Archive for the ‘ Health ’ Category

Some New Jams, and a Teeeeny Sneak Peek Into 2016

Mainstage at Tech(no11)

Mainstage at Tech(no11)

Happy Boxing day ladies and gentlemen. I know it’s been a minute since you’ve heard from me and it’s for (somewhat) good reason. I have a lot of really exciting things to tell everyone about as 2015 begins to wind down. First things first though, hit play and listen to the latest edition of State Dependent Learning – Vol 4!

I want to give a HUGE shoutout to my good friend Dabura for letting me play what is one of my favorite new tracks. The first time I heard it was at his place a few weeks ago while he was prepping to play for a Transmit Tuesday at Spybar. He’s so damn humble that at the time he wasn’t even sure if he was going to play it that night or not. Myself and one other friend more or less insisted that he do.

Talk Nerdy to Me

Okay, so, sorry we’re still using my shitty JS player. I can promise you that I haven’t been sitting around with my thumb up my ass and there’s a REALLY REALLY REALLY cool new one coming soon I promise. Actually, let’s talk about what’s going on where my passions for music and software meet. Most of you know that I’ve been working very closely with Onlythebeat.com for some time now and that we are going to be launching a streaming music service. Progress has been a LOT slower than I would have liked it to be, however we are getting SUUUUPER close to being able to launch! Excluding OTB Staff and industry insiders, we’re going to be offering a beta to a VERY LIMITED number of my friends, family, and whoever kisses my ass enough, so look out for that. I really really reallly wish I could tell you more about the features and functionality that the new service will offer, however that will have to wait a few more weeks.

I can say that the back end is a thing of SERIOUS beauty. It’s written in PHP using my good friend David Young‘s Opulence Framework. There’s a lot of fancy footwork going on behind the scenes and it really wouldn’t have been doable without his tireless efforts. The back end will actually be accessible via a publicly documented API, so I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of 3rd party apps people dream up. Maybe someday you’ll see OTB Ableton Plugins and apps.

On the frontend side, I’ve taken it upon myself to learn AngularJS – and boy has that been a shallow learning curve!! Actually pretty much the only reason we’re not live is because I’m still hammering out the connection between the front and back ends. The things that Angular lets you do, however, are worth the sweat equity. As soon as that’s done, onlythebeat.com is going to be a different animal altogether.

Great Jams Bro. When and Where can I see you Play?

So this is blowing my mind, but 2015 has been a really good year for me in terms of my development as a DJ. To think that I literally played my first gig at a yoga studio this April. Four months later, I was graced with the honor of playing the main room of a monthly loft series that has become a Chicago staple. By far my favorite gig this year though, was without a doubt this boat party that I played in Austin, TX for Halloween. Sometimes the combination of the crowd, the jams, and what you happen to be feeling at the moment just combines and you blow everyone’s mind. That was what happened at this particular party. It certainly didn’t hurt that my costume was a huge hit.

Some men just want to watch the world burn. Playing on a boat party in Austin, TX for Halloween 2015!

Details are still in the works, but I’ll be playing in Mexico for a BPM afterparty on Jan 12 & 14. January 14 is my birthday, so if you don’t come to Mexico for this, I’m going to be seriously PISSED. Flights are super cheap and this particular party doesn’t even charge a cover so you have literally ZERO excuse to not go.

On Jan 5 & 26 I’ll be at Spybar for Transmit Tuesdays. Jan 20th I’ll be at Lokal for Consumed. I’m sure there will also be a few Corepower dates as well, though details for all of these are still in the works. As soon as I have flyers and 100% confirmed set times and dates, don’t you worry…. I’ll be spamming you along with everyone else I know :p.

Yoga Sculpt: How to Create a Hit Playlist

One of the most challenging portions of teaching Yoga Sculpt is maintaining an environment that is conducive to the goals of the class. Because the energy level changes so much throughout the sequence, constant attention must be paid to lighting, temperature, humidity, and music. Music is particularly challenging for a number of reasons and not all of them are obvious. This article is designed to address these challenges by relating them to my experiences managing a crowd as a DJ. I will introduce you to some basic musical concepts such as energy, key, tempo and song structure, then I will walk you through my process that I use when developing my own sculpt playlists. I will introduce some of the tools that have aided in my DJ career that are particularly suited to developing a great sculpt playlist. Finally, we will develop a Sculpt Playlist using this new knowledge and the tools that we have at our disposal.

