Audioimprovised extract (49sec). The improvised extract shows the quality that can be achieved with a fairly simple audio studio setup. The podcast outlines a number of useful tips and describes my method in achieving a virtually total Linux solution in my workflow. See also earlier HPR episodes-hpr0712 and hpr0755.
My studio at home is in a spare-bedroom; a room, just 16x12 feet, with no special sound-proofing, just full bookcases all around the walls. The sound is quite 'dead' and OK for recording 'speech' which I do using a Zoom H4n Recorder, mounted on a small tripod, with 'pop' filter, and remote-controller to switch on and off.
The vox part is one long file with pauses where the audio will be inserted. The file is saved to the PC as a WAV file into a master folder and, within that, three sub-folders to hold 'media' and 'text' files and a 'building' folder to assemble the final recording.
The solo instruments and backing tracks are recorded through a USB mixer attached to the PC. Audio-improvised extract (45sec) from my composition Summer Dancin'. The piece was completely realised using the home set-up and Impro-Visor (http://bit.ly/EYbcv), which is similar to Band-in-a-Box with built-in rhythms and backings.
My approach to writing musical themes is either 'melody' first or 'chord' sequence first. With Summer Dancin' it was 'chord' sequence first. I improvised a theme, live at the keyboard over a chord sequence and samba rhythm, using Impro-Visor. The main difference between Impro-Visor and Band-in-a-Box is that Band-in-a-Box uses sampled sounds to make up the backings, etc., whereas Impro-Visor's sounds are synthesised.
AudioSummer Dancin'-theme (51sec). The harmonic sequence for the tune is fairly complex; as is the melody. To achieve similar results needs a fair grounding in jazz-type harmony and improvisation. Any approach, be it simple or complex, will work equally effectively using this basic method.
What's in my music production 'Bag'?
My main machine, is a basic PC desktop Acer Aspire SA80 with only 1 GB of ram. It has an Intel Pentium 4 processor and dual monitors. Xubuntu 12.04, LTS is the desktop and I use the on-board sound card. I have a small Yamaha PSR-350 keyboard attached via a Midiman MidiSport 2x2 interface. The Yamaha provides additional sound sets and it is through this that the backings are provided. The mixer is a Behringer Xenynx 1204FX and I use a variety of dynamic and studio capacitor microphones, with stands and 'pop' filters and the Zoom H4n Recorder. Audioimprovised extract (54sec)
Process & Procedure for Podcasts
For the instrumental portions, I mostly record straight into Audacity with the Band-in-a-Box backing track inputted to one channel of the mixer, and the instrument 'miked' to a second channel. A small amount of effect is added to the 'miked' channel while the 'backing' track is kept 'flat.' These are 'mixed' down to a single mono track at 44100 Hz and exported and saved as a FLAC file. The solo Bumpers are just simply improvised and recorded on to a single Audacity track.
To assemble the podcast, I place the vox recording on the top track and split and move the track at the point where I insert an audio clips. These are dragged into Audacity on a separate track and the cut part of the vox track, moved to the right, as necessary. If I need to record using separate tracking, then I use Ardour. I often produce the music in score and parts for subsequent 'live' performances. The written music is produced using Sibelius 4 and the backings are generated with an old copy of Band-in-a-Box. Neither have been ported to Linux so I run them under Wine which is OK but it means only older copies of programmes will run. This is no problem, however, as the older versions provide all the functionality that I need.
Keeping It All Together
Well, regular practice is a important to stay 'up-to-speed.' Besides essential scales and arpeggios, for a jazz musician, a solid amount of improvisation practice is necessary. Band-in-a-Box is an ideal tool for this, providing a backing track similar to the well-known Aebersold method. Audioimprovised extract (54sec).
Well, thats' all for now. Watch 'this space' for further developments. Cheers for now . . .