Thursday, 24 March 2011


Well I'm on strike! No, really. Today I am off work because the union is having a strike day. Am I on the picket line? No I'm playing at music on my computer at home.

Update on the migration: everything seems to now be moved across OK, with the exception of a rather nice delay effect I have been using, forever it seems. It doesn't seem to like Windows 7, or just doesn't like the new computer in some way, anyway it's a real shirty dame, and I'm on the lookout for another good delay effect. This has prompted me to do a full survey of all the effect and instrument software I have, which seems to be an unreasonable amount. I want to go through and install all the good ones, delete all the rubbish ones, and most of all make notes of what I have. For example I have found a really nice formant synth (makes noises that sound nearly human) which I want to use soon. Anyway, I am currently ploughing through a particular pack of free VSTs and VSTis - over 300 in total - I have done the As, the Bs and the Cs. It's partly exciting when you discover new nice things, but partly boring!

Meanwhile, back at the coal-face, I decided today, with no child in bed that I could possibly disturb, and with a wife at work, I should take the opportunity to do some recording. So it was back to the rhythm section. Firstly there was the matter of the last different style - my own take on beat-boxing! No, I'm not really a beat-boxer, so I made do with some simple beatboxing, and added tongue-tripping (I'm positive that's not the right name for it, but it's making a snare-tripping sound with your tongue), some Donald duck noises (honestly, it's better than it sounds) and some tongue-popping noises.

I also re-did the shaker, I found a better shaker in the bathroom (carried there no doubt by the toddler).

I also decided that although the different sound sources for the "verses" were good, they needed some kit drum continuing as backing, just bass drum, or hi-hat, or cowbells, or... anyway different things for each verse. I also realised that just copying the same pattern for each "chorus" was lazy and it would sound better if they were modified, varying interestingly.

And then there was the matter of doing some reasonable "humanising" - I like to humanise programmed bits so they sound like they might possibly have been played rather than programmed. This means going though the programmed kit (and other) stuff and making is so that the hits were not all the same volume, and that the variation was reasonable, emphasis where it should be and that sort of thing.

Speaking of which I have discovered how to better do drum rolls. I have always found drum rolls rather difficult to humanise - the hits should be regular and fast and that's OK, but a normal ramp of building up volume sounds quite artificial somehow. Well I think I've cracked it, I have realised that when a real drummer does a roll, they do two hits with each stick alternately, and the second hit is a bounce. Realising this, I tried doing rolls where every second beat (the "bounce") was quieter than the one before it, but still building up in volume overall. Amazingly, it sounds much better!

And so the final bit of humanising was to add a MIDI effect for each MIDI channel, one that randomises slight variations in the position of an event, by giving it quite a small variance, but applying the randomisation it just adds that small human effect of not being absolutely in metronomic time. It doesn't need much to start to "breathe" a bit.

This has just reminded me of something I was quite proud of on "Binary Tree". There was a section on it that was a brass band - of course using samples, but played on a keyboard rather than programmed. The backing for it was an "oompah" hind of thing, and I played it to the accompaniment of a metronome. This can actually be quite hard, especially if the speed in my head in not quite the speed of the metronome, and it turned out I went slightly fast. I only recorded one pattern and used cut-and paste to repeat it. This meant that at the end of each pattern there was a tiny but perceptible gap, which sounds like a slow-down, before the next pattern comes in. It turned out that I liked the way this did it, it gave the whole thing a slight comic effect, and emphasised the first beat.

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