A favourite here at Off Centre Alan inspires students in Ableton Foundation and our Full Producer Program.
One of the early producers to really break out of his shell internationally from Canada at the turn of the century is Alan Lam, better known as Stranjah, and more recently Skeezer. With over 15 years of experience behind the boards, the savvy veteran is still currently churning out some of his finest material to date. His early production endeavours were clearly influenced by house, low-end hip hop production and various other forms of earlier bass music. Splashing onto the scene initially with then-partner-in-crime Gremlinz, his music found its way into the hands of legends like Goldie, L Double and Doc Scott, all of whom were keen on playing his music out in their sets and ultimately signed him to their respective imprints Metalheadz, Flex and 31 Records.
A favourite here at Off Centre Alan inspires students in Ableton Foundation and our Full Producer Program.
"Don't Cha" wanna give this remix contest a try? ;) Follow this LINK for a chance to win some fantastic prizes including a $250 OCDJ gift card. DEADLINE IS MAY 28th
In recent years, there’s been a significant amount of controversy in the electronic music community about what qualifies as a live performance. These days there are several methods with which to perform that the preconceived notion of the ‘live’ performance is often left up in the air.
Traditionally speaking, the process of performing live music has been quite simple - bring your sheet music, tune your instrument, and play. Regardless of whether or not the artist is performing solo or in a group, there is always an element of spontaneity - no matter the artist’s skill level, live performances can be full of mistakes and will never sound like the original studio material and it shouldn't have to. In a 2013 article from FACT magazine, artist Xavier Thomas aka ‘debruit’ said, “You have to be able to make mistakes to have a feeling of live-ness. And it's also presenting some sort of difference between your music in a live format as opposed to a recorded performance to people that might already know your work” (Fintoni).
Before we continue, it's important to recognize the distinction between DJs and Producers. A DJ’s strength traditionally lies in engaging a live audience and witnessing their immediate reaction while working with their instruments, the turntable, mixer and crate of music. A producer also needs to work with their instruments in a studio environment with digital and or analog equipment to effectively convey an emotion or idea. Sometimes, Producers who are strong in the studio may lack the performance chops to rock a crowd. And on the flipside, seasoned DJs who can successfully mix for hours may lack the technical knowledge to produce. In these situations, those who are producers first may resort to pushing play on pre-recorded sets, and those who are DJs first may enlist the aid of a friendly neighbourhood ghost producer. Both are equally taboo topics which question the legitimacy of the artists skills.
It’s sort of like realizing your favourite singer is lip-synching and the microphone they are holding is merely a prop, some singers will always perform better in the studio than they do onstage. The same can be said for the producer playing a pre-recorded set at the mainstage and the revered DJ who releases a song made by someone else. Without a transparent connection between the two sides, confusion is bound to develop as the actual product and the expectations communicated on behalf of the artist, the promoter, and or the venue cease to match up with one another.
The essence of live music performance is that there should be a chance that things could go wrong, but it is the skill of the performer to bring it to new heights and keep it all from falling apart. Otherwise it's like just going to watch a movie. Sharing the experience in an environment with other people does have the potential to transform your relationship to the art, but that's just the equivalent of pressing play, and for many reasons we expect more from music.
There will always be audiences who will appreciate the performer who walks the line with artistic integrity and there will be audiences who simply seek the thrill of dancing live to music regardless of the performer’s technical prowess. Both are fine, but as electronic music grows and audiences mature they will also inevitably become more aware of what is actually going on in the booth and/or on the stage. The room for error and genuine talent should come together in a way that compliments the audience's tastes so as not to set up some sort of false expectation whereby the artist can get away with pretending to perform. For those looking solely for a visceral experience perhaps the play button with some banging tracks, flashing lights, and fireworks will do. The performance, however, often informs the experience and this speaks to the classic dance floor notion of energy transfer between performer and audience and the question remains can that truly happen when it's a one way conversation?
Fintoni, Laurent. "The Great Live Music Roundtable: Six Producers Debate the Future of Live Electronic Music." FACT Magazine. FACT Magazine, 31 Oct. 2013. Web. 19 Mar. 2016.
In this episode of infamous OCDJ-TV Steptone & Slowpitch dive into the the Space Bag of questions and attempt to find the true answers that lie beneath the surface of DJing & Production. Will they emerge successful!? Find out as they duck and dodge their way through the challenges of turntable, DJ, beat making, and all around electronic arts philosophy.
Ableton's Operator is a little intimidating at first, but it's often overlooked for more commercial plugins. It's a versatile instrument and with a little time you can be on your way to making your own patches and basslines. Operator is an FM (Frequency Modulation) Synthesizer with subtractive and additive synthesis.
The Operator has 8 individual sections called ‘Shells’ and 1 display section at the centre. Depending on the shell you have selected, the centre display will show you a more detailed set of parameters from which you can modify your sound.
For info on Off Centre's Producer Programs: http://www.offcentredj.com/producer-p...
Oscillators : The noise makers inside the Operator. There are 4 oscillators (ABCD) which have their own parameters that can be tweaked in the centre display.
Waveform : Essentially waveforms are a representation of sound and can be complex or simple. In Ableton we can choose from a 22 types of waveforms, design our own or choose from the fundamental waveforms, sine, saw, square and triangle. We’ll choose a sine wave as it has a prominent presence in the lower frequencies.
Algorithm : In a nutshell Operator’s Algorithms are different routing options for the oscillators (ABCD). You can see that depending on which one you choose, algorithms can drastically alter your sound.
[How to make the Bassline]
1. Generally, the sine wave registers the best in the lower frequencies so, to create our bass sound, we’ll go to our oscillator 'A' and leave the waveform to run a sine wave.
2. We’ll then change the Algorithm to the last configuration so that our oscillators will run independently.
3. Add another oscillator with the same sine wave to boost the fullness of the sound. You could also add a third oscillator and run another waveform on top of the sine waves to add some tones to the sine wave.
Filter : The filter sections controls the Operator’s built-in filters. You can choose from a range of Filter-types (LP,HP,BP,Notch) and then adjust the cutoff with the Frequency knob which sweeps the band with whatever Filter-type you chose. The display will also allow you to change the envelope of the filter and also add curves to your waves with the Shaper Types. Choose from Soft, Hard, Sine or 4Bit to had that little bit of grit or guts to your sound.
LFO : By default, The Low Frequency Oscillator (LFO) shell will modulate the pitch of your oscillators ABCD, but can also modulate the filter cutoff depending on which ones you have turned on in the LFO centre display.
Release: In the Oscillator display you can adjust the Release to extend the tail end of the signal. Doing so will lengthen or shorten the amount of time for the signal to decrease after the key has been released.
A proper "release" (aka "drop") is one of the most important fundamental DJ techniques not only for scratching, but also for successfully mixing/transitioning from one track to the next. Since this is a cross fader dependent technique, In this video we take an in depth look at the role of each hand. Think tapping your head and rubbing your stomach! Just like any other instrument, it's all about developing hand and/or limb independence. This comes with time and lots of practice.
Happy December! Some exciting things coming up for you. Here's a taste from our December newsletter.
- Holiday Facebook photo contest: http://on.fb.me/1lPMJZL
- Certificate programs: http://www.offcentredj.com/certificat...
- Friends with benefits program (see written newsletter)
Read the Full newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/bHriOD
Superior Method is a Hip Hop and Funk artist that has been making some serious movements around Toronto. We caught up with him to talk about his new 6 song EP titled "BeHold".
OCDJ - How would you describe your style?
SM - I truly feel that the Hip Hop genre has lost its roots from way back. I would describe my style as one that personifies the old school vibe. I am also experimenting with Funk, Jazz and Electronic.
OCDJ - How Long have you been making music for?
SM - I have been creating music for about 9 years, since I first sat down in front a computer and started experimenting with FL Studio. I became enthralled in making music that made me feel good - simple. I started off producing Reggae & Soca, and then proceeded to indulge in the world of Hip Hop, Funk, and Trap Music.
OCDJ - Who are some of your early influences?
SM - I credit the artists that have truly animated my musical arrangements. My very first song that I loved for a long time throughout my childhood and was a big influence on me was “ It Wasn’t Me” by Shaggy. His music always involved good vibes and made you dance. Every track I write, I try to create something that will make you bob your head. The other prevalent artists that have had a lasting impact also range from Q – tip, A Tribe Called Quest, Method Man, Kanye West, Redman, John Legend, Alicia Keys, Snoop Dogg, Mos Def, Dizzy Wright, Drake, Tori Kelly, J Cole, Chiddy Bang, Rihanna, and Immortal Technique.
“All the essential tools you need to become successful, you already have, It's a matter of realizing your potential and then lighting up the path” - Superior Method 'Kool-Aid'
OCDJ - How do you feel being an artist in this day and age from Toronto?
SM - Toronto is home to a lot of varied talent, which is why I strongly believe I have to set myself apart in every possible way. My aim is to create intrigue with my art including a wide range of creative tactics.
OCDJ - The delivery on 'Love Hip Hop' is very genuine, What is Hip Hop to you?
SM - I sincerely regard music as a cognitive path that is distinctive to every single person in this universe. It goes beyond stimulating melodies you listen to however, the amount of pleasure and feeling an arrangement can cause is genuine. Love Hip Hop stemmed an expression of how I felt about the culture and its pioneers that led the way. Hip Hop nowadays is an entire culture that is getting overrun by the same ideas and tactics.
OCDJ - Do you make your own beats and if so what is your approach to making music?
SM - I use FL Studio to produce my own music. It’s a program that works for me and I love it. My approach comes from someone that wants to bring back the funk, the poetry and lyricism back. I also love meditating during the week for at least an hour every day to relax and have a clear mind when making music.
