Ableton Loop Review

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I love it when something comes along and the timing just couldn’t be any better. For the last few months I’ve been in a bit of a creative rut, which as followers of my blog know is really not all that uncommon for me. Still, when I was invited to Ableton’s Loop conference this past weekend, an event designed to foster creativity, I have to admit part of me breathed a huge sigh of relief. Perhaps this was something that could kick start my ideas again. As this was an event with very limited attendance, I thought I’d give a brief overview of the weekend for those that couldn’t be there themselves. If you haven’t heard of this event yet, here’s all the details:

https://loop.ableton.com

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Loop was held at Radialsystem V in the heart of Berlin, a large venue with main auditorium for the main presentations, a huge room set up with all sorts of electronic music gear for people to play with, and multiple smaller workshops on the four floors above. While it was obviously an event hosted by Ableton, they made it clear that it was not an event supposed to be ABOUT Ableton. There were many other manufacturers there with gear for people to try, some of the more common ones like Roland and Elektron, a large selection of modular errr…. modules, as well as some more esoteric and experimental bits of gear. It was a nice way to check out things you might not have gotten any hands on time with in-between the talks and workshops.

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I won’t go over all of the workshops and presentations, as I only made it to a few of them due to spending so much time talking to other musicians, producers, and developers through out Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Not to mention quite a few people I’ve known “virtually” for years who work at Ableton, it was a good chance to put a face to the names at last.

There were a few highlights I can talk about from the presentations I did manage to see however.

Friday Robert Henke gave a keynote about the power of failure to drive success. Despite being sick as a dog, he did an excellent job setting the tone for the weekend, and have one of the best quotes I heard all weekend when he said “Success points to your past, failure points to your future”. Meaning, it’s nice to have success, but if you’re only ever chasing that, it leads you to keep repeating the same things over and over. Risking failure forces you to expand your ideas and try new things, or work improve on those things you know you can’t achieve yet. A simple statement, but powerful.

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On Saturday there was panel discussion about creating new instruments and ways to play music with Gerhard Behles (Ableton), Carla Scaletti (Symbolic Sound/Kyma), Stephan Schmitt (NI Founder), and Roger Linn. Good insight into the thought processes about how they designed the equipment they’re most known for. I thought it was nice that they all answered honestly about what they consider their biggest failures so far. For Stephan it was the fact that Guitar Rig never caught on as a stage tool for guitarists, Gerhard said he regretted the way Grooves was implemented in Live, and Carla said she is always making mistakes in order to learn and improve from them.

Roger Linn won the discussion though when he said “Remember in the 80’s when music got sterile, lost it’s human feel, alienated musicians around the world, and made people discount electronic music for decades to come? Yeah, that was my fault”. He was referring to inventing quantization, but it still got a good laugh from everyone in the crowd.

The highlight of Saturday for me were the two panels that Young Guru was a part of. I admit, while I had heard of him and knew he was a well-known engineer in the hop hop world, I didn’t realize just HOW famous he was, nor the sheer number of classic albums he had a direct hand in. Despite this, he was so down to earth and eager to share his views on all things related to music, not just in the panels, but while walking around and talking to people before and after too. And better yet, did so in a very inspiring way. I think a lot of people were really impressed with what he had to share, I know I was. Most of the events at Loop were recorded, when Ableton eventually posts them online,I highly recommend watching the Young Guru ones.

Sunday started off with a bang, literally. The panel was about acoustic drummers and how they adapt to working with electronic music. It featured Katharina Ernst, Kiran Gandhi, and Zach Danziger, each with their own drum kits on stage. Aside from being a LOUD way to wake up on a Sunday morning, they were all such different drummers that there was a huge range of knowledge and technique they shared about all things rhythm. They closed it out with all three of them jamming at once too, by far the loudest event of the weekend by amazing to listen to.

Of course Sunday was also about the big Push 2 and Live 9.5 announcement as well, and really was a great way to wrap up the conference. The Ableton presenters did a great job of showing off the new features, and when gerhard said they would be offering a 30% discount if you traded in your Push 1 and they would then donate those to schools, the place erupted with a standing ovation. The music industry really needs more initiatives like this.

You can view the video of the Push 2, Live 9.5, and Link announcement here: https://vimeo.com/144372872.

