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How do you start an ambient piece?

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  • I am very new to ambient - as a matter of fact, I have yet to compose any ambient music because I sold off all my guitar equipment years ago except the guitar (however, I recently ordered all new equipment and anxiously await its arrival) -- what I ordered:

    Amp:
    Port City Pearl 50W head
    Port City Pearl 2x12 OS vertical cab with 1 Celestion Greenback and 1 Celestion Gold

    Pedals:
    Strymon Timeline
    Strymon Mobius
    Strymon Big Sky
    Xotic Wah
    Tapestry Bloomery Active Volume Pedal
    Vick Audio Tree of Life overdrive
    Rawkworks Eliora Fuzz
    BBE OptiComp
    Disaster Area DMC-8 Gen.3 MIDI controller

    Comment


    • ^ Wow, that's quite a shopping list. I think you'll be able to cook something vaguely ambient with all that.
      Latest release: never to be repeated

      Hearthis | Soundcloud

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      • Thanks - I have been researching for months ( maybe too much research) in an effort to get the exact pedal board I want - I am soooo excited for them all to arrive - although the amplifier won't be here for another 3 weeks -- for now, I am attempting to figure out the MIDI controller

        Comment


        • Originally posted by epicallyambient View Post
          Thanks - I have been researching for months ( maybe too much research) in an effort to get the exact pedal board I want -
          That's a nice Christmas present you have coming. I am a longtime guitar player, and started the ambient journey last December. Some thoughts on your pedals, (and having done all that research, you probably know most of this):

          1) I went cheap on cables the first time; big mistake. Chucked them all and bought George L for the board and Spectraflex Original for longer runs.
          2) You'll probably want a second (third, fourth, etc.) delay. I love my El Cap and Dig, but if I added one to your Timeline, it would be the Source Audio Nemesis. It's $255 used eBay (relatively inexpensive), but it has a lot of delay engines, all useful, all sound great. It'll give you a reverse delay into the Timeline Digital; or a shimmer into the Timeline Tape, etc. Very useful.
          3) Clean power. I limped along with crap power to my Ditto looper; after a lot of snap-crackle-pop-hunting, the Ditto folks told me to get good, clean power to it. I did and no issues since. I use Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 4X4, ($170 new).
          4) I'd like to have a nice amp/cab setup like you're getting. Maybe 2018! But in the meantime, I go direct. I assume you'll be using a mic on your amp to record. If you want to try recording direct (without amp), don't forget that your BigSky has a "Cab Filter", or cab simulator switch on the back. Flip that on and go direct to pc interface. Works well and gets a good sound. I've used that quite a bit. Further on that: if you want to experiment with stereo, with some extra cabling, you can do that through the cab filter, too. To make it easy, stay mono until the Timeline; come out of the Timeline in stereo, into the Bigsky, out the Bigsky in stereo into your interface. Definitely adds a lot to record in stereo and doesn't cost much (until you want the second amp/cab, ha ha!)
          5) Mobius, Timeline, Bigsky: my dream pedals too. However, I've learned they are really complex. Each pedal has 12 engines. Each engine has 8 knobs, and maybe 6 hidden parameters. To simplify, say there are 14 different "settings" for each engine. That's 12 engines X 14 settings = 168 setting choices on one pedal. Cube 168 and you get over 4 million different combinations with those 3 pedals. I know that's simplifying and crazy, but the point is, that's a lot of choice to dial in. I spent way too much time futzing around with those guys. I've vowed to: find a setting on each and make some music. It's too easy to waste a two-hour practice session just twiddling knobs and playing swelled CMaj chords!
          6) When I see what some of the guys I follow are using, (e.g. Chords of Orion, Monochrome Seasons, The Monk By The Sea), much of what they use for great pieces are exactly the type of components you have in your list. The more I do ambient music, the more I see that great music can be made from a basic signal chain. I don't need numerous pedals turned on to get a great sound.
          Looking forward to hearing more about your journey.
          Latest YouTube piece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXgprMQmEmM&t=5s
          www.whispersinspace.com

          Comment


          • Originally posted by whispersinspace View Post

            That's a nice Christmas present you have coming. I am a longtime guitar player, and started the ambient journey last December. Some thoughts on your pedals, (and having done all that research, you probably know most of this):
            Yes - I think sometimes I became guilty of over-researching

            1) I went cheap on cables the first time; big mistake. Chucked them all and bought George L for the board and Spectraflex Original for longer runs.
            I used to use George Ls back when I was in a band - I know they are high quality.

            I have also over-researched cables and came to the conclusion to use the following:
            For the pedals: https://www.analysis-plus.com/produc...oval-thin-kit/
            For the guitar and pedals to cab: https://www.analysis-plus.com/produc...ver-oval-thin/


            2) You'll probably want a second (third, fourth, etc.) delay. I love my El Cap and Dig, but if I added one to your Timeline, it would be the Source Audio Nemesis. It's $255 used eBay (relatively inexpensive), but it has a lot of delay engines, all useful, all sound great. It'll give you a reverse delay into the Timeline Digital; or a shimmer into the Timeline Tape, etc. Very useful.
            I think the Timeline has a dual delay (although I know it is merely one engine and you cannot combine all the delays thereon) so, you are probably right - I might go with just a basic delay pedal - although I could go crazy and get the Flashback Triple Delay (as it runs MIDI as well) then, presumably, if I use the Timeline dual delay and the Triple Delay at the same time I could have 5 delays running simultaneously ( I think my brain just exploded)

            3) Clean power. I limped along with crap power to my Ditto looper; after a lot of snap-crackle-pop-hunting, the Ditto folks told me to get good, clean power to it. I did and no issues since. I use Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 4X4, ($170 new).
            Ahhh yes, very much agree - I forgot to mention the Strymon Zuma is on its way as well

            4) I'd like to have a nice amp/cab setup like you're getting. Maybe 2018! But in the meantime, I go direct. I assume you'll be using a mic on your amp to record. If you want to try recording direct (without amp), don't forget that your BigSky has a "Cab Filter", or cab simulator switch on the back. Flip that on and go direct to pc interface. Works well and gets a good sound. I've used that quite a bit. Further on that: if you want to experiment with stereo, with some extra cabling, you can do that through the cab filter, too. To make it easy, stay mono until the Timeline; come out of the Timeline in stereo, into the Bigsky, out the Bigsky in stereo into your interface. Definitely adds a lot to record in stereo and doesn't cost much (until you want the second amp/cab, ha ha!)
            I have yet to even venture into thinking about recording any of this -- I want to really get to know my new setup first then think about getting some recording hardware/software

            5) Mobius, Timeline, Bigsky: my dream pedals too. However, I've learned they are really complex. Each pedal has 12 engines. Each engine has 8 knobs, and maybe 6 hidden parameters. To simplify, say there are 14 different "settings" for each engine. That's 12 engines X 14 settings = 168 setting choices on one pedal. Cube 168 and you get over 4 million different combinations with those 3 pedals. I know that's simplifying and crazy, but the point is, that's a lot of choice to dial in. I spent way too much time futzing around with those guys. I've vowed to: find a setting on each and make some music. It's too easy to waste a two-hour practice session just twiddling knobs and playing swelled CMaj chords!
            Stop blowing my mind!!! That is also why I got the MIDI controller so I can save a ton of presets on all three to one patch

            6) When I see what some of the guys I follow are using, (e.g. Chords of Orion, Monochrome Seasons, The Monk By The Sea), much of what they use for great pieces are exactly the type of components you have in your list. The more I do ambient music, the more I see that great music can be made from a basic signal chain. I don't need numerous pedals turned on to get a great sound.
            Looking forward to hearing more about your journey.
            I am sure, once everything arrives, I will post a photo of my journey to even setting all this up on my Pedaltrain Novo 24 board (I hope they all fit lol)
            Last edited by DreamPop; 12-16-2017, 05:14 PM.

