Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Nerd stuff - the making of "Chillax"

I like reading how other people write music so I'm showing here how how put this song together...


I damaged the tendons in my knee

so I sat on the couch reading Peter Garrett's biography with a bag of frozen peas on my knee

and I found that listening to SBS Chill radio station didn't distract me from reading

I'm not a big fan of chill music but it worked for me while reading and sitting on the couch and so I started to get ideas in my head about trying something 'chill' like. So I found a few drum loops on Looperman at 130bpm and put them on one of my computers I use to make music

Around the same time, I'd picked up Prodigy's "Fat of the Land" and it reminded me of the big beat sound I used to like.

So, I thought I'd try and make a chill tune with a bigger sound - so a compromise. I'm not getting paid or commissioned -so why not?!

Making the tune

I put the drum beats through LMMS sequencer and worked on a piano roll pattern that I thought fitted in with the beat. I did each of these notes one by one (with a bit of cut and paste) - so I'm making this picture larger because I put a lot of work into it! It is in A minor 7 ....I think.....

 Once I got beat and the pattern going I left it for a day or two.
 When I came back I tried different chords on my midi controller keyboard until I found a pattern I liked.


 I started to build the background of the song up using drum loops and synth sounds on LMMS

I saved everything as WAV files and transferred to another computer I use into SONAR LE a Digital Audio Workstation and worked on refining it for a whole day

Something wasn't sounding right the whole time until I realized it needed more 'human' instrumentation - and so I wiped a lot of the electronic bass sounds and brought in my own four stringed Suzuki Bass and just played it over driven...it made a difference straight away.

Eventually I double tracked the lead guitar and refined and added an effect or two along the way to bring out the different bits.

Watch the video here - most of the clips were public domain or creative commons - I didn't want it to be too serious. Music is a gift. Enjoy.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

LMMS sequencer

I tried out another sequencer recently called LMMS .

This following tune I wrote with 'orchestral' type instruments on LMMS and then I fine tuned it through Sonar LE.

The Wiki Page for LMMS is here if you want to know more about it.

I really liked using LMMS and hope to try out some different sounds.

By the way I used VSTi's mainly from DSK

Here is a screenshot of LMMS  with DSK Strings

Heres a screenshot of the instruments in Sonar LE where I mixed it down

And a Screenshot of the effects (mainly reverb and EQ)

Here's a shaky hand held camera view of LMMS in action:

Here is a 30ish second clip of the sounds I used in it:

Sunday, April 26, 2015

DIY Backing Band:: VSTis, Bram Bos and Sonar LE

I'm a nerd. I admit it.

Here's some of the computer tools I use to make electronic backing / loops:

I had been using instrument samples and looping them through Cakewalk Studio program for a fair while manually. A few years back I came across the wonderful invention of 'Virtual Instrument Technology' which opened up a world to synths and 'natural' instruments. These gave opportunity for me to find and use sounds I could hear in my head but couldn't frustratingly put down through normal recording. Not only that, many kind people who invented these have given them out for free over the 'net, so being on a strict home budget where feeding the family comes first; I've been very grateful to have access to them.

A few years back an enigmatic software designer from the Netherlands named Bram Bos made a few great pieces of music sequencing software which I have used in much of my music. 'Tunafish' become my favourite because it was so well set out. Here are a few screen shots:

Drum track (photo)

 Keyboard tracks (photo) with the option of using samplers or Vstis

So I would work out the chords and song on guitar and then spend hours working with what sort of backing track using this program and Cakewalk/Sonar LE (Digital Audio Workstation).

Bram Bos (maker of Tunafish) vanished off the net a few years ago and his website went with him (to do more important things, I imagine) but I have a debt of gratitude for his work in making simple sequencers which were essential for me as a guitar player to make the backing music.

After getting Sonar LE, I found how to use VSTis fairly quickly and went for it.

Here is a more experimental tune I used guitar, sound samples, drum loops and VSTis to make. I specifically made this particular film clip (just using Microsoft Movie Maker) to show all the different VSTis as an example for a friend. As the clip goes along, I point out what I am using to make a particular sound. The majority of the VSTis are being used through Sonar LE  which I used to make the song in this clip:

I also made this clip for a friend showing a more 'orchestrated' use for VSTis:

More on VSTs here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_Studio_Technology

VST 4 Free

Some paid many free great sounding instruments at DSK

And there are more of course...

I'm now experimenting with LMMS after not liking it earlier - they have updated it to a better quality free sequencer. More on LMMS later if it turns out as good as it is looking for basic home sequencing.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Electronic music backing

For years I had been making guitar music with guitar backing using 4 track recorders and early stages of using a computer all with Wav files and straight audio to computer.

Here's an example of a straight live guitar and Wav drum loop tune:

 After a while I was experimenting with samplers and Virtual Studio Technology Instruments, such as this I did on this one:

See the next blog post for more specifics...

Estonian electronic music ...why not?!

A few years ago I was watching the Eurovision Song contest and an Estonian group called Malcolm Lincoln did a great - 'not taking this too seriously' song which caught my eye. After having a look on the net I found a small group of really talented musos in different bands that knew each other and were putting out some great electronic music, some raw and unrefined and others more professional. I'm not sure what it was but this group of people from a country on the other side of the world from me put a new spin on electronic music - not that I understand all the lyrics ...

A creative and talented bunch

EDM : a casual trip to the library that made the next move

When my kids were younger we would often go to the local library to borrow the usual books and kids DVDs that is compulsory to keep the restless tribe at home from uprising into rebellion.

