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Wwise 101 Course Review

Late last year I started the Wwise 101 course by Audiokinetic. I finished it very early this year and today I’d like to do a deep dive into my experience with the course, what I liked, what I didn’t like, and if I recommend it or not.

What is Wwise?

Before we get into the review let’s talk about what Wwise even is. Wwise is a middleware program that allows you to implement sound into a game. Other similar programs are out there like FMOD so if you’re a sound designer for games this program can help you go from having a sound you want in a game to having the sound in the game.

Before You Read More

This review will discuss my experience with the course, some general thoughts on what my experience was like, and if I can recommend it for someone who is interested in trying the course. Next week I’ll be going in depth on some tips and tricks on how to better understand the coursework and how to get the most out of the course. So this article today will not help you do the work just help you decide if it’s worth your time to try it. Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get into the material.

Course Material

I think the course material and how it’s constructed is fantastic. The course does a great job of taking you from knowing nothing, having nothing downloaded, to installing Wwise and implementing sounds into a game.

I like how they start every main topic with a paragraph giving context to what you’re about to do, and why it matters. This gives me even more knowledge and I’d say even inspiration to keep going, to continue working on these tasks, and developing my skills. This isn’t just a do steps one two and three course. It has depth and that depth matters.

I do like how things are numbered though. It makes it easy to know what’s the next step and makes it easy to back track if you get lost, confused, or messed one of the steps up. For me though the biggest help is the pictures. They have pictures of virtually every thing you have to do and they even circle and point arrows at exactly what you should select to do the task. The picture I shared above is a perfect example. They tell you to go to Layouts > Designer or Press 5 than they show you where layouts and designer are located in the program. Hard to get it wrong when it’s this detailed on the step by step process.

Videos

There are videos at the end of key sections so you can also see a breakdown of how everything was done. These videos are really good and although they just recap everything, they do so in a quick and precise way that I always watched it just to make sure my process was the same as theirs. I think some people might even prefer just watching the videos and doing the lessons. I wouldn’t go that far since, you’d still be missing a lot of the depth that writing and images provide, but the videos I still recommend everyone to watch for more context.

Quizzes

Now the Quizzes are tough. They really test your knowledge and challenge you. I felt I was prepared for every quiz and I failed virtually every quiz on my first attempt. To pass the quiz you need to get a 90 or higher and I think we can all agree that’s a very high score to merely pass. Still, I like the challenge these quizzes gave me. The point of learning is not to get a high score. It’s to challenge you and for you to have a better understanding and comprehension of the task after learning more about it.

The quizzes are not a one time pass or fail thing. You can try as many times as you like. It usually took me two or three tries to get it right. Usually I got 80 percent or so on the first attempt and then I had a great chance of passing after that. Most questions are multiple choice and they allow for multiple attempts so even if you get it wrong you can still get partial credit. That doesn’t help as much when you need to get a 90% to pass! But again the point is to learn and comprehend so while strict, I think the scoring is valid. It also helps getting partial credit cause when I was wrong I usually picked the answer that was very similar to the right one. So it helped my confidence when I wasn’t way off.

Final Thoughts

I recommend the Wwise 101 course by Audiokinetic. It’s easy to use and gives you plenty of lessons and a good foundation on how Wwise works. I recommend everyone to take this course unless you already have years of experience with Wwise.

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2020 Update

2020 has been a dumpster fire. With the ongoing pandemic, global recession, and social justice issues raging on in the US, it’s clear this year has been a miserable one. Still, we have to keep going, keep pushing forward, so with that in mind, I thought I’d look at my New Years resolutions (which I made in late December) and see how they are going. Let’s laugh and cry together shall we?

Play More Gigs Than Ever Before

Hahahahaha! Not a chance! This goal is virtually impossible and certainly not a responsible one to have in 2020. Of course I didn’t know this when I made the goal, but that’s where we are at now. Not a possibility for 2020 and probably not a possibility in 2021.

Have My Music On Spotify

This hasn’t happened, but that’s more of my personal choice. As I’ve gone deeper into 2020 and deeper into my life goal of “impacting the world through sound”, it’s become clear that sound design for games is where my focus needs to be. Because of this, I’m less focused on my music and if it’s available on all platforms. So, my music is not on Spotify, but it’s available for free on YouTube and Soundcloud and for now I’m happy with that.

