Attention:

Welcome to the old forum. While it is no longer updated, there is a wealth of information here that you may search and learn from.

To partake in the current forum discussion, please visit https://forums.presonus.com

Layering, Custom Echoes, and "By Ear" Composing

A Forum to Discuss NOTION

Layering, Custom Echoes, and "By Ear" Composing

Postby Surfwhammy » Sat Apr 26, 2014 3:06 pm

Several of the posts to this FORUM over the past week have included observations about layering and composing "by ear", which are two of my favorite strategies, so I decided to add a few thoughts and to include some information about custom echoes . . .

Generally, there are two types of layering:

(1) Creating a song one layer at a time, which for practical purposes is a recording and producing technique that Les Paul devised in the late-1940s, where initially he used platters but later started using an analog magnetic tape unit that Bing Crosby gave him. Historically, this technique was used in a very primitive way soon after Thomas Edison invented record players and various media, but I think it is a accurate to attribute this technique in a practical way to Les Paul, noting that Phil Spector and George Martin moved it forward considerably . . .

(2) Creating custom instrumental and vocal tone and texture by using multiple iterations of essentially the same part but with variations, some of which are subtle but not always. For the most part, in what one might call "popular music", I attribute this primarily to Phil Spector (monaural) and George Martin (stereo), but more so to George Martin, probably because I first noticed it in an immediately conscious way after studying Beatles songs, where one of the key aspects is that this is something which generally requires studying, since it is not always so obvious . . .

Regarding custom echoes, for "popular music" this traces directly to Sam Phillips and Sun Records, where the stellar example is "Great Balls of Fire" (Jerry Lee Lewis), with this type of echo generally being called "slapback echo" (75 to 250 milliseconds) . . .

Delay (wikipedia)

[NOTE: The sound quality is excellent, which is the reason I selected this particular YouTube music video, even though it is digitally remastered . . . ]

"Great Balls Of Fire" (Jerry Lee Lewis) ~ YouTube music video

This is an example of an early Beatles song where John Lennon's lead vocal is doubled, which is most obvious at approximately 1:37 on the tail of the word "home" . . .

[NOTE: This is the remastered monaural version, and the sound quality is very good, which makes it easier to hear the the doubling . . . ]

"It Won't Be Long" (Beatles) ~ YouTube music video

Once you discover how to distinguish subtle custom echoes, it soon follows that it becomes easy to hear and to create longer custom echoes, which eventually leads to discovering how to do something that I call "working an echo", which is the strategy based on playing into echoes or having a bit of FUN shifting time and by doing so creating auditory illusions . . .

[NOTE: When the variations are small but precise, this creates an auditory illusion which generally is called the "Haas Effect", but it does other things, as well. The Haas Effect also is called the "Precedence Effect" . . . ]

Haas Effect (wikipedia)

Lennon understood the importance of custom echoes and by the time the Beatles were recording "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", Lennon would sing his lead vocal part over and over into cascading sets of echo units, which among other things is an excellent way to reveal the correct melody, phrasing and timing, since the cascading echoes work both additively and subtractively with the result that only the correct melody, phrasing, and timing is heard in the composite or Gestalt . . .

THOUGHTS

In the digital music production universe, I use Timeless 2 (FabFilter Software Instruments) as my primary echo unit, because it is the most elaborate echo unit available on this planet, but I also use other echo units depending on the particular requirements . . .

Timeless 2 (FabFilter Software Instruments)

As best as I can determine, the more classically oriented composers do not devote a lot of attention to echo units, although I think they are quite enamored by reverberation, which actually is just a different type of echo . . .

[NOTE: In historical context, classical composers devoted vast attention to echoes but in a different way, since there were no echo units at the time, hence instead of creating echoes with echo units, they created virtual echoes with note repetition, counterpoint, harmony, and so forth, where in this context having a same voice ensemble sing a vocal phrase was a type of "doubling". At least some of the time, concert halls and other intentionally designed rooms generally were focused on creating enhancing reverberation, and for the most part this was the only actual wet "special effect" composers could expect, hence they created everything else using primarily dry instruments and voices, where (a) "dry" refers to the way an instrument of voice sounds without reverberation and echo and (b) "wet" refers to the way an instrument or voice after being enhanced by reverberation and echo . . . ]

Singers in popular music genres tend to experiment with echoes, but for singing there generally is an upper limit to the delay times that produce enhancing effects without creating chaos; and based on this, I think the folks who focus most intently on echoes are the musicians who play single note melodies on melodic instruments, at least initially . . .

