My proudest accomplishment has been learning to program independent from school. In high school, I wasn’t the best student and was constantly discouraged from pursuing work in STEM fields because of my sub-par grades in math. It began with a failing math grade I first received in sophomore year, but my confidence in my learning ability at that time was never able to make a full recovery. Me learning programming was in response to a particular classmate who said I wouldn’t be able to pursue the career because of my non-technical background. It was a response to the frustration I had at not being able to find a suitable learning environment in school. It was my way of showing myself that I could learn without school as a crutch and take my education into my own hands. I picked up ‘C for Dummies’ shortly after and everyday like clockwork, I would read a chapter from the book. This would also lead to me watching videos of Harvard’s CS50 course, along with my progression into elementary data structures by means of the follow-up book I acquired, ‘C All in One Desk Reference for Dummies’. It was a time where I was able to focus all my attention to achieve something previously thought impossible, in order to fight back against those who doubted me. It is my proudest accomplishment because it ended up becoming so much more than a statement. Learning how to program also brought the realization that nothing should ever be able to impede my learning, and that I do not need to rely on school to take my education into my own hands.
Throughout the day today, my mom was sporadically watching this movie about a couple who met on a blind date. It was clear that the couple in this movie had chemistry during the first date, but what proved even more interesting was their main point of relatability — the fact that they both couldn’t get over their exes. During this one particular part of the movie, the girl, after seeing the guy for a couple weeks, decides to visit him unexpectedly and catches him at the house with his ex-wife. Shirtless.
Crushed, the girl tries to flee the scene in embarassment. The guy, trying to salvage their budding relationship, tells her his ex-wife just came to drop something off. The girl sees through his lie and calls his bluff. He finally admits to it. He then starts to defend himself by asking her if she can really blame him. He says that the love someone has for a long time partner never completely disappears and asks her if he’s supposed to put a halt on those feelings for someone he’s just started to see. This rubbed me the wrong way which led me to writing this blog post. The way that it had me feeling was anger. In fact, it was the type of anger that had me wanting to engorge my fist right through this guy’s fucking eye.
Granted, I am biased when it comes to this issue. I myself was also involved with a girl who…drumroll… had an ex. To be fair, the girl in question IS less scummy than this fuck-wad, but it evoked the same kind of anger and emotional displeasure I imagine the girl in the movie might’ve felt.
First I’ll start by elaborating on my relationship to said girl in my story. Our relationship was one that was never been officiated as really anything. It was just me and her hanging out a lot. “That’s ridiculous and stupid then,” you might say, given that I had such an adverse reaction to her reconnecting with her ex. The thing is, although I never really said anything, I firmly believe this girl did know I had an interest in her and it felt like she may have had an interest in me too.
Because of particular circumstances, formally asking her out at the time would be inconvenient for the both of us and so our relationship was what it was. Now let me tell you about the extent of her relationship to her ex and how that affected me.
As I said before I’m 90% sure this girl knew I liked her, and for that, whenever she was busy on any given weekend she would spare me the specifics of any plans that prevented us from meeting. If it weren’t for me pressing on, I probably wouldn’t have come to find out that those weekends were spent resolving issues with her ex-boyfriend. It was only when I pushed a while into our relationship did she reluctantly tell me where she would go. Where this reluctance came from? I’m not sure.
The reluctance could’ve came from the fear of losing a friend who could act as a stand-in boyfriend, it could have stemmed from the fact that she liked me, or it could’ve been because there was an omnipotent presence following her around everywhere threatening to shorten her life by a day every time she mentioned her ex-boyfriend. My guess is the first option because it’s the most pessimistically probable answer I can think of, and in terms of potential contingencies, I usually like to imagine the worst-case scenario.
After more pushing, I learned my ‘friend’ was staying over certain weekends at his house, and I was not ecstatic to know the truth which I long suspected. After that I kept my distance, although we still somehow talk to this day. Either I’m very bad at letting things go, or she is…a musing for another blog post. Anyway, this whole story has been built up to go through my emotions and why I might’ve felt them, not her emotions. With no due respect, fuck her emotions(or at least that’s the ideology I wish I could adopt).
