“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.

Soft to Hard?

Since I started talking about my recent work with the Octatrack, I’ve been getting a lot of people asking me about making the switch from software based audio production and performance, to a hardware based set up. In some ways I’m probably not the best person to ask, since I was the opposite and came from a hardware background and eventually got into software. But I’ll try and cover some of the more obvious differences for those thinking about trying to work a little differently than they’re used to.

The first thing that will be pretty apparent to most people is that you end up relying a lot less on your eyes when you’re writing. Sounds dumb since we’re making music with these tools, but I think a lot of people really never realize how visually oriented you are when writing music with software. Not saying it’s good or bad necessarily, but it can take some people awhile to get used to just doing things based on what they hear.

Sort of on that same note, with most hardware you’re going to have to get used to what we call “menu diving”. Obviously, it’s just too expensive for most hardware manufacturers to put fancy or large LCDs on their gear, so you end up doing a lot of your sound design and sequencing looking at smaller displays. The good manufacturers do their best to minimize this and make it easier on the end user, but sometimes it can feel a little tedious. I’m used to it mainly, so it doesn’t usually bother me most of the time.  It’s not all bad though, as I’ll talk about shortly.

Another difference is the amount of detail you’ll likely find yourself putting into your music. Not saying that you still can’t get detailed, but a lot times you’ll find that really detailed editing of your songs can take a LOT longer. Some people have the patience for it, especially some of the MPC based guys. Personally I find that it just makes me focus more on creating the individual parts of my song stronger right from the get go, versus relying on micro editing after the fact to provide the ear candy.

In fact this is probably one of my favorite things about working with hardware. It’s usually easier to just try and rerecord a part by playing it correctly, versus having to go back after the fact and edit any mistakes out. Forces you to be a better musician, and not a better programmer.

Ultimately I think this leads people to realize that you end up trying to do most of your sound manipulation in real-time, instead of drawing automation curves (for instance). So in many respects I find that hardware-based workflows tend to lead the user into a more performance oriented method of creating songs. I think this is one reason the whole groovebox thing took off for some companies. A perfect package for creating and performing music, fitting the needs of both the studio and touring musician.

Another thing I think that really makes working with hardware unique is that you really begin to look at your gear like a musical instrument, even if it doesn’t have obvious performance oriented controls like knobs or keys.

For example, I remember my Akai S3000XL sampler surprised me on this front. Tiny LCD screen and lots of buttons, and rack-mounted no less.  Doing anything on it generally required lots of menu diving and button presses, usually repetitively over and over again. After awhile though, you find that you’re doing these really complicated key combinations very quickly, without really thinking about it. You get in the zone while working, where you can realize complex musical ideas and the interface doesn’t get in the way, despite it not being what most would consider the most musically oriented way of working.  Your muscle memory takes over and you often don’t realize how complex what you’re doing really is.

The final difference I think that really will stand out to most people, is the lack of presets. Or maybe I should say useable presets. Most hardware groove boxes or workstations come with a decent amount of presets, but honestly most are kind of cheesy and dated sounding in my opinion. You’ll likely end up spending more time making your own sounds from scratch than you would with most software synths, many of which come with hundreds if not thousands of useable sounds.

Again, not a bad thing in my opinion, but it’s not for everyone. I could go on with examples of how hardware workflows are different from software, but I think these are the most obvious ones, at least from my perspective.

A few people have asked me for recommendations on what to buy if they want to get into making music with hardware.  I’m obviously a huge fan of the Elektron gear, though I realize that those boxes are at a premium and some people might not want to invest that much until the know if they like the workflow of hardware.

In that respect, I think the Korg EMX-1 is probably one of the best choices for most people to get into the hardware side of things.  Decent drum sounds, solidly built, portable, and you can easily do complete songs on it with just a little perseverance.  The synth section will probably seem super basic to most people, but there’s more depth there than a lot of people give it credit for.  It’s one of those synths where the controls have huge range, so often just tiny movements can have a radical change in the sound.  Definitely something you don’t want to give up on too early.

If anyone has any questions about writing music with hardware versus software, or maybe has some other examples of the differences (good or bad), please leave them in the comments, thanks!

 

The iOS DJ?

Ever since the iPad was first released, I’ve been intrigued about using it for DJing. Light, portable, decent storage, and more than enough power for basic DJing. Plus, for your average DJ, more than enough screen space for controls to handle mixing two tracks. Of course you can also use one of the many iPad DJ controllers coming out now too, though to be honest I feel that if you’re going to carry one of those, you might as well just use a laptop and controller anyway.

