Strings & Theories DJ Mix

It’s been awhile since I did a DJ mix, and with summer coming along nicely now, I figured it was time for some fun, groovy music.  This one was done in Traktor 2.5 with the Kontrol X1 and my Xone62.  A Traktor Audio 6 DJ was used for all IO.  I have to say, the new tempo and beat detection NI added in version 2.5 was more or less spot on in all my tracks. Nice.

Strings & Theories
Downtempo DJ Mix 06-28-2012

Start Time – Artist – Track Title – Label
00:00 – Carmen Rizzo – Take Me Over – Electrofone
04:14 – Boot Cut Rockers – Instant Lightflow – Elvissabeat
09:39 – CJ RcM – Forest Rain – Easy Summer
12:41 – Pae – Pacific Interlude – GR8 AL
16:25 – Ekala – Blue Promises – Celestial
20:08 – Immaculate Ibiza – Drum & Drum – Immaculate Ibiza
23:21 – Elvizzards – Blue Rose – Manifold
28:13 – Dive Deep Corp – Dub Up – Elvissabeat
32:19 – Kogyo – Waves – Kindred
36:59 – Ovnimoon – Fab My Sun – Psybertribe
43:08 – Stefwell – Is This Love (OBE Chill Rmx) – Clubstar

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Just a couple more quick tidbits.  Just found out yesterday I’m going to be playing a downtempo live set at Chillography in Seattle on August 4th.  Also, I’ll be doing a more uptempo live set at the Sequential Circuits club night in Vancouver, BC on August 20th.  All this in addition to my live sets at Photosynthesis July 20th in Neah Bay, WA.  Going to be a busy summer!

Details on the new gigs coming soon, just waiting for some artwork and my time slots.  Hope to meet some of you at one of these!

Elektron Artist Spotlight

This week I was the featured artist in the Elektron newsletter.  They did a quick interview coving mastering and my workflow when making music, which I’ve copied below.

Spotlight: Tarekith

If you are an owner of the Machinedrum or the Monomachine you have most likely stumbled across the extremely comprehensive lists of tips and tricks Tarekith has assembled for said machines. Not only a true Elektron wizard, he also runs his own mastering studio and is the author of several music production guides. His skills are evident in his music. The spaciousness of his finely crafted songs makes them seem almost tailor made for summer outdoor parties.

1. How do you divide time between mixing, mastering and creating electronic music?

These days it’s probably 90% mastering and mixdowns, as that’s how I make my living. So that kind of work always has to come first, which is fine with me as it’s something I truly enjoy doing all the time.

Once my work is done for the day, then I have time to myself to work on my own music. After being in the studio all day working, it’s nice having something portable like the Machinedrum or Octatrack that I can take out on my deck and make music in a different environment.

2. Do you have any special mastering tricks you want to share?

Well, I don’t think it’s really about there being any special tricks, which is a misconception I think a lot of people have about mastering. The best advice I can offer for people looking to master their own music is make sure that whatever processing they do is really needed. I think too often people over-process when self-mastering, either because they heard “artist x, y, z” did something a certain way, or because they don’t know any better.

Really though, that kind of thinking should be part of the entire production process. Have a reason for the things you do, don’t just do things to your music ‘just because’.

3. Electronic music making offers so many possibilities, which can be both a blessing and a curse. How to you avoid getting distracted by choices?

I think early on a lot of people (myself included) go through a phase where you collect gear, be it hardware or software. But pretty soon you start to realize that you spend more time looking for the right sound, instead of writing music. At least that’s how it was for me anyway.

So I made a pretty conscious decision early on to whittle down my gear collection to a few pieces that I really enjoyed using, and that offered a broad range of sounds. The Machinedrum is a prime example of that, loads of fun to play, tons of great sounds, and it works live or in the studio equally well.

I always thought that the one thing that’s missing from a lot of electronic music is that sense of musicianship you get when you dedicate a lot of your time to learning an instrument. So for a long time I looked for gear that I could spend years mastering how to use in every way possible. The Elektron equipment is awesome for that, incredibly fun to use day to day, but so deep in what they can do that you’re still learning something new years later.

4. What would you say is the biggest difference between how you approach music making today compared to when you started out?

Well right now I’m actually in a phase where I’ve made a decision to focus on making music like I used to when I started out! Mainly just getting away from the computer and a lot of the micro-editing I used to do, and spending more time with only a couple hardware boxes to make most of my music.

