Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Transference and basics

Well, dear blog-reader, we left off last time with some guest keyboards.  In this session I took the keyboard  MIDI parts from the project at 144bpm and transferred them to the one at 192bpm. There was a small problem in that all the MIDI on events had the same velocity (this sometimes happens in my setup) so I did some humanising, and a little bit of tweaking to manipulate the notes - shortening, lengthening and occasional timing (but hardly any, the notes were wonderfully consistent in timing!). All in all about an hour went into the importing process and then I added some more drums earlier on and then some bass. SOunds simple but it all takes time - I don't seem to have any juicy details to give you. That was the first session this afternoon, and that section is just about ready apart from some guest violin (I hope)

This evening I have worked on a different section, the first section of the album (probably) called "A View To The Bridge" (which is a play on the play entitled "A View From The Bridge" by Arthur Miller, and is a reference ot the fact that we can see Ovingham Bridge from our house, down the hill in the valley) This section is based on a bassline I have been playing with which I can best desctibe as "rich and fruity" - it's similar to one used on 11 Bells, but in 8/8 rather than 9/8. Kind of Funky. The whole section will be bass-focussed, and will feature "refrain" bits (using the aforementioned bass riff) and "other" bits where different styles are introduced. Probably Jazz, Reggae, Disco and spacey. Each time before the refrain there is a stabby bit such as James Brown might have used (brass) which I am going to use as a sort of "call to order" after going off-topic with the "other" bits.

Anyway, tonight I have done the bass for the refrain bits. It's not the easiest but I like it, it sounds nice. I'm actually (unusually) using the bass "naked" rather than sending it through Guitar rig, but I am using one of the rather more way-out guitar rig settings as a "send" (I bleed a little of the sound out to the effect instead of putting the whole thing through) which gives me background spacey weirdness, kind of like a delay crossed with a flanger, and almost exactly what I was hoping. The bass comes through clear but there are little twittery spaced-out echoing things happening like moths floating around. It's a beautiful thing!

So I'm done for the night.

Monday, 27 August 2012

A Purple First

For the purple project I have had several principles that I have worked to. There are probably some I don't realise, but some of the ones that are deliberate include no singing (entirely instrumental, maybe some odd speech or SFX) and a focus on a certain kind of music. Another principle has been that I have done everything myself.

I have broken that principle.  I intend to break it good and proper on this album and have guest musicians in several places. The first has actually happened - my wife has played some keyboards for me.

This is still working one the set of folk tunes (this section is taking some time) and I want alongside the mandolin to have accordion and fiddle. My wife did the tunes for me on a keyboard for the accordion sound. Accordion is one of those instruments where a MIDI keyboard and a sampler do a really realistic job, partly because it's a keyboard anyway on a piano accordion so it sounds like it's played naturally. You can't get so much nuance of squeezing pressure but these are fast tunes anyway.

My one-handed jeyboard playing is not too bad, and I could ahve learned to play them myself, but my wife is a proper piano player, and significantly for this is good at the changing hand position thing - these tunes have lots of that and that was what I was finding difficult.

Anyway that's it for this session

Friday, 24 August 2012

The Bad Blogger

That's me - I've not been as good as I could be in my blogging - I have had a couple more sessions on the music - three I think since I last blogged. I have been working on the same section - the folk tunes.

Session 1: I have firstly added some strummed mandolin, and some strummed and picked acoustic guitar to the first tune (The Beech Grove), and some strummed Mandolin to the last tune (Bob's Your Auntie). I did this "at speed" (192bpm)

Session 2: I added some electric guitar - heavy rock overdriven guitar to the second tune (Daisy Chain) and that continues into the 3rd tune, but after the first time though changes to a less rough "skaga" sound (like slow Ska). The middle tune is going to be pretty heavy rock. This also was all done "at speed".

