Resolutions and Milestones

Wrightwoods10

Whew, the end of the year is approaching, and even though it’s ultimately nothing more than a date on the calendar, I’m really looking forward to it.  This year has been incredibly busy for me on just about all fronts.  The mastering business continues to grow (better than expected, whew!), I’ve been writing and performing a ton of new material this year, and I released my first new album in a long time only a couple of weeks ago.

Not that I’m complaining mind you, I’m really glad it was such a productive year.  But I look forward to taking on some new challenges too.

And you know, when I thought about this today, I realized that I’ve been feeling this way for some time now.  Years in fact.  When I sat back and really thought about all the times I felt this way over the last 5-7 years, and all the goals I set for myself, I realized that this was sort of never-ending.

Not in a bad way, but it was a realization for me to see how many times I’ve thought a particular time of year, or reaching some large milestone would lead to a drastic change in my music projects.  I’d set myself these milestones expecting that once I was done I could stop and think about new ways to approach music making, or that I’d have the time to explore new tools for awhile and not think about actually writing music for a bit.

But of course, the next new project or idea pops into my head and away I’d go back into the studio.

For me the interesting thing to see in hindsight, is how many times these sorts of projects eventually did lead me to new working methods, or the chance to explore new tools.  It was just a more gradual process than I thought it would be, not a short and more focused sabatical like I’d intended.  It’s started to make me think about my goals not as the end of a particular journey, or the turning point in my music making.  But instead they’ve become sort of way points on the path that my life seems to be taking.

I don’t let myself get stressed anymore that I’m too busy to take a break and approach all this music making from new angles, because over time that seems to happen anyway whether I planned on it or not.  In that push forward, it’s important to slow down and realize that these dreams we have, these goals we set might always seem to be moving further out, but they only do so because we’ve achieved so many of them along the way.

There will always be something new on the horizon when it comes to music making!  Something to keep in mind as you plan your New Year’s resolutions I think  🙂

On that note, what are some of your goals for the coming year?  I’d love to hear about what kinds of projects everyone else is planning on tackling, even if it’s just wrapping up something you’re currently working on.  Post it in the comments if you feel like sharing!

Tarekith Interview – December 2012

Hey everyone, earlier this month I gave a 30 minute interview to one of my mixdown clients who’s starting his own blog.  We talk about  a lot of different topics, from playing live, to mastering, moving across the country, plus I give a bunch of production tips.  Check it out and let me know what you think:

http://kylebolt.com/tarekith-interview

Oops, and sorry for the audio glitches in a few spots, Skype was acting up that day.  🙂

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I also wanted to thank everyone for their kind words about my new album “Epoch” that got released last week.   I wanted to apologise to those of you who tried to buy the FLAC or WAV file versions from Addictech and were told it was Out Of Stock.  That issue has been resolved now, and you can also grab those file formats from the new Bandcamp page I just added too (HINT: it’s only $7 for any format there).  Here’s the easiest places to find the album, click the name for the links:

 

 

“Epoch” – New Tarekith Album

Like many musicians today, I typically release my music one track at a time.  Sure, every once in awhile I’d get together an EP perhaps, but it’s been awhile since I released a complete album.

Early last year, I was in the studio just randomly listening to some of my older tracks.  I realized that many of them told a similar story, and had a common vibe that I hadn’t anticipated.  I decided then that I wanted to compile the best of this group into a cohesive album.  Unfortunately, I was still a few tracks shy of achieving the flow on the album that I envisioned, so I just went back to writing singles for almost 2 years.

Finally, after what for me has been a long wait, I feel I have all the arcs of the story that I need.  This isn’t so much an album of my best songs, as is it a compilation of the ones I feel best represent what I want to say with my music.  I love to combine real world sounds with totally synthetic and twisted digital textures, over catchy beats that represent flow and movement.  With these songs, I used every tool at my disposal over the last 8 years to do just that. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I did creating it.

The Epoch album is available at the following stores:

QuNexus – Hands On

Earlier today I had the chance to meet the local Keith McMillen representative, and get an early preview of their new QuNexus controller.  I should stress that the unit I got to play with was an early prototype, and thus may not be identical to the production units.  It certainly felt like real product though, and has the same feel and response as the QuNeo controller they already produce.

Like the QuNeo before it, McMillen is using Kickstarter to raise funds for the productions of these units, and while there are currently 7 days left until the project funding ends, they have already met their goal.  You can sign up to be part of the Kickstarter funding and get one of the very first production units (at a nice discount) here:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kmi/qunexus-smart-sensor-keyboard-controller

As I mentioned, the unit I saw was only a production prototype, but it felt a lot like the QuNeo.  The case is nice and thin, about the same thickness as the QuNeo, and the ‘keys’ on the controller are raised roughly 1/8 of an inch or so above the casing to make them easy to play.  While the case does have the same flex to it as the  QuNeo, it doesn’t feel cheap at all.  Quite the opposite in fact, the flexing almost makes it feel like it would stand up to more abuse than if it was made out of a rigid hard plastic.  I definitely would have no worries just tossing this into my laptop bag night after night after a gig.

