MySpace is going to open its platform.

Myspace bathroom - photoEvery band or musician has a MySpace page right? It’s the internet’s trailor park but I’ve learned to love it’s charm. There is no quicker way to get a feel for a band online. About once a week I go into exploration mode and randomly jump around different MySpace pages and listen to what they have to offer. I’m always amazed at how much music is being created.

MySpace is about to change in a big way. Next month they are going to open up their API to developers.

An application programming interface (API) is a source code interface that an operating system or library provides to support requests for services to be made of it by computer programs.” –

This means that individual programmers and large corporations will all be creating thousands of mini programs and widgets that you will be able to add to your profile. This is similar to what Facebook has done but this is MySpace and MySpace is for musicians. Finally you will be able to add RSS feeds to and from MySpace pages. RSS is a great way Continue reading MySpace is going to open its platform.

Feedback as a sound source.

Shure SM58 - photo

Here’s a way to get a highly unique sound. You probably won’t want to use this technique on every song you record. I guarantee when you do people will ask how you did it. Take a microphone and aim it at one of your speakers. Carefully turn up the volume. When you start to hear feedback hit record on your DAW. Move the microphone around. That’s the basics but now let’s play more. Add a distorion or reverb plug in as an insert on the microphone channel. Now we have more flavors of feedback. Using these recordings in your purely electronic songs adds some real life.

Bats - photoI have a song called from 1996 called Dark Invader. It was the first release on my record label Things to Come Records. I was searching for bat sounds but instead I did the following. I had a Shure SM-58 microphone aimed towards a large nightclub style speaker. The mic was going through a Korg SDD-2000 digital delay. I had the delay times in sync with the tempo of my song. I recorded the feedback. Lastly, in an Akai S950 sampler I reversed and cut up the feedback and stragedically placed it in the song. Here is an audio sample:

Early this year I was recording a song about Gary Ridgeway, The Green River Killer. The song is called The Grip of the Cobra. I wanted a dark feedback effect to Continue reading Feedback as a sound source.

The verse chorus succession in Ableton Live.

Here’s a video of what I am working on in the studio today. This time I have not written the lyrics in advance so I have it saved as the generic name “new_neu”. I created a vintage analog TR-808 drum kit by dragging the song “Is There an Exit?” by Absolute Body Control into the arrangement view in Ableton Live. I then isolated drum sounds and dragged them into empty slots of the Impulse drum plug-in. I erased the original song, hit tab to enter session view and created some new drum patterns. I don’t always lift Continue reading The verse chorus succession in Ableton Live.

Cassette tape nostalgia. Rewind.

Cassette History - photo

Living in New York in the 80’s I spent a good amount of time recording the local radio onto cassette tapes. Classic rap shows like DJ Red Alert’s Rap Attack on Kiss FM and DJ Marley Marl on 103.5 WBLS. I also grabbed freestyle hits like When I Hear Music by Debbie Deb and Silent Morning by Noel. As my music taste broadened I discovered I could pick up a faint signal from a alternative Long Island Radio Station WLIR and recorded Depeche Mode, New Order and other new wave masterpieces.Ghettoblaster

I had a giant Conion boombox I bought at the Spring Valley flea market. It was the size of a car door! It had a double cassette deck, turntable inputs, an alarm and the above said FM tuner. If you want to see how big these boomboxes really were check out this YouTube video.

One of my favorite pastimes was making mix tapes for my friends and the car. Heading over to Tower or Sam Goody to pick up a 10 pack of blank Maxxell XLS-II 90s was a weekly journey. I miss opening the plastic wrapping and cracking open a clean new Continue reading Cassette tape nostalgia. Rewind.

10 ways a musician can help the environment.

Yellow Plug - photo

Today around the internet you will see many blog posts about the environment because today is Blog Action Day! It’s a simple movement where bloggers pledge to write a post related to their field yet about the environment. Here is my top 10 ways a musician can help the environment:

1. Make a song about saving the environment! We need action people. If the artists of the world won’t stand up and scream a message then who will? Sing for a tree or a bird or the sun.

Flourescent Bulb - photo2. Turn off your studio equipment at night.

3. Don’t buy anymore Compact Discs. They all end up in a landfill.

4. Use compact fluorescent light bulbs. What? Are you crazy? We need mood lighting man! Yeah? You don’t need forests?

5. Buy rechargeable batteries for devices used frequently. Cordless microphones, guitar pedals, midi controllers.

6. Take your record collection out of the recycling boxes delivered to your house by the government and start using them for recycling again. Continue reading 10 ways a musician can help the environment.

What if music should be free?

Money - photo

It’s hard to be writing in any publication concerning audio and not comment about this week’s events. Radiohead shocked the industry by announcing it’s new album In Rainbows was available to download for any price you think it’s worth (including free). They also let us know they are no longer bound contractually by EMI. They broke another convention by not giving radio stations a single to hype before the album release.

Besides paying (if you so choose) for the digital download super fans can purchase a box set for £40 that contains a CD, 2x 12″ vinyl and a bonus CD with some photos and artwork. Interestingly, the reports: “And Radiohead plans to release “In Rainbows” as an old-fashioned CD no later than January, though it has not determined if it will return to a major label to do so.”.

It seems like Radiohead has made a smart move and covered all their bases. They look like heroes for dropping EMI and giving their music away for free. They also did it first and such are receiving lots of attention. They have a plan to make some money and even a fall back to the traditional CD on a major label if things don’t work out.

