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Music Tutorial #2
by Phobos/Samar

After a long break (believe me, it's never a good idea to accidentally format your HDD), I've decided to continue my little music tutorial.

Acoustics

I hadn't told you about it in the first part, though it's very important matter. A listener doesn't really have to own the most expensive equipment to only listen to the music. But a musician can't afford it, because he does really have to hear properly what he composes. Using standard TV-speakers or miniature PC-speakers for this aim is pure misunderstanding. That's how many musicians compose their musics, and the result is tragic: maybe it sounds good on their own equipment, but anywhere else it is horrible. Of course I don't insist on you to buy any extremely expensive musical equipment (when the cost of nothing but cables is many times higher than the most expensive set at your closest RTV shop). Usually it should be enough to buy a set of separate elements of a "better than usual" standard (and definately I don't mean so called "mini-sets" by stating this). Of course the more expensive particular element is, the better result you get. I don't recommend Technics (except for the MOST expensive elements), but Denon, Yamaha or Kenwood should suit your needs fine.

Columns is a different topic. They should have the power of at least 40-80 Wat (of the true SinusDin, but not PMPO or any other ridiculous way of measure, when we find out that a speaker with a diameter of 5 cm has the power of 100 Wat), but important aspects are also: the diameter of a particular speaker, presence of a high-tones dome, depth (the more the better) and a mass of the column (the more the better). And this time also I discourage you buying Technics equipment - it sounds poorly. There are also cheaper elements available like: Yamaha's studio columns with their own amplifier (monitors) at the price ca. 250 Euro, home-cinema-sets (those from better producers) or more expensive sets for your PC computer, for example: 2+1 or 5+1 sets from Creative.

OK. We've fantasized a bit, now let's get back to the reality... If you don't own any of the sets mentioned above or even mini-sets, or even micro-ones, then you should stock up with the earphones and the amplifier for them (it could be any kind of amplifier, even your PC computer). The earphones should completely cover your ears in order to transfer most tones. And again the best choice here are neat (and expensive) earphones, for example produced by Koss, but as we're not dreaming and standing ground, I recommend you Philips products.

Configuration of columns is also very important. Most people puts them on a shelf, very often with high-tones speakers inside, what is a fatal mistake of course. Small columns (monitors) should be located at the same height as ears of sitting man, in other case diffusion of sounds is not proper. SID chip is monophonic, but I guess you're not listening to the SID music only, are you?

Hardware Calibration

...is also very important matter. A musician must have all the tones set flat. No bass tweaking and no high-tones tweaking is allowed! Just nothing! Absolutely forget about using equalizer (by the way, have you noticed that even good equalizers when set to the flat mode, they change sounds anyway?). Klax proposed bass-boost for the C64 once. It looks like he doesn't own a good music equipment, because bass of the SID chip is really powerful. The 21.g6 player enables creating such bass that actually anything better can't be achieved even by the most sophisticated generators. If someone doesn't know how good bass sounds, and I don't mean that strange scream, which is commonly considered as bass, then I propose visiting a cinema. This is a REAL bass.

You're wondering what musical equipment do I have? Well, I'll have to disappoint you. I use 2+1 set, two 5 Wat Yamaha speakers put into the casing of PC speakers plus high-tones speakers extra in the place of dummy. Subwoofer's role is fulfilled by Diora amplifier and two 20 Wat speakers put into the closet (of course in a specific way), controlled by the PC with music adapters of SB64 (which sounds a way better than SB128 and SBLive - I'd checked it out) and MaxiSound64Pro. This makes a fully functional home-made set, however it sounds not much worse than some of the firm sets. Even Moog wasn't abashed of such a home-made work, however we had put our speakers independently into the closet. :)

And now, according to my promise, another part of my music tutorial, which is going to be about various tips, which you might find useful when composing on the C64. All of them had been used by myself, some of them invented, some of them copied. And this is the knowledge, which I would like to share with you today.

Echo

It could seem that making an echo effect is not a big challenge. That's true. But! Making a well-sounding echo, oh, that's another case. The primary rule here is following: proceeding "bounces" have to be twice more silent than preceding ones. See examples below.

Bad:
00 I01 A-3
01 --- ---
02 S03 A-3
03 --- ---
04 S04 A-3
05 --- ---
06 S05 A-3
07 --- ---
08 --- ---

Average:
00 I01 A-3
01 --- ---
02 S04 A-3
03 --- ---
04 S06 A-3
05 --- ---
06 S07 A-3
07 --- ---
08 --- ---

Good:
00 I01 A-3
01 --- ---
02 --- ---
03 S04 A-3
04 --- ---
05 --- ---
06 S06 A-3
07 --- ---
08 --- ---

These examples apply to the instrument with ADSR values of 0089 and following parameters in the special macro:

01 30 88
02 30 78
03 30 68
04 30 48
05 30 38
06 30 28
07 30 18

If you remember, player 21.g6 uses the command 30xx to set the value of SR. Of course it was just an example. You need to decide in advance what "frequency" should the proceeding "bounces" have and follow these settings consistently. When adding an echo to the melody, it is usually used to have repetition on every third position, so it is possible to include our echo effect at odd positions:

00 I01 A-3
01 --- ---
02 --- ---
03 S04 A-3
04 I01 E-3
05 --- ---
06 S07 A-3
07 S04 E-3
08 --- ---

It's important to keep it in mind to use repetitions on every third position, but only when they can be heard. So it is nonsense to use "bounces" with the volume less than 4, because they will simply disappear when harmonizing with the rest of instruments.

