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Korg Gadget Review

I was intrigued with Korg Gadget as soon as I heard it was available for Nintendo Switch. A music creation app for the Switch? How good can that be? My curiosity overwhelmed me and I made the purchase. I’ve been using the app for over a year and I’d like to share what I think about the product now that I have a lot of experience with it.

What is Korg Gadget?

Korg Gadget is a music creation app perfect for making music and even dabbling in some sound design. It was originally an iOS app for iPhone and iPad and this version was optimized for Switch. You can make music using just your Switch and it has 12 “gadgets” or musical instruments you can use to make music/sound. They have synthesizers, drums, and lead instruments so there is plenty to work with and adjust. You can record music in 8 bar loops called a scene. You can add as many scenes as you like and as many instruments as you like so while the possibilities aren’t endless I never felt like my musical abilities were limited.

Perfect For Beginners

I really enjoyed using Korg Gadget. I think this app is perfect for beginners, the musically curious, and hobbyist. The possibilities in the app are bountiful and I like the fact that I could just open up the app and work. It’s not too hard to download VST’s into Daw’s and use them, but for beginners using computers and programs can be intimidating. I’ve had many friends express concern about using FL Studios, Reaper, Pro Tools, etc. because they have no formal training and wonder how hard it is to learn.

Korg Gadget erases those concerns. It’s the most intuitive music creation app I’ve come across and the amount it gives you at a $50 price tag is spectacular. If you’re on the fence about buying this don’t be. Buy it. There’s value here for you if you put in even the slightest effort.

Good for Professionals

As a professional musician and sound designer I still enjoy using Korg Gadget, but for different reasons. Korg Gadget forces constraints on me that helps me look at music and sound differently. I don’t have my handy VST’s, I’m not recording other sounds and importing them, I’m breaking out of my comfort zone. Using a program like Korg Gadget calms in a way. Now I don’t have to worry about what I’ll use and what I’m working on. It’s just a fun challenge and an ability to dive into my art form using a program I don’t use on a day to day basis. As a professional it’s very easy for the work to become a grind and for me to fall into the same long hard days of creating audio. With Korg Gadget, I still do similar work, but treat it as a fun way to cut loose and just use my creative muscles on a new place. For professionals I highly recommend doing this with Korg Gadget or finding a similar program and finding fun in their work this way.

Do I Recommend it?

Absolutely! A music creation app on your Switch?! How cool is that! It allows for all types of ways to “play”. You can use the app in handheld, table top, or on a big TV. It also has a co-op feature which I didn’t dabble in, but looked like a fun experience based on what I’ve seen of it online.

So yes if you’re interested I say go ahead a buy it, you won’t regret it. In a couple weeks I’ll be doing a tutorial article and video for beginners using Korg Gadget so if you want to see me break down how to make music with Korg Gadget check back in a couple weeks. Until then, take care and have fun making great art.

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Wwise 101 Tips & Tricks

In my last article I discussed my experience taking the Wwise 101 course by Audiokinetic. I loved breaking down what I thought of the course and my overall experience taking it. While I enjoyed the course and it’s ability to teach you, admittedly it’s still a tough course to take. So today, I’m going to break down some helpful tips and tricks that will hopefully make the experience even better. Let’s get into it.

Take Your Time

This is true for a lot of things, but it’s especially true when dealing with computer programs. The smallest error can make everything look broken so it’s important to take your time and be cautious as you progress through the material. So be patient and don’t assume you know everything or it’s unnecessary to read through anything. It’s already been trimmed down so don’t cut corners or skip steps. Take your time.

Take Notes

Note taking in general is an important skill, but for this Wwise course it’s vital. You need to take notes. You need to translate the information given to you into a way you can understand and in a way you can review. Even if you just want to breeze through the course there are tough quizzes that require 90% to pass, the certification is just as hard, and mistakes being so easy to make, you want to be able to backtrack the process using a combination of your notes and the courses materials. For me I wrote down all the key sections and every numbered instruction. I also wrote down all the tips that were highlighted on the side and some of the introductory paragraphs if I felt the information was important.

