Eons - Microtonal EP

Why make an EP?

I’ve taken a few days off from game dev and decided to make a short EP. After watching YouTube musicians Andrew Huang and Rob Scallon make an album in a day, I decided I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could do something similar. Some of their songs ended up kind of rough around the edges, but they set out to make ten songs in ten hours - not create a masterpiece. I’ve been realizing that time constraints and deadlines on any project is what makes things actually move and allows you to finish.

Some self-imposed project guidelines and goals

  • Create an EP (3 - 5 songs)

  • Keep the songs short (1 - 3 minutes)

  • Choose and stick to a similar instrumentation

  • Learn about and use a new idea (microtonality)

  • Finish the entire project in 2 days… (ended up being 4 days)

  • Improve recording/mixing efficiency

  • Get better at playing and recording live drums

  • Make album art, write blog post, and upload EP to Bandcamp, and Soundcloud

Microtonality

The new idea that I wanted to experiment with and the common theme behind this EP is microtonality. What is microtonality? Imagine that every key on a piano is associated with a number on a number line. This means that you have a finite number of notes to play with. Adding microtonality to the mix gives you access to all the notes in-between - basically all the decimal numbers or an infinite number of notes to play with. After a few hours of researching the best way to set up microtones with my DAW, I ended up using a pre-built script inside of the sampler, Kontakt 5, to set a virtual instrument’s scale to a 22-edo (equal division of the octave) instead of the traditional 12-edo scale that is used in most music.

 setting up a Kontakt 5 virtual instrument with the 22-edo microtone scale

setting up a Kontakt 5 virtual instrument with the 22-edo microtone scale

Why divide the octave into 22 equal parts instead of 300 or 43? I’ve been listening to a lot of microtonal music by Sevish and I noticed a few of them that I was drawn to more than some of the others were his 22-edo tracks like Ganymede and Gleam. It seemed like it was possible to achieve somewhat familiar harmonies even with the alien nature of microtones.

What i learned

Giving myself a deadline of two days for an EP with too many technical challenges resulted in some delays. Taking on the newness of microtonality and recording live drums slowed things much more than anticipated. Stylistically, the songs are really different from one another, too. I should have just stuck with one style like: electronic pop, funk, jazz, post-rock ambient, chillhop, or drum & bass. While sometimes it’s just easier to go with the first idea you come up with, it’s not always the best thing to do in the long run. I think this slowed me down quite a bit in the arranging and mixing phases between the songs. Having fewer variables is the way to go for getting stuff done.

For my next music project, I’ll need to either give myself more time, make my project parameters even simpler, or focus on a single track. While everything didn’t go as planned, I was stay able to stick with it and actually finish songs. I already have a ton of unfinished tracks just sitting on my hard drive collecting dust - being useless. I’ve learned that actually finishing projects, sharing them, and getting feedback is the best thing for growth and development.

Even though my main goal right now is making a video game, I still want to create music when I can and having small side projects like this one with a quick turnaround helps me achieve that goal.