The Ghostbusters theme is at its core an exercise in Rhythm & Blues comping — but it’s been dressed up in the…. costume of 80s synth pop 👻
The iconic theme from Ghostbusters defined a point in Ray Parker Jr’s career. For those less familiar, it seemed he came out of nowhere as an artist. But for those in the know, it’s far from a one hit wonder. Rather, it is a culmination of all his talents as a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, studio engineer, composer and producer.
Given 2 days by a (somewhat desperate) Columbia Pictures to produce a title track, Ray Parker Jr was ready for the job.
But how is Ghostbusters Rhythm & Blues?
Ghostbuster’s chord harmony is ultimate Rhythm & Blues, but it’s not immediately obvious because it leans heavily on the lush synthesizer sounds of the decade, instead of using more familiar, analog instrumentation of the genre, like keys or guitars.
But the Rhythm & Blues influence makes sense, given Ray Parker Jr’s background as a session guitarist for Motown records before starting his own studio, Ameraycan.
Starting when he was only 15 years old, Parker’s musical career spans decades — having played guitar, bass, synth and lent vocals to some of the greats such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers and Bobby Womack, as well as prolific engineering credits, and composer for Barrie White, Earl Sweatshirt and Cheryl Lynn to name a few.
It was one of those days when everything came together — bang, bang, bang — and it didn’t seem like I could do anything wrong. The bass part sounded great, the drums were big. Everything sounded fat.
The main synth was a Korg Poly 61 — and a cheap Jupiter 6 on the bass line! Nothing is doubled — it’s just single lines that really fit together well.
— Ray Parker Jr, on making the ‘Ghostbusters’ Theme.
Play it. Learn it.
If you ain’t afraid of no ghost, then today is your day to shine: Melodics has released Ghostbusters as the latest song to play and learn for premium subscribers.
That main Korg synth line, the Roland Jupiter 6 bassline, and Linn Drums are exactly the sounds you’ll be playing in Melodics’ lesson for the Ghostbusters theme.
Ghostbusters is available to play for premium subscribers on Keys, Drums or Pads, just in time for an extra spooky musical Halloween.
If you don’t have a premium Melodics subscription, or you want to build up your abilities before playing Ghostbusters on keys, pads or drums — we’ve got you sorted, with this handpicked selection of skill-building courses for each instrument.
Level up your left hand technique with the Cassette Basslines course, featuring a series of lo-fi synthy bassline lessons designed to target strength, coordination and agility in the left hand. Then take it to funk town with Mark de Clive-Lowe’s Bassline Bootcamp. Here you’ll come to grips with left-handed basslines and exercises across different styles, and use techniques like walking, octave stretches and complex rhythms. You’ll walk away understanding how bassline melodies can be built with pentatonic scales, intervals and syncopated patterns.
Ba-da-da-da-Ba-da-da-da-Pssh! Let’s learn fills in this course to help transitions, break up patterns and draw listeners’ attention to changes in the music — you’ll need this for some of the iconic Linn Drum fills in Ghostbusters! Then, take it to the next level with Linear Drumming, play basic linear beats, added toms and 1/16 variations, and incorporated fills over section and groove changes.
To get ready for Ghostbusters, you need to go back to the future! Explore these two courses get those skills up. First, in Kicks, Claps, Snares you’ll play 1/8 & 1/16 note syncopated drum grooves and work on your coordination skills by playing hand independent rhythms over bouncy hip hop drum grooves.
Then, expand on a basic Funk beat with a series of variations in the style of the legendary Clyde Stubblefield in Ain’t it Funky. Here, you’ll perform a fundamental funk drum groove, create variations of a drum groove by shifting beats on the kick, snare and open hi-hat, and learn how to perform a swung hi-hat rhythm.
Away from your instrument? Get in the Ray-zone.
If you’re not by your instrument, then get in the halloween spirit and feast your ears on the genius of Ray Parker Jr with this playlist.
Far from a 1-hit-wonder, this playlist showcases a trophy cabinet of his musical credits, from the ’70s right up to present day; spanning genres like Motown, Rhythm & Blues, Disco, 80s Synth, Electronica, and Hip Hop.
Popular songs are almost here. There’s no chance of pre-gig nerves, as the community response has been huge!
Here’s your sneak peek of what’s coming to Melodics 5th September 2022. Check out the buzz from the community, check out and decide which songs are yours to tackle first from launch.
