Thursday, April 16, 2009


Hey Hey Hey...

Just a note to say that Isaac's show Monday night rocked. Really good stuff, so if he's coming to a town near you check him out. He also mentioned that he's got some plans for cross posts between here and his blog while he's on the road. So look for that coming soon.

Other than that a have a small Turble music update. I've been having more fun that I thought doing this chiptune style music. Now I know, it's not real chiptune because I'm not composing on a gameboy, but I've been trying to impose the same limitations to the music as if I was. And ultimately, I think those limitations are what the style's all about.

For instance, so much electronic music involves the creation and shaping of complex sounds and timbres. However with chiptune, you can choose a square wave or a triangle wave, maybe add some quantized noise. I'm finding this limitation forces me to focus on the melody and harmony aspects of the music and play a lot with consonance and dissonance. It forces you to make the music interesting before you start to focus on the sounds, and that's a nice reminder I'll try to take with me to writing all kinds of music.

At any rate, here's the update.

I mostly just added a transition to a second theme. The final output of this is going to have to be short loops that repeat because the length of time it plays for is going to be dependent on where you are in the level. Right now, while Mark and Dan are focusing on the game itself I'm just trying to get a couple different themes together than we can loop in the background and maybe some transitions between them as well. This repeating of short loops can have the tendency to make the music monotonous, but I think I have some tricks up my sleeve that will make it more interesting while you're playing the game.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Show at Sidewalk Tonight

Just a note to say that my brother Isaac Gillespie is kicking off a month long tour with a show at the Sidewalk Cafe tonight at 11. If you're going, see you there.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

New Author...

Hey Folks,

When I started MicroSong, the concept was to publish the process of writing a song by sharing with you the results of each step of song writing process and in doing so hopefully start a discussion about the process of song writing. Part of the way I've wanted to do that is by bringing in some songwriters that I know and having them share with you their process as well as my own.

Well I want to let you know that here at MicroSong we don't discriminate* and song writing isn't the art who's process is worth exploring. To celebrate that we're adding another author.

As I mentioned in the last post, my good friend Mark Marianelli is working on a flash game called Turble, and publishing it in a similar manner to the MicroSong concept and he wants to share some of the process of that games development here with us. He's also a very good cartoonist and may be sharing some of that with us as well. So, welcome Mark.


*like Big Pun, we regulate every shade of the ass

Friday, April 3, 2009

Nintendo Stylee

So the lovely and talented Mark Marianelli (AKA MWizzle, MCM, DJ Marky Mark, Merry Markolous the Markonious One) over at 6AM Comics is working on a flash game called Turble and publishing it using a similar concept to microsong, putting up the pieces as he go's along. When we were talking the other day he asked me to write some music for it and I said, "obiviously."

The game itself is an old school Nintendo style side scroller. You can jump and shoot at baddies and the pieces he has up so far are very fun to play.

The NES style of gameplay inspired me to think write some of the 8 bit/chiptune style music that's so popular with all the kids and this is what I came up with after about a half an hour:

As I tend to do with concepts, this is all done in Reason. It really makes a great sketch pad for coming up with ideas. In fact, this one is so simple I made everything using built in Reason components with no external samples so I'll post the .rnp file up here as well if anyone wants to check it out and play with it. All the percussion and the main bass line are SubTractor synths run through Scream distortion modules set to digital and tuned for fair amounts of aliasing and bit reductions. The two melody lines are NN19 samplers(for extra aliasing) just playing square waves.

I think as the track progresses I'll break out of the pure chiptune style for some more fun effects (after all it is 2009). However, for now I wanted to go Crazy Nintendo Stylee.



Mark's got a post over there on his blog with an earlier version of the track that I sent him as well as some new badguys he's drawn up. Find it here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Internet Is Back


Well, the move went well. The good folks at Time Warner have come by and turned the internet back on. And I I've moved from Pink Floyd to Tool, not a long journey through the lexicon of recorded music, but there we are.

We've got all the furniture assembled, and in the meantime we're just unpacking things and setting up. I expect to have to studio fully operational again this weekend and hopefully start in on some new tunes.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Pink Floyd and Boxes


The move is coming along, the studio is entirely dismantled and strewn between 2 different apartments, and there is no new music. That being said, I don't have much else to say, but I am listening to some crazy crazy Pink Floyd and suggest you do the same.

The big moving day is tomorrow, so the next post will likely come from the new apartment.

Till Later,

Monday, March 16, 2009


Hey Guys,

Just a quick note to celebrate the shipping of PitchFactor. I'm excited because I think this is a great pedal that does a lot of things that nothing else does. Anyway, they're shipping out the door so if you've ordered one expect to be getting it in the next couple of weeks.

Eventide PitchFactor


Braunschweig Piano

I just recently bought a new piano sample set from Imperfect Samples called the Braunschweig Upright Piano. It's a 5 GB collection that samples each note of this particular upright piano at 8 different velocity layers. I picked it up because I realized that all the different piano sounds I have at my disposal are sample sets of these giant concert pianos in even larger rooms and that doesn't always give you the most intimate feel. So many of my fond memories of piano involve a crappy upright in a tiny music room somewhere, and I thought something that captured that essence would be cool. Plus, it's cheap and the demo's sound good.

Anyway, since I downloaded it I've been really eager to check it out, but since I'm in the middle of moving I haven't gotten a chance to hook it up to a midi controller yet and play it. But I in my impatience I did try the next best thing, which is to drop it into a song for which I'd already recorded a midi performance, replacing the piano that was in there. That got me thinking that I might as well try a selection of piano sample sets that I have at my disposal and post them up for everyone to hear.

So without further avail here are a selection of piano sample set sounds. I'm just using what I got here, but if there are any others you think I should check out, let me know. The meatiest part is at about 1:58 if you feel like jumping right in.

Reason Factory Soundbank Piano (this is the one that the song was written with):

Reason Orkester Soundbank Piano:

Logic Pro Factory Soundbank Steinway:

Imperfect Samples Braunschweig Upright:

Sonic Couture Bowed Piano (This one is very cool, check out the haunting demos at the Sonic Couture website):

I really like the Reason Orkester Piano, though it may have a bit of an edge since these tracks came from a mix that used it. I also may just like it because I've been listening to it in the piece for a while. On the other hand the Braunschweig has a really cool sound to it too. I don't know if it fit's this song as well as the grand, but I'm excited to try it for a more intimate rock style production. I think it's interesting that you can hear the uprights smaller soundboard give out on the lower notes, it's rare that you get the experience of a grand and an upright next to each other to compare. The only other things to say are, the Sonic Couture Bowed Piano has really awesome haunting sounds, but sounds so different from a piano that it really doesn't fit in this production. And finally, the stock Logic piano's suck.

Anyway, here's the working mix of the track in question with all the other instruments, if you're interested.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Goodnight by Nyquist Serum

80's Teen Monster Movie Soundtrack?
I had written the chorus to the following song based on a fat synth sound that I was hammering chords on (chorus comes in at about :43). The guitar melody on top of the chorus was added as an overdub later, perhaps as a vocal melody idea. I didn't spend much time developing the verses, although I did like the sort of 80's teen monster movie soundtrack quality to them. Especially the second verse when that synth line comes in. Remember Vamp, starring Grace Jones? Can you hear that in there?

Chord Progression
A few months later I woke up in the middle of the night and could not go back to sleep so I ended up playing piano for a while. Eventually I started playing the following chord progression, which I really liked. It had a circular quality that takes you on a little ride and then brings you back home. I was thinking that this chord progression would be its own song, but the next day when I played it on fuzzed out guitar I began to think it should be the verse to the above song. It's strange that I had already named the song "Goodnight," and months later revisited it during a bout with insomnia.

So now that I had a verse chord progression that I was happy with, I was able to come up with a melody pretty quickly. The melody plays on the offbeats to the chords; I wanted it to move the song along and be rhythmic.

Lyrics + Gasping For Air
At this point I started writing lyrics. I tossed around a few themes and decided to make the song be about a stalker. But I wanted to keep it vague enough for different interpretations. Also at this point I ditched the guitar chords and replaced them with single lines as more of a riff. The sound of the guitar is from a fuzz pedal I built called the Red Bastard. The 9v battery was dying, which gives the guitar that sort of gasping for air kind of sound.

Gluing it with Static
With the verse guitar chords replaced with riffs I had to come up with a bass line that filled in the gaps, both rhythmic and chord-wise. In the verses the bass is funky and sporadic, but in the chorus it's driving 8th notes.
A recurring theme in my efforts to create music is that just when I'm really getting into something I have equipment failure. There was no exception here; while I was recording the vocals my audio interface died. It had 8 channels, and by the end there was only one channel that still worked, and it added noise! You can hear some static/buzzing sounds- those were added to the recorded audio by the interface. When I pasted different parts around right before and after the choruses the static/buzzing almost sounded deliberate, and now I've grown fond of it. Maybe when I produce this song for real I'll try to recreate that...

