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Open mics make lofty promises about what they’re able to offer songwriters of all levels. I’m here to tell you that they’re still a waste of your time.

By the time I was 16, I was making a living as a professional DJ. Over my 16-year career, I touched on many other areas of the music industry, including A&R, bookings, event management, promotion, music curation, and ultimately a seven-year club residency with Pacha Ibiza.

A bit of cleaning goes a long way. A tidy studio is honestly one of the most effective tools for working at optimum capacity. Imagine feeling super inspired and ready to start working, but then entering your studio space and finding that there’s a bunch of confusingly tangled wires at your feet and you can’t find the power cable to turn on your microKORG.

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Explore Soundfly’s wide array of free online courses and expand your musical skills over your lunch break! Here’s just a few free courses you can choose from: Music Theory for Bedroom Producers, Touring on a Shoestring, How to Get All the Royalties You Never Knew Existed, and of course, How to Create a Killer Musician Website.

You need to get comfortable in your vocal range, master techniques that you struggle with, and push the limits if you want to be exceptional (and yes, you want to be exceptional…“Exceptional” is the goal, if you were ever confused about that).

+ Learn a new musical skill in 10 minutes. Explore Soundfly’s wide array of free online courses and gain a musical edge during your lunch break. Or sign up for the Soundfly Weekly newsletter and learn something new every Tuesday!

When you establish a color scheme strongly, it becomes even easier to then subvert it and supplant a freshness into your look. White’s video for his solo song “Freedom at 21” exemplifies this perfectly. Here, he puts a ton of emphasis on the neon green of his sports car and the bright pink of the policewoman’s lipstick; the colors feel as though they’re going to jump off the screen at any moment.

All you have to do is click the box. Purple means the click will play; when it’s not purple, it won’t. I personally recommend that you record both your piano and vocals to a click track to make sure everything you might record later on is in time. It’ll also make mixing and processing that much easier.

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Producers today make as many compositional decisions as entire songwriting teams of yore. How does this affect publishing? Hint: it could use a rethink.

4. Amanda Palmer has released a new song dedicated to Puerto Rico: “Small Hands, Small Heart.” All digital sales on Bandcamp this month will go directly to the Hurricane Maria Community Recovery Fund, which supports local grassroots organizations that work directly with low-income communities of color. Read more here, or go straight to Bandcamp to hear and purchase.

“I worked with Jeff in earlier sessions of Introduction to the Composer’s Craft and the Headliners Club. He has a beautiful perspective and really seems to look at his music from multiple angles. In addition to writing music, Jeff is a gifted photographer, and that comes through when you listen to his work. In the composition course, we discussed the foundations of writing music — things like form, tonality, etc., and then went on to develop his artistic voice during a follow-up session of the Headliners Club.

“Havana”: The only thing that stands out for me here is the bold choice in janky piano samples, just pitchy enough to transport you to the world of well-preserved cars and state socialism. It’s also subjective whether it’s a different chord change, or just a different arrangement of the same chord change that happens when Young Thug comes in. I’ll tell you one thing, nobody on the dang dance floor cares if the implied chords are diminished or dominant.

Ethan Hein is a Doctoral Fellow in Music Education at New York University. He teaches music technology, production and education at NYU and Montclair State University. With the NYU Music Experience Design Lab, Ethan has taken a leadership role in the creation of new technologies for learning and expression, most notably the Groove Pizza. He is the instructor of the free Soundfly course series called Theory for Producers. He maintains a widely-followed and influential blog, and has written for various publications, including Slate, Quartz, and NewMusicBox.