Wednesday, April 27, 2016

At The Zoo

This month's song from Megumi was inspired by a trip to the zoo. I keep telling Megumi to write a happy song, but she just looks at me like I'm crazy.

Megumi tuned her guitar to D A D A A D for this. Remember the song, Save It For Later by the English Beat? Yeah, same tuning. She had been playing around with this tuning and came up with the music a while back. She doesn't even know what chords she used--she was just messing around with various fingerings trying to get a sound she liked. Anyway, only now did she write some lyrics for it. We went back to using the Line6 POD to record the guitars.

Yasuko plugged her bass straight into the Grace Design pre-amp. We then used the Guitar Rig plug in. That's basically her go to setup nowadays. She used to use to plug her bass in the POD as well as a compressor pedal.

For the drums, we decided to go with brushes. It just seemed right for this song! Check out the video below!

At the Zoo
by Megumi Matsumae

I was at the zoo today
That’s where they keep the animals caged
They’re nothing more than four legged slaves

They eat what they are given
They pose for the the cameras
We get to watch when they poop too

I will never let anyone control me
I would rather be six feet under ground
I will never live any other way than free

Their whole world is inside four walls
They’re just playthings, just like dolls
Their lives defined by human protocols

Repeat Chorus

Above the clouds spread your wings and soar
No ceiling above, below your feet no floor
Keep going till you can’t see land anymore

I was at the zoo today
I can leave but they’ll still be caged
Sometimes I feel trapped just the same

Repeat Chorus

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Vocaloid Quick Tip: Changing Singer Properties

Hey everyone! Do you have only one Vocaloid voice library, but wish you had different singers in your song? Vocaloids are definitely not cheap, so I don't blame you if you don't have several Vocaloids at your disposal.

Well, there's a way you can get around that--sort of. It won't sound quite like you are using a completely separate Vocaloid voice, but the difference is noticeable.

The trick is to alter the singer properties. If you go to the toolbar in the Vocaloid3 editor, click on Settings / My Singer properties, you will bring up a dialog box showing you your "singers" and the voice parameters that you can alter for your singer: namely, Breathiness, Brightness, Clearness, and Gender Factor.

Now, the original Vocaloid voice is marked with an asterisk. You can click on Add to create another singer (based on the original Vocaloid) and change some of the parameters to get a whole new singer! As you can see, I already went ahead and added a new singer named Low Megpoid_English. For this new singer, I altered the Gender Factor setting to 127 to make the voice deeper, like a male. Going the other way (to -127) will raise the voice higher. Notice that there is another singer already there that came with the Vocaloid--Whispering Megpoid_English, which added some Breathiness and lowered the Clearness. Those parameters make subtle changes whereas the Gender Factor parameter can really make a noticeable change.

Once you've added your new singer, go to the toolbar, and select Active Singer Properties. Click on the Show My Singers button.

See those arrows in the middle (<<< and >>>)? Click on the appropriate arrow to move your newly created singer in the My Singers box over to the Active Singers box like I've already done here.

With your new singer now an active singer, you can then assign him/her to a track. To do this, right click on the Part you want to assign a new singer. You will see that your new singer is now available. In this example, I have Gumi singing the main melody and the left harmony. My new singer, Low Megpoid_English, is singing the harmony on the right, which you can hear in this clip.

Now, obviously, this won't give you a completely new and different Vocaloid. And Gumi doesn't now all of a sudden sound like a man. But, it does noticeably changes her register and gives you options for different voices in your songs if you only have one Vocaloid voice library.

I think it's best to do this (using a modified singer with extreme parameter changes) on harmony parts in the background. I wouldn't recommend using this on your main singer. Hope this helps! Keep rocking!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Vocaloid Song: Megumi Writes "Makeinu!" Part 3

Okay, folks, when we last left off, Megumi's song, Makeinu, had the backing guitars and drum tracks done. So what's left is adding the vocals, bass, and any additional guitars as well as mixing all the tracks together.

Entering notes into the Vocaloid editor can be tedious. What you should always do is to create separate parts for your verses and chorus. This way, you can enter your notes for the first verse and chorus and then just copy and paste the verse and chorus parts for any additional parts. You might have to make some slight note changes for the additional verses and choruses, but for the most part, the notes will be the same. So you would only need to put in new lyrics into the existing notes.

Always create separate parts for your verse and chorus!

You can see from the above screenshot, the verses and choruses are separate, and I've renamed the parts to Verse 1 and Verse 2, etc. To create a new part, make sure the track is actually selected (you'll know because the entire track will be tinted aqua) by clicking on the colored vertical bar on the left of the track. Then go to the menu bar and select Part(P) and click on Add Musical Part(A). That will create a new part.

Once you've entered all of your notes/lyrics for a part, go ahead and do your tuning. When you copy that part, all the tuning you've done is copied as well. You don't want to tune the whole thing if you don't have to! Tune the first verse and chorus and make adjustments to the copied verse and chorus parts.

I tend to concentrate on these things when tuning the notes: Velocity, Dynamics, Vibrato, and Portamento, Obviously of course, you'll need to pay attention to the phonemes and adjust them if you need to. Don't rely on the default phoneme. For sections where you have multiple notes that are the same, I will make minor adjustments to vary the pitch ever so slightly for each note.

Once I had everything sounding as good as I can get it to sound (to my ears), I exported the tracks separately. I do not mix down because I do my mixing in a separate program, Sonar X1.

My mixing skills are pretty limited. As such, I try not to overdo it with processing because it all adds up. Things may seem fine for each track, but when you listen to the whole mix together, it's too much, and then I have to back off everything! I guess the only advice I can say about mixing is to keep practicing and keep listening to songs whose mixes you like.

When Megumi likes to lay down two guitar tracks, I will pan those hard left and right. If she only lays down one track, I will duplicate it, pan hard left and right, and put a slight delay on the right track to open up the space. Guitars are routed to a separate buss where a slight reverb is added.

Megumi's vocals always are dead center. I will add a touch of reverb and delay. I never put compression on a Vocaloid voice. I don't like the sound of it on Vocaloids and I don't think it helps.

Yasuko's bass is also dead center. I will usually record it plugged straight into the preamp and later add a Guitar Rig bass effect to the bass track. Other than that bass tracks are always kept dry for me.

For the guitar solo, Megumi always likes to record it last. She wants to be able to hear everything to help guide what she should play. I generally like to put that slightly off center in the mix with a good dose of delay.

For the overall mix I will add EQ where the highs are boosted slightly and the mids are cut just a tad. And the final mix is boosted and compressed a little along with a brick wall limiter.

The thing about mixing is that you can be sure that what you like one day is something you won't the next day. Just give it some time, and you'll eventually hate what you mixed! I attribute this in part to the fact that I'm just not satisfied with my mixing skills at this point, and so I'm constantly doubting myself. I'd say on a scale of 1 to 10 where I want to be in mixing, I'm at a two or three. The only thing I can hope for is with practice, I'll get better in time, even if it's only in very small increments!

Anywhere, here is the fix mix for Makeinu! Keep rocking!