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Issue 143 February 2015

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Issue 143

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Issue 143 February 2015

The magazine for producers, engineers and recording musicians

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20 MASTERING TIPS ABLETON THE ULTIMATE GUIDE LOGIC SECRETS OF THE TOOLBAR REASON PROGRAMMING BEATS 02/01/2015 10:07


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Welcome MT

Expert Panel Studio Hardware John Pickford

John is a studio engineer with over 25 years of experience. He is a keen sound recording historian and has a passion for valve-driven analogue equipment and classic recording techniques.

Mixing/Mastering/Logic Mark Cousins Mark specialises in sound design and cinematic productions. He has recorded with orchestras across Europe and is heavily involved in soundtrack composition.

Careers Editor Rob Boffard

Rob Boffard is a sound designer with a background in TV and radio work. He is a Reason evangelist, and when not writing for MusicTech he releases hip-hop music under the name Rob One.

Digital/Composition Andy Price

With a masters in songwriting and a vast interest in music history and recording techniques, Andy works daily on MusicTech.net as well as regularly contributing to the magazine. He is currently heading up our Landmark Album features and songwriting/Cubase series.

Recording & Guitar Tech Huw Price

A recording engineer since 1987, Huw has worked with David Bowie, My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave, Heidi Berry, Fad Gadget and countless others.

Scoring/Orchestral Keith Gemmell

Keith specialises in areas where traditional music-making meets music technology, including orchestral and jazz sample libraries, acoustic virtual instruments and notation software.

Ableton Live Martin Delaney

Martin was one of the first UK Ableton Certified Trainers. He has taught everyone from musicians to psychiatric patients and written three books about Live. Martin also designed the Kenton Killamix Mini USB MIDI controller and is now the editor of www.ableton-live-expert.com.

Reason, DJ & Mobile Hollin Jones

As well as teaching music technology, producing and writing soundtracks, Hollin is an expert on everything Apple, mobile or computer-related, as well as being an accomplished keyboard player.

Electronic Music Alex Holmes

Alex has been a computer musician for 15 years, having a keen passion for beats, bass and all forms of electronic music. He’s currently involved in three different dance music projects.

Let me talk about the new year and cash. To most of you, Christmas probably seems like a distant memory now, over just a few weeks ago, and taking all of your hardearned cash with it. When I was a lad, I used to be ‘Mr Christmas’, embracing its glorious charm, lack of snow – always predicted, never delivered – flashing lights and general good feel. Back then it only lasted 12 days, too. Now the decorations seep into the shops late summer, we have ‘events’ like the ridiculous Black Friday, and the whole season is now a massive, ever-increasing exercise in money shifting… out of our pockets. Perfect timing for this issue, then – almost like we’d planned it – which embraces a more money-less approach to life and one that maybe we should all embrace for even a short while if possible. We’ve taken various music production scenarios and looked at how you can approach them with little or even no money. So if the January sales have left you as skint as I am then turn to p12 sharpish. Elsewhere, www.ableton-live-expert.com’s Martin Delaney kicks of a new Ultimate Guide series on the software, and we have everything from new versions of SONAR and Cubase to a feature on Russian synths called ‘USSR v ADSR’ – see what we did there? It’s certainly a busy January, and as I write this the NAMM music gear show hasn’t even started. Head on over to www.musictech.net for all the latest news on that and enjoy our predictions for new releases on p6… Andy Jones Senior Editor Email andy.jones@anthem-publishing.com Send your tweets @AndyJonesMT

Pro Tools Mike Hillier

Mike spent five years at Metropolis Studios, working alongside some of the best-known mix and mastering engineers in the world. He is now building his own studio in south London.

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MT Contents

MT Contents Issue 143 February 2015

12 MUSIC ON A BUDGET Thrift-meister general Hollin Jones shows you how to make your pennies go further in this guide to producing gold-standard tracks for a rock-bottom price (or for free!)

28 Funeral Discover the spark that ignited Arcade Fire’s modern classic

Technique

Technique

52 2O PRO TIPS

Hollin Jones gives you the lowdown on mastering the art of mastering

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46 The Ultimate Guide to Ableton Live

Martin Delaney examines the ins and outs of this superlative DAW

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Contents MT p81

p90 p92

MT Issue 143 Full listings…

The Latest Reviews

p98

MOOG SUB 37, STEINBERG CUBASE PRO 8 Plus reviews from Cakewalk,

LANDMARK PRODUCTIONS 028 | Arcade Fire: Funeral Read the inside story of this groundbreaking album

p83

Sennheiser, Korg and more! DAW Tutorials

WORKSHOPS FOR EVERYTHING! p46

COVER FEATURE 012 | Music on a budget No money? No worries!

INDUSTRY GURU 032 | Bernard Butler Step into the producer and guitar hero’s studio TECHNIQUE

p56 p60

042 | Music to picture Secrets of the Toolbar 046 | NEW SERIES! The Ultimate Guide to Ableton Live Getting to know Ableton Live 052 | 20 Pro Tips… …for mastering 056 | Beat Programming and Sound Design Programming electronic beats 060 | Cutting-edge production techniques Aligning multi-track recordings 066 | The Secrets of Soviet Synthesis Back in the ADSR… 074 | Subscribe and get free digital editions, plus save 35% REVIEWS 076 | Cakewalk SONAR DAW 081 | NI Rounds soft synth

Bluffer’s Guide

083 | Moog Sub 37 Tribute Edition synth 088 | Cinesamples CineSymphony LITE orchestral sketchpad 090 | Korg Module iPad instrument 092 | Steinberg Cubase Pro 8 DAW 094 | Sennheiser MK 8 mic 098 | Wasaphone MKII mic

106 A BLUFFER’S GUIDE TO DELAY

101 | Mini Reviews NEW REGULAR FEATURES 103 | 6 of the best… …unusual software releases 106 | A bluffer’s guide to music technology, part 4: delay 110 | Show off your studio Another chance for readers to show off 112 | Next month in MusicTech 114 | On your MT DVD

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MT Advance

FOR MORE OF THE LATEST NEWS

MTAdvance Round-ups

Analysis & comment

Industry insight

CHECK OUT MUSICTECH.NET

BACK TO THE FUTURE So now 2014’s done and dusted it’s on to, yep, you guessed it, 2015! There’s already some pretty tasty gear (with requisite flashy lights) winging its way to us, but what else might there be? The MusicTech team are here to predict the shape of things to come…

Mike Hillier,

Pro Tools expert and all round recording guy ● The top ten

best selling albums of the year will once again be 80% dinosaur rock acts. The music press will once again predict the death of guitar music (yawn). ● More big-name bands will move

their music off Spotify. Someone will finally think it wise to put up just the singles, treating it like radio and leaving some incentive to, you know, actually buy an album.

● Avid will release Pro Tools 12.

Everyone without an upgrade subscription will scream foul play and threaten to switch to Logic, unaware that Pro Tools 11 still works (see also, PT8, 9 and 10). Avid will backtrack and provide an easy non-subscription method of upgrading.

● I’m not going to predict a 004 from

Avid this year. I’ve said it for six years now, and it hasn’t happened. I give up.

● Neither Google nor Microsoft will

buy Avid, despite persistent rumours.

● Steven Slate will release another

awful April Fool video. I will still wish I had a Raven MTi.

● IK Multimedia will realise that while

the in-app purchases – Custom Shop – idea for AmpliTube and T-RackS is brilliant, it also means they aren’t getting any reviews each time they release a new model, so will update

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both just to get a review in MT. ● Logic X2 (XI?) (11?) (Boulder Forest?)

will take the in-app purchase model and make it impossible to install AUs any other way. Everyone will threaten to switch to Cubase, unaware that Logic X still works. Dave Pensado’s hair will attempt a coup, Herb will be exiled along with Batter’s Box to Channel 5.

● Eventide will be the company to

watch, both in the plug-in and hardware worlds.

● Korg will further harness their

hipster cache, by releasing a beardcontrolled synth. Roland and Yamaha will… whatever.

● Prices of the ‘cheap and nasty’ 80s

Alesis QuadraVerb will continue to rise because Aphex Twin used one on Syro. Everyone will say they preferred the SPX90 anyway. UA will emulate the QuadraVerb for the UAD as part of a bundle with the MIDIverb II and Wedge.

● Brainworx will realise that M/S

doesn’t have to be on everything.

● There will be no fewer than ten new

1176 emulations, eight new Pultecs and four Fairchilds. Yeah, I said this last year. It’s true every year. Not so much a prediction as a law.

● And on that theme... MT

contributors will once again dream of a better EXS24. Apple will once again ignore them.

Andy Price, Digital Editor

Well, 2014 didn’t see anything exactly revolutionarily new on the DAW front – the stealthy release of Cubase Pro 8 (just when I was finally getting comfortable with 7!) aside. So my first major prediction is that we’ll get sizeable updates of both Ableton Live and Pro Tools (and undoubtedly Cubase 8.5 just when I get to grips with 8). As predicted last year, mobile tech has undergone a massive surge in popularity, with the release of Alesis’ iO Dock II and the Focusrite iTrack enabling greater connectivity with your mobile devices. We’re increasingly inundated with emails from app developers asking us to review their wares, some of which are simply amazing. This will only increase, I’m sure, as will MusicTech coverage of our favourites.

Mobile tech has undergone a massive surge in popularity We got interested in the more niche end of the software library world in 2014, with some incredible work from the likes of Eduardo Tarilonte and Spitfire, so we intend to further that interest in 2015, highlighting some of the more obscure-sounding, but still bloody amazing, software resources around. Oddly enough the more technologically advanced we seem to get the greater the interest seems to be for vintage sounds and analogue gear, with plug-in versions of Thermionic’s Culture Vulture recently being a hot commodity along with some incredible analogue offerings from smaller companies, hand-building their labours of love. This appetite for reflection will undoubtedly increase as the music technology landscape evolves and changes further in 2015.

MAGAZINE

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Advance MT

Martin Delaney,

Alex Holmes,

The Ableton Live expert

MT DVD editor

● Ableton releases Live iOS to

● Americans will slowly get bored

coincide with launch of the 12in iPad in June.

of EDM and start getting into ‘deep house’ (which is basically what they call anything electronic that’s not EDM).

● Lego releases 3D version of

Ableton Live.

● The Brits will slowly get bored of

● Elektron releases a fax

Deep House and there will be a big craze for chart drum ’n’ bass.

machine with a step sequencer.

● Mid-gig 3D printing of control surfaces is the norm.

The Brits will slowly get bored of deep house ● Roland will keep ignoring the analogue

renaissance, whilst Korg will run out of things to re-issue. Yamaha will sit silently on the fence whilst releasing a load of workstations.

● Apple will release a couple of Logic X updates that

● Attempts to build thought-controlled music devices

fail as musicians find it impossible to stop thinking about food and sex.

● Online music collaboration finally goes big with the

popularity of www.jam-with-girls-in-bikinis.com.

Andy Jones, Senior Editor

● More Aira hardware has been promised from Roland,

although what it will emulate is still a mystery. Space Echo, anyone?

don’t really add much, and we’ll be making predictions around this time next year about a proper update to some key features.

● Ableton Live X.

● Companies will keep coming up with more obscure

● NI’s march will continue, not perhaps with so much

hardware synths and modular units to bring softwarelike choice and flexibility to the hardware world.

Hollin Jones,

Reason and mobile editor ● People who know about such things

will skip the first-gen Apple Watch and wait for the second, which will be smaller, faster and have had a load of bugs ironed out. With crushing inevitability, someone will release an Ableton Live controller for it.

hardware as 2014 but we can set our watches to the release of Komplete 11…

NI’s march will continue – we can set our watches to the release of Komplete 11… ● The Korg One Man Band – wearable music tech with a complete music

production suit. [Note to sub-ed: Yes – suit, not suite. It’s a joke.]

● I’ll buy at least three more synthesizers. I might even make some music.

● More acts will twig that the best way to get fawned upon by trendy music blogs is to make some kind of deliberately difficult, unlistenable racket. And have a beard.

With crushing inevitability someone will make an Ableton controller for the Apple Watch ● Album reviews will continue to exist, despite there being

absolutely no reason for them to do so when anyone can listen to anything for themselves, usually for free.

● People will still think being influenced by Krautrock is

something new and amazing, and not in fact just another step in the grinding and endless rehashing of old ideas.

● MeldaProduction will make an infinity plug-in, which has

more editable sections than it is possible to access in the average lifespan of a human.

● NI will officially found its own state, inside which minimal

techno plays constantly and kitchens get Maschine integration as standard.

WHAT WE PREDICTED LAST YEAR What we got right… and wrong An Ableton Push 2 was one of the wilder predictions of last year and never really likely with the company’s first version so new and just out of the blocks. With the arrival of the Aira range from Roland, though, we were completely correct in our predictions of re-imagined Roland TB-303 and TR-808 hardware. Elsewhere we predicted more Android apps (which sort of happened), more mobile music goodness (which obviously would have and did happen) and, inevitably, both Alex and Mike predicted a new EXS24, both knowing that it wouldn’t really happen and were both therefore proved right… One final prediction was that NI would unveil ‘something amazing’ and in Komplete Kontrol they did just that, proving us Kompletely Korrekt.

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MT Produce great music on a budget!

MT Feature Studio gear

Produce great music on a budget! Getting a great sound doesn’t have to cost the earth, and with so many temptations around you have to spend your budget wisely. Hollin Jones shows you how to make the most of your money and, where possible, do it for free!

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Produce great music on a budget! Feature MT

I

t’s an indisputable fact that producing music is a far more accessible pursuit than it was a couple of decades ago. The cost of recording to a professional standard used to be prohibitive for many people, and making demos on home equipment was how a lot of musicians and bands started out. Now all that has changed, but if you want your music to sound good you’re still going to have to invest a little money, as well as time, in it. Some things can be achieved for free or next to nothing, and in other cases, while you do need to spend money, you can make smart choices about how you spend it to make it go as far as possible.

Gearing up Some people enjoy having loads of kit, which is great if you can afford it, but most of us can’t always get the latest and greatest thing as soon as it comes out. On the flipside it’s not a good idea to skimp unnecessarily either: there is a balance to be struck and you have to understand how best to allocate your resources for the task you’re trying to achieve. It’s arguably better to have the right kit for a job, and to know how best to use it, than to just get the biggest thing with the most flashing lights. It’s also true that the vast majority of software and hardware is actually very good: poor quality stuff rarely gets released onto the pro audio market. The task therefore becomes finding the most cost-effective gear that works for what you need. If you’re willing to put a bit of time in and look around it’s possible to get some great bargains. A lot of entry- or mid-level DAWs are given away for free with an audio interface; similarly, sample packs, plug-ins and loops can often be found bundled with hardware (or with MusicTech magazine!). A last-generation product might be significantly discounted and still do exactly what you need it to do. The phone or iPad you already own can be used for recording or composition, and your computer could potentially be beefed up instead of replaced. Secondhand hardware can also be a good way to expand your setup, and you can take simple steps to improve the sound in your studio without spending a fortune. It’s possible to make and even sell your own multisampled instruments, and showcasing and selling your music online is simple and inexpensive. This isn’t going to be about how to do everything for free, because if you want good results you have to put something in, but we’ll show you that you don’t have to spend the earth to produce great-sounding music.

Get the right kit for the job rather than the biggest thing with the most flashing lights

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MT Feature Produce great music on a budget!

Choosing recording hardware and software

A solid state drive can massively speed up an ageing computer and extend its useful life.

Your recording devices are going to be central to your setup, so it’s important to get them right. You will probably be recording on a computer, or perhaps an iPad (more on that in a moment). Whether you are buying a new computer to produce music on or upgrading an existing one there are several components on which to focus your budget to get maximum bang for your buck. A lot of software is well

Go mobile

Music applications are RAMhungry, so you’ll want a minimum of 4GB, preferably 8GB MT Tech term: Dock optimised for multiple cores now, so in most cases a quad-core CPU, even at a slightly lower clock speed, will perform more usefully than a dual-core one in real-world situations. All modern CPUs are pretty powerful, but steer clear of the slowest available. Even though they are cheaper you’ll soon be cursing all the waiting around while your machine churns away trying to work stuff out. The same goes for RAM and hard drives. Music applications are RAM-hungry, especially samplebased instruments, and since RAM is now cheaper than it’s ever been you’ll want a minimum of 4GB and preferably 8GB or more. Similarly with hard drives, go for a solid state (SSD) drive for the system partition as this will massively increase the responsiveness of your computer. A lower capacity one can be much cheaper, as long as you pair it with a much more spacious regular hard drive for bulk data storage, either internal or USB. Your computer is the brain of your whole setup so you need it to work smoothly.

●  An all-in-one device

to connect to your iPad that provides pro-level audio, MIDI in and out, and power by connecting the iPad’s data port to a selection of conventional I/O ports.

MT Tech term: Inter-app ●  A new technology

whereby apps inside an iPad are able to pass both audio and MIDI data between each other, meaning you can use them together and don’t have to keep exporting data between them.

Older computers can have their useful lives prolonged by adding more RAM or an SSD drive, or even a new CPU where your machine allows, but at some point it becomes a false economy to run an ageing setup because it seriously slows down your workflow. One alternative is to use an iPad, and the platform is increasingly catering to pro musicians. If your needs are more straightforward, or if you already happen to own an iPad, apps such as GarageBand, FL Studio HD, Auria, Cubasis and Tabletop run the gamut of mobile DAWs from a couple of pounds up to around £40, depending on functionality. Virtually all will track audio and MIDI, have effects and instruments, and most are much more advanced than you might have realised. Technologies such as inter-app audio and MIDI mean much greater routing flexibility, and the fact that most iOS apps are really quite inexpensive, or free with in-app purchases, mean you have more control over how your money is used to build your system. Paired with an iOS-compatible audio interface, a MIDI keyboard or an iPad Dock, you can achieve remarkable productions for much less than the cost of a full computer and a load of software.

Docking station The key with using an iPad for music is getting a good I/O solution. Get a dock or an iOS-compatible USB audio and MIDI interface and you can record just as

Making EDM on a budget Electronic producers tend to work ‘in the box’ with a lot of synthesized or sample-based instruments, sounds and virtual effects. So any ‘real’ recording that they tend to do can often be a single track at a time, such as a guitar or a vocal. As such they may not need lots of simultaneous ins and outs and can get away with a smaller audio and MIDI interface, as the majority of the sound is being generated inside the computer. Even when introducing MIDItriggered hardware this can usually be handled by a box with a couple of audio and MIDI ports connected over USB, as long as you don’t need to have it permanently plumbed in to your setup. If you are making EDM you might want to look out for free or bargain loop, sample or plug-in

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bundles. There is some good free material out there and developers often have time-limited giveaways, so be sure to sign up to relevant mailing lists so you hear about them. Apple’s iOS isn’t a bad place to look to make dance music on a budget, with great apps such as Novation’s Launchpad, Korg’s Gadget and other similar software letting you program and sequence some excellent synths and beats, stitch them into songs, then upload the results straight to free hosting services such as SoundCloud. As noted, iOS apps often let you add only the content or features you want via in-app purchases, making them, in some ways, a more cost-effective method to build a portable studio setup.

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Get Online Feature MT

(Top right) A mobile DAW can be a surprisingly effective solution if the workflow suits your needs.

you would on a computer. In fact choosing an interface is always central to getting a system right regardless of your recording platform. If you’re working ‘in the box’ then you may well be able to get away with fewer ins and outs, perhaps 2x2 or 4x4 if you only ever need to monitor on stereo speakers and record guitar, vocal or a simple stereo source such as a synth one at a time. This kind of setup often works for acoustic or EDM producers who work either with fewer tracks or mostly with virtual sounds. If you are recording more simultaneous sources, say a drum kit or a whole band, you will really want more inputs; although you can always compromise by submixing via a hardware mixer and recording to fewer tracks if budget is a real issue. Some interfaces come with a free bundled DAW. Ableton Live Lite, Cubase and SONAR are all given away in their more entry-level versions by various hardware companies when you buy an interface. The

The key with using an iPad for music is getting a good I/O solution idea is that they ‘get you started’, and in truth they really can, providing many of the core tools you need to produce music digitally. They don’t have the advanced features of their full-fat cousins, but there’s always an upgrade path if you decide you need tools such as unlimited tracks, all the instruments, scoring and surround support and stuff like that later on. Some DAWs like Reaper aim to offer a pro feature set and experience at a much lower retail price so it can

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MT Feature Produce great music on a budget!

be worth checking out such apps if you’re not concerned about being without a ‘big name’ DAW. With the increasing availability of super-fast broadband, online DAWs are becoming popular as well. Two of the best are www.soundation.com and www. audiosauna.com which are both free and offer a great set of production and composition tools running right inside your browser.

Buy wisely Music production isn’t just about computers, and you can add outboard hardware (as we discuss later on). However there are some good tips for buying kit that apply more generally. If you’re after a microphone, go for one that is a good all-rounder. You should be able to identify a few

Thanks to fast broadband, online DAWs are popular models by searching reviews and by getting one that can be effectively used for vocals, guitars, percussion and other things so you can avoid buying several mics. USB microphones are now pretty good and can even save on having to buy an audio interface, provided your

Making the best of your recording space A lot of people who produce music are doing so in a spare room at home, maybe a bedroom or a box room. Thanks to modern technology and virtual instruments and effects you can achieve results in the computer that would have seemed impossible not so long ago, and indeed some hit records really have been made in the unlikeliest of domestic surroundings. One aspect that technology can’t fix so inexpensively is the acoustics of your room, but luckily there are things you can do yourself to improve matters.

Learn to improvise A professional acoustic treatment is ideal, and at the entry-level these can be relatively affordable, though still something of an investment. In terms of stuff you can do yourself, simply correcting some positioning errors is a good – and free – starting point. Your speakers should be placed away from walls if at all possible, and certainly not in the corners of rooms, which tend to give a boomy effect to the bass end. Acoustic isolators are excellent for tightening up bass when placed under speakers, though in a pinch two identical blocks of substantial foam will do a decent job too. Some studios put their speakers on bricks or breeze blocks. When it comes to recording there are some steps

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FreqAnalyst is an excellent and free audio analysis plug-in.

MT Tech term – Isolation

MT Tech term – Acoustic treatment

Creating a dry space in an otherwise imperfect room. This can be done by using specialised equipment or, at a pinch, various fabrics to deaden sound reflections.

The process of placing physical materials like foam blocks or baffles strategically in a space to minimise standing waves, bass boom and other undesirable sonic imperfections.

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workflow doesn’t demand any more I/O. Monitoring is one area where it’s advisable to buy carefully because how you hear your music will determine how it’s mixed and mastered. Go for powered monitors (often cheaper than an amp/passive speaker combo) and try to match them with your genre, or go for good all-rounders if you work in different styles. A good pair of headphones is also essential, though if you do your research you should be able to find a good balance of price and quality. It’s not a great idea to rely on cheap monitoring as it can kind of negate all your hard work. (Left) Online DAWs like Soundation are generally free, pretty advanced and usually offer collaboration features.

MT Tech term : Online DAW ●  A browser-based

system for composing and recording audio and using virtual FX. Makes online collaboration particularly easy since multiple people can log in and work on a project.

AR

ANNIVE R

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E Produce great music on a budget! Feature S MT

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O N T R O N I C S

RY SA

S O N T R O N I C S

05 - 2015

“Incredibly smooth with bags of character... ARIA easily competes with any classic valve mic” Paul Epworth, Producer (Adele, Paul McCartney, Coldplay)

“Your mics bring light into my life… ARIA is so inspiring” PJ Harvey, Singer/Songwriter/Composer

“Silky smooth with all the nuances I’d expect from a vintage valve mic” MT Tech term: Multi-core

Andrew Dudman, Engineer, Abbey Road Studios (Lord of the Rings, Rise of the Guardians, Robbie Williams, Elbow)

●  Modern computers have given up on pushing Gigahertz counts into the stratosphere because technically it became impossible. So now they have lots of cores instead, and software spreads processing load across them.

You can achieve results with a computer that would have been impossible not so long ago you can take to improve things even if you’re not in a proper studio. Anything that you record with a mic can be improved by controlling the space around it. A portable isolator such as sE’s SPACE or Reflexion Filter can be used not just to create a pocket of dry space for a vocalist but also for a mic pointed at a guitar or bass amp, or a piano. It costs, yes, but not nearly as much as repeatedly hiring out a pro studio. If even that is a stretch, you can box in the microphone that’s pointed at an amp using sofa cushions or even a duvet, and this will block out most external noise as well as letting you whack the volume up a bit. Duvets or carpets hung on walls can help to cut down on room reflections, and many mics have switchable polar patterns or cut switches to help compensate for different recording situations. Guitar amps are often placed on crates or chairs to get them

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protects all our microphones

ARIA is a cardioid valve mic specifically for vocals designed & developed by Sontronics founder Trevor Coley with the input of several Abbey Road engineers. ARIA has a pad (-10dB) and filter (75Hz), and employs a hand-selected, European-made 12AX7 vacuum tube. The mic comes in a wooden box and is supplied with its SPS-2 power supply unit, shockmount, ring mount and cables in an aluminium flightcase.

Contact us or your nearest stockist for an ARIA demo today!

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arctic monkeys • queens of the stoneMAGAZINE age February • bbc big2015 band • keane | 17 stephen street • ed harcourt • the vaccines • ren harvieu • and many more!

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MT Feature Produce great music on a budget!

Budget setup for a singer-songwriter

A portable acoustic isolator like SE’s SPACE is cheaper than hiring a vocal studio.

off the floor and thus focus their sound, and this is easy to do for free.

