“Grandfather Dragon” (#27: Project 365 Sketches)
Sketch Club app; iPad | Hi-Res image (1536 x 2048).
2013, Sun 27 Jan. This started, earlier in the month, as an accidental doodle and discovering the mirroring feature in the app. The doodle looked like a dragon’s face and I expanded on that. It took me about a week and several tried to compose a satisfactory pose. #365sketches
How it was done
1. This was done with the Sketchy tool, set to mirror. I started with the eyes and worked outwards to make the head.
2. On a separate layer, I did a quick sketch of a pose. Getting a satisfactory pose was the hardest part for me. Various versions as follows.
3. These were too snake-like.
4. This looked more promising and at that point, I thought this would be the final version.
5. I did a quick paint layer, to get a feel of the possible colour scheme to adopt.
6. When I revisited the sketch, I decided the earlier pose wasn’t quite it. I managed to find a reference on Google images and adapted the pose.
7. After painting in the body area, I discovered a happy unintended accident: setting a Fill layer to an Overlay setting created an interesting and somewhat glowing outline effect. I decided that would make a nice deep blue-black dragon. I used an Eraser tool to ‘paint’ the outline. Then utilised a Brush setting and ‘erased’ out the body highlights.
8. I shifted and downsized the head slightly, then brushed in the head colouring.
9. Then it was more detailing, painting in the wispy clouds (Particles setting) etc.
“Seah’s Cat” (#13: Project 365 Sketches)
Sketch Club app; iPhone
2013, Sun 13 Jan. Not Schrödinger’s but my tea drinking friend’s. Sketched this by referencing his photo of his cat. Loaded the image on the app, traced the outline, and painted in the details. Experimented with the Fur brush effect. Was really impressed with the brush! At the appropriate opacity and brush size, the fur looked real. #365sketches
How it was done
1. This was the original photo, which I saved to my phone. Photo credit: Kw Seah.
2. Thanks to technology, I could import the image directly into the app, then traced the rough outline of the cat (on a second layer, and setting the image layer to a lower opacity). I could have done it the old-school way, i.e. flipped between the image and sketched the outline from eye referencing alone. Well, my objective was not in practicing the accuracy of my outline work in this case.
3. I used the Fur brush, adjusted the opacity and brush size, and proceeded on a rough paint-over. The direct photo reference helped a lot.
4. I took note of the shaded areas, as well as the white/ highlight areas around the eyes and mouth. When I finally hid the image layer, I was quite surprised how accurately I’d captured the outline and overall shape and shading.
5. Before continuing with the detailed work, I applied two Fill layers (red and sienna tones) and set it to Overlay mode. I liked the slightly coloured tone better than monotones.
6. The remaining detailed work was on the whiskers, accentuating the eyes, applying a thin but opaque line above the eye to make the eyes stand out more, filling in the furs in its ears with individual line brush strokes. I also decided to move the sketch lower and towards the centre (learning point was to adjust the image layer first, before tracing the outline).
7. The final touch ups was mainly on the body and head (used a scattered brush and lightly dabbed white on key spots, which created a more realistic fur effect), added more prominent highlights on the whiskers, and the background.
2013, Sun 6 Jan. Sooner or later I would have to sketch body parts (don’t worry it’ll all be rated G) Was wondering what to draw today. Looked down and the foot was there. #365sketches
How It’s Done
Sketch Club app; iPhone
1. Outlined using a Pen setting, with the layer opacity set lower. Then I created another layer, at full opacity, to define the earlier outline.
2. Added shading using a brush setting.
3. For this sketch I experimented with overlaying colours. This was the outcome of a (1) dark grey and (2) skin tone colour layers, with different opacity settings. And yes, added a bit of leg hairs — not the most attractive thing to add but without them it didn’t appear to me the leg was mine 🙂
4. Painted the floor in, using two separate layers, same colour with different opacity settings. Used a line tool at a broad size. Had to merge down earlier layers, as the Sketch Club app allowed up to 10 layers.
2013, Sat 5 Jan. Woke up and saw my dog curled up in his usual sleeping posture.
How it’s done
Sketch Club app; iPhone.
1. I used the Sketchy tool/ freehand and drew rough shapes. If you’ve used the app, you will be more impressed with the app than my drawing abilities 🙂 The app’s brushes automatically creates smooth professional looking lines.
2. Next, I cleaned up overlapping lines with the Eraser tool. The Sketchy tool creates something called the “fallout” effect, so you get the shading.
3. Finally I added lines to show the mat, which my dog was lying on, and the horizon line to give a sense of space/ depth. I experimented with a heavier shading but it seemed too messy. The final version is this cleaner line drawing.
