Tag Archives: 2017 Teen Voice

The Cost of Building Your Studio

Getting started producing music comes with a lot of expenses. You’ll need to invest in a computer or laptop if you don’t already have one, you’ll need a DAW (digital audio workstation), an audio interface, a midi keyboard would be good to have, studio monitors and some type of sound proofing. You may also think of investing in a pair of headphones and a condenser microphone if you’ll be recording vocals.

To start making beats and producing music right away the only things you need are a computer, your choice of DAW, an audio interface and any good speakers. If you are not trying to spend so much right away I would recommend buying the Focusrite Scarlett Solo audio interface for only $99 which comes with two free DAW’s, Ableton Live Lite and Pro Tools First. These are great DAW’s to start out on. You can start making beats with any good speakers, but eventually you may want to upgrade to using studio monitors.

There’s a wide selection of DAW’s to choose from for Windows and Mac OS. Most DAW’s range from $100 to $800. A lot of mainstream production comes from Pro Tools which you can get for $599. There is also FL Studio for $199, Logic Pro for $299, Studio One for $99 or $299 for a professional version, Ableton for $449, Cubase for $99 and Reason for $399 just to name a few. Luckily there are free trial versions for most DAW’s as well as free downloadable DAW’s with limited functions. Picking your DAW should be based on your personal workflow and budget, so checking out some free trials before making a decision would help pick the right one for you. To read more about DAW’s and getting started producing music, click here.

The next piece of equipment to consider is an audio interface. An audio interface is used to connect studio equipment to your laptop or computer for professional sounding recordings. You can plug your microphones, headphones, midi keyboard, studio monitors and preamps into an audio interface. This allows you to deal with multiple inputs quicker and more efficiently. A great interface to invest in is the Focusrite Scarlett Solo for only $100 which also comes with Ableton Live Lite and Pro Tools DAW’s free. More audio interfaces to consider would be the Presonus AudioBox for $99 and the M-Audio M-Track C-Series for $99. After hearing the quality of the sound that is processed through the interface you won’t be disappointed in this investment.  

I would strongly suggest buying a midi keyboard also. These keyboards are used for sending midi signals and controls through a usb cable to connected devices. Using a midi keyboard will allow you to play out melodies using different instruments in your DAW and edit the data. Using these keyboards can also help you improve your workflow and get ideas from your head to your computer quickly. There are many midi controllers to choose from but some let you control more within your DAW than others. If you are looking for an inexpensive, easy to carry, yet powerful keyboard some good ones to consider are the Akai MPK Mini Mk2 for $99 or the Novation LaunchKey Mini Mk2 for $99.

Studio monitors are loudspeakers made for professional audio production. For production out of a home studio you won’t need the biggest, loudest studio monitors. Monitors like the KRK Rokit Powered Generation 3 Monitors for $149, the JBL LSR305-WH for $149 or the Alesis Elevate 3 for $99 would work just fine. Though you may want to get some type of sound proofing as well which is just making your room quieter by blocking out unnecessary noises. Some forms of soundproofing are using bass traps or acoustic panels that you can hang around your room. Isolation pads that you place under your monitors are also great because they let you get pinpoint accuracy from your monitors.

When it comes to recording vocals you’ll want to be using a condenser microphone for your recorded audio to result in stronger signals and have better, more accurate quality than using a dynamic microphone. Some good condenser microphones to consider are the MXL 990 Condenser Microphone with Shock mount for $99, the Audio-Technica AT2035 Cardioid for $149 and the AKG P120 Project Studio Condenser Microphone for $99. You might also want to buy a pop filter to go with your microphone. Pop filters are used for noise protection to reduce the popping sounds when recording vocals. There are many good pop filters for less than $30. You should also buy some good headphones, you’ll need them when recording and they’ll help a lot with getting the right mix. A great pair of headphones to consider are the AKG K240 for $69 and the Sony MDR-7506 for $99.

