Andrés Borda Zabala Works With Latin Music Icons


A select few people can say they’ve won a Grammy in their lifetime. In the eight years since Andrés graduated from The Los Angeles Recording School, he’s won five Grammys as an audio engineer. Including three Latin Grammys and one American Grammy for his work on Natalia Lafourcade’s 2015 Hasta La Raiz album. Followed by a Latin Grammy for Carlos Vives’s self-titled album, Vives, in 2018. “It’s funny how life rewards us with what we want, but it’s how we get there that defines us,” said Andrés at our 2019 July graduation ceremony.

Andres Borda Zabala

The Carlos Vives Connection

A native to Colombia, Andrés developed a proclivity for Latin music at 12 years old. He found inventive ways to make his early recordings sound better, constantly tweaking and tuning his audio instruments. It’s no coincidence that Andrés’s love of music stems from his home country, whose history is deeply rooted in exuberant music and dance. Colombia is known as “the land of a thousand rhythms,” with its cultural heritage tied to the sounds of cumbia and vallenato. Both are folk genres of music that trace back to Afro-Colombian and Carribean musical styles. Many Latin artists today draw inspiration from cumbia and vallenato, adding their own modern twist.

Eventually, Andrés’s childhood tinkerings paid off. A chance encounter during a family trip to Mexico City catapulted his dreams of being an audio engineer. Andrés and his mom met Carlos Vives, who was even back then a big deal. Little did Andrés know that 20 years later he’d be living out his childhood dream and winning a Grammy for Carlos Vives’s album, Vives.

Becoming an award-winning audio engineer

Currently, Andrés works as a studio manager and chief audio engineer for Carlos Vives at Gaira Musica Local Estudios in Bogotá, Colombia. Carlos was an early pioneer of the modern vallenato music movement after transitioning from soap opera star into his singing career in the late-eighties. Today, Carlos is arguably the biggest singer in Latin America and has over 4 million subscribers on his official YouTube channel.

As chief engineer at Gaira Music Studio, Andrés spends most of this time in the recording studio working with Carlos and his producers on an upcoming studio album. Andrés’s own audio engineer career has taken off in the past five years, but he stays grounded. While speaking to the July graduation class, he gave a piece of advice that is an important lesson to remember. “Be humble, your positive attitude and humility will always be essential for your personal growth. Be grateful for every challenge; every opportunity you get will shape your life forever. You can always conquer anything, but never forget how you got here,” said Andrés.

Andres Borda Zabala

Andrés working on the SSL Duality Console

Quick interview with Andrés

1. What is your process for engineering an album like Vives?

For the Carlos Vives Album, the process mainly concentrated on all Carlos’s vocal recordings, and all of his vocal production for every song. I would receive all the sessions from Miami and start arranging every session for vocal production, such as track creation, automation for a premix, arrange hearback playback, vocal FX, mic placement, arrange the studio for vocals, set the board, prepare tea and go…

I also recorded a full song production at the studio, “El Sombrero de Alejo,” a 3-day process, working approximately 14 hours straight each day. The recording session was arranged by a producer and handle by me in every part of the way. The tracking instruments where caja, guacharaca, drums, guitars, bass, vocals and bgs. During every tracking session, I always need to advance in another process. That’s why when I’m recording, I’m editing all recordings and arranging the session in a more efficient way, so by the end of every song I would have a better result in premixing and organization.

2. What was it like attending the Latin Grammys in Las Vegas this past year?

It was just an amazing moment in my career as a recording engineer. I’m very proud of all the steps I have accomplished. For me, it was a great moment–a Colombian moment. I would also say understanding and grasping the idea that I was being nominated for working on an album of one of the best Latin artists in the industry; the best representation of Colombian music. And it got better, I got the chance of sharing this moment with my mother and sister in Vegas. It was a unique experience!

3. Who has been the most influential person in your career?

It’s difficult to say because your career is always supported at different stages by people who are just the main key for your progress as a professional. My family has always been the main support in my life and where the ones who have helped me take the first steps into change. Along the way, Rene Garza was the first person that opened his studio door for me 2 months after graduation. By just having that one shot changed my life forever. After that its history…

Every experience in the studio, with artists, musicians, A&Rs, managers, assistants, engineers creates a sense of respect and responsibility for a place where creativity will burst automatically in every way possible. At that point on, everything is influential.

