All posts by james

Slurs, ties and phrases

Let’s talk about slurs, phrases and ties. As a long time piano teacher, I find many students, even advanced players get confused.

Slurs – curved line over/under two or more *different* notes.
Tie – curved line connecting the *same* note(s) immediately next to one another.
Phrase – a musical idea, often indicated with a slur line over/under many notes or more often, many measures.

Slurs mean to play the notes legato, or to put it into English – play the notes smoothly, connected or without any silence between the notes. How this is done depends on your instrument. On piano, do not lift the finger of the first note until you go to play the 2nd note. In bowed strings, like violin, it typically means to keep the bow going in the same direction. Wind/brass instruments it often means that you don’t tongue between notes. Check with your teacher on the best way to do a slur. You do have a teacher, right? Please tell me you aren’t trying to do this without anyone checking your work to see if it is correct – just because it sounds fine to you doesn’t mean it’s correct.

Example of slurs
An example of slurs

In the entire example above, all the curved lines over/above the notes are slurs, *except* for the D notes in the right hand and the E notes in the left hand in measures 7-8 & 15-16 (3rd beat tied to 1st beat). Those are ties. In all other cases, even measure 5 going into measure 6, the curve line is over/under at least 2 different notes. That’s all there is to slurs. Note that in this piano music example, there are some passages with both stem up and stem down notes at the same time. We call the different directions “voices.” In those cases, the position of the slur makes a difference. For example, the slur in measures 7 & 8 over the high (stems up) voices in the right hand part are under the influence of the slur, but not the low voices.

At the end of a slur it is common to “take a breath” before going to the next note. At measure 22 below in the right hand, a pianist might shorten the length of the  off-beat 8th notes (& of 1, & of 2, etc) ever so slightly. A violinist would change bow directions resulting in a break in the sound. How much breath one takes, if any, is subjective.

Phrase example
An example of phrases

In the above example starting at measure 26, the curved line over the right hand part is more properly called a phrase. A phrase being a musical idea implies that all the notes in the phrase are all part of one musical idea. Whether to play all the notes legato (smooth) as a slur would indicate is more of a performance choice than a requirement. In fact, in this example it is impossible to play the entire phrase connected. Can you spot why not? In measure 27 there are two repeated “G”‘s in the right hand. By definition, repeated notes cannot be played smoothly connected. One has to lift their fingers (or change bow direction, etc.) in order to play a repeated note. That causes a silence between the notes and thus they are no longer connected or smooth.

Ties. In measures 40 to 41 and 41 to 42 are examples of ties. The top note, B on the 3rd beat is tied into the 1st beat. That means play the note on beat 3 and hold the note down until the end of the tied note, in this case the end of beat 1. The F in measure 41, beat one is tied to beat 2. The C on beat 2 is tied into beat 3 *and* into the dotted half note on beat one of measure 42. All the while, there is a phrase/slur line over measures 39 to 42. Both notes in the left hand of measure 41, beat 2 tie into the next measure. In the case of the ties, all the curved lines connect the *same* note(s) to the same note with no other notes between them. Don’t be confused by the slur in measure 34 and 35. The first and last notes are both G in the right hand. Are the two G’s tied? Of course not. Because there are several notes between them it can only mean the curved line is a slur.

I hope this helps. Please comment below.

Kontakt Player Intro

Kontakt Player
Kontakt Player

In my latest YouTube video I am taking a quick look at Native Instrument’s Kontakt Player. This is a free product that comes with a respectable amount of instruments. It is ideal for anyone getting started with sampling or interested in getting into music technology. I made the video for some of my piano students who have expressed an interest.

The video does show the full version of Kontakt, but the player version is essentially the same. The only major difference is you can’t created your own instruments from samples or edit the existing instruments and a few other restrictions.

Please leave comments here and let me know what future tutorial videos you’d like to see.

New Sheet Music

New Music

Available now at my website and SheetMusicPlus, are the following titles. For a list of all titles I have available, visit https://jamesgilbertmusic.com/catalog.php

Ancient Quandary — Orchestra — https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20964252

Christ Is Made The Sure Foundation — Orchestra — https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20964255

David’s Lamentation — Orchestra — https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20964256

Heaven Above — Orchestra — https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20964259

I Remember You, My Lord — Orchestra — https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20964261

Open My Eyes – Organ — https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20964263

Is there a specific hymn tune you’d like to see arranged, and for what instrumentation? Let me know.

Choir Labs contest

Choir labs contest

From time to time I enter various arranging or mixing contests. Recently Spitfire Audio – a British company that makes very good sound libraries – sponsored a contest. They make available various free libraries, one of which is based on the Eric Whitacre choir. The contest was to compose and record music to fit one of 5 NASA provided videos. They ranged in length from 30 seconds to 1 minute. Here is my effort.

Thanks for reading my blog. Please feel free to comment. You can also subscribe to be kept updated on new posts.

