My initial idea for the new year 2015 was to get into the habit of finishing and releasing music on a regular basis as simply finishing a piece of music was really proving to be the hardest thing to do. I have had so many tracks 90-95% finished stuck on my hard drive, which for some reason have not been able to draw a line under and let go of. Just finishing one piece per month seemed achievable. So I decided to release it in a free series to end up as an album by the end of the year.
More reasons to do this:
My Mixes –
These really needed a lot of work and attention to up get them up to scratch as they were simply not good enough. This was a real interesting journey with massive developments along the way… and still pushing hard.
My Record Label –
I have been planning to start my own little label for a couple of years now and thought that if I want to release my own music, frequently, I had better be able to finish it! What is a label without any music!? Just a logo and a lot of bills I think.
Release Process –
For the same reason (the record label), I had written up each release as if it was going out on a label. I gathered information along the way about how to do put together promo mail outs, what to put in there and what not to. I also tried out different ways to send it out, using different media platforms etc…
Sharing Music –
Above all, I just want to share my music and to be heard so I needed to finish some tunes and throw them out there for free, without asking anything from the potential listeners in return. I found that I got more followers on SoundCloud as soon as I started putting music up for free on a fairly regular basis.
I’ll be posting about how all these things went further in this blog stream
This is the first in the series of free releases I have created for 2015’s Free Food Series, Just In Time (Ft. Andizzi). Andy Crowe (House Of Strings – Vocals, Guitar)
For this track, I was thinking of new ways to emphasise the buildup and development of my synth lines, but mainly experimenting with timing and groove, with inspiration from Steve Reich’s Come Out.
1 – The Groove
The first idea related to timing was to use contrasting rhythms and grooves overlapped to create a final unique groove. I had been through phases over the past few years of quantising everything to the same groove and then moving on to using no quantisation at all. In January I decided to experiment a different way to program in my own unique groove. I did this by snapping one-shot samples to Live’s grid (in the Arrange Window), then applied varying amounts of track delay (on chosen channels) as an effort to make these programmed parts a little less rigid. For some of these, I pushed them as far as I dare, so they are almost out of time.
In the clip below I bounced out the rhythm section and solo’d each element so you can hear how their timings sound against the click. After this the elements are brought back together so you can hear the result.
Audio Example 1:
0:00 Rhythm Section
0:15 Rhythm Section Plus Kick
0:30 Kick 4/4
0:38 Kick Fill Layer
0:46 HH 1 – (sent to a delay aux to pick up the pace)
0:54 HH2 – Fill Layer
1:01 HH3 (fast/rigid)
1:17 Clap 1
1:25 Clap 2
1:33 Latino Clapping Sample
1:48 Majik Beat
1:57 808 Cowbell
2:19 to 4:07… Individual samples repeated without metronome for you to take. These are processed, so if you want the unprocessed stems for remixing just send a request via the contact page.
4:07 to 4:39 Rhythm Section without metronome
Fig. 1 – Kick Tracks 1 and 2
You can see how the first channel ‘K1’ (the straight 4/4) is sat perfectly on the grid of beats 1, 2, 3 and 4, whilst the second channel K2 for the extra swung fills is sat on the grid too, but the track delay is set at 40ms, which is giving it some extra swing.
Looking back at this, there is a mistake here, becuase the samples for K2 are overlapping K1, which is not good for phase cancellation reasons. A different way to do this without overlapping kick samples would be to use a sampler that is set to re-trigger mode. (Look out for blog soon)
Fig. 2 – HiHat 1
You can see this is snapped to the grid in the arrange window on the 4/4 upbeat, but it is delayed by 50ms to swing it out.
Just in case your’e not sure about where the track delay section is, just click the circular ‘D’ button, which can be found bottom right of the Arrange Window (same place in Session View). See Fig 3 above
You can also see here the ‘ms’ button, which can be switched to samples, for sample delay. Default is milliseconds. See Fig. 4 above
I like the outcome, it’s not too bad, but I’ll be looking to play in my one-shots on an MPC velocity sensitive pad soon and experiment with applying certain amounts of Live’s existing groove templates. (Look out for blog soon). I will also be posting about how you can capture and use someone else’s groove and apply to your own. Very cheeky.
2 – Picking Up the Pace
I sent a couple of the elements through to a delay on an auxiliary send channel to create extra rhythmic content. You can hear that with the Hi Hats here at 0:46 in the Audio Example 1.
