improvisation process

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itisawyatt's picture
Joined: July 22, 2011

does anybody want to share their approach to improv in AM? i've been primarily sticking to the metasurface for volume swells and filter sweeps applied to patches made up from a sample played at different speeds. it makes for some pretty cool ambient sounds, but i'm interested to here how other people improvise with AM.

Winslow17's picture
Joined: December 29, 2010

Me, I create a bunch of sound streams and run them through a mixer feeding SoundOut and then, I turn on and fiddle. I've yet to dig into MetaSurface, but it will happen one day, I'm sure. One thing at a time.

More specifically, I work up a set of contraptions to play what amounts to a loop. I might set up a melody or sequence with Bassline, run it through some filters and effects, and then attach that to one channel of the mixer. I do that a few more times, adding drums and perhaps a Looplayer with some bit of audio I've made earlier. And now, I have all of these to mix together in various combinations, at various levels. Naturally, I've tried to make these different streams/loops fit together harmonically and rhythmically.

And while they are playing, I can twiddle with individual parameters in specific contraptions. In some cases, I might even rewrite the sequence in a Basslines while it's playing. One trick I've come up with and am enjoying a good deal is to set up a Bassline with a two-bar length and a string of notes in the chord I happen to be working in. (Or, perhaps just one note - A#, say.) Then, I feed this into a Delay set to, say, 3x and 5x 1/16ths in the L and R channels. I set the Delay's Wet/Dry Mix to 50-50 and the Feedback to maybe 2 or 3 or 4 o'clock (ca. 75%?). But then, I arm just a single 1/16th or 1/32nd note in the Bassline, so that it echoes across the two bars. Or, I might arm a couple, or maybe a string of 3 or 4 notes - the echoing effect is fun to play with. (We're in 4/4, here, by the way.) And this offers lots of fun, something to alter while it's playing. I might even change the Bassline's octave while it's playing, too.

And, of course, I can have pre-sets for different contraptions that I can select as I wish, or even create and store on the fly. I sometimes alter the trigger sequences in a Southpole filter, too - and definitely play with its filter settings, too.

One contraption I really like to play with "live" is the Nebuliser. I often feed it with a chord playing in the Arpeggiator (perhaps run through an effect or filter or two). I love its granular sound - though I've yet to master or even understand all of its controls. Shape? Skew?

I have mostly been interested in rhythmic, beat-oriented music - dance-ish, if you like. What I've described must be fairly obvious to most people here. Fact is, it's all new to me. I am a complete newbie at this; except for a bit of (less-than-satisfying) fiddling in GarageBand, free on the Mac, AM is the first music-making program I've used. I chose it precisely because is so live and open to live improv., and that it works with sound more than MIDI codes. I've been using it only since last Nov., or so. I've tried making loops on a keyboard and slicing up samples from recordings only a bit; mainly, I am using only AM's own sound generators, learning to alter them. My philosophy, if that's not too lofty a word, is to stick with one set of tools and more or less master them, vs. buying and trying out every gizmo under the sun. There seem to be an amazing number of gizmos in the electronic music world, no? (This approach is something I learned and stuck with long ago in photography: one lens, one film, one developer, one paper, all to eliminate variables and distractions and enable more focus on seeing - or musicking - and creating. So far, so good, even if no one's asking me to quit my day job. Well, actually, I wish I had one to quit, but that's another story.)

For now, all of this AM'ing is taking place in the privacy of my own room. No audience beyond an aghast wife and child! (They do wonder, sometimes, but they've begun to appreciate the sounds as my skills improve.)

As I said, no MetaSurface. All this improv'ing I have been doing via mouse and the usual AM interface, pulling on sliders and turning knobs. This definitely has its limitations, mostly mechanical: There's only so much one can control or change at once. But it does enable me to get to know and explore the program pretty well - and also, what musical ideas I might come up with. I did buy a small Korg nanoKontroller and that has proved useful, though usually, I still want and need some visual indication of where a particular setting is, so I end up looking at the AM screen anyway. The Korg's knobs are not so easy to "read" at a glance; perhaps I should use its sliders, instead. Very cool, though, that this keyboard connects to easily to the right knobs in AM.

Finally, I have been playing, too, with the idea of repatching contraptions on the fly. This has led to some great experiments and sounds - just thinking of something suddenly and trying it out.

That's my life in AM, such as it is. Would love to hear what others do with it, and how. If I knew enough, I'd write an AM Cookbook, or some such. Something like that is needed, I'd say. It's such a powerful program; I figure most people using it are deeply familiar with lots of other software - Ableton, etc. - and therefore have a different perspective and approach to AM. For now, I am having much fun and learning a good deal, too, about rhythm and time and harmony and sound.

paradiddle's picture
Joined: June 24, 2009

I use a lot of the onboard contraptions to generate sounds. I use samples too but a lot of what I do is synthesized in AM or played through. I'll make a setup that I'm happy with and then start making presets which act more like various stages in the improvisation. Sometimes I'll click randomly in the meta-surface to find interesting sounds. Then I'll start recording straigh to an audiofile. tweak the contraptions, sometimes use the meta-surface to come back to a certain sound or just use the meta-surface to improvise.

I rarely use the automation cuz I think that setting up the automation is longer and will sometimes break a vibe I'm on. So I always record straight to wavefile.

I also use AM to play percussion, keyboards or trumpet through it.

minigmgoit's picture
Joined: September 3, 2011

I'm very new to AudioMulch at the moment.

I'm using it mainly as a looping machine for drum loops, acoustic guitar loops that I improvise and vocals. One thing I discovered quite quickly is how well the iZotope Stutter works in AM. As AM doesn't have any midi sequencer I just chucked in an instance of D16 Phoscyon for the midi only. I send the midi to the iZotope Stutter and choose Stutter patterns via a midi keyboard. I have Live Looper controlled via a midi foot controller for looping and triggering my guitar loops.

I also use the Stutter method on my vocals and guitar as well.

Looking forward to using it to preform sometime soon.

B_Murphy's picture
Joined: November 9, 2011

I use various techniques. But one I'm particularly fond of is controlling a 'lead voice/voices' (possibly contrived of various loops running through multiple effects) using a gestural control instrument and simultaneously controlling a soundscape underneath using the metasurface. Also helps if your gestural instrument can control the metasurface in a separate manner than that which controls the leading voices.