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Chinese New Year

Here’s a Chinese New Year inspired theme I did for Beecave Games. Since 2016 was the year of the monkey, the slot theme was named Year of the Golden Monkey. It’s always a fun challenge to write music in a style from another culture than yours. It’s a tricky balance because you want to honor and accurately portray that culture while making the music your own. (And the music needs to work for the multimedia it’s designed for as well.) The artwork was done by the very talented Logynn Hailley! Check out more of her work here: https://www.behance.net/logynn-b-hailley

Reach out if you need a composer and/or sound designer! I hope you enjoy the music! Thanks!

nathan-madsen-madsenstudios-austin-texas-composer-sound-designer

Are you letting others in?

A good friend and colleague of mine recently talked about the realization of not letting others in on some of his projects. He expressed how limiting it was to try and do everything by himself. Limiting to his passion and creativity on the project. Limiting to his approach. Limiting to the overall scope and impact of the project. This really struck a chord with me as I’ve recently pushed to do more collaborating in my own projects. In an industry that is so often one audio guy in front of a computer, bringing in people with differing, new approaches is not only freeing, it’s refreshing.

If you’ve composed for any amount of time, you’ve noticed that you develop ruts in the grass. I know I have. Same chord progressions. Same melodic patterns. Same approaches to composing a piece of music. Bringing in new people to help branch out exposes your work to new avenues. New opportunities. So, on your next project I’d challenge you to ask yourself – am I letting others in? Even to just evalute the mix and overall structure of the piece? To review the melody and offering up suggestions? I’ve been so pleasantly surprised and encouraged by sharing my work with others during the production process. It’s made me a better composer, better engineer and stronger musician.

In an industry where so many of us tend to hide away in our dark studios and crank away on our masteripieces, maybe we should do a bit more sharing? When it’s appropriate and not guarded by NDA, of course! So reach out to your friends and peers. Folks that play actual instruments (gasp!) and see how they can breathe life into your pieces. Make suggestions as to how your piece can be stronger. More emotional. For example, I’d written out a flute ostinato that worked well for the song but was very challenging for a live player to perform. My VST could handle it all day… but my VST also doesn’t have to breathe. We made it work in a recording studio environment but if I ever wanted to have that piece performed live, I’d need to rethink that part some.

Using live musicians or collaborating can also be more inspiring and much more affordable than you might first think! Consult with folks who are talented and knowledgible at production and mixing. Because even the best song can suck with terrible production. I completely realize you cannot, and most likely WILL NOT, collaborate on every piece you do. But challenging yourself with new approaches and ideas is always a good thing. Maybe you’ll use them or maybe you’ll confirm that your own approach is the best for a particular song. Either way, you’ll come out ahead for having passed your piece across some people you admire and respect.

My point? Music composition and production is a life long path. No one person can know everything. This industry is actually much smaller than first impressions and folks are willing to help out! Buy them a beer, coffee or do an exchange of services. When possible throw cash. Or just ask and show gratitude! It’s definitely worked for me and I think it would work for you as well. The more well versed you are, the better. It will never hurt you.

Happy composing!

nathan-madsen-madsenstudios-denver-colorado-composer-sound-designer

New music released!

Here are two new tracks which were released today:

Town Theme (I know, really original name):

Finally, Celtic Theme (another amazingly creative name):

This project was unique for me because I hired live musicians instead of relying on mostly virtual instrument sets. It was well worth the investment and I hope you like them!

A Guide to Buying a Digital Piano

 

I’ve been asked many times for advice when buying a piano – specifically a digital one so I put together this quick-n-dirty guide. Since my students all take lessons with me on a full-sized, acoustic piano I’m going to approach it from that angle mainly but I will bring up some other factors that are helpful to consider.

88 Keys!

You want a keyboard with 88 keys on it. Why? Because smaller keyboards, while awfully convenient with regards to a smaller scale and lighter weight, can make it very hard to transition back and forth from a full sized to a smaller keyboard. Playing piano is both a visual and a muscular activity and if a student gets used to a smaller keyboard size it can make it harder to adapt to a full sized model.

Weighted Action

Ever play on a super cheap Casio keyboard and noticed how thin and plastic-y (is that even a word?) the keys felt? This is because the keys didn’t have weighted action. On acoustic pianos there are tons of tiny (and not so tiny) parts that have to interact and move. Check out this graphic to see what I’m talking about.

Cited: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Broadwood_grand_square_action.svg

A digital keyboard is usually quite a bit more simplistic due to the electronics. Non-weighted keys give a much different type of action (i.e. how the key moves) can be quite distracting and even hinder proper playing technique if the student ever moves from a digital to an acoustic model. It’s well worth the extra cash!

