I downloaded an app for my phone called ThumbJam; definitely one of the best music apps out there (that I’ve tried anyway), the quality of the samples is staggering – especially the string instruments. The song was just a bit of fun with the app really: I composed most of it while out and about – one of the best things about mobile technology. I wanted to record something using 4 string instruments (a “quartet”); I was originally going to call it Étude for Thumbs, but then I stumbled across the picture of the stuffed animal orchestra….
My “quartet” consists of two cellos, a violin and a viola. The first cello I set up as a loop, D dipping into C and back again. The violin and viola parts were two separate improvisations. I looped the violin to repeat once, and the viola is one uninterrupted recording. I then recorded each part separately into the DAW. The final cello part I played “live” over the rest as a separate track. Mixed, panned etc.
I wanted to put some animal noises on at the beginning and at the end (with applause), so I trawled the internet looking for free (legal) sound fx. Harder than I thought! In fact I probably spent longer doing this than recording/mixing the actual song! For the record, the fx used were: rainforest, ape, monkey, gorilla, roaring lion, elephant, applause, and the sound of the crowd cheering at Melbourne Cricket Club.
I also wanted the sound of an orchestra/string instruments tuning up (a la Sgt Peppers), but I couldn’t track down an effect that didn’t cost stupid money i.e. of a professional standard. But I did find something on YouTube, and using a site that rips the sound out of YouTube videos, I got a sample that was perfect (probably should have done that for the other samples, duh). The final effect was the sound of a conductor’s baton calling the players to order – me rapping a pen on the side of the microKORG.
What I like
- The quality. That’s down to ThumbJam, and those wonderful samples. It sounds good.
- The viola and violin improvisations. I didn’t know how well they would complement each other until I mixed them together. Luck as well as, ahem, skill.
- The sadness. I wanted it to be a sad song, and that’s how it sounds: a true lament.
What I dislike
- The cellos are not in sync. Actually I can’t tell if I dislike it or not. It makes a sawing, swaying sound. Can’t decide if it’s unique or just shoddy.
- The sound fx. I’ve I’d taken a bit more time I could have found/ripped some better, more natural sounding samples. And spent some more time mixing them too. Once again I’ve let impatience get the better of me.
I can’t say there were any direct influences. I suppose I wanted to do something in the style of Eastern European folk/Romany music, but not in any way in which I could point a finger directly. In fact any influence is more likely ersatz music of this kind, from movies dramatizing the struggle of immigrants, or the oppression of minorities, eg. Fiddler on the Roof, an American Tail and so on.