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

Project 3a – Groove Pizza

January 4, 2018

For this project I started out by listening to the various grooves on the Groove Pizza app, which I think is brilliant.  However, I really wish I could change the skins and make it look like a slice of pepperoni or Sicilian even (although Sicilian is not circular, I know).

After going through all the grooves I went to the shapes.  I started with triangles.  I’m still not sure what the significance is of displaying the angles or what relationship angles have to what the beat sounds like, but I ended up trying to drag two triangles on to the circle and made quite possibly the worst-sounding beat of all time:

Awful sounding beat.jpg

Amazingly, adding a square fixed everything.  I guess now I can hear the tactus?  I just find it fascinating that once you add a rhythm that is compatible with four-four time, you can overlay rhythms based on three and it will still sound good.

Adding a square.jpg

I then started dragging random shapes onto the circle (pizza?) and found that no matter what I put on there, everything sounded good with the square.  (Accents the strong beats of the measure or circle?)

I then figured out that the “0” means delete shapes and I zeroed everything out.  This time I dragged a hexagon and two pentagons on and actually felt that the beat sounded quite good.  What was amazing to me about this beat is it has no square present:

Cool beat - no square.jpg

Upon further inspection you can see that beats 1, 2, 3, and 4 all have a drum sound playing on them.  So maybe that’s why the tactus is still recognizable here.

I tried to export this as a wav from the program but the result does not sound right.  Is there something wrong with the wave export function?

Anyway, on to building this beat.  I tried clearing again and just starting with the octagon.  I noticed that one way to build the beat in my mind that was sensible was to start with the higher-ordered shapes and work backwards, starting with the inside of the pizza to the outside of the pizza.  So in other words, hi-hat could have the most subdivisions of the beat, while bass drum sounded more sensible having the fewest subdivisions of the beat.  This seems to pattern after music quite closely.

I decided to go with octagon on the high hats and diamond on the bass drum.  Then I experimented with triangle and got a beat that sounded sensible but didn’t have a sense of drive.  I am still avoiding diamond on the snare, so I tried hexagon.  This resulted in a reggaeton-sounding beat:

Reggaeton beat

Instead of bouncing as wave I exported into Soundtrap and bounced from there.

Reggaeton beat? 

I tried messing around with some other wheels.  Not a great result.  This one sounds like a polka.  I need to regroup:


I’d like to call this one “I Ain’t Got No Rhythm”

I decided I have to keep “four on the floor” going the whole time, just like I tell my drummer to do in my wedding band to keep the dance floor moving.  I want to experiment with snare hits based on 5 (pentagon) and snare hits based on 6 (hexagon).


Okay, the results of this are already much better.  I’m going to paste each pizza in my four-pizza groove here.  Don’t get “hungry” just yet, though.  I think I need to program a fill at the end of groove 4.  Here’s what I have so far:

Better Beat 1Better Beat 2Better Beat 3

Better Beat 4

Almost Groovin.mp3

I started clicking dots in the last pizza to make a fill.  Wasn’t thrilled but it’s not the worst fill I’ve ever heard.  Now I’m hearing that the hi-hat needs consistency.  Perhaps the hi-hat should accent the beats the bass isn’t accenting to “frame” the beat.

Ok, so I really like the simple hi-hat much better, framing the beat as a square.  You can hear the pizzas 1 & 3 sound much better than pizzas 2 & 4 in this example.  So now pizzas 1 & 3 look like this, squared off:

Pizza 1Pizza 3

Square hi-hat

The only other thing I felt like editing was the last pizza.  I figured I could really make a fill in this part of the groove.  So I initially tried filling in the last 2 beats as all snare hits, then decided not only to do that but also to remove the last bass drum hit.  This is the final result for the last pizza:

Last Pizza

I also feel like this rhythm has a nice A-B-A-C pattern to it and circles around itself well.

And here is the final export and bounce from Soundtrap:

With last pizza fill

What musical style or genre do you think it belongs to?

