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Hard Questions

I’ve spoken with quite a few people recently that I would consider “stuck in a rut”.  They’re students overwhelmed by their options, or unemployed, trying to change their career path, or just broaden their options and make more money.

Most of these people come at me with long, rambling, bad questions.

Stuff like:

“What language would you recommend a person with an audio background learn if they’ve done a little bit of coding, but realize they probably need to get more in-depth if they want to further their career because they need to broaden their skills set?”

If you didn’t know any better, you’d think this is a great question – right?  It’s essentially “can you give me a starting point to better myself?”

But 99% of the time, that’s not actually what’s being asked.

Usually the person asking this question feels stuck and wants a quick fix to their problems.  Problems which usually include getting more money and/or finding a job (or better job).  The thought process is if one learns a new skill quickly, they can put it on their resume and beat out competitors by looking better to a hiring manager.

The problem is, that never actually works.  To compound this, the skill is usually not something this person is actually dying to learn.  If they were really interested in it – they would just jump at learning something new and fascinating.  They wouldn’t be asking me what is most potent in the marketplace.

Most people I’ve had this conversation with – and if you find yourself in this spot, follow along – need to answer 3 questions.

1) What, specifically, do you want to do?
2) Realistically, will that pay you?
3) What steps do you need to take to succeed?

There are 3 failure scenarios here after you come up with the answer to the first question.

  1. You answered “no” to the 2nd question
  2. You should’ve answered “no” to the 2nd question, but you’re lying to yourself
  3. Success is somehow out of your control. For example – you want to be an internationally lauded indie guitarist composer – which requires musical trends that you don’t control to ride in your favor.

These questions, and being honest with them, are brutally difficult. When I say “what, specifically, do you want to do?” I mean that to be a question you answer very specifically. The more specific that you are, the easier to becomes to figure out if it’s something you can make money doing and what steps you need to take to get there.

The part that makes these tasks difficult isn’t the tasks themselves – but you.

There’s almost nothing that you cannot achieve through working hard, smart, and being willing to fail. But you’ll sabotage yourself when you’re tired or overwhelmed by trying to find an easier path.  Just like when you ask for the “best path” to expand yourself.  There isn’t one – become a master at something a company is willing to pay for that you also enjoy.

For explorers, there is no easy path. If you’re cutting new ground, the cutting takes hard work. Even if it’s road that others have tread before you, at some point you still need to make your own way.

So quit beating around the bush. Answer the hard questions for yourself – not anyone else – and get to work. There is no guarantee of success, but I can promise you that you’ll find more doors opening than if you sat and did nothing.

Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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ADC ’17 Talks

The 2017 edition of the Audio Developers Conference recently wrapped up over in England.

ADC is a multi-day event of speakers, brought together by ROLI (known for Blocks, Seaboard, and JUCE), all focused on audio-related programming. This year’s event was broadcast live over YouTube, and thus for all of us is now able to be watched on-demand!

Here are some direct links to each day’s playlist:
ADC ’17 Keynotes
ADC ’17 Talks Day 1
ADC ’17 Talks Day 2

If you’ve got no idea where to start, here’s a few specific videos I’m jumping into:
Friedemann Schautz – “The Development of Ableton Live”
Martin Shuppius – “Physical Modeling of Guitar Strings”
Varun Nair, Hans Fugal – “Spatial Audio at Facebook”
Yvan Grabit – “VST3 History, Advantages and Best Practices”
Julian Storer – “Does your code actually matter?”
Jan Konig – “Introduction to Cross Platform Voice Applications for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant”
Don Turner “Build a Synth for Android”

There’s plenty more for you to dive into and get inspired by beyond those – go check it out!

Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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Vim: The Reaper of Text Editors

I fully believe that if you don’t give yourself challenges, you tend not to grow.

If you’re not growing, eventually I think you’d find it difficult to be living well too.

So, in addition to starting a new job last month, I decided to give myself another personal challenge – learn how to use the text editor Vim.

