Music Theory Lesson Five – Intervals Part I

The distance between two notes is called an interval.  Music is all about the relationship from one note to another and these intervallic distances are measured in a very precise way.  The names of these intervals and how they relate to the 12 musical keys should be memorized, much like the numeric multiplication tables.  Understanding and internalizing these relationships is one of the most important aspect of music theory. 

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Audio-Technica AT4050 Multi-Pattern Condenser Microphone
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Music Theory Lesson Four – The Circle of 4ths and 5ths

What is the circle of 4ths and 5ths?  This video breaks down this common circular diagram into an easy to understand chart that shows the order of keys along with their corresponding accidentals.  The 4ths ascend as flat keys and the 5ths ascend as sharps.  Also importantly discussed is how the reverse order of the circle of 4ths follows the exact same order as the ascending circle of 5ths.  There are multiple ways to think about the same thing.  Important things to remember include the semi-tone relationship of both intervals.  There are 5 half steps in a perfect 4th and 7 half steps in a perfect 5th. 

EQUIPMENT

Audio-Technica AT4050 Multi-Pattern Condenser Microphone
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M-Audio Keystation 49  
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GoPro HERO5 Black
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Music Theory Lesson Three – Modes and Minor Scales

A minor scale is nothing more than playing a major scale, but starting on a different note.  This idea of maintaining the major key but starting on different scale degrees is known as modes.  Each scale degree has a corresponding mode, each with their own unique flavor.  Just like there are 7 notes in a major scale, there are 7 musical modes.  Luckily, the two most common modes are major and minor, also known as Ionian and Aeolian.  They are both essentially the same scale, just starting on different degrees of the scale.  This means that if you already know the major scale, you are very close to also being able to play its relative minor. 

EQUIPMENT

Audio-Technica AT4050 Multi-Pattern Condenser Microphone
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M-Audio Keystation 49   
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GoPro HERO5 Black
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Music Theory Lesson Two – Major Scales

The major scale is the foundation of all keys, chords and musical modes.  There are 12 major scales to learn.  This video starts in the key of C and gives the semi-tone formula that shows the blueprint to playing the major scale starting on any note.  This video also introduces new musical terms that will allow you to think about music more precisely as well as communicate your ideas better to other musicians.  After watching the video, discover the remaining major scales not addressed using the W W H W W W H formula. 

EQUIPMENT

Audio-Technica AT4050 Multi-Pattern Condenser Microphone ► http://amzn.to/2oBcyBd
M-Audio Keystation 49 ► http://amzn.to/2FiDnUU
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Music Theory Lesson One – Note Letter Names

Welcome to the first lesson of Practical Music Theory!  We’re going to start at the very beginning by identifying the notes of the keyboard.  Regardless of the instrument you play, this internalization is the foundation that all other musical concepts will be built upon.  Learning how the notes on your instrument relate to the keyboard will allow you to “see” how music is organized.  Practice identifying the notes through repetition until completely memorized.  Once you no longer need to “think” about the letter names and have embedded them in your mind at a subconscious level, proceeded to the next lesson. 

EQUIPMENT

Audio-Technica AT4050 Multi-Pattern Condenser Microphone ► http://amzn.to/2oBcyBd
M-Audio Keystation 49 ► http://amzn.to/2FiDnUU
GoPro HERO5 Black ► https://amzn.to/2GO0R4t

 

How To Play Piano Chords Smoothly – Progression #1 Beginner / Intermediate

This video breaks down a simple 4 note / 4 chord progression and shows HOW to practice! By breaking down the chords into small chunks you’ll learn how to play piano chords smoothly!

There is also a theory breakdown about half way through that analyzes the chord names as well as the intervals contained within.

