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