Life (Stoyan Jams podcast, episode #3)

This one gem is called “Life”. It’s very short. Enjoy!

It’s basically one chord. The thing is, putting music out there is just too hard, mainly because of our inner critic. Nothing is perfect, nothing is even close to good enough. Our creations are too precious. We don’t want them out in the cold wide world, judged by others. My solution to this crippling inability to release music was – hey, I’ll just create a podcast, call it “jams”, very low key and unassuming. Can’t judge that. After all, it’s not “the real thing (TM)”. But guess what, even that wasn’t easy enough. One night I said – I’ll just release one chord. Can’t be any simpler. Well… it’s been almost a year. The caveat was that I want to use this one chord as an excuse to learn at least some of the tools I’ve been stockpiling – hardware and software. And record a bunch of instruments. And yup, there are a lot of instruments in here. For example a crappy old out of tune piano I recorded last summer while on a trip in Scotland. And a gong, located in the Facebook office in Seattle (Thanks for hitting it, Gan!)

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Learning German with Brahm’s Ein Deutsches Requiem

Some resources…

A video that pronounces all the words, second time slower

And a list of all the words, most commonly occurring first

Deutsch English
und and
die the
werden become
sie you
sind are
ist is
wie as
ich I
denn because
des of
der of the
mit with
alle all
herrn mr
ein on
wird becomes
wir we
das the
nun now
herr Sir
euch you
kommen come
auf on
siehe please refer
den the
aber but
freude joy
mich me
haben to have
mein my
leben life
soll should
sich themselves
von from
selig blessed
tragen carry
freuden delights
gehen go
ihre your
gras grass
menschen people
geduldig patiently
bis to
wort word
wieder again
doch but
daß that
muß got to
meine my
hand hand
vor in front
dir to you
nichts nothing
ihnen them
nicht not
es it
trösten to comfort
dich you
keine no
seele soul
nach after
freuen looking forward
dem the
will want
nehmen to take
habe have
zeit time
arbeit job
verwandelt transformed
zu to
posaune trombone
toten kill
tod death
sieg victory
wo where
dein your
du you
geschaffen created
da there
leid suffering
sollen should
getröstet comforted
tränen tears
säen sow
ernten to harvest
hin down
weinen cry
edlen noble
samen seed
bringen bring
garben sheaves
alles everything
fleisch meat
herrlichkeit glory
grases grass
blumen flowers
verdorret withered
blume flower
abgefallen fallen
seid are
lieben love
brüder brothers
zukunft future
ackermann ackermann
wartet waiting
köstliche delicious
frucht fruit
erde earth
darüber about that
er he
empfahe empfahe
morgenregen morning rain
abendregen evening rain
bleibet abideth
ewigkeit eternity
erlöseten ransomed
gen gene
zion Zion
jauchzen exult
ewige everlasting
über about
ihrem their
haupte head
sein be
wonne bliss
ergreifen grab
schmerz pain
seufzen sigh
weg path
müssen have to
lehre teaching
ende The End
mir me
ziel aim
hat has
davon from that
tage days
einer one
breit wide
ach Oh
gar at all
sicher for sure
daher therefore
schemen schemes
machen do
viel a lot of
vergebliche futile
unruhe unrest
sammeln collect
wissen knowledge
wer who
kriegen get
wess ??
hoffe hope
gerechten just
seelen souls
gottes god
qual torment
rühret shall ye touch
lieblich lovely
deine yours
wohnungen apartments
zebaoth hosts
verlanget verlanget
sehnet longs
vorhöfen atria
leib body
lebendigen living
gott God
wohl well
denen to those
deinem your
hause home
wohnen live
loben praise
immerdar evermore
ihr her
habt have
traurigkeit sadness
sehen see
euer your
herz heart
eure your
niemand nobody
sehet behold
an at
eine a
kleine small
mühe effort
gehabt had
großen great
trost consolation
funden found
einen one
seine his
mutter mother
tröstet comforts
hie here
bleibende permanent
statt instead of
sondern rather
zukünftige future
suchen search
sage legend
geheimnis secret
entschlafen pass on
dasselbige twinkling
plötzlich suddenly
einem one
augenblick moment
letzten last
schallen resound
auferstehen rise again
unverweslich imperishable
dann then
erfüllet fulfilled
geschrieben written
steht stands
verschlungen devoured
stachel sting
hölle hell
bist are
würdig worthy
preis price
ehre honor
kraft force
hast have
dinge things
durch by
deinen your
willen sake
wesen being
sterben to die
ja yes
geist ghost
spricht speaks
ruhen rest
ihrer of their
werke plants
folgen consequences

The curious case of the missing fundamental

People are fascinating creatures. We can perceive differences in air pressure as pitch (sound, tone). Provided that said changes in pressure are fast enough and cyclical enough. OK, some clarification…

Wave your finger. No sound. Now faster, faster. If you manage 20 times in a second, you’ll start hearing something. 20 times-per-second is also measured as 20Hz. 20 000 times-per-second is 20 000 Hz. Or 20kHz. This (20Hz-20kHz) is the range of human hearing, at best. As we get older, the top falls down to 18kHz, 17kHz… Dogs do 50kHz. Bats – 100kHz.

