Mobile Song Process Documentation

Creating a song using only my phone was surprisingly a lot more frustrating than I expected it to be. After downloading several different apps (and subsequently giving up trying to figure them out with minimal instructions given), I settled on an app called Music Maker Jam, that I found in the Google Play Store. However, even this did not come without difficulty, as I had to watch a tutorial several times, and also scrap several projects before I was able to figure out how to work the app properly (and I’m still not sure that I am using it properly). Finally, after many attempts, I figured out that I wanted to layer all of the instrument samples that I had chosen. These included a bass track, a drum kit track, two different piano riffs, a synthesizer track, and an electric guitar track. While recording, I played around with having each of those enter and exit at different points, starting with just a bass groove, and building from there, until every sample was playing at the same time. In addition, I figured out how to change the number of measures per phrase, which was a handy trick when I wanted to achieve a building effect. I also found a very basic effect grid. The X-axis was labeled low-high, and the Y-axis was labeled soft-hard. All I had to do to mess with the sound was drag my finger along the grid, to achieve the desired sound. This also helped to show a feeling of the music building, but it was difficult to mess with the effects and change the phrase length simultaneously, so I know that it didn’t come out as cleanly as it would have on a real program.

In a sense, I guess I did perform this live. Sure, it was not in front of an audience or anything, but I hit the record button at the same time that I began playing the first sample, and I then improvised to an extent. While I did sort of know how I wanted to stack all of my loops, this was not something that I wrote down. I essentially just hit record, began playing and stacking the samples, and messing with the phrasing and the effects periodically for about three minutes. This was not done in sections in a studio, and then patched together and edited at a later time. However, I am not one hundred percent sure that this constitutes as performing “live”, especially since it was done on my phone. I am sure that there are people on both sides of this debate, and I would love to hear more arguments for each point.

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Self Remix Process

I remixed my first project, Urgency, deciding to call it Nerves this time. I actually changed it around quite a bit, but I did not add very much, with the exception of one (comical) recorded sound effect. Having much more knowledge now than I did at the beginning of the semester, I was able to stray away from only using four measure loops, and actually get creative with this project. I used effects such as delay and compressor, and I experimented with the “reverse” function in a few spots. I have to say, just moving the individual tracks around and changing their entrances and exits caused the piece to have a completely different feel, and I am really happy with how it turned out.

One of the suggestions that I received when I turned in Urgency at the beginning of the semester was that the drum part was too present. Overall, my piece was just too loud. Therefore, I spent some time trying to utilize the drumset track more effectively, breaking it up at times, and eliminating it completely in others. The drum track was not the only track that I made an effort to use more effectively; I also worked a lot with my track entitled “EDM Buildup”. As the name suggests, this time, I focused more on using it to, well, build up the piece. Previously, all of my tracks were just contributors to the cacophony that was my first music tech project, but now, I feel like I utilized each track a lot better.

 

Sampling Ethics

In my opinion, sampling without permission of the original owner is not morally acceptable. When you don’t ask for permission to use something, you are literally stealing it. In all of my years of schooling, there has constantly been a lot of talk concerning plagiarism and academic dishonesty. Specifically, taking someone’s work and passing it off as your own. When an artist takes a chunk of someone’s song and uses it in their own, without even bothering to ask the original creator first, that, to me, seems like the exact definition of plagiarism. Furthermore, I do not understand how someone can have such disregard for someone else’s work. If you want to sample someone else’s song, just askI can understand that not everyone wants their songs sampled in other people’s work, and in that case, the person asking should understand that, and back off, instead of deciding to go ahead with their plan to use that sample regardless. I cannot comprehend how a person can just rip off someone else’s work (and then have the gall to not give them any credit) without feeling any remorse. The first person likely worked hard to create their song, and sampling it without their permission is not only dishonorable, it is lazy. Why bother doing the work yourself when you can just take someone else’s work and claim it as your own? Unfortunately, this is the reality for far too many artists today. If I had any say in the matter, I would propose that more stricter copyright laws be implemented for sampling, so that artists would no longer be able to just rip each other off.

Peer Remix Process Documentation

For my peer remix, I used Emma’s track, entitled Racing Time. I chose hers honestly because I just thought it sounded cool. She used ambient sounds of passing cars and a ticking clock to shape her track, and I liked the way that the final product turned out. When I remixed it, I did not change the sound of her track itself, although I did reorder it quite a bit. I also used some repetition to emphasize certain parts and build up to new ideas. Furthermore, I did not add very much to her existing track, either. I added a few cymbal hits to emphasize a few spots, but that was about it. I really liked the way that the included found sounds added to the track, and I think that determined most of the embellishments that I made.

Sample Genealogy

My first example is of a song containing a direct audio sample of another song. Thanks to whosampled.com, I was able to find this quite quickly. The two songs that I chose were All You Need is Love, by the Beatles, and Greensleeves, a traditional folk melody. Believe it or not, Greensleeves is sampled within All You Need is Love, which I, personally, would never have heard on my own, without the help of whosampled.com. It appears in the background of the song, about three minutes and fifteen seconds into the song (note: you will need to open Spotify to listen to All You Need is Love). As it occurs, other short ditties are played by assorted instruments, producing a pleasurable cacophony as the chorus to the song loops and eventually fades. The melody to Greensleeves is really the only actual “melody” that is occurring in the background of the song; everything else seems to be random and sporadic. About fifteen seconds later, it, too fades from the song, as other instruments quickly replace it. Here is the link to whosampled.com, where I found both of these: http://www.whosampled.com/sample/26653/The-Beatles-All-You-Need-Is-Love-Traditional-Folk-Greensleeves/

The second set of songs that I chose were Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, by Michael Jackson and Don’t Stop the Music by Rihanna. I chose these two because they represent an example in which one song directly quotes another. In Don’t Stop the Music, Rihanna directly samples the well-known chant section from Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ (“ma-ma-se, ma-ma-sa, ma-ma-coo-sa”). There is no hiding that it is exactly the same riff. They even share the same key and tempo. However, if you’d like to see it for yourself, here is the link to Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCijEJrVAlE, and here is the link to Don’t Stop the Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6e6wE8UnJJs. The sections in question begin at 4:43 and 1:03, respectively. By 1:21 of the latter, the riff has completely faded in and can be clearly heard, and it can also be heard isolated (and without any annoying annotations) beginning at 2:53, and finally, at 3:55.

