We’re In Boston Common Magazine!

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So I’m in the exurbs of Boston last weekend–at a jewelry store of all places–and talk turns to what I do for a living.

“And what do you do for a living, young man?” A charming older woman says to me.

“I work at a music technology and DJ school in Cambridge…” my voice trailing off, knowing she is likely not going to have any idea what I am talking about.

I was just reading about that!!!” She says, to my shock. “It was in my favorite magazine…” as she walks down the counter to pick one up.

Turns out her favorite magazine is the free Boston Common magazine, and the latest issue had just come out. And wouldn’t you know it, there we were, on page 54. The headline was So You Think You Can DJ?.

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So what is their take on what we do inside the lab? It’s a pretty clever write-up actually.

Then take 90 seconds and listen to this:

And then email me and we’ll get started!

Detroit Swindle LIVE! at #MakeItNew this week

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What do you mean “Live?”

We get this question a lot. DJ technologies have come a long way, and DJ sets can be an act of creation in and of itself.

However, a live set takes the parts of the music and breaks all of it down into its machines: synthesizers, drum machines, loopmakers, who knows what variety of cool tools.

See it in action:

Then Detroit Swindle rebuilds it, improvising various parts, changing different things, dubbing vocals and, again who knows what. And this time, they’re bringing a friend: keyboardist Lorenz Rhode. A trio of music makers! To wit:

They’re bringing most of their studio gear overseas, including the additional member Lorenz Rhode from Germany on the keys, and as said this has never been done in the States. Guys will improvise a lot on stage, their live show is always different and up to date as they put it all their latest music.

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The end result is a uniquely live aural experience. Like a well-performed DJ set, a one-time-only result of sound science.

And Dutch Dokters Lars Dales and Maarten Smeets are practically authorized surgeons.

Make It New with Detroit Swindle LIVE!
w/ residents John Barera + Baltimoroder
Thursday March 24th
Middlesex Lounge
315 Mass Ave
Central Square Cultural District
Cambridge, MA
9pm/21+
$20

ABELTON BASICS: MIDI Effects

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Often the hardest part of starting a new musical project is simply figuring out where to start. Most producers today begin with a drum beat, and leave the musical part last. I would wager to guess that’s because music theory can often seem complicated or even unapproachable.

But what if I told you that there’s a toolbox inside Ableton that will remove that fear and allow you to generate chords, melodies, and sequences without an ounce of musical theory training?

It’s called the Midi Effects section, and it’s great.

Whether you’re totally new to Ableton, or a longtime user, Ableton’s Midi Effects section offers some pretty fantastic opportunities. Located in the left hand menu, below the audio effects, the midi effects are a series of plugins that dictate what happens when a note is played.

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Unlike an audio effect, midi effects are placed BEFORE the synth plug-in.

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There aren’t as many effects in the midi section. But though they are small in number, they are powerful in nature. If you use these correctly, you can press one note and generate a whole musical soundscape.

Let’s go over what each of them does.


Scale

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Unless you’ve taken some music theory classes, you’re probably not familiar with all the various scales and modes. With the scale plug-in place you no longer need to worry about knowing any of that. Simply grab one of the presets, and the scale plug-in transposes all notes to be in key. No more wrong notes!

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Don’t like the scale? Then change it out, or build your own by playing around with the square grid interface. By doing this you’ll actually begin to understand the different scale sounds, and how the notes all relate to each other. For beginners though, check out this handy list of scales and what they “sound” like.

Chord

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This plug-in allows you to play many notes by only pressing one. Adjust the six knobs, and build large complex chords.

Arpeggiator

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This plug in either repeats a note you are playing, or outlines the chord being played. It offers a wide array of ways to control this process, and is perhaps the most powerful midi effects plug-in. Spend some time playing with this until you learn the controls. The most important controls are style, rate, gate, & steps. If you want to learn more, watch here.

Here’s a great example of what an arp sounds like

Note Length

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Controls how long all notes being played last.

Pitch

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Used to adjust the pitch of any incoming midi notes up or down.

Random

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Exactly as the name implies, this plug-in generates random notes anytime a midi note is played. This can be used to create some light variation, or when cranked all the way up, can generate total chaos.

