Thursday, December 26, 2013

The First Noel

This arrangement took far longer than I wanted. I actually started started and finished writing the arrangement in Finale on Christmas eve. On the 25th, I took a hour or so to record the parts.

The tin whistle recording went generally quite smoothly. The D whistle a more difficult whistle to play compared to the larger whistles; I find it more difficult to maintain a proper stream of air without it doing doing unwanted broken chirps. On the flip side, playing the high notes on the D takes far less air and is so much easier.

My saxophone embouchure has weakened horribly. No surprise, it's been a half year since I touched my alto properly. While I can still hit the overtones and _somewhat_ play in tune, my embouchure got very tired very rapidly. I think I only recorded the sax parts 3 times, and that's with maybe 2-3 practice runs prior. I stopped as I knew I would not be able to maintain it. Which is sad, as I know the sax part is not as good as it could be.

The supporting harmony is also questionable. It kind of works, but I was experimenting with using minors instead of majors, and I think I got lost part of the way, trying to be too smart with the harmony. I think this is mainly being split between the strict classical harmony and ignoring the counterpoint rules all-together. I must make a decision :P Some modern scores I read have open harmony, no thirds, so I need to get my act together.

Not much to say about the virtual instruments, I used vsl flute, piccolo, chamber strings, lithophone and triangle. The sleigh bells was from Nine Volt Audio.

Mix wise, I think the start of the piece felt really empty. I did want to go for a feel of it slowly cresending into the full string orchestra, and on a part I think I succeeded, but it could be done better for sure. Perhaps the strings should come in from the very first bar, but at a super super low level.

Well, on to the next piece!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The South Wind

Woo! Wrote this arrangement a few weeks back. I actually recorded it several weeks ago, but I recorded the whistle first, in the hopes of playing the piano part to the whistle, but it was nigh impossible. Today, I played the piano part, then played the whistle on top. Seemed to work fine.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sonata for Harpsichord, Flute and Oboe

Short piece I wrote last weekend, and sequenced with DP8. After lots of consideration, it's likely I will just move to Logic Pro X, mainly for cost reasons. From the viewpoint of a hobbyist, the crossgrade price for DP8 is (at the time of this writing) $395, versus 199 for Logic Pro X.

DP8's features, which are just simply awesome like the score and midi editing tools. The reshape tool is a thing of beauty. The sad fact of the matter is also this: I'm not a professional. The various tools are really well designed for the professional composer, and it's really overkill for me.

In addition, LPX _should_ be much easier to manage and use, and I do really miss some Logic plugins :)

Maybe if things change one day I'll definitely revisit DP8.

As a side note, I had mucho help from Patrick Woo for his critique of my mix. I'll be sure to include your comments into more mixes in the future!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

More DP thoughts

Testing out the DP demo tonight, created a 4 track midi piece. I really miss the effects plugins in Logic, or rather, I miss knowing how to use the many midi plugins in Logic. For example, for the final mixdown I had _no_ idea how to check in mono >.>

Also, with Logic all the music is usually routed to the master bus for output, in DP I haven't properly been properly acquainted with the workflow and it seems like every Vi simply outputs to the soundcard. I wanted to route all the tracks together for final comp and limiting, and tried the Master Fader track but I couldn't seem to find how to route the other tracks to it, so instead I created an aux track and routed everything there.

Argh.... really conflicted. On one hand you got Logic which I already know pretty well AND is cheaper, but there is DP which has lovely midi tools and I think the routing is easier, if I can figure out how it works properly.

The plus side out of this exercise is that as I don't actually use any of Logic's instruments, but mostly 3rd party plugins, moving to a new DAW (or OS, for that matter) should be straightforward, as all the tools I bought exist for both OSX and Windows.

Oh well. Going to sequence another piece in DP, and see how that goes!

Monday, November 25, 2013

DP8 Day 2

I think the interface and amount of "hidden" controls is supremely intimidating. I'm also missing the concept of regions in Logic; I have this feeling of unease that my midi data is not contained in a container, and it could disperse into the wind at a wrong keystroke.

