It’s getting close to February! You’ve changed your diet (no foods starting with B), decided to learn Esperanto, vowed to run 5 miles a day, and make it to grade 20 in Melodics.
Great! But you’re still stuck on grade 6.
When you begin it’s normal to see rapid improvements. When that stops it’s natural to feel you’ve hit your limit of ability when in reality you’ve just hit a plateau. How do you move beyond your plateau? The answer is to challenge yourself in a new way.
Some examples of this could be taking lessons from an easier grade and…
emphasising your weak hand / fingers
speeding up lesson patterns as fast as you can
You can also think about the specific skills you’re finding hard. It could that you’re struggling with finger independence, endurance or syncopation. To work out what you might be finding difficult in each lesson, check out the tags for each lesson when in lesson list view.
A good way to work on these skills is to use the “Browse by” button to sort by tag to show the full list of lessons relating to that skill – then you can go back and practice this on some easier grade lessons and slowly work your way back.
It might seem like going backwards, but in the long run it’ll help your progress.
Moving past the plateau isn’t just about practicing more, it’s about practicing the right thing.
Set yourself a challenge this week and let us know how you go!
Melodics uses the principles of a method of learning called ‘Deep Practice.’ It’s the process of slowing things down, zooming-in with focus, and deliberately building a great result step-by-step. These ideas draw heavily from the research of Anders Ericsson and Daniel Coyle and although they’re often applied to sport and athletic training, they work just as well for building muscle memory and developing musical skills.
Here’s how Deep Practice works within a Melodics lesson:
1: Pick a lesson and listen to it as a whole. It’s important to get familiar with the music you’ll be performing using preview mode and then orientate yourself to the finger placements.
2: Divide the song into small steps or components and practice and memorize these separately. Then, link them together in progressively larger groupings. You’ll notice that in the early grades we do a lot of the dividing into steps for you. As the grades increase and the steps become more difficult, you might find it useful to divide them up even further using practice mode and setting loops.
3: Play with time, first slowing the action down and then speeding it up. Slowing down helps you to focus more closely on errors, creating a higher degree of precision. Use features in practice mode such as auto-bpm or wait-mode to build up your muscle memory and reflexes. Be patient with yourself, this can take a while!
4: Pick a part of the song you want to master, reach for it then evaluate the gap between your target and the goal and start again. You can track your progress each session and see how you’re progressing. Detecting mistakes is essential for making progress. This error-focused element of deep practice makes it a struggle, a process of ‘brain stretching’ which is likely to be slightly frustrating but which leads to growth.
5: Keep practicing like this every day. This is the crucial part that so many people forget but even a small amount (5 minutes) of this deliberate and focused practice every day will lead to better results than large infrequent practice sessions that don’t have a structure and focus.
Give it a go and let us know how you get on.
To learn more about the ideas and research on this subject, check out the following books: Anders Ericsson ‘Peak’ and Daniel Coyle ‘The Talent Code’.
Stro Elliot is the master of the pads. Recently named as an official member of The Roots, he’s continuing his amazing run of form from the last year – leading the way for pad drummers with his signature style of performance.
We were lucky enough to witness a masterclass from Stro in Berlin, at the Ableton Loop Conference. Not only did he show off his crazy fast fingers, he also broke down some of his technique and his unique performance setup.
Here’s a few pieces of wisdom from the maeSTRO.
Breaking down the 🥁 break
Since samplers arrived on the scene, producers have been creatively chopping up breaks and loops. Rather than just playing a loop, breaking it up into the individual hits gives you a palette of sounds to work with to make it your own. Stro maps these hits across his Ableton Push controller mirroring how he sets up a normal kit with variations of kicks, snares, hats, ghost hits, and vocal chops across the pads.
See how he works with breaks in the short video below to create his own pattern.
Keeping an organic feel to the kit 🌱
Stro arranges all his kits in a specific way, based on how he plays. He plays most of the beat on his right hand, leaving the left hand to add accents, play ghost hits and add complexity. Whether it’s adding the 1/16 note hi hat, or a roll to the pattern, having the extra hits available for the left hand lets him add variety.
Watch how Stro arranges his kit, and why it helps him in the short video below.
