All posts by DAWmix

Music Theory Basic Reference

While you can find this sort of information all over the internet, these are from my own collection of notes that I found I needed to understand certain basic patterns in notes and structure. Please if you can explain any of this better, or correct me, chime in!

A key is an "octave" of 7 notes with the eighth note residing as the resolve back to the first note, known as the "tonic". In all keys these octaves of 7 notes can be simplified to individual tones by #: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7. The "Key* of a song is the root note that the song resolves to. The pattern is made up of M(ajor) and m(inor) notes in the following structure: MmmMMd with the last being called d(iminished). The term diminished comes into play when building chords. In terms of major and minor keys the basic idea is, looking at a piano keyboard for example, a whole note/tone is from one white key past one black key to the next white key so it is 2 half steps. A half step is also called a semitone. So taking the simplest key, "C" as an example in summary. the notes are:

C 1 M -- tonic (the root of the C octave key)
D 2 m whole tone
E 3 m whole tone
F 4 M half semitone
G 5 M whole tone
A 6 m whole tone
B 7 d whole tone
C 8 m half semitone
The 8th resolving note is included in order to show the step relationship from the last note of the scale to the resolving note an octave away.
The interesting point here, is MmmMMmd exists as a descriptor not for the keys themselves but for Chord building. The last diatonic chord of a scale is a diminished chord. Diatonic chords are the MmmMMmd chords in all the Chords of the "Circle of Fifths" which great tool to understand these arrangements and tone relationship. I am not going to go further into the Circle of Fifths, Much information and many examples of this can be found, on the internet. Just know it is a valuable tool to help you learn note relationship up and down the octaves no matter what instrument you are learning. Here is another great link to a Circle of Fifths video.
NOTE: There are more scales than the basic major minor scales. This is not meant to cover every aspect it is intended to encapsulate just basic knowledge. The Music Keys on the other hand are based on the 7 frequencies, C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C with major, minor flat and sharp. You can go on into modes and more exotic scales.

Basic Chord Building:
Using the numbers for notes a basic Triad chord is 1-3-5 which means it is a Root, a Third and a Fifth note all played within a relationship with each other. To "flatten' a note play the note a 1/2-step (1 semitone) down. To "sharpen a note" play the note a 1/2-step (1 semitone) up. In the table below, a "b" stands for "flat" and "#" stands for sharp:
1-3-5 = Major Chord
1-3b-5 = Minor Chord
1-3b-5b = Diminished Chord
1b-3b-5b = Flat Chord
1-3-5# = Augmented Chord
1#-3#-5# = Sharp Chord

It should be noted that all single steps between tones are called a 1/2-step or a semitone. A full step or tone, is just 2 half steps (2 semitones). While there are 8 tones in an octave counting the resolving note, there are 12 half steps to get there based on the arrangement of the notes which are based on actual frequencies as we hear them. In a sense note and chord structure is just organizing notes in a way we can make sense out of them to employ them to make sounds pleasing to our ears.
Additionally, while it may be normal to think of the root, being the starting key of a chord.
Inversions are where the same tones are played but in different orders Inversions affect the resulting tone while still being the same chord.
Intervals are two keys played like a chord together or as an arpeggio. 3rds and 5ths are great intervals, and can be mixed in with triad and quad chords for increased sound motifs.

The Relative Key is also important. As a relative minor key, this is the key that is 6 semitones below the Major Tonic/Root note. For example A minor is the relative minor of C Major.

Modes: There are 7 modes. Basically there is 1 mode for every key so 7 modes. The modes (on the piano) use only the white keys in their basic structure starting on each of the tones to their next same tone an octave away. However the pattern can be played starting from any key where W = Whole step and H = half step. In these cases the black keys are used.  This is the same and sharp and flat notes for other instruments. Again in this space, I am not trying to show how to play with the modes and much as a basic quick explanation and visual of what they are and how they work, for reference. Click on the Modes link to get more detailed information!