Also, I've run into stuff like trying to move audio "soundbites" to the cursor's position, it's a right click affair in Logic, but I can't seem to find the answer for that in the manual, so I've posted in forums for help.

The thing that really blew my head was the midi editing tools. Damn, they are good! I can for example resculpt velocity data on a per note basis, or I can draw a curve, and depending on the setting, the velocity data will snap to the curve, be scaled by it, be added to it etc.

Similarly for other kinds of midi CCs (or even tempo!!!), I just drew in the curve.

I still need to figure out automation for plugins.

Overall though, I can see lots of promise and would really like to make this my primary daw.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thinking of moving to Digital Performer 8

Moved to OSX 10.8 a while back, and my Logic has been plagued with the dreaded GUI lags - it takes forever to stop a playback, even just a simple midi track!!! GRRRR. I am thinking that it may be the time to move on from Logic to a different DAW.

Protools is out, Cubase is very enticing, but expensive. More choices on Windows, but I don't run windows >.> That leaves upgrading to Logic X or getting Digital Performer 8. (There's Reason, but I want native au support, and ableton which just doesn't appeal to me)

DP is interesting as my teacher and other friends use it. From what I experienced watching them mix my stuff, it seems way more complicated but they have been doing music for decades. Me? Not even 3 years.

DP's full price is a definite no, but there is a crossgrade offer, of which Logic qualifies. That brings the price down to the "ouch, I can afford this but I'll be eating toast for lunch", with Logic X much cheaper, only slightly more than half of DP8's crossgrade.

One thing that I found nice about motu is that when I sent an email asking about the crossgrade, I got a reply the very next morning. That's something I really appreciate.

I've got the demo running at the moment, I must say it is quite overwhelming. So far, I've figured out how to record audio, some _really_ basic audio routing, and it's got a convention, unlike logic, where midi tracks are separate from the instrument (VI) tracks. You'll need to... route? The midi output over to the instrument track. Needs a bit of getting used to.

That said, it makes using a Kontakt multi instrument a breeze, unlike Logic's workflow. All I need to do in DP on each midi track is to target the correct instrument track with kontakt loaded, and select the correct midi channel.

Routing the audio for say, NY compression is still a mystery I hope to solve shortly. Will I get DP8? Who knows. It's very likely, but I want to check it out more before putting down the cash.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sonata for Harpsichord and Flute

Haven't been sequencing stuff as I've been working on short exercises. Here's a culmination of my efforts :3

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Short Diversion: Presto

Very pleased with the outcome of this section, learned lots. I am moving on to study a quartet piece by Hadyn next.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Short Diversion: Andante

Continued studies on Mozart's Divertimento in F, K138, Andante Section.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Short Diversion: Allegro

Updated this piece to include stronger harmony - there were many open fifths or just all 4 players playing the same note.

Also rewrote the last 8 bars of the piece. The original was an attempt to utilize secondary dominants, but I find it very difficult to work in a rigid pre-laid out harmony. Instead, with the update I write something more melodic and allowed the harmony to follow through.

The mix has also been altered to reflect a smaller hall, using the Schubertsaal impulses in Vienna Suite.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Short Diversion

A short piece, which took almost 2 weeks to complete, spending over an hour a day.

This is thanks to the book I'm currently reading, "Music in the Eighteenth Century" by John Rice. Inside was some discussion about the learned style vs galant style, so I've decided to explore it.

The piece is a study of Mozart's Divertimento In F, K138. I've borrowed lots of elements from the Allegro section.

VSL Solo Strings, VI Pro and Vienna Suite seem to be really good!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Villian on my desk. Waldorf Blofeld.

Recently I was introduced to electronic ambient, specifically, Carbon Based Lifeforms and have been so inspired by them.... and using that as an excuse, I got a hardware synth :D Honestly, I'm not exactly sure why I did this, though part of it was being excited at being excited at music, as well as wanting to understand what the hype was about hardware synths.

The Waldorf Blofeld is a hardware synth, but from what I understand, it's a DSP synth, which probably uses some kind of dsp chip, and not like the analog synths of old which use good old resistors and capacitors, et al.

