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Mia Cafe

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Aloha, MJers. This is a tune that was composed as the soundtrack to photos from an art exhibit in Perth, Australia. I was given "aboriginal", "up-tempo" and pictures as a guide and told to fly with it; this is the result.

I started with my chord changes and an Egyptian pop-rock rhythm section in Band-In-A-Box, then sent over via MIDI to Garageband 3. I split the rhythm and lead dulcimer between 1 channel direct and 1 channel mic'd and panned the rhythm for stereo, with the solo tracks hanging out in the right channel. Added some Native American flute, didgeridoo and a reverse cymbal, cut out some sections for dynamics and gave it a rough mix.

The artist loves it as-is, and it's getting lots of great attention at the moment on Blip.FM and Twitter - but honestly, I'm a bit stuck trying to take it to the next level. Any E.Q. input (with specifics) and observations would be greatly appreciated. It's just not LEAPING out of the speakers at me. I'm happy with the general performances (off-the-cuff and raw), though I may add just a hint of instrumentation to keep the escalation brewing towards the end. Thanks for listening and for critiquing mercilessly!

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Song Stats
Hits: 4062
Comments: 27
Fans: 14
Plays: 92
Downloads: 112
Votes: 5
Uploaded: Feb 17, 2009 - 03:12:33 PM
Last Updated: Feb 17, 2009 - 04:39:04 PM Last Played: Jul 25, 2019 - 07:19:13 AM
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mountain dulcimer
Native American flute
Garageband 3
Roland Fantom
Rebsie said 3834 days ago (February 17th, 2009)
Wonderful to see you posting, Bing
Beautifully crisp instrumentation. That dulcimer is immaculate! Your production values have reached a new level and to me it sounds punchy enough as it is. The bass reflecting back the melody is lovely. Delicious chords ... really wonderful in every respect.

Oh wooooah, I just got to the flute! That is amazing. Real goosebump raising stuff. And when it interweaves with the dulcimer ... WOW.

You're fine tuning your talent into something amazing here.
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dreadmon said 3834 days ago (February 17th, 2009)
Thank you
Rebsie, I appreciate your commentary - thank you so very much. : )
Check out my latest song called Don't You
magnatone said 3834 days ago (February 17th, 2009)
Mia Cafe
i am so not qualified to give you any suggestions about how to improve this. It jumps out to ME, and sounds incredibly complete to ME. Hard for me to hear how it could be even better, although I'm sure that people around here that understand the subtleties of things like EQ in a mix like this, might have something helpful to say. The flute is just magical, you are such a master!
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dreadmon said 3834 days ago (February 17th, 2009)
Everyone knows what they like - so it means much that you like this piece! I am aspiring in the general direction of mastery. : )
Check out my latest song called Don't You
Scott Carmichael said 3834 days ago (February 17th, 2009)
Excellent Bing
This show how wide your range is... very complete... I can see why the artist would love this... his very own sound track.... I'd like to see the accompanying work... that flute works so well with the subject matter...
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dreadmon said 3834 days ago (February 17th, 2009)
Thank you
Scott, I hope to see the video sometime soon. The art is fairly abstract, but with definite emotional ideas - maybe why I didn't "push" too much. Thanks, man.
Check out my latest song called Don't You
kassia said 3834 days ago (February 17th, 2009)
Mia Cafe
Bing, you blow my mind. Popping in with this incredible songs and dropping them in our laps. What can we do but just sit and listen, mesmerized. You've given us both your dulcimer and flute in this. It's a beautiful composition, gorgeous performances. I really don't hear anything that needs improvement, but I'm not really qualified to give any suggestions anyway. I love this piece - great movement and emotion. It conveys feelings without creating distinct pictures in my mind....perfect to accompany art that already has it's own images. Well done Bing - thanks for sharing this with us!
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dreadmon said 3834 days ago (February 17th, 2009)
Thank you
Hey, you've got ears to hear - I trust those ears. Glad you like it, thanks for listening.
Check out my latest song called Don't You
ktb said 3834 days ago (February 17th, 2009)
sweet to me
especially enjoyed the spatial separation of all the instruments. Listened with headphones and it sounded great. Maybe a different kit if anything might provide that spark you seek, but honestly, I can see why the artist is thrilled with it. Great job. Good to see your avatar again. Seems like its been a while
Check out my latest song called Blackwater (by Tokai)
dreadmon said 3834 days ago (February 17th, 2009)
Kit and kaboodle
Thank you - you know, this was such a quick turnaround, I didn't really think much about changing the kit. I'm sort of lacking in diversity there, but it can't hurt for timbre's sake. Thanks!
Check out my latest song called Don't You
Feter said 3834 days ago (February 17th, 2009)
Mia Cafe
o my friend I m so happy to see you back with such gorgeous song ..
the Dulce sound so elegant and wonderful ..always amazed by your
fantastic arrangement ...very clever band set here ...please more
thnx alot for sharing !!!!
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dreadmon said 3834 days ago (February 17th, 2009)
Hiya Feter!
Thanks, my friend - wonderful blessings from you! It's a new dulcimer, very strong tones and they invite some different explorations. Glad you enjoyed it! Hope you're doing well.
Check out my latest song called Don't You
Ed Hannifin said 3834 days ago (February 17th, 2009)
I think it's great...
So we can start there... I think you do great things with dulcimer in unusual settings, and here you go again...

