It’s getting close to February! You’ve changed your diet (no foods starting with B), decided to learn Esperanto, vowed to run 5 miles a day, and make it to grade 20 in Melodics.
Great! But you’re still stuck on grade 6.
When you begin it’s normal to see rapid improvements. When that stops it’s natural to feel you’ve hit your limit of ability when in reality you’ve just hit a plateau. How do you move beyond your plateau? The answer is to challenge yourself in a new way.
Some examples of this could be taking lessons from an easier grade and…
emphasising your weak hand / fingers
speeding up lesson patterns as fast as you can
You can also think about the specific skills you’re finding hard. It could that you’re struggling with finger independence, endurance or syncopation. To work out what you might be finding difficult in each lesson, check out the tags for each lesson when in lesson list view.
A good way to work on these skills is to use the “Browse by” button to sort by tag to show the full list of lessons relating to that skill – then you can go back and practice this on some easier grade lessons and slowly work your way back.
It might seem like going backwards, but in the long run it’ll help your progress.
Moving past the plateau isn’t just about practicing more, it’s about practicing the right thing.
Set yourself a challenge this week and let us know how you go!
Melodics uses the principles of a method of learning called ‘Deep Practice.’ It’s the process of slowing things down, zooming-in with focus, and deliberately building a great result step-by-step. These ideas draw heavily from the research of Anders Ericsson and Daniel Coyle and although they’re often applied to sport and athletic training, they work just as well for building muscle memory and developing musical skills.
Here’s how Deep Practice works within a Melodics lesson:
1: Pick a lesson and listen to it as a whole. It’s important to get familiar with the music you’ll be performing using preview mode and then orientate yourself to the finger placements.
2: Divide the song into small steps or components and practice and memorize these separately. Then, link them together in progressively larger groupings. You’ll notice that in the early grades we do a lot of the dividing into steps for you. As the grades increase and the steps become more difficult, you might find it useful to divide them up even further using practice mode and setting loops.
3: Play with time, first slowing the action down and then speeding it up. Slowing down helps you to focus more closely on errors, creating a higher degree of precision. Use features in practice mode such as auto-bpm or wait-mode to build up your muscle memory and reflexes. Be patient with yourself, this can take a while!
4: Pick a part of the song you want to master, reach for it then evaluate the gap between your target and the goal and start again. You can track your progress each session and see how you’re progressing. Detecting mistakes is essential for making progress. This error-focused element of deep practice makes it a struggle, a process of ‘brain stretching’ which is likely to be slightly frustrating but which leads to growth.
5: Keep practicing like this every day. This is the crucial part that so many people forget but even a small amount (5 minutes) of this deliberate and focused practice every day will lead to better results than large infrequent practice sessions that don’t have a structure and focus.
Give it a go and let us know how you get on.
To learn more about the ideas and research on this subject, check out the following books: Anders Ericsson ‘Peak’ and Daniel Coyle ‘The Talent Code’.
We checked in with producer Mark de Clive-Lowe to get the info on his new course.
How would you describe your new course Bassline Bootcamp?
I’ve made a range of bassline examples over different style and tempo beats. They all look at applying different ideas to take you from a simple single note vibe to bringing in fills and embellishments that you can apply in your own creations. Basslines are little melodies themselves so it’s a great way to learn multiple skills at the same time.
How would you recommend Melodics users approach your course to get the most out of it?
Some of the lessons have challenging aspects so I’d definitely recommend using the practice mode to loop up those bars or sections that are harder and slowing them down. Slowing down whatever you’re practicing is the magic trick to mastering something – it might not seem as fun, but it’s definitely the tried and true method.
What will Melodics users be able to do after finishing this course? How will it help in regards to their overall music production?
If you go deep and really nail it as well as taking note of the associated information – like what key something is in and what technique it’s applying – you should be able to build basslines around any chord progression, create fills and make alternate versions of your main idea.
Are there any other comments or things you want users to know about this course and the new Melodics lessons?
Practice makes perfect!
To try Mark’s course in the Melodics App simply download and head to courses in the LEARNING tab.
Stro Elliot is the master of the pads. Recently named as an official member of The Roots, he’s continuing his amazing run of form from the last year – leading the way for pad drummers with his signature style of performance.
We were lucky enough to witness a masterclass from Stro in Berlin, at the Ableton Loop Conference. Not only did he show off his crazy fast fingers, he also broke down some of his technique and his unique performance setup.
Here’s a few pieces of wisdom from the maeSTRO.
Breaking down the 🥁 break
Since samplers arrived on the scene, producers have been creatively chopping up breaks and loops. Rather than just playing a loop, breaking it up into the individual hits gives you a palette of sounds to work with to make it your own. Stro maps these hits across his Ableton Push controller mirroring how he sets up a normal kit with variations of kicks, snares, hats, ghost hits, and vocal chops across the pads.
See how he works with breaks in the short video below to create his own pattern.
Keeping an organic feel to the kit 🌱
Stro arranges all his kits in a specific way, based on how he plays. He plays most of the beat on his right hand, leaving the left hand to add accents, play ghost hits and add complexity. Whether it’s adding the 1/16 note hi hat, or a roll to the pattern, having the extra hits available for the left hand lets him add variety.
Watch how Stro arranges his kit, and why it helps him in the short video below.
Feel like practicing now? As a subscriber, you can play Stro Elliot’s lessons in Melodics + lessons from loads of other great artists 😎
If you want to give pad drumming a try, download Melodics and try out our free lessons today.
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…!
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 instrumentwithin 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 subscriptionnow 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. 😃
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?
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.
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]
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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