This is a new take on an old idea. Version 3.0 was sounding rather sub-standard compared to the other tracks on the CD, so I decided to start over again in FL Studio (3.0 was started in FastTracker II and later finished in ModPlug Tracker).
The introduction is a fun tip of the hat (or fedora, you might say...) to a rather famous theme composed by John Williams. He's always been one of my favourite soundtrack composers. After the rather deceptive outset, the music settles a little more comfortably into my own personal style. This portion was created entirely with the EastWest/Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra (Gold Edition) library.
When the main section begins, I decided to stay reasonably close to the structure of the first two versions of this track, but with an updated sound. One key difference though, is that the themes are developed much further than any of the previous versions.
The bulk of what you're hearing is the Sytrus synthesizer (a soft-synth), but the piano is from the Symphonic Gold library and the drums are a combination of the QL Stormdrum library and one of FL Studio's built in synth drums. In fact, the kick drum is a hybrid sound I created by filtering the high end from a synth bass drum and the low end from a natural kick drum sample and then combining the resulting sounds.
There is an easter egg present in this track, as is the case with the original version and version 3.0. It's a small tribute to one of my favourite video games of all time.
The earlier versions of this can all be found on my MOD page.
Again, this is an FL Studio remake of a FastTracker II project that just didn't sound quite right compared to the newer tracks. "Ocean Deep" was originally started after I watched "The Mind's Eye" video which sported a fantastic soundtrack by James Reynolds. The first section of "Ocean Deep" bears a fairly strong resemblance to "Love Found" in that the bass line is very similar, as are the arpeggios played by the piano (though the arpeggios are constructed differently). Other components, like the drums and synths used, were inspired by another track I admire: "Fishtro" by Jonne "Purple Motion" Valtonen.
I performed the bass part on a Squier Precision bass (four-string). The Symphonic Gold and QL Stormdrum libraries were also used for this track, as was the Sytrus synth. The solo guitar is actually a soundfont (Protrax Classical Guitar) that was found as a free download from HammerSound. I spent a fair amount of time sequencing the guitar to make it sound as natural as possible.
The rumbly sounds near the beginning are actually the sound of an ocean wave (obtained from some online sound effect collection) with most of the high end filtered out and boosted a bit in the low end. The bubbles at the end were recorded by me (in a bathroom sink!) with a Shure SM-57 microphone and then similarly filtered.
The earlier version is available as a free download on my MOD page.
In The Game - Part 1
While I was trying out the popular music program called Buzz Machines, I came up with this rather synth-heavy track. Pretty much everything was tracked in Buzz using its built-in synthesizers and effects (except for some reverb and electric guitar that was added later).
Video game music has always been a big influence on me, which is the main motivation behind this track.
The grand piano is from a soundfont created by Warren Trachtman, that was directly loaded into Buzz. I performed the electric guitar parts on a Renegade electric guitar. Also some of the misc. drum sounds were in a percussion soundfont from HammerSound.
Four Fried Chickens
"The Blues Brothers" is one of my favourite movies. At one point, Jake Blues (John Belushi) and his brother Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) are in a restaurant. Jake tries to order "Four fried chickens and a coke" while Elwood simply wants "some dry white toast". So if you didn't know already, this is where the title of this funk/blues track comes from.
The guitar parts were me playing the Renegade again, and the bass is... you guessed it, the Squier. The solo flute was performed by my wife Susan. I recorded her in a hallway in the apartment we used to live in using the SM-57 and later processed the recording in Adobe Audition.
I used the QL Stormdrums library to put the drums together. Originally, I had used another free soundfont from the HammerSound site but once I had the Stormdrums library there was no comparison in terms of quality. The sizzling noise was vocoded against the hihat to create the unusual (and, I've been told, "somewhat rude sounding") rhythm at the beginning.
One more thing I should mention is the brass. While still far from perfect, I think it sounds reasonably good and does the job. The sounds themselves came from the Peter Siedlaczek Advanced Orchestra brass library, using a combination of the articulations provided.
It took several revisions before I was able to come up with the final version of this one.
