This weekend, my wife forced me into doing family photos at 9am Saturday morning. It ended up being a nice morning, but its what prompted the idea for this track.
I thought this lyrical concept worked for the music because family photos day was happy and wholesome, however there was also this tension around the day and leading up to it. The instrumental and vibe works for this (i think…).
Once I had the overall lyrical concept decided, I pinged some friends on the IMF discord asking if anyone had ‘sounds cameras make’ that I could use.
Sure enough Pultixima delivers!
I started this one by picking up the Gibson acoustic for the first time in a while. I plucked away and came up with the simple 2 chord plucky riff that sounds far in the room in the mix. I may change the way this one sits in the mix, but I do think I want the acoustic room sound for it.
I already have some feedback around that guitar, its the only one I got on it but I have a gut feel about the sound not sitting exactly the way I want yet so I’m taking it as a sign to mess with its eq a bit more:
I played around with a lot of combinations of Guitar Rig 5 and Reason Amps and stuff on the bass parts.
I used a Squire electric guitar for the electric guitar parts , this guitar my wife got as a teenager wanting to learn to play, but never really picked it up. She did keep the guitar over the years tho and I have been using it for a while. My Ibanez SDGR 6 string bass is used for the bass parts.
The drums are done with 2 umph retro beats, and an EZ drummer each played in with the MPD218 finger drums and then quantized and adjusted around.
The core drums is the EZ drummer. Funk Zappa is the doing tight center kick drum, and a high snare sound that layers into the ez drummer one a bit. The Bengal is just that cowbell kind of thing. I may remove it.
Im still working on how these sit, its not quite right in a few places and needs some work but this is the set up as of right now.
Dreams of Lasers (DOL) and I have been working on this track for a while now. As far as I can tell, we started talking about this track around August 13’th in discord. I was still in the processing phases of The Reason I’m Here at that point in time and didnt really dive in right away.
For this project we went into it with the intention of DOL being the DAW runner, which would invert our roles from The Reason I’m Here.
We started out with about a 1:36 length demo created by DOL, I was supposed to work on a hook and some bass lines.
The verse, the chorus, the way they transition, and the vocal melodies were all excellent and in place. I worked on some electric bass line ideas, some which had the original arpeggiated synth bass, and one that was electric bass only. I much preferred the one with the synth.
I did a vocal hook concept that didnt make it to the final cut. It just wasnt quite right for the track. It was just me sounding kind of like a sheep going ‘Baaad baaad baaad baaad to better’ (haha)
Later that day…..
Over the next few days:
I’m still promoting and working on feedback on The Reason I’m Here during this project, it takes over for a few days. Its hard for me to do 2 things at once, I tend to go all in and move very quickly in a hyper focused way. I did eventually settle with everything I wanted to do for this stage of promoting it and started to get to point my attention back at Bad to Better.
I get back to this on the 22nd. And try doing vocals in different styles – high energy and loud, soft and sweet, and something kind of in between. I’m trying to figure out how I should sound in the mix and in the context of the song.
Things kind of stalled out a bit here, we were still discussing the track, what the lyrics should do, what to put where etc fairly regularly.
All through this phase, I am getting a bounce of each layer from DOL as wav files. I drop those into reason, do my parts over it, export those and give them back to work them into the master.
DOL is still new to recording with a DAW and how to use all of its features. I’m doing my best to try to give him some pointers with screenshots and examples. I get him a few layers of bass parts, vocal takes,
I also did some early layers of expanding on the drums and synths. I had roughly only 1/3 of the track started at that point.
Right around this point I went on a 1 week family vacation to the fingerlakes
I get back and make Butter Up the Sub in only about 2 days right after getting home from vacation. It was a good relief track for me. I just got to get a little silly and make something I was feeling. At this point I feel really ready to take on Bad to Better at full capacity.
At this point , a lot happens really fast. DOL decides its probably better to pass DAW runner duty to me for the sake of getting it out faster. The main goal was to have DOL get more familiar with the DAW and learn some new things about production. I think that was still achieved despite having me take it from this point.
