Are online communities replacing labels?

I’ve recently been wondering what will be the future for labels. Are streaming services replacing labels? Or are other communities? I’ve been running my label Archipel since 2004 and I’ve never really made money from it, if you discount using it as a business card for gigs and contacts. The money and time invested in Archipel have been very high, so it’s hard to say if it’s been good on for ROI. The further and faster the digital music world develops, it seems less and less obvious what roles labels will play for artists. Streaming platforms like Spotify give little to no importance to labels, and since basically anyone can start one, running one nowadays doesn’t have the same aura it once did.

In mid 2016, I offered free coaching to everyone who joined my mailing list, and while this turned out to be a success which I didn’t expect, I had to put it on hold until I could find someone who could help manage the work involved. In the meantime, I created a Facebook group for people I’d worked with to join so I could provide them with feedback and support. There are many Facebook and social media groups for producers out there and many have themes and rules. I’m part of a few that I enjoy; I’ve used them to learn tricks and something get informed of certain music related news. So, for me creating a group was an opportunity to give people a place to feel open to share what they’re working on, to get feedback, and provide words of encouragement to anyone else.

The great thing about this initiative was that people started to really participate and interact, even more than I thought they would. It was pretty amazing to see some people join forces and collaborate, and to see others help out by giving advice with regards to where to send music to get signed. This community has become autonomous; it’s doing what I was doing myself before, through email. I’ve been thrilled by it!

Somehow, when I was running my label, I was hoping to create that same sort of synergy, but for some reason it never came. My label manager and I posted regularly through Archipel, trying to come up with ideas, proposals, concepts…but it was pretty much always the same guys that were interested. That was cool, but it was also puzzling me to have such a huge line up of artists (Archipel has almost 200 people who collaborated through years!) but that only 5-6 people were really into it.

I fundamentally believe that most people want to join a specific label to be part of its community and get closer to the artists they’ve worked with.

Of course, the exposure and networking from a label also play an important role in an artist’s motivation to get signed, but the community is another major part of this motivation.

As it stands, I think these types of online groups like the one I’ve described could be as beneficial as a label because:

  • You have people active in the groups whom most likely the same goals, motivations and tastes.
  • It’s much easier to connect with DJs who can play your music.
  • People are open to communication and giving & receiving feedback.


Your music has an impact. A major issue with the current music business is that there’s a huge feeling of hopelessness in the air, which can drain out all the juice we have as artists and creators. Most artists have the energy to build projects or beautiful products, but will their work be something that will remain hidden away on the “bookshelves” of the internet because it doesn’t sell? Are all songs worth being turned into records? Is there that much of a demand to keep working so hard creating?

The ego plays tricks on us. One of the biggest is to believe that our music is worth more attention than it is, in reality. Many artists feel anxious and depressed because of this reality check. We want to share the music but the low hits are depressing us. That said, this major issue can be addressed by being in a community: one of any types of communities that are seemingly replacing labels.

Personally, after years of releasing countless albums and EPs, I’m now more excited to know if my five closest and most trusted friends like my newest song. I know for sure they will listen to it and provide feedback. I’ve decided to share my work with a selective number of people who can echo back the energy I put in it. I’m fed up of running after people and saying, in essence, “listen to my song bro! you’ll like it! leave me feedback!

Labels won’t be replaced as long as the music industry need representatives for the artists. Every artists dreams to be able to live off music full time but it is becoming clear that it’s not once central thing as a label who will make it happen.

This spammy approach does nothing at all for all parties involved. But sharing your music with five people who care is worth 1,500 who were more or less not into it. I really believe that approach as stopped me from crashing into obscure thoughts.

SEE ALSO :  The Changing Dos and Don’ts of Contacting Record Labels 

Intuition for decisions in music production

In a sense, musical intuition is what defines someone who can bring a bit of creative magic into something, in comparison to someone who sticks to truly technical application of software. I’ve often had the chance to watch experienced producers make music, either while I was visiting one’s studio or on the spur of the moment of a jam. For instance, we once had the infamous Narod Niki experience at Montreal’s MUTEK in the early 2000’s where Zip, Villalobos, Dan Bell, Akufen, Cabanne, Dandy Jack, Monolake (even Cassy sang for some minutes) all synced their laptop and gear to improvise a show for us. Our local festival gave us many opportunities to watch, what I would call, masters in what they do, play in front of a crowd to present how to create and perform. The live act itself, when done properly, should sort of represent what the artist is doing in his or her studio, but in a way that can bring the crowd on a journey.

When I state a live set done properly, I refer to something that is partly prepared, partly improvised: a set that relies partly on musical intuition. Musical intuition is the happy combo that allows for “happy accidents” and creates a sense of risk-taking. There are a lot of pre-recorded performances that I don’t get the point of. What interests me here, is the topic of musical intuition. Ever since I started teaching, this one question is often brought up:

How does one teach musical intuition, or intuition at all?

There are 3 points about intuition that we need to discuss first. Intuition can be:

  1. immediate apprehension or cognition without reasoning or inferring.
  2.  knowledge or conviction gained only by intuition.
  3. the power or faculty of gaining direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference.

What I refer to by using the word intuition is a bit different from those three points. For me, intuition in music is how someone does something that seems to be random, but is actually done in a very effective way. Partly unpredictable, partly guided by experience, but entirely guided by a personal vision to arrive at a specific result. This is musical intuition.

A notable example would be an artist, during a live show, dropping some sounds or a musical idea that was unexpected but works with what’s happening at the current moment completely. Another example could be a musician proposing a random idea and having that incomprehensible idea make total sense after 2-3 minutes or development.

Can musical intuition be learned or developed in music making?

I firmly believe it can be. Some ways to get there would imply:

  • Listening to a lot of music genres, be diverse in the selection. The best way to get new ideas for one song and bring a wind of freshness into something is to translate an idea from somewhere else. The number of ideas I get from free jazz or Indian music are too large to count, but I find a lot of depth into these genres; they have been around for so long that they have developed so much maturity. Try to dig into realms that seem obscure or spend time listening to folkloric music as a starting point.
  • Knowing your tools. This one is overwhelming as there’s always something to learn. I often say to people, what you need to know about your DAW should be just enough to make blocks and build tracks. The rest of it, you learn as you go. But the main part is that you should be at ease with the DAW, and using it should be second nature to you. Moving blocks around, copying & pasting, and arranging basics must be something you can do fast so you never lose your flow. It’s when you start looking for how to do something very simple when you struggle too much and lose your initial idea. Imagine you couldn’t explain to a friend how to get to the nearest grocery store because there are too many details to explain; it would be confusing for him and you.
  • Be attentive to your routines and things you don’t like. We get caught up in what has previously worked, and will tend to repeat it ad nauseum. While part of what attracts people to our music sometimes one specific sound, if we become a slave to ourselves and to people’s expectations, we will fail to grow as artists. Musical intuition progresses with your personal dedication to grow and stepping outside your comfort zone. The easier it gets for you to explore, the more easily you can express yourself. The sense of becoming fluent in music-making will allow you to become more spontaneous and able to come up with new ideas.
  • Nurture technical curiosity. Spend tons of time reading about music, but also, non-music related topics. I have had so many ideas come to me by reading sci-fi novels, watching dancers, reading about architecture, drawing with my son, running in the woods, etc. Your brain needs to do other things other than spending time in the studio. You can only learn to a certain extent in there, you open yourself up to new ideas by doing other things.
  • Rehearse alone and with others. If you can jam on your own to get comfortable in your art, that is one important thing. But when you can then play with a friend, it becomes very interesting as the dialog forces you to interact/propose/listen/adjust. This will improve your communicative music skills by a few notches.
  • Play for friends. I used to do intimate, living room concerts where I would play for 3-4 friends, sitting on the floor, sipping tea, drawing, dancing, chatting but mostly, listening carefully. Those moments are where I’ve learned the most and this is often overlooked as people think playing in front of a lot of people is where the fun is at; it can be, but it’s not the only option. The advantage of playing for a handful of guests is about getting intimate and instant feedback, which can be a very rich experience.

Experiment with these ideas and you should slowly develop your musical intuition. Let me know if you have questions or join my mentoring service to explore your music more deeply.



SEE ALSO : What Is A Mature Sounding Track? 

Pointers To Define Your Sound

The majority of artists I work with during mastering and finishing your tracks, talk about their desire to define their own sound. It’s important to them because as a music lover many times you’ll hear a just a few seconds of a song and think that’s got to be _____ band, or producer. To achieve this ‘signature style’ there will usually be a particular production style or a sound palate one will use in a way entirely his or her own that is instantly recognizable.
Case in point – there is much talk and celebration of Burial’s album “Untrue” which is now considered to be one of the most influential albums of the last decade.

