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A Soft Spot in the Night





A break in the Broadway action to bring a soft moonlight song.

This tune was written many years ago, but wasn't finished in time for the Champagne album. I completely forgot about it until i played a draft of it by accident while rearranging my files.

While working on updating my old DAW files, I accidentally turned the aural exciter up to a zillion and blew out the built-in speakers on my computer. I had to order some external speakers, so I was careful not to buy anything too good. The whole point of the exercise is to get a good balance of good and bad speakers to test the mixes on. Now I think I have a system that I can work with with some confidence.

The "new" song (actually 18 years old) was a good opportunity for me to work with my new setup, and apply the things I've learned in the last year of trial and error. Mixing is part science and part art, and I still don't know much about either of them. But with this track, I think I'm getting closer to being able to produce something that's close to industry standard.

It was a pleasure to dig up this old number and put the polish on it, and even if it still isn't really finished (not much in the way of dynamics) it does have a good balance and I made good use of the exciter to bring out the guitar.

Please enjoy.

Nellie Goes Broadway!





Here it is! Nellie sings soprano, and stops the show with a high G!

I noticed back in 1999 when i started using VocalWriter that when i bounced it to audio, nellie's voice sounded just great on good headphones, but when i listened to them through the cheap speakers, all her consonants were muffled and it was impossible to understand what she was singing. Why? And why doesn't this happen to "real" singers?

At that time i used an audio editor called SoundEdit 16 made by Macromedia. It had a filter called "sharpen" that fixed the problem, but I never did understand what it did. And when i came back to work on Nellie a couple of years ago, that application no longer existed, and I had no idea what to do to "fatten" Nellie's voice.

I suspected an Aural Exciter was what i really wanted, but i had no idea where to get one, what they did, or how to use it. So I've been adding an equalizer to Nellie's voice track with a tall spike at around 4500 (about where Nellie's 'S's' are). That almost works, but if the spike is too high (high enough to work) it adds so much noise to the treble end it makes her sound like a hissing snake. And unless the voice was overdriven, I couldnt get the crisp consonants I needed to be audible on all systems.

Today (3/25/17) I finally found an Exciter (a VST/AU plugin) that does the job, and is simple enough for even me to operate. I cranked the high all the way up and it worked.

Once i had the secret ingredient, I worked more, and studied more, until I found a combination of things that finally enabled me to produce a something-like-industry-standard mix that played back well with full sound on every system i tried it on. I had just about given up on that. See what you think.

I began by mixing the song at low level, using the muddy computer speakers. That kept me from making the mistake of producing a master with too high a dynamic range. In the cheaper speakers, the quieter instruments just dropped out. (This was a big problem with "Clueless," which i mixed using hi-fi headphones)

Then I added the exciter to nellie's voice, being careful also to equalize her treble range nice and evenly and giving her lots of middle bass.

Then i performed a "hole-in-the-middle" EQ on the entire song, damping the midrange which is usually all you hear from the cheap speakers, and also damping the lows from 100Hz down, and then compressed it (using peaks), then brought the volume up to maximum.

At last i once again had what i had 20 years ago, a good mix suitable for all systems. Today, after years of trying and getting wildly varying results from one playback to another. I was about ready to give up.

Please enjoy.

New Song Continues 'Backstage Musical!'





... Nellie's first new song in over 10 years! It took me months to collect all the tools I'd need to continue the project I started all these years ago. And then it took months for me to learn them. I still am learning them. But here's one new song added to the project "Backstage Musical" which I began in 2004 when I wrote and orchestrated "If I Never See You Again."

 I certainly hope you enjoy this. It's a pretty silly song, but that's the point. I did everything I could to reproduce the late-30s Movietone Musical sound, and the band is styled after the pit orchestras that played for Fred Astaire and Dick Powell.

I still have a lot to learn, and the horns aren't really good yet, but here's a first draft so you can see where I'm going with this. This isn't raw MIDI like I used to do; it's all hand-tweaked just like the voices.

But the idea is still the same: Use the most modern digital equipment to synthesize the very organic music of days gone by. There's both irony and great fun in this.

THE STORY: (Stop me if you'v heard this one!) Nellie is starting out in show business, and Danny, a 3rd-rate song and dance man and would-be producer (but really a wealthy scion) has spotted her singing and (sort of) dancing in a little cabaret in the middle of Nowhere, NJ ("Sign Up for Love"), and decides she would be a great discovery. And perhaps more. Lots of music ensues. I hope.

Nellie's Big Band Trots it Out!





For a while I wasn't sure I was ever going to achieve enough competence in enough areas to complete this tune. Hundreds of hours of listening to vintage jazz and an equal amount of time studying horn voicings, midi controllers and automation, counterpoint, and mostly just "How do you do this?" Even if you have great software and good virtual instruments, you still have to create your own procedures, and solve your own problems.

 Some of the harmonies in this song may seem familiar, for good reason, because I stole the descender partly from "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" and also from Armstrong's "Sleepy Time Down South." Steal from the best. But i did do something new with it.

Things are a lot easier with a keyboard. All the old Nellie music was 100 percent hand-drawn on piano roll. Whew! But it was time consuming, and the only way to be sure to get exactly the right rhythm in something, is to play it and record it.

I'm not sure where this song goes in the love story of Nellie and Danny, but most relationships have their rocky points, mostly because most relationships contain a man.

Nellie Sings Again!




OKAY! I said I was going to be doing some upgrading. First came essential software that needed to be upgraded. BUT THEN I needed better musicians to back up Nellie.

Here today for the first time in 12 years, NELLIE SINGS AGAIN!

This is ONLY A WARMUP .. ONLY A TEST!  Nellie's old soundfonts have been replaced by Garritan Jazz and Big Band and Garritan Personal Orchestra ensembles. Not zillion-dollar professional samples but way beyond what we had. And now you're listening to the first test "recording."

This is NOT my arrangement! This arrangement is by Sammy Nestico and was programmed by Gary Wachtel. It's not my style at all. But it seemed like a good workout for my new instruments. So even though I didn't arrange the band, I did program the instruments themselves, and Nellie, and mixed it. It was a lot of work, and I have a lot more work ahead of me, as I get my own arranging skills backup to scratch, and keep twiddling around looking for that magic warm 1930s band sound I'm going to need.

But the important fact is still, Nellie and the Drummers are back at work. And with a MAJOR UPGRADE.

Back to the computer for more training.


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Nellie and the Drummers material copyright © and (P) 1998,1999,2000,2002,2003,2004 , 2016 and 2017 by Reed Waller, BMI.
Nellie & the Drummers are a new concept in multimedia and pop music, a computer created rock band combining computer-generated vocals, MIDI based computer-generated music, and 3D animated characters. All audio and video are generated on the desktop.


Reed Waller
309 Division Street W.
New Richland, MN 56072

© 2018 Reed Waller - Omaha the Cat Dancer
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