Producer’s Edge Magazine is dedicated to the creative aspect of music production with a focus on the tools we use to bring ideas into reality. Electronic Issue 04: Find the Ghost in Drum Works Part II: The Ideology of Loops.
Producer’s Edge Magazine
EDITORIAL Editor In Chief/Grand Wizard Drew Spence Senior Editor Will Loiseau Team Editor Crystal Johnson
BRAND BUSINESS Brand Specialist/Manager Pedro Mojica Marketing, Public relations Richera Jones
Producer’s Edge is now wholly created using Abobe Indesign CS4. Enjoy the new look.
n this issue, we’ll be taking a look at another fine selection of products aimed at fleshing out your percussive backing. This includes kit based modules like XLN Audio Addictive Drums, sample based offerings with iZotope iDrum, Sugar-Bytes Consequence and auto-play devices like Jamstix. An exotic device for triggering with genoQs Machines Octopus with Gabriel Seher and a classic electronic set with Yamaha’s Tom Griffin on the DTXtreme III. We will also focus on the nuances of timing, including swing, shuffle and groove with Andrea Pejrolo. Drum Works starts on page six with the Ideology of Loops. Strap in. It’s another jam packed issue as we roll the Edge into 2009. As always, we thank you for your support. -Drew Spence Editor in Chief
Digital Content and Media Griffin Avid
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Drum Works II The Ideology of Loops Vitals on Vinyl
We’d have to go way back in time to capture the frame of mind of a producer in the age when rap music production was a Sampling Sport. Vinyl was king. You were supposed to dig for everything; your music, your hook, your bassline and your Drum Work. An isolated drumloop was a precious find and the library of ‘Most Used Breaks’ was a studio staple. Who didn’t have a track using “Impeach the President”? Is was about chopping that first drum roll as the record starts or a brief skip at the end of a bridge into single hits to make your own drum kits. That also led to tracks with an assortment of sounds that never gelled into a cohesive drum set. The drumloop was still the prefect foundation as you were guaranteed a range of drum hits that sounded right together. As Rap rolled into a commercial juggernaut, legal concerns pushed the producer towards more original composition to avoid the entanglements and expenses of sample clearance. The style switches up. Floor friendly bangas are the quest of the day and the funkalocious break beat loop is no longer the ultimate find. You would think the change over would retire the drumloop for the time being, but instead it has re-inserted itself as the workflow starting point. Legally, the phrase Royalty-Free has opened the doors to new avenues of percussive exploration and exploitation. Everyone’s selling drum loops y’all.
Commercial libraries had a terrible start. Rap music wasn’t viable enough to warrant a serious nod so most packages were created using a borrowed Rock and Roll drummer and asking him to do his best rap impersonation. As the genre grew a proper focus on the gear and tools used in hip hop production led to a more authentic sound. The sampler and drum machine were integrated. This was combined with a larger pool of ‘hit records’ to emulate as trends or styles emerged giving the sound designers a more defined path to follow. Fast forward to now. Among the many choices of sounds, sources, tones and workflows, your Drum Works will most likely be a tentative truce between letting your tools influence your sonic footprint and letting your producer’s ear create the final sound. It’s the difference between being a hack and hacking your way through your production tasks. How much help is too much help? Where’s the me in all these loops? 6 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
Good question. What are you adding creatively to your own music? Once you add something from someone else your music becomes a collaboration. If you played in a band would you say this is my song? Our song? A song? The song? A band leader doesn’t play anything; he conducts. When you use a heavy amount of loops, you are working with a composition as a whole. It’s a collage built on and around the contributions of others.
Wheel Real Reel
Why reinvent the wheel or push your energies into skills that are non essential? Some artists want TOTAL control over their music- and make a complete contribution to its creation. I must make everything, play everything... When you use a loop (AS IS) you’re pretty much saying this person/band/company IS BETTER than me at a) Sound Design b) Programming c) Performing/playing etc...No matter how you slice it, it says someone did/does something better than you. And the true question is what’s wrong with that? Is my production for the satisfaction of ego or am I truly trying to express an emotion and share my creative vision? When does collaboration become a bad thing? Are you cheating yourself out of a creative contribution? Sometimes, it depends on what I’m working on/towards. I have worked on projects using drumming styles I can’t play or naturally program. Loops work. I don’t play Congas/ Bongos. Loops work. I don’t own a marimba, tambourines, djembe or shakers...or a cowbell. Loops work. I have a ton of Drum machines, MIDI controllers, Electronic Drum kit, Zendrum, drum modules, sequencers and samplers and I still find times when a drumloop is the only answer... Sometimes familiarity is a key ingredient. There are unique sonic qualities to a drum loop or breakbeat. And although you can do a lot to make artificial vinylized loops- there comes a point when NOT using a loop could feels like taking a short cut. See you in the lab. Drew Spence
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Saga Sessions with IK Multimedia ARC Advanced Room Correction System
s an audio engineer I was excited when I first heard about the ARC room correction software by IK Multimedia. One of the main problems that amateur and some professional mixers have is the very room that they mix in. Things like standing waves that bounce off walls, desks, etc cause us to hear audio inaccurately. Ik multimedia attempts to tackle this huge problem by using similar technology that major car companies apply in their luxury vehicles. Essentially the goal of ARC is to take your room out of the mix.
What’s Inside: Two by Two The arc comes equipped with software, manual, and calibration microphone. Once you install the arc software you can run it standalone. The GUI promps you to take incremental measurements of your room with the microphone. Once you have taken enough measurements the A.R.C. does it’s calculations and allows you to save your new measurement. You are also able to chose speaker icons that most resemble your monitors (a very cool addition). Now you can use this measurement in your DAW in real time on the master fader buss.
In use: Building the ARC When first opening and using the A.R.C. I immediately noticed that the sound in my room was even no matter where I moved my listening position to. The standing waves seemed to magically disappear. Previously we paid a company a good amount of money to tune the room, but you could only listen in the “sweet spot” which was by the console. If you moved anywhere else in the room the bass seemed boomy in the back or thin in the front. Once applied, the high and mids were clearer, plus the bass was tamed. The vocals seemed less harsh and easier to pocket in the mix. This clarity allows you to mix faster and not second guess your ears or room. One thing to remember is you must bypass the A.R.C. before you bounce 8 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
your track to disk. The A.R.C. uses some eq to correct the room so by bypassing it you return the audio back to its original state.
Conclusion: Part of a Circle The A.R.C. offers room correction for the novice to the professional. It turns a problematic room into an environment that is conducive to accurate mixing. This is something I have been waiting for, not just for my personal needs but for the music business worldwide. I do high end mastering and get a lot of projects that are not mixed in the best environments. You can tell this from bass response, high frequency deficiencies, as well as other tell tale symptoms of a bad mixing environment. The introduction of the A.R.C. will hopefully help eradicate or at least help the current state of mixing for the professional to the weekend warrior. Something worth noting however is there is no substitute for having a well treated room. Proper acoustic treatment should always be your first option. Do not expect A.R.C. to be your “genie in a bottle”, although it will improve your present situation even if you have no acoustic treatment. ikmultimedia.com
“The A.R.C. offers room correction for the novice to the professional. It turns a problematic room into an environment that is conducive to accurate mixing. This is something I have been waiting for, not just for my personal needs but for the music business worldwide.” - Saga Legin
The first and only room correction system in a plugin for DAW-based studios Includes a calibrated measurement microphone, measurement software and multi-platform correction plug-in Improves clarity, stereo imaging and frequency response, for faster, more reliable mixing Revolutionary Audyssey MultEQ® technology corrects frequency and phase response not only for the engineer’s ‘sweet spot’, but also multiple points in the room Step by step setup measurement wizard will have you up and running in minutes . A convenient, unique, mobile correction solution for the traveling engineer. Sonically ‘treat’ your room so you can finally trust the sound of your studio
IK Announces ARC Promotion! Purchase ARC System for only €379.99/$499.99, with a crossgrade price of only €299.99/$399.99! a limited time promotion for ARC System, the first and only acoustical room correction system in a plug-in for MAC/PC DAW based studios. Take advantage of this incredible offer from January 1st to February 28th, 2009....
Saga Legin founded Next Millennium Entertainment in 2003. It’s a mastering and production service located in the heart of New York City. Find out more at NXME.com 9 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
Pro Tools LE (RTAS), M-Powered (RTAS), AU, VST ~$262.71 USD See website for Bundles and upgrade pricing Words by Saga
recently had the privilege of trying out the Sonnox Oxford SuprEsser. The goal of this plugin is to take out those pesky “S”, and “T” sounds found in vocals that cause sibilance. This is a concept that has been addressed before but the SuprEsser offers a slightly different way of approaching this age old problem.
At first glance
The SuprEssers’ interface is sleek and intuitive making it easy to navigate. You can get a decent sound out of it just by adjusting a few parameters without knowing the in and outs. There are three versions of the Surpresser that address different latency problems. The Oxford SurprEsser HR, Oxford SurprEsser LL, and the regular. The HR version (High Resolution) is intended for LF (Low Frequency) filtering. This is the most taxing on
the CPU and probably will not need to be used by the average consumer unless you intend to do some creative mastering. The LL version (Low Latency) only covers frequency ranges from 400 Hz and up. So there will be no LF filtering. The regular version is the most practical and offers better compatibility with most DAW systems.
The installation of the S.O.S (Sonnox Oxford Surpresser) was pretty straightforward. You will need a valid iLok account to purchase or demo it. Once opened I immediately noticed the multifunctional GUI. I’m used to the Waves D-esser which is pretty straightforward and simple in design. The SOS is far from simple and comes stocked with a lot of features. The Surpresser also doubles as a linear EQ and compressor. When used on vocals the effect was impressive. The d-essing sounded surprisingly transparent and natural. The only problem I had was the plug-ins taxing of my system. It uses a lot of CPU so don’t expect to have multiple instances running without clicks. Sonnox does say that any clicks you experience during playback will not print to your bounced file.
The S on the Chest
The Sonnox Surpresser excels in one of the simplest but most important aspects of mixing. I talk of controlling sibilance. The intuitive graphical interface allied with a sleek EQ/ compression make the SuprEsser a formidable force to be reckoned with. The SOS is not for the novice. It will take a little getting used to and attention to the well laid out manual. The sound you get out of it is warm and transparent. The only downside is the strain it puts on your system but the clicks that occur will disappear once the audio is bounced to disk. If you’re looking for a powerful weapon to tame those unwanted noises in your vocals then this plug-in will be a valuable tool in your arsenal. sonnoxplugins.com 10 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
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Adobe Soundbooth CS4 Win/Mac $199. USD Upgrade: $79 USD
Adobe Soundbooth CS4 is a professional tool built for video editors, designers and developers who work with Adobe Flash® software, motion graphics artists, and other creative professionals. Its task-based interface provides the tools necessary to quickly accomplish everyday audio tasks without sacrificing top-quality results or creative control — removing the mystery from editing audio assets, cleaning up unwanted noise from recordings, polishing voice-overs, customizing music to fit the mood of a production, and much more.
hotoshop, Premiere Pro and Adobe Audition. That’s the triple threat Adobe has presented for all your media manipulating matters. Producers are still using Audition for detailed wave editing although they’ve plunked down for samplers, workstations, choppers and slicers in every size and shape. Photoshop is now a verb and anything on the Internet that looks too good to be true is accused of being photo-shopped. Premiere is the first tool of choice for many videographers and well, that guy making his first rap video. Beyond these titles, you’re probably aware of all their other industry staples for web design, document publishing, and animated effects suites.
Price Point Power Play
Audition is $349, Photoshop weighs in at $699.and Premiere Pro is $799. Sure, that’s fine when you’re a business and it’s slotted as a tax write-off, but what about you and me? We want to edit that beat-making session or show off our studio… or capture that freestyle…or make a software demonstration using more than video screen captures. Even in a professional capacity, Premiere is great with video, a little unwieldy for audio and Photoshop is great for switching heads and bodies for a goof, but damn that’s a serious investment to make for that free download mixtape cover. Audition is tops with mixing, but…you get the idea. Soundbooth CS4 is the product meant to dance between worlds. It’s the daywalker. It’s only $199 and just might be your favorite hybrid or high bridge between audio arrangement and audio editing. 12 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
Quin’s hand here This is not a DAW in the sense that you will be recording sessions and running virtual instruments. There is the ability to record audio, but it’s not possible to record a live audio feed or another track along with your multi-track session running. In fact Soundbooth operates like a true software sampler. When you are recording audio, the app is solely focused on bringing your new material into the library. The Waveform View is borrowed from Audition and is also activated here with a double-click on a clip. Soundbooth excels at working with these clips in a very fast and intuitive fashion. This is generally aimed at the point of merging audio and video with a focused toolset for getting the audio part on point. The menu system and arrangement of tools are named and laid out in a task
orientated fashion. You do not need tons of editing experience or more than a rudimentary understanding of sound design to get your projects finished. Many of the Audition power tools are here- like the ability to match volume levels across clips….the envelopes are here too and referred to as Key Frames which will be a familiar term to most video heads. What makes the interface special is the common sense placing of the editing tools.
Whistler while you work My workflow might start at the point of taking in a commercial spot and needing to arrange a new musical composition behind it or merging the audio captured from my DAW with material taken from a free-standing video camera. I start a new session and then drag and drop elements into the library or timeline. All the controls are available INSIDE THE CLIP so there is no need to search through the menu options. Although Audition has a
robust right-click options menu, this is a much better way to arrange the tools. Also, the save scheme is tighter. You capture your exact moment as a Snapshot that saves your work in progress.
Resource Central Station A composer might also make use of these steps, but might want to incorporate the Resource Central’s library of sounds; music beds and construction kits called Scores. It’s not just the parts of the track in pieces but every possible variation for a complete clip-matching composition in seconds. These are the background elements that make up an entire scene arranged as a full track and broken down into elements for your own mixing and matching. There are 50 included with the initial purchase and more than 60 additional compositions available through Adobe Resource Central. Now your mixtape interlude can include more than gunshots. A five Score direct download package costs only $49.00.
This is a readership download exclusive. From Adobe Soundbooth Resource Central we present snippets from the Urban Score “Get Down” and World Score “Persian Sun”. These files are meant to be loaded as Sessions (Score Templates) in Adobe Soundbooth CS4. This is a small portion of the entire score -extracted from the library in native 48000 Hz, 16-bit wave format. They are presented here only as quality examples of the included media.
I find the overall sonic and creative quality higher than the Loopology package included with the Audition series. These clips are meant to be used in final productions and have a great deal of creative potential. As producers looking for additional revenue sources, the idea of diving into music scoring and tapping into other composer heavy avenues becomes much more realistic when armed with Adobe Soundbooth CS4.
End Blade Adobe Soundbooth CS4 is a program designed for professionals with an interface intuitive enough for users who are new to editing. With its tight focus on the most important tools and simple, easily workable manner, it’s become an affordable entry point for anyone interested in working with audio behind a video project. To find out more visit adobe.com
Watch an introduction video with Sr Project Manager lawson Hancock and don’t forget to plug into the additional media and resources watchable at Adobe TV http://tv.adobe.com
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Fxpansion BFD2 Expansion Packs Up Close with John
We understood early on how important a solid source of acoustic samples could be to your production. We visit again with producer, drummer and sound designer John Emrich for a look at the most consistent source of drum multi-samples made exclusively for the BFD 2 engine. We were able to get his ear and kick it about these offerings.
The versatility of the precision instruments in BFD Jazz & Funk Collection mean that
Jazz and Funk
he hip-hop sound was born from borrowing the appropriate sounds from other genres. It’s also our producer tendency to avoid anything [especially drum kits!-GA] labeled hip hop or rap because it’s almost an insult to tell us what to use. The Jazz kit on any production tool is a favorite starting point so it seems obvious that a BFD Jazz and Funk expansion pack is going to capture our attention. Much of the jazz tone we’re expecting to hear is the balance between the recording process and kit pieces. Is there any consideration for the type of equipment available in the hey days of Jazz or is this a modern translation of classic drum sounds? I guess I’m askingwill I sound more like the percussion behind John Coltrane or Branford Marsalis? Jazz and Funk was chosen as the name because it was the first collection of samples to include sticks, brushes, mallets, hands, and hotrods in one high-end expansion pack. It seemed like a good name at the time. The key to achieving any type of sound is great sounding drums. It is up to the player to make it Jazz. The level of detail in the brushes will give end-users the tools needed for very realistic performance, but keep in mind that playing brushes is an art form. The sounds in the Jazz and Funk pack can be used in any style of music. Combined with the mixing power of BFD2, you can produce any type of drum 14 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
it’s perfect for jazz, funk, pop, soul, hip-hop, R&B, blues, country, fusion, folk, rock and far beyond. sound that you are looking for. Need great stick sounds? Got it. Need mallets? Got it. Need hot-rods? Got it. Need hands on the drums? Got it. The cymbals in that pack are some of the most expressive samples available. I love in-studio anecdotes. Could you please tell us an interesting background story from the creation of your expansion packs? I don’t think that people understand how much goes into producing a BFD expansion pack. I spend one full week in the studio. Starting at three in the afternoon, I tune and get the drums ready for that day’s session. At seven that night, I start getting the recording process underway. I usually stop at four in the morning. The next hour is set aside for backups. I get home around six in the morning. Every day of recording is the same. Once I have the room sounding the way that I like, my assistant engineer, Kimo Van Gieson, looks after the ProTools rig. He knows exactly what I am looking for and functions as my second set of ears. I hit every articulation. Once the recording session is over, I transfer the files to my editing studio at home. It takes between three and six months to edit the sounds. Jazz and Funk has over 66,000 wav files in just the one pack! Attention to detail is the key to doing this kind of work. There
is no room for mistakes. This work is not for everyone. I have had some fun on these sessions as well. Recording the kitchen items for the Percussion pack was a blast. Imagine having all of this hi-end recording equipment in the studio to capture sinks, trash cans, and assorted junk. That pack was a blast to record!
BOMB Big Orchestral & marching Band The full chromatic set of Orchestral Chimes and Timpani can be used for melodic lines, perfect for film and commercial composition, for complementing classic rock tracks, or for creative sound design. The tonal bass drums are floor-shaking alternatives to 808 kick drums, for making huge sub basses and storming hip-hop kicks, while the Brake drum (repurposed from an old Cadillac) is perfect for Latin street percussion grooves. I don’t want to stray too far into the world of drummers, but I understand there is a different playing technique when it comes to marching bands. Not
only are the instruments in different positions in respect to the player but many times they are in motion as opposed to a studio drummer. Did any of these factors present a challenge during the recording and capturing of these sounds? Yes, there are different techniques for marching and concert instruments. Not only is the playing style different, but the approach to recording is different.
Take a set of marching quad toms as an example. There are four drums mounted onto a rig that allows them to be carried. That piece of hardware makes a lot of noise that you don’t want in the sample. At the same time, you want them mounted because the drums all resonate whenever one of them is struck. That set of instruments was a challenge, but the end result is right on the money. I also know the sound of a marching band is meant to carry over great distances. How is it possible to capture this huge sound in a closed studio environment? I was surprised at the clarity of these sounds and I guess I expected a sound like the Macy’s Easter day parade. Is that going to be a common misperception that might need to be clarified?