Don’t take it from us — people are reacting to Melodics’ songs
The Songs Playlist
You know them, you’ve heard them on Spotify, and now you can learn to play them! From launch day, you can test your talents on any song in this playlist.
Each song is lovingly deconstructed into numerous lessons, across a variety of difficulties and skill sets, for MIDI keys, pads and drums. With the full force of Melodics backing it, you can get inside the music you love so you can learn every trick of the artists you admire.
This isn’t just a “one and done”. More songs will continue to be added to our catalog regularly.
If you want to learn to play your favourite song by your favourite artist or band, then contribute your flavour to the full alphabet of musical soup — from Arctic Monkeys to Warren Zevon (and many more), the request line is open and awaiting your call.
Don’t forget! For current subscribers and those who subscribe before Melodics September launch – you’ll get access to songs first with a free upgrade to your plan. There’s no time like the present to knuckle down and get your skills polished off!
Otherwise, songs will also be available to new subscribers to Melodics from September as a part of a new premium subscription package.
Listening to music inspired many of us to pick up an instrument in the first place. You’ve actually been practicing your whole life, just by listening to music.
The Melodics approach has always been to make sure our lessons represent the sounds of modern music, and that above all else our learners are having an experience that’s relevant. Gone are the days of learning nursery rhymes before you learn the real stuff. Still D.R.E is the new Twinkle Twinkle.
We’ve talked to people about their past experiences of music education, and a common thread we see time and time again is that they gave up because the things they were learning didn’t line up with the musical experiences they had grown up with; it wasn’t familiar, or what they wanted to actually play.
Until now our lessons and courses have been created for Melodics in-house by our music team, who in their own time are successful producers, band members and music teachers. We’ve also worked closely with artists to produce original content. But while it sounds like the music you know, it’s still not exactly the music you know.
So what’s the missing piece to the puzzle?
While our guided path, courses, lessons and exercises are the ideal way to build your skills as a beginner – exploring and learning popular songs takes you from instrument learner to instrument player.
Learning songs is about building your repertoire. The things you can play anytime, anywhere, and share with anyone over a lifetime.
Practice makes more sense if you’re aiming for something. With songs, there’s now something to put a target on and a goal to reach. There’s also the benchmarking of your progress that happens when you learn another song. What is a better sign that you’ve made progress, than saying “I can play that now” when it’s in the context of a song we all know and love?
At Melodics we aim to provide a learning experience that is fun, relevant and effective, and an experience of learning that makes progress consistent and easy to maintain. As a beginner we recommend the Guided Path to lay important skill foundations and let us hold your hand. As you begin to improve and your confidence grows, it’s time to start exploring and pushing your learning edge in different directions through our open catalog of lessons and courses.
Songs are the newest addition, where you can put everything you’re learning from the guided path, lessons and courses into practice.
– Benjamin Locke, Melodics’ Music Team Lead
Songs will be available to subscribers in Melodics from September. If you’re new to Melodics, you can start your journey now and build up your skills to get ready.
Set for official release this September; Songs is an exciting new catalog of Melodics lessons based on popular music from artists you love. With Songs, you can learn to play music you know, the songs that inspire you and grow your repertoire of real-world sounds.
Songs from artists like Green Day, Lorde, Dr Dre, Queen, System Of A Down, Beyonce, Silk Sonic, Outkast, and many more.
Songs will be available to subscribers in Melodics from September. For current subscribers and those who subscribe before launch – you’ll get access first with a free upgrade to your plan.
While Melodics’ Guided learning content and lessons are the best place for building your skills, exploring Songs help you benchmark your ability in a real-world context and give you something to aim for.
Until now, we’ve heard users say they have been unable to really know how their skills translate into the real world. Songs make all that practice worthwhile when you have a target in mind.
Read more about how Songs fit into the bigger picture of your learning experience.
Popular songs are the number one request from users. We’re designing our diverse catalog with the community feedback in our minds.
The request line is open, and we’re excited to hear more of what drummers, keys players and finger drummers want to play.
Melodics has laid some new foundations in the Progress section of the app.
The new Progress Overview tab is a single resource to help you start or continue making more progress with your learning.
Melodics’ measures of progress simplify how “practice makes perfect.” We heard from users that Stars, Levels, Records and Trophies needed a clean way to make better sense of them; what they mean, how to get them in the first place, and what you need to do to get more.
