Thursday, February 12, 2009

How I make music, part 1

If you take a look at my files, here:

You'll see I have some .wav music files there. A couple of those .wavs are getting more hits than my blog, something over sixty downloads already on one file, "Zarek's Dead." I think that's because I posted a link to it over on Bear McCreary's blog and Bear said, "Awesome performance of the Zarek theme! Very spooky." But he also noted that I goofed one note, in the fourth bar, the whole note D# was played as a C#.

Take a listen to a few pieces, and if you like, read on and I'll show you how it's done so you can make your own music.

My music is all done with free software. I haven't played a musical instrument in over a decade (in high school I was in a rock and roll band). The most important bit of free software is the Audacity Audio Editor. Several pieces were done with nothing but the Audacity Audio Editor (scifi001.wav, scifi0e0.wav, SCIfiFX00.wav and aliendeep.wav) and some plug-ins to that editor.

Some of those plug-ins are going to create the instruments needed to play Squid Metal.

The others, the Zarek .wavs and computer_heaven.wav required two other pieces of software; a trial version of "Notation Composer" and the trial version of "AudioConverter Studio 5.9." I have limited time with the trial version of "Notation Composer," but there are more such programs out there.

The "violin(s)" in the Zarek files were originally just MIDI instruments, actually they're a stack of MIDI instruments, a few violins, a distortion guitar, an overdriven guitar, etc.. The weird sounds in the computer_heaven file are several different stacks, an xylophone in one ensemble, a flute in another. They all got so distorted by the processing I put them through that they sound alien and weird.

If you use any of the music composition software I've so far seen then you'll have already seen that you can create any kind of ensemble of instruments you like from a standard MIDI collection. You should also be able to output a MIDI file (.mid) from your software. The problem is that MIDI instruments don't sound that good. So, I then take the MIDI file and convert it to a .wav file using AudioConverter Studio and then I use the Audacity Audio Editor to manipulate the .wav file. After that it no longer sounds like MIDI because I can add some human expressive qualities to it with Audacity.

I can, and will, describe some of this process in future posts if readers comment here and ask for more. It involves adding "echo fifths" and "gong model distortions" and I doubt that those terms mean anything to many readers out there. I'll need to know where my readers are as far as their knowledge goes before I can describe more.

The background_sinister.wav is the only one I haven't mentioned yet. It was made by distorting the noises of a construction site.

Now, before I ramble on and on about how I made the music I'll just let any interested readers out there ask questions and my next music posts will answer them. I suggest getting the software and just playing with it -- that's all I really did. Maybe someone out there can teach me some even better tricks. I've only been toying with this software for less than two weeks. I can't know that much.

Does anyone want to know more?

Anyone out there know where I can get more music software or any neat tricks?


Theresa said...

Hi there, I found you from Bear's blog.

I use finale 2008 -- although they do have a free/trial version available. If I may shamelessly plug for Finale for a second, they have a library of real recorded sounds in place of the standard midi library, called GPO, that sounds much much better. You're right about being able to manipulate the sound more when its not in a midi format, but now you can do it inside of the same software.

keep up the good work! I must say, listening to Bear's work is very inspiring and keeps me motivated to keep playing and writing.

Oh my, not usually the one for midnight blogspots, so if this has ceased to be coherent English at 9am, that could be the case.

normdoering said...

Thanks, Theresa, for the tip.

I would have responded sooner, but your post sent me off on a new research direction.

Finale 2008 looks interesting - will try it after my current trial period runs out.

The price, $600, is pretty hefty. I may go with something cheaper unless they can impress me.

But having a library of real recorded sounds (if I can plug in my own sounds) to replace the standard midi library when needed looks like a feature I'll be demanding from any notation software I do buy.

I want a Theremin in my library and some heavy metal guitar, drums and bass.

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