Archive for January, 2018

Song 6: Mobile

January 27, 2018

Create a piece of music using only a phone or tablet. You may use any app, or combination of apps. I recommend these (Links to an external site.)  Not all apps make it easy to record, so you may need to get creative.

I started by playing around in GarageBand on the iPhone/iPad.  (My iCloud is linked now, so any song I make on one will sync with the other.)  I started with the “Live Loops” and “EDM” setting:

Sounds nice, but extremely canned.  Before I settle on this preset, let me see what else GarageBand can do today.

I tried the hip-hop setting.  Sounds great.

I tried a bunch of different looper settings as well as the new beat sequencer ala FL Studio and some other drum machine pad interfaces.  I think the important thing to remember here is that the tool itself is not the end, but that the song is and that you have to keep the birds-eye view of where your direction is in your songwriting so that you do not get lost playing with each preset:

GarageBand NEW Loopsdifferent drum padBeat Sequencer

I feel like I can play with this stuff forever and not actually write a song.  I guess I have to go with something that grabs me.

I’m listening to the Auxy Soundcloud examples now.  I just feel like there is a preponderance of this kind of music, a total market glut.  All of it sounds canned and repetitive to me.

Now I’m looking at Propellerhead Figure – I’ve had my kids use this app before.  I am somewhat familiar with it.  I’ll give that a whirl.

Tried it.  More of the same.  Basically canned patterns of beats in the same key.  Not much melodic or harmonic interest for me.  I guess I get tired of this kind of music?


On to Rhythm Necklace.  This straight from the app’s website:

Rhythm necklaces are circular representations of repeating patterns. They’ve found application in fields as varied as Crystallography, Radio Astronomy, Nuclear Physics, and Ethnomusicology. When applied to musical rhythms, circular representations show the underlying geometric properties that make them enjoyable, such as the degrees of evenness and symmetry. Computer scientist Godfried Toussaint has found that analyzing rhythms geometrically reveals surprising relationships between rhythms the world over. In fact, Toussaint has shown how a core group of geometric algorithms can generate rhythms employed in African, Cuban, Balkan, and Spanish folk music, to name a few. The Rhythm Necklace iOS app is a musical sequencer for exploring the geometry of rhythm necklaces, and for experimenting with generating rhythms algorithmically.


So now we’re deriving music from mathematical patterns.  Why does this sound so similar to the atonal music derided (and rightfully so) by many common folk?

And… it’s not free.  On to the next one.  Neither is NodeBeat.  Next.

Patterning… not really interested in an app that only makes beats, as there is a beat maker preset in GarageBand.

Animoog… $30.  Next.

Sampler… looks… interesting.  Sounds… good, but again, the music generated this way is harmonically too simple for my ears.

Novation Launchpad… this might be cool.  Checking it out. launchpad.jpeg

This particular preset I have up sounds great… even better than the GarageBand stuff.  Maybe that is because there are more acoustic instruments present in these presets?  But rhythmically it sounds good as well.  Again, my only beef is it’s in Eminor.  Actually, in addition to not being able the change the key in real time, I have no idea how to change the key of these loops at all.  What gives?  Not sure I can use this if I can’t edit the key.  It would be useful if I could do this in real time.

Borderlands… costs money.

Thor… keyboard synth.  Aren’t there a bajillion of these?

Three more paid apps.  Okay.  So that narrows it down quite a bit.  GarageBand is still the overall winner.  I’ve used FL Studio on the iPad and enjoyed it as well, but now that GarageBand has a built in drum sequencer I probably don’t need FL Studio anymore.

Back to the drawing board with GarageBand.  One thing is for certain… as sophisticated as music apps get, I think they are only providing a tool or a veneer for the artists’ creativity.  You still have to solve your own musical problems.  There is no shortcut for the same kind of brute hard work that Irving Berlin did in writing great songs.

Day 3 – still at the drawing board.  I think to a large extent I just don’t like composing on the iPad.  My iPad froze today while trying to work with the “Chill” live looper patterns.  I think I’m about to ditch for just using the regular virtual instruments.

Day 4 – So I decided that I’m going to use the Novation Launchpad groove in Eminor and write a song over it, exporting into GarageBand.  This is the loop setting I like:

File Jan 29, 12 11 08 PM.png

Novation Launchpad Eminor Groove

The next step is to figure out how to import this groove into GarageBand.  There’s no way I can see to do this, except by using inter-app audio.  So I put Launchpad on a separate track.  There is also no easy way to sync.  I’ll start by setting the tempo of the GarageBand Session to 114:

File Jan 29, 8 25 55 PM.png

Got the audio in.  It’s not lined up to the click, of course.  How might I fix this?  I guess I have to go in and edit the audio down.  I can’t get in any closer than this:File Jan 29, 8 30 54 PM.png

Going to try to chop the beginning of the loop off and place it at the tail end so that it’s a loop that lines up with GarageBand’s 8-bar grid.

File Jan 29, 8 37 30 PM.jpeg

This is what we have so far.  Sounds decent, it’s just that the second and first half of the groove are swapped.

After loads of edits:


I decided I like this Novation thing enough that I’m going to make most of the song form from this program.  What I’m going to do is play and export each part of the arrangement from this.  As usual, there seems to be no way to sync the metronome between apps.  So I have to do some crazy edits to get things working.

File Feb 01, 2 38 17 PM.png

Current Version of Song

Next I felt like the drums needed some souping up, so I recorded a drum track using the manual drums in Garageband.  I had some timing issues, so I manipulated the timing:

working with MIDI drums.png

adding drum track.jpeg

I’m listening through and I hear that I need to continue adding to the song form.  So it sound  like it makes sense to bring the intro and the pre-chorus in again, but this time with more drums.  So I did just that.

File Feb 04, 8 05 51 AM.jpeg

Updated Edition

At this point I felt like the next step for me was to build a bridge to the song.  Then I’ll come back around and take a pass at some vocals/lyrics.  I decided to go into loops for the bridge, so I downloaded the “flex and flow” pack from the sound library.  If this doesn’t work, I’ll just play something in manually:


Then I realized that the way I am accessing this isn’t right.  I finally figure out how to get a loop into the song.  Then I hear the key of the loops of the flex and flow pack as being wrong.  They are in C minor and I’m in E minor with the rest of the song.

GarageBand Loops.png

Changing the key from “C major” to “E major” really worked.  Garageband didn’t mess with the previous loops I had and it did transpose the Flex and Flow Pack, even though those loops are in minor.  So technically, we have E minor at this point:

File Feb 08, 7 41 19 PM

I listened through and felt that for time’s sake, the bridge needed to be doubled in length:

File Feb 08, 7 44 48 PM

Lastly, I went in and duplicated the kick and crash to be on the downbeat of each section of 8 bars:

adding kick and cymbal hit.jpeg

And the audible result, with the new bridge is:

I decided I wanted a “slightly dubsteppier” drum part.  So I looked for it in the loops and found it.  Then I went back and re-cut the bridge with the new drum part.  At this point I felt like the song was ready to add the final chorus.  I added 3 choruses via duplication and a fade out.  This was all pretty easy to do within Garageband.  The final result looks and sounds as follows:

File Feb 08, 8 09 37 PM.jpeg

As usual, the song is starting to take hold within my psyche through repetition.  I figure I’ll start messing with some vocals before I go back in and start working a little bit on fills and transitions within the song:

It’s Alive In Your Brain Because of Repetition!

