Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Expanding Horizons

I had predicted and sensed another mini-evolution arising. 

That of original music as part of virtual reality offerings. 

I was privileged to witness it first-hand at Club Image's presentation of Monster's Tea Party which had original cinematic theme music at the introduction and conclusion. I was very happy to see that or more appropriately, hear that.

You are probably asking yourself how that applies to you if you are not an accomplished musician or have no musical training. Well today is not yesteryear. Times have truly changed.

With the latest developments in hardware and software plus the plethora of free YouTube training videos and ever-widening coverage of Wikipedia as a source of learning basic-concepts of creative disciplines as well as other researchable online content, just about anyone can learn music creation and production without going to a formalized school or live-training situation, thanks to the evolution in training and education where the people themselves have taken it upon themselves to control, streamline and concentratethe core basics of various artistic learning disciplines, removing the air and fluff and fast-tracking you to and thru the basics. So if you've always wanted to delve into music but never had the time or knew where to start, don't think it is too late. This even applies to you if you have never played an instrument or had a music lesson. Its not too late.

What you need to have is:

1) Love of music

2) Desire to CREATE ORIGINAL music, be it instrumental or song form)
3 Time on your hands
4) Some extra rainy-day $
5) Drive and determination
6) A fair amount of geek-i-ness
7) Patience

The obstacles to learning which have existed have now been addressed in various forms:

1) Playing the wrong notes. New developments keep you from playing bad or wrong notes.  Learning scales. What notes go with what other notes? Scales are simplified by being predefined. 

2) Chord progressions. They give you chords that work together. All you need is an 'ear' of how you want something to sound. Wrong chord sequences  can be prevented. Sort of like SL animations. You can't really make a wrong awkward move. What you are judged on is your choice of combinations of animations. Music creation has gotten to that point. And I suspect it has or will be that way with other creative disciplines you might want to learn and master, not just music. That being the elimination of 'rule-violating choices'.

3) Confused by black notes with white notes on a keyboard? An option not exists to disable black notes and replace them with white notes, simplifying the matter (for some) so that you only play white notes as part of the allowable scale (notes that work well when played in various combinations).

4) With a keyboard-controller you can play other instruments as there are now 'software instruments' for every real instrument and a lot of unreal ones.

5) Getting to the end. Now digital audio workstations have workflow built in so that you can go from an idea thru rhythm, chords, melody, arrangement, mixing to a finished mastered mp3 or wav file in a day or less. And there are internet distribution methods for getting your creations heard. 

 Don't know how to play an instrument? If you are still alive, you were born at the right time as there are sooooo many people creating music who admittedly cannot play instruments. They just have a good idea of how they want something to sound and know how to make good musical choices and combinations.

6) Want to score cinematic themes? Its made easy as they use actual  sampled musical phrasing from horn sections with automatic part arranging , rules for string arrangements as associated with articulations done automatically, as well as other instruments like guitar. Bottom line is they remove the ability to play something atonal (unless that is your intent). Its been analyzed and simplified and now there are rules that you follow that make you sound more like a seasoned composer in a very compressed time frame. 

7) Fear of playing notes out of time...too fast...to slow..missing the beat?Devices have quantization meaning they will force your notes and chords to land on the proper beat

8) Want to sing but cant sing a note in tune? They have pitch changes and auto-tune and voice-boxes. You can even back up your own lead vocal with a chorus: your own backup singers that you create from yourself. You can sample your voice and use it as an instrument, changing its characteristics.

9) Want to compose different styles of music? Reggae, blues, gospel, hip-hop, dub-step, classical? All learn-able via the web. People are giving away their secrets and  techniques in droves in capsule-sized how-to videos. From how to create a drum-roll, to creating a reggae bass-line and reggae bubble to string-arranging. What instruments are used for different musical styles. 

10) Don't feel you have the manual dexterity to 'play' on time, in key. There is 'step-mode' where you can enter notes (melody & chords or rhythmic beats)  for each instrument into the devices one beat at a time. There is an answer for every musical-creating hurdle that you can imagine, short of time and will and imagination. But even with imagination there are a plethora of pre-created musical loops you can select from or use as inspiration.

The reason I am mentioning this evolution is that I woke up from a 20 year sleep away from music-stuff to discover incredulous advances in music creation. I am totally amazed at the progress.  It has been compartmentalized to the extreme. The price of equipment required is 1% of what it used to be. 

It is affordable to the common man now with a recording-studio you can hold in your hands. The approach and intensity to offer "more" and "more" at approachable price-points seems never-ending; on a record-frenzied pace thatis out of this world. Accompany that with the availability of 'how-to' for every part of the creative process is 'there' on the web and 'searchable'. I had no idea how many people were sharing 'know-how'. So many 'common-man' presentations.

Also the fact that you can learn at your own pace and time-schedule, one-on-one with internet video that you can stop, rewind, replay...you can even ask questions in the comments and get them answered. You can even become an internet star in your own right, on small to respectable scales. But beware, the scene is crowded. But get enough subscribers and you could even bring in a few extra $ to accompany well-deserved accolades.

Another HUGE advantage is that because you can choose your own song tempo, you can compose original works that match predefined SL animation tempos and have perfect synchronization. Granted, you can already do that using free existing audio editing software's abilities to time-stretch (changing the tempo/length of a sound clip without changing its pitch). Some upscale music software even allows for embedded video so you have the convenience of seeing how well your composition matches a 'video of your dance'.

Its not too late to learn even if you have never ever played a musical instrument in your life. If you have taken piano or guitar or other instrument or some basic music theory, it will only help you along your journey.

What would an ideal system cost? From about 1k to 3k depending on your budget. This assumes you have a computer. If you are reading this then you probably do. Then you need a controller or control-surface (either a with keyboard and/or padded device) and a digital-audio-workstation which is software. Keyboard controllers come in a range of sizes from 25 to 49 to 61 to 88 keys. So if you are cramped for space...there is one for you. Each has 'octave-shifting' up and down so you don't sacrifice not having a full set of keys. Padded devices are also used in place of a keyboard. they have soft pres-sable square pads that trigger sounds, great for creating a beat but also have the ability to play chords and melodies.

Now days they are blurring the line between controller and digital-audio-workstations (called DAWs) into single devices, simplifying even more. That might be a recommended starting place. And there are devices well under 1k.

On the flip-side, because everyone can now be artistically musical and appeasing to our aural senses with much less effort and or natural skill, there is a wide sea of "mediocrity of very good talent". A lot of 'good' musical creations and creators. So many that you could get lost in the 15-minutes-of-fame carousel if you are looking to break and become an overnight sensation or make a statement, a living, and/or standout. 

The man at the music store said that "it almost seems like cheating" when I talked to him about where music-creation is today from where it used to be. I got where he was coming from. Shouldn't sounding good take time and effort, blood, sweat and tears like it used to? Well now we are at the point of 'how well you make choices and combine those choices. Not unlike how well we choose combine animations into a sequence. Some will fair better than others and the will likely result in how much blood, sweat, and tears, time and effort, goes into that process.

Sort of akin to spell-checkers and grammar-checkers helping to make writing more palatable from to the trained language-rule-ear, these writing technical auto-correctors don't make you a more interesting writer. Such are the modern-day tools of musical creations. They won't make you an overnight YouTube sensation, (well there is that remote chance) ...but they will help you avoid the most common troublesome and discouraging technical aural missteps. Your musical spelling and musical  grammar will be auto-corrected.

 You still must have a musical-voice that you feel needs to be heard that has integrity and originality. So perhaps a more modest reasonable and attainable goal would be personal satisfaction and a sharing amongst friends along with faithful social-media fans and followers. Also, scoring your own and/or others dance creations in part or in total is nothing to turn ones nose up at.

So in conclusion, if you have time and inclination, the learning of new craft is at hand, be it music or some other artistic endeavor. Research it online. See how it might translate and or augment your creative virtual-world endeavors. Does it feed your cravings? I know of at least one SL venue that allows for the performance of original musical works. I am sure there are a lot more.

Also the internet not allows for but is ideal for artistic collaborations. 

 And don't forget the sheer fun of 'learning something new' enjoying your own creations, sharing them with others, and being something tomorrow that you were not today and seeing that pattern repeat for days, weeks, months, even years to come.



  1. WOW thank you Yummy, going to show this to my daughter. She is a musician and loves to sing. This will be very exciting for her. She is already a little mad scientist with technology, this may provide her with an exciting and fulfilling new creative outlet.

  2. Glad to hear if this can open a door for just one person. The fact she has tech skills is a big plus. I was just researching what might be a good entry-level 'system' if i had a child interested in music and singing foremost and a bit tech-savvy and I came up with the PreSonus Music Creation Suite because its relatively inexpensive and entry level and has all thats needed for 'recording vocals' and creating music to go with the vocals. $299. Here is a link.http://www.presonus.com/products/Music-Creation-Suite. Not sure what genre she is interested in. PreSonus makes the 'hot new' DAW today (you can read up on Studio One Artist http://www.presonus.com/products/studio-one - . There is also a free version you can download) I think which is the software for recording her vocal and instrumental tracks. She will get lots of virtual musical instruments and effects processors with this package. Only requirement is that she will need a computer.to run the software. And if she is more into modern-day 'beat-singing' then I would look into the Maschine product line from Native-Instruments which is an all-in-one groove-based music-creating solution but doesnt come with a mic or audio-interface and cables and is fun to just see what can be done later on if that is a path of interest. http://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/maschine/

    Here is a 'getting started video' on this suite and from here she can watch the rest of the videos in the series to know in advance what she is getting into.

    YouTube is your friend and everyone volunteers to show you how to create with every product you might be interested in. Hope this is a starting point.

  3. Ooouuuuuuu passing her a link to this! I will get her whatever she needs to pursue this.