Notes from the Shore

Work, marriage, kids and music

Interlude: Majestic

In an earlier post I described the concept for my new CD. As a quick recap, it will be made up of creative instrumental arrangements of traditional hymns with interspersed interludes. Most of the interludes are not beyond the concept stage, although one is now FINISHED. It has been posted on my Soundclick site, and you are welcome to take a listen.

My plan was for several of the interludes to have environmental sound effects along with them, sort of as an atmospheric bed. This one used the thunderstorm bed. I found the sound effects over on the Freesound website, where people post samples for anyone else to use. The quality of the recordings varies, but this one is very high. Thanks to RHumphries for posting them.

4Front EPianoAt first I thought all the interludes would be piano-based, but the way this one turned out, a longer-sustained electric piano sound worked better. I used the 4Front Electric Piano plug-in. It is a very simple vst with only a single preset and no controls. I love the way it sounds.

For the bed, I started with a long sample of a thunderstorm, but I decided that I didn’t like the randomness of the thunder. So, I helped nature along a little bit. I replaced the bed with a simple rainstorm – no thunder. I clipped the thunder out of the first sample using Audacity, and downloaded a few more individual thunder samples. The limitation was that I could only use thunder samples that didn’t have a radically different sounding rainfall behind it. It came together okay. The thunder happened where I wanted it to happen.

The double rainfall created an interesting challenge – when the thunder came in, the volume of the rainfall doubled. I had to duck the rainfall track when the thunder hit. Sonar has wonderful volume controls compared to where I came from. I love the linear envelopes you can draw – and they can be used to control almost anything (more on that later).

Overview of Thunder Mix

The above illustration shows the ducking. I only had to take about 3 dB out of the rainfall track to get them to mix properly. I then faded thunder before the track ended to avoid an unnatural cutting-off of the sound, and matched that with a similar ramping-up of the rain sound.

Immediately left of the waveforms on the track view above are the insert effects bays. You can see on the Rainfall track a Compressor, and on the Thunder track something called SIR_1011. I compressed the rainfall to make it a bit more audible. Wanting to experiment with the plug-ins that came with Sonar, I used Cakewalk’s compressor:Cakewalk Compressor on Rain Track

…on a setting called “Breathe.” This brought everything out nicely.

If you read my most recent entry on free reverb plug-ins, then you are familiar with SIR, a free convolution reverb. I wanted the thunder to rumble in the track just a little bit more, and a little bit longer since some of the samples were a little bit short. SIR has a great EQ section, as well as a lot of tweakable options.

SIR Reverb on Thunder Track

The IR’s are from CKSDE. You can see that I have no attenuation on the wet signal, but the EQ ramps down to 0 at 752 Hz, thus only passing the lows. The result is pretty cool, and while you can’t hear it directly in the mix (only when the channel is soloed), the effect is unmistakable when you turn it off.

Earlier I said I would expand on the capabilities of track automation. You can create an envelope for almost any knob or slider on the screen. At the end of the piece the e-piano fades out. I wanted it to appear to dwindle into the distance, and the key to that is reverb (tip: if you want something to appear further back on a soundstage than something else, apply more reverb to it than the something else and that will increase the depth).

I started with my old stand-by, Kjaerhus Audio’s Classic Reverb. I then used an envelope to modify the wet/dry mix at the end of the piece. Unfortunately, there was too much delay in the effected signal, and I didn’t like the results. I tried Anwidasoft’s DX Reverb Light with much the same results.

Then I pulled out a plug-in that I just downloaded. It’s called PianoVerb and is one of two free plug-ins by PSP, which makes a variety of highly-respected pay plugs. This one uses a spring reverb model to specifically create an undamped piano-type ambiance. PianoVerb on Epiano This was exactly what I was looking for! While it doesn’t excel at creating a natural-sounding acoustic space, the effect was just right for the application. I will be looking at it again for adding a little something special to my piano tracks on this CD.
I set the envelope almost exactly inverse of the volume envelope, so it maxed out at 100% wet signal right about the time the volume envelope dropped to zero.

The final step was some final brick-wall limiting on the entire track. I used Boost 11, which came with Sonar, to give it a try. In the graphic below, you can see the first crash of thunder at the beginning of the track. The red part outside the parallel lines on the left side of the plug-in is where the sound would have clipped.

Boost 11 applied to whole mix

Thank you for reading this. Upcoming articles include a how-to on modifying soundfonts to work with wind controllers; posting of my “Be Thou My Vision” now that I have the wind controller working how I want it; and posting of “My Jesus I Love Thee”, if I can finally get a cello sound that I’m happy with.

In case you missed it, click here for the track.

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