I think this beat belongs to the Reggaeton style or genre.  Some other examples of songs that use this kind of beat are “Cheap Thrills” by Sia, “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, and “Danza Kudoro” by Don Omar ft. Lucenzo

Music Tech – Project 2b – Loop Song

December 31, 2017

I decided to use Soundtrap to create my loop song.  I’ve been using this with my students since they all have Chromebooks as opposed to iPads.  I wanted to see what this program was capable of.

I went through Soundtrap’s free loops and chose “drums” as my first category.  After going through all of the free loops, I chose “Drums – Busy Basics” as my favorite because it reminded me somewhat of DMB’s “Crash” and also just sounded “groovy.”  It resonated with the mood that I was in at the time.

I then went to the “Piano” category to get tonality going.  The rhodes loop seemed to stick out to my ears as kind of trancelike, so I put that down.  I noticed that Ebm was picked as the key and I was happy with that key.

I went through the “guitar loops” and stumbled upon reverse guitar.  “Guitar – Sweet Reversed 1” sounded nice with the loops, but “Sweet – Reversed 2” sounded even better, so I went with that option!

I started going through basses.  The “808 2 bass” was interesting, but I wanted to see if there was any other vibe that I could create before I stuck with it.

I really liked “Bass – Dark Magic” but was not sure if I wanted to bring that in right from the beginning.  I did like the way “Bass- Dark Magic” sounded with “Bass – Dirty 1” but it  sounded like it would be better in a fully-formed section of the piece.

I went through a number of other bass sounds and “Bass – Get it Started Cubic” sounded excellent.  I also liked the simplicity of “Bass – Golden Feet.”

I finally settled on “Bass – Minxy.”  The melody of this bass part is just perfect for the groove.  I love it.  It’s bouncy and syncopated and just worked so well with the drum groove.

I began pulling out a lot of the other unnecessary bass parts or parts that didn’t work with the groove.  But I decided to keep “Bass – Dist 26” in for rhythmic complexity.  Also, “Bass – Dark Magic” has a great lead synth quality to it, so I kept that in in lieu of finding an actual lead synth part.

After picking six initial loops I was happy with together I decided to start modifying song sections before I played with individual loops to see if anything struck me.  I tried at first to extend each loop to make a 16-bar “chorus.”  As I listened to the loops by themselves, however, I decided it would be cool not to loop all of the instruments at once.  So I decided to have just the rhodes, synth and drums for 4 bars and then just the rhodes and synth together.

When I heard the the “auto looper” loop back to the full chorus, I thought it sounded great, so I decided to make that part of the arrangement.

I heard the reverse guitar by itself and felt that it would make an epic outro or intro.  So I  decided to make that part of the arrangement.

After listening to the reverse guitar by itself again, I felt that it could also be a very dreamy breakdown section and if I added a lift at the end of it (either a reverse cymbal or riser) that it would transition well back into a full chorus.  I decided to try it.

I couldn’t find a riser in the preset loops anywhere, so I had to think of what else to do.  I noticed that one of the options in Soundtrap is “import file” so I decided to look for a riser on my computer.  Being that I have Pro Tools I figured there would be some sound effects libraries that came with it.  I wasn’t wrong, but the search didn’t yield anything I was happy with.  I looked on the internet for free sound effects.  I went back to the Soundtrap library and found that the SFX – Crash 1 and SFX – Crash 2 had a riser going into a crash cymbal.

I loved the way SFX – Crash 2 made the transition from the Rhodes/Synth section back to a full chorus.  Then I had the idea to use “Grab” on my MacBook to take a screen shot.  Notice the two riser/crash waveforms on the bottom of the screen:

Screen Shot #1 - Use of Riser-Crash.jpg

At this point I felt that the song was desperately in need of a guitar type of rhythm element.  I went through the different guitar loops and found that I wasn’t happy with any of the Ebm ones but did like the Fm “Acoustic Finger” guitar.  So I decided to take the loop and chop it in half, then transpose the half that fell on bars 1 and 2 of the groove to Ebm:

Guitar - Acoustic Finger.jpg

Then I found out, to my chagrin, that the Ebm loop I thought I had created was the same as the Ebm loop in the loops section.  At this point I wanted the second half of this acoustic finger phrase to build to an Ebm7 in 3rd inversion (with a Bb ringing on top).

