, Texas, USA
em411 member since mid-2003 * hobbyist musician * ex-military
- Live 8 , Reaper
- Komplete 7 , Some VA plugins and Lots of free plugins , Synthogy Ivory
- XP SP2 with MotU mkII
- Oberheim SEM, MFB Kraftzwerg, Yamaha CS-15
- Roland Alpha Juno, SH-101 , TB303, TR606
- Moog CP-251 MF101 MF102, Boss RPS-10 CE-300 PS-2
- Bellari MP105, RP583
- Kenton Pro2000
- Kurzweil Rumour, Lexicon MPX1
- Mackie HR828 monitors , Sony MDR-7506 phones
Electronic Music discussion: How do you do it?
Written June 06 2008 , Tags: whine, technique, how, dumb
I started this as a comment in bla's blog about doing shit the hard, stupid way, but decided to expand the idea to its own rant/blog/whine.
Every time I've listened to cbit,ml,delta,implexgrace,lowlifi,nq,adjective,albatrocity or, really just alot of you who create these sounds and tracks I just cannot figure out, I think I MUST be doing shit the hard, stupid way, and even if I weren't, it would still take more time and devotion to finish one track than I have to spare. I usually spend the four to six hours I can alot per week just getting a melody or wrestling with the technology, and lose the spark and give up. I have about 3 hours of recorded melody and bassline ideas saved as impromptu clips from just the last year, since I posted that gearpron blog. I also have a few saved sequences going back 8 years that are all between 20 seconds and a minute, and they each took days to get to that point.
Some of you peeps here should hold classes for money on how to do this stuff right, with a curriculum, demos, assignments and so forth. By the end, I would be able to use the tools in the class to make compositions without once getting lost or stuck. There could probably be one style per course. I'd pay for that, seriously. If you were worried about giving up trade secrets, consider it a motivator to come up with new sounds and teach the old, standard stuff.
It reminds me of learning Linux or Unix: There's often only one way to get the shell to do what you want in a certain situation, and you could spend years learning the OS and never get enough of it down to make it work for you completely, whereas you can find your way around windows or OSX in one sitting. Just to get one command to work, sometimes you have to read and read and read and read and read and read and read and you finally find that what you needed ends up being a difference of three characters from what you origianlly typed.
If someone had been standing over your shoulder and you'd asked one simple question, hours or even days would not be lost.
This whole music thing is just like that for me, mostly in terms of technique for generating timbres I hear in music posted here, but also to a great degree on sequencing and producing non-repetitive drums that sound good. If someone stood behind me and said "You start with this drum loop, easily found online, and run it through this chain of free plugins to get this specific sound, then use this magic thingy to chop it up" then I could apply it and better focus on how to creatively arrange it into a track. Maybe it would change later, but it's part of the process, and impedes progress until the task is done.
I spend copious amounts of time either trying to get something simple that doesn't sound like ass or trying and often failing just to get the software to cooperate. It isn't fair that you spend all this money and the software crashes or doesn't work like expected, yet it's overwhelming with all the possibilities and directions to go when it works.
Timing is a big, big problem for me, even with some jittery plugins, and especially when trying to sync two apps together when both vendors were too arrogant or incompetent to allow their product to be a Rewire slave. Most importantly, Midi jitter and latency from the external devices can make life miserable, and you start to imagine timing problems that aren't even there.
I can see how those of you who only possess a PC and a controller, and use one main sequencing application, with an arsenal of plugins, can get so much done. But even then, I constantly hear things posted here that sound like if I tried to do them, they would take two lifetimes to finish. So many notes, so many events, and how much of it was done by hand versus not? And "I know that that sound there resembles a snare, but how did it get that way?", and on and on. I just get angry that I don't understand how it was done, and possibly because I know I would never have the time to do it right. I start trying to reverse-engineer little tidbits from all the different posts into my own ideas, and just get frustrated. This has been going on since I first noticed em411 in June 2003.
It's clear there is a new breed of virtuoso, as evidenced by RDJ,Tom Jenkinson,etc. whose proficiency lies in manipulating software to compose and produce, and in comparison, maybe I'm the chimpanzee with my typewriter. But I can't help thinking there are just some key techniques and ideas that no one mentions because they take them for granted, yet I've never even thought to try them, despite reading posts here regularly for five years. I've asked people on this forum how they did this or that before, and usually people either don't remember, or it's too complex to explain. But I have to wonder how many of those people ever read books, took classes or the like. More than likely, this modern method of composition and production is mostly self-taught for nearly everyone who tries it and succeeds.