OCDJ - Is there anything else you like to do in your spare time when you aren't writing?
SM - I enjoy everyday like a new adventure and also enjoy meditating. I am currently bumping Chance The Rapper, Kehlani, and Camille Safiya.
OCDJ - Any last words or projects coming up you'd like to tell the world?
SM - I enjoy working with new artists all the time. I am the CEO of Superior Sound Group, which is my company I started last year. We are a collective of producers that help out vocalists or rappers that need quality instrumentals. Shoot over your music to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m open to all genres.
Z103.5 will be playing out 'Love Hip-Hop' on Friday November 27th at 10pm.
Just one of the many ways to take your hand control, scratching, and turntable performance to the next level. SUBSCRIBE to receive all the latest updates. The end game is to help you reach your creative potential.
Welcome to our Video Newsletter. It's November! Here are highlights of things we got going on this month. You can go old school and read the full newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/bDuRZD
In Episode 5 of our ongoing OCDJ series we touch on a much debated topic: Humans vs. Technology! Not so much in the Ex Machina sense, but more so breaking down how art and expression are influenced and sometimes even replaced by pre made loops, stock automation, and computer generated mixing. Technology is a wonderful thing, but where do we draw the line between self expression and roboticized beats? What's more important, star gazing or trail blazing?
It's October! GO BLUE JAYS!!
Welcome to our Video Newsletter! Here are highlights of things we got going on this month. You can also go the trusted old school route and check the full newsletter: READ HERE
Sound architect Matt Thibideau has a wealth of Synth knowledge pouring out of his modular brain. We grabbed a bucket to hold some of it and realized it wasn't enough so we decided to get him over to OCDJ for a highly anticipated weekend workshop happening July 18th. Here's a taste of the man's knowledge.
OCDJ - It's time to abandon ship and you've got only 2 minutes. Which synth is going with you? Why is it so special?
MT - That is a really tough question. It may be the Oberheim OBX, or my Roland System 100m modular.
Both for very different reasons. The OBX is great at lush sounding polyphonic stabs, chords and bass sounds. I tend to turn to it a lot because it sounds alive. No two notes really sound exactly the same.
The Roland System 100m is a great compact modular synthesizer that can dream up pretty much any sound, it could be drums, bass, bleeps, or weird sound fx. With the ability to connect it via patching and
so many different synthesizer parameters, the sky is the limit.
OCDJ - You were recently featured in a documentary about modular synthesizers. Can you tell us a little bit about it? What was it like being approached to be in it?
MT - I dream of wires is a great documentary that explains the disappearing and then return of the modular synthesizer in music. The Artist Solvent (who put the movie together) got in touch with me after knowing about my music in the local scene here in Toronto for years. What drew them to include our studio was that we have the Synclavier (an early digital sampler that changed the way music was made in the 80's).
It is a great documentary for both the enthusiasts and people new to synthesizers as it gives some insight into the history of some great machines and how people use them.
OCDJ - Are you opposed to digital gear or have you found a way to fuse the two worlds together?
MT - I do use some digital gear, mostly in the form of hardware (Samplers, FM and Wavetable synths). I also do use a Mac with Protools. It pretty much acts like a big tape machine and editing suite with midi control.
So in this way the two worlds do come together. All of my sounds tend to come from external instruments though. It is a comfortable way of working for me I guess.
OCDJ - Are there places in Toronto you like visiting to get inspired?
MT - I tend to leave the city to get my inspiration, but have walked around outside to record different "natural" types of sounds. I tend to record and take this back to the studio for
a lot of experimenting and manipulating.
I do visit the lake shore a lot as a bit of an escape from the city.
OCDJ - Besides navigating around mountains of synths at your awesome studio, do you have another passion?
MT - I enjoy my bike rides, and going to the gym when I have time. Listening to lots of ambient music and working with other like minded artists.
Performing live and travelling makes me happy too.
"Never be afraid to try working at a lower sampling rate"
OCDJ - Our students go bananas over tips. Do you have a drum programming or synth tip you'd be willing to share?
MT - 1. Erase the presets, Avoid sample packs, and build your sounds from the ground up.
2. Make kits of drum sounds using synths and sample them into different devices.
3. Never be afraid to try working at a lower sampling rate. Recording and sampling sounds in 8 bit, and 20khz can produce interesting and sometimes
OCDJ - What can participants expect from your "Intro to Modular Synths" workshop?
MT - Participants can expect to explore all of the aspects of a smaller "moog" styled modular synthesizer.
This will include the Oscillator, Filter, Amplifier and Envelope. We will talk about how they all interact and some of the history of the synthesizer.
OCDJ - Any last words or projects coming up you'd like to tell the world?
MT - My Brother and run a small label called Obsolete Components with many different recordings done with modular and hardware synthesizers. We have plenty of music to share with the world here.
We will also be heading to Europe this August to perform some of that music live.
