Jammin Keygroups

Oh before I forget… here’s a few key groups that I made, and I did say I would share.

The bells are sampled across a few octaves, but not tuned. Should just requires tuning the master, but I did not end up using them and got lazy. Since I am posting it for free, if you cannot do anything with it, well that’s on you! For those interested, this is sampled from Eurorack, in particular Elements is doing the heavy lifting, with some very minor FX on it to taste.

I mean come on, who doesn’t like a dope choir sound? This actually made the cut for the song… so you could use it to make the deep cut version of my take on Jammin.

NT – Laser HarpI know this isn’t as good as the signature Danoc harp, but since he’s still saying he doesn’t have a way to autosample, this is the next best thing. Maybe it is best because it actually exists? 😀

Jammin Interpolation – Funked Up

I’ll kick off first and foremost, this entire track was done on the MPC Live mk2.  Not for any particular reason, but I started there, and just kept going.  Being able to unplug the device while taking my daughter out to ballet, horseback riding, waiting for my wife to finish shopping… whatever it was, was certainly helpful.  Besides auto sampling a few synths, everything was done in the box including fx, mixing, mastering, all that.  I know a lot of folks know it is possible, but for those who doubt it, maybe this changes your mind?  I actually expected a few times to want to be reaching for Ableton, Reason, or Melodyne to do a few things, but that was frequently when I was away from my computer and I just pushed my way through it.

For me… the interpolation part was all about finding what resonated with me in the song, and how I wanted to represent it in how I go about making music.  You guys probably saw my early posts mentioning how hard this became.  A lot of it is because reggae just sounds so simple, and the complex interaction of all the elements coming together in this crazy simple sounding yet amazingly complex rhythm.  This lead me to thinking about what parts needed to be “on the grid” and which parts I would go about playing without TC on.  You can hear it the most in my track with the hats, I did quite a few takes early on just playing the hats out by hand without TC.  I liked how it put the track slightly off kilter, and also gave me a great template for seeing how things did or did not line up as I added in new parts.

I spent a *lot* of time just thinking about voicing and how the different parts came together.  I was going crazy with harps, organs, flutes, guitar, piano, etc…. I mean I literally had everything and the kitchen sink in there, but it just wasn’t gluing together.  So, I just decided to take a hatchet to a lot of the tracks, removing things that I liked, but really didn’t contribute, and figuring out which parts just needed more space to breath more life into the track.  

The saddest part for me to remove was the guitar, first because I was taking it out because I was going to collaborate with DawgFather, and then later when I knew he wasn’t able to contribute I just kept making some of the other sounds richer and left very little room for a guitar to cut through without destabilizing the rest of the mix.

I’m usually the first person to throw everything in too, but I wanted to take this more seriously and put my old school production hat on.  I easily spent eight to ten hours on this track, and I have not spent that much time on a track in at least ten, maybe fifteen years.  I used to do a lot of collaborations back in the day, but never actually made a career out of it.  

Another “trick” I pulled was to actually have two different drum tracks running at the same time.  This helped give the impression of ghost notes, shore up some weaker drum hits, and give some more overall variation to the sound.  Normally when I program out my drum patterns I try and get something “locked in”, and then think about another layer that can be a bit looser.  Sometimes it works and let’s the listener feel their way through the track with some happy surprises, and sometimes it sounds like you have a drunk friend that you need to tell to stop playing in the background.  Hopefully I nailed it, and didn’t sound too drunk 😀

The biggest part to nail for me though was the bass.  I really struggled here, because the bass just takes up so much headroom to begin with, and I *really* wanted it to slam throughout this track.  Seriously, the big bass sound, with some of the high end distortion in there is the biggest reason I needed to peel away so much from the original song.  I don’t care what you guys might say… I dig it, even if it is a *bit* too in your face.