That said, I think it's part of the conundrum of this piece that you're starting it from Band-In-A-Box, and using MIDI instruments and whatnot to get it composed and written, but the parts that reach out and touch me, and probably other listeners are the real acoustic instruments, the dulcimer and the flute. And for me, the dulcimer especially, since it carries some of the neatest melodic ideas and has a great timbre...

I think that things like the backing wash of synth are not up to the aural quality level of the acoustic instruments. One solution is to experiment with taking things out, one instrument at a time, and seeing what seems essential. OR, take things in and out throughout the tune. OR, see if you can beg, steal or borrow some other sounds to trigger from what you've already programmed. I think there's a deep resonance and maybe reverb to the lead dulcimer in particular that is nice, but is in a different sonic space than the somewhat more 'flat' synths, and maybe even the rhythm dulcimer. You may not need the rhythm dulcimer, or you may not need it all the way through the piece. These are all just thoughts... Mostly, give it a rest and then play with it...

I like the bass line, and think it works well against the dulcimer lines...


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dreadmon said 3834 days ago (February 17th, 2009)
Thanks man
Very good observations. This is my first major experiment with BIAB - a couple of others (which I might post) utilized the soundsets from my Roland Fantom and had a great degree more punch/much less E.Q. tweaking. I suppose I'm underwhelmed by the drums and bass, mostly - the synth washes are indeed "too constant" and though I dropped them in and out, they don't change texture throughout the tune much. The rhythm dulcimer is rather subtle to my ears, I'm surprised that you picked it up. For some reason, they are almost subliminal - I'm having a hard time isolating their frequencies. But it's only been a day in the life of this piece and, as you said, I need to let it go for a bit and then come back with fresh ears and approach. Thanks for the insight and "ear"sight as well.
Check out my latest song called Don't You
Dj French Toast said 3834 days ago (February 18th, 2009)
Mon !
It sounds damn good to me man on the monitors and two head phones . Great guitar and that band in a box program I gotta check out ! Is that you on the Flute ! Nice man ! Id like to get some of that on a Hiphop beat :) the Whole song rocks dude !

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dreadmon said 3832 days ago (February 19th, 2009)
I'm ready!
Hey, thanks Benny! BIAB is a great program to start tunes out - then you can tweak out from there. Takes some of the sting out of laboring over backing tracks all day; much better working with a template sometimes (and even better to print out arrangements for your band.) As for the flute - I'd love to throw down some noize on a track - I've got 'em in six keys, so we should definitely do something tribal!
Check out my latest song called Don't You
richard13 said 3833 days ago (February 18th, 2009)
Gorgeous music and performance
sorry I can't help with the tech stuff (I'm just learning myself) but musically It's beautiful. Thank you. I'll be checking out your other tunes.
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dreadmon said 3832 days ago (February 19th, 2009)
Thanks, Richard - I appreciate you taking the time to listen and comment - cheers, man!
Check out my latest song called Don't You
The Composer said 3833 days ago (February 18th, 2009)
Heya Bing, I'll try to do this as I used to and just write and anything that pops into my head. Unfortunately the first thing that hits me is still the garageband drumkit... there are many free drumkit (or at least snare and kick ssamples) around that sound better than this.

Thinking about EQ... I'm not entirely sure, but the bass could focus a little deeper in frequency... not sure about that one though. I think your problem with it not jumping out at you in your speaker is that you might be missing out on some high-end sparkle.... more in your high percussion and lead dulcimer than anything else... perhaps making sure that your high-hats/cymbals/shakers were on a different track to you kick and snare would allow you to EQ them separately....

