Ultimate Ears | In-Ear Monitors for Musicians & Sound Engineers

Andreas Farmakalidis | Ultimate Ears Stories from the Field

Andreas Farmakalidis is a bass player based in CA. He graduated magna cum laude from  Berklee College of Music (BMus) as well as from Brandeis University (MA) has gained wide ranging international experience as a performer as well as educator focusing on music analysis.

Andreas has shared the stage with many national acts such as:

WAR, Ryan Cabrera, Heleen Schuttevaer, Nicolas Farmakalidis, Steven Adler (Guns n Roses) Greek Xfactor + Greek idol artists, and many more.

He has toured all over USA and Europe including performances in most of the major Music festivals such as North Sea Jazz festival, 2005 European Bass Day, Florida Music Festival, SXSW, NXNE, Summerfest among many others.

Here are some choice morsels:

About how he was introduced to UE

I was first introduced to the Ultimate Ears Products during the 2015 NAMM show and through that I heard that Ultimate Ears had collaborated with the engineers at Capitol Records for the UE-REM. I was interested in learning more since I was fortunate enough to have spent some time in Capitol’s recording studio A, which, by the way, was recently refurbished, thus I was familiar with the sound. I emailed the company and drove all the way to Irvine so I could check more of their products.  There, I got the opportunity to test and compare many of their In-ear monitors.

About how UE fits into his workflow

Firstly I would like to say the reasons why I use the UE pro in-ear monitors. There are several good reasons for using in-ear monitors. I use the UE-PRO – 11s live as well as in the studio when I record bass. The reasons are to increase the overall sound quality by reducing stage volume (getting rid of monitor speakers), for better hearing protection as well as for the need to have a precise monitor mix.

I use the Reference Monitor in the Studio for mixing. You need a consistent and accurate point of reference that you can trust wherever you are. Because of my changing schedule I have to finish projects on my laptop or in  studios that I have never been before, therefore having a steady super accurate sound signature is invaluable.

Words of advice to young musicians.

Everybody says that practice makes perfect. I will say that PERFECT practice makes perfect.  Practicing intelligently is something that my best teachers instilled in me, and it’s vital if you’re going to survive in the professional world.

In addition to that, young musicians should always choose aspiration over the competition. Always look at what it is that they do that you like, and try to figure out how to integrate it into your own playing.

Read the full interview below.

Hi Andreas, thanks for talking the time to speak with our. First off, where are you from?

I was born in the island of Cyprus, which is a small island in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

It is an amazingly beautiful island and a really popular tourist resort with fantastic wineries and great local cuisine. The most beautiful thing about Cyprus is the fact that  it is steeped in history, and wherever you go you will be surrounded by the ancient mysteries of the island. So, without realizing it I learned about the history of my land and all of its surrounding countries only because I grew up in a geographical area full of history.

How did you get your start in music?

I have been playing piano since I was 6 but I started playing music before that because I was welcomed into a unique musical world. I grew up in a musical family, my dad is a professional Jazz piano player, my brother is a music producer and my grandfather was a guitar player. My family was the foundation of my musical education. They prepared me for anything by teaching me to keep my mind open and learn to adapt.

The main reason I started learning music is because my dad  taught me how to appreciate and love music. Seeing my dad practice daily or observing him and his friends passionately listening and analyzing Jazz instilled some positive values in me. You need to understand that I come from a very charming but small island. We did not have any music resources. The only “American music” we could get our hands on was Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. Imagine how difficult and merely impossible it was to get a Miles Davis, Keith Jarret, Chic Corea cassette tape since there was no market for it. I recall when I was a child, that my dad got his hands on a “Miles Davis” cassette tape and he was so excited. The outcome of this was that ALL of his musicians friends and colleagues gathered in our house to listen to that album. Everyone was striving for more education and I am grateful that this value is imparted in me.

All these experiences taught me a lot of things. Not only about life but how it is okay to feel something extraordinary and express your emotions. I was always experiencing music as a group activity, therefore I believe that we should inhale it and share a bit with everyone else in the room.

