Song 6: Mobile

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?

figure.jpeg

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:

[Verse]

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

[Pre-chorus]

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!

[Chorus]

……

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.

[Chorus]

 

[Bridge]

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:

[Chorus]

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:

[Verse]

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

[Pre-chorus]

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!

[Chorus]

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

[Verse]

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

[Pre-chorus]

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!

[Chorus]

[Bridge]

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

 

 

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