Current Demo Recordings

These are full productions, including some of my own songs. These were made with a lot of care, even if with lack of skill. :-)

Perpetual Love (New Guitars)

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Added on 11/08/2023.

The Song

This is basically the same song, recording, and mix as "Perpetual Love", but with new guitar tracks.

Guitars

Although I like the orginal guitars, I thought I could do something better now, with virtually unlimitted ammount of time and tracks, no pressure, and 27 more years of experience. :-) I also thought I could get a better tone and mix, as the old recorded guitars had some processing already, including a not so great reverb from my old Alesis Quadraverb.

Moreover, the new rhythm guitars are double tracked, unlike the original.

The guitar set up and recroding was mostly the usual. It was recorded with my Suhr Classic with the DiMarzio Virtual Vintage pickups.

I used the Neural Amp Modeler (NAM) for amp simulation (as an LV2 plugin for Linux), using Emil Rohbe's Soldano SLO30's capture for most guitar parts. I used Own Hammer's 412 MRBW GNR IR (based on a 1971 Marshall 1960B 4x12 closed back cabinet with pre-Rola Celestion T1221 G12M-25 speakers). I used LSP's Impulse Reverb to load the IR.

For a very short guitar part in the middle, I used IK Multimeidia's AmpliTube.

The only effects used was a bit of EQ, u-he's Colour Copy, and Dragonfly's Plate Reveb.


Perpetual Love (2023 Remix)

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Added on 10/18/2023.

The Song

This is a remix of "Perpetual Love", the second and last song form our (Parsec's) demo from 1996. This is a great song, with music and lyrics by Piera Bergamo, and in my opinion more representative of our style then When You Go Away.

Again, this version contains all recordings are from the original, although I will likely rerecornd the guitars in the near future.

Mixing

Again, this was very hard to mix... I am not very good at it (although I like it and would love to get better at it) and the quality of the orignal stems is not that great, especially the drums. There is clear some processing already in place, giving me less flexibility. The overalls were particularly bad.

So, I am not that please with the drums sounds, especially the hihat and cymbals, but it is a really great performance by Caio! One of my main goals in the remix was to give more emphasis to the bass and drums, which are just phenomenal (IMHO).

Same plugins as usual were used: LSP, x42, OverToneDSP, u-he, IK Multimedia, mostly. I added a lot of automation, which I think helped quite a bit.

Credits
  • Music and Lyrics: Piera Bergamo
  • Vocals: Bruno Sant’Anna
  • Bass: Piera Bergamo
  • Keyboards: Alexandre Torres
  • Drums: Caio (Carlucci? – I am not sure about his last name)
  • Guitars: LF


When You Go Away (2023 Remix)

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Added on 09/27/2023.

The Song

This is a remix of "When You Go Away", from 1996. Piera (Bergamo) found the ADAT tapes and I had the stems conveted to audio files. (The conversion was done by Audio Conservation.) More details can be found in the description of the original mix.

In this version, all recordings are from the original. I will likely rerecord the guitar parts soon, and maybe add some other parts. Although I am not unhappy with the original recording, I think it will be fun to record without the pressure of finishing quickly.

Mixing

Honestly, I am not sure that this remix is any better (it might even be worse) than the original, but it was fun trying it. :-)

Unfortunately, the quality of the stems were not all that great. Specially the drums overalls. It also seemed that some processing were already applied. The vocals and drums, for instance, already had quite a bit of compression (and some equalization). The guitars also had reverb (from my old Alesis Quadraverb) in the tracks, which were far from great. (I wish I could use my reverb plugins instead...)

Mixing was not easy, partly due to the quality of the stems, but probably mostly due to my own deficiencies. I used the same plugins as usual: LSP, x42, OverToneDSP, u-he, IK Multimedia, mostly. I added a lot of automation, which I think helped quite a bit.

I am not that used to mix vocals, but hopefully they turned out OK.

Credits
  • Lyrics: Augusto Pedralli
  • Music: LF
  • Vocals: Bruno Sant’Anna
  • Bass: Piera Bergamo
  • Keyboards: Alexandre Torres
  • Drums: Caio (Carlucci? – I am not sure about his last name)
  • Guitars: LF


Old New (v2.0)

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Added on 12/22/2022.

The Song

This is a re-recording of my first full production, "Old New". Although I had already remixed it a few times, I thought I could have done a better job with the arrangement and mixing.

I did not reprogram the instruments from scratch, but they were changed quite a bit. I also used other (virtual) instruments and plugins that I acquired more recently.

Although it was not my original intention, I also re-recorded all guitar parts, except for the solo, which I quite like and don't think I could imporove. (I also am quite out of practice, since I hurt my left ring finger with a hedge trimmer and could not play for over two months.)

For more details about the song itself, check the original post "Old New" below. (But don't listen to it, please. Listen to this new version instead.) :-)

The Recording Process

I copied the original recodring from Ardour in a new session and started editing. One great piece of news is that the MIDI editing problems I had with previous versions of Ardour seem to gone with version 7.0! So, all MIDI editing, recording, and mastering was done in Ardour (again).

Although I feel guilty about it, I also started using IK Multimedia plugins, which are closed source. They do sound good, though. I used Wine (to be able to run Windows plugins) and yabridge, which worked great.

Piano

I used Alan Parsons Imperial Grand (inside of Sample Tank 4) for the short piano part in the intro. Although it sounds quite nice, my usual LinuxSampler’s Maestro Concert Grand Piano v2 would probably have worked just as well. But it is a bit of pain to use Linux Sampler, so I went with it.

Synths

The main string pad was done with Yoshimi, while the lead theme was done u-he's Repro. The pad in the bass solo was made from scratch using Vitalium, which is a port from the great Vital synth.

The choir in the bass solo was Spitfire Audio's Epic Choir.

Hammond Organ

For the Hammond sound I used IK Multimedia's Hammond B-3X, which is really good! In truth, setBfree is also great and I probably could have used it, together with some other plugins, to get basically the same sound. But the B-3X comes with some really good presets and the necessart effects, so it makes it easier to achieve the sounds I have in mind (especially since I am not very familiar with getting Hammond sounds), which are usually Jon Lord's Hammond sounds.

Bass

I used IK Multimedia's Modo Bass 2 for all bas parts, including the fretless bass solo. I used the Rickenbacker model for the main parts (going for a Chris Squire sound) and the Jaco Jazz Bass fretless for the solo.

I must say that from all closed source plugins, this is the one I would miss the most. Most others I could replace with comparable open source ones, but I could not find a good enough bass sound. The bass was one of the parts with which I was most desatisfied in the original recording, so I was glad to add a good bass sound!

I could not quite get the fretless sound I had in mind, though, although I thought it was good enough.

Drums

As usual, I've used Drumgizmo’s CrocellKit for drums. The original used the MuldjordKit in the original, which I also like, I am more used the CrocellKit now and it is more complete.

Guitars

I re-recorded the theme and rhythm guitars using, as usual, Tamgamp's amp simulation (the JCM800 one, with a Tube Screamer simulation from Guitarix in front of it), and the 412 MRBW GNR IR (capture from a 1971 Marshall® 1960B 4x12 closed back cabinet with Celestion® T1221 G12M-25 speakers) from OwnHammer.

The guitar solos and the clean arpeggios in the bass solor are still from the original, and were recorded with my Mesa Boogie DC-3. I used u-he's Colour Copy for delay and GVST GTriChorus for the clean parts.

Mixing

As usual, not much new here. It was mixed in Ardour, using the usual plugins: LSP, x42, Overtone DSP and u-he, mostly.

I struggled quite a bit with this mix. In fact, a couple of times I considered starting the mix from scratch or even giving up. But, after taking a break and many, many tweaks, I think it turned out OK. My pair of bluetooth headphones that I used to hear my mixes from my phone broke, and I got a new pair that sounds completely different, and so I few a bit more unsure about the frequency balance. But hopefully it is at least passable.


No Way

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Added on 11/11/2021.

The Song

I started recording this song one morning when I felt too tired to go on a bike ride. I originally intended to do an "electronic" piece, like the ones I've done for my son's video games, mostly because those were quicker and still fun to do. (He's been a bad influence on me!) :-) Moreover, I did not have any ideas for a song, so something easy sounded good.

On the other hand, after wroking on it for a while, I started to realize that it would sound good, probably better, with more acoustic instruments. The orginal electronic drums were replaced by acoustic drum samples and I added guitar parts. In the end, although there are lots of synths, only the bass remained fully "electronic".

The piece also became a bit more intricate (can I say prog?) when I got to the middle section. I had this idea for a 15/16 (7/16 + 8/16) part with a counter point by four instruments (influenced by Gentle Giant and Spock's Beard). This is the sort of thing that would be very difficult for me to write with a band, as it is very hard to play something like that in sync (as a little mistake can throw everyone off), and so it would be very difficult to experiment different ideas, which is basically what I've done.

In fact, that's where the name of song came from: there is No Way I could actually play this piece live! :-) Well, as it turned out, the guitar parts are by far the easiest ones, so I probably could play with a backing track, just not with a band.

The Recording Process

I wrote this song sitting in front of the computer (with the guitar on my lap) and started with the MIDI programming as I wrote it. As I said, it was supposed to be a simpler piece, mostly with electronic instruments, although I was hoping I could add some guitars to it, so it made sense to do it that way.

