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Finding your style

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When writing music, its obvious that you will start out wanting to sound like someone else (can anyone hear the mf doom/aphex twin/boards of canada in my music?). Today I will talk a little on developing your own style.

We always start in a similar way. We get inspired by someone to make our own music. As artists, we crave to find our own way of doing things. Innovation is what drives us to be the best we can. It becomes easy to get trapped in thinking that if something doesn’t sound like (insert record/artist) then it isn’t up to scratch. So the first thing you need to do is to acknowledge that in order to be the best musician you can, you need to separate yourself from your influences.

This can be achieved in a simple way in my opinion. Vary your influences to a level where you no longer see a narrow view of what the musical possibilities are, but rather the full spectrum. Listen to classical music, jazz, blues, rock, metal, pop, michael jackson (yes, he gets a genre of his own).. everything. NO DISCRIMINATION.
At the end of the day, in western music, there are only 12 notes. Yet, there are millions of combinations. So get as much music into your system as possible

Secondly, you need to make as much music as possible. I mean so much that it will make your head spin. Make music all day every day if you can. By the act of creating, as you learn new things, you will become bored of doing things the same way. True innovation doesn’t just come out of nowhere, it needs to be achieved by hours of hard work. It won’t be easy. As you incorporate different elements into your music, you’ll add things that nobody will have ever thought of before, and explore realities which were never heard before.

Lastly, you can not give up. If you want to sound like Skrillex, great. There are tutorials on youtube that will have you making derivative crap in a few days. But you shouldn’t strive to sound like anyone else, because you have a voice of your own. Let it be heard.

Written by majorshake

June 24, 2011 at 5:43 pm

The importance and fine art of tagging your music

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Hello friends.

Today we will speak a little about promoting your music within the sites that its already posted on. Namely: Tagging.
Without adding the appropriate tags to your songs on soundcamp, bandcamp, youtube or wherever else, nobody will find your music. That’s not even a statistic. Its a fact.

Your goal naturally, as is mine, is to have as many people as possible listening and talking about your music, so tagging is vital. Use a combination of tag words and tag phrases that are descriptive of your music. Other than the obvious choices such as the genre of the song and a few descriptors such as “Chillaxed” or “Space cock”, consider adding the name of the software you made it in (particularly useful on youtube) or the names of a few of your favourite artists that sound similar. Even if not very similar, fans of those artists will see your songs and with a little luck give them the time of day required for you to convince them you’re the greatest producer since Aphex Twin.

What are your techniques when it comes to tagging your music on music sites? What have you had most success with?
Let me know in the comments!

Written by majorshake

June 20, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Simple tip for getting more balanced mixes

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Today I want to talk a little about getting the right balance of frequencies in your mix. It’s all good to get the volume of each track just right in the concept of the song. Sometimes though, you will still find that when you listen to your tracks on another system, they sound too trebly or too bassy.

If It happens consistently, then the issue might be with your monitoring setup. If your mix consistently lacks bass, lower the amount of bass coming out of your speakers. That way what previously might have seemed like the right amount of bass will now be not enough. Therefore, correcting the previous lack of bass.
Do exactly the same with treble. If there is too much normally, then turn it up on your speakers to reflect that.

Have a great weekend guys! I have a wicked video for you all tomorrow!

Written by majorshake

June 10, 2011 at 9:21 am

3 tips for keeping your listeners attention

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When making music, perhaps the most important thing you can do for yourself is keeping your fans interested when they are listening. Capturing your listeners attention in that way is perhaps the best sign that your music is good.

Today I will give you three tips on how to maintain your listeners attention.

1. Variation.
Perhaps the easiest way to maintain your listeners interest is to offer variation in your music. It doesn’t have to be something big. Firstly, don’t use the same drum fill more than once, and add little variations in the drum patterns. Perhaps vary the tempo a little? Attempt different things depending on what would work for your song. The changes do not need to be big, but as long as there are variations, your audience will remain captivated.

2. Play looping parts out multiple times.
Let’s say you have a 4 bar instrumental loop. Assuming its an instrument you can play, instead of only recording one loop, record a few of them. They will all have the same feel overall, however they will vary slightly because your timing even though on point, will be very slightly different. If you were to play out a drum loop multiple times, you would likely include extra hits on this or that sample, just because it will sound better. Try it out!

3. Don’t quantize.
Don’t use the quantize tool at all. Let the timing be a little off. It never needs to be perfect. In fact, the imperfections are what can make the song juuuuuuuuust right. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the timing must be perfect in every single bar of your song. It’s partly right. Of course you don’t want any part of your song to be out of time. But it does not need to be EXACTLY perfect. Your music doesn’t need to sound like it was made by robots.