This is probably the most stripped-down of all possible recording setups, but one where your choice of microphone is crucial. You won’t need a massively powerful computer and could probably get away with using an iPad, but you will need an audio interface with good preamps and zero-latency monitoring for a more natural performance. Choose a smaller interface with iOS compatibility if necessary: whether or not it needs a MIDI port depends on whether you have any MIDI gear. In truth, you could probably get away with programming and quantizing drums in GarageBand for iPad, or using loops in Live Lite to back you up. A decent pair of headphones will be important for monitoring, along with a good quality microphone that can capture the nuances of your voice. You may be using pickups on your acoustic guitar or mic’ing that too, in which case you’ll need a second mic to perform everything live – though still only two mono audio inputs. A popshield is absolutely essential, and perhaps also an acoustic isolator to create a pocket of dead space in your room. In terms of software you’ll be able to get away with something simple as you’re really just tracking, and you probably won’t need anything exotic as far as plug-ins go. The tools that may have come with your audio interface could be all you need here.

Studio hacks Recording drums at home is always going to be tricky and is perhaps the one thing you really ought to try to find a budget for, though if you can borrow a MIDI kit connected to a drum instrument you will remove the

For mixing it’s a good idea to strap an analyser on the master output need for mics and massively cut down on the disruption for the neighbours. For mixing and mastering it’s a good idea to get an analyser to strap across the master outputs. This will show you how your signal is behaving before it reaches the speakers, so can be a useful guide. Blue Cat Audio’s FreqAnalyst is a free plug-in for doing just this. MT Tech term: Audio analysis

MT Tech term: Mic modelling

Taking a reading of the sonic characteristics of audio before it leaves the computer in order to give you a more accurate idea of how it is behaving.

Using software to emulate the character of specific microphone models. Can be useful if your mic is neutral but you want to get the sound of a load of classic mics without actually buying them.

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MT Feature Produce great music on a budget!

Found sounds and field recording inexpensive ones available online. After naming the clips and saving them individually you should end up with a bunch of samples for each note, or at least one per note. These need to be consistent in how you record them so that the final instrument will sound coherent. It’s much easier for simple kit, such as old beatboxes, where you have fewer sounds and velocities, and key mapping is simple. For instruments such as guitars, pianos, organs and the like, it can be more fiddly.

Environmentally friendly You’ll need an environment in which to build your instrument. NI’s Kontakt is the most popular, though of course it is not free. Logic’s EXS24 and Reason’s NN-XT are also adept at building instruments, though they only come as part of those DAWs. Each also tends to create instruments in its own format, so you may not be able to port them easily to other platforms. The process of actually building an instrument is time consuming, but essentially involves mapping your samples to corresponding MIDI notes, using velocity layering to control which samples play back when keys are pressed hard or soft, and perhaps also using filtering , looping and time- and pitch-stretching to account for different playback methods. Sampling your own loops is easier, but you’ll need to be aware of copyright issues if you are sampling someone else’s music. Loop manipulation is easy in many applications and lets you mash up and randomise sounds, which is an easy way to turn uninspiring loops into something much funkier. Going out and making your own sounds is a good way both to develop an original style and also potentially to make money if you can sell what you create.

Recording doesn’t just mean tracking in a studio, it can also mean capturing material while you’re out and about. The microphone in your smartphone can make a decent field mic, though you’ll get better results by adding either a dedicated add-on microphone for £20-£80, or indeed substituting a proper portable recorder with a stereo mic, which cost around £50 and go up depending on what features you need. Any one of these solutions is great for recording ambient sounds, effects and even live performances. The mics on solid state recorders such as those manufactured by Zoom, Yamaha or Olympus are generally excellent. Where a device has a line input you can also take a feed, perhaps from the output of a live sound desk, and record a live mix of a performance.

Build your own instruments It’s also possible to create your own sampled instruments, but it does require some skill and the

The microphone that’s built into your smartphone can often make a decent field mic investment of a certain amount of time. The actual recording is a matter of capturing each note of your instrument whatever it may be, usually at a variety of intensities such as soft, medium, hard and very hard. This can be done by recording repeated takes into a simple wave editor, and there are many free and

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(Top left) Build your own sampled instruments using tools like Reason’s NN-XT sampler. (Bottom right) Use a phone or preferably a dedicated field recorder to capture found sounds.

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MT Feature Produce great music on a budget!

Get the most out of plug-ins and samples Virtual instruments, effects and samples are likely to feature in your productions to some extent, and for many people they form the core of their sound library. Thanks to the ubiquity of computers in modern music production and the fact that they are powerful with large hard drives, you can have more sounds at your disposal than would have seemed believable a couple of decades ago. When it comes to getting content, your first port of call will probably be the material that came bundled with your DAW. The included content can vary greatly but you’ll always get at least a basic tool set. If you move up to a mid-level or flagship version you generally get more stuff as standard, and this is true of DAWs such as Cubase, Reason, Pro Tools, SONAR and Live, whose full versions come with a ton of material. Logic is arguably even better value since there’s only one version and it’s inexpensive thanks to Apple’s aim of selling hardware, so you get everything right away.

Bundled content The same audio and MIDI interface hardware that sometimes ships with a lite version of a DAW often includes some additional plug-ins and/or sample collections to sweeten the deal. Hardware from AKAI, M-Audio and Novation is good for this, and other manufacturers often throw stuff in with a purchase too, so it’s worth investigating if you can get bonus material when buying hardware. Another good source for free samples and sounds is, of course, coverdiscs of MusicTech, or indeed downloads from user areas of our website (head over to the DVD section of www. musictech.net). There are plenty of developers who give away a few free plug-ins to tempt you into the wider world of their full, commercial lineup, and there are some excellent ones to be acquired. Demo versions are generally feature- or time-limited in some way, so they are perhaps an inefficient way to try to get processing on the cheap. But if a plug-in is a fully functional 30-day free trial, for example, you can get some good use out of it while it lasts – and hopefully like it enough to buy

(Above) Even big companies such as NI offer excellent free versions of their heavyweight instruments. (Below left) A number of hardware brands give away generous software bundles with their products.

MT Tech term: Re-sequence The process of chopping up samples or loops, mapping them to pads or keys and then using them as instruments, creating new beats or patterns from them.

MT Tech term: Freemium A term sometimes used with reference to iOS and other mobile applications. Usually denotes an app that is free to download but offers in-app purchases, which is very common among music apps.

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the full version! The same goes for Rack Extensions in Reason: they are all free to try for a month, though only once of course.

I’m free! New free plug-ins come online all the time but there are some great ones available at the moment. Bluecataudio.com has a dazzling array of tools on sale but also offers the Free Pack, a collection of six plug-ins in all major formats for Mac and PC. There’s a vintage chorus, phaser and flanger, FreqAnalyst, Gain Suite and Triple EQ to be had. If you think free means poor quality you’d be quite wrong, as these are excellent effects that can be of real use in your everyday music-making endeavours. Head over to www.meldaproduction.com and check out their MFreeEffectsBundle, a collection of 24 (yes, 24!) effects processors, ranging from autopitch through to dynamics, EQs and tuners amongst others. They are feature-limited compared to the fully unlocked versions but nonetheless they do a great job. To unlock them fully costs just €49, which is really not bad at all considering that it opens up lots of extra functionality. It’s not just independent developers that offer free stuff, some of the big boys do as well. If you head over to the free section of NI’s website (www.nativeinstruments.com/en/products/free/) you will find free versions of the Komplete, Guitar Rig, Kontakt and Reaktor Player apps as well as the free Mikro Prism synth. These come with a good selection of sounds, effects and features and are intended to be an entry point into NI’s software instrument universe. Of course

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Produce great music on a budget! Feature MT

re-sequence them, you can unleash a whole new lease of life and turn mundane loops into totally new ones. There are dedicated tools for doing this, such as FXpansion’s Geist and Propellerheads’ ReCycle. They are paid-for apps, but if you plan on doing a lot of loop slicing they are a good investment. Reason 8 is able to natively slice up any audio file you throw at it and send it off to a loop player in the rack, so if you have the DAW you already have this very useful and creative functionality.

the full versions have much greater functionality and far more content, but the free versions are still impressive and will certainly help you out in your productions. The same can be said for IK Multimedia, which provides free versions of its SampleTank, AmpliTube and T-RackS apps for Mac and PC with some good basic content and the ability to add specific modules using in-app purchases, so you can tailor your system to include only the modules you want.

Some plug-in developers offer really impressive free downloads as a way of introducing you to their products.

Get much more use out of the samples you already own by mashing them up Other developers have periodic giveaways so it’s worth keeping an eye on their websites as these tend to be for limited times only. Waves has started doing this, and at the time of writing is giving away its OneKnob Pumper effect for one weekend only. FXpansion.com has a free dynamics plug-in called FreeComp, Voxengo offers the Marvel GEQ for free and so on. In fact there are loads of free plug-ins available that can be found simply by running a web search. You’ll be glad you did.

MT Tech term – Upgrade

Free samples

MT Tech term – Bundling

It’s less common to find large, quality sample packs available as free downloads, but as noted earlier these are often included as part of a hardware purchase and can also (sometimes) be made available for promotional purposes, so again it’s worth getting mailouts from companies whose stuff you like. Another interesting approach is to get more out of the samples you already have by mashing them up. If your DAW has a beat masher or a drum instrument that’s able to slice up existing samples and let you

Paying to switch to a fully featured version of some software, to unlock existing features or to remove adverts, depending on how the system has been implemented.

Giving away free content with a purchase, or collecting together a number of software products and selling them for a price that is lower than what it would cost to buy them all individually.

Budget setup for a film and TV composer You’ll need a DAW that has native video playback, but this includes most of the big players these days (and if you’re doing this kind of work commercially you shouldn’t have any problem plumping for the flagship version of your chosen application). Your computer will need to be decent too, since a lot of what you do will involve loading sizeable sample-based instruments while running video, probably at HD resolution. If you’re covering a lot of different thematic bases you will want a good selection of sounds to work with, and sounds that can be cinematic, ethereal and realistic when required. NI’s Komplete 10 is perfect for this as it includes Absynth, Kontakt and a raft of other compositional essentials. If you can afford the Ultimate version it will be everything you need for composition. EastWest / Quantum Leap makes an excellent lineup of sample-based instruments for scoring, which are also well worth a look, though again they do come with a high price tag. Hardware-wise you may not need tons of I/O unless you’re actually going round recording orchestras, in which case ‘on a budget’ probably isn’t applicable to you. Good monitoring and a great sound library is the key here, and producing to make the music sound bigger than the room it was composed and programmed in. Modern tools make this process easier than ever, but it’s still crucial to choose the right ones for the job in hand.

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MT Feature Produce great music on a budget!

Finding a bargain The secondhand arena is one where hardware beats software more or less hands down. Although it is sometimes possible to transfer a software license between users it can incur an admin fee, and on the whole it’s not something that people seem to do an awful lot of. However there is money to be saved in buying an older software version once a new one comes out, where possible. This depends on two things: your being satisfied that the older version suits your needs, and the physical availability of the older version. When software is distributed digitally there’s often no reason for a developer to keep selling old versions, but when they have boxed copies they’ll want to shift them, so this can be something to look out for. Upgrade deals are often attractive around new release time too.

Going… going… gone! It’s in hardware where you can really pick up a bargain, with sites such as eBay and Gumtree being the go-to places for used music kit. Secondhand stores are also a good bet, not least because you can actually see

Secondhand mixers are often inexpensive and can form the centrepiece of a home studio

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(Above) Research on sites such as vintagesynth.com before buying. (Below) Bag a bargain on auction sites.

something in the flesh before you commit to buy it. You need to look out for stuff that’s going to materially improve your studio setup and that you really need. Secondhand mixers are often inexpensive and can form the centrepiece of a home or project studio. Similarly, a piece of outboard like a nice plate reverb or delay unit can bring an element of realism to an otherwise all-digital setup. Be realistic, though: you’re not going to find a real Roland Space Echo for pennies, but a Boss RE-20 delay pedal is modelled on the same thing and costs a much, much less. It’s still hardware too, so you can use it for recording and live gigs. Buying classic gear can be expensive, but spending top dollar is not really our aim here. If you have the space, old instruments such as pianos, drums or synths can sound great after a little cleaning up, and often don’t cost much in the first place. If something is easily fixed it can be a bit of a bargain. People can be keen to get rid of large instruments so you may have the upper hand when negotiating. Remember also that thanks to digital technology you can post-process a lot of this stuff after it’s been recorded. So if you record a crusty old synth and it sounds a bit lifeless, whack it through some plug-in delay and distortion and pretty quickly it can sound great. The same goes for old processing kit. Old tape machines or kids’ toys (like megaphones) can bring a new feel to digitally processed tracks if used correctly. Of course this isn’t to say you should just buy any old stuff – you should have an idea of what you’re going to use something for and not pay over the odds. But if you get it right you can really bag a bargain.

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Produce great music on a budget! Feature MT

Showcasing online It’s never been easier or cheaper to get your music out there for people to hear and buy. Even more than the shift from analogue to digital recording, the internet has revolutionised the way we go about showcasing music. It really wasn’t very long ago that people were still paying to press CDs and sending hundreds out in the mail in the hope that they would get picked up. But just putting stuff online guarantees nothing – you still need to focus your efforts on promotion, airplay and playing gigs to raise awareness. There’s no substitute for legwork, but the actual processes of hosting and making music available for sale are now a piece of cake.

Host for free It’s pretty safe to say that MySpace has had its day but it kickstarted the phenomenon whereby bands and artists looked to the web as their first stop for promoting their music. Although ad-supported it was free to use, and this is still the expectation for most hosting services, which is good news for users. Probably the most widely used audio streaming service is SoundCloud, and indeed it has upload support baked into many DAWs and other pro audio software. It works across desktop and mobile platforms and its core features are free to use. Only if you want more hosting time and detailed stats do you have to pay to upgrade. SoundCloud lets you sell music in a roundabout way using widgets, but a neater way to stream and sell is using Bandcamp.com. Again this is free to use and you can set your own prices, including free, and use various kinds of add-ons such as discount codes and bonus material, as well as embedding players and buy links in all kinds of third-party sites. If you start to sell in quantity the site charges a little, but crucially this is only when you start to sell – it’s not upfront. YouTube is another great way to showcase your music, especially if you like making videos to go with your tracks. Although these sites don’t let you build a conventional webpage they do let you embed a fair amount of biographical information, contact links, pictures and often integrate with other sites such as Bandsintown, Facebook or Twitter to provide fans with more or less everything they need. So if you can live

(Above) Bandcamp is a great way to stream and sell your music, and its approach to charges is refreshingly fair. (Below) Many sites can get you onto iTunes and other streaming stores, and Mondotunes is one of the better deals out there.

without your own custom-designed site, it’s more or less all possible to do for nothing. Plenty of sites offer to get your music onto streaming stores such as iTunes and Spotify and each has a different set of charges, offering different levels of service in return. If all you want is to get online and see simple accounting, mondotunes.com has a cheap, one-off-only deal to do just this. You may also wish to submit your music to sync and licensing agencies for pitches to film and TV. There are hundreds of these, all different, but read up on them before you sign anything and be wary of any that ask for money up front. A good agency will only take a pre-agreed cut when your music sells. MT

MT Tech term: Outboard Physical equipment, usually effects processors or mixers that are used for recording, mixing and mastering. They are still a key component of many studios. MT Tech term: DI Direct Input – the process of connecting a microphone or another sound source to an input box, which is then routed to a mixer or an interface for recording. MT Tech term: Overdubs Performing a new or alternative version of a part over the top of a section of a track. Can also refer to overlaying whole new parts onto entire tracks. MT Tech term: Streaming The process of playing back audio and video digitally over the internet. An increasingly popular way of consuming music and film on all kinds of devices.

Budget setup for recording a band Recording a band is at the more complex end of what you might be looking to do, but you still don’t need to spend a fortune. Even a fairly modest computer running a mid-level DAW should be easily capable of tracking 20 or more simultaneous audio channels (unless for any reason any of them need to be passed through software FX for monitoring, in which case latency could be an issue). Get an audio interface with as many channels as you have inputs, so for a drum kit you’ll need between five and ten inputs plus as many mics; one channel for mono guitar and two for stereo; stereo ins for keyboards, and so forth. You will also almost certainly want some kind of mixing desk but you can just connect straight to an interface provided it has sufficient software-based routing and monitoring capabilities. When you record a band, most of your sound is going to be coming from the source, so what you’re really focusing on is getting a good sound in the room using mic positioning and level checking. Then it’s just a case of getting a good take and maybe doing overdubs of bits that need changing, or capturing alternate versions. Since a band makes a lot of noise you’ll need a good space to work in – a bedroom might not cut it. At a pinch you can record drums first then layer other stuff on top, which is achievable in a smaller space but potentially at the cost of affecting the vibe of the players.

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MT Landmark Productions Arcade Fire: Funeral

Landmark Productions No. 35 The tracks

1. Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels) 2. Neighbourhood #2 (Laïka) 3. Une Année Sans Lumière 4. Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out) 5. Neighbourhood #4 (7 Kettles) 6. Crown of Love 7. Wake Up 8. Haïti 9. Rebellion (Lies) 10. In The Backseat

ARCADE FIRE: FUNERAL

Recorded at Hotel2Tango Studio Produced by Arcade Fire Mastered by Ryan Morey Engineered by Mark Lawson and Thierry Amar After surviving personnel difficulties and a misfiring debut EP, Arcade Fire roared onto to the scene with a unique sound and a battery of unstoppable tracks. Andy Price sifts through the embers of this landmark album…

I

solating contemporary classics can be tough, and many a long-awaited album has been released to uproarious fanfare only for the dust to settle and the cracks to be all too apparent (Oasis’ Be Here Now, for example), yet Arcade Fire’s Funeral, an album that recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, appears to be only increasing in stature and respect. The album, the band’s debut, wasn’t just a significant

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milestone because of its rich and powerful songwriting and varied instrumentation, but also because of the textured and lush production from the band themselves. The decision to self produce gave the group complete creative control over their mixes, treating the production as just as essential a creative stage as the writing and recording process. The end product was not only warmly received but also set a new benchmark for the

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Photo © Getty Images

Arcade Fire: Funeral Landmark Productions MT

completely self-sufficient creative unit, and introduced the world to a very different kind of band…

Sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin… Formed by Canadian singer/songwriter Win Butler in the early 2000s, the initial lineup of Arcade Fire was already thinking big: creative friction and differences of opinion regarding the band’s musical direction resulted in an almost permanently revolving door of members. In 2003 the lineup finally solidified with the addition of Butler’s new wife, Régine Chassagne, sharing vocal duties and other instrumentation; Richard Reed Parry, who played multiple instruments; Tim Kingsbury on both bass and guitar; Howard Bilerman, provider of drums and additional guitar; and Win’s brother William, who played pretty much anything he could get his hands on. After an initial false start with their eponymous EP, the band’s first full-length album Funeral was recorded over eight months at the Hotel2Tango studio in Montreal. Fortuitously the band’s drummer Howard Bilerman was working as an engineer at the studio, giving the band a little more flexibility to spend longer recording and producing. During the recording sessions both Win Butler and Regine Chassagne had to deal with the loss of one of their grandparents, an unfortunate turn of events that influenced the album’s mood, atmosphere and title; however, their combined losses would further cement both their marriage and creative partnership. The band peppered their debut with as many musical instruments as they could muster. Strings played a large role, being arranged and performed primarily by Owen Pallet, along with a fair sprinkling of harmonium, xylophone, violin, synthesizers and accordions.

First rites Funeral commences proceedings with Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels). The first track in a four-part series of thematically linked songs on the album begins with a quiet scene-setting melody that slowly builds in volume

After a protracted period of playing musical band members, Arcade Fire head honcho Win Butler finally settled on this classic lineup.

as the various elements of the song’s mix come into play. Beautiful, high-register piano is peppered through an evocative composition that eventually includes insistent, growing strings and a vocal from Win Butler which, although initially fragile and delicate, by the end has built into a despairing yet euphoric wail that evokes some of David Byrne’s more dramatic efforts. Various countermelodies awaken as the track’s rhythm section comes into play and the song becomes a fully realised monster, combining lyrical themes of suburban malaise and wasted chances. The following track continues the series, but on Neighbourhood #2 (Laïka) the tone is significantly brightened by the addition of an accordion in the arrangement, adding a touch of Parisian nostalgia. Butler’s vocals are compressed in the verse, giving him an air of lo-fi detachment, yet the chorus is a fullblooded hook that sounds like a different song entirely. Un Année Sans Lumière (translation: A Year Without Light) stands in contrast to the previous two powerful

It becomes a monster, combining themes of suburban malaise and wasted chances pieces. A tender guitar-orientated song that features prominent backing vocals from Regine Chassagne, halfway through the track an upbeat rhythm kicks in, lifting it from the murky depths of introspection to becoming a dance-able (albeit, tense) jig.

Let’s dance Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out) is perhaps the track that best signposted the way for the band’s resulting dance-rock career trajectory. A club favourite for its unique sound, the most musical way of describing it would be a quirky and energetic guitar whirlwind with vocals that sound almost rap-like with their quick-fire MAGAZINE February 2015

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delivery and tight melodic construction. Power Out, as it’s more commonly known, is one of Arcade Fire’s standout tracks and one that became a live favourite in subsequent years. The fourth in the Neighbourhood cycle is a more sombre affair. A soft lament (subtitled 7 Kettles), this piece provides the listener with a dreamy, relaxed breather after the aural onslaught of Power Out. The romantic and yearning Crown of Love is a beautiful pop composition that wouldn’t sound out of place in the latter half of a romantic movie. Beautiful strings and tender crooning from Butler (ably backed by ghostly wailing from Chassagne) make this perhaps one of the most engaging tracks on the record. The orchestral contributors take centre stage in the mix, and like Un Année Sans Lumière the song’s rhythm abruptly changes near the end, evolving into a quite different and vibrantly coloured piece.

Photo © Getty Images

MT Landmark Productions Arcade Fire: Funeral

Here be giants The album’s heart, though, and a track that has become a universally adored contemporary anthem, is Wake Up. A growing, building monster of a song that pulsates with a powerful, life-affirming energy, its lyric-less chorus of ‘whoah-oh’s’ and operatic, symphonic sweep couldn’t have sounded more incongruous at a time when the DIY aesthetic of Strokes-y garage rock was the current indie trend. With a main lyric that calls upon the youth culture to ‘wake up and hold your mistakes up’, it’s no surprise it became perhaps the signature song of both the album and the band. Detecting the standout melody on Haïti is a challenge

The folk-ier side of Arcade Fire is always plainly evident.

Love becomes a funeral pyre

Funeral’s release was met with the endorsement of both David Bowie and Bono – primarily because it’s littered with hooks. Régine Chassagne takes centre stage with a breathy lead vocal that sounds somewhat Goldfrapp-esque. The mix is full of strange sounds, quirky sub-melodies and tense, evolving sound pads that rise and fall. A jaunty top-line surfaces on occasion before being submerged again in the sonic morass. This tension is resolved by a perfect segue into Rebellion (Lies), which maintains a fairly straightforward indie-rock sound with bass, drums and a prominent vocal from Butler. The track also features some swelling violin courtesy of Sarah Neufeld, another large contributor to Arcade Fire’s mini orchestra and later to

become a core member of the band. Horns and harps also play their part in the mix of a song that has become an enduringly popular staple of the band’s live set.

The album concludes with a haunting, Björk-like vocal from Regine Chassagne, backed by acoustic guitar, twinkly piano and what sounds like a harmonium. In The Back Seat wraps up Funeral’s themes and provides the listener with not only another gem of a song but a reflective commentary on loss, grief and moving on. Funeral’s release was met with universal critical acclaim and the endorsement of both David Bowie and Bono, the former taking to the stage to perform with the band during 2005’s Fashion Rocks. It’s true that Arcade Fire were greeted with a great deal of hyperbole and press attention, and even Win Butler himself would announce “Good evening, we’re Flavour of the Month,” before playing shows on the Funeral tour. What’s somewhat unexpected is that now, ten years on from the release of their debut album, the band are still gaining the same level of adulation, even performing a coveted Glastonbury headline slot in the summer of 2014. Their influence can be felt in latter-day releases by Coldplay, Take That and U2 (who would use Wake Up as their pre-show entrance music). After years of scrutiny and dissection Funeral continues to stand as a landmark recording, and it will undoubtedly remain regarded as such for decades to come as more and more new fans discover this sonic masterpiece, judging it on its highly nuanced lyrical themes, grand musical ambition, rich arrangements and unique sound. MT

The players: Win Butler

Funeral introduced the world to Win Butler’s characterful lyrics and powerful vocals, establishing him as Arcade Fire’s de facto frontman.

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Régine Chassagne

Chassagne shared main vocal duties with husband, Win, and contributed often peculiar instruments that helped define the band’s unique sound.

Richard Reed Parry Core member Parry contributed a wide variety of instruments to Funeral and was a primary figure in the album’s distinctive production style.

William Butler

The younger of the two Butler brothers contributed the bulk of Funeral’s synth sounds in addition to taking on bass and percussion duties.

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MT Feature Bernard Butler

MT Feature Interview

BERNARD BUTLER

From Britpop guitar god to behind-the-scenes production wizard, Bernard Butler’s career has certainly been varied. Andy Price takes a look round his studio, finds out about his current projects and hears the truth about that break-up…

I “

’m not an engineer, I don’t just press record for people – there’s got to be a reason for me to be involved creatively,” declares former Suede guitar hero and songwriter Bernard Butler. We’re here in his impressively geared, but somehow still quite cosy, Studio 355, the nerve centre from which he runs his multi-faceted career as established producer, songwriter, guitarist and creative guru. Bernard is currently in the midst of multiple projects – including recording with his improvisational band, Trans, and working alongside Everything But The Girl’s Ben Watt on his latest record and upcoming tour. We caught up with Bernard to discuss his approach to music making, his studio technique and his varied musical history.

