I hope everyone has had a good first few weeks of the new year.
During the final days of 2022, I released my new EP ‘Shift and recover’. You can listen to it below (it’s on Bandcamp as well).
These past two weeks have been amazing. I decided to up my music theory game and immediately noticed a shift in my skills. I also bought a Focusrite interface which makes recording guitar a breeze. Being able to grab your guitar and record stuff without a hassle is brilliant.
Well, this was this year’s first update. I have to go watch videos about cool alternate tunings now.
When I tell people I’m a musician, the first question is always: ‘’what instrument do you play?’’
I could give them the answer they want to hear, I play guitar and know my way around a piano.
However, my main instrument is not the instrument you’d immediately think of. It’s a game console that came out the year I was born, 1989.
It’s pretty heavy because of the batteries, but small enough to store two of them in your gig bag. I even have room for my mixer and an effect processor. No roadies needed!
What are the pros of using a Game Boy as an instrument you ask?
Game Boys are relatively cheap (un-modded ones cost about 40 bucks)
They do not need tuning.
You can’t hit the wrong snare or key.
Instant serotonin boost when you hear the startup sound.
You can use it on the toilet.
Sometimes I play a set at a retro gaming convention, and I get a lot of confused visitors that think I’m playing Tetris or Mario, so I figured it’s time to explain the HOW. The WHY will follow some other time (I mean, there are easier ways to make music).
So as you can see both my Game Boys are modded. They are backlit so I can see my screen on stage. To make sure the audio is clean and loud enough for recording/playing live, they have a pro-sound mod as well (this also removes background noise). There are tons of mods to be found online, and I’d love to add some new ones to my Game Boys, but that’s something for the future.
The program I use to write music is called LSDj (Little Sound Dj). It’s a music sequencer (tracker) that can be run on an emulator, but my preference is to use it in combination with the actual hardware.
If you like numbers, you’re in for a treat. LSDj uses the Hexadecimal number system to represent all the values. Moving around the program feels like playing an actual game. There is a different button combination for everything and you can even draw your own waveforms to create different ‘instruments’.
Back in the day you had to buy a license online and flash the program onto a cartridge yourself. I own two cartridges with an integrated USB port, which makes updating LSDj and transferring music from my Game Boy to my PC a breeze.
LSDj was made by one person, came out in 2000 and is still being updated. How cool is that?!
It is also possible to incorporate LSDj into an already existing set-up. Midi-sync is fairly easy to set up, so the possibilities are endless.
Eager to try out this fun program for yourself? You can buy a license on the official website, it’s only a dollar!
LSDj has a steep learning curve but once you get used to all the button combinations and find your sound, it is a big help in the creative process of writing fun melodies and coming up with chord progressions.
So, to answer the question I asked at the beginning of this article: YES, all Game Boys are instruments, but not all instruments are Game Boys.
I haven’t posted anything since March and I’m terribly sorry (ok, I’m not really sorry, and I’ll tell you why).
These past few months I haven’t been spending all my free time writing new stuff like I used to. Instead, I dove headfirst into a few rabbit holes about gear, studied Japanese, read a few books and played many video games. Now it’s time to get back to business!
My new album is called ”Shift and recover”. It’s about wanting to spend 100% of your time being productive and never slowing down. Practice what you preach, right? Right! It was wonderful to be able to enjoy other hobbies without guilt-tripping myself into starting yet another track I’d never finish at 11 pm.
It’s not like I haven’t done anything at all, hence the new album announcement. There will be five songs in total. I mainly used LSDJ (of course I did) but mixed in some Ableton, and even my voice, as well. As soon as the preview is released, I’ll write a new blog post about the story behind every track.
I’m still working on finishing it as we speak, but I am certain it will be done before the end of the year!
I have always loved playing guitar. I was gifted my first acoustic at a young age but never got past that amateur level because I kept playing on and off for many years. In 2011 I bought my first electric guitar (a Jordan Les Paul) and was over the moon. However, still stuck on that amateur level. Perhaps because the knock-off guitar was very heavy and didn’t sound right to me either.