Written by majorshake

June 8, 2011 at 8:45 pm

How to stay productive when making music

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Today I want to talk a little about remaining productive when making music. These days, when everyone has 354 plug-ins, no studio hire costs and the ability to have infinite tracks, it is often easy to fall into the trap of tweaking forever and never actually doing something productive, like say, MAKING MORE SWEET MUSIC. Another thing that must be considered here is that having such a vast amount of resources, it can become difficult to get into making music because you just can’t choose what to use.
So here are a few things that I do to make sure that my music making sessions are productive.

1. Limit your resources

Having a whole bunch of plugins at your disposal is very tempting. Having a whole bunch of sounds makes you think you have more options. The reality though is that you’ll spend hours finding that perfect bass sound in your plugs, but by the time you find it you’ll forget what your musical idea was.
Same with samples. Do you really need 3000 snare sounds? Are you ever going to go through all of them? Find a few sounds that you love, and learn how to tweak them to your will, and you will actually end up having a lot more options, because you won’t worry about finding sounds, but more about writing awesome tunes.

2. Set goals

Set yourself some goals before you sit down and start making music. Decide what you are going to do beforehand and jump straight at it. Having manageable goals you will get the feeling of accomplishment sooner, and more often, keeping yourself motivated to keep going.

3. Make sounds from scratch

This might be a little counter intuitive when compared to what I said above about limiting your resources, but it works together with it. Don’t use presets and hundreds of plugins. Learn one or a few of them so well that any sounds you come up with in your head you can make yourself. That’s when you will truly start understanding your music and the interactions of the different sounds. Importantly, you won’t spend hours trying to find the right sound, you’ll just make it yourself and get on with writing music.

4. Don’t let yourself get distracted

When you sit down to make music, and the ideas don’t come, it gets easier and easier to get distracted. You start thinking about checking your emails/facebook/news/favourite porn site… whatever. When making music I deprive myself of any means of getting distracted, and for a set amount of time all I can do is sit in my music making chair. Drink coffee/water (which I have with me so I don’t need to get up), and make music. If I don’t get any ideas immediately, I will a few minutes later, by virtue of the fact that I can’t do anything else. It works a treat. Try it for yourself!

How do you keep motivated and productive when you make music? Let me know in the comments!
Also, if you would be so kind as to like this on facebook, stumble it or twitter it. It would really help me out. Thanks!

Written by majorshake

June 3, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Why listening to different music will make you a better musician

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Today I’m going to talk a little about the importance of having varied influences. Sure, we all like a certain kind of music, and everything else just seems inferior. I want to convince you that you should go listen to some music that has nothing to do with your usual taste, because it will make you a better musician.

Firstly, by listening only to one particular set of artists (because talking about genres is bullshit) you limit yourself to only a certain set of musical ideas. Even if you listen to the most innovative artists, they are still only going to have a certain way of processing musical ideas. That’s what we refer to as their “style”.

When you think of any truly great artist, they will always have been innovative and game changing in some way. Aphex Twin and Squarepusher, Bjork and Michael Jackson. They have all made music that nobody has EVER even thought of making before. Sure it’s all similar to this or that, but its never exactly easy to figure out where those ideas have come from. That’s because they have melded their influences in a way nobody has ever before.

As an artist, you need to expand your influences to keep growing. You HAVE to expose yourself to as much music as you can so that you can find your own voice. This way you won’t copy trends like 9 of the top 10 items on any music chart. You’ll set them.

Other than setting you apart from the pack, listening to a wide range of music has other benefits. Assuming you have any professional aspirations, and I know we all do, a wide range of influences can benefit you with some additional opportunities. If you are tuned into various music communities where you live, you will beyond any doubt hear about musicians wanting to collaborate and wanting sidemen for gigs. Any opportunity like that is something you should try, because you never really know whose listening.

So today, go find some music you’ve never heard, in a style you have never listened to. It won’t hurt.

Written by majorshake

June 1, 2011 at 11:12 am

How to tell if your next hit is finished?

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Today we’re going to think a little about how to tell when a song is finished.

When you don’t need to pay for resources, because your entire studio is confined to your computer, it is reasonably easy to fall into the trap of always tweaking your songs to make them better better and better. Not enough of such tweaking leads to your songs sounding unfinished, too much leads to them sounding over-produced. So how to find the perfect balance?

My idea on the topic is such that if any part you add doesn’t help convey the message you want, it is unnecessary. Now, this won’t work every time, because some times you have a clear picture of the sound you want in your head and it’s simply not necessary to wonder when the track is finished. Other times though, when you are experimenting, you have to consider whether or not each addition you make makes your message clearer or not.

Personally, I think that simplicity is the key to making compelling music. Even if you consider King Crimson’s Discipline album, despite being the collection of some of the most complicated music ever made, each song is so very simple in its core. There are no unnecessary parts.
That’s what you should aim for. Songs with no unnecessary parts.

Let me know in the comments how you figure out when your songs are finished!

Written by majorshake

May 27, 2011 at 12:15 pm