Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Iros' Best Of 2014 Year End Wrap-Up

Best Albums of 2014

1. Transatlantic - Kaleidoscope
2. The Mercury Tree - Countenance
3. Snarky Puppy - We Like It Here
4. North Atlantic Oscillation - Third Day

Best Concert DVD/Blu-Ray

1. Dream Theater - Breaking the Fourth Wall
2. Transatlantic - KaLIVEoscope
3. Peter Gabriel - Back to Front

Top Films of 2014

1. Interstellar
2. Guardians of the Galaxy
3. Predestination
4. X-Men Days of Future Past
5. The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

Best Game of the Year

1. Destiny
2. Super Smash Bros. 3DS/Wii U
3. Dragon Age: Inquisition
4. Hearthstone
5. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Best Game OST of the Year

1. Michael Salvatori, C Paul Johnson, Martin O Donnell & Paul McCartney - Destiny Sountrack
2. Daisuke Ishiwatari - Guilty Gear Xrd OST
3. Devo - Bravely Default OST

Best Film OST of the Year

1. Hans Zimmer - Insterstellar

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

My Personal DIY Approach

On today post I will expose my personal approach in a do it yourself production from beginning to end. This is MY personal approach, and it's not necessarily the best or the one you should use, in fact I haven't yet use it at it full potential, anyway, exposing this I will reveal some secrets of why I haven't do anything musical in years.

Keep in mind that this is an approach based on what I have and use: gear, resources, tools, knowledge, softwares etc. Without further ado, lets get started!

I've always be inspired and inclined to produce entire albums, not just singles or one song hit. This is very common in the local scene, lot of artists know their boundaries/limitations and just produce one song to be able to please their fans, yeah just one song airing on the radio here and there, for months and months, this is the easier form of deliver a musical product to an audience but not necessary the most artistic. I've been more focused on whole productions, entire albums, telling fascinating stories through music, compiling a bunch of songs together in a linear and fascinating way, (think of it like Dark Side of The Moon by Pink Floyd) and this is archived by thinking as a whole, as I call it having the "album concept".

Producing just one song or even a EP is very hard, very time consuming and a lot of work, and like any other artistic production, you have to work hard and have a perfect mix of human resources and tool resources combined, think of it as a movie. This is just one part of the whole thing, now, imagine yourself a whole album!

Sounds intimidating isn't it? yeah it is, believe me, years pass and it gets harder and harder to fulfill. So why is this difficult? well, first of all you have to write music with a concept in mind, you have to organize everything, document everything, schedule everything, pay for everything etc. As a home studio and producer/engineer entrepreneur I have my limitations and I have to work with what I have. It will be a lot easier to just pay a good producer, a good engineer and a whole lot of studio hours and just record/mix/master a album, yeah "easier" but lots of money involved even though you're not taking music as a real career and more of like a hobby? its insane! Don't get me wrong if you can afford this, do it, its the best thing, I wish I could one day! we keep on dreaming!

Now, lets begin pointing out frame by frame how I do this (or wish to do it), in every aspect of it, the writing, the project, the production, the recording, etc. First of all you have to create a project, it can be a band, a solo thing, something spontaneous and live. For my approach is as I call it a "no-man's land band" is not a solo thing, but is not a band either, is something in between, but maybe this is subject to change depending on the music itself.

This is how I do it:


After creating and envisioning the project, I put a name to it, begin to assign a style of music, a musical direction, goals, the message I want to put out there and maybe some extra artistic visual stuff.


I begin to think what do I need to be able to put this out, it can be in the music itself or in the technical side of things, for example if my project is more of a big band jazzy thing I have to know that I need a lot of instruments performance, musicians, lots of microphones, inputs, gear, and software, now if I have in mind a instrumental trio, the resources go down by a lot!

The Writing:

I tend to write everything myself, and if I want to write something in collaboration with other artist/musician, I analyze everything first, i.e: if the musician fits this style of music, what he/she can add to my music, if its a full co-op thing or just a solo spot etc. It depends a lot of the music and the style and the project itself, why? because I love to write and create musical ideas by playing with a good drummer for example.

I tend to really feel inspire first, record ideas while I play piano or guitar, most of my songs are written with a acoustic guitar first, and it can become a rock tune, a metal tune or even a orquestral one! feeling inspired is really important, but you have to really put of a deadline, if not, you will lose focus, interest and maybe the inspiration, as a big procrastinator myself, I tend to do that, and have just millions of ideas floating around without a north.

I then record my ideas in my phone or in the PC with Studio One or Cubase, then shape them into songs, as I do this, I notate everything with power tab, guitar pro, or even Notion, which I'm try to learn now, this part is important but is one of those things that is really time consuming, in fact its hard because sometimes songs can change from time to time, so I really recommend that you close the writing, structures and arrangements before entering all those notes into this thing!