I had looked up some hardware synths, but the Blofeld seems to fit well to me:
a) Price is just right, and I got an open box synth with an extra discount!
b) Poly, not mono synth
c) Size is perfect for my desktop.

I'd actually tried the Blofeld Keyboard for a good long time at Moog Audio, and really enjoyed it there. The keys on the keyboard version felt really good, way better than the Keyrig 49 I'm using but we're comparing apples to durians here.

Sound wise - please note that my ears are horrible - I really can't tell the difference between the Blofeld and the softsynths I've used. I'd like to say the Blofeld is warmer, more alive, all that jazz, but no, it sounds like a synth, definitely not like one of those old analog synths or even the u-he Diva softsynth. THAT I can hear the difference! Perhaps the Blofeld can, with custom patches but those I've demo'd so far, I don't think I can tell the diff between the Blofeld or say, Zebra 2 or the ES2!

Hooking up the synth was very straightforward on OSX. It has a power input, and I opted to use USB as I was given a USB cable, and the two unbalanced outputs go to my Focusrite 2i4's recording jacks. The 2i4's inputs needed to be switched over to inst mode for it to be picked up. Some forum members mention how soft the patches are, but I found that some patches are really loud, redlining the preamps, whilst some patches could do with some volume boosting, either on the synth's volume control, or the pres.

I decided to just leave the synth's volume at about 60 and got the pre-amps at a good level, so I had leeways to go louder or softer all on the synth and not touch the audio interface.

With Logic, there were several ways of getting live audio - using a software instrument track with the External Instrument instrument, or using a external midi track, and having a second audio track with software monitoring, OR bringing up the environment panel and adding another mixer channel.

Testing the multi-timbral mode of the blofeld on a short track went swimmingly well, though individual tracks may need to be bounced for mixing.

Fiddling around with the blofeld, I found the interface very well structured. Personally, I wish the endless rotary encoders could be replaced with discreet click-stops. I found that I sometimes would overshoot what I wanted to change. Of course, I would then complain about the clicks being too loud. What can I say.

The interface to the synth itself is pretty well thought out, and surprisingly easily to make adjustments with.

One nice touch I thought was that the power adapter is universal, and came with the different prongs to work globally.

Gotta figure out how it all works and make some music!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Valse des Renards

A short waltz for string quartet. VSL Solo Strings here, with Vienna Suite and TB Barricade+Reelbus.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Strangers In The Night

Like yay! Took forever to get this out, as I shipped my sample drive on the ship to Montreal. Also my first mix with the MSP5s, I think they worked well to tell me what the bass is like. Will need loads of mixes to learn this monitors though, I think I felt more comfortable with headphones as that's what I've used for years.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My headphone mixes on the studio monitors

I went through some of my soundcloud mixes and after hearing them on the MSP5s, I think on the whole, I liked them, though all of the mixes with a bass instrument in them had the bass frequencies overemphasized.

Comparing what I've mixed with what I used for testing - Miles Davis's "So what" from his album, Kind of Blue - the upright bass in So What's mix was clearly audible on the MSP5s, but much more subtle.

Similarly, I pulled up Zanarkand from the Distant Worlds II CD, and the double bass in there is also audible, but sublime. Whereas my mixes they stood out very clearly, top and center.

So, I guess the VRM Box and AKG240MKIIs did a pretty good job considering.

Another aspect I felt is that my limiting and compression may be overly aggressive for some tracks, as they are a quite a bit loud compared to the commercial albums.

Gotta get my sample drive up!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Studio Monitor Hunt

Auditioned several studio monitors today, at Moog Audio and Archambault. These included the Adam A3x, A5X, F5, Yamaha HS7 and MSP5 Studio, JBL LSR2325P, Focal CMS 40, Neumann KH120 and Eve SC204.

I thought I liked the Adam monitors the best; I felt that the A3x and F5 were too similar to me, and I would have bought the F5 if they were in stock >.>

The bass of the A3x sounded pretty damned good for their size, and I think the F5 has some room controls at the rear, so that sounds like a win for me, especially for the price/performance ratio.

