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Making Ambient Music Nowadays

Making Ambient Music Nowadays
January 08, 2010, 02:02:16 AM
I'm very interested in composing ambient music similar to Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, but there is no way I could acquire the elaborate synthesizers and sequencers that these bands used. Is everything done by computer? Fruity Loops is no option. I'd like to own vintage gear like VCS 3 Synthesizers, Mellotron, and Moogs, but these go for such high prices that it's not possible. I have two options, using organic instruments like real horns and guitars, or possibly buying a top dollar digital keyboard. Perhaps the Kraftwerk route where I build my own equipment.

Re: Making Ambient Music Nowadays
January 08, 2010, 02:49:40 AM
One can use software synthesizers and freeware audio trackers now that technology has advanced considerably since the days of early Eno, Kraftwerk, etc.  One would need to purchase some MIDI controller keyboard and drum pads, but the investment can be considerably cheaper than buying expensive equipment like vintage analogs or even the newer virtual analog synths like the ACCESS Virus, for example.

M-Audio has produced some high quality products quite suitable for bedroom musicians.  AKAI has also released some rhythm pads which while not proving useful for melodies can be used to trigger samples and produce basic rhythms if one does not want to resort to a drum machine/groove box.  The prospective musician may also like to invest in a midi to usb interface/adapter in order to make recording via soft-synths much easier.  Some vintage hardware synthesizers can even be purchased rather cheaply if one is willing to deal with purchasing from pawn shops, ebay sellers, music-go-round, and musicians in financial trouble.  There is nothing wrong with used if it is in good condition.  Perhaps it is also a good idea to network with some musicians and people at the local musician stores by asking questions.

These may help you:

http://www.kvraudio.com/ (a great resource)
http://www.m-audio.com/
http://www.vintagesynth.com/ (instrumental because of the information and sound samples)
http://www.musicgoround.com/used-gear.aspx (enter in the names of some manufacturers and try it out, but be careful not to be swindled)

I can only humbly hope that these aid you in your quest.

Re: Making Ambient Music Nowadays
January 08, 2010, 03:59:17 AM
Some of the best ambient artists have used heavily processed instruments.  This gives it a more organic sound.  Maeror Tri comes to mind.  I have an ebow, which uses a magnetic field to drive the string.  I am looking into getting a Fernandez sustainer or Sustainiac which both do the same thing except it is built in and can do multiple strings.  Apparently it doesn't have enough power to do all six, but you can get away with maybe three or four at a time, and they are both built into the guitar where one of the pickups used to be.  Throw some delay and reverb on it and you're good to go.

Re: Making Ambient Music Nowadays
January 09, 2010, 01:58:44 AM
Have you considered Reason 4? It's versatile, easy to use once you get acquainted with it and has a variety of synths, drum machines and mixers you can use.

MLK

Re: Making Ambient Music Nowadays
January 20, 2010, 06:21:01 PM
The hardware that TG etc used can still be gotten hold of if you look around. Time has not depreciated the cost of this stuff though, so unless you're a die-hard better go for the software option.

Best DAW out there is Logic - unfortunately its been a mac exclusive for about 7 years. If you can afford it and can tolerate the mandatory hiv infection that comes with buying anything Apple get it.

For windows, Orion I'm told is a decent enough bit of kit, although i've not used it myself (Mushin on hiarctow.com uses this for almost everything). Fruity loops is crap, Reason is ok, does the job but is nothing flash. Cubase has always felt like a poor mans logic to me, Ableton's GUI feels counter-intuitive and confusing to me alot of the time, but the sound quality is superior to the aforementioned windows programs.


Better than relying on software synths is learning to play a real instrument and then processing it through the plugins in a DAW that can input/record audio (Logic or Ableton for example) to make ambient sounds. Synths just cant capture the nuances of dynamic, expression etc that a real person with a real instrument can. Electric guitar or electric violins a good place to start.

Re: Making Ambient Music Nowadays
January 21, 2010, 12:35:35 AM
Actually, it might be best not to use sequencers not just because of sound quality but because they are usually built around a fixed beat.

I still find FruityLoops' piano roll with a piano/string synth useful for demoing melodies or writing accompanying parts, because of it's visual nature. But FL and really anything like it has always seemed like it is best used for drum-centric techno music.

If you're looking to make slow-paced ambient with little or no percussion, it might help to have the temp flow completely naturally without a drum beat or click track or any constant pulse, which sequencers naturally imply.

MLK

Re: Making Ambient Music Nowadays
January 21, 2010, 09:16:48 PM
Actually, it might be best not to use sequencers not just because of sound quality but because they are usually built around a fixed beat.

I still find FruityLoops' piano roll with a piano/string synth useful for demoing melodies or writing accompanying parts, because of it's visual nature. But FL and really anything like it has always seemed like it is best used for drum-centric techno music.

If you're looking to make slow-paced ambient with little or no percussion, it might help to have the temp flow completely naturally without a drum beat or click track or any constant pulse, which sequencers naturally imply.

Sorry but I feel this is misleading. Fruity Loops' implies beat-led music. similarly the drum machine modules in higher end sequencers do, such as Redrum in Reason.

the click however can always be turned off in a good sequencer. you're free to just press record and go, like a tape recorder.

Be wary though, without a strong sense of timing or something else to give you a feel for it (eg. delay or reverb reflections, a drummer in the room, an arpeggiator) this can be disasterous. Almost everything requires at least an impression of measure.

Re: Making Ambient Music Nowadays
January 29, 2010, 09:30:37 PM
I use Reason 2.5 but I mix in my own real samples from human bones mic'd with a very basic studio microphone. I also use sounds that are very organic besides this such as for example if there is thunder out I will definitely take advantage of this. Try to build a sound library based off of real organic sounds you create, and this is the best way . Maybe mix in samples from old movies that are obscure (avoid Exorcist!!! trust me haha).


Anything organic will make you be a step ahead of those that use just synthetic soundfonts and .wavs that are preloaded, although there is nothing wrong with that, but it will definitely add more 'feeling' I think.

Two good bands that do this are : Zero Kama (real human skull drums back in the early 80's , especiallly the album Secret Eye of L.A.Y.L.A.H. and pretty much anything by early Coil.)


Hope this helps,

 Marchozelos.