This reflection was written by Soundfly alumnus Anthony Pappas, a New York-based songwriter, author, and music therapy practitioner, and details his experience working with a mentor in recent Soundfly course and mentorship sessions.
By Anthony Pappas
I am, and have always been, a creative, hands-on type of learner.
I first discovered my musical talent through explorative free play; enjoying making both consonant and dissonant sounds on my instrument, starting to write songs before knowing any music theory, and so on. So when I opened up Logic Pro for the first time, I felt like a giddy child going for a huge bag of candy full of different flavors, full of wonder, but admittedly without a clear sense of direction.
This project felt different though. Because I’ve always wanted to get better acquainted with audio production tools so I could record both myself and others, it was imperative that I really learned how to use these tools the right way, instead of exploring it on my own. And all that technical producer jargon just seemed way over my head.
As a more intuitive learner, I had the determination, but what I really craved was a full-fledged learning experience in order to grasp the horizons of the DAW and achieve what I personally set out to do.
Soundfly’s Making Music in Logic Pro X course provided the roadmap I needed for my learning style. I had already been using Logic to craft my own sound, diving headfirst into the vast realm of possibilities but without a thorough understanding of what each aspect of the program actually does, and why.
Within the first couple of weeks of the course, so many of my questions about Logic were demystified.
+ Learn more on Soundfly: Join Making Music in Logic Pro X yourself and learn how to create and record music using the powerful production capabilities of this digital audio workstation.
Being able to control dynamics on both my overall mixes, as well as note-by-note, had always been an issue for me. I quickly learned how to control the volume of individual notes through lowering or raising velocity, and streamline my workflow with automation.
Plus, the convenience of working with a mentor made it so I never felt overwhelmed with the vast knowledge that the course provided. My mentor, Joseph Capalbo, showed me how to use automation and other parameters in a very straightforward and simple way in the first week or two of the course.
The lessons were straightforward and easy to comprehend, and I could always backtrack when necessary. Being challenged to create weekly 15-30 second “practice pieces” helped me break down composition into component parts, so that I was now easily crafting defined chord progressions, and focusing on one section of the overall mix at a time, instead of needing to improvise for several minutes to get my desired sound.
This approach helped me to structure my compositions instead of always relying on working in my usual freeform manner.
“Things that had always seemed complicated began to click. I now knew when and where in my compositions to add or subtract delay, reverb, and echo effects. I am now able to explain my approach in a more streamlined way.”
One of my goals was not only to hone my own style but to be able to produce other artists as well. And even though my personal style skews more “ambient,” I want to reach a wider group of listeners and learn to create more pop-oriented melodies and production.
Joseph showed me how and when to incorporate builds in my music, adding instrumentation in the most emotional parts of the song, and subtracting as the piece began to wind down. An especially fun assignment was picking some favorite songs of mine and replicating their structures in my own style — this led me to exploring “The Mystic’s Dream” by Loreena McKennitt.
As I broke down the song’s structure, I began to see similarities between her music and genres with which I was previously less familiar. Both McKennitt and EDM artists like Deadmau5, though in different styles and with different instrumentation, often incorporate sparse introductions, verses, dense choruses, and breakdowns at the end of their songs.
I felt, finally, that I could begin to understand songcraft from a producer’s standpoint.
Things that had always seemed complicated began to click. I now knew when and where in my compositions to add or subtract delay, reverb, and echo effects. I am now able to explain my approach in a more streamlined way; the watery, ambient guitar sound that I’d always gravitated towards came from delay and heavy reverb, while more melodic synth sections feel more like a solo “voice” I need to wield with clarity.
“I’m thoroughly enjoying the creative process through a new lens.”
By the time we began to explore mixing, I had a much more in-depth understanding of the DAW. Joseph helped me understand how to balance the seven solfeggio frequencies, or ranges of sound. When certain frequencies overlap they can either sound muddy or complement each other, and in calming music, knowing those differences is essential.
A common pitfall I had historically fallen into when mixing was a low rumble that sounded jarring to most listeners. Joseph showed me how to fix this by bringing down low-shelf EQ. As a result, my final project had a much more calming effect than my previous compositions prior to the course.
These days, I am combining the concrete knowledge I gained with my intuitive, freeform approach to making music. As a result, I’m thoroughly enjoying the creative process through a new lens. My approach of “painting sound,” combined with a solid foundation of audio production craft, has already started to provide very interesting opportunities.
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Soundfly’s community of mentors can help you set the right goals, pave the right path toward success, and stick to schedules and routines that you develop together, so you improve every step of the way. Tell us what you’re working on, and we’ll find the right mentor for you!
Anthony Pappas is an author, musician, and therapist. He provides in-home services for individuals with autism, using music therapy and person-centered life coaching techniques to develop a wide range of communication skills based on individual needs, with the goal to empower these individuals in breaking down barriers between themselves, their families and the surrounding community.