Charles and Alyssa Hoffman are a husband and wife power couple—he's a full-time producer and audio engineer, and she makes her living as a singer. With a professionally sound-treated home studio at their disposal, packed with top-of-the-line recording gear, these two lovebirds are ready to help you add commercial-grade vocals to your next project.
Sky Pilots provides a full-service female vocal package; this includes writing lyrics, developing vocal melodies and harmonies, recording vocals, as well as processing vocals. Alyssa handles writing lyrics and singing, while Charles deals with recording and processing her vocals. She's been singing in musicals her entire life, and he's been producing music since 2012. Between the two of them, they have over 30 years of music experience under their belt.
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Interview with Sky Pilots
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: Alyssa: "Singing. Duh." Charles: "Dealing with my wife's shenanigans."
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: Alyssa: "We bring over 30 years of combined music experience to the table. I grew up performing in musicals, which involved plenty of singing. Now I teach musical theater. Charles was a band nerd in middle school through high school, which evolved into an obsession with music production. Now he works full-time as a freelance audio engineer and producer."
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: Alyssa: "We mostly work with clients who have produced an instrumental and want someone to deal with vocal production, start to finish, for them. This involves writing lyrics, coming up with vocal melodies and harmonies, as well as recording and processing vocals. I deal with the writing and singing, and Charles takes care of recording and processing my vocals."
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Charles: "Analog-modelling has become so advanced that the line between analog and digital has become almost non-existent in regards to sound quality. Analog gear is fun, but digital products provide significant convenience. I think they both have their place."
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Charles: "You get what you pay for. If 'cheap' vocals are what you're looking for, we're probably not the right fit for you. We offer full-service female vocals, meaning that we take care of writing lyrics, developing vocal melodies and harmonies, recording vocals, in addition to processing vocals. We're the complete package and we charge for our services accordingly. If you need female vocals done right, we've got you."
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: Charles: "I've been producing music since 2012. I attended school for music production in 2015, and since graduating, I've launched a successful music production blog called Black Ghost Audio that teaches people how to produce music online.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Charles: "Trust your ears. You know what sounds good."
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: Alyssa: "I sit down on a couch in the studio with a cup of coffee and listen to the instrumental a few times. Then I start humming out a melody that fits the song. Once I've come up with a melody I like, I add in words. If someone gives me lyrics with their instrumental, I work the opposite way and come up with a melody based on the lyrics. It just depends on the song! Charles is in the studio with me throughout this process. Once I come up with a verse I like, he'll record me singing it into Pro Tools so that we don't lose the idea. We just go section by section until the lead vocal melody is finished. Then we circle back around to record harmonies. Once I'm done singing, Charles cleans, comps, tunes, and processes the vocals. I don't know exactly what he does to them, but my vocals sound awesome by the time he's finished with them, haha."
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: Charles: "We run with a pretty simple hardware setup because I apply processing in-the-box. Alyssa records through a TLM 103 microphone since we've found that it suits her voice particularly well. It has a pristine and clear sound as a result of its transformerless design. Some people prefer recording with more colorful mics but I like that the TLM 103 provides a clean canvas to work with. I can take the recordings it produces in any direction I like. Vocals are recorded directly into our Universal Audio Apollo x8 audio interface. Thanks to this unit's Unison preamps, which behave like the world's most sought-after tube and solid-state designs, we're able to capture the tone and feel of legendary mic preamps from UA, API, Neve, SSL, Manley, and more on the way into Pro Tools. I mix Alyssa's vocals through a pair of active nearfield three-way Kali Audio IN-5 monitors. The midrange detail they provide as a result of their three-way design makes processing vocals a breeze. They allow me to make sure that Alyssa's vocals sound clear and articulate without second-guessing myself. Recording and mixing vocals in an untreated space would be a lost cause so I fully sound-treated our studio with custom-made 3" to 6" thick Rockwool panels. This ensures that Alyssa's vocals are recorded free of excessive room tone, and it allows me to make well-informed mixing decisions when processing her vocals. With Sonarwork's Reference 4 calibration software added to the equation, I've managed to achieve a near-flat frequency response at my listening position."