Your progress tab won’t only show you what you’ve done. The Progress Overview shows you what you can do next to take that progress even further. With goals defined, you have something to aim for — so what better way to show progress than with a progress bar? 😆
In the Overview tab, you’ll see all the familiar indicators of your progress at a high level: your Level, Stars and Records collected, as well as how much time and effort you’ve put in through Streaks, Trophies and Daily Goals achieved.
Where do you start? Where do you go next? What do you do when things get tricky? What should you be focusing on?
These are common questions we hear from those looking to get started – and we felt the same thing when we were beginners. Because sometimes, it’s just nice to have a little guidance!
Say hello to Melodics’ Guided Path.
The Guided Path is your introduction to the critical skills needed to play drums, keys, or pads confidently.
Here you’ll find a map through a curated selection of Melodics Courses – specifically designed to help you find your way to improve your skills from the ground up on your chosen instrument..
Don’t worry about having any prior experience or theoretical knowledge: The Guided Path starts you off with playing music at your level, and growing your ability right from the beginning!
If you’re new to learning and unsure if you’re ready to dive into the vast array of Lessons and Courses available in Melodics: then working your way through each Course in the Guided Path will make sure you stay focused, and lay down the rock-solid foundation you need first to continue building upon and explore throughout your musical life.
What does the Guided Path look like?
Starting with fundamental musical building blocks, then expanding and branching into more specific concepts and skills – the Guided Path grows with you as your ability and interests progress.
What do you want to learn? Take your pick of drums, keys, or pads – there is a dedicated Guided Path for each of them. In total, there are more than 60 courses and over 250 lessons as part of the Guided Paths that are there to guide you every step of the way.
The Guided Path for Drums.
The Guided Path for Drums is based around developing a comprehensive understanding of the basic drum grooves and applying rudiments. From there, you’ll develop the skills to create your own grooves, and beyond.
Once you’ve developed a solid foundation, you’ll explore courses on coordination, building limb independence, exciting fills, linear playing, and time signatures which will prime you for confidently stepping out into the world of more advanced drumming.
The Melodics Guided Path for Drums will support you when you are stuck, providing a way to trace back to the fundamental skills you might have missed, allowing you to learn and develop the skills that matter, faster. – Benjamin Locke, Creative Production & Content Creator
The Guided Path for Keys.
The Melodics Guided Path for Keys is a modern curriculum for anyone keen to learn the keyboard – focusing on both practical and theoretical concepts through Melodics’ play-to-learn methodology.
Feel free to start off with the basics, like orienting your left and right hands, rhythm and time signatures, note lengths and note interval basics. From there, you can get introduced to playing melodies, triads, chord inversions, 7th chords, common chord progressions, rhythmic syncopation, arpeggios, and basslines – all the building blocks of modern music!
Higher and lower-level concepts are always present in music – The journey of music is non-linear and all about making connections between things. The more connections you make, the more you start to recognise certain features, almost as though they weren’t there before. – Robert Bruce, Creative Production & Content Creator
With an emphasis on a wide range of contemporary genres like Hip-Hop, Pop, RnB and Electronic, completing the Guided Path is guaranteed fun and accessible for everyone.
The Guided Path for Pads.
The Melodics Guided Path for Pads is the first interactive music-learning program designed specifically for Pads as an instrument. It’s important for anyone who wants help building and strengthening their finger drumming skill-set.
The pads Guided Path starts you off with exploring your instrument from a rhythmic perspective: coordination, orientation, counting beats, and seeing beat subdivisions. You’ll hone in on how to think and play pads like a drummer does drums using the Mirror Layout, build upon the classic Backbeat, into creating drum grooves and develop a syncopated swung-feel in your playing style.
By playing through the Guided Path you will exercise core skills in multiple musical contexts. Through this, you will gain adaptability and versatility in your playing. Adapting your style and problem solving helps you connect your physical skills with your conscious understanding of what you are trying to do. This will help you become a better finger drummer and musician. – Ruby Walsh, Creative Production & Content Strategy
You’ll have built a solid foundation to progress into where pads as an instrument really shines: the exciting world of live beat techniques, and incorporating instrumental and scale sounds into your playing repertoire – whether that’s in the bedroom, with a band, the studio or the stage.
The Guided Path has evolved! What’s new?
We’ve given our Guided Path a huge boost. Along with introducing new, revamped courses by our expert music team, we’ve combined two essential Melodics features to give you the ultimate learning experience: Guided Path and Records.
Guided Path: meet Records.
We see the Guided Path as an incredibly valuable learning environment for those new to an instrument.
