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High Fives: The Soundfly Staff Chooses Our Top 5 Favorite Articles from 2018

It’s the end of the year, and while we’re excited to look forward to what’s coming up in the future, it’s also pretty darn exciting to look back at what we were able to make happen in 2018.

We ran over 320 articles on Flypaper this year, including reaching the meaningful milestone of our 1000th article ever. So when I asked the Soundfly staff to go back through all of them to find their top five favorites, they were… well, kind of annoyed. Especially on a Friday. But after looking back through the vast, expansive landscape of editorial whimsy that is our humble publication, it’s hard not to love the experience of revisiting all the highlights from the past 12 months.

There have been many. Here are the Soundfly staff’s favorite articles from 2018. Enjoy!

~ Jeremy Young
Editor-in-Chief, Flypaper

John Hull (Head of Production)

“3 Tips for Getting Out of a Lyric-Rhyming Rut”

As someone who almost never writes lyrics, it was helpful to see a handful of different types of rhymes broken out. The one that really jumped out to me was Joni Mitchell’s AAAX rhyme scheme. Sometimes, just seeing things broken out like that reminds you that not everything has to rhyme.

“Let’s Get Weird: Crazy Pedals for Crazy Guitarists – Distortion”

One of the things I love about this is simply seeing the pedal designs side by side. Who decided that a great place to get artistic would be these tiny metal boxes that we stomp on to change our guitar sound? It was also cool to see how passionate our community is about their favorites.

“A Lesson Learned While Trying Not to Be a ‘Piano Diva'”

I enjoyed the story in this one. As an engineer, you wind up working in lots of different spaces that all have their quirks. It was easy to relate to the moments where you’re looking for workarounds, phoning a friend, and just trying to do the best with what you’ve got.

“7 Weird Mixing Terms: What They Mean and How to Use Them”

When working on the mixing course, I remember having a sort of “aha” moment with Ian [Temple, CEO/founder of Soundfly] about how we talk about mixes. It’s such a “fuzzy” topic. You’re trying to describe a sound, but you can’t touch it or see it, so you use other adjectives you use to describe other experiences. Fun to think about.

“The Essential 2018 Holiday Gift Guide for Musicians and Music Lovers”

It’s always fun to see what new innovative gadgets and completely silly things another year has gifted us. If anyone’s doing an office Secret Santa, the Moog One is sure to be a hit.

Mahea Lee (VP of Learning & Curriculum Development)

“5 Steps to Building a Loyal Tribe”

In the age of social media, it’s really easy to fixate on numbers. In this article, Angela encourages us to focus on quality, rather than just quantity. I love this quote in particular: “It’s better to deeply connect to 100 people than to vaguely reach 500.”

“12 Musical Works That You Didn’t Know Brian Eno Produced”

The title has it right. I didn’t know he produced those works. I like a well-written article accompanied by a title that gets me.

“Here Are Our 8 Favorite Films About Jazz Horn Players”

So… the year that Birdman came out, I was in that post-college phase, where freelance work, temp jobs, and internships prevent any real awareness of what’s going on in pop culture. I kid you not, it wasn’t until 10 minutes in that I realized this was not a biopic about Charlie Parker. I thought maybe it was one of those things where the public knows one version of someone’s nickname, but someone close to them called them by a variation of it… and there was so much talk about the score… I dunno. Anyway, this article introduced me to an actual Charlie Parker biopic. Birdman is good too, though.

“10 Hilariously Bad Examples of Product Placement in Music Videos”

Because of my role at Soundfly, the bulk of my interaction with the internet is abnormally productive. This article just made me laugh, which was pretty nice.

“Student Spotlight: Volumes 3–8”

I’m so proud of our Mainstage and Headliners Club communities. Our students are some of the most talented, creative, and unique artists I’ve encountered, and it’s really nice to be able to celebrate their work. We have a bunch of great pieces in the cue, so we’ll be publishing more volumes from this series out in the new year!

Ian Temple (CEO & Founder)

“Fanny Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann: The Inspiring Composers Music History Missed”

A fantastic story of two talented composers that deserve more recognition. Also, I think listening to their music with an understanding of their context makes it even more beautiful in a number of ways.

“How to Convey These 8 Emotions Using Chords and Harmony”

I was so surprised by the incredible range of responses we got from people from all over the Soundfly community! Some of these progressions are ones I’ve never used before, and I loved playing around with them.

“A Beginner’s Guide to Morton Feldman — an Intimate Encounter with Sound”

So obscure. So passionately written. Such a big reward when you spend time with it!

“Is Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer the Next Purple Rain or Something Else Entirely?”

Because it was really fun to have this discussion and to dive this deep into a new work of music.