Again, I used Ardour for MIDI editing, as well as recording and mixing. I had different sessions for MIDI, tracking, and mixing, to try to keep things clean. I've mastered in the mix session, though. Ardour still gave me a little trouble with MIDI, but it was not too bad.

Synths

I decided to use u-he's Diva for most of the synths, as it is fantastic for reproducing vintage synths that I like so much and was the style I was going for.

The main theme is the Diva with a simple Mini Moog sound I created myself. The main pad, bass, and the stabs at the middle part, were all done with Diva as well, but basically presets with very minor changes.

The echoed synth in the intro, the main riff of the middle 15/16 section, and the last melody to come in it, were all done with Yoshimi, which is also great (and open source).

Drums

As usual, I've used Drumgizmo’s CrocellKit for drums. This time I separated the room mics for kick, snare, hihat, ride cymbal, toms, and other cymbals, so I had better control over them, which is something I will likely keep doing. It makes it much easier, although it is very unreallistic for how real drums are recorded. But I liked the results and made my life easier. In fact, I created a new Ardour template to simplify the routing that way. It requires that I use a few instances of DrumGizmo, but my computer seems to be able to handle it without problems.

Guitars

I used Tamgamp's amp simulation (the JCM800 one, with a Tube Screamer simulation from Guitarix in front of it) again for guitars, except the clean parts, which were done using the HX Stomp.

Originally I had some heavier rhtythm guitar parts during the drum break after the first chorus and in the middle 15/16 part. Those were very hard to record, and I had to play it mostly reading, since the rhythm of those parts were quite difficult. I also had some clean guitar doubling the main riff of the 15/16 section. After spending quite a bit of time to record them, it pained me to not use them at all, but the mix actually sounded better without them.

Mixing

Not much new here, again. It was mixed in Ardour, using the usual plugins: LSP, x42, Overtone DSP and u-he, mostly.

Mixing still is quite hard for me, but I think this is one of the best mixes I could get so far. Even though there is still a long way to go.


Sidewalk (Chick Corea Electrik Band cover)

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Added on 05/19/2021.

The Song

This is a great song by the Chick Corea Electrik Band. Although I really like it, it is for sure one of the simplest and (most "pop") songs by them, and still not that easy.

The idea of recording came from the recent passing of Chick Corea, which made me go back and listen to his music. I was always a big fan of the Electrik Band. I remember first hearing them when they went to Brazil in 1987 and their perfornace at the Free Jazz Festival was televised. I taped it and watched it the next day and was completely blown away!

Listening to it gave me the idea to try to record a song by them, so I search for a MIDI file already made, and found some on FreeMidi.org here. I chose Sidewalk since, besides the fact I like it, it is one of the easiest ones! The orignal song has a great guitar solo by Carlos Rios!

The Recording Process

As I've mentioned, I've used a MIDI file from FreeMIDI.org. I would not dream of programing it all from scratch! So, most of the heavy lifting was done by the author of that MIDI.

I did make a lot of changes to the original MIDI file, though. For the keyboards I added a lot of pitch bends to get it closer to the original. I changed the bass, including a lot of variations and fills, and changed big chuncks to slapping bass instead of fingered. (The original is not slapped, but I like it better that way.) I also changed the drums considerably, with different fills and variations, sometimes to get it closer to the original, sometimes just to something I thought sounded good.

This time I edited the MIDI directly on Ardour, and it went really well. I do prefer Muse for programming drums, but decided to try it in Ardour this time.

For the theme I used Vitalium, which is a port from the great Vital synth! It is a really great synth. Vital is free (as in "no cost") and open source, but I actually paid (to support the author) for the version that included some presets and wave tables. But it did not work in Ardour, so I ended up using Vitalium instead (which is exactly the same synth, but with no branding or web conections).

In a first time for me, I made the theme synth sound from scratch! It's certainly not too close to the original, but I still liked how it sounded! Working with video game music recently, I've got a lot more into sound desigg. I watched a lot of unfa's videos, which were a great help with that, and Vital/Vitalium is very capable with an intuitive interface, which certainly helps.

For all other synth sounds I've used Yoshimi, which is a fork of ZynAddSubFX. They sound very similar (maybe identical!), which means it sounds great. I do prefer the new Zyn Fusion interface from Zyn, but decided to use Yoshimi this time for a change. Most of the sounds were DX7 style Rhodes piano patches from presets with small modifications here and there.

As usual for acoustic drums, I've used Drumgizmo’s CrocellKit. The original has some electronic drums, but I decided to stick with acoustic.

A different factor in this one was that I used Tamgamp's amp simulation (the JCM800 one, with a Tube Screamer simulation from Guitarix in front of it) for guitars, except the clean parts, which were done using the HX Stomp. I've been using the Tamgamp for a long time for practicing, and decided to use it in a recording as well. I quite like how it sounds and think that it compares well with the HX Stomp and the Spark.

Mixing

Not much new here, again. It was mixed in Ardour, using the usual plugins: LSP, x42, Overtone DSP and u-he, mostly.

As always, the mixing is very far from perfect, but it will do.

Acknowledgments

Again, huge credit to creator of the MIDI file from FreeMidi.org, which took care of the hardest part! I would not be able to do it myself!


OnTIs-59 Title Screen (Game Theme)

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Added on 12/21/2020.

The Song

Another video game theme, and this one was approved by the boss!

This is the title screen song for the game my son is making (in Roblox). This time he actually gave me a concrete example in which to base the song, so I think it made it easier to make something he would like. And again I worked with him around to make sure he would like the result.

The game is called OnTIs-59, which is the name of the planet where the game takes place. It is still in alpha, and we still have another four or five background themes to work on, but I suspect those will be simpler and more for ambience.

This also very synth heavy, to give the video game sci-fi vibe he wanted. (This one has no guitars at all...) At times we were at odds about what sounded better, but I always let him have the final word, since I was making it for him. I must admit it was hard for me to not have it all in my control, as I've got used to calling all the shots, since I usually work alone. But again, I must admit I liked the final result!

The Recording Process

As usual, the sequencing was done with Muse, and then I switched to Ardour to mix.

Again, lots of synths involved! u-he's Diva was used for bass and pads, while the main theme lead synths were done with ZynAddSubFX.

Drums was a bit harder this time for some reason. I started with the intention of making it more electronic sounding. I've used LSP's Multisampler (which is great!) with samples from the Hydrogen Drumktis Collection (mostly the Boss DR-660 samples). (I also briefly tried Sitala, which seems good and quite easy to use. But LSP's Multisampler seems to have more features.) But I had a hard time getting the sound I wanted, so I ended up adding the Drumgizmo’s CrocellKit again. I also added the electronic drums are from Fluidsynth’s R3 Soudfont. So, I mixed lot's of different samples to get the drum sound I liked.

Mixing

Not much new here. Again, this was mixed in Ardour, using the usual plugins: LSP, Overtone DSP, DragonFly Reverbs, and u-he, mostly.

Again, mixing is not my strong suit, but I think this version is passable.

Acknowledgments

Again, my son deserves the credit of creative consultant on this one!

And thanks to the guys in the Linux Musician's Forum for the help with electronic drums!


Laser Tag (Game Theme)

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Added on 09/28/2020.

The Song

This was a failed attempt to write and record some music for a video game. Thinking about it now, this is probably the first new song I've written in probably 20 years. (I did write quite a few parts for some of my recent recordings, particularly Opus 12, but I have not written a whole song in a long time!)

My son started making a laser tag video game and asked me if I would make the theme song to play in the background. At first I thought he only wanted some ambience, but he actually wanted a real song/theme. He told that since it was a laser tag game, he would like a "sci-fi" theme. After showing me some examples of what he meant by that, it seems he wanted some 80's synth music. So that what was aiming for.

I started writing and squencing with my son, so that I could get his input. I did a couple of trials that he thought were too "dark". (He told me it was not a horror game!) So, after a few changes, he seemed to like it enough and we carried on.

After the first crude sequencing was done (still with basic sounds and no mixing) I asked if he like how it was turning out. He told me that he did like the music, but he did not think it fit in with the laser tag game idea. Unfortunately, I though he was 100% correct...

So, this song is a weird one for me. If I knew it was not going to become the theme for the game, I'd have taken a different approach. As it was, I kept the whole thing really simple. No weird time signatures, no key changes, and not much variation. (A lot of just copying and pasting.) If knew it would end up as just another one of "my songs", I'd have tried to spice it up a bit more. I'd have worked more on the drums and introduce some more varitation. It would probably also have a guitar solo. (When I asked my son if he wanted a guitar solo, he just looked at me like "really, dad?".) :-) In fact, there is very little guitar in it. The guitar parts in the ended were added after I knew it was not going to make it as a theme song.

On the other hand, I must admit that I do like how it turned out. (But maybe it's because I can't not like one of my own songs!)

The Recording Process

Again, the sequencing was done with Muse, and then I switched to Ardour to mix.

There were a lot of synths this time and I decided to use u-he's Diva and Repro, which I had bought a while ago, but never used it. I've used Diva for the synth pad, strings, and bass, while the theme was the Repro. For the more syncopated synth I used ZynAddSubFX.

I really quite liked u-he's synths! What I used were mostly just presets, with very little modification. In particular I came across the Repro sound in the theme really early when trying to find a sound, but I liked it so much I just stopped looking. I will probably use it a lot!

