It’s hard to believe I’ve been running my blog for 6 years now, even more difficult to believe that I’ve done 282 posts in that time period. But, as they say, all good things must come to an end, and I’ve decided that now is a good time for me to step away from the blog and focus on other avenues for sharing my views on creativity and audio production.
It’s been really enjoyable talking to everyone and sharing your views on how you approach all the struggles and joys of writing music. I can’t thank everyone enough for all the insightful comments, indepth replies, and most especially for all the donations you’ve made to help make all this possible.
As a way of saying thanks one final time, I’ve collected all of the best blog posts into one document, which you can download here:
The zip file contains both PDF and epub versions of the document so you can view it on any of your devices. I’ve made a few changes here in there in the text to update my recommendations on gear, and make it easier to read all of the posts front to back.
This song started out as a project to use only found sounds I recorded myself for all of the source samples. All of the raw samples were captured with a Rode iXY microphone and my iPhone at 24bits in various locations around Luxembourg. From there, the samples went through various phases of construction and deconstruction in both Ableton Live using Push2, as well as the Elektron Octatrack. I bounced back and forth between the two trying different ideas, so there’s an equal bit of both workflows in this song.
The final performance was done in the Octatrack feeding a Strymon Timeline delay, which added all sorts of trippy pitch-shifted and time-based modulated delays. More of a proof of concept than a full on Tarekith song, I still really enjoy the way this one ebbs and flows. Expect more in this direction in the near future, in the meantime I hope you enjoy.
Recently I started to get the itch to put together a new hardware-based live set, using all of my favorite tracks from the last three years or so. These would be a collection of studio songs as well as portions of my more recent Maschine Studio live sets, so I knew a bit of remixing would be in order to get them all to gel together as a cohesive live set. Given that I already had most of the important parts of the songs separated as stems, I knew that most likely the Octatrack was the only tool for the job.
It’s been three years since I last owned an Octatrack, regretfully sold following some reliability issues that Elektron refused to cover under warranty. However, I decided that it was time to revisit the black beast one more time, and give things another chance.
So for the last few weeks I’ve been taking all my stems and carefully preparing a live set that would let me focus on solely the Octatrack (OT) during the performance. No other gear would be used. Luckily, even after a 3 year break, I was still pretty quick and proficient on the OT, so it didn’t take me too long to get something together that both sounded good and gave me enough performance options in the moment.
The OT is set up as follows:
Track 1 – Kick
Track 2 – Percussion
Track 3 – Cymbals
Track 4 – Bassline
Track 5 – Lead Synths
Track 6 – Pads and effects
Track 7 – Recorder Track sampling from the output of Track 8
Track 8 – Master track.
All of the audio loops on Tracks 1-6 are sliced and mapped to linear note locks, which lets me do things like shorten notes and reprogram drum patterns on the fly. Track 7 is basically set up to do the “OT transition trick”, and is constantly resampling 4 bar loops from the OT’s main output. This means that at any time I can instantly switch to an audio recording of the last 4 bars, giving more tweaking possibilities and letting me transition from one song to another smoothly. Each of my 16 “songs” in the set uses one part and one pattern, organized across 4 banks. I also created a few scenes that are identical in all my parts, allowing me to tweak things in a consistent manner with the crossfader on the OT.
This is the first iteration of the live set, I’m sure there’s a lot more I’ll be tweaking and adding to it based on future performances. I already have some new ideas based on this recording, so hopefully I’ll have a new version of the set to share in a couple months after I implement them and practice some more performance techniques.
Woo hoo, welcome to the new blog location. Sorry if you got multiple notifications for this blog post the last day or so, still working out a couple last minute bugs with notifications. Ummm, that’s all I have, but more soon!
2013 was an interesting year for me, quite a few things happening that I just wasn’t expecting at all. I went through a very long and frustrating period of writers block for most of the year, but ended it being very productive. I ditched my Elektrons and bought a really nice acoustic guitar, but I still love playing with music apps on the iPad too. I raised my mastering rates and actually started turning clients away for the first time. I ditched a ton of social media baggage and cut back on the amount of time I spent on forums this year.
