Rick Beato Interviews Steven Wilson

Yes, an interview with Steven Wilson again. This is no intention, it just happens.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a prospective, young producer or an old, experienced dog, this interview contains everything you need to know.

Two producer legends talk deeply about production, songwriting, mixing, recording, and everyone can only learn from it.

Solar Fields - Formations

Recommendation: Solar Fields “Formations” (2022 Album)

First of all, to be very clear: this is not meant to be a review, just a recommendation, but a hot one.

I’ve been a big fan of Solar Fields for many years. Every production simply sits and fits perfectly. The new album is pretty much the best I’ve heard from him, ever. It also really tops the material for me that made him famous in the electronica/ambient scene and in game music.

Check this out:

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Why I Abandoned Social Media

When social media became “the new thing” and every artist was recommended to join the hype, I was very skeptical at first. I came late to the party of the two top dogs, Twitter in 2007, Facebook only in 2009, after the pressure on me from all sides grew too great. At least that’s how it felt to me at the time, or what I told myself… but there’s a good chance I just had the same need for recognition as everyone else and was afraid of missing out and not being recognized appropriately. As you grow older, fortunately that disappears.

Instagram was about photography once

I thought Instagram was pretty good at first… the filters looked cool and it was more about the photos than anything else. Until Facebook took over and turned it into a drug for people with an inferiority complex.

Anti-Social Media

I’ve never really felt comfortable with anti-social media, and I’ve also struggled to generate huge followings. There were decent numbers lately, but not enormous. That may have something to do with the fact that my audience has a rather limited affinity for social media. Something like that always has a direct connection with the kind of music you make.

In all these years, I have experienced everything on social media that internet experts and psychologists are now warning of: abuse, hate, completely pointless and unnecessary discussions, exposing the private to the public (something I don’t like at all) and a very stupid thing: living out conflicts in public, in front of people you don’t really know.

Necessary for artists?

For a long time, I myself succumbed to the belief that as an artist you have to be present on social media in order to be and remain relevant. A few years ago, I severely restricted my activity there. And what happened? You guess it:

Nothing. People consumed my music the same as before. All of a sudden, I had more time for what really mattered and less headaches from some poor souls annoying me online.

At the time, people were already asking me to post more and “stick with it”. I shouldn’t leave the field to “them”. I stopped believing early in life that I could make the world a better place by trying to convert people, so I didn’t comply with those requests. People tend to believe what makes them feel good, not what is closest to the truth. That’s why public discussion is really not my world. I’m too much of a realist, and I don’t like having a lot of people around me either in real life or virtually.

When blogging was a thing

Before I jumped on the social media bandwagon, I was a relatively avid blogger. I’ve always been a political person and liked to write about social criticism, of course music-related and generally about my random thoughts. Because of social media, actual blogging made no sense to me anymore, so I stopped.

It wasn’t always about the public discussion; I felt the need to share my thoughts. Today I only have this need very slightly, and if I have to get rid of my thoughts, then in my private environment or of course in and with my music.

What now?

But there are things I want to tell you every now and then. I definitely still have thoughts for which music is not the right means of communication. I would like to use this website exclusively for this purpose in the future. If you’re interested, you can stop by here, subscribe to the feed, or have posts delivered to your inbox.

I’ll be 50 years old in a few weeks. The time for bullshit is long gone. When you’re young, it’s totally okay, understandable, and normal to engage in bullshit. I did that extensively and learned a lot from it. I don’t blame anyone for hanging out and being active on social media. Everyone does what they think they have to do.

My time has come to only take care of myself, my loved ones, my music and my affairs. I live a meaningful life with a lot of things in it that deserve and need my attention. And none of this has anything to do with social media or networks of this kind. 

Good-bye bullshit

I turned my back on social media because it brings out the worst in people. It’s antisocial media. And now an egomaniac who poses as if he wants to save the world or humanity has bought Twitter. The hand puppet Zuckerberg was enough, now that?

I had more than enough reasons to delete my profiles altogether. No more “social” networks. Anyone who is interested in me is welcome here on this website.

I've stripped my entire digital life down to the bare essentials. No unnecessary apps on my smartphone or computer. I'm no longer afraid of missing out. I experienced and saw most of what I wanted to experience and see. And for everything that is still there, I still have enough time.

I may have gotten a bit older and gray, maybe gained some weight, lost hair, but I’m still fit and have a never-ending bucket list. I spend most of my free time outdoors in nature, with my partner and the dogs, hiking, adventures, enjoying the beauty of nature, shooting photos and videos. My artistic soul still pours itself into music as well. I’ll let you know here on this website if there’s anything new.

I have many good reasons to be happy. I’m not always that, but there are still good reasons for it. I have everything I need and more. You too.

I don’t need social media. Neither do you. But it’s up to you to determine that. I will be here waiting for you. 😉

The Ultimate Harmonic Mixing & Composing Chart

Before you dig in…

The Ultimate Harmonic Mixing & Composing Chart is a visual aid for musicians, producers, composers and DJs to easily create music that always has harmonic chord progressions. This sheet is now widely used worldwide as a teaching and practical tool in music and DJ schools and has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times.

The situation

As both a DJ and composer, the Circle of Fifth or the Camelot Key Wheel system — amongst others — have always been handy tools for me to write and mix music harmonically. There are just too many options in chord progressions than I could ever have in my memory (maybe you can, but I don’t).

So yes, I could always have a look at above mentioned helpers to orientate myself through the notes and chords jungle, in case needed, which is not always the case. I have the most common chords in my head. Just not always.

