I’m a writer, not a DJ. I mean, I can play the guitar and sing, but my tunes are more the campfire variety. I’ve always wanted to make my own computer music—if only so my three best friends and I can really have our own living room dance party. So right now I’m going from acoustic, analog, raw and uneducated…to digitalized. It’s going to be quite the learning curve.
I’m starting out on the assumption that we all know something about computers, like capabilities and right speeds and good soundcards. We know how to figure out basic audio software. I’m not a software or hardware tutorial writer, so if you don’t know anything about using a computer then you’ll have to come back later.
There’s the option of researching all the equipment you need to set up an actual studio in your home. I’ll get into that when I’m rich. Right now, what I’m interested in is how to make computer music. For as cheap as possible. I’m currently equipped with a fast laptop PC, Audacity and Virtual DJ (both free), an acoustic guitar with a plug-in, a small digital equalizer that my dad bought me, a mean set of lungs, a mic, headphones, and the ability to download tracks and free samples. I’ve worked with a few basic audio and video production software brands like Cakewalk or whatever, but by no means do I have any expertise in actually manipulating sounds. I know how to create, import and layer tracks, as well as a bit of smoothing down.
I debated whether to start with one of my own songs, an acoustic guitar and vocal track, then back up and “computerize” it. Then I thought maybe it’s a better idea to begin with already-existing songs and attempt a mashup. So with nothing but my freeware along with a few tracks, headphones and samples of chirps, toots, bells, cranks and drums, I started.
The mash-up’s called “Three by Three”. It’s “Three Days” by Jane’s Addiction vs “Three Seeds” by Silversun Pickups vs “Three MCs and a DJ” by Beastie Boys. I downloaded free samples of sounds I can mix in, like the set of Commodore 64 beeps and two sets of old synth packs from old Yahama keyboards. I don’t have the ability to isolate the vocals of songs, which limits the possibilities. Setting up my track, I have to think more in terms of weaving the complementary tunes together, rather than overlaying vocal hooks.
So after some ridiculous number of hours uncounted, I’ve discovered that it’s not easy. Timing, timing, timing. First there’s the general layout, the story of the track—how do you decide on that? And figuring out which elements to include from each song is really difficult. I played around with clipping little bits out—it’s no small matter to match up those parts exactly where they mesh right.
It looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me. For the next week or two, I’ll be jotting down notes about which little guitar lick or vocal curve I should loop and where. I can’t even figure out whether I want the track to start off slow or fast.
The best thing about this journey of electronic discovery is that I’m beginning to get acquainted with how much material is out there and free to use. Sample Swap (http://sampleswap.org/) lets you fill your shopping basket with free drum loops, break beats, synths and every manner of audio sample you can wrap your head around. Bedroom Producers Blog also compiles up-to-date information and links to sample packs and kits.
Right now I’m only about three seconds into my mashup. But I think with more hard work and the motivation of the internet behind me, I might even make something out of it someday. In the distant, digitalized future.