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ABLETON LIVE ISBN 978-1-909590-39-7

Hands on workshops to take you from beginner to expert Produce a track from scratch: huge 21-page guide Music making on a budget – how to produce for less £$€ The best gear for your Live studio tested and rated Packed DVD! 900MB of samples & 3.5hrs of tuition videos

9 781909 590397



Ableton Live 2015 £8.99

Compiled by the Ableton Live experts from MusicTech MTF38.cover.indd 1

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Welcome MTF

Welcome … to Ableton Live 2015, the latest Focus dedicated to (arguably) the world’s finest DAW, and put together by the Live experts here at MusicTech magazine. In this special issue we have two very different, very large and hopefully very useful workshops to help take your Ableton productions up a notch. First up, Martin Delaney’s Ultimate Guide To Ableton Live (starting on p18) takes you on a general Live course, starting at the beginning and then quickly entering the world of basic and more complex programming. It’s a six-part monster that will be useful if you are either a Live beginner or intermediate user. Starting on p74, we also have our Build A Track From Scratch series of tutorials that takes you on a journey to build a complete piece of music over 21 tip-packed pages. It might be specific to dubstep but you will pick up essential advice along the way for whatever genre of music you produce. As usual we have stacks of reviews, general advice features plus tips and tricks and, for the first time, reveal the studios that your fellow Live users employ! Enjoy this special issue and keep that music coming… Andy Jones Senior Editor, MusicTech

We’re focussing on two different and very large workshops for all users of Live

Contributors Mark Cousins, Keith Gemmell, Alex Holmes, Hollin Jones, Huw Price, Liam O’Mullane MUSICTECH FOCUS MAGAZINE Anthem Publishing Ltd Suite 6, Piccadilly House London Road, Bath BA1 6PL Tel +44 (0) 1225 489984 Fax +44 (0) 1225 489980 Senior Editor Andy Jones Art Editor Debra Barber Digital Editor Andy Price Multimedia Editor Alex Holmes Business Dev. Manager Di Marsh

Art Director Jenny Cook

All content copyright Anthem Publishing Ltd 2014 and 2015, all rights reserved. While we make every effort to ensure that the factual content of MusicTech Focus is correct we cannot take any responsibility nor be held accountable for any factual errors printed.

Managing Director Jon Bickley

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.

Licensing enquiries Jon Bickley +44 (0) 1225 489984

MusicTech Focus recognises all copyrights contained within this issue. Where possible we acknowledge the copyright holder.

Publisher Simon Lewis

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MTF Contents

Issue 38

Ableton Live 2015


Live expert Martin Delaney’s six-part guide which explores all aspects of Live to help speed up your workflow and help you make better music, now! Starts on p18 MTF Workshops

Start here…

With the Inside Track in Ableton Live… p18

A complete live track from scratch

How to produce a complete dubstep track: from beats to bass, melodies to the arrangement – huge 21-page guide. Starts on p74 4 | Ableton Live 2015

MTF38.contents.indd 4

… make beats

and process them here p22 & 26

… and add bass, keys, and vocals

All the advice you need… p34-42


19/02/2015 08:32

Contents MTF

MTF Feature

Budget Music!

How to produce music for less, or no cash… p6

MTF38 Live 2015 Full listings FEATURES 006 | Making Music On A Budget How to produce music for a little cash outlay, and even for free! 048 | The 100 Best Music Apps p1 Make music on the move with the best apps for phone and tablet. 064 | The 100 Best Music Apps p2 The second part includes some of the more unusual mobile apps… WORKSHOPS: THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO ABLETON LIVE 018 | Part 1: The inside track 022 | Part 2: Starting with drums 026 | Part 3: Processing beats

MTF Feature

034 | Part 4: Producing bass 038 | Part 5: Keyboard sounds

The 100 Apps


For making music on the move, revealed right here… p48 & 64

074 | A 21-page workshop on how to produce a dubstep track from scratch using Live. TUTORIALS: BLUFFER’S GUIDES… 030 | …to music technology 058 | …to EQ and production

Bluffer’s Guides

Music technology and EQ explained p30 & p58

MTF BUYERS GUIDES 046 | 6 Of The Best: Monitors 062 | 6 Of The Best: Libraries 124 | 6 Of The Best: Interfaces MTF REVIEWS 104 | Live 9 & Push classic review 109 | AMT The Riser software 110 | iZotope RX4 audio restoring 112 | Fender Focal monitors 113 | Akai APC 25 keys/controller 114 | Modartt Pianoteq instrument 115 | Focusrite Saffire interface 116 | sE RF Space reflection filter 117 | Genelec 8010A monitors 118 | Arturia Beatstep sequencer

MTF 6 Of The Best

The best monitors, interfaces & libraries revealed p46, p62 & p124

119 | Fabfilter Pro-Q2 EQ plug-in 120 | Akai APC 40 & Mini controllers 122 | Tannoy Reveal monitors 121-129 | Mini Reviews REGULAR FEATURES 084 | 20 Tips: Instrument micing 100 | Show Off Your (Live!) Studio 130 | On your MTF DVD

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MTF Produce great music on a budget!

MTF Feature Budget music production

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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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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MTF 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 MTF 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.

MTF Tech term: Inter-app ● A 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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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 and www. 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 MTF 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. ●

(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

MTF Tech term: Multi-core ● 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.

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 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.

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

(Right) Online DAWs like Soundation are generally free, pretty advanced and usually offer collaboration features.

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MTF Produce great music on a budget!

Making the best of your recording space FreqAnalyst is an excellent and free audio analysis plug-in.

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 you can take to improve things even if you’re not in a proper studio. Anything that you record with a mic can be

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MTF Tech term – Isolation

MTF 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.

You can achieve results with a computer that would have been impossible not so long ago 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 mic 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 off the floor and thus focus their sound, and this is easy to do for free.

Studio hacks Recording drums at home is always going to be tricky


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Budget setup for a singer-songwriter 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.

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

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 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 useful. Blue Cat Audio’s FreqAnalyst is a free plug-in for doing just this.

For mixing it’s a good idea to strap an analyser on the master output MTF Tech term: Audio analysis

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


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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. 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.

MTF 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.

MTF 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. 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 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 ( 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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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. 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.

MTF Tech term – Upgrade

Free samples

MTF 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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MTF 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 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 MTF

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 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, 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. MTF

MTF 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. MTF 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. MTF 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. MTF 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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MTF Technique The Ultimate Guide to Ableton Live Part 1

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…


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 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 Part 1 Technique MTF

MTF 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.




enter keys to select and load the item you were looking for. It’s a 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




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 FOCUS Ableton Live 2015

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MTF Technique The Ultimate Guide to Ableton Live Part 1

MTF 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.




you’re coming to Live from another application, you’ll need to 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 (currently at version 9). Increasing in price, each version has

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different features, so check the handy comparison chart on 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 you’ll find other versions of Live bundled with third-party hardware


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The Ultimate Guide to Ableton Live Part 1 Technique MTF

MTF 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.




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 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! MTF Martin’s Ultimate Guide To Ableton Live continues over the page. FOCUS Ableton Live 2015

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MTF Technique Part 2: Beginning a Live project with drums

Ableton Live The Ultimate Guide to Ableton Live, Part 2

Beginning a Live project with drums Ableton Live is fantastic for drum programming; it has all the tools you need, and it’s easy to get started. Martin Delaney counts you in…


ast time round we gave ourselves an introduction to the basics of Ableton Live – the interface, key commands, clip launching – before programming our first little MIDI drum beat, using Live’s Core 808 kit. Now we’re moving on to a new project, one that we can work on over a few simple instalments, building it into a self-contained set that will include all the tips and material referred to in the tutorials. We’ll begin by going back to drum programming, to create a beat that’ll be the foundation of our new project. Most music projects begin with a beat, even if it’s simply

On the disc Accompanying project file included on the DVD

No matter how focused you are on electronic beats, you’ll still work with acoustic sounds acting as a glorified click track for the recording of live instruments. We’re going to use an acoustic drum kit, in the shape of Live’s Kit Core Session Dry. No matter how focused you are on electronic beats, you’ll still be working with acoustic sounds, and their playing and programming techniques. A clean acoustic kit is also a better way to illustrate MIDI programming tweaks and audio effect usage, instead of one that loads with a lot of effects in place before you start. Our tutorial will skim through the fundamentals of Live beat production – including creating clips, programming beats, customising drum racks and adding audio effects. For this, we’re working in Session View because the loop-based workflow is ideal for programming beats – at times like this you just want the part in focus to keep looping round while you edit it, which makes things a lot

more simple by freeing you from thinking about structure at this early stage, so you can concentrate on the job in hand: making the best beat possible. A benefit of working with MIDI is that you don’t really have to commit to a fixed tempo until a long way into the production process – and with Live, even when you’re working with audio, you’ve got a lot of freedom with tempo changes thanks to the wonders of warping. It’s also important to remember that you can automate BPM changes in the Arrangement View if you want your music to breathe a bit.

Get kitted out In the interests of compatibility, I’m using one of the standard Live library drum kits for the tutorial, but there’s no need to limit yourself to this as there are many more Live Packs available which feature great sounding kits, whether you’re looking for acoustic or electronic sounds – you’ll find some on the Ableton website (the Session Drums pack is a good example), as well as through third-party providers. When you’re browsing the Library drum kits, you can audition each kit without loading it; either click the Preview button that sits just below the Browser, or simply right-arrow on your computer keyboard to hear a brief sample of the kit sound (this only works with the Live factory sounds). Along the way we’ll be adding two little samples – just to let you know that this is possible! We set Record Quantization to Sixteenth-Note, though you’ll change this on a project-specific basis depending on the part you’re recording. If you forget to enable quantization, you can use Cmd-U to quantize the recorded notes, so you

DO YOU REALLY NEED DRUM PADS TO PROGRAM BEATS? In a word, no! But a sensible answer takes longer – you can program MIDI beats perfectly well using a computer mouse or trackpad, but that doesn’t always get you in the mood. We can play in drum hits using Live’s computer MIDI keyboard for starters, then the options ramp up after that: from MIDI keyboard to MIDI drum pads, culminating in a more dedicated device such as Ableton’s Push. Never mind the funny keyboard-in-a-grid gimmick, if there’s one thing Push is good for, it’s creating drum parts! Velocity-sensitive pads, step sequencing, device control… it’s all there.

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Part 2: Beginning a Live project with drums Technique MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Making a beat with Ableton Live

Open our example set – TUGTAL2. Look at the Session View: a timeline gets in the way when you’re building beats (we want them to loop indefinitely) and there are some clips there!

Enter a bpm value in the tempo box near the top left of the screen. We could use any value from 20-999 bpm, but let’s agree on 126 for now – a little bit upbeat.

Type Cmd-F to search, and start typing ‘Kit-Core SessionDry’. When you see the kit in the ever-updating list, navigate to it with the computer keyboard’s down arrow and hit Enter to load it.

This is an acoustic drum kit, as you’ll hear when you audition the sounds from your MIDI controller (arm the track first), or from the triangular preview buttons in each cell in the drum rack.

We want to add one electronic sound now, so drag the audio sample we’ve called ‘Noise’ on to the Conga cell in the drum rack – that’ll replace the original sample. Drum racks contain 128 cells.

Double-click in the top clip slot in your drum track. This automatically creates a 1-bar MIDI clip. Turn on the metronome as well. Launch the empty clip. All you’ll hear is the metronome.




don’t have to record them again, with an Amount control that lets you blend in the amount of correction. When you’re working in the MIDI Note Editor, you can navigate note pitches by simply clicking and dragging up/ down on the piano roll at the left, and you can zoom in and out by clicking and dragging left/right at the same spot. You




can also expand the editor upwards by mousing over the border at the top, where you’ll see the pointer icon changes into a dragging tool – and you can scale the editor upwards so it fills the screen, which makes it easier to work with. The way I like to work when I’m creating a drum track is to add variations and breaks in the programming of the FOCUS Ableton Live 2015

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MTF Technique Part 2: Beginning a Live project with drums

MTF Step-by-Step Making a beat with Ableton Live… cont’d

You should now be viewing the MIDI Note Editor grid. If not, click the device view selector at the bottom right. Time to draw the beat. Enter the notes by double clicking in the grid.

As the clip loops around, draw kicks at 1, 1.1.3, 1.3, and 1.3.3. Refer to our screenshot – draw the hi hats, noise and snare as you see there. That’s a 1/16th note grid.

Now we have enough activity, we don’t need the metronome – turn it off. Drag our ‘Tambourine’ clip onto the Cowbell cell in the rack. Let’s record the tambourine in real-time, just for the practice.

to the Edit menu and find Record Quantization. Set it to 10 Go Sixteenth-Note Quantization. This will tighten up the timing when



Arm the track (the red button lit at bottom), then find the key or pad for the tambourine. Click the Session Record button in the Control Bar, and playback begins; the clip play button is red.


notes, but to use the Velocity MIDI Effect Device for dynamic variations – this keeps them randomising across the length of the track. We’ll offset the snare hits a bit, which is what real (good) drummers do to vary the feel of what they’re playing. This is part of what Live’s Grooves do as well – you can find them if you look under Packs/Core Library/Swing and Groove. If you use these carefully you

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we play in our live tambourine part – it saves editing time later!

Now you’re recording! As the loop plays, add a tambourine hit on each beat. They’re overdubbed over the other parts, nothing’s overwritten. Because Record Quantization is on, the timing of your tambourine is corrected automatically.


can impart a ‘human’ feel in your beats. Most of us will probably be working in 4/4 time, but don’t forget that Live can easily handle more complex time signatures, and even time signature changes can be automated, so don’t limit yourself to the ones that feel safe. Live’s drum kits are usually based on drum racks, but it’s worth remembering that the good ol’ Impulse drum


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Part 2: Beginning a Live project with drums Technique MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Making a beat with Ableton Live … cont’d

Press Stop or the spacebar. Now we have a 1-bar beat, but if you click the Dupl Loop button in the Loop Box, you get an instant two bars! Add some more kicks at the end of bar 2.


We can tweak the beat’s timing, to take the edge off the tempo. Drag the snare hits to the right, but only a tiny bit, so they sound like they’re dragging behind the beat.


sound flat unless they’re located in some kind of room 17 Drums space, so add the Audio Effect preset Reverb/Room/Ambience to

the track after the rack. Set the Dry/Wet mix to 30%.

sample player is still there. This is a basic beat-making tool, but it’s great if you’re building your own electronicallyoriented kits and you want to limit your options.

Making tracks Next time we’ll be treating beats more aggressively – taking audio samples of drum loops and slicing and

For live-sounding drums you need velocity changes. Find the MIDI Effect preset Velocity/Add Some Random, and drag to the drum track. These variations are too extreme, so raise Out Low to 110.


the Simple Delay from the Audio Effects Browser straight on 16 Drag to the drum cell that contains the ‘noise’ sample. Set the Dry/Wet

to 20% – this gives a little extra rhythmic value to that sound!

We can use a compressor to fatten up our beat (we’ll be coming back to compressors later). Find the preset Compressor/Mildly Aggressive and drag it on to your track. It should sound punchier…


processing them, and laying that on top of the beat we’ve created. In part 4 we’ll then be adding bass and keyboard parts to the project to create an entire track. And don’t forget to look at our example Live set on the DVD this issue, which contains the raw material that we’ve used in this tutorial plus the remaining four tutorials coming up! MTF FOCUS Ableton Live 2015

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MTF Technique Part 3: Processing your beats

Ableton Live The Ultimate Guide to Ableton Live Part 3

Processing your beats

In Part 2 of the Ultimate Live Guide we built a nice, clean MIDI beat with a few realistic variations, but now Martin Delaney explains how to dirty it up!


n our last tutorial, we began a new Live project and created a beat using one of Live’s more acoustic, natural-sounding kits. All good but now we’re going to cannibalise that beat in two different ways - we’ll duplicate and process it to create a new tuned percussion part that plays over the top, and we’ll also convert that original beat to audio, before slicing it up for yet more processing, removing some of the slices

On the disc Accompanying project file included on the DVD

There’s no right or wrong with the beats you use as long as they are right for the project completely and replacing them with totally different sounds. There’s no right or wrong about the type of drum sounds you use; what matters is they’re right for the project you’re working on at the time. Truthfully in most genres these days, you’ll be working with many drum tracks playing in parallel, combining acoustic and electronic sounds. Dance music tracks are typically based on core drum kits derived from the classic drum machines of old, the Roland TR-808 and TR-909, but these sounds will be customised, processed with audio effects, and often layered alongside more realistic percussion sounds for a richer texture. As well as mixing and matching source kits, there’s a lot of leeway with sample resolution and sound quality; you can build a kit that includes nice high resolution drum hits alongside grungy little samples that you’ve grabbed from an MP3, YouTube, or you’ve resampled from a little dictating recorder. Mix and match - that’s what it’s all about. During the tutorial we talk about freezing and flattening tracks - this retains each separate clip within

the track, which is incredibly useful. Just be aware that Flatten is destructive - your original track is gone! What I usually do is duplicate the track, then create a group track called ‘Spare’ which I use to contain all of the original versions of my frozen tracks. You’ll notice that every clip in a flattened track is double the length of the original source clip - this is a feature not a bug(!), designed to accommodate effect tails at the end of loops - this makes sense because it’s quite annoying to hear a reverb tail cut off and begin again as a sample loops. If you’re obsessive about house-cleaning, which I am, you can use the crop sample command to put your clip back to its original length. We added the Resonator effect to our new percussion track. I love the Resonator, it has quite a distinctive sound, although that means that sometimes you have to tweak it somewhat to get something different. It’s very important to use that Note control though, and make sure it’s pitched correctly to fit in with your other parts - things can get a bit discordant otherwise. Having programmed and customised a beat earlier, we’re now converting it to audio and beginning the process all over again, slicing it up and adding different sounds and effects. We’re doing this because I want to show you the very cool ‘Slice to New MIDI Track’ command, and also because it’s another interesting creative step you can take. Even when you’re working with something you’ve programmed yourself, you can give it more of a ‘sampled’ vibe by converting it to audio and slicing it up. It makes you use different tools in different ways. ‘Slice to New MIDI

FOCUS ON… QUANTIZATION Sometimes Live treats audio and MIDI in similar ways. An example of this is quantization. We discussed this for MIDI already, but we can also do it with audio samples – a very powerful feature. Try the sample in our example Live set, Loose Beat. Double-click the clip to see the waveform – you’ll see it’s not exactly in time and we can fix this. Right-click inside the waveform and type Cmd-U. You’ll see the peaks in the waveform snap to the grid. Cool! To change the quantization values, use Shift-Cmd-U to access the quantization settings.

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Part 3: Processing your beats Technique MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Processing your beats

Open our example set - TUGTAL3. Select the drum track and type Cmd-D to duplicate. Right-click the new track, choose Freeze Track, then right-click again and choose Flatten, creating an audio version of the track.

Freeze and Flatten makes double-length audio clips – this helps handle effect tails and the like. Use the Loop Brace, Start Marker, and Crop Sample command to cut the clip back to the original length.

Set the new drum audio clip to Beats Warp mode if it isn’t already, then go down to the bottom of the Warp controls and choose the top arrow icon, pointing to the right only.

This deactivates the Transient Loop mode, which determines how the gaps between slices in Beats mode are handled. While the loop’s running, click and drag downwards in the adjoining box to reduce the decay between slices.

It sounds cool, yes? It’s gating the waveform’s transients. Drag right down to 0 for a delicious clicky part, then use the Transpose knob at the left to raise it by 24 semitones or two octaves.

Go to the Audio Effects category in the Browser and add the Resonator preset called Berlin to the track. Set the Note inside Resonator to E2, then try setting the Dry/Wet mix at 35%.




Track’ is great if you have a beat from another record, and you want to edit the arrangement, or tweak or even replace some of the sounds in the sample; putting a compressor on the kick in a sample loop is a good example. I also like to use lo-fi effects such as Redux, Erosion, and Cabinet to dirty things up a bit. The correct technical term for the




slices made by this command, as they’re created and placed in a rack, is ‘chains’. Dragging samples or instruments to replace slices is a big thing; you can take a loop from an old record and totally replace the kick or snare with another sample. Or as we touched on here, drag in an instrument. The slice will be replaced, and the FOCUS Ableton Live 2015

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MTF Technique Part 3: Processing your beats

MTF Step-by-Step Processing your beats... cont’d

Now you’ve created a melodic percussion part by tweaking your original beat. Live is great for recycling your audio and MIDI parts! It is definitely possible to make an entire tune from one source sample.

Uh, maybe we’re getting bored with the original beat now – it sounds quite flat against the Resonator percussion track. Let’s put it through the wringer taking it on a gratuitous journey of sonic dismemberment.

Right-click the track containing that original beat and choose Freeze Track. Right-click again and choose Flatten. The MIDI track’s disappeared! Freeze/Flatten is destructive – that’s why we copied the track when we did it before.

This is just a fun way to mess with your parts as we want a different vibe. Crop the new clip down to only two bars. Rightclick on it and choose Slice To New MIDI Track.

Choose the 1/8 Slicing option from the new window. Now you have a new MIDI track and clip. Perverse, isn’t it? Launch the clip – it should sound pretty much the same as the original.

This operation has sliced the audio clip, and made a new drum rack, with a different instance of Simpler for each slice. It’s also automatically created a MIDI clip, with a note for each slice.




instrument will play as the clip loops. You can build really interesting loops by adding soft synths, audio effects… really taking it on to another level. If you’re ever following a drum rack tutorial and you’re not seeing everything, make sure to click on the black buttons at the bottom left of the rack – these will show

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and hide the various elements that make up the rack, including input/output routing, effect sends and returns (yes you can have these in a drum rack), and of course the macros, chains, and devices. If you really want to go big with elaborate evolving beats, you can start using automation as well. This is a real


12/02/2015 12:23

Part 3: Processing your beats Technique MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Processing your beats... cont’d

Audition the slices from your MIDI controller, or from your computer keyboard (Shift-Cmd-K to activate that), or enable Preview for the clip (the headphone icon) and click on each note to hear it.

Effectively we’ve sampled ourselves. Experiment with dragging the notes around the editor grid, to see what happens; you can take any beat and reorganise it to fit your song, this is one of Live’s top features!

Not only can we reorganise the notes, we can tweak each slice. Give the kick a little bump by dragging the Compressor preset Brick Wall onto slices 1, 5, 9 and 13 in the clip.

Now we turn our attention to the snare. Drag the Ping Pong Delay onto slice 3, the first snare in the clip. Wow! That’s too much. Dial the Dry/Wet control down to 30%.

Delays are a great way to change the rhythm of your beats. Onwards. We have another sample, called ‘bass note E’. Drag it onto slice 7. It automatically creates a Simpler instrument to contain it!

Doing that automatically replaces the original slice – now you have a bass note hitting alongside the beat. Click on the track name, type Cmd-R, and rename the track ‘Sliced beat’. That’s it for now.




opportunity to go nuts, because you can automate every device in every chain in the rack, and that can be hundreds of parameters. And of course you can separate the length of the automation loop from the clip length (with the Link button), and do that individually for each parameter, so warn your friends and family that you’re going to disappear




for a few weeks! That’s all we have room for now and we haven’t even mentioned the totally awesome ‘Convert Audio to Drums’ command. That will have to wait for another tutorial. Turn to p34 where we use the Simpler instrument and MIDI Effect devices to add some bass to our beats.. MTF FOCUS Ableton Live 2015

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MTF Feature A bluffer’s guide to music technology

MTF Feature Music Technology Guide

A BLUFFER’S GUIDE TO MUSIC TECHNOLOGY If you’re bursting with musical ideas but don’t know how to realise them then this is the series for you. Rob Boffard guides you through the music-making maze, starting at the very beginning…


roducing music is a bit like snowboarding. You need equipment to do it, and you have to have a basic understanding of what you’re doing, but you’re probably going to fall flat on your face a few times. Simply admiring good snowboarders or knowing the general principles of snowboarding aren’t going to be enough. If you want to carve up a slope you need to put a little time into working out how it’s all done. Now that we’ve got the mangled metaphors out of the way, welcome to our bluffer’s guide to music technology. If you’re just getting started in making music then this is the perfect primer for how it all works. In the articles to come we’ll focus on different aspects of producing music, but for now we’re just going to look at the big concepts: the mountain, if you will, rather than the boards and boots and bindings.

Open the DAW This may come as a total shock to you, but in 2015 music is mostly created using computers. That’s not particularly interesting or informative but you might not know just how it’s done, or exactly what goes on when a producer sits down at a computer to make some music. Back in the day, the centre of the music studio

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11/02/2015 14:36

A bluffer’s guide to music technology Feature MTF

was a big mixing desk. In many cases it still is, but it’s not as crucial as it once was. Every piece of sound went into that desk, and after having processing applied to it, it all came out the other end. Outside of big studios you won’t find too many enormous mixing desks. What you will find, though, are their 21st-century equivalent: DAWs. Logic Pro’s mixer pops up when you press X on the keyboard. Instant access to the levels, pan controls and effects on all your tracks. Nobody has ever been able to pin down if you pronounce it ‘Door’ or ‘Dee-Ay-Double-You’. Frankly, it doesn’t matter. Pick the Tech terms one you like best. It stands for Digital Audio Workstation, and it’s almost always ● DAW: Digital Audio the hub of any producer’s world. It contains a sequencer, where pieces of audio Workstation. The place where everything are arranged and edited, a mixer, where their levels are changed, and a whole happens. Nobody knows host of effects and instruments that you can use to mess with existing sounds or how to pronounce it. create new ones. You’ll find plenty of DAWs on the market, and you’ll need to spend a bit of time figuring out which one you like using. This should be the deciding factor: you absolutely have to be comfortable with the program you’re working with, and so it pays to audition them before shelling out your hard-earned. There are several big names and they all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Pro Tools is a big, powerful, industry-standard program, but it’s also finicky and expensive and difficult to get to grips with. Logic Pro is Apple’s own program, and is versatile and great to use, even if it is Mac only. Reason is a music-focussed software package with dozens of dedicated instruments – perfect for production, but quite unusual and hard to learn. Then there’s Cubase – a great cross-platfor,m choice – Audition, Soundation, the ever-popular dance choice, Ableton Live, and many more… Any DAW is intimidating to learn. But put the time and effort in and you’ll discover something interesting: whatever each DAW’s personality, they all work in roughly the same way. Realising this is a powerful moment, because once you can use one DAW, you can, in theory, use them all.

You’ll find plenty of DAWs on the market, and you’ll need to figure out which one you like

SOUNDCARD: A piece of equipment that handles the audio signals. Can either be internal or external to your computer.

● MONITORS: A fancy name for speakers. They come in various flavours, such as nearfield monitors, which are smaller and used in home studios. ● INTERFACE: The box that you plug everything into. It receives audio signals (from your computer or your instruments) and tells it where to go (speakers or headphones).

The big three

Music production is divided into three distinct segments: composing, mixing and mastering. No matter what kind of music you make, whether you’re in a big, multi-room studio or hunched in front of your laptop, that’s how it goes. Composing is the act of making music. It’s the process of taking an idea in your head and putting it into recorded form. This might happen with an entire band or it might be you and your DAW and a couple of software instruments bashing out a drum beat. Doesn’t matter. If you’re recording something, or creating it, then you’re composing. Then there’s mixing. This is also pretty simple: you’re taking all the elements of your song and blending them together. This is all about adjusting volume levels, panning left or right, and applying effects to sharpen up sounds (don’t worry, we’ll deal with effects in a subsequent instalment). You’re looking to take the separate channels and put them together so that they sound awesome. We’re not going to lie to you: the mixing stage is hard. It requires you to develop a good ear, put in a lot of time, and gain a good dose of experience. But

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MTF Feature A bluffer’s guide to music technology

you can’t skip it, and the only way to get good at it is to do lots of it. Then there’s mastering. This is about taking your finished track and putting an extra layer of shine on it. Imagine you’ve cooked a nice meal, blending all these different ingredients together and using the perfect amount of spices. You don’t just slop it out into a polystyrene kebab box you’ve got lying around. No, you find the nicest plate you’ve got. Mastering is the plate. The process beefs up the sound, makes the volume consistent throughout the track, and puts an extra layer of polish on it. Mastering is a dark art – you can do it on your own, but it’ll be much better if you let a pro do it. That’s not just because they’ll have the best-sounding studio and the most heavyweight equipment, it’s also because they can bring a fresh set of ears.

Hard and soft There’s nothing to stop you making music with just a laptop and a DAW. It can be done. But you’ll be in a much better situation if you can invest in some hardware, particularly when you stop composing and start mixing. No matter how good your computer is, its soundcard is not going to give you the results you want. The easiest bits of gear to get your head around are headphones and speakers, or monitors as they’re known in music making. You want ones that aren’t going to colour your mix – what that means is that they absolutely have to pump out the sound as it is, rather than increasing the bass or treble. This is not the place for a pair of Beats by Dre cans. When you’re mixing, the most important thing is to know exactly how your mix sounds, and monitors and headphones that can give you this – known as a ‘flat’ response – are worth spending money on. (See p46 for choices.) Of course, you could just plug them right into your computer. If you’re an idiot. A much better option is to invest in an interface. This is essentially an external soundcard for your computer, one which you can plug all your equipment into and then connect back to your computer (usually via USB). A

Meet Reason. It uses a rack system to line up software instruments for you to use. Hit tab, and the rack flips around to the back where there are cables you can rearrange.

good one, such as the MBox that ships with Pro Tools, will enable you to control your instrument levels, the main volume, and how much of anything you’re hearing at any given time. Speaking of instruments, they’ll all connect to that interface. Whether it’s a keyboard, a guitar and amp, or a microphone, they’ll all eventually come back to the interface. If you have a lot of instruments (if you’re in a band, for example) then you’ll be needing a bigger interface with a lot more inputs. Just you and your DAW? A single input will be fine. And you might have guessed this already, but a mixing desk is just an interface with faders on it. It’s not just the computer’s external soundcard, it lets

There’s nothing to stop you making music with just a laptop and a DAW. It can be done

You can master your tracks on your own computer, using programs such as iZotope Ozone, pictured here. But you won’t get good results with a bad hardware setup.

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you get direct physical control over the parameters of your track. The big, classic desks are renowned for providing a pleasing colour to the sound – a quality that translates as warm and rich when it hits the ear. Not every desk will do this, but there’s certainly an argument for investing in your own. It’s a nice-tohave, though, not an absolute. By the way: remember those effects we mentioned? They can come in hardware format too, usually in big rectangular units that can be slotted into dedicated ‘racks’. They perform in exactly the same way as their software equivalents, shaping and moulding the sound, it’s just that to use them you send audio to them from your computer and then the effect sends it back all nicely processed. So. DAWs, the three stages of music making, and hardware. That’s the mountain you’re standing on top of. Next time, we’ll take a look at how to get down it. MTF


11/02/2015 14:37

MTF Technique Part 4: Let’s make some bass

Ableton Live The Ultimate Guide to Ableton Live Part 4

Let’s make some bass

On the disc

Martin Delaney thinks it’s time to add some bass to our beats, doubled up with a little sub to make it bounce. Here’s his guide…


oday we’re adding a bass part, ideally one that somehow fits in with our beat from the last tutorial. Refer to the example set included with the issue – it’s called TUGTAL4. The set includes all the steps from the last tutorial as well as a couple of samples you’ll need to complete this one. Bass sounds change considerably across genres; you’ve got classic electric bass played with pick or fingers,

Resist the temptation to make a huge bass sound because we plan to add other instruments analogue and digital synths, and LFO-driven wobble sounds. They’re all good and they’re all readily available to us these days,through real or software instruments and Live Packs. We’re going to build our own bass sound and program our own part. This is because the Simpler instrument we use is included in every version of Live. If I was to do the tutorial using the Operator synth, you might not be able to follow the steps. You should try Operator, though – it’s my go-to synth for bass parts. I’ll move on to others only if I can’t find what I want in there. We’re spending more time working with instrument racks as this is a great way to build deep synth sounds that would otherwise require complex routing across several tracks. In many ways they’re similar to drum racks, which we’ve already encountered. We’re using two chains in our rack – that’s two instruments playing together – but you can have up to 128 chains in a rack. Impressive enough, but then bear in mind that you can have

FOCUS ON… REAL BASS The best thing you can do if you want to program good bass parts is to get your hands on a bass guitar – it’s a great way to try ideas against your drum tracks. You don’t have to learn to play properly, it doesn’t even have to be a good bass and it doesn’t matter what it sounds like, because 99 times out of 100 it doesn’t even get plugged in. This is my most common way to create bass parts, noodling away while the drums loop. To get a bass vibe…play bass. It’s pretty obvious!

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Accompanying project file included on the DVD

128 racks inside another rack, so you can quickly end up with thousands of chains buried deep within your rack. When you connect a MIDI keyboard or use your computer keyboard to play those sounds, you’re going to get a massive sound because all of the chains will play at once. This can be a bit overbearing, but we’re only using two today, so we’ll deal with that issue another time, and there are various tactics we can use to specify which sounds play at what times. We’re using a transposed sine wave to create a sub bass – a low bass fundamental tone which fattens up the bottom end. It can be almost inaudible in the mix at certain times. For reasons of simplicity, we’re pairing it with our square wave sound, but there’s no reason why a sub couldn’t be on a track of its own and subject to a whole other round of editing and effect processing. After drawing in the notes in our bass clip, we went back to shorten the bass note in our sliced drum rack from last time to make sure it didn’t overlap with the new bass part. When you’re working with MIDI programming, a lot of mixing problems can be fixed at the programming stage. It’s the same reason we set the Simpler instruments to 1 voice each, to avoid overlaps that will affect the bass part.

Simpler sampler Simpler is a very powerful sampler, although it has a user-friendly interface. It makes it possible to build long, sustaining notes by loop and crossfading short samples, but on this occasion we don’t need those controls. Lucky us! Maybe we’ll come back and use them later. As I mention in the tutorial, it’s important to resist the temptation to make a huge bass sound right now. This is because we plan to add other instruments, and sonically there won’t be any room for them if we have a bass sound that’s riddled with effects and covering a huge frequency range. We use clip envelopes to create repetitive movement of the Auto Filter controls; it makes our bass sound a bit more evolving and interesting. It depends on what genre you’re working with, but automated filters can be a huge factor in the mix. If you don’t like the restrictions and mouse-work of drawing these envelopes, be aware that you can record them in real time if you’re using a suitable hardware controller. Also I can’t stress enough the importance of unlinking clip envelopes from the clip length. And remember:


11/02/2015 15:46

Part 4: Let’s make some bass Technique MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Making some bass

Open our example set, which follows on from last time. Load an empty Instrument Rack into a new MIDI track. Drag the clip ‘square’ into the rack and it’ll automatically appear inside a Simpler instrument.

Arm the track and play your keyboard to audition the sound, in a low-ish range. Drag the clip ‘sine’ into the rack’s drop area, creating another chain. Now you’ll be playing both sounds together.

In the ‘sine’ Simpler instrument, set the Trans (transpose) value to -12 semi-tones, that’s one octave down. We’ll use this as our sub bass and the saw as our more immediately characteristic tone.

You might want to rename the chains now, for visual reference – Cmd-R. Good, now let’s draw in some notes. Double-click in an empty slot to create a new MIDI clip, as we’ve done before.

Refer to the screen shot. It’s just E1 then D2 at 1.1.3 then E1 again at 1.3, D2 at 1.3.3, and A2 at 1.4.3 and E1 at 1.4.4. Match the note lengths to what you see in the picture.

There’s a bass sample in the drum kit; our bass clip leaves room for that. But, find the controls for the bass note in the drum rack and reduce the Release to 1.00 ms, shortening the note.




each envelope can be a different length. You might notice that the sine wave part of the bass sound doesn’t react much to the filter, but that’s normal – sines are not so responsive compared to other more complex waveforms. We finished off the bass track with Live’s Compressor. This is perfectly adequate as a clinical compression tool,




although that’s one area where I think third-party plug-ins or even hardware can step in and do the job better, for those times when you want a compressor that purposely adds some character to the sound. If you have the Glue Compressor from the Live 9 Suite, that’s a good place to start… FOCUS Ableton Live 2015

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MTF Technique Part 4: Let’s make some bass

MTF Step-by-Step Making some bass… cont’d

While we’re shortening, set the Sine’s Sustain to -7dB. This makes it shorter against the higher, square sound; when you play the clip, it keeps the punchy low bass hit without cluttering up the mix.

Because we’re using short punchy notes for this, we don’t have to play with the other Simpler settings for loop/fade, release time, and so on. Our samples are long enough that it won’t matter.

Our simple bass part will be monophonic – only one note at a time – so we can set the voices for each Simpler to 1. This means we can’t play or program any overlapping notes by mistake.

We could add effects to each chain and use the Spread control to make a monster bass sound, but it doesn’t leave much room for other sounds in the song if the bass is too big.

Let’s raise the sine volume inside Simpler to 0 dB – Simpler and Sampler always default to -12 dB, I guess to protect us from ourselves! You can keep tweaking the levels as you go on.

Let’s add Auto Filter for some nice filter sweeps. Drag it right after the rack so it applies to both chains and set the filter cutoff to 170Hz, and the Q (resonance) to 2.00.




As we’re adding more elements to our track, we’ve got to make sure everything sounds good alongside everything else. While working with the bass sound, I was starting to feel the Resonator settings were a little bit too abrasive. To fix this you can go to the Resonator in our percussion track and tame it a bit by resetting all of the fine tuning values to

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0 using the white boxes under each Pitch control. That should sound better! That’s all for now. Next time we’ll be working on a keyboard part to layer over our bass and beats. Once again we’ll take a shot at building our own instead of loading a preset. MTF


11/02/2015 15:47

Part 4: Let’s make some bass Technique MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Making some bass… cont’d

Sweep time. Inside the MIDI note editor, click the envelope arrow and choose Auto Filter and Frequency from the pop-up choosers. Click the Link button and type a value of 4 bars next to that.

