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Production Minimalism

25 Apr


Have you ever glanced around your studio and asked yourself, “Why the fuck do I need all this gear?”. If you answered no, you are either going to absolutely love the idea of injecting a little minimalism into your workspace or totally reject it. Honey badger and I don’t give fuck. There is no denying that we find ourselves (beatmakers, producers, musicians, insert your audio related occupation or hobby here) the victims product of capitalistic and consumerist clutter. Before you go into Red Scare mode, hear me out. Capitalism has blessed the audio production world with some innovative and arguably necessary products. In my humble opinion too many great products.

The by-product of cheap technology and development coupled with internet marketing is depression. We are bombarded with an endless stream of must have midi controllers, DAW’s, plug-ins, etc. Add the revitalization of the so called vintage gear craze to the equation and you might be feeling a tad bit inadequate in the gear department.

Over the last 10+ years I’ve owned my fair share of expensive hardware and dabbled in the expansive cloud of plug-ins and feature excessive DAW’s. You can easily find yourself down the rabbit hole chasing the latest and greatest or the oldest and sonically “best” equipment money can buy. You will certainly spend a substantial amount of time and possibly find yourself near bankruptcy chasing the perfect tool. In the end, you might go over the precipice and ask yourself  “Why the fuck do I need all this gear?”

My latest experiment in producing music has been to inject a little minimalism into my workflow and production workspace. I find myself more productive and the creative process is beginning to be fun again.

I’ve made it no secret that I use Propellerhead’s Reason software to produce my music. I don’t use some strange combination of Reason & Pro Tools or Reason and Ableton Live. I don’t obsess over new features of version x,y, & z of a given product. I’ve learned to work within limitations of my DAW (especially with Reason). I can honestly give a fuck what your DAW or Drum Machine can do that mine can’t. Maybe you should too. I use a single production tool and plan to master it completely. The workflow makes sense and allows creativity to flourish. My plug-in (Rack Extensions) are minimal and essential and accomplish their desired task.

I’ll argue that you can never have enough sounds, so I’m always getting my hands on more drums samples, samples to chop, virtual synths, and so forth. Having a solid sound bank is crucial to creating fresh material, but without inspiration its useless.


I’ve narrowed down my multitude of midi controllers to a single device that integrates near perfectly with the Reason workflow (Nektar Panorama P4). I own a beefed up E-Mu SP-1200 for sound design projects and drums. Again, tools that I use frequently and add value to my creative production and workflow.

Overall I’ve reduced my setup to the bare minimum, the essentials if you will. I’ve reduced physical, mental, and virtual clutter to the point where I can master the few tools that I use most frequently and never have to worry about the latest and greatest and must have’s of the music industry.

Injecting a little minimalism into my life as a beatmaker has done personal wonders. Shit worked for me.

The next time you glance around your studio or bedroom, ask yourself, “Is all this gear necessary?”. The next time you spend hours on internet forums reading “This Machine vs. That Machine” posts, ask yourself, “Is this necessary?”.

In the end, most of our consumption does little to add value to what we do best… be creative and make music.


Interview: Tommy Tench on MPC Renaissance, NI Maschine, Dubspot, & His dynamic role in the industry

3 Jan

1. Take a minute to introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Tommy Tench and I’m a Producer and DJ operating out of my studio in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC. I specialize in sampling and making beats, and I’m a huge fan of Turntablism, which I practice daily. My YouTube channel, which I started posting videos to a few months ago documenting the process of beatmaking, currently has 1300 subscribers and shows no signs of slowing down. I have numerous few projects lined up for 2013, working with artists (most of which I am supposed to keep quiet!) as well a super limited run of vinyl pressings with some producer friends of mine. I am also former student and current employee at Dubspot, a music production and DJ school, where I oversee the Tech Department.

2. How did you transition from being a Dubspot student to an employee?

I started taking classes one summer, and spent as much time as I could there. I got to know everyone pretty well, and one day they needed help setting up a private event because a few people were sick and couldn’t make it. They kept asking for help over the next few weeks, and I approached them to make it a permanent position in the Tech Department. I worked for about a year and a half as a regular Tech, until this past august when I was put in charge of the entire department.

During this time, I was able to learn and listen to everyone around me and really soak up tons of information. Everyone there is so talented and knowledgeable, its crazy really. The whole place breathes music, and can cater to everyones’ specific tastes.  It really helped me be where I am today. It’s incredibly important, no matter how good you are, to keep your mouth shut and listen sometimes. I do a lot of that.