Feel like practicing now? As a subscriber, you can play Stro Elliot’s lessons in Melodics + lessons from loads of other great artists 😎
If you want to give pad drumming a try, download Melodics and try out our free lessons today.
We never said it would be easy! Getting those 3 stars can be a struggle, so we’ve put together a guide to the best way to tackle a lesson in Melodics. The aim is that by following this guide, you will not only be able to three star the lesson, you’ll be able to play it freestyle without any assistance from Melodics.
You might want to apply this to each step in the lesson – or just the tricky ones!
Step 1: Select your lesson
It may seem obvious, but take a moment to think about why you pick a lesson. Is it in a genre you want to learn? Do you like the sound of the lesson? Are you working toward building a particular skill or technique? The key is to have an outcome to work towards, it will help you to stay motivated! Part 2: Check out the pad layout.
The first stage of the lesson will be in the preplay screen. Start by playing each pad, and work out what sample is on each pad. Switch between the pad labels and finger allocation [screenshot] to see which fingers to use on each pad. Bear in mind that if you’re playing a low grade lesson, the finger allocations might be designed so that you can play other parts later in the higher grade version.
Part 3: Preview the beat.
Hit the preview button [little Screen shot], and have a listen. Get a feel for the groove, watch the pads lighting up, and familiarise yourself with the basic pattern. Now your ready for your first attempt. Hit the Play button [little screen shot]
Part 4. Figure Out The Pattern.
Welcome to the Play screen. Step four is all about figuring out the pattern of the lesson. Don’t worry about getting through the whole thing on the first pass, just spend some time figuring out the arrangement. Before you start, hit each pad, and watch which line lights up. This will give you a visual reference and help you to associate each pad with the track in the play screen. Start, and make the first attempt to play along. Restart often!
Part 5. Using Practice Mode
By now you should have the basic feel for the beat – but actually playing it is another story. This is where practice mode comes in. Switch to practice mode [screen shot], and play through a few times with the tempo turned right down. If there is a particularly tricky part, you might want to set a loop to concentrate on that part.
When you feel like you’re starting to get it, turn on Auto BPM. This will ramp up the BPM each time you “pass” the arrangement.
At this point, it’s largely about just putting in the reps. If you’re not getting it, dont sweat it too much. Each time you play through it, you’re building muscle memory. You might find that when you come back to practice the next day, your first pass is much better!
Pro Tip: Combine Loop and Auto BPM. Each time you pass the loop, the BPM will increase, so you’ll get there faster with a smaller loop than playing the entire arrangement.
Part 6: Back to perform mode.
By this stage, you should be reasonably comfortable, and getting 1 star at least some of the time. Time to switch it up!
Stop looking at the screen.
Look down at the pads, focus on your fingers. Some hardware has pad lighting, so you get feedback directly under your fingers. Again, this stage is all about reps.
Part 7. A little less help.
Getting it? But can you play the beat without the help of Melodics? Next up, go back to the Preplay screen, and drop out the Metronome and the Guide Notes [screenshot]. Now you’re just playing along to the backing track. Again, try looking away from the screen, and just play to the backing track, and clock up some reps.
Part 8. Back to preplay.
Go back to the preplay screen, so you have the samples on the pads, and absolutely no assistance from Melodics. Can you still play it? If not, go back a step, and get some more reps in.
Part 9. The true test.
Time for the ultimate test – load up some similar samples into your music production platform of choice, and record yourself playing the same pattern. How does it sound?
If you’re a Melodics subscriber, or if you’ve referred a friend via Melodics, you’ve probably received a set of the samples used in the Melodics lessons. Put these to the test – see if you can recreate the beat playing it live in your production software or sampler.
Extra For Experts: Finish your track
So there you have it, 9 steps to get you mastering more lessons in Melodics. Treat these tips as your framework to getting better, but remember there is no substitute to putting in the reps. The more attempts you take the faster your skills will develop. Happy practicing.
Over the last few weeks we have made a couple of significant changes to how content is structured in Melodics. We regraded every lesson to move from 10 lesson grades to 20 – and we’ve overhauled all the tags used to classify lessons.
