Phoenix

You Need to Fail to Succeed

And I did, many times. That doesn’t mean I always succeeded after I failed, but whenever I succeeded it never came without failure before. That said…

A New Paradigm for Music Makers

In an industry that’s constantly evolving, The Crow Hill Company emerges as a breath of fresh air. While still in its early stages, the platform promises an ever-growing collection of free professional resources for music makers. But what sets it apart is its philosophy: it aims to be a “love letter to music makers.” This isn’t just a repository of tools; it’s a community, a support system, and most importantly, a philosophy that values the process as much as the product.

What’s in the Vault?

While the company is tight-lipped about upcoming content, they’ve teased that it’s something they’re “incredibly reluctant to share,” which only adds to the intrigue. Given the secrecy, one can only speculate about the revolutionary tools and resources that might be in store for members.

The Maestro Behind the Mission

Christian Henson is a name that commands respect in the world of music composition. With a career that boasts multiple nominations and awards, he’s a versatile talent who’s worked on everything from TV shows to epic sci-fi films. But what truly sets him apart is his unique, self-taught approach to working with the orchestra, a skill honed through collaborations with a diverse range of artists.

The Spitfire Legacy

Before The Crow Hill Company, Henson made waves with Spitfire Audio, a company that provides essential tools for composers. Spitfire developed a cult following and became a significant supporter of the music industry. This experience undoubtedly informs his new venture, bringing a level of expertise and credibility that’s hard to match.

The Importance of Failure: A Lesson in Resilience

In a recent video, Christian Henson tackles a subject that’s often swept under the rug: failure. But he doesn’t just talk about it; he embraces it as an essential part of the creative process. The video serves as a manifesto for all creatives, urging them to see failure not as a setback but as a stepping stone.

Why We Need to Fail to Succeed

Henson argues that success is often the byproduct of a series of failures. These failures, or “fluff ups” as he calls them, are not just obstacles but valuable lessons. He stresses the importance of repurposing these failures into lessons that can guide future endeavors. This philosophy aligns perfectly with the mission of The Crow Hill Company, making the platform not just a resource hub but a support system for creatives.

The Symbiosis of Philosophy and Practice

What makes The Crow Hill Company and Christian Henson’s message so compelling is the seamless integration of philosophy and practice. They don’t just provide the tools for success; they equip you with the mindset needed to use those tools effectively. This dual approach ensures that you’re not just technically proficient but also emotionally and philosophically equipped to navigate the complex landscape of creative work.

A New Era for Music Makers?

The Crow Hill Company, backed by the wisdom and experience of Christian Henson, promises to be more than just another platform for music makers. It’s a philosophy, a community, and a treasure trove of resources rolled into one. As someone with over 30 years of experience in the music industry, I can say that this is exactly the kind of holistic approach that can redefine how we think about music production.

Are you ready to embrace failure as the ultimate teacher?

Watch this:

I Suffer From Sensorineural Hearing Loss

During my lifetime I developed a condition known as sensorineural hearing loss which resulted in permanent loss of high frequency hearing. My right ear is affected a little more than the left, albeit due to a congenital auditory canal that is somewhat narrowed. This condition makes it difficult for me to hear certain frequencies like human speech, especially in noisy environments.

A prominent example of someone having the same problem is Phil Collins.

This type of hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear, specifically to the hair cells in the cochlea, and are — in my case — the result of many years of exposure to loud music both as a performer and as a producer. Today I want to be open about my hearing loss and speak about the challenges I’m facing as a result.

Living with sensorineural hearing loss is a reality that I never thought I would face when I was younger, but it’s something that I have learned to live with over the years. Looking back today, I couldn’t hear certain frequencies too well very early on when I began playing music, especially when I was surrounded by background noise or chatting people. It’s a condition that has affected my (social) life significantly, and it’s something quite serious. I’m sharing my story in the hope that it will inspire others to take steps to protect their hearing, and to avoid the same fate that I’m enduring.

Diagnosis

I was officially diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss in 2011, after I noticed that I was having more and more trouble hearing in even only lightly noisy environments, like a dish washer in a kitchen that was affecting my ability to follow a conversation with someone. As my hearing continued to deteriorate, I knew that something was seriously wrong. After several tests and consultations with my doctor, I learned that I had developed sensorineural hearing loss as a result of exposure to loud noises over the many years as a musician.

The news was pretty devastating, because it’s something you can’t just fix. Music is a massive part of my life, and I love to have deep conversations, but now I was struggling to understand what people were saying in their normal conversation style and environments.

