Making music from an early age, learning to play on an old organ, composing music for the BBC, and learning to play ukulele. This week we meet Matt Harris (AlumoAudio) from AudioJungle.
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Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from, what do you do for a living?
My name is Matt Harris and I’m 35 years old. Originally from a small town in South Wales called Cowbridge, I’m now living and working in Wales’ wonderful capital city of Cardiff, in the UK.
For the most part, when I’m not making music, I work as a self-employed graphic designer specialising in corporate identity and branding.
Which marketplaces do you belong to? What types of files do you sell?
I’m selling my music files on AudioJungle, and hopefully sometime in the future I’m looking to spread my creativity over onto GraphicRiver and even possibly PhotoDune!
How did you get started? Have you had any formal training?
I’ve been making music from a very early age. When I was around four years old, our next door neighbour was throwing out an old Yamaha organ – a huge, bulky thing with drawbars and foot-pedals. My parents thought it would be a good idea to take it off their hands as something for me to learn. And what a good decision it was! I would spend literally hours on that thing making up little tunes and try to copy songs that my older brothers would play on the record player. Albeit without the foot-pedals, as my feet wouldn’t reach them!
By the time I had reached 15 years old, I had also learned the guitar, bass guitar and drums and had begun experimenting with a four-track Fostex recorder that I had as a birthday present.
From there, I worked in the early 2000s as a DJ, performing live PAs and producing dance music. In 2001 was signed to an independent UK label, Fast Moving Records, producing hard house and trance under the moniker Junoman. I’ve also had the pleasure of producing and gigging live with several acoustic, rock and electro acts.
It was in 2010, I made my venture into creating royalty-free music, more by chance than anything else. A friend of mine who works at the BBC audio department was part of a team developing an iPad app for Lonely Planet, the travel guide website, and asked if I fancied creating non-exclusive music to fit various city video guides. Naturally, I jumped at the chance, despite not ever having created two to three minute themed pieces to fit to video. It was quite a challenge to begin with, but soon found my footing.
From there, I began looking for online marketplaces where I could possibly sell licenses to my music and found a recommendation to AudioJungle in a musician’s online forum. In March 2012, I signed up and realised it’s not only a high-quality marketplace, but also has a fantastic community, which to me is very important. With that, I’ve stayed here ever since as an exclusive author.
I’ve had no formal training in music and ironically, as I’m self taught and play purely by ear, I can’t actually read a note of music. These days I’m thankful for the technology that has now pretty much eradicated this ‘problem’!
I wonder how was your experience working for the BBC and Lonely Planet. Thank you. (Allegro120)
The project was spread over a six month period and like I mentioned, it was definitely a challenge to create music with a given theme, video and voice-over backing, especially as I hadn’t really done anything like this before. As it was for an interactive travel guide, the music would have to be relevant to the location it was covering, and not be too obtrusive as not to distract from the voice-over work, which was to be overdubbed at the BBC.
There was quite a bit of musical research involved and I would regularly have to make edits on the client’s instruction. Also, communication with the client was very important as I was producing the music off-site. But all in all, they were very happy with the result and it was indeed a very rewarding project, especially hearing all that hard work in the end product.
What is an “Alumo?” It sounds like a rare species of bird? (PhilLarson)
It does now you mention it! Sadly there are no types of creature or hidden meanings involved; the name Alumo (pronounced ah-loo-mow) was originally taken from my freelance graphic design outfit and I decided to recycle it here on AudioJungle, for no better reason than I was just being lazy!
It doesn’t actually mean anything to my knowledge, and it was a name that I conjured up when looking for a short, punchy word that didn’t really have much existence on the internet and that began with an ‘A’. The thinking behind it was that my business would appear alphabetically at the top of lists for exposure. At the time, I convinced myself it would be a great idea, but hasn’t quite worked that way just yet!
Describe your home workspace.
