Wednesday, December 26, 2012

3 Part Inventions | Major No. 2

Went a bit long on this piece, so I stopped just after the 3rd page :-/ Because it was so long, I used some double counterpoint so I won't have to write all those lines. Lazy eh?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ode to a whistle

Whew, this piece (my homework from last week) took awhile to sequence and mix due to my schedule at work heating up. Only managed to do bits and pieces over the week and finally got a big chunk of evening free today so decided to finish it.

Learnts lots from this little sequencing piece, for example:

VSL Flute, Solo Violin and Solo Cello
Learnt how to use the performance intervals. Like man, they are soooo awesome. For the flute, I was beginning notes with the portato patch for a stronger attack, then switching over to the performance legato patch for smooth transitions.

On the violin and cello, I attempted to apply the same idea but it felt really static. Experimenting with using the performance portamento patch helped somewhat, but it tended to jump out at me. What I think made it work was to use the portamento patch only for note changes up to a tone in distance; it gave an improved sense of life and yet still be smooth and not too earcatching.

Used my Zoom H1 to record various sounds; breath noises, chair creakings and coughs.
Audacity was then used to clean up any noise (very little, the Zoom H1 is amazing!) and chop up the bits and pieces into usable .wave chunks. Thank you audacity team!
Finally, all these were brought into Kontakt and laid out. If you got a good set of headphones, you may hear these artificial artifacts.

Custom IR
I captured a custom IR for use with this piece. It's not a 4 channel impulse like what's in the vienna suite, but I made it and I like it :P

Mixing was as usual. I had major trouble setting up my spatial acoustics. Today, I decided to check my "final mix" with my Shure SE215 IEMs (and Grado SR80s). Not expecting much, but holy dang, everything jumped out at me. Levels, spatial placement; everything was WRONG.

I then re-mixed with the Shures, and was delighted to be able to find out how much I needed to put the levels for my ER and tails so that the instruments sat in a space I wanted, and I could eq off the highs off the strings and their 'verbs waaay easier.

After the remix I felt that everything didn't sound as boomy and cluttered as before. Maybe because I pushed the two stringed instruments waaay back in the mix, but there are still there to provide a textural bed for the flute to float on.

One other thing I've noticed is that the music is originally composed on piano staves (though the melody was composed first on an irish whistle) with no thought for instrumentation. I think I would actually prefer the flute to be playing higher up in its range where it becomes more sweet, and not so warm and mid-rangey. Something to think about, since the violin and cellos are pretty close as well. On the master bus's EQ, it was all mid range frequencies, no super highs and the lows were remarkably clear.

It's time for bed, I'm so tired.

Friday, December 14, 2012

FX with convo reverbs.

Hunting for a low cost way to generate my own impulses, and found this great tutorial that not only shows a means of creating your own impulses, but also how convolution reverbs can be used for as effects. Very cool :)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sequencing and double counterpoint

3 part counterpoint, with 12 bars in the middle demonstrating double counterpoint. Very last bar should be a G and Bb (Gm), not G and D (G5 open).

Double counterpoint exercise

16 bars of regular counterpoint, then 16 bars exploring invertible the parts are. Hmmm.....

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Smaller sample producers

Found a few new (to me) smaller sample library producers today, these are

Sound Dust and AudioThing.

With SoundDust, what can I say. I had to have that piano :P Ship's piano sounds really unique.

AudioThing OTOH has some soundscapes in Temple of Mercury that I can't wait to try.

Another one from japan!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Keys and Colors

Something to think about?

Modulating Chorales

A start on 3 part counterpoint with modulating chorales. They are actually quite fun to figure out how to keep all 3 parts following the contrapunctual rules and yet fit together. 3rd bar of each chorale starts on a new random key, and modulates to the dominant key.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Distant Shores

I was working on my new 3 part counterpoint exercises when I noticed VSL released a new instrument collection, Recorders! I've been lusting for recorders from various companies, and have managed to keep that lust controlled but not yesterday :P

One thing I didn't keep in mind when "composing" is instrument ranges. With the piano it's not an issue as it simply covers the whole spectrum. Not so with recorders, and I'd had my bass recorder play notes too low. Thankfully, it was only a few notes that had to be corrected for it.

Another thing I had at the back of my head was vibrato. I remember reading discussions when vibrato is used, or not. Given I'm not writing for period music, I just used what sounded good to me :3

Friday, November 30, 2012

Addictive Keys! OMG!

Oh, my good lord. I just read xln audio's latest newsletter and in there was.... Addictive Keys! Jeez, piano libs are all over the place! There is a free download of the instrument that's limited to 49 keys. Downloaded it and....

I daresay this is a very, very playable instrument. I'd added it to the cart and almost pushed the buy button, but stopped, slowed down and loaded up the pianoteq demo. Again (lol!).

Comparatively, I think Addictive keys sounds really, really nice, and is definitely the most playable sampled piano I've ever put my paws on. What I miss from it compared to Pianoteq is the dynamic range, I feel that I can play more intimately with Pteq or slam down the keys and get a response I'd expect. No so much with Addictive; on its own it actually feels very responsive, but when laid side by side to Pteq? Not as much as I hoped.

There is gamma control that remaps the input midi notes' velocity in Addictive Keys, but it doesn't feature the curve type control features in Pianoteq. Hope something like that will be added in future updates of Addictive keys. Gaaaah, really want it.....

Pianos: Playable, versus Sequencing.

