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Ditty-A-Day

Now it's "Ditty-A-Week."

Basically, this is just my simple Yamaha acoustic through *all* my floor pedals, yes, all of them. Because I can, that’s why. Then a stereo feed from those pedals into an audio interface recorded straight into Ableton Live, sans pick. However I did add a little bass synth underneath it all after the fact, à la Pink Floyd; and some subtle reverb via plugins in Ableton as well. Surprisingly very little reverb is added here; the majority of the sustained tone is coming from 3 different flavors of echo/delay pedal. Definitely headphone-worthy as a result.

I’ll add in the list of pedals and such later. Maybe. For now, I’ll just give up that everything that comes after the volume pedal I use runs in stereo. Keeping it real & simple, unwinding at the end of this year’s Thanksgiving Holiday break, before all heck breaks loose. Droney guitars. Ahhhhh.

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Now it's "Ditty-A-Week."

It’s been a while since I’ve focused on this blog here, and the year’s end approaches soon. I’m running out of weeks!

During the Electro-Music 2012 (EM2012) music conference on Sunday, September 8, 2012, I played a 25-30 minute duet with Jeremy dePrisco (a.k.a. Shivasongster) under the moniker “RoDoJede,” which really is all kinds of clever, since it’s just an amalgam of the first two letters of our names. Tricky, huh? Anyways, this EM2012 event held to a pretty strict schedule, out of fairness to the perpetual “next act”; plus it is/was broadcast live over the interwebs.

Right after we finished our half-planned, half-blindfolded set, the sound guys/audience of peers told us we still had a good three or four minutes left in our block of time. So Jeremy and I did what we could with our (or rather my) “last-known state” palette of sounds. Jeremy is playing his Taylor acoustic guitar through various pedal effects, and I’m playing everything else: piano, synth & sfx in a ‘stack’ triggered from an 88-key weighted midi controller keyboard, plus various drum loop/patterns, plus effect levels on the fly from other midi controller surfaces. I’m not saying I did more, mind you; the work was definitely 50-50 as we had to listen to each other to see where it was going. Jeremy is an excellent focused soloist, IMHO, which a skill I’m somewhat lacking as a performer.

However, it can be a little trickier with a synth setup that uses a laptop as the primary sound source/synth engine, while still attempting a modicum of spontaneity. Limited due to time constraints, we just used the setup already dialed in for the previous song(s). In the end, I think this was the best song of the set and therefore those few extra minutes gave us a good ending.

It took us a minute or so, but eventually we found our groove. Here’s the spontaneous resulting ditty.

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Now it's "Ditty-A-Week."

I took to the task of designing and Building a Looper in 3 Major DAWs using nothing but Delay Effects, with no third party plugins whatsoever. In the end I got 99% favorable results… sort of.

Jumping ship from Logic Pro over to Ableton Live was a wise decision, in a project like this.

Okay, maybe “jumping ship” is a harsh term since I still use Logic Pro from time to time. In fact, Logic Pro has some redeeming qualities about it that make it shine. Take it’s Delay Designer plugin, for example. That little beauty just has “Looper” written all over it. But Logic Pro makes it difficult to use it the way I want to. Mainstage makes up for this inadequacy in the family. Chances are, if you own Logic Pro 9.x, you already have Mainstage lurking on your hard drive. If not, then Mainstage will only cost you $30 (Mac only).

Ableton Live… wherefore art thou’s long delays, like Logic’s Delay Designer? And thy dB level-appropriate sends and returns, like Logic’s? It’s totally doable in Ableton Live as well, but took 4 times as much audio routing to get ‘er done. That and I’ve noticed an occasional timing drift; but I have read this is relatively common when you start getting complex pathways in Ableton.

In the end, I found it’s awesome having both DAWs on my machine. This was a great project. You get to know the shortcomings and strengths of both tools. Thus use the right tool for the right job.

The audio file below is an example looping example I did using the Ableton Live file as provided in the download, played only using my laptop itself (playing all notes via QWERTY keys), a Korg nanoKONTROL2, all the instruments and effects provided within Ableton. No Ableton clips were used.

If you went out and bought Ableton Live 8.3.x and a Korg nanoKONTROL2 right now, the downloadable project file should work with both items out of the box, as long as you change the Korg nanoK2 to MIDI channel 16. The same criteria applies for the Mainstage file.
CAVEAT: If you start adding other MIDI controllers, well… YMMV. You may have to track down the random MIDI issue.

This entire project is from as a Seminar/ presentation I hosted at the EM2012 festival.

