Yesterday I made an inventory of the obstacles remaining with the drum track, one in each index card, and tackled one. I then moved on to record the first bass tracks.
I have often had several songs on the works at the same time, but not so much this; I think there's something here. I knew the boring task with the drum was going to drain my brain, so I needed something fun to counterbalance. I would generally not like to have two tracks in the works at the same time (two cakes in two ovens; more programs open simultaneously, double of reference information needed...) But this time, given that the drum track was mature enough, I think it has been a good idea because when you lay the bass on top you start to get synergies (yesterday the "fairies" made a visit, that unexpected 5% that only pops up through the process of turning mental impulses into muscular energy that then turns into sound waves...)
A good thing with these synergies, again, is that it reduces the risk of overdoing things; when the drums interact with the bass, certain things you thought were needed become too intense, while you can also see clearly where is a gap...
I like the shape the song is taking, I can't wake to sing this sucker...
So today I'll try the same combo one more time; one soulsucking drum thing, then some more bass (I recorded a "good enough" version yesterday, but I think I'll try to record it again today; now that I've rebuilt the muscle memory, I think I can give it more expression, and use yesterday's session as a failsafe to farm from when I need snippets, etc...)
Ah, that's better. Feeling much rejuvenated now. Funny how yesterday at some point, during my "rest day", one of the things I did, spontaneously, just because, was grabbing the guitar and playing some tunes. I think that's the spirit. Keep it fun.
I still have to make it through my Bruce Wayne life so I don't know how much of me will be left when I get to the music. But I have to make some serious dent on the drum tracks thing today. The task has suddenly become daunting, and I know where that leads; there's a familiar stink in the air...
I think I'll try getting analytical, listing all the problems and deciding how to tackle them before diving in. Regarding the arrangement, I'll give it a deadline and if I cannot make it I'll cut my loses and go back to the simpler version I was using. I hate it but I hate more taking so long to release stuff (consolation thought: I can always re-record later.)
The sad thing is, if I had a human drummer with me, with shared influences, all it would take would be the time to tell him, "here something like tutupa tutupaku", and he would know what I was going for. Drumgizmo is great, but the next enhancement has to be a human player.
In the future I also want to research if Soundcloud would allow the "dripping album" system. I think it would take a lot of pressure out for me launching the songs as I finish them, and I still keep the option of the finished album in Bandcamp when the moment comes.
Recovery today. Nothing to report.
As today is the deadline I set for myself, I'll set a new one; I'll extend these posts until #20, the number of years of boredom that Leonard got sentenced to.
Sudden death yesterday in the middle of the drum editing. "Bed. Now."
I was doing a new pass to the drums and I got stuck in a splendid rabbit hole; "congratulations, you've just met an arrangement that is not easy to translate to a machine, it is going to suck your soul forever, and only, once you succeed, for the final result of one second of music".
But of course that one second of music is what counts. Many one seconds like that. If it wasn't the case, we could just the same ask our computers to create the music for us and be done with it.
I'll try to get to the drums today, but I have a lot of have-tos and I'm feeling semi-ill, so maybe it is better to be prudent and let it sleep for today. The thing with this is what Neil Young says in his latest record, "It's bad for the body/but good for the soul". The perspective of a day without making music is so bleak, so what for... Such a shame that it always has to be in the last place...
Yesterday I tested options for the guitar feedback; surprisingly, feeding back the guitar to itself gives an interesting effect when you move the EQ from one side to other, so I think when the moment comes I'll use that mixed with a Rakarrack setting that screeches like hell when you turn it on (I used to hate it, so yesterday when I was looking for it among the others it was like "come back... I didn't mean it...")
Finishing the guitar experimentation was my baseline for the day; I also did one pass to the drum track, following this method: "I'll stop when something comes to mind". A note missing. An arrangement I could add. An existing arrangement that is too distracting. And of course the transitions (I'm very happy with them).
Relistening the track later, I found many moments where, while on the spot I thought "this is embarrassing, I'm not putting enough stuff", listening later the whole flow of the song, it works perfectly. Perhaps I tend to do too much and then I have to cut back. Maybe it's a matter of remembering that it all comes down to a guy sat on the bus, slapping his legs to kill time... Drums must be simple, and let the complication grow by itself when it has to. At least in my case.
I would like to give it a supernatural oomph and finish the drum track today. It's way too much, but aiming high is always a good thing. After that, when the rest of the song advances, maybe I'll have to change some final touches here and there; but yesterday's tests whetted my appetite for playing and recording. It happens to me all the time with the guitar; I have a hard time starting to play it, and once I start, I have a hard time stopping; yesterday I jammed my heart out, got myself in that state that makes you understand why musicians can benefit so much from having managers...
Yesterday all I did was doing the rearranging of the drum structure. The song is now like a "Frankenstein" (my favorite simile this season) that has still not been stitched; on the table I have a head, followed by a neck, then a torso and the arms... Everything side by side, already in the correct place but still not a unit.
