There were multiple influences for this project that I worked on, and it was if they flooded simultaneously. From Motohiro Kawashima to Shaba Ranks, to Andre Crouch to Musiq Soulchild, this project enabled me to experiment without any unrealistic expectations. The first sixteen could easily be used in a soundtrack for a retro 90s game, will the second sixteen could be utilized in a traditional Neo-Soul ballad.
Both sixteens are in a 4/4 meter. The first sixteen has the traditional four on the floor, house music approach. Meanwhile, the second sixteen gives the illusion of the bpm being cut in half but is still at 120 bpm. For both sixteens, I used the Alchemy short kit for the kick drum and for the hi-hats and crash I used the Drum Kit Neo-Soul. For the snare, I went with the Drum Kit SoCal I utilized Retro Synth Analog Funk. During the second half I used the Alchemy Analog Dark Bass. When using the Retro Synth Analog Funk, I wanted to go back and forth between the arcs, rises and falls to create a driving force with the drums. As far as Alchemy Analog Dark Bass for the second sixteen, the goal was to create another melody to go alongside the primary melody. The drums here was to give the second sixteen a smooth push to complement the electric piano.
The project is in the key of A minor, and the scale proceeds as so:
Am Bdim C Dm Em F G
For the first half, the chord progression is:
| Am | F | G | Em | Dm | G | Am | Em |
I personally enjoy using minor chords and for the first half I started and ended in minor chords.
I went back forth between arcs, risings, fallings, and motifs.
I used the Alchemy Ultimate 90s for the harmony track and the Alchemy Dance Basic Lead for the melody. I really wanted to maintain the 90s pop sound and video game nostalgia as much as I possibly could. At the same time, I was experimenting to see what could do for fun, which segues into the second half of the project once I realized that I could treat this Daw as do FL Studio.
During the second half, the chord progression is:
| Am | Fmaj7 | Dm7 | Em7 | G | A | Dm7 | Bdim | G | Am | G | Em |
Again, starting and ending with minors, I also wanted to tinker with using the entire a minor scale versus the five chords that used for the first half.
The melody I created with arcs, risings, and fallings.
I wanted to great more of a soulful ballad and decided to go with the Vintage Electric Piano Bright MK II for the harmony, and Alchemy 70s Analog Synth Lead for the melody. When it comes to Soul music, I’m a lover of the 70s and the mid to late 90s going to into the early 2000s. With the melody for this half, I utilized the modulation knob on my launchkey keyboard to have vibrato with notes that were being held longer. The attempt was to emulate someone singing or performing runs and adlibs. Liken to using talkbox.
When it comes to recording my vocals, I’m still not accustomed to using this particular DAW. However, majority of DAWs have the same elements as far as recording and mixing vocals are concerns. So, entered that in mind: Treat this like Reaper, which is my personal goto DAW of choice for recording. I recorded six vocal tracks in all, singing “Ahhh”. The idea was to create a ghostly-esque sound, but nothing scary or sinister This was done in mind of panning the tracks later during the mixing phase, so I wanted to ensure that I had a decent even sound tracks that will complement the chords being played for both halves. Circling back to the synths for both tracks, I enjoy the sound and always thought It was cool to hear. For me it’s a sound that I love to include in my arsenal. Whenever you hear my own music there’s always going to be synth used in some sort of compacity. In reference to the harmonies and melodies, as stated earlier I used two separate synths. For the first half, Alchemy Dance Basic Lead and Ultimate 90s, and for the second, Alchemy 70s Analog. These synths are found on tracks 9, 10 and 12.
Finally, the dynamics and time-based effects. I used ALOT of these.
The list reads as follows:
Track 1 – Kicks: Channel EQ & Compressor (Vintage VCA) (Routed to Bus 5)
Track 2 – Snare: Channel EQ & Compressor (Vintage VCA) (Routed to Bus 5)
Track 3 – Snare 2: Channel EQ & Compressor (Vintage VCA) (Routed to Bus 5)
Track 4 – Hi-hats: Channel EQ & Compressor (Vintage FET) (Routed to Bus 5)
Track 5 – Crash: Channel EQ & Compressor (Vintage FET) (Routed to Bus 5)
Track 6 – Claps: Channel EQ & Compressor (Platinum Digital) (Routed to Bus 5)
Track 7 – Bass: Channel EQ & Compressor (Vintage FET) (Routed to Bus 12)
Track 8 – Bass 2: Channel EQ & Compressor (Vintage FET) (Routed to Bus 12)
Track 9 – Harmony: Channel EQ & Compressor (Studio VCA) (Routed to Bus 12)
Track 10 – Melody: Channel EQ & Compressor (Vintage FET) (Routed to Bus 12)
Track 11 – Harmony 2: Channel EQ, Compressor (Vintage FET), & Stereo Spread
(Routed to Bus 12)
Track 12 – Melody 2: Channel EQ & Compressor (Vintage FET) (Routed to Bus 12)
Track 13 - Audio 1 -Tenor L (Routed to Bus 1)
Track 14 - Audio 2 - Tenor R (Routed to Bus 1)
Track 15 - Audio 3 - Alto L (Routed to Bus 1)
Track 16 - Audio 4 - Alto R (Routed to Bus 1)
Track 17 - Audio 5 - Soprano L (Routed to Bus 1)
Track 18 - Audio 6 - Soprano R (Routed to Bus 1)
Track 19 – Congas: Channel EQ & Compressor (Platinum Digital) (Routed to Bus 5)
Bus 1 - Background Vocals (Track 13 - 18): Channel EQ, Compressor (Vintage Opto)
Desser 2, and Stereo Spread
Bus 2 - BG CDR efx for Bus 1: Chorus, Stereo Delay, & Chroma Reverb
*Bus 3 - Instrumental (Bus 5 & 12)
**Bus 4 - Sub Master Main (Bus 3 & 13): Channel EQ
*Bus 5 - Drums (Track 1 - 6 & 19) (Bus 5 & 6)
Bus 6 - Percussion efx for Track 2 – 6: Chorus, Echo, & Chroma Reverb
Bus 7 - Kick efx for Track 1: Chorus, SubBass, & Chroma Reverb
Bus 8 - Bass Buss efx for Track 7 & 8: Chorus, SubBass, & Chroma Reverb
Bus 9 - Harmony Bus efx for Track 9: Chorus, Chroma Reverb, & Exciter
Bus 10 - Melody Bus 2 efx for Track 10 & 12: Chorus, Stereo Delay, Chroma Reverb, and Distortion II
Bus 11 - Harmony Bus 2 efx for Track 11: Chorus, Chroma Reverb, & Tape Delay
*Bus 12 - BHM Bus (Track 7 - 12) (Bus 8 - 11)
*Bus 13 - BG + EFX Bus (Bus 1 & 2)
When it came to mixing overall, the desired goal was to create distance between the instruments and vocals. It’s not at all professional, but I wanted to try to my best to emulate what other audio engineers would have done if they had this project in their hand. I’m sure they would have heard and done more. Another concern of my mine was doing my best to keep the overall mix under –6 dB, so both compression and attenuation was extremely vital to ensure that I stayed within the parameters. Even after routing and adding time-based effects, I still has to go back and make correction with compression or simply pull back volume knob for a particular track.