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Music Production Lesson: Visual MIDI Improv

Charlie McCarron - VMI v1a

I was inspired by my interview with Cyriak Harris to create a piece of music purely by visually entering MIDI. Although Cyriak listens back and tweaks the notes as he goes, I decided to take it to another level and turn off my speakers until I was totally finished. I also tried to avoid anything I would normally do to make it musically "right," and just make visually-interesting patterns.

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Music Gear Master List

Nick Syman and Charlie McCarron in a Cagetones recording ession

I had a request from a commenter to list the stuff I use to make music. I'm not a gear junkie by any means; in general I try to get by with spending the least amount of money I can for decent sound quality. Besides, limitations can help you be more creative! Any famous producer would tell you that quality mixes have more to do with a good ear than the gear itself. That said, there is a certain point you want to hit where your gear and software isn't holding you back from producing good mixes, at least to your ear.

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Transforming a Soap Opera Theme into a Chiptune Track

Plogue Chipsounds Soap Opera Theme

Challenging yourself to rearrange a piece of music is a good way to practice your composing skills without having to start from scratch. This week, I made it my goal to transform a cheesy soap opera theme into something that I'd actually want to listen to. In the end, it turned into an old-school video game track.

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How to Layer Guitars Like a Delicious Cake

Music Production Lesson - Guitar Commercial Track

This week I've been working on a 30-second track for a contest hosted by UniqueSound. A music supervisor at the ad agency TBWA will be taking a listen to each entry, and one person will win $200. The challenge is basically to write music that could be used in a commercial, with the following style guidelines: indie pop, dreamy, electro, and ambient. Oh, and the track also has to "start mind-blowing" and have an "emotional explosion" ending. Since there was no video element to this challenge, I just had to picture blobs of brain and heart flying everywhere to capture the feelings they suggested.

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How to Create a FEZ Track Like Disasterpeace

Disasterpeace FEZ Demo Gamer's Rhapsody

I had the privilege of watching Rich Vreeland (aka Disasterpeace) give a live music production demo at Gamer’s Rhapsody this past weekend. I recorded it for my new sub-podcast of Composer Quest, Charlie's Music Production Lessons. In the talk, you’ll get to hear Rich composing a track on the fly. He shares his secret ingredients in scoring the video game FEZ: the Massive synth, with heavy amounts of reverb, bitcrushing, randomness, and tape warble.

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Video Game Composition with Michael Chadwick

Michael Chadwick Nebyoolae

After nerding out about video game soundtracks for 20+ years, Michael Chadwick (aka Nebyoolae) finally started composing his own, a few of which are for games that don't actually exist. In this episode of Composer Quest, we chat about Michael's score for his made-up RPG Ebben Flow, his chiptune album Average Town, and his soundtracks he composes for his everyday activities (eating a muffin, doing the dishes, etc.).

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Audacity Producer Desmond Simmons is Big in Japan


Desmond Simmons, a.k.a. PreciseHero, produces music using only open-source software - he says his computer is too old to handle anything other than Linux. So how did Desmond's DIY mixes end up on the Japanese label P-Vine Records? Creative fortitude and a collaborative spirit have been central to Desmond's success. In this (50th!) episode of Composer Quest, Desmond shares his thoughts on our remix culture, and why 70s Brazilian music is the best kind to sample from.

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Composing for iPhone Games with Whitaker Trebella


In this episode of Composer Quest, I chat with video game musician and coder, Whitaker Trebella. He shares his words of wisdom on writing for games, producing chiptune music, and getting composing gigs through Twitter. He also composes an on-the-spot "quickprov" using Logic Pro. Finally, we ponder what would happen if Beethoven was given a laptop. Would he be making dubstep tracks?

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