1986 Changed my life. I remember being exposed to the Beastie Boys’ album “Licensed to Ill.” I didn’t know what half of the lyrics meant. I didn’t understand to what degree the vulgarity extended. There was something in the beat and feeling of the music that spoke to me. I could ignore the lyrics, but I couldn’t ignore the genre. I could scarcely listen to anything else.
My world of make believe included hours and hours of rapping in my mind. I wasn’t really “rapping” – I had no command of the English language. I would pretend I was on stage in front of thousands of fans. My verses had a ton of repetition using only the handful of words I could get to rhyme…but my “fans” didn’t seem to mind so I kept my songs on repeat (therein lies a great lesson – maybe for another day).
I grew up on East Coast “Boom Bap” Hip Hop (so VERY different from today’s mainstream sound). I loved the “underground” scene where rappers (properly referred to as emcees) did it strictly for the love. Money and fame didn’t matter, but authenticity and originality did. I wanted nothing more than to be “that guy.”
Unfortunately, it was out of my reach. I was too poor and wouldn’t even know where to begin even if I did have a few bucks. I made my first track with a kid down the street from me in 1997. He had a pretty decent home studio that he set up in his bedroom. He made a quick beat and we both sang over it. I’m embarrassed by it now, but it was so cool back then. More than ever I knew that someday I would have my own home studio.
I started in 2014 with a few iPad apps. I was amazed at how far technology had come! In 2015 I got a midi keyboard (MPK49) and FL Studio software (it had come a long way since 97′) but I didn’t fall in love with it. A month or two passed and I purchased a “Maschine Mikro” by Native Instruments. This was MUCH closer to what I was looking for. The studio continued to grow, turntable, audio interface, microphone, mixer, crates of records and studio monitors (speakers). Many days consisted of a short 10-30 minute session of sampling a record, chopping it into a beat and laying over some drums, some days I scored, other days I failed miserably, but I rarely took my foot off the gas. I learned a TON, but I knew I was just scratching the surface.
My Maschine Mikro served me well. But as of last month, it is in “nursing home status” – ready to die. After many, many hours of playing, the buttons now stick (as expected for an entry level product). Which brings me to today. Meet Ableton Live w/Push 2.
When I make a large purchase I study it out carefully. I sleep on it. I debate. I consider every option from every angle. I downloaded every major DAW (digital audio workstation) and took them for a test drive in an effort to find the next adjacent step for my musical growth.
Ableton Live came last. I had ZERO hope that I would want this DAW. But, none of the others really impressed me, so I had to try it. Boy, was I wrong! I knew within the first five minutes that this would be my present and future platform for music production.
THE APPLICATION: We have a sign hanging in our home that reads, “DO WHAT YOU LOVE.” I strive diligently to apply this. I have learned a better way to explain it. “DO WHAT KEEPS YOU UP AT NIGHT.” Music production gets me excited, to the point that I can hardly sleep. It makes my heart beat faster. It makes me happy to know I am making my own dream a reality. I want to give back to the underground scene everything I took from it and more. I want to keep it alive because it is so much a part of who I am.
THE CHALLENGE: What gets you so excited that you can’t sleep at night? What activity do you do that causes you to skip eating because of deep satisfaction? Find it, do it, commit to it! Doing the thing that keeps you awake at night will add a new and unbelievable dimension to your life. Stop procrastinating!