Why is this album so celebrated?
For starters, the ghostly atmospheres, foley recordings and sound effects of London at night, conjure an atmosphere of a dark, eerie space. The heavy, downtempo vibe of the music is an invitation for listeners to go to their own dark places and reflect on that. Even the titles of his tracks, “loner”, “U Hurt Me”, tap into a feeling of emotional damage, which many people can really connect with. In short, the heavy sound and persona behind the record are instantly Burial.

Taking note of the various elements artists can use to create a sound all their own, let’s analyze some of the fundamentals of what will be influencing your sound.

  • Tonality: this is hugely important as most artists will generally embrace a ‘vibe’ or ‘mood’ in their music such as happy, upbeat, or angry, melancholy. Do you often work in a similar scale or key? Are your melodies basic and straight forward, or do you write complex chord progressions?
  • Genre: picking a genre to work in is perhaps one of the most obvious choices in creating ‘your’ sound, and defining your identity as an artist. Are you embracing an existing one or will you try to fit between two? This can be a hit or miss and to do something original is taking a risk but the reward can be massive.
  • Samples: Are you using samples? Synthesis? Modular? The Orb for example, loved to use samples from specific movies (the 80’s like Flash) and Boards of Canada were famous for recording their synth parts to old tapes and resampling that back into the session. Consider the possibilities of your sound source.
  • Rhythms: Are you more 4 to the floor? Breakbeat influenced? Jazz? Hip-hop? Latin rooted? Take note of where you’re most comfortable and what is your go-to groove.
  • Technicalities: This is where I can help you most and have been helping clients with on their way to creating ‘their sound’.
  • Mistake. Are you going for something slightly sloppy or very tight and quantized? Try to see what mistakes can bring to your music and if something wrong can develop something interesting. Don’t be afraid to try something you might never do as a starting point to your next track. 

The tools and effects you use can also have a major impact on your sound. I’ve covered this before but it’s important to refresh your mind when considering your choice of effects.

Reverb, Delay. You might pick one plugin to work with all the time for consistency. Reverb – maybe you always go for a plate or perhaps you prefer to use huge spaces and long tails. Are you going to use dub delays or short ones to go for a Haas effect?

Compression. Do you want your sound to be compressed or not? This is something think about. Find a compressor that can be your swiss army knife for all occasions, and stick to using that.

The process of defining your sound is much like a designer developing the branding elements for a client.

While not essential but certainly helpful, a designer will tell you which set of colours, fonts, images, and direction to use within all your work.

What I usually do with my clients to create more of a signature sound is take a collection of references and sounds they connect with and then work on a way to replicate similar sounds and ideas. The pad from here, the percussion and swing from there, kicks made this way, hats always that way… and so on. You cherry pick all your preferred sounds from different sources (eg. why not go for a style that is entirely alien to you like afrobeat if you’re into techno?) and make a collection. I can find which synth is excellent at creating that sound, and while playing with it, you’ll often discover so many new sounds you are drawn to that sound original, fresh, and inspiring.

The truth is that trying to define your sound will not come overnight. It’s a process that will be different for everyone, and you truly cannot speed through this and feel right about it because there is no fast track to originality.

That being said, in all honesty, working with someone who has the production and musical experience to guide you in the areas that best represent you is huge and can be a game changer in defining your sound.

As always let me know if you have any suggestions or questions about this post and leave a comment below and tell me what projects you are working on right now.



SEE ALSO : Beats and Melodies

The next big thing?

During a conference I was recently invited to talk at, I was speaking with a group of people @ College Du Montreal and was asked a question I couldn’t answer quickly. The question that came up was what I’d consider “next level”, which I responded by saying “chances are, you’re going to be disappointed by my answer.” And in many ways, it wasn’t the answered they wanted, and I could see that a few were puzzled, hoping to hear about something new, exciting, and truly ‘next-level’.

Now that that moment is behind me, the concept of genres, and what’s the next big thing has had time to linger in my mind and I’ve thought about it more.

Can you remember a time before Soundcloud? Before iTunes playlists, a time where you literally dug deep through record bins and spent time chatting up record store employees about what was new? Have you bought records without even listening to it simply because you connected with the artwork and knew this was something you needed to have?  Whether the music was next level or not you had the feeling you discovered something special.

In many ways, the overwhelming amount of content we’re exposed nowadays can make us lose track of what’s going on. Musicians can post a track the second after finishing it, and the whole world can potentially hear it within minutes. Yet the tidal wave of self-released music is so frequent that it can also be harder than ever to get noticed. If you’re attentive and curious, you can catch people’s new ideas, yet the question now is – how can one really can keep up?

Here’s a fact to keep in mind: One doesn’t know he/she is making next level music until afterward, and it’s seen as next level.

If you focus on making music that sounds good to you, your skills and confidence will naturally grow. If you have fun making music, you’ll fall in that mind state named the zone. In that mindset, you’re able to achieve the best of yourself with little effort. This concept isn’t esoteric or religious, it’s a known experience studied in psychology and a state within the reach of everyone. But this post isn’t about that.

Most commonly new genres are created when an artist creates a bridge linking different musical styles together – think Jungle which brought Jamaican MC influences and sound effects with faster beats, and thundering sub bass. Think about underground mashups and artists like Girl Talk, which can’t be released legally but borrow music from anywhere as long as it works melodically. Think about the latest genres of dance music to emerge with significant popularity – tropical house, future bass, etc.. can you explain to me what those genres represent?

On a sound design level, I think of Serum, a wavetable synth hugely responsible for creating the growling and murderous monster bass sounds in electro/dubstep. Do entirely new sounds or production technique make that music next level?

What is next level, exactly?

For me, next level comes from one’s point of view. My perspective of what’s next level has dramatically changed in the last 10 years. My interest in sound is continually shifting, and what I feel about it today might be different next week. Sometimes I love music with low-production quality but filled with originality, sometimes I love over-produced generic pop for the crazy slick techniques in the mixing and sometimes I go back in time to revisit classics by Miles Davis to acknowledge the true masterful skills he had in performing his art.

To me, the real question is, what and why are you looking for that?

Rarely will my next level tracks make it to my day-to-day playlist I can listen to in my car. Next level music is usually something I can connect to its world/melody/content. I believe this is also what most people are connecting to with once they pick to make a playlist that moves them. It’s not always something big, loud, or obvious, often it’s a musical element already known, just done really really well, or a touch differently. If the arrangement of a song is smart and tight, often time any tricks happening in the mix won’t be the first thing the listener will hear, but more generally will feel as a whole.

To wrap this post up, focusing on sound design is critical to any producer. Your sounds are your words and your voice as an artist and remember that this is what can get the attention of your listeners more than your technique or tricks.


SEE ALSO : Using and Choosing an Alias

When The DIY Becomes An Obstacle

I want to talk about DIY – that is, the do-it-yourself approach to making music. Some people have the desire to begin massive projects where they create everything themselves, from scratch. They hunt for samples, they record bits of this and that, they spend days writing and re-writing melodies, they do everything themselves and more, and it takes forever if they don’t become overwhelmed by it all first and end up scraping the project altogether. This is when the DIY becomes an obstacle.

It reminds me of the video that went around the internet about this guy who decides to make a sandwich from scratch and create all the elements needed all on his own. He’s collecting salt from the sea, milking the cow himself, learning to bake bread. etc. Spoiler alert – when the guy finally eats the sandwich (which cost him nearly $1500 in expenses) the result was somewhat mediocre, and disappointing.

People who specialize do ‘their thing’ better, faster, with better ingredients, tools, finesse, and experience that more than often makes a world of difference. In the studio, it’s the same thing. I’m sure there are areas of music writing and production you don’t look forward to and others you could do all day. If we let every obstacle along the way frustrate us and chip away at our mental energy, the effect can be quite damaging.

The path doesn’t need to be cleared from obstacles. Obstacles are the path. (Buddhist Proverb)

You might have a feeling where I’m going with this as I’m a big fan of collaboration in music and productivity in the studio. It’s a great feeling to push ahead quickly in your productions when one person can lead with his/her strengths in an area and vice versa, so the question is – how do you make the most of your skills while taking advantage of help?

Find what you love doing. Identifying your strengths will make a big difference in the confidence, and understanding of yourself as an artist. It’s a task many people I coach and speak with overlook. Is your thing sound design, mixing, searching for the perfect set of samples? The production-oriented tasks where you’re the most happily active and engaged is where you’ll find your strength. On the flip side, it’s important to understand the areas you’re less happy and skilled at doing, and make a mental note of this when collaborating with others. If you can specialize at what you do best, you’ll be a great asset to anyone who is struggling in that department.