I got really serious regarding becoming a musician at about the age of 16 when I started playing upright bass for the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra. The same year I went to France because I was selected after a long audition process to be part of a Cypriot band that was commissioned to attend several festivals in France to promote the Cypriot culture.  That same year I was offered a scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music through an audition, which I could not employ at that time hence, I made a deal with the College to attend their Bass as well as their 6 week Summer Performance Program.

After that, my upbringing was quite an extreme mix of different styles of music, mostly through Trance underground bass music in its early stages because I was DJ-ing, funk, soul, and jazz through bass playing as well as a strict classical piano/theory education. I was playing upright bass in the Youth Orchestra, studying classical piano at the Conservatory, playing electric bass in various Rock/Jazz/Heavy metal bands as well as DJ-ing every night to save money for college – all these while I was completing my 26-month obligatory army service.  

During my compulsory military service – again through an audition process and written examination – I became the musical director of the army band. I was in charge of creating the arrangements and directing all the rehearsals of a 50 piece band (brass, strings, and rhythm section).

When did you move to the US? What prompted that?

I was taught whilst growing up that I should always dream “big” and aspire to do my best. I  shouldn’t let obstacles stand in the way of my goals, so one of my early goals in life was to attend Berklee college of Music and I am so proud of myself that I got the chance to do it  twice.

As I already said, when I was 16 I was offered a scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music through an audition, which I could not utilize at that time since firstly it was “expiring” after two years and I had to do my obligatory military service after high school, and secondly for financial reasons. Thence, I made a deal with the College to attend their Bass as well as their 6 week Summer Performance Program which was an AMAZING experience. After that, I returned back to Cyprus finished my 2-year obligatory military service being the arranger of the army band as well as the military orchestra. When my mandatory service to my country was done I attended the Rotterdam Conservatory (CODARTS) with a full scholarship from the European Union.     After spending a solid 3 years in Netherlands studying Jazz performance, I realized that I had outgrown my first city abroad, since I had already performed in the North Sea Jazz Festival as well as the European Bass Day, which are  two of the most reputable Music Festivals of Western Europe while I was still a college student.  

Consequently, In 2006, I packed my bags, said goodbye to Netherlands and I moved to the USA to attend Berklee College of Music for the second time. I knew my funds were limited so I went above and beyond and graduated in 4 semesters.

You Graduated Magna Cum Laude from Berklee. That’s amazing! Tell us a little about your time there.

Berklee is a creative environment that allows you to be who you are and it is definitely a   life- altering experience. Beyond the music, faculty, and classes are the friends and  mentors who you will treasure for the rest of your life. Student life at Berklee is composed of several important ingredients, including the amazing on-campus facilities, which is surrounded by Boston’s unique urban attractions. The most important thing I learned from Berklee apart from all the music knowledge is that you should never burn any bridges; it’s all about building bridges.

Music is supposed to be a collaborative experience, a pleasant roller coaster ride with friends. It’s all about the people. The people that get together with you during the creation process as well as the people that will receive and perceive your music. In addition to that it’s about networking and being nice to people and as I said not burning any bridges. Your “curriculum vitae” is going to impress, but in the end it is people that are going to hire you and collaborate with you. It does not matter if you are the best composer on the planet. Nobody will want to work with you if they do not like who you are. If they do not like your energy.  

The most important thing I gained from Berklee is that the friends I made through college became the people who gave me my very first gigs and with many of them we still work together.

Lastly, Berklee gave me the opportunity to exchange and learn about the inner workings of the music industry and get a taste of all the elements involving my personal passion for music and burning desire to advance in my own career. I was fortunate enough to be offered a position as an assistant professor in the bass department after I was graduated as a part of my practical training. I helped several of my bass professor design new courses that are now being taught at Berklee.

Who are some of the artists you’ve worked with?

