a game room, a kitchen and a basement complete with a drum set.
Once recording is done, Barazowski sends his clients a rough copy of the track. For those wanting the music to be mastered elsewhere, he will send the stems, the raw vocals with no effects, to the client’s preferred sound engineer. Those wanting their tracks mastered at Eleven Studios will schedule time with him there.
The time it takes to finish a song can vary.
“Some people can work on one song for a whole hour and not finish,” Barazowski said. “Some people can finish four songs in an hour. It just really depends.
“Some people really like to take their craft and make sure it’s perfect.”
It takes Barazowski a half- hour to an hour to mix and master each song.
Barazowski’s clients come from across the Portland metro area, though many come from Vancouver. Most of his clients make rap, R&B or singer-songwriter music.
“Rap is pretty popular,” Barazowski said. “It’s one of the most popular genres.”
Barazowski sees himself as more than just a sound engineer. He hopes to encourage his clients as well. When clients come in his studio, he tries to work with them to develop themselves as an artist, giving them tips and tricks in the business. Artists are basically business owners, Barazowski said.
“You’re in charge of your music,” he added.
“I help them develop into wanting to be an artist instead of just dropping it on SoundCloud and hoping it will blow up.”
Most artists release singles rather than creating entire albums, according to Barazowski. He said he encourages that, telling them to put a lot of promotion behind that single rather than making an album. Some artists will make a short EP, an extended play record, with just six or so songs.
His artists are primarily releasing music digitally, either on SoundCloud or on other streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and TIDAL.
Learning to record, mix and master music takes time, a good ear and understanding what things do.
Sometimes it’s knowing when to take something away and bring something back, Barazowski said. In the years that he’s been honing his craft, he’s learned from others and then decided himself what to do with that knowledge.
While there are some minor rules for recording — not recording “too hot” or too quiet, for example, Barazowski sees his job as art.
“This is art. There are no rules in art,” he said.
As an artist himself, mixing allows Barazowski to still be involved with music but not have to spend the time it takes to pursue a music career of his own in the same way as if he was trying to make it as an artist.
“I can actually work with artists to help them develop their sound and go from there,” said Barazowski, adding he also likes learning about the studio gear and processes. “It was a different creative outlet than being a musician.”