Chords Demo and Some Partial Work

This is a 2:15 song written in the Key of E. It is only the framework — the chords that build a verse, chorus and bridge. The verse and bridge are in E and the chorus modulates to C# minor. This is an example of writing music in Finale and backing it with Garriton Personal Orchestra.

Sequence in E.

The peanut gallery has voted for me to finish the song, so I’ll pick at a melody and see what falls out.

Also, here was something I was working on earlier. I don’t think it was working out, but I think the drum loop is a keeper. It was my first attempt at some pure ambient:

Test Bounce (ambient nonsense).

I’ll take what worked and roll it into something else.

“The Theory and Technique of Electronic Music”

I found this book today. The website is very plain and the information is a bit obtuse, but it is a complete 337 page book on everything you ever wanted to know about sound design and sound synthesis, although it is extremely EE/Math oriented:

The Theory and Technique of Electric Music by Miller Puckette.

If this looks (even vaguely) interesting, hop on over to Cycling74’s site. They’re the people who make SoundFlower and a whole bunch of other experimental music tools. Unfortunately, Max/MSP is stupid expensive.

Math + Computers = Music!

Synth Demo #2

Tonight, I spent an hour and change staring at little bars in an output window and comparing the bars to my frequency ranges chart and making changes — moving notes up and down octaves, tweaking compression, and adding in a little bit of low-pass and high-pass filter action. I also changed the synth voice so that it has this “flowing desert feel” and had it match the beat of the LFO to 1/2 beat.

The hats are mixed up way too high in the mix, but otherwise it sounds pretty decent now.

My second demo is here: Zebra2 Test #2.

Synth/Trance Demo

I am starting to work on the sounds to score a movie project, which is now sitting on the top of my project pile. I am fulling intending to use u-he’s utterly magnificent synth Zebra 2.1 for the main melodic trance lead and ambient pads. I don’t actually have Zebra 2.1, but I have the version of Zebra that came with this month’s Computer Music. While it isn’t as good it does make the same general sounds with the same general tools.

I put together a 49 bar demo tonight to show off what Zebra sounds like, which you can listen to here. It is really, really, really impressive. The demo has a few issues — there’s a little blurble at the beginning of the bar and there’s a little bit of frequency muddle at 200Hz. I am also trying to ween myself off EQ entirely and live on low-pass filters, gates, limiters and compression.

Anywho, in case you missed it in the blurble:

Demo: Zebra Test
135 BPM, Key of C
Uses Logic, the ES2 synth, Ultrabeat and ZebraCM.

Death Metal Uke Test Take #1

Be afraid.

Okay. This was one of three takes, and happened before leaving the house for Easter. Excuse the truly terrible playing. At least the uke was mostly in tune.

I have a bright yellow Flea ukulele (GCEA tuning) with a K&K Sound Hot Spot pickup. It was plugged into a BOSS ML-2 Metal Core guitar effects pedal and then out through a Soundtech Lightsnake 1/4″ to USB cable. From here it went into Audacity, since Audacity has the easiest recording facilities I’ve found for MacOSX. After that, I applied compression at 2:1 ratio, -12dB threshold and 0.2s attack time.

Also, there were chords involved.

Uncompressed is here. With compression, so you can actually here it, it is here.

New Song #12: Saltarello (Heavy Mix)

It is that time again! Time to unleash another tune upon the world!

Behold and tremble! Behold the unholy mash-up of a perfectly good, happy, and danceable Medieval tune and Heavy Metal! RenFest meets hair metal! Make with the clicky clicky and listen to Saltarello (Heavy Mix)!

It has been market tested on precisely one two year old! It causes small children to dance! It will take you more time to read this post than it will to listen to the song, so what’s stopping you?

You will be amazed.

I had been planning on mashing up Saltarello with a screaming guitar solo for some time simply because the song has a great pulsing beat and long runs of 16th notes which lend themselves well to towering solos.

First, the song went into Finale. If you want to do some real composing, not simply schlock loops together, Finale is the way to go. It’s a very expensive program, but if you actually write music on actual paper and use actual instruments, it’s a very powerful tool. Because the original song is in G, and G is a terrible key for guitars, it got transposed to something more guitar-friendly. Guitars do well in A, E or B, but B made it sound a little too sparkly, so E worked well. That ends up with the power-chord friendly chords of E/F#m/G#m for the bass riff.

Finale kicks out 103 measures of expressionless bit of MIDI. Logic pulls the MIDI in. Markers slice up the regions.

A few hours later and a drum loop pops out. Each drums part — bass drum, snare and hats — get processed differently with different effects. I use Ultrabeat’s multi-sampled rock kit since it has the right about of wumph without the heaviness of a TR-808 or TR-909 unit.

Once the drums begin to sit with the top, MIDI tools inject a little life into an otherwise lifeless solo. Parts get transposed up and down for dynamics. The (utterly amazing) Sculpture synthesizer models a single string of a Fender Stratocaster. It is largely a preset, but a little tweaking helps it perk up. Pitch bend signals simulate pitch bends, which causes us to exclaim like Jack Black doing Tenacious D, “I’m doing the bendy!” (“One Note Song,” for those who wonder.) The guitar amps is set to huge distortion with a big scoop pattern for that strat plugged into a stack feel.

