Song 30, July 25 - August 1st, 2011

"Solo #02 - Casio SK5"

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"Solo #02 - Casio SK5" - song #30 - MP3 file

"Solo #02 - Casio SK5"

Length: 3:12

Track count: 13 tracks

Instrumentation: Casio SK5, Ableton Live

This is the second iteration of my sometimes-series called "Solo," where I take one instrument from my studio and make a song using only that instrument as a sound source and inspiration.

I honestly thought I had a Casio SK1, that's how long it's been since I fired it u p - but no, it's an SK5. Which is too bad, since even though it is newer, the sounds aren't quite as "good" as the noble SK1. But, the SK5 is what I have, so I worked with it.

The Casio SK keyboards were tiny plastic digital keyboards that came out in the 80s. The sounds, although fun, were more along the lines of novelty or toy sounds, but for one thing - you could sample with them. Yep, these affordable little darlings put digital sampling in the hands of the hoi polloi. I did many a recording with them back in the day, and almost every home-taper had one, and used it. A lot. I know I did.

OK, so the Casio SK1 and SK5 are no great shakes when it comes to sound quality - the sampling rate on the SK5 is 9.38KHz, and the resolution is 8 bit. (To put this in perspective, I usually sample at 48KHz and 24 bit these days.) But the lower sampling rates had a kind of lo-fi charm, even in the 80s.

I started out with a soundfont I have of the Casio SK1's drums sounds, individually sampled - kind of cheating, since I was supposed to be using the SK5, but what the heck. I recorded some drum patterns using these sounds. using the computer keyboard of my laptop as I sat in my car waiting for Robyn to get off work, playing the parts into Live. I cleaned them up a bit and added some effects. I did a second session a day later while sitting in the food court at Lloyd Center Mall. I love laptops.

Back in the studio the next day, I did some voice samples using the tiny microphone on the SK5, and took one voice sound into the computer and manipulated it until it sounded like some weird digital space wind. Then I sampled some other vocal sounds and layered them in, playing them on the Casio keyboard into Live. I also recorded some of the SK5's built-in rhythm patterns - "Rock1," "Disco1" and "Samba," cut loops from them, and added them in places for effect - and with effects. Rock1 is a pattern I am especially fond of.

I intended to use some of the Casio's built-in instrument sounds, like "Chorus," "Dog" and such, for melody lines - but they just sounded too shitty, and I liked the weird stuff I had sampled better when I played it as notes. So I went with that.

Not a masterpiece, but it was a fun and nostalgic 80's cheap-keyboard journey that took me along. I had fun.

Thanks for listening - Enjoy!

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