Nov 10

The story behind Push4Life, and his keys to rhythmic mastery

by in Uncategorized

Music and rhythm have taken Eshan Khadaroo a.k.a Push4Life on an amazing journey over the past few decades. Transfixed by drums and self-expression at a young age, Eshan has made a career out of his passion. This has seen him tour the world as a professional drummer and more recently become an educator for the next generation. In this week’s interview we explore how he has made this progression as well as discuss his brand new course on Melodics “The Road To Rhythmic Mastery”.

Please explain how a Bruce Lee video inspired you to become a drummer?

Before I ever started drumming Bruce Lee was my biggest inspiration. Towards the end of this scene below, Bruce uses two fairly large sticks to defend himself. When I was 11 and my mother asked me what instrument I would like to learn, I said drums, not so much because I wanted to learn the instrument but rather because I thought I would be able to do what Bruce Lee did. It was only in my late 20’s that I saw his infamous interview where he talks about expressing oneself authentically as a human being that I realised that it was this message that resonated so deeply within me and I then went on to study his ideas and how they related to expression through drums and ultimately through music.

You said in a previous interview you moved to London at 18 years of age to kickstart your music career. When did you make the decision to pursue music professionally? How long was it until you got established?

I decided I wanted to be a professional musician around 8 years of age whilst still learning the piano. Chopin was my musical hero and I planned on being a classical pianist. But I moved to Germany when I was 10 so I had to stop piano lessons. By the time I could speak the language well enough to start back up with music lessons, the drums seemed way cooler for the above-mentioned reasons. Once I moved to London at age 18 it took me about 4 years to establish myself professionally and get booked for studio sessions and live tours.

Your career has had many highlights which include drumming for Cirque Du Soleil. Tell us about this experience. How did it come about? Do you have any crazy stories from touring?

From 2006 to 2008 I performed with Blue Man Group. As my time with them was coming to an end I just decided to surf around online to see if there were any interesting opportunities out there and stumbled upon Cirque Du Soleils casting website. I decided to send them an email regarding a position that was opening up for their show Kooza in 2009. They got back to me within days and had me do an online audition where I had to record videos of myself performing to a number of their songs from different shows. Within a few months of this process I was signed up to do their North American leg of the tour. The most exciting part of this tour was spending 10 weeks performing on the beach in our big top next to the Santa Monica Pier. At almost every show there were celebrities checking out the performance including the likes of Steven Spielberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Neil Patrick Harris to name a few. My favourite moment though was getting to hang out with one of my biggest drumming idols, Tools drummer Danny Carey.

You had a setback with your health that prevented you from continuing as a touring musician. Are you able to explain how this experience lead you to wanting to become an educator for the next generation?

I had already decided before going on the road with Cirque Du Soleil that this was to be my last major tour and that after that I was going to focus on education. I was very lucky throughout my career to to have had some great mentors in Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick and Guy Sigsworth – both major producers and unbelievable musicians. And they had always been so generous to me in helping not only in my career but also in deepening my understanding of music. It was my wish to “pay it forward” and do my part in helping the next generation fall in love with music. When I got seriously ill towards the end of the Cirque Du Soleil tour I felt all the more compelled to act on this desire to share what I had learned sooner rather than later – a brush with the grim reaper tends to have that kind of effect on you!

You had a Youtube video that went viral which is titled ‘Top 5 things every Push 2 user should know’. What inspired this video? Were you surprised by how well it was received?

I had only had my Push 2 for a few months when a good friend of mine in England also bought one. She was having a lot of difficulty understanding how to use it. As I live in Germany and couldn’t just pop over to her house I decided to record a video with her in mind to show her how simple it really was. I decided to make it for the general public too and so uploaded it to youtube and just sent her a link. To be honest I still can’t believe how many people have not only seen it and benefited from it but also the positive feedback has been nothing short of overwhelming.

Did this successful video get the wheels in motion for your Push4Life project? What were your next moves after you released there was interest?

At the time that I released this particular video I was focused on putting together drum related content. But the immediate popularity of this PUSH 2 video really inspired me to drop everything else and focus on creating more PUSH videos for my growing audience. The next big video that I put out that I am still very proud of is “10 Practical Ideas to Take Your PUSH Skills to the Next Level” which really is all about how I see making music and how thankful we should be for technology like the Ableton PUSH 2. And at the beginning you can also see how things come full circle again when I talk about expressing yourself as inspired by Bruce Lee. Shortly after that I also started releasing PREMIUM Ableton Push 2 content for people who want to dive deeper into the PUSH experience. The feedback has been awesome so far!

How would you describe your new course ‘The Road To Rhythmic Mastery’?

This course was conceived specifically for people who want to go from playing beats with one finger at a time to playing more complex patterns where you use both hands independently. The exercises were inspired by one of the great drumming educators – Gary Chaffee – but with my own twist to them. Most modern music is based on what is know as the 16th note grid and when you make modern day beats most of the time you are working within this grid. Believe it or not though, there are only 15 patterns you need to master in order to play anything within this 16th note grid. These 15 patterns form what I like to think of as a rhythmic alphabet and I take you through each of these patterns one by one in lessons 1 through 15.

How would you recommend Melodics users approach this course to get the most out of it?

To really benefit from this course, you need to work through all of the lessons – specifically lessons 1 through 15. Ultimately you want to be able to get at least 3 stars on all lessons (100% would be even better). The best way to do this is to slow the exercise down in PRACTICE MODE until you can play it as precisely as possible. Precision is key and that is really where Melodics excels at helping you in my opinion. Once you can play a given exercise precisely at a slow speed, then you can start upping the speed 5 bpm at a time using auto bpm until you hit the target speed of the exercise. Every 16th note pattern is equally important to master. Just like when you learn to count to 10, each number is equally important to understand and if you miss one out there will be a significant hole in your understanding. It is the same with each of these 16th note patterns. You will only ever be as strong as your weakest link and if you want to be really great, you will need to master all 15. The most important exercise of the whole course though is exercise 16 where you have to play each exercise for a bar consecutively. Once you have mastered this exercise you can rest assured that you have a very solid foundation to work with.

Talk about the background of making this course? How much time has gone into it? What was your process to creating it?

I made a similar course for my drum students back in 2012 when I set up my teaching studios here in Germany. I started working on the Melodics version of this course in January 2017 after meeting the Melodics team on my trip to New Zealand. The bulk of the work was done in the last 3 months where I had been working on both production and post-production. It’s been a lot of work and a challenge to do all of the jobs including video editing and sound engineering but at the end of the day it was a lot of fun because I am doing something I love and to know that it will be online for a global audience is a real privilege.

What will Melodics users be able to do after finishing this course? How will it help in regards to their finger drumming and overall music production?

If Melodics users put in the time and effort to not only get through the levels but to master them (3 stars to 100%) they will have a solid foundation for playing the bulk of beats in modern styles of popular music, from Hip Hop to Rock, from Pop to R&B. And above all it will give them confidence in themselves to know that they have what it takes to take their finger drumming to the next level. And as far as music production is concerned it will show them the basic building blocks out of which most beats are put together and hopefully inspire them to create beats they weren’t even aware that they could do.

Are there any other comments or things you want users to know about this course and the new Melodics lessons?

As with all things, if you really want to learn something properly it requires discipline, concentration and above all patience. This course is no different. But I guarantee that if Melodics users put in the necessary work, they will greatly benefit from these exercises. And best of all they can then take advantage of the more intermediate and advanced levels Melodics has to offer that may have been to complex beforehand.

Have you played your lessons much in Melodics yet? How have you got on?

I have played them all multiple times and it even took me a while to get 100% on all of the lessons. It just takes a microsecond of your mind drifting and before you know it you have missed a beat enough for it to be too early or too late and then you have to start all over again. But I am a person who loves a good challenge and I didn’t give up until every single lesson was played at 100% as you can see in all of the video tutorials on youtube.

What does the rest of 2017 have in store for you? Any big plans or other projects?

I have been working on various online courses solidly for the past 13 months and definitely need a break. But a break in my world just means working on fun projects. I have recently discovered modular synthesis and Reaktor Blocks so I am going to use my free time to dive into that rabbit hole. The final major project I hope to get off the ground in 2017 though is to start my own podcast and get a handful of episodes out by the end of the year. So watch this space…!

Oct 27

Introducing Melodics V2. Keyboards, Drums & Pads.

by in Melodics

Keys. Drums. Pads.

Melodics V2 is coming soon and we’re teaching you how to play the keyboard… and much more! The highly anticipated next version of Melodics adds support for keys, and a ton of new features for pad controllers and electronic drums.

Whether you’re a beat maker looking to add keys to your bag of tricks, or a drummer wanting to branch out – we’ll have you covered.