I’m generally slightly obsessed with smoothness and efficiency. If I can do something easier, faster, or in less steps, then I’ll pursue that new way of doing things. Most of the time, this requires that I confront a large learning curve up from to get an even larger ROI on the back end.

Most of the time, all of this work is totally worth it. In the case of Vim, it very much is.

What is Vim?

If you’ve never heard of Vim before, you can check it out here.

In short, it is a considerably old “modal” text editor that rewards heavy reliance on the keyboard and efficient commands.

When using Vim you can’t just start typing as you do in any other text editor – you have to jump into “insert mode” (much like Pro Tools’ mode system).

Instead of using the mouse to scroll up and down a file, you can do so with the “j” and “k” keys on your keyboard. You can also use shortcuts to jump to a specific line, the top, middle, or bottom of a file, and anywhere you’ve bookmarked.

You can also edit, add, or remove multiple lines of text with a few simple key commands.

It’s also extremely extendable via custom scripting.

All of these neat tools, combined with the encouragement Vim gives you to never take your hands off of the keyboard, means that you can get really fast and accurate if you take the time to learn its system.

For extra eye candy, here’s a few shots of crazy advanced things you can do:

Adding a space after each character.  Image from
Adding a space after each character. Image from
Go to a specific line number.  Image from
Go to a specific line number. Image from
Find and replace in all open windows.  Image from
Find and replace in all open windows. Image from
Delete the current line and the line below/above.  Image from
Delete the current line and the line below/above. Image from

Learning Vim

Before even looking at Vim I only knew one thing about it – most of the internet describes it as extremely intimidating.

But if all of these features – and especially never taking your hands off of the keyboard – are intriguing to you, what’s the best way to go about learning how to use it?

Short of fumbling around and reading a few blogs, here’s the best resources I can share with you:

Derek Wyatt’s Vim video series – Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced tutorials

The Vim Tips wiki

Derek Wyatt’s videos are, in two words – informative and interesting. Each video is slammed full of very easy to follow instructions, which drops the barrier of entry to basic Vim usage extremely low. The only catch is, you have to get past Derek’s goofiness to get there. On one hand, you may find it completely entertaining, but if you’re looking just for straight information you may tire of Derek’s approach pretty quickly.

If you’re looking for text-only and searchable information, the Vim wiki is packed full of every bit of information you’d ever want to know about Vim. Though, for me, it didn’t lower the learning curve, it’s definitely a great place to find small bits of information extremely quickly.

Thus far, I’m loving getting around and learning a new-to-me piece of software. Vim’s efficiency is even already showing in how much quicker and accurately I’m getting through code. If you find that you wish you used the mouse less, wrote more accurately, and got through code quicker – I’d highly encourage you check it out.

Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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How Not to Lose an Important Connection

Everyone wants to be connected to someone important.

Everyone wants to get some sort of edge that will help their lives or career.

But do you know what to do when you actually get what you want?  Or do you freak out like a dog who finally caught an ever elusive squirrel?

This is for you – if you’ve ever been introduced to a connection that’s above you in professional stature, or has the ability to vastly help you and your career.  Especially if you’ve gotten that opportunity and blown it.

Make no mistake, you can blow it, and most people do.

Most people do others the favor of disqualifying themselves.  But after you read this – not you.

Continue reading How Not to Lose an Important Connection

Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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My Love for Jettomero

If you follow me on Twitter, there’s a high probability you’ve seen me post about Jettomero: Hero of the Universe.  There’s good reason for this.

I love literally everything about this game/project.  There’s a significant part of me that wishes I had come up with it and executed on it.

If you’ve never heard of this and have no idea what I’m talking about, a picture will speak better than any of my words will.

Jettomero and the Blazing Sun

It looks like a gorgeous, wild comic book, right?  Plus robots and space and shit!

The most interesting part about my relationship with this work is the level of care I actually have for it, as a consumer.

For you – this probably won’t be earth-shattering.  Most people like things other people created – TV shows, books, movies, etc. to the point that they become highly protective and argue about the validity of someone else’s art.

Two words – Star Wars.  Right?

