And…..Done. Final Blog Post

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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:

BEST BITS OF THE BLOG (Zip File)

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.

Thanks again everyone!
Tarekith

Three By Eight – Octatrack Live Set

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https://youtu.be/2l95bDlm2YM <- Video Version
http://tarekith.com/mp3s/Tarekith-ThreeByEight.m4a <- Audio Version

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.

Until then, I hope you enjoy the music!

Peace and beats,
Tarekith

Whitefalls – Novation Circuit Jam

Whitefalls

Whitefalls Mini Live Set <- Audio Link
https://youtu.be/Zuu5mFY4ycg <- Video Link to YouTube

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately playing with my new Novation Circuit, and I have to say I’m still really impressed with it.  Finally managed to record something too, a little mini test of how I might play live with just the Circuit.  This is more a proof of concept than an actual performance, I just wanted to see if this way of working is something I want to pursue more of in the future.

Since there’s no way to copy synths and their patterns from one Session to another on the Circuit, I instead ended up writing the set linearly.  That is, I start with one Session, get it sounding the way I like, then copy it to a new part.  From here I replace one of the synths with a new sound (and patterns) and make some slight tweaks to the drums for variety.  Then I copy this one to the next Session, replace the first synth sound, tweak some drums, rinse and repeat.

This gives me enough flexibility to tweak things during the set, and makes sure that transitions from one Session to the next aren’t too abrupdt.  Of course the downside is that you have to play all your songs in the same order every time too, otherwise the transitions don’t work.  Oh well, it’s not a huge deal for me and I have a feeling that I’ll likely be pairing the Circuit with something else anyway soon.

Enjoy the music, and I’ll write some more long-term thoughts about the Circuit once I’ve had a couple more weeks with it.

Peace and beats,
Tarekith

Novation Circuit Review

My newest bit of kit came last week, the Novation Circuit.  I sat down and did a video review, and a quick walkthrough of the features and sounds you can expect from it.  There’s also an overview of the new editor for the synths from the folks at Isotonik Studios.  The synth in Circuit is deep!

Sit back, enjoy, and post here if you have any questions not covered in the review!

https://youtu.be/hZfyL9-hoOA

Later!
Tarekith

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

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

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

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

Maschine Live Set Follow Up

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I’m glad that a lot of people have been enjoying my new Maschine Studio live set:

Even more surprising how few people are using Maschine like this to perform, and how many people have thought about it.  I’ve had a few more questions about some of the specific of the set, so I figured I’d talk some more about it.

All of the sounds came from the Maschine Library, except for an atmospheric texture in each track.  These were live recordings I made at various forest preserves here in Luxembourg, using my iPhone and the Rode iXY-L mic I recently purchased.  It does great stereo recordings, doesn’t seem overly sensitive to handling noise from the phone, and the Rode app is something I’ve been using for a long time since it’s based on Audiofile’s old FiRe iOS recorder.

So in this set typically I would layer one of these recordings over everything else, side-chain it to the kick, pile on some effects and play with the pitch to make it sit well with the other sounds.  It was a hair-brained idea one day I thought, but it actually worked out better than I expected.  Nice evolving sounds, and it’s got something that’s a more personal connection to my memories of making the set since I was the one who recorded all the samples. I’ll probably do some more of this in the future, turned out to be a neat technique.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, each Group in Maschine was what I would consider a separate song.  That gave me up to 16 different sounds per song, though I didn’t ever use that many.  Typically each song had 9-10 tracks.

To switch from one song to another, I would in turn mute all the sounds from one group, while un-muting sounds from the next group.  This of course meant before I played the set, I had to go and manually mute each sound in Maschine ahead of time, then save this as my performance template.  Sometimes I would first turn the volume down on a sound, then un-mute it.  This would allow me to fade in some sounds, and not have everything sound too much like it’s just being muted and unmuted.

I also had 8 macros assigned to the master channel, and I would use these during song transitions too.  I had a high pass and low pass filter, some dynamics shaping tools, and a stereo delay assigned to the macros, allowing me to filter, chop, and delay the audio from the entire set in one go when I needed to.

I was originally going to create macros for each Group too, but I realized that most of the controls I would likely want to map were already on the front page of each synth.  Easy enough to get to those, so most of the hands on tweaking was done on the synths and effects directly.  This worked out better than I figured it would, so not too sure how much macro making I’ll be doing in the future.  Fine with me, that’s one of the few things you can only do on the laptop and not the controller 🙂

Video recording.  People are curious about this more than I expected.  In this video, I’m just using an iPhone6 attached to a mic boom arm with a Joby Gorilla-pod for the above shots.  The side-angle shots were done with an iPad Air2 set on top of my speaker.  I used Airdrop to transfer the videos to my laptop.  Easy.

The set audio was recorded by hosting Maschine in Ableton Live, and routing the host track to the input of an audio track.  That’s why you can see me closing and opening the laptop lid at the start and end of the set, I needed to start Live to get the Maschine plug-in to start playing.  Monitoring was via my Lynx Hilo and Tyler D2x’s, no headphones needed for this set.

To combine the audio with the two camera angles I just used iMovie.  It’s a little fiddly at times, but usually pretty simple to use and exporting the final movie is fast on my MacBook Pro.

Anyway, that’s the rest of the story.  Next up most likely will be recording an electribe live set similar to this one.  At least, that’s the plan.

Until next time, peace and beats.
Tarekith