2013, Fri 4 Jan. My first ever “in the MRT” train sketch. This guy was clutching his backpack, his left hand scrolling away on his phone. I happened to be standing right in front of him. Thought I might as well sketch him.
His right hand too much oversized for my liking. I suppose it conveys the sense that he’s a pretty stout bloke. #365sketches
How it’s done
SketchClub App, iPhone.
1. Outlined using a Pen setting (had to use my thumb to draw). I concentrated on the lines, of the actual live subject, that caught my eye.
2. I continued refining the sketch after the train ride. The major outlines was already captured, so I relied on memory. The main thing was not to maintain the clean lines rather than complicating things. Adjusted the opacity settings to give the illusion of depth. Further refinements were more at a “micro” level. I zoomed into individual lines, used the Eraser tool too clean things up.
4. Final review stage. The head appeare dented. Erased the portion.
5. Used a Smooth line tool (or maybe it was a Brush tool), made several attempts to create a smooth seamless line for the erased portion (basically Undo and try again). Also added a ring on his finger (i remembered the man wore one).
2013, Wed 2 Jan. Today is the first work day for most people. It was back to the familiar scene of packed trains in the morning. On the bright side, the queues was orderly, which is always nice. I thought it would be a nice scene to capture as sketch #2.
I worked on this sketch during today’s train journey (mostly the ride home; morning was just too packed), a little bit during lunch break, and largely after dinner at home.
Sketched and painted this on my iPhone, with bare fingers. So details aren’t too fine.
How its done:
Created with the SketchClub App on an iPhone.
1. Outlined with straight lines, circles and rectangles.
2. Roughly filled up the body shapes as a separate layer.
3. Added the yellow lines as a separate layer.
4. Used a Brush setting to shade the background, again as a separate layer.
5. Almost done with the colouring. Decided this silhouette looked too lumpy. Painted over the edges with a colour that matched the background.
6. And then this looked too lumpy! Finished it off using the same approach as above.
But a few days ago, the volume knob became loose. I could feel the entire volume control unit (beneath the pick guard; that’s the large white plate you see on the guitar body) move. Not good. And then the sounds was intermittent. Definitely not good.
I loosened the pick guard screws to access the inner workings. Several problems were apparent.
The volume control unit: After some time examining how it was bolted on (at first I thought it was glued to the pick guard from beneath), I discovered a hex nut held it in place. To access the hex nut, I pried off the plastic volume knob with a small flathead screwdriver. Then tightened the nut.
OK, one problem solved.
The other problems was less straight-forward (although to a guitar tech, they are simple problems).
Basically, the wiring and connections was broken and/ or loose. Needed to be re-soldered.
There was a soldering iron at home but I needed soldering tin. Bought some the next day. Then got to work.
Removed all the guitar strings. Loosened the pick guard screws.
Flipped the pick guard over and this was what I saw:
Took the chance to examine the pickup wirings.
The problem areas:
Spot #1: The picture shows the volume control unit. There’s a hard wire that’s soldered to the other two tone controls. The connection was broken. Must have been due to the loose nut.
Spot #2: Frayed and loose wirings.
Spot #3: Loose connection to one of the soldered points of the pickup selector switch.
Here’s a closeup of the pick up selector switch:
Right after I took those pictures, I went to work. I don’t have a lot of practical experience or skill in soldering. Steady hands required, for sure. In the end, I managed to muddle through and not burn up anything.
It took me about 5 evenings to produce the remix. Spent about 3 to 5 hours each session, at home after work (I watch a bit of TV, more to accompany my wife — and then sneak off to work on the music!)
After downloading their GarageBand zip file (68 MB), I opened it up and saw 16 individual tracks are in AIFF format. Properly labeled too. I suspect that Lunarin was using Leopard, which was a later version of my Tiger OS X. Still, it seems that the GarageBand file is backwards compatible.
At this stage, I wasn’t too sure how to approach the remix. The problem was that I was familiar with the original version of “The Sky”. The original tune was stuck in my head.
Coincidentally, I came across Admiral Bob’s (a fellow community member at ccMixter) pensive and sensitively played piano sample. I toyed with Lunarin’s vocal sample over that. And thought I heard magic.
It’s my habit to note the source files/ URL, credits, licenses, and other details of the song (like the Beat Per Minute, Key, and time signature). Such notes come in very handy when it comes to crediting the sources (a requirement for using CC-licensed works), as well as during the remixing process (i.e. what were the original time signatures).
Once I decided to use AdmiralBob’s stem, I also adopted his BPM, key and time signature. I created a new GarageBand project with those settings.
