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Music Education

The Booms and Baps of Music Production: Getting Started

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The Booms and Baps of Music Production: Getting Started

Now that you have chosen a DAW to create music in (If not, refer to The Booms and Baps of Music Production: DAWs), it’s time to get started creating your own track. However, staring at your computer screen with a new project can be daunting, especially if you are still learning it. Fear not! These guides are meant to help you gather your footing in music production by sharing my own experiences and tips I’ve learned from the pros (aka YouTube). Whenever I look at a new project, I typically already have a genre that has inspired me. It is a good idea to start learning different genres of music and determine which one you would be most interested in. That way, you can learn the key characteristics of the genre and jumpstart your next project. 

First, I start with the chord progression or the drums. You can start with either one and many people prefer one way or another, however it is all up to you on where you would like to start. Now, some may believe that suddenly a lightbulb enters your head and then you begin creating your track as if someone inserted the instructions into your brain, but that is not really true. Most inspiration comes from experimentation. In order to create a chord progression, I have to search for the right sound and come up with an exciting pattern that I enjoy. Honestly, sometimes I am just tapping on my MIDI keyboard and playing something randomly while I’m scrolling through synth presets and end up using that. It’s even more exciting that way because it feels like it is your subconscious creation. You can do the same thing with the drums too, create a drum kit to your liking and play around with beats and rhythms that you like and remember there are no limits. Add two snares here and add four kicks here, as long as it has rhythm you have drums. 

If you’re like me though, inspiration can still be tough to find and even then, creating professional sounding music can be tough. So, services such as Splice or Loopcloud could help give you that extra edge. I personally use Splice and have found much inspiration in their catalog. Splice or Loopcloud are services that for a monthly fee (Splice is $8/month), you can peruse a collection of samples, loops, and individual notes or drum hits and download them or drag it into your DAW directly. It is very helpful for producers looking to add extra elements to their music. If you’re thinking that you’re unoriginal for using samples, then trust me, I understand. However, it is what you do with the sample that makes it yours. Plus, professionals sample audio all the time.

I would also recommend googling free sample packs and see what comes up. People are always giving away free sounds which may be part of your new hit. I hope these tips help new producers learn more about the world of music and remember, create the music that makes you happy.

-Tegan

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Music Education

Beginner’s Guide to Electronic Genres

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Electronic music is one of those genres where tracks can transcend many different genres or even create a whole new niche sound. One could say that electronic music is on a spectrum where one track may flow between certain classifications but is awesome nevertheless. 

Some of the biggest electronic genres include electro, house, techno, trance, drum & bass, and dubstep. All of which have subgenres typically associated with them. This beginner’s guide is designed to explain these six main genres and fuel your own research into the crazy world of electronic music.

Electro – Inspired by the funky era of music and the 808 drum machine, electro music takes hip-hop and funk and combines it with the tempo of the likes of house music to produce an electronically based funkiness with groovy rhythms. This genre of music has come back into the underground scene as of the early 2000’s and has grown since.

House – House music got its start in the late 70s in Chicago with a focus on 4/4 time (4 beats per measure) and the “untz” sound that many casual listeners may consider as most electronic music. It is one of the most changing genres in this guide and has more subgenres than I have fingers and toes to count. Some sub-genres include progressive house, deep house, and electro-house that all deliver a fresh take on the bass-focused genre.

Techno – A Detroit-born native in the late 80s, techno takes a dystopic approach to the up and coming house music by focusing on darker, faster beats. Some of the inspiration for techno music arises from the automotive industry that was in recession at the time. The term “techno” was coined by the media to describe the new, darker sensation of house music. Techno is another genre with difficult sub-genres to classify, but overall try to stick to a darker, almost mechanical sound focusing on grit and subtle rhythms.

Trance – Trance grew in popularity in the 1990s in the US but was inspired by UK house as well as techno music from the late 80s. Trance is typically described as a focus on melodic synths and builds that seem uplifting with drops that attempt the opposite effect. Most trance music is divided into two categories: uplifting and progressive trance. Uplifting trance focuses on the emotional side of music, creating happy atmospheres that help cheer up listeners. Progressive trance draws from futuristic sounds with long, aggressive builds and slower, milder drops.

Drum & Bass – As the name implies, drum & bass relies heavily on drum rhythms and basslines to deliver a quick and dirty experience. Drum & bass is the type of music that takes after dubstep and breakbeat to create a high octane experience. Most songs in the drum & bass category typically clock in around 175 BPM and will get anyone’s heart pumping at the conclusion of the track.

Dubstep – Dubstep’s birthplace comes from UK Garage and Drum & Bass in the 90s, featuring bass that can only truly be experienced from massive sound systems. Dubstep focuses on the low-end, trying to consume the listener in bass and aggressive rhythms. Across the pond, Americanized dubstep, hailed “Brostep,” focuses on the mid-range with distortion and robotic sounds being the key characteristic. Dubstep also has inspiration from hip-hop and metal.

This is a good starting point into understanding the electronic music world but there are tens, even hundreds of different genres and subgenres that fit into the umbrella term, electronic. Even today, people are creating new sounds and new niche groups that don’t quite fit the norm of conventional genres, but that’s what makes the electronic world of music so incredible; its versatility and ever evolving nature.