Journey to Neptune
I originally started this one back in the 90's as an OctoMED SoundStudio experiment. I later converted it to an XM file, and then rebuilt it in Buzz Machines. While working on it, I always though the track sounded like a voyage through space, hence my decision for the title.
Most of the parts are Buzz's synths, but the bass is me playing the Squier again. I plugged the Squier directly into my sound card to record this one (unlike the bass parts in other tracks that were all recorded through a proper amplifier). The drums are also from a free soundfont I found at the HammerSound site.
This was actually the first track I finished for the album.
The XM version is available as a free download on my MOD page.
Also known as "Yet another track that originated as a MOD project". I made a partial MOD version of this track that I was never happy with, and later an XM version that I was also not completely thrilled with. This final version is actually more similar to the original version since the second one had more of a dance-groove thing going on.
I was also very privileged to have none other than Bjorn Lynne perform the lead guitar for this track! Bjorn has been a great inspiration to me over the years and I have a lot of respect for his work. In fact, his famous MOD composition "The 12th Warrior" was one of the tracks that helped convince me to give up Deluxe Music and switch to MOD style tracking instead.
The bass line was performed by me and recorded on my Peavey amp with the line-out plugged directly into my PC. The rhythm guitar was also performed by me, but this time I used the SM-57 to record the full sound of the amp.
The original version of this, which can be found on my MOD page, was composed in OctaMED SoundStudio and was even used as a demo track for OctaMED itself! Later, I made a revised version in FastTracker II for my friend Andreas Böhm to use in his CD "Evolution" as a contributed work.
This new version was composed in FL Studio and really gave me a chance to try out the StormDrums sound library (I used some of the big taiko drums). This track also contains what is currently the most difficult guitar solo that I have played. I'm sure for a more seasoned guitarist it is probably pretty straightforward, but for me it represents a landmark. It was recorded in several takes, and I combined the best portions from the best takes to produce the final result. The bass guitar is also a live performance, but actually didn't require as many takes.
In return for my contribution of a version of "Chronologic Foundations" for his album "Evolution", Andreas sent me one of his own compositions to be reworked and included as a guest track on "Explorer". His original version is an unreleased FastTracker II module, and we spent several weeks trading the workfile back and forth as we updated it and filled in some harmonies.
Once we had it all figured out, I updated some of the sounds using the high quality sound libraries that I own and added the rain and thunder ambience. These sound effects were licenced from Bjorn Lynne's music licencing site, Shockwave Sound.
I suspect that he doesn't always believe me, but I think Andreas has a gift for writing compelling melodies. I had this one in my head for weeks after I heard his original XM file. (Thank you, Andreas, for contributing this track! I really enjoyed working on it with you.)
My Pyramid or Yours
What would have happened if the ancient Pharaoh Ramases had bought a TR-909 drum machine and some synthesizers? I like to think it might have sounded something like this!
Jokes aside, this track was mostly made just for fun, and to experiment with more ethnic sounds. The StormDrums library was used quite extensively, and the symphonic instruments are all from the Symphonic Orchestra Gold Edition library.
Most of the synth parts were composed in Buzz Machines, but I used FL Studio to compose the symphonic portion and record the electric guitar. The guitar was plugged directly into my PC and the effects and distortion were added by FL Studio.
The Ruined City
I started an initial draft version of this track many years ago on my Amiga. I'd obtained some 16-bit samples for the first time (Amiga was traditionally 8-bit) and I wanted to try them out. This original draft was never released but I really liked the way it was working so I made a newer version in Buzz Machines.
I was at a loss for what instrument to use for the main melody, but this problem was solved when my friend David Rose was in town and had brought his viola with him. On the morning of the day he was going home, we made the recording.
One thing that I'm particularly happy with is the contrast between Dave's live viola performance and the harder synthetic sound of the rest of the track.
Ok, this is not so much an individual track as it is an interlude leading up to the next track. What you hear in this one is the sound of an Amiga 1000 computer booting up.
My little beast of a housecat decided to contribute some vocalizations to this track, which I happily decided to leave in.
In The Game - Part 2
The kind of funny thing about part 2 is that I actually composed it before part 1. It had been in my head for the past few years but I never got around to writing it out until after part 1 had been finished.