The biggest change in 2013 was having shoulder surgery the day after xmas though. Due to an old snowboard injury, I disocate my left arm every 3-4 years. It just happens randomly most of the time, and typically starts to heal in a few days. This past October I however, it happened again while mountain biking on Vancouver’s North Shore, and it didn’t heal.
Best option was to go in there and rebuild everything, which means 6-7 months of rehab and recovery. No bike riding, no snowboarding, no athletic activities beyond walking. Ungh, not something I was looking forward to, but things couldn’t stay as they were either.
Luckily the surgery went fine, and now it’s been almost a week and I’m on the mend. Sore and not able to do much more than type very slowly, I have a feeling the next few months are going to be a long process of getting my strength and flexibility back. Physical Therapy here I come. 🙂
I can just barely play the upper positions on my guitar still as luck would have it, so at least I have that to focus on and work with. Using a computer and any sort of normal music keyboard is painful though, so I have a feeling new blog posts might taper off for a bit while I focus on getting back in shape.
Here’s to hoping that things improve quicker than expected though, because I have a lot of new ideas I want to write about this year.
I recently decided that I’m going to be selling my Elektron Octatrack, so I’ve decided to make the all of the sample chains I had created for my new album and live set available for download, now that I no longer need them:
There are three folders of sample chains in that zip file, one containing drum sounds, one containing synth, guitar, and chord sample chains, and one that uses single-cycle waveforms for turning the Octatrack into a synthesizer. All samples are in the key of C, and some of the chord samples use both major and minor chords. All chains contain 64 samples, so you can make full use of the Sample Start parameter in the Octatrack.
Of course these are just wav files, so you don’t need an Elektron Octatrack to use them, they’ll work in any sampler (or DAW for that matter).
Well, I know it’s been awhile since my last post, but things have been a little hectic here. Just that time of year I guess!
For the last few months I’ve been struggling through a bit of a writer’s block, but I know these things happen so I’ve just been trying to work through it. Mainly jumping around between new things like Push, or DJing more frequently, anything I can think of to spark some ideas. Decibel Festival here in Seattle definitely helped to keep me going when I was getting fed up, which is good as something finally stuck and I was excited about making music again.
So I’ve been working on the Octatrack live set, and honestly it’s been a lot of fun too. Getting stuck into a lot of those lost-in-time moments of flow, just getting on with things and working as fast as I could. Lots of prep work though, figuring out a new way to use the OT for transitions, prepping sample chains, just learning all of the functions of the OT again to see how best I can utilize it to pull this solo box thing off.
Last night I finally had everything prepped and ready to begin the writing and recording process. In fact, I was so into this new way of working with the OT, that I was planning to first try recording a live set completely on the fly from scratch. NO planning at all, no pre-planned sequences, just winging it and seeing what happens.
Just needed to save everything properly and make sure it was all backed-up, so at any time I could easily return to a blank canvas with all my custom templates ready to go once more. Back-up to the computer and thus my regular archives went easy enough, so I decided to also load my templates onto the two Compact Flash cards I use for safety back-ups at gigs.
After backing-up to both cards, I inserted my original CF card, and for some reason the OT froze. Reboot, reset, empty reset, trying the other cards, nothing worked, the OT just froze the second a card was inserted. Looked into the CF card slot on the back of the OT, and I saw one of the pins the cards connected to had broken off. Sure enough, the pin broke off inside the last back-up card when I ejected it.
Why does gear always fail on me RIGHT before I go to record something I’m really excited about and in the right mental zone for? You have no idea how much stuff like this just makes me furious, that gear should fail when it’s needed most just drives me nuts. I sold my TI2 Polar the very same day when it did something similar. At least I wouldn’t have to look at it and remember how it disappointed me, or how much of my creative life I lost due to that failure. (angry face)
I won’t sell the Octatrack, but I was tempted for a little while there. No, it will go back to get serviced and I’m sure that in a few weeks I’ll manage to get in the right head space to give this a go once more. In the meantime it’s hard not to be upset, and instead remember that this stuff happens sometimes and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Chin up, head up, time to listen to some Jon Hopkins stupid loud and find my happy place. 🙂 Let’s hope my next post has some positive news that this is all well behind me!
