New Year's Revolution

I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions.  I think they’re a clever device which works the opposite way to how you think, by encouraging you to set unachievable targets then feel failure.

Maybe it’s the way we use them.  So for 2012 I thought I’d keep it simple.

Play guitar more.

I realised I hardly played at all and thought that target would be achievable. The good news is I did but not as much as I intended because something else happened as a result.

It started just after Christmas 2011.  I was thinking about how to make it easier and encourage myself to play.  So I thought about backing tracks. I knew some were kicking around somewhere.  But why not make my own? I only needed simple ones with a bass line and drums.  Could I make these on my phone, as I always have it and it is very portable.  So I looked around android market and found this sequencer app called Caustic. It had 6 tracks, effects and its own mixing desk. It was a free demo, fully functioning except you could’t save anything.  After 5min I bought it, the first app I purchased.  It’s now on version 2.1 and the forums have developed into an excellent resource for sounds, tips and sharing songs. It’s a friendly community too.

It had quite a lot of presets but I needed more. So I found sites with samples and downloaded some.  Then I started to create.  But instead of backing tracks, I was writing my own songs.  It was easy software to use and very powerful, a bit like reason on your phone.  I uploaded a couple of tracks to Soundcloud.  One of my mates (Narel – you can find him on Soundcloud too) then suggested I should try making my own sounds.

Well that was a good idea but where do you start?  The only experience I’d had was with a DX7 and it wasn’t a good one.  Nevermind, I’d found bedrooomproducersblog.  It is a brilliant resource and reviewed many of the best VSTs, including synths.  So I picked one called Charlatan.  It’s simple to use but needs quite a lot of tweaking to get a decent sound which is great for a beginner as you have to really work to get decent sounds.

I started using software called Minihost to resample for use in caustic on my phone.  It was ok but only let you use one VST at a time.  Then Soundcloud kindly gave away a free copy of Ableton live lite 8.  I needed a midi controller.  Torn between a small one for programming and a full size one for playing I went with the programmable one and bought an Axiom Audio Oxygen 25.

Ableton really opened up a lot more opportunities so the list of VSTs went on, adding effects to the setup.  I really should use Ableton more but I always have my phone, don’t always have access to a pc and I find Caustic allows me to get ideas down really quickly.

I also finally managed to program drums properly and because my theory was a bit rusty I got an app called Piano Companion to speed up songwriting by identifying notes in chords and scales although I still often write them out by hand from the circle of fifths to keep my brain working.

And by the end of the year my free Soundcloud was full.  It then seemed a good idea to start blogging and tweeting and see if anyone read my blog posts or tweets.  I decided to delete some older tracks off Soundcloud with the least views to free up some space for newer tracks.  Now I need to find somewhere else to keep them all as well.

So for me, a simple resolution opened up many new avenues of creativity.  Sure, my tracks are not going to make me a fortune but I enjoy making them, have learned new skills and made some friends along the way.

Isn’t that what music is all about?