In this epic post I’m going to share some behind the scenes notes on what it took to compose the song “They Walk Among Us”. If you have any friends who think that all us electronic musicians do is just drop canned loops and hit buttons, have them read this – of course they’ll have no idea what I’m talking about ;^).
About The Song
Here is a fun blurb I put together when I first posted the song that will give a feel for what I was going for:
This song has an interesting story. You see – I traveled back in time with my music production laptop and a pile of virtual synthesizers to score a 50’s Sci-Fi B-Movie. “They Walk Among Us” is the result, Will any humans survive? You’ll have to listen to find out. Extra points if you can tell me the Morse code message in the end of the song. So If you like theremins, 50’s SCI-FI B-Movies, flying saucer sounds, big beats and ear candy I think you’ll really dig this track.
DAW, Synths, Tools, and CPU Usage
The song was composed, produced, mixed, and mastered entirely with Ableton Live 8 on an HP DV6500T Laptop using Windows Vista 32-bit Premium.
I composed all elements of the song in Session view using a Novation Remote SL controller,Korg NANOKeys, TriggerFinger, and the Qwerty keyboard to play notes. I also used a Wacom Tablet and my Laptop touchpad to enter and edit notes. I experimented with arrangements and created scenes in session view. I then practiced with these scenes to the point where I could perform the song structure live. I did a real-time recording of my work in session view to create the Arrangement view of the song. Then I stayed in Arrangement view and added a few more parts, mixed, and automating.
The song is all digital and no external hardware was used. There are 31 tracks. Most are “MIDI” and most are third party VSTs. As you can see below, I’ve used A LOT of Sylenth1 for this song. While I did use some factory presets, there are many heavily tweaked or effected presets. I also did some custom preset programming from scratch which I’ll describe in more detail below.
|– 2 Drum Racks
– 2 Impulse
– 3 Audio tracks used for re-sampling
– 10 Sylenth1 tracks
– 1 Absynth 4
– 2 Vanguard
|– 1 Gladiator 2
– 2 Camel Audio Alchemy
– 4 Dimension Pro
– 1 Morphine
– 1 Ableton Operator
– 2 Ableton Collision
On the effects side I used built-in effects within the VSTs. I then added more effects using only built-in Ableton Live effects. I used many, many instances of these FX so instead of giving you a count I’ll list the ones I used. I also did both envelope and capture of real-time automation within clips.
– Beat Repeat
While most of the tracks are MIDI, I used audio tracks for re-sampling and slicing within Live. I also did some re-sampling through Image-Line’s Gross beat.
I tend to mix with the tracks as I go along with mastering in mind. By the time I’m done things are nice and balanced without needing a heavy mastering pass. I do use Image-Line’s Multiband Compressor effect from their Juice Pack on the master channel so that my songs match in volume when they are played in album form.
On my new HP DV6 Intel Core 2 Duo (2.53 GHZ P8700), the CPU usage with no frozen tracks is between 20-40% on average spiking to 45% when there is a lot going on.
I’m not 100% sure how long it took to produce this song from start to finish. Elapsed time it was a three weeks. My guess is it was about 15-20 hours of work – and I LOVED every minute.
Share Your Notes
If you ever do a post like this on your blog and want to share, leave a comment with a link so we can all see what your up to.
Composer, Synthesist, Electronic Musician & Multimedia Artist | Sr. Systems Analyst | Founder of the Rocky Mountain Synthesizer Meetup