Music critics need a hug

(I realised after hitting “post”, that just last year, I made unnecessary critical remarks towards modern EDM. And here I am now, saying you shouldn’t criticise – by criticising critics. This blog is a mess.)

No matter where you are, it doesn’t take long before you hear people complaining about what’s topping the charts. Let’s take Nickelback or One Direction as examples – the internet is full of hateful discussion about their music, and a lot of it is bullying – harassment of some guys playing instruments, who happened to become famous. Also, it’s easy to poke fun at the same thing as everyone else – there’s no risk involved in taking that stance.

A couple of years ago, I did some teaching in high school. Some of the girls were going to a Justin Bieber concert, and were very excited. However, I heard way more about Justin Bieber from the twenty-something year old guys in my dorm.

Let’s take Lil Wayne as another example. His music is a positive addition to a lot of people’s lives. Sure, Mr. Wayne’s music isn’t what tickles my pickle, but his 5 most popular songs on YouTube all have more than 100 million views, each! Sure, a lot of people bitch about him, but practically all of those views must have come from people who love his music. If the music was truly bad, nobody would care.

While to you, your underground music of choice might seem like the one true path to musical nirvana, it’s never going to positively affect as many people as the most viewed YouTube music videos of 2014. When I see people singing along to David Guetta and Pitbull, I see happy people.

Critics discourage people from trying

When mindlessly bashing music you don’t even listen to, you’re implying that if people (or you) make an attempt, they put themselves up for ridicule. “Well, good! Less shitty music in the world, then”, you might say. You could say the same thing about kids learning to draw; statistically speaking, most people don’t end up very good at drawing, so might as well discourage them while they’re young – right, Mr. Grinch?

Not only does all this unnecessary critisism ruin potential enjoyment, but it makes people less willing to challenge themselves, and it makes failure seem like a bigger deal than it really is. It also implies that your failures will be mercilessly judged, while in reality, everyone is way too busy thinking about their own problems, just like you and I are right now.

Not everything can be measured, and not everything should. When I started making music, before broadband gave me 24/7 access to other people’s opinions, my parents simply asked me if I was having fun, and that was all I cared about, and it still is. Getting good at creative activities is not about meticulously eliminating flaws early on, but rather putting in the hours and exploring different angles, so that our pattern-identifying brains get time to form connections, make sense of, and get used to things. And, you know, doing something because it’s enjoyable.

Whenever I hear critics complaining about someone making music, it’s like complaining about out-of-shape people in the gym. You’re complaining about someone who’s making something! Many of your favourite Electronica artists nowadays probably started out making nonsense with Dance eJay or Vengeance kits. Madeon used to make Handsup, and Porter Robinson used to make Brostep.

Why is one opinion better than another?

I speculate that some of this situation can be traced back to reviewers in newspapers, and talent shows like Pop Idol or X Factor. Thumbs up or down, x/5 stars. Like Dave Grohl has said – it shouldn’t be about putting yourself at the mercy of other people’s opinions. We’re not engineering space missions – we’re just making music, which people can listen to pretty much free of charge. Why are you rating the outcomes of the fun people should be having?

Why do reviewers get to say what’s good and not? Who is reviewing the reviewers? Why should reviewers’ opinions about Katy Perry matter, just because they’re good at writing and being miserable and cynical? Why aren’t word of mouth and personal experience enough? What’s wrong with being exposed to something you don’t like? Are you afraid you’ll end up liking something your peers don’t approve of?

There’s always something to learn from the music around you, even if you don’t necessarily like it. Soulja Boy’s “Crank That” isn’t really my thing, but I’ll gladly admit that it has a really engaging chorus. Instead of complaining and talking about how much better you are, think instead what you can learn from it:

  • How do people respond to it live?
  • What kind of catchy hook or dance could you come up with?
  • Could you make something equally minimalistic in a different genre?
  • Can you sample 0.1 second of it, or put it through Paulstretch?
  • Can you make something in the same tempo, but completely different-sounding?

Even though you don’t like Dubstep or Dansband, I’m 100% sure there’s 2 or 3 songs you’d enjoy, or a certain 1-second part that teaches you something. Why is your complaining about them important? There is no “intelligent” music – only people who feel better about themselves for looking down on others.

For lesson 1, here’s a video of Hansi Hinterseer.


Your search for cheesy sounds is over

  • Looking for SoundFonts, but not finding the exact cheesy sounds you want?
  • Is Ableton’s Sampler screwing up SoundFonts by applying the same envelope to all sounds, and looping strangely?

You can use Windows’ native MIDI instruments in Ableton Live!

The file “gm.dls” is located in C:/windows/system32/drivers, and contains 128 delightful presets. Just load the file into Bismark bs-0, and marvel at the wonder of the open hihats in the drum kits, or patch 53: Voice Oohs.

If you’re an FL Studio user, you can use Fruity LSD to play it:

Bonus: Windows comes with a few MIDI tunes!

Just head on over to C:/Windows/Media – and enjoy cssamp1.mid, flourish.mid, onestop.mid, and town.mid in Windows Media Player.