Music, Production

A Weekend with the Wavedrum

I’m currently borrowing a KORG Wavedrum from a friend of mine. For those unfamiliar with this fantastic instrument, it is an acoustic drum synthesizer. It works by using vibration sensors underneath a real drum head and rim that respond to all of the dynamic playing that a hand drum is used to, and then sending those signals to a synthesis engine. The engine then takes the input waves and modulates them with various PCM sources and algorithmic sound models to create the output.

What all of that technobabble really means is that this isn’t a drum, it’s a thousand drums in one box. And unlike a drum machine or normal synthesizer, it is played like a real acoustic drum would be. In short, it’s pretty awesome.

I’ve only had it at my place for a few days now, but I’ve managed to spend a few sessions just playing with it. It has an impressive range of tones, most of which mimic real drums of various flavors in addition to a bunch of very otherworldly sounds that have very little to do with drums. However, the fact that you play these sounds like a drum adds a rhythmic character to it. Another great feature of this instrument is that it outputs directly into the recording system. This means that any incidental ambient noises won’t bleed over into the recording. As you’ll recall, this was a necessary feature for my acoustic guitar as well. It turns out that a home studio is difficult to run with a 10-month old in the house. Incidental ambient noises are the rule of the day.

After my initial noodling, I set about using the Wavedrum on an actual song. This one has a bluesy little groove to it that my traditional drum machine just wasn’t going to capture. I tried to program it in Reason, but the timing was all off and it felt horrible. Ever wonder why so many techno songs are in straight 4/4? It’s because it’s really easy to program that. I’ve programmed a few different step sequencers before, and they’ve all been 16-step 4/4 sequencers. The Wavedrum, based entirely on hand input, has no sense of quantization. Thus, I quickly found out something I knew already — that I am not a very good drummer. I’ve got a decent sense of rhythm, but translating that into a particular instrument isn’t always so straightforward. Thankfully, modern post-production lets me tweak things in software where needed. That said, I am trying to have a fairly light touch on this.

In any case, I jumped in and tried a few different drum sounds before settling on a nice round conga sound. With a little compression, it gave me a nice snappy sound that complemented the acoustic guitar and bass that drives the rest of the song. The Wavedrum, being a very different kind of sequencer, turns out to be quite difficult to program. I wasn’t getting the deep booming tones that I was after for underlying the higher accents, so I ended up breaking out the drum machine for just those bits. After trying unsuccessfully to sync with the underlying groove, I simply recorded the drum machine output to a track and un-quantized it by hand to match. This is the opposite of what you usually do with drums.

After a few sessions of recording, re-recording, and tweaking, I’m getting relatively happy with the state of the song. I have a vision of some kind of bell over the top of it, or something to that effect, but I’m not sure it needs it. I always have trouble knowing when to stop.

Oh yes, the title? “By Pint and Pound”. Now you have the first title of a song from Results Not Typical. Originally the title was “Blood and Flesh by Pint and Pound”, I thought it was a little too macabre. What do you think though? Should I change it back or keep the shorter version? Maybe you’d have to hear it first. Maybe I can arrange that, if you want.

Production

Guitars and the acoustic properties thereof

Like any self-respecting electronic band, I’ve got myself a fair bit of stuff that makes bleeps and bloops sitting about the studio. Some of which really likes to misbehave, but more on that another time. But anyway, it would seem that my preparations for this next album have made me break down and pick up some new equipment, quite in the opposite direction. You see, I finally went out and got myself a decent acoustic guitar.

What makes this interesting in terms of my music is that I’ve never actually used an acoustic guitar in any of my released material. Well, OK, there was that one time for the Kickstarter rewards project, but only the Kickstarter backers will ever hear that one. And in fact it was listening to that recording that convinced me that the old one just had to go.

But now I’ve gone and picked myself up an acoustic guitar with a built-in pickup. I know, the wonders of technology, right? Since my house is rarely quiet enough to use a microphone these days, this is an especially important feature. And now that I have it, my mind’s already started to run along with possibilities for adding this sound into the mix. It will definitely be in use on Results Not Typical, as I’ve already got three songs tracked out waiting for it. But I’m also thinking past this odd little project into how I could use it in other stuff. Being mostly a keyboard player that dabbles in electric guitars, I look forward to the challenge of incorporating this instrument into more of my music.

After all, why limit myself to just a bunch of sinewaves?

Uncategorized

Four songs?

Today, while dusting off things for my monthly off-drive backups (kids, it’s always important to keep things on more than one disk!), I went through a few different directories in my ProTools hierarchy and figured out that I have four songs all but finished for Results. These are four piano-based pieces, some with some programmed drums and one with a whole pile of synths on top. That still leaves a lot of dangling bits for an album that is mostly made of dangling bits, but in light of recent craziness I was a little surprised to find myself fairly happy with the state of so many songs already. Once I can get my studio put back together more properly, I can start tracking on some of the more guitar-heavy ones. Also once my neighbors decide to stop riding their Harleys at all hours. Don’t they know that v-twin bleeds into the recording? Though I can think of one track where that might actually help. Hm!

In other news, I think I have made a technological leap and managed to connect this wordpress account to my personal twitter account. OAuth is such a wonderful thing. But, then again, I am a nerd.

Update: in future, I will preview the twitter message this thing spits out. That must have been very confusing to most people.