More Game Audio Work

Not only is this still a goal that’s alive, I’d say it’s my number one objective in 2020. Over the past few months everything I’ve done has been to ramp up my game audio work. Working on a game with peers, working on my sound design reel, and getting deeper and deeper into my knowledge and understanding of sound design. I’m so pumped about everything I’m doing in the game audio space and I can’t wait to see what more I’ll do in 2020 and beyond.

PR At The Marathon

This one hurts. Running is my favorite form of exercise and I was pumped up about the idea of running the marathon again. I loved running my first marathon and was looking forward to training again and showing what I learned from the first time and improving on it. My marathon was set in May and I was halfway into my training when the pandemic hit. This was such a bummer. Also, I’m finding it hard to imagine a race will be possible in 2021 either. I’m not sure what my workout and running routine will be moving forward, but I’m not expecting traditional races to return until 2022.

Appreciate Non-Work Activities

I’m a workaholic. I just love what I do and I’m always working hard to improve, even my rest is really not rest for rest’s sake it’s rest so I can work again. I want to have a better relationship with my non work activities and with my non work life. So this year I wanted to improve that aspect of my life. So far I’d say I get a passing grade on this, but I can do better. I’ve watched more movies for leisure and sports for leisure. I’ve also had less days where I work past five and I’ve also had a better attitude when I call it day early. I’m by no means perfect and some family members might even say I haven’t improved much, but I think I’ve made some progress on this goal.

What’s Next?

For now I’ll keep Appreciate Non-Work Activities and More Game Audio Work. Everything else I’ll put on hold and evaluate as I move forward into 2020 and 20201. This year has been so brutal, but I’m trying to remain positive and make the best out of this situation. So before I wrap up this post I leave you with this resolution for us all. Be kind to yourself, smile as much as possible, love your family, and keep making dope things. Cheers.

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Timeline of my move to LA

I recently moved to Los Angeles and today I’d like to share why I did the move and the connections I’ve developed with the city of Los Angeles over the years.

I first wanted to visit LA in 2013. That year I took a vacation with my family to San Diego. It was the first vacation I had since 2002. It was long overdue and it was a wonderful time. Here’s a picture of my dad and I from that trip.

During that trip I had family from LA kind of giving me grief for not visiting them. They were just giving me a hard time for being only two hours away, but not seeing them or even letting them know I was close by. Honestly, I really didn’t think about it. My family agreed to go to San Diego so the proximity was just a coincidence. Still, I did feel a little bad since I haven’t seen my aunt or her kids basically ever in my life. They live in LA, never leave California, and the last time I’ve seen any of them I was three years old. So when they asked me about visiting I assured them I’d visit in a couple years.

First Trip To LA

It took me a few years, but in the Summer of 2015 I visited LA. I had a great time. Loved hanging out with my immediate and extended family. It was so wild to see the ways my cousins were so similar to me. My aunt had a boy and a girl around my sister and my age so it was like meeting a west coast version of ourselves. They took us everywhere and we ate it all up. The taco trucks, the hike to the Hollywood sign, and the amusement parks, it was all wonderful.

That’s the week I also went to my first LA Galaxy game. As a Chicagoan who had to watch the Chicago Fire in Toyota Park. Seeing the Galaxy play was a 180 to my MLS soccer experience. In Chicago you have travel far to go to the middle of nowhere, watch a bad team play in a half filled stadium, then head to the ungraveled parking lot to go home. In LA you have a beautiful stadium filled with palm trees, a statue of team legends, world class amenities, a great team, and the most loyal and loud fan base America has to offer. At first this was just an observation of two teams heading in two directions, but soon, it became a synonym for my life.

After College

In summer 2016 I finished college and came out inspired and ready to take on the world. And I did. I was able to perform, teach, and compose my way to a full time musicmcareer. It felt so good to be done with school and be able to truly create and work on what I wanted with who I wanted. LA was the last thing on my mind I was happy and working on my craft.

2017: LA As A Summer Home?

I’m a person whose always evaluating their life. Am I challenging myself? Am I maximizing my ability? Am I maximizing my happiness? When 2017 began I started looking at other ways I can impact the musical world. When I reflected I started thinking of doing film scores and video game scores. When focusing on composition and scores, living in LA became an idea I was intrigued by. That’s where movies are made, that where AAA games are made. Yes I can probably do some of that work remotely, but I can also do it in person, be in the community, and increase my work opportunities. Still, I loved Chicago so much it was not an option. Maybe I can work there in the summer or winter?Do some seasonal work there when I’m composing a big project or something. Maybe there’s a way I can work there for a few months at a time I thought.

