Music Monday – 12 Oct 20 – Back To The Roots

Back in 2007, I registered this domain, vibesnscribes.com, to start a blog about two topics: (1) reviews about music I listen to and (2) general daily topics I felt compelled to blog about.

Back then blogging was all the rage. Twitter just got off the ground, as well as Facebook, but to me, one’s blog was always more personal and self-controlled. As my long time friend in tech and podcasting, DarrenKeith (http://myloveformusic.blogspot.com) says, it’s your OWN digital garden. Well, this is an attempt to begin a weekly series on my music production journey and all the paths that encompass it. Other days of the week will be left to the two topics above (where I’ve actually spent a fair amount of time over the last 13 years blogging about). I often miss blogging, with the draw of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter seemingly always taking over my online time with algorithms always attempting to show me and tell me what I should be looking at (which most times is inaccurate). While Medium is huge as a blogging platform, my own site is, well, my own. Blogging like this will, again, have to be a created habit so, we’ll see how that goes. Consider Music Mondays just a brain dump on what I’m involved with and what I hope to achieve.

I’ve always had a music production studio of some sort, one that has grown over the last 25 years to a space that has allowed me to release my own projects, work on projects of remote and global collaboration, land an opportunity to score a ten-episode webseries on YouTube and helped me sharpen my skills (although not as sharp as I believe they could be). I love composing/writing, producing, and releasing the music, though it’s the latter that seems to be most difficult for me on a regular, not because it IS difficult, but because the system(s) I desire to put into place sometimes just don’t really get off the paper (from a habitual standpoint). Last I checked, I have (in various states) twelve projects going on. The latest (personal) one is releasing a 10 track project on Bandcamp next year. The project will mostly be comprised of tracks I started back in 2012 or so (that have since been removed from my Soundcloud page) and involve me getting back to some older methods of how I was recording and producing tracks (hence the image of the Akai MPC 2500 above). It was fun getting back to re-learning that tech this weekend. It showed me that ,even though some of the processes are not as convenient as what I use today, it’s still as enjoyable using it to bring those older tracks into the present. Many times (as I heard mentioned on a YouTube video last night), often times, limitations can spark creativity and more simply put, everything involved in the “longer harder” way can also be enjoyable for many reasons I’ll save for another Music Monday. That will continue for sometime as I bridge the use of the MPC, Logic Pro X, and Native Instruments to get this project moving and done. I’m looking forward to releasing it, not only because it’s been two years since the last release, but listening back to these older tracks showed me that I was creating more music (even though WIPs) to share on Soundcloud. Some got some great comments, but they were essentially just sitting there. With the advent of distribution and music streaming platforms, there’s really no better time to get music into the ears of whatever audience one hopes to. I released a project under another alias that hit the streaming platforms. The purpose of it was tri-fold: (1) See how well my chosen distribution works, (2) see how well this new genre I am exploring does, for me as an artist, on major streaming platforms and how it is received by listeners where ever I expose it, and (3) allowed me to begin to learn the ins/outs of a new synthesizer I purchased. Surprisingly, with no marketing push, a few listeners in a Facebook group I belong to really liked it.

My new journey, one I hope to fully leverage (after getting the bug from composing that webseries) is two-fold: sync licensing and film scoring. I look around my home studio and grow tired of saying “you’re fully equipped”, so the old saying is ringing loud in my brain: “Don’t talk about it, be about it” (and that means passed brain dump blogging).

Have a great week…

#oceansofrhythm

Fresh!

Smooth Sunday – Last night’s work

Greetings,

In our last episode :), I was working on rearranging and audio file our keyboardist recorded into a basic arrangement for the band to start rehearsing. The only thing in the audio file I wanted to delete was the scratch drum track he included, but since it was on contiguous file and not a set of stems, that couldn’t be done. Here’s in lies the magic of using the MIDI file he exported from his Reason 5 project. I finally got it late last night and was able to import it into Logic for greater editing. What’s great about using a MIDI file in a DAW is that your choose from a library of software instrumentsto make an entirely different sounding song. What can be bad about that flexibility is belaboring over WHICH grand piano, bass synth, string ensemble sounds best! In any event, I finally settled on some instruments that sound smooth, and was able to bounce the MIDI files to an mp3 file with no drums that the drummer can now rehearse to.

Flexibility is good…

Catch you later…

::: oceans of rhythm :::

F!

