miércoles, 26 de diciembre de 2012

Monotronex V 0.1

So I was playing with my Korg Monotron Duo when I thought of the idea of finally recording some sounds to the computer. If you know this tiny analog synth, you already know its capable of some cool nasty analog sounds, however its playability sucks, fun for making noise but difficult to really make a good performance. With this in mind I thought of making a sampler with its sounds so as to make it playable in Ableton.

Sampler is extremely powerful yet extremely annoying tool, making a good sampled instrument with sampler can take a lot of time as you have to record samples for each key, define parameters, establish ranges etc.

As it is already late at night and I am very lazy at this moment I only sampled 3 keys, hopefully I will make a sample of a decent amount of keys and set all the parameters correctly.

However I made a rough sampler patch which I threw into an instrument rack and added a couple of things.

It is my idea to make a good instrument with time I will keep coming up versions of the monotron more dynamic, better sounding and everything, but for now, here is a lo fi alpha version of MONOTRONEX!

Made a quick loop to show you how it can sound. Except for the drum part, the other sounds are made with the monotronex.




lunes, 3 de diciembre de 2012

Working with concepts

Inspiration can be a bitch, it strikes you when you are at your studio, goes away when you sit on the chair. Seems to flourish when you dont have time, disappears when you have plenty of it.

There are a couple of things you can do to help inspiration show its face and help you write a song.

Working with concepts has helped me a lot lately to start pumping out ideas and making a song.

Here I will show you a couple of approaches that I took that helped me not only in makings songs but also in learning about sound design and other stuff.

This was a moment in my life I listened to a lot of Gui Boratto and loved slow synthetic colorful yet dark sounds. Also I watched Breaking Bad
Investigating in sound design and the concepts of sounds, sound waves etc I came out with the idea of making a whole song just with Ableton built in Analog synth.

With this background I came with the concept of dark clean sounds and learning sound design with just one synth.

Except for the kick I synthesized the hats, snares, bass, leads pads and everything on the song trying to limit the use of effects just for a couple of spacial effects. With the sounds synthesized I made a kind of slow evolving track which I then added a couple of vocals I took from a Breaking Bad episode.

Here is the finished thing.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3DQ4RDSy-Y

As my artistic name is Alchemy I was reading about this form of science and some of its spiritual aspects. I came the word Albedo. This represents part of the Magnum Opus in the Alchemical process. It is that is associated with whiteness, purification, and opposites. 
I also had the idea of making a full length album and being a fan of progressive rock I wanted to make this the main approach to a song.

Here my concepts where, opposites, a progressive rock driven long song at least 9 mins, and purification.

The outcome was a 10min song that starts with a kind of crystal sounding electronic synth that then is taken over by lead guitars and breakbeat drums, and changes into a piano organ driven glitchy section and then into a kind of violin dialog to finish in a break and a mainly electronic part comes in and then is finished by a mixture of both worlds.

A preview http://soundcloud.com/alchemy1/albedo-teaser  and the finished song on my bandcamp (alchemusic.bandcamp.com)

In conclusion:

I think the idea of thinking about concepts before writing a song can really help as it will limit but expand your creativity within a certain domain. Anything can be good, a colour, a feeling(cheesy right) a building, a photo, a movie, a style of music everything. It will give some kind of guidelines that I think will optimize your workflow.

Hope it helps! Thanks!

miércoles, 14 de noviembre de 2012

Warmth & Colour

Have you ever heard a Guns n' Roses record and noticed that particular sound of slash guitar in the solos?

That distinct sound of the Les Paul Guitar with the Marshall amp that you can spot almost instantly. That sort of "colour" in the sound that tells you that it was recorded with that gear.

Every instrument has this particular "signature" sound, that warmth and colour that indicates that its a Fender Stratocaster or a Gibson SG hooked up to a Marshall amp etc. Not going to much into physics this relates to the harmonic content each instrument is able to provide.

When making electronic music this principle is the same. Every soft synth, hardware synth, external effects, vst effect etc has its particular "colour". Maybe its not as distinguishable as the above example, but it exists.

