Music Making Needs Control: GarageBand iOS 

creative uploads music GarageBand songwriting

I really like Garageband iOS on my iPad. Lately it’s been improved to the point where the annoyance of not being able to do something critical has been replaced by the smaller annoyance of needing to learn where they have hidden how to do some things.

Did you know that if you long press on the Undo button it pops up the option to Redo? Why would they hide that? There’s a perfectly good space next to the Undo button where a reversed arrow would have fit! Seriously made me mad, and now that I know, let me make you mad so it can stop driving you mad.

And volume control. For ages I have battled uneven volume in a single track. Usually vocals where I just sing a few phrases with a little more gusto. The workaround was to pick a level in between that you could live with, or create another track and split the different volume tracks between them, louder clips on one with the main volume brought down, and then a boosted track to bring quieter audio up to balance.

Now Apple has included Automation controls to add a volume level path to audio tracks as they play. I think Adobe used to call them rubber bands.
This feature overrides your ability to use the regular volume slider, so get that about where you want it for the majority of your track first. Yes, this means you should already have a rough mix worked out, if you want to work more efficiently.

To activate the Automation, you tap the instrument icon on the desired track, then the yellow lightning bolt type icon below it (reference the photo). This creates the first flat audio band, set to the current volume level. You can pull it up and down carefully and it will show you the decibel changes, but this pulls the straight line between points and doesn’t work in pencil edit mode.

When you slide over the pencil lock control in the upper left into edit mode (bright red), you can tap on the line to create additional points, or long press on existing points to move them up, down, or sideways. Experiment on your own. Remember you need two points for a volume transition, but it can be a slow fade or really close  together for a jump. (Great for taking down a sound without cutting the track apart.

And remember you have Undo and Redo buttons when you screw up. You will screw up. TIP: Don’t try to swipe around in tracks to different parts of the song by touching the activated track. Just don’t. 

When done with the editing you can slide the pencil edit off. But you also need to click Done in the upper right to close the Automation control and get back to other controls.

I used this feature extensively to mix and duck audio in the track I posted for my wife this Valentine’s Day. Hear my Simply Need song free on Bandcamp. It made it easier to get an acceptable mix under deadline and tweak things at the last minute.

Enjoy your free time! Or use it to make more stuff, that’s cool,too.

—–David

P.S. GarageBand is free if you bought an iOS device that runs it anytime in the last few years. Now if you want to convert it to another format, well, that requires a Mac since you can’t open or extract from the file on Windows. But using GarageBand on a Mac (also free, the software not the Mac) you can move it off the iPad and not have to keep everything you created on a device that might just die or get stolen one day! (Yikes! Lived that fear.) With Logic (about $100) you can work on your composition in a much more full featured (professional even) audio software tool. 

P.P.S. If you have a friend with a Mac and work in Windows, they can use Logic to actually unpack the file to get to the midi and audio stems, which you could then import into your own DAW (digital audio workstation). It’s a little bit complicated but might be worth it if your music is trapped on an iPhone and you want it in another format for future use. You cannot copy the file to Windows and move it though, you have to sync to the Mac (or maybe use iCloud).

Music Making Needs Control: GarageBand iOS  was originally published on Creative Uploads

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Free NPR Audio Training Online

A primer on audio issues with tips on preferably preventing them or trying to fix them after. This is fantastic if you use a microphone to record anything, for audio, video, music, podcasts, whatever. It will make you think first and have (less) problems later.

At the very least, you’ll learn the vocabulary so you can act all knowledgeable about things you are still learning. At the most, you’ll get better at what you do when creating cool things and improve your process. 

http://training.npr.org/audio/the-ear-training-guide-for-audio-producers/

And it has example audio clips for everything being discussed.

—–David

P.S. You’re still learning aren’t you? If you are still alive, it’s really the only way to go. And a bit of knowledge knocks the crap out of that self-doubt that keeps you in your shell.

P.P.S. Free. Go!

Free NPR Audio Training Online was originally published on Creative Uploads

I Make Music. I Simply Need To.

Usually I just fail to record it, or I will make a simple demo that I don’t share. But my wife deserved a love song and I thought I would be grand about it, instead of quiet.

So this time it ended up on my Bandcamp page! Click for a free listen.

Creative uploads music GarageBand recording songwriting

As I said on her Facebook page,

“Embarrassing Valentine’s Day Outpouring of Love, Commence!

A new song shared on Bandcamp for your listening convenience and public embarrassment (free unlimited streaming!). Sorry, no cheesy video this time.”

