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Thanks for all the good vibes

Thanks to all who sent me good vibes for having traveled 66 revolutions of our planet. Somehow I made it, while still maintaining most of what's good in my my head, heart and spirit. It means more than you realize.

 

Never thought I would still be around for another uprising of the people, but I am, so please join me in supporting Bernie Sanders against the corrupt, racist, misogynistic, fascist, oligarchy which currently owns the Democratic and Republicans parties. We have a chance to start saving our country and the planet, by creating a real people's movement, let's not blow it. All Power To the People.

 

won't you try
with love before we're gone

Jefferson Airplane

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Paul Kantner - A memory

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Paul Kantner - A memory

I will never forget the solidarity and support Paul gave me and the Ballroom. I am proud to call him brother, much love Paul wherever you are now.

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Dan S. "A Well Respected Man"

Our neighborhood is made of many things ( buildings, parks, stores, venues) but its most  important asset is  its people. People who every day by their actions create the nurturing environment that so many of us moved here for. Dan S. is one of those people. In addition to  his membership in Ice  Balloons ( one of the best bands in the hood), for decades Dan has been one of those people who keeps this community alive and vibrant. Having DJed in many venues here over the last two decades, I can tell you  that the most critical element in any venue is its soul, and that is defined by the people who work their. Over time Dan has worked at many venues and his presence has always made a difference. .

For 5 years he and I did a weekly Tuesday night party at Macri Park, which anyone who ever attended will tell you was a  solid , and joyous event. Dan made it happen sometimes even taking money out of his own pocket to ensure the success of the  party. For me personally, so much of my development as a DJ came from that relationship . Currently, he is managing Bar Below Rye, and is doing the same wonderful understated job of creating space for locals  to hang out and support each other. Too many times people like Dan get overlooked and I wanted to take a moment to recognize one of the true creative and moral leaders in our community. Thanks Dan for all you do.. 

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State Of The Art: Finding the Spots: Max Fish

It's difficult to find venues that can/want to provide a good space for the type of exploration of electronic dance music that I like to do. Over the years there have been a few ( Gin Palace, The Woods) but Union Pool has been my steady and much appreciated base. Tonight I am trying out a new space at a storied institution, the basement at Max Fish. Keeping with the subterranean venue, I will be playing some of the deepest electronic based music I know merged with LES rock and  space based  tunes. If it works and I can get some of you out there to make it viable , hopefully we can do it on a regular basis. Tonight 10:30 no cover .Max Fish on Orchard.

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All Under One Roof Raving... PreSkool @ Pool

The last few weeks I have been inspired by Jamie XX's great track " All Under One Roof Raving" , tracks from his new album "In Color", and a great video about 90's UK rave culture called "Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore".   I was very fortunate to get to go to many underground raves in the 80s in the Bay Area and some incredible parties in NYC in the 90s. 

Underground Rave culture was beautiful, transforming, loving and real, this Friday, I will be mixing in some new and old tracks reflecting or honoring that culture. Personally i am totally raving 80s style,  every time I play at the Pool, and I know some of the people who come understand and love this. This ones for you. 

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State Of The Art: Djing in Bars and small Clubs

 

While most of the headlines and attention go to Djs who are on the club/party/festival circuit, everyday literally 100s of Djs are working in bars and small clubs in the New York area. It is very difficult to find any written information about this type of Djing. Here are some of my observations based on 2 decades djing in these type of venues.

Venues

There are many bars and small clubs in the NYC area, which typically can host anywhere from 20 to 200 people. While often these venues have Djs only on the weekend, a significant number of them offer Djs during the entire week. Normally these venues are looking for versatile, Djs who can provide an interesting mix in keeping with the venues theme, that will keep people in the venue and hopefully attract new customers.

Equipment at these types of venues can range from literally a consumer style amplifier with a mini plug input to a full blown Serato/Traktor/CDJ/turntable/mixer setup and you may be Djing at the end of the bar or in an actual DJ booth. Sound quality can range from excellent to abysmal. Consequently make sure you familiarize yourself completely with the venue sound system and insure you have the necessary equipment to connect and spin. I.E. your own needles, time code records/CD, Serato box, cables and so on.