I fully build out the synths and drums, and do a few extra bass and vocal takes for various sections of the track and start working on the mix.
A few days later we have something we are proud to post. It came out so good im really happy with it. There are still some changes coming, including updates to the last 1/3 of the song which is where the most attention needs to go right now.
Current Status: Structure Complete – Gathering feedback for changes.
About the track:
Ive been in a bit of a rut for about a month.
Failing to find inspiration on tracks, I thought maybe a change in environment would help. We had a family vacation planned this week so I packed up my MPC finger drums, my 4 string bass, a kids electric guitar, a line 6 pod xt, a laptop and my audio interface. Each night I spent some time working on tracks, but ultimately came out with 2 partial grooves that didn’t really inspire me enough to finish.
Despite the effort, I threw out the 2 grooves I made that week and wrote them off as uninspired.
Frustrated with the lack of new track coming out of vacation week, on the drive home I was scanning the local radio to see what was played. A trap rap station came on somewhere along the drive in New York State. Trap music has some pretty cool beats and grooves. I had also recently purchased Sublab, a trap-like super low 808 kick/bass hit thing.
I went into this thinking about those radio trap tracks, and wanting to play with Sublab to get a trap kind of vibe. I also knew I had to find a way to get a bass guitar in there, because… well I just have to.
Nobody listens Grassroots yeah Real big 100 individual listens yeah im a big thing you wanna push my buttons? do you wanna make a big stink? I dont give a crap Im doing my own thing oh my its a mumble rap, oh somewhat incognito now doing some trap i heard it on the radio and said i wanna do dat ill just copy those guys and do it in my own track making music such a bitter end its just same kind of thing time and time again ill do it a little bit different just to get in the mood i think ill butter up the sub bass and get in the groove
butter up the sub bass and get in the groove
Nobody listens Grassroots yeah Real big 100 individual listens yeah im a big thing make a track like the radio see what people think wont matter what i do what i make is my thing lets make a trap track lets make it real whack put a bass guitar on the bottom way under that gunna make a pop slap gunna make a foot tap gunna make a wiggle like a earthworm in the ground
this wont get on playlists noones going to pick this do i make decisions? can passion be a sickness? you know what i think i really need to do i better butter up the sub bass and get in the groove
butter up the sub bass and get in the groove
Sublab is split into 3 layers. Each with varying settings and effects chains, but similar overall in sound. The 2nd layer is used to butter up the sub bass of course. These are the main new thing im playing with on this track.
808 Nascar preset:
The Electric Bass
Theres a couple but the coolest one is that super low nasty distortion one. The effects chain to get that sound is this. I do a ‘thumb palm pop’ slap here and there with this on for a pretty cool sound.
You may be wondering…. Whats this all about anyways.
Its about buttering up the sub bass, and getting in the groove.
Structure complete, got a round of reddit feedback in, and have not yet made post-feedback changes. I have a number of things I want to do, including cleaning up the chorus vocals (new takes probably). New lyrics for Verse 2 (possibly a new flow there as well). Some more mix tuning up i think may be needed as well.
From feedback I want to try extending the intro, and try to add another bar or two in the middle somewhere where it ramps all the way down to nothing but a vocal, both these things would probably extend the track a bit and ease out the first lyrics coming in a little abruptly.
About The Track
I was struggling for a few weeks to find a concept i thought was worth making into a track. It was one of the longest ‘downtime’ creative periods in the last year. I couldn’t think of a cool enough concept, none of the grooves were clicking with me … on and on.
The 3rd empty handed weekend was approaching, the last few days of August. If I did not make a track before the end of the weekend it would be the first time since the project start that I did not reach my two track a month production goal. I did not want to let that happen.
I needed to just make something start to end, even if it wasnt great, just hit the goal and keep things moving. “Make it just to make it”.
The song is about making a song for the sake of making a song, this is something I often do. I think some artists might disagree with this, that ‘great music’ takes time and should not be forced. However, its the process that i really enjoy, I just want to have some fun with my hobby – it doesn’t have to anything more than that. The message of the song is supposed to be exactly that.
