A Sampling Journey - Music is Therapy

New Year’s Resolutions… everyone makes them. Whether it's to lose weight, exercise, read more or whatever, the goal is always the same. We want to improve upon ourselves. Inherently, the phrase implies that something is broken or in need of repair. Somewhere in the not-so-distant past something broke inside of me. The music died at some point.

I’ve always had music, rhythms and all sorts of noise bouncing around my head for my entire life. But recently, the noise became silent and the rhythms stood still. It all seemed to happen right after my mom passed away in the spring of 2015. I wrote one final piece in honor of her memory and that’s when things fell eerily silent in my head, musically speaking. I suppose whenever I wrote a new song or a piece of music I wrote it for her, seeking her approval. She always wanted to see me succeed in music in some way. Recently I came across some cassettes I sent to her back in the 90s. The music was absolutely horrible but back then I thought it was the greatest thing ever written. But she never let on that it was awful. She was always encouraging like that. I miss her.

I’ve tried to combat this silence or “writers’ block” by listening to new music, watching other people make music on YouTube, buying new gear, selling old gear and reading anything and everything that interests me. One subject I've always been interested in was the art of Sampling. I’ve spent the last two months reading, watching and listening to everything I could find on the subject. I found the craft very compelling. Below is a Ted Talk with Mark Ronson on How sampling transformed music.

I compare being a composer/musician to being a painter who tinkers with colors and patterns on a canvas sometimes just splashing an idea down or spending the time to get the composition just right. Aside from the legalities of sampling, the debate on the ethical use of samples depends on your point of view. I see using samples as part of the creative process and another tool available in  the composer's arsenal. If you’re ripping off a 4-bar loop from your favorite Top 40 song and just plopping it down as the basis of your tune then I would consider that a blatant form of plagiarism. But if you take the same 4 bar loop, chop it up, filter it, pitch it, reverse it and altogether mangle into something new then I feel that’s fair game. You should still clear the sample regardless of how far you stray from the original if you’re releasing the song for commercial gain. Below is an MTV clip from a documentary about the early days of sampling.

But sampling doesn’t just include taking pieces of pre-recorded music. It also includes sampling other instruments, and other everyday sounds that surround our lives. I have the tools to do all of the above. I just hope I have the drive. My goal is to sample something everyday and make something out of it; a loop, a new instrument, a beat or maybe even a full song and then share it and the technology with you. Who knows what will come of it in the end but I know I need to do something. I’ll be 47 this year and I need this for myself.

So my New Year’s resolution is to set off on a new journey to try and get the noise back in my head. The adventure will include using sampling hardware as well as software. I will be using vinyl, cassettes, CDs, field recordings, vocals, YouTube and other forms of downloaded audio. Nothing is off limits. My only limitation will be the gear I have and my imagination. Hopefully my adventures into sampling will be the vehicle that brings the noise back.. But it’s not just about a destination, it’s about the journey itself. What will I learn? What will I create? How will I use what I’ve discovered in the future? 

I'd be honored and elated if you decide to join me and participate with me along the way, but I’m ultimately doing this for myself because, after all, music IS my therapy.

Thanks for tagging along.

Posted on January 2, 2016 and filed under Sampling.

Quick Review - Roland JU-06 Boutique Synth

So yeah.. I ramble on a bit in the beginning but the fact remains.... this is one pretty sweet little synth. Every manufacturer is getting on the mini synth bandwagon these days so there's no shortage to choose from. I was checking out the Yamaha new line but when I saw Roland was coming out with small versions of the Juno 106 and Jupiter 8, I was obsessed with them. 

First off.. I knew they weren't going to be analog and second.. I knew they were going to be small... really small. So knowing those two things right off the bat I knew what my expectations were. The sound. As emulated synths go, they are endless versions of almost every synth you can imagine. Roland used their new ACB (Analog Circuit Behavior) technology in their new boutique line of synths and they sound AMAZING. 

I had owned a Juno 106 for a bit back in the early 90s. But I sold it. I have missed that synth since the day it left my hands. But the JU-06 puts that nostalgia back in my hands and previewing the presets and moving the sliders around felt like old times.  Watch the video for some more admiration of the JU-06.

Posted on December 15, 2015 and filed under Music.