UNME Archive #03

1997-06-09 to 2006-03-02

Trav tripalot.com/travis Mon Jun 9 13:11:00 EDT 1997


Finally we've moved over to [a new server] so I'll be able to advertise soon.


Trav tripalot.com/travis Mon Jun 9 13:13:00 EDT 1997

Oh yeah, I finally finished up Where's My Muse? and remade my "best of" (Songs to Sleep By). You can check them out on my Tripecac site.


Trav tripalot.com/travis Sat Oct 4 23:06:19 EDT 1997

This week I have started working on my music again. Right now I am polishing off an "krautrock" instrumental. I wrote it back in the spring, and it's really repetitive, but it's easy to listen to and it has a *killer* piano solo that I can't make myself let go, so I'm gonna finish the song and use it as the opener for my new album!

Maybe I'll put it online as a recent sample...

By the way, how many of you have RealAudio? If you don't you should download the player and encoder so that you can listen to other people's music and record your own!


Dereck Higgins dhiggins@netimaging.com Thu Jul 16 23:05:45 EDT 1998

Hello Travis,

Thanks again for doing this. The term 'casual musician' definitely fits me. My experience of the music business from being in Digital Sex left a horrid taste in my mouth. I never stopped writing or recording. I have several songs now that are much better than anything I produced for the band Digital Sex. That's not a dis to my old band. I am very proud of what we created.

I'm not sure how I can make some examples of my post-Digital Sex material. If anyone is interested, tell me how I get the stuff on the net.


Dereck Higgins dhiggins@netimaging.com Thu Jul 16 23:07:58 EDT 1998

I just checked out your tools page so I'll get busy and download the encoder.


Trav tripalot.com/travis Fri Jul 17 11:11:44 EDT 1998

Dereck -

There are three steps.

First, you need to get your music onto a computer. If it's already on CD, it's really easy, assuming you have a CD-ROM. Otherwise, if you have a tape, you need to connect the LINE OUT from your tape player to the LINE IN jack on the sound card (in the back of the computer). Then, you need to use a software mixer and sound recorder (these usually come with Windows 95) to get the sound to a good volume and then record a WAV file of your song on your computer.

Next, you need to convert the WAV file into a well-compressed format. If you want the file to be as small as possible, you should use the RealAudio encoder (on the Tools page). If you want the sound quality to be really good and still get decent compression (though not nearly as compressed as RealAudio), then you need to find a program that makes MP3's. I'll be starting this soon when I get my new computer.

The third and last thing you need to do is get your compressed file online. I have an FTP site where you can upload it, or if you have your own site you can put it there. I can then copy your song to the UNME site.

Of course, if you're not crazy about spending hours and hours at a computer, you can always send a copy of your tape to me and I'll do all the above steps for you.

Wow, your post makes me want to revive UNME! It's 2 years old and about time for a face lift! :)

Anxious to hear your music,


Trav tripalot.com/travis Thu Oct 11 23:02:54 2001

Hi guys! I finished a song today! It's my first "real" one in 3-4 years! (all the others since 1997 have been tests)

If you wanna check it out (it's called "Memorial"), and some of my other songs (and tests), you can go to my Tripecac site.


Trav tripalot.com/travis Tue Oct 8 22:29:14 2002

Ugh, this site needs to be updated!

I hope to get it updated to XML within a couple months.


Trav tripalot.com/travis Tue Oct 22 14:39:25 2002


We can use this to chat about music-making (and subscribe to it in the same way we subscribed to Rail On). I plan to eventually turn this into a more "modern" discussion list (in terms of features) but for now I think we just have to endure the 3-digit years, ugly background, etc.


Trav tripalot.com/travis Tue Oct 22 15:41:15 2002

Right now I am at a music-productivity "peak".

I want to talk about it so that, should it ever end, I can remember what it was like to be in this "productive mindset". Also, if you are having productivity problems, then maybe talking about it in here could help inspire you to get productive again.

First of all, I did most of the work on my last album ("Renewal 2001-2002") during my "morning music sessions". Every day before work I would spent an hour or so working on music, one song at a time, usually focusing on MIDI editing (which can be tedious and requires energy). On weekends I would do the vocals, mixing, mastering, and uploading... In this way I was able to finish about one song a month.