The bass, a sampled fretless, sits against the bass drum.

Another sampler picks up the rhythm guitar. The sampler has separate samples for palm mute guitar and regular open chords. Somewhere in here, I spend 3 straight hours doing 103 takes of me playing the rhythm part, and I end up synthesizing it anyway.

Then I spend hours and hours and hours learning some hard lessons about mixing. It still isn’t perfect, but it’s not bad.

If you like Saltarello, Dead Can Dance produced a fantastic version on their album, Aion. If you do not own any DCD, this is a good introductory track. Hie to iTunes and hand over your $0.99 for awesomeness.

Name: “Saltarello (Heavy Mix)”
Genre: Metal
Key: E
BPM: 123bpm
Running Time: 1:47
Tools Used: Apple Logic 7.2 and my throbbing brainmeats

Death Metal Ukulele

On Saturday, Eric and I found ourselves uncommonly bereft of baby, as baby was staying at the House of Two Year Old Total Indulgence. Several times, while leaving my parent’s house, we’ve passed a strip mall with a brand new guitar store. By cosmic law, Eric and I cannot pass up music stores, especially perfectly good guitar stores. It’s the law.

On the way toward Columbia Mall, we stopped at Bay Tunes Guitars right outside of Annapolis. With the intention of snooping around and, because like going into a bookstore you have to buy a book, buying something, and that token something was designated to be picks because you can pick up a whole mess of picks for nothing. We walk in, and the store is largely an Ibanez dealer, which I’m iffy on. But there’s a rack of guitars and, best yet, a great big wall of effects pedals simply begging for someone to come play with them. It was my sacred duty to sit down and mess around.

See, usually when you walk into a guitar store, the store is like Guitar Center and staffed by pimply faced kids who only want to show off how l33t they are and give you dirty dirty looks if you are not totally l33t or the pedals are only behind glass. Even Guitar Center usually only has a panel of three (reverb, chorus, overdrive) out for you to play with. Here was the whole line of BOSS pedals begging for someone to come build an effects chain.

The store owner, who looked pretty dubious, came over and gave me the hookup to the effects and the effects to an amp. Digital Reverb — okay, I’ve heard an awful lot of reverb lately. Digital Chorus sounds better on maybe an electric acoustic. Digital Auto-Wah RULES but I did not buy it. No, the pedal I was totally taken by was the heavy distortion METAL ZONE pedal. So being me, I made a bunch of noise and played the Summon Store Owner riff. And, much to my surprise, the store owner not only was not the least bit of a jerk, but actually treated me like I might know a little about guitars and effects chains and dynamic EQ.

In the end, I did not buy the METAL ZONE pedal. I bought the heavier, deeper, ultra-distortion METAL CORE ML-2 pedal instead. Which cost slightly more than the picks I intended to buy.

Laden with a brand new pedal, we went about the rest of our errands doing small things like purchasing an entirely new washer and dryer before getting home to play with it.

Out came the Fender Bullet Reverb amp with the room-expanding reverb knob. A few minutes of digging around in the house for various cables, and I was happy we had neither baby nor immediate next door neighbors. We jacked in the Breedlove electric-acoustic, but it didn’t do so well.

I have a very nice little Flea Uke from Flea Market Music — a little cheap instrument I cannot recommend enough for playability and ability to hold tune. It has a single mic pickup from K&K Sound. I’ve mentioned it before, as it is how I recorded myself playing a little uke. So in with the 1/4″ into the Uke to the death medal pedal, and the 1/4″ from the pedal to the amp and went to freakin’ town on that thing.

It was glorious enough that I tried to record it with my multitrack field recorder, but sadly everything was too hot. It will take work to mike the death metal uke.

What I really need to get working on is getting the theramin out, pumped through some hardware effects, and then straight through to Logic.

New Song #10: Sci Fi Pornography (Remix)

This isn’t technically a new song. It’s a remix of a song I wrote earlier, but now I’m using professional calibre tools and sometimes a tool does make a difference. Also, I know what I’m doing and how to do it.

I remixed Sci Fi Pornography into Sci Fi Pornography (Remix). Gone are earlier problems: a weak bass sound that was washed out in the bottom, an anemic middle, clipping issues, and badly mixed shakers. Now it’s a punchy little tune with thuddy trance drums, a fuller sound, tamed shakers and some newer, weirder science fiction sound effects. It came out, if I must say so, awesome.

For reference, the original Sci Fi Pornography is here.

I have a sneaking suspicion that GarageBand downsamples somewhere in the engine. As a free tool it is not bad and it makes a great little sketch pad. But much like attempting to write a full novel in notepad (or, god save me, vi) it’s not something I recommend.

Song here: Sci Fi Pornography (Remix)

Name: “Sci Fi Pornography (Remix)”
Genre: Electronic Dance
Key: C
BPM: 95bpm
Running Time: 3:01
Tools Used: Apple Logic 7.2 and a hat-full of loops

(This is the halfway point of my 20 song project! WOO!)