The 5 Tools of My Music Trade

By Alexandria Boddie

Alexandria Boddie, on the right, after her first piano recital with her sister April standing beside her.

There's a lot that I'm doing in life that, if you had told fresh-faced 18-year-old me about them, I would have done my best to have you committed. Becoming a songwriter is one of those things. In March of 2018, when I met my homie Kelvin, I just thought he was a cool kid to make fun music with. I didn't anticipate that he'd be an instrumental creative collaborator, pushing me in ways that have expanded my creativity in the writing field.

Another mind-blowing (to me) thing happened back in March of this year, 2019: I was invited to contribute as a composer to Pyramid Tracks, an online catalog of unique, offbeat, and indie music available to purchase for video soundtracks. I was so surprised! The co-founder somehow happened upon my theremin fiddlings on my Soundcloud, and felt that I could add to the value of their site. I never would have thought that I'd be a part of a platform where I could earn money through my musical aptitude. It never would have happened, though, if I had not been pushed to explore my musical side last year. 

Since I never really thought of myself as a musician, I don't have a traditional set of instruments, setups, plug-ins, and such that I use to make my aural doodles. What I do have is the desire and acumen to use the "ingredients" I have immediate access to to make unique creations that have my personality written all over them. So, without further ado, I present to you the tools I use to compose my sonic art...

 

1. My Moog Theremini

 

Alexandria Boddie shows off her Moog Theremini synthesizer.

Have I told you yet, the story of my theremin? My fascination with this instrument began when I viewed the DVD extras of Ed Wood, and intensified into near obsession when I saw a live Dr. Madd Vibes performance by Angelo Moore (he of Fishbone fame).

It was summer 2016, and I was nearing a mental breaking point. One morning, I made my way from where I was living, on my normal gym-then-workspace schedule. And while I was on the train, the closer I got to my destination, the more my anxiety increased: I started crying, I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin, and I didn't know why. I abruptly changed course, went to my favorite spa and cried there all day. That night, I ordered my theremin kit, for no damn reason.

It's the most irresponsible yet correct decision I've ever made.

I must confess, I'm not a wizard with this thing. I have no special aptitude, and I don't really understand what I'm doing. What I do have is the discipline and patience to create time to sit, experiment, record, and chop shit up. I love making soundscapes out of thin air with this thing. Proper lessons are on my wishlist for sure, but I'm glad I didn't let my lack of proficiency hold me back from using it as a tool of creation.

Check out this theremin soundscape I made earlier this year while I was out in the desert:

Screenshot representing Alexandria Boddie's theremin-based track on Soundcloud

 

2. Magix Music Maker

 

Alexandria Boddie uses Magix Music Maker as her DAW.

This program's been around since forEVER. I first downloaded it back in 2006 because I didn't have access to GarageBand (I'm a PC user [for several reasons]). With it, I made a few cool songs that have since been lost. When I was approached to contribute to Pyramid Tracks, and I signed the agreement, I realized that I would need to add a proper DAW to my workflow. After doing some research, I decided to revisit Magix.

It's DEFINITELY much more involved that I remember it being back in the day, so I'm learning as I go with it. Preview this composition I call "She's A Pretty Mess", made primarily with Magix:

Screenshot of Alexandria Boddie's track "She's A Pretty Mess" on Pyramid Tracks

 

3. Soundcamp

 

Screenshot of the tracks  that make up "Born For Night", an aural doodle by Alexandria Boddie.

Soundcamp came pre-installed on Samsung Galaxy tablets, and unfortunately, Samsung announced last December that it will no longer be supported. I'm glad to have it for now, because I absolutely love tinkering with its different sound packs. Last summer was when I first really dug in with this app, and as a deep house fan, I really dig the grooves that you can play with and layer and build with.

Or, you can keep it nice and simple, like this ominous Soundcamp + Moog Theremini combo track I produced, called "Born For Night":

Screenshot of the song "Born For Night" by Alexandria Boddie

 

4. DPM

 

Alexandria Boddie uses DPM to make beats on her Samsung tablet.

I make my own loops, thank you.

This app comes with sooooo many sample packs, and if you don't mind waiting through ads, you have access to them all for free. What I like about this app is that I don't think anyone could ever exhaust the sheer combination of sequenced loops you can compose. I'm not even going to try, I just cruise through every once in a while and have a little fun.

This track, which I call "SoCal Dusk", is primarily composed of loops I made in DPM:

A screenshot of the track "SoCal Dusk" by Alexandria Boddie

 

5. My Music Education

 

Alexandria Boddie's very first certificate of completion of level one piano lessons.

It's so fucking important. LITERALLY EVERY SINGLE CHILD IN THE WORLD NEEDS MUSIC EDUCATION WHETHER THEY BECOME A MUSICIAN OR NOT. The reason why I felt comfortable letting myself get sucked into music production last year is because of my foundation in music education, which really isn't that extensive. In fact, it's quite basic. My mother had me in piano lessons from kindergarten to 5th grade, and I didn't pursue it further after she stopped the lessons. I sang in the school choir until I was 13 and in bible class, only because why not? My musical past is rudimentary, and yet it has been serving me very well all these years later. I'm finding and hitting notes and melodies as if I've never missed an ensemble practice. I know which notes I want to pick out on the theremin, even though I have zero technique. My minimal music education made it so that, when the opportunity presented itself to branch out in a real way, I could seize it with no doubts holding me back. I don't have a favorite music education non-profit to promote here, but one of my goals is to create a non-profit that lobbies the government for visual and cultural literacy in every public elementary classroom, with a significant increase in the budget for music and visual arts education. 

* * *

So, now you know. I use a mix of these five tools to create, and then I share with intention. Like I mentioned before, I didn't set out to have a music career; I just believe wholeheartedly in the idea that that which you withhold from the world, you withhold from yourself. I've got a wealth of creativity inside me, so if that expresses itself through music, I absolutely MUST share it because creativity is also what I want to receive.

Are you a musician, singer, artist of any kind? What are some of the tools of your trade? I wanna know - I'm ready to soak up just about anything!

Alexandria Boddie

I'm a one-woman circus and the world's most passionate Grace Jones stan. Everything about your planet confounds me, except cats. Book me: hritalent.com


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