So for awhile now I’ve been eyeing what’s out there, reading reviews, and now and then playing with a couple of the more popular apps dedicated to DJing. I’m not even going to attempt to try and cover all the options available for DJing on iOS devices, instead I’m going to focus on two of the more popular options, Meta.dj and djay. Both can cover basic mixing duties, but do so in ways different enough that there’s little overlap in how they work.
Before I start though, it’s worth talking about the one thing that I think still is a major limitation in the platform for DJing. Namely, all iOS devices can only output a single stereo channel, which means its impossible to cue your tracks while outputting a stereo feed for your audience. Currently the most popular workaround is to instead output a mono channel for the main out, and a mono channel for the cue out using a splitter cable. I’ve been using the popular one from Griffin, which works both with djay and Meta.dj (plus others too):

http://www.algoriddim.com/djay-ipad/accessories/dj-cable

It’s an ok workaround but probably not the most ideal solution. Still, you work with what you have, and on that front it does work pretty well as long as you like mono signals 🙂 A couple of other DJ apps (I.E. DJ Player) let you use something like an iPhone or iPad touch to stream your cue channel from but I haven’t had a chance to play with those yet.

So, first up is probably the most popular DJ app out right now, djay from Algoriddim. The interface will be familiar to most DJs, two virtual turntables are front and center. Buttons around these let you access your iTunes library and playlists, the EQ section, a loop screen, cue points, and in some of the recent updates 6 different effect variations. There’s also the ever present crossfader, and some small channel faders along with decent channel meters too.

The decks can be configure to show you your iTunes album artwork for songs, more or less like a regular vinyl record. Very handy for those people more visually inclined. The effects are pretty well done if a little basic, stutters, gates, delays, flanger, etc. The 3-band EQ is a little harsh to my ears, they give almost full cut when down all the way, but that makes it hard to do subtle EQing too. Loops and cue points can be stored for all your tracks too, which is really handy.

In many ways djay sort of reminds me of using Traktor, most of the basic functions for DJing are there, but it tends to rely on sort of an old school paradigm of mixing. There’s the option to sync tracks automatically, but its still up to you to start them on time. Pressing the sync button again will line up the tempos again, but it also advances the song a quarter note in case you have the tracks in sync, but the phrasing is off. There’s tempo nudging buttons to help get things in sync, but I find them to be really small for how often I use them.

Honestly, this is sort of thing is my biggest complaint with djay overall. The most important functions for a digital DJ are given some of the least screen real estate, while the pretty, but largely pointless, virtual decks always take up so much room. For instance, the loops, EQ, effects, and your cues are all accessed via different views of the same tiny pop up screen. So it’s impossible to set loop points while EQing, or add and manipulate effects while navigating your cues. You can only access one of these functions at a time, while the decks which you’ll rarely touch sit there taking up most of the screen real estate.

There’s a lot of really nice functions in the app, but too much of it is dedicated to looking nice (and old school) versus taking advantage of the screen real estate and touch interface of the iPad. By far my biggest complaint with the app.

On the other end of the spectrum we have Meta.dj from Sound Trends, which aims to reinvent DJing based on the specifics of a touch interface. If djay is like Traktor, then Meta.dj is like Ableton Live. Instead of just focusing on a traditional DJ interface, you also have access to built in drum and synth patterns (with more available as in-app purchases), a loop mangler and playback device, and all of your audio is synced to a global master clock at all times. You can up to 4 of the above devices in a project, in any combination you want.

Meta.dj automatically scans your tracks when you add them to a project, finding the tempo and beat placement fairly accurately in my experience. Like djay, you can set loops and cue points for each track too, though these are project specific. Meta.dj also has some really nice performance based effects that utilize an XY touchpad interface for tweaking. However, these are added to each song on a case by case basic, and not on a mixer channel as is typically for most DJ programs. This means that if you want to create a new projects with the same songs, you’ll need to redo all of your cues, loops, effects and beat-grids all over again.

As a result, this means that prepping your tracks for DJing can take awhile (again, like Live) and it’s not possible to share these settings across multiple projects in Meta.dj. So instead of having the app remember the settings for all your tracks and make them available any time you use them in a project, you basically need to make a one project with all the songs you plan on DJing with in one single project. All your tracks are accessible by scrolling across the bottom of the screen in a project, though the names of the songs get truncated making finding what you want difficult at times.

Mixing in Meta.dj is done via nice and simple volume sliders for each of the 4 devices, or via crossfader that works for the top or bottom two devices if you want. Sadly, there’s no metering at all, so you’re on your own to guess the correct levels while performing, with clipping from too hot signals possible if you’re not listening closely.