This being said I usually read and listen out there how people are extremely fond of massive or certain soft synth and making every instrument in their track with that particular plugin. The problem that you run while doing this is the following: A little bit of physics here; when two sounds are pretty close together in harmonic content(colour) two phenomenom tend to happen, the first is phase cancellation where the sum of two waves     LOWERS the overal volume of the resulting wave and second frequency masking where your brain chooses to listen only to one sound and ignore the other.(For more depth on the subject check any info on acoustics).

What is the effect of this in your song? Well your mix will tend to get muddy and you won't get that bright sound.

My approaches to this problem.

1. Less is more. Is a certain instrument really necesary? Does it really add something to your tune? If not, if you are thinking for more than 1 hour if that instruments really fits then probably, most usually, its more than you need. Delete it and try another thing.

2. Use different synths, there are a loooooot of free synths out there grab a few, 4 or 5 and make use of all of them, even if your using presets, use them all. They all have their own colour and warmth. The same applies for effects, don't use the same compressor with the same parameters in all of your tracks.

3. The "analog" feel. Analog gear, and analog recording has more warth and colour in their sound because they are not "perfect" and have this little nuances and harmonic content results of the electronics and the conditions where it was recorded. In soft synths sounds seems to be perceived as kind of cold because as sound is being generated directly in your software there is none of this tiny noise inside of the signal that gives you the analog feel. Anywats, a good aproach to give this warmth in the sound is adding small amounts of analog saturation to your instruments. Same principles as 1 and 2 apply here as well. Don't add the same effect with the same parameters to every track.

That are my tips for today!
Hope they are usefull!.


domingo, 4 de noviembre de 2012

Music Theory 101

This is the definition I found on the internet for music:

"Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch (which governs melody and harmony),rhythm (and its associated concepts tempo, meter, and articulation), dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture. The word derives from Greek μουσική (mousike; "art of the Muses")."

Having quoted this, I'm going to focus on a few things that I think that are essential if you are writing music.

Music is change. In contrast with a picture, a painting, music is a artform that is governed by time. It's not static, it's not stationary. A song changes, evolves in a timeline. Therefore, change is the number one musical element in any work. This exercise will really help you understanding this basic principle and thinking of this process consciously is a key element in writing a good song.

Select the top 5 songs you like at the moment. Preferably not all in the same genre. One song at a time, make a timeline with pen and paper of the duration of one of the tracks. Start deconstructing it into different sections. In almost every song you should find at least 3 different sections (breakdown, build, drop, chorus, verse, etc) putting labels into them does not matter, just label them A,B,C, D etc. Your objective is to identify this sections, identify variations within a given section like A1, A2, B1, B2. And make some outline of what instruments are used, the changes, new instruments that are added, removed etc. Make this for the five songs. As you progress you will be more aware of this process and will be able to adding them to your own songwriting process.

Remember, it's all about keeping it interesting. Small changes go a long way, introducing small variation within one section is extremely usefull. Here is a list of some quick techniques.

  • Half time/Double time your percussion. E.g. If you have a hi hat hitting in every beat and upbeat, make it so in the next phrase you have it only on the beat.
  • Half time/ Double time your melodic elements. Same as before.
  • Make a 'dialog between instruments'. Make it as it the different elements are having like a conversation. First one instruments plays a few notes, then another 'replies' with another set of notes or maybe the same ones.
  • Silence. remove instruments, sounds, fx.
  • Groove. Writing music in the computer with every note quantized takes out the human error from the recording. This takes the warmth and feeling of a musical piece. Try playing the parts and not quantizing the notes in the midi editor. Put some of the kicks, snares or percussive elements with just a tiny amount away from the main beat.(Or just use the groove options that many DAW offer)

I know all of my posts might feel kind of messy, but its somehow the point of the blog. Making something spontaneous, as it comes to my mind.

Hope this helps you.


jueves, 1 de noviembre de 2012

The shift in the music paradigm


It's inevitable to admit that music has changed over the years, it also seems that this constant change keeps changing faster as new technologies are available.

In the past music was thought in the brain and then translated into a piece of paper, then a bunch of instrumentalist would execute it live. The only tangible thing was a sheet of paper, whenever you heard that particular song how it would sound depended on the performers, there was no recorded thing that would capture a particular execution.