The keys themselves are sort of a softer rubber like we’ve come to expect on drum pad controllers like Maschine or the Trigger Finger.  They have a nice solid feel and bounce to them when you play them like drum triggers, but are sensitive enough to velocity variations that they actually are quite responsive for playing keyboard parts too. And you can tailor the velocity to your playing with the included software editor if you need to.

To the left of the keys there are function buttons that let you bank octave up and down, set the keys to transmit note, pressure, or note and pressure data as you need.  While it doesn’t have a mod or pitch wheel per se, there is a modulation button that can serve the same duty.  The longer and harder you press it down, the more pitchbend you get, and the faster it comes on.  This functionality was still being worked on with the prototype, so I can’t comment on how it really worked in practice.

There’s also a cool function where rolling or pushing your finger forward on a key after you press it can send controller data (McMillen refers to this as Tilt).  So for example, you could press a key to trigger a note, then slide your finger forward to alter the cutoff frequency.  All while still having pressure to assign to another parameter.  Very nifty, and offers the chance for some really dynamic and expressive playing depending on how and what you map this extra level of control to.

In addition to sending MIDI data, the QuNexus can also transmit and receive CV and Gate information for controlling your analog gear.  Unfortunately I couldn’t try this aspect, so I can’t comment on that functionality. But it should be very welcome considering the resurgence of analog gear we’re seeing lately.
While there’s certainly no shortage of small and cheap portable controllers on the market now, the one thing that I really enjoyed about the QuNexus is just how responsive the keyboard felt considering the keys don’t have your typical travel mechanisms.  Unlike some of the small keyboard controllers from Korg or Akai, the QuNexus actually feels like something you can use to play very expressive pieces with.  The velocity response was very predictable and even, and having the option to use the keys as further controllers via the pressure and tilt options really opens up a lot of expression possibilities.  And most importantly, it doesn’t feel cheap.

One of the things I’m most excited to use the QuNexus for is playing iPad synths, which is perfect since it can be powered by an iPad using the Camera Connection Kit.  Not only does it feel like a lot more robust of a controller than the alternatives in this size, I won’t have to worry about breaking off one of the mini-keys the other controllers use while transporting it in a backpack on my bike.  Hoping to get my hands on one of the early production units to test this out, but I’ll have to wait for now just like everyone else unfortunately.  🙁

If you’re interested already, you only have 7 DAYS LEFT to help fund the Kickstarter project via the link above.  Doing so will get you a QuNexus for only $150, which is $49 cheaper than what the eventual street price of $199 will likely be. If you’re in the Seattle area and would like a one on one demo of the QuNexus, just let me know and I’ll get you the contact info of their local rep who would be happy to help you out.

Finally, Create Digital Music has a good interview with Keith McMillen on the specifics of the QuNexus development and using Kickstarter for a projects like this, definitely worth a read if you want to find out more about what went into starting this project.

I’ll post more info on this once I get my hands on my very own to spend more time putting it through it’s paces.  Until then, ask any questions you have and I’ll do my best to get the answers for you, thanks!

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(psst, new Tarekith album comes out Friday too)

“Out From In” Album – Now Free!

To celebrate the release of my new album “Epoch” this Friday, I’ve decided to make my last album available for free now.  Released in 2009, “Out From In” was conceived and written as a continuous mix of flowing electronic music.  You can down a free 320kbps MP3 version of the entire album here:

http://tarekith.com/mp3s/Tarekith_-_Out_From_In.mp3

If you prefer WAV of FLAC versions of the entire album, or just a couple songs, they are still available on Addictech.com as well:

http://www.addictech.com/p/38571

Stayed tuned for info on the new album once it launches this Friday, December 7th!

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In other news, I’m meeting with the local Keith McMillian rep on Wednesday to get a sneak peek at new QuNexus controller this Friday.  I’ll definitely post my thoughts on it once I’ve had some hands on time with it.

Also, for you Seattle  Live users, don’t forget that tonight is the Seattle Ableton Live Users meeting at the Vera Project at 5:30.  Tonights presenter is Mr. Bill!  If you go, be sure to stop and say hi!

“The Focused Mist”

The Focused Mist

This track was written using a combination of the Elektron Octatrack, and an iPad3 running the following apps:

– Figure
– iKaossillator
– Sunrizer
– Animoo
– Samplr

All of the original source audio for the song came from these apps, which was then arranged and mixed with the Octatrack.  The output of the Octatrack was recorded via a Lynx Hilo at 24bit/96kHz, no additional post-processing was applied except for normalizing to -0.3dBFS and converting to a 16bit/44.1kHz file format.