And so it begins… MusicTech: Is it right you were previously a sit-in tenant at [Orange Juice frontman] Edywn Collins’

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West Heath studio before setting up on your own? Bernard Butler: Yes, Edwyn was ill and in recovery from his stroke, so for a few years I was there and did quite a few records. Then of course Edwyn improved and wanted his studio back, so I came here and set up Studio 355 [named after Bernard’s signature guitar of choice, a 1961 Gibson 355]. A lot of the actual recording gear I’ve had for a long time, I haven’t really bought a lot of stuff. I do see gear in mags sometimes and I sort of think ‘yeah great, that’d be brilliant for my studio,’ then I kind of wonder if it’s worth it. I mean, will it all really make a difference to my studio and the way I work? MT: You’ve worked with a wide variety of musicians including Duffy, The Libertines, James Morrison, Teleman, and Kate Nash. How do you get involved with new production projects? BB: I don’t really seek people out. I don’t assume that

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Bernard Butler Feature MT

Photography by Mike Prior

if I go up to someone and say ‘hey you’re really cool, come to my studio,’ they would instantly come and work with me. I always think that if someone’s good then they’ve worked hard and have an idea of what they’re doing, and have someone to work with already.

Production is as important a part of the composition process as writing with an instrument In the past people have generally come to me, for one reason or another. Sometimes it’s to do with writing, so I’ll do a writing session with somebody and that will become a production. I get sent stuff, and if I like it then I’ll get involved. It’s as simple as

that. So more often than not I work with new, developing artists.

Introducing the band MT: In terms of gear, what’s the cornerstone of your studio? BB: I’m still using Pro Tools 9, which I know is a little outdated. Basically I got loads of plug-ins for free and I’m a bit scared to go back to them and ask to upgrade it all and go through the set-up learning process again. I’m used to Pro Tools 9 and the simple fact is that it just works for me. A couple of times I’ve looked at it and realised that I’d have to spend a grand just to get that thing where you can draw in the gain – and I’m not sure it’s worth it? Would that really change my life? Or would it mean I’d spend a week trying to set it all up and take precious time away from music making. Really, I’ve got more than enough features in Pro

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MT Feature Bernard Butler

in and start adding to it, evolving it. I’d press record the minute everyone was in the room and set up so that every single note was down. I’d then go through the recordings and realise that most of it was utter bollocks! However there’d be one or two little riffs, melodies or patterns that were really, really good, or two minutes at the start that were really cool. So I’d be isolating the hooks, and me and Jackie [McKeown] would sit here and experiment, putting bits and pieces together in Pro Tools. We wouldn’t chop them out of the multi-tracks but we’d approach the recording as if it was two-inch tape. We’d cut the whole thing out, so everything then stayed as it was rather than editing it all together again. It’d be more akin to splicing. We’d do that again and again and put vocals on the top. Occasionally we’d re-record certain ideas better later on and layer them on top. Tools 9. There’s a danger of limiting creativity, I think, with having too much to play with, and that goes for both software and gear. With my setup everything just works well for me. MT: What outboard hardware do you have? BB: I’ve used Thermionic Culture stuff forever. I’ve got the Earlybird, which was one of the first ones. I know Vic [Keary, Thermionic Culture’s head honcho] and I also got sent a prototype of the Phoenix from Nick Terry, a great engineer who designed it all originally. I’ve also got a Culture Vulture – I use it for everything I record. They’ve also got some pretty good plug-ins – they just make really great stuff!

Trans-ition MT: You’re currently working with former Everything But The Girl frontman Ben Watt – is that as a producer or as a musician? BB: With Ben my role is quite straightforward – I’m just playing guitar. I’ve not been involved in the production or the writing in a significant way, I’ve just been adding bits here and there. It came at a really nice time when I’d done a lot of writing and production work and was starting to feel a little bit jaded by it all. But when Ben asked me to play guitar that was brilliant, because the whole thing was his problem and I just got to ride along! Ben will sometimes says to me, ‘you see that chord there, don’t play that,’ and that’s so refreshing. I’ve worked with people over the years who would say, ‘but that’s my chord, I always play that chord,’ and get really touchy. I’d rather eliminate those problems during the making of the music rather than seeing it written in some horrible review. You’re a better person for it, I think. MT: Your band Trans is quite experimental and progressive – how does the writing process work? BB: We have three days of playing non-stop, then leave it a month and come back and do the same thing again. We’d all be in our various positions and someone would just start playing and we’d all kick

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I’d go through the recordings and realise that most of it was utter bollocks! Bernard’s Gear ● Pro Tools 9 ● Thermionic Culture Earlybird ● Thermionic Culture Phoenix ● Thermionic Culture The Culture Vulture ● Empirical Labs Distressor ● LA Audio stereo compressor ● Oramsonics Dual Channel Mic Pre/EQ ● Trident Flexi-Mix Desk ● Watkins Copicat ● Roland Drum Machine ● Roland Space Echo ● KRK Studio Monitors ● Yamaha NS10 Monitors ● Acoustic Energy AE1 speakers ● Wurlitzer EP200A ● ARP Quartet ● Roland SH-2 ● Roland SH-1000 ● Roland RS-505 ● Casio VL Tone ● Native Instruments Maschine ● UAD Quad complete set ● Waves Mercury (Top) Bernard is widely known for his superb guitar chops, but he’s also a dab hand with the piano and synths.

MT: Is there a specific goal you’re trying to achieve with this way of doing things? BB: The key thing is that it’s the sound of the room that we all liked. That’s why some of the tracks fade in and fade out – we were deliberately limiting ourselves. We all agreed that the primary spirit of Trans is that if we’re enjoying it, then great, and we don’t really care if people dislike it. The whole reason we started was to get in a room and play!

Master craftsman MT: Do you see yourself as a producer or a musician these days? BB: I still think of myself primarily as a songwriter and music maker more than a producer. Normally I’ll start with a musical idea at the piano. My piano over there is brilliant, and it’s great for getting rhythm ideas down. It’s good for thumping out bass notes, giving you an idea of rhythm straight away. From there, once I get an idea going or a melody I’ll switch instruments, perhaps to the guitar or drums, decide what other elements I can add and start capturing something. Production goes along with the writing for me – if the song is intended to be an acoustic song or just a piano-based song then that’s fine, but even when I do that there’s some measure of production. Production is as important a part of the composition process as writing with an instrument, I think. I have started a song digitally with loops on Pro Tools, but more often than not all my songs start on the piano. MT: Will you usually play all the instruments yourself when you’re working up demos? BB: Yes, even the ones I can’t play that well. I can’t

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Bernard Butler Feature MT

play the drums but I know exactly what the drums should do when I’m writing songs – I know exactly what I want, but when I go in and try to do it myself it never works out too well! But I do record little loops of things, ideas, etc, because it’s the quickest way of getting them down.

Bring it back MT: You’ve had such a varied career – is there one particular high point that towers above all others? BB: It’d probably be, and I always say this, Yes by McAlmont & Butler. After all this time it’s still always that. It kind of puts down everything else I’ve done by saying that, but I do love lots and lots of things that I’ve done in the past. Obviously Suede was a massive thing for me and probably what people ask me about the most, but writing that song with David and pulling it off at the time was such an amazing feeling. The song itself still makes me really happy, and gives people a lot of joy. Basically, when we did that I had just come out of Suede and I really didn’t want to form a new group. I wanted to make some music that was outside of the constraints of being in a band and all the stuff that goes along with it – T-shirts, fanzines, press attention, and the rest. All I wanted to do was just make the best music I could, and with Yes the idea was to make a perfect pop moment. I was really obsessed with making a pop moment at that point in time. The only thing that really mattered to me was what came out of the speaker, the mix of it, the ‘sound’. Having a poster of us on your wall and falling in love with McAlmont & Butler was the last thing I wanted, it was purely motivated by the sound. We were very idealistic and I know it pissed a lot of people off and it got me into a lot of trouble

(Right) Bernard with his trademark Gibson 355 – a guitar so good he named his studio after it.

at the time – I was so hell-bent on it and it didn’t make sense to some people.

(Below) The kind of studio rack that every guitar hero needs!

MT: You recently performed with David McAlmont at a couple of fund-raising shows at the Union

It’s a very rare thing to write a song and see people genuinely loving it – it’s unbeatable Chapel in Islington – how did they come about? BB: Me and David never actually split up, and we’d played gigs in the interim period. What happened with the recent big shows was that I’d run the marathon and was trying to raise some money for charity. We decided to play the Union Chapel thinking that we’d sell 300 tickets and it would look OK and it’d be a good laugh, and actually it sold out in five minutes! We sold a thousand tickets in five minutes. The second night, the same thing happened. I think we were all taken aback by that. The shows were really great fun. It was that really rare moment where you go on stage and play a song and you just feel like you’re not really playing. We played Yes and I just looked out at the audience and thought that it was the easiest thing I’ve ever done. I’d just ran a marathon, which was a nightmare, and I thought ‘why the hell don’t I just stick to this!’ It was a really beautiful moment. It’s a very rare thing to write a song and see people genuinely loving it – that feeling of making someone’s three minutes better is unbeatable. That’s what music means to me.

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MT Spotlight Studio Gear

Bernard’s studio, in his own words… out for summing. It’s alleviated my need to use an expensive mic preamp for the kick drum. It’s also great for guitars – I’ll distort the mic pre and the EQ. THERMIONIC CULTURE PHOENIX BB: The Phoenix sounds amazing – often I’ll put the whole mix through that. THERMIONIC CULTURE EARLY BIRD BB: If I’m recording vocals then I’ll always use the Earlybird as my first choice of preamp. I don’t use the EQ much but the filter is really great. It’s really very clever – you can pull the filter in and then nudge the bass up and get a mid-range push. You really can get some great sounds out of it. It’s also got a very nice selection of switches that I can’t stop tinkering with. ROLAND DRUM MACHINE AND SPACE ECHO

(Above) Amidst the vintage gear and on-off oddities sits Bernard’s DAW: Pro Tools 9.

TRIDENT FLEXI-MIX DESK BB: They were originally built for Queen to go on tour with. You can join loads of them together, so you can get 32-, and 16-channel versions as well, but mine is 10. They’re also modular, and you can get compressor modules and stuff. It’s really great. I got it mainly because when I moved in here I needed to get loads of mic preamps for doing drums, but then I installed this and it just solved the problem. It’s effectively 10 really nice mic amps and a really straightforward EQ, so anything in my drum room goes through that. You can also use it coming back

The wild ones MT: 20 years have passed since Suede’s Dog Man Star was released, which was the point that you left the band. Many people claim to have the ‘inside story’ behind the fall-out that occurred between you and Brett Anderson [a rift which has subsequently been healed], but what actually happened? BB: I’m really proud of Dog Man Star. I was proud when I was writing it, when we were recording it, and I was proud of being part of the band at that time. I thought it was fantastic all through the process. It’s very difficult to talk about it because there’s so much written into folklore, as there always is about these things, and it seems that no matter what I say people seem to go ‘yeah, yeah, yeah,’ and then they’ve still got all the myths and untruths about my departure from Suede in their head. I’ve tried so many times to explain the truth of that situation to people. Dog Man Star had to have an anger and an atmosphere, an emotional core and a deep sadness – that’s what we were trying to convey. Brett [Anderson] left it to me to create music

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BB: This is the Heart of Glass box, also used on In the Air Tonight – you can get the actual Heart of Glass sound on there. I use it all the time. I worked with a band called Teleman a lot last year and we used it on a few of their recordings. I’ll usually put it through the Roland Space Echo and then out through an amp for that late 70s sound, especially when it goes through a Fender Twin with that big reverb. I always use the Space Echo for reverb as well. WATKINS COPICAT BB: I love this old Watkins Copicat, the delay works but it also serves me as an amazing preamp. That’s how I’ve always used it, really – it works as a valve pre. I just stick things through it like that for a big fat fuzzy sound. that would inspire him, and I’d spend whole days writing songs. I was in a really creative mindset during that period and the tracks would come one after the other, and I’d get them quickly down onto a four-track recorder. Once every few days I’d take them round to Brett so he could work on the vocal parts. It’s not true at all that we used to just communicate by post. It probably happened once because one of us was away somewhere, but it’s a complete fabrication that we were distant – I’d go round to his flat in Highgate. And he did not live in a Victorian mansion – again that’s completely made up by the myth-makers. He lived in a flat on Shepherd’s Hill! MT: So was the recording process as fraught as some would have us believe? Or was it just a difficult record to make musically? BB: Well the recording process was interesting, it was very intense music. Actually, thinking about it, I wouldn’t call it dark. I don’t view Dog Man Star as dark at all, but it’s very intense and very emotional. Songs such as The 2 of Us and Black or

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Bernard Butler Feature MT

could sound better. I didn’t see the harm in getting someone else to mix it, and just work with someone else to get the sound of the record better. And the album’s producer, Ed Buller, has since admitted exactly the same thing. That’s all I wanted to do, and that’s where the friction got too heavy. I was told that it was never gong to happen. But I was serious about it and I knew exactly what I was talking about. To this day I still think it would have been better, and Ed has said the same. When push came to shove, though, it spiralled out of control and became a thing where, like everything with Suede, I took it to the edge of the cliff just to see what would happen. And when you do that you have to be prepared to jump when you get there. This was how we ran our lives and we were in this mindset this anyway. When the crunch happened I said, ‘OK, well I’m standing by my point and I’m going to jump,’ and they said ‘go on, then’ and so I did. And that’s why it ended, it’s as simple as that.

NATIVE INSTRUMENTS MASCHINE BB: I have to admit that I don’t really use the Maschine too often. I got it because I’d seen so many kids with them and I thought, ‘this is what you have to do to be modern,’ but if I plug something in and I can’t get to grips with it straight away then I can’t be bothered! THE EQUESTRIAN VORTEXION BB: It may not look like much but it’s brilliant. It was a total one-off and was originally an old 60s Vortexion mixer that I got for £80. It didn’t have a plug on it, and I gave it to a friend of mine who then kept it for about eight years. When I went round and saw it he’d actually turned it into an amp. The sound is really amazing – it’s just got this pure, glammy, Mick Ronson kind of sound. It’s amazing. So, yeah, it’s a total one of a kind.

Unlike a purely commercial studio, Bernard has to have a creative stake in a project before he gets involved.

MT: Given the large amount of time that’s now passed, how do you view that period now? BB: I think it’s quite funny, really. Lots of people saw my departure from Suede as sad, and I know Brett sees it as sad. But actually it’s just really funny when you think about it. We’re not talking about fighting wars here, we’re talking about making records. It’s all about what we could do as people creatively – you know, it’s just a pleasure to work in music full stop! MT

Blue are often referred to as such and they really aren’t particularly dark songs, we just thought they were beautiful little compositions. Brett basically wanted me to push myself to the limit and I certainly assumed that he would as well. MT: Is there any truth to the rumour that you wanted to take more of an active role in the production side of Dog Man Star? BB: People often say that part of the reason I left was because I wanted to produce it, and that’s not true at all. I never ever wanted to produce Dog Man Star. I didn’t ask to, nor did I attempt to mix it myself. Again, another myth that has somehow become fact. What I did say was that I wanted somebody else to mix the record. Halfway through making the record I’d been playing the stuff to producers, engineers, people at the mastering room, and they all said the same thing – this record should and

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Music is Our Passion

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MT Technique Secrets of the Toolbar

Logic Pro X Workshop

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Secrets of the Toolbar Despite its apparent simplicity, the Toolbar contains some essential tools for speedy and efficient music arrangement. Mark Cousins gets tooled-up.

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unningly hidden at the top of the interface, the Toolbar is Logic Pro X’s secret weapon for super-fast editing and arrangement, and a great way of extending a rough-and-ready demo into a developed composition. Technically speaking, many of the Toolbar’s functions can be found as either assignable keyboard shortcuts or menu commands, but the Toolbar’s real usefulness is its simplicity – simply select a few bars or regions and then hit the appropriate function for instant gratification! Though simple in execution, the Toolbar facilitates complex edits across multiple tracks, making it much easier to concentrate on the musicality of the track, rather than getting distracted by the process.

Toolbox Since the release of Logic Pro X, the Toolbar has become a togglable part of the user interface, activated either using the Toolbar button on the Control Bar, or the keyboard shortcut ctrl + alt + cmd + T. By default, a healthy splattering of functions are included (most of which we’ll explore in this workshop), but if you’re working on a bigger monitor you can also add additional features into the mix by ctrl+clicking on the Toolbar and selecting the desired feature. The key concept to grasp with the Toolbar’s features is that many of the tools work with either a selected time period – defined in the bar ruler – or a selected region. In the case of time-based functions using the bar ruler, it’s great that the two elements sit in such close proximity, letting you swiftly make an edit using the uppermost part of the Tracks area, often without having to go anywhere near any regions. Arguably the most useful features on a day-to-day basis are those grouped to the right-hand side of the Toolbar, covering the Repeat, Insert and Cut functions. Put simply, these are your ‘macro’ arrangement tools that enable you to Slice, Splice, Extend and Cut your track quickly and easily.

Key to all these features is some form of selection in the bar ruler that defines the area you want to work with – either to remove a passage; Cut Section, insert a given number of bars silence; Insert Silence, or cut and paste segment of the

The most useful features are those grouped on the right side, covering Repeat, Insert and Cut – your macro arrangement tools arrangement; Cut Section and Insert Section. While it’s possible to perform all these actions with the scissor tool and a bit of patience, the Toolbar largely makes it a one-click process. Firstly, the edits are performed ‘Globally’, that is to say, all regions within the given time period are modified, and any subsequent events are

THE SKIP FEATURE If you need to rehearse any arrangement edits, try making use of Logic’s Skip feature. The Skip feature works much like Cycle, although rather than looping a segment of the timeline, it skips it. Start by setting a cycle for the region you want to skip, then in the Control Bar select the Swap Left and Right Locators button, which looks like two arrows pointing away from each other. By default, the button might not be on the Control Bar, in which case you need to customize it (by ctrl+clicking on the Control Bar) to make it active. Once active, the cycle will change shading, and if you start the transport before the Skip region, Logic will jump its playback to test the edit

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Secrets of the Toolbar Technique MT

MT Step-by-Step Secrets of the Toolbar

By default, the Toolbar isn’t viewable, but you can make it active at any point either using the button in the top left-hand corner of the Tracks area, or by using the keyboard shortcut ctrl + alt + cmd + T.

The Toolbar can be customised to your particular workflow. You can add or remove functions by ctrl + clicking on an empty area of the Toolbar. An accompanying dialogue box lets you drop in and out functions as you see fit.

The Toolbar makes most sense when used in conjunction with the bar ruler and the task of arranging a project quickly and intuitively. Before you initiate any of the Repeat, Cut or Insert functions, therefore, ensure you define the area using the locators.

Two of the most useful features of the Toolbar are Cut Section, and Insert Silence. Use Cut Section to remove a segment of the track you don’t like, or, if you want to insert a number of empty bars, Insert Silence.

The Repeat, Cut or Insert functions are efficient tools because you don’t need to select any region data. Using the Repeat function, for example, you can quickly extend a track, without having to edit multiple regions and move subsequent data.

As you’d expect, the combination of Cut Section and Insert Section can be used to duplicate a part of the song later on in the project. In this case, the new section is inserted at the current Playhead position.

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also moved accordingly. When you’ve got a project assembled from 100+ tracks this can be a real lifesaver, avoiding the potential pitfall of forgetting to edit some of the material. Equally, events such as tempo, time signature changes and automation (which can be often be forgotten) are also moved without you having to remember. Although a large number of the Toolbar functions work predominantly with the bar ruler, it’s worth noting a number of options that work in tandem with both the bar ruler and one or more selected regions – most notably Split by Locators, Split by Playhead and Crop.

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In essence, these Split functions are a useful step down from the ‘Global’ Repeat, Insert and Cut, letting you use the Bar Ruler and Playhead as a form of editing tool. With Split By Locator, for example, you can define a global time frame in the bar ruler, then either activate Select All (cmd+A) and make the cut, or select a number of specific regions and then split them. Split by Playhead is a great tool as you edit in a musical fashion, rather than positing an edit in a ‘graphical’ fashion, so therefore, make use of Logic’s transport. You find an out point by pressing stop and then activating Split by Playhead. MAGAZINE February 2015

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MT Technique Secrets of the Toolbar

In mastering, the Split by Playhead option is an absolute godsend, letting you establish a final end point for a song in a musical way, rather than the rather more vague way of simply moving the end point of the region around until it ‘sounds right’. Although its simple feature set may not set the world of music production on fire, the Toolbar remains an important part of Logic’s workflow, and a perfect way of extending your existing editing skills in a musical and intuitive way. Having spent many years ignoring it (on the basis that all the

functions could be initiated by key commands) it’s interesting just how much the Toolbar has embedded itself into our daily workflow, especially when it comes to making speedy and efficient changes to our music’s structure. MT This tutorial is one of the all-new tutorials available in the MusicTech Logic 2015 Focus on sale now. It is endorsed by Point Blank which specialises in courses on production, sound engineering, the music business, singing, radio production, DJ skills and film production, all run by top British music producers and media professionals, with regular visits from legends in music and media. www.pointblanklondon.com

MT Step-by-Step Secrets of the Toolbar… cont’d

The next Toolbar functions are interesting in that they work with both region and bar ruler selection. Split by Locators needs both a defined time period (in the bar ruler) and one or more selected regions before the function can be applied.

Another variation of Split by Locators is Crop, which is a great way of trimming down one or more regions based on the cycle length. Crop is a great way to separate an event without having to change both the start and end of the region.

Once you’ve separated a region, it’s interesting to use the Nudge tool as a means of re-positioning one or more regions without the use of the mouse. Set the value using the central dropdown menu, and then nudge the regions using alt + arrow keys.

The next few Toolbar features are particularly useful in mastering. Split at Playhead is a great way of setting the ends of a song in a musical way. Simply select the region, play it, stop the transport at the ‘end’ and initiate Split at Playhead.

Following Split at Playhead, another useful function is Set Locators by Regions, found on the right-hand side of the Toolbar. This sets a cycle length that’s sample-accurate to the length of the region, rather than snapping to a bar division.

With the cycle set exactly to the length of the region, we can now Bounce our file (this can be set as an additional function on the Toolbar in order to negate a trip to the mixer) to render a final file of an exact length.

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MT Technique The Ultimate Guide to Ableton Live

Ableton Live The Ultimate Guide to Ableton Live, Part 1

Ableton Live: the inside track

Ableton Live’s popularity continues to grow, and if you’re a recent convert and want to get a quick handle on it you’ve come to the right place, as Martin Delaney is here to demonstrate its power…

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bleton Live has been around for over ten years now, but sometimes it still feels like the new kid on the block, remaining fresh, innovative and deceptively simple to use. The Session View and warping are what make Live truly unique – the competition has had a decade to try and catch up, but still hasn’t really managed to. Live keeps growing in popularity, too, with new users coming on board every year, so now seems like a good time to go right back to the start and write a guide that unearths the reasons for the software’s popularity while exploring the its hidden (and not-so-hidden) depths.

On the disc Accompanying project file included on the DVD

Live can be easy to learn, and is a fully functional tool for music creation and performance Live can be easy to learn and it’s a hell of a lot of fun, but it’s not a toy – this is a fully-functional tool for music creation, production and performance. You’ll see Live on stages and in studios around the world, and this series will explain why it has become such a force in the DAW world.

All in one Live’s single window design contains all of the elements that you need to get going, and most of them can be shown/hidden by keyboard shortcuts to make the best of your available screen space. (Live also supports dual displays, where you can view Arrangement and Session Views simultaneously.) The triangle at the top left of the screen toggles the Browser, which is where you need to be to load samples, instruments and effects. Other elements include the Mixer, the Overview, Sends, Return Tracks, In/Out View

(signal routing) and the Detail View, which is where you’ll see either clip contents or instruments and effects. The keyboard shortcut you need for all of these is alt-cmd followed by the appropriate letter for the element. So alt-cmd-m toggles the mixer, alt-cmd-i toggles the In/Out View, and so on (though it’s ‘l’ for the Detail View – I guess they ran out of letters!).

Just looking I’ve already mentioned the Browser, and on a day-to-day basis this is your one-stop shop for software instruments and effects and their presets, as well as audio sample content. Live will install with tons of content anyway, but you can add more at any time. Of course you can record and program your own content, but Live Packs are a great way to gather more material. (They’re like Ableton-specific .zip files, and Live Packs from Ableton or other suppliers will install their contents directly into your Library, appearing in the Packs section of the Browser.) You can also create shortcut links to your own folders outside of the Live Library, which is useful if you like to keep your full-length songs in iTunes, for example. Once you have a lot of material in there sometimes it’s faster to search for what you want instead of scrolling through huge lists and sub folders (as long as you have an idea of what it’s called). For those times you can use Live’s search function, the Browser doesn’t even have to be open, just hit cmd-f and begin typing the name of what you’re looking for – the Browser will open, and a list of results will begin to filter itself as you type. Then use your keyboard’s arrow and

FOCUS ON… VIEWS When you’re new to Live, the first thing that’ll trip you up is the Views. With other DAWs (digital audio workstations), there’s a timeline, where the music flows left to right from beginning to end, and that’s it. Live has that too – the Arrangement View – but the most unique thing about Live is the Session View, which is a vertically scrolling grid. This busts you out of the timeline constraints so you’re free to improvise with the material inside the grid, ie, your clips. Actually, you can use both Views at once, for ultimate power, but we’ll talk about that another time…

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The Ultimate Guide to Ableton Live Technique MT

MT Step-by-Step Set up your soundcard and controller

You probably have a MIDI controller and an audio interface (soundcard) that you want to use with Live. The specifics of setting them up varies according to which ones you have, but here are the basics.