This process does slow down you’re ability to progress through the course quickly, but it makes your comprehension so much better. By going slower, doing the actions asked of you, and taking good notes, you will feel like you fully understand every section of this course.

Watch Every Video

Even when you’ve done everything and feel as though you don’t need the material rehashed in video form I implore you to watch it anyway. It’s extremely helpful seeing everything being done quickly and having it explained by a person who’s knowledgeable. So watch the videos and just double check that you understand the material and that you’ve done the work correctly.

Stay Focused

The easiest way to make a mistake is to not be focused. It takes very little to make a mistake that can cause you hours of frustration so stay 100% focused so you can have as little agitation as possible. That means no social media, no YouTube watching, no talking to people while working. Stay focused and locked in on the task at hand. Which is to finish the course, understand the material, and pass all the quizzes.

Ask For Help

The course is detailed and helpful, but not perfect. Whenever you have a problem remember that google is your friend. Be as detailed and specific as possible so google can get you what you need. Also there are forums that may possibly have the answers you need. Here’s a link to that forum. Twitter and Reddit can also help so reach out to those as a last ditch resort. Personally I only try social media when I’m super stuck and have tried every other option. Mainly because I don’t want to bother people if I haven’t really tried everything. Also, if I make it a last resort, I’ll likely figure it out before I have to do that.

Closing Thoughts

Hopefully this article will help prepare you to take this course and set you up for success in Wwise 101. If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them below or you can also reach out to me on my Twitter @ecreatesaudio. Have a great day and thank you for reading.

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Wwise 101 Course Review

Late last year I started the Wwise 101 course by Audiokinetic. I finished it very early this year and today I’d like to do a deep dive into my experience with the course, what I liked, what I didn’t like, and if I recommend it or not.

What is Wwise?

Before we get into the review let’s talk about what Wwise even is. Wwise is a middleware program that allows you to implement sound into a game. Other similar programs are out there like FMOD so if you’re a sound designer for games this program can help you go from having a sound you want in a game to having the sound in the game.

Before You Read More

This review will discuss my experience with the course, some general thoughts on what my experience was like, and if I can recommend it for someone who is interested in trying the course. Next week I’ll be going in depth on some tips and tricks on how to better understand the coursework and how to get the most out of the course. So this article today will not help you do the work just help you decide if it’s worth your time to try it. Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get into the material.

Course Material

I think the course material and how it’s constructed is fantastic. The course does a great job of taking you from knowing nothing, having nothing downloaded, to installing Wwise and implementing sounds into a game.

I like how they start every main topic with a paragraph giving context to what you’re about to do, and why it matters. This gives me even more knowledge and I’d say even inspiration to keep going, to continue working on these tasks, and developing my skills. This isn’t just a do steps one two and three course. It has depth and that depth matters.

I do like how things are numbered though. It makes it easy to know what’s the next step and makes it easy to back track if you get lost, confused, or messed one of the steps up. For me though the biggest help is the pictures. They have pictures of virtually every thing you have to do and they even circle and point arrows at exactly what you should select to do the task. The picture I shared above is a perfect example. They tell you to go to Layouts > Designer or Press 5 than they show you where layouts and designer are located in the program. Hard to get it wrong when it’s this detailed on the step by step process.

Videos

There are videos at the end of key sections so you can also see a breakdown of how everything was done. These videos are really good and although they just recap everything, they do so in a quick and precise way that I always watched it just to make sure my process was the same as theirs. I think some people might even prefer just watching the videos and doing the lessons. I wouldn’t go that far since, you’d still be missing a lot of the depth that writing and images provide, but the videos I still recommend everyone to watch for more context.

Quizzes

Now the Quizzes are tough. They really test your knowledge and challenge you. I felt I was prepared for every quiz and I failed virtually every quiz on my first attempt. To pass the quiz you need to get a 90 or higher and I think we can all agree that’s a very high score to merely pass. Still, I like the challenge these quizzes gave me. The point of learning is not to get a high score. It’s to challenge you and for you to have a better understanding and comprehension of the task after learning more about it.

