Music, as a hobby in the time of Covid-19
I've been making tiny musical doodles and posting them to my instagram for about 18 months now. As the day job has gotten less "creative" and more "assembly from a set of sensible parts" this has been an enjoyable outlet. A hobby.
In that time I've gone from just using software synths to assembling a small set of electronic instruments - and hopefully the quality has improved along the way. Until this point I've been quietly jamming away on an evening, recording 1 minute pieces (the instagram limit), sharing them and never returning. Hashtag #podpopmusic ... simple.
Then, back in December last year Alex kindly asked me to participate in the 100th Internet of Things London meetup, which was going to be a party(!), as one of the performers(!!). I accepted the challenge(!!!).
I thought I'd just chop up some of the doodles into looping pieces and use something like Ableton Live and a grid of buttons to trigger the phrases. But then along came 2020, lockdown and a sprawling glacier of time to work with.
I did have a go at first trying to do the loop thing, but it didn't really work for me. The longer pieces I had already tried making for instagram TV (no duration limit) didn't fit that pattern, so back to the drawing board. It's April by this point, no pressure.
After another month of noodling, in May I took the decision to put one set of analogue synths together and see how much I could play live on top of programmed tracks. This seemed to work out ok, two hands being a limit. With a bit of practice on each track I could get things working with some variety.
Next up, to record it. Sadly the live party with cool internet of things people in a Shoreditch bar wasn't going to happen by June, and everyone was using Zoom for this kind of thing. Ok, so we'll be remote, as is everything now. Unfortunately, my broadband in Wales is pretty poor with upstream speeds of under 100k/s. So - let's make a (nice) video.
I set up a tripod with an old DSLR, and balanced my iPhone on a brick. The first to capture the hands on knobs, and the phone to capture my face. The downside is you see me making some strange concentrating expressions.
Transfer both video files, and sync both with the audio in After Effects. Apply some gentle grading of the footage (because, the face) crossfade between the two, and mix in some of the 'trademark' 3D fractal stuff I've been using on instagram. This works!
Here's a quick test of that setup
Kit (mostly secondhand):
Behringer K2 (Korg MS20 clone), great for lead and bass noises
Behringer Neutron, really odd noises, drones, squeaks and buzzes + utility functions like LFO and Multiply to patch with the others
0-Coast, my favourite box, nice bleeps with arpeggiators as well as squeaks and squeals
Moog Subharmonicon, new studio member based on polyrythyms and harmonics - still learning it's edges
Behringer RX1602, cheap and simple space-saving 8/16 channel mixer
Too many cables
Apogee/Avid Quartet audio interface
Canon 500D + 24mm Canon lens
Logic Pro X with assorted plugins but heavily leaning on Portal from Output
Here's one track as a test render, what do you think?
Handy note from UAH, the headliner of the evening, that Zoom drops to mono for audio and frequency is probably restricted so I'm taking his advice and cutting anything under 80hz to keep it clean.
Live(ish) 23rd June
Wish us luck and if you fancy hearing the whole thing along with the actual musicians Polyop and UAH on the 23rd June register here ... and thank you Alex for inviting me in the first place, I'd probaly never have got beyond making 1 minute instagrams without this!