These new tags are a way to navigate the main components and skills required for each lesson. They are broken up into three categories; Rhythm, Technique and Lesson Style. Using these tags, you can separate your training into these areas and work on developing each of these important skills.
Let’s say you want to strengthen your hand independence. All you need to do, is go to the lessons screen and filter by the tag ‘hand independence’. This will give you a list of lessons that we recommend you should play to build that particular skill. The lessons are filtered from easiest to hardest, which will allow you build your skills up gradually.
Go to the lessons screen in the app. On the left hand panel click the top dropdown menu and select ‘Tags’
Once clicked a list of our new tags will be produced on the left hand panel.
Select a tag – For this example we have selected ‘Basic Independence’.
Once selected all our lessons that have been tagged with ‘Basic Independence’ will be filtered on the lessons list to the right. These lists will be shown from lowest grade to highest.
Tagging is particularly useful it you want to work backwards from a really challenging lesson. Say for example you wanted to learn to play Spinscott’s Jungle Break Fundamentals Vol. 1, grade 19 lesson. This lesson has the tags Endurance, Discrete and Fast. To build up the skills you need to master this lesson, you can find lower grade lessons that have the same tags, and work on building up these skills. In this case, start by filtering by the ‘Discrete’ tag. This will give you a list of lessons that require you to play rhythms consisting of individual hits, where usually no pads are played simultaneously. Justin Aswell’s Daily Warm Up’s – 16th Note Accent, grade 8 also has the tag ‘Endurance’ so this would be a good lesson to start with. When you’ve got that down, play Buddy Peace’s Desert Burner lessons from grade 9 to 11. Spinscott’s DnB Roller, grade 12 introduces the ‘Fast’ tag. You’ll notice when you get above grade 15 all the lessons tagged ‘Discrete’ belong to Spinscott. This shows you that his finger drumming style is fundamental to the ‘Discrete’ skill. If you want to play like Spinscott then that is a tag worth filtering by.
Here’s another example. Want to learn to play Soul Shaker, grade 16 by Beats by J Black? That lesson uses the tags Syncopation, Finger Independence and Swing. Using the tagging system, you can see that a good way to work towards this would be to play these lessons, starting with the first, and working your way up through progressively harder and harder lessons – Broken Boogie – Drums, grade 7, From Home to Work and Back – Drums, grade 8, Sovereignty, grade 8, Caxixi, grade 10, Island Breeze – Drums, grade 10, The Umm – Drums, grade 13… Soul Shaker, grade 16.
Below are all the new tags in Melodics, a definition of each one, and a example of a lesson that uses this tag.
Both hands have two or more fingers simultaneously operating on different time signatures or note divisions.
Bass Kleph – Pad Fever Grade 17
Playing a whole song through different sections. Often features multiple instruments and switching between parts.
Oddkidout – Amore Grade 8
A basic beat or rhythm, usually straight ¼ and playable with one finger. No more than two pads.
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?
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.
You are well known for the amazing finger drumming videos you do on Maschine. When did you first purchase Maschine. What inspired you to make this purchase?
I first purchased Maschine when I was 16. I knew about it for a while before I got it, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it when I saw it in person.
Did finger drumming come naturally to you? What is your musical background?
It didn’t come naturally. I mean I had a sense of rhythm because I’ve messed around on the drums and percussion here and there, but hard work and dedication were the two things that got me to where I am today.
The lesson you have made is called “PTM Level 1”. Tell us about the Persian Trap sound and how it is connected to your roots. Where do you see this genre going in the future?
The Persian Trap sound is how I bring culture to Trap. I think culture, Persian or not, is such a vital thing to have in music. There is such a strong culture behind Persian music that puts non Persians in a new world when experiencing it. And I put my heart and soul into bringing this same cultural feeling to modern trap music.
Can you explain what Melodics users can look forward learning to in your new lesson?
I hope those who strive to be where I am today get inspired to work their butt off in melodics. If I had such a tool to start from, I’d be on it 24/7. Melodics is literally guitar hero for beat pads, but you’re learning and getting more skilled the entire time.
What made you want to get involved with Melodics?
The simplicity of the interface, the quality of the website, and the passionate people that make up the company is what made me want to get involved.