The question now becomes, why was I frustrated and angry at the situation? Why do I think the girl in the movie had a right to be angry? Why do I think she has a bigger right to be angry than I was (although I’m a fairly angry person in general). I think it’s partly because when you form a dating relationship with someone else, end up liking them, and start assuming that they like you too, you start to feel special. Like “this amazing person I met, also thinks I’m amazing,” or some shit. Now when said person goes back to their ex, a new thought arises: “Shit, I was so unexceptional that they felt they needed to go back to a relationship that was so bad they broke it off? How horrible must I have been to make her reassess her previously discarded options?”
There were also other thoughts that went through my head like “I like her so much that I just want to see her happy even if it means some heartbreak for me,” but that’s some pussy ass shit, so I try and get those thoughts out of my mind. Plus those thoughts are too focused on her own well-being. Fuck her well-being. This post is about ME.
Anyway, as lame as you may think my reasons may be, I felt for the girl in the movie. The guy got her hooked on to his dick early on just so he can say he feels like they’re moving too fast when she starts to reciprocate his affection. That’s a power move if I’ve ever seen one. Through the beginning of the movie, he was the one really trying to make things work which makes it suck even more when he cops out after she reciprocates that sincerity. Like I said, it did hit close to home which is why I thought it necessary to project my thoughts onto this blog post.
I’ve hit an impasse in my music theory studies and have spent these last few weeks focusing on just trying to make a piece of music everyday. A big part of it was not yet being able to find a simple all-in-one resource for it all. Everything is scattered, and even the topics themselves have to be discovered as prerequisites to other, more relevant topics. For this post, I decided to try and rein the interest in music theory back in, and try to define some of the concepts used in my first ‘Rapper’s Journey’ post along with some other helpful material. Thoughts and improvements on my own music-making process will be noted near the end.
One thing I’ve learned about is what an “envelope” is. In its most basic definition, it consists of 3 parts — attack, sustain, and decay. These components are usually expressed as a knob along with a graphical user interface to show you how the sound wave looks like.
The attack is a value that indicates how long a sound should take to fade into its max volume. The sustain show’s how long the sound should remain at its max volume. The decay is how long it should take to fade into silence from the sound’s peak volume. These intervals can be extended or shortened making the any subsequent phase also start later or earlier by consequence.
Another definition I’ve learned is the function of a ‘high-pass and low-pass filter’. A high pass filter reduces the amplitude of frequencies in a sound below a specified frequency. As you can imagine, a low-pass filter does the opposite (reduces the amplitude of frequencies higher than the specified frequency. This definition might not be the greatest since they reference other technical terms such as ‘frequency’ and ‘amplitude’ — which from my very limited background of physics/and chemistry are terms related to ‘waves’. For me to explain all these terms relative to music might take more time, as I don’t completely understand all the underlying theory and bridge to the sciences.
Luckily, two other terms on my list ‘cutoff’ and ‘res or resonance’ both directly relate to the concepts of ‘high-pass and low-pass filters’. The ‘cutoff’ is the aforementioned ‘specified frequency’, and the ‘res(onance)’ is the process of amplifying a certain range of frequencies around the cutoff. Apparently older mechanical filters used to do this (possibly unintentionally), and new digital filter software has kept the anomaly in as a feature to make more interesting sounds. These definitions came straight from the image-line (the people who make FL Studio) website, and had pretty straightforward, awesome definitions. Check it out to see what else you can learn from there: https://www.image-line.com/support/FLHelp/html/glossary_cutres.htm
A ‘walk’ is when you play all notes in a scale. Something I’ve been using a lot lately is an arpeggio, or as defined by Google, “the notes of a chord played in succession, either ascending or descending.” As I’ve said in my previous post, it’s a trap beat fundamental. The drums usually come naturally to me, or I can simply copy a drum line from a song I want to take inspiration from. If you listen closely to any of the drumlines heard on the radio, you’ll notice that many are the same. This kind of comes in the vain of the quote “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Not every drumline has to be invented, or hand-crafted. Chances are, any handcrafted drumline you make has been used before, so why not focus on the piece in it’s entirety?
Last but not least, I’ve decided to attach a song per the request of my number one fan, and only reader. Check it out!
