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My production challenge this month was an exercise in adaptivity. Instead of going out and finding outdoor sounds to capture and sample, like we did for April’s monthly challenge, we were tasked with the wonderful opportunity to use sounds from a brand new hip-hop adjacent sample pack that launched recently on Splice. [*Skip ahead to hear my final track.]
Here’s how this looks in Ableton Live’s Arrange view. The color-coding represents my 100 percent subjective and ignorant sense of where the sections fall.
This idea has been in the pipeline for a while, but the impetus to finally push it to completion was my Fundamentals of Western Music class at the New School. I have been drawing scales and chords on the chromatic circle by hand for a long time, and I wanted to be able to produce them automatically.
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Sophie Chernin is an NYC-based songwriter, singer, and multi-instrumentalist. She is the co-founder and manager of the alt-soul band Madam West. Sophie identifies as a musician despite her current full-time job outside of the music sphere — her passion for music and promoting artists she loves drives her every moment of every day.
What makes Madison so special for touring artists is the diverse nature of its musical culture. With a bubbling scene in everything from classical music to jazz to opera to summer music festivals, and more, Madison is a must stop for touring artists. It’s also home to labels like Crustacean Records and Kind Turkey Records. When it comes to live music, you can catch a show at the High Noon Saloon —named the “Best Venue” by a different organizations including Madison Magazine, the Madison Area Music Awards, and Isthmus — or any number of homey, intimate spaces like Kiki’s House of Righteous Music (shown above).
It may sound corny or cliché, it may sound like bad advice at first, but “fake it til you make it” is one of the core tennets of visualizing your success.
If you’re working on a beat, or even if you want to start a new one right now, try to create at least three variations of the loop you started with by removing parts, adding them back in, making simple changes to patterns, etc. If you feel inspired, develop your idea further by adding other elements, and taking the beat out entirely for a bar or two.
In an excellent think piece, Pitchfork’s Adam Ward waxes nostalgia for the low-bitrate file and its ability to transmit an artistic feeling unique to the medium:
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Let’s examine the guitar more closely. Imagine that the guitar’s low E string has a frequency of 1 Hz. (It’s really 82.4069 Hz; feel free to multiply everything in this next section by that number if you want actual frequencies.) You want your high E string to be tuned two octaves higher than the low one, at 4 Hz. Let’s see if you can get there by tuning the strings pairwise.
Learn the different scale types and modes that exist and the popular songs that make use of them, and all inside your DAW’s piano roll, in Soundfly’s game-changing free online music theory course series, Theory for Producers, taught by NYU professor Ethan Hein.
“Girls Like You”: Chalk the most obvious hit of 2018 up to the number-one most popular chord change of all time (I V vi IV). This song rocked the Top 5 for almost half the year, even one more week than “God’s Plan.” First off, dig how the second post-chorus/refrain thing repeats itself, cooling it on the “yeah-yeah”s for what I’ll call a “double-post” section. And the bridge and half-chorus, with their odd lengths of nine and five bars respectively, are also worth a hearty mention.
Filter sweeps are most commonly used in electronic music because it’s a popular effect that DJs rely on to impose a sense of ebb and flow on the crowd. It’s that underwater effect of gradually surfacing, or opening up, until the chorus finally hits. It can also be the exact opposite, where a producer will gradually close off a ton of the frequency content so it sounds like it’s getting smaller and smaller, before letting it all back in at the perfect moment to slam the chorus back in even harder. This is especially useful if you’re working on a beat-heavy dance remix and you want the bass to be intensely at front and center when it drops.
If two signals that are mirror-images of one another are combined, they attenuate each other. This is often called “phase cancellation” (which in truth is a bit imprecise, but will do for now). You can demonstrate this cancellation easily in your DAW by bringing up two identical tracks and then flipping the phase of one by hitting the polarity switch, usually rendered with a symbol resembling “Ø.”