Creativity happens. But when and where it happens is anybody’s guess. For a musician, the thunk-thunk-ba-dunk of tires on a roadway can inspire a hip-hop groove. The whoosh of a passing airplane might give birth to a great melody. The sound of concrete being jackhammered could inspire a thrash metal-chord progression.
Intel-inspired Ultrabook™ devices make it easier than ever to capture ideas while they’re fresh because the devices are always on, always connected, ultra-lightweight, and robust enough to withstand the rigors of the road. Through the Intel Superstars Competition—now in its third year— Intel is helping foster artistic expression and empowering a new generation of artists with Ultrabook mobile-computing devices powered by the 2nd generation Intel® Core™ processor family and blazingly fast Intel® Solid-State Drives (Intel® SSDs).
Intel teamed with Cakewalk, Gibson Guitars, Blue Microphones, Orange Amplifiers, and OurStage.com to launch the competition, inviting musicians and producers to submit their original tunes in any of six genres: rock, pop, country, singer-songwriter, urban, and Latin. Entries were ranked by fans through OurStage’s patented judging technology, and a panel of industry experts chose the grand prize winner.
In this article, Intel Superstar grand prize winners Sara Lindsay (2010) and Austin Renfroe (2011), as well as film, game, and music industry veteran Justin Lassen, describe how they’re using the Ultrabook device to make music whenever and wherever inspiration strikes.
Intel Superstar Sara Lindsay
When Intel Superstars kicked off in late summer 2010, Sara Lindsay was already involved in the OurStage.com community. Hearing about the competition through the OurStage web site, Lindsay decided to enter Best of Me, an uplifting tune with an infectious beat that she recorded for her first album, The Songs (available on iTunes*). “I submitted it on a whim,” she admitted. So when the call came informing her she’d won the grand prize, which included an Intel® Core™ i7 processor-based mobile device, Lindsay was as surprised as she was thrilled.
"Winning has been unbelievably great and has opened a lot of doors," she said. "It has given me a boost in confidence and the opportunity to record and play a lot more. I've started recording a new album thanks to the prize money." And now that she has a new Acer Ultrabook device, creativity on-the-go is a breeze.
The 23-year-old Lakewood, California, native was raised in a musical family. Lindsay started playing piano at the age of six, moved to drums and vibes, and got involved in the local jazz community. In college, she took up guitar and started singing and writing her own material, which fuses jazz and folk in a way that perfectly complements Lindsay’s earthy, smooth vocals.
Lindsay’s creative process usually takes hold when she sits down and improvises. “Sometimes I’ll record what I’m doing and run it by other people to get their feedback,” she said. When she’s collaborating with her band mates, she might bring them ideas that are already formed or take a more spontaneous approach to writing. Whatever she’s doing, Lindsay’s new Ultrabook device gives her the ability to quickly and easily capture the moment using Cakewalk SONAR* X1 digitalaudio workstation software.
“The Ultrabook has been really awesome,” Lindsay said. “It’s incredibly portable, and I like being able to carry anywhere something that has all my ideas in it. It’s so light that it literally feels weightless.”
Having ready access to song lyrics and other written documents or being able to record ideas on-the-fly any time and any place have been invaluable in Lindsay’s creative workflow. With SONAR, Lindsay also has an array of world-class virtual instruments at her fingertips. “Being able to hook my keyboard up to SONAR and listen to different synth patches and sounds, orchestral samples, organs, drums, and more is inspiring me to write different kinds of songs,” she said.
Thanks to SONAR’s extensive set of powerful, yet easy-to-use audio production tools, Lindsay’s Ultrabook device lets her easily share her technology-driven songs. “It’s great being able to lay down tracks using all of these electronic sounds,” she said. “And with my Ultrabook, I can show people those ideas.”
Since winning the Intel Superstars Competition, Lindsay has been on the road performing a lot. “I’m always forgetting the charger, so when I’m doing a long show it’s great to know I can count on the Ultrabook’s long battery life,” she said.
Lindsay’s Acer Ultrabook features a 2nd gen Intel Core i7 processor, and Cakewalk SONAR X1 has been optimized to take full advantage of the system. SONAR X1 features a streamlined, next-generation workspace that features dockable, floatable, and collapsible views; customizable window configurations; easily accessible media assets; and simplified context-driven control over vital features. At every level, SONAR has been designed to let musicians focus more on making music.
“I’m not a tech-savvy musician, so I really appreciate SONAR’s simplicity,” Lindsay said. “The drag-and-drop features make things easy. I love that.” Asked to name her favorite virtual instruments, Lindsay quickly named the Z3TA+ 2* analog-style synth for its lush sounding pads and sustained chords. “Being able to go through this huge library of sounds opens up possibilities, sounds, and styles that I normally wouldn’t think of,” she said.
