Most people, including most professional musicians, tend to use language carelessly when they discuss music. While the main ideas one wants to communicate, such as arguments concerning the best interpretation of a piece or other ways to perform a piece effectively, still make it to the student, most music teachers and academics use language that weakens, or refutes, their own argument without realizing it. This is not to say that what they’re saying is always wrong, just that they leave themselves open for debates that they could easily end.

There are a few phrases and terms that one often hears in lessons or reads in academic articles that simply do not make sense. I bet you see them all the time. Phrases that make arguments about a composer’s intention (“Bach’s music is always devotional”/”Beethoven was inspired by rage”) and phrases that use the words natural or unnatural (“your playing sounds unnatural here”) simply are impossible to prove. Claims about intention are impossible to support using evidence. Arguments in music that use terms such as “natural” or “unnatural” can be easily refuted when one considers how strange the dichotomy between natural and unnatural is, or whether this dichotomy exists in real life.

Another favorite among teachers and writers is “essence.” “Essence” is a metaphysical term that, like just about everything in philosophy, does not have a substantive definition yet. Another problem is when using periods and genres definitively or gushing about an emotional response to music (“Mendelssohn’s motifs remind me of ocean waves”), or using analogies (“the music glows”).

Now that you know how these words are used carelessly, should you correct other people when you hear them? Do you want to be the person that says “I’d just like to interject for a moment…”? I don’t recommend that you correct people, unless they clearly and directly ask about your reaction to what they’re saying. Unless, of course, you don’t want to get called back.

Now that these careless uses have been established and defined, let us explore the weakness of each phrase in more depth. In this part, we’ll discuss why it doesn’t make sense for us to talk about composers’ intentions or use language relating to “essences.”

1) Composers Intentions: Who knows?

People change over time. Composers are no exception.

Have you ever had a conversation with a friend, and walked away thinking that you didn’t know them as well as you think you have? I have, and I bet you have too. It can really be kind of devastating. Here’s a person I share an emotional bond with. I spend a lot of time talking to him, and we’re in the same time period. Suddenly, there’s a whole part of this person I didn’t know before and it causes me to question everything else about them.

I don’t know my friends very well. How could I dream to assume that I know what Bach thought at any given time? I can’t talk to him. We’re not in the same time period. We don’t even speak the same language. Even if I spoke German, the current slang probably doesn’t have much to do with how they spoke back then.

I’m not even reading Bach’s music directly. Bach wrote a good deal of his organ music in organ tab notation, not what I’m used to reading. Some of his keyboard music is originally in alto clef. If you gave a pianist today a score with alto clef, he’d probably leave. Other scores Bach produced had time signatures no one uses anymore, and the beams and layouts don’t match anything we use today.

A lot of musicians have the illusion that they know the person because they know that person’s music. Music doesn’t reveal an entire personality. Otherwise, unpleasant people wouldn’t be good musicians. Or, one couldn’t play multiple styles.

Music, as an intellectual art form, requires resources that are outside oneself. One must react to what has come before using training and theoretical knowledge that comes from someone else. Music that came before is also outside of oneself.  Therefore, music is not entirely personal.

It follows that there is a necessary separation between an individual and their music. This degree to the separation between an individual and their music varies based on the artist’s own intentions. These intentions are impossible to prove after the fact.

2) Problems with Essence and Music

Pieces don’t have essences. Music may have connections to Forms, but Forms are not essences. Since Forms are unchanging and music is always changing, music may have the least connection to Form out of the arts. That should be discussed another time.

What is an essence? Well, thousands of pages are written about this and I don’t have a lot of space in these blog posts I’m doing for fun. So I’ll give you an inadequate summary that, if you read between the lines, should get you on your way.

The most prominent use of “essence” comes from Locke, where he argued that all things have an invisible essence, like a pool, that surrounds them in an ether. Locke interpreted parts of Plato’s The Statesman where the Athenian Stranger proposes a classification system. The Stranger argues that things must be classified in terms of their own “essential” characteristic, that is, a characteristic that the thing does not share with other things. Locke took this idea and argued that everything has an “essence” in an ethereal space that it does not share with other things. Quine argued against this when, centuries later, he claimed that everything when we discuss it is in a semantic plane of language without a necessary connection to reality (I thought that this was loosely based off the complaint against writing in Phaedrus, but this isn’t really relevant here and my professors didn’t quite agree anyways). I don’t think most teachers or writers want to claim that a piece of sheet music has some invisible, ethereal parts to it that have to do with essences.

Pieces of music do not really have essences. A singular piece shares so much with other pieces of music that to distill it down to a characteristic it doesn’t share is impossible, even in the case of distilling a piece down to a theme. If another piece is found that shares a theme, then that theme cannot be an essential characteristic of the piece.

Optimizing a WordPress installation for speed is not that hard when you have the right plugins and some patience on your side. The best part is that you don’t have to be a web development expert to enjoy the benefits of these plugins. If you created your own WordPress site, you already have the skills to follow this guide. Anyone who uses WordPress will benefit from these plugins and settings. After you complete this guide, your website will load in ½ the time it used to if it doesn’t load instantly.

I did web development professionally for a couple years before music took off. One thing that saved me were guides like this, so I want to give back to anyone, especially a fellow musician, who’s trying to build their own website and needs a little bit of help.

After you follow this guide, make sure you use your website at least once a month. That way, everything stays running smoothly and you can share your website with confidence. Keep your plugins updated, test your links, optimized your databases, and use your contact forms to make sure they still work.

All the plugins I recommend are free. The only thing this will cost you is a few hours of your time. Developers can charge upwards of hundreds of dollars for this service (I did at one point), and there’s not really a good reason to pay that much when you already most of the work on your website yourself.

You are following this guide at your own risk. I will not support your WordPress site or your speed optimizations. Make sure you have a full backup of your website before you start following this guide in case you cause irreversible damage.

Between each step, load your website in a separate browser to make sure nothing breaks. Hit Shift + Refresh to clear the cache between each load so that it’s always loading from the server. You’ll start to notice every refresh gets a little faster.

