Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sketch: Hard Square

Whipped up this rough drum n bass song last night...

Listen to Hard Square (Solid Mix)

or download Hard Square (Solid Mix).mp3 (5mb)

I played the drums, guitar, bass and synth into my four track recorder at 4.8 speed, and doubled it for the mixdown.  It's nice doing stuff on the four track, and limiting yourself to four tracks, and the song's done!  Keeps things simple, and lets you just do sketches, in stead of getting carried away and tinkering away for hours with layers and layers of sounds, and infinitesimal editings.

I used the Breakbeats sounds on the TD20.  I really like those vinyl sounding samples.  Pretty much the whole song came out of the sound of that kit.  I sat down for a quick drum during a moment when all the housemates were out, and I immediately loved the sound of that Breakbeats kit.  I decided to record a quick song on the four track.  I messed with the tape speed, and went, "Woahh!  There's that cool drum n bass sound, when you double the speed of the drums", and the rest all went from there.

Because I halved the speed while recording, I had to try to play especially deep so that it maintained bass phatness when sped up again.  So I played the song in Dm, detuned the bass' E to a D, and played the synth really really low and deep, so that once it was sped up, it sounded pretty much like a normal octave phat bass sound.  I've learnt a bit while doing this quick song, so I'd like to do some more, and really make it sweet!  There's definitely some lamoid bits in this one, where I stuff up a beat, or just get the lengths of sections wrong because I was playing slowish, and I would lose track of counting bars and things!

Here's another mix I did, with a bit more crazy effects...

Listen to Hard Square (Mad Caps Revenge)

MicroKorg Customface

MicroKorg Customface

This is a custom overlay I created to stick over the face of my MicroKorg.

I found it really hard to use the MicroKorg, because it's so difficult to read the lines of controls under each knob, in relation to where you had each Edit Select knob positioned. It did my head in! Korg should have at least drawn lines for each row to help the ol' eye-balls.  Or even better, color coded the different rows in some way.

So... I created my own OVERLAY in Photoshop and stuck it over the front! It's only for the Synth mode, and doesn't cover the Vocoder, but that's fine for me. Most of the controls are shared between the two anyway. If I ever want to tweak a vocoder setting one day, I'll have to figure out a solution, but let's face it, most people must be using the synth 95% of the time, and mostly using vocoder presets anyway. (That's how I'm justifying it to myself, anyway...)

On my overlay, I've also added some basic notes about settings that aren't clear from the readout, such as listing the wave types available for that function. This makes the information a bit more accessible without having to get the manual.

Personally, I think my overlay makes things much easier and more intuitive, and therefore more fun and playful! 

I'd like to know if anyone else struggles with the MicroKorg interface, and if this helps them. I've color coded mine (with pencil, after printing it out!) so you can see which knob settings correlate to which row of functions. That was the main goal for me!

In the process of making it I also read the manual more thoroughly, which helped bring everything into focus! Hooray.

Download the fullsize MicroKorg Customface overlay and print it out for yourself!

Here's a little preview version of it...

You'll have to figure out how to print it the right size. It should fit perfectly if you get it right!  Print it in landscape on A4 and see how you go.

You'll have to color it in yourself, too! I was going to color it in Photoshop, but I only have a black and white printer at home, so I just colored it myself with pencils. I used the same color family for related sections (all LFOs are blue, OSCs are warm colors, ARPEGs are purpley colors), and left a few sections white to keep it from getting muddy with colors (the Patch section, GLOBAL, MIDI, and Voice).

To stick the overlays over the dials, just cut each one out separately, then cut straight up from the bottom-middle with scissors, then cut away the grey circle. Voila! Now just slide it down behind the knobs and sticky tape it all into place.

Let me know if you put one on yours!  I'd love to see your coloring job.  :)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Contemplations (C64 eats Kenny G)

I created this song over Easter.

Listen to Contemplations

or download Contemplations.mp3 (5mb)

This song came out of a few things coming together...
  • I wanted to do some palm muted guitar because I'd just started fiddling around with that technique, and I had a chord progression that I'd just come up with in the past few days, so I put them together.
  • I wanted to try a bunch of VSTs (virtual instruments), using my new and beloved Novation SL37 ReMOTE controller keyboard.  Amongst these were a Commodore 64 sounding bleepy bloipy thing, and some strings that I wanted to use.
  • The saxophone came out of nowhere!  That's a lie.  My mum used to listen to a Kenny G tape on repeat in the car, for many years.  I think he crept into my brain.

