Free Octatrack Sample Chains

Octatrack

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:

Octatrack Sample Chains

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).

I hope some of you find these useful!

Lemonade!

Borked OT(Yep, you know where this is going!)

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.

Fuck.

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!

Relearning the Octatrack

Octatrack

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.  🙁

Bits Gone By

Logic

Last week I had a some fun putting together a list of all the different music making hardware I’ve owned over the years, so I thought I’d try and do the same thing with the different software I’ve used over the years.  There’s a lot more overlap in the software realm than the hardware side of things for me, but I’ll do my best to keep it as chronological as possible.  So, here goes:

– Cakewalk for DOS (I have no idea, it was barely a GUI is about all I can remember).  A guy I used to work with got this free with some computer magazine or something, so he thought I might want to mess with it.  I spent about 3 days trying to figure it out, and eventually it made a “ping” sound that might have been a 3 bit piano.

– Cubase 5 VST.  Years later while attempting to rebuild my studio after having to sell a lot of it off, I decided to build my own PC (my first ever) and get into music software.  Went to a lot of seminars checking different ones out, but it was Cubase that seemed the most intuitive to me.  Used it until about the SX3 days.

– Reason 3.  Shortly after I got into making music on the computer, a lot of my friends did too.  They all liked Reason and were always asking me for help with the program, so eventually I got it too.  It provided the intro and hook for the very first track I ever got signed, so I’ll always have fond memories of Reason.  Bit too tiny and cluttered for me now though  🙁

wavelab3

– Wavelab 3.  At the Cubase demo they also showed the latest version of Wavelab, and it was that app more than Cubase that got me excited.  Hmmm, it’s for mastering you say….?

– GRM Tools.  I got talked into getting these by a friend who really didn’t know what he was talking about.  Very wild for weird sound effects and what not, but never stable at all for me and ultimately a lot of wasted time.

– Cakewalk Z3ta+.  I think this was my first softsynth.  Such a spartan UI, it felt like the perfect computer synth at the time.  Still a great sounding and really flexible synth though.

– Waves Linear Mastering plug ins.  I bought these when I started getting people coming to me asking me to “master” their work for them.  In those days there was very much a “linear is better” mindset, so they seemed like the best package for my needs.  Oh boy did I like to go overboard with those in hindsight, though I guess we all need to learn one way or another.

– UAD Plug ins.  In many ways I think my Cubase and UAD set up was one of the easiest to use and offered the greatest range of tones.  I wrote a lot of tracks using these plug ins, and only sold them when I decided to switch to a laptop and UAD didn’t have any options for those yet.  I still plan on getting an Apollo one day….

spektraldelayscreen

– NI Spektral Delay, Absynth 2, Akoustik Piano.  My first disastrous foray into NI plug ins, all of these were nothing but buggy and crash prone.  I loved the Alien looking GUI of Absynth, though the tiny text boxes you used for actually programming it were less liked.  This is one of those synths I find myself often considering repurchasing.

– Ableton Live 3.  I had been watching Live since version 1 came out, but it wasn’t until around version 3 when I started to see that I could use one program for writing, DJing, and playing live.  I didn’t have any hardware for playing live at the time, and I missed doing that.  Enter Live…

– Battery 3.  So much potential, and so much wasted time lost to buggy errors and crashes.  I swore I’d never buy another NI product after this.  I didn’t listen to myself though.

– Elemental Audio Inspector XL.  Got this on some sale, excellent set of tools, too bad they got dropped when EAS was bought by RND (short-lived as it was).

– Logic 7.  I finally got curious enough about Logic after being a Mac user for awhile that I had to get it.  Seemed needlessly complicated at first, though over time I’ve grown to get more accustomed to it’s little peculiarities.  I’m still amazed at how little it’s changed over the years.

sv517eq

– Sonalksis SV-517 EQ.  The first digital EQ that made me go “wow, this sounds as good or better than analogue.”  Debate amongst yourselves.

– Audiofile Engineering Wave Editor.  Switching to an OSX based set up also meant leaving my beloved Wavelab behind.  I used it for awhile in Parallels, but eventually got sick of the Windows-ness of it and looked for a native OSX solution.  Audiofile Engineering seemed new and full of good ideas, so I jumped onboard with Wave Editor pretty early on.

– Sonic Charge MicroTonic.  Best drum synth period.

– u-He Zebra2.  Huge potential and amazing customer support and interaction on his forums, and it sounds as good as you’d expect.  Ultimately I just found the UI uninspiring and sold it though.  The new version due out soon is making me rethink this one as well.

– Spectrasonics Omnisphere and Stylus RMX.  For years these were my go to plug ins for synth and drums.  Incredible sound and flexibility, easy to program yet capable of a lot of variations.  Only because I’ve been looking at them for so long am I starting to check out other options.

– DMG Audio Equality.  If you love the SV-517 EQ, this one will blow you away.  Sounds amazing.

sonic_charge-synplant

– Sonic Charge Synplant.  I bought this one on principle alone.  A weirdly unique way of programing a synth from the creator of MicroTonic?  I was first in line.  Drives me crazy that this one still is not 64bit compatible, it’s the only one of my plug ins I miss that is not.  🙁

– Voxengo Elephant 2 and Polysquasher.  Serious mastering tools in the right hands, frustration and distortion if you don’t know what you’re doing.  A little complex to set up, but still what I reach for when I need a really clean and cool sounding master.

– PSP Xenon.  Bought this on a whim after hearing so much about it, but I rarely use it.  I like it for softer more dynamic music, something where you don’t want a really transparent limiter, but you don’t want too much color either.  Has a way to reacting to transients that feels different to me from anything else.  Not often used here, but I know exactly when I need it with some projects.