Guess what? I bought yet another piano! This time it is "MyPiano" from FluffyAudio. And.... like Alicia's keys, I'm definitely not a fan of playing it live. There's something about the response that just feels wrong under the fingers, and I dislike the tone when I'm actually playing it - somehow, the high notes sound very close, whilst the low register sounds very distant >.> There is also an odd lag - as if I'd set my buffer size to 256-ish - that only shows up in certain passages. I'm already got my buffer down to 64, and tried it on Kontakt standalone as well as Konkakt inside Logic. Same thing.

Being not too happy, I booted up the Pianoteq stage demo for a comparison, and (*&£$ yeah, I loved how Pianoteq responds to my playing. However, I decided to record the midi this time, and applied it to MyPiano (as well as The Old Lady). And it sounds... pretty good! Especially after reverb has been applied and some mild limiting on the output stage. Old lady sounds good as well on this midi, just different.

Pianoteq on the other hand was more difficult to tame in the mix due to the immense dynamic range - perhaps that is why I don't really enjoy the rest of my virtual pianos - their dynamic range seemingly pales in comparison to pianoteq.

Hence, I think I've come to this conclusion that the many piano VIs I've licensed just don't play that well as a live instrument. Heck, I prefer the piano's onboard sound chip's response versus all the virtual pianos I've got, apart from Pianoteq.

Guess I'll have to get me a pianoteq stage license some time down the line for playing, and the rest of the piano VIs for sequecing, because I do love their tone :3 I played a bit of my jazz grade 2 stuff on MyPiano, again, it sucks under the fingers, but the tone is good, so I think this is a good purchase, with the caveat that I don't like it being played live :3


Edit: Tried some bach midi's off the web with all 3 vis mentioned above, sounds damned good, though arguably, I prefer the tone of both the sampled pianos. Best tool for the job I think; pianoteq for playing as a live instrument; sampled pianos for sequencing and tone/character :)

Edit 2: After tweaking the "Velocity Control" page, MyPiano becomes much more playable, though even with low buffers, it still feels laggy. Ah well.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Invention | Fünf | Sequenced

Bought Soundiron's Lakeside Pipe Organ over the Thanksgiving sales, and decided to sequence it in Logic as I thought I did a pretty swell job with this particular invention.

This was not the case, as my teacher picked out several places that could be improved, like the harmony being not as strong as it can be, as well as many improvements that could be done with the cadences.

Another point brought up was the repetitiveness of the melody. In any case, he feels that I have got a good hang of inventions, and we're moving on to 3 part counterpoint next. Woo!

Invention | Fünf

Another two part invention :) I think it modulates well between the keys, and I've made it as melodic as I can in both staves. Also, there are some fifths in there that I've purposely left in to smooth out the melody lines. I'll see what my teacher says.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A few piano VIs

Being the black friday weekend, I picked up NI's Alicia's Keys for at half off. It sounds pretty good - after increasing the stereo width control - but there was just something about the playability of the VI. On a whim, I decided to download the trial versions of two other pianos I've been meaning to try, Truepianos and Pianoteq.

I must say I'm quite surprised. Pianoteq initially sounded quite boring, until I tweaked some parameters - I'm only on headphones, so changing the output type from "Sound Recording" to Stereophonic or binaural made a *huge* difference. Also, I love the ability to draw a custom velocity mapping curve, again, that helped greatly. Finally, the ability to adjust the difference in volume between the ppp and FFF - wow. What's best, is that after I fell in love with the playability, I checked out the website in more detail, and found out that the latest D4 piano in Pianoteq was actually modelled after a Steinway D! Even more win!

I then switched over to testing Truepianos. I must say, that the sounds of Truepianos has much more bite and character compared to the Pianoteq. Just A-Bing them made it painfully obvious. On the flip side though, I felt like I couldn't get as much dynamic range out of Truepianos versus pianoteq.

Other pianos I compared them to were my good old sampled Old Lady piano, which I now found quite thin compared to pianoteq. Maybe I need to increase the stereo width like Alicia's Keys to get the bite I want on headphones. But it still played very nice.

I think I definitely want to get the "stage" version of Piantoteq soon, I just love how it plays under my fingers. The others are great sounds, and will definitely be useful depending on different genres of music. However, in terms of playability, I think I like Pianoteq the best.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Invention | Vier

Pretty pleased with this piece. I made a lot of effort to get the modulations between the parallel keys as smooth as possible and I think I succeeded. About 6 or so hours in total. I need to do something else now :P

OpenSource/CC/Low Cost/Free Music Software and Samples

Just a post to keep track of stuff like that.

Rose Garden (linux)

G-Town Church Sampling Project

Impulse Responses for convolution reverbs:
Samplicity Bricasti M7 impulses
Samplicity Bricati M7 Impulses for Logic Pro's Space Designer

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Invention Drei

Working on this for several days now, and I'm pretty pleased with the modulation from Dm to A, though I think the modulation from A to Dm could be better. More practice!

"Contemplation" - Jazz Piano

I'm still working on several ABRSM Jazz Piano Grade 2 pieces, and this beautiful piece, "Contemplation", by McCoy Tyner, really spoke to my heart. What's more, the improvization section is very straightforward (improvise over Am7 and F) - very easy for us newbies, and I can just keep on experimenting. Hence, I thought what better piece to try out my new piano samples on :3

Sadly, my new piano samples don't react the way I expect from my midi data, so until I find out how to correct that, I switched over to my favourite, the SampleTekk PMI Old Lady. Steinways FTW!!!

While the piano sounds as awesome as usual, I came into some very nasty distortion issues when attempting to apply some compression. After much time spent, I finally figured out that there were certain frequencies that I had to cut out, if not there will be distortion after going through any dynamics processor.

It was actually a visual guess - I saw some frequencies poking way above 0db on the EQ's analyzer, and decided to deeply cut those frequencies away and hey, that worked! With that fixed, I applied some mild compression and got my limiter close to about 0.2dBfs.

