Hey everyone – as per usual… it’s been a while. And as per usual… I’ve been doing stuff. I feel like I started the last post this very same way. I’m also too lazy to look it up and find a new way to start this particular post. Thanks for dealing with it!
So, what has been going on since we last hung out? Uh, I guess I should look at the last update actually… one sec… ah… okay…
Last time we talked I was actively writing Cables, a mellow cruiser with some extra trip, and was considering writing a derivative of Warehouse. What happened with all that? Cables super done. Well, written, anyway. I haven’t recorded it yet though, mostly I want to get a few more live-knob twiddling down before I do that. And let’s be honest, it’s still changing in some subtle ways.
And a derivative of Warehouse? Nah. At least, not right now. But… I did start working on another piece, Impedance. Err, start and finished. I’m done writing impedance too, actually. Just working on little tweaks here and there – adding the drama and sparkle, if you will. And also, like Cables – not recorded (‘changing in subtle ways’).
Impedance is a bit of a special tune. It started out as a bad day. I was feeling particularly perturbed about, well, something. I honestly can’t remember what it was; probably just a shitty day at life (they happen, yanno?). I created a real simple loop with some weird sounds and a drum pattern intended to mimic a heart beat. When I was looking for a third song I asked my friend Bill if he’d choose what I’d work on for his birthday present, this was the idea that spoke to him. He had two requests for the track:
- Make the track 13 minutes long
- Really long build ups
And by really long, well, he asked for 64 bars. Maybe that’s not that long… but I went a bit above and beyond. It’s got two large builds, a 64 and… a 96 🙂 13m was a bit tricky; there’s always something to not making it too repetitive. But wait, all electronic music is repetitive you say? Well yea, but that just means electronic music has an entirely different standard for what repetitive means. Yep, I’ve totally found it in the past… many many times.
All that said, 13 minutes comes with extra extra challenges in not being repetitive. For this song, I felt like I would work with multiple themes. Themes that almost seem like they could be different songs, but not really. Two themes that support each other and even tie together. Tricky to do, but I think I’ve come up with something kind of nice to listen to. I mean, hell, I’d fuck to it.
Impedance and Cables, done. Where does this leave us on the great upcoming album, 6502? Moving along:
- Warehouse – recorded and started on the mix
- Cables – written and waiting for recording
- Impedance – written and waiting for recording
- Choosing the 4th song from the pile to work on writing next.
I’ve got a lot of ideas saved off and I’m really not sure where to go. I’ll likely ask one of my friends to help me pick. There’s something about taking myself out of the writing a little bit that’s kind of nice. I mean shit, I’ve got all the ideas and I’ll write the song – you fucking pick what I write next.
6502 is shaping up to be a long album. I currently have around 35 to 36 minutes of material between the three songs. Maybe a little less when I just consider their album versions and not the live performance versions (they are longer, more below). I sort of want to write the whole pile of ideas I’ve started; fair though, I might throw some how. If we get to 2 discs though, no big, I mean… the Pumpkins got away with it so why not me?
The Live Set
Hey, 3 songs – 35 minutes of material… time to start practicing the set! Every band I’ve ever been in dreads the point where we have to start rehearsing the set. That’s when things become a bit of work. Over and over again, perfecting all the little bits. How do the songs fit together? Is everything in time? Can everyone play everything? And sure, I’m far from playing a live show, but now I’ve got three songs I need to practice or I’ll forget and with that practice, comes a swatch of new challenges.
The main challenge is the board. I have an analog mixing board. My songs change, but it doesn’t. Each song uses the synths in slightly different ways and the boards job is to fit them together. But, I have to drive the board – reset the faders, the panning and filters, reverbs and delays, all that wonderful good stuff so that each song sounds as good as it can when I play it back. Yep, the board is part of the performance. How complicated could it be…
Ah, but if only I had a digital board – I’d press save. Yea, well, I went cheap and who doesn’t like a challenge? Mostly it’s repetition and remembering as many settings as I can each time I play – focus, focus, focus. It’s more than that though, I can only remember so much – this is where I get clever.
Clever how? Well, just because the board doesn’t save doesn’t mean I can’t save for the board. Most of my synths allow for presets (except the juno). I can, in fact, adjust the levels of the synths from the synths themselves. A neat trick is to rapidly switch songs, see which synths stick out, adjust them at the synth level, and save the patches to the synths. Yep, minimal change – or as minimal as I can get it. One thing you’ve gotta remember, you’ll never get it all… and that’s part of what makes the live set so unique, every single time.
