Category Archives: Music

This category is about Music and DAWS.

Let’s talk about music

If there is one thing I would like to be exemplary at, aside from being a great friend, son, brother, husband and father, it would be to be able to create music.

I have had many great moments in music, playing drums in bands, jamming and such but I always admire those who can play all the instruments or just one and make a song of it.

Enter the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) almost an acronym for computer with music creation program on it, a program like Presonus Studio One, Ableton Live, Avis Peo Tools, Apple Logic Pro or others. (Note, I have settled into Studio One).

The DAW has brought "all the instruments", automated notation, key detections, mastering tools and methods to put this all together, so a person does not need to have all the instruments and a studio, but just a computer and a DAW.

Additionally a mic is necessary for recording voice, a keyboard is best to control the DAW and understanding MIDI are additional key ingredients. But I digress. Yes you still need some tools but this has been largely reduced. It is the knowledge that separates those who can create a sound and those who can turn a sound into a song.

There are a lot of good sounds that end up trying to be a song. Good training and music theory is helpful to get over this hump. Enough of the background. This is about recognizing something I do for myself, that I can share with others, music.

I have always liked music but never got formal training for it, looking back it almost doesn't make sense. Why did I just dabble and not apply myself fully to it!

So now, I am.

Basic Mastering CONCEPTS

The first order of mastering a song is objectivity. This is also one of the reason self mastering is so difficult.

Music mastering is two focus: Dynamic and Sonic and has two prongs: problems and enhancements.

Listen to the mix while watching a spectrum analyzer to help identify issues. If a problem is found, ask yourself, what is the root of the problem. If it is a specific and identifiable instrument/track, go back to it mix to fix.  Do not just apply eq to the whole master, for example.

Ask yourself when objectively listening, “If I could fix one thing, what would it be?” And let this be your guide. Fix in the mix as much as possible and make very small adjustments in the master/overall.

Regarding compression and limiters these are to address dynamic issues. Overall volume and loudness. Compression is better than pure limiter/RMS to increase loudness. Audio compressed is smoother and adds character. A limiter is a final tweak to deliver correct LUFs and TP.

This is not a subjective part of music making. Beware of volume changes as louder easily can fool you as better.

Contact me if you would like me to master or offer insights to your mix.

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 (T)
E 3 m whole tone (T)
F 4 M half semitone (S)
G 5 M whole tone (T)
A 6 m whole tone (T)
B 7 d whole tone (T)
C 8 m half semitone (S) diminished
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!

T = Tone (Whole) step and S = Semitone (Half) step 

A MINOR  T S T T S T T (Aeolian)

B Locrian      S T T S T T T 

C MAJOR      T T S T T T S (Iolian)

D MINOR      T S T T S T T
D Dorian        T S T T T S T  

E MINOR       T T S T S T T
E Phrygian    S T T T S T T

F MAJOR        T T S T T T S
F Lydian          T T T S T T S

G MAJOR        T T S T T T S
G Mixolydian  T T S T T S T

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.

Reading the Scales
What follows is a break down of 4 octaves C to C with Middle C in the middle and the solid lines representing the Treble and Bass clef Stanzas.

Middle C--------


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 finer 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.