Some Philosophy

Before we begin, I’d like to share a bit of my personal philosophy as it applies to any type of performance. It could be public speaking, comedy, a DJ gig, or teaching a yoga sculpt class. I’m a firm believer that there are 2 universes. There’s one inside your head. It contains your expectations, your hopes, your dreams, the world as you imagine it is, or as want it to be. Then there is the universe as it actually is. As yoga teachers, we face a near constant reconciliation of these 2 universes. When the world as it is is in sync with the universe inside your head, it feels good and you’re at peace. The opposite can produce frustration, or at the very least opportunity for learning. When we deliver a great class experience for our students or when we try something new that our students appreciate, it feels good. When things don’t go according to expectations, we need to learn to modify our behavior to produce the result that we want.

One thing I like to remember as a DJ is that it’s not all about me. Music is uniquely difficult to play for other people because most people are used to getting whatever they want as it applies to music. In their cars, their headphones, at home, and at work, people have an incredible amount of power when it comes to customizing what they are hearing at any given time. When you put a group of people together who want different things, you have to remember that you are there to create an experience that will shape your audience’s experience, not your own expectations. A live DJ will often times rehearse a specific order of songs to be played at specific times, but due to a dance floor being a dynamic environment, a good DJ will be able to read the crowd and play to the energy in the room. Teaching sculpt offers less flexibility, however coming prepared ahead of time will help immensely.

The Basics

All songs have certain properties to them. They have a genre, a tempo, an energy level, a musical key, and many more. Most songs follow a particular structure that can be used as an aid to transition from one exercise to another, or, depending on the song and the talent of the instructor, even from one series of the sequence to the next. A particular song might be appropriate for one portion of the sequence and completely inappropriate for something else. It’s helpful to understand each component of a song, its function, and how it can be used to cue each movement in the Sculpt Sequence.

Tempo, Beats, and Structure

The tempo of a song can be thought of as the speed of its beat. It is measured in Beats Per  Minute. A beat is the basic unit of time in a song and is typically some form of percussion. Most songs have an upbeat and a downbeat. A downbeat is the first and third beat of a bar, and an upbeat is the second and last beat of a bar. In 4/4 time (almost every modern song), a bar is 4 beats, and a phrase is 4 or 8 bars. Each phrase represents a shift in the energy or sound of a song. New instruments are added, removed, and the song will develop at each phrase. Counting bars and beats can be useful when teaching to the beat because you can use each phrase to cue a new exercise, pose or movement. Let’s examine the structure of a typical song using the example below.

Intro

An intro is typically a multiple of 16 beats (or 4 bars) in length, with a new sound added either every 16 or 32 beats in length. Typically, new sounds being added every 16 beats means that you have a 4 bar phrase, and every 32 beats means you have an 8 bar phrase. In the example track above, if you count out the first 8 bars (or 32 beats), you will notice that it is just a low drum kick (downbeat), followed by the combination of a high hat every other beat (upbeat). There is a bit of a melody during this time however the introduction of the next bassline at the 8 bar mark adds a new sound, meaning you have an 8 bar phrase. The intro continues for another phrase, however the buildup will let you know that the intro is over. Tempo in a song will rarely change and if it does, it usually does so in multiples of 2. Dubstep and Traphouse are famous for utilizing these types of tempo changes. As a general rule of thumb, I avoid these genres of music during a sculpt sequence…. and in life altogether really.

Verse (optional)

In songs with lyrics, each verse sets up the theme of the song and builds a natural progression to the chorus. Many house music tracks that have simplistic or repetitive lyrics will skip a verse entirely and move straight to a chorus, or a buildup.

Chorus (optional)

This contains the main message or theme of the song. Typically the most energetic and catchy part of a song. Typically, each line of chorus will last exactly one phrase, as is the case of the example song.

Breakdown

This is a transition between the end of the chorus and the beginning of the next verse, chorus, or bridge. This will typically contain the main melody of the song. It’s usually the peak energy level of the song, which is precisely where you want to put the most intense exercises that you have planned for a particular portion of the sequence.

Verse 2 (optional)

In songs with lyrics, this will be the second thought or concept expressed in the song. The lyrics are generally different than the first verse of the song.

Chorus 2

Typically, the second chorus will mimic the first chorus of the song, however slight variations might be introduced.

