Learning to become an accomplished and knowledgeable audio engineer is an enormous undertaking. While we’re lucky to live in the age of the internet, where so much information is available for free, that information is not always presented in a form that allows us to make the best use of it. Spend time on YouTube, for example, and you’ll find a wealth of video content aimed at those who want to master the art of mixing, yet a lot of it is inaccurate, misleading, out of context and inapplicable, or simply incompatible with your own experience and what you’re attempting to do in the studio.
Jeremy is a Montreal-based musician, sound artist and improviser who loves giving advice to emerging artists on how to make their tours more effective. He writes, records and performs electroacoustic “concrète” music for tape, oscillators and amplified objects and surfaces, as well as solo guitar. He has performed and released material throughout Europe and the UK, Asia, the US and Canada, mostly with his trio Sontag Shogun.
I do give students my opinions on their music, during our in-class, art-school-style critique sessions (and sometimes also as timed SoundCloud comments.) I consider this subjective group critique to be the actually valuable form of feedback. As a group, we listen to each person’s assignment and then talk about it. We try to figure out:
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Maybe you had a stressful day at work. Maybe you just got the kids to bed and you’re exhausted. Or maybe you’ve got school work that’s due tomorrow. In each of these scenarios, you’re not left with very much time to do music. And getting stuff done in the little time you have is so difficult, so here are some tips for staying efficient despite the lack of time.
Here we see that we’ve flattened out into a bit more of a bell curve rather than that middle-finger looking thing from 2017, with the four-chord song still being the norm. Panic! at the Disco threw some jazzy borrowed and secondary chords our way and pushed the collective envelope one column further than 2017, with an all-out eight-chorder.
Adopting digital tools and technologies in the classroom can pose a risk for a student’s education that is tied in with social and emotional interaction and adaptation, peer-to-peer feedback (both verbal and non-verbal), and close-touch collaboration. But it can also encourage habit forming, haptics sensitivity, and muscle memory building, etc. As a somewhat heavy introduction to the lengthy conversation to follow, this topic references a lot of what’s being talked about in educational circles right now, and much of it gets fleshed out later. For now, let’s just consider that while digital tools are definitely assets in the classroom for a number of reasons, they may fall short or, at worse, cause harm to a student’s education when they approach minimizing or eliminating the teacher and their role.
Rather than starting by writing lyrics, try exploring different themes and topics through reading, writing, visual art, or anything else that inspires you. Keep a notebook with you at all times. The more you explore art, the more frequently ideas will come to you, and if you don’t write them down, you’ll likely forget. That way, when you start writing lyrics, you can first look at your list of ideas to see if there’s something interesting to start with.
*This article is adapted from my presentation at the conference ‘James MacMillan and the Musical Modes of Mary and the Cross’ at Notre Dame University, September 2012.
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Filter sweeps are most commonly used in electronic music because it’s a popular effect that DJs rely on to impose a sense of ebb and flow on the crowd. It’s that underwater effect of gradually surfacing, or opening up, until the chorus finally hits. It can also be the exact opposite, where a producer will gradually close off a ton of the frequency content so it sounds like it’s getting smaller and smaller, before letting it all back in at the perfect moment to slam the chorus back in even harder. This is especially useful if you’re working on a beat-heavy dance remix and you want the bass to be intensely at front and center when it drops.
Producers: You are also songwriters in your own right. What’s the difference anyway? You are the one making compositional decisions with every click. You should make sure to negotiate publishing percentages where you can. Register your splits properly and collect the money you are due.
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Evan Zwisler is a NYC-based musician who is most notably known for his work with The Values as a songwriter and guitarist. He is an active member of the Brooklyn music scene, throwing fundraisers and organizing compilations for Planned Parenthood and the Anti-Violence Project. He started playing music in the underground punk scene of Shanghai with various local bands when he was in high school before going to California for college and finally moving to New York in 2012.