Podcast: “Ray of Light (Enhanced Version Zero)”

I’m into this GarageBand Rock music composition groove recently. Here’s my 4th rock-instrumental. It’s actually Work-In-Progress but this version sounds quite OK as a background track to an iMovie I have in mind, so I’m posted it up.

or Listen >>> Ray Of Light (Enhanced Version Zero)
Playing Time: 4 min 18 secs
[Archive.org details]

Why “Ray of Light”? I wanted a title that signified hope. For this track, I drew inspiration from a track titled “A Love Eternal” from Joe Satriani’s “Super Colossal“. I wanted to try composing something with that kind of emotive feel (keyword is TRY!). I noticed the underlying percussion beat was a Shaker.

To find out what was the Beat Per Second to the Joe Satriani song, I opened up GarageBand and played a simple drum loop. Then played the song in iTunes, so now I have both the drum loop and the Joe Satriani song playing. Went back to GarageBand and adjusted the BPS till the drum loop matched the Satriani song. That’s how I figured out it was at 80 BPS. 🙂

This time I also decided to keep a more comprehensive record of how this song was produced. I didn’t really take notes every step of the way. Merely scribblings of what stage I was at and how long it took me. In writing the steps, I referred to the GarageBand screens and recalled what was it I did. I started everything on Saturday night around 11.50pm, and completed it on Sunday evening. Completed in two sessions (each session was continuous — what can I say? I enjoyed the process so much I wasn’t tired at all). Total time for this project turned out to be approximately 12 hours.

Basic Chords:

D/ A/ G
A/ Bm/ A

Bm/ A/ D/ (A)/ G/ Bm/ A

G/ A/ Bm
G/ Bm/ A
G/ A/ Bm
G/ Bm/ E

How it was done

Session 1: (Saturday evening 30 Sept 06, spillover to Sunday morning 1 Oct 06)
1) Percussion/ Drum tracks. Set at 80 BPS. Combination of Shaker, “70s Ballad Drums” (base layer throughout the song), “Classic Rock Beat” (for the Chorus), “Modern Rock Drums” (for the Break)
Ray of Light - Drums
[Click for larger image]

2) Recorded the rhythm tracks (Dreamy Shimmer) for the stanza and chorus and the Break. Then edited and replicated for the whole song, and adjusted the percussion/ drum tracks. This set the length and “basic infrastructure” for the whole song.
[Part 1 & 2 took approx. 3 hours]
Ray of Light - Rhythms
[Click for larger image]

3) Adjusted the volume settings for each track. This was a departure from my usual practice, where I left the track volume adjustment till last, but I’m glad I did it differently. This meant I could finalise the volume setting for the basic layers (percussion & rhythm) and it made the recording levels easier to set for subsequent layers.
[This took approx. 1 hour]

4) Added the Bass track. I recorded with my electric guitar (not a bass guitar) and once I was happy with it, I lowered the pitch so that it sounded like a bass. I chose the “Studio Direct Box Warm” bass guitar effect.
[This took approx. 1.5 hours]
Ray of Light - Bass
[Click for larger image]

5) Added a distortion layer for the chorus track (“American Overdrive + Spread Stereo Chorus”).
[This was about 1 hour]

6) I felt the percussion layer needed more presence. Played around with the Echo, Reverb, and Equalizer settings for the snare/ bass/ sharpness settings.
[This was about 1 hour]
Ray of Light - Additional Rhythm/ Modified Bass + Drums
[Click for larger image]

7) On a whim, I decided to record the lead melody and solo. This was more to practice but I found it useful to record it down anyway. Often, I would hit some really good notes and these I would edit and retain for the final song.
[This was about 1.5 hours, and at this stage, I have played the song several times already.]

Session 2: (Sunday, 1 Oct 06)
8) For some reason, I felt the drums and snare needed to be adjusted. Played around with the settings and effects. Then I also adjusted the Bass settings by giving it a boost using the equalizer (“Bass Boost” setting)

9) I added the Cymbals to song to give more “kick” to the Break and ending Chorus.
[Approx. 2 hours for part 9 & 10]

10) At this point, I played the song from start to finish and felt it sounded OK if it was to be used as some background music for a movie or something. So I did some final adjustments to the volume and converted the file to MP4 (named it the “Zero Version”). I played the MP4 file in iTunes and discovered the snare had too much echo, so returned to the file and removed the Echo setting.

11) On a whim (again), I edited the earlier recording of the lead (in part 7) and found that some parts weren’t too bad. So I spent some time editing and moving the spliced parts around, creating a double track, trying stereo & pan effects. Net result was a solo for the Break and for the final Chorus portions.

12) Because of the solo track, the ending of the song now seemed a bit odd. I adjusted the percussion to end together, put a “fade out” for the distortion rhythm, and added the cymbals to end the song. Now I had something more than the Zero Version but I named the file “Enhanced Zero Version”. I didn’t consider the song as completed. It was a step up from Zero Version, and still more suited for background music. When I start on the melody and solo recording, I would just turn off the layer in this song.
[Approx. 2 hours]

13) After converting the tracks to MP4, I listened to it in iTunes. Sounded OK although I would have wanted the distortion for the Break to have more “body”. Decided to adjust that layer up and compensate by adjusting down the rhythm layer. In doing so, I realised the rhythm layer for that part needed a variation. I tried adjusting the reverb and equalizer settings but in the end I created it as another track (Acoustic Guitar Echo). Just before posting, I raised the levels of the distortion tracks to the chorus parts, as it sounded more impactful that way.

14) And this is how the final Version Zero looks like (the “Version Zero” is without the lead guitar parts and the drums and shaker percussion extend just a little longer):
Ray of Light - Enhanced Version Zero

It’s good enough to be used for an iMovie project I have in mind. I’m certainly going to try composing a melody and re-recording the lead.

[Also posted at Rambling Librarian]

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One thought on “Podcast: “Ray of Light (Enhanced Version Zero)”

  1. Pingback: Podcast: “Ray of Light (2006)” « My Right Brain

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