Composing, songwriting for film and TV

Dean Landon in his studio“You can own expensive converters, mic pre’s, mic’s, wiring, down to your favorite DAW, but if your monitoring section isn’t transparent and concise, no matter how much you try, you’ll never hear precisely what you’re recording, and mixing will be difficult,” shares Dean Landon, a Warner Bros. and double platinum and gold award-winning songwriter, producer and composer.

Being surrounded by music from a very young age, and with childhood impressions and fond memories of enjoying his uncle’s accordion playing, Dean made his first steps in music at the early age of three with a chord organ. His passion for playing, composing, songwriting and ultimately producing, grew to the point that now his music can be heard on many major network shows like American Idol, Crime Watch Daily, The Tonight Show, Oprah Winfrey Network, The Simpsons, and films like Bounce, Sex and the City, and WiseGirls – just to name a few. He is writing and producing music for a major Canadian artist, Roch Voisine. In addition, an 8-song CD, written and produced by Dean and his co-writer Anika Paris, is about to be released by APM and Sonoton.

Dean shares that he prefers songwriting over everything else, saying “I love creating and hearing my music come to fruition.” Composing, especially for film and television, has certain formats one has to follow. “A composer has to be aware not to overstep or get in the way. The music can make or break a scene, and is ultimately a synergetic blending of mediums,” says Dean. According to him, a composer has to be ready to write many styles of music. “I’ll often get calls to write a specific type of music for a new network show. This can run anywhere between pop-rock, to orchestral, to ethereal,” adds Dean.

“I usually write the full piece (all instruments) and then break it down into various mixes so that the editor has a choice,” says Dean. He emphasizes this aspect as extremely important, as it then makes it easy for any editor to pick the right mix for a particular scene. For any full arrangement mix, Dean offers about 8 to 10 alternative mixes. However, this is only possible when you have the whole team fully dedicated to their task. “I think a successful project is making sure the musicians, singers, composers/songwriters all bring their “A” game,” says Dean and continues “this happens when there is a comfortable communication between the talent and the producer, and sonically everything is lined up.”

Dean says that the “human factor” is the key to the success of a project, but that optimum sound quality goes hand-in-hand with quality gear – which is a guarantee that the composing, performing or engineering talent won’t get blurred in the production process. He’s using a hybrid setup. “I can’t live without analog,” admits Dean, “so on the 2 buss, I have the Shadow Hills Mastering Comp, Avalon 747, Pendulum PL-2 and Crane Song HEDD. I have an iZ ADA II converter for optimum sound quality.” His lists of mic pre’s and compressors as Neve 1173, Tree Audio Branch II, Focusrite ISA-110, Buzz Audio MA2.2, etc … the list goes on! “My DAWs are Pro Tools and Nuendo, running on a Mac Pro with 64GB of ram and many SSD. Everything is connected to the SSL Matrix 2. My external verbs are the Bricasti and Lexicon, and I think I have every plugin ever made.” Despite the long list of high-end gear, Dean confesses: “The most important tools are the Amphion’s. I’ve had my share of monitors, but the Two15 and Two18 each powered by an Amphion Amp500 are about as precise a monitor available.”

Sharing more about how he feels about his new pairs of studio monitors Dean says:

“The imaging is unbelievable. I can hear things I couldn’t hear before. I can also listen for long hours without any ear fatigue. My room is treated, but with other monitors, if I moved around the studio, the sound wasn’t consistent. Now it seems as though every spot in the room translates perfectly.”

Dean Landon's The Viber RoomDean discovered Amphion studio monitors after running across the long Amphion thread in, which piqued his interest. Even with the first demo of One15 and One18 studio monitors, provided by Jason Hanan at ProAudio LA, he immediately has heard the difference in sonic quality and transparency. “I then noticed flaws in my mixes and was able to quickly adjust certain frequencies. Those same flaws were inaudible on my last monitors, so I had to make a decision,” shares Dean. The only drawback he felt was the need for a deeper bass response, and this led him to test Two15s at Dave Bryce’s studio. “For about an hour, he played various tracks from pop to jazz. I could hear everything clearly and accurately, as though the musicians were in the room. A total 3D experience. I was blown away by the neutral tone and frequency response,” remembers Dean.

Dean says that everyone’s goal is to achieve a mix that translates everywhere. “Before the Amphion,” Dean admits, “anytime I would listen to a mix outside of the studio, I’d have to remix the track and A/B it again for the outside world. With the Amphion, in my case the Two15, everything sounded identical outside the studio as it did in it.” Having a diverse clientele from artists to TV and film productions makes the requirements for Dean’s work very heterogeneous. “There was a time when I had a pair of monitors for TV and another brand for songs. The Amphion’s have the right amount of midrange. Not too bright or too flat. The overall frequency response is perfect. I could easily mix songs and score orchestral tracks without having to switch brands,” says Dean.

Dean’s philosophy is that everything occurs in the “mids”, and most important is the vocal or the lead instrument. “Before the Amphion’s, I was mixing on a different brand monitor, and for one reason or another, could never get the mids to sit properly in the mix. It was either under-rated or over-rated. The Amphion’s are designed in a way where you can get around these issues easily,” shares Dean, and continues, “I can find the perfect frequency in minutes. Something that used to take hours.”

“Now, I spend more time creating and less time re-mixing.”

It was recently that Dean added a pair of Amphion Two18 studio monitors and Amp500 next to his existing Two15s. “I generally use the Two15s to write and compose, and the Two18s to mix. The 18s are more of an extension to the 15s with a deeper bass, so whatever isn’t audible on the 15s, I can clearly hear in the 18s,” says Dean. According to him, Amphion studio monitors contribute what other speakers do not.

“I save a lot of time mixing on the Amphions. I quickly get to the results and that is a real time saver, especially when I’m working on multiple sessions, and I find it a real pleasure to song-write, compose, record and mix my music on the Amphions,” he adds.

Dean says that his next step would be getting the BaseOne25 system and expects it to be “the ultimate mind-blowing experience.”

“If anyone is interested in monitors, they should definitely give Amphion a test drive,” says Dean and goes on to say, “whether you’re looking for alternative monitors or mains, you can’t go wrong with any of the Amphion line.” Dean Landon concludes: “I’m in Amphion heaven!”