Categories
Vaporwave

Operation Vaporwave 2121

Going to be kicking off a new project for a set of singles to push the envelope of what vaporwave can be. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I think it would really work because vaporwave isn’t a specific thing, it’s more of an aesthetic. There isn’t an exact drum beat or tempo range that it has to be to fall into the category, or specific chord progressions. I think my inspiration came from Blank Banshee doing vaporwave + trap. If that sounds awesome, why stop there?

The Plan

The plan is to begin a series of tracks that combine a new genera of music with vaporwave, and to try the most far out types of music to see if it will work. One of the things I love about vaporwave is that you can play all sorts of harmonies that super far out, and not have to worry so much about it sounding too experimental.

The Timeline

Since I already have April 2021 lined with releases, the first one should be ready to go for May 2021. Check back for updates, as I want to keep the next style mashup a surprise!

Categories
Music Production Synthwave Vaporwave

Synthwave Vs Vaporwave

I’ve seen lots of posts on this, so decided to give my take on the topic. Synthwave and Vaporwave are both kinds of retro inspired electronic music subgenres that both have the same kind of nostalgia vibes.

Aesthetic Differences

While both genres share similar visual influences, I would say that synthwave draws more from mid 80’s synth pop. It uses a lot of 80’s style neon colors, and futuristic artwork. Vaporwave draws more from mid 90’s-mid 00’s artwork. It often uses themes from early, and low poly computer graphics.

Production Differences

Production wise, there are a few key differences I find between the two. Vaporwave, not always, but often is sample based. Lots of Vaporwave producers use samples from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s to create new tracks. Often the degraded tape feel of lofi is desired. In Synthwave, I hardly ever hear any samples, or lofi effects. I find that vaporwave is often slower, and can sound closer to smooth jazz mixed with lofi. Synthwave is usually more high energy. Slow, or down tempo synthwave often sounds like space music.

Synthwave sounds

Synthwave has some common recurring production elements. One common element is the gated reverb snare sound. This type of snare was popularized in the 80’s and used for lots of electronic synth pop. The sound is pretty noticeable because it will sound like the snare is in a huge arena, or hall.

Another common synthwave element is the plucked bass. This type of bass is created by using a synth with a quick attack, and short sustain and release. This is often coupled with a filter which quickly cuts off the high end. The resulting sound is a short bass stab. Then these bass plucks are often put in patterns of repeating 16th. Check out this sample from the track “Nightcrawler”.

Vaporwave Sounds

Vaporwave sounds much jazzier compared to synthwave. Another common vaporwave technique is to slow down, and pitch shift down samples, or the entire song. Here is an example of the track “56 Kbit/s Magic” which is much more down tempo, and borderline funk.

Synthwave v Vaporwave: Dawn of Vaporsynth

“The Zone” is one of my favorite tracks that combines synthwave and vaporwave elements. It has the reverby snare and drums from a 80’s synth pop track, but also has some degraded lofi sections, and funk bassline. There are lot of intricate melodies and counter melodies in this one, along with some chromatic chords. I think the melodies and harmonies on this one are too jazzy for a synthwave track, but are done with synthwave style synths. One unique thing about this track is that Cliche64 plays guitar on this one instead of me!

Do I think there is overlap? Absolutely

Categories
Music Theory Songs Vaporwave

Aesthetic

Aesthetic is a track That has got some down tempo vibes, and features an electric guitar solo with a jazz fusion sound.

Let’s break down the track. The main chord progression is:

F#m7 | Dmaj7 | Fmaj7 | Em7 | Gmaj7

The key in this track is mostly D major, but one of the chords doesn’t belong. This progression uses mode mixture to borrow a chord from the parallel minor key. Using roman numerals the progression is:

iii – I – â™­III – ii – IV

What I like about this progression is that it doesn’t appear to gravitate directly towards D major, or the relative minor B minor. Instead it starts on chord 3, which would make that mode be phrygian, which is also a type of minor mode. The interesting chord here is the F major7, the 3rd chord in the progression. How did we end up with F major7 in the key of D major? Its a borrowed chord from the parallel minor key. The parallel minor of D major is D minor. In D minor, the third chord is F major 7.

So what happens when you try to play a melody? If you keep playing D major over the Fmaj7 chord, there will be some notes that will not line up. So the melody has to agree to also drop the sharps on the F# and C#. So right as the F major 7 Plays, all instruments in the arrangement must also put naturals on their F’s and C’s.

The bridge also has another mixture chord on chord IV. Right as the last main melody section comes in, it gives it just a little bit of time to breathe and kind of goes to a different place.

IV | iv

Layers

One of my favorite things about Aesthetic is the multiple layers of pads and moving percussion. There are multiple types of pads that come in and out, multiple shaker groups, and bongo groups that layer to add subtle variation and fullness.

Categories
Lofi Music Production Vaporwave

Why I don’t use Samples

By samples I mean full samples from other tracks. A sample is basically a piece of audio recorded from an existing song. Lots of types of music are sample based. Essentially, a loop from an existing song is taken, modified, and new track is built around that. Lots of vaporwave, lofi, and future funk uses samples from old songs. There is a lot of room for creativity in manipulating the samples.

Remix vs Cover?

I do lots of video game covers, but they are technically not remixes. Sometimes the terms are confusing because they get interchanged, but technically, a remix is a type of song that also uses original audio. A cover rebuilds the sounds without using the original audio. If you were to take the midi from a song, run it through your own synths and create audio, then its a cover. If you record the actual song and put it in your song, then its a remix.

Remixes and other sample based songs come with a lot of legal difficulties because it’s hard to get the right permissions to use audio samples. Cover licensing is fairly easy to come get. A lot of distributors offer low cost licensing options for doing covers. They usually take care of sending the original songwriter a cut of the royalties. The reason that I don’t make sample based vaporwave isn’t rooted in the legal issues, but for me, its simply workflow.

But Why Tho?

I don’t have a DJ background so I don’t have experience stitching songs together. I do have lots of experience playing in bands and writing parts for multiple instruments. For my workflow in Ableton, It’s easier for me to write the parts out in midi, and create an arrangement around that. I like to move notes around in different midi lanes, and it’s not possible to modify individual instruments on rendered samples. In a sample, you can’t easily change things like the chords. I also don’t have a collection of songs that I would use for sampling, and wouldn’t even know where to start looking.

Samples or no Samples?

In conclusion, sample based music is definitely very cool, and some of the “sound” comes from modifying rendered audio. For my workflow, midi works best because I like having control of all the midi, and can write quickly like that. I do however occasionally sample myself. I’ll take rendered portions of my other songs and slice them up or slow them down for effects.