Be sure to check the date on this guide. While this should last a long time, plugin interfaces may update or change and, while the plugins will probably still be good options, it may make the guide harder to follow step-by-step like I intended it.

Note: If you don’t see the names for the plugins you added in the left sidebar in the WP Admin panel, maximize your browser window.

Here’s how you make your WordPress site load instantly!

1) Delete unused themes

Make sure that you go through all your themes and delete the ones you aren’t using. That will save space and clutter in the database so your website can read it faster. It will also remove any unnecessary images that take up space in your website.

2) Delete unused plugins

Go through all your plugins and delete any plugins you aren’t using. If you’re not sure whether you should delete a plugin, try deactivating it first, leaving it deactivated a few days, and then checking to see whether your website broke. If it broke, then reactivate the plugin. Otherwise, delete the unnecessary plugin.

Make sure you have a complete backup of your website before you proceed.

3) Install, activate, and configure the Asset CleanUp plugin

After this plugin is installed, experiment with settings to unload unnecessary JavaScript files on your blog posts. This may break some functionality, so experiment with that doesn’t break your website first.

Within the Asset CleanUp plugin page (navigate here by using the sidebar when logged into the WP Admin Panel), go to the Settings tab. Navigate to Optimize CSS and Enable CSS files Minifcation and Combine loaded CSS (Stylesheets) into fewer files by clicking the green sliders. Hit Update All Settings at the bottom of the page. Test your website in the secondary browser where you are not signed in.

Next, go to the Optimize JavaScript tab within the same Settings tab. Enable JavaScript Files Minifcation and Combine loaded JS (JavaScript) into fewer files. Then, click Update All Settings at the bottom of the page. Test your website in the secondary browser where you are not signed in.

Afterwards, go to the Site-Wide Common Unloads tab within the plugin settings. Disable Emojis Site-Wide and Disable jQuery Migrate Site-Wide. The other options in this section are at your discretion. If you’re not using comments on your website, go ahead and Disable Comment Reply Site-Wide. Also, if you’re not interested in embedding YouTube videos or having your blog posts embedded on other websites, click Disable oEmbed (Embeds) Site-Wide. Click Update All Settings. Test your website in the secondary browser where you are not signed in.

Now, go to the HTML Source Cleanup section. Remove the “Really Simple Discovery,” “Windows Live Writer,” “REST API,” “Pages/Posts “shortlink tag,” “All ‘generator’ meta tags,” “Wordpress version,” “generator” tags. If you’re not using a blog at all, Remove main RSS link, as goes with the comments. Click Update All Settings. Test your website in the secondary browser where you are not signed in.

We’re done with the Asset CleanUp plugin. Let’s go to the next plugin.

4) Install, activate, and customize the Hummingbird plugin

Navigate to the Hummingbird dashboard by hovering over the Hummingbird entry in the sidebar of the WordPress Admin panel.

Run the speed test. Hummingbird will prompt you to do this.

Scroll down to Page Caching. Click Activate. The settings will be activated for you. Enable Cache 404 requests and Clear full cache when post/page is updated. Hit Save Settings. Return to the Hummingbird Dashboard. Test your website in the secondary browser where you are not signed in.

Go to Asset Optimization in the Hummingbird Dashboard. Click Activate. It will start checking files for you. You may get a warning about how this is for advanced users. Click continue. Most of your files are probably already optimized by the previous plugin, so this step probably will not do very much. Now, go back to the dashboard. Test your website in the secondary browser where you are not signed in.

Go down to Browser Caching. Click Configure. Scroll down to the bottom of the Caching page, and click Activate. Test your website in the secondary browser where you are not signed in.

We’re done with this plugin. Let’s go on to the next one.

4) Install, activate, and customize the WP Smush plugin

Navigate to the Smush dashboard from the Admin Panel. Click Begin Setup and follow the prompts, leaving everything at its stock setting. Then, click Finish Setup Wizard.

Smush will check and optimize your images. Click Bulk Smush Now to complete the operation. It will optimize all your images for you. You may get a message to re-check your asset optimization from Hummingbird. You may ignore it. Test your website in the secondary browser where you are not signed in.

We’re done with this plugin, so let’s go on to the next one.

5) Install, activate, and customize the WP Fastest Cache Plugin

Go the WP Fastest Cache page from your sidebar.

Click the checkbox to enable your cache system. Preload everything. Click OK. Test your website in the secondary browser where you are not signed in.

Click the checkboxes for Logged-in users, New Post, Update Post, Minify HTML, Minify CSS, Combine CSS, Combine Js, Gzip, Browser Caching, and Disable Emojis. Then click Submit. Do not click the checkbox next to Mobile if you’re using a responsive template. If a dialogue box appears, click “Clear all cache” and OK. Test your website in the secondary browser where you are not signed in.

It may take some time to see the effect of this plugin, since the cache has to build itself up. After five minutes or so, your website should be running faster.

We’re done with this plugin. Now, let’s go on to another one.

4) Install, activate, and customize the WP-DBManager plugin

After the plugin is installed, click on the Database text in the sidebar of your admin panel. A page will come up with some information about your databases and tables that looks kind of scary. Don’t worry, we’re not working with this page.

While you’re on this page, a submenu will open up on your admin panel under Database. Click Repair DB, leave everything selected to “Yes” and click Repair at the bottom of that page. Test your website in the secondary browser where you are not signed in.

Next, click Optimize DB in that same sub-menu we talked about earlier. Leave everything selected to “Yes,” and click “Optimize” at the bottom of the page. Test your website in the secondary browser where you are not signed in.

6) Adjust Discussion Settings

Navigate to yourwebsite.com/wp-admin/options-discussion.php and uncheck all the settings, including ones for avatars. If you want comments on your posts, enable those comments on each post. Click “Save Changes.” Test your website in the secondary browser where you are not signed in.