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After the conference was over each day, there was a music event that was free for everyone to attend each night. While all the music performed wasn’t always the stuff I’d listen to normally, I think it was all well chosen to show the more experimental side of of electronic music. Really cutting edge stuff, sometimes ambient modular noodlings married to visuals, other times harsh and thunderous bass tones in a pitch black room synced to steam cannons. I think these were recorded as well, so rather than try to describe such esoteric music with words, I’ll wait and let you see/hear for yourself when these come out.

More than anything though, I think what I liked about Loop was that it got people from a lot of different backgrounds into the same room, and gave them a chance to share ideas and find new collaborators for their own projects. It also was interesting to see the same themes come up over and over, both in the official presentations, and just talking to people outside in-between the workshops. Things like:

– Making music is not always fun, especially if you’re a professional. There’s times you just need to plow through and get it done even if it sucks at the time. It IS work after all, you can’t just wait for the fun moments all the time.

– Limitations are good, both in terms of the gear you use and time constraints.

– If you want to get good at writing songs, you need to actually finish as many as you can and release them to the world. Wrap up, move on, and curate any feedback you get to improve things the next time around. Team Supreme’s weekly beat-making contests were a great example. Write a one minute long beat in 30 minutes once a week and post it online. Brilliant.

– If you’re having problems writing music with the gear available today, it’s not the gear, it’s you. Young Guru’s quote on how a craftsman doesn’t blame his tools, and that everything you use can achieve professional results with the right mindset.

– Working with other people always leads to better results than working alone. Maybe a bit controversial for me personally, but it’s something I heard repeated again and again.

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Despite three days of late nights and early mornings, I came away from Loop reinvigorated like I had hoped. It was a chance to see how other people work, not just with the same tools I have, but how they struggle and overcome the same barriers to making music. A reminder that as artists we all go through the same problems, and that sometimes you just need to stop whining and get on with things to push through them.

I was very excited to hear Gerhard hint at Loop 2016 at the end of the weekend, I for one really hope I can make it back again. Thanks to everyone at Ableton for putting on such an incredible weekend, this was definitely one of the most enjoyable music-related weekends I’ve ever had. It’s left me really excited to get back to my own music-making, as soon as I can kick this cold anyway 🙂

Peace and beats,
Tarekith

Electribe Blank All Patterns File

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I saw a few people asking for something like this recently, so I figured I would sit down and create a couple all patterns files for the new electribe and electribe sampler that has only blank patterns for people:

http://tarekith.com/assets/BlankElectribe.zip

The all patterns file for the grey synth electribe is called “electribe_allpattern.e2allpat”. The all patterns file for the black sampler electribe (or the OS hacked grey electribe) is called ”electribe_sampler_allpattern.e2sallpat”. You must use the appropriate file if you want the electribe to recognize it correctly.

Copy the appropriate file in the zip folder to your SD card for the electribe, it can be placed in any directory you want.  You can then import the patterns via the Data Utility Menu in the Electribe, make sure you use the “Import All Pattern” option.

The Patterns set up as such:

– Tempo set to 120, Swing and Groove amounts set to 0%,
– Key set to C, Scale set to Chromatic, Scale Mode Off, Trigger Pad Velocity On, Pattern Length of 4.
– All effects and filters off, MFX and AMG EG deactivated for each Part.
– Part Priority Normal, Voice Assign set to Mono2 for all Parts, Alternate 13/14 and 15/16 set to Off.
– Part Volumes set to 100, Pattern Level set to 110.

I figure these are the most generic settings for a blank pattern, you are of course free to change the settings for all 250 Patterns as you see fit for your own needs.

Hope this help, enjoy!
Tarekith

Tarekith Music Worldwide

Tarekith Albums

A few months ago I put my entire back catalog on Bandcamp, all of songs and live sets I’ve done over the last 10+ years.  Partly as a way to archive all my music to date online, and partly as an experiment to see if people would actually buy any of the older songs.  I was a bit surprised to see that, yes, people will in fact buy some of my older music.  In fact it ended up selling better than some of my newer material.  Though I guess that’s not a huge surprise as some of the newer music is a bit more experimental.

Anyway, I considered that experiment a success, so I decided to expand things and release those same albums on the more popular sites like iTunes, Amazon, etc as well (I use CDBaby.com as an aggregator if people are curious).  After a long wait to get all the albums approved, I’m happy to report that all of my music from 2004-2014 is now available at all the major online retailers.