Melodics for keys will help you learn to play the chords, basslines and melodies of the music you love, whether you’re wanting to become a better producer, or just play for the enjoyment of your friends and family.

Melodics is free to try. To take your musical dreams further, subscribe and you will have access to over 400 lessons for keys, drums and pads – with new content added weekly.

Bonus extra add-on fun stuff for everyone!

We love hearing your feedback about Melodics, and we’re excited to be rolling out some great updates – for all instruments – including:

  • Choose your instrument within the app – keep track of your progress for Keys, Pads and Drums, with independent leveling for each instrument.
  • All new levelling system. Want to level up? Collect stars! See how many stars you need to hit the next grade and unlock more lessons as you level up.
  • New navigation. No more waiting for screens to load, version 2.0 is snappy AF.
  • A new view – the Finger Allocation screen is essential for keys, get the feel of how you have to place and move your hands over the keyboard before you work on playing the lesson.
  • Wait Mode – Playback will automatically pause until you hit the right notes, allowing you to step through complex rhythmical patterns or melodies. Paired with Practice Mode, Wait Mode is a great way to break down tricky phrases!
  • All new Learning page for a fresh look at courses and lessons. View lessons in list or grid mode, and browse by artist, genre, grade or tag.
  • New and Improved labelling of tracks in the play view to help you quickly work out which sample is on which pad
  • Colour coding for each hand, so you can see at a glance which part goes with which hand
  • Favourite Lessons – Add a lesson to your favourites list from the lesson screen, or within the lesson itself. Favourites are stored on line, so now they’ll be shared across computers.
  • Pause – press pause during lesson playback to have a deeper look at at difficult sections.
  • Scroll through the lesson arrangement before playing to preview what’s coming up.
  • Volume control always available. Control volume levels more easily within lessons – adjust the metronome, your notes, guide notes and the backing track levels direct from the play view.
  • Customisable Metronome sounds – Pick your metronome, with the familiar sounds of Ableton Live, Logic, Maschine, and many more.
  • Easily manage your account on melodics.com

We’ve also squashed some pesky bugs

  • Fixed an issue where your level could be reset as you passed over level 12 and above
  • Smoothed playback. Improved performance that could cause jittery playback for some users.
  • Plus a ton of other performance improvements.

We have a deal for you!

As a special pre-launch offer, if you pick up an annual subscription now you’ll get lessons for ALL instruments for the price of one instrument.

Already a subscriber? You’ll have all instruments until your subscription rolls over.

If you’ve been thinking about building your pad skills, and you’re interested in learning keys, now’s the perfect time to subscribe!

  • This deal applies to new annual subscriptions or upgrades from monthly to annual subscriptions purchased before 12 November.
  • You will have access to all instruments for the 12 months until your subscription renews.
  • Discounted Instrument bundle subscriptions will be available at the end of your 12 month subscription period.

Melodics V2 is coming soon! Stay tuned for the release before the end of 2017.

If there’s anything else you’d like help with, or if you have any extra feedback just get in touch. 😃

Aug 23

Sinden Reveals How He Went From Gig Promoter to Festival DJ

by in Interviews

Sinden is a Los Angeles based producer/DJ who has done it all in the Electronic music world. His work has seen him host his own show on Kiss FM, start a record label and produce a catalogue of music that has torn up dance floors for decades. This week Sinden answered a few questions about his new Melodics lesson ‘Crystal Maze’ and also talked about his journey from gig promoter to DJing at some of the biggest festivals around the world.

You are originally for the UK but have been based out in LA for a while now. What made you want to move out to LA and what are the biggest differences between the scenes?

Yeah I made the move coming up to 6 years soon. I wanted to switch it up and see if I was compatible to live here first and then decided to make the move permanent. The scenes are really different, musically, although they do share a diversity that you would expect from a major city especially one like L.A, where dance music and club culture scene has always flourished.

In a previous interview you said that your first break came off the back of meeting Jesse Rose. Are you able to explain this story. How it came about and what it led to?

At the time Jesse and I were both promoting our respective club nights in London. We got along really well and stayed in touch. Anyway, he called me some weeks after to ask me whether I’d like to help out with his labels one day a week. I was passionate about the music, already DJing & interested in the music game and grateful for the opportunity. Jesse really nurtured me and through him I was able to see how the industry gears operated. He gave me insight of how independent labels run, we were a stones throw from a lot of the labels and distributors so we’d do the rounds and got to meet a ton of people. Also not only that, I started to listen to more House music and he also introduced me to Dave (Switch) and we started a run of productions together.  Those 2 were making House records that were blowing my mind. It really put me on the path, without that I wouldn’t be here but there’s no such thing as coincidence.

In the same interview you mentioned how your path could have easily gone down the club promoter route. What made you choose the music production instead?

Yeah I was promoting my club night in London with a friend but its not really for me. I really wanted to contribute to the scene but that wasn’t more forte. Music production was a natural progression from DJing which I was already mucking about with. I felt that was more my field, my strength. I had been collecting records since I was a teenager and was fascinated with how they were made. I remember hearing things like Aphex Twin Selected Ambient Works & stuff like Mantronix when I was a teen and also Jungle for the first time. Knowing how to be able to make music in that era was a myth. Meeting Switch and Jesse put me in this studio environment for the very first time and it taught me everything.

What was the first bit of gear you ever purchased? Is there a story behind it?

My first hardware piece was the Virus TI Snow in 08. I was starting to think about music ‘outside the box’ haha. It also had the integrated software interface too which I was more used to seeing. Producer friends had always told me about how the Virus had a beautiful sound, something that would really rev up the bass lines too. I still use it in the studio pretty regularly.

How did you initially get into Dance Music? Was there a song,artist or person who got you into it?

I was about 9 when I got into dance music. A lot of the music in the pop charts was club tunes, albeit a more commercial form. I remember hearing Steve Silk Hurley’s Jack Your Body which was a Bonafide House record which also got to Number 1 as the biggest selling record. That was one of my earliest memories of electronic music. I always say in the UK we’ve been lucky to be surrounded with great pirate radio, for instance. Radio was may gateway into all of this as I was too young to rave. In my local town we had 3 or 4 independents selling wax and I’d make regular trips up there to buy records and scoop up all the rave flyers for my bedroom wall. I always made sure that I was a connected to the new music as much as possible.

You seamlessly DJ in club and festival environments. Outside of scale what is the biggest differences in how approach these sets?

Club sets are always a bit more adventurous. I’ll experiment more with tunes I’ve just finished and wanna test out. Festival sets you tend to stick with the tried and tested but thats cool too, I feel. The mixing dynamics are different with the pacing. Festival sets are really short and you tend to power through things a bit faster.

You have produced numerous songs on different labels. Out of all these releases which is the most meaningful to you and why?

Yeah so many, its tough to pick but I would say releasing on Atlantic Jaxx. Basement Jaxx were already an act that I had a massive amount of respect and look upped too. Switch and I had made a track which Felix from Jaxx wanted to press up which I was so gassed about really early on in my career. Putting a tune on wax was a big deal for me as a vinyl lover and when I look back on it now still is.

You’re productions are high tempo and always chopping and changing. Where does your unique style stem from?

I think that really comes from listening to loads of different styles of music and growing up with radio also the influence of fidget that Switch and Jesse Rose was making. It was rewriting the rules of house for me and shaking things up without constraint or adhering to a formula.

How did you first hear about Melodics?

Matt at Serato first showed me the program. I was intrigued by it. My immediate impression was I could really do with signing up because my timing could be better haha.

You make your Melodics debut this week with ‘Crystal Maze’. What advice would you give to Melodics users before playing this lesson?

This was my time sitting down with Melodics and I don’t often finger drum. I got to grips with it quickly and found myself moving through the lessons. For me persistence paid off and made me wanna get further. I would say making the track slower and gradually making it faster to normal speed was a really successful method – good feature.

What is your perspective on finger drumming? Do you use it much in your production/DJing process? What intrigues you most about it?

The DJ set has shifted so much from where it came from, finger drumming is becoming more the norm in this Performer DJ environment, its become an extension of turntable-ism, another tool to use alongside the mixer, the platter, f etc. Its opening up more possibilities of what you can do and is advancing the art and I welcome that. I’d like to use it more but I honestly don’t think thats my strength. I love the human element in finger drumming, the swing and also the slight off times that happen. Also the guys that do this that are at the top of their game are so crazy to watch, its inspiring.

Your latest project is a compilation called Sinden’s House Line. Are you able to explain how this came about and what has been the best part of this project?

Its a comp that I put together and released with Insomniac Records. It came about from hanging with the guys from the label chatting some dance music genealogy type stuff haha. We were reminiscing about blog house era parties and sounds and talking about how its come to influence whats happening today and that got us on to this concept of a comp that nods to the past a little but keeps things moving forward. The whole vibe is centered around warehouse parties, the underground, really appreciating music irrespective of trends, music politics, social medias influence. Something fun with that lo-fi nod.

