How DJs & Music Producers Survive The Constant Ringing in their Ears

How DJs & Music Producers Survive The Constant Ringing in their Ears

Since April 2016, I’ve been holding a bit of a secret from my online readers. 

 
I was worried about what it would mean for my Producing & DJing career. 
 
I have tinnitus. 
 
Tinnitus is a constant ringing in your ears, usually at a high frequency, but can can also sound like static or scratching.
 
It is constant & if you don’t get your emotions under control, can be incredibly stressful & terrifying. 
 
If you don’t have these symptoms, count your lucky stars! Keep reading to learn how to protect your ears, so you never have to suffer through this. 
 
 
My Story
 
Mine started after an Iggy Pop concert, which left my ears both ringing and feeling stuffed. I hoped that is would go away like so many other situations, but this felt different. 
 
In the beginning, many people can’t sleep at all because of how loud the sound is when their ear hits the pillow. Many claim not being able to get more than 2 hours of sleep a night for the first 2-4 months. 
 
For some, this can lead to suicidal thoughts. I am a pretty optimistic person, but there was a day or 2 that I found my condition so unbearable & panic inducing that is actually ran through my head. 
 
 
My thoughts immediately went to my producing and djing career.
 
As a strange time of extreme highs & lows, I was suffering privately from this ringing as my EP reached number one on the Beatport minimal releases charts for 5 days straight. This is the first number 1 I’ve had, but I was miserable. Talk about mixed emotions! I didn’t really have the time to enjoy the moment & I thought this might be the end of it all. 
 
 
I started reading forums to try to find a solution. ANY solution to cope with this. Sadly most of them are just people saying “this sucks & you’ll have it forever because there is no cure”. 
 
I kept searching. 
 
During this time my stress level was building up because I had just agreed to mix an album & I had my monthly DJ residency coming up. 
 
 
 
Distracting myself
 
So one of the first things I tried to do was to distract myself from this constant sound that insisted on my attention 24/7. I tied watching TV, but the ringing would not be ignored and was louder than my distractions. I am a person who likes things at a low volume, so just cranking things up to mask the ringing caused even more panic. Although distraction & keeping busy are incredibly important in dealing with this, early on you seems to be lucky to get a full minute where you momentarily forget you have this massive issue. 
 
 
 
Cleaning the slate
 
As a way to try to relieve some of the stress, I blasted out several emails & made a few calls cancelling all DJ gigs & all music production responsibilities. What I couldn’t cancel, was a the 30 Day Master Course I had launched which required me to listen to a LOT of music in different stages of completion. Everyday, my students had homework they needed to send in & I needed to listen & respond. 
 
I had to be VERY careful with my ears. Each day felt like I was assaulting my ears more & more, but I had to carry on. I was committed to each and every student of mine. 
 
 
 
Light at the end of the tunnel
 
As I continued looking for people who had something positive to say about tinnitus, I started coming across some very useful information. I also had a close friend who had been where I was at, who was able to keep me sane on some really rough days. 
 
I started finding some quality information about ways to not only cope, but also ways turn the volume down on the constant ringing. It turns out that stress, salt & alcohol make the sound spike up in volume. Sometimes 5 times louder or more & these spikes can last anywhere from 1 to 3 days. 
 
 
 
What you’ll need if you have Tinnitus
 
Ear Plugs:
Protecting your ears form further damage is absolutely essential. I recommend you go to an Audiologist & get custom molds made specifically for your ears. It’ll cost you around $150. I paid more for extra filters. -19db & -26db (which I use 99% of the time). I keep these with me at all times when I’m out. Concerts, sporting events & restaurants can all be pretty loud, so it’s best to always be ready. Custom plugs are different than cheap spongey plugs in that you can still hear full frequency of sounds, just at a lower volume instead of everything you hear being muffled. 
 
If you live in or near Denver, I recommend taking to Guy Weyer at Hear-Mobile.com. He came right to my house & made the process quick & painless, as well as giving some great information & advice. 
 
Massage:
Massage has become an incredibly important thing to reduce my stress levels & to relax tightened muscles. It’s amazing how a couple sessions a month can really help reduce not only the volume of tinnitus, but your stress level overall. I go to Lodo Massage and Amanda Reed has been amazing. 
 
Yoga:
I do about 10 minutes a day of light yoga & stretching. Not only does this help with tinnitus, but also sets me up for a more calm and productive day. 
 
Reading:
The book that has helped me the most in Tinnitus: From tyrant to friend. You wouldn’t expect much judging by the book cover, by the author takes you through his journey with Tinnitus. He had it incredibly bad but was able to cure himself completely. You don’t hear many empowering stories like this, so you have to be selective with what you read or you can end up even more depressed. 
 