On a wake-up-next-day listen, I feel that the difference between the bridge and the final chorus is too abrupt.  So I go in and add an introduction section right after the bridge and before the final chorus:

File Feb 09, 5 51 04 AM.png

And what it sounds like

I heard a voice in the middle section of the song, so I decided to add one to as an extra track.  I recorded it quickly without even using headphones, so I’m going to have to go back and re-cut this:

In keeping with the spirit of Ethan Hein’s “Repetition Defines Music” – I have been listening to my song on loop for the past few days.  I am finally starting to hear vocal melodies emerge from the fabric and I begin putting one down:

File Feb 10, 10 01 00 AM.jpeg

Sometimes the shower is a great place to hear vocal melodies.  I started coming up with some new ones in my head and put them down:

Okay.  Finally starting to get some lyric ideas together.  Something about “mindfulness” seems fitting for the month of February, when everyone is driving me nuts:


Don’t need to look inside it

You just might never find it

Cuz if you stare too long, it’s gone

You’ve got to let it flow

Go with the undertow

Keep to the road you’re walking on


You just might have to do it all for yourself

No one else will do it now

Just stick with what you know when no one else will help

And you will soon figure it out!



I’m not the best lyricist under pressure, but this will have to do for now.  I wonder how the pop stars do it.  Anyway… on with figuring out a chorus… I’m still not a fan of the chorus melody I have yet, but maybe I can modify on the fly as I come up with lyrics.




Yea, break it down now, yeah.

Break it down, yeah, break it down now, yeah, yeah.

Break it down, yeah, yeah, break it down now.

Break it down, break it down, yeah, yeah, break it down now.


As I listen through I can hear that the song needs an intro so that I can come in with the right length for the verse.  I copy the first section and repeat it:

File Feb 13, 7 12 11 PM.jpeg

I also love the snaps in the intro, so I held onto those.  I decided to duplicate the track to keep the original vocal take as a reference:

File Feb 13, 7 14 27 PM.jpeg

With new recorded vocals:

I think the song should be called “Flow,” since we’ve been talking about Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi in my music issues class, and since this music tech class gets me in touch with flow and that’s where I want to be lately.

Here’s a chorus attempt:


Just let it flow, flow from your heart,

No need to fall apart, fall apart

Just let it flow, flow from your heart,

No need to fall apart, fall apart

I’m hearing it in a super high register.  Oh well.  Good thing I can duplicate!!!File Feb 13, 7 37 58 PM.jpeg

I can hear that the 2nd and third chorus vocals are displaced improperly.  I revise:

As per Ethan’s suggestions: “The vocals need a little 80s-tastic reverb and artificial doubling to match the vibe of the track, and then this is will be a stone cold banger.”

So what I did was up the reverb on each channel and then tried some of the artificial doubling presets.  I think I liked the artificial doubling preset and due to the sake of time and the fact I have a gig tonight, am going to submit that, along with a written second verse.  Here are the song lyrics from start to finish:


Don’t need to look inside it

You just might never find it

Cuz if you stare too long, it’s gone

You’ve got to let it flow

Go with the undertow

Keep to the road you’re walking on


You just might have to do it all for yourself

When no one else will do it now

Just stick with what you know when no one else will help

And you will soon figure it out!


Just let it flow, flow from your heart

No need to fall apart, fall apart

Just let it flow, flow from your heart

No need to fall apart, fall apart


As you go through your day

Things will get in your way

Try to throw you off your base

Just keep your center line

You’ll soon be feeling fine

Keep your head within the space


Even if you have to do it all for yourself

When no one else will do it now

Just stick with what you know when no one else will help

And you will soon figure it out!



Yea, break it down now, yeah.

Break it down, yeah, break it down now, yeah, yeah.

Break it down, yeah, yeah, break it down now.

Break it down, break it down, yeah, yeah, break it down now.

File Feb 14, 4 01 05 PM.jpeg

Notice I cranked the reverb “vocal hall” to 50% here.  Will do the same on the chorus vocals.

Had to cut the 80’s-tastic reverb just a little bit.  Also added a little volume automation to second verse.  This will have to do for now:

File Feb 14, 4 17 39 PM.jpeg

80’s-tastic doubling on the chorus is a little weird, but I’m going to go with it.  I’d probably want to do a real double sometime later.


Also did some (very quick) cleanup on the track.  More needs to be done with the vocals in terms of deleting pops, clicks, weird breaths and mistakes in places.File Feb 14, 4 22 01 PM.jpeg



Song 5: Peer remix

January 23, 2018

Remix a song by another student in the class. You can work from their original session file, or download the audio from SoundCloud and work with that. You can make any alteration you see fit, up to and include radical reworking.

I just want to start this post by saying that I don’t really even have a good flavor for how Kanye really does this.  I’m so used to melodically-driven pop.  But I’m going to take a stab at it and try to resample this song into a groove.  I’m going to try to set it up in Ableton so that keys on my keyboard trigger the elements of the groove.  I think that should work.  I am probably sure that Kanye visualizes the complete song structure with hook and everything as he’s laying down the song structure, or at least has a good feel for it, and isn’t just creating  a background track in a vacuum.  But what do I know?

I’m thinking about Sampling “A Night Out at Applebees.”  That track definitely sounds like it could have a rap over it even by itself.  Great progression there.  The drum loop in it is super idiomatic to our current musical world as well.   I finally figured out how to get Trillian loaded back onto my computer.  It will be great to have that in Pro Tools and other DAWs to make some phat bass sounds.

I watched some good videos to up my Ableton skills on sampling and remixing samples.

How to Remix in Ableton

Lets Remix : Daft Punk – Get Lucky in Ableton Live 9

Avicii in the studio – The Making of Dancing In My Head

The Daft Punk video is really huge for explaining remixing.  It’s basically a master class in how to remix a song.  I highly recommend it.  So after watching it I decided it was the right time to boot up Ableton.

After watching the Daft Punk remix video it seems to me that it is easier to just create the full arrangement without using the sampler in Live.  So I decided to go that route.  I chopped up Michael’s piece into units that I thought I would like to use and started to apply effects to them.

Adding Applebees to Session copy.jpg

For this project I decided to watch the Daft Punk remix video once more and make a running list of effects he used and also think about the overall arrangement.

(1) From the beginning the producer isolates 2 segments of the piece that he wants to work with for the remix.  I went through “Applebees” and color coded each of the sections of the piece as it went along and gave them a different color.

Red – piano/kit intro

Yellow – strings entrance

Green – “Tell your mom I said hello…” break down – no drums.  Definitely could use this section and cut a new beat behind it.

Blue – vibes/reverse vibes

Pink – vibes/ no drums – this also might be a great section to add new drums.

Brown – all instruments

Orange – All instruments and just kick… also might be a good section to use.

Sections - Applebees copy.jpg

(2) Establish the length of the segments and set up the beginning of the segment to hit on the transient.

I decided to start with just using the sections that had no drums or minimal drums and add a new beat to those.  I muted the other tracks for now.Useable Sections copy.jpg

isolating samples copy.jpg

Now that I have my loops set, I’d like to add in kick and bass samples.  So I look through some of Live’s loops.

I found “House – 122 bpm” and started with that.  Here’s the audible result:

It sounded like the first track (just the piano) needed some boost in the mix, so I boosted it 6 dB.

Adding Drum Loop copy.jpg

Made Some Small Adjustments to the loop lengths.

(3) The next thing that occurs in the video is a addition of filters to the tracks.  So I go ahead and employ the same filters within my session.

