Archive Monthly Archives: June 2017

don't switch DAWs for dance music production

Trust me, there's no good reason to switch DAWs or music production software programs.

Hitting a plateau, frustration, the idea that the grass is greener, the yearning for a new shiny object - these are NOT good reasons to switch but are distractions.  And when you fall into these mindsets, marketing hype from software companies starts resonating with you.

We've all been there.

And it applies to gear as well.

I'm not faulting software companies, like any business they need to market their product.

The underlying message nearly 100% of the time is that if you adopt this software magical things will happen.

It will be easer.

It will be better.

"You'll be on an industry standard"

Let's just label these marketing half truths.

They are true IF you learn them and put in the work.

And this takes time.

Time that could be spent developing your music, your ear, your song structure, or mixing.

At the end of the day, software will not make or break a record.  It's merely a tool to get the job done.

When you know it's nothing more than that, you won't get distracted by marketing hype, or go down a costly road of frustration.

Because if you adopt a new technology, you have to learn it.

Pick the DAW or music production software that's right for you and stick with it.

I'm not saying don't ever make a switch, but do it with healthy skepticism and planning.

If you don't have any tracks out or signed you have bigger fish to fry than switching DAWs.

If you have gotten to that point, ask yourself if a new DAW is what you really need right now to get to the next level.

The answer is probably no.

Recently, I bought into the marketing from Harrison, about their DAW mixbus.

I liked that it's super-affordable, analog based, and has a limited set of features, so I pulled the trigger on a $39 sale of version 3.0.

And you know what happened, it's been collecting dust.

It does sound nice, it's just that when I get to the point of fine tuning the arrangement of a track, then adding some automations and giving it that last bit of mixing polish....I just didn't know how to do that stuff in Mixbus.

And the time to learn something new didn't justify the perceived benefits.

Here's an example of the opposite.

Back when I first got into production I plunked down $2,000 for a near mint Korg Triton keyboard. This was the bomb back in the day, however it was more for pop, hip hop, RnB, perhaps more mainstream dance.

I did get a lot of use out of it...but it wasn't the best fit because I just didn't have enough experience to know better when I originally bought it.

I'm also not a keyboard player.  I've dabbled a bit, but I'm not really passionate about it.

This was before you could quantize notes as you were playing so inputting music with a keyboard was a tad harder.

And if you wanted to play chords, you had to know some scales and theory, unlike today. Sure theory helps, because you can add in notes that are not typical, or voice chords differently but today you can play triads, 7ths...all with the push of a button without having to worry about hitting the wrong note.

My point is that a couple years later I dabbled with an Akai MPC 2000.  I loved it and took to it quickly.  I still love the idea of crate digging, sampling sounds and making beats.

I do that with Native Instruments Maschine.

My point is that producing from a keyboard is not the way to go for me. I'm more a drum pad guy.

So it makes sense for me to work that way.

So I stick with Maschine for dance music production.

There are times when I feel like doing something new..but it's better for me to channel that into learning my existing stuff more deeply.

Back to DAWs.

If you mainly use a DAW to mix and arrange then stick to that DAW.

If you need something to Jam then perhaps look at Ableton.

I mainly use Ableton Live to arrange and mix.  So I'm not leaving anytime soon because it's good enough for that and other things. Remember I don't need all the functionality that someone who records and mixes bands would.

IF you are on a DAW and it feels kinda rigid and not as creative as you'd like then maybe look to Ableton, Fruity Loops, or Reason.

At the end of the day DAWs/ or music production software programs fall into 2 camps.

You have the more mixing focused ones (Protools, Logic, Cubase etc)  or you have the more creative/instrument centered DAWS like

Ableton, Fruity Loops, Reason...if you're real old school Acid Loops and ReBirth (Reason's predecessor)

If you're in the right camp, then don't switch. 

Because at the end of the day people are making hits on all the different platforms and again it's not software that will make or break a record.

The things that matter are your sound selections, hooks and music riffs, mixing, arrangement.

All basic stuff that's existed far far longer than music software.

Basic, but not easy.

And because it's the MUSIC that makes a track, I focus on that - NOT learning every single feature in Ableton Live or Maschine.

In Ableton I know about 3-4 keyboard short cuts.

I pretty much use it to finesse the arrangement and final mix of a track.

Stuff like setting levels, copy/paste, move, drag.  Loop clips, draw/ record automation.  Record/edit audio.  Organize tracks into groups or busses, not using effects like an idiot.  Tending to cut rather than boost EQ. Not clipping.

Pretty basic stuff.

Now if you're in the business of recording and mixing clients THEN you need to get much more advanced as a user of a DAW/production software.  Why? Because time is money and most of the people you'll work with in the beginning will suck and may not be tolerable to listen to for a while. So taking too long to get their project done well will hurt your ROI and ears.

To wrap up, until you have a handful of tracks signed all you need to do with your DAW is record, edit, arrange and mix your music.  You don't to be an advanced user of a DAW to do this.

That's all for now.


The Weekly Wrap 16 June 2017

Here's the latest for the week.

Check out this article in the "finish faster" series, subscribers get access to the mock arrangement done in Ableton Live.   I took a deep look at Layton Giordani's tune "Dragon Fly" from his debut album on Drumcode.

Our friend Agent Orange has a new guest mix on Christian Smith's Tronic Radio.

Our other friend Nicola Baldacci's tune Corruption is out and found it's way on several charts on it's release day.

YouTube and ASCAP come to an agreement - this means royalties from YouTube will be tracked.  This means that you should up your game with self released material.

On that note my experience with has been great so far.  It's a mobile app that allows you to self publish you own material for free.  They won't get you on Beatport or Traxsource but they the big sources covered like Apple Music, Spotify and so on.

You upload your music and artwork to Google Drive, from there the app pulls it in and schedules it for release.  It takes about 2 weeks and my single "Waiting for You" just made it to stores.

On the production tip, this looks like a cool technique for drums.  It's 2-stage parallel compression.

Check it. 

That's all I got for now.

The Weekly Wrap Up June 9 2017

Here's a video on Mixing where I show you the plugins I use on different tracks in the mix like the master fader, along with individual tracks as well as groups or busses.


Also, streaming live is not that hard or expensive.

Here's a quick one where I'm dabbling w/ Maschine Jam.


What you need"

Rode SC4 available on Amazon and lots of places.  This converts a stereo input into a mic input for your smart phone, I'm using an iPhone.

Then you need something like this to go from your mixer to the Rode connector.

**this is important**

You're phone takes a mic level input, your mixer or soundcard sends line level signal which is MUCH hotter than a mic level signal.

So you'll need to send a very low level signal into your phone or you will get distortion.

What does this mean?

On a DJ mixer you must use an output with a knob that controls the signal going out.  For example I'm using the booth out on my DJ mixer and I have the output set to 9 o clock.  This is very low.

If you don't have control over your output then you will need this attenuator by Fentronix.

In the clip on facebook above, it doesn't sound super great because I'm just jamming and when I further arrange and mix this tune I'll be making sure it sounds good in mono.  Using this method which is quite easy and cheap you'll be broadcasting in mono.

This is fine for streaming DJ sets where the music is already mix, mastered and sounding good in mono.

Enjoy and see you next time.