Curse of the Gecko: Time to Finish Gexby

music

#1

A number of months ago, during that whirlwind of whimsy that was Gextra Life, I recorded a bit of a silly song and subsequently pledged to write a one act musical about Gex and Bubsy. It’s a few songs and a few months later, and I’ve long since completely run out of steam regarding this particular project. But, I had an idea that legitimately interests me and might actually make a decent end product: Gexby not as a one act musical, but as a pretentious art rock concept album. That is something I can happily complete, and I feel - or at least I hope - that it doesn’t violate the spirit of the informal, bizarre pledge I made.

That said, the goal of this thread is to document my process and progress, record my ideas, and have a place to post things as I work on a weird-ass concept album about the relationship between third-rate video game characters. I am going to scrap what I have thus far as I don’t think it’s very good, though I think I’m obligated to integrate a new version of the Gextra Confrontation, and hopefully one that is legally distinct from the source material. As I complete tracks I’ll post them here, but in the meantime here’s the song that started this, presented in its original context: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jw4cLzWYa2o&feature=youtu.be&t=28m8s


#2

Earlier in the day I wrote lyrics for the song in which Rez is introduced. The lyrics are written as a villanelle in pentameter giving them an uneven, rolling quality. I recited the lyrics while playing around with various guitar parts until I arrived at this very simple riff that fits almost perfectly.

Pretty happy with that little melody, I came up with a simple chord progression to match.

And, once you have a melody and chords, a bass line is not too tough to find.

This is nowhere near a song; it’s one phrase. But, it’s a good point from which to leap. I’m going to play around with this and see what kind of B section and bridge and what not I come up with, and hopefully by next post I’ll have a rough version of the instrumental parts of this song written out.


#3

After playing around with the simple melody from the previous post, I came up with a B-section that paired rather nicely, despite the B-section being in 4/4 and the A-section being in 15/8. The form is a pretty simple ABABA scheme. I shifted the key from A# minor to A minor to take advantage of the tuning of open strings on the guitar, though I wish I hadn’t because it’s difficult to put vibrato on an open string that you wish to remain in tune. Because Rez’s songs will have the most instrumentation, the guitar won’t play any chords but will instead take slow melodic parts, and because there are three bass-voiced instruments, the guitar was set to be very mid and treble heavy. The guitar is running through an Xotic SP compressor, a Donner Noise Killer, a Tone City Golden Plexi, and into an Orange Micro Dark amp.

Due to the constraints of living in an apartment and not wanting any more noise complaints made against me, I’ve decided that I’ll focus on writing and arranging the songs now, and hold off and do all the vocals at one time. After I record the vocal tracks I can create a final mix.

And now, A Villain’s Villanelle, rough mix, no vocals:
(Soundcloud’s compression is not kind to those cymbals. I’ll have to keep that in mind going forward)
https://soundcloud.com/thylacinus-thylacine/a-villains-villanelle-rough-mix-no-vocals


#4

You’re doing the Lord’s work


#5

Just doing what I can to make sure the world knows about Gexby. That, and I made a weird commitment to write a musical and I’m trying to morph that into something more fun.


#6

Pretty nice so far. Makes me think of Ayreon a bit, only less kitschy :smile:

Btw, if you need additional guitars, I’d be willing to help out. I can’t sight-read though, so I’d need a tab or something.


#7

Hmmm. I might just take you up on that one.


#8

Thinking about Gex’s introduction, I decided that I want to start with something bouncy, happy, and folksy before it gets pressed through my pretentious prog filters. The B section might go off the rails, but the A section of the song is probably going to be in major keyed in 4/4 time around 100 BPM. Playing around with a little clawhammer picking I came up with something that might work.


I’m definitely going to transpose that into the key of F. I think pairing that with bass, drums, and a mildly overdriven electric piano might work pretty well. But, I can play around with that later; in the meantime I need to finish up a song I’m working on for a friend.