If you were stuck on a desert island for a year and could only bring there albums with you what would they be and why?

1. The Mighty Threes – Africa Shall Stretch Forth Her Hand

2. James Brown – The Payback

3. The Clash – Sandinista!

What does the rest of 2017 have install for you?

More tunes, more shows. Look out for more Houseline releases too!

Jul 01

Pro Tips: 9 Steps To Mastering A Melodics Lesson

by in Pro Tips

We never said it would be easy! Getting those 3 stars can be a struggle, so we’ve put together a guide to the best way to tackle a lesson in Melodics. The aim is that by following this guide, you will not only be able to three star the lesson, you’ll be able to play it freestyle without any assistance from Melodics.

You might want to apply this to each step in the lesson – or just the tricky ones!

Step 1: Select your lesson

It may seem obvious, but take a moment to think about why you pick a lesson. Is it in a genre you want to learn? Do you like the sound of the lesson? Are you working toward building a particular skill or technique? The key is to have an outcome to work towards, it will help you to stay motivated!
Part 2: Check out the pad layout.

The first stage of the lesson will be in the preplay screen. Start by playing each pad, and work out what sample is on each pad. Switch between the pad labels and finger allocation [screenshot] to see which fingers to use on each pad. Bear in mind that if you’re playing a low grade lesson, the finger allocations might be designed so that you can play other parts later in the higher grade version.

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 2.05.51 PM
The Preplay Screen
Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 2.05.58 PM
Preplay screen with finger allocation

 

Part 3: Preview the beat.

Hit the preview button [little Screen shot], and have a listen. Get a feel for the groove, watch the pads lighting up, and familiarise yourself with the basic pattern. Now your ready for your first attempt. Hit the Play button [little screen shot]

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 2.06.04 PM
Preview Step allows you to hear the lessons before beginning. It is located under the grid
Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 2.06.14 PM
Click the play button on the right side of the preplay screen to start lesson

Part 4. Figure Out The Pattern.

Welcome to the Play screen. Step four is all about figuring out the pattern of the lesson. Don’t worry about getting through the whole thing on the first pass, just spend some time figuring out the arrangement. Before you start, hit each pad, and watch which line lights up. This will give you a visual reference and help you to associate each pad with the track in the play screen. Start, and make the first attempt to play along. Restart often!

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 2.06.30 PM
Performance screen. Hit spacebar to restart the arrangement. The key is to get familiar with the pattern.

Part 5. Using Practice Mode

By now you should have the basic feel for the beat – but actually playing it is another story. This is where practice mode comes in. Switch to practice mode [screen shot], and play through a few times with the tempo turned right down. If there is a particularly tricky part, you might want to set a loop to concentrate on that part.

When you feel like you’re starting to get it, turn on Auto BPM. This will ramp up the BPM each time you “pass” the arrangement.

At this point, it’s largely about just putting in the reps. If you’re not getting it, dont sweat it too much. Each time you play through it, you’re building muscle memory. You might find that when you come back to practice the next day, your first pass is much better!

Pro Tip: Combine Loop and Auto BPM. Each time you pass the loop, the BPM will increase, so you’ll get there faster with a smaller loop than playing the entire arrangement.

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 2.06.51 PM
Practice Mode is located at the top left of the play screen. Click the text to access.

 

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 2.07.10 PM
This is the screen that appears after you click the ‘Set Loop’ option

Part 6: Back to perform mode.

By this stage, you should be reasonably comfortable, and getting 1 star at least some of the time. Time to switch it up!

Stop looking at the screen.

Look down at the pads, focus on your fingers. Some hardware has pad lighting, so you get feedback directly under your fingers. Again, this stage is all about reps.

Part 7. A little less help.

Getting it? But can you play the beat without the help of Melodics? Next up, go back to the Preplay screen, and drop out the Metronome and the Guide Notes [screenshot]. Now you’re just playing along to the backing track. Again, try looking away from the screen, and just play to the backing track, and clock up some reps.

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 2.28.26 PM
Click ‘Volume Settings’ to open this panel. Switch off the Metronome volume and guide note to take things to the next level.

Part 8. Back to preplay.

Go back to the preplay screen, so you have the samples on the pads, and absolutely no assistance from Melodics. Can you still play it? If not, go back a step, and get some more reps in.

Part 9. The true test.

Time for the ultimate test – load up some similar samples into your music production platform of choice, and record yourself playing the same pattern. How does it sound?

If you’re a Melodics subscriber, or if you’ve referred a friend via Melodics, you’ve probably received a set of the samples used in the Melodics lessons. Put these to the test – see if you can recreate the beat playing it live in your production software or sampler.

Extra For Experts: Finish your track

So there you have it, 9 steps to get you mastering more lessons in Melodics. Treat these tips as your framework to getting better, but remember there is no substitute to putting in the reps. The more attempts you take the faster your skills will develop. Happy practicing.

May 04

Atish Talks About Life as a DJ, His New EP & Following Your Dreams

by in Interviews

It has been a big year for San Francisco-based DJ/producer Atish. The past twelve months have seen him travel around the world and perform at many iconic music festivals including Burning Man , Desert Hearts & Strawberry Fields.

While his current life may be moving at a startling pace, the story of how Atish got here follows a slow and steady narrative, taking place over the course of seven years. This week Atish was kind enough to discuss his unique journey to becoming a DJ/producer and his debut Melodics lesson ‘Twiddles’.

You moved to San Francisco over 8 years ago which really exposed you to the underground scene. Tell the story of how you managed to acquire your first set of Technics 1200 turntables and how this got you going as a DJ?

Back in 2010, I had already been collecting vinyl for a few years, but never tried my hand at DJing. I was at a friend’s after hours and I saw that he had quite an impressive record collection, which I half-jokingly made an offer to buy. He initially declined, but 2 weeks later he sent me a message saying he’s leaving town and needs to unload his record collection ASAP to make some quick cash. I ended up buying the collection, and as an added bonus, he included two Technics 1200’s. At that point, I figured I should learn how to mix these records since I now had the gear to do it, and that’s how I stepped into the world of DJing.

Looking at your Soundcloud page you published your first mix back in June 2010 and have been very consistent in producing a new mix each month. How has this helped build your career and how far in were you when it started to snowball?

I attribute most of my following and career progress to my monthly Soundcloud mixes. Back in 2010, Soundcloud hadn’t taken yet the dance music community by storm, and there weren’t many DJs releasing mixes every month. So at the time, I had a lot of music to offer with less competition for people’s ears. This was fertile ground for me to build a solid organic following over the next few years. I think if I started my DJ career today using the same strategy, it would be much harder to progress at the same speed since a Soundcloud mix has less value now than it did in 2010. The sheer volume of mixes, podcasts, and DJs has increased like crazy over the last 5-10 years.

Things really started moving for me after my 2012 Robot Heart set was released. 2012 was one of the first years when the outside world really started taking interest in Burning Man culture and music, so I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. That set caught a fair amount of worldwide attention which opened a lot of new doors for me. Luckily I had a decent back catalog of Soundcloud mixes for people to browse if they wanted to hear more of me beyond the Robot Heart set.

A really unique part of your story is that you were a software engineer at Facebook before taking the plunge into becoming a DJ. Are you able to talk about how you made this transition? Was it an immediate shift or a gradual one?

It was a pretty gradual shift for me. I never had any intention of being a professional DJ. It was quite the opposite – I remember thinking that I would remain a hobbyist so I would never have to compromise my artistic integrity by depending on my art to make money.

But even as a hobbyist, I was touring domestically and overseas using vacation days or taking unpaid leave. I was coming into work dead tired on most Mondays. Beyond that, I was saying no to more and more music opportunities because I couldn’t make the time to take them on. The more I said no to things, the more I started considering making the jump to being a full-time artist. I wanted to know what my potential was. From a practical perspective, it turns out that I happened to be making just enough income from my gigs to at least cover my living expenses, but philosophically, I don’t want to be 100 years old looking back on my life regretting, wondering “what if I had made that jump?” So I spent about a year contemplating, deliberating, and having several discussions with friends and family, eventually deciding that it was time to try out this “artist thing” and see what happens. I’m really happy I made that choice. I have the best job.

You have also said that seeing how much you could grow as an artist was a big factor into why you left Facebook. What have you learned about yourself in terms of being an artist since leaving?

This won’t sound very romantic, but I have learned some of my limitations. I’m learning that even though I want to do everything, I can’t. I’m learning that taking on too much work can reduce its quality or my motivation. There’s only so much time and energy (mental, physical, emotional) that I have, and the task of managing these resources is as important as the actual creative process itself. It took me about 18 months of touring full-time to learn this about myself.

