And…..Done. Final Blog Post

2016 Avatar Full 1MB

It’s hard to believe I’ve been running my blog for 6 years now, even more difficult to believe that I’ve done 282 posts in that time period.  But, as they say, all good things must come to an end, and I’ve decided that now is a good time for me to step away from the blog and focus on other avenues for sharing my views on creativity and audio production.

It’s been really enjoyable talking to everyone and sharing your views on how you approach all the struggles and joys of writing music.  I can’t thank everyone enough for all the insightful comments, indepth replies, and most especially for all the donations you’ve made to help make all this possible.

As a way of saying thanks one final time, I’ve collected all of the best blog posts into one document, which you can download here:


The zip file contains both PDF and epub versions of the document so you can view it on any of your devices.  I’ve made a few changes here in there in the text to update my recommendations on gear, and make it easier to read all of the posts front to back.

Thanks again everyone!

The Best Laid Plans… S8 Live PA


I seem to be on a roll lately when it comes to prepping a new live set, lots and lots of work that seems to ultimately not pan out the way I intended.  This time I had decided that it was time to explore using the Traktor S8 controller as the center of my live rig, indeed as my entire live rig actually.  Ever since I got the S8 I’ve been intrigued by the idea, since it gives you so many hands-on controls for the Remix Decks in Traktor.  Not to mention a 4 channel mixer, 4 seperate effects units, and built-in soundcard.  It’s not a small device by any means, but if it’s all you’re carrying to a gig, it’s really not as bad as setting up multiple bits of gear either.

It’s been awhile since I played live of course, not since I sold off my Elektron Machinedrum and Octatrack a couple years ago really.  I realized that even with that set up, I was rehashing material that was by now 3-4 years old anyway.  I’ve released quite a few songs since then, and I had been slowly gathering them all this last year with the intent of grabbing stems from them for a live set I’d perform one one way or another.  With the S8 live pa once again coming to mind, seemed like a good way to kill two birds with one stone as it were.

So for the last few weeks I’ve been going back to my old song projects.  Stripping things down, combining sounds, adding new fills, enhancing things to work better in a live setting, revisiting mixdowns, and generally doing what I could to capture the essense of each song in 8 stems that were 32 bars long.

Long enough to avoid being repetitive sounding, but not so long as to be wasting disk space for no reason.  It really forces you to get to the core of each of your songs and see what’s important.

After weeks of work I had my stems balanced, level-matched, tagged, and finally imported into two Traktor remix decks, one for each side of the S8.  Drums and bassline on the left deck, synths, guitars, and pads/fx on the right deck.  This was not easy actually, as Traktor is a bit clunky when it comes to assigning lots of sample loops to the remix slots.  For one thing, there’s no way to delete a sample if you make a mistake and put it in the wrong place.  WTF?

Also, Traktor guessed the tempo of my perfectly trimmed loops wrong every single time.  Literally, all of them.  Surprising in a lot of ways as it’s excellent at guessing the tempo of whole songs and setting beat grids these days.  So it was a pretty arduous process getting it all set up, but I kept plugging away and eventually it was done.

Once I started practicing the set though, it became apparent that things were not as ideal as I had thought.

For starters, I was having issues triggering all 8 stems at once and actually getting them in sync.  Of course I had Traktors Snap and Quantize on, but for some reason even though I KNOW that I was pressing all the remix pads at the same time and hard enough, one or two of them wouldn’t trigger at the same time as the others.  They would be late by whatever the quantize value was set to (usually 4 beats).  Or worse, hitting them all at once would cause a slight hiccup in the audio no matter what my latency was set to.

All in all, just didn’t feel reliable enough for a live gig.  Who wants to build up a song to an epic point and then have the critical sound not trigger on time?

The other thing I wasn’t expecting, was that when you use the Remix Decks in Traktor, the only way you can apply effects is using the performance knobs set to send mode.  Basically this means that you get a send knob for each column of loops, and it controls the send amount for that column to all effects units the deck is assigned to.  If you don’t use Traktor I’m sure that doesn’t make sense, so I’ll explain it another way.

I had planned on using two effects units for each of my decks, and each deck has 4 loops playing.  Because each effect unit can also be a group effect with three effect types, this means I could have up to 6 seperate effects for my drums and my bassline, and 6 additional effects for my synths, fills, and pads.  When you’re working with only audio loops, you need as many ways to manipulate them as possible, otherwise it’s just a some what rather boring to perform DJ set.