The quizzes are not a one time pass or fail thing. You can try as many times as you like. It usually took me two or three tries to get it right. Usually I got 80 percent or so on the first attempt and then I had a great chance of passing after that. Most questions are multiple choice and they allow for multiple attempts so even if you get it wrong you can still get partial credit. That doesn’t help as much when you need to get a 90% to pass! But again the point is to learn and comprehend so while strict, I think the scoring is valid. It also helps getting partial credit cause when I was wrong I usually picked the answer that was very similar to the right one. So it helped my confidence when I wasn’t way off.

Final Thoughts

I recommend the Wwise 101 course by Audiokinetic. It’s easy to use and gives you plenty of lessons and a good foundation on how Wwise works. I recommend everyone to take this course unless you already have years of experience with Wwise.

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2020 Update

2020 has been a dumpster fire. With the ongoing pandemic, global recession, and social justice issues raging on in the US, it’s clear this year has been a miserable one. Still, we have to keep going, keep pushing forward, so with that in mind, I thought I’d look at my New Years resolutions (which I made in late December) and see how they are going. Let’s laugh and cry together shall we?

Play More Gigs Than Ever Before

Hahahahaha! Not a chance! This goal is virtually impossible and certainly not a responsible one to have in 2020. Of course I didn’t know this when I made the goal, but that’s where we are at now. Not a possibility for 2020 and probably not a possibility in 2021.

Have My Music On Spotify

This hasn’t happened, but that’s more of my personal choice. As I’ve gone deeper into 2020 and deeper into my life goal of “impacting the world through sound”, it’s become clear that sound design for games is where my focus needs to be. Because of this, I’m less focused on my music and if it’s available on all platforms. So, my music is not on Spotify, but it’s available for free on YouTube and Soundcloud and for now I’m happy with that.

More Game Audio Work

Not only is this still a goal that’s alive, I’d say it’s my number one objective in 2020. Over the past few months everything I’ve done has been to ramp up my game audio work. Working on a game with peers, working on my sound design reel, and getting deeper and deeper into my knowledge and understanding of sound design. I’m so pumped about everything I’m doing in the game audio space and I can’t wait to see what more I’ll do in 2020 and beyond.

PR At The Marathon

This one hurts. Running is my favorite form of exercise and I was pumped up about the idea of running the marathon again. I loved running my first marathon and was looking forward to training again and showing what I learned from the first time and improving on it. My marathon was set in May and I was halfway into my training when the pandemic hit. This was such a bummer. Also, I’m finding it hard to imagine a race will be possible in 2021 either. I’m not sure what my workout and running routine will be moving forward, but I’m not expecting traditional races to return until 2022.

Appreciate Non-Work Activities

I’m a workaholic. I just love what I do and I’m always working hard to improve, even my rest is really not rest for rest’s sake it’s rest so I can work again. I want to have a better relationship with my non work activities and with my non work life. So this year I wanted to improve that aspect of my life. So far I’d say I get a passing grade on this, but I can do better. I’ve watched more movies for leisure and sports for leisure. I’ve also had less days where I work past five and I’ve also had a better attitude when I call it day early. I’m by no means perfect and some family members might even say I haven’t improved much, but I think I’ve made some progress on this goal.

What’s Next?

For now I’ll keep Appreciate Non-Work Activities and More Game Audio Work. Everything else I’ll put on hold and evaluate as I move forward into 2020 and 20201. This year has been so brutal, but I’m trying to remain positive and make the best out of this situation. So before I wrap up this post I leave you with this resolution for us all. Be kind to yourself, smile as much as possible, love your family, and keep making dope things. Cheers.

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Timeline of my move to LA

I recently moved to Los Angeles and today I’d like to share why I did the move and the connections I’ve developed with the city of Los Angeles over the years.

I first wanted to visit LA in 2013. That year I took a vacation with my family to San Diego. It was the first vacation I had since 2002. It was long overdue and it was a wonderful time. Here’s a picture of my dad and I from that trip.