Then, in June, I started working longer hours at my job. This ate into the morning music hours, and eventually I had to stop doing music in the mornings. Music got moved to evenings and weekends, when I have the *least* energy for semi-tedious things like MIDI editing. So, instead of editing songs until they were finished, I would start new songs...

The result is that, from June until early September, I didn't finish *any* songs but instead had created a *bunch* of different songs ideas, of varying quality (catchiness). To me, none of song ideas "counted"; unless I am actually finishing songs, I feel unproductive.

Luckily, in September, I cut back my work hours and resumed my morning music sessions. I made a "rule" for myself:

1) work on music every morning for an hour (8AM to 9AM)

And guess what...

Within a week I had actually finish a song ("Convenience")! This was my first completed song in months. I really liked it, too...

But now I was starting to feel "pressure" to create another song that was at least as good as "Convenience". What I didn't want to do is start another song, give up on it because it wasn't "good" enough, start another song, give up on it, start another... So, I decided to create another rule for myself:

2) work on (and finish) one song at a time

Since "Convenience" was actually "old" in that it was started back in August, I decided to pick a more recent song idea as as my "next" project... in fact, I picked the most recent song idea: "Respit".

And guess what... within a week I had finished "Respit" too! It turned out pretty good, not as fun as "Convenience", but not horrible. For only a week of work (since the original idea), I was very pleased!

Since my two rules had worked so far (at getting me productive again), I decided to stick with them. So, I added another rule:

3) finish old song ideas before starting new ones

This was an easy rule to follow, but my next question was: what song should I finish next? I picked "Crisper", which was (I think) the most recent next to "Respit". Within a week, despite spending the entire weekend socializing, I had "Crisper" done! Yay!

So, since this was working, I added another rule:

4) work backwards from the most recent songs to the oldest

This initially worried me, because what if the next-most-recent song is a "dud"? I can't skip it. I *have* to finish it. Finishing a dud... what's the point???

However, what would happen if I *didn't* finish it? I wouldn't throw it away (since I hate throwing away old ideas), so it would probably sit on my hard drive forever, staring me in the face, making me feel guilty about "abandoning" it...

So, warts and all, that's my plan... Go back through all my old song ideas, in reverse order, and finish them, one at a time, doing a little work each morning and aiming to spend no more than one week (5 weekday mornings) on each song.

I created those "rules", which are easy for me to learn and follow, and I intend to keep following them until something "breaks". Right now, I'm more productive than I have been since IPECAC (1988) and the quality of songs that are coming out of this "rapid assembly line" is actually pretty good (relative to my other stuff)!

And it's fun! And easy! There's no stress associated with finishing "old" songs, because I don't have any expectations or "emotional investment" in them, since even if I "screw up" when finishing an idea, I still have TONS of old song ideas on which I can "redeem" myself...

So there's no pressure, more spontaneity in the songs themselves... I'm taking more "risks" and trying new things (like wah-guitar, swing quantizing, different reverb levels, etc.).

It's a good feeling!

And, of course, *if* the songs I am finishing now are catchy, then part of the credit goes to those evenings and weekends during the summer when I didn't *feel* like editing MIDI and just wanted to brainstorm and "jam". So, my "laziness" during the summer is what is letting me be so productive now.

So in a way there were two phases:

  1. brainstorm a bunch of ideas
  2. finish the ideas (one at a time)

This is my first time taking that approach; in the past, when my sequencer got full, I *couldn't* create any more ideas, so I had to either finish them or delete them to make room for new ideas. With hard-disk recording, of course, there really isn't a limit to the number of unfinished ideas, which can result in a HUGE collection of unfinished ideas.

Anyway, I'm curious if you've ever used a "two phase" song creation cycle like I described...

