Career, music, Research, Uncategorized


Today’s assignment was to create a piece of music using a MIDI file, and I probably did everything the most difficult way it could possibly be done. Maybe I was excited. Maybe I thought things would snap together and shape itself into something beautiful, like a shiny magnetic sculpture.

Turns out it was quite messy, like an old Magna-Doodle.

I’m going to walk you through the process (at least the steps I remember), so you might perhaps not make the same mistakes I did. My goal was to try and create MIDI files to then import into something cohesive in Soundtrap.

I was so, so excited to try Groove Pizza. This is a super cool web app, where you can manipulate drum beats. I loved the “Bembe” pattern.

This pattern is divided into 12 subdivisions, so I thought perhaps a 12/8 feel?

All the drum sounds used were empty, conga-like sounds. I liked the idea of something soft since all of the drum kits I’ve explored in Soundtrap so far feel splashy to me.

Above is the Bembe pattern from the app. I figured that could serve as a fine foundation. Next, I thought, I’ll create a different pattern for a “B” section.

Here I had one sound subdivide in 3, one in 4, and one in 6.

And, since I was making beats, I thought I’d create a 2-measure fill to punctuate different sections.

Left is measure 1, and right is measure 2 with more notes that would lead to the next section.

I downloaded all 3 patterns as MIDI files. Next I went into the Song Maker app in Chrome Music Lab to create a melody. I thought I’d make something simple, so I stuck with something fairly pentatonic and slow.

I started with the lower line, downloaded that on its own, then added a higher harmony part.

I downloaded that as a MIDI. Yay, this is easy! Now just to import into Soundtrap…

Wait, my work laptop doesn’t support MIDI files??? Okay, how about my desktop.

Hmm….Something doesn’t look quite right…

I was fairly certain, when I downloaded the MIDI files, that they were either the same length or maybe one was twice as long. Like, even. Those don’t look even.

It took me a long time to figure out how to make the beatmaker conducive to triplet-feel patterns. I still don’t think I really did it. I figured out how to get it into 3/4, but the drum pattern really didn’t end up the way it sounded in Groove Pizza. I’m not sure putting it in 3/4 really did anything except adjust the length of the other loops I added.

Nevertheless, I just had to finish something. So in honor of Groove Pizza and my apparent affinity for the marimba sound, I give you Mozzarimba.

Maybe things not fitting together sounds good sometimes?

Shark Bait – The Musical

Well well well, if it isn’t the random blog I established 5 years ago. Here I am again.

My co-teacher introduced me to the miracle that is Soundtrap a few months ago, and I’ve been having fun exploring music composition in that way. My hope is that, with my new position teaching 7th grade general music in a possibly remote or hybrid situation, my students can forge an outlet to explore loops, creating bass lines and beats, and so much more.

I wanted to create something with a jazzy feel, so in the loop library I clicked “Jazz,” and the loop “Marimba Cheesy Dance” caught my eye. It very much had a I-iv-V-type chord progression, which made finding a fitting bass line a challenge. I altered the notes of the “Montuno 2” loop to make sure it fit the chords. I added “Organ – Kingston 6” for texture in the beginning and throughout.

The “Bedroom Chill Lofi Guitar” loop added both some beachy guitar licks and a hollow-sounding drum beat. I used the Beat Generator to create and tweak contrasting drum patterns throughout.

Even though, in theory, I’d imagine some teachers advise starting with just drums or bass, or a foundation of one thing and adding more things later, I enjoy working in a more linear fashion. I say this because I added the SFX layers in the beginning, not sure of where they’d lead or how they’d come back. I think that’s part of the fun. I ended up reversing some of the SFX loops to create tension and release into new sections.

“Is this a legitimate form of musical creativity?” Of course it is. What is music for, anyway? Looking at these blocks of sound, it reminds me of looking at a score.

Loops are a great way to get students started with composition. The fact that the composer can alter notes in existing loops helps. Everything is customizable, but like jazz or anything else creative, working within a given limit (in this case, a pre-made loop) can produce amazing results.

Oh yeah, why’s it called Shark Bait? Well, whose life is worry free? Even a day at the beach isn’t free of possible danger.

Stay out of treble,