A True Inspirational Story On Overcoming Failures

Dear friends,

I hope you are all having a wonderful week wherever you may be in the world.

Mike Yung

Mike Yung

Recently I was reading a story about how one man who has been busking in the New York subway for 38 years (story here) and eventually over came failures to find success. It was a touching story that inspired me to write to you on a topic that deserves to be talked about more but is rarely mentioned in the media.

The word failure often gets a bad name in our culture and has been exemplified in films, music, and other literary genres. In social media, most of the posts that you see is someone having a good time or sharing their success stories. You rarely see posts that are the result of someone’s failures. This my friends, is an unrealistic view of life and couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is, everyone has gone through or will go through some form of failure in their lifetime.

From all these years of being a musician, I have had my own share of failures along the way and I know it is not easy to deal with. What I’ve come to realize is that failure itself is not a bad thing. It is what you do afterwards that determines whether failure was for the good or the bad. For example, let say you are a fresh graduate out of college and you went for an interview. Afterwards, you thought you had an amazing interview but it turns out they didn’t even call you back for a second round. At this point, you can either blame the employer and throw out just about any curse words that you can think of or take this as a practice session and analyze where your weakness were and try to improve on your next interview.

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I have also realized over the years that failure will humble you, make you realize that the things you take for granted, can be taken away from you tomorrow.

What helped me overcome my own failures was to accept that the failure happened and reminding my self to keep moving forward. Knowing that I had done what I could, I try to take away bits of lessons learned and just to continue moving forward, no matter what happens. If anything, I hope this small piece of advice can be of help to any of you out there who are going through challenging times. Just remember what the amount of failure Mike Yung had to go through in following his dream. He didn’t let those moments stop him. Instead it made him more determined to make his dream a reality. Let it be an inspiration for the rest of us who are still pursuing our own dreams.

Finally, I want to leave you all with 2 of my favorite quotes from Winston Churchill and Henry Ford:

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” — Winston Churchill

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. — Henry Ford

What are some of the failures that you are currently dealing with or have overcome? Please let me know in the comments below!

James

4 Benefits To Taking Music Lessons

Remember that time when your parents signed you up for that guitar lesson? The only thing you still remember is the teacher telling you ‘not enough practice’. Many of us have been there.

Maybe you’ve given up on music lesson when you were little because you thought they were boring or just hated practicing. But years later, you feel the itch to pick up that guitar again. Today, I’m here to share 4 awesome benefits and reasons for taking up music lessons again, or for the first time ever.

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1. Helps Boost Confidence

When children takes part in music ensemble with their classmates, the feedback they give to each other builds self-respect by helping them learn to accept criticism and praise from others.

Music education gives children a way to express themselves, especially in a classroom setting. When students are working towards a common goal, they appreciate that their “voice” and interests are heard and understood by others. This joint effort creates a sense of secure acceptance that is critical to building confidence.

2. Music Relieves Stress/Improves Workouts

Music releases endorphins in the brain. This can directly affect your mood. One study found that cyclists who worked out harder and biked further distances when listening to faster music as compared to music with a slower tempo.

Music lessons can also remove you from the hectic routine of every day life and the stress that comes from work, family and other aspects of life. Practicing music can then become a soothing quiet time allowing you to relax.

3. Improves Memory

Researchers at the music and neuro-imaging laboratory at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have shown that singing lyrics can be especially helpful to people who are recovering from a stroke or brain injury that has damaged the left-brain region responsible for speech.

Further, songs and rhymes can be used to remember all kinds of information. A study from the Memory and Cognition journal found that adults learns new languages faster and more effectively when they sang the words instead of speaking them.

Music and musical training have also been shown to protect the aging brain and keeping it healthy.

4. Connecting With Other Music Lovers

Music began as an extension of communication in a social context. Today, for many adults, finding places to make new friends where they can feel at home can be daunting. Music lessons can be a way to help you connect with others who share the same interest. The Friday Night Jam Session at your local pub can now be a great place to meet like-minded people and talk about your favorite artists and albums. This important social connection can enhance the effects of learning to play music, making it more enjoyable and beneficial to all.

Over the years I’ve had many friends who told me that they’ve regret stopping music lessons when they were younger and had wished they had continued to play. To those of you out there, let me just say: you are never too old to start taking up music lessons! Music knows no boundaries, and soon you will discover many benefits to playing music. I will leave you with a quote from the British writer C.S. Lewis:

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” C.S. Lewis

 
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Best Audio Interface under $500-2018

If you are looking to do recordings or starting a home studio, an audio interface can be one of most important equipment in your studio. Here's a selection of audio interfaces that are affordable yet packs quite a punch when it comes to performance and quality. But first...