Session 3: Drums. First of all I spent some time choosing an appropriate rock drum kit sound, and then  I programmed drums for tunes 2 and 3. Tune 2 is heavy drumming, starting with tom fills (I extended the number of toms in the kit for this), then stabby kits to go with the chords I ahd recorded and finally becoming a fairly consistent heavy rock beat. What makes it heavy rock? Well the pattern for one, but I also have discovered that half-open hi-hat gives a loose rawness to a rock pattern (it's something one of the drummers did in church one Sunday). Lo and behold, combine that with the guitar and it sounds pretty rock-like, which is interesting when the tune us being played on mandolin - in fact it' s coming out as a nice rock/folk hybrid right now. Moving into tune 3 the drumming tightens and lightens somewhat, switching to ride cymbal to give a more "rolling" feel (that's what I always feel about ride cymbals instead of hi-hat, they make the sound push on or roll along better, possibly from association with swing jazz), and then into the second time through switching to a light reggae-like beat to go with the skaga guitar. This is turning into something altogether interesting, a coming together of Ska and Folk - unlikely combination I know.

A really standard rock beat in 4/4 is to play bass drum on beat 1, snare on beat 3 and hi-hat on all 4 beats. There are lots of variations and stuff but that's the basic "back-beat" rhythm. To get a "light reggae feel" like I described above I basically use the same thing, but the hi-hat only plays on beats 2 and 4. This give a completely different bouncy feel (and is really easy).

Now all of the drumming here has been programmed so far, so I have been through doing some humanising of volume, I will also (but have not yet done so) "humanise" further by introducing slight variations in the positions of the beats. Cubase can do that for me with random variations (not enough to make it feel wrong, but enough to loose the metronome-like feel that programmed drums can give)

Friday, 10 August 2012

Tunes from the garden

Not a lot has been done on the music in the last couple of weeks - but there has been some progress.

The first important thing to tell you is that I got a mandolin at Christmas. I have played it for real a few times now in the ceilidh band I am in, and I am not doing too badly with it.  It is after all strings, frets and familiar stuff like that. It is tuned differently to a guitar, which makes the adjustment interesting (it's actually tuned like a violin) and I have started to work out some tunes on it.

So I have written a few tunes on it - broadly ceilidh-type (folk) tunes, most definitely suited to the mandolin of course. On BODY:MIND:SPIRIT I had a section which was three ceilidh tunes I had written, and would like to repeat the feat. I wrote the first one and half of the second one day while in the garden with the family. My wife suggested I called the first tune "The Beech Grove" which is a nod to a famous tune called "The Ash Grove". Nice naming. I have named the second "Daisy Chain", partly because we were making a daisy chain when I stated writing it, partly as a reference to my daughter's middle name (Daisy) and partly because it's a round of sorts.

The third tune was written more over the past couple of weeks, mostly in the Sitting room while twiddling. I wondered about calling it "Peggy-Oh" or even "Our Peggy-Oh" because it has a lot of arpeggios in it, but have decided to call it after my sister-in-law who has been staying with us for most of the time while it has been written, so it is called "Bob's Your Auntie".

"Daisy Chain" has had a lot of work done on it to make it work properly as a chain/round - initially I wanted it so it could change harmony as it progressed - it doesn't really do that, I think because it was too hard a thing to attempt. I still quite like it though.

And some work has been done towards recording, namely I think I have the mandolin parts down. I have cheated, in that I recorded it at 144bmp and have sped it up to 192bpm which is quite a lick, but sounds good, It also helps me fit all three tunes into 4 minutes. I got a surprise when I found the tunes were of different lengths, but that's all good actually.  I did all of the recording so far to a click track, with many, many takes (the hardest bit is the last line of "Bob's Your Auntie" - it doesn't have the most notes but it has the most string changes). I have pretty much mapped out how the three tunes are realized over the four minutes. I will also have in accordion, and I hope violin. This will be the first time Purple has used other musicians, but I am hoping to use a fiddle player from the ceilidh band. Oh and there is the small matter of accompaniment to sort out.

All this will be the last section in the track that's all about my home life, broadly because it's tunes written at home.