I Need Album Art Yesterday!

Emergency Album Art Without Breaking Copyright

So, I’ve been there.  Plainly some other people have been there too.  You work hard on some music. It sounds good. We’re ready to share it with the world.

We upload the file to our favorite service.  Soundcloud.  Bandcamp.  Anywhere else.  And it asks for art.

Good news. We’re not screwed. Creating Album Art Quickly

Teenage Engineering PO-12, One Year Later

Teenage Engineering PO-12 Drum Machine

My brother wanted me to have this. He really wanted me to have this. After a year, I’m thankful.

The Teenage Engineering PO-12 is a drum machine.

Most of the sounds are drums. Bass drum, snare drum, closed hat, open hat, cymbal, cow bell, hand clap, some toms, and a second “synth snare” are some of the more common sounds.  A few sound effects fill out the 16 buttons. Noise sounds like a reversed snare hit. Tone is a single synth note. Bass is a single bass note.

To really get started, hold Pattern and press one of the sixteen number buttons to select that pattern. Hold Function and press Pattern to clear it out. Press the Write button once.  A “record” symbol – square with a circle in the center – should appear on the LCD screen.  Hold sound and press one of the sound buttons. Now the sixteen buttons define which beat to play on. The basics get easy after a minute or two.

Hold the write button while playing and turn the knobs on the selected instrument. Those allow you to set parameters — usually the tone.  One parameter will be notes on the “Tone” and “Bass” instruments.

Patterns can be chained, then played on loop. Patterns can be copied to another of the sixteen slots.

It has an impressive speaker once you learn to set the volume. Hold the BPM button then press one of the 16 numbered buttons. It also has a 1/8″ output jack. Reportedly this allows several Teenage Engineering Pocket Operator units to chain together. I’m happy with just this one.

It’s a drum machine.

I use it to create impromptu backing tracks for guitar practice. The Step Multiplier feature adds a lot (Hold Write and press a number button). Sometimes I’ll even use it to figure out which tempo I want a song I’m working on to be in. Press BPM, turn the knob, and the tempo is quickly adjusted. In fact, everything can be tweaked nearly on the fly with a minimal of effort — once you know the commands. Record in real time. Set effects. Tweak any instrument to play at different tones, all in real time. It’s easy, once you know the combinations of buttons.

To this end, comes the first downside.  The manual is pretty much required to learn and remember most of the functions. At this point, there have been a lot of instructions to hold one button and press another.  The manual to explain it is tiny, thin, and comes folded up into a neat little rectangle. Put your manual someplace great.

Digital copies are available in PDF form. I’ve downloaded one and backed it up to Google Drive, where I’ll never have to look for it again. Without the manual, a lot of the power in this unit can be lost.

I I can only think to wish one thing differently from Teenage Engineering: Guides sounds like a set of tutorials or FAQs.   That page is where the manuals are found.

The second of two downsides comes from dust in the two knobs.  A little dust under the knobs can make them very jittery. A blast of canned air fixes that quickly.  , Lately, I’m storing the unit in a cheap sandwich bag — the one that folds over and breathes, not the zip-top.

This drum machine is easy enough to create a quick, simple drum beat with.  For sheer simplicity, I prefer it to my other rhythm section tools (Korg Kaossilator, Korg DSN-12, and the Android app “Caustic.”)   A 1/8″ cable to whatever else you have will let you easily plug this item into a mixer, amp, or whatever else you need.

I am very thankful for this machine.  It might never appear in any music I offer the Internet.  It is becoming an important tool behind the scenes.

Happiness is Clean Code

Most of this is standard practice for most everyone.

My employer has been in business online for over 20 years.   They are a small business, and not everyone has time or resources to stay on the cutting edge of everything.  This is natural and they really do work hard with what they have.

I have long been the company advocate for clean, future-proof, and W3C complaint code.  There are times when they ask me to reign it in, and I do.  Again, I respect that every project has different needs and everyone at the business has different strengths.

There are times when they set me loose on a project, and I gleefully take care of business.   This is a lot of happiness about one of those times. How I solved half of the problem before anyone imagined the problem.

Music, Continuity, Themes

I’ve been struggling with a theme for the last year and a half, very strongly.  It can be summarized in two words: “Not alone.” This is me missing places that always felt like, “come as you are. All are welcome here.  Our differences make this place more vibrant.  Love and respect are all that matters.”  Concerts, certain scenes, and some online groups really celebrated that aesthetic.

Now I’m very happy that those places are needed much less for so many people. There are still people who feel torn in this current climate.  People who look like everything is cool on the outside, but feel completely without a real place to be themselves.  I’ve been searching for that place, but every time I act like it’s already there for someone else, it appears.

Not alone.  Continue reading “Music, Continuity, Themes”

Arguing Against the Experimental Tag at Bandcamp

This is where the art gets made

I make music out of my closet.  I honestly enjoy hearing what others make out of their bedrooms, closets, and home studios.  In the process of perusing Bandcamp, I also find a common red flag: “Experimental.”

The biggest reason I see for people using the Experimental tag at Bandcamp is when they feel uncertain about their music.  Every time, I want to beg them: do not feel uncertain.   You made art.  You are already ahead of everyone who only dreams of making the art.  By virtue of your recordings being published, you’re ahead of the game.  You conceived, recorded, and published the art.

Do Not Undersell Yourself

Instead, learn why you should be proud of your recordings.

Working from Home

This home office thing is great!

No interruptions from phones.  I don’t have my concentration broken by lengthy conversations about who is about to run what errand.  Crawling out of bed to make coffee fifteen minutes before the day starts is pretty alright.

The best part is being told by my employers to put all my focus on the things they originally hired me to do.  I’m learning new faster than I have in years.  I’m getting work done much more quickly than I used to.  I’m happier.  I’m in that sweet, wonderful place where I get focused on the job at hand and lose hours doing it. This is by far a good thing. Read more.

Not Blogging Much

It’s been ten months, I think?

I love the Internet and all.  But I also love living in the real world.  I’ve had a really big year with a lot of huge, necessary, hopefully positive changes.

One of those changes is that I just want to be in the world.  I want to look the other person in the eye when we speak, when we agree or disagree, when we share camaraderie.   Whatever it is.

I’ve spent the last four years effectively pulling my best self out of all my fears and insecurities.  So while I love working on web sites and code, I’d prefer to communicate face-to-face or from a stage.

It’s a balance and it’s helped me to be happier than I’ve been in years.