Guelph/Toronto beat wiz Elaquent is on a steady climb into the minds of music enthusiasts around the globe. Taking a break from a busy tour schedule, the skilled beat smith hung with us for quite an awesome chat.
OCDJ - Why beats?
EQ - hmm, I mean, I could get into a number of philosophical reasons why I make beats....but the biggest or main reason..is that its fun. as a kid who grew up on golden era hip hop, production has always been an area I was very interested in, however, I didn't have money to buy an mpc. luckily I discovered fruity loops and found a way I could create. my older brother and I often used to complain about how wack commercial hip hop was, but instead of complaining about it, why not be a part of the solution. He excelled at rhyming, I excelled at beats.
OCDJ - For someone who has no idea about music but loves food can you describe your sound to them?
EQ - lol thats a tough one...perhaps a well seasoned steak with a rich balsamic wine reduction sauce. there is a lot of quality steak out there, but I try to add a lot of subtleties to add a little bit more flavor to the typical boom bap sound, whether its my usage of samples or synths, while still maintaining an element of rawness...hence the rareness of the steak. but really, its all in the eyes of the beholder. perhaps to someone else, my sound is a multi flavored ice cream, or dill pickle chips lol, there is a number of analogies. I would say anything delicious with layers to it.
"I feel like vinyl immortalizes you, one day somebody might find my 12" vinyl 80 years from now and get curious"
OCDJ - Whats your biggest personal breakthrough in your music making/performance career to date that you can remember?
EQ - hmm, releasing my Scenic Route album on vinyl (first one) was a very big deal to me, it always ranked very highly on my personal bucket list. I feel like vinyl immortalizes you, one day somebody might find my 12" vinyl 80 years from now and get curious. To me, an artist who releases music on vinyl in this digital/mp3 age has an aura of legitimacy to them. on the performance side, touring europe for the first time was big. Being able to share music, embrace and interact with people who don't speak the same language or live in a completely different culture is humbling.
OCDJ - Do you have another passion? Something you enjoy doing when you're not feeling musically creative.
EQ - Outside of music, I'm notoriously known to be a big sports fan of NBA and NFL, which is no surprise to everybody who follows me on twitter lol (@elaquent). I would say that my second love is collecting martial arts movies. maybe it was the early influence that Wutang had on me as a kid, but I've always been super interested in martial arts movies, and I have a big collection with over 500 films ranging from Shaw Brothers classics from the 60s and 70s, Jackie Chan/Sammo Hung cop movies of the 80s, wired Yuen Woo Ping stuff from the 90s, and so forth. I've spent a fortune on them over the years.
OCDJ - Without making your Toronto/Guelph fans to upset, have you found a place/town/city through your musical travels that you envision yourself living in? Can you tell us why?
EQ - In a perfect world, I would live in a number of different cities for like 4 months at a time. Would love to spend like 4 months in Paris, London, New York, Los Angeles. As far as one single place, i'd lean towards Los Angeles. It is just a really good creative hotbed with no shortage of people to see and things to do. I guess there's a reason that so many artists try to move to LA to find success, and having been there 5 or 6 times, its very easy to see why. there are lots of different events happening on a regular basis, lots of different artists to collaborate with in person, good weather, palm trees and so forth. traffic sucks there though.
OCDJ - What would be your dream collaboration?
EQ - Always wanted to work with Common. one day I hope it will happen.
"Use the velocity when hitting the pads. the swing settings will never match the feel"
OCDJ - Can you share any drum programming or other production tips for a budding beatmaker?
EQ - I guess it depends what type of beatmaker you want to be. I always like to tell folks that the best way to get that soulful groove in your drums is to listen to some jazz music, and to turn off the quantize switch. Use the velocity when hitting the pads. the swing settings will never match the feel. trust your ears and don't rely on just the waveforms and your meters. But ultimately, do what feels right!
OCDJ - How do you prepare yourself mentally before hitting the stage? Do you have a ritual or is just go with the flow?
EQ - I just go with the flow. I try not to over-prepare...depending on the vibe of the crowd, I tend to call many audibles and change direction often. I have a general idea of what I want to play, but if the crowd wants to dance, I may have to inject some faster grooves to keep people happy. It all depends. ultimately I have to trust that I got booked to play for a reason, so I just go with the flow and trust that whatever I play, in whichever order I play things are for the best. Plus, its a lot more fun to play when you haven't already committed to the next song. How do I call an audible and switch from this super fast song to a much slower song that I've never mixed before? all of my favorite shows were the ones where I threw the playbook out the window and just feed off the crowd.
OCDJ - Any last words? Shout outs?
