Learning the MPC has really changed the way I look at Ableton and everything else in my recording and producing workflow.
Cross trains is good work. I know this, but sometimes reminding helps.
I used this nü MPC sensibility this am when I sat dow to make my #botd (make one thing every morning–at least 5 a week.) It’s sped up my Ableton work flow, really helped with phrasing, and helped me make decisions and commit in regards to song segments.
Also, Scaler 2.5 is very helpful melodically as well as speed-wise. Having some assitance once I have the chord structure is huge. I can only imagine the workflow improvements once I build up a bit of speed; tracks in hours not days.
Is it cheating? The best answer I’ve heard besides the very accurate “no” is: ‘Who are you cheating?’
Today’s patch was originally intended to be a spatial, washy sound-bed for a forthcoming track “Ghidd Whaah.” Mixing the original wrapped this week, and yesterday a rearranged the track for a micro live set. The plan was to enter it in a new #jamuary2022 contest.
(Jamuary is a sharing event at the start of each year meant to get folks writing. In maybe it’s 4th or 5th interaction, it really seems to be growing.)
Coincidentally, the theme this week was “uplifting,” and “Gheed Whaah” is just that, composed of gibberish robot lyrics set to nice chords.
[This how-i-did it is a much as a kind-of diary as a look into the ‘how’ on this particular patch.]
I started in B @ 85bpm with a randomized Xynthesizr patch. Xynthesizr is a iPhone app that allows for all sorts of tinkly synth sequences. It is a good starting point for just about anything—ex.: think drone to write acoustic chords over.
From there it’s fed into the Morphagene, which mangles audio in all sorts of horrible ways. In between this carnage, there are some beautiful bits. I’ve really been trying to get to this beauty a lot faster, so I’ve been burning up the manual as well as racking up the reps/ hours.
Basically this module allows you to tape, chop, shrink/ expand bits of audio in some sort of way so that totally new sounds unheard by man coming out the other side.
I am generally still flying blind, but the tiniest rays of light are starting to poke thru.
And to complicate life even further, this is all being fed into the Mimeophon, which is a delay/ echo/ reverb unit. I know it does a lot more, but this is what I have it doing now. Again, I can only scratch the surface presently, but I have real faith greatness here too is just around the bend.
These were made to work together.
Lastly, I duplicated the output and fed it thru a Doepfer SEM filter. Really I wanted to see what would happen, but I made it self oscillate into a kind of bass drone. I am pretty sure I know what’s going on, but I need more time, man!
The whole of all of this is firmly in happy accident territory. And in my personal continuing quest for non-dystopian-future-sounding future sounds,* I’m not sure there is a better customizable instrument.
Learn and map out a bunch of basic song structures. Drag your favorite song into your DAW and mark the sections.
Then, when writing, pick a structure and write to this. You can always get fancy later.
If the above feels too restrictive consider the alternative is the hard way. (Maybe you do not know your structures enough. I didn’t but thought I did.)
100% of the time it’s easier to break the rules when you know them in the first place.
Even if you just have 4-bars, stretch out the song idea over a whole structure immediately, no mater how pitifully thin some parts seem. If the spark is real and you actually have something, your seed/ idea will more than survive. In fact, there will more than likely be more to it than you initially thought.
Remember, it’s easier to take away then to add after your initial burst of inspiration.
The dark magic may be in your initial writing, but the money is in the re-writing. Anyone can come up with an idea, but hardly anyone produces finished work.
Set a time of day to re-write. An appointment.
When at a this writing appointment give yourself 2 options: write or do nothing; not internet nothing. Absolutely nothing; just sit there. (This is advice is from Neil Gaiman, and he knows.)
Always better to have too many words and verses.
Then, the more medieval you are about chopping words the better.
Keep it simple. Play to about 50% of your top-end ability.
Hopefully you did not come here for advice, but I bet you may be looking for new ideas.
Spend a week with a synth. (A month in my case.)
Which synth does not matter and is the wrong kind of detail! If you have an iPad you have acres to a world of them under $10.00, and you also have all YouTube to get you going in the right direction.
What did I find out, learn, or reinforce in a week/ in week one?
1. Make new sounds from existing ones. You do not have to start from a basic patch. (This is how you make a basic patch.) Think of presets as a springboard.
2. I am not the player I could be, but I’m not as bad as I thought. In fact, I may play a song live this weekend (typically only perform w/ guitar).
3. All synths sound the same to the general public.
4. In the context of a mix, effects may be more important than the synth patch/ tone.
5. I really do love my first true synth love, this Alpha Juno. (Yes my site and record label are named after the AJ series.)
6. I am a writer first player and player next, but I still need to be able to get my ideas across as fast, efficiently, and as accurately as I possibly can. A/K/A I need a practice routine. [Austin Kleon has already said how succinctly.]
Patches matter less I thought they did, but they still matter a lot. Better general keyboarding will speed up the demo process for me. Committing to the journey and work of #programertoplayer will pay-up huge. I have a much better ear than I used to.
Knowing this synth well will also save me real money. I think we all know that going out and buying a synth or spending time researching/ SHOPPING for new models—for the “sound in your head”—is wasting energy as compared to practical application, never minding that “sound in your head” is probably just lazy journalist writing that we’ve all come to accept as true.
Imagine not shopping as much. Or imagine the habit of going to your synth when you have something in mind.
For me, my key here and to my writing is this: the process is my reward.
The end-of-the-line song is fine, but if you do not love the journey and keep faith that it will end somewhat victoriously, you may need to rethink things. Out of everything, reenforcement of these is the true one synth lesson for me.
I am almost 50 and on my 3rd or 4th act. Today it’s reinventing a band that only barely got off the ground. Not only this, and to make matters worse, we are computer-based.(Electronic performance is a very young man’s game!)
I read an article last night where Liam Gallagher was talking about his ‘This will do’ period. It was a time when things didn’t matter as much and he let ‘good-enough’ get released. But post-Oasis, his 2nd solo record was incredible (And is still his best work (so far). Around the same time, old men Coldplay released their greatest work (and the next one was not too bad either).
Today both have GREAT new releases (here and here). And Duran Duran just released this.
What in the world is going on?
People are just doing their thing. I think for these artists they are hyper-conscious of their audiences while letting the process and eventual products exist as their own rewards. Rick Rubin says we make music as an offering to God . Whoa! Possibly, but I have to live with this for a bit.
I spent a day or two going through my old catalog preparing material for new/old band. What shit a lot of this was. But what do I care. The growth is astounding, honestly. Just think where we will be when I’m 60!
A lot of my friends look old, and I cannot imagine the way they must feel. Memes are fond of saying things like ‘you’re as old as you feel.’ This is both crap and true at the same time.
I need to sleep a lot more, I cannot stay up late more than 2 night in a row. I cannot eat sugar at night or have caffeine past, say, 11 am. The list goes on.
A lot of rules (!), but we live in a world that does not know the rules but lives by youth culture’s rules. And these change every day, What are we left with? Everything is permissible but at the same time deeply judged.
I am left with my best work ahead of me and staring me in the face, and 64 buttons to make and perform a song. And I could do it all with my computer, or my phone, or anything else I have lying around.