Ableton Live, Apple Mainstage, and Logic Pro files, plus a nifty PDF explaining how to do it yourself… all here and yours for the taking.
CLICK HERE to download the whole package (.ZIP file).

The following non-nonsensical verbiage is here just to make this post totally findable by internet search: eloquent kumquat pickle.

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Now it's "Ditty-A-Week."

So here I am, scrambling to create new material for my set in the upcoming Electro-Music 2012 gathering of peers. I also signed up to do a duet set with Jeremy dePrisco again this year. All I have to say about that is: after my half of the duet sucked last year (IMHO), I told myself I’d be better prepared this year. So naturally I’ve been putting more into the duet than my solo set. Silly rabbit… So when I’m scrambling to create content, I turn to familiar sound sources first and work outward from there; you might recognize an element…

Such as the lifted a sample from a previous Ditty-A-Day posting, Bass Loop Resurrection. Don’t worry, I have clearance and permission from the artist to use this sample.

Here’s a preview of some of my contribution to our duet. Be sure to “tune in” when the time comes (September 7-9, 2012), and see how to final version turns out. See the schedule back on the event page for when we perform under the stage name, “RoDoJede.”

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Saturday night, no plans and not much spare dinero. So, home projects it is. Fired up my “rig.” Ended up tweaking a nice arpeggiated patch on the Korg MS2000R. Meanwhile, my dinner is done cooking in the background. So’s I got me to the kitchen to have have’s me some chow. It’s at this point I notice the parakeets (or at least one of them, Azul) chortling along with the synth. I’ve noticed this before; they like short notes with a sharp filter on it. Probably sounds just a little like a tweet to them perhaps? Just from a very, very large bird with impeccable timing.

I put the Tascam DR-03 recorder on top of the cage, more or less right over the birds. The bird song is off to one side not by design; it must have been slightly off center. When the recording was amplified to bring it up to respectable levels, you notice the mics were pointing at the fridge by accident, thus the compressor noise I didn’t really bother to remove, it adds to the authenticity… yeah, that’s it. Authenticity.

So call it a modern twist on a new-agey “nature” recording. Whomever’s gonna listen to the non-stop arp, some chattering birds, and me eating dinner for five minutes is anybody’s guess. I will, though. Simple is good.

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Here is me playing a familiar set of instruments and sounds in some sort of Key-of-D-minor with the Arabic twist at the end. Note to self, I need to brush up on my theory so I can communicate what I’m playing better to other musicians. My brain and nervous system definitely click at a solid 90 bpm, slow ‘n’ steady, like this piece (and many others I do). Man, talk about downtempo.

Anyways: I’m still fine-tuning my “live Live” rig for a performance in September, and this was yet another tweak of my controller knob definitions. Feeling really good about the ability to switch things up on the fly, even using the same called up patches and plugins. The primary arp sound is a Korg MS2000R, of which I think I’m (finally) finding a new-found respect for (it’s been a rocky relationship).

Throughout the piece there isn’t much going but really subtle knob-twiddling and the like while playing a few piano notes in D as noted above. I liked the outcome, so here it is, after a little cleanup and EQ to remove some noise, but still have it come alive afterwards. Noise: the only weakness of hardware synths, and the lack of it is the primary seductive lure of software synths for me. Amadeus Pro (the audio editing app for the Mac) has a real kick-ass noise removal algorithm, which I forgot about until this thing here. Enough rambling, here it is.

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Okay, the concept was simple enough. I figured, so here I am in the 4th day of my mini-holiday, a long weekend. Maybe I should wind it down by recording something simple. You know, fire up a decent piano sound and hit record. See what happens. Maybe get a happy accident.

When I tried to apply my parental musical self to be disciplined and apply myself in this task, it caused my inner musical child to throw a tantrum. Obviously.

I was doing well for the first, oh, 10-12 seconds, at which point I was trying to figure out the mode I was going for here… like telling my inner child to metaphorically “eat your peas,” do something I didn’t necessarily want to do, musically. Which promptly created the “Don Music” moment:
“I’ll never get it, never, never…” *bonk*

This has been brought to you by our two sponsors: Sesame Street News, and Acme Oven Mitts… that inner child in me envisioned having oven mitts on my hands. Take your musical peas and shove ’em, said the kid, talking back to the musical parent.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Muppets character “Don Music,” I suggest you catch up and watch this clip here on YouTube. The Don Music character was one of the few removed characters from Sesame Street’s history, due to his tantrum-like behavior. Bad influence on kids of my generation, maybe? The Muppet itself was recycled into the character Guy Smiley after that.

Should submit this to Joe Walsh or Tom Waits for their next album? Maybe I’d get my own contract.

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