We are here with computer musician, sound designer & Ableton Certified Trainer Thomas Glendinning aka ELPHNT, who recently delivered a mind-blowing guest lecture for our students in Plymouth at the Ableton Education tour. We caught up with Thomas shortly after his masterclass to talk production techniques, musical inspiration and getting into the industry.
In the world of music production it’s clear that you are a man of many talents, for those who are just discovering you, how would you describe yourself and what you do?
This is a tricky one to pin down ‘cause I do a lot of things! The shortest answer would be a 'music content creator'. I do quite a few things in and around making music. I, of course, make my own music. I’m a drummer originally, though I don’t play much anymore so now my weapon of choice is Ableton Live plus whatever other interesting electronic gear I can get my hands on. I make and have made music as ELPHNT but also as part of a group called Original Swimming Party. I’ve done bespoke music creation for audio libraries, most notably for the YouTube Audio Library. I’m also a sound designer - I create and sell instruments, effects and presets at my website. I’m an educator and I teach music production with Ableton online via YouTube, privately as well as through various talks and workshops with Ableton.
A big part of what you do is focussed on education, what inspired you to share your knowledge with the world and also become an Ableton Certified Trainer?
I got started teaching mostly by accident. There happened to be an Electronic Music Production lecturer job opening at the college where I’d studied and I was looking for work, so I applied and got the job! I’d never thought of getting into education, but very quickly realised that it's an incredibly enjoyable and rewarding thing to do. From there I just went further down the rabbit hole and when the opportunity to become a Certified Trainer came up I knew I had to do it. I’ve absolutely loved Ableton Live since I started using it, so becoming a part of their community was really exciting.
Earlier on in your career you kick started the Ableton user groups in Cape Town. What inspired you to start the groups and what would you say to people who are interested in attending one?
When I first learned Ableton I realised that most of my time spent making music was by myself. I really wanted to share what I was doing with people and bounce around ideas, so I started the Cape Town User Group. That was probably one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I met so many amazing music makers and learned so much from all the workshops we put on. I also met many friends and collaborators.
As for your second question - to anyone who has a User Group in their area, you absolutely have to go! People in the Ableton community are always very cool. The User Groups are an excellent place to learn and meet other music makers. I can also recommend trying to get involved, if you can. Offer to help out with running the events, or even just to give a presentation on a trick or technique you use that you think is novel and unique.
If there are no Ableton user groups in your area would you recommend starting one up yourself?
Yes! It’s an incredibly rewarding experience and Ableton are great with offering support where they can.
Last time we saw you in Bristol your ‘Sparking Creativity and Generating Ideas in Ableton Live’ masterclass caused a bit of a stir on our YouTube channel. What can our viewers expect to see in your latest class for us?
Haha, I didn’t know I’d caused a stir! 😝 The latest class at dBs Plymouth is very similar to the one in Bristol, but slightly updated. Kind of like a v1.5. There are a lot of the same things, but with a bunch of extra bits added in.
It’s clear you have a deep knowledge of Electronic Music production, if you had to choose one tool or set of processes you use regularly that you couldn’t live without, what would it be?
Ableton Live, obviously. To be honest though, I could probably live without that if I really had to. As long as you have something to record sound with, you can make music with anything. I often give myself that challenge - to make music with something I’m unfamiliar with, like trying to make a track with only my phone or recording found sound loops with a portable recorder.
Talking creativity and inspiration, aside from the tools in Ableton, what ignites the creative spark within you?
Sound in general. I actually think I’m more of a sound designer than a music maker. It just happens that sometimes the sounds I make end up being arranged in a musical way. I absolutely love just sitting and listening to the sound around me wherever I am. I’ll often hear naturally occurring rhythms and sometimes even notes and melodies when I’m out in the world. If I haven’t got my recorder with me I’ll just record them on my phone and then either use them directly as samples later on or just use them as a starting point for inspiration.
You are just about to launch a new project with Danny White from Ableton, what can we expect to hear from this new venture and how did it come to fruition?
About to launch’ makes it sound very legit. We spend a lot of time on trains together travelling to various workshops around the UK, so the best thing to do is bust out our laptops and make some music! Eventually we’d had enough of these train jams that we though we should make a project out of it. We’ve been working on bits and pieces for the last few months and played our first gig near the end of last year. Our current goal is to get about 4 tracks together and put out an EP.
Aside from the new project with Danny what’s next in the pipeline for you?
I’m working on some of my own music. At this stage I’m not sure whether I’ll just leave this as for my own enjoyment or whether I’ll actually put something out. I’m always working on new content for ELPHNT, so there’s plenty more stuff coming soon! I’ve just put out a pack of presets called FRZN GRAINS. I’ve got a few more Ableton Live Packs in the works as well as a bunch of video tutorials. I’m also hatching a plan for some kind of online course that will help people actually finish music. It’s still in the early stages, but I’m very excited about that.
What advice would you give to someone aspiring to build a career working in the music industry?
You’ve got to find something that is unique to you. Whether you’re trying to become a producer or something else like a content creator, you need to find what your unique style is. There are millions of people who make Hip Hop or EDM or make YouTube videos, but if you take time to find what it is that makes you you, then really focus on that and emphasise your uniqueness. People latch onto authenticity and uniqueness so if you can make something that you feel represents you then people will appreciate that. It takes time to find it, but try to pay attention to things that come up frequently. For example, do you always use the same kind of sounds? Do you always write in a particular key? Do you always focus on a particular tool? Eventually you’ll notice patterns so start to hone in and focus on those.
Where can we find your music and educational tools?
elphnt.io or just search ELPHNT in Google.
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