EQUIPMENT

Audio-Technica AT4050 Multi-Pattern Condenser Microphone
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M-Audio Keystation 49  
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GoPro HERO5 Black
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AKAI LPK25 Wireless Midi Controller Review, Setup, Demo and Manual

Click here to order:  https://amzn.to/2uTGACA

Welcome to the world of wireless MIDI controllers!  It seems like everything these days is becoming wireless and AKAI has decided to be one of the first to introduce this into the pro audio market.  The style and design of this MIDI controller is simple, compact and basic yet it comes with a powerful arpeggiator that will be discussed and demonstrated in detail later in this post and video.    Also, if you’re having difficulty trouble shooting the AKAI LPK25 Wireless setup, keep reading because that will be explained here as well!

One of the greatest selling points about the AKAI LPK25 Wireless is it’s small, simple and light design.  The wireless option is battery powered by 3 AA batteries.  It also comes with a USB wire for direct connection if you prefer connecting direct or in the event that the batteries die.  This device is plug and play so no drivers are needed.  The user manual is short and explains everything you need to know in just three pages.

The keys are not full size and are very light to the touch.  This might be difficult to get used to if you actually play piano and would like to feel your way around the keyboard like usual.  The action however is acceptable and does the job quite well for what it is.  Of course, being only 25 keys or 2 octaves in length, along the left side of the controller are octave shift buttons which allows you to access the complete range of the sampler or virtual instrument.  There is also a sustain port available to add a pedal.

Pairing the device is a little different than one might expect.  The AKAI LPK25 Wireless will NOT show up in the bluetooth settings and needs to be discovered directly within the audio application.  AKAI is compatible with Garage Band and a few other apps however not everything is supported.  Be sure to check on the official site for compatibility and up to date support information.

Once connected the wireless range is quite large as I had to actually go outside before maxing out it’s limit.  This got me thinking about all sorts of ways to utilize the wireless feature.  At the moment, I haven’t really come up with anything profound other than the fact that with no wires involved, it’s super portable and can quickly be set up in any environment. This brings us to the arpeggiator which is probably the funnest thing about the AKAI LPK25 Wireless Midi Controller!  While holding a combination of buttons on the left, the keys can be pushed to cycle through many different arpeggiator options.  Speeds offered include, quarter note, quarter note triplet, eighth note, eighth note triplet, sixteenth note, sixteenth note triplet, thirty second note and thirty second note triplets!  There is also a tap tempo feature which quickly and easily sets the tempo to the desired beat, whether syncing to the tempo of your DAW or just setting the desired tempo you hear inside your mind.

Aside from the speed and rate, there are also a number of arpeggiator options in terms of the direction, if certain notes repeat and also how the arpeggiator operates with the latch feature.  This basically means that once you push the keys, the arpeggiator will continue without needing to hold the keys down like a sustained chord.  The number of octaves can also be changed from one, two, three or four.  Once you begin to play with all these features yourself, you’ll soon understand how inspiring this can be for new ideas.

Overall, this is a great little MIDI controller that should not be underestimated.  It comes at a nice price and is one of the first in its kind to have the wireless feature.  It is very compact and portable making it ideal for producing while on the go from location to location.  The arpeggiator is an added bonus but could quickly become an essential piece in your production process adding a special variety and spice to your music you might otherwise never have thought of.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about the AKAI LPK25 Wireless Midi Controller!  Please support the channel by subscribing and hitting the like button.  Also, if you decide to purchase the controller for yourself, please do so by clicking on the link below.  It helps support the channel and allows me to continue contributing more informative content.  Thanks for watching and check back soon for reviews of new products!

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AKG K553 MkII Review | Closed-Back Studio Headphones

🎧  Click to purchase – AKG K553 MkII Closed-Back Studio Headphones

The AKG K553 MkII closed-back studio headphones are designed for mixing, monitoring and mastering, though this is not it’s only application.  One of the major strengths of this headphone is literally how STRONG it has been constructed.  Therefore, they are equally suitable for recreational use while delivering professional studio quality sound.  The ear pads are comfortable and quite large.  If you have a very small head, they might not be as snug as you’d like.  However, if you have a large head or lots of hair, or like to wear your headphones with hats, you’ll find that these are absolutely a perfect fit.  The closed back design contains the majority of the sound within the ear cup however, it is not a perfect seal and outside sounds are still audible to a degree. 