Now that we’re done with the optimization process, here are important things to consider:

  • Your admin panel will still load very slowly. This is because we did not enable caching for administrative users, so they always see the current version of the page. The website will still load quickly for visitors, however.
  • When you make a post or create a new page, we set the cache to clear out and re-build itself. This is a good thing so that visitors will see current content. However, your website will load a little slowly again until the cache builds up again. This is normal and it shouldn’t last more than five minutes.
  • If your website is still slow after running these optimizations, the issue is on the server you have and not with Wordpress. Contact your host or get a new one.
  • If you’re website is still slow when you’re logged in, log out. We set the caching so that users who are logged in will not see it. Visitors who do not have accounts will always enjoy the speed optimizations.

Troubleshooting

Why is my website is still slow?

Are you sure you’re logged out? Clear all the data out of your browser and try again. If that does not solve the issue, contact your host.

If you just made changes, the website will run slowly again until the cache rebuilds itself. After about five minutes, your website will return to its new optimized speed. If it does not, contact your host.

I can’t see changes after I made them.

Clear the cache on WP Super Cache by navigating to the top of the page and selecting Clear Cache and using the dropdown menu. Also clear the cache and data in your browser. Your website will run slightly slowly while the cache rebuilds. If it’s slow in your secondary browser, wait about five or ten minutes, try again, and see whether the speed improves.

I screwed something up. What do I do? Will you help me?

Restore your website from the backup you made before you started. I can’t provide support.

Congratulations! You’ve successfully optimized your website. Your website should load much, much faster than it did before. If the guide worked, be sure to email me!

Introduction

When people write music, many times they use track titles like “something,” “somethinga1,” “new idea,” “new idea 2q34234,” or “blasdfh2345” because they’re too early in the project to really have a strong concept for the track. Their Ableton folder is a mess of these types of tracks, finding anything is impossible, and data loss is inevitable. It is amazing these types get any work done at all, and if they do, chances are they aren’t making any money anyways. Why do people write like this? Because of bad version control practices. Why doesn’t anyone know effective version control practices and data recovery methods?

Well, most people think that version control is one of the most boring topics ever, and no one likes to talk about it. Why spill ink over this aspect of music production when I could write about compressors or aesthetics or something and generate more clicks? Well, put simply, version control is terrifying. Without it, you’ve found yourself explaining to a client that you’ve lost that earlier revision that they preferred. You lost data due to a hardware failure or a devastating ransomware attack, and now you look like a fool and your reputation is in damage control mode. You tried to pull up a file in front of a client using the search function, and Spotlight pulled up your collection of “gentleman’s” images instead. You are always at risk of losing your hours of hard work. Your data is at the mercy of whoever assembled your hardware in the sweatshops, and whether they did a good job at quality control that day.

Version control practices are a central component of any successful artist’s career. Effective version control involves the following components:

  • Consistent File Naming and Directory Structures
  • Automated Data Backup
  • Data Security Practices

It is necessary that all components are employed in your version control strategies. Without consistent file naming, it is impossible to keep track of projects across multiple revisions or move them to different workstations. Realistically, backups simply will not happen unless the workstation takes care of them automatically, because it is an easy thing to forget to do with everything else going on. Another part of version control is security. If your data is vulnerable, your career is vulnerable and can be destroyed with a few keystrokes or that one malicious executable that found its way into your email.

Let us now discuss each component of effective version control.

Consistent File Naming and Directory Structures

File Naming

File names are difficult for producers because, during the early stages of a track, producers often experiment with various styles and sounds, and often don’t have a clear idea of what the concept of a track is. This leads someone to title their tracks with inconsistent nonsense instead of something usable.

The best practice for file naming is:

  • [Genre] [Revision Date] (for solo projects)
  • [Client] [Genre] [Revision Date] (for client work)
  • [Title] [Revision Date] (for when the title is figured out)

There are mitigations one can use to avoid this. First, it is generally best if the first part of the file name is the overall genre of the track. Something like “Deep House,” “Dnb,” “Neuro,” just so there’s that additional information in the filename. And, if down the road, someone wants to change their genre completely, there is a record of the initial attempt and one can compare their first drafts of the track with subsequent ones.

It is imperative to track the revision date in tracks. Every day one starts work on the project, one should create a new file. A benefit of this is that it helps guard against file corruption. Every file system is vulnerable to hardware failures, and a hardware failure can corrupt some or the complete project file. Having multiple project files prevents total corruption, since it is unlikely that every file should be damaged, and some part of the project can be recoverable. Another advantage is that it makes tracking revisions easier. If you want to go back to an early revision of a track, having the dates there makes it easy to track which version you preferred, if you take a direction that you don’t like as much down the road, or your client prefers an earlier version. Multiple project files help mitigate damage done by accidental file deletion. We’ve all deleted files accidentally, and when you have multiple files, at least you don’t have to start from square one.

Directory Structures

Now that we’ve discussed files, let’s move on to directories, or folders. Every project should have its own directory, organized thusly:

  • … /Production/[Project Name] (here’s where your project files are for easy access)
  • …/Production/[Project Name]/Audio (here’s where the samples you use are, so that they aren’t spread across the hard disk)
  • …/Production/[Project Name]/Images (if you have any album art, its effective to bundle it with your track so that they’re together, even if the images are in a different directory on your workstation it’s nice to have them backed up here, too)
  • …/Production/[Project Name]/Audio/_export (here’s where your exports live)
  • …/Production/[Project Name]/Notes (here are where your notes about the project are, saved as text files, so you can keep track of how your client responds to what you do)

It is important that your samples are copied from the sample library into the project’s directory. Be sure to refer to your DAW’s documentation for how to configure this setting. That way, samples aren’t lost if your sample library directories get corrupted, or you move them to a new hard drive without changing the paths in your DAW.

Another benefit is that it makes your projects easily portable across different workstations. You can just create a .zip archive and have everything you need for that particular project on a new machine. To create .zip archives, refer to the documentation for your OS.

Automated Data Backup

Data backup can be accomplished using built in tools or third-party solutions. Third-party solutions are more powerful and offer more options than what Windows or macOS offer. They ought to be configured to run daily backups to a secondary storage drive in your workstation.

For Windows, I recommend Macrium. Click here to visit their website. Macrium is excellent software, but it’s difficult to configure, so you can click here to learn how to set up scheduled backups.

