Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Begin at the Middle

This piece I'm currently working on, 303, is nothing to write home about. Pun not intended, but I guess it is something to write a blog about. I'm pretty terrible with names and the name is taken from the bass patch that I'm using - Fender 303. It comes from this bundle of sounds. I'm a bassist "professionally" (whatever that means) so I'm relatively picky when it comes to my bass sounds. I have to say that these sounds are pretty damn good. Rarely, when recording, will I write/play a keyboard bass part then not record a real part later. I find that it's usually not an issue with these sounds. Unless it's a "feel" thing and I just can't get the groove I want I'll often stick with the default patches, not changing them much outside of given parameters.

303 really started with the drums. Usually they're my go-to when I don't have anything else happening creatively. I've been a fan of jungle & drum'n'bass for many a-year and nothing gets my creativity going like a nice jungle beat. This song has very little to do w/that genre, but drums rule is my point. In looking for inspiration I started w/a basic beat, just kick & snare, tempo 110 BPM. I then began perusing through Redrum the kits that come with Reason. I ended up settling on the "Hardcore Kit 01". All the instrument names end with "_TRENT" which I can only assume it's a reference to Nine Inch Nail's Trent Reznor. This makes me happy - and the kit most definitely sounds like a good NIN kit.

The Fender 303 bass sound is not one I normally go for, but sometimes you have to try other flavors to see what you like. The E Minor riff that's driving the A section has definitely been done before, but it is, again, a good building point. Here lately I've really gotten into recording live guitar, so I'm hoping I'll get some great riffy parts laid down tomorrow, maybe a big ol' wall of sound.

At the beginning of the B section I've unintentionally used some instrument sounds that are very similar to sounds that could have been used in the NIN link above. Let me just say that it was completely unintentional. We are all influenced by other people and this is just a case of "This would probably sound interesting juxtaposed against what came before it." You'll just have to take my word for it that it's really a coincidence. I have an idea of how to transition back to industrial drums + guitar from the african tuned percussion, but it will have to wait until I have time to work at it. Here's a link to what is done so far.


I can't stop making music. As hard as I may try it just won't ever happen. Time continues to move forward and I continue to make music and it continues to sit on my hard drive. I've got a small pile of it now. Some garbage, some gems, some things that need to be turned inside to find out what they're worth. What ever the state said music is in it needs to breathe. It needs to leave the house and get into peoples ears, hearts, minds, and souls.

Long ago I stopped worrying about trying to make money by creating music. Instead, now, I just want to share. Money doesn't drive me to do this. If it did I'd have given up music my second year of college and changed majors. The act of creation is a reward in itself. Anyone who ever painted a picture, created a sculpture, or penned a sonnet can tell you that. There is an indefinable pleasure derived from "When I came here there was nothing. Now I have built a wall. Soon there will be more walls and later there will be a house." It feels like I've built a lot of houses, but no one ever moved in. Maybe if I swing the doors wide enough people will come to live here and call it a home for a little while.

I'll stop with the over-indulgent metaphors and move on to something more solid. In addition to using this blog as an outlet to put my music out into the world I'll also be using it as a simultaneous teaching & learning tool. Over the last year I've become addicted to two pieces of software: Propellerhead's Reason 4.0 & Record. They are, quite simply, hands down, the best music creation programs I've ever used. (Here's a list of others I've used at one time or another: Pro tools, Jeskola Buzz, FL Studio, Sonar, Nuendo, Garageband, Ableton, Sibelius, Finale, Logic, Cubase.) I can already hear a 1,000 people offended by the fact that I'd put any recording software above the Holiest of Holies a.k.a.: Digidesign's Pro tools. I've used Pro tools on many occasions and if you have umpteen third party plug-ins it is GREAT. If you don't it's pretty dull. That aside, I've never opened up a new Pro Tools session and excitedly thought "I wonder what I will create!" It does not inspire. It's a tool, and a pretty vanilla one at that. Reason & Record have the opposite effect on me. Every time I open either program I'm struck by the depth and breadth of what can be created. After getting some knowledge under my belt, especially about Reason 4.0, each session became an exploration into a world of sound that holds infinite surprises.

Later on down the road I'll most likely go on and on about how I love both programs oh-so-much so I'll spare you the gushing til later. Right now, I'll get on to the rest of what this is about. You know that I love Reason & Record and anyone who has used them can testify to the fact that they can be intimidating at times. Reason in particular has a reputation for scaring folks away. When I first saw Reason 2.0 years ago I opened a demo, messed with it for 10 minutes, and said "Not for me" then didn't give it a second thought. I'll quickly say that it's not for everyone, especially if someone who's a bit of a n00b is considering delving into the strange and oft-confusing world of synth-modeling, hyper-sampling, and sequencing dots & loops. But if you are willing to learn, there are ample rewards waiting for you. That's where I hope this blog will help.

In addition to presenting works in various states of completion I'll be walking readers through how I created sounds, sometimes why I did what I did, and will also give away presets I use and/or create for various machines in Reason/Record. That way, if you like a sound, you will also have it at your fingertips. That's not even mentioning a free download of a new track every time there's a new post.

Lastly, for myself, this will give me an opportunity to explore the volumes of sounds that are free downloads for registered Reason users. I have no idea how many individual patches I actually have, but at some point during this project I'll begin cataloging and tracking them as I go.

I've rambled for awhile now, so rather than go into how to create anything I'll end this first post with a link to a free track that was created exclusively using Reason 4.0. It's a brief track, but was my first experiment while learning from this book so it seems appropriate as a first work to share. I hope you enjoy. Here's the link again.