Stop Stacking Loops!!!

Loop Stacking Producers Need Not Apply

WARNING: This throws direct shade on music producers who use pre-made loops, that’s both audio and MIDI. Hell, even video.

As a veteran of analog/digital music, it has never really occurred to me that loops would:

  1. Become such a big thing. So big that the amount of loops out there has become more than any 1 person can manage. It’s like records, you know there’s more out there than you can ever possibly dig through
  2. Become a problem with actual industry producers and musicians

Now, #1 is self explanatory. Back in my days coming up, I remember the Beastie Boys getting hit by the laws of copyright and IP due to sampling. Then MC Hammer, all of rap and the Dust Brothers. When industry instrument companies started catering to the hip hop/techno genre with sampling hardware, they came with the obligatory loop audio cd. Those CDs usually had some cool loops and even animal or nature sounds (why?). Those loop CDs were huge No-No’s. If you were ever caught using a loop in your track, that chopped away all credibility as a producer. So I NEVER saw the loop/sound/drum kit industry as a possibility.

#2 has now become a problem. Now that I’ve jumped into the online selling of tracks, I’m noticing clauses in the license contracts of tracks. It lays all sample clearance responsibility on the licensee. WTF? So I can sample Michael Jackson, make that perfect track and sell it without getting any clearance? WHAT?!?!?!

And that’s not the point of this post. After that hit me, I started to really listen to other producers all across the internet. I dug deep, listening to anything and everything. If any producers out there noticed a spike in the analytics, that was probably me reviewing tracks.

People are stacking loops like they’re getting paid for it. AND THEY ARE!

So… now you don’t even have to have a talent? You can just download terrabytes of pre-made loops and stack them, and sell them?

And then what? The artist buys your track thinking you are the greatest and then gets hit by every rights admin out there? Now, because of the beat license clause saying THEY have to get clearance for all samples (and YES, that includes loops), we can just sample and produce anything and everything, get paid for it and be long gone and completely without responsibility?

Wait… what am I complaining about? That sounds fucking great…

No

No, no, no, that shit just ain’t right. No way, that’s fucked up. That’s like getting a best new singer grammy, but you used autotune.

Producers STOP stacking loops! It doesn’t hurt me, but it definitely hurts your potential customers, the artists and it puts you in a crowded corner of fake, talentless hacks.  I can keep writing until the end of days. My God-given pool of music talent will never dry, and I’m thankful of that. That puts me in the position of never fading into that crowded corner. Other producers may steal my work, but the jokes on them. I can just make something else equal to or greater. Also, I’ll find you and collect my earnings.

Just, go do something else. It’s that easy. If you can’t, it’s OK. I guarantee you can do something else. It could be, I don’t know, marketing or something.

 

This, too will pass. The talentless will fail and fade.

Learn The Basics of Digital Music Making

OK, complete disclosure: I am old enough to have messed with drum machines and C64 music software, so I had a head stat on all of this Digital Music making.

I remember a time when MIDI was the ONLY way. It still is, but it’s a much wider tool. Looping a sample was something you had to hire Akai wizard to do. Or, if you were lucky, you had or knew someone who had an Ensoniq Sampling Keyboard (yes keyboard. Not everything with keys is a ‘synth’).

Inside of an 8-track

I remember spending a ton of time trying to figure out how to make a cassette tape loop. Trying to convert it into an 8-track cassette format because those 8 track cassettes are literally just a loop of magnetic tape inside. A continuous loop.

 

At the time, I was using a friend’s Tascam 4-track recorder and I didn’t have a sampler (I later purchased a Dr. Sample, but then got sick of music for a bit). I wanted to go out and record the sounds of humans going about their day and convert them to rhythmic loops.

I wonder how many ideas have been lost to time thanks to the lack of funds? I can only imagine where I would be if I had the money to get all the music equipment I needed (not even wanted, needed) back in the early 90s.

Anyway, just from looking at an 8-track, you can see how a continuous loop would work.

In the end, I never got around to finalizing a prototype version of a looping cassette, but there sure were a ton of monster attempts. Including one I strung around the whole room and hand cranked myself.

