I Made A Song!

During this time I’ve spent at home, I’ve been exploring my interest in music making. I’ve wanted to create my own music for such a long time but it’s never happened for a variety of reasons. This time, it’s a reality! I spent a lot of time researching and trying out Ableton Live for music making before committing and buying it. I now have Ableton Live with a ton of software synths, samples, sounds, and loops. I spent yesterday making this track and put the finishing touches on it today. Give a listen to RIP below and let me know what you think!

RIP by Mike Hanna

Weekly Picks (4/10/2020)

Windows 96 – Glass Prism (Single)
My favorite electronic/vaporwave artist has a new single! It’s a dreamy banger with a backbeat!

The Strokes – The New Abnormal
I’ve not listened to much of The Strokes before but this album is great. I love the Mellotron sounding choir on At The Door.

Augustus Muller – Machine Learning Experiments (Original Soundtrack)
One-half of one of my favorite electronic groups (Boy Harsher) created a moody soundtrack for a couple movies that are collected here. Dark ambience is created by layers of synths.

Daily Life and Music

As I’m stuck at home due to COVID-19, I think about music and how it plays a role in my daily routine. Looking back on my Last.fm, staying home has put a big dent in my music listening.

My first songs of the day would be in my car on the way to work. Then I’d put albums on in the morning at work. I’d listen to an album while walking at lunch. I’d keep listening to music to keep myself mentally occupied during any downtime during the afternoon. Finally, I’d get home and listen to any new music I got that day or something relaxing while chilling at home.

The last releases I’ve listened to a lot of are Tears For Fears’ Songs From The Big Chair Deluxe Edition, The Beatles’ 1, and Foreigner’s Double Vision: Then And Now Live. All are surround sound releases. Songs From The Big Chair is revelatory in surround sound, Double Vision is a realistic concert experience, and 1 is disappointing with some weak surround mixes of some of The Beatles’ big songs.

Being stuck at home, I’ve reconnected with the making music side rather than just listening. I’m picking the guitar back up and re-learning basic chords that I’ve forgotten how to play in the years since I stopped learning on the guitar. There’s a cool site named JustinGuitar.com that is free and lessons have been useful so far. I really need to take my guitar in for maintenance and I’ve been looking at guitars I don’t need. I really want an SG and the Epiphone SG Standard or Epiphone SG Standard ’61 are what I’m looking at right now.

I’m still playing the drums. My Roland TD-1DMK serves me well and I’ve been playing with Toontrack’s EZDrummer 2 for a bigger variety of sounds with my edrums.

Speaking of EZDrummer 2, Toontrack’s EZKeys is also something I’ve been experimenting with. I recently ordered a cheap MIDI keyboard to play around with EZKeys and Hybrid 3, a software synthesizer I got years ago. I want to learn all of the instruments!

I’m trying to stick to a practice routine with guitar. It’s the instrument I’ve always wanted to play well but it’s always been out of reach for one reason or another. I’m hoping that once COVID-19’s impact has lessened and society returns to a semblance of normalcy, I can jam with my friends in-person and have some fun.

In the meantime, I’m trying to stay current on new releases and will keep posting my weekly album picks. I hope all of you are finding ways to keep yourself occupied during this time. I hope music can be a source of solace for everyone.

Weekly Picks (3/27/2020)

Daniel Avery and Alessandro Cortini – Illusion Of Time
Contemplative and swirling electronic sounds transport you to another realm in its ambience.

Sufjan Stevens and Lowell Brams – Aporia
Electronic new-age ambience from Sufjan Stevens and his stepfather: Lowell Brams. This might be a good album for meditation.

Pearl Jam – Gigaton
I’m not a big Pearl Jam fan, but this album has a huge rock sound that is refreshing for me. Check it out.

Weekly Picks (3/20/2020)

Roger Eno and Brian Eno – Mixing Colours
The two brothers collaborate on a soothing and calming mix of ambient songs. This is fantastic music for these anxious times. Highly recommended.

Moaning – Uneasy Laughter
This is synth heavy new wave/post-punk music. It reminds me of prime Gary Numan and has a bitter and cynical edge in a similar way.

James Righton – The Performer
Alternative pop rock that hits with occasional flashes of dreamy psychedelia. It has a retro pop feel to it.

Source Showdown: Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention – Freak Out!

Today, I’m bringing you the first Source Showdown! In this series, I’ll compare different mixes and masterings of the same album against each other. In the end, a winner shall be picked. I shall be using a few different programs for listening and analysis.

Listening is obviously the most important step and it shall be done in two different applications on my computer. First listens shall be done in JRiver Media Center. It’s basically a fancy iTunes that’s compatible with my large library of FLAC files. Comparative listens of particular songs shall be done in Audacity, a recording and editing application that allows me to do sighted A/B listening.

Analysis will be done using multiple applications. Waveforms will be compared in Audacity. Spectrograms will be compared using Audacity or Spek, a spectrum analyzer. Dynamic range analysis will be done using MAAT DROffline.

Let’s begin!


Source 1: Freak Out! – 2012 Zappa Records CD – Source: 1987 1630 Digital Master

Source 2: The MOFO Project/Object (Fazedooh) – 2006 Zappa Records CD – Source: Original 1966 Vinyl Stereo Mix

With these Zappa albums, we have the benefit of being told by the materials included with the album the exact source for both versions. Also, thanks the many great Zappa fan resources, including http://globalia.net/donlope/fz/index.html and http://lukpac.org/~handmade/patio/, we know what elements differ between the two sources.

Source 1 is a partial remix of the album. In 1987, Frank Zappa remixed a few of the songs while the rest were subject to re-equalization, digital reverb, and a narrowing of the stereo imaging.

Source 2 is the original 1966 vinyl stereo mix transferred to digital by Zappa “Vaultmeister” Joe Travers in 2005-2006.

Source 1: DR11
Source 2: DR10
Dynamic range is good for both although both have tracks with peaks above 0 dB.

Source 1 has a clean sound. The reverb combined with the stereo image narrowing gives it a much different presence than source 2. Instruments and vocals sound more clearly separated and have a depth like they are further away from the listener. The recording sounds well-preserved for something that was originally recorded in 1966.

Source 2 is direct and in your face compared to source 1 due to the lack of reverb. Instruments tend to be hard panned to either left or right while vocals sit in the center of the stereo image. Overall, the songs have a softer and warmer tinge to them due to degradation of the analog tape that the music was stored on. The spectrograms reflect my observation that the high frequencies are reduced on source 2.

While the MOFO Project/Object serves as a fantastic historical document that includes the 1966 original vinyl stereo mix, the mix shows it age due to tape degradation. The winner is clear here. source 1, the 1987 partial remix, is my winner for its clear sound, instrument separation, and deeper depth. Its presentation is simply superior for its cleanness.

Winner: Freak Out! – 2012 Zappa Records CD

Sources:
http://lukpac.org/~handmade/patio/vinylvscds/freakout.html
http://www.globalia.net/donlope/fz/notes/Freak_Out.html