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REDLIGHT IN-DEPTH Interview December 2018 / CM263





Structure amazing songs and break out of the loop every time with our tutorials



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Hi-hats, noise, rides and more


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Arranging music in a DAW is a somewhat unintuitive skill that takes years to master. ‘Proper’ bands jam together with feeling, but us computer musicians are forced to drag blocks around on a screen in the hope that a short sketch will extend itself into a fully-fledged song. With such a technical process driving such an emotional art form, it’s no wonder that so many producers crank out 16-bar loops without really finishing anything worthwhile. It takes focus and effort to escape this common trap of ‘loopitis’. But it can be done. Arm yourself with the knowledge, tools and techniques required, and your forced attempts at finishing tracks will evolve into flowing floods of inspiration, to the point where your music will almost write itself. Sound good? Then head to p22 and find out how to Arrange Tracks Like A Pro! Once you’re done, congratulations! Now comes the even harder task of making the whole thing sound cohesive, punchy, dynamic and weighty, just like all those records you like. And guess what? With this mag, you get a worldclass mixing plugin that’s guaranteed to help you achieve that warmth and fatness. So skip to p54, install and authorise IK Multimedia’s mindblowing White 2A on your computer, then treat your latest mix session to its expensive, smooth sound.

“So many producers crank out 16-bar loops without finishing…”


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Joe Rossitter Editor

Issue 263 DECEmber 2018


Cover feature



LIKE A PRO! Essential tips and tactics for structuring your tunes, p22

44 Producer Masterclass ICARUS The Bristol prodigies show us how their hit No Sleep took shape

Interview Features


A guide to your new levelling amplifier plugin

59 A/B referencing plugins Perfect your mixes using today’s comparison tools

64 Spectral SYNTHESIS How to use both your eyes and ears to design sounds

Free samples 104 TOP-LOOP GROOVES A handcrafted pack of free WAV loops designed to inspire your rhythmic endeavours


/experts Your guides to the ever-expanding world of production are here Dave Clews explores minor chord progressions


80 Essentials 10 news 14 freeware news


16 What’s on your hard drive?



94 ADPTR METRIC AB 97 U  A Century Tube Channel Strip

76 s  tudio strategies

70 BACK ISSUES 114 B  last from the past: CASIO SK-1

988slate FG-A

Design bespoke kick drums with pro producer Ed:it

998mastering the mix animate

78 dr beat Ronan Macdonald roughs up beats with digital distortion


The genre-busting DJ/producer discusses his latest album, Active


74 easy guide



4  /  Computer Music  /  December 2018

101 Mini reviews


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LIKE A PRO! Essential arrangement tips and tools explored in our mammoth guide Read the full article on p22

1  Ableton Live arrangement tips

2  Using Logic’s Arrangement Track

3  Cubase’s Arranger Track in action

4  Using Studio One’s Arranger Track

5  Building a dance music intro

6  More arrangement tricks in Logic, Live and Cubase

6  /  Computer Music  /  December 2018


Producer Masterclass


The Griffiths brothers reveal their studio secrets and talk you through the creation of their breakbeat-driven track, No Sleep Note: this video is only available using the link on page 45 Read the full article on p44 December 2018  /  Computer Music  /  7


This issue’s videos are available from FileSilo – see p5 SPECTRAL SYNTHESIS Get a deeper understanding of your sounds – we shed some light on this colourful concept Read the full article on p64


Become an LA-2A expert using this issue’s plugin freebie: IK Multimedia’s opto levelling amplifier Read the full article on p54 1 

Using iZotope RX 7 as a creative sound-design tool


Resynthesising an image file with MetaSynth

/experts Our resident music production Easy Guide: Minor chord progressions gurus walk you through their specialist field every month Read the full article on p74

8  /  Computer Music  /  December 2018

Dr Beat: Distorting drums – part 2 Read the full article on p78

>  news

New releases • comment • industry happenings

Cherry Audio Voltage Modular Get your Eurorack-style fix in software with this colourful new plugin Californian developers Cherry Audio have released Voltage Modular, their new software modular synthesis platform for Mac and PC. Working as a plugin instrument or effect in VST, AU and AAX formats, as well as standalone, this visually rich sound-design environment aims to “address the shortcomings of other virtual modular synth systems”. Obviously styled after the enduringly in-vogue Eurorack hardware modular format, Voltage Modular uses drag-and-drop for cable routing and module arrangement, and animated visuals to indicate signal flow along cables. There’s no limit to the number of modules a patch can contain, and all processing is performed at the level of individual samples using 64-bit double precision maths for “fantastic sounding audio-rate frequency and amplitude modulation, oscillator sync, insane delay feedback, and more”. Voltage Modular ships with a total of 84 modules (69 in the Voltage Core bundle and 15 in the bundled Misfit Audio Electro Drums pack) – which includes oscillators and percussion generators, filters, effects, modulators, MIDI processors, a maths module and CV converters – and the built-in shopfront enables access to many more via in-app purchase. The idea is for other developers to be able to build and sell their own modules using Cherry Audio’s Module Designer app.