Carbon Copy Cloner is a great option for macOS users. You can click here to visit their website. You can click here to learn how to set up scheduled backups.

If these software options don’t appeal to you, make sure you use a utility that creates and retains versioned backups in some way, so that in case you delete something, you can go back to an earlier backup and recover the file.

I used both of these utilities and they are excellent. Since I’m currently on Windows, I use Macrium. I wish I could say the companies behind these utilities sponsored me, but I can’t.

Data Security Practices

Version control and computer security are serious topics that you can’t take lightly.

If your data is insecure, it doesn’t really matter if it’s backed up and if you truly took the time to use effective version control strategies. Here are some common security failures most producers make daily.

Use Authorized Software

Pirated software is a security risk. Most pirated programs contain trojans that exploit known vulnerabilities in your operating system. These trojans are commonly set to execute “invisibly.” You will not see them in your Task Manager or in the Activity Monitor. Typically, these trojans will be crypto mining programs that will negatively affect your CPU performance and make your system unstable. Or, they may be keyloggers that send all your internet traffic to an attacker. Another option is that your computer may be part of a larger botnet and be a slave to a master server that instructs your workstation to send spam emails, host illegal content like child pornography for a darknet website or perform denial of service attacks on other servers.

Pirated software is a common technique to distribute ransomware. A ransomware attack is no joke, and if there is no mitigation or way to decrypt your data, you lost all your data, plain and simple. Even if you remove the ransomware infection and miraculously recover your data, ransomware now is operating as a Ransomware As A Service model, and it is likely that your machine is still infected, even if the visible aspects of its payload are gone.

You are not safe if you use macOS or GNU/Linux. The Linux kernel has been compromised. The largest botnet is currently the Mirai botnet that successfully exploits the Linux Kernel. Macintosh computers are not immune from trojan attacks; there is plenty of known crypto mining software that exploits the Apple platform, too. Your perception that your macOS computer is more secure than a Windows system is not true and may make you less cautious when you use your machine, thus making you more vulnerable to attacks.

It may be tempting to install software from images that are not from the official vendor. People in the Hackintosh community do this, and the number of users on versions of Windows from third parties seems to grow. Unless you have the skills of a professional software engineer and can successfully reverse engineer these images and examine them yourself for compromised drivers or other malicious code, you should never install this type of software out of a malware risk. With these images, it is possible for malware to be baked so deeply into the code that your machine is compromised from the moment you use it.

Another issue in using pirated software is that you give up your right to dispute cases in a court of law. While it is unlikely that you will ever be sued in the music world, you may be sued and the Court may subpoena you and force you to provide your workstation as evidence, especially in a copyright dispute. You cannot refuse the Court, unless you want to have a Contempt of Court charge. Did you know that since Contempt is not a criminal charge, you do not have the right to due process? You do know. A Contempt charge means the Court may imprison you indefinitely.

If the Court sees that you run unauthorized software, they may charge you with copyright infringement. Or, you will immediately lose the case, as the opposing counsel will make the persuasive, evidence-based argument that you are untrustworthy and refuse to follow agreements.

If you use unauthorized software, it is highly recommended to physically destroy your system disks and buy new ones, or never connect your computer to the internet.

There are also advanced ways to track computers now. If you use pirated software, your computer has been flagged, especially if you install another program legitimately that sends back your computer information to its vendor.

You may hear “well, I never had these issues!” It is likely that they do in fact have these issues but lack the appropriate skills to recognize them. Invisible malware often hides as hexadecimal code somewhere in your RAM. I doubt the person who uses pirated software knows this, or even how to view what’s going on in RAM. Musicians can really be their own worst enemy!

Rarely Open Attachments

Do not open attachments from people you do not know. Most file formats are hacked by now and are executables in disguise. VLC is exploited to run code, so is Microsoft Word, Adobe products, and most everything by now. There are even exploits for the built-in PDF viewer in iPhones. What a world!

Keep Your Computer Physically Safe

Keep your computer locked up and protected from the weather. Think about things like humidity and flood control should account for where you keep your computer.

Use a Login Password

Make sure that no one can use the computer except for people who have its password.

Encrypt Important Files

You should encrypt important files so that they are not readable in case your computer compromised. Windows and macOS offer built in encryption features. You can also use 7zip to create encrypted files.

Over the course of the summer, I completed a few different creative projects. The first one was a transcription of Bach’s famous Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor BWV 542 from organ to solo piano. The second project was an original trance track called “Arapahoe Wind” that featured orchestral breakdowns and some real wooden flute playing. The third project was a transcription of Buxtehude’s Chaconne in E Minor BuxVW 160 for two pianos. There are many more dance projects that are still in the loop stage, and due to a volume of other work I had to do for students as well as launching some websites, those are on the back burner for now. The other projects I completed were mostly recordings of songs for vocalists I’m working with, so that they can use them as practice tracks with their parts played out for them and the accompaniment. Despite that, I managed to write a few thousand measures of music across different styles this year, and now that I don’t have to worry about my honors thesis, and soon my other web projects will be done, and I can thankfully continue to work on music and finish up all the dance tracks I wrote so they can be published in 2020 after some rebranding efforts.

I follow a simple creative process. In fact, there are only really three steps I follow, called PIE: Plan, Implement, Evaluate. Anyone can follow these steps. I want to devote most of this post to the evaluation stage, because that stage is the most demanding and hardest out of all the stages. My friend who is a wonderful trumpet player asked me in depth questions about the evaluation of my work, so I thought if it was interesting for him to hear about, I thought I’d share most of that step with anyone who reads my blog.

Plan

Anyways, first, I plan out time to complete the project and balance it with the other work I committed too. Paid work generally takes priority over work I do for my own enrichment, so a project may be delayed if its profitability is lower than a paid project. During planning, I weigh the amount of time I have for a project versus the amount of time my teaching schedule allows, the work I’m doing for other people allows, as well as maintaining my health through yoga classes and gym time and seeing my friends outside of work so I don’t go insane (assuming I’m not already there). Usually I have about four hours of solid work time every day that I can allot to working on projects.