I know, I know. Just get in there and do it with no expectations right? If it sounds like ass, then at least you had fun, right? I've made piles of infantile,amateur tripe for 11 years now, and nearly all of it is incomplete. I want to do something I can actually publish and be proud of. Not for once: For good.
writing is so very hard, i think we all hit snags, especially when we are trying to do something "original"
i am not even sure i enjoy the process all the time, its like i devise very hard long division problems from scratch that only i can solve, thats how i feel, but what i do enjoy is that moment where i know i solved it, shit that is fun, then you start over
i always hear shit that makes me think "i cant do that, literally that is to good", then i realize, like roshi said, i am just craving my little piece out, hopefully one day someone will think "shit, i cant do that" when they hear my stuff, haha
if not, its better then watching tv or doing other stupid shit, save for being outside or going for a run or traveling, writing is really quite nice
i'm using site5... a good cheap server... nothing bad yet.
i find it useful to check other's tricks... more just to show you it's possible to do things in an easy way... then go out and invent your own tricks and shortcuts... like this guy for example:
or cbit's blog had some other neat ableton tricks i remember...
license said: "Who is the hosting king now that panicnow is closed?"
John mentioned Site5. Anyone else having good results from this hosting?"
i switched 2 sites over to site5 and it's worked out perfectly and the sites load faster than they had in the past. no complaints.
There is no right way. Just your way. Find the sounds that you like and don't compare yourself to anyone. Just follow your instincts. If you are doing it for the right reasons it might take some time for trial and error but it will work out eventually. My advice is to stop listening to cbit,ml,delta,implexgrace,lowlifi,nq,adjective,albatrocity for a little while and just work on your own sounds.
jdg said: "i like mediatemple but they are the cheepist."
i meant ARE NOT the cheepst
one good trick is trying working in a way that requires you to drop any second thought about how something should go, a mixit or quixit, has a set timeline and sound pallet. doing these sort of things helps you move quicker/make better use of your time. also, they help you let go of trying to make something perfect and just make something. these things often end up being great, a sort of 'first thought best thought.'
part of the reason i like audiomulch so much is there aren't any notes. so i can load up a bunch of sounds i like in a big ol' patch and add some plug ins for processing and just start jamming and continuously save snapshots on the contraptions. before i know there are a bunch of good parts in there and all i have to do is figure out how to automate the snapshots in a way that makes sense. then i just record it all into individual parts using tapeit and then transfer the files into logic for mixing and overdubbing melodies etc.
or... using the monomachine (cue jdg - "FU and your monomachine) or machine drum and i can write a shit load of patterns and tweak them out then come back to it whenever or work on some other patterns for another song. then when i feel like it i can put them together in the song sequencer or just jam and record them into logic or live and rearrange them there.
but.. i completely understand what you are saying. i've been there and that happens to everyone. the key i think is just finishing what you start or calling it done when it's done and not taking it so seriously all the time. sometimes it just needs to be fun to make sounds and get a different perspective. make a ghetto tec booty track or something.
ive participated in several sort of mini lessons on various topics from music theory to drum programing, with people sharing there tricks and understanding on things, with samples, sometimes taking eachothers sounds and making examples of what they are talking about. i month or two ago i had a great revelation about theory when someone got me to set up a piano sound to play as they were talking about the theory.. totally stuck. i wouldnt have thought to do that on my own.
also, maybe try the mixit game. I came up with a pad nearly the same as the big soft fatty in alberto balsalm. from a mixit pad.
i tried the same sample in four different samplers and then the one built into Orion (DAW doesn't matter at all though). adjusting the cutoff, ADSR and accidental "my best pad yet". its more educational and I get more "fun" out of it when its a game (like the mixit was/is for me).
i liked all the other comments here and have lots to think about too.
