Author Topic: Old School Ambient artist looking for New World advice  (Read 562 times)

hallam

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Old School Ambient artist looking for New World advice
« on: April 29, 2014, 10:04:28 AM »
Hello all; I'm new to this forum, and new to the "new world" of technology, but I'm old-school ambient, and I'm looking for some answers.
My history: with music started with writing avante-garde music back in the days just before midi and computer music because accessible and affordable....back in the mid 70's, one of my composition teachers showed me how he spliced the two ends of reel tape together to make a loop...and I was off.

In the 80's I did a number of theater "scores" on tape (music conctrete, we called it then) and I was into the sounds of Eno, Fripp, Jarre, TD, etc.   Further love of early music, too, for it's open sounding harmony and drones.   So I'm not new to doing ambient...it's just been a long time.
Life happened, kids happened, jobs happened, etc etc.   But I sort of dropped away from the technological side of music.
Thru that time I did a lot with Folk and acoustic music, but sort of left the technology out of it.
Ok, so flash foward to now....I'm coming back to ambient, and the world has changed.   For the past several months, I've been trying to get my head around MIDI and a couple of DAWS.  About two years ago, I did a Native American Flute recording, all in Audacity....but for the past few months I've been working hard in FLStudio and Reaper.
But I'm not sure these are allowing me to experience the workflow in a way that is copascetic with Ambient....it all seems very beat/tempo based...which is fine, when I bring in a drum or ostinato pattern...
...but personally, I'm sorta improv based, and "conventional recording wisdom" sez leave out all the FX and put them in later....but that sort of changes the way I perform.   It might be nice to generate sounds/samples/sequences in real time and "capture" them.   
But I'm also highly into the "less is more" ethic when it comes to complications like chasing down hum, figuring out why the software isn't doing what it SHOULD be doing, figuring out routing, etc etc.   I'd rather be making music happen than all of that, and by the time I get it all working right (for this one pass), I'm exhasuted from the frustration, and there goes my desire to make music.   
It is getting better.
But I'm just wondering if some software is more suited to streamlined flow....and if I'm using a DAW that is too beat based.   Maybe I should be going a hardware route and "performing" the music from synths, sequencers, samplers, and "capturing" what I do.   
There is so very much to learn, in the areas of recording, midi, sequencing, synthesis, mixing, mastering (don't even get me started on that one...)
I don't know...maybe a little advice?   
I am basically wanting to do what I'd call "organic ambient" with natural sounds/instruments/samples along with my flutes, keyboards, and hand percussion sounds.  I also play a pimped electric autoharp that plays hundreds of chords and pentatonic scales (called the Prizim Zither).   
I'd love to be able to do it live....I perform with my flutes in bookstores, art galleries, coffee shops... but streamlined workflow would be required.   Groove boxes?   THey seem beat based as well.
Thanks.

Ekstasis

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Re: Old School Ambient artist looking for New World advice
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2014, 10:28:40 AM »
Welcome to the forum, almost all ambient artists I like use the old school method, maybe this method also reflects in the music output  also..

From what it sounds from you should focus to have as much external gear and effect processors and samplers as possible to be able to perform in real time.  You can watch robert Rich on youtube he have a quite inspiring work flow and he does all in real time with samplers layer per layer with external effect processor, I myself prefer to this route. so Yeah, a good effect processor and a good sampler is probably what you are looking after.

There is many ways to approach ambient music, for some people the technical aspect and the science of syntehsis is very important and is the driving force while some people prefer to just close their eyes and let their ears guide them, personally I prefer the later method, the only thing that matter is what comes out.

The big difference now days that is a lot of ambient artists use offline edition and cut and paste method,
Personally I perfer the old school way where all is done in real time improvisations.

I think in your case the choice of effect processor and reverb will be the essence since this tools are what will transform simple sounds into ambient worlds.

Lexicon Reverbs are very popular in the ambient scene exist in both software and hardware form, the PCM 91 you can get for good money.

Eventide is good for all kinds of effects in general, H3000 you can find for good money used, same with orville.

Some people prefer TC electronic reverbs I know Opphoi did like them, I know Robert Rich and I think also Loren Nerell like Sony reverbs.

Personally I have no favourite, I like both Eventide and Lexicon they complete each other, it is really a matter of preference, when you use different tools you will create your own preferences after some time.  Bricasti M7 is regarded on of the best for realistic reverbs, how it is for ambient and longer decay reverbs I am not sure.

Regarding DAW and streamlined flow.
Ableton Live is done for live performance with it's session view it is easy to trigger and record samples.
I think the latest Sonar X3 have something similar.

the session view is the only thing I miss in Sonar, but you can do the same thing with a sample manger plugin in reaper for instance.

LNerell

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Re: Old School Ambient artist looking for New World advice
« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2014, 07:20:46 PM »
Some people prefer TC electronic reverbs I know Opphoi did like them, I know Robert Rich and I think also Loren Nerell like Sony reverbs.

I like them all.  ;D
In my studio I have TC Electronics, Sony, Lexicon, Ursa Major, Roland, and Alesis reverbs. I have hardware and software tools. To me whatever works is worth using. So old school is fine, if you feel comfortable working that way then go ahead. Recording FX with the instruments is fine if that's how you like to work, that's how some people like to do it, nothing wrong with it.