Connect your controller by USB. Install any drivers needed (most controllers are class-compliant, though), launch Live and go to Preferences/MIDI Sync. Select your controller as a MIDI input source for Track and Remote.

Click on the Control Surfaces list at the top – if your controller’s listed in there it will have a certain amount of built-in control over Live without you having to configure anything further.

Close Preferences, and type cmd-m to enter MIDI Map Mode. Anything blue can be controlled by MIDI. Click a parameter then move a knob or fader on your hardware to assign it.

Use cmd-m to exit MIDI Map Mode when you’re done. Now when you move your hardware control the on-screen one moves too! You can assign one hardware control to multiple objects in Live.

Connect your soundcard while your speakers are turned off, and install any necessary drivers. Open Live’s Preferences and select it as Input and Output device in the Audio tab.

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enter keys to select and load the item you were looking for. Very fast way to get around! As an Ableton Certified Trainer I spend a lot of time dealing with buying advice to do with soundcards and controllers. I don’t want to be a party pooper, but usually my advice is to wait as long as possible before choosing a controller, because your ideas about what’s right for you

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will change fast as you get to know Live. So for now, if you’ve got an old MIDI keyboard lying around, work with that to get started.

Switching sides Live isn’t only picking up new users, it’s gathering converts from other DAWs such as Logic, Reason and Pro Tools. If MAGAZINE February 2015

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The Ultimate Guide to Ableton Live Technique MT

MT Step-by-Step The basics of launching clips

Open the example Live set on the MusicTech DVD – it’s called TUGTAL1. Make sure you’re looking at the Session View with the grid – use the tab key to move between Views.

Track 1 contains a white clip called Beat, which is a drum loop. Click on the small triangle at the left of the clip to launch it. Now it’ll loop forever unless you stop it!

Stop it by clicking the square in any empty slot below that clip, or on the track stop button at the bottom of the track. Control the volume by moving the volume fader up and down.

You can change the clip’s launch behaviour from the Launch box. If you can’t see it, double-click on the clip and click the small black L button near the lower left of the screen.

Experiment with different Launch Modes as you launch and re-launch the clip. Mix and match with different quantization settings from the box below that and you start to see how clips can be quite organic!

Change the project bpm at the top left of the screen, and your loop speeds up or slows down without changing pitch or tripping over itself as it loops round. This is warping (timestretching) at work.

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you’re coming to Live from another music application, even GarageBand, you’ll have to be patient while you undergo a period of adjustment. Live is like those programs in some ways, but very different in others, and it can be frustrating at first. But be patient, it’ll be worth it! Live comes in three flavours: Intro, Standard and Suite

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(currently at version 9). Increasing in price, each version has different features, so check the handy comparison chart on www.ableton.com. There’s an upgrade path, so if at any time you want to step up you needn’t pay to start all over again. Prices are also lower if you purchase the download versions rather than boxed discs. Occasionally MAGAZINE February 2015

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The Ultimate Guide to Ableton Live Technique MT

MT Step-by-Step How to program a simple beat

Live also enables us to work with MIDI, programming our own parts as well as using audio from other sources. Let’s add some more electronic-sounding drums. Track 2 contains Live’s Core 808 drum kit.

Double-click the clip slot at the top of the track to create an empty one-bar clip. Launch this, even though it’s empty. Your Track 1 clip will play too, unless you stop it.

Double-click the clip to view the MIDI Editor. The left side of the editor displays the names of the sounds in the kit. The grid is numbered with beats and 16th notes.

Preview the 808 kit sounds by clicking the preview button (headphone icon) at the top of the list, and clicking in the boxes next to each sound. Turn off preview when you’ve done this, though.

Let’s add a kick part. While the clip’s playing, double-click in the grid on 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 and 1.4 in alignment with the kick on the left. The notes will trigger as the clip loops.

Draw a snare at 1.2 and 1.4, and cowbells at 1.2.3 and 1.3.3. Scroll if you can’t see the entire kit. Click the Dupl Loop button in the Notes box, then draw another snare at 2.4.3.

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you’ll find other versions of Live bundled with third-party hardware such as keyboards and so on and branded with the manufacturer’s logo, so be aware that they might have different features as well. This is mostly a thing of the past, as I believe Ableton has standardised these bundled editions. If you can’t decide which version you want, or whether you want to buy Live at all, download the demo

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and give it a spin – it’s fully functional for 30 days, effectively making it the Suite version. Our walkthroughs take you through the simple process of configuring your controller and audio interface, launching your first clip, and programming your first beat. Have fun with these first steps – you’re entering an exciting world! MT MAGAZINE February 2015

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MT 20 Pro Tips Mastering

Mastering

Tips

Described by many as a mysterious dark art, it’s actually just another process with a different set of considerations. Hollin Jones shows you how to become a master of your mixes… TAKE A BREAK Even if you have the option of going straight from mixdown to the mastering stage on the same day, it’s always better to leave a gap between the two processes. Wait at least overnight, maybe even a few days or weeks, and you will be much more likely to avoid the skewed judgment that can result from listening to a track over and over during mixdown. Remember, the aim of the two processes is different: mixing is to get a good balance of all the elements in the track; mastering is to get a good shape and level for the track as a single entity, and to match it sonically to other tracks on an album. Having a break between mixdown and mastering makes you much more likely to have a good perspective on how the master should sound. Getting some trusted advice never hurts either.

before it’s heard to equalise the volumes of different tracks. The idea is that the listener doesn’t have to keep manually adjusting levels between songs. It’s likely that if you master a track really loud most people will listen to it via a medium that reduces its volume anyway, so you’ve killed dynamic range by hard limiting for no long-term benefit. As such, limit more sympathetically, keep more dynamic range and get better end results. Tools such as Nugen Audio’s MasterCheck plug-in can help you with this.

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ALWAYS A/B It’s hard to overstate the importance of A/B’ing, i.e. comparing your track to others in a similar genre that have been professionally produced. It’s not necessarily that you want your track to sound exactly like a specific hit record (or maybe you do), but while tweaking and processing the signal it’s easy to lose focus. Periodically flipping on a commercial track that you’re familiar with and you think is in a similar vein to the one you’re working on will give you an instant guide to where you should be heading. Listen for stereo width, overall volume, compression levels, prominence of the bass and vocals and so on. If your track sounds flat by comparison use exciters or EQ to liven it up a bit. If it sounds too narrow then apply a little stereo widening, all the while keeping an eye on your levels.

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CONSIDER THE DELIVERY MEDIA For many years, people thought that the point of mastering was to get a track sounding as loud as possible. While gain certainly is important, things have changed. With most people now listening to music digitally, either through software or on the radio (instead of from a CD player), new factors are in play. Spotify, iTunes with Sound Check enabled, and most radio stations employ pre-processing to the signal

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TEST, TEST AND TEST AGAIN It can be boring, but it’s crucial to test your masters on as many systems as you can, or at least a wide range of hardware. Your treatment may sound great in an acoustically treated studio on high-end speakers, but how does it sound through earbuds played from a phone? Or through your car stereo? Testing on less-than-perfect systems can reveal quirks and issues that aren’t necessarily apparent on studio gear, and these are the kinds of systems that the majority of people will be listening to your music on. Of course you can’t compensate for every possible combination of equipment but you should aim to get a sound as good as possible on all playback media. It’s a real balancing act: don’t sacrifice too much because some systems have a natural bias, such as car stereos being bass-heavy. Be 04 aware of this. The art of mastering is to get it right.

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With all these new-fangled digital delivery systems in play it’s never been more important to keep a close eye on your meter (above). Test out your mastered track on as many systems as you can get your hands on (right).

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Mastering 20 Pro Tips MT

LESS CAN BE MORE There are some amazing tools around for mastering, such as iZotope’s Ozone suite amongst many others, and they provide an incredible array of powerful processors for sculpting your masters. But that doesn’t mean you have to use them all on every track. Restraint, as ever, is the key factor. If you’re having to apply tons of processing and make major changes during the mastering process then it’s probably a sign that your mix isn’t fantastic. Ideally, a mix will be well-balanced enough that you only need to dial in moderate EQ tweaks, a little compression and some fairly gentle limiting with moderate attack and release times. It varies by genre, of course, and an acoustic ballad should require a much lighter touch than a heavy rock track. Be aware of what works best for the type of music you’re working on.

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08 TAKE IT EASY We have mentioned the ‘loudness wars’ and the race to make tracks as loud as possible so that they ‘stood out’ alongside competing tracks. But since radio, TV and most digital streaming services apply pre-processing to equalise volume this is no longer as desirable a goal. Instead, don’t limit as hard as you might be tempted to. While it’s true that you will probably still want to set your output level at around -0.1dB, don’t drive the input gain so hard. This will preserve more of the transients and avoid squeezing all the dynamic range out of the signal. As such it will retain more musicality and avoid the perverse situation where tracks that have been hard-limited actually sound quieter when broadcast because their gain is being pulled down. Instead of having levels solidly rammed up against zero, limit more sympathetically.

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GO BACK TO MIXING IF NECESSARY If you have control of both the mixing and mastering processes, don’t try to fix a bad mix during mastering. If the vocal is too quiet, there’s only so much you can do to try to draw it out using EQ before you start to negatively affect the track as a whole, altering sounds in the same frequency range to the detriment of the soundstage. If too much compression has been applied to the drums in the mix, there’s not a lot you can do to help them breathe again during mastering. If you can, go back to the project file after identifying these issues, fix them, and do another mixdown. Then return to mastering. If you have been given a mixdown by someone else and re-doing the mix isn’t an option, you’ll have to be as creative as you can and use tools such as narrow EQ and multiband and mid/side compression to try and sort it out.

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KEEP AN EYE ON COMPRESSION Applying master buss compression during mixdown is a good way to ensure a coherence to the signal: it can glue everything together nicely. However, you shouldn’t be relying on that process to boost the volume of the signal too much, merely ensure that it is healthy. You will almost certainly apply some compression during mastering so it’s important to note how much may already have been applied at mixdown, and not go overboard. Compression isn’t the tool you should be using to push the volume up dramatically, but rather to give a smooth ‘together’ kind of a feel. If you’re using multiband compression it may also be taming or enhancing various frequency bands. Limiting is where you drive the signal, and that always comes at the end of the signal chain.

Resist the temptation to make your tracks as loud as possible (top). If you’re applying loads of processing, then maybe it’s time to revisit your original mix (above). Keep the compression in check (below).

Don’t try to fix a bad mix during the mastering process STAY CONSISTENT Mastering is the very last stage of the audio production process and something that should only be done once for any given piece of music: remasters are almost always done to pick clarity and detail out of old recordings that were made on tape with less than cutting-edge outboard. As such it is a very good idea to save mastering presets for each track, be they plug-in chains inside your DAW or wave editor, or application presets. You can then revisit them later if necessary. It’s also a good idea to master different versions of a track at the same time. Let’s say you have a regular version of a track, a radio edit and an instrumental. They will all require virtually identical processing save perhaps for the instrumental, which you might tweak to account for the lack of vocals. Master them at the same time using the same preset (with necessary tweaks) and you’ll get consistency across all versions of the track.

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MT 20 Pro Tips Mastering

METER SMART It’s always worth employing some metering that’s more advanced than the simple master level meter you might get in your DAW or wave editor. If you have done this during mixdown you should have an idea about the phasing, dynamics and stereo width of your track, but since these are things that can and do change during mastering it’s wise to keep an eye on them here too. There are plug-ins, such as those from Blue Cat Audio, that specialise in displaying advanced characteristics that go way beyond simple waveforms. IK Multimedia’s T-RackS suite has a set of built-in correlation meters and suggested loudness based on genre, and these are available as separate plug-ins too. The Ozone suite from iZotope has its own excellent meters, including the Meter Bridge component which gives you an astonishing level of insight into your audio signal.

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MASTER IN THE SAME PLACE If you are making an album or mastering a bunch of tracks that are meant to live on the same playlist or CD, it makes sense to try and master them all at the same location or using the same tools. This will ensure that you get consistency across the tracks and you don’t find some are too bass heavy because you mastered them in a poorly treated environment.

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CONSIDER MULTIBAND COMPRESSION If a single-band compressor isn’t dealing adequately with the track you are using it on, consider multiband compression. As you might imagine this works on several bands, usually an assignable number with configurable crossover points. Splitting compression by band enables you to apply it more selectively; for example, controlling the bass while letting the middle and top ends breathe more freely. Use it carefully, though, as it requires some skill.

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TOP AND TAIL Always top and tail your audio files when mastering to cut off any extraneous noise that may creep in. The safest way to do this is to use fades from and to zero so there’s no ugly jump as signal suddenly disappears. Some suites let you draw these in, or you can use fade handles on your audio clip if you’re using a DAW to master.

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Master your advanced metering tools (above). Compression: sometimes one band just ain’t enough! (below left). Some simple cuts can rid your master of unwanted noise (below right).

It’s worth employing metering that’s more advanced than the simple master level

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Mastering 20 Pro Tips MT

Want to widen the stereo image? Then the handily named stereo widener is here to oblige (right). Careful EQing can make all the difference to a master (below right).

GO WIDE Stereo widening is sometimes used during mastering, and it can be an excellent way to increase the ‘size’ and soundstage of your track – but it must be used with care. The top and upper-mid frequencies can be safely widened a little, but widening a lot fundamentally alters the mix. Bottom end should remain centred as it’s where the energy and power of the track reside.

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GET EXCITED Exciters can be employed during mastering to add shine and sparkle to the top end of a track in a way that simple EQ can’t. Exciters use EQ, phase manipulation, harmonic synthesis and/or subtle distortion to enhance the higher frequencies, which can add more life to your sound.

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Exciters can be used to add shine and sparkle to the top end of a track

EQ IS YOUR FRIEND Although fixing the mix in mastering isn’t recommended, you can make some important changes using EQ. If an element of the mix needs to be brought up or down during mastering you can isolate it using an EQ point with a narrow Q value and make adjustments. EQ is also good for making broader changes to the sonic character of a track at this stage.

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USE AUDIO MONTAGE It’s less popular than it once was but some people like to blend tracks together on albums, so that as one ends it segues into another. You can do this by layering tracks in your DAW and using fade handles, or by using a dedicated tool, such as Steinberg’s WaveLab with its Audio Montage feature, designed for just such a task.

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TO DITHER, OR NOT TO DITHER? If you are changing bit rates during mastering (you’re likely to be coming from 32- or 24-bit down to 16) then it’s worth dithering. This means adding noise to the digital audio signal to reduce the level of distortion. It makes sense to stay at the same sample depth and bit rate throughout the production process then dither at the end.

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EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS Presets are a good place to start with mastering but don’t limit yourself to just the ones with names that fit the style you’re producing. Rock presets may suit rock music, but so might DnB presets. Just poke around to see what works.

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TRUST YOUR JUDGEMENT It’s not uncommon to suffer from ‘fader creep’ during mastering, nudging everything higher because it seems to sound better. Before long you can be really squeezing the life out of a track, its level meters solidly up against zero. If you think it’s sounding too hot, it probably is. It’s better to be a little less intense than a little too intense. MT

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Fixing a mix in mastering isn’t recommended, but you can make some big changes with EQ MAGAZINE February 2015

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MT Technique Programming electronic beats

Technique Beat Programming and Sound Design, Part 5

Programming electronic beats

Requirements Our Beat Programming and Sound Design feature is illustrated using Reason but you can apply the principles to whatever DAW you use.

Software is the perfect way to build beats for electronic music. Hollin Jones shows you the fundamentals…

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he growing popularity and affordability of drum machines from early in the 1980s gave rise to a whole new form of music that was based around the metronomic sound and unwavering rhythm of electronic beats. Of course some real drummers could have played those patterns (Krautrock, anyone?) but not using those kinds of sounds – ways of hooking MIDI drum kits up to sound modules would not be invented until many years later. With the emergence of rave, acid house and the many kinds of electronic music that would follow them from the late 1980s onwards, producers started to create beats that real drummers couldn’t play. There were too many layers, they were too fast and the sounds too complex. Although the term ‘electronic beats’ can encompass a vast range of different sub-genres of electronic music, from minimal techno through to epic club floor fillers, these kinds of rhythms are now almost exclusively software-driven. Even though you might be using an emulation of a classic beatbox, it will probably be in software rather than hardware form. There’s a good reason for this, and it’s that software makes creating electronic drum patterns really accessible. Creating variations and layering up and arranging different parts while keeping everything perfectly locked in sync is what DAWs were born to do.

On the disc Accompanying project file included on the DVD

Back to basics

historically been set at 120bpm, which is a pretty common dance speed. Some virtual drum modules such as Logic’s Ultrabeat or Reason’s ReDrum have built-in step sequencers, and we looked in a previous workshop at how you can use these to create patterns. Just as powerful is the more generic method of building drum parts up using the Piano Roll editor. Individual drum hits tend to be mapped to separate piano keys and these are all arranged next to each other when you select a patch. Recording in a loop lets you build up your pattern over time and you can quantize either the whole part or individual notes or sets of notes by going into MIDI edit mode. In some DAWs you also have the option to use sequencer note lanes. These are particularly handy because they let you record separate drum sounds in different note clips while keeping them all associated with the same instrument. The benefit of this approach is that it lets you edit and quantize different drums – kicks, snares, hi-hats – in different ways; or mute, copy or move them individually to experiment with different beats.

Sounding off Dance beats are also much more flexible than other kinds of drums in terms of how you put your kits together. Where an acoustic or rock kit pretty much has to sound broadly like you’d expect, electronic drums can encompass literally any combination of thuds, cracks, bleeps and squeaks as long as they follow the basic convention that you probably

Probably the simplest form of electronic drum pattern, and still as widely used as the day it was thought up, is the four-to-the-floor kick drum: think New Order’s Blue Monday, but without the stuttering repeats. Dance drums are almost always in 4/4 time, except perhaps for the more experimental and ambient stuff, and they are generally uptempo somewhere north of 100bpm. The standard tempo of a blank DAW project has often

RISE OF THE MACHINES Sometimes, simply quantizing a MIDI beat to 100%, 1/16 resolution is too mechanical, even for electronic music. In this situation you have the option of quantizing it to a value of less than 100% and also of using a triplet or shuffle value to snap it to time while holding on to a little of the human element. One of Reason’s great tools is the ReGroove mixer, which is a sort of real-time, on-the-fly MIDI quantizer that lets you dial in all kinds of timing changes until you hit something you like. Just route a beat through it and play around until you find a feel that works, then if you like you can render the timing changes down into the MIDI clip to make them permanent.

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Programming electronic beats Technique MT

MT Step-by-Step Constructing a loop

Start with a module that suits the kind of music you’re working with. We’ve loaded an instance of Kong to program with the piano roll editor and a MIDI keyboard. You can use a MIDI pad too.

Set the tempo and create a loop using the left and right markers. A conventional dance beat might have a 4/4 kick drum as its bedrock, so begin by recording one.

Since so much dance music involves building beats up and down, it makes sense to keep this loop as the core of your beat and then modify copies of it so you have options as you build the track. Copy and paste an instance, and then label them.

Now add a new note lane by right-clicking on Kong’s sequencer track to find this command. You could record into the same note clip you just copied, but this technique lets you edit notes more easily – you can merge them all later.

Now over the second instance of the kick, add a hi-hat part on the offbeat. You can also colour and/or label this new clip. This isn’t essential but it can help you keep track of what sounds are associated with which clips.

Now add another lane and this time add a snare to the beat. You can add any number of different sounds to any clip, so here we’ve added two differently pitched snare sounds and then quantized them.

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need something thumping away at the bass end, something to hit the offbeat (typically a snare) and maybe a cymbal or shaker to punctuate the alternating 1-2 of the kick and snare with sixteenth hits. That’s a basic, classic dance pattern, and what you add to make it your own is entirely up to you. Since dance kits aren’t limited by the same restrictions as conventional drums, there’s no real restriction on the number of

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different sounds you can assign to pads. Want to throw some distorted sine waves into a pattern? Go ahead! When it comes to creating variations you can do this by hand or use built-in randomizers and other similar tools. If your beats are being generated by some kind of MIDI plug-in this is even easier. Sometimes electronic drums need to be absolutely rigid in their timing and feel, and other times you might want to add just the slightest MAGAZINE February 2015

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MT Technique Programming electronic beats

MT Step-by-Step Constructing a loop… cont’d

One of our snares sounds a bit odd, so we need to go into Kong to edit it. Locate the pad with the sound associated with it and use the quick controls panel on the left to tweak its tone, pitch and volume to make it sit better with the other hits in the beat.

To go even further, open the programmer section and add or tweak effects for the snare sound. You can repeat this for any of the drum sounds by selecting its pad, and there are master effects too so you can really tailor your drum sound.

Where a drum sound is being generated by a synth module you can really play with it to make it sound exactly how you want. Alternatively, swap out the module to create a whole new kind of synth drum, or use a sample-based module in the kit.

Although composing in lanes is useful there may come a point at which you want to deal with a whole drum part as a single clip. To do this you can usually merge the lanes together. Here in Reason it’s accessed by right-clicking on the sequencer track.

Once a MIDI part has been merged down you will see all the notes clustered together into a single clip. This makes it easier to quantize a whole part, render it out as audio or export it as a separate MIDI file.

With any MIDI clip in Reason you can extract its groove, and this is usually possible in other DAWs too. This can be handy for taking the feel of a drum part and applying it to another rhythmic part, a trance gated synth or something similar.

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human element or a touch of swing to them to alter the feel of the music. Beats that are quantized to 100% sound very mechanical, and a lot of producers will use just a dusting of swing, or quantize to 90% instead, to help the overall vibe of a track. One of the secrets of electronic production is that you can often get away with just trying stuff and seeing how it works out. If you kind of randomly enter note values for a

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rock kit it’s going to sound fairly awful, but the nature of a lot of electronic music is such that the weird and wonderful can work really well. That’s not to denigrate it – indeed a lot of great programmers spend a huge amount of time making beats, sometimes with the aim of making it seem thrown together even when it is quite the opposite. However you go about it, making electronic beats is fun and easier than you might think. MT

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MT Technique Aligning multi-track recordings

New Series Cutting-edge Production Techniques

Aligning multitrack recordings

Requirements Our Cutting-edge Production workshops are illustrated using Pro Tools but you can apply the principles to whatever DAW you use.

When it comes to recording with multiple mics there’s one aspect that you may not have considered. Mike Hillier looks at how to keep your tracks in line…

R

ecording a drum kit is a complex task. It often involves positioning a dozen or so microphones, each of which has to be checked to ensure it has the same polarity as the others, and each has their own attendant preamp, EQ and compression decisions. Then, with everything recorded, comes the editing stage. Digital audio workstations have made it possible to shift around each individual hits on the grid, comping in from different takes to cover mistakes and tidying up sloppy performances by dragging hits onto the grid. One extra task that you may not have considered, however, is aligning each of the tracks so that no smearing occurs between, for example, the Kick In and Kick Out mics. The difference in distance from the source of the sound to each microphone results in a slight time delay. This may only be a few milliseconds or less, but it can have the result of smearing the attack of each signal, and even create some comb-filtering as a result of the slight phasing between each channel. The resulting sound is similar in many ways to the effect created by small amounts of plug-in latency, such as that found on systems without automatic latency compensation. This is also one of the reasons that drums tracked with fewer mics often sound bigger than those with many mics. If you zoom into the waveform you should be able to see this delay, as the transient from a kick drum hit will reach first the Kick In, then the Kick Out, then the Overheads and finally the Room mics (which we will ignore for now). It will also reach the other mics as bleed, however we can also ignore this. Trying to time-align for bleed is futile, as each time you correct one signal you will be putting other signals out of alignment. Instead, time-align each drum’s close mics to the overheads. Hopefully the bleed will be sufficiently quiet in comparison to the close

Digital audio workstations have made it possible to shift around each individual hit on the grid signal as to be unimportant. Which also goes to show that none of this can correct for poor mic’ing technique.

Line up in line After aligning the various kick mics to the overheads, go ahead and align the various snare mics, again to the overheads, and then each of the remaining kit pieces – again, always to the overheads. The reason we don’t align the room mics is that the delay in time from the initial hit to the room mics gives them a sense of space. In reverb terms, this is known as pre-delay. If you have recorded multiple room mics you may choose to align each of these together – we usually choose a strong snare hit to use for aligning room mics. You can even add additional delay to the room mics to make the recording environment sound bigger, or bring them in slightly to shrink the space down. Try comparing a bounce of your drum track before and after alignment to see how much of an effect this can have

HIGHLIGHT When recording drums it can be particularly useful to capture samples of each instrument in isolation, usually after a recording pass of the full track. This will help later when going through the mix if you feel the need to replace any particular hits or thicken them up to a certain extent, but it can also be useful for aligning your drum mix, since these hits will have very clean performances in the overheads with no masking by other kit pieces. As sample alignment is based on mic distances, unless you move the mics, anything that works for the samples will also work for the main performance.

