A Lot of Work, a Little Progress

After burning my way through an entire set on my first session, I was feeling pretty confident and cocky about my progress with the M3.

Then came  Don't Come Around Here No More.

Its easily the most synth-heavy song in the Petty catalog, but I didn't figure it would be that challenging.  After all, this would be my 2nd time tackling it.  Boy, that was naive.

First task was to replicate the synth sound that plays in unison with the sitar in the intro.  It's not an obvious part, but if you listen closely you can hear it underneath the sitar.  Its a simple synth sound -- just a sawtooth wave run through a low-pass filter controlled by an envelope to give it a more exotic eastern sort of sound, particularly when combined with the sitar.  Simple stuff.  But I had to create it from scratch because, oddly, there were no factory Programs that were close to it.  All the factory stuff is fancier sounding than that.  So being very much analog synth sort of sound, I tackled it using the EXB-Radias engine, which frankly I haven't delved into very much.  I mean, its a virtual analog engine, how hard could it be?  Well, there were enough little subtleties in the way the Radias engine works that took me awhile to figure out, particularly regarding modulation routings.  But I did sort it out.  The sound isn't perfect yet - it's actually a little too fat sounding - but it'll get me through the gig.

Then I set to work on a vocal patch that I use to bolster our backup singers when they sing a certain phrase in the B part of the verse (hear it at 1:22 in the YouTube video linked above).  The studio version of the song has several female singers in harmony.  We have one female and several males, so I play the part to add some more female voices.  Anyway, that sound came together really quickly because the M3 had a factory Program that was really close and only needed to have its volume envelope modified a little so it had the same attack and release as the record.

But then came the next sound:  In the up-tempo outro of the song, there's a neat little sound effect with a low rumble that climbs in pitch and volume, building a dramatic crescendo to the final chorus (2:54 in the video).  On the E-mu PX-7, I used a rumbling sound effect sample, doubled-up on the oscillators, and transposed way down in pitch.  I would manually perform the pitch climb using the PX-7's ribbon controller.  Worked great.  With the M3, I found a similar sample and also combined it a tympani roll to give it even more rumble. I intended to use one of the M3's real-time control sliders to perform the pitch climb (the M3 also has a ribbon controller BTW, but I prefer the slider because its easier to do a smooth pitch bend with)  I got it all working nicely in Program mode.  The problem was that when I added the Program to my Combi, the slider for some reason wasn't sending pitch bend controller messages to my Program.  Took at least 45 minutes to figure out. I had set up the pads on the M3 to trigger the sound, and to do that without also triggering the other sounds in the combi, you have to either put the sound on its own MIDI channel, or set up a key zone for the sound.  I went with the former approach because it seemed cleaner.  But the problem is that the real-time controllers on the M3 (the joystick, the ribbon controller, and most importantly the real-time control sliders) can only transmit on the "global" MIDI channel.  So the slider couldn't send pitch bend to the sound effect Program.  Or at least, I couldn't figure out how to make it do it.  There are several workarounds for this.  The one I chose is to eliminate the need for real-time control and automate the pitch climb using an envelope rather than performing it manually.  In retrospect I'm not sure this is the best solution, but its the one that made sense last night.  I may have to revisit that later.

So I squandered an entire evening programming the sounds for a single song.  The good news is that this is by far the most involved song we play from a sound programming standpoint.  So tonight I should theoretically be able to make it through the rest of the set list for the gig.