This week’s post can be enjoyed by anyone! – Hitomi
Creative musicians seem to have a hard time defining their music in words. When faced with the task of describing it in a concise manner, “original”, “unique-sounding”, and “cross-genre” are common results. And I empathize with that! Exposed to musical genres varying over time and cultures, most musicians, being music-lovers as well, draw from a rich array of musical backgrounds. And unless an individual is being hired to create music evocative of a specific genre, it seems like most individuals are out to create their own sound.
However, when potential listeners are exposed to musicians not through the music itself first, but through some form of information (name, site, reference, search, etc), verbal descriptions and implications are helpful (or at times crucial??) in deciding whether or not to pursue it. With no idea of what to expect, many people will not get to the, “just listen to the music” stage. So, from a practical standpoint, being able to verbalize can help the music’s existence in the world of humans (most of whom use words), though so many of us are reluctant to use the word “genre.”
After much deliberation, Nova’s musical description was decided upon as: progressive electro-acoustic pop.
On first listen, the “acoustic” aspect may not come to mind immediately, but this is a very important part of Nova’s music. So (after a long intro!), today’s post will be introducing some of our many acoustic instruments that were used on Periapsis (with pictures!).
According to Nick, real guitar is irreplaceable and crucial to the music (and I agree!!), so he pulled out the Strat and practiced several strumming passages over and over again until he had guitarists’ calluses. The subtleties in attacks, inflections, and sustains of guitar always evoke a raw realness for me. And yes, the short guitar fills are all by him too! Go Nick!
There is so much to say about the modern concept of electric guitar. The first real distorted guitar sounds occurred by sheer accident as a result of broken amps. Most musicians of the time were not into it at first, but some producers saw the potential of the new sound and started putting it in everything! And now, there is hardly a secular guitarist on the planet who doesn’t turn up the drive once and a while. And some who never turn it down.
The pure sound coming out of the instrument is violently destroyed. What does that mean in the music on a subconscious level? You can put the pieces together. Hendrix set his guitar on fire…because it logicially followed what was already going on.
I am a terrible guitar player. But it’s not hard to fool around and find a few little things that sound good.
The most varied and fun of the acoustic instruments were the many percussive instruments we used. These ranged from objects made for music-making purposes, to household and more obscure objects that we tested and experimented with. Some of the resulting sounds were achieved by experimentation and we used the ones we loved. Others were created after deliberately searching for a sound we already had in mind and/or needed in a specific part of a song. I foresee much more fun in the future with such experiments!
The goat-hoof shaker and maracas above, and the percussion frogs below, are examples of “instruments” we had and fit well within our songs. I really love these frogs. Normally, they sit by my door and I sometimes play them as I pass by. They never fail to uplift!
Our wide array of non-traditional percussion instruments included the pipes above. Hand-selected for their pitches and timbral capacities, these were used to fill a sound we heard in our heads, knew we wanted, and were trying to create. Each pipe is able to produce a wide variety of sounds, depending on where and how it’s played, and we achieved some personally satisfactory ones.
I’m hoping that Nova gets a Home Depot endorsement deal because it’s one of my favorite music stores.
Another fun set of percussive experiments were conducted with a collection of wine bottles set aside for music-making purposes. Not to worry; we did not consume the wine in one sitting. They were collected over a long period of time J. The picture above illustrates a segment of all of the empty bottles ordered by pitch.
We then constructed a cave to record the bottles in. The “Rabbit Ridge” bottles were a favorite; we filled them with water to attain desired pitches and then sampled (recorded) each of them being hit in six different ways (varying the strengths and speeds at which they were struck with two different “mallets”).
We made a few EXS24 sample patches from these. Some mapped a ton of differently pitched wine bottles out across a few octaves, and some pitch mapped a single sample across the entire range. Each was more appropriate for different situations. Any ideas which two songs they are on?
Bottle and “mallets” at home in the “cave.”
I regret recording this with a large diaphragm condenser. Small would have been the way to go, but it wasn’t immediately available at the moment we were formulating these ideas. The result from this were sounds that needed to be EQ’d all the way to Kalamazoo, and ended up sounding stuffier because of it.
Sidenote: My favorite ridiculously huge reverb on Logic’s Space Designer is “Big Cave,” and many of my friends make fun of me for it. So we made a little cave.
Back to the traditional instruments! We were fortunate enough to be able to record on a freshly-tuned baby grand piano for one of our songs. The experimenting that went on with the piano had to do entirely with the micing. We thought we knew how we wanted it done beforehand, but there was still much finagling and readjusting that had to be done. I’m happy to say that my mother recognized my piano playing upon first listening to the finished track! That itself says a lot about recording acoustically!
My friends make fun of me for this too, but I love a really close mic’d ultra compressed and dry soundboard-heavy piano sound. I think it’s from my silly loyalty to some of my favorite modern jazz pianists, and from always sticking my head in the piano when I was a kid. I didn’t have the gear needed to get that sound, but I tried nonetheless.
By titling this article “Part 1”, I hope to relay that there will be more posts on our acoustic instruments (partially because I have more photos I want to share). If you caught that, it will have been an successful example of verbal implications! Instruments to be discussed in the following “Instrument” posts include but are not limited to the following: plastic action figures, stacks of books, tubs of mud, badminton rackets, tennis balls, and saxophone.
Question of the week: Electric and acoustic instruments…on their honeymoon or filing for divorce?