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22/12/2014 16:05


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MT Technique Aligning multi-track recordings

on the punch and realism of your drum mix. Listen closely to the attack on the snare, for example, as well as to the purity and weight of the bottom end on the kick drum. For those who would prefer a plug-in that handled this task automatically, Sound Radix Auto-Align (www. soundradix.com) can automatically detect delay and correct for it in multi-mic’d performances. It can also detect and

correct for polarity inversion in the signal too. This can be a time-saver, but the same results can be achieved using the method outlined in this workshop. It is worth noting too at this stage that while a multimic’d drum kit is the most obvious scenario for using this technique it can also be employed on any instrument that has been recorded with more than one microphone. MT

MT Step-by-Step Sync’ing drum tracks

01

By zooming in on the waveform you should be able to see that each hit reaches each microphone at a slightly different time.

Go to bar 3 and zoom in to see the two snare mics – we want to align the attack of the bottom and top parts. They should be close to start with, as the bottom mic is only a few inches from the top mic where the signal begins.

02

03

One method to move the channels is to use the nudge commands. Set the nudge value to only single samples, unless you’re out by quite a way, and nudge the channel forward [.] or back [,].

To use sync points, assign one with either Ctrl+[,] or Cmd+[,]. Align the cursor at the start of the waveform you wish to sync to, and with the Grabber tool enabled hold Start+Shift (PC) or Ctrl+Shift (Mac) and click on the channel with the sync point you want to move.

This has aligned our top and bottom snare to each other, but we actually want them aligned to the overheads. Group the top and bottom snare together with Ctrl+Alt+G (PC) or Cmd+Alt+G (Mac) to prevent them from sliding apart, and repeat the procedure to move these two channels in line with the overheads.

Finding a clean transient in the overheads to place the kick in this drum mix is difficult because of all the cymbal splashes. However, jump to bar 8, and at the end of the bar, on the last eighth note, there is a good isolated kick to work with.

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22/12/2014 16:05


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MT Technique Aligning multi-track recordings

MT Step-by-Step Sync’ing drum tracks… cont’d

Sometimes an instrument will appear in one overhead before the other. In this case it is best to align the close mics to the side that the kit piece is closest to. Eg, a hi-hat would be aligned to the overhead on the drummer’s left / audience’s right.

The exception to this is that we like to ensure the snare hits both overheads at the same time. We do this by measuring the two overheads from the centre of the snare, but often still align them to each other on a snare beat.

With all the close mics aligned to the overheads we can now turn our attention to the room mics and align them to each other on a snare hit. This way the snare sounds as if it is coming from the centre of the mix.

With the two room mics aligned, group them together and experiment with closer and more distant positions by simply nudging the room mics with the nudge commands. At 44.1kHz, a nudge of 100 samples is equivalent to 0.8m.

To use the Sound Radix Auto-Align instead of manual alignment add an instance of the plug-in to every drum track in your mix. Set the Send buss to channel 1 of the plug-in on the OH L channel, and the receive buss to channel 1 on all the other plug-ins.

Hit play on your mix and press the Detect button on each plug-in, and after a short delay it will auto-align your settings. You can bypass all the plug-ins by holding Cmd+Alt and clicking on one of the plug-ins to hear the difference it makes.

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22/12/2014 16:05


MT Feature USSR vs ADSR

MT Feature Soviet-era synths

USSR VS ADSR The former Soviet Union had a thriving synth industry for many years, and some of the machines built during that era have become classics. Scott Houghton looks back at the block rockin’ comrades from decades past…

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USSR vs ADSR Feature MT

Y

ou’d be right to be mildly taken aback when hearing the word ‘synthesizers’ in the same sentence as the ‘Soviet Union’, and yet the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1991 revealed an abundance of electronic music in the former USSR: drum machines and synths like nothing you’d ever heard – a whirlpool of harsh, gritty, sonic tones. Arguably the first synth, the ANS, named after the Russian composer Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin, was built and developed around 1938 and finished in 1958 by engineer Evgeny Murzin. It was fully polyphonic and generated its tones via graphical sound, i.e., by colour and light. It’s famed for its truly unique ghostly sound, so much so that the Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky used it for the score in his space epic Solaris in 1972. Only one of these machines is in existence, but we are lucky enough to have the ANS’s sound available in the form of a free VST. Don’t be fooled into thinking the ANS is anything like what we would call a ‘modern’ synth, though, as it sounds nothing like what you’d hear in any pop or dance record. It has an eerie ethereal wave, perfect for ambience, and similar to the kind of reverberation you’d hear in a Grimes record or from a Roland Space-Echo. It was during the 1970s and early 1980s that the Soviet Union really began to fully embrace and appreciate electronic synthesis in the traditional sense in a bid to catch up with the West’s

(Above) The Formanta Polivoks: the Soviet response to the lack of Western synths.

The ANS sounds nothing like what you’re used to hearing in modern pop and dance tracks technological and stylistic advances, such as the UK’s Synthi and the legendary Moogs of the United States in the 1960s.

Russia’s Moog The Polivoks is regarded by many as the greatest Russian synthesizer, and nicknamed the ‘Russian Moog’. It’s a 49-key duophonic synth designed by engineer Vladimir Kuzmin and his wife Olympiada at the factories in Ekaterinburg and Katchanar. It is famed for its gritty harsh sound; a sonic nuclear explosion of an instrument. Although these synths are capable of producing great sounds, many are of varying quality due to the

state of the components and the conditions they had to work in at the time, which was at the tail end of the USSR. If you are thinking of purchasing an old Soviet machine, please ask for a video demo first. Kuzmin has stated in an interview with the Polish synth aficionado Maciej Polak in 2003 that there was “no musical industry in Russia,” adding there were “simply plants manufacturing equipment as part of a programme to increase the overall volume of goods produced for the people. The best engineers worked at those plants, and it was considered economically advantageous for these military and semi-military factories to manufacture non-military products – TVs, radios, tape recorders and so on. “You need to understand that the socialist economic system was based on a simple principle,” he continued, “statisticians monitored how many families owned, for example, TV sets, and the Party would then decide to increase this number by, say, 20% in the next Five-Year Plan. Then, the Ministry of Planning would formulate plans for the manufacturing plants. But there were too many factories, so the planners had to look for additional products. This explains why Russia produced so many electronic musical instruments; they were proposed by enthusiasts to keep the plants busy.” As these Soviet machines were produced in mainly military or semi-military factories, a great deal are incredibly heavy. For example, the UDS weighs a considerable amount due to it being fashioned from anti-tank plating. This holds the machine in good stead if you’re gigging, yet it’s increasingly tiring carrying it around. With such good plating you’d be forgiven for thinking this would protect it internally too, yet the circuits in many of these machines can be easily damaged or worn away over time, which means buyers need the devices servicing by someone who is familiar with Soviet electronics beforehand. Kuzmin stresses that Russian musicians at the time wanted electronic instruments but couldn’t

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MT Feature USSR vs ADSR

maverick for its day, as it can be used as a signal processor: on the right side of the panel is the gate switch which enables you to utilise these capabilities. But perhaps its most interesting feature is that VCO1 can be cross-modulated with VCO2. In addition you can also play around with the attack and decay generators, giving repetitive and very textured polyrhythms. On the left side of the Polivoks you have the infamous filter cohort, the top half being a standard ADSR, yet with a simple flick of a switch it can be set to loop.

The modular age

Russian synths all have their own particular snarl because of the unique components used afford Western synths such as Rolands and Korgs, therefore the USSR produced its own. Many of them are simple emulations of Western models, with two voices of polyphony, two oscillators each with triangle, square-wave and saw-tooth, two types of pulse waveforms and one noise generator. Different Russian synths each have their own particular snarl because of the unique components used within the instruments. For instance, in the Polivoks Kuzmin decided to bypass the Western tradition of a 24dB/octave filter and develop his own filter mechanics. He chose a very simple 12dB/octave device which humbly accommodated two co-amps and six resistors, which offer low-pass and bandpass responses. The overall design also disregards the notion that analogue synths need capacitors to work, and the end result is a very distinctive sound, one with harsh tones that many have grown to like. The Polivoks could be considered an early

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(Above) The Rockton UDS drum module could be hooked up to these quintessential 80s controllers. (Below) The ins and outs on the rear panel of the Rockton.

Kuzmin decided to take a modular approach to the Polivoks, resulting in separate sound-generating sections for its own circuit board. These boards could then be inserted into the back panel of the Polivoks, enabling the circuit boards to be updated and/or repaired if necessary. Once you use a Polivoks it becomes clear that you are dealing with something very unique indeed, from the sound it generates to its controls, whilst still obeying the universal language of synthesis. However, it is easy to understand for anyone who has previous experience with analogue synthesizers, like a Korg MS20 (or you could have the seller translate the writing on the various dials and knobs for you). Today if you want the sound of the Polivoks there are a couple of ways. The modular synth company Harvestman has now teamed up with Kuzmin to produce the Polivoks VCF (around €200), a modular clone of the Polivoks’ filter which can be integrated into modular systems to create some very interesting sounds. For modern-day producers there is also a VST, named Polivoks Station (now at v2.2 and free), made by Syncersoft, which is definitely worth checking out, although it doesn’t really compare to the feel of the original.

Wait, there’s more… Soviet synths don’t just begin and end with the Polivoks, though. The Soviet Union produced a whole host of electronic equipment until its collapse: synths, keyboards, drum machines, rhythm boxes, vocoders, and even electro-bayans (electronic accordions), which have a long history in Eastern Europe. These were all made in different factories across the union, in many different countries, and many brands were produced as a result. The Zhitomir factory, for example, built Estradins

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23/12/2014 14:47


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MT Feature USSR vs ADSR

and (in Vilnius) Electronikas in the mid-80s. However, the quality and sound of these machines did (and does) vary rarely stand up to a Polivoks on the best of days. The Polivoks had the advantage of voltagecontrolled schematics, giving them a Moog-like sound. It was the kind of tone Soviet musicians wanted to emulate because of Western pop music, which began to seep into the Soviet Union from the 1960s onwards. Yet even the Polivoks didn’t sell well due to how expensive they were and how poor the average people were in the USSR. Other notable Russian synths include the Aelita, a monophonic machine made in the Murom plant. They’re excellent machines if you can get a one in good working order. They have three oscillators and many great effects such as frequency vibrato, attack, decay, etc, which make them sound fairly contemporary – they wouldn’t be out of place in a Chvrches or Haim song. Other great machines include the Alisa synths, made in the Luberetskiy factory. The 1377 and 1387

The Polivoks had the advantage of voltage-controlled schematics, giving them a distinctive Moog-like sound models are capable of some brilliant sounds, perfect for using as effects modules. They are similar to the Sequential Circuits Pro One and can be picked up for lower prices than the Polivoks and Aelitas as they are not as well known. However they are not as reliable as the Polivoks, and given that said Polivoks don’t have a great reputation themselves, you should, if

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(Above) The Aelita is a mono synth with a good range of parameters to control the people’s sounds. A new audio track has been UDS (Below) The mighty Rockton created just below the snare drum machine. track and the Test Oscillator plug-in has been selected from Logic’s Utility menu. A noise gate is then added and the Side Chain function is used to trigger the noise from the snare track. Fast attack and release times with a short hold time are preferred.

possible, always try thoroughly before you hand over your cash…

Let there be drums If you didn’t know about the USSR making synths, then it’s quite likely you don’t know about the drum machines the Union produced. Perhaps the best example of a Soviet drum machine is the UDS, a version of the Tama analogue drum unit. Sometimes named Rokton UDS and sometimes Formanta UDS, they were built at the same factories that made the Polivoks. The only difference between them was that the Formanta UDS came with a ‘rhythm-stick’, which let you play each drum sound by pressing buttons on the neck and then striking a ball on the left. It was an unusual addition, and the supply was limited and not very popular. While the UDS module can be connected to an electronic drum kit and played in the traditional way, it is also a powerful seven-channel analogue drum synthesizer in its own right. It has five identical channels that can be used and edited freely for bass drum, high-tom, middle-tom, low-tom, snare, and two channels for hi-hats and cymbals. Within every channel you can change trigger signal sensitivity, base tone pitch, pitch envelope time, amount of pitch modulation, noise/tone balance, filter cutoff for noise, accent amount and volume. The synth also has a built-in beatbox with 16 patterns. The beatbox and the synthesizer are independent modules, so they can work at the same time freely. You can also tweak the generators of the beatbox patterns and switch every synthesis channel to its preset sound, or switch it in ‘synthesis’ mode and then control the channel’s parameters via eight knobs. Each channel has trigger input on a standard 1/4in mono jack for pads, and two additional inputs for pedals. It can be triggered from any other drum pads, such Roland SPDs, or from an audio source. Like its cousin, the Polivoks, the UDS is capable of

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MT Feature USSR vs ADSR

Georgia and finally all was this assembled in Russia or vice versa. However, after the dissolution of the USSR during December 1991 anyone could buy any equipment of any brand, and that is why all those factories stopped, putting an end to these brilliant maverick machines. Essentially, they just couldn’t compete with Rolands, Korgs and other Western ‘monsters’ that they had emulated. The Elektronika EM-25, for example, could be considered the ‘Soviet’ Roland Juno – it even looks the same – but it just can’t compare to the original’s complexity and sound. So with the purchase of a Soviet machine you’ll

You won’t get the classic creamy tones of a Roland or a Moog, but what you will get is a different beast entirely

toxic and downright deadly sounds – again, very unique. Although the style of the electronic drum kit is very outdated, the look of the UDS module is pretty cool, and like most Soviet electronics, looks incredibly stylish in a live setup.

And finally… It must be stressed that it would be wrong to call these instruments ‘Russian’, as the USSR was a union of different countries and the factories which produced different components were often scattered around all the different regions of the union. For example, the main circuit boards might have been produced in Ukraine, the keys\racks\boxes in

MT Technology Soviet synth enthusiasts

(Above) Built in the same factory as the Polivoks, the Rockton UDS drum machine again provided a unique take on a standard piece of kit.

never have the nice creamy tones of the Moogs and Rolands of this world, but what you will get is a whole new beast entirely, and that’s something well worth exploring to expand your sonic horizons (eastward, of course). MT

,

Kuzmin’s Polivoks are not just for Soviet collectors or analogue hobbyists. Goldfrapp used the Polivoks on their second album Black Cherry released in 2003, and Franz Ferdinand used it throughout their album Tonight: Franz Ferdinand which was released in 2009. The Russian synthpop band Forum is probably the best example of popular electronic music at that time from the USSR. Their song Little Islands sounds surprisingly modern and resembles early offerings from the likes of Spandau Ballet and The Human League.

The rear and front views of the Polivoks may lull you into thinking that it’s just another synth, but under the hood it’s a different proposition entirely. And it’s probably made out of tank panels as well…

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MT Reviews Cakewalk SONAR Platinum

MT Lead Review Details Price SONAR Platinum £399 SONAR Professional £159 SONAR Artist £79 Distributor Cakewalk Contact Via website Web www.cakewalk. com System requirements OS: Windows 7 or 8 (32 or 64 bit) Processor: 2GHz Intel or AMD multi-core processor Memory: 4GB Hard Drive: 5GB for minimal install, 20GB recommended

Key Features

For PC & Mac

CAKEWALK

SONAR Platinum SONAR has always been a mainstay of the Windows music production world, but what does the latest version bring? Hollin Jones fires up his radar…

C

SONAR is one of the longest-established DAWs on the Windows platform and can trace its roots back to the app then named Cakewalk in the 1990s. It was one of the first DAWs to really get behind digital audio recording and has consistently been at the forefront of technological development on the PC, even if it has sometimes not received as much attention as some of its competitors. For a long time this could be at least partly attributed to its interface, which had started to lag behind the others in terms of usability and looks. That all changed with the new Skylight interface in Sonar X1

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which brought a sleek new design and dockable sections to make it feel much more up to date. There are relatively few DAWs that are single-platform, but SONAR is one. Cakewalk actually does develop some of its instruments as dual platform for Mac and PC and also codes for the iPad, but it seems likely that SONAR’s long history of being Windows-only means there’s too much legacy code to facilitate easy porting to the Mac. Stranger things have happened though, like Wavelab getting Mac support or Digital Performer becoming available for PC, so never say never. For now you’ll need Windows 7 or 8, 32 or 64-bit, though overall the system

● Unlimited tracks ● Up to 64-bit, 384kHz sound ● Analog-style ProChannel Strip with 9 modules ● VocalSync vocal alignment tool ● Addictive Drums 2 Producer Bundle ● 57 professional mixing and mastering effects ● 21 virtual instruments including Rapture and Dimension ● 2 months SONAR Membership ● AudioSnap ● ACT controller system ● Mix Recall ● New MIDI Pattern tool ● DSD audio support ● Matrix View and Step Sequencer ● Melodyne Essential ● Touch support on supported Windows 8 computers ● Linear Phase plug-ins ● Batch export ● ReWire 64 support

requirements are fairly modest by today’s standards. Cakewalk does a lot of work under the hood and SONAR was one of the first truly 64-bit DAWs, so performance has always been more than respectable.

Command and control The first big new feature is Command Centre, an application that acts as a hub for your authorisations and downloads. As a concept this is becoming increasingly popular, and NI, Steinberg and others use systems with similar (though not identical) elements. Tied to your Cakewalk user account, it provides access to download all your purchased products and also handles installation too, so there’s less fiddling about generally. You can download different sets of content separately, which is handy when you have the Platinum version with all its goodies, and also manage updates and reinstalls from inside the app. Cakewalk also reckons you will be able to roll back to previous versions of SONAR without affecting the rest of your system, which could be handy for troubleshooting. Another interesting development is that you now get 12 months of SONAR membership with any version of the software. This entitles you to new feature updates, custom content, videos, new presets and free tech support every month. Even if you don’t renew your membership, you keep everything you’ve already received. If you don’t renew, you still get the same support you always would have, but your software version is ‘frozen’ at the version it’s currently on, and you won’t get updates without re-subscribing. Cakewalk says that under this new system it will be issuing more frequent updates to members. SONAR is a fully featured audio and MIDI recording and production environment and all three versions – Artist, Professional and Platinum, share the same core features. Unlike

MAGAZINE

24/12/2014 12:00


Cakewalk SONAR Platinum Reviews MT

some DAWs, even the entry level version allows unlimited audio, MIDI, FX and send tracks and it also has a decent selection of effects and instruments. The Professional version adds a more advanced selection of plug-ins, and the Platinum version yet more plugs as well as tape and console emulation and the new VocalSync technology. Perhaps more than any other tiered DAW range, Cakewalk is really generous with its lower-priced versions and you get the same core technology so you can still do a lot even if your budget is modest.

Interface tweaks The Skylight interface introduced in X1 really revolutionized the way SONAR works, sweeping away the old look which had got rather stale. It’s still really flexible, with almost all sections of the interface available to be docked, floated, rearranged and resized freely. There have been tweaks and improvements in X4 (the unofficial name of this new version) including enhancements to the Control Bar. Icons are more legible and contrast is better, and it can be extensively customized via right click and by rearranging individual sections. It’s scrollable too, so you can navigate to extra sets of controls. The Console view now also allows stacking of as many effects and sends as you like which makes it easier to see all the elements of a mix. The workflow is reassuringly straightforward in that you get multiple track types and a linear project area in which to record and edit Method Spot SONAR uses a system it calls ProChannel which lets you load specialized modules into the channel strip in addition to regular mixer controls and plug-ins from your existing collection. Platinum comes with nine of these including a brand new convolution reverb, and the system is expandable so you can choose to add more as they become available. It’s a clever way to get dedicated new processing options directly inside your mixer.

audio and MIDI. There are track templates that can load up entire setups to save time, and of course FX chains which do the same for audio processing. All versions of SONAR come with a core set of instruments and effects including all the kinds of mix effects you need in day to day situations, plus instruments like Session Drummer 3, Roland GrooveSynth, TTS-1, DropZone and the Studio Instruments : drums, bass, strings and electric piano. The bigger versions of SONAR add Dimension and Rapture LE, Cyclone, Pentagon and Z3TA+, and Platinum gives you Lounge Lizard and Strum Acoustic special editions plus TruePianos Amber.

Alternatives Cubase is cross platform and also comes in three versions : Elements 7 at £82, Artist 8 at £244 and Pro 8 at £448. It’s arguably possessed of a more refined user interface, though this can be a matter of personal taste. Each version comes with its own set of plug-in instruments and effects and like SONAR, the bigger versions have more stuff thrown in. Unlike SONAR, only the flagship version of Cubase has unlimited tracks, and not all the core technology is shared across all versions, though much is.

Plug-ins galore Platinum also gives you 16 virtual custom amps and Addictive Drums 2 Producer Bundle as well as the

Recall. Accessible from the Control Bar, this lets you save and switch

SONAR’s interface has improved immeasurably since the transition to the Skylight system and it’s far more approachable and easier to use… Overloud TH2 Producer amp sim and Melodyne Essential which is great for editing your vocal performances. SONAR has the ProChannel system for creating channel strips and to the existing mix tools, the flagship bundle adds Console and Tape emulator modules for an authentic vintage analogue sound. In fact you get nine ProChannel modules with Platinum and the option to add more, as well as 19 Nomad Factory Blue Tubes FX and QuadCurve EQ Zoom with Analyzer for a grand total of 21 instruments and 57 audio effects. Of particular note is the new ReMatrix Solo, a zero-latency convolution reverb from Overloud that you will probably end up using as your go-to reverb when mixing. The existing stuff is still here too, including the advanced Linear Phase mix and mastering plug-ins. SONAR has always given you a lot of content and this is still the case. If you do opt for the full Platinum version you get everything you need to compose and produce, plus of course in all versions there’s full VST3 support with multi-out functionality.

Mix options Another useful new feature is Mix

between multiple mixer setups and is configurable to include some or all mix parameters, meaning you can leave some routing intact while changing other settings if you like. Swap out effects, fader positions, automation and so on to compare different treatments without having to duplicate a project first. You can use this system to set up multiple mixes, say for radio, MP3, vinyl and so on, and then export all versions at the same time. Mix Recall is genuinely useful and will help you make better mix decisions. Sticking with the I/O theme, DSD import and export is now supported, meaning you can work with Super Audio CD-resolution audio if you choose. SONAR supports sample rates up to 384kHz. New in Platinum is VocalSync, a technology that tightens vocals up by aligning one part to another which is invaluable when working with doubled vocals or syncing up dialogue to picture. It works without splitting or moving clips : you just select a guide track, make some settings and then click to render. You can sync multiple tracks at once and though probably of particular use to those working with movie sound, it’s still a powerful MAGAZINE

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MT Reviews Cakewalk SONAR Platinum

feature. Not entirely unrelated is AudioSnap, with new detection algorithms that let you stretch entire songs, sync recordings to audio loops, tighten up drum recordings or convert audio notes to MIDI data. Audio can be made as elastic as MIDI in many DAWs, but SONAR’s implementation is clean and efficient, with a new look to boot.

MIDI tools Cakewalk is adept with MIDI too of course, and in addition to the existing programming and editing tools there’s now a Pattern Tool. This selects any MIDI data you click on and makes it available for ‘painting’ into other locations, without the need to drag and drop or use key commands. As well as working in the piano roll editor, you can

Depth Charge SONAR remains one of the most powerful DAWs on the Windows platform and as is traditional, Cakewalk has bundled even more content with the newest version as well as further improving the core of the application. Which of the new features excites you most will depend on how you prefer to work. VocalSync is great for anyone working with lots of vocal harmonies, or dialogue-topicture, and Mix Recall will be a lifesaver for a lot of people, since we all mix. MIDI editing is easier with the Pattern Tool and programming and creating virtual sounds gets more powerful thanks to the new bundled instruments. Mixing and mastering is more flexible with the advanced Linear

The first big new feature is Command Centre, an application that acts as a hub for your authorisations and downloads. highlight a clip in the browser and paint it across a track without needing to import it first. It joins the other tools that make workflow pretty snappy in SONAR, such as the Smart Tool which is able to adapt its function based on the kind of controls or content that you hover it over. There’s a lot of stuff that’s carried over from the last version of SONAR of course, and this continues to make it a great performance as well as production tool. The Matrix View in particular lets you import content to a grid and then play it live, either by clicking with the mouse or by linking a MIDI controller. SONAR supports Active Controller Technology (ACT) for setting up MIDI devices to control the software. There’s also a step sequencer built-in for an alternative way to program beats and melodies, and support for scoring, lyrics and video playback as well as surround sound. The Preferences section, which received a major overhaul to simplify and streamline it a couple of versions back, remains an efficient way to manage your I/O as well as the general behaviour of the application. As you’d hope, exporting is powerful with lots of options for creating stems, multiple output formats and bit depths up to 64-bit. There are useful presets here too for quickly exporting tracks with or without effects, directly to SoundCloud and so forth.

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plug-ins, expandable sends and FX stacking and the powerful ProChannel system with its new module. SONAR’s interface has improved immeasurably since the transition to the Skylight system and it’s far more approachable and easier to use than it used to be. There’s still a learning curve for the uninitiated, as with any software, but overall it’s very flexible. Cakewalk has realized that tabs and moveable sections work better than endless right clicking, and this is definitely a change for the better. There’s a lingering feeling that it still lacks the finesse of some competitors when it comes to the UI, and some of the bundled synths are perhaps getting a little long in the tooth. On the other hand the differences between versions are largely down to the

effects and instruments that you get. The core technology is pretty much consistent, so if you prefer to build your own plug-in set, you are free to go for one of the other two versions. Whichever you choose, SONAR continues to be one of the most comprehensive DAWs on the Windows platform. MT

MT Verdict + Very efficient, cutting-edge Windows DAW + Unlimited tracks, great performance + Improvements to Skylight interface + New Command Centre makes content management easier + Mix Recall is a very useful feature + VocalSync good for movie work + Comprehensive set of instruments and FX + Tabbed, dockable, resizable interface works well + ProChannel makes customizing your mixes easier + Perform with Matrix View + Smart tools help workflow + Comprehensive export options + Core technology shared across all versions + Initial pricing is competitive - Some plug-ins feeling a little long in the tooth - Though much improved, workflow and UI could use a little more refinement - Flagship version mostly adds content, not features, if that’s an issue for you - If you don’t renew membership after 12 months, you don’t get software updates - 12-month membership renewal for new users to receive app updates is expensive Still a powerhouse DAW on the Windows platform, now with a better content management system, improved workflow and enhanced mix tools. Be aware of the membership pricing after your 12 months is up.

8/10

MAGAZINE

24/12/2014 12:00


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Native Instruments Rounds Reviews MT

Alternatives Rounds has a pretty unique approach to sequencing its synth engines, but iZotope’s Stutter Edit can let you apply crazy tempo-based sequencing effects to any sound, not just a synth. You don’t get the same style of control as Rounds but you do get a ton of other stuff, even though it’s an effects processor and controller, not a synth.

Innovation

Choice

NATIVE INSTRUMENTS

Rounds

If building complex synth sequences is your thing, NI has something new that will be of interest. Hollin Jones does the Rounds…

A

lthough the NI website does a good job of explaining the core of Rounds, it’s a complex instrument, and this is perhaps reflected in its description as an ‘advanced sequence synthesizer’. Running inside Reakor 5 or Reaktor Player 5 it correspondingly works in standalone and plug-in formats and is available individually or as a part of Komplete 10. Despite looking relatively simple it is actually supremely powerful and requires a bit of homework to really understand how it works.

Details Price £89 Distributor Native Instruments Contact Via website Web www.nativeinstruments.com Minimum System Requirements OS X 10.8 or higher Windows 7 or higher 4GB RAM

Round up Rounds has two synth engines, one analogue and one digital, and you can design up to eight sounds per engine then animate them using the Voice Programmer section (more on this in a moment). The warm-sounding analogue engine has two oscillators and the digital one uses three in conjunction with a two-pole filter. For each of the 16 slots (eight per engine) you can create completely different sounds by tweaking the oscillator, filter, mod and output controls. So far, so straightforward. But it’s when you go to the Voice Programmer section that things start to get interesting. Here you have eight blocks, each one with four cells. Each cell hosts

9/10 9 9/ 10

one sound that is denoted by the number shown next to it, and these can be assigned by clicking from any of the 16 sounds across the two engines. At the top are five mode buttons that determine how the instrument plays back the sounds. You can switch any of the sound blocks A-H on or off, and within each one turn any cell on or off. In Rotate and Rotate Reset modes, pressing a note moves between the cells of a block cyclically with varying behaviour as it jumps between blocks. In Random mode, playback jumps between blocks and cells randomly. In Layer mode a note plays all enabled cells of a block at the same time, and in Zone mode the cells of a block are confined to individual key zones and played as monophonic instruments. In addition to these various modes there’s a variable input polyphony selector that can be set to monochord, multichord and unison mode, and each will affect the way that the other selected modes respond to note input.

Wait, what?!

Key Features ● Two synth engines ● 16 sound slots ● Eight-part Voice Programmer ● Free cell assignment ● Multiple playback modes ● Onboard effects ● Standalone or plug-in

If this all sounds a bit complex, it kind of is and it takes a little time to wrap your head round because it’s a very unique way of dealing with sequencing. Probably the most interesting way to use Rounds is to set its Progress mode to Sequence (as opposed to Note or Time) as this creates a tempo-synced pattern based on the current settings. You can choose a resolution for the pattern as well as a reset value. Progress mode defines how sound progresses from one block to another and you can retrigger sounds. Further, Morph controls let you morph between Sound Cells of the same synthesizer

engine type while a sequence is played or when MIDI note information is received. This means you can create smoother transitions and glides between sound cells for a more organic and less rhythmic effect. There are configurable delay and reverb effects, plus MIDI and Macro control sections to let you make further edits to the levels, panning and effects settings of each sound. The Remote Octave feature maps on/off assignments for blocks to the white keys on your keyboard. Cells get mapped to black keys and you can turn them on and off in real time.

Heavy hitter Rounds is capable of some really fat, lush synth sounds even before you start sequencing anything, so even used as a monosynth it’s pretty impressive. The Voice Programmer section is where it really takes flight, though, with a unique and incredibly powerful system for sequencing and morphing the different sounds, creating dynamic, vibrant sequences that you can either trust to the presets by modifying existing patches or build from scratch. It will take a bit of work to make your own patches but once you wrap your head around how Rounds is built you will see it’s capable of some truly stunning results. Complex sequences, massive sounds and unparalleled control make this a serious instrument, but one that can sound fantastic. MT

MT Verdict + Uniquely powerful sound sequencing + Massive synth sounds + Hugely tweakable + Create great sequences + Presets are excellent + Clever performance features + Macro control mode - There is a learning curve - Something of a new workflow paradigm for many users A complex but very powerful instrument that provides huge synth sounds and a clever new way to create dynamic sequences.

9/10

MAGAZINE February 2015

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SOUNDS THAT MOVE.

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Moog Sub 37 Tribute Edition Reviews MT

Details Price £1249 Contact Source Distribution T: 020 8962 5080 Web www.source distribution.co.uk; www.moogmusic. com

Key Features MOOG SUB 37 TRIBUTE EDITION ● Analogue synth ● 37 velocitysensitive keys ● Monophonic and DuoParaphonic ● 256 presets over 16 banks ● Two modulation busses with assignable sources and destinations ● Sync-able arpreggiator and step sequencer ● DAHDSR (delay, attack, hold, decay, sustain, release) looping envelopes ● 128x64 pixel back-lit LCD ● Two oscillators (variable) plus sub (square) plus external input and sub ● 20Hz-20kHz Moog Ladder Filter ● 1xTS, 1xTRS o/p; 1xTS ii/p ● MIDI In/Out plus MIDI over USB ● Weight: 22lbs / 9.98Kg ● Dimensions mm: 171 (H) x 680 (W) x 375 (D)

MOOG

Sub 37 Tribute Edition

Choice

9/10 9 9/ 10

Moog’s Sub Phatty was certainly a hit with MusicTech’s editor Andy Jones when he reviewed it 18 months ago. The Sub 37 is that synth on steroids – and more. It also tidies up a few of its rough edges, so can there be anything not to like about the 37?

T

he Moog Sub 37 was the surprise announcement of last year’s NAMM show and as we gear up for this year’s show, such was the stir created back then we’ve only just managed to get our hands on one. I recall the unbridled enthusiasm of Moog’s Amos Gaynes – and bow down to that man’s synth knowledge – as he talked me through the features of a synth that had literally been thrown together for the show. But even then – and with just a couple of presets – it sounded incredible. So nearly a year on I finally have one…

Sub, sub and more You can’t help but compare and contrast with the Sub Phatty as they are both based on the same Moog sound engine. The Phatty was a synth which I had the pleasure of reviewing for MusicTech over 18 months ago. It had an amazing sound but the odd critic of it (narrow-minded ones, in my book) took it to task for its lack of screen and the fact it only had 25 keys and 16 presets, all of which have been remedied with the 37. So we have a small LCD screen, a 37-note velocity sensitive keyboard with aftertouch, and a whopping 256 presets (176 filled, the rest empty for your

efforts), so Moog has certainly been busy since that NAMM encounter. You can step through these presets and banks either by using a simple cursor system on the screen (one button to select, two buttons to go up and down) or, more simply, press the Preset and Bank buttons at the bottom of the front panel and then select one of 16 using the 16 buttons. You can’t just step through banks as you have to select a preset after in order to make the bank change, but either method is easy and it’s nice to have the choice.

Architecture Layout-wise, you’ll recognise the analogue signal path… up to a point. The 37 sticks very much to the ‘standard’ analogue synth layout but, as we’ll find, many of the sections seem to go that bit deeper – and in some cases a lot deeper. There are two main oscillators, both with variable waveshapes; a sub oscillator (fixed with a square waveform); a noise generator; plus you can also take external signals in. That’s your sources taken care of, but like I said, the 37 takes what could be a standard set-up and gives it a twist. In the case of the oscillators, you can

operate the synth in Monophonic mode or Duo-Paraphonic mode. Now you could simply summise from this that the 37 is like a duophonic synth, so you can play two notes at once, but it’s a little more involved than that. What it really means is that you can effectively play two different notes at once, both sharing the same filter and VCA. The different notes are represented by the oscillators but in true duophonic (polyphonic) synths each voice gets their own dedicated filter and VCA. Basically, the bottom line is that Duo Mode is a great way to squeeze more out of less. You end up with some incredibly rich ‘polyphonic like’ sounds. And combined with the arpeggiator and sequencer (see the box over the page for more on those), these incredible sounds have some incredible movement, as we’ll see later…

More, more, more… So we already have a twist on the normal, but there’s more. First, though, there’s a fairly standard Mixer and Filter section, although the latter does boast that Multidrive circuit (also on the Sub Phatty) that is placed between filter and amp for more dirt. MAGAZINE February 2015

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Moog Sub 37 Tribute Edition Reviews MT

The Tribute Edition boasts ‘Bob Moog signature panel, wood sides, and aluminium extrusion.’

The envelopes (amp and filter) provide lots of note character and filter editing – how each operate over time, basically. A couple of little twists here include extended functions such as Delay and Loop switches (the latter of which effectively turns it into an LFO), all part of close to a dozen buttons split between each of the envelopes.

Modulation madness But it’s the double modulation section where we find even more drama, and possibly the Sub 37’s greatest sonic weapons. Modulation sources and rates are present and correct – use one of the

and Seq Mod) and a lot more destinations – too many to list here but think ‘every function on the synth’ and you won’t be too far off. Want to have an LFO modulate the arpeggio rate for wonky results? No problem. You can pretty much modulate what you want, taking this synth way beyond the norm. Best of all, the process is easy – just hit the Controllers button which opens up a (small) menu of sources and destinations on screen and then scroll through the options in alphabetical order. OK, a bigger screen would have been great here but there’s often a couple of ways of doing things. We’ve

My only problem was trying to tear myself away from what I was playing to write this wretched review… five waveforms or filter envelope of each Mod – and the destinations include some of the more common ones you’ll find (Osc 1 Pitch, Osc 2 Wave, Filter, VCA Level, and more). All of these are easily switchable with six buttons for each destination. The real beauty, however, is that you can program more sources (Amp Env, Constant ON, Sine LFO, Noise LFO, Osc 1 Pitch, Osc 2 Pitch, Seq Note, Seq Vel,

mentioned the two preset management methods, and here you also get a fine-tune dial to more easily navigate through modulation parameters. And to have this modulation flexibility in your sonic cannon is amazing and possibly a little overwhelming for some. My advice is to just play: modulate the obvious first and then lift the lid on the options and explore the potential at your own pace.

ARPEGGIATOR AND STEP SEQUENCER A lot of people will be pleased with the additional arpeggiator and step sequencer sections on the Sub 37, as they really do add a lot of dynamics to the synth’s sound. Firstly with the arpeggiator you get some standard features including Latch (the arpeggiation keeps playing when you stop playing); Rate (or speed of arpeggiation); Sync (where the pattern is sync’d to internal or external MIDI); Tap (to determine the tempo manually); and Range (which determines how many octaves you want to play across). Other features that you might not find on standard arps include Back/Forth, which plays an Up arpeggiation, for example, up and then down; and Invert, which plays each note up to three octaves away before moving on to the next. There are four main patterns to choose from (Up, Down, Ordr and Rnd). Ordr plays the held

notes in the order they were triggered while Rnd, you guessed it, plays held notes in a random order. All fairly normal in terms of patterns and you might have asked for more, so it’s a good job that the fifth and sixth options enable you to record your own sequences of up to 64 steps so you can create your own variations of the patterns on board or completely new ones from scratch. It’s interesting to note that in Duo Mode you can choose whether to play two notes together at each step. The sequencer records the pitches of both notes and the KB Ctrl parameters determine the oscillator that follows the note. If you choose to use Single Note (ie, not Duo Mode) then you can play along with your creations, whereas Duo Mode won’t let you do this. Duo Mode is well worth experimenting with within this section as it adds yet another twist to the 37.

These added extras – in each section of the synth – obviously give the 37 a great deal of sonic flexibility, and while some of these functions were available on the Sub Phatty they were effectively hidden a layer down, so to have them in front of you like this is a blessing. So what does this all mean sonically. Time to find out…

Tone on the range The first thing that is very evident when you step through the sounds is how well the programmers have utilised Duo-Paraphonic mode. Often, playing one single note gives massive results – like a polyphonic chord on many other synths – and when using the arp, one part of the note suddenly veers off and leaves the other one behind. Fans of Moog’s more standard sounds won’t be disappointed here: I’d say there’s a fairly even split between lovely classics, including lots of throbbing basses and Kraftwerk-ian wonder, and modern or off-the-wall stuff that utilises the Duo mode very well. As always with synths and presets, my method of rating them is simple: do they inspire you to go off and make music? The answer here is nearly one out of every two did just that, which is about as good as it gets. Some of the other highlights include bass sounds with a load of sweeping movement, and other bass sounds with melody provided by the sequencer where you think ‘just add some beats and you’re there’ – especially in the case of the Just Add Kick Drums preset! Indeed, my only problem was trying to tear myself away from inspirational note sequences I was playing and could quite easily have turned into full tunes were it not for the fact that I had to write this wretched review! Genres that Sub 37 is aimed at? Well there’s a fair amount of aggression as you might expect, so darker forms of techno, deeper forms of house and dubstep; big bass for drum ’n’ bass. I dare say the same people who moaned about the lack of screen on the Sub Phatty will moan about the size of screen on the 37. Personally I think producers spend too much time looking at all sorts of screens these days rather than actually listening to what they are creating and how their interaction with an instrument affects the results. With a machine like the 37 you interact to your heart’s content, screen or not, just dialling, connecting unusual sources and destinations and, more importantly MAGAZINE February 2015

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Moog Sub 37 Tribute Edition Reviews MT

The Sub 37 first made a splash at NAMM 2014. This is the model Moog just got ready in time for the show…

Alternatively Of the many new analogue synths now out there are loads weighing in at far less, but they lack the features and big Moog sound. Of course the Sub Phatty is the most obvious cheaper choice, as it does have the same big Moog sound! Within the same price point you have the DSI Pro 2, which we only mention as it has a paraphonic mode too.

MT Verdict

than anything, learning. OK, the sound is more important but luckily this beast oozes quality at every turn, following solid analogue formulae at one instance and then bizarre twisting snake sonics the next. Beware, you will lose a day or two of your life just playing. And make sure you record everything as you will come up with wonderful music. There’s only one slight problem. It’s called the ‘Tribute Edition’ as it’s a tribute to Moog Music’s founder, Dr. Bob Moog. It is also a limited edition. Now, Moog would be foolish not to keep offering some version of the 37 in the future, but stocks are dry for a couple of

+ Amazing Paraphonic sounds + The modulation options are simply stunning + Surprisingly easy to get your head around + Added options within each section are easy to access + Solid build, great looks

months and this could mean you will have trouble buying one. If you manage, however, you will be the proud owner of one of the best synths in Moog’s prestigious history. It’s one that takes the best bits of the Phatty range and the Sub Phatty itself, irons out any issues and also treads an individual path with far more options. And that last conclusion, which as I write (just) in the 50th anniversary year of the founding of the company, has to be the best tribute to the forefather of synthesizers. And I almost forgot: not important to some, but it looks stunning too. MT

- Some may get a little overwhelmed by the options that are available - Limited edition Takes the Moog sound on some amazing and stunning journeys. Incredible options, incredible machine – don’t limit it, Moog!

9/10

THE MOOG SUB 37: Section by section LCD SCREEN It may be just 128x64 pixels but it does the job in a straightforward way. As well as selecting presets you can easily get under the modulation hood of the 37.

a

LIGHTS! Like many synth manfacturers, Moog has gone for lit-up pitch and mod wheels. The cool orange matches other switches and LEDs on the fascia.

b

MODULATION PT1 The Mod 1 & 2 sections are very much the heart of the Sub 37, with sources and destinations both editable providing huge sonic flexibility. .

c

MIXER The input source signals are mixed here, so there are dials to determine levels for both oscillators, the square wave sub, noise generator and external input signal.

e

e

c

a

MODULATION PT2 If you don’t wish to explore all the options it’s easy to switch between the more common destinations.

d

j

g

i

d h f

b

KEYBOARD Some criticised the Sub Phatty’s 25 keys as being too few – even though it’s a bass and lead mono, not a poly – but here are 37 velocity-sensitive ones…

f

OSCILLATORS Pretty standard controls for both of the main oscillators and there are Duo Mode, Hard Sync, KB Cntrl and KB Reset buttons to explore its other options.

g

PRESETS AND BANKS We like this route of more instant preset and bank selection. When you select your bank, you will also need to select a preset at the same time…

h

ENVELOPES There are lots of Envelope features that were hidden on the Sub Phatty but now available for easy access via these ten additional buttons.

i

FILTER SECTION As with the Sub Phatty you get the classic Moog lowpass ladder filter with four selectable slopes. Here you’ll also find that useful Multidrive rotary for both warmth and aggression.

j

MAGAZINE February 2015

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| 87

22/12/2014 15:19


MT Reviews Cinesamples Cine Symphony Lite

Choice

9/10 9 9/ //10 For PC & Mac

Cinesamples

CineSymphony LITE CineSymphony LITE was designed specifically as a lightweight orchestral sketchpad for composers on the move. Keith Gemmell gets scribbling… Details Publisher Cinesamples Price $299 Contact via website Web www. cinesamples.com Minimum System Requirements PC: Windows 7, 3GB RAM Mac: OS X 10.7, 3GB RAM

Key Features ● Recorded at Sony Pictures ● Essential orchestral sections ● Composer’s sketchpad ● Student’s basic scoring palette ● Light on computer resources

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W

ith highly detailed articulations and realistic sounds, at least one full scale orchestral library is a necessity for most modern composers. Unfortunately, though, they often require a couple of powerful computers plus networking software such as Bidule or VSL’s VE PRO 5. All this, of course, is of little use if you are a composer on the move. What’s needed, then, is a lightweight orchestral setup for laptop sketching, but there are not many about. Recognising a gap in the market, Cinesamples came up with CineSymphony LITE. It’s simple, lightweight on computer resources and runs in NI’s free Kontakt Player so, other than your DAW, no additional software is required.

Six of the best The full version of CineSymphony was recorded at Sony Pictures’ studio in Los

Angeles, and this lite version retains all of its broad, rich cinematic sound. Naturally, compromises had to be made and what we have here is a pre-mixed ensemble library with six essential patches: strings arco, strings pizzicato, brass, woodwind, timpani and percussion (for clarity and convenience, from this point on in the review, when we refer to an ‘instrument’ we’re really referring to an instrument section). The advantages of this system are a quick workflow, no worries about spatial positioning, and low RAM and CPU demands. The obvious disadvantages are fewer instruments and articulations, and no legato. Neither are there any solo instruments, but that’s also the case with the full version. However, a set of advanced controls go a fair way towards alleviating some of these concerns. Ensemble-based libraries are fairly commonplace these days but few of them provide much flexibility when it comes to mapping the instruments across the keyboard. CineSymphony LITE is different in that respect, and as part of its advanced controls four dials are used to tailor the pitch ranges of the individual instruments. For example, in the woodwinds patch you get individual control of the bassoons, clarinets, oboes and flutes. Likewise, in the strings you have controls for basses, cellos, violas and violins. Each instrument is set to its strongest pitch range by default and they overlap gradually as you play across the keyboard. These can be changed, however, to other settings within that range. For instance, altering an instrument’s crossfade point by raising or lowering its pitch range starting point can thicken or thin the overall sound considerably.

Make arrangements A Chord Arranger feature is also available, which automatically assigns the notes of a chord to their correct instruments. For example, a widely spaced triad for brass will have the top

Alternatively There’s nothing to quite match CineSymphony LITE for a lightweight setup, flexibility and huge sound in the orchestral cinematic line. ProjectSAM Orchestral Essentials (€299) is perhaps the closest option and covers full orchestra, string, brass, woodwind ensembles and percussion. It’s not as light as CineSymphony LITE but it’s not too heavy, either, and there are more articulations and a legato instrument for each ensemble.

notes assigned to trumpet/horn, the middle note to horn/trombone, and the lower note to trombone/tuba. There are three settings, light, medium and heavy, with one, two and three instruments assigned per note, respectively, for an increasingly stronger sound. All the essential controls for a basic composition are in evidence, with each patch containing a set of EQ, delay and reverb controls plus chorus, flanger, distortion effects and compression. Round Robin, sample start, stereo width, and attack and release controls are also included. As a musical sketchpad CineSymphony LITE is a brilliant tool. It’s simple to use, doesn’t require additional software and provides a very fast workflow with a remarkably professional cinematic sound. If you don’t own or have never used an orchestral library before this is an excellent choice. It’s a very wellworn phrase, but sometimes less really is more. Because of its inherent simplicity we reckon a good many students will also be attracted to this software, especially with the Cinesamples educational discounts, details of which are available at their website. If you want to easily conduct your orchestral affairs on the move, then look no further. MT

MT Verdict + Lightweight on computer resources + Rich cinematic sound + Pre-mixed ensembles easy to work with + Very effective advanced controls - Limited articulations - No legato - No solo instruments CineSymphony LITE is a brilliant full-orchestra sketching tool for cinematic-style composers on the move or short on time. With every section covered it also provides a great starter kit for students and beginners. Highly recommended.

9/10

MAGAZINE

22/12/2014 15:47


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MT Reviews Korg Module

Korg

Choice

Module

9/10 9 9/ 10

Mobile sound quality might have just taken a significant leap forward. Hollin Jones puts Korg’s Module for iPad through its paces… Details Price £27.99 Distributor Korg / App Store Contact Via website Web www.korg.co.uk

K

Key Features ● Five module types ● 100 presets ● Two master effect slots, multiple types ● Setlist functionality ● Load PDFs, images and take pictures ● Load from iTunes and change speed ● Record performance and upload or share ● Inter-App Audio and Audiobus ● Modules also appear in Gadget

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org has produced some notable iOS apps, starting with re-creations of some of its classic synths, and more recently making something completely new with Gadget, a MIDI sequencing app with multiple synths built in. Its latest is Module, a 1GB app that provides more conventional sounds. In fact you can see from the design that what the developer is going for here is mostly ‘real’ instruments. There are 100 presets split over five ‘engines’: acoustic piano, electric piano, organ, clavi, and ‘multi’ which covers strings, brass and synth sounds.

Under the hood Any device that will run iOS 8.1 is supported, so that means every iPad except the first model. Korg recommends using as new a model as possible and quotes some polyphony figures for different iPads. This ranges from 72 voices on the newest iPad Air 2 down to 32 on the iPad 2. As ever, the more you want to ask of an app like this the more advisable it is to run the newest iPad possible. If you’re taking it on stage or want to weave it into a GarageBand project, you’ll be a lot safer from potential glitches on an iPad Air than an iPad 2. Module is playable using its onscreen keys but you’ll really want to hook up a MIDI keyboard, either over

Bluetooth or USB. As usual this involves a Camera Connection Kit to convert USB to 30-pin or Lightning format, or you can use a specialised device such as IK Multimedia’s iRig Keys. Korg makes a good range of small USB keyboards of its own but they don’t come with cables to connect directly to an iPad. If you’re using an iPad dock you will get around this issue and also that of audio out: Module’s excellent sound quality really benefits from proper audio out and not just headphones. Yet another solution is to use one of the increasing number of audio and MIDI interfaces with iOS compatibility and kill two birds with one stone. Working with Module is really quite straightforward. Pick a sound from the Category/Program list and then play it. Preset phrases are available to preview sounds and the different instruments have their own tweakable controls. There’s EQ and damper for pianos; drive, Leslie and vibrato for organs; filters and resonance for synths; and tremolo and drive for electric pianos, amongst others. The graphics are gorgeous and the controls responsive to your touch, making it easy to change and save patches. Each patch also has access to two master effect slots. ‘Ambient’ has a selection of reverbs and delays and ‘modulation’ lets you choose from a good selection of drives, EQs, phasers, filters and more. A user-definable velocity curve also helps tailor the response to your playing style. Open the Set List section and you can store multiple setups and flip between them. You can also enter text notes here, as well as importing PDFs, photos and even taking pictures of things such as scores to view as you play along. At the base, a music player gives you access to your iTunes library and tracks can be slowed down to various speeds to make practicing along easier. It’s nice to see this functionality available in a keyboard app, since guitarists have had it for ages in apps such as AmpliTube. A MIDI file player is also available and you can record your performances as audio and then share them straight to SoundCloud, Dropbox or via email. Audiobus and Inter-App Audio are also supported so you can trigger Module from other apps and route its sounds around the place, opening up your iPad as a more complete performance environment. Interestingly, if you also have Korg’s Gadget app the instruments from

Alternatives SampleTank for iPad at £13.99 is a little cheaper but weighs in at an identical 1GB. It has an expandable sound library of over 600 instruments, 1000 patterns and a four-track MIDI recorder. It also ties in with IK Multimedia’s range of iOS controller devices, as well as accepting generic MIDI input. Its scope is broader than Module, but it arguably has a different aesthetic as well.