Invest in yourself. In whichever area you are strongest in, consider acquiring the best equipment and knowledge in that specialty. For example, if mixing is your strength, you should definitely follow Pensado on Youtube to learn as much as possible about mixing, and learn about kick-ass plugins used by the pros. Find your role model in that department and study what he/she does, what gear they use, how they use it and also go above them, and find out who are their mentors. If you get to know who influences your role model, you’re gaining critical influences.

Check your ego. Have you ever observed yourself snubbing a technique or tool just because you think it’s not for you? How many times have you counted out something great without even giving it a chance? If you can, think if you’ve been avoiding some plugin such as channel strips or a specific compressor, perhaps even a DAW without any evidence for doing so. Also, if something is considered ‘bad’ it’s important to understand the difference from that which is regarded as good and make your own judgment after accessing the facts. Things I’ve read people shouldn’t use have drawn my attention to tools such as multiband compression, which is one of my favorite tools for sound design now. For some reason, rock producers seem to dislike multiband compression, yet I can’t understand why if you imagine what’s possible in the right hands.

As always I want to hear your opinion and look forward to keeping the discussion open ~


What Izotope’s Ozone Series Doesn’t Consider

It was a great surprise to see the release of Izotope’s new Ozone and Neutron update last week. Since I use both products, often I immediately got started looking for whats new.

There will undoubtedly be a ton of new tutorial and youtube review videos posted of these tools, but I want to approach this post around how I use these plugins, and also mention a larger problem I find all too common within the production of software, and an issue I feel Izotope’s Ozone series doesn’t consider.

But firstly, let’s talk about where Izotope really succeeded.

The sound. I can’t put my finger exactly on it, but to my ears, there is a noticeable improvement of the sound quality in Ozone 8. Perhaps it’s an oversampling issue or something with the filters, but the sound is tighter, bright, and more precise over earlier versions.
The workflow – Ozone 8 comes with several new features that provide a faster way for me to achieve the sound I want. The maximizer now includes a loudness target and the reference addition to comparing the versions via the tonal balance control.

Tonal Balance. A fascinating tool that allows you to visualize the frequency levels of your track, and will enable you to match to eq targets from a specific genre of music. Having visual feedback of where your tonal balance per frequency is, and easy access to eq those levels is a great and fast way to achieve a professional sound. I did some testing earlier today and found the target system pretty accurate, but in the end, I found the target ranges slightly off for the lows and highs (see below in my low points).

Visual Mixer. This is the bomb within Neutron 2, and for that feature alone I’d buy the entire package. The visual mixer allows you to place and position your tracks visually across the spectrum, (volume, pan, and width). It’s a beautiful process, and the edit window looks super sci fi and modern. If you work with multiple channels and often have mono tracks this is simply a killer addition. One of the things that blew my mind was that you can actually automate the panning, which opens the doors to many exciting and beautiful options in sound design.

Improved Mix assistant. I really like the mix assistant by the way. I’ve heard many people mock the process, or are jaded to the idea  that it’s impossible for AI to do a man’s job but honestly if the assistant can pull up all the tools I need and set the table for me to tweak fast, you won’t hear me complain.

Communication between plugins. This feature is really cool. You may adjust EQ from one window on another incoming channel, which is reflected in other instances of the plugin. This is super useful when you want to tame the relation between kick and bass as you want to be EQing side by side, both channels. It works and looks seamlessly.

In the end, I’m really loving the update from Izotope and will be using many of the new and improved features. I also want to take a minute to point out a criticism I have with Izotope.

Generalization of customers – It’s unfortunate that I find many large, corporate companies narrow down potential customers into three simple types – pop, edm, and hiphop. I see how that makes marketing more manageable, but what about producers like me who are creating and working on underground and experimental music? I say this because many of the new tools shipped with Ozone and Neutron are built with presets as starting points to mix and master only three types of music. I my opinion, this is quite limiting, and the fact that you can only refer to 3 types of tonal shapes is, to me, a complete fail. It reminds me of LANDR giving only 3 types of loudness range. It’s disappointing because I feel like this software expects you to be either this or that, which is clear from the design of the genre-specific presets – as if there are no other types of musician in the world??

What Izotope’s Ozone series doesn’t consider is people like me, and many friends and colleagues of mine, who make our living from creating music, and don’t fit into the standard pop, edm, or hiphop category.

CPU hungry. I have a newish MacBook, fully geared up for performance, and while running several instances of Ozone my entire screen began flickering and making strange glitches. Izotope support claimed it was likely my CPU over-loading, however, I was only using 5 Neutron and 1 Ozone 8 instance, plus visual mixer. If my custom built computer is hit hard with CPU usage imagine how will the average Joe deal with such demands on the processor.

This goes along with the new mastering plugin by Eventide, Elevate that is so power hungry that it’s barely usable. Funny enough, a few days after Ozone 8 came on the market, Eventide droped the price of its plugin by 50%…

Still, in my opinion, the updated Ozone suite is a serious tool to consider having. It really delivers impressive quality sound. As always, I want to hear about what you think about these tools and feel free to leave a comment below and share your opinion.




The Modular Trap

The modular synthesis game is a big one right now, and for good reason. Sound designers and synth heads that want to take their sound design to the next level will find no shortage of fantastic modules to collect, and nothing is stopping you from patching together the tweaked out system of your dreams.
That being said the road to modular isn’t without its problems, and before you rush out and get started building a rig of your own I want to share some insights you might find helpful before you dive into the Modular Trap.

Intellijel Rubicon

I’ve spent a good while lately test driving a modular system of my own. I’ve been using the Intellijel Rubicon, and I can attest to many of the uniquely modular things people get excited about – all the hands-on messy fun that make modular such a unique experience, the unique, fat, and rich sound, the many fun surprises that come along with a somewhat unpredictable modular environment. Even with software like Reaktor, Reason, or Softube Modular, the sounds you can generate just can’t be done the same way without real life patch cords and eurorack modules. In my opinion, these are some of the pros about using a modular setup:
The quality of the sound coming from modular is somewhat different and pure. The Intellijel Rubicon I’ve been using seems to have a unique and pure sound, quite different than that from any sine waves I’ve heard from a soft synth. It’s hard to describe but I can honestly feel it more deeply – just like an analog mixdown will be slightly different than a digital one. If like me, you really are fascinated by sounds, you can easily become seduced by this.
Hands-on material plunges its user in a state of flow that can be addictive –. To get anywhere within Modular setup you must be actively involved in every step – patching one module to another, over and over, in different ways requires your full commitment and attention – it’s very engaging. Time can be lost easily when creating music this way, and being so focused on sound feels amazing, it’s truly addictive.
Community – You don’t have to look hard to find helpful, and engaging modular communities online.  You’ll soon learn how to use your modules in creative ways you hadn’t known were possible. Take the time to be a part of these groups as the knowledge shared within these discussions will be precious to you if you’re just starting out.
Knowledge – In educational terms, I feel working with a modular system of any size is one of the best ways to teach yourself how sound can be altered and modified. With automatic results you will train your ears to understand how one module can significantly affect another, and how combining several modulators can create truly strange and trippy sounds

So far it’s all good and fun, but when the initial buzz wears off, you’ll likely find yourself surprised by a few things you might not have anticipated earlier. Here are a few drawbacks to working with a modular setup.

Cost can be a limiting setback. Building a modular rig of your own can and will get expensive. Just the price of patch cords needed for every module alone could very well make you sweat, and you’ll of course also need a case, output, input, VCAs, modulators, oscillators, LFOs, filters…, and that’s just the beginning.
Time Investment. I can’t complain about losing yourself for hours in synthesis, but it’s pretty easy to do with a cool rig begging for your attention. Like any other tool in your arsenal you’ll want to be productive and useful with it, so knowing how to create the sounds you need quickly will take some getting used to.
Steep learning curve. For many producers used to creating sound entirely within software, getting things up and running can be a little more complicated to set up.
Overwhelming options – with dozens of companies producing filters, effects, and everything in between for Eurorack, you might get the feeling that you’ll never have enough for what you want or need.

All that being said, I recommend taking an opportunity to get hands-on with a modular system. But before you build a rack of your own do yourself a favour and ask yourself this ~

Exactly what you want out of this?

What I mean is, are you performing live? are you a sound designer looking for unique and original sounds for your projects and work? are you creating a rig for your enjoyment during your off hours? Those questions are important to know because you can then begin planning with help from a site called Modular Grid – a website and resource that will prove to be incredibly helpful in answering questions about getting started.

