Juniors RJ Vargo and Tonye Jack ponder an important question as they sit inside Country Day’s Conner Burns Memory Recording Studio.
What beat will they create today?
After bouncing around a few ideas, the creative process begins: adding chords and instruments to create a finished product — a beat, later to be used in one of Jack’s numerous songs.
This is a regular scene in the music studio, which is frequently used by Jack and Vargo to create beats, songs and everything in between.
“I’ve been making music since sixth grade, but I started getting really into it in eighth grade,” Jack said.
Jack’s entrance into the world of music took shape when he saw Californian musician Shawn Wasabi perform one of his videos.
“It was really cool. I wanted to make stuff like that,” Jack said.
Vargo started getting into music production in seventh grade on a long drive with a friend, who showed him a basic beat-making app.
Two hours later, he was hooked, having experimented and familiarized himself with the software.
Although he has continued beat-making, Vargo’s view on originality and how he creates new material has changed.
“When I first started I thought I had to create everything on my own,” Vargo said. Vargo eventually realized that taking advice and musical knowledge from others was beneficial, he added.
Vargo emphasized the growth that can result from this collaboration.
“I think collaborations are huge in the music industry. It’s a great way to get out there as a young musician. Beatmakers thrive on collaborations,” Vargo said.
Vargo often collaborates with Jack, who creates hip-hop music under the pseudonym SSJ Daki.
Jack is self-taught, from exploring on his own and with friends.
Jack describes his music as aggressive, personal and expressive — a way to express what’s on his mind, he said.
Jack said he has a lot of his own ideas. “But when I’m listening to another artist and they make something cool, I can take that and make it my own, ” he said.
Vargo said while he is primarily a beatmaker, Jack prefers rapping.
“Depending on what kind of beat he’s feeling I’ll go through some instruments and see what he likes,” Vargo said. “Eventually Tonye takes over, adds some stuff and records on the beat.”
One of Jack’s favorite parts of this process is getting comfortable in the studio and trying different tones and styles in his voice.
“If I’m comfortable and confident when I’m making something it’ll come out good. If I’m not and I have to force stuff out, it won’t,” Jack said.
Jack often thinks a song has to be perfect, but songs can be imperfect, Vargo said.
Vargo stresses the importance of coming to terms with imperfections. “Not just because it takes hours of time, but because if you try for perfection you’ll never get there,” Vargo said.
Vargo’s favorite part of the song-making process is the end.
“I love mixing songs and throwing effects on everything. I can arrange the song and make it complete. It’s amazing seeing it transform as you connect the vocals, beat and mix it into one arrangement,” Vargo said.
Whether music production will remain a hobby or develop into a career is undecided, he said.
Although his future in music is up in the air, Vargo enjoys many aspects of creating music.
“It’s the vibe you get when you create something amazing — you’re just bouncing in the studio with your friend enjoying it,” Vargo said. “And then you put it out and people think it’s great. You get criticism too, which is also great and leads to evolution in your music.”
Jack, however, is more resolute in where he wants to go with his music.
“I think it’s possible if I keep up the pace I’m going at now, at the rate I’m growing with, I can live off music. That’s the goal,” he said.
Looking back on his experiences, Jack has one thing to say to aspiring young musicians: “It’s easier than you think.”