I work from my city centre apartment and have set up a dedicated room for all my creative endeavours. As I work as a designer as my main job, I needed to create a space that can be easily adapted to whatever project I am working on, be it music or design. Previously, I had to work around large collections of musical instruments, such as synthesisers, mixing desks and outboard equipment, but as space was getting tight, a few years ago I sold pretty much everything and moved over to a software based environment – which of course frees up a lot of physical space. Couldn’t let go of my guitars though!
I now have quite a simple desktop recording setup. I’m using a MacBook Pro running Ableton Live 8 as my DAW, with a Novation Launchpad, Akai LPD-8 controller and a Studiologic 61 key controller keyboard, all of which I can easily move from my working space when not needed. I’m using a M-Audio Firewire 1814 interface and a pair of old Alesis Monitor Ones (which incidentally are the best monitors I have ever used).
Hey Matt, what is your favorite plugin in each category? Compression, EQ, Reverb, Virtual Instrument, Mastering. And what mic and processing did you use for the ukulele in “That Positive Feeling”? Great tone and track! Your production level on every track is very top notch professional (Sky Productions)
For compression, EQ and mastering I use exclusively IK Multimedia’s T-Racks 3. I’ve used many other mixing plugins over the years, and I found that this setup produces the best sound for my productions and closely resembles the warm and smooth sound of some of the most premium outboard kit, such as the Pultec EQ or the Fairchild 670.
Reverb-wise, I can’t fault the incredible reverbs produced by 2CAudio’s Aether. They are just fantastic. There are hundreds of presets to work with and has a very easy-to-use interface, which is ideal for me as I’m not so keen in getting bogged down in numbers and parameters when working on music.
As far as Virtual Instruments go, I have to say that NI’s Kontakt instrument, Alicia’s Keys piano is my current favourite without doubt. It’s originally sampled from Alicia Keys’ actual Yamaha C3 Neo grand piano. It has a wonderfully expressive sound and the realism and attention to detail on this plugin is incredible, right down to the pedal and key release sounds. Writing stock music, I use piano a fair bit, so for the price, I’m yet to find a better piano plugin that could match it.
On That Positive Feeling I used two Samson C01 condensers to record the ukulele. They’re actually relatively cheap large diaphragm mics (about $75), but they’re great all-rounders with a very accurate and smooth sound.
To also answer a question from Loki6, of what sound libraries I used on the track, it was backed by Ableton Live’s British Vintage Drumrack and I used the piano and orchestra collections on IK Multimedia’s Sampletank for the piano and glockenspiels.
Which instrument would you want to play, but you can’t? (fxprosound)
Definitely the sitar. It’s both a beautiful sounding and looking instrument and apparently takes some time to master, so I’m up for the challenge. I would love to turn up to a jam session with friends with one of those in tow, for sure!
Describe your creative process. What steps do you normally follow to create your files?
Normally, when creating stock music, I will first try and discover what is trending or popular at the moment, and stick to a plan of what genres of music I want to create from this over the following months. Love them, or hate them, I actually find watching TV commercials and listening to the music being used a quick and great way of deciphering what is current and helping products sell in the world. Alongside this, I will often check out the latest music being played on the radio to see what sounds and production tricks are being implemented. It’s a very similar process that I use when creating a brand in my graphic design work. Basically, market awareness.
Once I have found a direction, in most cases I will jump into Ableton Live, fire up a piano patch or plug in the guitar and begin to play with different chord arrangements and melodies, often as a 32 bar loop. I’ll usually add a rhythm section or beats at this stage, and begin to sculpt other sounds around this, which then I would stack and arrange to become the skeleton track. Then it’s a case of fine tuning the arrangement and leveling all the components used, making sure they all sit well in the mix. At this stage, I’ll render off a rough master and test this on various sound systems and headphones to make sure the mix is well represented across the board. Once I’m happy with the mix, I’ll add in a track on the DAW and insert the infamous “AudioJungle” watermark lady. I’ll render this off and begin the file conversion process ready for uploading. The very final stage usually consists of me staring at the ceiling trying to come up with a suitable track name that hasn’t already been taken!
