This is the first month I’m starting this project. I was inspired by a class that I’m taking on music production. I’ve recorded my progress here and there but thought it’d be nice to have it all in one place. So in October, the course consists of 3 parts:

  1. Create an original electronic piece using MIDI
  2. Create an original electronic piece using sampling
  3. Create an original acoustic piece using voice and an instrument

Here are the finished products~

Project 1: Organ Thingamabob

Project 2: Electric Bubble Kitchen Dance

Project 3: Just Be

The Process & What I Learned

I began this project with near-zero experience with music production. In fact, I felt a bit ambivalent when I first saw the class. But the main reason why I decided to take it was because it would push me to finish music projects on a timeline, force me to use my Studio One DAW (which I bought last year along with my Presonus Audiobox) and push my skills a level farther.

This class is also why I decided to start this 30 day projects site to keep track and push myself to continue learning. Because I know I’m a lazy person and need a clear goal to shoot for in order to work on things πŸ˜‰

Resources: I also borrowed a couple books on audio engineering from the online library. One felt way over my head with all its talk about math and electronics (though I still managed to learn a little bit), and the second was much more beginner-friendly, written for people who want to be audio/recording engineers, but are only just starting out. I also looked up a ton of YouTube videos, random google sites, and used Lynda videos to learn.

(Actually, Lynda is another reason I want to improve my skills, to not waste access to the site).

Most Important Things I Learned:

  • All the basics of music production, vocabulary, etc. How to do sampling, and how music production is a lot like digital art, you can adjust sounds to do anything.
  • I CAN produce and record music. It’s not impossible!
  • In The Future (ITF): Read the manual!

Project 1: Organ Thingamabob

For the first project (original MIDI), there were 4 phases: 1) create a chord progression, 2) expand the progression into a loop, 3) expand the loop into a complete son, 4) mix and master the piece.

I used a QWERTY keyboard to compose a basic piece, although I cheated a bit and audio recorded myself playing my large keyboard to get a better idea of the progression. Once I figured out how to use Studio One’s instruments, I created a basic song with the first decent ideas that came to mind.

In the beginning, I was mostly wrangling hardware (at first the sounds/QWERTY keyboard wouldn’t work, but eventually it did, not sure how…maybe just took time to warm up). I learned the most during the mixing/mastering stage. I started to understand how to do effects and things like EQ, and that was pretty exciting!

I named it because the first instrument I chose was the organ. Also, the progression I chose sounded a little like Bach, so I went with the path of least resistance, and added something chipper because it suited. Et voila.

Here are the first 3 renditions:

The initial chord progression

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The expanded loop

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The final song, pre mixing/mastering:

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Final song comments:

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Project 2: Electric Bubble Kitchen Dance

For the second project (sampling), the instructions were to: 1) sample different items in the kitchen and use them to create a basic loop, 2) turn it into a final song, using the lessons learned from project 1 as well.

I ran into some problems from the start. First for some reason my microphone wasn’t connecting to my computer. So I had to use the computer microphone. But going through this project, I learned how to play with samples and use it with the MIDI keyboard that I ordered halfway through Project 1 when I realized it would help.

First, I collected as many kitchen sounds as I could. Then I loaded the into Studio One, spliced up the pieces I wanted, and loosely organized them into categories: bass, kick, snare, high hat, ear candy/other.

(I’m really not that great with percussion, having not had much of a background in creating or listening to pop/rock music, but that’s something I can learn more about, perhaps for future projects).

Then I played around with sounds and the SampleOne effects until I found an interesting fuzzy sound (the first sound you hear in the initial sample) and chose the first chord progression I came up with. It was hard to come up with pitched sounds from kitchen instruments, aside from the microwave beeps, and I didn’t have the know-how to do very much with the beeps, so I kept them mostly as-is, and it worked well with the underlying chord.

I decided to call it Electric Bubble Kitchen because it’s an odd combination of words…yet suitable, considering this is electronic music, it has a bubblegum-pop feel, and it was made out of kitchen sounds.

The initial sample

 

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In between, I got too wrapped up in the work, so although this was not required for the class, here is the piece at the halfway mark (literally and figuratively)

The syncopated melody was actually an accident of quantizing. I didn’t play accurately enough and the DAW mixed up the rhythm, but it ended up sounding better that way so I kept it πŸ™‚ Happy accident.

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Project 2: Electric Bubble Kitchen Dance

Had a moment of panic when I tried to restart my computer before working on this project and it wouldn’t open. But praise God, it finally worked. And then I worked on this song after cooking food, for around 8-9 hours (4-1). Came up with a few nice filler melodies, though I didn’t put in as much ear candy as our teacher likes to do with his pieces.

And the middle could still improve.Β  In fact, I’m going to put it in my Future Projects List: “remake old projects after 6-12 months.”

The most interesting thing that happened was when I was trying to double up a beep section in the second part of the song and it ended up getting time shifted a little on accident, resulting in a really neat syncopated section that I decided to keep. Another happy accident πŸ™‚

And comments to classmates re: posting of 3rd and final rendition:

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Project 3: Just Be

For the final project of the month, we were to create an acoustic piece. I had to record this on my iPad as my computer mic wasn’t working properly. I hope it will work later…But originally I wanted to do a wholly new piece for A3, but because of writer’s block and tech issues, I decided to use an old idea fragment I’ve always wanted to finish as a soothing encouragement for myself, really, when times are hard.

There were some extra challenges with this piece: My computer mic and external mic stopped working, as did the MIDI (I could see it was connected, but it wasn’t producing sound). I didn’t have time to figure out the fixes because the assignment was due a day earlier than expected (11/5 not 11/6).

So I recorded myself singing, playing viola, and guitar in pieces into an iPad. Each part took a dozen-plus of takes. Then I had to upload, convert file, download, clip based on timing, and put it together like a puzzle. Then there wasn’t really enough time to do all the mixing and mastering, so I just put in a few effects (like room sizes), changed the volume, and that was it. 10 min late, but finished.

Later, I realized there were quite a few errors in the mix. You can hear the click track faintly in the background and some YT people talking at the end. The voice and viola are rather pitchy, the guitar technique needs so much work even though I already simplified it as much as I could. Etc. But considering the limitations, I’m grateful to have done so much. And having limits forces creative workarounds, so that’s a plus!

Other note: I am starting to realize the importance of mixing and mastering with balance. One classmate -pointed out that the mixing is too quiet and that’s mostly because I turn my audiobox audio too high so it sounds loud to me. In future music production projects, I need to pay more attention to this. Maybe export as MP3, listen, and then adjust again.

First rendition

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Comments for the final rendition.

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Bonus Project: M’s Song (or Lullaby)

As a bonus, I was also working on a project for a friend on the side. The theme/motif is a given, based on the letters of her name (going up the major scale starting on C), and I went with a soothing minor feel, but added a little touch of a major key in the middle.

Here it is at the halfway mark:

While trying to edit M’s Song, I learned that if you change the velocity/attack speed on the individual notes, you can avoid weird accents. This is particularly helpful with the MIDI violin and piano and other classical traditionally non-electronic sounds.

Another random thing I learned: Sometimes the reason why my mic seems not to work is because I have to make sure I did all of these things:

  • Turned on the 48V button to make sure electricity is going into the audiobox
  • Turn up the knob labeled (input 1) on the audiobox
  • Make sure the Mix knob is even between input and output (if it’s turned all the way to the right, I can hear my MIDI stuff, but not anything coming in from the mic)
  • And to record in Studio One, make sure the track isΒ armed. AKA clicked on, and ready to record.

>.< ;P

And the finished product:

 

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