Is the OP-Z about to become a sampler?

It’s no secret that we love Teenage Engineering’s OP-Z here at GBM Music, but we’re not smitten enough to deny that it could definitely be improved.

The unprecedented form factor means the tactile experience of making music anywhere is now possible – and great fun – but the device still lags behind its big brother the OP-1 in some respects.

The key one – and most demanded absence – is certainly its lack of sampling capability. This feature would open the device up to incredible new creative possibilities.

Cynics would ask whether Teenage Engineering would be wise to allow this, however, as the overlap between the OP-Z and OP-1 may then be a little too large.

Fortunately, they seem to be taking the open minded approach and gradually improving the device, helping the OP-Z to live up to its staggering potential.

And excitingly, there were recent hints in a video with Sonic State that sampling may be imminent, including with the ability to edit samples via the accompanying bluetooth app!

All aboard the hype train!

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How to add Bluetooth to the OP-Z

Choosing good background music for your business presentations

Whatever business you’re in, pitching your presentations just right can be tricky. On the one hand, you want to look smooth and professional, like you know exactly what you’re doing and are completely confident in everything that you’re saying.

On the other, it’s important to also show a little vulnerability, so your audience can connect with you on a human level, and buy into the messages you’re trying to share with them.

There’s nothing worse than a cheesy corporate video or presentation. Hitting business cliches with your synthy 80s music and bizarre slide transitions will instantly turn off an audience, distracting from the message you’re trying to deliver, no matter how relevant or interesting what you have to say actually is.

If you’re going to use background music for your business presentation or video, you need to ensure it’s there for a reason, and that you are using to have a specific influence on your audience.

Using the right background music to make your presentations pop

One of the best ways to ensure that your presentation stands out from the crowd, and feels fresh and important, is to use effective background music.

I’m not talking the usual cheesy, royalty-free clips, which will have your audience squirming in their chairs. But carefully selected music, which gently emphasises your point, or adds to the overall impact of your presentation can have a surprisingly important effect.

Used correctly, good background music can help you to deliver your messages loud and proud, as you gently touch on emotional buttons, or convey a certain mood or atmosphere.

Whether it’s a moving anecdote or a background song that you can use to set the tone and keep the momentum tight, this shouldn’t be a decision that you make without putting some thought into it.

Remember, you can also use music to cue your presentation and keep things ultra slick. Choosing the right song really can make or break your presentation.

The type of music you choose also sends out messages about the type of business you are. A modern, forward thinking company will want to use music that reflects that. Using substandard, or unprofessional sounding, music will convey the opposite impression.

So next time you’re taking to the stage to deliver a key message, take the time to think about whether music could enhance your business presentations, and be sure to spend some time choosing the right soundtrack for the information you want to convey.

For some inspiration, browse our library of background music.

Solved! Using Teenage Engineering’s OP-Z with Your AirPods

It’s no secret that we are head over heels in love with Teenage Engineering’s OP-Z – a tiny, yet powerful synthesiser.

You can read our full review here, but one element that is a little disappointing, is the fact that it can’t connect directly to bluetooth headphones.

The device has bluetooth built into it, but this is just used for controlling the accompanying iOS app. While this choice feels like something of a missed opportunity, it’s also understandable , as bluetooth audio isn’t generally the best, as it has a the slight lag that makes playing anything live nigh on impossible.

The OP-Z’s power is in its sequencer, however, and it can be happily programmed and played back using bluetooth headphones.

Fortunately, we’ve found a solution to this problem. And while it isn’t as elegant as having inbuilt audio bluetooth, it’s certainly very usable – and much more fun than dealing with tangled headphones when you just want a quick, wire-free, jam.

How to add bluetooth audio to your OP-Z

The answer is this small box from Amazon, made by a company called TaoTronics. The device transmits (and receives, if you want) bluetooth audio.

Simply plug it into the audio slot of your OP-Z, connect your favourite bluetooth headphones to the box, and away you go!

We’ve tested it with Apple AirPods, and Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones, and they’ve all worked perfectly. If you’re using AirPods, just remember to press the button on the back of the case, and leave the AirPods in their case while the LED is white and in pairing mode.

We’ve been testing this bluetooth solution for the last week, and it does the job perfectly. You can even switch to receive mode to wirelessly sample into your OP-1. Or use it for other things, such as listening to the TV over bluetooth.

As mentioned there will be a bit of latency, so don’t buy it expecting to be able to play in beats or melodies live. We strictly recommend this for programming the step sequencer and audio playback only.