If the 84 included modules aren’t enough, more are available to buy right from within Voltage Modular

Currently, the list of third-party contributors comprises just Misfit Audio and PSP Audioware, but with PSP’s contribution including various modules from their awesome N2O multieffects plugin, the store looks to be off to a good start. A sizeable library of fully-realised preset patches is also included, giving newcomers to modular synthesis plenty of starting points.

Voltage Modular certainly looks the part, and we’ll find out whether or not the sound is equally impressive in our forthcoming review. You can buy the base Voltage Modular Core + Electro Drums for $200, with individual modules ranging in price from $10-50, and three PSP bundles available for $120, $175 and $295.

Audiaire Zone

Zone’s onboard sequencer lets you animate almost all of its controls

10  /  Computer Music  /  December 2018

The debut release by new developers Audiaire, Zone is a polyphonic synth (PC/Mac, VST/AU/AAX) with a “one-of-a-kind parameter sequencer” at its heart for step-based modulation of just about all controls. Knobs and sliders are assigned to lanes by drag-anddrop, and there’s no limit to the lanes you can have in a patch. Beyond that, Zone features two main oscillators drawing on 151 waveforms, a wide range of filter and modulator types, 20 effects modules, and over 400 presets. It costs £129, and is out now.

news <

2018 is a landmark year for the Max programming environment

App watch We report on the latest developments in phone and tablet music making

Cycling ’74 Max 8 It’s a big year for the Max audio and video interactive programming environment, as it celebrates not only its own 30th birthday, but also the 20th birthday of its long-term custodians, Cycling ’74. The just-released latest version, Max 8, boasts a number of worthy improvements over v7. These include, amongst other things, the ability to send multiple signals down a single patch cable; the new Mappings system, which makes light work of assigning hardware MIDI controllers to parameters; Integrated Search; the Open

GL-powered Vizzie 2 module collection for building interactive visuals; and Node for Max, connecting Max to the Node.js JavaScript run-time environment. The expected ‘general performance improvements’ have also been implemented, and naturally, given that Cycling ’74 are owned by Ableton, Max 8 will also serve as the basis of the next version of Max for Live. Max 8 can be yours now for $399 on Mac and PC, with the upgrade from eligible earlier versions priced $149.

Audiomodern Riffer

Software that helps you with musical ideas are all the rage, and the latest example is Audiomodern’s Riffer. This ‘creative MIDI sequencer’ automatically generates MIDI patterns for sending to your favourite synth apps or external hardware, and even over WiFi. Choose one of 50 scales and let RIffer know how complex the pattern should be. It’s £6.99, and you can read our review of the Mac/PC version on p101.

Rob Papen MasterMagic There’s something of a trend towards ‘oneknob’ and ultra-minimal mastering plugins emerging at the moment, and the latest example comes from Dutch sound and plugin designer extraordinaire Rob Papen (and renowned coder Jon Ayres). Intended to be placed at the very end of your master bus effects chain, MasterMagic (Mac/PC, VST/AU/AAX), they say, makes “a big difference to any mix”. It certainly keeps things operationally simple, with just two main sections and a handful of controls to negotiate. The Air section enhances high frequencies via its Frequency (30-40kHz – the bandwidth is very wide!) and Amount knobs, while the Mono/Stereo module tightens up the bottom end by mono-ising everything below a specified frequency (20Hz-20.5kHz) or note pitch.

Eventide SP2016

Veteran DSP wizards Eventide have rebirthed yet more of their legendary hardware-based reverb algorithms in software form. This time round, it’s the turn of the SP2016, the first programmable

Apogee Jam+

We’ll be reviewing MasterMagic next issue, but if you just can’t wait to see what we make of it, it’s available to buy now, priced £34.

effects unit, as heard on records by Adele, Talking Heads, Eminem and many others. SP2016 Reverb (Mac/PC, VST/AU/AAX) emulates the original box’s Room, Stereo Room and Hi-Density Plate algorithms, each in two modes: Vintage and Modern, the first totally authentic (“all the way down to the bit-depth”), the second “brighter, more diffuse and [using] a higher bit-depth”. It’s said to accurately capture “every aspect of the sound of a real environment – from the complex early reflections, to the natural way in which the echo density increases with time, to the smooth Gaussian decay of the reverb tail”. It costs $249.

