2018 Musical Goals

With a new year it’s always good to set new goals.  You know.  Hashtag goals, right?  And, being a musician, I wanted to share my 2018 musical goals.  Let’s do it.

I have four musical goals for 2018.  Some are extremely simple, others uhhhhh not so much.  But they all have to do with making music.  Because that’s what it’s all about.

Goal number 1 is a familiar one.

In 2018, I want to make new music and share it with the world.  That is my number one musical goal every year.  If that sounds familiar it is because that is the advice that I give to anyone who wants to be a musician.  Do you want to know the secret of how to make good music?  You start by making bad music and then you don’t quit.  It’s as simple as that.  So yeah.  Goal one: make new music and share it with the world.

Goal number 2—I want to play more instruments this year.

I have a lot of instruments.  I can play a lot of instruments.  But there are so many times where I just fire up a sample library on the MIDI controller because it’s easier.  And don’t get me wrong.  I love sample libraries and soft synths.  I’ll be playing a lot of those in this year.  But, something about the production and engineering that goes into recording a real trombone, or a real Japanese Shamisen gives the music an authentic, unique quality that a sample library can’t.  So, goal two is to play more instruments.

Goal number three is an actual challenge.  Just a few weeks ago, I released an album.  Talking Leaf Music, available on Spotify and iTunes.  Links above.  Shameless plug.  And I realized something very cool.  I learned how you know when you’re doing something you love.  You see, making an album all by yourself is hard.  Even with the incredible level of technology that the modern era affords, the creative endeavor of trying to write and play every part for an album is a daunting task.  Not to mention the technical and administrative aspects of releasing an album.  Whether that is final mix and master, uploading to Spotify, filing copyright or registering songwriting and publishing with your PRO.  There is a lot of work that goes into it.  But you know that you’re doing something you love when you go through a long, complicated process and get to the end and you’re excited not because it’s over, but because you get to start again.  And, of course in business school they tell you to make smart goals.  SMART meaning, strategic, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-oriented.  And I say, the only thing better than doing what you love is doing more of what you love.  So, last year I released an album.  This year, well, I’m going to release two albums.  One in late June and one in late December.  I’ll be sure to let you know when they “drop”, as the kids say.  And that’s goal three.  Two albums in 2018.

Goal 4 is perhaps the most important.  I did a holiday guitar buying guide video last month where I made a joke about how it’s better to receive than it is to give.  It was a funny video and the line was tongue-in-cheek, but it is not true.  It is better to give than it is to receive and that is my fourth goal.  I hope that through this YouTube channel, through my work with clients both here in the studio and over the internet, through all my musical efforts, I am able to give as much to the musical community this year as I receive from it.  Because the artist puts oil to a canvas to create a painting, the writer puts words to a page to create a novel, but to create music, the musician must put rhythm and harmony to the silence to create something truly magical.  And my goal is that this year, we can all as musicians take our creations from silence to magic.

So, those are my four musical goals for the year.  I’d love to know what yours are.  Leave them below in the comments or let me know what they are on my Twitter @talkinglm because one of my non-musical resolutions is to figure out how social media works.  That’s all for now, I’ll catch you guys in the next one.  Bye!

My Very First Recording

Everybody’s gotta start somewhere.  The funny thing is, I never thought I would share my very first effort with the world.  You see, for a few years now, I have been a professional musician.  Running a studio, producing artists, composing for media and hustlin’.  Everyday I’m hustlin’, hustlin’, hustlin’…

And as a result, I have been able constantly improve and iterate.  Developing novel approaches to music production and sharing many of those techniques with the viewers of my YouTube channel.  But, this musical journey had to begin somewhere.

And, like most people, it began when I was a kid and I got my first bass guitar.  I took to it like a fish to water; playing my first gig at 12 and gigging the Denver/Boulder bar scene by 13.  It was such a cool way to spend my formative years.  I branched out to a bunch of other instruments from there and through my teens and early twenties, I was on tour and in the studio as a player plenty of times.

Despite that experience, I never had a chance to produce and engineer and mix and multitrack by myself.  That is what I do nearly every day now.  So, I had been doing music for over a decade before I made my very first recording.  When I say my very first recording, I mean a recording that nobody else touched.  I played all the instruments, set up all the mics, set the levels on the preamps, applied a mix to it and exported it from Pro Tools.

It’s not like I had any recording experience either.  I didn’t know what any of the knobs on the studio equipment did, I didn’t know the proper way to mic the instruments I was recording and I didn’t know how to edit in the software.  That’s why you’ll hear excessive amounts of heavy breathing throughout the track.

I’m not under the delusion that my first recording is Dark Side of the Moon or anything, but, like I said, everybody’s gotta start somewhere.  And lately, I’ve been on this kick where I’ve been encouraging others to record music and put it out into the world.  I think self-consciousness keeps people from  that more often than not.  So, if I could summon the cojones to put out my very first attempt, maybe it will inspire others to put out theirs.

So here it is, in all its glory.  It’s called El Alma Apretada.  I hope you like it!