In other OP-Z news, a new firmware update has just dropped, so head to the downloads section of their website to grab the latest.

This article contains some affiliate links for some products and services we are passionate about. This means we receive a small commission if you sign up for a service, or purchase a product after you’ve clicked on one of our links. We donate 20% of any commissions to a charity that helps the homeless, so it’s also a great way to give at no extra cost, while supporting us.

How the Pomodoro Technique can kickstart your productivity

Does this sound familiar? You’re constantly busy, but somehow never seem to get anything done, or make progress on your long-term goals.

We all wish we had more hours in the day, and sleep is often the first thing that we sacrifice in our desperation to squeeze more working time out of each 24 hours.

But working late hours, and being constantly exhausted, is not exactly the best solution – and ultimately is likely to actually harm our productivity, rather than help it.

Fortunately, there are many time-management tools out there, which have been developed to improve productivity – you just need to find the one that works for you the best.

One of our absolute favourites is the Pomodoro Technique, and if you haven’t heard about it, you’re going to want to read on – the effects of understanding it and using it well can be truly game-changing.

What is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro Technique is a time-management system that helps you turn time from an enemy into a friend.

Basically, it divides your working day into 25-minutes intervals, with each one known as a ‘pomodoro.’ After completing one of these chunks of focussed work, you take a five-minute break.

Once you’ve completed four ‘pomodoros’ in a row, you can enjoy a longer break.

There are many reasons why this works – One idea is that the technique creates defined time-frames, which develops a sense of urgency.

Rather than thinking you have a whole day to tick all of the tasks from your to-do list (which usually turns into wasting precious working hours on distractions, emails, or procrastination) you know that you have only 25 minutes to make as much progress on the task as possible.

The relatively short period of each ‘pomodoro’ also helps to break down the mental blocks that can be associated with starting large, complex, projects.

Rather than worrying about the end result, the technique will help you to get started and begin making progress.

Developed by the Italian Francesco Cirillo, who named it after the tomato-shaped timer he used to track his work, (‘pomodoro’ is Italian for ‘tomato’), the technique has been widely popularised and is now loyally used by more than two million people around the world.

We are all different, and we are not saying that Pomodoro is the perfect solution for everyone, but if you have not tried it yet, we highly recommend it!

How to get started

One of the main things that has helped the Pomodoro Technique gain popularity is its simplicity. To get started, all you need is a timer.

There are many online options available that can help you with this – one Google search will give you some great applications and online timers that you can choose between.

The issue with this is the need to open up the internet, however, and potentially enter a world of distractions. A stopwatch on a smartphone can also help you – but again you may find yourself getting distracted by picking up your phone and seeing notifications.

If you want to do it the traditional way, like Cirillo, you can get your Pomodoro kitchen timer on Amazon here.

Once you’ve got your timer ready, you need to decide on the task that you will work on during the following Pomodoro session. For this reason, being able to prioritize tasks in your to-do list is important.

Next, set the timer and start working on the task. If you feel an urge to do something else, not related to the task – such as check emails, or social media – make a note of it, so you don’t forget, and check it once you’ve finished the 25-minute burst.

Knowing that you will have chance to check it soon, will help you to stop procrastinating, and often you’ll find you’re not actually interested in checking, when it’s your free-time you’re using up.

When the timer rings, stop working, put a checkmark on a piece of paper to mark one Pomodoro completed and take a 5-minute break. You then simply repeat this process.

When you have completed four ‘pomodoros’, you have earned yourself a longer break of 15 – 30 minutes. This time can be used to take a break and recharge, before jumping back into a another session of four pomodoros.

Pomodoro with Music

Here at GBM Music, we love the technique – I’m even writing this blog using it!

We weren’t completely happy with the process of measuring the time, however, and felt like we could improve it a little bit. That’s why we set to work creating the ultimate soundtrack to a ‘pomodoro’.

For some people the ticking of a timer, can increase a feeling of anxiety, and actually be a distraction from the work.

Also, if you want to listen to music – which can be a productivity aid – it can simply be too hard to hear a timer, and the logistics of this simple method can quickly become too confusing and distracting.

So to get back to basics, we created this 25-minute composition of inspiring electronic music, designed to guide you through the perfect ‘pomodoro’.

Just hit play, get to work, and take your break when the music finishes. It’ll help you to stay focussed on the task, and enjoy each ‘pomodoro’ without worrying about the ticking clock.

You can also read more about the song and the productivity-inspiring science behind it here.

By Maja Nenadov