Project 3

My Introduction to Oscillators and Waveforms Through Ariana Grande

I finally made music again! Oh, you thought I forgot? I’m back with another pop song – which is strange seeing as pop isn’t really what I listen to.

Anyway, I decided to take a stab at “The Way” by Ariana Grande and Mac Miller. It’s kind of a forgotten gem. There was also something about that piano I wanted to spice up. I found some beat remakes online and got the basic melody pretty quick.

Once I got it done, I added quick percussion just to get a little bit of a skeleton of the beat. Then I started playing with the piano to find another sound. Here’s what I came up with – towards the end I put in the piano so you can feel the difference in the mood:

This sound you’re hearing is an oscillator. Now I don’t know all that much about oscillators in audio engineering, but in a few electrical engineering and physics courses, I was using oscillators for labs. Oscillators emit waves. The oscillator I was using was a plug-in on FL Studio: 3x Oscillator.

And this is about where my knowledge ends. This is a pretty simple oscillator compared to some of the other ones in FL Studio. I have no idea what the knobs do and need to do some research to learn more.

While there’s a lot I like about this sound I made, there’s still a lot to fine tune. That slight static sound at the end of each note bothers me and I’d like to make the notes less staccato. But if there’s anything I learned my first time around, it’s that the fine tuning takes way more work than the general sound.

Originally I had the second oscillator as a triangle wave. It gave a nostalgic 8-bit sound, but there’s something about that video game sound that I’m wary about. While I really like it myself, part of me thinks it’s a phase. Artists use it to pump the 90’s kids full of nostalgia. So for that reason, I went with all sine waves. I did find a resource that was helpful for different types of waves and what they sound like: to read more try this link.

Altogether, I’ve got a long way to go with this entire journey and my progress has been painfully slow. In all honesty, I’m deterred by the new software. It’s a bit daunting since none of the shortcuts and techniques look the same on FL Studio. That being said, I take responsibility for my lack of progress and hope to get back in the saddle.

Project 3

Future Music and Current Pitfalls

Okay, I know it’s been a full month since I’ve given an update on Project 3, and while I wish I had an excuse I don’t.

Where we last left off was that I was looking to get new software to make music. I think I had cold feet because of the price of the program (RIP $200). That and really, how often will I make music after this project?

I feel like that’s been a constant battle with me for the past year or two – I want to produce better music, but I also am afraid of getting the program and not putting it to good use.

But I finally bit the bullet and got FL Studio this morning.

FL Studio is similar enough to my old software, LMMS, so I’ve learned to produce music watching FL Studio tutorials. For that reason, I thought it’d be pretty quick for me to get started. And while it was easy to create my percussion and add some chords, I hit a wall when it came to editing those sounds.

I can’t find effects I’m looking for. I’m not sure how to use VSTs. I can’t seem to chop sound waves. And just like that, I went from confident to oh no, I have to go through the process of learning how to use software all over again.

But look at how similar they look! On the left is my project file for Roxanne in LMMS, and on the right is my project file for Roxanne in FL Studio. (Okay, if you don’t know what you’re looking at, you’ve just got to trust me here.)

Anyway, because of these setbacks, my audio sounds even less like the song than my LMMS version did. I’ll have to read the user manual and watch lots of tutorials before I feel comfortable using the program.

But all hope is not lost! I think I might actually use both programs to build the album. Because of the simplicity of LMMS, I might use it to get all the basic pieces of a song in place: tempo, key, instruments, etc. Then once I’m comfortable, I’ll transfer it to FL Studio to make it sound good.

While I’ve been humble about my lack of effort on this project, it’s not like I’ve done entirely nothing. I’ve been keeping an ear to the ground on other songs I’d like to work on. Seeing as I probably will be working on them all concurrently, I came up with a list of songs I may attempt. Just to clarify, this isn’t the track list for the album, they’re just ideas:

  • Famous by Amir Obe: This song is fairly simple, but has really crispy snares. I know it’ll be much more difficult than I’d expect to get this to sound just right.
  • Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind: As a quasi-guitar player, this is a staple that I’ve been playing for years. On the guitar, I’ve really changed it up to make it my own and I’m confident I can do the vocals justice.
  • Truth Hurts by Lizzo: The beat is incredibly simple and the vocals are fun. I think I might try to reinvent the beat a little bit and give it a creative spin.
  • Small Worlds by Mac Miller: This will be such a pain to recreate, but I love, love, love this song. John Mayer has a really interesting cover of this song and I’d like to try this as an ultimate boss-level challenge.
  • Alien Boy by Oliver Tree: This is another favorite to play on guitar and it’s right in my range making it a fun one to reenvision.
  • Gracefully Facedown by The Devil Makes Three: Okay, so maybe I won’t recreate this song (although I can hear how I’d do it in my head), but I do want to reimagine a bluegrass song because why not?
  • Alkaline by Kota the Friend: I’m very confident in my ability to recreate this song. Plus, I love the vibe of this song: somewhere between a water level in Super Mario and a good old fashioned smoking song.
  • Call Me by Blondie: My voice caters well to this song, it’ll be fun to recreate some classic rock – plus I want to try some Billie Eilish elements to make it a little darker.
  • Hot Stuff by Donna Summer: C’mon, wouldn’t it be fun to do a disco cover?
  • Pineapple by Karol G: Reggaton is a huge part of who I am musically, so it’d be a misrepresentation of me not to include a little Spanish flare in the album. I’ve tried recreating this song before with a little bit of success, so I do think it’s possible.

I’ve always been across the board when it comes to the music I listen to and I want my album to reflect that. I don’t think digital music production has to be solely confined to hip-hop/rap/EDM. I’d like to give it my own spin no matter how difficult the road ahead might be.