Once again you'll hear some electric guitar-work provided by, well, me... :)
I think this one sounds very much like an oldschool run-and-jump style video game. At least, that's what I'd been thinking about while composing it.
The intro (which sounds a bit like a C-64 computer) was actually all done in FL Studio using one of its basic synthesizers (the "3-Osc" one, if anyone is interested).
This track was started in Buzz Machines and later ported to FL Studio to add the symphonic parts. It tells a story about a lonely man walking through a park in the late afternoon.
As he walks along, it starts to rain. The man is having some gloomy thoughts and feeling rather sorry for himself. As the rain increases, he sees a mysterious female figure dressed in white, beckoning for him to follow her.
The man runs after her as she dashes through the dense trees in the park, weaving around the trunks. They cross over a bridge, the water below is rushing along, fueled by the downpour. The chase continues on the far side of the bridge, but the man is too slow and he loses sight of the woman.
The man emerges from the trees at the top of a small rise and realizes, as he looks about, how beautiful the park is. He throws his head back, relishing the feeling of the rain falling on his face.
He walks down the path towards the exit feeling refreshed and more optimistic about his life and ready to face whatever lies ahead. The cloudy sky opens up and a beam of light shines down as he leaves the park.
Bonus Track Revolution (MGS Edit)
I decided to throw this in as an extra track since the main theme in this was originally intended to be the title track of my album (but somehow ended up being forgotten). This melody was actually composed many years ago when I was dabbling in FastTracker II.
At the last minute, I thought it would be fun to rework this melody into a more cinematic sounding track using my new sound libraries. The music from the recent "Metal Gear Solid" games, composed by Harry Gregson-Williams, was a style I wanted to emulate, so with that in mind I sat down and worked on this track.
This track is dedicated to the hard work of the team that has brought us such a fantastic series of games, especially to Hideo Kojima and Harry Gregson-Williams who are both an inspiration to me.
The symphonic sounds are all from EW/QL Symphonic Orchestra Gold. The drums are from a set of loops in the Stormdrums library, and the bass synths were created using FL Studio's Sytrus plugin.
Here is a comprehensive list of the software and instruments used to make this album.
Sounds and Libraries
Live Instruments (Performed by Matt)
January 31, 2003
Work has officially started on my new CD, Revolution. I'm not sure if this will be the final title of the CD, but I rather like the name so far. It's mostly a friendly jab at my friend DarkStar. whose latest CD is called Evolution.
The CD will be mostly electronica, but don't be too suprised if a little bit of orchestral (synthesized, unfortunately) music makes it on as well. I'm hoping to have everything finished by this summer, possibly sooner depending on how things go.
February 24, 2003
All the parts for Counterpoint 3.0 have been tracked. I even worked in a small "Easter egg" in the form of a small homage to a famous composer who has been an inspiration to me over the years. More information about this when I write the production notes.
March 3, 2003
Ocean Deep has been pretty much tracked, but I might add a few small details here and there. The overall structure should be finished though. I should really start working on some production notes.
March 14, 2003
I've been learning about a nifty music program called "Buzz Machines". For the past few days I have been working on a new track, tentatively titled "Journey to Neptune". Actually, I wrote this song years ago but I was never completely satisfied with the overall sound so it was never one of my 'released' works. I'm completely reworking this Sci-Fi-ish track in Buzz, and it is making a world of difference. Finally, I can make the track sound just as I'd envisioned, perhaps even better than I'd hoped.
April 9, 2003
Well, work and gaming has been keeping me distracted from composing lately. I did manage to add a bit more to "Journey to Neptune" though. I also got started on a track that is dedicated to my friend Andreas. I hope he enjoys it! This new track is called "Rain".
July 21, 2003
I've been getting back into the loop as far as music is concerned. Hopefully there will be a few suprises on this upcoming CD, perhaps even some guest artists if I'm lucky! Of significant note, I've completed my first full-length live instrument part which will appear in "Journey to Neptune". It was performed on my new Squire Precision bass guitar. I think it really adds a lot to the track to have at least one real instrument in it. I also started work on "Ruins of a Future Civilization" during the weekend. The idea's been around for a while, but really needed some revising and revisiting, so I've started it over again using Buzz Machines instead of FastTracker II.