I’ve made a cool new discovery when putting together trap melodies! Apparently, trap melodies like to move in ‘white key’ step ups. What that means is that if you start with a white key and play 3 consecutive white keys up from it, it builds suspension, and looping with those 4 keys can assist in making a generic trap beat. Honestly this video was very helpful in a lot of realizations, not just trap melodies, so I recommend checking it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4MuPlCGjtM.
I realized that I’m learning a lot more from copying people than from all the music theory stuff (at least at this point in time). For example, I still don’t completely understand chord families and progressions after binging videos about them (I guess this is mostly due to the youtuber I was watching), but I learned how to make a trap melody in the span of a couple minutes. It’s actually pretty easy, just loop a 4 key sequence, rising in note every key. So if we looped ‘c’, ‘d’, ‘e’, and ‘f’ played one after the other, that would make something of a trap melody.
Another example are jazz chords. If you know what chords to use, you can pretty much make a jazzy song by playing some permutation of them. Here’s the youtube video I used to learn jazz chords: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMvEg-7AEYk.
There’s still a lot more to say, but I’m extremely busy this week so I thought I’d cut this post short. Know that I have been making at least one beat everyday, and that progress is still being made.
So for now, I’m just working hard on trying to build my own individual skill set. To do that, I’m memorizing certain drum beats at specific tempos. A lot of my time learning is actually just spent memorizing. Memorizing patterns, terms, sample names… The goal being that I’ll always have a good frame of reference to start my own drums from. Everyday I’ll also try to experiment. Playing around with new concepts and ideas seem to be the best way for me to memorize and internalize ideas over time.
In terms of standard material necessary to learn, I’m still looking into music theory. Chords and chord progressions seemed to be one of the necessary tools for making complex music, so I wanted that to be high on my list of priorities. Chords are essentially just layered notes (notes that are played together) that sound nice together.
From what I learned, people have worked very hard to make the pitches between notes of any instrument uniform. In terms of a piano, that means the difference in pitch between 2 adjacent keys are the same as any other adjacent pair of keys on the piano (be it a white key or a black key). With that being said, the step between any 2 adjacent keys is called a semitone and 2 semitones is a tone. From this we’ll define a scale, and from there finally we can define chords. To identify which keys are part of a scale, you can do this algorithm with any note:
1) Add the start/base key to your scale (this can be ANY key)
2) Do this 2 times
2a) Move 1 tone up, and add that note to the scale
3) Move 1 semitone up, and add that note to the scale
4) Do this 3 times
4a) Move 1 tone up, and add that note to the scale
5) Move 1 semitone up and you should arrive at the same note
All the notes you have recorded as part of the scale make up part of the scale. Now a ‘major’ chord is when you play the notes in your scale, but remove all the ones in even spots (indexes) in your list. An easier quick-hand way to do it is to just get a note, get the note 4 steps above that, the note 3 more steps above that, and play them all together; that will also make up a major chord. A ‘dominant chord’ is just when you also play the note 4 keys up from the highest note in the major chord.
Using this simple notion of a major chord and the concept of a scale, I’ve been taught by one of the youtube gurus I’ve seen online (a guy on youtube with the channel ‘worshipwoodshed’) that chord progression and movement can take place with other major chords in the scale to sound good. All I’ve really learned thus far is that a chord A played after another chord B, with a base note 4 keys away from the base note of chord A, will sound good when played sequentially.
The guy I’m watching is not too intuitive or clear on some of the material, but he has an exhaustive list of topics covered by his videos. At the very least, I can get a survey of music theory as a whole so I find which terms to search for the next video. I still haven’t gotten a hold of the term definitions from the last post, but Tuesday I’ll hopefully have a lot more to say.
Since I don’t make use of the blog all that much, decided to start using it to document my journey as an aspiring rapper — to keep me motivated. I’m not exactly the rapper archetype, even less so than MCs like Childish or lil Dicky, but I’m inspired and moved by music and aspire to make great music of my own. I’m starting off using a free software called LMMS that frequently force closes on Mac, so save often if you do use it. It’s somewhat of a struggle to learn the software coming from a weak musical background, but with youtube tutorial videos on how to use the LMMS, it’s starting to get a little easier.