But with this send effect limitation, that means I could only apply all 6 effects at once to each sound via a wet/dry control.  There was no way to send the kick and snare to one effect, and my high hats to different one.  This greatly reduced my ability to shape and manipulate the sounds the way I was intending, and more or less put me back into a DJ mentality (to be fair, this IS a DJ controller afterall).

At the end of the day, it just seemed a little too limiting for what I was trying to achieve, so I might just have to write this one off as experimentation and move on to something else.  I’m going to mull over some other ideas over the next few days to see if I can still make this work, but it’s looking less and less likely.

Oh well, sometimes you have to fail to learn, and at the very least it helped me prep some stems in case I think of another sample-based method for playing live.

Now if only Korg would release that bug-fix update for the new Electribe.  Hmm…..



Stay tuned for more adventures in prep work!

Windings – Downtempo DJ Set


Windings <- Right click to save.

With all the work that’s going on with preparing to move to Luxembourg, not to mention selling the house, it’s amazing I’m finding anytime to actually DJ.  But I have to say, with something like the Traktor S8 recently in the studio, it’s hard to stop as well!  Really having a lot of fun with the new controller, I more fun than I’ve had DJing in a long time if I’m honest.  Finally the perfect combination of controls for the way I want to DJ, and the screens are game changers.

This mix is more downtempo than the last one, it’s freaking cold this weekend and I wanted something that was chill but still warm.  Err… something.  Anyway, hope you enjoy as always.

Start Time – Artist – Track Name – Label
00:00 – Baghira – Garden Lullaby – Stereoheaven
05:44 – Tipper – Table Flipping – Tippermusic
09:48 – Sesion De Los Floras – Gotas de Agua Dolce – Stereoheaven
14:34 – Aqua Mundi – Beautiful Awaking – Stereoheaven
19:02 – Tipper – Gulch – Tippermusic
22:23 – Soulavenue – Stuck In A Dream – Karmapulse
26:47 – Diario – Throwback – Sa Trincha
31:46 – Stereo Out – The Calling – Drizzlymusic
35:23 – Soulavenue – Try – Drizzlymusic
39:00 – Jon Hopkins – Sun Harmonics – Domino
45:04 – Diario – Two Shells – Ibiza Lounge
48:03 – Witchcraft – Ultraviolet – AD Music


One final note, yes the studio is still open for mastering!  A few people just skimmed my mailing list email or the blog post, and didn’t realize it was happening in January most likely.  If you need some mastering done, there’s no need to wait.

Thanks everyone!

Without Within DJ Set 11-21-2014

Without Within

Without Within DJ Set <- Click to Save
Tech House 11-21-2014

Finally got a break from preparing to move and selling the house to record a new DJ set using my new Traktor S8 controller.  Still enjoying it, having the Freeze function at hand really opens up a lot of interesting possibilities for transitions.  I love having full-time access to the delays for each deck too.

This mix goes into the deeper end of things.  A little housey, a little minimal tribal, and some groovy techno as well.


Time – Artist – Track Name – Label
00:00 – Stereo Out – Elettro Noise – Drizzlymusic
04:16 – Simplex Sensus – Airdrops – Nidra
08:46 – Lamedusa – You’ll See (Micha Mischer Rmx) – MUM UK
12:24 – Steve Lovesey – Dusk – Pure Substance
19:54 – Ciffre 100 – Amantes – Nidra
24:58 – Steve Lovesey – Push The Sunrise – GR8 AL Music
31:16 – Steve Lovesey – Sea & Air – Respect
37:03 – Self Explanatory – A Part From The Funk – Nidra
41:58 – Agrume – Abyss – Gigabeat
48:27 – Innova – The Deepest – Moxi
53:10 – T Tommy – Quien No Va Coger – Leima House
57:56 – Innova – Don’t Stop – Dance All Ways
63:21 – Steve Lovesey – From The Beginning – GR8 AL Music


NI Traktor Review Part 2


Now that I’ve spent a bit more time with the Traktor S8 controller, I wanted to add to my earlier review with some other things I thought people would be interested in.