For drums, as always, I used Drumgizmo’s CrocellKit, while the electronic drums are from Fluidsynth’s R3 Soudfont. I'm sure there are better sounds (for electronic drums) out there, but I did not sure where to look, and I was pretty happy with them.

The guitars were recorded, for the first time, using my new Line 6 HX Stomp, which is quite handy, as it also works as an interface. The clean guitar is a "Placater Clean" amp model, with a "Tri Chorus" chorus, the "breaking up" sound is an "Interstate Zed" model, and the distorted sound was the "Placater Dirty" model. I used u-he's Colour Copy for delay and 3 Sigma Audio's Reverb IRs for reverb, since I was having problems with the DragonFly Reverb. For the distorted sounds I used OwnHammer's 412 MRBW GNR M25 MMMC IR for cabinet simulation.

Mixing

Not much new here. Again, this was mixed in Ardour, using the usual plugins: LSP, Overtone DSP, and u-he, mostly. This time, as I said above, I could not use DragonFly Rebvers, so I used 3 Sigma Reverb IRs.

As usual, not totally happy with the mix, but it was the best I could do (so far).

Acknowledgments

My son deserves the credit of creative consultant on this one! Although I was the one giving him options, a lof of the decisions made were his!


Dreams (Van Halen Cover)

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Added on 04/28/2020.

The Song

This is a cover of Van Halen's Dreams, from their 5150 album (1986).

I must admit that, unlike the great majority, I like Sammy Hagar's era a lot more than David Lee Roth's, and this is one of my favorite Van Halen songs.

Again, I always quite liked this song, and played for a long time with a few different bands. I always enjoyed playing it, so I had a backing track that I used to play along at home when practicing. Unlike some of my other backing tracks, this was "low quality", sounding like a MIDI file. This led me to believe it would not be hard to find a MIDI file for it and then could improve the recording it. So, that's what I decided to do.

The Recording Process

I believe that the MIDI file I used was this one: http://www.sortmusic.com/_v/van-halen-midi-file,tiDreams,len.html. I did not really check it for accuracy or anything, but it did sound good to me.

I did not change the keyboards much (in fact, I think I did not change them at all), but did make quite a few changes to the bass and drums parts.

As usual, I used ZynAddSubFX for all synths, Drumgizmo’s CrocellKit for the drums.

The guitar parts were my Surh through the DC-3 (using Celestion IRs, I think), with the Barber Burn Unit added for leads. I thought of using my PRS on this one, but was too lazy to change its strings.

Although I probably should have, I did not listen to the original before recording it, going mostly from my memory. I know I play some parts a bit differently from the original, but that does not bother me. (Sorry to the purists... I'm sure the original is better.)

The main problem with the recoding is the lack of vocals. I recorded guitars for the vocal parts, as to not leave it empty, and although I'm happy enough with it, it is a bit werid.

Mixing

As always I used Ardour for the recording and mixing (and Muse for MIDI editing), using LSP and Overtone DSP plugins mostly. I also used Airwindows Console 5 and ToTape.

I also started using some u-he plugins quite a bit, especially the Presswerk, Satin, and Colour Copy.

Also, I used DragonFly's new plate reverb for all guitars and snare, which I think is really great!

Acknowledgments

Of course, as observed above, most of the heavy lifting was done by the MIDI file found on http://www.sortmusic.com/_v/van-halen-midi-file,tiDreams,len.html.


Second Home by the Sea (Genesis Cover)

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Added on 04/28/2020.

The Song

This is a cover of Genesis's Second Home by the Sea, from their 1983 self-titled album. It's an instrumental continuation to Home by the Sea.

I always loved this song (both parts) and always wanted to play it. Still with Ponto de Fuga/Parsec, we at some point included it as a song to be added to our set list, but never really played it. After I was done recording my own old songs (and taking a long break), I decided to try to record it!

I actually recorded this song in late 2018, but never posted it until now.

The Recording Process

The plan was to program/sequence it all from scratch, and I started it. Whe I realized it was going to take a really long time, I thought I would look to see if anyone would have done a MIDI file for it. Thank heavens, some did it: http://www.genesis-midi.com/genesis/g.html.

I used Muse to edit the MIDI file. The keyboard parts were not changed much at all, but I did add a synth pad and some synth bass, simulating the Moog Taurus bass pedals.

The bass was modified a little, but the drums were really heavily modified, as I wanted more variation. When reprograming the drums, I took a lot of inspiration from this this live version.

Synths

I used ZynAddSubFX for all synths. I had a hard time really matching the tones to the original and it is very far from perfect, but I do like the result.

Drums

I used Drumgizmo’s CrocellKit for the drums, but added some electronic drums from Fluidsynth’s R3 Soudfont in the mix.

Guitars

I used my Suhr, as always, but this time I recorded some with the parts using Mercuriall's Spark, a Marshall amp simulation. (I used in the JCM-800 simulation.) I had recorded all amp parts with my DC-3, as usual, but decided to try the Spark. So, I reamped some of the parts (using the same DI tracks) with the Spark plugin.

The Spark is used for the main distorted rhythm guitars (right and left) and leads. The clean and clean-ish guitars are the DC-3, as I could not dial as good tone with the Spark. But I did quite like its heavier tones.

Mixing

Not much new with mixing. As always I used Ardour for the recording and mixing (and Muse for MIDI editing), using LSP and Overtone DSP plugins mostly. I also used Airwindows Console 5 and ToTape.

Acknowledgments

Of course, as observed above, most of the heavy lifting was done by the MIDI file found on http://www.genesis-midi.com/genesis/g.html. It would have taken me a year to program it all without it, assuming I would not have gone insane and/or giving up trying.


Opus 10 (v2.0)

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Added on 04/17/2018.

A much needed new version of Opus 10 (that I had here before). Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), no guitar on this one….

The Song

This is a song I started to write a long time ago, still in Brazil, and finished during my first year in the US (1997-1998), when I met my (then) future wife. It’s a very sad piece, though…

Originally it was written for the guitar only, and later I decided to add a solo in the mid section (starting at 1:48). This time I tried to record it, but I could not get clean guitar tone I liked. And, to be 100% honest, the performance was also always lacking. So I decided to make a piano piece.

I still had in mind to have a guitar solo in the mid section, but I again couldn’t play one I liked. So, since there is probably too much guitar in my other recordings, I decided it would not be a bad thing to just skip it this time. (It was hard, though!) And I do like the mid section by itself anyway.

I used to play this song (and still do sometimes) just by myself at home. A while back, my wife (then my girlfriend) liked it and asked me for a recording of it. At the time (late 90s) it was not so easy to make recordings. But I had some friends with a studio back in Brazil, so I made a quick recording when visiting home. It was pretty bad… I had not practiced it enough and did not have much time. Thank goodness, I think it is lost. (I’m worried it was even worse than I can remember!)

Then, when I started doing these recordings here, I made a new version. It was absolutely awful and I don’t know how I had the courage (or lack of common sense) to post it here. In my defense, I was pretty sleep deprived at the time.

So, I really owed my wife a decent recording, and I think this is pretty decent. (The mix could be better, as always…)

About the Name

See my comments on that on Opus 12. (I still can’t remember Opus 11…)

Then and Now

As I’ve mentioned, it was converted from a guitar piece to a piano piece. I’ve also decided to add some strings to make it fuller. And also added the fretless bass in the mid section and removed the guitar solo.

The piano parts are really close the original guitar parts, though.

The Recording Process

I thought I had a good mix of this for a little while now. But when I was about to “release” it, I realize it was not that great. So, I did some tweaking, but I want to release it today (04/17), as it’s my wife’s birthday. (I might have to go back and remix it.)

(EDIT (04/18): My “fix” was worse than the previous version! I’ve tried to fix the “fix” now.)

All the MIDI programming and mixing (and “mastering”, done in the master bus only) was done in Ardour.

Piano

I’ve used again LinuxSampler’s Maestro Concert Grand Piano v2. This time I did not mix with the Fluidsynth’s R3 Soudfont Yamaha Piano in, though. I’ve done it often to add brightness, but I wanted a more “real” piano sound. So, I justed EQed the Maestro to get some more top end.

I’ve tried very, very hard to make the piano as realistic as possible. Every note (literally) has been adjusted to that purpose, adjusting tempo and intensity. Michael Willis, who actually plays the piano, provided some invaluable input here!

Also, the original piece was “free-tempo” and I tried to keep that, so the tempo varies quite a bit to mimic how I would play it.

I programmed the all the piano parts trying to reproduce how I would play (or intended to play) it on the guitar.

Strings

I’ve used Fluidsynth’s strings (sampled, I suppose) and added ZynAddSubFX (synthesized) to give a different color. Fluidsynth is panned most to the left and Zyn to the right.

The string just provided some padding to the piano and some color.

Bass

I’ve used Fluidsynth’s fretless bass for the mid section. No amp simulation or IRs. I really like how it turned out and gives a nice “color” to the section.

Mixing

As I said, I might need to revisit this (as I am on schedule), but I think it’s OK for now. It was much easier, though, are there were so few tracks (4 in total!).

No much new here. I’ve used mostly EQ10Q for EQ. I’ve also used Airwindows Plugins for the first time. Just Console 5 and ToTape, to add some “analog flavor”. (I need to experiment more with those.)

Finally, I’ve used DragonFly Reverb (by Michael Willis, author of Mr. E’s!).

Acknowledgments

A really big thanks to Michael Willis for his suggestions on how to make the piano sound more human/realistic! It really made a big difference!