So we perceive this quick change of low-to-high-pressure-and-back as pitch. For example 55Hz is the note A.

How can you tell when this 55Hz note A is played by a guitar or a piano? It’s the same frequency, no? Well, the thing is that nothing in nature is perfect and there’s no 55Hz-only waves produced by instruments. In addition to 55Hz a piano string also vibrates at 110Hz (double the frequency), at 165Hz, at 220Hz… etc. All multiples of 55.

We say that 55Hz is the fundamental and additional frequencies are overtones. They are quieter and different in intensity for different instruments. That’s how we can tell a violin A – based on its overtones (aka timbre).

Now, this is all cool. But the point of this post is to show that we don’t even need the fundamental. And we’re able to tell the “base”, fundamental pitch, even when it’ missing! What wizardry is this!? Demo time!

Poof! Proof!

Let’s see an illustration using the Reaper software.

Sine wave

Create a sine wave at 110Hz which is A2 – the second A under middle C (C4).

It’s just a simple wave, not pleasant to listen to at all. It sounds like nothing in the real world, no overtones are present, just a fundamental. This is what is sounds like:


Now look at the result using the free SPAN frequency analyzer. As expected, there’s the bump at 110Hz and mostly nothing else.

Now let’s insert a precise EQ between the sine wave and the analyzer and cut off everything under around 300Hz.

As you’d expect after we’ve cut off most all of the fundamental frequency, there’s nothing left. No sound. (To be fair if you turn all kinds of gain, you’ll hear something above 300Hz because the sine wave still has some energy, see the EQ screenshot, but it’s so faint it’s not even there)

Let’s hear the audio. A sine wave at 110Hz:


And after the EQ at 330-ish Hz:


(Yup, it’s almost complete silence)

A2 sample

Now let’s try the same but with the sound of a sampled piano with the same note A2.

Here’s what it sounds like:


And here is what it looks like in a frequency analyser:

As you can see, in addition to the fundamental at 110Hz, there are overtones, all multiples of 110. First one is at 220Hz, this in A3, meaning an A an octave higher than the fundamental. There’s another A at 440Hz, another at 880Hz and so on… but there’s more than As going up in octaves. At 330Hz that’s an E. At 550Hz that’s a C#. A, C# and E spell a nice A major chord. 660 is another E, cool. 770 is G. OK, this is A major seventh. I can live with this. 990 though is a B. Damn, now we’re getting jazzier and jazzier with these chords. The thing is these overtones are quieter and quieter and we do not perceive a chord, but just a single pitch A2. Although there’s a lot more going on. What exactly is going on is dependent on the instrument (thimbre).


The interesting thing is what happens after we insert the same EQ and cut off all below 300Hz. Meaning we’re killing the 110Hz fundamental. And even the first (strongest) 220Hz overtone.

What do you think is going to happen? Listen:





What?! Sounds a bit different, more telephony maybe. But we still perceive the same note. The same tone. The same A2. We’re missing the most important information (110Hz) and second-most important (220Hz) but we still hear A2. On a piano. Solely based on the overtone signature of this sound.

Dunno about you, but I am amazed by this.

Just one more: A3

A3 piano sample. Before EQ:

After the same 300-ish Hz EQ:






We still perceive the same A3 (220Hz) even when there’s nothing there!

So what?

Well, it’s a fascinating phenomenon if you ask me.

Also one of the things when producing music is you often want things (voices, instruments) to be audible and distinct. When there’s too much information in the same frequency area, sounds get muddy and hard to separate by the listener. That’s why there’s often a lot of cutting out of frequencies to make room for other instruments. This example here shows that if you need to, you can cut even below the fundamental frequency of the note being played and we humans can still tell the note. Weird. But true.

Remembering key signatures: another silly little trick

Key signatures are critical. Says David Cope “Key signatures are the equivalent of addition and multiplication tables in mathematics – absolutely essential for succeeding”

(Psst, you can practice key signature flashcards using my little tool. You can learn more about them in the posts about circle of fifths. And another little trick to remember stuff.)