Despite it’s durability and strength, the headphones are actually quite light and only weigh 1.37 pounds.  The headband is made of metal with adjustable numeric gauges on both sides that snap for a very precise fit.  The padding at the top of the headphone is very minimal but doesn’t seem to cause any discomfort.  This is probably due to the massive circular ear pads, spanning about 4 and a quarter inches all the way around.  The padding is soft and leather like, with a squishy give and completely engulfs your ears for an intimate musical experience. 

Another nice feature about the headphones themselves is that they swivel a quarter of a turn in one direction and then and then a full 90 degrees in the opposite direction, allowing the headphones to be placed conveniently and safely on a flat surface.  This feature is also great for storage or travel since in this position they take up less space.  DJ’s will particularly find this feature useful allowing for easy monitoring of upcoming tracks without actually putting the headphones completely on their head. 

In addition to the swivel, the cups also have a range of motion in the opposite direction that helps to conform to the contour of your head.  The inside covering of the speakers themselves are conveniently labeled with a large L and R to insure an accurate stereo representation. 

So all those features are awesome, but how do they actually sound?  The AKG K553 MkII closed-back studio headphones actually have a very unique sonic output compared to other headphones within the same price range.  While most of it’s competitors are focusing on crazy bass and sparkling highs, the K553’s strength actually comes from it’s beautiful mid range.  This isn’t to say that the K553’s don’t have bass or high end range, but rather that the headphones are flat with a special and realistic emphasis on mid frequencies that make vocals, horns and other acoustic instruments come to life like no other. 

With this strength in mind, these headphones are best suited for genres of music that are not heavily bass driven like folk, rock, jazz, classical, salsa and other world music that has a more acoustic texture.  The headphones have a dark and rich tone, however the sound stage is not very wide with more focus being put on the center. 

In terms of price, the AKG K553 MkII headphones sell for $199.99 on the AKG website.  They are however currently available from amazon.com for almost half that price!  There are many suppliers to choose from but it’s hard to beat amazon’s quality control, speed of delivery and ease of return for any reason.  I’ve included the amazon link in the description below and greatly appreciate your support if you decide to purchase through my link, of which I will make a small commission that comes at no additional charge to you. 

To give you a brief history of the lineage, the K553 MkII is the latest addition to the K550 family.  Many improvements have been made in sound quality and design.  The K553’s have more high end than the K550’s.  There has also been a high mid frequency spike correction around the 6k range.  The K553 has both Pro and MkII models.  At the time of this writing, AKG has discontinued the Pro version and has replaced it with the MkII, though Pro models are still widely available and in circulation. 

The main difference between the two is the MkII’s now has a new detachable wire.  This has been heralded as an important improvement increasing it’s professional value as well as preserving the live of the headphones incase of wire damage from wear and tear.  The wire itself is a mini XLR connection and though not very common, is still much better than being directly hardwired to the headphone.  The opposite end of the wire has an eighth inch pin connector and also comes with a quarter inch adapter for easy connection to a wide variety of devices. 

And finally, it’s nice to notice that in addition to these great sonic characteristics is an ascetically pleasing and stylish design that one can wear just as well as a fashion statement.  The all black color is professional and distinguished, matching with any color and acceptable in any situation. 

Well that about wraps it up for this AKG K553 MkII review.  I hope you enjoyed it and learned about it’s unique sound and excellent features.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below and I’ll do my best to answer in a timely manner.  Also, I’m always looking for new products to review, so let me know what you’re interested in.   Remember to hit that like button and subscribe if you found this helpful.  Come back soon and thanks for watching!