Compensation and venue expectations

While some venues will pay you a guaranteed fee, the vast majority will give you a percentage of the total bar ring ( cash and credit) for the night. This is usually 10 to 15 percent. Typically the pay out is cash with no written contract, but increasingly even small venues are moving to checks and an independent contractor agreement ( called a 1099 ).

In the majority of situations the venue is expecting you to bring people into the bar and keep them happy throughout the night. Many venues have specific genres they want you to play ( or in some cases not play) and may be looking for vinyl only or digital only Djs. Make sure you fully understand the venues expectations prior to agreeing to DJ there. Normally you will be given a specific weekly ( i.e. every Tuesday) or monthly ( i.e. first Tuesday of each month) residency.

While some venues may have sophisticated promotion techniques including social media, often the expectation is that the DJ and/or bartenders will be responsible for promoting your night.

While weekends are usually the best nights in terms of people, many Djs have been successful promoting weekdays also. For example , I had a very successful run of 5 years at Macri Park on a Tuesday night.

How to get a residency

Network, network, network. Go out to bars/small clubs, go on different nights, when you find a venue you think might work talk to the manager, owner, bartender, make sure you have a professional business card, and a link or flash drive where they can hear some of your mixes and get a feeling for your background as a DJ, a professional looking web site helps immeasurably. Reach out to your fellow Djs and see which places are looking for new talent. Its not easy, there is a lot of competition for these spots but it is possible.

Djing in bars and small clubs can be a great way to earn some cash ( I made around 8,000 in 2014 with two weekly and one monthly residencies) and really develop your skills as a DJ. Its challenging having to be ready to move outside your comfort zone, possibly spinning genres you aren't fully familiar with and doing so on less than optimal equipment but its a great way to become a solid, professional DJ and to promote yourself.

 

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Modulations: Final Ending

Today was our last class in Mixing & Mastering, and the last blog specifically about the course. However, I will be writing about our upcoming trip to Ariel's studio and will be continuing to blog about my thoughts and experiences as a DJ/producer. ( Note you can sign up for email alerts as to when i post a new blog entry and comments are also welcomed. See below)

I really need to express my appreciation for the opportunity to experience Ariel's Mixing and Mastering Class. As with my other courses, I learned an incredible amount and got to interact with another great instructor and person. The result is two more original tracks that I am very proud of and an increasing sense of confidence as i move forward on my journey.

Th Mixing  & Mastering class as taught by Ariel is a very special part of Dubspot. At first i was somewhat dubious of his "group" approach to mixing/mastering but after experiencing the impact on myself and the other members of the class, I am a real supporter. It allowed us to really get a feel for the people part of the process which in the music business is a key factor in having a successful career. Figuring out how to work with others, on something none of us really understood provided a real challenge but allowed us to really learn not only about the technology and techniques, but how to work and communicate  with others and appreciate a much wider range of music. In terms of real world learning, I think the classroom "group approach' is unique and a valuable part of Dubspot.

I realy dont have the words to express how much the Dubspot family has meant to me both personally and as a aspiring DJ/producer. They have given me a rare opportunity and I am determined to make the most of it. Meanwhile i fully recommend Dubspot as the school of choice if you are looking to learn or improve your DJ or production skills. 

f you have any questions or comments about this or any of the other Dubspot course I have taken, please feel free to send me a email at info@djpreskool.com.

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Modulations: Endings 2

Above is the core of our Mixing & Mastering class sending Daniel back to Switzerland. Wednesday class was a chance to look at two projects being done by Ariel. One was extremely cool by a well known producer, the other was as banal as you could imagine by a hipster wannabe. I think the point that came through was that you often may have to work on projects your not fully in tune with ( pun intended) but in both cases your job is to bring a polish to it to the best of your ability. Reviewing  and discussing these two projects was fun, fascinating and in the end deeply educational. 

Nest week two last classes and a studio visit.

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Modulations: Endings

Three classes left. We will be continuing to mix and master in a group session. This is definitely Ariel's significant contribution to music education, it allows for our creativity to blossom, to learn how to work together and communicate and trust each other and results in building real relationships. We completed my track and finished another by a classmate.

As this series of blog entries finishes, I will be starting a new one called State Of The Art, which will focus on my journey to become a world class DJ/producer and my thoughts on DJing and music production. I cordially invite you to come along for the journey. 