For starters, it seems that the meters are improved on the S8. Maybe it’s just me, but I always felt the meters on the S4 were way too fast and never really seemed in time with the music. On the S8, things are definitely more like a traditional DJ mixer.

One thing I do miss from the S4 though, is the loop recorder controls. While you can do a lot of the same functionality with capturing to remix decks, it does use a deck and lacks the simple and focused set of controls you might be used. I know a lot of people say they never used the loop recorder, but it was one of my favorite features.

Another useful shortcut that’s gone is the ability to preview your tracks in the Browser, you have to load them to a deck first to cue. Not a huge deal, but the older method of pushing encoder to cue, then load with a separate button press was brilliant I thought. I hope NI lets us choose to use the old functionality some how.

Speaking of the Browser, one other small annoyance is there’s no way to see if you’ve played a track or not via the S8’s display. This makes it impossible to see what you’ve played earlier in the night, a major disappointment. Hopefully we get a little more flexibility in what gets displayed on the S8 in deck mode, as there’s a lot of things I’d love to customize more. Being able to see minute marker in the waveform display for one, though at least we can see the time played and remaining for each song.

One thing that’s really nice though is being able to grid your tracks right from the controller’s displays. The method is more or less identical to how it works in Traktor on iOS devices, though you can also hear a metronome tick to help you if you want. There’s no way to add Start or Grid marker unless you revert to the computer, but overall the implementation is smart and really speeds up prepping new tracks. Good stuff.

Also I wanted to mention that I watched the free DJ Techtools S8 tutorial videos that came with my order from them. Overall I thought Ian did a really great job a covering the basics and more advanced techniques over the course of the 4 videos. The last video in particular shows you a lot of real world uses for the remix decks and freeze functionality via the S8.

Lots of really good ideas, though many times the streaming from the site reduced the video quality so bad I couldn’t see what was going on. I’m sure that’s partly related to my bandwidth at the time, but it would be nice to have downloads of the videos too. Pirating issues, I get it.

Overall I really am impressed with the S8 still. The remix decks have been easy to learn and make use of, and things are laid out in a way that makes a lot more sense to me. Also just the overall build quality improvements are nice. I never though the S4 was bad, but it definitely was a very plastic looking and feeling unit. The S8 finally feels like a pro-quality DJ tool, something you wouldn’t be hesitant to bring to a big gig. Should you want to deal with the size and weight anyway.

Hoping to finally record a mix with it in the next day or two, we’re in the middle of packing for a large move and finding the time to get in that headspace has been hard 🙂 Stay tuned.

NI Traktor S8 Review


At long last Native Instruments has delivered an all-in-one controller aimed at digital DJs looking to break completely free from the old school turntable paradigm. But is the wait worth it? Let’s dive in…

First impression count, and the first look I got of the S8 certainly didn’t disappoint. It’s a large unit, probably 20-30% bigger and heavier than the S4 I’m used to, though not so heavy that you’d need to drag a friend with you to the club to help carry it (I don’t miss toting around turntable coffins at all!). While I never personally had any issues with the built quality of the S4, the S8 definitely feels and looks more robust.


Happily, almost all of the shiny black plastic of the earlier models is covered by aluminum (the area around the displays is the only plastic showing), meaning no more unnecessary fingerprints to clean. For people with OCD like myself, this is MOST welcome! 🙂 The knobs and rotaries feel exactly the same as the earlier versions of the S series, which is fine with me as I think NI has always done a good job there.

The faders however are a noticeable improvement, the throw is much smoother and tighter feeling on the upfaders, and the crossfader actually feels like a proper crossfader now. I still think the fader caps are tiny bit cheap feeling, but it’s a minor point and easily remedied with some ChromaCaps if needed. One benefit of the larger footprint is that you have a lot more room between the controls it feels like, especially in the effects sections. Also, many of the knobs are now touch sensitive, so as soon as you put a finger on them the displays reflect what those controls are ummm…. controlling.

Ah, the displays, now we come to the meat of the new S8, what really sets it apart from earlier controllers. They seem to be identical to the ones on the Maschine Studio I reviewed earlier, which is to say bright and easy to read, even from a distance. Just like with Maschine, NI has done a brilliant job of showing you everything you need to see on those displays, rendering the laptop display completely redundant for everything except searching your library. I didn’t once find myself needing to look at my laptop to DJ with the S8, and that is the real game changer making the S8 feel like an instrument on it’s own in a way the S4 and S2 never did. I’m hooked, and I can’t imagine going back!