My work spans from recording bass for Grammy Award winning Guitar Player Marty Friedman to composing music for Major Motion pictures such as “Poltergeist”. In addition to that I have performed and/or recorded with many Greek Idol, Greek X-factor, American Idol artists, Ryan Cabrera, Candlebox, Steven Adler (Guns n Roses), Ayaka Hirahara and RENT the Musical among many others – including some premium local acts. Now, I am in the studio with American Idol Alexis Lopez recording her new album and  we are also composing music for an upcoming horror movie.

How did you come to find out about UE?

I was first introduced to the Ultimate Ears Products during the 2015 NAMM show and through that I heard that Ultimate Ears had collaborated with the engineers at Capitol Records for the UE-REM. I was interested in learning more since I was fortunate enough to have spent some time in Capitol’s recording studio A, which by the way was recently refurbished, thus I was familiar with the sound. I emailed the company and drove all the way to Irvine so I can check more of their products.  There, I got the opportunity to test and compare many of their In-ear monitors.

How do you use UE Pro in your setup or workflow?

Firstly I would like to say the reasons why I use the UE pro in-ear monitors. There are several good reasons for using in ear monitors. I use the UE-PRO – 11s live as well as in the studio when I record bass. The reasons are to increase the overall sound quality by reducing stage volume (getting rid of monitor speakers), for better hearing protection as well as for the need to have a precise monitor mix. Inserting the in-ear monitors in our ears will reduce the surrounding sound by 20 to 26 dB on average. What we now hear is mainly what’s in the IEM mix. The great advantage is that we can now adjust which signals will apply to the ear and which not.

I use the Reference Monitor in the Studio for mixing. You need a consistent and accurate point of reference that you can trust wherever you are. Because of my changing schedule I have to finish projects on my laptop or in  studios that I have never been before therefore having a steady super accurate sound signature is invaluable.  Before the UE-REM, I was using AKG and Audio-Technica headphones that sounded pretty good,  but sadly I could never get an accurate mix.

What needs to be understood is that when mixing with headphones, you’re not trying to make the track sound good just on that particular pair of headphones, but rather, you’re creating a mix that will translate well to a variety of different playback systems. This can be difficult because the physics of headphones make it nearly impossible to generate the full-frequency spectrum. I tried to find another way to do this and I am so fortunate I found the UE-REM. They became a crucial part of my work flow and an essential part of my studio equipment.

Would you or do you recommend IEMs to your students (they don’t have to be UE, just IEM in general. I like to talk about hearing conservation)?

In-ear monitors allow for improved sound quality to both the audience and the musician, simply by isolating the monitor mix from the front area mix. Additionally, in-ear monitors are convenient when used properly.  Musical performance may create sounds loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss. Some hearing loss in musicians may be considered occupational hearing loss, and a deficit in hearing ability will interfere with the musician’s ability to perform the daily tasks of his or her profession.

Not only can musicians suffer from hearing loss, but many performers often experience a ringing in their ears (tinnitus) and various pitch-perception problems. Music lovers should be modest in the length of time and level of loud music to which they expose their ears. Many performing musicians use in-ear monitors to regulate the levels of sound they absorb on the stage while performing.

It might sound that in-ear monitors are somewhat of a self-indulgence luxury, however, in my opinion, it is an essential piece of gear – as important as having a great instrument –  therefore I recommend IEMs to all my students and/or co-workers. When viewed as a long-term investment in our most valuable asset—our ears— they are a completely justifiable expense. Simply put, whether on stage or on the subway, UEPros allow you to perceive music as it is meant to be heard: distinctly, lucidly and most important it will not hurt your ears!

I see that you do lessons, tell us how you feel about music education?

Music is a powerful communication tool–it causes us to laugh, cry, think and question. I like to approach music the same way we learn any verbal language–by embracing mistakes and playing as often as possible.