What I’m actually starting out with is using suggestions from a reddit thread (https://www.reddit.com/r/makinghiphop/comments/3zdlgd/producers_how_did_you_learn_how_to_make_solid/?st=j0itecda&sh=7e96b671) to learn. The gist I got from it was to learn fundamental music theory concepts like chords and scales, to follow videos of people making beats, and to make beats everyday. To start off, I’ve been learning the software, how chords, and scales work, and how to recreate a Travis Scott beat. The video I found was for FL studio ( a more popular ‘DAW’ — something I learned on the reddit subreddit that stands for ‘Digital Audio Workstation’ ). At first I thought this would be a huge problem, but I seem to be accommodating the changes in software fairly easily. One particular example was when the tutorial guide used a shortcut on the piano roll ‘ctrl-u’. I quickly Googled ‘ctrl-u piano roll FL studio’ and was able to find that it represents the command ‘quick chop’. From there I just searched for how to chop in the LMMS piano roll. I unfortunately couldn’t find a mirror command in LMMS, but no worries, the command was more of a convenience than a requirement. I can do exactly what the ‘quick chop’ can do by hand! Although it is a HUGE inconvenience, especially for an aspiring professional. Maybe I’ll try to make a ‘quick chop’ option myself since the software IS open source (although I know it’ll probably be hell to work with code that complex, especially for an unguided newbie to the code base). Anyway, here are some foreign terms that I’ll try and learn before the next post on Thursday. It came up in various tutorials found online. Hopefully I’ll have good definitions for them by then.
-low pass filter
Sleep is like that moment when your mom used to pick you up from a friends house as a kid. When the whole day was spent thinking of things to do, and a stroke of genius was only able to hit you at the last minute.
Sleep is the end of a perfect first date, where you say goodbye until the next encounter. It marks the temporary halt of the ongoing process of life, and signifies a termination of ongoing action. Like the subtle loneliness that creeps in after the separation from a group gathering, sleep indicates change. Disruption even.
For me, it marks the stolen down-time of life. The point where you can no longer function without impairment. Sleep is a greedy force that won’t stop until you pay it it’s due time. For a man such as myself who’s obsessed with the passage of time and the control I have over it, I’ve come to see it as almost an enemy. A physical law of nature to be fought vehemently, just as others have before me.
Sleep represents the constraint of my human capabilities. It’s a constant reminder that I’m tied to the laws everyone else is binded to, and am cursed to adhere to the human limitations. It reminds me that the unwavering pursuit of my dreams will always have the roadblock of insufficient time taken by sleep. Surprisingly, I recently formed a new perspective about sleep and see it as something else entirely — a consequence of life.
Sleep isn’t only a consequence of life, but an indicator of a life well lived. It’s a reprieve from the unfaltering pressure of life, and is working more for us than we can imagine. This payment of time isn’t ill spent. Sleep gives us the chance to restart our lives with vigor everyday. It’s not so much of an annoyance than a reminder of our limits, and a temporary escape to deal with the endless triage of brain activity. Sleep is a vital and often under-appreciated part of our physiology, and rather than impeding you from following your dreams, sleep is the almighty origin that give us the context of pursuit in the first place.
Recently I’ve been thinking about my motivation and self-purpose. I began to ask myself what it is exactly that keeps me going? Of course, it’s always some sort of passion that drives people but what I have as my motivating factor does not warrant that title. Years pondering what ‘the meaning of life’ means to me has brought me to the conclusion of ‘happiness’ as the goal, to which another couple years of pondering told me it may never be attained. A quote from Drake sums up what we all know about this fact, and even what keeps us motivated — “They say no one’s perfect, but you look perfected.” Just like humans can only be admired for their strive to achieve an unattainable ‘perfection’, people have a tendency to see the attempt at happiness as a means for happiness in itself. So yes, in summation, humans are masochists who enjoy the never fulfilled task for fulfillment.