Using the VSL Hybrid reverb nowadays, and picked the "Brown Hall" for my ER. I'd really wanted to pick an IR from one of the famous halls (so I can brag, hey, this is what it sounds like in the Mozart Saal Konzerthaus :P) but the brown hall just sounded the best to my ears.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Feels like I can improvise better....

Been putting more effort into doing improvisation recently - and I think doing the counterpoint exercises helped alot as I now tend to remember my scales way better than before. Re-visited some pieces that I could not really improvise on and found that I could do much better than before.

Another thing my teacher says, the idea behind counterpoint is really ear training, so that seemed to help as well. Counterpoint ftw!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Invention | Zwei

I think the modulation between keys is not as smooth as it can be, something I need to work on. Else, there are sections in there I'm quite happy with.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Saxophone Log: October 2012

Very rushed, only practiced an hour-ish yesterday, and another hour or so today for practice + recording. This is more or less the sheet music being used with a few bars of improv. Ergh.

Upright Bass: Kontakt Factory Library
Piano: SampleTekk Rain Piano
Addictive Drums

Monday, October 22, 2012

Counterpoint | Minor

Slowly, but surely, I'm starting to hear when things are not "right" between the two lines.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pizzicato - not the same IRL

Attended a live orchestral performance today, and one thing that stood out a lot to me was the pizzacato strings. They sound totally different from the samples I have. Very smooth, not like the very percussive samples I have. I'm probably playing them at high velocities, lower velocities hopefully will yield what I heard this fine evening.

Looks like I will want to allocate some budget over to attending live performances. I'm not only interested in a full symphony orchestras, small performances like string quartets are also very interesting to me.

I've been giving some thought about my music pursuits lately. I really have no idea where I want to take it. I don't believe I have a deep seated passion in it. Yet I pursue am wading yet deeper into it like.... er... a spatula mixing a... a chocolate cake mix. Yeah..... oh wait, I think I prefer pancakes. Damn.

Looking back, this all started with the Winter Jazz course I attended. That really sparked a flame in me, I really wanted to improvise and stuff. During that course, it was evident that every single instructor there could compose and play the piano at a high level. I pretty much went down that route.

But what do I really want? It seems like I have not only gone off course, but went off the motorway, crossed some borders, and jumped onto a highway in another country.

Since beginning harmony and counterpoint, my music tastes appear to have changed as well. I'm beginning to feel unsatisfied with nearly everything I listen to. Especially after I started score study, I am really appreciating what kind of amazing art goes into classical music. And at the same time, alot of the pieces are just too damned long for me to "get" in their entirety.

And then older stuff I used to like, I'm slowly picking out bits that are now feeling very... uncomplicated. No, not sure what kind of word would describe it.  Perhaps repetitive? Ah, don't know.

What I do know, is what I am learning is both fun and challenging. So, I'll keep at it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Counterpoint | Minor

Continued exploration into minor counterpoint, with an emphasis of both parts sounding smooth. Will probably tweak some more before I submit :)

Monday, October 8, 2012

64bit :3

Have shifted to running Logic in 64bit mode for a few weeks now, and I'd like to report that.... nothing has changed.... :P Only one AU plugin is still in 32bit, AAS's Strum Electric Guitar, won't be updated soon, and I don't use it much, and appears to work through the bridge. Finale's playback plugin appears in the 32bit bridge but who uses that in Logic? :P

The last package I had to shift to 64bit was XLN's Addictive Drums. Erm, nothing to say there. They've got a nifty new installer that downloads patches and all from "the cloud". Everything else worked out of the box, and my lastest saxophone track ran AD without any hickups.

Can't see any advantages either, I don't use that much ram. I had 7 instances of VI Pro running, AD as well as one instance of Kontakt (for the triangle) no ram issues. Yet.

The only other virtual instruments I use - that are already 64bit out of the box - are VIs running with the Aria sampler. So, all of my Garritan (sorely underused nowadays now that I have Kontakt) and Plogue VIs ran with nary a hitch.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Counterpoint: Minor

And we begin counterpoint in minor modes. I absolutely can't do this without a guide indicating which mode is which :-/

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Like whoa. What a performance. I really want a castanet patch now (did I mention I'm a sample junkie?).

Plus watching the string performers is giving me some ideas on what kinda string patch to use. Double win!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Counterpoint: Major

Two part counterpoint! It is actually quite fun when you get down to it :3

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Saxophone Log: September 2012

Opps, it's been awhile since I did one of these. I have been keeping up the sax on and off - lately I've been having a bout of illness, of which I had major fits of coughing so I've laid of alot of saxy times, and only tooted the horn on and off.

In any case, I really wanted to do this this month, so whilst I was recovering most of this month, I think this bout of sick is more or less over and I hope to return.

I've been thinking about the recording for a fair bit, and previously I was sort of playing into a corner - the Heil PR31BW has a hypercardioid pattern, so it accepts a slight bit of sound from the corner. Today instead, I had my back to a corner of the room, and the rear of the mic pointed towards the tiny hallway connecting my room to the bathroom. I think the signal is clearer and does not sound as boxy as before.

On the flip side, it appears I just had my first encounter with a resonant room mode. I didn't pick up on this until after I put on my VRM box for the final checks, and hear very clearly, a whistling, like flutes, on two of the loud notes. I had to use some serious high-Q on my notch filters to remove it. But by doing so, it caused the body of the instrument to be removed as well.

Annoying, but what I did was split of the section (it was two quarter notes long) and EQ'ed it separately to the rest.