As in the video, I add EQ, compression, and 2 auto filters to the master channel.  It’s there for now because I have to have all of my tracks playing combined through the master.  adding filters copy.jpg

I made my first filter to have a low cut but also to have a small boost in the bass.  The second filter I made a low-pass filter for the purposes of arrangement of dance energy in the disco house style song.

(4)  With the filters in place and set up, I decided to find a two-bar segment of “Applebees” to loop as an introduction.  I think I’m gonna use “tell your mom I said hello, and your grandmother” as well as the vibes entrance.  The first clip is just too funny.  I think I’m going to open up the low pass filter over these two clips as a way to build energy at the beginning of the song.

tell your mom i said hello copy.jpg

(5)  Next in the video a kick is added.  I am going to do the same in spite of already having a kick in the drum loop track, for the purpose of side-chain compression.

I like “A-Kick Remo 1” from the Live 9 Packs sample library.  I drop the volume -6 dB because it is causing the master to go into the red when combined with all the other parts.

(6) Create an artificial side-chain.  I did this in spite of adding the kick, realizing that since he did this artificially I did not need the new added kick.  I will listen on the big speakers later during mix down and see if the new kick is actually necessary or not.

I like a pretty heavy side-chain because it’s just funny.  I set the initial attack to be -22.9 dB before popping back to zero on each bass drum hit.

I like the sidechaining on the original tracks.sidechaining copy.jpg

(6)  Build the arrangement.  It looks like in this idiom the intro has no sidechaining and then what is introduced is a new bass drum with the old and a side chain.  I’m going to do exactly the same thing.

(7)  Group the audio tracks that create the arrangement so you can add filters over all 3 tracks.  This is likely the step I was missing before when trying to add filters over the master fader.filters copy.jpg

I added a band pass filter onto the Applebees tracks which I automated to have it move higher in frequency as a buildup to the main part of the song.  I also added a high pass filter to the drums and deactivated it during the main part of the song.  Lastly I added a high pass filter to the yellow sample which is the breakdown so that the bass drum in that section didn’t compete as much with the new drum kit loop I had rolling with that part of the track:

automation lanes2  copy.jpg

automation lanes copy.jpg

I decided to add some high-pass filters on the master channel during the end of each section leading into each new section.high pass filters copy.jpg

(9) I also added the obligatory ping pong delay in these buildup sections:

ping pong delay copy.jpg

(10)  At this point I started really working on the arrangement, just adding filters and fades and crash cymbals where I felt appropriate:

building the arrangment copy.jpg

Apple bees 2.0

After listening to this mix in the car, I hear the bass drum as being WAY too loud.  So I reduced it by 9dB in the mix and re-bounced it:

Next I added some white noise to the arrangement.  I found “Filtered Noize.aif” under the ” Live 8 Samples” Library:white noise copy.jpg

I added side chain compression on it, triggered by the kick drum.  I set the threshold low and the level to be high, 10:1.  It helped really add that compression to the white noise.

At this point I am just messing around with more of the filters/FX and making sure things generally sound good.  I’m enjoying this project:

more filters copy.jpg

I put the mastering compressor on the master track:mastering copy.jpg

I decided to add a synth bass to the track.  I had to roll off some of the bass from the original track to make sure everything was kosher with the blend between my bass and the bass that is already on the track.

I tried to add just the sample of “hello” at the very end of the bridge to refresh the memory about the voice.  I also added an auto filter effect on it and swept it.

Lastly, I’m trying to do some drum drop outs.  Instead of doing that, I decided to add ping pong delay to the drum track itself.

all remaining edits copy.jpg

Added some white noise to the end of the track, increased the length of the ping-pong delay and the reverb at the end of the track.  Here is the final result!  I’m sure there’s more I can do with this, but for the sake of time, I’m satisfied stopping here.

After listening to the mix in the car, of course I heard some issues.  I lowered the high end of the vibe track (I brightened it too much) and raised “tell your mom I said hello” 2dB.  For the vibe track I dipped about 4dB around 1kHz.

I think I got really lucky that “tell your mom I said hello” had a beautiful 3-against-4 feel with the rest of the track.  I just liked this track in general but I think the end result turned out awesome.

I decided to add vocoder to the signal at the end of the track.  I had some plans to make some kind of melody with it, but it was so hard to get the vocoder working that I was only able to get chords done so far.  Here it is so far:

I decided to try to really mess with the volume on the vocoder track and add a lead track.

vocoder tracks copy 2.jpg



Blog post: Sampling ethics

January 22, 2018

Do you think that sampling without permission is morally acceptable? If so, why? If not, why not?

I still remember that day in college when my professor talked about how Leonard Bernstein ripped off Beethoven in “Somewhere.”  “There’s a place for us” was really just a quotation of “The Emperor Concerto,” second movement  with the last note raised a whole step.  How many times have you reused a popular idiom from your day, such as “it takes two to tango” or “you win some, you lose some,” et cetera?  This phenomenon of humans quoting other humans has been present since the dawn of humanity.  In terms of music, what’s neat about this is that this small license then gives the composer the opportunity to take that quote and make a completely new invention out of it.  The difference in sampling is that if you could capture the original premier performance of Beethoven and have those performers play just that bar of the song before yielding to Bernstein’s orchestra, you’d have a good replica of what sampling is.  It gives you the opportunity to have the original performance of the original quote in your song.  In that regard, sampling might be more authentic than merely copying someone else’s music.  You can hear the original author of the quotation in their own context.

It seems arguable that all new music is derivative of older music, even if we just consider newly-composed melodies.  What is interesting is that we tend to take just small fragments of things we’ve heard already and develop them like nothing that has come before.  In that respect most new compositions are not copies of older compositions but are inventions or at least innovations.  When one writes music within an idiom listeners are almost expecting to hear certain melodic motives, rhythmic motives, and instrumental motifs that they are familiar with.  If repetition defines music, and it is highly arguable that it does, then why doesn’t re-quotation (repetition, just within a new song) define new music?

So now that that has been established about sampling, can sampling be morally unacceptable?  In most cases, I’d think no, especially because you are bringing to light the original artist of the musical quotation you are using.  In some cases this may cause the listener to think to themselves to go back to the original track and both purchase and play that.  There is nothing about sampling that doesn’t yield further credibility to the original artist, in my mind.  There is nothing immoral about Barack Obama quoting JFK or any of the other countless presidents and important political figures he’s quoted in his speeches.  Now just imagine if Obama played the original recording of JFK speaking, and you’d have a good analog for sampling.  This scenario probably caused many to go back and listen to the original JFK speech.  If the listener is a fan of Obama it probably lends even more credibility to JFK to hear their favorite president quote him.

Are there scenarios where sampling can be immoral?  I’m not sure if it’s the sampling itself that is immoral or the copyright law that needs to be re-written to make it more moral.  The example that comes to mind is the “Amen break” by Gregory Cylvester Coleman.  The reason why I think copyright law here is not set up morally (and not the sampling itself) is that it took Coleman until the end of his life to reap any form of profit, which was by and large not enough, for the widespread use of his work.    In my mind, the law is inadequately set up to handle sampling and how to properly distribute profits if such cases are allowed to persist.  But imagine now a scenario in which the law was properly set up and Coleman profited handsomely, as he should have.  Would anyone go around thinking sampling is immoral?  I’d think not.

Blog post: Sample genealogy

January 22, 2018

Find an example of a song containing a direct audio sample of another song.  Post links to both songs and explain how the sample was used.

The song I’d like to first mention is “Good Life” by Kanye West feat. T-Pain.

