TME Summary

I’ve been particularly bad at blogging this semester and I don’t know why.

I had grand ideas for my project but I simply ran out of time trying to record my CME project. Fortunately I learned a fair bit about garageband and recording techniques during this venture.

The project in which I engaged in for this task was the recording of an original song called little bird. I recorded this song in garageband using A Washburn acoustic guitar model D10SLH a single Rhode NT2 microphone through a Scarlet 2i2 USB audio interface. I also experimented with a JAME’S ACOUSTIC PICKUP GUITAR MIKE)

Nearly everyone I had spoken to had assured me that this would be as simple as plugging and playing.
It was not.

The first issue I encountered actually took me some time to resolve. The first few sounds I recorded, when played back through my headphones were for a lack of a better word, crunchy. The only way I could see to alleviate this was to turn the gain down on the input and to reduce the output on the microphone. This would seem like a logical solution. There were 2 issues here, first the signal wasn’t loud enough for me to hear clearly in the playback and second, I wasn’t able to hear the metronome.

I did some research and found out that this is called “clipping”. “Clipping” is when the speaker is unable to handle the audio signal so instead of overloading the hardware (the speaker cones in this case), it caps the level which distorts the signal creating that “crunchy” sound. Generally this is considered not good and for my purposes I have also considered it not good. The solution suggested is to change the level at which the signal is being amplified so the hardware can cope. Generally signals are not amplified so as to leave “headspace” before the signal is “clipped”. Upon learning this I decided that It was entirely possible that the headphones I had been using were either faulty or not calibrated to deal with the signal that my 2i2 was giving. Whether or not my slowly aging Marleys were the cause of this problem or not, I am not sure but I can be sure that replacing the headphones that I was using has solved this issue.

The second major issue I encountered was playing in time.
The obvious solution to this is to use “flexi-time”; the analogue version of quantising. While this is certainly better than nothing, I noticed a few characteristics of this that changed the recording in an undesirable way. First off I noticed a tendency for the attack of notes to be slightly late upon inspecting the signal the received signal. Whether or not this was me simply playing out of time or latency between the sound being picked up by the microphone and it being encoded on to my slow laptop, I don’t know for sure. I did however realise that “flexi-time” tended to favor the loudest part of the sound making that the center of its movement. While in a strictly accurate sense this is correct, this looses the subtlety of guitar sound; you loose part of the sound of the strum and get the sound of the chord instead. Some clever kid working for the development team of garageband has already figured this out so there is a little bit of compensation but the ideal sound would still be the one from doing a single take. Frankly that’s more pressure then I can take right now.
To offset this slightly I thought the most convenient way would be to record a bar or 2 of silence both before and after each take.
A really good reason for this is because the very first sound of that part of the recording coincides with the first beat, therefore if any sound is made before that then it is simply not recorded. This could be as simple as hearing a breath before a singer begins.
Allowing sound after each take, (especially when using the multiple takes function) can also prevent this same problem.

I also found this technique very useful for playing over mistakes. My only concern when doing this is ensuring that the levels remain constant during this time as well. This can be altered by a variety of things ranging from distance from the microphone

I did eventually give up on trying to ensure that each second of sound was precisely in time as this sacrificed the feel I was going for, it was still none the less fun to experiment.

The next issue that I encountered was using auto tune.
I had two issues with this: Firstly, the guitar I am using is not set up for open tunings, nor do I get it serviced by a professional regularly. As such it is not the most perfectly intoned guitar, its not bad but during this process I’ve had to learn how to address this issue. Turns out the neck was slightly warped and as a result I’ve had to adjust the truss rod to compensate for this.

Secondly my time playing trombone in various ensembles especially quartets has left me with a preference for Pythagorean chords over equal temperament. I was unable to find a solution to this problem for the guitar part and have consequentially had to compensate the tuning best I can. The result doesn’t bother me too much, it feels more authentic

The next problem I encountered was to do with adding the percussive guitar part. Up until this point I had been using the contact microphones I had been borrowing from James which produced a great sound but unfortunately I found them (like many other aspects of recording) fiddly and frustrating. I could easily have spent hours trying to find the optimum configuration and unfortunately I just never got there. The

I decided the best alternative would be to play the percussion part with the guitar on my lap. This produced a vastly different sound then what I could usually produce while playing and decided against it. However what this brought to light was the sound of the open strings that were unsettled and had begun to ring during this time. I really liked the sound but it was not the sound that I wanted in my recording. I may use this for a future recording…
The solution to this was actually quite simple however. I wrapped a bandanna around the strings in order to stop them from ringing during the percussion guitar takes. This helped quite a lot because it helped to take the stress off having to play both the percussion and guitar part for part of it.

So there you have it.
I learned stuff I diddn’t know before and hopefully next time when I record it wont be nearly half as stressful.

