ULTIMATE PRODUCTION TIPS A
State of the art techniques for today’s cutting edge sounds
effects synth programming mixing mastering and more…
PAGES OF PRO PRODUCER TIPS!
PRINTED IN THE UK
Create today’s music styles and sounds Over 20 huge tutorials inside. Complete with video and audio examples to download!
Contents | Inside
contents ULTIMATE PRODUCTION TIPS
IN-DEPTH: Mini Synth Marvels Inject the latest affordable hardware into your mix for a shot of inspiration
39 39 LFO Routing The key to moving, dynamic synth sounds are LFOs. Here we master the art
SOUNDS 06 State of the Art Synthesis Gain a greater understanding of today’s pro level programming 14 All About Sound Design Enhance your more conventional productions to help you stand out from the crowd 19 Kicks & Snares How to give tracks more fat, whack and crack! 24 Extreme Vocals How to make vocal sounds that stand out 34 Making Synth Drums You too can produce electronic drum sounds that come with real kick 4
44 The Pro Guide to Monitor Placement Knowing the science behind sound reflections is vital to help you work faster, smarter and better
IN-DEPTH: Ultimate Production Tips Get ready for 40 specially selected quick tips from the pages of Future Music’s interviews
52 Mini Synth Marvels Find out what all the analogue fuss is about with our guide to ten of the best new mini synths 62 Integrating Hardware with Your DAW We show you the slickest techniques to merge hardware with your in-the-box set up 67 Analogue and Digital Explained Get an understanding of how sound, as air vibrations, becomes ones and noughts inside a machine…
Inside | Contents
128 120 94 133
72 The Science Behind Gain Staging Correct the problems at every stage of your software or hardware signal chain
IN-DEPTH: Kicks & Snares Make the key elements to your rhythm tracks jump out with maximum impact. We show you how on page 19
72 110 102
ProDUCER TIPS 80 Ultimate Production Tips We tap up 40 of the world’s greatest for their best production secrets
Grab audio and video examples for the features inside!
Head to vault.futuremusic.co.uk Sign up for free and register this issue as Future Music Issue 27 to gain access to the downloads!
94 Advanced Reverb and Delay Think you know it all? Think again as we discover the secrets of these studio staples 102 Professional Distortion Get real, edgy, biting grit into your mix with a little touch of distortion 110 Get Wider Make your tracks ‘go large’. It’s time to go next-generation stereo…
115 Advanced Sidechaining Techniques How producers are pulling out all the stops to take this familiar effect to the next level
MIXING & MASTERING 120 Mix Polish Balancing levels is only the first step to a successful mix.
Achieving true air and sheen in your mixes is the next step to truly pro level results. We show you how… 128 Visual Mix Tools & Techniques Today’s visual mixing tools provide scientific insight into sound. Learn how to trust your ears and use your eyes… 133 Multiband Mixing Make your own custom
routing set-ups using commonplace plug-ins and techniques 138 Low Frequency Mixing Here we take a look at a few ways you can get low and go deeper 142 The Ultimate Guide To Mastering Get bigger, brighter and better. Discover the myths and methods behind the pro’s sound 5
Technique | All About Sound Design
SOUND DESIGN ALL ABOUT
Sound design might call to mind evolving soundscapes and otherworldly drones but it can enhance your more conventional productions and help you stand out from the crowd. Allow us to guide us through some sonic adventures…
egular readers of this magazine will know how much we like to encourage you to explore sound way beyond the presets of any particular synth, instrument or effect plug-in. Why should your own sonic experiments stop at the limit of someone else’s imagination? As long as you’re simply firing up someone else’s preset sonic creations, we’re firm believers that you won’t expand your musical horizons.
One solution is to understand the principles of synthesis better, so that you know what to expect when certain combinations of oscillators, filters, envelopes and LFOs are used. However, there are plenty of ways to be creative with sound beyond synthesis and, through this tutorial, we’ll be looking at another, that of creative sound design. ‘Sound design’ takes many forms and there are dedicated electronic instruments
which encourage a sonically experimental approach to music making. Native Instruments’ Reaktor is one example – it uses a modular approach to build ‘noise generators’ and ‘manipulators’ of all kinds. Other types of instrument with sound design at their sonic heart are becoming popular, such as Spectrasonics’ Omnisphere, which is built entirely from recorded samples. Some are of vintage synths but others are of burning pianos,
All About Sound Design | Technique
Looping and Reversing
You can easily enhance beat patterns with ‘processed’ versions of your chosen samples We’ve all programmed beat loops which are more functional than interesting. The temptation with ‘so-so’ sounding loops is to throw the kitchen sink at them, but sometimes all a promising but uninspiring beat pattern needs is enhancement with variations of the sounds already present. It’s amazing how reversed and looped versions of samples, assigned to their own keys and either used once for effect or more regularly, can dramatically improve a programmed pattern. Short looped versions of sounds become pitched and, using basic maths, you can work out that half the length of a pitched sound will produce one an octave higher, whereas double the length will make one an octave lower. With a bit of trial and error, you’ll soon be creating crunchy tones which sit in tune with your track. INCLUDES AUDIO l 1 Basic Beats: Basic pattern programmed for kick, snare and hi-hat samples. 2 Reversed Kick and Snare: Reversed hits bring a little less predictability. 3 Loopy Snares: ‘Buzz’ and ‘pitched’ snare copies are added, via sample looping techniques.
