How to start making music at home, real cheap!

This is a (very) beginner tip on baby steps of own music making. Like a post I wish I’d have read when clueless on how people made all the music around – without investing so much money.

So this post is for all the bathroom singers out there who’re pretty good at it and want to try something new.

Do you sing to karaokes or enjoy singing and uploading songs on Smule (and wondered if you could take it a level up)? Ever wondered if the backing track was also made by you? Wanted to completely workaround your favorite song with your personal creativity?

Have you wondered how to spice up your skills a bit?

And do you know how to play a musical instrument? Like guitar? Delicious! (Even if you don’t, it’s okay- read on!)

Many people around do use Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) which are amazing piece of softwares (with a steep learning curve) to mix and edit tracks, add virtual instruments & effects and come up with awesome song covers.

Are you completely new to this but interested? It is a steep learning curve (that I’m yet to take), but I’d be talking on the baby steps. This would be an article I wish I had read when starting this stuff without a clue of where to start at…

I’m not a DAW / music expert, but still everybody starts new right?

So here’s the level up game that I believe can get you 1 step higher in this art.

Well no surprises, the thing I’m talking about is multi track recording. We all have our phone’s audio recorder filled with our singing portfolios of us singing the lyrics alone, but have you ever imagined the possibilities of layering so many recordings together? Like harmonizing alone, adding beats, playing the rhythm and the lead guitar together- all alone, from your bedroom?

And what if I say it’s not too hard as you might think?

So obviously I can guess the next question-

Is it costly?

Well I used to google the basic requirements for recording music at home, and I’m bombarded (and taken aback) by a long list of expensive equipments – condenser microphone, audio interface (what the heck is that I mean)! That list was way costly.

Anyway as a novice beginner I didn’t want to spend money on audio interfaces and studio microphones. And guess what, the earphones saved me. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to invest on that expensive gear just to see if you’ll enjoy music making or not!

Side question- do you have an earphone with microphone? (Preferably ones with the microphone coming on either of the earbud wires). You’ll need it.

So for bare minimum, for this, all you need is an earphone and a PC. Period.

The DAW? This is of my favorites – The open source, free and simple software – Audacity.

Shout-out to the entire community which built and maintains this beautiful piece – you people are awesome!

In case you haven’t heard the name, audacity is a free audio editing tool. It’s not a fully featured Digital Audio Workstation but very simple, doesn’t do fancy stuff, incredible tool for basic audio editing.

Plug in your earphone with mic into the PC, and audacity wouldn’t have a problem reading your mic and playing back through the earphones.

(Tip) in case you cannot place the microphone near the sound source and earphones in the ear at the same time (recording a keyboard for instance) you can buy an audio splitter (which splits the microphone and the speakers – like the good old days) and hire your friend’s or sibling’s earphone! So one goes to the speaker outlet (the earphones) and the hired one goes to the microphone in.

Picture of earphones

Picture of audio splitter

So beside the PC and an earphone, you have zero investment to level up!

And of course the quality won’t be as good as using a USB condenser mic or an audio interface, but for beginning, an earphone will do the job quite well!

So what is Multi Track Recording?

I think the word is self explanatory.

The Wikipedia gives you this – “Multitrack recording (MTR)β€”also known as multitracking, double tracking, or trackingβ€”is a method of sound recording developed in 1955 that allows for the separate recording of multiple sound sources or of sound sources recorded at different times to create a cohesive whole.

What it means is you basically can record several tracks, overlay everything together to create your own music. And with the PCs today, anyone can do this at ease from their homes (I guess this could be said like 15 – 20 years earlier as well).

Anyways, with audacity you can record how much ever track you want, pan it around to make it fit exactly where you need the file to be, and finally come up with resutls you’ll be proud of.