Not seeing any way to do this in the program, I soloed the guitar track and just selected the first bar of it:

Solo of Acoustic Guitar Track

I then selected “file… export as mp3” to see if I could import this into Pro Tools and transpose from there.  Couldn’t find out how to retrieve the file so I hit “save” and then the download button.  That worked.  Imported into Pro Tools.  I tried transposing from within Pro Tools and realized that there was no way to transpose this clip properly without Melodyne or some other plug-in that would change the basic intervals themselves.  So I decided to skip that and considered playing these pitches over the original loop on a separate track in Soundtrap.

Trying to Play Guitar Part

After playing it in I decided to quantize and balance it with the other guitar loop.  I also added an Fm chord at the end for continuity.

I tried reversing the “Minxy” bass loop and thought that was a really interesting melody.  So I decided to try a bridge around that melody. All the sudden as I was listening to this I thought of Led Zeppelin and some kind of overdriven guitar playing the same riff with a rocking-out Bonham drum part.  Maybe I’d even add some vocals on “lah” or “nah” in a really nasal voice.  So I decided to emulate that for a bridge.  Not the original direction of the song but I figured I’d go with it.

I guess my natural tendency in the middle of a trance is to wake up my listeners and possibly get a laugh in.  Here is a screen grab of me working just with the reverse bass and trying to find a suitable rock drum part:

Reverse Bass - Bridge Inspiration

Once I found suitable drums and was able to track a MIDI guitar part for this section I decided to build it gradually.

Bridge - Build of Bridge.jpg

At this point I felt that a significant restructuring of the song was needed.  Off-hand I figured I could do an introduction-build to a chorus, second verse, chorus, Led Zeppelin bridge, break down or drop out, final chorus, and then just have the reverse guitars as the outro.

After taking a little break away from the piece to listen to some other music and clear my head, I played the song again and decided that I would add a riser effect after the bridge and have that lead into a full chorus.  I decided to stick with this method of playing the song in a loop and just let the arrangement build organically.  It is amazing how much this songwriting process is in agreement with Ethan Hein’s “Repetition Defines Music” article.  It seems like it also is a huge tool in the songwriting process, quite possibly essential.

I also decided at this point to give the song a title and figured “Awakening” would be appropriate.

Here is a mix at this point:  Awakening 3.0

I noticed a phasing issue caused by copying the same cymbal sample twice, so I fixed the issue.

At this point I was thinking that the middle section of the song where just the reverse guitar is playing needed some ambient background sounds going on with it to keep the intensity from dropping too low.

I also decided there needed to be more of a “fade” to the reverse guitar at the end, so I thought it would be a good idea to start figuring out how to drop loops.

However without experimenting with any of this yet, I listened to the beginning of the song and realized that “Bass – Dist 26” should be brought in as a buildup of the main groove instead of right from the beginning.  So I decided to sculpt the beginning of the track instead.

I decided a great spot to bring that part in might be the transition between the first “chorus” and the second “chorus.”  Then keep it looping through the final two choruses.

Awakening 4.0

Here is a screen grab of the song so far:

Awakening 4.0.jpg

And then I began sculpting the beginning of the track.  I started by moving everything forward 8 measures in time.
I remembered liking the change in dynamic between the first “chorus” in the previous picture and the part where the drums drop out.  So I decided to create a buildup where there would be some dropout in the drums for a bar, serving as a “lift” before the first chorus.

I decided to start the piece with the drum loop, then bring in the keyboard slowly (after trying the reverse guitar, which I couldn’t “wrap my head around.”)

