I finally found a sample library of orchestral sounds for my Yamaha workstation I’ll be using in Part Two. It’s interesting how much more creative you get with a larger musical palate. Even my chord progressions and arrangements are expanding with the new sounds I have to work with. And, I know I’m using a seven-year-old synth, but it’s amazing how a well-designed machine will always keep you discovering new ways of creating sounds. Especially when you’re on a budget, you find ways of using on-board FX to make even mundane tones completely fresh. You can really come up with some interesting random filter patterns using Sample and Hold LFO’s in combination with a ring modulator or pitch shifting FX. I don’t care much for Techno music, but I have begun to build a decent file of ambient sounds. Atmosphere.
If your synth will allow it, crossfading velocities of different tones depending on how fast/hard you strike a note gives incredible expression in a solo. The trick there is to stack the velocities with tones that vary slightly in a particular direction. For example, when you hit a note softly, you might program a soft triangle wave. As you hit the note harder, it crossfades into a slightly coarser saw wave, then harder into a coarse pulse wave, and so on. And nothing in the book says you can’t crossfade a piano into a sax. Also, to liven up a synth sound, as long as you don’t overuse it, you can use a pitch envelope generator, if you have one. Try setting a very short attack time just above or below the actual note value. If you have a synth that has more than one element or part to the sound you can create, you can take advantage of fattening or doubling up the stereo effect by placing one part quite a bit or all the way to the left of center, and an identical part or tone to the same distance to the right of center. Then delay one of the tones about 10 milliseconds. Keep in mind, this does not work with sounds that are already in stereo placement, like some string, horn or drum sounds. If you’ve used up all your FX in creating a sequenced song, you can get a delay effect by copying a track to another track, then time shifting the copied track by the desired amount of time. Workstations for a while now have had reverb and chorus as standard FX plus at least two other insertion FX that can be used on at least one track in your sequencer. I keep bass guitar pretty dry in reverb. I’ve noticed the reverb has to be fairly high, even on drums to create enough “air” in the final mix. Of course, being in ProgRock, I always like to switch things up and go from a musical passage with lots of reverb to another that is raw and dry, just for the contrast. It ultimately depends on what reflects the lyrics properly.
Which brings me to my next point – vocals. If your music has lyrics, don’t be afraid to experiment with the FX audio input in your synth (if you have one). Think Genesis – “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway”. Peter Gabriel used a wide variety of miking techniques, sometimes holding two or three different mics in his hands, and singing the lyrics in a flow from one mic to the next – all with very different EQing. You can get some really interesting vocal effects simply using chorus at a fairly fast rate and intensity to sound like a group of people all with different pitches. It works really well if you have it set right and speak or shout words. It will sound like a crowd of people (when a crowd of people is not available). Try slowly phase shifting your singing. For the experimental, ring modulate your voice. But, I must stress again, whatever you do, be sure your make decisions that are best and most effective for the message you are trying to get across. Don’t be satisfied with just trying a few ideas. Try all kinds of things until you come up with the perfect harmony of tones and musical intention. Otherwise, it will just come off as a gimmick. Now, if you’re trying to get a record deal, maybe a gimmick is just what you’re looking for. But if you’re in it for the art, be real and give it your all.
Always pray to the Lord to lead you in the direction He wants you to go musically. I don’t know you. You may be disheartened because you feel you’re giving music your all, and you’re just not getting the response you expected. Pray to God. Ask Him to show you if you’re in His will with your music. Ask Him to show you if there is something in your life that you’re doing that is blocking you from receiving the blessings He wants to bestow upon you. If you’ve lost your zeal for your love of music because you hear and see so much junk created by untalented bands on YouTube get a million views, remember, if you’re just writing for the Lord, that’s enough for Him! Your reward awaits you, but not on this earth.
Or, you may be in a quandary, because you have opportunities but don’t know which one to choose. Pray and leave it to God to give you the answer. He WILL honor your sincere prayer. If you are enjoying some success with your music, I warn you. There are myriads of distractions in the business to pull you away from God. They do it subtly and gradually. Stand your ground. Do not compromise your faith, like I have seen so many times happen to entertainers who started out as boldly professed Christians, and now are absorbed in the mainstream of the world currently owned by the devil. No longer do you hear them give any testimony to their faith for fear they will lose their worldly standing and fan base. Be wise as a serpent, but gentle as a dove. Always love others as God has loved you. Amen.