I’m not going to give an in-depth tutorial on the software procedure, because you can find plenty in YouTube. But few pointers:

  • Once you’ve plugged in the mic and are ready, just click the record button (R on keyboard) to start recording and start singing. It’ll start recording as track one. (Rename tracks for easy identification)
  • Important: Clipping. I’ll write about clipping in detail later, but this is basically when your input levels go much higher than what the bits allow (too high voltages in the system). Keep an eye on the input levels (the bar next to mic), adjust the input levels such that it doesn’t go red. Another way to see if your track is clipping is that the individual track wave signals touching the top on the interface. It’ll sound very annoying when you play too. Keep an eye not to clip.
  • Tip: When recording, keep mic closer to the source and the mic volume (input level) Low. You’ll reduce the noise in the recording this way.
  • Once your first track is completed, go on for the next! Click Record again, and you’ll hear the previously recorded file playing. Sing along/ play the instrument wherever you feel like and fill in the song. Here is why you need an earphone – what you hear is not recorded through microphone!
  • Important: here comes a small glitch. I’m talking about Latency. Let’s leave the rocket science, but essentially, there will be slight delay between the new track and the previous track. This is because of some processing difficulties. (This will be very low if you use an audio interface btw). And the software gives you a workaround. You can either 1) adjust the Latency 2) pan the track. Latency could be a long topic and maybe I’ll write about in depth as another article, but for now, just know that you can set in the time delay between the tracks as Latency in audacity and it keeps the new tracks sync. If it sounds difficult, just pan the track, it works fine (just zoom in and pan so that you get good control for synchronizing the track). Also YouTube gives plenty of idea on Latency and adjusting it.
  • So once your track is set, go for the next. Play and ensure the timings of all tracks are fine and keep adding next and so on.
  • Once all tracks are done, experiment with volumes and panning and see what works. (Congratulations, you’re mixing your first track). And this is the same thing you see audio engineers turning and tweaking that box with lots of sliders and knobs! Note that clipping could occur on the final track even if individual tracks aren’t. Ensure that that annoying clipping noise is not present in the final mix.
  • Tip: learn the basics of equalizers. (I’ll write about that too sometime), but there’s already plenty online on youtube so you can learn it. Apply this knowledge and equalize all tracks so you will remove much unwanted noise in your recording.
  • That’s pretty much it! Export as an MP3 and Share with your friends or the whole world!
  • Tip: learn the software. There are so many effects in this software and try to understand most of them so you have good tools to play with. Then once you feel you’ve got good with Audacity, level up with free DAW like podium or studio one prime. They feature virtual instruments and midi and lots of other features and finer control over your tracks!

Initially you’ll be clueless on what to add, and it’s pure instincts I guess. Do what you feel like, look and learn music for inspiration and you’ll come up with great mixes. I’ll share my usual workflow in another post, but be experimenting! Try what all creative things your head can bring out!

So these are the baby steps into music mixing and stuff, and you’re gonna get hands on so many awesome DAWs and expensive hardwares in this journey and they’re definitely gonna sound far crisp than one recorded with earphones πŸ˜‰ But I do hope this post gives you some direction in starting off with music making!

I’ll share one of the tracks I recorded using the above technique. It’s a guitar instrumental of ‘Kal ho na ho’. You can listen it here: (link) show some love if this article helped you in some way – subscribe to this blog, follow my social media, and say hi πŸ™‚

Listen to Kal Ho Na Ho (guitar) by Vishnu A Moorthy #np on #SoundCloud

Why you should go to guitar classes instead of Youtubing

It’s no mystery that anyone with a guitar can learn to play decent guitar just by practicing from YouTube lessons. I started playing the same way and pretty much for 3+ years it was just YouTube and I could play pretty decent just by sitting at home.

Then, for a change of pace, I decided to join a guitar class nearby my workplace and I realized that I should have done it before.

It definitely gives you an edge in the class that you know some chords and the notes and your fingers won’t pain while you travel the fretboard cuz you’ve spent time practicing Youtube lessons. Even if you are new to it and determined to learn guitar – here are few reasons why I think we all should have an instructor – provided that he’s good!