Last year I decided to upgrade to a Fender Duo-Sonic because I fell in love with the sound, and it has a short scale which is perfect for my tiny hands! A couple of weeks ago, I was finally able to pick it up (after waiting half a year, which felt like 50 years).
Seafoam green looks so beautiful (even more so in real life) and it sounds so sparkly. It truly is a perfect guitar and because it doesn’t go out of tune all the time, I feel like practicing more. This is the year I will finally learn sweep picking, chords all over the neck and palm muting! (hopefully)
I always compose my songs on 1 copy of LSDJ, but this time I decided to try my hand at 2. It was a lot of fun to do, and it feels like a new world has opened up. Unlimited possibilities! Having 8 channels to work with is amazing, I can now create more complex drums and lots of tiny noises. I love adding tiny noises to my work. It makes it sound exciting and happy.
Anyway, please have a listen and let me know what you think!
I feel like I am repeating myself by posting yet another one of these, but yesterday I received the Volca Bass I had ordered in the mail. It is tiny, cute & shiny but has a very raw sound, especially when turning the knobs juuuuuust right.
In many ways it is a copy of the Volca Drum, but it has more knobs to fiddle with.
I keep telling myself this is the last piece of hardware I have purchased because I don’t need anything else, but I am already looking at studio monitors.. right now I’m using so called ‘gaming speakers’ and they’re great, but color the sound a lot.
Now it’s time to dive headfirst into the Volca Bass rabbit hole on YouTube..
After purchasing my Microkorg back in December, I told myself that was the only piece of hardware I needed. Then I saw the Korg Volca Drum, and two days ago I spotted the Alpha Juno 2 in the wild. The moment I laid eyes on it, I was sold. What a beautiful machine. After buying my Microkorg I immediately replaced the factory patches as they sounded awful, but I really love the JU-2 patches. They are super diverse and you can create nice soundscapes with them (turning the Alpha Dial while playing is amazing).
Now is the perfect time for me to start learning more theory to play different chord combinations, right now I only know a few and always end up playing the same kind of stuff. I am so excited to find out all about this beautiful synth, it’s in very good shape (one key doesn’t always respond – but that’s fixable) and fits perfectly on my desk, next to my Microkorg (which suddenly looks really tiny).
I used to believe software and hardware sounded the same and thought people who could hear the difference were crazy, but man does this thing sound warm and full of life. So different from all of the Juno VSTs out there, I won’t ever go back. It has unlimited possibilities to create patches (and a memory card slot!), midi in-out-thru and can be connected to my mixer, what more does a human want?
It’s been a few weeks since my last post and I have some exciting news to share! My head is filled with ideas for my new album. I have a theme, several WIPs, and two finished tracks already! I’ve been working hard and came up with an amazing (at least I think it is) concept so it will be more of a story instead of tiny bits of music that go all over the place.
Initially, I wanted to create an album that was solely written on a Gameboy to ‘keep it pure’ but then I thought what the hell, why would I want to create ‘pure music’? I make music for me and people who like to listen to it, and they always seem to enjoy whatever style I do – why would I limit myself in the tools I use?
I’m sure you all know I bought an amazing little machine last month, the Korg Volca Drum. It is SO cute but sounds super badass. I’ve been recording heaps of different sounds and loops and have a lot of fun editing them in Ableton. Ableton has basically turned into one big creative playground for me; I use the arrangement view for all the bits n bops I record from my Microkorg, Gameboy and Volca, and combine stuff on the fly while doodling around and playing melodies. I normally start a new file for every track, but this time it’s just one gigantic file for everything so I can immediately dump whatever idea/recording I come up with (it takes a lot of time to scroll from start to finish though).
I accidentally created some drum loops that sound like birds and robot-like creatures which instantly made me think of a jungle. A mechanical jungle because of all the pitch changes.. aaaand the new theme was born. I want to tell the story of a jungle teeming with mechanical creatures, new ones appearing and species dying out while fighting each other and the environment. I am going to write an introduction to the album and read it like a story, so the listener will know my thought process behind the album and hopefully have a clear picture of the atmosphere I’m going for. I am pouring my whole soul into this album and hope you will be able to tell from listening to it.