2018: Switch Turned On

By 2018 I was focused on game music. No more thoughts of film scores I was looking into what I had to do to get work in game music. I started working with a game dev on a project and making music for it. By 2018 I visited LA again. This time with my producer and friend Albert Amey. By now LA was where I wanted to live. I talked with my girlfriend, my sister, and my Dad about it. They all were open to it in theory, but nothing was set in stone. Still, the switch was turned on in my head. When I looked at my ideal life and ideal work. It was in LA working in game music.

2019: GDC And Sound Design

In 2019 I went to GDC for the first time. By then I had samples of my music and was still working on an indie game so I was beginning to get more involved in the game audio space. Going to GDC revitalized and solidified that I was heading in the right direction. That game audio was my calling and the area where I needed to focus my energy. In 2019 I also visited La twice. Once with my girlfriend to celebrate our ten years together, and another time to go to a friends wedding. Both times were magical and reconfirmed that LA was the place for me. 2019 was also huge because I became more involved not just in game music, but sound design. At first this was just a means to an end. A way to get more indie gigs and work, but soon it became my main interest.

2020: The Move

2020 was intense for everyone. Career wise I went all in on sound design. Learning middleware like FMOD and Wwise, working on demo reels, and attaining all the knowledge I could. My goals became clear. I want to make an impact on the world through sound. Specifically through sound design. I want to work at a AAA studio in Los Angeles doing sound design for games. This goal is a long term one and I didn’t plan on moving to LA until I either got a job at a AAA studio or around 2022 when my finances were in better order. Than a global pandemic hit and changed the world. For my family it meant out all our jobs were on hold or a moved to remote work. This moment gave us time to reflect and evaluate our lives. And when we did, my family and I came to the conclusion it was best to move now. To move to LA and restart our lives there.

What’s next?

LA wasn’t some wide eyed dream for me. It had to work for my love. Slowly, demonstrating time and time again, the value it can bring me. With each visit, each interaction with local Angelinos, I became more and more convinced that this was where I belonged. Now I’m here two years early ten toes down ready to bust my tail off and make the biggest impact I can on the world through sound. LA earned my heart, earned my love, and I’m excited to give that love right back to the LA community. Let’s get to work.

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Donating to Afrorack

This whole year has been a struggle and the past few weeks have only made it more difficult. The death of George Floyd has sparked conversations about police brutality and the black lives matter movement. These conversations have been stressful, painful, but necessary. While looking at my own career and ways I can make an impact in my industry I decided to donate to Afrorack . So today I’d like to talk about what Afrorack does and why you should get involved.

About Afrorack

Afrorack is an audio arts organization that focuses on teaching sound design and modular synthesis to young adults of color in the Chicago land area. They are focused on creating a diverse community and teaching STEM with workshops, seminars, and ambitious programming.

Getting involved

You can get involved by donating as little as $5 a month to support their mobile workshops. You can also make a one time donation or donate to their go fund me campaign to help cover costs for this organization during this pandemic.

Why you should care

We have an accessibility issue in audio. The cost to really get established in the industry is thousands of dollars. Yes there are free things to use, yes you can try to start small and eventually save up money, but in general you need thousands of dollars to even get started with a career in sound design. This is a problem. It makes it harder for POC and people in difficult economic situations to even see sound design as an option. Programs like Afrorack help educate and close that gap. It makes the barrier of entry much lower and gives young adults opportunities they may not have even known existed.

I myself donated $10 to Afrorack. It’s not much, but it’s a start and I hope you’ll join me and help out an organization that’s doing good work in the audio space.

Black lives matter and we need to work together to end police brutality and make this country a better place. In the last week I’ve donated to multiple black lives matter organizations and I encourage you to do the same. It’s been a tough time and it’s been hard to even see why music and sound been matter. In the grand scheme everything I do started to feel insignificant. If you’ve also felt this allow me to give you some encouragement. Keep going. You are not alone and while yes music and sound isn’t the most important thing in the world it is an important thing in the word. Let’s use our field let’s use our voices and let’s use our resources to make an impact on the world.

