Monday, February 20, 2017

SHG Radio Show, Episode 347

Welcome to this week's edition of Subterranean Homesick Grooves™, a weekly electronica-based radio show presented originally on CHMA FM 106.9 at Mount Allison University in Atlantic Canada (but expanded to distribution on other terrestrial and internet-based radio stations), and also distributed as a global podcast through iTunes. The show is normally programmed and mixed by Jonathan Clark (as DJ Bolivia), although some weeks very occasionally feature guest mixes by other Canadian DJ's. The show encompasses many sub-genres within the realm of electronic dance music, but the main focus is definitely on tech-house and techno, and a small amount of progressive, trance, & minimal. Due to the mix of styles, you may hear combinations of tracks that wouldn't normally be featured together in a DJ's live set, but this show is intended to feature various styles of electronic/dance music. Liner notes for this episode (SHG 347) can be seen below.

Para la información en español, vaya aquí.

I should point out that when I make these shows, I mean for them to be a journey. I pay a lot of attention to the programming, and to the development of energy levels. If you're a first-time listener, you might think that the start of the show is quite tame, on the slower and "deeper" side of house or techno. However, give it time. Pay attention to how the styles change throughout the mix, and how the energy builds. Sometimes, I'll be very erratic and jump around between several genres, just for fun. Sometimes, I'll do a particularly dark show, with a heavy emphasis on techno. Most of the time however, you'll find a mix of mostly deep house or minimal or deep techno for the first third of the mix, building into a more upbeat section of tech-house through the middle, perhaps building up to some energetic tracks at the end, which often trespass into the realm of more contemporary house. Don't treat the show as a collection of individual tracks ... think of it as a cohesive experience; an hour-long aural journey of reflection and beats.

By the way, if you're looking for DJ mixes in styles other than progressive/tech-house, check out www.djbolivia.ca/mixes.html. That page has a number of mainstream/top40 dance mixes (the "Workout Mix" series), as well as some deep house, drum and bass, and other styles.




Here's our Podcast Feed to paste into iTunes or any other podcatcher:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/shg

Here's a Direct Link to this week's show:
http://www.chma.fm/Bolivia_-_Subterranean_Homesick_Grooves_347.mp3


Older episodes of the show are not directly available from our main servers anymore, to conserve space for more recent episodes. However, all older episodes have been posted individually on SoundCloud, and also in archives of 25 episodes apiece (convenient for bulk downloading) from DJ Bolivia's Public Dropbox folder. That Dropbox link also has folders for individual tracks and remixes, project files and stem collections for producers who want to make their own remixes, videos, and other material. You don't even need to have a Dropbox account to download files from it.


Here’s a link so you can listen to the show or download it from SoundCloud:




Here are Track Listings for episode 347:

01. Stefan Hellstrom - Cannibal Cavalcade (Kai Limberger Remix).
02. Luca Beni - Experimental (Original Mix).
03. Chronogramm - Hive Mind (Original Mix).
04. Emilio Romo - Moodiness (Deas Remix).
05. Marcos Arreza - Black Drum (Original Mix).
06. Optician - Why I'm The King (Original Mix).
07. Lexlay - Oh Ah (Original Mix).
08. Julian Jeweil - Rolling (Original Mix).
09. Rama Fashel - Scratch Funk (Original Mix).
10. Johan Muller - Happy (Original Mix).
11. DJ Fronter - Wanna Make You (Original Mix).





Here are links to either personal websites, Facebook pages, or [usually] the SoundCloud pages for a few of the original artists and remixers/producers listed above.



Stefan Hellstrom (Sweden)
Kai Limberger (Germany)
Luca Beni (Italy)
Emilio Romo (Spain)
Marcos Arreza (Spain)
Optician (Belgium)
Lexlay (Spain)
Julian Jeweil (France)
Rama Fashel (Russia)
Johan Muller (Spain)
DJ Fronter (Colombia)



Subterranean Homesick Grooves is a weekly specialty EDM music show with a basic weekly audience base of about 1500 listeners per week through podcasting, direct downloads, and distribution on a small number of internet-based radio networks, plus another hundred or so listeners through SoundCloud, and an unknown number of listeners through terrestrial FM broadcast. If you're a radio station programming director, and would like to add Subterranean Homesick Grooves to your regular programming lineup, contact djbolivia@gmail.com for details. We currently release SHG as an advance download to a number of stations globally on a weekly basis (at no charge), and we welcome inquiries from additional outlets.

Go to the Mix Downloads page on the main DJ Bolivia website if you'd like to check out a number of our older shows, or visit our SoundCloud page for individual tracks and remixes. And if you're interested in learning more about DJ'ing or music production, check out Jonathan Clark's extensive and very popular series of YouTube tutorials. There's a full & organized index of all the videos at:
djbolivia.ca/videos.html

We also have a file containing complete track listings from all of DJ Bolivia's radio shows, studio mixes, and live sets. The PDF version can be viewed from within your browser by clicking directly. Both the PDF and the Excel versions can be downloaded by right-clicking and choosing the "save link as" option:

View as PDF file: http://www.djbolivia.ca/complete_track_history_djbolivia.pdf
Download Excel file: http://www.djbolivia.ca/complete_track_history_djbolivia.xlsx









Follow Jonathan Clark on other sites:
        Twitter: twitter.com/djbolivia
        SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/djbolivia
        YouTube: youtube.com/djbolivia
        Facebook: facebook.com/djbolivia
        Main Site: www.djbolivia.ca
        About.Me: about.me/djbolivia
        Music Blog: djbolivia.blogspot.ca
        MixCloud: mixcloud.com/djbolivia
        DropBox: djbolivia.ca/dropbox



You'll notice a Facebook comments box at the bottom of this post. Let me know which tracks you liked best from this mix, or give me any other feedback! It's always nice to hear from people who are listening to the show from around the world! Here's a map showing all the places where people have listened to Subterranean Homesick Grooves in the past month:


Friday, February 17, 2017

Life on Other Objects Besides Earth?

Several years ago, I had a long discussion where I suggested that I believed humans would discover extra-terrestrial living organisms on other objects within our solar system between 2017 and 2019. You know ... science. I also think that we'll discover intelligent extra-terrestrial life within our lifetimes, probably by 2040 at the latest. Call me crazy, but I think it's absolutely inconceivable that in our galaxy alone (let alone the full known universe) there aren't at least tens of thousands of other planets where various forms of life have developed in the past, or still exist. Many of them may not be "intelligent" as we recognize intelligence, but nonetheless, I believe they exist. I just realized it's 2017. I'm now waiting patiently for the former to be announced. In the meantime, I'm going to spend the evening listening to some techno.




If you're interested in listening to some techno yourself, I suggest that you go to my public dropbox account at this link:



Within that, there's a folder called "Bolivia's Radio Show (Subterranean Homesick Grooves)" There are a number of compressed folders there, each of which is a free download, and each of which contains twenty-five hour-long episodes of my weekly radio show, Subterranean Homesick Grooves. Also, here's this week's episode of the show, from SoundCloud:





Check it out, and have a great weekend! - Jonathan Clark (DJ Bolivia)





Follow Jonathan Clark on other sites:
        Twitter: twitter.com/djbolivia
        SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/djbolivia
        YouTube: youtube.com/djbolivia
        Facebook: facebook.com/djbolivia
        Main Site: www.djbolivia.ca
        About.Me: about.me/djbolivia
        Music Blog: djbolivia.blogspot.ca
        MixCloud: mixcloud.com/djbolivia
        DropBox: djbolivia.ca/dropbox


Finding Royalty-Free Samples for Music Production

Are you looking for sounds to put into music that you're producing?  If so, I have a video that I think will help you out a bit.

This video is about a service called Splice Sounds, from splice.com.  It's a great place to find samples and loops and sounds for your own productions.