Found Sound Song Process

The most recent song that I created, Noisy Daydream, was based around the ambient sound that I recorded. I simply put my phone on a table in Freeman Dining Hall and hit record. Although we had the option to use one of our classmates’ found sounds, I chose to use my own because I felt confident that I could compose a song around it. However, although I had been confident when I recorded the sound, I found that the actual transcription part was more difficult than I had imagined. I had all sorts of ideas in my head, but with my minimal knowledge of the SoundTrap software, I kept getting frustrated when things wouldn’t come out sounding the way that I wanted. Although it took me a while to complete this project, I worked a lot with MIDI input (using the onscreen keyboard) and the effects that SoundTrap has to offer.

MIDI input was quite difficult and painstaking at times, since I was limited to using the onscreen keyboard on my computer. This sounds like a small issue, but as a musician, it was actually unbelievably confusing to me when the keys on my computer keyboard did not match up to the letter names on the MIDI keyboard on my screen. For example, if I pressed the “D” key on my keyboard, it would produce an E flat. In addition, while I am a fluent typist, that all seemed to go out the window when I was trying to play melodic lines using the keyboard shortcuts. Next time, I may try to figure out how to use a live instrument, or at least a tangible MIDI keyboard.

I was excited to test out a bunch of different effects on my composition, but they were surprisingly hard to find in SoundTrap. I actually had to go into a user’s guide and search for the function in another tab. However, I had a lot of fun experimenting how different effects altered different sounds, and once I got going, I enjoyed myself, even though I barely knew what I was doing. Overall, I feel like I was successful at integrating my found sound and several different effects into my composition, and it has also piqued my curiosity regarding recording live sounds. I would definitely like to try something like this again in the future, maybe using my trombone.

Real vs. Hyperreal vs. Surreal Recordings

Production Analysis of Viva La Vida

I am analyzing Coldplay’s Viva La Vida, which was released in 2008. This song was produced by Markus Dravs, Brian Eno, Jon Hopkins, and Rik Simpson. The following is a list of all of the sound sources found within the song, in order:

  • Strings (done by Davide Rossi)
  • Guitar (done by Jonny Buckland)
  • Bass guitar (done by Guy Berryman)
  • Vocals (done by Chris Martin)
  • Drums/percussion (done by Will Champion)
  • Piano (done by Chris Martin)
  • Digital synthesizer (done by Brian Eno)
  • Backup vocals (done by Brian Eno, Jonny Buckland, Guy Berryman, and Will Champion)

Here is a link to the music video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvgZkm1xWPE

MIDI Song: The Process

Creating my MIDI song admittedly took longer than I anticipated, for several reasons that I will explain. The first part of the project involved actually finding MIDI to use. That was difficult, and not because of a lack of resources; on the contrary, I had so many options available to me that I had trouble choosing just one MIDI file to use. I finally settled upon a MIDI file of a Noteflight arrangement of Malagueña that I did for a theory project in high school. It imported into Soundtrap as all piano tracks, instead of the brass and percussion that it had been in the original score. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it sounded just as good, if not better than it did originally. However, the percussion tracks did not sound good at all, so I either changed them to a different instrument or eliminated them completely. After I figured out a MIDI file to use, I created a drum groove in Groove Pizza and inserted that into my project.

The tracks that I used included my drum track from Groove Pizza, Rhodes Keyboard, Electro Bass, Grand Piano, Clean Black Drumset (which was one of the tracks that did not transfer well from Noteflight to Soundtrap), and two sound effects, entitled “Hold Key 8 Bars Sweep” and “Sweeping Repeat”. I used some of the Rhodes Keyboard sounds because the part that had been 1st trumpet transferred into Soundtrap as Rhodes Keyboard, and I liked the sound of it, so therefore, I experimented with making what had been the 2nd trumpet track utilize the Rhodes Keyboard sound, as well. I used Electro Bass on what had been the French horn track, because I wanted something that sounded a little more “punchy”, and that did the trick. The other tracks in my project were chosen either because they had been the default and I liked the way they sounded, or they were effects that fit the sound that I was looking for.

I am definitely satisfied with my end result, although trying to figure out all the nuances of the MIDI files, including piano rolls and percussion parts, was a bit painstaking. If I had unlimited time to work on this, I might add some more variation to what I already have. If I had unlimited ability to work on this….well, it might sound better than someone’s first experience working with MIDI. I would also want to spend some more time just gaining familiarity with both MIDI and Soundtrap. I look forward to working with it again in the future and continuing to learn more about it.

Groove Pizza

Here is the link to my drum groove on Groove Pizza: https://apps.musedlab.org/groovepizza/?source=pub&museid=BJhhDbtKe

I decided to work by trial and error, starting by filling in every single circle, and then slowly eliminating aspects, until I found something that I liked. I would say that the groove I created belongs to the rock genre, mostly because after playing around with the application, it just seemed to sound the best to me on the “rock” setting (I did try my groove on all of them). It had a certain “drive” that none of the other settings had, so, that’s where I decided to leave it.