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Last Update: 03/05/17

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A (not so) Brief History

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Dreaming:

One day back in 1989 I was listening to a cassette tape of Audion by Synergy  (Larry Fast). I had been obsessed with synthesizer music ever since I had first experienced Kraftwerk several years earlier. This crazy thought entered my head that day while listening to the tape, "Hey, it doesn't sound like it would be all that difficult to make this kind of music!" Of course I had never played an instrument in my life.....

Reality Part 1:

Several days later I was in a local department store and was playing with one of those Yamaha home keyboards. I hit a rhythm preset and pressed a few keys and was sounding like (in my opinion at the time) a pro. This unit was exactly what I was looking for so I brought it home.... The first shock was that it sounded almost as cheesy through my home stereo as it did through the built in speakers. Immediately the doubts started creeping in. About four hours later I had been through all of the preset (cheesy) sounds several times and I was already tired of the rhythms. I returned it the next day.

Determination:

One thing for sure about me, once I get an idea in my head, I will go to almost any length to achieve it. So, there I was in the "real" music store in Virginia Beach, feeling intimidated by all those dudes cranking away on the demo guitars, basses and synths. Eventually I was approached by a sales person and the guy realized that I was a total newbie when I told him my department store home keyboard story.

 

Roland D5


Actually, it was pretty easy to decide which synth to get since the Roland D5 was the only multi-timbral (can play more than one sound at a time) synth I could afford. I also found out that it was possible to hook it up to my PC using a $350 midi interface card  (no sound card features, just a 1 x 1 midi interface, bundled with something called sequencing software). So, home I went, synth, PC card, and some funny looking cables in hand.

Unfortunately, my Tandy 1000 PC only accepted proprietary expansion cards, it took me several hours of trying to make it fit before I realized that it just was not possible. So, I returned the card and bought a Yamaha QX5 stand-alone sequencer.

Reality Part 2:

Wow, that little window on the Yamaha sequencer sure made it difficult to work with. Another problem  was the quantize feature which I used to help fix my sloppy playing. The note timing ended up even worse (this was not the QX5's fault, I just couldn't keep with the metronome beep that the QX5 emitted!). That's when I would start the painstaking note by note editing by going through all of those menus on that tiny display using those little buttons.

 

Excerpt from the first recording made the day I brought home the Roland D5 synthesizer and Yamaha QX5 sequencer (ready for a good laugh?):
  1989-D5-1st-day-short.mp3


The above excerpt shows just how much I had to learn before I could ever sound anything like Synergy! This music making thing was not going to be as easy as I had hoped.

 

Yamaha QX5 Sequencer Yamaha QX5

Over the next few months I worked at trying to make music, but it was a difficult and time consuming process. After a while I gave up altogether and stored the equipment away in a closet.

Another Try:

About a year later I hooked up the D5 and QX5 sequencer and tried again. My expectations were lower because I now better understood what was involved with making synth music, so I had more patience.

 

Excerpt from a simple recording made in 1990:
  1990-D5-sound-exploring-short.mp3


I enjoyed working on the music more this time. After a few months I started to get better at choosing sounds that worked well together in a mix and was also understanding music structure a little better. But it was still too frustrating to work on that QX5 sequencer so after a few months I gave up again. I was starting to think that it was best to be a listener and give up on the silly notion of creating my own music.

 

Excerpt from the last recording I made using the Roland D5 and Yamaha QX5 sequencer:
  1990-D5-1st-emotion.mp3

 

Computerized:


 

Sayer acting silly in 1992


Fast forward to spring of 1994 when I bought a new PC. I was reading through the documentation and found that the sound card would let you hook up a midi keyboard using the game port and a special converter cable. I bought the cable and cleaned 4 years of dust from the Roland D5.

After a short time I remembered how tired I was of the preset sounds, so I purchased some new sounds, which really didn't sound much different than the original ones. But, it sure was easier to record and edit notes using the computer instead of that little display on the Yamaha QX5 sequencer. I played with this for a few months but didn't accomplish very much. The D5's 16 part polyphony (how many notes it could play at one time) was really more like 4 part since most of the sounds used four voices. I didn't find it's sound very inspiring anymore.

Reality Part 3:

Sometime in early '95, I bought a used Korg 03R/W synth module (no keys). This thing sounded great and I could control it from the Roland D5. It also had something called effects (which the Roland D5 didn't have) which I soon learned could really enhance the sound. The only problem was that when I listened to a sound in single Program (patch) mode it sounded great, but when put in multi-mode it sounded flat because it's effects were no longer working. Hmm... turns out that only one effect could be assigned to all sounds when using multi-mode.

 

Korg 03R/W


Also, I had no way of merging the sound from the D5 and the Korg 03R/W so that I could play them at the same time through my home stereo. I had not even considered this before I bought the Korg 03R/W. Welcome to the world of multi-timbral sequencing. Things were more interesting, but I still wasn't hooked. The gear didn't go back into the closet, it just didn't get much use.