EQ - I could list shoutouts all day lol..but nobody got time for that. I'll say shouts out to Off Centre for the interview, shouts out to my family for supporting me, Gill Breathing, and everybody who has ever supported my music or seen me play live. got lots of new music coming soon, including an album on HW&W. stay tuned :)
Alicia Hush is a Montreal based DJ/Producer with an infectious style of booty shaking beats. A crowd favorite at Montreal's esteemed electronic music festival MUTEK and co-head of lovable and steadily rising label Hushlamb, Alicia's positive energy and knack for making a dance floor take-off is a must witness. We had a quick chat with her recently. Check it out below!
OCDJ - Do you remember what pulled you into making electronic music?
AH - I started djing when I was 19 and knew then that I wanted to create music but I had a lot of self doubt at the time. It took me a good 10 years to get my butt out there and tap into this creative outlet that has now become my everything!
OCDJ - What gear do you use to create?
AH - I mostly use ableton with plugins. I can't live without Reaktor. I enjoy being able to pull out my laptop anywhere, anytime when the creative wave hits!
OCDJ - Can you describe your sound?
AH - Thick bass and quirky highs. Groovy dance floor sounds.
OCDJ - Where do you find your inspiration?
AH - On the dancefloor! Often when I'm out dancing to good music my body will get hit with certain sounds and I'll try to remember those moments in the studio!
OCDJ - Before you perform do you have a ritual to get you focused? or do you just dive in?
AH - I often get a lot of butterflies before gigs and so I need a little quiet time before a show. Oh and a few drinks :)
OCDJ - Do you have another passion? Something you do when you're not feeling musically creative.
AH - I sometimes find myself drawing or painting and if it were possible I would have a huge garden in my yard! But for now I put love into the few plants I can fit onto my balcony.
OCDJ - We recently read that you will be making a move to Europe. Is this a career decision? Why?
AH - Well this isn't a permanent move, just a few months traveling and playing and filling myself with inspiration before I head back to Montreal, a place that truly feels like home to me now.
OCDJ - Any last words/shout-outs?
AH - Hugs and high fives to the big hearted Hushlamb crew !
Plasitician will be making his return to Toronto on April 17th, 2015 for an intimate affair at Velvet Underground. He took time out to chat with Off Centre about Rinse FM, his thoughts on DJing & Production, and where electronic music is heading.
OCDJ - Glad to see that Rumpshakers is bringing you to Toronto! Have you been here before? What are your impressions?
PLASTICIAN - Yep been here many times! It's been one of the coldest places I've ever been on my travels, and always a good time. I remember playing at the Hoxton with Skream & Benga, Jackmaster a while back. That was wild. Was one of the best stops on that tour definitely.
OCDJ - What are your thoughts on the current state of electronic music. Where are we taking this ship?
PLASTICIAN - I think it's healthy in terms of the creativity we're hearing. People have lots of freedom to take their music wherever they want it to go now, without the constraints of staying within a genre constraint. At least within the circles of bass music anyhow. Obviously genres like Techno are still very much sticking to their guns and keeping their sound and events pure and true to their roots. But I like evolution, change excites me and I think today we're in a place where you log into your soundcloud stream and really don't know what you're going to hear next.
OCDJ - Your Rinse FM sets are moody and quite eclectic. How different is one performance to the next? Is there something that we can expect from your live performance this week in Toronto?
PLASTICIAN - I differ a lot, always try to change things up. Some weeks I'll play really moody, and others I'll play more club oriented. I think the performance this week will be guided by the audience, I'll normally start off a little slower and then ease into clubbier stuff - by the end it'll be a bit faster paced, and I'd imagine I'll find time to throw a few oldies in there too.
OCDJ - Production wise, is there a favourite piece of gear or software that sits as the centre of your creative process?
PLASTICIAN - I've produced everything I've ever released on FL Studio, in the early days it was Fruityloops of course. I love the simplicity of it. I have an extremely basic grasp of beatmaking, as down the years I've had less and less time to work on tracks so I still use FL pretty much the same way I did back then - mostly with samples and various VST's. I have only a couple of hardware bits in the studio - and one of them is only a controller, so everything is digital for me really. I guess it's more of a workstation than a studio in that sense. Just a workstation with great monitors!
OCDJ - You started off more as a DJ correct? Does this skill set play a large role in your production work?
PLASTICIAN - Yes definitely, I always try to produce things I fit will sit well between two or three styles I'm feeling at the time. Most of my more famed productions bridged the gap between grime and dubstep when I was playing mostly that. Right now it tends to sit somewhere between grime, jersey club and what people would refer to as "cloud rap" although you'd never hear me call it that! I'm always trying to create things I think people won't have heard before, which is why so little gets finished. I think I am such a hard person to please musically, even with my own productions.
OCDJ - As a producer do you think it's important to intimately understand the lineage of the beats your producing?
PLASTICIAN - Not necessarily. I sometimes find the best way to work on things is to just experiment and go crazy. You can always take the good stuff from it and simplify if you feel the need later on.
OCDJ - If electricity ceased to exist would you still be making music?
PLASTICIAN - No, I'd be fucked. I'm not even sure I'd be able to live let alone make music!