Where the Guided Path helps you build up a solid foundation of critical skills you might need to confidently explore music – Records provide video explanations of those concepts and ideas, which summarise and keep track of everything you’ve just learned.
Combining these two is the perfect marriage! Incorporating Records helps to better reinforce the benefits of the Guided Path, offering an all-in-one, synergetic place to learn, explore and measure your mastery of fundamental musical skills as you progress.
We’ve re-assigned Records so that they are solely found and collected in corresponding lessons throughout the Guided Path, to really support the topic you’re learning at that time. When you want to review or revisit Records all in one place, just head to your Progress section in Melodics.
Compare how it felt listening to music before you ever learned an instrument, to how it feels now. Different?
Personally, I’ve found that after learning about music, how I observed it entirely changed. When I was younger, enjoyment of music for me was essentially pure unabashed appreciation for what I heard — I didn’t think about why I might like it, I just knew whether I did or not. But now that I’m familiar with playing and composing music, I can’t help but engage with it more; deconstruct the song, analyse the musicianship, critically listen to the instrumentation or compare it to my own ability.
You see, experiencing music changes for people if or as their musical journey progresses. Sometimes it’s good to remember what it was like before — how fresh and exciting it all sounded — and just enjoy music again as innocently as with the ears of a child, unadulterated by knowledge.
If you’re feeling burnt out on learning, here are some suggestions of other ways to engage with music that don’t involve actually practicing or playing – that could help you tap back into the aspiration and grit needed to keep you on your musical trajectory.
Listen to music (just, really listen)
Engaging with recorded music increasingly reads as consumption, rather than something to do with pleasure or leisure, or invigorating our own creativity. Reconnecting with music as a source of nourishment and inspiration can help jaded learners fall back in love with music and stay in the game. Here are a few ideas for how you can recalibrate your relationship with music through the way you listen:
Practice active listening as much as you can. So often, listening to music is a passive activity – especially now that algorithms are so finessed at serving stuff up. Dial down the distractions, and give yourself a moment with some tasty tunes where you actually shut your eyes and hone in on the way a song’s been constructed: what’s really going on in there, and why does it make you feel so good – or not? Here are some suggestions of what to listen for, from Ableton.
Create a playlist of songs you’d love to play live, and close-listen to the tracks. Imagine how your body would need to move if you were playing along, on your instrument of choice. What would your breath be doing? Your muscles? How would you centre yourself and lock into the groove? Great performers inhabit their music, and vice versa – their instrument, and the sounds they make with it, seem to be an extension of them. A lot of that boils down to psychology and being fully in the zone, not necessarily playing in a way that’s technically perfect. So, go on, spend some time with music thinking about how it makes you feel, and how you’d create that same sort of energy if you were the one performing.
If you need a little more hand-holding than that, we’re here for you! Check out this playlist of tunes the Melodics team is listening to, over on Spotify.
How much does the way we listen affect the impact music has on us? Australian composer and sound artist Lawrence English is a firm proponent that listening to music is a creative act in and of itself. Catch his Loop 2018 talk on the topic here.
We’ve also put together some Guided Listening blog posts, to help you identify an area of interest, and really dive in. Explore them here.
Get to know your heroes
Listening to podcasts is a great way to absorb inspirational insights into the career trajectories of your musical heroes: hear war stories; find out how their songs were put together; demystify their enigma (or have it reinforced); and learn where different artists sit in the wider cultural landscape. These are some of our go-to’s, which never fail to get us psyched about playing music ourselves:
Questlove Supreme is a fun, irreverent and educational weekly podcast that digs deep into the stories of musical legends and cultural icons in a way that only Questlove can deliver. Not your typical interview show, this is about legends and legends in the making bringing their legacy to life in their own words. Look out for eps with the likes of Q-Tip, Pharoahe Monch, Chaka Khan, Weird Al, Biz Markie, and Babyface.
Song Exploder sees artists dissect one of their strongest songs over the course of an episode and, piece by piece, tell the story of how it was made. Isolating the individual tracks that comprise the final recording, host Hrishikesh Hirway asks artists to delve into the specific decisions that went into creating their hit. Over 200 episodes have been created so far, featuring the likes of The Roots, Yo-Yo Ma, Jon Hopkins, Fleetwood Mac, Billie Eilish, Metallica, FKA Twigs, Arlo Parks, and Robyn. Also clock the Netflix version.