 

Excerpt from the first recording made with the Korg 03R/W :
  1995-03rw-memory-march-short.mp3

 

Finally, no turning back:

Later that  year my wife gave me an Alesis QS+ as a combination birthday and Christmas present, and I bought a Mackie 1202 mixer . Now I could use all three sound sources at the same time. Soon after, I got access to the internet and found all kinds of new sounds for my synths. Now I was hooked! I added a Midiman Portman 2 x 4 midi interface to my PC to allow better control of my synths.

 

Alesis QS+


I also purchased a Gravis Ultrasound PNP sound card. I had read an article on how you could use samples with it that could be controlled by midi. I had some success, but the sample format was limiting and the card was noisy, so I pretty much gave up on it.

This was about the time I started my web page and found it was a great way to open communications with people that share the same interests.  

 

Excerpt from an early QS+ recording:
  1996-dream-sequence-short.mp3

 

Oops!:

In December of 1996 my hard drive crashed and I lost all of the music I had created in my studio. There was one very rough mix of some of my music on a cassette tape and that was it. All of the above excerpts were recovered from that tape.

 

First studio picture
1996


When I got my PC up and running again I didn't have a single Cakewalk song file left. I had also lost all of the software and sounds I had collected, along with all of my hardware configurations and updated drivers on the PC. Take some advice from me... be sure to backup your work!

New Beginnings:

It was hard to start over from scratch, but at the same time it was a chance to clean the slate and do something new. I wanted to be able to make all those cool sounds that were being used on the dance records. Those sounds that kind of morphed and changed without actually changing pitch (analog style filters). An article in Future Music prompted me to give the newly released and affordable Yamaha CS1x a try. It only took me about 30 seconds to decide that I had to have it. This was the first time I had ever used a synth with dedicated knobs for analog style control (resonance, cutoff, attack....). It was amazing!

 

Excerpt from Deep Atmospheres which was from my first privately released CD called Chronicles:
  1997-Deep-Atmospheres-short.mp3

 

Gear, Gear and uhh.... more gear:

Around this time the studio really started to grow. I developed a yearning to try out every synthesizer or piece of studio gear I could get my hands on. Most of the equipment was still rather basic since my budget was limited, but each and every new toy brought so much excitement and learning. 

 

A few of the
1997 studio additions

 

Burning Digital:

In 1997 I added something to the studio that would forever change my music hobby. It was my first CD-R recorder. It was amazing to be able to record audio CDs of my music for so little cost. I started putting some of my music to CD and passing them around to friends.

 

First three privately
released CD covers

 

Maximum Output:

The following months were very productive musically. I had so many ideas in my head, I could not get them out fast enough. I was completing songs so quickly that every few months I would have a new CD to hand out to my friends. They were very supportive and seemed to genuinely like what I was doing. It was a care-free time of innocence and fun.
 

Excerpt from Plasma Fields:
  1998-Plasma-Fields-short.mp3

 

Excerpt from Winds of Corinthaus:
  1998-Winds-of-Corinthaus-short.mp3


During this time I continued to explore synthesizers and gear. I bought several vintage synths (Roland Juno 60, SH-101, MKS-50, MKS-70, D-110, and many others). I also upgraded my audio hardware for the PC which greatly helped in CD recording.

 

1998 Studio

 

Open to the World:

In the Spring 0f 1999, after much pressure from friends, I decided to put some of my music online. There was a new service called MP3.com which allowed you to upload your songs in MP3 format and place them on a custom page created just for you. I uploaded 6 tracks and wrote short descriptions for each.

During the first few weeks there were very few visitors to my site, but the popularity was slowly increasing. I knew this because MP3.com offered statistics showing how many times each track was downloaded or streamed each day.
 

Sayer in 1999


There were also charts that ranked each song within it's genre of music. I would wake up every morning and check my statistics first thing. It was a very exciting time as my music started to slowly gain popularity.

 

Excerpt from Galaxy:
  1998-Galaxy-short.mp3

 

CDs to go:

Things were starting to really pick up on MP3.com, so I decided to release my latest CD 'Waves' on my MP3.com site. A few friends bought copies and an amazing thing happened. My tracks jumped way up in the charts. The CD sales must have influenced chart positions.

    Waves and Blaze CDs


As the chart positions improved, CD sales also improved. I added more tracks to the site and released my previous CD 'Blaze'. I was selling CDs to Europe, Asia, South America, Australia.... it was really incredible. I could hardly wait to wake up each morning and check out the previous day's statistics and CD sales.

Pay for Play:

At this point I had songs at the top of several genre charts and was selling a fair amount of CDs. MP3.com announced a new program where artists would get paid for downloads and I was very pleased with the results. My chart positions ensured that I received many downloads a day and I started to earn a nice little income from my music. I never thought something like that would happen and was truly amazed.
 

  Synthetic Dreams CD


I continued to work on new music and released a new CD 'Synthetic Dreams' in the Spring of 2000. It sold well and the chart positions were very good.


