Canadian YouTuber Jef Gibbons has been serving up top quality content for computer-based musicians since 2018, with a focus on in-depth tours of new software and hardware releases, and inspirational production and composition tutorials.
Jef’s background is in education, and he credits a “random music technology course with an amazing German composer in Winnipeg” as marking the start of his career, which began in earnest with a position as a Cubase demonstrator for Steinberg Canada. A few years of producing bands, sound design and music production for indie movies, and teaching music at all levels followed, before Jef found himself embarking on what would turn out to be a ten-year full-time engagement as the in-house music producer for a major Japanese English-as-a second-language program which cemented his vocation as a professional musician.
In parallel with that, Jef and his wife set up their own commercial photography and video production company in 2012. Six years later, the parallel threads of music production, education and video production finally came together with the creation of the Jef Gibbons YouTube channel, which, at the time of writing, boasts around 44,000 subscribers and houses almost 150 beautifully produced and endless informative videos.
Somehow, as well as all of the above, Jef also finds time to squeeze in daily practice sessions on multiple instruments, including guitar, bass, piano and MASCHINE. Earlier this year, he unshackled himself from the computer, adding MASCHINE+ to his setup. The (mostly) live looping video above perfectly showcases not only our flagship groove production studio but also Jef’s formidable multi-instrumental talents, and is complemented by an accompanying tutorial video that walks through the technical specifics of the setup, the performance and the production of the video itself.
We caught up with Jef to find out more about his work as a YouTube content creator, how MASCHINE fits into his setup and more.
How are you getting on with MASCHINE+? Was it an easy transition from MASCHINE MK3, which you were using previously?
“It was super easy to switch over, but it takes some discipline to get used to editing MIDI without a computer. Being forced to use the controller for everything really amplifies the whole reason I love MASCHINE, though, which is using the hardware for so many different tasks. I never used to use hardware – I grew up with virtual instruments, and any controllers I tried would end up gathering dust. MASCHINE and MASCHINE+ are a different world once you get into the muscle memory, and it’s so nice to be hands-on with music creation.”
How does MASCHINE+ connect to your other gear, and what have you got it plugged into?
“I’ve got it hooked up to the KOMPLETE KONTROL S61 MKII and MASCHINE JAM, both working perfectly via USB now, and I recently bought a Moog Sub 25, which I’ll be putting that through its paces soon.
“I also recently got a Fender Rhodes MK1 at an auction, which was a dream come true. I can’t wait to really incorporate it into my music making. It’s in incredible condition – it must have been in someone’s basement for decades! I have a bunch of other vintage synths that I love hooking up and sampling as well, including a Juno-6. DX7, JX-3P and Casio CZ3000.”
Your performance video is awesome. Can you explain the concept behind it?
“I really wanted to try live looping, but not just having one section that repeats and builds. I plan on doing the next one in one long take, but for this one, it’s only the first few instruments up to the guitars that are truly live, and then I start editing it down so it doesn’t take as long. But I think it proves the point that you’d really be able to build entire songs in one performance with multiple instruments, while still keeping the interest of the audience. The main difficulty, of course, is nailing every performance as you go!”
What role is MASCHINE JAM playing in this performance?
“I’m only lightly tapping into the JAM’s capabilities in this video, really just using it to switch Scenes as I go. But the beauty of the JAM is having another set of triggers for things like Patterns and Scenes that you’d otherwise have to change view modes on MASCHINE to get to. The Mixer would obviously be useful for live looping, as well as the step sequencer – it would be very easy to play your beats in and use the step sequencer to quickly add hits or delete mistakes.”
Tell us about your approach to using send effects in MASCHINE.
“I love using send effects in my MASCHINE projects. It’s easy to just add a new reverb to each Group or Sound as you go along, but that takes up precious resources on the MASCHINE+ (and on the computer, if tethered). Send effects for an entire project mean you only need one or two effects that every Group or Sound can access. It also means I can quickly adjust the reverb size and other parameters for every track at once.”
How exactly did you get started as a music production content creator on YouTube?
“I’ve always been a teacher. As a teenager, I taught swimming, then music lessons (guitar, piano and voice), then I taught composition and production at University level. I kept putting off making YouTube videos, expecting nothing but trolls; but once I finally started, I found this incredibly supportive community of music makers that kept encouraging me to make more. It’s grown faster than I could have imagined, and has honestly been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”
You also post content that’s not related to music production.
“Yes, my wife and I got into photography and videography about nine years ago, and it grew into a paid gig after I finished making a decade of children’s music. That work has largely paid the bills for the last five years, and I plan to keep making videos and taking pictures in the future, and potentially branch into more YouTube content about that; but right now, my main passion is making music and getting better at my instruments. My wife is currently supporting me by taking on more corporate video work so I can devote time to the channel, which takes up about three or four full days a week.”
Has the COVID pandemic affected your work?
“The COVID situation brought us a ton of video work with schools that couldn’t do live music performances any more. We have more than enough paid work in that area to last us right now, but hopefully that will change soon and we can go back to making videos for restaurants and breweries! But we’ve been very thankful that we’ve been able to work during the past year.”
What are your plans for the channel, looking ahead?
“I plan to keep pushing further into other music making technologies – more software, more hardware – but always from the angle of showing people the goods to help them decide what’s right for them. I also hope to make content such as courses that people can purchase, but I won’t stop making the YouTube videos!”
What advice would you pass on to the content creator just getting started?
“Practice your craft! I maintain that my musical ability is the most important key to my future success, so I work at it every day. I’ve come a long way in the last six years, but I have a long way to go.
“Finally, if you’re thinking about making a YouTube channel, just go for it! I’ve had so much support from the viewers and from fellow YouTubers – the creator community is awesome, helping each other out instead of competing.”
Follow Jef for more performances, tutorials, and more over on his YouTube, and his Instagram. And don’t miss his recent interview with fellow MASCHINE-head Knock Squared in the first episode of Beats ‘n’ Chats.