Posts Tagged ‘#Midi’

I posted a poem earlier called “Let You Go” https://midimike.com/2020/07/07/let-you-go/ that I really liked. While I was working on writing the music for these lyrics I got side-tracked. I had recorded a few MIDI drum parts and had a guitar theme I liked playing on my Martin Acoustic/Electric guitar chained together trying to get a feel for the song.

A good friend called me out of the blue and asked if I wanted to have his old MIDI studio gear. No instruments or toys will be orphaned if I can help it so I drove over that day. We chatted for a while and I left with a van full of what most people would call ‘ancient’ gear. This is the stuff hits were made with. Everything you heard growing up using electronic drums or synths used these gems.

I got home and hooked up a few pieces like a kid not knowing which present he wants to open first. DAYS LATER I opened up my recording project again and played with a vocal effect toy I had not gotten to yet. Not wanting to stop an idea I was working on I started recording in another section of the session. As you will hear, I decided not to sing the chorus parts. Instead I used some of the lyrics to do a chant-style intro and outro.

After juggling the original music around I started to work on a melody for the lyrics. I used some of the chant themes so the melody took shape pretty quickly. Not wanting to overdo the vocal effect, I just used reverb on my voice. Then I added some MIDI bass guitar sounds and put the pieces together.

Next, I added a little MIDI piano in the chorus sections and sprinkled through the end of the song. Then I made some stupid editing error and trashed all of the drum tracks!!! Redo the drum tracks and a few days later I have a rough mix for you.

As some of you will know, a rough mix is probably the last one I do! LOL.

Here is “Let You Go” as it stands today. I hope you enjoy this one.

“Let You Go” by MSK

Earlier I posted a poem (although poems and lyrics are often interchangeable with me) called “The Next Step”: https://midimike.com/2020/06/22/the-next-step/

This shuffle will take a while to get used to. Really, there is no groove here. No comedic relief either, but I do like the strangeness of it. How about that for an intro?!!

The recording was simple and there is a lot of open space in this one that makes most listeners a little uncomfortable. I played my Ibanez 6 string electric guitar and used effects from my PC after the recording to get the delay and chorus effects. I created the MIDI drums to match the odd beat in the guitar strums. After laying down a simple bass guitar track using computer plug-ins and the song is almost done.

The Next Step by MSK

Sonar Track Panel Wave and MIDI files that generate sounds from computer programs called plug-ins

I mentioned experimenting with an on-line jamming program. It became the clipboard for a few guitar sections I created while waiting for one thing or another to work. I titled each as verse, bridge, chorus, etc. I had to give it a project name to save the clipboard and I came up with “Not Now”.

I used those short pieces and assembled them into a song arrangement. Once the chords and arrangement were in place I naturally started thinking of lyrics (as I have a tendency to do). The file was named Not Now so I kept it as my Cakewalk (BandLab) project name. So it becomes the theme of the lyrics. In one hour they were written. Getting them to match the odd rhythms and sparse instrumentation became a challenge. It took me a few days to come up with the melody and then practice it enough to get the rough tracks down. To all just joining; I get things down to rough tracks and then write another song, poetry, lyric or instrumental. When I was young I hoped some band would do my songs correctly in a studio. I am not young now.

Here is a rough mix of “Not Now”. I used a Martin Acoustic/Electric guitar for the guitar track. Using my MIDI keyboard I pulled up a plug-in for drum sounds. I imported the original noodling guitar parts I did from the clipboard but they were not recorded to a metronome or drum pattern. I listened and figured out the tempo of the segments and set Cakewalk to match. That way I could listen to the short guitar segments as I created the basic drum parts and arranged all the segments in order. I pulled up a bass guitar sound and played the MIDI keyboard to generate the bass line.

Next, I Muted the original guitar tracks and recorded a new track to replace it. The song seemed to cry out for strings but that is usually just me. I like good sounding strings in various styles of music.

Lyrics were posted here: https://midimike.com/2020/06/01/not-now/

I use two monitors as there is a lot of information to keep ‘track’ of even for a small project.
This is the Piano Roll view. Each color represents different instruments. The lower group triggers drum sounds.

I gave a link to BandLab above. Full disclaimer this is not a commercial and I do not get paid for anything I do here. However….. if you are interested I used to pay hundreds of dollars every year or so to keep this great recording program updated. They now offer the program and all updates for FREE. No kidding.

I hope you enjoy “Not Now”. Each time I listen to it I like it more. Again, this is just me as each new song I write becomes my newest favorite.

If just for a little while.

The lyrics for “The Border” were posted earlier. There is also a little story to this song using the link above.