“I also like the vocal presets, and I use the Roland Octa-Capture* Audio Interface to connect my guitar to the Ultrabook so I can record it,” Lindsay continued. “It’s great to be able to put together demos that sound so good.”
What benefits does Lindsay get from the Intel SSD built into her Ultrabook device? “Number one is speed,” she said. “Showing demos to people used to take so long. With the Intel SSD, the startup is super-fast, as is loading pages. I send a lot of large music and video files. They don’t take forever to send anymore. The Ultrabook makes communication much faster.”
Winning has been unbelievably great and has opened a lot of doors,” she said. “It has given me a boost in confidence and the opportunity to record and play a lot more. I’ve started recording a new album thanks to the prize money.”
In addition to her solo work, Lindsay has been playing backup keyboards, giving piano lessons, and has joined a band called Act As If. They’ve been getting airplay and if that’s not keeping her busy enough, she’s getting married soon and working on a second album, which she hopes to finish in the summer, thanks to her Ultrabook and Cakewalk SONAR X1 Production Suite Software.
Listen to Sara Lindsay and watch her videos at: www.saralindsaymusic.com
Intel Superstar Austin Renfroe
Austin Renfroe got into music at a young age, learning trumpet in middle school, teaching himself to play drums at 15, trying his hand at piano, and then picking up guitar. “A year later, I took up songwriting,” Renfroe said. “I was trying to impress a girl.”
Renfroe was blessed with a soulful voice well suited to R&B-infused pop tunes, but he didn’t get serious about singing until he turned 21. “I’ve always been able to carry a tune, but my hobby didn’t become a full-time job until I started taking lessons from renowned vocal coach Jan Smith in Atlanta,” Renfroe said.
Like Sara Lindsay, Renfroe heard about the Intel Superstars Competition through his involvement with Ourstage.com. “The biggest inspiration for entering wasn’t just all of the amazing prizes,” he told us, “but also the prestige, if you will, of becoming the ‘Intel Superstar.’ It had a really nice ring to it.”
His entry in the Pop category, Taking Me Under, was years in the making. “I put a lot of love into it,” Renfroe said. That love paid off. In 2011, Taking Me Under earned Renfroe top honors in the Intel Superstars Competition, besting 4,000 other competitors and then winning the final round (120 competitors) of the singer-songwriter category. He was awarded USD 10,000 in cash and prizes that included an Ultrabook device, Cakewalk SONAR X1, an Orange OPC computer, a Gibson guitar, Blue microphone, and more.
“Winning has greatly impacted my career,” he said. “So many great things have come from winning, and the opportunity to work with the amazing people at Intel has been wonderful.”
The Ultrabook device in particular has really taken a load off of Renfroe’s back—both literally and figuratively. “It has allowed me to be more mobile and accessible on the business side of music, and with social media and other areas that require access to the Internet from wherever I happen to be,” he said. “The computer I’d been lugging around weighed close to 11 pounds. I have juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and any extra weight or impact on my knees takes an immediate toll. "The Ultrabook has been such a wonderful gift not only for making business easier but for also making life easier.”
The Ultrabook™ has been such a wonderful gift not only for making business easier but for also making life easier.”
Renfroe also said that the Ultrabook device’s extended battery life has had a positive effect on his touring life. “When I have long plane rides and need to work during the entire flight, the Ultrabook has never let me down.”
Describing his creative workflow, Renfroe said, “I can be inspired anytime and anywhere, so I always have to be ready to write lyrics, record a melody, or just make a note of a title or idea for a song.” After getting the initial idea, Renfroe’s next move is “typically very intentional.” He starts carefully crafting the song from start to finish—a process that takes him anywhere from two to four hours.
His recording workflow varies greatly from song to song. The prizes from the Intel Superstar Competition will give him an edge in the studio. “I enjoy spending quality time at the studio putting at least a couple of days into the pre-production of a song, then building the track, and spending a few days on vocals,” he said. “I’m looking forward to putting these great new tools through their paces.”
Renfroe also plans to put the Ultrabook device and SONAR X1’s bank of virtual instruments, effects, and powerful production tools to use on stage. “Running tracks live from a laptop has been a game-changer for bands around the world,” he said. “Having the ability to make your sound larger and fuller has made for greater experiences for bands and fans alike.”
Renfroe is currently writing, recording, and releasing singles on iTunes*. He hopes to record a fulllength album soon. Describing what he’s learned from winning the Intel Superstars Competition, the 25-year-old singer-songwriter said, “I want people to know that if they have a dream, then they should chase it. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in all of this is that dreams can come true.”