Erm, apart from that I thought my arrangement could really use more umph, some parts just feel dead. Ah well, always next month :)

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Counterpoint: Major

After a very enlightening lesson this week, I decided to firm up my understanding before moving on to counterpoint in minor. I still need to work on a few short phrases for two part counterpoint, but I have to finish up my backing track for my jazz improv track tomorrow.

In other news, I currently have a major lust for a Bosendorfer 290 sample set. First choice is VSL of course, but it's like EU149 for the Bosendorfer Imperial, and the newer Vienna Imperial costs more than triple that.

My favourite other sample company is SampleTekk and they've got a beautiful PMI Bosendorfer 290 :3 And the price is good. Don't need it now, but if I do, will most likely go for the sampletekk.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Counterpoint: Major

Having no life and feeling somewhat better today, I did 3 exercises, counterpoint in major, followed by two line counterpoint, and finally some 4 part harmony with the lead line from the first counterpoint exercise. Eh,  hope I'm doing the right thing.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sequencing: Flute Quartet in A major

Sequenced a very abridged version of Flute Quartet in A major, K298 by Mozart. I think the mixing isn't too bad, but the flute is quite lifeless when compared against a live flute. Need to work harder!

I think this is mainly because I am following the score too rigidly, and used the performance legato patches all the way as it was mainly slurs and single notes. Listening to a live version on youtube I can probably replace certain portions with portato patches, maybe even trills in places. ALWAYS REMEMBER REFERENCE!

Counterpoint: Major

After clearing up some questions from the last lesson, this is a few short phrases using major harmony.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chaconne - Two in One upon a Ground

Home sick today, some stomach issues. Spent what time I was awake sequencing this. Found the score off imslp.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Trumpet Concerto

A short sequencing test for the solo trumpet part of Hadyn's Trumpet Concerto, 3rd movement. I really should have checked it against youtube vids, I think I overdid the attacks in this test, and whilst it sounded quite appealing, it is far from musical compared to the mellower performances on youtube. Live and learn.

And here is an updated piece featuring less aggressive samples:

Counterpoint: Minor

Exercise 2 on my list is counterpoint with minor keys. The 3 different kind of minors together with the rules of counterpoint are seriously messing with my head.... >.>

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sweetness, combining articulations

Sweetness! Read some tips about improving weak attacks in vsl and figured out how to setup a patch so that only certain notes have a stronger attack, but still keeping the legato performance.

If I were to combine just the legato patch with sfz or staccato, the additional layer will always play with new triggered notes, but, if I used a Y axis keyswitch to switch the patch from legato + additional layer to just legato, it works!!!! Woo! I also tried it along the horizontal axis, evidently it does not work that way. Dun dun dun! I love my vsl :3

Some other patches I've tried combining that worked very well (this is on the Oboe) e.g. sfz + pfp swell, adds a nice bit to the attack, then swells. GAAAAAAH I WANT THE FULL LIBRARY OF ARTICULATIONS! Imagine the combinations and possibilities!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Counterpoint Practice

Oooookay, I officially started doing counterpoint this week. Got a few rules to follow for monotonic melodies.... will have one or two more exercises complete by Monday.


I swear upon the spaghetti strainer in my kitchenette, Bach's chorales are a work of art.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Shout out to VSL sales support

Just wanted to say how awesome it is to receive a reply to one's help request over the weekend. Two thumbs up.

Rocky Road Ahead

Trying out a few things with this piece; 4 parts but more are held, more extended harmony and pedal point on the 3rd verse.

EDIT: Sooo many harmonic mistakes discovered during class, I think I was too confident and didn't check enough. I know better now, as well as being more flexible with altering the melody.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Note to self about improv


Was wondering about Eb being used for solo-ing over a C7 chord, and here the answer is, you can use a pentatonic scale with flat 3rd and 7th.

Scales are often played against chord progressions, and the chords can help decide which scales to play. Beginner students often become confused determining which scale to play with a particular chord because there are so many possibilities when deciding which scale to play with which chord. The following are a few possible scale and chord combinations to try (refer to the chord’s chapter for unfamiliar chords).

The major (ionian) scale works great with the major chord family like Cmaj6, Cmaj7, Cmaj9, and Cmaj13. The fourth step note in a major scale will often sound dissonant when played against a major chord because it will clash with the major chord’s third step note.

The dorian mode is used with the minor chord family and also try dorian modes with dominant seventh, sharp nine chords (C7#9).

The phrygian mode works great in minor keys with a v7-VImaj7 chord progression in it (Em7-Fmaj7). In major keys, that would be a iii7-IVmaj7 chord progression. Try playing this scale against minor chords (Cm), minor sevenths (Cm7), minor seven-flat ninths (Cm7b9), minor eleventh-flat ninths (Cm11b9), and minor eleventh-flat ninth-flat thirteenth (Cm11b9b13) chords.

The lydian mode is used with major family chords such as major chords (Cmaj), major sevenths (Cmaj7), major seventh-sharp eleventh (Cmaj7#11), major ninths (Cmaj9), and major thirteenth-sharp elevenths (Cmaj13#11). With the major seven chords, the first step note will tend to resolve down to the seventh step note.

The mixolydian mode is used with the dominant family chords like dominant seventh (C7), dominant ninth (C9), dominant eleventh (C11), and dominant thirteenth (C13) chords. Try using the suspended second and suspended fourth alterations with this scale as well (C7Sus4, C7Sus2, C9Sus4, and C13Sus4).

The minor (aeolian) scale is used with the minor family chords. This scale works with minors (Cm), minor sevenths (Cm7), minor ninths (Cm9), minor elevenths (Cm11), and minor eleventh-flat thirteenths (Cm11b13). It is also used in minor keys with a minor seven-flat five chord (Cm7b5) in the chord progression.

