Category Archives: Recordings

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.

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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.

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Escape Is This Way (Album Track Notes)

Escape Is This Way

This is both the 5th and 11th tracks.

Please leave a comment if you like these liner notes. That way I’ll know that you want me to continue posts for all the tracks on the album.

Track 5 is an “acoustic” version and the 11th is an “electronic” version. The piece is based on a piece from my sheet music catalog “12-tone piece for 4 instruments.”

I used instruments from the Symphony Series String Ensemble from Native Instruments. Basically the 4 parts are comparable to a string quartet. I used minimal EQ. I added some risers, orchestral percussion and Cuban style percussion. The risers from the Rise & Hit library from native instruments. The percussion from the Kontakt factory library all percussion preset. The Cuban style percussion from the Discovery Series: Cuba by native instruments.

The two percussion channels I sent to the stock delay in Reaper with a modified ping-pong, 5-tap delay preset. The riser channel I sent to the RC-48 reverb using the snare roll preset (with modifications).

For the instrument and effect channels I cut out some of the low frequencies (below 50Hz) that can creep into software based instruments. On the master channel I cut low frequencies below 100Hz. I also used the T-RackS Bus compressor from IK Multimedia with a slightly modified Glue preset. The final link in the effects was the Lurssen mastering console with a modified Classical (Warmer) preset.

On the electronic track I kept the same percussion parts but with the Supercharger compressor with a modified Drumbus on the Cuba percussion. I didn’t use any EQ or other compression in the mix. I did use the same compressor on the master track, but did not use the Lurssen console.

I did some panning automation on the Percussion channels. All the sounds were kontakt instruments. In order: 1) Gravity Natural forces pack, Hope eternal patch and Analogue strings from the Retro series Kontakt library; 2) Gravity Natural forces, Mystic Fifths – Amb01 and ChoirInt from Kontakt Retro series; 3) Retro Strings 1 and Gravity Natural forces Stacked Ahh, Eee, Ooo and 4) Matrix Pad 2 from Retro series and Gravity natural forces, Scorched Earth – Amb01

Let me know what you thought of these two tracks.

It Is Different (Album track notes)

It Is Different

The fourth track on our album Sampler

The album and audio samples available at: http://store.cdbaby.com/cd/jamesgilbert11

Please leave a comment if you like these liner notes. If nobody comments, then I will probably not include all the liner notes for all the tracks.

This track is one of the most experimental tracks on the album. I used an old DOS, early Windows piece of software to generate notes based on fractal math. You can probably hear in the somewhat abrupt changes where the different formulas changed.

I used various electronic sounds for the 4 tracks. For the pluck sound I sent to the RC48 lexicon reverb utilizing a modified medium random hall & echoes. On three of the other tracks I sent them to the Reaper default delay, modified 5-tap ping pong. The percussion track also got sent to delay and reverb.

All tracks were fed into a parent folder. On that I had a 3-band splitter. This allowed me to send the lower end to one processing chain, the middle to one and the high to another.
I used Supercharger on the two lower bands and solid bus comp on the higher band.

On the master buss I used the Lurssen mastering console modified a bit from the EDM preset.

I did say that It Is Different.

Looking Ahead track notes

Looking Ahead

The third track in our album Sampler

The album and audio samples available at: http://store.cdbaby.com/cd/jamesgilbert11

This track is one of 3 tracks where I was experimenting with brass instruments. Please leave a comment if you like this liner notes or I may not include liner notes for all of the tracks.

For this track I used Native Instrument’s Session Horns utilizing various of the brass articulations available. I used key switching in the midi files to switch between articulations.

The rhythmic comes from the Heavyocity Kontakt instrument Damage. My notes don’t tell which instrument(s)/patch(es) were used. On that track, in addition to cutting off some low end with an EQ I also used the Native Instruments Supercharger compressor with a modified drumbuss preset. I also used some sort of riser in a few spots.

I used some EQ on all the tracks, except the master buss. It was mainly to remove unneeded low end and in a few cases a high-shelf. I used reverb on the risers. I used a Computer Music magazine version of the Acon Digital Reverb. I used the Large gothic cathedral preset, with of course, modified to fit the sound.

On the master bus, for mastering purposes, I used the Lurssen mastering console. I started with the default classical preset and made changes to fit the sound I wanted.

 

Beginning The Adventure (Album track review)

Sampler

Beginning The Adventure

(This is the first of a series of articles about the tracks in my new album Sampler)

The album is available on Spotify, iTunes, Google Music, Amazon MP3 and at CD-Baby: http://store.cdbaby.com/cd/jamesgilbert11

The first track is called Beginning The Adventure. As a side note, I have to say that coming up with titles for my music is probably one of the most difficult aspects of composing I have. I always start with the music first and since there are no lyrics in my music, it makes sense. The last thing I do is come up with titles. Since I needed something a bit upbeat to set the mood, this track seemed appropriate, although I did give consideration to the “trance” like track “Exciting times,” but I thought “Beginning The Adventure” was a better choice.

I probably should have included Heavyocity in the name of this song. As best as I can tell, I only used Heavyocity products on this recording.

As I do most of my recordings “in the box,” that is, in my computer the sounds come from various software sound libraries, software based instruments and in rare situations, something from a loop. Some of the sounds I used were from synthesizers or modeling software that creates the sound as you go. Some were from samples of real recordings of acoustic instruments

This piece started out as my experimenting with the Heavyocity Gravity expansion pack “Vocalise.” There are 3 tracks that utilize some of the phrase menus. They are “A Phrase MV sus” (twice) and the C minor phrase menu. As I experimented I realized it would make a good piece, even for listening (as so much music I run across these days sounds like background music to a video or game and only useful for that, not listening). I also utilized Heavyocity’s NOVO strings at the very beginning for the low filtered sound that gradually comes in and helps set the mood. I don’t keep very good notes so I don’t know which patch it is. The low bass lick that comes in just before the voices start is from Heavyocity’s Aeon Rhythmic using the Synthocity preset. Underneath the vocals is the Heavyocity Aeon Rhythmic patch Falling Filters. The rhythmic pulse throughout comes from Heavyocity’s Aeon Rhythmic

I’m not big on using hundreds or even dozens of tracks to make a piece of music. The Heavyocity material frequently has 3 channels of sounds in one preset and offers a wide choice of effects all within the software avoiding the need to do a great deal of processing in my DAW. So, I only ended up with 7 tracks. I use “Reaper” as my DAW of choice. All of the original 7 tracks were MIDI tracks. I “freezed” the tracks once I had the sound I wanted. “Freezed” (or should it be “froze”?) is the term Reaper uses, in this case, to turn a MIDI track into an audio track. It renders the midi instrument into an audio file. It’s like in the old days of recording, committing to tape the take you best liked of live performers. The nice things is that in Reaper it is very easy to “un-freeze” (no they don’t call it “thaw”) the track if you don’t like it. (You do loose the edits you’ve made to the audio file, if any, but that’s kinda the point in “un-freezing” it).

Since there were so many processing and sound sculpting options in the software instruments – and I did process the default patches – I did very little processing in Reaper. In fact I only used two effects prior to the stereo bus. One was the Native Instrument/Soft Tube emulation of the Lexicon RC48 reverb. I modified the Grainy Echoes preset using a Random Hall and setting it on effect rather than reverb. Since this was on its own bus it was 100% wet. I used the send amounts to balance how much reverb each of the 7 tracks got. You may hear other reverb sounds but those come from the individual instruments themselves. I then routed the reverb to both the stereo bus (0 db) and to a delay bus (at -23db). I used the built-in ReaDelay that comes with reaper. I modified the basic ‘5-tap ping pong’ delay. Each tap was 1/4 of an eighth note after the other, panning left/right and getting softer. That went straight to the stereo bus.

In Reaper there is always a “master mix” channel. (See photo above). Other than a hard limiter (to prevent accidental or hidden clipping) I don’t put anything on it. Instead I setup a folder, the parent folder being the final stereo mix. The 7 music channels and 2 effect bus channels feed into it. Since I was having to master my own material, I put an EQ on this channel with a high-pass filter removing unneeded low end. I then added the IK-Multimedia mastering plugin “Lurssen Mastering Console.” I started with the EDM preset and modified to get the sound I was after. For this album I opted to mix everything using the TR5 Metering plugin from IK Multimedia for an average mix of -16 LUFS (which is the level at which many online streaming services prefer tracks to be and is a broadcast industry standard).

And that’s the details on that piece.

May update

Current news

I’m always looking for subjects to write about here or tutorial to do on YouTube. Please use the comments section to give me some ideas.

I’ve not shown a map of where people are buying and performing my sheet music for some time, so here’s the latest (as of Mar 31, 2018)

I’m making some changes to the music catalog. Rather than offer individual keyboard arrangements, I’m only selling collections. I have 8 piano solo collections available. As time permits I will remove organ solos from the catalog and only offer collections. It is easier to manage collections.

I have no plans for anything on YouTube at the present time. This is for two reasons: 1) Nobody who watches my videos on YouTube has bothered to let me know what they want to see and 2) YouTube no longer allows me to monetize my channel and nobody who watches my videos has donated anything to keep it going.

As always, check the sheet music catalog for new titles. At least once a month, sometimes more often there are new titles.

After 15 custom arrangements for a single client I must be doing something right. If you have a beginner/intermediate instrumental group or a church orchestra in need of arrangements, let me know so I can write it for you.

I’m always “playing around” with my various sound libraries and live instruments in my home studio. Look for at least one new album out this summer, if not two.

I continue to teach piano lessons locally and via Skype. So, no matter where you are in the world I can teach you. I can also tutor on composing, arranging, music theory and more. Drop me a note if you are interested.

 

Results of my contest entry

Did they even listen to my entry?

So, a few posts ago I mentioned that Spitfire Audio was having¬† a contest that I had entered. The one and half minute video was provided by them. Contestants had to write music to fit the video. It didn’t matter what sound libraries we used, it was “the composition that mattered.” Given the winning entry, which isn’t a bad musical competition, I wonder if my entry made it to them?

Nobody has ever called me a bad looser, but in this case, I just don’t get it. Were they more interested in the mixing/mastering than the music matching the video or what? The whole contest was a bit odd. The entry method was emailing the final audio (a large sized file) which could have easily ended up in their spam folder or deleted. It’s never safe to email something so big. We also had to send a link to our music synced to their video. I did that. They never confirmed whether they got my entry nor did I ever see it (or any other entries) posted on their SoundCloud site as the rules said they would. They also did not announce the winner on their website, but instead at the following Facebook page. Not everyone uses facebook. Here’s the winner:

https://www.facebook.com/SpitfireAudio/videos/10155715880575412/

The problems I have are:

The composition is little more than a 1:15 tension builder. It doesn’t resolve the tension. When I’m looking to buy a sound library, this music doesn’t do it for me.

The music doesn’t fit the video. It in no way enhances or supports the visuals we see. (Some comments on their facebook page agree with me here).

It is so repetitive to the point of almost being boring.

When it switches from graphics to the control room, why no change to draw the viewer, who may have turned away while watching on their phone, tablet or PC, to the change?

When we see a large horn section, I have trouble hearing any horns. The only thing in the video are horns yet there are no obvious horns in the music.

The same thing when we see flutes, trumpets and a timpani player feverlishly bangs on the timpani, we don’t hear flutes, trumpets or timpani. Why not? It would be an excellent way to showcase the product and its multiple capabilities instead of hearing essentially the same thing we’ve heard from the beginning.

When the woman is showed at her computer using Albion, why not give us something electronic? Movie soundtracks aren’t all symphonic orchestra are they?

The biggest thing that bothers me is when she plays a C on her keyboard (after seeing that she has a string sound loaded up) we don’t hear a C, not even a note in the C chord, nor are strings featured. What happened to matching the music to enhance the visuals?

Any how, here is my entry. I know it isn’t perfect. The mixing and mastering need some work and it probably would have helped to layer in some more sounds to what is there. I would really like some comments as to why my attempt was not as good as the winner.