It takes a while to discover how to "work an echo unit" (or to "play into echo", if you prefer), and the rules can be a bit unusual at times, but it starts making sense the more you do it, which also is the way it works with whammy lead guitar, where the primary reason that so few lead guitar and rhythm guitar players use whammy systems for anything other than "nose dives" is that the rules for whammying are patently counterintuitive, where in some respects the most important rules are (a) that you need sonic space to whammy and (b) that you need to start whammying before it needs to be heard, which makes sense if you think about it for a while, where the simple but abstruse explanation is the it makes no sense to do staccato and vibrato simultaneously. Explained another way, observing that whammying is a flavor of vibrato, the only way it can be perceived is when there is sufficient time and sonic space for at least one complete cycle, which can be (a) up and down, (b) down and up, or (c) some other combination of up and down, with or without respect to order, where creating the required sonic space is one of the important activities of composers, arrangers, and producers . . .

[NOTE: Hershel Yatovitz is a personal favorite lead guitar player who understands the rules of whammying . . . ]

"Wicked Game" (Chris Isaak) ~ YouTube music video

"BY EAR" COMPOSING AND GESTALTS

Depending on one's perspective, I am not so certain that there is any other way to compose than "by ear", although I suppose anything is possible and there always are exceptions . . .

Using an analogy, metaphor, or simile, sculpture certainly can be perceived in total darkness, but this is not the case with paintings or listening to music with the volume set to zero, hence one way or another music is composed "by ear", even in the case of Beethoven when he lost his hearing, because although he was not able to hear the orchestra and singers, I think he "heard" the music in his mind . . .

As it relates to custom echoes--in particular "working an echo" and "playing into echo"--it is very important to listen to echoes, because as noted (see above), cascading echoes work both additively and subtractively, where the adding and subtracting is controlled by delay times, repeats, equalization, and feedback levels . . .

This is a song I have been developing this week, and it is four reasonably simple instruments (keyboards, guitar, bass, and drums, including a bit of Latin percussion) run through elaborate custom echo units via Timeless 2, where the following YouTube music video shows the music notation as the song is played in real-time . . .

[NOTE: This is the custom echo unit for the MF3 Vibrato Strat, and it adds motion-based echoes . . . ]

Image

[NOTE: This is the NOTION 4 Mixer for the enhanced version of "Syrup", where as you can see there is at least one echo unit on nearly every instrument . . . ]

Image

"Syrup" (The Surf Whammys) ~ Enhanced Version ~ YouTube music video

The key bit of information is that only some of the notes are expressed explicitly in the music notation, since the other notes are provided by the various echo units, where some of the notes are synthesized by the custom echos adding and subtracting--which is the Gestalt aspect--and I think the only practical way to do this is "by ear", which is fabulous . . .

Fabulous!
:-)
The Surf Whammys

Sinkhorn's Dilemma: Every paradox has at least one non-trivial solution!
User avatar
Surfwhammy
 
Posts: 1137
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:45 am

Re: Layering, Custom Echoes, and "By Ear" Composing

Postby Surfwhammy » Sun Apr 27, 2014 7:42 pm

This is the basic rhythm section for a new song I started early this morning (Sunday April 27, 2014); and it has three instruments (lead guitar, bass, and drums) which are layered in various ways and have custom echoes via presets . . .

The lead guitar at far-left is the MachFive Strat with Distortion, enhanced with a bit of slow vibrato via a LUA script. The lead guitar in the middle is a FabFilter Software Instruments Twin 2 Stratusphere, which for fast phrases does an arpeggio motion spread. The lead guitar at far-right is the NOTION 4 Electric Guitar run through AmpliTube 3 (IK Multimedia) with Ace Super Wide Plus Slicer preset with a custom Delay unit added to Rack B to spread it a bit more . . .