I don't know where will I start today, I can do those transitions, or maybe changing the velocities; Drumgizmo with the additional human feel must be a blast... And now that I think of it, I'd rather do some experimentation with the guitar, I need a somewhat convincing guitar feedback in the box; I asked in the LinuxMusicians forum and got 2 ideas, I better try them soon so I can report the results... My hypothesis is neither of them will work but I will learn a lot in the process; no problemo, there is always sampling, or building upon that trick I used in "Zombie barf"...
To be honest, yesterday I was this close to not doing anything musically. I was beaten down physically and emotionally. But that's the good part of habits; opening the DAW was easier than opening the bed. The force of habit forced me... :)
Yesterday I worked in the drum track in a great state of flow. Ath the end it was like "hey, you have to go to bed now, buddy, this thing is calling you, you know, physical exhaustion".
I got to the end of the song's drums, although technically I didn't get my "plank" because, after printing the demo, I discovered one of the sections (replicable, not a problem) got garbled. In general terms, with a couple of non-damaging crashes as the exception, Qtractor seems rock solid. Too soon to say for sure, anyway, as I'm still learning its ways and sometimes it's not easy to tell when I screwed up or when it was a bug.
And regarding Drumgizmo... Oh my god. At some points makes you wonder "when the hell did a professional drummer sneaked into my demo?". Those 2.4Gb of the kit are worth every bit.
As I'm still getting familiar (and with a couple of concerning things that I still have to learn), I'm going to make "Now you're talking"'s drums pretty barebones; in the style of a punk drummer who occasionally listened to Kyuss and Brujería. Optimist as always, I'd like to move to tracking bass in 2 days; it all depends on how much time I can take for the sessions. There's still a lot to do, I haven't touched velocity, I guess the swing for certain notes will have to be adjusted manually, and also, this song has a long buildup that requires to add some more changes in the structure... But hey, I'm sailing at last, and all signs seem to show that it's going to sound killer... Let's keep at it.
Ouch. While I was waiting for this page to load, I got informed of Tom Petty's passing away.
So many memories of my friends in my tape days, and more recently, of how about a couple of years ago "Hypnotic eye" helped me so much, in what was easily one of the worst periods of my life; in those days I listened to that album time after time, it was the thing of beauty in my shitty days... "I have a dream/I'm gonna fight till I get it...". So solar, so easy going... And the so timely and intuitive final song, since then in my habitual personal repertory: "Shadow people/what's in their minds?"
I'm too sad to say something more coherently, so I'll just move on to the log.
Yesterday it took me around 28 seconds to discard Ardour's Midi editor as a viable tool: I multiduplicated a drum part, then I tried to edit one of the copies, and I couldn't; neither add nor substract notes. Further investigation showed that for some reason, some of the duplicated parts were editable, others weren't. I still tried to find a workaround for that; maybe copypasting one of the "good" parts, the ones that allowed edition... But the copypaste pasted a blank. Conclusion: no workaround possible when you're facing pure random chaos. What a good thing that it happened so soon.
About two hours later, I had the solution with Qtractor. Now I'm in the middle of the action, writing (in both senses) the drums for "Now you're talking". Today I'll educate myself a bit more about Qtractor's controls, and try to finish the first "plank" of the drum track.
Yesterday I reached my objective of making some new noise. The passage is still shaky, but, well, the journey from point A to point B has already been blazed.
After a first part of the night doing all I could to save my relationship with Hydrogen, to no avail, I finally decided to move to Drumgizmo.
That thing rocks. The moment I got the first sound, and I saw several levels on the screen going up at the same time (because of the mic bleed simulation), I felt a thrill similar to the first time I used software EQ in real time (Ardour 2, 2010, if I remember correctly). The only thing that doesn't convince me much as of now is that humanization is only an on-off control, not a knob as in Hydrogen. But the sound is gorgeous, and I can further humanize things to my liking manually if I have to.
The objections to my enthusiasm are two pronged; on one side the aforementioned fear of a final lack of consistency in the album; I'm hoping that there's enough unifying factor in the fact that all songs are played with the same equipment, by the same guy, and other than drums with pretty much the same software. What in no way I'm inclined to do is going back yet again over these songs and redo the drums. If it has to be a frankenstein album, then so be it, the next one will come out better.
The other but is technical; I'm using Ardour's builtin Midi editor, a tool that would be terrific if it were more robust; having all your editing needs served in one single program -given that Drumgizmo is an LV2 plugin-, with an editor that is much more likable to me than Hydrogen's or Rosegarden's, and in which you get a quick start because of all your hours of previous Ardour training... However, short after starting with the drums for "Now you're talking", I discovered some of the weird behaviors I had heard comments about (garbled rendering, deleted notes that come back from the dead, copy pastes that paste nothing...) So the final neural cycles of my day went to investigate an alternative; I found I don't think I can easily decipher the tutorials that appeared before me, so what I'm going to do is trying to do a whole song with Ardour's editor, to see if I can and how bad the errors are, and I'll climb that mountain at some other time.
So the menu for today is drumming fun, it seems, with a pinch of UI frustration, maybe?
Today is my entry #10. I'm going to extend until #16, let's say as a homage to Iggy Pop's "Sweet sixteen".
Correction to a previous entry: Deadcross' line goes "Dance like nobody is LOOKING" (so it later rhymes with "cooking").