OCDJ - Hypothetical question: there are two shows on the same night, both DJs worthy of being called your "favourite". One plays vinyl, the other uses the SYNC button. If you could only choose one show, where would you go?
PLASTICIAN - Absolutely no bother to me. If I was in the mood to dance and have a drink I'd go to the one most likely to achieve that with their selection. Or if I wanted to zone out and experience something different, the same for that. I'm not hung up about the making of the music, or how it is being done. So long as I enjoy it that is really all that matters.
Big thanks to Plastician for taking time out to have a chat with us about all things music and to Rumpshakers for feeding Toronto with some proper electronic music talent.
In Episode 4 of the OCDJ - TV series, Slowpitch along side Circles & Squares have some fun (as usual) breaking down some strategies for how to deal with one of the most important issues for new and/or seasoned DJs & Producers: The Equipment Purchase. It's easy to get pushed in the wrong direction, especially if you're not exactly sure what the best piece of gear may be. Tune in for some interesting and helpful commentary on how to protect your wallet!
"Man, that music is old!" .....really?
In this edition of OCDJ - TV we dive deep into ideas and definitions of old vs. new music. What exactly do either of those words really mean? And how do perspectives of old and new affect our production, sampling sensibilities, and feelings about how good or bad a track is.
Off Centre DJ School's Instructor Circles & Squares breaks down the intricacies of Sampling in Ableton Live with Part 1 of this multi part series. This video focusses specifically on the technique of "slicing" which is a streamlined method of extracting samples (in this case drums) and making quick use of them in your midi note editor. Take virtually any audio file and manipulate the selected source to create something new.
Ableton Live is used to create, record, produce, and even perform music. Learn about linear and improvisational approaches to producing electronic music as we take you through the software’s unique interface. Browse through our latest course offerings HERE
Direct drive turntables vs belt driven, making money as a DJ and more questions are answered in episode 2 of OCDJ - TV. Do you have questions? Email: email@example.com
We recently met up with former student Will Bokan aka Ninja Bokan for a quick chat about his recent success, signing, release, experience at Off Centre and all around Ninja lifestyle!
OC1. So, what's it like being a ninja!?
NB1. Being a full time Ninja is the best thing I could ever imagine in my life. Ever since I was as young as I could remember I just wanted to be the Green Power Ranger when I grew up. Backflip kicks and other insane martial arts stunts were life necessities to me in late highschool and on into university.
OC2. Does your active lifestyle have an influence on your style of music or vice versa?
NB2. For me it is everything. Electronic music alone inspires all of my movement. I started gaining interest in learning how to make my own music for my martial arts. The interesting thing about this was once I started learning and becoming involved in production, it very quickly became all about the music. I’m way too obsessed with learning more about production and even just having great new music to listen to while I do Ninja activities or any activities in my life really.
OC3. What kind of music do you listen to (when you're not fighting Luigi!)? Mario's Street Challenge Are there any specific music influences that you can site?
NB3. Haha, this is a tricky one. I love all genres of music (except country). If it is good music I do like it. Typically I listen to the music suitable for the mood.When I am doing office work or monotonous tasks on the computer I like to listen to chill out music like Pretty Lights and Griz. I’m really falling in love with Shaun Frank’s new Deep House also. Deadmau5 is the best for so many things. Every now and then I love listening to Headhunterz and hardstyle. But once it is something that requires movement, high energy, or I’m feeling upbeat, I’m all over the Electro House. Dylan Francis, Nom De Strip, stuff like that.Actually right now at the very moment Nom De Strip makes me have a mental meltdown, definitely my favourite artist for today.
OC4. Congrats on your recently released a track "The Crew from 602" on BugEyed Records. Tell us a little about how all that went down. How did you find them or them find you? Any future plans with that label?
NB4. Well, The Crew from 602 was actually kind of an accident experiment track. Design wise it was inspired a little from hardstyle and at the time I was listening to some of Headhunterz new Big Room/hardstyle experimental tracks. So I figured “meh” I’ll fool around with that in mind, and then a track popped out. The overall inspiration for the track came from my stunt crew that hung out at after practices at this terrible junky house numbered 602. Everyone had the best time. I’m glad the house sucked, because it made it an amazing place to hang out with the right people for the right reasons.
I sent my demo over to BugEyed, they said they’d love to sign it after listening. It was that simple really. I’d love to provide them with more tracks.
I have some beauties in the hopper right now that I am super excited about. My current track is coming along a little slower than I'd like, but the quality is just epic for my expectations. I'v very happy with the results so far, I cannot wait to finish this gem, and I can't wait to send your way to have a listen when it comes out.
Maybe this track could also possibly end up on another label or maybe it stays with BugEyed? I can’t predict these things. I like to be a leaf in the wind; whatever works out best for everyone makes me really happy.
OC5. Is there anything in particular that sticks out in your experiences at Off Centre that has helped with your music (or just in general)?
