Canadian Musician - May-June 2022 - Page 55

Cuba : No , I usually practice on my acoustic . Basically , my practices are interpreting my thoughts , you know ? I ’ ll have a harmonic progression or a chord progression making me wonder what kind of chords I ’ m hearing in my mind . I don ’ t practice what most people practice , per se . I do play every day and I just keep an eye on my chops . I do a lot of muting on my acoustic using my thumb ; it ’ s kind of a big sound for me . On the 12-string , I find that when you play with your thumb , it ’ s quite cool .
CM : Given all the different styles that you blend into your music , how do you approach learning new techniques ?
Cuba : I guess at some point , it becomes what you hear in your head and how to make it happen . I try to manifest everything , of course , with my hands . I do a lot with my hands , and so it becomes about just practicing a little bit until you get what you hear in your mind in your pocket , until you can do it effortlessly . But I love turning my microphone on and putting my headphones on and listening to it through it , playing in front of the microphone with headphones on so that I have more clarity . At this point in my career , basically , the thing that I keep my eye on is just playing , playing , playing every day , so that the instrument maintains that relationship . You ’ ve got to play every day .
CM : During any extra downtime during the pandemic , were there specific techniques you were working on ?
Alex Cuba is a Grammy- and Juno Award-winning Cuban-Canadian singer-songwriter and producer . His work has received many accolades , including a 2022 Grammy Award for Best Latin Pop Album for his latest LP , Mendó .
CM : Could you walk me through your typical setups for playing live versus recording ?
Alex Cuba : I have onstage acoustic and electric . For my acoustic , I don ’ t use any fancy DI box or anything . Whatever the house has , I just plug in . I use a Taylor 716e as my acoustic and then as my electric , I use my Gibson ES-335 , which I usually run through a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe . Again , no effects , only a little distortion from the amp , but mostly clean .
For recordings we usually find our favourite toys . When recording acoustic guitar , I use my Taylor GS Mini . I love the small , mid-sized sort of volume on that guitar , and how balanced it is throughout the whole neck . So , that ’ s my go-to , but lately I ’ ve been using a Taylor 12-string guitar that I got . I ’ m loving the great textures with the thinner string , which is the 200 series .
CM : Do you have a specific regimen when you ’ re practicing guitar ?
Cuba : Yes , I developed recording [ skills ] quite a bit . So , recording myself was quite a new approach . Maybe you look at music a little differently , right ? Especially now with recording , I realize how much I enjoy capturing what I do on my own . A huge amount of magic happens when you ’ re relaxing . You don ’ t have a clock telling you , “ Okay , you are paying this much money .” It opened a huge door for me . I ’ m now turning a lot of my attention and time towards producing . Now I ’ m producing my own music . I was asked for many years to produce other musicians and now that ’ s become more real . So , because of the time that I put into it , now I ’ m really enjoying anything I ’ m capable of doing .
CM : Do you find producing for other people is much different than doing it for yourself ?
Cuba : No , actually . I think the fact that I am an artist myself makes me look at production differently . I don ’ t know how to speak from the eyes or from the mind of somebody who is a producer only . But what I can tell you is that what I am producing , number one , is what I like . I have to be at that level . And then what it does to me is make me feel that I ’ m producing my own music . I fall in love with the songs that I ’ m going to produce , and I learn them very well . I treat it as if it ’ s my own music .
CM : What is the next instrument or piece of gear you ’ d like to acquire ?
Cuba : That ’ s a great question . I ’ m looking at getting a little bit of a bigger interface with more channels to be able to record more instruments at once . There are some pieces of music where I would love to have that . There ’ s so many out there ; it ’ s difficult to make up my mind . I haven ’ t made up my mind yet , but I ’ m looking at a