This track is a collaboration with Dreams of Lasers . It’s fairly unusual for me to get involved in colab projects, and it’s not something I’m normally seeking out to do. However! About a week and a half ago Dreams of Lasers (DOL) sent me a note in the IMF discord expressing interest in doing a collaborative project with me. I am a fan of Dreams of Lasers, I really enjoy his style and when he suggested a collab I knew out the gate there was some potential for something good to come out of it. The track that I currently enjoy most of his is In America. Definitely check out some of his work, follow on Soundcloud and Spotify.
How the project ran:
I don’t have much experience with doing a music collaboration over the internet. Neither of us seemed to know how projects like this ‘are supposed to run’ we both created some ideas and passed them back and forth. I spent 2 nights exploring ideas I thought could work with the DOL sound, and settled on a small snippet that is now the intro of the song and basis of the chorus.
Eventually we kind of settled on this riff, with DOL sending me guitar parts, vocal melodies, song sections, and we had a pretty much daily discussion about the direction of the track and left with a few action items each. The first groove I sent him was based on the sound of Britney Spearks ‘Lace and Leather’ . It was almost entirely rythem based and had no chord progression. DOL said he liked the vibe but needed more chords to in it. I went back to the DAW and made a …. slightly better concept:
The next day:
The Next Day:
A few days later…..
There is a lot more to the conversion, but I think whats above here paints an overall picture for how the project worked. Back and forth daily discussions on the track and parts getting traded pretty much daily.
We continued back and forth like this each day. I was helming the DAW (Reason 11) and overall production, and DOL was sending me parts to use , and ideas for how to lay out the structure of the track. Most notably.. the ‘C Part’ was a progression, with vocal melody and lyrics, he sent me that comes after the first chorus. I originally had a much softer bassline in the part, and intended to feature guitar playing there. DOL suggested I instead funk it up with a SI style bassline. I spent a night working on a groove that fit in the progression. This C part is probably my favorite section of the song now – I love the way it came out.
There was a fair amount of back and forth on that C section, getting into it smoothly, getting out of it smoothly, with multiple changes made through the course of the project.
Beginning to end this col-lab took about a week and a half to make from (what should we do to structure complete track). I plan on doing another track with DOL turned the other way around. Where he runs the DAW and i send parts and ideas over (if hes up for it).
On the lyrics
I had kind of stumbled into ‘the reason im here’ as a hook and initially was building around that. I like this phrase as its interpretation can be broad. The reason for doing anything, or a specific thing, each listener could draw a different ‘reason’ for what its about. My first verse is ‘locked inside my room, on a sunday afternoon, thats the reason i’m here’ – literally the reason the track is made is bc i focused in on it for a sunday afternoon. A little meta lyric there. Then ‘barefeet i stand in the grass and the wind blows my hair in front of my glasses.. i dont care, thats the reason im here” Is a new context – The reason i came outside was to feel nature and the wind blow in my face. Overall its meant to be a little vague as to what exactly ‘the reason’ is , but enough of an overall vibe to deliver an internalization to a listener about what their reason is for doing anything.
I recently picked up EZdrummer, up to this point I had been playing it on my AKAI drum pad midi controller. This track I used mostly EZdrummer pre-made midi patterns and assembled them into sections.
The Electric Bass
The Sub Bass
A sub synth bass is a staple of my style. I nearly always have one underneath the electric bass playing.
There is an omnichord sounding kind of synth subtly layerd behind most of the track. Its a WAVE Layers Edition preset called ‘Multi chord’
There are 2 traditional sounding pianos used, both done with Radical Piano in Reason 11. Also both on presets. One is ‘after dinner gatherings’ which sounds like an old piano that has been neglected.