Module will be available there too when both are installed. A couple of add-ons are available for purchase including a 1GB Synthogy piano model, and we’d expect to see much more content appear in future.

Go modular? Module is a well-designed and excellent-sounding collection of instruments that doesn’t make any concessions in terms of audio quality just because it’s on iPad. Think of it as an alternative to buying an equivalent sample-based instrument for your computer and suddenly it seems like pretty good value. You’ll want to connect it to some decent audio outputs to really hear the difference, but this is definitely one of the best-sounding iPad instruments currently out there. MT

MT Verdict + Gorgeous sound quality + Very well designed + More authentic sound than you may be used to from iPad + Setlist and score display features are handy + Load and slow down tracks for practice + Integrate with Gadget and other iOS apps - Focuses on quality rather than sheer number of patches, if that bothers you - Add some decent audio-out hardware for best results An excellent sound module that takes performance on iPad to new heights. Use for practice, recording or playing live. Costs a little more than some iPad apps but it’s a serious bit of kit.

9/10

MAGAZINE

22/12/2014 15:49


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MT Reviews Cubase Pro 8

MT Lead Review instruments, and you can offload it to a secondary drive during installation. The first thing that strikes you about Cubase Pro 8 is that it feels quick. Really quick. Steinberg has done a lot of work on the engine at the program’s core and you can definitely tell. It’s slick and snappy, and ASIO performance, and thus latency, has been greatly improved. This is partly thanks to ASIO Guard 2, a technology that prioritises live input tracks over simple playback ones to get better performance without constantly messing with buffer settings.

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Cubase Pro 8 Cubase was always a great DAW but now it’s officially gone Pro. Hollin Jones finds out what all the fuss is about…

C

ubase is one of the oldest names in computer music and in its relatively long life has gone through several major rewrites, sometimes from the ground up; and what started life as a MIDI sequencer has for many years now been an all-singing, all-dancing music production environment. It’s sometimes a little overlooked in all the shouting about other DAWs but this is rather unjust since it’s an extremely accomplished piece of software, even more so thanks to this latest update. The flagship version now has ‘Pro’ added to its name, perhaps with a nod towards reminding people

92 | February 2015

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that it is a top-flight DAW that’s easily the equal of the competition, and arguably, in some ways, superior. Of course everyone has their die-hard allegiances, but it’s possible that version 8 of Cubase could win over even more fans at the serious end of music production.

Speed demon Cubase has been a great DAW for a long time but version 8 adds more features – ones that feel more important and progressive than updates from recent years. It’s a 9GB download or install from DVD, and authorisation is via a USB licenser. Most of that content is for the bundled

Details Price £119 Distributor Steinberg Contact via website Web www.steinberg.net System requirements Mac OS X 10.9 or higher Windows 7 or higher Intel or AMD Dual core CPU 4GB RAM minimum USB port

Key Features ● Full MIDI and audio production environment ● 32-bit floatingpoint audio engine at up to 192kHz ● Powerful MixConsole ● Multiple bundled instruments and effects ● Re-engineered core engine ● Scoring, surround and video support ● Chord Pads and Tracks ● VariAudio and Audio Warp ● VCA Faders ● ASIO Guard ● VST Expression ● Direct Routing and Wave Meters ● Online collaboration technology ● Batch Export

The GUI has been cleaned up and refined as well. Cubase 7.5 didn’t feel particularly like it needed much tweaking in this respect, but after using 8 you realise that it wasn’t perfect. Contrast and legibility have been improved, and it feels like some of the icons are clearer in their function as well. Cubase has taken the first steps towards embracing a more one-window design with a new virtual instrument and MediaBay rack which can live on the right-hand side of the project window. This is nice because it means these windows don’t have to float, although they are still available separately if you prefer. The virtual instrument section is great, giving you access to all the major parameters related to an instrument from a concise panel, including auto mapping to the Quick Controls in many cases. It’ll definitely make searching, loading and tweaking instruments easier. This section is resizeable, as is the border between the track list and main project area. The new rack can be hidden with a few clicks, though a ‘close’ button on the tabs themselves would be even better. There’s an expanded Track Controls setup window which gives you a live preview and is split by track type, which is very helpful. Cubase’s mixer goes from strength to strength with the introduction of new VCA faders. More conventionally found on analogue consoles, these enable gain control for multiple channel faders from a single fader, but

MAGAZINE

22/12/2014 14:57


Cubase Pro 8 Reviews MT

without creating any more audio routing – they simply send DC voltage, or the digital equivalent. So you can assign any number of channels to a VCA fader then use it to move them all up or down, while also retaining individual editability for each one. You can even nest VCA faders by assigning several of them to a master. Since there’s no extra audio routing using groups or busses, things stay simple, and automating VCA faders now controls all channels assigned to them as well. This new feature is one of those that makes you wonder how you managed without it, and for people who mix things such as live drums it’s worth the upgrade price alone. MixConsole also gets a new Wave Meters view that shows you song position on every channel as scrolling audio waveforms so you don’t have to keep looking at the Project window. Direct Routing enables you to set up group routing destinations for multiple channels, busses and stems at the same time and also export multiple versions of a project using the batch export window to save time. The channel strip EQ has been improved to show precise visual feedback as you drag the mouse, and the new Virgin Territories automation feature means no more writing of default values between automation points, so you’re free to use the space between automation events for other adjustments. In the Project window, a new Render In-Place option lets you bounce audio and MIDI internally, so no more bouncing out and re-importing. Usefully, not only can you specify what FX and other settings to include but there’s an option to preserve event boundaries so you don’t always end up with one long audio file. MIDI has seen new developments too with a feature called Chord Pads. Increasingly popular as a concept, these let you use the mouse or any input device to play and record chords Method Spot The addition of VCA faders in Cubase means that you can now control any groups of regular channels without doing any additional audio routing. This makes submixing things such as drums and larger projects much easier, and they can also be nested and automated for incredible mixing control.

onto a MIDI track. They’re fully configurable for scale, note, inversion and so on, and a clever Chord Assistant shows you related chords to help you compose. It’s switchable between musical styles and between piano and guitar chords and it’s a genuinely useful tool, beautifully implemented with Steinberg’s excellent design skills. A new MIDI tempo detection engine can help analyse a part that hasn’t been played to a click and adjust the project’s grid to it, letting you add drums afterwards without rigidly quantizing your original part.

Alternatively For Mac users, Logic Pro X is still relatively cheap, subsidised as it is by Apple at £140. Some people find it less intuitive to use and now with the new stuff in Cubase 8 it is arguably playing catch-up. MOTU’s Digital Performer 8 is now dual-platform at $499 and has a good feature set, even if like all DAWs it has its own workflow that might suit you, or not.

necessarily miss in 7.5 but you definitely would now if you went back. None of this would mean as much if it had impacted on usability or performance, but remarkably Steinberg has managed to improve both: markedly in the case of performance. Moves towards a more

Cubase’s mixer goes from strength to strength with the introduction of new VCA faders The plug-in manager in Cubase 8 has been improved too and now lets you create your own custom lists, which makes searching and loading even quicker than before.

Plug-in power The bundled content has been expanded and version 8 sees the return of Quadrafuzz, a now much more comprehensive four-band distortion unit with delay for dirtying up your tracks. VST Bass Amp delivers a collection of new amps, cabs and stompboxes, and there are new versions of the de-esser, multiband compressor, tuner, multiband expander and envelope shaper plug-ins. On the instrument side there’s Groove Agent SE 4 Acoustic Agent, Allen Morgan’s Rock Pop construction kits, and all the other existing tools such as Retrologue, Padshop, HALion Sonic SE2 and LoopMash 2. VST Connect SE3, the online collaboration system, is also bundled and much better integrated into Cubase itself, meaning recording audio and MIDI over the internet is quicker and easier than before. Cubase 8 feels like a really significant update, and covers a lot of ground in what it improves and adds. The software feels slicker, faster and more professional, fully deserving of the new Pro name. Workflow is better, as are compositional tools, plug-in management and operation and mixing. There’s a lot of stuff such as Render In-Place, better automation and direct routing that you didn’t

unified interface are encouraging, as there can still be some window juggling even if window management is better, especially on the PC. This is one of the relatively rare occasions when even those on the last version will gain an awful lot of excellent functionality by upgrading, and that cost is relatively small. MT

MT Verdict + Excellent speed and performance improvements + The most unified and crisp Cubase has ever looked + Workflow improvements are good + Important mixer enhancements + New plug-ins are useful + Chord Pads help composition and performance + Better automation + Manage plug-ins more effectively + First signs of resizable sections appearing + Good workspace management + VST Connect now better integrated - Native full-screen mode still not available on OS X - Click to close tabs would be nice - Still not Retina native on Mac - Not the most exciting bundled instruments of any DAW A comprehensive and beautifully executed update to one of the best DAWs around. Worthy of the Pro name, version 8 brings important and powerful new features and refinements to this excellent music production package.

10/10 MAGAZINE

MT143.rev cubase.indd 93

| February 2015 | 93

22/12/2014 14:57


MT Reviews Sennheiser MK 8

apart from the pack. Firstly, despite the proliferation of Chinese fakes that have hit Sennheiser and other companies, this family-owned business still designs and manufactures its recording mics in Germany. Secondly, the MK 8 is jam-packed with features.

Alternatively Other multi-pattern large-capsule microphones with pad and HPF switching in this price range include the Shure KSM44A (£700.19), the Mojave MA-301fet (£687), the Sontronics SATURN (£595) and the tube-driven Lewitt Authentica LCT 840 (£747). Alternatively you could buy a stereo pair of the sE Electronics 4400A.

Famous five

Details

Sennheiser

MK 8

Key Features

The Sennheiser MK 8 is a large-capsule condenser with dual diaphragms, five patterns and switches for pre-attenuation and bass roll-off. Huw Price listens closely…

S

ennheiser is one of those Teutonic companies that seems to have been in the audio business since the year dot. Established just after WWII, the company produces a wide range of products and its microphones have enjoyed a high reputation for decades. The dynamic mics are particularly well known in professional circles – in particular the iconic MD 421 and MD 441. Sennheiser’s large capsule condenser microphones are less well known, but they are equally deserving of attention. Priced just south of £700 the Sennheiser MK 8 will be mixing it up with a bewildering array of competitors. Even so it has attributes that set it

94 | February 2015

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Price £690 Contact Sennheiser UK 01628 402200 Web en-uk. sennheiser.com

● Dimensions: 160 x 57mm (L x D) ● Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz ● Externally polarised capsule with 1in diaphragm ● Weight: 485g ● Switchable: omnidirectional, wide cardioid, cardioid, super-cardioid, figure-8 ● Nominal impedance: 50 ohms ● Min. terminating impedance: 1000 ohms ● AF sensitivity: 14,1 mV /-37dB dBV ● Equivalent noise level: 10dB(A) ● Maximum sound pressure level: 142dB SPL (no pad) ● Current consumption: 4.1 mA ● Dynamic range: 132dB ● Switchable low cut: 60 Hz/100 Hz ● Pre-emphasis: 0dB, -10dB, -20dB

Viewed from the front it’s a plain affair but there’s plenty going on at the back. Slider switches enable you to select five pickup patterns: omnidirectional, cottage loaf, cardioid, hypercardioid and figure-8, as well as bass roll-off at 60Hz (-18 dB/oct) or 100Hz (-6 dB/oct). Users are advised that the 60Hz setting is intended to eliminate low-frequency noise, such as impact sound, while the 100Hz setting is designed to overcome proximity effect. Although billed as a ‘Vocal Recording Microphone’, the manual clearly points out that the MK 8 is equally suited to acoustic guitars, guitar amplifiers, grand piano, strings, wind instruments, drums and percussion. The reality is that most potential customers will be more interested in recording vocals, so many manufacturers must feel some sort of obligation to emphasise that application. The reality is that any decent large-capsule condenser should be able to handle most acoustic sources, and the term ‘vocal microphone’ is, by and large, a spurious modern marketing term. Peering through the black grille housing it’s possible to see that Sennheiser is using an edgeterminated design with dual 1in diaphragms, ‘precisely spattered with 24-carat gold’. Apparently the capsule is also shock-mounted, which is just as well considering that the MK 8 does not ship with a suspension mount. However, you can buy an MKS 4 mount along with an MZP 40 pop shield and an MKW 4 windsock.

Figuring the 8 From the get-go the MK 8 distinguished itself with low noise and a crisp, clean and detailed sonic character. The bass end is focused and well controlled, with the wound strings of acoustic guitars coming over with plenty of weight but no boominess. The midrange is pleasantly open and clear, so we felt no overriding urge to reach for an

equaliser. Without being in any way hyped or excessive, the treble end sounds detailed and airy. Tone and level remain remarkably consistent across all of the MK 8’s patterns. What differences there are will only be apparent to discerning ears, but cardioid sounds a tad softer than hypercardioid, and the midrange hollows out slightly in figure-8. We particularly like the cottage loaf setting because it sounded so natural, but omni may prove useful when extra treble detail and a slight reduction in the upper bass is required. There is some proximity effect in the directional settings, but it’s very controllable by altering placement, and if that proves impractical the filters can be applied with no detrimental effect on sound quality. All the pickup patterns behave exactly as they should, however there was some darkening of the sound when the MK 8 was addressed from the side in omni. Interestingly we found ourselves testing the MK 8 with a TLM 107 from the Sennheiser-owned Neumann company. Both are five-pattern mics with edge-terminated capsules yet they sounded quite different. The MK 8 didn’t have the Neumann’s classic ‘colouration’ in the mids or its sonic softness. Instead it had more up-front presence and a generally crisper character. Either way, it ably held its own against its more expensive relative. MT

MT Verdict + Clean crisp sound + Negligible noise + Very versatile + High SPL handling + Detailed sound reproduction - Suspension mount costs extra A fine-sounding studio workhorse with a clear modern tone that offers plenty of user control.

8/10

MAGAZINE

22/12/2014 15:50


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MT Reviews Wasaphone MKII

Wasaphone

MKII

The Wasaphone MKII combines unusual styling with a very vintage tone. Mike Hillier goes lo-fi. Details Price £43 Contact via website Web www. wasaphone.com

O

ld telephones used to use carbon microphones to capture the signal. These microphones had a very limited bandwidth but were able to transmit the voice sufficiently well, and the limited bandwidth was actually of use to the telephone companies, enabling them to fit more simultaneous calls onto the infrastructure. When telephones were updated with more modern capsules, the old carbon-mic style limited bandwidth was retained, and even to this day telephone bandwidth is still limited, even on your flashy iPhones.

Retro sounds The Wasaphone MKII takes an old phone receiver and houses it in a recycled flour dredger (no, really!), with an XLR connection and mounting bracket. Handmade in Bristol, UK, the

Wasaphone MKII certainly has an unusual DIY aesthetic to its visual appeal. The mounting bracket doesn’t allow for any angling of the mic, so positioning it can be a little difficult, although we found ourselves almost always mounting it vertically on a mic stand with no boom. The capsule in the Wasaphone MKII has a very limited bandwidth – from 200Hz to 2kHz – creating an instant lo-fi, gritty sound. This makes it almost useless for any ‘normal’ mic’ing, but perfect as a special effect mic. We began testing by overdubbing a lo-fi male vocal onto an acoustic rock track. The Wasaphone gave the vocalist a dirty, blues-y sound, and as our singer was able to hear the effect in his headphones he was able to perform to the sound, wresting the last ounce out of his performance. Encouraged by this we then plugged the Wasaphone directly into a guitar amp, which we in turn mic’d with a Heil PR 20 moving-coil dynamic, and tried another take. This time the amp added additional dirt to the signal, giving the vocal a more rough-around-the-edges vibe. In the mix we used the direct mic’d take as our primary vocal, blending in a little of the amped take as vocal doubles for extra emphasis on certain words. The two parts cut through the mix incredibly well, giving the track a grunge-like emotion. The second amped take adding extra energy, and really bringing emphasis to the distorted nature of the vocal.

Getting creative Next we set the Wasaphone MKII up alongside our PR 20 on the amp and recorded an electric guitar part with both mics. On its own the Wasaphone signal was surprisingly useful, and would fit in busier mixes quite well. But by blending the Wasaphone signal in with the more full-spectrum Heil mic we were able to push the midrange forward without having an obviously lo-fi sound or resorting to EQ. Of course electric guitar amps are notoriously ‘lo-fi’ anyway, and the guitar will always

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respond well to unique and unusual sounds. On acoustic guitar the Wasaphone has a glorious vintage tone, which is reminiscent of 30s and 40s folk and blues recordings. One trick we’re fans of is using a lo-fi mic placed between the kick and snare and crushed through a compressor, blended in with a full drum kit. We’ve used a variety of mics for this task, settling most recently on a Shure 520C bullet mic. With the Wasaphone MKII in this position we were able to get some fantastically grotty drum sounds, which really adds character to the kick and snare in a full mix. Used on its own the Wasaphone MKII has a very obvious character, which it imprints on whatever you are recording. The sound is steeped in vintage tones and perfect for lo-fi or Americana styles, but is unlikely to be a first choice microphone. However, mixed in with other production styles it gives you something that just can’t be achieved with processing. It is like using a real Instamatic camera, as opposed to using a filter on Instagram. You can come close to the effect in other ways, but by using the Wasaphone you’re likely to get more creative performances, not just creative results. In this studio, the ability to get to the creative space quickly is invaluable, and the Wasaphone MKII lets us do exactly that. For live use this style of mic is incredibly useful, enabling you to get a lo-fi vocal tone with no effort. Instead of using pedals to get a lo-fi tone, and then hoping to solve the impedance headache, you can simply plug-in the Wasaphone MKII like any other mic. MT

MT Verdict + Inexpensive creative tool + Unique voicing

Key Features ● Carbon capsule ● 200Hz-2kHz frequency response ● Cardioid pickup pattern ● Brass mic stand bracket

Alternatively The Placid Audio Copperphone has a similar lo-fi tone to the Wasaphone MKII, and similar creative potential, as well as a great steampunk aesthetic. However, at $260 the Copperphone is considerably more expensive than the Wasaphone. Alternatively you can often find some great bargains on eBay, Gumtree or at flea markets for old microphones that will all have their own unique voicing.

- Voicing is not for everyone The Wasaphone is a fun and creative microphone, which inspired us into several recordings. Take one discarded phone receiver, house in a flour dredger, and voilà! Lo-fi heaven on Earth!

The Wasaphone MKII is perfect for those times when only an old-timey blues tone will do.

8/10

MAGAZINE

22/12/2014 15:51


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Mini Reviews MT

Excellence SOR Joey Waronker Drum Loops Vol.1 10/10 Transformation Publisher The Loop Loft

Publisher Sounds of Revolution

Price $49 (Audio & MIDI), $79 (Audio, MIDI, & 96kHz Multitracks) Contact via website Web www.thelooploft.com

D

rummer Joey Waronker has supplied his signature grooves to a range of critically acclaimed artists such as Beck, Atoms for Peace and R.E.M. Here he teams up with The Loop Loft and Grammy-winning engineer Darrell Thorp for this eclectic collection of live acoustic drum and percussion loops. There are a wide range of styles from funk and afrobeat to indie rock and dance, plus accompanying MIDI versions of each, and a bonus folder containing two kits of one-shot hits. Although the playing is a little on the loose side, and the styles may vary too much for some, this is a phenomenal collection of inspiring loops. MT

Price £27.97 (individual folders available separately)

Key Features ● Drum and percussion loops by Joey Waronker ● Recorded by Grammy-winning engineer Darrell Thorp ● 347 grooves, fills and breaks ● 36 one-shots ● 81bpm 150bpm in various styles ● Different formats available, plus multitrack stems

Contact info@loopmasters.com Web www.loopmasters.com

I

MT Verdict A stunning and versatile collection of highly usable beats and fills. The addition of percussion loops, MIDI versions and one-shot hits only sweetens the deal.

10/10

nspired by the rich and complex mechanical sounds of Michael Bay’s Transformers films, this pack from sound design maestro Oliver Schmitt contains 879 finely tuned samples, plus 25 accompanying patches for EXS24 and Kontakt to aid with previewing. There’s a great deal of variety here, from hydraulic movements, shutdowns and machines, to dark and moody atmospheric textures, transmission sounds and glitch basses; plus an original-sounding collection of drum hits. There’s even a folder of 67 digital whistles called R2-D2 Tribute! Everything here has been lovingly and skillfully crafted, and is well laid

Secrets of the Mashup by Elite Force

Kate Wild Vocal Hooks & Acapellas

Publisher Live-Courses.com

Publisher Loopmasters

Price £29.99

Price £24.95

Contact via website

Contact info@loopmasters.co

Web www.live-courses.com

V

eteran breaks producer Elite Force is a master of the DJ bootleg, and in this new course from Live-Courses.com he takes a journey though his mix of M.A.D., which fuses elements from Hatiras, Stanton Warriors, and Vandal. There are over two hours of videos spread over 11 chapters, plus you get the finished version of the track and 100MB of bonus Loopmasters samples. The main focus is on how to mix and balance elements, and, more importantly, on why they were chosen in the first place. You won’t find sound creation tips here, but what you will find is some expert insights into dance music and production. MT

Web www.loopmasters.com

Key Features

T

● Written and presented by Elite Force ● 11 videos, over two hours in total ● Dissects the mashup track M.A.D. ● Presented in Ableton Live

MT Verdict Although it’s not a cheap tutorial, and the free samples aren’t especially inspiring, the expert advice and arrangement tips presented here are more useful and profound than many other more technical and lengthy tutorials.

8/10

his new vocal pack from Loopmasters features the soulful tones of session singer Kate Wild, with over 400MB of 24-bit audio spread across six songs and a folder of vocal shots and phrases. With acts such as Gorgon City and Kiesza reigning the charts, Kate’s pop and RnB-tinged style is particularly on point at the moment. There’s good intonation throughout and solid, if not amazing, vibrato. The tracks are mostly at house tempo, with one at a faster 172bpm, and you’ll find full, layered versions, plus individual lead and harmony files. Although some may opt to try and write around the full song ideas, the pack is arguably more useful

Key Features ● SF sound FX by Oliver Schmitt ● 879 samples, 25 patches for EXS24 and Kontakt 4+ ● 24-bit, 44.1kHz and 96kHz versions ● Electronically manipulated found sounds ● 140 bonus FX samples

Choice

9/10

out in multiple folders. The high-grade, complex sci-fi sound design is probably best suited to futuristic music styles, and would also make an excellent toolbox for multimedia productions. MT

MT Verdict A massive, high-quality library of complex SF sound FX and textures.

9/10

Key Features ● Original vocals by Kate Wild ● Lively and soulful RnB and pop styles ● Over 400MB of 24-bit audio ● Six full songs, and 46 one-shots and phrases ● 27 Instruments for EXS24, HALion, Kontakt, NN-XT, and SFZ

as a library of shorter hooks and ad lib phrases, and would be a great resource for anyone looking to create some garage-style vocal chops and FX. MT

MT Verdict A solid collection of noncheesy lead vocal songs, plus some great one-shot hits and phrases that are ideal for chopping up and adding into dance tracks.

8/10

MAGAZINE February 2015

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Six of the best Buyer’s Guide MT

Six of the best Hardware

Software

Mobile Technology

Samples

Welcome to the MusicTech Buyer’s Guide where we round up some of the best products recently reviewed in the magazine. This month: six of the most unusual pieces of software to appear in the pages of MusicTech in recent months…

Details Price $149 Issue MT136 Contact via website Web www. meterplugs.com

BEST TENSION BUILDER

AMT The Riser

Details Price £47.99 Issue MT140 Contact via website Web www. airmusictech.com

P

lug-ins for specific tasks are not uncommon, of course, but a plug-in designed for a very specific task within specific genres is. The Riser is designed as a transitions plug-in to offer those extreme dynamics in music where you get the lulls and then the big rises, which inevitably lead to the song crashing back in for impact. This plug-in deals with the ‘rise’ part in many different ways, and can even act as an instrument in its own right. Reviewer Hollin Jones said: “Although it is perfect for electronic transitions, you can get even more creative by slowing things down and getting a more ethereal, pulsing sound out of it.” He concluded: “It’s well worth a look for the creative possibilities The Riser offers.”

BEST PERCEPTION

MeterPlugs Perception

BEST PERCUSSION HARDENER

MeldaProduction MTransient

T

ransient processing is concerned with enhancing the prominence of certain aspects of a track, often the percussive elements. MTransient is different in that it has more options and lets you get really hands on. It uses tube saturation and works well with both acoustic and electronic sounds. Hollin Jones says: “For the price this is a powerful plug-in with a great depth of features that will add punch and drive to your tracks. It’s a great transient designer for controlling rhythmic material.”

Details

Price €59 Issue MT139 Contact via website Web www. meldaproduction.com

D

ynamic Range Day was an event set up by mastering engineer Ian Shepherd to highlight the benefits of a good range in mastered tracks rather than layering oodles of compression. Putting his money where his mouth is he designed Perception with the help of MeterPlugs. It’s a plug-in that syncs dry and processed signals, balances loudness and compares levels. On the face of it that doesn’t sound like much but Mike Hillier said: “Perception is more than a metering plug-in, it is a tool to aid listening. We’re convinced that not only has it had a positive effect on our recent mastering output, but it has also improved our efficiency, enabling us to get our masters where we want them faster.” The final verdict was: “It’s rare that a plug-in that doesn’t do anything to the audio would get us so excited, but Perception is one such rarity.” MAGAZINE February 2015

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MT Buyer’s Guide Six of the best

BEST BASS

T

DopeVST Bass Engine

he concept is pretty simple,” said reviewer Hollin Jones, “to give you some of the best and most classic bass sounds from the last three decades of hip-hop without burying you with soundtweaking options. I’ve lost count of the number of times I would have traded ten oscillator controls for a patch that just sounded brilliant right away

without me having to do anything to it. And that’s DopeVST Bass Engine – just great bass…” Hollin concluded: “DopeVST Bass Engine is very simple but also very effective. The plug-in is a nononsense collection of hip-hopready basses. Fat, warm and earthshaking, these are the basses you’ve been looking for. ”

Details Price £50 Issue MT138 Contact via website Web www.dopevst.com

It has some real gems up its sleeve that will delight those looking for something a little bit different… BEST FOR SUBTLETY

Brainworx bx_refinement

BEST SMASHING!

