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Steve Tavaglione

Artist Info
Steve Tavaglione

Base of Operations:
Los Angeles

composer, sound designer and multi-instrumentalist

M-Audio Gear :
Axiom 61, Delta 1010, Keystation 88es, MIDISPORT 1x1, SP-2

After falling in love with the saxophone during his high school years, Steve Tavaglione started playing jazz gigs at 18, frequently sitting in with a jazz trio that was a nightly fixture at his uncle’s bowling alley. In 1974, Tavaglione joined Sly and the Family Stone for a year, before co-forming the Latin jazz group Caldera and signing with Capitol for four albums. Tavaglione subsequently toured with George Benson for eight years, after which he became a regular in the studio scene. He eventually meet up with television composer Jay Gruska (Lois and Clark, Beverly Hills 90210) and film composer Thomas Newman (White Oleander, Erin Brockovich), and has worked steadily with both for many years. From work on films like Road to Perdition, American Beauty, Ocean’s Eleven and A Good German to television shows such as CSI, Hack, and Charmed, to live performances with Scott Kinsey, Sergio Mendez, and many more, flexibility and versatility have characterized Tavaglione’s career.

Silversun Pickups

Steve Tavaglione
Steve Tavaglione has worked on various films and television shows, including Bridge to Terabithia, Smokin’ Aces and CSI: NY

Tavaglione on his production process: “In the world of movies, I work in Thomas Newman’s inner team doing sound design and as a performing musician. Most things are not written out, they are just improvisational. When working with Tom, happenstance is a big factor in what goes into the score—things that you couldn't really think of just kind of happen in time. I generally wait to see what the composer has in mind. He'll say that he needs a tone, which is a word for the ambience—something to lead in, to create a feeling of cold, darkness, or heaviness.  But, generally it's not a melodic line, because the melodic lines tend to attract attention and take away from what's going on in the scene. 

“It's really a challenge to have something that is not static, but moving at the same time. In other words, I'll create an ambience that will change within itself, but will stay the same and stay on the same bandwidth. The emotional effects and a lot of the noises that I use are mostly acoustically based. I play things like cymbals as tonal instruments.  If there are too many frequencies in the recording I use EQ, draw out certain things, and just get the effect of the bowed cymbal.”

Tavaglione on M-Audio hardware: “I used the Axiom 49 and Axiom 61 for the synthesizer work I did on films such as The Good German, Alpha Dog and Bridge to Terabithia. I use the sliders on the Axioms and the keys to trigger synthesizers and the faders for filter resonance, volume and to control effects—it works really well! Since I have a mobile setup, all of this is directly recorded into a Pro Tools HD system from a line out on my system. I use the Keystation 88es when I need a longer keyboard—when I work with Thomas Newman I bring the 88sx so that he can play the things that I program for him.

“When I work on CSI: NY I’ll connect the composer Bill Brown’s system through the MIDISPORT 2x2 and he’ll be able to trigger my rig through it. I use this system when I’m working with Thomas Newman too. I also use the MidAir in another booth so that he can play the keyboard in that room and move around. I perform on the EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument) and use the MidAir so that I can walk around on stage and not be tethered to my computer—that is a very freeing feeling.

“I used the FireWire 1814 as an audio interface for Finding Nemo, Road to Perdition—all in all I’ve used it on about 10 to 15 films. I also use the Transit, which is a simple piece of gear, but saved me at a performance at The Bowers Museum of Cultural Art. My interface wasn’t working, so I decided to use the Transit, which worked perfectly.

“I use the Sputnik in the studio, which I record woodwinds through—then I copy and paste the performance into Ableton Live to create harmonies. The microphone picks up the room very well. When I work with Thomas Newman, I’m not playing just straight notes, but atmospheric sounds, which sound wonderful through the Sputnik. I can pull out any one of 10 different horns, from a baritone saxophone to a flute and the Sputnik is very warm and has a very nice sense of the air in the room. It picks up the full range of the harmonics for all of the instruments that I play. The tube aspect of the microphone makes for a great combination with the woodwinds that I use, especially when I use it with the Tampa preamp.”

Tavaglione on M-Audio software: “I use iZotope’s Trash and Ozone 3 to maximize sounds when I am working on various projects. I utilize these in both pre-production and in the studio.  I use Trash to get subtle distortion and Ozone 3 for mastering—it really helps. I am still exploring Ozone 3 because it’s pretty deep. The presets are just perfect—I downloaded the third-party presets, and use them quite a bit on my mixes. My jazz electronic record was mastered with Ozone 3. These plug-ins really make a difference in my production process!”

Why M-Audio? “My M-Audio tools help me to be very portable, and give me individuality. Most of the composers I work for have all of the gear in the world and 24-hour technical help. M-Audio products help me to do a lot of pre-performance work, where I make my own sounds to bring something different to the table. These things bring out my individualism. The pre-production keeps me in the business, and lets me bring individualized non-commercial sound design to the composition. Having a mobile M-Audio rig helps me to bring these sounds to all of the various environments that I work in and keeps my individualistic nature sounding professional.”