If you’ve seen any of my recent posts over on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram then you’ll have probably noticed me babbling on about #multitimbralMondays – it’s a super-geeky challenge I’ve started this month which will hopefully expand my knowledge and diversify the way I compose music, or end up just being FUN which is more than a valid reason on its own.
I’ll be composing one multitimbral piece of music every Monday, and live-streaming the majority of its creation via my DATAStream Facebook page. It will then be uploaded on the following Wednesday and eventually (hopefully!) form a free compilation of my efforts.
I have experimented with this form of composition a couple of times before (you may remember such inspiring classics as ‘MU5’ and ‘JV80’ but hopefully writing one piece per week will allow me to flex my compositional muscles (not a thing) using slightly different thought processes and production methods. Mostly this means being limited in terms of polyphony and the use of audio processing, but I also find that challenging yourself and working in less familiar ways can help to broaden your skills and knowledge.
That brings us to (tada!!) this weeks song – which I’m glad to say that a few kind folks witnessed me composing via the live-stream on Monday evening. Luckily, one helpful viewer was on hand to give the song a name so it didn’t wind up just being called ‘D5’.
As well as this entirely coming from the D5 (minus MIDI sequencing done in Logic) I recorded the final stereo mix from the synths outputs to my Tascam 244 (mostly because I can and its fun) and then re-recorded this back into Logic for the final master. I’ll be working on another next week and if you feel like joining me drop by the DATAStream Facebook page at 7pm GMT.
Thanks for reading!
As some of you may know I also write and record music under my synthetic alter-ego ‘DATAStream’, mostly for self indulgent experiments with MIDI, synthesis and using lots of 1980s production techniques. But on the rare occasion, just every so often, a song emerges. This is the tale of one such song….
A little while back I started working on a short composition using mostly hardware synths and drum machines in my studio in Chesterfield, sequencing MIDI parts in Reason and sending them out to various bits of kit. Recording was done using a Soundcraft Ghost LE desk with a little EQ here and there. I could go on about the fun geeky audio stuff for a long time but this post is more about the fact that I was lucky enough to work with JJ Mist to record the topline in the last couple of months and have been very excited about sharing it with everyone!
You’ll be able to hear / download ‘The Spark’ on December 16th via the DATAStream Bandcamp page and the release also includes the extended mix (in true 1980’s 7inch fashion!) so keep an eye out!
JJ Mist Facebook – HERE
JJ Mist Twitter – @JJmist_music
DATAStream Facebook – HERE
DATAStream Twitter – @DATAStream1986
For fellow audio-geeks here is the equipment list for the single…
Drums – Roland JV-80 / Boss DR550
Bass – Yamaha DX7s
Synths – Yamaha DX27 / Roland D5 / Yamaha YS200
GTR – Hondo H76 Strat
Desk (Tracking) – Soundcraft Ghost LE and Tascam 38 multitrack 1/2 inch recorder
Desk (Mixing) – Neve VR Legend with AMS 16 Reverb
About a year ago I embarked on a mission to write some multitimbral compositions using some of my more capable digital hardware synths. The first – ‘JV80’ was written and sequenced using Reason, with a single MIDI cable sending all of that lovely MIDI goodness into the Roland JV-80 (my first synth!). I often feel the need to explain what ‘multitimbral’ means today, and why it’s so awesome – since it’s something I feel that we (myself included) take for granted in DAWs and modern music production, but if you’re curious read a little bit about it in my previous post here.
More recently, I used my Yamaha MU5 tone generator for a similar composition, this time using Logic as the sequencer running 10 MIDI channels. The MU5 is an inexpensive sound module – using mostly GM type MIDI sounds but it’s handy size makes it great for noodling on the go, and using for multitimbral compositions such as this.
- the MU5 is super compact but still boasts full MIDI – as well as a PS2 port for old-school hosts. As you can see on the right of this pic… the Zoom TacR2 Interface generates lots of system exclusive MIDI messages which were cluttering up my event list! I had to delete all these manually…
As you can see in the picture, Logic is being used to sequence this song – which was created all in one morning. There are no FX on the MU5 so it might sound a little dry… but I think it makes up for it in character!
- The MU5s rubber buttons are fun to press – but this isn’t really a keyboard lets be honest…
Whilst the MU5 is 16 part multitimbral, it does only have 28 note polyphony so you’d probably not ever use all the 16 channels simultaneously – that said it would be useful for keeping things interesting in a song, especially if you include some programme change messages as well. If anything, this forces you to be a little more creative and I find limiting myself during writing and recording often tends to be beneficial in the long run.
Next in line for multitimbral duties will probably be my Roland D5 but this will probably be in a few months (hopefully not a full year again!). I really enjoy working in this way and it’s very rewarding if you can handle the odd polyphonic headache!
During my sequencing module at Point Blank I spent a lot of time researching about MIDI – the one stop communications protocol for musical instruments and other fun equipment! It was whilst researching that I truly started to grasp how powerful it is..
I’m a bit of a synth collector, although I can’t afford the more expensive (and more famous) analogue synths so I lean towards the digital synth era, from the early 80s onwards. A lot of my synths are MULTITIMBRAL which I never quite got my head around until I looked into MIDI further. WIthout boring you… multitimbral instruments can play more than one ‘patch’ at a time – a patch referring to a particular preset, drum bank etc. This differs from polyphony as that is the maximum number of notes a synth can play simultaneously.
Anyway – I’ve hooked up my Roland JV-80 which has a multitimbral mode and used Reason to sequence 7 channels of MIDI. I then sent them directly out to the synth using a single MIDI DIN cable, where I selected the appropriate patches, adjusted levels and mixed in chorus and reverb to boot!
REMEMBER everything you hear is coming from one synth! 🙂