One last note – I feel like there are many ideas about ‘going modular’ that are quite misleading, and not at all true. I often hear

“how much easier it is to make music using modular synths, how you’ll be taken more seriously as an artist, and how so many more opportunities will come to you if you can build the ultimate rig…”

Reaktor Blocks: A killer alternative.

As I pointed out earlier, setting up a modular system is going to take a lot of time, plenty of money, and a steep learning curve you wouldn’t anticipate at first. Look at software systems like Reaktor where you can patch together virtually anything you can do with the same modular components. Reaktor is just $199 usd, and requires a modest computer, that’s it. Many people love the look of their ever-growing systems, but many less so are becoming well-respected musicians using modular gear. There are a few role models out there who have accomplished a lot with their analogue toys yet on the flip side there are way more people who are only spitting out random bleeps and farts, feeling mid-ground between fascination and frustration. That’s all fine if bleeps are your thing but the tidal wave of fan mail probably isn’t coming in as fast as you hoped it would. And lastly, building the ultimate rig is in many ways a never-ending race. As soon as your newest filter or VCA arrives you’ve already decided you need another component to make it even better, and you’re almost never satisfied with what you have.

Other possible alternatives: Softube Modular, Reason, Bitwig, VCF Rack (Free).

The consensus is in – Modular is awesome, addictive, and a great way to learn about synthesis. Its also true that building a rig of your own is extremely pricey and not necessarily more productive in the end. Since this blog is about productivity, creativity and tackling anything that stops us from getting there I hope my impressions about going Modular will help make your experience getting started a positive one.

I want to hear about your experiences, hit me up about your thoughts, impressions, or anything else by leaving a comment below.

Cheers ~ JP

SEE ALSO :   What is the Electronic Music Equipment Needed to Start Producing?  

How to filter your best ideas

I’m always looking for ways to improve upon what I do, and how I can better serve my clients. I’m not taking any breaks on becoming better and better every day. I read a lot and especially enjoy reading words from entrepreneurs to learn from, and help build upon the success of others. When I come across an article that brings up an ‘a-ha’ moment, I want to share it. One of these moments came from one article I read about how to turn a great idea into a business. Across many different fields, music, tech, etc.. one pattern in runs true throughout all of them – sometimes the best ideas come to you in ways you can’t always predict.

Another thing which is true, to generate ideas you start by brainstorming.

In the musical world, I would translate this as jamming. With nowhere particular direction in mind, you begin by tweaking and trying everything. Make sounds, press buttons, turn knobs, listen to the effect of this and that, try new techniques for the first time. In a past article, I’d invited you to use Youtube to find out something new or use a new synth demo and record the outcome.

Jamming freely. It’s known that Prince would spend time in his studio every day making a ton of noise simply to try new things, try new jams, and record these experiments which resulted in a vault of music no one would hear, except him. I’d encourage you to do add this to your daily routine, either very early in the morning or at the end of the afternoon.

Going back to the article that ignited my ‘a-ha- moment, the process of idea generation should involve the following two steps:

  1. Creative session.
  2. Analytical period.

The article states that the brain has a very difficult time creating and analyzing at the same time. In the moment of creation and discovery, our brains use a lot of energy to focus on active listening. In this messy and uncontrolled environment, our brains are set in one direction, we’re in the zone. The missing piece of the puzzle for me was reading that our brains have a very difficult time when asked to create and analyze at the same time. It won’t work both ways.

This is why it’s recommended to separate the two tasks, create freely one day, then analyze the material on the next. This would also explain why we often listen to what we did from our first session and find it mostly garbage. The key word here is – mostly.

It would also confirm my theory that spending too much time in the studio is counter-productive because without a change of perspective you don’t have enough distance objectively evaluate your efforts.

Over time I’ve nearly burnt myself out explaining this process to others who struggle with the process. I’ve also learned it’s sometimes best to let those learn by themselves, at their own pace. This confirms the idea that the creative process is very much a personal one, and that no two people will learn or develop at the same rate.

Session 1: Jam, have fun, explore, fail, win, repeat.
Session 2: review everything that was recorded and isolate the potential ideas that stand out, and are more usable.
Session 3: Go through isolated ideas. Work around one.

In other words, try to alternate between creative flow and analysis, self-criticism and more technical work.

Your brain can only do one at a time and more so, why go analytical when you are creative and why be creative when it is time to be self-critical. The main thing you’ll refer to as your analytical part is to listen to what feels good to you.

Build. Learn. Repeat. Build. Learn. Repeat.

As a child, going out to restaurants with my parents would normally involve using pencils and paper to draw pictures and doddle while we waited for our food. (this was waaaayy before smartphones became commonplace) For me, a blank piece of paper is a license to get messy. Everything is possible, and I always found it easy to get started. Our favorite game was one where one would draw a weird, unrecognizable doddle, and pass the paper on to the other.

The second player would have the challenging task of turning that mess of lines, shapes, and circles into something recognizable like a car, or a bird, or anything that required a bit of time and imagination. Until this day I’ve always thought this exercise was one of the most creative tasks I ever did.

So, here’s another way to approach this: take something totally random, even something you truly don’t want to work with whatsoever and try to make something usable out of it. Make a loop, make a playable sound, take something terrible and push yourself to find something in it that you can do something with. I did a full EP once, a while back where I’d force myself to work with sounds and recordings that made no sense whatsoever. It turns out it’s a good exercise but also very useful as you don’t depend on only good material to be effective with what you have.

SEE ALSO :  The Modular Trap   

PreSonus StudioLive 32.4.2AI Review

I’m hearing lot’s of friends and readers super excited to start using the new gear they’ve recently bought for their studios, I certainly know the feeling. The thing is, learning to be confident and comfortable with new gear takes time, and it can often be difficult to get everything in place when starting to write new material. The process of switching from only a computer only workflow to a digital/analog setup can take a bit of practice, and in this post, I’ll share a few tips you can use to make the process easier and share my thoughts after using the unit in my own studio.

For people into hardware, it will come a moment where you’ll need to never lose your flow and have all your channels on hand so you can have the control you want.

Today I’ll be featuring the PreSonus StudioLive 32.4.2AI I received from B&H. Truth be told, I’ve been digging this right out of the box. This post could also serve as a review of the mixer if you are in the market for that. PreSonus have plans to release an update to the 32.4.2AI mixer, so watch for a price drop on this model.

If you spend a lot of time at the mixdown stage, PreSonus has a fantastic workflow built into their Studio One 3 software.

With the integration of this mixer, the process of mixing with hardware becomes seamless and even more exciting. The super fast firewire connection allows secure and reliable hands-on tracking, mixing, and producing next-level enjoyable.

After using this unit for some time, I’ll share a few thoughts that have stayed with me.

  • Easy to navigate/and use: if you’re not familiar with a professional this beast immediately feels like a friend. It does look impressive on the desk but wherever your eyes go you never really feel lost. Bonus – if you are in the middle of the action you can quickly address any situation with a quick circular view. Everything is laid out so well and located within a natural place. The design is of the unit is also very slick.
  • Very little menu diving. Pretty self-explanatory here but this is something I’m allergic to because it always feels frustrating to dig deep within endless menus.
  • Easy to assign channels to subgroups. Since I’m often mixing, this task is an essential one for me. I’ll always use sub-groups for percussions, melodies, etc. There are 4 sub groups and while I often use 5-6, I could still be OK with that limitation.
  • Tons of Aux sends. As you grow your effects collection, you’ll become aware of how super important aux sends are for mixing. You’ll want to have access to your effects through the AUX and you never have enough. Most mixers have about 6 which means, 3 stereo effects which usually means more are needed.
  • A 32in/32out sound card makes tracking into your DAW easy and is perfect for studio work. As you know, this mixer becomes a sound interface, so you do the tracking and can focus on having everything on hand.
  • Assigning inputs from DAW is a piece of cake (buttons underneath phantom power).
  • Sound quality is really quite good. We did some comparing with our Prism audio interface of the UAD Apollo Twin, and we were quite impressed. It was great to hear how well the audio engine stood up against top names.
  • Line inputs on every channel for gear. Nothing but a wowzer.
  • Well built. It’s seriously heavy, robust, the knobs don’t feel cheap, faders have a nice smooth traction so it really does feel like you’re working with a tank. Perfect for live clubs.
  • Dynamics/EQ on every channel which is great for basic and clean signal control/correction, though not musical in any sense.

I love the mix of analog and digital and there are lot’s of great features here to be sure. To be fair, I need to address a few points I’m less a fan of.

  • Noisy Fan – this is minor, but the noise is noticeable.
  • No DAW control or motorized faders. Although in the next upcoming version, this is addressed.
  • Can only run at 48khz sample rate. Not a problem if you don’t need high resolutions, but I’m still a bit surprised by this limitation.
  • The unit we tested has a small glitch when viewing the input meters. Perhaps this might be fixed with an update, but we didn’t do any.
  • Only two stereo aux returns. hmmmm.