So, which do you like better, the original demo or the later one? Do you like where the song is going? It still needs work, like the bridge for instance, but it's come a long way. Thanks for checking it out so far.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I'm Back

Well it's been 3 weeks since I last posted, but what a couple weeks it's been. The short story is, PitchFactor is about to ship, I have a beautiful new apartment in Hell's Kitchen into which I'll be moving next weekend, and I've completed a milestone for a research project I'm working on. The downside is no new music over the last couple of weeks.

The upside is that our new place uptown has a dedicated room for my studio/office so I'll be able to set everything up and finally mix a lot of stuff that I've worked on over the last couple of years. How's that for making economic lemonade?

Lesson: if you live in NYC, look for a new apartment right now, there are deals to be had.

Also, as I mentioned earlier in this post, PitchFactor has been out of my hands for about a week now for final testing and ramping up production and should be shipping out the door in the next couple of days. I think this is the most fun product I've ever worked on and the range of sounds you can get out of it is pretty ridiculous. I'm obviously biased, but if you're interested in these sort of things, check this one out.

Finally, I do have an update to that orchestral piece I was working on a couple of weeks ago. This is actually old progress but I never got a chance to post it, so here it is.

I decided to slow this track down a bit. I don't know if I like it more or less at 130 bpm than at 138 which is where it was previously, but it seemed like it was rushing before. Aside from that I've been spending time writing individual parts for each piece of the orchestra. One of the brilliant things about orchestra's is that instead of having 1, or even 3 or 4 musicians playing a piece by strumming or hammering out chords you have many musicians each playing there part. I think that leads to a much more linear than global sound. Instead of having a particular chord structure you have several sets of melody and harmonies that change over time. For me, this is a very different way of composing music than coming up with a series of chords on piano or guitar. Or different even than just placing chords on a piano roll which is what I tend to do with soft synths and samplers.

Creating an orchestra is a way for me to get out of the vertical space of chords into the horizontal space of melodies and harmonies.

I still want to do more of that with this track and hopefully expand it beyond it's current 2:13, but I've been having fun personalizing the individual parts so far.

Till Next Time,

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

MicroSong Fail

So Folks,

I've been failing at my own blog... But if you're going to fail at something, it might as well be your blog.

Anyway the good news is I have actually been spending some time working on music, so sorry for the delay, but we're back to our regularly scheduled programming.

One thing I always wished I was better at was orchestral composition. I love the way the each instrument in an orchestra has it's own part, but the congregate of all those instruments has a wholeness that makes it sound like it's all coming out of the same giant instrument. That sound isn't as present in a lot of more modern music where we make sure everything has is place and is very distinct. After all, we wouldn't want anyone to get their feelings hurt.

Ultimately, if I were really interested, I suppose music composition is the sort of thing they teach at schools. However, I usually go for something a lot closer to the trial and error technique. The above is an example of such an experiment.

It started with me playing around with the Malstrom synth in Reason. This is another synth I've never really clicked with, but have been trying to get more use out of recently. I spent some time and got this scraping textural patch dialed up on it, and mated it with a synth bass loop I had. I was digging the overall sound so I dialed some drums using some fun samples of an 808 recorded to cassette tape I got from GoldBaby and ran that through Logic's Guitar Amp "Pro" and a filter bank plug-in that have for some crazy sounds. I dropped a kick in and that's what you hear for the base of the track.

Next came the fun part of building the orchestra. The orchestra stuff in here is still a work in progress, but so far I'm using 15 NNXT samplers all loaded with sample sets that shipped with reason. I'll spend some more time talking about that part tomorrow and since it's all Reason stuff, maybe I'll post the .rns file as well.

Till Next Time,

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Authors

Hey Guys,

Please welcome a new MicroSong author, Alan Chaput! He'll be sharing some of the music he's been working on as Nyquist Serum.

Welcome Alan,

MicroSong Audience Participation

OK Folks,

I'm gonna be looking for some audience participation on this one.

