Sunday, November 27, 2005

My Way To Create Music: Tools Part 2 - Software

Let's continue! If you are going to use a computer to create music you'll need some software too. Apart of your OS you'll need other things:  

1st. A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). There're a lot of DAWs available. This is a software application that includes all you need to produce music: a sequencer with the ability to record/play audio/MIDI, a mixing table, plugins and effects and other music production tools. Some of them are Cubase, Ableton, Reaper, ProTools, Logic, Cakewalk or Sonar. Some are quite expensive, but you can find some free (Cakewalk) or almost free (Reaper). There is a free version of ProTools also (which is the DAW used on most hi end recording studios), but there're other options like Emagic's Logic fun, a free version of Logic, its famous DAW. Anyway, most of the them works in the same way and have similar functions. So surf the web to learn more about these products, check your pocket to see if you have enough money to buy your favourite or download some of the free ones.  

2nd. Libraries/Samples. If you don't own a keyboard with builtin sounds you'll need a sound library (usually in the form of a plugin containing one of more virtual instruments) or a sampler with sounds to produce the sound of your music. Unless the virtual instrument uses an algorithm to generate its sounds it will also use a sample library to generate sounds, acting like a sampler with some options to modulate or make the sample sound realistic (using transitions between samples, etc). 

In case you don't know there is basically two sample types: loops or 'single note' samples. Loops are usually rhythm samples which can be used to create the rhythm base of a song. They can help you to build a song in few minutes, and they are good to inspire you, so you can use them as base to find the melody or song you're looking for. The disadvantade is that they aren't very flexible, so you'll be limited when you use them to build a song. 

In the other hand, 'single note' samples are very flexible, as each sample usually contains just one note of the instrument. Put all the samples of all the notes of that instrument together and you can create a virtual instrument, which you can use in your songs to produce the sounds of that instrument. For example, if you got a virtual instrument of a violin, a sitar or an orchestra's string section you can use it and play that instrument virtually with your keyboard, for example. In the past the most credible instruments samples were drums/percussions, as these instruments usually don't have a lot of space for expression. But nowadays virtual instruments are so good they can mimic string, brass, or other kind of instruments on a pretty realistic way. 

There're A LOT of libraries of virtual instruments/samples available. The best libraries are usually commercial products which are not cheap, so if you don't have a synth/keyboard with onboard sounds you'll need to spend some money. I can't say which library is the best, because that depends of the sound you're looking for. If you have enough money you can check some of the products of Big fish audio, Eastwest, Spitfire audio or Vienna

Ok, here ends the second chapter. I hope you liked it!

My Way To Create Music: Tools Part 1 - Hardware

Hi again! 

May be you have enough money to rent Vienna's symphonic orchestra, but in most of cases that is not available to us.Well, don't panic! with a computer, an audio interface and some software you can get some aceptable results.  

Bear in mind the most important element to create a good piece of music is yourself. I may explain this later, but for the moment let's focuse on something more tangible: hardware.

First of all you're going to need a computer. You won't need a high-end one with the latest processor, motherboard or audio interface. Any modern computer will do this job very well in most cases unless you want to use a hundreds of tracks running at the same time with tons of plugins and virtual instruments loaded in memory. In my opinion, and for the sake of simplicity, any 2-4 year old or newer computer will do a great job; 4-8 year old computer will do a decent job, and anything older than that may struggle to accomplish the objetive. But keep in mind that all this depends on the specific hardware you got and how you're going to use it.  For example if you're going to use your computer as a virtual instrument/sampler, asequencer and mixer you may need something more powerful than a computer that is only going to be needed as sequencer or to mix. 

One of the most important aspects or your computer will be the amount and speed of its RAM, usually just called "memory". Depending the amount of samples/virtual instruments you use, you may need A LOT of RAM, so get as much as you can afford. And if it's fast better than if it isn't, of course ;-)

To have a fast CPU is critical too, as it generates the processing power of your computer. As with memory: the more modern and fast, the better.

To have a good hard disk is very important too. Today you can buy cheap SSD/PCIe hard disks (which are very fast) with hundreds of GB available. If you are going to use samples you'll need a lot of disk space to store them. 