The locrian mode can also be played with the minor seven-flat five chord. In addition to the diminished chord (Cdim), the locrian mode is used with minor seven-flat five-flat ninth (Cm7b5b9), minor eleventh-flat five-flat ninth (Cm11b5b9), and minor eleventh-flat five-flat ninth-flat thirteenth (Cm11b5b9b13) chords.

Pentatonic scales are very popular and work in many situations. The major pentatonic scale can be played over major chords, and the minor pentatonic scale can be played over minor chords. The minor pentatonic scale is also commonly used with the relative major chords, like the A minor pentatonic scale over the C major chord. Try playing major pentatonic scales built on the major scale’s first, second, and fifth steps over major seventh chords. One example, using the C major scale (C, D, E, F, G, A, B), is playing the C, D, and G major pentatonic scales over a C major seventh chord. For dominant seventh chords, play pentatonic scales based on the major scales first, flat third, and flat seventh steps. Another example is playing C, Eb, and Bb pentatonic scales over a C7 chord. Over altered dominant chords, play a minor pentatonic scale with the root note based on the chord’s flat third, fourth, and flat seventh step note. A third example is playing Eb, F, and Bb minor pentatonic scales over the altered dominant C7#5#9 chord.

The blues scale is often played with the dominant (C7, C7b9, C7#9, C9, C13) and minor (Cm, Cm7, Cm7b5) family chords, and is commonly played throughout the entire blues progression matching the scale’s root note with the song’s key signature. For example, play a C blues scale over a C7-F7-G7 chord progression. Also, practice using relative minor blues scales, such as playing the C# minor blues scale in the key of E. By comparing blues scales with pentatonic scales, their many similarities allow them to be great substitutes. Try substituting the minor blues scale with the minor pentatonic scale.

The harmonic minor scale is played with minor chords that add a sharped seventh step like minor-major seventh (Cm/maj7) chords, minor ninth-major seventh (Cm9/maj7) chords, minor eleventh-major seventh (Cm11/maj7) chords, and minor-major seventh-flat thirteenth (Cm/maj7b13) chords. Also, try the harmonic minor scale with the fourth step dominant seventh-sharp ninth (F7#9) chord, or the fifth step dominant seventh (G7), dominant seventh-flat ninth (G7b9), and dominant seventh-flat thirteenth (G7b13) chords.

The jazz/melodic minor scale, just like the harmonic minor, can also use minor-major seventh (Cm/maj7), minor ninth-major seventh (Cm9/maj7), and minor eleventh-major seventh (Cm11/maj7) chords. The minor thirteenth-major seventh (Cm13/maj7) chord can also be used. For dominant chords, try playing the jazz/melodic minor’s second step as a dominant seventh-suspended fourth (D7Sus4) or a dominant seventh-suspended fourth-flat ninth (D7Sus4b9) chord. On the fourth step note, play a dominant seventh chord (F7) or a dominant seventh-sharp eleventh (F7#11) chord. On the fifth step, play a dominant seventh (G7), dominant seventh-suspended fourth (G7Sus4), or dominant seventh-flat thirteenth (G7b13) chord.

The lydian-augmented scale is used with major chords that have a raised fifth step, like the major seven-sharp five (Cmaj7#5), the major seven-sharp eleven-sharp five (Cmaj7#11#5), and the major thirteen-sharp five (Cmaj13#5) chord.

The Lydian b7 scale is used with major and dominant chords that have flat fifth, flat ninth, and flat thirteenth chord alterations. A few examples are major-flat five (Cmajb5), dominant seventh-flat five (C7b5), dominant seventh-flat five-flat ninth (C7b5b9), and dominant seventh-flat five-flat thirteenth (C7b5b13) chords.

The locrian #2 scale is played with minor seventh-flat five (half-diminished) chords like Cm7b5. It can also be used with minor ninth-flat five (Cmin9b5) and minor eleventh-flat five (Cmin11b5). This scale works better than the locrian scale when the ninth step is unaltered.

The super locrian scale is used with altered fifth and ninth dominant chords. A few examples are dominant seventh-sharp five-sharp nine (C7#5#9) and dominant seventh-sharp five-flat nine (C7#5b9) chords. Because this scale flats every step but the root (1, b2, b3, b4, b5, b6, b7), flatting the root note creates a major scale.

The whole tone scale works with dominant chords that have a raised and lowered fifth step such as C7#5, C7b5, C9, C9#5, C9b5, and C7#5#11.

The whole step-half step and half step-whole step scales are used with the dominant seventh chord and can add flat ninth (b9), sharp ninth (#9), sharp eleventh (#11), or thirteenth (13) chord extensions such as C7, C7b9, C7#9, C7#11, or C13. Diminished seventh chords like Cdim7 can be used as well. Remember, these two scales are the same, just starting on a different note.

The augmented scale can be used with augmented chords (major chords that have a sharped fifth step). This scale can also be used when the augmented chord is extended with a major seventh interval to create the major seventh-sharp five chord like Cmaj7#5.

Continue to practice and experiment with the many vast possible combinations of scales with chords. If a teacher or a friend is not available to practice with, try to record a few chord progressions and then practice solo ideas on top of them. Listen to each scale against the chord progression to find which scale fits best for that song. Also, look at some favorite songs and begin to analyze the scales used in those songs, and how those scales sound against the chord progressions. This process will become easier with time, and also help define a unique composing style that helps separate one musician from another.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Library thoughts: Kontakt Factory vs VSL SE

Let's face it. VSL's instruments aren't cheap. And for us hobbyists, it begs the question, will I actually make full use of the full blown VI?

At the moment, the answer for me is easy: No.