– NI Traktor 2.  After using Live to DJ for years and years, it was time for a break.  Checked out Traktor and was hooked immediately.  Combined with the S4, it’s most tightly integrated laptop/controller set up I’ve ever used.  Works great, never gives me any issues, and is a ton of fun to use.

– u-He Uhbiks.  Bought these on a deal when they first came out, and loved the sound of them.  Sadly, I hated the interface, weird tempo multiple for delays times and what not.  As a result, for two years I never used them and eventually sold them.

– Presonus Studio One.   Presonus heard I was interested in Studio One and invited me to join the beta team.  So I’ve used Studio One quite a bit since it was released, and it’s still my go to for client mixdowns and audio editing.

Pro-l

– Fabfilter Pro-L.  Best sounding limiter ever, very easy to make things weak sounding though.  Powerful when you can really hear what you’re doing through

– Audiofile Engineering Triumph.  The update to Wave Editor took me awhile to get used to, and this is with daily use as part of my mastering business.  For every user request they added, it felt like 2 steps back in the usability of some other function.  I’m used to it now and rely on it daily to earn a living, but it still feels needlessly complicated at times.

– Jam Origin MIDI Guitar.  Finally, an audio to MIDI program for guitar that works with my playing style. I love this app, it’s amazing how well it works.

– DMG Equilibrium.  The best EQ ever.   This does everything, and expects you know what you’re doing when it comes to EQ.  If you do, welcome to the most amazing EQ ever designed.

 

I’m sure there’s quite a few smaller plug ins I’m forgetting about, but I think this covers most of what I’ve purchased over the years.  Quite the list again in hindsight!

Photo Fest Prep

Photosynthesis2012-16

http://photosynthesisfestival.com

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,

Peace and Beats!

– Tarekith

 

Photosynthesis 6.0

28160_10151547354424910_35434573_n

Yep, that time again, the yearly summer festivals start up, which means I get a chance to rock the Elektrons in front of a crowd again!  Very excited this year, as I’ve put quite a bit of time earlier this year into refining the live sets I play out.  I’ll be playing a downtempo set again this year, keeping with the chill vibe they like so much in Neah Bay, WA.  Lots of new songs in the set this year, and and even more tweaks to the older songs to keep it fresh sounding (for you, AND me).

MD-OT

This year I’ll be playing Friday night July 19th, at 2:00 AM in the Dream Dome tent.  Should be fun as I believe there are only two stages this year, and the downtempo oriented Dream Dome is the only one going on this late in the morning.

If you haven’t been to Photosynthesis yet, I highly recommend it.  Beautiful location, amazing local people, and a really well put on festival.  Definitely one of the highlights of the summer for me.  For more details, or to buy tickets, just visit:

http://photosynthesisfestival.com

facebook.com/PhotosynthesisFestival

Hope to meet some of you there, be sure to say hi after my set if you come out!

The Live PA Interview

– What is your name and what Live PA acts are you involved in?

Tarekith and….. Tarekith, that’s it 🙂
– How long has each act been around, what type of music do you play under that name?

I’ve been using the name Tarekith for the last 8-9 years I think, not sure the exact date I started using it exactly. Before that I used to go by the name “rEalm”, but then I started realizing how many other electronic acts and musicians had some form of that in their name already.

I produce and perform all different genres of music under the Tarekith moniker, I don’t really get into having a different name for each genre. One month I might be doing a downtempo live set, the next DJing tech-house or some kind of ambient combo of the two.

– Where are you geographically located?

Seattle, WA.
– Where have you had the opportunity to play live? Feel free to highlight your main gigs, all countries, and a link to your gig resume (if you have one).

Whew, that’s a tall order remember some of these! Here’s a few highlights that stick out I guess:

Chicago: RedNo5, Crobar, all the 619 Productions events, Sandbar, Hunans, Arena, too many small bars and clubs to remember (clearly).
Wisconsin: Rave’em & Bailey, Even Further, Structure
Washington: Chop Suey, Chillography, Photosynthesis, Washington Brewers Festival,
Vancouver: Sequential Circus 11

There’s a lot more I can’t remember off the top of my head.
– What are a few releases you can highlight for us that are live recordings (either audio or video)?

I have a whole page on my site dedicated to my live recordings here:

http://tarekith.com/live-sets/

Also there’s quite a lot of videos on YouTube as well, here’s a couple of the better ones:

http://tarekith.com/wired-roots-downtempo-live-pa/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTHRojYPzJg
– What do you call yourself? Live PA Artist, Live Remixer, Controllerist, etc.

I guess in general I’m just a musician, but if you mean for playing out, then I like old “live pa” name myself. When I used to go see guys doing the same thing I’m doing now, they called it that and I’m fine to keep on using it too.
– What is your definition of Live PA / live Electronic music?

It’s pretty vague for me, so I guess just music being performed where there’s at least some chance of making mistakes if you don’t do things right. How each artist interprets that is of course going to vary, and what one person thinks is live might be totally different from someone else.

Honestly, the very last thing I worry about when it comes to making and performing music is what people will call it. People get hung up one names and labels too much in this scene sometimes 🙂
– Why do you Live PA? Is it your profession? Do you aspire to do it full time? Is it a hobby? Somewhere in between? Or some other reason?

It’s fun, plain and simple. When I first got into making music at all, it was to play live. I had a Roland MC505 and would just create all these songs I could perform at parties where my friends were DJing. So right the beginning I’ve sort of equated playing live to making music.

I like seeing people’s reactions when I’m able to present an idea I had to them in a really direct manner, and playing live is that for me. It’s strangely addicting being able to control the mood or energy of a room full of people who have their full attention on you. At least, it’s fun when ti goes well! 🙂
– What musical genres do you play when you Live PA?

