Musical Influences and Those Who Gave Me Inspiration

Musical Influences and Those Who Gave Me Inspiration

As a child, my parents were forever playing classical music alongside the classics from the 50s/60s and is probably why I never got into mainstream pop growing up. It wasn’t until around the early 80s that synthesizer music first crept into my psyche. This was due to the hype being created by Jean-Michel-Jarre and his huge outdoor concerts. I remember seeing the news reports from 1986 when he brought downtown Houston to an absolute standstill with his outdoor concert.

I also remember sitting at the back of my local church listening to the organist play. It was at this stage that I started to become very interested in learning to play a keyboard instrument. However, it was not until the age of 11 that I received my first Casio keyboard. It only had 6 instruments selected by a slide, coupled with about the same number of rhythm drum tracks. I still have this keyboard, stored in the loft, as a memory of how things all started.

“However, it was not until the age of 11 that I received my first Casio keyboard. It only had 6 instruments selected by a slide, coupled with about the same number of rhythm drum tracks.”

Sadly the organist never knew that he was the one who created that first spark inside a young boy to play. In August 1998 I got to live out one of my aspirations, to play the organ that I had once heard as a young boy. Some twenty years later I am still the organist at that church and I can put this one down to the fine gentleman, Mr Bill Caulfield, that created the spark as being my first true musical influence.

music-Adrian-Earnshaw

Interests in Synthesizers

This is a funny one really as aside from listening to Jean-Michel-Jarre I am not sure what made me want to listen to more of this style of music. I do, however, remember a friend of my brother who suggested I check out Tangerine Dream. I picked up a couple of records from the local store, Le Parc was one of them, and that was me set on a massive love affair with the synthesizer and electronic music.

This experience also sparked my interest in composing my own electronic music. For those of you who have heard any of Tangerine Dream’s tracks from the 70s and 80s will clearly hear the influence that they have had on my music. It was those driving bass line sequences and arpeggiated counter melodies that hooked me into the Berlin School of music.

This experience also sparked my interest in composing my own electronic music. For those of you who have heard any of Tangerine Dream’s tracks from the 70s and 80s will clearly hear the influence that they have had on my music. It was those driving bass line sequences and arpeggiated counter melodies that hooked me into the Berlin School of music.

Education

For many years I took no formal lessons and went down the self-teaching route to play the piano and latterly the pipe organ. It was not until the mid-2000’s that I took my first formal lessons on how to play the piano and learn theory up to post-graduate level. This was thanks to a retired army bandmaster John Gibson who opened my eyes on the art of composition, harmony and how to flesh out ideas when none seem to be around. I look back on those lessons quite fondly and they still continue to give me inspiration to this day.

Those theory lessons have been invaluable in allowing me to understand written sheet music and also compose pieces for the choir where I play the organ. They have also got me out of a few tight spots when deadlines have been looming and the sheet of music paper is still blankly back at me.

Summing up

Well, that’s a brief a tour of what first started the music journey for me and the main characters who influenced where I am today. If I didn’t cross paths with these people I very much doubt I would be where I am today musically speaking.

Who first influenced you musically and how did it impact on your journey?

5 Ways to Layer your Synth Patches for a Bigger Sound

5 Ways to Layer your Synth Patches for a Bigger Sound

There will be times when you have finished writing your latest masterpiece but the overall sound feels one dimensional. In this blog post, I will briefly share with you 5 tips on how to add a little spice to your sounds to make your track sound more rounded by layering. Although I use Steinberg Cubase these tips require no specific DAW or synthesizer. So without further ado, tip 1 is on its way below.

1. Similar Sounding Synthesizer Patches

Okay, this one may sound very obvious, but it is surprising to forget this in the heat of composition. Layering two similar-sounding patches together can help thicken up the sound, however, caution is required.

If the patches sound too similar a buildup of frequencies will occur thus making the whole synth line sound perceptually louder. Naturally, this may lead to problems when it comes to balancing the mix. 

When choosing your complementary sound you may want to go for something similar but with slightly different characteristics. You can then EQ out the unwanted frequencies.