Awakening 5.0 intro.jpg

After listening to this mix, which I liked, I decided the next instrument should still be something in the upper end before dropping in the bass.  So I decided perhaps either the reverse or the acoustic.  I could also hear in my head a higher ambient string loop coming in later on in the piece.

After comparing the reverse guitar with the acoustic, I felt that the acoustic guitar was correct.  But I had to lower the volume of it to ease the transition.  I also realized that my choice of chord in the acoustic was wrong and that I was obscuring the beautiful Bbm7 chord in the rhodes part.  So I proceeded to transpose the 3rd loop in the acoustic guitar section to Bbm7.

I figured out what was also bothering me about the intro was that there was a cymbal hit at the beginning of every measure.  So I decided to cut up the loop and just have the drums going without the cymbal hit.

Edit of Drum Loop to Remove Cymbal.jpg

At this point I realized the third chord in the reverse guitar needed to be changed to mesh with the Bbm7 chord, so I went into the MIDI Piano roll and changed the bottom notes to Db and F:

Editing of Reverse Guitar


I could hear at this point that “Bass – Dist 26” needed some EQ on the low end (remove low end) so that it could act more as a lead part.  After some more balancing of the volume and sculpting of the loops to create a gradual transition I got to this point.

Awakening 6.1:

Awakening 6.0.jpg

I felt that perhaps the pedal Eb bass sounded too “Weather Channel,” and anyway I was personally feeling more emotional this morning, so I decided to try to splice up the Minxy loop and make it follow the chords of the rhodes piano.

I duplicated Minxy 4 times and then transposed each one to the 4 chords in the cycle: Ebm (already done), Fm, Bbm, Fm.  I did it this way to try to preserve the original performance of the loop as much as possible.

Splice of "Minxy".jpg

This sounded bad.  Minxy needed to be transposed diatonically, not chromatically.  So I needed to either try different loops in those keys or take Minxy into another program.  I started with trying different loops in those keys.  I decided the real issue was the two Fm loops.  So I proceeded to look for different loops that would sound better in that key.  I didn’t necessarily find another loop I was happy with, so I decided to splice up Minxy and see if that could help.  Specifically I tried to get rid of the major second interval at the beginning.

I couldn’t really get what I wanted but I settled up on this splice.  I transposed the initial note to F and then kept the rest of the Ebm lick as the loop on the Fm sections:

Splice of Minxy as of 1104 am

After a trip to the gym I came back and took a listen.  I’m still not a huge fan of this track overall, but I decided the next thing to do would be to change the tempo of it and make it faster.  I’ve gotta chip away at what the elements are that might really make this track more “moving.”  I sped the tempo up from 87 to 92.  This definitely provided some more energy to the track.

I went back also and changed the “Bass – Dist 26” part to reflect the new chord changes.  It seems like these changes are all helping with the new tonality.  I still feel I have to add some ambience behind it in the form of strings and also try to fix this meandering bass part which just sounds a mess.

Here’s a current render of the track.  The tempo change is growing on me with each listen:

Awakening 7.1

Definitely from this listen the “Bass – Dark Magic” has to change and reflect the chord progressions better.

I fixed that and was happy with the result.  Then I decided to get a string part in there for more emotion and more trance feel.  At first I tried traditional strings but then wanted to see if there was a synth string that would be just a little more trance-like.

“Punchy Dana” was pretty cool.  Stringy but also a little “synthy.”  I also heard “popcorn” and wanted to see if I could add a nice high staccato melodic part to go with this.  I also liked some of the pads – Square Church and Square Pad were very cool, giving me more of that “awakening,” spiritual type of vibe.  I decided to try including both at first.  I went for a layer, bringing the Square Pad in first, then Square Church 4 bars later.  I liked the result.  I also noticed that the pad solved my issue of needing an ambient sound in the middle section of the song to keep the energy from dropping to zero.