You have a great story about how you were fortunate enough to open for Lee Burridge at WMC by being at the right place at the right time? Can you explain this story and the impact it had on your career?

In 2011, I was project managing a series of boat parties my friend Gunita was throwing at Winter Music Conference in Miami. One of the boat parties featured Lee Burridge + Craig Richards (Tyrant) as the headliners. Due to a family emergency, the original opening DJ had to back out of the gig at the last minute. At that time, I had only been DJing for a few months, but Gunita gave me the opportunity to take over the opening spot. Lee must have liked that set, since just after the gig, he invited me to play his night at Robot Heart at Burning Man later that year, which is a really high profile gig. Playing Robot Heart in 2011 was special, but in the bigger picture, that opened the door to me playing Robot Heart in 2012, which as I mentioned earlier, opened a lot of doors for me.

Some would look at that moment and say that you were very lucky. Do you believe in luck or do you think you make your own?

Both.

For instance, in the above example with the boat party at WMC, it was pure luck that the opener had to back out of the gig (bad luck for him, good luck for me, I suppose). That was completely out of anyone’s control. But at the same time, there was a reason Gunita chose me to open instead of another artist with a bigger name or more experience. I suspect that’s because she appreciated my work ethic and attitude that she already saw from me as the project manager for her parties – I gave her 100% in the work I was doing, so she knew I would give her 100% for that opening gig slot. And again, I was really lucky that Lee happened to be thinking about his Robot Heart lineup when he heard me open for him. But at the same time, I worked my ass off preparing for that opening boat party set. I suspect he wouldn’t have invited me to play Robot Heart if I bombed the set, so all that work I put into preparing for that set inadvertently capitalized on that lucky timing. So I don’t look at lucky breaks as singular moments in time – I see lucky breaks as opportunities that emerge out of high-quality work.

But even if you’re good at what you do, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll get those breaks, which is where the other half of the answer comes in: creating your own luck. If you want more out of your career (or more out of life for that matter) you can’t sit around waiting for DJs to tend to family emergencies. You have to create your own opportunities. For me, it was releasing monthly Soundcloud mixes, starting my own record label, throwing my own parties, networking with other artists (even though I’m an introvert), offering to help people like Gunita…hell, even quitting my job. These are all pieces of the puzzle that increased my chances of getting more and more of those lucky breaks. There are no guarantees in life, but I do believe you can increase your odds.

You have just released your first EP named Peculiar Colours on your label Manjumasi. Were you nervous at all about making the transition from DJ to producer? Why did you think it was time to move into this realm?

One of my biggest insecurities I carried was the fact that until the point of releasing that EP, I was “only a DJ.” DJing is a beautiful artform and undoubtedly has its fair share of challenges, but it’s harder to be a good producer than it is to be a good DJ. So I always had this cloud hanging over my head that I wasn’t working hard enough or I wasn’t as good as everyone else. I know that’s an unhealthy way to think about things, but that’s simply the reality of how I felt. So I had 2 choices: see a therapist to sort this out, or release a record. I chose the latter :)

This might sound backward, but I think most producers have the luxury of releasing their first record without anyone noticing – they can just get it out of the way and move on. But here, I already had a sizeable following. People were waiting for my first record, and to be frank, I wasn’t (and I’m not) as good a producer as I am a DJ. So I had to mentally prepare myself to be judged on something that isn’t a home run. So yes, I was nervous. It’s like, would you rather lose your virginity in the privacy of your own home, or with 20,000 people watching on the internet?

“I realized that many good things that have come my way came because I either treated people well or did someone a favor without expecting anything in return.” This is a very powerful quote of yours. Can you provide an example of how good things have come your way on the back of treating others well?

I think a good example is the one I already touched on, which was helping my friend Gunita throw boat parties in Miami. I did this on a volunteer basis – I wasn’t expecting to get paid, and I definitely wasn’t expecting a DJ gig out of it. I just saw someone who could use some of my help, so I offered it. 6 months later, I’m playing on top of Robot Heart at Burning Man.

Watching some of your sets online I have to say a defining characteristic of yours is how animated you get when behind the decks. Has this been the case since day one? Where does this stage presence come from?

I started playing violin around 5 or 6 years old, so I had been performing for large audiences in concert halls as long as I can remember. I definitely wasn’t dancing around on stage with my violin, but I think my comfortability with being in front of a crowd stems from those early experiences. I’m actually more comfortable dancing around on stage than on a dance floor.

You are releasing your first Melodics lesson this week called Twiddles which is a track off your new EP. What can users expect from this lesson?

There are two lessons – one lets you finger drum the percussion, and another lesson lets you play along with the lead melody. Both of them definitely took me a few tries to get them right, they aren’t easy. I have to say it’s pretty surreal seeing my own track used as a tool to help people learn, I think this whole thing is really cool!

How did you get involved with Melodics and what is it about the platform that excites you the most?

As a full disclosure, I’m actually an investor in Melodics. I think Sam, the CEO, reached out to me because I have experience in both the technology and electronic music space. He knew I would be the type of person who would immediately understand what Melodics is doing. I think finger drumming is really cool, but I’m most excited to see if, down the road, Melodics can revolutionize the way we learn how to play more traditional instruments. Perhaps Melodics can be today’s equivalent of the Suzuki Method.

You play the drums have those skills transitioned smoothly when finger drumming?

For sure. I think many same parts of my brain get activated when doing finger-drumming. I remember when I was taking drum lessons and learning some more complex patterns, I would sometimes get stuck – it was tough translating the written notes into drum hits. I eventually grasped the challenging patterns by not thinking about each single note hit, but rather by feeling the beat as a whole. I found that this same approach to finger drumming has helped me progress through some of the harder lessons. Maybe that will help you too!

With the release now in the books. What do you have planned for the rest of 2017? Any big goals?

The biggest problem I’m trying to solve this year is time management. How much time do I need to spend touring in order to have fun, stay relevant, and make enough money to live comfortably in an expensive city like San Francisco? How can I balance that touring time against running the label, producing music in my studio, seeing my friends/family, staying in shape, and maybe even being in a stable relationship. I don’t really feel a strong urge to be more famous, have more fans, or top the charts. I really just want to have all the variables in place for a balanced, artistically fulfilling life.

For more on Atish check out his social media channels

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Apr 28

Akylla Talk New Music, Creativity & Being Best Friends

by in Interviews, Music

Akylla is an up and coming electronic music duo compromising of the talented Sherry St Germain & Saratonin. Since combining creative forces Sherry and Sara have gone from strength to strength, successfully building their reputation musically and forging an even stronger friendship personally. This week Akylla has released their debut Melodics lesson ‘Invincible’. The track ‘Invincible’ is a yet to be released track which will be coming out on Big Top Amsterdam next month. Both Sherry and Sara were kind enough to answer a few questions about their journey so far as Akylla.

Tell us the story about how you both connected and why you formed Akylla?

Sara: The two of us met in our friend’s studio in Winnipeg, Canada. I was there taking some production lessons and Sherry was coming in to mix a track. She was coming and I was leaving and we started to chat. I had heard a lot about her (this rad producer chick from Vegas) from our engineer, and she had heard of me from him as well. Both of us had our own solo music careers for over the past decade so we were both genuinely interested in what the other was working on. We decided we needed to get together and jam, and I think it only took two times before we realized that this needs to be a real thing. We’ve never looked back since. And we aren’t just bonded over music now, we are best friends.

On to the name ‘AKYLLA’ according to your bio – (In numerology the name Akylla has the birth path 8 and its meaning is connected to balance between the material and spiritual.) – What is the significance behind this name for you guys? Is there a story behind why you decided to use it as the name of your group?

Sara: To be honest we didn’t learn about the numerology aspect until after we chose the name. The first meanings that we discovered from the name were “Intelligent Women” and “Eagle” both of which resonated with us. But what also mattered was the way the name sounds and rolls off your tongue, how it looks written out etc. It didn’t take us long to settle on Akylla.

Musical duos always have different ways of collaborating and creating. Are you able to describe your process in the studio when creating a track? How do you guys work together? Has it always been easy?

Sara: Yeah I think that’s part of the reason why we bonded so quickly. From the start, it’s always been very fluid with us in the studio. One idea leads to another, and most importantly we have so much fun! A fly on the wall will see us falling on the floor laughing, jumping up and down when we get excited about a drop we made etc. This doesn’t mean we don’t take it seriously because we do, it’s just that there’s a very playful energy between us even when we need to buckle down into boss mode.

Sherry: Inspiration hits at all times but mostly I get all the music/production ideas out in the day and then do the singing and writing at nighttime. I’ll generally sing some jibberish. Then Sara will come in and decide what I’m saying and we’ll both write the song and arrange together from there.

Your onstage performances are full of energy and different gear. Are you able to describe your onstage setup? What gear do you use and for what purposes?