Alkota: A lot of “up and coming” beatmakers & producers assume that the the music industry has a single linear path to success where licensing and selling beats is the name of the game. What most of the new jacks don’t know is that the industry is a multi faceted and dynamic beast.

Oh man. Couldn’t have said it better myself. The modern producer has to wear many different hats. He has to not only produce the track, but mix, master and release it himself. He also has to promote the song, coordinate with artists, get studio time, and in a lot of cases, coordinate the legal side of it with contractual agreements and licensing stipulations. Gone are the days where you show up at a label with beats and they write you checks on the spot. Now, if you’re one of these elite producers, these things may not apply as much. But I see that changing rapidly.

But having to do all these extra things are what makes it fun and interesting. If you’re someone who doesn’t want to learn and try to be the best producer out there, then go ahead and make your $5 beats off your pirated version of FL Studio. Just remember that theres a glass ceiling with that style, and you’ll never reach your full potential. No disrespect to anyone who pirated FL Studio and sells $5 beats, just try to do something different on top of what everyone else is doing. I mean, I bought a DSLR to record my videos, now I understand photography really well. White balance, aperture, ISO, shutter speed, focal length, etc. I also understand lighting and video editing. I then promote it online as much as possible. I understand SoundCloud really well to the point where I have videos on how to share to all your groups in one click using html scripts. You really get to learn a lot of things inadvertently through this process. Is it harder? Yes. But you don’t gain as much if aren’t trying to figure everything out all the time. I mean honestly, the whole beat making process is really just a puzzle you have to put together. This part here, this part there and so on. The other things are basically the same, just a different puzzle!

3. Can you talk about your role in the industry from the standpoint of an educator?

I get to meet all these big named artists through Dubspot, and there are two kinds of people. The ones that are always learning and trying to get better, and the ones that have what me and my friends call “Old Man Skills.” Now the Old Man Skills have nothing to do with being old. I know 22 year old kids with OMS. Its the refusal to try anything new, which is essentially the unwillingness to keep learning and elevating your craft. These people literally get stuck in time. I firmly believe that if something works, stick with it by all means, but who’s to say that theres not something you could do differently to make it that much better? This is especially true in Turntablism. Guys that are legends in the game but for some reason stopped learning new scratches, new juggles, etc. I would rather choose to not use something, (like a particular trick or technique or even new software) then to discard it without at least testing it out myself. I think it all boils down to being humble and willing to learn, while still thinking you’re the best out there. Its a fine line between the two, but if you really do become the best remember this: The best producers are also the best at learning.


Stompboxx Music – The YAMS Tape

26 Dec


Stompboxx Music is back with another beat tape just in time for Christmas & the end of 2012. The YAMS Tape, produced by M.Simp was produced entirely using Propellerhead’s Reason 6.5 and mixed/mastered using a slew of Rack Extensions that are readily available for the production software.

Peep the excerpt from the Stompboxx Team:

YAMS, or Young and Musically Inspired is a free instrumental project from M.Simp of Stompboxx Music. The collection, inspired by his son, includes an eclectic blend of soul/southern/gritty/funky/bangin’ records! Please download, jam, and share the project.

*All tracks were fully produced in Propellerheads Reason*
*Grandeur contains additional programming by @JRSwiftzVA*
Download the tape below:

PX7 FM Synthesizer for Propellerhead’s Reason 6.5

13 Dec

As I break into new genres for my sync catalog, I find that you can never have enough sounds, synths, drums, etc. Pretty stoked for Reason’s new Rack Extention, the PX7 FM Synth.

Peep the video below for more info

Official Specs & Details Below:

The PX7 FM Synthesizer is a six operator FM synth for the Reason rack. As a faithful recreation of the popular DX series keyboards, it provides a wealth of new sounds, ranging from classic 80’s bass and brass to modern textures, leads and growls.

But PX7 is not only an emulation of a classic keyboard. With an easier interface, macro controls for quick and powerful tweaking of sounds, stereo spread, and full integration with the Reason rack, it takes FM synthesis into the age of Reason.

In FM synthesis, or Frequency Modulation, sounds are generated by layering or modulating the frequency of sine wave oscillators, called operators. The 32 selectable algorithms decide how the operators are connected, and which modulates what.

The envelopes, one for each operator, are more advanced than those you typically see in synths, with a number of different breakpoints for extremely precise control over the modulation.