Right now I have two main sets ready at any time, a more chill but still grooving downtempo set, and a more upbeat club type set. I’m always adding new sounds to them or tweaking what I already have though, so they evolve constantly. I’m about 70% through writing a new club set too, all new material in this one.
– What is it about the musical genres that you produce and play that keep you interested?

Honestly again it comes down to the whole label and genre thing which I don’t really pay attention to. For me there’s basically two kinds of electronic music, the chill lounge downtempo style of tracks, and more danceable stuff, things that make you want to move around. I just make different versions of those as my mood strikes me when I sit down to record a new song.

A lot of times I might sit down with the intention of creating something really sparse and banging, but within 5 minutes I can feel myself being drawn more to the lush pads and dreamy sounds of the downtempo thing. So I’ll switch gears and write something like that instead, or maybe even flip back and forth on a few different tracks at once. I don’t have very many set ways of working.
– What was your first exposure to Live PA from the perspective of someone being in the audience?

Good question! I think that might be at my very first rave, and I believe it was Sven Vath that was playing live. It was billed as a live pa, and my friend was having the hardest time trying to explain to me what a live pa was. LOL I kept expecting to see this whole band up there, but it was just one guy. I didn’t get it at all, I was a guitar player at the time and it just was unlike anything I had seen before. From then on I was always attracted to parties that had live acts I wanted to see, more so than DJs.
– What was your first inspiration for doing Live PA?

A lot of my friends were starting to DJ, and while it looked like fun making music for everyone, I didn’t want to play other people’s music. I was a guitar player already like I said, it just seemed natural that I would learn how to use the tools to make this new style of music I was hearing.

Nothing against DJing mind you, I do that as well now and enjoy it immensely. Back then it just didn’t hold much interest for me though. I think eventually enough parties I was playing at got busted that I started to see the appeal of DJing more. You could just just grab your record bag and go, while here I was stuck with a car full of gear to pack up with the police kicking everyone out. That happened a lot in the early days….
– Tell us about your first gig. Give us the goods, we want to know what you were thinking the days / weeks before, how you came up with your methodology, how the gig itself went, and what the aftermath was.

I think my first gig other than at my house (we had a huge place where we lived and threw parties) was for a friend at a college town 6 hours away. We drove there during the morning, I set up my mc505 and a Yamaha CS2x and then I played live and my room mate DJ’d all night for a packed college house party.

I’ve never really gotten super scared or nervous before gigs, even then. Sure I get butterflies and start hoping it all goes well, but I’ve always WANTED to play live whenever I could. So for that gig it was no different to me than just playing for my friends at home.

Well except we ended up with no place to sleep. We’d been promised a place to crash at this house, but there was so much spilled beer everywhere there wasn’t a dry spot anywhere to lay down. So we packed up and drove 6 hours home with no sleep. I think that was my first introduction to what kinds of things I’d have to deal with to play live sometimes.
– Who do you primarily make music for, yourself or the audience?

Myself, definitely. Music is a selfish outlet for me to be as creative as I want to be doing whatever I want. I couldn’t wait to leave the concept of having to get together with a band to make music. Although maybe my first one was a bad experience too.

But at the same time, there’s definitely times I have to force myself to step back and think about the music I’m preparing to perform from an outsiders point of view too. I mean, it’s great to stand there and make weird noises for an hour, but if no one likes it then that’s the last time you’re going to get asked to do it.

So while you ultimately want to create something that expresses you views and ideas, you have to do it in a way that’s at least somewhat accessible for people too.
– What one to four word phrase should I use to title your chapter in the book?

This Chapter Starts Now.

– Can you list out your Live PA kit list and what you use each piece for?

At the moment I use an Elektron Machinedrum and Octatrack for everything, it’s a nice and compact set up that’s very powerful. The Machinedrum handles the drums, all of which are written specifically for the live set. The Octatrack handles all the instrument loops and stems I’ve prepped from my studio tracks, as well as new stuff just for the live show.

I have another live set prepped using the laptop and an Akai APC40 too, but at the moment I’m having more fun using the hardware again so that’s what I’ve been focusing on.
– How do you prepare music for a Live PA? What tools do you use to produce the contents of your set and how much is done before hand vs. on the fly?

If I used the Machinedrum when I wrote the original studio version, I’ll go back to my archives and grab the sysex and just send that to the Machinedrum (MD). Otherwise I’ll need to write new drum parts based loosely on the studio version of the song. I use a combination of the synthesis engines in the MD, and some of my own drum samples in the UW aspect of the MD.

For the instrument sounds, things like basslines, leads, pads, etc I’ll go back to the original DAW project files of the studio versions of my songs. Then I just basically edit and buss things down so that I get 6-7 stems that I think will work best for a live setting. Usually it’s the peak of the song, because I know I can build that up again live by playing all the parts at once.

Once I have these stems ready and working as 4 bar loops, I’ll export them as separate audio files, then load them into the Octatrack (OT). Then I’ll spend a few weeks more or less remixing all the stems into something new with the OT. I want the songs to have some of the same flavor as the studio versions but often I’m making them more dance friendly, or just remixing them into something almost completely new.

I spend a lot of time writing my songs, I don’t want to get sick of hearing them the same way either!
– Do you have a set way of playing every gig or do you change it up occasionally?

My gigs are usually spaced far enough apart that I can spend a little bit of time customizing the set for that particular event or venue. I’ll have an idea of what the crowd will be expecting, or maybe what my set time is so I can plan accordingly. I don’t follow a particular set list each time I play, and the performance of bringing all these parts together in a way that people will enjoy changes all the time.

If nothing else I get bored very easily, so I don’t stick with a particular working method for very long. I’m really happy with the current MD and OT set up, but I change how I interact with them all the time when creating new live sets. I like to mix it up some 🙂
– What are some of the challenges that you set for yourself in playing live?

I think the biggest challenge for any live electronic act is figuring out what level of control you want over the sounds you play. How much of it do you want hands on and how much of it do you want sequenced or pre-looped. There’s no way to really do it all live on the fly and make it super interesting for everyone, at least not for the kind of music I make.

So for my live sets I tend to think of myself almost more of a conductor or orchestrator than a musician. I’m not up there playing keyboards or guitar live (yet), but I’m still responsible for building and weaving all these different musical ideas into something that sounds cohesive, evolving, fun, and without making any mistakes.

Really the biggest struggle for me revolves around that, trying to decide how hands on I want to be. It’s got to be enough to let people know you’re in control and it’s happening right there in front of them. But at the same time, some of the really cool sounding parts of my music just can’t be recreated live, it’s impossible. So some of that stuff has to be prerecorded then triggered at the right time when playing live. Dozens, and dozens of times for each song.
– Do you have a set of rules that you follow that ensures you are doing a Live PA in your mind?

Not really to be honest, I’m only going to bill myself as a live pa if I know it’s music that I wrote to perform live.
– Do you worry about innovation in your Live PA? That is, are you always seeking new ways to play live or to tweak your setup? Can you discuss any processes you use to get better? Any examples?

Sure, sort of what I was just hinting at before. I get bored with working a certain way after awhile, so I switch it up a lot. A lot of times that might be just the gear I use, it’s changed a lot over the years. The MC505 gained a Sp808 brother for while, then an Akai S3000XL. Sold those, and eventually started playing live again using Ableton Live on a laptop with a Korg microKontrol keyboard. I spent a few years basically buying a new MIDI controller every few months then selling it and buying something else a couple months later. Nothing felt right.

Eventually the APC40 came out and that was a perfect fit for awhile. But over time I started missing working just with hardware, everyone was using laptops by this time so it no longer stood out. So I’ve been on the Elektron wagon lately, and that’s been loads of fun.
– How do you plan the music for a gig? Do you have a set list, is it fully improv, a bit of both?

I typically have about 20-24 songs (roughly two hours) ready to be played out at any time for both the downtempo and uptempo sets. They’re organized from the most chill to the most energy at the other end in both cases. So while I might not know exactly what songs I’ll play before the gig, I can plan the mood and progression I want the set to have. With most gigs being an hour, it gives me the option of making the set mostly chill, mostly upbeat, or a combo of the two as I see fit based on the crowd’s reaction.
– What types of things do you do on the fly vs. have laid out in advance while at a gig?

The loops are all pre-recorded, both the drums as MIDI in the MD and the instruments as audio files in the OT. I control when each plays, the volume, all the real time effect and synthesis tweaking, as well as controlling transitioning from one song to the next. A lot of time in my sets is actually spent working my way from one song to another, and there’s hundreds of different ways I can do that.
– Do you worry about making mistakes when playing live or do you go with the flow?

Yes. Of course you want the set to go good and not have any issues, but of course some will always happen. I’ve just learned to roll with it and hope I prepared for the worst. Usually performance mistakes no one really cares about as long as they are rare. So most of my stress pre-gig is hoping my gear works the right way.

Not that it’s been unreliable, but there’s nothing worse than showing up to a gig and having a memory card not read, or power issues making your gear freak out for no reason! The first time I sort of unstress strangely is when I first get on stage right before I play. I can see everything is still set up up and working right, so then it’s just up to me to use it right.
– How much do happy accidents work into your Live PA?

If they sound good, I go with it. That’s part of the appeal of playing live in the first place, you CAN make mistakes, but how you recover from them can be more important. You learn to think fast and really know your gear inside and out. Then you can just roll with any accidents and turn it into something unexpected.

Always tweak a knob in time to the music first time you grab it! LOL.
– Do you separate the concept of performance from the music you are playing when you do a live PA? For example, you may be doing some seriously complex and intense things to get the music out of the speakers, but how do you make it a “show” for your audience? Or is that something that you don’t really worry about?

I know it’s to my detriment, but I could care less for the most part. What I do takes concentration if you want me to do it the best I can, so I focus on making good sounds come out of the speakers, not dancing around on stage. I get into my music and have fun, and I try to keep eye contact with the crowd, but I’m not there to wear a costume just to get attention.

Other people are obviously successful doing it though, so don’t listen to me 🙂
– What tools and techniques do you use to purposefully increase the performance value of your Live PA? That is, are there things that you do on purpose just so the audience knows you are doing things live?

I think one of the benefits of using hardware is that you don’t have to worry too much about that. I don’t have a laptop in front of me that I need to worry about NOT looking at, or blocking my view of the crowd. If I’m not moving around busy with the MD and OT, nothing happens, there is no music. So just the act of me playing my music shows them I’m doing it all live on the fly.

They might not understand what each knob does, but they correlate the movement to the changes in the sound they hear.
– Do you incorporate visuals into your Live PA? What level of involvement do you think visuals have in a Live PA?

I don’t, but I’ve been thinking about it lately. I think for me it would be less about giving people a visual representation of the music I’m making, and more about a tool helping me set the mood to go with the music.

But at the same time, it’s one more set of bags to bring, and more gear to worry about. Maybe I just need to find an up and coming visual guy looking for some gigs, hmmmm….
– Do you have some future ideas youíd like to implement to enhance the performance side of your Live PA?

I’ve only had the Octatrack for a little over a year now, so it’s still pretty new to me. I’m pretty happy with the OT and MD pair to be honest, it lets me bring together a lot of different sides of my music into something with a true performance side to it.
– What do you say to the idea Live PA is only about pushing buttons and not live a true performance?

Who cares? The whole concept about what “playing live” is changes person to person. I think people are smart enough to see through bullshit if someone is up there faking it. And if not, well…

People aren’t dumb in general, they know when someone is really involved with the music they are presenting as live. You don’t make it long as a live pa otherwise. The only people that argue about it are other live acts online, most people could care less because that stuff sorts itself out naturally.
– What makes you feel satisfied at the end of a gig that youíve done what you came for?

Great gigs are THE best feeling in the world. Standing on stage, hearing your own music played LOUD, and having a ton of people get off to it? Yes please, sign me up!

There’s no surprise when a gig goes well, you know it the whole time usually. Being able to tap into that crowd energy and interact with people via music you’re making right then and there, that’s a very powerful feeling when it comes together better than you expected it would.
– Take us on an in-depth review of your Live PA setup. We want the nasty details. Don’t hold back.

Well, pretty simple in terms of gear, just the Machinedrum and the Octatrack at the moment. Umm… CF Cards by Lexar and custom cabling by Zenproaudio.com (highly recommended). I have roughly 12-14 tracks of drums in the Machinedrum, and typically 5-7 tracks of instrument sounds in the Octatrack.

The Machinedrum outputs go into the Octatrack, which lets me record and loop the MD, the OT, or both together on the fly. Useful for transitions between tracks. The OT is the MIDI Clock master, the MD is slave and sync is never an issue for me. Never even thought about it really, dead locked all the time.

I send a single stereo feed to the FOH guys, all the track EQing and whatnot I handle on stage.
– How do the various genres (if applicable) differ in setup and performance when you are doing a Live PA?

Not at all for me personally, at least not in terms of set up. I suppose in my uptempo sets I’m less likely to use a lot of really long ambient transitions, but other than that the set up and performance aspects are the same from my point of view.
– What are a few things that you are really proud of your setup that took you some time / innovation to get to be usable?

Bending the Octatrack my will so quickly! LOL. A lot of people seem to really struggle with learning how to use it, but for me it just clicked right from the start. I knew exactly what I was getting it for and it only took me a couple of days to learn how to do that and start building a bunch of new live sets.
– What is the craziest idea you have for a Live PA that you havenít implemented yet either due to cost, time, or know how?

I have some pretty specific ideas for some visuals I’d eventually love to have made for my downtempo sets. But to do it the way I want would be very costly I’m sure. For now I’ll keep the specifics to myself, still too far away to discuss yet 😉
– Can you reveal any of your secret rig tips and tricks that are a key to your success?

Nothing in my rig is a secret or special enough on it’s own to be something that most people would find useful I bet. It just comes down to really loving what I do, I want to do this in some facet or another all the time. It’s lots of hard work and long hours studying and practicing, but it doesn’t feel like work most of the time because I can’t think of anything I’d rather be usually.

I guess the best single bit of advice I can give is be in it for the long haul. Have fun now and along the way, because it often takes a long time to get to the achievements we set for ourselves.
– How is your gear prepared for a live set? Talk about things like packing, road cases, how you travel with your gear to a show.

I have two of the Elektron ECC-2 carry cases for the OT and MD. Those comes with the decksaver style lids that I use to prevent accidental spills on stage when I’m not using the gear. Each bag holds all the power, MIDI, and audio cables that I need, as well as backups of each just in case. I also carry a small battery powered reading light with a flexible neck. Useful for trying to see what you’re doing in super dark clubs and parties! If I need to use my own table, I have a dual-X braced keyboard stand and a piece of wood I can bring with fairly easily.

All in all a fairly compact set up, which I’ve found just makes my life easier. In this case I don’t think I’m losing anything in terms of playability of flexibility in how I perform, so it works out very well. I had built this really awesome wooden case last year for the OT and MD, everything was wired internally so I just had to take off the lid and plug in an audio and power cable. Done, easy.

It looked really nice too, but I used this super heavy maple for everything, and with the lid on, the darn thing just weighed too much to be practical. Oh well, the ECC-2 bags work well instead I guess. 🙂
– What’s in your gig survival kit? Any unusual items youíve discovered along the way that help you out?

I almost always carry a leatherman and small flashlight to gigs, as well as a roll of that blue painters masking tape. It’s useful for keeping cables out of the way and plugged in, and it doesn’t leave a residue when you pull it off. Much cheaper than actual gaffer tape!

If I have any doubts about the venue or the sound system, I have a bag full of extra cables and all sorts of adaptors I can throw in the car just in case. I used to bring it everywhere with me for my gigs, but lately I’ve been doing more parties and festivals out in the middle of nowhere, and it’s just one more thing to carry so I’ve been crossing my fingers I don’t need it.
– What things do you bring backups of to a gig in case of catastrophe?

Doubles of all audio, MIDI, and power adaptors. The ability to connect my audio outs to a stage or DJ mixer, so 1/4″ and RCA. All my data for the Elektrons backed up on separate CF cards, well for the OT at least. At the moment if the MD dies while I don’t have my laptop it’s going to be an issue! But I hope to get a +Drive installed in it soon to at least give me a small form of back up when I travel without the computer.
– What do you discuss with the promoter in advance about your setup and the venue?

Mainly the stage layout and type of mixer I’ll be plugging into. I really prefer to have a real soundcheck when possible, so I try and set that up at the same time as load in and set up. I can be fully set up and ready to go in 5 minutes, so that’s the easy part.

Other than that, set times and what the performers before and after me are playing if it’s a new venue. Just trying to get a feel for if they’ve don any sort of pacing musically in terms of the line up, so I know what style to play. It’s not an issue so much for the uptempo gigs, clubs and what not, they just expect you to bring it every time. But for some of the more chill events I do, they really want the whole night to flow a certain way usually.
– How do you go about tear down? Any tips for the setup that make this easier for you?