Click the left end of the red dotted line in the editor to anchor it. Drag the right end upwards to 1.50 Hz (Cmd-Click-Drag for finer resolutions). Now the frequency changes as the clip plays.

Choose Resonance now, unlinking it again, anchor it, then draw an envelope that ends at 2.90. You’ll hear that as well. Look at the Auto Filter and you’ll see red dots marking the automated controls.

What sounds cool is if you create different length sweeps for different parts of the song. Once you’ve clicked that Link button, you can set envelopes to any length, even with simple one-bar clips.

When you’re repeating these nice envelope sweeps, don’t use the same values every time either – it’ll sound more organic if you vary them a bit. You will hear the difference especially with the Resonance.

Drop in Live’s Compressor/Classical Compression preset. Make sure it goes right after the entire rack so it applies to both chains. If you’ve got Glue Compressor from the Live 9 Suite, try that instead.







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11/02/2015 15:47

MTF Technique Part 5: Make your own keyboard sound & sidechain it

Ableton Live The Ultimate Guide to Ableton Live Part 5

Make your own keyboard sound & sidechain it… Anybody can load a synth preset but it’s fun to build your own. Connect your keyboard and Martin Delaney will show you how it’s done.


e continue our Ultimate Guide by adding a simple keyboard part to our ongoing project, following on from the bass last time. You like the project? Good. You don’t like the project? That’s fine too as it’s merely a vehicle for us to introduce the core techniques of using Ableton Live.

If you’re not great at music theory Live has a whole bunch of tools to make parts sound busy Once again we’re using the Simpler instrument device, with a sample that you can load from the provided example Live set. This works for us because there are a few different versions of Live out there – Suite, Standard and Intro, not to mention older versions counting from 9 backwards – so using a synthesizer instrument device at this point could cause compatibility issues with some folks reading this. We’re on safe ground with Simpler because it’s in every version of Live – it has to be, because drum racks in particular won’t work without it! Either way it’s good, partly because we can now say we’re using sample based synthesis, a form of sound design that uses audio samples as well as waveforms generated by the synth instrument itself. Many synths let you combine these techniques in one preset, which really opens up the sonic spectrum.

On the disc Accompanying project file included on the DVD

As well as adding a new sample to our set – which again, incorporates the steps from the last tutorial – I’ve taken the opportunity to reorganise, rename, and colour code the tracks and clips. Not only do I get a kick out of organising everything, it helps me recognise what I’m looking at faster and it avoids accidentally triggering or selecting the wrong clip or track. I made a ‘spare’ group track for unused tracks, and put the original beat in there. We mentioned this before – Shift-Click to select the tracks you want to group, then type Cmd-G. You can also drag additional tracks in later. Our keyboard part doesn’t have to be too demanding. All we need for this project is something basic that doesn’t take up too much room, sonically speaking; we’ve got enough going on already. We’re just using one note, then making it move with some sidechaining instead. Whenever we talk about creating instrument sounds, make sure you’re using a keyboard to audition the sound constantly as you work on it. If you already have a MIDI clip and notes in place, you could just keep that playing and rolling round. But if you’re working on a sound that needs to have some velocity sensitivity – some responsiveness to how hard you hit your keys or pads – it’s better to use your keyboard or pads in real time while you’re testing. As I’ve said before, I like to use the computer keyboard as well, and when I’m doing that, I’ll keep tapping on the c and v keys to change through some different velocity settings if relevant – they’ll take you up and down through the velocity range from 1 to 127 in increments of 20. Don’t forget to keep an eye on your track and master volume levels as well as we don’t want to see any red peaks! We don’t use any notes other than E4 for this clip, because we want to start with a drone and then find a way to make it sound a bit more interesting. If you’re not great at music theory, Live has a whole bunch of tools to help you make even a basic

FOCUS ON… THE HARDWARE In this tutorial we’re building a keyboard sound based on a sample from a Waldorf Pulse Plus, a hardware, rack-mount, synth first released in 1997 (the range is still going strong in a tabletop format). I used the Pulse for two important reasons: one, because it would give a different texture than resampling a plug-in, and two, because it was nearby! One of the great things about Simpler is that it makes it easy to use almost any sound as a source. Hardware instruments seem to be on everybody’s mind at the moment, so the Pulse it is.

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11/02/2015 15:49

Part 5: Make your own keyboard sound & sidechain it Technique MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Keyboards and sidechaining

Be sure to use our updated example set for this tutorial. I’ve added a new sample, ‘synth note’. This is a synth playing a long C note (sampled from the Waldorf Pulse Plus hardware synth).

Load the Simpler sample-playback instrument into a new MIDI track, and drag the ‘synth note’ sample into Simpler’s drop area. Double-click the top empty clip slot in the track to make a clip.

This should sound familiar, because we’ve done this step before when we made our bass part. Click the Dupl.Loop button in the MIDI Editor’s Notes box twice, creating an empty 4-bar MIDI clip.

When you arm your track and play your MIDI keyboard, you should be hearing the sampled synth tone playing across the range. We used a C so it’ll be correctly in pitch with other instruments.

Draw an E4 note across the entire length of the clip - launch the clip and then it’ll play just like a drone over four bars. Keep the velocity to around 100 or 110 – it doesn’t matter precisely.

To edit the note velocity, unfold the MIDI Velocity Editor (click on the little triangle) below the MIDI Note Editor, then drag the velocity marker up or down until you reach the desired range.




programmed part sound busy i.e. the MIDI Effect Devices. We’re using the Chord device a little bit here, but don’t be surprised if we come back and look at MIDI effects again in the near future. The other thing we do to make it sound more active is to sidechain it, taking the timing of the drum track (or parts of




it) and applying it to the keyboard sound to create a ‘pulsing’ quality. After you’ve loaded the Compressor into the keyboard track, you can choose any sound as a source, digging deep into drum and instrument racks to find the exact trigger you want. However, from a workflow point of view I find it much easier to work with a separate track as FOCUS Ableton Live 2015

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11/02/2015 15:50

MTF Technique Part 5: Make your own keyboard sound & sidechain it

MTF Step-by-Step Keyboards and sidechaining cont’d

So far we have a pretty dull synth part so let’s jazz it up a bit. At this stage if you need to do any volume management for this sound, use the Volume control in Simpler.

Let’s make some changes inside Simpler. Start by turning Loop on and set it to 40%, then turn Snap on and set the Start to 0.30%. Set Length to 14% and Fade to 70%.

Set the Volume envelope Attack to 500ms so there’s a bit more to the tiny little fade-in at the beginning of the sample (as you can see, it starts quite gradually already).

Now let’s add some interest: because we’ve been lazy with our programming, let’s expand the part with one of Live’s MIDI effect devices. Add the Chord MIDI effect to the track, it’ll go before Simpler.

Set the Chord device’s first two Shift control knobs to +3 and +5 semitones. As the clip loops or as you play your keyboard, you’ll hear the extra notes. Set Simpler’s Spread to 50.

The extra notes make it sound very full – too full, in fact. So drag an EQ Three audio effect to the end of the chain and set the GainMid to -12dB. This thins it out nicely.




a source for a sidechain, that’s why we’ve copied the drum track here. Not only do I then have something that visually helps me keep track of what’s going on, outside of the drum kit, a separate track for sidechaining, it enables me to program a totally different kick pattern to trigger the compressor if I want to, or even to keep the sidechain feed

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going when the drums drop out. You could even automate that sidechain track and do very weird things with it, without disrupting your drum beat. As it says in the tutorial, remember that the sidechain source can be silent – mute the track and it still works! If you’re a musical type of person, who can play


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Part 5: Make your own keyboard sound & sidechain it Technique MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Keyboards and sidechaining cont’d

Now we need to add some movement to this keyboard part – I guess you’d say it’s a pad sound; duplicate your MIDI drum track by clicking on the track name and type Cmd-D.

Inside the rack, solo chains 1, 3, 5, 9, and 13 and deactivate the track by clicking on the yellow track number. Launch the clip, though. Yes, that’s right. We have a plan.

If you can only solo one item at a time, check your Record/Warp/ Launch Preferences and make sure Exclusive Solo is off. Otherwise, temporarily override the preference setting by CmdClicking on each item.

Click on your copied drum track and use Cmd-R or the Context Menu to rename the track ‘Sidechain’, then load the Compressor ‘Brick Wall’ preset into your keyboard track after the EQ Three.

Click on the small triangle in the Compressor title bar, turn on Sidechain and choose the sidechain drum track from the Audio From box. Leave the other settings alone.

Bring the Compressor Threshold down to -50.0dB and set the Attack to 0.30ms. Play your keyboard and sidechain clips and you should hear a new rhythmic pulse to your keyboard part.




keyboards and who understands musical theory, Live is a great tool for you anyway, especially with ‘alternative’ input devices like Push and the forthcoming Novation Launchpad Pro. But if you’re really confident or even conscious in terms of theory, Live can really give you a boost with the MIDI




effects we’ve mentioned here. It’s about as novice-friendly as it gets, and it doesn’t fail to deliver once you get more knowledgeable. We’re making good progress through this project. Next time we’ll be adding our final element – a speech sample – and processing that in a few interesting and different ways. MTF FOCUS Ableton Live 2015

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MTF Technique Part 6: Recording and manipulating speech samples

Ableton Live The Ultimate Guide to Ableton Live Part 6

Recording and manipulating speech samples Time to do some audio recording. Get mic’d up - Martin Delaney will show you how to add some speech samples to our ongoing Live project.


o far we’ve used MIDI and we’ve used existing audio samples, but we haven’t covered how to record our own audio material. Instead of jumping in at the deep end and attempting to record fully-blown vocal or instrument takes, let’s make it easy on ourselves by recording a short speech sample that’ll also work inside our ongoing project. To be

I record short speech samples into Session View and anything longer goes into Arrangement View honest, this is more frequently the type of recording I do with Live anyway – capturing short snippets to use in the Session View. We aim to record one short sample, then use it to create three different clips. Note, because this is such a variable exercise, and I can’t hear what you’re doing from here(!), I’ve included an ‘after’ voice track to make it clear what kind of result you’re shooting for. It might not sway Pro Tools snobs, but Live does a great job of recording audio. It has the advantage of two views, so two distinct approaches. As a rule of thumb I record short clips like speech samples and effects into the Session View, and anything like a full vocal track for a song, rhythm guitar parts, and so on, goes into the Arrangement View. In either View, you can record into multiple tracks at the same time, and Live has very

On the disc Accompanying project file included on the DVD

thorough and immediate routing options, so you can send and receive audio freely throughout the application. There’s also the lovely Resampling input option which provides post-master, post-everything, capture of Live’s output, straight back into the Live set. Live works with audio samples at different sample rates, mono or stereo, and combines .aiff, .wav, and .mp3 files in the same project. Despite what some say, there are no audio quality issues with Live; you’re more likely to experience problems through user error – choosing the wrong Warp mode for time-stretched material or stretching a clip way beyond what any reasonable person would do (we’ll be coming back to that later). Although Live isn’t an audio editor, it covers some of the basics. Crop Sample, which we use in this tutorial, discards unwanted portions at the start and end of an audio clip; and Consolidate – available only in the Arrangement View – combines two or more audio clips to create a new one. These functions are non-destructive – you’ll find the new samples in the sub-folders inside your Live project folder. You probably already have the necessary equipment to record a voice sample – most computers have some kind of built-in microphone. Then it’s a matter of scaling up from there with a dedicated microphone and soundcard (as far as we’re concerned, a ‘soundcard’ and an ‘audio interface’ are the same thing). You can get excellent affordable USB soundcards – look at the Focusrite Scarlett range – and a basic microphone for not much cash at all. There’s an ever-growing number of good USB microphones, too, although you lose the flexibility of a soundcard. There’s also

FOCUS ON… THE MICROPHONE It’s nice to use expensive microphones and recording hardware but you should be willing to work with what you’ve got. It’s easier for us because we’re recording a simple speech sample here so we’re not tied up in the complexities of recording a sung vocal against backing tracks and creating a headphone mix. What I will say is that unless you have a very specific idea of what you want, you should always try to get a clean voice recording, without distortion or baked-in effects. Other than that limitation, anything from your computer’s built-in microphone upwards will do fine.

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Part 6: Recording and manipulating speech samples Technique MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Recording and editing speech

For this walkthrough we have to make some assumptions about your microphone and soundcard; read our main text for more details. Connect your mic and soundcard, launch Live and go to the Preferences Audio tab.

Choose your soundcard in the Audio Input Device and Audio Output Device lists then close Preferences. Connect your headphones to your soundcard (watch your volume) and turn your monitor speakers off to avoid feedback.

Open our example Live set. Make sure you’re using the updated ‘part 6’ version and use the shortcut Cmd-T to create a new audio track. We’re still working in the Session View, of course.

Use Alt-Cmd-I to open the In/Out View. This will display the audio routing options at the bottom of your tracks. Click on the Audio From chooser to select your input – Ext. In.

Below that is a list of available audio inputs – click to view the list. As you talk into your microphone, you’ll see a level displayed alongside one of those inputs. That’s your microphone. Click it.

Set up your microphone and mixer so you get a manageable volume level. Exactly how this works will again depend on what equipment you’re using but please avoid red peaks anywhere in the signal chain!




the Apogee One, which is unique because it has connections for a microphone and instrument, but also boasts a built-in microphone. It’s a cool tool for the travelling musician. I’m not going further into this discussion now, because it’s a whole other tutorial… Well, a whole other book, actually! I’ve suggested that you set the track’s Monitor switch to Auto, which means you’ll hear the mic input when you arm the track, but bear in mind that your set-up might enable




– or require – you to monitor somewhere else along the signal chain. As I said, we’re not singing along to a backing track with this exercise, so frankly, accurate monitoring is not so critical. There are different ways to initiate recording: you can use a mouse or trackpad, your controller, or even your iPhone. You can go into record while Live is already running or enter record to start Live running. Record start and stop are quantised so that means if you’re using the default FOCUS Ableton Live 2015

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MTF Technique Part 6: Recording and manipulating speech samples

MTF Step-by-Step Recording and editing speech (cont’d)

Set the track’s Monitor In switch to Auto, and arm the track – click the small circular button in the mixer, it goes red. Stop your other clips – you’re not singing along to anything for this one!

As you arm/disarm the track for recording you’ll see the square stop buttons in each empty Session View clip slot (in that track) transform into circles; that means you can record into these.

We’ll record a short phrase to use as a one-shot sample and a rhythmic loop. Click a slot button to start recording. Wait a beat or two, then record yourself saying ‘Please be aware’.

Press the space bar to stop Live when you’re finished. Note the clip length is cropped to the nearest bar. Disarm the track so you can’t record anything else by mistake and always save after recording.

Before you launch your other clips again, listen to your voice recording on its own, checking for distortion and also checking that you haven’t chopped the start or end off as it’s very easy to do.

Double-click the clip to view the waveform if necessary. Let’s discard some of the silence around it. Position the loop brace around the ‘keeper’ part and the start marker at the front of that.




global quantization of one bar, recording commences on the next bar. It’s important to remember this and not start talking too soon, otherwise you lose the beginning of your sample. Record ending is also quantised which is great as it gives you ‘pre-cut’ loops, rounded off to bars and more likely to loop in sync with your other content straight off.

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The most important thing when recording is to avoid overloading and distorting your input levels. It’s very ‘rock’ to record to tape with everything in the red, and it sounds cool, but sadly it stinks when you do it with digital recording. Live has some great distortion effects, so why not save that fun until later? If you’ve erred on the side of


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Part 6: Recording and manipulating speech samples Technique MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Recording and editing speech (cont’d)

The Loop Brace is that bar above the audio waveform. You can drag to reposition it and grab either end to change the length. FYI the Loop Brace dimensions and coordinates are MIDI-mappable.

Make sure the Loop Brace is an even bar length, though. Right-Click inside the area contained by the loop brace and choose Crop Sample. Duplicate this clip to the slot below using Cmd-D.

Select the first clip. From the Sample View at the bottom of the screen, deactivate Warp so it’ll play just once at its original speed. Now you have a one-shot, plus a looping version.

Use Cmd-D to duplicate the second clip. Double-click above the right end of the waveform to add a Warp marker. Grab it and drag to the right, doubling the length of your original sample.

Make sure you adjust the length of the Loop Brace to accommodate the stretched waveform. Experiment with Warp modes – the difference between Beats and Complex is very noticeable (but let’s stick with Beats).

Quantize the audio-click inside the waveform and type Cmd-U. Watch the waveform peaks snap to the grid; you’ll see Live inserts yellow Warp markers to achieve this.




caution and recorded at a low level, use the clip Gain slider to boost the volume. Do this while the clip’s playing, so you can check for the distortion that arises if you go too far! We’re touching on Warping and audio quantization during our walkthrough; it’s fun to over-stretch audio samples and tweak the Warp modes; I can’t resist it with




vocals, which is why we’re doing it here. A bit of quantization also adds to the unreal effect, but it can also make a looping speech sample sit more neatly on the beat. That’s it for now. I hope that over these six workshop parts I’ve given enough tips to inspire and help your music making – happy producing! MTF FOCUS Ableton Live 2015

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MTF Buyer’s Guide Six of the best

Six of the best Hardware


Mobile Technology

Details Price £490 (pair) Contact Fender GBI 01342 331700 Web


Welcome to a brand new MTF Buyer’s Guide where we round up some of the best products recently reviewed in MusicTech magazine. We kick it off with the most important of studio items: the monitor…


PreSonus Eris 4.5


he Eris range is new from PreSonus. MT monitor expert Huw Price was particularly taken with the 4.5s, which only weigh in at £169 for the pair. Huw said: “We hadn’t expected that much from them because they resemble computer speakers and are priced accordingly.

Given those caveats the sound quality was absolutely remarkable. Of all three Eris monitors they have the finest bass definition, but it is possible to detect some roll-off in the lowest frequencies. The imaging was also remarkably crisp, and although the obvious application may be use with computers we’d have no qualms about integrating them into our studio monitor setup. “These are not expensive monitors but they punch way above their price point. ”

BEST MOBILE! Details Price Eris E4.5: £169 (pair) Contact Source Distribution 020 8962 5080 Web www. sourcedistribution.


Unity Audio The Rock Mk2


hese are inspiring in terms of looks and, fortunately, sound as good. Huw Price says: “The depth of the soundstage is something special. After some experimentation with toe-in, we found the left/right imaging impressive too. The Rocks may not be the ideal choice if you do a lot of location recording but in all other regards these are no-compromise nearfields that slotted straight into our setup. ”

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Fender Focal Passport Studio

F Details Price £2,199 (pair) Contact Unity Audio 01799 520786 Web www.unity

or these monitors Fender and Focal have teamed up to produce a set of high-quality mobile speakers, the thinking being that you can mix anywhere. And they sound great according to Huw… “Judged purely as studio monitors, the level of detail and solidity of the imaging is certainly commensurate with the price point. However, more conventional competitors might offer an extra degree of user adjustment. “The defining feature is that the Passport Studio system can be locked together and transported without the need to preserve the original packaging or buy a flight case. Then you simply split them, set them up and they’re good to go. This is a cleverly designed, carefully thought out and affordable product that fills a niche in the market.”


11/02/2015 14:32

Six of the best Buyer’s Guide MTF




t the top end of the budget there’s a lot of choice, but the twotwo.6s from PMC are MusicTech editor Andy Jones’ choice, and Huw agrees… “The principal reason the twotwo.6s are outstanding is that nothing stands out. There’s no low-mid hump, forward midrange or glassy treble sheen and the balance remains constant regardless of

level. The depth of the soundstage is incredible and left/right imaging is about as crisp as it gets. “If you prefer listening to your speakers rather than listening to the music, these may not be for you. But if you want a clear and neutral window into what’s going on with your mix, the twotwo.6s deliver everything you could ask for.”

Its delicious, classic sound is a refreshing change from unforgiving modern boxes

Details Price £4192 (pair) Contact HHB 020 8962 5000 Web

BEST HIGH END Details Price 2.1 system £879. SC204 £480 (pair). TS107 £399 Contact Nova Distribution 020 3589 2530 Web www.


EVE SC204 & TS107


ve has released many a good monitor in a relatively short period of time. Huw Price says of this 2.1 system… “If you haven’t listened to monitors with folded ribbon tweeters before, the treble response may surprise you. The SC204s are bright but they’re not in the least bit edgy and the overall character is smooth and refined. It’s a superbsounding, full-frequency system with user-friendly features that’s particularly well suited to smaller rooms.”

MAD 1920s monitors


ur hardware expert John Pickford is a MAD fan (that’s My Audio Design). Here’s what he had to say about the company’s latest release… “My Audio Design has created a wonderful monitor with the 1920s. Its delicious, classic sound is a refreshing change from the unforgiving nature of many modern boxes and it’s equally at home relaying both minimal acoustic recordings and complex mixes of all kinds. A very well thought-out and sophisticated design.” MTF Details Price £2,350 Contact My Audio Design 020 8123 9789 Web www.

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MTF Feature The 100 best apps for music production

MTF Feature

THE 100 BEST MUSIC-MAKING APPS We bring you Part One of our biggest ever features on mobile music making where we round up the 100 best apps for music production on your phone and tablet…


t’s one of the biggest articles we have ever produced – a mammoth feature on mobile music production. In part 1, we look at the best apps for music making on your phone or tablet and reveal the 50 best mobile synth, DAW, vocal, controller and, best of all, free apps! Where possible we have tried to include different platforms in each category. So read on for the first part of our mobile must-have 100…

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KORG Gadget


Not strictly an all-round studio app as audio is not an option just yet, but how can you resist a package that enables you to combine 17 synths and drum machines, up to 35 tracks (on newer iPads) and some of the coolest looking, well, gadgets around? The emphasis is very much on electronic music production and you can’t add audio (yet). Korg will be getting a few mentions in these lists but this is like a ‘best of’ – amazing sounding synths and drums and a very easy-touse environment to put it all together. Web Price £27.49


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The 100 best apps for music production Feature MTF

TOP 10 DAW apps

The closest thing to fully-blown DAWS and complete studios for recording or making music… APPLE GarageBand (iOS)

Apple is giving GarageBand away free as part of the iOS package or via iTunes, so it makes two of our Top Tens. If you don’t have it then it’s obviously well worth a download. It only comes with eight instruments as standard but £2.99 gets you the full works, and what an amazing app it is. GarageBand features ‘proper’ virtual instruments such as guitars and pianos – although you needn’t be skilled in either to play them – and with 250 loops thrown in you can easily be assembling songs in no time, especially with the ‘smart’ options that help you assemble melodies and beats. All genres covered, no experience needed, easy to use and free!

BLIP Interactive NanoStudio (iOS) NanoStudio was one of the first music-making apps on the market. Within it you can combine up to six instruments (expandable to 16) including the rather fabulous Eden 16-voice synth. There’s sampling and pad triggering via the TRG-16 plus a sequencer that enables up to 64 tracks to be assembled (if you buy the expansion). With a nice range of effects, NanoStudio is well suited to the mid-experienced musician. Web Price £9.99

Web Price Free/£2.99

HARMONIC DOG MultiTrack DAW (iOS) With little in the way of compositional options – that is instruments or bundled loops – Harmonic Dog concentrates on recording and does it well. It also looks great, the waveforms especially, and there are several effect options both per track and globally. You can even do a little mastering to make your tunes sound more ‘pro’ should you wish. You’ll want to upgrade to get the maximum track capacity but doing so will only cost you a total of £12.48. Web Price £6.99

IMAGE-LINE FL Studio Mobile HD (iOS and Android) With 133 instruments, FL Studio Mobile HD definitely veers more towards quick composition than the likes of Auria and MultiTrack DAW, which concentrate more on recording. You compose either by using a virtual keyboard, piano roll editor or a very intuitive step sequencer. It’s pretty hard not to get some decent tunes going within minutes and this is probably the app to go for if you are new to music making, as it has everything you need on just a few screens. It’s arguably more for loopbased composers – within electronic or dance genres – than GarageBand, but for instant rewards there’s little better. Web Price £13.99

SOUND TRENDS Studio.HD (iOS) This loop-based app is aimed at anyone who wants to get ideas and tunes together quickly and who doesn’t mind using loops to do it. Sure you can record your own playing – and do this three times per track over eight tracks resulting in 24 playback tracks – but with 900 loops on offer across a variety of genres you’ll be very tempted just to assemble music that way. There are a decent range of nifty effects that you can use on each channel but there are some limitations in mixing too, although at just £6.99 it’s one of the cheapest options to get some quick tunes together. Web Price £6.99


Like GarageBand, Cubasis is put together by a company that knows its music software. Steinberg has been at it for years, which definitely shows here. This is an incredibly slick music production app and more like a professional music-making package than many others on these pages, and Cubasis also boasts incredibly intuitive touch controls. It is therefore quick to find your way around – create tracks easily and select instruments and effects in an instant. It’s pricey, and could do with more synths, but you really can get pro results and it’s ideal for all genres and musical abilities. Web Price £34.99

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MTF Feature The 100 best apps for music production

TOP 10 DAW apps cont...

TOP 10 Synth apps


LABS Auria (iOS)

One of the first quality recording apps for the iPad and still one of the best. Auria features quality channel strips on each of its 48 playback channels with effects bundled in by high-quality third-party companies such as PSP Audio (and there are many more optional effects to buy too). There’s little to get excited about on the composing side as this app concentrates purely on high-quality recording – and on that score is the most ‘pro’ app here – and is the ideal choice if you are in a band and want to record gigs or studio sessions. Web www. Price £34.99


Meteor Multitrack Recorder (iOS) With a traditional mixer this is more of a recording app, but there are instruments and effects for producing complete in-the-box tunes. Meteor is a very rounded music-making package and suitable to slightly more experienced producers in any genre. Web Price £13.99

INTUA BeatMaker2 (iOS and Andoid) BeatMaker was one of the first ‘proper’ mobile apps, and while BeatMaker2 has extensive drum machine action it’s developed into a complete music making package with instruments, samples and effects. We’ll look at the drum side of things in detail next month… Web Price £6.99

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The app market for synthesizers is hotter than ever with emulations of classics synths alongside modular madness. Here are our ten best… KORG iMS-20 (iOS) As well as software versions of the MS-20 there are even newer hardware releases including a mini keys and build-your-own! Which all must mean that this is a great synth. iMS-20 doesn’t disappoint but you might be a little overawed at first, as it does look pretty daunting and Korg has added a lot. You can patch things together, route audio and effects in and out or generally just have fun with the sequencer, the pattern producer and a fantastic drum module. Web Price £20.99


We’re trying not to do too many emulations of classic synths here but this is a worthy inclusion and not a total emulation, although owners of the highly regarded Roland JP-8000 will be happy when they give this one a go. It uses SuperSaw waveforms, and these are combined with analogue modelled oscillators, loads of modulation and filtering meaning the resulting sound is right up there with pretty much every mobile synth out there (and way beyond some). It might be more dance orientated but the original was slap-bang in the middle of rave, and this pays homage to it while supplying enough sounds for more up-to-date genres. Web Price £6.99

2BEAT Oscilab (iOS and Android) Hard to categorise this as just a synth as it’s really a groove box and more. But it features so many instant soundshaping and swiping options that it shows a great way forward for hands-on mobile synthesis. There are 28 wave shapers, a synth, a drum machine and 36 instruments. You go into each section and adjust as it loops. Adjust the waveforms, for example, add some beats and then instrument notes to flesh it out. Inspiring stuff. Web Price £6.99

JASUTO (iOS and Android)

Interestingly with Jasuto and Reactable the Android and iOS platforms are blessed with (at least) two modular synth-type apps where you drag and link modules to create various sounds, sequences and so on. Jasuto comes with more than 75 of these nodes plus (thankfully) 200+ examples, so you don’t have to do any work if you are a non-synth head. And some of these really are something to behold: giant bulbous creations all pulsing and shimmering with wave options to adjust parameters in time. Jasuto might just have the edge in terms of prettiness, but big fingers on both of these apps could be a problem. But then aren’t they always? Web Price £2.99


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The 100 best apps for music production Feature MTF

WALDORF Nave (iOS) Waldorf has a great reputation in wavetable synthesis, and while Nave may look fairly simple its engine contains some of the finest factory wavetables from Waldorf’s Blofeld and ‘soon to be legendary if they aren’t already’ Wave and Microwave synths. There’s more, however, as Nave has a couple of wavetable oscillators and an Uberoscillator to fatten things up. There’s a shedload of other features as some of the biggest names in modern synthesis were involved, including Axel Hartmann. As such then, Nave delivers the sonics but might be for the more experienced synth head. Spend time with it and you will be very well rewarded. Web Price £13.99


We love a bit of marketing speak. Apparently Thor is ‘simply the most powerful synth ever created; an unstoppable monster of a sound generator that utilizes synthesizer technology from the last 40 years.’ It’s a shame that lines like that do get in the way sometimes as Thor really is a very good synth, transferring the bulk of the power and character of the original into the iPad for some breathtaking sound. With over 1000 presets and a synth engine based around six different oscillators and four filters you really do get an incredible range of sounds Web Price £10.49

ARTURIA iMini (iOS) Over a year since its release and this classic Minimoog emulation is still as great-sounding as ever, with a front panel that is easy to use, equalling a synth that is easy to program. It comes with a huge variety of presets, a little randomly ordered at first but then you realise you can load them by programmer and type very easily. There’s a glorious performance page where you can modify parameters in real time using X/Y grids, plus chorus and delay effects and a neat adjustable keyboard. Arguably it could be more accurate sonically but, hey, what Arturia has added is a bonus to the sound overall, which is both right and varied. Superb. Web Price £6.99

REACTABLE (iOS and Android)

Originally a research project the Reactable caught the eye of many musicians who loved the concept, which was essentially moving blocks over a scanner to synthesise sound. One was Björk who took a prototype of it on tour, successfully combining the visuals (it looked amazing), with hands-on real-time synthesis. Now the blocks have been turned into virtual touch elements, easily linked together to produce very interesting results when dragged into a central pulsing area. Reactable really does show what touch operation is all about – don’t expect to be making songs straight away but it is great for hours of noodling. Web Price £6.99

MOOG MUSIC Animoog (iOS and Blackberry) It is refreshing that a company with a track record as good as Moog’s in producing hardware hasn’t just done a software emulation of its synths (but that would be very cool too). Animoog is powered by an Anistropic Synthesis Engine (or ASE) and the idea is to move through an X/Y space to morph between classic Moog sounds using an X/Y pad. With excellent touch feedback and those superb sounds, it’s a joy to use. Web Price £20.99

STEINBERG Nanologue (iOS)

If you want something free then we have a whole section of free apps in this issue, but this one didn’t make it… because we could include it here! Nanologue is Steinberg’s surprisingly good analogue synth emulation. We say ‘surprisingly good’ because initially it’s just that – a bog-standard synth – but what it does it does very well. Big monophonic sounds, cool interface and very easy to use. If you are new to analogue synthesis you can’t go wrong with this. It’s not trying to be clever but it can be big! Web www. steinberg. net Price Free

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MTF Feature The 100 best apps for music production

TOP 10 Controller/Performance apps

There are a large number of apps specifically designed to control music software and hardware. Here are the best… TKFX (iOS and Android)

TKFX is a controller for Traktor Pro’s effects that runs on iPad and Android devices and gives you remote control of the effects in real time. Greatly expanding on the control available to you using the mouse in Traktor itself, it uses MIDI mapping to enable an X/Y grid, and you can assign different parameters to both axes as well as holding the effect on, flipping between decks and slots and controlling overall dry / wet levels. To enable this you have to install a small, free app on your Mac or PC that acts as a MIDI server between the two. It supports both wireless and wired network connections and you unlock access to more of Traktor’s effects via in-app purchases. Web Price Free, with in-app purchases

LIINE Lemur (iOS)

The touch interface is perfect for certain kinds of control, and before iPads and iPhones came out it was restricted to very high-end hardware. Now for a tiny fraction of those kinds of costs you can get the same experience. Lemur enables you to build any control interface you can think of for software that can receive MIDI or OSC input signal. That includes DAWs, DJ software, VJ apps, stage lighting and loads more. A highly advanced system, it lets you script custom widgets with multitouch support and has complex sequencing objects and an in-app editor (iPad only) to design and edit templates on-the-fly. Fully skinnable, it’s found fans among some of the leading electronic artists. Web Price £17.49

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HEXLER. NET TouchOSC (iOS and Android) TouchOSC for iOS and Android is an open programming environment app that isn’t tied to any particular software but instead enables you to create setups to control anything that can accept the Osc or MIDI protocols, which covers a huge range of applications. You can choose custom sets of controls and make assignments, building unique maps to do exactly what you want. It supports both wireless and wired MIDI and is officially supported by Logic Pro, as well as a range of other DAWs and more experimental music packages. There’s a downloadable editor for OS X, Windows and Linux that enables you to create and customise layouts more easily from your desktop computer. Web Price £2.99

IK MULTIMEDIA DJ Rig (iOS) Designed to work in conjunction with IK’s iRig Mix, DJ Rig is a familiarlooking DJ app with two virtual turntables and several modes of operation. Each of its decks can operate in waveform, turntable or CD Digital Jog modes to suit your performance style. You get all the tempo and sync features you’d expect as well as a drift meter, direct cue with multiple cue points, three-band kill EQ and access to the iPad’s music library. There’s also IK’s X-Sync feature that syncs the tempo of tracks from the iPad with songs from external sources when used with an iRig Mix. There’s AutoMix for when you want to go to the bar and a loop surface as well as onboard effects. Web Price Free; full version €17.99

Livkontrol (iOS and Android)

Ableton Live is one of the DAWs that best suits remote control from a mobile device thanks to its clip-launch style of performance. Install the support files on your Mac or PC and Livkontrol for iOS and Android will discover your copy of Live (8.26 or higher) and give you hands-on control over your sessions. There’s the Launchpad interface for launching clips, a scrollable Track Detail, and a Clip Composer to work with MIDI clips remotely. There’s also MIDI sliders for varying parameters, and MIDI pads for composition. Live responds especially well to remote input, and with this app you can control your sessions and actually play and edit MIDI live as well. Web Price Free, Standard and Pro versions

APPLE Logic Remote (iOS) As is often the case, Apple is so big it can afford to give away some remarkably powerful apps in order to drive hardware sales. For musicians that’s a pretty good deal, and Logic Remote is a really excellent app for iPad that works with Logic Pro X, MainStage 3 and GarageBand. You can play any Logic or GarageBand instrument remotely on a virtual keyboard or fretboard, play beats on virtual pads and even strum chords. Navigate projects using transport controls and markers, punch recording in and out from anywhere on a network and remotely change patches and trigger key commands. It’s an amazing and free extension to your studio setup. Web Price Free


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The 100 best apps for music production Feature MTF

NATIVE INSTRUMENTS Traktor DJ (iOS) When NI does mobile apps it tends to do them really well. Traktor DJ for iPad and iPhone takes the essence of the much bigger Traktor Pro software and places it into a touch environment. The results are amazing: incredibly accurate beat detection and sync capabilities, slice freezing and easy library and playlist navigation. You get a bunch of effects that can be controlled via integrated X/Y pads and the whole thing feels really slick. You don’t have to be an experienced DJ to give a great performance and you can even record the output of the app as a regular audio file. Features like the Superslicer mean it’s more of a performance tool – it’s not just for spinning tracks. Web Price £2.99

You get the kind of functionality from your iPad that a decade ago would have cost thousands STEINBERG Cubase iC Pro (iOS and Android) Steinberg has been very active in developing a range of iOS applications that tie in with its flagship Cubase software. Cubase iC Pro (there’s also a free version available) runs on iPhone and iPad as well as Android and is beautifully designed, giving you a detailed overview of your project as well as hands-on navigation controls. You can mix, and you also get to set up to four individual headphone feeds using Cubase’s control room features, and any performer with their own device can adjust their own mix independently. There are customisable key commands and macros, and you can record- and monitor-enable tracks from anywhere on the Wi-Fi network. Web Price £11.99

NEYRINCK V-Control Pro (iOS) V-Control Pro is a multitouch control surface that supports a wide range of apps running on your Mac or PC. It uses Wi-Fi to control transport, editing and mixing and also provides control of sends, automation, groups, plug-ins, transport, I/O assignment and more depending on the app you are controlling. Remarkably, it can connect to almost any music app: Pro Tools, Logic, Live, Cubase, Sonar, Reason, Digital Performer and Reaper among them. And it can also control Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro. It may be among the more expensive apps around but it gives you the kind of functionality from your iPad that just a decade ago would have cost thousands of pounds. Web Price £34.99

HUMATIC TouchDAW (Android)

This Android-only MIDI control app supports Cubase, Logic, Pro Tools, FL Studio, Reason and a range of other DAWs. You get mixer and transport functionality and the app can send MMC in parallel with, or instead of, DAW control. There’s a multitouch MIDI keyboard and launchpads, a MIDI mixer, configurable X/Y pads and the app works both over wired and wireless connections and hooks into Apple’s Network MIDI implementation. It’s an inexpensive way to open up your studio setup to wireless control from your Android device and can be configured to work as you wish. There’s a limited free version for testing and then you can opt to buy the unlimited version. Web Price £3.80; Free demo available

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MTF Feature The 100 best apps for music production

TOP 10 FREE apps

Yes, you can get something for nothing and it can be great. In fact you can get ten somethings for nothing, and here they are! SoundCloud (iOS and Android)

The SoundCloud app runs on your iOS or Android device and not only provides a way to listen to content from the audio-hosting website and curate your own playlists and collections, but also record directly from your device into the cloud. So if you are out and about or making field recordings you can use your device’s built-in mic and capture the sound around you directly into your account. SoundCloud is pretty much the standard audio hosting site for most people these days and also provides some apps to help you sell and market your music. Web Price Free

RETRONYMS Tabletop (iOS)

Tabletop is a modular environment that lets you mix and match different devices such as samplers, mixers, effects, synths and more. You get 14 devices for free and can add extras via in-app purchases. It’s an advanced but relatively approachable system and up to 43 devices are available, with support for Tabletop-ready apps such as iMPC, iMini and iProphet. There’s a piano-roll editor and pads for programming and editing MIDI, quantization, MIDI learn and mapping, Core MIDI support and the ability to hook up compatible MIDI hardware. More devices and features tend to get added over time so Tabletop is an organic, expanding environment. Web Price Free; added in-app purchases

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APPLE GarageBand (iOS)

GarageBand for iOS is free when you buy any new iOS device, otherwise it costs £2.99, and for that it works on iPad and iPhone for a single payment. It’s ludicrously cheap considering what you get: multiple virtual instruments, auto-playing tools for strumming guitars and playing chords, guitar amps and live recording through effects, a sampler and a cool mixing environment. You can record lots of tracks (though not unlimited) and when you’re done either mix down your file or export the raw project data out to GarageBand on the Mac for further editing. As such it’s a great way to start an idea on the move then continue work back at home. Web Price Free or £2.99

Drum Guru (iOS and Android)

Drum Guru for iOS and Android is a training app for drum enthusiasts of all skill levels, and features lessons delivered in video and audio format by some of the world’s leading drummers. There’s a half-speed option so you can break down what’s actually going on, and musical notation and transcription of each lesson that can be viewed while watching the video. Interactive practice mode enables you to play along with or without a click, looped and at different tempos. Lessons are divided into packs of 8-10, categorised by style and skill level. You can add more lessons for not very much money via in-app purchase in the style you want to learn. Web Price Free

NOVATION Launchpad (iOS)

The Lauchpad app for iOS comes free with eight ready-to-play sessions, and additional features such as audio import are available after in-app purchases. For £4.99 it’s probably worth unlocking audio import as it will really broaden the scope of what you can achieve: you get an 8x6 grid for launching up to eight loops at once, a range of effects on iPad including repeater and synced filters, and on the iPhone there’s filter, stutter, gating and delay. You can perform, mix and match and trigger loops and record your performance, then share it online or to another app via Audiobus. You can also connect one of Novation’s controller devices via the USB Camera Connection kit. Web Price Free

REVONTULET STUDIO Walk Band (Android) This popular app for Android gives you a range of virtual instruments to play on the move. There’s a virtual piano with single or dual rows, two-player mode, along with pressure sensitivity, key-width adjustment and five keyboard sounds. You can record MIDI and audio and set your recordings as a ringtone. The virtual guitar has chord mode and three model types, and there are also five drum kits that you can play using virtual pads. Bass and synths round off the package, and there’s support for external MIDI keyboards over USB MIDI. It’s possible to add more instruments through in-app purchases. If you’re after a free way to play music on the move, this could be for you. Web Price Free


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The 100 best apps for music production Feature MTF

TOP 10 FREE apps cont...