Marching and concert percussion instruments are designed to fill up large areas. I used Studio A at Omega Recording in Rockville, MD. That studio offers one of the largest rooms on the east coast. Mic selection and placement is the key to any recording. There are different techniques that I use, but it is pretty much straightforward - Mic into Preamp into Pro Tools. The only exception was the room mics which were run through a SSL Buss Comp for very slight compression. If
the drum is tuned right and hit correctly, then you should be able to get a good result. The controlled environment of the studio made it possible for me to get the detail that I wanted. These new sounds can be used for any style of music. The Tonal Bass Drums offer a great alternative to 808-type sounds, and the snare drums are easy to place in the mix. Having a full set of orchestral timpani and chimes means that you can add pitched instruments to your drum tracks. What if I do want to experiment with an outdoor or live event sound? How would I approach my mixing in the BFD engine to really sound like I sampled straight from the field PA? It is easy with BFD2 to add extra distance and reverb to the sound to achieve that field-type of sound. In fact, BFD2.1 will include a version of
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Breverb which is an incredible VST reverb plug-in. You could also add one of the compressors in BFD2’s mixer to add extra bite to your room sounds. You can even add some distortion if you want that “Macy’s parade through your TV” sound. BFD2 is the total solution within one program for drums. Keep in mind that BFD2 continues to use the data from earlier versions. The expansion packs available from FXpansion are the ideal source for additional sounds. Should my approach be different for how I use the BOMB pack as opposed to straight forward kits in BFD2 or the Jazz and Funk expansion? My background is as a professional drummer. That said, I have put these packs together to offer the end-user the best possible sound. There is no extra processing on these samples. With BFD2’s mixing, routing, and onboard DSP, you have the best tools available to make the drums sound the way that you want. Everyone has their own concept and style of mixing. Your approach will work fine with my expansion packs. The marching band bass drum is an instrument that needs to be focused on. It’s one of the few acoustic instruments that, when captured right, can compete with the electronically enhanced low end heavyweights. What was done to add this kit piece, in particular, and how might it fit in my modern production scheme- even away from the surrounding kit pieces? The marching bass drums, or tonal bass drums as they are called in marching, offer power, attack, and tone. The tonal bass drums can be used instead of 808-type sounds. You could also use them to establish a bass line because of their tone. There were no tricks used to capture these sounds, just proper playing and recording technique. A word of 16 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
caution: There is HUGE low end in these samples. In fact, I killed a set of headphones and my right nearfield monitor on one of those sounds. It was late, and I didn’t realize that I had the thing cranked. It was my own fault, but cool nonetheless. There’s nothing like a massive blast of 40Hz at two in the morning!
either. It would be impossible to record every percussion instrument on the planet. The tough part is choosing what gets included in each pack. There will be more in the future.
Amongst the highlights are congas, bongos, timbales, djembes, darbukas, udu, ashiko, bodhran, chimes, triangles, cowbells, jamblocks, woodblocks and temple blocks! A variety of shakers and tambourines are also included, along with esoteric effect sounds such as thundersheets, flexatones, waterphones and bowed gongs.
Do you think this package is comprehensive enough to become a producer’s signature sound? Right now I feel the thought process is “if it doesn’t sound too bad I’ll keep it” when it comes to percs. How far can I really lean on a product like this to separate myself from the crowd? Yes, this pack offers a great starting point for all types of music. The extra non-traditional instruments that are included might be the key to the sound of an individual tune. With the flexibility of BFD2, you can create an endless supply of sounds.
I usually consider this type of addition a save my track technique. Why was a decision made to create an entire package instead of throwing in a few extra sounds and percs into each BFD kit? The percussion pack was the first massive collection of these instruments. It was obvious to me that the world needed percussion to go with BFD. I am not done with those instruments
What about the supplied MIDI grooves? How many and how should I go about auditioning a set for my track? Sometimes it seems like they all fit and at other times nothing fits. Do I need an idea in my head first or am I just scanning through a list of loops? I view grooves as a starting point. Listen to the grooves and make changes until you have created something new. We don’t all want to have the same groove anyway. With BFD2’s advanced groove editing, you can just sit there and create.
Most of us have tried to lay out convincing conga patterns on our workstation ROMplers and failed. I expect to spend some time in the sequencer moving my hits around for the normal drum kit grooves, but are there rules to how percs should be laid down on a track? There are never any rules. Each of us has our own way of working. Lay down something that you like and run with it. Besides that, most of the conga samples only cover four keys and don’t really offer all the tones I would normally have as a real player. How is percussion set up so I can add the proper feel, but from a familiar interface? The congas and other hand drums in the Percussion pack have many of the instruments placed in the snare drum category. That was done to offer end-users up to five articulations for each drum. For example, if you load up two congas, you have a total of 10 articulation types for those drums. Hand drums are tough to pull off with electronics, but this pack is set up to give you the best chance at creating a real track. With BFD2, you can create your own layout and trigger it in a way that makes sense for you. Some of the grooves sound like starting points, like maybe I should build a track around the loops. How can I integrate these percussion sounds with my favorite BFD kits? You could do something as simple as loading a funk groove and swapping out the bass drum with a djembe, or putting a saw blade in as your hi-hat. It doesn’t matter. Get in there and mix it up. We have given you the tools. Just go for it. Whatever it may be. Let’s say I want to go all out now and I need a MIDI device to trigger these sounds that might change me from a programmer using pads to
something closer to a real player. Are there any products that might be better suited for triggering this Percussion Pack? ...and you can’t say a Zendrum. Zendrum! The end-user should use whatever they are comfortable with. BFD2 allows you to create custom midi note maps for any triggering device. The Zendrum is the best, most-dynamic controller available in my opinion. A great portion of the sounds are snatched from the environment. So I ask in all seriousness, how do you build an articulation from banging a kitchen sink while keeping it musical? I have spent years in the studio making sounds out of very strange objects. Making something musical is up to the player. I just try to play in a serious musical manner, no matter what I am playing. The sink samples came out really well. This is the definitive collection of sink samples available. What else do we need to know about percussion pack before we move on? The Percussion pack is the first expansion pack that everyone should get to work with BFD2. Half of the interface is devoted to those instruments, even though any instrument can be loaded into any slot. With BFD2 and Percussion you can get of to a great start making drum tracks. And finally, I’ve been clued in on custom sound design jobs where drum kits and other material are made exclusively for a particular producer or production house based on a submitted project description or specification. This, in many cases, explains where producers get their drums from. I have been asked to get you to open up about a signature series you’ve been working on. I know it’s not your policy to discuss exclusive content or hint at future releases, but we’re a close knit family here. I heard there is a way to get a 2 or 3gig package of never-beforeexposed drum kits as a bonus deal after you purchase one of the other
expansion modules. Yes, I have some celebrity producers using my sounds, but I don’t talk about it. If anyone wants custom samples that do not get released to the general public, they need to contact me direct. Put it this way, my sounds are definitely on the radio. FXpansion is starting something new. We are going to make available for download my personal studio drum set. This was a custom built set that I use as my main kit, and it sounds awesome! This download set includes a 22” bass drum with both felt and wood beaters, as well as four toms hit with sticks, brushes, mallets, and hot rods. This is being offered as a download from FXpansion at a very low price of $50. If you buy one of my expansion packs, you get the bonus kit for $25. This is a full set of samples that work great for any type of music, and you don’t have to buy the full pack. When you add the mixing capabilities of BFD2, it is an awesome way to add some sounds while the economy recovers. Firstly, why was this kept a secret for so long and what can my readership do to get in on this offer? We are going to try this out for a while. If sales are good and demand is high, we might start putting more individual sets up for download. Go to www. FXpansion.com for more details on this cool offer. This is a chance to expand your BFD2 collection for the price of a tank of gas! Thank you for that. What else does our readership need to know about the BFD engine and the additional expansion packs? BFD2 is the most popular drum plug-in for a lot of reasons. All of the expansion packs will continue to work with the upgrades. With BFD2, you can support drum replacement, groove editing, mixing, and a huge collection of expansion packs. The key to all of this is having a wide variety of sounds at your disposal in one platform. FXpansion.com Zendrum.com
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Sugar Bytes: Inspirational Tools Beyond the Sequencer
Consequence Artillery II $199 USD Effectrix $199 USD
Chord Sequencer $199
Mac PPC, Intel: VST / AU
WIN XP, VISTA: VST
CONSEQUENCE is a chord groove box that’s both overflowing with possibilities and enabling an intuitive workflow, capturing any of your ideas directly via the Audiorecorder. An extensive sound library contains all kinds of instruments – from powerful analogue synths to most subtle violins.
CONSEQUENCE is a composing tool for you to try out chord patterns in a matter of seconds. This mega-instrument also mutates everything you play via MIDI into the sounds of tomorrow.
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INSPIRATION, not Perspiration
nspiration Avenue. It’s that elusive street that runs across Writer’s Block that’s impossible to find long term parking on. And worse, the street parking rules are very hard to decipher. How long will this workflow allow me to stay here? There seems to be a meter running down with any production purchase of just long it’ll feel fresh and new and lead you to unexplored possibilities. Musical inspiration can be a little tough to come by. Sometimes surfing a new bank of presets or chopping another songs’ melody just isn’t enough. When it comes to building from within, it’s more of a translation from what you hear in your head to what you can express with your musical talent and toolset. Enter Sugar-Bytes Consequence. It’s a VST Chord Groovebox. Basically, it’s a melody playground where you manipulate 3 arpeggiators tied to an instrument bank and make creative decisions on chords, key and scale while you engage effects and adjust the mix.
It’s a simple interface with lots of controls at your finger- um mouse pointer. Although every control is clearly labeled and well named, you’ll still need to RTFM to fully understand the creative possibilities of each control area and the way and How each option affects your composition. It’s an easy read, I promise.
The included soundbank is adequate and filled with sounds from every musical category from ambience to percussion. The quality is aimed at melody composition and I felt they fell just short of wishing Sugar Bytes offered these sounds as individual presets I could play away from Consequence.
The three instrument choices seem a perfect amount as any more might give your music that dreaded demo feel or increase the guilt or guilty pleasures of pressing a few buttons and having the foundation of your track arrive.
The concept for Artillery is being able to control the application of effects using a MIDI interface. That means effects are mapped to key zones and you’ll use a controller to ‘play the effects’. It comes with 28 factory Presets ranging from delays to mastering to vocoder. The interface is perfectly simple and you’ll be tweaking, twisting and turning out tracks in no time. It’s a simple design with almost no end to the number of ways to implement its concept. Vocals, synth lines, drum sequences… partial tracks…a bus…ad libs…so many ways to make use of Artillery II – it’s staggering. It can be subtle or extreme and the most important thing to consider is its live performance potential. For a Drum Works I used the Effect Preset Granular/Step Looper and triggered additional drum hits for variation and added another zone for reverse, and finally brought in the Tonal Looper. I’m running a short simple sequence from iZotope iDrum with the MOPHO drum package in play. Sugar_Bytes_ArtilleryII_Example_01.mp3 Sugar_Bytes_ArtilleryII_Example_02.mp3 This example is the Tonal Delay Synthesizer/Tonal Delay with MIDI Learn (right click menu activates) to my controller. I’m using my keyboard to hold the pitch of my drum steady for a moment and I’ve turned the drums into a melody or extra bassline element. Sugar_Bytes_ArtilleryII_Example_03
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After adding this line up to my list of secret weapons, I was able to talk to the Sugar Bytes team Drew Spence: Could you please break down the members of your team and tell us about Sugar Bytes? We [Robert and Rico- GA] are both song writers and music producers. About 5 years ago we started Sugar Bytes with our first product Artillery. This midi controlled multi effect was something we had in mind for a long time. It’s something that could do right then. We could recreate all the effects artists like Squarepusher and Aphex Twin were famous for. Over the years the company worked out well; we started to work together with some great sound and graphic designers. For us, Sugar Bytes is the chance to make our ideas come true and to produce innovative and intuitive tools that will lead to open better ways of making music.
Effectrix takes the general concept of Artillery and ties it to a 32-step sequencer. As you can see, the effect choices run down the left side and I draw steps and adjust their length inside the grid. The bottommost area has the editing controls for the active effect and below the effect name are my two Modulation Tracks. My MIDI tweaks are recordable and MIDI mapping is implemented. Among the effects there are a few unique gems worth highlighting. XLoop changes loopsize and pitch over time and includes an envelope for shortening the loop. Scratchloop plays the loop forward and backward like scratching a vinyl record. You can have different speeds for fwd and bwd spin and individual slopes for the spinning change between fwd and bwd and vice versa. Tonal Delay (my favorite): A short delay is used to tonalize/synthesize anything fed into it. You can make your drums play melodies, repitch harmonic signals and create stunning mutations out of anything that makes sound in any way. The audio example begins with a preset running and after a few bars I drop back into the original drum pattern unaffected and then roll through a portion of the presets. SugarBytes_Effectrix_example_presets_01.mp3 There are a few companies whose websites you bookmark and every so often pop on to see if there’s any new news. Oh yeah, you still do this even if you’re a subscriber to their newsletter. Sugar Bytes should be one of them. With products this innovative and creatively AND fun to use AND inspirational- you cannot afford to miss out on whatever they do next. I know we won’t.
What deficiency did you see or problem did you think musicians were facing that led to the creation of Consequence? We had a tool in mind that could produce complex music out of just a synth engine and a few chords. Since such a tool had never been created, we called it Synquencer; a tight combination of synth and sequencer. Consequence is an “all in one groovebox” system that gives you all you need for a good track, except the drums. With just a few clicks you can compose songs, hooklines or jingles on the fly. Although I have many ways to combine, mix and match patterns, what would be the best approach for creating original and highly experimental compositions in Consequence? Use the TRG and EACH settings of each instrument to make them play different rhythms. So one Instrument can play arpeggios only, while another plays only chords. Use percussion sounds to have some grooving percussions running along. Assign Filter and TIE sequencer to different instruments, interesting results guaranteed! How much music theory do I need to have in order to make the most of Consequence? Is this a tool for every level of musicianship? It´s a tool for every level of musical education. You might just follow your ears while you create and combine chords that work fine with each other. If you know about harmonic theory, you can build up chord banks on the fly and then jam around with your chords until the song is written. Consequence is also good for harmony learning: if there’s a sequence that you like, just follow the chords on the Consequence keyboard to learn what these chords are made of and how they work together. There is just one rule: its good if it’s groovy. Are you concerned with the possibility that instead of sparking the imagination, Consequence will actually do 21 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
so much that the spirit of the artist is replaced by clever programming? Actually the clever programming just gives the artist better ways to express his imagination. If your instrument inspires you to write new songs, I think the clever programming is a good thing. If you are not an artist there’s no problem with Consequence you’re always on the guest list ;) Although the arpeggiated phrase has spread to many genres of music, Sugar Bytes saw fit to place a 4/4 kick drum pattern as a bonus internal metronome. Although additional percussive tracks are available, does this say consequence is primarily a tool focused on electronic dance music? Consequence is the perfect tool to create all kinds of dance music styles. But it’s also great for string parts, movie themes and percussive rhythms. So while it’s perfect for club music, it still opens up new ways of creating all kinds of music. What elements of its design break it away from an extended ARP engine? While an ARP engine just alternates MIDI data, Consequence is far more. It’s a huge musical instrument which stores chords and uses all kinds of sequencers to create grooves, and that includes it’s hugely usable wellrounded sound engine. But you can use Consequence as an ARP engine… just set the Chord Memory “Source” Control to “MIDI” and Consequence will work as Arpeggiator for your live played notes. Consequence does feature its own soundbank of ROMpler styles instruments. What went into that recording process and was there a deliberate attempt to combine neutral instruments that would gel together easily? We worked together with some great external sound designers. All the instruments were sampled and looped with high 22 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
Audio Example 01 SugarBytesConseqeunceMIX01.mp3 MIX 01: included files Griffin Avid using AMG Luke Cage 9mm drum loop and one instance of Consequence. No additional Mixing or effects used. Variations were done using only instrument selection octave and mute controls. Audio Example 02 SugarBytesConseqeunceMIX01.mp3 Mix 04: Consequence mix raised +4db- AMG Luke Cage drumloop for backing guide, no additional Mixing. Normalized after mixdown. Variations created by Chord Memory selection and Octave. Filter to HP. accuracy and the finest recording gear. Of course all the instruments were made to fit together nicely while offering a wide variety of sounds. The instrument sounds themselves do cover a wide array of tones. Was there every any consideration on making those sounds playable along with Consequence as a separate MIDI controlled instance? Would I have been able to choose just a singular bass patch and play it along without the internal Consequence ARP engine controlling it? With the Consequence Instruments Library we created a huge palette of sounds that we will make available in other products as well. At the moment we don’t plan on a single instrument that ´s just for playing back the library. Before we close, could you please give us a little background on where the ideas for Artillery II and Effectrix came from and how they developed into effect plug-ins? Artillery came from the idea to start effects with midi notes. Effectrix was the next logical step, a simple but effective multi effect sequencer. Both together, they give you so much power, you can create whole songs out
of just a drumloop! I know! Shhhh I could say that Artillery II is aimed at manipulating effects live during a performance and Effectrix is more of a studio production tool. I see many ways for both to be used creatively in a studio setting. That said, if I was interested in combining Artillery II or Effectrix with Consequence, which would be a better choice for a producer to use? Since Consequence, Effectrix and Artillery all work with midi notes, you can create a real monster setup if you use key splits to trigger Consequence Patterns, Effectrix Patterns and Artillery Effects with just one keyboard. A lot of setups are possible here. It’s hard to make a decision, Consequence and Artillery is a dream team, but Consequence and Effectrix also... you’d better buy the all. Sugar Bundle! [laughter erupts] Is there anything else we need to know about the new line of products from Sugar Bytes? Make sure you regularly check our site, as we are planning Consequence “Riff Packs” and some great new products over the year! Thanks for another great studio tool. For more information, software and audio demos visit sugar-bytes.com
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Kontakt 3 The State of our Art by Sean Maru
ampling is built into the DNA of hip hop. Even before digital samplers were widely used, hip hoppers were taking sounds from others sources and using them in their own expression. In the 1970s, DJs were essentially “looping” breaks as they juggled the same breakbeat between two turntables and emcees had already begun taking popular phrases and twisting them into new lyrical ideas. In the 1980s, digital samplers became reasonably affordable and more portable. This gave hip hop producers the freedom to sample any sound they heard. And they did. By the early 90s, sampling became so wide spread and hip hop so profitable that the U. S. legal system eventually shut the party down. Sampling of copy written material would soon become a tool for the well established (i.e. wealthy) artist and those in the underground hoping to fly beneath the radar of the courts. A third camp emerged as the 90s wore on, those who sampled “royalty free” libraries and mixed them with original compositions.
hese days hip hop producers of all stripes still use samples in one way or another and there is still a need to capture, edit and combine sounds from many sources in an efficient way. The tools for sampling, like the art itself, have evolved with hardware samplers losing prominence to software solutions. Likewise, techniques have grown up too. Instead of building songs out of an untouched two bar loop. Producers today take great pride in rendering a found loop unrecognizable or even writing their own compositions and sampling them. To do this they need extensive editing capabilities, plenty of effects and a bank of high quality sounds with which to work. Kontakt has been on the short list of top software samplers since Native Instruments (NI) introduced it in 2002. Like many of its brethren, it offers great sound quality, extensive sound manipulation capabilities and a large sound library. It is also one of many that cannot record audio, leaving that chore to 24 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
third party software like Sound Forge, Peak, etc. The question is have samplers come two steps forward and one step back or have they merely evolved in focus? We will consider that as well as the pros and cons of NI’s latest offering: Kontakt 3. In the box Kontakt 3 (K3) makes a good first impression. Inside the box, you find a well put together package that includes an installation guide, a 239 page printed manual, a DVD wallet containing the installation and library disks, and a reference chart with an overview of the interface and key commands cheat sheet. The installation guide offers information about installation and product activation. It also has instructions on how to set up your soundcard. The printed manual is reasonably detailed and clearly written but it would benefit from a more detailed index. Luckily the manual itself is not very long so there were times where I would just thumb through the manual instead of
Lay of the land Since version 1, the story on Kontakt has been that it sounds good and is very flexible but it is held back by its cumbersome interface. NI appears to have put a lot of energy into improving workflow with version 3 and I think they have incorporated a number of features/changes that will help newbies and experienced users alike.
even trying the index. The DVD wallet is made of hard plastic and should do a good job of protecting the DVDs from any hazardous studio situations. Inside the wallet, you get an installation disk with the program setup files and a PDF of the user manual. You also get 5 DVDs that contain the sound libraries (more on that later). The reference chart lists a few handy key commands to make life easier later on and an overview of the main screens you will encounter during use. I found it to be a thoughtful inclusion. If nothing else it is something light to read during installation. Installation Installing K3 was dead simple. First, you load the main program, which includes interfaces for Standalone operation, Audio Units, VST, RTAS under Pro Tools 7, ASIO, Core Audio,
and DirectSound. No DXI version was included. Then you choose a location for the rather generous 33GB sound library. Hint: it is good practice to store your libraries on a drive separate from your OS and programs. After installation the next step is product activation, which can be accomplished online using the Service Center. If your DAW is not connected to the internet you can activate K3 using the service center’s offline mode. Doing so involves exporting an “Activation Request file” and taking it to an internet-enabled computer where you submit it to NI who will then send you an “Activation Return File” to be imported back into your DAW. I chose the online activation route and it was a breeze. In total, installation and activation took a little over an hour to complete.
