Monday, June 28, 2010

A Melodyne moment.

Melodyne Editor

Melodyne Editor, created by Celemony, is just awesome for fixing a sour note, here or there, in a vocal line, or perhaps in a guitar solo!

Melodyne Editor is a rather important part of my vocal work flow. However, I refuse to use this powerful tool in order to play God! Let me explain what this means. I use Melodyne Editor in my music writing just like photographers might use Photoshop in their wedding photography. What does this mean? A photographer might use Photoshop in order to slightly manipulate the color correction of an image, and not to create an image with it alone. Well, I like to use Melodyne Editor to correct a sour note here or there, and not to compose a vocal line with it.In a world full of Auto tune madness, less is more.

Melodyne Editor can be used to correct pitch, vary note length and time, raise or lower a notes volume, and to delete any bad notes all together! Melodyne Editor can distinguish between percussion lines, monophonic information, and polyphonic information. This is scientific talk for drums, single note events (like a vocal track or a guitar solo), or chords of notes (like a rhythm guitar or a piano).

The Melodyne Editor interface is easy to learn and very fast to use.

Melodyne Editor allows for all sorts of editing features that make fine tuning your audio a breeze. Notes can be “snapped” to a grid or placed manually into semi note values. Melodyne Editor “listens” to the audio as you transfer the audio into it. Then it displays the audio (as “blobs”) where it lies on a scale. Choosing the pitch correction tool, you then can double click on the “blobs” which places them right onto the closest semi tone on the grid. This does not mean that these notes are now perfect, but they are now tuned to the closest semi tone pitch. Now you can easily drag the notes up or down on the grid and place them where ever you want them to be.

There is one thing about Melodyne Editor that drove me crazy, well, until I figured out what was going on. Melodyne Editor sometimes misses the mark when separating “long notes”, and shows these long-duration notes as just one single “blob”. For example, a note that might contain sub notes could be a long multi-syllable note, or maybe a sliding guitar note. No matter how I moved these longer “blobs” up and down in the Melodyne Editor grid, they just did not sound right. Then I found the note separation tool.

Splitting these blobs (with the note separation tool) fixes that problem. Let me explain. Once these long notes are separated you can then better edit the pitch of each of the newly created “blobs”. After separating the long “blob” into two or more “blobs” you can once again choose the pitch correction tool and then double click on each of the freshly separated “blobs”. This is just to center them on to the closest semi tone. Then you can move these new “blobs” where they need to be in the Melodyne Editor grid. Problem fixed!

I highly recommend that you use Melodyne Editor to fix up your audio before you add your effects. Although Melodyne Editor does a pretty good job of dealing with effected audio (like reverbs and delays), it can get strange sounding at times. So, record your vocals, then put them through the Melodyne Editor, and then effect your audio to taste.

Now that your main vocal tracks are tight, it may be time to record a backing vocal track or tracks. Are you going to belt out tracks at higher or lower octaves, or in chords? What would these tracks sound like? What might sound proper?

Here is a little beauty mark for the whole Melodyne affair. With Melodyne Editor the ability to take a copied vocal track and then audition it in “any place” on a scaled grid, in seconds flat, is possible. I feel as if I am coming close to playing God here, as I do this vocal auditioning, so please revert back to the “less is more” rule that I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Try not to record backing vocals from simply copying tracks and moving them in pitch (to perfection) with Melodyne Editor. Our trust as musicians is at stake.

Melodyne Editor has even more very cool features. One is the ability to use a “snap to” grid feature. This is a feature that allows you to chose a specific key in which to allow our “blobs” to snap to. Think of it as you might snap midi notes to a time grid, but instead you are snapping audio notes to the notes to only the notes in a key. This is fool proof, and extremely cool to play with. If your song is playing in a D Major, then set the “snap to feature” to D Major. Each note will jump to the nearest note in the D Major scale. Then you can change them by moving them to the next note in the chosen key. Can you say “hello back-up vocalists?”. Copying and pasting notes is possible too, so beware, this can become addicting!

I posted a review a long time ago, about the full version of the Melodyne plug in, which can be viewed here. This post (above) is the "Editor" version of Melodyne. The main difference is a "save as" funtion. Melodyne Editor does not save audio to your hard drive. Instead, you simply bounce the new audio to a new track.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Toontrack Beatstation demo and review!

Here is a great definition taken from the Toontrack software site....

Part sound design tool and part audio engine, Beatstation brings the best aspects of musical creativity together in one EZ and powerful virtual instrument that is sure to inspire greatness in your next composition or project.