🎧  Click to purchase – AKG K553 MkII Closed-Back Studio Headphones

Check out more headphone reviews:
Shure SRH940 Headphone Unboxing and Honest Review
COWIN E7 Headphone Review with Sound Test

Launchkey 25 Novation Midi Controller | An Honest Review

Click the links to order:
Launchkey 25
Launchkey 49
Launchkey 61

Smaller Full Size Key Alternative
M-Audio Session Keystudio 25

Are you looking to purchase a midi controller but are overwhelmed by the options and expense?  Well you’re in luck because if you keep listening, I’m going to break down one of the most popular midi controllers on the market today – the Launchkey 25 Novation.

The company Novation was founded in 1992 and has a long track record of producing quality musical equipment.  In recent years, they’ve teamed up with Ableton which creates a very connected and special user experience, however this controller is compatible with pretty much every DAW available today.  Even if you don’t have a music program, included in the box are directions to download Ableton Lite so you can get started making music right away. 

The launch key comes in three different lengths, with 25 keys being the smallest and most compact.  The 49 and 61 key options have some added faders and buttons, making good use of the extra space.  All three versions have velocity sensitive keys and pads for an expressive tactile experience. 

Starting from the left, the Launchkey 25 has two circular dials, controlling the pitch and modulation.  Above that, there are two buttons that increases or decreases the register of the two octave keyboard.  The keys are full size and have a pleasantly realistic touch.  Above the octave transpose buttons is the track selection option.  If using this controller in conjunction with Ableton, this will allow you to select different tracks without the use of the mouse.  When the two buttons are held together, this allows you to change the midi channel which is universally recognized by all music programs.

On top of that, there is a three digit numerical display that typically ranges from 0 – 127 representing MIDI CC data.  This display shows the change of every fader, knob and wheel, depending on what is being moved.  Along the top there are 8 knobs and below that, 16 pads that can be assigned to trigger clips or samples.  Directly out of the box, the pads feel a little stiff, but this is probably a good thing since in time they will have more give. 

Lastly, all the way to the right are dedicated transport pads with stop, start, record and other navigation controls.  The In Control button helps to extend functionality to Digital Audio Workstations other than Ableton.  Nearly every key, pad, knob, fader and wheel can be mapped to control parameters of you choice, by assigning “midi learn” inside your DAW.  These changes are applied directly into the project or session file and not to the controller itself.  This means that when opening a new project, you’ll need to reassign any changes previously made.  To save time, create a blank session with the desired midi mapping and save it as a template.  This way, all future sessions will load up to your liking.

Getting back to the features and design, the launch key is fully bus powered.  This is an awesome feature that contributes to its ease of portability.  Along the back, you’ll also notice a sustain port and power in, though no power adapter comes with the unit since it’s not needed.  The bottom and sides of the keyboard have a sporty green accent color along with matching USB wire.  It’s also very light, weighing in just shy of 6 pounds.  And to be clear, this midi controller is compatible with both MAC and PC.

So that’s the overview of the Novation Launchkey 25.  Now the question is, should you buy it?  Well there are a lot of options out there, each with a different set of pros and cons.  Let’s start by talking about the size.

If you’re interested in a 25 key midi controller, chances are you want it to be compact and possibly will be traveling with it to and from different locations.  If this is the case, the launch key 25 is actually quite big especially compared to some other 25 key midi controllers out there such as the key rig 25 by m-audio.  When putting it inside a backpack or suitcase, every inch counts – that’s what she said.  So while the launch key 25 is relatively compact and will fit nicely on a small desk, it is not the most compact option. 

Another thing to consider is how much you value having built in drum pads.  Yes they look really cool and light up when you hit them, but you can just as easily program drums on the actual keys of the keyboard and some might argue that you actually have greater control over velocity since there is actual space for a key to move vs a flat, stationary pad.  My personal opinion is, if you’re interested in having pads, assignable knobs and faders, space probably is not an issue, in which case, I would recommend buying the 49 or 61 key models. 