If you're creating a song or producing a track, and let's assume that you're working on electronic-based production rather than traditional instrumental music, then you're probably looking for sounds for your track.  One source of these sounds is any instruments that might be within your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation, or audio editing/production software).  Most DAW's come with various built-in instruments, which are sometimes called VSTi's.  This stands for Virtual Studio Technology Instrument.  Examples of DAW's that come with built-in VSTi's include Ableton, Pro Tools, Cubase, Sonar, Reason, FL Studio, Logic, and several others.  The VSTi's in these various programs can produce sounds ranging from the various pieces of a drum kit (kick, snare, hi-hats, tom, crash, ride) to miscellaneous percussion instruments (shakers, sticks, tambourines, etc.) to traditional instruments like basses, guitars, pianos, and synths.

I should point out that a VSTi is a bit different than a VST (virtual studio technology plug-in).  VST's are more likely to be apps or plug-ins that affect that sound, rather than create a sounds.  For example, VST's might add things like reverb or delay or chorus or equalization or filtering to your sounds.

The only drawback with these VSTi's is that they're limited in what they can produce.  Some are pretty versatile and can produce thousands of different sounds, but more frequently, you're limited to only a few dozen sounds from a single VSTi.  Some VSTi's can only produce a single sound!  Eventually, you're going to start getting bored with the sounds from your existing VSTi's, and you'll start looking externally for additional sounds.

When you get to this point, the common practice is to go online and to start looking for things called Sample Packs.  A sample pack can contain several sounds or several dozen sounds.  These are called samples.  They're short audio clips that contain things like a note or a drum hit or a spoken word, or several of any of those things.  I've seen samples that were as simple as a single hit of a stick on a block of wood, or as complex as three or four lines of a singer's vocals.

Some samples are designed as one-shot samples.  These are intended to be played once, without repeating.  Even though it's called a one-shot, there may be more than one sound in the sample.  For example, I've seen one-shots that were a single hit on a hi-hat, and I've seen other one-shots that were sixteen consecutive hits on a hi-hat.  The main defining characteristic of a one-shot is that it's made to be played one time, rather than repeated constantly.

The other common type of a sample is designed as a loop.  Again, a loop sample can be as simple as a single sounds, but more frequently, it's a series of related sounds, such as four hits on a kick drum.  But the key thing with a loop is that it is designed to be played over and over and over again, constantly, in a repetitive motion.  And the way that it's designed, quite often, the intent is that it sounds "continuous" so that you can't really tell where the loop is starting or stopping.

Traditionally, there have been a lot of websites designed to supply loops to producers.  Some well-known examples are:

and dozens more

These sites all offer sample packs that producers can buy and use in their own music.

An important definition here is "royalty free."  You're probably going to want to make sure that all the samples you buy are designated as royalty-free.  This means that you can use them in your own music that you re-distribute, either for free or for sale, without having to pay further expenses based upon the frequency of use of the samples.  In other words, a royalty-free sample is a one-time purchase that legally lets you share the sample in your song forever, with no extra expenses owed in the future if your song becomes popular.

If you buy a sample pack, you may be paying anywhere between perhaps ten and thirty dollars.  Or less, or more.  That sample pack will contain a handful or maybe a few dozen samples, which are sometimes all fairly related, and intended to work together in the same key.  But your sample pack may also contain some diversity, such as some bass notes, some drum hits, some keyboard notes, etc.  The problem though is that you may not end up using all of those sounds.  You may end up buying a sample pack just because you like two or three specific sounds in the pack, and you ignore the rest.  In that case, those samples that you liked will be pretty expensive for you, several dollars apiece.  That doesn't sound like much, but if you do a lot of production work, you can easily go through hundreds or even thousands of samples in a busy month.

That's where Splice comes in.  Splice has several different sections.  Although we're going to focus on Splice Sounds, here's what else it includes:

Splice Studio - Collaborate remotely with other producers, using the Cloud.  Sort of like a real-time collaboration over Dropbox or Google Drive, if you can envision that.

Splice Community - Share your productions with the Splice community, which has hundreds of thousands of other producers.  Sort of like a SoundCloud meets a PHPbb message board concept.

Splice Sounds - Your source for Samples, as we'll discuss shortly.

Splice Plug-Ins - Buy or rent professional VST's and VSTi's, or download a number of free plug-ins too.

Splice Blog - Information about various topics associated with audio, music, production, etc.

If you want a full run-down of each of those sections, you can find info in the video.  But let's talk specifically about some features of the Splice Sounds section:

- Cost effective:  A subscription is either $8 or $13 USD per month, but allows you to download either 100 or 300 samples per month.  If you don't use up all your credits, they roll over into the future, so you don't lose them.  This works out to pennies per sample.
- Wide selection:  They have literally millions of samples to chose from, royalty-free.
- Easy filtering:  Sort samples by key, tempo, type, instrument, and other criteria, before you start browsing, to be able to find what you're looking for very quickly.
- Audio previews:  High quality audio preview to see if you like the sample.
- And lots more, as the video will show.

The best thing is that you can get a free test account that lets you download about a hundred samples, which lets you go through the service and realize exactly how useful it is.  And you will DEFINITELY realize that if you produce music even on a very casual basis, Splice is well worth the subscription.

If you want to skip the preamble in the video (all the stuff that I just described here), skip ahead to the 9minute 12second mark of the video, and begin playing it there.  From that point on, you'll see the screen shots as I'm describing everything.





Good luck with your music productions!

- Jonathan Clark (DJ Bolivia)
www.djbolivia.ca


PS:  Here's an example of a track that was produced predominantly with samples from Splice, plus a few stock Ableton Live sounds included:





Follow Jonathan Clark on other sites:
        Twitter: twitter.com/djbolivia
        SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/djbolivia
        YouTube: youtube.com/djbolivia
        Facebook: facebook.com/djbolivia
        Main Site: www.djbolivia.ca
        About.Me: about.me/djbolivia
        Music Blog: djbolivia.blogspot.ca
        MixCloud: mixcloud.com/djbolivia
        DropBox: djbolivia.ca/dropbox


How to Get Rid of MicroSoft OneDrive

If you're like me, the MS OneDrive app drives you crazy.  To be clear, I'm not trying to bash MicroSoft here.  I enjoy a lot of their products.  But I often work in remote bush camps and areas without internet, which makes OneDrive (and similar apps from competing companies) really annoying for me.

When I first decided to uninstall OneDrive, I found out that it has been embedded more deeply in the Windows 10 OS than I had expected.  Here's a link to the Office Support web page that describes disabling, hiding, or uninstalling it:

https://support.office.com/en-US/article/Turn-off-or-uninstall-OneDrive-f32a17ce-3336-40fe-9c38-6efb09f944b0

The problem with the information on that page is that if you're using the Home version of Windows 8.0 or 8.1, the Group Policy editor is not available.  And almost nobody tells you that!  So tons of pages telling people how to go into gpedit and disable OneDrive will not work unless you're on the Pro version.


Moving on, I tried some suggestions from Life Hacker, at the following page:

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-completely-uninstall-onedrive-in-windows-10-1725363532

However, my attempts at killing it through the Command Line Interface (CLI) were also a failure.  The only consolation in this case was to see the frustrated comments from other people who were also pointing out the lack of gpedit access through MMC to anyone who doesn't have the Pro version.


However, TechJourney.net finally came to the rescue.  I found an article there which allows someone who is comfortable with editing the Registry to get rid of OneDrive.  Here's the link:

https://techjourney.net/disable-or-uninstall-onedrive-completely-in-windows-10/

This should only be attempted if you're comfortable with computers.  It's a pretty easy fix, although you want to be careful that you don't change anything else in your Registry, as that can really mess things up and make your computer very dysfunctional.  But at long as you follow their instructions carefully, you should be fine.

