Award winning music producer and tutor Paul Nolan; a guy who has spent the best part of the 21st century passing on his accumulated wisdom to future stars launches his brand new website ‘The Collective: Make Your Transition’. I, personally, have benefitted massively from Paul’s tuition. From learning about sound design, plugin design to learning the ins and outs of the music industry and how to most effectively craft your own sound. Paul, to put it simply, is a genius in his field; although his great humbleness and desire to offer his knowledge to others is admirable and certainly inspiring. We were very grateful to get exclusive access to one of Paul’s courses and, in all honesty, it is a spectacular journey of education.
To begin, the layout and design of the website are very impressive. A high amount of work culminating in a high standard of presentation and extreme ease of use makes the Transition website super user-friendly, meaning that you can focus a lot more on taking in what Paul is teaching rather than navigating your way around the website. After a short introduction taking us through each section of the course and the learning outcomes, we are taken through a section titled ‘Overcoming Obstacles’, which explains the problems that come with finishing tracks and why we struggle. ‘We have to discipline ourselves to breaking the production phase down into various stages,’ Paul states.
Moving on to the next chapter of the ‘Overcoming Obstacles’ section, Paul continues with a philosophical outlook as to why we struggle to reach the levels of production that we could and demonstrates ‘Why multitasking is a myth’. For the science nerds out there, Paul gives a great insight into the cognitive implications of multitasking and why in a production environment, at least, multitasking is an interruption to our workflow. We are then taken through a lecture advising us on how we can break up the production process into smaller chunks allowing us to ‘express ourselves to our full potential’ and to organize, or ‘monotask’ each process to, ultimately, ‘result in you having a supercharged workflow’.
After having the opportunity to have your say in a discussion section, where you can publicly discuss with Paul and other enrolled producers what you may be struggling with, or even offer advice to those who may be struggling with something, we move on to the juicy practical part. The ‘Composition’ stage, to put it simply, is completely focussed on creating an interesting musical composition. Paul explains that when beginning a track, he focuses on more stripped back plugins and synths, such as Ableton’s Analog synth, to simplify the composition stage and avoid the distraction of ‘fancy presets’. Paul pushes the point that simplicity at this stage opens up the door for creative freedom when composing the initial musical ideas, also stating that the ‘musical idea should work on its own before moving on’. He goes on to demonstrate some amazing, innovative techniques, such as the arpeggiator technique using Ableton’s Midi-effects. Although creating gripping musical compositions can be stressful, Paul shows us that creating amazing progressions can be a lot more simple than we make it for ourselves.
The second of Paul’s 6 stages of music production takes us through a nice, chunky Sound Design session split into two parts. Paul begins by explaining his workflow in terms of sound design and goes into detail on how he organizes his folders using Dropbox to enhance workflow and ensure that he has all he needs in any given situation when working on different machines. These folders contain all of Paul’s synth presets, samples, midi-effects and more which helps streamline the sound design process is a very efficient way. Paul goes into a lot of detail to explain exactly what he is doing with his chosen synths and effect modules, something which is a rarity in most other courses. Paul really helps us understand what each part of the synth or effect does and why these tools can generate the sounds that they can.
The second part of the Sound Design module, our focus is drawn towards the drums and how we can add texture and interest to our productions using various techniques. Paul details his approach to drum design using Maschine’s legendary drum synth plugins. We are shown how we can make super interesting loops using incredibly simple techniques, which is becoming a major theme of the Transition course. The simplicity of the techniques demonstrated so far has absolutely blown me away considering the results that you can achieve.
Moving on to the Production module, Paul explains that this stage is to aid in ‘bringing all the parts together into a more cohesive stage’. Throughout this part of the course, it is explained that production should be treated as a ‘process of refinement’ and how, in basic terms, the process of producing the track is the attention to detail that can take a track from a good one to a great one. Paul also demonstrates interesting techniques using EQ’s, compressors and other FX modules and also teaches us the potential benefits of grouping and bussing.
Stage 4 takes us through the process of gradually moving from the ‘loop’ phase into creating compelling arrangements and how we can break away from that creative block we all experience from time to time when we are just sat listening to the same 16 bar loop for hours on end! The arrangement stage is intelligently split into 6 manageable and fantastically in-depth lectures that are just packed full of Paul’s accumulated wisdom. He most certainly is a Jedi Knight of some sort.
Moving into section 5 and 6 we have the final stage of Paul’s production process. In this section Paul states that the learning objectives will be focussed on creating a solid mix and ultimately, to aim for a better end product. From personal experience, I learned a lot from one to one sessions with Paul in regards to mixdowns. When you start to view the mixing stage as a completely separate process, you start to feel free to create and enjoy yourself, which is why we do what we do, for the pure pleasure! Paul takes pleasure in gifting his knowledge to others and his loyal fan base grows stronger every day. With tonnes, more content to come in the near future and, especially considering some music courses cost well into the thousands without the expert personal touch, £350 for a course, also with the option of a pay monthly plan, and with so much incredible detail is an absolute bargain!
You can sign up for Paul’s expert tuition here.
Invest in your future and begin to Make Your Transition!