Supplements:
There are many snake salesmen offering a supplemental cure. Don’t believe any of that hype. That said, B vitamin, Magnesium & Calcium have been known to help quite a bit over time. I take all 3 daily while trying my best to stay away from salt, sugar & alcohol. Of course I cheat sometimes, as these things don’t cause further damage, it just makes what you already have more noticeable. 
 
Meditation:
I’ve been into meditation for quite a while but got a bit lazy with it. I’ve not gotten back into doing it regularly, If you have an android or iPhone the Calm app is free & really excellent for many types of meditation & calming background sounds.
 
Masking:
There are several ways to mask the ringing sound in your head with different forms of noise using the White Noise app. I tend to prefer sounds of nature, waterfalls, rain, waves etc. I typically will find a a target=”_blank”>10 hour video of rain on youtube. I’ll turn it up until I feel some relief but I’ll slowly try to bring the volume down letting the ringing become just slightly louder. My goal is to get used to the ringing instead of always trying to avoid it. The saying “what you resist, persists” is very true when it comes to tinnitus, but sometimes the goal is to just reduce stress. That should be your first goal & habituation 2nd. 
 
DB monitor app:
I use an app called Decibel 10th which will tell my how loud in dbs an environment is. If it’s over 85db, I will typically put on my ear plugs. 
The following chart tells you how long your ears can typically handle exposure before risking hearing damage. 
85db – 8 hours
88db – 4 hours
91db – 2 hours
94db – 1 hour
97db – 30 minutes
100db – 15 minutes (average loud club or concert volume)
103db – 7.5 minutes
from here every 3dbs can damage your ears in half the time as the previous
 
 
 
Other things I haven’t yet tried:
 
Acupuncture
Cranial Sacral Therapy
Tae Kwon Do
 
 
Are you screwed if you are a musician, DJ or producer?
 
This is one of the most stress inducing questions I had to ask myself when I got this. “Am I fucked?” “Do I have to give this all up?”. 
 
The answer is no. 
 
Although you may need to take a break to get your stress levels under control, it will ease up on you if you can keep your nervous system out of fight or flight mode. Tinnitus & your nervous system are so interrelated that it’s literally like a volume knob on the ringing. 
 
In most cases, you’ll need to produce at lower volumes & take breaks more often. To compensate for my need to test the low end at louder volumes, I got something called a SubPac which I put on my chair & it vibrates my body in a way that feels like being at a club. I can keep my headphones low & still feel exactly what is happening in the lower frequencies. Highly recommended. 
 
There are many many musicians & DJ’s that suffer from Tinnitus & are still able to keep doing what they love. Many use in ear monitors, I just wear my ear plugs under my headphones when DJing & keep things low when producing only raising the volume for very short periods to test the mix. 
 
Here are just some musicians that have it:
 
Bono & the Edge – U2
Chris Martin – Coldplay
Sting
Danny Elfman
Phil Collins
Thom Yorke – Radiohead
Pete Townsend – The Who
Will.I.Am – Black Eyed Peas
Bob Mould – Sugar/Husker Du
Barbara Streisand 
Lars Ulrich – Metallica drummer
Noel Gallagher – Oasis
Kevin Shields – My Bloody Valentine
Ozzy Osbourne
Huey Lewis
Eric Clapton
(and the list goes on and on)
 
DJs
Jody Wisternoff (way out west)
Carl Craig
Danny Tenaglia
Roger Sanchez
Dubfire
Moby
Smokin Jo
Tom Stephan 
Jon Carter
Many more musicians & DJs are certain to have ear issues & ringing, but just don’t want to share it publicly. 
 
 
If you are a musician, DJ or producer & have developed a never-ending ringing in your ear, breath.
 
It isn’t fun, but your life is NOT over. You WILL be able to continue. You’ll just need to make some adjustments (and let’s face it, the adjustments are probably going to help contribute to your health and longevity as well). 
 
Good luck friends & keep those ears safe. 
 
Jason
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Writer’s Block & Breakdowns. This is Normal

Writer’s Block & Breakdowns

Songwriting and music production is going to be hard, especially for anyone who is just starting their music journey. Anyone who says differently is not doing you any favors. This is not to say that you can’t simplify the process & develop habits that can assist you when the going gets rough but nobody creates in a place that is void of self-doubt or feeling stuck.

Breakdowns are a normal part of the process

When you understand that getting stuck or feeling lost is a normal part of the process, it can no longer hurt you. You will come to the understanding that by simply keeping yourself moving forward, you will move past the discomfort & begin to gain your confidence again.