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Modulations: Inside the Red Door

Wednesday class was devoted to more Stem Mastering with the class doing the bulk of the parameter modification and Ariel providing guidelines. We completed one project and half of another ( actually one of mine ). 

The photos are of my modest studio in my apartment. I use Ableton Live 9 on a 64 bit Windows 8 Toshiba Satellite with a Focusrite 2i, Sennihauser mic, M-Audio speakers, APCkey25, and a Livid ds1. 

We are heading into our last two weeks and a studio visit.  

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Modulations: Master and Mystery

Mackie 802VLZ4

Mackie 802VLZ4

After a busy and fun weekend hanging around with my new friend Camille, it was great to hit class and get more into Stem Mastering. We completed a master of my Dylan cover which sounded pretty good. In addition to Ozone we piled on WAV Puigchild, SSL Compressor, and  Sonnox Inflator. We also got a chance to hear the master of Ariel's project from last week with him showing some of the details of the mix. Finally we went over two of my classmates projects, providing some group insight into them. Both were pretty cool. We are rapidly coming to  the end of the class which I feel much regret about because its been a real eye opener and great experience.  The photo is of my Mackie mixer which I have in my home studio. Next blog will detail my studio.

Coming up is a visit to our instructor Ariel's studio, which we are all eagerly awaiting. 

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Modulations: Fun at Mastering Class

We had a great day in class. First part of class was doing a Master using Master Stems. This is a way of producing a master via some granular stems; kick,snare and clap,high hats and bright perc,toms and low perc, sub bass, bass, melody and leads, non tonal effects, lead vocal, and background vocals are all bounced to seperate stems and you then master them. 

This worked very well Monday as we were able to use some extra reverb and delay before processing through Ozone. The result was outstanding. 

The second half of class was a chsnce to watch and question Ariel as he live mixed a current project of his. It was very educational. 

back in the day

back in the day

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Modulations: The Mystery of Mastering

Monday we began our journey into Mastering your tracks. Once you have finished music, the final step is to produce a stereo master. Depending on the media you intend to distribute your music on; vinyl, tape, CDs or electronic ( wav mp3 , etc), you will have to master and format and accordingly. As with mixing, you can't fix it in the mastering process, the idea is to enhance your work, loudness, stereo separation, brightness and insuring full frequency response are all possible in the mastering process. In the case of an album or EP with different producers or mixers you are also looking to provide a consistent sound.

As with mixing the course won't make you an expert but will allow you to understand the process and produce and adequate finished project. Dubspot teaches Ozone from Izotope a very popular mastering plugin. 

Monday we learned some history and some basic setups. As with mixing a reference mastered track is critical to the process. Although you are free to approach the work flow in any order our instructor likes to go directly to the limiter to get the overall and most dramatic impact done first then go back to EQ,  Exciter, Compressor and Stereo Imager.  

One thought that Ariel said really stuck with me "Mastering is the art of subtlety." 

 

 

  

Ozone 6

Ozone 6

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Modulations: Group Mixing Final Thoughts

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Group mixing ended with a bang, as we completed my cover of Ballad of A Thin Man ( psychedelic electronica mix) and made some  progress on another classmates house mix. Thinking back over the last few  weeks here are three  of the main principles I got out of Level 2.

1. Reference Tracks -  Using reference tracks gives you a target to meet or exceed. By having the reference in your DAW you can keep checking that you're hitting the sound you want. We were able to match our reference tracks in many cases which gave us a superior mix.

2. Organize - put your stems in order by instrumentation, color code them, set your overall stem volume levels, group/stack the percussion, synths, other instruments  and vocals. Setup your returns with various reverbs and delays. This way you can focus on the mix not dragging plugins all around or having to do housework in the middle of the creative work. 

3. Watch your Levels - The only way to insure you will  submit a workable track to your mastering engineer, is to keep your levels at least -6 to -12 DB under 0.

Next week we start  Mastering.