Here's another Transit161 song I've been working on for a little while. It's kind of an upbeat maximal electro style tune, because screw that minimal shit, sometimes you just want to dance. The problem I'm having is that along with the Kick, Snare, Bass, and Lead parts I've been playing with a pad to fill in some space in the upper registers, but I'm having the damnedest time figuring out if I like it or not (not usually a problem for me). I've gone back and forth with different pad sounds and parts, but I can't tell if the sound gives a nice contrast to the driving beat, making the song drive harder; or if it just releases all the musical tension being built in the song, making it boring. So below are 3 versions of LunarEclipse, first without the pad sound, then with the pad sound, then with the pad sound cranked. They all start at slightly different points and have other small changes, but let me know which you like best (if any of them at all ;-) ).

LunarEclipse No Pad:

LunarEclipse Pad:

LunarEclipse Loud Pad:

Just some notes on general production. This song was written using Ableton Live and Reason rewired into Logic which is my usual method for composing. Even if I start in Reason or Ableton I always end up rewiring them into Logic on my macbook, it ends up making a great portable studio. Kick drums is from Reason sent through some outboard compression and distortion, bass is currently coming from Thor though it might be replaced. The two leads are actually both from the free softsynth Crystal which isn't bad but horrendously processor intensive (in ways it seems it shouldn't be). The other drums are a loop that has been chopped up in Live. The Pad actually comes from my Korg MS2000R run through my Eclipse. Finally the flanged out sound at the end came from an effect I built in VSig on my H8000, I'll probably end up putting that sig file into a future build.

Friday, February 6, 2009

PitchFactor Part 2

When we last left off I was jamming with PitchFactor and a drum machine. I had fun, and ultimately I had a recording of some wacky drums; but I had to go on testing, and on testing I went.

A couple days later was one of those perfect summer days where it's just warm enough that you want to wear flip flops, but not so hot that you go shopping for stuff you don't need just to get some A/C. So the wife and I headed to Washington Square Park to sit on a bench. While she read, I took the recording on my laptop and started finding and chopping out the sections I liked. It was kind of slow going, but it was a nice day, and I was having fun.

After I sorted and labeled a fairly large number of 1, 2, and 4 bar loops I started loading them into Live and cutting them up and re-arranging them. Here is what I ended up with:

I love Live for this sort of arranging, it's interface is incredibly quick for making all kinds of stutter edits and time-stretch effects. What I'll usually do is open 2 audio tracks, import all the loops into the first one then grab them and arrange them in the second one. I'll keep the first one muted and just use it as a depot for the unused audio.

At that point it was fairly easy to start throwing synths and things in there, I grabbed some samples and some softsynths and started playing with things that would work together. I might go back and go into that process a little more at some point, but I wanted to give you a sense of how the drums fit into the context of the song once I started building up around them.

There are still some things I want to do to this track, but then I'll mix it and hopefully it'll be part of an upcoming Transit161 release.

Hope You Enjoyed It,

Thursday, February 5, 2009


So since I get to design plug-ins, guitar pedals, and rack gear all day, I get to spend a lot of time playing with and testing new effects. I've been spending most of the last 6 months on a product we just announced called PitchFactor which is a guitar pedal that has pitch shifting delays along with it's other goodies. While I was testing at home one day, I got bored with the usual guitar input and decided to fire up the trusty old Korg ES-1 and run some drums through the PitchFactor to see what I could see.

I started with a drum pattern:

As I've already mentioned, I love distorted drums, so I patched the ES-1 into a Epiphone Valve Jr -> Weber dummy load I have wired into the patch bay to get this sound:

Then finally patched the PitchFactor in between the two and started tweaking...

As you can hear, I had a lot of fun. This is all from the HarModulator effect, which includes 2 pitchshift voices with feedback delays and modulation. This allowed me to sweep the pitch with the pitch knobs, create stutter effects with the delay and feedback, and pan between all those sounds with the various mix controls. Tomorrow I'll show you what I did with the output of this jam and the song that resulted from it.

Till Next Time,

Post No Bills

Hi Guys,

Sorry about the super light (read no) posting this week. I need to get better at that.

As most of you know I'm a DSP engineer at Eventide and we've just been slammed with the PitchFactor release we have coming up. The good news is it's coming along quite well, the bad news is that I haven't gotten a chance to work on music at all this week, hence the lack of posting.

So I've decided that even though I want to keep this blog forward looking and showing what I'm working on currently, I will dig into the past to keep the posts coming if nothing new is happening.

