One of the few guitarists names that have dropped out of my mouth immediately when discussing guitar playing of any kind.
Allan Holdsworth passed away Saturday, April 15, 2017.
I’ve been having a time with it, as I really love his music. It’s not so much that he is a guitarist of unequaled skill and unique sound, but the way he structures chords and writes music is unlike anything I’ve ever heard. I have always thought it sounded pleasing to the ear, but not normal. It is complex but catchy. It was pleasant but warped. He managed to keep things upbeat and twisted at the same time. Whether with any random number of guest singers (all who are talented in their own right to even try singing Holdsworth’s music), or just instrumental, his music always seemed perfectly unique in quality.
YOU KNOW when you hear Holdsworth play, but when you hear him WRITE its a completely unique experience that just pulls on the ear.
This is possibly my favorite Holdsworth song (which is difficult to say) but its the one that stays in my head for reasons I cannot explain in ANY way.
Notice the way the chords and tune of the song slide along in a pleasant and almost sour tone with a stumbling but consistent rhythm. This is his style. It’s like a roller coaster that is happy it just found out how to go upside down. HA! Just amazing. His genius will be missed.
Here’s another all time favorite that he co-wrote with the band U.K. (with John Wetton on vocals/bass, Bill Bruford on drums, Eddie Jobson on keyboard/violin). This whole song from beginning to end is just polluted with Holdsworth writing style. Also, the late great John Wetton will be missed as well (cannot be stated enough, the Don Pardo of Prog Rock).
Even if you only listen to the last half of UK-Nevermore, you will be amazed. It is just THE SOUND of Progressive Rock, without question. Holdsworth was a key to this.
ALL CHANGE !!!
Now the fun part…
I stole a chord from a song off of his album Atavachron (the song is “Looking Glass”) and I contorted my inexperienced fingers on a MIDI keyboard and played the chord and messed with it rhythmically and loop’ily. I made this thing.
This is Holdsworthian2. I would never even THINK of saying it was a tribute, but I’ve been listening to him a lot and this happened. Think of it what you want, but I don’t think I’m done yet. I wanna tweak it more.
This track was done from noon to 3pm. It was done in 9 seperate tracks. I wanted to mess in a different key. I’m not sure what key this is in, as I’m not a musician nor do I have any solid music theory under my belt, but I know there were 1 or 2 black keys that had to be played or things really sounded terribly sour. It has an A, B, and C section (in good old ABACAB pop song format) with this odd unique bit in the middle where I have the sound of radio stations changing, a piano solo, and chanting “for another day” in the MicroKorg vocoder. I was going to do a drum solo there, but I felt the piano solo and vocoder were more pleasant.
Note: THIS IS BEST HEARD IN HEADPHONES. I did a ton of speaker phasing on this thing, so “get out your headphones and get’m cranked up, cause they’re really gonna help you on this one.”
Samson Graphite 49 MIDI keyboard controller (used for drums as well).
MicroKorg (vocoder and strings in the middle break).
Korg MiniKP (on heavy reverb #62) for the vocoder section.
Ableton Live 9 Studio
A strange drum kit in Ableton Live called “Angry When Sober” (the source of the drum sounds themselves).
Well some of you may have heard that my old (purchased in 2012 when they first came out) Korg Microkey 37 died. It was odd. I can’t explain why, but I installed the latest Korg USB/MIDI driver for Windows 10 into my computer and the power light on the Microkey went out for the first and only time since 2012. I tried putting it into multiple computers. No power. I spent an entire weekend troubleshooting it hoping I could bring it back. I know it’s crazy to say, but I think Korg’s new driver fried it. This is very sad. This was not good timing at all. At this point I will not be putting ANY Korg hardware into my computer until they have a proper signed certified driver by Windows.
I went out to Guitar Center on Sunday and after going around and around trying to get something portable/small to use for simple keyboard controlling of Ableton. I found this BIG Samson Graphite 49 keyboard on sale USED. The nice part is, because it was a used keyboard, I got a really good deal on it. Cheaper than a brand new Microkey37. It has more keys(49), they are full sized, and it has all these programmable buttons, pads, and knobs (that I really haven’t bothered with at all). I brought it home, plugged it into the USB, and BOOM ready to play! This was IDEAL !!!! No driver, no problem (hence the song title).
I made a song. Took all day. Used the Graphite 49 and Ableton for every track, except for 3 small solos with the MicroKrog. The entire piece was done in 8 tracks. I created this with a “clip/session” forethought, so I could implement the Novation Launchpad. As it turns out, I was so handy with making drum patterns with the new Graphite keyboard, I didn’t even bother with the Launchpad. So I created this using my new learned method of production in Ableton: Make clips then arrange. The best part is, when it’s all laid out from the clips, then you can make space for solos and thats where the fun comes in. You can hear at the end, I kind of just go banging about on the piano part. It was fun.