Spitfire Audio Kings Cross Kitchenware Glass Details

Price £49 Issue MT141 Contact via website Web

www.spitfireaudio.com

A

s sample libraries get more and more bespoke we’re seeing some very unusual recordings and collections. This library was recorded at Spitfire’s own King’s Cross-based studio – hence the first part of the name – and comprises recordings of, well, as it says, kitchenware… So you get all sorts of sound sources covering an array of glass objects, from

104 | February 2015

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wine glasses to cordial glasses, even a rather fetching cafetière… It’s a surprisingly delicate and musical collection with Mark Cousins noting: “It is a real delight to see Spitfire taking a more creative, left-field approach. This rewards detailed exploration and has plenty of musical potential.” “It has some real gems up its sleeve that will delight those people looking for something a bit different.”

I

nstead of trying to pile on the warmth bx_refinement attempts to take out the aspects that make a mix sound harsh and aggressive, ultimately arriving at a similar, pleasant-sounding conclusion. That’s the theory. And, by God, it works! Alex Holmes said: “A finely tuned processor that is simple on the surface, but the results speak for themselves. Instant sonic improvement to audio that can help you achieve a more roundersounding mix.” Details Price $199 Issue MT138 Contact via website Web www.plugin-alliance.com

MAGAZINE

22/12/2014 14:36


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MT Feature A bluffer’s guide to delay

Reason uses a DDL-1 Digital Delay. Here, the time control is a simple digital display which we can switch between steps and milliseconds.

MT Feature Music Technology

A BLUFFER’S GUIDE TO DELAY From simple slap-backs and multi-repeats through to live looping and layering, delay is an endlessly creative effect. Rob Boffard echoes that sentiment with his essential advice…

D

elay is the crazy uncle of effects. You’re never quite sure whether to invite him around. Sure, he might be delightful company, the life of the party, but he could equally be crude, embarrassing and highly inappropriate. That’s delay. It doesn’t have the subtlety of reverb or the track–enhancing power of compression, and in the wrong hands it can be a total disaster. But used correctly it can create some truly miraculous effects. One of the major advantages with delay is that you can hear its effect immediately. In fact it’s actually one of the easiest effects to get to grips with,

106 | February 2015

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MAGAZINE

22/12/2014 14:42


A bluffer’s guide to delay Feature MT

mainly because the standard set of controls have immediately recognisable results. This isn’t like compression where you have to listen hard when adjusting the attack ratio or the threshold. The real skill comes in knowing exactly how much delay to apply to any given element of your track.

And again

The feedback controls how many copies of our delayed signal will be produced. It doesn’t look it, but we’re pushing it quite hard here.

Delay is very simple to understand. It’s an echo, with a fancy name. (Or, historically, echo is based on analogue tape and delay usually on digital technology.) What we’re talking about here is a version of the original audio signal played back after a set period of time. It can be played back any number of times and the spaces between each playback can be as long or as short as you want. Really, that’s it. Shout your name into a canyon and you’ve just experienced delay. Early recording engineers quickly cottoned on to delay as a powerful creative effect. They use magnetic reel-to-reel tape heads to achieve it, adjusting the heads to create the delays they needed in the sound. The actual process was quite simple but the problem was that the longer the delay got the more complex the hardware needed to be and the more tape heads needed to be involved. As a result, delay took a little bit of time to mature. Oh sure, there was plenty of it in the ’60s and ’70s, but it’s only really been with the advent of digital technology that the full possibilities of delay have been explored. There’s a big difference between analogue and digital delays, both in complexity and character. An analogue delay – that is, one that comes from or is based on tape technology – will offer fewer ways of controlling the sound but will often sound warmer and richer than you’d expect. The latter might not necessarily be true of a digital delay, but what you will get with this version of the effect is a huge number of ways to control the sound.

Delay is very simple to understand. It’s an echo, with a fancy name

Control system

Tech terms ●  TIME: The length

between each iteration of a delay. Longer ones will be more noticeable, while shorter ones will create a more subtle effect. ●  FEEDBACK: The number of copies a signal has. The more there are, the longer the sound will continue for. ●  PRE-DELAY: The amount of time between the original signal and the first delayed copy. Has some surprising creative uses. ●  TAPE HEAD: The original piece of hardware used to create delays. You often see emulations of this in digital plug-ins.

Let’s take a look at typical delay controls. The most obviously important one is the time control. You might see it labelled differently on some plug-ins, but the effect is broadly the same. This is what controls the amount of space between each copy of the original sound (we’ll call these copies ‘delays’ for the sake of clarity). In most cases you’ll see this read out using milliseconds, but most plug-ins also offer options to sync it to your track’s BPM – useful if you want to keep the delays in time with your beat. You often see this expressed using time signatures, such as 1/4 or 1/16. Most times, the easiest way to get the delay you want (or the one in time with your track) is to play around with the control until it fits. The second one is the feedback control. The time control is all about the spaces between the delays, but the feedback is all about how many of them there are. A feedback level that is really low will see only one or two delays being played, while one that is really high could have delays that continue forever. This can sometimes be a real problem, but we’ll come back to it in a little while. It’s these time and feedback controls that make a delay plug-in. You can’t have one without them, but there are other controls you may wish to pay attention to. Chief among these is pre-delay. Essentially, this shortens or lengthens the

MAGAZINE February 2015

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MT Feature A bluffer’s guide to delay

time between the original sound and the first delay. At first glance, it doesn’t seem particularly useful, but in certain situations, such as when it is used in minuscule amounts, it can strengthen the impression a listener has of the delay. You’re not likely to use it on the first go but it’s pretty useful once you get the hang of it. Then there’s the wet/dry mix parameter. This controls how much of the delay you hear in the track in relation to your original ‘dry’ sound. Your instinct might be to work this all the way up to 100%, but the resulting sound will quickly overwhelm anything else in your track. As with all the other controls, it’s best to fine-tune things at a lower rate. Beyond that there’s not a lot you really need to worry about in terms of other controls. You’ll get the odd collection of filters and EQs, but those are there to sharpen the overall sound rather than create it in the first place.

A tape delay emulator in Logic. As you can see there are plenty of other controls to alter your delay, including an EQ and an LFO.

Delay is an effect that demands to pushed in weird and wonderful directions Direct effect So how do you go about actually using this effect? Let’s start with something subtle. Yes, we did use the drunken uncle analogy earlier, but let’s pretend he’s got his mouth full of food. One of the best ways to thicken the vocal and give it more presence in the mix is to double-track it: have the vocalist record the same lines twice, or have a backing singer do it, and lay them on top of each other. But sometimes your vocalist has gone home, or you don’t have enough money to hire a backing singer. A tiny bit of delay, placed judiciously on some vocals, will create a slight chorus effect. You need to be incredibly subtle with this, making tiny adjustments to the time and

Delay units can often be exceedingly complex in terms of parameters to control, as is the case with this fantastically detailed Logic plug-in, the Delay Designer.

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feedback controls, but it’s a great tactic. Okay – now he’s finished chewing, and he’s ready to tell another inappropriate story. Fortunately, this one is quite good. You can use delay in all sorts of creative ways – that’s kind of what it’s there for. You can create what’s known as slapback delay, which came about in the ’50s and which U2 guitarist The Edge helped make popular again in the ’80s. You’ll know it when you hear it, trust us. In fact, several delay plug-ins even include this as a preset, and there are even plug-ins specifically designed for slapback delay. Note that you may sometimes see this called slapback echo. Same thing. Then there’s stereo delay. You can hear this in the work of artists such as Run the Jewels (El-P and Killer Mike). What this effect does is send alternating delays to the left and right channels of the mix, creating an interesting sound space. It is particularly effective if tempo-synced to the track and, as long as it isn’t used too much, can be a lot of fun to listen to. And you remember that infinite feedback we mentioned earlier? If you have a sound with a delay effect on it and it has a short time and a very long feedback, you’ll get an infinitely looping, increasingly dense version of the sound. That can, if you’re not careful, overload your speakers and even crash your system. Don’t get it twisted, though: if you know what you’re doing you can create a swirling soundscape, one you could potentially re-sample and create a whole new track out of. This is quite hard to do, but it’s certainly possible. What it all comes down to is this: delay is an effect that begs to be played with, and that demands to be pushed in weird and wonderful directions. If you let it, it’ll take you into some very strange places, but ones that will produce some amazing ideas. MT This feature was endorsed by SSR which has been providing professional education training in the audio engineering industry for over 30 years. With campuses in London, Manchester, Jakarta and Singapore, SSR has gained a healthy reputation within the music industry for producing well trained, professional graduates across the globe.

MAGAZINE

22/12/2014 14:43


LOGIC PRO X

On sale now £8.99 with free DVD. Digital version £5.99. Available at WHSmith (UK), Barnes & Noble (USA) and all good bookstores in Australia, Canada, and throughout Europe. Or order online at www.musictech.net/tag/focus

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23/12/2014 12:21


MT Show off your studio

Show off your studio

Show us what your studio looks like via Facebook and we’ll show it to our massive audience. Thousands have The Trident is easily the best thing at Arclite, although they have a wealth – here are just three! of other gear at the facility…

Arclite Productions Interviewee: Alan Bleay Contact: ableay@arcliteproductions.com Home or away? It’s custom built and attached to my house. Travel consists of walking out the back door and into the studio. Kit list? The desk is a Trident Series 75 console, with four SSL 4000 E preamps; two SSL 500 series channel strips, a Heritage Audio 1073 and a Focusrite RED 7. We have loads of vintage and new outboard including a Roland Space Echo, WEM Copicat, two 1176 compressors, SSL Buss compressor clone, DBX compressors and gates and a Roland DEP 5. Various keyboards include a Philips Philicorda, Yamaha DX100, two Roland MKS7s, Roland JV-1080, Novation Bass Station, Arturia Mini- and MicroBrute, Yamaha A300, and a Korg MS20-mini. Monitors are KRK V8s, Dynaudio Acoustic BM 5As, Auratone 5Cs and AR18s. We have a lot of pro backline: Marshall JMP 80, Fender Vibro Champ, Ampeg AV rig, MarkBass rig, various Yamaha drum kits, vintage Rogers kit, various vintage snares,

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and a large guitar collection. Mics include a Urei U87, sE 4400s, sE4s, Sennheiser MD 421s, Shure SM58s/ SM57s and an AKG D12. And finally, a set of Orion Antelope Converters. Which DAW do you use and why? Logic Audio 9 – great for MIDI and editing. I write and record on this and normally mix on Pro Tools HD 9. Favourite gear and why? Our Trident Series 75 console – so warm with so much character.

voices coming out of our monitors and seeing them staring at me through the glass. They were lovely, by the way. Perfect or room for improvement? Apart from a massive live room to put all our backline in, I could always do with more kit. I have a list of 500 items I really want, and a set of high-end ribbon mics.

How often do you use the studio? Over 70 hours a week.

What is next on your shopping list? Probably an sE Z5600a II tube mic. I have heard great things about it and could do with another vocal mic as an alternative to the U 87.

What do you use your studio for? Recording, songwriting, producing bands, and writing and composing production music.

What is your dream piece of gear? The GML 8200 Parametric EQ. It sounds so sweet on the top, is great to mix through, and very expensive.

Any good stories? One you can actually print was when I recorded audio for a theatre production. It turned out to be Felicity Kendal and Simon Callow and it was very weird hearing their

Any advice? Buy a high-end mic (like a U87) and a high-end preamp (Neve 1073). All your audio, especially vocals, will sound great. So don’t compromise on the audio path.

MAGAZINE

22/12/2014 14:49


Show off your studio MT

The 77TM Project

Movin’ Music Academy Interviewee: Jonny Delaney E: theboytheycalljonny@gmail.com

Interviewee: Christian Gjelstrup Contact: gjelstrup78@gmail.com www.facebook.com/77tm.music Movin’ Music Academy has a production area…

Send us as high a resolution shot as you can, people!

Home or away Being partners in crime, love and music we have our studio at home (taking up half of our apartment).

What are the key components? A Mac running Ableton, Logic, Reason and Massive; Focusrite LE card; Yamaha mixer and S03 synth; Mackie RM8 monitors; Novation Launchkey, MiniNova synth; Jen SX-1000 synth; NI Maschine and Maschine Kontrol; Dave Smith Mopho synth; Roland RD-300d digital piano and a bass guitar. DJ gear includes Pioneer CDJ-2000, DJM 800 mixers; iPads with Traktor, Kaoss Pad, Kaossilator, Technics DJ turntables and Kontrol X1.

it’s one of the most advanced DAWs on the market.

Which DAW do you use and why? Ableton because of its flexibility and ability to handle anything I throw at it. It is also a great program to teach music production with, even though

Any advice? Take your time and only buy what you need to get started. Learn how to use it before buying more otherwise you’ll waste a lot of time and money.

Perfect yet? The main thing I intend to do is to make sure that all hardware can be reached and used from the DAW. Unfortunately it’s tricky to use some of the synths comfortably because of a lack of space in the studio. Dream piece of gear and why? An RMI harmonic synth – really unique sound. It also looks incredible!

…and a DJ area as well

Main components? Roland JP-4, SH-5, SH-09, TR-808, TR-606, MKS-50 and SRV-2000; Polivox; ARP Odyssey; Korg Microkorg, VC-10, MS-20, SQ-10, SDD-3000 and KP3; Ensoniq ESQ-M and DP4; Oberheim Matrix 6; Moog Source; Yamaha CS-10 and DX200; Simmons SDS 8; Vermona DRM1; MFB 503; Tama Techstar TS-305; Pearl Drum-X; JoMoX AirBase-99; and Adam A5s and sub. Which DAW? Ableton because of its flexibility and how it invites playfulness. We have been happy Logic users in the past. Favourite gear? The Jupiter 4 has a special place – just the most amazing character and the best LFO ever. I’m a big fan of the vintage feel of the VC-10 and crazy sound of the Polivox. Tell us about the Polyvox? We saved it from a bar in Poland where it was used as decoration. Then it failed on us just before a gig in an old Berlin factory! What is your dream piece of gear? CS-80, 4-Voice, Maxi-Korg 800DV and Syntex. They have so much soul. Any advice? Pay attention to the weakest link. Get knowledge with experience rather that watching YouTube. Don’t think your music will be better if you just had this or that piece of gear. MT MAGAZINE February 2015

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| 111

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MT Next month

What’s in

Issue 144 On sale 19 February

NAMM 2015!

The MusicTech team travels to California to bring you exclusive gear news from the greatest musical instrument show on earth.

Feature

Workshop

BLUFFER’S GUIDE: ANALOGUE PROCESSING The Experts (see p3) Rob Boffard, Mark Cousins, Keith Gemmell, Andy Price, Mike Hillier, Hollin Jones, Marcus Leadley, John Pickford, Huw Price, Martin Delaney MUSIC TECH MAGAZINE www.musictech.net Anthem Publishing Ltd Suite 6 Piccadilly House London Road Bath BA1 6PL Tel +44 (0) 1225 489984 Publisher Simon Lewis simon.lewis@anthem-publishing.com Editorial Director Paul Pettengale paul.pettengale@anthem-publishing.com Senior Editor Andy Jones andy.jones@anthem-publishing.com Art Editor Debra Barber debra.barber@anthem-publishing.com Digital Editor Andy Price andy.price@anthem-publishing.com Multimedia Editor Alex Holmes alex.holmes@anthem-publishing.com Sales Manager Di Marsh di.marsh@anthem-publishing.com Marketing Manager Alex Godfrey alex.godfrey@anthem-publishing.com Marketing Assistant Kate Doyle kate.doyle@anthem-publishing.com

MT143.next.indd 112

Cover Image iStockphoto Managing Director Jon Bickley jon.bickley@anthem-publishing.com Art Director Jenny Cook jenny.cook@anthem-publishing.com Subscriptions & Back Issues Tel 0844 844 0398 (UK) Tel +44 (0)1795 592849 (overseas) Price (12 issues) £64.95 UK basic annual rate Printed by Polestar UK Print Limited +44 (0)1582 678900 Distributed by Marketforce (UK) Ltd, The Blue Fin Building 110 Southwark Street London SE1 0SU Tel +44 (0) 20 3148 3300 Licensing enquiries Jon Bickley +44 (0) 1225 489984 jon.bickley@anthem-publishing.com Music Tech Magazine, ISSN number

Our Music To Picture series continues… 1479-4187, is published monthly (12 times per year) by Anthem Publishing c/o USACAN Media Dist. Srv. Corp.at 26 Power Dam Way Suite S1-S3, Plattsburgh, NY 12901 for US$129.99 per year. Periodicals Postage paid at Plattsburgh, NY and at additional mailing Offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Music Tech Magazine c/o International Media Services, 3330 Pacific Avenue, Suite 500, Virginia Beach, VA 23451-2983

All content copyright Anthem Publishing Ltd 2014/15, all rights reserved. While we make every effort to ensure that the factual content of Music Tech Magazine is correct we cannot take any responsibility nor be held accountable for any factual errors printed. Please make every effort to check quoted prices and product specifications with manufacturers prior to purchase. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or resold without the prior consent of Anthem Publishing Ltd. Music Tech Magazine recognises all copyrights contained within this issue. Where possible we acknowledge the copyright holder.

TEXTING MUSIC TECH TERMS AND CONDITIONS By entering MusicTech competitions you are agreeing to receive details of future promotions from Anthem Publishing Limited and related third parties. If you do not want to receive this information please text ‘NO INFO’ at the end of your message. Texts will be charged at the specified price plus one message at your standard network tariff rate.

23/12/2014 09:23


FIRST WITH REVIEWS FIRST WITH NEWS HAVE YOU CLICKED? Powered by

Magazine

www.musictech.net MT .net ad.indd 1

23/12/2014 12:19


MT Your Disc

DVD143 4GB+ PC&Mac

YourDVD

Get ready to groove with a massive pack of highquality live drum stems, plus dubstep kits and fresh samples from Loopmasters. There are also top Ableton Live tips, and plenty of demos, software and workshop files to keep you busy…

SAMPLE LOOPS//ROYALTY FREE & EXCLUSIVE

/THE LOOP //THE LOFT ACOUSTIC DRUM STEMS

Size 1.04GB Format 24-bit/96kHz WAV If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at multitrack drum mixing but never had the material to work with, then now’s your chance! We’ve teamed up with live drum specialists The Loop Loft to provide a stunning collection of 40 acoustic drum loops split into individual microphone stems, so that you can apply your own processing and mix techniques. There are a range of tempos and styles from slow 72bpm blues grooves to 180bpm funk beats. Each loop has been expertly played by drummers Joey Waronker, Mark Guiliana, Matt Chamberlain and Omar Hakim, and all are presented in super-high quality. You can also use the code MSTCH25 to get a 25% online discount. Web www.thelooploft.com

SAMPLE LOOPS//ROYALTY-FREE & EXCLUSIVE

VIDEO FEATURE //42 MINS

//DUBSTEP & DUB TECH KITS

// SECRETS OF THE MASHUP BY ELITE FORCE

Size 261MB Format 16-bit/44.1kHz WAV This month’s exclusive pack from Equinox Sounds fuses full-throttle dubstep with a dark and cinematic sci-fi edge. You’ll find five construction kits in total ranging from 140bpm to 166bpm, with full mix, full drums and individual break-out parts to give you maximum flexibility. Whether you’re writing heavy club hits or music for picture there’s plenty here to experiment with, including textured FX and bleeps, glitch risers, aggressive kicks and snares, grinding basslines and dubbed-out hits. All loops are presented in 16-bit/44.1kHz WAV format. Web www.equinoxsounds.com

Size 432MB Format MP4 Veteran producer Simon Shackleton (Elite Force) has teamed up with Live-Courses.com for a new series on creating engaging bootleg mashups. We’ve got two modules for you to check out, which look at different ways of using crash hits to embellish a track, and at using FX sends to highlight specific drum hits and add variations to a drum loop. There’s also a bonus interview video with Shackleton where he discusses his musical beginnings, influences, and his hardware and software setups. Web www.live-courses.com

DEMO//SOFTWARE NATIVE INSTRUMENTS ROUNDS (WINDOWS, MAC OS X)

//SOFTWARE

A unique new Reaktor instrument that enables you to design and sequence up to 16 different synth sounds using analogue and digital engines, and intelligently morph through your sound palette in real time. www.native-instruments.com

DEMO//SOFTWARE IZOTOPE IRIS 2 (WINDOWS, MAC OS X) A new version of iZotope’s unique visual sampler that let’s you use paint tools to highlight sounds on a spectrogram. New features include a flexible modulation system and redesigned GUI. www.izotope.com

FULL//SOFTWARE TOKYO DAWN LABS TDR KOTELNIKOV (WINDOWS, MAC OS X)

DEMO//SOFTWARE

A wide-band dynamics processor with high fidelity range control and deep musical flexibility.

MELDAPRODUCTION TDR Kotelnikov offers a highly transparent sound MPOWERSYNTH with independent release controls for peak and (WINDOWS, MAC OS X) RMS, an oversampled signal path and more.

An extremely versatile and fully featured synth with high-quality oscillators, advanced distorting filters, a unique modular effects engine, and a smart randomisation system for providing endless inspiration. www.meldaproduction.com

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www.tokyodawn.net/tokyo-dawn-labs/

FULL//SOFTWARE BEATASSIST.EU MANTRA EVO (WINDOWS)

Mantra Evo combines FM and phase-distortion synthesis into a single instrument, with a unique morphing system to blend between basic and complex waveforms. Other features include five envelopes plus built-in effects. www.beatassist.eu

MAGAZINE

23/12/2014 12:05


Your Disc MT

SAMPLE LOOPS//ROYALTY-FREE

//VOCAL HOOKS, SAMBA DRUMS AND MORE

Size 161MB Format 24-bit/44.1kHz WAV We’ve got another eclectic collection of top-notch samples, handpicked from Loopmasters’ latest releases. First up, to accompany the review elsewhere in the mag, there are spoken and sung female vocals taken from Kate Wild Vocal Hooks & Acapellas. Then there’s jump-up beats and bass from Dope Ammo & Marvellous Cain Drum & Bass Fusion Vol 2; grinding leads and stomping beats from Big Room House & EDM and Sonny Wharton Percussive Tech House; and heavyweight bass from Dubstep Onslaught. Finally, we’ve got live percussion loops taken from Samba Drums and Percussion. Web www.loopmasters.com

VIDEO TUTORIALS//52 MINS

// PRODUCTION Q&A

Size 260MB Format MOV Although reading blogs and articles is a great way to learn and progress in your production skills, sometimes the direct approach will get more focussed results. This month’s video from Point Blank Music School sees Head of School JC Concato answering a range of questions from internet viewers. Topics include filtering the input of a compressor, when to use multiband compression, stereo widening effects in Ozone 6, EQ techniques, peak vs RMS, and more. There’s also a video with Ableton instructor Freddy Frogs, which takes a look at creating exponential rhythms in Live. Web www.pointblanklondon.com

VIDEO FEATURE//22 MINS

//LOOP+

Size 320MB Format MOV Loop+ has supplied a fresh helping of studio know-how videos. First up we have two show-and-tell reviews of Cableguys Curve 2 with producer Rob Talbott, and an in-depth look at the Z3TA+2 synth with US producer Quadrant. Next up there’s a QuickTip about how to use the sub synth section of the BigKick plug-in from Pluginboutique to create sub-basslines. Finally, Niche Audio present their new dark and gritty Neuro DnB Maschine and Ableton Expansion pack. Web www.loopmasters.com/loopplus/

MAGAZINE February

MT143.dvd pages.indd 115

2015 | 115

23/12/2014 12:05


M2 Master Reference Monitors The Village Studios Los Angeles villagestudios.com

LSR 310S LSR 305

LSR 308

BOOST YOUR IMAGE

Introducing the 3 Series Powered Studio Monitors, the first to incorporate JBL’s groundbreaking Image Control Waveguide. Matched with high performance JBL transducers, the patent-pending Image Control Waveguide delivers detail and depth as you’ve never heard before. The micro-dynamics in reverb tails and the subtleties of mic placement are clearly revealed within a sound stage that’s so realistic it creates a tangible sense of a center channel. A broad, room-friendly sweet spot means everyone in the room hears the same level of dimension and transparency in your music. The 3 Series subwoofer incorporates JBL’s patented Slip Stream™ Port working in concert with the custom designed 10" down-firing driver to let you hear the bottom octave of your project. A welcome plus for dance music producers, the XLF Extended Low Frequency setting brings the augmented bass response of the dance club to your control room. Adopting technology developed for our flagship M2 Master Reference Monitors, the 3 Series are surprisingly affordable, so you can hook up a set and boost the image in your studio. Learn more at jblpro.com/3series

TECHNOLOGY

Distributed in the UK by Sound Technology Ltd | 01462 480000 | www.soundtech.co.uk | info@soundtech.co.uk

 
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