The HS7s were pumping out good strong bass, but the MSP 5s sounded clearer. A5x kicked the arse of every monitor I tried, but it too was out of stock, and frankly, I think I am very glad it was out of stock as these are my first pair of studio monitors and purchasing an set of expensive nearfields may not be the best way to start.

Focal CMS 40 I really wanted to like. There is a massive thread on gearslutz about how awesome they are, and I'd budgeted for them. Sadly, when I heard them, they sounded really odd to my ears. Guess that's how it works with personal choice, you really need to try it to understand it and not rely on the comments online.

JBL LSR2325P I only heard for a short while, seemed to produce a much stronger bass response compared to the MSP5s. The mids sounded less refined than the MSP5s.

Eve CS204 I also tried for a short time, and they sounded pretty cool. The KH120s were also auditioned for a short time - too much out of my budget to really care - but it did sound really balanced and strong.

In the end I decided to go for the MSP5s as they seemed like the best bang for the buck. Well, the Adam F5s would have been an even better bang for the buck, but as I was told stock will only arrive in August.... uh no.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Moar piano

Visited a rather big music store, Italmelodie near the Jean Talon market today. Man, that place is massive! Not only do they have digital pianos, but also acoustic uprights and grands, there were synths, and I saw Nords for the first time in the flesh. And that was only a part of the store; another massive section was dedicated to guitars, another section on monitors.... I didn't go through the whole area but man that's ALOT of gear! Just the DP section alone is pretty amazing. The sales staff was very friendly, and I tried my paws on a few DPs, like the Kawai CL26, Yamaha P155 and Casio PX350

The CL26 played really nice, and the small size is really good for the new place I've rented. I think for the price, it is a very good deal.

The Yamaha well, it's a Yamaha. It's great really, I have no complains. I might have actually preferred the grand sounds on the P155, perhaps because it reminds me of the CP33.

The Casio was quite surprising, I may have played this model before but I remember not being too impressed with the Casios in the past. This one sounded pretty good (prefer the yamaha for sure, but this is totally an individual taste thing), though the keys felt quite different. Not like the other two pianos for sure. This was also one of the cheaper DPs with weighted keys.

So... not sure. Will have to sleep on it before making such a big purchase.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Re-building the hobby / Focusrite 2i4

I'm just moving into a new place, and am slowly starting to get a few tools for music. Firstly, I got a new audio interface, the Focusrite 2i4, to replace my beloved Mackie Blackjack. This wasn't on purpose, but I was visiting Archambault to take a look at audio interfaces, and the sales guy told me about the weekend scratch card offer, that would give 10% (or more!) off over the pre-father day weekend. So yeah, took that offer up!

In any case, the 2i4 is really well built, solid metal, just like the Blackjack. Two inputs, with individual gain controls and pads for each. Phantom power can be supplied to both inputs via a single switch. There are other controls for mixing between the output from your daw and the inputs, so-called direct monitoring.

A large knob is the master gain controller for the monitor outs, and the headphone jack seems to be really strong, my grados were loud enough a very small twist from zero. Won't have any problems driving the higher impedance 'phones I'm sure!

One thing I've noted - which may be a manufacturing defect on mine - is that at really low volume settings on the headphone gain control causes the right output to be softer than the left, which makes everything sound to be coming from the left lol. Using a high output level fixes that, and I have to turn VLC's gain down.

There's midi in/out on the back, and two sets of outputs. Outputs 1/2 either use the balanced 1/4 jacks or phono, and outputs 3/4 are exclusively sent out via the phono jacks.

It is much bigger than I'd like, but still fairly compact. Archambault also had the MOTU Microbook II on sale, and I was sorely tempted to get it, but I decided that the lack of midi in/out was the deal breaker. Plus, it was a fair bit more expensive so...

Also tried a few DPs when I was there. The Yamaha P105 was ok, pretty good for the price, but I was not a fan of the sound. Felt very bassy and the highs didn't seem to be there. Next, I tried the Roland FP7F :3

Oh my wolf. I love it. But the price tag is already a big no-no. There were a few other rolands like the FP4F around, but it wasn't powered up. It's not in my price range anyways.

