Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Advantages of Being Restricted

What was your first major musical influence? When most people are asked this, they will probably name a band that they loved when they were younger or an artist that they wanted to sound like. But, when I started making music, that was not the case. Sure, over the years there have been artists who have influenced my work, but not when I was first starting out. Back then, my major influence was my restrictions.

It sounds strange when you say it, but its true. When I first started making music in high school, all I had available was a copy of GarageBand on the school computer. I couldn't get any fancy plugins or sample libraries, and though GarageBand is not a terrible program, it is limited to what it can do.

So what did I do? I took the few synths and sample libraries that I had, and made my music from that. No, it was not great. No one is great in the beginning, but it shaped my music long after I stopped using GarageBand.

What did I learn from this? Limiting your options can give you a better advantage. This is not an original idea. Graham from the Recording Revolution has talked about this on his website and YouTube channel.

But how is it an advantage? Its easy to get caught up in the search for better gear. Most of us could make a list of software or hardware that we would like to have one day. But none of that guarantees us a better sound. Sure, the $2000 mic will have a better quality than a $200 one. But you will still sound poor if you don't have the proper recording skills.

Limiting your options forces you to take the tools that you have and master them. Why have 20 synths that you only use once in a while, when you could have one synth that you use every project and can make 20 sounds with? Not only will it be a big save on your wallet, but you are forced to focus on your skills rather than your gear.

Most of the gear that I use now, I was using two years ago, when I first started getting serious about music production. Yet, my music sounds much better than it did back then. I have also heard some people really kick butt with just GarageBand.

See you soon,

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Minimum Viable Product: Get Something Out There

I was having a conversation with my father a few weeks ago. We were talking about my website and how it was not online yet. (That was part of the conversation, at least.) When I gave him my reasons, his said to me, "Those are just excuses. In software we have something called a 'minimum viable product' it means you need to get something out there. You can improve it as time goes on."

Now, there is more to "minimum viable product" than what he said, and what I paraphrased from him. (Officially its the core features of the product with nothing else.) But he had a point. Its better to have an 'OK' project out in the public and update it later, rather than nothing in the public and an eternal work in progress.

Think of it this way, have you ever seen a bad Kickstarter campaign? They usually consist of one, or a few people sitting in front of a camera telling you about their idea. They don't show you anything, and just tell you about it.

It does not make you interested in it, does it? At a minim, you want to at least get an idea of what they are working on. If they are building a game, you want to see some character designs, or better yet, actual game play footage.

In the context of my site, it meant I had to get it online now. Most of the work for my website was done, as I had told him, but I was waiting on graphics. The thing is, graphics are not needed for a website. Yes, they help make the site interesting and less flat. But its not a core feature.

So, how does this apply to music? Well, its quite simple really. Just get it out there.

It is easy to get caught into the mindset of "I need to perfect my music before I push it out there". I have been there. In some ways, I am still struggling with that mentality. But if you never release anything, then you will never get anywhere.

Its far better to have a consistent public presence, even if your work is rough around the edges. It gives you more time to make connections and grow and audience. And if people complain about the flaws of your work, then its just more feedback for you.

This applies to many other areas. Lets say you want to start a YouTube channel. You could spend months saving money for the right camera mic and video software. Or you could turn on your webcam and start recording from that. No, the videos will not be great, but you will be out in the public longer and have more time to improve. Plus, if you find that you hate making videos, then you wont end up wasting your money.

As for my website. As of this writing, it is online. It doesn't have cool graphics and is pretty dull. But I at least have somewhere to point when I am showing someone my work.

See you soon,

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Lot of a Little

The other day, I was doing a sound design exercise. Its a simple one really. First, I load up a synth twice. In one session I load a factory preset in. In the other session, I create an empty patch. Then, I recreate the preset from scratch. The idea is to discover tricks when it comes to sound design. This time, what I learned was not a trick bur more of a philosophy.

Make a lot of a little. Its a bit of an odd idea, but is a simple one. When making music, rather than trying to make a big change all at once, try making multiple minor changes. I have heard this from different mixing engineers over the years. They would tell me to make small adjustments in my EQ or to add subtle effects and over time, the mix will improve overall. (I am not exactly the best at explaining, it.)

So how did it apply to sound design? In the past, if I was working with FM synthesis, I would add a lot of big effects to my sound in hopes that I can find what I am looking for. But I would be overdoing it, and would ruin an already good sound. It may be a fare better approach to add multiple, yet more subtle effects to get the change that I want, rather than attempting it all in one move.

If this is something that does not make sense to you, I can understand, especially if you are new to music production and sound design. But in my experience, I have learned that big moves can easily ruin what you already have.

See you soon,

Monday, July 6, 2015

Blog Update: Where We Go From Here

You have not updated. No I have not, and I apologize for that. I have not forgotten about it, but I have been putting it off for a while now. There are two main reasons why:

1. The blog is too specific. How is that a problem? Its not an inherent one. There are plenty of blogs that strive on a specific subject. However, I am someone who tends to shift my interests around quite often. This can lead me to picking up projects, then dropping them a few weeks later (like I did with this blog).

