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.

 

Jul 22

Five Modern Funk Artists To Listen To

by in Fundamentals, Interviews, Music, Pro Tips

This week Melodics released some brand new Modern Funk lessons. To commemorate this we have decided provide our list of five modern funk artists to listen to this week. Let us know if we missed anyone and who you have been

Sven Atterton

This United Kingdom multi-instrumentalist released his first full length project “The Cove” back in 2015. It sold out quickly and led to much critical acclaim. Expect beautiful synths, slapping bass in his soothing instrumentals.

Psychic Mirrors

The six-piece Miami band got together in 2010, releasing a couple of records on their own Cosmic Chronic label. Since then they have gone on to release a few more big projects most notably their Nature of Evil album. Check out one of their most notable cuts “Charlene” that will give your body moving.

Tuxedo

Mayer Hawthorne and Jake One make up Tuxedo. Started way back in 2006 when the two exchanged mixtapes with each other, the duo have gone on to release a full EP back in 2015 via Stones Throw. The production and Hawthornes vocals compliment each other perfectly.

Dam Funk

Another Stone Throw don Dam Funk has been in the game since 1988. Producing his unique style of funk for the likes of Mack 10 MC Eiht in the 1990’s. However after seeing other artists get gold plaques all around him he decided to go ‘full funk’. In 2006 he launched Funkmosphere Records and a couple years later he dropped his first LP with Stones Throw. Things have been good since with Dam collaborating and performing with the likes of Snoop Dogg and Flying Lotus.

Brian Ellis

Brian Ellis is a multi-instrumentalist Brian Ellis hails from Escondido, Californian. His Reflection EP was held in high esteem and dubbed one of the most modern funk projects of the year. The EP includes a cameo from West Coast electro pioneer and super freak, the Egyptian Lover, and showcases Brian’s one-of-a-kind musical witchcraft.

Like what you have heard? Try learning the elements of modern funk today with our brand new lessons.

Jul 05

An Interview With Decap – Talks Production Techniques, Ableton & His Career So Far

by in Fundamentals, Interviews, New Lesson Tuesdays

When asked in the past about what advice you would give to upcoming producers you said “Create something new every day, and release new material frequently to build a momentum and a following.” Are you able to give a bit more depth into these steps or add anything you’ve learned since?

One thing I would add to that is: be yourself and create authentically. Make the music that moves your soul, and avoid trying to force your art to fit a mold. Avoid people, situations and career paths that influence you to conform so much you lose your authentic voice.

How does the BOSS SP-202 Sampler, a Tape Deck and a HR16 Drum Machine fit in your production story? How have you grown equipment and sound wise since then?

Haha — the humble beginnings.

At the time, my workflow was to sequence drums on the HR-16, loop it, then trigger samples in realtime on the SP-202. I was 13, just starting out, and didn’t really understand MIDI at the time, so there was no quantization and everything had a really raw feel. There was no looping on my 4 track tape deck, so I had to make the whole beat in one take, part by part.

Once I started getting into the power of desktop computers for production, everything really changed. I started using Cool Edit Pro with a program called Tuareg (by Hammerhead). I would sequence the drums in Tuareg, load the drum stems into Cool Edit Pro, then copy and paste samples in time with the drums. People thought I was crazy for making beats this odd, complicated way, but I made some bangers and was able to capture the sound I wanted. After years of making beats this way, I got into Reason for a bit, then the MPC 4000 which was a game changer at the time. My main setup for a while was the MPC 4000 with some hardware sound modules.

Now my setup is really simple: Ableton Live 9, Push 2, NI Komplete Kontrol… and my newest addition – the Dave Smith Tetra. This setup allows me to work in the studio, and have a portable setup I can take anywhere with a backpack. As I expand as an artist, I continuously discover new ways to create in Ableton.

You performed an amazing video of your single “Feeling” for Ableton back in 2015. Explain the process of performing that video and how your relationship with Ableton began?

Push’s 64 pad mode was in beta at the time so coming from the 16, I had to learn a new skill before shooting. I wasn’t used to finger drumming with two hands. There was no quantization in my performance and the video was shot in one take, so I was forced to nail it all the way through with no mistakes. It was a lot of pressure, but I definitely grew from it.

Back in 2013 I did a YouTube video collaborating with Ski Beatz, while showing him Push. Ableton picked up the video on their site, and our relationship has continued to grow.