Somewhere along the way in my career, I lost that.  I do still find the art and creativity of others intriguing, but it’s very rare that I come across something that I feel connected to anymore.  I think once I realized how much actual work goes into the creation of content, I lost the desire to consume and debate through gaining the spark to create myself.  If you spend a lot of time making, you just don’t have that much time to consume anymore.

So I have to stop when I go “Holy smokes – THIS IS AMAZING!“.

What’s brilliant beyond that is that this whole project was largely created by one person.  Some figure modeling and the game’s sound effects (shoutout to my friends at A Shell in the Pit!) were contracted out – but the core of the game was made by one person in Vancouver.

Not only that, I’ve had the great fortune to meet Gabriel in person (to my surprise he chased me down), and he’s an amazingly fantastic, humble human.

If you’ve worked in the entertainment industry long enough (specifically film and music) you’ll understand my utter shock at this.  Lots of us in entertainment are good people, but with a side of egotistical asshole – it kind of comes with the territory.  I won’t deny that I’m not a shining sweet angel all the time myself.

All of this to say – you should take some time out of your day to check this project out.  If it looks cool to you, it costs less than $15 USD, and is likely to be localized in your language too.  In exchange for the cash, you’ll get a fun and thoughtful story, with metric shit tons of personality.  Your cash will also go towards funding a good human’s creative muscle.

If you’d like to hear more about what it took Gabriel to make the game, OST, comic, etc. (yes, there’s a rad soundtrack and a physical comic book – I’ve demanded art prints) then you should read Gamasutra’s article about Jettomero.  That, my friends, is also worth your time.

(I mean think about it – have you ever thought about making comic books by using Unity before??  Gabriel is doing that!  What the f*@#!!!)

So keep churning away on the things that interest your brain.  You’re bound to have an idea like this and touch someone else as Gabriel’s work has done to me.

Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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Getting Through Getting Stuck

If you’ve never heard of Cal Newport or his blog Study Hacks, I’ll happily be the first to introduce you.

Cal is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, and has written a number of books, most of which are completely worth your time to read.

His latest post deals with working through “getting stuck” – a problem which manifests itself in various ways, like writer’s block or simply the frustration of not being able to solve a problem.

He presents a pretty solid point within, that I think you should read and contemplate.  Sometimes the work we do is very difficult, but there is usually incredible rewards for those who persist even when there is no clear direction in which to persist.  You may have no idea where to go or what to do, but you keep working towards the goal anyway.

In essence, sometimes it’s better to just accept that you’re going to get stuck, and keep going in spite of that.  This “war of attrition” advice is has played a very large part of where I’ve been successful in my career.

Go take a look at what Cal has to say – I promise it’s worth your time.

Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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Diving into difficulty

I find pretty often that I’m in constant pursuit of the best, or the easiest way to do something.  The way I justify this to myself is that I want to put all my concerted effort into a thing one time and knock it out of the park the best way the first time.

This, I think, was drilled into me when working with other hard-nosed perfectionists.  These bosses were the best and worst to work with – real assholes when you failed, but made you dig inside of yourself to pull out the best.  I generally did it to spite them, and we’d have a great relationship after I met their level of completeness.

The major problem with the expectation from these people is that, they never gave me the freedom to fail.  Thus I don’t regularly give myself the freedom to fail.  I also don’t have the desire to fail.

I feel like it’s just wasting time.

But who has ever ridden a bike right the first time?  Who didn’t fall down once the training wheels were off?

If you can’t ride a bike and you’re an adult – what stops you from learning?  I can tell you – falling on your ass and looking like an idiot.  It’s not fun to tell coworkers that over the weekend you tried to learn to ride a bike (awkward enough) and fell on your ass a bunch (SUPER awkward).

At the core of that story is the same thing that keeps me from pulling the trigger on something difficult until I know I can succeed – I don’t want to fall down.  I tell myself it has to do with “not wasting time”, but that’s very literally just procrastination talking.

You have to fall down, because it’s truly the only way you learn to gain your balance and stay upright.