Nothing wrong with software, I’m just over that phase of spending 8 hours slicing, dicing, and programming a 4 bar drum fill! Plus, because I spend so much of my day in front of the computer in the studio for the mastering business, it’s nice to just be able to sit down and focus my attention on something like the Octatrack.

It’s still a really powerful way to make detailed or complex music, but I can do so in a way that’s a lot more fun for me, and less visually oriented too. In fact, if there’s one downside to spending 90% of my studio time mastering other people’s music, it’s that I haven’t had as much time to master the Octatrack as much as I’d like! Every time I sit down with that box I’m blown away by something new it can do I hadn’t thought of before.

7 Quick Arrangement Tips

Just a few tips that some people might find useful when arranging or writing their songs:

1. If you have a drop or build up in the song, make sure there’s different instrumentation after the drop compared to before it.  You don’t want to build up the energy during that section, only to go back to the exact same sounds that were playing before the drop.  People will be expecting something new, give it to them.

2. Your average listener will know within a few seconds if they want to keep listening to your song, so make the intro catchy.  Nothing wrong with having a nice DJ friendly intro, but put some ear candy in there too so most people will be intrigued enough to keep listening.

3. Same with the end of the song, don’t make it so boring and anti-climatic that the last thing people think when hearing your song is “that’s it?”.

4. Avoid excessive repetition.  Keep it interesting.  Transitions, fills, call and response, variations, use whatever techniques you know to keep the song from getting samey-sounding.

5. Keep it focused.  Does your song really need to be 8 minutes long?  Are you really crafting an epic track that needs that much time to get from point A to point B?  Give people a reason to come back and listen again, don’t beat them over the head with the exact same sounds for way too long.

6. Constantly ask yourself “Is this part crucial to the song?”.  If you can mute a track and really not have the song change much, do you need that part in there?  Do you need 4 different synth lines in the song, or does the strongest one stand well enough on it’s own?

7. Space is good.  Dense mixes can be an amazingly immersive listening experience when mixed right, but leaving room for the instruments to breathe works good too.  Let certain sounds decay to silence, avoid patterns and playing that’s so busy the sounds never have a chance to convey depth or detail.  There’s no sense using reverb or delays if people never really get to hear them.  Not only that, but you’ll find the song is a lot easier to mix and master as well!

 

Hope some of you find these quick tips useful.  For more information on arranging and some more detailed ideas about the above topics, I’d also recommend reading these:

Common Arrangement Issues

Tarekith’s Guide To Arranging Songs

Tarekith’s Guide to Creating Transitions and Fills

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In other news, thanks to everyone that came out to Liquid Beats this past Saturday.  What a great time, with some great beer and friends!  I’m happy to say the new live set went well, only a couple minor issues cropped up, and those were easily dealt with the follow day when I got back in the studio.

Next gig is Photosynthesis 5 up in Neah Bay, Washington!  Hope to meet even more of you there!

http://photosynthesisfestival.com/

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Finally, huge thanks to those people who continue to support the blog with small donations.  Your kindness is very much appreciated!

Becoming A Better Musician

One of the most popular questions people ask me is “How can I become a better musician (or producer)?”  People ask for recommendations on tutorials they can watch, or articles they can read, or they want me to listen to their tracks and tell them what I think they need to work on.

Here’s the thing though, none of that stuff is going to make you a better producer.  I’m not saying there isn’t a need for tutorials and the like, just that reading or watching something about making music is only going to help so much.  They’re a good way to learn new techniques, but you still have to gain the knowledge to know when (and more importantly, when NOT to) use them.

Unlike what many people think, there’s no one secret or group of music-making secrets that’s going to make you an awesome writer, if only someone would share them with you.

 

So then, how does someone become better at writing and producing music?  Here’s a few tips I would offer:

– Practice.  Yes, simple, and the answer no one likes, but the truth is nothing will make you better at writing songs than just…. writing songs.  From start to finish, the more you write songs, the better you get at knowing how to apply different techniques or tools to help you create the music you want.   The more time you put into it, the faster you’ll learn, no way around this.  We learn by DOING, not by READING.

– Patience.  Be realistic about what it is you’re setting out to do.  Learning even a single musical instrument can take years, so it only makes sense that trying to use multiple instruments, as well as learning audio production skills is probably going to take even longer.  This isn’t a short journey, so it pays to recognize up front that it might take a few years of diligent work before you start achieve the results you want.  Just because you may be using a computer to make music, doesn’t mean it’s supposed to be easy.