Before I get into some of the new features, I would like to review the basic layout of Kontakt. At the top of the interface, you will find the Master Section. It includes global tempo settings, master tune and tuning tone and metronome. The tap tempo button sets the tempo for your project by analyzing your taps as quarter notes. I appreciate the inclusion of a tuner tone because now I don’t have to use a pitched sine wave in sound forge to get sound design experiments in tune with more traditional instruments. Kontakt also has a handy sample purge function. This button removes from memory any unused samples from the instrument you have loaded for your project. This is a simple but effective little tool to manage your computers resources. Below is what NI aptly refers to as the “split rack”. The left side of the rack is where you browse or search for the sounds you want to use (raw samples, mapped instruments or multis). It is also where you can select modules (filters, effects, etc.) that you want to use on those sounds. Once you find what you need on the left side of the rack simply drag it to the right to load it. Once you load an instrument, you click on the wrench icon to drop down the edit module for that sound. Here you can map, chop, effect and otherwise tweak the sounds until your eyes cross.
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You can load multiple instruments into the rack and can drag them up or down to order them how you like. Architecture The most basic unit of sound is a sample (e.g. WAV, AIFF or Rex file, etc.) which can be placed into zones that define key ranges, volume, pan and tuning. A collection of zones comprise a group. Much of the editing you do will take place at the group level. Here you can apply filters, envelopes, etc. to everything within the group. One or more groups combine to make an instrument. At the instrument level, you can adjust performance parameters, apply insert, and send effects. As a point of reference, when you load up a sound from one of the included libraries, you are starting at the instrument level. Of course, you are not limited to having a single instrument loaded at a time. You can load up to 16 instruments on a single page of the rack view and you can have up to four pages for a single multi instrument. Since version 2, you have also had the option of creating banks which are basically a collection of instruments loaded into a single instrument slot which you select via program change commands from the host sequencer. This allows you to organize, audition and use your sounds more efficiently. 26 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
The Makeover In version 3 NI took steps to simplify workflow, improve efficiency and enhance overall “user friendliness”. The most obvious change in version 3 is the new color scheme. Overall the color scheme is lighter and more inviting than the olive drab color scheme of previous versions. Each instrument you load automatically gets its own color (which you can skin later if you prefer). Some criticize this change on the grounds that the program looks less “pro”. Although, the program looks less menacing, I think it is easier to look at for extended periods and the contrasting colors help you find instruments more quickly. I also think the new colors make it easier to read the fonts. For these reasons, I think the new color scheme is a winner. NI has also taken steps to make it easier to get around Kontakt. First the instrument navigator has been added. It is simply a box to the left of the instrument rack containing a list of all loaded instruments along with a solo/ mute switch for each one. If you have a rack full of instruments it is a lot easier to find the one you want using the navigator than it is to scroll vertically or flip through several pages to find it. Finding your sounds can still be done
by either browsing local and networked drives or via the search feature. However, a few tweaks have improved this process. First the new quick search feature shows results as you type in queries. If you are like Griffin Avid and have a huge but insanely wellorganized sample catalog, this feature will pay big dividends, especially when you need to work quickly. Working in concert with the improved search implementation is the new automatic database update feature. Now K3 automatically updates the database that contains all of your sounds and instruments. So instead of clicking Rebuild to find recently added files, they are already there waiting for you when its time to work. Anyone who has sat through a rebuild knows that this is a very helpful tweak to K3. There is also the addition of a quick-load menu which is a list of shortcuts to often used instruments. I added a couple of favorite drum kits and bass sounds to this menu to provide faster access to them when I am starting a track. Jump buttons have been added to help you more easily navigate between modulation sources and their targets. For instance, if you have a few instruments loaded and you are using an LFO to control filter cutoff for one of them it is now much easier to find the
control to adjust the cutoff frequency. Instead of scrolling up and down the screen until your eye catches it, now you simply click the jump button and it scrolls to it for you. When working with large multi instruments and/or complex routing schemes this feature can save you lots of time and frustration.
meticulous about file naming. For the rest of us “Zname_1” types you won’t get very far. I also want to mention the addition of a new function that resolves overlapped key zone and/or velocity ranges. It may not sound sexy but it reduces time spent investigating mapping errors which is neither fun nor musical.
The new monitor view displays a searchable list of all zones, groups and group parameters of the currently selected instrument. This feature is helpful when working on instruments with complex mapping. It allows you to select/deselect different zones/groups as you edit. I found that it did help me
The info button is simply a small pane that provides additional info about the interface and the files you are working with. If you click on a sample, it might tell you its size. If you click on a button, it will tell you what it does. I think this will help new users navigate the program a little easier. The best part is
keep my bearings as I took it old school and actually (gasp) sampled a guitar and mapped it on my keyboard. It can also help when “reverse engineering” the presets that came with the program. While on the topic of mapping multisampled instruments, I want to mention a couple of new mapping features. The new auto-mapping feature allows you to map multi-sampled instruments by analyzing the sample name. You can set up rules that enable the program to read key position, key range, root key and velocity from the sample name and map accordingly. That is great news for those of you who are
if you don’t use it you can easily hide it. Last but not least, K3 rings in the addition of Performance Views, which are user customizable control panels for your instruments. They provide quick access to sound and playability parameters for each of your instruments. For instance, you can change the amp simulation or pickup selection of a guitar, constrain your playing to a specific scale (e.g. E minor, etc.), assign articulations to individual drum sounds (e.g. flams, rolls, drags, etc.). Drum kits also come with a built-in 32 step drum sequencer with graphical editing for pitch and velocity as well as variable swing control.
It is impressive that NI made a performance view to apply to each of the over 1000 included instruments. Sure, performance views were re-used quite a bit for similar sounds but they did make an effort to capture the obvious controls a player would want over a given instrument. The true beauty of performance views, however, is that you can program your own using NI’s KSP language. The editor is built right into the performance view and the changes take place instantly. Granted many of us will not want or need to get that deep with it but I appreciate having such an open ended and powerful tool at my disposal. Besides, many scripts are available on the Internet via independent web sites and the NI user community. Did I mention that third party developers including custom performance views with their K3 libraries as well? In Action K3 ships with 33GB of sounds totaling over 1000 instruments divided across six categories (Band, Orchestral, Synth, Urban Beats, Vintage and World). Overall I would say the quality of the libraries is somewhere between good and very good. When you consider you are getting 33GB of data free of charge, it is hard to get too mad. With so many sounds I cannot get into a detailed discussion of each (or even each category) but the following are my general impressions. Band The horn selection is good. You get a variety of saxophones, trumpets and several trombones to choose from and overall the quality is good. They don’t stack up to a full-on Horn library but they fill the gap nicely when you don’t need ultra realistic brass sounds. I can see hip-hop producers making
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lemonade with them but I am not sure how well they will be received by producers of more traditional genres. The acoustic pianos are good but you only get an upright and a grand version. I like how the performance views let you adjust key and pedal noise. My only complaint is I wish a larger variety of pianos were included. The electric pianos and organ are highly usable out of the box and thanks to performance views; you are given easy access to rotary speaker options to tweak to taste. I could hear the organ patches being used in lots of contexts and across genres. NI clearly put some work into these. Props. The guitars run the gambit of decent to really nice. I was able to get some really ugly sounds out of them when dialing in the right amount of wah and distortion. The solo guitar loads with a generous amount of distortion that would indeed be suited for a traditional rock solo. At first, I wasn’t sure I liked the more distorted guitars but they grew on me once I added, made a few edits in the performance view and then added them to a mix. In fact, I sampled a distorted guitar loop from a record and used one of the electric guitar instruments to play the “solo” for the hook and I have to say it sat in the mix surprisingly well. The nylon guitars sounded very nice. I was also feeling the acoustic bass. It had some really lovely sounding string noise/buzz when played at high velocities. The drum kits are all well recorded and edited as you would expect. In terms of style, the hip-hop kits definitely had a clubby type feel. The kicks were all nice and round sounding and the snares and rim shots sounded nice and crunchy. There were plenty of snaps and claps to go around as well as more traditional boom bap sounds. NI did seem to err on the side of “modern” hip hop drum sounds. Can’t fault NI for giving the people what they want. The more neutral kits such as the rock, jazz and funk kits were all pretty nice. Each had a clean and open sound to them and I found them quite useable. 28 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
Orchestral I was especially excited about testing the orchestral library because it includes a special edition of Vienna Symphonic Library (VSL) Orchestra. First, I tested the strings. Browsing the instrument list, I was disappointed to see only ensemble versions of these instruments. If they had included only the solo instruments, I could have approximated an ensemble instrument by utilizing the harmonization options in the performance view. I guess the idea is to impress you with the ensemble instruments and entice you to buy the full VSL package for the rest. Fair enough. On the positive side, there are many articulations for each sound and the samples are well done. I would describe the personality of the strings as neutral. I usually like my strings to be really biting and aggressive as opposed to lush and atmospheric. These strings, although well recorded and programmed didn’t lean to either side of that dichotomy. I couldn’t get quite enough bite out of them to program some of my more aggressive passages and they wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice for super lush string pad applications either. However, they really shine when used in conjunction with other orchestral sounds (oboes, flutes, etc.) for anything in the middle of those two extremes. The rest of the VSL offerings (woodwind, brass and percussion) were above average and definitely a notch up from the lower to mid range libraries I have tried. The flutes had a great breathy sound to them and were easy to mix. The woodwinds had personality. I especially like the clarinets. They thankfully didn’t have that nasally timbre you get with cheaper libraries. Also, I got a lot of mileage out of the orchestral percussion (cymbals, tympani, etc.) sounds. The only complaint I have is that I wish there were more of them. Synth The Synth library had a number of interesting textures but none of them really gave me that “I HAVE to make
a beat around this” feeling. I think their main value is as spring-boards to new sounds and for that, they are great, giving you different jump off points for sound design experiments. If nothing else, they do a good job of demonstrating what K3 can do. Digging into them may teach you some tricks you had not considered. Urban Beats This library contains a set of 50 construction kits. Each kit contains a complete drum loop and as well as a mapping of all of its parts. This allows you to deconstruct the loop in various ways or build something new altogether. Although out of the box, I was not blown away by the loops themselves, the sound quality is good and K3 gives you many ways to mangle them beyond recognition. Vintage The Vintage library contains synthesizers from the 1970s and 80s, old school drum machines and a few toy keyboards and such thrown in for good measure. Notable analog offerings include the Minimoog and the Crumar Orchestrator. On the digital side, they include some boards you may know (Yamaha DX7 and the Kawai K5000) as well as a few you may not (Yamaha FS1R and TX81Z). I like a few of the analog bass sounds and I found the synth string patches to be an enjoyable, if guilty, pleasure. Sometimes you want a nice synthy string sound and this library gives you are couple of options. The F 100 flute was fun once you tweaked it a little. The old school drum machines include the obligatory 808, 909 and Linndrum kits. Although at first this seemed like a waste of space (I mean who DOESN”T already have these on their hard drive already?) but I admit they are cleaner and crispier than any of the versions I have so I won’t complain. Besides, K3 gives you so many sound shaping options that you have plenty of tools to mangle these well-known sounds into something new. The “electronic toys” section is a head scratcher. In general, I think that any
Overall, I am very impressed with K3. It did a good job of walking the line between power and ease of use. It gives you countless ways to mangle a sound and most of them are always at your fingertips. K3’s large sound library and included effects give it tremendous bang for the buck sound can be a good sound in the right situation with the right tweak. That said I don’t have much use for samples from a Casio Rapman keyboard or a Mattel BeeGees Rhythm machine. World I am not an authority on what world instruments “should” sound like. I just know what I like and I like this library a lot. My World library is modest so I found a number of sounds I had never used before. The African Percussion worked well when layering with snares or when punching-in syncopations to my boom bap type sequences. Furthermore, the additional flute and string instruments are different enough from those found in the other libraries to make them useful alternatives. It is good to have the option of slightly different textures. Imported Sounds Given the universe of sample formats out there from old school Ensoniq files to the wide spread Roland and Akai libraries, it can be frustrating to get all of your sounds under one roof. K3 does a very good job of making that happen. Space does not permit me to list them all so visit www.native-instruments. com to find the huge list of supported formats. Of course, K3 does a better job of importing some sounds than others. I imported several sounds from my Emu CD-ROM collection and they sounded great and were very playable with little tweaking. Akai sounds loaded with no problem. I even loaded an old Ensoniq EPS Jazz Drum Kit. I have to say, it sounded warm and dusty, just like the old days in my pops basement.
Given the limited number of file types I tested, I can’t make a broad statement about K3’s compatibility claims. I can say that everything loaded without a hitch, played well and sounded great. They aimed for the fence and cleared it. Wave of Destruction One of the most significant updates to K3 is the revamped wave editor. In previous versions, the only tool available to you at the sample level was the loop editor. It let you set loop points and repetitions. You could also run samples through the Time Machine (time stretch) utility or correct pitch using the Tone Machine. The closest you got to wav editing was the beat machine mode, which enabled you to slice and map samples using a tempo grid. The only problem with this is that before you could have fun with any of those features; you had to “prep” your samples in an external program. You would, for instance, sample in Sound Forge then trim the sample start and end points (so the beat machine would guess the correct tempo) and then you have to remove DC Offset, normalize and perform other housekeeping chores before saving and finally loading in Kontakt. So if you were sampling original material this was a rather clunky workflow. If you were working with loop libraries, it probably did not bother you. Realizing that most users do a little of both, NI wisely expanded K3’s wave editing capabilities. Now K3 can perform bread and butter destructive editing tasks like cut, copy, crop, delete and paste and features 20 steps of undo/redo. It can also
duplicate, fade in/fade out, silence and/ or reverse sections. Furthermore, it can maximize the level of your sample using the DC Offset and Normalize functions. On the one hand, these are only the most basic tools but on the other, I found it oddly liberating to have fewer editing options. Instead of being tempted to optimize the file endlessly in Sound Forge just because I could, I would just pull the raw sample up in K3, crop it and then punch it into my sequence. Sure, I had to go back and do a few tweaks but that was after my initial inspiration was already sequenced. Although I am singing the praises of the expanded wav editor, I would strongly suggest that NI go the extra mile and include the ability to record in a future release of this program and couple it with a more complete wave editor. Doing so would simplify the workflow that much more and make K3 an even greater value. K3’s wave editing tools really begin to shine when employed along with its waveform grid feature. The grid allows you to set down markers, which create zones that can be edited independently. The markers can be set to a fixed amount (e.g. 16th notes) or to detect beat divisions automatically. The fixed settings work well for material that is timed consistently such as breaks generated via sequencers. If you are working with loops that have loose timing the auto setting tends to work better. Zones can also be edited manually by dragging left to right or you can add your own by clicking
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Effects and Mixer the flag icon. It is fun to load a drum loop up and cut, paste things around until you find a new direction and then loop a random section or two to make variations. Once you are done playing you have the option of mapping the slices to a keyboard or exporting the slices as a midi file via drag and drop. K3 offers yet another level of editing with the addition of zone envelopes. Zone envelopes allow you to draw in sophisticated curves that control sound parameters. You can use them to control obvious things like volume, pan and pitch or configure your own envelope. Simply click on any of K3’s modulators and then click “last touched” to produce a flat envelope ready for the tweaking. Drawing envelopes “on beat” is quick and easy as your edits snap to the nearest grid marker and thus sync to your project tempo. It is easy to lose yourself in the possibilities of layering all of these envelopes. A simple 2 bar loop can get interesting when it is pulsating on beat as pans, fades in and filter sweeps all at once. The best part is that it took you about a minute to make all this happen. This part of K3’s workflow gets a gold star. Modulation The modulation system in K3 is a simple but highly effective tool for shaping sounds. You select a modulator (e.g. LFO, Pitch Wheel, etc.) and assign it to the desired destination (e.g. filter cutoff, pitch, etc.) like you do on most synths but K3 makes it easy to set up by allowing you to make these selections via drag and drop and pull downs. Once the routings have been made, you can use your mouse to draw in the response curves using either a multi-segment envelope or a step envelope mode. The envelopes behave as you would expect. Clicking the mouse produces an anchor point that can be dragged to any position you want. The step envelope approach allows you to set a curve by swiping your mouse horizontally. This requires a little hand-eye coordination but with practice, I could draw curves this way very efficiently.
