Eclectic Blah – Status Five, or, The Last Action Item

As of today, “Status 5” according to my fancy production process has been declared.

This essentially means that editing and mixing is all done, and that layout and mastering enter the last phase, before they signoff at milestone 6.

I recently talked about that “replacing percussion” AI, and today, I finally invested the time to do this…

Why?

The track, Dreams of Hesse, is perhaps the Eclectic Blah track (and certainly the one on the tracklist for the album) with the most “vintage” feel. There’s organ, slightly distorted guitar lead, a warm sound in all of the instruments – essentially, when someone in the audience shouted “Carlos!” right after the beginning of Jan Kühner’s theme, he did that for a reason.

There is, however, a problem, as you can easily hear from that roughmix…

Everything is nice, except for the latin percussion, which sounds like it came out of an Eighties’ drum computer – which is not that much surprising, as Ralf’s setup for that concert was an Octapad II triggering sounds from an E-mu Proteus 1/XR+. And its latin percussion sounds just sound…plastic. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing in the context of a chiptune-style track, but here it’s just that icing on the cake that ruins everything.

Artistic integrity notwithstanding, I had defined an action item to replace those sounds with more natural ones, in my case from the Battery 2 library. That action item was very early on marked as “optional”, simply because it’s a hassle to do that. Now it’s not the first time I did that while working on the album, and I’m already well-versed with how to do it: Spheres hat the completely unusable bass drum sound replaced by Battery, and for The Porcupine, I did sample and de-noise the synth bass drum in the intro, load it into Kontakt and trigger it from a MIDI track.

How?

The process is always the same:

  1. Choose a synth/sampler to replace the sound in question, and load/integrate it into the project, at the same time adding a MIDI track for it.
  2. Use manual editing, groove quantization or sequencing to record the MIDI part. This is simple if it’s only one sound on an audio track (like, a bass drum), because that way you can very easily draw the MIDI notes. It’s trickier (like here, with the percussion part) if you actually need to listen to the part and choose the right sounds.
  3. Get the MIDI velocities right. For that, I use the MIDI input function in Cubase to only affect velocity for a recorded part, switch the MPD24 to “16 levels”, and then move through the MIDI part while looking at the level of the audio waveforms.
Part of the original percussion (ElDr) in relation to the sequenced MIDI part (Perc MID). Bass ist included for fun...
Part of the original percussion (ElDr) in relation to the sequenced MIDI part (Perc MID). Bass ist included for fun…

Task 2 is the most boring here – at least if you have different sounds and can’t properly use a groove quantization map, so this stole several hours of my valuable afternoon.

The result? An (optional) AI was marked “completed” (which otherwise would just have been closed by producer’s decision), but what’s more: the track now sounds right. Nice!

What next?

Get the mastering path done. Do a proper version of the montage with track gaps (planned for tomorrow). Look what needs to be done cover-design-wise (not a lot, I think). All in all, considering that I had originally aimed to reach status 5 by end of January, we’re on a good track!

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