You’re first ever Melodics lesson teaches “Feeling” and how to perform it like you did in the Ableton video. What can Melodics users expect from this lesson? How will it help their skills?

If you want to learn or get better at finger drumming and performing live, practice is the key. I partnered with Melodics to put this lesson together because I feel its a great tool for artists to step up their performance skills and have a great time. Like anything, the more you practice, the better you get.

You took three years out of music between 2009-2011 to find yourself through spirituality and meditation. Out of this came the project ‘Omnilove’ which you have said “embodies the essence of what you are trying to communicate”  Explain this process of taking a hiatus from music and how it has served you both personally and musically since your return in 2011?

That time was a strong wake up call. I dropped everything in my life to experience who I was on a deeper level. I was looking for my purpose. I hardly made any music during that time. This hiatus from music turned out to be revelatory. Because of it, I am definitely more focused. Coming through that helped me to create and hold a bigger vision for my life and art.

You mentioned in a previous interview it was the likes of Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre that made you begin your production journey in the 9th grade. What is it like years later producing a track that your influence Snoop Dogg was featured on called “The Weekend”? I can only imagine it must be quite surreal things coming together full circle like that.

Snoop is a legend – I’m honored to work with him. Doggystyle was the first tape I ever purchased, and one of my favorite albums of all time. It feels great to work with the people I’ve looked up to — then and now.

You have a drum pack online called ‘Drums That Knock’. This came about  after being repeatedly asked how you get your drums to knock by your fans over the years. Outside of getting this pack are there any other production techniques you would suggest to get those drums cutting through the mix?

Some techniques that work well are a mixture of compression, saturation, pitching and crafting the transients. I use a lot of soft limiting (but never letting the signal clip). My advice to sound designers is to take some time and mess around with plugins. Use your ears. Try boosting, cutting, distorting, shaping, layering. Try things that seem unorthodox – create a sound that is unique and never been done before.

I wanted to create a kit that producers can load up and that inspires them to take their mix and sound to the next level.

How did you get involved with Melodics? In what ways do you think Melodics will help the next batch of producers and beatmakers?

When I started performing, I specifically remember wishing for an app that would help me practice finger drumming, but I couldn’t find anything like it. Recently a buddy of mine introduced me to Melodics and I checked it out and thought it was dope. I really appreciate what Melodics is putting out there. This is a great tool allowing producers and performers to get good fast with structured lessons.

You are a massive Ableton and Ableton Push advocate, with this combination giving you a live performance element now. Are you able to talk about how this has helped your performance skills and how the art of finger drumming ties into this?

Before Push came out in 2013 I thought of myself more as a producer than a performer. After rocking Push for just a few months, I shifted towards crafting live performances because I realized its always been natural to me to perform. Freed from the computer screen, Push becomes an instrument and it’s a matter of mastering that instrument.

What does the rest of 2016 have install for Decap?

I’ll continue to release new music every month. I have a couple secret projects in the works. I might drop another drum kit ondrumsthatknock.com … we’ll see ;).

If you were stranded on an island for a year and could only bring three records with you what would they be?

Kaytranada – 99.9%

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

J-Essential – Smash City

Apr 27

Top 5 Novation Launchpad Finger Drumming Videos

by in Fundamentals, Pro Tips

There is no doubt that Finger Drumming and the Novation Launchpad are match made in musical heaven. The 64 pad layout and the lights all make for a mesmerising spectacle both sonically and visually. The internet is full of such performances but we thought we would countdown our Top 5 Novation Launchpad Finger Drumming videos of all time.

5. Madeon – Pop Culture

Leading our countdown is arguably the first notable Novation Launchpad performance video. Dating way back in 2011 little known French producer Madeon decided to use his Launchpad to mash together his 39 favorite songs. The rest is history as the video went viral landing 39 million views and igniting Madeon’s career. Since then he has gone on to release and album and has charted in numerous countries around the world.

4. Official Novation Launchpad S Performance Video

Coming straight from Novation themselves is their official performance video for the Launchpad S. This video has everything from all colours of the traffic light to a section where the mystery player manages to play in the dark. Now that’s impressive.