#9

I wasn’t able to spend as much time as I’d like working on this over the weekend, but I did work out some of the higher-level ideas. Among those ideas were various synthesizer tones, and rather than try to find the synths that perfectly fit what I have in my head, I thought it would be easier to program my own.
Sfzorsando (in addition to being a traditional dynamic marking) is free sample player that’s used to play sampled instruments. But, it can also generate saw, sine, square and triangle waves as well; these are what I used to find my sound.
Before anything, I created a text file with a .sfz extension. Opening the .sfz file in notepad, I input the following text:
*sample=saw
volume=-8
ampeg_attack=0.001
ampeg_release=0.001
ampeg_decay=0.001

What this means is that when my audio editing software sends MIDI commands to Sfzorsando with this .sfz file loaded as the synth, Sfzorsando will play the music using a saw wave pattern, volume dropped by 8db, and with and attack, release, and decay on the notes of 0.001 seconds. Through a little trial and error I found the sound I wanted, and it’s a bit much in a way that really pleases me.
The synth has seven different simultaneous synth regions that combine to form one sound:

  1. Saw wave at -8db
  2. Square wave an octave below the saw at -24db
  3. Square wave the same octave as the saw at -15db detuned by -7%
  4. Square wave the same octave as the saw at -15db detuned by +7%
  5. Triangle wave an octave higher than the saw at -6db with 5 millisecond delay
  6. Sine wave two octaves higher than the saw at -18db panned 100% left, detuned by +5%, with 4 millisecond delay
  7. Sine wave two octaves higher than the saw at -18db panned 100% right, detuned by -5%, with 4 millisecond delay

That’s a bit abstract, so here’s a sample of this synth playing some of the guitar part from “A Villain’s Villanelle”:
https://soundcloud.com/thylacinus-thylacine/synth-test

I love the way that sounds.


#10

So, it’s been a long while. Some stuff in my life happened and this got pushed way to the back. But, in the meantime I’ve figured out my ‘sound,’ more or less. Now that I’m in a more stable place, time to resume.


#11

Let’s jump back into this with Bubsy. The original thing I did during the failed attempt one (as a one-act musical) was essentially a parody/blatant ripoff of ‘Skid Row (Downtown)’ from ‘Little Shop of Horrors.’ Aside from one very specific thing, I want this project to be original, so time to redo Bubsy’s introductory track.

Structure:
I want to keep Bubsy’s songs a little simple, so this is in the key of C. The structure of the song is pretty generic from a rock or pop context: Intro / Verse / Pre-Chorus / Chorus / Verse / Pre-Chorus / Chorus / Bridge / Solo / Verse / Pre-Chorus / Chorus.

Lyrics/Vocals:
I’m really bad at lyrics and need practice, so I’m saving most of this part for later. At present I’m about halfway finished with the lyrics for this song. I’m going to hold off until I have all the lyrics written and record them all at once.

Instrumentation:
I’ve been playing around with some different combinations and I’ve become quite fond of layering tenor ukulele on top of a typical rock instrumentation and using the uke as a treble rhythm instrument. I also wanted something vaguely ethereal and dreamlike, so I recorded a piano part in reverse, added a fair amount of reverb, then flipped the track. To fill out the sound, particularly the tonal gap between the ukulele and electric guitars, I used a couple baritone ukuleles with a bit too much reverb and delay.

All that said, here is Bubsy’s first track, “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?,” nearly fully mixed but lacking vocals.


#12

For the first time in several weeks I have a few free hours to work on this. I have a rough outline of where all the pieces need to fall, but no much beyond that. So, let’s arbitrarily choose the second song/story beat to work on, the song in which our protagonist moves back to his old home.
I’ve been humming this simple repeating melody for the past few days, and I’m sufficiently certain that either I’m not stealing it from somewhere else, or it’s generic enough that it doesn’t matter.

image
It sounds like the sort of thing that would be a counter melody to the vocals, with the vocals mainly filling in the dead space during those long notes. It also feels very “chorus” to me, and should be over a rhythmic pulsing bass part and slightly more complex chords that normal pop triadic harmony, something like this:

Using that mood as a starting point, I came up with another cyclic progression for the verse.

I need to play around with the prechorus to see how best to handle it, but I at least have the bass line on which it will be built.

I have my starting points for this song. Time to get to work and see what happens.