Here’s a little background on the secret production, 31 years in the making as it turns out. (Though I’ve only known her for 23 …)

My Tumblr post To-all-valentines-that-simply-need

—–David

P.S. It’s still stuck in my head and not the first time one of my songs has done that to me. Fortunately I think it’s kind of funny when people complain about ear worms to have had it happen to you with a song no one else on the planet has ever heard.

I Make Music. I Simply Need To. was originally published on Creative Uploads

Happy Holidays Bring A Musical “Change Of Season”

Glittering Phoenix Luminarias

Change Of Season instrumental
on BandCamp

I was a huge George Winston fan on discovering him in college (in addition to many other influences in very different genres) and always felt I didn’t play piano as well. That’s probably still true, but I can play and this song certainly touches on some of the same reflective feelings his music brings up in me.

Unlike him I usually write lyrics to my music, lots and lots of lyrics. Really surprised that I didn’t for this tune, but that’s how the song wanted it. Someday I’ll want to transcribe the music and recreate the melodic track it with a proper guitar, and I know just the guy to help.

I’ve  had a languishing BandCamp account for a while now, so I tidied up and hid a sloppy demo of something else and offered up this plaintive but optimistic gift from the hands of the creative tendrils we all share through my hands to yours. I took the photo last year as well on a trip to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona. Seemed fitting.

Happy Joyous __________ to you and yours.

—–David

P.S. Pretty certain you can listen to the song without having to buy it, so please enjoy in any way you can!

P.P.S. My megawatson.bandcamp.com liner notes: This reflective holiday instrumental, created in late fall 2015 using GarageBand on the iPad with midi connection to a Roland digital piano. Built out of an improvisation with a second improvisation added on top, I literally don’t remember how to play it beyond the four-chord opening that urged me to plug in the recorder. Crazy. Slightly remixed this Fall 2016.

Happy Holidays Bring A Musical “Change Of Season” was originally published on Creative Uploads

Hey, Mr. Spaceman – The Musical

I decided to finally record the John Glenn parody song I posted lyrics for the other day.

Here’s the YouTube blurb as background:

Honoring astronaut John Glenn’s passing: in 1998 there was some controversy on sending John Glenn on the space shuttle at 77 in an expensive mission instead of other qualified candidates. I wrote this tongue-in-cheek political parody to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” but never recorded it. So here’s a recording, with all the possible verses (in the real world some would have been dropped to fit the original song). Hey 2016, thanks for bookending the inspiration. Now quit it.

Since this blog is about the dreaming, creation and publication of artistic endeavors, it felt like I ought to finally record a version and share it somehow, right? At least it took me less than twenty years. And I didn’t have the publication outlets then that we do know, where it can not exist one day and be available worldwide the next (not necessary known but at least available).

I also left in all the verses, breaking an important rule of parody songs: get in, state the joke and get out before it’s worn out it’s welcome. Hey, that applies top a lot of other things too. But it’s a historical document at this point, so there’s the whole draft. Just to show how editing can help focus something and make it better even if you have to leave out a joke you like.

Hope you make it to the end.

—–David

P.S. Tang really was marketed as the breakfast drink of the astronauts. There’s a hilarious double entendre in that these days but it was a more innocent time. By the shuttle missions Welch’s had replaced it as the powdered drink sent up on missions. Ironically, Congress likes to welch on their promises to properly fund NASA. Go figure.

P.P.S.
I just imagined
how long an unedited
haiku would become, i mean can you imagine if the guy just wouldn’t shut up and kept spouting aphorisms and potentially insightful observations with no understanding of the reader’s mental digestion ability?

Note to self: edit more, talk less.

 

Hey, Mr. Spaceman – The Musical was originally published on Creative Uploads

Christmas Timelapse Is Here Again

Christmastime.

So much decorating and moving boxes around. Don’t you wish it could go faster? I know I do. I have a time machine, but it only works after the fact. That is, I travel through at regular speed, then I have a windows where I can view the events at any speed I want, forward or backward, random or not, but I can no longer interact with them.

Boy, except for that first part of the real-time experience, it works great.

I shot the initial portion as video in case there was some interaction I could pull out by slowing the video for it, but then I couldn’t find what I thought I had shot when I go to editing.

This is where planning to edit encourages a careful process. I was so perplexed by this I went back to the camera card to figure out the time I caught a picture on my Canon camera and see what the GoPro was doing, because my project folder didn’t have anything for that time. It was perfectly possible I had accidentally left the camera off, but I could check because of my workflow. So there’s another good reason to edit besides polishing your material.