So Here It Comes,

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Analog Kick Drums


Here's where we get into the meat of what I was hoping this blog would be. Here's something I banged out last night on the bus ride home. The basic concept was to try to make a kick drum preset using the subtractor analog modeling synth in Reason. I never really use that synth, because honestly I've never really been a fan of the sounds I could get out of it.

That being said, this kick drum suits me pretty well. I did layer with a sample to get the beater sound which is almost always missing from synth drums and some of the low lows which seems to always be missing from the subtractor synth. It's got a bit of that basketball in the gymnasium sound, but that's not always so bad and I may tweak that out later anyway.

Well there you go, it's an intro, and hopefully it'll turn into something soon.

Till Next Time,

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Destroyed Drums


Welcome back.

Here's a little something I banged together one weekend in Reason. I love Reason as a way to sketch out song ideas; mostly because it's a closed environment with a good drum machine, good sampler, and now with Thor a pretty good analog modeling synth. Without the ability to scroll through endless plug-ins it forces you to focus on rhythm and melody as opposed to sound design. On the other hand, each synth is fairly deep and can be connected in almost endless ways which allows me to change up what I'm doing. This is always a source of inspiration for me.

When I wrote this song I had recently upgraded to Reason 4 and was trying to explore the Thor synth to find it's strength and weaknesses. I was really enjoying the sound of overdriving the filters with the synth sound and wanted to see if I could use those filters to get a crushed distorted drum sound. It ended up being a little tricky but I figured it out and this track was the result. The track starts with "dry" drums (the samples started pretty compressed and roomy), then half way through the destroyed drums come in.

This is about as distorted as I could get the drums to sound, and if I move ahead with this track to do something else with it, I might back off a bit or mix some of the dry drums back in.

As an aside, the vocals in this track are from what I believe was an Akai sample cd, I think it was called Arabic Traditions. One of the folders was this woman singing a song in Arabic cut into pieces. I grabbed the pieces and loaded them into a Redrum drum machine and triggered them in a sequence I thought sounded cool. I have know idea what the original song said, and I'm sure it makes no sense now. Although if anyone out there knows Arabic and wants to enlighten me, I'd be very curious to know what it says.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Goodbye Bush, Mission:Accomplished

Here we go.

This is an art/ambient track I wrote on the plane on the way to the NAMM show last week. About a year earlier I had downloaded an audio copy of GWB's famous Mission Accomplished speech. The original concept was to cut it up, maybe put some Nixon or something else in there, and generally make him sound like a fool.

Unfortunately, once I started playing with it, just listening to the sound of his voice pissed me off so much that working on it wasn't fun and it was pretty clear he didn't need my help to sound like a fool anyway. While listening to the speech I just wanted him to go away.

So having some down time on the plane to LA the week before Obama's inauguration I found the file again and thought since he is finally now going away, it's be nice to write a piece that would sort of erase him from my mind. Have him just fade away............

Anyway, that's the basis for this piece, I don't expect anyone to ever listen to it twice (that's actually kind of the point), and mad props if you make it all the way through once. But it is fun to hear him just sort of glitch out and eventually fade away.

Made using Ableton Live and Reason on a plane. President Bush in his own words. Most of the glitching came from Audio Damage's Automaton although there are some manual glitches closer to the beginning for effect.




Welcome to MicroSong.

I'm starting this blog hoping to explore some new ideas in music publishing.

My name is Dan Gillespie and I've been writing and recording music for about 12 years. I do this because I think it's fun and why the hell not. I do like my music related job, but I have no desire be a rock star or go endlessly touring. Because of this I've ended up with many gigabytes of either full or half baked musical ideas over the years that I may or may not get around to finishing, but will almost certainly never bother to package into an album and try to sell, but would still be fun to send out into the ether. I'm hoping this blog can help me solve that problem.

I'm also hoping that this blog can open up a conversation on song writing techniques and I/we can all share a little bit about our processes and ideas. Much attention is payed to the performance art of musical performance, but I'd like to see this as an opportunity to see and talk about the performance art of musical composition. To that end I'm hoping to get a couple of my friends to make some posts on here as well and hopefully we'll be able to see some songs evolve from initial musical idea to completion. If an album is like a book, the pieces of music posted here will very much be analogous to blog posts, rapid publishing of whatevers coming out of my musical mind.

Hopefully this idea will appeal to more than just me, and if you find yourself getting a kick out of it, I hope you'll join in. Perhaps even publish your process here as well.