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How To Make Your Own Music: Everything I wish someone told me when I started

There's so much advice on making music out there, scattered about, and it's hard to sort through. I have compiled various bits of advice I've given to people in this article.

Learn a little music theory
I promise it's not as hard as it looks, and the basic stuff won't affect your creativity in a negative way. There's a lot of stuff that may hurt your music, unless you're trying to write classical. I tried to watch a video on counterpoint species once and zoned out a minute in. Bleh.

Some music theory is widely practical though! My list isn't exhaustive, but it's a good start.
Three or more notes played together (chord) produce interesting effects.Playing those sets of notes in certain orders (chord progression) is radBut even better if you keep close to sets of notes (scales)Number those notes in the scale and you can fit chord progressions to different scales. This is what …

Some notes on piano keys, and how pianists play without looking

A piano keyboard, or MIDI keyboard as is often the case, is broken up into two sets of keys:

C-E: Distinguished by two black keys. Contains C, C#, D, D#, and E.F-B: Distinguished by three black keys. Contains F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, and B. The obvious question is: "What the hell?"
It's simple: imagine how these keys were meant to be used. A pianist would have a sheet of music in front of them, and they would sight read it as they played. This would be very difficult if they couldn't find the keys without looking at them!
Plus, you'd need almost twice the length for the same number of keys, and there's no way even a pianist with ridiculously-long arms would be able to reach them all.
This is not all that different from the keyboard on your laptop. I wrote this whole thing without even glancing at the keyboard because the keys are arranged a certain way. Most newer keyboards have eschewed gaps between function keys (the Fs with numbers up top). As someone who uses …

Cobalt Synthesizer Review: So good. And free!

Cobalt is a free synth from Sanford Sound Design. It used to be $35, and as I've often found with formerly-paid synths, it's got a good sound to it. It comes with several preset packs in the download.

It's very easy to get good sound out of it! It's going into my favorites folder right next to Helm. I could write an extensive review, but a video of me tinkering with it is a lot more illustrative. :)

DistroKid Review: It's about what I expected.

I was skeptical about DistroKid, the music distribution service that's quickly making a name for itself. The guy behind it likes to tout the fact that the founders of his main competitors have endorsed his service. Any kind of high profile recommendation makes me immediately suspicious. The fact that the website is nearly devoid of details did not help.

But...

It's okay. I signed up. Paid my $19.99. Found out the basic plan didn't include some things I wanted, like setting prices and release dates. You get a grace period where you can get a refund and upgrade, so it's not too bad, but I do wish they'd mention that up front.

Uploading your music for distribution to stores is pretty straightforward. You select how many tracks you want, upload to each slot and fill out details, add your cover, choose your stores, and send it on. This is where we hit the first problem.

Their uploader is...bad. It works, as long as your connection is reliable. Mine wasn't at the ti…

Helm Synthesizer Review: Good, free, open source. What's not to love?

Helm is a free, open source, and cross-platform polyphonic synthesizer that comes in VST, AU, AAX, and LV2 plugin formats. You can get it precompiled in 32-bit or 64-bit formats, or compile it yourself.

The first thing that stands out: it's loud. Very, very, very loud. When I first started using it, I had to put a limiter on to keep from triggering automute.

But...it's also good. I seem to come up with some new and interesting sound every time I tinker with the knobs and buttons.

Pros:
Open source. Check out the plugin's GitHub page. I haven't tried building it, but the instructions are straightforward. No dependency hell you usually see on open source stuff.Straightforward. VST interfaces tend to be a mystery unless you want to read every one of their 50 page manuals. As a fiddler, I like to figure stuff out by touch, and Helm makes this easy.
Cons:
LOUD. Depends more on presets. The pesets that come with it are mostly okay, but the presets you can find vary a lot. Loud…