I find this technique is good for picking up the pace of the track and gives the effect of playing double-time. You just need to make sure you have the correct setting on the delay. Sometimes I do it with snares, claps and synths too. I find that a lot of the time the default setting on the delay in Live’s send already does the job effectively. That’s the one I used in this track.
3 – Stereo Imaging / Psychoacoustics
Something to take note of when mixing these elements is to pay close attention to the panning as the difference between a few degrees can massively change your perception of rhythm. This is called stream segregation and is an example of psychoacoustic phenomena.
Psychoacoustics: – the scientific study of the brains perception of sound.
I’ll be writing lots about this in my blogs later on as I’m super interested in psychoacoustics and auditory illusion, with large reference to works and research by Al Bregman and Diana Deutsch. I found after studying these areas my understanding of production improved greatly, especially when mixing.
4 – Synth Intensity Development (Process) – Steve Reich – Process Music
What I was doing here was to come up with ideas to maintain interest in the sound (in this case the synth) by having it constantly changing and evolving, whilst also applying new ideas to develop it’s intensity for the peak of the track.
Audio Example 2:
This is how I achieved the effect similarly to Reich’s phasing process:
1 – Duplicate the synth channel
2 – Pan one hard left and the other hard right (for multichannel expansion)
3 – Extend (or shorten) the clip/region to the desired amount and copy/paste forward
You can see all of this in Fig. 5 below
You can hear the beginning of the phasing process start at 01:02 (Audio Example 2)
Fig. 5 – (01:02 Beginning of process) Showing one clip slightly longer than the other on separate channels zoomed in to 1/4096 scale. Green area highlighted shows the area of difference
Fig. 6 – (01:02 Beginning of process) Zoomed out to 1/16 scale you can hardly see the difference in clip/region length
Fig. 7 – (03:05 End of process) Now you can see the process has developed and moved the clip/region on the right channel out of time, by roughly 1/12th note triplet
So the synths start off in time at 01:02 and move further out of time resulting in the phasing process similarly used in Reich’s Come Out.
Although the synth line doesn’t actually complete an entire revolution of the phase cycle, it still passes enough movement in and out of time to create the desired effect.
The way I used this technique is very subtle and goes un-noticed if you are unaware of it. I still listen to the track and forget it’s there, but I’m happy with the intended purpose, which was to build the synth’s intensity.
Other ideas used for Synth development – Filter, Distortion, Delay
To help develop intensity of the synth and keep interest I also automated some sends in the synth group (bus) to a couple of delays and some distortion. I also automated filters within the two iterations of the predator synths, which sit at separate sides of the stereo field.
Fig. 8 – Displaying filter, distortion and delay automation for the synth in Audio Example 2 above.
I have achieved constant movement and interest with this synth line by using phasing, filtering, delay and distortion.
This phase movement effect together with the exploration of (nearly) ‘out of time’ groove patterns is why I named the track Just In Time. [H]
5 – Polyrhythms
Polyrhythms: are essentially rhythms within rhythms, which are usually as a result of two counterparts with contrasting periodic meters (different tempos), played together. This is partially produced with the phasing process used on the synth line (as explained above), but this really isn’t the best example of this at all. It’s still good to be aware that’s what is occurring though.
I’ll be blogging about polyrhythms, hemiolas and cross-rhythms and how to apply them in your productions later on and I’ll be showing a few ways of achieving them. They are cool.
As a quick example… try applying this same effect to the rhythm section using larger separations in time so the process moves much quicker.
6 – Word Painting
Word Painting: – Conveying/representing the meaning of words through expression of a non textual format (i.e. music, art)
There’s a little bit of word painting I slipped in at 2:35, where Andy says the word ‘delay’. So I couldn’t resist popping in a quick delay-ay-ay-ay in there for fun and games. I did that just by quickly sending to a delay using automation.
Brief Mix Overview:
Drum mix – Needs more processing
Bass – Processing too messy and incoherent
No Saturation! – Hardly any used in this production. Need to research
Limiting – Hardly any used in this production. Need to research
NY Compression – Hardly any used in this production. Need to research
Overall Analysis/things to improve on:
I think the piece is OK. Not too bad. The mix needs more work and it’s too long. No saturation used at all really except for a little distortion. No parallel compression used either. I think I need to work on the structure as I received feedback saying it’s too long. Fair comment. I need to research playing in my own groove instead of just programming. Do it by hand using velocity sensitive pads.
James Utting – Mastering Ben Simmonett – Artwork
Andy Crowe – Vocals/Guitar