Monday, February 23, 2009

Etude 007: Reggaetón Edition

Well, a friend sent me a bunch of reggaetón samples and I decided to whip something up. I actually liked some elements of this quite a lot, so I might come back and do something more serious with it. I also kinda like the very very dry, reverb-less aspect of this.

By the way, a lot of what's going on in this track is in the very low end of the spectrum, so this might sound tinny through laptop speakers.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Etude 006: Sampling!

[Well, I finally kicked in for a PRO account at Soundcloud, the website that I'm using to host my audio. They had a limit of 5 uploads per month, and that was a bit problematic for my goal of posting every day. I got the "light" subscription at 9€, which gives me the ability to post 15 times a month, or every other day. It's not perfect, but it'll do.]

The mission for this one was to get to know Ableton Live's "Simpler" instrument (a software sampler). I recorded myself humming, snipped out some parts, and then threw it into Simpler. I tried to loop the clips to create a sustained sound, but it was hard to choose a section of the sample to loop, as my small deviations in pitch in my voice were magnified to a weird vibrato. I played with the start and end points of the loop and then jacked up the "fade" knob on Simpler to get a smooth-sounding instrument that actually didn't resemble my voice at all. Instead, I got an interesting electric-organ sound. So the melodic bassline and the reverbed chords are both made from samples of my voice.

To add more elements, I recorded myself knocking on my wardrobe and then snapping, snipped them up in Audacity (a free shareware program) and dropped them into Impulse (Ableton Live's drum machine), which created the percussive loop that appears in various forms through the track.

I also made a fair bit of use of Send channels, applying a soft PingPong delay on the chords (Send A) and a light but bass-heavy reverb effect for the percussion loop, which is used at the beginning and the end of the track, as well as occasionally in the middle of the track to mark the 4 beats before a major change in texture (a sort of "upbeat" bar).

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Etude 005: DYI Drum Kit

So for this étude I decided to familiarize myself with Ableton's "Impulse" drum machine /sampler, by building my own drum set. I recorded myself knocking a dinner plate and then I recorded myself clapping a few times, and then I chopped it all up and threw it into an empty Impulse instrument. Also, for the rumbling echo that accompanies the bass kick, I recorded punching my right fist into my left palm, and then applied a low-pass filter to cut everything above 200Hz or so.

I debated adding some reverb to the whole thing, but in the end I kinda like the really dry, crisp sound for this one.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Etude 004: SCIENCE! lab edition

So this was made out of another set of field recordings from the lovely people of Un/FoundSound. The theme for this collection was SCIENCE! lab, so all of the sounds on here are from recordings of matches being lit, plastic boxes being folded, instrument carts being rolled, test tubes being spun, and so on. The only non-field-recording instrument I used was the pitched bass line, which was made with Ableton Live's "Clicky" preset on their Simpler instrument.

I'm feeling that the click-loop I made with the sound of match-strikes is a bit too loud and busy, and maybe I have too many disparate elements going on at the same time. If I was going to make a "second draft" of the piece, I would probably only introduce a few items and work them out for much longer. I'm always worried that my own taste for unchanging repetition isn't widely shared, so I tend to second-guess myself and make the pacing of the track far too compressed. I think I need to give at least 64 beats to any new texture before moving on...

Anyway, I'm pretty happy with the bassline, mind you.

Don't forget to listen to this with decent speakers! You'll miss 90% of the bass if you use your laptop speakers.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Etude 003: Presets Only!

The theme for today: only use presets!

Considering that the goal here it produce something every day or so, I was a bit annoyed by how much time I spent last night cutting up those field recordings, fishing out the good bits, and then preparing them for use in Ableton Live. I'm still pretty committed to the "musique concrète" ethos of music-making, but this time I wanted to spend less time finding and preparing the sounds, and more time making loops and a longer track. There results were pretty good, I must say.

The main rhythmic groove of this track was made with the built-in MIDI percussion instrument for Ableton Live, Impulse ("Electron Rock" setting). I just tapped the whole thing out on my computer keyboard, and then deleted layers to create the opening build-up. The melodic line was a built-in synth from the Simpler instrument set, and the table-like drums came from a set of audio clips that shipped with Live.

As with previous tracks, don't forget to listen to this through some decent speakers! The melodic line is quite low, so you might not hear it through laptop speakers.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Etude 002 Kitchen Edition!

Look! Another thing whut I done made!

This one was made from a collection of field recordings made by the lovely folks at UnFoundSound. This is a record label that is actually two: FoundSound focuses on traditional commercial recordings, mostly of minimal techno and minimal house that draws from musique concrète, found sounds and field recordings. UnFoundSound offers free collections of field recordings for artists to use, and it releases free downloadable tracks by a mixture of established and upcoming artists, usually using these same collections of field recordings. So, among the field recordings was a packet of recordings made entirely from kitchen objects, including the whoosh of a water boiler, the click of a switch on an appliance, the thlock of those spring-loaded buttons on ovens, and so on. There are only two sounds in the track that didn't come directly from these recordings: the bass kick, which was a MIDI instrument, and the "ding dong" sound, which was a recording of we thwacking my water glass with my finger.

This isn't a complete track by any means (thus, it's an étude!). I pretty much put together an opening build-up, a momentary break, and then the first major moment of arrival of the track. That is, the first moment when the full texture of the track is present. If I were to develop this into a full-length track, I would proceed by thinning out the texture again and maybe adding a more melodic and sustained counter-theme to the whole thing. I would probably apply reverb, too, to give a sense of space to an otherwise rather dry track.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Etude 001

It begins! This is my first installment of what will hopefully become an everyday thing: short, quickly-composed études made to explore various aspects of the music-making tools I want to acquaint myself with.

In this case, I've taken 3 short samples of guitar fret noise taken from a blues recording (it was sampled by a friend, so I'll have to add the precise citation later). Once I looped them, trimmed them, and shaped them with Ableton Live's Warp feature, I used a noise gate to give the loops a cleaner, punchier feel. Then, I used a bass provided by the built-in oscillator-FM synthesis instrument, Operator, to fill out the texture a bit.

So, the entire 3-minute-plus track has been composed from 3 very short loops, the manipulation of noise gates, and a MIDI-controlled bass kick.

By the way, the bass kick is pretty low, so you'll want to listen to this through something better than your laptop speakers.

Oh, and by the way, let me know how the Soundcloud player up there works for you. I like their audio hosting interface, but there is something dodgy going on with their servers and it is driving me insane.


Here's the explanation of where those fret noises come from, by my buddy Nate:

"Those fret noises come from guitarist Jeff Parker's introduction to "In Accordance" from a record titled One A.M. by a Chicago MC called Diverse (Chocolate Industries CHLT039CD, 2003). Parker played these parts live to recreate a sample that Diverse had originally used (also featuring Parker on guitar) from a tune called "Lonely People" on the Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls CD, Propaganda (Naim CD 036, 1999)"