3. UnderWaterRobots – Dubstep Mashup

Taking our third spot is a 64 sample 30 song mashup from a Launchpad player who goes by the name of ‘UnderWaterRobots’. While this video has close to 200k views it is the last known recorded performance from ‘UnderWaterRobots’ since 2013. It is unsure as to why he left the game and if he will ever come out of retirement. Rumour has it still meticulously planning his next performance scheduled for 2023.

2. R!OT – How I Feel ft. Bonnie Magbitang

Taking the number two spot is from the talented R!OT! The cool thing about this Launchpad video is that is a music video as well. Strapped with a head mount R!OT is able to easily finger drum the tune and also jams out on a Keytar. Yeah I know a Keytar, doesn’t get much better than that. Also you might be wondering what’s up with the door to another dimension in the video. I have no idea.

1. M4SONIC – Weapon

M4SONIC the finger drummer and producer out of Australia takes out our number one spot with this live Mashup ‘Weapon’. The mash up is awesome and the numbers don’t lie with over 37 million views and 700k subscribers M4SONIC is killin the game right now.

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Honourable Mention – DJ Ravine On The Launchpad Crayola

DJ Ravine with a demo on the brand new Launchpad Crayola! According to Ravine this video was his hardest yet with paper cuts being a real issue. But he was able to pull it off and present something truly special. Ravine was even kind enough to post the Ableton Project Files for this monumental performance. They can be found on his Youtube Channel.

Apr 27

Top 5 Akai Finger Drumming Videos

by in Fundamentals, Pro Tips

Akai are the O.G’s of the Pad Controller game bringing to the market the original MPC way back in 1988. The device is quite simply iconic and has been used by some of the all time greats such as Madlib, Kanye West, DJ Premier, Pete Rock and the late J Dilla. The 4×4 pad layout makes Akai products ideal for finger drumming with their devices being present in some great performances.

5. Finger Drumming In The Office On An Akai MPD218

Starting things off with a dope video from our office as our Designer and resident finger drummer takes on one of our Thugli – Overtime lessons on an MPC218. Check out this short clip and watch out for the ‘Woo’

4. David ‘Fingers’ Haynes Making It Look Easy

Their are many great finger drummers on the internet however David Haynes is among the best. His technique and relaxed hands can be make some of the most complex arrangements look easy.

3. Spinscott playing Jungle beats live

180 BPM with one-shot samples and no loops? No problem! The immensely skilled Spinscott has carved niche following on social media with his breath taking MPC performances. Spinscott also has a range of lessons now available to learn on Melodics.

2. You are now listening to araabMUZIK impersonating Skrillex with only an MPC

Probably the most high profile ‘finger drummer’ in the world araabMUZIK is an absolute beast on the pads. Back in 2011 he absolutely went in and provided a live finger drumming impersonation of Skrillex. The Warsaw were astounded and with many claiming it to be the greatest musical performance Poland has ever seen.

1. Beats By J Black breaking necks with his skills on the MPC

Atlanta based beat maker ‘Beats By J Black’ has been having an incredible 2016 already and is on the verge of blowing up. His finger drumming videos on him playing his flipped beats on his collection of MPC’s are the reason why. Always with a smile on his face and impeccable timing make sure to check out his channel and watch this space.


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Apr 27

Top 5 Maschine Finger Drumming Videos

by in Fundamentals, Pro Tips

Maschine is the flagship device for Native Instruments and has sold millions of units worldwide. The 4×4 pad layout reminiscent of the MPC is sleak, modern and a common item in many producers studios around the world. Maschine has also been featured in numerous finger drumming videos on the web. Lets check out our top five.

5. Tim Kroker Drum Solo on Maschine

Tim Kroker has been a professional drummer for 25 years. So the transition into finger drumming on Maschine was relatively easy. Check out his drum solo video as well as some of the other work he has done at events such as the Sample Music Festival.

4. David “Fingers” Haynes vs Maschine

David “Fingers” Haynes is a Grammy nominated drummer who like Tim Kroker has taken to finger drumming. Currently living in Berlin David continues to refine his path and pull of patterns on the pads imitated by very few. In this video he lives up to his nickname “Fingers”.

3. Strofik – The Maestro of Maschine

Strofik is an Melbourne based finger drummer and DJ who has produced some incredible finger drumming videos over the past year. What sets him a part from the previous videos is the way he can finger drum his entire set via Maschine. Have a look at Strofik doing what he does best in this 15 minute live finger drumming set.