Good luck!

- Jonathan Clark
www.djbolivia.ca



Thursday, February 16, 2017

SHG Radio Show, Episode 346

Welcome to this week's edition of Subterranean Homesick Grooves™, a weekly electronica-based radio show presented originally on CHMA FM 106.9 at Mount Allison University in Atlantic Canada (but expanded to distribution on other terrestrial and internet-based radio stations), and also distributed as a global podcast through iTunes. The show is normally programmed and mixed by Jonathan Clark (as DJ Bolivia), although some weeks very occasionally feature guest mixes by other Canadian DJ's. The show encompasses many sub-genres within the realm of electronic dance music, but the main focus is definitely on tech-house and techno, and a small amount of progressive, trance, & minimal. Due to the mix of styles, you may hear combinations of tracks that wouldn't normally be featured together in a DJ's live set, but this show is intended to feature various styles of electronic/dance music. Liner notes for this episode (SHG 346) can be seen below.

Para la información en español, vaya aquí.

I should point out that when I make these shows, I mean for them to be a journey. I pay a lot of attention to the programming, and to the development of energy levels. If you're a first-time listener, you might think that the start of the show is quite tame, on the slower and "deeper" side of house or techno. However, give it time. Pay attention to how the styles change throughout the mix, and how the energy builds. Sometimes, I'll be very erratic and jump around between several genres, just for fun. Sometimes, I'll do a particularly dark show, with a heavy emphasis on techno. Most of the time however, you'll find a mix of mostly deep house or minimal or deep techno for the first third of the mix, building into a more upbeat section of tech-house through the middle, perhaps building up to some energetic tracks at the end, which often trespass into the realm of more contemporary house. Don't treat the show as a collection of individual tracks ... think of it as a cohesive experience; an hour-long aural journey of reflection and beats.

By the way, if you're looking for DJ mixes in styles other than progressive/tech-house, check out www.djbolivia.ca/mixes.html. That page has a number of mainstream/top40 dance mixes (the "Workout Mix" series), as well as some deep house, drum and bass, and other styles.




Here's our Podcast Feed to paste into iTunes or any other podcatcher:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/shg

Here's a Direct Link to this week's show:
http://www.chma.fm/Bolivia_-_Subterranean_Homesick_Grooves_346.mp3


Older episodes of the show are not directly available from our main servers anymore, to conserve space for more recent episodes. However, all older episodes have been posted individually on SoundCloud, and also in archives of 25 episodes apiece (convenient for bulk downloading) from DJ Bolivia's Public Dropbox folder. That Dropbox link also has folders for individual tracks and remixes, project files and stem collections for producers who want to make their own remixes, videos, and other material. You don't even need to have a Dropbox account to download files from it.


Here’s a link so you can listen to the show or download it from SoundCloud:


Here are Track Listings for episode 346:

01. Victor Ruiz - Nevermind (Oliver Huntemann Remix).
02. Julian Jeweil - Venice (Original Mix).
03. Moby - Porcelain (Luca Agnelli Remix).
04. Sam Jurgens - Follow Me Down (Dub).
05. Jean Agoriia - Atmos (Original Mix).
06. Gabriel Rocha & Jack Mood - Helheim (Original Mix).
07. Marcos Arreza - Ma Nigga (Original Mix).
08. DJ Tonio - Floods (Original Mix).
09. Clark Feeble - Midnight Marauder (Milo Zanneti Remix).
10. Anna - Drum Machines Do Have Soul (Original Mix).
11. Dempsey Massy - Special (Original Mix).





Here are links to either personal websites, Facebook pages, or [usually] the SoundCloud pages for a few of the original artists and remixers/producers listed above.



Victor Ruiz (Brazil)
Julian Jeweil (France)
Sam Jurgens (Unknown)
Jean Agoriia (France)
Gabriel Rocha (Uruguay)
Marcos Arreza (Spain)
DJ Tonio (France)
Clark Feeble (Sweden)
Dempsey Massy (Italy)
Jack Mood (Argentina)
Oliver Huntemann (Germany)
Luca Agnelli (Italy)



Subterranean Homesick Grooves is a weekly specialty EDM music show with a basic weekly audience base of about 1500 listeners per week through podcasting, direct downloads, and distribution on a small number of internet-based radio networks, plus another hundred or so listeners through SoundCloud, and an unknown number of listeners through terrestrial FM broadcast. If you're a radio station programming director, and would like to add Subterranean Homesick Grooves to your regular programming lineup, contact djbolivia@gmail.com for details. We currently release SHG as an advance download to a number of stations globally on a weekly basis (at no charge), and we welcome inquiries from additional outlets.

Go to the Mix Downloads page on the main DJ Bolivia website if you'd like to check out a number of our older shows, or visit our SoundCloud page for individual tracks and remixes. And if you're interested in learning more about DJ'ing or music production, check out Jonathan Clark's extensive and very popular series of YouTube tutorials. There's a full & organized index of all the videos at:
djbolivia.ca/videos.html

We also have a file containing complete track listings from all of DJ Bolivia's radio shows, studio mixes, and live sets. The PDF version can be viewed from within your browser by clicking directly. Both the PDF and the Excel versions can be downloaded by right-clicking and choosing the "save link as" option:

View as PDF file: http://www.djbolivia.ca/complete_track_history_djbolivia.pdf
Download Excel file: http://www.djbolivia.ca/complete_track_history_djbolivia.xlsx









Follow Jonathan Clark on other sites:
        Twitter: twitter.com/djbolivia
        SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/djbolivia
        YouTube: youtube.com/djbolivia
        Facebook: facebook.com/djbolivia
        Main Site: www.djbolivia.ca
        About.Me: about.me/djbolivia
        Music Blog: djbolivia.blogspot.ca
        MixCloud: mixcloud.com/djbolivia
        DropBox: djbolivia.ca/dropbox



You'll notice a Facebook comments box at the bottom of this post. Let me know which tracks you liked best from this mix, or give me any other feedback! It's always nice to hear from people who are listening to the show from around the world! Here's a map showing all the places where people have listened to Subterranean Homesick Grooves in the past month:


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Side-Chaining and Ghost Notes Tutorial

I have another tutorial video for you.  This video is the last in a series of videos that Urban Francis and I put together, as a techno production project for a track called Hijack.

The track was produced in Ableton Live, and we have all of our Ableton project files available as a free download from Dropbox.

In this specific video, we wanted to explain what was going on with the Side-chain compression.  Eventually, the two of us are going to do a very detailed and complex set of tutorials about compression and side-chaining.  They’re very complicated and moderately advanced topics, and they take a little while to learn to do properly.  However, because we have some side-chaining happening in the Hijack project, we decided that it would be smart to give a brief overview, so any producers who are moderately familiar with Ableton would understand exactly what we’re doing here.

Here's a link to the video:



If you don’t understand what compression is, let’s start there, even though it’s a pretty complex topic.  I tried to do an explanation in my Mastering & Marketing Your DJ Mix video on YouTube, starting at the 21 minute mark.  It’s worth a watch, because of the graphic visuals.  However, let me also try to explain it here.

 A lot of people, when they hear about compression, they get the idea that compression makes things louder.  That’s incorrect.  Compression by itself does not raise the level of an audio signal.  There are several different settings in a compressor, but the main ones are this:

Threshold Value – this is the signal level above which audio is being affected.

Ratio – tells how much the portion of the audio that is above the threshold is getting squished.

Now obviously, if the audio is getting squished, then the audio is getting pushed down from its original volume to a lower volume.  So why, when people talk about compression, do 99% of them think that the audio is getting louder?  That’s a great question, and it’s something that a lot of people don’t understand properly.  First, you need to understand that compression BY ITSELF does not make the volume louder, it reduces the volume.