As an example, if the sound has a nice high-end sheen that you like, you may want to EQ out the bass end below between 40hz – 80hz. This would give your other sound room to breathe without sounding muddy.

“If the patches sound too similar a buildup of frequencies will occur thus making the whole synth line sound perceptually louder.”

2. Opposite Sounding Synth Patches

Just as we use similar-sounding synth patches, how about using ones that do not share sound qualities in common. What do I mean by this?

As an example, you have a nice blade runner synth type lead but it just lacks bite at the beginning, the attack stage of the sound. You could shorten the attack but this may destroy the vibe you are after on that patch. Why not find a more percussive sound and layer it?

You will then get the percussive attack from one sound leading into the slow release of the main synth patch. This little trick can work in reverse as well. You may have a nice percussive sound but want a longer release stage with a tonal difference. Design or locate a single patch that fits those characteristics and layer the two sounds together.

In the mixing stage, you can then easily EQ out the irrelevant frequencies so that the two patches are not competing for the same sound stage.

3. Layering Ambient Sounds

Yep, good old nature can provide some interesting twists to spice up your sounds. You may want some gentle running water or background city murmurings on your recording. Layer these up with your synth patch to provide a whole new soundscape. 

The time-honoured classic is that of vinyl static, the sound of an old record being played. This type of backing can give your track an old-style recording feel but don’t overdo it as it can get annoying if kept running for the whole 3 minutes 30 seconds of your track.

To add a different take to your ambient sound you could mangle it by using a resonator plugin or something like Soundtoys Crystallizer plugin.

4. Avoid Repetition

As the saying goes ‘You can have too much of a good thing’. Using one type of sound throughout the whole track can get boring very quickly, no matter how unique it sounds. Try to mix things up and have a palette of sound for the track and bring them in out. 

It is, however, a good idea to keep at least one of the synth sounds common throughout the track. This helps make the track not sound too disjointed and provides a connection through the whole piece. It also provides the listener with a continuous reference point to return to.

What I mean by this is if you have a percussive sound layered with your main synth lead, when you reach the chorus or move to another section change one of them. To make all the previous tips add width to your track we move to the final tip.

5. Pan, Pan and Pan Some More

Now we have layered our synth patches to make something new, it is easy to add width and dimension by panning the sounds. How, you do this depends on the number of synth sounds you have layered.

One word of warning though, do not layer too many sounds together. I would suggest no more than two or three different synth patches. Done right you won’t have too many competing frequencies. All this will help you avoid muddying the sound stage.

If you have similar-sounding patches layered you may consider panning them 30% left and the other 30% right. Where you have layered three sounds together you can get a nice soundscape by panning two sounds opposite each other but keeping the stronger sound out of the three in the centre.

Conclusion

I hope this little insight into how I go about creating layered sounds for my tracks is useful. If you have any questions or ideas of your own please feel free to leave them in the comments below. You can always drop me a message using the form on the contact page. 

You never know it could inspire another article in which you will have a personal mention. I will also use the post to promote your music.

Latest YouTube Videos

Latest YouTube Videos

Over the last few months, I have been releasing a number of music videos on YouTube including short tutorial lessons. First up we have a track from my latest album Organics Vol.1. This is the fourth track on the album, which starts off with a calm pizzicato style synth pattern. It then launches into a more upbeat tune with a catchy melody line. You can purchase the full album over in the shop, where you can listen to short snippets of the album.  

Kontakt – Batch Resave

I have seen a number of posts on Facebook and general music forums about how slow Kontakt can be to load sample libraries. One way of speeding loading times up is to batch resave each individual library. It’s not a good idea to perform this task in bulk as Kontakt can get easily confused when batch resaving. So if you have a fair number of libraries like me, this task can take some time.

I put a little video together showing how to batch resave within Kontakt.

Competition Entry

When I compose music I normally start with the, well, music first. Bit of doh! moment but humour me a while. Just to try a different creative process I put together a timelapse video from several snippets and made it a random length. The challenge was then to write a piece for the actual video. This way I was confined to create and develop my idea within the constraints of the video length.

This method helped me write a nice ambient/electronic mellow piece of music. It also ended up being my entry for a competition.