Velocity Sensitive

Sounds complex but all this means is the harder you press down a key, the louder it sounds. Playing on a keyboard without velocity sensitivity can destroy a student’s touch and concept of dynamics because there will be none! Playing dynamics on an acoustic piano requires proper technique and touch so make sure what you’re buying has velocity sensitivity. If it’s not labeled, it’s easy to test! Just play soft then hard and see if the volume changes! The good news is most models that have both 88 keys and weighted action usually have velocity sensitivity as well.

Headphones Jack!

I practice a lot at night so having the ability to plug in and wail without disturbing others is a godsend! One helpful tip to parents however is to occasionally make your child practice without the headphones to ensure they’re actually practicing their assignments! 🙂 Also you always want to make sure the volume isn’t set too high when using headphones to prevent hearing damage/loss. I’d say about 99% of the digital pianos come with a headphone jack but it never hurts to check before sealing the deal. If you’re buying used bring a pair of your own headphones when you test out the piano to make sure it works properly!

Go With What You Know

Whenever possible go with a known brand. You get what you paid for, right? This is especially when you’re buying used since you’ll have a better idea of the kind of quality the brand offers as opposed to some off brand. Some well known brands are:

– Roland
– Korg
– Yamaha
– Kurzweil
– Studiologic

These are just a few of the brands but each provide decades of stable, professional and recognizable products and service. Avoid off brands as you can never be sure of the quality and customer service the company will provide. Buying a digital piano can be a hefty investment so you always want to make you’re getting the best investment for your dollar! A great tactic is to go play many models at your local music store. They usually don’t mind – so spend some time there. Get a feel for the set up, sounds, interface. See what you like and don’t like then see what kinds of deals you can find for the model(s) you liked online!

Beware the Controller!

When looking for a digital keyboard to buy you want to make sure you understand the difference between a controller (sometimes called MIDI controller) and a digital keyboard. It’s actually really simple: a controller has no built-in sounds. It’s simply an interface which when attached to a computer communicates with it and uses the sounds on the computer. Why is this important? Because without a computer the keyboard will be completely silent. Sometimes folks think controllers are a good option because the price tag is usually much lower but you really need a keyboard to make sound, right?

Other considerations:

There are some great keyboards out there that have amazing sounds and functionality! So aside from your budget what are some of your other concerns and needs? Will you be playing live gigs with this keyboard? Will you be using the keyboard to record audio and produce songs? (Yes there are keyboards that actually do that!) Will this keyboard basically be stationary in your home? Consider all of these factors when looking at what to buy. I own a Roland Fantom X-8 which is a great keyboard but it’s quite heavy. It’s listed at 65 lbs which doesn’t sound heavy but when you’re handling an odd shaped, expensive piece of gear that can quickly become very heavy. Then when you add in the hard case it’s even heavier! If you’re not going to be doing much gigging then maybe weight is less of an issue? If you’re not planning on producing songs on the keyboard then don’t worry about spending more cash for that feature. Don’t need 40,000 different sounds on your keyboard? Then don’t worry about buying them! You get the point – spend some time really figuring out what your goals and needs are now and what they might be in the near future.

Buying Used:

I always tell my students and parents to really do research when buying used and only buy from local people. Ebay is great and when buying new is pretty safe but that can change quickly when buying used products. It’s vital to always go over and play the piano first before buying it and you can’t always do that via Ebay. Even if you cannot actually play the piano (yet) just push down each key and make sure it works. Turn each knob and make sure that works as well. If someone doesn’t let you play the piano before buying it – walk away. There are so many folks on Craiglist.org and other online communities selling pianos that you can easily find other options. Always be careful when buying used and be picky. Finally avoid the scams. During a recent search, I saw $4,000 keyboards on sale for $50 on Ebay. If it’s too good to be true just skip it. You don’t want to be scammed out of your hard earned cash.

So that’s about it – hope it was helpful. If you have any specific questions that I didn’t address please contact me! I’m always happy to help!

nathan-madsen-madsenstudios-denver-colorado-composer-sound-designer

New CD out!

I’ve just released a new CD of 6 orchestral songs – 18+ minutes of music for only $4! Am I crazy? Probably. But go check it out!

Welcome to the new website! (July 6, 2011)

Come on in, take your shoes off and make yourself comfortable. Madsen Studios LLC is a one stop, full service audio production company that has been providing audio solutions since 2005. Check out some of my music, videos and quotes from happy clients and peers. Need to get a custom quote for your next project? Just contact me!

 

 

 

Some new music (August 2nd 2009)

I’m happy to announce the release of Hero Defense, a new iPhone game for which I composed the project’s music as well as the sound design. The game is being published by Brilliant Worlds. If you have an iPhone or iPod touch, then you really should check this fun game out! You can hear a two of the tracks by clicking the link below!