Interested in Audio?

If you found 2011 alumnus Andrés Borda Zabala’s journey inspiring, check out the Audio Production program at The L.A. Recording School here to learn more.

Recording Session at The L.A. Recording School with Rising Star, Alena

Making a name for yourself in the entertainment industry is hard work. It’s easy to instantly share music on popular streaming platforms like SoundCloud and YouTube, but gaining recognition takes time and good management. That’s why having a talent manager to guide an artist through the day-to-day business dealings of their professional career is vital to an artist’s success.

We talked with recording arts alumnus and talent manager Renato Lopez at a recent studio session at the Recording School. Renato has worked as a producer, engineer, and mixer with artists like, Priscila Renea and Sevyn Streeter. One of his newest clients is 13-year-old up-and-coming singer Alena aka AlenaOneMusic. Alena and her team collaborated in our SSL Duality Studio on a her new five-track EP. Renato brought Alena into the SSL Duality Studio to experience The L.A. Recording School’s large-format analog mixing console and live-performance room to help diversify her music.

How to make it in the music industry

According to Renato, some artists can reach the same amount of downloads and followers, which is hard to do, but rarely get much further without the help of connections in the music industry. That’s where Renato steps in and helps elevate lesser-known talent in the music industry. He has a knack for finding and developing undiscovered talent.

Since January 2019, Renato has been traveling to Las Vegas to coach and develop Alena for live performances around the city. He has also been coaching her, pairing her with the right writers and producers, and getting her ready for packaging to label executives. “This week is super important to the team because it is the first time Alena and her family have been to L.A. for the reasons of getting in front of record labels,” says Renato. “We will be meeting with The Black Eyed Peas this week along with some folks over at Disney.”

Even at a young age, Alena is a self-starter with an impressive vocal range. Her musical style is a fun mix of soul and pop, which has garnered her 7.3 million streams on SoundCloud. Alena also has a growing Instagram (@alenaonemusic) following with almost 20K followers.

The L.A. Recording School Connection

Renato works with The Los Angeles Recording School to help create a collaborative community within the larger recording industry. “Staying in touch with LARS program directors, new students, old students, and upcoming talent both within and outside of the school has helped shape me into who I am today. I enjoy connecting all the dots and hope to give back to those who have given so much to me in my career,” said Renato.

Interested in learning more about our many talented alumni from The Los Angeles Recording School? Click here.

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A Games 2019! 💙 Was a very special day for the special need kids in the Vegas community. Lots of sport competitions, games, food, and fun. And I had the opportunity to perform the song “Beautiful” by @xtina Thank you to all the sponsors that made this event possible‼️ – @zapposforgood @featsonv @fox5vegas @lvsportsocial and many more 🙌 📸 – @studiokurcan ( . . . . . #autismawareness #autism #autismmom #asd #specialneeds #autismspeaks #autismacceptance #autismo #autismfamily #autismlife #autismlove #autismparents #autismsupport #autismspectrumdisorder #adhd #inclusion #disability #autistic #autismdad #autismkids #love #autismspectrum #aspergers #downsyndrome #autismmoms #autismrocks #autismwarrior #autismparent #acceptance #bhfyp

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Alena has 7.3 million streams on Soundcloud and almost 20K followers on her Instagram account.

Do you ever stop and think about why Netflix’s hit show Stranger Things became an overnight success? Is it the iconic ‘80s motif that captivates the viewer? Is it the intrigue of the unknown? Or maybe it’s the band of clever characters perfectly placed within the show’s plot. Then there’s the opening credit sequence. In under a minute, the intro sucks you into the sci-fi mystery with the slow build of synthesizers and neon-red graphics. We would argue that the show’s distinctive sound design and careful editing carries equal weight in its overall success.

