Maschine Production Weekend: Learning while Creating

Last weekend, Mads Lindgren and I held our first two-day Maschine workshop here in Berlin. Our previous Maschine workshops had been one-day intensive courses. This meant that there was a lot of material to cram into one day. Still, it was doable. That is, before Maschine 1.6 came out with a slew of new features, including VST/AU hosting. During our weekend workshops in April, we realized that there was simply too much material to cover in a single day.

Last month, both of us drove a van packed with the big brain audio mobile classroom (12 workstations) to Luxembourg, an incredibly friendly and cool little country nestled between Belgium, France, and Germany. We had been invited to do a “Hands-On Beatmaking” workshop during the “24 heures éléctroniques” festival at the Rockhal there. The focus was on producing and not on any particular tool, although we used Ableton Live, Maschine, Komplete 7, and a number of other tools installed on each workstation so that the participants had different workflows and production methods to choose from.

Big brain audio workshop in Luxembourg 2011 class shot

We started by recording sounds. In southern Luxembourg, the soundscape is incredibly rich, largely because of the ghost of the region’s heavy industry past. Huge steel furnaces and relics of the 1960’s and 1970’s define the countryside. Some of these massive constructions have become historical monuments and remain witnesses to a past era of industrial glory. But the sounds of the wind whistling through these factory graveyards, the sounds of the trains, and the screeching metallic yowls of the few remaining factories all create a fascinating soundscape. That’s an inspriring place to record.

Starting off a beat production workshop with recording your own sounds really breaks the ice; it brings people together in an inspiring creative-teamwork situation. Most of what we did was not outside (although we could have spend the day wandering around the post-industrial landscape), but in the dance studio. We beat on various objects, played the upright piano as a prepared instrument, and just generally experimented with recording.

After the sounds have been recorded, we loaded them the server so that everybody had access to them. And then the editing and tweaking began and sounds turned into ideas, ideas into stories, and stories into finished tracks. Really inspiring.

It is this experience that made us want to try the same approach for the big brain audio Maschine workshops scheduled here in Berlin; instead of a concentrated, feature-driven day centered on one single product we would focus more on a process, using Maschine as a tool, as an integral of a production environment.

Big brain audio workshop in Luxembourg 2011 participants1

And that’s exactly what we did during our Maschine Production Weekend workshop just a few days ago: we focused on the production process. The results were quite impressive. People created music.

With a two-day span, everyone had the time to digest the immense amount of information there is to learn about Maschine, the techniques, the workflows, the shortcuts, all the hidden features, but also the change in paradigm from left-to-right DAW-sequencing to more event-based and pattern-based structuring. More importantly, they had the time to apply what they learned to actually create interesting sounds, putting them together into ideas and beats and instrumental lines then structures with intros, breaks, drops, and the everything else that goes into creating a piece of music.

All the participants expressed the fact that they really walked away with a very positive experience, that they learned a lot — not only about Maschine, but also about music production and making music in general. Above all, they made stuff. They were creative and learned by producing. That’s a very satisfying thing to hear.

After the workshop, Mads and I did our traditional re-cap of the weekend and decided that without a doubt, this is the way to go: from now on — whenever possible — we will do two-day Maschine workshops and really concentrate on the creative part of using this incredibly versatile tool. Stay tuned for more workshops in this direction!