rpm 2012 post-mortem, track 5: specific impulse

Specific impulse (usually abbreviated Isp) is a way to describe the efficiency of rocket and jet engines. It represents the derivative of the impulse with respect to amount of propellant used, i.e., the thrust divided by the amount of propellant used per unit time.”

This is definitely the most song-ish track on the album; it could easily work with lyrics, if I’d had time to write them. I started this on day 14, when I was starting to get in to a bit of a rut, but I sat down at the keyboard and started playing around with a Rhodes sound, and eventually got a nice chord progression going. I revisited it a few times after that, but I didn’t end up fleshing it out until days 27 and 28.

Originally I’d planned to make this more of an electronic track, so once I had the chords down (using LinuxSampler and the jRhodes3 soundfont) I added the bass, using a slowly-pulsating patch (more of a slow “whum… whum…” than a clich├ęd dubstep “wubwubwub”) made in TAL NoiseMaker. Then, the Salamander Drumkit was released, and I was so impressed when I played with it that it inspired me to go with a more acoustic feel.

I had some segments of melody sketched out alongside the chords, but it took some time to flesh it out across the track and then add the solo in the final section. Though I mixed things up a bit by using sustained chords in some sections and more rhythmic chords in others, it was still hard to add enough progression with just the Rhodes, bass, and drums, so I added an organ part, using AZR-3, to fill out the second half of the track.

There’s the start of a good track here, I think, but I wasn’t super-happy with what I was able to do with it within the 29 days. The main problem is with the melody line — I don’t think its arrangement fits well with the rest of the track, and the playing in the solo was a bit rough. The electronic bass doesn’t sit terribly well with the rest of the track, either.

I was surprisingly happy with the drums, though, given their simplicity — all those round-robin samples in the Salamander mean that you still get some natural variation, even when you’re just repeating the same note over and over. If I can come up with some lyrics, or just some better ideas for the instrumental arrangement, it might be worth revisiting this track.

the salamander drumkit is out!

This is just a quick post to mention that the Salamander Drumkit is now available! As you might expect from the author of the Salamander Grand Piano, the Salamander Drumkit is a sampled acoustic drumkit that’s distributed in SFZ format under a Creative Commons licence. There are a lot of individual samples in there, but instead of using a lot of velocity layers, it instead has many “round-robin” samples — samples of the same drum hit in the same fashion which are used for successive hits.

Having so many round-robin samples adds a tonne of realism, especially for rolls, because you can trigger the same drum multiple times in quick succession without ever hearing the same sample twice. I think it also helps make this a really fun kit to play, too — even with just my MIDI keyboard to play it with, it feels lively and dynamic in a way that sampled kits often don’t.

Being in SFZ format means that you’ll need LinuxSampler from SVN to get it running. If you haven’t used LinuxSampler before, this guide should get you started.