Audio Examples explained 1 Spaceship Toy This recording of a child’s spaceship toy provides many challenges. Firstly, the speaker produces a thin sound lacking any bass extension, while all of the sounds produced are gritty and feature a high noise floor. 2 Sonar Beeps We start by creating a musical part from one of the sonar beeps. We sample one of these then set start and end points – starting from just before the sonar beep and ending just before the following one. Then we loop the sustained, ‘noisy’ part of the sound and tune the sample to the ‘right’ key note. As the sonar is a D, we place the key-note on D3.
We start by sourcing kick, snare, plus open and closed hi-hat samples to form a new kit. We transfer the individual audio files for these samples into our sampler and assign them to notes C1, C2, C3 and D3 respectively. We then create a basic pattern for this sample set.
3 Sustained Tone The following step produces a nicely sustained tone but the noise is a little overwhelming, particularly when chords are played and it’s reinforced with every new note played. So, we use the amplifier envelope to cut Sustain to 0, before setting Decay and Release times which produce a punchier, more percussive sound. This works nicely for our recorded sequence part, particularly with added auxiliary Echo. 4 Drum Sounds We return to the original toy recording and select three sections from the original ‘take off’ sound. These are chosen at random, as we want to build different drum sounds, but each will be based on a white noise-based start. We sample each and then use heavy detune and amplifier envelope shaping to turn each into a snare, kick and hi-hat. 5 Beat Loop Now that we’ve got our kit assets, we can record an appropriate beat loop for them. Effects enhancement is used too, with the kick heavily compressed, the snare saturated via Sound Toys’ Decapitator and the hi-hats given a little extra sizzle with auxiliary delay and reverb.
We add a reversed kick and snare by duplicating the kick and snare hits and assigning them to D1 and D2 respectively. We reverse the samples by checking the boxes in our sample editor. Finally, we adjust the waveforms of the reversed samples to select appropriate lengths for them.
6 Bass Sound The final step is to create a bass sound. We select another short bit of white noise, then loop a really short section within this to create a buzzy sound. We assign this to a high key note so that when low notes are played, they sound bass-y. We use a little crossfading to produce a less obviously looped sound, then assign LFO2 to the cutoff frequency for wobbles.
We create looped copies of the snare drum. The first starts 2,000 samples in, ending at 3,750 samples. Then we create four more copies with loops of 400, 300, 200 and 100 samples each, which create pitches. All are assigned to their own keys and added to the beats.
Kicks & Snares | Technique
Get the sound of your kick and snare drum right and everything else should fall into place. Here’s how to give your tracks more fat, whack and crack!
ick any modern musical style and the chances are the most important bit, the backbone of the whole track, is the groove. And at the core of the groove is the kick drum and backbeat – the snare drum and/or clap. Anchoring it is a bassline and motoring it is a busier mid or high-frequency clatter – hi-hats and percussion. But you can’t just add any old kick or snare drum and expect it to work: it’s a basic, root level, primal affair. The drum track has to resonate at a visceral level, provoking a physical response way
beyond any conscious cerebral understanding. It’s something you have to feel, not think. You can get an understanding of why your favourite tracks work the way they do from listening, but the understanding comes from a detached observation of the effect it’s having on you and others around you, which you can then use to build your own drum tracks to trigger similar responses. It’s true to say that styles and trends play a part when you’re choosing your kick and snare sound – for example the typical House 909 kicks and snares, or the
LinnDrum’s influence on ’80s Pop – and drum sounds certainly fall in and out of fashion or find themselves aligned to a specific musical style, but your emotional response – the deep-rooted familiarity and comfort you feel – arguably still stems from the sound’s subconscious imprint, in much the same way that covers can trigger similar emotions to the original.
Hit rate But what exactly are the elements that trigger these responses? First of all there’s the energy and attitude of the beat.
