Wednesday, 22 September 2010

My Left Ear

This post comes after not managing to do any music, but spending an hour trying to fix a problem.  Sound was only coming out of the left hand side of the headphones.

Not the headphones.

Not my nice Alesis break-out sound card

Couldn't find any settings in software.

My little boy, Sammy is rather fond of bashing the computer keyboard.  Maybe he bashed some settings somewhere.

I couldn't find where.

Finally after several restarts, I tried unplugging hte firewire cable, replugging it in an restarting yet again.  Finally it worked.

The title of this post is a tribute to the film "My Left Foot" starring Daniel Day Lewis


Something I was going to say on my last post, and forgot.  The sub-section starts with a nice gongy bong, which is in fact made by me hitting an aluminium wok lid.

Monday, 13 September 2010


Before I get started... Hi Joe.  If you're reading this, thanks for the encouragement :).  If anyone else I know is reading this blog please let me know, it will encourage me.

So where were we?  Ah yes, 2.1.2.  This sub-section is about senses and perception, and the present.  All sounds to be audio recorded using microphones, all instruments to be played using my hands, a hands-on sensory experience. I had a previous attempt yesterday, when things didn't go quite right while trying to play a conga.  Part of the problem was I couldn't find the stand. Yesterday evening my wife found it (thanks wife) and used it to suspend a jelly bag to strain some stewed up crab apples (phase 1 of crab apple jelly).  Today I got it back so I used it.  I also changed the metronome click from 4/4 to 8/8 and found it easier to follow.

So to start off with there was conga playing, two tracks of it, and then some classical guitar picking and chords - again two tracks.  These were all played pretty much in one take each.  There is a "verse" with a chord sequence of C C Am Am F C G G and a chorus with chords C C G G Am F C G.  and the structure is verse, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, chorus and then an ending over a held Fmaj7

Over this I did some soloing, again classical guitar, several takes and done in bits, but no other "cheating" involved.

Again marinading needed, but it's nice and mellow, and has good dynamic range which I like

Monday, 6 September 2010

Solo fatigue

I left 2.1.1 Cognition at the point where a solo synth line was needed.  That's fine and while looking through sounds on the softsynth I decided to try I came across a nice spacey waves-on-a-beach kind of sound too which I incorporated.

Soloing is one of those things that I have crises of confidence over, and especially now deep into a third instrumental album, and therefore with many solos down and still some to go, am I really keeping it fresh?  How do I find some new ideas?  Do I need to?  The solo this time seemed pretty typically "me" I guess. maybe I have a style and maybe that's acceptable.  Maybe not every solo needs to be ground-breaking.  At least this one was short.

Actually one thing I am exploring in solos is the "Modwheel" on the controller.  I'm still intending to get a better controller with many assignable knobs and sliders.  Maybe then I c an have a solo of one note and just twiddle the knobs.

As with everything, I guess I need to let it marinade and see how I feel about it later.

Friday, 3 September 2010


In don't believe this! This is the third time I have tried to write this post, and twice it has got lost in the interweb!  Third time's a charm?  We'll see.  Maybe there are some things that are not meant to be said even if nobody is listening!

So.... The story so far.  First I did track 1 of my album in progress - "Body" about the physical world.  Then I skipped forwards to the third and last track "Spirit" about the spiritual world, because I had ideas and was chomping at the bit to use them.  I have done 6 out of 9 sub-sections of track 3 and instead of going straight on I am leaving the rest until later.  I Have a good reason but I'm not going to tell you what it is, in order to generate some excitement and anticipation, within internationally approved limits.

So I am tackling track 2, "Mind" about the mental world.  This album is obsessed with tripartate ideas, and so I have somewhat arbitrarily split this track into 3 sections, "the workings of the mind", Science and Art (or if you like, thinking, intelligence and creativity).  The workings of the mind is further broken down into Memory/The Past, Perception/The Present and Cognition/The Future.  This was the order I planned, but the idea I have for memory/the past is not a good track opener and I have an idea for Cognition which is.  It is a musical idea I had a while back and when I listened to a prototype I made of it last night I not only thought that the sequence of 5 bars of 7/8 had a feel of complexity which suited the idea of thinking, but the synth sound I happened to use seemed not only good, but invoked a futuristic feel.  Score.

After the work I did on this last night, and after my first attempt at this post I had another thought about the future/present/past thing which also works in with the ideas that I have.  This is in terms of when the sound for something is created.  If you use sampled sounds you are effectively invoking sounds and playing of instruments from the past, so the memory/past sub-section should just use samples.  For the future I could use softsynths, which means I don't actually store recorded audio but MIDI instructions.  Although this gets turned into audio for me to monitor, what ends up on the final recording does not become audio until it is mastered - in the future from the perspective of the recording process. Also using synths I can make it sound futuristic.  Finally for the present I can use proper, real instruments, recording using microphones, sound made in the "present" of recording.  I had also previously thought that because it's about perception and senses, I should only use instruments with which you directly make the sound, with your hands or breath.  Guitars, hand drums, breath instruments, that sort of thing, giving it a tangible immediacy.

The post tried to fritz on me again, but I have manged to fins where this helpful site keeps draft copies of what you type, so not only did I recover it, but have found the previous attempts at posting, so the rest of this is largely pasted in from a previous attempt.

So what did I actually record yesterday?  I started with the bassline pattern I mentioned before. In some ways I am approaching this almost like dance music, I start by introducing synths one at a time, The bass, added deeper bass, a chacha spatial sound (really hard to describe), a pad and then synthetic sounding drums. I have then gone through a breakdown which includes taking the rhythm out completely for 4 bars before it comes back in on the bass. I haven't finished yet - I need to decide what the latter part will be like, but I think bringing in a soloing lead would be a good idea.because of the way I am doing this music in sub-sections of 3 minutes' length.

I often have issues around speed and repeats of sections. In reality I normally have to make sure that my speeds are such that 1 minute is an exact number of bars. This is not too bad as I can often make things work in a small range of speeds so I just choose the right tempo. This time the tempo is 98 bpm which is divisible by 7 exactly. Unfortunately this gives me a total of 84 bars in 3 minutes, which is not divisible by 5, which is the length of the pattern. I could have chosen to try going faster or slower, but it would have to be significantly so - 70 bpm or 105 bpm both work. Instead I need to arrange for a 4-bar bit. Oh look, I've done that.

Now let's see if I can actually post this flipping post and be done with it.