What is an Audio Interface? Do i need it? 

An audio interface is a device that allows you to record analog signal and converts it to digital audio signal so that you can manipulate and process the audio further in your computer/digital audio workstation. The advantage here is you don't need to buy separate AD/DA converters or preamps, because it is all built within one unit! 

You would mostly like need to purchase one if you are planning on recording vocals, guitars, and other instruments. But if your goal is to simply use virtual instrument to compose music, then maybe you can skip the audio interface.

the list

1. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 - $150 (PC/MAC)

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This little box comes equipped with two vibrant and pristine Focusrite preamps. The second generation units can allow you to record up to 192kHZ in sample rate which means you've can really get some serious sound quality out of it! There are 2 mic/line inputs, for recording vocals or guitars. Headphone output with volume control. 2 balanced 1/4" outputs to accommodate studio monitors. USB bus powered. 

My very first audio interface was the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, and what I enjoyed the most was the simplicity of use and its intuitive design. At the time, I didn’t do much recording but simply used it to hook up the monitors. If you’re like me, head down to option #2 :)

2. Native Instruments KOMPLETE AUDIO 6 USB 2.0 Digital Audio Interface - $299 (PC/MAC)

USB 2.0 digital audio interface featuring four analog inputs, four analog outputs, S/PDIF I/O, and MIDI I/O, as well as a comprehensive software package including Komplete Elements, Traktor LE, and Cubase LE. The interface offers 24-bit/96 kHz operation and is compatible with Mac and PC. 

This is a great selection for music producers/composers. In addition to 2 mic/line inputs, you get a host of top notch virtual instruments and sounds (as part of Komplete Elements) and Cubase LE. Film composers, you might actually want to consider this option.

3. Apogee One - USB Audio Interface For Mac - $329 (MAC)

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For all the MAC users out there, you may want to check out Apogee one. If you’re a vocalist in need of studio quality vocal tracks, then this USB powered, mono input audio interface will be the perfect solution for you. Apogee One offers 24‑bit audio at sample rates of up to 48kHz and a mic preamp with 48V phantom power. What you get for $329 is Apogee’s legendary sound quality delivered right to you wherever you are.

Although I have never used this product, I have had colleagues who had given it a high review. But before you buy any interface, make sure you have tried it and do an A/B test to see which sounds the best to your ears.

Music Review: "Feels Like Home" - Cameron Forbes

Today I'm writing a review on an exciting piece of music titled "Feels Like Home" by Cameron Forbes. EDM fans, this is for you :)

Cameron is an up and coming singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles and his singing can be heard on many records in the EDM, R&B, and Pop genre. He is an extremely talented singer and I still remember hearing this song for the first time and how blown away I was! 

"Feels Like Home" is a EDM song perfect for the rave parties. With Cameron's extreme high range vocals and larger than life beats, you'll find yourself inevitably bobbing your head to the music. Highly recommended!

 

 

Music Review: "Satisfy" - Vedera

Here's a song that I thought I'd start as my first music review because it's one of those songs that you get hooked on the first time you listen to it. 

So the story goes, I was on my lunch break and heard this catchy tune on the radio and I had one of those Must-Shazam Moments (MSM) and came across this amazing song.  

"Satisfy" by Vedera (a former rock band from Kansas City active from 2004-2011) has all the elements of a commercial music sound with a catchy melody, lovesick lyrics and a resonant big vocal sound from Kristen May, the former lead singer for Vedera. Satisfy is from the band's second album "Stages".

I think what caught my attention was definitely the voice of Kristen May. Her sound has a lot of presence and shine which really cuts through in the song and helps contribute to the over all emotional impact of the music. 

The style really reminds me of music by Avril Lavigne, Jimmy Eats World, Blink 182, and other rock bands that seemed to dominate the rock/pop/alternative scene a decade to about couple years ago. So if you're a fan of those genres, here's a song you would definitely love. 

The band was signed to Epic Records but unfortunately they've disbanded in 2011. But they did leave us with this great tune which I'm happy to have came across and now it's on my favorite playlist!

Have you heard this song before? What are you thoughts? Leave me a comment below and feel free to subscribe to my email newsletter for more awesome reviews and goodies!

