Monday, October 1, 2012

What's Original About the DJ?

Depending on your personal context, the term DJ, or Disc Jockey, can conjure up many different kinds of images: people chatting away in radio booths, guys flipping through milk crates of vinyl, or hipsters crouching over laptops. Despite these differences, one old assumption most people had about DJs is that they are not original musicians-that is, they play, or 'spin,' the music of others for the entertainment of an audience.
But today, this is much less the case, as many DJs do compose original music and the art of being a DJ in some musical genres is considered as a real musician. This is especially the case in rap and hip-hop music, as well in most forms of electronic music like dance and techno.
The DJ as Entertainer
Originally, the term disc jockey was reserved for people who simply put on the music of others and had no creative input themselves. This was especially true for the radio, where the DJ's tasks were selecting and playing records, and telling the listeners about the records and the musicians. The DJ who plays music at special events like weddings is also not considered a musician.
The DJ as Performer
Early club DJs were once not that much different from events DJs. But with the rise of disco, dance music, and electronic music, the club DJ began a more involved form of "mixing," segueing from one song to the next. Mixing involved many creative skills, like adjusting the tempo for "beat matching" for create seamless mixes. They also began the style of slowly integrating "samples," bits of one recorded song, into other songs, creating "mash-ups." These techniques had to be learned and practiced in much the same way as learning an instrument. Mixing, beat matching, sampling and mash-ups are today all foundations of DJ training.
The DJ as Composer
The main gear of the DJ as musician consists of turntables, CD players, mixers and samplers. Because electronic music is bigger today than ever, with several dozens of sub-genres, there exists much more elaborate equipment for today's DJ. This new equipment is not only for the live playing and mixing of records, but also for composing music. MIDI keyboards, controllers and drum machines are all popular DJ hardware, and when combined with DJ software like sequencers and multi-track digital recorders, the DJ can write, record and produce original music.
Much of this equipment is quite complex, but that isn't stopping many enthusiastic people rushing to audio school to master this gear. Like how the guitar shot to popularity in the 50s and 60s, today's turntables and laptop sequencers are placing the DJ at the centre of music's avant-garde.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Auto Careers Beyond Mechanic

The automotive industry is in a time of flux. There are many factors at play. After a short-lived rise in the popularity of SUVs, there has been a shift. Increasingly, consumers want smaller, more efficient vehicles, with fewer to zero emissions.
Many have expressed a desire to no longer be at mercy of fluctuating fuel prices. And on the manufacturing side, the American and Japanese car companies have really had to work hard to bounce back from economic crisis and environmental disaster, respectively. What kind of auto careers does the automotive industry offer to today's young car lovers, beyond auto mechanics?
The answer: plenty.
Truck transport specialist
Canada is still dependent on the trucking industry for the transport of most of its goods. This is one of those automotive careers that are likely to remain in high demand, just so long as our economy remains dependent on truck transport - a state of affairs that is not expected to change any time soon.
Fleet manager at a car share service
Many Canadian urbanites are foregoing car ownership, but would still like to have occasional access to a car, for errands and trips out of town, via one of the country's multiple car sharing services. These car sharing services require car savvy staff to oversee their fleets, to order new vehicles, to negotiate contracts with mechanics, etc. If attitudes to car ownership are changing, it may even lead to the creation of more automotive careers.
Electric car designer
Over the past few years, you may have noticed a slow but steady increase of the number of electric and hybrid cars on our roads. Quebec has even put in a place a plan for the electrification of its road network, with charging stations in the parking lots of private businesses. Some condos now advertise that they come equipped with charging stations for electric cars. Although the first electric car was actually developed a century ago, electric car design is one of those automotive careers that still needs leaders and innovators. Could you come up with the next big design?
Custom hot rod designer
Whereas auto mechanics are primarily concerned with what's under the hood, body shop artistes are more concerned with the hood itself.
Body shop repair is one of those auto careers where you can specialize. If you have an interest in classic hot rods and muscle cars, then this is a career, beyond auto mechanics, where you can work with classic vehicles, restoring them to their original state, or taking them to new heights.
Bonus: in some rare cases, custom hot rod designer is one of those automotive careers where the crème de la crème can even find themselves with a deal for a TV reality show.
This is another one of those auto careers that has been transformed by recent technological developments. Today's dispatcher must be as handy with a computer as they are with a two-way radio. Much of their job involves using the latest logistics and mapping computer tools.
Young people today may find that evolving nature of today's automotive industry may lead to the creation of even more automotive careers in the future.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Listening For The Problem: Automotive Technician Diagnostics