Meta.dj is an interesting concept overall, a real solid attempt to blend DJing and live performance into a single interface that uses a touchscreen in the best way possible. I didn’t really find the drum and synth loops to be my thing though, and since I use hardware for my live sets, I didn’t really have a need to prep my own material to use in the app that way either. Still, it’s nice you can work this way if you want.

As a strictly DJ tool, I’m really torn on how effective I found it. Lack of metering and difficulty in finding the tracks I wanted to play by scrolling the bottom bar with truncated names were real downers for me. The effects are nice and the beat detection was impressive, but without meters it was really hard to do a more traditional DJ set with this app. It’s one of those tools where prep work is everything (again, like Ableton Live). With better track library management and some real meters. I could see this being a really useful app. Luckily, it seems the developers listen to their user base and do frequent updates so perhaps we’ll see some improvement in the future.

I have to admit, that one of the biggest downsides of Meta.dj is that it’s so different that often times I found myself reaching for the manual, only to find there isn’t one. A quick start guide is linked to from their forums, but other than that you’re sort of on your own to figure out how things work. There’s enough basic functions missing that at times I wonder if perhaps I just haven’t discovered what more experienced might already know. Hard to say without a manual.

Which brings us to the end. Or the beginning. I think like a lot of iOS apps, we’re seeing two extremes of how companies approach taking traditional music making activities and apply those to a touch screen device. On one hand we have djay which aims to mimic the old school DJ set up of two decks and a mixer, and on the other we have Meta.dj which looks to incorporate a new interface scheme based on tablet interactions.

I think both apps have enough positive points in their favor that those determined to DJ on the iPad will get good results if they put in the time to learn and prep their material appropriately. However, I still feel we’ve yet to really hit the sweet spot of providing the tools most DJs use, in an app that makes the most of the touch interface.

As I said at the beginning of this review I’m only focusing on two of the more popular apps right now, I know there’s others out there that fill in some gaps in what these can do. But for now I don’t see myself leaving Live or Traktor on the laptop to go with a more simpler approach on the iPad. 

For one thing, having only a single stereo out is the biggest limitation, and I guess on that front were all waiting for Apple to step up and open up this door. But more than that, I think we’re still in the early stages of trying to figure out the best way to access functions that over time have proven to be useful, on an interface no one is used to.

In the meantime, iPad DJing is something I leave to small impromptu gatherings and other informal events. And for those that are curious, djay is the one I use for now.  What about you, anyone out there using an iPad to DJ with?  If so, what apps do you like, and how have you found the experience so far?

Live Set Video, May 2012

As many of you who read the blog no doubt know, I’ve been really busy working on material for my new live sets lately.  Here’s a quick video of some of the latest material from my uptempo set.  The track order has not been sorted yet, so some of the transitions are…. interesting 🙂  But really, that’s what this run through was all about, seeing how these tracks sound when I actually perform them, and not just while writing them.

Anyway, quite a bit of new material in this set, enjoy!

Narrow Your Focus

The longer I work on music, it seems the more ambitious my projects become. These days I’ve found I enjoy the challenge of structuring live sets, or complete albums more than working on solo songs (though I have plenty of those in the works too).

As I’ve mentioned in the past, one of the great advantages of working on larger projects is that it’s very easy to bounce around and always have something new to work on. Of course the flip side of this is that for the majority of the project, be it a live set or complete album, you have a lot of things in progress and unfinished.

Sometimes, even though I should be used to it by now, it all starts to feel a bit overwhelming. Especially if there’s deadlines looming and I know I’m falling behind on getting everything wrapped up. At times like this, you have to start working as efficiently as possible though, and usually the first thing to do is step back and take a look at the big picture.

For instance, the last few months I’ve been working on prepping a new live set for some larger gigs I have lined up this summer. The recent warmer weather though has turned into a stark reminder that summer is almost here, and I’m starting to feel the pressure to get things completed.

For me, the hard part is that I have a lot of big ideas for how I want to have the set laid out, but I know many of these are going to happen over the next year or so and not in the near future. Definitely not in time for my summer shows at least.  So I’ve had to take a pause to re-evaluate exactly what I need to do to get things to the point where the set is playable and I’m happy with it.

 

In this case, it means a few specific things need to be done, and in order of most importance:

– No more new songs added to the set. I have enough for the time slots already booked, plus some in reserve, so that should be good. It’s fun converting all my older studio songs for the live set, but for now I need to focus on finishing the prep work of what I already have.

– It doesn’t make sense to worry about fine-tuning the mixdowns of the songs, when the track order hasn’t even been finalized. And I can’t finalize the track order until I’m done remixing and editing the songs to perform live. Often times they will change drastically in terms of energy level when I do this, which will affect when in the set I want to play them.  First step then is the most important, wrap up the remixing so I know what all the songs will sound like.