I have pretty unique cables, so it’s usually very easy for me to quickly grab mine and get them coiled and in the bags with the OT and MD. I use little velcro cord wraps to help keep everything neat, and if I have the time, I really try and coil everything nicely when packing up. Makes for less work next time, and often means you slow down and don’t forget anything.

Sometimes that’s not an option though. At Sequential Circus in Vancouver for instance, I was sharing the stage with 6 other live pa’s. So I had to get my stuff down and out of the way asap when I’m done playing. In that case it’s usually a bit more chaotic affair scrambling to toss all my cables and PSU’s in the bags as quick as possible!
– What’s your biggest at the gig/venue pet peeve?

Not being given enough space or time to set up even my modest set up. Also having to go into a DJ mixer before going to the house mixer. I’m a mastering engineer for a living, so I’m kind of a stickler for good sound quality. Having to go into a DJ mixer first always seems like a unnecessary step due to lazy sound engineers. It’s a minor thing admittedly, but I guess that’s why we call them pet peeves.
– Tell us about your funniest / most memorable gig.

Hmmm, there’s a few that stand out really. This past summer I was playing at the Photosynthesis Festival, and it poured for a few hours before I went on. The whole time it’s just dripping in the dome tent I’m supposed to play in, everything is getting completely soaked. Because I was playing in the chill out tent everyone, including the performers, were supposed to be barefoot and seated the whole time.

So here I am at 3:00 in the morning, sitting in a 5 inch puddle huddled over my gear trying to keep the drops off it, wondering if this is worth bringing $3000 worth of gear out in the woods! But honestly it was also one of my best gigs as well, by that point everyone just stopped trying to stay dry and everyone was just having a good time regardless.
– What ís your favorite venue? Why?

I haven’t played there yet, but it’s on my bucket list to one day perform at the Metro in Chicago. I’ve been there SOOOO many times to see other bands and DJs, it’s such a cool, but intimate venue. I really hope to play there some day!
– What is your ultimate gig? And have you had it?

I don’t think I’ll ever have some ‘ultimate’ gig. Every time I get off stage after a good show I think it was the best one yet, so it’s hard to answer that. It’s a sliding scale.
– What ís the strangest venue youíve played?

An art exhibit for a lady who made lamps out of repurposed materials. Nice people, so weird though. It wasn’t at all what I thought it was going to be when I accepted, but that happens, you just roll with it.

I remember being asked to play at a house party early on, for this college girl’s birthday party, real frat house kind of stuff. When we showed up and started unloading the car with my gear, she came out with a shotgun screaming that she was going to shoot the next person that tried throwing a party in her house.

That was pretty strange.

No idea what the story was, we just quickly packed up and left real quiet like.
– Whatís the main way you network to find new gigs?

I’m too busy and tired to go clubbing every night these days like I used to. I think that’s definitely the best way if you’re young and just getting into this. Go out, meet the promoters, get to know them, help out, then ask for a gig.

In my case a lot of my promotion is done online, posting my sets to my website, soundcloud, Facebook, the usual. I’ve been lucky that I’ve gotten a few gigs randomly from that, people just running into my music.
– How much work do you put into finding gigs?

Not enough! I like playing out and wish I could do it all the time, but the mastering business has been my real passion lately. That’s been taking up a of my time, both in the studio and out.

But usually I try and get a completely new live set together every couple of years, and that gets me motivated to start shopping it around to different local promoters. That reminds me, I need to start doing this for 2013 tomorrow….
– What types of gigs do you mostly look for? One offs, residencies, festivals? Any differences in playing these?

As long as there’s not a lot of drama, just about anything. I’ve had fun playing to VIP a room full of people who knew nothing about electronic music at a beer festival, and I’ve had fun playing some of the biggest clubs in Chicago and Seattle. With the right people, it’s always fun.

– What does having an audience to play for mean to you and how do they impact your set?

It makes the experience about more than just you. It adds a layer of responsibility you don’t have when you’re just having fun at home by yourself. Now it’s your job to entertain these people. If you’re not going to put on some super visual show, then the music better be on point.

Being there in FRONT of people adds to the experience as well, you can feel the vibe in the room when things are going good or going poorly. You learn to tap into that and read it, and how to go back in the studio later and shape your new music based on what you saw people reacted to the last time you performed.

You can be an incredible musician by yourself, but at some point you need to show that to other people. I think a lot of people struggle with this part of the equation.
– Whatís the largest audience youíve played for?

A few hundred I’d guess? At some of the festivals it’s hard to tell to be honest.
– What’s the smallest audience youíve played for?

My dog Link is my number one fan.
– What’s the largest misconception you deal with when speaking with those in audience?

People think I’m a DJ playing other people’s songs. Or they don’t understand how all those sounds could come from two small boxes.
– Have you ever lost an audience during a set and had to do something drastic to get them back?

Sure, I think we all have times where for whatever reason things just aren’t working well. I remember showing up once for what I thought was going to me an ambient set at a small club. When I get there, I find out now I’m not going on first, I’m going on at 2:00 AM. All the DJs and live acts before me were playing dark and hard techno and DnB, I would have been killed playing ambient after that.

So I basically had to crank the tempo up and add some drums on the fly. Stressful, not my best gig by any means, but considering the material I had and what the room wanted….
– What is the most memorable audience interaction you have ever had?

That’s a tough one. I think Sequential Circus was a really unique night in recent memory. That whole series of events is based on live acts, no DJs at all. So the crowd comes knowing what to expect and willing to pay good money to hear it twice a year. They hear a lot of up and coming (and established) live acts before other parts of the world, so the expectation is high.

They were a fun crowd to play for, lots of people afterward were coming up to talk to me about my set. Heck, even before hand people knew who I was and wanted to talk about gear and what not. Really fun night, good music, great crowd.
– What things have the audience done / said that have made you tweak your Live PA / performance for the long run?