The song sampled in “Good Life” is “P. Y. T.” by Michael Jackson.

In “Good Life,” P. Y. T. forms the basis for the groove.  Kanye slows the sample of the song down and loops it over and over again.  He takes the loop from the audio starting at around 3:15 in the file and seems to loop 2 bars of this segment over and over again.  I think this groove is brilliant.

Does it form the basis of the beat? Is it a background texture? Does it run throughout the song or just appear once?

It helps form the basis of the groove and serves as a background texture but is not the entire groove.  A new drum part is forms the beat.  A new synth bass part is played over the track with the same chords as the P. Y. T. sample during the verses and during hook different chords are played.   Additional synth keyboard and synth strings are added playing the chords.  In the verse at the end of every 4 bars Kanye holds out a 4-beat Ab/Bb chord.  The chord progression changes from verse to chorus.  In the verse we have a quickly syncopated Ebm-Fm-Gb  repeated for the first 3 cycles followed by this same figure and an Ab/Bb chord in the 4th cycle.  In the chorus of the song Ebm – Fm – Bbm7 repeated 4 times at a slower rate than the first 3 chords of the verse.

The P. Y. T. sample is present throughout the song.

3. Find an example of a song containing a quotation or interpolation of another song, and post links to both of them.

According to in “White Ferrari,” Frank Ocean samples “Here, There, and Everywhere” and also seems to sing the melody as well.  The sample appears at 1:26 and 1:44 (and throughout) “White Ferrari,” and is taken from 0:12 of “Here, There, and Everywhere.”

Song 4: Self remix

January 20, 2018

I am probably going to remix Project 2 – ReggaeBach.  The reason for my choice is that I feel like Project 1 is pretty well produced and project 3 is non-melodic.  I prefer things with melody and the Bach has it but at the same time I didn’t feel like I really had a chance to isolate some great segments of this and get a good arrangement for the final product.  I also missed out on messing around with the instrumentation.  Finally, the mix on this is pretty flat.  It needs some serious EQ for all of these synths to not compete with each other.

Some of Ethan’s comments on the original project:

  • Ethan Hein at 2:24:

    A good self-remix project for you: find some short phrases in here and see if you can turn them into a new piece of music, with this same berserk metal/dancehall vibe but more idiomatic to the soundscape.

  • Ethan Hein at 1:26:

    This synth sound is hilariously great but maybe a little much for the whole duration – I’d recommend switching it up once in a while to something mellower.

In addition to continuing to develop the project I will try to address both of these concerns in the new remix.


Time to boot up ol’-Pro Tools and revive Bach from the grave once more.

The first thing I’m hearing is a significant need for equalization just among the current synths that I have.  So I start carving out an “audible space” for each of the instruments within the mix.

The first thing I did was add a 7-band EQ plug-in to each track and engage the low-cut on each synth, as per the one article read previously about making room for the bass to breathe.  I did not do this on the bass tracks obviously, but did carve out some mid from those two tracks.

eq filter.jpg

I tried to find a place along the frequency spectrum where I could still hear the synth but could start to hear the definition disappearing.  I figured that would be a great place to carve out the bass without affecting the track too seriously.  I decided arbitrarily on an 18 dB/octave ratio for the high pass filter.

For the strings I started with the preset “Bright Strings” and also added the low cut:

strings eq filter.jpg

I decided for the bass to go the opposite way.  I specifically decided to carve out more mid frequencies in order for the two synths to breathe a bit more.  There were two bass sounds, so I did a different EQ on both.  Mostly what I did was take more “mid frequency” out (yellow dot) and add some high shelf (blue dot):

bass add subsbass di helper

Already I can hear more clarity and division between the bass and the keyboard synth parts:

Bass and Synth Submix

The next step for me was to add clarity to the electric guitar sound with more EQ.  For this I knew Pro Tools would have a decent set of channel strip presets, so I tried those first, because they also include compression.  Here are all of the presets included within the channel strip, including EQ, gate, compression, and some kind of side chain (that I don’t understand yet):

elec giutar side chainelec guit comp copyelec guitar channel strip gate

Also notice that “FILT 1” is engaged – this is a high-pass filter over the low end of the guitar.  It looks pretty steep.  When I get into the settings, I find that it is set at 72.1 Hz and 12 dB/octave.  I crank that to 201 Hz and decide to leave the 12 dB/oct.  Already I’m hearing even more clarity:

Bass, Synth, and Guitar Submix

Just so you don’t think I’m lying, here is the same submix with all of the new EQ/channel strip plugins removed:

Bass, Synth, and Guitar Reference Submix – EQ/Channel Strip Plugins Removed

On a side note, I am uploading everything in wave format because the mp3s just don’t sound good enough in the car.  I’m going to have to spring for the premium membership soon, I suppose.

With the church organ sound, in addition to cutting the bass, I decided that I wanted to hear the very highest ends of the frequency spectrum more.  So I went “crazy” and added a shelf filter to the high end of the sound:

organ eq copy.jpg

Oh joy.  It was time to add in the drums.  I decided to see what Channel Strip had to offer first.

I decided to see if I could first send the individual drum samples to different tracks so that I could mix them separately.  Since the “Reggaeton” drum track was in MIDI and there were 3 drums used (bass, snare, hat) I decided to duplicate this track twice and then go in and isolate the MIDI notes for each drum respectively:

triplicate of reggaeton drums copy 2.jpg

Here is the Reggaeton drum track with the bass and hat deleted, now renamed “Reggaeton – SNARE.”  I did this for all three tracks:

deleted all bass and hat copy.jpg

Now that I had all the drums isolated, I could add a separate Channel Strip to each individually and also feel out some panning:

drum iso copy.jpg

Hat, kick, and snare channel strips, respectively:

hat channel strip copykick channel strip copysnare channel strip copy

I had an additional bass drum on a separate track so I tried to EQ that some more.  In addition to the preset “Big Hi-Fi Kick,” I decided to roll off some high end pretty steeply to allow the synths and guitar to have more space:

bass drum eq copy.jpg

New reference mix:  Bach Getting Hi-Fi Treatment

I decided to add a “clean overheads” preset to the cymbals/riser.  I also chose this preset because it cut out more bass from the channel:

cymbal eq copy.jpg


The first thing I’m going to try to do with the arrangement is see if I can find some spots to break down the sound a bit more into a verse/chorus format, using softer synth sounds on the verse and maybe getting rid of the guitar or switching it up to a softer electric sound.

For the first path I tried to carve out the lead synth and electric guitar a bit more, and then I heard a choir sound in my head.  So I did both:

carving out synths adding choir copy.jpg

Carving Out Synths, Adding Choir

I’m loving the nasty bite of the new guitar sound.  After listening on my iPhone headphones, I decided the bridge should be a harp sound instead of the same old synths. So I switched it up.

In addition the harp, I’m also kinda hearing like a cell phone or low-fi effect during the first verse and maybe the bridge section.  All of this talk about vocoders has got me itching for more.  I decide to engage some kind of cell phone-esq EQ over these sections of the track.  I decide to engage it on each track and use automation to pop in and out of it at will instead of doing something complicated with aux sends.  Then I realized I can just put this on the master fader.  Hmm… not sure if I’m liking this yet:

cell phone effect - trying  copy.jpg

I think it needs to be more gradual.  Let me see if I can do something with a filter instead of this.  Not fully sold on the filter idea yet either.  Going to try to do the harp thing and see if that helps.  I decided to make the opening harp and string instead of those synths.  This did help a bit with switching up of timbre.  The bridge is starting to almost sound like a “legit” section of the piece now.

