Learning by Livestream
Based in Cambridge, Liam Taylor has been making music non-stop in some form for the last 17 years. He works across different areas of music from education to running a music blog, composing for independent film and releasing his own original music. This year, Liam became a Steinberg Certified Trainer and has gained recognition for his Cubase tutorial type livestream sessions.
We caught up with Liam to find out more about his approach to learning how to produce music and to get some advice for anyone looking to get started in this side of music-making.
What led you to start creating your livestream music production sessions?
I started creating videos for YouTube 10 years ago. For a while, I was creating weekly videos teaching composition or guitar techniques, sharing ideas and sometimes releasing new music. This was a great way to build a community but also gave me a way to discover new ideas myself – they say the best way to learn is to teach.
Trying to keep on top of this weekly schedule became tricky after a while. I found that I was prioritising video creation over writing music which didn’t make any sense to me. So, I started to look for ways to stay in touch with my audience that didn’t require several days of research, recording and editing every week. I realised that live streaming could be the answer.
I decided to go live twice a week and make music in Cubase with no goals other than to be creative. This gave me a reliable 4 hours of music creation every week with very little preparation. It also allowed me to chat with the audience live, so it was absolutely the right call.
I find being this open with my creative process really helps viewers see how music is really created; in an imperfect, non-linear way with plenty of mistakes!
Describe your sessions – what can viewers expect to happen and learn?
The goal is almost always to write a new piece of music from scratch. I recently added a keyboard camera to the setup to show exactly what I’m playing and talk through the notes or chords I’m using. As I write the different parts, I describe the decisions I’m making, sometimes throwing decisions to the audience. Sometimes the audience will insist I change a patch or a chord which I don’t mind!
Once the basic structure of a song is in place, I’ll start adding production elements like E.Q., dynamic plugins, etc. Depending on the type of song I’m working on, I might add electric guitar, bass or ukulele – I have a room full of instruments so it’s nice to make use of them.
What’s the benefit of livestreaming compared to pre-recorded videos in your opinion?
Because I talk through all the decision making, viewers can use any of the production or composition techniques in their own work. I find being this open with my creative process really helps viewers see how music is really created; in an imperfect, non-linear way with plenty of mistakes! It’s exactly the kind of thing I would have watched when I was a teenager, (and exactly the kind of thing I do watch whenever I can!)
Occasionally, I’ll run a stream where I look back over old project files to add some variety. It’s really funny to look back at decisions I made 5+ years ago and wonder “what was I thinking!?” Sometimes it’s similar to working with younger music producers because some simple fixes can make the whole piece work better. Rather than working with a younger producer, I’m working with a younger version of myself so I’m pretty comfortable calling out whatever silly decisions I made back then.
These sessions go out on YouTube and Twitch (both free platforms) so anyone with either account can watch and interact. I welcome any audience questions, whether or not it’s relevant to the stream’s topic. I have some big ideas about where to take these broadcasts in the future – I think there’s potential for this to be a great resource for all music students.
What advice or tips would you give to someone looking to start learning from scratch?
A lot of creative projects can look really daunting from the outside. You don’t necessarily need any prior knowledge to start making music so I’d suggest that anyone interested should just jump in!
Try to turn off the part of your brain that tells you you’ll fail, because of course you will, but you have to embrace failure as part of the process.
I’d recommend starting by making a BandLab account – it’s a free, web-based program with plenty of tutorials and resources to help you get started. You’re likely to outgrow it at some point, but you’ll learn a lot in the meantime and the benefit is that you won’t have to spend any money up-front.
What do you think the biggest barriers are that stop young people from getting involved in music-making?
I believe there are two main issues. Firstly, information overload. It’s hard to know where to begin, especially as there are so many different programmes and so many ways to approach music-making. What works for you might not work for someone else and, unfortunately, you don’t always know that until you try it.
Secondly, confidence. As a kid, when you think of making music you probably start by thinking of someone incredibly famous who tours the world and is all over social media. When I was a teenager, I thought that all musicians could sight-read. I assumed that anyone playing music on TV had a Grade 8 and had spent years studying music history. Eventually, I realized that wasn’t true. In fact, all I needed was a guitar, Cubase and the confidence to trust my intuition.
Why do you think it’s important to learn about music production?
Whatever your long-term goals are with music, understanding the production side of things and knowing the basics of a digital audio workstation (DAW) will be beneficial. If you’re interested in music creation but you treat it as a hobby, making beats or recording yourself with a DAW is a really fulfilling way to explore your creativity.
If you want to be a performer of some kind, knowing how to record basic demos or backing tracks will be incredibly useful to convey your artistic vision to other producers, or a record label, (if that’s the route you want to take). If you’re dedicated enough, you may be able to self-produce your work at every stage of your career.
There are also plenty of careers that rely on music tech: commercial music and client work; studio production and engineering; composition for film, TV and games. Being familiar with a DAW and some standard production techniques is a great start for anyone considering these careers.
How can people get involved in your sessions and stay in touch?
There’s a page on my website with a Livestream calendar and further info. You’re welcome to explore the site for more information about me and my music projects: ltguitarist.com/streaming
I’m @LTGuitarist on all the socials and most active on Twitter if you have any questions.