Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Metroid: The Sky Calls

I am a huge fan of the Metroid series. The original NES game caused me insane frustration, but I loved every second of it, largely due to the music playing behind the game. The music was eerie and created a strong sense of adventure, trepidation, and solitude. The game was like Zelda in its expansive world exploration, and survival was anything but given.

I adore this game franchise, and the thought of a feature film for the franchise makes me happy to no end. While Nintendo has had a strong stance against any feature films for their properties (after the Super Mario Bros. movie that was... less than a box office smash), there is always hope that someday Nintendo will change its mind.

Until then, enjoy this wonderful fan-made short film.

Metroid: The Sky Calls

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Let's Learn Garageband 10! Episode 9: Happy Halloween 2015

For this song, I wanted to try re-creating an acoustic guitar strum with a virtual instrument on my midi keyboard. I think it turned out pretty well. I also wanted to find a way to incorporate drums into my Halloween song without it feeling like rock music. Let me know whether you think that turned out well/poorly. The only thing on this song that is not a software instrument is the evil laugh, which I had a lot of fun recording.

I also allowed myself to mess around with editing a bit on this song. I didn't repeat takes over and over, searching for the perfect one. Instead, I took a few takes and then comped together a workable track out of the different body parts and limbs of the various tracks. I guess this song is sort of an ode to Frankenstein. Too bad I didn't realize that until I'd already posted it to youtube with the pictures. Ah well.

I hope you enjoy. Happy Halloween, everyone.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Let's Learn Garageband 10! Episode 8: Transformers Theme

I recorded the guitar for this song a long time ago (at least two years). For some reason I got in a Transformy mood and thought I'd finally put it out there. So, I added a little mystery space synth to set the mood before the guitar comes in.

This week I learned how to increase the overall volume of the master track in Garageband 10. You do it in the EQ. There is a tiny little dot on the side of the Master EQ that will add gain to the master, increasing the volume of everything. The two problems I run into with this approach to mastering are:

(1) I either get digital clipping, which sounds HORRIBLE and makes the song sound like garbled machine noise, or

(2) I get a lot of background noise, most typically in the form of air flow picked up from the mic during recording.

I learned a while back that there are ideal volume settings for gainstaging--which takes place at that earliest stage of recording--where you want to find the optimal level of input volume from the microphone. Some argue that it is -12db through -6db (that range), and at least one other guy argues that it is -18db (Graham Cochrane at The Recording Revolution). This Transformers Theme was recorded long before I knew that.

The main problem I currently have with Garageband is that there is no metering of value in the program. I have a meter, and it will show clipping, but it doesn't provide numbers for me to see where exactly I'm at. Each DAW is different, so I can't just trust that if I'm at 2/3 of the meter I'm in that sweet spot. So, for everything Garageband does well, I adore the program. However, for it's inability to provide meaningful metering during the recording process, I get frustrated.

Anyway, here is this week's song:

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Zelda Main Theme on Classical Guitar

Many of you now know, I'm a sucker for old school video game music. Hearing that music instantly takes me back to those wonderful days of playing NES as a child, the sense of wonder and exploration of fantastic worlds, the sense of trepidation heading into the bosses' lairs, and the sense of anxiety and fear knowing my very sanity lay in the balance if I couldn't figure out how to beat freaking Castlevania.

I am also a sucker for classical guitar, so when someone combines classical guitar with my favorite old school video game music... the rapture. Today I stumbled upon this little gem and thought I'd share with you all. This guy's name is Jonas Lefvert, and he plays a mean Zelda Main Theme.

Happy Wednesday.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Let's Learn Garageband 10! Episode 7: The House of Grey

It's getting a little Halloweeney around here lately. For this week I was mostly just playing around with spooky sounds in Garageband. It was less focused on any technical aspects of recording. I had a lot of fun putting this one together, though. I stayed up a little too late one night, recording electric guitar parts, dozing off while recording a super way-too-long track. The next day I sat down and listened through that track and was surprised to find a couple of great gems I came up with in my half sleep. So this gave me a chance to practice editing in Garageband a little bit, too.

I gotta say, sometimes I really miss ProTools. Garageband allows you to do some amazing things, but it is definitely not full-featured. I miss ProTools most when it comes time to edit and mix.

Anyway, enjoy a little taste of Halloween.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Super Guitar Bros.

For anyone who is a fan of music, soundtracks, video games, and guitar...

I stumbled upon these guys a few years back. They play video game music (focused on older games mostly) as a guitar duo. Up until now I've only known about their youtube videos. However, today I discovered that they also have an album, so I thought I'd show some love and share that album with you all. Also, when you have some time, it's worth going through their youtube playlist to watch them play the songs.

