Jon's Music Page -- Introduction

Creating music is as natural as breathing, but after you've initially satisfied that creative itch there is an often laborious path to making a song 'perfect' to your own and to others' ears.

I began writing music and lyrics while going to college (1967); playing in a couple of 'guitar bands' that performed at frat-parties, community centers, and high-school gyms, None of those songs ever reached more than a hundred pairs of ears. But when folks clapped or said they enjoyed the music it was a powerful affirmation. Now, in 2019 it is possible for a virtual unknown to post a you-tube session and with a little 'virality' get thousands of ears in a matter of days. I consider this a very good thing. Musical expression is art in a pure form, and sharing your passion and having it reciprocated by listerners is rewarding in and of itself.

After a long hiatus ( thirty plus years of work and raising a family, etc) I returned to music composition in 2001 and discovered that a generation of new computer based tools were available that truly empower the arrangement and production of multi-track music at home. This site is about my story of discovery and evolution in the age of digital performance. I hope you enjoy my music as much as I have enjoyed its creation! --- Jon Wallace

Circa 2002 - Cubase and Creative Labs E-MU 0404 Hardware

In 2002 I transitioned from a multi-track cassette recorder (Yamaha MT120S), an analog recording device, to my first Digital Audio Workstation (Cubase 3.7 which supported VST plugins) running on a Windows 98SE PC with a Creative Labs E-MU 0404 digital I/O sound card. I was amazed at the improvement in both sound quality and ease of editing and mixing tracks. The above link (the Wheel) is an example from that era (in WAV format). This was mixed as three tracks if I remember correctly: A combined percussion/bass/rythmn track which I keyed with my left hand on a stacked midi-keybpard; and counter-point accompanyment right hand played on an electric piano; with a mic'd 3rd track for the voice.

The 0404 card allowed one stereo analog (unbalanced) input, one midi-input, and one stereo digital i/o input. I ran the voice signal through an analog to digital converter and connected to the card's digital i/o channel; the accompanyment came in as midi from the midi keyboard; the analog channel supported the electric piano. In those days having the ability to simultaneously input 2 stereo tracks and multi-instrument midi (with realtime monitoring) was impressive for a home DAW setup!

Early Music Composition Software

I began using a MIDI-based music composer/player called Jammer Pro Version 6 around 2004. It allowed access to instrument sound libraries and could generate detailed stylings for percussion, chord progressions, melody, and harmony based on user supplied generation rules (key, scale, mode, time-signature,etc). It was not real-time but was fine for putting together styles that provided decent backing tracks. The Ship (link above) is an example of a composition I created with Jammer in 2006. In 2013 I wrote lyrics for this song and added vocal tracks. The impetus was a hardware harmonizer pedal I'd just bought (TC Helicon Harmony G) that used guitar chording to create harmonies in real-time. I also added pad tracks using a new AKAI MKII mini keyboard controller which allowed me to put synthesizer sounds right where I wanted them with real-time control of bends and modulations.

In subsequent years I purchased more MIDI composers, namely One Man Band v11, ChordPulse 2.6, Orb Producer Suite v3, and Band In a Box (2021). I used CoolSoft's freeware MidiSynth Utility to over-ride MS WIndows' restriction on soundfont based MIDI-Mapping. As an aside, the Band In a Box Real-Track feature allows building tracks from WAV loops so it is more powerful in this respect than other MIDI composers.

2014 - A Powerful Digital Audio USB Interface and More Computing Power

A new laptop with Windows 8 prompted me to also purchase a Steinberg UR44 audio to usb interface (4 audio channels in/out + realtime monitor). I also switched from Cubase to Studio One Pro and bought a bunch of (ACIDized) sound loops and instrument libraries. Around 2016 I began migrating from hardware Harmonizer and Effects engines to software plugins, it just seemed cheaper and easier going forward. By 2019 I was pretty much all software, all the time for music manipulation inside my (now Windows 10) PC.

The above link (Changes) is an example of an arrangement in which I used my AKAII midi-controller with a guitar emulation plugin to mimic a guitar (I also used the midi controller to drive a synthesizer pad and electric piano). This was the point where I began to realize that mixing for headphones, linear monitor speakers, car speakers, etc. was a non-trivial task. The problem being that what sounded great in my headphones sounded pretty thin when played in my car stereo. With some research I learned that creating a good mix is a juggling act which tries to maximize the vital sound characteristics across variations in speaker response, speaker's separation, and the ambient environment. Successful mixing is truly an artform!

I began looking at software that might help me better position each track in the music space; looking at frequency spectrums, relative amplitudes, and bands which characterized each instrument. This lead me to Izotope plugins in 2018. I've been using them along with Waves plugins to good affect - though it is an asymptotic target (the perfect mix).

Equalizing, Compressing, Mixing -- Improving The Sound

From 2019 through 2022 I created and mixed over a hundred instrumental and vocal tracks. Each attempt taught me a little more about the art of song production. In the 60's my music was all live. Now I often make multiple dubs per track and compare them in the mix. I use Izotope VocalSynth 2 and Waves Harmony plugins for voice backing (instead of a suite of TC-Helicon hardware devices for midi controled harmony and voice synth affects).

Though I still generate guitar tracks by recording my electric guitar dry through the UR44 - I often make ACIDized loops of guitar phrases for use with the built in Studio One Pro Chord Track feature. Guitar Amp modeling and guitar effect plugins allow me to get the sound I want in most cases (though I still resort to using a Boss GP10 guitar synth in an effects loop in a few cases). The three Music files above are examples of music created in this environment. I think my mixes are improving!

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