2. Emiliano Torquati

What is harder than finger drumming on one Maschine? How about two Maschines? Emiliano Torquati is able to do just that. Playing the drums with his right hand and a range of samples with his left he is able to create a truly unforgettable performance worthy of our number two spot.

1. Jeremy Ellis performs on Maschine Mikro

For our number one spot we could not go past the O.G Maschine performance video. Jeremy Ellis captivated many in the music production world when he released this video on Maschine Mikro back in 2011. If you have not seen it yet prepared to be blown away.

Had to be number 1. The video that opened many peoples eyes to finger drumming as a whole. Jeremy Ellis.

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Honorable Mentions

Thought our Dubstep Office Sessions video deserved and honorable mention. This lesson has proved to be very popular on Melodics, and we hope this video is part of the reason why.

Native Instruments have a lot of my fans. However this video takes the cake. Watch as Dominik Petzold takes you through a typical day in his life. That includes finger drumming on his Maschine while on the toilet, at the beach and brushing his teeth.

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Apr 08

Justin Aswell on The Importance Of Daily Practice For Finger Drumming & Production

by in Fundamentals, Interviews, New Lesson Tuesdays

Justin Aswell is a Finger Drummer, DJ, Producer, MC, Record/Mix/Master and teacher at Dubspot. His skills on the pads can be seen in his awesome Youtube videos that he began posting way back in 2006. Since then he has appeared on Native Instruments and Dubspot displaying his finger drumming prowess. While indeed talented there is a strong regimented work ethic behind Aswell’s success. We were lucky enough to talk with Justin about his practice process. The following is a must read for any beginning or aspiring producers.

You are well know online for your finger drumming skills. What got you into finger drumming and inspired you to post your performances online?

Well I’ve always been a drummer at heart.  I was always banging on pots and beating rhythms on tables since I can remember.  I played drums throughout my youth and when I eventually got a sampler it only made sense.  Here’s this thing with drums loaded on it and I can tap out patterns like I would anything else.  I didn’t really know I was doing something different for a long time.  I’d been finger drumming for many years before I ever uploaded a video.  It wasn’t even really planned out honestly.  My roommate at the time bought a new camera and wanted to record something.  I was already practicing and he just started filming.  We uploaded it to YouTube and at the time there weren’t many MPC videos at all.  It started picking up speed and before we knew it, it had made the YouTube home page.

What was it about Melodics that made you want to get involved? What do you like most about the app?

I was tagged by several of my friends in a video review done by DJcityTV on YouTube.I remember as soon as I saw it I knew I had to be involved.  Ever since the days of Guitar Hero and Rockband I’d dreamed of an application like this.  I’m really surprised it took this long for someone to create it!  My favorite thing about the app is how well it shows wether you’re dragging or rushing particular rhythms.  That’s always been a concern of mine.  Sometimes you know you’re off but you just can’t figure out how to correct the problem.

You have released three lessons this week based around daily practice. They are called ‘8 on a hand’,’16 note accent’ and ‘Bucks’. Are you able to give a bit of detail as to what each exercise help users with?

Anyone that’s been in a marching band will recognize these to some degree.  These are classics in the Drumline world.  I’ve adapted them to make more sense in the finger drumming context.  8 on a hand is meant as an initial warm up and should played focusing on being relaxed and playing even.  Bucks will get us accustomed to playing doubles and triples evenly. 16 note accent is both for technique and for a rhythmic understanding of the 16th note grid. This understanding will help to give the player a better ability to express rhythms on the fly.

You’ve previously stated that you believe that practicing five minutes a day, seven days a week is more effective than practicing once a week, for 35 minutes. Are you able to give insight into why this is the case?

Absolutely! Each day you don’t practice is an exponential loss. You lose more and more each day you don’t practice consecutively. I like to think of each day as stacking time towards improvement. If you practice back to back days you’re not going to lose any of the time you put the previous day. You may even find you’ve GAINED time by using consistency in your favor. This is called the compound effect. And the sooner you start using it, the bigger the gain!

How can becoming a better finger drummer help a producer or DJ get better at their craft?

Creativity is all about capturing moments. Ideas come and go very quickly. Have the ability to just play what’s in your head instantly without deliberation allows the artist to capitalize on ideas with ease. I’ve had so many people tell me “I just can’t get the rhythms I hear out of my head” over the years. It’s never the serious finger drummers.