2. I have not been training. Its hard to write about perfect pitch when you are not training for it and don't have it already. Getting myself to ear train every day is not an easy task. I have mentioned in the past that I have never completed my training, and have made multiple attempts at it. My last attempt has been no exception.

Will I shut down the blog? No, I do want to continue updating the blog like I was doing back in March and April, but I am not going to be writing specifically about perfect pitch. Instead, I will broadening the blog to a general music blog. Music has been one thing that has remained consistent with me over the years. So, I figured it would be much better to use this blog as a place to share the things that I learn as time goes on.

I will continue to talk about perfect pitch, when I have something on my mind. But keeping a more general focus with the blog will help prevent long gaps between updates. Over the past few months, this blog has come to mind many times, but it always followed with the thought: "I need to start ear training first". This would cause me to push it aside until 'later'.

Will I re-brand? In the future, I do plan to re-brand this blog. However, I have just finished putting my personal website together, so the thought of purchasing another domain and getting it set up gives me a pit in my stomach. Its not hard to do with Blogger, but it still means paying $12 for a domain so that I can leave the current one to collect dust.

Again, I apologize for the lack of updates these past months. But with a broader subject in mind, hopefully I can keep regular updates.

See you soon,

Saturday, April 11, 2015 on Absolute Pitch

The other day, I stumbled across an interesting page on, that discusses perfect pitch. Here is a few things that the author had to say:
Can perfect pitch be learned? Does one have to be born with this 'gift'? While it may be true that some people exhibit this ability from an early age, I firmly believe that one does not have to be 'born with' this ability.
       Consider this - we acknowledge that a small number of musicians do have perfect pitch. We therefore acknowledge that there must be some kind of intrinsic difference between each of the twelve tones in the chromatic scale. Quite simply, if this intrinsic difference was not there, then perfect pitch would not be possible. Those with perfect pitch must be hearing some kind of quality in each tone. Do they have computer-like brains which subconsiously count the number of vibrations per second, or do they have open ears which can pick up subtle diffferences in quality between the twelve tones?
 Though the page was made in late 2003 (and it is currently 2015), it is quite promising to find someone else who has developed a level of perfect pitch as an adult.

The author also discusses a few perfect pitch training programs that I have yet to hear of. I will be sure to check these out in the next few weeks and report my thoughts on them.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Playfulness of Perfect Pitch

During the first two times that I attempted to learn Perfect Pitch, I made the mistake of seeing each of my exercises as a job. I would force myself to sit down and train for twenty minutes every night. If I made a mistake, I would mentally beat myself up. I remember how frustrated I would get, especially during my first attempt, when I could not complete an assignment as quickly as I would like. In my mind, if I could just get through to the next lesson, then somehow, I would gain absolute pitch.

Then, on my second attempt, I made it to lesson 19 out of 24 in Burge's course. Though, my ear had grown in many ways, it was behind where it should have been. I could name name any tone on my keyboard from A3 to C5, but if I switched to another piano, or I stepped out of that range, I would lose the ability. Why was I having so much trouble?

The answer is simple, I was working at it too hard. It sounds odd, but ear training can be stunted when you work too hard at it. Absolute pitch requires a level of playfulness when you train for it. If you try and force it too much, then it will only stunt your development.

Absolute pitch is not the only form of ear training that benefits from a playful attitude. I discovered this when I was working with some frequency training by David Pensado. While practicing the exercises that he taught, I found myself giving a very playful attitude towards the techniques. I wasn't trying to accomplish anything in particular, I was simply exploring the frequency spectrum. I would slowly run a low pass filter on a song until I couldn't hear the cymbals anymore. Then I would take note of the frequency and move on.

This is the attitude that we need for perfect pitch. If we sit down and try and drill ourselves to get the notes memorized, then we are going to walk away really frustrated. Instead, we need to approach it with a sense of playfulness and discovery. We are not trying to force our ear to hear something, instead we are exploring the notes. The ear will pick up on this on its own.

See you soon,

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Do I Have Perfect Pitch?

If I'm going to dedicate a blog to the subject of perfect pitch, I might as well address  this question early on. Do I have perfect pitch?

Well, yes and no. I can clearly hear differences between different notes, but I cant identify them very well. In past ear training attempts, I could identify nearly two octaves of notes on my keyboard. But, due to my lack of training in recent months, that ability has drifted off. 

Having perfect pitch is not like a light switch, where some people have it off and others have it on. Its a range of hearing levels that differ for everyone. Some people may only be able to identify notes on their primary instruments, while others can sing any note of their choosing at any time. 

Relative pitch is much the same way. Some people have a very good relative pitch and can write down a very complicated melody, while others may only be able to point out a perfect fifth or fourth. It is all relative pitch, but some are better at it than others.

This is really important to note when exploring the world of perfect pitch, because you are probably going to hear conflicting testimonies about it. Some people may hear a pitch in every noise that they hear, while others need an instrument to be played to hear it. No one person with perfect pitch has the "true" experience with it. Admittedly, this does damage my credibility, but it also encourages me to encounter a variety of people with the ability and see what the common traits are.