Coming Up

This is a small selection of what has been happening over on my YouTube channel, which would not exist if I did not have your support. I would like to thank you all individually for your comments and words of encouragement, it truly means a lot.

There is more exciting news to come as I have just finished a collaboration with Benedict Roff-March. This started off as a single track collaboration but quickly turned into a full album of ambient music. I would like to thank Benedict for reaching out to me and suggesting this project, so go please and check out his website https://benedictroffmarsh.com/.

I will be posting more information about the as yet untitled album and an upcoming post with links of where you can listen to it.

The Problems of a Rebrand and the Strategies I Used

The Problems of a Rebrand and the Strategies I used

Those that have been following my journey over the last couple of years have to come to know me as Biodiode. I rarely posted photographs of myself and, until recently, never appeared in my YouTube tutorial videos. Rebranding has, therefore, been a long thought out process and as I am passionate about teaching music, I have started to offer lessons over Skype. More of that later.

Why Rebrand?

I like composing music, a lot, and also enjoy working with media companies. The name Biodiode, however, started to become a little bit of an issue. For starters, clients did not know quite who they were dealing with, was it an individual or a company. There were also issues with spelling. I had friends and colleagues calling me biodude (you know who you are), bidide e.t.c. 

Other problems included giving people my e-mail address. Not over privacy concerns, but the fact people had difficulty in spelling [email protected] At first, I thought nothing of it, but the more this went on, the more I thought there was a problem.

“For a start, clients did not know quite who they were dealing with, was it an individual or a company. There were also issues with spelling. I had friends and colleagues calling me biodude (you know who you are), bidide e.t.c. “

Issues of Rebranding?

There have been some issues with rebranding. The first was to ensure my actual given birth name had not been used. This was fairly easy to do using a website called namechk.com. This is a really useful website. Just insert your new name and it will search all social media accounts and domain names to see if it is available.

I was very lucky and fortunate to find that my given birth name was available for the vast majority of platforms. The important part of getting hold of a .com domain name.

Naturally, the vast majority of social media platforms had already been taken, but I was not too interested in being called Adrian Earnshaw. This is because it didn’t say what I actually did. Therefore, for social media, I use the name of Adrian Earnshaw Music or Earnshaw Music if the number of characters are restricted.

The obstacle I need to get over now is Facebook. That has been a right royal pain, considering Instagram was a breeze – go figure. The problem with Facebook is when you change your name wholesale from Biodiode – Electronic Music to Adrian Earnshaw Music, they see this as deception and block the name change. I have sent in an appeal but I am not holding my breath on that one.

music-Adrian-Earnshaw

Has it been worth it?

This is too early to tell just yet. However, let me answer the question with another question. Would you take music lessons from someone using a name that sounds alien (Biodiode) or from someone who uses their given birth name. I know what I would choose given the option.

It has only been a couple of days since the whole rebrand started. However, the number of followers on my social media channels has increased. Normally, I get say 5 – 10 additional followers on Twitter daily. After one day I can double that number and I have not done anything different in my approach to social media.

You see the whole thing is about relating to an individual. If you don’t know what they look like or have never seen behind the scenes, there is little trust in the brand. After all, this is human nature.

I am considering whether to design a new logo or let my face be the identity for this new brand. What do you think? leave a comment below as to your thoughts.

I will be doing a follow up article in the next few weeks to let you all know how it has gone and whether I won my appeal with Facebook.

Oh yes, I mentioned earlier about music lessons. If you would like to start learning music theory or even play the piano/keyboard, I provide one to one lessons over Skype.

All you need to do is go into the shop area of this website, book the time and date convenient for you and checkout.

I look forward to working and teaching with your and until next time happy music making.

Follow up

I will be doing a follow up article in the next few weeks to let you all know how it has gone and whether I won my appeal with Facebook.

Oh yes, I mentioned earlier about music lessons. If you would like to start learning music theory, I provide one to one lessons over Skype.

All you need to do is go into the shop area of this website, book the time and date convenient for you and checkout.

I look forward to working and teaching with you and until next time happy music making.