What does this have to do with my motivation? Well as much as I consider myself different from a majority of people, I too must admit myself as one of these strange masochists who see beauty in the ‘struggle’ while constantly aiming for that aforementioned struggle to end. This means my motivation to work is to both create great products and eventually strike it rich. The two aren’t mutually exclusive though, and one goal can definitely be reached without the other (with a preference on the ‘rich’ part happening sooner rather than later). An overarching factor also playing into all of this is my overall happiness in general. Most times, I feel indifferent, so these small things do give me something of a boost in happiness. I can’t say that accomplishing ‘happiness’ is the same as obtaining money, although that is the only plan that I have for now. It’s the hope for the happy future that keeps on going, fueled by the expected happiness I think I would receive. This reward of ‘happiness’ isn’t all that familiar with me, and sometimes it’s hard to imagine a happiness that could warrant the work put in to get it. In some ways, imagining this light at the end of the tunnel is the light that guides my journey itself, and frankly I have nothing much other thing to do than hope and strive for the best.
With a simple google search, you will see there are various different interpretations on the stages of grief. The 6 I think best encapsulate the stages of grief are as follows:
I have just finished my worst semester of college. My grade outlook: 3 Ds and an A (for a class on a language I already knew). This semester was supposed to be my last semester (officially), but very well may not be. This semester will ruin my gpa, and many job prospects. This semester has put me through a lot of stress, and walked me through these 6 stages of grief myself. Not necessarily grief about my grades, but a bigger picture.
It further led me through the grief of being different. From a young age, I always stood out from my peers…just not in the way that one would want to be. I was un-athletic but loved to play sports, I was bad at school but loved to learn, and had a wide range of ‘unique’ interests that many of the other kids in school couldn’t relate to. Back then, I won’t deny I was a weird kid, but I was unashamedly so.
I could work at something, and at the time, truly believe any dream was within arm’s reach. I worked hard to get praise from my peers, and making friends was just another one of my weird interests. No one thinks about ‘making friends’ as a goal in itself, most people can generally just, make friends. Fortunately, there were a few outliers like me at this time and I always found at least (probably at most also) one friend. One friend who was like me (or as close to that as I could ever have hoped). Even still, I always branched out to make new friends.
So what’s the point of this train of thought? Well…the point is that I’m different. Not just socially challenged, but in many other ways too. I’m proud to say that my social skills have blossomed from prolonged observation of the ones who do it best (high school jocks and t.v. personalities mostly), but some things can’t be changed so easily.
Studying and paying attention have always been challenging things for me to do. On a psychological level, yes, but also on a philosophical outlook also. Most of the time, information learned in school was dull to say the least. It wasn’t engaging, and became a painful task to do. Physically, I would say studying is equivalent to banging my head on a wall until my head became so cloudy I could not think properly. Psychologically, it IS what happened. I physically couldn’t sit and read a book about ‘world history’ without getting these uncontrollable migraines as a result of me trying to focus.
The sentiment of institutionalized, academic-induced pain is a concept that has stayed with me until college, and has forced me to resent the school system with a passion (among MANY other things, I’m now old enough to somewhat articulate well). I can now sit down with a book, but I have to have proper motivation for wanting to learn a subject.
The one thing I would like to refer to in this post is my overall lack of skills to perform well in school, even with all the previous (seemingly meaningless) hurdles overcome. I’ll explain it in the stages of grief.