Have to keep messing with timbres to get this right.  I’m thinking that cell phone or low-fi effect might work on just the drums and bass in the harp sections.  Ooh – maybe side-chain compression on the bass?  Starting to mess with the low-fi effect.  It needs to be tempered, and not in the second verse:

low fi effect on bass and drums auto copy.jpg

After a second pass, here is what the automation looks like:

bass drum eq automation copy.jpg

ReggaeBach with low-fi automation

After doing some listening to two reference tracks, “Waiting for Love,” by Avicii and “Love Myself” by Hailee Seinfeld, I felt that I needed to bring the bass drum in from the beginning and also add the low-fi effect to the instruments themselves, as this is a commonly used effect in electronic music.  I decided to “zero out” the effect on the bass drum just to see what this sounded like to have the bass drum present throughout the track.  I also felt it needed to be a tighter sounding kick, so I tried a different EQ preset on it.  Then I realized that actually I just needed a tighter dance/electronic kick.  Here were some patches that sounded good:

12 Flammy Hip Hop

16 Hardcore

23 Deep Groove

02 Nu Groove

04 Electro Poppa

05 Impact Kit

15 FX Drums (insane amount of sub in these)

19 House Set (insane amount of sub in these)

21 Tight Electro Kit (insane amount of sub in these)

31 Miami Bass Set (insane amount of sub in these)

Kick is starting to sound insane now.

new kick sound copy.jpg

ReggaeBach With New Kick

Now that I have that out of the way, I’m starting to consider song arrangement.  I decide to save a copy of the file so that I can totally get in and maybe even scrap the original arrangement if I have to.  I decide to make a map of the playback of the file with energy levels:

0:00 – Song starts, instrument fade in of instruments

0:15 – Super intense swell, guitar enters – like the energy increase

0:15-0:30 Chorus

0:30 – Energy fades here.  Maybe it should double at this point!  Consider bringing in full dance kit here.

0:52 – Repeat Chorus.  Perhaps too much repetition at this point?

1:05 – Extended Bach-ish counterpoint stuff is going on.  Maybe this is verse 2?

1:20 – Another Chorus.  Perhaps too many choruses?  Energy level is waning

1:36 – Another Chorus.

1:53 – Reprise of 1:05 figure… bored yet?

2:09 – This is nice… a harp section.  I like this area of the track.

2:22 – Swell and repeat – nice

2:40 – Repeat of 2:09 section with more instruments

2:56-3:28 – Returning home.  Some weird synth action going on at the beginning of the return home that I have to fix.

I went in and fixed the automation on the synth.  Sounding much better now:

Reggae Bach With New Kick Auto Fixed 2

Now it’s time to go in and see if I can’t mess with this form.  I decide to do a song analysis of “Waiting for Love” by Avicii and see if I can mimic the song form.

0:00 – 0:11 – Piano intro, no bass drum

0:11 – 0:26 – Verse vocal enters, kick enters, envelope filter opens on instrument tracks

0:26 – 0:41 – Second verse with full kit, riser at end of verse

0:41 – 0:56 – Chorus, kit drops out, riser at end of chorus

0:56 – 1:11 – Repeat of chorus, still not kick, riser/cymbal at end of chorus

1:11 – 1:19 – Energy decrease, cymbal reverb fade out

1:19- 1:33 – Snappy melodic synth, envelope filter opens up slowly on background tracks, no drum set, sounds like same melody as previous choruses

1:33 – 1:49 – Different kind of edgy melodic synth playing the same melody, kick and snare comes in.  Drums drop out and riser just before next section.  ** This is something I can add in each section for further effect.

1:49 – 2:03 – One more repeat of previous section with full kit.  So there is a lot of repeating in electronic music.  Maybe this is part of my issue.

2:03 – 2:19 – Verse 3 enters with full kit and some different synths in the back.

2:19 – 2:49 – Same as double chorus section previously (see 0:41 – 1:11)

2:49 – 3:03 – Energy decrease, cymbal reverb fade out, but this time with snappy melodic synth and same melody as chorus

3:03 – 3:19 – Repeat of this section with half-kit

3:19 – 3:33 – Repeat of this section with full kit and extra synths

3:33 – 3:50 – Final repeat of this section with full kit, drum crash at end.

So I gathered from this that I can definitely repeat that chorus block a lot and also can add drum drop outs to make it more idiomatic to the genre.

So upon listening to my mix, exactly where I said the energy decreased is exactly where in Avicii’s arrangement he brings in the full band.  I need to follow suit and ramp up the energy instead of decreasing it at that point.

0:00 – Song starts, instrument fade in of instruments

0:15 – Super intense swell, guitar enters – like the energy increase

0:15-0:30 Chorus 1

0:30 – 0:48 – Chorus 2 – full energy here.  Swap kits between chorus 1 and chorus 2 and keep electric in full here.  Envelope filter wide open.

0:48 – 1:03 – Keep everything wide open.

New Arrangement copy.jpg

At this point, as in the Avicii song, we’re prime for a decrease in energy.  I even like that whole cymbal fade out thing he does.  Maybe I can copy it.

I’m bringing ReggaeBach…


All you others don’t know how to act…


I’m making up where repetition lacks…


I’m keeping my day job, and that’s a fact…


So I’m thinking I’m going to make 1:04 – 1:19 a “cool down” section just like in the previous track.  The question is do I want any of the other stuff that’s in the original Bach track.  I’ll start with just the drums and cymbals and do what Avicii does.  Avicii’s break is 16 beats, so I’ll make mine that long as well.

I decided to clear all the instruments in this section and make room for whatever reverb business he has happening:

break section copy.jpg

So it sounds like he’s opening up the automation on a serious echo/reverb filter on the lead vocal track, then maybe filtering it high pass through the section.  I’m not totally sure yet but I’m going to try this on my track, doing it to the tracks that are playing.  Perhaps this can be done on the master fader.

I’m going to try a few different reverb presets.  First I tried “Space.”  None of those sounded right.  Finally “Spring Reverb” started to sound like the right effect, but it needed insane echo as well.  These presets sounded good:

03 Long Mono

08 Far Source

Neither of these sound good on the master fader.  I probably have to go back and do the tracks individually or buss them.  I also noticed that the length of this section is twice as long as it should be, so I used cut time to cut it in half.

New arrangement

Messing with the form copy.jpg

Messing with the form


Significant arranging work copy.jpg

Significant arranging work.

At this point I am satisfied with the final mix and arrangement for this juncture.  I don’t think I could change this too much more without just scrapping the entire tune and writing something new.  I decided I liked the bridge going to a different place and kept the original Bach counterpoint but just changing the background instruments to reduce in intensity.  Here is the final, downloadable result:

ReggaeBach With New Arrangement Final


Real vs hyperreal vs surreal

January 19, 2018

In a blog post, describe three recordings with different recording aesthetics as specified below.

Embed or link to each song.

Additional information from Ethan Hein:

“Real means that is sounds like it was produced in real time by humans in a room. Hyperreal means it sounds mostly real, but enhanced – more perfect or bigger-sounding than could actually be attained in live performance. Surreal means not doable by humans in a room. I’m not interested in how the tracks were actually produced, just how they subjectively sound.”

1) Choose a “realistic” recording, one that accurately represents the sound of people performing live. It could be an actual live recording, or a studio recording with a live sound. What makes it sound realistic?

