Describe the process of this assignment.
To complete this assignment, the process was split into three main parts.
The first section was recording the sounds from around the school, so I could insert them into my song later. This was done with my phone, walking around the school looking for good sounds that could fit with the atmosphere I wanted for my product – a bright, cheerful, chirpy song. Therefore, I looked for some less resonant “instruments” and only recorded dry, crisp sounds. Most of them were percussive (drums) rather than melodic (eg. piano), as I felt like a melodious sound could not be transposed to different notes easily. A teacher voice saying their “catchphrase” was also recorded, as that was a part of the assignment.
After this was done, the second section concerned the editing and documenting of the sounds I recorded previously. This meant that I transferred the recordings to my computer, and dragged them into the project view (the main window) as new audio tracks. From there, I could easily add plugins and cut the sounds, to make them better, and in the direction I wanted them to go in. After all four sounds were morphed to my liking, I did the screen capture (Crit C) to show exactly what plugins were applied to each one, as well as some preliminary instruments that I picked out and how they each sounded.
The last – and most tedious – section of this assignment (Crit B) included composing melodies and a chord progression for my software instruments (which I continuously changed because the overall sound never sounded “right”), finding loops, cutting, and transposing them to fit the progression, and arranging a drum beat. To break this down more, I will discuss the software instruments first. I used a synth called Alchemy for many of the parts in my song, as it had many presets and I could choose fitting ones. For the bassline, I had two tracks – sometimes separate, sometimes together, playing the root notes of each chord in my progression. These were a Fingerstyle Bass and Alchemy. There were many chord layers, all produced by Alchemy. I wrote the melodies by myself, looping the chords over and over again while playing different notes on the musical typing to see what worked with the scale, the chords, and the feel. Next, the loops were comprised of some percussion layers to give the more intense parts a fuller feel, while some loops were ukulele or guitar strums. The strums were cut up differently and transposed to the right note so that it would harmonise with the rest of the song’s elements. Lastly, I used the aforementioned sounds among sections of loops to create a heavy drum beat with many different layers and variations, and copy-pasted them to different sections of the song and deleted sounds to make a lighter beat. Arguably, this Crit D I am writing at the moment is the last part, but I think the point remains.
Discuss your CDNIS sounds and how useful they were for your end product.
The first sound I incorporated was a teacher voice. It was Mr. Leung (science teacher) saying “these chips are really good.” After editing them for my Crit C, I added an additional pitch shifter to make the voice deeper. However, this sound was only played once in its entirety, and no more. This means it was not pivotal enough, as the song could have done well without it.
The second sound I used was a ticking sound, recorded using a mouse I found. After the preliminary editing, I originally wanted to use it as a hi-hat track. However, the ticks were too short to work well with the rest of the drums. This gave me the idea to cut the sound up, and use it sort of as a filler, for making the off-beats of the drum loop sound fuller. This sound was incorporated in some parts of the song, and definitely changed the overall feel of it.
The third sound I added was my snapping, recorded with two hands snapping at the same time to a metronome playing in my headphones. This allowed the snaps to stay mostly in time, but due to there being two hands, some snaps still weren’t perfect. However, as a snap track should sound natural, it did not matter. After the screencast, I changed the snap to being another sound in the drum beat, played sporadically, and probably could have done without it. This means that this sound wasn’t really that useful either.
The last sound I put into my song was originally a keyboard typing. After isolating a single note and making it a very harsh kick, I decided that it would work well as a kick. This kick was the main integral drum sound, which means that without it the “groove” would have been completely different. 2/4 of the sounds were truly useful in setting the tone of my sound, while two only added perhaps a bit of depth and fullness. Next time I do this assignment, I will ensure more emphasis is placed upon the recorded sounds.
Evaluate your learning and new skills acquired.
During this process, I learned many new skills such as making a drum beat, writing melodies, as well as how to operate around a DAW. These skills were mostly learned through YouTube. Making a drum beat is crucial to most songs, so learning it was a good and productive idea. Knowing where to put the kicks, the snares, etc. to make a rhythmic beat really helped to make my assignment sound better. Writing melodies were something different, as it required not only what you learn, but what you knew previously. I wrote the two separate melodies for this assignment by taking small sections out of other songs I know. This made a unique melody, while still sounding arguably in key. The DAW (digital audio workstation) is the “platform” upon which most songs are built. Knowing how to get around it is integral to any workflow, and knowing all the shortcuts will help save tons of time in the long run. Additionally, adding the right plug-ins helped get the right tone for some sounds.
Some prior knowledge for this assignment included basic music theory (scale, key, chord progression, major/minor, lengths, etc.) and piano (to help me know which notes to play on my keyboard while recording).
What challenges did you face and overcome?
One challenge I faced was making all four sounds work well with each other. This was hard as not all the sounds were recorded as cleanly or with the same mic as others. Especially hard was the teacher voice, as there was so much noise in the background that it was almost impossible to hear the voice itself clearly. These editing-related issues were all overcame eventually, as I learned how to use EQ to cut out “bad frequencies” (eg. frequencies with background noise) and use plug-ins, especially noise gate.
Another challenge was writing a melody. It was hard to use the right notes, the right lengths, the right octave. To make the music sound good, most of the notes have to be in the scale that the song is in, among more. This made it difficult to compose two melodies for my song, but in the end, I did it. This was due to YouTube videos teaching me music theory, as well as trial and error.
A challenge I never really overcame was making my sounds integral to the final product, for two main reasons. One was that they were all drum sounds, and while arguably important to the song, was traditionally never the focus of a listener (melodies, chords, and bass are more important). The second reason was that there were many layers and similar percussive sounds in my drum beat at times, making it difficult to distinguish the sounds of CDNIS from ones cut out from loops. I tried to make them all sound the same, but I guess I went too far in making the sounds fit with the rest.