If you've ever stopped by the Steinberg booth at NAMM, chances are you've met and been wowed by Matthew Loel T Hepworth. For those who don't know of him, Matt is a multi-talented man of the arts, distinguished author, master musician, highly sought after audio consultant, Steinberg rep and star trainer at macProVideo.com!
In this interview Matt's reveals his experience of Logic vs Cubase, his long background in music and computers, his thoughts on the future of music production, what makes Cubase the best DAW, how he's developed his popular teaching style and his other creative pursuits.
RS: Hi Matthew. Thanks for making the time to do this interview for The mPV Hub!
MLTH: Thanks. I’m glad to be here.
RS: Being a long-time Logic user and trainer it takes a lot for another DAW to turn my head. But, I remember watching through some of your first Cubase 5 101 tutorial for macProVideo.com and really enjoying it.
MLTH: Oh, really?
RS: Yes! You know I was quite a biased Logic user before then! Perhaps I was even a Logic snob...
MLTH: Sure. Logic is a great program, too. I use it quite a lot in fact. You know German music software really spoke to me when I started out in this world. Back on the Commodore platform, the Steinberg product, Pro16 was their 16-track MIDI sequencer that really opened up new avenues for me that I didn’t even think were possible. Then when Atari became the platform of choice for music professionals, mainly because it had MIDI ports built-in, Steinberg made a program called Pro24: their 24-track MIDI sequencer.
Then a program called Notator came out for the Atari. And that was the forerunner to Logic. It had that same sort of appeal to me. I believe at the time it was called C-Lab and it really spoke to me. I later found out that Carl Steinberg and Gerhard Lengeling were buddies in college so their interfaces shared a lot of the same concepts. If you fast forward to today, everyone is using that same sort of paradigm for tracks, editors and so forth.
Notator on the Atari.
But when I started out (teaching) I had a lot more clients on the PC platform so I decided to stick to Cubase. But both Logic and Cubase are certainly very capable pro audio programs.
RS: So you were part of the computer music based revolution from the very beginning! Tell us about your musical background.
MLTH: My mother was a dance teacher and my father was a symphony musician and professor of music. So music and the arts were always a big part of my upbringing. I started to take music lessons when I was in my teens. My father didn’t want me to follow that path because he knew how difficult and challenging it was for a professional musician—especially in a small state like Utah. So I didn’t really get into music until later. But at the same time I was getting into computers.
My junior high school was one of the first to offer a computer lab back in the late 70s. When MIDI came out in the early 80s, someone came to me and said, "You know Matt, you can hook up keyboards to a computer and have your own digital recording studio right in your house." This was the marriage of two worlds for me. When it came to my time to go to college I wanted to go there and learn about this technology; it was just fascinating. Once I got there I realized that none of the professors knew anything about it , and most of them didn’t want to know anything about it. So, I dropped out of college and started to learn this stuff on my own. I became a salesman in various pro music equipment stores. Sometime later I became a product representative for companies like Steinberg. But then in 2000, I decided to go out on my own and focus on the consulting and authoring aspect of music technology and have been doing it ever since.
Then in the later part of the last decade, I met with Steve H and Martin Sitter. They brought me on board to be the Cubase author for macProVideo.com. This opened up a whole new avenue of being able to bring instruction to a much broader audience than I could just as an individual.
RS: Tell us more about what’s involved with being a product specialist and consultant.
MLTH: Well, I do two trade shows every year: NAMM in January, with Steinberg and I’ve been doing that for about 7 years. I also do the ATMI show which is music technology for teachers. I do this for Steinberg too, but I also make myself available for international and national clients to help them get their studios set up and help them get the most out of their music technology purchases. So, I’ve got clients around the country here and around the world. Last year I went to Kuwait for a client there. I have more of a one-on-one relationship with my clients... but you know this has all changed since joining macProVideo.com. Now anyone with a computer can jump online and learn more about what they already have!
Matthew Loel T Hepworth at NAMM!
RS: Yes! And we really love your teaching style here at macProVideo.com. In fact, teaching via video is different compared to face-to-face instruction. What’s your approach and methodology to teaching via tutorial videos?