See you soon,

Saturday, March 21, 2015

How Perfect Pitch Works

If you are going to learn how to get perfect pitch, then its essential that you understand how perfect pitch works.

Perfect pitch, is about learning to hear the subtle differences between each note in the chromatic scale. No, this has nothing to do with the intervals between the note. That is relative pitch. It is much more subtle than that. Every note has its own unique flavor to it (another word you could use is color) and when you can hear the difference between each note, and identify a note by its own color, you have perfect pitch.

You have probably experienced the flavor of notes before. For example, have you ever transposed a piece of music from one key to the next, or heard a song change key in its final chorus? It sounds completely different, right? Yes, it does sound higher or lower, but it is almost as if the song was given a different flavor. This is what perfect pitch is, only rather than hearing the differences between key signatures, you hear the difference between each note. 

Try this, go to your primary instrument. (If you do not have a primary instrument, or are not sure of what to use, then use a piano.) Play a concert F#, then compare it to a C#. Be sure to not pay any attention to the interval between them, just listen to each individual note. You may notice that the F# sticks out much more and has a kind of edge to it while the C# has a more relaxed feel to it.

If you hear it only a little, but have a hard time pinpointing it, than that is okay. You may hear the difference very well, or you may not hear them at all. It can take some training to get used to. But hearing the difference is how perfect pitch works. It is simple as that.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

On Synths

If the information on my itunes is correct, than David Lucas Burge's course was released in the year 1999, making this course at least fifteen years old. While most of the course is perfectly fine to use, and will be for a long time, Burge's suggestions on synthesizers are a little dated.

It is worth pointing out that there now exists a number of electronic musicians who do not play instruments, but largely focus on composition, sound design and production. This, obviously, is a result of the digital boom in the past few decades.

So, to those electronic musicians out there who do not have a primary instrument, allow me to give you a few suggestions on what to use:

1. Kontakt or Stock Piano Library. This one is a little obvious. But if your midi controller lacks its own piano sound, or you don't like it, than it is not a bad idea to use a library from your daw or from Kontackt. I would also recommend this to someone who someone who plays something like a flute but wants to use the keyboard exercises. Using a library with your primary instrument may be a good alternative.

2. A Single Sine, Square or Saw Wave. Burge suggested that, if there are no piano settings on your synth, which many synths do not, than to use a single sine wave for training. This is not a bad idea, however I would argue that you could also use other wave shapes such as a saw or square wave. The key is, make sure it is something that you use frequently.

3. A Common Sound That You Use. If you have a particular lead or pluck that you like using, such as a super saw, than it is probably not a bad idea to use that sound. Just be sure to have little to no detuning in your patch. In fact, outside of some reverb or EQ, I would keep the patch as dry as possible. But whatever you use, be sure to save it so you have a constant sound to work with when you are starting your ear training. 

 Those are my suggestions to using modern tech when studying perfect pitch.
See you soon.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


I am happy to announce that this blog now has its very own domain (if you couldn't already guess):

Though there are a few things that still need to be done (like a more original layout) the new domain feels like an official declaration.

See you soon.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Perfect Pitch, Relative Pitch and Frequency Training

There seems to be some misinformation about perfect pitch and what it is. I find that some people confuse perfect pitch with relative pitch or tone guessing. So, I think it is worth clearing that up.

What is perfect pitch? 

Perfect pitch, which is sometimes referred to as absolute pitch, is the ability to name any note by ear without a reference note. If you were to sit down at a piano and play a note to someone with perfect pitch, they would be able to name that note without looking.

What is relative pitch? 

Relative pitch is the ability to name an interval. It can also be used to name notes when given a reference pitch. For example, if you were to play a C for someone with relative pitch, then say to them "what is this note?" and play a G, they would be able to name it. They would also be able to tell you that the interval is a perfect fifth. Simply put, relative pitch is the study of intervals.

What is frequency training? 

Frequency training, is a term that I made up. I do not know what the official term for it is. Essentially, frequency training is learning to recognize different frequency ranges. This is mostly used in music production. Having a good ear for frequency ranges allows an audio engineer to listen to a song, and know immediately which frequency ranges are conflicting.

I bring this up because some people believe that having perfect pitch allows someone to name any frequency down to the hertz. The reality is that no one can do this, especially in the higher frequencies. Someone with perfect pitch will be able to tell you what note it is, but they may not be able to tell you the exact frequency.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Start Up

Hello everyone,
My intentions for this blog are to write about my experiences as work through the David Lucas Burge Perfect Pitch Super Course.

This is not the first time that I have worked through the course. In the past, I worked through 19 of the 24 lessons that the course has to offer. However, I have dropped it for various reasons. Most of those reasons were personal.

Over the next several months, I would like to restart the course for the third time and complete it. I am sure that you have heard the saying, "the third time is the charm."

This will also be a bigger challenge than my last attempts. For in the past, I have trained on my keyboard. This time, I am going to be working with my guitar. The exercises for the guitar differ greatly than for the piano. Hopefully, the new timbre and the new exercises will not hold me back too much.

I encourage everyone to follow along as I explore the mysterious world of Perfect Pitch.

See you soon.