Sherry: I rock the MicroKorg, APC 40, Ableton Push 2, Midi Fighter 3D and the Komplete Kontrol.   I know it’s a lot of gear but they all compliment each other live and keep it challenging. My live set up also forces me to grow as a musician.

Sara: My set up includes 2 CDJ’s, a Z2 mixer (with Traktor), for DJing, and a Midi Fighter (with Ableton) for playing in percussion, synths, and samples live.

Watching through your ‘Shenanigans’ videos the MIDI Fighter makes numerous appearances.  What inspired you to purchase the controller and how does it help with your live performances? 

Sherry: I saw a video with Mad Zach he is one of my greatest teachers, but he doesn’t know it. I’ve watched all of his tutorials. He’s an amazing teacher, performer & creator.  

How has the art of finger drumming influenced your live performance skills? 

Sherry: Level up!It’s the next evolution of music. It went from musicians playing to not playing at all and now we finally have the technology to bring that back! Basically, as long as it lights up as you hit it, I’m down. 

You have just released your new lesson “Invincible” on Melodics. How did you discover the app and what benefits does it have for aspiring producers? 

Sherry: I was in at Ableton headquarters in L.A. I was trying to get a device made for me for playing live and my friend Cole over there said “Have you heard of Melodics? I think you’d love it” and that was it I’ve been hooked ever since. 

The Electronic Music scene is a very male dominated environment. What has it been like navigating this world as a female duo?  

Sara: I think this is something that Sherry and I have been used to just from the music scene in general and so we are pretty thick skinned about it. But we would be lying if we said that it didn’t bother us to see such a lack of representation from women in this industry. It does, however, feel like the scale is starting to balance more, and we are extremely happy to not only tip the scale ourselves but hopefully inspire other females to step up if this is their calling.  

 What has been the best on stage moment you have both had so far since forming Akylla?  

Sara: Oh man, hard to pick one. I have always loved the live stage, but performing with Sherry is the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. It’s the same as the studio in the way that it’s so natural and fluid. We feed off each other’s energy and both have the same work ethic about making our show as tight as possible. I will list one funny memory though. When Sherry and I were playing our second show ever together and this guy from the crowd comes to the stage and yells over to us “ ARE YOU GUYS BEST FRIENDS!? “. We thought it was hilarious and the fact that that’s what was coming through made us feel like we were doing something right.  

 Sherry: Sara just said it! I’ll never forget that moment. It’s like he could see the joy on our faces and had to ask us right in the middle of a performance, while I was scratching with a sine wave/white noise on the Midi Fighter. 

If you were stuck on a desert island for a year and could only bring three albums with you what would they be and why? 

 Sherry: Tough question.

1) Pink Floyd- Dark Side of The Moon 

2) Best of Iron Maiden

3) Best of Aretha Franklin        

Because I can air guitar to the first two and get into my zone with the queen of soul.

 Sara: This is so hard. But I’ll name a few albums I’m pretty obsessed with. 

1)Paul Wall & Chamillionaire – Get Ya Mind Correct (2002). 

This album came out well before either of them really blew up, but they capture the sound that exploded the Dirty South Rap genre. It is a sound that I just can’t get sick of. I played it all the time back then, and I play it all the time still.

 2)Radiohead – The Bends (1995). 

So much love for all the Radiohead albums, but this one, in particular, hits me very deep in my heart. Start to finish I love every song, and since I was 13 I’ve known every lyric.

 3) Tool – Lateralus  (2001)

Again, love all the Tool albums, especially the earliest ones. But there is something very special about Lateralus. It’s as though Tool broke out of the 3 rd dimension and decided to take us all with them. I’ve been lucky enough to see Tool (and Radiohead) four times.

You have collaborated with the likes of Excision and Steve Aoki. What other artists would you love to work together with in the future? 

Sherry and Sara: Zeds Dead, Alison Wonderland, Skrillex, Diplo, Kill The Noise, too many to name

What has been the biggest thing you have learned in terms of music production in the last year? 

Sherry: Multi-band compression is your best friend.  The OTT is Epic and makes everything sound so big and automation on the LFO tool swing/rate and filters are super rad for sound design stuff.  

What advice would you give to someone trying to make it as a professional musician? 

Sara: Just know that it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes hard work and dedication, but if it’s truly what you want to do the reward is worth the sacrifice. Also, enjoy the journey! Live in the moment and be grateful for every step. 

Sherry: Practice every day! To songs that you actually like. Don’t practice to some outdated system just to get a certificate. Some of the greatest musicians I know aren’t schooled “traditionally”  but they slay harder than most. Practice to the stuff you like so your mind stays stimulated and your heart is fulfilled. If you’re passionate about it, do THAT! Your passion is your purpose. 

Any other comments or shout outs you want to make? 

Sara and Sherry: Yes! We have teamed up with Bakermat and his label Big Top Amsterdam! Our track “Invincible” (which is also the track used for our Melodics lesson) will be released next month! 

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Apr 14

OddKidOut Talks About His New EP & Growing As An Artist

by in Interviews

It has been a big twelve months for OddKidOut. He has smoothly transitioned from an Instagram sensation to the festival line ups of SXSW and Firefly this summer. In regards to production he has also been busy with the creation and release of his  new EP called “Full Circle”. The Philly producer was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about his new EP, what he has learned in the last year and his three new lessons on Melodics.

The last time we did a Q & A with you was April 15, 2016. How have things changed for you in terms of your music career in the past year?

It’s been that long already? I feel like a lot has changed in the year, specifically with my artistry. I’ve been focusing much more on my industry presence as both an artist and a producer. I’ve slightly veered off the hip-hop path (I’m still on it 100%), but have opened up my musical horizons to different genres and new musical environments that I haven’t touched before.

What is the biggest life lesson you have learned over this time period?

I’ve learned so many things, but I think one of the most important ones was to be safely skeptical of what people tell you. I’m not saying not to trust people, but to rather assess what they are saying to you when you meet them and take it at face value until you get to know the person a little more. I used to get my hopes up and immediately think big things would come of these meetings but have recently realized that I need to be wary of what actually is the truth.

You will be performing at SXSW and Firefly this summer. What did it feel like when you first heard you will be performing at these events?

It was a great feeling, I’m so honored to be a part of both of the festivals. I had performed at SXSW two years ago so I was a little more taken back by Firefly since I haven’t even gone as a concert-goer. Honestly, I felt like my friends and family were more hype than me when I found out but that’s just because I’m constantly challenging myself and looking for the next big thing to do. However, I’m really grateful and excited to play…I’m counting down the days!

Your new Full Circle EP has just been released. Tell us about the EP and how it differs from your previous works?

The EP is different than my other music because I wrote it with two other people; 1403 and Mitch Beer. Immediately, the musical content was enhanced because these two are extremely talented and we understood how to work cohesively. 1403 is from London, so he brought with him those gritty vibes that acted as a counterpart to the more vibey sound that Mitch and I created here in the states. It’s what I like to a call a “genre-blender”. While some of my other music is obviously hip-hop or soul, the Full Circle EP wanders somewhere in between there and electronic music.

Was there a change in the way you approached producing this EP compared to your previous works?

Yeah, the way we produced this record was much different because we only had about a week. Tom (1403) came over here to the US for a week and that was when we basically constructed the whole project. Working in such a small timeframe was a little difficult, but also a great tool to keep the creative juices going. The project was really an organic creation that evolved over 7 days, and I think you can feel that in the music.

1403 features in a few tracks on the EP, adding richness to each track with his vocals. How did you guys connect?

Yeah, so 1403 is on every track, whether it was his vocals or an instrument he was playing. I was actually introduced to him through Mitch Beer; that’s how we all came together for the project.

What was it like working with 1403 throughout the project? What was the process of creation like?

It was “Wonderful”, ha! No, but in all seriousness, it was a delight working with both 1403 and Mitch. Musically, we all are on the same wavelength so it made the process very smooth. And from just a normal life standpoint, both are my homies so it’s always great to be around friends.

You mentioned in a previous interview that you have been listening to Anderson Paak’s ‘Malibu’ album a lot and loved how it fuses old school and modern elements. What other artists or albums have you been listening to lately?

I’ve also been listening to Rick Ross’s new album. That project is truly fire…I’ve had it on repeat recently. I’ve also been getting back into my Dubstep phase, as I’ve been listening to a lot of Excision and Datsik recently. I really listen to everything…this morning has been all about The Police aha.

What is the single biggest skill you have developed as a producer in the last six months?

The biggest production skill I’ve learned recently was how to utilize space, and that less is more. I found that I was over-producing my tracks when really the answer was just to incorporate more comprehensible parts that didn’t step all over the main lead.