Get Bass and Kick Working Together The bass and kick both take up a lot of space and they both want to steal the show so it’s not surprising that one of the hardest tasks is getting them to sit together – you want them to have their own frequency field but still be connected. There are two basic approaches: a higher harder bassline and deep kick, or a harder kick without much low frequency decay and a deep fat bass. The latter is probably more common but this is a decision to make when you’re recording. You can manipulate the sounds during a mix but you don’t really want to be changing the foundations at that stage. For a harder kick, bring out the 100-120Hz band, leaving the 70-100Hz bands for the big fat bass. You can also avoid losing the focus of the beat by lazing the timing of the deep bass. And there’s always the oft-quoted but rarely used technique of compressing the bass sidechained from the kick so when the kick hits, the bassline momentarily ducks. Compression on the bassline is useful for letting decay fill the space behind the kick and giving your track a strong bass frequency foundation. Cutting some of the higher low-frequency band also helps to open out the low-end – a narrow cut around 250Hz always helps to make it less cloudy. And if you’re still having trouble making the two sit together, you can always go for an off-beat disco bassline and the two elements can sit in a similar band without getting in the way.
Regardless of how far you’ve turned the volume control (although it’s always more impressive at a high level), how hard it’s hit and with what attitude is an important factor. The impression of energy and punch is manipulated with the use of compression and that, combined with micro timing shifts, affects the perceived attitude. Bring the kick or backbeat forward marginally and you increase the urgency. Do the opposite for a lazy feel. Still on timing, the subtle relationship of kick and snare along with hi-hat and percussion within the bar provoke wildly
different responses. Beyond the scope of this piece, shuffle and swing can change a beat from driving to skipping with small shifts of the 1/8th or 1/16th note positions relative to the on-beat.
Watch this space The space the drums are in and the way they’re processed also affects the impression of energy. We’re talking reverbs in a programming context – subtle subliminal room reverbs that aid the punch of the main signal, not big washy reverbs. And then of course there’s tone and pitch.
INCLUDES AUDIO l 1 Preset reverb on kick and snare. 2 Sidechaincompressed reverb with slow release. 3 With a sidechained gate added. 4 With a brighter EQ added. 5 The gate release is automated to open slowly for dynamic build.
The weight of the kick is crucial to the track’s core power, and the specific low frequency band of the kick has a big impact on body resonance. We talk about chesty kicks, belly kicks and sexy kicks and that’s to do with how they make that part of the body feel. Ringing dynamic changes through the song adds build, for example layering the snare with two or more sounds in the chorus is going to make it relatively bigger. Once you’ve picked the sounds and programmed the beat, the next step is to process them to press the right buttons.
Technique | Extreme Vocals
VOCALS Regardless of the style of music you are creating, vocal edits can breathe new life into your projects and give you that extra edge you’ve been looking for. Get ready for Future Music’s essential guide to twisting your vocals beyond recognition...
hether you are a remixing another artist or producing original material introducing vocal elements into your projects can take them from something pretty ordinary to a stand out track. If you think about your favourite electronic tracks it’s likely that more than a few of them contain some sort of vocal. Getting a great vocal, placing it in your track and treating it with some solid
processing is certainly one way to go here but this is a subject that’s been pretty well rinsed over the years. It’s time to think about how we can step things up a notch and really mangle those vocal phrases and create something completely new. When it comes to twisting our vocals there are a huge number of different methods we can use. So let’s narrow it down to a selection of choice techniques. That’s what this feature is all about.
We’ll be looking at everything from manual editing and tweaks to super heavy processing. We’ll look at time/pitch-based effects and synthesis and break each of these areas down into bite-sized chunks.
The manual mangler One simple and free way of working on your vocals is to get 100% hands on and manually slice and dice your vocal takes. It can take time but a basic understanding of
Extreme Vocals | Technique
Start Here: Preparing Your Vocal Tracks
et’s start at the beginning. Here we’ll take a brief step by step look at how to set up your DAW to prepare for a manual vocal editing session. Once you’ve got your vocal perfectly recorded in your DAW, manually slicing your vocal samples can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be. If you plan
to chop your vocals into a lot of different sections you’ll need to stay very organised. Some DAWs make it easier than others but regularly re-naming (rather than letting your DAW pick default names for trimmed chunks and experiments) will ensure that you can go back to where you were if one particular move ruins your tune.
The first thing to do here is cut up your vocal phrase. The best approach is to identify key sections of your audio by homing in on clear dynamic events. You can do this almost completely by eye but you may want to play back the audio sporadically to check you are getting things right. Breaking a vocal apart line by line is a great way to start. Name your samples as the lyrics that are sung.
New slice, new track The best way to do this is to use a fresh track for every similar slice of audio. Not only will this give you great visual feedback as to what is going on in your pattern but you will also have the freedom to mix and process each stream as you see fit. Quickly dragging a sample outside of a loop of playback as it plays will let you audition chops as the track plays or use your DAW’s mute and solo parts to keep on top of which clip is which.