RE: drums. I work on them now, alot. I realized a soft spot in my crap tunes and picked away at finding better samples for the moment, alternating rythyms, and maybe a few drumsets that come and go for different bridge, main parts, breaks, etc.
i worked on an assembly line making disposable cameras for kodak. i learned the value of repetition! set a time frame for yourself and try to do the best you can within that time frame. if you like what you did, you can refine it further. if not, no problem, you can make another one tomorrow. paul mccartney said he and john lennon wrote songs in about a half hour. this seems to be the best way to go about it.
celibacyclub said" first thought best thought" which is a quote from allen ginsberg. this was allen's basic work technique for poetry. he & the other beats believed in spontaneity. i try to use this principle as well, & find some of the best stuff comes from accidents. sometimes its best to begin with no pre-conceived idea that you will try to force the music to fit. experimentation on software usually works for me. let the piece be what it wants to be. sometimes, your conscious mind can get in the way of free inspiration.(which i believe comes from a higher state of consciousness.)
also, there is nothing wrong with imitating your favorite artists. this is how people learned the art of painting, composeing, etc. for centuries. you will eventually develop your own unique style.you can learn a lot about song structure by listening to pieces you like, focusing on one track at a time & how the tracks fit together as a whole.
although i think software is considered somewhat inferior here at em411, it is much easier and cheaper than hardware & has more possiblities that any single machine. tracks can be generated on fruity loops, altered an infinite number of ways with plug-ins, put into audacity or other programs for editing, cut&paste and further alterations. there doesnt seem to be any limit to this. thru this process, no matter what sample you began with, it becomes your unique track. there are plenty of video tutorials, in the software and on youtube to teach you how to use it.
always try to use a program with an"undo" botton--this allows for much experimentation. play with it until you feel that its just how you want it, then its ready for the mixer.
Good music comes from experience. Experience comes from making tons of bad music and sweeping it under the rug. The way I see it, you aren't making good music until you shrug off at least two failed hard drives full of your unbackedup tracks.
ditto the hard-drives that are chock-full and now gone (sadly or not?)....
i find that having a concept helps me greatly. i just recently finished an ep of four tracks using only an sh-09 and tr-909. by having a defined concept of the sound i wanted, the aesthetic, and a limitation set on the tools used... well, it's out for mastering and will be released on a rather nice label this month. my first followthrough. having a concept and a set goal got me there. next i am making a 3 track ep in a lighter, more playful, style and limiting myself to my jupiter 6 and again the tr-909. not only does working this way help you focus in on the kit you have and hone your production, it helps you actually finish. think of an ep you want to hear and make it. limit yourself to a tool for harmony and a tool for rhythm. finish that bitch and quit talking about it.
Re. gang gene: i had a look around just now, hoping to find the .als file so i could post it. but it's not on any of my computers (which means its on a disk buried somewhere). Here's what i can remember about writing it:
(anyone who wants to follow along can here the track here for reference: link )
Except for the obviously pad-y synths, most all sounds are derived from manipulated drum machine samples. The tonal stuff is the result of loading the drum sounds into something like sampler, then setting up very small loop lengths and scrubbing that around, automating that and resampling it (the drums are probably distorted/bit crushed somehow before being loaded into simpler to give more hi end 'information'). Also Live's 'texture' warp mode is probably being used.
drums > auto-randomising comb filter with high feedback (a reaktor ens based on banaan electrique). This signal path provides lots of raw audio that gets chopped up and sequenced for percussive duty.
I have a keyboard command set up (using iKey) that allows me to quickly stretch an audio clip by 200% (using live's tempo adjustment) and another key command to reverse a clip. If i had these commands set up at the time i wrote gang gene, i would have used them a lot ;)
There are one or two reverb sends. Probably spacemaster from reaktor. That reverb return channel probably gets recorded to a regular audio channel at some point, where it can be cut, pitch-shifted and stretched like everything else.
After timestretching stuff, its often not as punchy as i want, if i'm wanting to use it for percussive duties. So i manually create a volume ramp in clip automation (after doing any clip automation i bounce that clip down to audio again (appl+j) so i can see what i'm doing without having to select the clip to find hidden information about how it will play.
Compression: I used insert compression on parts of the track that gives percussive stuff a 'smack' sound. Here's the guiding principle for this kind f compression: aiming for a waveform that looks brick-like (really squashed) but with a transient spike at the beginning. So small attack (enough to let through the initial spike), lowish threshold, highish ratio. Tune the release so that subsequent sounds keep their attack too. the bass sounds in the 2nd half are layered with parts that are compressed this way i think.
Once I've set up some compression like that i'll bounce the track to audio bits so that i can see the little spikey bricks (like mlbot says, it a way for me to simplifying things).
There are some big obnoxious feedback delays in there. I forget which. but almost certainly from the reaktor user library. They provide the loopish churning sounds in the breakdown. and the 'zaps' with the long tails.
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