Broken Record sees Rick Rubin, Malcolm Gladwell, and former New York Times editor Bruce Headlam take turns interviewing some of the biggest names in music. Rubin’s episodes are of particular note – hearing the legendary producer chew the fat with the likes of Brian Eno, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and David Byrne is pretty special stuff, and a great reminder of how magical music can make you feel.
Switched on Pop
Switched On Pop is a podcast about the making and meaning of popular music hosted by musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding, produced by Rock Ridge Productions, Vox Media Podcast Network and New York Magazine. The hosts chat with leading artists, songwriters and producers to break down hit pop tunes to figure out what gives them their x-factor, and the role cultural context plays.
What had happened was
What had happened was sees Open Mike Eagle sit down with legendary hip hop artists for an in-depth look at their life, impact, and legacy over the course of one season. Season one covers DJ Prince Paul (De La Soul, Handsome Boy Modeling School). Season two covers El-P (Company Flow, Run the Jewels).
There’s more to music than playing live! Developing your understanding of things like sound design, production and composition can help you to find the fire for music creation and performance again. Here are some great resources that take you behind-the-scenes of music making:
Sound design, production and composition tips
Signals Music Studio – From songwriting to modal theory for dummies, Signals Music Studio cover all bases
Ashley Simpson started off using Melodics with virtually no musical experience — yet now she’s realising her musical goals of live performances, producing and recording her own original compositions as the artist Flawed Freedom.
To ice the cake — Flawed Freedom’s debut album ‘Four Thirty’ has just launched.
Reflecting on her childhood in Sierra Vista, Arizona, Ashley Simpson, aka the finger-drummer and music producer Flawed Freedom’s fondest memories revolve around music. “I used to ride in the car with my mother and sister singing along to Deborah Cox, S.W.V or Xscape,” she recalls. “Thinking about music also makes me think about family barbecues; you already know we always had music going at those,” she continues to include NSNYC, Backstreet Boys and Motown Records. “I played sports as a child, and I really wanted to play drums and piano, but my mother couldn’t afford for me to do both, so that was that,” she says.
But years later, in 2018 Flawed Freedom chanced across a video clip that stopped her in her tracks: a short routine from the well-loved hip-hop producer and finger-drummer Beats By J Black.
“He’d flipped a sample from ‘So Gone’ by Monica and he was finger drumming it,” she remembers. “I just fell in love.” Blown away, she showed the video to her boyfriend and said, “I wish I could do this.” He replied with a simple, supportive question, “Why can’t you?”
“Why can’t you?”
By this point, Flawed Freedom was no stranger to Youtube tutorials. She had purchased a midi keyboard and racked up a bit of digital audio workstation experience recording herself improvising in the Logic Pro program, but that was about the extent of it.
“I’d purchased a controller, and I wasn’t even sure how to map it correctly using Logic,” she admits. All of that changed when J Black’s youtube videos led her to an advert for Melodics.
“I was so intrigued by J Black, and the software had lessons from him in it … I wanted to do all of his lessons straight away, and I just clicked with it. I didn’t have to think about what kick to use or what snare … The plug and play functionality made it very easy.”
With no real agenda or clear plan, Flawed Freedom made a point of trying to do something music-related every day. It’s a simple practice, and one that she still follows.
“I don’t think I had a particular goal in mind when I first picked up finger drumming, I just really liked music and wanted to learn how to flip samples. I was intrigued by the pads, triggering these pads, and the live performance aspect. I really would have never thought that I’d have a YouTube page or an Instagram, you know? It’s been such an interesting, unexpected journey.”
Once she was practising in Melodics regularly, Simpson gravitated towards lessons from STLNDRMS, OddKidOut, Jeremy Ellis, DiViNCi, Jeia and, of course, J Black. “I kept trying to be better, and it was really fun for me. It became such a de-stressor. If I was in a bad mood, I would finger drum. If I was happy, I would finger drum. So it just became part of my everyday life.”
“I think maybe the first or second day I practised for two hours or something,” she remembers. “I just could not stop playing. I really pride myself on my quality, and I wanted to get the three-star rating. I was not happy with one star; I wasn’t happy with two stars. I would just come right back to it. I’d be on there until my arms hurt.”
Daily practice taught Flawed Freedom about timing, hand independence and strength. “It all helped me get my fingers and arms to the strength I needed them to have,” she laughs. “I did not have that at first. I was struggling, but it was so fun.”