For the SFX enthusiasts reading this post, we’re tapping the shoulder of Jordan Wilby who was the Lead Sound Effects Editor for Stranger Things Seasons 1 and 2.  Jordan is a graduate of The Los Angeles Recording School, a division of The Los Angeles Film School, and has worked in sound effects for over a decade. As a key player on the show’s editorial team, Jordan is no stranger to the editing pipeline. Before Stranger Things, Jordan worked on a multitude of Marvel productions including The Punisher, Jessica Jones and Daredevil. His dedication to sound and post-production audio landed him multiple Emmy nominations and two wins for his work on Stranger Things.

It Takes A Village

If you aren’t familiar with the sound editing process, there are many people who make up the editing team. Jordan Wilby worked on Technicolor’s sound team for Stranger Things, which included Lead Sound Designer Craig Henighan, Supervising Sound Editor Brad North, several Foley artists, a music editor and a dialogue editor. Jordan felt very fortunate to work with and learn from Henighan, who designed the “big ticket” sound items that most people associate with Stranger Things. The distant, howling sound of the Demogorgon. The extra-terrestrial echoes used in the parallel dimension better known as the Upside Down. And so on. Additional sound design, audio creative direction and editing were all done by the Emmy-winning sound team at Technicolor.

Fun Fact: Technicolor is located on Sunset Blvd., right down the street from The Los Angeles Film School and The Los Angeles Recording School.

Take us through the sound design process and the work you contribute to the editorial team.

First off, this answer will vary depending on what type of content the sound designer is working on (theatrical feature, broadcast/streaming, video game, etc.). My experience is primarily in the area of broadcast/streaming, but there’s a fair amount of crossover in regard to how the work is approached and executed. It should also be noted that completed sound design is often subjective in nature and should be treated as such.

In my experience, the most important component of sound design is to help sonically execute the vision of the producer, director, mixers and your supervising sound editor—on time, within budget, sounding great— with a smile on your face. There’s a tendency for new editors/designers to creatively approach their projects/scenes/sequences with their creative preferences first and supervisors + clients second, which is understandable, but should be corrected sooner than later.

So, once I’m clear with what the goal is creatively, I begin asking questions (and answering them as quickly as possible) as to how to reach that goal, and when does my material need to be delivered to the mix tech/mix stage by.

Key Questions to Ask Yourself When Sound Editing

Do I have a relationship with the FX mixer and know how he likes his sessions set up and laid out? If not, what is the best way to contact him and how soon? The sooner the better. Do I have the material (sound FX) I need to cover all of the basic content in the project? If not, do I have time and recording equipment that I can use to record new material, which is ideal although not always possible? Do I have plugins that I might need for “design-y”/non-terrestrial type sequences? Also, if I have several ongoing projects, do I have a supporting editor/designer that I need to rely on? If so, are they clear on what the creative vision/goals are and how to execute them in the time I need them?

Once those questions are answered, and I’m organized, I can go about sitting down and cutting sounds into a scene, which is often the fun part most people visualize when they think of sound design.

Long story short, these sounds need to support the story + vision (see above) and be organized properly in your session (VERY IMPORTANT). You could have to the greatest sounds in the world, but if they’re not organized in such a way that the mixer can access quickly and easily, then you’ll get grief and eventually a cold shoulder if your sessions aren’t cleaned up over time.

At this point I’m confident that my source material is accessible, my work is organized, and on-point with regards to creative direction from above. THEN I can add my own personal flourishes within scope of the project as I see fit. And these flourishes help make up my distinctive sound, my signature, my “sonic voice” if you will. And this usually takes YEARS to flesh out, and often is a result of one’s life experiences, which is pretty cool if you stop to think about it.

Once my session is complete, I’ll watch it down against picture, production dialogue and music, and pick up any loose ends I missed. Then I deliver it to the mix stage via a shared, in-house network server, let the mix tech know it’s ready to go, and then start from the top with the next episode, reel, etc.

What did you contribute to Seasons 1 and 2 of Stranger Things?

In regard to my specific contribution to Stranger Things, it was building out all of the non-dialogue aspects of the show. That includes terrestrial elements like backgrounds, ambiences, car crashes, fight scenes, bicycles pedaling, etc.

Do you have a favorite software that you use for editing?