What other song creation strategies/habits have you used? Which ones were the most successful? The least?


p.s. You can hear my new songs at tripecac.com

Billy willieoertel@hotmail.com Tue Oct 22 22:42:25 2002

I agree with the "finish song off before staring another" philosophy, although I like to finish writing one song at a time more than recording one song at a time. I guess it depends on your method of writing songs. If I'm working with midi I am writing the song as it is being recorded/saved, and I'll do two to three at a time. Songs which I write in midi end up being something more classically influenced than the ones that I write on the guitar. It's the "pop" or 3 minute songs that result from me writing with the guitar. What I'd like to try is writing a batch of songs (13, or 14), then record them live using a drummer, bass guitar player, and guitar/keyboards. After all basic tracks have been recorded (some having alternate takes) do overdubs on them. I think this will result in a CD that will induce on the listener a particular sound wich will link the songs together as a whole. You know how some cds have a particular sound/theme? I don't know if this makes any sense to you, but I know what I'm running on about.

Trav tripalot.com/travis Wed Oct 23 15:39:06 2002

Yeah, that makes sense... I like the way JEHOVAHKILL has the same sonic "texture" throughout, even though the songs themselves were constructed very differently. My favorite albums are the ones where the song style jumps around a lot but the "tone" (or "production texture") stays the same... PEGGY SUICIDE is of course another example... The Fall (have you listened to them yet?) also do the same sort of thing... the music is all over the place, but it's still got that Fall "sound".


The marriage of MIDI and guitar/garage rock is *tough*, and is something that I would LOVE to discuss in detail!

The thing is, no one that uses my keyboard (TRITON) or sequencers (SONAR and Logic) seems to be interested in garage rock! They all seem to prefer electronica, r&b, hip-hop, straight jazz, etc. In each discussion list I've joined, I seem to be the only one who likes punk, post-punk, and garage rock...

So, it's been very hard to find any information on how to make really live/raw/garagey-sounding songs using keyboard-based MIDI. I've had to "wing it" mostly, and try lots of different writing/production experiments...

I don't know if I am getting very close to creating "garage rock" but I definitely feel like my MIDI music is become more "organic" and "raw/gig-like" than most of my old stuff, or *any* of the other folks on the (MIDI-based) discussion lists I frequent...

Here are some things I've tried, to get a less "sterile" (computer-like) texture in MIDI:

  1. effects: reverb, flanger, phaser, delay, auto-pan, rotary
  2. quantize: use *less* than 100% strength (I aim for around 70%)
  3. vocals: i use lots of effects and tend to improvise a lot
  4. guitar: don't leave it for last; add it to the song early

Hmmm.... I think you will need a powerful computer before you can do #4... you need to get the guitar in there so that you can compose other parts of the song *around* the guitar part(s)...

Are you able to record audio with your computer? Or do you usually dump the MIDI tracks (when they are done) to the 4-track and then add guitar?

If you can get a PC (or some other hard-disk recorder) that lets you build songs using MIDI and audio at the same time, then your songs won't be split between MIDI projects (classical) and guitar projects (pop/rock). MIDI and guitar songs will start to blend together... You could also add drums yourself... and loop your drum patterns if you want...

Of course, having an entire band playing your songs is a cool feeling... and it definitely provides an "organic" sound. The main problem, though, is that unless they are amazingly adept at picking up new songs, musicians (and bands) need to practice, and by the time the band can play through an entire song "without screwing up", much of the initial spontaneous energy of the song has been drained away by all that practice...

Of all the music I have ever created (by myself and with different bands), I find that my favorite recordings are the ones that I spent the LEAST time practicing/polishing beforehand.

In my 2-person band (IPECAC), the most "fun" and listenable songs (IMO) are the ones where we messed around for a couple minutes until we found an interesting idea, and then we'd figure out how to repeat that idea... I'd jot down notes about my part, the sax player (Jon) would jot down his notes, and then we'd record the song right then and there, within minutes of the original idea. Sometimes we added overdubs on chorus (a soprano sax here, a keyboard sound effect there)... but often we left these "semi-improves" untouched. The "distance" between the original idea and the final mix was just a matter of minutes, or at most an hour, and the results were usually very energetic and re-listenable (at least to us).

Jon and I didn't always work that way, however... Sometimes we would go off and write songs by ourselves and then come back and "teach" the songs to each other. Often these pre-written songs ended up being "listenable but boring"... The more time we spent "perfecting" our songs, the less "fun and interesting" they were in the long run.

On the other extreme were the "pure improvs" which we would do a lot when we first started playing together (1988). In these "jam sessions" we would hit RECORD before we had any ideas or plan, and we would just jam blindly... These were often the *least* listenable recordings, but I think that has a lot to do with our inexperience at the time (especially when I tried to play sax).

