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October 2014
Issue: December 1, 2013

Getting Started: Sound mixer Rob DiFondi

Rob DiFondi
Sound Mixer
Sound Lounge
New York City
www.soundlounge.com

My entire sound-mixing career can be traced back to the tuba. Sounds crazy, right? Let’s rewind to the fourth grade in mid-’80s upstate New York (cue flashback sounds). 

My cousin Tim is six weeks older than me and, because our moms are so close, we essentially grew up as brothers. Sometime around the third grade, we both took up playing the guitar. I enjoyed it enough, but something in me knew it wasn’t really for me. So, when the time came in fourth grade for us each to choose what instrument we’d play in the school band, Tim decided he wanted to play the tuba, and I followed suit. There was only one problem: Harts Hill Elementary only had one tuba! My band teacher, Mrs. Newman, pulled me aside to break the bad news. I was heartbroken. She said there was an opening in the percussion section, though, and if I was interested, it was mine. I reluctantly agreed.

And so my obsession with drumming began.

By the fifth grade I was starting to learn how to play the drum set. My school didn’t have a set of drums, so we’d set up music stands in my band teacher’s office, mimicking the various drums’ positions in a set, and I’d bang away for hours after school. At some point, she decided I was good enough to warrant a phone call to the middle school — where they did have a drum set — to get me after-school lessons with the band teacher over there. That first time I got behind a real kit was amazing. I was taught jazz drumming, and before I knew it, I was in the jazz band. 

The following summer, a camp counselor at the park down the street from my house introduced me to Metallica. My world was never to be the same. Up until that point, I had only really been exposed to whatever my parents were listening to on the radio (usually top 40 hits), Run DMC (everyone in fifth grade was into them at the time), and the record single of Quiet Riot’s “Cum on Feel the Noise,” (which I had for some reason).

All this led me to beg my parents for a drum set of my own, and I bought one with my hard-earned, paper-route money. At some point, I saw a flyer in a music store for a high school metal band in search of a drummer. I tried out and got the gig on the spot. I was in seventh grade. When we went on to record an album of our original music in a local studio, the recording bug bit me. Around that same time, the double-VHS movie, A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica, came out: An entire tape devoted to them, in the studio, recording the Black album! I watched it obsessively, which further fed my interest in recording music. 

My interest in music recording continued into high school, where I learned about two college recording programs — one at Berklee College of Music in Boston and another at SUNY Fredonia in Western New York. I ultimately landed at Fredonia, where I spent four incredible years studying the art of sound recording, music theory, acoustics, physics and calculus. (I also met the girl who would become my wife while I was there. Guess I have the tuba to thank for that, too!)

My time in Boston led to an internship at a music and post production facility, which gave me my first taste of mixing sound for picture. Another internship at a jingle house in NYC introduced me to advertising. Once I was done with college, I decided the thing for me was post production for commercials (a combination of my two internships). So, I called upon a friend who was interning at a place called Sound Lounge, and asked for the ol’ “put my resume on top of the pile...?” favor. It worked. And the rest, my friends, is history.