Offering drum, bass and lead instrument creation & arrangement with drag and drop simplicity, Beatstation is your "go to" instrument for quickly getting a full groove up and running in no time at all. As if that's not enough, we've also added full midi and rex file support. Couple those features with the flexibility of working in Beatstation as a stand alone instrument or an AU, RTAS, or VST plug in inside your favorite DAW and Beatstation becomes a creative musical force to be reckoned with.

Beatstation lets you combine your exisisting Toontrack EZX & SDX drum libraries together to create one of a kind drum kits and sounds. From basic musical sketches to lavish complete productions - Beatstation gives you the tools and freedom to design your own musical agenda any way you want to.”

This is a decent enough definition, but even this lacks many important details. What I am referring to here is all of the easy to add and easy use effects, all of the layering possibilities, and all of the fun that this product ships with!

I received a copy of Beatstation from Toontrack software , just to play with, and what I have found out about this clever product is that a new world has unfolded right in front of my ears!

Ever since the first video snippet on YouTube, from Toontrack, Beatstation has looked like just the exact product that I was looking for! Beatstation offers us all a way to quickly sample any audio and then incorporate that sample of audio into midi triggered pads, and then work it into our favorite midi files! The only question I had was “Where do I sign up?” I have been looking for just this exact thing for some time now. Allow me to explain.....

For some time now I have wanted to create a song that uses only a certain couple of midi loops as percussion. I wanted a way to signify the chorus from the verses by triggering different samples (that I could perhaps layer)with the same midi loop notes. Adding my own audio sample as a layered sample would be gravy, Beatstation had me at just layering Toontrack software samples with the same midi note.

I suppose that if I were to stay up for a week straight, I might come up with a way to layer my midi notes and then add audio samples to that, while using Pro Tools, but the the results would be way less that perfect. Well, with the Beatstation sampler and midi layering pads do this very thing, effortlessly, with drag and drop ease, and in no time at all! Awesome indeed!

At first I failed to realize that Beatstation is also a RTAS plug in. Yep, I rushed to play with Beatstation as a stand alone instrument app, and started to wonder how I might ever use this fun tool while writing music in my DAW. Well, now I know exactly how to do just that!

Opening Beatstation up on a stereo instrument track, in Pro Tools, allows the impossible. In seconds flat I had found the needed midi loop, and altered it to my song. What I did was layer sounds onto the desired midi pads found in Beatstation , and then added effects to each pad. Done!

As the video shows, Beatstation is a way to get the exact sounds that you hear in your head, in no time at all. The effects are wonderful in sound, and easy to adjust. The different volume amounts make it a synch to get the perfect mix of level and amount of effect “wetness” in each pad.

After I got the exact results that I was looking for, I simply bounced the loop onto a new stereo track. Then, it was onto the chorus loop. This was the same midi loop, but I needed to set it apart somehow. I did this by a combination of fast and easy layering, and then with selecting some other effects. Now I was ready to add guitars, bass, and then my vocals. My work flow is not the only thing that I have improved with Beatstation , nope, my creativeness has gone through the roof too. I would have never achieved such unique sounding loops if it were not for Beatstation .

As I learn more about adding Rex files into Beatstation , I will bring you all along with me by posting more videos. Heck, it is the least I can do!

Go here to see more great videos dealing with the new Beatstation from Toontrack software!

Before I leave you for the week, I must add a series of “thank you's”. Thanks to everyone that has entered the Home Recording Weekly songwriting contest. I have given away one prize already, and this months contest is underway. Thanks for allowing me to listen to, and enjoy your creations. There are so many great songs, it really is very hard to deem one better than another. So, I don't! I simply choose the one song that seems to be more of a well written song, verses a better recorded song, or a better singer or guitarist, or whatever! This is the only way to be fair!

Feel free to let others know that you were here by leaving any comments here, on the Home Recording Weekly blog! Thanks for stopping by!!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Winner of the first ever Home Recording Weekly blog songwriting contest announced.

You want the best? Well, you got the best!

Who will be celebrating their new win with IK Multimedia Amplitube 3 and Groove Maker for Iphone and/or Ipod ?

The winner of the first ever Home Recording Weekly blog songwriting contest is MacLain Christie, with a great song titled “Tell me, Joeseph”! Congratulations! A job well done!

MacLain Christies' winning song “Tell me, Joeseph” is posted here, in the video, so please check it out!!! I know that you will enjoy it as much as I have.

MacLain writes.......

Well I actually produced it just in GarageBand. I used an Alesis MultiMix8 mixer as my audio interface and a Shure SM57 dynamic mic for vocals. Everything else was played in the box by me through midi with an old General Music keyboard.

I am a piano player and so I typically write my songs at the piano as I did with "Tell Me, Joeseph." I then laid down the piano track and vocals in GarageBand and later arranged it with the other instruments. It would probably sound more natural with real people playing the other instruments, but I just don't have the equipment or resources to do that.”

Now, as for the next Home Recording Weekly songwriting contest.......

That is right, the next Home Recording Weekly blog songwriting contest will be soon underway! The Home Recording Weekly blog will be taking MP3 song entries starting on June 16, and will stop taking entrys on July 15.

But what is the prize for this new songwriting contest????

I am so glad that you asked!

The single lucky winner will take away their very own copy of EZ Drummer, from Toontrack music!

That's right! One lucky winner will receive a brand spanking new copy of EZ Drummer from Toontrack music!

All that you need to do is to (first) subscribe to the Home Recording Weekly blog, and then email your entry in! The rules and email can be found here. All of the prior entries must be deleted from my hard drive, mail in your new entry, or the same entry again. Of course I will ask for your email because I will need to email the winner for their information. So, dont delay, get that song finished and mailed in to the Home Recording Weekly blog for your chance to win some great software from Toontrack music!

Pleas feel free to scroll through my blog posts in order to watch the demo videos featuring both IK Multimedia and Toontrack music products!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Toontrack Songwriters drum packs

What “ships” inside the new Toontrack songwriters drum pack, and songwriters fills pack, played by Ricard "Huxflux" Nettermalm?

The short answer is “lots”. The long answer is “lots and lots”.

Video part 1

Video part 2

To begin, the Song Writers drum pack, and the Song writers fill pack can be found and purchased at the Toontrack website, and for a mere 19 dollars (USD) each. That is all I needed to know in order to get my own copies downloaded. Speaking of downloading, they both were installed on my hard drive, and running in Pro Tools LE8 in moments flat, and they run flawlessly.

Songwriters drum pack

The Song Writers drum pack is midi information that is arranged as a songwriter might browse for it. I opened up Toontracks EZ Drummer, looked under the grooves section, and there was my new purchases.

The Song Writers drum pack is organized rather neatly, and laid out for quick usage. The midi headings are labeled as “Ballad, Halftime, Mid tempo, Uptempo, and shuffle”. Under each of these headings are sub headings, which are as follows: under “Ballad” you will find “Straight 4/4, Straight 6/8, and Swing 6/8”. Under the heading of “Halftime” is “Straight 4/4 and Swing 4/4”. Under the heading of “Mid tempo” is Swing 3/4, Straight 4/4, and Swing 4/4”. Under the heading of “Uptempo”, you will find “Straight 4/4, and Swing 4/4”. Lastly, “Shuffle” has “Swing 4/4” time midi information inside of it.

After choosing you time, you next choose the part of the song that you need some midi for. The midi in the Song Writers drum pack is laid out as “intro, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge, and fills”, and different variations of midi files are found inside each of these sub headings. This is a lot of midi for 19 bucks! My experience thus far has been that you should have no problem either finding a perfect fit for what you are writing, or you will find a very close midi file that may need some minor changing.

Both the midi information found here, and the way that this midi information is laid out, will shave precious time off of your drum writing approach.

Song Writers Fill Pack

I just loves to write my own fills. Not! I do, however, find myself customizing fills quite often, just to make them sit in my songs a little bit better. One problem that I have is that it has become tougher and tougher to find unique fills to alter. Well, I wont be having that issue any longer, as I purchased the Song writers fill pack , and I now have tons of unique fills to select from.

The Song writers fill pack is laid out just like the Song Writers drum pack . To save time, I have included a snap shot of the EZ Drummer midi selection browser, with the Song writers fill pack selected. Let me just add that the fills are awesome. Check out the video that I have posted to hear just a smattering.

All in all, as a songwriter, I have long awaited for products such as these. My work flow will become a bit faster and the final product will be that much more unique sounding. If you are on the fence about purchasing these Songwriters drum and/or fill packs, Then listen to me: “go ahead and do it”, you will not be sorry!

Lastly, as just a reminder, the Home Recording Weekly song writing contest is quickly coming to a close! If you are still putting the finishing touches on your song, dont fret, get it done and sent in. This is your chance to win Groovemaker and Amplitube 3, both from IK Multimedia, and I dont want any one of you to miss your chance of winning these smokin' prizes!

If you have already sent in your song entry, then a big “thanks” goes out to you! After the winner is declared keep an ear close to the groung for the next Home Recording Weekly song writing contest. The prizes are getting better.............