Blog from the mind and inspiration of Purple Rhapsody

The Life and Times of a Purple Rhapsody Track–Part 1

Monday, May 30th, 2011


I’ve realised over the last few years that although every track of mine has it’s own idiosyncrasies I tend to build them up in a similar way. I’m working on a new album, tentatively entitled Infinity… Plus One, and so I thought “why not blog about a track as it’s being made?” Here’s the result!

This is Part 1… if you were after the next part then click… Part 2!

Over the next few blog posts I’ll be explaining how I build one of my tracks from the original piano inspiration all the way to one that’s ready (to my ears) for release. I’ll post audio snippets where relevant to show how it progresses and hopefully I’ll not turn away my one faithful blog reader (you know who you are, Sara) in the process.

So… here goes….!

Prologue – Tools Used!

I use a PC with Sonar X1 as my Digital Audio Workstation. I have no loyalty to any particular synths or software packages but I always use my Clavinova CLP-130 for my piano sounds. It sounds and feels so amazingly realistic that I have never [seriously] considered replacing it – and it’s also MIDI capable so I play all my virtual synths and samples using it too!

Stage 1 – Solo Piano and choosing a working title

Almost all of my ideas are first played on the piano. I’ll often be able to hear in my head how the final track should sound but the only tracks that ever turn out the way I initially hear them are solo piano tracks – all other tracks gain a life of their own as I work on their arrangements.

So, for this one I had the idea of a constantly flowing 3 note piano arpeggio fitting into a 4/4 bar of music (apologies if this is getting too technical…), this would mean that 3 notes would repeat themselves 5 times returning to the bottom note just before changing the chord (which would make the transition from chord to chord more noticeable I hoped).

The piano was sounding quite fast and so I decided to give the track the working title of Fast Piano. Isn’t it amazing how far my towering intellect rises? Winking smile Embarrassed smile

You can hear below how my initial recording (after a bit of practice) sounded. It’s rough and it’s got lots of mistakes but you get the general thrust of it, I hope.

Fast Piano – Part 1 (only piano) by Purple Rhapsody

Stage 2 – Turning a vision into reality

What I envisaged was some swishy electronic pads (from Kore Player or Heavyocity Evolve Mutations) placed around the piano arpeggios with some slightly esoteric rhythm sounds (probably from Mutations). However, when I put the synths into the mix with some time-corrected piano it just didn’t sound right! I realised that the piano had too rich a sound. I needed something that was still percussive in nature but not as full and so I tried some synthesised guitar sounds until I found one that fit. Also, I was only working on the first section, I had ideas for the second chunk but I do tend to work chronologically so was keeping those on hold. The main reason for that is because I have, in the past, worked most of the way through a track in very rough demo but as I rebuilt the first part in better quality I realised that something completely different should be there for the second part. This way I reduce the chances of that happening – although I still do quite a lot of rework.

Here’s the result of adding the various synths….

Fast Piano – Part 2 (no piano!) by Purple Rhapsody

At this point you’ll probably realise that there’s no more fast piano in a track with the working title of Fast Piano so what should I do about that? Well, normally I’d just keep the project title the same but possibly rename my interim ‘mixdowns’ so that’s what I did!

Stage 3 – Reality sucks, better change it!

I was massively pleased with what I’d done so far but realised while listening to it on a proper hi-fi (rather than my usual headphones) that the rhythm and bass patch I was using from 0:45 had a couple of problems with it. Firstly, it was rather ‘raw’ and ‘grinding’ and also that it really didn’t fit with the rest of the sounds… it was decision time!

I could keep the raw grinding rhythm because I really like it – but that would mean choosing different sounds for the synths and could completely change the track! Or should I change the rhythm to fit with everything else?

I decided to change the rhythm and add a proper bass sound. So, out came Dimension LE (included with Sonar X1) for the bass – it’s my usual started if I’m wanting a synthesised bass because the presets are really good starting points to then play about with; and I loaded up EWQL Ministry of Rock for the drum sounds and started working out a rhythm that would fit in with everything else.

Here’s the result of that – this time the track is only from just before 0:45 so that you can hear just the last bit that sounds different…

Fast Piano – Part 3 (diff drums and bass) by Purple Rhapsody

I know, I know, I know… that’s a standard (very clichéd) drum rhythm and bass line but… it fits so well, doesn’t it? Well, in my opinion it does! Please share your opinion if you disagree!

Until next time…

Right, that’s all for this blog post… next time I’ll be developing the second section that you can hear in the original piano version.

Hope you’ve found it interesting, please leave a comment if there’s anything you’d like me to focus on next time – I get lots of spam comments so I do moderate them, but that’s on a daily basis so your comment won’t take long to show.

Thanks for listening!

Part 2 and Part 3 are now online!



4 Responses to “The Life and Times of a Purple Rhapsody Track–Part 1”

  1. The Life and Times of a Purple Rhapsody Track–Part 2 @ Purple Rhapsody’s Blog Says:

    [...] a series of blog posts about how I put a Purple Rhapsody track together. You should really read Part 1 before reading this… but only if you really want to [...]

  2. The Life and Times of a Purple Rhapsody Track–Part 3 @ Purple Rhapsody’s Blog Says:

    [...] series of blogs delving into my own way of creating a Purple Rhapsody track. You really should read Part 1 and Part 2 before reading this, but who’s going to stop [...]

  3. Janet Says:

    I came to hear your new piece, cause you’re one of my favorite pianists now…and I get this cool blog! :) Very interesting! I’m not sure that my system is exactly like yours, but most of my pieces also start out with piano (in my head) and then they just keep evolving. It’s fun to read of someone else’s journey along a similar road. Can’t wait to see how this continues. :)

  4. Screamer–The Art of Terror @ Purple Rhapsody’s Blog Says:

    [...] if you’d like to know more about how I put the track together… I won’t be doing another Life and Times of a Purple Rhapsody track series but will jot some things down from my notes if you’d [...]