And thanks to my wife for the inspiration! :-)


Opus 12

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Added on 03/09/2018.

My fifth production! Another of my old songs, and again, I recorded all the guitars and programmed the rest. This one has a very long, self-indulging solo! But, hey, it’s my song! (You can write your own “short/no-solo” song if you rather have that!)

The Song

This, again, was a song I wrote for Ponto de Fuga over 20 years ago. It was initially a short instrumental introduction to another song. (I think for the “Old New”, but I am not sure.) I then decided to make a full instrumental song out of it (still back then).

It might be the only song I’ve written in a major key (well, the main theme is in a major key).

Unlike the other recent productions “Old New”, Capitães da Areia, and Stolen, that were meant to be sung, this one was in fact meant to be an instrumental, so I like how it sounds closer to what I had in mind.

I thought that the main theme was played in triplets, which would make again a weird time signature, but my good friend Ciro Visconti pointed out that the theme is in fact a hemiola, which makes the theme in a “square” 4/4 (well two 4/4’s followed by two 5/4’s). Living and learning. :-) (The chorus is also 5/4 and the secondary theme is 13/8. So, it’s Prog enough.) :-)

This is the last of my old songs I had planned to record. So, the next ones will be either covers or newly written ones. Both options are scary in their own way… (I hope I can still write…)

About the Name

It’s hard, most of the times, to come up with a name for an instrumental song! The story of the name is this: back in 1991 or 1992, a group of college friends who lived together invited me for a “talent show” they were having at their place, for the guys who lived there and their friends. It was a small thing and I could not take the band, so I decided to enter with a “guitar only” song. It was a ballad that was half written half improvised. (It was similar in style to Opus 10 below.)

When the organizer asked for the name I told him it had no name. And I could not make one up on the spot, so he, for some reason, decided to enter it as “Opus 13”. I have no idea where he got the idea for the “13” part… And so it was its name and I decided that all my instrumentals (that I could not name) would be called “Opus n”, for an appropriate value of n.

Now since it started with “13” rather than “1”, I thought that the numbers should decrease instead of increase. So, this was the first instrumental I wrote after that one. Although it might seem to limit myself to only thirteen instrumentals for my lifetime, it doesn’t, as I am not scared of negative numbers. (Although, if things keep going as they are, thirteen would be plenty!)

And that’s why Opus 10 is called that. (I really need to rerecord that one!) But it raises an interesting question: where is Opus 11? Honestly, I don’t know. Either I forgot one of my own songs, or I miscounted when I named Opus 10. :-)

Then and Now

I must say I don’t remember much from the original, as we didn’t play it much. I am pretty sure we never played it live, but could be wrong. Anyway, the main theme and “chorus” (the slower part at 1:30) I remembered well. The chords behind it might have changed, though.

The whole new instrumental section (starting at 1:54), including the secondary theme (in 13/8) and solo, was written as I was programming it. I started without knowing what I would do there. (I really don’t remember what we used to play at that point back then…)

I did remember the ending of the original, but it did not fit well with the new version, so I had to change it.

The Recording Process

Mixing this one was hard! So very hard! I restarted from scratch twice with this one! I am not sure exactly what it was, but I would like how things were going, but when I got “done”, it sounded really bad. Sounded like it was coming out of an old small mono transistor radio. But my attempts to EQ it, did not work very well. Also, the guitars sounded pretty harsh… But I am happy enough with this version. It sounds good through my headphones (my mixing ones (the KRK’s KNS 6400) and the bluetooth ones I use with my phone). In my stereo and car it doesn’t sound so great, but good enough, I guess. (Most likely I will be the only one listening to it anyway, and I usually listen through those headphones.)

The main MIDI programming was done in Muse, as usual. I then imported the MIDI to Ardour, selected the actual sounds and printed the tracks to audio.

This time, though, I did tracking in a different session of Ardour. I did an initial mix of the MIDI tracks and exported to a stereo audio track. I then imported this track to a new Ardour session which I use to do all the guitar recording and editing. (One of the advantages is that you have less going on, so less stress on the system, which can help when tracking.) I then exported the guitar stems and imported back to the first Ardour session (with all the instruments) to start mixing.

I also, for the first time, started a new Ardour session for the mastering. This has always been recommended, and I liked it OK, although I am not sure it is that essential… Before I just did the “mastering” in the master bus of the mixing session. The problem with the new session was that a few times I had to go back to the mixing Ardour session to fix issues. But it certainly also has its advantages.

I also switched from my usual desktop environment (KDE) to Fluxbox (for tracking only), since it is really light, and does not have many processes running on the background, which makes it less likely of having xruns (basically glitches) when recording.

I liked this process, as making the tracking session cleaner and the mixing session less cluttered.

This time I’ve used LSP and EQ10Q plugins a lot. (Last time I stuck with Calf plugins, so this time I thought I would try other ones.)

I especially like LSP’s Phase Detector, which is a fantastic tool. In conjunction with the Delay Compensator, they are great for fixing phasing issues. (This video shows how to use it.)

I also used LSP’s Multi-Sampler to trigger the bass drum and snare samples. My main EQ was EQ10Q, and I also used their compressor (CS10Q) at times. I quite like the EQ, and it might become my main EQ from now on. (Although I also want to give X42’s EQ a better try.)

I also bought Overtone DSP’s Vintage Plug-ins Bundle, which is very nice! (Unfortunately, not open source…) I’ve use it quite a bit, especially for bass and drums.

Drums

Once again, I used Drumgizmo’s CrocellKit for the drums. Nothing new here. It was basically the same as in the last two projects.

Bass

I’ve used again Samsara’s Om Bass 2 for the bass, with GxSVT plugin to simulate an Ampeg SVT bass preamp and Red Wirez’s Hartke 45XL impulse response.

Keyboards

This time I’ve used u-he’s Tyrell N6 for some of the synths. It’s really nice and free (but not open source). I’ve used slightly modified presets. The synths in the intro and leads were done with it. I quite like it.

I’ve used again the always great ZynAddSubFX for strings. I tried a few of the free u-he’s synths for that, to try it out, but liked the results with Zyn better.

For the organ, I mixed setBfree and Fluidsynth’s R3 Soudfont.

For piano, I’ve used again LinuxSampler’s Maestro Concert Grand Piano v2 mixed with the Fluidsynth’s R3 Soudfont Yamaha Piano, which adds some brightness.

The piano part during the solo was actually supposed to be guitar, but I liked how the piano sounded (I usually program guitar parts with piano sounds before recording, as the guitar sounds are always horrible) and it was going to be very boring repeating the pattern over and over. It’s better to let the computer do it. :-)

Guitars

As the guitar tone was a bit harsh in my last recording, I decided to try something different, so I tweaked the settings on the amp. But unfortunately, I still did not get a very good sound. I actually ended up reamping the DI tracks twice to see if I could get a better sound. In the end, I went back to the settings of the “Old New” recording. I really liked the tone on that recording, but even with the exact same settings, guitar, IR and EQs, I could not get it to sound the same. (Tube amps can be so temperamental…) It still sounded harsh, but I think I could tame it a little with some EQing, and like it OK.

I’ve bought a few new impulse responses (IRs) to try, from OwnHammer, Celestion, and some new from Red Wirez. I ended up using OwnHammer’s 412 MAR-CB for the main distorted tones. It is also a Marshall 1960B 4x12 cabinet, very similar to the free on from Red Wirez (a Marshall 1960A with Celestion G12M-25s) I was using before (and also quite like). But I wanted to try something new. (The Celestion ones also sounded good.) I used a new Red Wirez IR of Fender Twin 2x12 cabinet with JBL D120Fs for clean tones, though.

I, as always, used my Surh with the Suhr V60’s single coils. I still had some problems with noise, but I was pretty successful “manually noise-gating” the tracks. (I manually cut off the parts where I was not playing and there was only noise.) Since the delay and reverb were not recorded (they came from plugins), this technique worked really well. I also tried the Noise Repellent plugin, and was quite impressed! Unfortunately, there was just too much noise in the guitar tracks, and they changed as I moved the guitar, so it did not work so well, but still it is very nice.

Anyway, although I am really afraid of messing up my tone, I will try to go back to the noiseless DiMarzio Virtual Vintage pickups. I am getting tired of dealing with the noise. (My amp might also need a tune up…)

The long solo in the middle was recorded with a different approach. I improvised over the backing track a few times to get some ideas (as usual), and I liked one of the takes. It was not really usable, as there were mistakes and all. So, I just rerecorded that solo part by part, changing only little bits here and there (besides fixing the mistakes). I do like to result, but I regret not having recorded a second version like in the previous ones (part by part, with no “script” to follow), as I got good results that way. I think that I might have gotten a better solo that way. But I thought of that too late and was too lazy to go back and redo it all. (And I do like the current one OK.)

Mixing

As I said, this one was a bit of a nightmare. But I was more organized in the mixing, as I’ve got more experience now, and had a more fluid work flow. I like having a cleaner mixing session too. But, again, I think I still have a lot to learn. (One day I might have to come back and remix all these songs… If I ever get better at it.)

Acknowledgments

Again, my thanks to the Ponto de Fuga gang! And Ciro Visconti for some comments on the mix!


Mr. E’s

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Added on 10/17/2017.

New revised mix added on 02/13/2018. Here is the previous version.