 

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Modulations: Group Mixing Getting Your Money's Worth

Most of the Dubspot courses involve a fair amount of theory, technical detail and exploration of the DAWs, synthesizers and plug-ins, but the focus of Mixing and Mastering is really about  getting hands on with mixing/mastering. Consequently in order to really get something out of the course you really need to have a significant amount of work ready to be mixed and mastered.  Even if you plan on having someone else mix/master your tracks, developing your ears and understanding of the possibilities inherent in mixing/mastering will enable you to better communicate with your engineer. This  hands on work is what really makes this course worth while and definitely imposes an obligation on you to make sure you have enough work to bring to class.

Today I brought in a minimal electronica cover of Ballad of A Thin Man and we gave it the in depth treatment and a "outside the box" approach.  Our instructor Ariel continually gives us a free hand to explore and develop our ears and mix techniques. We got so deep into it we ran out of time and will be finishing it off on Wednesday. One again taking the time to organize and setup returns for our reverb and echo allowed us to work swiftly and focus on the sound. 

Level 2 which ends Wednesday has been my favorite part  of the  course so far, but i am eagerly looking forward to mastering the tracks that have greatly benefited from  our group mixing exercises. 

 

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The Complexity of Creativity

Lambert and Stamp the new film about the original managers of The Who, is a fascinating look at the complex interactions between creative people and a visual treat. The footage of the High Numbers in a small London club is just amazing, and one of the best film depictions of real Mods. If you love rock or art or you are interested in how collaboration actually works between creative people go see this film.

Lambert and Stamp 

Lambert and Stamp 

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Modulations: Group Mixing Part 3

Today, I feel we really clicked as a group to mix a song. Our instructor Ariel gave us a lot of space to work together and the ideas and discussions were plentiful and on point. The track was solid and gave us a great starting point. I think whats most exciting is the opportunity to get creative with the mix not only in terms of setting various parts in their respective places in the mix via volume, panning, compression, limiting but also providing some real personality to the track by using delays, filters  and other time based modules. We spent about 3 hours working on it, and ended by taking one of the key parts and via a creative use of plugins, especially DevilLoc and Crystalizer  getting a solid dubbed out effect that cemented the whole piece.

A key lesson today was to know BEFORE you add a plugin what it is you want to do with the element you are working on  ( bring it up in the  mix, bury it, design it) and to understand what the plugin will do in order to get you there. Even more important is to know when to stop, recognize you ae going up the wrong path, re-group and try something else.

The excitement and emotional feeling you get when a song clicks together was palpable today in class. It's one of those feelings that reminds you just how much joy there is in creativity and why its worth it to go through all of the struggles to do it. . 

 

 

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Modulations: Group Mixing Part 2

The next two weeks we are deep into group mixing prior to moving on to mastering. Ariel our instructor considers the group mixing exercises ( we all work together mixing one of our classmates project) as the most important part of this Dubspot course. I agree. Working together finding solutions to problems in the mix is just a great way to learn and is a real highlight of this course.

Yesterday we worked on one of my tracks. As always taking the time to organize , group and color code all of the tracks makes a profound difference in the ability to work quickly and accurately. Having reference tracks to use as a guide helps immeasurably, finally having a separate mix track that allows you to quickly see how the changes you are making to a particular instrument impacts the overall mix is a significant help in having a good workflow.

Determining which and how many plugins to use, deciding where to locate them (in the track, on a send, or the master) can only be done if you have a clear idea of which elements should stand out, which are secondary and which need improvement. Use of time and/or modulation based effects should be done carefully and with reference to your goal. This is where reference tracks  really help.

Working on my project with the class was great. We ended up with a nice mix that closely mirrored my reference tracks and had some fun stacking up a bunch of plugins on the vocal tracks and doing some nice panning on the guitars. All in all a good, productive class. 

Note some great Ableton Live workflow tips this week on the dubspot site

http://blog.dubspot.com/ableton-workflow-tips-improve-productivity/

 

 

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Modulations: Plug-ins in the Mix

Today we covered Trash and Devil Loc Delux after a short overview of the Plug-ins we did a group mixing exercise. Working on one of my classmates tracks, we began adding plugins to the drums, percussion and synth leads. The lesson today was that you can get great results just using one or two plugins yet the thing that really got the mix going was loading up (5 plug-ins )on one small synth part. This made the whole track pop! 

We did this by experimenting with a number of plugins and reverb types on that part. The experience of and ll of us working together on the mix is a great way to really learn and about work flow. 

Next class is more plugins and then onto mastering! 

 

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