Implement

Second, I implement the project. That is, I start to do it. I work on projects no matter how I’m feeling. A lot of people will be surprised know that my musical output has nothing, if anything, to do with my emotional state or life experiences. It has to do with, well, the music. If I wake up in a bad mood and I’m working on a happy piece, you won’t hear it in the piece. Since projects usually take up a few weeks of time to complete, my daily moods simply cannot enter the music. Otherwise, the piece would end up being a haphazard collage of me feeling sad, me feeling burned out, me feeling excited, or me after drinking my fifth cup of coffee. No one wants to hear that. Consequently, I completely separate myself from the music that I make, whether its classical, jazz, electronic, or the commercial stuff that supplements the better work.

I also stopped writing about experiences I had in my life in my music. When I was younger, I only wrote musical narratives about what happened in my life. The pieces might have well been little vignettes about me going to school, travelling, going to shows and parties, and whatever else. I stopped doing this because my music had a limiting appeal. If I only write about myself, then the only person who will identify with the music is me, or people who feel similar emotions to the ones I do. While I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that, I wanted to have a wider musical reach and devote the music to more interesting topics. Instead of writing about some music festival I attended, why not write about a feeling or sensation that more people can identify with? What about the creation of the world, or how people fall in love, or what it feels like to be abandoned, what it feels like to be elated? These are bigger, sexier, more applicable topics to other people. After I made that decision, my reach increased with the musical quality.

Anyways, implementing the project is usually pretty easy, provided I sit down and do it.

Evaluation

The last step is the evaluation stage. When I evaluate a project, I ask the following questions:

  • What is the overall quality of the music? How does this compare to what’s on the market? How does this compare to what I did in the past?
  • What is the quality of the product? (Is it engraved well? How is the engineering?)
  • What went well about this project? What went poorly about this project?
  • What was the most significant challenge? Did I overcome it? How will I adapt to this project in the future?

I’m going to be as transparent as possible and not withhold anything, except the projects themselves since they are awaiting publication. If you want to get a copy or something, you can always contact me and I’ll send it over.

Since this post is already too long, I’ll only talk about the Bach transcription today.

Musical Quality

The music is very high quality. Obviously, it should be. Bach wrote it a few centuries ago in organ tab, and somehow it made it into me today, so it clearly has some staying power. It is among the greatest pieces ever written in music. It encapsulates many tone-colors and emotions, while incorporating dissonance in an inventive, sexy way. It inspired me to complete the project. So, the music is very high quality.

Product Quality

The engraving is adequate. It was challenging to engrave this piece since there is just so much information in the score to get across in a very limited space. The right hand has to play three voices simultaneously, and many times the middle voice switches between hands. Balancing this information in a readable way was quite difficult. Once a staff has more than two voices playing simultaneously, it gets quite hard to read no matter what kind of engraving tricks you have in your toolbox. To mitigate this issue, I mostly combined the multiple voices into two voices per staff. This was done at the expense of someone who wants to analyze the piece, because the voices in the double-fugue are blended together for readability because I thought that was more important than someone who needs to know exactly what the soprano voice does at all times.

What went well? Poorly?

What went well were the interpretive notes I made to Bach’s music. It was very freeing to be able to do whatever I want. In piano lessons, sometimes I had debates about the proper way to play Bach with my teacher. In fact, most of the times the debates would end with him saying quite honestly “well we don’t know what he thought, so if you think it sounds better then play it that way.” And I did, and most of the time it sounded better. My interpretation of Bach is largely based on what the great Russian masters of the past did anyways such as Richter, Gillels, Nikoleyeva, and Yudina compared to the pale, kitschy interpretations that modern artists usually present. Lionel Rogg and Czerny’s editions of Bach’s scores specifically shaped my playing of Bach’s music and how I crafted the interpretive marks on my transcription. To have the freedom to experiment with my favorite music is heaven to me!

What went poorly was the act of engraving the piece. I am a Finale expert. I used Finale since 2003 and when I was in high school my composition teacher had me hack Finale’s font and measure systems so that we could write scores in modern notation together. While, in practice, those experiences are honestly useless for anything that’s going to be played by another person ever, it did teach me a lot about Finale’s architecture and how to get the result I want. Engraving the transcription was troublesome because of bugs in Finale and how Finale’s defaults work. For some reason, caesuras I placed in measure 15 (for example, don’t quote me on this) would move around when I moved notes in measure 203. The result was that, after lots of time adjusting all the notes to what I want and revising them, caesuras would be in the middle of the page, which is simply unacceptable notation.

 Finale’s defaults are geared towards someone who needs to write a lead sheet before church service, with big friendly printing and lots of space between notes, not someone trying to make an organ piece into a piano piece. I spent so much time adjusting beams, manually adjusting the heights of the notes, that I spent most of this project fighting Finale instead of writing music. I started to question the value of notating things digitally when I had to adjust the piece measure by measure, and line by line over the course of hundreds of measures.  

Most significant challenge?

The most significant challenge was figuring out how to make an organ piece playable and easy to play on the piano. I purposefully wrote this transcription in a way that any advanced pianist could play it. I think that a student could learn it as early as high school, if he’s the type of student that already has a few Beethoven sonatas and Chopin etudes in his repertoire. That took much more thought on my end to accomplish. Most of my writing sessions were spent trying out different fingering combinations and different leaps, different placements of the alto or tenor voices in the left or right hand and figuring out how to make it intuitive. I did not write fingerings in this piece because I designed it in such a way that there is a maximum of two fingering options to play it. Consequently, each single measure is the result of about a half hour, or more, of work toying with all the different options on my own, then comparing it to the previous and subsequent measure to make sure that the musician who plays it can intuit the fingerings and the gestures easily.

The reason why I did this is because I want a lot of people to play this piece. If it’s too hard, no one will want to play it or spend the time learning it. If it’s too easy, a serious musician won’t take the time to study it. I want to make sure as many people can play my transcription as possible, so they can develop the same love for the piece that I have. Bach’s harmony is a joy to hear and analyze, but you don’t understand it until you can touch it and go to the place he went to when he wrote it.