Even with these tricks, some things still get weird. Like the AY3 – it actually gets into a state where the knobs behave differently after I perform Warehouse. I can’t for the life of me figure out how to fix it. So what do I do? Right now the set involves unplugging the synth and plugging it back in. Heh, yea, that’s not weird at all.
Is there more? Yep. But maybe I’ll get into the weird stuff more another time.
Each time I play the set, as of now, it’s about 37-40m. That’s an hour of my free time just to rehearse. I literally only have time to go through each song once. Adjusting the settings for the songs, and adjusting the settings so that I can change songs are techniques I’m working on. I mentioned already rapidly switching between loops of songs to figure out what pieces get weird. Some stuff still just requires me to run through the whole thing. Ah, nothing like being on minute 28 and finding out you forgot to do some key setting.
Mostly, this is repetition, but there’s just so much. Recordings really help here. I make videos of each session where I play the whole thing. This allows me to review, pin pointing specific areas I want to work on. Then, when I come in, before the set, I can bring up various loops and make my adjustments.
In other cases, I’m merely learning to stretch and accept reasonable tolerances. If something’s a little too loud, I think it’s not terribly disruptive to adjust it during the performance (all mixes have automation anyway). Getting better at adjusting a fader while I’m running the sequencer is taking some getting used to though and I do wonder if I can do more clever labelling to make this easier.
Electronic music is traditionally performed by djs. One of their jobs is to provide a nice consistent flow for everyone to dance to. On the sequencer, this is actually not possible (yet). I have to stop the sequencer to load the next song. Then, on top of loading the song, I have to get the board and a few of the synths ready to play whatever is coming next. Yea, the juno can’t save things remember? And neither can the NES… and delay settings? Reverbs and filters? Yea, there’s a lot of shit to adjust, my favorite being the tempo on the board (god I wish it had midi).
So, right now when I switch from Warehouse to Impedance it takes about 1 minute. That’s one minute of dead air. Ooof. It kinda hurts and I can’t imagine having a crowd just sit there that long. A minute can feel like a long time, true story.
I’ve got a few ideas I’m working on to mitigate these issues:
- Change what I can on the board while I’m performing the previous song
- Get gear to make switching faster (i.e. the board delay’s tempo)
- Filler pieces
- Two songs as one project on the squarp (this is how cables and warehouse work)
- DJ stuff in
Filler pieces aren’t something I’ve done yet but something I’ve thinking about. The idea is a quick piece that I can press play on as soon as the next project loads. Minimal synths, or synths that don’t need much changing. Just to get something going and not have everyone be like “Huh?” I’ve done a similar thing for Cables to Warehouse where I just let one arp’y synth play on until I’m ready to do the switch. I could write these in as either before or after pieces to give me time – though I’d make them more interesting than the Cables to Warehouse one (well, sometimes).
Two songs (or more) on a project is doable – with some recent sequencer updates this is a slightly more doable thing. A song uses a lot of different patterns you see – and this used to eat up a single track on the Pyramid (it supports 64). Not only does it eat up a track, these things become fucking impossible to keep organized (really, you should see what I have memorized to perform Cables/Warehouse).
Recently Squarp added multiple patterns bound to a single track. With this feature I can stack all the patterns of a specific synth in one place. Holy shit this is easier to drive, at least on the surface. Digging around the patterns is another problem altogether – but it does allow me the room I need to stuff 4 or 5 songs on a single project… if I want to. There are various other things to consider when you do this (you only get 32 sequences!). Anyways, it’s an option.
DJ stuff… I mean, I wrote a whole album… I could always use it to fill the space while I prepare the board. Honestly, I’d much rather play these for you folks too. An idea, none the less.
Gear and Other Stuff
Well, originally when I started this I was going to write about some gear changes, routing, what not. But uh, I got tired. This is a note for myself to talk about The Therapsid, Heat, and some other plans next time.
There’s also a lot of operational stuff I need to deal with coming soon. Especially… backups. Yea, I have to figure out how to dump each synth to the computer. And, I should probably test loading. Of course, that could potentially destroy everything. Uh… well, at least backups. I tried some today in fact, scary shit.
Anyways, I got really tired when I got down here, so, I’m gonna call it a night. But thanks for hanging in there… there’s more to come.