This week I am honoring a well known performer in the Boston area, Zhi Zhou, the Erhu player. Check out this blog from Tramminhdao for some background info. I captured a piece of his performance and imported it in Lumit so I could explore his musical themes and let them inspire this uplifting dance track.
~ Inspired Song, Mastered by Mica Jaric
~ Raw Audio
Making composition material
I made 7 unique “phrases” out of the raw recording. This process is sort of like those puzzles where you see how many words you can make out of one long word. Listen for the little licks that speak to you and cut them out – give them their own track.
Choosing a tempo
Once I cropped out the phrases I was going to use, I found one that sounded like a pick up to the start of a bar. I tapped along to the sample to determine the tempo it fit to in my mind – 127 BPM. Do not change the tempo in the session where you are making your samples. Start a new project, change the tempo, then import them – so they don’t get warped.
~ The snippet that started it all
Conforming the material to my musical clock
The snapping stretch points proved to be a very efficient method for this. In my head, I broke some of the phrases into smaller segments and thought about the closest rhythm that agreed with my tempo and meter. Here is the basic process I used to conform my samples to my BPM.
- Snap the start of your sample to the start of a bar.
- Loop it and listen to it against the click.
- Imagine a similar rhythm that could work (imagine what will work in your song).
- Segment the sample into manageable “cells” using stretch points in the editor with the draw tool.
- Snap the cells to subdivisions of the grid to make your rhythm. This may take some background knowledge on composition.
- Cut, stretch, shorten, and crossfade the “cells” as desired.
~ Melodic phrases against a click
Be sure to listen very carefully to the tone of your samples against the key of the song. When you sample a live instrument, there is a good chance its intonation will not be great or that the tonal center of the performance will be “between keys”. The tonic of my samples sat between G and G# so I ended up shifting most of my samples down by 10 cents and choosing G minor as the key. I would suggest taking a day to step back from it all and listen again later. For me, breaks like these often reveal tonality issues. If you’re not sure, try using a free tuning plugin from this list by Bedroom Producers Blog.
I used iZotope Iris 2 to resample a static note of the instrument across the keyboard to play the melody you hear in the “B” section. I used Lumit’s EQ unit to drop the low shelf down by about 15 dB and added a generous amount of reverb from Valhalla Room.
~ Static Note
~ Re-sampled Melody