In mid 2016 some of your work went viral. Including a video of you mashing up the Spongebob Squarepants theme with Kanye West’s ‘I Love Kanye’, and making a trap remix out of the Rugrats theme song. Where did you get the inspiration for these ideas? How has it affected your career since?
It’s crazy how viral these videos went. I just love making music, even if it’s some dumb mashup. People know I’m doing these things for fun. It has definitely been a journey since Spongebob Kanye. I’m just glad people were actually taking the time to check out my real music.
Name your three biggest artistic influences?
Mura Masa, Travis Scott, Shahram Nazeri
What advice would you give to someone who has just started producing music?
Just. Keep. Producing.
What does 2017 have install for ASADI?
2017 is going to be crazy. I have many songs to release along with festival shows all around the map. 2017 is by far going to be the best year yet.
Going right back to the beginning what moment/person got you interested in music?
Witnessing how excited my parents were when they came home from a Jimmy Smith concert in the 80’s.
From this point how long was it until you started creating your own songs and beats?
I started writing my own music at high school and then made my first beat with Kutcorners (Serato) in 1998, we borrowed a Boss SP202 from our local music store from our friend who was the manager of the store (he now works for Ableton).
You have appeared in many different musical bands and projects over the years including Open Souls, She’s So Rad and now Leonard Charles. All these projects are distinctly different in terms of genre and sound. Have you always had such an eclectic taste? Are you seasonal in what you listen to?
I just listen to what I like on any given day. I have a fairly decent record collection so in the morning I just reach for the record I want to hear. I usually end up working on music influenced that record when I get to the studio.
With all that experience under your belt who is the coolest person you have met in your musicaljourney so far? Can you explain what your first encounter with them was like?
A huge part of my musical experience I owe to Dave Cooley. He is a mastering engineer / producer. He always has time to share knowledge and is a genuine person within the global music industry. The first time we met he invited me to a recording session he had at Sunset Studio’s in LA working with a band called Silversun Pickups. They gave us a some tips on riding the busses in LA.
Tell us about your project ‘Basement Donuts’. What inspired the project initially and how did it evolve?
Inspiration for Basement Donuts is all J Dilla. People who know me know how important J Dilla’s music is to me. I’m not exaggerating when I say he has influenced every single piece of music I have released or produced. I was invited to perform at a night to raise money for the Dilla Foundation and so I decided to make it a special performance and remake J Dilla’s album Donuts but in my own way. The most important thing about J Dilla’s music is that it is unique to him so in order for me to serve the music right I needed to make my version unique to myself. I feel confident that I achieved this, I was hesitant at first because I really didn’t want to step on the toes of one of Hip Hop’s greats. I had the honor of playing some of my tracks from the release to Guilty Simpson andhe was feeling it. That seal of approval was enough for me to know I was doing the right thing.
The bulk of this project and a lot of your music is made in your basement studio. What was the first bit of equipment you bought for it and what gear do you have now in your studio?
The first equipment I bought was an MPC2000 and a turntable back in 2000. I have a bunch of gear now but the main things I use are: Ableton with Push. Roland Rhythm330, Roland MP600, Moog Voyager, Roland Chorus Echo, UAD Apollo, UA LA-610, Akai MPC3000, Fender Rhodes, Fender Jazz Bass, Fender P Bass, Fender Coronado, Premier 1075 drum kit, the list goes on.
In 2008 you performed at the ‘MPC Championship of the World’ under the name Jeremy Ota. Are you able to tell our viewers more about this event and the hours taken to build your cardboard MPC suit?
Haha, The event used to be held every year in New Zealad. It was an invitational MPC beat battle. A week out from the event all the competitors are given the exact same samples and get to make whatever they want to out of the samples given. I decided to do a tribute to all the Hip Hop I love by manipulating the samples they gave us and remaking classic beats. Some of the beats I made were even by people I was competing against.
You have helped design lessons for Melodics in the past primarily in the Chiptunes and Classic Breaks genres. What is it like having a Leonard Charles lesson released?
It’s cool. I really like the educational element to Melodics and I love building lessons that push peoples imagination. I hope that some of the elements from my own lesson will inspire people to go and create music.