Other usual suspects from Korg were around, as well as a beautiful RD300NX. All out of my budget though. The current piano I do want to try that is just in my budget is the Kawai CL26. I've played this in Rose Morris whilst I was in London, and I remember thinking that if I had the space, this would be the perfect piano - good price, small size and I remember the sound and touch were nice.

Apart from the piano, it's studio monitors, that's about it. I will most likely use my lapel mic for recording as it seems to do the trick. Hopefully in another few weeks things will settle down :)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Melody/Sequencing Pratice

My teacher thought I should move on to a new subject, but not in the middle of a move, so for my last lesson before I move to Montreal, I'm just working on some melody and sequencing practice.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Fugue No. 6

6th Fugue practice, this one has a much shorter subject, and the answer is now properly in the dominant key. Some parts are a very difficult stretch and probably not playable on keyboard... also I think the ending of the fugue should be in the tonic key but I candenced in the dominant.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Fugue No. 5 rendered

Trying out some experiments with splitting the treble clef and bass clef into two separate midi files, and using the stereo panner to place the treble more to the right and the bass more to the left. The result is then piped to the reverb. Hope it works!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Fugue No. 5

Oooook getting long. But yet it doesn't take that long to write nowadays...

Friday, March 29, 2013

Fugue No. 4

Midi from Finale opened in Logic. The VI in question is Pianoteq, with some compression and a limiter.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fugue No. 2

This time, the counter-subject is properly harmonized with the subject - unlike last week's which had octaves :D

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Stretto No. 3 and 4

Pretty please with No. 4, all lines are smooth and melodic, and stretto comes in the bar before the melody cadences at a perfect fifth up.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Stretto No. 1 & 2

Beginning the study of Fugue with stretto. No. 1 appears to be very, very wrong.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

To Zanarkand | 2013

Due to life changes, I'm getting rid of lots of stuff I can't move, and my piano is one of those that won't make the cut (My sax makes the cut :P)

This is also played back with Pianoteq Stage. Given the amazing co-incidence of namm special offers and pay day, I thought it was time to get it.

The particular setting I'm using is the D4 Intimate setting, which, to my ears allows the lower register to not be so upfront. The velocity curve is also a custom curve downloaded from the Pianoteq site - fits very well with the CP33.

Mixing it was quite difficult though, as there were very big differences in dynamic range from the softly played parts and the f-ff parts. Didn't want to go the compressor route, so decided to just give a gain of +8 for the whole piece, and rode the faders for those parts that peaked 0dbfs. Reverb is just VSL Convo.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

AvantGrand :3

I popped over to Chappels of Bond Street during lunch today to hopefully try the new NU1, but didn't see it, so tried out the AvantGrand instead.

Compared to my teacher's C3, I felt the keys were lighter. Not necessarily bad, just different. It felt amazing under my paws though, definitely a big step forward from my CP33, and I felt I could pull more dynamic range out of it.

The speakers on it didn't seem to generate the kind of bass I'd expect from a grand - my teacher's C3 sounds way bigger, but it is impossible to compare since they are in totally different acoustic environments.

I was testing the AvantGrand with To Zanarkand, the only piano piece I've committed to memory. As luck would have it, there was a fellow final fantasy fan in shop (from Norway!) - and I was wearing my distant worlds shirt as well :D

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

3 Part Invention | Minor No. 2

Woo, my teacher is pretty impressed with this piece, and he wants to put up the score on his website. Wooooooot!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Monday, January 21, 2013

3 Part Inventions | Minor No. 1

Eeee just started on inventions in minor, spent loads of time smoothing out the lines and checking, hope it goes well :)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

3 Part Inventions | Major No. 5

The motif sounds very familiar, I hope I'm not ripping someone's melody off. But in any case, there's zero chance we're writing the rest of the invention the same way :D

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

3 Part Inventions | Major No. 3

Got rid of as many unwanted 6/4 chords as possible; made the playing range actually playable on the piano with only two hands. Woo!

Star of the County Down | Tin Whistle

I found this lovely tune that seems to be very well played on the tin whistle, this is my arrangement.