-Tegan 

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New Album Review

ALBUM REVIEW: Distant Minds by Prismo

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ALBUM: Distant Minds by Prismo

BEST TRACKS: Coexist, Shame, Dreams (Eliminate Remix)

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Zach Burgett, aka Prismo, is a music producer, DJ and songwriter from Houston, TX who decided to produce his own music after he was unsuccessful in creating his own band. After reading a short biography about Prismo, I have to say I admire his tenacity to create his own career after being unable to find a group to produce with. At 19, he has already made a name for himself and earned the reputation as a versatile artist with tracks ranging from EDM bangers to more melodic, slower songs.

Distant Minds is Prismo’s second album release from November 2016 and contains seven tracks, four of which are remixes of the first three tracks in the collection. Prismo’s style is very unique because he delivers a big, glitchy sound with added hip-hop elements which adds variety. The distorted vocal effect that Prismo uses also adds a unique element to Distant Minds. It sounds like the quality of a phone call almost, but also much higher quality so the vocals still sound crisp. Tracks such as Coexist and Dreams (Eliminate Remix) have a good mix between higher energy EDM and melodic breakdowns which contrast nicely. My personal favorite track in this album is Shame because it is one of the first electronic songs I listened to that I really enjoyed. What is even crazier to think is that Prismo released this track at a young age, only three years older than me at the time I listened. Now, at the same age, I still appreciate his music.

I recommend Prismo for anyone who is a fan of San Holo, Monstercat, and Taska Black.

-Tegan

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Music Education

The Booms and Baps of Music Production

The Booms and Baps of Music Production – DAWs

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With a very wacky semester we experienced, I began my journey in music production. I have learned many things in the last few months from the likes of YouTube and personal experience and I want to share tips with those wanting to pursue music production.

The first thing a producer will need is a Digital Audio Workstation or DAW which acts as the base for all music production. A DAW is the software for a producer to actually make and organize music into full fledged tracks or for live performances. As it is hard to learn an entirely new software, it is important to choose the right DAW for your preference of music.

If you’re a college student like I am, then pursuing music production has to be a reasonable venture. There are free DAWs such as GarageBand for Apple users which is a quality way to get started. For Windows users, Audacity is a great option, however it is lacking in many of the features that other DAWs have.

On to paid options, I will mention that many paid DAWs have free trials and offer college students discounts for licenses. When it comes to beat making and creating full tracks, FL Studio or Ableton Live are considered the best. FL Studio is typically preferred by Hip Hop artists since it is particularly designed for creating beats from scratch. FL Studio also has a very sleek design and has powerful instruments/effects to help get you started. If you are into electronic production like me, then Ableton is the way to go. Ableton’s interface is in my opinion the easiest to learn and makes it easy to create music. For NC State students in the music program, NC State offers a Songwriting with DAWs class (MUS 270) which uses Ableton to explore music production, so if you are interested in taking the class I would recommend choosing Ableton. You cannot go wrong either way with the DAW you choose since many of us have access to YouTube and can learn as we go. However, I personally prefer Ableton Live myself.

There are other DAWs out there as well for producers working with video content. Logic (Mac) and Cubase (Windows) are great options for composing music for films or video content because you can actually upload videos into the DAW and have an easy-to-use music notation system.

There are many choices we all make, but I hope this information can help you make the right choice when it comes to producing music, since music makes the world turn! I plan to share more tips about the world of music production as I learn them, so we are all in this together! Keep creating!

– Triskelion

Categories
New Album Review

ALBUM REVIEW: Down Under EP – Moglii & Novaa

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ALBUM: Down Under – EP

BEST TRACKS: Mother, Same, Her and High

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Moglii and Novaa’s EP, Down Under, has a chill, downtempo style that still carries energy throughout its six tracks. Most of that energy comes from the fact that it was Moglii and Novaa’s debut in the music industry. Down Under was released in 2016 and has a total track time of around 22 minutes, which makes it great to listen in a casual sitting. As young producers, Moglii and Novaa wanted to focus on creating dimension in their tracks with the use of organic electronic sounds. Many of the tracks such as Same use an acoustic guitar and nature sounds to create this organic feeling. I was listening to Same and the intro to the track has a washboard-esque sound that was both bubbly and grainy and really capsulated the overall sound of the track and I think the nature of the EP.

Other elements in Down Under include saxophones (Her), “wooden” sounding snares, synths that give the track its electronic roots and amazing vocal edits on Novaa, Antonia Rug’s, vocals. She blends her own lyrics with vocal chops to layer the vocal sound and add extra depth to each track. I particularly love Her because of the chorus-y saxophone solo in the middle to make you feel chill while the percussion adds energy. It’s like the yin and yang of a song which I think is pretty neat. Even though the songs make me feel relaxed, the lyrics are somber and talk about the loss of self, identity and possibly a loved one. Songs like Mother, Her, and Golden Lights have sad lyrics about loss. I recommend this EP for fans of artists such as Phantogram, Whethan and pluko. Headphones recommended for full transporting effect.

-Tegan