Totally automatic INCLUDES AUDIO l We’ve audio for every occasion here. See page 29 for full details of the wealth of demos we’ve cooked up.
With your audio sliced and diced, it’s time to make some new tracks. Go head and created 4 or 5 fresh audio tracks and start to populate them with your new edits. You can either copy the cut up sections or completely remove them from your original audio. Rather than automating complex effects it’s often simpler to add an echo or stutter effect simply by manipulating copies of the original on a spare audio track. You can then folder tracks up (in Logic) to clean your edit work up out of sight.
Automation can also be a key part of creating the perfect remixed vocal phrase. Automating level, pan and even plug-in parameters on each of these tracks will also breathe life into the whole arrangement. Check out the three steps below and help yourself to the audio examples (see page 28 for details) to get a flavour of what’s possible with a little attention to detail and the nerve to get busy with your DAW’s power.
Now you are ready to really get busy. Take the phrases and words you’ve carefully labelled and bumped to extra tracks and try repeating, reversing and re-ordering your edits. Each track can then be processed with EQ, reverb and delay to increase the contrast between the different slices. Put the time in and it’s possible to build impossible sounds that sound like expensive and complex effects simply through making multiple copies of your audio and panning and treating each differently. Be sure to check the audio examples included with this issue (full details on page 29) for plenty of inspiration.
Feature | Mini Synth Special
the real deal:
MINI SYNTH MARVELS Armed with only a mouse and some software it is easy to forget about the pleasures of using a ‘real’ physical synth. We are in the midst of a golden age of analogue-flavoured hardware – so what’s all the fuss about? Find out with our guide to ten of the best…
Mini Synth Special | Feature
hings rarely turn out the way you think they will. In the ’60s the transistor was king, and laid the foundations for a miniaturised age of perfect sound. In the late ’70s integrated circuits allowed affordable polyphonic analogue synthesizers to be brought to market. In the ’80s DCOs (Digitally Controlled Oscillators) replaced the tuningchallenged VCO (Voltage Controlled Oscillator), though some felt that some ‘fatness’ and ‘warmth’ of sound was lost along the way. However, it wasn’t long before digital technology was embraced for the entire sound generation process – except at the time some of these synths sold in huge quantities and were hailed for their ability to go into sonic territory as yet unexplored. This was repeated as computer-based systems allowed software plug-ins to emulate many of the hardware processes that had come before, and for a fraction of the cost. Although these plug-ins were simple to begin with, they have gone on to cover new types of digital-only synthesis, whilst at the same time attempting the recreation of highly sought-after, and expensive, hardware from the past. In many respects software plug-ins can escape the limitation of the past, as they are really only limited by the size of the screen – though this hasn’t made many of their designs any less complex. It is
fair to say though that we have never had it so good in terms of the sheer range of options when it comes to software synthesis, and the quality of some of these is incredibly high. So why the recent resurgence in hardware synthesis? It is perhaps most pronounced in the field of analogue monosynths, with Novation resurrecting their Bass Station (albeit with a more advanced feature set), Korg digging-up some even older technology (and recreating their Korg MS-20 in miniature) or giving it a 21st Century twist (the Volca range) and synth-legend Dave Smith distilling his knowledge into a small footprint desktop module (DSI Mopho). Now old-school Moog have been joined by software supremos Arturia, who are already onto their second analogue synth (MicroBrute). It’s tricky to find one thing in common here, but ultimately if these synths didn’t sound any good then their time in the limelight would be short-lived, so this has to be a major factor. There is also a sense that hardware adopts a character more readily than software. Some of the synths here also have a couple of other things that connect them – simplicity and tweakability. All but one (the Teenage Engineering) rely heavily on well-established analogue subtractive synthesis making them both familiar and accessible. The final factor is fashion. I’m sure many others were wowed by the sheer loveliness of OP-1’s looks. What a fickle bunch we are!
Feature | Mini Synth Special
MINI SYNTHS IN DEPTH
THE LEGEND AN
ALOGUE SOLU TIONS TELEMARK v2 Recaptures the early ’70s pure sound of analogue technology
MOST VERSATILE ANAL
Here’s our selection of ten of the best bargain-priced synths. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, but one will be perfect for you…
OGUE SOLUTI ONS TELEMARK v2 The incredible options make thpatching is capable of all ki a synth nds sonic duties of
Dave Smith Instruments Tetra| £580
DAVE SM INSTRUMENTSITH MOPHO The four sounds mean that the at once Tetra fill up a track can
The Tetra can be viewed from two different perspectives – either a cut-down four voice Prophet in small footprint, or a more soberly coloured polyphonic version of the Mopho. However, neither of these is 100% true. The Tetra (like the Prophet 08) lacks the sub-oscillator section of its monophonic sibling, which may make it less impactful in certain situations. This is countered somewhat by the Tetra’s four-part multitimbral/layering skills (and with separate audio outs for each). As with the Mopho the interface is trimmed-down in comparison to the knob-laden Prophets, making programming sounds laborious from the front panel. USB and MIDI connectivity is embraced along with the ability to chain multiple units together for increased polyphony, though once again no CV interfacing.