IK MULTIMEDIA AmpliTube Free (iOS) AmpliTube Free for iOS brings a beautifully designed set of guitar processors to your mobile device and it works using either the built-in mic or a connected interface to get sound into and out of the hardware. You get four simultaneous stomp boxes, an amp head, cab and mix and you can add more gear by purchasing in-app. There’s a single-track recorder, again expandable to eight with master effects if you choose, and a tuner and loop drummer module to play along to. Inter-app audio and Audiobus are supported for touring sound internally and imported songs can be slowed down for you to learn them more easily. Web Price Free

Musical Piano FREE (Android) This free, ad-supported app gives you a virtual piano and keyboard with various options as well as eight bundled MIDI piano instruments. You can pay to upgrade the app, which unlocks 128 instruments, wireless playback and piano recording. Web Price Free


(iOS and Android) The app is designed to work with IK’s iRig Mic models but will work with any mic. If you want to record on the move and then clean up and upload your sounds, try it now. Web Price Free

Hokusai Audio Editor (iOS)

This audio editor for iOS supports multiple tracks, and you can edit them side by side, mix together, export to WAV or MP4 format and send them to your computer, DropBox or to another app inside your device. You swipe and zoom to select areas of audio clips, and live scrubbing means you can hear the sound as you move your finger across the waveform. There’s full undo support and a set of bundled processing tools includes fades, normalization, reverse and basic synthesis. Upgrading to the paid version adds audio copy and paste, grain synthesis, noise gating, timestretching, pitch-bend and a host of other effects including filtering, reverb and modulation. Web App Store Price Free

TOP 5 Vocal apps

Five mobile apps designed with the singer in mind… IK MULTIMEDIA VocaLive (iOS) VocaLive gives you a suite of 12 real-time professional vocal effects as well as recording capability that can be combined into a chain of any four at once. 50 presets are included and the effects include Pitch Fix, Choir (a three-part harmonizer), Morph for formant shifting, De-Esser and Doubler. There are also seven studio effects including reverb, delay, EQ and compression. The single-track recorder can be expanded up to eight tracks with in-app purchases, and a Voice Cancel feature lets you remove the vocal parts from existing tracks and sing along to them. It’s MIDI controllable and supports Audiobus for routing vocal parts in from other apps. Web Price £6.99

ANTARES Auto Tune (iOS)

Antares has been at the cutting edge of pitch correction and auto-tuning on the desktop for years, so it was natural that they would eventually bring that technology to the mobile arena. The idea is that you plumb your iPhone or iPad in between your mic and the mixing desk or your audio interface and make settings on the device for how the pitch is to be corrected. Use gentle settings for subtle correction or flip into full robot mode to get the well-known ‘stepped’ effect. It’s Audiobus compatible so you can use it to process vocal parts that you have already recorded, and has multiple scales available for more accurate pitch correction. Web Price £2.99

VIRSYN Harmony Voice (iOS) Harmony Voice is a pitch-shifter and harmonizer that can add up to four voices to your sung signal based on keys that you play on a keyboard, and also comes with automatic tuning correction. It works with formants, so you can turn a female voice into a male one and vice versa. Choose automatic or manual harmonisation, change voice character and play back racks from your iTunes library. There’s onboard reverb, delay and chorus to process the signal, and Audiobus support along with an audio recorder with a metronome and support for MIDI input devices. Connect to other apps or use it as an effect between your mic and computer-based recording setup and create harmonies with ease. Web Price £2.99

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MTF Feature The The100 100best bestapps appsfor formusic musicproduction production

TOP 5 Learn Music apps

Brush up on your technique, learn a new instrument, or simply work on your musicality

TOP 5 Vocal apps cont…

QNEO Voice Synth (iOS)

Voice Synth is a nifty tool for real-time vocoding. In fact it has three 24-band live vocoders, AutoPitch, a multiple voice harmony arranger, pitch and formant shifter, an onboard sampler, 24-band EQ, multiple studio effects and a spectrum stroboscope. You can import vocal files or route sound in from the mic or via inter-app audio. Use the built-in virtual keyboard to control the notes that are generated by the vocoder and even use inter-app MIDI to control it from a different app. There are 100 factory presets and you can record and export your performances. Advanced pitch-shifting enables you to change your voice into almost any style. Web Price £6.99

VocalEase (iOS and Android)

This is a portable warm-up studio for performing vocalists and public speakers, designed by a wellknown vocal trainer. 12 warm-up exercises are included as audio files and you can play these to get your pipes ready for the big performance. Warm-ups are a crucial part of any performance and something that a lot of vocalists don’t take seriously. With these exercises to hand there’s no excuse for damaging your voice by not limbering up first. You can also opt to download extra exercises via in-app purchases at any time. Web Price £1.18

Better Ears (iOS and Android)

Better Ears for iPad is an educational music and ear training program, which helps you grow your musical skills. There are ten different exercises included, starting from interval recognition all the way to chord progressions. You can choose from a range of exercises performed by up to six different instruments. It comes with a virtual keyboard and fretboard so you can enter notes yourself, and has four skill levels from beginner through to professional. There’s support for building your own courses and syncing between devices amongst other things. Music theory is often overlooked but it can really help you to get a better understanding of how music works. Web App Store Price £10.49

STEINWAY & SONS Etude 2.0 (iOS and Android) This app for iPad lets you find a song from the in-app music store, download it, and see keys to press at each moment. You can slow it down and even practice each hand separately. There’s a built-in MIDI synth, onscreen keyboard, and sheet music or piano roll views. Web Price Free; buy songs for £1.99 each

MAHALO Learn Piano HD (iOS/Android)

This app, with content from piano tutor Peter Darling, shows you everything from hand exercises through basic playing skills and much more. The app itself is small, but you can download videos through it to greatly expand the range of lessons you have access to. Web Price £1.49

Songsterr Tabs and Chords (iOS and Android) Songsterr for iOS and Android is a tab player with instant access to realistic playback of 90,000 songs (500,000 tab tracks) from You can search tabs by keyword or browse by tags and popularity, and it supports guitar, bass and drums. There’s alternative Chord view, half-speed playback, a realistic guitar engine and tabs for multiple instruments, as well as looping, solo, offline mode and syncing. There’s a tuner and background audio support so you can play along using a compatible effect app. Happily it’s also all legit so when you access a tab the original composer will get a small royalty payment. Web Price App free; subscription is £2.99 per month

Guitar Jam Tracks: Scale Trainer & Practice Buddy (iOS/Android) This app for iOS and Android lets you learn guitar scales and solo to five great-sounding jam tracks right from your device, adding more styles and scales with the in-app store. The easy-to-read scale charts show you exactly where to put your fingers to start sounding like a pro. Several keys and scales are included as well as styles such as acoustic blues, jazz and modern rock. Simply pick a key to start playing the track, then tap Chords to see what chords are being played, or tap Scales to see the scale charts for that key. Practice is one of the hardest things to motivate yourself to do but it’s an essential part of improving, and this app can really help. Web Price £1.49 (offers in-app purchases)

Turn to p64 for Part 2 and the next 50!

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12/02/2015 14:42

MTF Feature A bluffer’s guide to EQ

MTF Feature EQ Guide

A BLUFFER’S GUIDE TO EQ This is what a boost in the highs looks like. Our node is at about 5kHz, and we’ve got a very high Q. Expect seriously snappy snares here.

The first step in becoming a mix master is getting to grips with the simplest of tools at your disposal: EQ. Rob Boffard shows you how to bring balance to your musical force…


he Equaliser, or EQ, is the Tetris of audio effects. You’ll figure out how it works in seconds, but it takes an age to master. No other effect, if used subtly, can make such a dramatic difference to your sound. If you know what you’re doing with an EQ it’ll make your mixes sound as if they’ve popped out of a top-of-the-range studio. Conversely, there is no other effect that, when mishandled, can screw up your mixes so badly. A heavy or badly managed hand with EQ can wreck a good song. Don’t stress, though. EQ may sound intimidating but in practice it’s not difficult to get the hang of. Give us a few minutes with this guide and we’ll show you exactly what you need to know about this powerful effect.

What’s the frequency? Let’s start with the basics. Sounds have frequency, right? It’s the part of sound that is measured in pitch. A high pitch, or high frequency, means that the sound waves are packed closely together and hit your eardrum more frequently than sounds with a lower pitch. A low frequency is the opposite, where sound waves are spaced further apart. That means your eardrum hears those sounds as low-pitched. If that sounds hard to handle, think of it this way: a violin has a high-frequency sound; a bass drum has a low frequency. An EQ enables you to boost or reduce those frequencies. You can make the

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A bluffer’s guide to EQ Feature MTF

bass louder, the highs higher. You can also cut that bass, or remove some of the high frequencies so things don’t get too sharp. In a full song where you have any number of different sounds, all with their own frequencies, this is an exceedingly important technique. You’d be hard-pressed to find a music session that didn’t have some EQ Your basic paragraphic EQ. Note the individual nodes (each of them draggable), the frequencies along the top, and the decibels on the left. in it somewhere. Frequencies are measured in Hertz (Hz), named for Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, who was the first to Tech terms identify electromagnetic waves. Humans can hear only a certain range of ● FREQUENCY: The frequencies, from as low as 20Hz to as high as about 20,000. Dogs, obviously, can vibrations in sound hear much higher, but since they aren’t great music fans the 20-20,000 range is that determine its what you’ll see on most EQ displays. This range is known as the frequency pitch. You can also spectrum. Again, instruments such as bass drums are down low, violins up high, use this as a distinct measurement – as in, it the human voice somewhere in the middle. has a low frequency, or a Instruments can possess more than one frequency. Indeed they have ranges of frequency of 50Hz. their own. Think of a kick drum. Sure, you’ve got the big, bassy boom which will show up at around 200Hz, but you’ve also got the ‘snap’ as the beater hits the surface, which registers much higher in the spectrum at around 2,5kHz to 4kHz. What you’re trying to do is lower or raise the volume of these frequencies to bring out, or reduce, a sound’s desired characteristics. Here’s a pro tip for you: when talking frequencies and EQ, don’t talk about bass or treble. Talk about highs, mids and lows.

Revert to type So what exactly are you going to see when you bring in your EQ? Well, that depends. There are a few types of equalisation, some of which are more useful than others, and it’s worth going through them all. First, you’ve got your fixed EQ, the most basic of all the types. Essentially it gives you a bunch of controls – knobs, usually – each set to a specific frequency. You can’t change that frequency, but you can raise and lower the gain (read: volume) for each one. Then you’ve got your graphic EQs. Instead of the few controls you’d get in the fixed EQ you’ve now got dozens, usually appearing as faders instead of knobs. Each one of them is still locked to a specific frequency and you can still raise and lower the gain as before, but what this EQ does is enable you to create ‘curves’ by setting the faders in increments. You usually see this sort of EQ on an old HiFi, and frankly, they’re a pain to work with. Paragraphic EQs are what you want. Now you don’t have fixed frequencies; instead, your EQ display will have nodes, each of which can be dragged to any frequency you want. You can raise or lower each node to change the gain, and (this is the clever bit) adjust its ‘Q’ to change the shape of the curve. The lower the Q, the more space there will be under your EQ curve, which means more frequencies will be boosted or cut. It’ll look like a hump. Raise the Q, and you’ll get a spike, with far fewer frequencies affected by the boost or cut.

Instruments can have more than one frequency. Indeed they have ranges of their own

● HERTZ: The unit used to measure frequencies. Named for Heinrich Rudolf Hertz. Most EQs go from 20 to 20,000Hz, and it’s not uncommon to see the latter abbreviated as 20kHz, or KiloHertz. ● GAIN: Simplified, gain is volume. It can be raised to boost a frequency or lowered to cut it. It’s measured in decibels, or dB. ● Q: The width of the space under an EQ curve. No, we don’t know why it’s called Q. Doesn’t matter. You’ll want to pay close attention to it.

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MTF Feature A bluffer’s guide to EQ

When it comes down to it that’s all the controls you ever need worry about with EQ: frequency, gain, Q. Go try it out now. Load a track into your DAW and start playing. Like Tetris, you’ll figure it out straightaway. We promise. OK, there are one or two more things to bear in mind. Most of the time EQs will include what are known as high- and low-pass filters. A high-pass filter is a specific type of gain cut that removes all frequencies below a certain point. In other words it lets you eliminate the lows. The opposite is true for a low-pass filter, which gets rid of the highs. This is useful when you’re doing things such as EQing vocals – with so few bass frequencies in them there’s often no need to have any lows at all, and so a high-pass filter will get rid of them for you. Handily, this can also help eliminate background hum. You also get shelving filters. Essentially they’re a stripped-down version of the high- and low-pass filters, which cut or boost the frequencies in far less dramatic fashion. Some EQs provide a subtle colour or warmth to the sound when used. It’s pretty cool. If you don’t want that then consider investing in a linear or transparent EQ, which will do nothing but boost and cut your frequencies without colouring your sound.

A high-pass filter. Any and all frequencies under about 700Hz will be cut. This is very useful for elements such as vocals or strings.

have all sorts of other noises to play with. Sounds share frequencies, they don’t exist in a vacuum. Your kick drum and your bassline both have low frequencies, and when they combine one will mask the other. When your sounds start masking each other you’ve got problems. You’ll end up with a muddy, disappointing mix. How do you fix this? You use the EQ to carve out a space for each sound. When your vocals start there shouldn’t be anything else dominating those frequencies, so you can use your nifty paragraphic EQ on instruments that conflict with the vocal and lower the gain in their middle ranges. Now, we can’t teach you how to do this. We can

Make room So you’ve got your EQ. You’ve loaded it up, you understand how Q and gain work, and you’re ready to go. What exactly do you do with it? On an individual level, when applied to a specific, solo’d sound, you’re going to use it to make things sharper. You’re going to use that EQ to take the sound from where it is to where you want it to be. You will boost the frequencies that bring out the sound’s best qualities and cut the ones that muddle it. A big, booming bass drum will not suffer – indeed, will be improved – if you use a shelving filter to remove some frequencies above, say, 15,000Hz. But that’s not difficult. The tricky part is what happens when you un-solo a sound because then you

The only way that you get good at using EQ is by doing lots and lots of mixing

See that greyed-out mountain range? It’s a frequency analyzer. It gives you a visual representation of your sound, showing you the dominant frequencies – useful for EQ.

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teach you how it works but the only way you get good at Tetris is by playing, and the only way you get good at EQ is by doing lots of mixing. You need to learn how different sounds work together and which cuts and boosts you need to bring out their best qualities. You need to listen to a sound – really listen – and discover where its most important frequencies are, as well as the ones which you can cut. That being said, there are a few principals to abide by. Cut first, boost later – often, things can be improved just by dropping the gain in a few places. And be gentle. You don’t need big Q spikes; and if you’re boosting or cutting over -3dB, then you’re going too far. Most of all, remember that EQ doesn’t exist in isolation. You’re going to be using a whole whack of other tools to help you along, such as compression, which we’ll deal with another time… MTF


11/02/2015 14:54

Want to really learn your music software? Check Out Our FREE Sample Modules






MTF Buyer’s Guide Six of the best

Six of the best Hardware


Mobile Technology

Details Price £119/€149 Contact Best Service +49 (0) 89 45228920 Web www.


We continue the new MTF Buyer’s Guide where we round up some of the best products recently reviewed in MusicTech magazine. This time: six of the best instrument libraries.


Zero-G Epica


ero-G’s Epica synth instrument is surely one of the best instrument sample libraries ever, certainly the best synth one. At least, that is what MusicTech editor Andy Jones thinks. In the review back in March 2014 (MT132) he gushed: “So you can see I love Epica. I warn, again, that my musical upbringing almost forces me to dive into this kind of stuff like some happy, hippy, electro dolphin, and if you are not like me you might find it a little too ‘electronic’. But if you’ve ever had your heart plucked by the sound of the synth, then buy it, come and find me, thank me and tell me it’s the best £113 you’ve ever spent.” He finally concluded: “Epica is as epic as epic can be. The best collection for synth-heads currently out there.”


Sonokinetic Grosso


here are more orchestral libraries around than seemingly everything else, so they probably warrant a ‘Six of the Best’ on their own. Until then, Grosso is the best one that we have looked at of late. MusicTech’s resident orchestral expert Keith Gemmell was direct and simple in his verdict… “Grosso is the most comprehensive orchestral phrase-based composition tool around – great sound, well orchestrated, and if you get stuck for ideas, it’s highly inspirational.”

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Details Price €299 Contact Via website Web www.

Details Price £113 Contact Time+Space 01837 55200 Web www.timespace. com


Best Service Shevannai


e obviously had great fun writing this review complete with a boxout discussing whether Elvish is a real language (kind of) and what the difference is between Elvish and Elven (the latter is basically Welsh but more drunk), but all joking apart this is a superb collection. Again, Andy Jones was on hand to say… “The soundscapes are excellent and I will be using them and the whispers in projects that need that kind of distant atmosphere. I’m sadly not involved in composition for Elvish projects (but I am open to offers!). As a quality collection for a very specific job, however, Shevannai is excellent.” The final verdict was: “An excellent collection that caters for what could be a small market, but there isn’t much competition out there. ‘Enni e bain’ indeed… Look it up, people!”


11/02/2015 14:46

Six of the best Buyer’s Guide MTF



Big Fish Audio Zodiac

e never really thought we’d see an instrument library dedicated to musique concrète but Zodiac takes the best bits of that musical genre – found sounds, natural noises, atmospheric recordings – and turns it into an absolutely stunning collection. Obviously one for ambient fans and anyone wanting to add some

atmosphere. Andy Jones said… “One of the most interesting collections I have come across. I love the atmosphere, vibe and direction of the whole collection and applaud its recording philosophy.” He then concluded: “If you want something organic and inspiring to counter your real or electronic worlds, look no further…”

Details Price £125 Contact Time & Space Tel 01837 55200 Web www.

Details Price £125 Contact Time+Space 01837 55200 Web

I love the atmosphere, vibe and direction and applaud its recording philosophy… BEST PIANO

Modartt Pianoteq 5


Heavyocity AEON


his comprises two collections: Rhythmic and Melodic. And, while this is one of the older collections here, it’s still a great all-rounder. Reviewer Liam O’ Mullane said… “Overall, the preset selection is

Details Price $399 Contact info@ Web www.heavyocity. com

vast and varied. Throughout the pack the production value is high and can be adapted as the user needs in a number of ways for variation and general expression. You’d be hardpushed to produce the mood, size and quality of these sounds from scratch.”

ianoteq has now reached v5 after impressing us in its previous incarnations. It is not strictly a sample library as such – weighing in at just 40MB – but is certainly one of the best instruments out there and with impressive results that match, if not beat, other libraries. Hollin Jones said: “Pianoteq is an excellent way to get playable and configurable piano sounds on your computer without taking up space.” MTF Details Price Pianoteq Stage, €99; Pianoteq Standard, €249; Pianoteq Pro, €399; upgrade from previous version, €29 Contact Via website Web

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MTF Feature The 100 best music-making apps

MTF Feature

THE 100 BEST MUSIC-MAKING APPS It’s the second part of MusicTech’s biggest ever feature! We’ve rounded up the 100 best apps for music production on your phone or tablet: the first 50 are on p48 and now it’s now time for the second half-century…

I Part


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n this issue, on p48, we started this, the biggest ever feature in the magazine’s history. We’ve spent months installing and testing the latest apps across as many platforms as we could and have narrowed them down to the best 100 across several different categories. Over the next few pages we’re looking at the 50 best beat making, remixing, guitars, VJing, ‘real’ instruments, experimental apps and that final stage of music making, mastering. So sit back and enjoy the best apps for mobile music making…


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The 100 best music-making apps Feature MTF

TOP 10 Guitar apps

If you want to bring the sound of the guitar to your music then there are a surprisingly high number to choose from… YONAC INC Steel Guitar

There are many different types of guitar that aren’t particularly well catered for in the app world, but Steel Guitar for iOS is one of the more unusual apps you’ll find. You can select from four guitar models: the Lap Steel, Eight-String Console, or either of the traditional Nashville or Texas setups. You can use it as a plain slide guitar by turning on the six-string ‘Lap’ mode and turning off the accelerometer, or use the full ten-string monster along with configurable pedals. Slide, pick and dip the device to bend, and wire up the volume pedal and swell. There are also some effects supplied, so you can be sliding like a pro in no time. Web App Store Price Free Platform iOS

IK MULTIMEDIA AmpliTube IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube was one of the first serious guitar processing suites for mobile devices, and it continues to go from strength to strength. It comes with 11 stompbox effects, five amps, five speaker cabs and two mic models, and you can combine these in any order you like. There’s a free version and you can also add more models via in-app purchasing, including amps from Orange, Fender, the VocaLive effects and more. You can also add more tracks to the on-board sequencer and mixer. There’s a song player as well, so you can jam along to your favourite music, and a feature called Loop Drummer for playing along to beats. Web Price €17.99 Platform iOS

zCAGE Futulele

It’s not just regular guitars that exist in app form. Futulele is based on 72 high quality ukulele samples and combines and tweaks them to strum the virtual strings. You can play automatically and also set different strumming speeds, recording and exporting your performance. It comes with ten pre-defined songs and the ability to create your own, and up to 12 chords per set with a total of 132 chords available. There are four effects on board and you can use the separate remote app to control it from another device. The audio engine is also capable of detecting the current output mode (speaker or headphones) and adjusting the instrument’s sound accordingly. Web App Store Price £1.49 Platform iOS

POSITIVE GRID BIAS BIAS has replications of 36 amps that you can tweak extensively. Swap out tubes, preamps, transformers and even alter a tube’s bias to get the sound you want. There are plenty of presets but every element is also customisable in remarkable detail. It is approachable for guitarists, too, emulating a real hardware setup rather than using lots of fiddly menus. There’s a noise gate and a room simulator built in, as well as quick preset recall for swapping sounds on the fly. It integrates with JamUp, the company’s other software, and with other iOS apps. Although it costs a little more than some other iOS amp suites, this is a really pro piece of kit. Web Price £13.99 Platform iOS

iFretless Guitar The iFretless app is a guitar fretboard re-imagined for playability on iOS devices. It replaces two-handed playing and strumming with a one-touch-per-note approach that enables fast, precise playing of melodies, scales and arpeggios and real-time control over the pitch of each individual note. It uses velocity sensitive multisampled instruments and has ten instruments available. You can play up to three different sounds at once on the iPad and there’s inter-app audio, MIDI in and out support as well as audio copy and built-in effects. You can also layer string and pad sounds together with your guitar for an even bigger sound. Web Price £6.99 Platform iOS

4 POCKETS StompBox StompBox turns your iPad into a flexible multi FX processor and includes 17 effects plus a four-track recorder (after in-app purchase) and media player with time-stretching. It’s a guitar and bass processor with 16 types of effects, including seven types of distortion. You can chain up to 12 effects at once and there are other handy tools like a metronome and tuner, virtual foot controller, and whammy pedal, tap tempo and three unique skins. It doesn’t just cater for electric guitars, as it has some presets specifically designed for acoustic processing. It’s highly tweakable, with lots of different controls to help you sculpt your sound. Web App Store Price £13.99 Platform iOS

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MTF Feature The 100 best music-making apps

TOP 10 Guitar apps cont…

LINE 6 AMPLIFi Remote 2 Line 6 has always been at the forefront of digitally modelled guitar amps. If you happen to own an AMPLIFi hardware amp, this free app for iOS and Android will let you remotely control the amp’s parameters. As well as sharing your tones with the cloud you can download others, match the tones of songs in your music library and store unlimited presets. It’s a far cry from having one amp with a few knobs on it – now you can remotely set up, store and load as many different amp emulations as you like. Check out the website for more info on the supported devices. Web Price Free Platforms iOS and Android

usbEffects This app has a guitar tone stack and 13 effects pedals, all of which are configurable, along with other nifty features. Just add a USB guitar cable and you’ll be getting great tone in no time! Web Price £2.99 Platforms Android

JamUp XT JamUp XT comes with one amp and six effects, along with the Jam player, phrase sampler, and more. The amps and effects can be arranged with the drag-and-drop interface and you can run up to seven simultaneous models. Web Price £6.99 Platform iOS

AGILE PARTNERS AmpKit AmpKit Free comes with a Peavey ValveKing amp with two cabs, two pedals, two mics and a built-in noise and feedback filter, and if you decide to go further you can add lots of other content via in-app purchases. The paid version of the app represents better value than buying everything separately, and includes more amps, pedals and cabs. Both versions have access to the Gear Store which contains 50 amps, 30 pedals, 26 cabinets and eight mics as well as bundling some content together. You can mix and match gear in the app and jam along with your favourite music from iTunes or by uploading your own stuff. Web Price Free (offers in-app purchases) Platform iOS

TOP 10 Experimental apps

With their touch capabilities, tablets, phones and iPads are open to all sorts of experimentation. Here are the best 10 apps for getting creative… YAMAHA TNR-i The Yamaha TNR-i is based on the remarkable Tenorion hardware and works in essentially the same way, just on your iPad. It’s a new way to make music by pressing buttons on the 16x16 grid, not just to enter notes but also to program all kinds of other parameters. There are modes to randomise parameters and clever features such as networked collaboration sessions, file sharing online, and audio recording and upload to various online hosting services. The app is much more affordable than the hardware and offers a very similar experience, so it’s a great way to experiment. Web App Store Price £13.99 Platform iOS

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SunVox SunVox is a modular synth with a patternbased sequencer. Not for the faint of heart, it has a modular interface and multiple synth algorithms as well as supporting up to 32-bit samples. It has multitrack WAV export as well as Wi-Fi and MIDI in and out, line-in real-time recording and Audiobus support. You also get multiple synths and effects including an analogue generator, FM synth, MetaModule for building your own synths and effects, an FFT-based synth, sidechain compressor, distortion, echo, EQ, reverb and more. It’s pretty advanced but if your tech skills are up to it it’s an inexpensive way to build instruments. Web Price £3.99 Platforms iOS and Android

BIT SHAPE TC-11 The TC-11 is a fully programmable multitouch synth for iPad that includes 120 presets and unlimited user patch slots. Using touch and the movement of your device for input, it has 23 modular synthesis objects and 22 oscillator waveforms, three controller modules and full display customisation. There’s also built-in recording and AudioCopy support. There are no onscreen knobs, keys, or sliders; all synthesis is driven by your multi-touch performance. Although it’s one for the more adventurous musician, the unusual method of interaction makes this one of the most unique mobile synths around. Web Price £20.99 Platform iOS


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The 100 best music-making apps Feature MTF

TOP 10 Experimental apps cont...

synthPond The synthPond is a relaxing spatial sequencer and generative audio toy. Unlike a normal sequencer, you place nodes in a field; it’s approachable and intuitive, but also fairly deep. So while it’s easy for someone with no musical knowledge to create a complex melody, synthPond is also suitable for advanced musicians who are interested in generative composition. The sounds can be placed in a 3D space, occurring around the listener. Web App Store Price £1.49 Platform iOS

PROPELLERHEAD Figure Figure is rather more experimental than what most big developers would come out with: an app designed for instant gratification and quick pattern creation. You program drums, bass and lead synths by tapping on XY grids and amount sliders. It’s all about sliding and tapping, altering pitches, patterns, tempo and intensity of the various parts. It’s a fun way of generating music on the move. Web Price £0.69 Platform iOS

MADGARDEN Glitchmachine Glitchmachine is a generative music synth that edits expressions live to produce sound interactively. It’s pretty advanced stuff and features interactive live code editing and code line muting as well as waveform and data visualisations to do its thing. It’s worth checking out the website for an idea of the lo-fi glitchy stuff this app is capable of. Web Price £1.99 Platform iOS

AUDANIKA SoundPrism SoundPrism is an advanced MIDI controller for iOS that connects to your DAW or hardware synth via Wi-Fi or USB (from iPad only) and enables individual MIDI control of multiple instruments at the same time. It lets you easily create harmonies in any key, and build loops graphically. There’s support for non-diatonic scales on iPad and you get to turn your iOS device into a wireless 3D MIDI controller. It takes a little getting used to but once you do you’re likely to find it both creative and enjoyable to use. New features include ringtone creation, recording and direct emailing of compositions. Web Price Free (with in-app purchases) Platform iOS

MODE OF EXPRESSSION noteplex Create music visually with chain reactions in this unique app. A plex consists of a network of nodes, and each has a tone associated with it. When a pulse hits a node, nodes create pulses. The resulting chain reaction creates a noteplex song. You get multisampled instruments and synths: three complete drumkits, a Rhodes-like piano, multiple bass sounds, leads, strings and more. Add your own samples to create an even more unique noteplex. There’s online sharing of plexes and the app enables zoom, drag, draw and edit modes. It takes a little learning but it can do cool things. Web App Store Price £1.49 Platform iOS

VIRSYN Addictive Synth This dynamic wavetable synth enables you to explore a wide range of sonic territory from acid loops, crystal clear percussions and realistic human choirs to complex musical soundscapes. It has six dynamic wavetable oscillators per voice, continuous morphing between two oscillator sets and real-time editing of up to 128 partials. Extensive modulation is possible with the four LFOs and envelopes, and a matrix enables real-time control of five parameters using the XY touch pad, mod wheel and the accelerometer in the iPad. It’s also Audiobus and inter-app audio compatible. Web Price £6.99 Platform iOS

PIRINGER abcdefghij klmnopqrs tuvwxyz Incredibly, that’s not a misprint. This oddly named app lets you create and control tiny sound-creatures in the shape of letters that react to gravity or each other and generate rhythms and soundscapes. It’s a sound toy, a performance tool and an art work where you can play with the lettercreatures and watch and listen to how they interact with each other. It blends art, biology, fun and physics to create a unique, dynamic and interactive sound ecology. While you might not be taking this on stage it’s a unique approach to music generation. Web Price £1.49 Platform iOS

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MTF Feature The 100 best music-making apps

TOP 10 Drum machines / beats apps

Not surprisingly there are loads of apps for beat making, but we’ve managed to narrow it down… INTUA BeatMaker 2 A workstation with great beat tools. Import songs/samples or record your own sounds. The drum machine section has 128 pads and there’s a multitrack sequencer and mixer. Web products/ Price £6.99 Platform iOS

SUGAR BYTES Turnado iPad Adept at slicing, mashing and manipulating beats. Choose from different effects, swap modules and vary the amounts to slice and dice your beats. You get four X/Y pads to control two effects. There’s virtual, network and external MIDI support. Web Price £13.99 Platform iOS

FINGERLAB DM1 With 99 vintage and produced drum kits, DM1 not only looks great, it sounds amazing too. There’s a step sequencer for old-skool beat programming, touch drum pads with automatic quantization, a mixer, FX trackpads to distort, modulate and transform your beats, and a song composer to chain the patterns you have created into a whole song. You can import your own samples from various sources and take advantage of the randomiser tool to generate ideas. There’s support for WIST, inter-app audio and Audiobus, and full MIDI implementation for incorporating it into your studio. Web Price £2.99 Platform iOS

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KORG iElectribe With a pattern memory of 160 iElectribe gives you eight voice parts in total: four percussion and four PCM synths. There are eight effects (+ master). Feels like a groovebox and great fun. Price £13.99 Web Platform iOS

SINGLE CELL SOFTWARE Caustic 3 You choose which instruments you want to buy from synths, organs, vocoders, and drum machine. It has an effects rack, mixer and master section with effect slots and parametric EQ. Has automation and sample import. Web Price £2.49/module Platforms iOS, Android

FINGER PRO MoDrum Rhythm Composer This iOS app uses real-time synthesis rather than sampling to generate its sounds, and is a virtual analogue drum machine with a 32-step grid sequencer, many sound-shaping parameters, tempo-synced delay, compression, reverb and MIDI support as well as an audio looper and a performance recorder. There are 11 real-time synth modules covering everything from kicks and snares through cymbals and even cowbells. Built-in support for Audiobus, Wave sharing and WIST means you can link it to other apps and you’re also able to expand the preset list via inexpensive in-app purchases. This is a nifty drum synthesis environment for any iOS user. Web Price £2.49 Platform iOS

NI iMaschine You get four slots in which you can mix and match instruments and audio. There’s bundled content and you can record and edit your own sounds and add up to two effects. Web Price £1.49 Platform iOS

SYNTHETIC BITS FunkBox Drum Machine A fun drum machine and old skool rhythm creator. Comes with classic sounds and 36 preset patterns plus you can create your own. Has a mixer and you can sync the app up to an external groovebox. Web syntheticbits. com Price £2.99 Platform iOS

Electrum Drum Machine/ Sampler This lets you load custom (or your own) samples, plus add sound packs (many free) from Google Play. Audition samples while a pattern plays, record a vocal or instrument track, export to audio, MIDI, ringtone or DAW. Web Price £2.45, Platform Android

BEEPSTREET Impaktor A unique synth that uses modelling, FM and noise shaping to make beats without using samples. It has a 6-track recorder, 3D panning, quantization and effects. Unusual and unique. Web Price £2.99 Platform iOS


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The 100 best music-making apps Feature MTF

TOP 5 Real apps

Oddly named, but we couldn’t think of another catch-all title to cover the apps available to make acoustic or band-type sounds! IK MULTIMEDIA SampleTank SampleTank is IK’s iOS version of its much larger desktop instrument. Even so, it provides you with hundreds of instruments and patterns from a range of ‘real’ instrument categories including pianos, organs, drums, basses, guitars, strings, percussion and vocals. You can expand the instrument set to over 600 via in-app purchasing, and these include MIDI riffs and grooves as well as just sample-based sounds. You get a four-track MIDI recorder and the app itself is four-part multitimbral and has a built-in master reverb as well as insert effects. You can edit sounds and effects and MIDI is fully supported. A free version is available for you to test. Web Price £13.99 Platform iOS

iFretless Bass The iFretless Bass app is a professional virtual instrument that provides bass and guitar players with an expressive fretless playing surface. The layout is like a nine-string bass guitar with the notes coloured black and white like the keys of a piano. Although it looks different from a guitar neck, bass players will find it surprisingly easy to use. It has a good feature set and is based on over 200MB of bass samples. MIDI in and out are supported as are Audiobus, Audio Copy and inter-app audio. There’s an XY control pad along with velocity sensing of touch for more expressive playability. Web Price £6.99 Platform iOS

SoundFont Pro SoundFonts are freely available files that use synthesis and samples to recreate different kinds of instruments. This app is multitimbral, multi-layered and multi-zonal, meaning that you can take an ordinary MIDI keyboard and assign key ranges to the different presets from different soundfonts. You can also set up different zones and assign input MIDI channels to receive MIDI from an external controller or from another app. As well as some effects there’s voice recording capability, audio import from your library with overdub, live effects using a modulation grid, and Audiobus and inter-app audio compatibility. Web App Store Price £6.99 Platform iOS