With the new macro controls you get tons of new tones out of a single patch — even without a full understanding of FM synthesis.

iZotope’s Ozone Maximizer Rack Extension for Reason 6.5

29 Jun

Pretty excited for the potential Rack Extensions for Reason 6.5 that are in the development pipeline. Right now, I have purchased iZotope’s Ozone Maximizer (Limiter) Rack Extension for Reason 6.5. Definitely a must have for my 2-track “rough mastering” workflow. Once my mix is done, I’ll slap one of these bad boys on the master bus to increase the Loudness of my final beat mix/master. Well worth the $79 fro Propellerhead’s Online Shop. Don’t Sleep! Cop it!


Exclusive Interview: Stompboxx Music talking Reason 6.5, SoundClick Grinding, Mixing, & DIY Marketing/Branding

20 Jun

1. Take a second to introduce yourself to the readers who may not be familiar with Stompboxx Music.

First of all, thank you for the opportunity fam!  Stompboxx Music Group, LLC is basically myself (msimp) & SharpSoundz.  We met somewhere around ’04 while both playing in a local church together in Abilene, TX.  On the side, both of us made tracks and were always throwing around techniques and ideas together so teaming up just made sense.  We officially launched the production team Stompboxx Music in 2010. It’s been a nice ride these last 2 yrs.  We’ve had the opportunity to work & build with some artists both label-affiliated and indie; Crooked I, Kurupt, Mr. Dubie, Willie Northpole (DTP) from a label standpoint.  Also, an incredible amount of Indie talent such as Roosh Williams, Knesecary, Tory Lanez, Killa Kyleon, Doughbeezy, Add+, and a pleauthra of others.  We don’t like to name-drop.  Our motto is less talking, more beats.  -msimp

(Sharp) Thanks Alkota for this opportunity, Mike and I have been doing music together for a long time now.   I can say he’s the only producer that I’ve ever worked with this closely.  There were opportunities here and there to work with other producers, but never any real musical chemistry.  Mike and I feed off each other’s creativity, from creating beats to creating the name for our brand, Stompboxx Music.  Just for the record, Mike is the calm, collect chill one, I’m the talkative, say-what’s-on-my-mind, crazy one.   However,  we definitely balance each other out musically and we remain professional.  Not only do we call ourselves production/business partners, I can honestly say that he’s one of my closet friends in the world.  Production duo’s normally don’t last too long, but we’ve managed to keep going by doing one thing, and that’s being honest with each other when it involves potential business moves, beat critiques, or a simple “I didn’t like what you said about my beat”.  Mike mentioned a few indies we’ve worked with, we’ve also worked with Grammy-Nominated writer Jeff Nortey, Young-X with Midsouth Music and Tawn P.

Alkota: I frequently see questions from up and coming producers (beatmakers) on various production forums (,,, etc.) that want to know if having a Soundclick Page is worth the time, money, and effort to promote and sell their beats. We’ve all heard the success stories and I personally know producers who do well selling beats on Soundclick. That being said, Stompboxx Music has an exceptional Soundclick Page and presence. 


Confessions of a Pirate: Reason 6.5 Torrent

18 Jun

Its been a few months since I wrote the Confessions of a Pirate – Reason 6 Torrent Article. If you haven’t read it, please do so.

Since I purchased my first legit copy of Propellerhead’s Reason & Recycle Software I couldn’t be happier. Propellerhead’s recently released their Reason 6.5 Production and Recording software and gave us Rack Extensions. Rack Extensions promises and looks to be one of the greatest improvements in Propellerhead’s Reason Software, allowing 3rd party plugin developers to create a more stable competing platform against VST’s. The days of complaining about the lack of 3rd party EQ’s, Compressors, Synths, etc are over. Now its a matter of waiting to see which developers release which plugins for Rack Exensions and when.

Again, by purchasing a legitimate copy of Reason and Recycle I have continued to support the ongoing development on one of my personal favorites and arguably the best DAW’s on the market. After all, it takes money to develop this stuff and continually improve the user experience.

Since purchasing Reason 6, I have also received some awesome support from Propellerheads. They have posted my Reason beat making videos & tutorials to their Facebook & Twitter accounts with viral results. This is what we call “value added”. There aren’t too many software companies that support their users & users music quite like the Properllerheads.

With that being said, read the “Confessions of a Pirate” article & go buy a legit copy of Reason 6.5. You really have no excuse no to.