An anatomy of a Work in Progress: Fatnick Makes Some Music!

It’s been a bit of a busy 6 months over here in Fatnick towers. Though I’ve been doing lots of STUFF, I hadn’t actually got round to releasing anything. Oops.

However, with summer swiftly approaching, I thought  “why not put together a nice little Megadrive-based groove? That would be rather jolly.” and, indeed, it was.

As my schedule generally only allows me to work on stuff an hour or two at a time, I also thought that it might be interesting to chart my progress as I went along, which I did. So, without ado, welcome to Fatnick makes some music!


Day 1

I had a fair idea of the bass sound I wanted to go for, but a lot would depend on the Drums to go with it. After a bit of experimentation, I revisited Rhymic Robot’s website to have another look at their Specdrum 2000, a kit sampled from the rather marvelous £30 drum machine add-on that Chetah released for the ZX Spectrum.

With that bought, downloaded and installed; I then laid down my basic idea. The whole thing needs a touch of quantisation and sounds a bit hideous when played back now, but it’s always important to get these ideas down straight away. Especially when you’re as forgetful as me!


Day 2

As with so many things in life, I find that music doesn’t really move in linear fashion. After adding a small touch of reverb and generally tidying up the timing, the melody and harmonies here all came together rather quickly. Hooray!

Though I already knew that this was going to end up being based mostly around the sounds of the YM2612 chip, I have to work on a separate PC-based VM for those, so i made do with place-holder presets from a free Yamaha DX-emulating VST. All in all, this was an excellent start.


Day 3

Things were still progressing well. I progressed to a ‘B’ section which includes a call and response between a guitar part and separate Slap-bass style sound.

The guitar sound comes from a free VST called Spicy guitar, which can create some fantastic guitar sounds when mixed with the right amplifier plugin. I was originally going for an 80’s chorusey-crunch style of guitar sound, but after a while of experimenting i found something i liked a bit more.

As for the slap-bass, a dual bassline was always a shoe-in. Not only is the bass my favourite instrument, but Metallic sounds are really where FM chips come into their own – as anyone who’s heard the soundtrack to ToeJam and Earl will surely agree.


Day 4

This was another good day: The expanded guitar part all came together quite naturally, and i managed to lay down a sketch for a contrasting middle section too. However, as i wanted a to achieve a groove-like feel, I knew it had to loop back and fade out in the end. It’s always nice to have a basic outline that essentially writes itself.


Day 5

This was the last couple of hours of super-quick progress for me. I knocked together my contrasting section quite quickly (perhaps a bit TOO quickly. I definitely should have considered the harmonies at this point,) then copied my project across to my VM folder to replace the basic sounds with the proper YM ones.

This is where things got a bit frustrating, however. I did a quick test with  some of my favourite sounds (from Streets of Rage and Zero Wing, no less,) but the harmonies didn’t quite work as expected and their was quite a bit of clash in the instrument sounds. eek.


Day 6.

Things getting a tad trickier here. I replaced and altered a lot of my instrument sounds to get them where i wanted, but I had a bit of an issue with sounds bleeding into each other and some harmonies were hanging dangerously on the edge of dischord. I was also keeping the master file in OSX as well, so every change had to be copied to somewhere it could be seen by the VM, opened, tweaked, then dropped back into OSX. erk.


Day 7

Getting there! having made lots of tiny harmonic adjustments, and made some updates to my FM sounds (againm each required exporting as a WAV then reimporting back into the original project!) I managed to get a basic mix out. Phew! Nice, but a few more bits and pieces to tidy up…


Day 8

Finished! Some further tweaking to my slap bass part (both in terms of sound, volume and pitch shifting a couple of notes,) some general EQ tweaks, a touch of delay to the guitar and a couple of volume envelopes set up and the basic mix was pretty much done. Hooray! After that, it was just a question of a further master mix to really make it pop, and here we are!

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