Feedback has been gathered and revisions are being made. I’m using submithub hot or not in ‘real-time’ in a way, which is probably a bad idea. I bought some credits on there and put it in for 50 feedbacks. It’s been overall doing well, however my grades on ‘production quality’ are low, lower than I expected. I thought I would average in the 70’s. I know im not as good is some other projects, but I feel like im upper middle tier in production quality the 70-80 range. (if there were even a tier system).
I made a bunch of adjustments to get the vocals to sit a little better, I widened up the overall sound , just because it seems like its commonly used in other things im listening to on hot or not.
I swapped the file and am now waiting to see if the rate of upvotes to downvotes changes on there.
When thinking about doing a track about algorithms , and discussing it on discord, I brought up how it was a difficult word for a song. I thought about various ways it could be said… I did the best I could with it. I did get a submithub comment on this that made me laugh:
On the track
This week on discord, a discussion about the Reddit algorithm came up. We were sort of talking about how there is no way to change how a subreddit behaves in its rankings.
A few days layer Gerry Wass pings me with a note that it might a cool track concept around the idea of “bow down to the algorithm”. Gerry .and I have some history with ‘challenges’, Wish Upon You, was a track I made in direct response to his suggestion to make a ‘vocal forward’ track. It was the first track where I really tried to use lyrics and singing as the main focus and feature. I very much still like that track and think its got a great vibe and message, and It got me out of my shell a little, so I appreciate it for that also.
I told him I would give it a shot, and I’m glad I did. Last week I was talking about timing posts to get position 1 on the IMF subreddit, where you are put onto subscribers ‘front page’ of Reddit, exposing my post to many more people. Most of my soundcloud plays come from Reddit posts, the better they do , the more people hear me in general.
I used Gerry’s idea to make this a light-hearted, dark comedy of sorts, that speaks to musicians out there trying to get heard, which is kind of a running theme in general with this project.
I did a bunch of new things on this track, and included most of the things I have learned up until this point all at once. Im applying pre-mastering for the first time on this release. Im using Ozone to try to widen out the stereo field.
Im also using trackspacer for the first time, ill write more about it later, but its a mixing tool that offers some pretty fantastic ways to bring out parts of a mix.
Whats new with the mastering?
I tried to make the track wider overall, and much wider in the chorus sections for clear sonic divide between the two sections.
I usually apply 0 mastering at all myself, I just export with master bypassed and put it into landr.
Im using the Izotope tools to widen the whole track as part of the master effects chain. I still dont fully understand this and will be playing with it more.
I put more time into vocal production on this one than i usually do by a good amount. Both in trying to get things to sit in the mix in a way i liked. Its still not great but I think its sounding at least half decent.
I want to record more vocals for the verses, I don’t think ill get an opportunity to do takes like this until the weekend. In the meantime I’m playing with effects, processing, busing the tracks and doing things to that.
I’m starting to think i can maybe get away without new takes by doing a more variety with effects and layers throughout the verses, especially the second one.
The first version did not have the ‘can you get me in the algorithm’ hook lines in the chorus, I added these after I got feedback to try to get a ‘certifiable hook’, I knew what the feedback was saying.
Mix 2 notes aren’t made yet, deal with it (for now) I will put them in later this week.
Mix 1 Notes
I made some fairly large mix related changes from the WIP going into mix one. Feedback review left me with a short list of key items to focus on:
1- Vocals / lyrics in the first verse & verses in general 2- Width of the mix, Too much in the mid range 3- 2:00 breakdown is a favorite – what else can i do with this 4- Compression / levels of the master and mix 5- Intro guitar too bland
I did a pass focusing on these 5 items. I re-recorded the vocals in the verses , I removed the harsher distorted layer from the entire track.
Stereo imagers and panning were used on many layers, some maxed out fully:
The Guitars (its not me):
The Electric Bass (it is me):
The Sub Bass:
Higher EQ Things:
This group represents things that sit higher in the eq, synths, theres a little left panned bass line in the 2:00 bridge (green) other parts are synths and strings.