Session by session, the pure pleasure of that process helped Flawed Freedom unlock skills she’d never even dreamed of having. “I don’t want to overuse the word mind-blowing, but I continue to surprise myself and the people closest to me because I’ve just picked this up so quickly,” she reflects.
Practising those lessons also reinforced her thinking around the sound that she was dreaming up in her head. “I think I have a lo-fi hip-hop sound,” she explains, while also referencing her fandom for the dearly departed Crenshaw rapper/social motivator Nipsey Hussle and North Carolina rapper, producer and Dreamville record label owner J.Cole “I really like old school samples and that soulful sound. I think I’ll start to incorporate vocals into what I do soon, but really it’s hip-hop and trap with a soulful bent.”
“I really respect the fact that she has bars and is such a great vocalist. Her recent album Industry Games was very impactful to me.”
Once she started to feel comfortable in her skills, Flawed Freedom took a few crucial steps. First, she contacted the British Sri Lankan producer, live performer, DJ and educator Gnarly Music for some online music lessons. Gnarly assessed Flawed Freedom’s experience, explained some fundamentals to her, and set her up to play and record on Native Instruments Maschine hardware/software digital audio workstation.”
Reflecting on it now, she realises that she didn’t fully comprehend how much of a foundation Melodics had given her at the time.
“When I started taking lessons with Gnarly, she told me, ‘Wow, you’re picking this up pretty quick,’ there were some advanced hi-hats that she showed me. Gnarly said they took her however long to learn, and I was learning it in our third or fourth session. I’m almost certain that if it hadn’t been for Melodics, getting the basic timing of things down and learning how to work my hands differently, I wouldn’t have advanced so quickly with her.”
Giving practice purpose
After beginning her Maschine journey with Gnarly Beats, Flawed Freedom tackled the nerves that can come with sharing your music in public by opening an Instagram account and a Youtube Channel. She started uploading videos of her routines and improvised jams regularly and was quickly rewarded with warm praise and a sense of purpose.
“In my short experience, I’ve started to really understand the impact of what I’m doing,” she says. “At first, it was all about me, but now it’s about inspiring people. It’s about helping people with anxiety. It’s about showing little girls that it might be a male-dominated industry, but there’s still space for us here; just as much space. I don’t take it lightly.”
From there, Flawed Freedom cut back on her Melodics use while she was honing her recording and live performance skills in the studio. “I got a little gear and software crazy,” she laughs. “Now I use Maschine, Ableton and FL Studio.” Working away, she developed a beat-making practice she describes as a mixture of sampling and music theory. “It just kind of flows,” she continues. “Now it’s about feeling. Do my ears like this? I start a lot of my tracks with piano, and I really like mallets. I try not to overthink it and just do what feels good. If something doesn’t sound great, I’ll save it and come back to it later. I just want people to be moved.”
The future is bright
More recently, however, as she prepares to start releasing her recordings properly, Flawed Freedom has found herself returning to Melodics regularly again. “I’ve recently gone back and stuff that was so difficult back then, months ago, or however long, I can knock out now, no problem,” she enthuses. “I think that’s really cool just to see the progression and know that I really am putting in the time and the work to be better.”
This time around, she’s also found her relationship with the software shifting, reflecting: “At first, when I was doing Melodics, I was just focused on drums and timing”. Now what I take from Melodics is this. If I do a lesson on finger independence and I don’t do that well, I know that’s something I really need to work on. So whether it’s in Melodics, or outside of Melodics, I’m doing things to try and work on my finger independence or my hand independence.”
Moving forward, aside from releasing music, Flawed Freedom has dreams of opening her own online beat store to sell instrumentals to vocalists and rappers. After the pandemic is under control, she hopes to start performing live and pay it forward by teaching finger drumming and production to eager students. And when the time comes, she knows what she’ll say to them:
“Don’t take it too seriously, don’t stress yourself out, and have a good time. Be consistent — and that doesn’t mean you have to set a confined schedule of what you’re going to do — but just consistently work on your craft. Make sure you’re true to yourself. Everyone has opinions. Everybody has feedback, and that’s nice, but do what makes you happy. Make the music that you want to make and be consistent. Be true to yourself, and you can’t go wrong.”
Hopefully, as Flawed Freedom’s profile rises, she’ll continue to communicate these messages to others for years to come.
Four Thirty – Flawed Freedom – the debut EP
Purchasing her first home on 20th April 2021, and with a tumultuous 2020 in hindsight, Flawed Freedom has now entered a transformational period of her life, coinciding with releasing her first EP ‘Four Thirty.’