I bought the Octatrack with a very specific use in mind, to replace my laptop when playing live. Even before it arrived I had read the manual and knew exactly how I was going to use it. My loops were trimmed and prepped, I had a mental idea of the workflow I was going to use, and it only took me couple days to get it all functional and paired with my Machinedrum once the Octatrack (OT) arrived.
I’ve been using that set up for awhile now, and it’s worked out great. My best shows ever have been when just using the OT and the Machinedrum, lots of power in a small package! Even though I’ve skimmed through the manual again later on to refresh my memory, I always feel like the OT is something I still haven’t really explored fully. There’s just so many ways of configuring it for what you need when it comes to audio sampling and manipulation, sometimes it’s hard to know what to try next.
So I’ve had this nagging urge for a while now to dive in deep with the Octatrack, and really get to incorporate more of what it can do when I play live. Not at all helped by Mr. Elektron himself, Dataline with another really awesome video like this:
The problem is I know that this kind of exploration of a single bit of gear can take a level of focus I just didn’t have at the time. I’ve been playing with Push and Live, or messing about with the iPad app and things like the QuNexus, and just wasn’t in the right mindset to tackle that type of task yet. Over the last couple of weeks though, I finally managed to get enough time to really explore everything the OT can do, and rethink my live sets in the process.
The previous material I had used to play live with the Octatrack, was originally loops from my Ableton live set. I just trimmed them down to fit the OT, and more or less played things in the same manner as I had with Live. Basically just working with loop stems from my studio tracks, and writing the song structures and transitions on the fly while tweaking the sounds.
It was a really flexible way of working, as it let me play my studio songs with a degree of flexibility that let the live show be truly live. But I knew that sticking to my original loops was holding me back from really using the OT to it’s full potential.
So one of the first things I did this time, was to sit down and watch a bunch of Octatrack videos on YouTube while taking notes on things I wanted to incorporate in my new live set, or needed to revisit in the manual. It let me see the ways different people were organizing and performing their material with the OT, so I got a nice broad overview of a few different ways I could structure my own live set.
For starters, I wanted to do a few key things:
– Get better at real-time resampling on the OT, instead of always using my old crossfader transition trick.
– Incorporate sample-chains this time around, to give me more flexibility when it comes to fills and variations while I perform.
– Use less tracks for each song, maybe 5-6 instead of 7-8. I want more time to tweak and control each sound, and I want to make a live set with more space between notes and sounds than I’ve done in the past.
– Do a live set using ONLY the Octatrack. I just think it would be cool to walk up in a club and hook up one little box to rock people out. Maybe it’s too minimal, we’ll see!
With these core ideas in mind, it was time to sit down with the manual and the Octatrack and start really learning how to use some of the functions I rarely had a need for before. For about a week now that’s what I’ve been doing with my free time in the studio, just going through the manual page by page and working through what I’m reading on the OT at the same time.
I made some quick sample-chains to use while doing all of this, though I know I’ll still need to spend a good bit of time creating proper ones now that I’m hooked on the idea. In fact, this would all be a pretty fun process were it not for the fact that as it’s a sampler, I have to actually MAKE something to put into the OT before I can use it. Creates sort of a conundrum of how do I create samples that will work for me with a new live workflow, without knowing what that workflow will be?
Oh well, these things happen I guess!
So that’s about where I am now in this process. Just about done with the manual and I have a pretty good idea of how I’m going to set up the new live pa with just the Octatrack. I’m just trying out a few different ideas and variations with my temporary samples, sort of proof of concept. Then I’ll go ahead and create a template project set up exactly like I need to perform, and use that to write each song.
Should be fun. Except for having to make all these sample chains. 🙁
Well, now that I’m taking a break from my recent iPad music making kick, I find myself once again in between projects. That nebulous place where you’re not quite sure what you want to work on next. It has to be BIG, it has to be NEW, and it has to be FUN. Ideally, it will happen with ease right NOW.
Of course it rarely does.