 

 

*All copyrighted materials belongs to the original rights holders. No infringement intended.

Click the image to listen to "Satisfy - Vedera"

3 tips To a better sounding mix

For a long time I've struggled to get my mixes to sound open and clean. I've tried everything that I've seen or learned over the years but still could not match up to the professional tracks that sounded crisp, punchy,and incredibly clear.

Looking back there were couple of things that really stood out and made a difference in getting my mixes to sounding better and I want to share with you some mixing tips that helped raise my game. 


1. LISTEN AT QUIETER VOLUMES 

Avoid mixing too loud so that your ears won't get tired as fast and you will have better sonic  judgement for mixing. Psychologically people feel that louder sounds better; not entirely true. 

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t never mix at a loud volume, sometimes you do need to check things at a louder volume, and that's fine. But for most of your mixing session, it should be at a reasonable level.

A good level I find is at around 80-85 SPL (Sound Pressure Level). There is a great app that you can use to measure SPL or how loud the speaker is playing. It's called "SPL Meter" by Andrew Smith and you can download on your iPhone and use it to check the levels.

Link: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/spl-meter/id309206756?mt=8

Now here's the important part, once you've set your volume, don't change it! The whole point is that you set a balanced reference level for listening and you don't want to be shifting the loudness so much. 

 

2. PROPER GAIN STAGING/RECORDING LEVELS

Are you recording your tracks too hot? Modern commercial tracks are louder than they ever have been so most people think that they need to push things as hot as possible to get that loudness. But that's simply not the case. Recording too hot will introduce distortion and unwanted artifacts to your mix and that's definitely something you do NOT want. So what is an optimum level to aim for when we mix? That's where proper gain staging comes in.

What is Gain Staging? In short, it is the process of setting all of the gain controls inside of the mix to get the cleanest signal possible. 

When you load up a project, the first thing to do is set the input trims for all tracks in the mix. Pull all the faders down and then pull up each one separately to unity gain (0db). Then use the trim setting on each channel to either increase the volume of the track or decrease the volume of the track. Try to get a average volume (RMS) of about -18dBfs for the whole song. If your DAW does not have a trim setting then you can either insert a trim plugin or insert any plugin with an input and output setting. 

You want to make sure that you have at least -6dB of headroom on your master bus so that you leave enough headroom for the mastering process. 

For me, I like to mix my projects at an average RMS value of -18dBfs. This usually equates with 0dBVU, which is the analogue standard. So if you wanted to run things between digital and analogue outboard, everything is at the perfect level for the best signal-to-noise ratio and the least distortion. 

Don't worry too much about loudness at the mixing stage, leave that to the mastering process. If you feel that the mix is sounding quiet, just turn up the volume knob, avoid overloading the channels to bring up the volume. This would ensure you have clean signals and your tracks will sound much more clearer and  open!

 

3. SMART EQ-ING

EQ (Equalization - is the process of adjusting the balance between frequencies) is one of those things that takes a lot of time to understand and even more so to apply it correctly. Think of EQ as a way to shape sounds. Professional engineers sculpt their sounds to fit the whole mix better. 

For example:  If your lead vocal sounds muddy and it just doesn't feel right with the rest of the mix, try cutting a little around 300-600 Hz area, this area is known for muddiness and doing a narrow cut could help clear up the sound. But be careful not to cut too much otherwise your vocals might start to sound hollow.

Alternatively, you could use a high shelf boost at around 8000 kHz. This will give you some clarity and presence to the sound. Again there is no right or wrong, you have to trust your ears and make the best judgement. 

Lastly, if something sounds good, leave it as it is. Before you apply an EQ to a track, the best thing to do is to really LISTEN. Listen to each track individually and as a whole and determine what needs EQ and what doesn't. Don't just boost a certain frequency just because you read somewhere on the book or seen someone do it on a Youtube video. 

I hope the above tips and production techniques can be useful in your music production. Let me know if you have any questions!

 

James

 
Leave enough headroom (at least -6dB) for the master bus

Leave enough headroom (at least -6dB) for the master bus

 
FabFilter Pro-Q is an allround EQ plug-in for mixing and mastering, with up to 24 bands and a gorgeous interface for easy and precise editing.

FabFilter Pro-Q is an allround EQ plug-in for mixing and mastering, with up to 24 bands and a gorgeous interface for easy and precise editing.