This compact, all-metal USB audio interface gives guitarists and other instrumentalists an easy way of recording into their Mac or iOS device. Audio quality is provided by PureDIGITAL circuitry, and a headphone output has been added – great for owners of newer iPhones, which don’t have one of their own. There’s also a Drive Mode, serving up “rich, warm overdrive” for your signals; and a a Blend button for zero-latency monitoring. It’s $159.

touchAble Pro

Nearly eight years ago, Zerodebug released their touchAble Ableton Live controller app for the iPad. After a couple of revisions, we now have a Pro version, rebuilt with a cleaner interface and more customisation. Highlights include a waveform view for audio clips, a piano roll and the option to edit automation from the app. Templates for Live devices are now included as standard. Intro price: $29.99 December 2018  /  Computer Music  /  11


>  news

Get with the programmers Roli’s VP of Engineering, Research & Technology and FXpansion lead programmer talks Cypher2 The key changes to Cypher2 are obvious, but what’s changed internally? AH “The oscillators have been tweaked rather than drastically remodelled; plus the additional Sine cores, more FM paths, variable depth ring modulation, and a few more subtle things like a taper on the FM depths to make them respond more musically to modulation-depth changes. The sum total is an oscillator that’s a lot stronger on FM-heavy sounds in particular, while still capable of all the classic VCO and hard sync sounds that the original was so great at. The shapers are a straightforward upgrade, but don’t underestimate the power of wavefolding – very interesting tones there. As to the filter, that’s a bigger upgrade. There are entirely new filter models in the MS20-ish Fat, the JPT (similar to Strobe’s), and a hotrodded ‘MGX’ ladder filter. Plus a digital comb filter – combs and FM are a lovely combination. Finally, the FX bus. It’s a dual architecture with three slots each, but what’s unique, I feel, are the polyphonic aux sends.”


Angus Hewlett

It’s quite unusual for a VP in a major software developer to also be the main programmer. How do you do it? AH “At Roli, my team is far bigger than FXpansion’s ever was. However, I find hands-on programming to be both a therapeutic antidote to the more turbulent aspects of start-up life, and a way of sharing some of the same experiences as the team I manage. Clearly, having fewer hours in the day to devote to coding means that a project like Cypher2 takes a bit longer than it otherwise would, but the end result is worth waiting for.” Cypher2 is an incredibly powerful instrument, but intimidating for some. Any tips? AH “Our tutorial videos explain it far better than a few sentences of mine. But also, explore the presets, don’t be afraid to experiment, and see if you can figure out how each preset is constructed. TransMod makes it really easy to do this, by highlighting which sources are modulating a particular parameter whenever you mouse over them – and vice-versa.”

“I find programming to be a therapeutic antidote to start-up life”

With FXpansion now part of Roli, you’re at the vanguard of MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) integration. Do you think it will be a gamechanger for performance and instrument design? AH “It’s a huge leap for performers. And instrument and sound design will both need to evolve to keep up with it. The preset designer’s art is really expanded by MPE, as they now need to create patches that sound good across a whole range of playing styles and gestures, and deal with all the extra expressive control coming in from the controller. They almost have to start thinking like a coder – if you look at the Eagan Matrix on the Haken Continuum, arguably the first MPE instrument, it’s so mathematical, to the point that they’re essentially using equations as patch cables. TransMod doesn’t go quite that far, but plays a similar role using a much more accessible (for most people, at least) visual metaphor. What’s next for FXpansion? AH “I could talk, but then I’d have to beat you to death.” 12  /  Computer Music  /  December 2018

D16 Redoptor 2

The second generation of D16’s valve amplifier emulation plugin has landed. Offering quality analogue-style distortion and EQ in an affordable package, the original scored 7/10 way back in 138, and Redoptor 2 improves on it with generally better algorithms, an expanded EQ, a compressor at the input and an output limiter. It also adds a tag-based preset browser, two switchable GUI sizes and MIDI learn for all parameters. It’s yours for €59, and owners of v1 should have received an upgrade offer by email.

TC Electronic DVR250-DT

Following up their innovative TC2290-DT plugin/controller combo (7/10, 260), TC Electronics’ new EMT 250 plate reverb emulation effect for Mac and PC (VST/ AU/AAX) also comes with its own dedicated hardware controller. The reverb in question – a hefty electromechanical device from the 70s – is one of the most revered audio effects ever devised, and if anyone can be trusted to do it digital justice, it’s TC. Having bespoke hands-on control over it can only be a good thing, too. DVR250-DT is out now, priced $349.

Drumforge DF-Comp

Claiming to be “the ultimate drum compressor”, DF-Comp “models the best attributes of many highly-coveted drum compressors” and packs them all down into a very straightforward plugin for Mac and PC. Simply select a Mode (Kick, Snare, Overheads, etc) and Vibe (Soft, Medium or Hard), then crank the Comp knob to dial in compression and adjust the Mix for parallel processing. Model selection, envelope settings, etc, are all handled under the hood, making this about as intuitive as it gets. We’ll be reviewing DF-Comp soon, but it can be had for $99 right now.

Klevgrand Degrader

We’re suckers for a good digital distortion plugin, and the latest from Swedish outfit Klevgrand looks to fit that particular bill nicely. Degrader offers sample-rate reduction from 96kHz down to 250Hz with adjustable jitter, bitdepths between 24- and 3-bit, pre and post low-pass filtering, and both saturation depth and dry/wet mix controls. The central display, meanwhile, visualises your bit depth and saturation. Degrader is available to buy now, priced $40 for Mac and PC (VST/AU/AAX), and £13 for iPad (AUv3).

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