IK MULTIMEDIA iGrand The iGrand puts an entire gallery of the world’s finest pianos right at your fingertips with studio-grade quality thanks to high-definition stereo samples across multiple velocities. The app brings you the most playable, expressive and beautiful sounding grand, baby grand, upright and speciality piano instruments available on a mobile device. You also get a recorder and a metronome, and you can record as MIDI with overdubbing and punch-in. Virtual MIDI is supported and there’s up to 64-voice polyphony on newer devices. A free version is available and you can add more pianos via in-app purchases. Web Price £13.99 Platform iOS

RHISM Guitarism With a suite of electric and acoustic guitars and an amp, this app lets you play virtual guitar from your iOS device. Based on samples, it lets you play along with songs from your music library and save chord presets as well as recording and sharing performances with others. Use the Quadroplay system to simultaneously control Guitarism and up to three additional MIDI-compatible apps, such as GarageBand, in complementary roles: guitar, bass and chords. Quadroplay essentially turns Guitarism into an advanced multichannel MIDI controller. AudioCopy and Audiobus are supported too so you can integrate with other apps to take things to the next level. Web Price £2.99 Platform iOS

TOP 5 VJ apps

Matching light shows with music is the easy way to bring life to any performance… vidibox Vidibox lets users create real-time music and video projects from an intuitive drum pad interface. The slots can contain audio, video or both and there’s easy import via drag-and-drop. You can play up to 16 tracks and an automatic video composition engine displays multiple videos at once. Web App Store Price £3.99 Platform iOS

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MTF Feature The 100 best music-making apps

TOP 5 VJ apps cont…

PixiVisor PixiVisor is a clever tool for audio / visual experiments. It’s a simple and fun cross-platform application that consists of two parts: Transmitter and Receiver. The Transmitter converts the low-resolution video (static image or GIF animation) to sound, pixel by pixel. This lets you listen to the sound of your image. But the main function of the Transmitter is to transmit the signal to the receiving devices. The Receiver then converts the sound back to video. You can set the colour palette for this video, and record it to an animated GIF file. This is a more experimental kind of app that lets you explore the relationship between sounds and images. Web Price £1.99 Platforms iOS and Android

ALGORIDDIM vjay Algoriddim’s vjay transforms your iPad into a mashup machine. Mix and scratch your favourite music videos from iTunes or combine songs from your music library with personal video footage. Web App Store Price £6.99 Platform iOS

HEXLER TouchViZ TouchViZ lets you play back and mix two channels of video with independent playback speed control and ten different blend modes. You can also use the iPad’s two cameras to integrate live footage Web Price £6.99 Platform iOS

MACHINECODEX SOFTWARE Muon Muon is a music visualisation app for iPad that generates endlessly varying organic animations in time to your music. When left alone, the Evolution Engine ensures that your screen is filled with fascinating, ever-changing animations. If a form evolves that you don’t like, a single tap or shake generates a new mutant universe. It also includes an intuitive control surface editor that makes customising simulation parameters quick and easy, while switch-bay patch-panels enable you to customise how the visualiser mutates and responds to touch and audio stimuli. Web Price £1.99 Platform iOS

TOP 5 Remix apps

Whether you want to remix your own music or mash up other people’s, you can do it on the move with these five apps… DJStudio 5

This DJ app for Android lets you spin, mash up and remix your favourite tunes. It provides two virtual turntables with a crossfader, skinnable decks, a scratch engine and disc physics for realistic scratching, and access to your music library. You also get on-board effects and three-band EQ, ten customisable sample pads, pre-cueing support, recording of your performances with the built-in recorder, and auto mixing. You can share mixes to SoundCloud, use the on-board visualiser, and it’s also compatible with IK Multimedia’s iRig Mix hardware. Its system requirements are pretty low too, so even if you’re on an older device you should be able to get the party started. Web Price Free Platform Android

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Ninja Jamm This app from legendary record label Ninja Tune combines aspects of DJing, remixing and producing. You buy a sound pack of your choice from your favourite artist then use the device to remix it. Touch, tilt and shake to cut sounds or to effect, glitch and mix them. You can throw in one-shot samples and upload your finished projects to SoundCloud. The best part is the material you’re working with has come direct from artists such as Coldcut, Bonobo and other respected Ninja Tune acts, so you can get really hands-on with their loops, stems and samples. It’s a really well-designed app and has a more unique approach than just letting you cut up stuff that’s already in your iTunes library. Web App Store Price Free (with in-app purchases) Platform iOS


With this app you can mash up any two tracks from your music library on your iPad or iPhone. Using beatmatching technology it lets you make harmonic mashups without key clashes, create loops and copy and paste segments of a song to create entirely new versions. You can adjust the loudness of various elements of a track and also export high-quality WAV versions of the end results back to iTunes or send them to Dropbox. It’s easy to get to grips with and will have you searching your music library to see what tracks work well together. Thanks to its clever features you’ll be able to make some awesome mashups. Web Price $2.99 Platform iOS


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The 100 best music-making apps Feature MTF

TOP 5 Mastering apps

TOP 5 Remix apps cont…

NOVATION Launchpad The Launchpad app comes free with eight ready-to-play sessions, and additional sound packs and features such as audio import are available as in-app purchases. For £4.99 it’s worth unlocking audio import: you get an 8x6 grid for launching up to eight loops at once, a range of effects on iPad including repeater and synced filters, and on the iPhone there’s filter, stutter, gating and delay. You can perform, mix, match and trigger tempo-synced loops and record your performance to share it online or internally to another app via Audiobus. You can also connect one of Novation’s controller devices to get the full hands-on experience. Web Price Free Platforms iOS

NI Traktor DJ When NI does mobile apps it tends to do them really well. Traktor DJ for iPad and iPhone takes the essence of the much bigger Traktor Pro software and places it into a touch environment. The results are amazing: incredibly accurate beat detection and sync capabilities, slice freezing and easy library and playlist navigation. You get a bunch of effects that can be controlled via integrated X/Y pads and the whole thing feels really slick. You don’t have to be an experienced DJ to give a great performance and you can even record the output as an audio file. Features like the Superslicer mean it’s not just for spinning tracks. Web Price £2.99 Platform iOS

As the final stage of music production is mastering we’ve left this category until last! POSITIVE GRID Final Touch Final Touch is one of only a small number of dedicated mastering apps for mobile devices and it’s arguably one of the best. Using a series of modules that can be dragged in or out of the signal processing chain you can fine-tune your master with incredible levels of control. You get pre- and post-linear phase EQs each with eight bands and five filter types, multiband dynamics with four independent bands of compression / limiting, a stereo imager, reverb, maximise, dithering and noise shaping. To add to the pro-level lineup of tools there’s stereo mid-side processing and a full waveform overview. Web Price £13.99 Platform iOS

Audio Mastering Studio This app is remarkably powerful to use. If you’re looking to get a professional master of your iPad projects, this is well worth a look. Web audio-mastering-studio.blogspot. Price £4.99 Platform iOS

Audiobus Audiobus provides a way to link apps together on a device. Or more importantly, from the perspective of mastering, routing the output of one or more apps into another for processing. Web Price £2.99 Platform iOS

WAVEMACHINE LABS Auria Auria is one of the most advanced DAWs on the iPad platform, offering up to 24 simultaneous tracks of recording, 48 of playback with 24-bit sound. Each of its channels in the mixer has an expander, multiband EQ and compressor, and there are further mastering effects such as limiting on the master channel strip. Crucially, Auria supports plug-ins which you can add via in-app purchases. For mastering you might want to look at Fabfilter’s Pro-C, Pro-Q and Pro-L, all of which can be added onto Auria and used to master process your project. Use Auria like you use a desktop DAW, just on the move! Web Price £34.99 Platform iOS

STEINBERG Cubasis Cubasis is Steinberg’s version of Cubase for iPad and it’s surprisingly powerful. With as many audio and MIDI tracks as your device can handle along with a 32-bit, 96kHz audio engine you can record up to 24 tracks at once and trigger over 70 virtual instrument sounds. There are ten effects processors that can be assigned both to individual tracks and to the master channel for mastering, and Core Audio and MIDI are both supported for getting sound and MIDI in and out. Audiobus is also supported. As well as mastering it’s basically a supremely capable all-round music production app. Web Price £34.99 Platform iOS

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MTF Technique A track from scratch part 1: Dubstep bass

Technique A track from scratch: Part 1

Dubstep bass Liam O’Mullane and Christopher Pearson begin a massive tutorial to guide you through the process of creating the harder edge side of this contemporary genre, their first point of call being the fundamentals of bass design…


ubstep is a genre that’s morphed from its dubbed-out form over the years and since splintered into two distinct camps. For the more meditative and deeper experience, artists such as Burial, Phaeleh and Mala fly the flag, sticking to the genre’s original principles of a mix with depth, space and general musicality. Over the years and more recently in the mainstream, a louder and more aggressive influence has taken hold. The driving force behind this new breed of dubstep include Skrillex, Zomboy, Excision and Flux Pavillion to name a few. Although terms like EDM and brostep are often frowned upon due to their buzzword nature, this is the musical style we are focussing on in this five-part feature.

On the disc Accompanying example audio files included on the DVD

Set your tempo to 140bpm and let’s explore the components of the dirtiest of basslines Like any bass-orientated electronic genre, there are rules that apply across the board in terms of composition and production. These aspects will be highlighted when relevant, but our real aim here is to educate you on the standard tools for crafting a heavy dubstep track, whilst offering a variety of techniques you can use to create

something original. It would be pointless to give you a full how-to on today’s sound as the leading artists will have moved on by the time you’ve learned your trade. Although today’s sound is of importance, do try to keep an open mind and fully explore our suggested practice in your own way. This is key, as a lot of the best ideas and sounds will come from happy accidents and a pursuit for originality. So set your tempo to 140bpm and let’s begin by first defining the essential components for the dirtiest of basslines.

Bass: defined The word ‘bassline’ when used in bass music may differ to your own definition, so it’s important to understand what it means in the context of a dubstep track. Although a sub bass is used to pin various instruments and sounds together – so they have an even sense of low-end weight – what people consider to be the bassline can be a large range of musical, noisy, discordant and SFX sounds. If we break down the elements that form to make a dirty bassline, there are no set rules and this is why experimentation is so important. Though less common in use today, a single bass sound can be the singular feature of a track, but this does require a huge amount of creative programming to give it the variation it needs to hold the listener’s interest. The more common approach today is to work between at least three separate sounds with contrasting timbres, then after


Though we’re starting our track off from bass-design onwards, it’s good practice to get some basic drums in the mix for a guide as you go. The basic requirements are a kick and snare with some form of cymbals/percussion to add a further sense of rhythm. Anything busier than this could be too much information at this stage and influence your choice of sounds, so remember to try to keep it simple Though your first drum sounds can be sparse, they still need to be appropriate for the genre. Keeping things simple we’ve used a quick double layering technique with an acoustic sounding drum kit from BFD edited to add a sense of space and texture. We’ve then layered synth drum sounds for that much needed weight and impact using Tremor. Our hi-hat has been chosen simply to be clean and minimal. This is all we need to then start creating our first bass elements.

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11/02/2015 12:59

A track from scratch part 1: Dubstep bass Technique MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Vowel bass foundation with FM synthesis

Not all FM synthesisers are equal and some techniques might translate differently from one to the next. The fundamentals however, are the same. Sytrus is one of our preferred options because it allows control of individual partials (harmonic frequencies above the fundamental).

establishing an initial idea, use internal modulation and automation to twist and take their tone into different areas for maintaining listener interest. Though dirty bass might be fierce and in your face, a constant barrage of a singular distorted synth will lose the listener’s interest quite quickly through monotony. Bass design is about building the right sounds, but before you lay down a single note, you need to be thinking ahead for how you’ll create bass dynamics.

Our first oscillator begins its life as a sine wave-based sub. Sines are a clean source meaning frequency modulation is easy to hear and therefore control in finer detail. The sine is pitched to E1 or 41.2034Hz – this will sound much higher when we apply frequency modulation. The second oscillator’s pitch is the same as the first, but slight detuning can be used to create movement.


Dynamics When designing a bass sound, asides from the technical starting points we’ll discuss next, be mindful of your options for twisting and turning a sound. When balancing parameters of a synth or subsequent creative audio processing, take note of parameters that create either a subtle or severe timbre shift. These can then be either internally modulated within your synth or sampler so they respond to MIDI note information as you play, or you can program them within your sequencer through automation or MIDI CC data.

The more common approach now is to use at least three sounds for you bass In the interests of workflow, make use of macro options within the instrument itself or your DAW so multiple parameters can be controlled at once. If you don’t decide on the best parameters to modify, or group them up in this way from the start, you’ll soon find yourself swamped with confusing movement data. This will always cause problems when it comes to arrangement and further editing of your track, so do treat this as an essential part of the initial creative process. As the parameter combinations of synths and audio effects are infinite, let’s look at the standard options we always consider when creating a bassline sequence. The first choice is what register you want a sound to live in. Even though the sub bass may stay in the same frequency area, a lot of dynamics can be created by

Our second oscillator is set to modulate the frequency of the first oscillator using a triangle wave. This imposes new harmonics which thicken up the sine wave. If you can control oscillator partials, raise the 32nd to add a new fifth octave pitch to the triangle’s shape. Otherwise, add a 3rd triangle oscillator up by five octaves to modulate the 2nd.


Moving the modulation amount for the second oscillator will now create a basic vowel sound. Next add another oscillator to create high information for a sense of air. Pitch a different oscillator (we’ve used a square) up by 64 semi-tones and add modulation depth to taste.


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MTF Technique A track from scratch part 1: Dubstep bass

synthesis are used so much in today’s production for dirty-sounding bass. Uneven clusters of harmonic content that are static or move over time are all used against each other to create the type of textures the older generation often dismiss as noise. But it’s this contrast of tuned and none-tuned sounds that are essential in creating aggression, abrasion and a generally up-front energy that still retains a sense of movement and depth.

FM design

Bass Processing

There are two different categories you can put audio processing into when it comes to bass: creative and mixing. Creative processing can be a fundamental part of a sound or punched in on occasion to create a timbre shift for dynamics and variation. Amplitude modulation is a popular choice at the moment and can be achieved through a tremolo effect or LFO controlling a synth’s amplitude. At slower rates you’ll hear a detectable rhythm, but get the rate above 20Hz and you’ll hear a distortion that creates edge with a soft characteristic As long as you’re processing the mid to high frequency part of your bass sounds (i.e. not processing the sub-bass) the options for creative processing are endless. Dry/Wet reverb control, strong phasing, guitar distortion and glitch-like effects are tools which feature in dubstep on a regular basis. So the more you experiment with the less common options, the better. Mix processing involves the use of EQs and dynamics processing to balance each sound to fit comfortably within the track. We generally used multi-band processing that also includes an element of saturation. FabFilter’s Saturn, Image-Line’s Maximus and iZotope’s Alloy 2 are good examples for their sonic quality and

uniqueness in character. This allowed us to firm up certain areas of the frequency spectrum and add harmonic information per-band or mid and side plane as required. For EQ balancing you shouldn’t need to do any major removal work to remove brash frequencies. If you’ve got too much grit, go back to source and find what element of your synth or plug-in chain is creating it and tone it down! Wherever possible we like to group ‘types’ of sound together. Not just for aesthetics and housekeeping but mainly to give groups of sounds their own identity and colour in the mix to help them stand out as a unit. For example, all bass sounds will go to a bass group and be compressed, EQ’d and mastered as a unit. This solidifies its range and defines its space, allowing other groups to cut through around these main bass elements. Bear in mind that it’s always good practice to pick out similar sounds. So rather than grouping everything musical to a single ‘music’ group, think about dividing them by their transient and timbre nature. For example, we wouldn’t group pads and guitars together as they’re so different sonically. If picked instruments are grouped, we can then accentuate frequencies that are plucky with EQ and add transient processing if required.

The sub is essential as it carries the weight of the track and frequencies you want… alternating between a low- and high-pitched instrument. For instance, one sound can be very low-end orientated which leaves space in the mids and top-end of the mix. Another sound can have lots of mid and top info so it’s a fuller-sounding part and the third sound could be scooped in the mids by being a sub with a thin sound that plays towards the top-end of the mix – very much akin to classical music. The nature of each sound’s frequency content is another element to explore for dynamics. Fundamental waveforms – sine, triangle and saw waves – are pure, slightly and very harmonically-based respectively. The harmonics are even so they create a pleasant, defined musical pitch. Square waves also carry pitch clearly, but they consist of odd harmonics which means they sound big and hollow. These waveforms can be used in modern dubstep, but they will be a point of contrast against other, much less musical components. These instruments are a counterpart by being non-musical and noise like. This is a big reason why FM and additive

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To start with a solid foundation, we use a sine wave based oscillator. A pure sinusoidal waveform is the most clean, and therefore most powerful wave we can create and being infinitely smooth, it has nothing but its fundamental frequency to impart. The sub is essential as it carries the weight of the track and the frequencies you want from sub woofers to rattle the audience’s nose cartilage. On its own, a sub instrument can be nice but our examples throughout the article contain sub, mid and high range information. Sometimes we’ll achieve each bass instrument with more than one layered source, but it’s entirely possible to create large and complex patches within a single synthesizer. In this particular genre, FM synthesis seems to be the main staple for

Experiment with different processing on your grouped bass sounds to fill or create space to all sounds as a whole. This will help unify them and put them in their own space within the mix.

When experimenting with audio processing, or any onboard synth modulation, it’s worth trialling a sound to see if it works better when re-sampled into a sampler or kept live. Playback speed alters when playing a sample higher or lower and this adds a character of its own to a bass idea.


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A track from scratch part 1: Dubstep bass Technique MTF

Re-sampling and Slip Editing

A good way to get creative with an existing idea is to re-work it as a new sample. This can be done in various ways depending on the tools available in your DAW. All DAWs can bounce audio and this is the simplest way to re-sample. Once bounced, you can chop and re-edit the sample, or use slip editing to move the start position of the audio within the audio clip. This changes the content but the clip itself stays in place on the grid. This is good way to encounter happy accidents and is most commonly used on long pieces of audio recorded when jamming with a synth and its parameters.

Though we’re focussing on FM synthesis for most of our bass design, additive synthesis is a great option for different textures. It allows complex waveforms to be built from many sine waves just as real sounds are in the natural world. But it’s the unique approach it takes to synthesizing sounds and its interface that will encourage unique results.

Food for thought

bass creation. Because of how FM synthesis works, it becomes very simple to create complex, warped sounds. In fact, even when basses are created in other types of synthesizers, it’s usually an FM technique that will make the sound fit the genre. For instance, NI’s Massive, although subtractive, uses phase modulation to create similar-sounding effects.

FM synthesis allows us to create warped tones – a sine wave adds more harmonics… FM Synthesis allows us to create very warped tones by using oscillators to modulate other oscillators. A sine wave set to modulate another will impart new even harmonics which in turn create a new waveform at the synth’s output. But detuning the modulating oscillator, or changing its wave type, it will venture into noisy and unpleasant timbres. Sweeping the amount of modulation being applied is key to achieving the FM bass sound used countless times in this genre. So be sure to explore tuning, waveform choice, waveform phase and additional oscillator routing to move away from the norm. For example, a few of our bass sounds use ImageLine’s Sytrus with internal modulation amounts being used for movement. After exploring some strongsounding parameters to automate, we then mapped them across an X/Y controller within the synth. These X/Y parameters are then mapped to our host software as two automation lanes to keep life simple. To find the sweet spots of where the X and Y best overlap, we started with random automation data, then fine tuned the automation until we achieved a groove and interesting timbre shift against our varied drum track. To underpin an FM instrument with a clean sine wave to emphasise bass, we can simply enable another operator, set to sine and keep it modulation free. This means we have all elements of the sound available to play in one instrument.

Musical keys

In this first instalment, we’ve covered the very essence of what this genre is about – bass! You should have the tools and basic understanding of FM synthesis to explore or use to try and mimic our example sounds. You can explore different styles of guide drums at this stage to help expose new potential vibes, but let’s not get too committed at this stage. After all, we haven’t explored musicality or thought about song structure and flexibility is a gift at this stage in the process. We’ll next explore where our bass ideas can go while also designing our principle drum sound. MTF Turn over the page for part 2 of Liam and Christopher’s dubstep guide.

Due to the sound-design biased nature of the more extreme end of dubstep, musical keys are difficult to decipher and follow. Pitching sounds, re-sampling them, pitch-bending etc can result in the end result, often venturing into non-western scales and microtuning. But an important factor is the choice of root notes that you base your sub bass around and its closest harmonics. Most club sound systems have a bass roll-off of around 40Hz which means pitching your sub bass any lower than this can cause a less than universal translation from one venue to the next. In some cases this means you’ll hear no sub at all if your choice of key is too low. On the opposite

side of this, going too high can leave your track lacking in any low impact information when compared to other music in the mix. Also bear in mind that sound systems are EQ’d to sound pleasant for their environment and genre; boosts and cuts will be applied in the expected sub area, kicks, snares and even where cymbals are expected to fall. For all of these reasons, bass genre artists have naturally fallen into using the keys of around E, F and G. You can test this phenomena by running reference tracks through a spectrum analyser to study where their keys lie. Even individual sounds are becoming standardised to frequency so mixes tend to have a unified and equally musical sound.

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MTF Technique A track from scratch part 2: Dubstep beats

Technique A track from scratch: Part 2

Dubstep beats Following on from the building blocks for bass design within the harder side of dubstep, Liam O’Mullane and Christopher Pearson now delve into the art of programming and producing drum sounds that tick all the boxes for the genre.


f you’ve absorbed the first part in this series (over the previous pages) you should be joining us with a solid bass idea, or at least a good starting point to tweak later. This may still need a bit of work but, as you’ll see, when it comes to drum design and programming, the groove aspects of both drums and bass can now intertwine and move forward together, inspiring each other as you go. In this instalment we’ll explore the use of drum synthesis, sampling, ambience, groove, quantization and the hows and whys of each. We’ve chosen to delve a little bit deeper into the actual design of drums for this tutorial, so you’ll soon be armed with more than just the simple skills of grabbing the same, commonly used samples that many aspiring producers reach for today. Creating your own drum sounds is not only satisfying, it can also be the

On the disc Accompanying example audio files included on the DVD

Soon you’ll have more than just the basic skills of grabbing commonly used samples

perfect ingredient to inspire a track to be taken into a unique direction. Our own project drum sounds make use of a variety of techniques simultaneously: acoustic-based drum samples with FXpansion’s BFD3, and home-made, synthetic drums using FXpansion’s Tremor for some simple physical modelling techniques. These first two techniques give us a contrast of sounds to mix due to their opposing approaches of being acoustically and synthetically rooted, respectively. These techniques can, of course, be achieved through the careful use of samples, but we’ve chosen to use sources that give us more flexibility over dynamics and tonal shaping if it’s needed later in the mix.

Let there be drums Although the blind pursuit of searching for drum samples can be a fruitful event for inspiration, it can be difficult to understand what and why you should choose unless you have grasped the basic aesthetics of dubstep drum production. You first need to have an idea of the drums’ role: will they be a lead element, standing forward in your mix and providing constant interest; or will they serve as a backing track to support a leading bass or melodic line? These types of questions need to be addressed in your choice of both sound source and programming


Like our bass elements from the first part in this series, individual drum sounds also benefit from being grouped to a single channel and being processed as a unit. This is the point when you might insert various processing devices to add character to all drum elements as a whole, which in turn helps them stand apart from the other mix elements. It could simply be a case of inserting an EQ, saturation or compression device, as long as it can unify the group as a whole by adding some form of unique tone. For instance, we did try to use compression to glue our elements together but this suffocated the group, making it feel a little lifeless and over compressed. So after a bit of trial and error (which we can’t encourage enough) we settled on using a combination of two EQs, specifically for colour, which then ran through a shaping device to smooth out the harsh transients, rather than enhance them. After using the Dangerous BAX EQ and Maag EQ4 plug-ins to add some colour to our drums, the Transient Master by Native Instruments enabled us to soften any harsh transients. At the end of this processing chain we’ve added a limiter, which is just tickling the signal with a few decibels of reduction to keep dynamics options open for the mixing stage.

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A track from scratch part 2: Dubstep beats Technique MTF

MTF Step-by-Step Synthetic kick drum design

The first element we usually deal with when synthesising a kick drum for dubstep is the fundamental impact sound. This will involve an oscillator having an immediate and severe drop in pitch created by an envelope. The main oscillator should be fairly clean unless you want to go into a more hard-style tone of kick, so sine and triangle waves are commonplace here. For more knock, start the kick at a higher pitch before its descent or add curve to the envelope.


To give a good push-and-pull groove to your drum sound, group all elements except for the kick and snare. Set a compressor on this group to listen to the kick and snare on its side-chain so all surrounding sounds duck when these two play. The groove can be shaped using the compressor’s attack and release times.

techniques. For instance, if the lead instrument is to be quite frantic and given the limelight in your track, the drums need to provide space by being made sparse and infrequent in events, ensuring there’s a focus of power in the right frequencies rather than overcrowding the mix with details. Alternatively, when using a more minimal bass section such as a dub-like sub or less manic-sounding synthesis for the bassline this opens up the opportunity to be more detailed, and driving rhythms and sounds can be explored. During our initial bass-design stage, guide drums were thrown into the project using a simple break sample or two

You need to have an idea of the drums’ role: will they be a lead element or backing?

With the weight aspect of your kick taken care of it’s time to consider adding some character. As it is, this kick can be given a more rounded tone by carefully increasing the attack time on the amp envelope. Alternatively you can add a tiny snippet of noise or distortion, or a fraction of a bright sample at the start to give it a more aggressive tone, adding more bite to the front end.


to help guide our bass creation process and govern an initial vibe. We needed something to give us a very simple part that wasn’t precious. If these drums didn’t fit how the bass was starting to sound, it didn’t matter, we hadn’t spent countless hours creating and processing drums that could’ve been wasted due to the bass creation taking us down other paths. Now we have our outlined bass, we can start to build our drum section to fit the project’s more focused direction.

The science part Regardless of the style of drum sounds you have in mind for your project, each individual drum element can be thought of and broken down into stages. Let’s think about the physics of hitting an object and how each stage affects the next. Firstly we’re hitting a surface with a stick or a brush,

If your track is going to be quite sparse you’ll have more room in the mix to make each sound big and interesting, and this is where you can be quite experimental and give your kick a unique body tone (as long as you use EQ shaping to keep this new sound in balance with your track). Various sounds such as toms, gated reverb tails, etc, can be used to give your kick a tone to set it apart from the stock 909 kick that’s too commonplace. Moderation is advised.


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MTF Step-by-Step Synthetic snare drum design

For variation, rather than programming fills don’t forget that effect processing can also be quite useful too. We’ve made good use of low-pass filtering to create the odd spot of variation at the end of a musical phrase before a new section begins. Just program or record a filter sweep to minimise the drum sound so it has more impact when coming back in.

the skin then vibrates, firing part of the sound into the air whilst the rest reverberates internally to its shell and casing dependant on its material, stiffness, mass and volume. All of this then radiates out into the room, which creates yet another reverberation. We’re not expecting you to get too scientific here, but creating drums with these factors in mind can help you produce very rich, deep and more natural sounds. In our example the two synthesized hits for kick and snare are intended to represent the first impact strike or transient of a drum’s surface along with a little of its own ambience. As we’re working with electronic music it’s actually preferential to use something synthetic in nature for this initial transient hit as it keeps it pure, clear and up front. Their fundamental pitch will trend towards lower frequencies because our bass is full in frequency content and occupies much of the higher register. This means the only real

Creating drums with these factors in mind can help you produce rich, deep sounds prominent mix space available is around the lower mids, around 100-300Hz. Although we’ve chosen BFD3 for our tonal and ambient layers you can continue with synthesis or break samples to complete your drum tones, though the former is beyond the scope of this tutorial. We shaped our acoustic drum sound in BFD3 by bringing forward the ambient mics and utilising their width and contrast with the synth layers to fill the stereo field. We’ve tightened the body mic sounds with amp envelopes and tuned them by ear to help them gel with the synth layers. The body mics have been tightened with amplitude envelopes and tuned to be more ear-pleasing when layered over the synths. Similar tightening can be achieved through synth envelopes or careful volume control of samples. To reiterate here, in this particular genre a note of importance is that anything too high-frequency-based in the main drum hits may get lost in the mix due to being masked by our synth basses. Something to keep in mind for the mixing stage later down the line! Finally, to mimic the natural ambience from the skin and the shell of a drum in a real room, add a very short

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Like the Kick Drum Design example, it’s usual to start designing a snare from its impact sound onwards. This will hit higher in the frequency register from around 180Hz to 250Hz. A good trick to get a nice ping here is to set the pitch of a higher, tonal layer to ascend so the pitch goes upwards when the impact goes down.


The impact noise aspect of the snare itself can come from a noise oscillator by adding ring modulation or distortion to an existing synth hit, or by using a sampled snare sound, then high-pass it so any lower frequencies don’t clash with your existing impact sound. A classic drum machine sound can also be achieved using white noise samples. But however you add noise keep a close eye on your envelope duration (so it’s a tight impact sound), and on the top end (to avoid harshness).


When working with a sparser drum track like our own, a long noise source can create a huge ambient type of sound when thinned out with a high-pass filter to avoid any mid-range clutter. Again, white noise can work, but more tone can come from using an open hi-hat, cymbal crash, ride or even adding a large reverb tail to a trigger sound.



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A track from scratch part 2: Dubstep beats Technique MTF


In most cases, percussion leans towards being used for creating fills and phrase endings in the harder side of dubstep rather than being a constant element used to drive the rhythm section forward. This is mainly down to the fact that basslines, especially in our example track, tend to be all-consuming in respect to the frequency range used and how rhythmical they can be. You could, in fact, say that bass can take on the roll of percussion in this genre! But percussion, when used wisely, can fill out any uncomfortable gaps in bass or melody parts and help fill the space with new points of interest and tonal dynamics. Your choice of percussion is quite open and can be made from any source, so a healthy amount of experimentation in this area is always advisable. That said, dynamic elements can also be born from the use of empty space. This too can help to feed the feel and groove of your track. Sometimes the music just needs to breathe, and silence can be golden in these circumstances. Even using rhythmic tools such as a tremolo device on non-drum elements in your track can be a percussive tool. Here we’re adding a rhythmic effect to a pad sound for one of our fills.

and wide reverb to the appropriate layers individually. The main difference is the impact synth layer should have a dampened sound in the high end so that it maintains its thud-like character and the shell sound has a slightly longer, roomy reverb which can have a brighter timbre. A different use of width or panning on the reverbs can give a greater impression of size.

Compression and EQ Processing is always a subjective craft, but some basic guidelines are always a good place to start. In our case, because the bass sound is the aggressive, mid-ranged element we have pulled back the mid frequencies on our synth layers in favour of allowing BFD3’s acoustic timbres to come through in this region of frequencies. We did, however, add overdrive to produce some sizzle in the top-end of our impact layer using a very slight

Although we’ve talked a lot about synth envelopes, don’t forget that most DAWs have audio sample volume envelopes as well. These are great to fine tune the start and end points so transients don’t mask each other and to make fade outs as smooth as possible.

amount of distortion built into the synth, which helped highlight its punch. Though compression tends to have a reputation of destroying dynamics it can be used with a slow attack and heavy gain reduction so that only the tail after the transient is reduced, therefore actually increasing apparent dynamics. This is best used as a shaping tool on your kick and snare groups individually with custom settings as required. A more airy sound can be achieved by only compressing the impact transient layer per drum, as it leaves any additional layers or ambience effects free and open sounding while the transient layer is still slightly enhanced.

Groove and bass Everyone associates an infectious groove with drums, and it’s often easy to fall prey to thinking that this is the

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MTF Technique A track from scratch part 2: Dubstep beats

MTF Step-by-Step Pattern sequencing

For an authentic dub delay, bar getting your hands on a real tape delay device, there are emulations available which offer non-sync’d timing settings in milliseconds and dulled-out delays over time. This can be roughly emulated by low-pass filtering a delay that runs in parallel and automating its cut-off to go low over time.

only aspect involved in creating it. The fact is, every sound in your track can enhance or destroy an existing groove you may have created. This is something to stay vigilant of when adding any new elements to your track. It’s important to be mindful that each new element added works at its best to enhance the song. When added, each new element in a track can either be placed to work alongside a drum part or create a new feel by working rhythmically between drum hits. But this doesn’t have to be the extremes of placing a bass sound in the biggest gaps between drum hits. For example, it can be a simple matter of just placing a bass part slightly before a beat. Then, why not let the kick drum hit early here, in time with the bass part, to highlight the fact? This kind of thinking will give more power and energy to a mix, and the groove now feels much more natural and less grid-static and sterile. Groove can also be explored through the use of delay lines. Classically, the roots of dub relied heavily on the

Every sound in your track can enhance or destroy an groove you’ve created

The simplest of beat patterns can have a rock feel to them as the kick falls at the start of each bar and the snare in the middle on the third beat of the bar. Some beats will simply have a thin crash-cymbal-sounding layer alongside each drum to create a large, sparse sound, leaving space for the bass to breathe in the mids. Alternatively, explore adding cymbal hits slightly earlier on the grid for a sense of immediacy or slightly later for a lazy, laid-back feel.


The feel of your pattern can also be dramatically changed when you explore either swing or triplet quantization. These grooves are instantly recognisable as they are commonly used in commercial music as a base rhythm or a means for variation. Whether your track will benefit is entirely dependant on the song, but be sure to experiment as sometimes you’ll find it can bring a track together.


use of delays and this carried through to current-day dubstep. Using triplet tape delays on some drum hits can add to the groove and work in place of drum fills at phrase endings. They can even be used to add rhythmical ghost notes to a pattern, and this works especially well when turning off quantization from the delay unit and using your ear as a guide for tempo instead, creating a more human feel and a more classic dub delay from a time before ‘Sync’.

Moving forward Now we’ve outlined the steps we’ve taken in creating our bass and drum tracks you should be in a good position to move forward towards completing your track (in its rough form, at least). Next time we’ll be looking more closely at developing our existing ideas towards an arrangement and adding melodic content. In the meantime be sure to explore what can be achieved with the tools we’ve demonstrated so far. MTF Turn to p88 for part 3 of Liam and Christopher’s dubstep guide.

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If you’re aiming for a more pounding movement in your track, a traditional dub beat will give a sense of sounding like 4/4 hard-style music even though the third beat of the pattern is a snare rather than a kick. We’ve used velocity changes and side-chain compression to emphasise the main drum hits, and left lighter, dynamic hits in-between. Our crash and rides also fall on the beat for a more driving feel.



11/02/2015 14:27


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 1

11/02/2015 09:21

MTF 20 Pro Tips Instrument mic’ing


Mic’ing Tips

It’s the most vital technique to master, as capturing a great sound is key to producing a top-notch mix. Get the inside track with our essential advice… RAISE YOUR AMPS UP It can be a good idea where possible to place combo amps on a chair or a stand to isolate them from the floor, as this will result in a cleaner sound. Also try placing amps away from walls or the corners of rooms, as this tends to reduce the likelihood of a booming effect that will be picked up by the mic and colour the signal. If you’re dealing with amp cabs and heads they’re usually too big to place on top of something, though you could consider a couple of crates, like you sometimes use at gigs to raise amps up to direct more sound at the crowd. If the space you are recording in isn’t perfect you can try boxing the amp and mic in using sofa cushions or, at a pinch, a duvet. This will have the effect of creating a kind of acoustic shielding that should remove unwanted room ambience from the recording if you are having problems with reflections.



LESS IS SOMETIMES MORE Drums are probably the most technically difficult of all instruments to record properly, but your approach should reflect what you’re trying to achieve. A slick pop record might well call for upwards of ten drum mics, lots of ambient room mics and so on, but a more lo-fi kind of garage guitar track might sound better with just a few well-placed microphones picking up a grungier sound. This also means fewer drum


Getting your amp off the floor will eliminate unwanted dirt (above).

ACOUSTIC GUITAR POSITIONING A good starting place for recording acoustic guitars is to use a cardioid mic placed around 40cm from the guitar, firing at the join of the neck and body. This usually offers a good, well-balanced sound, and though it captures some of the power coming from the sound hole it doesn’t dominate the signal. With any live recording, experiment with moving the mic around to see what works best for your particular situation. As a general rule, moving the mic gradually further up the neck will increase the high frequencies captured and lessen the bottom end, whereas moving the mic closer to the sound hole will add warmth and depth if your sound is overly bright. Moving the mic further away from the guitar will create more ambience but perhaps at the risk of losing some definition. Placing the mic closer to the guitar will create a more intimate and dry sound.


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More mics for a cleaner sound, or fewer for a trashier one (right).



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Instrument mic’ing 20 Pro Tips MTF

tracks to juggle in the mix, though also less overall control of the drum sound. Bleed is something that some producers get obsessed with and it can be lessened by using very directional mics, though you’re always likely to get some signal leaking between them. Bleed can be minimised through careful placement and also reduced using EQ after recording, but it’s usually not a huge problem if a little signal has bled between some of your drum mics.


PIANO, MAN… Recording an acoustic piano can be particularly tricky and you will almost always want two microphones to capture the full range of the instrument: one nearer the bass end of the body, and one nearer the top. For an upright piano you will probably need to open the top lid, but if you remove the front panel entirely you should be aware that this dramatically alters the way the air resonates and fundamentally changes the sound of the piano – even though this can sometimes be an interesting effect to go for. You may want to angle two mics in from above, or place one near the ear level of the player so the sound they’re hearing is what gets captured. Some people even place a mic around the back of the piano for a slightly different effect.


