You are stuck at home and looking to polish up your skills in production, DJing, knitting, the art of beer drinking, or whatever you fancy, really.
Now is the perfect time to dive into something that you've be meaning to get to or have always wanted to attempt. So I did just that and have been allowed to join Point Blank instructor Thomas Greene in a three-month course to learn Intro To Music Production (Logic Pro X). Then if I last through part one, I will jump into a second three-month course to master what I've learned - or I'll be crying in my studio, either/or.
In this series of articles, I will chronicle my journey and fill you in on the highs and lows, my equipment choices and recs, some interviews with Point Blank staffers, and all sorts of other tidbits - and even some contests to win some gear or other goodies.
So Why Pay for Online Learning?
You may be asking why not just dive into the cavernous realm of YouTube and get your lessons for free? I've been dabbling in Ableton and Logic X for a while, and the one thing I can say for sure is that without a proper curriculum, you will learn this software in a piecemeal fashion, which ends up costing you in the long run. Workflow and process are everything if you want to master a program like Logic Pro, and learning from a professional instructor is invaluable.
The Point Blank class offers a weekly online course with the instructor as well as one on one sessions every other week. This structure, combined with goals, assignments, and a classroom type of environment, keeps you motivated and learning at the right pace. There is no way to rush this kind of learning; you simply need to put in your time and craft your skills.
Magnetic Studios - A quick tour of the studio here + a list of gear that I'm working on:
Logic Pro X
iMac 2017 + External HP Monitor
Novation Launch Key 61 Keyboard
Off we go to learning like a pro and unlearning some of my bad habits, poor workflow, and all that. Wish me luck.
Week One - Intro and breaking down Midi vs. Audio
I won't go into tedious detail here but more about the key takeaways from each segment. This was a crash course in the Logic interface, how to work with preferences a bit, save your project, and so on. Think of this as a 101 level class to get your brain prepped for what is to come and learn some key functions that are essential.
• The fundamental difference between and Audio and MIDI tracks in Logic.
• History lessons on early sequencers, MIDI sequencers, and the rise of DAW or Digital Audio Workstations.
• General layout of the DAW, how to get started and save your work.
• Apple Loops, how they work and how to sketch out a track with them.
Week 1 Project - Made with Apple Loops and Samples that were converted to Apple Loops.
Week 2 - Drum Programming and Ultrabeat
The Ultrabeat instrument/sequencer has long been part of the Logic Pro lineup, and its layout hasn't changed all that much - it's a bit dated looking but still a powerful tool if you want to program your drums with a traditional step sequencer approach. There are a lot of ways to program drums in Logic, but it was great to see this tool in action and learn a new approach. Ultrabeat is primarily for the producer that is working on more linear types of electronic music like house, techno, etc.
The new Drummer and Drum Design tool are interesting new additions to the Logic Pro X DAW and can be powerful tools. If you are not a percussion person, they are worth checking out and utilizing in some regards.
Ultimately there are a lot of ways to do your drums, from samples to Ultrabeat to sequencing or drawing them out as MIDI notes; there is no one right workflow; you just need to find the one that is best suited for your production needs.
• Drums and percussion are IMPORTANT, take the time to learn this skill well, and your productions will be all the better for it.
• Drum programming is an art, knowing to spice up your patterns with different elements makes your composition a lot better.
• Drummer is not a dopey tool for newbs; it can be used to give you inspiration and the take bits of the rendering for your own productions.
• Drum Designer is a great way to quickly tweak sounds of individual parts and an easy interface to work with,
• Ultrabeat is a great way to get your head around a step sequencer and classic programming; I love the ability to sketch different scenes and drag them into the composition quickly.
Pro Tip: patience is a virtue; learning these small bits and focusing on them one at a time is essential to good workflow and strong compositions.
The 1-2-1 Session - Every couple weeks you get 20 minutes or so with your instructor to ask questions, get feedback and go into any coursework you might be struggling with. The secret to getting the most out of these meet ups on Skype is to prepare your questions ahead of time, that way you can maximize your time and get the most out of the course. Here is some info in the video above.
Week 3 - MIDI Editing + Drummer
In week three, we took a more in-depth look at Drummer and got into MIDI editing.
• Understanding basic MIDI recording and editing.
• How to quantize and record with auto quantize function.
• Understanding velocity and how to manipulate it.
• Using the brush tool, a more in-depth look at the piano roll and how to get around moving regions, notes, etc.
• How to bring the groove and human feel to your drum programming using swing, and other techniques.
• A deeper look at Drummer and Drum Kit Designer, you can build a complete custom kit to use for yourself in MIDI or for Drummer to use.
Drummer - This is a unique tool in Logic that literally gives you a virtual drummer that works in various styles and genres. It's essentially an algorithm that works with the composition you are creating to bring in automated percussion. The Drummer can be tweaked in a variety of ways using a series of style presets and a puck tool that allows you to change the parameters from simple to complex, soft to loud, and control the elements. See the picture above.
Week 3 Exercise - I decided to go in more of a jazzy direction this time, playing MIDI parts for the bassline and horn, and using Drummer to lay down the beat. This is starting to get FUN!
Pro Tip: One of the things you might notice is that the horn has a live kind of feel to it, this was achieved by using the ROLI block, which has a unique almost spongy quality, giving you some amazing control of the velocity.
Week 4 - Music Basics and MIDI Effects
Now things are starting to get more intense, we are building on skills and starting to learn more sophisticated functions of the DAW and some much needed music theory. I've been a drummer and a DJ for a good chunk of my life, but never knew much about music theory and gave up on reading music right at the beginning of my musical exploits.
Whatever your musical knowledge, you will have to start taking notes now and going back to older lessons to regroup. There are a lot of things to learn and at this point I'm starting to feel overwhelmed a bit. Yikes.
What helps is to start zoning in on the workflow that you like, what are the things that make sense for your types of production? Focus on the things that are making good sense for you, as you can always come back and learn other bits of functionality. In short, don't think you are going to master all the functionality of this DAW, you simply don't need to.
Phew. Now I feel better.
• Learning about bass and bass lines as they relate to your track
• Basic music theory including Key, Scales, Chords, Octaves, etc. - This is just enough information to acquaint neophytes with the fundamentals and terminology.
• Automation - there are lots of ways you can automate parameters for your drums, bass lines, leads, etc. to make them evolve in the track, like ramping up the volume or putting filters on certain regions, etc. This is an art, and takes a lot of practice to get it right, but I did use some basics on the track below.
First Month Summary - This is all very exciting and overwhelming at the same time. You can't help but to feel a bit like a sieve, watching information slowly fall away from your brain as you progress. This journey requires dedication and at least 1-2 hours a day, and even more on weekends to start getting things dialed.
My exercises results are whatever, but you get to start making tunes right out of the gate and that keeps you motivated along with the simple pressure of keeping up with your classmates.