A Guide to Sequencing
Quite often Midi files just don't cut the mustard do they? You're looking for that favourite song and when you finally find it, it resembles Mrs Mills in concert recorded in the garden shed!
If you're lucky you'll find some very professional arrangements but they won't sound quite as they should, unless played on the particular keyboard for which they were intended. You can of course change the "voices" although in practice it can be a frustrating and time consuming process trying to locate what's where, on which track(s) and even then you may not find the song you really wanted.
So....let's consider the other option...the monster lurking in the deepest darkest depths of your keyboard....the dreaded, fearful Sequencer!!!
The song sequencer is a great tool for creating real-sounding arrangements of the song of your choice and the following guide lines will hopefully show you how to survive (sorry I mean achieve) your hearts desires.
STEP 1 Think of a song.
You've got to have a good reason for wanting to put yourself through this so pick a song that you like and try to keep it fairly simple to begin with. Think about the style you want for your song, the type of band you want performing it and the audience you want to perform to and you should get a good idea for a fitting song.
STEP 2 Get the Outline.
If your song has lyrics you will probably want the music to go on long enough to fit all the words in, yes? Okay, so Google song lyrics and the name of your song and find what you need.
THEN go to YouTube and find your song there.
CHECK the lyrics against the version you are listening to. (If necessary paste and copy the lyrics to Excel or Word to make alterations).
When you are satisfied print the lyrics off and if possible get an audio copy for future reference. I actually use a Dictaphone which I just hold to my laptop. It's great because I can really slow down the playback which allows me to pick out certain things but by the same token the copy is pretty lousy and although I have searched "effects" I still can't quite find the sound of the doorbell ringing and the dogs barking so I just leave them out!
Note from Admin
A brilliant way to analyse tunes is to use the Song Surgeon program. With Song Surgeon you can slow down recordings whilst staying at the same pitch, transpose into other keys, loop sections, grab audio from Youtube and much more. This is what I use when I want to break down a tune, it's a great companion for you when you're sequencing new tunes.
STEP 3 Keep track of the tracks.
Anything that saves time is a bonus and getting in the habit of writing down what you have recorded on which track and where will be of great benefit along the way. Here is an example showing part of a sequenced song layout sheet.
You can download the actual layout sheet files by clicking the links below the image.
Sequenced Song Layout PDF for printing
Sequenced Song Layout Excel Spreadsheet for editing and printing
Basically, just write down the measures playing against the track number they are recorded on. (You won't need to fill in the TK 5 (CHDS) and you probably won’t use TK 7 (RYM) or TK 8 (DRM) so I haven’t included them.) Probably the most used track will be TK 6 (CTRL) as this is where you will apply things like PADS, STOP/START, TEMPO changes, VARIATION changes, KEY changes....even STYLE changes. When you return to your arrangement after a significant break you'll be very glad you made notes!
Let's make a start!
You should have your song lyrics in front of you ready to record your chords on TK 5. You have probably selected a suitable style by this stage although you can change to any style at a later date.
Select PROG MENU – SEQUENCER - RECORD & EDIT - STEP RECORD - TK 5. (Refer to your reference manual Recording Chord Progressions). If you want to use an intro press the intro 1 or 2 button and you will see a succession of empty measures appear.
Assuming that your intro is 4 bars long then your first verse will begin on measure 5 and if your verse is 16 measures long then your chorus will begin on (or around) measure 21. Write the measure number against the lyrics as you go along.
Add an ending using the ending 1 or 2 buttons as desired. (If you don't know the chords to your song you can just look them up online.
Play back your song while reading the lyrics to make sure everything fits.
Everything from here on in is an entirely individual artistic interpretation. How exciting is that?
Use TKs 9 onwards to record the rest of the song i.e..the melody, backings (and the twiddlybits that you really need three pair of hands to play all at once) Have a good listen to that audio recording you made earlier to pick out those guitar riffs and vocal harmonies and those tricky string ascensions and piano solos etc. etc.
No doubt many of you are accomplished musicians, but for us lesser mortals the sequencer is the way to go thanks to tools like step record! Sequencing can be time consuming depending on how much of a perfectionist you are (and one trick is to know when the job is done) but the efforts you put in will reap rewards.
You may need to refer to your manual if you are uncertain how to proceed with specific tasks but for now I’d like to impart some time-saving tips and some do's and don’ts that will hopefully be valuable.
REMEMBER TO SAVE YOUR WORK REGULARLY
This is an absolute must and it only takes seconds. It’s worth doing.
USE THE PANEL WRITE BUTTON
It’s there for a reason! (I remember pulling my hair out wondering why a key change or voice change wouldn’t save. I eventually referred to the manual and hey presto!
MEASURE COPY IS A TIME SAVER
You’ve just spent 17 hours perfecting the verse of your song and you have another three verses! What would you rather do? (Your goal is to build the foundations of the song i.e. intro, verses, choruses and an ending. You will be able to add voice changes, pads, style variations etc. as you wish later so that it doesn’t become monotonous).
Measures can be copied from one place on a track to another place on the same track or from one track to another track. This is very handy. For example, if you have 8 measures of melody on TK 9 and it has taken you quite a long time in step record to get the correct notes in the correct position at the correct length and volume and now you want a harmony line, copy those 8 measures to another track - let’s say TK 10 (or another two tracks for three part harmony etc.) Make adjustments to note pitch on TK 10 then merge tracks 9 and 10. Voila!
There are many other applications for measure copy that you will no doubt discover as you go along.
I have given an example above of one benefit of merging tracks. But a word of advice... save your work beforehand as things can go wrong. Your reference manual will explain the (dead easy) process.
Using the same example you can have TK 9 + TK 10 sent to any other empty track or back to TK 9 BUT if you send it to the higher number of the two tracks (in this case TK 10) something strange occurs. You will find you now have two attached tracks where one controls the other.
In other words, if you alter anything on one track (like a voice or the volume) it will duplicate on the other track and you will effectively have wasted recording space. Prevention is definitely better than cure in this instance!
One other point to mention is that if measures in one track have been recorded in a different octave from the other track then when they are merged this is how it will stay. Mercifully this is easier to correct. Simply alter the pitch (yes, sorry, one by one) of the offending notes in NOTE EDIT.
ECONOMISE ON TRACK SPACE
If you find you are running out of empty tracks to record on there are a couple of things you can do.
ne is to merge tracks. Another is to change the assigned voice within a track. Here is what I mean....If the first verse of your song has a piano voice but you want the second verse to have strings, go into the track itself via STEP RECORD to the measure where the second verse begins and select strings. If you want the piano and strings together experiment with SOUND EDIT and having saved the new voice to memory use this in the same way as any other voice. This is where the sequencer song layout comes in handy for keeping tabs on the less easy to find things.
It’s simply enough to record a key change on Tk6 at the chosen measure by pressing transpose + which will take your whole song up by a semi-tone. If any note on any track “overhangs” into the next measure at this point you will certainly know about it. The trick is to lengthen the note up to the last point in the measure before the key-change then start the same note at the beginning of the next measure (after the key-change).
USE CYCLE ON
If you find that you need to make an alteration to a track at some distant measure number.
Each time you go into a track (PROG MENU – SEQ – REC & EDIT - NOTE EDIT – TK number) you will find yourself at measure 1 and will have to scroll all the way through to the desired point.
Save time by predetermining the start and finish measures in CYCLE MODE and then pressing the Cycle Mode button before (PROG MENU – SEQ – REC & EDIT - NOTE EDIT – TK number).
There is always more than one way to achieve a result and it really does come down to personal preference. For example I find NOTE EDIT simpler than PUNCH RECORD. Your keyboard has great on-board features and with a little practise you will master them. You will have the satisfaction of creating your very own arrangements!
Have lots of fun!
Enjoy Mel's gorgeous sequences in the Mel's Melodies Collection!