In my previous production diary, I covered (in excessive detail) the major milestone of finishing writing. This time, we look at a production step I’ve used twice now, first for Psychedelic Ghost Stories and now for The Mechanics of Mysticism: instrument days!

In case it’s not obvious, instrument days are where I pick an instrument out of my collection (or a borrowed one, if I have one on hand), and just go thru my tracks one by one, adding something to each of them from that instrument. It’s an idea that I think came from Jamie Lidell’s excellent podcast, Hanging Out with Audiophiles, though I couldn’t tell you how it came up or if it was Jamie or a guest, much less which guest, that mentioned it. In any case, I heard it and decided it sounded like a great idea, so I implemented it. And you know what? It is a great idea!

It lets you dig deep into whatever gear you’re using. It helps give focus to what you’re doing to each track to varying degrees (the less versatile the instrument in question is, the greater the focus; after all, if an instrument only does a few things well, it’ll probably be one of those things you’re doing!). And it encourages moving quickly thru the tracks — once you’ve added a bit from that instrument, you’re done! (Unless you really want to add a second bit, in which case, go ahead, there are no rules here.)

This time I started with the instrument pictured above, the Arturia MiniBrute 2s, a beast of an analog monosynth that I don’t use nearly often enough. It was already on a few tracks, providing either bass or a lead sound, but for this exercise, I really gave it a rinse. It contributed to transitions, doubled basslines, added layers to pads, made some wild sound FX, and spit out some weirdo ear candy. In the process, I used a bunch of stuff on it I’d never fucked with much, like running the filter in highpass mode and some extreme/weird LFO modulations. Some of what I came up with was merely incidental to the track, but in a couple of cases, it really elevated the whole thing.

Once that was done, I knew my next addition was going to be the Kawai K4r, which is a weird old ROMpler (kind of; it has a real synth engine with resonant filters, ring modulation, and other features you don’t generally associate with ROMplers) that happens to be the rack version of the first “big” synth I ever owned, back in 1992. Here I was mostly using presets, because its tiny, two-line interface is a pain to program on and because there’s nothing wrong with using presets, anyway. Its strength is pads and some gritty digital and faux analog sounds, so it got used almost exclusively for that. That meant mostly layering my existing chords, but also a few transitional and ear candy moments here and there.

This K4r pass went a lot faster than the MiniBrute 2s pass — turns out dialing up a preset is inherently quicker than coming up with a sound from scratch! Originally I had intended to add additional instruments this way — maybe as many as 4 more — but at some point during the K4 pass I realized these are feeling mostly done. That means it’s time to move on the final production phase of making the last additions, tweaks and cuts, then polishing everything up. No idea how long that’ll take — could be as little as a week or two, could be months… but we’re in the home stretch now!

Of course, then I have to mix and master the damn thing…

Until then, thanks for reading, and let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to know about this process or any other part of it.

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One Reply to “Production Diary: Instrument Days for Mechanics of Mysticism”

  1. not sure why i haven’t spent wayyyyy more time on your website. “production diary” is a very cool idea and this post in specific is awesome.
    i’m a big fan of arturia’s first minibrute. in fact, i got 2. always wanted to pick up the 2s but didn’t get around to it. for some reason it was the first subtractive synth that just made sense to me.
    not familiar with Jamie Lidell, but i like this idea a lot and i think i’m going to try it out myself.
    thanks for writing this up. great read 🙂

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