Here are few reasons why I think so:

  • Feedback – you get zero feedback without an instructor. We open the YouTube tutorial, try to assimilate whatever he says and try to reproduce it. We can only hope that we are doing it right – No one tells you whether it is or not.
  • Positioning – the first session I played at the class and my teacher was not happy the way my wrist was bending. He said it’ll be painful on the long run and also hard to do bar chords. Again – lack of feedback and hence didn’t notice while I was YouTubing.
  • Interactions- you gonna meet so many like minded souls. You find a circle to talk about something that excites you a lot. And this applies to any field- a group of people who knows and talks about you hobbies is a great asset.
  • You get more chances – be it singing in random places like cafe or a function or even starting your own band!
  • You saturate- while Youtubing. You plateau after being a decent player. Being exposed to people makes you do more!
  • The music theory- theories are hard to grasp. Especially if you learn something alone, unless if you have exceptional drive to make things happen, music theory is hard to understand. A class environment makes it better. (This is my personal view and you might like to learn it alone).

Even if I say all this, I will stress that no one should go to classes unless you are sure that you like doing it. For example, I had few sessions of piano initially and I hated learning. It was more theory, and less talks, and that too at an age I wasn’t grasping what exactly music meant. If you go to a class that gives you a book and asks you to mug up all the suff- GET OUT! Make sure you get to a class where there are discussions- and the more interactions there are, the better it’d be! Make sure the other students are friendly and encouraging- you’ll look forward to all classes!

Cheers!

Guitar Chords – Sreeragamo – Pavithram (unplugged)

Hi guys, so this is a chord progression which works pretty well to do a cover version for ‘Sreeragamo’ in an acoustic setting in on a standard tuned guitar. The chords used are

{Chord (EADGBE)}

D minor (XXO231)

F major (133211) – [bar chord]

C major (X32O1O)

G major (32OOO3)

A major (XO333O)

I wouldn’t put down any strumming pattern for this, but single downstrokes will do the job well. If you like finger picking, just pluck the notes like an arpeggio – works charming.

So Enjoy the song!

(Dm) Sreeraagamo (F) thedunnu nee
(C) ee veenathan (G) ponthanthiyil
(Dm) snehardhramam (F) etho padham
(C) thedunnu naam (G) ee nammalil
(C) nin mounamo (Dm) poomaanamai
(C) nin raagamo (Dm) bhoopaalamai
(F) en munnil nee (G) pularkanyay

(Dm) plavila (Dm) ponthaligayil (F) paalpayasa (G) chorunnuvan
(Dm) pinaeyum (Dm) pumpaithalai (F) kothithulli (G) nilkuvathenthino
(Dm) chengadhali (C) koobil cheru (Dm) thumbiyai thaen-(A)-unnu-(Dm)-van
(Dm) kaatinodu(C) kenji oru (Dm) naatu mangani (A) veezhthu-(Dm)-van
(F) iniyumee (G) thodigalil (F) kaliyadan (G) moh-(Dm)-am

Happy singing!

Just in case you would like to listen to one I tried, I’ll keep the link down.

Listen to Sreeragamo Unplugged by Vishnu A Moorthy #np on #SoundCloud

Getting Started with Calligraphy – a Flashback

I’ve never seen someone who’s not impressed by beautiful letters imprinted by amazing artists. I personally follow many channels on my Instagram, and I get my daily dose of inspiration and creativity from them.

So many of my friends have remarked that they think Calligraphy is only possible by very talented artists! But I’d disagree, with bit patience and practice, I think anyone could do it.

The professional pictures we see are written with precise instruments on costly papers photographed on an even costlier settings. And I’m not talking about that. I love the simpler stuff.

For example, this is something I tried with a normal ink pen.