The reason why I didn’t go to your show is that I hate you. I hate you, I hate your music, and I think you’re the biggest scumbag to walk the planet. Your personal tastes are garbage, and, on a good day, your “band” might sound like the fifth-grade band at the school just up the way. Wait, scratch that. Screw you and your band. I’d rather see a group of fifth graders struggle through “Hot Cross Buns” than listen to your group of wannabees. What do I hate the most about you? You have the narcissistic audacity to call the unprofessional, screaming banshees that you assembled with the assistance of of Craigslist and terrible taste on your side “musicians.” Merely sharing that job title with you is enough to make me want to quit music and apologize to the general public on behalf of musicians everywhere that you exist. You sicken me.  

In all seriousness, I didn’t go see your show because I had no idea it was happening! I really hadn’t the faintest idea. Why does this happen? After all, a large part of any musician’s leverage is draw. So wouldn’t someone who wants to do grow their music career put effort towards their draw? Or, have some marketing power when it comes to other projects that they’re a part of? Where does this this power come from? And where does it go when it’s not engaged properly?

It is true that most musicians would want to focus on their draw. There are a few ways to increase one’s draw which are unfortunately rarely employed by players. One way is to promote shows according to a schedule so people can mark the date on their calendars and make sure that they show up. I am a big fan of the four-week promotion plan. One month away from the event, or preferably sooner, people are notified about the date, and they can mark it on their calendars. During the weeks up to the performance, audience members are reminded of the show date through multiple channels. Email blasts, text message blasts (although antiquated right now), flyers, and social media posts tend to help this. Then, the day of the show, there are going to be at least a few people who show up and are willing to buy tickets. I see a lot of clubs using this method, where shows are announced even a few months before the show date. This allows people to plan on actually showing up, instead of throwing a haphazard event on the internet.

Promotional things usually get lost among the vast amount of digital noise on the internet. There are a lot of musicians who I actively follow on social media and I just don’t see their posts. I’m part of a lot of groups, and the group posts tend to take up most of my feed. The other posts that take up most of my feed are promotional posts of some kind, or unpleasant political posts. It’s rare that I actually see content that’s relevant to me, including posts from people I respect and want to engage with. Sometimes I’ll go to a musician’s profile, only to see a listing of all the gigs they played that month. I’m not sure how they expect me to attend any of them, since I wasn’t told directly, and I usually can’t make it after the show already happened. Email blasts are a great way to mitigate this because

Another way to improve attendance numbers at a show is to increase the quality of the music. This is probably the most obvious step in a musician’s career, but ironically most musicians do not focus on it. It is easy to read some blog posts about music industry tips and apply the business tips to one’s own career. Unfortunately, without quality music, these tips aren’t very relevant because people are not interested enough in the product to go spend time and money to engage with it. A product must reach a certain threshold of quality before others will enjoy it. While there are multiple interpretations of what good music is, there is a certain class of music which is enjoyed by millions of individuals that exceeds the quality standards that most local musicians are capable of.

Before we discuss these characteristics that have to do with a piece of music’s perceived quality, I’d like to briefly add that I’m writing very loosely about what these characteristics are and where they exist. Discussing music is challenging for all sorts of reasons, but the most significant challenge to writing about music is that it is an inherently invisible artform, and the traits are determined after the musical experience ended. Music is a time-based artform, so attempts to condense complicated musical ideas into a time-less medium, such as writing, should always be taken with some doubt. When we write about music, we have to “freeze” it in a certain sense, and through the process of this “freezing” we run the risk of distorting the reality of the music itself and how listeners engage with it. Also, the boundaries that I use to divide these ideas are porous at best, and non-sensical at worst. This is a topic that I will come back to in more depth in later posts, such as where musical properties and stylistic practices exist outside of someone else writing about them at a later date. But, we’ll talk about those things later on.

Most of the issues I see with performances involve precision. Many people play without attention to maintaining the pulse. It is important to maintain the pulse among all the players in the band. Many times, I see a show, to hear that the vocalist, bassist, and drummer have a different interpretation of the beat. Other times, the instruments are badly turned, or the balance of the group is off. Sometimes the bassist is incredibly loud or the pianist wants to redline his amp. Either way, it is not very pleasant.

In addition to these lower level issues, there are some aesthetic issues that often negatively impact a musician’s draw. The most common issue I’ve identified is that the music can sound generic. What do I mean? Well, when music sounds generic, it lacks that special quality that separates it from other players. For instance, a jazz group playing at one hotel likely sounds like it’s made up of the same musicians as a jazz group playing at another hotel even when they’re different people playing at different times. The issue is that, instead of using the music as a vehicle for artistic expression, it is used to play another night and make a few extra bucks or drum up some business. Musicians often think about music in terms of traits. So, jazz (or other styles) ought to be played with x BPM, y eighth note feel, and z chord patterns and voicings based off of what their teacher or some other scholar wrote. Instead of developing their own opinions on what jazz should be, they’re simply rendering what others agree on. Consequently, the attempt at music sounds agreeable and inoffensive, without having any interesting content in it. It’s all style without content. While I targeted jazz musicians with this example, every musician must fight this type of ennui. I hear the same issue across scenes and styles. Whether it is your local, anonymous club DJ, a classical pianist, or church musician, most of the time people play music that is, well, hard to remember.

Another aesthetic issue that often negatively impacts draw is the “advanced” music. This type of music only appeals to those with degrees or years of study of music and draws upon influences that are based more on the score and academia, influences foreign to the craft of music itself. It appeals to the type of listener who yearns to hear a special polyrhythm or polytonality to check off in their head that they heard it that night. Is there anything wrong with this? No. While this music may not be to my taste, and it is certainly not how I listen to music, I’m not making the case that musicians who produce this type of content are lesser than others, or that their followers are foolish for having these tastes. What I mean to get at is how it negatively impacts concert draw. Should you be interested in increasing your draw, and your music appeals to a minority of people that have advanced training, the draw will be perpetually limited by the small amount of people who have this training. If having a large audience is not a priority for you, and engaging with others is not either, then I suppose there’s no point in changing your style. But it could be getting in the way of your career without you knowing it.