Otherwise, really pulling the track together required many many many repeat listens.  I effectively had it locked in two weeks ago, but the extra time let me polish off some of the serious blemishes, like peaking too high in some section, fixing some of the areas that came in super loud due to mega chords, and all that.  A good portion of it was throwing in subtle compression just to get the organ and other chords to play nice, sometimes reducing note velocity, all that fun stuff.  It turned into a labor of love because editing velocity note by note requires a lot of replays to listen to across a verse to get it right, or dropping a compressor can make one part great and mess up the rest of the track.  This is just bog standard mixing duties, I don’t find it terribly interesting, but it is worth the time investment in really wrapping a track up.  Seriously, listening to the track on every freaking speaker I could find gave me as much information as I needed to mix it all by ear.  And hey, you guys can make fun of it, but the Live mk2’s speaker allowed me to get at least 80% of the way through the mix.  Course if you want to hate, I can use it as an excuse of why it sounds so bad!

Overall, this was a super fun exercise that had it all.  A trip down memory lane, something to share with family and friends to get feedback, plenty of drama in the thread, and some great folks to chat about production with.

My Akai MPC Journey (or Why I Sold my MPC X)

My first MPC was the Akai MPC 1k Black. I really cut my teeth on this MPC over the years, and with JJOS it really made the MPC 1k shine. Life was pretty simple, but it had been given an amazing workflow for chopping, sampling, and writing music. I bought it back when the black model was released, and held on to it until just this year. Watching the prices of a lot of the old gear I had sky rocket, it was hard to justify keeping it around, especially since it was living mostly in it’s old box. As I’ve written about before, I really don’t want to keep old gear around for the sake of keeping it, and it was just time to part with the MPC 1k along with a lot of the other gear that has gone out the door, hopefully on to better homes that will appreciate and use the gear to the fullest.

Through all this time having the MPC 1k, I’ve also gone through three Akai MPC 500s. Honestly, the MPC 500 is a great little machine and has resulted in my being able to drop a number of tracks while traveling and doing things on the go. Sure I lugged the 1k around with me on a lot of trips over the years, but the 500 is just so much more road friendly. I still have an MPC 500, the one I’ve blogged about picking up recently, that was in dire need of repair. In all seriousness though, I am thinking about selling this repaired 500 as well, I don’t think I need even two MPCs, and while it’s nice to have something easy to toss in a backpack, I’m not sure I really need it right now.

So… I’ve been through the 1k, the 500… and roughly when it first came out I picked up the MPC Live. I really dug the machine, but I was always jealously eyeing the MPC X. For one, I’d never had a full sized MPC, and second it had CV outs. I’ve been getting into Eurorack for a while now, and the idea of being able to sequence through CV and gates was really appealing to me. Which lead me to picking up the Akai MPC X a couple of years ago. Yes, at one point I had four MPCs, but I never saw myself as a collector. Eventually I decided to part with the Akai MPC Live, because seriously who needs four MPCs. The interoperability between the Live and the X was nice, but it was a bit much.

Then this year along came the MPC One, which I was seriously considering picking up as a straight up replacement to the MPC 1k, it’s about the same size, but with a boatload of functionality. I was imagining it being my portable device, but I soured on that idea pretty quickly when I started considering needing an external power source. However, the CV was interesting to me for sure. Not much longer afterwards the Akai MPC Live mk2 was announced, and I just made the rash decision to get it. This put me back up to four MPCs again. Notice I already mentioned I am not a collector, yet here I was. With four.

For anybody who’s been sticking through all the gear I’ve been selling, and reading up on my Eurorack, you might have picked up on the fact that I am really working to reduce the amount of space my music gear takes up. Well a big unknown factor was how much space I would have, or even need, once the Eurorack case I bought back in January would take. Once I got it onto the table though, I could *clearly* tell that I don’t have enough room for all of the MPCs and other gear that I’d like to have room for. Plus, the MPC Live mk2 had the CV outs that I initially wanted, so it definitely made the choice to post the MPC X for sale much easier. Below I’ll post a picture of everything that I’ve currently got for gear setup.

