Friday, December 22, 2017

How Apple made me put together 'The Road Rising'

Making The Road Rising (December 2017)

I'm a PC sort of guy, all the music I make is pretty well all done on PC's.

This tune 'The Road Rising' was made totally on Apple hardware. I used an iPad (borrowed) and my very old iPod 3 to make the tune. I did however use my trusty DAW on the PC to compress and EQ the files for more punch. I chose deliberately to stick to the iPad and the iPod because sometimes you find 'restrictions' force more creativity.

I downloaded free synth and looping software just to try and learn how to use the iPad but found some of it sounded so good, I decided to make a tune.

I need to be clear at this point, as with a lot of electronic music, I used preprogramed loops to make the biggest chunk of the song. So I'll list the programs and you'll recognise how I did it....quite frankly....because you'll find the same loops. So if you want to do it yourself it is not that hard.

As a rule I tend to start from scratch when I write music (and I will mostly do this) but this is one time I thought it sounded so good, it wasn't worth reinventing the wheel.

What I -did - add manually were the 

  • 'bass'
  • background 'drone' and 'ambient' notes.
  • I also manually played an iPad Synth lead parts on a couple of synths 
  • and manually played the iPod 'piano' parts.
  • I also manually twiddled knobs and crosshairs and dot charts on the iPad and iPod to get freaking electro FX sounds underneath.
I didn't know how much fun was to be had in an afternoon.
Here are the software programs I used -they are all downloadable for free from the Apple Apps store (at the time of writng this):

Blocs Wave - this is the main one full of loops that made the majority of the tune



 Core Synth



Virtuoso (piano)


Sylo Synth



All of this bing bang bam electronica turned out into this film clip:

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

How I dropped the Anchor of Hope

As usual, I write this stuff as a record for myself because I forget how I make things...and also...I really like to learn from others how they make music, so this is my way of giving back, if anyone may be the slightest bit interested.

Here's the finished song

I like the idea of using 'samples' in production of music because it can really orchestrate the tune and fill it out and make it stronger. 

The problem with  using other people's samples (ie lifted from vinyl records) is that it is a legal minefield.

Sooo...I remembered that I had a stack of cassettes of songs and part-songs and ideas I recorded myself of myself over the 90's and early 2000's on cassette players and 4 Track tape recorders. 

I'm always 'this close' to ditching the tapes into big pile of trash but discover that some stuff can be recycled.

I found myself playing two bass guitar parts I loud and distorted and thought that it would be good to sample them and see what i could do with them...which I did.... There are really only three parts I took and then built the rest of the song around them.

Here is some of the process:

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Making of 'Thin Places'

Making of 'Thin Places'

This is a slightly weird tune weaved and pulled together from a few randomn threads.

LMMS was the main electronic music program I used to make this and then I mixed it and added some more on Sonar LE.

It was a combination of listening to Irish folk music, playing with a Japanese randomn speech synth called 'AquesTone2' and mixing it with a little big beat groove. I was also learning how to use a vocoder at the same time, so I thought I would pull al these ideas together and see what resulted.

I restricted myself in writing the chords and melody purely on the piano roll of LMMS. Often I write the song on guitar but I wanted to push myself out of routine and habital moves.

I actually worked quite hard on the melody and chords to create the feel I was after. When I added the instruments it began to sway away from my original intentions and I decided to follow it wherever it took me, which unintentially sounded more Asian instead of Irish. Maybe it is the pentatonic scale I was using? Who knows?

The title 'thin places' is a reference to Celtic Christian idea of physical places that are 'thin' between the physical and the spiritual. The song itself gives no hint of this, it was a working title when I started and decided to leave it...just in case you were wondering...

In the end, I suspect it is an aquired taste as a tune but I like it because I was able to push a few more boundaries in writing and recording. The journey is personally as important to me, however, if anyone likes it - or 'gets it' than I'm doublely and tripley and quadroopaly happy..

A short video I took while making the beginning:

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Making of 'Candles and Stone"

Making of Candles and Stone (April 2017)

Often I have an idea of a song/tune before I start but this one just sort of came out mostly in one night and then I refined it the next evening and that was it.

I had been watching one of Howard Goodall's documentaries on Western classical music. I'm a pop-tragic myself so generally I don't listen to much classical music which I tend to find goes like a rambling story with no ending.

However, I am trying to understand it a little more and I have vinyl records of some of the great composers, so I am hoping to open that door a little...anyway...I'm rambling like a story with no ending...Anyway, back to the tune: I have gratefully been able to take time off from work and as is my custom, I crashed and burned when the holidays started. Usually I get sick, which I did again, but this time I unwittingly added a bit of melancholy to the mix.