One of the first things people ask me when I tell them I’m a producer is something along the lines of “what gear do you use?” so I decided that I would devote this post to a detailed description of everything I use with short justifications on why I use it. I’d also include, well, everything on my computer, so you can have as much detail that you need.

The first half of this post will be devoted to hardware. You could potentially use it as a slightly outdated budget audio workstation guide since I had a total of zero issues working on this machine so far. The second half of this post discusses all the software I use and how I use it. If you also happen to run Windows, you could use it as a recommendation for high quality Windows software.

Before we get started, I’d just like to interject for a moment and say that I don’t have any of this memorized off of the top of my head, and I mostly pasted the information in from HWiNFO that is a free utility which lists hardware that is connected to the computer.

Hardware:

Self-Built Computer:

  • OS: Windows 10 64 Bit Home Edition (yes, Windows is just as good as the Mac for creative people)
  • Case: NZXT H320 in white (I used this from my previous build)
  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 2600
  • Cooler: Stock Stealth Cooler
  • GPU: XFX AMD RX 560 with 4GB of VRAM
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE AB350M-DS3H-CF SOCKET AM4 with the AMD X370 Chipset
  • RAM: 16 GB (2×8 GB) Mushkin Essentials DDR4 2133 MHz (15-15-15-36) (I would’ve gotten faster RAM but it was very, very expensive when I built my machine)
  • PSU: EVGA 750 GQ 80+ Gold Semi-Modular
  • Storage Configuration:
    • There are four storage devices in this computer that serve different purposes. At the moment, this computer can store up to 6.256 TB, or 6256 GB.
    • This computer also serves as an archive of my career. My oldest files are from 2003 and these files are actively backed up and guarded against corruption using Macrium Reflect.  
    • Windows and my applications are stored in a 256 GB M.2 NVME Samsung EVO drive.
    • A 2 TB Seagate HDD serves as my primary storage that is used actively.
    • There are two more 2 TB Seagate HDD drives that are backups of the primary drive. I bought these drives at different times to make sure that they wouldn’t all die at the same time. A guy can dream, can’t he?
    • The drives are backed up automatically every single day with a Grandfather-Father-Son backup scheme to ensure no data loss.
    • There is also a 2TB Seagate drive, stored in a safety deposit box away from my computer or the internet, that serves as another archive of my career.
    • I don’t have any brand preferences when it comes to computer storage devices. It just so happens that Seagate ones are on sale more frequently where I live.
    • One of my favorite things about having a computer that I build myself is that I can replace storage drives very frequently. I look at all my drives like time-bombs.
  • Optical Drive: HP DVD Writer 1265t (this is way back from 2013 and sounds like a dentist drill but hey it just werks)
  • Front USB Panel: Kingwin 7x Front Panel (overkill but I felt rebellious)
  • Display: LG 27EA63 1920×1080 @ 60Hz (this one is also very old but it still works and I haven’t seen a reason to replace it yet, considering that I’m not really a gamer)
  • Keyboard: HyperX Alloy FPS with Cherry MX Blue Switches
  • Mouse: I have no idea. It’s from some Amazon store back in…2010? I wish I could tell you what it is but Windows just calls it Generic PnP Device.
  • Mouse Pad: Also very old and from…who knows.
  • Printer: Brother MFC-J53300W
  • Laptop: HP EliteBook 8540p with Intel Core i5 (I use this for my laptop needs. It’s heavy, but it was cheap and gets the work done. Also, despite dropping it, spilling coke on it, spilling coffee on it, throwing it around, and checking it in baggage a few times it still runs just fine!)
  • Other Laptop: Apple MacBook 2011 Series White (this is my white laptop that I still use on keyboard gigs, but it’s not safe to connect it to the internet anymore and it can’t run software made after 2011)
  • Tablet: Apple iPad 2018 Series
  • Phone: Apple iPhone SE

Audio Hardware:

  • Audio Interface: RME Fireface UCX (thank you scholarship!)
  • Monitors: Genelec 8250 (thank you scholarship again! Worth it!)
  • Cables for the monitors: Mogami Gold
  • Cables for everything else: too many to count/deal with all from random sources over the years
  • Hardware Synth: MicroKorg (I don’t use this anymore)
  • Midi Controller: StudioLogic Acuna 88
  • Custom Keyboard Stand (this was a gift and the brand rubbed off after all the gigs I took it to. We took IKEA shelves and placed them on the top parts for the “tower of power” look)
  • Keyboard Amplifier: Roland K-350
  • Audio Interface for on the road: Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (the circuitry is lower quality than the RME, but it does the job)
  • Piano: Pramberger upright slightly modified by the Anteque Piano Company in Denver, CO

Non-music Software (in order of most frequently used):

  • Microsoft Office 365
  • Microsoft Edge
  • Stickies (I use these to organize everything)
  • Telegram
  • Windows Media Player
  • Clocks and Alarms
  • Discord
  • Newsflow
  • Macrium Reflect
  • 7zip
  • Adobe Acrobat
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • iTunes
  • Steam Games (I’d like to add that half an hour a week of gaming is a lot for me):
    • Audiosurf
    • Cities: Skylines
    • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
    • Euro Truck Simulator 2
    • Goat Simulator
    • Grand Theft Auto V
    • SimCity 4 Deluxe
    • Yakuza Kiwami
  • Hexchat
  • Event Viewer
  • VLC
  • HWiNFO

Music Software:

  • Steinberg Cubase 7 (mostly using included VSTs)
  • Finale 25
  • SmartScore X2 Pro
  • Adobe Audition CC
  • Third Party VSTs:
    • Ozone 8
    • HALion
    • Synthogy Ivory
    • Spire
    • Sylenth
    • Dubstation
    • Stutter Edit
    • VPS Avenger
    • RP-Delay

Hey there! Welcome to my blog. I want to introduce myself and the types of things that we’ll be covering throughout its lifetime. I decided that I had a lot of things to write about and say that would do better in the blog format than on social media, and I got tired of social media after it started making me depressed and wasting a lot of my time. At least, when I write a blog post, I engage with writing for a meaningful length of time. But 140 character posts by a nobody that inspire conflict just seem so boring to me. I don’t know who they are, and how many meaningful ideas can be adequately communicated in such a small amount of space? And, should the ideas have some kind of value, the discourse around them will be limited by whatever is popular at the moment. The defense of the argument is not provided adequately, so people are conditioned to just take reasons as they are instead of really thinking about them.

