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Make Music New York 2013 (via Facebook)

Jeff Tobias is a musician, composer, writer and teacher living in Brooklyn, NY. He has been an active artist within the American underground/DIY music community for the last 10 years.

Nearly nothing is more effusively encouraged or endorsed in the 21st century than universal self-expression. The creative act of music-making is practically a human right – until it reaches a certain threshold of volume. When the decibels start to approach a level of encroachment, one man's deeply personal creativity becomes another man's unwelcome noise pollution.

Features, Digital & Tech, microkorg

Jun 19, 2014 10:52 AM

Jeff Tobias

How the microKORG Became Nearly Every Indie Band's Go-To Synth

Photo courtesy of Jeff Tobias

This is my microKORG. From 2005 onward, I've used it on more tours than I can accurately recall. I don't think it has any of its original patches at this point. It's been dropped, thrown and mailed. A few knobs have gone missing, requiring some replacement and modification. As a consequence of my abuse and negligence, its already-modest three octave range has been reduced by nearly a third, leaving the poor keyboard looking like a meth addict's lopsided grin.

Like all microKORGs, it's 20.5 inches by 9 inches, features five "performance knobs" to allow for easy, on-the-fly sound editing, and in a pinch, it runs on AA batteries.

But considering our long history together, my favorite feature of this particular microKORG is that it still turns on.

While considering my ball-and-chain relationship with this instrument, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how the microKORG has become a staple of the modern musical landscape.

Features, Recording

May 22, 2014 12:42 PM

Jeff Tobias

5 Crucial Rules for Recording a Demo

Bruce Springsteen in the recording studio. (image source)

At a time of unprecedented access to recording technology, what space does the demo occupy? The relevance of the demo is arguable twice over. Most significantly, a tremendous amount of music is now made "at home" on widely available digital audio workstations. Furthermore, the sonic texture associated with so-called "lo-fi" (so frequently conflated with "demo quality") has been aesthetically acceptable, even preferential, for 10+ years now.

Case and point: Greg Milner explained in his book "Perfecting Sound Forever" that Bruce Springsteen's sparse album "Nebraska" was mixed down to a Panasonic boom box that had been dredged up from a New Jersey river. The choice to release such an earthy recording commercially was audacious in 1982, but would shock no one in 2014.

Mar 28, 2014 01:00 PM

Jeff Tobias

What Monday's Obamacare Deadline Means for Musician Health Insurance

[Credit: Shannon Fowler-Wardrep]

Our long national nightmare is finally over. Well, that depends on who you ask: conservatives are rolling over in their graves (even the living ones) over the mandatory purchase of health insurance written into the Affordable Care Act. And many liberals aren't pleased that President Obama didn't push us all the way into the single-payer system. But regardless of how you may feel, the hour of reckoning is upon us, with a deadline to sign up for insurance coverage by the end of this month - or, as the White House has been putting it in their ubiquitous youth-oriented marketing: it's "last call."

Musicians and other frequent freelancers are among those most concerned with how best to navigate the ACA. There are plenty of ways in which these artists can fall between the cracks, be it a non-salaried day job that doesn't provide benefits or income garnered from a variety of freelance sources. A survey conducted by the Future of Music Coalition (FMC) and the Artists' Health Insurance Resource Center (AHIRC) in the summer of 2013 reported that 43% of the 3,400 U.S.-based artists polled at that time were without health insurance. The primary reason cited? An inability to foot the bill themselves.