I like what the pads are doing to the song: Awakening 8.0

Now I have the idea to take those electric guitars and layer them at the end of the song, but they need to be mixed a little better than in the bridge.  I also noticed that they needed to be quantized.  So I went back and quantized them in the final chorus as well as the bridge.  I think I originally left the guitar unquantized because I wanted to create a chorus effect with the guitars.  May not be possible unless I play a real guitar.  Other option is to find two different lead guitar sounds and play the quantized guitar through both patches.  There was only one guitar patch available in Soundtrap so I decided to just leave the second guitar unquantized at a lower volume to try to create the chorus effect.

Awakening 9.0

Awakening 9.0

I’m definitely going to add a “nah-nah” part next in the bridge and maybe even have it loop over the final chorus.

I attempted to get my Focusright Scarlett going…

This was going to be easier to do in Pro Tools.  So I imported Awakening 9.0 bounce in to Pro Tools.  Now I could finally use that session I created earlier, except with a different purpose.

Working with the bounce inside of pro tools.  Decided to do some add-in layers of the same vocal:

Nah Vocal.jpg

I also felt like the guitar was going to need an extra when the “nah vocals” come in.  I also decided to add a harmony above in 3rds.

I’m not sure yet if I want to mix all this in Pro Tools, but would if I had the time.  At this point I decided to auto tune the vocals, add a small amount of EQ/Reverb and bring them back into Soundtrap.  I set the auto tune scale to only tune to the notes of the melody I was singing.  I threw a channel strip over the vocals and set the preset to male vocal.  Then I added a small amount of plate reverb.  I used D-Verb with the “Vocals Plate” preset and used 14% wetness.  This proved to be way too much reverb, so I decided to bus the verbs to a verb aux track.

Bussing the Reverb.jpg

I wasn’t sure whether to bounce this in Pro Tools or Soundtrap.  I decided to stay in Pro Tools and then duplicate these vocals at the end of the mix to go along with the loops at the end.

I made a mix group and lowered the vocals to -2.7 for now.  I consolidated the vocals to the same length and added them to the end of the track as well.  And then when I tried to duplicate them I realized that I am not working with a metronome or the grid in Pro Tools!  So I had to line things up by ear.  Not the best, but I didn’t think beforehand.  Oh well.  Clearly grid mode wasn’t going to help me here, so I changed to “Slip Mode” and did my best:

Slip Mode Vocals.jpg

After listening to the full mix again I decided to lower the vocal mix group volume down to -4.9 each.  Being back in Pro Tools I could use my Yamaha HM-50 monitors.  I decided to drop the vocals to -7.5 and let the instruments breathe a bit more.  I’m noticing a weird guitar glitch in the acoustic, but my ears are used to it.  I’m not sure whether to change it or not.  Wow, I didn’t know Pro Tools added the offline bounce in version 12.  Awesome!

Awakening 10.0

Now I’m thinking a shaker or hi-hat to provide some continuity through the bridge would sound great.  It would also give me an opportunity to go back into Soundtrap and see if can fix any of the loops and add that high guitar.  I think I’m going to do that and then bounce and bring the mix back into Pro Tools.  Maybe I’ll double the length of the final chorus and just make that moment a little more enjoyable where the loop and the reverse loop are put together.

Back in Soundtrap, “Just Raw Hats 2” sounded good.  I found the issues with the guitar loops.  Something must’ve gotten glitchy when I initially changed the tempo.  I changed the pitch of the guitar at the end and added the octave.  I also added two bars to the final chorus, but did not “square it off.” I left the bass where it was with glitches and brought the bounce back into Pro Tools for another mix.  I added Maxim to the master channel to boost the volume a bit.  Not sure how much that degrades the quality.

Awakening 11.0

Maybe record real electric guitar.   I’m not a good player so I reinstalled my Electricity library for Pro Tools.  There’s not enough space on my computer right now to install the library.  Gotta free up 8GB somehow.  Working on that.

