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=== A RIG RUNDOWN [2007 - 2011] ===
Ever since my little accident with FL Studio 6 in 2006, I went back to using the Fruity 7-Band Equalizer in FL Studio 4. Though I had used the Fruity Parametric EQ 2 before, I had no idea how graphic equalizers worked. In the late summer of 2007 I decided to mess around with the original Fruity Parametric EQ. This equalizer is a lot less intuitive for beginning tweakers but I managed to somewhat figure it out during my work on the song Impress. Along with my limited knowledge on compressors, the mix made a huge jump compared to any of my older songs. I was in college at the time, and kind of lost on where to go with my music. On top of that my Alesis speakers gave out on me. I ran a mini-jack to RCA cable from my computer to a Philips FW-C330 stereo at the other end of the room. For the next couple of years, I mixed my songs on earphones and a set of Philips FW-C330 speakers (i found that having the sound control options of the interface set to "jazz" and dynamic bass set to option "2" were the best settings for mixing, as it brought out high frequencies as well as the low without being muddy). I enjoyed working from this angle from what I remember. It trained my ears to listen for flaws on different mediums.
I wasn't very active on the Newgrounds forums prior to 2008. Sometimes I would visit the audio forums to cast a look on what's going on. One time I was lurking and found the Castle Crashers music contest. I was far too late to enter and really bummed out about that. The winners had already been announced and I had no chance of getting my own music up in that game. I learned my lesson. Curious about the next big thing, I stuck around. When I found the Continue The Song Game I didn't hesitate to enter. I'm happy I was around for that! During my work on the CTSG Flash Collab, I worked alongside of Rig and got familiar with his music. In particular his song Stardust Crazy caught my attention. I left him a review and really got the fever for virtual instruments the moment I read his response. VoltKitchen's minimogue was one of the earliest plugins I installed and it's hands down my favorite virtual synthesizer to this day. I've been using it for 8 years I think! FL Studio 4 needed all the help it could get, so I also download a few effect plugins. They weren't nearly as good. The thing with VST plugins is you've got to filter out the good from the bad. A lot of them look or sound like shit, are annoying to work with, are limited demos versions, and worst of all - some appear great until you realize they contain bugs. Worst case scenario, they crash. Just recently I decided to keep track of all VST's I've ever used, along with a rating system to see which ones I value the most.
I spent the year 2008 making loops, as I didn't know how to finish any of my songs for some reason. Instead I used my new knowledge of VST's to keep experimenting. I took this knowledge into the next year, where a big portion of my songs were either requested by - or inspired by people I knew. I am not sure how significant this detail is in the big picture, but I thought it to be interesting. One of the more interesting projects was a game I was doing sound effects for. There were still a lot of loops this year but I managed to finish 3 songs as well. In terms of uploaded songs this has to be one of my favorite years, but it's not that interesting otherwise. Oh, except for the fact that I bought a Roland SP-404 (which I came to regret buying as it only has midi-in but no midi-out) and a Korg Microkorg. At the time I really wanted to get back in a band again, so I decided to get more live instruments. I also kept a notebook with tips and observations about other music that would help me produce better songs (maybe I should digitalize it?). These tips mainly help to further a composition or figure out how to mix something. I still have the thing and sometimes add new things to it. That's about it for 2009. There's a lot more to be said about 2010.
Over the years I got fed up with losing my samples and became a lot more conscious about my data. I started burning dvd's, my earliest backup dating to the year 2008. So my methods as an electronic musician were improving then, but I still had ways to go. This I learned when I started reading the Remixer's Bible in 2010. I found the book by chance at a record store in Amsterdam and bought it right away. One of the first chapters urges the reader to get their shit together. Having a structured (portable) library is 101 to being a successful electronic musician. This involves setting up folders and incorporating a proper naming system. It was from this moment forward I learned the importance of crediting source material within my library. Later that year I came up with the idea to divide my hard disk into several different partitions. All my projects were then moved to the "Projects" partition. Around this time I got into the habit of saving personal presets for effects and synths, as well as entire mixer track settings. I threw out a lot of old samples and replaced them with new ones. At this point Fruityloops proved so versatile, I lost all interest in working with Reason 4.0. When I finally decided to give it a try I found it very limiting to work with.
I wasn't that much into remixing music when I first bought the Remixer's Bible, although I really looked up to some remixers I had discovered on youtube. Dj Steve Porter was a great inspiration to me. I still remember how amazed I was by the wideness of Steve Porter's Scrubs remix when I finally decided to get myself 2 brand new Rokit KRK RP5 monitors. It's an experience best described as 3d glasses for your ears. Later on I became a big fan of Schmoyoho too. Remixing had one big limitation for me though: Samples were copyrighted and uploading to newgrounds was therefore not an option. Uploading to youtube was the only other option I had, since I didn't know about Soundcloud at the time. I did this once or twice but it just so happened this wasn't my thing. It was around this time my lookout on music changed, as musical freedom - more and more - started to look like a big illusion to me: One may be able to break the rules of modern music in the privates of their studio, but trouble may brew if one were to share a copyrighted sample with with the rest of the world... It's a rather disheartening awareness, restricting even. It definitely took away some of the fun for me. I think it's the main reason I started uploading less and less to Newgrounds.
Though loyal to Newgrounds, I barely made an effort to upload any songs in 2010. Six songs made it to the audio portal, two of which were contest entries. I did fairly well on those! The first contest I joined was a ringtone contest. I ended up in the top 10 at a draw for the 9th place, nobody got to be 10th. The other contest was FL Core 2010. This was the first song I made using my microkorg as a midi controller. It landed me 3rd place in the competition and rewarded me a spot on frontpage. Somewhere along the same year I found a video on youtube which explained how to make beats sound more real and organic, possibly explaining why I did so well. My songs made a big leap in their quality, but the mixing process was a lot longer as well. I've always found it particularly difficult to progress on a song when I've been listening to it over and over. The longer mixing process is quite possibly the biggest culprit when it comes to unfinished songs. Anyway, I entered another contest in 2011 which required a zombie apocalype soundtrack. I placed that one 4th in the competition. All these prizes got me pretty confident about my production skills. My sense of direction started to dwindle though, and slowly but surely I started making less tunes...
Sure enough I came to realize I've squandered my talents over the past couple of years. The guitarist from the band I was in kept on praising my piano skills. I knew better than to embarrass myself though. In 2010 my finger technique was still terrible and I knew it! I guess my inferiority complex took over when I felt a need to best him. I heard his band was doing really good, so for his birthday I remixed a song by his band - putting in joke samples from a youtube video he appeared in - and gave it to him on a cd. I never uploaded it anywhere for copyright reasons. It's one of the first songs I ever tried to master so the mix isn't all that great, and since timestretching was not an available option in FL Studio 4, all my remixes made use of granular synthesis. It's definitely noticable sometimes. Granular stuff is fun though, especially when working with vocals or guitar samples.
This commenced a time of shame. Although I try not to nowadays, I've always compared myself to the people around me. Failing to comply to their level has always given me something of a breakdown. At this point I had been a musician for 12 years or so, and I was still pretty much a beginner when it came to the keys (possibly because I composed most of my stuff digitally). I became terribly self-aware about this and slowly but surely avoided the topic of music altogether. Since I could barely play with two hands, I decided to look up some youtube videos. I learned how to play the harp arpeggio from Daft Punk's Voyager and kind of started to understand how to use both hands to their full potential. I was still ways off from being an awesome pianist, but learning this little melody already really helped in terms of composing.
Back to my guitarist friend, who shall have a few more mentions from this moment onward - he and I knew eachother since middle school. I played keyboard for about 7 years before he first picked up a guitar in Highschool. From early visits I could tell he grew up with a refined taste in music. I don't mean jazz or classical music but other types of classics: David Bowie, The Beastie Boys, Daft Punk, Peter Gabriel and so forth. He once bought me a Brian Eno album, possibly hinting that I should try dabbling in the ambient genre (and I did). I had never heard of him before at that point. My parents didn't have great taste in music at all. My father used to own a bunch of old records but I never once heard them in all my years. According to him he had everything by the Police and Abbey Road by the Beatles is the only other album he remembered, albeit vaguely. My mother was really into Italian pop music. In particular I remember Riccardo Cocciante, Eros Ramazzotti, Zucchero and Ricchi e Poveri being her favorites. The radio was blaring from the moment I was conceived in the early 90's. Most notably I grew up with Dutch songs, new wave, an assortment of rock genres, (synth-) pop, (power-) ballads and a bunch of reggae (influenced) songs. I can't help but wonder whether any of this affects me as a musician today.