 

 

Anyway, back to now. In 2018, I can check my email, do some work, download a complete studio, play a game or two all in 1 hour and spend ZERO. The generation that I described above are now the guys and girls that are cranking out FANTASTIC software and hardware for the new generations. It’s really amazing stuff.

PSS-680
PSS-680

 

For example, I downloaded a FREE synth plugin that emulates the Yamaha DX7. Now, I just got rid of my DX7 a few years back. My back muscles thank me. That thing was huge, heavy and very touchy. And especially hard to program. At least for me. FM synths are a bitch to program. The easiest FM synth I’ve ever programmed was my Dad’s Yamaha PSS-680. And that was still tough, even for a consumer product.

 

A FREE VST piece of software that emulates (very well, I might add) the Yamaha DX7. I downloaded it in less time than it takes to turn your head to the left. LIFE IS EASIER IS SOME WAYS I guess.

Brings me to this weeks point.

IF you have been holding out on working with music on your computer, please don’t anymore. My generation have literally been handing you the keys to the kingdom. We have programmed the best software out there.

If you need help getting started, or have no clue where to get help. Here:

https://learningmusic.ableton.com/

Not only have Ableton written one of the most important pieces of software in the last few decades, they are trying to teach new generations how to get up to speed with things. Starting from the basics, you can build up your understanding of things (within the Ableton Live realm) digital.

With real time, hands-on examples, you’ll get a sense of what they are talking about and have a little fun in the process.

Go try out the first couple things, I guarantee you will love it!

Ableton is NOT a sponsor. I just use Ableton Live and LOVE it.

 

I’m Optiganally Yours

I’m not quite sure what it is exactly that I’m curating on my website… I still enjoy it, though.

Anyway, a LONG time ago, I was saving up my hard earned cash to purchase the latest CMJ Magazine that came with an audio CD full of upcoming bands. When I say upcoming, I mean it. Thanks to those CDs, I was the first to hear Portishead in my neighborhood. The first to hear the Dave Mathews Band. Even a little band called Oasis. Those monthly CDs were fucking GOLD for a music lover like myself interested in what was happening well passed what was playing on the radio. I wanted to hear what was going to be in a year or two. That was CMJ Magazine for me.

So, on some hot, sweaty July day in 1997, I scurried to the local mall and hit the bookstore. Frantically searching for that plastic bag-covered CMJ magazine. Long story short, I was listening to that purple CD an hour later in the uncomfort of my hot-ass bedroom (my Dad wouldn’t run central air). My trusty CD boombox that I got when I turned 16 was now blasting unknown music through my headphones into my subconscious back-up hard drive.

I remember being slightly disappointed in the CD. Not a lot of “new”. It looked like it was getting commercial-y. I mean Sarah McLachlan as the 1st cut? WTF?

Little did I know a gem of a song that would not only remain in my mental palace, but, like a virus, infect my daughter years later was about to rock my dirty, torn jeans off my me.

The last song on the CD. This song:

I was blown away.

The music sounded old and sampled, but still being… played? If that makes sense. There’s just no way they sampled a song that had everything they needed to make “Mr. Wilson”. Anyway, it was catchy, it sounded great, the production was horribly good.

So 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 (have daughter), 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 (daughter walks into office while I’m listening to this, walks out singing song), 2008, 2009, 2010 (I find the music video on youtube, first time seeing Optiganally Yours), 2011, 2012 (daughter asks for name of song about Mr. Wilson), 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 (writing this post).

The secret weapon to Mr. Wilson was the instrument and the fella playing it. The instrument is an Optigan made by Mattel. An instrument I hadn’t heard of until the internet got a little more mature (around 2004-2005). It’s like a consumer version of a Mellotron based on audio discs. The audio discs are pre-recorded sounds of instruments, bands and vocals. There are buttons that are actuated and, in turn, play certain portions, vocals or instruments on the audio disc. There’s also a melody keyboard.

 

 

Here’s a video:

 

These things are vintage. And if you haven’t thought of it yet, the audio discs are hard to come by.

