Be more creative. My single new year resolution. In this day and age it's so easy to rely on instrument samples to get a good sound that we often forget to listen to what's around us. The possibilities are endless, and while I don't have the time to spend my days recording everything around me I recently found an unusual opportunity.
At home, we have been waiting to carpet the stairs (it's a long story, ask me about it sometime). One day it struck me that the wooden stairs make a pretty nice sound, and I wondered that if I recorded them in a variety of ways, maybe I could produce some samples to use in my music.
What I used:
Next, I experimented with different ways of 'playing' the stairs, keeping in mind I wanted to basically replicate a drum kit. I found that thumping the corner stair created a deep, boomy bang that could be used as a bass drum, a regular drum stick could provide a rim shot (usually when you hit the metal edge of a snare drum with a drum stick), and the hi-hat and tom-tom work could be replicated using the brushes. I concentrated on the top two steps for their vicinity to the microphone.
Now, I have a particular piece of music that I wanted these samples for, so I set the click up on the DAW for that tempo. If I'd had more time I would have used the brushes to create more tempos, but certainly the bass hits and the rim shots can be used in any tempo at a basic level. I'll tweak more and work with the EQs and reverbs to get it sounding the way I want, but here's a basic beat:
Finally I started recording some upright piano and double bass as part of the song I'm writing. I think the stairs will sit in the mix really well. Simplicity is key here, so I'm looking forward to getting the song finished and recorded in order to put my producer hat on to decide what the song requires and how to record the rest of it. So here's a little taster I threw together (again, I'll take more time but this gives you an idea):
So, January is turning out to be pretty creative. If you are writing or composing, don't forget the sounds around you. They can be inspiring and motivating, and to use the sound around us in music is the most natural thing in the world and can give your music a truly unique feel. Good luck, and let me know how you get on!
The ramblings of a music man.