The MachFive 3 Jazz Bass is straightforward; and the Twin 2 Bass is an Acid Low Bass preset, which adds a pulsating undertone with subtle swirls or something reminiscent of 1980s DISCO . . .

The drumkit is the standard blend of Addictive Drums (XLN Audio) and MachFive 3 (MOTU) Star Drums for accents, both of which are top-center with a bit of spread, which is fabulous . . .

[NOTE: This is the NOTION 4 Mixer for the song, and while it does not appear to be a lot of stuff, it is near the upper limit of what NOTION 4 running in 64-bit mode can handle on the Mac Pro (Early-2008) here in the sound isolation, which is the case because everything in this song is heavy . . . :P ]

Image

[NOTE: The YouTube music video shows the NOTION 4 score for the basic rhythm section as the song is played in real-time, and as usual there are more notes in the Gestalt than in the music notation. This was mixed while listening to the music played through the calibrated full-range studio monitor system, but I think it sounds better when you listen with headphones at high volume, since it is easier to hear all the wiggly bits . . . ]

"She Wants You" (The Surf Whammys) ~ Basic Rhythm Section PT 1 ~ YouTube music video

Fabulous! :)

THOUGHTS

Once the basic rhythm section for a song is at this stage of development I usually stop and listen to it over and over for a while and imagine that I am on stage at a concert, where I focus on exploring different aspects of the Gestalt . . .

Adding more instrumentation is not difficult, so it primarily is a matter of deciding what works best for the song and the overall experience, which on the practical side includes being able to play at least one part of the song on a real lead guitar . . .

The "virtual vs. real" aspect tends to keep everything in perspective and within reasonable bounds, but it depends, since there are ways to play everything in the virtual universe . . .

At present, I am pondering the bass arpeggio that appears at the start of each section and in the middle of sections, as well, since I like the way it changes the rhythm for a measure, where the specific aspect I am pondering is whether to do more of it or to leave it as it is . . .

[NOTE: I do everything on soprano treble clef staves, with the exception of the native NOTION 4 guitar, bass, and keyboard instruments that have visual fretboards and keyboards, respectively; so the notes for the two VSTi virtual instrument bass lines are set to be played two octaves lower than notated, which is one of my favorite features of NOTION 4, since it lets me continue to be unencumbered by knowledge, which here in the sound isolation studio is a worthy and constant goal in the grand scheme of everything. I also do everything in 4/4 time, because when I play drums I can hit only four things at any given time; and I do not specify a key, because in great contrast to grand pianos, electric guitars do not have keys . . . :P ]

Image

Lots of FUN! :ugeek:
Last edited by Surfwhammy on Tue Apr 29, 2014 11:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
The Surf Whammys

Sinkhorn's Dilemma: Every paradox has at least one non-trivial solution!
User avatar
Surfwhammy
 
Posts: 1137
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:45 am

Re: Layering, Custom Echoes, and "By Ear" Composing

Postby Surfwhammy » Tue Apr 29, 2014 11:03 am

After listening to the basic rhythm section for "She Wants You" over and over for a while, I decided to add a horn section and to enhance the drumkit with Cuban percussion instruments . . .

The horn section is at top-center and the electric guitars are at the edges. The wiggly DISCO synthesizers are in the middle, and I added a second kick drum and a third snare drum playing rimshots, since snare drum rimshots are the only practical way to keep a horn section popping, which is fabulous . . .

[NOTE: This YouTube music video shows the Digital Performer 8 Mixing Board and the cloned NOTION 4 score that I used to add six more instruments. It is mixed for headphone listening, so it might be a bit "hot" for studio monitor listening. Getting the horn section at top-center took a while, which is the reason I switched to headphones, since for some things headphones are more precise, because each ear hears something distinctly different, although it is important to adjust everything while listening to it played through a calibrated full-range studio monitor system, which I will do later. With the exception of the Trombone, which I transposed upward by a third, the other two horns (sassy Cuban trumpet and baritone saxophone) are playing the same notes as the electric guitars and one of the wiggly DISCOsynthesizers, but in different octaves, which might appear to be a bit odd, except that since the baritone saxophone and trombone cannot play the rapid phrases, it blurs and quite conveniently works. A skilled trumpet player might be able to play the rapid phrases, but perhaps not. Whether it can be played on lead guitar is another matter, but I think it is possible . . . :P ]

"She Wants You" (The Surf Whammys) ~ Basic Rhythm Section PT 2 ~ YouTube music video

Fabulous! :D
The Surf Whammys

Sinkhorn's Dilemma: Every paradox has at least one non-trivial solution!
User avatar
Surfwhammy
 
Posts: 1137
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:45 am

Re: Layering, Custom Echoes, and "By Ear" Composing

Postby Surfwhammy » Thu May 01, 2014 2:29 am

The first rule is to follow all the rules, which I forgot as an experiment, so I did a new transfer from NOTION 4 to Digital Performer 8 for the basic rhythm section for "She Wants You" in a ReWire 2 session . . .

For reference, the experiment was leaving the signal processor VST effects plug-ins enabled in NOTION 4, but it causes a problem when I switch to Digital Performer 8, because one of the rules is that you can add signal processing effects to a soundbite but you cannot remove signal processing effects from a soundbite, so when signal processing effects are part of the soundbite they are there no matter what you do, which is a problem when you switch to producing and mixing . . .

So, I removed all the signal processing effects from the two synchronized NOTION 4 scores and recorded only the raw NOTION 4 generated audio as soundbites in Digital Performer 8, which then makes it easy to do the producing and mixing . . .

I also added a tenor saxophone and simplified the horn section phrases . . .

I reversed the electric guitars, which included using the "B Uni-V" present from AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix (IK Multimedia) on the electric guitar which now is at far-left; and I added 85 milliseconds of simple delay to the MachFive 3 electric guitar which now is at far-right. The 85 milliseconds of delay, which is mixed at 50 percent with the dry signal, move the far-right electric guitar to the front and makes it distinct from the horn section (sassy trumpet, tenor sax, baritone sax, and trombone) which is in the middle . . .

Electric guitars and a horn section go together well, but there are so many similar textures that producing and mixing it is a bit of a challenge, so this continues to be primarily a headphone mix, which is fine with me . . .

[NOTE: The Digital Performer 8 Mixer and NOTION 4 are shown in this video as the basic rhythm section is playing in real time. The music notation for the simplified horn section is shown in NOTION 4 . . . ]

"She Wants You" (The Surf Whammys) ~ Basic Rhythm Section ~ PT2 DP8 ~ YouTube music video

I need to add rhythm guitar chords, which I will do with a real electric guitar, hence the headphone mix . . .

In theory, it probably is possible to do the rhythm guitar chords with music notation, but they need to be non-standard chords, and this is easier for me to do with a real guitar, since among other things there are no predefined chord patterns in NOTION 4 for these types of chords and I will not know the actual notes until I play along with the song for a while; and I need to add some other electric guitar stuff that is not easy to do with music notation, if it can be done with music notation at all . . .

Lots of FUN! :D
The Surf Whammys

Sinkhorn's Dilemma: Every paradox has at least one non-trivial solution!
User avatar
Surfwhammy
 
Posts: 1137
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:45 am

Re: Layering, Custom Echoes, and "By Ear" Composing

Postby Surfwhammy » Thu May 01, 2014 8:51 pm

After listening to the previous version of "She Wants You", I decided that it needed something, since among other things (a) the electric guitars were not working so well with the horn section and (b) it was not so easy to get good levels when I was listening to the mix played through the calibrated full-range studio monitor system . . .

So, after sleeping on it for a while, I focused on the core instruments (bass, drumkit, Latin percussion, electric guitars, and synthesizers) and redid all the signal processors, which included doing some editing of the music notation for the drumkit to smooth the rough bits; but it needed something, specifically a cowbell and a second pair of maracas . . .

