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Making Music

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I used to love making electronic music back when I was in college, it was around 2001-2003. I remember firing up Cakewalk or Dance eJay and staying up very late working on random tracks. I would obsess on getting every track just right. It took forever to create a song, but I enjoyed doing it.

I had a ton of content, and then I lost it all with a hard drive crash. I still remember it was a 40 GB Maxtor hard drive that failed. Back then, I did not know anything about backups, so I had no way to recover the data. I lost all my music, pictures, and code. Luckily I had a laptop that I used for development where I had a copy of the code. Some of that code later went on to be used in the very first programs for -XL- Development, so I really lucked out there. Music was a different story, though. The only thing that survived was a single MP3 of a dance eJay song.

I sent the hard drive back to Maxtor, and they sent a new 60 GB hard drive to replace it, but my electronic music was gone. That event completely discouraged me from making more. Until now, 17 years later.

2020 has been a stressful year, so I’ve tried different things to relax. I do play multiplayer games online. I’ve always been a gamer and don’t see that changing anytime soon, but I wanted something more challenging than mindless clicking on a Call of Duty map. I have a lot of fun playing online with my friends, but I needed a different type of stimulation.

Even though I was not making electronic tracks, I still had the tools to do it all. I’ve been using Logic for years for my guitar, to edit audio for YouTube, and to make sound effects for games. I had an audio interface for the guitar and mics. I also had a mixer and various mics to capture audio for YouTube videos. This February, I purchased an Akai MPK Mini MK II, which is a midi keyboard with some pads, and started making loops in Logic.

Eventually I started converting the loops into tracks. The first track I created in Logic was Falling. I started creating more and more tracks but there were some nights where I was tired of staring at a computer all day at work. I did not want to stare at a computer at night to create music. I started to research alternatives and ended up with an OP-1.

The OP-1 is a fantastic piece of gear. It allowed me to create music anywhere. The first track I created on the OP-1 was Ghost Walk. I created it the first night with the OP-1. I was blown away by what the OP-1 could do. I had so much fun with it that I started to research other standalone music creation tools.

Now, a couple of months later, I am surrounded by gear. I’ve acquired several hardware synths, groove boxes, sequencers, drum machines, midi controllers, and mixers. I’ve also expanded into Ableton Live and purchased several software VSTs. I bounce back and forth between the hardware and computer, depending on what I’m trying to do.

My current favorite pieces of gear are the Roland MC-101, Synthstrom Deluge, and the OP-1. I’m able to create tracks very quickly with these tools.

I try to create one track or loop every time I sit down to do something with music. I’m not overly concerned with quality right now, it’s more about the process of just making music. That is what helps with stress. I do hope I’ll get better with time. I’ve been putting my music online to get tips and feedback. I have about 29 tracks up on SoundCloud now. You can hear them all here. I’ve been slowly putting the tracks up on my YouTube channel, but I need to add some sort of visualizer to go along with the music. This has actually forced me to go learn Adobe After Effects to create visualizers for YouTube. I’m starting with templates but hope to create my own too.

Making music again has been a fun journey, and it has helped relieve stress. I don’t see myself slowing down. I plan on creating many more tracks. I also want to start recording synth jams without a computer. One other benefit is that my kids are starting to get interested in keyboards and all the little gadgets I use to make music. I hope they will pick up this hobby.

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