Shit I used:
Samson Graphite 49 controller
Ableton Live 9 Studio
Addictive Keys Piano VST
Atmos Piano VST
Cassette 909 Drums VST
Well, I am physically useless today. So I figured I should dust off the old Korg Electribe Sampler since I’ve not used it in eons. I started fiddling about populating the pads with little sounds and just winging it. I came up with a few settings I liked. I found the Electribe has a stock air horn sound that I liked. Lately I have been hooked on air horns thanks to the YouTube channel Super Deluxe. They use the air horn for such great comedic content, and I figured, “Hey! Why not!”
Most of this was created on the Electribe. I used the MicroKorg for a bleepy bloopy wooshy background. I used the Kaossilator Pro for occasional one hit drum stabs. I hit record on Ableton and just started dancing around the magic table and this is what I came up with. Nothing planned, no MIDI, just a good old jam session. I have little self control for these so I thought I was making a 4 minute wonder and it turned out to be a 13 minute journey. Enjoy.
Lately, I’ve been obsessed with the sound of the piano. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and I’m starting to notice the little things. It has been said that early and late in life is when you start to notice things that would normally be insignificant i.e., shapes, colors, smells, and sounds. Maybe this is happening to me musically. I have a large music and sound consumption rate. Maybe I’m going back to basics… Who knows.
A contributing factor is the beauty I have found in the sampled piano sound. The Atmosthing project using the Atmos piano plug in was the start of it. That distant Harold Budd “piano underwater or on the side of a misty mountain” sound intrigues me. I got this free plug in (because of my purchase of the Focusrite digital audio interface) called Addictive Keys. It allows for virtual arranging of microphones around a piano providing a (slight) differing ambient sound to the piano. This made me excited, as variations on the piano sound is my latest fascination. Here is an image of one of the many Addictive Keys configuration pages. This will aid in visualizing what is going on with this plug-in. These microphones can move AROUND, IN, UNDER, or OVER the piano drastically or subtly altering the sound of the piano.
So, using 4 different settings of this along with the Atmos piano plug in from Atmosthing, and a synth/sample plug in called the Orion Sound Module which also provided YET ANOTHER piano sound variation, I charged into the fray.
If you are counting that would be 6… count them SIX different piano timbres being played, hence the name PIANOSPLOSION!!
All of this was done as MIDI files except for the 3 synthesizers toward the end. They were played in live with the MicroKorg synthesizer as analog wave files.
This was done in a total of 12 tracks. Let me know what ya think.
OK! I admit. This was rushed. It started before I got the Novation Launchpad Pro. This was all done (linear) in arrangement view and just banged out and improvised. There are 3 drum patterns here. The 2 most used are recorded at a completely different BPM and then FORCED painfully into a different BPM and it made this crunching glitchy affect which I thought was neat. This messing with the BPM caused the first drum pattern to have almost a breathing sound in it that I did not expect. The beauty of errors! The third drum pattern I just threw in at the end. The Conus Project samples are responsible for the counting radio voice. I butchered the crap out of those to make it a little more bizarre. Good in headphones though.
The track sort of falls apart at the end where I gave up. I just descended the stupid chord I was pounding on this arpeggio that was completely out of time and then shoved it through a grain filter to make is fall apart and end abruptly.
It was nice when it started. But I gave up. Giving up was never so much fun!
I created this one in Ableton using the Korg MicroKey MIDI controller keyboard.
The haunting Harold Budd piano is the Atmos VST. The Grand Piano and Bass are stock sounds from Ableton. These were played in as clips and launched from the Novation Launchpad Pro. The haunting voices pad was a stock Ableton sound as well, but was played in LIVE in real time in the arrangement (winged it). Quite happy with this one. Ties well to the image above. (Atmosthing1.mp3 was done with a more synthy bass I didn’t like and didn’t have the improvised haunting voices pad).
2/11/2017 UPDATE !!!
OK. I confess, this track is something I am very proud of. I don’t know why but I listen to it a lot. One of the things that bothers me is the volume of the ghostly chorus. It seems to overwhelm the Harold Budd type loop going on from the very start. It seems the calm set up at the very beginning is immediately shattered by the ghostly chorus. I went in and remixed the levels a bit and dropped the chorus back more so you could hear the Harold Budd-type piano loop. Here’s the results.