You don’t have to be spending a lot on studio equipment to start producing music. Whether or not you have the best equipment doesn’t determine if what you create will actually sound good. And you shouldn’t go over your personal budget when your just starting, there are always cheaper options that will still let you accomplish great things and allow you to gain more knowledge before spending more than you have to.

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The State of Free Speech in the Modern World

Free speech is one of the most important rights that everyone should have. Free speech is what allows us to further improve our society and government through discussion. It is a step in making an individual feel free, that is, one cannot feel free without the freedom to say or even think certain things. But what is free speech, really? It’s certainly a lot more complicated than the black and white of “you can either say whatever you want or you can’t”. For example, free speech also means that people have the freedom to think or say whatever they want about what another says using their own free speech. Thus, free speech does not protect you from the social repercussions of what you say. Free speech also does not necessarily protect the incitement of violence, as at that point it goes beyond normal speech and steps into the domain of threats. Definitions and boundary lines such as these, however, are where people disagree on what free speech is. This disagreement can clearly be shown in recent news.

The recent student protests and riots that have taken place across various college campuses are one example. These protests have largely been in response to the colleges in question inviting various speakers who are, let’s say, quite a big step away from the typical left-leaning opinions of the general college population. Those opposing the speakers claim that these speakers spread “hate speech”, and thus should not be allowed to speak at the college campuses as it gives them a platform to speak. The protesters have received a lot of criticism from both sides of the political spectrum, including former president Obama himself, saying that “I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view.”. Whether these speakers are actually hateful and spreading hate speech is an entirely different topic altogether, but it should go without saying that putting such a title on them goes on a case-by-case basis and is very subjective. The point, however, is that this is very clearly people trying to silence others based on their opinions. Whether or not those people are spreading hate speech is irrelevant, they should be allowed to speak nonetheless. If we find someone’s opinion to be distasteful, disagreeable, immoral, hateful, etc.,rather than trying to silence them, we should discuss their opinion with them. In this case, I would personally suggest attending their gathering to not only gain a new perspective on what they think and why they think that way, that is, to understand opposing points of view, but also to argue against them, ask them questions during the questioning period. Is that not what such gatherings are, at least in part, for? Jumping to a protest (though they have every right to do so) or even, in some cases, a riot simply because people do not agree with someone and dislike them being allowed to even speak publicly at all is simply unreasonable. To end on a quote from journalist Andrew Rosenthal, “The right of free speech cannot be parceled out based on whether we want to hear what the speaker has to say or whether we agree with those views. It means, quite often, tolerating the expression of views that we find distasteful, perhaps even repugnant.”. Also in recent free speech news, in a level up within the free speech silencing hierarchy, the German government has recently come under a whole lot of fire for its recent actions.

According to the New York Times, German authorities raided the homes of 36 people accused of putting “hateful postings” on social media. This has faced criticism from many sides, as how can a country truly be free if its citizens must constantly be wary of every word they say for fear of having their very home be raided and, possibly, arrest and legal persecution? As journalist Glenn Greenwald puts it, “Free speech rights means that government officials are barred from creating lists of approved and disapproved political ideas and then using the power of the state to enforce those preferences.”. This is exactly what is happening here. Thus, the only scenario in which this could be deemed just is if these people were actually inciting real and active violence, and thus being a threat to others and public safety as a whole. We don’t know the exact details of what these people posted, only that the wide majority of those accused were posting right-wing content, while an additional 2 were posting left-wing content and 1 final individual being accused of posting “threats or harassment based on someone’s sexual orientation”. The fact that the wide majority of those raided were right-wing has raised some eyebrows, implied some things, though it’s best not to leap to any conclusions. The fact is, however, that German authorities have used their power to raid the homes of people for what they have said online. This is, objectively, an infringement on free speech.