My motto in life is “To make an impact on the world through sound” when I think of this mantra I usually think of it from an audio perspective. Working on bigger projects, landing bigger contracts, growing as an artist. But it can also mean using sound to impact people socially. It can be whatever I needed it to be and whatever I want it to be. And right now I need to be an ally. I need to be an advocate for my community and my peers. This is the next step but not the last step. I encourage you to take these steps with me and figure out how we can make this world what we want it to be.

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How a bag of Cheetos changed my life

Today I want to get personal. I want to talk about how a bag of Cheetos changed my life forever.

The year is 2010. I’m working at Walgreens as a stock boy. I’ve been working there for 4 years and have enjoyed my time working there. This job puts some money in my pocket, let’s me buy things, and I liked the people I work with, then things changed.

Long story short management switched up on me. I went from the golden boy to the whipping boy. Suddenly, everything was my fault, I could do no right. Everyday people were looking for reasons to blame me for whatever was going wrong.

I remember things got to the point where every day I left work mad and frustrated. I’d be sitting in my car just thinking about how pissed off I was about that shift. How angry it made me to have a day like that. I felt like Peter Gibbons in Office Space. Every day wasn’t my saddest, but every day was my angriest.

In general me working a retail job was always a square peg in a round hole. I’ve always been a person who struggles with authority. Well, what I really struggle with is having an idiot in charge. I’m okay learning and working with people who know more or can help me grow, but to listen to someone just cause you say I have to and still go along with that them when I know this is not the best way to operate this job, yeah I can’t respect or listen to someone like that. So in this retail/ corporate environment I was always going to struggle cause I can’t “play the game” enough.

Still things went well for so long that even though I knew this about myself I figured I was in a situation where there would never be a problem. I worked and was managed by smart people. But that’s only true until it’s not. And once the morons came to town the conflict began and it felt like things got to the point where even the management I liked turned their back on me. They didn’t disagree with my complaints, but at the end of the day they sided with management over me cause they to were playing the game. So now I was alone and frustrated.

Things came to a head on a night shift I was working. I was doing the closing process which involves sweeping, mopping, filling up the chips, dairy, and soda sections of the store. I was filling up the chips when I realized my truth. I was fucked.

I was 22 and totally lost. This job was leading me nowhere and I was going nowhere fast. This was no longer a place where I could move up in the ranks. This was no longer I place where I could build good relationships. And, if things got real bad here, this may not even be a place I could put down as a reference. And if I can’t put this place down as a reference then I’ve really messed up cause then I’m 22, 23 years old with no college degree and no job on a resume! I was freaking out so I stopped filling up the chips and just stared at them.

While I was staring into the dark abyss that was my life, a manager named Bob walked by. Bob was his actual name, and he was one of the managers I was still cool with. He understood my situation, empathized with me, and he and I were cool and able to talk about life beyond retail. Because of this I felt comfortable talking with him. So when he walked by and said “What’s up?” The way people always do in the corporate world like 10,000 times a day, I actually answered. I said something like “Not good. Like what am I doing here? What am I doing with my life?

Naturally Bob was taken a back for a moment. He was shocked I spilled my guts out just like that, but he quickly adjusted and was able to have a conversation with me. He turned to me and said, “Well, I’ll tell you what I tell everyone else. What is it that you want to do for a living?” My answer was quick and immediate. “Music. I just want to do music.” “Then you should focus on doing just that” he said that to me and walked away. After he said that I regained my composure and finished filling up the chips, but after that conversation my life changed.

Things didn’t go back to normal for me the next day. I was changed forever. The next day I was googling how to go back to school. Figuring out what I wanted to do in the music industry, and how I could accomplish that. It took me many years, but that moment led to me going to college, being a professional pianist, teaching, composing, and now working on sound design. Everything changed for me that day when I filled the chip aisle. And that’s how a box of chips changed my life.

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20 Questions

So much has been so serious on my blog so I decided to keep things light today and just answer 20 random questions. Let’s begin.

Q1. Have You Ever Dined and Dashed At A Restaurant?

A1. No, never.

Q2. Would You Rather Have Endless Love or Endless Money?

A2. This one is a close one for me. I think I’ll go endless money and hope I can find enough love to make it by.

Q3. Have You Ever Been In A Car Accident – And It Was Your Fault?

A3. No. I’ve been in accidents as a passenger and a driver, but it was never my fault.