You said in an interview for Creative Masters that you don’t like to describe your sound, but if you had to it would be a mixture between electronic and hip hop. It seems that has held true with your latest EP. Was that your intention?

Yeah, I usually try and stay away from genres or labels because I feel that it becomes limiting as a producer and an artist. I tend to say that I incorporate my soul into every track I make, that way I’m open to all sorts of opportunities. For this EP, it’s a direct incorporation of both my soul, but also Mitch and Tom’s as well. That was our intention….to make a project that was gestated from our creativity, and didn’t conform to any preconceived notions.

In the same interview, you talked about using the time you walk between places, shower and when falling asleep to plan and think about the past, present and future. Are you able to go into this process and how it has helped you achieve your goals?

Yes, this is a daily routine for me. The shower is still a sanctuary for me…I’m sure I piss off my roommate by being in there for hours at a time but there’s something so relaxing about hot water and it helps me think. And still, before I fall asleep, I always always always think about the next goal in mind. I think about how to get there, what I can do tomorrow to make that happen, and then imagine what I’ll do when I finally get to it. It helps visualize the goal and helps me stay focused on achieving what I want.

You have previously said that success for you, would be to redefine the way that people listen to popular music. Are you able to elaborate on this and what it would mean to achieve this goal?

Yeah, I really just want to share my uniqueness with the world. I would love to be writing tracks for the biggest artists, but doing it in a way that is unique. For example, you can almost always tell when an artist does a track with Pharrell (or the Neptunes), his sound is just iconic. I want to do the same thing with the way that I produce my tracks.

What excites you the most about releasing three songs off your EP on Melodics?

I’m most excited for the community to wrestle with some tracks that have actually been turned into real songs. Some of my past lessons have been beats and those contain invaluable lessons, but this round is almost more “real”, as the listener can play the lesson and then open up Spotify and listen to the real track.

Are there any tips you would give to Melodics users before playing your new lessons?

LOVE. YOUR. METRONOME. It’s the most important thing in music in my opinion; be one with the metronome. With all of my music, or anyone’s music at that, being able to lock into the groove is everything. I sometimes produce tracks off the grid that are still in a pocket, so in order to play that slightly swung feel, you need to master the metronome simply on its own. And I also just want to say thank you to everyone who has been messing with my lessons and thank you Melodics for allowing me to share my craft with the world!

Apr 05

Pro Tips: How To Use ‘Tags’ To Learn Faster With Melodics

by in Pro Tips

Over the last few weeks we have made a couple of significant changes to how content is structured in Melodics. We regraded every lesson to move from 10 lesson grades to 20 – and we’ve overhauled all the tags used to classify lessons.

These new tags are a way to navigate the main components and skills required for each lesson. They are broken up into three categories; Rhythm, Technique and Lesson Style. Using these tags, you can separate your training into these areas and work on developing each of these important skills.

Let’s say you want to strengthen your hand independence. All you need to do, is go to the lessons screen and filter by the tag ‘hand independence’. This will give you a list of lessons that we recommend you should play to build that particular skill. The lessons are filtered from easiest to hardest, which will allow you build your skills up gradually.

Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 3.59.18 PM

Step 1

Go to the lessons screen in the app. On the left hand panel click the top dropdown menu and select ‘Tags’

Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 3.59.18 PM

Step 2

Once clicked a list of our new tags will be produced on the left hand panel.

Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 3.59.18 PM

Step 3

Select a tag – For this example we have selected ‘Basic Independence’.

Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 3.59.18 PM

Step 4

Once selected all our lessons that have been tagged with ‘Basic Independence’ will be filtered on the lessons list to the right. These lists will be shown from lowest grade to highest.

Tagging is particularly useful it you want to work backwards from a really challenging lesson. Say for example you wanted to learn to play Spinscott’s Jungle Break Fundamentals Vol. 1, grade 19 lesson. This lesson has the tags Endurance, Discrete and Fast. To build up the skills you need to master this lesson, you can find lower grade lessons that have the same tags, and work on building up these skills. In this case, start by filtering by the ‘Discrete’ tag. This will give you a list of lessons that require you to play rhythms consisting of individual hits, where usually no pads are played simultaneously. Justin Aswell’s Daily Warm Up’s – 16th Note Accent, grade 8 also has the tag ‘Endurance’ so this would be a good lesson to start with. When you’ve got that down, play Buddy Peace’s Desert Burner lessons from grade 9 to 11. Spinscott’s DnB Roller, grade 12 introduces the ‘Fast’ tag. You’ll notice when you get above grade 15 all the lessons tagged ‘Discrete’ belong to Spinscott. This shows you that his finger drumming style is fundamental to the ‘Discrete’ skill. If you want to play like Spinscott then that is a tag worth filtering by.

Here’s another example. Want to learn to play Soul Shaker, grade 16 by Beats by J Black? That lesson uses the tags Syncopation, Finger Independence and Swing. Using the tagging system, you can see that a good way to work towards this would be to play these lessons, starting with the first, and working your way up through progressively harder and harder lessons – Broken Boogie – Drums, grade 7, From Home to Work and Back – Drums, grade 8, Sovereignty, grade 8, Caxixi, grade 10, Island Breeze – Drums, grade 10, The Umm – Drums, grade 13… Soul Shaker, grade 16.

Below are all the new tags in Melodics, a definition of each one, and a example of a lesson that uses this tag.

Tag Description Example lesson
Advanced Independence Both hands have two or more fingers simultaneously operating on different time signatures or note divisions. Bass Kleph – Pad Fever Grade 17
Arrangement Playing a whole song through different sections. Often features multiple instruments and switching between parts. Oddkidout – Amore Grade 8
Basic A basic beat or rhythm, usually straight ¼ and playable with one finger. No more than two pads. Gaslamp Killer Oscilalting Lucifer (Beginner) Grade 2
Basic Independence You are using more than one hand or finger but they are operating on separate note divisions. Justin Aswell – Daily Warm Ups – 8 on a hand Grade 5
Basic Syncopation A basic beat that shifts the normal accent, usually by emphasising the offbeat. ASADI – PTM Level 1 – Drums Grade 3
Bassline Lesson plays the bass part instead of drums. John Tejada – Demux – Bass – Grade 5
Cue point drumming A phrase sample from a song, plays as one shot segment following its own tempo. Soul Flip – Beginner – Grade 7
Discrete Consisting of distinct or individual hits. Usually no pads are played simultaneously. Fab Four Technique – Tim Kroker – Grade 6
Drag A feeling of playing behind the beat. Drunken Masters & Karol Tip – Calories – Vocals – Grade 6
Endurance A long pattern that often requires some degree of physical stamina to perform. Live Evil – Bang That – Grade 8
Fast A fast tempo or needing physically fast movements to perform, often both. Spinscott – DnB Roller – Grade 12
Fills A cue point drumming technique for re-arranging a song using different rhythms. DJ Day – Impeach – Strobing Flip – Grade 8
Hand Independence You are using both hands but they are operating on different time signatures or note divisions. Eric Lau – Mars Guitar – Grade 9
Layout Very lesson-specific physical arrangement of samples on pads. Can be complex to remember and often requires difficult sight reading. Decap – Feeling (Condensed) – Grade 9
Melody You are playing the melodic or harmonic content of the song. Usually a lead, samples or chords. Leonard Charles – Can We Go Back – Rhodes – Grade 5
Pocket Locking in with the instrumentation / groove of the song. Drumming is very solid and has great feel. DJ Spinna – G. Tar Joint Drums – Grade 9
Polyrhythm When two or more rhythms are played simultaneously. Carl Rag – Goes Around – Melody 1 – Beginner – Grade 7
Rudiments Developing the basic principles of drumming. Tim Kroker – Connect 4 Pt.1 – Grade 10
Shuffle Rhythm is created by leaving out (resting) the middle note of each three-note triplet group. Oddkidout – Dreams (Beginner) – Grade 7
Swing Rhythm is created by dragging the off beat note. BeatsbyJBlack – Soul Shaker- Beginner – Grade 5
Syncopation A beat that heavily shifts the normal accent, usually by emphasising several offbeats. Buddy Peace – Caduceus – Grade 8
Triplet A group of 3 notes played in a different note division than the regular beat. A Light Bit Lighter – Grade 11
Unquantized Rhythm is mostly unrestricted from any timing grid or note division Jeremy Ellis -Bliss #1 (Beginner) – Grade 9

Try tagging today and let us know how it helps you learn in Melodics. If there any other parts of the app that you want tips on, let us know via the comments section below.

 

 

Mar 24

Stro Elliot On Making Music With His Heroes & His Unique Playing Style

by in Fundamentals, Interviews, Pro Tips, Uncategorized

In early March Stro Elliot was kind enough to come into Melodics HQ while on tour down under. In just one afternoon Stro created a new Melodics lesson from scratch named ‘Eggs on Toast’ and even spared some time to do an interview with us. The conversation was full of amazing insights as Stro delved into his life as a musician and his unique approach to music production.