ATTACHED 05 STRINGS When you record any kind of stringed instrument such as a violin or cello, think about where the sound is actually being generated. In the case of smaller instruments such as the violin, the strings and sound holes are facing upwards, so it’s best to angle a mic from slightly above, adjusting the distance from the player to control the balance of direct sound and room ambience. A cello is played at a different angle so you will find that pointing the mic more or less at 90° towards the bridge should capture it pretty accurately. As ever, close mic’ing will give a more intense and intimate feel, and moving back a little will soften things. You can even try recording strings with stereo mics for a little more flexibility at the mix stage. To get a better ensemble effect when recording several players, try a few mics placed in more ambient positions a little further away.


Mic positioning can be crucial when recording guitar amplifiers (above). Recording from a little further away captures a similar sound to that which the listener hears (below left). Use multiple microphones for more options (below right).

presence and so on. Mics positioned closer to the floor will generally provide a bit more low end. Close mic’ing an amp is the most common technique for capturing a harder, rockier guitar tone when the mic points straight at the speaker. Moved off centre, the tone softens a little. You can also try adding a second ambient mic that you blend with the first, moving each around until you hit the precise spot that works for you. Any phasing problems should become apparent as you monitor. HOW LOW CAN YOU GO? Recording bass is much the same in terms of technique as recording guitars, with the possible exception that you would never really record bass amps in stereo because bass almost always has to sit at the centre of the stereo field. Another thing to bear in mind is that a lot of general purpose mics have a bass roll-off built in to deal with the proximity effect caused by close mic’ing vocals and some other sources. This can result in reduced bass capture, which you don’t want if you’re trying to get a nice deep sound. If it’s switchable you can always turn this off but it can be a good idea to use either a non-vocal dynamic mic that has a flat low-end response or a dedicated bass or kick drum microphone, positioning it around 6-12in in front of the speaker in the cabinet.


USE MICS AND PICKUPS If you want a close mic’ed acoustic guitar sound but also some room ambience you could either try an omni pattern mic, or using two separate mics, one placed close by and one further away (being sure to listen for phasing problems). Mono mic’ing is often sufficient for many tracks, but it’s not the only option you have. Positioning a single mic correctly is



IT’S ALL IN THE POSITIONING A mic pointed at the centre of a speaker will give you a brighter sound, and moving towards the edge smooths it off and introduces more bass. Distance will affect the


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MTF 20 Pro Tips Instrument mic’ing

fine, but having two mics in different places sometimes gives you greater flexibility when it comes to mixing. The DI’ed sound produced by piezo pickups captures only the sound of the strings, very little of the body and none of the room, and so tends to result in an unnatural-sounding recording. But recording it won’t affect the mic’d signal and it costs nothing to record an extra audio track. In some situations, blending a little of this signal with the mic recording can add weight and body when balanced correctly. At the very worst, you can just not use it if it doesn’t sound good.


THE CHALLENGES OF PLAYING TOGETHER If you are recording multiple musicians in a single space, bleed can become a real issue. A bit of hi-hat leaking into the tom mic isn’t a huge problem but lead guitar getting into the bass recording definitely is. And while you can fix some of this stuff in the mix with EQ and gating it’s better to try and stop it happening in the first place. Sometimes, recording everyone separately really kills the vibe of a track, so it’s better to record people at the same time if you can. Your drummer should ideally have some kind of isolation from other players since drums are so loud. One tip for guitars is to place amps in a different room, mic them up and then feed the signal to the player through headphones. This way the sound gets captured accurately and the guitarist can play with feeling, but there’s little or no bleed in the room itself.


stereo effects in use that are modulating the way that signal is directed to different cones. If you are able, set up several mics 3-6in from the grille of the speaker. Then, listen to them at a sensible volume and audition each one. Ideally you would want to have someone to move the mics for you until you find the best position for the microphone you end up choosing. If you don’t have an assistant then put the guitar in the headphone mix, crank it up, stand in front of the amp and move the mics until you get the right sound. This is all much easier, of course, if you have someone to play guitar while you arrange the mics. CLASSIC MICS The classic mic for recording electric guitar is the Shure SM57, an inexpensive microphone and a staple of many studios. They are often used in combination with a second mic and the two channels either recorded to a single track or double tracked and layered together later. Other popular microphones include the Sennheiser MD 421-II, t.bone RB 500, Royer R-121 and Neumann U 67, and of course each has its own characteristics.


Using acoustic isolation like sE’s SPACE can help you get the most out of your mic and the space you’re working in.


QUIRKS OF AMPS AND SPEAKERS 10 THE On a multi-speaker guitar cab not every cone will sound the same. Some are different sizes, or there may be some

A well-chosen all-round condenser mic can fulfil a wide variety of studio roles


KEEP IT SIMPLE People obsess about microphones sometimes, but the truth is that a well-chosen all-round condenser mic can fulfill a wide variety of studio roles from vocals and electric guitar recording through to percussion and acoustic guitar. Combine it with some acoustic treatment like an isolator and some clever positioning and you’re able to achieve a lot with a fairly simple mic.


IT’S JUST A PHASE Check stereo mics for phase cancellation by panning them to the same spot and listening in mono. Retaining each mic’s recordings on separate tracks will enable you to wait until the mix stage to balance them properly. Another interesting idea is to mic the front and back of an openbacked cabinet. If you do, be sure to start by placing the mics at an equal distance from the speaker itself and reversing the phase of the rear mic.


When an amp has more than one cone, remember that its sound may vary between cones (above).

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PERCUSSION TRICKS When recording percussion such as bongos or a djembe you will get very different results depending on your mic placement. A mic firing at the top of the skin will capture the



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Instrument mic’ing 20 Pro Tips MTF

harder, more percussive slapping motion of the hand. A mic pointed up inside the drum body from underneath will capture the booming from inside the drum. Some people use both mic positions at the same time and then balance the two in the mix for a really percussive but meaty overall sound. WORK THE ANGLES One common guitar amp mic’ing technique is to point one mic at the centre of the speaker and angle another across the face of the first mic towards the speaker edge. Bring the mics up on the desk and route them both to one track on tape or in your DAW. Flip one out of phase and balance the two channels until the sound is really thin, then flip the phase back and you should have a nice thick sound.


THE LID 16 LIFT Simply raising or lowering the lid of a grand piano can dramatically alter the way sound is picked up, as can moving a microphone closer to the strings or further away. With a

Get a more consistent sound with certain instruments by using clip-on mics (right). Taking a dry feed from an amp’s direct out gives you more options when mixing guitars (below left). Get creative with dynamic mics (below right).

A mic pointed up inside the drum body will capture the booming from inside lower lid you’ll get a more intimate sound, and with the lid raised, a bigger effect and more room ambience. Since grand pianos have huge soundboards you will almost always need to place one mic near the lower strings and one higher up to ensure you capture all the signal properly.


CLIP-ON MICS Some instruments are particularly hard to capture with a conventional mic: flutes and some other brass, such as trumpets and saxophones, where the players move around. There are categories of clip-on mic and they remain fixed to the instrument rather than the performer having to play into a static mic. For serious studio recording you’ll want to spend a bit of your budget on one of these, but it will be worth it.


USE STEREO… CAREFULLY If two acoustic guitar mics are different distances away from the guitar you can encounter phasing problems, so many producers make sure they are equidistant to avoid the problem. If you want one to be further away for a specific kind of sound you can phase align the two parts in your sequencer afterwards. If you want to get really creative you could try placing one mic about 30cm from the neck and another firing over the player’s shoulder, which can produce a sound much more like what guitarists hear while playing.


ONE DIRECTION Directionality can be crucial. An omnidirectional mic will generally offer a more roomy sound, but a directional mic should reject sound from the back and sides and just record what you point it at. Some mics have switchable polar patterns and others are just directional. Dynamic mics such as the SM57 are often used to record amplified instruments thanks to their directionality and high SPL tolerance. MTF


20 17

DON’T BE AFRAID TO DI When recording anything through an amp it can be a good idea to take a feed from the direct output of the amp, if it has one, to record on a separate track and then blend in with the mic’d takes. This is worth trying if your guitar amp is smaller, as the DI will give you all the bottom end whereas the speaker might offer more character. Record both at the same time and balance them afterwards, remembering that you may need to reverse the phase of one of the sources.


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MTF Technique A track from scratch part 3: Riffs, fills & fx

Technique A track from scratch: Part 3

Dubstep riffs, fills & fx Rome wasn’t built in a day, and good craft takes time and patience. Liam O’Mullane and Christopher Pearson share more tips on creative exploration and the important decision making required when shaping initial ideas into full song sections.


ur first two instalments have taken you through being mindful of various production techniques and creative possibilities when carving your own sound in the dirty dubstep business. If you’ve been with us so far you should have a balancedsounding song section for both drums and bass. Our next process is to develop these ideas and extend their playable duration. We’ll then look at exploring other foreground and background melodic information to take the song elsewhere and aid arrangement while musically guiding the listener. We’ll continue to develop our sound as we move further towards the final stage of mixing but remember that things can change; so whether it’s an instrument sound, or an over-laboured pattern you’ve programmed, don’t be afraid to throw away bad ideas if they simply don’t do justice to the

There are many approaches you can take when it comes to expanding ideas BLURRED LINES

Much like the sample-based melting pot that was jungle in the 1990s, dubstep is also a musical genre that constantly borrows the vibes of other, often classic, genres. This can help create a distinct musical element for the listener to latch onto, and it is open territory that’s well worth exploring. The influences of trance and hardstyle are very popular right now, encouraging heavy use of synth arps, dense musical-sounding pads, hard distorted lead synths and triplet rhythms. Skrillex has used obvious dub reggae influences in tracks such as Make It Bun Dem and Ragga Bomb, Zomboy’s Survivors shows influence of techno and metal, and it’s impossible to avoid the scourge of trance and chip-tune influenced tracks in any mainstream charts these days. But this all goes to show that experimentation can not only work for a song, it can also be the seed to start the next new sub-genre. The only thing tying these elements together is the unified focus on a heavy bass drop and a snare on the third beat – aside from this you’re free to explore new musical hybrids as you like. If you’re not sure on where to take this, open up your preferred music resource and have a listening session on a particular genre. This could be a genre already proving successful in musical charts around the globe or a nod back to older times – whatever it is, you can find inspiration by listening. Electro swing is a great example of fusing new and old, so don’t be afraid to dig out music that hasn’t glimpsed the mainstream for a long time. Then look at emulating the style of sounds available, or just the compositional style and feel, replacing older sounds with a new-age, synthetic equivalent.

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On the disc Accompanying example audio files included on the DVD

work you’ve done already. For example, our bass idea might be completely re-worked by the final part in this series, so be prepared to take your time and be open to a change in direction if you create something that raises the game of your song. If a new idea works, just go with it and do what you must to get all other elements up to this new standard. But if some sounds are good but not right for the track, be efficient with your efforts and save them out as presets to use another time or bounce them as audio to store as samples. If you’ve done this several times already you’ll be piling up your own arsenal of sounds to cherry-pick the next time around. Great for when you need quick inspiration. Whereas parts one and two of this series have focused more on the technicalities of music production, it’s possible and sometimes favourable to revisit simpler and often overlooked techniques. There’s a lot of creative potential in working with sounds at their most fundamental level, i.e. their notes, and using endless effects chains will degrade the quality of your sound source. So take note of the simpler things in life where possible and put to use our tips on musicality and further editing your initial ideas.

Open your mind There are many approaches to take when it comes to extending your initial ideas. When exploring variation, some techniques can quickly become quite complex and place a fair amount of strain on your computer if you’re piling on effects or using various sound sources, so we’ll start with the least CPU-hungry options. Feel free to start wherever the track takes you, but we’ll focus on drum patterns first. Aside from adding the usual eight- or 16-bar fills to break up each phrase of your bassline, it can be good practice to edit the groove of your drums in a repeat of your initial pattern to alter the feel of the drum and bass combination already established. This technique works well when the bass plays a second repeat of itself, as the drum changes can be enough to keep the listener engaged. In our example track we changed the position of the kick drum for our second section to hit in unison with the bass instead of a beat later as before, thereby altering the groove to emphasise the bass. This type of editing instantly changes much more than just the kick


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A track from scratch part 3: Riffs, fills & fx Technique MTF

placement – it has the power to change the groove of the whole track when done with care and is a very simple edit to implement. Similarly, try to change the position of bass notes around the drums to get a feel for how they can play off of each other and create new rhythms or to extend the section in focus. When it comes to bass parts, if you’re keeping your instruments live, or even programming a sampler from sounds you’ve committed to audio already, there’ll be a handful of new sweet spots to discover through the exploration of pitch and parameter manipulation. As well as trying to vary the notes of an existing riff for musical change as it progresses, explore the extremes of high or low octave notes to dramatically change an instrument’s timbre. A bass will often break-up below a certain pitch and this effect can be used as an occasional accenting tool as it has a differing power when compared to the instrument playing in its strongest area of pitch. Higher pitched notes can be a good way to add a dynamic too, as the instrument that is usually more bass orientated can suddenly gain a lot of midrange information and a dramatic shift in character.


From intense, driving bass drops to the slightest of ambient sections, music needs dynamics. Take time to think about these contrasts and how they can complement each other. Our example track sports a main lead sound that is very simple in its creation – just saw waves in a synth that have been detuned and distorted with soft saturation and embellished with reverb. After the reverb, compression really helped to give a sense of size to the patch by emphasising and swelling over time. This technique is best used when melodic content isn’t overly complex, as it allows time for the reverb to be heard. In addition to large leads you might want to consider backing and overlaying them with delicate arpeggiated synths and other lighter, more ambient sounds. A simple way to create strings is to use a monophonic synthesizer with a relatively simple sine, triangle or saw wave pitched up high to emulate a bow stroking a string. Add a little movement from a modulation wheel or slow LFO for vibrato to add more depth to the final result. Next, adding a long-tailed reverb as an insert or send with around 75-80% wet on the mix can give a quite realistic single-string sound. Multiplying this patch and creating chords across tracks can lead to you creating your very own, rather convincing, string ensembles, especially if you use panning and/or mid/side processing to place each string in its own space.

Chopping and changing Though cutting, moving, inserting and reversing are all techniques you’re probably familiar with when working on audio files, look to approach your MIDI patterns in much the same way. Dance music as a whole is based around sounds being looped and stuttered in a variety of ways, and this should therefore be how you see your MIDI patterns. MIDI clips can be edited to small quantized-sized lengths, so try slicing them up and re-ordering them as you would an audio

Musicality plays a big role in even the most seemingly unmusical dubstep tracks file. Repeat some of these smaller parts for a looped effect, or try moving a small number of notes from part of your existing idea to paste into a different location within a new clip, i.e. start the pattern from beat three rather than beat one. From here, write new parts around them so there’s a mix of new and already established material for the listener to latch onto. Again, this seemingly simple technique can help your elements progress through a track without getting too complex from the production side of things. Remember: MIDI should not be overlooked in favour of effects chains. This editing technique can be applied to automation as well and works particularly well when altering the placement of rhythmic data. It’s pretty much like playing around with the triggering and speed of an LFO or envelope on a synth – copy a highlighted portion of data from here to there, change its shape, extend its duration (if your DAW supports this) and so on. Copying automation from other areas of your song can also be handy for recreating certain sweet spots between parameters to then edit and move on from. For example, you might have two or three distinct timbres that you’ve created

Although we only used two layers to create our choral pad sound we managed to create a sense of depth and movement by picking the right sounds that would modulate each other through phase when detuned.

through automation for one instrument, and you can copy the automation from these sections to new ideas so you’re starting from the same tone. Don’t forget that too many automation lanes can be a real headache to deal with, so we always advise the use of macros to group particular parameters together and make them much easier to manage effectively. Re-edits can apply to the instruments themselves as well, and we often take an existing instrument, duplicate it to a new track and then edit it to take it to another timbre. This can help create a new layer to embellish what’s already there, or even help you find a completely new instrument that might complement the first when not over-layered. Keeping all automation intact helps to gel new layers together, and from there subtle automation edits can start to give even more movement between layers. Just be careful, as this can soon result in tens of instruments with processing chains being active at the same time, which will put a lot of load on your computer.

The knowledge Musicality plays a big role in even the most seemingly unmusical-sounding dubstep tracks. Although some songs will go for a heavy musical section that stands apart from the bass drop there’s also room for some musicality to aid the bass section no matter how ugly it may appear to be on the surface. Even when a track appears to be made of purely horrible sounds and noises, they need to have some musical relationship to each other or they just won’t gel. Drums can be pitched musically, and riser sounds and other effects can carry forms of musical pitch to help the listener get a sense of key without even realising. Even seemingly disassociated FOCUS Ableton Live 2015

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MTF Technique A track from scratch part 3: Riffs, fills & fx


Vocals are a common feature in dubstep tracks these days, and fall into two main camps: fully performed vocals and lyrics, which are generally left to be heard in the state the performer intended; or heavily manipulated vocal parts that sound nothing like the original recordings. The latter approach requires quite a lot of trial and error but the fruits of your labour can result in a critical hook line for your track, so it’s often time well spent. You can search for vocal samples from a variety of sample packs to begin these techniques, but we prefer to get the mic out and do a continuous recording session while we explore different vocal ideas to use. These can be anything from spoken word ideas, singing, or general weird noises which on their own won’t sound like much to work with. The key element here is to try and get as much timbrel range out of your vocals as possible, as this will give you more to work with. Also explore the duration of your sounds so you have a few variations to work with. Once your audio is ready to use, first explore pitch transposition to see if the vocal recordings slot better into your current production aesthetic when pitched up or down. If you have the option to also play with the formants of your sound through your available transposing tools, this can yield large timbrel shifts and get you into the ‘alien voice’ territory as well. This is quite handy when we need to remove the embarrassment factor of hearing our own voices! We like to add mix processing here too, especially if these vocals are home grown. So we’ll add compression, EQ and some master buss-like processing as well, and this will then be rendered down to audio. The idea is to make this vocal sound like we’ve sampled it from elsewhere so that it has that richness of sound from the outset to work with. Next it’s time to chop the audio up, and this can be done on an audio track or after slicing it into a MIDI sampler if preferred. The main requirement is that you can sequence individual slices and then move the start point of each slice’s content. We want to sequence an interesting rhythm first, then move the content of each event to find the best place for each vocal sound to start – with audio tracks this is called slip-editing, and just moving the start marker for each slice in a sampler creates the same effect. Also make good use of pitch and direction, as vowels can take on a completely different tone when reversed. When you have an interesting pattern going, explore pitch alongside the start point of each sound. You want something that’s musically interesting here, so you might want to edit pitch to create a melody line of sorts. Remember that less can be more, so don’t just fill up each bar in your pattern with a constant barrage of vocal edits – leave space for other sounds to come through the mix. Once you’ve established an idea that seems to work in your track it’s time to add more texture, and we do this through further effects processing. You can punch in certain effects to be sequenced as part of your pattern using automation, so for instance, a ring-mod only turns on for one slice of your overall vocal pattern, etc. The more creative you can be here, the better. Use dry/wet controls to balance out your processing if you want to retain some of the original vocal character for an overall consistency in timbre between samples, but the type of effects you choose is completely fair game.

When it comes to vocal manipulation, it’s not often that we’ll stumble across a good pattern and idea straight away. Like all aspects of heavy sound-design, follow this process until you have something of interest – edit, process, bounce, and repeat as necessary.

bass sounds should have a harmonic relationship with each other, as our ears need this to make sense of it. This is why some tracks, although well produced on the surface, still don’t seem to sound completely in the pocket – a common occurrence in electronic genres, and something to keep an ear out for. You don’t need to understand music theory to pitch your sounds in the right place, though, just explore the potential pitch of each sound (trial octaves too) and then decide which sounds best. Musicality is also an important aspect of the mix process; after all, musical notes are divided by frequency, so choosing the right pitch will mean you’re letting the mix take care of itself to a certain extent. Don’t introduce sounds that need major mix correction, and be wary of building up frequency conflicts in the mix – key is key here!

Anything goes There’s no set rule when it comes to adding musical layers to accompany your bass, and we’ve kept things pretty sparse in our example track – we have a prominent lead synth of a few chords tied together. To

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When extending your bass ideas it’s easy to assume this needs to be done with editing alone, but there’s no reason why you can’t continue to make use of your instrument’s sweet-spots through a controller to jam out new ideas for where your sounds can go.

keep the timing interesting we’ve used a less-thanpredictable point for chord changes. We highlight this by changing the drums’ groove in some sections to match. We’ve also used heavy sidechain compression from the drums, so although they are long and sustained they actually only play at full volume for a very brief moment in time. This makes the drums, bass parts and melodic content all interact with each other for a sense of sonic and musical dynamics. The chords you hear on the intro are actually the initial ideas we developed, but it made more sense to keep them sparser in the main drop to simplify and create space, so we confined the busier content to the intro and breakdowns to help fill things out. We’ve also added an arpeggiated synth part over our lead, which again began its life as a continuous sequence while we figured out the best notes to use. Then, later in the arrangement, we stripped it back to play less frequently, giving it more impact when it does play. Its notes help to highlight the lead further whilst also creeping into the upper register of the mix. Musical elements can have just as much interaction with your drums as bass parts do, so be mindful of

There are no set rules when it comes to adding musical layers to accompany your bass where you place each new sound. Groove is an easy thing to lose if you don’t stay focussed and keep that bin handy for dropping ideas if they don’t aid the track. Experimentation is key to finding complementary parts that help inspire progression.

Come together On listening to our track’s basses, lead and arp as a whole sequence you’ll notice that all of the separate elements work together to create a single, cohesive musical phrase. The idea here is that you should be able to hum along to your track through most of its


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A track from scratch part 3: Riffs, fills & fx Technique MTF

sections, no matter what style of sounds you’ve used. It’s important to note that without this ‘hum’ approach you might find an audience to be disengaged. It seems people need some form of musicality to connect with, but this doesn’t mean it needs to be directly obvious. For instance, employing simple techniques such as tuning the drums and finding musical content through your choice of FX can help to really solidify a track into a particular key. Even though these methods may be subtle, do still aim to create a full musical phrase with them by using different sounds and sections. This makes a big difference to whether or not listeners find a track engaging.

MTF Step-by-Step Three steps to better instrumentation

Time to face the change In dubstep it’s common to make fundamental changes to sections after 16, 32 or 64 bars. A good place to start replicating this type of arrangement can come from copying an earlier section and making edits, such as cutting all musical elements to let the bass lead the track for a while. You can also go for an A/B format that moves between one main bass idea and another while editing each repeat to give them unique variation. Our example is quite progressive in terms of the song sections we have so far, but this could change. We have an intro section, breakdown, main drop, second edit and a middle-eight section to change the feel of the track and introduce a new focal element. To create the latter we studied the musical notes used throughout our intro and main sections, then copied the drums over to a new section. Here we added a new main arpeggiated synth in the same key but altered the melody to fill the frequency range and kept our bass elements minimal. This new section is used as a prelude to the breakdown, delivering a softer entrance to the upcoming ambience. Sections like this can often be used by DJs to mix out of tracks – another thing to keep in mind, and something we’ll cover more in depth when looking at finalising our arrangement. Alongside the new melody line we recorded and mangled some vocals to add a new texture to the track. This took quite a while due to experimenting with a mass of editing techniques, but we ended up with an interesting-sounding alien vocal part. All of this experimental play gave us a slightly percussive vocal element that we could carry through to the breakdown. In fact, we might later develop this by overlaying percussion to highlight this section further.

Try not to get too distracted with the idea of having a vast range of instruments to work with. We prefer to get stuck into a few instruments at parameter level and explore automation editing in much the same way as we work with MIDI. Copy, paste, insert, stretch and edit automation and you’ll be surprised by how much range is available from each instrument.


It’s easy to get stuck in a jam with automation when trying to create a lot of different tones from a handful of synths. If you can, try to map parameters to macros or snapshots so it’s easier to automate them.


Destination anywhere… We’ve covered drums, bass and musicality through parts one to three, and you should now have at least a rough idea of where your track is heading or even what it will sound like on completion. There’s still much to do before we reach the finishing post, though, and part four of our dirty dubstep series (over the page) will look at the arrangement, bridging song sections with effects, build-ups, and breakdowns, and adding any other sounds required to aid the arrangement. Then we’ll finally look at mixing and pre-mastering (p96). MTF

Different DAWs offer different levels of MIDI editing functionality, which can be used to manipulate your existing ideas for variation. Cubase (pictured here) has some of the most comprehensive tools for this task, but most DAWs will offer features such as reverse, flip and the ability to re-scale the duration of a highlighted number of notes.


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MTF Technique A track from scratch part 4: Arrangements

Technique A track from scratch: Part 4

Dubstep arrangements Ready to lay it all out? Liam O’Mullane and Christopher Pearson guide you through the twists and turns of a successful dubstep arrangement and get you one step closer to your final product…


f you’ve followed us from part one you’ll be aware that there are many ways to start a track from scratch. You might start with a musical idea that inspires a song or maybe a bass hook that’s just begging to be written around. Regardless of how you go about the task of composition it’s a rarity to write in the order that the song plays, i.e. from intro to ending. It’s more likely that you’ll write from the meat outwards, as this is where most ideas happen. The surrounding sections are then designed around it to guide the listener on their journey. Bearing this in mind, this penultimate part in our dirty dubstep series will focus on taking our meat and turning it into a full, delicious meal. Although it’s rare to carry out arrangement work in the running order a track is built, for clarity’s sake we’ll talk you through each section in a linear fashion, from the first bar to the last.

On the disc Accompanying example audio files included on the DVD

It’s a rarity to compose all the parts in the order that the song plays The ‘stock’ format Although there are distinct sonic and rhythmic differences between this sub-genre of dubstep and other forms of club-friendly dance music, song arrangements are becoming more and more universal these days. This unified


Once a track has a fuller form you can step back and listen to it as a whole before making decisions on what might need to be nipped and tucked for further improvement. Transitions between song sections are one of these decisions and they need to be smooth and unobtrusive. To achieve this you can play with a few techniques such as using a slowly creeping, sweeping sound to cover the transition, or removing some complex content so there’s a sense of breath in the song’s density. These can both be used, though; for instance, you could simplify drum editing a bar or two before the end of a section, and where a drummer may play a fill, instead introduce the sweeping sound before the next section begins. This will create suspense by stripping down the track’s drive for a moment to have another sound sweep through before a new section starts. Another approach is similar to how you can borrow parts of a main drop to tease in an intro, but instead you’re borrowing parts from the section to come. This is especially useful to help smooth a drastic change that’s about to happen by preparing the listener to some degree.

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approach is down to how DJs have increasingly become centre stage in the industry over the last 30 years. Because DJs tend to play mix-friendly tracks and shun the trickier side of dance music, over time this has forced producers into more simplistic arrangements to be sure their music is playable. Classically termed a ‘club’ or ‘DJ friendly’ mix, this format is traditionally six or more minutes in duration and extends the ideas from a shorter three-minute ‘radio friendly’ version. Though the format for a club mix hasn’t changed that much the duration has, especially with dubstep. Many dirty dubstep tracks these days only last around four-and-a-half minutes, which inevitably means they cut to the chase quicker. This shorter duration also means that the songs are more radio friendly, but with this comes the need to have strong ideas that will catch the listener’s attention from the very outset. So whereas the traditional club mix might have a long, drawn-out introduction that enables the DJ to mix the track in for a while before anything major happens, now it needs to get to the point pretty quickly. A typical arrangement format goes like this: intro, drop, alternative drop, breakdown, drop, alternative drop, outro. This isn’t a strict rule as there may be a breakdown before the drop, multiple breakdowns or none later on, and so on, but you should get the idea of the order in which each section is introduced. Although the second repeat of the drop may not be strictly identical to the first time it’s played, a simple duplication of the parts when laying your arrangement out is a good start, but we’ll get to that later on. First let’s break down the format above and separate each part into their respective functions.

In the beginning

(Above) Here we’ve borrowed parts from the breakdown section and teased them in beforehand through simplifying their content and fading them in to smooth over the transition.

Intros are obviously a precursor of what’s to come later in the track. You’d usually expect an inclusion of some light rhythm work provided by perhaps some sparse hi-hats or a catchy percussion phrase. The DJ uses this section as a metronome for mixing and also helps the audience stay in sync with the track should it be played from the beginning – rewind! Introductions usually include some unique sonic elements, but leading sounds tend to be borrowed from, or musically associated with, a main drop’s hook. There is a reason for this over an apparent laziness – a focal or memorable motif from the main drop in some form can help an audience identify the upcoming


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A track from scratch part 4: Arrangements Technique MTF

track during a DJ mix (providing they’ve heard the track before, of course). This creates a sense of excitement and anticipation for the listener. This most commonly surfaces through a form of effect variation, such as filtering, to tease in what’s to come. Musically associated ideas can be anything from leads and SFX to strong rhythmic motifs. These work as a less obvious way to guide the listener to the drop but they do need to have a melodic or rhythmic association with the main drop. Bearing this in mind, it’s good practice to create these sounds over the drop at first to build them in context, then move them to earlier in the song over the intro to create a sense of build or lead-in.

MTF Step-by-Step Reverse engineering an intro

Dropping science The drop is the part of a song that people recall when they think of a track. It’s where all the energy lies and what all the excitement is about. In dubstep, the intricacy, bass melody and full body of other musical elements live here, the rest of the song is almost superfluous to a dancefloor – it’s all about guiding the listener to this point in your song and then guiding them to the second iteration, making sure they appreciate the second drop by arrangement dynamics. This section has probably been the core focus of your composition from the outset for this very reason and it makes or breaks a track, so we have little to discuss here for the elements you might choose to include. However, if you wish to go for a common 32-bar section, variation is something to focus on to sustain interest over time. In part three of this series (p88) we discussed how you can choose to unite or offset sounds such as your bass and drum parts while programming a drop to add variation, but finding

The drop is the part of the song that people recall – it’s where all the energy lies some other occasional sounds outside of those for accenting can be a good trick for variation too, as it introduces new timbres. The drop and alt-drop in our example track consist of the same 32-bar bass sequence, doubled, but we’ve inserted new sounds in the alt-drop half and edited it to change the rhythm as well. The alternative drop in our example isn’t as drastic a switch as some songs have. For instance, the drop may consist of two main bass ideas that interact and play off each other. This technique is referred to as ‘Q&A’ and is how our bassline has worked when adding the second element in our alt-drop. For further development, another element can be added, bringing a third party to the conversation, which can be joined by another, and another, and so on. Just try to use a few core elements to lead the musical phrase throughout for continuity and musicality for the listener to latch on to.

Start breaking down Regardless of where breakdowns live in your arrangement their purpose is to both let a listener take a break and

The intro is at its fullest before a drop or breakdown, so start here and work your way backwards while chopping content away. Intro content should always create a slightly lower energy level than the drop, so bass is usually removed and drum tracks have less content.


Paste a new copy of all content before this section and then mute parts to audition what can be either removed entirely, partially edited down to be more sparse, or teased through the use of filtering, volume or other audio effects processing that can mask a sound.


Another trick to introduce a musical section is to create a looping-like effect where you duplicate a short first section of the phrase for a section before it plays in its entirety. This works especially well when used in conjunction with filtering for a DJ-like effect.



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MTF Technique A track from scratch part 4: Arrangements

MTF Step-by-Step Creating a second drop

When it comes to your second drop, explore being bold – a memorable first and second drop will make your track more desirable and likely to be played for longer in a DJ set. Switching the accenting on your drum groove to a 4/4 style can lift the drive of your track, and although key changing is often associated with cheesy boy bands, when done well it’s a powerful tool to keep building up energy levels throughout your song.


From chopped vocal ditties to foley sounds or synthetic effects, additional interests that surround the main elements in a track can really help to let a record shine. These elements can help establish new song sections by introducing a new sound that hasn’t been present in a song up until that point. Alternatively, a stripped-down song section can benefit from flutters of sonic interest to give them life and a little ear candy. These smaller details can go a long way and are a great excuse to get creative in or out of the lab. If you have a portable recorder, phone, or any device capable of audio capture, leave the studio space in the search for sounds. If you like to write songs with a theme, think about what sounds that theme might entail. Trying to recreate and record them is a very creative process and gives you an excuse to escape the mouse and keyboard for a while if you’re computer-bound with your music. Alternatively, if you love your mouse and keyboard, explore combining different layers of samples from your arsenal of instruments, effects processing and any other audio mangling techniques you may not normally go for. From this you can stumble across happy accidents that can then be re-sampled, edited and generally taken further through experimentation to achieve unique sounds to augment your song.



Though they’re not at the forefront of your track, decorative sounds should be given close attention, as this is where you can work on another level for unique timbre and textures.

To truly understand arrangements we recommend you grab a small selection of your favourite dubstep tracks and start slicing them up into sections. This will help you identify how many sections there are and how much is repeated.


heighten the impact of the drop that’s to come by lowering the energy level from the section that’s come immediately before. In this genre the main sections tend to lead into a single breakdown, or into a pre-breakdown where the aggressive midrange of the bass dissipates in favour of a melody or other inoffensive elements. For instance, the pre-breakdown in our example track replaces the main bass parts with a floating synth line and new vocal edit. This introduces some breathing space into the

DJs rarely allow a second drop to be heard before they’ve mixed into another song track before it slowly filters out to an ambient breakdown prior to the second drop. As the drums are now mostly absent it gives us the room to explore expressive musicality, which we’ve achieved through the use of ambient pads and delicate tones.

Rinse and repeat

When you’re considering where to add or remove layers of information in your track to enhance arrangement dynamics, remember where the peaks and troughs need to be to guide the listener.


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When it comes to other repeated sections like the second drop and alt-drop, there are two schools of thought on how this should be approached. The first is to simply copy the earlier sections and just repeat them; after all, most DJs these days rarely allow a second drop to be heard before they’ve mixed into


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A track from scratch part 4: Arrangements Technique MTF

another song. But if you want your tracks to have a bit more musical merit and also increase the chance of a full play in a club, make a significant change to this second drop to distinguish it from the first and further increase the track’s energy levels. A simple yet effective way to raise energy levels is to alter a sonic or rhythmic aspect of the drums. Adding a thin-sounding ride or crash cymbal layer to play on the beat is a common yet still effective practice in the genre. If done right, fundamental reprogramming of the drum pattern and bass parts from the first drop can create a drastic switch for this second drop. If you’re feeling brave, don’t believe that this section has to simply be a repeat of the first drop at all. So, though it’s not commonplace by any standards, a strong, independent second drop, complementing the song as a whole, has the ability to make your music stand out and be more than the flavour of the week in a DJ’s crate.

The ultimate goal The outro is quite open-ended in terms of its execution, and if you’re here you’ve already experienced the ups and downs of production along the way. Outros are usually the last piece of the puzzle and can be relatively straightforward. By simply copying a short portion from an intro or breakdown with no elements of crescendo you can

MTF Step-by-Step Creating risers and descenders

At its most fundamental level, a synthetic rising or descending sound can be used to help get to or from one song section to the next. Any synth with a fundamental waveform can be used like a saw wave for clarity. Then draw in a held note over 4, 8, 16 bars, etc, and automate MIDI pitchbend from zero to its highest value. Make sure the pitch-wheel is set to a musical interval such as one or two octaves.


An outro can be another opportunity to explore artistic flair in your track achieve a passable ending to your song. This is short, sweet, and a quick exit. Alternatively, a more traditional approach is to remove track elements one by one to filter out density over time. Much like our advice to be bold when creating a second drop, an outro can be another opportunity to explore even more artistic flair – there aren’t any set rules here, so musical freedom is entirely yours.

For an increase in intensity add an LFO to amplitude and automate its depth of modulation so the volume fluctuates faster when the pitch is at its highest value. This could also be an LFO controlling pitch for a wobbly tone, or any other parameter to help amplify the effect of this sound in the mix.


The end is nigh Before we move on to our fifth and final instalment in this series, it’s time to recap where we’ve been and what we expect you to have achieved before it’s time to mix and pre-master our dirty dubstep track. We’ve worked on bass, drums and groove production while sharing various methods to expand ideas and craft a final arrangement. This has been a lot of work so far and we encourage you to follow us through to the end. By this, we mean even if your ideas aren’t chart topping at this stage, the value of seeing this song through to the end outweighs waiting until you have a perfect song to mix. Yes, it may not get you signed, it mightn’t even give you a track to play out for yourself, but it will teach you the hardest part of the music making game – completing your work! We’ll see you next time for the mixing treatment… MTF

As well as parameter exploration, try effects as well. An effect that generates stereo width such as chorus can have its dry/wet control automated so a sound goes from mono to stereo as it grows in intensity. Or perhaps increase saturation on a distortion unit while keeping the output level controlled so there’s an increase in frequency content over time.



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MTF Technique A track from scratch part 5: The perfect mix

Technique A track from scratch: Part 5

The perfect mix In the final part of this epic series Liam O’Mullane and Christopher Pearson guide you through the hardest part of music production: finalising your mix and finishing off your track…


ell, it’s been a long road but we’re finally at the last stage of our dirty dubstep track, and we hope you are too. Even if you feel that the track you’ve created isn’t that great, stick with us and sit through the entire process from start to finish. It’s important to drum in all of these skills and not get too caught up on one part of the process in particular, as every track you complete is a worthwhile lesson for the skills you’ll gain for the next project. We’ve been crafting our ‘mix’ throughout the sound- and idea-building process, but regardless of how good things may seem to sound at the end of a creative songwriting session there are many problem areas that are much easier to detect when you’ve given yourself a break from the project and listen with completely fresh ears.