Q4. If You Could Star In A Movie, What Movie Would It Be?

A4. Not sure if this question wants a current movie/ a movie that’s already come out or something new. I’ll answer with something new. I’d like to Star in a Disney Movie. Ideally something from Pixar. Something where I’d be the main character and the main protagonist.

Q5. What Is Your Most Frequently Used Emoji?

A5. 😂

Q6. What Was The Last Thing You Stole Or Shoplifted?

A6. I worked retail back in the day therefore I’m not a fan of stealing. As a kid I’m sure I took a candy bar or something from a store, but I can’t recall honestly.

Q7. Are Platonic Relationships Or Romantic Relationships More Important To You?

A7. Both are very important and as I have aged both are close, but right now I’ll choose love and go with the romantic relationship being more important to me than platonic.

Q8. Even Though The World Has It’s Problems, Was Any Time Period Better Than This One?

A8. I feel this is always impossible to answer so I won’t try to. Every generation is so different and it has its challenges and advantages. So is this the best? Idk maybe? Were other times better? Idk maybe.

Q9. What Was Your Favorite Dinosaur As a Child?

A9. T- Rex hands down.

Q10. If You Had To Choose To Never Use Twitter, Instagram, Or YouTube Again, Which One Would You Let Go?

A10. Tough One! I like to use and consume YouTube content so I can’t let that go. Twitter and Instagram I also like, but I feel like Twitter is more for conversations and I love to communicate on there the most so I’d have to go with keeping Twitter and saying goodbye to Instagram.

Q11. Would You Rather Someone Always Tell The Truth Or Protect Your Feelings?

A11. Tell me the truth, tell me my flaws, help me get better. Stroking my ego helps no one.

Q12. Who Do You Miss More: Ziggy Stardust or Prince?

A12. Prince easily. Never really listened to Ziggy.

Q13. If You Had To Be Trapped On A Desert Island With One Friend, Who Would You Choose?

A13. Albert. My best friend since high school

Q14. If You Could Find Out How You Were Going To Die, Would You Want To Know?

A14. No way. That’s just way too dark for me to want to know.

Q15. If You Could Only Email Or Text People For The Rest Of Your Life, Which One Would You Choose?

A15. Text. I like email for business but I’d much rather text forever than email forever.

Q16. Would You Prefer To Work The Overnight Shift Or Work Alone For Eternity?

A16. I’d much rather work alone for eternity. Overnight shift is tough and having someone talking to me while I try to work from 11pm-7am sounds miserable. Give me working by myself during more humane hours.

Q17. Would You Rather Have a Beyoncé Song Or A Rihanna Song Stuck In Your Head For 24 Hours?

A17. Tough one. I like both, but I think I’ll go with Beyoncé.

Q18. If You Could Start College All Over Again What Would You Do Differently?

A18. If I could start college all over again I’m not sure if I’d even go. Yeah, that’s my answer. Id strongly consider skipping it altogether. I’m not one of those bitter graduates whose not using their degree. Even as a person who uses their degree every day, I wonder if it was really worth it now that I see what it really takes to succeed. It feels like the skills I need to actually be successful as an artist, a lot of that was cultivated by myself after school was done. So if most of what is needed to be successful is based on my self teaching what was the point of paying for college and spending those years there? I’m happy with how my life turned out, but I wonder if it would’ve been better if I skipped the college experience altogether.

Q19. Would You Rather Have Been In The Marching Band Or On The Debate Team in High School?

Marching band.

Q20. What’s One Secret You Are Still Keeping From Your Mom?

A20. We don’t talk right now so nothing really.

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Kansas 1935: Deep Dive

Today I’d like to take a deep dive into the making of my latest song “Kansas 1935”. I’m going to talk about how it was made, what is what made for, and how I feel it ultimately turned out.

Kansas 1935 was a song I wrote for the Charity EP Jam. The Charity EP Jam is a project where a handful of composers write music based on a theme and the proceeds go to the Charity Able Gamers.

It’s a long road

The theme this year was dust. At first I struggled with how to approach dust. What does dust sound like? What does dust feel like and how can I convey it? I started by looking up dust storms, wind sounds, and even watching some documentaries on the Dust Bowl. That’s when I decided to write the song about Kansas in 1935. I wanted to share what I felt listening to the stories from that dust bowl and try to capture that feeling via music.