Recent additions

Late October additions to catalog and Soundcloud

Listen to my contribution to a collaborative effort with Spitfire Audio. (Alas it wasn’t selected as part of the song).

I added 3 new sheet music titles to the sheet music catalog (https://jamesgilbertmusic.com/catalog.php)

Two versions of the Hallelujah Chorus from Messiah. One for solo organ and one for Brass quintet:

https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20928934

https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20928932

A solo organ arrangement of Beneath The Cross Of Jesus.

https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20928930

I have some instrumental ensemble (orchestra) titles coming soon. If you have any suggestions for what type of music you’d like to see me add to the catalog, please comment below.

Enjoy..

New Choral music (and personal update)

New Choral Music

I’ve released 2 new choral titles through my distributor Sheet Music Plus Direct. As with all my current arranging, I use Sibelius for the composing and layout.

First, an unaccompanied setting of Are You Washed In The Blood for SATB choir. See more details here: https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20804287

Secondly, an accompanied setting of Christ, Whose Glory Fills The Skies, also for SATB choir, although the first part only requires a 2-part choir. See more details at: https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/20804289

On a personal note I had a bit of a scare on Sunday, Sept. 2. I play organ for a local rural church. Short story is I passed out about 15 minutes before the service. Fortunately it turned out to be a case of dehydration. I mention this as a word of warning to those who might have done like I did. I use to drink a gallon or more of tea (and that’s it) in a day. (Maybe an occasional soda). As one gets older, the body cannot tolerate caffeine as well and it tends to dry one out. In trying to figure everything out I’m happy to say I have a very healthy heart, good lungs and am not diabetic. I did of course take it easy for a while.

Since I’ve had no comments about my liner notes for my album Sampler I will no longer be writing any more. Suffice it to say the rest of the songs were done very similar to the previous tracks. If interested in the rest, drop me a note or comment. And thanks to all who read this blog. Please share it and my website with others. I have opening for piano students or music software tutoring via Skype.

No Time To Relax (Album Notes)

No Time To Relax

Track 9 from my album Sampler. Visit http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/JamesGilbert to purchase this or any of my 11 albums. I’m also on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and more.

A melancholy piece featuring pads, light drums and vocalise melody to start with. Then the track adds in some synth leads and synth bass part. The end echos the feel of the start.

The Gravity sound library is used for the bulk of the vocalise. For the drums I used Drum Lab from Native Instruments. Also used for some rhythm elements was Grid II.

The bulk of the sound in this track comes from the instruments. There is no EQ used on any of the instrument tracks. I did use the REAPER ping-pong delay and Native Instruments RC48 reverb unit with some EQ on the reverb. Only the two vocal tracks have any reverb added to it. Although I have the delay unit on a bus, I just realized nothing is being bussed there. So, just reverb is added to this track.

For mastering purposes, I did not do anything beyond a peak limiter (just to make sure nothing peaked).

To my ears at least, this piece just “worked” with the combination instruments I chose and without having to do anything besides balance levels. That’s something to think about as you compose and record music. Get it as good as you can prior to recording to audio and the mixing and mastering process will be easy.

Please, please, if you like the album or these track notes, drop a note in the comments. Even if you don’t like it, drop me a comment. Now that I think about it, I’ve not had any comments since I moved the blog here. Maybe the comments only work for me? Anyone care to test it out?

Is Something Bad Coming (album notes)

Continuing with my series of liner notes for my album Sampler, we get to track number 8. This is a darker sounding track. It consists of 6 instruments and various effects.

You can find all of my albums, including this one at https://store.cdbaby.com/artist/jamesgilbert

First up is the Bass, the Padaboom patch from the Substance library by Output.

Next is the Arp Harp Loop patch from Output’s Signal Pulse library. I believe the patch may be part of an add-on library.

Next is the After Waves patch from Output’s Exhale program. The patch is probably part of an add-on library.

It looks like most of this piece uses Output’s various libraries. The next track is Tears in Rain patch from Analog strings by Output.

The next patch is a PolyBrass 2 from Kontakt’s RetroMachines Mk2. I believe this is an emulation of a Korg PolySix patch. The PolySix was the first synthesizer I ever owned.

Finally we have Battery 4 using the Sad Flamingo Kit.

For all the instruments, I only used automation on the Battery kit and that was for some volume changes.

I must have been happy with the sounds of the instruments because I used practically no effects on anything. Only the drums (Battery 4) were processed. I sent them (-13db) to a rever bus. The reverb was the Native Instruments/Softube emulation of the RC48 using a Medium Hall preset.

I sent the reverb (0db) to a Gate buss.

On the master bus I cut out frequencies below 30hz and used the Lurseen Mastering Console from IK-Multimedia. I used the Classical (More Glue) preset. If I made any changes, it would have been to the De-esser or compressor in the chain view options (icon at top). This plugin makes a huge difference in the final sound. It isn’t just louder, but better sounding.