Challenges

Sensorineural hearing loss can be emotionally challenging, especially when it comes to trying to have conversations with others. Sometimes I felt frustrated, embarrassed, or even angry when I struggled to hear what others were saying, especially in noisy environments. These feelings could be compounded by the fear of appearing rude or dismissive, or of being misunderstood.

Today I very often need subtitles when I want to watch a film or a TV show, because otherwise I don’t understand what is being said.

In addition to these emotional challenges, sensorineural hearing loss caused physical symptoms such as fatigue, stress, and headaches. The strain of trying to hear and understand what others are saying, especially in noisy environments, was exhausting and took a toll on my overall well-being.

Finding Solutions

Despite these factors, I have found ways to overcome a big portion of those obstacles. I’ve learned to communicate more effectively with others and to find support and understanding from others by simply mentioning my hearing problem. This would usually go like this when I would be in a with people in a room:

“Sorry, can we please close the window? I have a hearing problem when there is background noise.”

It only takes that small sentence. Nobody has a problem with it, and nobody asks what your hearing problem is about. Topic closed.

Living with this can be very difficult, but it does not have to be an insurmountable obstacle. With the right strategies, resources, and support, people with this condition can learn to overcome their feelings of frustration and isolation and to live fulfilling and meaningful lives.

Over the years, I have learned to adapt to my hearing loss by avoiding noisy environments, asking people to speak more clearly (not louder, that doesn’t help) and wearing earbuds with a transparency mode that amplifies human speech as often as possible to help me hear better. I have also had to learn to communicate in different ways, and to be patient and understanding with others who may not understand the challenges that I face on a daily basis.

Phenomena

You might wonder if my hearing problem affects composing, producing or just listening to music. Oh, and mixing and mastering! Funny enough: not at all. Read on:

One of the ways the brain compensates for hearing loss is by enhancing its ability to process speech in noisy environments. This process, known as “auditory scene analysis,” allows people with hearing loss to better distinguish speech from background noise. Over time, the brain becomes more efficient at this process, allowing people with hearing loss to understand speech more easily in noisy environments.

Another way the brain works is by using visual cues to supplement auditory input. People with hearing loss may rely more on lip-reading, facial expressions, and body language to understand what others are saying. This can be especially helpful in noisy environments, where it may be difficult to hear speech clearly.

The brain can enhance its ability to process sound in the frequencies that are still audible. This process, known as “frequency compensation,” allows people to maximize their ability to hear and understand speech. I sometimes hear things that others don’t hear well or at all, as strange as that sounds.

You can also become more sensitive to sound; our brain can make even soft sounds appear louder. If I have very little or no background noise, then I mostly hear excellent. This process, known as “recruitment,” can be both a blessing and a curse, as it can make sounds more audible, but it can also make loud sounds seem uncomfortably loud.

And then there is this other problem…

I can no longer tolerate the noise of everyday life, such as street noise, a shopping mall or too many people talking. It stresses me so much that it’s affecting my mental health.

aerial photo of city buildings during nighttime
Photo by sergio souza on Pexels.com

Research has shown that exposure to too much noise can lead to a range of negative effects, including stress, anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance. These effects can be particularly pronounced for people who are already struggling with mental health issues, like I do, or who are sensitive to environmental stimuli.

Be Careful!

I have exposed my ears to far too high sound pressure levels far too often. I had a massive hearing loss in 2013 when I didn’t hear anything for 3 months after playing a very loud gig where I couldn’t control the monitors. I should have been much more careful with my hearing throughout my life. That was my fault.

What I want to share with others is the importance of taking steps to protect your hearing, and to avoid exposing yourself to loud noises that can cause hearing damage. I know that it can be tempting to ignore the warning signs, but the consequences can be devastating, and the impact on your quality of life can be long-lasting.

So, if you are reading this, I urge you to take action to protect your hearing. Wear earplugs or other hearing protection in noisy environments, limit your exposure to loud noises, and take steps to protect your hearing from further damage. By doing so, you can help to ensure that you do not suffer the same fate as I have, and that you can continue to enjoy all of the sounds and experiences that life has to offer.

Living with sensorineural hearing loss has been a difficult journey, but it has also taught me valuable lessons about the importance of taking care of my health and well-being, alongside a few other things, but that’s a topic for another day.

I hope that my story will inspire you to take steps to protect your hearing, and to avoid exposing yourself to loud noises that can cause permanent hearing damage.

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.