Notes from the Shore

Work, marriage, kids and music

Interlude: Serene


Here is the latest of the musical interludes that will be interspersed between the various hymns on my upcoming project, Moments with Him. This one is in C-minor, I think the only minor key interlude on the project. In fact, I just called it Interlude in Cm up until just a few days ago, when I was ready to publish and had to have a “real” name.

SereneTracking Window

This one took a rather circuitous route to completion. It started as a MIDI file that I had improvised in real time based on a concept I had developed. I cleaned it up, found a suitable atmosphere and completed it. I don’t know why I never uploaded it anywhere back then, but I didn’t. In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t – the track was over 5 minutes long and slowwwwwwww.

When I set up my piano recording session this was one of the tracks I to re-recorded. I laid down two versions of it, going back when I messed up and starting from that spot. Even with that, though, I didn’t end up with a truly usable recording. There were too many uncovered errors that I couldn’t commit it to the CD.


So, I went back to the MIDI recording I did over a year ago. First, I adjusted the tempo to something closer to what I recorded on the live grand. Then I took and cut the heart out of it. Actually, I snipped about a minute and a half from the middle of the piece. Viola! Coming in at a bit under four minutes this version is much more “interlude friendly.”


In the tracking window, above, you can see the three tracks I ended up with – the MIDI piano track in blue, the seashore ambiance in green, and the seagulls adding their bit. One of the reasons I was never happy with this recording is because I always felt the piano sample was too aggressive for the mood of the music. I was trying to capture something more mellow with the live grand. What I learned was that if I keep the MIDI velocities under about 85 I stay away from the overly bright, loudest samples. (Note that for a pop/rock track or aggressive jazz, this brightness in the Garritan Steinway would not be at all out of place.)


After making the appropriate adjustments, I set to processing the sound. I used three simple enhancements. First, the Steven Slate RC Tube provides some subtle saturation to the sound.

Second on the list is the Plektron WTComp compressor. I set it to pull out the peaks with the softest knee available. I find that for smooth, transparent compression, the knee can’t be too soft.

The last processor is the BootEQ from Variety of Sound – one of my favorite EQs. A boost of the really highs adds some nice shimmer to the sound, and a roll off of the lows keeps it from getting muddy.



The atmosphere is comprised of some samples I found on-line that were specified as free to use. There’s not too much to see here – in the tracking window you can note that I automated the volume. In the gulls it was to volume match the various samples. With the waves it was to give it a boost as the last piano notes fade out and then fade out itself.

One thing to notice is that the volume of the seagull track is ZERO. I pulled the same trick I did with the handclaps and pub atmosphere in Simple Gifts. Instead of sending the audio to the stereo output, I send it to the reverb. This pushes the sound effects back into the background and diffuses them nicely. There is an automation track for the seagulls, but that is actually the reverb send, not the volume.



The ambiance is courtesy of my new favorite reverb plug-in, ValahallaRoom. I simply used the LargeAmbiance preset, set the sends from the piano and seagulls, and adjusted the volume until I was happy.

You may be wondering why the waves track is not sent to the ambiance similar to the seagulls. The answer is that the waves track was plenty ambient on its own, so it didn’t need any further processing.

Stereo Bus


If you have followed any of my mixing posts recently, the processing on the 2-bus will look very familiar. First up is the Mixbus version of the Steven Slate RC-Tube. following that is Bootsie’s Density MKIII. I still haven’t found a mixbus compressor that I like more, and the more I use it the more I learn about using it. It is, of course, in Mid/Side mode, as has also recently been my practice.

Following the compressor is the Boost11 limiter and last my meters. Notice the significant boost on the limiter – this is because of the relatively low level of the individual tracks. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, and I’ll back that off quite a bit before I send all the tracks out for mastering. This increase in volume is only for purposes of publishing this video.


Speaking of the video, this is another scrolling sheet music video a la Going Home and Father’s World. This one was pretty straightforward, although the nature of the improvised piano line made it a real treat to clean up something readable. (Note: click on the video below to watch)

Thanks,  I hope you enjoy and are looking forward the final project. In the near future I hope to finish How Great Thou Art and track a live cellist!

2 thoughts on “Interlude: Serene

  1. Very nice interlude and improvization if thats the right word. If I may say so it reminds me of a Wyndam Hill recording that I used to have on vinyl back in the eighties. Thanks for the post and keep up the good work.

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