This article covers Part Four of the My Musical Mouth series which shows you how to write a complete piece of music using just a mic and your mouth. The online series provides an overview of the complete guides which are available to all our customers or anyone buying a copy of Cubase from us – just email a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other articles in this series are:
There’s not a lot new in Part Four, but this is one of the most easily identifiable parts in the finished piece of music, which if you have listened to you will recognise as the synth part that is present in the opening couple of minutes. If you haven’t listened to the final track yet, then you will find a Soundcloud clip at the bottom of the article once you have finished reading it.
If you’ve read the preceding articles then you already know why I think this is a great way of composing and creating music, and if you have tried it yourself then you hopefully agree (feel free to leave comment at the bottom of any articles you’ve tried!). If you haven’t read the previous article then you should; as otherwise you may get lost here.
The previous parts of my composition were all in my head before I started, so the project has so far been about transferring those thoughts into midi and then into reality using Cubase 6 and its included instruments. This Synth Line, though, was made “on-the-fly” as I listened back to the tracks I had created so far and sang ideas over the top. This part of the project, then, is a change of tack and has demonstrated to me that not only is this technique a good way of transferring thoughts in to music, but also a great way for “musically challenged” people such as myself, who love music but can’t play an instrument, to write music. All I had to do was sing over the top of my existing music and convert it into midi. No battling with the midi keyboard. No limitations due to my lack of technical ability. Just simple and enjoyable composition.
First of all, I created a new audio track and gave it a name. I was still working with a four-bar loop and had the left and right markers set to bars 1 and 5, respectively, and had loop/cycle mode on so that I could just listen back to my beat, bass line and melody. I then muted the melody by pressing the “M” button on the track header as I felt this was possibly interfering. I hit upon an idea that worked well with the bass line and so simply hit record and carried on singing it, playing around with slightly different timings.
I auditioned the parts one-by-one, simply by clicking on them. Once I had found the best one I double clicked on it to open it in the Sample Editor. I clicked on the Vari-Audio tab and then the Pitch & Warp button to analyse the audio file. Vari-Audio then shows the audio as colourful bars, called segments, which look a bit like midi notes. You can see in the picture below that some segments don’t properly line up with the audio, some segments should be two notes, and some notes aren’t represented by segments:
All this means I have some editing to do. I clicked on the Segments button which allows me to edit the Segments (whereas in Pitch & Warp mode, any stretching will actually stretch the audio). The first segment needs cutting in half, so I hover the mouse over the segment and a solid black line appears at the bottom and the mouse pointer turns into a pair of scissors; then simply by clicking I cut the segment in two. The very last segment (which is red in colour) is hovering over the second of three sung notes. There isn’t enough tonal information here to make three notes – I can see that from the squiggly line which runs through the segment showing me the actual frequencies. I make the most of this by stretching the part and then cutting the part in two. The last note I will just have to draw in later. I then stretch all the other segments to start and finish in-line with the audio I can see in the background. You can see the results in the picture below:
I slide the Quantise Pitch and Straighten Pitch controls fully to the right. This moves the segments to the nearest semi-tone and flattens the pitch, giving my vocal a synthesised sound which allows me to identify the pitch better. My singing voice is very poor and wavers between semi tones making it hard to identify what note it is on and this straightened pitch really helps.
I then click the Extract MIDI button and export the midi to a new track, electing to use the Dynamic Velocity setting to convert the loudness of my singing into Note Velocity. You can see the resulting midi part open in the Key Editor with the audio part open in the Sample Editor in the picture below:
Finally, I find search for some suitable sounds for the part in the Media Bay. As previously discussed, this part wasn’t previously imagined, so I have the freedom to use any sound I feel will suit. As it happens, I find quite a few I like and I add them all to the Project Page by dragging them out of the Media Bay and dropping them on to the empty space in the Track Header area. In the picture below, you can see the Media Bay open and to the left of it, in the Project Page, you can see that I’ve dragged “Autobahn”, “Big Sleazy”, “Pianosizzle”, “Sequentialdream”, and “Sim Plucker” all into the project. I carry on dumping instruments onto the Project Page until I have been through all the patches in my filter, which as you can see in the Filters section of the Media Bay, were “Synth Lead”, “Analog”, and “Dark”.
I ended up with three sounds from the instruments I dumped from the Media Bay and you can hear these in the first section of the finished track (which you can listen to in the Soundcloud clip below). The first sound I reverbed heavily before dropping it in fully. The second is the bass sound with a delay on it which makes it sound like a different sequence to the first synth, but the additional notes are just the delay. The third sound is layered underneath the other two and isn’t audible until the kick drum and first synth break out.
Again, this was a very quick process and I was surprised how easy it was to compose an additional part with my voice. As I keep saying; I can’t sing, I can’t play the keyboard, I have relatively no musical ability. To be able to compose music quickly is something I haven’t been able to do before and this method has really removed the shackles of my technical shortcomings and allowed me to enjoy making music as any technically proficient musician would do. It’s brilliant!