…….. for the nerds and geeks in the audience, I created the song in Bandlab’s Sonar (formerly Cakewalk Sonar). This is not a commercial but if you are interested in recording, podcasts, audio to video and a bunch more, BandLab bought Sonar out of bankruptcy and is making this program free to download and use!!! Argh! I paid hundreds of dollars each year to keep current and have new toys.

I am not against commercials or someone making a bit of money but there really is no connection here. If you want to download Sonar, search for BandLab and hit the download button. It is a powerful multi-track recording program with sounds and plug-ins ready to use. I could give you the link but that would seem like I am pushing it lol!

Here is my new song, “The Border”:

“The Border” (C) MSK 2-11-2020

I began this blog to share stories of people and events I have been lucky enough to be involved with over the last five decades. Along with my poetry and original music I also enjoyed sharing my pictures and personal observations.

While I am sure there will also be beautiful and exciting things to share in my future, I also want to chill. I need to make life simpler from here on.

I have enjoyed this community and those willing to share everything with total strangers. There were many times when this was the hi-light of my day. I could go on posting my views and thoughts on politics, religion, money and other hot topics but there are too many of us doing that these days. So this is a good time to phase out MIDI Mike.

While the site remains live, feel free to take a look at the topics on the top of the page to find something that might interest you.

I may throw in a post from time to time just to surprise myself. In my usual style, let me show you a few recent pictures I took at a favorite place of mine: Spring Grove Cemetery. We had a heavy rain days before these pictures with hi winds. Before that the fall colors were really starting to jump out. Unfortunately the rain hit a bit early and dropped most of the leaves, but I managed to get some good pictures.

Spring Grove Cemetery
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Spring Grove Cemetery
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Spring Grove Cemetery
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Spring Grove Cemetery
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Spring Grove Cemetery
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Spring Grove Cemetery
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Spring Grove Cemetery
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Spring Grove Cemetery
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Spring Grove Cemetery
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Spring Grove Cemetery
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Spring Grove Cemetery
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Spring Grove Cemetery
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Annette Rogers from jjaR at MSK Studios

Early in 1996 I was introduced to a Cincinnati band called “jjaR”. I met them while they were playing at a popular club called Top Cats. I was really impressed with the band and their original songs. Annette Rogers was the lead vocalist and she commanded the room with her emotional portrayal of each song. The band was intense and dynamic.

March 13th, 1996 we started recording in my home studio. They were troopers. I have a small space for recording with no isolation rooms for drums, vocals, etc. The band wanted a clean demo. They did not want a lot of processing and effects in the mix. A band after my own heart!

jjaR at MSK Studio in 1996

We did two separate sessions. The first session was mixed on March 26th, 1996. I was recording on the Alesis ADAT (Alesis Digital Audio Tape) machine for the first project. We only had 8 tracks to work with back then and no computer editing or effects. They were pros. They set up, got settled in and played their songs with obvious passion.

One of their tracks appeared in a collection of bands our local radio station WEBN (102.7FM) published on CD. They were featured on the second annual CD release. Deary Me Presents – Cincinnati Scene II included “Food Chain Of Love” on the 3rd track of the compilation CD. You can still find a copy or two on on-line.

Here are a few tunes from Project 1 for your enjoyment.

jjaR at MSK Studio – Food Chain Of Love
jjaR at MSK Studio – Super Size
jjaR at MSK Studio – Aliens
jjaR at MSK Studio – Misunderstood

On the 30th anniversary of our performance with NRSB at Bogart’s in Cincinnati, I want to share a vintage video of that once and only performance. All original songs by members of this incredible band. I am so glad this was captured by hand-held camera out in the audience! Thanks DR.

Part I

Part II https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCv8NrHglpk&list=PL6nW06rbKPIo97mbrFsrAWed2OUaDvMkF&index=12&t=0s

We were just a bit ahead of our time.

I would like to share another half-baked instrumental piece with you. When you have written over 175 songs you have to try very hard to discover new things. Sometimes we audio engineers can get stuck in a rut too. We use dependable tools and procedures until we slowly lock ourselves into a production-line-song making-engine.

If you are a label, publisher etc., you will appreciate the cookie-cutter assembly line model. You would benefit from the homogeneous funnel that affects all the broadcast music we listen to today. As you can tell from my previous posts, I choose not to be main stream and often try the unusual or untested. But this is where I will stop whining about a music industry that only wants to back the mega mega stars of today. Our favorite musicians from the past would never get a break in today’s world. Long live rock and roll.

This song is in the chopping block stage. For fun, I noodle with varied instruments all the time. Most of it is nonsensical and I archive or delete it. Often there are really good gems in a sea of debris. On occasion, most of what I created sounds good and for some reason I like it. There are parts that work well and others that need to be enhanced or deleted. The software is capable but fairly easy to edit and “copy – Paste”. If you like or dislike a section, please let me know the min/sec in your comments.

This recording was a little unusual in the process side of things. I started with a metronome click track in my computer. I picked up my guitar (always in tune) and set up the computer (always ready to record) and – I am being literal here – found a chord on the guitar. Without regard for key or scale or root, I just kept trying different positions until I liked the sound and voicing of the chord. I started recording just that chord in various styles for a few minutes. Each chord clean and distinct. Then I would play a pattern or arpeggio with the same voicing. Then a few hard hits. Next I stopped recording, found another chord and repeated that process.

Once I had a number of guitar parts that I liked, I arranged them along a measured grid to create a single guitar track. I used chords for different segments of the song to create the chorus and bridges. Once the guitar was assembled I listened to the guitar and recorded MIDI bass guitar, piano and drums using the plug-ins in my software (Cakewalk/Sonar/Bandlab). The drums have a jazzy dynamic feel and I like the way some of this song fits together. I imagine watching for the sunset or sunrise over the hill on a chilly but beautiful day. That’s just me.

I have to fix a lot of things and it is not complete as I cautioned, but I hope you like it. BTW, I call it “134” because that is the tempo! I really have to work on my naming skills.

MSK Yellowstone

MSK Yellowstone

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Photo by MSK Yosemite

Burning Impressions That Last Forever                                 

“Single Desire” was written in a time when I must have had a lot to say.  The year was 1988. Once love has grabbed you it can burn deep.  No matter how you want things to turn out, sometimes you have no control on the direction they take.  You find yourself helpless at the time and unable to avoid mistakes that seem obvious even to you.  Single Desire tries to describe the condition when adoration is not reciprocal.  When you are not loved in return.  Only one thing matters and nothing you can do will make it happen.

When the other person learns that type of control is in their hands, they have power that can turn lovers insane.  He/She can make the helpless romantic into a tool that can be discarded when no longer useful.  There is no cost to them.  Displays of charm and hints of affection can destroy all resistance and common sense in the admirer.

We need to wait until the fire burns out completely before we can stop following and finally walk away.  The problem is there is usually very little left to walk away with.

I tried to give this song a full arrangement as powerful as the lyrics (or the idea behind them) felt to me.  I knew I could not sing it the way it required so I called my  good friend and band-mate Gary Jefferson as I have many times over the years to do the vocal tracks.  My wife Ellen does the chorus ‘response’ vocal parts.  I used my keyboards and MIDI tone generators to do all the instrumental tracks including the drums, strings, brass and bass guitar parts, and invited my buddy Shawn Anderson to come over and lay down the lead guitar tracks. Harlen Lee, another great friend of mine, came in and added additional guitar parts.  I really like the bass guitar line, and think the strings add movement and dramatic accents to the song.

Please give “Single Desire” a few plays to let it sink in and I hope you enjoy.

Written 8-27-1982 by MSK and I recorded it around 4-1983.

The main melodic themes for this song were inspired by my Yamaha DX7 ‘tine’ sound. That sound (or patch) has been used in many professional recordings since the keyboard was introduced.  The guitars and vocals are real-time of course, and everything else was sequenced.

Ann Ellis from my band The Personal Touch does the vocals on this one.  I would play the main piano part and she would sing the lyrics until we got the timing and the feel the way we wanted it.  From that point I sequenced the main piano part.  Every time I play this song I play it as you hear it in this recording, but I play a different last chord.  No two versions have the same ending, and I never know what the last chord will be.  My wife Ellen and I worked on the backing sounds like the strings, brass and pads to make this a full sounding production.  Once I had the basic piano parts and drums done, I don’t think we ever added a dedicated bass line as the song ended up sounding very full.

My buddy Shawn David Anderson plays lead guitar on this one and really drives home with the power and tone I was hoping for.  The lyrics are one of my favorites.  Not necessarily by themselves, but when reflecting on the emotions and events of the time. True multi-track recording capabilities gave me the option to create complex instrumental layers as opposed to the limited recordings I had been able to achieve from a four-track cassette deck!

I even sent this song to be evaluated by professionals.  Among some of the comments it was suggested that the song was too long and that the intro went too long before the vocal lines were introduced.  I have a version that starts when the vocals kick in, but this is my favorite version.  I hope you agree.