Now, let’s be honest – in the fight for volume to gain prominence in the listening space, very few people want to reduce the volume of their productions.  So that’s where another setting commonly associated with compression comes into play.  That setting is the make-up gain.

After compression is done, if a producer applies make-up gain to the compressed audio, it brings the volume back up.  A producer may set the make-up gain to the exact amount to bring the peak of the volume back up to where it was before the audio was compressed.  Sounds like a rather useless practice, doesn’t it?  Drop the volume, then raise the volume.

But the key thing is that when the volume is compressed, it is NOT dropped in a linear manner.  Louder parts are dropped more than quieter parts.  Hence the reason that I said that the audio gets squished.  Therefore, the audio now has a narrower dynamic range than before.  The peaks and valleys in the amplitude are not as significant; the changes from the loud parts to the soft parts are less significant.

Since the peak of the volume is unchanged from the original, once the makeup gain was applied, and since the dynamic range from loudest to softest is reduced, this means that the AVERAGE volume of the processed audio is louder.  And that’s the source of the misconception that compressed audio is always louder.  Compressed audio definitely has a narrower dynamic range.  If it is louder, that is only because makeup gain has also been applied.


Side-chaining

Moving on to Side-chaining, the way that side-chaining works, is that you’re taking a signal from somewhere else, and you’re analyzing that signal, and you’re using the analysis of the side-chain signal to control the compressor’s actions on whatever other audio is being compressed.  So in other word’s, the compressor’s actions are being dictated by the energy of the side-chain signal (side-chain audio source) that’s being fed into the compressor.

Remember that the signal that’s being fed into the compressor (the side-chain signal) may have nothing at all to do with the audio that you’re processing.  And also, remember that you don’t have to have a signal being fed into the side-chain.  If you don’t have a side-chain signal, the compressor just works at a steady set of values while it’s processing audio.  Essentially, a side-chain compressor without a side-chain signal is just … a regular compressor.

Ok, so imagine this.  Let’s pretend that the signal that is coming in to the side-chain input of the compressor is some sort of signal that is steady and repeating.  High energy/amplitude (lots of signal) alternating with low energy/amplitude (quiet).  A good example might be a repeating kick drum.  If you keep hitting a kick drum in a steady pattern regularly, then the “signal” (amplitude) is essentially a constantly repeating on/off/on/off/on/off/on/off pattern.  If this signal is what is controlling the compressor, then you’re basically turning the compressor on/off/on/off/on/off/on/off in the same timing and pattern.

Many producers DO use a kick drum as a side-chain signal, so that a side-chain compressor keeps turning on and off in time with the kick drum.  The compressor may be processing just about anything else while it keeps turning on and off.  Maybe it’s processing a synth line.  Maybe it’s processing a background pad.  Doesn’t matter.  It’s compressing some sort of audio, and it’s turning on and off in time with the beating of the kick drum, since the kick drum is being used as the side-chain signal.

A producer can use the kick drum from the track they’re working on, as the side-chain.  But they don’t have to.  They could use a different kick drum track as the signal.  And that other kick drum which is being used as a side-chain signal to the compressor does NOT necessarily have to be audible to listeners of the track.  So a producer could easily have two kick drum tracks in their song:  one that is audible that the audience can hear, and a second one that is not audible to listeners, but which is being used as a side-chain signal.

Why bother using two different kicks?  Maybe the producer wants a signal with a fast release for the side-chain (to turn the compressor off quickly), but doesn’t want the listeners to hear a kick that has a fast release.  Or maybe the muted side-chain kick needs to act as a side-chain signal during parts of the song where there is no kick drum playing.

If a producer brings an extra kick drum (or any other type of instrument or midi notes) into a side-chain compressor, but that audio/midi side-chain signal is not audible as part of the project, the side-chain audio signal is called a ghost signal, or ghost notes.

Using a side-chain to turn your compressor on and off allows you to compress audio when needed, to allow for a different part to shine through a mix, but does not compress the audio at other times.  This gives the producer a lot of flexibility.  It’s much better than if the producer’s only option was to permanently decrease the volume of other parts of the mix.

An advantage of using ghost notes or a muted side-chain signal is that you can have it turn the compressor on and off in any pattern or timing that’s convenient to you.

An advantage of using a regular audio source within the song (one that the listeners hear) as a side-chain signal to affect another track is that the timing may be perfect for your needs.  For example, if you need a kick drum to cut through a synth line, you can play the audio of the kick, and you can simultaneously route that auto into the side-chain of a compressor that cuts the volume of the synth, allowing the audio version of the kick to cut through the mix.


By the way, if you want to see the project that we used as the basis for this tutorial, here's the music video (yes, the full project files for this track are available as a free Ableton or stems download):




Hopefully this all made sense.  For more information about the video tutorials that I have to offer, visit this page:



Thanks for your time and interest!

- Jonathan Clark (DJ Bolivia)
www.djbolivia.ca





Follow Jonathan Clark on other sites:
        Twitter: twitter.com/djbolivia
        SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/djbolivia
        YouTube: youtube.com/djbolivia
        Facebook: facebook.com/djbolivia
        Main Site: www.djbolivia.ca
        About.Me: about.me/djbolivia
        Music Blog: djbolivia.blogspot.ca
        MixCloud: mixcloud.com/djbolivia
        DropBox: djbolivia.ca/dropbox


Monday, February 13, 2017

SHG Radio Show, Episode 345

Welcome to this week's edition of Subterranean Homesick Grooves™, a weekly electronica-based radio show presented originally on CHMA FM 106.9 at Mount Allison University in Atlantic Canada (but expanded to distribution on other terrestrial and internet-based radio stations), and also distributed as a global podcast through iTunes. The show is normally programmed and mixed by Jonathan Clark (as DJ Bolivia), although some weeks very occasionally feature guest mixes by other Canadian DJ's. The show encompasses many sub-genres within the realm of electronic dance music, but the main focus is definitely on tech-house and techno, and a small amount of progressive, trance, & minimal. Due to the mix of styles, you may hear combinations of tracks that wouldn't normally be featured together in a DJ's live set, but this show is intended to feature various styles of electronic/dance music. Liner notes for this episode (SHG 345) can be seen below.

Para la información en español, vaya aquí.

I should point out that when I make these shows, I mean for them to be a journey. I pay a lot of attention to the programming, and to the development of energy levels. If you're a first-time listener, you might think that the start of the show is quite tame, on the slower and "deeper" side of house or techno. However, give it time. Pay attention to how the styles change throughout the mix, and how the energy builds. Sometimes, I'll be very erratic and jump around between several genres, just for fun. Sometimes, I'll do a particularly dark show, with a heavy emphasis on techno. Most of the time however, you'll find a mix of mostly deep house or minimal or deep techno for the first third of the mix, building into a more upbeat section of tech-house through the middle, perhaps building up to some energetic tracks at the end, which often trespass into the realm of more contemporary house. Don't treat the show as a collection of individual tracks ... think of it as a cohesive experience; an hour-long aural journey of reflection and beats.

By the way, if you're looking for DJ mixes in styles other than progressive/tech-house, check out www.djbolivia.ca/mixes.html. That page has a number of mainstream/top40 dance mixes (the "Workout Mix" series), as well as some deep house, drum and bass, and other styles.




Here's our Podcast Feed to paste into iTunes or any other podcatcher:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/shg

Here's a Direct Link to this week's show:
http://www.chma.fm/Bolivia_-_Subterranean_Homesick_Grooves_345.mp3


Older episodes of the show are not directly available from our main servers anymore, to conserve space for more recent episodes. However, all older episodes have been posted individually on SoundCloud, and also in archives of 25 episodes apiece (convenient for bulk downloading) from DJ Bolivia's Public Dropbox folder. That Dropbox link also has folders for individual tracks and remixes, project files and stem collections for producers who want to make their own remixes, videos, and other material. You don't even need to have a Dropbox account to download files from it.