On the disc Accompanying example audio files included on the DVD

Patience is a (dubstep) virtue We’ve waited a good few weeks before re-opening our project for writing this final instalment and can immediately hear a variety of problems with the mix and finer

We’re at the last stage of our dirty dubstep track, and hope that you are too… MIX BUSS PROCESSING

arrangement details that could prevent our main ideas from coming across in their best light. Remember that your song is a story and your mix is there to sell it to the listener. A bad mix won’t get the ideas across clearly, so with that in mind let’s make some mixing decisions and compile our completion list.

Trimming the fat The first rule about evaluating your current mix is to listen with your ears and not your eyes. So for the first few evaluative plays, listen with the computer monitor turned off. This secret of the pros is often overlooked yet it highlights parts of your song that need further editing. Perhaps some sections need improving as they aren’t in keeping with the established flow of the track. Or maybe the ideas are all there but in some sections they’re sounding cluttered due to an overload of events. A big part of this stage is to be brutal and decide what aids the song and what needs cutting back so the ideas can breathe. This is a time to explore muting out specific parts that may distract the listener from the main ideas happening at any moment in time. Choosing muting rather than deleting means you can always un-mute later, and this is better than having to undo or load an older project version. When creating fills at the end of a section, newly programmed elements are often blighted by competing layers of sound that may still exist from the song section that’s about to end. These can also be muted or you could choose to re-program them to work in unison with the new idea instead. After listening to our own song with fresh ears it’s immediately obvious that our track is a little too dense in the top end and that the kick and snare are often being masked by other sounds in the mix, resulting in an inconsistent feeling of power. When assessing your track it’s important to start creating your end goals for completion – this is where writing a list is important. (See the Completion List boxout on p54 for an example and check out the audio files provided on your MT DVD.)

Processing on the mix buss will help to sculpt your work. Here are a few tips for heading in the right direction when mastering dubstep… Use a linear phase EQ for the most transparent adjustments, and add a high-pass filter to cut below 35-40Hz to clear out sub frequencies that will only eat up the headroom and therefore the potential maximum volume your track can achieve. Also limit the top end with a low-pass filter around 16kHz. Although this is a classic technique to help your music translate better to vinyl, it’s good to smooth off the top end for a warmer sound. Experiment with gentle compression but be careful not to get too squash-happy or you’ll ruin the dynamics. We’re talking 2-3dB of gain reduction, applied with a slow attack and release to keep the transients intact. Stereo width control and possible enhancement are a consideration too; but with width comes a loss of power, so be sparing and keep it in the higher frequency range. Last in the chain is limiting. Although this needs to be left off for mastering, to get a quick playout version beforehand try one limiter and lower the threshold until you hear crackles and Mix buss processing should be used with caution, but it’s useful to make artefacts, then back off. A second limiter with a the track ready to play out on the day of completion. A non-processed different algorithm can be added, and a little of version should always be available when delivering your work for the two will have a cleaner loudness than too mastering, but sending your processed version can give them artistic much being squeezed out of one. reference to work from as well.

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Physical phatness Now that we have an initial to-do list of fixes for our mix, let’s look at how we can achieve some basic tasks. One advantage of stripping back some elements in your track is that they’ll


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A track from scratch part 5: The perfect mix Technique MTF

bring the remaining sounds to the fore, making them seem more present even though you’ve not technically made any changes to them. In the case of our drums being lost in the mix, this needs more attention than simply stripping out other conflicting elements, as this could result in almost nothing being left and we don’t want to lose the epic, trance production-like sound we’ve gained so far. The kick and snare have plenty of size in terms of ambience and weight for lower-end impact but they don’t come across as aggressively as we’d like. One option is to process single drum sounds, or the whole drum group, with some saturation-based plug-ins. Saturation is a good option here as it can be used to increase the density of mid-range frequencies while also compressing the signal to become a little louder and more up-front sounding. A drawback of this approach is that we could soon be chasing our tails by beefing up the drums too much in relation to our other sounds, and then ramping up other elements and ending up with a louder but just as cluttered mix. We also thought about the key frequencies within our drums and how we don’t want too much overlap from other parts, which will cause masking. A simple trick that can be very effective here involves adding an EQ to the drum group, and then using its frequency bands to pinpoint where the main impact and mid-range frequencies of our kick and snare are via a combination of positive gain settings and sweeping the frequency of each band to find and boost the key frequencies. Group all non drum-based sounds and drag the same EQ over for subtractive reduction of these set drum-orientated frequencies. This can be as subtle as five or so decibels in reduction, but these notches in all non drum-based sounds will help the drums to cut through the mix better and therefore have more impact.

MTF Step-by-Step Effective side-chaining

A good way to ensure your drums will always cut through your mix is to group all other sounds that aren’t drums, and then set up a compressor triggered by the kick and snare with a fast attack and release to duck this ‘all but drums’ group.


Stereo dynamics Though we’re about to discuss loudness and dynamics, it’s important not to overlook the dynamics available through the manipulation of the stereo field. A variation to the stereo width of different mid-range bass sounds can really help your basslines have a stereo dynamic as a whole. Some of your upper bass sounds may be stereo from source or from effects you’ve processed them with as part

If you want a massive sound for leads or pads, send them to a hugesounding reverb on an auxiliary channel. Then add a compressor after the reverb and have the original sound trigger it with a fast attack and a slow, musically set release time. This will duck the reverb when the source sound plays and the reverb will swell up in volume in-between the notes.


It’s important not to overlook the dynamics available through stereo field manipulation of your sound design. If this is the case, a simple stereo width plug-in can help you pull in or slightly widen the stereo field on a per-sound basis. If sounds are mono or only slightly stereo in nature there are a few ways to process them to become wider sounding. The first and most common way is to use dedicated stereo enhancement tools. Though this isn’t the cheapest method, plug-ins such as iZotope’s Ozone or Alloy make it easy to create dense, stereo sounds. But before you splash the cash, there are other options out there to create width.

A great way to tighten up your mix without losing its ambience is to add a compressor after your auxiliary ambience FX, as in the last step, but with a snappier, short release time to be triggered by your drums. Now ambience FX will duck in sympathy to your drums so the heavier sections sound tighter and breakdowns fill out with louder FX.


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MTF Technique A track from scratch part 5: The perfect mix

MTF Step-by-Step Creating tight micro edits


Below is our own completion list, created after a few fresh listens to our project at the start of the day. As well as noting down points of concern, jot down how you think you’ll fix the issues as well. This will help create a list that you systematically have to get through. Even though more areas needing attention will become apparent as you start working through each task, using this method will at least help you get started in the daunting task of finishing your music.

Stripping down your mix for short fill sections really helps to tighten up your sound and create more dynamics in your track. This is quite a time-consuming task, but a good starting point is to loop around the fill with a bar or so either side for context, then solo each track to hear where all the current sounds are coming from.


• Get kick and snare to cut through better, maybe EQ out clashing frequencies on all other sounds in the mix. • Slowly introduce duller kick and snare on intro with low-pass filter and add tape delays to create more rhythm. • Process the Obnoxious bass sound to sit better in the mix so it’s less wide sounding and overly up front. • Slowly introduce main pads at intro with volume automation. • Minimise other sounds alongside the vocal stabs before the drop to make the vocal more prominent. • Clean up pad ambience and other background sounds on various bass fills for a dryer sound. • Create more stereo movement and interest for middle-eight vocal part. • Process middle-eight vocal riff more towards end of phrase for more interest and make it the main feature just before the breakdown. • Give arp synth part more textural interest and movement when playing, maybe through filtering. • Add filtering to main melody riff on intro and outro.

The first method is to use slightly opposed pan settings for two related sounds. This isn’t great for bass, but does work very well on percussive drum parts such as two hi-hats that alternate between each other on a regular basis. Just set one slightly to the left and the other to the right and your drum sounds will suddenly start to sound wider while your kick and snare still drive down the centre of the mix. You can also do this with layered pad sounds so the layers are panned across the stereo field. Be careful because width substitutes power, and whereas a hi-hat doesn’t need to be up front, a bass generally does, so exercise caution with leading instruments.

Special effect Now start muting out parts that detract from the main elements. If sounds have a decay to them you’ll have to automate either a mute or a fade to create complete silence. This can also apply to your auxiliary FX channels too, as reverb tails and delays will also shift the focus.


The Haas effect is one of our favourite methods to widen any non-percussive sounds. This involves delaying one side of the signal by a short, sub-50ms value, so although you can’t detect the delay as a separate event you do get a sense of stereo. But its delay-based nature means it doesn’t work very well on

Your drums sound wider while your kick and snare still drive down the centre

When stripping things down to one or two sounds, experiment with going from a wide stereo sound to mono using a stereo width plug-in. This will give another dynamic to the track at this point and is brilliant to help the sound seem unique to the rest of your potentially wide mix.


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percussive sounds, as you can start to hear a slight flamming effect on transients at higher ms values. For pads and mid-range bass tones, though, this is a valuable tool. You may have already utilised modulation effects in your bass design, but chorus, flanger and phaser are excellent tools to stereo-ise a variety of sounds. You can go for slow, subtle modulation rates and a liberal amount of wet signal, or go for more extreme tonally altering settings and only feed a slight amount of wet in with the dry signal to achieve width. The trade-off with


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A track from scratch part 5: The perfect mix Technique MTF

these effects, though, is that sounds become a little smeared and will step slightly further back into your mix, but this smoothing side-effect is often more beneficial than being a hindrance. Our final technique can achieve similar results to the purpose-built enhancing plug-ins already mentioned, but you’ll need to figure out how to do mid / side processing within your specific DAW to achieve it. In short, the mid signal is the mono centre of the mix, and the sides are all the information that is unique on one side of the mix from the other. Start with at least a slightly stereo-ised sound so some side information exists, then add compression or saturation to the side signal only. Saturation is particularly useful here as it adds compression and new harmonics, which is great for that super-wide sound whilst retaining mono compatibility.

Achieving tasteful loudness Our last focus is on maintaining a level of volume dynamics while also achieving a competitive level of loudness. As dynamics are coming back into fashion it’s important that you don’t just slam the hell out of your sounds for a perception of loudness. If you add saturation, compression or limiting to a sound or group of sounds, go for little and often so the effect isn’t so obvious to the ear. We like to use a variety of tonal, vintage gear emulations, pushing the sound a little bit with each one so the tonal sum of each tweak is texturally interesting to the ear.

MTF Step-by-Step Unwanted pops and clicks

While you’re performing micro edits you’ll start focussing your hearing at such a high level that you’ll potentially start to find problem sounds and clicks, which you’ll want to get rid of. If they are at the start or end of a piece of audio use fades to smooth them out.


Experiment with settings in the context of the whole mix to tune harmonic content When it comes to saturation, a multi-band option over broad or whole-band processing can let you selectively choose where you want the new, loudness increasing harmonics to sit while leaving the other frequencies untouched. Just remember to experiment with these settings in the context of the whole mix so you can correctly tune your new harmonic content to sit in a non-congested area of the mix.

Another problem area can arise from clicks in consecutive heavily edited pieces of audio. This happens from jumps in the waveform cycle position between edits. To solve this, solo the track and use crossfades to smooth out the transition from one slice to the next to even out the resulting waveform.


Final thoughts If you’ve made it this far we want to say ‘well done’ for sticking with us on what’s been quite a long pursuit. Over this series we’ve covered a lot of ground and hope you’ve picked up some useful applied technique for the filthier side of dubstep. Though you will of course aspire to produce to the standard of your heroes, don’t forget our tips on experimenting with your ideas to discover something unique. This attitude is what will continue to push the scene forwards, striving to achieve the same FM8- and Massive-based bass sounds that the masses will not. We wish you all the best with your efforts and don’t forget to see each project through to completion when possible, as it’s the final tasks that are the hardest skills to master. MTF

Sample-based MIDI instruments may also benefit from some de-clicking, especially if you’ve been heavily re-sampling bass from your own creations. You can move the start point with a ‘Snap To Zero Crossing’ setting enabled, or, like audio parts, you can use the attack and decay or release stages as fades to smooth out any clicks and pops.


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MTF Show off your studio – Live special

Show off your (Live) studio We asked MusicTech readers to show off their Ableton-based studios and got a fantastic response. Here are some of the best Live set-ups out there…

It’s smart, neat and perfect. Plus we love the chair…

Kooza Production Studio Interviewee: Loris Venegoni Contact: Key components in your studio? An iMac 27” with orchestral/ cinematic libraries; a UAD Apollo Quad interface plus a lot of UAD plugins; Dynaudio BM12, which in this room sound big and expensive; Empirical Labs Distressor with British Mode; TLA 5051, great on bass and guitars; Korg TR rack; Access Virus B; Nord Lead 2x; Yamaha Motif XS7; Hammond l-100 with original Leslie in the other room and upright piano; Korg SP-250 to record MIDI. For vocal fx a TC Voicelive 2. Ableton Push is my best friend, plus a Novation Nocturne and sometimes Impulse 49. Why do you use Live? I own Live 9 suite. I discovered Live while trying to leave Logic and learning how to use Performer. I downloaded the demo just for fun and it blew my mind. The control that it gives you is amazing. No more endless menu searches, hundreds of bounces in place to edit audio clips. I use the Arrangement view just like a classic sequencer. I’m not the kind of

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producer launching clips or writing in loops but having every tool the DAW offers is the key that makes Live so intuitive. And every native plug-in is just amazing: great quality, sharp tools with true sound design. Favourite part of the studio? Definitely the room. It was designed by Michele Cucchi, the best engineer I could have met in my life. He planned the Radio Deejay studios and Matthew Bellamy’s studio here in Como. Flat response, the longest tail I have is about 0.32s. That is why I said the BM12s are like new monitors here – I can use them further than 1m of nearfield. They give you all the bottom end. It’s the best room I’ve ever heard and I’m very, very proud. How often are you in your studio? Depends. I study psychology in University and I’m a dancer too. Every time I have a job or I want to produce something I stay all the time I need to. I don’t like to ‘just to see if something comes out’; it ends in frustration and wastes precious days

of sun when I can go outside and see the world. How do you use your studio? For music for my project Kooza and sometimes I write soundtracks for short movies. I’m working on making it available for bands or electronic producers who need a simple and smart place to work in. Next on your studio shopping list? I think a second distressor will be the next friend. What is your dream piece of gear? I’m afraid it’s not gear but a real orchestra. There’s nothing like one. I cry just thinking about it. One piece of advice? If you have the money, build the best room. If not, try DIY. Spend the money you have on great monitors, forget headphones. If you are a genius, you just need something to record sounds, you know what to do. Your studio begins with your ears, so give them the best conditions.


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Show off your studio – Live special MTF

GoodLuck Music Interviewee: Ben Peters (producer) Web:

Movin’ Music Academy Interviewee: Jonny Delaney E:

Nine singles from one album, five of them number one. Not a bad start, then…

We got in touch with Ben Peters because he sent an interesting shot of a desert recording. He replied saying: I am a producer in electronic band, GoodLuck. We have a wonderful little studio in Cape Town where we record our band and other artists, but we needed to push the boundaries for our latest record. We were coming off the ninth single from our first album, and after five number one singles (in SA) we were at a loss as to how to top such a ridiculous start. We needed massive inspiration and that meant stepping out of the confines of our studio. So we took the band and a sevencamera crew out into the Namibian desert, the quietest, most desolate place on earth, to record our album. We packed up a quarter-ton of studio gear, solar power generators and headed out to find inspiration and crazy sounds.

Electro, Korg R8, Roland TD-12 kit, Korg Kaoss pad, Akai APC40, Waves plug-ins and our family piano.

So interesting is the story that we’ll feature it in MusicTech soon. But for now, it’s studio time! List GoodLuck’s key components… Eve SC407 monitors, EMES Pink monitors, Apogee Ensemble and two Fireface UFX interfaces for touring, AKG C414 mic, matched pair of AKG 451s, Røde K2, ART ribbon mic, Nord

Next on your studio shopping list? I’m improving my skills first, but I am interested in iZotope’s RX4.

Recording in the Namibian desert

Why do you use Live? It has the best workflow and is the most intuitive. It also allows me to work really quickly and twist and tweak sounds and loops to do what I want. Such a great team behind the brand, too – they listen to feedback and are brilliant with support. Favourite piece of gear and why? I love my new Eve SC407s – the definition is astonishing. How long do you spend in the studio? Every day from 10am til midnight, occasionally popping out to go surfing when the waves are good. Perfect or room for improvement? We could improve the mic collection and get more outboard gear.

Dream piece of gear? Thermionic Culture’s Culture Vulture. Any advice to people starting out? There isn’t one piece of gear that will ‘make’ your mixes better. Focus on how to get the best out of your gear and room. Invest in an sE Reflexion Filter – a miracle cure for recording vocals, and I swear by it. Finally, remember that you can’t polish a turd. If you’ve recorded a rubbish take there’s no point trying to fix it in the mix. Get the artist to nail the take. I believe in pushing artists to perform beyond their expectations.

Movin’ Music Academy’s main production area…

What are the key components of the studio? 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. Why do you use Ableton Live? Really 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 it’s one of the most advanced DAWs on the market. 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. What is your dream piece of gear and why? An RMI harmonic synth – it has a really unique sound. It also looks pretty incredible! Any advice? Take your time and only buy the equipment you need to get started. Learn how to use it before buying more otherwise you’ll waste a lot of time and money. MTF FOCUS Ableton Live 2015

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MTF Reviews Live 9 Suite & Push: the original review

MTF Reviews Hardware




For PC & Mac


Live 9 Suite & Push To those of you new to Ableton Live 9 and Push, here’s Liam O’Mullane’s original MT review… Details Price Push & Live 9 Intro £429 Push & Live 9 £668 Push & Live 9 Suite £863 Live 9 Intro £69 Live 9 £299 Live 9 Suite £519 Contact Ableton +49 302 887 630 Web

Key Features LIVE 9 SUITE ● 54GB of content, 40 effects, 9 instruments, Max for Live ● Enhanced mixing devices and new Glue Compressor ● Improved Browser layout and functionality ● 32-/64-bit plug-in support ● Session View automation PUSH ● Solid build (weight 2.99kg) ● Bright, colourful RGB pads ● 4-row LCD display ● Touch-sensitive encoders ● Velocity-sensitive pads with aftertouch


fter an incredibly long wait since version 8’s release, Live 9 is finally here, accompanied by an Ableton-developed controller called Push. This is a controller that Ableton describes as an ‘instrument’, which sounds promising as Live itself has long been seen as more of a creative, compositional tool than an audio/MIDI workhorse for the studio. Live’s primary appeal has always been its two distinct approaches to workflow and the way in which they interact. For structuring tracks, Arrangement View enables you to work from left to right in a linear fashion. Session View, meanwhile, is a looporiented mode, letting you focus on musical ideas or sketches without needing to think about the arrangement stage. It’s very much the reason why many people turn to Live even if it’s not their primary platform. These ‘part-time’ users often believe that Live isn’t up to the task of full track creation and mixing, probably because Live has been slow to incorporate certain features that users of other DAWs take for granted. For instance, automation curves have only just been added, and you still can’t take the classic approach of recording lanes of audio for compiling together quickly afterwards. But that’s missing the point: Live isn’t the same as other DAWs, so it’s wrong to try

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10/10 to compare them in such a literal way, feature for feature.

Making introductions Live 9 comes in three flavours: Intro, Standard and Suite. As you’d expect, the entry-level Intro has limitations that reflect its price. These include a small number of ‘idea spaces’ in Session View (Scenes), a maximum of 16 audio/MIDI tracks, and just two audio inputs and

and for the rest of this review, the features discussed relate to these versions only. After the 54GB install of Live Suite (Standard is a 12GB install), it’s evident from browsing the library that version 9 is more complete than ever (the complete package can be installed piecemeal if you prefer). Various genre styles and instrument types are

It’s evident when looking through the library that version 9 is more complete than ever outputs. However, you do get a perfectly respectable, though small, production centre including drum devices and sample-based instruments along with Live’s flexible real-time audio warping. The feature set gets Choice deeper as you move up to the next two versions,

9/10 9 9/ 10

included in Suite – far too many to list here, see Ableton’s website full details – but they cover most bases and alone justify the difference in cost between Suite and Standard – and that’s before we’ve even looked at the other Suite-only features.

A full suite Audio content aside, there are some other significant differences between Suite and Standard. Standard comes with the same three sample-based instrument devices as Intro, but it offers much more in terms of factory content.


11/02/2015 15:59

Live 9 Suite & Push: the original review Reviews MTF

Alternatives For hardware control of software with visual feedback on the device itself, both NI’s Maschine (£483) and AKAI’s MPC Studio (£350) may suit your needs. These aren’t quite as in-depth in terms of features and flexibility, though. Live 9 could be purchased alone and used alongside Novation’s Launchpad S (£150), AKAI’s APC 20 (£170) or APC 40 (£290). These are all a solid choice for performance control, but they don’t cater for expressive musical input in terms of notes. Other comparable software options are FruityLoops Signature Bundle ($299) from Image-Line and Propellerhead’s Reason (£349). These both have very intuitive GUI designs, a healthy library of sounds and instruments, and are easy to pick up and learn.

Note Box now has reverse, invert, legato (to modify notes end to end) and duplicate loop, which doubles the loop brace and its content. These all help speed up workflow and encourage creativity.

Suite’s instrument collection, however, is a lot more comprehensive, comprising analogue-style synth sounds from Analog, rich-sounding percussion from Collision, Electric pianos from Electric and string modelling from Tension. Operator caters for FM synthesis and Sampler offers a professional level of sampling that can accommodate multiple sample key-mapping and layering. In terms of processing, Standard has quite a few more effects than Intro, though Suite boasts the excellent Amp and Cabinet devices, which will otherwise be add-on purchases. These provide guitarists with sonic textures on tap, though they can be applied to pretty much any sound in need of a new sonic identity. Corpus is another effect that can create something unique as it adds simulated acoustic resonance.

Max(imum) benefit While Suite’s comprehensive features make up at least 50 per cent of its attraction, for us the real deal-sealer is the inclusion of Max for Live. For the

MTF Navigation Push control AUTOMATION Moving an encoder will override any automation for that parameter in a clip. Hit this button to record changes, or combine with [Shift] to revert to clip automation.


uninitiated, Max is a graphical programming environment that was previously a separate purchase from Live 8. It offers two main advantages to the Live user. The first is access to the wealth of Max-created devices already in existence; the second is the ability to create your own devices, limited only by your imagination. The Max for Live library now includes some excellent devices including Convolution Reverb Pro, Note Echo (for re-creating that classic MIDI sequenced effect) and API tools that enable you to map LFOs, envelope followers, randomisers and more to any parameter within a Live project. Max for Live is attractive to technical nerds as well as musicians or engineers who just want to access more practical and creative tools.

The newcomers Both Suite and Standard have some other fantastic new features. Highlights include Audio to MIDI, the Glue Compressor and some well thought-out overhauls of other mixing devices.

While it’s not a real-time option, Audio to MIDI lets you analyse an audio file and turn it into a drum pattern, melody or harmonic content for chords. The facility to sing an idea into Live or drop in a file recorded on your phone (perhaps captured during a moment of inspiration) is a huge time-saver and enhances workflow a great deal. It’s also useful for adding that human feel to your drum work – record yourself tapping or beatboxing a rhythm and turn it into a drum pattern. Other uses could include transcribing material for covers, mimicking a part in a track for remixing purposes, or taking a drum pattern to make your own. It isn’t a flawless process, but the most unexpected results come from the usual suspects of dense, layered or noisy material, which is always difficult for a computer to decipher. In most cases, though, the results are very usable. Glue Compressor does the job that a good buss compressor should – making individual elements sound cohesive as a whole when processed as a group. We NAVIGATION BUTTONS In Session mode these let you navigate around your session, clips and scenes. In Note mode you can move left/right between tracks and up/down to move between scenes and launch them immediately.

ENCODERS All encoders are touch-sensitive, which enhances the LCD screen’s function as it displays relevant material as you work.




a b PADS The main 8x8 grid of pads are very firm and take a while to get used to. Sensitivity and velocity curves can be user-defined.



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MTF Reviews Live 9 Suite & Push: the original review

also like its saturation stage, which can be used to push the signal into the red if you want to introduce some character. EQ Eight has had its most significant overhaul since Live 8, particularly in respect to the new spectral analyser. We never really got on with Live 8’s Spectrum device as you had to put an instance on every track if you wanted to do track-by-track analysis while EQ’ing a mix. Since you’ll almost certainly use an EQ per track anyway, the incorporating of a spectral analyser into EQ Eight is a welcome practical step.

input and output levels and thresholds. This makes them much easier to set up quickly, yet accurately.

Live’s new browser layout makes it much easier to navigate the included library. It’s also easier to move between user-defined locations as they are now situated on the lower left-hand side rather than in a dropdown menu.

Streamliner Before we look at how Push may redefine how you interact with Live, we’ll take a moment to cover improvements to Live 9’s workflow from a programming point of view. Session and Arrangement Views are finally truly united, with automation that works between both Views for audio and MIDI clips. It may sound

Session and Arrangement Views are finally truly united with automation for audio and MIDI

basis. MIDI editing has also had some useful improvements, as mentioned in the box to the upper left.

Pushing on Other new additions include an Audition mode for helping you to hear the frequency band you’re working on, and an Adaptive mode that adjusts the EQ filter’s Q width as you change the gain amount, resulting in a much more musical sound. Two other devices to undergo updates are Compressor and Gate, which now have graphical feedback on

bizarre, but this wasn’t implemented before, which was always counterintuitive considering the otherwise close integration between both Views. Automation can now be recorded in Session View as well and the global Back To Arrangement button – which stopped all Session View clips in order to return playback to Arrangement View – can now be controlled on a per-track

For the second part of this review it’s time to turn to Ableton’s Push instrument, which at first glance appears to do much the same things as other Live controllers on the market – launch clips, control devices and generally navigate around Session View. But while Push does offer this type of control, switching to Note Mode allows you to create MIDI, audio or return

MTF Power User Q&A Rik Simpson From Coldplay to Jay Z, Rik has produced and written for an impressive array of big-name artists. We caught up with him to hear his verdict on Ableton’s new combo.

Sun, sea and sound: Rik working on his own material on the edge of the Indian Ocean.

MT: Your website describes Live as ‘A DAW that makes you think differently’. What feature has changed how you work with Live? RS: Live 9 seems snappier than 8. The new browser is really speeding up my work flow – it’s much more intuitive than before and searching for files in the search field is considerably quicker. A close second favourite new feature would be the visual feedback you now get from the Compressor, EQ and Gate plug-ins, which also makes it quicker to get a result. MT: What in Live 9’s new features represents the biggest sonic improvement for you? RS: That would have to be the oversampling option in the EQ Eight and Glue plug-ins – they add a lovely fidelity. The Glue plug-in is amazing, by the way. I’ve been using the Cymotic plug-in for a few years now – it’s great to have it so integrated within Live. MT: Have you explored any Max For Live devices yet? RS: To be honest I’ve mainly been playing with the Max For Live presets up until now. I’ve downloaded a few fun devices – ultraGlitcher and The Granulizator by Design the Media, for example – but haven’t really got in that deep yet. I’m more interested in eventually making my own stuff but Max has a such a steep learning curve. Its very nature as an open-ended piece of

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software makes it hard to pin down. I’ve got the Live 9 tutorials by MacProVideo which are great. There’s one I’ve just started on Max For Live so I’m beginning to ‘break the crust’ so to speak. MT: What do you plan to explore next when you have time? RS: Push is a game-changer for me. It actually does what so many other controllers over the years have failed to do: it feels and reacts like a real instrument. Partly due I think to its tight integration with the software but also because of the feel of the pads which are tactile and responsive. I’ve come up with riffs and shapes that I wouldn’t normally gravitate towards – it’s opened up a new area for me. I’ll definitely be delving deeper over the next few weeks.


11/02/2015 15:59

Live 9 Suite & Push: the original review Reviews MTF

MTF Power User Q&A Felix Martin

MT: Do you have a favourite sound design tool in 9? FM: Now that Max For Live is included in Suite, Live functions more like a huge modular synth. I like grabbing the Max LFO device and applying it to any Felix Martin: getting creative with Live 9 and Push in very parameter – a simple but textured way to get life and short order. MT: What’s the most striking new feature in Live 9? variation to sounds. Functional tools like EQ, Gate and FM: The Audio To MIDI tool is the first feature that caught my Compressor have improved to the point where I’m not so tempted attention. I’d always loved this type of function in Melodyne so to use third-party plug-ins. It’s nice that Ableton has put focus on having it integrated into Live is great. It seems to be part of the these building blocks rather than just cool DJ-friendly features. ongoing work from Ableton to smooth the interaction between audio and MIDI – really useful when working between synthetic MT: How have you found Push in terms of workflow? tones and textures and acoustic ones. As I have no formal musical FM: I’ve been using Live for so long that I’m still unlearning the training its really handy to transcribe chords or a melody of interest habits I’ve gained. But the concept of being able to turn off the to then pick apart and analyse. Considering it’s the first screen is brilliant. I’ve put together a couple of tracks with Push implementation of the tool, I think it works really well. I also love alone in a very short time by creating drum patterns, adding the improved browser as it’s much quicker to access everything I modulation effects, playing chords and melodies. I like the way it have, which in turn leads to a more varied approach to arranging functions as a musical keyboard with visual aids when set to and selecting sounds. I compose by fiddling with MIDI sequences a different chords or scales. This opens up new composition options lot, so the improved editing tools are also very welcome. to someone who’s pretty ignorant in music theory. Hotchip member and one half of New Build talks to MT while he’s on the road away from his own Lanark Studios, London. We discuss his favourite new Live 9 features and how Push opens up new avenues.

tracks. You can also step-sequence drum patterns, play in melodic parts via its intuitive Scales interface, add Audio devices for further processing and generally shape your sound using the eight encoders and touchstrip for tweaking and automation passes. Drum parts can be recorded in using the lower-left quarter of 16 pads, step-sequenced using the upper portion half, or sequenced in real time using the Repeat tool. The latter is like

Scales is the most unique aspect of Push, as you may have gathered from the online promo videos. It’s flexible enough to let you switch keys from minor to major, and switch between six keys immediately so you can jam between them. The choice of scale style can also be changed via an encoder. We found the learning curve of Push to be incredibly gentle and the Scales approach certainly opens up new ideas. Within minutes we were creating

The learning curve is incredibly gentle and the Scales approach certainly opens up new ideas the classic Note Repeat function on AKAI’s famous MPCs. The pads are velocity-sensitive and include aftertouch, so dynamic parts can be created with Repeat for elements such as hi-hats, or instruments can be modulated while the pad is held down with varying pressure. Parts can be quantized and throughout your use of Push, an Undo button gives you the same flexibility of undoing and redoing your work, just as you can onscreen.

musical elements, which are stored as Scenes within Live – and it can all be done without looking at your computer. Live 9 builds further on the already solid foundations of Live 8. Push is a great first foray into hardware, though some minor functions have not been implemented as yet. However, as updates are released, we’re sure users’ needs will be addressed, and we can see a bright future for the company’s bold move into hardware. MTF


+ Excellent value for money + Extensive library content + Max for Live + New device enhancements and additions really help craft a mix + Session and Arrangement Views better integrated Live 9 is an excellent example of how a company can radically update its software while retaining the familiarity and ease of workflow that made it so attractive in the first place. The new tools and features certainly improve its capabilities and should keep users happy for a good while to come.

10 /10

MTF Verdict PUSH

+ Gentle learning curve + Offers true hardware-only control during the compositional stage of music creation + Can be powered via USB or mains power supply (included) - Not aimed at loop importing and loop-based creativity - Doesn’t act as a central hub for other controllers A promising start for a wellintegrated, composition-focused hardware controller. The heavy focus on MIDI doesn’t open up full access to Live’s creative capabilities, but we look forward to new features in the future.

When it comes to mixing, the overhauled EQ Eight, Compressor, Gate and new Glue Compressor really up Live’s game in terms of mixing and controlling your sound to microscopic levels of detail.

9 /10

Method Spot When you’ve got a feel for Live’s new go-to mixing tools, it’s a good idea to store them as a default for any new track you create in the future. Once you have an audio or MIDI track as you would like your defaults to be, right-/[Ctrl]-click (PC/Mac) the title bar of the track and select Save As Default MIDI/Audio Track. We’d recommend having all tracks begin with an EQ for general frequency house- keeping (making use of its new steep low- and high-pass filters), then a dynamic device, another EQ for mix-shaping and a Limiter or Saturator at the end to catch any stray peaks.

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11/02/2015 09:20

AIR Music Technology The Riser Reviews MTF

Alternatives If you’re willing to spend the time you can program these kinds of effects using various different software synths and your DAW, though they do take time to create. You can also use samples for transitions but these will limit how flexibly you can alter them. The beauty of The Riser is that it’s a dedicated and fully tweakable transition instrument, so you can quickly change or automate the level of modulation, the blend of oscillators and the depth of the effects with just a few clicks.



The Riser

Tired of programming endless sweeps, rises and falls in your electronic tracks? Hollin Jones finds out if AIR Music Technology has the answer… Details Price £47.99 Contact Via website Web www.airmusictech. com Needs Windows 7 or higher OS X 10.7.5 or higher 2GB RAM

Key Features ● Transition designer ● Three editable oscillators ● Three LFOs ● 23 filter types ● 300 presets ● Randomizer ● MIDI learn ● Onboard delay and reverb ● AU, VST and AAX formats


ne of the key compositional tricks in many kinds of dance and other electronic music is the use of sweeps, rises and falls to build up to a change in the dynamics of a song. For the producer, these are essential to create dynamics within the track and let listeners know when the drop is coming. And although they can be programmed by hand, it’s quite fiddly to do over and over again. Enter The Riser, from German developer AIR Music Technology. This software instrument is similar to a few we’ve seen recently in that it aims to give you a shortcut to a type of sound that gets used a lot in certain kinds of music, but is based on synthesis and not sampling. In this case, it’s described as a transition designer optimised for electronic music production, scoring, and remix work. Although it has a complement of fully tweakable controls it also comes with 300 professionally designed presets grouped by category and style such as rises and falls, pitch, mod or atonal character as well as swells and fades. The patches are designed to provide various different kinds of transition, from filtered swells to whooping sirens


9/10 9 9/ 10

and everything in between. It does this by generating sound from its three oscillators: sweep, noise and chord, each with multiple editable characteristics. The sweep controls the direction of the transition, the noise oscillator adds texture and grit, and finally the chord oscillator can be used to match the synth’s structure to your song’s key, or indeed any key you specify. Each also has a configurable filter so you can control the shape of the signal as soon as it leaves the oscillator. Three LFOs are available: free running, tempo synced, and ‘Pumper’, with configurable depth and, where applicable, rate controls.

Pump it up There’s a second filter stage with 23 filter types available and control sections for cutoff and resonance, plus a distortion stage with variable distortion modes to add crunch and bite to the sound. The effects you tend to use most on these kinds of sounds are delay and reverb, and there are appropriate effects built in, with extensive tempo-sync options available for the delay section and four reverb types with controls. You can also vary the effect blend, and these effects help the synth sounds to sit comfortably in your tracks. Panning and width controls also let you position the sound more accurately in the stereo field. You could well find that the bundled presets contain everything you need,

but you may also want to tweak the settings to better suit the particular track you’re working on. This is really easy to do, and although there are a fair few sections, you interact with them all in much the same fashion, so the learning curve is quite gentle. There’s some clever stuff to help you out too, such as a randomizer to generate whole new patches at the touch of a button and an Invert mode that instantly changes the direction of the current transition to provide you with a ‘down’ to your ‘up’, or vice versa. MIDI learn is supported too, so you can map hardware controllers to sections in order to change pulse settings or effect levels in real time, for example. Although targeted at the many people making uptempo electronic music, The Riser is an interesting instrument in its own right. So 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. Some people will no doubt ask why they would buy a synth that ‘just did transitions’, so the affordability definitely helps here, and I’d also suggest that it will save producers a lot of time automating LFOs and pitchbend CCs. MTF

MTF Verdict + Excellent for all kinds of electronic transitions + Easy to learn, fun to use + Saves a load of time + Could also be used for sound design + Very affordable + Beefs up your electronic tracks - It’s best at transitions, so for a more generalist synth, look elsewhere Even if you’re doing experimental stuff it’s well worth a look for the creative possibilities it offers.


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MTF Reviews iZotope RX 4 Advanced


RX 4 Advanced Adding a host of new modules, can iZotope really improve on the prowess of RX 3? Mark Cousins finds out what version 4 has to offer…


ver its last three generations iZotope’s RX has developed an enviable reputation among many sound engineers, especially those working in the field of post-production. Over the years, there’s been a variety of audio restoration solutions – some in plug-in form, others based on an off-line audio editor – but like Native Instruments’ Kontakt dominance of sampling, RX seems to have become the go-to solution for many audio professionals. Its success can be explained in a number of ways, but the fact that it so effortlessly straddles both plug-in and standalone operation has meant RX could fit into a variety of different workflows with relative ease. In truth, it doesn’t seem that long ago since we reviewed RX 3, but with the introduction of RX 4 iZotope is keen to retain RX’s position as an essential post-production toolkit. At first glance, therefore, RX 4 isn’t graced with a dramatic facelift or an endless list of new and glamorous features that might grab your attention. Look more closely, though, and you’ll see that iZotope has

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thoughtfully evolved RX in a way that closely matches the needs of many audio professionals. RX 4 may not be a game changer, therefore, but it certainly contains some new treats that you won’t want to be without.


