Sequencing

What is sequencing...?


Sequencing is the programming of notes and sounds to play in melodic and rhythmic patterns and musical phrases, which are then arranged and/or performed, using a machine to execute the programmed information in order to play it back, instead of a person or group of people playing their instrument(s) live.

This has been achieved in a number of ways over the past 80 years or so, from mechanical devices like music boxes to modern computer-based Digital Audio Workstations. For more on the history of Sequencing and other audio-related topics, please take a look at my Blog.

The application of advance sequencing techniques allows us to reproduce almost any instrument one can imagine. In today's interconnected world of music production, we have access to a huge range of audio software, plug-ins, an untold number of high quality sample libraries, and a mind-boggling array of sound patches for soft-synths, drum machines and virtual sound sources of all kinds, covering every instrument under the Sun, all recorded and sampled in as many ways as you can possibly imagine.

All this cutting-edge audio software being made available, sometimes at incredibly low prices, means that anyone can access something they can use to write their own music, choosing from a wide selection of instruments and sounds. How cool is that? I think it's really quite amazing! But, of course, there is a downside to all these options and possibilities..

Unless you plan to put in several years in order to learn how to apply the incredibly complex audio tools at your disposal - all by yourself - you will soon begin to realise what a daunting prospect it is, and that what you really need is someone who's already well-versed in the use of samplers, sequencers, synthesizers, drum machines, mixers and effects...

Enter yours truly! I can create high quality backing tracks and accompaniments to suit your needs, using software or hardware (or both, if you like...) in a wide range of styles and genres. Just check out the tracks on this page, all of which contain sequenced material produced by myself.






Backing tracks

Backing tracks come in all shapes and sizes and, depending on what kind of instruments are to be used, the music can be as simple or complex as you need it to be. 

I've been creating backing tracks for over a decade, now, working with singers, songwriters, solo artists and bands - as well as yoga teachers, meditation instructors and numerous business. With my extensive knowledge of hardware and computer-based MIDI sequencing techniques, I am capable of producing almost any kind of music to a high standard and level of realism.  

...for performing artists

Many of my backing tracks are created for vocalists, most of whom need the full band, with drums, bass, chords, melodies, special effects, etc. - any of which can consist of various instrumentation from electronica to classical. Most of my clients then play the tracks on a CD or MP3 player to perform without the need for any other musicians or equipment.

However, some solo artists, playing a live instrument, as well as singing, may need a simpler arrangement, with just a beat and a couple of background instruments filling in the sound as required. The same may also be true for some bands, in which case, please take a look at my accompaniments section, below.

...for Business

There are any number of applications for a business to use an original backing track for their own advertising, marketing and promotion purposes. These range from presentations and slideshows to radio jingles and TV adverts, not to mention all the possibilities for online use.

I can produce a backing track to meet your specific requirements and help you apply it properly for your needs. Please see my Audio Production for Business page for further details.

Example backing tracks:

  1. Lee is a long-standing client of mine and, over the years, we have written a ton of tracks together. We work closely on the composition of loops, Lee will often have an idea for a new beat or riff, which he'll hum or tap to give me the general idea, then I'll lay it down with some sounds on the computer - it's a method we've gradually perfected and it seems to work well.


  1. This instrumental was composed for a Hollywood movie, based on a best-selling book, but unfortunately the film never materialised. We do, however, still have the music, of which I'm rather fond. The beautiful piano part was performed by Laura Kearnes, to which I added some classical-style instrumental accompaniment. The strings, brass and orchestral percussion, provide structural emphasis, accentuating the emotional drive of the track.


  1. The beat on this track was inspired by a reference to a heartbeat in the lyrics. David's music always starts with him strumming an acoustic guitar and singing a melodic vocal part. He wanted this track to have an electro-pop feel to the backing, but it actually contains a wide range of sounds, from a synth arpeggio to a full string section, as well as live musicians (see my Production page for details).


  1. This track was produced almost entirely within the digital realm. The only live instrument is the lead electric guitar, played by Joe Chapman. Actually, that's not accurate, as there are a ton of sampled sounds in the track, which must have originally been produced by a live musician, as many of the sounds used are samples of real life instruments, including drums, piano, strings and more. There are, however, a great deal of purely synthesised sounds in the track, as well.





Accompaniments

Accompaniments are usually a fairly simple arrangement of additional instrumentation to be played in the background while a solo artist or a group of musicians are performing in a live environment. This will often require a click track to be added to one channel along with a portion of the mix sent to headphones (for the drummer usually), while the full mix would occupy the other channel sent to the PA (for the audience).

Accompaniments can, of course, be produced to go with your recordings to be used on a CD, etc, which would mean that the click track would be unnecessary, allowing for the full stereo field to be used, filling out your tracks nicely.

I've created live-sounding acoustic drum kits as well as myriad percussion, both ethnic and orchestral. I produce pretty convincing solo violin, viola and cello parts, which work very well when blended with full-sounding string sections, as do sequenced trumpet, french horn, flute, clarinet and other wind instruments. I also compose string quartet pieces, brass ensembles and woodwind sections.

Writing accompaniments for keyboard-based instruments, such as piano, organ, Mellotron, electric pianos like Rhodes and Wurlitzer, etc., is particularly effective when sequenced. Even simple backing vocals can be created from scratch, using male and female choir samples, for example, in conjunction with a properly calibrated vocoder.