Let me tell you how I got fascinated by Calligraphy first. The fun part is I didn’t know I was learning ‘calligraphy’ while I did it initially. I remember my 6th grade when I started playing with computers. At times I used to print the assignment cover pages and submit – and obviously it had to be unique. I used to experiment with fonts, and also used to share unique fonts with friends. We used to research on which font game titles was written – ‘rage italic’ for the ‘vice city’ in GTA VC for instance! So one day one of my friends, HGN, came up with something I was gonna spent so much of my time on!

I can’t remember the exact program he mentioned, but it allows you to design custom characters with an interface similar to a ‘zoomed in’ MS paint. I instantly loved it. Started burning my tiny head on which all designs I could come up with – ‘A’ with lots of overhangs and so on. But it took lot of patience and energy to draw with a mouse. Irritating at some point of time. Then I decided to switch to good old pen and paper – my step one to Calligraphy.

It started with rough drafts of characters I wanted. I had a book filled with custom letters – experimenting with shapes and flourishes. It then developed into designing custom front pages with sketch pens, and then it was the rescue on boring lectures. Slowly, I began to like the art of drawing letters. Then the internet began to be more accessible and inspiration was easily sought. And thus it began a hobby – something I really love doing.

And that’s it! Before even hearing about the word ‘Calligraphy’, I had tasted it and liked it. Now I do sit and draw from time to time, fill my guitar with my favorite quotes, and learn more during the process. And there are so many places where it becomes helpful – so many people ask you to handwrite their front pages, invitation letters, gift wrappers and so on. You get to customize your stuff (I often see people looking at my guitar when I take it out before some croud). And maybe, one day, you might be even making money out of it (I haven’t, yet). But I think anybody can enjoy this thing.

So why do I think anyone can try Calligraphy?

  • We all write. Calligraphy is also writing. Just that more effort and time goes into it.
  • Slow down. Calligraphy is meditation to me. When you sit down to create something beautiful, you pause, slow down, enjoy every stroke your pen draws, and finally see the shape coming up in the paper.
  • It need not be with angled broad nibs- a normal pen or pencil is a great start. If you start liking it then you can think of investing in more tools- nibs and inks.
  • I believe calligraphy is one thing that reminds me to notice and enjoy the tinier things in life – and like I said, we all do write – but Calligraphy is being mindful and present when you write. And you’ll see the difference!

So my point of writing this is that if you were amused by the Calligraphy art around, and wanted to try but assumed it’s hard – just start – and keep practicing! It’s all trials and errors and you’ll catch the drift πŸ™‚

Good luck!

Daily Cycle commute – Pros and cons

So I’d mentioned that one of the things I love is cycling – like I said, it’s the only healthy habit I say I have πŸ˜….

I use it for my daily commute to office like for 2 years plus (whenever I’m not at the tracks for testing), and also at times on weekend I take it out and roam around in the city. I’ll just list out few points I’ve felt for and against cycling for commute.

Pros

  • It’s healthy – with most of our routine jobs being on a monitor and desk, we need to move. And cycling helps.
  • It’s healthy for the environment – no exhaust, and you will really feel proud that you are reducing your toll on the planet atleast in a small way! (My favorite point)
  • It lighten up your day – cycling is fun. You see so many sights on your routes you usually miss while on a bike or a car. If I get a long busy day at office, I usually take detours and take a longer route watching the life around, makes me feel better. Plus, have you ever seen a sad face on a cycle?
  • You explore tiny things – You see more of your surroundings – well, it’s not going at 80mph, so you don’t have to keep your eyes on the road forever. You relax, feel like you’re the part of the city, slow down and even stop at all the places that catches your attention. It’s a feast if you like clicking pictures. Plenty of subjects to shoot πŸ˜‰
  • You can follow either of the traffic lights – pedestrian’s or the vehicle’s. So look out for the green light! (Do not risk yours or others safety when you do this)
  • It’s cheap – Unless you go for carbon fiber sport cycles. Plus you don’t have to worry about fuel, and maintenance can be taken care by your own – not hard to learn.
  • If you have friends who cycle, it’s awesome to go around and explore places on weekends. You’ll have some stories when you look back!
  • It’s a conversation point – if you meet people who are even interested to cycle, you have loads to talk about! (Like what in doing now)

