Friday 30 January 2009

Student Diary - into week 3

This week Ian taught us about some basic music theory and a few of the useful features to be found in the environment window. It was something that my own delvings into Logic hadn't uncovered before. I'm beginning to realise that Logic 8 is so enormous that guidance on the key tools and features from someone who knows it inside-out will prove highly comforting in two ways: 1) The assurance that I am using the software to its maximum potential and 2) The knowledge that time and energy saved on technical concerns like working out the best tool to create a certain effect and then getting to grips with it, can now be spent on experimenting with the musical possibilities that the tool in question allows. After all, it’s the creative side of producing that attracts us (well me anyway), the desire to craft a unique, emotive piece of art to call your own. The rest is essentially a means to this end.

So now I know how to assign chords to individual notes on the keyboard using the Chord Memoriser. This will cure a lot of the frustrations I have encountered so far. I can usually make up chords that work together but don’t have the dexterity of a pianist to be able to play these chords together in a melody... the chord memoriser solves that problem, reducing the amount of different fingers your brain has to control at once. The arpegiattor is the real dogs nut-sack (excuse my French) when it comes to creating intricate melodic patterns though. Apparantly the one that comes with Logic isn't the best compared to Cubase, but it is still a brilliant tool which can immediately add life into a snooze-inducing riff.

A little tip I have picked up: randomize the arpegiattor and increase the octave range for some crazy sounding melodies.

Now I can see how these two tools, when used together correctly can be the basis for a great track and why so many producers swear by them.

Have a great weekend peeps... I'm playing with Bass Clef tonight at Phantom Fridays. If you haven't heard of him check his myspace, he's the don of glitched out 2-step dub and his live show is truly something special – cowbells aplenty! I'm feeling the afro-kissed techno at the moment so expect some tribal grooves from me... get down if you're in London.

Monday 26 January 2009

Point Blank Student Diary - An Introduction


I'm Nick, 23 from South East London, and welcome to my new blog.

With my post-student, battle-scarred bank account slowly but surely recovering I decided it was time to sign for the Point Blank Introduction to Music Production course which I had been eyeing up for years. This blog will essentially be my diary of the course, and hopefully give you a good impression of what the Point Blank experience is like from a student’s perspective.

I'll give you a bit of my musical background so you can get an idea of the foundation from which I am learning. I come from a musical family, both my sisters and my mum studied music at university, my Granddad was one of those prodigiously talented people who could hear a song once and then play it back to you perfectly on the piano. Now I'm nowhere near that level but I did get to grade 8 on the trumpet in my school days, I also learnt the piano but I didn't enjoy it as much. I loved playing Jazz and Big Band stuff and really enjoyed improvisation, but found the more structured classical pieces, that tended to be prerequisites for the grades, a bit of a chore. I haven't really played my trumpet that much since my school days, with my head being turned by clubs, booze and Jeremy Kyle at university, but I understand how to read music and remember the rules and theories of time-signature, structure and arrangement (well some of them anyway!)

Yearning to harness my musical instincts again in some shape or form, and inspired by the club scene that I had embraced, I decided to buy decks in the summer of 2007. Since then my passion for innovative and exciting new dance music has spiralled, be it House, Techno, Dubstep, or Electro. I have managed to get some gigs at some London venues and coming up is my biggest one yet at Ministry of Sound on Feb 13th!! (my first plug! don't worry I won't make a habit of it). I have also been teaching myself Logic 8 for the past 6 months. Despite getting to a fairly competent level on my own, I was reliably informed by the course advisor, known in the office as Dastardly Dave,that the Intro to Production course was the right one for me after discussing which features of Logic I did and didn’t feel confident about.

So the course began...

As we waited for Ian Mackenzie (our tutor for the module) to hurriedly finish off his sandwich, the atmosphere in the class had the feel of excitement mixed with trepidation that you might expect from a room full of eager music makers with a whole lot to learn. We hear Ian’s back-story (he seems to have a lot of them!) and his impressive list of projects that he has worked on in the past before a useful lesson on equipment that we may want to purchase and the system requirements to maximise their efficiency.

Now entering the 3rd week we have learnt how to build our percussion loops using 2 of the most popular drum machines, Ultrabeat which comes with Logic 8 and Battery 3 which is a 3rd party plugin. Both have their plus points... With Ultrabeat I find it easier to create a quick interesting 4/4 beat using the step sequencer, but Battery definitely has a better library of sounds. You can transfer the Battery samples to Ultrabeat with a bit of fiddling around so you can have the best of both worlds.

Now I’ve got my beats laid I can’t wait to get my teeth into the other Logic synths to make some big grimy basslines!

Friday 23 January 2009

DJ Masterclass with Allister Whitehead

February 4th sees the visit of a true House Music originator to Point Blank - DJ legend Allister Whitehead will be visiting the college to host an exclusive masterclass in front of a select gathering of students. During the hour-long session, Allister will reveal the secrets behind 20 years of success on the decks and share insights into everything from building a killer set to presenting a demo CD and networking with promoters.

Allister started DJing at the age of 17 and forged his reputation spinning at world famous clubs including The Hacienda, Ministry of Sound, Cream and Gatecrasher. His name became globally recognised with the Gold selling Fantazia album 'The House Collection 3' which was at the time the biggest selling DJ compilation ever. He has since gone on to achieve 3 more Gold and 2 Silver albums with compilations for Fantazia and Ministry of Sound.

Allister is also a skilled and respected producer and remixer. His remix of Gala’s “Freed from Desire” was the catalyst to the track selling over 500,000 copies in the UK and becoming the biggest selling record in France of all time. He has also worked with the likes of Martha Walsh, Natalie Imbruglia and Robbie Williams.

If you are serious about making a career as a DJ then this is an unmissable opportunity. The session will take place on Wednesday February 4th from 3.30pm at Point Blank Music College in London.

Learn to Make Minimal & Tech House

If you are a fan of producers such as Ricardo Villalobos, Richie Hawtin, Trentemoller and Booka Shade then we have some good news - Point Blank has launched the first in a series of 4 week Pro Producer Courses which will specialise in a particular genre of music. The first of these explores the Minimal Tech sound which has dominated dancefloors across the globe in the last few years.

The course is taught online by acclaimed producer and remixer Danny J Lewis (Defected / Ministry of Sound / XL) and enrols every four weeks. All you need to get started is an internet connection, a copy of either Logic or Cubase and preferably a MIDI controller keyboard.

Each week Danny hosts a live webchat with students, offering professional insights into cutting edge production techniques and revealing the secrets behind the minimal sound. Students are set practical assignments each week and have the opportunity to upload their music in order to get professional evaluation and personal feedback on their progress.

Danny said, “The webchats have been really popular. I’ve got students enrolled from all over Europe, Australia and the USA . Making music on your own can be quite a solitary process so the webchat is a great opportunity to ask technical questions, but also to network with other producers who share your passion.”

In addition to Danny’s expertise, students can access a wealth of course materials including course notes, tutorial videos, samples, song files and other audio resources. All course materials remain accessible to students for a full year. Class sizes are strictly limited and enrolment is now underway. If you would like to learn more then head to where you can view a full summary of the course and even take a free trial lesson.

If you'd like to view the Logic Course click here

If you'd like to view the Ableton Live Course then click here