Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Why Young Creatives Should Use Linux Instead of Mac or Windows

The tutorials I’ve made on YouTube about Audacity are by far the most popular of all of my videos. I started to wonder why this was? I realized the answer was pretty simple. It’s free software that is pretty good at what it does and runs on every platform. This is why Audacity is very popular among young creative musicians. This got me thinking about how these people are only using about 1% of the amazing open source software they could be using if the were all using Linux instead of Windows or Mac OS.

If you’re a teenager and want to setup a computer to become a YouTuber, Music Producer, Film Maker, Photographer, Graphic Designer, or all of those things, doing so with Mac or Windows is going to cost you an arm and a leg. It is hardly worth spending $3000 on a Macbook, then another $3000 on software when making money in the creative landscape can be challenging, especially when you are first starting out. A much better option would be spending $500 to $1200 on a PC then install a Linux distro geared towards creativity like  Ubuntustudio. You could even spend far less than this. I personally use a 10 year old Macbook running Ubuntu and KXstudio that I purchased for $150.

If you’re a young music producer, there’s a ton of great programs on the Linux platform. There’s several DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) like Ardour, Qtractor, Rosegarden, and LMMS. There’s high end mastering tools like Jamin, and of course Audacity. There’s the Jack Audio Connection Kit, that allows you to interconnect nearly every piece of audio software into one gigantic modular audio workstation, there’s thousands of plugins, software synths, and FX all available for free on Linux.

But it’s not just about audio, Linux has become incredibly powerful as a full multimedia workstation. For photography there’s full RAW development capabilities with Darktable, and Digikam, photo editing programs like GIMP and Fotoxx. For Graphics there’s Inkscape and Blender, and for video editing there Kdenlive and Openshot. 

This is all just the tip of the iceberg too! There’s always new and exciting software being developed for Linux, there’s a huge user support group online, and there’s more and more of us who use it for everything every day!

To me there’s also ethical reasons to use Linux as apposed to the other two. Mac is one of the worst companies when it comes to planned obsolescence. Every time they release a new OS, suddenly computers they made just 4 years ago are completely useless (if you’re using Mac OS). There’s no more security updates, no updated web browsers, software companies all play along and drop support forcing you to purchase software and hardware updates. This is not only unneeded, it is incredibly wasteful. It is completely insane that we live in such a society that normalizes throwing away a computer after only 5 years of use when the only reason is corporate software developers decided they want you to buy a new one.

If you’re a young creative person, I urge you to consider what I am saying here. You can spend a lot less money, make the money you DO spend last longer, and help the environment as well has have all the tools you need for complete creative expression if you switch 100% to Linux.



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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Staying Motivated to be Creative and Completing Projects

As an artist sometimes you don’t always feel creative or inspired to create new work, but you know that being creative is one of those things that is needed for your sanity, and personal expression. So what can one do when the well runs dry? Did you ever sit down at your computer to work on music, but you feel nothing, nada, zip, zilch?

This happens to everyone, but the key is not to overthink. Then the other trick is to overpower it and MAKE your own inspiration. But how do you do this? Well my methods sometimes are a bit mechanical, but if you approach it like this you can overcome dry spells. For example, I set a goal for the day. I may say to myself, “I’m going to make a new beat today” and I sit down on my computer and I do it. The important thing is completing the project like it’s an assignment. You don’t wait for the perfect beat, song, melody or whatever, you just complete your goal.

When you complete the goal, you may love it and it may surpass your expectations since you felt so uninspired when you started making it. Or, it may still be underwhelming to you. But honestly, what’s wrong with that? The key is you need to take the pressure off yourself and it’s perfectly okay to make something that’s not great. It’s the action of creation that is important.

When an athlete trains for a big game, not every practice is going to be amazing. Some days they’re going to just suck, and some days so will you. That’s okay, you don’t have to use those things you make on the sucky days. But it’s always good to save them! I’ve personally made things I hated while I was making it, then I open it a year later and think, wow, this is awesome!

Many times it’s really just your state of mind that is blocking you. You need to remove the seriousness from what you are doing and have fun!

Earl Nightingale

Other things that get me going are motivational speakers and authors. Though people tend to make fun of this stuff, it really works. I listen to people like Tony Robbins, Napoleon Hill, Stuart Wilde and Earl Nightingale  and I can really get me motivated, and just feeling better in general.

But when it really comes down to, all you need to do is start acting. Just get the ball rolling. Sometimes you have to push it the whole way, other times it just starts rolling down the hill and all you have to do is follow. But rolling the ball is something you do regardless of how easy it is. Just do it. Make the time, the do the task. Once you start the task regardless of it’s success, it is equally important to complete it. Do this religiously, mechanically, rigorously and with discipline, and your dry spells will come less and less, and when they do, you’ll kick them right in the ass.



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Monday, October 9, 2017

The Insanely Cool $99 Reverse Key Akai MPK Mini

You’ve got to love reverse keys! Something about them just looks so cool. It’s like looking at a photo negative in real world. The Akai MPK Mini is a very cool midi controller already for it’s compact size, many controller options, built-in arpeggiator, and note repeat functions. It weighs under 2 lbs and can be used with a wide range of software and recording applications.