Depending on your skill as a keyboard player, having more than two octaves is really important if you want to program realistic piano parts with proper chord voicings.  If however, you are just looking to program a lead, bass or lay down some pads, most of those musical elements will fit within the 2 octave, 25 key range without changing the octave transpose excessively. 

The next thing to consider is the price.  Currently, the launch key 25 sells for about $150, which is quite expensive for just two octaves.  However, for just $50 more, you can add 2 more octaves and get the 49 key model.  And just $50 on top of that will take you to 5 octaves.  $250 for 5 octaves is a pretty incredible price, especially compared to other keyboards that have built in sounds.

The Launchkey 25  Midi Controller manual can be downloaded directly from the Novation website.  PC users can also download the Novation Launchkey 25 driver on the same download page.  A Mac driver is not necessary and connects straight out of the box.  

Novation Launchkey 25 Driver

Well that about raps it up.  I hope this answered some of your questions and gave you some insight about the Novation Launchkey family.  If you’re on the fence, stop over analyzing and just get it!  It really is a great controller and will serve you well for years to come.  If you’d like to know more or have a specific questions, feel free to leave it in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer it.  I hope you enjoyed this review and thanks for watching. 

Launchkey 25
Launchkey 49
Launchkey 61

Smaller Full Size Key Alternative
M-Audio Session Keystudio 25

For more midi controller reviews, click the link below:
Midi Controllers

AKG K553 MkII Comprehensive Headphone Review VS DT 770 Pro

🎧  AKG K553 MkII
🎧  Beyerdynamic DT Pro 770

Here is my comprehensive review of the AKG K553 MkII and how they compare to the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro headphones!  A lot of research went into this and I tried to cover every issue people have been expressing on different forms and review sites.  I hope you enjoy and thanks for the support.  

The AKG K553 MkII headphones are designed for mixing, monitoring and mastering, though this is not it’s only application.  One of the major strengths of this headphone is literally how STRONG it has been constructed.  Therefore, they are equally suitable for recreational use while delivering professional studio quality sound.  The ear pads are comfortable and quite large.  If you have a very small head, they might not be snug enough.  However if you have a large head or lots of hair, you’ll find that these are absolutely a perfect fit.  The closed back design contains the majority of the sound within the ear cup however, it is not a perfect seal and outside sounds are still audible to a degree.  

In terms of price, the AKG K553 MkII headphones have a list price of $199.99 on the AKG website.  They are available for less when imported from the factory in China, however there have been reports of damaged items due to the shipping process.  AKG’s main headquarters and assembly plant is located in Austria.  If buying online, choose a distributor with high quality control that sources from the UK such as Amazon.  Mistakes can happen anywhere but at least you’ll have peace of mind with Amazon’s simple return policy which is worth the few extra dollars.  

The K553 is the latest addition to the K550 family.  Many improvements have been made in sound quality and design.  The K553’s have more high end than the K550’s.  There has also been a mid frequency spike correction now available on the K553’s.  The K553 has both Pro and MkII models.  At the time of this writing, AKG has discontinued the Pro version and has replaced it with the MkII, though Pro models are still widely available and in circulation.  The main difference has to do with the wire being detachable on the newer K553 model.  The advantage to this is if the wire becomes damaged and the rest of the headphones are fine, you can easily replace the wire.  The wire itself actually has a mini XLR connection and is not very common, yet it’s better than being hard wired to the headphone directly. 

AKG K553 Replacement PadsThough AKG does not make official AKG K553 Replacement Pads, third party manufacturers sell generic versions that increase the life and usability of the headphones.  They come in both black and gray.  

Compared to its popular rival, the DT 770 Pro headphones have accentuated highs and lows, with a greater sound stage and a more open experience.  This is great for genres of music that are bass driven.  In the defense of the K553’s, its strength is more suited for classical, jazz and other music where the bass is not the featured sonic element.  The K533’s have beautiful, clear mids that make any vocal or instrument come to life like no other.

🎧  AKG K553 MkII
🎧  Beyerdynamic DT Pro 770

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