            Comment


            • Originally posted by epicallyambient View Post

              Stop blowing my mind!!! That is also why I got the MIDI controller so I can save a ton of presets on all three to one patch
              )
              Interesting....can you give me a hint about how to use the MIDI controller to save presets on Strymons, etc. This is intriguing, and, well, I just have no idea how to even start thinking about it......
              Latest YouTube piece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXgprMQmEmM&t=5s
              www.whispersinspace.com

              Comment


              • Originally posted by whispersinspace View Post

                Interesting....can you give me a hint about how to use the MIDI controller to save presets on Strymons, etc. This is intriguing, and, well, I just have no idea how to even start thinking about it......
                Once I get all the pedals in and open the instruction ebooks on them - definitely - but, for now, there is this--->

                Part 1: https://www.strymon.net/using-midi-t...l-your-pedals/

                Part 2: https://www.strymon.net/using-midi-control-pedals-2/

                Part 3: https://www.strymon.net/syncing-presets-midi/

                Comment


                • Originally posted by whispersinspace View Post
                  It's too easy to waste a two-hour practice session just twiddling knobs and playing swelled CMaj chords!
                  The way I look at it is that the pedals become part of your instrument so that two hours twiddling knobs is part of getting to know your instrument. Just in the same way that spending that time practicing scales is getting to know the guitar part of your instrument.
                  Graham
                  https://www.youtube.com/c/THEBassBus
                  https://soundcloud.com/bassbus
                  https://hearthis.at/graham-blanche-ov/

                  Comment


                  • Originally posted by epicallyambient View Post

                    Once I get all the pedals in and open the instruction ebooks on them - definitely - but, for now, there is this--->

                    Part 1: https://www.strymon.net/using-midi-t...l-your-pedals/

                    Part 2: https://www.strymon.net/using-midi-control-pedals-2/

                    Part 3: https://www.strymon.net/syncing-presets-midi/
                    thanks! I'll check this out.... in the meantime for you, how about BigSky output to headphones? Here's a link:
                    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbSWHEuC_fQ
                    Latest YouTube piece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXgprMQmEmM&t=5s
                    www.whispersinspace.com

                    Comment


                    • Originally posted by BassBus View Post

                      The way I look at it is that the pedals become part of your instrument so that two hours twiddling knobs is part of getting to know your instrument. Just in the same way that spending that time practicing scales is getting to know the guitar part of your instrument.
                      Point taken!
                      Latest YouTube piece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXgprMQmEmM&t=5s
                      www.whispersinspace.com

                      Comment


                      • Originally posted by whispersinspace View Post

                        Point taken!
                        Graham
                        https://www.youtube.com/c/THEBassBus
                        https://soundcloud.com/bassbus
                        https://hearthis.at/graham-blanche-ov/

                        Comment


                        • Personally, I think that if you wait to record before you get to 'completely' familiarize yourself with your equipment will basically preclude you from doing any recording at all. If I had used that philosophy, I'd never release anything, because I'm still learning things about my own setup. The Korg Kronos I bought last year has a lot of features and a lot of settings, some of which I still need to familiarize myself with, but the way I learn is by experimentation, and I have a habit of hitting the record button when I land on a combination I like. I don't do a lot of pre-planning of my tracks, but I do practice what I want to record before I hit the record button most of the time. If I come up with something I feel is worthy of release, a lot of the time it's luck, or cosmic confluence, whatever you want to call it. Definitely, you have to be open to new things, and new techniques. Even inventing your own techniques, for that matter. Just do yourself a favor, though, and don't 'learn' your equipment so thoroughly that you get stuck in just one way of doing things! That can lead to stagnant pieces that all basically sound the same.
                          "All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us" - Gandalf, Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

                          Comment


                          • Originally posted by Sonic Bodhi View Post
                            Even inventing your own techniques, for that matter. Just do yourself a favor, though, and don't 'learn' your equipment so thoroughly that you get stuck in just one way of doing things! That can lead to stagnant pieces that all basically sound the same.
                            Yeah, that makes sense. And the beauty of these ever-increasingly complicated devices is that we have a reservoir of exploration ahead, that hopefully inspires musical ideas as we go along. Once again, point taken......
                            Latest YouTube piece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXgprMQmEmM&t=5s
                            www.whispersinspace.com

                            Comment


                            • Well generally I start with a mood, always has something to do with a world building phase, stories in my head and whatnot, I let the music play off that and it usually just flows, I spend more time finding sounds than I do recording them.

                              Comment


                              • So many exciting and inspiring hints over here!
                                In my case, I usually start with a patch design from my synth, i most of cases these are pads or very soft keys, then I start playing with it within some scale (mostly minor scales) and loop it, that begins as my main piece.
                                After that, it just flows: more looped patches, field recordings, FXs, etc.

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