I recorded everything into the computer direct.  No mics or amps!
I put the 606 drum machine through a Vox Amplug AC30.

Then I played in the guitar (on Blue Meanie, a Teisco SG copy), also through the amplug.  The whole concept of the song was made up on the guitar, and I was using palm muting for the first time.  It's got that Ratatat sound, with layered palm muted guitars.

Then I got to work with the Novation ReMOTE, just opening up various VSTs and seeing how they sound in the song, and recording those that worked best.  I'm trying a whole bunch of free ones.  There's some gold out there.  

These are the ones I used in the song:
  • DVS Saxophone for the sax.
  • Basic64 for the chippy Commodore 64 sounds.
  • Abakos for the big bassy sound in the choruses.
  • Matnitron Strings for the background strings sounds.  Nice and simple, and sounds fairly realistic.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

4Track: Longman Funk

I recorded this four track song using the Fostex X28 that I found in the attic. I'm sure Murgatroyd wouldn't mind me using it.

Listen to Longman Funk
or download Longman Funk.mp3 (5mb)

I recorded my friend Damo playing drums, then played the keys and bass over it.

Now I'll admit that I can't really play the keys, but I have fun trying!  I love genre pieces, and this one most certainly is one of those...  

Inspired by the likes of Interstate '76.  Thanks Damo!  Sweet drumming!

4Track: Miasm & Clavbassics

After stumbling upon Murgatroyd Humpadink's tape machine, I decided to investigate further.  Being a musician myself, I thought I'd try doing some four track recording myself.

Listen to Clavbassics (Solid BBoys)
or download Clavbassics.mp3 (5mb)

I made purchase of a Yamaha MT120 via the ever fruitful eBay...
...and laid down some Roland 606 drum beats, runnin' 'em in nice and hot.
...then added some Nord Electro clavichord, and Gonzales bass.

Once I was happy with the bass and clav, it was time to mix the song.  
I sent the AUX output to a Biyang Triverb and my Line 6 Echo Park.
I also messed with the tape speed on the fly.  I basically wanted to expose myself to the sorts of things you can do when you're using a totally analog bits of gear, instead of tapping and clicking away on a computer.

After spending a bit of time in the digital multitracking domain, it was really nice to use an analog desk with hands on all the faders, panners, and auxiliary sends.  

I did a bunch of mixes of each of the two songs, trying different tape speeds and effects during each mix.  Here's two versions of "Miasm" below...

Listen to Miasm (Monolith Burgers Eating Lounge)

or download Miasm (Monolith Burgers).mp3 (5mb)

Listen to Miasm (Welcome to my Echo Den)

or download Miasm (Echo Den).mp3 (5mb)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

4Track: Humdrumbles

Recently I found a secret attic in my home.  Inside it I found a wooden chest.  Inside that I found an old four track recorders.

Inside was a box of tapes and some old photos and things.  The machine had apparently belonged to Murgatroyd Humpadink, a musical researcher and archivalist.  I found this photo.

This was the only piece of music I found on the tape...

Listen to Humdrumbles

or download Humdrumbles.mp3 (5mb)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Take Me To The Chapel


I would like to get my hands on a church.
Any size good.  Small is fine.
Needed to build house / studio / HQ.
Let me know if you have one!

No questions asked.

Contact:  Boz on 555-3771

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bedroom Studio

Some new developments in my bedroom studio...

Dad has built me a sliding shelf for my Novation ReMOTE SL37 keyboard, so it tucks away under the desk, and I've just bought a pair of Rokit monitor speakers.  Nice.  

I also set up a second monitor for plenty of real estate for VSTs and things.

I'm really enjoying getting more into the production side of music making, and trying more software instruments and effects.

There's a real wealth of good free VSTs out there, ranging from synths to saxophones, Rhodes to Commodore 64 chip emulators.  

I'll write up a list of some of the best ones, once I've used more of them hands on.