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,