Verdict Whilst one can argue over the sonics of the modern DSI synths in comparison with certain vintage models, the Tetra still has the ability to be warm and alluring, and capable of a wide range of tones. If you need analogue poly then this is the modern-day synth you need.
Mini Synth Special | Feature
Analogue Solutions Telemark v2 | £899 The Telemark is one of the few synths here that makes little concession to the digital age (apart from basic MIDI control). This is a 100% analogue one-knob-per-function two-oscillator synth, so it really is a case of what you see is what you get, though this doesn’t really do justice to the sound of this UK-made cream-coloured wedge. The Telemark has its origins in Oberheim’s classic SEM (Synth Expander Module), though functionality has been expanded with more switchable modulation options and the fantastically patchable right-hand panel. It is in this area that the Telemark goes far beyond any of the other synths featured here and provides access to pretty much every audio or CV input and output possible.
Verdict Very much a bespoke piece of kit with its own personality and sound. You will want to buy lots of patch cables to get the most out of this synthesizer, but you’ll have lots of fun in the process. Although not cheap, this is a lovely-sounding synthesizer.
EASIEST TO USE
ARTURIA MICR OBRUTE One-knob-per fu nc no patch mem tion, ories and clear labelli ng – perfect
Korg Volca Bass, Beats & Keys | £120 each
KORG VOLCAS How do Korg do price? If you’re it for the bu you might as w ying one ell buy all three
There are three units here, but we couldn’t resist talking about them as if they were a single system, especially as together they cost less than most of the individual synths here. All three distill some aspect of Korg’s analogue heritage into their tiny bodies, but cleverly combine analogue circuitry with interesting digital control elements – most noticeable in their ‘Motion Sequencing’ capabilities allowing you to record knob movements into a sequenced pattern. This reaches its apotheosis in Volca Keys, which allows you to capture all manner of parameter craziness, making it both unusual and a lot of fun. Even the Volca Beats manages to get in on the game by giving you the option to record live tweaks to both analogue and PCM-based elements. The Volca Bass nods in design terms to the Roland 303, but sonically it sits in rather different territory. Like the Keys it uses a 12dB/octave low-pass filter design from Korg’s vaults – placing them in a different sonic territory to most other synths here. An interesting aspect of all the recent low-cost analogue gear that Korg have been putting out is the potential for user modification – Korg actively encourage users to do this.
Verdict There are limitations to all the Volcas, but they are incredibly good value, and deliver great sonics, interactive pattern sequencing, interesting functionality, and oodles of fun.
Arturia MicroBrute | £259 Arturia’s MicroBrute has followed quite swiftly on the heels of the larger and well-regarded MiniBrute. Although more diminutive in size, the ‘Micro’ maintains much of the ‘Mini’s’ sound-generating possibilities – and with a few extras up its sleeve. Despite losing a Noise source, one Envelope Generator, the arpeggiator and some more detailed modulation options, it gains a fantastic transposable step-sequencer and a mini-patchbay that really makes for some great external hook-up possibilities. Both Brutes are quite individual sounding – in part due to their somewhat unusual choice of filter – but this is to be applauded in this era of sound-alike wannabes.
Verdict Although not capable of achieving some of the broader sonic possibilities of synths featured here with independently detunable multi-oscillator designs, the Micro – by virtue of its own distinctive sounds – is one of our favourites.
KORG VOLCA KEYS Lots of knobs + sequencing = bemotion autiful craziness
KORG VOLCAS Instant gratifica surprisingly flexition and bl the novelty wea e once rs off
Feature | Ultimate Production Tips
ULTIMATE PRODUCTION TIPS State of the art techniques for today’s cutting edge sounds
Get ready for 40 magical tricks from top producers. Let’s go make music!
Chopping Up Audio with Full Intention “Gone are the days when we’d have to manually cut up audio parts by hand to get those cool DJ type effects. Sugar Bytes’ Effectrix can do all of this with ease using a simple step time based grid. “Insert the plug-in across a spare group on your sequencer and try routing all the drums, music parts or whatever else you like. We find it works best if used sparingly so maybe try the effect over the last bar of 16. ‘X-Loop’ gives you some awesome frozen delay type effects – you can even make the pitch go up or down while ‘Vinyl’ is great for deck stops and scratching effects. ‘Crush’ and ‘Reverse’ work well too. Once you found the effects you like try placing a different one for each beat on the grid. You can turn a basic drum loop into something else, seriously!”