High quality FLAC and wav file versions of this song are available at Addictech.com

Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/tarekith/the-focused-mist

YouTube: http://youtu.be/-fKFHpjScgM

Track Consulting Service

Back by popular demand from many of my clients, I am once again offering a Track Consulting service in addition to the normal Mastering and Mixdown services I provide.  For $20 a song I’ll take a listen to your track on my mastering rig and let you know if I hear issues in the mixdown, or just general areas of the track I think could be improved.  Of course I will continue to offer free mixdown advice prior to mastering (if needed) for all of my mastering clients.  This option is for people who perhaps aren’t ready for professional mastering and just want an experienced, and unbiased 3rd party opinion on their tracks.  Please visit the website for more details:

http://innerportalstudio.com/track-consulting

The Art Of Editing

So things have been pretty busy here in the studio the last few weeks, lots of different projects I’ve started working on.  Just happened to be one of those times where I suddenly got a lot of good ideas for things to do musically, so I’ve started a lot of different things before I forget what they are.  Quite a leap from my Doldrumming post a few weeks back!  🙂

The main thing I’ve been working on is a new techno live set, using only the Elektron Machinedrum.   I’ve done a few downtempo sets using only the MD, but I wanted to have a go at doing something a little more upbeat for a change.  Also driven by the fact that I’ve heard a lot of really good techno and tech-house music this past summer, namely from local Seattle DJs like Amanita, CTRL_ALT_DEL, and Bert & Chewy.

So the last couple of weeks I’ve been mainly working on creating 16 new songs on the MD that I can play live, and so far it’s coming along great.  I have 14 songs at about the 80% mark, and 2 more at about the 50% mark.  At this pace, I should be done in another couple of weeks if all goes well.  Talk about writing a HUGE amount of music though!

The other project I’ve been working on here and there as I have time, is creating some fun little grooves on my iOS apps like IKaossilator and Triqtraq, and importing those into the Octatrack to create a new EP I want to release later this winter.  At least, that was the plan.

One of the things both of these projects have in common, is that I’m writing a lot of material at one time for each of them.  Multiple songs and ideas are started in a single day, and it’s not uncommon for me to work on 4-5 each day as I get them closer to completion.  When I’m coming up with this much material, my main goal is to capture it as fast as possible, and then move on to the next one as soon as I get an idea for it

As a result, I find that every few days I need to send some time doing some critical editing of all this material.  Now, I don’t mean edit in terms of manipulating the audio data, but rather taking a step back and really thinking about what’s working, and what’s not when I listen to what I’ve created.

A lot of people get so attached to their rough drafts while sketching them out. They have a hard time being objectionable and realizing after the fact that perhaps the idea was interesting, but ultimately it’s probably not going to be worth spending more time on.  Certainly there’s a fine line between realizing that you have a solid idea that’s just a little basic and needs more work, and deciding that it’s not worth wasting anymore time on something though!

For albums, live sets, and things like EP’s, I find that it helps to quickly play all of the songs back to back, just snippets of them really.  Load them in your DAW so you can quickly move song to song.  It’ll help give you a brief overview of all your material so far, and more often than not anything that’s not up to the standards of the majority of the songs will be pretty obvious right away.  Or maybe it’s just that a couple of the songs are good, but don’t fit the same vibe with the others and should be culled for use later.  Certainly one of the last things anyone wants to listen to is a bland and samey album, but at the same time having too many ideas or directions the work is trying to go in can be just as painful to listen to.

The same could be said when you’re just working on a single song too though.

It pays to take a break now and then and see if everything in the song is really adding something useful, or if it’s just distracting from the main elements that are what’s really importnat.  Or perhaps the arrangement is too busy, there’s an extra chorus you don’t need, or that long solo in the middle really is just too long.  Might be cool on it’s own, but it has to serve the song too, so you need to put the ego aside.

One of the more common issues I hear in track these days is too many dramatic fills breaking up the flow of the song.  For years I used to bemoan the fact that people didn’t add enough fills and transitions and the song was too loopy sounding.  Now the opposite is happening, and people are putting in so many fills and drops in their songs, it’s impossible to dance or even nod your head to them. Every 10 seconds there’s some new interuption to how the song is flowing.

Take the time to step back and try to think about what you’re working on as if you weren’t the one writing it.  I think it’s one of the more difficult things to learn for any artist, but learning to edit out what isn’t needed is probably one of the most important skills that separates the pros from the amateurs.  Don’t get so attached to every part of your work that you can’t remove the things that are holding it back.   You have to be proud of your work, but that means being critical of it too.

As a wise man once said: “Edit, edit, edit!”.

Octatrack Slicing Tutorial

A quick tutorial on how to use audio slicing in the Octatrack, and how you can remix your own loops with it.  Plus some other handy shortcuts along the way.  Enjoy the video, and if you find it useful, consider a small donation via the link to the right of the screen.  Thanks!

http://youtu.be/mWGn7RI3vOc

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In other news, been spending a lot of time in the studio mastering EP’s for people.  Must be that time of year for short albums! 🙂

For my own music making, I’ve been exploring an idea I had awhile back to do a techno live set using only the Machinedrum.  Finally decided to give it a go last week, and I’ve already got a ton of material written for the set.   If all goes well, I’m hoping that I’ll have it far enough along to play out in 3-4 weeks.