In fact, breakthroughs and peak states of creativity very often follow a creatively low period. With repetition of pushing yourself through the process, breakdowns will usually become shorter & shorter. For me, that “stuck” feeling or the “this sucks” period usually lasts for 2-3 days before I get my 2nd wind & start feeling good about things again.

It’s normal. I can’t repeat this enough to make you believe me, but with experience, it will certainly become clear to you.
You are just experiencing fear that you have either lost your magic or that you never really had it. The secret you have to understand is that there is no magic. There is only process & a consistent work ethic.

Comparing yourself to others

Comparing your work to the work of others is a double edged sword & it’s one I would encourage you to practice but please be humble & realistic. To obsess about the gap between your experience and theirs is a big no-no. You should instead be focused on how with each new composition, you are closing that gap.

You are going to need to balance the process of “listen, create, do the best you can, Repeat”. Most people get stuck on the “do the best you can”. We as artists & as people expect so much of ourselves, that we have a hard time accepting when we have given the best we can in this moment. Allowing ourselves to call a piece of work done & moving to the next piece is the secret to success that nobody wants to acknowledge.

Doing the best you can and calling something “done” when you have reached your current skill limitations, is about the most important habit that you can develop. If you are using Mozart as a reference and working on your very first song, can you see the poison in not calling your work done when you’ve gone as far as your current skills allow?

When listening to your reference artist, you need to consider all the years of failed or lesser quality songs that lead to the artist’s ability to create that particular song.

Take a look at any technology we now enjoy in our lives and you will find that each was a process of failing forward. A process of getting better with each attempt. Wasn’t it Edison that failed 10,000 times to create a light bulb that worked? He just happened to view his failures as discovering a new way that didn’t work, taking note & taking a different approach.

The process of getting better is one of the sweetest experiences you can have. The doubt, the struggle & the small victories. Take the time to savor this, as you will never have the chance to go back and do it all again for the first time. You’ll never be able to re-experience the person you become through this process.

It does get easier

at some point is DOES get easier. but you have to accept that nobody is going to drop you at the top of the mountain, you’ve got to climb it step by step. There is no training or tutorial that will replace experience, only some shortcuts & lessons from those who have reached where you would like to be. You can be shown the easiest path up the mountain, but you still have to do the climbing.

Improvement is addicting when you reach a bit outside the amateur level. It takes a good amount of grunt work to get to that place where things level off a bit, so be easy on yourself & understand that there is no human who doesn’t hit a creative wall from time to time. You are not abnormal or unworthy of reaching the top of your game, just because you have some rough spots.

If you are ever feeling down, bookmark this page and read through it often.

If you are still feeling down, email me: innerstatejt@gmail.com

I believe in you & your journey. Keep moving forward :-)

Scoring a Beatport # 1

Scoring a Beatport # 1

Jason Timothy & Marina Karamarko

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, I find myself with my 1st #1 release on Beatport. As I write this, it’s been #1 in Minimal releases for 4 straight days. Something completely unexpected. 

I’ve hit the top 5 a couple of times for a day or 2, but never topped the spot until now.

 

How did it happen? I really don’t know. We as artists don’t have the luxury of dictating what is good and what isn’t. We create the songs and then let the public decide. Sometimes you get to celebrate a win & other times you are disappointed. It’s all part of the game. 

This particular EP, interestingly enough, started with me asking my students for their unfinished 8 bar loops. The now Label owner (ThanQ), Producer & well-established DJ, Marina Karamarko answered that call. In the weeks that followed, I put together a series of video tutorials showing how I would approach finishing that tune. The goal at the time wasn’t even to release the track, but upon listening back, I got back in touch with Marina & suggested we both tighten it up for a proper release.  This song became Dysmorph

Marina had another idea bouncing around and we decided we should try to collaborate on a 2nd song. At some point during the process, I have taken the idea in 1 direction, and she had gone in another. Since we couldn’t decide which to use (because we liked both results), we decided we would release both as separate songs. Now we had 3 songs, instead of 2. 

There we had it, from 8 bar loop to a completed EP. Sometimes, that is how things come about. They start as an experiment & then evolve. The first song went through several changes, returning to it month after month. It wasn’t a song that just came together over 3-5 days. This EP was on and off the backburner between projects for over a year. My work ethic doesn’t allow me to throw away songs anymore. If something isn’t working, I don’t ditch the song. Instead, I break it down and figure out what about it doesn’t work & build it back up.  