In here you have to really not only write chords and riffs and notate them, but I you think in adding more instruments to the song, try to notate them too, maybe in the production things like this can be added on the fly, at least notate the basic tracks or instruments that lead the harmony and the melody.

After you have everything written out, and have all those fancy .pdf ready and your midi's sounding good and in sync (this helps a lot of giving it a picture of how it will sound). In this part, think it as a pre-production phase, why? because those scores/midi's can serve a lot in the final production, creating tempo maps, creating midi tracks, etc.

I haven't really focused in this phase much, and it's one of the main reasons my projects never come out, so have a magnifying glass pointing in this one! After all this is done, I send to scores to every musician involved in the project, the bass player, guitar players, keyboard players, I mean everyone!
Because I want them to learn all this and have them perform, so this is really important.

The Pre-Production:

This one is the real deal, this phase is that one phase that get to job done!, Music Production itself can be really a wrapped topic but this is how I see it: I see it like the movies, in the movies there is the Executive Producer and the Producer, one deal with the financial statements of the project, the other gather all resources necessary to be able to put out the project as the Director sees it. That's it! so you have to really focus on pre-production and organize everything you will need to make it possible, musicians, performers, instruments, gear, recording schedules, locations, fees, I mean everything!

As a aspiring Producer I see myself like the Director of the movie, the one who have the artistic vision of all that music that was written!, so in the moments of recording aside from engineering, I'm the one who dictates if that performance was appropriate or not, that a take was good or not, that we need another instrument in the recording, if the recording must be live on just basic tracks, if the recording have just overdubs and when in the schedule should be and be able to complete milestones and deadlines.

Lay out the preparation of the recording in the box is also useful, this is, tempo tracks, tracks foundation, sounds, instruments and gear alike.

The Recording:

After everything is settled, prepared and planned, it's time to get audio signals into a Computer to be later able to mix and put on in a media. This phase is very important, and a lot of technical aspects are involved, I really think that the best way to do this is to record everything that is basic tracks live and fast, It can be a bass/drums thing, or a Rhythm Guitars/Bass/Drums thing, totally live would be the best, but usually lots of us cannot afford that and have to program the drums, in that case, program the drum very meticulously first before making a recording, in fact, is better to get the most recording in a day so you cannot change sounds later, why? because you are capturing a experience, a sound, a atmosphere, so if you record a song by day, every song would sound different, like there is another band playing on the album. I recommend that each instrument is divided in days, or in big chunks of time, to be everything sound tight and even, especially overdubs.

The Production:

After all tracks, audio, midi and all performances are captured in the recording a new phase begin, which is the mixing/mastering phase! In here you have to mix all the songs, get the balance in all instruments, EQ and Levels, enhance the recording and make it fit all together nicely, if it well recorded sometimes there's no much to do, but seeing all in context I tend to think different and prepare everything as tight and good as possible. At the end you simply master the thing, which is the final stage of the production, this phase make the whole album even in level and enhance a little bit as a whole and make it out to a real media, a CD or Digital form.

An there you have it! this is my approach in how I do or plan to do this things, you can always pay for people with a lot of experience to get better results, for example, the mastering stage, but this is more of a DIY approach, so there you have it!

Remember that musical projects don't end up here so a whole new adventure emerges before all that, I will maybe post about that some other day and maybe describe the tools and resources that I use in all the DIY approach.


Iros Rodríguez

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Struggles of a utopic music journey

Music can be a good, fun, exiting and wonderful thing that you can dive into, but is the most outrageous activity that you can get. As a musician myself it can be fun, but at the same time it can be very frustrating. The fact is, however, that is a thing very hard to do, I'm not talking of the process of grabbing a instrument, learn it, play it, digest music theory, learn the fundamental of music and create your own style and approaches, this can be archived very easy and is by putting hours into it.

I have been screwing up with music since my 12 years, embracing it, learning it, playing it, digesting it, putting hours to it, but every year that pass is more and more difficult, I will explain WHY music is so hard to do:

First of all, for music, you have not only to write it, but produce, you have to make your music in form of a medium to get to people. This is the thing, you have to record your music, produce it and put it on a product for you to sell/distribute. Money can be a barrier to any kind of project not only music, but get music recorded, engineered and produced, is pricey.

Not only get lots of money to buy studio hours, but have good gear, good instruments. The other thing is that you have to get all that founding into a musical project, it can be a band, a live show, a music festival, etc. For me be in a band is a change of pure luck, period, think about it, you have to connect with musician that share the same vision, the same musical tastes, the same flavor, and even the same future plans, and this folks, is difficult.