– Confidence.  Nothing bothers me more than beginning producers posting a song for people to listen to, and at the same time rattling off a long list of things that are wrong with it.  Don’t focus on the negative aspects of your current ability to write music.  You have your own unique focus and goals that are different from other musicians, so have some confidence in what it is you’re doing.  Be proud of the things you DID achieve and improve on in your new song, otherwise this will be something you just get frustrated with very quickly.

 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you have to enjoy the PROCESS of creating music more than the supposed rewards.  That guideline more than anything will serve you the most on your journey to becoming a better producer.   If you approach each day in the studio, or each writing session, with enthusiasm and simply enjoy the act of making music, you’re far more likely to develop your own musical voice, and ultimately become a better musician as well.

“The Wrong Tree” – New Tarekith track

 

New track online here:

https://soundcloud.com/tarekith/the-wrong-tree

Wav, FLAC, MP3 and Ogg versions available exclusively through Addictech.com:

http://www.addictech.com/p/103294

There’s an ambient version also available too!

http://www.addictech.com/p/103295

 

With all of the hardware work I’ve been focusing on lately, it’s been awhile since I fired up Live and just let loose with all the tools at my disposal.  Figured it was time to write something new, focus on the software side of things for a little bit, and not limit myself in terms of what gear I used.

So, the start was a basic beat I cooked up on the Machinedrum, using the drum samples I have stored in ROM on it.  The drums in the song are multi-tracked pretty much straight from the MD’s out into Live.  Just so I could do the arranging in Live, all the beat-making was on the MD.

Once that was recorded into Live, I used Omnisphere to record some simple synth pads to give the track some tonality.  Just some basic sounds I didn’t even use in the end.  With that recorded and playing quietly over the drums, I did some passes with the guitar.  Basic signal path was from the Dragonfly to the Pod HD500, then direct into the Fireface400.   Or I went straight from the built in pick up on my Ovation acoustic guitar.  Recorded a lot of fun guitar sounds in that session, used most through out the track later on.

At this point I had only been working on the song for a couple of hours, and for some strange reason got it into my head I wanted to use some weird trippy vocal in the track.  Broke out the mic, then took a break.  Scribbled down some crazy words on the way back from the grocery store for lunch.

I recorded a few takes of those into Live, comped together the best bits real quick, and then loaded it up in the Octatrack.  I also export a stem of the track playing without the vocals to load into the OT as well.  This way I could add my tweaks to the vocal, while listening to the rest of the song at the same time.  Worked great, I did some really trippy pitch stuff along with some weird distortions, everything you hear on the vocal is all from the OT.

At this point I had the basic song sketched out, but I did some more passes playing Synplant, and Omnisphere using OmniTR on the iPad to tweak it.  Love that combo, such a fluid way of quickly coming up with new sounds.  Anyway, with that last pass done, I spent a few days arranging the track in Live and doing a rough mix along the way.

After a few days of adding fills and transitions, as well as fine-tuning the arrangement, I took a couple days away and gave my ears a rest.  Came back to it a few days later and started editing and removing parts that now I could tell didn’t add much to the track in those sections.  Exported it to Wave Editor where I added just a touch of limiting via Pro-L.  Nothing else was done in the mastering stage apart from dithering.

Upcoming live gigs, June and July 2012

Hey everyone, just wanted to pass on some info for a couple live shows I have coming up over the next couple of months.

The first is a chill afternoon gig at the local pub I hang out at,  The Beer Authority.  I’ll be playing Saturday, June 23rd from 4-6 PM, which also happens to be happy hour.  Buy two bottles of beer to go (any size, any kind), and your first pint is only $2.  They have over 800 micro-brew bottles from around the world, and 8 rotating taps.  Great place to just come and chill out, and if it’s nice out they have outdoor seating too.  No cover either.

I’m using this as an opportunity to give the new downtempo set a run through before festival season kicks off, so it’ll be a pretty laidback and low-key event.  Feel free to stop by if you want to say hi, or talk shop afterwards.  Or just have some really damn good beer!

Here’s their website for more info and directions:

http://www.seattlebeerauthority.com/

And here’s their blog for an up to date list of the latest beers on tap:

http://thebeerauthority.blogspot.com/

The next gig is one I’ve been talking about for awhile, and something I’m REALLY looking forward too, Photosynthesis 5.  Once again I’ll be playing in the H’art tent, which was one of the coolest venues I’ve yet to play in last year when I was there.  I believe I’m also playing a more uptempo set in one of the  main tents, though I’m still waiting for set times to find out for sure.