 

Writing Songs Fast

It’s robot music with an Indian flute.  I wrote this song while I was doing my ‘Album in 30 Days’ project.  Needless to say, I didn’t finish that project on time.  But, I learned something.  As much as I would like for music to be that easy, it’s not.  30 days is too short a time for me to write, record, mix and master an album all by myself.  And I know that now because I tried to do it.  When I said I could do it, I had no idea.  Now I know.

So for the last four months or so, I have been releasing a song every week.  That pace is much better for me.  12-16 songs in 30 days is just too fast for my abilities.  When writing, recording, producing and engineering songs, time can offer perspective.  That time doesn’t exist if you’re giving the process roughly 2 days per song.  You don’t have time to reflect, to ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing any good and is there any other way I could approach this to improve the end result?”

With two days per song, you’re pretty much flying blind.  No time to think.  One week per song works better for me.  And, lo and behold, after four months, I have about 16 songs.  So, maybe it’s time to release that album.  Now, there are instances when only having a week to get out a song is a bit restrictive.  I would like to make productions more lush, to work on massaging a lyric to perfection, or wait to get a perfect lead vocal take.  But, I’m not convinced those things really add to the finished product of what I’m trying to accomplish as much as having more finished product does.

That’s the long and short of it.  I would rather sacrifice perfection for output.  But, of course, there is a limit.  How do you know what your limit is?  Well, I didn’t find mine until I said I would do something that I couldn’t do, and in failing to do so, I moved enthusiastically on to the next thing.  So over promise and under deliver.  But use the failures as the means by which you can determine what you’re capable of in the future.  And then, under promise and over deliver.  The key is whether you’re under or over, always deliver something and then the next thing will probably be better.

Cubase 9.5 MIDI Workflow Trick

I released a video today about a MIDI workflow trick where you use a MIDI track in Cubase to show colors and help with your arrangement.  The video is here:

I did this because I was talking to a producer who suggested that I try it.  So I did.  The interesting thing is that in the comments everyone was saying that what I showed could be accomplished more easily with the arranger track.  And that is true.  But, the point I was getting across was that a successful producer told me that this was his method.  So, the overall point is that there is more than one way to skin a cat.

Some people discover and constantly try to maximize efficiencies and others cling to old workflows.  Neither is right.  Neither is wrong.  They’re both just different.  And the right answer to how you should do it is that you should do whatever works for you.  Hope this clears things up!

–David

Writing Sad Songs

There’s a time and a place for emotions and that time is when you’re all alone and that place is in private.  That’s what I used to think anyway.  I felt like so much of the emotion you see is affect.  But in many ways, especially musically, I overcompensated.  Everything became a joke.  Half of my songs are crude dick and poop jokes.  And, don’t get me wrong, poop and dick jokes are hilarious.  As you get older, however, the weight of reality gets harder and harder to laugh off.

I like to make songs.  Songs of all stripes.  Funny songs, uplifting, inspirational songs, songs that have a backhanded political message.  But, I never released a sad song.  I felt like a musician dealing with sadness was pretty cliché.  Done to death, if you know what I mean.  Fast forward to now.  When I just released a sad song.  You can find it here:

I wrote it when I was going through some heavy life stuff.  And, I was always afraid to record and release it because it is tough to air that out in the open.  But, I’ve been making videos encouraging people to tell their stories with song.  So, why then, was I reticent to tell mine?

Well, it’s different when it’s you.  When it’s your story that is being put under a microscope.  There’s a unique beauty in music though.  You can tell a story without being too literal.  So that after you’ve told your story, you’ve communicated no details, only feelings.  Only impressions of what that story might have been.

And, thinking about this song that I have released, it’s not really that sad at all.  And maybe that is the story.  The story I remember is sad, but the one I told is that even in one’s darkest hour, maybe they can remember the good times.  And I realized that writing, recording and releasing sad songs isn’t affect at all, if you don’t make it that way.  It’s being human.  It’s just as human as releasing songs that are long-form musical poop and dick jokes, if not more so.  And, it’s knowing heartache and tragedy in life that makes all those poop and dick jokes worth laughing at in the first place.  So, write your sad songs.  Write your funny songs.  Release them all.  Feel good about it.  Then do it again.  And again.  And again.

your music | my music

Hi everyone!

My name is David and I want to talk about music.

Specifically, this concept of my music and your music.  Many of the people I hang with are music creators.  And if you make music for a living or as a hobby, ‘my music’ often means the music that you’re making or the music that you have made.  Whether it’s the jams you do with your band, or the beats you’ve put together in your DAW or the songs you’ve written and recorded into your laptop.  For music creators, my music means the music I’ve made.  And, if you’re involved in a music community, ‘your music’ means the music you’ve made.

But for most people, that’s not true.  For most people, my music means the music that I listen to and like.  Your music means the music you listen to and like.  Have you ever been on a road trip, about 30 minutes into a dope 3-4 hour Spotify playlist you’ve meticulously designed when your girlfriend says, “we’ve listened to your music long enough, can we listen to my music now?”