So “this one weird trick” I learned today is about remembering the number of sharps in major keys. It looks into how many strokes with your pencil you need so you can write the key letter.

E.g. G you can write in one go. Which tells you that G major has 1 sharp.


Next is D. Written with one line down and a second semi-circle. Two strokes in total. Ergo – 2 sharps.


For A you need 3.


4 for E. (Usually you start writing E with one stroke that looks like L and then add two more, but hey, let’s go along with this, ok? 4 is what it takes and that’s that.)


5 for B. (I know, I know)


The trick falls apart at F, though I’m sure if you try really hard, you can write an F with 6 strokes. But think of F as the exception. It has 6 sharps. And then we’re done with C#. Which we all know has aaaaall of the sharps.

So there.



Denoise in Reaper

Home studio recordists have to deal with noise, it’s a fact of life. But noise shouldn’t prevent anyone from recording and perfecting their craft. Removing the noise is trivial in Reaper with no additional plugins (though some people swear by Izotope RX for that same purpose)

So there goes:

  1. Record some isolated noise. Meaning just hang for a second without contributing more noise before or after the performance of a take.
  2. Blow up the waveform so you can see the noise part visually. (Shift+Up arrow)
  3. Select the noisy part
  4. Add ReaFir plugin to the FX, make it the first if there are any others, so they don’t EQ, compress, etc, the noisy bits
  5. Select Mode: Subtract and check Automatically build noise profile
  6. Play the noisy bit (probably best if you loop it)
  7. Uncheck Automatically build noise profile and you’re done. Enjoy the silence.

Below are a few screenshots…

Select some noise:

Find ReaFir:

The two options:

Done! The red line is the noise profile. This is a bit of an extreme example, yours should be better.

Jonny Greenwood’s score to Phantom Thread live

What a night! And a front-row seat pour moi, no less.

The Theater at the Ace Hotel is one of those oldish beat up venues with a certain vibe. 1920’s style kitsch that has this endearing Hollywood former glamour. There a quite a few of those theaters (e.g. Wiltern, Saban) in Los Angeles and I like them all.


Front row seat! I could read the musicians’ scores and read I did. Luckily I’ve seen the movie so I could easily ignore the screen.


Here’s what happened:


Couple of words from the director and composer.





On we go. Movie in the background, orchestra and director in front.


Ovations and things.


Overall – awesome. The venue is probably not the best for an orchestra (see where the conductor is) and it had to compete with the audio from the movie. So they had to mike some of the instruments which (at least from where I was standing) didn’t feel as immediate. But what felt just right was the bass and cello sitting right in front of me. Oh, the low end!

Also pretty cool that this was a repeat, because the original show sold out, I guess. So it started at midnight. Ended 2:30-ish am. Which is a lovely way to avoid that Friday traffic on highway 10.

Ambient Bach: Stoyan Jams episode #2

I needed about a minute of ambient music and this is what happened. Three chords repeated with slight variations. Mostly stolen from Bach’s Prelude in C. Type these into MuseScore. Render in to WAV in MuseScore with samples for “strings”, then with “ooh”, then with “bassoon”. Copy these to Reaper. Cut some parts from “ooh” and “bassoon” so these come in later. Add generous reverb and some delay. Done.

Funny thing is that, depending on the listening environment, additional ghost instruments appear. For example on iphone earbuds I hear trumpets at the end. I think because of all the overtones (harmonics) and how they randomly interact with each other when the same notes are rendered with different samples and different delays and reverbs. Spooky.

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Auto-coloring tracks in Reaper

Coloring tracks in the DAW is a good idea so you can visually tell what’s what. And (in Reaper at least) it can be done automatically, as soon as you name the track.


First you need the SWS extensions for Reaper. Download and install and a new top-level menu called Extensions will show up.

Click Auto Color/Icon/Layout

Tweak to your heart’s content.

Finally, make sure the options Enable Auto Track Coloring and Enable Auto Track Icon are ON.



Here’s a quick video of how auto-coloring works in action.

FGam: Stoyan Jams, episode #1

Well, hello and welcome to my podcast! This is episode #1 of what I hope would be a place to put up musical noises on some semblance of a regular schedule. Enjoy and happy new 2018!

This first one is a jam in F. This thing is based around the idea of skipping the third in an F chord, so the major vs minor is a little ambiguous. And replacing the A (or is it Ab?) with G. Spoiler alert: it is an A 🙂

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