To hear Austin and check out what he’s up to, go to: http://theaustinrenfroe.com/
Backstage at OurStage.com
Dedicated to giving undiscovered talent exposure, opportunity, and a platform for launching their careers, OurStage.com bills itself as more than a music-oriented social network. Fans, artists, and industry pros get to vote for emerging talent deserving of substantial monthly prizes. Musicians can also land gigs opening for big-name acts in major venues, get airplay for their tunes, and grab the attention of MTV and other industry movers and shakers.
Over the last two years, the Intel Superstars program has received over 17,000 song entries, and more than 350,000 fan votes have been cast through social media sites such as Facebook*.
Artist Justin Lassen
Composer, remixer, and sound designer Justin Lassen has worked in the music, film, and game industries for over 15 years. He has worked with some of the biggest names in the business, including Garbage, Lady Gaga, Linkin Park, Madonna, Nine-Inch-Nails, and The Killers. His remix for dub step band Blackburner’s Dust Eater was created entirely on his Ultrabook device.
Although a musician, Lassen’s creative process starts with visuals. “I like to get visually immersed in what I’m writing for…it’s difficult for me to be inspired by a script.” Even when he’s mixing music or designing sounds for a new synth, Lassen draws inspiration from the logo or the packaging. “When I see computer graphics I’m drawn into the scene. From there I start writing themes.”
Lassen’s go-to gear includes a Roland JUPITER* 80, Cakewalk SONAR X1 Producer Extended, PreSounus Studio One Pro*, Avid Sibelius*, the entire sound library of East/West, and iZotope’s suite of audio plug-ins including the Iris* virtual synth. Lassen programmed all of the factory sounds for Iris using only his Ultrabook.
“When I first laid hands on the Ultrabook,” Lassen said, “I wanted to see what it could do.” To test its capabilities, Lassen ran 110 audio tracks, each with four effects applied to it. The 2nd gen Intel Core i7 processor easily handled the computationally intensive workload. “The Ultrabook is more than a machine I turn to for on-the-go computing. It can handle it all.”
That said, Lassen has experienced firsthand the benefits of its ultra-portability and long battery life. “A friend needed a remix fast. I threw one together on the Ultrabook without it being plugged in. I was finished before the battery was close to being drained. Plus, I love putting the Ultrabook in my messenger bag. It lets me create everywhere.”
The Intel® Solid-State Drive is my favorite thing. The last performance bottleneck is not the CPU or system memory. It’s the hard drives.”
— Justin Lassen
Portability and long battery life are only part of what appeals to Lassen about the Ultrabook. “The Intel SSD is my favorite thing. The last performance bottleneck is not the CPU or system memory. It’s the hard drives,” he said. “I’ve been using Intel SSDs since they came out. I couldn’t go back to mechanical drives.”
Thanks to the incredible performance of the Intel SSD, orchestral templates that used to take seven minutes to load take just 20 seconds when run on the Intel SSD. Clicks and pops are common artifacts in DFD (direct-from-disk) streaming—a common technique for playing samples directly off a hard drive. “With Intel SSDs, those things go away,” Lassen said.
Lassen has had the pleasure of working with some of the world’s leading orchestras, but he frequently uses orchestral samples and SONAR to preview his orchestrations before using Avid Sibelius software to output the score as sheet music.
This summer, his schedule is fully loaded and includes new video game and film soundtrack projects. “I’m also creating a few new Justin Lassen signature sound libraries, instruments, and plug-ins for different audio companies, and I’m also working on a big follow-up to my Synaesthesia computer graphics and music project.” Lassen also plans to work with Intel Superstars Sara Lindsay and Austin Renfroe, remixing some of their songs. “I’m going to orchestrate them and transform them into epic productions,” he said. “That’ll be cool.”
Enabling Creative Excellence on the Go
Intel continues to reach out to the creative community and offer powerful mobile solutions for content creators. In May, Intel partnered with OurStage.com to launch the Intel Video Superstars Competition, inviting aspiring filmmakers to submit work in various short film, game trailer, and music video categories. Once again, fans will cast their votes and a panel of industry experts will select the best of the best.
Winners will receive dozens of incredible prizes from a who’s who of video power-tool makers, including ArcSoft, ASUS, Audio Technica, CyberLink, Cakewalk, GoPro, iBuyPower, Intel AppUp® center, Magix, NewTek, Sony, and The3DShop.com, as well as gaming powerhouses Bethesda Softworks, Legacy Games, Microsoft, and Zombie Studios.
Intel is committed to fostering creative expression, helping artists, filmmakers, gamers, musicians, and photographers of all levels give voice to their ideas whenever and wherever inspiration hits. To enter the competition or vote for the next Intel Video Superstar, go to: http://superstars2012.ourstage.com/
About the Author
Before signing on as one of the writing muses for RH+M3, Dominic Milano spent over 30 years in print, online, and event media production, working on DV magazine, GameDeveloper magazine and the Game Developer Conference, Keyboard magazine, magazine, and more.