“Don’t Be Boring: A Musician’s Guide to Branding”

Because a lot of people I respect linked to this piece and it has been very useful as a tool for students looking to learn more about branding. Highly practical.

Zoe Young (Director of Digital Marketing)

“Chartmania!! I Broke Down Every Song That Reached the Billboard Top 5 in 2017”

The work that went into this analysis is just mind blowing, and the data that came out of all that work is totally fascinating. It’s possibly the only thing Dean could have done to come close to recapturing the glory of his 2017 masterpiece.

“The Science Behind Our Approach to Online Learning”

This one is maybe a little bit of shameless Soundfly promotion, but we’ve put a ton of time and learning into how to build the best online course experience that actually succeeds at teaching people what they seek to learn, and to see the science of our approach laid out in one place is a nice reminder of, “Oh yeah, we actually are doing something interesting here.”

“New Genre Alert: TUWDSSHSWAI!”

This article is a must-read. I run into a new TUWDSSHSWAI act pretty much every day, and it kills me that the term has not caught on more generally so that I can just drop it in convo and have everyone know what I’m talking about… yet.

“Meet Takeo Ischi: Germany’s Virtuosic Chicken Yodeler”

This article seems silly and lightweight (and it is), but the chicken yodeler turns out to be a pretty charming and inspiring guy who followed an unconventional path in pursuing his passions. I think we could probably all stand to gain from a little more chicken yodeler in our own lives.

“Seven Beats to Heaven: Our Favorite Songs in 7/4 and 7/8”

This article came about when one of our friends emailed us out of the blue with a playlist of songs with seven beats per measure saying, essentially, “Hey, here’s a random passion project of mine.” And then one of our writers put together a whole piece on it and it’s great. I love it when music nerdiness brings people together, and even more so when it produces something interesting and useful.

Arthur Lewis (Head of Product)

“How to Convey These 8 Emotions Using Chords and Harmony”

I love examples of practice in the wild like this. Instead of just saying, “This type of chord is mysterious,” you ask all sorts of different musicians how they communicate “mystery,” and you end up with so many interesting ideas and different perspectives.

“5 Compositional Elements That Define the Music of Ennio Morricone”

I love how in-depth this article goes. Dre really took the time to dig into what makes Morricone’s music tick.

“The Expanding Triplet, and How to Internalize Time with Practice”

So many techniques in here I would have never otherwise thought about.

“New Genre Alert: TUWDSSHSWAI!”

It really felt like we had our finger on the pulse of something here — it’s too bad it didn’t catch on… yet.

“10 Times Invited Fans Absolutely Crushed It on Stage”

Kids getting called onstage to play music with their heroes and nailing it — what’s not to love?

Carter Lee (Community & Mentor Manager)

“Humanize Your MIDI Sounds with These 5 Production Tips”

I love every point in this article. This is a subject I can’t recall being addressed but absolutely needed to be. MIDI is often treated with very little finesse and the results can be very “stiff” and stale. Patrick has some very simple and helpful tips here to help make tracks sound much more natural. Fantastic article.

“7 Essential Tips for Home-Producing Your Vocals”

Incredibly useful and I found this article at the right time, personally. Very detailed and the visuals in this article are fantastic. Plenty of technical advice that could be used by anyone right away as well as some more “classic producer” advice that is just as important.

“Childish Japes on Making Art to Music and Making Music to Artwork”

Good friends of mine and a band I really admire. Each one of these guys is so unbelievably talented and the Childish Japes music is incredibly unique. Evan did a great job with this interview, and I especially loved the “incorrect music” question and the way JP handled it.

“Why Keeping Mistakes on Your Album Can Work in Your Favor”

Very well written. I love the articles that center around a philosophy in music production that is seldom talked about, but when addressed make perfect sense. I love the stories in here as well, particularly Michael Stipe laughing on “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight.”

“How to Avoid Burnout as a Musician”

Very important and something that just isn’t talked about enough. Mental health issues are far more prevalent in music than actually talked about, and this article does a great job on shining a bit of light on that.

Lisa Occhino (Director of Marketing & Communications)

“What Are Chord Pizzas?”

I love music theory, and I think these geometric representations of chords are such a cool (and tasty) way to conceptualize it!

“7 Weird Mixing Terms: What They Mean and How to Use Them”

I’ve always heard people say things like, “The guitar sounds boxy,” but I never fully understood what a lot of those mixing terms mean. I love that this article not only explains each term, but gives practical tips on fixing or achieving that specific sound.

“10 Bizarre Yet Functional Guitars That Are More Than Just Gimmicks”

These guitars are just insanely awesome to see in action.

“Don’t Be Boring: A Musician’s Guide to Branding”

Instead of giving a vague definition of branding and calling it a day, this article nails the specifics in a musician-friendly way. It actually walks you through a few different practical approaches to building an artist brand that I found really clear and helpful.

“Why Writing Music All About Yourself Hurts Your Songwriting Craft”

I remember this article being rather polarizing when we published it, but as a songwriter who doesn’t always draw from direct personal experience, I really appreciated the sentiment. “Truly meaningful music makes the listener feel known and understood” — such a great reminder.

Martin D. Fowler (Associate Producer)

“Don’t Be Boring: A Musician’s Guide to Branding”

The biggest problem I’ve been having recently is how to put some boundaries around the scope, style, and branding of a new project I’ve been working on, called WNNR. I just came across this article, and reading through it both 1) reminded me how much I love Simon Sinek’s Start With Why book (and concept), and 2) brought together a bunch of sporadic ideas about who I am and what this project’s artistry is truly about. I think everyone should read and consider the ideas in this article!

“6 Bands Who Have Attempted to Cover Aphex Twin”

As a huge Aphex Twin fan, whenever a tune of his comes on as performed by another artist, it gives me a distinct giddy pleasure. Even just earlier today, Alarm Will Sound’s cover of “Cliffs” came on, and as soon as I recognized the melody and what was happening, I nearly jumped out of my seat. The music itself is so intricate, adventurous, and beautiful, and hearing live musicians attempt to recreate these bleeps and bloops in organic textures is just a tremendous musical sight and sound to behold.

“Son Lux on Composing for Contrast at the Forefront”

Son Lux is absolutely one of my favorite bands out there right now, so getting to be the one to pick their brains about the particulars of their processes was a unique joy, and I am therefore uniquely biased. But I also think their actual answers gave me some of the most significant musical food-for-thought of anything I read this year, and I keep coming back to it.

“The Musician’s Guide to Taxes: Top Tax Deductions”

What can I say… I had a half-decent year with my music last year, and this was very helpful in navigating the tax system this past tax season. I hope we do more of these practical business-side articles!

“The Science Behind Our Approach to Online Learning”

It’s so nice to finally have our philosophy synthesized and summarized in a way that I can constantly reference and refresh my own memory by. I am often in conversations with musicians and others curious about this “online music learning experience,” and this is a great way for me to bridge the gap for people. I also just think Ian is particularly articulate on the subject here, and it fills me with joy to remember why I’m doing all this in the first place.

Jeremy Young (Editor-in-Chief of Flypaper)

“Not Even Aerosmith Can Tell the Difference Between ‘Cryin” and ‘Crazy'”

When Nick discovered that Aerosmith had mistakenly used the same exact thumbnail for the music videos for their songs “Cryin'” and “Crazy” on their official YouTube page, we were flabbergasted, and it prompted him to take a closer look at just how identical those songs really are in almost every other imaginable way. Aerosmith has since rectified their error (can we take credit for this?), but for a mind-exploding read, look no further.

“Lots and Lots of Colored Dots: A Fretboard Explanation of Pop Tonality”

Here’s a music teacher with a knack for thinking outside the box. Is this simply a guitar-centric visual mnemonic for remembering scales and tonalities, or a new way of teaching harmonic theory entirely? Either way, learning that it was in fact the students who prompted this whole color-coded system in the first place is a priceless moment you just have to relive again by rereading this article.

“Scarlatti and Rossini Prove That Cat-Inspired Composing Is Hundreds of Years Old”

It should come as no surprise to the casual Flypaper reader how obsessed we are with our feline brethren — we’ve run stories on whether cheetahs and house cats purr at the same frequency and Cory Arcangel’s cat video mashup of a Schoenberg piece, and publicly lamented the loss of Bernie Krause’s two cats, Barnacle and Seaweed, in a piece about his environmentalist sound recording practice. But I love this article because it traces the link between cats and composition back hundreds of years to two wacky Italian composers, and it’s amazing.

“How Jonny Greenwood Uses Materiality, Clusters, and Aleatoricism in His Film Music”

I asked for a simple harmonic analysis of one or two of composer Jonny Greenwood’s scores, and what I got was so much more interesting. This article represents everything I love about the Flypaper writing staff, and it’s one heck of a read if you’re a lover of music.

“Our 8 Favorite Songs to Use to Test Headphones and Speakers” &
“Your Favorite Songs to Use to Test Headphones and Speakers”

As an editor, I just love this one because we ran the first article like any normal piece — I commission a writer to give their personal advice on a subject in which they have a certain level of expertise — done. But then, our fanatically engaged Facebook community took to the comments to share their favorite songs for testing the frequency response of monitor speakers and headphones, and it prompted an entirely new piece crowdsourced solely from these comments. Thanks for that!

Happy New Year, dear readers. 

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Soundfly Team

Soundfly is a new kind of music school for today's musician. We create creative courses and daily articles for the curious musician. Meet the whole Soundfly Team here.