As before each album covers 1 year of original songs and live sets, and are priced according to how much audio I released that year.  Of course you can always still name your own price on Bandcamp as well if you prefer.

Hope you enjoy!
Tarekith

Hacking The New Electribe

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Recently a user on the Korg forums was able to hack the OS for the new electribe and electribe sampler.  This effectively lets you load the OS from either unit onto the other one, giving you all of the functionality of each.  Well, almost all.  We’ll go into that in a minute.

First, here’s a thread from the Korg Forums where you can read a little more about this, and how it’s done:

http://www.korgforums.com/forum/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=99902

Feeling a bit adventurous I figured “why not?”, and gave it a go fairly soon after it was announced.  I’m happy to say that it worked fine for me, and now I have the ability to switch between the two OS’s right from the unit itself whenever I want.  It really is like having both units at once, with the caveat that it appears the electribe’s PCM data, and the sampler’s stock samples are both stored onboard the units themselves.

This means that when turning the electribe into the sampler version, you only get the 16 basic OSCs until you load your own samples.  Not a big deal though, as it is a sampler after all and most people probably don’t want the stock samples anyway.  Also, just like with the stock electribe sampler, you only get 1 basic filter model for the highpass, low pass, and band-pass filter types.

I should point out that if you have the grey electribe and use the sampler or import samples from the card, there’s an error where some of the user samples get listed again as factory samples.  If instead you use one of the electribe sample managers to load up your samples (I highly recommend this one: http://www.appification.de/ElectribeSampleManager/ ), then this doesn’t happen however.  The sample managers make loading samples into the electribe SOOO much easier anyway, I think it’s a must for any electribe sampler, hacked or original.previewHowever, if you own the black sampler version and you want to load it with the grey electribe OS, things are a little less rosy.  Primarily, because you don’t have access to any of the PCM data from the grey electribe, you only can use the very basic 16 analog-modeled OSCs.  This severely limits your sound pallette.  You get all the functionality of the grey electribe, but a tiny fraction of it’s sounds, and no way to load more.

As you can see, the hack definitely seems to benefit the owners of the grey electribe as a result, which has some sampler owners a bit peeved to say the least.  🙁

I spent the last couple of days prepping samples to use in sampler OS version loaded onto my grey electribe, and so far everything has been working fine.  It’s definitely nice to have my own sounds to play with in the electribe, though at the same time you only get 24.7MB of memory and that does feel a little stingy. By the time I get a decent selection of drums, synths, and other samples in that much space, they’re all real small snippets of audio anyway.  Also, the all of the samples take a couple minutes to load each time you power on the sampler version, which I find kind of takes away from the spontaneous aspect of the electribes.

In some ways it just makes the regular synth electribe more appealing for me, though I’m struggling to say why at this point.  No need to prep samples?  Quicker to grab when I have ideas I want to capture?  Not sure.

I need to experiment with putting longer samples in there and not using it for all the sounds in a song. Just to see what I can do to mangle single samples and longer loops.  And I will admit, I like being able to use stereo samples as well, it definitely makes my electribe songs a bit more spacious now.  It’s a cheat to get more reverb in my tracks without giving up the master effect for it.  🙂

All in all it’s pretty fun to see how this all came together, and to suddenly have both electribes available in one box.  It’ll be interesting to see what, if anything, Korg does next.  Do they release a super feature rich OS update to tempt people, even if it breaks the hack?  Or do they find a way to embrace the concept and make it official, along with being able to load the samples and PCM data correctly from each unit?

It’ll be interesting to watch, and if nothing else, it’s certainly made owning an electribe right now sound like a great idea 🙂

Peace and beats,
Tarekith

The Pull Of Spheres Live Set

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The Pull Of Spheres Live Set <- Audio Link
https://youtu.be/YUj9ItTTpVE <- Video Link
Dub and Deep House Live Set 08-27-2015

This set is the last of three pieces, all intended to explore using the Maschine Studio for live performances. All of the music in the set was created strictly on the hardware, and as you can see it was performed using just the hardware controller too. Link the studio dog has a supporting role as well.