NB5. Well, everything haha. I’m sure it is different for everyone, but for me specifically Off Centre was the turn key enabler that opened the opportunity for me to start and understand how to make electronic music. Before I started at off centre I knew I wanted to start making music but I had no idea how. Taking a look at ableton on my own wasn’t all that intuitive.
I took the offcentre course, everything started making sense and I learned how to make a track from beginning to end with confidence. I learned all the necessary tools and more to get a producer going on their own. Not only that, the environment and the positivity from the instructors was so inspiring and unreal. I really felt like they believed in me and enjoyed teaching me because they wanted to.
A whole new world opened for me. The way I heard songs and the audio pallet that opened up for me was insane. Probably one of the coolest milestones in my life; truly discovering what music really was.
Thank you so much Off Centre.
OC6. In a short time your beats have really developed and evolved nicely into some high quality production. Is there any advice you could give to producers and beat makers that are in the early stages?
NB6. Oh man so much advice. I could write a massive report at this point, and still have limited knowledge as I am just “starting” my journey. The most important to me is to keep learning new things. I know it sounds really obvious but really focus on growth and new production tactics that lead to a “cleaner” track. Every time I finish a track I am already disappointed with it due to new things I have learned to make the next track better. It’s okay to have high standards and put pressure on yourself as long as you are having fun.
The 4 actual production points I found the most important right away after I finished Off Centre are the following:
1) Sidechain Compression.
I now use Nicky Romero’s Kickstart. Highly recommend. Sidechain Compression is the most important part to getting that rock solid clean kick and overall mix out there. Make sure you never miss getting this right.
Layer your snares, layer your synths, layer everything that needs to be layered. You get way more control over your sounds. You pick the parts you like form them, remove the parts you don’t and then glue them together. Really separate your bass and your mids and highs.
3) Pick a professional track to compare yours to.
Listen back and forth. See where yours is missing pieces and sounds that the other track has locked down. Are your samples just too weak? Is your mixing levels off? It could be many things, a reference track similar to yours is great.
4) Take breaks.
For me, I found once I started going too long that my ears would start becoming too used to the track and unable to be effective in focusing on making the right changes. If they are getting tired, just take a break for half an hour and then come back. You’ll be surprised at how “fresh” the track and canvas sounds to work with again.
To find out more about will and his evolving body of work, checkout:
Hang out with Off Centre's SlowPitch and Circles & Squares as they talk DJ culture, music, Toronto life and more. They will also be answering your questions regarding the art form of DJing. Do you have questions? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Off Centre instructors SlowPitch and Pursuit Grooves are preparing their intergalactic space craft for a fantastic voyage along side Toronto dance wizard Libydo. It will be a night of futuristic tribal rhythms, projections and artwork. MORE INFO.
Ever wonder how DJ's are able to find sounds so quickly and stick with them? The video above sheds light on one of the most important techniques - establishing visual cues. Our Level 1: Intro to DJing course covers this and many more tools to get you started on your journey into the wonderful world of DJing.
Former Level 1 Intro to DJing student and very talented young beat maker Talal Al-Saymaree aka CHi4NS4W never stops amazing us with his moody hypnotic musical stylings. We picked his extra terrestrial brain for a bit to find out what inspires his sound.
OC - When did you start making beats?
CS - I started making music when I was around 14-15, I fell in love with music since I was a kid my mom got me this wonky Casio keyboard and it used to be my favourite. The country I grew up in (Kuwait) mostly played Arabic music and the English radio stations only played tops 40s for example there was a lot of Michael Jackson at the time. Then when I was like 13 the song "One More Time" by Daft Punk played on TV and I was mesmerized. Then my cousin introduced me to the world of music online and also how to use a dial up connection. From then on I wanted to learn how to develop these type of sounds that had captured my heart and ears.
OC - Who or what are some of your early influences?
CS - Some of the early influences were Daft Punk, Mix Master Mike, and The Chemical Brothers, I know you would view them as nothing but mainstream music but you have got to understand, where I grew up it was kinda hard to find that sort of music.
OC - Where is your favourite place to get inspired in the city?
CS - My favourite place to get inspired would have to be my balcony, the view from the balcony of my apartment is incredible and always helps me make the best of my music.
OC - Do you like producing by day or by night and why?
CS - I prefer to produce at night because no one interrupts my creativity. I can continuously work on my music until I feel it is done.
OC - Where would you like to see your music placed in the future?
CS - I would love to see my music used in video games. That way it would combine two of my favourite things, and I feel it adds another dimension to the gaming experience. But mostly I would like it to get out there so that everyone would be able to appreciate it. It's not a matter of getting everyone to like it, just appreciate the music for what it is.
OC - Any shout outs?
CS - Shout out to kalibrplus(K+), Emojicult, Skywayz, Ghostship of Suburbia, SlowPitch, baddaynamik, my mom, Heather Louisa and Syro. I would like to thank Off Centre DJ for making this happen. It's a wonderful place, run by wonderful artists that helps anyone explore sound in depth and aspire to be better artists. Thank you for keeping me in mind and giving me this wonderful opportunity.