October 9, 2003
Well, things have been rather busy, and the CD is coming together, just very slowly. I hope I don't have to push the release date back again... Hmm, let's see... already more than 6 months overdue...
October 22, 2003
Was up late practicing my bass again, working on a funky groove for "Four Fried Chickens". A strange title? Actually, there's a reason for the title, which will become apparent a bit later on. Some people will get it right away though. :)
"In the Game Part 1" is also coming along rather nicely. It's rather upbeat and rather cheerful sounding, but being an attempt at writing some game style music, this is probably acceptable. At the very least, it has a lot of energy. Actually, part 2 has been floating around in my head for several years, long before part 1 had even been given any thought.
November 3, 2003
Wow, I spent most of my day yesterday working on "In The Game - Part 1". It's almost finished now, and once I add an ambient intro to it, the total length should be nearly 8 minutes. Pretty rare these days that I am able to spend that much time focused on one track. All that's left to do is the intro and some more solo parts. Originally this track was going to be 100% electronic, but now I'm thinking that some guitar work might be necessary.
December 8, 2004
Well, five tracks are pretty much finished up now. Things could be better, but I'm reasonably pleased with the end result. I'm going to redo some parts of "Flying Fast", so it's not quite finished yet, but it's almost there. The past few weeks have been a real learning experience regarding the production phase of music, and I can honestly say that I know much more now than I did a month ago. Perhaps I will even try to write some tutorials about this stuff, not just for the benefit of others, but for myself as well since there are so many little details to remember.
I've also finalized the album title. I have spent much time thinking about it, and then suddenly I had the idea to call it "Explore", which fits the theme of several tracks.
February 27, 2004
Ok, another track, "Regen", has been completed. This track has evolved in ways that I had not imagined when I started it. What I wanted to do with this track was to tell a story, and with this imagery in mind is was much easier to finish this track off. I should mention that this track is dedicated to my friend Andreas (DarkStar.) who has provided so much moral support and helped to keep me focused on this project. Andreas wrote his track, "Rise of the slaves", to give me something to think about while I am at work (at my full-time job as a web programmer) so I thought it was fitting for me to return the favour.
March 29, 2004
I've completed the work on "Four Fried Chickens". This one was fairly complicated to make since there was more solo work than in previous works. This one has a guitar solo, bass solo, flute solo, and a Hammond organ solo.
It was exhausting to work on, but I think all the work was worth it. Just don't expect any 'virtuoso' performances and you won't be disappointed. :)
I've also redone the track order, and it is probably pretty close to final approval.
August 4, 2004
Alright, I have arrived at the conclusion that string instruments are pretty difficult to record without the right equipment. I recorded a viola part for "The Ruined City" (performed by my good friend David Rose) the other day, and no matter how I placed the microphone, the result was a bit weak sounding.
For anyone else trying this, the best result I got was by placing the mic as close to the 'f' holes on the viola as I could without endangering the musician or the mic. Still, I think part of the problem is the type of microphone I have... a Shure SM-57.
The part is sounding a bit better now, but still needs a little bit of equalizing before it is final.
May 2, 2005
Wow, almost a year with no updates... and now suddenly there is less done than before!
Actually, there's a very good reason for this. For starters, I've updated my studio with some new software and sample libraries that really enhance the way I compose music. A few of the tracks that were previously finished are now being reworked because they were simply not up to the level where I could feel pleased with my work.
Presently, there is some actual progress with the CD and things are starting to pull together nicely. I've updated the above list, and from now on if you read "complete" this means the track is really 100% finished and ready to be burned to the master.
If things continue to progress as they have been for the past few weeks, then I'm anticipating the CD will ready before the end of 2005. Possibly as early as this fall!
