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WHAT A WEEK!

As many news reports have probably shared already, it was QUITE the week in Austin (and in Texas for that matter). Snow (that white, cold stuff that falls from the sky) rarely shows up this far South and if it does, it’s just a light dusting. It rarely lasts more than a day and then it melts off. We had some snow early this winter and it was way more than I was expecting for this area of the world. I’ve lived in Denver, Colorado and in Cedar Falls, Iowa so I KNOW snow. I thought, at best, we’d have some ice and that would be it. NOPE. We had a nice snowday and then it all basically melted away pretty fast. Not much else to report.

That was last time. This time was radically different.

Not only did we get a decent amount of snow for Austin, we got ice and then power went out. For days. Water is still not potable yet although it’s been flowing much better as of today. During the power outages the temp got down to 1 degree. That’s not windchill, that was the actual temp. Highly unusually for central Texas! My family and I are all safe, thankfully! And really, they were super stars. Rolled with the punches – we read books, played games, ran around the living room to stay warm. It got down to 50 degrees in the house so at night we’d all be in the master bedroom.

Here’s a vlog where you can see some of the pics and hear a bit more about it as well as how I broke one of my own rules… and what I did to fix it. And for the record, I still get excited about snow.

SKATEBIRD NEWS

Also SkateBIRD was a part of Play What’s Next Festival at Steam. We launched a new trailer to show off the new, not previously seen Rooftop level and I’ve been busy releasing new tracks of music monthly on my Youtube Channel. Getting quite close to finishing up the OST for this game and let me tell you – I’ve loved every second of it! SkateBIRD has taught me many new approaches as an artist, producer and musician and have given me a new genre to play around in. Check out the trailer below:

OTHER HAPPENINGS

I’ve tried to become somewhat hip (if that’s even possible) and do more Instagram thingies. It’s still QUITE new to me but I’m starting to get the hang of it. There’s a really cool graphic artist show’s doing some really sweet, retro graphics which fit perfect with what I’m writing for SkateBIRD. So I put a video out on IGTV. Check it out here:

Also I’m still working at SciPlay and loving it. That huge side project that was under NDA is still under NDA for now. Hang tight though because I should have some news for that soon. That’s about all I can say about it, sadly. I am REALLY excited to finally get to share it all with you when I can! I’ve been doing some more work with Appy Therapy on their Handwriting Heroes app. This one is quite special to me because my own son is special needs and benefits from the exact curriculum this program teaches. It’s really unique to be able to use my audio to help build something that helps him and so many other kiddos like him.

I’ve also been giving several talks to colleges, high schools and middle schools about what I do. Getting a chance to talk with students about all of the incredible opportunities in audio production is something I’m super passionate about. Here’s a candid shot of the students of Mr. Kevin Pruiett’s band program at Paris High School in Paris, Illinois hearing my presentation. If you’re interested in having me talk with your students about game and multi-media audio – reach out! Especially during so much remote learning, it could be the perfect opportunity to enhance and change up what your students are doing in the classroom (virtual or not).

WHO AM I?

Nate Madsen is a 15 year industry vet who’s worked in games, films, taught college courses and has performed and recorded in various settings on both piano and saxophone. He’s been with SciPlay for 4+ years and has been running Madsen Studios LLC since 2005. Some of his freelance projects include SkateBird as well as providing sound design, mixing and mastering audio FUNimation anime trailers. On the weekends he likes to be very still and watch the grass grow. He’s considering taking up the bagpipes and really enjoys craft beer. There’s also the chocolate addiction and the Dad jokes collection. He’s currently living in Austin, TX and his is favorite color is green. He’s also trying to increase the number of push ups he can do at one time. You can get in touch with him here: https://madsenstudios.com/contact/

Read up on the three lectures I gave to my alma mater, OBU, this past Friday!

Howdy one, howdy all!

Just a friendly reminder that Madsen Studios LLC is currently taking on new students for either piano or saxophone. I also teach composition and production.

Check out this link for more info!

https://madsenstudios.com/private-lessons/

 

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!