Here’s a link so you can listen to the show or download it from SoundCloud:


Here are Track Listings for episode 345:

01. Massive Moloko - Reset (Original Mix).
02. Weekend Heroes - D Compression (Original Mix).
03. DRK Bannoxx - Venus (Original Mix).
04. Loco & Jam - Shibuya (Original Mix).
05. Nodin & Inphasia - Invictus (Peppelino Remix).
06. Sam Paganini - Desire (Original Mix).
07. Luca Maniaci - Emotie (DJ Fronter Remix).
08. Julian Jeweil - Chrome (Popof Remix).
09. Justin Pak & Latecomer UK - Clownface (Original Mix).
10. Tim Voyager - The Enchantress (Original Mix).
11. Quadrumana - Space Curvature (Dan Rubell Remix).
12. Ozgur Uzar - Drums Attack (Original Mix).





Here are links to either personal websites, Facebook pages, or [usually] the SoundCloud pages for a few of the original artists and remixers/producers listed above.



Massive Moloko (Hungary)
Weekend Heroes (Israel)
Loco & Jam (Northern Ireland)
Nodin & Inphasia (France)
Sam Paganini (Italy)
Julian Jeweil (France)
Justin Pak (London)
Latecomer UK (United Kingdom)
Tim Voyager (Bosnia & Herzegovina)
Ozgur Uzar (Turkey)
Peppelino (United Kingdom)
DJ Fronter (Colombia)
Popof (France)
Dan Rubell (Austria)



Subterranean Homesick Grooves is a weekly specialty EDM music show with a basic weekly audience base of about 1500 listeners per week through podcasting, direct downloads, and distribution on a small number of internet-based radio networks, plus another hundred or so listeners through SoundCloud, and an unknown number of listeners through terrestrial FM broadcast. If you're a radio station programming director, and would like to add Subterranean Homesick Grooves to your regular programming lineup, contact djbolivia@gmail.com for details. We currently release SHG as an advance download to a number of stations globally on a weekly basis (at no charge), and we welcome inquiries from additional outlets.

Go to the Mix Downloads page on the main DJ Bolivia website if you'd like to check out a number of our older shows, or visit our SoundCloud page for individual tracks and remixes. And if you're interested in learning more about DJ'ing or music production, check out Jonathan Clark's extensive and very popular series of YouTube tutorials. There's a full & organized index of all the videos at:
djbolivia.ca/videos.html

We also have a file containing complete track listings from all of DJ Bolivia's radio shows, studio mixes, and live sets. The PDF version can be viewed from within your browser by clicking directly. Both the PDF and the Excel versions can be downloaded by right-clicking and choosing the "save link as" option:

View as PDF file: http://www.djbolivia.ca/complete_track_history_djbolivia.pdf
Download Excel file: http://www.djbolivia.ca/complete_track_history_djbolivia.xlsx









Follow Jonathan Clark on other sites:
        Twitter: twitter.com/djbolivia
        SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/djbolivia
        YouTube: youtube.com/djbolivia
        Facebook: facebook.com/djbolivia
        Main Site: www.djbolivia.ca
        About.Me: about.me/djbolivia
        Music Blog: djbolivia.blogspot.ca
        MixCloud: mixcloud.com/djbolivia
        DropBox: djbolivia.ca/dropbox



Putting together my weekly episodes of Subterranean Homesick Grooves is a significant expense, due to the fact that all music on the show is purchased legitimately (except when artists provide me with copies of their tracks directly). In addition, server fees alone are over a thousand dollars per year. If you'd like to make a very small donation to help cover some of the several thousand dollars per year that it costs to provide this show to listeners, here's my Bitcoin wallet address with a QR version. Thanks in advance for any contributions that you might be able to make! Here is the bitcoin info:

19VhVFnw76Vor86SDoN2CSLcarQeZZqysE

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Tree Planter Training 08 - Nature & The Environment

Although this blog is predominantly focused on my music and DJ’ing career, I also want to share some information about my other career:  Canadian Reforestation.

The information in this post is part of a training series from the Replant.ca website.  More information can be found at this link:



I’ll put the text and audio download link from this training module below, but let’s start with the YouTube video for the module:




Section 08 - “Nature & the Environment”


One of the best parts of tree planting is getting to spend time outdoors, enjoying the benefits of health and of some amazing scenery.  You’ll become more aware of plants, flowers, animals, and birds.  Of course, working outdoors is not always good.  You’ll have to deal with weather and temperature extremes, insects, and other challenges.  In this section, we’ll take a very quick look at some things you might see or experience on your blocks.


Weather


We’ve covered weather already in the section about hazards and safety, so we won’t get into too much detail here.  However, weather and temperature are definitely related to the environment.  You’ve already heard the warnings about being prepared for weather extremes, and how to minimize the chances of hypothermia or heat stroke.  We can’t reiterate this enough:  make sure you’re always prepared.  If you’re smart, you’ll always have good rain gear and extra dry clothing packed in a waterproof bag, and you’ll always have lots of water on hot days.

Also, it’s important to recognize that inhospitable weather is part of the job.  We work in rain.  We sometimes work in light snow, if the ground isn’t covered.  We work in winds, unless there’s a danger of trees toppling onto planters.  Probably at least a quarter of your work days will be spent in miserable weather.  You can’t afford to sit down and sulk, and wait it out.  You need to realize that you can make money in the rain, and you’re going to have to get used to working in it, even though it’s harder on morale.

Rain unfortunately also slows planting down for other reasons than just the fact that it can be depressing.  Access issues can be a problem in heavy rains, as muddier roads become dangerous or impassible.  Drivers need to slow down on wet roads.  Trucks may get stuck if drivers try to push too far into blocks without a solid road foundation.  Sometimes, it’s better to park the truck close to the block and walk the last few hundred meters.  You don’t want to get the truck stuck in bad puddles at the entrance to the block because you were too lazy to walk the last few hundred meters, and then have some sort of emergency and not be able to evacuate to medical aid.

Most planters don’t pay a lot of attention to the weather, other than to try to guess if it’s going to rain.  But the weather is an amazingly complex topic, far more complex than we’ll go into here.  However, I’ll leave you with a few interesting facts:
Low pressure systems usually result when warm air rises, lowering the atmospheric pressure on the rest of the air.  Low pressure systems usually feature precipitation, unlike high pressure systems which are usually nice weather.
Wind always circles counter-clockwise and inwards around a low pressure system in BC, when viewed from above.  Wind around a high pressure system always blows clockwise and outward.
If you’re standing with a steady wind at your back in BC, the low pressure system (and the area most likely to have rain) is therefore always on your left side.
There are ten major categories of clouds, and many variations on these ten basic groups, but only three of the cloud groups commonly produce precipitation.
Thunderstorms commonly occur because as the day progresses, the sun heats up the ground, causing air to rise and causing a low pressure system to form.  That’s why in some places, thunderstorms tend to happen at roughly the same time every afternoon.
Helicopters can fly better when the air pressure is more dense.  Therefore, helicopters fly better at lower altitudes.  Helicopters have a harder time when the temperature increases, because air rises and becomes less dense.  And finally, air saturated with water is surprisingly less dense than unsaturated air (this relates to molecular weights), so it’s harder for a helicopter to create lift on a muggy day than on a dry day.  In other words, four things that are challenges for helicopters all start with H:  heavy loads, high altitudes, hot temperatures, and humid air.
Between the start of your spring season and June 21st, sunrise happens about ten minutes earlier each week, and sunset happens about ten minutes later per week.  So in the six weeks leading up to June 21st, the days grow two hours longer - an extra hour of daylight in the morning, and an extra hour in the evening.  After June 21st, the days start growing shorter and the opposite is true. 