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The overall quality of the effects is quite good. The convolution reverbs sounded great and didn’t choke my circa 2007 DAW even when several instances were used. The lo-fi effects sounded good as well and I am usually skeptical about such things. New effects include emulations for a variety of speaker cabinets as well as rotary speaker and tube amplifier effects. The cabinet emulations are courtesy of NI’s Guitar Rig 3. I like how K3 made it easy to set up relatively complex signal chains and even provided some useful preset chains to get you started. Changing the order of your effects within the chain is as easy as dragging to the desired location. Mixer The mixer section in K3 is really more of an output configuration utility than a “true” mixer. Although you can control the levels of instruments and route effects (either as inserts or via auxiliary channels), you cannot solo/ mute channels from it and it provides no metering. This leaves you to solo/ mute from each instruments header inside the rack or from the instrument navigator. Furthermore, you can insert up to four of K3’s native effects per channel but it cannot host third party plug-ins. I think most people will use the mixer as an output configuration utility. For this task, the mixer is simple but effective. K3 supports up to 16 channels of audio that can be easily configured to work with your host sequencer. This will allow you to use all of your favorite third party plug-ins and take advantage of your host’s mixing capabilities. If you produce surround mixes, the surround panner effect will give you tremendous spatial control over your sounds. You even have control over properties such as damping and Doppler Effects. Stability I tested it in Sonar 7.0.2 and had good results. I tended to run multiple instances of K3 and had very few crashes. I had one odd instance where
K3 informed me that it had not been properly activated even though it had. The program froze and I rebooted and never saw it again. The only other crashes were those that occurred because I tried to see how hard I could push it. I loaded a ton of instruments and effects and started dragging/ dropping items, drawing envelopes in the flurry of all these edits K3 crashed. After going back to working normally, I never had another crash. I also tested K3 in standalone and it worked well although I did get a random crash on a couple of occasions when trying to insert a lo-fi effect preset on a drum loop. That was the exception and not the rule though. Overall K3 took all of my experiments in stride. Support I normally never contact tech support for anything but for this review I reached out to gauge the level of support. I told them I was having problems with random crashes. I chose this vague question on purpose. I was more focused on how the NI support machine worked than that the actual answer. I wanted to see how they would walk me through the problem and evaluate their overall level of professionalism. The first level of support is the knowledge base. There were about 60 articles in the knowledge base and they covered a number of platform specific issues. However, there is still a good chance you will have to email or pick up the phone for support. To test the email support, I logged in as a registered user and submitted my question via an online form. An auto responder answered my email query immediately but it took almost 2 weeks to get a “real” response to my question. The information provided was helpful but it would have been nice to have had a quicker response. My phone support experience was very positive. They picked up quickly and seemed to be very knowledgeable and helpful even
though I gave them a kind of vague problem. Maybe I was a jerk to give up on phone support so long ago. Conclusions Overall, I am very impressed with K3. It did a good job of walking the line between power and ease of use. It gives you countless ways to mangle a sound and most of them are always at your fingertips. K3’s large sound library and included effects give it tremendous bang for the buck for the new or experienced user. It is ironic then that the main limitations I can see are related to its ability
to do what samplers have always done which is sample. After all, the original purpose of a sampler was to be able to “sample” little bits of audio for your own purposes. I admit that even despite these limitations, K3 is undoubtedly one of the top couple software samplers. It gives users the ability to bring in virtually all of their sounds regardless of format, twist that sound into almost any shape imaginable, and then place them anywhere in the auditory field. Above all K3 fuels the imagination, which is that “other” thing samplers have always done: inspire. native-instruments.com/
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Yamaha Motif XS Impressions and Expression Part II with Phil Clendennin
usician and Yamaha specialist Phil Clendennin wants you to get more out your Motif XS. When I say more I mean expressiveness. Sure,
they added all those articulations and performance nuances, but it’s up to you to take advantage of them. Drew Spence: Now let’s also ask about the internal demos that are inside the Motif. I saw you actually playing along with those. And I think a lot of people assume that the only point for that is to show off what the keyboard can do on the sales room floor. Phil Clendennin: Well yeah, but this is typical of what you can do. The thing is you want the person to sit there and listen to the demo and think, well I could do my music, because those are built up one track at a time by a single musician. You know that’s the whole concept. Yeah, a good demo, believe it or not, is not necessarily a good piece of music, it’s one that’s can show off 15 or 16 sounds in a two minute period. Some people have imagination and some people don’t. You can’t expect everybody to have imagination. Some people will hear a demo and go does it do any other kind of music? Well all kinds of music that we know use the same 12 notes. Of course, it does all kinds of music. 32 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
It’s all a matter of how you put those notes and sounds together. Some people think one keyboard or another is good for hip hop or for jazz and another keyboard is… No! any keyboard is good for whatever you do. One of the things that I always find funny is people wondering does it have hip hop sounds? I have had somebody ask me that question and I was like well what do you mean by hip hop sounds? Eminem had this tune out and it had a harpsichord sound that he uses for the main line. It was a harpsichord. Is a harpsichord a hip hop sound? If it’s used it in a hip hop tune then it is. So any sound can be used anywhere. With a synthesizer, there are so many different sounds and it depends on what mood you are in. Sounds are like colors for musicians; you can’t say you don’t like a sound if it’s not appropriate for what you are doing at the moment. Sound is everything. Anything else is a bell or whistle, everything else is another end in producing tracks. Those other features will always be important,
but sound is the most critical thing you can focus on. That’s why you buy anything. What are your thoughts on the merging of computers and music instruments? Well to me computers are not musical instruments. They are not designed to be musical instruments; you almost have to beat them with a stick to make them do music. What computers do that is so amazing is they allow you to organize your stuff really well and this is where they appeal to us as musicians. If you are thinking about composition, there is no better tool to organize your stuff than a computer. We ask it to keep our checkbook, watch movies, surf for… and find information and record the details of our lives. I am glad you didn’t say what you were surfing for. I thought you were about to slip up right there. [laughter] With the XS you have now what we call Ethernet Networking Capability. It allows people working in
“The Motif is more about helping a musician produce his own music tracks. The more you put in, the more you get out. So, the more you know about music, the more you can get out. The advances in the articulation in the XS and the new effect processing are worth the price of admission. “
different parts of the world to work on the same project; to send files to each other over high speed connections. Music is always an afterthought on computers and to prove it to you you could spend $3,000 on the latest desktop computers. Okay it comes with a $50 sound card and a $3 speaker and they throw in a sub-woofer to make you feel good. No you didn’t. Yes, I did. But that’s what they think about sound. You see what I am saying, it’s an afterthought. You spend all that money, the screen, of course, is the big important thing for what they show. They are more worried about people who play back music than people who make music. You get a Windows computer that comes with a multimedia driver. The multimedia driver has like a built in latency of about three quarters of a second. So that means if I push a key down, three-quarters of the second later, boom, the sound comes out. As a musician you perform like that- it’s impossible. Now if you are a person who plays back and you push play, and three quarters of the second later your .mp3 files starts playing back, you are not really concerned. It’s no big deal. Just because the computer companies are focused on people who play back music, because you know how many of those there are, there are a millions of those.
I was really enjoying our conversation about swing, timing, and performance. Could you please go into a little bit about the importance of that? Oh man, swing. Ever since time began people have been trying to analyze what makes something swing and, of course, trying to make a computer swing is like a whole trip in itself. It’s one of the things that people say is hard to define because the closer you get to a description, the further away you are going off from what it actually is. But you can tell something is swinging or it’s not by listening to it and the best example that I have been able to figure out is falling behind the beat and catching up. Swing is about not being perfectly in time. Well you can’t say it’s not perfect time because it depends on where you are counting. But I mean, instead of dividing every beat mathematically, perfectly, you give one more of a stress than another. Most folk music around the world is in two- so the time count is one, two, one, two, one, two. You want everybody to enjoy it, even people without a sense of time can dance to music that’s in two because there is the down beat, there is the off beat, there is the down beat - you can’t be off the beat. You could be inside out and nobody cares. But as soon as you
get to four beats, well now it gets more complex. Marches are in two, so you think about a military march, when you see an army marching there is nothing less swinging about walking than a march. It is boom, boom, boom, boom it is straight. Now you see somebody in Brooklyn walking and they got a little bop in their step. Now they are still walking in time, but they are putting a little more time on one leg then they are on the other. That gives it a swing and you go wow! Check that out, it is a cool walk, that’s swing, that’s all it is. You can’t say it’s not in time. It’s just that it is falling behind and catching up, falling behind and catching up. The problem computers have is if you tell them, 54% on that first ace note, and 46% on that second ace note, well it’s going to do that every single time. It’s going to be rigid in its swing. The only thing that musicians or human beings can not do is be absolutely consistent. Within swing there are moments when the swing moves. It’s about a band and also relevant to your readership. Playing in groups is disappearing, especially in black music there are hardly any more bands. One of the things that happen in a band is interplay. The drummer has got a certain groove, the bass player has got a different little thing that he is sitting
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on top of that, the guitar player is filling in. there’s a space where nobody is playing- it is the groove of silences. Because you can’t play all the time, so a drummer has to hit the kick drum and then hit the snare but there is space in between boom, crash, boom, crash. The bass player may grab a little bit of that space and put a short note in there. Listen to old time funk Grand Central Station. These spaces set up their own rhythm and that’s what swing is about. It’s about syncopation and that’s the name of the game. The computer divides individual beats or quarter notes into hundreds of different parts. The Motif XS has 480 different clock pulses per quarter note. That’s way beyond the resolution of any musician. There’s this thought the higher the resolution, the more realistic the timing is. Well, that’s not true. Musicians really do want to play in time, how many clock pulses per quarter note do you actually need? If you play right on time, that’s quantizing so that it’s strictly 60s notes, it will sound extremely stiff. But if you offset the upbeats, the even numbered beats, even numbered clock ticks late a little bit, it starts to swing. The thing is you can do that by feel. That’s one of the things that we have on the Motif that’s just magical. The other thing that 34 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
makes something swing is volume. Musicians have to practice to control not only the pitch they play, the timing they play, but how loud something is. Loud and soft can make something swing. You could be right on but you are not playing it with the right punch. So, it’s hit it and quit it. It’s just like dancing. You’re moving your arms a certain way in order to accent a certain part of the beat or change direction. Good and in conclusion I am going to end with a very difficult question, are you ready for it? Yeah, yeah. I’m stuck on whether I should buy a reduced price ES or spend more money and get an XS? On that, we have a splendid answer; buy it based on the sound and what you want to do. Never buy based on technology because technology comes and goes. A later model will do more, do it better, and have more bells and whistles. The sound, if you enjoy the sound, you will love the keyboard. The XS does more than the ES, no question, that’s why we came out with the new model. Everything that you can do in the ES can be loaded into an XS. It’s four years of technology beyond anything the ES can even think about doing. But that’s just reality, I mean if somebody likes the ES; man! That’s where they should be.
There’s always going to be a later keyboard and I know people think that the companies are sinister and we are trying to make people buy the latest thing -- technology is like a river, it’s moving and it looks like it’s moving really fast until you get in the river and you realize, “Hey, this ain’t moving that fast.” so, there are people who have been waiting for this next level, the XS. But if you are standing on the side watching it, you are thinking, “Man! They just put out another one, man, the ES just came out.” but that was four years ago, five years now. The XS is been out over a year. Get the keyboard that sparks your interest. Yamaha builds all the instruments. That’s the other thing that makes a company really unique. When we talk about flutes, Yamaha builds flutes; when we talk about trumpets, Yamaha makes trumpets. So there’s a lot of R&D within the company in play. -Cross pollination in terms of the divisions and when they want to do something they know about it, they can go find the instrument, they can go talk to a person who is involved in building that instrument. Tell us something about the Motif series and what it can do from a philosophical standpoint. A Motif is a short musical idea that you build into a composition. We have something called a phrase factory; there are over 6,000 arpeggios in the XS. If you are going to hire a drummer, a bass player and a guitar player; you want them to bring something to your music. That’s why you hire them. 1,300 guitar arpeggios: this is data taken from real guitar players. You drop in a chord progression and these arps come to life. Same thing with bass, same thing with drums, there are 1,900 drum grooves on board. You can interact with these different arpeggios. Musicians run out of ideas or they start the same way each time. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to hand a chart to a guitar player and get some feedback? So, you can take a chord progression, feed it to the guitar player
or the guitar arpeggio and it does guitar like things with it. The Motif is more about helping a musician produce his own music tracks. The more you put in, the more you get out. So, the more you know about music, the more you can get out. The advances in the articulation in the XS and the new effect processing are worth the price of admission. If you have an ES, you could be very happy for years. But if you found out about the XS, you would be wondering why I didn’t get that instead. And that’s the way it’s always going to be with technology. The one after this will do more than the XS, you can count on that.
that answer so much, so I had to start thinking about, “Well, why did they ask, if they don’t know what they want to do?” But what they think is -- well if I hook it to my computer, it will enhance my experience. That’s the germ idea.
It’s a real world scenario on putting together your own music, your real world application of writing music and it comes from people who have actually sat down and done this and the fact that computer connectivity we talked about that a little bit, the fact that you can wire it to a computer to continue your work. I talk to musicians, they come to the door and one of the questions I always get is can I hook this to my computer and I am always curious doing market research and stuff saying, “Well, what do you want to do?” And then they stop and think, “I don’t know.” That’s an honest answer, I get
If you are doing music production, that’s heaven. I can take a drum kit on track 1 of the Motif XS, put the kick on a separate output, the snare on a separate output, the Hi-hat on the separate output, and put the toms on a stereo pair of outputs. Put the crash cymbal on its own output and send that all to the computer in one pass. When you are ready to do serious music production, you can’t find anything more cutting edge than the XS.
So, four years later than the ES, the XS has more computer connectivity. We are the only keyboards on the market right now, I mean it has been this way for about five years now where you can take each individual track that you record, put it on a separate audio output, and record it to your computer. So, in other words, a 16 part multi will give you 16 audio outputs via FireWire to your computer.
Now, the sound engine, that’s what sells the Motif from the very beginning, the sound engine. We have
certain sounds that have been carried over from the very first one because they become favorites. But what would compel you to buy an XS and what I would recommend for you if you are thinking about that ES or XS, is what level of music production or where are you at with that? What are you going to do with it because a lot of the features that the XS has are all about that whole end-product of music production, actually creating a track and finishing it. We like to think that the workstation is the starting point and not the end all. People ask: Can I do a whole record with the Motif? Well yeah, you could. I mean that’s up to you. I like to think of it as one of the components. To me a finished product, it can’t just be one instrument; I have to have interplay with other musicians. So, I might bring in singers, I might bring in a real drummer, I might bring in a Percussionist. Can you do it all there? Sure. I am sure somebody will. I see television shows and commercials that are completely the Motif XS. I recognize some of the stuff. But it’s a wonderful tool and when you are ready for the advancements now, we try to make it clear - each time we put out a new one, we list things that are new. Some of these things are compelling reasons to buy, the fundamental reason doesn’t change. I had a friend who told me this once and he passed this one on. There are only three reasons why any musician buys a musical instrument. First reason, is very important, it is the sound of that instrument. Second reason is just as important, it’s the sound of that instrument; and most important of all, is that third reason, it is the sound of that instrument. It doesn’t matter what else it does, if it does sound right, you can’t play it. Sound is everything. Anything else is a bell or whistle, everything else is another end in producing tracks. Those other features will always be important, but sound is the most critical thing you can focus on. That’s why you buy anything. Yamahasynth.com/
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Omnisphere Virtual Instrument Synthesizer VST PC/MAC OSX 10.4.9 words by Drew Spence $499 [MSRP] upgrade available for Atmosphere users and special pricing for Atmosphere customers in 2008. Deep VIP discount for users of all three virtual instrument products See https://techshop.spectrasonics. net/omnisphereUpgrade.php for more details Installed html Manual and video tutorials available for registered users
t’s not a whole lot of fun to write a review for a product that doesn’t need one. When it comes to the new flagship product from Spectrasonics, what’s left to guess about? That’s a horrible start, let me try again. At winter NAMM 2008 Eric Persing unveiled a sound design workstation and sample assisted synthesizer instrument that stole the show. The two hour demonstration [available on our youtube.com/griffinavid channel] left everyone convinced that a great and terrible beast was coming. The six month countdown began. The buzz began to build- fueled by the video episodes on Spectrasonics.net and a remix contest using Omnisphere sound clips. The hype and user expectations were exceedingly high and they should be. This is the return-to-market product from a company that doesn’t do entry-level, fun toy or I’ll-outgrow-this-someday. They don’t bunt or think second base is good enough. They have very few products, but each one is swinging for the fences. Let’s take off and see if Omnisphere really does belong in the clouds.
Bespin and Best in the Bin? The six-disc install took over 2 hours. I expected this from my prior experiences with Atmosphere and Trilogy and was prepared with Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Registration and authorization was a snap with a quick copy and paste. Next we updated for a few fixes, a reference guide and over 1,100 new patches including the complete Atmosphere Library. We open up on the MAIN CONTROLS screen with general settings including Layer Mix, Master Filter, Pitch and Scale, Arpeggiator and its preset bank. The Edit Page is where most of your sound sculpting will occur. The panel is divided into 5 sections. The centered Modulation, Oscillator and Filter are layer specific and the outermost Mix affects the entire engine. We know from basic synthesis, modulate means to cause a change and many synthesizers are lauded for their modulation 38 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
and routing abilities. A full bank of options is available from the Edit Page. Zooming in to the Mod Matrix puts 24 modulation routings at your finger tips showing 12 per page. With over 60 different destination Targets available, you’ll be here a while exploring. If this sort of control is a little too much, you can simply rightclick any parameter and use the drop down menu as a short cut. Think of modulation assignments as automating knob tweaks and letting different aspects of the sound dictate the pattern of your tweaks.
Morphing flex Modulation mayhem The far left modulation overview area is an indicator as to “what’s doing with your mods”. You’ll want to Zoom in to the Matrix view to see all the assignments. The light blue titles always indicate the currently active layer and a blue horizontal line under the parameter tracks the amount of the modulation. Morphing between settings or patches is nothing new, but Omnisphere adds the ability to morph/crossfade between two modulations.
PART II: “He should be quite well protected. If he survived the freezing process, that is.” Carbon Freeze Filters Spectrasonics Filter Zoom
h t t p : / / w w w. p r o d u c e r s e d g e m a g a z i n e . c o m / a r c h i v e s / omnisphere/ SpectraOModMatrixExample01.mp3 h t t p : / / w w w. p r o d u c e r s e d g e m a g a z i n e . c o m / a r c h i v e s / omnisphere/ SpectraOModMatrixExample02.mp3 Here, I’ve chosen to split the modulation duties between Velocity and filter envelope and targeted cutoff. The wheel is going to be my method of switching between the two modulation sources. [Insert audio example]. As I rock the wheel left velocity is modulating the cutoff and right switches to the filter envelope. Obviously these routings are more pronounced on the synth patches where modulation is useful for adding character and movement. You can hear in these audio examples how the same mod settings affect a core patch and one of my own synth patches.
It’s the magic button on your sequencer that separates the notes of a chord and creates a musical phrase while you … well, do nothing. The Mode features popular choices from synths past and present like up/down, random and a new repeat X2 and X4. Clock decides the number of steps. Length is note duration and a swing for enhanced grooviness. It’s a very simple interface that’s intuitive and easy to use. An added bonus is groove lock which matches the rhythm of the ARP and syncs the timing to MIDI grooves from STYLUS RMX [and any other MIDI file- GA] via drag and drop. Audio example 01 uses the expansion library Retro Funk and the second [Audio Example 02] uses a loop from my custom bank. The potential expands exponentially when you consider the available 8 parts, each able to use its own arpeggiator. Yes, you can construct an entire song using just the ARP page and when combined with Stylus RMX and its own 8 slots for multis…
Omnisphere uses a dual-filter set up; meaning two filters are active in series or parallel. Series is one filter following the other and parallel means they run side by side and a mix slider (fader) balances the ratio of filtering between the two. Strangely enough I found the low-pass responded in a typical software fashion and was default-set for general tonal sculpting and Band-pass combined with cutoff offset yielded the ‘filter out the highs’ and leave nothing but the bass tones reserved for pieces like the legendary ASR10 with crystal clear…um…clarity. If you want Golden Era mud please refer to specialty filter preset Rich and Moogie2. These filters stay true to the definition of synth filter and remove unwanted frequencies above, below or at your choosing with precise execution. With 17 filter choices and serial/parallel link choices, you could spend a long time trying out different combinations. The only problem is, many of the regular choices yielded similar results and were more for fine tuning an idea. For radical changes to the sound(s) you want to spend more time in the Modulation Matrix or where we’re going next – THE FX!
h t t p : / / w w w. p r o d u c e r s e d g e m a g a z i n e . c o m / a r c h i v e s / omnisphere/spectraOarpexample01.mp3 h t t p : / / w w w. p r o d u c e r s e d g e m a g a z i n e . c o m / a r c h i v e s / omnisphere/spectraOarpexample02.mp3 39 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
It’s the familiar virtual rack of effect modules. Right click in the open slot to select an effect and use the MORE > to revel more editing controls for that particular effect. Clicking on the name of the effect for bypass and the V arrow pops up the presets menu. The entire effect engine is slanted towards guitar type effects - many being retro in flavor, which is surprising for such an incredibly futuristic instrument. I wished they still worked and sounded the same, but maybe they should have changed the names and wrapped them in something IG-88 would like. You will certainly be using these effects in combination to push the sound design envelope even further and you’ve got enough included presets to always find a solid starting point, BUT you will forget that you are using a product from the future while you dial in effects on knobbage from the 50s’. In the STYLUS RMX review, I did say I wanted to use these effects as a separate product. I wouldn’t mind having their classic studio effects like the PRO-Verb, Modern Compressor and Parametric 3-Band EQ available in all my rigs, but the addition of Ultra Chorus, Chorus Echo, Retro-Flanger and Smoking Amp Simulator (gently used to crunchify drums) made me drop this idea in the Spectrasonics suggestion box. We’ll see what happens. Another new addition is the Formant Filter. If you remember that formants surround the shaping of sounds by the human…vocal….oscillator…box, then you have a pretty good idea of what the Formant Filter will do to. As if the singing monk graphic wasn’t enough. Think of it as an organic bandpass filter. Here it is in effect on a raw oscillator waveform.
h t t p : / / w w w. p r o d u c e r s e d g e m a g a z i n e . c o m / a r c h i v e s / omnisphere/SpectrasonicsOmni_formant_example.mp3
Psychoacoustic Sounds and Sampling The appeal of Omnisphere truly starts with the sound design and work ethic of company owner and visionary Eric Persing. You have access to a library over 10x the size of Atmosphere including enhanced versions of all the Atmosphere presets. [Episode 3 Embedded Psychoacoustic sampling video] You’ve seen (or heard more accurately) fine examples of sound design where organic sounds are layered in a mix to suggest more than what’s heard clearly. Did you hear the lion’s roar in the classic truck sequence in Raiders of the Lost Arc or as recently as the Babylonian battle in Alexander? This creative use of sound sources and recording techniques ensures you will be using a unique sound set exclusive to Omnisphere owners. Stories about burning pianos and custom build instruments will certainly awe friends and colleagues, but the most important aspect is the ability to bring organic
and powerfully emotive sounds to your compositions and sound design work without treading familiar territory.
