Student Profile: Stephen Jensen

This is one of a series of profiles featuring the DAC Capstone cohort of Spring 2020.

Stephen Jensen profile imageI grew up in the Milwaukee area and have been a creative person just about my entire life. I started playing piano when I was four and a handful of years later started to play the cello. A few years after cello I started to teach myself bass guitar and electric guitar followed a few years after that. My interest with music mainly revolves around hard rock and metal and making video game metal covers on YouTube. I also enjoy gaming and might potentially look at getting into YouTube Let’s Plays. Creatively, I come from a music background. I currently play guitar, bass, keyboard, and can also do drum programming and produce music with recording software.

From a music standpoint, metal is my biggest influence by far. I do write more chill pieces every now and then, but they still have a darker and melodic vibe to them, even if the piece is just clean guitar and piano. The two biggest forms of media I’m drawn to are Spotify and YouTube. Spotify really allows me to discover more underground artists and YouTube is a large influence for me more so with gaming and YouTube Let’s Playing.

Author During Recording

One of my most recent songs is a video game metal cover called “Steep Hill” from the Animal Crossing series. It represents what I can do by taking someone else’s work and making it more into my own version as if I had written it.

When I do something such as a video game cover, I go through a few steps. First, I learn the main melody on guitar and/or piano. Then, I figure out what I want the rhythm guitar and bass parts will be. After this, I program the drums (note by note) and then I begin to record my parts. Afterwards, it is on to editing, mixing, and then mastering. I would show some screenshots of this process if I could, but I lost everything on my old laptop.

What I found to be the most satisfying is seeing how everything comes together at the end. Sometimes the process can be tedious, but the result is always worth it. I find myself sometimes procrastinating during parts of the recording process like editing and mixing because it is very detail oriented. However, it is important not to overlook the detail-oriented parts because that can affect your outcome. Something I found frustrating about making this was how the drums sound. They don’t sound bad but compared to my new drum software with my new recording setup, the sound does not even compare to what I can do now.

What is great about DAC is that the program helps you realize how many different components there are to creative practice and being aware about how flexible and adaptive you should be.

With music, it is hard sometimes to determine what would be considered a #fail. Every now and then I do have a “happy accident” that leads to me making something better for the song in the long run, but this track was relatively straightforward and I did not experience any mistakes.

I arrived at DAC in the later portion of my college career after not being completely satisfied with the two previous majors I was a part of. What I like about DAC is how you can build your major to fit your preferences in terms of what classes you can take. I also like how most of the classes for the DAC program are more project-based compared to a more traditional test-based course.

I would tell a beginner what to keep in mind about creative practice is to know about multiple components regarding whatever creative endeavor you are into. For example, I put a lot of my creative focus into music. I make sure I go beyond learning the basic things about my instruments and performing to learning about the business side, as well as recording. You do not really have to be a master at every category but being knowledgeable and adaptable is important in this day and age. I am sure there are musicians that are very frustrated with COVID-19 right now because it inhibits them to play shows, but someone like myself does not feel as frustrated since I have a whole self-recording side of me I can focus on right now instead. What is great about DAC is that the program helps you realize how many different components there are to creative practice and being aware about how flexible and adaptive you should be.