Bed, Theme, Break and Close

I think it was back in September when Karl Madden (@claw0101) told me he wanted to do some kind of Christmas special for the Here and There show.  He didn't know what he wanted to do, maybe something scripted, something 'panelled', no idea.  But he was certain that a Christmas version of the theme would be needed, just some jingle bells in the background or something.  But that was 3 months ago…

I had been fiddling with the current version of the theme on and off for about 2 months when I finally decided to start from scratch, only the organ and string tracks from the original would be kept.  So, with about 2 weeks to go till release I started work on the new version of the theme.  And then I had to get my voiceover done, I had been selected as the narrator!

After reading the script for the show, I decided that my intro voiceover should have a musical bed, some wind and snowy sounds, some strings playing an E major chord, a glockenspiel, the usual christmas stuff.  That all came together nicely, next up, the new theme.

As I said earlier I kept the string and organ parts from the original version of the theme and rerecorded everything else.  I even selected a different EZDrummer library for the drums, something a little less bombastic and slightly warmer, the Americana kit.  Then there was the question of the lead out from the theme, I didn't want to just go for the pedalled chord and fade, I thought it'd be nice to continue the strings into the first scene.  When the theme finishes the tempo drifts down and I had a clarinet and an oboe playing the little xmas hook that I'd come up with, over the top of the strings still pumping away.

I also provided Karl with a little string/glockenspiel break that I came up with on the fly.  It follows the same style as the xmas hook.

The plan at first was to end with the short intro theme but I wanted to send the show out with a longer version.  Karl had also suggested that I do a credit read at the end.  I wrote a middle section for the theme which could be talked over and then extended the last few bars to the end.

Karl spent ages putting the show together, assembling spoken parts recorded by people all over the country and then editing it all together into a coherent and well timed piece is not an easy task.  The end result is a wonderful piece of podcast comedy.  Personally, I can't wait to do it all again next year!

Go and listen to/download the Here And There 2012 Christmas Special here!

Download the Here And There Xmas Suite here!

SFDrummer? Whats that?

​​I played drums for a band called Acquiesce in the late nineties (98-99).  They split up and the guitarist and I decided to form a new band.  After the usual, seemingly endless search for a band name that every musician will go through at one time in their career we settled on Super Frets.  Sometime later I needed to sign up for an internet related account, I wish I could remember what is was!  I used sfdrummer as the username and its stuck over the years.

This page exists mostly because I got a Squarespace 6 invite and I wanted to kick the tyres.  Soon it'll replace whats currently at dropkickbroadway.squarespace.com and I'll put everything thats there over here and get the Dropkick Broadway​ site turned into something that'll actually be used for that band.

Well, thats it for now, I have tyres to kick...​

I present "aaa-songIdea-Bounce2.mp3"

Yes, I know it’s not much of a song title but it does describe it well.

  • It’s for the All About Android podcast with Eileen Rivera, Jason Howell and Ron Richards on the TWiT Netcast Network which you must check out at twit.tv/aaa.
  • It was an idea I had for the show theme music
  • It was the second bounce I did, the first one was a test and was two semitones higher.  This was a very rough mix but they used it anyway...
  • It was encoded as an mp3

This all came about because the AAA team were looking for show themes, I happened to see one of their live ‘beta’ shows and decided to give it a go. Guitar in hand, Cubase starting up and an idea in my head I proceeded to record the guitar part which ended up being mixed out. That guitar part however, laid the ground work for the intro that is in the version you can download here but they never use on the show. It was also two semitones lower, and eventually had to be re-recorded.

I fleshed out the basic arrangement, then had to decide whether to record some real drums or use EZDrummer. I used EZDrummer, but played the patterns in on the keyboard. After the drums, the customary double tracked stereo guitar chords were put down, Native Instruments Kontakt and FM8 VIs were employed to produce the relevant plinky plonk sounds and then I had to do a guitar solo, obviously.

It’s odd really, the looped tapping that fades in at the beginning of the track and reappears at the end is actually the original solo, recorded in the original key and pitch shifted up. The dreamy solo at the end was done in a single pass and was going to be chucked out. If you notice at the end, the solo track goes a bit random as I do a silly gliss up the fretboard indicating that I think thats going to have to be done again. I cut around some of the ‘mess’ and potted up the delay at the end to give it a nice floaty finish.

The song was played during the last beta of the show and Jason and Eileen chose to use the last half of the track as the show outro. Needless to say I was over the moon that even a snippet of something I’d written was being used on a TWiT podcast.

I’ve received a couple of emails asking where people could get the track so I offer it here as a free Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike download.

Enjoy!

aaa-songIdea-Bounce2.mp3



Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Now then...

Right, I have a message for anyone recording a load of songs.  If you are recording lots of stuff, choose your DAW before you actually get going, it'll save you some aggravation.

When we started this album last year in August I had decided to do it in Logic.  This wasn't because I'd fallen out with Cubase or Pro Tools but because it worked best on my Mac.  This is now not the case and I'm going through the long and laborious task of transfering the arrangements for the couple of songs we did in Logic to Cubase.  The easiest way to do this was to use Logic's woefull editing tools to get everything sounding right for each track and export the stems unprocesed.

This is something which I will always regret but it has led to doing some re-records of tracks that were kinda done.  I suppose its a good thing really, and it'l teach me never to switch DAWs again!!

Onwards...

Cubase 6

Its funny you know. A couple of days ago I was having a rummage through my old archives from the Super Frets days and my first aborted attempt to do a load of songs on my own, they were all recorded in Magix Music Studio. You had to start the project knowing you were going to need either 8 or 16 tracks (you had to reimport into a larger project if you needed to change), the only built in effect on every track was delay and the EQ was a very harsh, very simple 3 band Hi, Med and Low affair. Listening to this stuff reminds me of how much the home recording scene has changed over the years.

After completing 1 EP and 1 album for the Super Frets on Magix Music Studio, I started looking around for a slightly more upmarket solution. My english teacher at the time (Phil Kirby) provided me with a demo copy of Cubase AV which I installed and immediately fell out with. I carried on using Music Studio to flesh out some ideas that I'd had while doing my GCSEs but the school work had to take a front seat back then so I took a break from music making.

After my GCSEs, on my 16th birthday (I think, I've been juggling dates for ages now) I received a brand new Creative Labs Sound Blaster Live! Platinum soundcard. This new soundcard came with a copy of Steinberg's Cubasis VST DAW. I installed it soon after getting the card and was making music "more properly" than I ever had with Magix Music Maker. Cubasis had good EQ on each channel, effect sends for the small amount of free plugins supplied, channel inserts and a full dynamics section for each track. That was the first time I'd used compression for drums, guitars and vocals, added reverb and other effects to a track "non-destructively" using sends and used channel automation. I also used the SoundFont capabilities in the Live! Platinum to create decent drum tracks and bass parts using the wide range of freebies available on the internet at that time. The concept of mixing MIDI and audio together in the same timeline always seemed alien to me at first, but I got used to it and started writing more and more.

Now its nearly 11 years later (you can do the math on my age) and I'm still using Steinberg products, namely Cubase 4. I never upgraded to Cubase 5 because I didn't think there were enough improvements to make me upgrade, Cubase 6 however has opened my wallet. A quick trip to dv247.com and a couple of days later I had a fresh version of my favourite DAW.

There are some things I like about this thing straight away:

  • Its all been re-built in Cocoa
  • Its 64bit compatible
  • It looks nicer!!

I know that last one probably isn't the most important thing but I've always felt better using a DAW that looks nice, thats why I didn't use Pro-Tools for years.

I've already written and recorded the first song with it (Calling all my Heroes), which took an afternoon into the evening and it didn't even wobble.

Steinberg software has always been solid in my experience and C6 is no exception. I've done sessions on Logic in the past and it's always seemed on the verge of collapse when the plugins are piled on and the track count is rising.  Also, when you're working with kids, easy edits are essential, this is not so with Logic.  The few Pro Tools sessions I've done went without a hitch but seeing as I find it rather complicated and didn't mess around much that's probably not a surprise.

So I'll be running Cubase 6 on my PC and my Mac (Steinberg put out both versions in one copy) for the foreseable future, which will be nice...

Its all Jem Godfrey's fault

Watch this video

Excellent!  That video is the reason I have just parted with about £30 for the Korg Wavestation advanced vector synthesis plugin.

I've already written something with it that'll be posted here as the first rough clip from the album.

G'night...

All About Android Show theme submission

I couldn't be bothered to find the android logo so I'll have to stick with the macro shot of one of my old Lego constructions to illustrate the point.

While watching my favourite internet netcast station (Leo Laporte's TWiT network) the other day I stumbled upon a Beta/Brainstorm show for All About Android, a podcast about Android (obviously).  The hosts Eileen Rivera and Jason Howell played back some great submissions for theme tunes for the show that had been sent in by a couple of viewers.  They then mentioned they were still on the lookout for themes.

Guitar in hand and noodling away I finaly produced a little ditty and promptly sent it off to them.  If they like it they can use it for free, if they don't I'll use it for something else.

Jason emailed me back this morning (my time) saying they would play it on the next brainstorming session.  If something I've written gets played on the TWiT network I shall be over the moon!

Happy March!

MIDI

I've owned two midi cables for about 13 years, I'll start with that.

I finally found both of these cables after a year long on and off search of the following places:

  • My studio
  • My cables box
  • My loft
  • My laptop bag
  • The school I teach at occasionally
  • A friends studio
  • My cables box (had a good rumage this time)
  • My other laptop bag
  • My camera bag
  • My mobile studio bag
  • My loft again (after a clear out)
  • My garage
  • My car
  • The draws in my bed

I finaly found these cables in my cables box, the CABLES BOX.  Granted I acutally emptied it out this time, I must have mistaken it for one of the cheap molded XLR cables I have in there.

I had to find these cables because a friend of mine gave me his old M-Audio Oxygen keyboard with the USB broken.  I was using this keyboard when I took the picture for my "75 is a big red number" post, after taking it apart and fixing the USB.  The newely fixed USB interface on the keyboard broke itself again after 2 weeks and I decided to try the midi out port.

I had been looking for these cables for a few reasons

  • I wanted to 'sync' my GT-6 to my VG-8 while setting up my live guitar rig
  • I needed to record some piano stuff and didn't want to rely on the samples in a Roland piano in a recent recording session
  • I hate loosing stuff
  • I thought I was going mad!!

Well, I'm not mad and I have the MIDI cables!

Work continues... When the day job allows :)

75... Is a big red number

No, I don't know why I used that picture. The only reason I can think of is that it adds some colour to this blog, which is looking decidedly grey at the moment.

So, its January! I'm feeling good about things at the moment, on the musical side. Lots of little happy accidents occuring and songs begining to take shape. This collection of songs definately has a feel to it, a good feel. Athmosphere, thats what it is!

All the albums that Adam and I have been involved in, from the Super Frets to Sleepwalker, seem to have been shouting "hey, look at us, look what we can do". This album just seems to be saying "have a listen to this a minute". I think its because we are both older and wiser and just want to write music that sounds good to us, not music that is designed to appeal, like so much popular music does these days.

I've also broken out the lyric pen and paper and started sketching ideas, nothing solid yet but like I said, they're ideas.

Until next time...