In my 5-person band (the Master Anchovies), only Jon and I really knew how to build songs, set up grooves, and improvise; the other guys needed heavy direction. This meant we always had to play pre-written songs, with short improvisational sections (usually a solo by Jon and then a solo by me)... Despite being "live" recordings, none of the Master Anchovies songs were as "loose" or had as much "energy" as the 2-person "semi-improvised" IPECAC stuff.

A few years later, however, in the Dead Anchovies (after Jon left) the other guys started improvising parts (and entire songs) from scratch. These recordings are actually more interesting (to me) than the "real" songs, because there was more energy (and humor) and enthusiasm.

I think the same thing applies to my solo stuff... My "serious" (carefully written) songs are "safe" and listenable, but they're not as fun (to me) as the songs where I took a simple groove and then improvised on top of it, or from it and back again.

And that "fun to me" aspect is really all that matters, in the long run... Right?

My eternal plan/goal in regards to making music is this:

Create lots of songs, at least some of which are good.

Money and fame and other people's opinions don't really enter into it. I like getting feedback from people, because it helps inspire to try new things (which might make future songs even more "fun") but it all boils down to the amount of enjoyment I get out of my creations.

Do you feel the same way? Or are "other people" an important part of your song creation? Do you need to have musical companions? Do you need a live audience?

Is it more important for you to create music you like or to have fun when you are creating music? Is it the product you value, or the process, or perhaps the compensation you get for your efforts (the applause)?

I am always surprised when I hear about musicians (and directors) who don't like to listen to their own music (or watch their own movies) after they are done. That seems crazy! It sounds like they are in love with the process or reward, rather than the product, and I totally cannot relate to that... To me, the product is EVERYTHING! Why create a movie that you're not gonna want to watch a billion times???

Anyway, getting back to the topic (MIDI and "live energy")... I personally would *love* to hear you create some solo songs (or 2-person songs) that concentrate on improvisation and groove rather than "sophistication". Classical music is pretty sophisticated, but not all that "groovy". It's cerebral rather than pelvic. :)

If you could find a way to create songs with your setup that have lots of spontaneity and raw energy, that would be so cool!!! The question is... HOW???

How can you get really "raw" drums and bass sounds on your MIDI setup, *quickly*, and then add guitar, vocals, and then go back and add more MIDI or edit a little, and then call it "finished"?

Do you need to get a better MIDI sound module? An effects box? A new PC?

How many tracks of audio can your currently record and play with your PC? You will probably need at least 3 (guitar, vox, MIDI sound module)... Of course, if you can find a way to get your MIDI module to sound really "raw" without you needing to add a guitar and/or vocals, then you are set!

To illustrate what I mean about "tight" (heavily composed) music and "loose" (heavily improvised) music, I strongly recommend you check out "Memorial" and "Convenience" on my Tripecac site.

Memorial (on Re-treat) was heavily composed. I spent a month on it. It was my first "real song" since 1997. It's also my most "classical" song, at least recently. I constructed it very, very carefully... and the result is (IMO) very listenable, very "smooth", but not all that "fun" or memorable. (Please listen so that you know what I'm talking about)

Convenience (on Convenience) was done about a year later. Again, it came after a bit of a respit (a few months this time) but instead of playing it "safe" I went "wild" on the vocals and solos (recording most of them first take) and IMO the song has a great "energy". I spent about a week on it (1/4 the time I spent on Memorial), and I like it tons more.

There's actually a "musical joke" in Convenience and that's the [MIDI] guitar arpeggios: they are very similar to the ones in Memorial! Aside from that, however, just about everything in Convenience is *LESS* sophisticated than Memorial. It's much simpler, more "brute force" song, and kind of like a "party animal" compared to Memorial's "nerdiness". I tried to make it as "head-banging" as possible... and it was all done in MIDI (plus vocals).

What I want to do is make songs that are more like Convenience and less like Memorial. More rock, less classical... (or rather, more jazz-rock and less jazz-classical)...