Determining Direction from the Sun


If you don't have a map or compass or GPS to help you, and it's a reasonably sunny day, and you know the approximate time of day, you can quickly point out approximately where north, south, east, and west are.  This may seem like magic, but it's not!

We all know that the sun always rises in the east.  If you're in the northern hemisphere, which includes all of British Columbia, then the sun is always approximately due south at noon.  There will be a slight error, especially closest to June 21st, which is related to seasonal precession and the tilting of the Earth’s axis.  However, your estimate will be quite close, within about twenty degrees at worst.  So let's assume that you're on a block, and you can see where the sun is.  If you know that it's approximately noon, then you can point at the sun and say that that direction is due south.  Knowing that, you can figure out north (behind you), east (to your left), and west (to your right).

Let's say that it's not noon.  Let's assume that it's mid-morning.  In the northern hemisphere, the sun always moves from left to right throughout the day.  So if it's not noon yet, you can look a bit to the right of where the sun is right now to make a guess of where it'll be at noon.  You can call that direction south.

If it's after lunch, then the sun will have already passed the mid-point of the sky.  Look to the left of the sun, and make an estimate of where it was a few hours ago, at noon.  You'll be able to point that direction out as due south.

Figuring out approximate directions is pretty easy if you can see the sun and if you know approximately what time of day it is, and you'll usually be within ten or twenty degrees of being correct once you practice a bit.


Plants


You’ll quickly learn that there are hundreds of types of grass, brush, and other vegetation that you’ll encounter.  Most vegetation is fairly benign, and you won’t need to be able to identify very many types of plants, but a few are good to know.  After a few years of experience, you’ll come to understand the seasonal progression, from relatively brown and barren blocks in early May, to thick green blocks covered in grass and other vegetation in July.

Grasses are usually annoying to planters.  Grass roots are fairly strong, so if you’re planting in areas with thick grass, the sod is going to be a problem if you need to screef down through the root mat.  If this is the case, consider using your shovel to screef, instead of your boot.  If you turn the shovel sideways as you’re screefing, you might be able to slice up the sod and remove it with less effort.

Devil’s Club is a thorny plant that you won’t want to run into.  This plant is found more commonly near the end of the season, and it usually grows in moist, shaded areas on blocks, where it can root in black organics.  The stalks are very easy to identify from a distance, as they’re one to two centimeters thick, and can occasionally grow to be as tall as a planter.  When they’re still alive, they’ll have huge broad green leaves, but even after the plant dies, the dry stalk retains its thorns for a while.  You’ll mostly run into devil’s club in gullies and along block edges.  Luckily, it’s so visible that it’s usually fairly easy to avoid.

Stingy Nettles are a lot worse than Devil’s Club.  The thorns on stingy nettles are very small and soft, almost like hair.  However, they release a chemical when you brush up against them, and this chemical causes a really intense itch in most people, which can last for a day or two.  You might not even notice immediately when you brush up against nettles, but within a few minutes, you’ll start getting itchy wherever your bare skin came into contact with the plant.  As hard as it is, try not to scratch or rub the itch, because that drives the chemicals deeper into your skin and makes the reaction worse.  Not everyone is affected by stingy nettles, but most people are, and being wet or sweaty often seems to make the reaction worse.  If you take anti-histamines, that might help reduce your urge to scratch.  There’s no real antidote or cure, except to wait a few hours or days for the itching to go away.  Unfortunately, stingy nettles are very hard to see.  They’re usually less than waist height, and look like very thin bare stalks, and several other types of vegetation look very similar.  You won’t run into them frequently in the spring, but they start to become more common in July in some areas.  Stingy nettles usually grow on black organics or soft, rich mineral soil.

You’ll see a lot of types of moss, especially any time that the ground becomes more moist or shaded.  If you ignore taxonomic classification and go with slang terms, there are two broad groups of moss in BC:  feather moss, and sphagnum.  Feather mosses are types of boreal forest moss that usually have features that look like small tree branches or feathers.  Sphagnum mosses are types of peat mosses, and often have star-like patterns.  The difference is that feather moss can survive in fairly dry conditions, whereas sphagnum needs constant moisture to survive.  Foresters will often allow you to plant trees in sphagnum moss, knowing that the ground will retain moisture even in dry months.  You’ll usually be allowed to plant the plug right into the moss rather than having to screef it away.  Feather moss, however, usually isn’t an acceptable planting medium, and you sometimes have to remove it and get down to dirt or organics below.

As the spring turns into July, you may start seeing several types of berries.  You might see small strawberries hidden on the ground.  Don’t eat berries unless you’re sure of what they are, since several types of berries are mildly toxic, and can cause stomach aches or even vomiting.  In late July, you may start running into raspberries on a lot of blocks.  Raspberries are quite safe to eat, although they’re a bit thorny to work through.  In mid-August, you may start seeing a lot of blueberries low to the ground, and Saskatoons (juneberries) on taller plants.  Both of these are safe to eat.  You may also occasionally see blackberries, huckleberries, and salmonberries.  Pay attention to your surroundings, because bears are often attracted to areas with large amounts of berries.

Fireweed is a common plant, which appears in July.  It grows quite quickly, covering blocks with stems that are three to four feet high, covered in pinkish or purplish flowers.  The only real drawback to fireweed, aside from it getting to be fairly thick at times, is that later in the summer the flowers die and turn to a cottony dander which floats around in the wind and gets into your eyes, nose, and mouth.

There are several benign types of plants that don’t really affect planters, but which you’ll see and learn to recognize, such as cow parsnip, licorice ferns, fiddleheads, and wild ginger.  You can google each of them to learn more.

You’ll also eventually learn to recognize a number of different types of common flowers, such as:  dandelions, wild roses, daisies, black-eyed susans, arnica, thimbleberry, trillium, camas, larkspur, buttercup, clover, violets, yarrow, skunk cabbage, tiger lily, and devil’s paintbrush.

Salal is a plant that most first-year planters won’t encounter, but which is important to coastal planters.  Salal has thick, waxy leaves, and cedar is about the only conifer that thrives in salal patches.  You’ve probably seen salal leaves before, because they’re commonly used around the world in floral arrangements.  Salal berries are quite edible, although you probably won’t see them until the fall.

Labrador tea is an annoying flower, because it has very tough roots that are hard to plant into.

There are dozens of types of mushrooms that you might find on the blocks.  Many are edible, such as black morels, but there are a few types that will make you moderately or severely sick.  If you’re interested in mushrooms, it’s a good idea to buy a guide book, just because there are so many unique varieties.  A great book to check out is “All That Rain Promises And More,” by David Arora.

Poison oak and poison ivy are less recognizable.  Luckily, they’re also not common on planting blocks.  You might very occasionally see them along the edges of blocks, in shaded areas.  If you brush up against them, the chemical toxins on these plants can give you some very bad rashes.  Luckily, it’s quite rare for planters to come into contact with either of these plants.

Giant hogweed is another plant to avoid, because it is completely covered in a sap that is fairly toxic and causes significant rashes, blisters, or other longer-term problems.  WorkSafe BC has even issued alerts about giant hogweed.  However, giant hogweed can be easily confused with cow parsnip, which doesn’t have toxic sap.

Don’t eat plants unless you’re absolutely positive about their identification.  Several common plants in BC are quite poisonous, such as false hellebore.


Animals


Many of the larger animals were covered in the section about hazards and safety, so we’ll try not to repeat anything.

