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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 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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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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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.

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My Career Over The Years

A person’s career path is never a straight line and today I’d like to go in-depth on how my career has changed over the years.

When I think about my career in music it’s hard to pinpoint the start. Like many people, music has been a part of my life since the beginning. So when did I really take it seriously as a profession? I’d say that started for me when I was 17-18 years old in 2005-06. During that time hip hop music was my obsession. I was listening to the music 24/7, annoying my friends always talking about my favorite albums and my favorite rappers, and I even begin writing my own raps believe it or not!

The Hip Hop Years

So I actually started to make music and I had my friends helping me by making beats for me to rap over. They were primarily rock musicians but they were spectacular at their craft. So even though they were out of their wheelhouse they helped me tremendously. After a couple years though I realized they just weren’t as serious about making hip hop music as I was. I understood they were primarily rock musicians, but I was taking this music seriously and I needed to be around people who took it seriously. So I did some soul searching and decided to be a producer myself. I’d go back to school, learn how to make beats, and then work with other artists while also working on my own projects on the side. I started googling things like “How to be a producer” and asking people for advice on getting started. One thing that came up was the benefits of playing an instrument. It’s not a requirement but many said knowing how to play the piano would help me understand theory and harmony and make it easier to use a MIDI controller. So I used my sister’s piano and started playing. Than everything changed.

The Piano Years

I fell in love with the instrument. I was instantly hooked and couldn’t get enough. Suddenly the piano became my life and I went from wanting to do hip hop to wanting to play the piano for a living. So from 2010- 2017 piano was my main focus and specifically jazz music became my main focus. I went to college for it, graduated, and began playing gigs and teaching. By 2015 I was officially a professional musician! I had made it.

The Game Audio Years (Present Day)

In 2019 I started to search for other ways I could contribute to the world with my skillset. After thinking about it and trying different things I decided to work in game audio. I wanted to create compositions and use sound design to enhance the experience players have in these worlds. So I began creating a demo reel, working with an indie dev on an RPG, and learning all I can about audio implementation. Working in game audio has been one of the more challenging and thrilling things I’ve done in my life. There are so many new things for me to learn, but it’s so fulfilling when I figure out how to make the sounds work the way I want them to. I’m looking forward to where this next step in my career takes me and I’m so glad I’ll be able to document it all here on my website.

Conclusion

Throughout the years my career has changed so much. I went from rapper, to producer, to jazz pianist, to composer and sound designer. One of the most valuable things I’ve learned is to be willing to adapt and change as I adapt and change. To not put myself in a box and force myself to become who I said I was but to just be who I am. Some may see these different roles and think I’ve been all over the place, but I was really just progressing through my career, expressing myself through music, and finding out where I felt the most comfortable and where I could make the biggest impact in the world. I’m glad to say that the biggest way for me to impact the world through sound is in the game audio space.

What’s your career looked like? Did you always know what your calling was? Did that ever change? Would love to hear your story and your journey in the comments below.