Mar 212013

Kendandra here!

So before I delve into the process of each individual theme, I want to take a moment to show you my little studio set up.  But first a little something I have get out of the way.


DISCLAIMER:  I am not a profession musician or composer.  By any definition of the terms.  I’m just a cool-kat with an 80’s keyboard and a USB port.


So yes, you should fully expect the end result of all these character themes to be complete and utter crap.  Still, that doesn’t mean they aren’t fun to make.


My musical background consists of far too many years of piano for my skill level, a bit of viola, and pretending to play the harmonica.  I have many pretend fans for my pretend harmonica concerts.  Oh, and a small amount of music theory.  Just enough to be dangerous, actually.

Now, on to the “studio”.  Located in the bowels of my house.  Enter at your own peril, past the bolted door where impossible things may happen that the world has never seen before….  No.  No, sorry that’s Dexter’s Lab.  My mistake.  Anyway, my quote on quote studio consists of a small nook where a pile of junk is located including a somewhat broken flatscreen monitor, a collection of non-working keyboards, a rather nice pair of Philips headphones, and a Sequential Circuits Six-Trak I dug out of my dad’s storage closet.  That’s
right, this thing:

Six-Trak  Sadly not Star-Trek.

That’s real wood on the side there. None of that fake stuff you see on those new Yamaha digital pianos that pretend to be classy with “wood finishes”. Also note that it’s spelt T-R-A-K. C’s are for failures. Stay in shool, kids.

For those who aren’t familiar with this vintage little beauty let me tell you, it’s a pain to actually do anything with.  It has only six oscillators.  Which means two things:

  1. Six means that it has six note polyphony; a fancy way of saying it can only play six notes at once.
  2. Oscillators, which means that it generates the waveform on the fly based off of 35 different parameters.  (You can see in the picture a bunch of writing in the center? That’s where the parameters you can play with are listed).

Not to say that this wasn’t an amazing piece of equipment for beginner mixers at the time.  Because, hell yeah it was.  Though now that we’re no longer in my father’s generation, I can simulate any notes that those little circuit boards are going to generate with software.  So I mostly use the Six-Track for something much more devious.  The MIDI port on the back.

Back in the old days my father used to hook up a MIDI cable to the Six-Trak and run it though a MIDI sequencer.  That’s a funny little box with lots of MIDI ports and buttons.  I’ve cut that out of my current setup.  Fruityloops takes care of much of this now (more on that in a bit).  So I got myself a MIDI IN/OUT to USB cable and I’ve got it hooked up to my laptop.  The purpose of the Six-Trak is to be used for pitch input (it doesn’t have velocity detection, you silly filly, that’s years ahead of its time).  I’m going to use it to input rifts into my computer and then layer the voices on there.  You see I’m a piano player a heart.  I’m not very good, but that’s my thang.  Thing.  Wow that was terrible.  Sorry.  I promise not to do that again.

So that’s my studio.  A table to support that ol’ Six-Trak, a MIDI cable, headphones, and my laptop (supported by a barstool).  Oh and the most important part.  There’s a large jar of pretzel rods.  That’s rather important.  I should have mentioned that first.

(There’s also a rather decent, if small, mixing board, but its output is FireWire and I’m not using a Mac.)

That pretty much covers the “physical studio”.  However the meat of this project is going to be powered by what’s on my laptop.  And no, by that I don’t mean my hard drive full of video game OSTs.  I’m talking the mixing software I’ve chosen to use.  Fruityloops.

Fruityloops.  Contains 5% fruit.

Just take a look at those skeuomorphic controls on the lower right. Thing of beauty.

So why Fruityloops?  Because it’s what I had access to.  I’ve never really used it before so we should see pretty soon how its learning curve is.  At a glance this thing is pretty powerful.  There are so many modules that I have no idea what I’m doing.  Also the first thing I notice is that Fruityloops is probably designed to make techno music.  It just seems to have support for a lot of repeatable beats and wave manipulation.

So of course, I’m probably going to be making use of the dumb parts of it.  Like DirectWave and using instrument samplings.  Indeed, the first thing I went and did was download the Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra instrument samplings.  But we’ll see.

That’s all for today, kiddos.  Next time I’ll actually be talking about first steps in making the character themes.  Shocker.

–Kendandra, we’re done here.