Khac Hai

How are you improving your abilities?

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Every week I set aside some time and spend about 3-4 hours focusing on learning equipment I already have.

Last week I decided to look into a problem I have been having with one of my UHFR mics. The noise floor was substantially higher. So I decided to play with it and see whether the mic or the receiver was the culprit and which I needed to send to SHURE for repair. Well, in the process I learned that the Receiver was great and when I swapped the handheld frequencies it wasn't interference... After much more playing, I realized that the HH level was dropped 10DB inside the unit. I thought, hmmm I wonder why, I just raised the level back to 0, dropped my gain in the console 6db and low and behold, no hiss! The vocalist that uses that mic is a lot louder and along the line someone gained his HH down a little to compensate. I had never even paid attention to it because my levels all looked great in the receiver and console.

Taking time to play and learn my gear has been one of the best educators I have ever found. Nothing beats experience and hands on.

Now to hop onto my Hog4 console and figure out some more stuff!

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I keep to my number one rule -

Write 1 song EVERYDAY. No matter what. 

Since music is fulltime, i'll map out a time of day, where i just sit down and work on new stuff outside of other projects. And this is everyday, no matter what. Even if i'm sick, i'll keep to it.

If i'm lacking inspiration, i go for a walk. I'm pretty lucky i live in a place where if i go one way, i'll get straight down to the beach, and the other way straight into a forest. This really helps me keep inspiration flowing, and it's a nice way to meditate, and really get through all the ''daily thoughts''.

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I try to compose every day for an hour or two. Sometimes there is simply no time, because I work and study at the same time ... But when possible, I try not to make excuses. And at least I spend two hours composing. I do not try to do a song in one day (since then I get frustrated if it does not stay the way I want). But I am composing the same song in intervals of several days.

I also listen to a lot of music (obvious, right?), Also knowing new composers and new styles of music. That gives you many ideas too that you can then shape when it comes to sitting and composing.

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Something I've found useful is to find books on theory (there are a ridiculous number of them online for any aspect you can imagine. I mostly use jazz and 20th century classical ones.) and trying to implement what you're reading into test projects. They don't even have to be loops, you can just mess around with a couple chords, rhythmic ideas, instrumentation, etc. It might sound a bit artificial at first, but you'd be amazed at how much more you can learn from a piece of music once you understand how and why it works.

The best place to start is probably figuring out jazz harmony. Once you've got that down, you can basically slap any set of chords together and get a nice chord progression out of it (which you can use as a skeleton for your track).

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I pay particular close attention to problems that I run into on the job. There are time when you can't stop to work and resolve a problem. So make note of them, and make sure it NEVER happens again. I'm working on switching from Nuendo and Logic back to Pro Tools. The other day I couldn't remember the key commands in Pro Tools to extend the selection to the end of the last region on the same track. I also couldn't remember the key command to commit edited comp tracks from within the take folder (because there isn't a key command for that. You have to assign it duh). It annoyed me to no end. The second my client walked out the door, I pulled out my list, and repeated the keystrokes until I was blue in the face.

For me there's nothing that makes you learn new s*** like learning from your own mistakes.

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The best way to improve for me is always to listen to as many great music as possible and pay close attention to the mixing, mastering and overall production on each track... That will train your ears and mind and then you just have to open your DAW and try to "replicate" that level of quality... Do you ever hear someone say "If it sounds good, it's good?". If you really know what's good, then you'll eventually be able to make it sound good as well, with work and dedication.

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