What you can see here is

  • A whole mess of eurorack in the Erik Needham Woodworks case
  • Akai MPC Live mk2
  • 12 Chase Bliss guitar pedals in a pedal board
  • Access Virus TI2 Darkstar
  • Moog Voyager 50th Anniversary Edition
  • Akai MPC 500
  • Moog CV Expander and CP-251
  • Patch Bay
  • Apex Aural Exciter
  • Akai Z8
  • Akai S1000
  • Akai S950

Not shown I also have a drawer with a few more gadgets

  • Teenage Engineering PO-32, PO-33, and PO-35
  • Teenage Engineering OP-1
  • Teenage Engineering OP-Z
  • Critter & Guitari Organelle M
  • Zoom H6
  • Bastl Instruments Micro Granny
  • Korg Triton Studio

My gear collection has more or less been greatly paired down to size, but I still am trying to figure out how to get everything else into this reduced space. Now maybe I shouldn’t be digging quite so deep, but here are my thoughts at this time. Heck, I’m even considering selling off everything below the table. While I do enjoy using the S950 and S1000, they don’t nearly get the love and attention that I used to give them back in the day.

I’m also considering picking up the Waldorf Iridium. I had it on pre-order, but cancelled once I saw that there was just no way to fit it into this setup without selling something off. Since I haven’t pulled the trigger on selling off anything I figured the only fair thing to do was to cancel the pre-order, instead of putting myself in the position to agonize over what to sell off next.

I’ve clearly still got some more decisions to make, but I want to make one thing clear… reducing what I have for gear has greatly enabled me to get my music and music making far more focussed. Honestly, I think the next big step for me is deciding how much each device is bringing something unique to the table as a decision point for keeping it or selling it off. I’ve got some hard decisions to make fore sure!

STBB 699 – Beep Beep

This track is done from the STBB Forever #699 Beat Battle. I used the tracks provided, as well as a track that I did years ago to jam these tracks together. It is not a great track, and more just playing around. The rules were to use the provided samples, a beep, vocal or bleep track or whatever, and you could use outside sounds.

I don’t know why I had the idea to do a beat and then transition into a DnB/Jungle type of track… but I did it. Results were not so great though. It leaves for an awkward transition, and the second half only really hits the rules because I had a computerized vocal “beep” sound in it. So, uhm… I guess points for “creativity” maybe? But for actual execution this is kind of hot garbage.

I almost did not post the track because I’m not really happy with what I did with it or what it could have become, but somebody needs to set the low bar, and I’m pretty sure I did that this week, especially after going through a lot of the other entries. Some folks put together some seriously good tracks, which is great!

MPCBB 286 – Runnin Outta Time

So I won last week’s Beat Battle and got to pick the rules and the sample. The sample I went for is Miles Davis – So What.

The rules I went for were any external sounds allowed, but you have to sample whatever you want to add from a microphone. No mic simulations allowed.

There’s a lot to flip in that sample, but I tried to keep myself under control and see what I could do with a few sections to loop and do some change ups instead of straight up chops.

Initial microphone recording tests stunk. Of course, using a lower quality microphone absolutely did not help the situation. Shame on me, I ended up with a bunch of junk content that just clashed with the track.

Drum break was sample in through the mic, and took several attempts to get it at the right level. I wanted the mic to pick up *some* of the room ambience, but not loose out on too much of the low end. For me, the sweet spot on the D880 was about an inch from the mic, and just pushing the gains super high. I got a tiny bit of clipping, but nothing bad.

The Kick just took a lot of patience, and I ended up playing the kick drum sound out of my phone into the D880, and just kept playing it until I got a good hit with a tiny bit of distortion and some solid volume. I think it’s not quite right for the track, but it is what it is.

The snare… hahaha… this was the only element I kept from my sampling expedition with the Bastl Instruments Microgranny. The speaker is tiny, and the sampling engine I believe is 8-bit, but it could be 12-bit. I forget off hand. Anyways, this was part of me running around the house hitting things, recording it, and then pitching the sounds around. This was pretty much the only “usable” sound… at least for this BB.

Vocals… well I ran the D880 into a Plankton Electronics Spice, and used the Korg Nutone tube to drive the vocals. To get what I did took about 30 takes, and was me just about whispering into the mic, and getting this overdriven signal. I had some awesome takes that were super overdriven and sounded cool, but wouldn’t work with the track as it was coming together… I’ll have to save them for another day.