“Peg” – Steely Dan

In the Aja recordings, one thing that makes it sound very real is the fact that the drums are recorded very “dry.”  If you listen you’ll notice that there is very little reverb on the drums.  As far as special effects go, there is almost nothing save reverb, compression, and EQ.  The compression is somewhat lighter than modern recordings and the track is not “squashed” as in today’s music.  Further adding the the realism are the lack of synthesized instruments.  Instruments used are: sax, trumpet, clavinet, rhodes piano, electric guitar, and drum set.

For this section, I could have chosen a recording of an orchestra or a Broadway performance as another possible example, but I felt that the Aja recordings were pretty realistic in terms of their representation of the band’s sound.  Maybe an orchestral recording is even more “realistic,” but to my ears personally not in a more meaningful way.  Doubling and tripling of parts to me doesn’t constitute enough sonic manipulation to put it in the “hyperreal” category, although some would have a strong debate for this (and it’s hard for me to disagree with them).  I do feel like electronic instruments and special effects like Autotune start to move things into the next category.

2) Choose a “hyperrealistic” recording, one that sounds like a perfected or enhanced live recording. What makes it sound realistic? What makes it sound artificial or manipulated?

Finesse” – Bruno Mars feat. Cardi B.

Starting from the beginning of the song, the drums are extremely compressed.  They also sound like they may be duplicated and the sound sample itself electronically generated or synthesized.  One reason for this is that the snare hit sample sounds exactly the same each time it is triggered.  In an acoustic performance this would be impossible.  The orchestral hit patch is also another example of synthesized sound.  The vocals and harmony vocals are very tightly compressed.  The bass sounds like a synth bass sound probably generated from a sine wave or sub bass and there are strings in the background which sound like they are keyboard strings or electronically generated.  Another reason for the hyperreal feel to this recording is the perfectly tuned vocals.  Bruno Mars is an incredible vocalist, no doubt, but these vocals are perfectly in tune all the time.  Sounds like Autotune to me.  I love Autotune, but it isn’t real or able to be reproduced easily in a live setting.  Further there are riser sounds at the end of each chorus and cash register or bell ringing sounds as well as some kind of wood block sound that are very synthesized.  These wouldn’t be generated by live instruments. The piano sounds nice but it is also buried in the mix and sounds somewhat synthetic as opposed to a completely realistic replica of a grand piano.

I’m sure I could have picked a techno or electronica recording for this section, but I decided on a modern top 40 recording because I feel that the sonic milieu these days is to have a hyperreal recording.  Very rarely do you hear a recording that is as realistic as the Dan from the 70’s.

3) Choose a “surrealist” recording, one that could not possibly have been recorded live using instruments. What elements make it sound unreal? How would it affect you differently if it were somehow created “live” with acoustic instruments?

Revolution Number 9″ – The Beatles

As much as my cousins in the Fab Faux (Jimmy Vivino, Jerry Vivino) try to reproduce this recording live, they still need to use pre-recorded tracks, as there are a lot of reverse sounds and other special effects going on in this recording.  The reverse strings and chopped up synthesizer sounds are very unrealistic.  The man sounds like he’s talking in a cave when he says “number 9.”  There are recordings of things that sound almost like traffic.  There’s a choir in the background.  The amount of money it would take to bring all of these sound sources into the same room would be staggering and most likely, impossible.  There is a sped up recording of the man talking.  There is an orchestra playing at the same time as a choir, synthesized sounds, a piano, two men talking, and a clarinet playing some kind of “snake charmer” type of theme.  Finally, all of this has a “gloss” over it of a scratchy vinyl record (or even a wax record?) type of sound overplayed over the whole track.  The Beatles really did it all, and it’s just another testament to how trend-setting and forward-thinking they were for all of the music to follow them.

However, I do recommend going to see the Fab Faux reproduce this (as well as the entire White Album) live if you haven’t seen it already.  It’s pretty spectacular.  They really do the Beatles justice in their reproduction.

I’m not even sure how you could recreate this with acoustic instruments.  You’d have to bring everything into the room and have it playing simultaneously.  As far as how it would affect me differently, for one thing it wouldn’t be as “haunting” or “creepy.”  There is something pretty impressive sounding about the man’s voice repeating “Number  9” exactly the same way repeated many times, and the other sounds that are in reverse, as well as the sounds of traffic all mixed together into one.


Production Analysis – Black Cow

January 17, 2018

The track I’m going to pick for this post is by Steely Dan, entitled “Black Cow.”    I’m a big fan of this homemade YouTube video, which features the song recording.  I picked this song in part because Steely Dan is supposedly “known” for their fantastic studio productions.  I just love their songs themselves, but thought it would be interesting to delve into the “other side of the mixing desk.”

Identify all of the sound sources.

This source tells me that this is the instrumentation from the liner notes.

This source has slightly different instrumentation and seems more correct.

Lead Vocals, Synthesizer: Donald Fagen
Guitar: Larry Carlton
Bass: Chuck Rainey
Drums: Paul Humphrey
Clavinet: Joe Sample (Hohner clavinet)
Electric Piano: Victor Feldman
Backing Vocals: Clydie King, Rebecca Louis, Sherlie Matthews, Venetta Fields

Saxophone [Tenor] – Tom Scott

Trumpet? (Doesn’t seem specified anywhere)

Be as specific as you can: which synthesizer was used?

A Hohner clavinet was used on this recording.  It is probably the “D6,” which is the most popular model introduced in 1971, but could also be the “E7,” which was introduced in 1977.  A lot of articles are saying the synthesizer was an ARP Prophet 5.  There’s not a lot of information out there on it, but most forums are saying it was ARP.  There is another source saying the ARP Odyssey.  The electric piano sounds like a Rhodes piano to me.

Be sure to identify the producer(s) and engineer(s).

“Tom Scott…did the horn arrangements on the Aja album,” (and thus on Black Cow)

“It was a work of gleaming surfaces, buffed to a high gloss by the band’s longtime producer Gary Katz and an ultimately Grammy-winning team of engineers. Its reflected light blinded the eye to what lay beneath.”

From this source.

Production of “Aja” – from Wikipedia

  • Executive producer: Stephen Diener [ABC Records]
  • Producer: Gary Katz
  • Engineers: Roger Nichols, Elliot Scheiner, Al Schmitt, Bill Schnee
  • Assistant engineers: Joe Bellamy, Lenise Bent, Ken Klinger, Ron Pangaliman, Ed Rack, Linda Tyler
  • Mastering: Bernie Grundman
  • Production coordination: Barbara Miller
  • Sound consultant: Dinky Dawson
  • Consultant: Daniel Levitin
  • Horn arrangements: Tom Scott
  • Art direction: Vartan Reissue
  • Design: Geoff Westen
  • Photography: Hideki Fujii (cover photo), Walter Becker
  • Liner notes: Walter Becker, Donald Fagen
  • Reissue coordination: Beth Stempel

Did the drums have any special effects or processing on them?

It’s pretty difficult for me to tell from the sources whether there was any special effects processing on the drums.  In the recording, they sound very tight, almost as if they are mixed “dry,” with only the natural room reverb on them.  In this article Fagan talks about using live chambers at A&R and how each studio had its own sound:

“They had this beautiful sound when you clapped your hands, a really transparent sound. It didn’t have any of that “ssh” you hear with digital echo. It was beautiful. We always looked forward to working in those studios. But now you have to adapt.”

