Photo by Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash

An Ableton Certified Trainer and musician with over 20 years of teaching experience, Jason Allen has established himself as a fearless creator who pulls from multiple genres and musical techniques. Moving between the analog and digital realms, Allen’s creative drive and intuition has allowed him to cultivate an always evolving artistic identity. Influenced by his roots in the electronic music scene, Allen’s performances feature unique instruments, such as custom-built programmed “glove” controllers that display his creative energy and instinct for innovation.

We interviewed Allen to find out more about his approach to music production, influences, and caught up with the status of his latest works.

How did you get your start as a musician?

I started like a lot of people do, in my school band program. I played percussion. I enjoyed it, and stuck with it through high school and a bit into college (I had a brief stint on my college marching band), but I started playing guitar when I was in about 8th grade. Guitar is what really made me realize that I could make music my career. I distinctly remember this feeling after my first guitar lesson that my life was forever changed.

Can you take us through your approach for producing music? Where do you begin in your creative process for composition?

It all depends on what kind of thing I’m working on. I work on a lot of different kinds of projects. [When] I’m doing something for film or television, I have a very specific starting point: the scene. You don’t get much control over the emotive qualities of the music in that situation. But when I’m working just for myself – on my own music – I usually start with some kind of story. Which is funny, because almost all of the music I write is instrumental – it has no words. But I like to always try to tell stories with the song or the track or the composition, or whatever it is. It’s very abstract, but it gives me a good starting point.

Jason Allen is the instructor for a number of music courses offered by Kadenze Academy.

As an artist, you’ve worked on multiple projects and worn many different hats, such as sound designer, multimedia artist, and DJ to name a few. How has your musical style or tastes developed over the years?

That’s an interesting question. I don’t think my tastes have changed that much over the years, actually. But I think the artistic freedoms I’ve allowed myself have. For example: as far back as I can remember I’ve been interested in electronic dance music. But when I was a younger “composer” (working primarily in the classical music field), I would have never let that influence in to the music. I felt like it wouldn’t have been taken seriously. I’m really lucky now that I can get away with it, and let all of those influences in.

What are your favorite things about using Ableton for sound production?

Ableton is a really flexible platform – you can do just about anything with it. It does a great job of not influencing the kind of music you are making, so you have complete freedom to let the song go wherever it needs to go.

What do you find most difficult about making music? How do you get through those creative blocks?

For me the most difficult part is focusing on a single project for a long time. I’m good at starting projects, I”m good at finishing projects. When I have a solid idea for something, I like to dive in and do it, from beginning to end, as quick as possible. Writing music doesn’t work that way all the time– you need to go back and edit, re-consider some choices, think through the piece in a different way. That is hard for me, because once I’m done with it, I want to move on to the next piece.

You’re also in frequent collaboration with many artists. How is your artistic process different when you’re making a collaborative work?

There are a lot more compromises, obviously, and you have to learn that the end product will very likely not be what you envisioned. Hopefully it will still be something good, but it will be the mutation of your concept with someone else’s vision. The results can be exciting – something you would have never come up with on your own. But it takes a lot of “letting go”.

Who are some current favorite artists that you have on repeat at the moment?

Oh, good question. Honestly, I’m kind of having a 90s moment with my playlists, and going back to my days of learning to play all these “grunge” tunes on guitar. So I’ve been cycling through a good bit of Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Nirvana, Soundgarden, and things like that.

But as for current artists: I’ve been listening to Photek a bit lately, the newest DJ Shadow album is great, Com Truise, Jon Hopkins, I could go on. Here in Minneapolis we have a really robust local hip-hop scene, so I listen to a lot of that, which includes Atmosphere, Dessa, Doomtree, and lots more.

Got any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

Well, speaking of projects that take a long time… I recently did a residency on a ship in the high Arctic – way north of the Arctic Circle. The idea was to experience life up there, and use that as a basis for a large scale piece of music. The piece is done, but I’ve since decided I want to have video for the whole thing, so I’m working with a team of animators in India on it. I hope to have it ready to premiere sometime in the winter of 2019-2020.

What advice do you have for learners trying to get into music?

Music is a practice. It takes time, patience, and humility. We have these amazing new tools like Kadenze that help people from all over the world have access to great instructors, but there is no silver bullet. You have to keep doing it every day, and eventually you will get better. In my classes, I try to create moments that help students to really feel the progress they are making. Like “A-ha!” moments. Every time you have one of those, you’ve broken through a wall. But as they say: practice, practice, practice.

Looking to build a foundation in music? Learn Ableton basics, music theory, and more by enrolling in Allen’s courses below:

Ableton Live 10

Ableton Live 10, Part 1: The Interface and the Basics

Kadenze Academy


Music Theory

Music Theory Level 1: Part One

Kadenze Academy