But yet I lust for more VIs (lol gimme more harps).

And looking back over the short piece I finished today - I realized something about the articulations.

A quick browse shows that the Brass and Wind instruments in the Kontakt 5 Factory Library come with:
- 3 types of sustain
- Fp
- Sfz
- Staccato

Comparatively, VSL SE instruments come with
- legato
- sustained
- sfz
- staccato

So, the base SE instruments basically miss out 2 types of sustains and fp.
The SE also has the Plus package which gives us these articulations:

- Portato
- Fp
- Half and whole note trills
- Repetition performance for legato and staccato
- Fast repetiions at 3 speeds (?)


Elfen Lied | Lilium | Music Box | Orchestral Piano Cover

Another little thing I worked on, sort of a compo to get everyone to compose a piano rendition of this particular anime song and see how everyone does it.

This is the first time I actually ran out of cpu power, and forced me to bounce tracks to disk. Mmm... I still had relatively lots of ram available though, 3+gb out of 8gb. Bouncing to disk ain't no big a deal.

Piano: SampleTekk PMI Old Lady
Strings: VSL Chamber Strings
Horns & Percussion: Kontakt 5 Factory Library

I'd like to add that I spent *alot* of time humanizing the strings, like easily 3, maybe 4 hours, only to have them knocked into the background lol.

A fair amount of time was combining the music box version with the harmony of the original lilium piece (thankfully both were in f# minor), most of it appeared to work when hearing it in Finale, but did not work once sequenced, and had to find alternative chords to make it work. I hope it does!

EDIT: There is actually a fair bit of white noise in the intro as I boosted it up with a gain plug - I actually didn't hear any noise on my speakers or akg 240MK2 headphones. A forum member mentioned the noise and I checked again, not hearing anything.... pulling out my new shure iems.... damn, it's there! Guess I'm putting my iems into my mixing chain as well.

EDIT2: AIEEE! I can hear white noise in my recorded CP33 tracks! 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Orchestral Template Musings

One more time! Lol.

My latest sample acquisition is VSL's Chamber Strings I, the full thing, standard and extended. I put out an ad on Vi-Control and as luck would have it, a composer was selling his copy off, so I managed to snag it way below retail. Woo! That's one thing to love about vsl - you can legally purchase used libraries, unlike say East West, where that's not allowed. And I really wish I could get rid of my EWQL Symphonic Orchestra as I just don't use it at all - much prefer the workflow with vsl and kontakt.

Alright, so let's do the rundown again. I need to keep reminding myself that *I have kontakt and the built-in library* - I keep going off about "I have no winds, I have no brass", yadayada, but as one of my friends pointed out, I have kontakt and there's a friggin' orchestra in there, as well as choirs, band instruments, ethnic instruments, sampled synths and more.

VSL Chamber Strings + Solo Strings - DONE. For now.

Winds, Brass, Percussion: Konkakt 5's native library.

Truthfully, down the road I want to go down the vsl route for winds brass and percussion as well, though there are oher considerations e.g. Wallander Instruments for Brass.

Preciously, that was a no brainer as I loved the sound, and being a modelled instrument it is light on the disk, ram and cpu. However, now that I've been using a bit more vsl, I really enjoy the workflow, and apart from loading times, vsl's stuff seems very memory and cpu efficient.

But when it comes to VSL, the issue is PRICE, as well as what to buy. For brass there's 3 options, Dimension Brass, as well as Brass I and II. I don't know my brass needs at the moment, so it is difficult to say I'll need which lib. Now that I think about it, I actually should not be buying libraries because I want to "Fill the gap with VSL" - I do have the Kontakt library and it does have alot of the stuff I can use to experiment with, and if doesn't work I can get vsl.

Well no, actually I know I will get vsl, BUT, using the kontakt libraries first will give me more insight on what my needs are. E.g. I really like the legato performances in the string libs from vsl so far; I'm sure the brass and winds will have that kind of performance as well. AFAIK the kontakt libs don't have legato, at least not on the articulation page, so I hope I'm wrong and it is there just something I need to tweak.

Ok, so that's it for me then, I'll give the kontakt built-in libraries a go, but if I ever come across a good offer for vsl... heheheheh

Subnote: After much fuddling about with the Kontakt library, I can safely say I am not all all a fan of the woodwinds in there (I think they are the horizon series vsl instruments, not the current day instruments? I could be wrong) - no legato is a big killer for winds as I dabble in several types of flutes (I forsee a tenor recorder in the near future) and having an attack at every note for solo flute just blows it. Faking the legato seems to work though. Brass, I don't know, no legato but sounds ok, percussion sounds great! Strings seem to be pretty good even without legato, but this was with just a very simple midi phrase for testing.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Bow techniques for the Violin

Having no idea what "spiccato" is - bouncing the bow off the string sure, but I found this lovely set of vides off youtube that gives examples of what the various bowings are.

Another video covering some other bowings.

Rise up and Roar!

Eheheheh my string library finally arrived and I quickly composed this upbeat piece just to test it out :3

I'm not sure of the mixing, I may have pushed the instruments a bit too far back into the soundstage. Wish I had speakers to really figure stuff like that out but oh well.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Grabbing Rocks

A short piece, putting in what I learnt from analysing the Bach Chorales. The melody line uses small phrases, inspired by my saxophone lesson this fine day.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A new chapter begins

Bought "Orchestration" by Cecil Forsyth on a whim. Well, kind of on a whim - I caught sight of a review that this was not your regular orchestration textbook, but has a bit of English humour in it. And it does! So, I'll learn and have a laugh too, win!

Also, as it was used (my 2nd edition is from 1966?!), cost only a few quid off amazon.

