Smooth as Silk

There are times when as an Artist things go, as smooth as silk.  Such is the case when I composed “Etude para Usted.”

Besides, in my biased opinion, being a very pretty composition, the thing I find to be the most satisfying is that it was recorded in one pass. It made composing and arranging the piece very fluent. Maybe 4 or 5 takes, at the most, from start to finish.

Inspired by a very personal and moving experience, this composition, performance, and production happened almost simultaneously.

The music tracks (Acoustic Guitar, Contra Bass, Violin, Viola, and Piano) were all recorded together and performed by one person (That being, yours truly).

The separateness of the instruments was achieved primarily by varying the instrument attack times and slight delays. It is most obvious when listening to the attack and swelling of the strings being slightly delayed so as to not wash out the pluckiness of the guitar.

Also, I used slight tuning/detuning of the string voices, from the piano, so they did not mush together.

All of this processing was controlled via a Kawaii MIDI Controller Keyboard via 4 separate MIDI busses.

Aside from lacking some contemporary technical additions, such as multiple position sensors on each individual key, playing this 30+ year old keyboard is still a very pleasing experience. It’s design and flexibility in manipulating MIDI parameters was very much its strength in 1987…

Etude Para Usted

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Less is More, More or Less

In this piece, Accessible Passage, I would like to illustrate something every Producer will encounter sooner or later.

As in most Electronica music, the content is busy, throughout the piece. When I originally created this song, I used the version Accessible Passage 14. The version I have had posted for the past year is, Accessible Passage 13.


Accessible Passage 13

The difference? There is a very staccato percussion part, which I really liked. It kind of sounds like vibes but much more synthetic than the actual instrument. You can hear it in Accessible Passage 14. After tossing it back and forth for a while, I decided to go with AP 13, because I felt maybe the piece needed to breathe a little.


Accessible Passage 14

Every time I listen to it however, I still miss those tinkly, percussive, tines so in Accessible Passage 15, I added it back into the mix but not until about halfway through the song and in alternating sequences.


Accessible Passage 15

One of the best things I like about Percussion is you really appreciate it, when it isn’t there! For me, it adds so much more to the Rhythm. It is about time AND it is about melody. Which in this piece, I never could have written it without the percussion, even if I didn’t include it in the final mix…

Every track in the song, except perhaps the main melodic track and a couple of the FX tracks, is a sub-division of a different track, with respect to time. And that is what I like about percussion. If I am playing Keyboards, I can play between the cracks, so to speak….

I guess what I am trying to illustrate is less is more, more or less…

The interesting thing about this song is I pretty much wrote it at a Subway restaurant. The thing I like about the Gadget is, I can create tracks without having to do a full production or without a keyboard or drum pads. Sure, those are great also, but I find using the Gadget drives me in a different direction and I find I can still be creative outside of the Studio. I am thinking of taking some of my Electronica creations and doing an Acoustic version…now that the idea is implanted in my head!!! We’ll see… I don’t like forcing things…

Anyway, back to the Subway… While I was there, a Locksmith was changing the lock on the front door… I don’t know why, nor did I deem it important enough to ask, but the thing is when you start a new project in Gadget, it randomly gives it a name. I suppose it has limits but it is kind of neat in that often I am done with a piece before I even think about what to call it… Of course. if you don’t like the name it chooses, you can always change it.

In this case, it chose Accessible Passage, so it seemed fitting I keep it…

Sysop

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Tips for Windows Users

Here is a workflow tip for all Windows users…

I don’t know about you but I know as a Keyboardist and Producer, there are a gazillion-and-one details that I must know.  Seriously, these are must know things like progam mapping, controller re-mapping, Scales, intervals, inversions, Midi, yadda, yadda, yadda.  My head would explode if I had to try and retain all of that data in my brain, yet I need some way of referencing this data quickly and easily…

So, without further ado, here are my lifesaving tips:

Custom Toolbars and Shortcuts – Using Custom toolbars and shortcuts, I can access anything on my computer without having to leave whatever screen I am working in.  I set the toolbar to automatically hide itself so that it doesn’t get in my way while working.

Some of the things I reference are:

Manuals – Every manual for every piece of hardware and software I own, can be accessed from one menu on my toobar.  Windows uses those expandable, accordian, type menus so you can put your shortcuts into folders, into folders, into folders.  I probably have a thousand different manuals I can reference with one quick click of the mouse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also have one for Stand-alone instruments, which I can launch with a click and another for applications I use often while working in my DAW.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another of my best kept secrets is a little Microsoft Application called One-Note.  One-Note is a Library in and of itself.  Like any library, it contains books, which contains, Sections, which contain Chapters, which contain pages.  You can have as many as you need of any of these to organize all of that information and it is very adept at accepting different formats (.pdf, .jpg, .bmp, .png, audio, and even video).  You can assign tags and labels, highlight and write notes.  Absolutely an amazing piece of software.

Some of the things I store are Tips, like this one, Articles, Troubleshooting notes, and all of that stuff I mentioned at the beginning…

 

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Upright and Grand

I posted a second mix of the piece I am currently calling Pretty Song/Gentlenss.  The difference??? I used a Grand Piano plugin as opposed to the Upright Piano.

For those who aren’t piano savvy, an Upright piano is generally suited for smaller rooms, in which they are placed with its back against the wall.  The sound comes from the rear of the piano and the wall acts as an extension of the piano’s soundboard.  This extends the volume, as well.  The strings are placed vertically in an upright and on a real nice one, the sound will improve with age…

A Grand Piano by design, is capable of housing longer strings, which adds a richness to the timbre that an upright doesn’t have.  Using the lid on the Grand helps to direct the sound to the desired spot, depending on where it is placed in the room.

Grand pianos obviously require more floor space than an upright but are usually suited for large rooms or stages.  They are considerably more expensive than uprights and many players prefer the action better.  Since the keys are longer, the leverage is better….

 

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Sunday, PT II

Just to clarify, this day of the week approach I only use when I am stuck between a rock and a hard place.  If you’ve got something going, by all means continue and don’t move on just because it is not Wednesday!!!  There is nothing more satisfying when a project flows smoothly from start to finish….

So, on that note, I dug deeper into this piece and decided the original ending was a bit, or maybe very, sloppy.  I think it is because when things aren’t filling in exactly as planned, I sort of have a tendency to just want to get it finished, which of course, is not the way to publish any work of art….

So, instead of the original fade-out ending, I would try and resolve the ending into something more conclusive.  To do that, I extended the piece to make room for an Outro of some sort.  Two weeks, between mixes and I still don’t feel 100% good about it but it’s getting closer…

A wise man once said, “A mix is never finished.  It is just settled for.”  Or maybe that was in a fortune cookie….

So, here then, is an alternate ending, if you will, of both versions…

E. Piano in Intro

No E. Piano in Intro

 

 

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