TIP: Don’t format your memory cards until you have to, even in the middle of a minor project or ahead of a large one (like when you clear a bunch of cards the might before so you can swap at will.) Even then, do a quick review to ensure you have actually copied important files or folders to one or two places. This makes the SD Cards in your camera bag a temporary backup. It’s not a perfect method, but it’s a lottery ticket against disaster. Maybe a sandbag against being broke? Whichever.

Anyway, when I copied the GoPro files initially I ran out of space at the original location and switched to another drive, but there were two GoPro folders on the camera and I forgot to get the larger video files out of both, leaving two behind! Once discovered, a long file copy later, I got back to the half-drawn board and a little more editing. Funny enough, I had a feeling it wasn’t quite right so I hadn’t published the video yet!

Back to our story: I framed my opening video shot from a birds-eye angle to set the scene of large scale chaos and the bleakness of the soldier fighting holiday light sets….

After the initial scene, I used a different angle to bring the viewer into the experience and provide a little more detail. In concept I thought about a much closer shot on the tree, but realized that any one spot would get one ornament, which would require bouncing around the tree, and not getting a cool montage. So I didn’t zoom in quite so dramatically during editing after all.

I switched to photo timelapse on the second angle (7 megapixels every 10 seconds — could do 12 mp but seemed overkill.) That gave me the ability to crop to at least quarter of the screen before getting below the 1920×1080 full HD pixel resolution (and you can push on that) but again, I didn’t feel the need to go in that tight. As I write this, I realize I could have shot at 4K/15 frames a second, for a little smoother motion since I actually slowed down these segments to 33% instead of speeding them up, but I was planning for more pixels at the time.

Besides, zooms in and out in a clip are tricky to do in GoPro Studio. You can have four keyframes per clip but you can’t slide them around after creation that I saw, and lacking a zoom feature on the edit timeline that shows you where the keyframes are, placement of these keyframes is not optimal. You can fine-tune the placement but you then want to watch it and tweak it, and you can’t fine-tune what you want to tweak by moving it. You have to delete and recreate it in the new place. Ugh.

Even so, I think it turned out fine. And special thanks to Beatle and solo performer Ringo Starr who is always with us at the start of the holidays whether he knows it or not. Get his album “I Want To Be Santa Claus”* if you can find it. Charming fun.

—-David.

* Apparently, it’ s been remastered as the Ringo Starr Christmas Collection. BUY IT!

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P.S. Does anyone like the stupid GoPro file naming convention when it has to break longer files? It doesn’t sort correctly and I am only finally feeling it when I am on the timeline trying to make sure my split files from a long recording session are in the proper order. Here’s an example from a different shoot: If you keep takes short it’s GOPR0001.mp4 GOPR0002. Great, but the letter O and number 0 look really similar in computer fonts. If it runs longer then  you get GOPR1798 GP011798 GP021798 GP031798, which can be in order unless there are MORE long takes after, in my case I was looking at GOPR1797 GOPR1798 GOPR2887 GOPR3052 GP011797 GP011798 GP021798 GP031798. So there were a couple together then it ran off the rails. Oh well.

P.S.S. The music here is from Garageband iOS Loops with some custom piano ones created for the Christmas mood. It was meant for shorter segments originally so the long form sometimes repeats itself, but all holiday music gets a little repetitive in the end, so the mood is set!

P.S.S.S. Save your projects as you go as PROJECT FILES. I know , it’s a short thing and you won’t need it. But having done so,  I was able to add to my set instead of recreating it. At other times it’s rescued me : prep time from a crash, necessary reboot, stupid mistake in a title, viewer’s suggestion for edit, and for you, maybe a copyright infringement where you have to change out the music so YouTube will post it with a soundtrack (fingers crossed, Ringo).  Why recreate the wheel when you can save what you did in the editing software you so carefully arranged it?

Christmas Timelapse Is Here Again was originally published on Creative Uploads

Trace of Clouds, aka The Sky Is No Limit

I take pictures on Thanksgiving. It’s one of the things I am thankful for. This is a timelapse of a lacey sky from the backyard at our relatives’ house in northern Arizona. Shot on a GoPro Hero 3+ and processed in GoPro Studio which I like and don’t, because of some quirks and a bit of bugginess, which stall the creative process. Finally I added newly created music by me from Garageband on the iPad using an app called Loops but edited down for time. It was that or gently blowing into a microphone as if it was wind.

 

Doing an improv and trimming down to the good stuff is not only effective but is a time-honored musical tradition; essentially it’s capturing the creative and writing portion of songwriting in a format that allows some of the sketches and outlines to make it all the way through the final draft to the published product (if I can turn it into a book metaphor here in the closing days of NaNoMo.)

You can do this with performance video as well but it’s a real slog cutting it together in a meaningful way after throwing out the poorer parts. There are so many moving pieces in that it’s better to plan for a better result. I think that is true even if you have many cameras for multiple coverage, and audio and lights and everything you might need, but then you are drowning in options and choices and don’t know what to throw away.

For this timelapse with one camera I got to toss out many minutes to have a snack-size thirty seconds, but I am not telling a deep emotional story, just making a small watercolor….

—–David.

P.S. What I enjoy about this is that because the setup takes almost no time, I got to be creative but also social with the family, and do the editing and publication work on the backend. But all the time I knew I was pushing a project forward; literally multitasking.

P.P.S. Of course I took a bunch of photos of family too, but that’s more interactive if you make it so. I sometimes fall into a pattern of news photography, capturing scenes without trying to intrude. I like that style, but remember that people like to be social, and photos can be both an entryway to that or a barrier to interaction.

 

Trace of Clouds, aka The Sky Is No Limit was originally published on Creative Uploads

Musing Is Its Own Muse

I haven’t written a poem in quite a while. Decided to take a nap today and while pondering a great many things, one started to come to me, and I decided to fight to a draw and write down a couple of lines then sleep while I had time, and the poem won.

Here it is. Still working on the title though, so a victory for procrastination!



When wearily I lay down to rest


When wearily I lay down to rest

The answers to the universe come to me

The secret of life just about to be revealed

A peaceful moment brings a sense of clarity 

History dwelled upon uncovers hidden truths

Like a dream everything is in my power, possible,

Has been unknowingly under my control for ages

And the instructions for the machinery are all clear

It isn’t just imagination but understanding, for I am awake

Foolish insecurities vanish into confidence

And everything is so pleasantly obvious

And comfortable 

And comforting 

And peaceful

That just as 

I am ready

To wake up,

I sleep.

—David

P.S. The spark not just of inspiration but of action here was a realization that almost the only thing that ever pulled me out of bed when I have ideas at these moments is music. I can and have written notes to myself on paper or my phone or my pad over the years, though not often enough, but when a song comes to me * and grows beyond a verse into a chorus, I’d feel like I needed to rescue that moment from oblivion; so I would arise and go to a piano or guitar or just my songbook and often end up sketching out an entire song in fifteen minutes to an hour, usually with chords included. “Who needs sleep?” but also “who can sleep?” with a song stuck on your head.

Still, why music? A simple matter of two against one (words and music vs. sleepy/lazy me). Plus I always love music, but don’t always love having songs stuck in my head.

* “A song comes to me.” What an arrogant, incomplete and inaccurate description of a multi-faceted process with its myriad of possible avenues of inspiration. Sometimes it’s a flash, from stray thought or deliberate one, and sometimes it takes years, literally, for the shape to  even start resembling a song. Yeah, but songs come to me. And being able to recognize them in all their forms is pretty great.

Also this gives me the idea for a song….

Musing Is Its Own Muse was originally published on Creative Uploads

Inspiration Prog-Rocks?

I took this photo over the holidays late last year, which spawned a tongue-in-cheek post on Facebook:

If I ever do a vinyl double-LP prog-rock record, I have the cover photo.
(from the Luminarias at Desert Botanical Garden).

Luminarias and I

I was just experimenting with long-exposures that night, and while waiting for my family I decided I could stand still for a long while like they did in the old days. Realized later I had a gatefold shaped cover, so I made my silly post, which pushed me from photography into music.

I suddenly wondered what the music might sound like, especially since I sometimes listen to but don’t really  write in that style. So I sat down at the piano and this came out, and I liked it so I turned on the camera
and recorded this (click to play video)

Seriously, I just decided it should probably be in the key of Eb, and that suggested a set of related chords so I set the drum machine for a little oomph, and tried a progression and a variation and, well, it sounded like music.

Yes, you really should have a song or an album before you do a cover….but creativity is not always linear, or direct. You don’t always know where it comes from or where it will lead.

—-David

P.S. You can be creative or inspired on purpose too, but that’s for a later discussion. It’s okay to force it, as long as you give it room to grow where it wants to.

P.P.S I think I just shot this on a super long exposure without using a timer so I could take my place before it started, which is why the lights shine through me, but I liked the effect. In a more professional setting I would have shot it both ways, and edited this with some vignetting on the edges and exposure and contrast (levels) tweaks.

Inspiration Prog-Rocks? was originally published on Creative Uploads