So now, for your auditory pleasure, I present: Super Guitar Bros.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Let's Learn Garageband 10! Episode 6: The Tea Garden

My major focus for this song was to better understand the quantization feature in Garageband. It's a handy little thing, where, after you record an instrument track, you click a few buttons and BANG: all of your timing errors are corrected for you by the magic of the machine. It basically goes through the whole track, finding any moments where your timing was off (be it early or late), and then it snaps those poorly timed notes to the closest designated unit of music time (be it whole notes, quarter notes, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, or even 1/64). So, I wanted to create a song that had a number of different instrument tracks with different note values. After I played the parts on my little keyboard, I entered quantization mode, and the computer fixed my errors.

It's a pretty amazing technology, but I have been scared off from it in the past (mainly out of fear that my songs would start sounding too robotic and lose the human imperfections that made them actually mine). However, my view on quantization definitely changed after working with it this week. It won't solve all of the problems, it just saves time fixing most of the ones that are slightly off. Then you can spend your time more productively on the real problem notes that just aren't working.

So, with that explanation, enjoy this week's nugget: The Tea Garden.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Let's Learn Garageband 10! Episode 5: Cody's New Workout Song

While at the beach house, I learned that Cody is in a bulking up phase. I learned all about the importance of protein and some kind of amino acid or something that helps with that. I also got to see him workout.

I figured the least I could do was create the perfect workout song for him.

This song let me try my hand at what I categorize as house/dance music. I admit to being rather ignorant of the difference between dance, house, EDM, techno, etc. So, for any of you nightclub junkies, I apologize for my pathetic attempt to create a song in a genre I don't understand. Regardless, I adventured there. Enjoy (and just try to not wiggle your muscles about to this sick beat).

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Mellowtones (i.e. Deftones' Softer Side)

I had an idea recently to make a playlist of the Deftones' softer, mellower songs. This exercise accomplishes nothing more than tickling my fancy, but I figured I'd share with anyone else who is interested.

As a little background, Deftones have been classified under many genres over their 30+ years' existence. According to Wikipedia.org, they are currently classified as alternative metal (which sort of makes sense to me, but honestly I have no idea where to stick these guys). I first learned oft hem after their second album Around the Fur. Back then they were just lumped into the nu-metal scene with bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit (for those unfamiliar, nu-metal was basically the genre of artists that combined elements of hip hop into their metal music. Often times just having a DJ was enough to get a band in that genre). While most of the other nu-metal bands went on to accomplish great things (sarcasm), Deftones evolved, changed gears, shifted back toward their roots, shifted gears again, and ended up enduring. I've written about these guys before, but I'll toss this out there again, Deftones are sort of the line of hard/dark music for me. They straddle that line of a band with churning metal guitars and screaming vocals without truly going over into a place I no longer like.

Anyway, enjoy the softer side of Deftones.


p.s. It turns out that I don't know how to embed the playlist on here, yet. I think I may need to do it from the app and not the web player (I'm missing the embed code option when I right-click on the playlist, and my internet searchings make me believe that is how to do it). I will look into that. I'm going to post the link instead for now and maybe I'll remember at some later date to come back and embed.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Jonathan Coulton: Nerd Musician Extraordinaire

El Stefu (Steven Smith) introduced this artist to me. Mr. Coulton's musical career is atypical in many ways. First, he began his career as a computer programmer (AKA "Code Monkey"). At some point soon after his wife gave birth to their first child, Mr. Coulton decided it was now or never for pursuing a career in music, so he quit his job and began devoting his time to songwriting and recording. He spent an entire year of his life putting out a new song each week in a project he aptly titled "Thing a Week." He gained some notoriety for a spectacular acoustic guitar cover of "Baby Got Back," and eventually he was recruited to write the end song for the video game Portal.

As I stated before, this man's music career has been anything but typical, and this is evidenced no more clearly than in the subject matter of his music; he writes quirky nerd folk rock. His songs' subject matter ranges from zombies, math equations, creepy horror dolls, sci fi prison colonies, and even a love song from a mad scientist/supervillain.

The song I most want to share with you is one of his least weird ones, though. It's simply a love song inspired (to my understanding) by Pluto (written after Pluto was stripped of its planetary status). I think this song is downright beautiful, and I find myself singing it more often than I can recall. Without further ado, enjoy Jonathan Coulton's "I'm Your Moon" from his live concert album CD/DVD set titled: Best. Concert. Ever. Enjoy.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Let's Learn Garageband 10! Episode 4: Ocean Swells

Over the weekend I stayed at a beach house with my family and some friends in Mission Beach in San Diego (California, USA, Earth). It was wonderful. One morning while there I wanted to create an appropriate soundscape for the waves. So this song and video are the result of me searching around Garageband for synthesizer soundscape material. This one was not done with any metronome and truthfully contains only three musical notes (the different soundscapes/instruments I found allowed for enough variety for me to focus in on the timing of the notes as opposed to the variety).