I think in my case because my first forays into making music were for live pa’s, that a lot of my early feedback was just production related in general. My roommate once told me me liked my songs, but I needed to work on my drums. I think that was a game changer for me, it really made me focus on the percussive side of things more than I had.
– Are you affiliated with any Promoters?

No, though I’ve been doing a lot of the H’art events here in Seattle lately.
– What’s the largest misconception you deal with when working with Promoters?

That all live acts are 4 feet 2 inches tall and enjoy working on rickety folding card tables. Ummm…. no.
– What’s your favorite promoter story, good or bad?

Back in my clubbing days in Chicago, I was getting to know Chad Summer who was one of the main guys in the Pure group (huge Chicago club promoters at the time). We were at Karma at a sold out night for Dave Ralph’s birthday, and Chad pulled me and my girlfriend at the time out of the crowd to dance and do shots on stage with him and Dave.

That night and the after party was just pure debauchery, still brings a smile to my face. I had a lot of fun hanging out with those promoters.
– How do you determine fee for a gig or is that something that just settles itself?

Usually it just settles itself. Some of the festivals you’re lucky to get paid at all, but you get in for free and it’s so much fun you’d be there anyway. Other times you just have to weigh what it’s worth to you versus realistically how much they can afford to pay you. I used to work with a lot of promotion groups putting on parties and club nights, even some larger raves. So I’m used to dealing with the money issue and it’s not something I’m afraid to be upfront and honest about if need be.

As long as you’re being realistic about what you’re bringing to the picture, I think it’s pretty easy to be honest with yourself about what you should charge.
– Do you feel that there should be one definition of Live Electronic music or can the artist define their own methodology for what “Live”means for them, in context of their performance?

I really don’t care about definitions at all. If some guy is on stage flapping his ass cheeks making dubstep bass sounds and people are getting off on it, fair play to him.
– What’s the future of Live PA for you? How far ahead do you think about your purpose and what youíll be doing?

It’s always changing for me, but for the moment I’m right at the start of my journey doing live sets with the MD and OT. I’ve really been enjoying the challenge of writing and hours worth of music lately, compared to just writing a song here and there. So for the immediate future I see myself writing more live sets and trying to get more diverse gigs with those.
– Have you ever taught / thought about teaching Live PA to others?

I’ve presented at some of the Chicago and Seattle Ableton Live User group meetings, and some of that covered live performance. These days I really tend to focus on mastering when it comes to making a living though, so I haven’t really had the time for one on one training like that.
– Do you jam with other Live PA folks?

Not lately, though there were some guys back in Chicago I was having fun jamming with. I definitely want to get more into that, but I also know that a lot of it is just finding the right people to jam with too.
– What’s your favorite way to jam?

Just find someone way to get everyone clocked to a common tempo source and then brap away. I really am only interested in doing it with people who know when it’s time to move on to a new idea when jamming. A lot of people hang on to bad ideas too long 🙂
– Do you one day plan on passing the Live PA torch to family / friends?

Not really. My wife knows how to DJ and has had a few clubs gigs, but no kids for us to pass it on to.

—————

Quick reminder that my next live gig is at Photosynthesis 6 in Neah Bay, WA, July 19-22.

 

 

Odds and Ends

photo

Well, as I mentioned when I released my last song “TH1”, I’ve been spending a lot of time making music on the iPad the last few weeks.  Not just messing around and coming up with interesting sounds or grooves, but making serious music.  I figure if something is interesting enough to keep me working in a particular way for more than a couple weeks, then likely it’s something I need to keep exploring as long as I can.  Most of the time these exercises where I limit my tools might only last a week or two before I get bored, but not in this case.

While not an entirely care free experience (still the odd bug or crash), it’s been a really exciting way of crafting full songs.  I’m really enjoying using Auria as a DAW, it’s a much more interactive experience arranging and editing songs just by dragging things around by your finger.  The biggest issue so far has been the iPad4 getting a little sluggish when navigating Auria’s Edit (Arrange) page when I have a lot of tracks in the songs.  I had hoped that upgrading to the iPad4 would fix this, but while it’s much better than the iPad3 was, there’s still a bit of slow down at times.  Nothing too major, but it’s the only really negative thing I can think of so far.

So, my plan remains to keep working on the iPad and try to get a new EP done in a couple of months.  So far I have 3 songs well on their way, and a few ideas for a couple more, so I feel right on track.  I do find myself wanting a new drum app though, anyone have any suggestions?  At the moment I’m using the excellent DM1 primarily, but I also have Bleep!Box and the sample-based apps like Beatmaker2 and NanoStudio.  Not really looking for MPC style composing though, I’m more interested in unique drum machine style programming.  Any suggestions are most welcome!

——————

In other news, a friend and local Seattle producer I know is working on a pretty interesting Kickstarter project I thought I would let people know about.  From the producer:

“It’s been my life goal to get people collaborating on art and music. I’ve been able to do that through my Subaqueous website, but I wanted to take it a step further with a new product that helps bridge the gap between musicians and other music producers. This lead me to create the USB Splash Drive. It’s an 8gb custom usb drive that is loaded with music, remix stems, samples, Ableton live sets, and more.

This remix album isn’t just about releasing a few produced tracks. It’s about releasing the information on how I made a lot of my music. I want to share with my community, fellow musicians, and friends the knowledge I have acquired along the way.”

As most of my readers know I’m really into sharing HOW people make music, and this looks like a great way to get some more insight into that from another producer. You can find more info about this project here:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cotec/subaqueous-usb-splash-drive-and-remix-album?ref=card

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Screen Shot 2013-05-31 at 8.25.18 AM

Finally, I’ve had a few people ask me about my live gigs this summer.  At the moment I’m currently only booked for Photosynthesis 6, on July 19-21st.  It will be a downtempo/midtempo gig, and I have a lot of brand new material prepped that I will be playing out for the first time.  This is one of my favorite festivals of the summer, so it’s definitely worth coming out to if you want to hear some amazing music in a beautiful location.