Cons

  • It might be tiring. At least at first – especially if the route is long. So yes, if you stay far away, you’ll be sweating a lot by the time you reach your office or classroom. Start short, build up the endurance before you go long trips. Also if your day gets physically exhausting, then you’d not want to cycle back home.
  • Take care of your knees – Make sure you don’t strain your muscles a lot either. It’ll hurt your knees and muscles. Again, start slow, build up.
  • Monsoons are a mess – you have to have a raincoat, and still riding in rain gets a bit tiring and cold and slow. Don’t take me wrong – the sights are beautiful, but the cold makes me feel that I reach my destination sooner! I’ll write on rain commuting as another post!
  • You have to call a cab or get behind your friends’ bike to reach somewhere in case you have an emergency. Not a usual occurrence, but keep this point in your head.
  • Theft – they are easily stolen if parked in wrong neighborhoods. Invest in a good lock!

That’s pretty much it! Even if you can’t commute daily, I’d say that you keep one at home to cycle as a recreational activity. Maybe someday you’ll want to level up and start daily commute on it! Make sure you drive safe, and if you don’t trust the traffic, wear proper gear – like helmet and reflective stuff. See if you find any cycling community in your area, it’ll make sure you get lot of rides and gears. And I’d say you don’t have to buy all those expensive stuff people talks nonstop about – cause it can tear your pockets and are not essential to enjoy cycling. Just evaluate all the stuff you buy beyond the cycle. I’m sure cycling is an enjoyable, healthy activity anyone could squeeze into their life – at least weekend rides. And I’ve seen some amazing communities which promotes cycling – Like ‘tring tring’ of Mysore and ‘mobike’ in Pune – you just pay tiny money for using it for some time. They’re so good to try in case your community has one!

And yeah, the best part is you feel good about your lesser carbon footprint- Happy Earth!

First Post

Hi!

So I’ll write an introduction to this blog, let this be the first post in here.

Let me be open – my plan with this tiny space is to expand my hobbies and reaching more like minded people. I primarily work in Automotive Industry – NVH and vehicle Dynamics to be exact, but apart from that, there are few hobbies I indulge in.

I’ve been fascinated by planes and pilots since young (but scared of flying)- so flight simulations are gem. You get to learn stuff without the adrenaline rush! Guitar is something I love, so I use my PC and couple of free DAWs to mix and upload music on SoundCloud. Calligraphy is kind of a zen thingy for me. It is about slowing down, enjoying every stroke of line you patiently draw and bask in the beauty of letters that you make appear on a piece of paper – it’s kind of meditation for me. And then cycling is the only thing I can say as a healthy habit that I have. And at times I do pull out a Wacom and start drawing digitally – very beginner, but still πŸ˜‰

That’s a quick Roundup on my hobbies, and who knows, the list might grow too! Anyways the good part of these hobbies is that you learn a lot along the way. We get so many stories unique to us. We make mistakes in the process which you might want to share the world so that it won’t be repeated. We get to appreciate simpler things in life that we often overlook. And learning is never compete without sharing…

So this space is to extend myself to the readers, and I’d really appreciate all feedback and comments from y’all ❀️

I’d mainly be focusing on music and sound stuff, and do couple of posts on other stuff I mentioned here and then. I’ll share couple of chords on some Malayalam songs (cuz English and Hindi are pretty easy to find). Also I’ll be sharing my thoughts on few hardwares and softwares that I had used during the process – like reviews (not like a professional, but just my thoughts on stuff). Do stick around if you like these stuff, and do share your stories too. And yeah, say hi!

I hope we all get to keep learning and sharing πŸ™‚

Thanks for visiting and wish you a very good day!