 

Plus it just looks awesome.

I mean, look at that thing.

so sexy.

Oh yeah, it also has a joystick.

Get one here for only $99 



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Friday, October 6, 2017

How to select a MIDI controller

Akai MPK Mini

There are so many MIDI controllers out there today and if you are on the market to buy one, all of the options and choices can be a bit overwhelming. So how do you select one? Do you just pick the one with the most stars on Amazon? Or do you pick the most expensive one?

The truth is neither of those are the wisest way to purchase. What you should first do before buying, or even considering which ones to buy, is ask yourself a few questions.

  1. Will you be using the controller for home studio use, or live use, or both?
  2. what type of playing style do you have?
  3. How much space do you have?
  4. Will you be using the controller for computer use only, or will you be controlling hardware as well?

1.  Home or live use will help determine what types of features you will want on the controller. For example, if you are using a controller live for mostly keyboard playing in a traditional sense as if it were a replacement for your stage piano or synthesizer, then you may want to look for something with at least 61 full sized keys.

Novation Impulse 61

The Novation Impulse 61 is an excellent choice for such a controller. It gives you 61 full sized semi-weighted keys, 9 faders, 8 knobs, 8 pads, as well as pitch and modulation controls. It’s a bit on the pricey side at $369, but you get a whole lot of controls at your fingertips, plus it comes with Ableton Live Lite, which is a great lightweight version of the famous Ableton Live Software.

Midiplus i61

If the Novation is too complicated and you just need something simple for playing piano or synth parts, the MIDIPLUS i61 is a cool and affordable option at only $83! MIDIPLUS is a company from Taiwan that I like quite a bit. I have one of their Classic 49 controllers that I love and it fits my needs. The i61 is a simple 61 key keyboard with full sized keys, volume fader and pitch/mod wheels.

2. What playing style do you have? This is related to question one, but if you are planning on using your controller more for controlling fx, DAW faders, filters, and drums, then one with 61 keys really isn’t going to be what you want. You might not even want one with ANY keys!

Novation Launch Control XL

The Novation Launch Control XL is just such a controller. It is mostly geared towards Ableton, but you could use it to control just about anything you could imagine. It has 24 knobs, 8 faders, and 16 buttons, plus transport controls. This would be perfect for live performance with Ableton in a compact size. Plus it’s only about $150!

Akai MPD218

The Akai MPD218 is another keyless controller that falls into the category of a ‘pad controller’. This type of controller is perfect if you wish to trigger rhythmic samples or for finger-drumming with soundfonts, Ableton or Reason.

 3. How much space do you have? This is one I have to think about all the time. I live in Brooklyn and in a tiny apartment. Things that take up tons of room are really not even options for me. This is also why I don’t really do hardware synths anymore.

http://amzn.to/2xnoKqB

Korg NanoKey2

http://amzn.to/2y4JVBo

Korg NanoKontrol2

Korg’s Nano Series Is in my opinion the best series for those with limited space. They take up virtually no space at all, have great feeling controls, and have a lot of configuration via software that comes bundled with the controllers. They make a lot of different controllers to meet your needs, like keyboards, control surfaces, and pad controllers. All of which are very affordable.

4. Do you need to control hardware? This is an important question. A lot of MIDI controllers out there today do not feature actual MIDI ports on them anymore! This is because the majority of people are using them plugged into computer via USB. However if you want to control a hardware MIDI sampler or synth module, a controller with external power supply and actual MIDI ports!

MidiPlus Classic 49

Midiplus Classic 49

The Midiplus Classic 49 is a great example of an all around workhorse controller. It has 49 full sized keys, 9 faders, 8 knobs, pitch and mod wheels, USB and hardware MIDI Ports and the ability to use external power, plus a sustain pedal input. I have one of these myself and I love it. I use it for home and live use. It has just enough keys and controls to make some interesting programming, but not so much that it’s overwhelming.

Anyway, hopefully this was helpful and whatever controller you end up buying, have fun!

 



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Free Tama Imperialstar Drum Kit Soundfont!

I decided to create a high quality soundfont of my Tama Imperialstar drum kit (pictured above). The kit features a 20″ kick, 14×5″ snare, 12″ rack tom and 14″ floor tom. Cymbals are two crashes, a bell cymbal, stacker, ride and hi hats.

This was part of my YouTube tutorial on creating soundfonts in Linux using Swami.

Download it for free here, or click the image above!



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Thursday, October 5, 2017

Rendering on a second computer with Kdenlive

Have you ever edited your YouTube video but didn’t want to render it right then and there because you don’t want to bog down your system while you’re working on other things? This happens to me all the time. My solution was to use a second computer I had laying around for rendering. It doesn’t even need to be super fast. You’re not going to actually be editing on it, only rendering.

So how do you get your complete Kdenlive video project over to another computer easily? Well, Kdenlive has a feature that can do this for you! 

You’ll need a USB stick with around 8gb or more depending on the size of your project. Then when you are ready to render your project, all you need to do click on Project then Archive Project.

