Missing Leroy - Phased Thermin and Notion5

Posted: 3/20/2015 2:26:19 AM

From: Northern NJ, USA

Joined: 7/29/2014

Well, I was in a nutty mood yesterday as we were talking about using Notion5 for background arrangements. So I took a tune in the drawer I wrote 10 years ago or so and did up an arrangement. When I wrote this I was thinking about Leroy Anderson - one of America's great melodists. I bet there isn't a person in the country that has not heard "Sleigh Ride". But he wrote so many other great tunes ("Syncopated Clock", "Fiddle-Faddle", etc.).

Anyway I had him in mind when I wrote the tune, but it was just a melody with chords then. Now it has some friends playing along courtesy of Notion5's samples. I only used the sounds that come with Notion5 here as we were talking about that. Just a hint if you are using MIDI notation programs to create accompaniments. They sound a heck of a lot better if you can play in a line or two (here I played in the sax and trumpet lines on a MIDI keyboard - the rest was created by the entered notation).

The goal of the piece was to practice playing in the lower register (which I do not do nearly as much as I should - maybe because I prefer the upper range on the theremins I own). However I was not crazy about the Burns B3 sound there. Not enough grit. So on a lark I ran the recording through Antares Warm tube saturation plugin on a low crunch setting and then ran that through the great PSP N2O effects plugin that can create just about any effect you want. I used a phased patch trying to get a sound that was kind of voice like, kind of muted trumpet/trombone-like. Definitely no longer sounds like a Burns! Using the phasing definitely is an interesting sound on the theremin.

Actually, I have a friend who has a small jazz ensemble. I now have a goal of practicing hard and using this piece as my first performance if I get the guts. Hey, it's Jazz so if your pitch is off a bit in the right direction, you'll be ok. At least that's my theory! Can't wait as my Etherwave is soon coming back from Moog.

Here it is. I think I'll experiment with a number of different effects until I get just the right one for this piece.

Missin' Leroy - Phased Theremin

Posted: 3/20/2015 1:09:32 PM

From: Northern NJ, USA

Joined: 7/29/2014

So I think over the next week or so, I'm going to see what I can do to improve the performance, as this is more a "MIDI Mockup" right now. It needs the following:

1. The levels between the instruments I played in and the notated instruments are a bit off. This is because Notion attaches MIDI keyboard velocities to notes when you play and it uses an internal scaled velocity for notes entered in notation (as the notation program will normally scale all dynamics based on what dynamic indications you enter - p, ff, etc.). One thing I did do is export each individual track as a sound file and import those as separate tracks into the DAW where I can place dynamic automation on the track in a much more flexible manner than I can in the notation program (but it needs more tweaking).

2. The drum part just uses a couple canned jazz patterns that come with Notion. There is not enough variation in the part and it becomes a bit boring and to my ears distracting. It needs some riffs and change plus a bit of dynamic variation.

3. Optimize the effects. The theremin sound is not quite what I want. Need to experiment to get a more jazzy, scatty vocal/trombone like sound. Also need to tweak all the processing. I really added a bit too much and it tends to overly compress things, plus there is some compression plugins in there too as well as some additional reverb plugins (used a convolution reverb on the final mix using the a real recording studio impulse data set). Theremin sound needs to be brighter. Maybe some use of EQ here and there.

4. Last but not least. Better theremin playing with more articulation could not hurt! Practice, Practice, Practice.

But I think this gives a good idea of the power of Notion which IMHO is a wonderful tool, especially for beginners as the learning curve is not that great and I feel the best bang for your buck if you want notation and respectable performance with decent sounds not requiring you to buy additional sample libraries (though Notion does have some add on libraries for sale that are not hat expensive).

It only took a few hours to do this arrangement and the sound of the instruments is quite acceptable for "stock" instruments that come with a Notation program (I feel the best of any Notation program, especially the popular instruments like bass, guitar, etc). But no notation program will let you create as realistic an orchestral sound as using the DAW with better sample libraries and playing all the lines in yourself. No on in the music industry uses notation program input to generate the music you hear on TV or commercials or movies. It's all done with Cubase, Sonar, Pro Tools and other complete DAW/Production environments like that and playing lines in. Having a decent DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is a must (but with just Notion you can do quite a bit to start out).

But of course, if you have a different notation program that works well for you - go for it. Get cracking and lets hear what you are all doing.

Posted: 3/28/2015 7:06:36 PM

From: Northern NJ, USA

Joined: 7/29/2014

I redid the track for the Theremini crowd run through the same processing (though I toned down the Antares "Warm" tube saturation plugin from a mild "crunch" to a mid "warm" setting). I do think I prefer the phased sound of the Theremini over that of the Burns B3 Pro. Much more the "old 78" sound I was after that blends in better with the Notion instruments I'm using here.

Which leads me to an interesting experience I had with a friend of mine who is an excellent Jazz guitarist. I met him recently after not seeing him for years. We always talk music, so it got to the point in the conversation where I said, "You'll never guess what I'm into now". Immediately he said "Theremin?" - thinking it was the weirdest thing he could think of. After about minute of laughing, we started talking theremin. 

So I sent him links to some of the stuff I was doing after my six+ months or so of struggling with "the beast". He thought it was really interesting, but made a point to say he liked the Theremini stuff the best. Goes to show that "music is in the ear of the beholder" (possibly the fact that the Theremini pieces are more in tune could have had something to do with it - which of course is kind of half of the point of playing it).

I really do think practicing the Theremini in a slightly quantized state helps me play better in tune when I play the analog theremin (though I still have a long way to go there). This version was using Theremini pitch correction at about 9 O'Clock. Not a lot - still want to have some "wavering" in there for this piece and let a bit of vibrato through (as if you set the pitch correction too high you are going to wind up with trills, not vibrato - maybe ok if you want to play Baroque music where you typically don't use vibrato to be in style). Also the phaser tends to compress the Theremini quite a bit and kind of elides some notes that I don't fully articulate, but I'm ok with it in this case.

Missin' Leroy - Theremini Version


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