Disquiet Junto: Sine of the times

Disquiet Junto Project 0062: Life of Sine

This week's project involves making music from the basic building block of sound: the sine wave. 

You will compose and record a piece of music using just three different sine waves, and nothing else — well, nothing else in terms of source material, but the waves can, after the piece has gotten underway, be transformed by any means you choose. 

These are the steps:

Step 1: Devise which three sine waves you will employ. They should be different from each other in some evident way.

Step 2: The track should open with just one of the sine waves. 

Step 3: Add the second sine wave at 5 seconds. 

Step 4: Add the third sine wave at 10 seconds.

Step 4: Only at 15 seconds should you begin to in any way manipulate any of the source waves.

Deadline: Monday, March 11, 2013, at 11:59pm wherever you are.

Length: Your finished work should be between 1 and 4 minutes in length.

Information: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, include a description of your process in planning, composing, and recording it. This description is an essential element of the communicative process inherent in the Disquiet Junto.

Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com, please include the term “disquiet0062-lifeofsine” in the title of your track, and as a tag for your track.

Download: Consider setting your track in a manner that allows for attributed, commerce-free remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).

Linking: When posting the track, be sure to include this information:

More on this 60th Disquiet Junto project at:

More details on the Disquiet Junto at:

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One observation about the Junto this week, going into it I had no preconceptions about the process but it was soon decided when I started googling to find which audio application I own would produce sines. The results for Ableton Live included a tutorial on using gated sines, which was how I went about covering Prince's 'Sign o the times' since I was short of ideas beyond wordplay. I had to use Soundtrack Pro to make the sines though.

I hadn't used a sine in a production since Postal about a decade ago, despite hearing great applications for adding low frequencies under samples. They're very effective. This was an interesting exercise because I came to conclude that sines only sound great in some keys, particularly F, C and G. Dunno why but these were the tones that made me feel best, maybe it's something to do with the relationships between notes? (Now I think about it, maybe it's the room I'm in?)

The three sines I chose to work with were 43 Hz, 71 Hz and 77 Hz, which weren't such a good idea as these low notes (C0, D# and F) would largely be filtered out before the end of mastering. (Could 43Hz really be reproduced in a room?)

The low note was chosen to serve as a kick drum-essque thump and because it would be easy to put up one and two octaves for the bassline melody, which might work better up an octave

Through trial and error I pitched four other notes, from A3 to D4 with A# and B (233 Hz -- 277 Hz). These form the outline of the vocal melody, which I phase reversed to avoid the muddiness of the mix. Once again I'm thinking I should've tried a higher pitch because these frequencies aren't easily reproduced on some audio systems, like my laptop.

Distortion was added liberally to create higher harmonics on the sines to give them character and to cut-through the mix. The gating was achieved with a MIDI file, I deleted the notes other than the frequency being triggered. I tried vocoding the kick and snare but don't think I did it right, they benefit from reverb and compression though.