I hope…

Entry number 6

I was wrong, there’s too much material L I’ve had to cut back and frankly I’ve been looking at the section I called the “build” I’m just not feeling it, so I’ve cut that little bit out as well as the lyrics that go over the instrumental. I’ve also finalised the lyrics. FINALLY!!!
Not realy sure what else there is to say about this. Its done now.

Hey there,
little bird
will you tell me
watchya heard

I’m listening
through the wall
little bird
tell me more

I’ll tell you
the secrets of
the passers by
close your eyes
and look around
dont make a sound

watch your hands
make their mark
watch them tire
in the dark

I’ll tell you
the secrets of
the passers by
close your eyes
and look around
don’t make a sound

Little bird
I’ve heard enough
don’t fly away
I’ve learned your name

little bird
I think its time,
that you learned mine
don’t fly away

Entry 5

Its late

I know it is

And I don’t feel good but either late last night or this morning, I can’t remember, something awesome came out.
I spent 2 hours this morning just playing and experimenting with it because I needed it.

Finally I have another interesting percussive guitar element to this.
Up until now I had been adamant that there were several tempo changes in it, maybe partially because I thought and felt they were (and are) distinct pieces of music.

Pulse is important.

We think of pitch as frequency but we can also think of pulse as frequency. Through experimentation with various microphones (and animals I’m sure) the size of the receiver affects it’s sensitivity to certain pitches.

Just to put this into perspective, 440hz is perfectly acceptable as a mid range pitch. That’s 440 oscillations per second.
When we talk about pulse, we talk about per minute.
So even if we were Malmstein and could play comfortably at 440bpm, it still would be at a frequency easier felt than heard.

Regardless there is still a frequency and still a pitch and that pitch must contribute somehow to the piece even if only as an inaudible drone.

I guess I’m this respect I’ve decided to harmonise the whole piece so to speak, allowing the meter to change but kept the overall pulse at 64 bpm

My composition I feel is now as complete as I can let it be.

I’ve wanted to chanel both Jon Gom and Nic Drake. Both use open tuning styles and Jon gom especially uses percussive techniques on the guitar, lyrically though I hoped to at least emulate the tender singing style of Nick Drake.

Entry 4

Entry number 4

First score Draft done. I don’t like it but at least I have something
Reworked the lyrics too, got rid of that stuff about ancient wisdom. Not sure its any better but at least its less pretentious.

Hey there
Little bird
Tell me
What you heard

I’m listening
Through the wall
Little bird
Is there more?

 

Chorus-
I’ll tell you
The secrets of
The passers by
Close your eyes
Look around
Don’t make a sound

Echo
With the silent bells
Let them ring
Let them ring…

Watch your hands
As they make their mark
Hear the silence echo
Hear the roots crunch around
the bones of our past

 

Little bird
I’ve heard enough
Don’t fly away
I’ve learned your name

Little bird
I think its time
That you learned mine
Don’t fly away

Entry 3

Entry number 3

I’ve never been good at lyrics but I’ve had a few people appreciate what poetry I’ve shown them, either out of politeness or confusion. Very little of my work seems to totally be particularly concrete and I understand that not everyone makes the same connections to things that I do. It’s probably why people allude to the works of the greats, perhaps because they have said it more articulately then they.

I don’t usually write lyrics.

What I do when I’m writing poetry however is ask strangers I meet on the Internet for random words or themes. Usually I get three words and it seems to generally work out well.
The first draught of lyrics were created with the following “inspiration” in mind.
Birds, Mirrors, Wisdom.

Here is the first draft of the lyrics.
Hey there
Little bird
Will you tell me
What you heard?

And I’m listening
Through the wall
Little bird
Is there more?

I’ll tell you,
The secrets of
Passers by
Look around
Close your eyes
Don’t make a sound

Ancient voices speak
From closed mouths made of stone
whispering in times of need
All you need is too breathe

You’ll find me
Behind your eyes
Waiting
I’ll find you first

Im getting
Closer now
Don’t look for me
I’ll find you first

I’ll tell you,
The secrets of
Passers by
Look around
Close your eyes
Don’t make a sound

 

Little bird
I’ve heard enough
Don’t fly away
I’ve learned your name

Little bird
I think its time
That you learned mine
Don’t fly away

I diddn’t think these were any good, I actually decided that this had turned into a pretentious song about not being pretentious. What kind of 21 year old thinks he knows what the ancient voices have to say about anything (if there are any!)
At least I had a ballpark idea of what this song was going to be about and frankly some of the lyrics are actually kinda good. Little bird loosely refers to the idea of being told something by an anonymous source. In addition to this the theme of a mirror is not directly referenced in the current content. I interpreted the mirror more as the idea of reflecting on oneself. As for wisdom, well I already mentioned how 21 year olds are probably too young to hear what is not being said clearly.

