Transitioning back to Bandcamp

For simplicity and publicity’s sake, I’m going to transition back over to Bandcamp. Check it out here. I’d originally moved over to hosting a Fastspring store through WordPress because it had lower fees, but Bandcamp seems to have much better SEO and is honestly much better optimized. Also, it’s a lot easier for me, but that was really a secondary consideration.

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On Side-Chaining

So here’s something I’ve noticed recently: Side-chaining is everywhere in music these days.

So now for some context.

One of the effects that’s used really commonly in production is called a “compressor.” The compressor does pretty much what it says on the tin- it takes the audio and compresses the amplitude. It basically makes the loud parts quieter and the quiet parts louder, leading to a more balanced mix. This has the effect of making everything sound louder and more even, but also decreases the dynamic range, so if you want something really punchy and dramatic, it’ll get compressed down and lessen the impact.

There’s a big debate in the music world about how much compression to use. A lot of pop and electronic artists compress the crap out of their music, running it through three or more passes to get it to seem as loud as possible. At the same time, some people refuse to use compressors at all, preferring to use the most authentic audio signal possible, with all its spikes and dips. I myself fall comfortably in the middle. I use compressors very occasionally on individual tracks, only if they really need it, and usually throw a low-power one over the final mix, but that’s about it.

There is one neat trick that compressors can do, though, which is unquestionably useful, and that’s called “side-chaining.” Side-chaining is basically taking an effect on one track and using another track to trigger it; in this case, it uses the audio levels from one track to compress another track. What this does is really interesting: it means that when one track gets loud, the other will automatically get quieter (though it only works one-way). Side-chaining was invented for radio DJs so they could be heard over the music and not max out the signal, automatically making the music quieter when the DJ is talking, but it was adopted for use in music shortly thereafter.

Now that I know how to use side-chaining, I see it everywhere in music. If you listen close to almost any pop song, you’ll notice that whenever the bass drum hits, pretty much everything goes completely silent for a moment, then fades back in, creating a really neat pulsing sound and that driving drum-line that they love so much, as well as making the drums sound a lot louder than everything else, when really everything’s compressed to the same level in the end.

I confess, I do use side-chained compressors a lot, just because honestly, it sounds really cool, and they’re so prevalent that people have come to expect them. I find it’s really easy to lose the drums in a mix otherwise, and I’m not good enough at leveling to do that manually.

So anyway, I’m going to try to start putting up some stuff related to the creation of music, not just music itself, because there’s a really long stretch of time in-between when I actually put out any music. Writing music takes a long time, especially having realized that there’s a pretty much direct relationship between how much time I spend on a particular piece and how good the final product actually is.

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The Lotus Club

Another electro-swing piece, and the last for a little while, I think. I need to get back to work on Positronika.

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The Looking Glass

The third track in Speakeasy.

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Nous Sommes Ici

The second song in Speakeasy, an ongoing experiment in Electro-Swing, is now live!

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Speakeasy, the first song in my Electro-Swing experiment, is now live on youtube.

Give it a listen:

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Volume Issues

So apparently, there are some volume problems with Datum, and a lot of the music came out very quiet, certainly much quieter than I intended. This is due to my change in software partway through writing the album. I’ve learned now how to resolve the issue, so that won’t happen again. I’m working on fixing it.

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Datum is up now, available in the store and on Youtube.

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Datum is coming along

I checked the folder with the pieces I’ve been working on for Datum and was surprised to see that I am done 10 already. Maybe four or five more and I’ll call it done.

Also, I’m sampling this in the piece I’m working on at the moment, and it’s really fun to work with.

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Dubs, the stepping thereof, and lessons learned therefrom.

I have made an interesting discovery recently. Dupstep is… surprisingly easy. Actually, just about any genre.

I had a really hard time for a while trying to figure out how to make the sounds that a lot of producers use, but I realized that the specific sounds don’t actually matter (usually- a wobble bass is pretty much required). Basically  just mess around with settings until you get something that sounds cool. Slap it in, and repeat.

It is more complicated than that, with some weird triple/duple shenanigans, but generally a good drum-line will sort that out for you.

That’s the other important thing I discovered. Don’t just fill the drums with bass- they will sound flat and boring, and won’t cut through the rest of the audio, and they’ll get in the way of the bass instruments (which really have to stand out). Mix in some random cymbal crashes and high-hats (not actually random, but in regular, repeating patterns. That’s what loops are for! But don’t forget to change it up).

The most important thing I discovered is this, which is something I picked up from composer Eric Nielson when we were talking recently: never repeat a piece of music exactly the same.

This was in the context of orchestral scores, but it applies just as much, if not more. Having a repeating melody is important, but if it’s exactly the same, It will get boring, (for example Beethoven’s fifth. He has the same theme, but it is never exactly the same twice.) It doesn’t matter how cool the melody is, it will get boring, almost guaranteed. You don’t have to change much, just add an element to the drum line (or take one out,) change the cutoff, or change the melody or harmonies up a tiny bit, but NEVER have the exact same thing twice.

Repetition is key (repetition is key) but variety is the spice of life.

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