Rick Wakeman, Jon Lord, George Harrison… and EZKeys?


There was comment on one of my YouTube videos a few weeks ago that got me thinking.  The video was about using the Cubase Chord Track with Toontrack’s EZKeys, and the general thrust of the comment was “that’s fine for people who can’t play”.

One of the things I’ve set out to do with the songs I’m recording at the moment is, for the most part, to avoid my own clichés and to try to think, (and play), outside the constraints of my comfort zone.  For a guitarist, I’m a passable piano player, but I’m no Rick Wakeman, so EZKeys gives me the ability to record a higher quality piano part than I could achieve on my own, either by playing or simply writing in the notes. [Read more…]


From the Boiler Room: February Update

drum_comboThe drum parts for all of the original songs are now complete, as are the bass parts. There may be some tweaking of the basslines as the arrangements develop, but they’re there or thereabouts for all songs. The drums are mainly the EZX Indie Folk and Americana kits, (a 50-50 split), but I couldn’t find the right parts for “One More Time”. In fact, anything I tried, no matter how simple, seemed too busy or just leaden, so I’ve opted for some simple (EZX) Latin Percussion on that and it’s just enough to provide some movement without becoming a distraction. [Read more…]


Video Tutorial: Using EZKeys with Chord Track

EZKeys from Toontrack is a powerful composition and performance tool in its own right and shares a number of features with Chord Track, in terms of its ability to revoice existing MIDI patterns to match up with a different chord sequence.  Where it goes beyond Chord Track is it’s ability to animate those chords in different styles to suit the genre of music you are working in, but it’s limited to a single time signature and doesn’t always produce entirely pleasing results, especially when simpler chord sequences are tested against its more harmonically rich performance styles.  This video looks at how to get the best of both worlds out of EZKeys and Cubase.


Video Tutorial: Recording MIDI outputs from VSTi’s

You can alter the voicings that the Chord Track in Cubase uses when it generates chords, but any movement in the part generated comes from the VST instrument or the MIDI inserts on that channel, not the chord track itself.  Sometimes, the output is close, but not close enough and you want to edit the part that the software has generated to fit exactly what you want.  This video looks at an example of how to achieve an editable MIDI part, by recording the bassline generated by Broomstick Bass as it reads the chords from the Chord Track onto a separate MIDI track, ready for alteration or simply to be allocated to a different VST instrument.



From The Boiler Room – December Update

ezkeys_uprightYou may have noticed that it’s been a bit quiet on the Boiler Room front.  That’s because I’d got through the stage of defining my thought processes – very wordy, not a lot of action – and moved on to the stage of starting to build the arrangements – lot of action, not a lot of words. Despite my best intentions, I’ve struggled to get away from building an arrangement from the drum parts up.  Where I was able to find a set of parts in EZDrummer’s library that inspired me, I was able to construct the drum track reasonably quickly and then start to build on that, but where I was unsure just how “drummy” I wanted the track to be, I tried to start with something else and that’s where the trouble started and progress stopped.

[Read more…]


Video Tutorial: Using Media Bay content with Chord Track

Out of the box, Cubase comes with the Media Bay pre-populated with a stack of loops and samples. Some of these loops are provided in matched sets that provide e.g. bass, drums, piano and guitar that will each create an instrument track with the appropriate sound pre-selected in Halion Sonic when you drag them into your project. Used in conjunction with the Chord Track, this enables you to construct a sample arrangement for any chord progression in next to no time, allowing you to concentrate on refining your song content and structure without worrying about recording some scratch parts.

It may seem a bit “Band In The Box”, but anything that helps you break away from your own clichés can’t be all bad. This video looks at creating a sample arrangement for an intro to a song I’m working on at the moment and how I tackled the issue of the chord progression being longer than Cubase’s default 8 bar parts.


From The Boiler Room: Trusting In Your Ability

abilitySo some of these songs that I’m recording are familiar friends that I’ve played regularly over the years, some are not.  The main reason for this is that I haven’t had my keyboards set up on a regular basis in recent times, so those that were written on piano have been neglected.  As a consequence, my playing technique is a little rusty and I’ve found it difficult to get a fluent and confident performance of the basic track recorded. [Read more…]