Fix the bass, add an extra string for more background.  The bass is tricky.  I don’t understand why it is transposing weirdly.  I also have the Trillian library but I’m going to need to free up even more space for that.

I reduced the Maxim compression compression on the master fader.

Awakening 12.0

Awakening 12.0

I listened again this morning and noticed that the background track needs a riser before the guitar entrance.  I added a few more risers in places where I thought it was necessary.  I also decided to raise the strings 1db.  I don’t want them to be noticeable.  I’m looking for an effect more than anything.  But I’m not sure if I hear them enough yet.  I like the bounce but decided to raise the backup vocals .5 dB, including the “awake” vocal.

Awakening 12.2

Do you feel like creating music in this way is a legitimate form of musical creativity? If so, why? If not, why not?

One thing I found is to trust the process.  If you feel like the song isn’t really going anywhere, continue to make incremental changes instead of “ditching.”  This has always been key for me in my writing but I really found a connection to these totally foreign loops by sticking to it.

By looping over and over, you really start to hear the way things fit in your head.  I guess it’s the process of mental play with the music that causes the loops to gain legitimacy in your mind.  The reverse bass, through repetition, became a legitimate melody the more I heard it.  It evoked Led Zeppelin and Guns ‘n Roses.  What was also amazing was that rhythmically, it provided a perfect complement to the rhythms of the original bass and other underlying instruments in the groove for the very last chorus of the song.

I think it’s unquestionable that this is a legitimate form of musical creativity.  In fact, this may be the most legitimate form of musical creativity.  Mostly it’s the looping that is the most legitimate part about it.  The brain just “learns” the loop and then it becomes part of the mind and the heart and then one knows how to manipulate and combine it.  There is no “shortcut” to this process.  The song literally has to “bake” fully in your mind through looping before you can “finish the recipe.”

Song Structure Analysis – “Shape of You”

December 30, 2017

The song I am going to analyze is Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You.” 

The song consists of an intro section which consists of a synth keyboard loop playing a syncopated rhythm with the chord progression C#m-F#m-A-B and is quite groovy to listen to.  If you consider each loop as 2 bars, then this section is 8 bars long, starting at 0:06 and continuing until 0:16.  Halfway through the intro, a percussion loop kicks in to build the anticipation.  Although I’m not 100% sure, it sounds like the instruments in this section are a guitar tap and a guiro played together in a syncopated loop.  

Shape of You - Intro

The next section is the first verse, beginning from 0:16 and ending at 0:36.  This section is 8 bars long.  The voice comes in on the verse lyric and the same synth keyboard and percussion loop continues under the vocal.  A vocal hum response melody is also added and present throughout this section.  Shape of You - Intro in Verse 1-2


The next section of the song is the pre-chorus, beginning 0:36 and ending at 0:56.  This lengthy pre-chorus is 8 bars long, featuring a doubled lead vocal and then also an octave double of the lead vocal half-way through the pre-chorus  (without doing any additional research into context, it almost sounds to me like Ed originally wrote this as a duet with a female doubling him at the octave, which fell through somehow during the recording process).  The background instruments are still playing the same loop as before and this section is a 8-bar melody almost completely repeated twice (with the octave doubling the second time and a tag of the “come and now follow my lead” lyric and melody and a hum to add buildup to the music).  For the final bar of the pre-chorus, a “lift” is created by completely dropping out the background instruments under the vocals for just that final bar.

Shape of You - Intro Verse 1 Prechorus 1

The next section of the song, from 0:56 to 1:36 is the chorus.  This section is 16 bars long and is in an “A – B” format.  The first half of the chorus features a lyric starting with the title, “I’m in love with the shape of you…” and then the second half loops a chant-like melody of “Oh, I, Oh, I… I’m in love with your body.”  This section also features an overdubbed vocal singing the same melody as well as an additional vocal performing an octave above.  Instrumentally there is the addition of a bass drum on beats one and three of each measure.  For the second half of the chorus the bass drum takes on the syncopated rhythm of the synth and the snare drum is added as well as a chorus in the background of “oh, I, oh, I…”  All the while the song is looping the original syncopated synth rhythm.  The bass guitar and what sounds like a high guitar or stringed instrument is also added in the second half of this section.  The vocals in the “B part” of this section add a background chorus on the chant-like melody.  There is a drum fill in the snare drum for the very last bar of this section as a “lift” into the next section of the song.