While the waveform colors follow the theme you select in Traktor preferences, the actual waveform looks more like the Traktor iOS app than the laptop display. That’s fine though, still super easy to grid your tracks or get the structure of a song at a glance.

Another benefit of the displays is that you can now see your remix decks in great detail, and your effects as well. Since there are now enough knobs on the controller to let you access all 4 effects units at once (finally!), you get a lot more options in how you can affect your tracks in real-time. One note however, the knobs under the displays are endless rotaries and lack the center detent of the top effect knobs. It makes sense as they can also control things like remix deck pitch and filtering too, but it can make setting your group effects back to the center “off” position a little finicky too.

Other improvements are the much more comprehensive IO options on the back, and a louder headphone output on the front. Something that was a common complaint on the S2 and S4, in loud clubs their headphone amps could feel a little underpowered. There’s even a standard 1/8” headphone jack for people using IEM’s or standard earbuds for DJing, a welcome touch as I use those myself occasionally and the 1/4” adaptors always seem to be hiding when I want to 🙂

With the jog wheels gone you’re obviously going to be relying more on Sync to get your tracks lined up, though I’m guessing if you bought an S8 you would be doing this already. The new Touchstrips work great for letting you skip through a track, or push and pull a track a bit to fine tune sync issues. Even if you don’t use the Sync button, it’s still easy to beatmatch tracks manually by adjusting the global Tempo knob and the Touchstrips. It didn’t take me but a couple minutes to get used to doing this, though I doubt I’ll really have much need to anyway.

I’m very happy that the S8 now has a global Tempo knob too. As someone who tends to start out my sets with downtempo and progress to more upbeat songs, this is a much better way of controlling tempo over the course of a set. Much more intuitive than constantly needing to hold shift to “re-zero” the pitch faders on the S4.

The 8 large pads on each side of the S8 give you access to your cue points, user-definable loop and beat jump divisions, Freeze functionality, and your Remix Decks. They feel nice and solid, maybe not as playable as those on Maschine, but very close. Cues and Loop settings are more or less identical in function to the S4, though the new Freeze functionality is an excellent new addition.

If you’ve used the iOS version of Traktor, Freeze will make sense right away, if you haven’t you’re in for a really fun way to remix your tracks on the fly. Combined with the very welcome Flux button right next to them, it’s simple to create your own unique fills and transitions, and have the music kick back in on time and as expected.

The amount of audio you can freeze at any time is determined by the current loop length of each deck, and this is set using the all new loop knob. I find with the new displays, having only one knob for looping works great, you can really see exactly what you’re looping right on the unit with a glance. Though I admit, I did find the rotating LEDs around each knob when the loop is active to be a tiny bit bright and distracting.


So, what about downsides of the new S8? There are a few things I should probably point out, the biggest one for me currently is that you can’t modify the default mapping of the controller. At all. You either use the default template, or you have to manually map everything with the controller in MIDI mode, which means no HID controls and the displays are blank.

This is a really a shame for me personally, as I’ve been in love with the Xone 4-band EQ ever since I got my Xone62 years and years ago. On the S4, I would just repurpose the Filter knobs to be lowest EQ band, allowing me to access all 4 bands of the EQ as intended. On the S8 you can still select the Xone EQ, but the low-mid band can’t be controlled by the hardware, which makes it pointless. I really hope NI opens this up a little in the future, and judging by the number of complaints I’ve read about this, I’m not alone.

I also found the crossfader curve control a little difficult to adjust, I wish it was one of those knobs that pops out when you pressed it in to make this a bit easier. I did have one small issue with the left display getting stuck showing me a remix deck, nothing I did would get it to revert back to my other deck display. Power-cycling the controller fixed it and I couldn’t replicate, but for the sake of fairness I thought I would mention it.  Finally, with the Browse knobs set to open the browser when you just touch them, I found I kept opening the browser on the displays when I was reaching for an effect knob.  Easy enough to turn this functionality off though.

All in all I really don’t have that much I’d change about the S8 though, I think NI really hit the nail on the head when they designed it. Within a couple minutes I was easily navigating around remix decks, capturing loops on the fly, all sorts of things I never touched on S4 as it just didn’t feel intuitive. It finally feels like there’s a really solid balance between normal two-track DJing, and a more complicated remix deck approach. Not just in terms of functionality, but how easy it is to access all that functionality too.