9/10 9 9/ 10 Details Price £729 (RX 4 Advanced), £215 (RX 4) Contact Time + Space 01837 55200 Web

Restoration home As with previous versions of the application, RX 4 comes in two principle flavours – the standard edition, RX 4, and a feature-rich version called RX 4 Advanced. Before you get too excited, though, it’s worth noting that there’s a big difference in the pricing (around £500, to be precise), putting RX 4 distinctly in the ‘professional tool’ price bracket. While RX 4 lacks some of the tools of RX 4 Advanced, it’s certainly not short on features, so it might be worth a detailed look at the features comparison list before you make your choice. For the purposes of the review, though, we’ll be concentrating on RX 4 Advanced. For newcomers it’s well worth noting the key points of RX 4’s design and workflow. One central philosophy, defined from its earliest version, was

Key Features ● Dialogue Denoiser ● Spectral Repair ● Leveler & Clip Gain ● Loudness ● Ambience Match ● EQ Match

the idea of spectral editing. While this isn’t entirely unique, the fact that RX was designed from the ground up as a spectral audio editor lends it a distinct Photoshop-like quality to its operation, where you work with sound both from a visual and aural perspective. Rather than selecting and modifying sound purely based on time, therefore, RX lets you lasso parts of the audio spectrum, whether it’s a small breath noise, or a complete slice of the frequency range. More than just being a gimmick, though, the ability to work in the spectral domain is what makes RX so effective, enabling you to direct the correction to a specific segment of the audio – both in relation to time and frequency. By being selective, RX is proportionately more transparent than other non-spectral alternatives, which in the world of audio restoration makes a big difference to the quality of the end result.

ZX spectrum With the spectral editing concept in place, RX then lets you tweak your audio using a number of processing modules, including: Declip, Denoise, Dereverb, Time & Pitch, and Spectral Repair. As an off-line audio editor, transformations are rendered to the audio clip, but thanks to a stepped undo history (that can even be recalled after you’ve saved the file), there’s no need to fear that you’ll permanently damage the file in any way. For those that prefer working solely in their DAW, RX has always provided a number of plug-ins that replicate many of the key modules used in the application. One distinct shift that’s come with the introduction of RX 4 is the new RX Connect plug-in, which attempts to provide a direct bridge between your DAW and RX 4 as a standalone application. Exact integration varies between DAWs, with the system seemingly at its best in Pro Tools. With the Connect system active, audio regions can be transferred directly to RX 4 (via Pro Tools’ AudioSuite menu), either for analysis purposes or as a ‘round trip’ for audio restoration tasks. Ultimately, it makes the process of moving between the two applications more seamless, rather


11/02/2015 14:57

iZotope RX 4 Advanced Reviews MTF


than having to choose the plug-in route.

New modules As you’d expect, there’s a variety of new modules and audio enhancement features introduced in RX 4, including non-destructive Clip Gain, Leveler, Loudness, EQ Match and Ambience Match. One interesting development from a workflow perspective is the non-destructive Clip Gain, which enables you to create a series of nodes to control the amplitude of your audio clip. It’s a simple feature, but one that makes a big difference to the workflow in RX 4, especially when you’re working with problematic dialogue. Working in conjunction with Clip Gain is the Leveler module that lets you apply a form of automated gain control, much like a compressor or expander. The unique slant here, though, is that the output is in the form of a re-drawn Clip Gain curve, letting you tweak and

If you’re principally interested in audio restoration using your DAW, then Sonnox’s Restore (£1,195) is well worth closer investigation. The suite is comprised of three plug-ins - DeClicker, DeBuzzer and DeNoiser – so it doesn’t cover the breadth of RX 4, especially in relation to the newer dynamics modules such as Leveler and Loudness. An alternative for Spectral editing is Steinberg’s WaveLab 8.5 (£448), which is a good all-round audio editor, including some spectral analysis and editing features.

(which uses a limiter rather than the gain adjustment approach of Leveler), EQ Match and Ambience Match. In the case of Ambience Match it’s worth noting that the ‘Ambience’ isn’t reverb but the residual noise floor between different audio clips. Ultimately, you can see how many of the new features specifically relate to dialogue restoration and editing, although given the inherent versatility of RX 4 their application can extend across a wide variety of sonic surgery tasks.

Clean sweep RX 4 may not be a gigantic leap on from the features included in RX 3, but it does demonstrate iZotope’s intention to provide the ultimate fix-it tool for a range of audio dilemmas. New features such as the Clip Gain really transform RX 4’s usefulness, making RX 3 seem surprisingly limited when we stepped back to compare the older version. The

Like Kontakt’s dominance of sampling, RX seems to have become the go-to solution for many audio professionals refine the gain changes as you see fit. Beyond the obvious dialogue applications, it was also interesting to hear the Leveler applied in a music production context, used as a means of balancing out the dynamic range of tracks, especially in relation to increasing the levels of quieter parts of the mix. Other new modules seem largely directed at the post-production fraternity, including a Loudness module

The Dialogue Denoiser is great for cleaning up vocal takes.

Leveler also proved to be a real winner and a viable additional means of controlling dynamics that contrasts well with traditional tools such as a compressor and upwards expander. The hard decision for potential customers, though, is reconciling the price difference between the two versions. Given the wealth of what’s included in the standard RX 4, it’s clear that iZotope has priced the application competitively, making it a justifiable purchase for those who want to dabble in RX’s spectral-based audio

RX 4 can be used in plug-in or standalone mode, so will fit in well with your workflow.

Method Spot Differing levels of background noise can cause problems between dialogue takes. Usually a small amount of ‘wild track’ is recorded to cover these issues, but in situations where this isn’t available you can use RX 4’s Match Ambience to synthesize new background noise. Match Ambience works in a similar way to Noise Removal, where the software ‘learns’ a fingerprint from a source recording. The Noise Fingerprint is then used to generate the required wild track.

editing. Even though the standard RX 4 misses out on many of the new modules there’s still a wealth of creative and technical possibilities that RX 4 has to offer. Compared to the standard edition, RX 4 Advanced is a more significant investment, although the addition of Insight, iZotope’s comprehensive metering suite plug-in (itself worth £295), certainly makes it all the more tempting. Knowing just how many professionals have come to use RX’s powers on an almost daily basis it’s clear to see that the new improvements in RX 4 will be a welcome addition to their workflow. Ultimately, few other tools can rescue irrevocably damaged audio like RX 4 does, and for that fact alone it’s a tool few professional users will want to be without. MTF

MTF Verdict + Leveler and Clip Gain really aid workflow + Connect system improves DAW integration + Perfect for a range of postproduction tasks + Spectral-level precision and transparency - New modules biased towards RX 4 Advanced - Connect integration varies between DAWs iZotope’s RX 4 continues to lead the way as the most versatile audio restoration tool around, saving countless damaged audio files from a one-way trip to the bin!


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MTF Reviews Fender Passport Studio

Alternatives This is one of those rare occasions where we can’t suggest any direct alternatives because the product is fairly unique. However, if the portability aspect is less of a priority and you don’t mind boxing them up for transportation, you could consider more conventional monitors such as the ADAM ARTist 3 (£230 each), Avantone MixCubes (£387 pair) or Focal Alpha 50 (£200 each). Interestingly the Focal CMS 50 is available in pairs with a dedicated carry bag, but the bundle costs £870.

switches for frequency adjustment. The phones socket mutes the speakers and the aux and left/right inputs can be used simultaneously. So you could split the output of a preamp and connect one side to the Passport Studio’s aux input for zero-latency monitoring.

Lock and load



Passport Studio

9/10 9 9/ 10

Is this monitor system, which can be carried in one hand, the perfect lightweight solution for engineers on the move? Huw Price checks in… Details Price £490 (pair) Contact Fender GBI 01342 331700 Web

Key Features ● Frequency response: 50Hz20kHz ● Input: TRS jacks and/or stereo mini jack ● Total onboard power: 75W per channel ● Onboard equalisation: +1.5 dB at 75Hz and 7.5KHz ● Midrange: 5in Polyglass cone ● Tweeter: 1in TNB inverted dome ● Dimensions: 45.7cm x 35.6cm x 21cm ● System weight: 8.4kg


his is the product that would have been perfect back in the days of the jobbing freelance sound engineer. Many of us would box up our preferred monitors and drag them from studio to studio to get some sense of continuity from an endless succession of control rooms. These days many pro engineers and mixers tend to work out of their own studios, but Fender obviously believes that enough of us are still nomadic to justify the development of a fully portable monitor system. What’s more, they have collaborated with one of Europe’s most respected studio monitor manufacturers to do it. Like many computer-style monitor speaker setups, the amplification is contained in the left enclosure and the right speaker links up via a TRS jack cable. The spare space that’s available in the right enclosure accommodates the power and link cables when the speakers are not in use and each enclosure gets a rear cover plate that’s held in position magnetically.

Drive time According to Fender UK the amplifier and driver technology comes from

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Focal, and the woofers and tweeters get 50W and 25W each, respectively. The literature states that the ‘Passport Studio houses a world-renowned Focal driver’, which seems to suggest that the same drivers are used in other Focal monitors. We contacted Focal to ask for clarification and were told that the woofer was developed by their R&D team for Fender and it’s an ‘exclusive technology’. However, the inverted dome aluminium/magnesium TNB tweeter is the same unit that is used in Focal’s CMS range. The 5in woofer does have certain Focal features because its Polyglass cone is made by applying molten glass microballs onto a cellulose pulp cone to combine excellent paper damping with glass rigidity. It’s claimed that the rigidity index exceeds even that of single-skin Kevlar and is almost ten times superior to polypropylene. The back panel of the left speaker accommodates balanced inputs for left and right as well as the link output and power switch. Protected by a recess under the speaker baffle there’s a volume control plus two mini jack sockets for auxillary input and headphone output, and three-way

The bass end packs a lot of punch and there’s plenty of it when you consider that these are medium/small nearfields. There’s also a pleasing absence of port chuffing although some roll off can be detected below 50Hz along with a slight lift in the upper bass. Despite sharing the same tweeter, the Passport Studio can’t match the CMS-40 for openness, and the treble sounds a little muted even with the treble boost on. Even so, the Passport Studio system has a smooth and easy-going sound with full midrange, although we did suspect there was a bit of resonance around the 1K region. Judged purely as studio monitors, the level of detail and solidity of the imaging is certainly commensurate with the price point. However, more conventional competitors might offer an extra degree of user adjustment. The defining feature is that Passport Studio system can be locked together and transported without the need to preserve the original packaging or buy a flight case. Then you simply split them, set them up and they’re good to go. This is a cleverly designed, carefully thought out and affordable product that fills a niche in the market. MTF

MTF Verdict + Quick and convenient portability + Real-world features + Ample power + Smooth sound - Slight midrange colouration - Lacks airiness in the treble An interesting concept that’s well executed and priced – and they sound pretty good too.



11/02/2015 14:29

Akai APC Key 25 Reviews MTF

Alternatively The most direct competitor is Novation’s Launchkey Mini at £79. It’s even smaller and also has 25 keys and eight knobs, though its 16 pads are aimed more at generic MIDI control than the APC’s more targeted grid of Live buttons. It comes with some iOS apps but not with the software you get with the APC. So although they are both tiny keyboards, they do have a different focus.




APC Key 25 Take two controllers on stage? Not if Akai has anything to do with it. Hollin Jones streamlines his setup with the APC Key 25…


kai has really gone all out on its collaboration with Ableton over the last few years, producing a number of Ableton Performance Controller (APC) hardware units in close co-operation with the software developer. As is usually the case, such partnerships are able to achieve integration that isn’t possible by simply bundling MIDI maps for other people’s software. The company’s latest is the APC Key 25, the only APC model with a keyboard. It manages to fit a surprising amount of functionality in too, so it will certainly be of interest to Live users.

Details Price £99.99 Distributor InMusic Contact Via website Web www.akaipro. com Minimum System Requirements Intel Mac with OS X 10.5 or later Windows XP or higher 2GB RAM USB port

Small is beautiful The first thing to say about the Key 25 is that it is very compact. It’s insanely portable and very light indeed, though its all-plastic construction, while solid, means you’ll probably not want to throw it around too much. There’s a single USB port on the side that you use to connect to your Mac or PC, and it’s class compliant so no drivers are required. Power and MIDI are also handled by this connection so there’s no need for a power supply. It’s pre-mapped for Live and you’ll find that the controls map across beautifully, with red outlines appearing in the software to denote what you’re currently controlling. It can be used as a

Key Features ● Live controller ● 25 mini keys ● Eight assignable knobs ● 8x5 clip control grid ● USB powered ● Navigate projects and record MIDI ● Bundled software and samples

generic MIDI controller too, though you’ll want to check with Akai exactly how well supported your particular choice of third-party software is. You get 25 synth action mini keys, and while you won’t be playing any sonatas on these they are perfectly decent for basslines, melodies and simple chords. Despite being small they’re well-designed and will certainly do the job of letting you input clips accurately, though, as you might expect, they’re better suited to synth or beat-style playing than anything too complex. There’s enough travel in the keybed that note presses register convincingly, and having a keyboard in such a compact unit in addition to all the other controls is a real bonus. The only omission is a sustain pedal input, though you do get a sustain button which kind of takes its place. The rest of the front panel is taken up by the Live controls. Most prominent is the 5x8 multicoloured grid that lets you launch clips. As mentioned, the software displays which section of a project is currently being controlled and you can move this area around using the arrow keys on the keyboard for better navigation. The three clip status modes (loaded, playing and recording) are displayed using different coloured backlights, and the grid feels just right with button sizes and spacing ample enough that you don’t accidentally hit one while aiming for another. You can also control rows of clips at a time using the Scene Launch buttons, and the Shift button provides access to a bunch of alternate functions for many controls, greatly expanding the usefulness of the hardware. To the right are eight assignable knobs and you can toggle their function easily between pan, volume, sends and device control as well as effect levels, filters and more. The knobs are of good quality and move fluidly but with just the right amount of resistance. Under these are some more performance controls including octave up and down, so you can play beyond the physical 25-note key range as well as play, pause and record controls for clips, and a

sustain button for manually entering sustain values in lieu of a pedal. The keyboard comes with some software too, including a version of Live Lite. There are also two synths, Hybrid 3 by AIR and SONiVOX Twist, to play with, and Toolroom artist launch packs available for download after registering online. So even if you have nothing else before buying the Key 25 there’s enough bundled content that you can be making music quickly without having to spend more money.

A perfect choice? The APC Key 25 is a really cool little controller for Live. It doesn’t have the faders of the APC Mini but it does have eight knobs which can more or less be deputised to perform a similar function, and crucially it has the keyboard. A lot of people who use a Live controller will also have a MIDI keyboard connected, so with the Key 25 you’re killing two birds with one stone. Even though the keys are small they’re still perfectly fine for synth melodies, basslines and beats. And its tiny footprint means it’s also good for those pressed for space, or for working on the move. MTF

MTF Verdict + Incredibly portable + Keyboard is surprisingly usable + No setup required with Live + Excellent Live integration + Control sessions remotely + Workflow is good + Decent bundled content - A sustain pedal port would be a bonus - Lightweight build means being careful when transporting A surprisingly versatile Live controller considering its extreme portability. Having a keyboard is a great bonus.


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11/02/2015 15:20

MTF Reviews Modartt Pianoteq 5

you’re up and running quickly, and it works as a standalone application or as an AU, VST, RTAS or AAX plug-in for Mac and PC, plus there’s a Linux version. It’s worth noting that there are three versions available at different prices and with different feature sets. We reviewed the full Pro version, but a detailed feature comparison can be found on the website and you can use this to decide which version is right for you.

What you get



Pianoteq 5 Not everyone has space for a massive sample library, but Modartt might just have the solution. Hollin Jones tinkles the virtual ivories of the Pianoteq 5… Details Price Pianoteq Stage, €99 Pianoteq Standard, €249 Pianoteq Pro, €399 Upgrade from previous version, €29 Contact Via website Web

Key Features ● All major formats ● Mac, PC and Linux ● Bundled instrument packs ● Expandable ● Onboard effects ● Multiple sound tweaking controls ● Load external reverb impulses ● Per-note edit in Pro version ● New microphones section


ianos were among the first instruments to be accurately reproduced in digital format, though this was almost always achieved by using large, multi-gigabyte sample libraries to recreate the nuances and playability of a real piano. Pianoteq came along and changed all that, defining a ‘fourth era’ of piano instruments, as the developers put it, with the physically-modelled piano. Weighing in at just 40MB its footprint is tiny compared to most other piano instruments and, in an age where many people produce music on laptops, this space saving can be very appealing. Pianoteq works by modelling the sound of a piano and all the complex interactions of the resonances of the strings and the body in real time. The algorithms behind this are surely fiendishly complicated, but you needn’t worry about them because it’s very much a musician’s tool with an emphasis on playing and sound tweaking rather than the mechanics of sound generation. After unlocking the software online

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All three versions include two instrument packs of your choice and the bonus Historical Instruments pack, and there’s the ability to add more instrument packs to Pianoteq via online purchases. They’re not all just pianos either, and as well as some very old models of harpsichord, glockenspiel and celesta you can also choose vibes, xylophones, steel drums, electric pianos, clavinets and more. Although these add slightly to the install size we’re only talking tens of megabytes, so it’s still a very lightweight app. Each model of piano comes with its own presets and these sound excellent, as we have always found with Pianoteq. There’s a level of authenticity and finesse to the sounds that’s hard to square with the resource-light nature of the app, but it’s a fact nonetheless. The interface in the Pro and Standard versions provides you with a number of sections for tweaking a patch in incredible detail, from tuning through hammer hardness, strike points, soundboard behaviour, string length and many more. You may not need to fiddle with these, in which case the entry-level version might be your preferred option; but if you do want to get in-depth with the Standard or Pro version, there’s loads you can achieve. Under the Output section at the base of the window you’ll find configurable velocity settings, a ‘condition’ area that lets you ‘age’ the piano sound, and separate control sections for action, mallet bounce, EQ and effects. In the Effects tab are three effect slots plus reverb, all with multiple presets. In the reverb section you can even load a WAV impulse to tailor the character of the reverb very precisely. With all these tweakable controls it’s possible to do anything, from making minor tonal changes to altering a piano into something completely alien. A ‘Random’ button helps out here by dialing in a bunch of settings at random. New in Pianoteq 5 is an expanded configurable mic section. It’s been

Alternatives Native Instruments makes a range of Kontakt-based sampled piano models, ranging from uprights to concert grands, for around £59 each. These have a somewhat different approach since they do use samples as the basis for their sound generation, and although they have sound tweaking controls they’re overall a little heavier on your system.

possible to choose mono, stereo or binaural output for a while, but now there are 15 mic models available which can be manipulated more fully. In the mic section they can be added or removed, their levels set, and they can now be rotated in all three dimensions, attached together, and they even have tweakable polarity and proximity effect settings. The idea of virtual mics isn’t new but it’s beautifully implemented here, and the process of mic placement is intuitive and powerful. You can expand the view too, so it’s possible to place mics some distance away from the piano and at different heights. As such it’s easy to add or remove intimacy or room ambience with a couple of clicks. The other major changes from version 4 are in the physical model and these are applied across all the instruments, refining the way the sound is generated. Given that the upgrade to version 5 of the Standard or Pro models is just €29, the addition of the tweakable mics seems like enough of a reason to go for it. As a new buyer, Pianoteq is an excellent way to get authentic, playable and configurable piano sounds on your computer without taking up valuable space. MTF

MTF Verdict + Excellent piano sounds + Very playable and easy to use + Great depth of sound tweaking controls + New mics section is very useful and creative + Extremely small footprint + Easy on system resources + Expandable with more instruments + Create almost any piano sound + Up to 192kHz support in Pro version - Entry-level version is relatively feature-limited Still the best way to get authentic, believable acoustic piano and similar sounds on your computer while using hardly any space. Powerful and playable.



11/02/2015 13:00

Focusrite Saffire PRO 26 Reviews MTF

Alternatives We’ve already mentioned the PRO 24 as being another compact solution and there are, of course, many other Saffire configurations to choose from depending on your connectivity needs. It’s been around for a while but the PreSonus FireStudio Project is still available for the same price (street). It lacks some connectivity, is not as compact, but does have more rotary control.


SaffirePRO26 A good interface should be reliable and unobtrusive, so how does Focusrite’s new model stand up? Andy Jones gets connected…


e’re generally very positive when it comes to Focusrite interfaces. The company seems to have a sense of what we need in our studios – often before we do – and supplies solutions in practical, cost-effective and non-melodramatic ways. The Saffire range is largely FireWire and, the company states, Thunderbolt, although you will need to buy an adapter for the latter which is a shame as that’s £25 and a couple of days’ wait you might not have accounted for. The interface itself is solid and compact – I like the feel and look a lot – and it’s ideal for a desktop studio set-up where space is limited. It’s not rack-mountable but just light enough to be a usable mobile interface (although you might want to consider the PRO 24 for an even more compact solution). Having used a Saffire interface extensively, I’m instantly at home with the 26’s layout – different inputs and outputs on the front and back panels with a useful meter display and rotaries to control levels. Here there are six physical inputs: one and two can be line (at the front) or mic (round the back); three and four are combination mic/ line/XLRs, while five and six are line-ins. There are six line outputs plus a couple of headphone outs and additional inputs by way of an ADAT optical interface (offering another eight inputs).

Details Price £299 Telephone +44 1494 462246 Web

There is enough going on (or, should I say, in and out) for a smallish project studio set-up – say, a singer-songwriter with guitars and mics or someone like me with a soft synth set-up and one or two choice hardware synths.

Easy boy When you get up and running (now a pretty seamless operation) your software should, like Logic Pro X with me, simply recognise Saffire as a new interfacing option and instantly bring the included Saffire MixControl software into the frame, which is essentially your routing environment. It enables you to configure which audio tracks on your software are routed to which physical ins and outs on the interface. If I’m honest, I’ve used it in the past and thought it a little, and I’m struggling for the correct word here,

slept between sessions which turned out to be an issue with the (then new) Logic Pro X, but after a call to Focusrite’s very good technical support staff the latest version solved the problem. Now there are no problems whatsoever and I quickly had PRO 26 up and running and my hardware synths talking happily to Logic. Front panel controls are smooth to use and it’s great to have total control on my monitoring right next to my laptop rather than reaching down to my rack as I have done. Am I just getting lazy? Yes. There’s just room to mention a fine suite of plug-ins that ships with the unit: Live Lite, Focusrite’s own plug-in suites, a gig of Loopmasters samples, and not forgetting the rather great original BassStation soft synth – nice. So we have another fine unit that plugs a gap in the company’s range.

The interface itself is solid and compact, and ideal for a desktop studio set-up Key Features ● 24-bit/96kHz FireWire interface ● Four preamps ● 18 inputs and eight outputs (four mic/line pres, two for high-impedance instruments; two headphone outs, six TRS line outputs; eight extra inputs via ADAT optical) ● 5-Segment LED meter ● Software Bundle includes Ableton Live Lite, Focusrite’s Midnight and Scarlett plugins, Novation’s BassStation synth plus 1GB of Loopmasters samples

unnecessary? What it does is something that you should be able to do in your DAW – the last thing I need is another layer of complication when it comes to computer music making… But, seeing it from Focusrite’s side, the company is taking away the main responsibility of the unit – rock solid interfacing – away from the DAW producer to make sure that it properly does what it says on the tin. And if that means using a layer of software in addition, then so be it. And it does it very well, if a little starkly. It’s easy to select and route audio and control levels, although the latter task is something you’ll prefer to do on the unit and largely what those front panel rotaries are for. One final point of note with MixControl is to make sure you download the latest version (as I write, v3.4). I had issues with needing to reboot my DAW whenever my computer

PRO 26 is solid, compact and will sit on your desktop unnoticed and quietly getting on with its job, just like a good piece of interfacing gear should. MTF

MTF Verdict + Rock solid, sturdy desktop unit + Can be used for both projects and mobile recording (just) + Easy DAW set-up + Good software bundle - You might need to buy a Thunderbolt cable - I know why MixControl is needed but I’m not a huge fan Versatile, compact, easy and reliable, Saffire PRO 26 feels like a trustworthy old friend coming around to your house, sitting down with you, cup of tea in hand, ready to solve any studio interfacing problems you have.


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11/02/2015 14:17


Alternatives There are several alternatives to the sE Reflexion Filter range, however they are all simply based around a sheet of acoustic foam and none have the layers of material and air gaps that block not only more of the reflections but also over a wider frequency range. This, alongside the vertical diffusion pillars, gives the RF SPACE a huge advantage over competitors.


9/10 9 9/ 10


RF SPACE Is sE’s new version of its multi award-winning reflexion filter out of this world? Mike Hillier prepares for lift-off… Details Price £299 Contact Sonic Distribution 0845 500 2500 Web www.seelectronics. com


ontrolling the ambience on a signal is one of the key jobs of any tracking engineer. Even in great-sounding rooms engineers will likely pull out a bunch of baffles to control the ambience as they are recording. But for many small studio owners, having large baffles on hand when you need to close down the reflections is not an easy option. The original RF Pro sought to ease this problem by creating a portable solution that could be quickly set up and positioned to reduce room reflections while capturing a stunning clean, dry performance. Now, eight years later, sE has taken another look at the Reflexion filter and come up with the SPACE (Specialised Portable Acoustic Control Environment).

Rocket science

Key Features ● Ten layers of Multi-Layer Air Gap technology ● Seven vertical pillars to aid diffusion ● Newly designed clamp ● Three-year warranty

The SPACE takes the basic concept of the RF Pro’s multiple layers and air gaps and extends the surface area to envelop more of the microphone and prevent a greater degree of room reflections from reaching the microphone. The design uses ten layers of sE’s patented Multi-Layer Air Gap technology material with seven vertical pillars. These pillars deepen the air gaps, capturing more low-end material and adding some random diffusion. Compare this with many of the alternatives, which usually consist of nothing more than a sheet of foam, and you can see that sE has really put a lot of work into the Reflexion Filter range. In order to make SPACE a more useful and easy-to-use tool than the previous models, sE has redesigned the

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mounting mechanism. The clamp can now be tilted and locked at an angle, making it easier to use the SPACE as a filter around instruments as well as on a vertical stand for vocals. However, because of the nature of putting the enclosure around the back of the microphone it still works best with side-address mics (which hang vertically) rather than end-address units, which tend to start poking the back of the chamber, especially when you add the XLR connector.

No-one can hear you scream We started our testing with a vocal in an already fairly well-controlled room. The difference was subtle but still noticeable without any processing on the vocal, and it became more apparent as we started to apply a little compression to the signal. With the RF SPACE in place the compressed signal retained its close, dry, intimate emotion; without it, the compressed signal brought up the room, placing our vocal just a touch further back. Switching from our treated control room to the kitchen – a very live room with a tiled floor and plenty of flat wooden surfaces – the difference between recording with the RF SPACE and without it became more obvious. The live room sound can be a great trick, and we’ve often used it for exactly that reason, just as we’ve heard of other engineers using bathrooms or purpose-built stone rooms for similar effects. However, with the RF SPACE the room took an altogether different vibe and we were impressed at how much

the room was controlled. It still wasn’t as dry as the controlled room with the RF SPACE, though, which shows you that even with the filter in place the room is still going to have an impact. However, it did take much of the life out of the room and would have made it easy to place as a dry vocal, as opposed to the obviously live version without it. Switching to acoustic guitar, the option of being able to angle the RF SPACE made it easy to place and angle the mic at the guitar without too much hassle. We like to use sE’s RNR1 Rupert Neve ribbon mic on acoustic guitar, which has a figure-of-eight polar pattern. With the RF SPACE the signal we captured was clean and clear, with a more direct, focused sound than without it. Because the filter prevents signals from hitting the walls and bouncing back onto the rear of the ribbon, the figure-of-eight capsule sounded more like a cardioid but still had all the gorgeous qualities we’ve come to love of ribbon mics.

The final frontier The RF SPACE does a great job of cutting down room reflections. We’re often telling you the importance of room treatment with respect to mixing, but the tracking environment is important too – arguably more so. If you record in a project studio where the room acoustics are less than perfect this is an almost essential purchase. But even in studios with fantastic treatment and portable baffles, the ability to quickly switch the acoustics makes this a great addition. MTF

MTF Verdict + Blocks reflections in poorly treated rooms + Improved stand mechanics - Not easy to fit end-address microphones in the enclosure The RF SPACE is an easy-to-use solution that will improve poorly controlled rooms, but can still find a use tightening up well-treated spaces too.



11/02/2015 14:30

Genelec 8010A Reviews MTF

Alternatives As a tiny speaker with professional audio quality that can be carried anywhere, the 8010A occupies a class of its own. Although somewhat larger, you could check out the Adam A3X (£138 each) or the Focal CMS 40 (£284 each). The CMS 40 also comes with removable mesh grilles for the woofer and tweeter.

a relief to discover that it get its juice from the mains rather than a wall wart. There are no fiddly link cables and each unit has its own Class D amplification and controls.

Size matters





It may look like the 6010, but with newly designed amps and XLR inputs the Genelec 8010A promises to be a proquality monitoring system that you can carry on the bus. Huw Price downsizes. Details Price £259 each Contact 020 8962 5080 Web

Key Features ● Max SPL: 96dB ● Frequency response: 67Hz 25kHz ● Power: Bass 25W Class D/ Treble 25W ● 3in bass driver ● ¾in metal dome tweeter ● Dimensions: 195 x 121 x 116 mm ● Weight: 1.5kg ● Connections: XLR input


lthough clearly described as ‘extremely compact’ the bijou dimensions of the 8010A still came as something of a surprise when we took them out of their packaging. Designed to enable “professionals to work in compact studios and on the move” they’re so small that you could probably use them in a cupboard. The promotional shots showing a user putting a pair of 8010A monitors into a shoulder bag are entirely plausible. With that in mind, Genelec protect the woofer and tweeter with metal covers and all the connections and switches are tucked neatly out of harm’s way. As well as being portable, Genelec also promises that the 8010A is an accurate monitoring tool, but we’ll get on to that later. Although the 8010A physically resembles a computer speaker more than a conventional studio nearfield, it’s

The 3in woofer gets 80W of power and the ¾in metal dome tweeter gets 50W. This might seem a bit like dropping a V8 engine into a Fiat 500, but it’s all about headroom rather than sheer volume. The input connector is a balanced XLR input but it can be connected to an unbalanced source using a suitable adaptor. Another feature is Genelec’s Intelligent Signal Sensing (ISS) circuitry, which switches the monitor to standby when no audio input is detected. Switch on takes about half a second, but owners who find this hard to live with can disable the ISS function. Another dipswitch sets the input sensitivity. The default setting is ‘Normal’ – predictably enough – and the dipswitch changes this to -10dB. Genelec advises that you choose the setting that provides the desired playback level and resolution for your system’s volume control. Frequency response adjustment is next up. Bass tilt provides three levels of attenuation: -2dB, -4dB and -6dB at 100Hz. In addition the Desktop Control switch activates a 4dB cut at 200Hz. The manual includes a very useful chart with suggested settings for various working scenarios. For instance, the recommended Bass Tilt settings are -2dB for reverberant rooms, -4dB for proximity to walls and -6dB if the 8010A has to be placed in a corner.

Full tilt Genelec’s four-cornered rubber base is one of our favourite features. As well as providing anti-slip decoupling, a clever metal clip attachment enables the 8010A to fire upwards and downwards as well as straight. We started with the 8010A placed on top of our usual monitors and aimed them down. Then we placed them on our desktop and aimed them up. It’s a simple and elegant solution that ensures the tweeter is always directed towards your

ears. Alternatively the 8010A can be mounted on a bracket or stand. Just like the pictures, the sound belies the actual size. Only this time it’s way bigger than you would ever expect. Admittedly our listening room isn’t especially large, but the 8010A filled the space with crystal clear and wide open sound. Fired up next to a pair of Focal CMS 40s we had to touch the cones on more than one occasion to determine which monitors we were listening to. The Focals were a touch softer and smoother, while the 8010A displayed the more airy and open treble that many would associate with Genelec. Granted, the bass extension isn’t exactly bowel troubling but we have used monitors with enclosures two or three times the size that would struggle to convey quite as much bass energy. When set up as conventional monitors we felt quite happy mixing on the 8010s right away. It’s also interesting to note that the 8010A is compatible with Genelec’s 7050B subwoofer. Placed on a desktop either side of a computer screen the results were still impressive, but we opted to augment the desktop filter with a -4dB bass tilt to tighten the low end (your experience may differ depending on the resonance of your desk). To summarise, the word that springs to mind is ‘extraordinary’. MTF

MTF Verdict + Sonically transparent + Impressive bass handling + Frequency adjustment switches + Fiendishly clever swivel mount + Effortlessly practical and portable + Versatile placement options + Auto standby + Steady off-axis response + Genelec carry bag is available - High volume exposes enclosure limitations A remarkable set of monitors that provides a professional quality reference at medium listening levels in an effortlessly portable format.


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11/02/2015 14:39

MTF Reviews Arturia BeatStep



BeatStep If you thought triggering MIDI hardware and software meant using two different devices, think again. Hollin Jones road tests Arturia’s BeatStep… Details Price €99 Contact Via website Web Minimum System Requirements Windows 7 or higher Mac OS X 10.7 or higher 2GB RAM Dual core 2GHz CPU or better

Key Features ● Controller or sequencer modes ● 16 velocity and pressure sensitive pads ● 16 encoders ● Onboard sequencer ● USB, MIDI, CV and Gate outputs ● Internal and external clocking ● iPad compatibility ● Standalone operation possible


rturia has made a number of successful inroads into the hardware market after many years of developing its range of classic synth emulations. Where some of its other hardware has been physically quite large, the French company is now going compact with hardware synths such as the Micro and Mini Brutes, and now also the BeatStep MIDI controller. Designed to cater for the modern mobile producer, it has a few more tricks up its sleeve than may at first be apparent. Physically the box itself is small but sturdy and a little heavier than you might have expected, though this makes it reassuringly stable when in use. It has rubber feet and a Kensington lock port, and receives power over mini USB from your Mac or PC, or from an optional USB power adaptor if you’re using it in standalone mode. It’s class compliant so no drivers are required on either platform and it also works with iPads via Apple’s Camera Connection Kit. When you’re working with a computer you will be sending MIDI over the USB connection, but there are also outputs for a conventional MIDI jack as well as Gate- and CV-out ports on the side. This means it can work independently of a computer, hooked up to any MIDI-capable instrument as well as more advanced devices that can receive control voltage signal. Interestingly, all the outputs can be used at once so you could be triggering

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some MIDI hardware and then switch modes and use BeatStep to launch clips in Live, or control Logic’s transport. Thanks to the straightforward layout this is very intuitive to do: simply press the control / sequencer button to toggle between modes and the light scheme changes too, red for controller and blue for sequencing. So you might be using the device’s internal sequencer to trigger a pattern, but then flip modes to use the knobs to start tweaking synth parameters. With a bit of practice it’s easy to pick up.

Look and feel The hardware has 16 backlit pads and 16 knobs, as well as a data dial that can control both level and rate parameters. Underneath this are play and stop commands, mode switch, external sync button, MIDI channel select, preset store and recall and a shift button which enables access to a secondary function for all the pads. These are marked on the faceplate and include scale type and playback resolution. Sometimes this kind of stuff can be a bit fiddly to use, but Arturia has done a good job with the workflow and it’s all pretty friendly. Plugged into a Mac, BeatStep was able to control any MIDI instrument I pointed it at including those in Reason, Logic and Live. It’s so small and portable that it would definitely suit anyone making music on the move or with limited studio space, and indeed it’s a fun and powerful music creation tool in its own right regardless of your working methods. Although it has no onboard display, you can manage all its settings and customise templates using the free MIDI Control Center software. This gives you control over all assignable parameters on the hardware and the ability to store them as presets. So for example you could set up a map for your favourite VST, then another to control a Logic project and so on, and switch between them. This applies to

non-computer based controls such as CV as well, though it’s easy to make all the assignments in the software then use BeatStep in standalone mode. In MIDI controller mode, as well as playing beats you can use the pads as switches or to send program and bank change messages, and in Step Sequence mode you can enter 16-step sequences easily, using the knobs to set pitches and the pads to assign notes on or off. The scale function also means you can ensure only the correct notes for any given scale are available to you. It’s best suited to beats or monophonic parts like basses or synth leads, but the addition of the knobs means it’s also good for synth parameter tweaking and DAW control. BeatStep is an excellent little MIDI controller. For triggering in software it’s intuitive and fun to use, and it also works as a MIDI hardware trigger and sequencer via its more old-school outputs. Best of all these can be used concurrently by switching modes on the fly. The setup software is well designed, and the unit itself is sturdy and fun to use. At this price, BeatStep is a great choice for anyone working with MIDI-triggered instruments, be they in hardware or software form. MTF Alternatives Akai’s LPD8 is even more compact with just eight pads and knobs and is available for around £35. It does take portability to the extreme, and for that you sacrifice the full complement of pads and dials. Going in the other direction, NI’s Maschine Mikro for £299 comes with the full Maschine software and is physically larger. It has a MIDI mode too, so it can be used for more generic controlling, plus there’s the Controller Editor software for making assignments.

MTF Verdict + Very sturdy and well designed + Gentle learning curve + Control hardware as easily as software + Use all modes at once + Tiny footprint + Flexible setup options via software + Class compliant + Makes MIDI triggering fun - Nothing at this price An excellent MIDI controller that unites the worlds of software and hardware at a price that’s hard to ignore.



11/02/2015 14:38

FabFilter Pro-Q 2 Reviews MTF

Alternatively EQ matching is starting to become a little more common with many plug-ins providing the feature, including Match EQ in Logic and iZotope’s Ozone. For a slightly different take, Pro Audio DSM V2 does matching using dynamic EQ, which allows it to capture not only the spectrum, but also the dynamics of each band.