Are you on a similar quest?


p.s. If you listen to the above songs, and have time, another "interesting" song is Anniverse (on the same page as Convenience). It's got improvised vocals, heavily influenced by the band "Suicide" (which I think influence the Teardrop Explodes).

p.p.s. Feel free to encourage me to check out specific songs of yours! I've listened to them all, but if you want feedback or want to discuss certain aspects of particular songs, just let me know! I'll be glad to analyze!

HAPPYJACK UK WHI02048623@WAKCOLL.AC.UK Wed Mar 31 04:18:57 2004


Mark Herbert her03062081@wakcoll.ac.uk Wed Mar 31 04:53:59 2004

I everybody, what u talking about

Billy willieoertel@hotmail.com Wed Mar 31 11:26:52 2004

Trav, sorry it took so long to get back to you. I've just started to get in the mood to do some song composing in the past month. I've had the Music XPC for almost a year and all that I've used it for was to make some simple audio edits and create many, many mp3s. I still have no midi for the XPC mainly due to no space for card (I used available space for Delta 44). I would have to purchase an external midi card via usb. However, I have a shitload of hard drive space (2 hard drives 80GB & 60GB)and I'm running a Pentium 4. So far, I've had no trouble using the XPC as one would a 16 track audio recorder (using SONAR).

Just in the past month I began composing new songs. I've been recording one of the two songs I've got on sonar. The sound quality is awesome. I'm just doing it with one track at a time. I have not recorded utilizing another musician as of yet, as I have not ruled that out yet. I kinda want to do it on my own.

I'll check out your most recent stuff and I'll write more soon.

Trav tripalot.com/travis Wed Mar 31 12:31:39 2004


Mark, this forum is for people who make music on a hobby basis. I started it back before all the "real" forums got started (audioforums.com, homerecording.com, cakewalk's forums, etc.) Right now it's mostly used by me and my [online] friends. You're welcome to join us, though! Do you make music?

Billy, don't worry about the lag. The nice thing about these discussion forums is we can forget about them for months (or years) and come back and continue our conversation where we left off (when we're in the mood for it).

I recently upgraded my clunky DAW. I'd been having crashes with 98SE/Sonar2.x, and so decided to move to XP/Sonar3.1.1. So far, no crashes! I had pops and clicks for the first couple weeks, until I found optimal drivers/settings for the Delta and Sonar. (If you are having pops and clicks or timing glitches, let me know - i can share some tips)

My current system (minus the boring stuff):

Mobo:     Abit KT7  (Via chipset)
CPU:      1 GHz Athlon Thunderbird
RAM:      256MB Samsung PC133
IDE0-mas: Maxtor 60GB 7200RPM  (C,E,F,G,H) --os,apps,shared,swap,temp
IDE0-sla: Seagate 200GB 7200RPM ATA133 (D) -- MUSIC
IDE1-mas: Seagate 200GB 7200RPM ATA133 (I) -- BACKUP
IDE1-sla: Lite-On 40125S CDRW          (J) -- cd reader and writer
Video:    Geforce 2 MX       (with TwinView)
Audio:    M-Audio Delta 44   (connected to OMNI I/O)
MIDI:     Frontier WaveCenter PCI
Monitors: two Hitachi CM715
OS:       XP Pro
Software: Sonar 3.1.1, CoolEdit 2000 (for cleaning up audio)
Disks:    IBM 45GB GXP75? 7200RPM      *old* music
          IBM 45GB GXP75? 7200RPM      *old* backup
          Orb drive

If I put in more RAM (either more sticks or a large stick), I get memtest errors. :( This means the system will always perform a little sluggishly. Oh well! So far it hasn't prevented me from making music, which is cool.

Good to hear that you're composing again!!!


Trav tripalot.com/travis Wed Mar 31 12:52:01 2004

MIDI rocks, Billy! It's a shame you can't cram a MIDI card in your XPC. Are there no more PCI slots left? What else do you have in there?

USB midi sounds pretty cool. That's probably how most people do MIDI with their laptops. I don't know whether it's noticeably slower or glitchier than a PCI MIDI card, at least for the stuff you're doing. Have you done much research into it?

USB itself has become really impressive. I use it for three things now... I have a hard drive enclosure that lets me plug my extra drives into my PC, on the fly, w/o having to reboot, kind like inserting a floppy! Also, I have a little digital camera that I plug in to copy pictures to the PC (so easy). And the Contour Shuttle is also USB; that's the controller that Cakewalk keeps promoting; it's pretty cool, saves a lot of time when doing repetivite editing.