MLTH: Well, I always have to remember that the viewer is with me. Essentially like someone looking over my shoulder at all times to see what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. I also need to remember, as a naturally fast speaker, to slow down a little and approach things more thoughtfully. I also try to commit myself to all levels, including the beginner user. It’s great to have higher-end customers asking for some more power tips, which is what the Cubase TNT videos are all about, but as far as the Cubase 100 titles I try to remember that many viewers will use these videos to help them with their first steps into using music making software. I feel it’s my responsibility to make it accessible and easy to follow and understand. I also want to illustrate how the product can help with their creativity, because in the end it’s all about making music!
RS: Can you give us a run down of all the different audio software tools you’re familiar with?
MLTH: The programs I use on a daily basis would be Cubase, Nuendo and Wavelab. I also provide individual training on Logic, Pro Tools, Sonar and Digital Performer, Finale and Sibelius for a few clients.
RS: So, considering your depth of knowledge and experience with all the above, what made you choose Cubase as your DAW?
MLTH: Cubase feels like home. It’s wonderful to be well-versed in all audio programs... but even when I’m at someone’s studio and showing them how to use one of the others, let’s say a well-rounded one like Logic or Pro Tools, I still think to myself how glad I am that when I go home and use Cubase it’ll do things, in my mind, faster, easier and at a higher level of performance than the other programs that are available.
RS: So what are your favorite “stand-out” features in Cubase?
MLTH: Well, there are so many things you can do in Cubase 6 that are simply impossible to do in any other programs; magical things that other programs simply don’t offer.
RS: Can you give us an example?
MLTH: For example, the new multi-track drum quantization. It’s something you could do in Pro Tools with Beat Detective, their multi-track time auto correction plugin for audio. Whereas for Cubase, it’s just part of the program. You don’t have to run a separate plugin. You simply go to the quantization menu, like you would with MIDI tracks, and perform the quantize.
VariAudio in Cubase 6. Like Melodyne but built right in to Cubase!
Cubase approaches pitch correction in the same way. With most other programs you don’t have really high quality pitch correction built-in. You’d have to buy a very capable plugin like Melodyne or Auto-Tune. But in Cubase it’s just there. Click on the VariAudio tab and audio pitch correction is right there. You don’t have to worry about online files, offline files and whether once you apply pitch correction and you start to edit the audio part in the editor... well you don’t have the concurrency issues like you would do with a plugin, because a plugin is not part of the core application. So those two things are examples of how Steinberg incorporates extremely high performance operations right in the program instead of doing so with a plugin.
RS: As a Logic user I’m certainly jealous of Cubase’s VariAudio feature. It looks like the results can be pretty good!
MLTH: It does a fantastic job. It’s got to the point now where if a client is using Logic or Pro Tools and they buy Melodyne or Auto-Tune once I show them how to use it I want to crack open my laptop and show them how to do it more quickly in Cubase. You know these core tools are so important in the world of pop music production that to spend less time doing them in a new program can be enough of a reason to jump ship and come over to the Cubase platform.
RS: So there’s another feature in Cubase 6 I really like the look of. It’s a plugin that intelligently randomizes beats.
MLTH: LoopMash! It’s a very unique and revolutionary VST instrument that comes with Cubase 6. In fact it’s actually available as an app for the iPhone (including a new version called ‘LoopMash Free’). It’s a way to bring multiple loops of different audio performances and be able to splice them into a brand new beat without having to do extra pattern creation. You can use a wide variety of included loops or your own audio loops. It helps you build beats very easily and quickly in way that hasn’t been done before.
There’s a free video on LoopMash on macProVideo.com right now where you can see the new LoopMash in action. This VST Instrument is a very different type of tool for beat creation that is a very important component in a lot of musician and producer tool boxes now.
LoopMash2 in Cubase 6.
RS: Well, I’m going to check out LoopMash for iPhone then. I wish Logic’s Ultrabeat had some of the functionality from LoopMash...
MLTH: Well, let me just get to the biggest feature in Cubase for me. I’m sure I could come up with a list of 100 things that really are unique to Cubase. But the biggest thing for me is the philosophy of software architecture, just the look and the feel and the operation of high quality, well-written software. It’s very easy for me to get jaded by the technology because it’s possible to do so much with any of DAW programs out there... It’s not until I get on a different platform to see what’s new in Logic or Pro Tools that I really appreciate the flexibility and the workflow that Cubase 6 offers. That’s maybe the biggest reason that I haven’t explored the possibility of going to a different platform for my own personal use.