The PreSonus StudioLive 32.4.2AI is an excellent mixing solution if you have a modest budget and the price may drop slightly with the announcement of a newer version coming shortly. In my opinion, you’ll have a pretty good solution for your gear and great addition for your studio with the with the PreSonus StudioLive 32.4.2AI –

Special thanks to B&H on that!



My Music Doesn’t Sound Like Me

Does this happen to you? You start a project with an idea and a direction, “I’m going to make a techno track”, you fire up a drum machine, get a baseline going, start jamming, looking for sounds, creating a groove, and an hour later you listen back to an 8 bar loop that sounds totally different than what you set out to make? “My music doesn’t sound like me”. Yeah, it happens to a lot of people, and it can be really frustrating to make music that sounds totally alien to you.

There is a special kind of disappointment that comes with not being able to make the kind of music you want to create. Many producers I’ve worked with talk about starting a project with one direction in mind but as the track evolves they find the sounds they’ve chosen and feel of the song completely opposite to their original direction.

Why does this keep happening? What is going on here?

From experiencing this myself, I understand the confusion. I want to suggest looking at this situation from another perspective, which I believe will be much more positive, and productive for you as a producer. It’s all about context.

Firstly, our moods and our thoughts are always changing. We are dynamic, and there are multiple versions of us. What I mean is, you are one person when driving with very loud music on, there is one while enjoying music at a party, there is another you while listening to music made for earphones. There is a big difference between the person you are enjoying music and the person you are when making music. Both matter, both are ok.
Tip– as soon as you start a project, save it right away with a name that describes the genre or feel of the song you want to create. A name as straightforward as “techno …. ” or “house ….” is easy enough.

It’s helpful to start your productions with a clear focus and intent in mind – otherwise, it’s quite easy to drift off. That being said, my personal opinion is that drifting is a good thing, and goes hand in hand with being in the moment, and more in touch with the YOU who is in the studio in that moment.
If you are truly in touch with your emotions or follow the sounds you are excited by, drifting off into other directions is going to happen. It’s simply a process of discovery.

The way I see music is similar to the birth of a strange, alien creature that has come out from nowhere. Even if the music you’ve created sounds completely foreign to you, it’s important to be patient with the material as later in the production or mixing phases, you learn to gently tame something raw and undeveloped into an evolved creature with a unique personality. If your music sounds a little different than what you set out to do, I believe that’s a good thing.

If you’ve been reading my posts over time, you’ll know I strongly encourage The Bonsai Method, and the habit of not spending too much time on any one track. Working quickly and finishing fast will significantly sharpen up your production skills, and you’ll be a much more prolific producer for it. You want your sounds to be a little raw, out of control, and strange. These sounds are the unsculpted gems you can only do when you stop censoring yourself. This is the stuff you are striving for.

Embrace unexpected results, and embrace change.

Imagine the number of ideas you’ll have to work with if you start 20 tracks from scratch as opposed to trying to polish one song for 20 hours. Spending too much time on one track will often take away from the rawness of your initial recording. This liveliness is precisely the sound that made us excited in the first place, and it’s important to embrace these unexpected noises, rhythms, and grooves. Taking away all the rough  charm of your material could be compared to photoshopping a beautiful and natural adult woman’s body into the thinness of a child to achive some measure of perfection. Here are a few essential tips to starting your tracks off right ~

Your work is whatever you want it to be.

As a people, we are always evolving, and our tastes in music will evolve as well. It’s ideal for your music to sound alien to you and progress yet understand that your progression may happen in an order you can’t predict. Through time and work, who you really are as a musician will begin to take shape.

Hearing the music you’ve made in the past is like looking at pictures of yourself from another time. It leaves a stamp. Find the photos of yourself from the past and pay attention to the ones you love. They might be aesthetically good, but I’ll bet that your favorite images will be the ones that recall a particular moment in your life. See it with raw, original sounds you find. The ones that are bold are the sounds that will stand out through years and perhaps bring you unexpected attention.

Tip: Bounce a version of your track before saving and closing your project. Compare how it evolves. Share it to people who know you. See what freak them…

As always let me know if you have any suggestions or questions about this post and leave a comment below and tell me what projects you are working on right now.


SEE ALSO : Deconstructing A Reference Track

Deleting all yours tracks and selling your gear.

Since the very beginning, I can remember many times I’ve questioned my abilities as a music producer. Feeling stuck on a project or coping with negative feedback from a track I was proud of left me wondering if I was starring down the path of a musical dead end. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to consider unplugging, and putting it all away for good. Several colleagues of mine have similar stories, and more than once I’ve seen someone debate deleting all their tracks and selling all their gear.

High highs and low lows. There is a wealth of research which supports the fact that making music can produce a massive dose of satisfaction, a high similar to the effect of drugs or the rush of an intense workout. The thrill after completing a track is huge, yet on the flip side when things aren’t working out the low can often be depressing. At times it can feel like you’re living in a constant state of low-grade misery. Our perspective often governs our moods, and with just a twist our outlook can turn from sour to super very quickly.

I’ve spent a lot of time reading comments within Facebook groups from people flirting with the idea of selling their gear and calling it quits. On the digital side, I hear people talk about deleting entire hard drives filled with a rough version of tracks, and I think about the hard work and time they’ve invested in projects that will never be completed. They feel the work is simply not worth the effort. So often the feeling of excitement and energy from listening back to our next best track can be replaced by frustration and self-doubt when seeing it stored away in the unfinished bin. Another great idea that stays just that, and idea – incomplete, unheard. Back to the drawing board. Again.

A personal rule of mine is never to delete any project or sample. I just won’t do it. 0% chance.

I believe the main enemies that alter our judgment are overexposure and adverse reaction. If I am working on a project that just isn’t happening, I remind myself to simply store it away and come back to it after a time has passed. Once re-opened and listened to with a new perspective, you’ll likely find something that inspires you, or at the very least – something you can work off of right away. As artists, we are always changing. The artist you’ll be a year from now might like or dislike what you’re producing right now. By keeping your unfinished projects somewhere safe, you are investing in your time and talent for tomorrow rather than throw away what you’re frustrated with today.

Tip: This might feel silly but if you don’t feel good about music, try simply saying:”For the moment, I don’t feel like making music.” Insist on “for the moment“, because it takes away the idea that your mindset is permanent.

In past posts I’ve talked at length about the benefit of planting seeds, creating a master project where all your ideas can be grabbed from and used as a springboard to something great with minimal effort. The benefits of having a library of sounds and tools custom-made, ready at a moments notice, is huge because momentum is critical to completing your tracks.

One thing that’s common is the search for old gear to achieve a particular sound. At some point, it’s natural to feel like you’ve outgrown your equipment and you’re sure that buying new (old) gear will solve the problem. We are constantly being tempted with new products and tools that promise to solve our problems and make everything that much easier. Even after buying new gear we sometimes don’t take time to truly audition them. How often do we ask ourselves what it is we truly need to fix? Can gear solve this? The hype and marketing work for sure, yet without fail the next time we turn around there is yet another must-have tool we’re after, because this one…. man this one, is going to make the difference.

Tip: Some gear can be rented. If you can test drive what you want, that can be really useful.

Take a minute to reflect what your goals are before making another investment.

To truly move on as a producer the best personal investment I can think of is to simply finish something, anything. I believe deleting your tracks reinforces your inability to finish what you started, and doesn’t bring anything good. You certainly aren’t farther ahead as a producer, and you’ll never have anything to show without completing your projects.

Take a moment to look at your progress or lack thereof. Where do you get stuck? Where does it come to and end? Is your sound design weak, do you break apart while arranging it? Find your weakness and draw a circle around it with a big, red, pen. That is your problem area. This is the tough part for you. This is where you give up and call it quits. Nothing you can buy is going to fix this for you. The good part is that now you know where you break down you can learn ways to improve on it.

Youtube. Thank the Lord. Whatever you are looking for I promise there will be a video to help you overcome your sticking point. Just don’t get stuck endlessly watching videos that hours later morph into a totally different topic (it’s easy to do). Also, to wrap things up, here’s a production tip I love doing: At the end of a session, bounce whatever you have, then store this in the folder of the production. Always do “collect all and save” It can be a 30-second loop ,the arrangements you have ongoing, or even export all your session stems.  Doing this is extremely useful when going through older projects but also, you can open a blank project and then import several bounces and play with them straight away. This tip has been so useful for my past albums!