What is your advice to other authors regarding how to create a successful portfolio?
As in most creative fields, I think having a definite direction and strategy is very important when building up a successful portfolio. I would advise authors to take their time to create high-quality items, rather than rushing stuff out just for the sake of filling the portfolio. I’m a strong believer that ‘the cream rises to the top’ and if your music is of good quality, it will stand out and customers will use it.
Also, on the software side of things, I would suggest to keep a simple set up and not get too distracted by all the new plugins and software synths that cross our paths. It’s all too easy to get caught up learning and playing with this stuff and can actually hinder productivity. So find what set up works best for you, and try to stick to it.
What do you do to market your files?
Once my files have been reviewed and accepted by the fantastic and often complimentary reviewers, I’ll make sure my Twitter and Facebook friends and followers are the first to know. I’ll also get a watermarked and referral linked copy up onto SoundCloud, SoundCloud Groups and YouTube to increase online exposure.
Once the file is up on AudioJungle, I let my fellow VideoHive authors know that they are free to use a preview of my music in their projects, if they so wish. I’m also looking to set up my own personal website sometime in the future too as another way to market my music, so watch this space!
What are your three favorite files, and why do you like them?
My first would be That Positive Feeling. There’s no hiding the fact that one of the most popular sounds at the moment is that of the humble ukulele! I was very excited about the prospect of creating a simple and catchy ukulele piece for my portfolio, but had one small problem: I didn’t have a uke! I popped down to a quite a well known general-goods store we have here in the UK and purchased a £20 (about $30) child’s beginner ukulele and began experimenting. And this is the result! A very fun piece to make, and currently my most popular in terms of sales.
Secondly, would be Positive Corporate Trance. When making this track, I decided to revisit the sound that I spent many years creating in my musical past. It was a challenge to condense what would ordinarily be a seven or eight minute DJ orientated track into three and a half minutes, whilst maintaining all the uplifting elements associated with trance and electronic dance music. Even though it’s aimed primarily for corporate use, it still brings back waves of nostalgia and makes me want to bring out the glow-sticks!
Time To Drive is one of my current favourites from my portfolio. Again, I had great fun making this one as it’s my first rock addition to my portfolio. It was a great opportunity to focus mainly on guitars and I was really pleased with the outcome!
Apart from yourself, who is your favorite marketplace author, and why do you like them?
If you don’t mind I’m going to mention two here; an elite author and a more recent author who’s on the same AudioJungle journey as myself.
Firstly, the talented Ralf Pytlik of AudioQuattro has to be my personal favourite top author here on AudioJungle. In my opinion, his music and production are spot on and perfectly represents some of the incredibly high-quality music heard on AudioJungle. On top of this, Ralf consistently adds great music to his ever growing portfolio, and really has inspired me to keep at it!
Canadian producer Gari Biasillo (gbiasillo) was one of the first few great musicians I spoke to on AudioJungle when I first joined, and was simply blown away by his orchestral based productions. He is an incredibly versatile producer too, and his downtempo tracks for example, are just simply exquisite. I later found out that he’s not only from the UK, but was also the guy that created the theme music for Target: Renegade on the Commodore 64!
What do you do in your spare time?
I’m a big fan of FPS games and gaming in general, so recently I’ve been getting my teeth into the almighty Battlefield 3 on Xbox. I’m also a keen photographer, and try and take my camera wherever I go. You can check out some of my photographs here: cargocollective.com/fotojuno
I’m also love to cook for friends. I trained up as a chef many moons ago, but still like to put my limited skills into action!
Other than that, I like to unwind by sitting outside my favourite coffee shop with an espresso in hand and watch the world go by!
Someone somewhere once said to someone ‘if life gives you a lemon, make lemonade’. What would you make if life gave you a banana? (tacoMusic)
I’d eventually stop complaining, pull myself together and turn that bendy little blighter into delicious Bananade! (dry heave)