You may see both grizzly bears and black bears on your blocks.  Black bears are far more common.  Each type of bear has some specific identifying characteristics, such as the shape of their face, or the shape of their back.  However, you shouldn’t use their size or the color of their fur as a reliable means to differentiate between the species.  Grizzlies and black bears sometimes react different to the presence of humans.  It’s important for planters to watch a Bear Aware video to get a better understanding of the differences between these two species.

Ungulates is a term that is used to encompass most of Canada’s larger four-legged animals.  Some of these animals may look cute, but they can be dangerous if they become aggressive, especially in the presence of young animals or during rutting season.  Almost everyone knows what a moose looks like.  There are generally two types of deer in Canada:  mule deer, and white-tails.  The mule deer has almost no obvious tail, and usually hops when it runs.  The black-tail deer is a subspecies of mule deer.  The white-tail deer, on the other hand, has a more conventional four-legged way of running, and when they are nervous, their white tail stands up like a warning flag.  Elk are very large animals that are close to the size of a moose, and are most frequently seen near Jasper, or in a few other locations throughout BC.  Caribou look similar to elk, but they’re usually only about half the size, or slightly larger than a mature deer.  Caribou, like elk, are not seen as frequently as moose or deer.  Finally, you may run into feral horses in many parts of BC.

There are three main types of wild cats in BC.  Cougars, also known as mountain lions, are the largest.  The largest cougars can weigh 200 pounds or more, and could potentially be fairly dangerous.  However, they’re also very reclusive, and most planters will never see a cougar in their career.  Bobcats and lynx are much more common, and they’re also much smaller and haven’t been noted as being dangerous to planters.  These two cats are also easy to confuse. Bobcats look fairly similar to a large house cat, and have striped bands on their tails.  Lynx have crazy-looking faces, with big tufts of fur that you don’t see on household cats, and they don’t have stripes on their tails.  The bobcat is more commonly found in southeastern BC, whereas the lynx is common in most parts of the province except for coastal areas.

There are very few smaller animals that could theoretically pose a danger to planters.  You might get sprayed by a skunk, or get poked by quills if you run into a porcupine, but we rarely see either of these animals, and I’ve never heard of a planter being harmed by either.  Wolverines are another exceptionally fierce animal, but few planters will ever see a wolverine, and I’ve certainly never heard of a planter being attacked by one.

Of course, there are also many benign small animals.  You’ll probably see many rabbits, hares, mice, moles, voles, squirrels, rats, gophers, beavers, and other small animals during your career.  None of them should be immediately dangerous to planters, although several of these animals can carry various diseases, and mice are especially dirty little animals.


Birds


A lot of birds nest on the ground in the blocks that you’ll be planting, so don’t be surprised to frequently discover small nests with eggs.  Looking above you, you’ll often see various types of larger predatory birds, including bald eagles, golden eagles, goshawks, falcons, and a dozen different types of hawks.  Sometimes, you’ll even see owls.

Probably the only birds that planters need to be wary of are crows and ravens.  This is because these birds can be mischievous and troublesome, and will tear apart garbage boxes and steal lunches from caches.  These birds are incredibly intelligent.  I’ve seen them open zippers and undo clasps that planters even have problems unfastening, and they’ll often open up day-bags to pull out food.  It’s sometimes a bit tricky to distinguish between the two species.  Ravens are usually larger.  If you see them flying overhead, ravens have four “fingers” of feather at the tip of each wing, whereas crows have five fingers.  However, the most obvious difference is their voice.  American crows make a higher-pitched sharp “caw” sound, whereas ravens have a deeper, hoarse croak.  Finally, crows have a fairly smooth fan-shaped tail, while ravens have more of pointed V-shaped tail.
  


-----


Here’s an Audio version of this material, in case you want to listen while you’re driving, running, at work, or otherwise unable to read or watch video:




Click on the down-arrow icon in the upper right corner of the SoundCloud widget to download the mp3.


Once again, for further information about this series of tree planter training information, visit:



I encourage you to share this information with anyone else who might be interested.  Thanks for your interest and support!

-          Jonathan “Scooter” Clark





Tree Planter Training 07 - Map Reading

Although this blog is predominantly focused on my music and DJ’ing career, I also want to share some information about my other career:  Canadian Reforestation.

The information in this post is part of a training series from the Replant.ca website.  More information can be found at this link:



I’ll put the text and audio download link from this training module below, but let’s start with the YouTube video for the module:




Section 07 - “Map Reading”


In this section we'll learn a few basics about Map Reading.  We'll also talk about how to understand map directions, coordinate systems, topography, contour lines, scales, and geo-referenced digital maps.


All planters should have a basic understanding of maps and cartography.  One of the benefits of becoming a tree planter is that you'll learn a lot about the world around you, including things like being able to tell directions without a compass.

Let's start with the very basics.  On most maps, all the writing is oriented the same way, so you can determine a "top" and a "bottom" to the map.  If the map doesn't indicate otherwise, the top of the map is always north.  This is the case in probably 99% of maps.  Occasionally, for some odd reason, north will face a different direction, but if it does, there should be a little compass rose symbol or arrow on the map that points to north.


GPS System


Most maps that planters use in British Columbia will also have coordinates on them.  There are literally thousands of different coordinate systems in place throughout the world.  Some of them were created centuries ago by early explorers and surveyors, and it's safe to say that most are extremely confusing.  Within BC, you'll normally just encounter one of the most well-known systems used today, a traditional Latitude and Longitude system.  The Latitude and Longitude coordinates will be in "northings" and "westings" when you refer to coordinates within British Columbia.

Northings, or the distance north of the equator, range from about 49 degrees at the bottom of BC to about 60 degrees at the top of the province.  These are also known as the latitude.  Westings range from approximately 114 to 140 degrees, with the lower numbers on the east side bordering Alberta.  These are known as the longitude.  If you have problems with respect to latitude and longitude in terms of remembering which is which, think of the word "flatitude" instead of latitude.  Latitude lines are flat lines, rather than vertical, when you look at a map.  If you're ever using software or a GIS system that doesn't allow you to type in the letters N or W to represent northing and westing, use positive numbers for the northings, and use a negative sign for the westings.  The number representing the latitude always comes first, before the number for the longitude.

If you get a block map, sometimes it will display the coordinates on the sides of the map, in a scale.  As mentioned, the latitude is the distance above or below the equator, hence the reason why latitudes are always "north" in British Columbia.  That's why the latitudes run up and down the sides of a map, even though a line of latitude is flat, running from left to right on a normal map.  The longitude is the distance to the east or west of the Prime Meridian that runs north/south down through England, hence why longitudes are always "west" in British Columbia.  That's why lines of longitude are vertical, and the longitude numbers always run along the bottom or top of a map.

In addition to the possibility of seeing latitudes and longitudes listed on the sides of your map, there may be a single point coordinate (latitude and longitude) listed somewhere in the map's key.  That is probably for a point in the very center of the map, although occasionally, it will refer to a random point somewhere on the map where a surveyor decided to pick what's known as a "tie point" to start plots or something similar.

The Global Positioning Satellite system, also known as GPS, is a network of approximately thirty satellites that are operated by the US government.  If you're at any point on Earth with a GPS device that can "see" three satellites, you'll be able to determine your exact position in terms of latitude and longitude.  Add a fourth satellite, and you should also be able to get your elevation above sea level.  That's a simplification, but good enough for our purposes.

The GPS system (also known as NAVSTAR) is the American variety of GNSS, or Global Navigation Satellite System.  Russia has a GNSS called GLONASS.  Other political entities (Japan, China, India, and the EU) are also in the process of deploying their own GNSS systems.