Rough Start

I started with an entirely different song and thought it was a solid beginning. After a couple days and some feedback I realized that was not the case. At first I tried to salvage what I had and make something good out of it, but after a while, I realized it was best to throw it all away. Sometimes the best thing you can do is start over so I did. It’s tough to admit something you made isn’t good, but it wasn’t good. Better to realize that and try again then to just have a meh recording.

Take Two

So I went back to the drawing board. This time I went with the instrumentation of piano and guitar. I also went in thinking of having one idea that would turn into different ideas and eventually end on something completely different. This turned out quiet well and I was able to also get my friend to play guitar on it.

Putting Together The Pieces

So the way the song works is we have four parts. At first all four parts are played one after the other. There are two piano parts and two guitar parts. The song is essentially done with new ideas when the piano is done playing at the 1:10 mark. Then there is a dust storm that occurs until 1:35. Once it settles down the music is rearranged and returns in a different order. The new order is 3,1,2,4. This is done to represent how the dust storm rearranged and changed the music. I didn’t choose the order. I actually wrote these numbers representing the different sections down on a sheet of paper, placed them in a jar, and threw them on the floor. I picked them up off the floor in order of the pieces of paper closest to me.

This actually turned out quiet well! I like the new order and I like the fact that the new order is kind of subtle. Many people don’t notice that things don’t come back the way they began until the songs is nearly done. I like having this kind of inside joke or hidden secret in the song that’s available for anyone to notice if they pay close attention. And if they don’t, hopefully they just hear a good song.

Closing Thoughts

I really enjoyed the process of writing this piece. It was hard, required a lot of rewriting, and it really forced me to reflect on my work and brought out my best. I hope in the end I did good work and made great art. If you have the ability to do so I’d love it if you’d make a donation for this album. It would really mean a lot to me and the proceeds all go to Able Gamers.

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Five ways to help musicians during this pandemic

This global pandemic is hurting all of us in a myriad of ways. Today I want to talk about what you can do to help your favorite musicians get through this situation.

Some of the ways will be financial, but many will be free and take little time for you to do. So while money always helps I understand you might be hurting just as much as your favorite artist. So, by all means don’t feel bad if you can’t support people financially. There are plenty of ways you can show support without spending a dime. Some of them might even be more beneficial than spending money

Buy Their Stuff

The first one is also the most obvious. If you want to help musicians buy their stuff. Support their work. Go to your favorite artists’ website and buy their music, buy their merch, join their Patreon, etc. Different musicians have different revenue streams. So see what they have to offer and purchase what you feel comfortable paying for.

Retweet, Share, and Promote their work

This is a great, free way to help the musicians you love. By sharing their social media posts you are not only spreading the word, but endorsing the artist. You’re saying “I like this artist. I like what they do. And if you like me and my tastes, you should give this a listen.” That’s a lot more genuine and has potential for a bigger impact on the person who reads it than if the artist says it. When the artist shares their stream, album release, or latest video, it feels like an ad. When a friend shares it, it feels like a recommendation from a trusted source. So sharing your favorite artists latest work/social media post might be the most impactful thing you can do.

Follow Them!

This may seems small but it’s what all musicians want. We just want you to us, to know you’re out there, and you love what we do. Follow your favorite artist. Subscribe to the their YouTube channel, like their FB page, follow them on twitter. Wherever you are on the internet following your favorite musician there means the world to them. Sometimes it’s what they want even more than money. I know that’s the case for me. The biggest thing I want is for people to read these blogs and subscribe to my YouTube channel. For me that’s the best way you can show love and support. Being an artist is hard and just knowing people are out there following, watching, and supporting goes a long way in keeping us motivated, energized, and loved.

Watch Their Streams

With no concerts or events happening for the rest of the summer and perhaps the rest of the year, live streaming has seen a huge uptick amongst musicians. Watching these streams is a huge help. It encourages artists to keep doing some form of live performance, it gives them a bigger audience, and, if they set it up, you can donate money during their stream and help them continue performing for a living. So be on the lookout for your favorite musicians stream and watch when you can.

Donate to State and National Emergency Funds

Maybe you want to help music in general and don’t have a specific artist in mind. Maybe you want t to help the entire community at large be it local or national. State and National orgs are doing great work setting up funds for musicians during these difficult times. Obviously depending on where you live the orgs that help your community will vary, but here are a few I like.