As far as other effects go, it sounds like the clavinet has a spring reverb on it, which I would assume was built into the unit.  The vocals (lead and background) also sound like they have a reverb on them.  The horns sound like they have some reverb on them.  The Rhodes piano solo sounds like it has some reverb on it.  I do not know if this was generated internally within the piano,

List each sound in the order that it appears in the track. 

Order of sound entrances for “Black Cow”:

0:00 – Clavinet, Lead Guitar, Bass, Drums enter simultaneously

0:11 – Guitar (rhythm)  (I am also not sure if the electric piano enters here because it is playing the exact same chords/voicings as the rhythm guitar.  If not here, then it enters around 0:33

0:21 – Lead vocals

0:31 – Background vocals

0:33 – Electric Piano

1:35 – Tenor Sax

1:46 – Trumpet? Trombone?

I cannot tell where the synthesizer enters.  But then again, trumpet wasn’t listed in the sources and it sounds like there is definitely trumpet (and maybe trombone?) in this song.

Great YouTube source.

Song 3: Found sound

January 16, 2018

For this project I asked for a copy of Ethan Hein’s  sample project, called “Applebees.”  I was able to load this up in Ableton Live 9.2 Demo.  I have Live 8 and have used it a good amount for triggering sampled sounds and background tracks on my gigs, but recently switched over to bouncing those tracks out of Ableton Live and triggering them from within Virtual DJ.  For some reason this seems to work better with Virtual DJ’s cueing and syncing features.  Either way, I still like Live for its beat detection and looping capabilities and will continue to use it to enhance my background tracks for live performance.  Here is a window of Ethan’s session:


My first guess is that the “Drum Rack” is some kind of instrument or sampler preset in which you can take a found sound and “divvy it up” into samples, which are then triggered via MIDI.  My next idea was to try to duplicate this file and see if I could do something similar, but with different sounds, drum patterns, and effects.

The first thing I did was replace the top track, “Applebees” with “Cash Registers.”  I decided at the last minute to use this as my sound source file.  I hadn’t decided whether to use “Apartment Doorstep” or not.  I have a few others available as well, including “Barber,” “Starting Car,” “Walking Into Cleaners,” and “Wegmans.”

I noticed that running “Cash Registers” through the resonator produces a similar sound result to the top track in “Applebees” when soloed.  My next step will be to see if I can find a different resonator or something special to run “Cash Registers” through as well as loop it a few times and potentially raise the amplitude a bit.

Cash Registers Instead of Applebees.jpg“Cash Registers” instead of “Applebees.”

For the time being I “turned off” Resonators on the track and experimented with some different audio effects plugins on the track.  Not sure if I’ve seen these in Live 8 – pretty cool:

Trying Audio Effects.jpgTrying audio effects.

I stumbled upon the “vocoder” presets, going along with the reading.  Amazing sounds!

“Robo Voice” is also insanely cool.  Going to figure something out with this.

Both “Robo Voice” and “Insect” have this neat 16th note feel to them.  I’m going to go with it, possibly alternating between the two effects on separate tracks:

Robo Voice and Insect.jpgRobo Voice and Insect

I started building a little arrangement alternating back and forth between “Robo Voice” and “Insect.”  I also decided to add a “chordal” element, but decided to use the “Modulation & Rhythmic” plugins presets.  I found “Strange Creatures” and ran it into “Loop Off Beat.”  Sounds pretty good, like a drone C5 guitar power chord.  Maybe I’ll even run that into distortion.

“Tube Trash” sounds pretty solid under “Dynamic Tube” menu.  I also have NI Guitar Rig 5 – I added that to the track.  Sounds interesting!

This is what I have so far:

With Guitar Rig.jpg

This is what it sounds like:

Now I’m going to attempt to change the pitch of this “guitar” sound into a 1-5-6-4 chord progression.

I duplicated the track four times and now am going to attempt to modulate each track accordingly.  I also found out I had to use the “Brooklyn” “Berlin” resonators because they actually stop playing when the source sound stops.  Some of the others did not:

Building the Guitar Loop

Starting to Sound Like Something!

Now, to mess around with the Drum Rack tracks and make some drums out of this found sound!  I start by dragging the “Cash Registers” sample into the drum rack:

Dragging Cash Registers Into Drum Rack

Not sure if I can get 8 different drum samples out of this but I’ll try!  I leave Ethan’s presets on there for now.

After using the drum rack I was able to find a bass hit from a percussive sound in the file.  I lowered the frequency of the hit within drum rack to simulate a bass drum.  I then isolated a snare hit from a keyboard click.  I came up with a beat within drum rack.  I didn’t exactly get 8 samples, but that was ok.  I just needed bass, snare, and hi-hat.

I found a “tone” from the file and made that into like a pitched hi-hat sound.  I played in quantized rhythms for all of these “instruments.”

Next I added a fade at the end of the track.

Lastly, I loved the chromatic vocoder.  Very spooky.  I duplicated the original audio once more and added this vocoder at the end of the bridge and at the end of the final chorus for effect.  I decided that it would be cool to have a complete breakdown in the bridge of just “hi-hat” and some spooky stuff going on.

Finally, I decided the track needed some bass, so I added bass from a regular sample after first trying to create one from the audio, which was unsuccessful due to having to lower the frequency too much.  Here is the final result:

Cash Registers Final

I’d say the genre of this track is definitely “industrial.”  This is industrial-strength music.

Which sound did you use and why? What steps did you take to make it work in a musical context? Do you feel that you were successful?

In looking to Ethan’s examples, I tried to isolate the percussive and melodic elements of the “Cash Registers” sample.  I thought this sample showed the most potential as far as being able to get elements out of it to create the variety of instruments.  Running the sample through a vocoder/resonator and through a guitar effect made for a great chordal addition to the song.  Isolating the transients in the waveform gave me the percussive instruments.  I do feel like there was some success here in doing this.  I wish I was able to get a bass sound out of the file but there wasn’t enough low frequency information for it to work.  Maybe next time.

Sledgehammer Mix

January 15, 2018

I am unable to save the mix for some reason.  The links open up to a blank page.  Here is a screenshot of my mixing choices:

Sledgehammer Mix Window

I did some panning in addition to the levels.  I found myself looping back and forth A/B’ing the mix between the original and my own to listen for levels and panning.  The 4-bar rewind (10 second rewind?) and fast forward buttons were used in this regard.

I did a bounce to Pro Tools by running out of my headphone jack to a tip-ring splitter into the Focusrite Saphire:

mp3 link:

wave link:

I am submitting this link the mix as my submission for now.  I’ll leave the window open and my computer running.

Project 3b – MIDI Madness

January 6, 2018
So I decided for my MIDI project that I would marry Bach with Groove Pizza.  Never a more perfect union was consummated.  I exported my groove from Groove Pizza in MIDI format and imported it into Pro Tools.  I applied it to the Bach BWV 658 – “Von Gott will ich night lassen” from the 18 Leipzig Chorale Preludes for Organ, which features a pipe organ sound.  I got this MIDI file from Dave’s J.S. Bach Page.
I applied the Boom instrument that comes with Pro Tools to my Reggaeton groove and listened to the mix.  The result was both horrific and awesome at the same time.
Immediately I felt that I had to change the synth sound to something else, like a stack or something.  The result was just as horrific.  The tempo of the Bach organ prelude at 120 is on the verge of insanity… in a good way.  I say that tentatively.
Bach and Groove Pizza.jpg
Bach is Rolling Over In His Grave
I mean if I’m going to really own this monstrosity, then the kit has to be absolutely gigantic.  So I started there.  I also noticed that I left out a beat on my loop and that the Bach MIDI starts an 8th note before the “downbeat.”  So I decided to line it up a half-beat before beat #2 and then line up my pizza groove with beat 2 in addition to fixing the loop length.  I picked the drum preset “Off Hat 130.”  I’m not sure the drums are big enough yet, but I’m wondering about taking the bass line of the organ part and putting it into a sub bass.  I’m also thinking about slowing down the speed of the whole Bach piece by 2 and seeing if that sounds any better over my Reggaton groove.  Finally, I can tell that the Bach piece doesn’t really progress around a “4-multiple” of bars.  So I may start repeating measures or sections to get that to lineup.  Here’s what I have so far.
Bach Has Been Sent Straight to Hell
So I duplicated my top organ MIDI track and began trying to shave off every later on top except the bottom one.  The bass instrument will only ring out if one note is playing at a time, or else you’ll hear some weird portamento effects and MIDI confusion.
Shaving Away the Bass.jpg
You only want one “blue bar” playing at a time.  There should be no “stacks” of “blue bars” playing simultaneously.
I decided to use Pro Tool’s analog synth, “Vacuum” as an instrument for the bass track.  This is the result:
Bach With Bottom
There’s some kind of ridiculous controller affecting the bass.  So I tried a different preset:
Bach With Bottom 2
It’s not bad, but still sounds like garbage.  I decided to try the TCE tool in Pro Tools to stretch the MIDI to double its length.  The original clip starts on the “and” of beat 4 of bar 1 and continues until measure 40:
Bach BeginningBach End
At each bar in the song, a total of (n-1)*4 bars have passed, where n is the bar or measure number.  So for example, in measure 1, beat 1, a total of (1 – 1) * 4 = (0) * 4 beats have passed so far.
In measure 40, where the current clip ends, a total of (40 – 1) * 4 = 39 * 4 = 156 beats have passed.
I’m not sure if TCE works based on measure 1, so I’ll try doubling this value.  156 * 2 = 312 beats.  Plugging this into my formula in reverse, I get
(n – 1) * 4 = 312
n – 1 = 312 / 4
n – 1 = 78
n = 78 + 1
n = 79
So assuming TCE works from the beginning of the track, I need to stretch the MIDI to mm. 79 to double it.
This isn’t working.  It’s out of sync with the click.  Maybe my formula’s wrong but my brain is a bit fried.  I’ll try consolidating the clips to start at bar 1.  Not working.  I decide to cut off the pickup measure and start the piece from the downbeat instead.  I’ll use the “cut time” feature of Pro Tools and cut out the time from measure 1 to measure 2.
Bach With Time Cut.jpg
Still not right.  Then I had the idea that the last measure might be messing me up.  So I decided to turn that last chord into a 1-measure ordeal.  Oh, the last measure is already 1 measure.  So let me go back and calculate the formula again:
(39-1) * 4 = 38 * 4 = 152 beats.  152 beats doubled would last for 304 beats.
304 = (n – 1) * 4
76 = n – 1
77 = n
So I stretched the MIDI until mm. 77 and voila!  It lines up.  Except now I can really hear the rushing in the original performance.  Probably have to quantize everything except those trills!  Yikes.
Had to go back and re-do the bass part first at the new tempo.  It wasn’t stretching properly no matter what I did.  Here’s the new result.  You can hear the timing issues still between the Bach MIDI performance and the drums.  Going to have to get in and start quantizing stuff:
Bring Reggae Bach
Of course, the performance is a flying mess.  So I have to quantize very carefully one note at a time.  In a lot of cases the performance is so rushed that I have to drag it to the next 16th note after the quantize instead of the one that it quantized to (the previous).
Off the grid!  Literally and figuratively…
I decided to just start quantizing things “manually,” because the performance was so far off the grid.
Better Bach
This is definitely getting better.
Reggae Bach 7
This is starting to sound really intriguing – especially with the blend of the synths and the organ.  Very haunting.  I’m going to have to go back now and see what I can add as far as synth layers and what I should loop.
So I decided after some time away from the piece that I would love to also run that bass part through an amp modeler and hear what this sounds like with some nasty guitar.  So I did just that.  I found a hard lead sound in Xpand!2 and then ran it through Sansamp which comes with Pro Tools.  (I can’t seem to get my older version of Electri6ity to work right now, but I may be due for some kind of upgrade.)  The result is pretty magical:
Bach MIDI With Sansamp.jpg
Electrified Bach
It needed the guitars lowered a bit, great as they are.
Electrified Bach to Rock, Mixed Better
Now to start adding some techno effects and loops.  I first started with adding a cymbal crash on the final downbeat of the final F chord.
My friend Andrew came over with his wife and they listened to the composition and helped me with some of the sounds.  One of the things they wanted to hear was more bass drum and a less “busy” beat.  So I tried to make those changes, in addition to adding a natural bass along with the synth bass:
Bach With a New Beat
Bach With a New Beat New Mix
Sounds like the drums should be louder.  Tomorrow I’ll experiment with looping certain sections.
The first loop I tried was measures 1-8 and it does sound good.  So I’m going to try to find other section of the song loop as well.
Repeating Sections.jpg
(Above) Working with repeated sections
So far, so good.  I have to “verses” and two “choruses.”  I noticed that in the “bridge” section Bach doesn’t square things off… there’s fewer measures before he reprises the “chorus.”  So I decide to add some extra measures to make it square:
Bridge Edit
There was a spot in the MIDI that I missed during the quantize.  The brain now is so attuned to listening to quantized MIDI that it laser focuses in on this section.  I had to go back and quantize it.
After messing with the form a lot, I’m still not thrilled with the result, but this is what we have.  On to risers and cymbal crashes.  In order to get decent samples, I went into Soundtrap and soloed the riser FX and reverse cymbal tracks to bring their samples into Pro Tools:
Isolated Riser and Crash.jpg
I then cut up the samples and added where appropriate into the Pro Tools session.
Importing Cymbal Crashes and Riser FX
Importing reverse cymbal crashes and Riser FX.
I have all the reverse cymbals and risers placed.  Sometimes on a listen from the middle of the file, some weird things are happening with MIDI volume.  I did a bounce to see if this does in fact happen in the final product:
Risers Placed.jpg
Risers and reverse cymbals placed.
Mix With Risers and Reverse Cymbals – Downloadable
Do you feel like the end result was satisfying?
I feel like the end result was somewhat satisfying, in a humorous way.  I personally feel like this genre sounds ridiculous.  I was never a big fan of this genre – MIDI-fying a piece of music written 325 years ago.  I just think the harmonic complexity and structure of Bach has little to do with the structure of music written today.  It seems like in their stuffy society they simply tried to avoid gratification with never repeating anything and making everything progress ad infinitum.
With that being said, Ethan Hein’s idea to repeat sections was absolutely brilliant.  It started to sound like a song that made sense.  My friend Allison was over last night and she said “that background music is horrible – I like the drums but I hate the music – why do you have to do this assignment?”  But she didn’t hear it with the repeated sections!  I hadn’t done those yet.  I wonder if she would have thought differently.
What would you do differently if you had unlimited time and ability?
I would really go back and listen to this Bach piece and find better “insertion points” for loops.  I felt that the beginning starts strong and then the piece just seems to progress “off the map” and is hard to get back.  I re-visit the chorus at the end but it just doesn’t have the strength it could.  If I did this again I would go back and see if I can find better spots in the song to repeat things and try to make it more memorable.
Bach to Pop