As a composer I’m fine with the musical key/chord system, i.e. “A minor“, but as a DJ it isn’t very likely (for me, again) to remember all the musical chords to know what to mix into what. So, Mark Davis came up with Camelot Keys (used in Mixed in Key, which I prefer, because of its accuracy) and then there are the Open Keys (Traktor). Which is basically a range of 12 keys for each gender, major and minor chords. “A minor” is 8A (Camelot Key) or 1m (Open Key).

In a nutshell: if you mix 1A into 2A (and so forth, up until 12A and then into 1A again) you’re generally fine. Your mixing transitions will always be harmonic, no key clashes. This example is the very basic part of harmonic mixing or composing. And also, a bit boring if you do that all the time. It becomes really good and interesting when you use all the options within the world of chord progressions.

What I was missing in all those years of composing and mixing was ONE chart (to rule them all) that shows me ALL key/chord systems and their equivalents, their piano keys (very useful for composing) and their harmonic keys/chords. I searched the interwebs in order to find out if someone did this, but no one did.

The solution

So, I did it myself. 8 hours work and I had what I was looking for. And since I guess this could be useful for every musician/DJ, I want to share it here with you. This is how it looks like (click to open the full resolution file):

The Ultimate Harmonic Mixing Composing Chart
Click to open large version, right-click to save

You can download the high-res PNG image above, print it out and use it for yourself, if you like. Here’s a PDF and the original EXCEL version of it, in case you want to edit/modify something for your needs (let me know when you find mistakes or when you improved it!):

PDF | EXCEL

What does it do, how do I use this?

Let’s take an example for a composing or mixing situation:

The chord we’re working with at the moment is A minor (or 8A, or 1m). What shall be next? Everything in the table below — around the 8A — is possible, it will be harmonic. The closer to the 8A it is the more harmonic it’ll be.

Composing Keys

DJ Keys

Harmonic Keys

Western Music Scale
Piano Chord Keys
Camelot Key
Open Key
Scale Degree
DJ Keys up/down
D minor D + F + A 7A 12m Fourth (Sub-Dominant) -1
C major C + E + G 8B 1d Relative major

A minor

A + C + E

8A

1m

Same key (tonic)

E minor E + G + B 9A 2m Fifth (Dominant) 1
B-flat/♭ minor A# + C# + F 3A 8m Low energy boost 7
B minor B + D + F# 10A 3m High energy boost (supertonic) 2
A-flat/♭ minor G + B + D# 1A 6m Low energy drain -7
G minor G + A# + D 6A 11m High energy drain (leading tone) -2

But your decision what to do next is depending on the purpose. What kind of “feel” do you want to give your mix or composition?

Examples

Here are some possible chord progression scenarios, working with the Camelot Keys (which I prefer, at least for DJing), starting with 8A:

The “River”

That’s how I call it, it’s kind of a “secure standard”, nothing special, it’s just flowing along:

8A > 9A > 10A … 12A > 1A > 2A and so forth, until you’re at 7A and back into 8A again

Audio sample:

Music used: Ingo Vogelmann “Albert” (8A) > Tripswitch “Proximity Effect” (9A) > Mike Griego “What Lies Beyond” (10A) 

You can’t go wrong with this one, you just rock “around the clock”. Depending on the energy level of actual music/sequence used, transitions changes can be very energetic, though.

The “Little Ocean Wave”

The energy of this chord progression has the shape of an ocean wave or a sawtooth:

8A > 9A > 11A (+2 DJ keys, high energy boost) > 12A > 1a and so forth

Audio sample:

Music used: Ingo Vogelmann “Albert” (8A) > Tripswitch “Proximity Effect” (9A) > Bobby Deep “Egopunk” (11A) 

You can do this once in a while to give your mix a little energy boost, which makes it more interesting than the “River”.

The “Big Ocean Wave”

8A > 9A > 4A (+7 DJ keys, low energy boost) > 6A (+2 DJ keys, high energy boost) > 7a and so forth

Audio sample:

Music used: Ingo Vogelmann “Albert” (8A) > Tripswitch “Proximity Effect” (9A) > Michael A “Storm” (4A) > Robert Babicz “Kinect” (6A) 

Here you have a longer and progressive wave of energy rising, until it falls back to normal at 7A again, just like an ocean wave crashing and the next one building up again.

The “Wild Ocean”

It’s a bit stormy, and the waters stirred up, but everything is still harmonic and in place. This is the most “interesting” way of mixing, things shouldn’t become boring:

8A > 8B (relative major) > 9A > 4A (+7 DJ keys, low energy boost) > 4B (relative major) > 6B (+2 DJ keys, high energy boost) > 7B > 2B (+7 DJ keys, low energy boost) > 4B (+2 DJ keys, high energy boost) > 5B and so forth

Audio sample:

Music used: Third Son & Wally Lopez “Geometry” (8A) > Ingo Vogelmann “Empire On Fire” (8B) > Antrim “The Mystic Lovers” (9A) > Michael A “Storm” (4A) > Raw District Feat. Jinadu “Taking You Down” (Habischman Remix) (4B)

I could make up a hell of a lot more examples now (with even sillier names), but you most probably already get the idea. The options are really endless, and you’ll always be composing or DJing harmonic. The above scenarios are just examples. Find out what works for yourself, I’m sure you’ll have fun experimenting with chord progressions, using this nifty chart. Oh, and don’t mind the silly names … it’s just about giving things a name. 😉

It’s free! Download, share, modify, re-publish and generally do with it whatever you want. But please, don’t pretend you did this. Credit would be nice (and fair) but is no condition.