Most car owners have a special relationship with their car in a similar way that pet owners have a special relationship with their pets. What I mean by this is that car owners usually know every single last one of their car's performance, irregularities, quirks, and tendencies. While most brand new cars almost always start out running in a uniform way to other new cars of the same make and model, after a while, your car begins to development its own personality. This is probably caused by the way you drive, which reinforces the idea that there is a special relationship between a driver and his or her car.
Assuming one knows what to expect from their car, whenever something new or out of the ordinary happens, the driver knows something might be wrong. One of the surest telltale signs that something is wrong with your car is when you hear a noise that you are not familiar with. Cars make all sorts of noises, but a driver should be able to distinguish normal noises from new ones. Automotive technicians do not have the intimate knowledge of your car that you have, so when you come to them describing a new noise, it is up to their expertise to interpret it to locate the real problem.
Learning how to listen to customers describing problems with their cars, especially in terms of new noises, is a part of automotive technician training. The mechanic can't expect the customer to be experts and use real, technical descriptions of the problems. Instead, there are several general noise descriptions that the mechanic should be ready to identify.
Rattling, Clattering, and Banging: Mostly engine problems due to engine oil deficiencies or engine fuel problems.
Loud Shots: If this occurs when the car starts, it is probably the engine backfiring due to problems with the ignition.
Screeching, Wheezing: These sounds could be due to loose or damaged belts in the engine, like the drive belt or the fan belt.
Whistling, Hissing: Likely the engine is overheating, check the cooling and exhaust systems.
Popping, Sputtering: This could be from a dirty air filter that needs to be cleaned or replaced.
Ticking, Rapid Clicking: There is probably a problem with the fuel transfer from the fuel pump to the carburetor and both should be checked.
Some noises indicate more serious problems than others, while other noises are common developments that happen to a car over time. Automotive training schools have many ways to train the mechanic to diagnose problems, using a combination of simulated customer descriptions and real workshop engines. In both cases, learning to listen is an efficient way to begin identifying the problem.
So trust your ears when hearing something new coming from your car, and trust the automotive technician to know what you're talking about. Sound good?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Mechanic Career Is Just a Diploma Away

Being a successful automobile mechanic requires not only an elevated level of skill, but also a certain amount of formal training. These days, vehicle mechanics need to know about more than just automobiles. They need to understand the evolving computer systems and technologies associated with the vehicles that are in need of service, from cars to smaller trucks.
Due to the augmented quality of automobiles, car owners are purchasing fewer new vehicles. Instead, they are servicing their old ones. This requires mechanics to have a thorough knowledge of both past and present technologies. This is one of the reasons that employers tend to prefer to hire auto mechanics that have post-secondary training. Employers need to know that their team can adapt to the changing market. While having practical experience is a definite plus, a theoretical training provides individuals with a greater base to build upon, and a combination of the two is what employers look for in new recruits.
A career in mechanics is one that is bound to evolve. This is due to the rapid development of new car technologies, and the diversity of the vehicles that are available in the automobile market today (ex. vintage or energy-efficient vehicles). While many mechanics work out of either maintenance shops or car dealerships, some hold elite jobs with petroleum or aerospace manufacturing companies, while 17% of auto mechanics enjoy the liberty of being self-employed (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Many mechanics, after a few years of experience, choose to take their education a little further, attending an additional mechanic program in order to specialize in a particular field. This, of course, comes with particular challenges. For instance, those who choose to work in air conditioning must be up to date with the demands of both federal and state laws regarding refrigeration, while transmission experts must have a profound knowledge base in hydraulics. Some mechanics even specialize in auto collision repair or evaluations, and these fields also have their own particular requirements.
In order to measure the ability of potential mechanics, The National Institute for Automotive Excellence has implemented an additional certification requirement, called the ASE (Automotive Service Excellence). This certificate is now regarded as a badge of capability, ensuring the quality of the holder. As a result, many employers prefer to hire an automotive mechanic holding an ASE certificate (some even require it). This standard ensures the productivity of potential hires from the very first day of employment.
Learning the steps involved of how to become a mechanic makes the entire process a lot easier, which in turn will help make your career goals more attainable. With employers requiring a post-secondary education and a certificate, it becomes clear that individuals that are considering a career to automobile maintenance must attend mechanic school in order to be considered immediately employable. These requirements are necessary to enjoy the continued efficiency of the automobile industry, and to ensure everybody's safety on the road, from the driver to the passenger.

Monday, September 3, 2012

6 Signs That You Should Enroll in DJ School

Wondering what kind of person might consider audio training? Read on.
1. You wouldn't let your parents get rid of their old turntable.
In fact, you have a basement full of old equipment. You can't stand to part with any of it. If you are in love with the devices that play music, than you may be an excellent candidate for DJ school.
2. Not only did you not get rid of that old turntable, you set it up with a mixer and started inventing sounds.
The kind of person who signs up for audio courses has a deep appreciation for sound, so much so that they like to try to make sounds of their own. Like many people, they have a turntable in their basement, but unlike most people, that turntable isn't gathering any dust. Rather, it is being experimented with to create new sounds. Using your old devices to make new sounds is another strong indication that audio training may be a good path for you.
3. You judge a movie by its soundtrack.
Some people judge movies by their story, others by the acting or special effects. But someone who is destined for audio courses may pay more attention to the soundtrack.
4. And by soundtrack, we don't just mean the music.
Audio training can prepare students to create all kinds of sound, including sound effects for movie, TV, radio shows, video games, events, theatrical productions and other kinds of installations. So when we say that someone who may be well suited for DJ school may take a special interest in movie soundtracks, I mean that they may be more impressed with the sound that of toast popping out of a toaster or of cars racing around the track than necessarily with the score.
5. But we're not discounting music either.
Some people are drawn to audio training out of a desire for a musical career that makes the most of their inborn musical talent. The graduates of audio courses who go on to produce live sound or to help artists lay down tracks in the studio need to have a good ear. It will be incumbent on them to identify and excise false notes. Similarly, graduates of DJ school will need to be able to mix different songs together in an artful way. Audio is part art, part science.
6. You like working with computers.
Turntables aside, increasingly the technology we use to make, record and broadcast sounds is digitally based. So anyone embarking on audio courses today should be prepared to spend a good chunk of their working life in front of a computer.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