I love blogs, honestly. They’re longer, so you have a little more time to discuss things and get into the details. I can control how the blog looks. It’s easy to read without obtrusive ads or big brother’s penetrating gaze following the mouse cursor around getting in the way of enjoying content.

Ok, so who am I, and why does my opinion matter? I’m a professional musician currently based in Denver. This means I can pay my way with music, even though most of the work is about things that would not occur to people outside of the profession, and the demands of music are impossible to meet for those without a solid mastery of the craft of music and a subsequent refinement of the soul. Some musicians may have refined technique, but their souls are brusque and misshapen, while others have beautiful souls who are unable to channel that beauty into music that other people enjoy and pay for. I won’t continue to write about these ideas here. But, if you think these ideas are interesting to think about, like I do, keep following my blog for future posts!

I’m about as multi-disciplinary as you can get. My education was a strange journey filled with egotistical teachers and students, hostile work environments, commuting, deadlines, and transcription. When I look back at college, I see myself through two phases. The first phase was the party phase. This was the phase that I will not devote a lot of time to talking about outside of this post, at least may not here publicly, because it contains a lot of information that could incriminate my friends or other people. In that period, I was in a jamband where we played four or more shows in a month for crowds of varying sizes. Most of these shows were performed on Wednesdays or Tuesdays in a house-turned-venue kind of place all around the parts of Denver where these things happen. The parts where, during the daytime, there were younger guys in tank-tops drinking tallboys in the front porches with their bulldogs, wearing large necklaces, and covered with tattoos that shared forgotten dreams or symbolized moments of time…moments that come to be and pass away in the dream world who is accessed sleeping or through another kind of sleep. Anyways, these kind of areas are harder to find nowadays that Denver is generally more affluent, but, should you have the right temperament or desires, they will find you.

I dropped out of music school. Like many parts of my life, this is filled with a special kind of irony considering how much work I’m currently involved in and how much I still loved music. But, the decision to drop out was a combination of internal and external factors. With the exception of the “party” years, I practiced a solid two hours or more of piano a day in addition to the compositions and random accompanying work I did. But, a lot of teachers at the school did not like me. I did not get along with most of the students, either. I found that my soul lacked a lot of refinement. While I’ve always been a strong player, I think my behavior was off putting. I was not a sensitive communicator at times. And, most importantly, I quickly realized the education I received in high school simply was not enough information to make in the world. I think that is a byproduct of growing up in Boulder in the 2000s. While people in previous generations learned Latin and Greek, how to produce and analyze syllogisms, history before 1850, and more languages by the time they entered a university, I knew none of these things. What I thought passed for knowledge was hardly knowledge at all, only summaries and images instead of something higher. There is still so much that I do not know. There are libraries filled with things I don’t know, and even after doing all that transcription and taking classes I feel as if I have a child’s understanding of the great works.  

I decided that being involved in this part of my life was detrimental to my academics, and I found my classes generally interesting, so, after some stern warnings from the university threatening expulsion, it was time to take my studies more seriously. So, the second part of my education was spent in the library, classroom, or computer lab. I read, I took notes on everything that happened around me, and I spent countless hours in the computer lab writing and transcribing the works of those who came before me. I have hundreds of pages of quotes gathered from novels, academic journals, academic books, all written out. I am a firm believer in the power of transcription because it brings you to the same place that the authors were when they wrote the text. I also think that this applies to music, too, so I spent a lot of time transcribing, memorizing, and learning the music of the great composers that I enjoyed.

So, after all this, I hope that you enjoy reading my blog. I have several content series planned out that will be regularly published throughout the upcoming years.

Here’s what I will cover

Repertoire Quarterly

Every quarter, I’ll post the repertoire I learned and the work that I’m currently involved in. This way, my website can serve as a dynamic CV that reflects what I’m currently doing in a pleasant format.

I will also cover the following topics. Each bullet point represents a post that will be 1000 words about each subject. We’re going to have updates every first and third Monday, starting on July 22nd.

Practice Strategies:

  • Creating and using practice calendars
  • Tear and Glue
  • Maintaining playing consistency
  • How to divide up your time
  • How to know when you’re focused
  • Sight reading strategies
  • Playing versus Practicing
  • Using time versus wasting time

Points of Frustration for Musicians:

  • Drug abuse and the musician’s lifestyle
  • Getting hired
  • Getting paid, how much, and how often
  • Promoters vs Musicians
  • Venues vs Musicians
  • Musicians vs Musicians
  • Teachers vs Musicians

Production Strategies:

  • Audio tips that got me banned from forums
  • Seeking criticism
  • Giving criticism
  • Understanding criticism
  • Branding versus content
  • Version control strategies
  • Backup Schemes for Producers

Show-business Ethics

  • The Art of Stealing
  • Negotiating
  • Financial Realities

Composition Strategies

  • Sketching using multiple piano staves
  • Staging ideas
  • Theme and variation
  • Importance of transcription

Philosophy Series

These bullets may span many posts because these issues are significantly more complex and interesting than the other subjects.

  • Issues with music and classification
  • Man and machine
  • Man and the gods
  • Music and the Daemon ( δαίμων )
  • The Invisible World: Sexuality and how we see each other
  • On education
  • On drug use
  • Planes of Existence/Being
  • Considering Forms
  • Forms and Existence
  • Issues with Academic Philosophy
  • Issues with Christian Theology
  • Language and Reality
  • Religious Experience
  • Mystical Apprehension
  • What constitutes the Soul
  • Relativism in regards to Colonialism
  • Virtue as an American