According to Forbes, German legislation recently passed a law that would allow them to fine social media companies up to $57 million simply for not removing “hate speech” in a timely manner. Companies must also submit a semi-annual report on their actions. Individuals themselves who have been appointed to oversee the whole procedure for each company may also be fined up to $5.8 million if things aren’t satisfactory. Originally, companies also had only a measly 24 hour period to remove content. After facing backlash, German legislation made a the law a little more lax, giving a week-long period instead rather than the previous 24 hours, while also excluding messenger and email providers, as well as stating that punishment will only be dealt out if the company in question has been actively refusing to cooperate, rather than dealing punishment as soon as one little piece of “hate speech” seeps through. This law has, as one might expect, seen a lot of criticism by free speech advocates and human rights experts, who argue that the law is very restrictive, places a large burden on social media companies, and is anti-free speech. This law, which forces the censorship of hate speech (a term with subjective definitions), is just one more in a line of similar laws implemented by German legislation, including jail time for Holocaust denial and hate speech against minorities. As Professor Wolfgang Shulz, a major legal expert in Europe, puts it, “There are many effective ways of addressing fake news or hateful speech that should be taken into account to minimize potential negative effects on freedom of speech”. Everyone deserves to speak their mind without legal repercussions, we can’t make exceptions, even if people have truly deplorable things to say. Making exceptions and censoring people is against the very principle of free speech, and freedom as a whole.

But none of this can compare to the kind of freedom of speech infringements and human rights violations as a whole that can be seen in some other countries. Examples include North Korea’s unparalleled human rights violations, China’s censorship (including, in recent news, censoring Winnie the Pooh), and Iran. Iran, for example, I could go on and on about in its many, many actions against free speech. In short, however, I will quote Iranian journalist and former government official Isa Saharkhiz, who compared being a journalist in Iran to “walking on a minefield”. Amidst jail time, whippings, and even death sentences for petty things such as allegedly insulting religious figures or leaders and the mass censorship of books and other media for not essentially working as propaganda machines, among a vast number of other things, Iran is an example of what we should aim to avoid in terms of free speech and human rights.

Free speech is a basic human right, as it should be. While some may be tempted to silence others because they perceive their opinions as hateful and harmful, we must remember that everyone deserves to be able to speak their mind, and instead of trying to silence others we should instead listen to them, try to understand their views and argue against them. In short, communicate. I’ll end with a quote from British 1800s politician Charles Bradlaugh: “Better a thousandfold abuse of free speech than denial of free speech”.

Music Production for Beginners

A passion like mine for music drives you to get up everyday to create music and can only be expressed through creating music. My passion has lead me to pursue a career in music production, starting out as just a hobby. I scoured the net and watched YouTube tutorials since there was no cheat sheet to follow. Consider this my cheat sheet for those of you interested in making beats and producing music. Before just jumping straight into producing and composing music, you may want to know a few things in advance.

There are endless possibilities of what you can create with music using different methods. All the possibilities and methods used by producers and musicians are known as music theory. Knowing some music theory, which is the study of all possibilities of music and how people compose or make music, something about scales and chords, and how to properly mix your tracks will always be useful when making beats and producing music. You can teach yourself some notes on a piano too. Knowing how to play an instrument, especially the piano will come in handy for composing music, however knowing music theory and knowing an instrument is not a necessity to start producing. Many of the music industries producers know how to play at least one instrument.  All you need is a computer or laptop, a DAW (digital audio workstation), and a creative mind.