With the some of the dulcimer tracks... to me they are sounding a little small, dry and impersonal. If you're cutting any higher end EQ off them, try stopping that... they are leading in most parts of the song so they are allowed to have a larger EQ span than other instruments (they don't need to be as mid-range as they are now). I can't remember how you record these (were they acoustic or electric?), perhaps try some close micing techniques (with a separate mic), so you can try and pick up some of the more subtle high-end finger noises. Once you've got a very close and personal sound with the lead, then try mucking about with reverb to make it sound like a close, large instrument with a bigger space behind it.

You've got a lot of that worked out on the flute by the way... even though it's slightly further to the background than the lead dulcimer, it's still very large in the space.

I'd also agree with Ed Hannifin, you don't need as much happening in the background all the time. The chord progression is already being spelled about by a plucked dulcimer, two? rhythm dulcimer tracks and the synth (not always at once of course). Also, since there's only two main progressions I think, you very quickly don't need the backing tracks to tell you what they are. By the second half of the track, you could just have the bass and lead instrument playing and the listener would be able to hear the chords around them easily. That being said, when the bass drops out about 3/4 through, the strummed dulcimer and synths work quite nicely underneath the flute. Through the rest of the track though, taking out more and more of the background tracks, might allow you to focus on the reverb and EQ of the main tracks without cluttering up the mix.

Anyway, cool track Bing. Good to come back and listen to some of your stuff again!
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dreadmon said 3832 days ago (February 19th, 2009)
Good stuff -
Heya, Bryan - long time, how you been, bro?

Thank you very, very much for the insightful guidance here. I'll be mucking about with it again prolly next week. My main disconnect, as I mentioned to Ed, is that I somehow got it in my head that the GB software instruments were going to be an improvement over my Roland Fantom. The internal patches aren't the greatest, but they've got that beautiful Roland sizzle and spacial placement. I recorded a couple of blues tunes before this one and just sent the BIAB arrangements over stereo to GB (since I can control the levels with the Fantom.) I got it in my head that with "Mia Cafe", I'd take the MIDI output track by track and therefore be able to tweak them into something better; but alas, I was confused and internally misled. : )

One of the tweaks I'll try is to import the Fantom rhythm files separately from the pads, so's I can further take them out of the mix. That may improve my bass and drum situation. The next very real problem are the dulcimers, as you mentioned. If the aforementioned doesn't immediately render some clarity, I'll need to set upon those next. I used a condenser and a direct for each track - the direct had a pre-amp boost on it. Glad you liked the flute - after my last batch of recordings with it, I think I've grasped upon the technique to get a full sound without the mid-range that I got with close mic'ing.

This is a great start and I'm glad that people are enjoying it, regardless. I hope that means that the spirit of the piece is shining through the relative muddle of the mix. You rock!
Check out my latest song called Don't You
DWL said 3833 days ago (February 19th, 2009)
Not leaping out the speakers?
Bing you do yourself a dis-service :-)

This doesn't need to jump out at you. It kinda creeps up and takes you prisoner.

I can see why the artist would be very pleased.

Beautifully done.


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dreadmon said 3832 days ago (February 19th, 2009)
Ha, I like that one, Dick! There's something to be said for low-key, which was the approach here, as the art was the focal point and not the music - so I tried not to be too overpowering. Subsequently, as I gear it up for an album release, I'm looking to make it more center-stage as it were. Thanks for your compliments and for listening!

Check out my latest song called Don't You
Roxylee said 3832 days ago (February 19th, 2009)
I think it's perfect as is. You pull all the instruments together to fit so well- your arranging skill amazes me. When I grow up I want to be able to compose like you.
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dreadmon said 3831 days ago (February 20th, 2009)
Thank you! I sure appreciate that - and you're a great composer as you are!
Check out my latest song called Don't You
gerenm said 3801 days ago (March 22nd, 2009)
This is right nice! Don't be timid about using BIAB, especially as a starting point. I'm not ashamed to say I used it for backing tracks on a recording project some time back. The parts it made fit the song almost perfectly -- I just had to "humanize" it some.

Anyway, this is excellent stuff. It captures the mood the client wanted, and, for the use specified, you don't want the music to reach out and grab -- the pictures are supposed to do that. And, bottom line: the client loves it!
Rasapriya said 3716 days ago (June 15th, 2009)
What a treat! Are you in Hawaii? I'm on Maui.

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DJ4Kat said 2682 days ago (April 14th, 2012)
Good Job !!
Nice Instrumental track !!
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Name: Bing Futch
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Che hun ta mo!Thanks for visiting my page here on MacJams. I'm a full-time musician that specializes in the Appalachian mountain dulcimer. Besides giving private lessons and teaching workshops at festivals around the country on this unique America... [see more]

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