Project and Portfolio 1 Final Project
This piece was a fun one to create and work on. There were a variety of inspiration sources for each element of the project. While choosing the sound of the instruments, I knew I wanted acoustic, and more ‘traditional’ sounds to start with. I grew up listening to classic rock and country music so the sounds I chose and created are based off of those I heard when I was younger. I also wanted to combine the acoustic sounds with more synth-like sounds, so I added additional tracks to both melodically compliment and sonically contradict the acoustic sounds. I would describe the style of the piece as a combination of rock and country, but it takes a more modern approach and adds some different sounds and effects that would usually only be found in modern pop and hip-hop music. This piece, while short, could be a good one to use as an example of relative minor keys or even as an easy listening piece that starts predictable but then shifts into something a little different. It could also make some good elevator music.
For this piece, I chose a meter of 103bpm. I found this to be a nice, easy going tempo while at the same time preventing the track from feeling like it is dragging. The tempo remains the same throughout the piece, and the general backbeat also stays consistent. The drum tracks follow a simple backbeat as a base, but I changed certain parts to add some color and variety into the beat. I also added some drum fills and auxiliary percussion to help identify the different phrases of the piece. I used the drumkit designer for my drum track started with the Liverpool kit as a base, then adjusted the settings to fit my liking. For auxiliary percussion, I used a shaker sound, a finger taps audio recording, a ding sample, as well as creating a clave/xylophone sound from the EMF1 synthesizer. Moving on to the bass track, again I wanted an acoustic bass sound. After some searching, I found an upright jazz bass sound in the sampler. I liked how this fit with my drum tracks but made some small adjustments to the ADSR envelope and filter to dial in the sound I wanted. I thought about adding a secondary bass track that was more synth-based but liked the acoustic bass sound by itself.
The sound of the primary harmony track is a string ensemble from the sampler instrument. Following with the same pattern, I chose this because of its authentic, acoustic nature and while you don’t often find large string ensembles in rock or country music, I have heard solo string instruments in these genres, and especially the violin(fiddle) in country music. I thought this would be a good way to begin to combine the old rock and country to the modern pop and hip-hop genres. To tie these two genres together even more, I added a secondary harmony track using the ES P synthesizer. I dialed in a custom synth sound and duplicated the chords onto this track.
This piece starts in the key of D major for the first 16 bars. After some playing around with various chord progressions, I landed on a I, iii, vi, IV progression which in the key of D is: D|F#m|Bm|G. Each chord only lasts for one measure so in order to fill all 16 bars, this progression is repeated a total of four times. For the second half of the piece, I switched over to the relative key of B minor. The progression used for this half was not quite as structured; this was done on purpose. I wanted a significant difference between the two sections and wanted the listener not to be able to predict what would come next. The progression went as follows: |Bm|C#º|Em|Dmaj7|Bm|Em|Dsus4 Dus2|D|C#m7/b5|D|Esus4 Em|Esus2|F#m|D|F#sus4|F#m7|. As you can see, there is no pattern repetition in this progression, but some of the same chords are used multiple times. While there is no repetition in the chord structure, there is a motif melody that shines through in the second half of the piece. The melody sound overall was also kept acoustic, a simple grand piano. At first thought, this seemed like too basic of an instrument to use for the melody, but after listening to it and trying out some other sounds, I really liked how the piano sound worked with the rest of the tracks. The melody is easy going and does not move too fast, it almost reminds me of elevator music, especially with the piano sound in the lead.
Deciding what type of sound to record for this track was a little bit of a challenge. There were many ideas flowing through my head of what I could record, but I wanted to keep the piece light and simple so that each sound could be heard clearly. I also wanted to make sure I picked a sound that would fit well with the rest of the mix. The first synth track I created was to replicate a clave sound, mixed with a xylophone on the EMF1 synthesizer. This, paired with the shaker track I had from before, brought some more life into the piece. The second synth track was used as a secondary harmony as mentioned earlier. What I came up with in the end reminds me of an organ sound, with a little grit and was created with the ES P synthesizer. The audio track was another one that I wanted to be percussive as opposed to melodic or harmonic. I also wanted it to be reflective of my personal character and one thing that I often find myself doing while listening to music is tapping my fingers. I thought this would be perfect for this percussive audio track, so I set my microphone aimed at my desk and tapped my fingers to my own track as I would other pieces of music. This worked out very well and it also helped compliment the rest of the percussion and fill other gaps without being overwhelming. Finally, for the sampler track, I used a ‘ding’ sound that I had from a previous theatre show I did. I brought this into the Q-sampler and adjusted the start and end times. I also used the tuner plugin to set the root note correctly so it coordinated with the keys on the keyboard, and I could use this sample in key. I chose this sample because I liked the clave/xylophone sounds I created for my synth and wanted to compliment it with something that was a little longer and had a slightly different sound.
While there are many dynamic and time-based effects to choose from, there are a few that I knew I wanted to include. For each track, I wanted to make sure I had some form of EQ. This would allow me to have more control over each sound and manipulate it how I want. The only track that did not end up having EQ on it was the ‘Other Kit Percussion’ track which contained the toms, crash, and ride cymbals. Another dynamic process that I put on several tracks is a compressor. The kick, snare, shaker, second harmony, melody and audio recording tracks all have compression. Many of these tracks had moments that were simply too loud in some spots and needed to be controlled and others had some quieter moments that needed to be brought out more, but most had both of these issues. One other dynamic processer I used was a gate, but only on the recorded audio track. All most of the other tracks were software midi instruments and did not have any background noise, but my recorded audio did, so I was able to control that by dialing in a gate before my EQ or compressor. Moving on to the time-based effects, I used two primarily: a reverb and a delay. I always like having a reverb that acts as a ‘room verb’ and I route many tracks to this so it sounds like all the instruments are playing in the same room together. I chose the ChromaVerb plugin and found the ‘brass hall’ preset as a great starting point and only made a few adjustments to the size, density and decay before I got a reverb that I liked. The second effect I chose was a stereo delay. I did not route many tracks to this aux, but some of the main ones were the bass, melody and recorded audio tracks. I wanted these ‘lead’ sounds to have a little more color and presence and a delay worked perfectly for that.