There's also another way of "combining" sounds, for example on the bass track: by frequent accord hits, the echo effect for an accord sounds interestingly. You can do it also inversely, but you need to remember about filters!

The situation is similar when it comes to the echo effect for two or even three tracks.

To make it easier (and to save some memory) you can use only one track for the echo effect (with one repetition). For example:

8c01 00 --- A-3
01 --- ---
02 --- E-3
03 --- ---
04 --- F-3
05 --- ---
06 --- ---
07 --- ---
08 --- ---

8c02 00 I01 ---
01 S04 ---
02 --- ---
8c01 00 --- A-3
01 --- ---
02 --- E-3
03 --- ---
04 --- F-3
08 --- ---

8c04 00 I03 A-0
01 --- ---
02 --- ---
03 --- ---
04 --- ---
05 --- ---
06 --- ---
07 --- ---
08 --- ---

It is very important to remember to switch on an appropriate instrument before the pattern in the first track, and that pattern 02 has got only three positions, so you need to compensate length of the pattern in which the echo is going to end: just copy pattern 01 to it and cut it by three positions. You can do it similarly when composing more complicated melodies: just copy a particular pattern to another pattern, enter it to the adjacent track, then first insert three positions, next enter adequate notes into the first pattern at the correct position (where you want to put the echo effect), and then insert three more positions, and so on... It is very useful method. In the last example, just to boost an impression, you can use instrument with... an echo. For this implementation the most useful is wave 51. I strongly recommend you trying to find an appropriate pulse level, which gives an echo effect.

More about chords

In the first part of this tutorial you got to know two basic chords - major and minor. A little extension of them are chords Sus2 and Sus4. Both they're something between major and minor chords. Sus2 - 027, Sus4 - 057. Knowing them helps you to create pretty interesting music themes using chords only. The other nice chords are Maj7 - 047b and Min7 - 037a, which are commonly used in Drax-styled tunes. You can use them, of course not always, it's kind of a nice diversity.

Glides

You should not exaggerate with the use of glides. There is a Swedish musician, Trident, whose tunes can be practically identified by characteristic glides at the end of sounds. Glides are usually used in solos, however you can use them from time to time in the bass-line. You definately shouldn't use them for chords (it's possible in "JCH" editor though), because specific sound of arpeggio on the C64 is then awful.

How to make the tune seems to be created with the use of more tracks than it's really possible?

Quite a long title for this chapter, heh... Anyway, three tracks never seemed to me to be sufficient (and even) number. Users of Amiga, or even small Atari, have the possibility of using four tracks, which actually allow you to simulate basic components of a music: lead (melody), chords, bass and drums. It took a long time on the C64 scene before standard partitioning of a song was finally established, and which is followed till present day. Anyone remembers old tunes? Chords were simulated by only one, often the central, tone of this chord, alternatively a fanciful musical base was used, but all of this sounded rather badly. Making chords with arpeggio is a really good idea.

Quite a simple solution is inventing certain number of musical bases for one tune and efficient use of them. Let's say that we start with the simulation of a guitar, then we add a melody to it. We lead the main theme to a certain change and then the rest of a melody uses chords on arpeggio, bass and drums. Later it returns to the primary base for a while. The effect is so that even though the primary musical base is not present anymore, the listener just imagines it (composing and listening to the SID music vastly depends on your imagination). I can assure you that this method works, really, however maybe not on everyone.

Another solution is efficient track mixing. You pack sounds wherever it's possible and compose melody the way that it's possible to add something more. This method needs a bit more practice and intuition. Once I've heard a SID tune, unfortunately I can't remember its creator (but I keep on searching), which seemed to contain at least 6 (six!) different tracks, but for 100% sure it was composed only for single SID. Of course the fundamental constructive elements of such tune can only be short, fast instruments, and additionally fast tempo, which helps to deceive your ears.

The third method is based on using... two SIDs (so called stereo-SID). Well, there's only one little problem with that... Till now there's no good music editor for six tracks. There was a "DMC" version, however it was ineffectively designed, so you couldn't play two tunes at the same time beyond the editor. My concept for two "JCH" editors needs +60k RAM expansion, it's much more comfortable in use, not entirely, because in any case you have to put two and two together. "GoatTracker" is almost a misapprehension, SID emulation is really at the very low level. I really advise against using this editor. If you have to compose your music on the PC, you'd better do it in "Vice" emulator.

Text by: PHOBOS/SAMAR
English translation by: CACTUS/OXYRON/PADUA

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