During that trip I had family from LA kind of giving me grief for not visiting them. They were just giving me a hard time for being only two hours away, but not seeing them or even letting them know I was close by. Honestly, I really didn’t think about it. My family agreed to go to San Diego so the proximity was just a coincidence. Still, I did feel a little bad since I haven’t seen my aunt or her kids basically ever in my life. They live in LA, never leave California, and the last time I’ve seen any of them I was three years old. So when they asked me about visiting I assured them I’d visit in a couple years.

First Trip To LA

It took me a few years, but in the Summer of 2015 I visited LA. I had a great time. Loved hanging out with my immediate and extended family. It was so wild to see the ways my cousins were so similar to me. My aunt had a boy and a girl around my sister and my age so it was like meeting a west coast version of ourselves. They took us everywhere and we ate it all up. The taco trucks, the hike to the Hollywood sign, and the amusement parks, it was all wonderful.

That’s the week I also went to my first LA Galaxy game. As a Chicagoan who had to watch the Chicago Fire in Toyota Park. Seeing the Galaxy play was a 180 to my MLS soccer experience. In Chicago you have travel far to go to the middle of nowhere, watch a bad team play in a half filled stadium, then head to the ungraveled parking lot to go home. In LA you have a beautiful stadium filled with palm trees, a statue of team legends, world class amenities, a great team, and the most loyal and loud fan base America has to offer. At first this was just an observation of two teams heading in two directions, but soon, it became a synonym for my life.

After College

In summer 2016 I finished college and came out inspired and ready to take on the world. And I did. I was able to perform, teach, and compose my way to a full time musicmcareer. It felt so good to be done with school and be able to truly create and work on what I wanted with who I wanted. LA was the last thing on my mind I was happy and working on my craft.

2017: LA As A Summer Home?

I’m a person whose always evaluating their life. Am I challenging myself? Am I maximizing my ability? Am I maximizing my happiness? When 2017 began I started looking at other ways I can impact the musical world. When I reflected I started thinking of doing film scores and video game scores. When focusing on composition and scores, living in LA became an idea I was intrigued by. That’s where movies are made, that where AAA games are made. Yes I can probably do some of that work remotely, but I can also do it in person, be in the community, and increase my work opportunities. Still, I loved Chicago so much it was not an option. Maybe I can work there in the summer or winter?Do some seasonal work there when I’m composing a big project or something. Maybe there’s a way I can work there for a few months at a time I thought.

2018: Switch Turned On

By 2018 I was focused on game music. No more thoughts of film scores I was looking into what I had to do to get work in game music. I started working with a game dev on a project and making music for it. By 2018 I visited LA again. This time with my producer and friend Albert Amey. By now LA was where I wanted to live. I talked with my girlfriend, my sister, and my Dad about it. They all were open to it in theory, but nothing was set in stone. Still, the switch was turned on in my head. When I looked at my ideal life and ideal work. It was in LA working in game music.

2019: GDC And Sound Design

In 2019 I went to GDC for the first time. By then I had samples of my music and was still working on an indie game so I was beginning to get more involved in the game audio space. Going to GDC revitalized and solidified that I was heading in the right direction. That game audio was my calling and the area where I needed to focus my energy. In 2019 I also visited La twice. Once with my girlfriend to celebrate our ten years together, and another time to go to a friends wedding. Both times were magical and reconfirmed that LA was the place for me. 2019 was also huge because I became more involved not just in game music, but sound design. At first this was just a means to an end. A way to get more indie gigs and work, but soon it became my main interest.

2020: The Move

2020 was intense for everyone. Career wise I went all in on sound design. Learning middleware like FMOD and Wwise, working on demo reels, and attaining all the knowledge I could. My goals became clear. I want to make an impact on the world through sound. Specifically through sound design. I want to work at a AAA studio in Los Angeles doing sound design for games. This goal is a long term one and I didn’t plan on moving to LA until I either got a job at a AAA studio or around 2022 when my finances were in better order. Than a global pandemic hit and changed the world. For my family it meant out all our jobs were on hold or a moved to remote work. This moment gave us time to reflect and evaluate our lives. And when we did, my family and I came to the conclusion it was best to move now. To move to LA and restart our lives there.

