Think you know Ableton Live inside out? Ever wondered what’s involved in becoming a Certified Trainer? Simon Stokes explains how he joined this elite group of around 200 Ableton experts.
Simon Stokes (aka Petrichor)
Place of work?
Shoogle Studios in Glasgow
Ableton Certified Trainer, producer and DJ
How long have you had the job?
I became Ableton certified last year but I’ve been teaching music production to individuals and classes for around six years, three of which have been at my studio, Shoogle Studios. As a music producer I’ve been at it for over 15 years now. Ooft.
What does a typical day involve?
One of the things I love about my job is that each day is different. Quite often I’ll be in my studio working as an engineer for other producers. Right now I’m working with Slam on their new album for Soma Records. This involves working closely with the artists to achieve the sound that they’re after – normally some form of techno or tech-house music in my case, but I’ve worked on all sorts of genres in the past. This can be much harder with more established artists than with those who don’t make music themselves!
Tomorrow I’m teaching my Ableton courses from Shoogle Studios. This involves teaching a class of up to ten students about music production using Ableton Live. The classes are very relaxed and some of the students go on to do great things. At the weekend I’ll be performing either live or as a DJ under my Petrichor moniker. You might also find me giving talks or workshops at music conferences or other music events such as the Radio 1 Academy which is happening soon.
The variety of my job is what keeps me going. I get bored quickly if I have to do the same thing over and over.
Highs of the job?
Living the dream of working in the music industry full time with talented, like-minded people. I love the variety of challenges and opportunities of my job! I also love it when people that I’ve taught music production get signed to record labels – that’s incredibly satisfying, especially when they get international gigs.
Lows of the job?
I guess working with other people’s music full-time stops you finding time to make your own music. I can’t complain, though…
Who are the people who’ve had the biggest influence on your career and why?
That’s a tough question. I have always been quite individually minded and happy to work away at what I want to do. I reckon I’ve been most influenced by the clubs and DJs on the Glasgow scene such as the Sub Club (Harri and Domenic at Subculture should be Glasgow’s top tourist attraction) as well as Soma Records and Slam. My job has developed out of a deep passion for the music these DJs create and play, which was in turn born out of far too many chaotic weekends spent listening to it.
I love it when people I’ve taught get signed to record labels – that’s incredibly satisfying.
How did you get the job?
Becoming an Ableton Certified Trainer is a brutal process. You don’t just pay for it like with other software certifications; Ableton select a few people in the UK every few years who they believe are the best teachers of the software, and they test the life out of you at their HQ in Berlin.
The certification process consists of an intense weekend at Ableton HQ. You’re really put through your paces as a trainer, and there’s absolutely no guarantee that you will become certified at the end of it all. I can’t talk much about the event itself as it’s shrouded in secrecy, but suffice to say you’ll probably want to bring a good few spare pairs of undies with you if you get through to it.
If you’re planning on going for certification now expect to be grilled on Push as well. At the time of certification I’d only had Push for one week so they went a little easy on us because it was a new device. Thankfully, if you know Live inside out it shouldn’t take you long to get to grips with Push either as it’s so well designed to be used with the software. It’s intuitive to a degree that no other controller I’ve used is, and I converted my entire live set for ADE to use it within one week of receiving it.
I can’t talk much about the certification event itself as it's shrouded in secrecy, but suffice to say you’ll probably want to bring a good few spare pairs of undies with you if you get through to it.
Even after years of teaching students and doing talks and events I still remember wave after wave of nerves throughout the event. The most intense part of the weekend was waiting to find out if we’d passed – that was brutal! I don’t think I’ve ever wanted a pint as badly as after getting the good news. But if you know your stuff and plan on being involved with teaching Live as your career then you should definitely go for it – it’s as rewarding as it is tough.
Becoming a music producer just takes years of practice. Much easier.
How can we get your job?
To become Ableton Certified, you need to know the software inside out. Then you need to get involved with tuition – from your home, from a studio or at a school or college. You should also get involved with (or launch) a local Ableton User Group. Keep an eye on the Ableton website for a certification event – these come around every few years. Then, prepare for a stressful weekend!