I have been DJ-ing for over 25 years and I still haven’t properly ventured into the rabbit hole of electronic music production. I’ve dabbled with a few track edits here and there but I wouldn’t call myself a music producer, I know what I like and enjoy experimenting with using software such as Ableton Live. I watch ‘how to’ YouTube videos and follow music production courses online – but I often hit walls because the content is either too boring for me or the normal day to day things just get in the way. Living with a partner, two creative kids and running two businesses it can feel like there’s never time to learn anything so vast and complex as Ableton Live and getting an opportunity to get my head ‘in the zone’ is rare. I knew I just needed to break free for a few days somewhere so I could focus and not get distracted. So when Gavron got in touch and said he was launching his Pioneers of Production course here in Ibiza it was music to my ears!! I finally had the opportunity and immediately signed up. I couldn’t wait to not worry about school runs, social media, emails, kids lunches.. and day to day life. A few anxious thoughts did cross my mind such as not being able to handle it, I might not be good enough, what if I didn’t understand any of it or I ask stupid questions. I knew the level of the courses was intermediate and I’m not that.. but Gavron assured me I would be fine, so I took his word for it and got involved.
Pioneers of Production Day One After biting the bullet I arrived at the training facility. Dave the chef had cooked us all a warm and healthy breakfast and Gavron was crafting the Audio Mogul filter coffee. Brewed using a Jaile Syphon filter vacuum pot it looked impressive and tasted really smooth, not jittery like espresso coffee, in fact it was more like drinking tea, I was impressed. Gavron explained that the coffee was farmed and processed by a women cooperative in Guatemala and is the only coffee in the world available for studio consumption due to its slow release caffeine and creative properties. After breakfast and our filter coffee education we got down to the nitty gritty. The day started with an introduction on creative programming techniques and how digital music works within the D.A.W. There was a lot of information but as a team we worked through it – my piano lessons as a kid were paying off!! We talked about the nuts and bolts of how music in Live worked, we covered harmonic and melodic production techniques & Gavron and Phelan, our certified trainer, demonstrated how the Push 2 controller integrated with the software. We created our own drum racks, learned drum sequencing and how quantisation using the groove pool function worked as well as covering scales, chords and arpeggios. Phelan was clearly a great teacher. The coffee and Dave’s culinary skills were proving to help with the creative process as he served up a delicious veggie feast and Clint Lee brought his Love Hemp Water for us to try with the meal. At this point we were all buzzing with excitement and worked harder through the afternoon with more exercises, practicing and engaging with The rest of the team on the topics of the day.
Pioneers of Production Day Two Again we started the day with an Audio Mogul filter coffee and a healthy breakfast to get us in the creative flow. We discussed synthesis techniques and covered oscillation, envelopes, LFO and effects. Everything seemed to fall into place, Phelan gave us the parts to a track he had made and showed us how to implement the effects to remix the Parts. After a Mexican themed lunch of veggie tacos and homemade dips we were given some raw cacao energy balls to help keep us focused and carried on with our remixes and practiced using the effects. The cacao had a soothing effect and seemed to help keep us focused and remain in the now – perfect for working on music production when you need to be immersed in the moment.
Pioneers of Production Day Three After our filter coffee, organic scrambled eggs and freshly squeezed juice we were shown the fundamentals of synthesis and sampling techniques, synthesis architecture and the history of the mighty wavetable. Phelan also showed us how granular synthesis worked and how to create our own effects patches using the Granulator II. After a very welcoming lunch break we delved deeper into sampling with simpler and sampler the built in Live plugins, we then jumped into the basic understanding of Max for Live. In the afternoon sun we were sent out to collect our own field sounds on our phones by recording samples from the surrounding countryside and used them in our own drum racks. There was so much to learn and with the complexity and depth of the software I could have felt overwhelmed but Phelan is a great teacher and Gavron had things under control and with a little creative help from the chocolate and coffee, we were on Fire.
Pioneers of Production Day Four After a good night sleep and our daily starter cup of Audio Mogul filter coffee we were ready to take on whatever day four had in store. Dave once again delivered a delicious locally sourced breakfast and Phelan went more in depth with building a delay effect in Max for Live. We spent the rest of the morning building our own version of a dub delay, Phelan gave us a tour around Ableton’s website and showed us all the useful tools in Max for Live you can download for free if you want to delve deeper into this amazing feature in Ableton Live 10, including Max For Live Essentials and Max For Live Building Tools.
Pioneers of Production Day Five On our final day we covered post-production and mixing techniques and how to apply time stretching and pitch shifting techniques to audio material. We covered how to work with Live Warp Markers, layering, mixing, processing harmonies and compression, and discussed balance, dynamics, frequencies and stereo imaging when mixing tracks for pre mastering. Phelan also went into detail on how compression worked and the importance of using the reverb and the EQ Eight. We then had our final BBQ before heading over to the Metrica Recording Studio in Playa Den Bossa.
Metrica is the first professional studio in Ibiza with cutting-edge 3D and sound technology. We were met outside by the sound engineers, Javier Ferrer and Matias Kamelman who then walked us into the live room and explained how the 3D technology worked before playing us a demonstration. As soon as the music started I could hear the clarity of every instrument and the music totally engulfed me. I was immersed inside the music and every tiny sound felt like it was circling around my head, up and down, then spinning around the room before panning off in a completely different direction. Matias explained there were twenty-six speakers and three subwoofers (26.3) in the room creating the 3D sound effect. The engineers could place any single element of a track in any part of the room – one minute moving up and down then left to right. It was a truly immersive experience for us all. I could see how 3D audio is the future of music production moving away from the stereo image of 2.1 and how it is already changing the way we listen to and produce electronic music for games and theatres around the world – and soon taking our clubbing experience to another level.
So that’s it. The five day Audio Mogul Pioneers of Production ‘retreat’ had finally come to an end. What a week and a massive game changer for me. Not only did I feel like I had fast tracked a PHD in music technology in 5 days I also learned how simple things like drinking organic filter coffee from a sustainable source can kick start the creative flow, Gavron made every effort to ensure we were looked after and every morning before we started our long day in the studio made us a coffee to help us focus and enjoy the learning experience.. And it proved to me how a nutritional well-balanced diet with organic snacks complimented the creative process and help you get through those long hours in the studio, remaining focused and mindful.
I may not be releasing my first album yet but I will be enjoying my early morning Audio Mogul guilt-free filter Americano and disappearing down that rabbit hole of music production whenever I get the chance.