What’s next?

LA wasn’t some wide eyed dream for me. It had to work for my love. Slowly, demonstrating time and time again, the value it can bring me. With each visit, each interaction with local Angelinos, I became more and more convinced that this was where I belonged. Now I’m here two years early ten toes down ready to bust my tail off and make the biggest impact I can on the world through sound. LA earned my heart, earned my love, and I’m excited to give that love right back to the LA community. Let’s get to work.

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Donating to Afrorack

This whole year has been a struggle and the past few weeks have only made it more difficult. The death of George Floyd has sparked conversations about police brutality and the black lives matter movement. These conversations have been stressful, painful, but necessary. While looking at my own career and ways I can make an impact in my industry I decided to donate to Afrorack . So today I’d like to talk about what Afrorack does and why you should get involved.

About Afrorack

Afrorack is an audio arts organization that focuses on teaching sound design and modular synthesis to young adults of color in the Chicago land area. They are focused on creating a diverse community and teaching STEM with workshops, seminars, and ambitious programming.

Getting involved

You can get involved by donating as little as $5 a month to support their mobile workshops. You can also make a one time donation or donate to their go fund me campaign to help cover costs for this organization during this pandemic.

Why you should care

We have an accessibility issue in audio. The cost to really get established in the industry is thousands of dollars. Yes there are free things to use, yes you can try to start small and eventually save up money, but in general you need thousands of dollars to even get started with a career in sound design. This is a problem. It makes it harder for POC and people in difficult economic situations to even see sound design as an option. Programs like Afrorack help educate and close that gap. It makes the barrier of entry much lower and gives young adults opportunities they may not have even known existed.

I myself donated $10 to Afrorack. It’s not much, but it’s a start and I hope you’ll join me and help out an organization that’s doing good work in the audio space.

Black lives matter and we need to work together to end police brutality and make this country a better place. In the last week I’ve donated to multiple black lives matter organizations and I encourage you to do the same. It’s been a tough time and it’s been hard to even see why music and sound been matter. In the grand scheme everything I do started to feel insignificant. If you’ve also felt this allow me to give you some encouragement. Keep going. You are not alone and while yes music and sound isn’t the most important thing in the world it is an important thing in the word. Let’s use our field let’s use our voices and let’s use our resources to make an impact on the world.

My motto in life is “To make an impact on the world through sound” when I think of this mantra I usually think of it from an audio perspective. Working on bigger projects, landing bigger contracts, growing as an artist. But it can also mean using sound to impact people socially. It can be whatever I needed it to be and whatever I want it to be. And right now I need to be an ally. I need to be an advocate for my community and my peers. This is the next step but not the last step. I encourage you to take these steps with me and figure out how we can make this world what we want it to be.

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How a bag of Cheetos changed my life

Today I want to get personal. I want to talk about how a bag of Cheetos changed my life forever.

The year is 2010. I’m working at Walgreens as a stock boy. I’ve been working there for 4 years and have enjoyed my time working there. This job puts some money in my pocket, let’s me buy things, and I liked the people I work with, then things changed.

Long story short management switched up on me. I went from the golden boy to the whipping boy. Suddenly, everything was my fault, I could do no right. Everyday people were looking for reasons to blame me for whatever was going wrong.

I remember things got to the point where every day I left work mad and frustrated. I’d be sitting in my car just thinking about how pissed off I was about that shift. How angry it made me to have a day like that. I felt like Peter Gibbons in Office Space. Every day wasn’t my saddest, but every day was my angriest.

In general me working a retail job was always a square peg in a round hole. I’ve always been a person who struggles with authority. Well, what I really struggle with is having an idiot in charge. I’m okay learning and working with people who know more or can help me grow, but to listen to someone just cause you say I have to and still go along with that them when I know this is not the best way to operate this job, yeah I can’t respect or listen to someone like that. So in this retail/ corporate environment I was always going to struggle cause I can’t “play the game” enough.