Anyway, I had a lot of fun with it. I'm very pleased with the sounds I'm getting from Garageband. My major focus for right now is to just explore the sounds that I can get with Garageband. I'm not really learning the program a ton, yet. I'll toss out useful tips along the way when I eventually do.

Until next time, no worries.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Let's Learn Garageband 10! Episode 3: A Leaf in the Wind

So far my emphasis on all of these tracks has been simply on the process of learning the most basic functions of Garageband and iMovie to post videos on youtube. At some point I will shift my focus to learning the more technical aspects of editing, mixing, mastering, etc. However, for now I will just be exploring the big picture abilities of Garageband to see what all I can do. Each week I'll pick some random thing that I want to try out and discuss it.

For this week, I got my 2nd Generation M-Audio Axiom 25 all set up with Garageband (finally... it took me forever to trouble shoot a problem between ProTools 8 and Mavericks OS that completely disabled my midi controller/keyboard in Garageband). So for this song I wanted to practice using that keyboard. I also wanted to go for a more orchestral sound instead of a highly digitized sound palette. This song uses three tracks: piano, strings, and flute. I played all three on my Axiom 25. I'm a huge fan of that little piano thing. It has semi-weighted keys, which feel really nice while playing them. They also allow for different sounds based on how strongly I play the keys. Just like on a real piano, if I strike the key harder the sound will come out harsher and louder. The synthesizers in Garageband allow for some interesting sounds when I use it. I'll play around with that some more and give some samples along the way.

Pretty simple concept for this one: I wanted to capture the soundtrack of a leaf in the wind. Hopefully I succeeded.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Let's Learn Garageband 10! Episode 2: The Apprentice

A little while back I had this idea to try and learn Garageband by writing three songs and spending a lot of time delving into the program. The songs would chronicle my journey from apprentice to master, and my goal was for those songs to be good enough to actually someday sell as an EP. Since that time I have become aware that learning the craft of recording, editing, mixing, and mastering will take much longer than three songs (so I gave up that little project right quick). However, I did bother to record the first of those three song ideas and I kind of like the dark atmosphere of the guitar combined with the upbeat drums. For the picture, I just searched "The Apprentice" through Google's "labelled for reuse" search feature and found one I liked (a decent amount of wading through Donald Trump's jowly scowl took place before I found one that will work). I assume that the young lady in the picture is learning to wield her light energy conductor baton as she trains to become the world's greatest orchestra conductor.

This song was less about a specific story idea or mood, and much more geared toward an atmosphere of excitement and uncertainty (a mixture of feelings I usually associate with .

For this song I wanted to incorporate drums and guitar. The drums are from the drummer called SoCal, which comes with the pre-made full beat. The initial drum part I did the old-fashioned way (like I used to have to with Fruity Loops during my Fabulous Flowell days), where I just had to create beats one drum piece at a time. As fun as that process could be, I was always intimidated by it. I am really excited to experiment more with Garageband's Drummer set up.

The guitar is from my actual electric guitar, plugged directly into Garageband's amp modeler. I'm very impressed with the amp capabilities of Garageband. There are a butt-ton of sounds (scientific jargon) you can get through it. The bass is just the fingerstyle bass, which I recorded on the virtual keys of Garageband. Someday I will purchase an actual bass guitar and have some fun with that.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Let's Learn Garageband 10! Episode 1: The Ice Cave

I adore soundtracks. Whether it be from film or video game, 8-bit NES music or fully orchestrated soundscapes, I absolutely love the use of music in storytelling. Over the past 5 years I estimate I've spent about the same amount of time listening to soundtracks as I have to rock music (my preferred genre).

During law school I discovered that many amateur and professional musician/composers upload "music videos" to youtube. These videos allow the composers to share original music with relevant, evocative imagery. I have long been desired to participate in such soundtrackery and wish to now join its ranks.

This weekend I sat down for an hour to learn how to use Garageband and iMovie to create such a video. I spent about twenty minutes learning this use of the software, and then around a forty minutes hunting down photos on Google, sequencing them in iMovie, composing a quick ditty in Garageband, and then timing that song to the photo montage in iMovie. I admit that my intention was not to offer my best effort at songwriting, but was focused on the process, so initially I did not intend to share the song/video.

However, despite the song's simplicity and minimal orchestration, I ended up feeling more proud of my effort than I anticipated, so I uploaded it to youtube and now share it here for any who are interested (I'm also more than a little curious to see whether anyone is still following my blog; I may have been a bit of a digital super-hermit the past few years).

The idea behind the song is briefly explained in the youtube video itself. So without further ado, I proudly present my first ever video upload on youtube: The Ice Cave (an original sonic story by John Cory). Enjoy.