Velocity

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a plug-in that allows the user to control the softness or loudness or each note played.

These are all powerful tools on their own, but best used together. Here are some of my favorite combinations.

Scale + Chord (+ Arp)– Allows you to build chord progression by just pressing one key at a time. Throw on an arp and outline these chords!

Arpegiator + Velocity – This gives those repetitive sequences some texture.

Arpeggiator + Random (+ scale) – Total chaos! It takes what’s coming out of the arpeggiator, and creates a sequence of random notes. Throw the scale on afterwards to keep the madness all confined to a single key.

As you can see, these are powerful tools that eliminate a lot of the musical guesswork, and can allow a producer to generate new ideas quickly. For more info about classes, and free workshops, visit our website!

Hot Mass: The Party That’s Changing Pittsburgh

A quiet US city is supporting after-hours dance club nights like Hot Mass, which takes place under a bathhouse, to transform itself into a creative mecca.

Hot Mass Changing Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh isn’t often a city we think of as a destination for party-goers, but Hot Mass, a weekly party started in 2012, is bringing some attention to the city, and bringing in music lovers from all around. Frequent attendees will vouch for the party’s liberal atmosphere and free spirited attitude, but at the core of Hot Mass’s success has been a steady lineup of acclaimed DJs, such as Prosumer, Daniel Bell, Mike Servito, and The Black Madonna (who happens to be playing this year’s Together Festival!). The party is held every Saturday night, downstairs from Club Pittsburgh, a private men’s club located in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. The folks over at Electronic Beats talked to some Hot Mass regulars to get an idea of what they love about it, and how improving Pittsburgh’s nightlife can help to revitalize the city.

“It was like, I wish they would not book somebody good so I can stay home and sleep. Even when my wife and I would be there, we’d say, ‘I don’t want to stay until 7 o’clock,’ and we’d just say we’d stay until they played a bad record. Well, it’d be 7:30 and there hadn’t been a bad record played yet.”

In addition to the amazing lineups, regular attendees say that the atmosphere of the club and the crowd is what draws them back to Hot Mass week after week, insisting that there is a sense of “freedom” that pervades the scene. Some have attributed this freedom to their proximity to the bathhouse, and the large gay community at Hot Mass, who see it as a haven from disapproving scowls and rude comments. Other members simply insist that Hot Mass is a place where they can feel comfortable being themselves, free from judgement of any kind.

“Coming here has made me extremely body positive,” said Gage Colangelo, a young Pittsburgh local who regularly attends Hot Mass. “When I was growing up, I thought, ‘I’m fat and gross.’ The people I met here made me realize who I was as a person.”

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By running the party out of Club Pittsburgh, Hot Mass is able to stay open much later than other bars and clubs in the area, which are required to close at 2am. They are legally classified as a private health club, so Hot Mass attendees sign a form stating that they are members for the night. Before Hot Mass, Club Pittsburgh had a reputation for throwing the best after parties around, which led bathhouse manager John McMarlin to suggest that promoter Aaron Clark throw a weekly party there. According to Harrison Apple, a historian of Pittsburgh’s queer nightlife, prior to the AIDS epidemic several of Pittsburgh’s private social clubs used their legal status to run dance clubs outside of the city’s regulated hours, such as House of Tilden or The Traveler’s Club.

“The House of Tilden, for example, was one of the biggest discos in Pittsburgh in the ‘70s, and in the Tri-State area really,” Apple said. “People came from Ohio, New York State, and West Virginia to go there.”

Whether they’re drawn to the free spirits or just love to party, Hot Mass has been drawing crowds and making waves since its inception in December of 2012. Their late hours and strange legal status have had some concerned that they might eventually be targeted for police raids, like those that targeted many queer establishments in the 60s, however current Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto has long been a proponent of nightlife, believing in its potential to attract new growth to an old city.

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The theory is quite simple: New growth requires new businesses, new businesses need young and talented employees, and young and talented people like to go out. Make the city attractive to young people, and the young companies will find it attractive too, particularly Tech companies who enjoy the low rents and fresh interns from nearby universities.

For more on Hot Mass, head to Electronic Beats.

Like nightlife and dancing and being a part of a community? Go here and tick the box that says “subscribe.”