Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Simple Reaper Setup to get started..

A quick post to help people who haven't used Reaper before get setup at least far enough to do some basic recording / noodling and fx..

Probably all pretty straightforward stuff.. but might be useful if you haven't messed with PC based music for a long while and now have a shiny modern PC sitting there looking a bit bored..

Monday, 2 April 2012

Doctor Who, 10k+ and more..

Back last may, I'd finally decided that I'd try putting up some of my piano playing online, so I mashed around a little in C minor, which has long been a favorite place to play in, and found the Doctor Who theme..

Ok, it was a little more chilled, lacking the electropop noises, and was more influenced by the themes of the past shows than the current.. but it had a nice feel to it. So I hit record, and used two layers to capture the sound.. this is the tale of that tune..

Monday, 28 November 2011

It's Just Like New!

So, while a guest was playing on the Clavinova the other day, fantastically slaughtering Greensleeves like only a true novice can do.. I noticed something.. odd..

The 'D' key, to the right of middle C, seemed to be stuck down.. I watched her fingers, and she definitely wasn't holding it down.. and yet there it was.. still depressed. As she finished playing, it popped right back up, and I began to wonder how long it had being doing that.. 

I had a quick play afterwards, and concluded the key was just 'sluggish'.. sometimes it would come right back, other times it would stay down.. there wasn't any reason to it, just random chance. Of course, from that point on, if I tried to play something with 'D' in it, the key would behave fine unless anyone else entered the room. Perhaps I had a psychic key malfunction.. or perhaps this was about to get expensive..

Sunday, 24 July 2011

On sequencers.. and sequencing..

I've been playing with Music & Computers for a long while now.. for me, the journey started with an Amiga, with a serial port Midi interface. For many others it was an Atari ST, but regardless, that midi port is fast becoming the only connector that still has widespread use now, over twenty years on.

Back then, there was 'Music X' and 'Bars and Pipes' .. and 'Cubase' over on the ST.. and many many more.. all trying really hard to let you lay down recordings of midi data, and coordinate it back out to the device.. the concepts of VSTs far far away in the future.. Maybe you were lucky and had access to a nice synth, I got to play with a Kawai K1, a Korg M1, although I was limited to just a small Yamaha PSS780.

A lot of music progs fell into either midi, or sample based. The latter became really popular for programmers, as they let you create a simple tune with a low memory overhead, and package it up with some player code to embed into a game, intro, etc. The midi ones tended to try hard to be professional, and were experimenting with many of the user interface features familiar to today (think horizontal track based layout, piano roll editors etc)

Back then, it was still possible to consider music, both midi and sample driven, as 'block based', where the block could be a bar, a quarter of a bar, etc. Record a 12 bar blues bassline to a metronome, then simply cut & paste it, happy that the pastes will line up right.. Early versions of cakewalk had a track ui that placed black dots into squares showing data present for a bar..

Then PCs got fast.. and mp3 came around.. and PCs got faster, and disk space got kinda huge, and memory got even larger.. and I find myself staring at a multiple gigahertz processor, with gigabytes of memory, and terabytes of diskspace.. these are units I could barely have dreamed of when working back on that 7mhz Amiga, with just 1mb of ram, and 2 floppy drives making about 2mb of disk space.. that means the current PC is now umm. 300 odd times faster, 6 thousand times more memory, and some 2 million times more disk space.. ouch.

So, what can I do with this.. I could try running the modern versions of Cakewalk, or Cubase, which I had a quick look at.. "omg crazy complicated".. oh, and quite pricey too ;-) .. looks like they've integrated audio processing into the midi, and seem to have almost as many features as Word. When I need to underline and italicise my melody, I'm sure these guys can do it. Sure they offer home versions.. but they seem to just remove bits from the complex ones.. it's not clear if removing bits makes it easier to use.

I track down the modern version of a sample based prog.. back then, Soundtracker, Octamed.. now.. Renoise.. wow, nice interface.. I lost a day or so playing around in there =) many happy memories.. mp3 based instruments, decent audio editor, and vst fx chains to die for.. awesomesauce on toast with a pineapple ring. And yes, midi support.. but at its heart, its still a block based tracker, I'm not sure I'd use it to record something entirely piano based.

So I go googling for a simple sequencer.. something hopefully capable, but lightweight.. and find Cockos Reaper.. very very nice.. I've got about 28 days left to figure out if I get on with it.. but given its price is only 40 odd quid (if you meet the terms for the lower price.. which I do)... I'm pretty tempted already.

All of which brings us to VSTs.. where back when I was on the Amiga, you needed an external midi instrument to create the sounds for you, because the computer didn't really have the power, now the PC does.. I mean today's PCs have the power to completely emulate an entire Korg M1 (see the Korg Digital Legacy Collection).. or a half decent piano (TruePianos) .. or instruments so odd they are just awesome fun (Toxic Biohazard)... to instruments that seem insanely powerful (Omnisphere).

Where does this leave me? wondering how I can balance a small laptop ontop of the Clavinova.. and seeking for "that app".. the one that lets me record, but doesn't get in my way.. maybe I shouldn't fear the Reaper..

Monday, 11 July 2011

Sealed with a..

I'm sure you are all wondering "Where's the embedded music thingy?" .. to which I can answer that no.. the evil media corporations have not convinced me to stop playing piano.. and no.. I'm not stuck & out of ideas.. busy busy busy mebbe, but not idealess.

I've been hacking around with that classic song "Sealed with a kiss" (yes, Jason Donovan.. or at least 4 other versions according to youtube) .. I don't think my version sounds much like any of the others.. although The Lettermans version did raise a few chuckles. Now it may be fair game to snigger at the song by Scott from Neighbours, but don't tempt me ;-) I'm sure Rick Astley has at least one song that needs revisiting, or failing that, wouldn't you just love to hear a swing version of Aga-Doo ?

So.. how's it all going?

Monday, 20 June 2011

Nights in White Satin...

Ok.. not the most obvious choice for a Noodle.. but I do kinda like this old song.. It has some nice transitions in it, and a fairly catchy main theme, what it doesn't have, is a 4/4 Swing beat, double bass, and a brass section..

Thankfully.. that's where I come in ;-)

Monday, 6 June 2011

St Trinians

Here's a song I got stuck in my head, unintentionally, though I suspect that's how all songs get stuck.

This one began when I was happily noodling around on Cm, the usual sort of pattern, Cm, Ab, Bb, or Cm, Eb, Bb etc.. except one time round the loop, I went Cm, Ab, 'G' .. now, I like finding places where I can get away with a single semitone chord transition, and Ab->G is one I've met before, so I should have been fairly immune to it.. until my RH ran down from Eb through a few notes, and a little voice at the back of my head sang 'def-end-ers of an-archy'..

That's when I knew I was doomed.

After spinning it round on the piano a few times, I ended up with this version.. which is quite removed from the screaming hockey stick waving high school terrors in the original =) Although if they want to come sing over this version, that's fine with me, provided they bring the uniforms!

St Trinians by DwellerTunes

I don't think I'm done with this one yet, I've found some nice chords for one part that don't really make much of an appearance in this version, a shame as they are quite nice & rich, but I'm suspecting the newer chords may call for a latin style rhythm.