Tell us the story of how listening to Pete Rock growing up turned you into a finger drummer by accident?

When I started making and listening to beats I assumed that producers played all their drums at once. I thought this particularly when listening to how Pete Rock’s music sounded. He had such a loose feel, it sounded like a drummer was playing the drums even though I knew they were samples. So I’m listening to what he is doing and I’m assuming that he sat there and played through the whole track. Like a drummer would on a drum kit but on pads. So I taught myself how to play drums on pads. This is the way that many people see me play drums on pads now during my live shows.  I later saw a video of him (Pete Rock) in the studio and watched him program drums one finger at a time, one sound at a time. I then realised how he really did it and was like ‘you have got to be kidding me’.

Fast forward to a show I had the honour of doing with him about a month or two ago. When I met him we did the set and he watched me perform and he said “yo that is really bugged out the way you play the drums with your fingers”. I then told him the story. He said “oh that is really crazy, but now you have this great tool that is in your favour and you can use”. So all in all it was a headache in the beginning but at the end of the day I guess it was all worth it.

That is pretty incredible how you went from listening to Pete Rock to performing with him. Who are some other heroes of yours, that you have had the honour of working with?

I was in a hip hop group called The Procussions and we had a chance to open for a lot of our heroes. A Tribe Called Quest being one of them as well as Redman, Methodman, De la Soul, The Roots. We almost checked off everyone in terms of people we wanted to open for. In the last year or two I have had the honour of getting to meet these people and have spent a considerable amount of time with them. Working with The Roots in the studio for a week and Electric Lady out in New York. Meeting the guys from De La Soul, Jazzy Jeff and a few others. It has been a real blessing to be able to collaborate and pick the brains of some of my heroes.

Has spending time with your heroes become a new normal for you?

I don’t know if it is normal. I tell my friends that I have known for years, that there are these moments when you are around people who you revere and you forget that they are super heroes. I have a couple friends at home, that I will spend time with. We’ll hang out, watch sports, go out to eat and it’s not until I’m in the studio with them or a show, that I remember that oh yeah this guy is Superman. I’ve been hanging around Clark Kent all day, but I forget that he can fly and can see through walls.

Do you think that learning to play live gives you a better understanding of how to make beats than sequencing?

I don’t know if it gives me more of an understanding than it does inspiration and ideas. The same way a live band will improvise a song they play a million times live, I will do the same when performing in a live set. You know I may have created some piece of music, but when I’m performing it, I might get a different idea. Like this would have been cool if I did this in the original recording. So it gives me ideas if I want to go back and change some things if I haven’t released the track, or provide ideas of things I can apply the the next time I make something with a similar feel. So whether it be a little fill in here or a little switch up there, I can now apply this to the track I’m making. That way I think it’s more about being inspired and motivated to expand on what I’ve already done.

So through playing live you are able to generate a catalogue of ideas in your mind faster that can be applied to future tracks?

Yes exactly.

How does finger drumming affect your workflow in the studio?

For me it definitely enables me to get the idea out faster. You don’t have to stop every four bars or every eight bars. You can kind of just do what I call have a ‘jam session with yourself’. I will play around and be like okay that’s a cool sequence or chord structure, lets add a bass line to it, then I will just have a jam to it (on the pads), until something feels right or good over that track. Otherwise it would take me longer as I would have to sit there with a kick, a snare, a hi hat and if I do not like it I would have to repeat that process. As opposed to being able to play to it, until something feels good.

When I watched you ‘jam with yourself’ I saw the Ableton Session had three minutes worth of MIDI from you playing drums. From there is it a matter of going through what you played and taking the best four to eight bars?

Yeah exactly that. I will find a section that fits. Sometimes it will not be exact but it will be close. Then it will a matter of me replaying it or physically drawing or shifting things around until it feels the way I want it to feel. Technology.

I read in a past interview that you know how to play piano, guitar, trumpet & drums. Is that true?

The first instrument I was actually taught to play was the trumpet. Which was in middle school. This was because it was less noisy than drums for my parents. However my parents probably regretted that as trumpet is not very quiet either. I played it for 4-5 years. My father being in the military meant we moved to Germany for a while. Due to moving around a lot I did not have all my papers at the school. So they had no record of the instruments I played previously. So when the teacher asked me what I played I said ‘drums’. I figured this would be my chance to finally play the drums. By the time he figured out that I played trumpet he gave me the choice between drums or trumpet. At first I chose trumpet but eventually went back to drumming after more of the other students left.  After this my mother bought me a keyboard when I was 16. I was self taught with that instrument. I learned primarily through first learning a few chords and then learning by ear. I liked Jazz Fusion stuff and early soul, from their I would analyse the songs I liked and pick apart the chords that I wanted to play. The guitar I was given by Granddad at around the same time. I spent a summer with him in the Midwest and found his guitar in the basement, he never used it but said it was a gift from a friend. I kept picking away at it, but it only had three strings. So to this day, what I know on Guitar is very basic. But I feel like I can thumb around on the guitar enough to get the idea out if needed. As a kid that was what I was into, I just wanted to get my hands on anything that made noise. Anything music related.

What influenced your passion for music at a young age? Was it a certain moment or person?

There was just something about music. I come from a family that is not musical. No one in my family played anything or sang. There are members of my family who are tone deaf, and can’t dance. So I was definitely the odd ball that came out of nowhere. However my parents knew I liked music and continued to play music as I grew up. But it was probably not until I was much older that they realised how serious I was about it. I’ve always felt like, without getting too deep that there must be a God because there is no reason for me to have this strong a desire to make music without anyone in my family playing music. I’ve always found this interesting as most of the musicians I’ve met come from pretty musical backgrounds, either their parents played or had a group friends they came up with that played.

So you have a big interest in music, you are learning a lot of different instruments. What happens next?

Because I was such an introvert as a kid, my parents and family did not recognise my passion for music until a lot later. I didn’t share it with anyone. They knew I liked it and would ask them for instruments, however they didn’t initially realise it was something that I would want to turn into a career. It was not until high school that I got active about it and found other people to play with and started doing things in talent shows. Those opportunities came from people I met at school or summer jobs. We would get together and jam, which kind of set a trend for me to find people that were artistic or created music and try to create a vibe from that standpoint.

So how long was it until you went from playing music at high school to touring with The Procussions?

It did take a minute. It was about three years until I met the initial members of Procussions. We had met before that but it was more of a hobby. They knew I messed around but it was not something we started to take serious until about 98/99. We came up with the name and started doing shows together and that has snowballed into a career.

And you have been on that trajectory since?

Absolutely that has been my whole life every since. I have never really had a Plan B for myself. Much to the worry of my mother. She is very happy and proud of what I am doing now but there was a period where her and my father did worry. No one wants to have the Bohemian kid that bounces from couch to couch and any doesn’t have any sure income and that whole scenario. But I think for myself knowing that I had no Plan B, forced me to find a way to make it work. This was the reason why I connected so much with another member of the group (The Procussions) Mr Jay, who is doing the same thing now and has many different outlets. I think we were the  two people in the group that did not plan for anything else. This made me take things more serious and be grateful for the opportunities that have come my way.

Did you ever doubt?

Yeah. There was a time I had really huge hair, soul patch hanging from my chin. After the group disbanded initially I was down and out. I cut my hair and got a real 9 to 5 for a minute. I worked for GUESS Jeans in Los Angeles. It was more or less a customer service type role, I answered phones and helped people with their orders. However the odd thing was I got fired during my training. I was like “who gets fired during their training. I’m learning to do the job and how could you get fired for learning”. But afterwards I had a very interesting conversation with my brother, I remember ranting and raving “I can’t believe they fired me. Here I am trying to do the right thing, trying to get my life together, getting a legitimate job, cut my hair and this happens”. Interestingly my brother was actually really mad at me he said “I don’t feel like that is what you are put here for, this is not was your calling. Everyone else can get 9 to 5’s but you are made for something more than that. So whether that means you got to work harder on the music thing or create a different circle of people around you. There needs to be something more you can do.” It turns out he was right.

Did you switch up your approach after this?

I did. It happened slowly. But the way I did it was treat my passion for music as a 9-5 job if you will. Making sure there was a certain level of productivity everyday, whether it turned into something or not. I went through the motions of making music and hitting certain targets. In relation to finding the right people, that happened more organically. I decided to go out in LA more, meeting more musicians and participating in different circles. The Procussions would eventually start working again and put out another album, but even in with that happening I would continue to be a working musician and connect with other like minded people as much as possible. They say a lot of the time in the industry that ‘who you know’ is more valuable than how talented you are, and I would say that has served me well. I’ve got a lot of opportunities based on my relationships with people and that is something I continue to do. I feel like I continue to create these opportunities to meet people who are influential but also just good people. So we can hang out outside of music as well.