For her, “April 30th signifies a new beginning” — a fitting symbol of the rapid metamorphosis from the musically-untrained Ashley Simpson, to the finger drummer and producer Flawed Freedom.
With that beginning, I’ve released fear and doubt and shared my very first EP. Four Thirty is a blend of soul, funk, and hip-hop and it’s my hope that it relaxes folks as well as makes you want to move.
Here at Melodics, we believe it’s never too late to get started on the journey of learning music. We also know that when you start learning music later in life, it’s easy to feel discouraged by what you need to catch up on or frustrated with your progress.
Today, we’re sharing a story with you about someone who came to music later in life, pushed through discouragement, and changed the sound of popular music.
“There are some very happy people who top out playing in the lobby at holiday inns. But the they’re playing music, and they’re happy… So it’s supposed to make you happy. Don’t value your gift according to where you fall on the scale of ‘commercial’, ‘professionalism’: enjoy it! If you can lock yourself up in your closet and just groove, don’t cheat yourself out of that!.”
— Bill Withers
When the great American soul man Bill Withers released his signature song ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ in 1971, he was an unknown 31-year-old singer-songwriter and musician who worked a nine-to-five job assembling toilets for an aircraft parts company in Southern California. That year, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ ascended into the top ten of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart before becoming the first of three gold records in the US for Bill.
Even as his star rose, Bill initially refused to give up his day job, to the extent where the cover of his debut album, Just As I Am, was shot at his workplace on a lunch break. As ‘Ain’t No Sunshine was followed by ‘Grandma’s Hands’ and ‘Lean On me’, Bill became a ubiquitous star within the great pantheon of American music. Seemingly overnight, he was the toast of the country.
In reality, Bill was anything but an overnight success, and actually, coming to music later in life became a source of strength for him. By the time he bought his first guitar in his late 20s, Bill had spent just under a decade serving with the United States Navy. He left school at 17 because of a chronic stutter which left him withdrawn and socially disconnected. In the navy, Bill received speech therapy, which built his self-confidence.
Growing up as an outsider gave him a sharp observational eye, and coming to music at an older age gave him time to think about what really needed to be said in songs. In 1967, he garnered his first opportunity to show off his skills through releasing a single titled ‘Three Nights And A Morning’ through the New York-based Lotus label. Although the single was produced and arranged by the great Mort Garson, it sank without a trace at the time.
Undeterred, Bill continued performing in nightclubs around Los Angeles, writing songs and recording demo tapes with money earned from daytime assembly jobs at IBM, Ford and Douglas Aircraft Corporation. In 1970, Clarence Avant, the owner of Sussex Records, heard one of Bill’s tapes and signed him up for the first of three albums through the label, Just As I Am (crediting none other than greats Stephen Stills, Booker T Jones, Jim Keltner, Al Jackson Jr., Bobbye Porter in musical personnel).
‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ turned nostalgia for something that was hurting you into a top ten hit, and ‘Grandma’s Hands’ and ‘Lean On Me’ placed affection for family and friends on an equal footing to romantic love. Song by song, Bill drew from his life experience and observations to establish a new emotional vocabulary for popular American music. If he had started writing music earlier or hadn’t had challenges to overcome first, Bill wouldn’t have had as deep a wellspring to draw from as a songwriter and musician.
The story of the first stage of his career is a telling reminder that it’s never too late to start pursuing something you love, and actually, if you’re willing to work at it, starting later can be a deep and enduring source of strength.
Bill Withers left the public eye just as he arrived: quickly, and on his own terms. “The business came to me in my 30s. I was socialised as a regular guy. I never felt like I owned it or it owned me… When somebody asks ‘what have you been doing?’ the answer is ‘living’,” he reflected in 2003. “I have no bitterness. I just live and whatever happens, happens.”
“So if you feel like you have the gift, and you want to find out. Make yourself available, and the world will let you know”
What’s our most precious resource and something you can only spend once?
If you didn’t guess already, the answer is time. It’s rather ironic, that given its fleeting nature, we still tend to spend our time quite casually…
A lack-of-time, however, is the #1 reason people give for abandoning their dreams of learning or mastering an instrument. And yet time is the one thing guaranteed it will take to get there!
In reality though, life is filled with plenty of high-priority things — so in our quest for finding that perfect balance, we say that even 5 minutes of music every now and again is better than never at all.
So in the spirit of prime numbers, here’s 7 things the time impaired can do in Melodics that’ll fit in and around just about any other life commitments, ready any time you find yourself with a spare moment or three.