Chronicles of a Mix – M&Ms (10 Oct 12)

Greetings…

11:46 am on a Thursday and I’m breaking for lunch a little early, but eating at my desk (have a task I’m working on with a colleague and just got the ok from our supervisor on format – of cousse the task is due early this afternoon).

Those of you keeping up with my last few posts have followed the work I’m doing on getting this track completed for an upcoming (and long overdue) CD project. This has been after (I hate to admit) a long hiatus from working on the project, steadily that is. This brings me to the subject of M&Ms (no, not the world renowned candy): Motivations and Momentums. When it comes to reaching goals, I’m a task-driven guy that needs a plan to execute in order to even think about successfully reaching the goal(s). One of my favorite quotes is “Failing to plan means planning to fail, so plan the work, then work the plan.”. That’s all well and fine, but without the motivation and momentum behind that, it amounts to just a pretty phrase. M&Ms apply to many interests I have – achieving good financial health, achieving good physical fitness (exercise), achieving, most importantly, the proper spiritual walk with Jesus. What I’ve learned is that none of each of those can or will occur without staying motivated and keeping the momentum going – actions truly speak louder than words. Planning is great and truly a necessary foundation, but execution is key.

So, back to the music, right now the M&Ms are there and I’m finally realizing that movements, even though they are small, are better continuously, than no movement at all. Simple concept, yeah, but it really wasnt sinking in for a longgggggggg time. Last night’s was a continuation of working on the drum track. The entire drum track arrangement is complete with final editing of the kick drum track, now it’s time to EQ the individual drum tracks to satisfaction, then play back in the mix for proper levels, before bussing them out to the submix.

In parallel to that, I’ve just about finished editing the orchestral arrangement and have decided to substitute the legato clarinet with a full string ensemble track. I think the legato flutes will stay though. I think so more editing may have to take place to eliminate any overlapped notes, or gaps that will allow the entire orchestral arrangement to sound more realistic than it does at the moment.

Anyway, M&M’s and music (M-cubed?). I think I may get some for the studio….(candy that is….)

::: oceans of rhythm :::

Fresh!

Working on a new arrangement – Smooth Sunday

Greetings….

It’s about 8:34 pm, beat from a long day at work. It wasn’t busy, but I was up late last night working out a tune strictly from an audio file. I’m sitting in the studio tonite, about to chart out an arrangement of a song I wrote for the band I play in, Divine Intervention. We’re a contemporary gospel instrumental jazz group in the DC area that’s been together for a little over two years. Over the last year or so, we’ve talked about putting out a CD (as many always ask about that on FB or at gigs of ours). A few months ago a tune popped in my head which I immediately recorded a rough rhythm guitar track into my iPhone as I rushed out of the door for work one day.

After introducing it at a rehearsal, we’ve toyed with a few different ideas for arrangements, and sorta settled on one. One of the keyboardists took the hook and bridge, recorded a rough track into Reason 5 and brought to rehearsal. Nice percussive drum track, really nice bouncy synth bass, all under a string ensemble/pad voice that worked out the progressions. It’s from that mp3 that I’ve chopped up and rearranged into the main song, using Audacity, a really nice, very capable open source audio editor – a swiss army knife of sorts, if you will.

I hope to get the MIDI file the keyboardist exported from Reason, so I can import it into Logic for great editing and recording flexibility. Next I’ll chart it, old school, on some sheet music paper, send the rearranged mp3 out to the band, and give it a go at our next rehearsal. We’re hopeful that this is one of many original tracks for the CD. Stay tuned…

::: oceans of rhythm :::

Fresh! aka SixStringa

Chronicles of A Remix – Vol.2: Stop It Now/Karlina Veras – Pt.1

Greetings Crew…

Back with another edition in the series entitled “Chronicles of A Remix”. In this edition, I’ll bring you in on a song I’m producing for Santo Domingo born, London-based vocalist, Karlina Veras.

Karlina and I connected via Twitter as a result of her tweet requesting collaboration with a producer for some tracks she has. The track I’m engineering, mixing and producing is one she calls “Stop It Now”. This is strictly a barter situation where I get to hone my mix skills, get credit for and push the final tune, while she gets the tune.

So far, she’s sent me rough vocals, grand piano, vocal adlibs. and a disco-style backing drum track. This is a dance track at 126 BPM. She’s requesting “a sense of air and space and a bit of sensitivity and desperation with a search of something”. In a base collaboration like this, the more the artist can convey to the composer about the tune, the better. Already I have an idea of the arrangement and elements I plan to incorporate to achieve what she feels. The first thing I did was audition some 2-step drum loops for foundation, to give it the feel she’s looking for.

One of the first things I noticed is that the audio stems were a mix of 24-bit (which Logic Studio automatically imports) and 32-bit resolutions (which Logic doesn’t automatically import). Logic’s current max import bit rate is 24-bit. I used my “swiss army knife”, Audacity to the conversion, then import into Logic, all the time thinking “Logic Studio must have a way of doing this”. It does: Compressor. Good to go next time.

This is the kind of thing I dreamt of doing many years ago and I’m simply looking at it as creatively win-win situation: I get to hone my music production and recording engineering skills on a song within a genre I like, she gets the track…all good. I have the BPM and some other track notes on the song from her. Being that it will be a dance track, this should be fun project, since some of favorite sub-genres lie in the dance music genre.
Next steps are to augment the loop with some drum programming to thicken it up. After sending her a snippet the other day, she likes it so far. We’re both excited.

Stay tuned for part 2.

Karlina Veras Official Site

::: oceans of rhythm :::

Fresh!

Chronicles of a Remix: I’m Walkin’/Mary Mary – Day 8 (The Sendoff)

Sup crew…

I just finished the final base arrangement of the mix. Added a little track automation to the acappella track, as well as a jazzy guitar riff towards the end. I tend to like using a nice combination of a clean tone with just the right delay on it. Here’s a screenshot of the arrange window:

Leveraging technology today, for creative purposes. is really quite easy. As Bill commented on the last update post here, it allows worldwide collaboration no matter where the participants are, or what time of day (or night it is). Some of you know of the collaboration by me (DC), Todd Kelley (Cali), and Fave (Houston), namely Cross Country Collective.

Another thing that helps is to know the tools you’re working with. In this case, I use Logic Studio (Logic Pro 8), and Bill is using Logic Express 9. Same software but as usual, an “express: version of software usually has less functionality than a full version, but in this case, I put together the session such that he could import it into his version and nothing would be lost…pretty much the same process used for the C3 EP (with Todd and Fave using Logic Studio 9).

It’s off to Bill C in NYC…handle it, bruh! Stay tuned for the birth sometime this week.

peace,

::: oceans of rhythms :::
Fresh!

Chronicles of a Remix: I’m Walkin’/Mary Mary – Day 7

Sup crew…

Below is a short video on the status of the remix. This is a collab between me and Bill Cammack.

In the last update, I had just started chopping up samples from the timestretched vocal acappella. Analyzing the acappella is where I always start. Knowing the BPM is always helps, but if that isn’t readily available, you could always import the original track and use Logic’s BPM counter to determine what that is. Here’s a video he did on beat mapping for this remix:

There are a few ways to timestretch an audio file. What I find easiest to do (without using any external plugins) is to use Logic’s Time and Pitch Machine. Once you know what the BPM is of the original audio file, you enter the new BPM, and let Time and Pitch Machine run the Complex algorithm selection to stretch (or sometimes called time compress) the audio to the BPM you want use. The Complex algorithm setting seems to work the best in dealing with any problems from any audio aliasing resulting from the time stretching.

From that point it was adding some other elements from my sample library and arranging how I wanted them to be. My thought, throughout, was to have the mix include some dynamics to it…in terms of audio effects, at minimum (after all, this IS a dance club remix). THe first thing was to incorporate some delay on the samples. This is pretty much where I ended up going, while keeping focus on how I wanted the drum track to be.

Fast forward to some back and forth discussions with Bill on FB, and a collaboration was born. Bill has a good working knowledge of just not Ultrabeat, but Logic in general. I sent him an mp3 snippet of what I had so far and we went to work on it! The video clip below gives a lil background on how it’s been going so far.

That it’s it for the moment…stay tuned.

::: oceans of rhythm :::

Fresh!

Chronicles of a Remix: I’m Walkin’/Mary Mary – Day 2

Day 2 – Ok, I have the first two tracks kickin’ off this tune. I know that at some point, I’ll probably chop the vocals up, and some track automation, etc. As mentioned in the audio clip above, I’m thinking of some specific vocal samples to add, if I can find them. For this version of the remix (I will probably do three max), I’ll maintain the original tempo.

I’m using a standard software Apple loop for the basis of the drum track, but may program my own at a later day…I’ll see how the overall track flows….

More later…

::: oceans of rhythm :::

Fresh!

“Left Coast Flow” (Thai-Roc Instrumental Mix) Pt. 1

Ok.. hope everyone’s well. Some of you may remember seeing some posts about a P5 Audio West Coast Detox beat contest I entered last month. I follow them on Twitter and check out the free samples they always post for their contests. While I’d download some packs along the way, I happened to like this particular one, and thought I’d give it a shot. For those who haven’t heard, my entry is here.

Fast forward. Another Soundcloud member, Thai-Roc is definitely feelin’ it and has asked for a longer version….has some MC that wants to have at…some vocoder stuff, etc. The full mix is done, nothing really special about it, and I’m about to send it. Click the player below. Pt 2 of this post will have his final production on it.

::: oceans of rhythm :::

Fresh!

Sample credit: “California Love” – 2Pac/Dr. Dre

Left Coast Flow (Thai Roc Instrumental

Hardware vs Software: Tools of musical composition

Hey crew…

Hope all is well. It’s been a minute since I posted a blog, but I’m back. Been pretty busy between various music projects, work, fam, life, etc. This post is sorta related to the last few as its on the subject of how we, as musicians, compose music and the tools we use. Two days ago I happened to be reading an article on world renowned electronica musician, Tom Jenkinson aka Squarepusher in Future Music Magazine #235. He has a new release entitled “Squarepusher presents: Shobaleader One”. I’ve featured a track or two of his on my podcast The Sunday Soundtrack.

Being a solo artist until this new release, he’s greatly relied on hardware to produce his tracks. He’s relied on the Yamaha QY700 up to now to handle all his sequencing. Even with the employment of actual musicians for this release, he’s still using it for that task.

The interview is actually pretty good. In it he talks about his use of samples (or lack thereof) in his compositions. He said the following:

“With a modern sequencing package, I get four pages of snares, a hundred kick drums and a giant screen. That’s my idea of hell”

That, ironically, reminded me of a thought I had just a day prior… about a hip-hop producer I connected with on Twitter that graciously shared with me a slew of drum kits and samples. One file alone contain 1600 snares….1600! I thought to myself…”How would I ever be able to audition all of those snares in a somewhat timely fashion to find “the right one” for a tune?”. Ever since getting Logic Studio and an MPC shortly after that, I’ve been collecting samples and loops on the net (from the vast majority of free ones offered) for quite a bit of time how. So far to the tune of about 5GB alone. This doesn’t include the sample CDs that come with my monthly purchase of Future Music Magazine, and occassionally Computer Music and Music Tech.

I’m in a moment of time where I am seriously enjoying using Logic Studio as my DAW of choice, but at the same time, there’s something about pressing buttons, turning knobs, and seeing the glow of LED and LCD screens in the studio, that makes it all part of composing music (not to mention picking up one of my guitars or my bass guitar as starting points).

The hottest composition tool that, in my mind, is a mix hybrid of hardware and software is NI’s Maschine. I won’t even begin to get into this right now, but it is what’s on point right now. Tons of videps all over the net, big time artists using it. Many have made the jump from the MPC to this unit.

That being said, I think Squarepusher shares the following mindset with many artists who have been composing music in the digital age. He sums it up quite nicely:

“My advice to anyone who’s reading this would be: Don’t worry about what I’ve got. Don’t worry about what anyone else has got. Take whatever’s in your studio and make music. The most important thing is that you keep the free flow of ideas. Keep pushing your imagination. If you can only afford two bits of gear…fine! Use them, push them as far as they’ll go”.

Am I an advocate of the above quote? Yes, definitely… but at the same time, I am hardly against buying new gear at all. While I had enough hardware in my studio to make music without a Mac, I found that using a computer easily made the process and workflow MUCH easier and quicker.

I often key my eyes on everything coming out that’s new, but with Logic Studio and a rack full of synths, a MPC, and an MC-808, I find myself hard pressed to purchase anything new. What I am beginning to find exciting (again) is to breath life into some of my older modules (even the stock sounds) and combining them with Logic to come up with tracks that are….”Fresh”! 😉

Thanks for the read… now go make music. Peace.

::: oceans of rhythm :::

Fresh!

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