Colin Aiken in the studio
Colin Aiken in the studio

June 22nd, 2021

ToneGym Hero: Colin Aiken

Influenced by the Beatles arrival to the US, California state university alumni and by his own accord, pretty good at wielding a chain saw, Colin Aiken is this month ToneGym Hero!

Who are you and where are you from?

I live in Sacramento, California, USA, with my wife Abbey, and our Siamese tabby, Tommie. Before going any further, I want to express how much I truly appreciate my wife’s understanding of and patience with my musical obsession. I am also a cancer survivor.

I grew up in Los Angeles, surfing the southern California beaches. At age fourteen, my family moved northward to Susanville, California, a mountain logging town. Attending California State University Sacramento, I earned a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and a Master of Science in Information Technology. I established and worked my own technology consulting business for years, and later worked at the University of California, Davis.

How did you get into music and for how long have you been making music?

I guess I’ve been into music for almost 60 years! At age eleven, the piano and I found each other. I also played the trumpet in the elementary school band. Then, my life changed when the Beatles hit the USA.

I desperately wanted to be in a band and that desire has never waned. In my high school years, I played in different dance bands. I remember spending a summer working on a ranch to earn enough money to buy a Vox Continental organ and Vox Viscount amp, from a friend who never got around to learning how to play them.

What do you like to do for fun outside of working on music?

Thankfully, the majority of my days are usually consumed playing, recording, writing, sharing and enjoying all things music. Outside of normal survival routines, I spend my free time growing an edible garden for the many neighbourhood deer and maintaining a place for local wild turkeys, peacocks, cats, and all things wildlife, to rest. I maintain our lovely, ever-ageing home, for which I am grateful.

What's your most useless skill or talent?

After graduating high school, I worked summers for the U.S. Forest Service, including that of a firefighter and a Hot Shot. While being there, I got pretty good at wielding a chain saw, which hasn’t been needed much outside of our family backyards.

What inspires you and what makes you want to keep making music?

I have always enjoyed being in bands and gigging, so when the pandemic set in, I redirected my energies to recording and songwriting.

Another big step for me has been that of ear training. I’ve taken to watching instructional videos on YouTube, and I’ve enjoyed watching and learning about recording techniques. It was through one of these videos that I learned about SoundGym, which led me to ToneGym!! Both of these gyms have inspired me to learn more and more. Similarly, this exposure has rekindled my joy in writing music.

If you could sit down to a session with any artist who would it be?

Over the years, I have seen and followed many great and inspiring groups. I have been to some incredible live performances and can remember exactly where I was sitting when I saw The Beatles perform the first time on the Ed Sullivan show. I have been inspired by many artists over the years, and one artist that I have always felt strongly about is Chick Corea. I would have loved to sit and talk with him and watch him play close up.

Any habits you have before starting a session?

For a recording or songwriting session, I like to gather my collection of ideas. Notes taken on chords changes, melodic ideas even lyrical ideas. I try to take notes when watching YouTube especially things related to music theory as pertains to songwriting. For a workout, either ToneGym or SoundGym, I’ll try to relax before digging in. I’ll often read through the Dashboard and see who completed what or who has a tip or to whom I can offer a tip.

What have you been working on lately?

In the past few months, I’ve written about 20 new songs. I will take a drum beat and put a piano part to it. Sometimes I’ll add additional colour parts, string, horns, percussion, etc. I do thin work in Ableton Live, then export waves to import into Pro Tools. These files are shared in the Avid cloud for collaboration work with bandmates.

I’ve also been working with said bandmates rebuilding a studio. Our plans are to do live streams, recording, mixing and mastering. It's great fun but difficult with Covid restrictions but we’re now all vaccinated and Covid conscious.

If you could pick one, what would be the theme song of your life?

A Jimi Hendrix tune from his second album “Axis: Bold as Love”. The song is “Castles Made of Sand”. It reminds me that we really have little control over futures.

What is your favourite musical instrument?

In the 70’s I did play a little guitar and even a little flute but piano/keyboard has been my main instrument. I have owned and played a Hammond organ w/ Leslie speakers, a Fender Rhodes, a Prophet 5, a Mini Moog and several other keyboards. I still have my family’s Brambach 6’ grand. I think it was made in the ’40s. One of these days I’ll figure that out.

These days I’m into Nord. I have a Stage 3, Electro 6 and a semi-retired Electro 3. I love their feel and the sounds they make. The Nord Stage 3 is my primary keyboard for recording and the Electro 6 for performing.'

What is your favourite ToneGym feature?

I really enjoy all the games though I do have some trouble with the rhythm games. By far I enjoy the social aspect the most. It’s very important to me to congratulate those who have completed a step in their journey to Diamond. The learning aspects are similarly important and I believe it’s critical to express to others my happiness in their completion of the programs. Though the Olympic games are cool, I’m not very good with speed decision making. I admire those who do this well but accept the fact that being 70 years old has dampened my ability for lightning-fast decision making.

What does the future hold for Colin Aiken?

My plans for the future are to just keep on, keepin’ on. More writing, recording and soon, performances. I will continue to practice and workout, continue to learn and grow. I’m also looking forward to expanding our music business.

Accidental Ventures, Inc. is a recording, mixing and mastering the business of which I am a part. We’re looking forward to doing more and expanding our live steam business.


You can follow Colin Aiken project - The Reggae Thieves on SoundCloud, Facebook & SoundGym.

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