How to compute your band’s success by reading Wikipedia

wikipedia-logo-en-bigI recently searched for some lyrics that I had stuck in my head, and found to my dismay that not only did they belong to the Backstreet Boys, but the song had its own Wikipedia page. This made me realize that there may be an unspoken social pecking order among bands where, in our modern age, Wikipedia holds the key. If this is true, the following list should provide a useful indication to your band’s success based on the level of its integration with Wikipedia. Level 0 indicates complete failure to exist in the Internet reality (the only one that matters). Level 10 indicates the maximum possible success.

  • Level 0. There is no mention of your band whatsoever on Wikipedia.
  • Level 1. Your band has a page on Wikipedia that you made, and it has not yet been deleted (or you have a script to keep creating your band’s page, and that script has not yet been banned).
  • Level 2. Your band has a page on Wikipedia that was made by a fan.
  • Level 3. Your band has a page made by your fans, and the page for at least one other band links back, citing your band as an influence.
  • Level 4. Your band has a page made by your fans, it is cited as an influence, and it links to another page on Wikipedia for at least one of your artists.
  • Level 5. Your band has a page, you are cited as an influence, and all of your artists have pages.
  • Level 6. Your band has a page, you are cited as an influence, all of your artists have pages, and at least one of your albums has a page.
  • Level 7. Your band has a page, you are cited as an influence, all of your artists have pages, and all of your albums have a page.
  • Level 8. Your band has a page, you are cited as an influence, all of your artists have pages, all of your albums have a page, and at least one of your songs has a page.
  • Level 9. Your band has a page, you are cited as an influence, all of your artists have pages, all of your albums have a page, and all of your songs have a page.
  • Level 10. Your band meets all of the above criteria, plus the discussion tab on your band’s page is full of admins arguing and constantly trying to one-up each other with how much they know about your band.
  • Level 11. Your band meets all of the above criteria, and it has the ability to modify the public’s perception of truth by motivating the crowd to go to Wikipedia after the show and make specific modifications.

Any advice on how to improve this list will be properly considered.

Rules for Live Mixing of Beatgadgets

I just found this article on my old hard drive and thought it might be interesting to publish it at last. I wrote it way back in 2001 before the formation of sp00 when Ariel and I were learning how to mix together live and avoid stepping on each other’s beats. It seems like most of the advice is still relevant today.

Rules for Live Mixing of Beatgadgets
by RamenBoy

I am no expert on the live mix, but I am no beginner either. Here is a set of rules that I have found useful over the past few years as a performing electronic musician. As always, rules are made to be broken, but perhaps these will help people take a detour from audio chaos and find a comfortable mix with other electronic musicians.

1. If you can’t beatmatch to it, don’t. Sometimes, you just want to play a track that doesn’t have the same BPM as what your bud’s playing, and speeding yours up just makes it sound like video game music. Sometimes, it’s ok to just let their track fade out instead of desparately trying to line up your jazzy trip hop with their rigid trance beats.

2. Listen, interact, and communicate. Let other people’s beats affect yours. Let your beats affect theirs. Bounce ideas off of each other.

3. Don’t “oversample”. Let vocal bits enhance the music, but don’t bury it. Space out your vocal samples, and use them strategically.

4. When you’re trying to make a recording of your session, watch the meters! I can’t overemphasize this. Too many great sessions have been fatally mauled by severe hard clipping. Keep your dBs hovering around zero and adjust your amp and deck accordingly. Make sure you match your inputs properly.

5. Transitioning from a swing beat to even time and vice versa rarely works. It all depends on the drumbeat, but be careful of sputtering kickdrums and awkward backbeats when you do this.

6. Take turns being the leader, or conductor, if you will. Electronic music devices often have slightly different interpretations of the same BPM, and if everyone keeps drifting, your mix will turn into mush. Have one person set the standard and let everyone else match it. Ari and I have had a moderate amount of success with the following rule of thumb: whoever’s fading in sets the standard, and whoever’s fading out must keep the sync. With more than two musicians, this becomes more complex.

7. If you’re playing with microphones, make sure you turn the mic track off when you’re done with it. Feedback can creep up on you very slowly, and it usually happens when you get up to go to the bathroom.

8. Teach people how to use your PA and mixer. This should really be #1.

9. Ambience is great for state of mind. Find cool lights and make your stage look interesting. You don’t need a laser light show, just a chill mood. Radio Shack may be your answer.

10. Don’t be afraid to add a little “dirt”. Electronic instruments tend to sound sterile and overprocessed unless you make the explicit effort of adding imperfections (This meme courtesy of Tom Dearing, AKA Reverberation Sound System).

11. Don’t rely on drum loops.

12. Don’t ignore drum loops, either.

13. Don’t be afraid to ask one of your buds for a BPM. Why waste time trying to find their BPM by ear when a little verbal communication will do the trick?

14. Experiment. Always. Don’t worry too much about mistakes. This is live music. Live electronic borders on jazz to me. It’s improv. Let the ideas flow.

15. Always look busy. Even if it takes a bit of theatrics, you need to show people that you are creating the music, not just “hitting play”. As an extreme example, think about Crystal Method, playing most of their set off of a DAT recording. Does the crowd care? No, because they’re jumping around and twisting knobs and playing their keyboards upside down in midair. As a less extreme example, watch DJ Spooky spin sometime. Does he ever, ever stop moving?

That’s all for now. Happy mixing!

Your friend,
the RamenBoy.

Arp your beats with Reason 4

Hello, Reason users! Over the years, I’ve stumbled upon some novel techniques by using Reason’s features in unusual ways. I’d like to describe a particularly fun technique for manipulating sliced drum loops in a semi-automated way thanks to Reason 4‘s new arpeggiator device.

The RPG-8 Monophonic Arpeggiator is an instrument that controls another instrument by repeating sequences of notes in a particular order. Though arpeggiators are primarily used with synthesizers and other melodic instruments, you can also arpeggiate a drum beat. It’s not obvious how to do this, however; if you just connect the RPG-8 to a REX device, it doesn’t do anything useful. This tutorial explains how to pull it off.

First, you’ll want to find a REX loop that is evenly sliced. You can also get interesting effects with unevenly-sliced loops, but it’s easier to control the effect with a set of uniformly-spaced slices. Create the REX instrument, then right-click it and select “Combine”.

Now that you have the REX loop inside of a Combinator, it’s a snap to hook up an arpeggiator and have it “do the right thing”. Right-click on the Combinator instrument and select “Create -> RPG-8 Monophonic Arpeggiator”.

This is where the fun starts. If you select the RPG-8 and hold down a few notes on your keyboard, it will start playing a beat. Depending on which keys you hold down, you’ll get a different beat pattern. If you hold down four keys, you’ll usually get a 2-beat, and if you hold down eight keys you’ll get a 4-beat. If you hold down any other number, you’ll start getting odd time signatures and lots of other unexpected consequences. You can set the arpeggiator to go down instead of up, or play the notes randomly, and you’ll start to really mutate the original loop.

Once you have a beat you like, you can record it to the piano roll. It’ll look pretty weird, since it’s basically recording the fact that you held down the same block of keys for an entire measure. You can draw it in instead if that’s easier. If you cut-and-paste the patterns and move a few notes around, and you’ll get fills and other beat variations. It’s a great way to keep the drums live-sounding and add a human touch. Try it!

Until next time,