Innovation in Sound Masters student Josh Ball is on a mission to enhance your production experience by helping you stay in the zone while making music. His devices improve your workflow and he has big plans to eventually build the ultimate Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). Although programming is now his forte, life wasn't always about coding...
In The Beginning
Josh is one of the students who has really embraced the full dBs Music experience. His journey into the music industry is full of exciting twists and turns. Like many of his peers, Josh always wanted to be involved in music but wasn't sure how to begin or what he would end up doing.
"Looking back it all started with learning the guitar at age 11 and playing throughout my teens. As I got older I developed a taste for bassline, dubstep, glitchhop, that sort of stuff and was drawn towards music production.
"I knew I had to be involved with music somehow and that I wanted to learn how to produce. I didn't really know what I'd end up doing at the time but I wanted to learn."
"When I finished my BTEC I felt happy that I had fulfilled the urge for music having learned a lot of production techniques. Life also pulled me in a different direction and I started a family with my partner. At that point I began working various jobs locally, from bars to retail. It wasn't long before my passion for music started to resurface and I realised I wouldn't be satisfied unless I pursued it again.
For most musicians the desire to be involved in the industry never really goes away and Josh made the decision to study a B.A. (Hons) in Electronic Music Production.
"Like when I started my BTEC I didn't really have a concrete idea on where it would take me. I wanted to be self-employed and imagined I might become a session musician, teacher or something like a sound designer.
"I definitely didn't think it would lead to what I'm currently doing but I knew music was the path I wanted to take."
A musician at heart
"Growing up I found it hard to reach other musicians in the area who wanted to play the style of music I was interested in. I got into live looping and using MPCs to create music, one-man band style. It's being a musician first and foremost that gave me the ideas to produce the workflow devices I'm making now.
"My degree pushed me in many directions and I particularly enjoyed the live performance and composition based modules. I especially loved working with Ableton Live. It was going through the process of using DAWs alongside my looping setup where I noticed workflow problems I wanted to fix."
How did you make the jump from player to programmer?
"This is one of the main reasons that I would always encourage someone to choose education if you are serious about getting into any industry. Yes, you can learn how to make music online, but had I not done my degree I would never have gone through the process of becoming a music software programmer.
"The experiences I had with live performance and composition modules laid the foundations for ideas to later blossom. So in answer to your question, it sort of happened unexpectedly. I was taught how to use Native Instruments' Reaktor during my sampling and synthesis module at dBs Music. I found I was quite good at creating instruments and effects using it. In the third year, I started looking at Max MSP. I had this problem I wanted to solve which was helping blind or physically disabled musicians gain access to using the platform.
"I found I really enjoyed coding as well. It's still all about the music and I love making music but now I've found a different career path in the industry, one that I never imagined I would take".
Tell us more about your new career path and the company FlowState
"My Masters degree at dBs Music really helped me to think about how my work could have a greater impact on the music industry as a whole. What would be my big contribution? I had a mindset shift from asking, 'what problems would I like to solve?' to 'how can I help other musicians?' This got me thinking about the things that are important to musicians, which led me back to workflow."
"When I looked a bit deeper the desire to stay in the zone or in the 'FlowState' is something that's really important to creators. I decided this would be where my focus should be and I started the brand FlowState."
"My mission is to enhance your production experience by helping you to stay in the zone while making music. I have created a number of Max for Live devices which are available to download here. I want to extend this concept to other DAWs, creating workflow enhancement suites for all of them. My big goal is to eventually develop the ultimate DAW which will use AI technology to create the most advanced user experience possible.
"For the moment though I'm focussing on Max for Live devices such as the 'Browser Mapper' which enables you to map Ableton Live's browser, the 'Smart Search' which enables you to use a keyboard shortcut to bring up a search window that will search your whole track for any item, and the one I'm working on at the moment which is a MIDI converter turning audio from a guitar into MIDI information. Although the latter is a slight branch away from workflow, it's there to help people who play guitar, but not keys, write synth and keyboard melody or baselines quicker.
"Everything I'm creating has the musician in mind first and foremost and I'm really excited to help people create better music using my devices".
Any other plans for the future?
"First and foremost it's finishing my Masters degree and launching FlowState as a company. I have a really big project I'm currently working on but that has to stay under wraps until some of the backend business agreements are finalised. For now it's continuing to enhance the workflow for as many musicians as possible."
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