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Creation of a basic electronic music tune

This was the first track I have made, It used Logic Pro, a Digital Audio Workstation for computers running OSX. This section of my college course was a struggle for me, as although I understood the technical areas and methods of this program and it’s effect, I am not very good at composition or musical theory. I used extensive 1st hand research by listening to many electronic music tracks and drawing my inspiration from them. I paid attention to common aspects of genre specific drum programming, structure and progression.

Eastern Marmalade is a breakcore inspired track with a oriental sounding guitar providing the main hook. It consists of 6 instruments and various audio channels.

Starting Out

When I started on the track I began with the drums. I had a set of dance oriented remixes of the famous amen break drum loop, that I intended to use to retain a “Junglist” vibe. The first thing I did was to time stretch the loops so that they would fit with my planned BPM – 140. I chose. After I had done this I ensured that all of the drums looped cleanly. Some of the more interesting sounding parts of the breaks and glitches were re-imported in their original form and cut out, as some of them had unique and highly rhythmic drum rolls and breakdowns that I intended to use to give my track a stuttering and stumbling feel in regards to drum structure and progression.

I did not want to use these loops as they were; I wanted to impart my own input and influence into the drum programming. To do this I cut the better parts out with the Scissors tool and duplicated them with an Alt+Drag. I then recoloured them and rearranged them in various different loops. During this process I spliced in other parts like rolls and single hits using Logic’s Scissors and Glue tools as well as using the “Bounce in Place” dropdown to resample certain parts. This allowed me to create a wide pallet of drum loops, each different to the last which I could then use later, individually or layered.

Bassline

To create the bassline I used the ES2 synthesiser to produce a nice pure sine wave. The settings I chose had little if any effect on the sound. I chose this wave form for the bassline as it is common in jungle music to use very pure smooth tones for the bass, often pure sine waves. I wished to emulate this aspect of the sound and therefore did the same. It also has fewer harmonics and leaves more room for other instruments in the higher frequencies. It also has the highest potential kinetic energy at low frequencies, due to the way loudspeakers operate. This allows the powerful statico melody to be experienced psychically in the bass and infra-bass frequencies.

Some of the other instruments share very similar MIDI data, as they are designed to accompany and complement each other and are normally heard as one sound. This is due to sharing many harmonics and notes played. I also used a compressor on this instrument to give it more power and “punchiness” to really deliver the sub bass power.

The Instrument is set up as Legato with 1 Voice and minimal Glide in order to give sharp and accurate transitions between notes. Another way I ensured accurate transitions was to use the Quantize tool in the piano roll to ensure certain notes were on time. I didn’t use this feature on many of the tracks in order to keep their swing and natural rhythm that often fell on what the computer would have considered “out of time”. I created a copy of this instrument below it with a stereo synced tremolo to give bouncy stabs of bass just before the drop. This allowed it to be 2.6db louder than the main bassline due to the only area in which it is used for: at this point it does not have to share the lower frequencies with the drums as there is a brief lul as it plays.

Other Lead Intruments

For the “Koto” sound I used the Es 1 with a triangle wave. This has a slightly hollow, resonant sound, due to containing only odd harmomics. I also used a compressor on this to increase it’s presence. It is used to harmonise with the Zither in the intro and plays some of the same notes. As an accompaniment at the end of the intro, I used Logics’ organ synthesiser the EVB3 to harmonise with the “Zither” guitars. I used this to provide a build near the end of the intro to give a crescendo effect, peaking before the “bass drop”. The bass is also accompanied by a Logic “Strings” instrument. This normally sound like a guitar and the pitch bend feature was used to emulate the tangy and tonally wavering aesthetic of the Chinese zither. This was the main inspiration for the track as well as the title. I used another very similar instrument to accompany it, but this was an EXS sampler instrument preset. I decided to use this as it was the perfect sound to accompany it, especially after minimal EQ.

For the Zither instrument I used Space Designer for a reverb. I used a Drum Plate preset, but decreased the wet signal in the mix in order to make the effect more subtle. I also increased the slope of the release curve in the graphical representation so the sound would cut off more sharply.

I used Enverb on the ESX Zither. This was to introduce a little variation in the ambience of the track and give the instrument more presence. I used a short attack with a long decay of 340ms and a hold of 290ms. This made the sound linger a relatively long time, but at a low volume in order to add atmospherics. The rest of the settings were left at their default settings as I did not wish to alter this sound any more.

I also used an EVB3 synth and a piano synth for an off beat “skank” and little jazzy flairs that were copied from an apple loop intended for another instrument. I thought they added an exciting new complexity to some parts of the track and kept things interesting. I changed some of the note lengths using the pointed and stretch tools.

Programming The Tune

In order to program the hook and lead parts I worked with a few sections of loops in similar keys and my own improvisation. Using the pencil, eraser, cut, copy, paste, glue and transpose functions and tools I crafted a set of MIDI loops in the piano roll and arrange window and arranged them on appropriate instruments, using the upper and lower octaves to harmonize. I used different instruments in the intro in order to create a feeling of progression and again after the drop to surprise the listener and bring something new to the track. I used this method to create harmonies by copying sections of MIDI onto new instruments and adding notes using the pencil and piano roll in order to make them more intricate.

To arrange the drums I used multiple tracks in order to vary and layer the effects. This allowed me to quickly switch between sounds without fiddling with automation and having to hear the effects change whilst in use. This way allows me to place certain slices of sound in the signal path of various effects whilst other percussion events happen on the other channels. It also allowed me to use a high pass filter on just one of the drum channels, which is automated to give a sweeping buildup effect. The gate is set differently to the other ones as it has a higher threshold, meaning it includes more of the drum spill. This is ok as the lowest frequencies containing rumble, bass and the sound’s muddiness has been removed by the HPF even before it starts the sweep. The way this gate add to the swing and overall feel of the track contributes largely to the choppy, stuttering rythm of the track.

Effects and Processing

The other channels used a mixture of gates, reverbs and delays to get a reverberating, glitch and bouncy drum sound. The main drum track Had a gate, then a reverb then a delay.

The threshold of the gate was set quite high so that only certain loud burst of sound made it through. This was to emphasise the glitch-breakcore influence of the tune. The delay also helped to a large degree in achieving this effect as it created a “skipping repetition” feeling which I liked. The delay was set at one beat, translating to a “synced” 428.6ms delay. Synched means that it is in time with the music, and will repeat on the beat. Although this effect was good I decided to reduce the wet mix to attenuate it’s effect on the drums as I was still yet to add reverb.

I used a subtle reverb just to give the drums a tiny bit more presence, but applied a high cut of 6000hz and low cut of 270hz to avoid cluttering the frequencies around this range unnecessarily. This was to leave plenty of room in the frequency spectrum for the other instruments, especially the lead and bassline.

The track discussed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdV9RM82ty8&hd=1

Music


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