Bridge (optional, but typically found in most songs over 4 minutes)

This is a second transition towards the end of the song. A bridge is generally musically different than the rest of the song, however the tempo should remain unchanged. In rock or other acoustic genres of music, this is where instrument solos will be found.

Chorus 3 (outro)

Some songs might have a 3rd repetition of the original chorus. Generally speaking, the 3rd chorus is a shorter version of the original chorus.

Outro

The closing segment of the song is the outro. This is where the song will fade out, return to simple beats, and generally wind down. In the sculpt sequence, this should be your cue that it’s time to give your students a break and prepare to move onto the next portion of the sequence. It is generally the same length as the intro, so be mindful of whether you are using 4 or 8 bar phrases to give you an approximation for how much time you have left.

One more thought regarding tempo

Generally speaking, you want to start off with a slower tempo for Integration, constantly bump yourself up in tempo, peaking at cardio, then finally work your way down to something slow for Abs and Surrender. Genres of music are often classified by their tempo. Hip Hop and downtempo is generally between 80-110bpm, House music is between 120-130 bpm, Techno between 125-140 bpm, Trance can be between 130-150 bpm, and Hardstyle is anything 160+. Never play hardstyle, even during cardio. Or ever for that matter.

Energy Level

Energy level is unfortunately more difficult to quantify because there are many factors that contribute to it. Tempo, musical key and pitch all play a role. Generally speaking, the more high pitched instruments you have and the higher the tempo, the higher the energy level. There are many algorithms that take a crack at it, though I’ve found them to be generally inaccurate. Hip Hop is generally low energy, Techno, Trance, and Hardstyle are generally high energy. I’m biased because it’s what I play in the clubs and afterhours warehouses, but I’ve found that House Music is like goldilocks as it applies to the Sculpt Sequence – just right. The software I use assigns energy levels on a scale of 1-10 so that’s what I use, however you can assign energy levels to each song according to your own scale should you choose not to use any software to help you.

Key

CamelotWheel
Musical key plays a large part when it comes to blending from one track to the next. If you plan to make continuous mixes, you will HAVE to pay attention to key. If you do not plan to make continuous mixes, paying attention to key can still help you develop a cohesive playlist that will “just feel right.” Ever notice how two songs just seem to go together really well when played one after the next? Maybe they sound similar or they feel just right when played one after the next? Chances are, those 2 songs are in key with each other. Without going into too much musical theory, the key of the song is dependent on which chords are played. Certain notes go together really well while others sound unpleasant when mixed together.

The image here is called the Camelot Wheel. It was developed by the geniuses at MixedInKey to help DJ’s profile and mix songs that are compatible in key. From their website:

On this wheel, musical keys can be seen as “hours” on a clock. For example, 4 o’clock corresponds to 4B or 4A. The letter “B” represents Major keys. The letter “A” represents Minor keys.

To use harmonic mixing in your DJ sets, you can change keys with every mix by moving around the Camelot wheel one step at a time. Mix between songs by subtracting one hour (-1), adding one hour (+1), or staying in the same hour as your last song. So if you’re playing a song tagged 4A, your next track can be 3A, 4A or 5A.

For a special effect, you can mix between the inner circle and outer circle. For example, mix from 4A to 4B.

That’s all it takes to start harmonic mixing – just scan your files with Mixed In Key and choose songs that are adjacent to each other on the Camelot wheel. Harmonic mixing works for all music genres because it is based on music theory.

The Yoga Sculpt Sequence, My Process, and Some Tools

How I start

Components

I like to start off by creating various buckets that I then use to create a playlist. I do all of my track management in iTunes because it plays nicely with the other tools I use. Specifically, MixedInKey, Platinum Notes, and MixedInKey Flow. My library has already been processed by MixedInKey, however if you’re just starting out and you actually care about tempo and key, you’ll want to pick up a copy of the software. MixedInKey can be had on their website for about $60 and it’s worth every penny. It will go through your entire iTunes library and identify which musical key each song is, assign an energy level, and give you the tempo in beats per minute. If I am unsure about whether a song will fit in a specific portion of the sequence, I let MixedInKey be my guide.

