Podcast: Once Upon A Star

or LISTEN TO THE SONG HERE –> Once Upon A Star (1.8MB)
[Details at Archive.org]
UPDATE (24 Sept ’07): Fretless bass track added to original recording

This song is dedicated to the Tumaini Kids! (details here)

C/ G/ F
Am/ F/ C/ G

Notes on How It’s Done:
screenshot - Once Upon A Star

1) Decide on a Beat-Per-Second. I experimented with settings of 70, 75, 80 and 85. The one that sounded right was 80.

2) Chose a GarageBand drum loop. I didn’t want anything fancy, but not too “Pop” sounding either. Final choice was with a “Thickened Drums” setting (under the Instrument panel: Real Instrument –> Drums –> Thickened Drums)

3) After a few practice runs on my MIDI keyboard, I recorded the first part of the piano track using the GarageBand software track (“Grand Piano” setting). I played with the drum loop to keep in tempo. Later I edited out the drum loop for the first stanza.

4) I made two other attempts but decided that the first version sounded best. Aligned them to 1/16 notes (under the Edit pane). That’s how my notes all sound in beat (thanks to GarageBand!)

5) Added a software track — “Lunar Strings” — and played around with a few accompanying notes. Sounded quite alright, so I left the recording as it was. Then added another software track — “Synth Pads –> Floating Embers” (I liked how this gave a “new age” effect).

6) Came up with the Am/ G/ C/ G chords as I thought about recording the second piano part. The chords sounded OK so I recorded them. Then added another track to play accompanying notes (when layered together, they make me sound like I can play the piano well, but that’s just editing, heh).

7) Decided the second piano part needed a stronger accompaniment. Recorded the “Choral” sounds as a ‘Live’ instrument (keyboard to the Mac). I had to use a high Gate setting, and set the equaliser pre-set to “Reduce S”. Recorded two choral tracks.

8 ) The cymbals at the end of the second piano part was recorded as a software track (Rock Kit).

9) Added some incidental notes using the Floating Ember synth to fade off the second piano part. Then recorded a final closing piano piece (edited out about two-thirds of what I recorded for the piano, as it was too draggy).

10) Sound engineering: I found that MIDI recordings tended to be quite soft. To boost the volumes, I copied and repeated the original piano tracks (that’s why you see 3 identical layers for the first piano part). Also raised the individual levels and the master volume. Fine-tuned the volume by playing and monitoring the red-line. This took quite a bit of time, as always.

RamblingLibrarian’s Podcasts:
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7 thoughts on “Podcast: Once Upon A Star

  1. Yo, that was great. I really really like the ripple effect at the beginning. Hey, have you thot of adding a fretless base into the mix? It would really add to your piece. I am a big fan of Michael Gettel and he uses a fretless bass with his piano tunes. Really gives it a nice fluid background.

  2. Thanks for listening! Fretless bass… I’ll explore that for the next piano piece. There’s a Fretless bass effect in GarageBand. What’s the difference in sounds between fretless bass and one with frets? I’ll try to look that one up.

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  4. Howdy,
    There really is no substitute for real fretless bass, but If you duplicate the track and apply a slight chorus or flange to the 2nd track, cut some of the lows, so the track stands on its own in the mix, pan it L or R a bit… Then you’ll have a “better fretless mix!


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