Thursday, November 29, 2012

Minnesota madness

I'm beginning to think that all the LCD Soundsystem I've been listening to lately is seeping into my thinking when it comes to this project.  I started this one off with a basic kick drum and then added a hi-hat and a few other percussive elements.  I kind of had a central theme down, but then kept tacking on intro ideas and things quickly got convoluted.  Why not share?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cyber Monday

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.  So as much as I make fun of all the Black Friday madness, I splurged today.  It was half off most everything on the Native Instruments site today.  I picked up this package of compressors.  Please drop me a comment if you have experience with any of these, in hardware or software form.  It appeared to be too good of a deal to pass up.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Groove composition in Maschine

So as I mentioned, in addition to Pro Tools, there is some other composition software at work here.  The role of Native Instruments' Maschine is a little harder to define than a common digital audio workstation.  It's a loop-based composition and arrangement tool which can be integrated into my workflow in a couple different ways.  Up until recently, I'd been using Maschine on a standalone basis to try out ideas, and put together grooves.  I would then click and drag the resulting audio file over to Pro Tools for deeper editing.  For the Bon Iver Project, I've started using Maschine as a vst, or plugin, in Pro Tools 9.  This means that Maschine's timeline syncs with Pro Tools, and they operate in parallel.  Tempo is also consistent.  Maschine simply becomes one track within the project.  This offers the best of both worlds, in a sense.  I'm able to use Maschine where it really shines (as a loop-based composition tool) while it sits in Pro Tools, where things are more easily edited and fine-tuned.  Ta daa....

Maschine 1.8 in Pro Tools 9.

So, in order to know where each Maschine "scene" (or part) starts and ends, I've added markers in the Pro Tools edit view.  I'm not saying this is the best way to incorporate this into your workflow, but it worked on Perth, and I'm trying it on Minnesota  So far, so good.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Back at it

So after a musical month that obviously didn't include a bunch of work on this project, I'm back in the Bon Iver groove.  I saw a lot of good music live and did my best to perform some as well, so it was time well spent, and I'm ready for a renewed remix effort.  It's amazing how the musical thing sort of feeds on itself.  Now where did we leave off?  I'll be tearing into Minnesota, and working on broad arrangements.  This should allow me a couple posts, with at least one being on the technical side of things.  This remix effort has already helped me integrate a certain piece of software that I've been using in addition to Pro Tools 9.  Up until now, I hadn't realized it's full potential.  More on that later.  I leave you with this (best viewed in hd)...

Friday, November 2, 2012

Minnesota inspiration

I think Minnesota, WI is going to be fun.  At first glance, this track appears to be pretty calm with a lot of banjo and brass.  Things don't really pick up until around two thirds of the way through.  What is kind of interesting though, is the underlying rhythm patterns in these louder parts.  A couple of these stuck out to me and most likely will become the basis of my remix.  My initial thinking is to switch things up so that the result is more of a storm with a touch of calm.  Here's an example, with no doctoring whatsoever.

With some work, I could probably chop, warp and arrange that clip alone and create a whole chorus or bridge/breakdown.  When the source material is so musical, it really helps when coming up with ideas.  I'm going to put some time in this weekend and get this second track off the ground sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Perth final draft

Setting the tone

How do I carefully wrap up the first song when it not only should be entertaining and tasteful, but also an introduction to the larger body of work? These decisions can take on a million different directions, but I think I've settled on a sound that works pretty well. It's driven but not too dancey. Going into this, I didn't know how natural it would feel to turn songs like this into a track like "that." Turns out, not very.

All the lyrics are intact, and mostly in the same order, with a few variations. The end result is something that, to my ear, sounds very linear, almost band-driven, as opposed to a loop-based track. As I reserve the right of revision, it's never final 'till its final. So, Perth final draft to come soon. Happy Halloween.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Official remix comp results

So Justin has chosen his favorite remixes over at Indaba.  Some great submissions and kind of humbling, to tell the truth.  It seems that he didn't necessarily go for the popular or obvious choice.  I'm hearing all kinds of different interpretations on Spotify, where a remix album was released with all the winners.  Justin took the time to comment personally on a lot of submissions, which I think is above and beyond.  In the past, bands with far less of a following have failed to post up anything until the end of a competition.  I'll link you to the Indaba page for those who may not have Spotify.  Just click on the individual song titles on the right hand side of the page.  As I've said before, all efforts documented on this blog are not related to the contest, other than the sourcing of stems.

Click here.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Evening session

While putting some time in, I had a studio visitor tonight.  Just one picture before I was made to throw her ball a few times.  Still doing some instrumentation and arranging.  Looking for just the right style of bass.  Drums are getting there.  Patience is a virtue.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Bon Iver "winding it down"

Wow.  Can't say I saw this coming, but it kind of makes this effort a little more significant for me.  More thoughts later.

Story here.

Bon Iver live

Here's a link to a free streaming replay of last Friday's show at NYC's Radio City Music Hall. This should be up for a couple of days. Enjoy.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Drill solo

As I work through and audition different tracks, certain ones stand out.  In this case, it's because of a non-traditional instrument being used to emphasize an impactful part of the song.  Justin uses what sounds like a dentist's drill to add an almost tense undertone to the chorus.

Here it is by itself:

And in context (it's audible if you listen close):

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Perth - more intro

So to share the direction my first remix is taking me, here's the same guitar clip I sampled and chopped in more of a rough intro context.  Still trying out ideas, but there are also some original vocal samples thrown in and rearranged.  Once I feel comfortable with the general vibe of the intro, I'll most likely start auditioning various chordings in and around Eb and attach a keyboard sound.  However, even I can't bring myself to do this at the moment.  Synthesizers are inherently geeky and should not be part of the Saturday night social calendar.  That would just be sad.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Perth - intro

So, Perth.  Like most of the others, it's got plenty of instrumentation.  It's also far from the most complicated song on the album.  The majority of instruments are doing something similar, so it's easier to make changes and "affect" the track a certain way without playing a ton of new parts, or switching things up too drastically.  I also wanted something familiar in the first minute of the recording.  Everyone knows the first song on any album they like.  I've moved some background vocals around and reengineered the main guitar sound that is Perth.  It's that unmistakable guitar riff, only different.  I'll probably post a longer sample as I put more time in, but here is that (soloed) guitar part.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Song prep work

As I plan to work sequentially through the album, I thought I'd take a little time to walk through the tools I'm using and the track organization for the first song.  The DAW (digital audio workstation) you use to remix doesn't matter. I mean that because with so many capable products out there, it's gotten more difficult to pick a clear-cut winner. I suppose that if you run a huge studio, you may have the luxury of using one for tracking, one for arrangement, another for mixing, etc.  For most people's purposes, it's like choosing a character in Mario Kart.  Each software package gets the job done, with it's own strengths and weaknesses.  I happen to be a Pro Tools user.  I mention this only as a point of reference when I post screenshots like this one:

This is my edit window before starting work on the first song.  The tempo grid is set to 120 bpm, and I know the song is in the key of Eb.  I renamed each of the supplied "stems" and added each to their own row, then created groupings for ease of use.  These groupings are denoted by the colors on the left hand side.  For example, guitars are red, drums green, and vocals blue.  A short description of each stem is in the grey comments column, to remind me exactly what sounds can be found as I'm bouncing around.  This will likely be the last time the waveforms looks so ordinary, and after things get chopped up and turned around, it gets harder to locate and work with if you don't do this kind of organization beforehand.

In addition to my DAW, there are some other tools I'm sure to use as the project progresses.  I'll touch on them as I go.  My goal here is to provide and document enough technical information without putting people to sleep.  I'll attempt to keep these type of posts somewhat separate from the purely creative ones.  Good evening for now, as I wrap up prep work and begin brainstorming ideas for the fun part of this project.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Project prep work

So I've spent a little time over the past couple days setting up folders on my computer for each song.  This is to store the stems as well as intermediate (working) sound files and final project files in various formats.  I also took the time to label the key and tempo for each of the ten songs on the album.  This makes things more efficient as sounds can be added from scratch as well as "borrowed" from song to song as long as I have a reference point with respect to these two elements.  Remixing music involves some math.  Like it or not, this is one of the few parts of the process that isn't purely subjective.  Me, I like it.  One or two absolute truths never bother me.  It gives you something to fall back on if you work through an entire evening and everything you did sounds terrible the next day.

To somewhat complicate things, you also have tracks which change key mid-song.  Others were originally recorded without the aid of a definitive tempo reference or "click track."  There are four of these tracks on the album.  They were likely recorded as a full band, at the same time.  This is reminiscent of most bands who were in the studio more than 20 years ago.  It gives a great "live" feel to the song, but makes it more difficult to take things apart and put them together again.

Next to this list is another point of reference, my piano chord chart.  This is very important as I can't play keys to save my life, but will need to in the coming months.  Now, to begin planning the first remix...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The beginning

Justin Vernon and company from the band Bon Iver have decided to release the "stems", or raw studio tracks for each song off of their self titled album.  If you've heard it, I bet you liked it.  It's inspired, has wonderful production, and his arrangements are at once hugely lush and also minimalist.  Many people are choosing to remix one or more of their favorite tracks for submission to an online contest which can be found here.  I would encourage anyone to give this a shot if they've ever wanted to, as these stems are free to download (once you join as a member), and the tools needed are easily had on the cheap.  I have decided to remix the songs, but not for contest purposes.

My goal is to remix the entire album and document the process through this blog.  What I hope to get out of this process (remixing and blogging about it) is as follows:

  • the opportunity to work with top talent and source material
  • a better understanding of music production, mixing and mastering
  • the overall project management side of album creation
  • a chronicled point of reference for future projects
  • a cohesive end product that does justice to the artist and allows the music to be viewed from another unique angle
Of course, I hope to collect any opinions as I work through different ideas, etc.  I'll be sharing bits and pieces as things progress.  Some may be interesting, others unintelligible.  Please check back for updates if you're so inclined.

Thank you,