– Once the tracks are all ready, it’s time to focus on the next important step to complete, figuring out the track order. To me in many ways this is the most important part, as it helps define the feel of the whole set, and in many ways, my music in general. So I tend to really spend a lot of time here trying to get the song order and my transitions exactly how I want them. If you think structuring a song is hard, multiple that by 10-12.

– Get the “mixdown” of the whole set dialed in. After the track order, this is what I consider the second most important part of my live set. I tend to really focus on trying to build the set sonically as it progresses, so this part can’t be started until the track order has been finalized.

– Take time to focus on the little things.. Finally, once all the important stuff is addressed, I can use any time I have left to go back and really work on the little embellishes I like to add. Fills, more synth modulations, perhaps some interesting movie samples, a cool intro, that sort of thing.  Fun stuff, and easy to get side-tracked on, and that’s why you have step back and look at the big picture for larger projects like this.

 

While I’ve focused on the live set for this example, the same type of thinking holds true for any larger project.  If it’s an album, it might not make sense to spend all day trying out different crash cymbals if the the main melodies for 4 songs aren’t done.  Or perhaps you have a big TV pitch you’re trying to complete on deadline.  Doesn’t make sense to spend your time trying to find the perfect reverb for things, if your main theme isn’t done, and you haven’t lined up all your sounds to the visual cues.

The basic premise remains the same, if you find yourself starting to stress about a project that’s beginning to feel like you took on too much, pause and think about what you can do next that will have the greatest impact on pushing things forward.  Leave the small details for the end if you have time, and instead put all your energy into completing the more important tasks that are what most people will focus on.  Only when you’re done with the important stuff, should you let yourself get side-tracked by the little details.

Whatever you do though, don’t give up, and don’t let yourself fall into the trap of inactivity when things get tough.  One thing I’ve learned over the years is that every great leap in my musical career has involved taking on a project that was just slightly above my comfort level.  Learning to cope with the stress of deadlines effectively and at the same time work efficiently has always been the key to pushing through these challenges.

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On an unrelated note, questions for my Production Q&A series have started to taper off again, so I think for now I’m going to do those a little less frequently.  Certainly continue to send me any questions you have, or any topics you’d maybe like to see discussed in more detail on the blog though.  I’m always looking for new ideas.

Thanks!

Festival Season

Well, summer’s here and that means the start of the festival season here in the US.  Lots of cool outdoor weekend long parties here in the Pacific Northwest, and once again I got asked to perform at Photosynthesis Festival.  This year I’ll be doing two sets it looks like, a downtempo/midtempo set in the H’art tent again, and a more upbeat one in some other tent.  Not sure which yet, this is all very preliminary 🙂

People who follow my blog know I’ve been talking non-stop about the Octatrack lately, which is my latest gear purchase.  Mostly I’ve been working on taking my previous Ableton-based live set, and transfering it to the Machinedrum and Octatrack for live performance.  Recent posts of mine will go more into the details if you’re curious, but it’s mostly been about remixing the old material into something new with the Elektron hardware.

For the most part, I think the sets are basically ready to perform, I’m pretty happy with both.  I think I’ll still work on the the more uptempo one some more now that I know I’m playing two sets.  I’ve mainly been focusing on the downtempo one, since I knew I had a couple of those gigs coming up this summer.  I’ll post some run-throughs of the uptempo set in a couple weeks when I’ve had a chance to work on it some more.

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Other than the live set, I’ve spent a lot of time the last few weeks diving back into iPad music apps.  Now that the weather is getting nicer, I can finally take the iPad somewhere and work on some music outside the studio.  I love my studio and writing tracks in there, but now that I work in there all day too, sometimes I just need to go somwhere new for inspiration.

In the past I’ve used everything from my laptop a couple MIDI controllers, to a much more compact Palm TX running Bhajis Loops.  Lately I’ve been using my iPhone running NanoStudio for out and about music making.  It’s pretty amazing how powerful the apps are now, and the newer touch based apps mean you really don’t even need to bring anything else but headphones.

Still, I have to admit there were times it was a little frustrating trying to work on such a small screen.  You COULD write a whole song on them, but it could be a little tedious trying to navigate around some of the more complex apps.  I could always bring my laptop, but to be honest I find it cumbersome to take on my bike or out in the woods for instance.

The iPad has fit the bill nicely though, I’m pretty impressed at how well it fits the role of portable studio.  Well, maybe not studio, but idea starter maybe 🙂  Fits in my Camelbak so it’s unnoticeable on bike rides or hikes, but it’s large enough to turn making music on it into something you WANT to do.  Good battery life too, I’ve yet to come anywhere close to running mine down all the way when out and about writing music for a whole day.