BUT… there’s a fun twist. The guy that played the optigan on that haunting track “Mr. Wilson”, went on to try to archive the sounds from all of the optigan discs. As with most passion projects, his efforts turned into a company.

Optigan.Com

 

This guy is Pea Hicks.

Please be sure to follow him on YouTube under peahix.

Interesting videos and every once in a long while, you get to peer into his life.

 

 

 

 

 

Like this:

Sound Synthesis Series

I use to not wonder too much about things.

When I was younger, I’d hop into my giant 1972 Impala, turn the key and go.

As I got a little older, the mechanics on why my car worked (or didn’t… mostly) unnerved me. I could feel something wrong with the pick-up and go of my car. When I pushed the gas pedal down, the car slowly came to life. That wasn’t suppose to happen with a V8! Why was this happening?

That started my life-long process of opening up things and learning. Long before the internet, that was a major life decision. If I were to open up this TV or start taking parts off of my car, I better be able to put it back on! No YouTube or late-night forum questioning from my phone. If you did it, you better be able to UNdo it.

After 20 years of doing this, I’m finally at the point where I want to learn more about the instruments I use on a daily basis. MUSIC instruments, mind you. I’ve seen so much on acoustic instruments and can name a handful of guys off-the-top that can build them. No, I’m talking ELECTRONIC.

As you may or may not know, my 5 year goal is to build a modular synth (piece it together with boutique, store-bought and self-built). The point of this post is the “self-built”. And that’s the focus of what I’m calling “Sound Synthesis Series” for now. Maybe it will change based on my interest or a major change or life or whatever.

For now, SOUND SYNTHESIS SERIES.

The first is this. A link to this guy I just came across on YouTube. I got rid of cable almost a year ago. YouTube has been one of my main sources of entertainment for the last 4 years, so of course I’m on it all day every day. There is so much content out there, you’ll never get bored.

This guy: sawsquaresine came up when I was watching sorting algorithm videos. Which led me to his site:

Flexibeatz

Where he offers open source sound generators which can help those, like me, with a knowledge deficit in sound synthesis.

This is mostly for me, but if you find these link helpful, that’s worth it too!

Music + Marketing + Finance

The actual information doesn’t start until 1:50 into the video.

This actually goes along with the fact that I’ve been working hard to pull together all the music I’ve worked on for the last 5 years. Not for work or anything, just my personal pieces that I either started or stopped at some point in time within the last 5 years.

About a month ago, I spent a few days going through the old projects. Projects in FL Studio, Ableton and Reason. I have a LOT of ideas I’ve written and saved with no discernible way to categorize them, which means I was stuck going through the project files one at a time. Time well spent.

I’ve separated the projects into 2 categories: keep & sell. That’s right, I’m going to release the projects I’ve written to be leased or purchased! This will definitely help me in a few ways. I have an outlet for the notes in my head and I can make a little money on the side to help me build a modular synth. Hopefully, I can sell my music to someone that will use it commercially or like it so much, they want to write around it and add it as a track on their album! THAT would be awesome.

Anyway, with any venture comes a ton of research, learning and near-capacity understanding of what I’m about to do. That’s just how I roll. If I’m going to do something, I really need to understand it and try to troubleshoot as much as I can prior to even starting. So that’s what I’ve been doing in my spare time. Learning.

That brings me to the subject of this post. Now that I’ve spent almost 30 days reworking old tracks, writing new pieces and finally learning software that I’ve had for years, I’m back in the groove of music. I’m also well-versed on the marketing and sales of my music. Combining them both, I was chuckling like I’ve never chuckled before at this video.

P.S. Watch for future posts about my music. I’ll have pieces for sale, but will also release tracks for listening on all the major music publishing locations online. iTunes, Rhapsody, Groove, Spotify, Soundcloud, etc. My personal music may or may-not be under robotKillYou. When I get to working on my stuff, I’ll get a clearer picture on where that is headed.

lEgoWElt.com

I’m a new fan. A late-comer.

I enjoy the aesthetic of the website. Simple. Straight to the point.

