Stay Home: The Best of Adafruit’s “MusicMakers” Q&A Series

MusicMakers was an Adafruit interview series that explored the intersection of the DIY music and maker communities. We talked to some of our favourite musicians about art, tech, DIY and more. Our hope was that you’d find some great new music to listen to as well as some ideas and inspiration for your own projects.

Now with so many of us working remotely or otherwise staying home, I think that a little music and resourceful creativity could go a long way. You’ll find tips for setting up a creative space, home recording, the freedoms of technology and some lovely new additions to your working-from-home playlist.

In case you missed them, here’s a few of our very favourite MusicMakers Q&As to get started with:

Deerful (Read: MusicMakers001)

I live in a tiny flat, so everything is small and movable. I mostly use a Teenage Engineering OP-1, and an iPad (running various things but Korg Gadget has been the mainstay for a while). I use a Korg Nanokey studio as my only MIDI controller, which is about the same size as the iPad. Vocals get recorded on a Blue Yeti USB mic, and I mix in Ableton, listening on some small Mackie monitors. Everything fits under my bed when it’s not in use, and most of the key parts for actually writing stuff are little enough that I can get them out while I’m on the bus if I have an idea.

Pom Pom Squad (Read: MusicMakers002)

It’s crazy how accessible music production has become in a way that it couldn’t have been ten years ago. Now everyone who owns a computer has access to a DAW— it’s just a matter of whether or not they choose to use it. I think for me as a teenager, being able to just record and play around with the different sounds I could make in GarageBand was very gratifying. Your ability to make music now is only really limited by your curiosity, which is amazing.

SuperKnova (Read: MusicMakers005)

Like most people, I grew up listening to a lot of pop/oldies records my parents had. In our house that was Simon and Garfunkel, Michael Jackson, random stuff. However, when I was 12, my uncle showed me a Jimi Hendrix album, and it was over. When Jimi’s double stop guitar solo began in “The Wind Cries Mary,” I was transported to another world. I had never heard guitar playing like that before or music that made me feel that way. Both his music and his style really altered my whole worldview. The virtuosic guitar playing, the radical gender bending fashion, I loved it all. For a young, closeted trans person, the 60s ideals of “freedom of expression” spoke to me deeply. I’ve heard a lot of transgender people talk about finding strength from punk music when they were growing up. For me, it was psychedelia. If a 6 could be 9, who’s to say a boy couldn’t be a girl?

Bedbug (Read: MusicMakers007)

For me, recording and production is as much an instrument as my guitar is, and it without a doubt factors into my writing process. When I am playing an early developed chord progression or riff on my guitar, I’m simultaneously thinking, “would this part sound good on tape, or through nicer mics, or with direct in” etc. Because of this, recording is definitely atypical and changes with every song. My bread and butter setup is: 1. The acoustic guitar 2. Some sort of synth/background instrumental 3. My single track radioshack cassette recorder, which I playback into my interface into logic.

Kayla Painter (Read: MusicMakers015)

I don’t like leaving a mic set up even if I know I’m going to use it the next day, because I think that subconsciously might dictate your workflow. My composition and production creativity fluctuates, and I find I need to be alone in the house to really produce, even though the studio is tucked away, I feel like my brain can’t fully focus unless I know I am alone.

Benjamin Shaw (Read: MusicMakers018)

I think I’m part of that weird generation that has seen things change so completely while also being a part of it. I listened to tapes and records in the 80s, bought massively expensive CDs in the 90s, and then as the 00s rolled around and I was reaching college age, I joyously filled my hard-drive with millions of free MP3s as Napster, Kazaa and Limewire (and me) destroyed an industry. It’s been weird. As for music creation though, it’s been incredible. It has pretty much completely socialized music production and the distribution networks that were never available to kids from regular and working class backgrounds before. I love it. We will likely never make a living from any of this, but we can create whatever the hell we want and shoot it out into the world and no-one can stop us.

Ian Chang (Read: MusicMakers020)

My main tip for gear is to not get too much of it too quickly, and to go deep on the tools that you do have and feel most expressive or creative on. I think that limited tools can be a catalyst for creativity, and that having a deep relationship with the tools that you do have allows for more seamless and freer expression of ideas. Expanding a minimal setup that really works is always easier than starting with a bunch of different pieces of gear that you have no existing relationship with.

Plus there’s heaps of other Q&As with artists like Jeffrey Lewis, Pool Kids, Frankie Cosmos, Art Brut, Haiku Salut, Say Sue Me, The Ophelias and more! Check out the MusicMakers Archive!

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