A lot of new users that try out the big DAWs often say that Cubase is easier to learn, easier to understand. I think that’s the philosophical approach that Steinberg engineers take with the program: they understand the pro user and the intermediate and beginner as well. They use that understanding to create a product that is very appealing to any user level.
REVerence: An excellent convolution reverb unit in Cubase 6.
RS: You make it sound very accessible! In terms of the future of music production software, when you look into your crystal ball, where do see Cubase and other DAWs going?
MLTH: That is such a good question. As a professional user of Cubase it’s great to have experienced all different, new technological revolutions which have been put into existing programs that have been brought to bear on musical productions. There are so many new users out there who are experiencing a newer or younger program like Ableton Live for the first time... or they’ve started to use GarageBand, as so many new musical users are adopting the Mac platform. These revolutions in music tech can seem a little scary at first, but can also offer a lot of revolutionary thinking. I appreciate so much that Ableton Live and GarageBand are able to bring the new user into the world of computer-based music production in a way that isn’t threatening and doesn’t make them learn the method before they can start to make music.
With a pro app like Logic or Cubase, it is required that you learn some of the professional basics. But just because you are able to buy a 200-piece tool set doesn’t necessarily mean you’re automatically going to be a great home builder or auto mechanic. You still need the knowledge to help you get to a level that the listener of your end product, your music, is going to expect. Certainly you can do a lot of wonderful things with Live and GarageBand but to really get to that next level of production there are simply some things those programs can’t do—and perhaps don’t need to be done to create the kind of new music that’s coming out today—but I think there will always be that point where the user wants to take their music to the next level. When it gets to that point there are some many wonderful tools out there in the professional world, like Cubase, Nuendo, Logic and Pro Tools.
I grew up in a time when there were only one or two options, so you had to learn only one of those two. Now for those who’ve reached the limitations of their current software and want to go to the next level the world is their oyster. There are so many great choices so I’m excited to see how that paradigm of the new user coming into the market gets explored by Steinberg in particular and the professional music software market in general.
RS: Yes, me too. So, I know you started your computer music journey by hooking up a Prophet 5 to your Commodore 64 back in 1984. Do you still have that Prophet?
MLTH: No, they all either failed or I sold them when the market was appealing and when I began getting out of hardware synths.
The original Commodore 64 (circa. 1984)
RS: And do you still have and use hardware or are you completely software-based?
MLTH: I still have some old ones like my old Yamaha TG-77 and TX-81Z and my Korg EX-8000 and Ensoniq ASR-10. I know that thing is dog meat compared to some of the other programs on the market like Kontakt and Halion 4 but it just feels like home. But, since I play the Theremin, I’ve been buying new ones from Moog Music. They make some fantastic Theremins and also some great sounding and highly stable analog synths. I bought a set of Moog Taurus 3 pedals because I like that sound. I like being able to break up the concrete from 50 yards! (laughs) I also bought one of their Slim Phatty synths that hasn’t arrived yet.
As far as hardware versus virtual instruments there is no one being better than the other. There’re so many great sounds out there, I try not to limit myself to just one paradigm or the other. It’s certainly easier and cheaper to use virtual instruments. But occasionally you find a box plugged in to the wall that says something that you really want to add to your musical vocabulary, so I use both.
RS: So, you’re writing books, creating excellent tutorial videos for macProVideo.com, providing consultancy around the world and still perform as a product specialist for Steinberg... Does this allow you time to create much music?
MLTH: I’ve not had much time to make music of late. I didn’t know that this little niche world of writing and producing video training on Steinberg software was as in demand as it’s turning out to be. So occasionally I need to take a laptop, keyboard and Theremin somewhere, away from my studio and my home and sit in a library, or in the mountains or sit in a tent somewhere to get some music production done. What’s so amazing about it is that I can do that!
I remember that dream back when MIDI was introduced... the dream was always "I can’t wait for the day that we have a digital recording studio that’s affordable." Now not only is it affordable, and all new Macs now come with GarageBand included, but it’s possible to take a laptop and headphones somewhere. And that’s all you need for a fully-featured recording studio.
RS: Sure! When you think about it, it really is incredible.