I myself feel guilty for this, and simply put, I have embraced other activities in life because you have to drain yourself and have a lot of money to put your music out there, believe me, I have passed years and years of pure pain and struggle. I have met musicians who have a different goal with their music though, like film scoring, session musician and/or teachers and this is a very different approach of mine and it really is very interesting. Having said all this, I can blame myself, I know that I dis-motivate a lot very easily and it happen very often in my life, It happened with my guitar playing, it happened with girls, with people, with friends, with my career, with music in general and this is really bad because you lose all motivation and drive to do something.

Nevertheless, a goal, a plan can wait, and you can prepare even more to do it right, I always encourage fellow musicians to do something, anything with what they have, a cheap guitar, and cheap gear, I can fell into this, and my current goal with music is now gone, not completely but is more of a future plan. A lot of people and friends always try to drive me in this sense, even my family and that is good, but they don't know how hard it is really do get a band, record, produce and even make music for the masses and that's why a respect a lot the ones who made it. With all that said, music for me is a future thing, friends and people always is telling me to drive in a hype motion and just to it blindly, but sometimes I think really what's the purpose of it, deliver a message?, show off my guitar skills?, show off my production tricks? for fame? for money?, show off my proggy songwriting? if it is for the latter, I'm really wasting my time, so it is better don't do nothing and focus on other things; business, friends, or another hobby. The purpose and focus of it is really important and it is really the core drive of it.

Still, I know that I am a really good procrastinator and I don't kill myself for that, I know that great thinkers in this world were like this, so, you, don't kill me for that either. Life change a lot too, you get more economical power, but you get less and less time, more projects to dive your talent and attention into, and as I say, I cannot be in a lot of things at the same time, you really have to be organized in all that.

Either way, my music goals are very clear, with a vision and a destination to explore and do, but is a struggling and utopic journey, a mission that have a lot of steps and objectives in it. It harder than you think believe me, but here I am, learning, growing, making mistakes, living, playing, and moving slow, slow but accurate. I began to think in lots of things regarding this topic, and I think that my talents could be portrayed in a jam with musicians in a paid studio environment, that can be fun, but doing all the work myself, writing, engineering, producing, recording, can be exhausting, but, the future will tell, God will tell too and I'm just going with the flow, don't matter what musicians are, the motivation, the style of music, how proggy can or cannot be, as I grow I learnt something, do SOMETHING, but do it, it can be bad music yeah, I screwed up with a lot of bad songs and compositions to be the composer I am today.

As an experienced guy in all this, I tell you, that grow in music every day, stray from hearing the same every time, stray from just focusing in the technical side of things, dive into music theory, write, learn and feel. That's all.


Iros Rodríguez

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

New Demo in a long time!

You can hear it on my soundcloud page, is short I know, but hey! it is something!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

My Producer/Writer Dilemma

(Trevor Horn, music producer)

Ok boys and girls, this time I want to share something that is really kind of a dilemma for me as a writer and producer. First and foremost, as a musician and writer, you want just to put your music out there right?, communicate with your songs, play them live, you work hard writing them right?, well, for me is more harder than that, I’ve found certain “styles” of music more difficult to produce and even compose. This is the thing, metal songs, or proggy ones in general, tend to have just few instruments, few dynamics too, think of it, lots of heavy riffs, panned guitars left and right, bass in center, a good sounding and loud drum set, and a well suited vocals, yeah that’s it! even though with dynamics, a metal record this days just stays in the same volume from song to song, that’s why they’re so easily introduced in this “Loudness War” thing, yes, is easy just to pop up lots of compression and limiting in this kind of music, for me, is really easy to do, great energy and all that, but the production is dull, lifeless, and even boring. 

Aside from all that, is obvious for me to apply this thinking, but I like the energy and the hype that produce that kind of sound, easy to produce, yes, but that’s the goal right? produce and make it real and get it out there fast right? Well, I think for me is more interesting as a producer now to play with dynamics, instrumentation, and chords structures, creative sounds and ambient things. It is also more difficult to write a song with lots of dynamic movements and a creative production, so to speak, for example there are even more easy to produce styles of music, nowadays the music on the radio is just sample rhythms and a pumping compressor sounding. 

In my life and experience as a musician I have experiment all, metal hyped music, complex music, songwriter stuff, Chords, Riffs, Ambient, instrumentation, easy music, dumb music, jazzy stuff, I mean kind of a Jack of all trades, I had acquired experience in seeing this by becoming a producer myself and be able to approach the music from every other perspectives and corners, and interested more in creative sounds than riffs or chords, which, at the end makes you pop-out of other bands and music. A metal band with a Sax player doing all those riff in a bassy octave?? that’s pop! 