Any questions or comments, please let me know.

Exciting times (track notes)

Continuing my liner notes for my July 2018 album “Sampler”

Track 7, Exciting Times, was my first experiment on doing something entirely from loops. Not audio loops, but MIDI loops. The entire track was produced from MIDI loops.

I use to subscribe to a magazine that included a download link or a DVD that had various samples and loops on it. My notes don’t show which issue or magazine name, but it was from a magazine. I took loops that came from what I think was a Trance selection. The majority of the magazine content was audio loops or samples, but from time to time they include midi loops.

Here are the instruments/patches I used for this track. My notes don’t show what changes I made to presets and it would take too long to figure out. Whatever they were, they were not dramatic changes.

Battery 4 (Argon Kit) with ReaEQ highpass at 40HZ and Supercharger GT compressor with a modified drum buss preset. Automation on ReaEQ highpass frequency.

Massive with Thelonius preset (modified). ReaComp sidechained from drum track; ReaEQ with a slight boos around 300hz and a low pass cut at 1.1K. Another ReaComp with sidechain. Supercharger GT with modified Synth Bass preset. NI VC 2A compressor, modified Electric Guitar preset. ReaDelay (modified Dehuminator slower preset). Automation on the Wavetable position and cutoff in Massive as well as the Bypass on the ReaDelay.

Reaktor Razor, Centauri preset (modified); ReaComp sidechained from Drum Buss, 0ms attack; 47ms release, 4:1 ratio, 0 to 481Hz input filter; ReaEQ highpass around 60Hz. Another ReaComp sidechained with 30-225Hz input filter. 3ms attack, 100ms release, 4.1 compression. (The two compressor settings basically end up being sidechained by only the bass drum from the drum sidechain input). Automation on two Macros in Razor. Automation on high pass filter in ReaEQ.

Absynth 5, Arcadia patch (probably modified). ReaComp sidechained similar to above examples.
ReaEQ. Automation on Pan and EQ Low pass frequency

Reaktor Monark, Sakwenzer patch (probably modified). ReaComp with sidechain from Drum track 0-745HZ input filter. 0ms attach, 100 release, 4:1 ratio. ReaEQ, low pass at 8.5Khz and high pass at 100Hz. Automation on lowpass eq filter.

Reaktor Kontour, Twin top patch (modified). ReaComp sidechained similar to above examples. ReaEQ, high pass, automated. Another ReaComp sidechained similar to above. Automation on pan.

Kontakt, string ensemble symphony series, string ensemble patch. ReaComp, sidechained similar to above. ReaEQ High pass around 60Hz, automated.

Kontakt, Rise & Hit, Heavy Fuzz patch. Automation on Volume and Rev-Heavyfuzz.

Kontakt, Exhale by Output, Backwards patch.

Four tracks were sent to a ReaDelay buss that had a 4-tap ping pong delay

Four tracks were sent to a Reverb buss with NI Passive EQ in mid/side mode. Some low mid boost in middle and some low boost on the side.

I printed all the midi to audio and produced the final mix from there.  I used an IK Multimedia Quad Compressor and Quad Image to widen out the sound a bit. I used a few sidechained compressors on some of the audio channels.

Please leave a comment or question below. You can also subscribe to this blog to be notified whenever a new article is posted.

Very Confused (album track notes)

To continue with my notes on the songs on my 11th album, Sampler, we get to the 6th track. That title is called Very Confused. The description of how I did it may be as equally confusing.

As inspiration for and as a way to try different ways of composing, I took an existing piece, the first movement of the Opus 2, No. 1 Beethoven Piano Sonata. I loaded a midi rendition of the piece into my DAW. I used a function that takes all the notes of the file and extracts them to separate MIDI tracks. I forget how many unique pitches there were, but it was a large number. Based on the visual look of each track in a piano roll editor I moved tracks around and combined many with specific percussion instruments in mind.

I ended up with 16 different midi tracks. Using what I thought would sound good in combination with all the other tracks I assigned various percussion instruments to each of the 16 tracks. All the percussion sounds were from the Native Instruments sound library Percussion Symphony Series. Even the mysterious piano sound was from that library.

Processing, as with much of my music was minimal, once the desired sounds were recorded. The Claves had Replika XT (from Native Instruments) on it with a special effect patch highly modified. The Rain Stick track utilized the Movement plugin (from Output.com), 11.8 pitcher from one of the expansion packs. The vibraslap track sounds like a metalic flying object with lots reverb. That was accomplished by sending it through the Dual Crystals effects chain in Absynth. I used a little bit of EQ and compression here and there.

The original Beethoven Sonata movement, with repeats is nearly 20 minutes long, far too long for a track on the album. So I cut and chopped different sections, mainly silence and shortened it to less than 6 minutes. I was surprised by how much silence there was in the original piece when broken into its individual notes.

It is definitely Very Confused. I hope you like it. If you do or have any other comments or questions, please leave them below.