From the Lunarin’s GarageBand file, I exported the individual track layers as I needed (used the Solo button to isolate the individual track). Then I opened them up in Audacity and made the necessary tempo conversions. This was because AdmiralBob’s piano track, which would be the backbone of the remix, was in 153 bpm (Key of Em, 3/4 signature) while Lunarin’s was 147 bpm (C Major, 5/4 signature).
For Linda’s vocals, I used a combination of the original BPM as well as the converted one (depending on the mood/ effect I was aiming for in the remix).
Put all the original and converted stems into a separate folder. BTW, the export-convert process tends to be iterative at this stage. As I explore possible musical ideas and arrangement for the remix, I’m going back and forth to get what I think would finally work.
Once the foundation (i.e. the arrangement) of the remix was more or less set, it was time to get down to the nitty-gritty, cutting-splicing-dicing work. Mainly on the vocals, to get the best fit to the backing piano track.
I’m also applying effects to individual tracks as I go along. My preference is to work in the effects along the way, rather than leave it all till the end. Yes, I know some pros advocate the latter approach but I guess my remixing method is like painting — building up the layers gradually.
For this remix, the hardest part was getting the sound level adjustments correct, so that Linda’s vocals stand out at the right level — yet not drowning out the various backing tracks. In this case, I created three layers for the vocals — a middle stereo layer, and a Left and Right pan.
From experience, this method gives the vocals more “body”. Also, in building up the Linda’s vocal recording, there’s a very audible intact of breath. It came to be a distraction, so I slowly and carefully lowered the volume at certain points. This part of the remixing sucks up a lot of time; it’s more process-oriented and repetitive. Not exactly fun, but critical.
When I think the track is ready, I export it as an MP3 file: stereo, at 128kbps, highest Variable Bit Rate (VBR) setting.
It would be unusual to get the first version right. As I listen to the track as an MP3, I spot areas for improvements, e.g. parts that are too loud, too soft, vocal parts sounding a bit off in timing… and so on. It’s an iterative process of making adjustments in GarageBand, exporting the track, listening to it (and repeat). I ended up with about 9 or 10 versions before I was satisfied decided I’ve to stop!
At one point during the final sound/ remix check, I decided there needed to be an orchestral string part near the end. To create that grand concert hall mood. So I recorded a software instrument track. This was the only original part I created for this remix. You can listen/ download the string sample, here.
When I’ve listened to my remix for, oh I don’t know… the 10,000th time! I get to a point where I’m satisfied (but never fully happy though). I make the final sound adjustments and export as an MP3 file.
The proverbial icing on the cake is to key in the metadata (e.g. title, artist name, credits, album cover). I use iTunes for this (there’s also Windows Media Player, if you’re using a Windows-based computer). I’ll make it a point to indicate the CC-licensed sources in the Comments metadata section (that’s where the earlier notes come in).
That’s it. Phew!
You can check out the upload and page details at this ccMixter page. I’ve provided the dry stems for the orchestral strings at that site.
Hope you liked this remix. I know I had fun remixing this. From my favourite S’porean band, no less.
Feel free to leave a comment.
Lunarin is Linda Ong (Bass, Vocals), Ho Kah Wye (Guitars), and Loo Eng Teck (Drums, Vocals). Among them, two of them are practicing lawyers and one is an engineer 🙂
“There comes a point in the evolution of every guitar player when knowing how to play the guitar is not enough. Sooner or later every serious player wonders, “How can I make this instrument work better?” ~ Gene Imbody (5/1/2001)
Indeed! That’s what I tried to do with my stock Epiphone Les Paul Standard guitar. The aim is to have a straight neck, with just a little relief (i.e. gap) and no buzzing of the strings.
What I learned (and tried), in summary:
Tune the guitar first.
Use the 6th string to check the gap between the string and the neck; capo the 6th string at the 1st fret and press down on the 14th fret.
To reduce the gap, you need to tighten the truss rod (turn clockwise).
To widen the gap (if there’s a ‘back-bow’ or buzzing), loosen the truss rod (turn anti-clockwise).
Adjust in small increments.
Although the pros all say the truss rod adjustment (i.e. neck relief) is not to adjust the string action, I found that once the neck relief is changed, the action has to be re-adjusted. E.g. turning the truss rod tigher (clockwise) does lower the string action.
Tightening the truss rod straightens the neck and consequently lowers the strings, which can create string buzz. However, string height is controlled at the nut and saddle, not in the neck.
The greater the gap, the more you will tighten the nut (clockwise). If you had no gap you will be loosening the nut (anti-clockwise). Keep in mind that most good necks require no more than half of a turn in either direction.