I place songs in each bucket according to their energy level and tempo. Once I have built up a good number of tracks in each “bucket,” I get to work designing my playlist. If I am making a continuous mix, I will want to have an hour and a half of music, if I am just making a simple playlist, I want to have about 5-10 minutes extra. Your playlist should have about 11-12 songs if it is a simple mix, and about 15-17 songs if it is a continuous mix. In the sections below, I’ll give you approximate ranges for energy level and tempo that are appropriate for each series in the Yoga Sculpt Sequence

Integration

There is a bit of subjectivity here and room for personality. For those of you who like to get the class moving almost immediately, just go ahead and start with some good deep house music but keep the tempo and energy level on the low side. 122bpm tops. If you are mixing in key, 12A and 6A are great places to start because they tend to have a really flowey feeling melody.

BPM:80-122
Energy: 3-5
Example track:Compuphonic – Sunset

Sun A & Sun B

You can pick up the pace a LITTLE here, but at this point you still aren’t technically teaching to the beat.

BPM: 80-124
Energy: 4-6
Example track:Mario Cruz – Little Things

Floor Series

This is where you want to start to crank up the energy. Push-ups are hard, bicep curls are hard. You want something with a solid beat, but not so fast that form begins to suffer. Generally you want to pick up the energy level from Sun A & B but not increase the tempo. Same applies to Squats.
BPM: 120-124
Energy: 6-7
Example track:Go Freek – The Way You Dance

Squats (both)

BPM: 120-124
Energy: 6-8
Example track:Shiba San – Okay

Cardio

This is where you want to really crank up the energy. The tempo should really pick up and so should the energy level. Hear a great banger while getting crunk at the club this weekend? GO BANANAS! The example song I included is pushing the absolute outer limits of what might be construed as acceptable lyrics in a yoga class, but the song is so much fun and gets everyone so pumped up that it’s one of my favorite go-to songs. Just be careful that you know your audience and use some discretion when playing it.

BPM: 126-140
Energy: 7-10
Example track:Chainsmokers – Selfie

Sculpting Series (both)

During the sculpting series you want to bring the energy level down a little bit from Cardio and massively decrease the tempo. Remember that everyone is tired so they’re going to need some good music to power through, but you can’t be too fast or people will be throwing weights all over the room and hurting themselves.

BPM: 122-126
Energy: 6-8
Example track:Mineo – Get Out FIght

Core

You want to slow things down here a bit since most core exercises are complex movements, but maintain the energy level. This is the ONE place where dubstep MIGHT be acceptable. You know what, forget it. Never play dubstep. Ever. This is the place to break out the disco as long as it’s on the slow side because it’s high energy and fun.

BPM: 118-124
Energy: 5-7
Example track:Alex Kidd – You Know I Love Music

Surrender

Surrender is a little tricky. You want to have some energy and beat for the stretches but you want to tone it down to an almost nonexistent beat by the time you get to shavasana. I actually advise that you use 2 songs here, one with a beat and one with no beat. I like to find a nice hip-hop instrumental or downtempo track to start off with, then mix into something more soothing.

BPM: 100 or below
Energy: 0-4
Example track:Pete Rock – Pete’s Jazz
Example track:Trailer Park Boys Theme Song

Closing

I like to finish by actually playing my entire mix or playlist and trying the sequence out. Often times things feel like they might go together well but in practice it just doesn’t work out. Testing your playlist on yourself is a good way to figure this out. I’ll also use this as my opportunity to theme a sequence or think about what exercises I’m going to employ. Always remember that a playlist is dynamic – you don’t have to always play the same songs at the same time in the same order – you just need to be sure that the way you think it’s going to go is the way that it actually works out. Good luck!

You must YOGA before you YOLO

10942566_10102420792085220_7594903331089636108_nHappy Wednesday folks! This week I will be retaining my usual format of giving you some good music to listen to while I ramble on about whatever is interesting to me at the time. This time I’m going to talk about another one of my favorite obsessions – yoga. This week’s set is the first installment of yet another series, YOGA and YOLO (I know, when will this kid stop introducing new series and just focus?!). Each of these sets are designed for my favorite yoga instructors to play in their classes. These posts were originally intended to be Christmas presents for my favorite instructors, however due to a combination of bad equipment, lack of skill on my part, and moving to the San Fransisco Bay Area, these are slightly tardy. Sorry and Merry Christmas Conor!!

