on Using MIDI, Sequencers,
Samplers, Synths and Music Computers
The Art of Electronic Music
If the truth be known,
and as some of you may know, the TweakMeister is in real life a teacher, as
well as an e-musician and web-guy. Music, the pursuit of knowledge (i.e., philosophy)
and teaching is in my blood. These articles are a culmination of over 20 years
experience of working with electronic music gear, and are written with the new
user in mind, though many pros will appreciate some of the content. There
is no such thing as an "expert" in this business of making music with technology.
Anyone who says they are one is talking a tall tale. I certainly don't
claim to be one. There's simply not enough hours in the day to learn every piece
of gear and write decent music. We all have different parts of the puzzle.
I've just picked up a fair number of pieces and its time for me to go public.
I hope they help you out in your music making and that you pass on your knowledge
when you feel it is time.
Electronic music is not new. It goes
back as far as electricity, when it was realized that you can not only reproduce
sounds by electrically representing them, but one could also create new, unheard
sounds. While we have gone far with electronic music, it is good to keep a fundamental
point in mind. No matter how many processors and plugins you have, the
end product is still an analog electrical waveform going to a transducer (speaker).
Think of your gear purchases in light of that--How does the latest wonderbox
affect my sound going to the speakers? It's really important that you
think about that and figure out what you need to get the sound you are after.
So E-Music is not something that arrived
in the 1970s. Another thing it is not is "fake" or psuedo music, though many
non-electronic musicians may try to convince you otherwise. As a result electronic
musicians have suffered being called "computer musicians" with the underlying
thought that a computer "made" the music, not a bonifide artist. Ha! My listing
in Yahoo! which I have been trying to change for 3 years with no luck (someone
care to clue me in..) says "MUSIC: COMPUTER GENERATED" as if I just hit random
buttons and ran it through an MS DOS algorithm.
The truth is that electronic music is more
of a challenging art than any other form. I remember when I was "just
a guitarist". You practice and get good and then well that's it. Guitarists
do not have to learn the language of midi, digital audio,
composition, arranging, production, the art
of mixing, mastering, direct X, ASIO, converting audio formats, computer networks,
hard disk formats, sample formats, synthesizer formats, SCSI, SMPTE,
S/PDIF, ADAT, TDIF, audiophile specs and more. Man! Its like a 4 year
course in a college, as technical as some engineering degrees, yet we still
get to be snubbed by "real" musicians who practice 3 hours a week and might
occasionally open a "fake book".
But this is not to cast ill will to other musicians,
just a defense that points to the truth. Electronic music is the most
sublime of the musical arts and has awesome and unlimited potential. You
must come to an understanding of this point to unlock the music in your soul.
You are using the most sophisticated musical tools which allow you access to
the farther reaches of the musical imagination.
I'm here to help you access your musical imagination.
Lets us be clear on one point--you don't need to physically master any instrument
to be a successful e-musician. You do need to be able to use your mind
to figure things out. You can make any kind of music you want. Its
almost funny, I grew up as a guitarist and I'm really pretty good. However,
when I am writing a guitar part I play it on keys, even though I'm not a great
keyboard player. Even with knowing the guitar as I do, if I were to try
to play an intricate finger picked classical solo I might need to practice it
for a day and botch 20-30 takes before i got an acceptable track. Using
MIDI, I can come up with a great part beyond my capabilities as a guitarist
in about 20 minutes. Then there's all sorts of tricks to fool the ear
into thing its a real guitar--add imperfections-fret buzz, amp noise, send the
synth through a pedal, add slop notes, quantize then add offsets to chords so
they strum. Its just a matter of Mind over MIDI to get the result you
want. As it is for classic guitar it is for symphony orchestras, jazz
bands, jazz fusions, techno-electronica, or the stuff you hear that no
one else hears. Its all accessible. Its just a matter of working
with a sequence of notes till it sounds right to you.
This series of articles is about tweaking.
Making electronic music is not only about tweaking musical notes. It is
also about tweaking machines to make the sounds you want to make art.
We are going to take you into the labyrinths of songwriting, considering it
from the point of view of inspiration, construction, arrangement, form and all
the 'old stuff' that has been associated with music making. And we are
also going to approach it from the standpoint of gear, hardware and software
and how to make it work optimally for your artistic goals. The rules change
with every piece of gear you add to the mix. And getting a good solid
grasp on your PC, your sampler and synths is more than a mere 'technical' sideline
to music making, indeed, it can be argued that today it is just as important
as music theory itself. It is this new melding of powerful technology
and time honored technique that whispers the promise that you may be the one
with a tremendous musical discovery.
Rich the Tweakmeister
120 Years of Electronic Music