After watching some of the Dataline Octatrack videos he’s been posting, I’ve been getting a real itch to dive a little deeper into the OT. Maybe put together a new live set using just that, something I haven’t done yet. Despite using it a lot live and in the studio for two years, there’s a lot areas I still have to get to know better.
Which brings me to my least favorite aspect of samplers, getting something to put into them so you can actually do something.
Like most people, I’ve been saving samples into a custom library, and I’ve gotten to be pretty efficient at finding what I need. But after collecting and organizing some of these sounds for years now, frankly I’m sick of hearing them. Most of the good ones I’ve already used, and the rest obviously weren’t exciting enough for me to use earlier.
Time to make some new samples, which is always easier said than done. In a way the timing is actually pretty good when I think about it. For awhile now I’ve had some pretty gear-specific projects I’ve working on, and I just sort of feel like playing around for awhile. It will be a good chance to just have fun and try diving deeper into some of my gear, as well as let me better learn some of the things I’ve been neglecting lately.
The plan is to just save everything as audio clips using whatever is easiest at the time. Not sticking with any one DAW, the only requirement that the end result is a 24bit, 44.kHz stereo wav file. Then, once I have a decent enough collection of samples, I can put them into the Octatrack and take it from there. I’m still some ways off from having nearly as many samples as I want, but so far the process has been pretty enjoyable.
I have my Ableton Push arriving today as well, so I’m sure that will be put to good use generating new loops too. Expect a review after I’ve had some time to get to grips with it.
Two days to go until I leave for my next gig, once again playing at the Photosynthesis Festivals in Neah Bay, WA. This is my third time performing at this location, and my 6th time playing out at a larger gig with my current Elektron live pa. In a way it’s made me a lot more at ease than I normally am, and in other ways I’m more stressed than usual.
Back in the early spring I spent a lot of time refining my downtempo set for any gigs I managed to get this summer. Quite a bit of the songs got remixing, everything got a new mixdown, and I moved a lot of things around to make it all flow better. At the time things were a little slow with work, so I figured I’d use the time to get my live set prepped and ready for a new season. And it would save me the stress of having to do it when I’m typically more busy in the summer, right when the gigs start rolling in.
So this summer I’ve been more or less set, knowing that my live set is working and sounding better than ever.
Or is it.
I guess no matter how well prepared I am, I’m going to have last minute doubts about how the set will go. Of course, the best way to get over this is to practice, run through the set and fix any issues that come up. Simple! Except I have just not been feeling like working on music lately. I just released a new EP that I spent a lot of time on, and quite frankly I was a little burned out.
So the weeks went by, and I knew the gig was getting closer, but everytime I would sit down to give the set a try I just felt like it was half-assed so I stopped pretty quickly. This happened a few times, which is of course frustrating. Normally I love playing out, and when I had last worked on the set I finished very happy about how things sounded, so it wasn’t like I didn’t think it was good enough. I just couldn’t get in the right mindset to really dive in properly and perform the songs the way I knew they deserved to be played.
Of course, eventually you run out of time.
This past Sunday, 6 days before I have to perform, I finally get in the right mood to give the set a proper run through. I know I’ll be busy all week getting work wrapped up so I can be gone for the festival, so it’s truly now or never.
Thankfully, all that prep work earlier in the year truly had paid off. Properly motivated (i.e. no other choice) to sit down and practice for real, it didn’t take me long to get into the groove of performing, and I noticed very few things I wanted to adjust in the set. Whew!
Now at last I was in the mood to play, and I was 100% comfortable with the material as well. I made a few more changes to some of the sounds, and gave the set a couple more plays over the next few days, then time to pack it all up.
It’s amazing how sometimes we spend all this time to prepare ourselves for what’s to come, and in many ways it still ends up being a mental exercise we need to deal with none the less. Ultimately my prep work DID save me a lot of time right when I was obviously not feeling it 100%, so it was worth it in the end. Though I have to admit, I almost wonder if preparing this far in advance is making twice as much mental stress for myself as just waiting until the last minute!
Heading out the festival in a couple days, I’ll let you all know how it goes and if I get a recording once I’m back. Until then,