… along comes a new piece of software to pull me back in. It happens every. Single. Time.
In this case it’s an acoustic guitar emulator called Spicy Guitar that has me replacing the acoustic guitar tracks on Downwind, which were frankly never that great to begin with.
The Luminous City remixes were just about done, I swear they were. Tracks from the original 2007 sessions that needed to be replaced, mostly drum and bass tracks that on closer examination were smashed to hell and back or else clipped over 0dB FS, got replaced; while I kept what I could of the original tracks. I upsampled everything from the original 20-bit 44.1kHz sample rate to 24-bit 96kHz, in so doing opening my original mixes up tremendously. Then, over the past several months I enjoyed a few moments when a lightbulb went off over my head, some new insight got insighted, and the mixes were beginning to sound like they were almost there… just in time for the album to rotate off iTunes, Napster, and Rhapsody. That’s probably just as well, although an Alert Listener (a friend of mine on Google+) notes that my original widget is still linkable at Tunecore, even though the albums themselves aren’t available at the moment.
The acoustic 12-string that opens Downwind was a Kurzweil K-2000 patch, which because of its limited sample ROM was chock full of conflicting body resonances and nasality that in all likelihood wouldn’t be present in an actual 12-string. What can I say, it was all I had at the time. I still don’t own a 12-string, and even if I could borrow one I’d have to mess about with putting a mic in front of it in just the right place. I decided that as long as the album was coming down anyway, I’d tweak a little more, and so I added an EXS24 12-string playing chord samples, which sounded little better than OK in the extreme, and the contrast between it and the K-2000 12-string was something I wound up not being able to overcome. I tried Sculpture’s physical modeling algorithm to get me close to an acoustic sound, and it might have worked if I’d been playing a single note run, but in the end it was three hours I wish I had back.
I don’t recall exactly where I heard about Spicy Guitar, but I figured that as long as the price was right (and it was) I had nothing to lose from giving it a try. It’s available for both Wintel (VST) and OS X (VST or AU). This tutorial helped me get up and running:
And the result as applied to Downwind is pretty spectacular. Spicy Guitar models an acoustic guitar—I wouldn’t be surprised to discover Karplus-Strong running under the hood—offering a host of tweakable features that emulate playing techniques fairly intuitively: nylon versus steel strings, hand muting, harmonics, the hardness of the pick, where the string hits the pick in relation to the sound hole, and so on. It automatically detects the chord I’m sending it, and allows me to strum it using two fingers.
So far I haven’t discovered how to capo chords or do alternate tunings, and it’s possible that I can’t do that at all. For all I know, the folks at Keolab could be working on those features for a “pro” version, i.e., one for which I might actually have to pay money. For now, this free version is more than adequate for my needs.
It’s taking me a little while to program a few nuances into the performance, and that’s what I’m taking a break from as I write this, but the end result will shine, I think.
So the re-release of Luminous City is getting pushed back a bit… thanks guys.