I made this track on the weekend of 07/18/2020. The track is currently out for feedback on both reddit and discord IMF communities. I usually stage feedback, but will do one round for this track. I have some new ideas developing around how soundcloud treats a posts age. Early activity seems to give more overall plays over time. Im seeing if I concentrate ALL my feedback plays into a short timeframe, does it change how the SC algorithm behaves? – This probably wont answer that question, but it might give us a peek.
I had been struggling to find a new concept or groove that I wanted to make a track out of for almost 2 weeks. I went through probably, 5 partial track ideas before landing on this one, I threw all those out. I may revisit some but it just was not feeling it.
Saturday morning I went to try again and decided to start with the same process that I used on Put It Online using the Dr. Rex and guitar samples in Reason. The groove started to come togeather.. and I was into it – FINALLY!!! haha!
I didnt know what to do for the lyrics, i am not a political person , and this has some clear political undertones. I asked my 4 year old what the song should be about and he said ‘a monster with big hands and a big face’. The original take literally said just that, but it started to conceptually make sense. The idea of ‘Fake Authority’ or kind of dominant leadership that has probably skipped in line through education and life to get where they are. I think it could work from either side in a political persons viewpoint, and decided to just go with it despite having reservations.
Production wise, there were a few things I wanted to try on this track. One was double stacking Guitar Rig 5 on a bass wit ha DI bass preset being the first of the stack. LOHM suggested i try this to get ‘really phat’ bass. I LOVE the way it sounds its super full and robust.
I also listened to the new Oliver Tree album this week, the way they processed his vocals got my attention. I wanted to try heavy handed saturation layers to see if it sounded like tracks of his (for the produced sound).
I also picked up Trackspacer – which is not yet in use – I plan on using this in my mixing phase to bring out the vocals more, and maybe a few other things.
More detailed screens and information about the production coming soon.
I was reviewing my stats for the last few months, some of my top played tracks on soundcloud are faster bpm / electronic leaning tracks with an industrial vibe (Come With Me, Stir Crazy, Waiting on Forever). I thought I would do another one along these lines and see if the trend could continue or not, I bumped the BPM up to 135 and started in on a new track.
I started with the quirky electric bass line, which is actually not a real bass. I used reason electric basses for it. I preferred the programmed / fakeish sound for the style of the track. I played it in on my Keystation 61, and quantized aggressively.
There is no main standout part of this track, I think this is a ‘production track’ in that its not about the lyrics, the bass playing, or solos, its just a wild and over-the-top production that is fun to listen to.
I wanted to spend more time in Izotope Trash, and used it a lot on this track. Trash has a lot of presets to browse, i started with combing through those while the track was playing to see what it did mix wise. I found a few i liked and put them it on various layers and places.
I’m going to start twitch streaming production as i do it, its not the most entertaining thing to watch, but it makes a nice video record of what im up to and in a way people can watch and ask question in real-time. I think its a good fit for the project. I will post 2 twitch videos per track , for a bit. First in early phases, and another one while working on feedback revisions.
There are 7 drum kits used, these i play in segments via my keystation. Some percussive sections repeat and others i play all the way through for more variation. A big part of the ‘Somewhat Incognito’ sound (i think) is the densely layered percussion, and my style of doing it.
The “POOF” Snare
Those 4 poofs on the bottom were Murr‘s idea, I love them- I learned something new here, there is a beatboxing term for a “PF Snare“. And when murr suggested a POOF im honestly not sure if this is what he meant. Some googling lead me to a term called “PF Snare”. I didnt know what this was until this track, and Murr‘s comment. Its basically a hard P and F sound at the same time beatbox style to make a PFFT kinda sounding vocal snare. I love the idea and what they do in the song (they hit at the end of first verse every other bar. However i need to work on them in regards to the mix a bit more i think. I think I want it to sound like its coming from all directions more, more high end to it as well.
I did a bunch of them in a row into my SM7B microphone. I took 2 that I liked and split them into 4 total layers.
I have not yet put the track out for feedback. I want to work on it a bit more yet before doing that. The 2nd verse needs more variation. I think might want to double the 2nd chorus and make it evolve a bit in the 2nd pass before ending.