Still things went well for so long that even though I knew this about myself I figured I was in a situation where there would never be a problem. I worked and was managed by smart people. But that’s only true until it’s not. And once the morons came to town the conflict began and it felt like things got to the point where even the management I liked turned their back on me. They didn’t disagree with my complaints, but at the end of the day they sided with management over me cause they to were playing the game. So now I was alone and frustrated.

Things came to a head on a night shift I was working. I was doing the closing process which involves sweeping, mopping, filling up the chips, dairy, and soda sections of the store. I was filling up the chips when I realized my truth. I was fucked.

I was 22 and totally lost. This job was leading me nowhere and I was going nowhere fast. This was no longer a place where I could move up in the ranks. This was no longer I place where I could build good relationships. And, if things got real bad here, this may not even be a place I could put down as a reference. And if I can’t put this place down as a reference then I’ve really messed up cause then I’m 22, 23 years old with no college degree and no job on a resume! I was freaking out so I stopped filling up the chips and just stared at them.

While I was staring into the dark abyss that was my life, a manager named Bob walked by. Bob was his actual name, and he was one of the managers I was still cool with. He understood my situation, empathized with me, and he and I were cool and able to talk about life beyond retail. Because of this I felt comfortable talking with him. So when he walked by and said “What’s up?” The way people always do in the corporate world like 10,000 times a day, I actually answered. I said something like “Not good. Like what am I doing here? What am I doing with my life?

Naturally Bob was taken a back for a moment. He was shocked I spilled my guts out just like that, but he quickly adjusted and was able to have a conversation with me. He turned to me and said, “Well, I’ll tell you what I tell everyone else. What is it that you want to do for a living?” My answer was quick and immediate. “Music. I just want to do music.” “Then you should focus on doing just that” he said that to me and walked away. After he said that I regained my composure and finished filling up the chips, but after that conversation my life changed.

Things didn’t go back to normal for me the next day. I was changed forever. The next day I was googling how to go back to school. Figuring out what I wanted to do in the music industry, and how I could accomplish that. It took me many years, but that moment led to me going to college, being a professional pianist, teaching, composing, and now working on sound design. Everything changed for me that day when I filled the chip aisle. And that’s how a box of chips changed my life.

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20 Questions

So much has been so serious on my blog so I decided to keep things light today and just answer 20 random questions. Let’s begin.

Q1. Have You Ever Dined and Dashed At A Restaurant?

A1. No, never.

Q2. Would You Rather Have Endless Love or Endless Money?

A2. This one is a close one for me. I think I’ll go endless money and hope I can find enough love to make it by.

Q3. Have You Ever Been In A Car Accident – And It Was Your Fault?

A3. No. I’ve been in accidents as a passenger and a driver, but it was never my fault.

Q4. If You Could Star In A Movie, What Movie Would It Be?

A4. Not sure if this question wants a current movie/ a movie that’s already come out or something new. I’ll answer with something new. I’d like to Star in a Disney Movie. Ideally something from Pixar. Something where I’d be the main character and the main protagonist.

Q5. What Is Your Most Frequently Used Emoji?

A5. 😂

Q6. What Was The Last Thing You Stole Or Shoplifted?

A6. I worked retail back in the day therefore I’m not a fan of stealing. As a kid I’m sure I took a candy bar or something from a store, but I can’t recall honestly.

Q7. Are Platonic Relationships Or Romantic Relationships More Important To You?

A7. Both are very important and as I have aged both are close, but right now I’ll choose love and go with the romantic relationship being more important to me than platonic.

Q8. Even Though The World Has It’s Problems, Was Any Time Period Better Than This One?

A8. I feel this is always impossible to answer so I won’t try to. Every generation is so different and it has its challenges and advantages. So is this the best? Idk maybe? Were other times better? Idk maybe.

Q9. What Was Your Favorite Dinosaur As a Child?

A9. T- Rex hands down.

Q10. If You Had To Choose To Never Use Twitter, Instagram, Or YouTube Again, Which One Would You Let Go?

A10. Tough One! I like to use and consume YouTube content so I can’t let that go. Twitter and Instagram I also like, but I feel like Twitter is more for conversations and I love to communicate on there the most so I’d have to go with keeping Twitter and saying goodbye to Instagram.

Q11. Would You Rather Someone Always Tell The Truth Or Protect Your Feelings?

A11. Tell me the truth, tell me my flaws, help me get better. Stroking my ego helps no one.

Q12. Who Do You Miss More: Ziggy Stardust or Prince?

A12. Prince easily. Never really listened to Ziggy.

Q13. If You Had To Be Trapped On A Desert Island With One Friend, Who Would You Choose?

A13. Albert. My best friend since high school

Q14. If You Could Find Out How You Were Going To Die, Would You Want To Know?

A14. No way. That’s just way too dark for me to want to know.

Q15. If You Could Only Email Or Text People For The Rest Of Your Life, Which One Would You Choose?

A15. Text. I like email for business but I’d much rather text forever than email forever.

Q16. Would You Prefer To Work The Overnight Shift Or Work Alone For Eternity?

A16. I’d much rather work alone for eternity. Overnight shift is tough and having someone talking to me while I try to work from 11pm-7am sounds miserable. Give me working by myself during more humane hours.

Q17. Would You Rather Have a Beyoncé Song Or A Rihanna Song Stuck In Your Head For 24 Hours?

A17. Tough one. I like both, but I think I’ll go with Beyoncé.

Q18. If You Could Start College All Over Again What Would You Do Differently?

A18. If I could start college all over again I’m not sure if I’d even go. Yeah, that’s my answer. Id strongly consider skipping it altogether. I’m not one of those bitter graduates whose not using their degree. Even as a person who uses their degree every day, I wonder if it was really worth it now that I see what it really takes to succeed. It feels like the skills I need to actually be successful as an artist, a lot of that was cultivated by myself after school was done. So if most of what is needed to be successful is based on my self teaching what was the point of paying for college and spending those years there? I’m happy with how my life turned out, but I wonder if it would’ve been better if I skipped the college experience altogether.

Q19. Would You Rather Have Been In The Marching Band Or On The Debate Team in High School?

Marching band.

Q20. What’s One Secret You Are Still Keeping From Your Mom?

A20. We don’t talk right now so nothing really.

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Kansas 1935: Deep Dive

Today I’d like to take a deep dive into the making of my latest song “Kansas 1935”. I’m going to talk about how it was made, what is what made for, and how I feel it ultimately turned out.

Kansas 1935 was a song I wrote for the Charity EP Jam. The Charity EP Jam is a project where a handful of composers write music based on a theme and the proceeds go to the Charity Able Gamers.

It’s a long road

The theme this year was dust. At first I struggled with how to approach dust. What does dust sound like? What does dust feel like and how can I convey it? I started by looking up dust storms, wind sounds, and even watching some documentaries on the Dust Bowl. That’s when I decided to write the song about Kansas in 1935. I wanted to share what I felt listening to the stories from that dust bowl and try to capture that feeling via music.

Rough Start

I started with an entirely different song and thought it was a solid beginning. After a couple days and some feedback I realized that was not the case. At first I tried to salvage what I had and make something good out of it, but after a while, I realized it was best to throw it all away. Sometimes the best thing you can do is start over so I did. It’s tough to admit something you made isn’t good, but it wasn’t good. Better to realize that and try again then to just have a meh recording.

Take Two

So I went back to the drawing board. This time I went with the instrumentation of piano and guitar. I also went in thinking of having one idea that would turn into different ideas and eventually end on something completely different. This turned out quiet well and I was able to also get my friend to play guitar on it.

Putting Together The Pieces

So the way the song works is we have four parts. At first all four parts are played one after the other. There are two piano parts and two guitar parts. The song is essentially done with new ideas when the piano is done playing at the 1:10 mark. Then there is a dust storm that occurs until 1:35. Once it settles down the music is rearranged and returns in a different order. The new order is 3,1,2,4. This is done to represent how the dust storm rearranged and changed the music. I didn’t choose the order. I actually wrote these numbers representing the different sections down on a sheet of paper, placed them in a jar, and threw them on the floor. I picked them up off the floor in order of the pieces of paper closest to me.