I always tried also to get CD's of music that I hadn't heard before, world music, or a genre of music that was sounding interesting on the radio.

One particular day, years ago, I went by myself and came home with The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk and Groove Armada. I played them over a few times and really grew to like the sound and their ideas. My son John also took note. He later told me that  I had accidentally brought home three bands that represented 'Big Beat' without realising it.

Something clicked in me and I started to listen to Electronic Dance Music more than I had before - as well as still listening to guitar and world music.

John and I finally got to see The Chemical Brothers play live as a DJ Set in Adelaide (I was probably the oldest person there). Though I didn't know a lot of what they were playing - the vibe was great.

Here we are in 2012 using my very, very old Nokia phone - I took a few seconds to catch the moment:

Not a guitar in sight but a great happening. Music is music as far as I'm concerned whatever you use to make it.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Fairlight and how samples changed me forever....

I mentioned the Fairlight in the last post. Most people - even today - do not realise the massive shift in audio history that took place with the invention of the Fairlight music computer. I still remember when it was first invented and I saw it demonstrated on television - I was totally shocked. I had been experimenting with two tape recorders as a kid trying to 'multi-track' guitar parts which just turned into a sorry ball of hiss with some music in the background..but the Fairlight had opened the way to sample every day sounds and real instruments and make them playable by a keyboard.

First my two odes to the early days of samplers - the first is the basic 'yard noises' turned into a rhythm:

The second is tune I wrote which I tried to use 80's sounds - especially  -some of the stock sounds that came with the Fairlight:

Bottom line: No one had invented an instrument that could sample any sound through a microphone and then make it into a playable instrument. No one. The Fairlight is the first instrument ever to provide this.

Much of the 1980's music depended on sound samples including hip-hop late which often used sampled drums.

Here's some history:

Peter Vogel (the long haired inventor in the above clip) has more history on his site:

There was no looking back after playable audio samples on a keyboard came into existence. For me, to be able to sample sounds and instruments I had been hearing all my life and making 'instruments' out of them was a breakthrough I still respect. Not that I have ever owned Fairlight - some of us use what ever we can.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and guitar?

Here's my son John just playing with a sound - I get to join in right at the end on one note -just a bit of fun - but though I am a guitar player mainly;the background music I put together to play the guitar over is often electronic music. I've always listened to both. Watch this clip first (goes for under 40 seconds)

Even though Guitar is my 'voice' I've always liked electronic music too.
My main influence was initially my father Rudi Oestmann who played all sorts of music at home from rock to brass also bought electronic Moog based records in the 1970's.

When we were young children, the first 45 (single record) we had was - not - a guitar based tune would you believe - but - a total electronic one but Hot Butter's version of "Pop Corn" originally composed by Gershon Kingsley.

We had a little suitcase record player with the speaker in the lid - which rang out this tune constantly:

Later on we had a compilation album which featured Kraftwerk's "Autobahn"

I had no idea at the time what an Autobahn was but the music just sounded great:

My dad had bought a number of Jean-Michel Jarre's records which were good melodically as well as with 1970's electro wizardry

Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" got played on our turntable a lot - still a classic electronic dance music... way before it's time:

My dad was buying all this stuff during the 70's including a lot of other styles.
He also had the original Moog classic "Switched on Bach" some "Tangerine Dream" (to which my school mate asked "does your dad smoke dope?" "No"), and some lesser known Moog experimental records that I have no idea who played on them.

When I was finally old enough to get my own records I got rock guitar and 60's...and ...electronic. This was in the batch of one of the first singles I bought "Are Friends Electric" by Tubeway Army (Gary Numan)

Mi Sex's "Computer Games" was a massive song and I played it ...a lot...

I also bought Flowers first album "Icehouse" (the band soon becoming Icehouse - with Iva Davies at the helm). The combination of electro and guitar in both these tracks suite me just fine.

Now we are in the 80's and electronic music really took off - there are so many bands that could be listed...I always listened to both guitar based and electro music.

The Fairlight sampler was invented and the game changed even more. I would have loved one but back in the day they cost as much as a house. The influence of the Fairlight and all the sampler spin offs is incredible and most people have never heard of it...I'll talk more about this stuff at a later date. I'm trying to explain some of the influences..there'll be more on this topic soon.

Thursday, January 15, 2015



 Here's a quick vid of the gear I was using as I was putting it together:

AXL Guitar

Suzuki Bass

RP50 effect pedal

UMK61 Controller Keyboard

Alesis Midiverb

Tascam Porta 2 Mk2 four-track record (tape mechanism doesn't work, I used it as a pre-amp to naturally overdrive the lead guitar)

These had been sitting in the shed for  a number of years and I wasn't even sure if they worked anymore. The last time I recorded with them was in 2009. But because I had a few days break, it was good time to get them out again and literally dust them off. After a few crackles and pops, I finally got some sound out of it :

What grabbed me was the very long reverb on one hand (10-16 seconds) and then the backward reverb 'reverse' setting (400 ms). So I used the long reverb to play the rhythm/picking/feedback and then the 'reverse' setting to record the lead guitar.

The rest of the instrumentation I recorded using Sonar LE:

I filmed myself recording the lead live but I only ended up using a tiny bit of it in the end.
My posture here is akin to a sack of potatoes. However, I was happy with some of the squeals I was able to get out of the poor guitar: