MsP Production Blog

Archive for January, 2010

Pissed Off Because I Forgot Key People in the Phase 3 Outro

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Yeah, so I messed up.  Vincent is in the credits section of this outro, but I forgot to shout him out as part of GNP.  I know that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when you shout out a full crew and you miss a person, indirectly it’s almost like you’re saying he isn’t a part of it.  So my apologies to Vincent.  I want to redo the outro to put him in there and mention some others I want to name as well.

I mention at the end that I never mean to forget people, but if I really wanted to put everyone in, it could be a 12 minute track, and I wanted to avoid that.  The first take of it actually was almost 15 minutes, and that wasn’t going to go.  So some parts I was rushing through, and later on I realized I didn’t put in Vincent with the rest of GNP as well as other people that I hang out with that I should’ve shouted out in with my baller people from Dumont.

So anywho, here it is.  I just wanted to post this up because when “Phase 3 – L.Y.R.I.C.A.L. Without Fear” does get released on iTunes on March 1st, I want it known that I am aware that I forgot to put people in and I will try to resubmit it with the names in the right places. =]  So my apologies to those I missed in this outro.

Anyway, more to come. =]


More Phase 4 Jazz, Mixdown of the 2nd Draft

Friday, January 29th, 2010

So this is the results of the first second draft.  Not too bad.  The scratches you hear obviously won’ t be part of the actual song, they’re just meant as a tag in case somebody wants to try something slick.

Here’s the rundown of what’s in the recording:

1. Sequenced drums
2. Snares from “Hit the Road Jack”
3. Recorded drums, live: Beta 52 on the kick, PG58 on the snare, AT2020 overhead (mostly the ride cymbal with natural reverb)
4. Live guitar, Epiphone Les Paul Special II, direct through a Studio Projects VTB1 preamp with tube injection at 12 o’clock, through a Samson C-Com16 compressor, IK Multimedia Amplitube DUO on the Bluesy Combo setting5. Cakewalk Studio Instruments Bass Guitar (later to be replaced by an actual live bass [Epiphone Viola Bass])
6. ReFX Nexus on Ballad Grand Piano
I’m enjoying this so far, and I can see where I can take this and maybe add in some hip-hop elements.  I may employ the vocal talents of one Harmony Speaks to join me on this.  We’ll see. =]

More coming soon!


Starting Phase 4… Adding Some Jazz

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010


A couple of semesters ago, Fall 08 to be exact, I signed up for Jazz Ensemble I, which was the intro class where you would play Jazz music and learn whatever you could in the process.  It was a great experience, because since I was used to playing pop/rock or making beats, being introduced to jazz was overwhelming at first.  I thought I was pretty good at guitar solos until I took this class.  I ‘m used to just following the scale that my ear picked up, and going with it.

I was taken aback though by these jazz guitar soloists, and when I was asked to solo, I was pretty much embarrassed. =]

For those who don’t know, Jazz for the most part follows this format (at least this is how it was in the class I took with the songs we played, and I only took 1 semester out of the 4 possible):

1. Head (the introduction, some kind of melody with the chord structure) once or twice
2. You go to each soloist where they would improvise their solo on top of the chord structure that was prototyped in the “head.”  You may hear the chord structure quite a few times dependent on the soloist, but because each soloist will play the parts different (either because of the different instruments or just different playing style), the song is very dynamic even though the chords repeat.
3. Play the Head again with some kind of ending

A few reasons why it took me a bit  to get used to playing jazz:

1. Although I know how to play all the majors, minors, 7’s (majors, minors, and dominants), I couldn’t think of how to play diminished and dminished 7 chords on the fly (though I knew what they were in theory).
2. I also didn’t know what a minor 7 flat 5 was until I took Music Theory I during the Fall 09 semester.
3. I had no idea that there were Blues scales, so there were many times I played where I was either sharp or flat on a note because I was following regular scales.

So every time we’d go around the room and it was my turn to play a guitar solo, I’d shake my head letting Professor Krikun know that I wanted him to skip me.

The last few times I played though I started to get the hang of  it just by practice.  My solos just became based on the chord rather than the scale.  If the chord changed to an Eb minor then I would play in Eb minor, for example, rather than trying to guess what the overall key is and play to that.

I ended up shifting to bass almost halfway through the semester, and had a blast doing that.  What made it even better was that I bought a bass specifically for it: The Epiphone Viola Bass.

The Epiphone Viola Bass is in the same shape as Paul McCartney’s Hofner bass.  It’s hollow body, so it has a nice round tone to it that is usually absent from solid body basses.  I’m a big Beatles fan, so playing a bass that had that look and feel to it was great.

At that point, I started really grasping the basic rhythmic points to a bossa, a 12-bar blues, and so on.  I learned how to properly do a walking bassline.  A walking bassline is a bassline that you hear in blues songs and other jazzy tracks where you can hear the bassline consistently throughout the song, giving it a nice little thump that keeps the rhythm moving every eighth note or so.

The only successful song I ever did a solo for in that class was a bass solo, and it was for a jazz rendition of Sam Cooke’s Summertime in D minor.  The song’ll be forever embedded in me because it was the first time I felt like an actual jazz player playing that walking bassline then performing a cohesive solo that fit and sounded decent.

Now that the history lesson has been given, let’s bring it back to today for some relevance.

With Phase 3 completely done, it was time to, as Jay-Z and Swiss would put it, go “On to the Next One.”

I see Phases 1 to 3 as a trilogy, and I want to start Phase 4 with some new ideas.  Plus, I started to find the track listing format that I followed for three albums to become limiting, so I felt it’s time to start with a clean slate.  Maybe Phase 4 could even start a new trilogy.

So what I want to do, is somehow make a jazzy rap track, with the rhythm of that Summertime rendition.  Even something like Ray Charles’s “Hit the Road Jack.”  The basic points being that the drums are fast and the bassline walks.

The drums play in double time what most rap songs are at.  Figure a good range for rap (NY style) would be somewhere between 80 and 100bpm give or take a few beats.

I did some experiments, and I found that the tempo for this particular project would sit well around 180bpm.

I did a quick a rendition in FLStudio of that version of Summertime, and using that as a template, I will morph it into something original with the same type of rhythm.  I’ll post the results in the next few days. =]

This is just the beginning of course, so let’s see how far I can push the envelope before it breaks.  I don’t want it to stray TOO far off; as I want to stay faithful to the hip-hop roots.

Stay tuned!  And remember, March 1, 2010.. Phase 3 will be on iTunes!


The Art of Comping, The Need To Upgrade My Mic, and Phase 3 is Finally Done!

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Last night, Destiny Soprano came over to re-record her part for “The Bomb Squad.”  She had previously recorded her vocals, but we both had gripes with that session. Her gripe was her performance, as she felt she could have done better. My gripe was that I felt I could’ve recorded her voice better.

My main issue with the recording was the fact that I forgot to change the preset on the Samson CCom16 Compressor from Aggressive Vocal to Smooth Vocal or just to bypass.  This caused her vocals to sound like they hit a wall, and I didn’t get the fullness of Destiny’s vocals.  That was my first conclusion, but by the end of the second session, I found out that wasn’t my only issue.

We met up this past Thursday to try to re-record.  Unfortunately, this time, Destiny had done her share of raising her voice a couple of times for various reasons throughout the day.  The result was Destiny’s throat hindering her performance.

Her part on this song (at least for the first half) was singing the first four bars of the chorus to “Alone” by Heart.  Anyone who knows this song and has tried to sing it knows that following Ann Wilson’s vocals is not an easy task.  Ann Wilson has a very strong voice with that definitive presence and the ability to reach very high notes.

Destiny’s presence in general when singing has a slight similarity in terms of strength that Ann Wilson does.  The notes on this half of the verse are relatively high, and after making quite a few attempts, we settled on a few takes, and moved on to the second half.  I wrote the second half, and it was slightly lower in range than the first half.  Problem is, however, after going at the first half really hard, she found it difficult to adjust to singing lower because she had already strained herself trying to do the first half.

To salvage the session, I ended up having to comp the vocals, using a combination of the first session and the second.

For those who don’t know what comping is, comping is taking parts of different takes of the same verse, and putting the best pieces from all the takes together in sequence so that it sounds like what would be the best possible take.

To do so, you just have to cut and paste the snips you need from the different takes together in your multi-track mixer on your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation [if you do your audio on a computer, that is considered a DAW]).  You have to listen to each take carefully, jot down which parts you consider the best, then do the actual comping.

Figure 2010-01-24/1: Comping vocals, notably track 2 and 3.

Example of comping

As you can see, what’s on track 2 and 3 are similar, except that track 2 has little snippets from different takes put together, and track 3 has a single instance recorded take.  Note also on track 2 that each snippet crossfades into adjacent snippets  slightly overlapped so that the transition between snippets are smooth.

Considering Destiny’s throat, this was the best option considering also that we were trying to meet the deadline for the 1/23 and a supplementary recording session would not be possible before deadline.  Also, because the takes from both sessions had very solid performances in various parts of different takes in different snips (the second session had 209 takes, each take having it’s solid points), it was very possible for me to find very good recordings of every phrase in different parts (it’s best to cut and paste by phrase, and not by words or syllables, because cutting in between phrases can sound choppy), and after comping, the combination would sound like a single instance solid take.

Aside from this though, there is still the issue of the recorded quality of Destiny’s vocals, as the second take also felt like some nuances of her voice were not being recorded accurately on the mic.  I concluded that it might be a good idea now to upgrade my mic to one that may be able to more accurately record Destiny’s voice and improve the recorded quality of others as well.

So right now, I’m eye-ing the Audio-Technica 2035, which is an upgrade from my Audio Technica 2020.  The Rode NT-1A is also on my short list, as well as one or two others.  I’m looking for the best mic under $200, and those two have been recommended to me.

Let the mic search commence!

Also, “Phase 3 – L.Y.R.I.C.A.L. Without Fear” was submitted today through TuneCore.  Looks like March 1, 2010 is the day we will publicly announce that it’s available on online through iTunes.  After five long years, it’s finally done! =D

And yes, there will be a Phase 4.  Tentative Title:

Phase 4 – Response.Redirect

As always, stay tuned for more!


EDIT 8/23/2010: Phase 4 has a new name: SymboLYRICism.  Peep here for details.

One More Recording To Go and Phase 3 is Finished!

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

All the tracks on the album are done.  All I’m waiting for is Destiny Soprano to re-record her part on “Bomb Squad” and it’s a wrap!  She’s coming by tomorrow to record her part, and as soon as the mixing is over, it’s being sent over to TuneCore and it’ll be on its way to iTunes.  March 1, 2010 is the tentative release date, as it usually takes 4-6 weeks for iTunes to have stuff up via TuneCore.

I released “Phase 2 – Lyrics to an Identity” almost 5 years ago.  It took 5 years to make this album, and it’s gone through so many iterations and name changes that at one point, during a low point in my life, I didn’t think the album was going to come out.  I have to thank God for that one (and everything else), because ever since I started playing in the church band every Sunday and cleaning up some of the stuff in my life that needed cleaning, I became revitalized and re-inspired.  I’m not exactly making Christian music right now totally, though I have made Christian songs in the past, but He’s blessed me anyway with inspiration, wisdom, and freedom of creativity.

The acronym in the title of the album, “Phase 3 – L.Y.R.I.C.A.L. Without Fear,” stands for Leave Your Regrets In Christ And Live.  This is the basically the approach I took with the album as time went on.  The songs that were going to originally be part of the album were all pretty standard, and although I love every song I make, it was the songs that were different from what I’m used to doing that were the most enjoyable to make.  There were three guitar solos (“Mostly Boast,” “Found Me,” “The Bomb Squad”), a video game sample (“Call to Arms” from Final Fantasy VI), a symphony orchestra (courtesy of Project SAM Symphobia, on “Round and Round”), capoeira rhythm (“Roll Your Windows”), blaring choirs with my “Bleeding Heaven” technique (on “Devastator,” more on the “Bleeding Heaven” technique later),  multi-layer samples (“Roll Your Windows”), Beatles style build up and scream (“Mostly Boast”), live drums, bass and piano recordings (“Live Hip-Hop,” available on the iTunes version of the album) and other things.  Although some signatures of mine are there, this album sounds distinctly different from my past two, and I think it’s for the better.

