In Full Production mode

The summer months left me with seven instrumentals in the making. I have already started the mastering stage. The first recordings had to be drastically upgraded with new samples, tracks, loops in order to meet the high standards of the most recent recordings. I had almost given up with recordings like Maraen, Vrolijk and Welcome Snow. But in the end they also turned into nice grooving instrumentals.

Thanks to everybody giving me early feedback in order to help me evolve with this project especially my son that provides me with the merciless feedback of a 20er.

I will start publishing soon! Stay tuned!

The JD-Xi is back in my rig

I did try to live without it. After all the Jupiter-Xm is a much better product, with proper hardware implementation, using the Zen engine which id the future, slightly better keybed, bigger display, much broader range of sounds and some proper amount of RAM memory. The JD-Xi feels like a game compared to all these issues. After the last update of the Jupiter-Xm firmware the internal sequencer became usable, erasing the only point where the JD-Xi was better in.

But the existing sounds on the JD-Xi are great and can cover the techno side of my sound pallet and if used careful the internal sequencer is still an asset to use. So I use it again to create three extra synth layers, usually rhythmical patterns with pan and/or delay effects, often using just the Root note, allowing nice texturing of different parts. At this moment I mute/unmute them manually, as the MIDI implementation of the JD-Xi is rather poor. The latest of my new Tracks is using these layers: “DUCAs-GO” .

In the future I intent to implement real time risers and droppers to improve my transitions in my live rig during performing/recording.

DUCAs: the concept

Most melodies of the DUCAs productions have medieval origin. Several Dutch, French, English, Greek medieval songs have inspired my contemporary remake with my own sound colors. But even in other songs that are originally covers of classic rock or latin melodies, the sound, the intonation, the sequencer based repeats and effects like midi arpeggiators tranforms them into new original compositions.

I keep the difference between live performing and recorded productions as small as possible. I perform the pieces live using the same phrases and sounds as the recorded productions, arranging it on the spot, improvising with any instrument I have at that moment. In the past I have used several rigs with loopers, samplers, computers and sequencers. All of them resulted into conserve can like performances that reminded me of karaoke. I felt pushed to preproduce everything, from the sounds, the patterns, the arrangement. I have solved these issues by using several different sequencers/loopers playing their own patterns, conducted by a central sequencer. In the current rig there is room for small mistakes like every live. If I don’t like a track I play it and record/sample/loop it again instead of using advanced software to repair everything like an engineer.

There is no computer involved in the music making and recording process. For the audio recordings I use analogue methods and prerecord a synch track that gives me my master clock during the recordings. Only as a last step I import 8-12 live recorded and arranged tracks in Ableton, do only some minor shortening, apply EQ, Compression, Delay, Reverb and do some mastering with Ozon.

My groovemakers

So I started with the BeatBuddy. It had a great sound all the time, but it is not meant for creators, rather for cover players that purchase patterns. If you want to make your own patterns the way is too long. After having tasted the complete freedom of the SDRUM I had to look further.

My experiments with the analogue synths did not deliver. You had to sacrifice a whole synth for one drum sound! OK for studio but not for live.

The Arturia DrumBrute Impact was a great addition to my rig. It is an amazing sounding manual drummachine, can record great patterns, but there in no way to record any automation. It has a very musical and live oriented randomization that even adds notes on high settings. The BeatBuddy was only needed for its great acoustic sounds.

I have tried to get my hands on a Digitakt already a year ago. On a second hand market I was unlucky enough to make a deal and pay an untrustworthy guy that have been commiting fraud for months, he never delivered. About two months ago I found a great offer and got my Digitakt. I need more time to utilise it completely but I started using it for productions quickly. It gave me these sounds DrumBrute cannot deliver and oceans of gems, like a full digital synth engine, a unique sequencer with conditional triggers, midi channels and more. I was very lucky as an amazing firmware upgrade was delivered just as I started making recordings with it. It’s biggest weakness is for my workflow its limmited audio outputs, meaning I cannot give him the bandwidth it otherwise reserves for recording projects, it’s impossible to process 8 mixed channels. For live this is not an issue, but as we know the concept of DUCA is keeping little differences between live and recorded songs.

The BeatBuddy is going out, I might use it only for the live singer songwriter program.

My Synths

I liked the little analogue synth of the JD-Xi the most. But it was the less powerful. On top of that the sequencer of the JD-Xi is great for mainstream but not for my compositions. Having the choice of 2,4,8,16,32 measures only is killing. Worst of all, quantisation is always on! No way for sounds to exist out of the grid. In the end they have put so little memory in it, that any serious automation of synth parameters make the synth to crash.

So I experimented for several months with a couple of semi-modular synths of Behringer, as educational step for me. I loved the sounds, but it was too hard to keep them in tune after several hours of playing. Worse of all one cannot save presets at all, so one is limited in the number of sounds in a live situation.

Next step was the Moog Sub37. I am in love with this one. Everything about it is musical and the sounds are legendary. So this one stays, the semi-modular stuff is gone. In my workflow most of my new songs start with first making a new sound on the Sub and sometimes a short sequence in its internal sequencer that syncs just great. These sounds are valuable protagonists for the DUCA music.

One analogue voice is not enough. The JD-Xi is nice but limited in elektro-sounds and uses the old Roland engine. I ended up with a Jupiter-Xm. It has 4 useable channels where you can put polyphonic digital syth tracks and more than 2000 of amazing presets. It is a kind of the greatest of Roland till now. It is not very musical, the knobs have a narrow sweet spot range and the various models are not well reflected in the hardware. But is a lot better than the JD-Xi uses the new Zen engine and for live situations the knobs are enough.

DUCAs: the background

This new concept emerged during the 2020 COVID lockdowns. As it was not easy to play with other musician in proximity, I had to find ways to create a full bands sound in my home studio.

I started extending my guitar with looper stations and some form of rhythm generator. In the end I settled with the AEROS looper, although not finished had great potential, working with 6 parts each consisting of 6 tracks.

For the rhythm I tried first the Miditech SDRUM. Great freedom and enough possibilities for singer songwritter like songs. But it was so easy to destroy your own creations by accident and not possible to set the pattern by MIDI. So I got a BeatBuddy, who has great sound, great interface but ancient editor/librarian. So I made my patterns in Ableton and exported … blah…import … blah… upload…blah…turn on, OK it works.

Then I tried 5 syth pedals for my guitar. I returned all of them. Instead I got my hands on a Roland JD-xi synthesizer and added it to my rig. It had 2 digital synths one (simple) analogue and a rythm track. It was not easy to achieve synch, I had to program a MIDI event processor to achieve perfect sync.

I did several webcastings to test the concept as it developed.