It is sad today that most music programs are often the first to be cut back or even totally eliminated from the educations curriculum. This deprives children of a unique opportunity to develop their creativity, learn self-discipline and teamwork, and increase their sense of self-worth. It strikes me as being supremely ironic that today, we still have to try to make the case that music is indispensable if the term ‘educated’ is to mean anything. Even if children will not follow music at a professional level it is important to understand that music education helps develop brain areas involved in language and reasoning. It is thought that brain development continues for many years after birth. Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways. Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint information on young minds.

In addition to that I believe that music teaches us to think outside of the box, be creative and to solve problems by imagining various solutions, rejecting outdated rules and assumptions. Questions about the arts do not have only one right answer.

Additionally, music study develops skills that are necessary for the workplace. It focuses on “doing,” as opposed to observing, and teaches students how to perform, literally, anywhere in the world. Employers are looking for multi-dimensional workers with the sort of flexible and supple intellects that music education helps create. In the music classroom, students can also learn to better communicate and cooperate with one another.

Lastly, music provides children with a means of self-expression and it also boosts self-esteem. The challenge is to make everyone’s life meaningful and to reach a higher stage of development. Everyone needs to be in touch at some time in his life with his core, with what he/she is and what he/she feels. Self-esteem is a by-product of this self-expression.

Do you do lessons in person only or do you also do them via Skype etc?

I teach in person (California), through email as well as through Skype, i-chat and email etc. If I will be visiting any country, I usually announce on my social media/website that I will be visiting and how many spots I have available for private instructions. Several times I am approached from several colleges to do lectures. Recently I got an invitation from California College to do a lecture regarding “What is Music” as well as “The creative process of music”.

Can you give us a word of advice to young musicians who are just starting out?

Everybody says that practice makes perfect. I will say that PERFECT practice makes perfect.  Practicing intelligently is something that my best teachers instilled in me, and it’s vital if you’re going to survive in the professional world.

In addition to that, young musicians should always choose aspiration over the competition. Always look at what it is that they do that you like, and try to figure out how to integrate it into your own playing.

I am really trying to stress that to all my students. I try to take the time to point out great players that can be learned from, and often I will loan a student recordings or videos, or even have them over to my studio to observe the relationship as well as the humble positive attitude great musicians have in the studio. There will always be someone who is better than you in certain aspects and it’s something you should always keep in mind.

Essential though is to always keep it fun! Having fun is the most important thing! You have to make it fun and pleasant. Imagine being stuck in a tour bus with musicians that don’t get along with each other. This will affect everyone’s psychology and most importantly it will affect the music.  Just play from the heart and always be grateful for having this gift of music.

That is some great advice. Thanks Andreas!

 

Pull Quotes: Interview.

 

About how he was introduced to UE

I was first introduced to the Ultimate Ears Products during the 2015 NAMM show and through that I heard that Ultimate Ears had collaborated with the engineers at Capitol Records for the UE-REM. I was interested in learning more since I was fortunate enough to have spent some time in Capitol’s recording studio A, which, by the way, was recently refurbished, thus I was familiar with the sound. I emailed the company and drove all the way to Irvine so I could check more of their products.  There, I got the opportunity to test and compare many of their In-ear monitors.

About how UE fits into his workflow

Firstly I would like to say the reasons why I use the UE pro in-ear monitors. There are several good reasons for using in-ear monitors. I use the UE-PRO – 11s live as well as in the studio when I record bass. The reasons are to increase the overall sound quality by reducing stage volume (getting rid of monitor speakers), for better hearing protection as well as for the need to have a precise monitor mix.

I use the Reference Monitor in the Studio for mixing. You need a consistent and accurate point of reference that you can trust wherever you are. Because of my changing schedule I have to finish projects on my laptop or in  studios that I have never been before, therefore having a steady super accurate sound signature is invaluable.

Words of advice to young musicians.

Everybody says that practice makes perfect. I will say that PERFECT practice makes perfect.  Practicing intelligently is something that my best teachers instilled in me, and it’s vital if you’re going to survive in the professional world.

In addition to that, young musicians should always choose aspiration over the competition. Always look at what it is that they do that you like, and try to figure out how to integrate it into your own playing.

Read the full interview below.

 

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