Improvizone

Unwinding

Andrew Booker 2017-03-27 21:55:05

I've now made three solo drumming videos. The first was hard simply because it was the first, and I had been ambitious about recording myself twice and comping together two of me in a single video. The second was hard because the music I had decided I was going to play was tough, and though a dilligent drummer, I'm not really much of a player of musical instruments. So I was tired of hard work, and just wanted to do something easy in an afternoon. So I took all week about doing that, too.

Musically, my third video went according to plan. The entire tracking, from first improvised takes on the electronic pads to final acoustic drum takes, began some time before 4pm and was wrapped up by 5pm. My strategy this time was an improvisation based on a drum patch I used to use where everything is tuned in GM7, appearing for example at this gig, and on a couple of recordings. I didn't have the drum module to hand with this setting, so I spent a few moments dialling up the appropriate MIDI notes on the SPD-S, and then little more time dusting off my very old Roland D-110 sound module, which I had not switched on in maybe 15 years, and up came all the settings for my old super-prog compositions, plus the original patches for Ahead, my solo CD from many, many years ago. I hooked up the D-110 to the SPD-SX, which can transmit on a different channel for each pad, so I can start to get more multi-timbral. It also has some useful options to do with when it sends a MIDI note-off, for example so that I can tap a pad and it will play the sound until I tap the pad again. I use this feature in the latter half of this piece.

I did the acoustic drums off the cuff in three or four takes immediately after. I'm normally as economical as possible in recordings. Not here. The second half of this piece is probably the busiest bit of acoustic drumming I've put down, ever.

Having regretted using my old Samsung Galaxy S3 as the camera for the previous video, by now my new try-out Apeman A70 wide-angle camera had arrived. I was concerned the picture quality wouldn't be great, but I'm really pleased with how it turned out and look forward to using it again.

Each of the previous videos had a different look, and for this one I wanted to try a shot from above the drums, with the two kits facing each other. This would force me a more advanced approach to making a composite of the two performances than the straight-down-the-middle merge that I got away with for the previous two. The crazy merge path would have been adventure enough, were it not for the kind of dumb mistake that only arises when you attempt to condense all of your activity into a short space of time, as you can see from the picture taken in between completing the electronic drum take and starting on the acoustic take. I used my trusty Flix orange brushes for the acoustic drums. Look where I left the sticks I had used for the electronic part. On top of the SPD-S. In the way. What an idiot. How the hell was I going to get rid of those from the acoustic shot.

The white line shows the merge path I used. Everything to the left of the white line is the acoustic shot, to the right is the electronic shot. The line is fat in places to indicate the width of the cross-fade between one image and the other. Where the line is very thin, around the left foot drum, everything is dark enough that no cross-fade is needed. Just as well, because I have to come very close to the 19" cymbal to cut out the two sticks, but not so close that when the cymbal flapped up and down it was ghosted by the stationary version in the electronic half. In the end it worked out OK, but I had to airbrush one of the sticks off the drum on my left foot. I needed to use the acoustic shot of the drum so that you can see it moving when I play it, otherwise there's an unaccounted-for backbeat towards the beginning of the piece.

While this is a departure from the musical complexity of the other two, it still has lots of what I like. The first half is a bit of a preamble, but in the second half it takes off, with the florid and relentless 16ths around the acoustic toms and hi-hat that start up alongside the sustained synth pad sound. Then after some splashing around on the cymbals, the acoustic drums collapse back down to just toms to give the ambient sound of the synth pad some space. I used to do that a lot in Improvizone.

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