The Thriller Brass Sound with Aeroplane
“This is the trick Bruce Swedien used on the song Thriller for the horns in the intro. They’re a mix of real horns and a Roland Jupiter-8 brass sound, but used in particular way. By the way, you don't need a Jupiter-8 to do it, it works with any synth that can layer two patches and that has separate outputs for each layer. For example, a DX7 IID has an A and B output. “So here is the trick: instead of trying to layer different sounds, like a plucked sound with a long pad or something like that, just create a simple brass patch, and save it. Then, as the second layer, use the same preset you just programmed. Route one layer to the A output and the other layer to the B output. On a mixer, pan the A output left and the B output right. This will already sound really wide. Tweak and detune one of the two presets slightly and you'll see what happens. You'll get "the biggest pad you've ever made" according to Joakim, who tried it and loved it! “But he’s also got a Jupiter-8 so maybe the trick is just to buy one of those…”
Creating Your Own Sounds in Ableton Live with Sydney Blu
“Ableton Live is wonderful for creating loops, original sounds and sampling. I try to make my own loops with the built-in drum kits on Ableton by selecting as many sounds as possible from my banks, throwing them into the drums kits and randomly clicking on all the sounds until a really cool loop is created. I also like to create my own sounds and sound effects with Ableton’s built-in ‘Operator’ synth. This also helps to fill up the track through transitions and the groove of the tune. It makes the song sound much more full and it keeps it from ripping off other records, which seems to be a common thing in Dance music these days. Making your own loops and creating your own sounds can definitely make a difference in the originality of your song.”
Ultimate Production Tips | Feature
Uplifting Delay with Abel Ramos
“I love big breakdowns and big effects when bringing the track back to the groove. This is the effect I use to bring some emotion to a track, to create the moment when the crowd go wild – this trick works every time. “Place a delay on a loop or rhythm track. The only parameters that you need to automate are the delay time and the feedback. Delete a bar in the kick drum track to make room where you want the effect to go so that it’ll be stronger and be the main element. “Now just adjust the volume of the track when raising the feedback. The audio will rise a great deal which can cause saturation. Now just automate the volume of the loop back down again.”
Three Killer Ways to Use Reverb with Marc JB of Bimbo Jones
“First try ‘The reverse vocal haunt’. This involves a haunting reverb slowly rising out of the mix and then melding into the first syllables of a vocal line. Put the first two seconds of your vocal onto a new track and reverse the audio. Insert a reverb with a very long decay time – 10-20secs – with 100% reverb mix on your reverse vocal. Mix that down making sure you capture all the decay. Reverse the audio of the reverb mixdown then push that audio back so it overlaps the front of your original vocal. Now just play the reverse reverb and original vocal.” “Next there’s ‘The room bass drop’. This is an amazing way to twist your bassline, it works particularly well with nasty electronic basses as a one-bar or half-bar drop at the end of eight or 16 bars. If your bass is MIDI, you will need to make an audio mixdown of it. Take a half or single bar chunk of bass from the end of an eight- or 16-bar pattern and drop it onto a new track. Now insert a room reverb on the new bass track, set the predelay at zero and the reverb time about 0.3secs. Now the bass should sound twisted and in your face. Drop the drums out at the point of the bass drop or even better, mix down the drums and give them a high-pass filter at 350Hz and a bitcrusher. Now you should have an insane bass drop that sounds like your speaker cones are about to blow. “Finally there’s ‘The percussion/ bass/synth reverse reverb riser’. This
Quick Velocity and Length Fix with Nicky Romero “So you play in your chords but the velocity is different for each note and the length doesn’t match, right? There is a very easy way to fix this problem. “Open the Piano Roll in Logic and select all notes. Then push E on your keyboard. You’ll see the whole list of keys you just recorded. Hit Alt+Shift and move one of the values up or down – the whole list changes to the same velocity and length. This trick saves a lot of time and speeds up your workflow.”
is a reverb effect that has become a classic production technique in modern House music. “Mix down a good 16 or 32 bars of your sound onto a new audio track. Now insert a wide hall reverb with a 100% mix and six seconds of reverb time. Mix this down onto a separate
track but leave a bit of space after for the reverb to die away. Now put a fade-in going right up to the end. Play this with your original pattern. To make it stand out even more, automate the reverb decay time from 0.3 seconds at the start to around 10 seconds at the end.”
Master the Basics with Steve Angello
“I use Logic’s own plug-ins. I want to make it as simple as possible. I want a basic sound that I can create myself. If you know your tools then you’re king of the studio.”