And, of course, electronic sounds produced by synthesizers, samplers and drum machines are perfect for programmed performances, as these unnatural, analogue (non-acoustic) sounds have always been sequenced in this way, so if that's what your accompaniment needs, then that's what it will have.

Whatever your needs, please get in touch to have a chat about it - I'd love to hear from you and talk about your project!

Example Accompaniments:

  1. It was a pleasure to record and produce this track. The guitar and vocals were step-recorded, but not to a click track, as we wanted to capture the natural tempo changes from verse to chorus, which add so much to the feel of the track. It was then my task to add a backing of minimalist drums and a basic bass line to this fluctuating tempo - a challenge worth the effort! Marks co-musician, Richard, then finished off the track by adding the excellent harmonica part.


  1. These drums were written as part of an accompaniment to a full track. I just wanted to put them up here for you to have a listen to the quality of the drum sounds. They are, of course, sequenced by myself, using some very high quality sampled drums, which were captured with multiple mics, so that they can be mixed on separate channels, just like a real drum kit, with bleed-over from the various parts of the kit, precisely as it would happen in real life. With the huge range of sounds for each kit, using 'round-robin' sample layers, This allows for a highly authentic recreation of any rhythm.


  1. This short excerpt of a strings accompaniment, is taken from a piece which I created from scratch for one of my clients, who needed a realistic string quartet to support his performance with acoustic guitar and vocals.





Session musicians vs sampling

Of course, sequenced material can't always perfectly emulate the real thing - for instance it's impossible to recreate all the intricate nuances of an acoustic guitar performance or various other solo stringed instruments - so, under these circumstances, I would recommend taking advantage of my many connections with session musicians; see my Production page for more details.

If you don't want to fork out on session musicians, it's possible to use samples of more complex-sounding instruments to produce a good approximation of those instruments, using advanced MIDI and audio editing techniques to inject a little more life into those fixed sample wave forms. It will never sound perfect, but it can be masked in the mix in order to convince most listeners.

But, often it's this unreal sound produced when samples are manipulated in this way, which lends a certain desirable character to these sounds. In fact, although this method of sequencing may not produce a perfectly realistic sound, sometimes quite far from being true to the traditional instrument, it's actually this unnatural and occasionally extreme chopping, editing, warping and re-sequencing of this sampled material which allows for the creation of new and unique music, which is especially effective in loop-based styles, but which also has legitimate applications in more traditional genres.

Example session musician and sampling tracks

  1. King Khamun's track, Laidback Charlie, was based on a single riff during a jam, which was then worked into a 4-piece band format. But when they came into the studio, they had some other ideas, including multiple harmonies, synthesizers, flute and harp... even passages of sitar and didgerido. The synth parts were sequenced by me, but the rest of the instruments were performed by session musicians.


  1. The bass guitar and electric guitar sound effects on this tune were performed by session musicians, as were the vocal harmonies, while the rest of the orchestration was composed by me, using software samplers, drum machines and sequencers.


  1. This meditation track was written as a template for several other meditation pieces, which used various combinations of these instruments and melodies on a more minimalistic basis in order to suit each guided meditation track on a CD. All the music was sequenced purely within the digital realm, although many of the sounds are samples of real world instruments.





Sequencing in hardware

As well as using a range of software applications, to produce my music, I also have a wide variety of hardware audio equipment, including both MIDI and analogue sequencers, samplers, synths and drum machines, all hooked up into two independent systems - one in the recording studio's live room, the other in my loft-based mixing and production studio. This hardware equipment can be used individually for live or sequenced recording of one sound at a time or the entire set-up in conjunction can be running every aspect of your track.

Software is great for the intricate manipulation of audio to the most accurate degree, but, however hard it tries, it still can't quite emulate the responsiveness and 'tweakability' of physical hardware equipment. There's really no substitute for dedicated controls for individual parameters and the hands-on feel you get from using them.

Because of this tactile approach, I find that I create riffs and grooves which I never would have come up with in a software environment. So, if you're interested in my sequencing services for any genre, please consider the possibility of using hardware to create your backing track instead of (or as well as) software. It's always an interesting journey!

Example hardware sequenced tracks:

  1. This track was written using a Korg ES1 Electribe Sampling Drum Machine, along with an EA1 Electribe double Mono-Synth and a Kaossillator, as well as an electric guitar through a multi-effects pedal. These parts were then recorded separately to a DAW and some additional sampled and resequenced vocal layers were added, but that's all - the bulk of the track is all written and performed on hardware.





Remixing

In addition to creating original backing tracks and accompaniments, I also like to turn my hand to a bit of remixing when the opportunity arises. So, please feel free to drop me a line if you'd like your track to be chopped up, mashed up, embellished and reproduced in the genre of your choice, giving your old tune a new face-lift.

Example remixed tracks:

  1. Here's a remix I did for London-based band, Shakers in the Dark. They're a new-wave Indie-Pop act, with a lot of energy in their performances, which can sometimes veer more towards a 4-to-the-floor funky electro House sound. They had one such track which they had written quite recently and they wanted it to be pushed even further in an EDM direction, so this is what I came up with.