GPS coordinates are typically listed in degrees, minutes, and seconds.  These refer to units of arc, or distance on the surface of the Earth.  An arc-degree covers a very large amount of distance.  The exact distance depends on where you're located on Earth, but an arc-degree can sometimes be as large as 65 kilometers or more.  An arc-minute is smaller, maybe around a kilometer wide depending on your location.  An arc-second is a pretty narrow range, only maybe around twenty to thirty meters wide, although again, this distance depends on your exact location.  There are sixty arc-seconds in an arc-minute, and sixty arc-minutes in an arc-degree, just like in time-keeping.  There are 360 arc-degrees to cover the entire surface of the Earth, just like there are 360 degrees in a circle.  A lot of the time, people drop the "arc" prefix when they're talking about GPS coordinates, and just use the terms degrees, minutes, and seconds.

Sometimes, the written format of a GPS coordinate is written using specific symbols for degrees, minutes, and seconds.  Degrees are symbolized by a small superscripted circle.  Minutes are symbolized by an apostrophe.  Seconds are symbolized by a quotation mark symbol.  So for example, 54 degrees, 36 minutes, and 30 seconds would be listed as 54o 36' 30".  At other times, decimal points will be used for either just the seconds, or sometimes for the minutes and seconds.  In this example, if just the seconds were converted to decimal, the reading would be 54o 36.5'.  That's because thirty seconds is 0.5 (or 30/60) of a minute.  If the minutes were also converted to decimal, the reading would be 54.65o.  That's because 36 minutes is 0.6 (or 36/60) of a degree.  If you have a GPS device, you can go into the settings and pick the display format that you want to use.


Other Map Features


Your map may have a lot of curvy lines drawn all over it.  These are called Contour lines.  This means that the map is a topographic map, or one that identifies the topography of the area being mapped.  The best part about a contour map or topo map is that it lets you understand the hills and valleys on a block, because the contour lines indicate the elevations throughout the block.  Each contour line represents a specific elevation, say perhaps 1380m.  Contour lines are usually spaced 10m or 20m apart on a block map, or perhaps 20m to 100m apart on a larger regional map.  The closer the lines are together, the steeper the slope.

If your map doesn't have contour lines, but it has streams or creeks identified, there's a good chance that you can figure out a rough idea of the hills and valleys on your own.  Streams and creeks are usually identified in blue.  Look for a blue line, and follow that line to where it ends.  If the line just stops suddenly, that's the highest part of the stream.  Water flows downhill, so follow the creek away from the starting point where the stream officially begins, and you'll see where the block gets lower and lower in elevation.  Perhaps the stream or creek will end in a blue pond, or join another larger stream.

Sometimes you can also guess approximate elevations on a map just by looking at the roads.  The reason for this is because in hilly country, the odds are slightly higher that the roads on the block will generally be going uphill rather than downhill.  Of course, it is possible that roads can go downhill upon entering a block, but that probably happens less than one third of the time, whereas more than two thirds of the time the roads are either flat or go uphill.  The reason for this is simple.  Logging companies like to harvest the easiest wood first, closest to the towns and mills.  The easier wood near the valley bottoms was probably harvested years ago, and the logging companies are now making their way further and further up into the steeper ground.  Also, it's easiest to build main roads along the valley bottoms and have then branches going up into the blocks in the hills.  This method certainly isn't foolproof, but if you have to guess, you can sometimes increase your odds of guessing correctly to be slightly better than just 50/50.


Understanding Scales


Most maps have a small "scale" on them.  This will be a number expressed as a ratio.  On a map showing a small area such as a single block, the ratio is often 1:5,000 or 1:10,000 or, for a very large block, maybe 1:20,000.  On a larger "area map" which shows a larger region of many blocks, the scale might be 1:30,000 or even 1:100,000 or larger.

This scale is a multiplier to indicate how much real distance is covered by each part of the map.  You multiply the distance on the map by the large number in the ratio, to find the real-world distance.  Usually, we think in terms of centimeters on the map.  Therefore, if you were to have a map with a ratio of 1:5,000 then one centimeter on the map represents 5,000 centimeters in the real world.  Ten centimeters on the map would be ten times that amount, or 50,000 centimeters in the bush.  Now obviously, trying to measure real-world distances in centimeters is an exercise in futility.  So you can convert those numbers to meters simply by dividing by 100, since there are 100cm in a meter.  In other words, in the example where 1cm gave us 5,000 centimeters, that's equivalent to 50 meters.  In the second example of 10 centimeters on the map, that becomes 50,000 centimeters or 500 meters in the bush.

These scales are really useful because they can help a planter or a foreman plan for how many trees need to go into an area.  Let's say that you're looking at a map with your foreman, and you've identified exactly where your cache is located on the road on the map.  Let's also say that you're looking at filling a big pocket.  You can get a ruler out and measure from your cache to the back of the pocket.  Let's assume in this case that it's 4 centimeters on the map from your cache to the back of your pocket, and let's assume that the scale on the map is 1:10,000.  This means that the 4 centimeters on the map represents 400m in real-world distance.  Let's also assume that your average spacing on this block needs to be 2.5m between trees.  To go 400m to the back of your pocket, you need to bag up with 160 trees.  You get this number by taking the distance (400m) and dividing your average spacing between trees (2.5m).  But you'll also want to be able to plant back to your cache, instead of dead-walking, so you should take a minimum of about 320 trees in order to plant into the back, and then work back to your cache.  If you can carry even more than 320 trees in your bags, that's even better, because you can plant the extras at the back before you turn around and plant back to your cache.


Geo-Referenced Digital Maps


One of the biggest revolutions in the planting industry since the introduction of LFH planting in the mid-1990's has been the introduction of digital maps, and in particular, geo-referencing.

When a digital map is geo-referenced, this means that it has actual GPS location metadata embedded within the file.  Certain apps can load these maps into your mobile device and correlate the map with the actual current location of your mobile device, based on the GPS receiver in the device.  If the app determines that you're actually "on" the map, it will display your exact location on the map with a little marker indicating where you're located, perhaps a blue dot or something similar.  As you move around the block with your mobile device, your location indicator moves around on the map.  It's just like using Google Maps or other similar services, except that these geo-referenced PDF's are generated by your silviculture forester and can show your planting blocks in great detail.  Naturally, Google Maps focuses on towns and cities and government-maintained roads, so it usually isn't any good on remote planting blocks.  At the moment, an app called Avenza PDF Maps seems to be the most popular way to work with geo-referenced maps.

Another bonus of apps that use geo-referenced maps is that you can do the same sort of distance calculations as what I explained in the example with the ruler a few minutes ago.  You just tap two spots on the map (presumably your cache and the back of your piece) and the app tells you the exact distance between the two points.  You can also outline an area, such as your entire piece, and the app will do an area calculation for you.  Let's say that your area calculation shows that your piece is approximately 1.2Ha in size.  If you're aiming for 2000 stems/Ha and you do a good job with your density, you can assume that your 1.2Ha piece should hold approximately 2400 trees.  Being able to make calculations like this really helps with planning.


Always Know Where You Are


Understanding maps and coordinate systems can be far more confusing than what I've explained here, because the topic can be incredibly complex.  However, if you master the basics that I've explained here, you'll understand all that you need to know to be comfortable with looking at a map and trying to figure out where you are.  It's important that your foreman should always leave a map on the dashboard of the truck, so if there's an emergency and the foreman is incapacitated, the crew will be able to figure out exactly where they are and relay that information to outside help.  If there isn’t such a map on the dash, ask your foreman to leave one there for emergencies, with appropriate contact information to reach outside help.  If the foreman is the person who’s seriously hurt, he or she will be really glad that they left this information for the planters.  Most companies require that each crew have a written Emergency Response Plan with all of this information, and with instructions on what to do in an emergency.

As a planter, you should always know the number of the block that you're working on.  A great idea is for the foreman to use a dry-erase marker to write the block number on the rear-view mirror of each truck every morning.  You should also be able to find the block number on the map on the dashboard.



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-          Jonathan “Scooter” Clark