Bass Saturation with Joker
“Group saturation is a nice trick for saturating or distorting a lead sound in context with the bassline. Duplicate your bassline an octave up and mute the original. Send your duplicated bassline and the lead to an auxiliary track and add a Saturation plug-in. Drive the input until it’s audibly distorting and add an EQ plug post saturation. “The finishing touch is to cut everything below 500Hz to remove the low and low-mid. Unmute the original bassline and adjust the auxiliary track, turning it up until the distortion compliments the bass.”
Creating Slack with Richie Hawtin
“Everything shouldn’t be all digitally clear and tight. There should be some slack, so we always do some analogue tube compression at the front of house. It’s a real ‘wake people up’ slap in the face for anyone listening.”it, to make sure you are monitoring the input signal and NOT the Post Fader/Post Panner Mixer signal. Don’t stress about the volumes being low, just worry about being in the green.”
Kicks, Mixdowns and Inspiration with Jody Wisternoff The perfect kick
“Some people spend hours trying to design the perfect kick drum from scratch, or tweaking endlessly in an effort to make it sit properly. I prefer to quickly audition from my huge library while the track is playing. As soon as you come across the right kick for the job, it will be obvious.”
“I often find that sitting in the studio surrounded by equipment can be a little overwhelming. There are just too many options. What really works is to go somewhere completely different with just the laptop and a controller keyboard, and with these limitations, it can be a lot easier to get something going.”
Reference tracks “When working on the mixdown, I find it’s very easy to loose perspective and the way I combat this problem is to have two or three reference tracks that I know to be amazingly well mixed and of a similar style. While working on my mix, I will switch to one of these sonically perfect tunes, and what is lacking from the mix will be pretty clear.”
Multiple platforms “There’s definitely something to be said for working in multiple platforms. Many people write in Ableton and then mix in Logic or Pro Tools, myself included, and I believe the reason this is such a well-trodden path is because they are all pretty unique processes.”
Feature | Professional Distortion
Get real, edgy, biting grit into your mix with a little touch of deliberate distortion. We show you how to get creative, while avoiding overload…
Professional Distortion N ot so long ago the words ‘distortion’ and ‘electric guitar’ were inseparable. Now, while it’s true that guitarists still rely on a range of distortion treatments to form many popular sounds, the rest of us have caught on too. Put simply, you don’t have to be an axe-wielder to place distortion centrally in your production process. There are obvious uses of distortion and more creative, unusual ones. Both approaches have a role to play within your mixes. Whether
you’re looking to bring extra punch and power to drum parts, add grit and grime to ‘polite’ synth lines, or even go one stage further to think about how distortion effects might be used to add layers of sound design to your tracks, this article is for you. The truth is, distortion taps into that very human instinct to turn things up – when a track is rocking and you want even more of it, when there’s no headroom left on the fader yet still you want more… It represents the hinterland where ‘loud’ becomes ‘interstellar’ as volume reaches for the stars. No wonder we love it.
Professional Distortion | Feature
Unwanted vs Wanted Distortion Like many studio processes, working with distortion represents something of a paradox. On the one hand, it’s desirable to keep unwanted distortion out of signal chains at the recording stage, even if the part being recorded is destined to be distorted artificially at the mix stage. There are parallels here with reverberation: studios are treated with floating floors, bass traps and absorption panels to avoid natural reflections, even if very few sounds make it through the mix stage without artificial reverb being added. Distortion is a little different, however, as there are two kinds.
There are unwanted, sonically unpleasant distortions which are beneficially eradicated from any stage of the production process. But then there are the warm, biting, gritty, enriching, musically pleasing distortion treatments which, these days, are available to producers in many forms and flavours. Through this article, we’ll be focusing on the latter kind, looking at creative ways to bring controlled distortion treatments to your productions. We’ll also touch on the need to control gain staging in your mixes, building headroom into tracks in
particular, to ensure that the bloated, overblown sounds of a mix dying under its own weight are avoided. Just as reverb can be used on most sounds within a mix, albeit with varied spatial simulations, amounts and tail-lengths, so it’s hard to think of a sound which won’t benefit from a distortion treatment. However, we won’t pretend that smothering every sound within a mix with thick slabs of overdrive will improve your mixes. Distortion is most often a processor to be used alongside undistorted sounds. If every sound in your mix is distorted, the impression given to the listener is that you don’t know how to avoid distortion. If you choose which sounds to distort carefully and mix them alongside cleaner sounds, you’ll show that you’re a mix master. Distortion is currently enjoying a huge renaissance. Quite aside from the pleasing sound well-constructed distortion treatments produce, there
may be a little history in play too. For a long time, a degree of distortion at the recording stage was unavoidable. Whether due to tube-based preamps, tape hiss or vinyl crunch, it was impossible to cut a record without some real noise making it through to the stereo master too. Digital recording and DAW-based plug-ins changed all that, as we suddenly had a range of sonic tools which had never ‘existed’ in acoustic space at all, using instead the pristine quality of binary code turned into sound. Those working in the ’60s and ’70s would have killed to have been in the position we’re in now, as they could barely have dreamed of a time when cutting a record without unwanted noise might have been possible. But, as ever, it pays to be careful what you wish for. It seems we missed that noise, which is perhaps why it’s back in every imaginable genre of EDM, Pop and Rock music alike. And it’s very welcome.