As a bonus, his audio is nice to my two head-microphones. It sits well with my current mood, at least.

What am I going on about? LEGOWELT!

I found his site while perusing YouTube for old synth videos. Specifically, I was listening to the sounds of a Yamaha SY35. While listening, a notice popped up telling me that I could download the samples of this synth at Legowelt. It sounded like one of those stock sound sites, but I visited anyway. I’m glad I did!

VISIT HIS SITE NOW!

Rooney Mara’s Bike

Ever since I saw the movie, I’ve wanted the bike that Rooney Mara rides in Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I’m not a big guy, so the smaller the bike, the better. And if she can handle that bike… well then, that’s the one I need.

It’s a Honda CL350. I found that out through this blog post. Now that I know what to look for, I’ll either track that one down, or get a smaller one. Maybe a 250cc? I dunno. This will be my first motorcycle and Lemon has already told me that my choice of motor bike is limited by the fastest speed. Whatever that means. I think she’s trying to keep me from killing myself. She’s normally good at wrangling me in and keeping me safe, so I better listen to her.

Still getting a motorized bike, though.

The bike in the movie was made by Glory Motor Works. They make motorized bikes for a ton of movies. Worth checking out their site.

 

 

Good movie! Buy it here:

I need a new recording desk

I think this one looks cool 

For comfort!

I think, well passed the comfort of having to sit for hours on end, the need for a good recording desk stems from using junk. Like Wal-Mart/Target desks, or used desks that looked like it would work, only to find out they were the most uncomfortable things ever constructed.

In the 90s, when I was grinding, learning the ropes on engineering and production, my best friend at the time hand built a recording desk. He took a $10 regular desk… one of those 1990 fake wood desks made out of particle board and covered with glue-on wood covering. Kind of like this, but minus any hint of computers and just the cabinet (and oak… always oak back then):

 

SIDE NOTE: I just spent a good 20 minutes trying to find a picture of that common 1990’s desk. It was in EVERY home that I’ve ever visited back then. I think my Dad still has my old one in his office now. I can’t find one damn picture of it. Now I’m obsessed. 

Anyway, he took one of those and screwed on a piece of plywood on the top. Then he cut dowel rods and made risers to add a deep-set second level (where you would put your outboard gear for aux/send chains) and it was ugly. But it was dope! It worked. This was pre-computer DAW anything. I think Propellerhead just released ReBirth. I remember MixMan software was out, too.

All that, just to have something to set our Tascam 424mkII on… yes, a 4-track portable cassette recorder. That was our pride and joy, center piece. All other gear was just incidental. We couldn’t believe we had the power to record our music on separate tracks, bounce and then record more.

We became ninjas at figuring out how to not let the sound degenerate with each pass of the magnetic tape on the play-head. We could do 16 tracks on a 4-track and get minimal hiss. We  knew that the dolby button could help, but too much and you’d end up with a weird, thick sounding recording that sounded like you were listening to your neighbor’s music through a wall.

We figured out that we could record a track, flip the tape over and bounce that track backwards to another track and add reverb. What this does is, when you play the cassette tape on the proper side, you would get reverse reverb. And since it was on a second track, we could control when you would hear it… amazing times of learning.

 

Anyway, back then everything was out of necessity. We didn’t have a DAW with near unlimited tracks. We didn’t have VSTs of Moogs and plugins of every guitar amp ever made. There was no such things as USB mics or consumer grade condensors. If you programmed a synth, you couldn’t just save the settings. If someone ran up and twisted all the knobs and unplugged banana plugs, you were shit out of luck. So you learned to make hand drawings and notes of settings, especially per song.

I could go on.

What I’m trying to say is that, after 20 years, I finally feel that I need a proper recording desk. It was NEVER a necessity. Earth has gravity and things sit on shit. As long as they don’t overheat, I can sit rack gear down on a table and use it.  I’ve used all manner of surface to hold the tools needed to create and produce music. A desk seemed like a flourish rather than a tool.

And here come the “BUT”. BUT, now I’m getting older and comfort is fast becoming a daily goal.

I need a new recording desk.