Then there is the audio interface, which nowadays is usually a computer peripheral connected to your PC using a USB or other kind of interface. This device is used to record any audio input and also will send the sound from the computer to one or more outputs (ie: studio monitors or headphones). So if you want to record yourself playing a guitar, a synth or singing this is what you need (depending on what you're going to record you may need to connect it directly to the audio interface or use a microphone, which connects to it also). If you're a begginer you usually don't need to spend a lot of money in your audio interface to start creating music. Just to give you an idea a good amateur audio interface may cost around 100€, but if you plan to record a lot of inputs at the same time (ie: a fully mixed drum set or a full band) or you need aditional/pro features (better mic preamps, built in processing power...) you may need something more expensive. Keep in mind builtin PC soundcards are not good enough in most cases to handle music production properly, so I strongly suggest you to check the market for whatever you may need.

Last but not least it's not a bad idea to get a MIDI controller, for example a MIDI keyboard or any other MIDI device. You can use it to play or edit easily the music you record. Of course, you don't need a MIDI device to create the music, you can write the score directly in the score screen, piano roll or other edit screen of your secuencer program, but for those of you who don't know a lot of music theory the easiest way will be to use one of these MIDI instruments. A cheap option is a MIDI keyboard controller. This is a piano keyboard which can't play any sound by itself. You need to connect it to your PC or other MIDI device capable to generate sound from samples, etc. You can find a cheap one from around 100€. In the other hand, if you have a MIDI keyboard with onboard synth/sounds you can use it to generate the sound. This is may be a good option if you have an old computer which can't handle a lot of samples by itself.

Ok, so this will cover the basic hardware you need. Of course, you can add as much hardware as you can afford, and probably if will help you to get better results. But may be not. Try to avoid going down the gear adquisition syndrome ("GAS") hole and keep in mind what I stated at the beginning: the most important thing to get a good song is YOU. You can have rack of digital effects and tons of expensive keyboards, effects or sounds libraries, a 3000€ computer, a professional mixing table or the best studio monitors money can buy. But without inspiration, a good melody to start and a lot of work you won't get a good song, dude ;-) 

See you in the next chapter: Tools part 2 - Software

My way to create music: Intro

Welcome back, During the next days I'm going to share with you my way to create music. For some of you may be this isn't interesting, but for may be useful. I'm going to split this 'how I create my music' in chapters. The idea is to get into the creation process so I won't focus a lot in technical aspects. 

Anyway, I can't ignore the need of use tools to convert an initial idea in something more real, so the fist part of this thing will be focused in the tools you need. You can find thousands of websites which contain information about music theory, MIDI, samples, effects or mixing if you need more information about this. As you know, there're a lot of music styles: pop, rock, folk, dance, hip-hop, classical and hundreds more. I'll focus this document in how to create classical compositions or orchestral arrangements, but most of the ideas of this document can be applied to other styles. 

 In the other hand, creating classical music with a computer has limitations. Is important to know what limitations you have, otherwise you can get frustrated very soon. The more evident is the hardest one: to get your music to sound as if it were played by a real orchestra. But we'll talk about this later. The first chapter will focus on the hardware!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

My music as part of a documentary!!

Hi again folks!

another great surprise! Some days ago I received three emails and a post in my Soundclick's message board asking permission to use my music in a DVD documentary which will be sold in NoFear stores worldwide!

This time, the theme is not WWII, because the DVD is about motocross. The title is 'The constant war', and such title and the DVD cover shows a military taste, so I suppose the music will fit well (otherwise these guys weren't interested in use it, hehe). You can find a trailer and more info about this DVD here.

Here is part of one of these emails:

Hi Rantam
Your music is amazing. Very epic, very impressive.
I'm curious to find out about your means of composing such well-produced songs.

I've actually sent you an email and was wondering if you received it. I'm a producer/music supervisor from a film/tv production company( that produces extreme sports documentaries. We love your music and want to use "Entering Battle" and "Forgotten Hope" in an upcoming low-budget documentary on the sport of motocross. The documentary will be sold in NoFear stores worldwide.


It's great to know so much people really like my work!! Let's see if they use my music finally, because they are going to release this DVD in 05' Nov and may be I've answered a bit late to their e-mail.

Ok, and finally I'd like to give you some information about the incoming 'My way to create music' thing. I don't like to call it tutorial or howto, because I'm not trying to teach you anything. It only describes my way to create music and some comments and ideas which may be can be useful to some of you.

This document is getting bigger and more complex every day, so I'm going to split it in several chapters. My idea is to release the introduction (really short) and may be the first chapter this week.

It's being a hard week, but I'll try to do it ;-)

Thanks for your attention, see ya here very soon!