All of the sounds in the set came from either the Maschine stock library, or Komplete 9. Just like in the other two sets, the exception is the one field recording I used in each of the 8 ”songs” in the set. These were recorded using a Rode iXY at various places around where I live in Luxembourg.

Of all three of the sets I’ve done this way recently, this one by far used the most CPU power and I was constantly fighting for every free bit I could get to keep things from breaking up and crackling. The downside of getting Komplete 9 before I started writing the set, great sounds, but a bit more CPU hogs than Massive typically is. I’m still amazed at how well this combo is for writing live material though, even if the hardware itself is a bit hard to see outdoors in brighter light. 🙂

As usual, hope you enjoy.
Tarekith
http://tarekith.com

Getting The Most From Professional Mastering

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As someone who’s been fortunate enough to master thousands of songs for other artists over the last 16 years, I’ve seen firsthand how much of a difference professional mastering can make to an artist’s song. However, every once in awhile the artist might not get exactly what they wanted. As this is usually down to communication and preparation and easily remedied, I thought it might be worth sharing some ideas on the best way to get the most out of your first time working with a professional Mastering Engineer.

1. The happier you are with your mix, the happier you’re going to be with the mastering. While we can sometimes make dramatic changes to the sound of mixdown, it’s important to remember that the goal of mastering is not to radically change the sound of your song. If there are problems in your mix that you know are keeping you from being happy with it, do your best to solve those prior to sending it for mastering.

If you’re at a loss for how to do this after trying for awhile, reach out to the Mastering Engineer you plan on working with and see if they can offer some quick pointers. Often times when we hear the song in our calibrated listening environments, we can spot issues and offer suggestions very quickly. Just remember you’re paying your Mastering Engineer (M.E.) to master your song, not provide weeks and weeks of mix advice, so try not to take advantage of what many mastering engineers consider a bit of free help.

On that note, not all mixdowns need tweaking prior to mastering either! Don’t be offended if the M.E. doesn’t come back with a list of changes to make. I find that often times artists are too self-conscious about their work, and think their mixdowns are lacking, when usually they are great as is!

2. Make sure you are sending the correct file, in the format the M.E. requests. You’d think it would be common knowledge at this point, but people still send MP3s to be mastered instead of uncompressed wavs or aiff files. Most Mastering Engineers prefer 24 or 32bit files, at the same sample-rate as the DAW project file. There are very few exceptions when exporting a mixdown at a higher sample-rate sounds better.  At best it might sound a little different, at worst it might actually sound worse than a lower sample-rate. Talk to your M.E. and see what they prefer so you’re both on the same page.

On that note, double check that the file you are sending is correct. Don’t just look at the waveform after it’s rendered, listen to it all the way from start to finish to ensure you’re sending them exactly what you think you’re sending. Often times mistakes happen because a track might have been accidentally muted, or perhaps the artist mistakenly sent a previous version of the mix they had been working on. Save everyone the hassle of having to redo the work by giving it one last listen before you send it in.

3. Give yourself plenty of time to get the most out of the mastering experience. Often as deadlines loom, it can be easy to let the mastering slip until the very last minute. Not only does this leave less time for any possible revisions to be made, but as artists we rarely make things sound the best while under the gun. I often tell my clients to take a couple days completely away from the mixdown when they think they are done (when possible), and then do that final listening check. Usually any mix issues you might have missed after weeks of focusing on the song are instantly recognizable with fresh ears.

4. Communication is key, both before and after the mastering session. Remember, we’re here to serve you! If you don’t tell us what you’re expecting, or what kind of issues you think the song has compared to your vision, we’ll never know. Don’t be afraid to send along a couple reference tracks you think your song can end up sounding like, or even just a few notes about what kind of sound you’re going for.

Likewise, if you get the master back and it’s not what you were expecting, let the Mastering Engineer know! Most offer a couple of free revisions, and usually once we know what it is you’re after, it’s easy to get the tracks where they need to be on the next pass. Again, we’re here to help you the artist achieve your goals, so don’t be embarrassed to ask for a few changes. Trust me, it happens more than you would think and most Mastering Engineers are only too happy to oblige. Ditto if you need different formats like MP3, DDPs, or MFiT compatible versions.

As you can see, none of this is really that complicated.  By taking a few steps to ensure you’re sending the best mixdown you can and communicating with the M.E. you choose to work with, the whole process should go smoothly for both parties. I’ll be the first to admit that not all songs need professional mastering. But when you’re ready to take that next step, keep these tips in mind and enjoy the difference an experienced engineer can make to the art you’ve spent so much time crafting. I think most people are more surprised by the results than they expected!

Peace and beats,
Tarekith

The Fields Around Us Audio Version

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The Fields Around Us Live PA <- Audio Link
https://youtu.be/xPt4tVFEFUw <- Video Link
Dub Techno & Deep House Set 06-19-2015

I posted video of this set roughly a month ago, and since then I’ve had a lot of people asking if there was an audio only copy of it.  Sorry it took me so long to get one uploaded, but via the link above you can now grab a 320kbps AAC version of the live set.

I also wanted to take a second to thank everyone who watched my original Maschine Studio live set, I just realized it’s now up to over 6,700 views!  I think that’s a new record for me, so cheers to everyone who enjoyed that set and commented on it as well.  I have another Maschine set well on it’s way to completion, if all goes well it will hopefully get recorded in a couple weeks.  After that, I’ll likely move on to a new project.

Perhaps… more Octatrack?  We shall see!  🙂

Peace and beats,
Tarekith

Tarekith Turns Ten

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Kind of weird how the date almost slipped by me, but as I was preparing my entire back-catalog for Bandcamp, I noticed that it had been almost exactly ten years since I started using the name Tarekith for my music-making.  Time flies and all that.

I have to say, going back through all the tracks I’ve written over the last ten years has been a real trip.  So many simularities I can make out, and at the same time I was exploring all manner of gear and workflows continuously.  Plus there was a consistancy to my output that surprised me, bar one or two years where life events intervened.  It’s been a lot of fun hearing stuff I wrote that I practically forgot about 🙂

Anyway, as I mention, this all came about because I wanted to get all of my tracks and live sets online somewhere not just for people to buy, but also lossless as a form of additional backup if you will.  I’ve been really happy with Bandcamp over the last few years, so I figured that was the best place to start.  Eventually I’ll get them all on the primary retailers like iTunes, Amazon, etc, but for now Bandcamp it is:

https://tarekith.bandcamp.com

The tracks and live sets are group by year into invidual albums, and each album is only $1.  You can of course pay more if you want.

The album covers are all pictures I took over the last ten years, each one in the same year of the album just for fun.  Kinda fun for me to see those too, lots of places all over the world, who would have thought I’d be a world traveller some day?

Enjoy the music, and thanks to everyone who’s supported me, my music, and this blog over the last 10 years.

Peace and chill beats,
Tarekith

Another Maschine Studio Mini Live Set

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I had so much fun doing my last Maschine Studio live set, that I had to dive right in and make another one right away.  This is another short set, only 16 minutes long:

I’ll likely combine the material from this set with my last one, giving me an hour of music to play with.  Expect a new recording once I get it all tweaked and ready to play.  Until then, enjoy the trippy textures of the new set!
Tarekith

Electribe Live Set 05-30-2015

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Video:

http://youtu.be/4TboTDpd28M

Audio:

http://tarekith.com/mp3s/Tarekith-ElectribeLiveSet.m4a

Well, I knew I was going to start working on an electribe set after I wrapped up my Maschine Studio live set, I just didn’t expect it to be the very next day!  Sat down a few times throughout the day to polish up what I was working on in the electribe lately, and decided to cull a few songs that just weren’t fitting the vibe I wanted.

I started getting an idea for a new electribe project while I was doing all this, but I knew that I had to put some of these current songs behind me before I could wipe everything and start from scratch on a new project.  So, I decided to record a short live set with some of my favorite patterns at the moment.

I was mainly using the Wet Reverb master effect to help with transitions between patterns, I haven’t been able to figure out a smoother way without knowing the track order ahead of time.  This is probably a good bit more basic sounding than my Maschine Studio live set, but I still enjoy working this way and seeing what kind of music I can write when using tools a bit more limited.

Happy that I was able to use some of these ideas I’ve been carrying with me as I journeyed from one continent to another, but also looking forward to starting over on a new electribe project now that I’m settled.  Expect some more grey Korg box music shortly!  🙂

Enjoy!
Tarekith

PS, you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter too, if that’s your thing:
https://www.facebook.com/innerportalstudio
https://twitter.com/Tarekith