I think the S8 is a very welcome and well thought-out top of the range controller. Overall it feels much better than previous S models, everything is easier to access, and most importantly the new displays really make it feel like a self-contained standalone instrument (like the Maschine Studio). Once you realize you can focus all of your attention just on the controller in front of you, putting the laptop completely out of sight, suddenly DJing with a laptop feels a LOT more like DJing back in the day did. Focused, fun, and fast to achieve any ideas you might get in the heat of the moment.

It’s probably a bit too big and heavy for DJs that frequently travel, but for occasional gigs and certainly just mixing at home, it’s hands down the best controller I’ve used. I was a little hesitant about the price initially, but after using it even briefly, I think it’s well worth it if you’re someone who never really uses jog wheels or wants better Remix Deck control.

I was forced to admit that NI did a great job on the Maschine Studio, pretty much ticking off all the boxes that took it from good to excellent. With the Traktor S8 it’s clear they are on roll lately, and listening to their users too. Well done Native Instruments, well done.

If you have any questions, please put them in the comments and I’ll answer them asap.  Thanks!


My Top Ten iOS Apps

Since one of the more frequent questions I get asked is for iOS music app recommendations, I figured it was time to list my favorites as of Summer 2014. I’m not saying that these are the “best” iOS apps out there, just that these are the ones I find myself reach for again and again. With that, and in no particular order, here we go!


1. Auria.

Easily my most used iOS app, Auria is not cheap for an iOS app but is an absolute steal given how powerful it is. Intuitive and fluid audio editing and mixing, the included plug-ins sound great, and there’s great export options if you want to finalize your mix on the desktop. But considering you can also use all of the Fabfilter plug-ins ported to iOS in Auria (available via IAP), you may not even want to use the desktop again. If you work mainly with audio and not MIDI, this is the iOS DAW you want.


2. Audiobus.

I’ll admit I rarely use Audiobus these days, preferring instead to access my effects and synths in Auria via Inter-App Audio (IAA). But Audiobus was the app that made me realize the potential of iOS music making, allowing you to finally route and record your apps and effects among each other. A game-changer, everyone should own this just in case.


3. DM1.

Probably one of my favorite drum apps currently, DM1 comes stock with some great samples of all the classic drum machines, as well as some acoustic kits and even some more unique percussion instruments. Simple to use, a fun randomize function, and great iCloud support. One of the more versatile electronic drum machines out there.


4. Alchemy Mobile.

While it’s nowhere near as comprehensive as the desktop version, Alchemy Mobile is still one of the synths I reach for more than any other on the iPad. Great sounds, just enough tweakability to personalize the presets for your songs, and a very handy 4 track recorder. One of the best balances between power and ease of use on the iOS platform I feel. The additional preset packs aren’t cheap, but all of the ones I’ve purchased have been well worth it if you want more sounds.


5. Figure.

My go to when I have the iPhone with me and not the iPad. I like simpler apps on the smaller screen, though Figure has a lot more power and versatility than it first appears. Lots of possibilities for tweaking the (few) included presets, and if you’re a Reason owner you can import your songs into that app on the desktop later. Great sounding, easy to use, and perfectly adapted to the touchscreen.


6. Nave.

Waldorf’s first foray into iOS is a powerhouse, and considering it takes up almost 300+MB of your RAM on the iPad, you’re going to know it if you have a lot of apps open at once 🙂 I found the interface a little confusing at first, but once I got to grips with it I realized just how capable this synth is. If it was a little easier on the CPU and RAM this would probably be one of the only synths I need. Still, in terms of matching what’s available on the desktop, Nave is definitely one to try.


7. Gadget.

Korg made a huge splash with this app when it was released, and for good reason! The synths sound and look amazing, the sequencer is extremely well done and easy to use for simple grooves or full songs, and there’s promised updates on the way shortly. If you only own one app on your iPad, this is the one I would recommend. Even if it only works in portrait mode, which is very annoying.


8. iElectribe.

The Korg ER-1 was one of my first drum machines, and this app only improves on that concept. All the sound and interface of the original drum machine, with greater export and copy/paste functionality. You can even re-skin it if that’s your thing. Fun to use when you need some artificial sounding electronic drum, it’s in second place for iOS percussion right behind DM1 for me.