Also finished off my first two studies of Bach chorales. They are a work of art in their own right, seriously.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Another book complete!

Only took me 8 months :P Probably going to run through parts of the book again as I can't actually play all the pieces at full speed.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dearly Beloved

So last night another compo lesson, I think I'm finally getting the idea of how to write good strong chords and not weaken the harmony by having indistinct vertical harmony. One aspect we looked at was Bach Chorales. I've only checked out two of Bach's chorales and they are simply works of art. There are so many techniques to be found there that I really must look deeper.

This exercise above is my attempt to do 4 part harmony with strong vertical harmony. I think I will change my focus from doing the orchestral transcriptions to analyzing these bach chorales.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Neverending Journey

Going back to regular chord progressions, this baby is in the key of Em, and putting in some secondary dominants. This is the "first pass", will look into this guy again and tweaking it before submitting to my teacher.

Memories atop Point 56

Memories atop Point 56 by Gallen Wolf

Sat down and sequenced this piece for string quartet - before I go further I have to say I have no idea what a string quartet is - apart from what I read off Wikipedia :P

For this piece, I used two violins, with a viola and cello. For most of the song, it is 3 part harmony. The 2nd violin was used mainly to add texture by playing different articulations.

This is also my first outing with VSL Solo Strings I, as well as the new sampler player. The new player is really nice, it loads samples faster, provides visual feedback for alot of options like playing range, keyswitches. There is also a zebra2-ish kind of modular section where you can set controllers to modulate a specific control. Oh, there is now an algo style reverb built in as well.

EDIT: After much listening and comparing, I think my strings are much to up-close, a bit more reverb and eq to move them further back would sound preferable, I think.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Melodic Dubstep : Hikaru No Ookami by Gallen Wolf

Totally forgot to post this track! As a monthly challenge, me and another friend are choosing genres we've never worked on and composing for them.

I laid down the challenge of Dubstep, mainly because I really dislike dubstep.

And what better way to learn more about something you don't like than to research about it? Turns out that what I didn't like, is the modern, US Style dubstep, aka "Brostep".

However, the roots of dubstep are pretty awesome, and I actually enjoyed alot of the music I listened too, older stuff is pretty darned amazing (check out this blog post)

After much research, one particular sub genre of dubstep I really liked is Melodic Dubstep. One artist in particular, Blackmill, stood out from the crowd. I felt that apart from maintaining the roots of dubstep, the melody layered gives it alot of character and stands it out.

And here above is my attempt at Melodic Dubstep. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Another compo: Memories at Point 56

Totally random name. Spent a fair bit of time on this piece, tweaking after the fact (something I was told to do) - will probably tweak more tomorrow night before I submit it for my class.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Nothing like a grand

A real grand piano that is. Another piano class today. Just love the feel and response of the real thing *squeee*

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Kontakt 5 in the house

Another sampler to learn, yay >.> But on the bright side, I now have access to alot more libraries. The existing libraries I do actually own also seem to work better on Kontakt. For examples, two of my SampleTekk pianos, PMI Old Lady and Rain Piano. The former, with the EXS24's patch had the occasionally release samples play incorrectly, and rain piano just didn't feel right on when being played.

With Kontakt now, both play great!

The downside I see is CPU cost. Kontakt appears to be *really* Cpu heavy - perhaps I need to tweak some settings. Old Lady was getting crackles when I was putting down my usual test tune, and I'd checked to ensure there were enough voices to support playing with the pedal down. Logic's CPU meter was deep in the read, even with higher buffers.

Also checked out a few of the kontakt factory libs - went straight for the flute, sadly, there does not seem to be an option for legato transitions. The world instrument flutes though, appear to have legato. I wonder if they are sampled legato or similar to what GPO uses for legato transitions. Checking the samples revealed little apart from the world flutes having 4 velocity layers per key.

Guess I'll be on a free Kontakt lib hunt this weekend, lots of free stuff from Embertone, Spitfire Audio etc. to check out.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Orchestral Template Musings (AGAIN?!)

I've got sample libraries on the brain, what can I say. Some people are hooked on crack. Me, sample libraries. I'm like a pokemon trainer, I want to collect 'em all.

Well Berlin Woodwinds have been released recently, and whilst it is one amazing library in terms of sound and features, the price is simply out of the question for my needs.

Let's re-look at the template. As I've got Kontakt 5 on the way, and there is whole orchestral section that could be used instead of all my yammering here. As before, slash-thru text means I own that library.

Strings: LASS, VSL Solo Strings, EWQL Symphonic Orchestra
Winds: VSL or Wallander
Brass:  Wallander
Drums: Drums Of War, Addictive Drums
Choir: SoundIron Mars/Venus Choirs

There are a few other bits and pieces that I should consider, stuff like percussion - celestas, cowbells, marimbas, as well as harps (omg harps, I love harps :3), typewriters and more.

One More Hill: Piano Compo

Another new piece! I'm on a roll today :3

Music Log : June 2012 : Don't Look Back

Finally got around to recording this piece :) Was supposed to be recorded earlier this month on a real steinway grand during a recital, but I had to fall ill >.>

I'm also using some outboard piano samples, specifically, the SampleTekk PMI Old Lady samples. The CP33 only has 3 samples per key, and the Old Lady's got supposedly 10 samples per key. So factor in the sustain samples (another 10) and release samples, waaay more dynamic range!

Next week, my copy of Kontakt 5 should arrive, and I think the Kontakt version should have additional functionality like resonance (saw some convolution impulse responses in the samples)

In other news, I'm still chugging along with lots of things. I'm transcribing a piece of VG music to do a cover - could download the midi straight from the usual midi websites but it's a ear training thing for my saxophone.

