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The learning platform Soundfly has released high-quality music production courses for years now. With Kimbra, Soundfly has added a high-profile producer, songwriter and vocalist to their lineup of teachers.
What makes Kimbra special are her unique sounding productions that are characterized by quirky, intriguing arrangements and highly creative vocal parts. The course “Kimbra: Vocal Creativity, Arranging & Producing” launched on Soundfly in 2021 and offers a unique glance into Kimbra’s songwriting and production processes.
In this article I’m going to review the course and will let you know if you should take it or skip it. Click here to get directly to my verdict.
Let’s start with the structure. The course is divided into six main parts:
- Learning & Listening
- Creative Process
- Melody & Lyric Writing
- Arranging Vocals
Each of those parts is subdivided into 6 – 12 chapters, including an overview at the beginning of each part that will tell you what you can expect and how long it will take to finish.
The course is designed for you to go through at your own pace. If you skim, you might get through the material in 7-9 hours, but if want to go at a slower pace and work through all the assignments, it might take you up to 25 hours.
While you can pick and choose what you want to watch first, the chronological order makes you familiar with fundamental concepts like listening and creativity before diving into more advanced themes like production.
Most chapters start off with a video where Kimbra talks about her process, but that’s not all. What makes Soundfly courses special compared to other course platforms is that they also come with plenty of written material, assignments, worksheets, audio examples and other accompanying material.
This additional material is created with a lot of care and attention to detail and will usually summarize and build on the ideas that were discussed in the video. It gives you the opportunity to reflect on the new learnings and formulate your own takeaways.
Despite the attention to detail, this course is more of a “masterclass” than a detailed “how to” course. It’s more about the general approaches Kimbra takes, how she thinks about music, creativity, vocals, arrangements and sounds than the intricacies of how to create “a Kimbra sound”. It’s also not a “how to” music production course. Only very little time is spent in the DAW or talking about compressors. Instead of telling you how to do a specific thing, Kimbra tells you how she thinks about different parts of the creative process. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to take away from the videos.
Some things that were interesting for me, for example, were how Kimbra gets into different characters to create different sounding vocal parts. Another thing she talks about is how “dangerous” choices are integral for her productions. Having never thought about how dangerous or safe my production choices were, this definitely made me think about the way I produce.
During the course you’re also getting an insight into many of Kimbra’s tracks. Sometimes they are used to demonstrate a concept she talks about, other times we get a direct glance into a session. We even get to hear a few demo tracks and scratch vocals Kimbra has created for tracks that are now fully released. Songs that are part of the curriculum include Black Sky, The Good War, Version of Me, Madhouse, Top of the World and Goldmine, among others. Showing these vulnerable and early parts of the creative process has always had a confidence boosting effect for me, because it shows that even the best in the industry start from small ideas.
Most videos are simple talking head videos, but there are a couple of exceptions, including one where we follow Kimbra into nature where she has a spontaneous singing session. Another one is at the very end of the course and is called “Bonus: Kimbra Makes A New Song”. In this 40-minute video we watch Kimbra create and develop a song idea in Pro Tools (including multiple vocal ideas). This is my favorite part of the course and the one where I gathered the most information for my own productions.
Partly, I wish the course had been more like that. Hearing someone talk about their process is often not as enlightening as actually watching someone during the process. A lot of songwriting and music production is about making decisions and solving problems in the moment, and talking about a finished song usually doesn’t provide the same insights as talking about those decisions when they’re happening. But these type of masterclass courses have their place and value, even if it’s just to create some new inspiration and make you mix up your creative approaches.
The quality of Soundfly’s video production has always been great, and Kimbra’s course is no exception. One small point of criticism I have is that there were some moments where the equipment could have been used better. For example, there are a few chapters where Kimbra shows different body postures she uses for singing, and due to the frontal camera position, her movements weren’t completely clear to me. And it also feels like the studio could have been used as more than just a pretty backdrop.
There are other aspects where I would have loved to get more in-depth, especially in production and choosing sounds – but that’s just me and I bet one hundred different producers would have one hundred different opinions on what should have been the focus.
Challenges and Community
As I already mentioned, Soundfly is a little different compared to other course platforms. At the end of every course part, Soundfly gives you a challenge that you can complete on your own time. For example, in “Melody & Lyric Writing”, your challenge is to start a new song and develop new melodies:
Doing these challenges on your own requires a bit of motivation (or they do for me at least), so you have an option to post your results and talk about the challenges in the Soundfly Slack channel that you will receive access to when you sign up.
The active Soundfly community seems to be on the small side, which can be an advantage, because you’re definitely not going to get lost in the timeline if you have a question. Every weekday, someone else from the Soundfly team offers office hours for one hour in the Slack channel. During this hour you can chat about music topics or ask anything about the courses. However, if you prefer more in-depth coaching, Soundfly offers personalized mentor sessions as well.
All in all, Kimbra: Vocal Creativity, Arranging & Producing is a very well-produced course that’s a gift for anyone interested in Kimbra’s songwriting and vocal style. The challenges and the access to a small community can help you navigate the topics while creating accountability for yourself. Kimbra fans should not skip this unique opportunity. But even if you’re more broadly interested in indie and alternative pop and vocals, this course delivers inspiration, interesting insights and room for learning and reflection.
However, if you’re looking for a more hands-on music production course that teaches you the ropes from start to finish, or if you’re looking for someone to teach you how to master modern pop production, I would skip this one for now and maybe come back later (Soundfly also has multiple courses covering these types of topics, for example this one, and this one).
Soundfly used to sell courses individually for a higher price point but has pivoted to a subscription model in 2019. Currently, at $39/month or $234/year, Soundfly is one of the more expensive music production course platforms. Luckily for Happy Composer readers, Soundfly has provided a discount code that will give you 15% off monthly and annual subscriptions at Soundfly. Simply use HAPPYCOMPOSER15 as a discount code when you’re checking out.
If you want to make sure to get your money’s worth, you could easily sign up for a month, go through the Kimbra course and check out some of the other courses during the rest of the month. This will also give you an idea if you want to keep being a Soundfly member or not.
Due to the subscription model, it is hard to rate the pricing (it simply depends on how long you are subscribed), so I will skip it this time.
Use HAPPYCOMPOSER15 to get 15% off.