As for DAWs, none of them are really designed for doing ambient music, and most of us use whatever we feel comfortable using. I mainly use Logic Studio, if I am doing a long drone piece then I just turn off the metronome and let it go. I've never used FL Studio but most of the people I know who use it are doing more beat driven stuff. Some people are just not comfortable with computers, A Produce mainly used ADATs or burned stuff directly to CDr, his concession to hard disc recording was purchasing a Korg Oasys keyboard workstation. So if a DAW is just too much then go with something else.
Take care.

- Loren Nerell

petekelly

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Re: Old School Ambient artist looking for New World advice
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2014, 01:50:58 AM »
Greetings,

From reading your post I gather that the workflow issue is probably most important to you at this stage. I've used FLStudio for years and like any DAW, the learning curve can be frustrating. My suggestion is to forget about it's beat based background and just record or put audio clips into the playlist without worrying too much about them snapping to a grid or anything. The tempo setting will just be effecting things like the sync of delays and the like. It's a much deeper program than it has been given credit for once you start to really explore it. As I said, all DAWs are very featured these days and require a lot of time to get into. For example, I've got Reaper but I only use it on occasion as I know it would take me a long time to alter my workflow to suit it (even though I hear it's a great program).

The search for reverbs and FX may be more relevant once you've got a workflow you're comfortable with, there's so much great stuff out there now. I too studied electroacoustic musics and had to work with tape slicing and VC3s and the like many moons ago.

Seren

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Re: Old School Ambient artist looking for New World advice
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2014, 04:52:21 AM »
Another possibility (if you really dislike computers as some of us do) is to get a non computer based recording system - such as the Korg, Tascam or Roland digital recording studios.

e.g Korg D16 or D32.

Tascam DP24 or 32

Roland VS 2480 etc

You can get versions of these on ebay or other second hand places.

You can use mics to record your flutes dry or add effects as you do it.

If you have hardware effects you can use these too as part of the signal flow.

They also use CD burners so you can put to CDR - if your DAW has effects you like you can then import the sounds from the CDR and play with them again there.

Iunderstand your confusion - I stopped making music before CDs came into existence and the improvements in recording technology and the capacity of synths to make astounding sounds and music when I came back was just mind blowing - I've never got into midi yet......

Altus

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Re: Old School Ambient artist looking for New World advice
« Reply #5 on: May 03, 2014, 09:31:14 AM »
FWIW, I've been using FLStudio for over a decade, and wouldn't use anything else to create my stuff. Like Pete said, just ignore the beat grid and drop in audio clips or midi data via the piano roll. Nothing snaps to the grid unless you want it to.
Mike Carss -- Altus : aural journeys for the mind's eye
www.altusmusic.ca

Crepuscule

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Re: Old School Ambient artist looking for New World advice
« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2014, 02:36:33 PM »
Fruity loops, really?

I listen to your albums for some time ago, I never imagined that they're composed in FL.

How does it compare to Reaper? I've done some experiences with Reaper and it's very intuitive.

petekelly

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Re: Old School Ambient artist looking for New World advice
« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2014, 05:36:50 AM »
There is a bit of a misconception that FLStudio is still the very basic beat-making program that Fruity loops was. In my view, it's a complex now as you want it to be / need it to be. I should say that the way it has been marketed hasn't done it any favours :)

Back on topic, I would recommend using 'Edison' (in the master FX slot) as a very useful 'scratch recorder' to record any live tweakings and the like. I do this very often.

Finally, Edison has a killer click removal function that I haven't seen anywhere else.

hallam

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Re: Old School Ambient artist looking for New World advice
« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2014, 05:53:38 PM »
Thanks all.    After bending my brain for about 4 months trying to deal with the complexites, I'm going with a computer-less system.   I play 4 types of instruments: Flutes, Zithers, Keys, hand drums.   So I'll have four lines running into a mixer, each with a dedicated loop/phrase sampler.   The mixer will have an FX loop (stomp boxes with knobs...no menus).   There will also be mp3s that I run for sound effects (like a running stream or ocean waves...stuff like that) or "performance tracks" for when I have a more song-like backup (harmony chords behind my flute, for example).   The drum mic/looper will be the master and the other loopers will be slaves....for those times when there IS a core beat, it will no doubt come from the hand drums (ashiko, Tar, doumbek).   

At some point, I'll integrate a laptop...but only to run a sampler/rompler off a midi keyboard.   I'd like an analog sequencer one day as well...or at least a hardware synth.   These come later.   I can get a LOT out of this setup, and make music instead of spend hours and hours and hours building "music" with building blocks like pre-made loops and clips.   

Thanks for all the input.   I watched the Robert Rich vids on youtube (he's been a favorite for awhile now) and sort of see that as similar to what I want to get going...background "washes" of sound...with solo instruments in front of it.   But I want to do more than just "trigger" the sounds that have been pre-made.   I want to play them and then move over to another generator like my flutes or keyboards and add to them.   It's taken me weeks of visualizing to come up with this plan....and really I only need the loopers; I've got everything else I need.   So I'll be setting this all up over the next few months and then learning to make some good sounds on the system; then out to perform.   Any recordings will have to come from a "live feed" off my mixer....I find the process of recording in a DAW to be EXTREMELY unmusical and unspontaneous.   Just me.   It's the way I am....all those years with "jam bands".   

Seren

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Re: Old School Ambient artist looking for New World advice
« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2014, 12:37:13 AM »
congrats for finding your vision/solution.

Let us know when you've got it all together and post some of the recordings, we'd love to hear them.

Seren

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Re: Old School Ambient artist looking for New World advice
« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2014, 12:38:38 AM »
.....and you could still consider one of the non PC based recording studios in the future - some have mixers and you could then overdub......