As technology evolved and recording a specific song in a particular place and time the paradigm shifted. At this point you could hear any recorded song without the need of having musicians with instruments in front of you. However music writing and composing was still something thought first from the brain, and then once the piece was completed, recorded.

The sounds of the first records were crude, with a pinch of distortion, speakers could not reflect the whole audible frequency spectrum and you were limited to mono field recordings. With the years all the equipment evolved and got better, multitrack stereo recorders where available, stereo speakers that could reproduced the whole frequency spectrum, effects etc. With all of this at the musician availability now the mixing board, effects, panning, type of recording, microphones used etc. were considered as an essential part in the music creation process as sounds could be processed intentionally without the limitations there were before. (Listen to any of the first stereo recordings you would notice that everything is fully panned to one speaker or another). As new instruments (electric guitars, bass, electric pianos) were introduced into the mass market the most valued musicians were those extremely virtuoso players.

The introduction of computers into the music production process changed everything again. Now tools as copy, cut and paste were extremely easy to do, expensive hardware was slowly replaced by software. The use of synthesis, samplers etc not only changed the type of sounds of how music was performed but also how it is composed. I like to think music nowadays as a collaboration between you and the sounds you have.  It is how sounds sound with each other, not how they sound by themselves. No matter how cool you think a sound is on its own, if doesn't sound well with others, it becomes useless.

Saying all of this, I encourage all of you new music makers to think about this changes in how music is thought nowadays.
Music is about how a combination of sounds make you feel and the emotions they trigger inside of you.    Specially in electronic music made with machines were the human part is kind of left aside, you have to work out how to be able to combine those sounds, simple, complicated, loud, quiet, long short whatever into something that sounds good makes you feel things.


miércoles, 31 de octubre de 2012

3 basic tips on production.

Hi everybody, today I will tell you 3 pieces of advice that I think are fundamental if you're just starting making music.

1. Learning how to produce music takes time, it takes a lot of time and good practice. You won't become a top music producer overnight. You won't sound like skrillex, deadmau5, afrojack, porter robinson or whoever in just a couple of days you played with ableton, logic or reason. Look at a couple of examples, Madeon he is only 18 but he has been producing music since he was 11 or so, also Porter Robinson. Deadmau5 made music like for 10 years before que got big succes. It is a long learning curve, it's like learning a new instrument or languange. You will have to learn lots of stuff, midi, software hardware etc. So my advice is just keep making music, keep making songs, and making songs. Only if you go through a huge volume of work you will start getting better. You will get frustrated, your first songs will suck, but take into consideration this advice and maybe you wont get so frustrated.

2. Sound Design. I like to compare sound design to building an instrument. It's a whole craft and area of study. So if you are just starting to produce, don't go down the rabbit hole of sound desing. It will diverge your atention and you will be focusing on getting that squealchy dirty assain mega bass rather than the music. You are producing music, so, focus on the music not the sounds. Work with presets, there's nothing wrong with that. Find 10 presests you like for bass, 10 for leads, etc and work with that. Limiting your options will encourage your creativity. So finally, at first when you are just starting, focus on the music, learning the software and working with presets, again, there's nothing wrong with that, they are there to be used!

3. Music Theory. If you are making electronic music, you are making MUSIC so, soooome kind of understanding about music you have to have. I don't mean that you have to be an expert piano player, know all the chords, their inversions, scales, modes etc. But you have to have some kind of knowledge at least how music is arranged. Learning music theory will help you a lot as you are making music, however if you dont want to learn about scales and stuff my advice for you is at least listen to different styles of music other than the one you like. If you are into techno, listen to rock, jazz, if you are into dubstep listen to proggesive rock, blues, experimental etc. Listening to other styles of music will subconscious give you some idea of music theory and arrangement. Analyze your favourite song, instruments they use, divide them into sections, A, B, C.

Maybe its a bit messy all of this information but I think that are very usefull advices that will help you not getting so frustrated, how to focus your concentration in the early steps and how to get a different more analytical approach to music.