As far as concepts go, I think “The Bomb Squad” was the most fun.  You also have “Found Me” and “Round and Round” which are both incredibly personal to me.   “Mostly Boast” was the record that I let loose on and I stopped caring about what people would say if I did certain things in my music.  “Call to Arms” was actually inspired by a crew of people I was running with that was finally getting over past beefs to go have fun again.  “4 My Ghostwriter” actually makes the idea of a ghostwriter a more positive thing (listen to the song and you’ll see why).  “Do Something” was my declaration that I wouldn’t just sit around and do nothing, especially after my best friend Rain past away in 2007.  “Every Move” was me slowly getting to the point where I wouldn’t let people dictate what I rhyme about.  “Handle Our Biz,” “Spear,” and “You Need To..” were getting my people involved with some 5fam love.   “Devastator” was simply me kicking ass and getting you to want to kick ass too; in some ways an “I OWN YOU” part two.

I had a lot of fun with this album, and about just as much frustration.  All the frustration was worth it though, and what resulted was an album that I’m most proud of and can’t wait to show the world.  I’ve even got a plan for the songs I will perform, and hopefully I can gain some traction with some new listeners.

I have to thank everyone who helped me on this album with their contributions: Harmony Speaks, Destiny Soprano, CoCoa, DiMpLeZ, Brian Bullion, FoRcE oNe, Less, K-Maculate, ADM, Boy Gnyus, Vincent, Takewun, JC and SL.  Each recording was a fun (and funny) experience.  Especially “The Bomb Squad,” which took two years to complete and everyone in MsP had a role and their voice recorded on it.

Hopefully, when you listen to it, you’ll learn some things from it, whether it’s personal to you or on a musical/lyrical level if you are a musician.  Either way, most importantly, I hope you enjoy the music when it comes out on March 1, 2010.

Thanks for reading also!  More to come!


Phase 3 Nearing Completion… Future Plans

Monday, January 18th, 2010

With “Bomb Squad” in its release candidate phase (I recorded my part yesterday), and “Intro III” recorded (done yesterday as well), this only leaves “My Thoughts Exactly III,” “Thank You III,” and “Outro III” left to record.  These last three would only take me an hour all together to record as none of them are songs.  After that point, the album goes directly into Tunecore and FINALLY… on its way to iTunes.. hopefully by March 1st. =]

Now comes the planning for the future.  I’m looking to promote this one more than I have promoted the past two albums, and I have a lot of confidence in this album.  I feel that there are many strong tracks that will be alluring to different audiences, and with the melding of unorthodox elements within these songs I feel that I am bringing something quite unique to the table.  Promoting will include performing in some open mics and a video.  I may do some YouTube tactics as well, but I don’t want to use the same tactics everyone else is using.

Hopefully, I can bring in some iTunes sales.  Although the numbers haven’t been anywhere near stellar, the fact that I have been regularly selling a song here and there means that there are people who are interested.  This album, I believe, has the power to bring some more people in at a much better rate.

Here are the projects that are currently in progress:

1. Project Inhalor [adm/mnshyn]
2. Wind Beneath My Wings [dstnysprn]

I will most definitely be working on a Phase 4 once Phase 3 has gone to iTunes.  What will Phase 4 be?  It will definitely build on the ideas of Phase 3, but I want to bring in some other elements as well that I have not used.  Different time signatures (5/4 and 6/8 being possibilities at the moment), different keys and chord structures (particularly more use of diminished chords and other 4 note chords aside from dominant 7th), and new sampling techniques.  I want my music to still have the feel of a hip-hop rooted foundation, so it still won’t strive too far from that.  Some people strive to get the old sound back (those still wanting that 94 boom bap), while others are trying a new sound that do not sit well with the traditional heads (snap/crunk/hyphy/signature dance).  I’m trying to forge a new direction that would seem logical and fitting to everyone yet still sound fresh and innovative.

I still would like to do an MsP compilation album to really show what we’re about.  MsP’s got such a lovely array of talent, and people need to see (or in this case hear) what we can do.

With that being said, I would like to help all the members create at least 1 or 2 songs this year at the minimum.  It would be interesting to note whether or not that goal will be achieved by December 31, 2010.

There’s also Flight, who we will finally get to see again after 3 years!  I don’t know if he will be interested in making music again, but you know I will have to ask.

MsP will have an informal meeting on February 6, 2010 over Chicken and Rice, so maybe we can trade notes there.

Interesting times!  Let’s see what this year has in store for us.





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