Avid Pro Tools has been the industry standard for feature and broadcast/streaming for some time now and is what I’m most experienced with. In regard to plugins, I’ve made a point of sticking with the fundamentals (eq+reverb, maybe a bit of compression) as opposed to crazy long chains (especially ones that might not be supported on stage). The Pro Tools EQ3 7 Band and Altiverb 7 has covered most of my needs in that respect. I’d much prefer to start with and layer the right source material as opposed to processing something to death that was poorly recorded to begin with.

What got you into sound design/effects and how did you transition into working on major productions like Stranger Things?

I was very much interested in electronic music in the ‘90s and early 2000s around the time I started (and still am). I remember being at The Los Angeles Recording School around the time the whole Napster/LimeWire/file-sharing thing was just starting to blow up, and people were stressing as to what the future might hold. I honestly didn’t have the courage at the time to try and crack the music business in that environment, especially without prior music training nor connections. I still really wanted to get into sound, and post-production was the next logical choice. It seemed like a pretty exciting career to get into. Toward the end of my time at The Los Angeles Recording School, I lucked into an unpaid internship at a boutique theatrical studio, did that for a year, and was offered a runner job at Technicolor for something like $8 an hour. After about 12+ years of blood, sweat and tears working on various projects, I had positioned myself as one of a handful of in-house sound designers who could handle high-profile projects such as Stranger Things and the Marvel/Netflix stuff, and I got the call.

An old friend once said that “great work finds its way to people who will appreciate it,” and I still believe that to be true.

Where does the sound inspiration for “Stranger Things” come from?

The haunting, ‘80s synth-based score pays homage to movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. and many other classic sci-fi thrillers from that era. I also tapped into childhood memories and experiences from the early-to-mid ‘80s when working on the show.

What’s your advice to anyone interested in audio or music production?

I would suggest that you really focus on your interpersonal communication skills in a studio environment. Post-production sound is a collaborative process, which requires you to communicate what you bring to the table, and how it will improve the project as a whole, while sometimes being just a piece of the puzzle when a less visible presence is required.

In regard to the more “technical,” try different things (dialogue, FX, Foley, mixing, designing/editing, etc.), and ideally try to settle on one that suits your personality! Work as hard as you can prior to your big break so that you’re ready when it comes along.

Develop a love of learning. Develop a desire to constantly improve yourself. Don’t be afraid to fail, or at least do your best to keep that fear in check.

Jordan is currently working on the Twilight Zone reboot and will start work on HBO’s new show Watchmen early summer 2019.

If you would like to ask Jordan more about his work and experiences in sound editing, you can find him on Twitter at @jbw3e. DMs are open.

If you are interested in post-production sound effects editing, check out our Audio Production Degree Program. You can choose from either a Bachelor’s of Science or an Associate of Science in Audio Production.

Thank you, Jordan!

With Jordan Wilby, sound brings life and essence to picture

With an impressive credit list including Marvel’s multitude of television properties, Jordan Wilby (Recording Arts, 2004) channels his sonic skills to create emotion and resonance. He has worked with Disney Pixar on Brad Bird’s The Incredibles.

jordan wilby

Jordan Wilby (far left) – Courtesy of CineMontage

Jordan’s appreciation of music led him to venture out to Los Angeles. In 2002, he enrolled in the Recording Arts program at The Los Angeles Recording School and completed his studies in 2004. A stickler for experiential learning, Wilby secured internships shortly thereafter with Hammerhead Sound and more. A growing love for audio postproduction led him to work on properties that are now well-known and adored by audiences worldwide. Chances are, if you are a film or television lover, you have heard sounds that were sculpted by Jordan Wilby, a dynamic author of sounds both ethereal and unique. In addition to working on The Incredibles, Wilby helped bring director Terrence Malick’s vision to life in the epic film, The New World. He has also worked on Glee, True Blood, Family Guy, Dexter and American Monk. For over 10 years, Wilby has worked on several of Marvel’s Netflix series, including Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and The Punisher. He also worked as a sound effects editor on Stranger Things, a series directed by Matt and Ross Duffer. Not only has Jordan been creating and editing fascinating sounds that audiences love, he has also garnered the praise of critics, receiving in 2015 and 2016 Primetime Emmy nominations for the sound design of Marvel’s Daredevil Seasons 1 and 2, and a Golden Reel nomination.

Jordan Wilby was recently featured on the popular film website, Shoot Online.