A DAW is a computer software that allows you to record, edit and produce music. Finding the right DAW software out of all the options for you is an essential part in starting producing music even if you use a free DAW like Garageband, Audacity or Studio One 3 Prime. Luckily finding the right software for you isn’t the hardest part with most companies offering free trial versions of these DAW’s. There are many DAW programs available for Windows and Mac OS. Some popular programs are FL Studio, Logic, Pro Tools, Reason, Ableton, MPC, and Cubase. You should choose your program wisely based on your personal preferences and your workflow. You may find that the stock plugins and virtual instruments or audio units (VST/AU’s) may not be enough for you. That’s when you should look into purchasing new virtual instruments and effect plugins or downloading free plugins and VST’s for different sounds and instruments. VST stands for virtual studio technology and is a software interface for synthesizer sounds and instruments and effect plugin. Some very common VST’s are Nexus, Omnisphere, Kontakt, Purity, Exhale, and ElectraX, all of which have very different and unique instruments. Many of these VST’s are on the more expensive side though. You can also get plugins that manipulate sounds in your own image such as Gross Beat, MRhythmizer and Glitch. These are effect plugins used for time manipulation, repetition, scratching and gating effects. But you should also know how to manipulate sounds within the VST’s without external manipulation plugins. You’ll need to remember to not to get carried away with the technical things. Use the technology to enhance what you hear in your head.

If this article got you interested in music production or you were already interested, be on the lookout for more articles going further in depth with details about costs to get started and the importance of versatility and how to build your skill set.

Teen Homelessness

15 years old, kicked out of the house, where am I to go? My mother couldn’t handle my rebellious behavior and didn’t tell me where to go or who to call. An all too familiar plight facing teens, forced to “couch surf” and take refuge in abandoned homes and on the street.

Teen homelessness is not like regular homelessness. For teens it is mainly not having a stable environment to call home. With teen homelessness it is a great deal of movement. Whether it is in and out of shelters or couch surfing at familiar places. Couch surfing is when teens have no other choice but to make the couch their bed wherever they find a place to stay. For many teens when asked if they are homeless they will say no. However, they identify it as living in the street, but it is more when they are not able to identify where they are living as their own home. In most cases teens become homeless due to running away, being kicked out of an unstable home environment, being abandoned by their families, involvement in public systems, and having a history of residential instability and disconnection.

Between 500,000 and 2.8 million youth are homeless within the United States each year. 40% of homelessness teens identify as LGBT. In shelters, LGBTQ teens face harassment, stigmatization, or abuse from peers and staff for being LGBTQ. These same homeless youth that identify as LGBTQ, often face high risk of conduct disorder, PTSD, and suicidal behavior. 21-40% of homeless youth have been sexually abused compared to 1-3% of the general youth population. 6-22% of homeless girls are pregnant. They either are pregnant and become homeless as a result of being pregnant, or face sexual abuse while being homeless and become pregnant. Homelessness puts teens at higher risk for physical abuse, sexual exploitation, mental health disabilities, substance abuse and death.

75% of homeless or runaway youth have dropped out of school. There are many educational barriers for homeless children. For example, the inability to meet enrollment requirements, lack of transportation, high mobility resulting in lack of school stability, lack of school supplies and clothing, lack of awareness and support from school staff, and poor health, fatigue and hunger. New York State introduced a bill to amend the education law. The bill would allow a homeless child to designate a public school as the child’s school of origin requiring the school district to provide transportation. This should reduce the number of student drop-outs due to homelessness.

Homeless teens face risk of becoming delinquents while being homeless. Many delinquent acts that homeless teens would take part in would be stealing, selling drugs, survival sex, and more as strategies to survive. After leaving juvenile placements teens face challenges as they reenter the community, home, and school/ workforce. As homeless teens try to return home they return to an unstable home setting, face a lack of family support, struggle to remain in school, lack the skills needed for employment, and experience a gap in behavioral health services. Most of these problems would lead youth to end up in a homeless situation again starting a cycle of teen homelessness and become a problem for them in their adult ages.

If you or anybody you know need help in the battle against teen homelessness there is help for you. Community Partnerships for Youth Empowerment provide services to help at risk teens. Service includes immediate access to shelter for youth under the age of 22, emergency resources such as food, clothing and hygiene, and referrals to other community agencies for specific needs. For more information call their hotline at 518- 265-8509, Monday through Friday from 9 am to 9 pm.