This actually turned out quiet well! I like the new order and I like the fact that the new order is kind of subtle. Many people don’t notice that things don’t come back the way they began until the songs is nearly done. I like having this kind of inside joke or hidden secret in the song that’s available for anyone to notice if they pay close attention. And if they don’t, hopefully they just hear a good song.

Closing Thoughts

I really enjoyed the process of writing this piece. It was hard, required a lot of rewriting, and it really forced me to reflect on my work and brought out my best. I hope in the end I did good work and made great art. If you have the ability to do so I’d love it if you’d make a donation for this album. It would really mean a lot to me and the proceeds all go to Able Gamers.

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Five ways to help musicians during this pandemic

This global pandemic is hurting all of us in a myriad of ways. Today I want to talk about what you can do to help your favorite musicians get through this situation.

Some of the ways will be financial, but many will be free and take little time for you to do. So while money always helps I understand you might be hurting just as much as your favorite artist. So, by all means don’t feel bad if you can’t support people financially. There are plenty of ways you can show support without spending a dime. Some of them might even be more beneficial than spending money

Buy Their Stuff

The first one is also the most obvious. If you want to help musicians buy their stuff. Support their work. Go to your favorite artists’ website and buy their music, buy their merch, join their Patreon, etc. Different musicians have different revenue streams. So see what they have to offer and purchase what you feel comfortable paying for.

Retweet, Share, and Promote their work

This is a great, free way to help the musicians you love. By sharing their social media posts you are not only spreading the word, but endorsing the artist. You’re saying “I like this artist. I like what they do. And if you like me and my tastes, you should give this a listen.” That’s a lot more genuine and has potential for a bigger impact on the person who reads it than if the artist says it. When the artist shares their stream, album release, or latest video, it feels like an ad. When a friend shares it, it feels like a recommendation from a trusted source. So sharing your favorite artists latest work/social media post might be the most impactful thing you can do.

Follow Them!

This may seems small but it’s what all musicians want. We just want you to us, to know you’re out there, and you love what we do. Follow your favorite artist. Subscribe to the their YouTube channel, like their FB page, follow them on twitter. Wherever you are on the internet following your favorite musician there means the world to them. Sometimes it’s what they want even more than money. I know that’s the case for me. The biggest thing I want is for people to read these blogs and subscribe to my YouTube channel. For me that’s the best way you can show love and support. Being an artist is hard and just knowing people are out there following, watching, and supporting goes a long way in keeping us motivated, energized, and loved.

Watch Their Streams

With no concerts or events happening for the rest of the summer and perhaps the rest of the year, live streaming has seen a huge uptick amongst musicians. Watching these streams is a huge help. It encourages artists to keep doing some form of live performance, it gives them a bigger audience, and, if they set it up, you can donate money during their stream and help them continue performing for a living. So be on the lookout for your favorite musicians stream and watch when you can.

Donate to State and National Emergency Funds

Maybe you want to help music in general and don’t have a specific artist in mind. Maybe you want t to help the entire community at large be it local or national. State and National orgs are doing great work setting up funds for musicians during these difficult times. Obviously depending on where you live the orgs that help your community will vary, but here are a few I like.

Jazz Foundation has a Covid-19 Musicians’ Emergency Fund you can donate to. While New Music USA has a Solidarity Fund geared towards new/creative/improvised music freelancers. You may also want to think about your favorite music venues and record stores. Lots of them have GoFundMe campaigns or have online deals to encourage buying merchandise online. Think of how you like to consume music, how this pandemic has effected that, and what you can do to help,

Closing Thoughts

We are all in this together this is a terrible and traumatizing situation we are all in. Some of have lost loved ones, some of us have lost our jobs, and the rest of us have to continue forward and work in these extreme circumstances. Despite everything that’s happened in 2020 I remain an optimist. We will come out stronger and we will do this together. So support your favorite musicians however you can, support your local business however you can, and don’t feel guilty if you don’t have the funds to do so. That’s why I made sure to add so many ways to help that cost nothing. Do whatever you can and if you have any additional ideas on how we can help each other leave a comment below.