Here is my fourth production, done in collaboration with Michael Willis.

Credits

This song was written by Michael Willis. The keyboard parts were also arranged and played or programmed by Michael.

I’ve arranged and programmed the bass and drums and recorded the guitars. I did very minor keyboard editing, added the organ, and chose the sounds for the piano and synths.

It was also mixed by me, with helpful input from Michael.

The Song

This was a song that Michael posted on the Linux Musician’s Forum as open for collaboration. After listening I thought it was right up my alley: some progressive rock influence and weird time signatures. The recording posted had only keyboards and other orchestra instruments (string section, glockenspiel, xylophone, etc.), but I could see a band arrangement for it. So, with Michael’s permission, I started working on it.

I quite like the song! The glockenspiel intro is very interesting, rhythmically and harmonically. I thought of this part as a D Phrygian melody with a quick excursion to A Aeolian (or D Dorian), but Michael told me that, although he came up with it by ear, it turns out it is the Acoustic Scale (or the 4th mode of melodic minor scale, also called the Lydian dominant scale). (I should have realized that…)

There are several key changes, to keep it interesting, and a very nice synth solo at the end, playing through interesting changes.

This was a very easy collaboration. Michael and I agreed with all the decisions involved, with the lone exception of what instrument should do the second voice on about 0:12. Michael preferred also a glockenspiel for the second voice, while I preferred a piano together with a xylophone. The version linked above was my version (with the piano), while here is Michael’s version (with the glockenspiel). You can judge for yourself. :-)

This is also the first of my original recordings that was actually meant to be instrumental, unlike the previous ones, which were meant to be sung, but I just recorded the melodies on the guitar.

The Recording Process

Michael posted his Ardour session on the forum, and I decided to just downloaded it and worked entirely on Ardour. (I could have imported the MIDI to Muse, but I didn’t think it was worth the trouble. Although I do like it better for MIDI programming, I can work fine with it in Ardour.)

I had to do a little bit of clean up, as somethings were not working, but it was not too hard. Harder was to enter all the time signature changes, as very little of the song is 4/4, but Michael managed to fit it all in a 4/4 session. :-) I can certainly see why, as the signatures change at almost every bar, and it is a pain to do it manually! I had to do it because I could not program the instruments with the bars falling out of place. (And because I am borderline OCD.) :-) So, this time I’ve done all the MIDI programming directly in Ardour.

Side note: On reading the above, here is what Michael had to say:

I never really considered this to be a tricky time signature switching piece! I always thought of it as straight 4/4, but with lots of syncopation on the piano and synths (which is my keyboard playing style). I guess all of that syncopation can be interpreted as switching back and forth between 7/8 and 9/8 time signatures, and maybe 6/8 + 6/8 + 4/8 during the synth parts at 0:50 and 3:24, but I didn’t even think of it like that!

However you count it, I like how it sounds! :-)

When I had finished recording and was about to start mixing, I saw that Harrison’s Mixbus 4 was on sale for a really good price. Since it is based on Ardour, and comes with some (supposedly) nice EQ and compressor, I decided to buy and mix the song with it.

After importing the stems to Mixbus and organizing everything, including setting the mixbuses, I tried adding a reverb bus and ran into problems. The dedicated mixbuses have some rigid routing, which made it impossible (or so it seemed) to add a reverb bus the way I planned. Although, I am sure I could work around it, I found it annoying enough to just drop it and go back to Ardour. (It also makes me feel better working with free and open source software.) In retrospect, I wish I had saved the money to buy Overtone DSP’s Workstation Plug-ins Collection, which I hear is really good. (But, unfortunately, also not open source.)

Anyway, I stuck with Ardour and the same plugins, mostly from Calf, which are great!

As usual, I think the mix could be better, but this was the best I could and I don’t think it is too bad. (I really need to go back to reading Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio. I just can’t seem to find the time…)

Drums

I used again Drumgizmo CrocellKit for the drums. I had liked the MuldjordKit better, but I really wanted “stopped (or choked) crashes” for the intro and the MuldjordKit did not have those. I again used my no-bleed version to help with the mixing.

I struggled less with it this time, as I had some experience with it, and I do like the results.

Bass

I’ve used again Samsara’s Om Bass 2 for the bass, with Red Wirez’s impulse responses and (again) split the bass into low and top end tracks.

I’ve used some Invada’s tube distortion on the high end, as well as some tape saturation (on both parts).

I’ve been really wanting to buy a bass to be able to record… But it would probably take me much longer to play it then to program it. (And I would also need to practice quite a bit to do a decent job.)

Keyboards

All keyboard parts, except for the organ, which is pretty far in the background, were sent to me by Michael. It was all in MIDI, so I chose most of the sounds myself. Michael had mentioned he used the Virtual Playing Orchestra for the glockenspiel, xylophone and strings, so I also used them. The original version was more “orchestral”, with acoustic strings (violins, violas, cellos and basses). Although I initially kept those, I thought that synthesized strings sounded better in this “band context”, so I replaced them. (They play the same parts, but sound like synthesized strings, rather than acoustic strings.)

Yet again, most of the synth and keyboard sounds are from ZynAddSubFx: the synthesized strings and Moog-esque synth were both done with it.

For piano I a mix of Fluidsynth’s R3 Soudfont and LinuxSampler’s Maestro Concert Grand Piano v2. Although the latter was nice, I thought it was a bit too dark, so mixing Fluidsynth’s bright piano helped.

The organ is also from Fluidsynth’s R3 Soudfont. I was planning to use again setBfree, but was having a hard time with it this time, while the soundfont sounded very good and was going to be most in the background anyway, so I stuck with it.

It was nice to have keyboards played/programmed by real keyboard player for a change!

Guitars

I tried to stick with the same setup and settings of my previous original recordings. But I had a harder time… First I was getting quite a bit of noise, but I think I could make it work. (I will probably put my noiseless pickups back in my Suhr for the next recording, though. It might not sound as good, but we will see if the diminished noise makes it worth it.)

More oddly, although I tried to keep the same settings in the amp and used at first exactly the same EQ on the guitars, they did not sound the same. They were too harsh… Maybe some knob got twisted a bit (even though I tried checking they were the same) or maybe it was just a tube amp being temperamental. In any event, I seriously considered reamping it (since I now have the gear to do it!), but was lazy and tried to fix it with a different EQ. I think it worked, as I like the guitars now, but some more testing is needed before my next recording.

Again, I doubled the rhythm guitars and panned them. This time, though, by Michael’s request, I did not panned them hard left/right, but set a width of about 80% and pulled them to the right. You still get some stereo effect, but the guitars are a bit more to the right (while the piano is more to the left).

The lead guitar is a bit to the left, while its delay is a bit to the right.

The solos were recorded as in the previous three recordings: first a few improvisations, then develop the ideas and record in parts. The little harmony at the end of the synth solo (at about 4:45) came from an improvisation. I cannot shake the feeling I might be ripping someone off with it, but I can’t figure out from where.

The solos were my idea. (I.e., the idea of having guitar solos at all and where to put them.) Michael suggested maybe replace the synth solo at the end with a guitar solo, but I really like the synth solo (it fits just perfectly and became a part of the song to me) and don’t think I could do better anyway. So I just added some fills there and added the solos in the repetition of the piano parts. I can’t help but feel a bit narcissistic there, as probably the song didn’t need any guitar solos at all. (Why do guitarists always want to show off? It might be an insecurity thing.) :-)

Another side note: Michael said that he actually meant to have guitar parts there! (Great minds think alike!) So, it makes me feel less bad it…

I’ve also considered being more creative with the rhythm guitars. As they are now, they are pretty much locked with the keyboards. Perhaps it would have been nice to introduce some rhythmic variety (although the piano does that in some parts), but playing together does make it sound “tighter”.

Mixing

As I said, the mix could be better. I wish I had more time to practice with some songs in which I am not as invested. But I barely have time to do these. But hopefully it will keep improving.

I should say I am still in awe of what can be done with the open source tools! Ardour, Calf, ZynAddSubFX, DrumGizmo, among so many others… Such great tools to produce music!

Acknowledgments

Of course, I’d like to thank Michael Willis for sharing and letting me work on his song! I’d also like to thank the Linux Musician’s Forum for providing a place to share our music and collaborate.


Stolen

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Added on 08/14/2017.

New revised mix added on 02/13/2018. Here is the previous version.

Here is my third full production. As before, I’ve recorded the guitar parts and programmed the rest (bass, keyboards and drums). This took longer time as I went on vacation in the middle of it.

The Song

One more song written over 20 years ago. This is probably my favorite of all the songs I’ve written so far and the one I was most eager to record. It’s also likely the most “progressive” of my songs, with a long instrumental part in the middle (from around 3:33 to around 6:52) and runs at eight and half minutes. (It might seem odd to talk about an “instrumental part” here, as this version is entirely instrumental, since, as with the previous two songs, I had to record the vocal parts on the guitar, but you know I mean…) In fact, I might try to make a new version with real vocals in the (more or less) near future.

The original lyrics (also written by myself) were in English and talked about how life, with day to day struggles and disappointments, sometimes takes (or steals, hence the title) parts of ourselves from our hearts/souls, like our compassion, trust, and faith in each other, and how there is always a chance to recover them. (In truth, I don’t remember the whole lyrics, but would not have any qualms in rewriting what I forgot, as I remember clearly what it was about. I hope to do it someday for the sung version.) Now that I think of it, it was the first lyrics I’ve written, if I remember well.