You’ll find that once you go for it – the other people who want to do the same thing become awestruck and seek out your help (or they call you names, and you ignore them because they’re just envious idiots).  Those who have gone before you and succeeded are generally more than happy to help you move even faster!

So there’s no room for procrastination.

When you find something hard, that you really want to succeed on but you keep putting off – set a date and do it.  Not everything you want to do to succeed in life will be fun.  A lot of it will suck.  A lot of it you won’t have passion for.  But if you do it, you’ll get where you want to go.

Seek out the hard things, and kick their ass.  You’ll be super proud of yourself when you do.

Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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Have Fun

I’m usually pretty serious when it comes to my time and effort.  I don’t often put in time to things just for fun, or for the hell of it without a specific goal attached.  But I’m finding that, the harder I work, the worse of an idea it is to only focus at drilling down on things with a huge ROI.

Sometimes you do just need to go have fun.

If you’re feeling run down, over-tired, over-worked you should take a minute to breathe.

For me it’s super hard because a lot of my work is from self-induced ideas.

But you need to take time to turn off.

I’ve found my process for immediate decisions and goal-setting to be beneficial for this process.  If you need – make a list of all the things you can think of that are fun, mindless activities that you don’t normally allow yourself to go partake in.  Keep in mind, this may legitimately be hard if you’re so focused on working that you’ve got incredible tunnel vision.

Once you’ve got your list, turn off your brain and pick one.

Here’s some of what mine looks like right now:

  • Watch Agents of Shield (seriously – it’s so wonderfully mindless)
  • Play through a game with my wife
  • Read fiction

Sometimes it’s good to throw in a hobby project related to the things you normally work on.  For example, I’m still plucking away at learning JUCE.  Shortly I’m going to set to working on a “noise generator” plugin – except instead of being generated, the noise will be supplied by hisses from my friend Matt.  Why?  Because a joke went way too far, and now we need to make it real.  It’s something I get to laugh at while also learning something I’m interested in on the side!  Is it going to be mindblowing for the rest of the world?  No – but that’s also not really the point.

So if you’re feeling a little beat down, plan to go home tonight and give yourself permission not to do anything.  Start there, and then make yourself a list of what you’d do just to recharge or put a smile on your face.

You’ve got my permission to be a little lazy, you’ll get back to work shortly and work with more energy because of it!

Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.

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Forge Yourself

How intimidated are you by disagreement and confrontation?  If somebody calls you or your ideas stupid, how to you respond?

Or even better – are you intimidated to speak or work due to the fear of how your thoughts, ideas, and work will be received?

If you hold back, you need to quit.

Most of my hopes, thoughts, dreams, and ideas aren’t super controversial (some are, or can be).  But I’ve realized the fact that without some disagreeable voices in my life, I won’t grow.

This came early for me – and it probably has hit you in some simple ways.

Have you ever had a parent or elder say “you’ll never become a musician/sound designer/creative” or “do you know how hard it is to do that?”

Have you ever had coworkers or industry colleagues say that your idea will never work, or it’s dumb?

How you handle these things can literally change you.

Most people, unfortunately, will cower.  They will walk away mad, and start name-calling the disagreeable voice behind their back.  “That person is stupid!  They don’t know what they’re talking about!  They’re an asshole!”  They will not, however, actually talk with that person if they can help it.

That’s not brave, that’s weak.

Brave is figuring out your opinion, why, and attempting to comfortably articulate it.  That takes time, thoughtfulness, and a lot of energy.

It also has no promise of being met well by the disagreeable voice.

But it’s more important that you treat that disagreement with dignity – there is, in fact, another person that it’s sourced from.  They’re often just as dumb and misled as you are, and you know how dumb and misled you are.  If you don’t – I don’t know that I can help you.

You’ll learn a lot from these moments.  Likely at the end of the day, you’ll be thankful someone voiced their opinion.  You may not agree with them, you may not come to a consensus of understanding, but you’ll grow as a person.  You’ll definitely form your own clear opinions, and start treating others with more dignity and respect when you do disagree with them.

Plus – the world just needs to hear your thoughts and ideas, to see your vision, and watch you execute.  You will inspire others.

Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.