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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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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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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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Where I See Myself in Five Years.

Where do you see yourself in Five Years?

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Where do you see yourself in five years? This is a question people ask at job interviews all the time. So today I decided to unpack the question and answer it with 5 predictions on where I’ll be in five years. These are in no particular order and they are a mix of my professional ambitions along with some personal goals. 

 

Prediction 1. I will be living in LA.

LA

I don’t know when my love affair with Los Angeles began but I know I never want it to end. I’ve visited many times in the past four years and plan on moving there in the fall of 2022 at the latest. While I love the environment and culture LA has, I mainly want to go for work. As a composer and sound designer, living in LA puts me in a great position to work with game developers, studios, and musicians. The energy the city has along with my tremendous work ethic will put me in a position to reach my fullest potential. I love Chicago and always will, but I feel that living in LA will give me the opportunity to live my ideal life and it aligns with my mission to impact the world through sound. 

 

Prediction 2. Working as a Sound Designer at a AAA Studio. 

Epic-Games

This has been a goal of mine for a while. I’d love to work at a AAA studio in LA. I want to work with a team at a scale larger than what I am currently capable of doing alone. The collaboration, scope, and impact I can make through audio in this environment is why I wake up every morning. Can’t wait to make this goal a reality. 

 

Prediction 3. Be done with work by 6PM.

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As a freelancer the work can never stop. It’s awesome being your own boss, but are you a good boss to yourself? I’ll be honest, I’m not the best boss. Overwork myself, promises of downtime never occur unless we are on the verge of a breakdown, and there are poor benefits. By 2025 I will be done with work at 6PM. I want to spend my evenings relaxing and spending quality time with friends and family. Obviously, if I get that AAA position this should be an easier goal to achieve, but even if I’m still freelancing and doing it all myself I want to commit to being off by 6PM. If I need to get things done I can wake up early. I need to spend my evenings with the people that matter. 

 

Prediction 4. Working on other Music and Non-Music based projects. 

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I love making things. It’s why I’m in audio. Whether it’s making an SFX, composing a song, or writing an article. I love having an idea, exploring its potential, and sharing. It with the world. Since my main goal is to work as a Sound Designer at a AAA studio, making music making will ultimately be taking a backseat. I’d like to keep exploring my music creation as a side project and keep making other non-music-based projects. Whether that’s writing about sports, writing about games, or even making videos, I plan to still be making different projects that are not work-based and are just fun things I want to share with the world. 

 

Prediction 5.  I will be married.

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Obviously, this is a personal one and not 100% under my control (but really what is?) but by 2025 I want to be married and ideally have a child. I’ve been dating my girlfriend for 11 years so it’s time to make this official. I plan on asking her to marry me this year (it’s coming up 😬)  so this one should be the easiest one to accomplish, but as anyone who has been in a serious relationship can tell you, it can also be the hardest. We’ve been through a lot, but until death can be a mighty long time. I’m committed to getting married and making it work and I’m excited about starting this next chapter of our lives. 

So there it is. In five years I see myself living in LA as a sound designer at a AAA studio, done with work by 6PM, married, and working on cool music and non-music based projects. Where do you see yourself in five years? Comment below!

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Why I DO What I DO

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Since as early as I can remember I had a stronger relationship with music than my friends. I obsessed over collecting albums and having conversations over what music was good and why. Eventually, this lead me down a path from being in constant conversations about music to being a music creator myself. This journey has led me to all parts of the world and has challenged me throughout the way on what music means to me and what I can do with music. How can I reach people? What is my purpose? What can my impact be? Having these feelings and conversations have led me to game audio.

 

Music and games are two of my biggest passions and marrying them together to try and enhance both experiences for not only myself, but the general population made so much sense to me. I have fond memories of different game audio experiences. From the sound of changing my weapons in Jak 2 to the humming of the melodies in Child of Light, to my friends playing Fallout 3 so much that I memorized all the jazz tunes from the game. The thought of giving other people that same feeling, enhancing the immersion they have in a game, and giving back to the music and gaming communities that have given me so much to me made so much sense to me. 

 

I do what I do because when I looked at my life and what I wanted it to be this is what I wanted to do. I want to make as much great music, as much great audio, as possible. I wanted to positively impact the world through sound the way so many others have done for me. And that’s why I do what I do.