What would you say to someone who has been inspired by your videos, bought a controller and are just starting?

I would be honest and tell him that the biggest thing in music for me was being a really big listener. I was nerdy in the essence I would read every line and note, I would watch people. Now days that is a lot easier than it was back in the day. There are a lot more resources with Youtube at people’s disposal to do this. So I would probably start there. Watch the people who are doing what it is that inspires you. But it is important to start from the standpoint of listening. Because as much as I would be honoured that someone would like to make music like me, it is also much more important that people develop their own style and sound. Just as I was influenced by someone and took it to a different place, I would hope this person starting out would do the same.

Today you made your first Melodics lesson. I was privileged enough to watch you make it from scratch. Can you tell us about the lesson and give some pointers on how to play the lesson?

Well it was good that I was given guidance on the tempo. Because I often feel I would struggle to be a teacher. I tend to start at Level 5 without releasing I need to teach Level 1-4 first. Initially I was like I would make something in odd meter time and just go nuts. But being given the number of 100 BPM was helpful as it gave me a vibe to start. While working through it chord wise I knew I wanted to make something that was simple to follow, but still felt good and that allowed me to be open with the drums and the way they are played. I knew going into it that if I made something a bit too muddled up, a lot can be lost in translation about what is going on with the drums and the rest of the music. With that said the overall process centered around making something in my own style that was simple but still interesting for people to play.

Could you give a brief description of the way that you layout your drums on the pads?

Well it is interesting in this particular lesson you get to see where I came from and where I am at now. In the live video you will see I have a lot tighter set up, with everything bunched together. Which came from the fact that I used to use the MPD pads from Akai that only had 16 pads. The pads were much bigger so it did not feel as tight. So with the initial part of the video the pads are arranged in this much tighter set. You know you have the kick right next to the snare, hi hat next to the snare, a clap above that and maybe what I call a snare ghost note under the snare. Now what I have found is that I have been able to open up my set up. On my live kit, you will see that I have the hi-hats on the outside of the pads. The kicks and snares are all below that as well as the toms and the cymbals and all the other bells and whistles on top. It kind of mimics the way I play the drum kit, you know having things in a open flow, even though it is me using two limbs instead of four. I like being comfortable and having a flow of feeling like I can go anywhere from the hi hat standpoint. So my set up being hi hats on the outside, kicks and snares below allows me to sort of have a natural flow with my two fingers.

Do your finger drumming skills help with other instruments when you are producing tracks in the studio?

I had an instance about a week ago. Where I was helping a friend of mine by laying down some guitar. I noticed that I did feel a little bit looser, than the previous times I had played on guitar. I remember there were a couple licks, where I was like that’s surprising, I couldn’t do that before. So maybe unconsciously there could be a benefit to me utilising my fingers more through playing with the pads. This could be potentially opening up the way I play keys as well as guitar. So there may be a connection there.

What does the rest of 2017 have install for you?

I hope there’s more music ahead in terms of creating it and playing it live. As of now that seems to be the case. I have always liked travelling and there’s already plans for more shows stateside and potentially overseas, so I am really excited to be doing that. Hopefully I will be releasing a new project by the end of 2017 as well which would be cool.

 

Jan 26

Stlndrms Talks: Beat + Chill, Bob Ross & The Secret To Making Better Beats

by in Interviews

I thought a good way to start would be with your twitter bio which says “Creator, curator and story teller”. Are you able to explain what these words mean to you a bit more?

For sure, I’ll answer them one by one.

Creator: I’m a creative junkie. Producing music happens to be the most popular thing I’m into at the moment, but I’m lowkey a photographer and graphic/web designer as well.

Curator: As musician I listen to a ton music and as a photo geek I come across sooo many images. That research led me to start collecting and over time curation. I want to start merging the two at some point with an audio/visual live set.

Storyteller: In my mind that’s what all this is. The intent with anything I create is to take you on a journey, convey a feeling or mind state or to put it simple, tell a story.

The pinned tweet at the top of your twitter profile says “The homie @stlndrms is the Bob Ross of this lofi ish. “I think we’ve found what we want, now let’s make a beat…” That is pretty high praise as Bob Ross is an amazing individual. Explain what that tweet meant to you and the significance of Bob Ross in your life?

1. Bob ross is the man.  2. I always admired his artistic process and how he would effortlessly create from a blank canvas in such a short time. I used to watch his show like every week when I was a kid. So when someone compared me to that guy I had to pin it.

Keeping on the Bob Ross track for another question. I understand you are a big anime fan. One of my favorite anime/television moments has to be the Boondocks scene when Bob Ross and Huey escape from the police. What are your favorite anime scenes or shows?

My favorite anime moment ever, is from an episode of Gurren Lagan. When Kamina says “You have eyes in the front of your head for a reason. Keep moving forward.” I legit think of that quote at least once a day.

On to the beat making. Describe what turned you from a listener of music into a beat maker? Was there a particular song or person that made you take that leap?

I had an uncle that ran a music store in Detroit when I was a kid. The store was popular and he was an influencer in the scene so he knew all the artists that would come through the city on tour. He used to drop off promo copies of everything at the house and I would play it all. Outkast, the Roots, Redman, Black moon, E40 and all that. He was my biggest personal musical influence. I remember beatboxing and rapping in his car in like elementary school, some of my earliest memories. If you ask my mom she’ll tell you I was a musician before I could walk. That’s a good bit before I can remember though.

What were you like when you started out making beats? How long was it until you started making the kind of beats you wanted?

Honestly I wanted to be Premo at first, Then DJ Quick, Then Dilla. Dilla was more an admiration than a “want to be like” however… But I digress, It took me some time (years) to get a consistent sound. To be real however, I still haven’t been able to fully articulate what I hear in my mind. I’m having fun trying though.

I found your work through your show “beats + chill” and I have to admit I’m hooked. There is nothing like it out there on the internet. Where did your idea for the concept come from and have you been amazed by the how much traction it has gained already?

It pretty much came from me wanting to share the creative experience with my friends. I’m in a big metro but I stay in the suburbs so people don’t like to drive out to where I am to work/chill. So I’m kind of “silo’ed” off on the day to day. I figured I’d live stream me making beats and we could go from there. Then I saw thousands of people were watching it so I did what I could to make it professional. I’m still confused as to how it got this big. I love it though and I’m going to do everything I can to keep it going on and upward for sure.

How do you see “beats + chill” developing over the next few months? Are there any surprises users can look forward to?

Relationships and joint venture stuff for sure. I can see BEATS+CHILL sessions eventually popping up over several platforms and possibly in a few live venues maybe even with some guests from time to time. My endgame is to take this show on the road. I want to hang out and create / play music with people all over the world man.

Your setup for the show is very cool and so is the gear you use. Are you able to explain your setup and briefly what each device does?

Sure, The hub is an Akai MPC2000xl and/or Native Instruments Maschine I do almost all my production work with those. The other gear the Roland SP303 and SP404 are for compression and distortion (303) and for playing live and adding stutters and glitches (404). Add to that a thrift store EQ and tape player (15$ a piece) and you have my sound in a nutshell…

You always release music with that lo-fi feel and are very much entrenched in that community. Who are some other lo-fi artists you are currently listening to?

Soooo many man, I’ll do you one better. For lo-fi stuff, go grab everything from every artist on the following collectives: Natural Selection, NINETOFIVE records, O-nei-ric Tapes, and Chillhop records. That’ll get you started. One time for these guys and all the other lo-fi collectives out there putting in work man.

What advice can you give to other aspiring beatmakers looking to make music like you?

Make a million beats. Than make a million more. I’ve legit lost over a 1000 beats at this point. I’ve had to sell about 20k worth of gear over my time producing to get by or make ends meet. I’ve used so many diff pieces and diff programs and they are all great but honestly, they have nothing to do with your sound. I know dudes who use all hardware and dudes who only use an IPad. They are all amazing. If you want to establish your sound there are no shortcuts. The 10,000 hr rule is in full effect. Lucky for you though music is about the most rewarding and fun thing you can do with your time if you love it. So yea make a million beats and keep moving forward. (1 time for Kamina-san)

Finally I checked out your vs.co page and saw your photos from your time in Japan? Are you planning on taking any other trips overseas this year?

Nothing on the books yet but my passport is ready. Say the word and I’m on a plane.

I wanted to take a second to say thank you guys so much for this opportunity and to let you know that the App you put together is awesome. Timing is everything in HipHop and there’s nothing like drums that sit in the pocket like they’re supposed to. Melodics is one of the best tools I’ve seen so far outside of just making beats to train yourself to stay in the pocket. Great work guys.

#spreadlove

STLNDRMS