Music Production Lessons 2020-2-Golivelively-1

February 22, 2021 — Jt Spratley

My lessons learned in 2019 recap had quite a bit of geeky stuff in there. In 2020, however, I focused more on the craft. Every track on the 2-Golivelively-1 album was the result of something I'd recently learned.


Song titles are linked to respective YouTube videos. But they're on Spotify, Apple Music, and others listed on the homepage.

COVID and Opportunity

It bothers me knowing I should've released the album last year. But life became a blur. As unfortunate as the Coronavirus pandemic is on a global scale, the 2020 shutdown duration was a good time to gain new subscribers, followers, etc. Many people spent an excessive amount of time online as they learned how to stay inside and protect themselves. I've since tried to become better prepared for situations where songs with a certain topic might resonate more due to recent events. And They Go and 2020 (Focus) touch on that concept a bit.

Singles Leading Up to the Album

I didn't release singles to lead into my first album. I was only pushing out singles to get better at the music distribution process. For this album, I pushed out two singles that I believe deserve the most stand-out attention.

And They Go has a feel of spoken word driven by a kalimba and deep cajun kick. One listener called it a fair summary of 2020. I agree.

Dance with My Heart covers personal challenges within the dating scene, some I rarely hear discussed without transforming into a battle of the sexes. I've discussed some related issues in my older blogs about black culture and black unity. Moombahton fans might enjoy the Slowed + Reverb version. I wasn't big on the idea at first, but it is an unique twist on chopped & screwed that makes it more emotional.

I think anyone that hears those two tracks have a good idea about the album's overall tone. They're both a bit moody.

Controversy

In 2018, I read about something called a summing box. I was curious. Is this something I should look into for better audio quality after I become a lot better at mixing? A few months ago, I read a Pro Audio Files article stating it was marketing hype. Reminds me of some conversations I've had with other independent musicians about DistroKid and their annual subscription model. I'll leave that rant for another day.

Somewhere, I came across this piece about Courtney Love blasting the music industry. There was a lot of interesting info in there about the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and legal side of the music industry.

Moving away from old news, some tracks on this album are my firsts for covering some sensitive topics.

Abyss (It's Bliss) has been one of my favorite creations with lyrics since I first created it during college. It gets me in a zone, same with Sierra Romeo Shí. These tracks are the sonic equivalent to my feeling of progress when dealing with anxiety.

Dance with My Heart may strike a nerve with those uncomfortable talking about toxic women. It's a topic where you must choose your words wisely. Otherwise, I expect arguments from assumptions before anything close to a question seeking clarification.

Make Time to start whatever it is you want to be doing with your energy. A baby step is still progress. One phone call, email, or online application can build so much progress and the momentum to gradually work toward a goal. You'll thank yourself later when life throws you a curve ball as you won't have to make hasty decisions within a short amount of time.

In 2021, there are still so many people today who scoff at free open source software (FOSS). There's a lot of great, free software for Linux and Windows. Yes Apple fans, there is FOSS on macOS. I just never wrote about it.

Funny thing - many don't realize they already use FOSS everyday. Mozilla's Firefox web browser and Thunderbird email application are both free. cPanel server hosting requires Linux CentOS, a child of the Red Hat operating system (OS). Android is built on Linux.

I state this many places between my blog, music, and YouTube channel - I use Linux and open source software for almost everything I do.

Check them out. One might suit your needs. If you have questions about how to accomplish certain tasks with any of them, my contact options are below. While at Syracuse, I wrote a guest blog about using open source software for college projects. I quickly mentioned a class debate on whether open source was less secure than closed source (proprietary) software and the source for my argument that it is not. More on cybersecurity later.

If you're wondering what's controversial about open source software, ask someone why they don't use Libre Office or Linux Mint. Money doesn't always equal quality.

Vocodex and Pitch Correction

Please Say Hi was my first time doing so much with Vocodex and the carrier synth feature. It was so fun that I had to force myself to stop doing too much. It was a pain learning how to set up Vocodex to change audio pitch based on MIDI notes in piano roll but definitely time well spent in the end.

Huge shout-out to DoctorMix not only for mixing and mastering the album, but for the great Autotune job on Awesome Day.

Collaborations

Destiny Waiting (Don't Run) is the result of a bucket list item I've wanted to achieve with the singer for over a decade. This song bridges the few things we have in common - music aspirations and goals to reinvent our lives. Furthermore, it provides him the ability to safely learn about the legal aspects of music distribution.

Before this, it had been a long time since I'd recorded and finished a collab project. Real Man (Remix) was ten years old before I had it mixed and mastered for release. When we recorded it, I was still in the underground scene.

YouTube Content

Video content is king, right? Make Time comes to mind when I think of my YouTube channel in 2020. I had time. I didn't make the most of it. Since releasing And They Go for the single, I've been playing catch-up. I've uploaded over 20 videos in three months. I've learned how to render videos with FL Studio, too. It isn't hard once you understand how to embed visuals, fade from and to black, and connect VFX to a kick track.

I've even gotten back into game-play videos. And of course, I'm only playing Linux games or games compatible with Linux. That includes DosBox sometimes. It counts in my book.

Cybersecurity

This is less related to the album and more towards securing intellectual property (IP). This is important. No, this won't be over your head if you give yourself a chance to understand. Keep reading.

Quick Cybersecurity Vocabulary Lesson

Spam emails attempting to hack your computer (or mobile device) or trick you into giving information or money to a scammer is called phishing. Think of the "Nigerian prince" email requesting money.

When you receive a scam email that is personalized with plenty of information they likely gathered from online sources such as your social media accounts, that is called spear-phishing. Imagine an email from "Payрal.com" asking you to log into a malicious website to "confirm your user credentials." Search this page (Ctrl + F) for "Paypal.com" and see if it highlights that first mention. Check the web browser HTML Inspect Element tool. Does your browser show you that Cyrillic "p" as a regular "p" character? If so, this is a quick example of what can happen with what's called an international domain name (IDN).

If you have a website, try your domain with the Hold Integrity IDN Checker.

Why is any of that important? Phishing emails have been one of the top 3 most popular breach methods in the last 5 years and was #1 in 2020, according to the Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report (DBIR) in 2020. The call-of-action for all this information:

  • Check that the email came from not only a legitimate email account but the correct email address. Some people and organizations use a secondary email account for certain functions. Popular examples: Salesforce and Zendesk customer relationship managers (CRMs) or parent companies responding to inquiries to child companies.
  • Since an email address can still be spoofed (faked), ensure the grammar matches the expected sender. If you see suspicious misspellings that an ESL speaker would make or attachments that seem unsolicited, contact the person or organization directly to ensure it's legit before replying.
  • Set email apps to not open attachments and show images automatically.
  • Try to only view emails as plain text instead of HTML. Some emails are almost impossible to read without HTML view but it helps you notice stuff sometimes by removing unnecessary visuals.
  • In general, be careful what you post online. Social engineering and business email compromise (BEC) may seem outside of your grasp, but the results affect us all the same. Learn more about protecting yourself from cyber attacks.

Go live lively.

Tags: music-production, music, open-source, linux