Live mode is about combining multiple patches into an ensemble up to 8 parts. Visually, it’s about being able to clearly see the most important aspects of the interface and make fast changes to your performance set up without interrupting your workflow and more importantly the sound of your instrument live on stage! Yes, I mean you can hold down a set of keys and use touch mode [using a MIDI learn preset to load the next patch!- GA] and switch patches while the current sound continues and then switches as the next set of keys are pressed. Live mode Zoom brings you to the page for selecting how your keyboard will interact with your patch selection. You can use keys or controller dials and knobs to trigger different combinations of patches and even turn them on and off. Dual mode splits Omnisphere using the familiar A and B and is a solution for using multiple MIDI controllers at once. I find this mode best for locking into your keyboard and diving into your composition from there.
Stack Mode It’s all about the layers and splits. In stack mode set to Notes, you’ll choose which keys trigger what patch. You can drag the bottom corner to extend the range and
dragging the topmost corner creates a fade corner. Your left hand might play bass from B4 down and the right hand might play a melody with a different patch from C4 going up. Velo adjusts the split by velocity (how hard to strike the keys) and CC uses MIDI controller data.
PART III: I breathe in grade-A aerated in Darth Vader’s’ ventilation chamber STEAM Engine: The Sample and the Synth Oscillator Spectrasonics has been very clear in defining this product to include the synthesizer label. The switch to their own in-house developed STEAM Engine provides long term expansion options and compatibility across platforms. For must of us STEAM will be the catchy title applied directly to the Omnisphere synthesizer and it’s the engine that powers every aspect including the direct sample streaming, synthesis, effects and even patch browsing. It’s a combination of Frequency, Ring Modulation and Wave Shaping. Here you’ll be creating new sounds from scratch in a variety of ways. Sample mode uses the core library as base material for sonic sculpting. TIMBRE Crush is a bit reduction and Shift (please try this at home) transposes in one direction while sending the pitch in the opposite direction. In truth, this is what I was looking for from a dedicated effects area. Expect to find a great setting and spend time exploring what happens when it’s matched with different samples. Synth mode It’s a tight focus on a few controls at a time that keeps Synth Mode from becoming a big screen of programming confusion. The minimal presentation and small frame you work in betray the sound you get …out. Trust me, if every module was shown at once, you’d get this…
to synth mode are controls for phase (similar to unison), shape (adjusting [morphing/distorting] your main oscillator shape) and (pulse-width) symmetry and (hard) sync. Wave shape is actually choosing the wave shape (triangle, saw etc). The results are incredible and it’s here that the Omnisphere almost leaves all the other VSTs behind and the synth engine stands just behind the psychoacoustic samples. I tinkered around doing my usual patch creation and made some keepers. It was easy enough to craft a sizzling lead and thundering bass. It took two seconds to dial in Harmonia and get a super think tone. I finished with Granular synthesis to add a sharper bite. Simple stuff, really. With the amount of material and number of patches available, and hundreds more on the way, I can easily see a producer never doing more than tweaking the included sounds, but it will be a shame if the synthesis abilities of Omnisphere are overlooked. You can really have some unique sounds going by layering a synth/sample oscillator with the core library. I’ve been reverse engineering and stripping down all the synth patches to get back to the raw oscillators- just to be sure I wasn’t falling in love with the expert patch design, imaginative sampling and creative effect settings. Here’s an example of a great preset stripped to the bone. [Audio Example 04] It’s a single layer first and then the mix of the two layers. It’s followed by the actual default preset with effects turned on and finally the performance with a dose of expression. It’s the Broken Amp Sim that’s usable right out
the gate. Chaos Filters image
Chaos Envelopes And don’t forget the dual layer system where you basically have two synths or sampled-powered wave shapers or one of each combined. All the usual synth programming tricks work as expected including unison, analog styled detune and phase-shifting. The door slides open and Han sees the surprise dinner guest Vader. Harmonia adds four additional oscillators per layer, each with controls for pan, level and detune. Unique
Edit/Filter/Envelope (zoom) takes us to the Chaos envelope page where we can get in and do precise editing to the envelopes using Bezier curves. It’s a graphical interface for the ADSR along with four addition MOD envelopes you can tweak away and assign as modulators. With the right side buttons I can snap-to-grid, restrict my movement to the XY axis and increase the envelope size while maintaining the
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overall scale. As seen above, a right click brings up an options menu where I can add points and edit their shapes. If all those choices are still not enough, I can always engage the CHOAS and adjust the amount of level and curve for random mayhem. The benefits of surgical editing become apparent when my zany envelope designs are applied to the AMP, Filters and MOD Matrix. I tracking lights running across the top indicate your place along the timeline as I choose between a repeating Loop and Sync and adjust the Speed, Velocity and Depth of the modulation.
o what, exactly, do we have here? I’m going to purposely avoid that last paragraph that summarizes a product, and in this case would include a long list of happy-user adjectives. Let’s just agree that Spectrasonics have indeed struck back with an incredible combination of samples and synthesis. It’s a galaxy far, far away that offers an ocean of sound design directions- placed behind an intuitive interface that gives you a little bit a time so you never get lost. This is a product that holds your artificial hand on the bridge of the medical frigate and allows you to ponder the awesome possibilities while staring into space. It’s the first choice for a composers movie score and any producer’s secret weapon. The included library is worth the price of admission alone, not to mention the clearance level cross-grade pricing of $199 or $149 if you own all three virtual instruments. When considering all the original and unique touches you can add to arrive at your own signature sound- on top of what Eric Persing and team Spectrasonics have already done, this an obvious go to product. It’s what we expected and more. Congratulations on a job well done. Now, the only thing missing is the ability to import your own samples. A whispering voice said they might Return with that functionality and I hope when they do- it doesn’t happen anywhere near Endor. Spectrasonics.net
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS FOR ALL USERS: • 2GB or more of RAM • Dual Layer compatible DVD-ROM drive • 50GB of free hard drive space Mac Recommendations: • 2.0 GHz or higher processor • G5 PowerPC compatible - Intel Core2Duo or higher recommended • OSX 10.4.9 or higher • AudioUnit, VST 2.4 or RTAS capable host software • Native Universal Binary for Intel Macs Windows Recommendations: • Pentium 3.0 GHz or higher (Intel Core2Duo recommended) • VST 2.4 or RTAS capable host software • Microsoft XP SP2 or later • Microsoft Vista compatible 42 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
LinPlug RMV Drum Addiction Drum Module Beat Production Center Drum Library
PC/Mac VST $199 The upgrade from RM IV and RM III is 79 US$ Supports .WAV .AIF .REX and LinPlug D4T format.
The RMV is a 64-note-polyphonic VST percussion synthesizer and sampler, Audio Loop Player and Slicer, MIDI Groove Player and Drum Librarian. The instrument is designed specifically for creating and playing synthetic percussion sounds, as well as playing sampled percussion sounds. The instrument can also be used for playing loops and non-percussion sounds.
Fine Mortar Skills ALT + click changes a control’s setting by 1 step. CTRL + Click sets the control back to its default Holding Shift is for fine adjustments… shouldn’t everything work like this?
he interface is a split between Pads and Loops. The Pad view displays 16 of the 48 total pads. They are broken into 3 pages. Each page is divided into the pads and effect controls- containing a browser, pitch envelope control, modulation matrix, filter and insert effects. It’s a sleek and futuristic GUI that’s densely populated with controls. It’s easy enough to get around in, but you’ll need to read the manual at least once to find out the exact purpose of each control and differentiate between controls and indicators. Clicking on a pad lights it briefly and illuminates an E [for Edit-GA] in the pads header. There’s also a slight brightening of the pad itself. To the far left above all the sound sculpting controls is a small field whose number changes with the pad selection as another indication. This field is only engaged by Click + Drag. You have 3 different browser fields for files, kits and loops- not including the L in the pads header, but strangely enough a right click and left click have the same function which is only a select toggle without the conventional right click menu dialogue. The GUI is tightly populated with controls and only becomes truly intuitive after you’ve read the manual once. You’ll see a control and wonder what it does, press it and hear nothing obvious happen. A brief glance 43 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
at the manual and you’ll slap your forehead and say ‘of course, I should have known!’ Oh, you’ll never forget, but you didn’t know until you knew.
highlighted choice, the middle area is where you input your criteria and the bottom gives you the output of possible results. Mathematical operators [= <>], you know less than, greater than and equal to are if use so it’s even easier to narrow down your search. And of course you can set pour own attribute for sounds that fit your personal taste or situation. After pulling up a suitable kit, we’ll dive into the pad for sonic sculpting and synthesis.
Drum Synthesizer Dosage
body mixed with the noise source. It took me back to the days of mixing the sound of a car door closing or other weighty drops to add more bottom end to a snare. The rest run the expected course and Plop is designer for percs and my favorite is the drum synth.
Drum Diagnosis Groove Librarian
Next to the Drum Kit selector is the Groove Librarian which is connected to the Groove browser that previews and loads the RMV library…of…
PADDED WALLS Let’s start by checking out the included Pad Library sounds. Wow. To be honest, I tried to scroll through all the drum sounds. Really, I did. At some point I gave up and admitted every possible sound you could ever need is here. You’ll find acoustic kits, electronic, weird, funky and classic. RMV boasts 1,500 audio loops, 2,600 MIDI grooves and over 10,000 sounds. At some early point, you will either stop to make a track or give up and tweak the last one you auditioned. Sticking to the sampled kits is my recommendation and I’m revoking your hip hop license if you don’t recognize some of those hitz. Slapping Veins and Browser Gains The search for sounds is made easier by the searchable browsers. Enter a bunch of criteria and sort through the results. The top most area displays the 44 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
The audio module has 13 different Percussion Synthesis sub-modules that start with sampling, cover all the different drum categories and ends with Plop and Drum Synth. The sampler is a clear cut file playback device that opens a browser dialogue. You would use the 30 slots to pull in multi-samples and decide the velocity and cross-fade ranges. Kick 1 and Kick 2 are designed for electronic kick drum sounds. Snare 1 is your classic white noise foundation and Snare 2 mixes the noise oscillator and a Knarks control. No, that’s not a typo for once. It sounds tubular…no it’s more metallic…with a hint of…actually as Linplug says “It sounds Knarky”. Think of it as an additional layer of
grooves. If you were on a hunt for inspiration then you’ll spend most of time lost in this game of matching drum kits and drum patterns. With all the extensive modulation capabilities and overall attention to detail- it’s a strange omission that you can’t dump this kit and pattern combination into a drum loop module for additional tweaking. I would love to apply the groove templates to the drumloops and it would be great if the loops of kicks/hats/snares etc. could be triggered to play their parts according to the chosen groove. That would add a whole new dimension and allow us to mix and match parts of grooves and drum hits/kits and drumloops at will.
Drum Sampler Libido Placebo
When the Audio Modules are set to Sampler your browser in Table View is now choosing sounds for up to 30 pad slots. Here is where I do my drum hit layering. To the far right in the sample parameters is the eye icon which switches to the waveform view. This provides tighter control for start/stop endpoints and the pitch envelopes. You can open multiple samples and spread them across the pads in order by pressing Pads in the browser.
Next to the division of Pad banks across the top are the 6 Loop Modules. The familiar loop browser breaks our search criteria down and even includes loops with kicks, hats and snares. Unfortunately the mass majority of loops are pitched towards electronica and 4/4 patterns are the order of the day. Pitch Envelope, Filter, the Modulation Matrix and the Insert FX round out the bottom of the screen. The Delay, Ping Pong, Reverb, Flanger, Filter, Compressor and Crusher are all done well. I’d like to add an addition (Lin) plug for the Gator, which is a rhythmic gate with left and right splits and for the Wah Wah. Two unexpected finds in a drum module. The main view is the waveform of my loop, below that
is the running timeline showing my place in the loop. I can scroll out or in. There’s an AHDSTR (Attack, Hold, Delay, Sustain [sustain frequency affected], Time [for sustain] and Release) envelope in a small blue line that runs across the main drum loops display. It visually changes to track your Filter tweaks, but I do wish you edit the envelope directly using handles. The Varizer in the bottom left is an interesting piece. It adds a small amount of randomness to the patterns to emulate the human factor. Style varies the pitch and volume to account for the different ways a drummer might hit a drum. Exactness is more of how accurately RMV [pays attention to your settings and is a nod to the quirkiness of electronic components. Spectrum works with the changes in Frequency Spectrum between hits. The Modulation Matrix is very robust for a drumlooper. Source on right, a scaleable amount in middle and destination on the left. The S indicates a sample; C indicates continuous which is needed since many of the modulations are only active from MIDI messages. The Send Effects button next to edit and to the right of your main drumloop display opens up into 3 effect sends. I found it easiest to control my effect and sound shaping from this area and seemed to have the most control over the intended results. It’s about making your effect choices and deciding how much juice to apply to each loop or hit. It’s the bus system we should all be familiar with by now.
Drum Solution Addiction Remission
This is a tough one to summarize. Linplug has thrown everything along with the kitchen sink into this multifunction drum module. They’ve given you enough sampled and synthesized kits to fill your production needs and even offer a healthy palette of colors for your own sound design adventures. While you have great touches like the pads being velocity sensitive from left to right and those Fine Mortar Skills from the Box Out, you have so many ways to perform each task, it can be confusing choosing the best method for your particular situation and the lack of a right click menu is surprising. This is true for the Save options too. You can save in every format based on your Audio Module or working system, but cannot Save or Export in any other format besides those native to RMV. I would also have appreciated some sort of module or method to vary the actual drumloop patterns. That task is left to the host sequencer [via MIDI drag and drop too – GA], which is fine, but it stops the RMV from being a final, final solution. Sound-wise; it’s there. The overall range is aimed at electronic music, but it’s still light work to put together a drum foundation. For producers building or building up their drum collection, this is a solid buy. When the goal is to mix eurocentric tones with traditional hip-hop flavorings consider the LinPlug RMV. linplug.com
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(PC and MAC) Standalone, RTAS, AU, VST, MAC Imports/Exports WAV, AIFF and MP3 Retail ~ $69.99 Special iDrum sessions with Griffin Avid powered Kits and sounds! Session files included
Isotope: One of two or more atoms that have the same atomic number (the same number of protons) but a different number of neutrons
iZotope: a research-driven audio technology company focused on developing innovative audio technology for professional and consumer applications.
Zotope dropped the iDrum virtual drum machine for MAC in 2004. Now the beatbox app arrives for Windows platform fully-featured at an affordable price point. It’s a step sequencer with a unique approach for the user interface and lots of functionality below the surface.
Startup presents a work surface of horizontal layers for the hits making up a track. Each channel is split down the middle between File Controls (open new, panning, volume, mute and solo) and the Step Programmer. Anyone familiar with step editing will surely waste no time diving in and creating patterns. What is unique to the iDrum approach is the ability to choose the step note-on while choosing volume. A vertical fader bar signals an active step and also indicates the volume by height. This leads to greater control of the individual hits’ dynamic and raises the level of awareness for programming ghost notes. You have an unlimited number of horizontal channels and can reorder them by dragging via the Grab Tabs. Each channel has its own MIDI assignment (easily configurable) for control via external sequencer. Real time recording is as simple as activating the Record in the Master Section and getting loose. Thankfully iDrum has its own transport bar to work your patterns in standalone mode without a host. Each individual channel has an associated pattern called a Part. Think of them as parts to your entire drum loop or sequence. This is important because they can be exported and imported as MIDI or Audio. This allows you to mix and match individual snare/kick/hat/perc/ elements from different iDrum sessions for virtually limitless variations.
Facial Effects The ‘i’ in the Master control area brings up the Channel Info Panel where each element can be adjusted for pitch, time stretch, decay (sample end point, not a delay fx), highpass/ 47 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
lowpass filters and bit reduction for lo-fi grit. You’re expected to use your own sequencers array of plugs for additional processing on the auxiliary outs so that’s not much of an omission. [begins reaching for Ozone…] I only wished for a global volume control and the ability to group tracks away from an AUX/bus mixing solution. The ability to use your QWERTY keyboard as a MIDI controller for live drum programming along with MIDI drag and drop right from the application are major pluses. Unlimited channels open the door for creative sound design and deep layering. Many of the drum kits included from Griffin Avid were chopped from break beats. The hits exhibit the live character of each being slightly different. Use those channels and mix similar snares for added interest you feel more than hear. I’m also a big proponent of using non traditional sounds as percs and percussive ear candy and I’ve also been experimenting with stacked hits with different channel settings and even snares being dropped off in volume to create plate reverb type effects. With an import size limit of 2MBs I suggest bringing in longer phrases for texture and ambience mixed low underneath the comp. I’ve been experimenting with the same bass note on different channels pitched up and down for making basslines and dragging in different chopped segments and rearranging the order.
Song Mode and Recording Live
Rather than chaining patterns into each other, iDrum uses a song mode to order you patterns with editable fields for Repeat Count and even Time Signatures can be unique per pattern. As fast as easy as grid programming is; it’s still a great alternative to enter notes on the fly. After setting my 48 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
quantize settings (from eighths to sixty-fourths) and engaging record mode, I can drop hits using a MIDI controller. The auto-Map function locks my MIDI note input to the iDrum channel so I am able to match the pads and drum hits as I see fit quite easily.
In conclusion iZotope has released the perfect beatbox for a producer trying to lay down drum patterns quick and easy. It has enough simplicity to be a first virtual drum machine and enough flexibility to be paired with any sequencer for finished percussion tracks. At the cost of a dinner for two, you can’t possibly go wrong investing in this step-sequencer as a drumbox solution. A very simple and effective global swing setting avoids the stiff machine-gun programming that plagues so many step sequencers.
e weren’t satisfied with the clinical ‘shuffle’ a mathematical delay gave,
so we went out and analyzed the swing of some of the greatest drum machines of all time. This obsession with ‘feel’ has really paid off…”
Over 200 drum patterns included with 433 MBs of additional drum content from Big Fish Audio and iZotope. 10 day fully functional demo available at Izotope.com Purchase as an electronic download www.izotope.com
ROMpler styled Drum production module
WIN/MAC VST, AU and RTAS 249USD Retro ADpak 149USD Words by Drew Spence
inding a good source of acoustic drums has always been a problem. Samples either sound too Rock
& Rolly or so dry they sound…dry. It’s the desire to go back to the source of real drum sounds that provides the interest in having a sound module without an electronic edge for classic R&B styling and foundation material for sound design. XLN Audio has arrived on the scene with its breakthrough release of Addictive Drums; the VST ROMpler with an awesome library, great effects engine and small hard drive footprint. Let’s kick it with Jakob Moller, part of the creative trio, who created all of the media samples and recorded the drum performance package.
Getting Addicted Drew Spence: Let’s ask the first question about the inspiration behind Addictive Drums. Where did this come from? Jakob Moller: Me and my brother have been musicians all our lives so we just came up with the idea of making it simple to get drums in your music because it could be complicated and require days of work to get good drum sounds for your production. We needed it to happen fast and let you change the sound and kit pieces in a flexible way. We just started working with samples at home in Sweden and put it together and started messing with velocities and different layers and variations. It became a serious idea when we realized this could be a big thing. So, we started making a business idea out of it.