I think this second definition of my music and your music is true whether you’re a musician or not.  I know that there is a whole lot of music that other people have written and performed that I consider mine and I fully grant that everyone I meet has his or her music.  Unless they don’t like music, in which case, they’re weird.

But I think it speaks to the power of music that people would feel as if they have ownership over the music they enjoy.  You don’t really think of your favorite movies as your movies.  You don’t really think of your favorite works of art as your paintings.  But you think your favorite music as your music. And I think of my favorite music as my music.  That is the power of music.  It becomes not just art that we enjoy.  It becomes something we possess and something that possesses us.

I write for music enthusiasts and creators.  But I speak specifically to the creators when I tell them that they must make music.  The music you create and share with the world is uniquely yours and the music I create and share with the world is uniquely mine.  But music possesses a rare magic.  In that your music can become my music, and my music can become your music.  And our music can become a stranger’s.  Someone thousands of miles away in a different country with a different life who finds something they can relate to in your music that makes it their music.

Now there’s no guarantee that this will happen.  You may release music online that never becomes someone else’s.  But, the only way to guarantee that it won’t happen is to not share your music with the world.  That’s why it’s so important to keep going.  Keep making music because you never know when you will make that piece that someone else loves so much that it possesses them and they possess it.

Cubase 9.5 – The Good, the Bad and the Buggy

I just released this video:

I talk about the recent update from Cubase 9 to Cubase 9.5.  There are a few feature upgrades, nothing major.  I think the automation changes will prove the most useful out of everything in there.

With the video, however, I was trying to point out that it’s not all rosy.  You will take a bit of a workflow setback by upgrading.  This is mostly because little things are different.  Also, there are still a few bugs with the new features that they have implemented.

Overall, I’m pretty optimistic.  I am obviously a big Cubase guy.  I have been tossing around the idea of picking up a copy of Ableton Live just for shits and giggles.  The problem with that, though, is that I’ve put thousands of hours into Cubase.  It has become my right hand in terms of music production, recording, editing and mixing.  As a one-man recording army, it’s difficult to imagine a better software solution than Cubase.  (Maybe if I switched to Mac and Logic Pro, which I won’t do any time soon).  I’ve already written off Pro Tools because of it’s cost and because, IMO it possesses inferior MIDI sequencing tools, which are essential to my workflow.  That leaves only Ableton as an option.  It’s not a good enough option to switch though.  If I thought that switching from Cubase 9 to 9.5 was a bit of a pain in the ass, imaging switching DAWs.  So, Cubase 9.5, here I come.

–David

I Made a TV Theme Song!

TV theme songs hold a special place in our imagination.  Is it the repetition or the fact that they are tied to other cultural touchstones in our imagination?  We remember the living room.  We remember the TV and the couch and the coffee table.  We remember times spent watching TV with our families.

At least, we do if you’re my age.  The TV was the fireplace of the 80’s and 90’s.  And those familiar tunes that preceded our favorite shows were harbingers of good times ahead.

Well, I’m not a kid any more.  My hair is falling out and I’m closer to 40 than to 20, but I do have the opportunity to produce a TV show for the first time.  And, I don’t know if it’s the right move.  TV seems like a dead medium.  I know for a fact that it would be easier to build an audience in a niche using social media, Youtube, Facebook Watch, and other tools of modern communication.

Placing a bet on TV seems a bit like the Polish charging the German tanks on horseback in one of the World Wars.  I don’t remember which one, can’t be bothered to look it up and assume it was probably the first.  It would be pretty silly if they did that in the second one.

But I didn’t sit down to write about the Germans and the Polish in the Great War.  I came to write about the TV theme song I made.  If I’m going to do a TV show, it will be about art, culture and community.  At least that’s what I’ll say to the people in charge.  In reality, the show will be about me.  I’m gunning for the title to be “Dave’s TV Show”.  And here is the theme song:

Dave’s TV Show Theme Song

If I do choose to stay in my internet bubble.  My echo chamber, where all I have access to is billions of people and their ideas.  If I choose not to hop on a horse, get into formation and charge the German tanks, at least I will have this theme song.  It’s like the Dalai Lama said, “When you lose, don’t lose the theme song.”

–David

4 Ways to Know if Your Music is Good

I made a video yesterday about how you know if you’ve made good music.  I break it down into a four step process.  It is part of my continuing series of videos trying to motivate all of my viewers who’ve come from my tutorials, but aren’t certain of whether or not they should share their music with the world.  SPOLER ALERT: YOU SHOULD.  That is one of the four steps.  Those are, in order:

1.  Set Goals

2.  Make Music and Share it with the World

3.  Redefine Success and Declare Victory

4.  Keep Going

If you can cover those four steps, you’ve made good music.  I talk all about it in the video below.  Check it out!

Hi Everybody!

If you came here from my YouTube channel, thanks for watching!  If you read on below, I will try to write some stuff to make this page super interesting.  Feel free to leave a comment or hit me up on the contact page of this website.  Thanks everyone!