Creating Original Music To Sound Like Sampled Lo-fi Audio Is Complex

When you listen to my music, it has a certain lo-fi quality to it because I’m employing complex processes to make it sound that way. It’s created from scratch but, sadly, nearly all songs out there out there in my genre of music is “pieced together” from samples; most of which are stolen (“licensed”) from songs from the 70’s and 80’s.

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What Music Sampler People Are

Don’t confuse “music sampler” hardware with music sampler people. We’ll start with Daft Punk. One More Time was sampled off of Eddie Johns – More Spell On You. They took the song, added some elements and called it their own.

Now this wouldn’t be too bad if their song had the same name, but it’s being called a completely different title. We all thought, for years, that they created the music. The Crystal Method and Daft Punk both started around the same time; people can’t tell The Crystal Method actually created music from scratch compared to Daft Punk as there are no “Sampler” titles to distinguish between actual music creators. I’ll repeat; the groups are not called “Samplers Daft Punk” and “Producers The Crystal Method”. They’re both labeled as “music creators / artists”. Make no mistake; sampling is not remixing or covering a song, it’s listener deception.

What Music Producer People Are

Not to be confused with “record producers”, what music producers are is pretty straight forward; we create music. We rely on MIDI data. Drums, piano, bass and guitar can all be generated via MIDI notes. Keyboard mod wheels, panning knobs and faders are recorded with MIDI data. Musicians focus on mastering one or maybe two instruments, whereas music producers focus on learning to recreate, or mimic, mutiple instruments. We then have to tie all that together in a composition and arrangement to make up a song.

Listeners Won’t Judge Original Music Vs. Sampled Fairly

One of the most unfair aspects of people who sample (steal / license) other people’s music is that they can achieve a vintage-quality to their “modern” music. People will hear a mash-up of Phil Colins, James Brown and Elvis Presley in a song “released in 2012” and assume the “artist” is amazingly skilled and soulful; not realizing none of it is truly new music created in 2012. The “real modern soulful music” is just music DJing disguised as creation.

But this doesn’t eliminate the expectation for listeners to hear “modern vintage” music. When they hear a song with a trumpet riff in it, they won’t realize it’s a trumpet riff from a Miles Davis song. Then, hearing an originally created trumpet riff from an actual music producer, they won’t judge the two fairly. They’ll judge the Miles Davis trumpet as having more a more “soulful” sound, subliminally due in part to the lo-fi quality found in most sampled audio.

Why Do I Go Through The Trouble To Lo-fi My Sound?

I like vintage sounds. Even though I like modern and contemporary things, I also appreciate vintage things (one of the reasons I shot Rebirth of Radiance in a junk yard).

So, not only do I feel listeners are conditioned to gravitate towards lo-fi sounding music, but I like my music to sound lo-fi regardless.

I feel a lot of modern, original music created today is too sterile. It’s no surprise; it’s not easy creating warm, vintage sounding lo-fi.

How I Create My Lo-fi Sound

It basically involves lots of layering. It really is both an art and a science. It’s not usually just about making the entire song sound lo-fi. Sometimes doing so would destroy the “pump” of that perfectly sculpted bass. Or making vocals and music together have vintage effects sounds horrible; maybe the vocals need their own, separate treatment.

In Department of Corrections (MJ’s Quality Electric Remix), I wanted Brandreth Hearn’s vocals to sound vintage like the female samples did. Applying effects over everything would only make everything else sound more lo-fi.Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 4.34.34 PM So I added an Audiomatic device to his vocals that make them sound like they’re on an old record. But, the device has a long “tail” decay, where the record static pops continue for like 3 seconds after his vocals. So I had to automate the “bypass” switch of the device right after his vocals stop to make the vinyl static stop immediately. The result sounds exactly like his 2015 vocals were from 1955. Click play below to see what I mean.

Sometimes it’s all about layering effects to make original melodies sound like sampled music. Today, with an unfinished song, I created a Rhodes Mk I piano and played out some notes. I then layered mutiple effects on it to basically warmly destroy the sound in a way that sounds natural and not like effects were used. It also involves using parallel channels to “parallel process” the sound. The original channel adds its own effects chain, while the parallel channel adds its own. The two channels are then blended in together, sorta’ “harmonizing” the effects. Then, using the same technique in the paragraph above, added vinyl static popping that ends right as the notes of the piano stop playing.
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But all this is very taxing on my virtual music studio Reason. Sometimes a sound will be only 5 seconds long (what I call “ornaments”), yet a huge, long chain of effect devices will have to be used. Just to make this sound like it was lifted off a record from the 1960’s. Sometimes it bogs down my system doing this, stifling creative possibilities. (One work around is to “bounce” the sound into wave form of the song, but then you have to destroy all the hardware used to create it).

I think to myself, ain’t this BS… these music thieves / samplers aren’t even creating music and yet I’m having to go through all this extra trouble on top of creating original music.

Will People Confuse My Original Lo-fi Music For Sampled Audio?

That’s the funny thing, isn’t it? Will people think I’m nothing more than a person stealing (sampling) music from other songs? Well, does it matter? I mean, Crystal Method didn’t stop creating original music on their synths and drum pads just because they might be confused for samplers like Daft Punk. So, why should I keep my songs sterile and not give them a vintage feel?

No, I’d rather people be misinformed and then pleasantly surprised when they learn my music sounds vintage but is original and modern.

Later. – MJ