The electric guitars are different, and they now have good synergy with the horn section, which is important . . .

"She Wants You" (The Surf Whammys) ~ Basic Rhythm Section ~ PT2 DP8 Cowbell ~ YouTube music video

There is a second snare drum playing rimshots on 2 and 4, so the cowbell playing on 1 and 3 works with it to create a steady back-and-forth pattern that I need to emphasize a bit more in the next version . . .

Image

Lots of FUN! :-D
The Surf Whammys

Sinkhorn's Dilemma: Every paradox has at least one non-trivial solution!
User avatar
Surfwhammy
 
Posts: 1137
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:45 am

Re: Layering, Custom Echoes, and "By Ear" Composing

Postby Surfwhammy » Sat May 10, 2014 11:01 pm

I did a bit more work on the basic rhythm section for "She Wants You", where among other things I added a second Cuban "sassy" trumpet and two tracks of real electric guitar playing chords {D9, E9, A, D9, C9, F}, which included doing a bit of remixing and balancing now that the song is making more sense, which is lots of fun . . .

[NOTE: At present, this is mixed specifically for headphone listening, since I listen to the already recorded tracks when I am recording real rhythm guitar, so it sounds a bit monaural when you listen with calibrated full-range studio loudspeakers, which is fine with me since (a) this is the basic rhythm section and (b) as you can see in the IK Multimedia T-RackS Meter Section at the bottom of the screen, there is plenty of room for the lead bits that will appear in a while, where for this purpose the key meter is "Perceived Loudness", where the green bar is the space reserved for the lead stuff, which will be enhanced with a bit of "ducking" via Pro-C (FabFilter Software Instruments). For reference, when the "Correlation" indicator is in the middle between "0" and "+1", this maps to a good stereo image, so even though it sounds a bit monaural when you are not listening with headphones, it actually has a nice stereo spread for some of the instruments . . . ]

Image
The Fabulous Fifty Million Dollar Trinaural Stratocaster® ~ ft. The Really Big Knob™

"She Wants You" (The Surf Whammys) ~ Basic Rhythm Section ~ DP8 N4 PT4 ~ YouTube music video

Lots of FUN! :D

THOUGHTS

One might expect that the song should make sense to me, since I am composing it, but I have never heard the complete song, so toward the goal of making sense of the song, I have to study what appears after the aliens from outer space beam it into my mind . . .

Consider the real rhythm guitar chords . . .

Based on the music notation, I thought the first chord was C; but D9 is the chord that works, and this bit of information defines two more chords (E9 and C9). The chord after E9 made no sense, but after trying different chords it soon became obvious that A Major is the correct chord, and this provided the clue that F Major is the correct chord to pair with C9 . . .

This might be due to the horn section being on transposing staves, since for example the horns are playing B♭ and related harmony notes when the real rhythm guitar is playing a "Stormy Monday" C9, which is where Barre chords and other types of essentially independent chords are vastly handy when combined with "by ear" composing, especially when there is a horn section, because the fact of the matter is that when there is a horn section, (a) they are the only musicians who actually know the correct key signature and (b) they never share this information with anyone who was not invited to their daily team meeting, which for all practical purposes maps to the drummer, bass player, and guitar players, which among other things is the reason that adding a cowbell is so important . . .

[NOTE: The term "independent chords" refers to the types of rhythm guitar chords that can be played anywhere on the neck, hence work with all key signatures. These are different from "open position" chords. In the system I use, there are two types of Barre chords (low and middle); and there are three types of four-finger chords (low, middle, and high); and once you learn them, you can dominate a horn section, which is truly worthy goal . . . ]

The horn players think that everyone is following them, but the reality is that everyone actually is keying on the cowbell and is one of the reasons it is important to have a nice set of different types of cowbells, since cowbells have pitch, which is fabulous . . .

Fabulous! :P
The Surf Whammys

Sinkhorn's Dilemma: Every paradox has at least one non-trivial solution!
User avatar
Surfwhammy
 
Posts: 1137
Joined: Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:45 am


Return to NOTION

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 15 guests


cron