So, not one to be beaten easily, I spent an evening using music to climb out of it, just jamming on my guitar and recording bits that i might use later. I had an idea just to do a two part guitar piece but before I knew it, it turned into a somber 'ambient' tune which became Candles and Stone.

Here's the nerdy stuff

Webcam lead guitar part for Candles and Stone - so this is me playing the lead part live without edit from beginning to end. I wanted to capture the idea even though it was raw:


I really wanted to keep it simple, so I used Sonar LE's on board midi keyboard VSTi's. It is really a demo pack but I managed to salvage (what I thought were) some very good sounds The 'orchestral' parts were made using these four Cakewalk sounds:

 Midi Keyboard 1 'Mutant Orchestra'

 Midi Keyboard 2 'Solo Bass Pizzi (loose)'

Midi Keyboard 3 'Violin Ensemble1'

Midi Keyboard 4 'Oboe Modern Ensemble1'


So the tune is made up of:

Electric Guitar picking chords

Lead Guitar

4 x Midi Keyboard parts

And that's it. have a nice day.

Saturday, March 18, 2017



Here's the clip:

You can download it on soundcloud for free if you like: 

I've been trying to teach myself Ableton Live 9 Lite on and off for the last few months. I actually found it counter intuitive to most programs I have used before. Probably because I am mainly a home-producer and not a performer (except I did last night after a decade of absence) I have been using FL Studio type of programs like LMMS and Sonar.

It was finally after watching teenage YouTube tutorials that I found a foot into it and discovered the differences and how it worked. So I decided to limit myself to making a tune totally on Ableton Live 9 Lite, which I did..well...sort of. I used all the 'on board' sounds to make the tune, which were quite impressive. I added some 140 bpm drum loops later in the tune from the good people at to add some muscle to it.

I also took the raw tracks and edited them slightly in Sonar Lite to bring out the best and minimise the worst parts.

Here's some photos while I was making it to show the sounds I was using if you are familiar with Ableton 9 live lite:

Here are the chords I wrote as I was writing it - now you can play along if you want ;-)

Friday, January 20, 2017

'Restless' - the making of...

I don't know if many people actually read any of these posts but I am finding it helpful nowadays to record the journey for myself - and if anyone else benefits; well, that would make me happy.

After experimenting with electronic only music I became actually restless and just wanted to make an old school guitar-blast tune. I went against many of my principles and did not concentrate on 'melody' so much as just making a noise - the result is the tune 'Restless'. Here:

The tune began accidentally as I had been listening to Led Zeppelin and playing around with 'Since I've been Loving you'  which gave me the feel for what was going to become 'Restless'. However, by the time I came to put it together it just turned into a scrambled jam instead. Oh well. I also borrowed my son's violin bow and decided to record (rather loudly) myself playing the guitar with a violin bow, which is actually harder than it looks. I shoved it as the 'middle eight' in the tune.

The actual guitar parts I used the RP50 effect and the Wah Wah Pedal which doesn't seem to be working so well nowadays but still gave it a bit of expression:

The drums were 100 bpm 'blues' acoustic drums from the looperman website, that someone kindly donated for download.

The rest, well, I played these puppies:

If you are interested in anymore, I made two videos explaining it a little further:

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Wonderland - making the tune

'Wonderland' is made totally on midi keyboard and computer DAWs, though the original tune, I wrote on a normal stand up acoustic piano. I had the idea floating for quite a number of years and I thought I would finally try and finish it.

When I started to record it I wanted it to be a danceable tune but it kind of wrote itself into a 'Bambi' sort of sountrack. I'm not sure exaclty how that happened but sometimes I just follow it where it wants to go and that's where it seemed best. So I put away all of my 140 bpm drum dance loops and it finished with Timpani drums and a kick only.

The 'voice' on it is from Sonar LE's Cakewalk sounds called "Ahh Female". It goes for just over one second. I played the melody with the 'voice'  via a midi Keyboard and then sculptured it rawly to have fade ins and outs and a bit of reverb to make it slightly more voicey. I didn't try too hard because I also wasn't pretending it was a real voice, I wanted it to sound sampled as well.

As far as the song itself goes, I had the basic structure which is strongly around C and Dm (with Am) but worked out the middle eight with an unplugged electric guitar pad and pen. I was after a shift without losing the feel:

Knowing I have a blog and being a 'drop in the ocean' I know not many will read this but becuase I like to learn from other music folk, I took some photos on the journey of making it and I put descriptions of the VSTi's among other shots if this is your bag. Enjoy the wonder of it all ...