Overall, I played with five or six microphones of varying quality. I’m going to have to say the D880 was my hero this time, because it has very directional sound and needs quite close proximity. Some of the other mics I have can pic up sounds 100 feet away and it nearly sounds like it is right beside you… which is both annoying and kind of creepy when you’re just trying to get a clean enough sample to work with and you can hear the kids shows popping up in the sample.

Track – STBB 698 – Security Blanket

As I said in the previous post, this track had to come together quite quickly… and this is maybe at best an hour worth of work. I scrambled to get it together and then added some decorative vocals and a baseline to boot.

In all seriousness this track is a bit over compressed, you can hear it especially when the hi hats slam into the available headroom. I guess I got too carried away with everything in the short amount of time… but I got what I got :D.

Maybe I will add some more details tomorrow, but at the moment I’m just burnt from all the mad dashes the last couple of days…

Track – MPCBB 285 – Hard Found Peace

Alrighty then! So for this track, I started it and finished it in about 30 minutes. I just didn’t have much time to hit the deadline yesterday… and figured I’d just cut to the chase for the throw down. To pull this together I just grabbed a four bar section that I liked the sound of, chopped it, pitched it down, and then got to business laying out a track. I then searched through drums and kits to piece together something for drums, a little fx, and some bass that was halfway decent.

Honestly, this is not a terribly complex piece since it is only two tracks, and to make more of a song I should have separated the drums, bass and fx that I brought in, but when strapped for time it is easy to fall into older habits. So the track is not terribly dynamic, and I didn’t do anything other than loop it twice, so that is kind of lame yeah? Whatever though… I pulled it out of my hat! If I was to do it again, I really need to remind myself how important it is to create multiple tracks so that I am giving myself more options when I am trying to work this fast. Good luck for me is that the next STBB is due today, and if I want to submit something for it I need to “go fast” for this one as well.

What happened to me this week? 😀

Picking Up the Pace

The picture is courtesy of a family of six foxes that have been living in our back yard for the last two seasons. We’ve been seeing them around for five or six years now. Definitely our suburban outdoor pets now. We’re not feeding them directly or anything… but they are certainly enjoying all of the wildlife that our bird feeders and gardens attract.

I’ve been working on just walking faster… I know, sounds silly, but the effort is really keeping my heart rate up higher. I used to get shin splints from running, and I’m just trying to keep this activity as low impact as possible.

I will note for anybody reading… I did spend the last three days ignoring my watch. I had some personal things I wanted to take care of, and I just couldn’t take the time for spending an hour walking the last three days. My streak is now totally toasted, but it’s time to start getting into the mindset of crushing the last 59 day streak. Having done it, I know that I can do it again, and go further now. So I am starting off the next streak today.

In other news, I have been working on changing my diet, with mostly a 20% less mindset, and adding more protein into what I am eating. The last two weeks I have dropped down to 205 pounds, for a loss over the last eight or ten weeks of 8 pounds. A pound a week is not amazing, but as I’ve noted before I am trying to subtly change my workout routine and diet so that I am changing my behaviors over time instead of trying to make broad changes that I may not stick with.

Overall, I am feeling happier and healthier from making these slight changes. Am I where I want to be? No, but I am heading in the right direction :D.

Track – Endless Space

Here’s the first track I put together using my new euro rack modular setup.

I’m trying to remember this patch… I’ll post a picture and kind of describe it as best as I can. It was more a test to see how cable routing goes, and if I need longer cables. Turns out so far it isn’t too bad, and there’s a little something for everybody in every corner.

  • Eloquencer is driving Assimil8r for the drums, which is then going through the Spice for some NuTube drive and bit crushing
  • Marbles is generating some randomness for Rings which is then going into Echophon and Erbverb to give it some additional feeling of space and movement
  • A sub note… the Echophon feedback out/in loop is going into the SMR to add some high end shimmer
  • Brains/Pressure Plates is running as a sequencer for the bass line on the DPO, and the output is routing through the RxMx for some movement in the oscillators, and routed through Plasma Drive to add some tone to the bass.

So that pretty much sums up how I put the track together. There’s some additional work from Tempi for gates, and 0chd for some LFO work, but nothing exactly magical.