 

In terms of music, I have settled on all the different musical sections that will be in the piece but putting them into some kind of coherent order is going to be a challenge

Entry 2

The next major step I achieved in this composition was 2 sets of chords. One I later realised shared the root movement of creep by radiohead. I had been searching around on the Internet the night before and found a cover of this song by a homeless man cum recording artist who goes by the name of homeless mustard. His voice is parched and raw and after more than a decade on the street he may always be. None the less the song takes over an entirely new meaning when he sings it. I assumed that creep was about anyone who’s affections were unreturned. I’ve done a little work the past few months playing at Mathew Talbert men’s hostel in Wooloomooloo. A lot of the time is spent listening to them talk at you in the way some people might ramble. At the center the attendants told us this is because most people simply don’t listen to them.

The group we go with may well be the only people who spoken or paid any attention to these men in a month. I can’t pretend to know what mustard might have been feeling when he sang this song but I don’t think I would be unwarranted in assuming they mustard might not have written this cover to reflect his heart break over his partner.

Around this same time my first compositional draught was due so I also began experimenting with percussive ideas in order to emulate the work of Andy McKee, Jon Gomm, Mike Daws and Owen Van Larkins.

Musicians I hugely admire for their unconventional use of the guitar.

Upon presenting what I had to James, he suggested to my horror that I should turn what I had I to a song using the words and works of Nick Drake as inspiration. Upon hearing his music it actually wasn’t too far away from what I would have hoped to do. During highschool I had a healthy diet of heavy metal. Slipknot’s subliminal verses being the first album I bought with my own money is gave me a taste for one of the many alternate cultures. What I diddn’t like at all about this music however was the constant reference to a rage that blamed everything but itself for its cause. Around the same time I was introduced to a group of vegan punk rockers known as Rise Against. While the issues that they spoke out against were not ones I fully understood as a teenager they knew exactly where it came from and it was this certainty of a goal that I admired and still envy. It was therefore my intent to create something that meant something (even if its meaning changes in a confusing way) and that was unusual. Maybe Nick Drake wasn’t particularly unusual for the late 60’s early 70’s but 40 years on, listening with ears from a separate generation, I certainly found it unusual with deep meaning.

entry 1

When I was 16 years old, (5 years ago) I wrote an instrumental for open D tuned guitar (DADF#AD) called breathe.

I was experimenting with open tUmings because I was teaching myself a song called thunder by a band called boys like girls.

Around this same time I had begun classical guitar lessons with Mathew McGuigan. One of many instrumental teachers I’ve had who have undoubtedly influenced my playing and compositional style.

Mat in particular however was one of my favourites because we clicked so much and agreed so much ideologically. We both believe that when you repeat something that’s already been said before and has been said often then chances are your not saying anything new or really anything at all, especially when there is someone who can say it better than you. A philosophy I later learned was the same attitude of Ella Fitzgerald. We both freely admit and see the irony in this seeing as how we both went to study classical music degrees at the same institution, we both however have searched continuously for technique and I guess less popular music.

During this early stage of composition, I discovered a variation of breathe which I mentioned earlier and I decided this would be used in my new composition.

Audio

Here is a brilliant example of what the internet is for

Some of you may know that I play guitar.
I had lessons for many years but one of the most helpful tools I have found is right here.
From what I can tell, its a rather comprehensive compilation of video guitar lessons in a non-reading tradition. It updates regularly with new songs and lessons.

Probably even less of you know that I am very interested in maths and science.
I rant and rave about this  all the time because I think its one of the best models of online learning I’ve ever seen. Videos with detailed examples, a gradebook with achievements (gamification of learning anyone?) inexhaustible exercises (for the math section at least)

It also has a Berger twist on it too. Khan Academy doesn’t let you move on until you’ve completed to its standards. AND you can go back and practice more if your worried you haven’t got it.

Anyway, enough rant

Here is Terry Crews demonstrating both technology and music.

BEHOLD AND BE EDUCATED

Wasn’t that electrifying?

Christakis and Mitra

SO Christakis research found that children (and mice) who watched TV were increasingly susceptible to attention problems due to the high level of stimulation that technology provided. Increasing their risk of attention disorders by approximately  %10 per hour of consuming.

Kinda terrifying considering the high level of use that already exists in many households.

He also mentioned just how beneficial it was to kids who got quality 1-on-1 time with someone playing with them in a traditional manner, for instance playing blocks or reading a book.
This time far more than offset the risk of attention disorders by %30 per half hour

The most important thing about this particular study though is that these stats refer to fast paced moving pictures, colours and sounds. Not so much with slow moving videos, or text.

Now Mitra discovered that if you give kids with nothing better to do the time and tools to learn things they will do just that. It just so happens that the tools that he used happened to be a computer with internet.
Given that this kind of technology was given a bad rap, it is only natural to assume that their attention span is going to suffer, however I find it difficult to believe that impatient individuals would choose to learn a complex language like English without giving up fairly soon.

The conclusion to be drawn from this isn’t that technology will overstimulate your brain and condition you to only learn from highly stimulating sources of information, rather that a medium needs to be reached and and understanding of how technology should be used in order to utilise it in the classroom most effectively.