SEE ALSO :  Finishing Your Projects

Background vs forefront to create dimension

Nearly every week I have a similar conversation with my clients. In good faith, and to save both my clients and myself time I’m writing this post to help answer the questions many producers keep wondering. The question of background vs. forefront to create dimension.

My clients often send me projects with a lot of sounds going on, which if you know me and my label well enough is something I’m a big fan of. That being said, there is a way to work with a song made up of lot’s of sounds without things becoming a bit too much.

During the production of your song, how many times have you listened to it all the way through? Twenty, thirty times? More? As songwriters, we need to consider the listening perspective of our audience, who will likely never hear all the nuances and details that we do. Perhaps if they’re big fans, they’ll listen to our track ten times. With that number of listens, the impression you get from a very busy song is very similar to looking at a very busy picture – You’ll discover different ideas on each view, but the whole image will be taken for what it is. What will sound like a mistake to you will likely be perceived otherwise by the casual listener.

When we use many different sounds together in an arrangement, it can be impossible to hear them all equally. As producers, we care for the work we’ve put into our sound design and often make the mistake (myself included) of trying to give every sound (big and small) the same amount of emphasis in hopes that nothing will be missed.

Even during active listening, both simple and complex music will often have subtle details we may not hear at first.

The important thing to understand is this – many sounds working together shape and create an experience. Some sounds only work when combined with others to form a unique layer, much stronger than the sum of it’s parts.

Sound design is a complex science that often takes years to understand fully. For many producers that ‘a-ha’ moment comes with the understanding that many sounds aren’t massive all by themselves, but rather a combination of several sounds carefully layered together.

For example, a punchy kick may have three layers (low, mids, hi-mids for transient shaping). A warm and full sounding pad may have harmonics created from a layer of richer oscillation in the hi-mids (using a square oscillator). This is the technical part of it but for someone not interested in sound design and is purely a listener, he/she will experience these sounds in an entirely different language, but he will get it though.

TRY: When listening to music, force yourself to identify layers in sounds.

With the concern that some sounds will not be heard equally at rest, we can start looking into how to create details with dimension and subtlety.
These details are as important as each of the featured sounds as they are needed to support the main element(s) of the song itself. Let’s see how to approach this:

  1. Decide what the core or backbone of your song is. If someone has to sing your song to someone else or attempt to explain what the song is about, what would that person say? In other words, the most memorable part of your song is the main idea. If you remove that, the song is not really there since most of the sounds are there to support that main idea.
  2. In the percussion sounds, identify what are the main elements that support the groove and the main idea. Usually, there’s the kick, a snare/clap, and a hat. Some tracks have multiple claps or additional  percussions here and there, but it’s important to decide what the main percussion sounds are.
  3. The other sounds will be EQed to create dimension. Only the use of EQ combined with volume changes will be enough here.

TRY: Next time you listen to a song, try to give attention to anything that is mixed low in the mix.


How to apply the distancing technique, on a very simple level, is to apply a low-pass filter/EQ on the sound. The more your filter up, the thinner the sound will feel and also the more pushed away it will sound. There’s no right or wrong here, but you’ll need to adjust the volume to your own taste and feel. I would suggest compressing your sounds to bring them together somewhat.

This is a regular cut that usually removes a lot of muddiness.


This cut would move sounds to a bit behind any of the featured sounds.


This place sounds far off


For subtle positioning.


The other trick would be to use reverb but that one is something to use with great care. Depending on your reverb unit, this technique can introduce muddiness which the previous trick won’t do. Like always experiment and find what you like in the process. You can also combine the EQ trick with the reverb use for better feel.

Let me know how it goes!


 SEE ALSO :  Dynamic Sound Layering and Design    

Templates As Seeds

As a producer, you’re likely trying to balance several tasks all at once while working on your music. If you’re spending time to look through four or five reverbs in search of the perfect sound, setting up buses and groups to pre-mix your tracks while you arrange it, or just feeling frozen looking at a blank project screen and finding it hard to get going, it’s no wonder you aren’t as productive as you’d like to be.

Good news, this post is all about setting yourself up to win before you begin. Begin to see your templates as seeds. 

Many DAWs can be setup to load a template as an initial starting point. Reason will propose a pre-made environment, and Studio One will propose if you’d like to setup a project for mixing to speed up your getting started time. Ableton Live doesn’t have that feature by default, but you can easily change that to open a custom startup project.

Even though most DAWs have this helpful feature, that wasn’t enough for me. But it felt like I could do better.

In one way this is a follow-up post to the previous Bonsai Technique that I shared a few weeks back. It was super popular, and many people sent in comments about how it really helped them develop tracks from little ideas. Now, I’d like to follow up with this idea as I realized that many people are missing out on the fun of using a template to get their projects started. Also, there are a few things we can add in that will also be valuable for your next productions. Let’s have a look at the techniques to get rolling fast.

I’m going to suggest something simple in essence, but it’s very effective to get new projects sounding great right from step one.

Start your next project using the last song used. I heard about this technique from Matthew Herbert’s manifesto, and it got me inspired. Herbert would pick up the mixing board where he left things off from the last session. Why is this a good idea?
Starting from the last mix would provide a faster workflow but also, the random EQs, compression, effects, would be set to something he would never have set up beforehand. I thought this concept was brilliant and began doing this myself. Very often I would start with the last project loaded but would make the next song right after the end of the previous one. The same configuration and settings for the kick, percussion etc… were the same, which often led me into directions I didn’t expect at all. This is a big advantage. 

Consider keeping the effects on each channel as is, but drop your new clips into existing channels at random. In some situations, I also would copy the arrangement of one song and paste it into another song’s arrangement view. Very strange results would come up, often leading to unexpected yet very usable sound design results. I often have one “mother” project which will be a safe place for me to develop and grow these ideas. Then I will copy some loops into another project’s arrangement view, and sometimes move the clips between channels to see which one fits the best. I even did the exercise of dropping a full arrangement into another project keeping it as intact as possible. From there I wouldn’t even listen to it before bouncing it out. I’d then listen to it weeks later and get blown away. I made a handful of tracks from my album Intra or White Raven this way.
Next, challenge yourself to keep your bus routing and groups intact. It’s great to have pre-made sends channels or busses that you can re-use quickly. Of course, an easy way would be to be to assemble a macro of the chain of effects you’ve used, but I like the idea of opening a template and have no idea what effects would be awaiting me. I will sometimes swap my most used effects with others I newly acquired or some I’ve forgotten about. It’s often nice to dig up older, legacy plugins that can bring up a particular grain to your sound.

Clear your finished project from the clips and save it as a template.

One exercise you can start applying today would be:

  1. Create a folder for your templates.
  2. Each time you finish a song, you do a “save as…” to that folder. You’ll then clean it from the clips in the Arranger view. I will often leave what I call ‘leftover’ sounds that weren’t used in the project. I’ll set these clips in the session view in a channel named “Leftovers.” Doing this allows you to re-purpose those sounds, which may be a perfect fit in your new project.
  3. Midi clips could be left there as well because it is usually interesting to have on hand some midi material you can quickly throw new sounds onto and see what it gets that sounds like.

Now, an extra tip, which is to make a template for the design of an EP/LP. As you know, it’s always great to have a common feel for an entire release, and one of the things I would recommend would be in the way you apply your effects.

  • Reverb. Either you pick a reverb from one specific company (ex. Altiverb) and use some presets to get started, or you try to remain in the same family of space such as Plates.
  • Delays. Using the same plugin but changing the delay speed.
  • Saturation. Try to pick one type and stick to it. I recommend applying this through a send channel where you have more control over how each sound is colored.
  • Compression/EQ. Some apply a distinct color and are more or less transparent. It can be a good idea to keep the same type of combination through your channels.

As always I want to hear your feedback on anything mentioned in this post. Feel free to share this post or leave a comment below and tell me how these creative, and time-saving techniques are working for you. 



SEE ALSO :  Pointers To Define Your Sound

Bouncing stems and mix

Recently I’ve been weighing the benefits of focusing on just one part of my production process exclusively, or, working on all the steps of a production simultaneously – arranging, mixing, pre-mastering, etc.. Very often producers ask me to explain a perfect workflow recipe and the truth is, there really isn’t a one size fits all answer.

But in theory, there are 2 main approaches I’ve been seeing in production to make a song.

  1. Classic way. Which involves taking one phase at a time but with the option to roll back to go fix something.
  2. Modern way. You go from one phase to the other in no particular order, as your needs change. You’ll mix as your arrange, change sounds of the percussion to match a melody, add saturation for aesthetics, etc.

One of Ableton’s feature that I find killer is the option to export all channels as separate stems. It really is great for so many reasons but also allows your to really divide the production from the mixdown, which you could do in another DAW.

There are many reasons why you’d like to do your mixdown into another DAW. One of the reason is, you’re basically blending, what I call, software grains. Think of the various apps on your smartphone that offer various filters for your images, where you can go from one to another, taking advantage of each strength. I would say it’s the same for DAWs.

  • Workflow. Each DAW has its own workflow, appearance, feel. Sometimes, just a change of platform is enough to, psychologically, feel your track in a different way. There are countless researches that have been done in between DAW, to which has the best sound, but in terms of summing, if you take a file with nothing on it and bounce it, they will all provide the exact same file. Where there will be a difference is on automation, interface and that alone can make you behave differently in a mix situation. There’s also all the macros and gizmos they all offer too.
  • Native plugins. Again, this might be a game changer. This of an any DAW, they will offer different plugins doing different things. Now, just for compression and EQ, it becomes a serious business. Mostly because there’s a big difference between what you see and hear, plus no one really does things the same way.

That last point is crucial here. You can take the same compressor concept (ex. FET compression), but it will sound different from one company to another. There are no real universal standards on how to approach compression or EQing. An EQ can show you a curve but the filter in the back might slightly be different to give a color, for instance.

So, when it comes to Ableton, I now export all channels as stems to do the mixdown. No more mixing as a arrange. I put a wall between the 2 phases. Some of the reasons are:

  • It liberates CPU usage. No surprises here. When you deal with a heavy load of VST’s and plugins it can often be a lot to manage. The act of bouncing out and mixing stems will force you to focus on only mix related plugins such as EQ and compression. No more delays, chorus and reverb adjustments. At this stage, you’ll focus on the volume levels alone.
  • It put’s an end to the endless adjustments you can make to every sound. You’ll have the option of correcting that little hihat detail that’s been bothering after hearing your track 100 times, but honestly, someone who has just heard your song for the first time will interpret that sound as part of the track, not as a mistake. It’s good to put an end to endless changes and adjustments and move on to finishing your production. Professionals keep their eye on the prize and get things done.
  • The audio summing seems to reveal imperfections. I’m not sure what’s happening here but sometimes, when you bounce the stems, things are just slightly different. I can’t pinpoint why and in theory, it’s not supposed to be but sometimes, it does sound slightly different. In fact, once you bounce it, that’s when you know exactly how it will be so it’s interesting to bounce all channels apart.
  • Ability to use other DAWs. As described earlier, this is the ultimate way to move from one platform to another. You’ll be to leverage the strength of each DAW.
    Build live sets or NI Stems. Having stems on hand can be useful to create live sets. Native Instruments offers a technology for creating a stems release to be played in Traktor, which is really cool, and super in demand by many of the world’s top dj’s.
  • Backup and remixing. Having stems is the ultimate way to have a real backup of your music. In 10 years time no one can predict what technology will be available, but having stems will prove useful as a way to be used with any new technology.

All an all, try it and see for yourself. Bouncing stems can only bring advantages to your workflow and I’d love to hear about it.

SEE ALSO : Use a main project for organizing yourself 

Guide to shameless self-promotion

Let’s face it, self-promotion is certainly one of the most loved & hated topics musicians face on a daily basis. I mean, you make music, it’s hard to repress that inner compulsion of wanting to share your work to the world right? Finishing music and releasing your hard work to the world feels amazing. Receiving constructive feedback from people you respect will also help unlock obstacles that make us reach the level of production we aim for. But we have to get it out for others to hear right? This post will help you be being your guide to shameless self-promotion.

Many people see self-promotion as something they need to do, which can make it feel like a painful obligation.

Music is a very strong, and personal form of expression. As artists we want to know if our message is understood and appreciated by others. In a way it’s self validating. Proper self-promotion is always about how to do it in a way that is truly authentic, and not make us look like something we are not. Now that we understand this – there are a few facts we need to check in order to make our self promotion efforts work for us. I’m not talking about going viral on social media, but specifically your daily efforts on social media as a way to leverage our network, and create something useful.

The minute you understand that it’s not an obligation but more of a catalyst to get things done, the dynamic will automatically change. This is a process called reframing your train of thoughts.

If you share your music with the intent and idea that you’re trying to unite, bond and communicate something personal, a huge chunk of guilt be removed from the idea of self promotion.  Giving up on hustling sales and popularity will create a positive pivot in your career. We need to stop seeing the act of sharing music as a way to be seen, heard, known. 

I’ve been reading a really helpful book named “Designing your life” which approaches what you want out of life through the mind of a designer. The point of the book is – to become who you want, to have the life you want, you first need to self reflect, and ask yourself what is going on to pinpoint what issue you’d like to fix. In our case, our target here is to build a healthy and strong network.

Over the past weeks, I’ve come across a few articles that state the importance of your surroundings and contacts to achieve the level of success you want. One of the main reason I am where I am right now was that I’ve been lucky enough to have amazing people helping me along the way. Behind every success story, there’s often a dedicated team working in the shadows of that success. One of the ways to keep riding high is to constantly share your wins with your tribe, and go out of your way to make sure everyone in your tribe is appreciated and part of your success.

How to build and design your music life comes with at least 4 important teamsters:

  • The feedback. That guy has the culture of the music you’re making and loves the music you also love. Therefore, his input means something as long as he’s being honest, of course.
  • The knowledge. This member is someone who has technical knowledge you don’t have and can be answering critical questions in time you need it.
  • The creative. This person feels the trends, surfs the ideas better than no one. He can propose ideas that are unusual but that can be leading you to something. See this person as a muse.
  • The propaganda. If you are shaky with social medias, let this person rave about your music while you can post about other things. This person becomes the validator and that is useful for your success.

Finding your team takes years and can also be shifting over time. But you need to connect with others and build your network to find the gems.

Ok, so how can we apply that in practice? How do we get started from scratch?

  1. Don’t ask without giving first. I’ve made this #1 because this is often misunderstood. For instance, I often get emails from people giving me lot’s of compliments about my music, and quickly send me a follow up  email asking me to listen to their music and provide feedback. There’s nothing wrong with asking for feedback, but it doing so out of nowhere makes me question the integrity of their compliments in the first place. It takes a lot of time to gain someone’s attention and trust. Involving yourself with someone is an investment, and building a genuine relationship takes time and often cannot be made overnight.
    1. For networking, try: approaching and following people at your skill or experience level. You can and will grow with them. Leave feedback and appreciation on their music whenever there’s something you enjoy. Do not ask for anything in return.
    2. For social media, especially Twitter or Facebook – share the music you are really into right now, especially from artists that aren’t well known. People love discovering new artists, and if YOU are that artist and find someone spreading praise for you the feeling will be an amazing one.
  2. Be a supporter. You probably saw that video of the guy dancing in a festival in a super weird way, someone with a huge crowd following him comes to join the dancer, and just like that the party goes off.  The second guy joining is crucial, he is the social influencer, the supporter. In the same vein as the previous point, you can be that guy by being the first one who leaves comments on Soundcloud and proposes to play people’s music in a podcast (if you’re a DJ).
    1. For networking, try: Going to shows to meet people. The in-person contact never fails. If your contacts are abroad, try engaging conversation through messaging.
    2. For social medias, try: Offering your help to labels, in any way possible. This is an important way to be part of something. You have no idea how difficult it is to run a small label, so any help can be useful and appreciated. Look at what you are good at and see if you can help. Perhaps you can help with the blog, graphic design, website, PR, etc… If it’s a small organization at least one part of the label might need a hand. Then on your social medias, you can support and champion the label, which will bring many unsuspected contacts.
  3. Curiosity pays off. People think that approaching and forging relationships with fellow music producers involves talking about music. I’ve known artists that refused to forge any kind of contacts with people who initially approached them for music related reasons. They wanted to spend time with the person first to see if there was true chemistry. I believe many artists (to some degree) are social weirdos who often lack a variety of social skills. Being patient and curious will be essential in the way you engage with him/her, to make sure that person feels comfortable talking with you.
    1. For networking, try: reading articles, start conversations, think of how someone approached you in a way that made you feel great. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just music-related. Apply this to others.
    2. For social medias, try: Share information about your own interests. People in general hate self-promotion if it’s constant but if it’s something that is either useful or occasional, it will be seen positively. So, if your feed is self-centred it’s going to be annoying for your contacts. I’ve seen some artists spend a lot of their time sharing their passion for traveling, food, clothing, cars or memes… We all know you like other things than music and if you can share what it is you’ll attract minds alike which can become supporters of your music, later on.
  4. Consistency is crucial. Not only for yourself but in others. Successful people have no tolerance for others who are inconsistent, unreliable. If you’re going to connect with someone, be there and always come back. I’ve built some solid contacts with some people who have been always sending me messages and be there for me. They won me over and now I love working with them.

In closing – within the book I was relating to, there is talk about creating a prototype to know which method of promotion feels and works best for you. To get comfortable communicating, sharing, showing your personal side,  you need a lot of practise to get into a groove. Building your network takes time. But once you found your way to work, you know you have a formula you can repeat and always feel good about.

SEE ALSO :  Find a track tester for your productions

Is My Song Good?


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked that question, and asked myself the same thing – is my song good? With experience releasing my own records and working on amazing projects that inspire me nearly every day, I know what I like in a song to call it good or know it’s potential. But what defines that exactly?


I believe there are 3 ways to look at your track to determine if your song is good.

  • Your personal feeling about the track. Can you listen to your track from beginning to end with your eyes closed? This is usually what many people (myself included) do to test it, some people swear by a car ride listen. In the end no matter how cliché this sounds, what YOU think is really important.
  • Feedback from others. I’ve been talking about the importance of your network and how to connect with other producers you can trust. Share your track with 5 closely trusted people and take in their feedback.
  • Professionals’ (real world) views. If you can find one to two guys that can play your tracks in real events or in podcasts, this is will be precious feedback. Playing your music among others will make little difference truly know – perhaps one sound is too loud or the arrangements is too wonky to mix. Listen to what they have to say.


Sometimes a change in mindset is key to breaking through barriers. Starting today, let’s re-shape your way of making and sharing your music.

I’ve seen some interesting success behind the concept I’ve been sharing with those I coach and will share it with you in this post. Before I do that I want to say that if your intentions are to get signed to a labelposting a full song on Soundcloud is a bad idea.

Even if your song is really good most labels don’t like that a track has been available or overheard before they’ve released it. In an ideal world, labels want to be the first ones to hear you and discover you. But the truth is, we all know how frustrating it is to reach out to them and never hear back.
Posting a snippet of about 1 minute 30 (to 2 minutes, maximum) is a good and safe bet.

With this preview you’ll show what your track has going for it, and your skills as a producer will be front and center.

Why not focus on making and developing ideas of 1 minute 30 that you expose and share on Soundcloud?

If this idea sounds like a bad one to you, try this experiment for a few weeks. For sure you’ll soon see what tunes get people’s attention and make a buzz. For sure you’ll find out that your assumptions might very well be wrong. Then go revisit any of those projects that were appreciated by the most people.


What you are doing here is very similar to A/B testing, a commonly used process in marketing for testing out different products to see how people like one from another. In this case we’re posting music, watching what get’s more attention, focusing on what listeners seem to want more of, and then finishing those tracks.
It’s all about presentation. Dress for success right?
You can go so far as to create enigmatic, invested EP of your own with great artwork. People definitely love that kind of presentation and it WILL draw attention. In the best case scenario (that I’ve recently seen happen) a label may notice this full package, and sign the project as is. If a label comes calling be sure you make them wait too long 🙂

The thing that makes a success isn’t one specific thing, it’s the combination of various assets: doing the right thing, at the right time, presented to the right people.

If Micheal Jackson released Thriller today, the odds of that album having the success it had back then would likely never have the same impact.
Another thing that’s important to consider is the question of what are people usually looking for in a new song?

  • Quality samples, effects.
  • A good balance of new ideas with something they can relate to.
  • Overall, tight arrangements, mixdown, (this can make a difference but don’t bet on that alone to save a pale idea).

In the end, it’s most important to remember this –
Don’t let other’s decide if your music is good.
Don’t let commercial results determine the success of your track.


As always I want to hear your thoughts and comments about this post. Feel free to share with your friends, and leave me a comment below.

JP –

SEE ALSO : Checklist to see if my song is finished

Bonsai Method

Are you having a hard time writing music? Are you confused what DAW to begin using, what plugins to download, what samples to get started with? Never before have producers had so many questions to answer, and to be honest, if you are struggling to make music with such a wealth of options and tools at your fingertips you might be simply overwhelmed by all the options.
This frustration also carries over into production itself. So many possibilities can be done from what you have that even making music can be frustrating. Given that, it’s no surprise that many producers fall into making music that sounds very similar to others because the process of making music is easier to do what other producers have already done. What gear others use, what techniques people use, (we can thank Youtube for exposing all the secrets) and all too often we try to replicate one’s success instead of focusing on the act of our own personal creation.

With so many tools anything is possible.

It’s predictable that faced with so many options you’ll struggle to pick one, and later worry that your choice may not have been the right one, you waste time endlessly worrying about other directions your song could have taken. Not productive right?
I once read an article that explained how negotiators work in difficult situations, where multiple options are available to them.

They will try to sum all all it up to 2 final choices.

That advice really stayed with me whenever I work on a project and will clear out my options until I can chose simply between A and B.

Throughout my posts I have been providing ideas and answering questions to help make your time more productive, and now I’d like to do propose an exercise I know has helped me greatly, I call it the Bonsai Method.

In a past post, I talked about the Rule of 10, where working on multiple projects at once might be one of the most productive way to approach creation. While feeling slow, it later fuels down to a huge batch finished almost all at once. The Bonsai Method was used for latest album where I ended up making 25 songs over 6 months, and in a matter of a few days, that all the tracks took their final form.

What is the Bonsai Method?

It’s inspired by how the Japanese make bonsais trees. Growing something with great attention under strict limitations. This evolves through 3 phases:

• Sprouting. Generating a new idea for a song is one of the most difficult parts of making music. Once you have your idea, you set off in one direction. Finding that idea can be the hardest part mostly because at the moment of making it, you may become so absorbed in it that you become biased if it’s cheezy or genius material. You’ll know with distance or you’ll grow the idea in something that would be more suitable.
• Taming/pruning. This part is when you have material on hand and that you want to give it a direction.
• Growth to final product. This would include the final arrangements before mixing. This method of creation is based on finding ideas uniquely.

In the past, I suggested ideas for new ways to create content. What makes a song memorable on my opinion is the power of one strong idea that is showcased and developed over time. Your song will suffer if you use a lot of individual sounds because nothing may stand out on it’s own, and your track will sound too busy, and lack a clear focus. The minimalist way of making music (or cooking) is to take one idea and really put it forward by using an effect with the mix down in mind, to make it shine.

Sprouting is about finding that gem. My biggest take on finding new ideas is complicated to explain, and there are so many ways to come up with ideas on your own. One quick way to sprout new ideas is quite simple.
1. Take a track you like.
2. Loop it’s last 1/3 (outro).
3. Throw ideas on top of what could be the best complementary track to mix over it. This could mean you can add a chord hit, some percussion, a simple bassline, etc.

Basically, you’re building the intro of your track that would be mixed by a DJ, over the track you selected. Once you listen to both of them and notice that have something there, mute the reference track and listen to what you have put together.
It’s possible that this process may seem underwhelmingly simple or plain weird, by itself. We’ll work on that on the second phase but remember that this is the beginning of something which will grow into a future track. Patience my friend.

Taming and pruning. This one, just like described in the post Rule of 10, is about coming back to what you have created over several days, and work on it little by little. You’ll need to focus on the content, the idea, not necessarily over the percussions, mixing, kick, etc. All those will come by themselves once you nail down what this track is about.

  • Don’t discard anything, keep everything.
  • Resample and record the little takes you do. Instead of putting blocks in the arranger, play a melody in a loop and record yourself tweaking it.
  • All these new takes are the pruning of the original idea.

Things you can do to alter and modify your sound:

  • Change the pitch.
  • Stretch it, warp it.
  • Change the groove. Change the sequence, rhythmic feel of it.
  • Add effects: compression, EQ, saturation, filter, are the main ones to look for.

Growth to the final arrangement.
Ableton, arrangements, live, techno, cleanIn a past article I’ve explained how to turn a loop into a song but for this method I’d like to take a special approach that might surprise you. It’s based on one simple rule – once your have your idea down: you may only make 1 correction per time you open the project.
This is important, you’ll come back on multiple occasions and adjust little details in your last touches. Just like the Bonsai Method, you have to come back, adjust one little detail, save, and close the project.
You’ll spend only a few minutes on your song at one time to keep your impression of the track as if you listened to it for the first time.
You’ll be more efficient if you come to your project with the idea that you can only make one single change and then save it until next time.
As you probably know, the main goal here is to make the first 1/3 of your track and then, the rest will be pretty much-duplicated ideas and add-ons.

As always I want to hear your feedback on anything mentioned in this post. Feel free to share this post or leave a comment below and tell me how the Bonsai Method is working for you. 


JP –

SEE ALSO : Two birds one stone. Separating ideas.