MLTH: It boggles the mind. It reminds me of when I was working for Alesis and I was talking to the man who invented the ADAT, Keith Barr. I asked him why he made the ADAT (the world’s first affordable digital recorder.) He told him he made it so that the next White Album would come out a home studio. I thought that was such a profound statement. But the next sentence kind of said it all, "It still hasn’t happened yet."
We’ve seen a revolution in technology and there’s certainly a lot of music being made out there, but I don’t know if we’ve used it to quite get to the next revolution in music. And this is not to detract from those who are making a living from new music at all. But I don’t think there’s been that moment where the world stopped to listen to the next big thing. But I’m really looking forward to that day when it happens.
Going back to what we were talking about earlier... the possibilities now are absolutely endless for a musician, or music enthusiast, of any level to sit in front of a computer and just let the ideas flow. That again boggles my mind that we can do that. It’s important not to get caught up in the technology rather than the music. That’s what I really want to avoid when I’m making a video tutorial. I want to make sure that whoever is watching one of my videos gets to apply what they’ve learned to their music. Not simply verify that they’ve made the right choice in the purchase of their products. I want them to be able to see how they can learn about the technology and then let it go and let the music happen. And I think Cubase does that better than any other professional audio music application. It does a lot of great technological things with a minimum of setup and operation to actually execute.
It’s so much like learning a new musical instrument. A user does have to sit down and have to learn where to put their hands on the keyboard and their mouse pointer on the screen just like they had to figure out where notes on a staff and fingers on a piano keyboard go and so forth. But with a little discipline and practice a new music student or music software user who has been using it for a long time can really start to explore the music. And that’s what it’s all about in the first place. I hope that when someone watches my videos they’re doing so with the concept of bringing their music to fruition. If the music is locked in their head it’s just as tragic to have it locked in the computer and not being able to share it with loved ones or the world at large. It should be about bringing the beauty and that expression into the world.
RS: So, what do you do when you’re not making and teaching music and music production?
MLTH: (Laughs) Well, I do video production and I’m also a photographer. So I have those irons in the fire, too. The video production I do is for dance companies and I like having art in my life that isn’t so much a professional part of what I do. For example, musically, I can play jazz. But, it’s not my favorite type of music to perform. However, listening to jazz is a whole other thing because I never truly studied jazz, so I can listen to it without analyzing it. Whereas with pop music I do sit down and start to break it down... wondering which microphone they used on that vocal, or whether that guitar is a Telecaster! So the same is true of dance or theater. I’ve delved into both of those disciplines but really sucked at it! But I still really enjoy both to watch. In fact, my daughter is a belly dancer, and a very talented one, too. She and her mom are both belly dancers. So it’s really great to watch them perform, so I try and keep all my favorite art forms accessible and save time to do those things.
Matt is a multi-talented photographer, musician & teacher!
I also have a dog named Rover. He’s the best dog in the whole world! We spend a couple of hours a day going on walks and throwing the frisbee. That is a magic moment that I have to stop and really appreciate for what it is. Being so busy and having all these different things happening all at once... but there are these beautiful moments every day, and I get a couple of those at bare minimum to spend with him and remind me of the simple things. At the end of the day it doesn’t take a lot of things like money, power, glory etc., to really enjoy life.
RS: Thanks. OK, if you hadn’t become a musician, what would you have liked to be doing in your life?
MLTH: Wow... it would have to involve some sort of art. It turned out because of my background that music was the logical choice. But I enjoy so many forms of art...
RS: Maybe belly dancing?
MLTH: (Laughs) Hopefully and to the gratitude of the world, no. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the coordination gene from my mom as far as dance goes.
But there are so many other forms of art... I mean, I do video and I do photography so maybe it’d be somewhere along those lines but it would involve the computer too because computers are the conduit through which art is produced these days. Whether it’s photography, or the tangible arts, or any of those other things, it’s really involved with computers. The way I look at the computer now is that it is the blank sheet of paper, the canvas, the lump of clay... and it’s how we decide to use it to express ourselves that’ll really determine what kind of art we’re going to build today. So, I guess it would involve some art form and some sort of computing, whether that be Photoshop, Final Cut, After Effects or anything else. But, you know I’ve never even thought about that because it just feels like what I’m doing is what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s a very compelling question!
RS: Thank you very, very much Matthew. It’s been great speaking to you!
MLTH: Thank you.
Check out ALL of Matt's Cubase 6 video training here!