Once you do this, you’ll be prompted for an Archive Folder . Click the browse button then select your USB stick, then click Archive. Kdenlive will automatically copy all of the necessary files to open the project on another computer!

Then just plug the stick into your other computer and copy all of the files from the archive to a folder on that system, open up Kdenlive, then open the archive like a regular project and click render! You can then just go back to working on your main system and let your rendering computer do the work. Once it’s done,you can either upload it from there, or transfer it back to your main system with the USB stick.

Just make sure you are using the same version of Kdenlive on both systems. Also, if you are using any titlescreens made in Kdenlive, make sure you have the same fonts used on those screens installed on your rendering computer.

If it’s an older computer that’s pretty slow, you can expect the rendering to take quite a while, but it doesn’t really matter since you won’t be using that computer for anything else.



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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

There is now a Chinese Kick Drum Mic (beta 52 clone) available on Amazon

I had just made a video about recording drums with insanely cheap mics and in the video I mentioned that I never checked if there was a China kick mic out there. After I made the video, I checked, and yup, there is! And it’s only $25!

It looks like it still may be pretty new since there’s no reviews yet. I went ahead and ordered one and will make a video on it as soon as it gets here. If you want to check one out for yourself, click the image below to see it.

 

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Tama Imperialstar Review – A lot of bang for your buck!

I picked up a Tama Imperialstar in 2015 because it was a good price and the drum kit I was using at the time had been on several tours and was starting to fall apart. I first got the “Bop” configuration which had the tiny 18″ kick. It sounded really good actually for it’s size, but I wanted something a little boomier, so I picked a 20″ matching kick. So my configuration isn’t exactly like the packaged one above as far as sizes, but the shell construction, hardware, and wood, and finish are all the same.

One of the first things you’ll notice about the Imperialstar is it’s sharp attack. This works really well in modern music and makes the drums cut though the mix. The kick drum especially has a really good tone that’s musical, and deep sounding. Shell construction is top notch. If you take the heads off the shells and look inside, you can see the bearing edges are cut with utmost precision. The lugs on the shells are low-mass which gives the wood more room to breath and sustain. The toms have a deep and long sustain.

Mounting hardware is flexible and very sturdy. I can’t see ever having a problem with it. At one point I put a suspension mount on mine, but actually thought it sounded better before, so I set it back to original. The bass drum spurs are exactly how they should be, nothing slides and you have a strong anchor to the carpet when you play.

When you get the drums new, I recommend taking the top tom heads and putting them on the bottoms, then getting new top heads. The snare and kick heads are pretty good stock, but you may want to add a remo falam slam on the kick batter to prolong it’s life.

I’ve used this drum set on two albums now and many YouTube videos, I’ve posted one below. If you’re interested in getting one for yourself, click here!



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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Free Linux LV2 Answer to NI Massive – Sorcer!

The plugins avalible for Linux just keep getting better and better. I recently found this amazing bass synth called Sorcer that is capable of creating those huge, sub bass, worbly, buzzy dubstep style basses similar to NI Massive.

Massive will sorta run on Linux with wine, but it’s super glitchy and doesn’t allow you do really select any presets or do much at all really. If you’re using windows or mac it’s no problem, but now there’s an answer for Linux with this awesome LV2 Plugin.




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Monday, October 2, 2017

Vocaloid for English Speakers – Easy and not too terribly expensive

My adventures in Vocaloid date back to 2012 when I first started getting into the music I heard on YouTube with Hatsuni Miku. At first I didn’t even realize it was a completely synthesized voice! After I figured out what was going on and what I was hearing, I really wanted to start using it. At that time it was still really hard to get any information on using Vocaloid in the West. I was struggling though Japanese websites and trying to understand all the concepts behind using it. Licensing was a huge pain as well because I had to get my editor from Yamaha, and the only English voice bank I could find at the time was from a company literally called “Internet”, haha.

Thankfully it’s much easier now. Yamaha put together a completely excellent voicebank called Cyber Diva. Not only is it English, it’s one of the nicest and most realistic sounding Vocaloids I’ve ever heard. I used it as the lead voice on my track “Atlantis Falls” (video below).

So how do you use it? Well Vocaloid isn’t just a plugin you plop into your VST folder. It’s a bit more complicated than that. You need a Vocaloid Editor and a Voicebank like Cyber Diva, or Miku to make vocaloid work. The two together will cost you about $200. It’s not super cheap, but considering what you can do with it, it’s not that expensive either.

Using the Vocaloid Editor is a bit weird. It is a stand alone program, so my general workflow is to make a rough mix of the song I want vocaloid on, then export that from whatever DAW I’m using at the time as a stereo wav file.

Then I open up the Vocaloid Editor and import the rough mix into the editor. There is where you compose the vocals. Vocaloid Editor has the ability to mix tracks and add fx as well, though I don’t really use it for that. Once I finish my Vocaloid tracks, I then export each one individually, and import them into my DAW where I composed the song. Then I do all of my mixing and fx on Vocaloid like it’s a regular vocal track.

Anyway, I hope this helps any English speakers who are a bit lost with Vocaloid and gives them an idea of how to get going with this amazing software!



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