One of the biggest things that I’ve discovered working like this, or on iOS devices in general, is that I’m much more productive if I stop trying to write complete songs in them.  Instead I just focus on building up a cool groove, or some synth melodies.  I can record them into the Octatrack for further tweaking and arranging back in the studio.  Much easier doing that for me, that trying to sit there and be focused enough to do a complete song when it’s beautiful out.

I tend to go to a few different parks every time I work on music like this, so at each new park I start a new idea.  Usually I’ll switch apps to force myself to approach the next song idea a little differently.  It’s a fun way of working, because I know I have a use for anything I decide to keep and expand on later.  If I come up with something that ultimately doesn’t sound that good and just gets deleted, oh well, at least it was fun while I was making it.

Really digging Propellorheads Figure for this kind of work lately too, it’s deeper than you would think the first time you use it.  Now if they would just let us save our work so we can have mulitple songs in the app.  More sounds too! 🙂

 

Festival Season

Well, summer’s coming up fast and I’ve already got a couple gigs lined up that I’m really excited about this year.  I’ve been asked to play Photosynthesis again, this times perhaps doing two different sets over the weekend.  As readers of my blog will know, I’ve recently switched to using the Elektron Octatrack in place of a laptop and the APC40 I have been using for years now.

The first couple of trial runs I posted online I was happy with, but at the same time I knew I had really rushed some of the prep work because I was excited to try out the Octatrack in a live context.  I knew going into those early attempts that the drums were barely sketched out, and the track order and mixdowns were just done real quick and needed more attention.  So, with the summer gigs coming up, I decided it was time to dive back in and get all my new live material prepped and ready for the summer.

The last couple of weeks I’ve been going through my back catalog of tracks, looking for ones I could use to fill in the holes in the current set, as well as just to give me more material to use live.  I ended up adding about 8-9 more tracks overall, giving me about 2 hours of material total to perform if needed.  Once the new songs were prepped and ready to go in the Elektrons, I went and did a lot of touchups in pretty much all of the patterns.  Just fixing the small things that were still bugging me about some of the song mainly, and re-mixing all of the new ones too.

Once that was done, the tedious part was next, mixing and re-ordering everything so that it flows better from one song to the next.  This is pretty time-consuming because I have to do it all manually in the Octatrack ,cutting and pasting one song and all it’s presets at a time.  But…. it’s worth it, everything flows better overall and the set makes more sense as a complete piece of work too.

I still need to keep fine-tuning the mixdowns for each song, the Elektrons are capable of such deep bass, I’m always tweaking the low end to get it deep but not over-powering. Could be worse I guess!

Anyway, after a couple of weeks of work, I finally got to record a couple new trial runs of the material this weekend.   I had to split it up into two seperate videos on consecutive days because I’m still learning the the new camera I bought to record these videos  🙂  Oh, and I’m sitting down because last year at Photosynthesis they had us sit to perform in the chillout tent, and I want to get used to that.  Was kind of weird at the time when you’re used to always standing to perform.

Downtempo Live PA recorded April 14, 2012

 

Downtempo Live PA recorded April 15, 2012

 

I’ll post the time-slots I’m playing once I get the final info about that.  You can find out more information about the Photosynthesis Festival here:

http://photosynthesisfestival.com/

If you’re in the Pacific Northwest I highly recommend it, I had a really good time last year. The other big gig I have lined up I don’t have dates for yet, but I’ll talk about that some more once everything is finalized.  If you have any questions about the sets above, or want to book me for any parties, send me an email or drop a note in the comments.  Thanks, and I hope you enjoy!

Peace and beats,
Tarekith

lpTouch iPad app

Hey everyone, just wanted to let you know about a pretty cool iOS app I have been using lately. I know I don’t normally post recommendations for apps in the blog, but this one I found especially useful.  If you have Logic and an iPad, this is a really easy to use Control Surface app that lets you control Logic Pro. Easy to use and understand, and very simple to pair with your computer as well.

There’s two skins to choose from (light and a dark), support for the new retina iPads, and 5 screen layouts:

– Main mixer screen.
– Pans and sends.
– Channel strip.
– EQ page.
– Instrument parameters.

I used this quite a lot over the weekend, and I have to say it’s one of the first iOS control surface apps that I haven’t found fiddly to use or set up.  The controls are large enough to easily grab the right one, and knob control can be set up as linear or circular dragging motions.  Worth a look for any iPad and Logic users wanting a simple but powerful control surface for the two.  Best of all it’s only $4.99.