C start = Ionian = Pattern: WWHWWWH
D start = Dorian = Pattern: WHWWWHW
E start = Phrygian = Pattern: HWWWHWW
F start = Lydian = Pattern: WWWHWWH
G start = Mixolydian = Pattern: WWHWWHW
A start = Aeolian = Pattern: WHWWHWW
B start = Locrian = Pattern: HWWHWWW

Moving from the classical use of the Modes, the two that have prevailed into modern music are Ionian which has become the modern Major scale and Aeolian which has become the modern Minor scale. The modes delve deeper into different expressions of the major and minor scales,.

Counting: A basic timing signature (structure) is the basis of a song. While there are many time signatures, this is again, only to bring it to the attention, Most common radio songs are in 4/4 where there are 4 beats to a measure. These for beat can be filled in with foner beats divisible y 4, for the most part, accepting accents and human error. The way you might count this divisions in 4/4 are offered here:
Straight 4 = 1-2-3-4
Eighths = 1 and 2 and 3 and 4
Twelfths  = 1 and a 2 and a 3 and a 4 and a 
Sixteenths = 1 e and a 2 e and a 3 e and a 4 e and a. 

Diatonic Chart of all Major Chords with the 1-IV-V pattern highlighted. Check this out and find patterns that can help memorize this basic mother of western octave note and chord structure.

Bands/Albums Missing on Streaming Sites 😕.

These are bands/albums missing from Spotify and or iTunes and possibly all digital age new millennium streaming services. For whatever reason, these are A.W.O.L. and it would be great to have them available. Please Like, Comment, Share and add yours to this list!

  1. Automatic Man @patthrall, @michaelshrieve Check this out! These guys need to realize the grouping of these folks alone with two releases are missing the boat not to carry these through technology. They are both solid Albums that need to be alongside their colleague's releases. Bayeté (Todd Cochran, where are you? Get your voice in on this!
  2. Loud Sugar LA. fun Where would we be without Funky Little Flower.
    I may be alone on this one but I feel the gems are worthy.
  3. Voice Farm On Facebook here. A quintessential 90 San Francisco Band. Come on guys!
  4. Donovan @donovanofficial Specifically Cosmic Wheels. Boy that 70's album is sorely missed from his streaming library.
  5. Steve Kujala @flutelandia This Gentleman and flute player extraordinaire has a handful of albums out and only one (Voyage (Chick Korea) on Spotify. I miss them all but especially a mainstay to me, the 9186 release of "Fresh Flute"

Will add more from comments and as identified.

Vocaloid 5.4 Upgrade with Time Machine

It just so happened after installing Vocaloid 5.0 my hard drive crashed and Vocaloid 5.4 was announced. And, after the Time Machine restore it would not update on my Mac from the DMG According to the Vocaloid Website, if you use Apple Time Machine and Vocaloid, it is beyond the scope of their Support.

I found that by reinstalling the original 5 over the previous install, I was able to reinstate the path well enough that the 5.4 Upgrade did install from the DMG. Hope this helps others in a similar situation.


Vocaloid (5)

Hi. For those of you who don't know, Vocaloid is a music "voice synth" program that can be used to sing vocal to a song. While it is not perfect, it is making in roads and had a valid place in today's music.

I have purchased the program and am looking for a user support community and cannot seem to find one. I am interested in creating one if that's what it takes.

This is big in Japan and just becoming something here in the US.

Here's a work using the program:

Here is a link. To it being used with the most famous singing anime, Hatsune Miku:

If you're using this, you already know and I would appreciate you letting me know so we might be able to build a support community. Thank you

Compression in Mixing

Compression is talked about a lot in mixing music. With DAWs bringing in a lot more entrepreneurial music production there is a significant point that is often overlooked.

Compression is, in a sense increasing RMS. What this means is a flattening of the sounds so the overall volume can be raised.

When you are creating music in a DAW, using pre sampled audio, these before they have gotten onto your track have most likely been treated/compressed/equalized. This is not to say you cannot get different effects for doing more of the same, but is a word of recognition when you are mixing and wonder why that compression effect is not having the effect you think it should is to consider the true value of that tool is for live recordings and even live performances. Go light on compression in audio sample situations.