Still doing score reductions on Adagio for Strings

I have homework (more piano compositions) to finish up before my next composition class (Tuesday! Aieee!)

And also completing the dubstep comp I'm having with a friend :)

That's apart from the rest of the non-musical stuff I'm doing :P Ah, lack of a life :P

Street Pianos!

Was walking on my way home after purchasing some groceries and hear some plonking noises in Soho Square. And to my glee, there was a Street Piano there! I'd seen these before around St Pauls and the Millenium Bridge but back in the day I had no idea how to play a piano.
Gave this beautiful upright a whirl. Unlike a grand piano, this little beauty had a tone that has a very unique character. I really enjoyed playing on it. My right leg was also shaking like mad, must be performance anxiety XD

Due to the rainy weather we've been having I actually didn't bother seeking out the pianos this year as I thought they'd not put pianos out. The raincover is an excellent way to keep things dry. Well, dry-er anyways.

Hope this piano gets a good lease of life as a street piano. I played one of my compositions on it, I'll record it at home on my DP and put it up soon.

Why not linux?

I think this thread on vicontrol sums it up why musicians that use samples can't and don't use linux for their music. There are not enough tools, and developers mainly develop for osx and windows.

And even for developers that do develop a sample format that can be used on linuxSampler e.g. Ziron's Shreddage - to use this format means you give up some functionality.

From OcRemix:

Differences between SFZ and Kontakt:
If you don't own Shreddage yet and are deciding which version to buy, the comparison is fairly simple. Shreddage SFZ has most content from the Kontakt versions but does not have a scripted UI or true recorded legato (due to limitations of the SFZ format). Also, since there is not wide support for the modwheel in SFZ, we use keyswitches instead, which some may find less convenient. So, if you DO have Kontakt, you may consider that version to be the better option. However, the SFZ version has all other articulations, double-tracking, and the full range of round robins, so if you DON'T have Kontakt you are still getting the vast majority of both libraries! Shreddage Bass is the same deal, though it DOES actually have all content and legato scripting... just not the fancy UI of the Kontakt version.

Choose the best tool for the job at hand, I say.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Re-thinking the newbie orchestral template

even though I have no idea how to score for orchestra lol. And its fun to window shop! Previously.

Here's my updated plan. Strikeouts indicate acquired stuff.

Strings: VSL Solo Strings, Cinematic Strings 2.0, EWQL Symphonic Orchestra
Winds: No idea.
Brass: Short term: WIVI Band, long term: WIVI Brass and WIVI Pro Player.
Percussion: Drums of War, EWQL Symphonic Orchestra
Drums: Addictive Drums


Even though I only have VSL Solo Strings 1 i.e. no extended articulations - it has soo much I doubt I will exhaust them anytime soon. EWQL SO, I quite like the strings, but I do want a library with proper legato, so most likely CS2.0 (LASS Lite, as originally mentioned, is still up for consideration)

Waiting to see how Berlin Woodwinds shapes up. CinematicWinds is a no-no for me at the moment as I do not have Kontak. VSL? Expensive. Don't like the WIVI winds in the demo, may change my mind when I get wivi band properly. Don't really like the winds in ewqlso, sadly.

WIVI, easily. I like it :)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I like this kind of license agreements.

Although I can't really agree with number 5, for the sake of the plugin, I'm willing to temporarily change my tastes :)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I suck at dubstep

Taking a break from working on electronic music to apply some of the things I've noticed when doing the score reduction of Adagio For Strings.

So, what I've tried is this:

Melody Line is the first violins, with the viola section doubling it one octave below.

Violins 2 plays harmony, together with the Cellos, using simple triads.

Double basses simply double the cellos an octave below.

Flutes double the melody line for the first part, then split off to do a counter melody in the section section.

Oboes, are at a 3rd below the melody line, but adjusted to keep the triadic harmony "correct".

Eh, I think I'll get some food, paint a bit then back to some EDM.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Of monitors and piano lessons

Another piano lesson today, and I must say, playing on a grand is just soooooo amazing. From what I felt today, I'm pretty damned sure that the key travel on my teacher's C3 has a few mm more than my CP33. I am very likely to be wrong, but it sure felt that way.

And oh the string resonance, omg the string resonance!!!! I need an excuse to get something like TruePianos that has string resonance.

Class wise I've started on the jazz book 2... and it's tough. The need to play swing plus off beat stuff is playing havok with my head. On the sax is one thing, playing two handed melody and harmony just screws with my brain.

Also, monitors! I finally got a chance to listen to Adam A5X monitors, and oh my god I love them! Previously I tried a few at Chappels, the HS50m, HS80 and MSP5. Visited west end dj and heard the A5x.

The Adam A5x seem like a good match to my ears - detailed, but not fatiguing like the HS50s. And they don't seem as warm/smooth as the MSP5. In short, I like them.

A smaller version, the A3x, is actually the model I am looking at. Very compact, full range speakers that go down to 60Hz. Any lower, and I'd want a sub. While I was very gungho about wanting to get a good pair of monitors earlier this month, I think I've calmed down a bit and had a good think. I may still get a pair, budget pending, but I'm not sure if I will actually use them that much out of mixing.... well I'll decide later, it's not something that's holding me back... yet.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

More homework: Score reduction

Time to start on reading scores and score reductions. This is actually based around my lunch time art sketching schedule. I usually do two days of sketching followed by one day of digital painting. As I don't do digital painting at lunch, I'm putting the free time towards doing score reductions instead.

For now, I'm working on a really short piece (only 6 pages!) of Samuel Gerber's Adagio For Strings. It only has string parts so its much less work. Once I finish this, the next one will be a reduction of a full orchestra. Mmmmm.