If you do get MIDI going w/ Sonar, I highly recommend you think about getting a two-monitor setup (if you haven't already). It's very convenient to have the track view in one window and the piano roll in the other. For audio-only recording, though, I'm not sure if there's as much of a need for it. Do you use the console view a lot? Does Sonar feel "crowded" when you're working on projects with lots of tracks (or plugins)?

Of course, taking a devil's advocate position, maybe having a single monitor (and no midi) is actually a good thing because it encourages you to keep the number of tracks low, and focus on making each performance as cool as possible rather than just layering a million sounds on top of each other. Plus, the fewer tracks you have, the less time you need to spend mixing, and the faster you can finish a song and move on to the next one!

What instruments are you using?


Trav tripalot.com/travis Sat Jun 18 13:23:35 2005

Hi guys!

I updated the UNME site, for the first time in years! It's a bit of an overhaul. I still don't know what the goal of the site is, though, in concrete terms. Oh well! Maybe for now it can just be a place to chat about making music!


Trav tripalot.com/travis Tue Jun 21 23:08:51 2005

Now that mp3.com is gone, we need some where to put our stuff. I tried soundclick a couple months ago. I'm not taking it seriously, though, because what if it disappears like mp3.com. For now, I'm just using my own site as the "home base" for my music, and am not trying to promote it.

How about y'all? What do you use for online music storage and presentation?

Hey Billy - Which version of Sonar are you using? What are you using as a keyboard controller? Sound module? Effects? Are you using plugins?


Trav tripalot.com/travis Thu Jun 30 18:04:09 2005

Billy -

Do you have MIDI setup yet? I have a music laptop now (in addition to my main DAW); for sound I use the Edirol PCR-A30 audio/MIDI/keyboard. I got it for about $170. I'm sure there are cheaper MIDI-only USB interfaces ou there.

I bought Project5 specifically for the laptop. I've been using it off an on for about a month, but so far haven't finished any songs with it. I'm having a lot of trouble getting used to the pattern-based recordings. I keep trying to do everything the same way I do in Sonar, but then I get confused by Project5's patterns and interface. Hmmm. So far, I don't know if I'll ever get used to it. I can barely construct an 8-bar, 16-track loop, let along complete a song! Ugh. Well, I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Of course, I also installed Sonar 4 on the laptop. Ahhhh, good old Sonar... It's easier for me to work on songs, but the gapping is annoying. And it seems more crowded than Project5 for some reason. Having the Track Window and Piano Roll open at the same time is really tough on the laptop. Whenever I use Sonar on the laptop, I yearn for my desktop DAW's two monitors.

Since the laptop isn't connected to any hardware synths, I need to use soft synths. I've been using the TTS-1, which came with Sonar. It's gentle on the CPU, and works well with the Edirol's knobs and sliders (e.g., chorus, reverb, volume, attack, etc. all work automatically). It's pretty easy to use.

However, I notice that my Triton seems to sound a lot better. Or maybe I'm just used to it. And the Triton's keys seem more responsive than the Edirol. And of course, the Triton's DAW has those 2 big monitors. Can't forget those! :)

So, my desktop DAW continues to be my main music PC. The laptop is more for learning. I use it to go through the tutorials that come with Computer Music Magazine. Maybe someday I will actually get productive with the laptop, but for now there's no pressure (or guilt), since I'm cranking out lots of songs with my main DAW. I've finished 4 albums so far this year, and am working on 2 more. If I finish them, this will be my most productive year ever! :)

Anyway, back to your setup...

- I highly recommend you get MIDI going if you don't already.
- What hardware and software synths are you using?
- Where can we hear your songs?
- Are you still doing Cope mash-ups?


Trav tripalot.com/travis Thu Dec 1 12:27:38 2005

Hi, I moved us to my new server (tripalot.com).

Trav tripalot.com/travis Thu Mar 2 09:12:24 2006

Hi, I've tweaked the UNME site a bit. The main edits were focused on the gear pages. We now have a separate page for each piece of gear.


UNME Archive #03

1997-06-09 to 2006-03-02