My problems with Slate Digital Drums SSD4

I have the SSD4 package and have attempted to use it a number of times in Presonus Studio One. My problems with the package are

1. The interface is unnecessarily cumbersome.

2. While it gives good control it is a memory hog.

Frankly the Impact Tool built into Studio One is a flatter and more intuitive interface that also sends out to multiple tracks. Slate drums will stutter at times in playback or even have degraded sound in stressed memory situations. I have never had Impact do this.

My suggestion to Slate might be to sell the drum packages without the interface. I understand this bypasses the iLok system that maintains Slater's proprietary code, but as many others state, that limits their market. I think many of us a looking for superior drum samples, but want to program our own drums in a space other than the Slate Interface. The Slate interface feels a bit like Kai's Power Tools felt to built-in Photoshop tools. Creative look overwhelming the functionality.

I am not even positive that some sort of propriety methodology would be precluded by being able to get the importable files. Look what has done with "loopcloud". I am sure solutions for a win-win could be created.

I know I am just one person and my information, though I have researched, may be incomplete. Part of the reason I am putting it out there. Like the samples, not so happy with the execution, as compared to stock Presonus Studio One Impact. Please comment if you agree or disagree or have any suggestions.

It's not that I don't like Slate and what they are doing. They have good and even great products. FG-X comes to mind and I own that as well and will write my review coming up.

Why I use Presonus Studio One

I had a colleague in about 2015, whom I had told that based on the music he was creating in Audacity that he should look into a DAW. He didn't even know what it meant. Well, Norman E. Riley, of "Pagan Logic" , who doesn't use social media,  is a very fastidious perfectionist and did his research. When he was satisfied he told me he had chosen Presonus Studio One. At this time I had not heard of the program and was just out of Garage Band and learning Apple's Pro Logic. Since we wanted to collaborate, I agreed to move to Presonus as well. This was right after version 3 came out.

Prime (free version) of Studio One was my first download, after Norman bought Pro.  I used this free version to familiarize myself with the interface. Very soon after I bought the Presonus Audiobox 96 the basic model which was bundled with Studio One Artist. This got me on the road and it wasn't long after that I got Pro. I wanted the mastering module... of course. The best way to export out of Studio One and with instant publishing to SoundCloud built in.

The real reason to get Pro is the mastering module and the increased plugins and instruments which can be bought piecemeal but over toime for more money that Pro (Especially during a sale, wait for it...). Presonus Studio One Pro, in case you don't know, is a creation/mixing/mastering suite all in one app. The stock instruments and filters are enough to produce professional quality audio files. Serious stuff. The Pro industry has noticed and Presonus Studio One is also popular in the Pro field.

I personally like Studio One because it helps me make good music by offering deep tools including a sampler, notation and a basic Melodyne plug in license out of the box and including incredible non destructive ways to stretch files in both timing and sound and while not getting in my way of creativity (Remember we started with Audacity, so if you are here, take note). It has a relatively flat interface which allows you to see most of what is going on. This description barely scratches the surface. Give it a try, if you haven't. Get the free version and give it a look.

I recommend Presonus Studio One for these reasons and more. Check out YouTube for many videos on Studio One to see just how great it is. For the record, I haven't looked back. I am not a known name in the industry, I get no money from Presonus (On the other hand, I give them my money...) but I do because I know I am working with the best. If you don't already know, and if you do... Please add your comments to help share your and Presonus' story.

Here are a few links I have found of good reviews and Tips:
I suggest to start Alan Zhelon Presonus Studio One 4 Review review at about 3:00. In the first three minute he basically just says he found Presonus Studio One based on a friend's recommendation when deciding to move from Apple to Windows.  He found it much like me and it is a good entry video to Studio One 4, minus the Mastering Component. )

Here are are some other useful links:
Craig Anderson Studio One Tips
Marcus Huyskens' Music Blog