Shape of You - Intro Verse 1 Prechorus 1 Chorus 1



The next section is the second verse.  This section runs from 1:36 to 1:56 and is the same length as the first verse, 8 bars long.  This verse brings back the background call-and-response style vocal singing a hum.  Instrumentally all the parts drop out except the percussion (guitar tap and guiro) coupled with the synth loop.  “Fill up your plate” is emphasized by dropping out all background instruments for two beats.

In the second pre-chorus, running from 1:56 to 2:16 and spanning 8 bars as well, we have the addition of the bass guitar playing along with the synth loop as well as bass drum doubling the first two notes of the synth riff.  There is also an addition of a syncopated hand clap in this section to add to the arrangement.  The vocal format is the same as the first pre-chorus.  

The second chorus enters from 2:16 and going until 2:56, spanning 16 bars like the first chorus and once again following an “A – B” format as in the first chorus.  What is notable about the second entrance of the chorus is that the bass guitar and bass drum drop out initially in this section.  The bass drum sounds like it is faded back in, and then the bass guitar and high string parts are added to the bass drum in the B section of the chorus along with the full background vocals.  However, to break up the monotony of the instrumentation, an acoustic guitar loop plucking a single note in a 16th-note, 2-bar long rhythm pattern (G#-F#-E-C#) is added as loop throughout this section.

Shape of You - Intro Verse Pre Cho V2 Pre2 Cho2


The next section of the song is the bridge.  It starts from 2:56 and goes until 3:16, or 8 bars.  It is a repeated (looped) vocal singing “C’mon, be my baby, c’mon.”  For the first four bars we simple hear Ed’s voice singing the melody repeatedly over what sounds like just the “hand clap” like snare in the background which was introduced during the second pre-chorus.  For the next four bars of the section, acoustic guitar and vocal harmony is added in the back of the lead vocal.  You can hear the addition of a guitar tap as a secondary snare drum sound and then finally all of the background instruments drop out for the last bar of the bridge to serve as a “lift” into the final chorus of the song.  

There is a 2-beat dropout that is not in the radio version I’m familiar with (I’m assuming it’s for the purposes of the video exclusively) from 3:16-3:17, with the final chorus of the song beginning on 3:17.

The final chorus of the song spans from 3:17-3:58, for 16 bars.  This final chorus features the entire chorus vocal both overdubbed in unison as well as matched at the octave above with the falsetto vocal.  Instrumentally, all loops are present except the response “hums.”  There is the staccato strings, (or is it an electric guitar?) there is the 16th-note guitar riff, bass drum, snare drum, bass guitar, percussion loop, and synth loop are all present.  Hand claps are continued in addition to all these elements for the “B” section of this chorus.  The “B” section of the final chorus also features the addition of the bridge vocal harmonies “C’mon, be my baby, c’mon” sung over the original “B” section, “Oh, I, oh I… I’m in love with your body.”

Shape of You - Complete Analysis.jpg

Overall, the song’s arrangement is notable for what it does and what it does not do.    Aside from the standard intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus song arrangement, 2017’s biggest track has a very sparse accompaniment that is based almost exclusively on loops and vocal layers that are added or subtracted subtly as the song progresses forward in time.  Usually only a few elements are either added or subtracted from section to section and lifts are usually created by dropping out instruments rather than adding them.  This creates a very sparse atmosphere for the lead vocal to live in while still being highly effective in building energy as the song progresses to the finish.  This song seems like a master class in what Ethan Hein talks about in this article, “Repetition Defines Music.”