Technique | Visual Mix Tools
usic listening is, by its very nature, a highly subjective business. Aside from the cavernous differences in our musical tastes, you will often find people using phrases such as, ‘I don’t like the tune much but the mix is fantastic’, or, conversely, ‘that’s a great song but the sounds just don’t do it for me’. What’s clear from those statements is that, as producers, we are able to separate our individual musical preferences from the constituent elements, or ingredients of a mix, if you
VISUAL MIX Tools & Techniques While every good producer lives or dies by their ability to combine sounds that are pleasing to the ear, today’s visual mixing tools provide scientific insight into sound that allows for faster and more accurate mixing. Here’s how to trust your ears and use your eyes…
Visual Mix Tools | Technique
will, to sort what’s good from what’s bad. Some mix engineers are able to combine these elements into such pleasing combinations they are paid a fortune for the process, with hit records the justification for their huge pay packets. We’ve all seen photos of people like that sitting in studios in front of huge vintage Neve or SSL desks with a range of monitoring options and carefully balanced acoustic treatments clinging to every surface. It’s no small wonder we daydream about what we could do with the stems of a mix and a facility like that. Of course, there’s nothing to suggest such opportunities won’t come your way in the future with hard work, dedication and skill. Until then, you need to strike a healthy balance between the gear you already have, the room in which you make music, and the natural compromises these are bound to throw up. Hopefully, you have invested a portion of your budget in some form of acoustic treatment. Failing that, you have been creative with sofas, chairs and other soft furnishings to soak up some of the natural resonances your room provides.
Acoustics 101 This is important because the shape, dimensions and physical construction of your working environment will impact upon your tracks. After all, it’s no big secret that producers tend to make mixes that sound great in the specific (and best suited) room they’re working in. Some frequencies will be boosted as they reflect off surfaces and are reinforced and amplified, while others will be cancelled or ‘nulled’, thus producing volume dips. These are easier to find by selecting a pure sine wave sound and playing a chromatic scale on your keyboard from C3 down to C1. When doing so, listen carefully to each note in turn and notice how some appear louder than others. Crucially, at the same time you will notice how the level meter in your DAW’s mixer remains fairly unchanged. In other words, while the visual feedback from your computer indicates flat levels, your room – in real terms – is telling a very different story indeed. So, which of them do you trust? Do you believe in the notes reaching your ears, or the level meters in your DAW? Well, the truth is that everyone reading this article
Using Match EQ
Sampling records is illegal but ‘borrowing’ EQ treatments isn’t. Like the sound of a mix’s EQ response? You could apply it to your own... Tone control is fundamental to mixing. Blending the tone of individual sounds so that they work alongside the other elements of a mix is as essential as volume balancing and stereo placement using pan dials. This is precisely why these controls all feature, in a vertical row, in a channel of a hardware mixing desk. Even for producers who mix ‘in the box’, it’s incredibly rare for an EQ plug-in not to form part of the channel strip on every sound. It’s just as rare not to find an EQ placed at the top of the master channel output, whether you are properly mastering your tracks or simply looking to add a little extra weight or sheen at the end. But unlike individual channel treatments for single sounds, if you want to hear how your final stereo mix might sound with the EQ curve of another track applied to your own, it’s possible if you have access to a Match EQ plug-in.
We’re using a sound-a-like of Avicii’s Levels for our Get That Sound column as the source, onto which we’ll apply our Match EQ. We’ve bounced our recreated mix to one stereo file and recorded Avicii’s original track into Logic, and chopped this to the ‘hook’ to match the recreated section.
To create a template EQ from Avicii’s track, drag this from Logic’s Media Browser onto the Template Learn button within the EQ’s GUI. The signal is analysed and an EQ curve produced. Note, what you can see here is a frequency chart generated only by the hook at the start of Levels.
INCLUDES AUDIO l Example 1: We’ve recreated the hook from Avicii’s Levels but this mix doesn’t have the original’s master EQ sheen. Example 2: There the EQ from Levels is super-imposed onto our recreated version.
To apply this analysed file to your recreated mix, play it through in real-time having first pressed the Current Learn button. As our mix plays into Match EQ, its own EQ analysis file is created. Once done, press the Match button to print the EQ template from Levels onto your sound-a-like.