Trent Reznor, Jamiroquai and Oasis all said they have similar plans. Somewhat related Madonna turned down an offer from Warner Music Group to go with concert promoter Live Nation Inc.

But wait a minute. Deep breath. What does this really mean? At first I was actually angry. I thought “Great, a bunch of rich people are giving away what I need to sell to make a Continue reading What if music should be free?

The wide stereo sound with Izotope Ozone & more!

Izotope Ozone - stereo zoom

I almost always take the lead roaring synth in my songs and make them wider in the stereo field using a plug-in called Ozone from Izotope. Ozone is a complete mastering suite plug-in with several modules you can turn on and off. It consists of a Paragraphic EQ, Multiband Harmonic Exciter, Multiband Dynamics, Mastering Reverb, IRC Maximizer, Dither and Multiband Stereo Imaging. When I master full finished songs I use many of these modules. However, during the creation of the song itself I only use the Stereo Widener on one sound. I keep the other modules off. From the Izotope website:

Ozone allows you set widening and imaging for the mix using a multiband stereo imaging module. As with the other multiband modules in Ozone (Dynamics and Harmonic Exciter) the module is split up into four bands determined by the multiband crossover points displayed on the spectrum.Izotope Ozone - small

I put the plug-in as an Insert (not a Send Return), click on the Stereo Widener, turn off bypass, slide all the bands to the right until the number reaches 6. That’s it. Done.

If I want a dirtier more aggressive tone sometimes I will use Ohm Force’s excellent Predatohm plug-in. Load the plug-in as an insert and the look in the bottom right corner. See where it says “Super Stereo”? Thats your section. Click the little white square button on and turn the phase up. Done.

Ohm Force - Predatohm

There are few other plug-ins that do widening such as DUY Wide and the Waves S1. I’ve never used those so I can’t comment how well they work. I have lots of little rules I like to keep when it comes to panning but thats the subject of another post. Do you use any stereo widener plug-ins?

The Native Instruments FM8 arpeggiator is brilliant.

Native Instruments - FM8

Native Instruments from Berlin are one of the top plug-in manufacturers. One of their early smash hits was a recreation of the FM synthesizer the Yamaha DX7 called FM7. It could load original DX7 patches but was far easier to use. Many people finally unplugged there old DX and TX’s and put them on eBay.

This year they released the FM8. They added many new features but one component is the bees knees: the appeggiator. I probably would not have upgraded my FM7 but when I saw how much fun this thing was my credit card was out. Something tells me Native Instruments always had plans to release their own sequencer but the market was too saturated. Most of their new plug-ins are loaded with mini arps and sequencers. All of them are great. “NI” should not have a case of sequencer envy.

There is a complete working demo on the Native Instruments website.

Random Dice IconOpen the plug-in and pick a nice synth patch in the browser. Click on arpeggiator. In the global section click “on”. See the little yellow square stepping though the pattern editor? Hold down a key on your controller and you will hear whatever notes you play being effected stepping along. You can slide the little black triangle in the pattern editor to shorten or lengthen the loop.

Now here’s where all the fun is. See next to each lane on the pattern editor there is a little black dice icon? It’s a random button. Do it! Click them all! Do you hear what I hear? Thats the sound of fun. Thats the sound of… “Oh yeah cool idea I can use in this song!”.

Next try out the shuffle. It’s very strong which in my book means its very good. Lastly, take a look in the global section where you turned the arp on and find the drop down menu. There you can find some pre-programmed sequences. You can also save your own which is handy when you want to try out different sounds with a cool sequence you created.

Why every musician should have a flickr pro account.

flickr sticker on mac

For many years I had the photos I wanted to show the world on my record label’s website. Photos from live shows, promotional photos, studio photos and photos from other artists on my record label. I used Gallery and then later Simpleviewer to make the galleries. All the photos were stored with my ISP on my server. You could come and see the photos if you came to my website. The only way you would know when new ones were added would be if you were on our mailing list. Lame! It’s 2007 and there is a much better way.

There are some major advantages to switching from the above method to a flickr pro account.

First off to be clear you can still have your photos on your main website. In fact, the process of putting your photos on a regular web page from flickr is easier than using a gallery generator. A site called flickrSLiDR makes it simple. You input the URL of your flickr set and if you want to limit the gallery to certain photos you list the tags of Continue reading Why every musician should have a flickr pro account.

Fifeteen snares drums dry. One snare drum wet.

Drum Machines Have No Soul

I have a large pool of tips and tricks I pull from when creating arrangements. To me they are like colors in a pallet I choose from. Because I make electronic music it’s important to keep the listeners ear interested at all times by constantly adding variations to the sound. Over time on I will talk about many of things I do. Here’s a simple one.

Let’s say you have a kick and a snare going in your song. Take every 16th snare and instead of having it dry like the others explode it out with reverb. You can either have reverb on a send return and just turn in up every 16th snare. You could also bounce one of your dry snares fully loaded and drag them in your arrangement.

Remember you don’t have to use a stereo reverb either. I like to use Altiverb which is a convolution reverb in mono. Sometimes I pan the mono reverb tail to only the left or right side.

If your “snareverb” isn’t smashing enough add some eq or distortion to the reverb. I usually use Izotope Trash for that because it has an eq, filter and distortion unit all ready in one plug-in.

I hope that gave you some ideas. Do you have some songs where you used the technique? Post a link in the comments!

photo credit: Victory of the People