I'm not sure if it was genuine interest or deliberate self-education, but I started acquiring an actual "good" taste in music since 2010. I went out of my way to listen to a variety of different jazz musicians and expanded my knowledge on bands. I've actually kept record of every album I ever intentfully listened to over the years (hurray for OCD!), which is nearing the 500 mark now. Toward the beginning of 2011, dubstep started to intrigue me as well. Experimenting with the genre, I finally made myself a soundcloud. You could say I used it as a garbage disposal. I didn't hate soundcloud but it just wasn't my thing.
I think 2011 was an interesting year for me. Among some of the dubstep and drum&bass albums was a lot of jazz, classic rock and ambient, pulling me from all directions. I started off the year by buying a Zoom H2 field-recorder, although I don't remember wanting to have one specifically. I might have been urged into buying this thing subliminally, by listening to Kingbastard's "Beautiful Isolation", Brian Eno's "Land", Radiohead's "How Am I driving?" and Tycho's "Past Is Prologue". I also got addicted to the concept of midi controllers and bought myself a Korg Nanopad after watching some great videos on Youtube. I was pretty interested in the Kaossilator-esque X&Y Controller and seeing as my Roland SP-404 sampler didn't provide Midi-Out, nothing could beat a €40 Nanopad! Not surprisingly, it was of terrible quality. One of the internal chips stopped working after 2 months or so... I missed it dearly but knew better than to buy another one.
I started buying a lot of albums since 2007 and in early 2008 I finally delved into Pink Floyd's music. I also discovered Hideki Naganuma and the French electrical duo Air. Other influential musicians from around this time were Calvin Harris, whose tunes had a playful familiarity about them and reminded me of stuff I myself composed. It had a reassuring effect on me. In 2009 I discovered one of my guilty pleasures, Owl City. The arrangements of his songs were inexplicably inspiring to me. Later that year I found myself obsessing over Röyksopp and Tycho. I also started listening to Fatboy Slim, Susumu Hirasawa and Electric Light Orchestra a lot more. During the next year I discovered royalty free music by mAf464 through a game here on Newgrounds. I went to check him out and ended up downloading all of his songs from his website. He supposedly had a demoscene history and that inspired me even more. Finally there's Danger Mouse, a producer whose solo carreer consists of collaborations with great musicians like Jack White, Iggy Pop and Norah Jones to name a few. I also looked up to youtube remixers like Schmoyoho and Dj Steve Porter. And then watching Jack Conte's videos subconsciously made me aware that I wanted to play more than just keys. It's worth noting this period of time also started my synthesizer obsession.
- Reasons To Create: Starting 2007 I became more and more private about my thoughts. At some point I felt like I had nothing more to say and my music reflected this more than anything. For the longest of times I've pondered whether the more I learn about making music, the less fun it becomes for me. This assumption I'm sure is incorrect.
- Creative Developments: I upgraded my work environment by rearranging my folder structures and downloaded a bunch of VST's. I also got rid of old samples and brought in some new ones. On top of that I bought a bunch of new hardware without actually focusing on improving technique, which is kind of stupid but whatever.
- Outcome: There's a couple of contests I joined and did fairly well on. I visited the forums and came across the Continue The Song Game. Also, I had the opportunity to make some custom songs for flash games. Besides automation, midi-controllers became my best friends and I got much better at mixing songs - I even started mastering my songs at some point. While I learned a lot of useful things, I neglected my technique and got scared of ever doing another live performance.
"you may not shine in one area, but you'll shine in another when it comes to music production. Never take yourself for granted, and don't let others do the same to you."
"Music without a doubt plays a role as an important voice for people to express, communicate, and convey their ideas and emotions. In order to maintain success though, an artist must not alienate his audience with songs that only satisfy himself. Finding the moderation to please as many people as possible serves as the key to success in the music industry. Whether a composer writes music for a videogame, film, television or any media outlet, they will always find themselves at a crossroad when to sell their artistic integrity for a check to keep their lives stable."
"This site is shit for music, the sooner people realise that the better. It isnt about music at all, it's about flash movies and animations"
"Those who think that the Audio Portal will ever have as much success as the Flash Portal are going to be bitterly disappointed with this next sentence. That is never going to happen! That isn't why people visit the site and isn't what keeps the majority coming here. It doesn't matter how much publicity we throw at it, it's still not going to happen. The sooner that is realised, the better. That's not to say that it can't be an integral part of the site, because I think that it already is. We just need to find more ways of hooking up Audio Artists with Flash Artists."
"My suggestion- limit yourself. This will bring out your creative side."
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