This one also never had a real recording properly done. We did make a live recording of it once in a studio, very quickly (I think with two room microphones only – no mixing or anything), so we could enter it as a contestant for a Brazilian music festival. (It goes without saying it was not accepted. I’d like to think it was mostly because it really doesn’t fit very well with the general idea of “Brazilian music”, and not because it was not good enough.) :-) Oddly enough, it was when we were in between vocalists, so it was also recorded instrumental with the guitar playing the vocal parts. But, as far as I know, no one has this recording anymore. So, yet again, I am happy to have one now!

I remember when I first wrote it, it had a different chorus. I remember showing the chorus to Pietro (the bass player of my band then, Ponto de Fuga) and seeing that he did not like it (and rightfully so!). I then said that I had written a different one as an alternative (which I had not!) and came up with the chorus recorded here (and which we played then) right there on the spot! He said “definitely the second one!”, and that was that. :-)

The song was written in parts and pieces were added or changed as we practiced it. We did rehearse this song quite a few times, I believe, but I am not sure if it ever made to a live performance. I really wish we had recorded it in our official demo (as Parsec) back then, instead of When You Go Away, but it would have been much more difficult and time consuming (and thus, more expensive).

The sung parts were originally in E minor, matching most of the rest of the song, as it would fit better in the range of our singer at the time. When he left the band, we had very high expectations for our new singer, and I transposed them to A minor. I decided to keep it in A minor for this recording as the guitar sounds better in that key. If I really make a sung version of this, I might have to switch back (or to some key in between), as it is a bit high to sing it in A.

Then and Now

There are some parts I did not quite remember, so they might be changed. I think the main intro riff (starting at 0:30) is slightly different (I know it is different from the original, but I am not sure I changed back then already). Also, the chord progression of the guitar part at around 0:50 is probably different as I didn’t remember it. I am pretty sure that the rhythm section in the solo is the same, but can’t quite recall. (If not, it was very similar.) Finally, the short synth lead theme at around 4:49 is new. I actually meant to record it on the guitar, and actually did a few takes. But I got a blister on my little finger when recording it (more on that below) and my 9 year old son was complaining that there was too much guitar in the song (which I guess is fair, since the guitar plays the vocal parts), so I decided to make it into a synth part.

The rest should be about the same, although I also did not remember much about the bass lines and drum patterns that Pietro and Gláucio played, so I had to make up my own parts. I think the keyboard parts are probably much closer, but can’t say for sure. (Again, it was over 20 years ago!)

The Recording Process

I’ve used Muse (version 3, self compiled) again to do all the MIDI programming/sequencing, except for small fixes, which were done in Ardour, since that is what I’ve used to record guitars, print the other instruments and mix.

This time I stuck mostly with Calf plugins, replacing EQ10Q’s EQs and compressors and X42’s EQ with Calf’s. Not that there were any problems with them, I just wanted to try the Calf versions this time.

The recording on this one was somewhat rushed. We were leaving for vacation (to Brazil!) and I wanted to finish recording all the guitar parts before leaving, as it would be a whole month before returning. I hurried and it was almost done in time, but a couple of days before we left I got a blister on my little finger (but no blister on my thumb!). I wanted to redo a couple parts of the solo (the fast lick in the end of it is a bit sloppy…) and some of the clean parts, as well as record another new part that I then replaced with a synth (but that part, in the end, I think was better with a synth anyway). It was quite frustrating, but I think the problems in the solo are mostly passable, and I preferred not to try to fix it now (that I’m back) as the tracks are loaded with plugins (from the mix), which would make the latency too high for recording. (And I’m lazy…)

Most of the first mix was done while I was in vacation. I took a laptop, with a copy of the project and my headphones. I did only some final touches after coming back. But, after some listening I decided to scratch the whole mix and start over.

I feel like I still have a lot to learn about mixing (and mastering), as I am not all that happy with how my mixes have been turning out. I might have to revisit this one (and the ones before) someday, if I ever get better at it. I’ve bought Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio and have just started reading it. It’s quite interesting (so far) and I hope it will help…

Drums

This time I’ve used Drumgizmo’s new CrocellKit for the drums. It’s a nice kit, offering more instruments and individual sampels than the MuldjordKit, which I’ve used before.

On the other hand, I was having a lot of trouble with bleeding when mixing. I understand that it makes it more realistic, but for a novice like myself, it makes it really hard to mix. So, I edited some XML files and created a “no bleed” version of it and used it instead. Maybe it is my lack of experience (and bad ears), but I can’t see why having it bleed would make it sound better or more realistic.

But, despite the options, I am not sure I will stick with it or go back to the MuldjordKit. Listening to the previous recordings, I think I like the sound I got from the MuldjordKit better, but this could be easily attributed to my limitations in as “sound engineer”. I think I might have to experiment more. Perhaps make a “Frankenstein” kit, adding the missing cymbals from the CrocellKit to the MuldjordKit. We will see.

Bass

I’ve used again Samsara’s Om Bass 2 for the bass. I’ve tried some samples from Karoryfer, but the one that seemed best suited for the job (the Fashionbass) did not work for me. (All other samples did…) The fretless in the quiet part is again from Fluidsynth’s Soundfonts.

I again used Red Wirez’s impulse responses and split the bass into low and top end tracks, similar to what I’ve done in Capitães da Areia.

Honestly, I am not 100% happy to the bass in a few parts and the samples don’t sound that great in higher notes, but I can live with it. (Or, maybe someday I will redo them. Or maybe I should buy a bass and practice a whole lot…) Maybe someday I will convince Pietro to record the bass for it…

Keyboards

Again, most of the synth and keyboard sounds are from ZynAddSubFx. I must admit I just love this synth! Although it is quite complex, I just use some presets and the little I know is enough to tweak it to sounds I really, really like.

Most prominent is some (synthesized) strings through out the whole song, with (synthesized) brass added at parts for some more attack.

At two quiet bits (at about 1:10 and 4:00) there are some sampled strings from Fluidsynth’s Soundfonts. I also used their Rhodes (at about 0:55) and Organ (at about 6:52) for small parts, and in both cases I’ve mixed them with some of Zyn’s presets (for Rhodes and Organ). (The organ part was short and much in the background, so I did not even bother to use setBfree this time. Also, Fluidsynth’s Organ is not bad at all!)

There is also a very Moog-esque part (at around 4:59) done also with Zyn.

I tried to make the synths more prominent in this song, as I feel it fits it well, and if I remember well, the strings parts are very similar to how Alexandre (keyboard player from Ponto de Fuga/Parsec) used to play.

Guitars

I’ve used exactly the same setup and processing as in “Old New” and Capitães da Areia, since I was so happy with it. I didn’t even try to tweak it at all.

Again, I was not too happy with the clean sounds. I only found it passable after a lot of processing (EQ, Compressor, Chorus, Delay, Reverb). I really should spend some more time searching for a good clean tone.

On the plus side, these time I recorded the guitars from the amp and it’s direct signal, using my Radial ProDI (direct box). So, I can, whenever I want, go back and tweak/reamp it, since I’ve also got the Radial ProRMP Reamp box. (This allows me to send the direct signal from my computer to my amp, via the ProRMP, and reamp the same peformance.) I might try it someday to get a better clean tone…

As I’ve mentioned, I had to rush a bit to record this, but I do like the guitar parts. I wish I could do a better take of the end of the solo, but, again, I think it is passable and I am proud of the solo (overall).

At some point, after recording some sections of the solo, I got really stuck. I recorded a lot of takes, and did not like any one of them! After spending a lot of time, I decided to call it quits and try it again the next day. I then went on to record just one more temporary take, to not have an empty part in the current version (which I planned to listen to and see if there was anything I wanted to go back and redo), and it turned out that that “noncommittal” take I liked. The rest of the solo was then rerecorded the next day, but I repeated the same ideas of that take and even kept some parts of it. (I guess I don’t work well when I put too much pressure on myself…)

Again, I felt like I need to practice more. Well, I guess what I need is to get better at mixing and programming, as since that is so time consuming that it leaves not too much for practicing the guitar. :-)

Also, I feel obligated to say it again: the solo (with it’s problems and all) is not representative of my real playing (as anyone who played with me would attest!). Having an unlimited number of takes and no time constrain (or monetary concerns with studio time!) makes it so much easier. There were many, many takes, and it was recorded in sections. (It was as patched as a king-size Amish quilt!) It would take me a lot of practice to reproduce it live. :-)

Mixing

As I mentioned above, I was hoping my mixes would improve with each project, but I feel that it hasn’t been the case. But I don’t entirely dislike it either.

Acknowledgments

I must repeat the acknowledgments “Old New” and Capitães da Areia, as again, although the song was written by me, many ideas in the arrangement came from Pietro Bergamo, Gláucio Tachinardi and Alexandre Torres. It took many rehearsals for it to take shape and I’m sure there are very significant contributions from all of them.


Capitães da Areia

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Added on 05/08/2017.

New revised mix added on 02/13/2018. Here is the previous version.

Here is my second full production. Again, I’ve recorded the guitar parts and programmed the rest (bass, keyboards and drums). And, just as before, it was slowly done in the mornings before work. The process was a bit quicker this times, but still took me over a month to get it done.