If you live in Chicago, check out one of Conor MacDonald’s sculpt classes at Corepower Yoga, you won’t regret it. If you are already a seasoned Corepower Sculpter, I hope that you hear this in class soon! Regardless, it’s my hope that this post will be your inspiration to check out a class. I can personally say that my yoga practice has been one of the single most positive lifestyle changes I have ever made. So happy listening and namaste…

YOGA and YOLO – Conor Sculpt (3/18/2015)

Tracklist

  • 1 – Daniel Fernandes – After All
  • 2 – Tough Love – Love & Happiness
  • 3 – Lika Morgan – Gone Tomorrow
  • 4 – Syn Cole – Bright Lights (The Voyagers Remix)
  • 5 – Disclosure – When A Fire Starts to Burn
  • 6 – Antonio Giacca – Alright
  • 7 – Monkey Safari – Watching the Stars
  • 8 – Kaskade – Sorry
  • 9 – Chocolate Puma & Firebeatz – I Can’t Understand
  • 10 – Mineo – Get Out Fight
  • 11 – Fashion Lioness – If I Leave You
  • 12 – Pete Rock – Pete’s Jazz
  • 13 – Galimatias & Alina Baraz – Drift

Why Yoga?

A friend of mine recently asked me about my growing obsession with yoga and how it compares to working out in a gym. I cited 4 ideas that I would like to share:

1. I find that gyms are pretty douchy and awkward. Bunch of half naked people being super self conscious and pretentious. A yoga studio is totally different. It’s all super high quality people and the atmosphere is incredibly accepting, encouraging, and positive. After having moved to a new town where I didn’t know anyone, I found that the fastest friendships that I formed were in the yoga studio. In contrast, I can’t think of having made a single friend at a traditional gym and I’ve been going on and off for 15 years!!

2. It’s not just a workout of specific muscle groups. There is focus on whole body strength. Cardio, isometric holds, strength, and flexibility of the whole body.

3. I find that it’s good for my inner peace of mind. Because they focus on breathing and mindfulness before and after the workout, you come into a yoga studio with all of your bullshit of the day and you leave the yoga studio at peace.

4. I think that people who work out in more traditional ways measure their progress in superficial ways. How much can they bench press? How far can they run? How high can they jump? With those sorts of metrics for success it’s really easy and tempting to compare yourself to other people and that is a bullshit thing to do. Everyone is different. With yoga, the metric for success is so much more introspective. I can only really compare myself to my previous self. I can personally say that I am much better off as a yogi.

About the set

With that out of the way, let’s go into some detail about the set you’re listening to. Every time I post one of these, I’ll also give a bit of detail about which songs correspond to which parts of the yoga sequence. I actually take the time to perform the entire sequence when I do my track selection and transitions to make sure that each track fits in nicely with the mood and tempo of each piece. I try to hide tempo changes in buildups and I occasionally leave a bit more naked beat in between certain sections in an effort to leave time to towel off and grab water in between portions of the sequence.

  • 00:00 – 03:00 – Integration – Daniel Fernandes – Afterall
  • 03:00 – 07:30 – Sun Salutations A – Tough Love – Love and Happiness
  • 07:30 – 12:30 – Sun Salutations B – Lika Morgan – Gone Tomorrow
  • 12:30 – 17:00 – Floor Series – Syn Cole – Bright Lights (Voyagers Remix)
  • 17:00 – 20:00 – Squats 1 – Disclosure – When A Fire Starts to Burn
  • 20:00 – 25:00 – Cardio 1 – Antonio Giacca – Alright
  • 25:00 – 25:30 – Water & Towel Transition
  • 25:00 – 30:30 – Right Side Sculpt – Monkey Safari – Watching the Stars
  • 30:00 – 35:45 – Left Side Sculpt – Cardio 2 – Kaskade – Sorry
  • 35:45 – 35:15 – Water & Towel Transition
  • 35:15 – 40:00 – Cardio 2 – Chocolate Puma & Firebeatz – I Can’t Understand
  • 40:00 – 45:00 – Gluts, Chest (Floor) – Mineo – Get Out Fight
  • 45:00 – 49:00 – Floor Core – Fashion Lioness – If I Leave You
  • 49:00 – 54:10 – Surrender & Cool Down – Pete Rock – Pete’s Jazz
  • 54:10 – 58:02 – Final Shavasana – Galimatias & Alina Baraz – Drift

Wrapping up

If someone in Chicago or the Bay Area wants to volunteer to take a few short videos of me actually performing the sequence while I make these sets, I’d be happy to post them with future postings so you can try them at home. You can shoot me a message at imjustinbraun@gmail.com. I welcome any honest feedback, comments, suggestions, or song requests. Until next time!