May 16, 2005
What a weekend... I pretty much wrapped up three tracks! This is a new best for me. :)
To sum things up, I've learned a few techniques that make the mixing process *much* easier than what I was doing before. A word of advice to others who are trying to mix their own tracks, apply compression and limiting in realtime while you're mixing! I'm sure this is obvious to many pros out there, many of whom would probably have a good chuckle at my expense if they saw how I was doing this before. :)
June 6, 2005
I completed "Flying Fast" and "My Pyramid or Yours?" this weekend. I've started work now on "In the Game - Part 2" which will be rather fun to make.
It's difficult to train myself to stop tinkering with a track and to just accept that it is finished. This has to be done though, otherwise the CD is never completed! At some point you just have to decide that a track is complete and accept the fact that there is always something that needs fixing. Now whenever I learn something new I have to remind myself that it doesn't mean I have to redo everything. It just means that the next track I compose will take advantage of this new knowledge. :)
June 27, 2005
"In The Game - Part 2" is finally finished. It took a few weeks to make it (Could have been faster if I was in the position to be working in my studio full-time!) and there are still areas in the mixing process where I can see a need for improvement. Ah well, I'm still learning. :)
I also made a short sound effect track titled "Loading" that will lead in to " In The Game - Part 2". It's kind of freaked-out sounding which was not my original intent, but it sounds interesting so I decided to keep it. It was made by putting a microphone up to the disk drive on an old Amiga 1000 computer. Because of the nature of the mic I was using, the sound came out very quiet so I amplified/compressed the heck out of it, which sounds... rather strange. Kind of like something out of a horror movie.
I was originally going to tack this on to the beginning of ITGP2, but I figure that it might not be to everyone's taste, so it will go on as a separate track now, which means it can be skipped if people hate it. ;)
I'm also working on an MP3 sampler for the CD, so there will be a downloadable preview of all tracks very soon.
September 29, 2005
Whoops, it's been a long time without any updates! The good news is that all the tracks for Explorer are now complete. That is, all the composing is finished an now I'm working on the final mixing and mastering.
The last track I worked on was "The Park", which was originally composed by my friend Andreas (DarkStar.). I've updated and reworked this track, with some help from Andreas along the way. Another point of interest is that I've licenced some sound effects from Bjorn Lynne's shockwave-sound.com website for use in this track. Kind of funny to think about how this CD has actually had a budget since most of my projects up until now have mostly relied on free sounds and samples.
Back in August, I completed the work on "Counterpoint 4.0". Well, the main part of it at least. It took me until a few days ago to get the symphonic introduction ready.
It's a great feeling that this is all finally wrapping up. Jesse has been working on the cover and I think it's looking really good. Check out his work-in-progress on his Deviant Art page. It is visible in his gallery.
So... if all goes well the CD will be off to the manufacturer before the end of October!
November 24, 2005
Alright... the wheels are finally turning here. I've decided on a manufacturer and placed my order. I chose CDman, a Vancouver-based company that seems to have a good reputation. Their prices also seemed lower than other companies I looked at.
CDman also has a few extra perks, like 1X glass mastering and some coupons for free electronic distribution (iTunes, for example).
They've been fairly prompt about answering my questions, and they have some great tutorials and information on their website about the whole process. I think this was the deciding factor for me.
I've sent in the cover art, and now I just need to mail them a master CD... looks like this is going to be a very busy weekend.
November 28, 2005
Ok, IT IS FINISHED!!!
The master has been put in the mail and sent to CDman via courier (overnight shipping). I'm a bit nervous that there might be some problems with the master. I kept having problems with burning software, but I think I finally got it resolved in the end. Still, I sent them a backup copy (on a different brand of CDR) just in case.
I finally ended up burning the disc on my newer DVD combo drive. My regular burner seems to be flaking out on me and won't burn at any less than 8x. The DVD combo drive lets me burn at 4x, which should be a bit more stable. I would have preferred to burn at 1x, but apparently this is not an option with either of the burners I own.
December 9, 2005
I received word a few days ago that Explorer has entered the final assembly stage. They've given me Dec. 13th as the estimated shipping date. I was hoping to get it a bit sooner, but being so close to Christmas I'm not too suprised that it's a couple days delayed (according to the turn-time schedule on CDman's website). Ah well, at least it's not a Friday the 13th!
I can't wait until it arrives!
--End of transmission--
All music, graphics, and content © Matt McLellan
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