3 Advantages of Attending Film Production School in Toronto

"I know what it is I want to study," you announce to your parents one day. You can feel their relief. It is instantaneous. They can't wait to hear what career path you have chosen. Could it be law? Or medicine? Or perhaps the trades? But no. You want to study film, and this, this makes them a little bit nervous, for someone who studies film may be bound for sunny, but expensive and far-away California. How, they wonder, will they ever summon up the cash for tuition at a foreign film school? How, they wonder, will they ever form a meaningful relationship with their unborn grandchildren if you should decide to forever settle there? Quickly, you reassure them: "Mom, Dad, I want to attend film production school in Toronto. And here's why."
1. The Canadian industry is unique.
You want to attend film school in Toronto because ultimately, you'd like to make films in Canada, perhaps working independently, or for the National Film Board or some other public agency. And making films in Canada isn't quite like making films in the United States. For one thing, the sources of funding are different. The grants are different. Even the style is different. What works for Hollywood doesn't necessarily work for Canada, where one selling point of any film is its "different-ness" from Hollywood stock.
2. Toronto is central.
Attending film production school in Toronto can be a way to ease into the local industry. An internship through school may lead to that pivotal first job. And if you are going to make films in Canada, then Toronto is a good place to be. It plays host to key industry events, such as the Toronto International Film Festival, and is home to many of the country's major players, such as Atom Egoyan and Sarah Polley.
Also, the teachers at your film production school in Toronto will in all likelihood probably work in the industry, and be able to advise you on how to best navigate it as a newcomer.
And you will also be forging relationships with the fellow students in your film production or audio engineering program. So it would be helpful if you were likely to end up working in the same film industry, where you can help one another out, by passing on information about job postings and giving recommendations, etc. Remember: film is a collaborative discipline and much of your success will depend on who you know and how well you work with them.
3. Toronto is more affordable than Hollywood.
Tell your parents to quit fretting, that attending a film production or audio engineering program won't be half as expensive as they fear. In fact, it will be darn right affordable. After all, you will not be travelling to expensive California, but attending film school in Toronto.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Envelopes of Sound: Attack, Decay, Sustain, and Release

What is sound? That is an extremely broad question with answers coming variously from science, arts, and even philosophy. One way to think about sound is to consider it in contrast to sight.
In the arts, when we think of a single image, for example a painting, it is completely independent of time. It remains the same from the moment we see it to the next time we look at it. This is specifically for an isolated image, obviously not so for a watching a sunset or a movie.
With sound, it is much more difficult to think of it outside of passing time. The only way to think of this would be to imagine a single, unwavering tone, but even then, that is a single sound extended over time without any changes. More importantly, unchanging flat tones are barely considered art. When we think about the sounds that are produced in the service of music, we must take time into consideration.
When we hear a chord being played on the guitar, it comes to us in several phases that change over time. Even the singular smack of the snare drum becomes modified in our perception in just a few microseconds.
What defines the different stages in time of a sound and how we hear it are commonly known as envelopes, and they are an extremely important lesson for music recording. They are: attack, decay, sustain, and release.
Imagine visualizing a sound as a mountain, with the main part of the sound being represented by a plateau at the peak. The attack is the upward slope of the mountain. In other words, it is the amount of time it takes from the first instance of the sound (or from when the note is struck) until it reaches its peak volume. Drum sounds, especially the snare, have a lot of attack.

If our sound mountain's plateau was not actually the highest point of the mountain, but rather after we reach that initial peak after the attack, it sloped down a little before becoming flat, then this downward slope is the decay. It is the amount of time for a sound to settle after it hits its attack peak until it reaches the level the sound will be sustained for.

This is our plateau. It is the main level of volume that the sound will be heard. The longer the sustain, the longer the sound. Pianos have sustain pedals to keep the sound going longer after the pianist hits the key. Synthesizers can hold a note with endless sustain. Most acoustic instruments will have a relatively short level of sustain before beginning to die down again.

This is when we come down the mountain. The release measures the time from a sound's main sustain level until it is inaudible. With synthesizers, the release is counted from the moment the key is released, hence it's name.

Every sound has this temporal relationship with the moment the musician strikes a key or strums a chord. Music production training depends upon professionals knowing these fourtemporal envelopes well before thinking about more complex aspects of recording, mixing and producing.