Pro-Q 2 FabFilter has quickly become many digital engineers’ favourite brand. Mike Hillier explores its new plug-in EQ. Details Price £124 Contact info@ Web Minimum System Requirements PC Windows XP, Vista, 7 or 8, AAX, RTAS or VST host Mac Intel processor, OSX 10.5 or higher, AU, AAX, RTAS or VST host


e first used FabFilter Pro-Q in early 2010, when we predicted that it would become a staple of our music production process. Little did we expect that nearly five years later Pro-Q is still the first EQ we turn to, for just about any task, whether mixing or mastering, subtractive or additive. With such a great EQ already in their collection what did FabFilter think could be done to justify a new version?

Not just a pretty UI

Key Features ● Up to 24 bands ● Three latency/ phase modes ● Up to 96dB/oct filters ● EQ Match ● Spectrum Grab

The most striking feature of all FabFilter plug-ins has been the incredibly intuitive user interface. Nothing here has been designed to look like an old analogue processor. Everything has been done to take full advantage of the digital plug-in paradigm and in Pro-Q2 you can even change the plug-in size, or jump to full-screen mode. A real-time spectrum analyser is laid underneath the EQ frequency chart, enabling you to quickly see what frequencies are present and how your EQ decisions impact on that. Adding and altering frequency bands can be done directly from the frequency chart, with more detailed options available from a pop-up window as you click on the icon for each band. In Pro-Q2 however you can hover over the frequency chart and freeze it, then click


10/10 on any spike in the chart and Pro-Q2 will automatically add a new EQ band with the centre-frequency and bandwidth (Q) already set to match that of the frequency spike. This makes it very simple to quickly find and remove unwanted resonances. Furthermore you can grab the frequency curve from a sidechained signal and then, using the new EQ match function, shape your own signal to match that of the incoming one. We used this to match an unmastered instrumental to the mastered full version of a track that was sent to us, leaving only a little compression and limiting for us to do to finish the instrumental master and the client unable to tell the difference. It could also be used to match signals from different recording sessions in the same track, or to quickly get to a sound you like by matching a sound you already have from elsewhere. We have also found the EQ match very useful as an educational tool, as it enables budding engineers to see what EQ can and cannot achieve, and what bands are important for what task. Depending on how close you want the sound to be when matching you can dial in more, or fewer EQ bands, up to 24 bands. It is worth noting, however, that the sidechains will be a mono signal, so you may want to process the left and right sides separately. In addition to these new usability features, FabFilter has also updated the EQ algorithms themselves. The new version can be set to Linear Phase, Natural Phase or Zero Latency. Each of these has a very different response

with Natural Phase having the most pleasing, natural sound. Zero Latency mode compromises a little smoothness in the phase response for an EQ that can be used with no latency issues at all, while Linear Phase has a huge latency (around 5,000 samples at 44.1kHz), and some pre-ringing issues in the low-end, but ensures maximum phase coherence when working with multiple mic’ed sources. The EQ options have been improved too. There’s a new Tilt shelving filter, which boosts at one side of the tilt point, while cutting the other. And the existing filters now have a selection of shapes from 12dB/oct up to 96dB/oct. When applied to a standard bellshaped filter, the 96dB/oct option squares off the response at the bottom of the bell, while sharpening the sides. This has the effect of letting you scoop big chunks out of the frequency spectrum without any processing to the signal at either side of the bell.

Desert Island EQ For all the eye-catching new features in Pro-Q2, it’s the ease-of-use, and great sounding results that make us keep coming back to this over many of our other EQs. Whether it’s detailed carving out of problematic resonances, or broad brush enhancing, Pro-Q2 is more than up to the task. In Natural Phase mode the bottom end has enough weight to stand up alongside any Pultec-clone/emulation, while the top-end is so smooth that it is easy to boost here without much of the harshness that is often associated with digital EQs. We have no doubt this time that Pro-Q2 is set to be our ‘go-to’ EQ for some time to come. MTF

MTF Verdict + Easy-to-use + Great educational tool + Powerful EQ options + Great natural sounding filters FabFilter Pro-Q2 is sure to be the first plug-in we add to almost every channel on every mix we do for the next few years. Absolutely brilliant.


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11/02/2015 15:25

MTF Reviews APC40 mkII & APC mini


APC40 mkII & APC mini

The iconic APC40 Ableton Live controller gets a revamp and gives birth to new offspring. Liam O’Mullane finds out what these have to offer compared with other dedicated Live controllers. Details

Price APC40 mkII, £289.99 APC mini, £77.99 APC Key 25, £99.99 Contact inMusic 01252 896040 Web

Key Features APC40 MKII ● 5 x 8 multicolour RGB clip launching pads ● Logical layout ● Crossfader assignment buttons ● Low profile fader stems ● Bundled software includes Live Lite APC MINI ● Nine short-throw faders ● Tri-colour lit 8 x 8 clip launching pads ● Bundled software includes Live Lite ● Compact design


ast your memory back to early 2009 and you may not have been familiar with the colourful LED grids we are now used to seeing in live electronic and DJ shows. The original APC40, which both Akai and Ableton developed, was the first of its generation of purpose-built Ableton Live controllers that included these clip launching grids. There have since been various competing products released for Live control and each one takes a slightly different angle with their choice of features. The APC40 mkI had nine faders, a crossfader, an 8x5 launch grid and various knobs and buttons to navigate around your session. Still to this day it’s a very good-quality and well thoughtout controller, but times have moved on and so have the competition, so the mkII is a welcome update. Two other APC products have also been released around the same time, one being the APC mini, which we’ll also be exploring here. Much like Novation’s response to the APC40 with the Launchpad, the mini seems to be a very similar product, offering an 8x8 grid for more clip access at any one time. Sessions can be navigated to some degree, but as you’d

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9/10 9 9/ 10 expect for the huge difference in price compared with the APC40 mkII, it offers a lower level of control. But it does have nine low-profile faders, which is generous for the price. The APC Key 25 is a keyboard variant of the range, and as the name suggests it includes 25 mini keys for more traditional music control, and instead of the mini’s faders it sports eight knobs. Throughout the new range the most noticeable difference to the older APC 40 and APC 20 is the choice to ditch square clip launching pads and maximise space by going rectangular. Though the APC’s never had velocitysensitive pads we’ve seen quite a few finger drummers using the mkI for performances, so this change in shape may exclude them from these newer products. But the majority of potential users will intend to use the pads for just clip launching, and for that purpose they are perfectly fine.

Slick and slender At first glance there are many noticeable differences between the APC40 mkII and the mkI; its rectangular body shape being one of the biggest. This is due to a new, more logical layout of track knobs now being in line with each track. The unit’s height is also now very low-profile, which makes it more bag friendly than the mkI (which also suffered from having easily bendable fader stems). The mkII has rectified this issue by slightly recessing them. The crossfader feels the same as the mkI with light action and minimal sidewards play for dextrous fader work. Macro and track control knobs are the usual solid

build that we expect from Akai but they’ve slightly revised the knob style to a tapered shape. A huge bugbear with the mkI was its requirement to be run off mains power, which is now solved as the mkII is buss powered via USB. The APC mini’s clip launching grid is much more compact than Novation’s Launchpad, which allows space for the nine faders. These are a welcome feature as they’re essential for quick channel level access or expressive mapping within Live. They are, however, very short-throw faders and quite recessed, so it’s more of a ‘finger from above to move’ type of situation than a fader you can grab and rag around. But they’re handy nonetheless and not as cheap feeling as other low-profile faders we’ve experienced in the past. Like the APC40 mkII, the whole unit is very low-profile and we can imagine both units could easily fit into a medium-sized laptop bag.

Stage presence Focussing on the APC40 mkII alone there’s some clever revision going on with how Akai has approached the design of certain buttons. Buttons you really don’t want to accidentally trigger

Alternatives The APC mini is most comparable to Novation’s Launchpad Mini (£79), which offers a squareshaped grid at the cost of having no faders or other form of continuous, hands-on parameter control. There isn’t a huge range of comparative options to the APC40 mkII, as the crossfader is quite a unique feature alongside a clip launching grid. Existing owners of Live 9 may want to consider upping their investment for Push (€499), as it offers all the 40’s features aside from the fader controls and crossfader assigning. But if those aren’t an issue, or you can budget for a small fader controller to go with it, Push offers much more in terms of integrated hardware control of Live.


11/02/2015 14:38

APC40 mkII & APC mini Reviews MTF

We tested the RGB pad colour against the colour variations in Live and they matched incredibly well, making it much easier to colour code your sounds for visual clarity in a live situation.

in the heat of a gig are recessed, while all other rubberised pads stand proud of the unit for easy access. It’s a shame track arm, cross-fader assignment, track mute and solo buttons aren’t also recessed as they are also undesirable for accidental triggering. Among the revised layout to fit the rectangular body shape, the navigation control to move around Session View is now just above the crossfader for easy access (and while on the topic of easy access the pads now have RGB lighting, which means they mimic different colours and shades to clips in Live). In

general, the unit just makes a bit more sense to move around, and the play/ stop button for Live’s transport is now on the top of the unit rather than with the mk1 when it was so close to the crossfader that accidental triggering was a potential hazard. The mini doesn’t feature RGB pads but it’s just as easy to work with for launching clips as its bigger brother, even though the pads are smaller. These pads feel just as solid as the APC 40 mkII and shift functionality gives you

MTF Verdict APC40 mkII

MTF Verdict APC mini

+ Slimline profile + Slick crossfader feel + RGB pads have great colour matching to Live

+ Slimline profile + Very compact considering the feature set + Great value

- Not enough buttons recessed to avoid accidental triggering - Quite expensive when compared to Push

- Very recessed faders - Rectangular buttons may not suit finger drummers

This is a good example of a follow-up release outdoing the original as it answers most mkI user’s gripes.


IK Multimedia iLoud

Lots of features for such a small and fairly priced device. We recommend checking this out for a practical yet highly portable Live controller.


Curved Horizon Manufacturer Mode Audio Price £12 Contact Via website

Manufacturer IK Multimedia


Price €199.99


Contact Via website Web


e’re a bit late to the iLoud party, but we’ve recently been using these in the office and thought they deserved a brief review. IK Multimedia is primarily known for mobile-based recording peripherals and the iLoud ostensibly continues the trend by being a portable Bluetooth studio monitoring system for iPad-based mixing. Our go-to tracks for monitor testing all sounded great, with surprising clarity for such a small unit. Bass could be heavier but that’s unsurprising given the small woofer. IK boast of the iLoud’s ‘studio style’ fidelity and although it’s better than most mobile speaker systems we’ve tried it doesn’t quite live up to that assertion. MTF

access to solo, mute, track select and record arm. The first eight faders can also move from volume control to pan, send and device control. The new APC range is definitely worth considering and may put Akai back on top of the affordable Ableton Live control marketplace. We recommend all APC40 mkI users to check the mkII out, and for those looking at a clip launcher with tactile control at a low price, the mini is also worth a look. MTF

Key Features ● 40W power ● Bluetooth and stereo analogue line input ● 10-hour battery time ● iRig input for guitars and dynamic mics

MTF Verdict The iLoud is pretty great, despite a few niggles, and certainly holds its own against larger mobile speakers.


ode Audio has done something quite unusual here in that it has programmed some analoguesounding presets (well ‘vintage’ anyway) for an FM8 synth regarded for its warm sheen. The sounds on offer are a selection of pads, basses, synths and chords often with a little bit of ‘analogue’ variability thrown in. So the basses, for example, might come with a bit of phasing movement or noise. It’s also effective on some of the leads – the Gamma preset is particularly good and cuts right through in a very in-your-face way. There are only 50 sounds but it is only 12 quid, and what is here would suit a surprising number of genres from ambient to soundtrack, electronic shoegazing music and maybe even dirty dance. Add in 50 MIDI files and it’s a fine little collection. MTF

Key Features ● 15 pads ● 10 basses ● 10 classic synth ● 5 chord presets ● 5 lead synth ● 5 pluck synth ● 50 MIDI loops (bass, synths and chords)

MTF Verdict If you want to dirty your FM8 synth up a little and add a bit of vintage warmth this is a great preset pack, and it’s also quite cheap.


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11/02/2015 14:38

MTF Reviews Tannoy 402 & 802

Details Price 402: £99 each, 802: £189 each Contact TC Group 0800 917 8926 Web www.tannoy. com

Key Features 402 ● Frequency response 56Hz48kHz ● Max SPL: 101dB ● Tweeter: ¾in soft dome ● Woofer: 4in ● Total power output: 50W ● Inputs: balanced XLR, unbalanced ¼in jack, aux link mini ● HF EQ settings: -1.5dB HF/ Neutral/+1.5dB ● Crossover frequency: 2.8kHz ● Dimensions (mm): 240 x 147 x 212 (HxWxD) 802 ● Frequency response: 42Hz43kHz ● Max SPL: 114dB ● Tweeter: 1in soft dome ● Woofer: 8in ● Bi-amp output power: RMS ● Total power output: 100W ● Inputs: balanced XLR, unbalanced ¼in jack, aux link mini ● HF EQ settings: -1.5dB HF/ neutral/+1.5dB ● Crossover frequency: 1.8kHz ● Dimensions (mm): 390 x 254 x 300 (HxWxD)


Reveal 402 & 802

9/10 9 9/ 10

The new Tannoy Reveal series comprises active monitors of varying size and power levels that can be used as studio workhorses or convenient computer speakers. Huw Price tests the 402 and 802…


t’s not often that the first thing that catches our eye when reviewing a new set of monitors is a relatively minor feature. But with the new Tannoy Reveals the woofers are not only described as being ‘custom high-efficiency’, but they are also ‘poke resistant’. Not something that’s usually a concern of ours, if we’re honest. The idea is that if a blunt object accidentally presses into them they will spring back rather than remain caved in. We managed to resist the urge to test this feature until we had completed our listening tests, but we can report that they function as described.

Speak up Although designed to be used as studio monitors, the Reveals do have some features more commonly associated with computer speakers. Besides the balanced XLR and unbalanced jack inputs, there’s a stereo mini jack input for mobile devices. There’s also a monitor link socket and a 16ft cable to join one speaker to the other with a position switch to determine which is left and right.

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Equalisation adjustment is restricted to a three-way switch with Hi Boost/Neutral/Hi Cut settings. The 402 has 50W of bi-amp power distributed evenly between the drive units. The 802 has 100W, with 75W going to the woofer and 25W to the tweeter. The 802’s

a fairly rapid roll-off. You may notice a peak around the 120Hz mark, but it’s pretty much in line with what you would expect from small, low-budget near-fields with front ports. We had expected some wind noise too, but to Tannoy’s credit they have managed to

The 402 has ample power, great looks and impressive sound quality for its price crossover frequency is 1.8kHz rather than 2.8kHz and both monitors have indented volume controls. You know things are getting a bit silly when you can get speakers as good as the 402s for so little money. Sure you can pick them up on some deficiencies here and there if you want to be hyper critical, but the frequency balance, imaging and clarity of them create a very good overall impression. The bass remains solid and even down to 50Hz or so, below which there’s

engineer out any port chuffing. The treble sounds smooth and un-hyped, so we experienced no sense of fatigue while working with the 402s. With everything set flat the midrange did sound just slightly too fat and fulsome in our semi-damped listening room, so we decided to try the treble boost and preferred the result because the midrange sounded clearer and the solidity of the stereo imaging improved. The only downside worth mentioning is a slight sluggishness to the bass.


11/02/2015 15:29

Tannoy 402 & 802 Reviews MTF

Given the diminutive cabinet size it’s certainly deep and powerful enough, but the upper midrange hump does seem to slow things down, and very low basslines don’t track quite as well as they might. Then again, we’re comparing the 402’s performance with speakers costing two or three times more.

slightly vague stereo imaging. These models represent a lot of speaker for the money. The 402 has ample power, great looks and impressive sound quality for its price point. The 802 also has much to recommend but it is considerably more expensive, and having a sonic character that is perhaps more entertaining than it is accurate may not suit everybody. MTF

Big brother The most obvious differences between the 402 and the 802 are loads more volume and loads more bass. Other than that, there’s no mistaking the fact that these speakers come from the same series. Once again we have an upper bass hump around 120Hz, although it’s slightly less noticeable because the 802’s hump is spread over a wider frequency range. Deeper bass goes along with the larger cabinet. The roll-off starts around 50Hz, or just below, but the slope is far more gradual and the 802s continue to push air down to around 35Hz. These speakers will effortlessly fill a small-to-medium-sized room with sound, and the extra volume that they produce makes it easier to overlook the

MTF Verdict + Impressive sound quality + Plenty of power + Professional look + Connectivity options + Indented volume control - Power switch on back - No auto standby/power saving - No bass control - Slight upper bass hump - Soundstage lacks depth

Alternatives The 402 goes up against the Yamaha HS5 (£121 each), Samson Resolv SE5 (£119 each), PreSonus Eris 5 (£124.99 each) and the KRK RP5 RoKit G3 (£239 pair). Meanwhile the 802 mixes it up with the Fostex PM 841 (£189 each), Mackie MR8 Mk2 (£195 each), KRK RoKit G3 (£195 each) and PreSonus Eris 8 (£337 pair).

VolumeShaper 4 Price €30 Contact


olumeShaper 4 is an LFO-driven modulation effect that lets you draw up to 40 points on top of an oscilloscope display, allowing you to create tempo-synched gates, highly-flexible sidechain ducking, and transient shaping. This latest version features a streamlined interface, cloud preset sharing, plus a new multiband function that lets you have different volume shapes on up to three bands. You can select the crossover frequency and slope in the bottom left of the GUI, with a spectrum in the background to help your decisions. This allows you to do both frequency specific ducking and control, or more wild and creative effects. You can also take the LFO speed up into the audio realm for bit-crushed style distortions, and trigger via MIDI. Although it would

Key Features ● LFO-driven volume modulation effect, AU & VST ● 3 Adjustable frequency bands ● Up to 40 point drawable waveshape ● Cloud preset sharing ● Trigger via MIDI

402 9/10 802 8/10

Michael Schack Hybrid Beats Session

Publisher Cableguys


Fine sounding monitors with a range of connection options and plenty of power.

Publisher Loopmasters Price £29.95 Contact Web


9/10 9 9/ 10

be nice to see a dB reduction meter, overall this is a highly useful and creative tool. MTF

MTF Verdict An incredibly useful plug-in for controlled sidechain ducking and more. The new multiband mode offers greater flexibility and the streamlined GUI makes it easier to use than ever.



his pack features a mix of drum and bass, dubstep and breakbeat grooves by in-demand drummer Michael Schack. You’ll find 18 complete drum tracks with breaks, variations and fills ranging from fast, jazzy shuffles and spacious DnB grooves, to slower and more spacious dubstep and hip hop style patterns. There are also 11 kits with accompanying sampler patches, and 488 MIDI files that match up to each of the audio loops. Every loop here is super tight, yet still retains a live feel through the use of expertly recorded and processed acoustic drums. MTF

Key Features ● DnB, dubstep and breakbeat drums by Michael Schack ● Over 1GB of 24-bit audio ● 488 Loops plus MIDI, 90 178bpm ● 98 One-shots and 11 drum kits ● Wav, Apple Loops, Rex, Live pack & ReFill, plus NNXT, EXS24, HALion and Kontakt


9/10 9 9/ 10

MTF Verdict A versatile and expertly played pack of blistering drum loops and superb fills, with the addition of MIDI loops adding greatly to the flexibility of the package.


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MTF Buyer’s Guide Six of the best

Six of the best Hardware


Mobile Technology


We continue the MTF Buyer’s Guide where we round up the best half-dozen products we’ve looked at in recent issues of MusicTech.. This time we look at a humble but important studio item: the audio interface…

BEST Thunderbolt

Resident Audio T4 Details Price £399 Reviewed MT141 Contact Synthax Audio on 01727 821870 Web


hunderbolt is the current beau of connectivity but has, until now, been costly. At a shade under £400 the T4 changes everything, offering a truly mobile interface solution for those who don’t need a ton of I/O. Reviewer Hollin Jones said: “The T4 is a great solution for portable recording and performance. It’s well engineered and has some nice touches such as the secondary headphone out and Smart Monitoring.” He concluded: “A really solid and well-built audio and MIDI interface that has all the benefits of Thunderbolt in an affordable and portable package.”

BEST Flexibility

Focusrite Saffire PRO 26


ocusrite certainly knows how to put interfaces together and, in the Saffire range, the company has just about something for everyone in the market for a FireWire unit (plus Thunderbolt for an additional connector). Reviewer Andy Jones was impressed and said: “Versatile, compact, easy and reliable, Saffire PRO feels like a trustworthy old friend, coming round to your house, cup of tea in hand, ready to solve any interfacing problems you may have.”

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Details Price £119 Reviewed MT141 Contact InMusic via website Web


Alesis iO Dock II


o be honest there is little to split this and the Focusrite iTrack Dock, which is arguably more future proof and for newer iPad owners. However, the Alesis does have its pluses, including 30-pin lightning connectors, two combo XLR inputs and the fact that it supports iPads going back to version 1. Hollin Jones said: “Considering what you get, the iO Dock II is competitively priced and it’s certainly a clever way to expand your iPad into a more rounded audio and MIDI environment. A great way to record music on your iPad.”

Price £299 Reviewed MT137 Contact +44 1494 462246 Web


11/02/2015 15:17

Six of the best Buyer’s Guide MTF

BEST Portable

Steinberg UR44


he UR44 looks initially to be quite simplistic – a 6x4 USB audio and MIDI interface. But with both Steinberg and Yamaha’s input there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface. Comparing it to its smaller brother (the UR22) Hollin Jones said: “The UR44 is almost as portable but offers a lot more in terms of power – not just the extra ins and

outs but also the Class Compliant mode, dual headphone outs, DSPpowered effects and software accessible mixer.” He then concluded: “An excellent interface that is just as suitable for the studio as the iPad. Great monitoring and DSP features combined with top-class sound quality and easy set-up.”

Details Price £284 Revewed MT133 Contact Steinberg via website Web


BEST Package

UA Apollo Twin


s well as being a great interface, Universal Audio’s Apollo Twin offers a suite of high quality software. Reviewer Hollin Jones said: “This is an exquisitely made audio interface that also happens to expand your

Price Han Solo £699; Dynamic Duo £899 Reviewed MT135 Contact Source Distribution on 020 8962 5080 Web

computer’s processing abilities and opens the door to the world of UAD plugs. For anyone serious about audio fidelity, it definitely punches above its weight. Excellent recording and monitoring capabilities as well as access to UAD’s plug-in universe.”

BEST Power

RME Fireface 802 Details Price £1,169 Reviewed MT140 Contact Synthax Audio on 01727 821870 Web


escribed as a full-blown studio in a 1U space this was always going to be against its own marketing hype but, actually, the 802 does the job where it needs to, as Huw Price says… “It’s thumbs up on the sonic side and the RME Fireface 802 certainly

qualifies as an upgrade from entry-level and semi-pro interfaces. It is a hassle-free 1U audio interface offering an impressive number of analogue and digital channels, FireWire 400 and USB 2 connectivity and sophisticated monitoring software for PC and Mac.” MTF

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Mini Reviews MTF

Studio Series SL600 USB mic Manufacturer Editors Keys Price £199.99 Contact via website Web


he world of the USB microphone has exploded of late with just about every manufacturer getting in on the act. Recently we’ve seen the SE X1 scoring well in MusicTech, and everyone from Audio Technica to Røde offering models, all price points being catered for, plus some fairly low-rent models under £20 (which we’d mostly avoid for serious audio work). Studio Series is relatively new to the pages of MusicTech. The company produces a range of audio equipment including speakers, vocal booths and three USB mics, the SL600 being the top of the range. The mic comes in a compact and sturdy case along with shockmount and USB cable. It’s completely plug ’n’ play so no software is needed – your


9/10 9 9/ 10 Key Features ● Mac and PC USB microphone ● 34mm goldplated diaphragm ● Microphone gain and output control ● Headphone jack ● Low cut and -10dB sensitivity switches

computer should just pick it up as an input source automatically, as ours did. Indeed Logic picked it up straight away and we were very quickly recording our vocal tracks. The mic itself is quite weighty, giving the feeling of quality and chunkiness, and you probably could get away with dropping it on occasion (although we’re not guaranteeing this!). On power up the mic lights up with a blue glow, especially pleasing against the unusually orange-coloured grill. It might be distracting to some but we

quite like it. The sound quality is particularly good with far more warmth and bottom end than we were expecting. Like many we baulk at the sound of our own voices but the SL600 adds a surprising amount of depth, making the results less middle-y, perhaps with a touch of bass enhancement (which in this instance we preferred over accuracy!). Other useful features include a headphone socket, so there’s no worrying about having to reach around the back for your usual connections. There is a gain control on hand and a rotary for overall input gain. Other controls include switches for low cut and -10dB sensitivity. Overall this is a very solid-feeling mic with a great, warm sound and quality feel. At a shade under £200 it’s quite an expensive option; but at the time of writing there’s a whopping £50 off, making it a steal. MTF

MTF Verdict Great USB mic package and currently an absolute bargain with £50 off. Grab it while you can!


UDG Creator DIGI hard case

Finhol Kick Box Mark III

Manufacturer UDG

Manufacturer Finhol

Price €79.95

Price £122.67

Contact via website





ransporting your gear around can be a massive pain but UDG seem to have solutions for pretty much every studio item – you can even search for a hard case on the company’s website according to the gear you own. We’ve chosen the DIGI hard case, aimed at owners of any accessory, which can safely carry items including headphones and audio interfaces. The case comes with a USB interface, and at just €79.95 represents great value. We’re finding that just having a case ‘for all that other stuff’ is worth the money in itself – throw anything in it as it’s pretty much a portable solution to a problem we didn’t know we had. We’ll look at the company’s other bespoke offerings soon. MTF

Key Features ● Hard case for most accessories ● Comes with USB interface ● Transport interfaces, cables and other studio tools

MTF Verdict It’s a mobile case that you didn’t realise you actually needed. Now you can carry all the bits that don’t go anywhere else in a handy, compact and sturdy case.


here are many advantages to being a solo performer, not least less organisational stress and ego-management to deal with. But if you’re a singersongwriter then going out there alone can sometimes also be tough, especially without a reliable rhythm section. This stompbox from German manufacturer Finhol may be the solution. It’s a simple to use digital unit that comes pre-loaded with two drum sounds (selectable with a toggle switch) and an input/ output jack connection. In tests we found it to be remarkably straightforward to use, and the drum sound was fairly authentic. Particularly the Cajon sound. It’s velocity sensitive as well, making it ideal for those quieter moments.

Key Features ● Switch for two sounds ● Velocity sensitive ● AC or battery operated ● Anti-slip mat

The device can autoplay too, which enables you to set a basic rhythm it will then follow. We’re still getting to grips with blending this with out own compositions so we wouldn’t take it out on the road just yet; however, we feel when fully grasped this could be a highly useful little box. MTF

MTF Verdict Does exactly what it says on the tin/box: a fine stompbox to enhance an acoustic or electric set.


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Mini Reviews MTF

Korg Cliphit Manufacturer Korg Price £99 Contact via website Web


here do seem to be more gadgets than ever in the world of MusicTech which we love to see, but this is a bit of a different one from Korg. Here is a company that for years just knocked out pretty standard – but very good – products that did the job; keyboards, synths, the odd guitar products, all great stuff. But for the last few years Korg seems has gone pretty bonkers when it comes to new releases. We’re not saying that is a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination, but we’ve seen and reviewed cheap analogue synths, build-your-own classic synths, Kaotic devices and now this, a busker’s dream. Korg Cliphit is basically an egg-shaped electronic drum that is ideal for your office percussionist. You


Key Features ● Drum module with four trigger inputs. ● Three clips plus footpedal supplied ● 11 drum kits ● Headphone jack ● Battery or mains operated

know the fellow: he sits at his desk thumping away on his thighs, desk and anything else that makes noise. It’s constant beatmaking on anything he can tap. But what he really wants is this: Korg’s Cliphit. This is what anyone with too much rhythmic energy in their fingers or feet needs. The beauty is that you can beat it like a drum, but also attach a (supplied) kick trigger for your feet to play the kick drums, and also three (supplied) trigger clips which you can attach to any loose clothing – or anything else – and hit with any remaining limbs. The ‘anything else’ bit is important here as you can attach those clips to the

The Carnival (Barrel

Organs, Fairground Treasures) Choice

9/10 9 9/ 10

Manufacturer Sonokinetic Ltd. Price €85 Contact via website Web


ack in the days of purely analogue recording if you had an unfinished track that required a touch of extra magic, let’s say an accordion solo, you either employed a session musician or hired an instrument and played the part

Key Features ● 470MB sample pool; 850 samples ● Big and small organs, four registers ● Octave doubling ● Automatic tempo-synced trills (major and minor) ● Tempo-synced runs, five scales ● Bespoke reverb ● Sampled bellows noise

yourself. If you did the latter, a wellused, battered and sometimes unplayable instrument would be likely to turn up at the studio with a hefty price tag attached. Today, just about every instrument on earth has been sampled and made available at a reasonable price. Some, though, still remain hard to find, but a visit to Sonokinetic’s website will turn up a few rarities. Like the barrel organ. The real thing isn’t a playable instrument but a mechanical device that’s driven either by clockwork, an electric motor or manually with a handle. Sonokinetic sampled two of them, large and small, and created a playable virtual instrument called The Carnival. It runs in the open Kontakt format (4.2.4 or 5) and is not compatible with the free Kontakt player. In true Sonokinetic style, the interface contains all the controls within a single screen for both organs. As well as reverb there are controls for bellows and tempo-synced trills and runs, a typical feature of barrel organ

aforementioned desk, to boxes, to literally anything that you can attach a croc clip to. Your annoying office percussionist will suddenly go from irritating mono tapper to annoying full-on drummer (on second thoughts, perhaps this is one person we should keep the Cliphit away from!). There are 11 drum kits to choose from with a wide variety of sounds, but the size and nature of Cliphit means that you are never going to be playing at massive volumes or huge quality. Decent enough for busking, though. The kits are good enough, ranging from standard, through rock and pop. The final EFX kit is a bit annoying and we’d have preferred the ability to play different sounds by hitting different parts of the main unit – perhaps adding just a couple of trigger points for kick and snare? Otherwise it’s another great curveball from Korg. MTF

MTF Verdict Love the idea, and we love Korg for coming up with this leftfield gear. It’s the ideal device to unleash your finger and toe beats.


music. A ‘melody double’ function is also available for easy octave doubling. For authentic sounding music of this type The Carnival does a brilliant job, and playing and shaping a convincing performance is very straightforward. We particularly liked the pitchwheel-operated runs function, which provides a choice of major, minor, chromatic, pentatonic major and pentatonic minor scales. The mod wheel-operated major and minor trills are rather nifty, too. There are dozens of sampled organs around but few will have anything close to the authentic fairground sound of The Carnival. Also, having such a unique sound, this instrument is good for writing and recording music outside of the obvious genres. With a little experimentation some startlingly original sounds can be conjured up with this highly enjoyable instrument. MTF

MTF Verdict A joyful and authentic-sounding recreation of two Dutch barrel organs. Great fun to play and perfect for adding a fairground atmosphere to your compositions.


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Ableton Live has gone from strength to strength and it’s no surprise to regularly see it being used by highflying producers and newcomers alike. Whether you’re just starting out with Live or if you’re more experienced and trying to find ways to improve your tracks, we’ve got a massive range of content to help. There’s 3.5 hours of masterclass videos and pro tuition, the latest software demos, freeware plug-ins, and promotional videos showing off cutting-edge synths, effects and controllers. You’ll also find plenty of royalty-free loops and samples to use in your own productions, plus all the files you need to follow along with the workshops.

MTF On the disc 3.5 Hours of pro video tuition

Groove3’s massive collection of pro videos taken from its latest Live 9 courses. It includes chapters on sends, returns and busses, drum rack chains, convolution reverb, using macro controls and MIDI controllers, programming beats and bass.

Producertech’s Rob Jones takes a look at setting up and using sidechain compression. There are also two modules from the Secrets Of The Mashup, which see veteran producer Elite Force using effects sends and cymbals to add details to a track.

POINTBLANK MUSIC SCHOOL Course tutor Anthony Chapman takes a look at a range of mixing tools in Live, including exclusive racks, automation and sidechain tricks for mixing dance music. You’ll also find a video on how to program glitchy exponential rhythm patterns.

LOOP+ Loop+ has supplied four Ableton Live related videos. Topics include how to recycle MIDI loops into new material, how to create big rise FX using Live’s native plug-ins, how to create complex polyrhythms, and finally, a look at using Plugin Boutique’s BigKick instrument to create dubstep kicks.

LOOPMASTERS SAMPLES A hand-picked library of royalty-free samples in 24-bit WAV format, including beats, synths, basses, vocals and more taken from David Seaman Electronic Underground, Dope Ammo & Marvellous Cain DnB Fusion Vol 2, Dream Vocals Vol 2, Ghetto Funk Hype Vocals, Hip Hop Instrumentals Vol 3, and Zen Ambient.

SAMPLEPHONICS SAMPLES An eclectic mix of high-quality guitars, synths, strings and beats to use in your tracks. Samples are taken from Analogue Witchcraft 2, Bleep Bloop Trap, Etch Rave Warfare, Hit Maker’s Paradise, Latin Jazz Guitar, Minimal DnB, Smooth RnB Kits, and World String Loops.




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MTF Your Disc MTF DVD38 Ableton Live 2015 PROMOTIONAL VIDEOS

We’ve got over 760 MB of videos showcasing the latest plug-ins and hardware including a range of cutting-edge hardware synths and software instruments from iZotope, MeldaProduction, Moog, Native Instruments, Sonic Faction, Zero-G, Niche Audio, and Roland. You’ll also find highquality monitors and hardware controllers from Tannoy, Akai, and Novation, plus top of the range software effects and processors from Fab Filter, Overloud, Sound Radix, and UA.


If you’re looking to spice up Live with some extra tools, then why not try out the latest plug-ins? From innovative synths, to analogue modelled, classic processors, we’ve rounded up a range of demo and freeware software for you to try. You’ll find plenty of creative effects, samplers, filters, synths, EQs, compressors and more to help you compose and fine tune your tracks.


Whether you’re totally new to Live or a seasoned pro, we’ve got a host of Live workshops to help you improve your programming and mixing skills, plus genre workshops on creating heavyweight dubstep tracks. Where appropriate you’ll find hi-res images, project files and audio on the disc so you can follow along at home. Be sure to copy all the files to your computer before opening a project.


On the disc


ZIP FILES To maximise the amount of content we can bring you on each DVD, the video, tutorial and samples files are supplied compressed (‘zipped’). Mac users should be able to decompress ZIP files simply by double-clicking on them; PC users may need to download a utility such as WinZip ( TUTORIAL FILES The software tutorials that feature in each issue of MTF are almost always accompanied by files and audio so you can work through them on your system. These files are zipped to reduce the space they occupy on the DVD.

Download them to your hard drive and unzip them to access the individual files (remembering to eject the DVD to prevent your computer from slowing down).


Any MTF DVD content marked ‘royalty-free’ can be used in your own original compositions (even commercial ones). You may not, however, resell these samples in any other form.


To help get your productions moving, we’ve rounded up a top-notch collection of Royalty-free samples from Loopmasters, Samplephonics, and Equinox Sounds. You’ll find an eclectic mix of deep synth sounds, glitchy beats, dark and dirty basses, thunderous breaks, live jazz guitars, chunky drum hits, smooth strings, and powerful FX. All files come in 24-bit WAV format and are ready to be imported, warped, chopped and manipulated to your heart’s content.

endeavour to supply you with a replacement disc immediately. Please note that we’re unable to provide technical support for the software on the MTF DVD – please check our website at for any known problems.


If your disc is missing, contact us at with your full postal address and the issue number.

In the unlikely event that your disc is defective, please return it to: Disc Returns, Anthem Publishing, Suite 6, Piccadilly House, London, Bath BA1 6PL. We will FOCUS Ableton Live 2015

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Welcome MTF

Welcome … to Ableton Live 2015, the latest Focus dedicated to (arguably) the world’s finest DAW, and put together by the Live experts here at MusicTech magazine. In this special issue we have two very different, very large and hopefully very useful workshops to help take your Ableton productions up a notch. First up, Martin Delaney’s Ultimate Guide To Ableton Live (starting on p18) takes you on a general Live course, starting at the beginning and then quickly entering the world of basic and more complex programming. It’s a six-part monster that will be useful if you are either a Live beginner or intermediate user. Starting on p74, we also have our Build A Track From Scratch series of tutorials that takes you on a journey to build a complete piece of music over 21 tip-packed pages. It might be specific to dubstep but you will pick up essential advice along the way for whatever genre of music you produce. As usual we have stacks of reviews, general advice features plus tips and tricks and, for the first time, reveal the studios that your fellow Live users employ! Enjoy this special issue and keep that music coming… Andy Jones Senior Editor, MusicTech

We’re focussing on two different and very large workshops for all users of Live

Contributors Mark Cousins, Keith Gemmell, Alex Holmes, Hollin Jones, Huw Price, Liam O’Mullane MUSICTECH FOCUS MAGAZINE Anthem Publishing Ltd Suite 6, Piccadilly House London Road, Bath BA1 6PL Tel +44 (0) 1225 489984 Fax +44 (0) 1225 489980 Senior Editor Andy Jones Art Editor Debra Barber Digital Editor Andy Price Multimedia Editor Alex Holmes Business Dev. Manager Di Marsh

Art Director Jenny Cook

All content copyright Anthem Publishing Ltd 2014 and 2015, all rights reserved. While we make every effort to ensure that the factual content of MusicTech Focus is correct we cannot take any responsibility nor be held accountable for any factual errors printed.

Managing Director Jon Bickley

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.

Licensing enquiries Jon Bickley +44 (0) 1225 489984

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