Dieser Artikel auf deutsch.

It's all a dream, an illusion now.
It must come true some time soon somehow
All across the land dawns a brand new morn
This comes to pass when a song is born.

When a song is born

This or something similar must be the feeling of a songwriter when he begins to work on a new song. If you can, listen to the Boney M song "when a child is born".

When is a song born? When the first idea enters your head? When you start laying down the tracks? In my opinion it's like with real babies - a new song is born when all the work is done and you can sit back and relax. For me this special moment came today. It all began when...

Once upon a time there was a keyboarder, (you-know-who,) who was happily playing without any serious intent other than having a nice time. This was maybe three weeks ago, and I came up with this hooky bass line. One important thing for me when working on new song is identifying with the song, to get familiar with it and make it a part of me. This happens best when playing it, so I programmed a simple drum loop in the MIDI sequencer and jammed. This helps me to remember the song even when I'm not thinking about it. And believe me, I barely did.

The next three weeks, nothing special happened. I consider it good luck that a cold freed my from all those scary obligations that keep me away from concentrating on music. As soon as I felt better, I was back in the studio searching for a task. Well, I thought, there are four keyboards, one sampler, one master keyboard and the DAW. But I can only access one device at a time with the DAW. That's a pity. Imagine all the possibilities you're missing. What? The MIDI cables are too short? Hand me the soldering iron.

I carefully removed the plugs from the MIDI cables and freed the wires. Typically, MIDI connectors are five-pole DIN connectors with only three wires connected. My cables have all five wires connected, of course. I guess the manufacturer decided 'better safe than sorry'. The ohm-meter says that the white and the black wires can be removed. I did so. But imagine my surprise when I next noticed that two connectors didn't have red, yellow and green wires but purple, yellow and green! No problem there though. The next step was taking an old phone cable, (I have lots of old phone cables for tasks like this,) and laying it out it on the ground the same way the MIDI cable would be installed later. Twack, twack, twack. All connectors were removed and the cables cut at the right spot. Ok, let's soldier the connectors.

Twenty minutes later the two new MIDI cables were installed and ready for a test-run. Not so fast... What did I do to connect everything up? I took the MIDI connection from the DAW and plugged it into the first keyboard. Then I connected the second keyboard's input to the first one's MIDI-thru jack, and so on. This ensures that every keyboard receives the same data from the DAW. But wait - I don't want to play them all in unison. I have to assign them to different MIDI channels. I used paper and pen to out a simple plan for assigning 16 MIDI channels to five clients. (For the non-MIDI guys out there. Every MIDI connection contains 16 channels. If you happen to own a synthesizer rather than a "keyboard," you can tell it which channels it should respond to. Other than that, MIDI channels can be seen the same as audio channels in your sequencer mixer. Next, the keyboards have to have their MIDI options set to match.

Short test sequences showed me that everything worked fine. Woohoo! I decided to try it out on a new song. New song? New song? Yes, new song, hooky bass line, drum pattern. Remember? The next step was bringing the drum pattern from three weeks ago back into the sequencer and multiplying it several times. Then I recorded the bass line and multiplied it. The good-old DX-7 has a nice bass patch which I had in mind for this from the beginning. The bass is on channel one. This bass sound needed an analog-like drum sound, and the 808-patch from the S30 seemed like it would be a good fit. Ok boys, drums on channel 10. Make sure you always dial in the correct program changes and stuff so that you don't have to re-set the patches by hand! Like I told you, it is very important to identify with a song before working on it. As a result of that, coming up with new ideas was more like a game than like real work. The following night was spent sequencing until 7 am. I slept nearly six hours during the day, so it's no wonder that I didn't feel sleepy for the night. Fortunately, it was Saturday morning and I could go to bed.

I woke up at11 am, still feeling ill but with the desire to continue with the song. First, I needed to call the girl-friend and have breakfast. Back in the studio, I tried some things that really worked well. Sometimes it's just a little detail like a drum fill or a contra melody that make the song so much better. At that point it was like roadwork. Measure after measure, the song got longer and longer. The good thing about MIDI sequencers is you can simply take a part and and copy it on a new track at a later spot. This makes for some interesting arrangements. Of course one should consider that no performance sounds the same twice. Little changes should be done carefully. For me this includes minor melodic, timing and velocity changes. Suddenly I was at a point when the road was too long. I had to chop the song somewhere. I listened to it and and asked myself when it started to get boring. These later became the spots where I removed measures.

In the evening, Dominique (my girl) arrived, curious about the new song. I played it for her. As you probably know, wives and other kinds of girl-friends soon get angry when you don't devote all your spare time to them. It was time for a half-day break.

On Sunday I listened to the tune and was quite pleased with the arrangement. Now all I had to do was convert the MIDI tracks to audio tracks step by step. The ability to record eight audio tracks at a time was time saving at the beginning, but didn't help later when I was at a point where I had to record seven tracks from one keyboard. In n-Tracks, (my preferred audio sequencing package,) I noticed that all the tracks had a relatively small amplitude. Maybe you've heard Mac talking lately about having the gain-stage right in the first place and not to record all tracks as hot as possible. As you know, I'm also in this camp. During playback, all the tracks summed up to -1.7db on the VU, with everything sounding like it was being played back by sequencer.

If there's a definition of "creative chaos," I might be a candidate for it because I suddenly felt like dusting and cleaning the studio. For the record: At 3pm I dusted and vacuumed the studio. Then I was hungry again. But back to the song. Because of how things were done to this point, mixing was not too difficult. Since I decided to record the tracks wet, (including any kind of effects the keyboards might have applied to them, most often reverb,) all I had to do was place each instrument in the sound-stage. The bass track was a bit complicated to handle because it seemed to vanish in the mix as soon as other tracks played. Volume envelopes helped to work around this. Effect-wise, I went very easy. Some tasteful reverb here and there (on three of twelve tracks) and EQ on one was all it needed.

Again, it was time for a break. Sometimes there's nothing better than some fresh air. Back to the mix... not bad, but a few changes would make it better. Yes, now it sounds good. But,(as if there wasn't always a but,) where is the sparkle - the high frequency content? Why does it sound so dark and dull? Realizing this, I listened to many different songs while watching the FFT graphs. While the sound-stage of my song sounded right to me, I noticed that the high end seemed to be heavily under-represented compared to other songs. Can this be fixed with mastering? After a lot of analysis and head-pounding, I decided to at least give it a try. The tools to determine what was missing were my ears and C_FFT (freeware). Finally a high pass filter at 80Hz and a rather aggressive high shelf seemed to sound best. You know, the ears should always be the final arbiter in any case. I spent some time making comparisons between before and after and other songs. I came to the conclusion that after the heavy but simple equalizing, (never overdo anything in the audio-field,) the song really sounded better. I also realized that it has a rather dark sound by nature and that no equalizer or filter can change that.

I could have then turned to compressors and limiters in order to max out the volume of the song, but I don't feel the need for this at the moment. To my ears, the RMS (average volume) is high enough. The only thing I did in this regard was opening the final mixdown in Goldwave and cutting the beginning and end of the song plus razor shaving the very high peaks by hand. This is the process where you zoom in on a very high peak of maybe a few ms and use volume envelopes to fade it out and in again. Besides that, I did nothing except siting back and relaxing, because - A new song is born.



imageappend Append an Image