In the context of the song, its a garnish of detail, but one i really like:
The High Voice
Getting those silly voice effects out of Nepune pitch adjuster. Its set to A Natural Minor with a 5 semi ton upwared transpose, and an uptick on the formant shift. Correction speed is set to high to make it more synthetic.
I’m using trash to get some extra character to the higher frequencies of it. Nectar to clean it up and even it out, pump to open space, and a retro transformer just because i thought it sounded cooler like that.
The MASSIVE Synth
There is this huge thumping kick drum like synth that hits throughout the track and is the most dominant sonic force in the layering. Its a serum preset called Downunder with PHATstat saturation, HIKU, and PUMP added in the reason rack.
I didn’t do many extra passes on this one. I listened to it a bunch of times, and yeah , there are for sure problems with the mix. Theres still static in the bass guitar part, the ending doesn’t land on its feet, the vocals in the ending you can hear the headphones. I did run some extra de-essing before publishing, but other than that I decided to let the track be. Overall I am happy with the track and enjoy it.
Feedback Gathering is now in progress. I posted to IMF reddit, I made some adjustments after discord community review and posted it a day or so later. I also added the sub bass layer to the outro after review, its much better with that bass there.
This one didn’t get a ton of momentum with upvotes or comments. I however did get a couple more mentions of bringing the vocals out more. I think the 2nd pass when the vocoder layers exist needs some attention on the ‘primary’ vocal. Also the pre-chorus builds aren’t where I want yet.
I think the track is technically ‘structure complete’ , i may extend the outro a bit longer yet.
Things I want to do yet include :
Fluff up the pre-chorus guitar riff build that drops into the chorus (in 2 different ways , 1 for each time)
More EQ and effects passes tuning up the mix
Possibly record a new set of vocals for the 2nd verse. (I may not)
About the track:
This is the first ‘real track’ (bass house isn’t a real track) that uses Serum as the primary synth. I showed it in this weeks live community review session in Discord. Moonglow suggested bumping up the vocals so I went back in, and did some work to bring them out more all around.
On the Lyrics.
Its a straightforward summer bop, a crowd pleaser of a wonky pop tune. I started this track with the intro bass riff, a very simple pop-punk esq distorted chug that carrys on through the first verse. I did a short weekend trip last weekend (it wasnt a city trip) and the idea for a song about short trips in general came to me. I live in eastern PA and think about the kinds of things people might do on the weekend, a trip to Philly is a common thing to do). I already have a song about vacations (Big Break) it was the first song I did as ‘somewhat incognito’ and its nearing in on a 1 year, I think a having 2 vacation songs is ok… right?
I Made this on the weekend of 06/20/2020. This was a birthday / fathers day weekend. I got some money as a birthday gift and decided to use it to chip down the price of Serum, and finally pick it up. I have been eyeing up Serum for a long time.
I called it ‘Bass House’ because it is 128 bpm, like a house track and is made almost entirely of bass like tones. When the last drum kit part comes in a 4 to the floor kick holds until the end for the full house vibe.
Whenever I listen to someones track and they have a really cool synth, I ask how they made it. 9 times out of 10, its Serum.
“Reason 11 has a wave-table synth, why should I pay extra for another one “
– Me up until now
To me it was immediately apparent, that at the least, Serum had much richer sounding presets than Eurpoa does. Move movement, more rumble, that sort of thing. I am sold that its a better synth. (I will still use Europa.. just less)
This isn’t really one of my usual tracks, its set at a lower bar than most of my material. It has no vocals for one, and for another its just a jam, it has little substance structurally.
Despite this, i quite liked it and decided to put it up on my soundcloud page. I pinged the IMF discord asking for some ideas on what to do with it. NEON M suggested I use it as transition music, or for a live show. Both these ideas are great and I had not really considered transition music at all up until he said that. I needed a track for that! this is it! (and maybe a live jam, but im more pumped about the transition music / waiting screen music etc..) .
That being said, I’m not doing much of anything else with this track, its done!