not a beautiful or unique snowflake (nothings) wrote,
not a beautiful or unique snowflake

audio sketchbook

Oops, posted this last night but forgot to update the LJ.

audio sketchbook entry #31 (1.7MB)

Most of the pieces I've been writing have started with guitar parts, and I'd mentioned before how mostly I was starting from bass, so I decided to try starting with bass again, but I wanted to make sure I didn't pick something too aggressive, so I wrote a fairly simple riff... and then played it all the way through the whole song, with no real changes or dynamics, just some variant fills/etc. at the end of the phrase. (I had Soul Coughing's "True Dreams of Witchita" in mind as a model for the sort of mood of bass part I wanted.)

Then I wrote the guitar parts around the riff, and added a lot of variation of building up, releasing, etc.; even though the bass part doesn't change (and wasn't performed knowing about the variation) it works pretty well, especially when it drops back down to "just" the bass part. There is are a few poorly thought-out things because I just kind of build the whole thing up as I went with no clue to the overall structure; most notably, the first guitar part plays twice as long as it should, so I had to layer another part over it to cope.

The little bit of production value with the weird ambient bed is something I don't normally do in sketchbooks; in real music, the idea is if you're spending 20 or 100 hours working on writing and recording a song, you can afford one or two hours to come up with one or more really unique sounds. In this case, one of the poorly-thought out guitar bits left a totally braindead transition: the big buildup with the single lush (well, it's lush in stereo) syncopated guitar chord happens, and goes for awhile, and then ends, but where it is in the song it needs to stay big, to keep building to the ending. At a minimum, where it stops, it just sounded stupid, so I was looking for something to pave over that transition. Once I hit on this ambient bed swelling up there, I repeated it twice more to maintain the energy to the end of the song, and then used it as a bed at the beginning (where you can't hear it that well in the mono mp3) and the ending (where you can).

How did I make that ambient sound that's sort-of but not-exactly white noise? That's a secret. Ok, if you have to know, hilight this blank space. I was thinking some sort of swelling sound would be good, and I remembered having seen a 'reverse cymbal' sound effect somewhere on my keyboard, so I went hunting for it at the end of the General MIDI section of patches, which I normally never look at. While I was there, I remembered that my keyboard has an interesting multi-timbral ability; if you hold down some notes, and then select a different patch, the old notes stay in the old sound, and new notes play with the new patch. So I hooked up my hold pedal, played a couple notes of applause, a couple notes of surf (I think), a couple notes of helicopter (which didn't it work--it faded when the keyboard was released, ignoring the hold pedal), a couple notes of telephone ringing (which gives it the shimmer--this is the ringing sound of a phone continuously repeating, not the normal ringing alternating with silence), and a couple of notes of fiddle, both Bs I think, which was the key of the song IIRC The effect had limited stereo depth so I added a delay and shifted the direct sound left in the stereo and put the echo partially to the right; this makes the stereo much livelier, but also makes the end of the volume swells echo across in stereo, which wasn't what I was planning, but hey, bonus. All told it took me about 15 minutes to come up with the sound and then to record it onto the track. (The swelling effect was just done by riding the volume slider on the keyboard while recording it, rather than riding the fader on playback.)

Edit: Oops, it was #31, not #32.
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