 

Excerpt from Convoy which was released on the Synthetic Dreams CD.
This track was quite popular at the time:
  2000-Convoy-short.mp3

 

Excerpt from Binary Bliss which was released on the Synthetic Dreams CD:
  2000-Binary-Bliss-short.mp3

 

Excerpt from Neutron Dance which was released on the Synthetic Dreams CD:
  2000-Neutron-Dance-short.mp3

 

Studio in summer of 2000

 

Release me:

To round out the CD collection at MP3.com, tracks were chosen from my first three CDs and compiled on a "early years" compilation CD called Origins. Corinthaus was also released which was recorded in spring of 1998 (prior to Blaze).

      Origins, Corinthaus,
and Past Present Phuture CDs


The last CD released on MP3.com was another compilation that combined older and newer tracks from both the Sayer and Dream Quest (more on this later) projects. This was only available for one month in June of 2001 as a limited edition release.

All good things must come to an end:

Things were starting to change at MP3.com. People were hearing about the payback policy and new artists were signing up by the thousands. The innocent, fun, atmosphere started to change as people found ways to trade downloads and work the system. I received hundreds of emails each day from people asking me to download their music.

Picture used on MP3.com site

There were rumors of people creating scripts that would vastly increase their downloads which increased their payback and chart positions. Over the next 6 months my music fell from the charts and got lost in the millions of other tracks out there.

It really was a great experience for me and the success I had at MP3.com was way beyond my wildest dreams.

Change of Direction:

Between 2001 and 2003 I continued to refine the studio, swapping out old synths for new ones and installing a digital mixing environment. Most of this was funded from money I had earned through mp3.com.

Studio 2001

I also started working on music for a new project to be called Dream Quest. The style was less dance oriented and drew inspiration from 'classic' electronic music such as Tangerine Dream, Jarre, Software, and others. Following is an early test track:
 

Excerpt from Dawn Of Time which was never released:
  2001-Dawn-of-Time-short.mp3

 

1st Encounter:

It took about two years to complete the next CD and I was fortunate to have it released on the Invisible Shadows label in December of 2003. More information about the CD can be found at the Releases page.

 
1st Encounter CD Cover

This was a very exciting time for me. The CD received very positive reviews.

Amaranthine:

In March 2004 we lost Michael Garrison, an electronic music pioneer who had a huge influence on just about everyone creating music in this style. A tribute album was put together and I was humbled to have my track Amaranthine included.

Here is a link to SMD's info on the tribute:  http://www.synthmusicdirect.com/skygarr.cfm 

Time for a break:

In the summer of 2005 I took up photography, which left little time for music making. Funny, I finally had the music studio setup that I had dreamed of for so many years, but now it sat mostly unused. In the summer of 2007, after not creating any new music for several years, I decided it was time to dismantle the studio and sell most of the gear. This photo was taken just before the studio went dark.  

Giving it another go:

In 2008 I moved to Michigan and later that year I hooked up the few bits of remaining gear and started to play with music again. I was dreadfully out of practice, and behind in the latest technologies. Something that really interested me was software-based instruments. They are quite easy to use and less expensive than their hardware equivalents. So, I purchased a few that seemed interesting and started working with them on a casual basis. 

Over the next couple of years I would occasionally spend a bit of time with the music gear and produce a finished track. These became the beginnings of a new CD called Random Access Melodies, although I did not realize it at the time.

Excerpt from Time Flows On:
  2009-Time-Flows-On-sample.mp3


Excerpt from Moment of Enlightenment:
  2009-Moment-of-Enlightenment-sample.mp3


Excerpt from In The Machine:
  2009-In-The-Machine-sample.mp3


 

Texas ya'll:

In February of 2010 I moved to Texas to get a new start on life. It took about a year to settle in before I started with music again. After getting the music room assembled and updating all of the music software I started to work on music much more frequently... the fun had returned.

Music Room 2012

Music Room in 2012

 

Just do it:

At this point I had several pretty good tracks recorded and was starting to wonder what to do with them. Should I bother with a new release, should I re-release 1st Encounter? In 2012 I decided to go ahead and give it a try, and became very active with creating new music.

Excerpt from ElectroSynthesis:
  2012-ElectroSynthesis-sample.mp3


Excerpt from SubSequence:
  2013-SubSequence-sample.mp3



 

Its more fun to compute:

There was one thing really holding me back and that was the music computer. It was no match for those new software synths and plug-ins, and it was nearly impossible to get through recording a track without something going wrong.  So, I built out a new music computer with the latest features and added a new audio interface. This made a huge difference over the previous one which was around 5 years old. It took weeks to get everything loaded and working, but was well worth it. 

 

RAM:

In July of 2013 I was very pleased to finally release Random Access Melodies. It was a long time in the making and I am pleased with the results. I'm also in the process of re-releasing a newly rematered version of 1st Encounter. See the the Releases page for more info.

 

Random Access Melodies
 
Random Access Melodies

 

Productivity:

Wow... in the past few years I have been really productive with music and have several new releases since RAM. See the the Releases page for more info.

 

What's Next?:

These past 28 years (has it really been that long?) since that day in 1989, have been challenging, fullfilling, a lot of fun... and sometimes even frustrating. I'm always tinkering in the music room these days and hope to continue to evolve my music and be productive with frequent new releases.

 
A (not so) Brief History

Go to: 

Sayer's Music Index Sayersweb.com Index