Have you always been a naturally gifted finger drummer? How did your practice routines help with your development?

I don’t really buy into the idea of “naturally gifted” honestly. I think people may be naturally inclined or drawn to certain skills but it takes work to get good. I often say the only way to get good is to be bad for a real long time. I still feel I have tons of work even at the skill level I’m at currently. That’s why I still utilize things like Melodics in my arsenal of improvement. I practice constantly. I’m always tapping. My practice routine is my development. I wouldn’t be answering these questions had I not implemented them.

You have made videos with the likes of Dubspot and are very in involved in teaching music in particular finger drumming. Do you have any examples of how finger drumming has evolved since you have been involved with it?

Finger drumming is still very new to the scene. There aren’t any rules you know? The major difference I see would be how many people are out doing it now. When I first started posting videos there were only a handful of people posting content online. Now there’s a new video by a new artist daily. There’s groups that have a finger drummer in the line up. It’s really on the verge of blowing up. It’s super exciting to see.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting out and is wanting to become as good as you are?

Start practicing now. Practice often. Make a lot of music. Collaborate with diverse artists. Play shows. Play lots of shows. Post your progress online. Analyze your progress. Focus on both strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be overwhelmed by what you don’t know. Be excited there’s so much to learn. Stay consistent. Don’t stop.

What does 2016 have install for Justin Aswell in terms of music?

I’ve got a collaborative record with my dear friend Andy The Doorbum coming out in May on Fake Four Records. I’ve got a handful of records I’m executive producing. I’m traveling all over and taking up residencies in cities to do as much collaborative work as possible. 2016 is a year of fearless collaboration.

Justin Aswell has released some new practice exercises on Melodics this week that cover the ‘8 on a hand’ , ‘Bucks’ and ’16 note accent’ exercises he uses daily. While playing the hard lessons is awesome building a rhythmic foundation through daily practice will solidify your skills.

So try out these new lessons and start your daily practice today!

Follow Justin Aswell:
Youtube Instagram Facebook Twitter Soundcloud

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Mar 18

New Lessons From DJ Jazzy Jeff Out This Week

by in Fundamentals, Melodics, Music, New Lesson Tuesdays, Pro Tips

The legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff shares an inspiring Hip Hop instrumental called “Don‘t Forget” as his debut Melodics lesson. This instrumental was also used as the fourth track on Dayne Jordan’s debut album ‘Memoirs of Dayne Jordan.’

Like what you hear? Learn to play this beat made with one of DJ Jazzy Jeff’s drum kits from his personal collection today! Also check the trailer video we have put together for this lesson featuring some wise words from the man himself.

There is more insight to come as we have an in depth interview from Jazzy Jeff, hopefully arriving next week. So keep an eye out for that.

Finger Drumming Video Of The Week

A video posted by BeatsByjblack (@beatsbyjblack) on

Our finger drumming video of the week comes from the super talented BeatsByJBlack who flipped our Tall Black Guy lesson in Melodics. This kid is an up and comer so make sure to check out his Instagram page.

Finally the team are loving watching all your performance vids on social so keep them coming. Just post your video with the hashtag #melodics and we will find and regram / share them on our social channels :)

Mar 02

An Interview With Spinscott – Gives Advice & Answers A Very Important Question

by in Fundamentals, Interviews, Music, Pro Tips

Spinscott has just released his second set of lessons for Melodics users to enjoy. It has been an awesome 2016 so far for the American ‘Junglist’ with his incredible finger drumming performances at NAMM earning a lot of social media coverage. Scott was kind enough to answer a few questions about his musical journey and share what he has learned so far.

You uploaded your first finger drumming video to Youtube just under 4 years ago, and got an amazing response. What prompted you to upload this video and were you surprised by the reaction? 

I originally got my first drum machine for a Hip Hop production project in July 2012, but the first thing I decided to do was to try cutting up and playing classic breaks. (Junglist mentality). I had no idea that MPCs were used for live drumming, and coming from traditional DJ formats had never heard of “finger drumming”. I briefly searched youtube for live jungle, and couldn’t find anyone doing it with all one shot drums, so I decided to cut the breaks into single drums (one-shots) and film a quick video. I didn’t think it was a big deal, and was definitely surprised by the reaction. People requested more, so on it went.

 In a previous interview you said “I tend to consider myself more of a music fanatic & performer than anything else really”. Are you able to explain this a bit more?

Sure! In my opinion, terms like “DJ”, “Producer”, and “Remixer” have become largely ambiguous, and at the same time kind of limiting. Some DJ’s mix realtime, others use auto sync, some say “Live PA” and are triggering sequences and loops, others actually play Live real-time sounds, and it goes on and on. From the production perspective, that can mean something as complex as composing an entire track from scratch using all original and custom sounds, to something  as simple as combining a couple of sample pack loops together and releasing a track.  Regardless, I think it’s cool that there are so many ways that people can experience, create, and share music! For me personally, I think Music Fanatic & Performer best describe who I am, what I do, and how I do it. (although, I certainly consider myself a DJ, Producer, Remixer, Coffee Drinker, happy dog owner, etc.)

What was the first Jungle track you ever heard? What was it about Jungle that captivated you?

The first Jungle I heard was actually on a mixtape my sister brought home from a rave in 1995. It was by a DJ called Mastervibe. Having been a drummer since the age of about 5, I was instantly pulled in by the complexity of the drums, and the way that the melody, pads, atmospheres, etc played smoothly with the beats. Jungle just seemed to have so many different sounds and influences, and SO MANY rhythms that were not limited to what one could play on a kit. The track “I Can’t Stop” by Lemon D, pretty much sums up what I love about mid-90’s Jungle.

You’ve also previously mentioned that you used to drum along to drum heavy tracks in your car and not leave the car until you got every note right. Delve into this story and how it relates to the amount of time that you practice.

Ha! Been “dashboard drummer” since I got my license… probably to the amusement of people who’d pull up next to me on the road. I’ve always played and learned music by ear, even back in the marching percussion and jazz band days in school… so when I got those first Jungle tapes, it immediately became a task to master every note.  If you listen to mid-90s style Jungle tracks with Think, Amen, Apache, and other breaks a billion times and drum along, eventually they become burned into muscle memory. It also wears away the steering column and dash…  After a while, you can completely freestyle with all of the intricacies of the breakbeats. Each one has its own characteristics, and that all settles in with time. I have never really spent dedicated time practicing, because I am always drumming on something and challenging myself with the beats. Lately my new fun self-challenge has been turning the drum machine around 180 degrees and trying to play my programs upside down.

 What advice would you give to a person who has just downloaded Melodics and is wanting to get as good as you?

First point of advice would be to HAVE FUN! People succeed when they enjoy working towards success. What I love about Melodics is that it starts off very basic, and steadily increases in difficulty. I encourage people to focus on the style they like and are comfortable with, but also try the other lessons in styles they are unfamiliar with. Diving into new sounds is how new music and skill is born. If you really want to get accurate, try to start with the very first lesson in level one, and don’t just move on after getting a passing grade. Get a 100% perfect score 5 times in a row before moving on, and be obsessive about it.

I was constantly air drumming along with the records. Years later after buying the drum machine and learning it for a few weeks, I decided to try adding real-time Jungle rhythms over the mix, and that is where my format “Jungle Plus Drums” was born.

How did you find out about Melodics? What about the software intrigued you enough to make lessons?

I got an email from the CEO of Melodics, inquiring about my Jungle videos and a new lesson program, and I wanted to get involved immediately. When you have lots of content out there, people tend to ask how to learn and get started, and until Melodics I really didn’t have a way to show people how to begin finger drumming. The ability to share music and teach through Melodics lessons is something I am very excited about, especially because people can now try playing true 100% Loop-Free & Sequence Free beats. 

How have you seen finger drumming evolve since you have been involved with music and where do you see it heading?

It seems to be becoming a lot more common to see DJs hitting pads during sets, which I think is cool.  The convergence of traditional mixing and live performance is a primary driver in the electronic music realm, which can be seen as all of the major gear makers are adding pads to their new equipment. Also, the live elements bridge the gap between electronic music performers and other musicians. I predict that it will continue to grow, as there are so many different ways to integrate pads and finger drumming into projects. Just like scratching and creative mixing, it is another tool that can help differentiate a DJ’s performance.

If you really want to get accurate, try to start with the very first lesson in level one, and don’t just move on after getting a passing grade. Get a 100% perfect score 5 times in a row before moving on, and be obsessive about it.

 Your live performances have a bit of everything, with live finger drumming, mixing, a bit of scratching, and real-time remixing  being key components. What made you want to incorporate all these skills as opposed to being a traditional ‘DJ’?

Back in the late 1990s when I was spinning Jungle on vinyl, I was constantly air drumming along with the records. Years later after buying the drum machine and learning it for a few weeks, I decided to try adding real-time Jungle rhythms over the mix, and that is where my format “Jungle Plus Drums” was born. As I built full routines, I incorporated those into the show. Ultimately, being able to drum, spin tunes, and multitask in the booth makes things very fun, and every set is different and quite unpredictable. Sometimes I bring my bongos to gigs too and play on those with the music.

You are a skilled drummer. How has this helped with your finger drumming performances and what are the key differences between the two?

Thanks! Coming from a drumming background definitely is a great advantage to bring to the table, but I don’t think it is necessarily required to become proficient with finger drumming. Actually, I think hand drums (Bongos, Congas, etc) are more closely related to finger drumming than kit drumming is, however the standard drum rudiments apply across the board. Any experience with drums helps build chops, so where it really comes into play is from a stamina and endurance perspective, and obviously the rhythm is helpful!

You absolutely killed it at NAMM this year getting a lot of social coverage from the likes of DJ Tech Tools and Pioneer DJ. Tell us about your NAMM experience and how it has impacted the rest of your 2016.

NAMM was an amazing experience, and something I have wanted to attend for quite some time. When Melodics asked if I would do demos at their station in the Pioneer DJ booth, I decided to book the trip. I spent a lot of time working the booth and showing folks Melodics, and was asked to do finger drumming demonstrations on the Pioneer DJ stage and the AKAI booth. That was awesome, and it was definitely a highlight some of the DJ Tech Tools guys. NAMM was a great demand creation opportunity, and has led to several opportunities with manufacturers and for booking opportunities for 2016.

A video posted by DJ TechTools (@djtechtools) on

What has been your musical highlight so far since getting into the DJ game?

There have been so many great highlights with music, it would be hard to pick just one or two. Overall, the highlight in all of this for me has been the opportunity to share music with people, and meet other music fanatics through traveling to shows, releasing tracks, and pushing limits on my video routines. In 2015 I was able to tour through 15 cities/states in the US, and it has been great to see the audience on my channels expand at such a nice pace.

Name one place you have always wanted to visit and why?

Well, I have been to the UK twice, but not for performances. That would have to be the place I’d most like to bring Jungle Plus Drums sets to this year, as it is the birthplace of so many of the styles of music I love. As for visiting, I have always wanted to see the Phi Phi Islands.

In preparation for this interview I have watched a lot of your videos. In almost all your performance videos I have noticed there has been a gold beetle and a coffee cup or thermos in shot. What do they mean?

Ah, you saved the most popular question for almost last! There are many strategic and subliminal reasons why I use those objects in the videos… watermarks for authenticity and brand imaging are two of the primary ones. You may also notice that many videos have electric clocks in the background. That is to show that the video was recorded in realtime with no speed alterations. As for the Beetle, that one’s gotta remain a secret.

Like what you have read so far? Catch the latest videos from Spinscott on his Youtube channel and read our other insightful artist interviews here.

Also don’t forget to give his new lessons ‘160 Juke Jam’ and ‘DnB Roller’ a jam on Melodics.

Jan 19

Practice Mode On Melodics // Melodics Fundamentals

by in Fundamentals

Our most requested feature is finally here. ‘Practice Mode’ has been officially added to our latest release and can accessed by all Melodics users.

In a nutshell ‘Practice Mode’ will be an essential tool to helping you learn harder Melodics lessons faster. This feature will enable you to slow down and speed up the tempo of the lessons before attempting them. What is even cooler is that ‘Practice Mode’ runs on a continuous loop so you can keep practicing over and over without having to press that pesky spacebar.

While ‘Practice Mode’ allows you to slow down the tempo you will still need to complete the lessons at their original BPM to gain points. For a more comprehensive look at the capabilities of ‘Practice Mode’ check out the video below.

Let us know what you think about ‘Practice Mode’ and how it has helped you so far on your Melodics journey. You can do so via the comments section or links below.

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