On the upside: Being able to put an entire set together with no road blocks. There's obviously a lot more to putting together a successful set than just beat matching, but with Sync you can exercise your musical tastes and focus on programming. This puts the larger picture into perspective and removes the frustration of being stuck attempting to beat match just two or three tracks in a row. As a beat matching learning tool having a laptop in your set up can be a positive as long as you avoid the tempting sync button, and don't get caught glaring aimlessly into the screen! Music is obviously about the ears, but the graphic representation of the waveform allows for a fuller understanding of what's happening with your sound. When beats go off you can visually detect which one has pulled slightly forward or backward. Adjusting with a slight nudge or drag becomes much easier and soon enough you'll learn to drop the visual crutch and do it by ear. This potentially makes learning how to beat match quite a bit easier until you're ready to drop the training wheels. Until then, hitting the Sync button will avoid that painful train wreck. Definitely a good thing.
On the downside: The temptation to skip learning one of the essential skills. The Sync button can end up creating a false sense of confidence, detachment, and sometimes complacency around the decks. According to historic DJ standards, beat matching two tracks qualifies you for the job. But if your mix stops with Syncing, that means the creative vision has been narrowed and your set will inevitably suffer. In this case technology has failed us. There are also some inherent limitations to Syncing or beat grid technology. With more consistent four to the floor production, beat mapping is quite accurate. Often times with more complex rhythms, however, the software is unable to accurately detect the tempo, or incorrectly places the beat grid. If something goes wrong with the Sync function and you're in a tight spot what do you do if you can't beat match!?
The bottom line is that the Sync button won't make you a good DJ….or a bad one. It'll simply help with one of the most fundamental DJ tasks which is matching up two tempos. The Sync button will not select your tracks for you, it won't create seamless transitions, it won't magically allow you to change tempos mid set or create scratch routines on the fly. All of this takes creativity, practice, and an open mind. Sync is simply an automated function which is meant to open creative doors. There's definitely something to be said about DJs who can rock a multi dimensional vinyl set, but your DJ credibility doesn't depend on whether or not you choose to use the Sync button, it depends on what else you decide to do (or not to do) and how well you do it.
If you want to find more about ways to use and/or not use the Sync button, or learn how to beat match the good old fashion way, here are some links to DJ courses that may interest you:
TRAKTOR S4 - DJ LEVELS 1 - 4 - TURNTABLISM
For years DJing and technology have had an important relationship. After all, there is no real acoustic version of turntables (besides maybe the gramophone). It's not something you pick up and play around the campfire. The advent of DJing fundamentally relies on the technology of electricity. To get a little more specific, the development of skills and styles in DJing influence and are influenced by changes in technology. Here are a few examples:
- The switch from heavy, bulky shellac to thinner and lighter vinyl. Made rewinding, cueing, and general record manipulation a reality.
- Technics releases the SL 1200 series turntable with direct drive motor and accurate pitch control - makes beat matching and cueing more precise, and scratching a possibility.
- The addition of an adjustable crossfader contour made scratch techniques such as the "transform" and "stab" faster and techniques like the coveted "crab" possible.
Within each of the above examples we see that artistic pursuits and technology inform each other. Sometimes technology leads and artistry follows or vice versa, but it's clear to see that in each stage of the evolution one has responded to the other in a way that made something possible, more precise, or easier to achieve.
Enter the computer DJ setup. The digital revolution not only made it easier to buy and of course carry your music around, but software such as Traktor and Serato made it possible, with a decent rate of accuracy, to skip over one of the fundamental skills of DJing: Beat Matching. For a few decades, before you could play a live show as a respected DJ you had to spend weeks or months learning and perfecting the art of Beat Matching. Although potentially frustrating (as is learning any musical instrument), through this process you would inevitably learn to interact and engage with the music in meaningful ways. You'd have to focus on timing, counting, speed and accuracy, all of which are important foundations for learning more advanced DJing skills as well.
The purpose of technology has always been to make things faster, easier, and in general more streamlined. In most cases this has improved a skill set allowing for more innovation and development of other skills that may have otherwise been held back from the inherent limits of simplistic gear. Now, these inherent technological limits can also create a beautiful frame for creativity, but that's another story. The purpose of Sync was/is much the same. It was invented so that the labour intensive process of keeping tempos of two, three, or even four tracks locked easier. This would free up time for DJs to move on to more creative pursuits like EQing, FX, chopping, scratching, and focussing on the crowd (or in many cases just getting absolutely shit faced). For experienced DJs this is great. If you don't feel like spending your creative time or energy beat matching it frees up time in the live scenario to work on other kinds of transition techniques, multiple decks, and maybe going as far as programming live remix sets. As a new DJ, this can have several positive and/or negative outcomes.