COVID-19 & Us Universe Secret Mixter

How I Did It

by Quarkstar
Recommends (11)
Sun, Jan 25, 2015 @ 9:11 AM

Uses samples from:


Tools I Used

Bass: Xfer Records, Serum (Quarkstar patch)
Piano: Ableton, Grand Piano

[Past] Guitar: MusicLab, Real Guitar

[Future] Bells: u-he, Zebra2 (Another Tine and Space)
[Future] Pads: NI, Kontour (Kitsch)


Vocal processing: The vocals are beautifully recorded by SackJo. All vocals have a small amount of reverb added and gentle characterised compression. The lead vocal has a touch of chorus effect.

Sackjo combines many images in her reflective song at the years transition. Ice and cold as the past and flowing water, promise of change, letting go of the past, as the future. As SackJo points out in verse, the past is frozen while the future is flowing and changed by our decisions. For this tune I made the past (winter) verses quite strict and the future (summer) verses loose and improvisational. The summer verses pick up themes from the past and then improvise and change them into new themes. I don’t explore the new themes, although I do repeat them, leaving them to imagination and the future. The structure is ACACABACCB (C=Chorus, A and B verses). I was hesitant about the last two chords I used, the books say an I or IV to finish, but my heart said that its a future and the future never stops.

As SackJo says, her last year was challenging and, although her melody is cheerful, I wanted to have a tension and slight discord in the tune to represent the years difficulties. I went outside the major chords structures, introducing minor chords playing over the majors to get a certain tension and uncertainty. Also some 9ths, 11ths and 13ths for good measure in the chorus. I wanted a slight dissonance, I hope I didn't overdo it as it took many listens before I knew it was right.

To create vulnerability at a certain part of the tune, I removed the backing vocals and some instruments. I did this in a place where SackJo's vocals sounded vulnerable, but then gains confidence and rises back up.

The Bass is the key to the whole tune, once I got that right, things fell quickly into place. I was thinking of Portishead and Massive Attack for the bass sounds as they achieve the beauty and melancholy that I wanted. To get my beats I used a 1/16 Delay which meant the bass had to have a distinctive percussive hit to give the repeats some definition. There is also a strong 1/16 vibrato, again to provide a fast beating sound. The Bass has various Modulations for twanginess, echo, width and beats so that I can adjust them and give the bass a different character in each section. The Bass line follows the chord structure that SackJo provided.

Piano: In the A section and Chorus the piano chords move downwards over 4 bars. In the B sections the right hand moves down while the left hand moves up.

Guitar: In the A section and Chorus the Guitar moves upwards against the falling piano chords.

Drums: Tried them, always found that my drum patterns distracted from the music, so I took them out.

I ended up with surprisingly few instruments, but am happy that the sounds all fit to make a fat sound that is not overweight.

Other Notes

The biggest thing with this song is the apparently upbeat melody, contrasted with the pensive words.

It was easy to write a cheerful song, but it was a challenge to make it expressive and thoughtful too. I hope I managed it.