Jazz Foundation has a Covid-19 Musicians’ Emergency Fund you can donate to. While New Music USA has a Solidarity Fund geared towards new/creative/improvised music freelancers. You may also want to think about your favorite music venues and record stores. Lots of them have GoFundMe campaigns or have online deals to encourage buying merchandise online. Think of how you like to consume music, how this pandemic has effected that, and what you can do to help,

Closing Thoughts

We are all in this together this is a terrible and traumatizing situation we are all in. Some of have lost loved ones, some of us have lost our jobs, and the rest of us have to continue forward and work in these extreme circumstances. Despite everything that’s happened in 2020 I remain an optimist. We will come out stronger and we will do this together. So support your favorite musicians however you can, support your local business however you can, and don’t feel guilty if you don’t have the funds to do so. That’s why I made sure to add so many ways to help that cost nothing. Do whatever you can and if you have any additional ideas on how we can help each other leave a comment below.

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Dance Again Deep Dive

Today I’d like to a take deep dive into the making of my latest single “Dance Again”. I want to talk about why I made it, how I made it, and what I’ve learned. Let’s begin.

My purpose for making this song was simple. I wanted to make a song to just make it. It’s been years since I have done this. As a professional musician I spend all my musician time working. I’m learning songs for gigs, I’m learning songs for recordings, I’m learning songs for a deeper understanding of a style or genre. While I obviously go for gigs, recordings, and genres I enjoy, you secede some freedom when you are a professional artist. Compromises however small, are made. I try to find things that are not only work, but fun, but even fun work is work.

So when I made Dance Again I went in with the mentality that this was just for fun, just for me. I’m making it to make something. Will I use it for pitching clients? Maybe if it fits, but I’m not trying to use it for that. And I made it with zero intention of doing so. The song came out the way it did because I liked it that way. No agenda, no deeper long term plan, just a fun song I liked.

Another thing you should know is that I use the app Korg Gadget on my Nintendo Switch exclusively to make the song. I’ve dabbled with this app for sometime now and I decided this was a great way to have some fun and challenge myself to go deeper into the app. I feel pretty comfortable with Korg Gadget and using it to make music I thought would be fun. The only sounds that are not native to the app are the voice samples I use. Everything else can be found using just Korg Gadget on the Switch.

Making Music is Hard!

I struggled a lot with the structure of this song. The drum pattern came to me pretty quickly and that was maintained throughout, but how to build themes and motifs around it was a struggle. The app refers to different parts as “scenes” so for a while I had extra scenes I was trying to fit in and certain scenes were longer before I was able to edit them down. For example, near the end I had the second to last breakdown happening for twice as long and I realize that was just way too much so I cut it in half.

This songs structure really came together when I let the words tell the story. Despite the few words, they actually dictate what’s happening on the record. The story goes a friend telling another friend that they should take their date dancing. After dancing the protagonist tells his date “you look really beautiful tonight” she replies “you don’t look so bad yourself mister” then he proceeds to offer her a ride home…

Impact of Sitcoms on My Song

One thing you should know about me is I love sitcoms. I mean I love sitcoms. I’ve watched How I Met Your Mother more times than I can count. Watched Friends at least 3-4 times since it’s aired on Netflix. And I’ve watched Cheers, Seinfeld, and Kings of Queens infinitely. Sitcoms have been there for me when I’m up, when I’m down, when I needed to laugh, and when I needed to cry. So why not use those voices to retell and reimagine the stories they’ve already told me?

Breaking Down The Words

So the first line I’ve used was from Friends where Rachel tells Joey “Oh dancing take her dancing!” In the scene she’s suggesting Joey take a date dancing and the same thing happens in my song. For the song it’s not the Friends characters just one person talking to another making that suggestion.

The second line is from How I Met Your Mother where Ted is telling Stella “You look really beautiful tonight”. Now in the show Ted is just saying that because he was caught staring at Stella. He didn’t really think she looked “beautiful tonight” he was just looking at her face to see what her reaction was to watching Star Wars for the first time. In my track the words were sincere.

Next line I used was from the same episode of How I Met Your Mother where Stella says “You don’t look so bad yourself mister…” in the episode it’s Stella coming on to Ted. In my song the same sentiment can be interpreted.

The final line I use is from Cheers where Sam Malone tells his worker Carla Tortelli he’s taking her home after their shift of work at the bar. In the episode this is a normal event. In my track it implies a pleasant end to a date.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

My focus on this track was just to have fun, make some electronic music using Korg Gadget, and to tell a story using words from my favorite sitcoms. I think I accomplished all of these things. I really love the breakdown that happens at the :54 second mark. In my opinion it’s the highlight of the song. Coming in at a close second is the story developing from 1:11-1:33. I really enjoyed making this and I hope you enjoy listening to it. If you have any questions, comments, or feedback feel free to comment below. Take care and be safe out there!

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Covid-19 Relief For Musicians

As everyone knows this pandemic has altered all of our lives as musicians and artists. Lots of our work has come to a complete stop, future gigs have been canceled, and there is no end to this pandemic in sight. As of right now my state of Illinois is on a Stay at Home order until April 30th, but we were on the same order until April 7th and that got pushed back so I’m skeptical things will reopen May 1st.

So with at least a few months of financial distress (and probably much more given most summer events are already cancelled) how can we as musicians keep ourselves financially afloat? It’s going to be difficult, but I’ve complied of list of actions and programs that can be useful.

Couple of things I want to address before we get into my list of ideas. One, I live in the United States so while most of the info is universal how effective/ relevant this will be for you may vary if you live in another country. Two, this is an ever changing situation and news is happening so fast that it’s possible some of these programs or solutions I have written down are no longer relevant whenever you read this. So whenever taking action do your due diligence to make sure these programs are still running/ available in your area.

MusiCares Covid-19 Relief Fund

MusiCares has set up a relief fund for music creators that have been impacted by Covid-19. You can apply for assistance on Grammy.com and I believe you can apply from anywhere. The application seems simple enough you just need your general info and on the final page you explain how you were impacted by Covid-19. Right now grants go up to $1,000 dollars so I 100% recommend applying if you’ve been hurt financially due to this pandemic.

Apply For Unemployment

This one is a bit difficult for most musicians. Most musicians work in places where they are not considered employees they are independent contractors and in the USA that means you haven’t put money into unemployment so it makes getting those benefits impossible. But maybe you’re a musician that works at a school and maybe you do get taxed in the traditional way. Or maybe you have a side job at a bar or restaurant and can get some unemployment benefits from those jobs. So while it may not be useful for all musicians everyone should be evaluating their ability to collect unemployment at this time. It seems the federal government is working on some solutions for gig economy workers on these issues, but right now that’s still being worked on so keep an eye out for that on the federal and state level.

Stimulus Package Money

In America a 2.2 trillion economic relief package was passed. In this package every individual will receive $1,200 if they make under $75,00 dollars. Couples will be receiving up to $2,400 and $500 per child. So chances are this money will be available to musicians and very helpful in this time of financial distress. As long as you have filed your taxes for either 2018 or 2019 and you make under $75,000 you will be receiving this money in the coming weeks. While this money is better than nothing it’s unlikely that this will solve all your money issues so hopefully this along with some other relief ideas will be enough to keep you afloat.

Consult Your Union or Local Music Org

Many unions and local music organizations have financial relief available for members or are setting up programs to help those who are in need. If you are not affiliated with a union or a music org take a moment and really think about your local community. Maybe you’ve graduated from a college and they have funds available for alumni? Perhaps you’re part of a band and have an LLC set up that can get loans at a low interest rate? Maybe you have a band that can do a go fund me or Indiegogo campaign to raise funds?

Other Ways to Eliminate Bills

When we think of bills we usually think of the money needed to offset these costs, but remember, bills and money are two separate things. This is a time to contact your different services and negotiate a plan or solution until this pandemic is over. I believe all federal loans are on emergency forbearance. Meaning you have no payments for months (Again some situations are different so double check your situation). I have a personal loan, but I talked to them about the situation and was able to get forbearance for a few months. Same goes for car loans and other bills. Most companies are willing to work with you, but you have to call them and talk to them. If you don’t most will keep charging you like life hasn’t changed at all. So make an assessment of your bills and make some calls and see if you can arrange a better situation than the one you currently have.

This is a difficult time for all of us. I hope that this article has given you some good ideas and made you feel better about the current situation we are in. If you have any questions, comments, or additional tips you think others could benefit from, please leave them below. Let’s help each other and rise up from this.