1. Do a quick session with one of our Daily Warmups or workout exercises.
The point of these isn’t about learning anything specific, or playing the notes right as you’re not playing a whole lesson or course. The main thing here is that you’re using your brain differently than you do at other points of your daily life.
You’re limbering up, building your muscle memory and dexterity. You’re just passively getting used to being confident on your instrument, and importantly: you can stop doing a warmup just as easily as it is to start one: whenever you feel like it.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but playing a lesson a few grades too hard for you means that your expectations really aren’t going to have you beating yourself up about the inevitable score! Even for seemingly impossibly fast songs, you can slow the track down using Practice Mode to a point where it’s playable.
So what’s the point of this then?
It’s amazing how much simply getting the lay of the land helps set a benchmark for future attempts and how you improve with time. You don’t even have to complete a lesson to benefit from this.
Use the filter settings to search by lesson grade, and pick something a couple of grades higher than where you’d comfortably sit. Give it a quick crack!
3. Jam over a track on a lesson you’ve nearly or recently completed.
Look for the unlocked Playground Mode icon on any lesson’s completion screen.
Heaps of musicians record themselves jamming, or free-playing over their compositions to get creative, listen back and evaluate their playing, or to find some sweet-sounding gems they might save for a rainy day.
So mix it up! Don’t feel that using Melodics is all about practise, learning or getting feedback on your ability. It’s really important to just be playing music for the sheer joy of it — and prove to yourself and no-one else that you’ve got a couple of tricks in the bag.
Playground Mode is the perfect way to remove all script, structure and rules and just play whatever you feel like. And the cool thing is you can record and listen back to your last attempt.
You unlock this mode on any lesson you’ve already passed (i.e. getting 1-star or more on it), so check it out!
It’s easy to get caught up in doing something new — but what about those lessons you probably did ages ago and passed? We’re not A+ passed — we mean the stuff you might’ve just scraped by on… But we bet you’d totally smash them out of the park if you tried them again now.
Go on, let’s put a bow on some of those 1- or 2-star lessons with a 3-star performance (or… more?), and show us all that progress you’ve made!
Use the search filter to browse by 1- or 2- stars to find a good lesson.
Remember when you’d spend hours agonising over creating that perfect compilation? Choosing songs to fit on 23-minutes a side, whilst perfectly capturing every nuance of your personality, every agonizing detail of your teenage complexity?
Yeah, na, me neither. These days it’s done in a heartbeat on Spotify anyway. And you can do this in Melodics too: just think of the favourites button as a hot-key for your personal Top 25 (PRO TIP: it doesn’t have to be at your normal workstation, you could even download the Melodics iPad app and make a playlist from anywhere you feel like!)
So one of the best ways you can make your practices faster and more productive is removing the obstacles and being prepared!
Do yourself a favour, and pick some favourites now for practising another time!
Lessons and courses are all divided up into component steps.
Not only is it not required for you to complete the lot in one sitting, rather, it’s often better to just stop after the first step, and come back to continue or redo the rest at a later date. Think of it less like a marathon, and more of an enjoyable hike — you’ll still end up going the same distance either way. And hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day…
That’s right, we’re telling you not to finish a lesson — just do the first step.
Spreading lessons out over time helps build habits better — it reinforces repeated behaviour with multi-session structure, rather than 1-offs, doesn’t overload your brain or drain you of energy, and above all bite-sized pieces makes the prospect of success easier to achieve and less labourious.
Hands up if when you think about practising, you tend to focus on the effort of setting up instead: clearing off your desk, opening up the app, plugging your instrument in and turning it on, thinking about what genre you want to play, scrolling through and previewing endless lessons? It’s a motivation killer! Remember what we said about 5 minutes every now and then is better than never at all? Let’s make sure then that it’s time well spent: fun, simple and effective.
So here’s something different: you can still play in Melodics without even plugging an instrument in! Regardless of whether you play keys, pads or drums, or what your favourite genre is: rhythm, timing, and dexterity are universal traits foundational to musical confidence (so it’s not just ‘ok’ to try play a different instrument or genre when you’re practising — it’s great for you!)
1) Open up the Melodics app;
2) Choose any simple and easy lesson (tip: browse by low grade), and;
3) Use your laptop’s keyboard or the onscreen UI if you’re on iPad.
Here’s some handpicked lessons you can do on a computer keyboard or iPad UI: