With only about 5-6 hours of sleep for the last couple of nights, I woke up with grand plans to knock out two tracks today. I even had some rough ideas of what both were going to be. It ended up being rabbit hole day, with each one taking me a tiny bit farther away from my plan.
The first two tracks this month were written, and initially mixed, on headphones. I’ve done this before and gotten reasonably good results, but both sounded pretty bad to me the following morning, and I’ve been spending a bit of time each day remixing. I’m not making radical changes – just some EQ and compression, maybe a tiny bit of fader work – but the results are definitely better. Then there’s my pesky love of making processes better, automating things, and just generally being a nerd.
- Doxastic Truth Ray Toler 8:40
I have been working on being more succinct in some of my storytelling, so rather than exhaustively detail my entire day, here are the things that kept me from getting started on even the first song until around 10 – 11 pm. You can kind of see how each thing led to the next.
- Finally fixed the main Song-A-Day 2022 page on my site to show posts at the bottom
- Looked for decent non-subscription alternatives for WordPress blocks
- Rearranged the order of steps in my audio batch processing and automation to see if I could configure it to spit out all the formats I need, but not add every one of the copies to iTunes
- Discovered a bug in that software that prevents certain ID3 tags like album artist, tempo, and disc number from being written
- Researched ISRC tags in MP3s and how to write/extract them
- Updated my songwriting database with improved or corrected formulas for assigning ISRC codes to my tracks
- Researched Federal Government guidelines for archival tagging of BWAV files
- Added writing some archival tags to my batch process.
- Walked the dog
- Listened to Song-A-Day day 3 while doing more automation troubleshooting
- Configured my Stream Deck with some application buttons and shortcuts
- Cleaned up and organized my project SSD
- Went back to day 1 and 2 tracks to create A/B versions comparing my mastering to Ozone’s mastering
- Created a new project to hold the various remastered tracks and level match the various versions so I could hear more than just loudness differences
- Realized it was getting late in the day and I needed to get started
- Created new track project and spent 20 minutes adjusting all of the broken elements resulting from both changes in the studio and my OS upgrade last month
- Decided to go in and really get my Digital Performer (DP) new project template repaired for changes I’ve made in the studio over the last year
- Walked the dog
- Found an obscure bug in the DP plugin that integrates my hardware effects units
- Tried to find a workaround and ended up opening a bug report ticket
- Did additional troubleshooting requiring multiple software configurations of the studio’s audio routing
- Invited by neighbors to have dinner
- Finalized report ticket when I got back home including a few screenshots
- Walked the dog
- Realized how I might be able to work around the bug and spent about an hour reassigning channels in my audio interfaces
- Updated my template to deal with all of the changes I just made with the workaround
- Decided it was time to start writing
Yeah. That’s the short version.
The sad part is that none of this was actual procrastination, it’s just how my brain jumps the tracks every now and then and finds a new thing to obsess over before remembering that there was this other thing that I meant to do.
Ok, I Should Really Get Started
After dinner, I was definitely in more of a zoned-out state of mind. That, coupled with it already being after 10 pm meant that it was time for a nice luxurious ambient track. I do still worry about doing these during Song-A-Day because I don’t want to bore the other people, but these are often my favorite tracks for the rest of the year, and the whole point of the exercise is to write that stuff.
After finding the initial pad sound, I played in the entire eight and a half minute track, corrected a couple of mistakes in MIDI, then found other sounds that might work. Initially, I wanted to do a mega-stretch on a wind chime or bell sound, and spent a decent amount of time with failed experiments before giving up on this for now. Expect it in a track later this month, though.
Production-wise, this one uses a nifty and lazy trick: for each new sound, I just copied the same MIDI track over, transposing up or down an octave as needed. I then shifted the entire track by a random number of measures. This created a lot of happy accident moments. I then thought of another lazy trick: I duplicated and transposed some of the MIDI tracks so an instrument would be playing in octaves, then shifted those a bit as well. Finally, I went through each track and randomly deleted things.
This was the first time I’ve used Spitfire’s Stratus library. Conceptually, it’s right up my alley with interesting algorithmic and randomized piano notes. In practice, it was definitely Instant Eno, but gets overly busy every now and then. I need to learn more about it. The addition of the voices from Spitfire’s Albion Solstice library took this dangerously close to a Music for Airports pastiche, but that doesn’t stop me from liking it.
The rest was relatively quick. I bounced all of the MIDI to audio, added volume automation, added a delay and reverb to the piano track, added an additional subtle reverb wash to one of the woodwind pulse tracks, then did some research on appropriate mastering levels for ambient music.
Final bounce, conversion (using my improved automation workflow), and posting happened around 3ish. Maybe I’ll get that two-a-day done tomorrow…
- Main Pad: Omnisphere
- Strings: LCO Textures
- Woodwinds: Woodwind Evolutions, Orchestral Swarm
- Choir: Albion Solstice
- Piano: Olafur Arnalds Stratus
- Mastering: Ozone 9 Advanced
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons