Monthly Archives: September 2011

I’ve become more and more convinced that CCRMA is like the antithesis of my musicality.  While they’re all mumbling about in their mad scientist-type labs with 16-channel hi-fidelity audio with complex panning techniques, I’m…busy making music using a gameboy emulator.  160×144 pixel display, 4 TRACKER channels, only 2 audio channels (one if you’re using the built-in game boy speaker), 8 bit, aliased to hell…and yet it still sounds amazing.


Tonights theme “Natural beauty.” Subject matter is up to your interpretation. See attached pictures of fractals for inspiration.

My entry:

Well, as compotime was approaching, I was all thinking I’d do something that fused chiptuney synths with dancey/housey drums, and set up some ts404 pulse synths to use as basses, along with a “kirbysquare” square+triangle combo, plus a gated, sidechained 12.5% pulse pad.

And then the theme comes along and I’m like oooookay, scratch that idea.

So I just use the 12.5% pulse pad, but without the gating and sidechaining.  And I start with a perfect 5th, since it sounds very stable and natural…and from there I just started to lay down more chords.  In fact, I ended up laying down ALL of the pad chords for the first section before adding any other instrumentation.  This is really weird for me, I generally layer things on in phrases, with the previous elements repeating, or I delayer things and switch out other things.  So it’s very, very rare that I’ll actually go and write out one element for so long.  But somehow the chords were just coming to me.

And then after I had all of that (I had this sort of unresolved ending where the pads kind of rise and then don’t go anywhere), I started putting down the other instruments.  I started out with sine blips.  I really should use these more in my songs, they are absolutely awesome.  And they make for an instantly good ambient/underwater/puzzle song.  And you can either use delay, late reverb, plain reverb, or in this case I actually used a ping-pongy 3step + 4step reverb!

Then I decided to add a really arpy chip synth to get more of that chip feel.  It didn’t end up actually being quite that nice–if I were to do this song again, perhaps a sort of chorded pluck might have been better, or a slower arp with thin pulse width.  So that’s one of the weak points of this song.

After that there’s a kirbysquare layered in, though it doesn’t really pop out that much…which is fine.

I actually spent a little more time than I wanted to getting the other accompanying parts right, since I already had a chord structure going on with the pads that I had placed, and it’s difficult for me to keep that in my head while working on something new.

But anyways, after that I decided I’d go and sidechain the pad and go into 4-in-the-floor territory.  And I immediately knew to put down the 16th-note square arpeggio, so that went down really quickly.  From there it was only natural to connect the two with a fadein of the arp, and to add some additional percussion (but I knew I didn’t want UNTS UNTS so I took it relatively light on that).

At this point I only had 6 measures in my progression.  And I knew I had to add 2 more, so it would make a nice even number, but I couldn’t think of it quite yet, so I went ahead and added the NES triangle bass in, sidechaining it.  And here already I knew I was onto something amazing.  This song was coming together, and it sounded SO GOOD.  The pulse pads, the triangle bass, and the arp.  Even this by itself was beautiful.

Unfortunately I struggled for quite a long while on what to do with those last 2 measures…and the eventually I said, you know what?  I don’t NEED those two measures, I think this progression is just supposed to be 6 measures long in the first place.  And so that’s what I did, and I moved on.

And I moved on by adding a lead that’s basically a semi-high triangle wave, with some vibrato.  It’s very quiet and light and in the background because I -know- I tend to mix these sorts of leads way too loud, but I think it works fine here because even though it doesn’t dominate the mix, you can still hear it just fine.  And the melody of the lead…the melody of the lead is beautiful too, and came so naturally.  I didn’t even have to think about it.  The little grace notes too–they just made so much sense, I couldn’t -not- put them in.

After that we get our sine blips back, and that just fit too.  It fits so well.

And then I close out the song with another repetition of the lead melody, this time without kick drum, then I fade out using the sine blips.  There’s some effects sprinkled in too, for better transition and as fills.

But setting all the details aside, this is amazingly beautiful to me.  As I finished it, I felt regret that I didn’t have more time to polish it.  The transitions were rough and needed reworking, and I could maybe just see myself doing more with it…but really, I was so happy with what I had made that I didn’t really care that much.  This is hands-down the most beautiful song I’ve ever written, and I wrote it in only one hour, with time to spare.

I’ve come such a long, long, long, long way from my humble beginnings back maybe 7-8 years or so ago.  And if you look at my recent songs–Fractale, Shattered World, Celestial Journey, Warming/Warmed, Antares…it’s become clear that I’ve gotten really good at this chiptune sound.  It’s not really 100% chiptune like the stuff that you would make with LSDJ, and it’s not NES-style chiptune either, but it’s basically a blend of simple synth sounds that sound chiptuney, with modern production elements like sidechaining, reverb, delay, and percussion.  So this is something that I’ve gotten really good at.  I can even see myself making an album centered just on this type of sound.

My dancing was off today, couldn’t really put my finger on it.  Maybe I can blame the sudden allergy attack that I had partway through.  But it’s okay, still had fun anyways.  It was just good to see people again!

I’ve mentioned this to many of my follows, but somehow I’m getting more and more paranoid about collisions when I’m dancing…I don’t know how it started.  Granted it’s not really too bad of a thing but it does feel silly sometimes when my arm instinctively reaches out to form a barrier even when there’s not quite that much chance of a collision.  I guess there’s no other good way to stop someone when they’re doing a free spin anyways, so whatever…

It’s always nice when I dance with someone and they tell me that I’m a good lead, particularly when they’re under no obligation to do so…but, really it’s even better when I can just tell that they’re having fun and enjoying the dance we’re having.


Last Friday Night is a really weird song.  I don’t know all the lyrics, and really don’t want to, and I don’t really like the song either, but the particular way it makes me feel is really weird.  It makes me think of Kiki, because she likes that kind of music, but it makes me think of her when she’s off in that other sort of world; one which I do not enter because I don’t want to.  The lyrics just make me imagine all those times when there is a party going on and I can hear it–maybe even see it–but want nothing to do with it, so I remain, feeling a very detached emotion.  Not that makes me feel disappointed–I want nothing to do with it, after all–but it does make me feel rather withdrawn.

And so it’s actually a song that makes me feel…sad.  Perhaps it’s the chords that are getting to me.  I don’t really understand at its core how it’s supposed to be a party song.  I mean yeah, it’s got that bassline (which fyi falls flat in comparison to everything that I listen to =P), but I’m not getting the right emotion.  If I heard a proper chiptune version it might even make me swell….ah who am I kidding, even that probably wouldn’t.  But still…I don’t really get it.

This isn’t the first time it has happened.  There was another dream, that I remember, I started crying.  But I shook that one off, someone uncomfortably.  “That can’t be what I really want,” I thought.  It chilled me that such a powerful sense of emotion would be evoked by something that I am supposed to be shunning.

But it happened again this morning.  This morning, I woke up because I started crying in my dream.  But…I was still crying when I woke up.  I keep on thinking of an image in my head, and a phrase that I repeat to myself, and now I’m sobbing, still lying there under the covers, sobbing and whimpering, and I know that this can’t just be the emotional amplification effect that dreams can have on me.  It can’t.

This is important.  Pretty important.  Maybe even really important, but I don’t know if I can stop running away from it.

I guess one of my options is to do type-written letters, or emails, for some people, so that I can rush out more letters.  It seems like a good idea upon first thought, but…I don’t really like it.  It doesn’t fit in to the whole tradition.