9. Traktor DJ.

There’s quite a few DJ apps out there on the iOS platform these days, but Traktor is the one I use more than any other. Decent effects and layout, ongoing support and updates from NI, and support of all the new NI DJ Hardware as well. Unless you’re dead set on trying to mimic operating a real turntable on your iPad/iPhone, Traktor should be the first DJ app you try.


10. Sunrizer.

One of the first iOS synths I ever bought, it’s still one of my favorites. I love the way it looks on the iPad, and the sound quality and features still rival newer competitor synth apps today. Based loosely on the Roland JP series of synths, but it’s capable of much more than you’d expect. Fun randomizer, a comprehensive arp/sequencer, and well thought MIDI functionality make this a no-brainer for me to recommend.

Well, that’s the short and quick version, though as always I’m happy to answer any questions people might have about any of these. And of course, I’d love to hear what else other people are using too. Feel free to drop any questions or comments in the comments, thanks!

Strymon Timeline Review


Finally got a chance to do my video review of the Strymon Timeline, which you can view here:

As always, let me know if you have any questions, happy to help if I can!

Welcome To The New Blog!

Woo hoo, welcome to the new blog location.  Sorry if you got multiple notifications for this blog post the last day or so, still working out a couple last minute bugs with notifications.  Ummm, that’s all I have, but more soon!

(Strymon Timeline review…..)


Promoting Yourself


Recently I had a friend send me an email to ask me how I went about attracting clients, as he was trying to get work doing audio engineering and was struggling a bit. It’s one of the many variations on a question I get asked all the time, how do I get work in the audio field? While this guide in general tends to stick with answering that question in terms of audio engineering, I think a lot of the things I recommend can apply in other fields too.

Someone told me when I was starting up my business that it’s 90% getting the work, and 10% actually doing the work.  It took awhile for that to really sink in, but over the last 5 years that I’ve been a full-time mastering engineer it’s really hit home how much time you need to spend to attract new people to work with. These days there’s just so many more “audio engineers” online promoting their businesses, so I’d say it’s probably more like 95% – 5% actually.  Not trying to be discouraging, there’s just a lot of people out there wanting to be audio engineers, mastering engineers, mix engineers, etc. It’s almost as crowded and competetitive a field as being a musician these days!

My start was slow, but I also didn’t really plan on doing this full-time initially. I was just having fun and making some extra money at the time, and I think that’s the best way to start. You don’t need to graduate college or some audio engineering school (ahem) and instantly be a booked-solid engineer. It’d be nice, sure, but that’s a rock star pipe dream. Happens to a few, but it’s definitely the exception and not the rule, so at least have a realistic plan in place for the long haul.

I did mastering on the side along with a normal day job for 10 years before I felt I had enough clients to go full-time, and even then it can still be pretty close some months.  I’ve tried all forms of advertising, web banners, forum signatures, Facebook, print ads, Google ads, you name.  The ONLY thing that has ever worked in my case was word of mouth from happy clients.  Everything else was just a huge waste of money.You need to make people see what you do as valuable, and they need to trust that you know what you’re doing with some many other people they could choose instead.

My blog and my production guides are a huge asset for me in this area, because a lot of people know me for those initially, and then find out I do mastering (usually).  By then I’ve already established some minimal trust, and hopefully shown I know what I’m talking about.  It makes people more comfortable in taking that initial chance on handing over their money.  I’m not saying you should do the same, just that you have to leverage everything you do to help nudge people towards working with you. And to not over do it at the same time, something that’s more of a struggle than most people realize.  Nobody pays attention to someone constantly pushing something at them 🙂

Oh, and always act like a professional online, people can google anything you ever wrote at any time these days, and trust me they do when researching you.  Avoid the flame wars, be nice to people (even trolls), and generally be as easy to get along with as you can.

I guess the core of what I’m trying to say is, you need to put your efforts into making people want to work with YOU. Having the right tools, experience, all that of that is certainly important, but those things should be a given if you’re serious about what you do. And the competition will have those things in place too, so it’s not really a selling point. It’s like trying to talk someone into buying a car by saying it comes with 4 wheels. 🙂

Stay positive, and Most of all, don’t give up!