I’ll post more info about this show, and some other ones I’m still working out once I get more specifics.

Thanks, until next time!

Tarekith

 

 

Tarekith DJ EFX Racks version 9

Well, it’s taken me a little while to revisit my DJ EFX for Ableton Live, but recently it was brought to my attention that some of the DJ EQ Racks I had created no longer functioned properly in Live 9.  It seems that the new Adaptive Q in EQ 8 was causing some pretty massive spikes in the signal, and the EQ curves no longer matched my original models.  Now all of the EFX Racks are compatible with Ableton Live 9, and you will need Live version 9.04 (or newer) for them to work properly.

Tarekith DJ EFX v9

I also create a couple of new racks as well, called “Lock & Key” and “Red Shift”.  These are a little on the weirder side, so look in the included READ ME file for the details.

Lock & Key

 

Red Shift

Hope you enjoy the new effects, and that the ones I fixed solved any issues people were having. If you notice any issues with any of the other Racks when using Live 9, please let me know and I will try and fix them ASAP.

Thanks, and have fun!

Studio & Stage DIY Ideas

Over the last few years I’ve shared some useful ways to improve your studio, or simplify your stage set up, all for not much money.  I thought I’d compile some of the more popular ideas into one post, along with a couple of new ones too.

Bread Tabs

1. Bread Bag Closures.

This is one of my favorite tips because it’s so simple, and it works equally well on stage or in the studio.  Nice way to keep your cables labeled, and unlike some of the more permanent options like adhesive labels, you never need to worry about removing a sticky residue later on if you need to label something differently.

 

Stand1

2. Build Your Own Speaker Stands.

I’ve been building my own speaker stands for years using this method, because not only is it cheap and easy to do, it’s also allows you to make the stands the perfect height for your particular listening environment.  The basic idea is simple, there’s a flat wood base made out of 3/4″ (or thicker) hardwood.  Local home improvement stores often sell oak pieces made for installing stairs in your home that are not only finished already, but also the perfect width for most small to mid-sized monitors.  One piece is enough for both bases.

The main support is a piece of 4×4″ lumber, I prefer using nicer hardwoods for this (typically Oak as well) as they seem to be not only stronger, but often much straighter than outdoor lumber.  The top of the stand is another piece of 3/4″ thick lumber.  I recommend NOT using plywood for the base or the top piece, it tends to flex more under the weight of heavier monitors, which can lead to all sorts of stability problems. On the very top of the speaker stand, I like to glue one of those super cheap mouse pads upside down.  This puts the rubber side up (fabric side down), which keeps the speakers from sliding on the top of the stands at all.

Stand 2

For the best results, consider using decent speaker spikes to not only decouple the stands from the floor, but also to make placement on carpet or slightly uneven surfaces easier.  I like the ones similar to these:

http://www.dedicatedaudio.com/inc/sdetail/3565

Sometimes you can find them for slightly cheaper on Ebay too.

Ideally you want the tweeter of your monitors to be at ear level, so cut the center 4×4″ piece to the desired height to achieve this.  Don’t forget to factor in the thickness of the base and top pieces, as well as the mousepad and speaker spikes!  If you don’t have woodworking tools or a saw to cut these yourself, most lumber stores like Home Depot or Lowes will cut the wood for you for something like $0.25 a cut.  Easy.

Assembly is simple, 4 long screws can hold the base and the top to the center pole.  Use quality wood screws or lag bolts at least 4 inches long, and pre-drill the holes to prevent splitting the 4×4″ upright support.  Finish them with whatever color spray paint you want (I find flat black looks the best), or if you got nicer woods feel free to stain them instead.  The cost for two stands is about $30-40, maybe a little more if you get more expensive speaker spikes.

3. Artsy Acoustic Treatment.

Typically acoustic treatment for studios has been a rather dull thing to look at, maybe you get a few color choices and that’s it.   While some acoustics treatment companies are now letting you send them artwork to print onto the fabric that they make your panels from, typically it’s very expensive for custom artwork like this.

I found a simpler solution thanks to a company called Spoonflower.com.  They are a craft fabric supplier that lets you upload digital images which they will then print on the fabric of your choice (usually they have 5-6 different choices).  For acoustic reasons, I recommend going with the lightest weight fabric they offer, which is typically almost as thin as a gauze material.

Artsy

The best part is that it’s REALLY cheap!  I had a photo I took on vacation one year printed on a 2 yard piece of fabric for only about $20.  Easy enough to place it over my acoustic panels, and staple it to the back to hold it in place.  Works great for traps you build yourself, or ones you buy pre-made.  Much nicer and less boring to look at too!

4. Painters Tape For Stage Set-Ups.

One last tip for people who play live or set up gear on stages.  Usually gaffers tape is what most people use to tape down cables or secure things on stage.  It works great because it doesn’t leave a residue when you remove it (unlike say Duct Tape), but it’s also really expensive and not something you can easily find at a hardware store.  However painters tape works just as well, and it too doesn’t leave a residue when you remove it.  While it’s still not as cheap as say masking tape, it’s much cheaper than gaffer tape and you can find it at any home improvement store.

Tape

Here you can see it holding the power cords to my Elektrons to the table at a recent gig to keep them from accidentally getting pulled out.  I always tape my cables for my stage gear to one of the legs of any table I’m set up on.  Just adds a nice safety measure to keep people from tripping over cables on stage in the dark and pulling them out of your gear (or worse, pulling your gear off the table!).