Hi, Doctor Nick! - Quick Tips for Tougher Drums and "How Old Is Too Old?" When It Comes to Making Music

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It's too bad that Nick Hook can't earn some extra frequent flyer miles or something for doling out advice while he's on the road, because the guy is constantly hopping around the globe. Still, no matter where he is, our favorite street shaman—and resident advice columnist—manages to string together a few pearls of wisdom for our readers every Thursday morning. Doctor Nick has seen the world (or at least a sizable chunk of it) and has picked up plenty of knowledge along the way. Best of all, he wants to share it with the world. Drop him a line at doctornick@xlr8r.com, and he'll do the rest.

Yooo... I'm back on my crazy travel grind. New Zealand was incredible. I got to hang with Serato for a week and kinda got to see where the future of DJing is going while I was actually in the future (New Zealand). Dudes are really onto some innovative shit and I feel really honored and blessed that I get to be a part of these things.

I also stopped in LA to say hi to some friends. I gave Gaslamp Killer a hug and wished him well. I'm back in New York tonight to play with SBTRKT, and I'll be in SF on Friday with HudMo and Jacques Greene and a bunch of others. Then I give this lecture in San Francisco on Saturday afternoon at Pyramind. Can't stop won't stop.

Anyways, I'm feeling super inspired and blessed to be here. Thanks for questions. Send more. doctornick@xlr8r.com. Tell your friends you love them. I love you.


Hi Doctor Nick,
I am 59 and retire next year. I have spent all my life in art and design, teaching, making, creating. Thing is, I don't want to make artwork anymore. I want to make music—mostly deep house—and I have spent three years setting up a very nice Reason-based home studio. And I think I KNOW and FEEL what this is about and CAN DO THIS. I am a creative person. I have a lifetime of creative strategies and a massive music collection. I have always listened to what is fresh. Trouble is, I am probably 30 to 40 years older than everybody else setting out on this road and I don't want to appear to be "the oldest swinger in town" and a bit of a prat. I got stared at last year at the Eastern Electrics festival and was definitely the oldest person there. But I LOVE THIS MUSIC. Will anyone take me seriously? How old is too old?

I love this question. It's perhaps the best one we've ever had. I admire you so much. I have the same thoughts to do exactly what you are doing when I'm that age, but I want to learn art history, or psychology, or something just completely new and have time to dedicate to it. It's probably a pipe dream because I don't know if I'll ever be able to retire, but hey, one can dream.

I don't think you are too old at all. I think it would be sick if we rolled up to the club and there was an old dude smashing it.

Personally I think the strategy to take is to finish the music and get it out there without anyone knowing anything about you. You obviously aren't in a rush, so make some amazing music that you are confident about and get it going.

I was at dinner last night with a few friends—friends that owned labels and actually another new friend that has just made a number-one song in the UK—and the consensus at the table was that we all think it's not too old and that it's actually amazing and inspiring. This is actually one of the things I really like about DJing versus being in a more traditional "band"—sometimes, it's not 100% about youth, although maybe not so much lately with EDM and all this wild nonsense happening.

The more I do this, I've also realized that the more people have an idea of who you are and what you do, the more it lets you be liberal in terms of how you DJ and what music you play. Whether you are an idiot like me who has an advice column and has put out a few records or you're a more real established guy, people want you to be you. Once people know you, you can be a server instead of a servant. Think about it—two people can play the same exact record and one would clear the floor. It's all about context; it's fascinating, but completely real. So I think your strongest approach would be having records that are out and then you create a story that you are the old dude that was like, "I'm retired and I make beats now." I'd write about that if I had a blog or a newspaper. And that kinda relates to most press. Where's the story? Are you interesting? If you are boring, someone probably isn't gonna want to write about you.

Anyways, send me those demos when you are done. I got two dudes interested already.

Hi Doctor Nick,
I'm fascinated by music with complex rhythms and tuff drums. I recently purchased my first outboard piece (Korg ER-1), which I love, as you can create some great (weird) drum sounds. However, I do find it a bit limited in what I can do rhythmically using the step sequencer. Is there anything out there that will offer me tuff drums and more complex rhythms?

Try hooking a MIDI in and MIDI out cable into your Korg. Then you can use your DAW (Ableton/Logic/Pro Tools/etc.) to send it MIDI notes. You should be able to send it triplets or play notes on a regular keyboard that aren't quantized and it will then play them back. If you don't use a computer, you could also sequence it with an MPC. It should be super easy. Also, if you MIDI in a drum pad, like a Roland or Alesis, you could play the notes with sticks on your own.

Hi, Doctor Nick! appears every Thursday on XLR8R. Do you have a question for Doctor Nick? Please submit your inquires to doctornick@xlr8r.com. Nick Hook can help you.