While we hunker down at home during the COVID-19 crisis, CityMag spoke to musicians and industry experts about how to participate in a musical genre that prides itself on a DIY, whatever-you’ve-got-works attitude.
How to be a bedroom producer
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Two years ago, an awkward but precocious 17-year-old named Claire Cottrill uploaded a video to YouTube of herself singing and dancing to a lo-fi song she wrote called ‘Pretty Girl’.
Claire now performs internationally Clairo and that ditty has garnered up to 47 million hits on YouTube.
The self-made and now award-winning musician got her start by using what was immediately around her in her bedroom.
Clairo ditched face-to-face lessons and taught herself guitar with free online tutorials, and uploaded diaristic songs onto SoundCloud and Bandcamp, slowly honing her craft, before ultimately being discovered by a label.
Music SA general manager Lisa Bishop tells CityMag that if individuals find themselves able to pay rent and have a bedroom to produce music from right now, bedroom producing as a genre of music can act as a creative outlet during the coronavirus pandemic.
“At the end of the day, they are artists and artists are resilient and they will find a way to make their art no matter what,” Lisa says.
“We ran a program last year, as part of the Umbrella Festival, called the Bedroom Producer Series, and Music SA was basically acknowledging that bedroom producing is a phenomenon now, and music has become democratised because anyone in the world can be making music.”
While some bedroom producers, like Clairo, literally fit the bill by producing music in their bedrooms, the term is colloquially used to refer to creators who make lo-fi electronic music.
Instead of booking time in studios to use expensive equipment and record songs to be released through traditional channels, bedroom producers often make beats on chunky computers – churning out hot air at a more rapid pace than they can churn out hot tracks – and making them available on SoundCloud or MixCloud.
For local musician, visual artist and bedroom producer Lonelyspeck, the price of your gear doesn’t define your success – your drive does.
“I didn’t have anything really when I started,” says Lonelyspeck, real name Sione Teumohenga, who has been making music with a laptop and two speakers for 11 years.
“Actually, I went to JB HI-FI and got a headset with a mic on it and that’s the microphone I used for the first few years of making stuff.
“It was a really cheap one, but I was just so infatuated with the idea that I could even record anything, so I didn’t care what it was.”
Lonelyspeck has two releases under their belt, both which explore sonic and visual textures through a rich industrial electronica lens, accompanied by mind-bending album art and videos.
Sione started their bedroom production by downloading sounds from an “obscure” free audio sharing platform called LMMS and eventually moved to make their own recordings on audio program Reaper, which generously offers an unlimited free trial.
Now, however, Sione uses the gold standard for mixing and recording, Ableton.
“But there’s no barrier where you need to have a good mic or a good keyboard or all these things that people might associate with producing electronic music,” Lonelyspeck says.
“It’s possible to make fully professional-sounding stuff now with anything.
“For my last EP, I recorded some of the vocals just standing in my wardrobe basically with the clothes being the padding for soundproof.”
lol this is the earliest version of My Angel Goes Before Me
— 💿 Lonely- "stream 'Abyssal Body'" -speck 💿 (@lonelyspeck) October 18, 2019
Play / pause / play founder and host Luke Penman uses “whatever he’s got” when he hosts his South Australian-focussed radio show, and agrees that having a Swarovski-plated microphone won’t make you Nile Rodgers.
But if you’re listening from small Apple bud headphones, he recommends listening to your recording through a range of speakers and headphones.
This will make sure what you’re hearing is what listeners will also experience, regardless of the equipment they’re listen through.
Luke doesn’t recommend Bluetooth headphones as there can be a slight delay from when you press play and when the audio track begins, but large over-ear headphones from brands such as Audio-Technica or Sennheiser are great, as they offer a fuller sound and noise-cancelling tech – but only if you can afford it.
“When you’re getting started, it’s more about making music, making sounds,” Luke says.
“There was a couple of synthesiser companies that released their iPhone apps for free, one of them is KORG and the other one is MOOG.
“Another trick I’ve seen is if you’re recording vocals, put a quilt over yourself and over the microphone.
“You don’t have to worry about [sound]proofing the rest of the room if you’ve isolated just yourself with the microphone.”
Alex Hosking is an Adelaide-grown artist who three years ago took her bedroom songwriting global.
She is publishing artist with Sony/ATV, which means she provides vocal content with other collaborators over Skype and FaceTime for songs, advertisements or films. But Alex also makes music for herself.
“I would say my music is indie-pop with an urban sort of RnB flair,” she says from her Adelaide home.“I do music full-time and I sort of self-isolate every day.
“It’s actually really scary times, but I think you can always find the silver lining.”
Alex usually splits her time between the Netherlands, Australia and America, but due to the coronavirus crisis has chosen to remain in her South Australian home, and plans on using this time to focus on her craft.
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If you’re starting out, Alex recommends using “cheap, easy” audio production program GarageBand if you don’t have any instruments.
But if you’re feeling like getting more advanced, hook-up a microphone or a synthesiser to your computer and try out a program like Logic.
“And I guess the beauty of technology is there are so many tutorials on YouTube,” she says.
Alex began her career writing music in her bedroom on a keyboard, and then moved onto playing around with programs on her computer. Next thing she knew she was sliding into other musicians’ DMs on social media.
“Then it just turned into this global thing and now I’m signed to Sony and I work in quote-unquote studios, but at the core of it we can all create in our bedrooms.”