The Song

This is another song from over 20 years ago. It was the first song I wrote for Ponto de Fuga (my band in Brazil). It was the first “more complex” song that I’ve written. Gláucio (the drummer) had to suffer through quite weird time signatures and changes.

The title “Capitães da Areia” (Captains of the Sand) is a reference to a book by Brazilian author Jorge Amado about street children in the city of Salvador (Brazil). The lyrics were written by a friend, Vergílio Bonifácio (not sure about the spelling), who used to play bass with me in a previous band. He had given me a few lyrics and I used this one, with his permission, after that band ended.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember the full lyrics. I was planning to have it sung, but because of that, it made it difficult. (The guys in the band don’t seem to remember it either. It’s been 20 years…) If the lyrics were mine, I’d rewrite the parts I forgot, but I don’t want to mess with Vergilio’s work, which was really nice. (Also, I did not read the book, I am ashamed to say…)

So, again, the guitars are (unfortunately) playing the parts of the vocals, which is less than ideal, as without the lyrics, they becomes a bit repetitive.

Unlike the “Old New” (below), we did play this song quite a bit. In fact, this song won a couple of “battle of bands” we’ve entered (in the early 90s). And we did record it once, live in the studio. (I remember it was not a good recording, but it was something.) It was quite stressing as you are playing live, trying not to mess up a single note! And, of course, whenever you are having a great take, someone else messes up and you have to start all over! (I messed up quite a few myself, and the final one is a version in which I messed up, but it seemed passable and we did not want to keep doing more takes!)

I think someone still has the master tape, but we don’t have the equipment to transfer to digital format. (Last I checked, people were asking a fortune to do just that!) Anyway, I liked that song and wanted to make a new recording of it, so here it is!

I’m glad to have it done. Of course, the process was fun, but it also brought (again) good memories of my time with Ponto de Fuga.

Then and Now

This one is not much different from how we used to play (I think – again, it’s been 20 years). I’ve added a couple of things I’ve remember Pietro suggesting a long time ago that I don’t know if we ever really played. But I remembered this one much better, as we did play it a lot.

But, of course, the main difference is that it was supposed to be sung.

The Recording Process

This time I did the MIDI programming/sequencing in Muse. I actually had to compile Muse version 3 from source, as Debian’s and KXStudio packages would crash on start.

The advantage of Muse is that it had less glitches than Ardour and, mainly, allowed me to export a MIDI file. (I can’t believe Ardour won’t do that!) I then did some (MIDI) edits in Ardour.

Also, Ardour now can import MIDI with tempo and meter, which also makes things easier, as there are so many meter changes that it is a pain to enter it all manually. (But, Ardour did mess up importing the tempo/meter… But it was easier to fix than to enter them all).

With the MIDI done, I’ve imported it to Ardour. After selecting the instruments/samples, I’ve recorded the guitar and mixed it.

This time I was able to use the great Calf plugins directly into Ardour. (I had to remove the LADSPA versions to make them stop crashing Ardour.) I used EQ10Q’s compressor for all compression and their EQ for the guitar parts (since I had presets saved I knew worked well). For all other EQs I’ve used X42’s EQ. I’ve also used Distrho’s port of the Luftikus EQ on the master bus, which worked really well!

Drums

I’ve used, again, Drumgizmo’s MuldjordKit for the drums. (I’ve missed the release of the CrocellKit by just a couple of weeks, or I would have used that.) Again, I printed individual tracks (kick, snare (top and bottom), hi-hat, etc.) for processing and mixing.

This time I had MIDI’s of just snare and kick (which is a lot easier to get from Muse than from Ardour), and added some of those from Soundfounts to mix with the ones from the MuldjordKit. (Although, in the end, very little was mixed in.)

Again, I don’t remember exactly how Gláucio used to play it, so I had to make my own here. As with the “Old New”, the drums are quite elaborate, but that’s part of the fun of being able to program whatever you want. :-)

Bass

This time I’ve used Samsara’s Om Bass 2 for the bass (again, copying Michael Oswald’s video) since I could get Carla to work.

I’ve used a picked bass model and added the GxSVT plugin to simulate an Ampeg SVT bass preamp and Red Wirez’s Ampeg SVT 810 impulse response.

This time I also split the bass (after the preamp/cab simulations) into two tracks, one with just the low end and another with just the top end (using EQs). I’ve added quite a bit of tube distortion (from Invada) in the top end and some tape saturation on the bass bus.

I think that the bass line in the main riff is exactly what Pietro used to play, but in the rest I just had to make up as I went.

Keyboards

The synth in the main riff is a mix of two (slightly modified) presets from ZynAddSubFx. One with the portamento on, and the other was used to add some attack. When we used to play it I think it was just some kind of strings, but I don’t remember it exactly, so I did not try to emulate it. I also liked the vintage style (Moog like) sound I got.

The organ is a mix of setBfree and a (slightly modified) preset from ZynAddSubFx, and there is a Calf phaser in the organ bus.

The strings from the slow parts are also a (slightly modified) preset from ZynAddSubFx, with some chorus form Calf. I think that when we played it was piano with strings, but I liked the strings by themselves, letting the clean guitars ring a bit through.

All the keyboard parts had some tape saturation and reverb (besides some EQ, of course).

Guitars

Since I was so happy with the guitar tones in the “Old New”, I just stuck with the same settings. Only I found out that my son had twisted the knobs of my amp after that recording. I did notice it sounded different, but I thought it was because it had no processing (mainly EQs) from the previous recording. I just saw that the amp knobs were not in the previous settings when I was done recording all the distorted rhythm guitars. Since I did not want to redo it all, I just tried to improve the results with EQing in the mixing. (Which, I think, tuned out just fine.)

I went back to the previous setting before recording the vocal parts and leads, though. (I’m glad a had a picture of the old settings!)

So, it is again my DC3 going from the “Recording” out directly to the interface and a Red Wirez Marshall 4x12 impulse response, except for the clean parts, where it was a 3 Sigma model of a Dr. Z 2x12.

The solos on this one took me a lot longer to record. With all the programming, mixing and all around turning of knobs, it doesn’t leave me much time to practice the guitar… and it shows! :-)

Although I like the final results of the solos, it was patched as heck! As with the previous song, I recorded them a piece at a time. And even after complete, I went back and redid quite a few parts. (It’s fair to say that the end results is not really an honest representation of my playing, after some many takes and fixes…)

Again, the delays and chorus were from Calf plugins, and I used my Tube Screamer for the solos.

Mixing

Mixing was much quicker this time, as I had extensive notes from my previous song (and its learning process). But again, the end result is far from perfect, but I am mostly happy with it. And, although it was quicker, I am not sure it is any better than the previous.

Acknowledgments

Besides all the ones from the “Old New” (which still hold for this one), I need to acknowledge again that, although the music was written by me, many ideas in the arrangement came from the guys in the band, Pietro Bergamo, Gláucio Tachinardi, Márcio Silva and Alexandre Torres. Again, I cannot remember exactly what, to give proper credit, but you can be sure that their contribution was significant.

I also would like to thank the people behind KXStudio for providing such great software repositories for the use in Linux, which I used a lot in this project!

Finally, again I’d like to thank the folks from the Linux Musicians Forum for the great source of information and their support.


“Old New”

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Added on 03/30/2017. (Update: New and hopefully improved mix replaced the original mix on 06/02/2017.)

This is my first original recording (done by myself), so it’s very special to me! I’ve recorded the guitars, programmed the bass, drums and keyboards and mixed it. It took over two months, but I’ve learned a lot in the process. And it was so much fun!

It was truly a “labor of love”. It took countless hours, often waking early before 5am just to work on it before work. But it provided me with immense pleasure!

The idea of recording this song came after I’ve watched the fantastic Audio Production with Muse and Ardour videos by Michael Oswald. I stumbled on this video when looking for more tutorials about Ardour and it really made me think of doing my own songs.

I’ve been reluctant to program/sequence songs for a long time. (My close friends Pietro Bergamo and Ciro Visconti have been doing it for over 20 years!) I am not sure why. Maybe it just seemed too hard. But after watching the video I thought it was not that bad. I know how to write music (badly, but it is a lot easier when you can hear it back played as written and fix the problems!) and that’s all you really need! Now that I’ve done my first, I really kick myself for not having started sooner!

The Song

This is a song I’ve written over 20 years ago, when playing with Ponto de Fuga back in Brazil. I wrote it in a period of transition when we did not have a singer. I wrote lyrics for it, but, at least as it is (and was at the time), it is probably not “singable”, as the range is too broad. (It keeps modulating up.) I guess I was expecting Jon Anderson to join the band. :-) Anyway, I have written some lyrics for it, but remember very little of it. Of course, it was not a problem since I was not planning to record vocals anyway, but it was originally meant to be sung. (I recorded guitars for the vocal parts. It doesn’t sound as good, but it will do.)

It is sad that this was probably the last song I’ve written for a band. (I’ve written Opus 10 after that, but almost 20 years ago. Now that I think of it, I will probably rerecord it, since the current version below is pretty bad…) And, even more, there was never a recording of it. It’s always made me sad that I’ve played in some bands with some original songs I really liked that are now complete lost, with no recordings and no one playing them anymore. So, I am glad to see that at least this one will have some recording of it.

In truth, this song was not my first choice. We used to play another (original) song that I also really liked and we have no recording, but that one was more complicated (over 8 minutes long), so this one seemed like a good starting point.

