the weekly wrap up July 14

Here's what caught my eyes this week.

In defense of lazyness - this is an article about sports and how some athletes with better genes have a natural ability to recover fast from intense workouts.  Obviously this is an advantage - in addition to other talents.  Give this a read and apply it to your music making and professional lives.  I say that because it's a slap in the face to the "work hard" "hustle' mentality that's so popular right now.

Everyone says they work hard but what does that really mean?  How do you define do you know you're really working hard.

People love to believe that "working hard" will get them success while failing to acknowledge  the role that luck, and timing play.  And you see the reward for hard work play it self out in things like movies. We love to see people rewarded for their effort which makes for a nice story but reality seldom works this way.

How many producers catch a lucky break because they are already connected?  Many.  This is part of the reason I made Underground Elite, to get people good at production fast so that when you make a connection and start building a fan base around your DJ following it doesn't take you 5 years to produce a piece of music.

It's the lazy smart approach.

Being lazy smart is ideal, however don't brag about it.  It usually won't win you any fans in the office because most companies glorify work martyrdom and "putting in the hours."  Ever go to work and get frustrated by all the stupid pointless procedures? I have many times.  The obsession with email distribution lists and getting emails you just don't need.  Pointless reports, endless analysis of data...fuck that.  If you've ever done anything entrepreneurial you realize how pointless this crap is and you rid your self of it.

Sadly this thought process spills over into the production world - it's not about hours logged but results.  So yeah, think about how you can apply being lazy smart to production as this coach has done for athletes.


When you get to that level Anthony Parasole and others have advice about leaving your day job.  I can't say Im the biggest fan of Anthony's flavor of techno however he seems like a regular working class dude turned DJ.


Sadly some people did quit their jobs to work at Soundcloud and sadly found their new positions gone.  News of this along with learning about their lavish office culture has been a complete turn off.  I've been a paying member for 4 years now, so I won't be sad if the whole shit house goes up in flames.

I guess they never really figured out their product and in the process let some rounds of funding go to their heads.  Plus the founders must have made some big promises about sales growth that were based on hopes and dreams and not traffic and conversion.  One day this thing will be sorted out - could take 5-10 years.  So work on your music and grow your fan base.



bootlegs and remixes

First a few things.

A remix is when you're officially engaged by the original artist to remix their work.  When you take it upon yourself to do un-authorized remixes, it's not technically correct to call it a remix.  It's really a bootleg or edit.

That said, edits/bootlegs can still be totally awesome!  They can add to your sets and be your secret weapons.

Finding great bootlegs is usually done in the record stores because that's where you find un-authorized pressings. Yes, I reminisce about my vinyl buying days.  The experience of getting to the city, going to the store. Picking up flyers and free magazines and throwing them in my shopping bag on the way out.  That was all fun but one of the huge things I miss are those hard to find white labels.

One example that comes to mind is a mix of Depeche Mode's Only When I Lose Myself. Now, Lexicon Avenue did a fabulous remix Jon Digweed used to play.  At the same time "DNA" seemed to have made an edit of theirs and released it on vinyl with a Lenny Kravitz mix on the other side.

The DNA mix was a big tune at New York's Sound Factory, I happened to have bought a copy.

Discogs has more info. 

It now goes for $20 and up.

I also recently got the Lexicon Ave remix along with some other old gems from Discogs.

One of which was the old classic pop dance song by Black Box "Everybody Everybody."

Hell of a tune.  I love techno, house, metal, blues, and love a lot of 90s dance/pop of the time.  Toni Toni Tone, Bell Big De Voe, Notorious Big, Dee-Lite. Shit like that.

One of my mates, a real vinyl junkie, buys a ton from Juno and has them shipped over.  We were spinning a nice set.  He plays this nice tech house groove.  Some chords start, they sound super familiar.  Ahh I know this tune.

Then more of the record comes on and I realize it's a boot leg of Black Box everybody everybody.

I recorded our set which made for a good commute soundtrack.

But I needed that black box track, so I was like fuck it I can make my own.  I realized that the bootleg my friend had used this a capella which has the vocals plus some strings and keys. I wish it was just the vocal but oh well.

Anyhow, I got the 12 inch and recorded it into ableton and did the usual time stretching.

From there I started chopping the keys and adding a kick, bass, hi hats and other parts.

I didn't add a ton of stuff because I like the rawness of it. That's usually the vibe of these edits/bootlegs.

Good places to find material for edits/bootlegs are:

Beatport - look for tools and stuff.

Vinyl - shop discogs, get a turntable.

And this new website I just found out about that sells legit a capellas.

Once you've found a tune you want to try your hand at remixing you'll need to identify the musical key.

Not so hard with Rekordbox or Mixed in Key.  These will analyze the root note of your track. I think Traktor does the same.

From there you'll probably want to find a kick drum that works. After that adding bass is easy because you know the key so start playing a bass note in the root of the song.

In the case of the Black Box tune it's "F."

From there you have to arrange the tune in a sensible way.  If you need help on that go here. 

Bootlegs are a great way to try your hand at producing!

You're starting with a lot great source material so things like a nice vocal, or catchy melody are already handled.  Some of the arrangement is done so you can work w/ the flow of the source material.

Give it a shot, here's how my bootleg is shaping up.


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.



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