What can Melodics users expect from your “Can We Go Back” lesson? Do you have any tips for how a newbie should approach the lesson.
I think a good approach is to go and listen to the godfather of modern funk – Dam Funk. Then go back to the lesson and just feel the drums. The drums are so important, the way the kick sits in the rhythm.
Who are the three artists you are listening to the most right now?
Mulholland – he has a studio above me so I hear his music all day.
Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand)
What advice would you give to an aspiring music producer or beat maker?
Be yourself.Respect the architects/ creators of the music you are making. Look to the past for education and look inside yourself for creativity. When it is time to make music forget the world around you and just feel what you are doing, get in the zone, that is where the magic is.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Vancouver electronic music duo Live Evil are back with their second Melodics lesson “Tell Me”. We are able to ask Matt Perry a few questions about the lesson and how Live Evil got started.
Where did the name ‘Live Evil’ originate? Is there a story behind it?
I was always fascinated with the Miles Davis album of this name and the trippy artwork on the cover, i’d even sampled it for a beat back in the day. The way its a reflection of the word LIVE fit what we were doing performance wise and as “The Freshest Live sets”. It was also a way to identify the projects sound and concept so as not to confuse it with the Freshest remixes and mix tapes we had been doing. I feel it gave us more direction too.
You guys started a series of Youtube videos called ‘The Freshest Live Set’ with your friends Seco and Rico Uno what was the inspiration behind starting these videos?
We all used to perform at shows. Sometimes 2 at a time. We had a gig at the 2011 Vancouver Red Bull Thre3style world finals opening for Peanut butter Wolf and wanted to put something together to really showcase what we could do. From there I came up with the idea to incorporate musical instruments in there too, it wasn’t happening much at the time and seemed like a waste to not utilize these synths I had, so from there it grew in to what we have done for the last 6? of them.
How did you guys first meet? How long was it until you collaborated?
We met in 2004. I was making rap beats and Marvel was DJing for a rap group I produced for.
When describing the Live Evil experience you guys said “We want to bring that feeling you get when you see a band perform, but in a DJ context. Lots of energy, a real performance with a sinister vibe.” Are able to elaborate on how you prepare for each set and how your performances have evolved?
We spend a lot of time breaking down songs we like into parts that we can remix, then start arranging them in a live performance rehearsal. These days, we are focusing more on breaking down our original productions and making our own songs. Remixing is super fun, but it has limitations, copyright wise 😉
Explain how you got involved with Melodics and what you guys like most about the software?
I met Melodics head honcho Sam Gribben through my Job, and he’s easily one of the best humans I know, he’s a visionary and I believe in what he’s doing with Melodics. What I like most is Melodics makes interacting with music fun and challenging for everyone from beginners to pro’s. Its inspiring to see how the lessons are broken down. Rap and Dance music is our generations Rock n Roll (to quote Kanye) and i think Melodics is a modern way to approach learning music and developing your rhythm.
How have you seen finger drumming develop as a whole over the past few years? Where do you see it going?
I have! It’s being adopted by most leading dj’s and its exciting. Its so much more than pushing buttons. If you are musical, its really remixing and performing music the way you want to hear it. There is so much more interaction, i’m totally inspired by all the new people picking it up, from dj’s to beat makers. So cool to see the combination of melody and rhythm and harmony all combined with Djing, because we have kinda seen Scratching go about as far as it could go. Its the future for sure!
You have both been on record discussing the growing Electronic Music scene in Vancouver. Dropping names like Pomo, Ekali, Pat Lok & U-Tern. If you could give someone three tracks to get an idea of the emerging sound of Vancouver what would they be?
These guys are all from the Chapel collective, which would be in my opinion the crew i’m checking for the most. But there is lots of great dance music coming out of Vancouver too with labels like “Mood Hut” and “1080p” The latter actually started by a Caniwi like myself
What does the rest of 2016 have install for Live Evil?
Planning a new performance video and an Ep for 2016. Definitely focussed on putting out more music!
What is the best piece of advice you can give to aspiring producers and DJ’s?
Find your sound, stick with it and go hard. Stay focussed and work hard, this game ain’t for the faint hearted