The festival runs from July 20-22nd, and is located in beautiful Neah Bay, the northwestern-most tip of the continental US.  I’ll post my set times once I find out, but if you’re at all interested I highly recommend this festival (even if you don’t want to see me 🙂 )  Here’s their website for more info:

http://www.photosynthesisfestival.com/

I also recommend their Facebook page if you want info, as it tends to get updated more frequently:

https://www.facebook.com/PhotosynthesisFestival

 

There’s a few other gigs I’m still waiting to get confirmation on for later this summer as well, so stayed tuned if you can’t make it to either of these.  Thanks, and I hope to meet some of you before or after my sets!

Peace and beats,
Tarekith

Finding Time For Music

I’ve covered in the past how to balance trying to make music while having an extremely busy life that doesn’t leave you much free time.  But lately it seems to be something that I’ve been seeing a lot of people ask about again, so I think it’s time to revisit some ideas you can use to improve that balance.

 

Work, kids, spouses; all of these things are arguably more important than making music for most people, so we rightfully focus on those parts of our lives first.  This of course leaves you feeling drained of energy, or rushed to get as much music done as you can when you do find the time.  Here’s a few things that I think can help you refocus your energy to be as productive as possible, with whatever time you have:

– Lower your expectations.  Sounds bad, but it’s not.  Seriously, sometimes setting too high of a goal when you don’t have the time just sets you up for disappointment, and leads to more procrastination because you feel like you never get anything done.  Break down any tasks you have into smaller chunks and just focus on a couple each day.  Moving forward a little bit is better than not moving forward at all.  There’s nothing wrong with having lofty goals, but you need to be realistic about what you can accomplish in the short term as well.

– Slow down.  It’s not a race, making music is about having fun, so there’s no need to feel you have to rush to get a song done.  Take your time, enjoy the PROCESS of making music, and don’t put all your emphasis on the end result to bring you happiness.   Use some of your spare music making time just to enjoy playing an instrument or crafting a sound, not everything music related you do has to be towards making a song or album.

– Use your lunch breaks wisely.  I would often use my lunch breaks to read new gear manuals, study music theory, research future purchases, check for software updates, etc.  Use that time to get as much of the tedious  and non-artistic parts of music making process out of the way as you can.  Make a list of things you want to accomplish for the day when you get home and get into the studio.  But again, be realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have.

– Go portable. Get an iPad, iPod Touch, or some other portable device that will let you record ideas when you find yourself with some free time throughout the day.  Looks for simple apps that let you export the midi or audio files you create when you get back to the studio (I personally recommend the Garageband app).  Great for lunch break music making too.

– Get rid of gear that is distracting you.  Use only the items you know well and truly enjoy using regularly.  Having options is great but it can be distracting as well, too many choices can be almost as bad as not enough for some people.  You don’t have to sell the gear you’re not using (though I tend to), instead maybe just box it up and put it in the closet for now.  Out of sight and out of mind, leaving you to focus on the tools you know really well and are efficient with.

– Start a collaboration with someone.  Having a project in the works where two minds can contribute to the song is great for keeping yourself from getting stuck in creative ruts.  It also helps to force you meet certain deadlines too, if you know the other person is waiting for you to finish your part of the song.  Emphasis should be on bouncing the song back and forth often, with each of you contributing small parts on each go around.  That way you’re not feeling overwhelmed and stressed, and in my experience that kind of back and forth interaction gets things done faster anyway.

– Set aside time.  For a lot of people setting aside an hour each day is just not practical, or perhaps they just don’t get inspired that often.  Instead try to plan for maybe an hour each week where no matter what, you get your own studio time.  Arrange it with your significant other, and make that time sacred.  Have a plan mentally about what you want to try and get done during that time.  It’ll give you something to dream about while at work, and eliminate that feeling you get when you first get into the studio and think “now what?”.  Hopefully you can find more time to make music than just an hour a week, but if nothing else that little bit of time is better than nothing.

– Most of all, remember to have fun.  I say this a lot I know, but too often I think people stress themselves out thinking that they have to produce songs/albums/whatever in order to be a successful musician.  Don’t use other people’s goals as a way to measure your own happiness.  Achieving a goal we set for ourselves is certainly a great feeling, but if you’re not having fun trying to achieve that, what’s the point?

 

The idea for this post came from a thread on the Elektron forums HERE.  There’s some great advice there if you want some other ideas.