You can learn SO much more as a music producer if you push yourself to solve problems in songs you would normally trash. This is one of the many things I teach in my “Create an EP in 30 Days” Master Course

So now we had 3 songs and needed to shop for a label. Yes, it eventually signed to my label  Punchis Records, but I am just 1 of the founders. My partner Sergei is the quality control guy & he has turned down a # of my tracks (and rightfully so). I like that quality control, as it makes me a better producer, even if we disagree at times. Sergei made a few suggestions on a couple of the songs which we agreed would improve the songs a bit, but ultimately he was really happy with the release & then got a remixer involved. Battric & MIVU took the job and made an excellent take on one of the original tunes. 

So that was it, now we had to get the cover art done & schedule it for release.

Although we were pretty proud of this EP, like any release, we really had no idea ho well it would do. For example, when I released my 16 song album Deconstruction Time, I was hoping to see it skyrocket to the top, but it ended up with only marginal success, even though it stayed in the charts longer than an average EP. The point is, you just never know & you can’t force it.  

So when it finally got released, as usual, the 1st day nothing happens, you are just in anticipation. The charts are a daily reflection of the sales from the day before. 

So the next day it hit #31 on the Minimal Chart Releases. Surprising, because usually you don’t see results for a couple of days. The next day it stuck around that area or might have dropped a bit. A bit of a letdown, but we still had hope it might reach the top 10.

The next day it did just that, hitting #7, then #2! At this point, our label had reached #2 once before & I have personally reached #3, so this was already worth celebrating. We had high hopes for #1 the following dayf, but certainly didn’t expect it. When it happened, we were all really excited, as this was a first for everyone involved. (Beatport categorizes by genre, both their Top 100 releases & Top 100 Songs. Then they have their top songs & releases over all genres. Good luck on hitting that one).   

Now normally, when you hit a peak like this, you fall pretty fast the next day. This is what I’ve always experienced. And within a few days, you are off the charts completely in many cases. So the fact that I sit here today, the 4th day still at #1, I am shocked and humbled. Since I haven’t experienced this before, I have no idea what this means in terms of my career. Digital labels don’t really make much money, truth be told, so I know financially my life won’t change through digital music sales. Will I start being offered more gigs nationally and abroad? This remains to be seen.

My guess is, probably not, unless I make a big push from my end to capitalize on this current hit EP. That is really the truth of the matter. No matter the circumstances, unless you are charting big in the most commercial styles of music, you still have to create your own luck. If by some stroke of luck, my inbox starts to fill with offers, I will update this post, but I predict life will stay pretty much the same, except a few nods from my friends. 

This is why it is SO important to not get hung up in self-congratulations & get back to making music. Maybe the next one is another hit or maybe it’s a flop. At the end of the day, consistency will get you much further than having 1 song that rises to the top & then falls back down. 

Although I hope all of you reading this get the exhilaration someday of having a # 1 in your style of music, my greater hope is that you never stop making & finishing music. Your best work usually isn’t the most popular anyway. Enjoy the popularity contest for what it is, but don’t ever get stuck there. 

 

 

 

Baklit Ableton Keyboard Review

Baklit Ableton Keyboard Review

Baklit Ableton Keyboard

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up until recently I had thought about, but never gave a try to shortcut keyboards for Ableton. Being fairly proficient on my keyboard shortcuts, I wasn’t certain what I would get out of it. 

That said, I certainly have forgotten some shortcuts & had to dig through the menu to recall them, which can be a bit time consuming. 

When i was asked to do a review for a new product, I wasn’t sure what to think, but when I took a look at it, I found the thing to look not only functional, but aesthetically pleasing as well. Also, in a dark studio, without a backlit keyboard, there is a good amount of struggling to hit the right keys. This solves that completely.

So with that, I opted to give this thing a try & said “send it over”. 

The Baklit keyboard was beautifully packaged and the keyboard itself was equally nice looking. 

I plugged it into my iMac, installed the driver & initially had issues, as it’s settings defaulted to a Windows computer. With a simple look through the quick start guide, I just had to change a setting or 2 in the preferences and was good to go. I should also mention that support was really on the ball & helped me quite a bit. 

Once I was up and running the keyboard felt like a solid piece of gear and the keys felt amazing. Soft, quiet and responsive. It took a bit of time reorienting myself to a new keyboard, but quickly settled in. 

Having all the shortcuts backlit & displayed in an easy to interpret way, made finding the right keyboard shortcut really fast & easy. 

Although this might not be as exciting as a brand new synth, your keyboard is easily the most used piece of gear in a computer based studio. Having something that visually inspires & feels amazing to the touch, while offering everything you need at a quick glance is a big win. 

I find the keyboard a pleasure to use in the studio & give it a strong thumbs up. 

If you think a keyboard with a shortcut layout is in your future, look no further. I’m certain it will get a lot of use in your studio. 

You can check it out at: https://www.editorskeys.com/ableton-live-backlit-keyboard/