When I first began taking my major classes at my university, I immediately began to notice a dissonance between myself and the other students. I somehow could no longer keep up. My study habits that I’ve built up over the span of intro classes could no longer rescue me, and I began to wonder how this could be. How could the professor I accused of being unclear have students getting As in his class while I’m receiving Ds? How could a student remember quotes from a passage I could only state an un-detailed gist for? This was both baffling and distressing and soon led me to:
After receiving my first D in college, I began to further question how I could be the problem. “No,” I thought, “It can’t be me.” This resulted in me studying extra hard in classes that escaped me the most. So mostly math classes. After receiving the previously mention ‘D’ grade (in a math class, not coincidentally), I worked hard at math, learning material way beyond my current capabilities. I learned many aspects of math from fundamentals of ‘Abstract Algebra’ to intro texts on ‘Statistics’, all the while denying the possibility that I just wasn’t as good. I placed the fault in my study habits, and ended up taking a stats class to win back my confidence in math and this class is where I experienced my stage of:
In this class that I thought I was prepared for, I quickly found out after the first few homeworks, that I was not as skilled as I’d hoped. The training did NOT pay off. I was angry at myself and the field of mathematics as a whole, I was angry at the people who were good at it and made me feel stupid, and I was angry at the fact that this was no longer a pure result of improper study habits. Something I studied recreationally, for an extended period of time. What WAS the problem? It might’ve been me, “but let’s just be sure,” I thought. How about I take this to another level and study an entire course worth’s of content and give THAT a try? Which brings me to:
Finally, I accepted the fact I knew all along – I am not good at math. The only thing is I needed one more math credit, so I decided to take an intro level proof class to make it up. I could have taken an easier discrete math class, but I wanted to write proofs and ‘bargained’ to myself that since I shouldn’t do higher level math, I should at least put my hard earned mathematical improvement somewhere. Of course this didn’t work out (as I quickly observed after the first test), and so, in the middle of the semester I would spend nights staring off into space thinking about the hopelessness of studying for a subject as much as possible, to still meet a failing grade at the end. As you can probably tell, this takes us to:
I could not do math. I’ve made a big mistake. I chose the harder proof writing class over the discrete math class that probably would’ve been the wisest decision (being in CS, I’ve worked with pure discrete math probably the most out of all the subjects). I will fail this class, and I will fail future classes. These thoughts swarmed my head, and eventually I fell into a despair. There’s no story of how I exited the despair because I didn’t. I’ve reached the end of my journey and exploration of my mathematical skill, and was ready to accept the fact that this wasn’t something that could come easily to me. Maybe with a lifetime of practice I could get somewhat good, but then again, I feel the same way about learning to play basketball at the NBA level. Some goals can’t be reached, or even if it could, sometimes the work that put into the task isn’t worth the reward gotten out of it. Just as if someone who was told they could learn the all of aerospace engineering in a day would soon come to find out the impossibility of their task, so did I in being able to succeed in the class. I’ve now come to:
At this point, I’ve made peace. I continued to try just hard enough to try (as my performance always staggered after about the 10th hour of [non-contiguous] studying), and would accept any grade I would receive. Preferably, it wouldn’t have to be a failing grade (I REALLY don’t want to take another math class), but I’ve done all I could. I’ve studied, and studied, and studied, and still reached a dead end. This class was different though. It was never anything I didn’t understand on the test; I just couldn’t remember the theorems. The same theorems and lemmas that have probably had at least had 30 minutes allocated to each of them could now no longer be retrieved from my mind. Anyway it’s all done now and hopefully I can recuperate and learn from this crushing experience with a lesson learned: Shoot for the moon, but know you may not break the stratosphere.
After leaving class disarrayed for the millionth time, I asked myself (for the millionth time), “Why do I attend college?”. Some of these professors are terrible at their job, and most of the time I figure out that the things they teach could be/are learned independently. If anything, I guess school provides the motivation and structure needed that a lot of us couldn’t muster up with our own independent study. Again, a question arises — is that really a good justification to why we invest so much of our lives into these higher level institutions? When I say investment, I’m not only talking about JUST financials, but the emotional strain it provides and the unrivaled ability to shred apart morale. It’s kind of like the army, or prison with how some of these professors can really fuck with you. The worst part is, a lot of us willingly (and maybe knowingly) participate in this hegemony and have come to see our oppression as a natural thing. Most professors know they can get away with doing a horrible job and take advantage of the fact that a lot of students don’t know how to defend themselves in the face of a seemingly overpowering authority.
Back to the question, do we really NEED school? Well, even the point made about motivation is kind of weak so let’s bring up an even bigger motivator — jobs. Unfortunately a lot of jobs require a degree — any degree — to do jobs that probably shouldn’t require one. For example, some jobs out there may require something of a communications degree when really all is needed is common sense. Why are college degrees made as qualifications to these positions? Presumptively, as quality control. Having a college degree can show a great degree of motivation to some employers, and the presumed effort is seemingly shown in your struggle. Aren’t some degrees more of a struggle than other’s? Why do some jobs hire employees of these degrees indiscriminately while still turning a blind eye to the qualified unemployed degree holders? I believe this stems from another kind of control which I like to call background control.
Alright, too off topic. Let’s focus on why I go to school. Or better yet, let me finish it up next week in a part 2.