But, as I say, I try to go with the flow in this, but you rather came with a complex production, which is exhausting. So why not go for an easy production styles? something easy to produce and write? well, maybe, but what about your whole musicality? and chops with your instruments and creative ideas? gone? it is really a dilemma don’t you think?. Tell me, what do you think of all this?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The 5 Great Hacks of Writing Music

Hi there! time to put up some advise and humble knowledge, you know share my thoughts on this topic, now I'm going to talk about some advises or as I call it, "Hacks" of creating/writing music. They had work for me, and I know it will for you (hopefully).

Let's get down to it:

1- STOP listening music for a moment.

Yes, believe it or not, this can cause problems on the moment of writing, if you decide to write a song, try stop hearing music for a moment. Why? Because if you are listening to band A or band B or anything, your muses or inspiration will be printed on the material you are writting, or at least you will be "forced" mentally to do so, "Ohh I want to write and compose something like this", and this is bad, at the end you will found yourself  "copying" a lot of things, is not bad that you have your influences and all that, but stay close to your guts and in what you have learnt through the years, I know that you are fascinated and listen to music everyday, so why not stop for a moment, and then write?, believe me this is very helpful.

2- Play your instrument/instruments alone.

This is one that works for me every time, I take an hour or so playing an instrument, and this is NOT schedule "practice" it's just all out playing, can be a guitar, piano, playing with FX's, Patches, I mean, sit with an instrument for a while and just start playing, you will came up with interesting things, what happen is, that you are there playing "something" and after that everything else starts to flow, naturally you can came up with cool riffs, chords progressions, structures, ideas, ANYTHING! And all this is useful, maybe you can come up with cool stuff others not so much, but hey, keep doing it, not every song that you write is gonna be a great EPIC, so practice, writing is something you must practice just like finger exercises.

3- Record yourself

"All ideas most be printed" as I say, it can be a melody, riff or something that "came up" in your head, this happens a lot, and it can happen very spontaneous, so pick up your smartphone or your DAW and record it, it can be your instrument or your voice "humming" the thing. Muses come and go, when I take a stroll or a walk to my job this is a very productive and creative moment for me, I came with almost entire albums in my head!, so remember this, try to capture those moments of creative glory!

4- Play with other musicians

Playing with other fine musicians or jamming along with them can generate a tons of musical ideas, in my case, I love to jam along with just a drummer, it's incredible the ideas and riffs I can pull out in that moment, so if you are a good drummer and you are reading this, I hope that I can play with you one day!, but beware of my ideas!! they're crazy sometimes!

5- Open your ears!

This one is the most important, open your ears every time, try to listen things that is NOT music to inspire you, it can be anything, from the sound and rhythm of brushing your teeth to the drops sounding in your kitchen sink! I remember myself writing a whole song and it starts with the sound of a big truck horn crossing the street of my house. So try to inspire yourself with ANYTHING, distant music, distant sounds, bird sings, I mean anything, you know that we musicians, suffer from a great sickness, which is as I call it: "The Creative Block Sickness" which is that your muses get killed by a bacteria called "inspiration-less".

Try this advises and see what they can do for you!
Hope it works!

God bless you all!

Iros RR

Friday, January 10, 2014

Updates and plans for 2014

Alright folks, yeah yeah I know, long time I haven't post anything, but hey, It's a new year!! Yeah, 2014 is now here and I have new plans in mind (hopefully). Recently I have been in so many things at the same time and the only musical thing I'm doing is playing at church, I don't even have time to play some videogames nor LISTEN to music anymore!! (which sucks btw).

In fact, so many blessings had came along the way, so I feel really good. I'm beginning to have great gear to suit up my musical needs, guitars, FX's, Power Speakers (Monitors), Midi Keyboard, Plugins, I mean, I bunch of stuff. I haven't wrote a complete thing in YEARS, and I'm planning to do some serious writing by this year, in fact, here is the great news. I plan to release a EP this year, about 5 to 6 songs, written, produced, mixed and even mastered by me!! I will do a lot of planning on this and put deadlines, b/c I know if there isn't a deadline, it will be hard to put this project up. So yes, there will be "pressure".

I really don't know the basic style of format of it, even I don't know on which name I will put it, all I know is that is going to be centered in many things, orchestration, lots of guitar playing, and even some heavy things, it will be like "proggy meets symphonic meets jazzy meets guitars" stuff, if that makes any sense... the thing that is bugging me for awhile is the fact that if I will write real SONGS, will lyrics on, or just instrumental pieces with guest musicians on it, I really had polished my songwriting skills this past year.

Still, I am not ready yet full scale for recording, b/c I need some more gear like stands, mics, and a more powerful PC to do a great job without constraints.

Well this is all in boys and girls, so let's see how it goes!!

Iros RR