Since it took me a while to write the lyrics, the song did not have a name for a while, so we used to just call it “the new one”. After a while, Pietro (bass player of Ponto de Fuga) came up with a new song (which he programmed back then!). (It was great, by the way!) So, his song, which also had no title, was then the “New New” song and mine was the “Old New” one. I think even after I wrote the lyrics, I’ve never named it, but I could be wrong. (It was a long time ago…)

Then and Now

A few things are different in this new version. Firstly, of course, it is not sung. I played the vocal parts on the guitar. (I’ve also tried it with synths, but liked the guitar better for it.)

Second, the ending is new. I remember trying to come up with a nice ending then and thinking “sometimes a simple ending is OK”. But I decided I had the time to come up with something a bit different, and so I did. (Originally, it would just end with chorus.)

Also, I don’t remember the arrangement for the middle part (pre-solo). I remember the simple two chord progression inverting and going up, but I did not remember much else. When I started programming the bass, I decided to make it the main part, so it became basically a bass solo. (Maybe it was the case then already, but I really can’t remember.)

Also, the guitar solo was divided between guitar and keyboards originally, but there was no way I would program a keyboard solo. (Maybe some day…) It’s a shame. I remember that this was the first original keyboard solo that Alexandre (keyboardist from Ponto de Fuga/Parsec) would play with us. He was great in getting great tones and coming up with great parts, but we were not sure what to expect from soloing. I remember being really pleasantly surprised by some great solos he played in this song!

Finally, the main guitar riff (in this recording) was played only by the keyboard originally. When playing it on the guitar then I thought it was getting too “muddy”, so I left the keyboard play it and played only single notes. Since I liked the main riff in this recording on the guitar, I left it and made the keyboard (brass synth) play those old (single note) guitar lines.

The Recording Process

The whole song, even the MIDI programming/sequencing was done in Ardour. (Ardour gave me a bit of a hard time there…) I started programming the guitar parts (playing as a piano) and adding the other instruments. At this point I was using soundfonts for the instruments.

(Honestly, I kind of regret using Ardour for the MIDI programming, as it won’t allow me to export just a complete MIDI file. As Ardour can import MIDI files, I might use something else for MIDI in my next project.)

I copied and pasted a lot of the parts, but then, after the song was complete, I went back and add variations to each repetition of the bass and drums. (The keyboard parts are pretty straight forward.)

This whole MIDI programming took me a long time, as it was my first time and I was learning as I was doing it.

After all the sequencing was done, I’ve printed the tracks, recorded the guitar parts and then started mixing. Mixing took a long, long time, as it was completely new to me. I must have watched 300 youtube videos on mixing trying to learn about the process. I must admit, my ears are not very good (maybe they will get better with practice) and so it was a difficult process for me, with a lot of trial and error.

Here are some comments on the individual parts.

Drums

I’ve used Drumgizmo’s MuldjordKit for the drums. Then printed individual tracks (kick, snare (top and bottom), hi-hat, etc.) for processing and mixing. (I really was copying what Michael Oswald was doing in his video!)

I had programmed the drums using soundfonts, which had a few more instruments than this kit would give me (snare rim, splash cymbal and I think one extra tom), so I had to make adjustments when converting. (The snare rim on the middle part is from the soundfont.)

I don’t remember exactly how Gláucio (drummer for Ponto de Fuga) used to play it, so I had to make my own here. I remember that, since the time signatures are so weird in chorus (and verse!), when I heard him playing the chorus by himself, it sounded so crazy (and great!) that I decided to add that drum part by itself after the first verse. I think that what I’ve made here is pretty similar to what he played, but I can’t remember for sure.

Bass

For the bass I think I’ve used No Budget Orchestra (Band)’s Rickenbacker bass and I think the fretless in the middle section (bass solo) is from Fluidsynth’s R3 Soudfont.

All the bass was programmed thinking “what would Pietro play”. (WWPP?) :-) Even the choice of bass sounds, as he has a Chris Squire signature Rickenbacker and a fretless. But again, I can’t remember what he played. (I’m sure it was better than what I’ve programmed…)

The nice thing about the bass is that I could actually play the parts in the guitar when figuring them out. And, being all programmed, I could match bass and drums perfectly. In fact in the bass solo in the middle I programmed the drums after the bass to match it.

I’ve used a little of Invada’s tube distortion on the Rickenbacker parts. For the fretless I’ve used some tape saturation from Calf.

Keyboards

The piano in the intro is from Fluidsynth’s R3 Soudfont (I think). The synths are Yoshimi’s presets (brass and strings) slightly modified.

I also used the No Budget Orchestra’s B3 Organ (Hammond) for the organ parts, but I (lightly) mixed in to those some organ preset from Yoshimi. This organ mix has some (a lot of, actually) tape saturation and some phaser from the Calf plugins.

The choir in the bass solo is from Fluidsynth’s R3 Soudfont again with a little of choir from Yoshimi mixed in.

I again tried to take some inspiration from how Alexandre used to play it, but I don’t think he used the Hammond at all. I think it was all strings, but I really like a good Hammond pad!

Guitars

I finally could get a guitar sound I really like! The best way is indeed to ditch the X3 (and the old Genesis 3) and go direct from the amp (my good old DC3) recording out directly to the 2i2 interface, and use an impulse response for speaker simulation. From all my recordings so far, this is the first time I was truly happy with the tone! (I used my Suhr, with the Suhr V60 pickups, for all the guitar parts in this song.)

Here are the settings. (I took a picture so that I can always go back to it.)

DC3 Settings
DC3 Settings

The impulse for the distorted guitar parts was the free one from Red Wirez. It is modeled after a Marshall 1960A with Celestion G12M-25s. I think the mic I selected was a Royer R121. I tried this first and was so happy I did not even try other IRs or mics!

For the clean guitar part during the bass solo, I think used the Dr. Z Best 2x12 (Celestion G12H30 and V30 speakers) model I bought from 3 Sigma Audio. I still need to work on the clean tones, but I think it worked well for this small part.

All the delays and chorus were from Calf plugins. The only external effect was my good old Tube Screamer for the solo.

As it is usual (it seems) in professional recordings, the rhythm guitars (even the clean) were double tracked and panned hard left/right.

I tried to add some variation to some of the vocal parts, as since there is no lyrics, it might sound a bit too repetitive. But I was improvising things and making too many mistakes, so the current version is a bit restrained, but I thought it was good enough.

In fact, after deleting some of the “flat” vocal parts I had a bit of a scare, as when I tried to rerecord them (with more variation) I was getting an inconsistent tone, without having touched any settings! (I still don’t know what that was about!) So, when I got the good tone back, I wanted to record it all as quickly as possible, so I kept things relatively simple.

The whole solo was done punching in and out. After many improvised solos (full of mistakes) I started to get some ideas for what I’d play. Then, I’d play one part only, until I liked it, stop and move the next. It was the first time I’ve ever done that, but it helped give it a bit more structure. I would not say it makes it a written solo, as many parts were still improvised, but it was more thought out. I would think of what should come next before recording, listen to it after and see how it fit with the rest, and redo it until I was happy with the result.

I actually planned to “shred” (or attempt to shred) less and have more interesting phrasing in the solo, but that (shredding) was what was coming out that day, and I decided not to fight it. So, I wish it did have more interesting parts, but I still like how it turned out.

It was nice to play the solo on this song as the music keeps building up as the solo progresses, making it more interesting to play over.

In this whole process, recording the guitars was relatively quick! With Ardour’s editing tools (and recording the solo punching in/out), life is much easier. :-) Only the vocal parts took me a little longer.

Mixing

Mixing was a long and hard process for me. (It’s my first real mix.) As I said, I’ve watched many videos on youtube (in particular from Recording Revolution) and tried a lot of different things. I used a lot of Michael Oswald’s tips and suggestions from his tutorial. In fact I used a lot of the same plugins and settings he used, especially at first. Then I tried to adjust them to my song. In the end, I bought a pair of KRK’s KNS 6400 Headphones to mix, as my stereo speakers were too bright and was getting very inconsistent results.

Although I’ve used Calf plugins a lot, I actually could not load them directly in Ardour as it would make it crash immediately. I had to use calfjackhost (that runs the plugins separately “in a rack”) and use inserts in Ardour. So, I used alternatives whenever possible. I’ve used EQ10Q’s EQs and compressors. In the middle of the process I’ve also discovered LSP plugins which are also very nice! I’ve used some of their EQs, compressors and spectrum analyzer as well.

The end result is far from perfect, but I am mostly happy with it. Hopefully I will get better (and it will become easier) as I go.

My Thanks

I’d like to thank my good friend Pietro Bergamo for turning me to Ardour and better recordings in Linux, and for showing me by example that it is possible to make good music with sequencers (even 20 years ago)!

Michael Oswald has my eternal gratitude for his outstanding tutorial. His videos made me take the last step and start working on new original songs, which has provided me so far many hours of fun. It was a truly an invaluable help and source of information for this project.

Also, the nice people on the Linux Musicians Forum were very helpful! I’m not sure I would be able to get it all (hardware and software) working without their support.

Finally, I’d like to thank my old band mates from Ponto de Fuga, Pietro Bergamo, Alexandre Guimarães and Gláucio Tachinardi, for indulging me and working on this song when I first wrote it. Although I cannot remember what exactly to give it proper credit, I am sure many of their ideas appear in this recording. (And also thanks for the countless hours of fun playing together!)