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Now, what about the balance between quality and convenience? I want to have drums that are easy to access, but I also don’t want to lose the quality of the sound of a real drummer. How do you account for that? Jakob Moller: That was a concern of ours and we brought in a guy called Magnus. He’s the programmer from the Malström synth [Propellerhead Reason] and we started talking to him about this dilemma. We realized that it’s a heavy amount of space on your computer if we want to sample a lot of drums. We needed a format that was fast and flexible and didn’t take up that much space and not lose the quality. We didn’t want to use MP3s or anything near that [level of quality] so he basically made up his own format of sounds for the program. You get all of the qualities of sound and yet it takes up very little space. So, you can change the kit pieces in the drum kits within a second.
and can just scroll amongst thousands of midi files, you can find the beat that you want and then change the sound to whatever you need and save it as your own preset. Suppose I am a producer looking for a very clean recording to start with and then transform it to make my own unique drum sound? Maybe I want an electronic drum kit or an industrial edge with over-drive - is the included effects engine strong enough for different directions? You can mess it up, man, you can mess it up! You can choose the clean kit like a DW and start with compression and add distortion. The equalizer will get you the full range of tone from bright to dark. We give you access to the volume and pitch envelopes. You can push it and get real digital and even dirty. You can really do whatever you like with it. Two of the key features of Addictive Drums are the Effects engine and Edit Page. The very bottom lists your kit pieces and gives you a choice of live mic mixes (overhead and room). The middle section is reserved for rack-style processing with a simple and effective compressor, distortion with four presets (Crunch Heavy, Zap and BitCrush) and a Waveslike EQ. You will have a total of 52 insert effects and 2 parallel and that is more than enough. The FX Page brings up 2 reverbs with their own EQ and envelopes for PreDelay, Reverb Time (decay) and Damping. This leads to a very simple process for dialing in the right amount of wetness/distance for the snare. The starting points are Room, Ambience, Hall and Plate.
The install itself takes up only 3GBs of hard drive space and comes with 3 full drum kits with approximately six variations of each kit piece. Variety comes from the numerous presets of effect settings and kit ensembles providing starting points ranging from Clean to Experimental.
Let’s say, I am a drummer and I am not very good with software. How easy is the interface to get along with? It’s perfectly simple. Start up the interface and you instantly know how to work it. You can just push play and start hearing a beat. You can just change the presets easily from there or dive into the Edit Page and work at all of the kit pieces by themselves. It’s very user friendly. You go to the Beats Page 50 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
How can I expand my palette of sounds or get more kits? We’ve got add-ons coming. The Retro ADpack has vintage kits like the Beautiful Oyster; a dryer 60-sound kit and a Blue Oyster with bigger drums and I also like the Vistalite light, the green acrylic drum set. We are going to keep on expanding the product. The included drums let you do really whatever you like with the sound so the add-ons just give you more options.
The space Drums 1.0 takes up is less than three gigabytes. The format is very easy on your computer. You can run two Addictive Drums simultaneously and not even have your computer twitch. You can run it on a one gigabyte RAM computer and it will still flow. It’s hard to believe that it still sounds as good as it does.
The Edit Page above and Effects Page below. Dialing it in!
The AD Retro pack is a solid purchase and adds what it claims to. The only complaint I can level is that it sounds like it could have been included in the main library. That’s not a statement about the value of the package. At ~249USD you are getting your monies worth, but I can’t see anyone purchasing Addictive Drums and not getting the Retro ADpak at the same time. There is a consistent tone which isn’t broken by the expansion pack, which is a good thing, but with so many tone shaping/mangling optionsit might be best to offer something totally off the wall and more of a sonic departure from the included drum sounds. We’ll see what XLN Audio does next.
Grooves for the Groovy
Editor’s Notes: I did attempt to create a massive drum monster by layering Addictive Drums with staple drum products like Stylus RMX, Groove Agent and NI Battery. I found it tough to create a cohesive drum tone since each product has its own individual tone and character-filled kits that fight for attention above the rest. I did have solid results from using each module as parts, meaning the kicks from one product coupled with snares from another etc. I got what I wanted from layering multiple instances of AD and using different kits sculpted to fill specific frequency ranges. Even with one layer squashed and EQed to hell sitting underneath a midrange reverbfest and topped off with Motown crunch- my (older) CPU ran just fine with no noticeable latency.
There is a Beats Page with MIDI grooves that match the kits in programming style. You get over 3,000 patterns and fills, which usually consist of a main groove with more than 20 variations including ghost notes and open hats. It would be nice to have hip hop, R&B and rap patterns included or available, but Addictive Drums is best thought of as a drum module triggered by something else. And since there is no real way to adjust the grooves (swing, shuffle etc) there wouldn’t be of much use aside from a scratch pad for most producers. Overall, XLN Audio has created a great sounding acousticstyled drum module for musicians looking to add vintage drum work to their productions. The small number of included kits are expanded by the Retro ADpak and given greater longevity and flexibility by the stellar presets and quality effects suite. You need to explore this option. www.xlnaudio.com 51 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
Sequencing: The Point beyond the
Pattern With Andrea Pejrolo Words by Drew Spence MIDI Drum Patterns in assorted Styles from iAcousticA
hinking about patterns instead of sequences…
How did you get involved in music production?
it’s a common stumbling block that catches many
Andrea Pejrolo: I started many years ago when I was in Italy. I was experimenting with MIDI sequencing, I used to sequence on an older Atari ST [ one of those first computers with MIDI capabilities]. I moved to New York and I was working there as a composer, producer and also performer. I moved to Boston four years ago to teach at Berklee College of Music and to do more production. I produce and arrange and sequence for all different sort of artists and media and for film, for TV, for theater.
new producers and trips up their music production. It’s not always easy to see the big picture of a musical arrangement after focusing on the minute details of bars and beats. For help connecting the dots we turn to Dr. Andrea Pejrolo. He is the author of the book Creative Sequencing Techniques for Music Production. He has taught at the Audio Recording Technology Institute and the Hudson County Community College. He has been a Chairman of the MIDI and Digital Audio department at the Institute of Audio Research [IAR] in Manhattan, and at the University of Hartford. Currently, he is an Assistant Professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston and a full time faculty member at the New England Institute of Art. 52 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
These days, I am really interested in sound design. I wanted to merge acoustic and electronic instruments so I really started studying and researching groove quantization, different types of swings; how to make rhythmic parts and drum parts. I needed a live sound to fit in with the acoustic ensembles. Creative Techniques for Music Production. Where did the inspiration for that book actually come from and how did you put the book together? Well, the inspiration was always in mind. I always wanted to write something that would look at the sequencing tools in music technology as a creative tool and not just as a something that would be a restriction for the composer or producer. It’s using these tools in a creative way that will serve the purpose of your production style.
is going to be good for some dancemusic based production. I think the modern producer needs flexibility beyond those rigid limitations. When should I be reaching for shuffle? The shuffle idea, which is really another term for swing, is very useful in productions. For hip-hop production where we need a groove that is not completely straight and is not completely swung. I usually use a quantization setting around 60% to 75% shuffle. So it’s sort of in between a straight 8 or 16 notes, but is not a full swing. It gives you that round, very nice round rhythmic effect in the middle which is what the hip-hop groove really is.
Quantified Measures I’ve wrote the book that addresses four main sequencers; Pro Tools, Digital Performer, Logic and Cubase, but at the same time it shows all the techniques that a modern producer and composer needs to have, needs to know for the weapons of their productions. Coukd you break down the most common terms used in sequencing and explain how they might relate toa modern producer? The term quantization really means to line up events; MIDI events or audio events to a grid. The quantization volume: the term is the degree to which the events are going to be moved to. It allows you to clean up rhythmically. Quantization allows you to make it sound perfectly in time.
Now, this is the basic concept of quantization and basically, you should choose the quantization grid or quantization volume to be the smallest rhythmic sub-division that you played in. Nowadays sequencers have extra parameters to make your quantizations less drum machine like. The one problem with quantizing your performance is that you are very strict in terms of where the events are going to end up. So everything that you quantize is going to sound very mechanical which is sort of what I really try to avoid in my productions. Anything that needs to integrate acoustic instruments and live MIDI would greatly benefit from having extra parameters like strength/sensitivity and swing and shuffle. Anything that only allows you 100% quantization it
I also find it very useful to add some more realistic effects to the drums. Sometimes I change the percentage of the shuffle during different sections of the tune so I might have the first verse at 65% and the second verse tweaked to 70% and the chorus and maybe I wanted to be a little bit straight and I go back down to 62%. By changing it horizontally I can actually make the rhythmic part sound more natural and real. I can do the same with different pitches of the drum kit. I do the hi-hat with a 65 and kick and snare with 70%. Those small differences allow me to create a very nice rhythmic tension between the different pitches of the kit and this really creates a very human sort of rhythm. These are all weapons a modern composer and producer could use to make signature drum beats. Linear sequencing, real-time sequencing, step sequencing, pattern-based, what are your thoughts on those different types of sequencing techniques? I think it really depends on the type of production you are doing. I personally like to sequence live -- I mean playing live -all of my parts in MIDI through a MIDI controller and then go back and edit the parts that I think need some help. I may use step sequencing for 32nd notes, fills or special hi-hat parts.
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SWING AWAY MERRILL... I play my drum parts live on a MIDI controller using a drum pad with sticks and then I go back and tweak small things that would be very hard to adjust any other way. I highly recommend playing the parts with a MIDI controller all the way through. Try to limit the copy and paste technique because playing all of the parts will add a human element to the production. How do I draw my line between programming my drum sounds and playing them live? Let’s say, I don’t have the best sense of rhythm and I want to lay down my drum parts with emotion and rhythm. How do I develop timing when all I’ve got is my MIDI controller and sequencer? I strongly believe any production should have live elements. You can lay down the MIDI drum parts, but always ADD real instrumental performances. Just adding a live shaker, tambourine or hi-hat brings your MIDI drum parts alive. It’s a very small investment to go out and buy a shaker for five bucks, a ten dollar tambourine and add that as a live instrument to your tracks. It really goes a long way to get a human element into the production. Not having a great sense of timing? It’s not such a huge deal these days. Let’s say you have a MIDI keyboard and a sequencer and you want to put your parts in. What I highly recommend is to write down the drum parts and put in first kick and snare and then go back on a different track and add some hi-hat and then build it from there. I highly recommend taking advantage of all of the small tools that a
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sequencer gives you. Slow down the tempo if you don’t feel comfortable. Sequence your parts and then bring it back up. Absolutely take advantage of strength when you quantize, so after you play it, if you don’t feel that your parts rhythmically were really strong, go back, quantize them, and start with a quantization of maybe 50% strength and see how it sounds and then if you are not happy, just do increments of 10% each time. Slowly put your parts rhythmically together and you can hit the sweet spot where the part sounds natural. Groove quantization. These are fairly new tools that allow you to apply a preset groove to a recorded MIDI part. There are some sequencers that do a great job with that. I highly recommend Digital Performer and Pro Tools. They have DNA grooves from Numerical Sounds bundled with the software. They analyze how musicians play different type of rhythms and extrapolate the accenting of notes, their way of playing ahead or behind the beat even the different lengths. You can apply these tendencies to the parts you played. I want to train my ear. What type of material should I listen to, or can I look for when it comes to me learning about drum grooves myself? Transcribe some of your best or favorite drummers. Anything you hear from a CD that you think oh wow that’s really cool; that’s something I could use. Take the time to write it down as basic notation- even the drum fill in a two-bar groove or four bar pattern. It can go a long way. You can re-sequence it. Take the CD, listen to the groove and re-play it in your sequencer and that gives also a nice way to build up a good library for your own future production. I remember that groove was great so I saved it on my sequencer, I can just recall it and use that to start a new production. People get very nervous when they need to do drum fills on their MIDI setup because as you are not familiar with that particular style of playing, if you are not a drummer, it can be hard to figure out what to do with the toms and the snare. This can really help in developing your ear and your production skills. Now, let’s go back to your book for a moment and can I ask what the main aim or theme would be? What do I walk away from when I close that last page of the book?
beyond just sound design. Think of effects as a pathway for an original sound that could very well be your signature. What can I learn in a classroom environment? Well, it really depends on the class, but my final goal is to impress my students to use technology in a creative way, not to be enslaved by the technology. I don’t want just to be just a producer or composer who knows how to push buttons, but doesn’t use the available technology as a creative tool. There is nothing that stops you from making a great song… You don’t need the latest version of the latest software. If the song is not good, it is not good no matter what plugins you have, but at the same time, we can use these tools to make it better and to make it more marketable and to make it more creative at the same time. They used to make great songs in the past before this level of technology and with very little help. Andrea Pejrolo has just recently finished a new book Acoustic and MIDI Orchestration for the Contemporary Composer. This book focuses more on production for acoustic examples and MIDI productions. Andrea Pejrolo: The main idea is to give you all the tools to start working on original productions no matter which sequencer you have. We start from the basics like setting up a metronome, being able to play with a metronome, setting up basic MIDI and audio tracks and then move on to advanced groove quantization, advanced orchestration and advanced use of effects. It gives you the full production process from setting up your templates and basic tracks up to final mix and also what I call pre-mastering at the end. You’ll have the full process under your belt after you finish. I give several tips and tricks on how to make your drum parts sound more natural, your mixes sound clear, using the right EQ.
A PLUG FOR PLAY You have also have written about mixing and using plugins. What is the relationship between effect processing and my actual drum sequencing or is that just limited to sound design? No, it’s all part of the production. Using original sounds is also related to using the right effects. You can have a killer live drum library, you can have great parts, but if you don’t put that virtual drummer in the right environment, in the right space - it’s always going to sound fake. This is true for all of the instruments. I see the use of effects as two different processes. You can use effects to make something sound real. You can use effects in a creative way, in a sound design way to tweak and change the original sounds in anyway you want. As a producer, you should always look at effects as something that goes well beyond just fixing problems even
How important is my MIDI controller to my actual composition of my music? A keyboard, drum machine, drum pad- a combination… how does that effect where I go with my musical ideas? We mainly sequence on keyboard controllers which are great for using any instrument, but it is at the same time very limiting. So I highly recommend anybody, who is serious about production and sequencing to get a MIDI drum pad, of course, a keyboard with some nice extensions. I would like at least 76 keys or 88 keys. Even if you are not a keyboard player and you are not going to play a Rachmaninov Piano Concerto, it’s nice to have range because you can map out all of the different samples, you can use keys to change the articulation of certain instruments. A drum pad for sure and these are fairly cheap these days. You can also find them on eBay. You don’t need a full drum kit and you can just get one of those Roland SPD-series and they are great. You can play them with sticks and with your hands. Also I use a guitar to MIDI converter for certain parts which I love and also a bass to MIDI converter. There are some great ones available now from Roland and Axxon. What I really like to use is a breath controller which allows me to send any type of MIDI control changes by blowing into a mouthpiece. For example, it allows you to control the dynamics of a keyboard part. A good keyboard controller is an extra weapon to give you an edge over the competition and going to give you more control over what you do. Thanks for chatting with us. Also available is his drum library call iAcousticA available from bandmateloops.com. This is a full drum library for all acoustic sounds; a recording of two different drum kits with brushes, sticks, wooden brushes and mallets for a nice open acoustic sound.
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d16 group Drumazon, Nepheton, Phoscyon 909-808-303; Vintage Triple Threat and More! Words by Drew Spence
Aint nuttin like the ol’ Skool
hat would you do if you could rock a Roland TR808, 909 and TB303 right now? Black out and make a ridiculous retro track with modern day flavorings? Drop the 808s heavy and claim it’s all from your mixing ear and deny you had any secret weapons in your studio? Unless you just arrived to this party, you know these sounds are staples of the electronic bend of rap and hip hop production. A good number of high quality libraries and a mish-mosh of home studio recorded samples have been available for some time now. After the extensive modifications and creative recording chains, you never know what you might get when you decide to go in.
e sent loops and samples created in Drumazon and Nepheton to be judged for authenticity and this is another product cleared by Producer’s Edge for living up to its hype. Now that we’ve dealt with the ‘How does it sound?’ part, we can fully focus on another studio tool worth your attention. To get deeper behind the Drum Works we went straight to the source over at the d16 group. We spoke with Jacek Klukowski the company founder, DSP coder, plug-ins’ GUIs creator, Przemyslaw Gocyla the co-founder and main developer and Sebastian Bachlinski who handles all tech concerns, creates presets and patterns creator, main tester, and website administrator.
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•17 fully synthesized instruments •perfectly scaled knob ranges •enhanced control of instruments’ sounds •dynamic signal routing from instruments to outputs •user defined outputs configuration (Master out, instruments outputs, Trigger output) •mutes/solos for each instrument (affect triggering not just the signal)
Firstly, could you share a bit about the inner workings of the d16 group and what guides the product development direction? Why vintage emulations and will it continue with new product lines? We’ve started two years ago with Phoscyon only because there was no good 303 emulation and we loved this machine. Our next plug-ins Drumazon (909) and Nepheton (808) also fell into this category. These machines have a soul, that’s why. Generally we develop what we are the most interested in. We also listen to our customers and try to make the products from their wish lists. For the future? Yes, you will see some new vintage emulation from d16 group but also some completely new products like plug-ins from Silver Line containing a set of creative solutions. These units share the history of being slow out of the gate and only being fully realized after their initial run. What do you think it is about these units that caused them to grow and become such a staple in electronic music? In the case of the 808 it might be a matter of the fully programmable sequencer instead of a factory set of rhythms without any to change them - as it took the place in a generation of older drum machines.
303 can be considered in two categories; bassline and an acid-line device. As the first one it manages quite well and can be used in electronic music or ambient. But it’s definitely the king of the second category and no other synthesizer can be compared to it. It’s enough just to connect the 303 to any distortion effect and start tweaking the cutoff knob - it’s the reason why we’ve built this effect into the Phoscyon.
Apart from that, there’s also possibility of working with an instruments’ parameters - decay, tune, tone etc. It was unseen before. In a natural way, the 909 has appeared as another, “better” drum computer and it popularity owes notably to 808’s success. The approach to synthesis in the 909 shows the progress of the electronics of those days. The whole structure has been re-designed and all the instruments’ circuits improved to such a level, to give them the most natural timbre, which not has been achieved completely - and in this way another classic drum machine was created. The only exception
is a hand clap instrument, which stayed almost unchanged. Sampled instruments have been added (hi-hats and cymbal ride). If it comes to the 303, we believe its popularity is a result of a specific timbre. The complicated process of programming the sequencer was its weakness. Character of the sound involves accents, slides and bits of unusual square wave; which changes its pulse width along with sound frequency - this is certainly unnatural, but it allows us to think the designer has come to the conclusion that it’s justified to make it this way in a lowprice device.
It was a popular practice to modify these classic units and add additional functionality and depth to its trademark sound. What new sound sculpting options do I have in these software recreations? Every one of our products gives you more control over the timbre compared to the original. It’s hard to describe in one sentence, because we’d have to take into consideration every single instrument we’ve made and the features we decided to add to them. Drumazon and Nepheton contain over 30 instrument emulations, and all of them were enriched with some extra features and controls. Apart from the wider spectrum of capabilities of the sound editing, the programming emulations give a comfort of management to the music session; storing and settings recall that keeps the signal routing information within the project file. This just set us free from all the nuisances of using old hardware and even the necessity of buying batteries to keep our patterns stored! Adding an external FX module is a valid option and your Devastor seems ideally suited for the task. The plug itself is modeled after the type of distortion style found in analog synths. Is there any particular vintage piece that served as the image or sonic goal during the coding process?
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How does the multi-band set up affect my options and what are some practical applications I might explore? It really depends on what are you’re looking for. You can use a single filter as a preamp and cutoff some frequencies before the clipping, and the remaining two filters could be used to remove unwanted harmonic tones. Remember, you can still use all filters without distorting the sound. If you add some resonance and Edit Automation for a cutoff knob; you get some very interesting effects. And the possibility of changing the order of filters in the signal path (pre/post), you can get many different filter configurations. Our tip: just listen and experiment! Browsing the presets will give you ideas. I’m looking for a huge snare sound that could really stand out and be the key accent in a track. How could I use Devastor to achieve that end? 58 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
Turn Dynamics knob to the “hard” position, preamp for +48db, keep the threshold at a w value and knee as “hard”. Set the output volume level to gain the signal - and it’s cooked! Of course it’s also very important how to set the output in a mix with other instruments. Another new product is the Fazortan; an emulation of an analog allpass phaser. Could you please explain the idea behind this effect and where the inspiration came from to create it?
appeared he used THIS analogue phaser based on a cascade of all-pass filters. Because analogue all-pass has nothing to do with classic digital all-pass filters we’ve developed a digital model of analogue all-pass filter and Fazortan was born. Some extra features have been added of coursefor better control. The original phasing unit has only one knob :) We are also hearing an incredible usage of the stereo field without sonic blurring. How were you able to achieve this?
Devastor has been created more as an extended version of the distortion unit built in Phoscyon. Our customers were asking us about that for a long time. It has no equivalent in hardware and it’s different from every multiband distortion effect. Additionally we decided to add a compressor within Devastor, which is usually added to a signal path before the distortion. While making the presets we were pleasantly surprised by the things that came out the speakers.
We thought, hey, it would be nice to have one of the most popular phasing units from the 70s’ and 80s in our arsenal. It was used by many artists back then. Since we’ve been listening to J.M. Jarre music, we agree his electric string pads have a unique climate. After some exploration, it
It’s very simple. Each channel has its own processing path - in other words - if Fazortan is in stereo mode, in fact there are two Fazortans in one, for every channel. That’s the reason, why there’s no interaction between left and right channel and the stereo field is so clear.
What can you tell us about its role in the production studio and where it might be applied best? String pads, string pads and once more… string pads :) It’s practically made for it. However if you like a phased guitar - use it boldly. It comes to be useful wherever the sound seems to be monotonous, and you’d like to revive it. What advantages are there for using an emulation themed product, as opposed to a sample collection from the actual hardware dropped in my DAW or drum machine? Considering the Phoscyon; a sampled 303 line won’t allow you to achieve a real Acid Line. Even in a case of drum
machines, the samples are limited. Having all knobs tweaked by your hand… you can sculpt the sound exactly as YOU want. It really matters. You won’t have to browse through a tremendous numbers of samples. Use the benefits from having an internal sequencer - based on real hardware. As we mentioned earlier, the number of editable parameters has been extended in comparison to the original machines, which means the singleshot samples won’t be as varied. Some knobs included in the emulations, don’t exists in the original hardware. Apart from that, software gives you a faster and more efficient workflow.
acek Klukowski the company founder
rzemyslaw Gocyla: main developer
ebastian Bachlinski: Tech Admin
In conclusion, is there anything else you would like to share with our readership about the d16 group and its line of products? We do our best to make something new, or improve on existing things. It’s our golden principle and we never depart from it. We always listen to suggestions from our customers and our support team is always at their disposal. We never ignore even the most trivial problem. In the near future, we’ll be releasing great new products for you. We hope they’ll be as well received as our current offerings. You’ll be pleased with them, we promise :) You can catch the d16 group at www. da6.pl and take advantage of additional resources, information, demos and music forum.
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Rayzoon Jamstix 2 Virtual Drummer
$79USD XL $99
Expansion Paks $39USD
he robot octopus drummer isn’t right for every track. Although it has perfect timing and can trigger all eight kit pieces at once, that programming style may ruin a track and scream at the listener badly programmed drum machine. In steps Rayzoon with their Jamstix 2 completely redesigned and crammed with enhancements all meant for you to jam realistically. Jamstix 2 is flexible enough to provide several workflow choices and modes of operation. Let’s take a look at how you might set up Jamstix for a session.
Drum Module Mode triggers the Jamstix kits with external MIDI data. Jam- No Input is for manual control of internal sounds- both real time and step edited. Jam with Audio; once the audioM8 plug-in us activated an insert effect on the audio track, Jamstix will vary the playing according to the dynamics of the incoming signal. This is the equivalent of auto-accompaniment on the major workstations. Jam with MIDI Input is similar to jamming with audio, but the dynamics are based on the velocity of your playing.
It Must Be Jelly
It’s a complex interface that chooses functionality over flair, but a quick skim through of the manual should have you up and running in no time. Along the top of the screen are the global controls or main menu. The uppermost area below the main menu holds the transport and timing controls. The Timing Slider adjusts the pocket feel of Jamstix. You can dead-sync with the host or run slightly behind or ahead. Shuffle breaks the stiff-drum-syndrome with settings for swinging the 8th and 16th notes with a slider. 60 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
The Song Sheet breaks the entire arrangement of your song down into categories like chorus, verse, intro, etc. Move these Parts around and adjust the bar length and number of repetitions. Bottommost is the Timeline which displays the arrangement as horizontal bars meant to be scrolled to see the performance as a whole. Directly across
Mix screen equalizer and compressor. The microphone graphic controls the amount of room ambience mixed in with the Jamstix output.
The Brain Controls edit the playing of Jamstix though various controls. Drum sound variations arrive through the Power Hand. An example would be the drummer switching hatsgoing from ride, semi-open to crashes. Auto Snare switches from snare to side stick. Drum Pattern Variations are done with Snare Ghosts to add extra hits and the Bias Slider restricts where the extra notes are dropped in the bar. Moving right reduces the early note additions. The Fill Generator generates its breakdowns from a modeling of real drum work. Focus instructs the virtual drummer by communication which elements of the kit to play more. You have Double Stroking for 32nd note repeats. Redirection switches the trigger target to a different kit piece. Think of the drummer playing the same pattern, but using snares in place of high hats.
Toast and Jam
is the Bar Editor; a piano roll close-up where manual edits can be done to the bar under focus. Clicking on a cell opens up the Cell Editor, where you decide the type of hit and note placement. The grid itself is limb-centric so LH means Left Hand and overall Jamstix limits, or should I say corrects your programming to remain realistic by keeping all of your drum work physically playable by a human drummer. It’s a 16th note step sequencer at heart with a timing slider to shift notes up to 47 milliseconds before or after the beat and a Note Shift Control for timing offsets by a 24th, 32nd or 48th note.
Jamstix shines as a module trigger. From the Kit screen I selected my DLL and Jamstix sub-hosts the VSTi with mapping templates for all the major drum modules, including Addictive Drums, BFD, DFH [Drums from Hell -GA] and EZDrummer. Outputting MIDI to the host sequencer in real time is also an option. The patterns you create, modify or generate are stored in the Jamstix Bar Editor and are saved with the host session automatically for total recall. The included drums sound very acoustically neutral so you’ll have the bread and butter tones covered. The expansion paks are a must and multiply the sonic potential greatly. Expect to spend some time digging through all the sounds and rhythmic possibilities. For producers looking to add live-style drum work, Jamstix becomes a solid study. For a price so below what it’s worth; it should be a tool worth considering. rayzoon.com 61 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
Drum Works Special: Pedal to the Mettle
Creative Sound Design with Amos Gaynes
h the sound of analogue gear! Swoon to the tones of a chunky sine waves passing through the filters. Have your attention
snapped-to by the envelopes and hear the self-oscillation ramp up before being swept away into the sweet sonic oblivion. Our Drum Works takes us to the doorstep of Moog Music and a one-on-one session with Amos Gaynes; Applications Engineer.
What are your daily responsibilities and how did you come to work for Moog Music? Amos Gaynes: I started working for Moog Music about four years ago. Dr. Moog was a friend of the family when I was growing up, and I first put together a Moog Theremin kit (they were called Big Briar back then) when I was 13 years old. As I grew up I got more into synthesizers and sound design, so it was a dream of mine to work for Moog, the company that started it all. Fast-forward to 2004, I was a college student going to school for electronic music production, and I applied to work at Moog Music. I told them I’d work in production; sweep the floors, anything they needed. They are a small company so they didn’t hire me right off the bat, but I kept checking in with them and eventually their repair tech put in his notice to go back to grad school, and I got the call. It was Dr. Moog himself, and he asked me, “Can you solder?” I said “Yes Sir!” and was down there within the hour. So I started out as the only repair tech, and now I am the head of the service department, with the help of my very capable assistant tech, Ryan Cox. I’m also starting to take on some responsibilities in the Engineering department, testing new products and contributing to the software and interface design. Eventually I hope to make my mark on the next generation of Moog instruments. The Moog Old School takes us back to an era before MIDI and patch storage to ensure a live and pure connection between the performer and his instrument. Why was this done and who is the target artist this version of the Voyager is meant for? The Old School is really a statement of attitude; it’s a synth for purists, players, and people who want the ultimate hands-on control of a performance synth. Steve Dunnington, our head of new product development, came up with the best tag line for the Voyager Old School: “Got Balls?” That’s it; that’s what it’s about.
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cost of keeping everything real analog and makes it work for us. There are some more companies out there now that are releasing real analog synths and effects. I’d say that there is a real comeback going on. It’s mostly happening at a small level with the more boutique-style manufacturers, but there are more of them out there now that I have seen in years. It’s a great time for analog right now.
The interface for Moog synths has always been performance based. The most essential tone-based parameters are placed within reach and arranged for live tweakage. Why so much focus on the
Many other manufacturers state the cost of analog circuitry or the burden of acquiring the proper parts make true analog synths improbable if not impossible. How is Moog able to continue releasing analog units and is there a model that can be followed by more companies? Well it comes down to what you are trying to do in the market, who you’re trying to be. The biggest companies in the musical-instrument business are going for super high volume, with a lot of entry-level or low priced products aimed at every little segment of the industry. Our approach has always been more craftsman-like; everything is built by hand using good solid materials and the gear looks as beautiful as it sounds and it just feels like quality. You can tell that it’s going to last a long time. That’s a part of what we sell, along with the musical or useful aspects of the gear and it’s a part of why our work commands respect. We are doing pretty well with this approach. Our gear costs a little (or sometimes a lot) more than the competition, but our customers are buying Moog for life. We get just an incredible amount of goodwill from our customers; they love our stuff like you wouldn’t believe. That’s what balances out the high
designers… The Voyager has all of those performance controls in front of you, but you can also dig into the menus a bit and come up with some insanely deep programming options. It also has the 3-axis touch surface, which you can program to control any three parameters independently of each other, plus a fourth parameter that is gated on/off when you touch it. So you can just rock some left-hand bass on the Voyager, or get freaky mad-scientist about it if that’s your preference. As far as some of the more advanced interface possibilities you mentioned, I wouldn’t rule anything out for the future. Interface is very important, and if it’s something that will unlock the expressive potential of an instrument or let you shape sound in new ways, I would certainly consider that. Sliders instead of knobs might be a sticking point; personally I think sliders are ideal for setting certain things like envelope levels, but Moog has this very consistent style going with the knobs that might be hard to shake. I think there could be some backlash there from our fans if we stray too far from the classic look. We are very big on MIDI implementation though; all of the parameters on our synthesizers are fully MIDI controllable, so even now if you want to use some unusual controllers or do intensive programming on a sequencer, you can use our gear that way.
SAMPLE MOOG MODE
performing artist and has there ever been a consideration for a Sound Designer’s Synth with modern interface additions like joysticks… Theremin-based D-beams, touch screens, sliding faders or trigger pads? Actually the Minimoog Voyager (I guess you could call it the “New School” Voyager now) pretty much sits on the line between a performer’s instrument and a sound designer’s… I know a lot of Hollywood people are using them, and video game sound
Can we talk about IK Multimedia’ Sample Moog? This package is one of the most direct translations of the Moog sound into software as it contains actual samples of Moog synthesizers. What are your feelings about this release and do you see this as an extension of the Moog franchise or a possible future and company direction? Oh yeah; I am a big fan of Sample Moog. IK Multimedia did not release this product until we had thoroughly played and tested it here at Moog Music and given it our seal of approval. I took it home to my own studio for
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a workout and I was blown away. I haven’t touched any of my so-called “virtual” Moog emulation plug-ins since. An emulation just can’t compete with the genuine article, and so by sampling the real Moog synths, the Sample Moog is one step closer to the real thing than any other plug-in. The flexibility of the SampleTank engine is a real plus in the studio, because it lets you take the basic sounds sampled from the Moog synths and make very intuitive adjustments to the sound using synth-style controls, adjusting the envelope times for example, or rolling off the filter a bit; all the little tweaks you need to tailor the sound to your mix are there. I think that this was a great franchise opportunity and IK Multimedia have done a stellar job with it; I would say they have done justice to the Moog name. I don’t see this as a future direction for the company, though; it makes more sense to let the digital professionals do what they do well, and for us to continue our focus on real analog musical instruments. That’s our strength, it’s our legacy.
The MoogerFooger pedal lines have always been an option for sound processing and a means to capture the Moog Filter sound without laying down for a classic unit or modern workhorse. Could you please tell us a little bit about how this works what pedals we should explore? Most sound crafters are aware of the Low Pass filter and what it can do for Bass lines. What else is available or coming soon? Do you have any further suggestions for experimentation? The MoogerFooger pedals have a world of uses in the studio; they are more like modules from a modular synth than they are like other guitarstyle stomp boxes. So, you can run any kind of signal through them and get interesting results. They are actually optimized for line-level signals, so you’ll get very good signal quality running your mixes or drum tracks through them- a lot better than with your typical guitar pedals. 64 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
On the subject of drums and Moogerfoogers I have a few tips to offer: Drum treatment is a very dynamic field and there are no rules that aren’t worth breaking at some point to see how it sounds. That said, there are a number of the Moogerfooger pedals that do really interesting things with drums, and you might want to try different ones depending on the effect you’re looking for.>> By far the most guaranteedto-please Moog effect on drums is the classic MF-101 low pass filter. This pedal lets you roll off the high end of your beats or sweep them all the way down to leave only the sub bass. It has a built-in Envelope Follower control which lets the filter frequency respond to your audio so that the filter opens up more on harder hits, giving you a really liquid dynamic sound. Like all of the Moogerfooger pedals, it also has a warm analog overdrive effect you can get if you crank up the input gain. Another nice choice for beats is the MF-103 12-Stage Phaser. All the digital phaser effects I have tried suck all the bass out of your sound, but the all-analog Moog phaser has great bass response while it does really interesting things to the treble range of your sound. You can use the internal
LFO for classic sweeping “jet plane”style phasing effects, or you can set the phase amount manually and dial in a specific sound. You can even use the Envelope Follower on the MF-101 to control the parameters of the MF-103 (or any other Moogerfooger) by patching together the Control Voltage inputs and outputs between the different Moog pedals. This is where the modular-synth aspects come in and it gives you tremendous flexibility in how you shape your sound.
Lastly it’s worth mentioning that the new Moog FreqBox can do some insane-sounding stuff with drums; you can get some very glitchy and wild audio effects by modulating the FreqBox analog synth oscillator using drums as your modulation source. This is an age with many options for a producer when it comes to sound sources. You have ROMpler workstations with great sounds right at the box and a load of presets to choose from right out the gate. There are Virtual Instruments which offer the convenience of being wholly software based and inexpensive as entry points with the many free offerings. Loop and sound libraries with traditional instruments and multi-samples. What does it mean now to add a true analog synth to the production palette? Secondly, is it more about the production or the producer when this consideration is made? This is a good question. When you have an enormous selection of preset sounds in ROM or in software, you can sketch out ideas very quickly with good sound quality, but you have a couple of challenges; one is spending too long hunting for the right sound and another is sounding like every other cat who is using the same presets. These highend workstations offer a lot right up front but a lot of people never venture outside the presets because it can be difficult to program new sounds in the workstation environment. So you run the risk of sounding dated if you rely on the presets. One of the great strengths of a true analog synth, aside from the unbeatable basic sound quality, is that all of the parameters are right there under your fingertips waiting to be tweaked. So with a little practice you can dial in the perfect bass or lead in half the time you would spend auditioning a bank of fifty or a hundred presets, and because you have shaped the sound to your mix you have an instant signature tone that nobody else is using. That and the real, living analog sound will set your mix apart from the competition. So you get both aspects; not only is the sound going to
be right for the production because you have dialed it in, but because it’s you following your ears to get that sound, when you get it locked in it’s a credit to you as the producer. With such an incredible legacy left behind, are there any ideas or philosophies, I hesitate to even use the term safeguards, left in place to ensure Moog Music moves forward in the spirit of Bob Moog while embracing and adapting to the changing landscape of modern music?
Absolutely. Our head of product development now is a man who worked closely with Bob for about ten years, and Dr. Moog has also had a huge influence on my own design philosophy. We have a great crew of people here who are dedicated to keeping Bob’s spirit alive through our work. It’s important to remember what a cutting-edge innovator Bob was in his own era, so while we do not want to depart from the analog tradition we are also looking for ways to keep pushing the boundaries, to bring new tools for musicians to get closer to that source of inspiration. Musical inspiration, the connection between the artist and the sound, is what Bob always worked
towards, and that is our continuing motivation as well. Is there any adjusting or adaptation to modern workflows and does this have any impact on the next synths’ design or release schedule? Moog Music’s President, Mike Adams, came to us from a modern industrial engineering background, so he has done a lot to modernize the workflow at Moog and keep things efficient. The production lines are set up using demand-flow technology; the work is still done by hand but there is a real effort to keep inventory flowing in just-intime fashion, to keep our overhead low and the design process on schedule. Our engineers work as a team to keep the designs coming on a regular basis; there is usually one project nearing completion while another is shaping up in the earlier stages. Because we are a small crew we have to make choices about what projects are highpriority and which ones are on the back burner for a while; we definitely have more good ideas in a given year than we can bring to the market all at once. This means that bigger projects can take a while to come to fruition, so patience is definitely a virtue. Another thing we are known for is continuing support and development; we bring out the best products we can but then we keep looking for ways to improve them. Both of our synthesizers, the Voyager and the Little Phatty, have continued to improve with new features and operating system upgrades long after release. We are working on a new upgrade to the Voyager operating system this year, and the Voyager has been on the market for about six years now; that’s a level of commitment you don’t see from a lot of the bigger names in the industry. Is there a product recommendation for someone who has always heard of the Moog sound and wants to explore what it could do for their own production? What should be that first/next analog unit in my studio? You can start at any level, from adding a Moogerfooger to your arsenal as a “secret weapon”
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on remixes, all the way up to the fullon Voyager sound. I know several producers who have jumped right in with the Voyager and started doing some great work. Personally I think that the Little Phatty Stage Edition is a great first piece for someone who is just getting into the analog world, because it has a great balance of price to performance. It’s a fully-featured modern instrument with MIDI and patch memory so it’s very easy to work with if you are starting out from a more modern, digital perspective, but it has the undeniable raw sound of the Moog analog oscillators and filter, something that samples and plug-ins still have not matched. The Little Phatty also has an external audio input, so it can due double duty as a filter for your other tracks as well as a killer bass and lead synth in its own right. And in closing are there any hints you could give us about future releases. Anything modular coming? An extension of the Little Phatty? Please…Well, since you asked so nicely! By the time this goes to press you should see an updated Little Phatty II on the market, which we are introducing at the Musikmesse show in Frankfurt, Germany. The LP II will feature MIDI over USB, so you 66 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
can plug it directly into your laptop or desktop computer and have full control. This is going to be great for mobile musicians and people who are just getting started in the studio, as you won’t need a separate interface to do MIDI. The LP II is also going to ship with some nice new features like a built-in arpeggiator that you can clock to your MIDI tempo, or to tap-tempo for playing with a live drummer. The LFO will also follow MIDI or tap-tempo, which are features not found on the original Little Phatty. Good news for folks who already have the Little Phatty Stage Edition, all of the new software features will be available to our current users as a free upgrade they can download from our website. As far as what the future holds, I can’t drop any bombs on you now but we are definitely listening to our customers and thinking big. We have had a lot of requests for a polyphonic synth, which would be a long-term project for us but one that I am definitely excited to consider. We’ve had almost as many people ask us to bring back the Taurus bass pedals. And of course, the name Moog still brings up memories of the giant walls of modular synths used by the likes of Wendy Carlos and Keith Emerson… there are a lot of companies out there now, making new modular synth gear, and I am very glad to see it. If Moog were to re-enter the modular world it would not be enough in my opinion just to re-hash the original modules. We would need to bring an evolution to the game that is as cuttingedge now as the original was in its day. I have an idea file where I’m collecting ideas about just how to do that, and if I’m lucky maybe Moog will make it happen. The company is doing very well right now, growing every year, and I think we are in a good position to continue as one of the leading lights in the analog world for years to come. Producer’s Edge thanks Moog Music for taking the time to talk. It’s been a real pleasure! Keep doing what you do; y’all are doing an excellent job and I look forward to more issues of Producer’s Edge.
M o o g e r F o o g e r Tr a c k E x a m p l e . m p 3 This is an example of how one vanilla patch can be pushed into the space of other instruments by the use of effect pedals and processing. Original Drums used from Big Fish Audio Off The Hook West Coast Hip Hop http://www.bigfishaudio.com/4DCGI/ detail.html?1165
Bonus: Moog Music the MoogerFoogers Example By Amos Gaynes Applications Engineer “These were created by looping your beat and running them thru the ring mod then creating *looping MIDI CC modulation* clips and going MIDI to CV with the modulation, so that I was rhythmically tweaking the ring mod frequency using a looped MIDI clip.” MoogerForger_Amos_Gaynes_ drumloop_ringMod.mp3
SOUL DIGGAZ Words By Crystal J
Their Soul Diggin F
rom what I understand this is a family movement. Soul Diggaz is a production team consisting of 3 team members- Let us know who you are and of course where you rep? The Soul Diggaz; consisting of Producers and Brothers K-Mack and Shaun Bless along with Singer/Songwriter Corte’ Ellis, out of New War, NJ. We got our first big break coming from Newark, we met up with Pras from the Fugee’s and he let us work on his solo project, The Ghetto Super Star album.
Now I understand that you have been in the game for a while and working with a variety of different music artists like Mary J Blige, Beyonce, Britney Spears and the production driving force behind Missy Elliott. What were those experiences like to work with such great talents? -Working with different artists is a learning experience but we make music to fit the artist. If we go into a studio with Mary J. we know she going to need a song that is heart felt and touch your soul and if we go into a studio with Britney, she’s a pop artist so her music will need to follow that trend. Working with Missy was more of a partnership and she is a workaholic. Missy likes to stay in the studio 24 hrs a day if she could but we learned a lot
You are a production & writing team. To produce music is to multi task, which consists of coaching, organizing, writing music and of course recording. How do you manage it all? - It’s a learning experience. You have to have things arranged. You need to build a strong team. You need a team that concentrates on your business. We have an entertainment lawyer, PR, and overall management team. This way knowing your business is handled you will be able to concentrate on your music and not lose focus.
Another Smash that you were a part of is the song “Portrait of Love” by Bad Boy artist Cheri Dennis. I have to admit I love that song because for me music can be a driving force to remember the past. That song brings me back to being a kid growing up in the 80’s. I recently brought the movie The Last Dragon, which is a classic and I think of the artist Vanity: What was the inspiration behind that? Absolutely, The Last dragon is a classic. We have known Cheri Dennis for a while now and have heard her different projects but there has been a search for a sound and the 80’s came to our attention and we delivered a smash.
Besides building your team how is the business aspect, sometimes I will do an interview with producer’s and find that they deal with a lot of frustration. Frustration dealing with the record labels, dealing with the different artist and there names not being that notable.
What music gear do you all prefer? We don’t really want to tell our secret but we use Pro Tools. We play with samples sometimes but it’s not beneficial to sample because when it’s time to get paid most of your money will go elsewhere.
Well the first thing is, NO ONE OWES US ANYTHING. That’s the problem you get out there. Your music gets heard and it can go to your head but you have to realize no one owes you anything. When you feel that way your music will suffer and you will lose focus.
Congrats on your new production deal with Timberland. What does that mean for you all? Thanks so much, we have known Timberland for a while and he was excited to hear that we were going solo with ideas for a new project. We have been working with our artist Izzy Kizzy. Tim made everything happen immediately. It was a bit of a surprise as well considering that Timberland is not interested in signing anymore rap artists.
What is the goal of your sound? What do you want the people listening to your music to take from it? - The purpose of our music is to come out with a great sound. You want to be able to hear your music 10 years from now. Of course you want people to feel it right away but it’s the years down the road that will make your music classic.
So now it’s time to start doing us and we will start with Izzy Kizzy, be on the look out….SoulDiggazWorld.com www.myspace.com/souldiggaz 67 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
68 Producerâ€™s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
genoQs Machines Octopus Analogue Sequencer With Gabriel
here is a glorious immediacy to working with an analogue sequencer. It’s a move away from a display screen and a total focus on your machine as the singular portal to sequenced production. These tactile touchable terminals present a paradox to the paradigm. It’s the looseness of freeform composing coupled with the precise play of pinpoint planned programming. To find our more about this older system coming around again, we sat down with genoQs Machines Gabriel Seher for handy hands on with his Octopus.
Man- at- Arms Could you first tell us a little about yourself and the company and how you became involved in analog systems? The story of genoQs Machines starts around a live gig tour in the mid 90s, where I was heavily using a rig of top-notch sequencers of the era, and which were making up -what at the time was a sequencing powerhouse. The rig included a Roland TR-909 operating in internal and external mode, two Alesis MMT8s and a Kawai Q80 firing up pre-recorded patterns, and an Akai MPC 2000 allowing for real-time recording and interaction. The next desire was to bundle all that power into one piece of hardware, and most of all into a single operation concept, just like a real instrument. No bits and features here and there but a sequencing instrument in its full right. Coming from quite similar backgrounds of
interest, Marcel and I sat together to envision our personal dream machine. So in spring Marcel set off to solder together some wires, on top of which I hacked down some C code, and by fall there it was, a simple, really useful, and actually very fun sequencing machine. It was not yet featuring an enclosure by the way, but that’s just the details... It did make us very curious though, and so we took the next few years to think much bigger and put everything on the table, then consolidate and streamline the model, and finally drive development and completion of the machine we would consider at the time our dream sequencer. But little did we know – that was just the beginning! Everyone we knew and thought could have a literate opinion on the new machine, musically and aesthetically, seemed so impressed that we finally decided to go public, and announce the machine as a product. That was the beginning of the new era, and with our first customers came the first user requests, ideas, and discussions. We realized quickly what a powerful driver this is, and tailored development accordingly, to help the machine grow extremely fast. Why did you go hardware in times when there is music software out there for almost anything you could ask for? Actually, our view is that software expects you to know your goal, and if you do, it will let you get there. There is little you can’t do in software these days, but you need to know your goal beforehand. Instruments however, as in “hardware instruments”, take you to places that you would never think of, and that is why we generally like “playing” music, as opposed to “programming” music. It is a combination of intuition, happy accidents, certain limits, and most of all the 69 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
The Octopus world consists of objects, associated attributes, and functions that modify objects or attributes. The uniquely extensive interface allows interaction in the most flexible manner and of course all in real time, with the sequencer running! physical interaction with the music! That is the thinking behind our decision to go all the way hardware. Could you expand a little on the history of analog sequencers…? Sequencing as we know it today was born in the context of modular systems, where a clock would generate a pair of voltages at given times which would trigger sounds from oscillators and other modules. The clock would jump from one step to the other and voltages generated at each step could be modified as desired via knobs, producing different note pitches and lengths. Over the years the concept was refined and adapted to a few generations of early drum machines, the most popular of which is probably the Roland TR-808. The running chase-light principle was used to compose patterns with the built in 70 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
sounds, and with MIDI on the Roland TR-909 there was also a means of controlling external MIDI gear using the same principles. At the other end of the spectrum, with MIDI came the sequencers that would record MIDI streams easily, but offer very awkward editing capabilities. Focus here was on recording, and much less on editing. The MPC sequencing model was revolutionary and different since it allowed lots of body-generated events to be captured via the pads, and still offering capabilities to editing the events quite easily. Maybe not all could be done in one piece and in real time, but it was all there somehow, from a functional view. Finally, the later generation groove boxes are interesting in their approach to unite sequencing and sound generation in one device, and the latest variation on the theme is
probably Yamaha’s Tenori-On which is actually taking a significant step forward from the mainstream status quo and focuses strongly on interaction and performance. What was the inspiration behind Octopus and Nemo and what understanding (advantages/ disadvantages) should I have before considering working this way? If you agree, the chase light sequencing model Octopus and Nemo will feel like home, as their TR-909 legacy shows immediately on the surface. However, as you look just a bit under the hood you realize that they feature a huge wealth of capabilities beyond that. The power really lies in the integration of simple but separate functions into something that can get as complex as you need it. This supports many ways of working and easily opens new interesting ways, and that’s what makes the machines so desirable.
is a high-end MIDI step sequencer, adding portability to the highly acclaimed functionality and user friendliness of Octopus. It is in many ways an Octopus in disguise, and one that feels equally well in a backpack or on your lap! It features the same sequencing lighthouse features that Octopus users have enjoyed for years, including polyphonic steps, selfmodulating and cross-modulating sequences, freely editable musical scales, user editable runtime directions, full-scale MIDI recording, and much more. Think of Nemo as an Octopus in small: same OS, same technology, and to a very high degree the same features. The main differences are in the track capacity and in the more auditive aspect of operation of Nemo compared to the highly visual Octopus.
For example, you can record MIDI note and controller data to the sequencer just as you would record audio on a tape machine. And then the fun starts, as it’s all there at your fingertips and waiting to be worked with. In fact, working with that material is what the instrument is about. For example, you would hold a step pressed and tweak its parameters, or you do the same for a track, or for a group of tracks and work with them therefore in a very immediate and intuitive manner. Instruments are about
unleashing energy in a very unique and creative way. We hear from users again and again that Octopus and Nemo excel at that, as they allow a highly immediate experience and realtime interaction with your MIDI data.
How does it compare to a linear sequencer and a software solution like Cakewalk’s Sonar? Do I
have the same level of control? As a musical interface, how does it compare structurally to a traditional analog drum machine and/or keyboard? The parallel between Octopus and a DAW system is useful as a contrast, but should not be mistaken for a comparison. We only talk MIDI sequencing: there is no sound engine in Octopus, or Nemo. The idea is not to replace something that works well, but from the DAW perspective use Octopus and Nemo to open new ways of working. A computer based solution is an excellent choice for straight recording, similar to a tape machine. You have practically limitless capacity, can easily jump, cut and move things around, get down to each note, provided you have the material. An instrument helps you express yourself in a musical way, and asks to be played, touched, and worked with. The way you work with Octopus for example is built around chunks of 160 Steps each, grouped in tracks of 16 steps that run in parallel. In essence each step has its own tactile button, and while you hold it pressed you edit it by the turn of a knob. You
change its velocity, pitch, length, start position and a lot more. With that at the tips of your hands, you set off and perform, experiment and carve a piece that is really alive. You may even record material in, if you prefer to play something in via a MIDI keyboard or drum pads, or anything else sending MIDI. Subsequently you can tweak things into place, and work the material to the point of no recognition, if you like. The level of control you have is really not comparable to that of a DAW, as it serves a different purpose. In general though it is a lot more inviting, accessible and finally conducing to interaction – in a very direct way. That is really the secret about how creativity gets set loose. Our recommendation is to use an Octopus or a Nemo in the creative process of your work, generating material, and use your DAW to do the processing that follows. How would I go about physically connecting an Octopus to several tone modules? For example, I have a multitimbral ROMpler keyboard doing 3 or 4 elements, a separate rack mount synth providing additional patches and finally a sampler triggering music, how is this all connected and controlled?
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Images from The Firedance picture book of the Octopus Vampire. Limited edition :: Bordeaux lacquered wood frame (RAL3005) :: Anodized black front panel :: Aluminum-gray anodized lettering :: Blue-yellow-purple tricolor LEDs :: Production strictly limited to 25 machines total :: Pre-order yours now :: Delivery starts December 1st, 2008
What you describe is quickly connected as follows: connect your keyboard’s MIDI IN and OUT to let’s say MIDI port 1 of Octopus. You have 16 channels here, so you can have up to 16 parts on your ROMpler, depending on how many it is supporting. At the same time you have a keyboard that you can use to play in notes, if that is what you may want to do. Next, connect the sampler to MIDI port 2, and fix its MIDI channel. Now, the synth can be connected either via MIDI thru from the sampler or the ROMpler, if they provide one and of course if you are not concerned about possible delays from the MIDI thru. It will not matter for pads or effects, but it may be an issue for anything tight like drums. In that case you may want to use a MIDI hub and connect it to the Octopus port, after which you can plug in your devices in the hub. Just the two, or all of them depending on how many channels you will need from Octopus. What about merging this approach with software tone generators? MIDI out from the OCTOPUS into my software sequencer, but how difficult would it be to assign different MIDI channels to different instruments on the hardware side?
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Octopus and Nemo are at home in polyphonic, multitimbral environments, where sound sources may range from rigs of keyboards to synth plugins on a computer. The same procedure applies to software instruments, except you need to connect to the MIDI interface of your computer. One important step here is to make sure that your DAW is configured properly to route the MIDI data from separate channels to separate virtual instruments, and you’re done. On the Octopus, MIDI channels are always assigned per track. So you are very flexible in what you control with the 10 tracks you have in a page, and the maximum of 90 tracks you have playing concurrently from different pages. Assigning different MIDI channels to different Octopus tracks is a breeze: hold a track select and turn the dedicated encoder to select the value, and you’re done. Once I have connected my studio, how difficult is the learning curve for someone who understands the basics of stepsequencing, but only from the
most common layout of 16 steps with minimal controls beyond that? It shouldn’t be difficult at all. The first thing you get struck by is that common step sequencer layout multiplied by 4 or by 10! That already gives you a feeling of the power that you have at your fingertips and makes you want more. That is when you burn to start exploring the machine, and having fun, because everything is right there in front of you. And you can go as deep as you want and use it however you want. Are there particular genres where this hands-on level control has distinct advantages? What about older genres such as Jazz or Blues, could this be an instrument capable of bringing creative directions out of a producer that just can’t be tapped any other way? Compositions in rhythm-centered genres are very easy and direct to do. Having the notes all in sight and hand
reach is an experience that simply isn’t topped. Combined with that, modern and experimental genres will benefit greatly from the ability to mute and drop, destroy and instantly recall, or create and interact with self-evolving structures. Traditional styles will certainly appreciate the ability to generate input material using external sources, such as keyboards, and the immediacy in interaction with that material. Clearly, the creative process is by no means a one-way street. From a drum programming standpoint, how possible is it to translate a drum pattern in my head into reality? On a day where I have little to no creative juices left, what options exist for spontaneous experimentation? Speed is something we like to talk about. The immediate feedback is visual and audio - plus the ability to grab the notes with your fingers should really say it all. Doodling and developing ideas has never been easier before. And in case you really can’t be bothered, select a few tracks, press the randomize button, and start from there. When you find something good, press a button to keep it locked, and move on safely. Once you ruin it, jump back to the store point and try something else. Or use the remix function to do a handful of subtle changes and see where you get. That’s how it works.
I have a grasp on drum programming, but maybe my keyboard skills and musical knowledge are entry level at best…are there any features to help my compositional skills? I understand chords are possible, but how would I get them down? Chords are quickly built by getting into a step by double click, and adding notes on top of its base pitch. You may choose any scale notes you want, up to 7. Indeed, you may build several chords and finally realize they don’t sound good together. If modifying the notes won’t really help you, or if it gets too messy, you can take the fast path and force them all into a scale. That way, they will for sure sound good together. Once you click the scale button to activate it, you can start to change the scale, and influence the general sound. Scales may be freely transposed and modified by adding
or removing notes, hence producing very nice musical progressions. All the transformation work may be done in real-time via a MIDI keyboard or other controller as well. Finally, at the ultimate level you can create automatic transpositions triggered by programmable patterns - that’s where things start to get really freaky, but in a plenty musical way. Let’s say I’m a tweaker at heart and I love to adjust my synths settings on the fly. Is there anything I can do to capture that live performance as part of my sequencer data? Yes there is. If your synth is sending MIDI CC data when you tweak its knobs, you may record those movements as well, and create very lively patterns that way. Let’s say you want to record a filter sweep on a track - you would arm it for recording, and
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“Software expects you to know your goal, and if you do, it will let you get there. There is little you can’t do in software these days, but you need to know your goal beforehand. Instruments however, as in “hardware instruments”, take you to places that you would never think of, and that is why we generally like “playing” music, as opposed to “programming” music.”
start tweaking. The recording track will auto-sense the controller and record the flow of your tweak right into the track, without affecting the notes that may be in that track. Let’s assume you want to record resonance next - simply click on another track to arm it instead and record your changes in resonance. And from there, you have the data and you can start to manipulate and edit it in the sequencer, just like anything else. In conclusion, where does an analog sequencer fit in the overall scope of a musician looking to bring something fresh to his production or performance? Is this a signature piece and studio hub or best thought of as a luxury add-on for those looking for a new workflow by visiting the past? Hardware sequencers are likely to prevail as luxury instruments. More and more musicians are turning 74 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
away from software and back to hardware, simply because of the material experience that software simply cannot provide. Of course, entry cost is a question here, but their monetary value tends to remain stable and significant, something that is not true about computers or software in general. The functional value of hardware sequencers is also here to stay: apart from the proven technology they employ, like MIDI, the machines are made to be used with our bodies, independent of other technical advancements. And that’s the main factor that makes one device more desirable over another. Generally I think, it is not about a visit to the past, but it is about using and discovering some timeless functions and principles. In the end, creation is not all about the sound, but about the way you interact with the machine, which is in the end your main
if not only true spring of creativity. Is there anything else you would like to add about the genoQs Machines Octopus or Nemo? Greatest credit and appreciation have to go to our users. We are delighted and thankful to the people that have become the Octopus community and it was really through their goodness, experience, diligence and commitment that the machine has grown to what it is today. Their input, ideas, challenges and open questions were invaluable in the design and development, and they remain so as the machine is growing even further. Finally, Octopus and Nemo are a work of passion and love, and we would have never done it without the patience and support of our wives and families, who were pivotal in realizing this dream of ours. genoQs.com Producer’s Edge thanks Gabriel Seher for taking the time to talk to us.
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YAMAHA DTXtreme III With
Drum - Man - Machine O
ur Drum Works special takes us to the idea of incorporating an electronic drum set into our workflow. It’s a focus on pushing our production
towards playing and away from programming. We chose the Yamaha DTXtreme III as an ideal candidate and dig in with specialist Tom Griffin.
Tell us a little bit about your history at Yamaha and how you came to work there? Tom Griffin: Okay. Well, I just had a background in music retail and I was looking to crossover to the manufacturer side and in 2000 or late 1999, Yamaha began a program of consultants where they would hire guys part-time to support their key products and key markets and I was one of the guys, I was the New York guy. So I did that for actually about seven years and I was mainly supporting the Motif so I was there for that launch and I am technically savvy when it comes to MIDI devices. I did my senior thesis on MIDI. I love MIDI and I love sampling and the gear and so I did that around 76 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
New York but everybody knew I was a drummer so eventually position of the drum product specialist surfaced which had been previously held by Tony Verderosa. Tony went on to forge a career as an electronic drummer and so the position went unfilled for a while and when they were looking to fill it again, they asked me and I went to the interview and got it. Seeing that the Motif is the most popular brand out right now, what’s the comparison between the quality of the drums in the actual workstation Motif and an electronic drum set? Well, the Motif has gone through three series as you know; classic, ES and now XS and the difference is in the way the drum voice
Quick-take Specs: 50 Preset Kits/50 User Kits 1,114 Drum, Perc., Effect voices 202 Melodic voices (many from Motif) 87 Preset songs/50 User songs expandable to 512MB sample memory
is structured. The drum voice engine on the new DTXtreme III and that’s what you are referencing --has really been designed for drummers, whereas some of the features that you might find in an ES or an XS might be geared a little bit more towards Synth programmers. So people who are already familiar with filters and resonance and things, it’s just been giving a bit more drummer friendly user interface, but when it comes to the sounds, we actually use a new technology, inherited from the XS which is called expanded articulation. The DTXtreme III uses two of the expanded articulation functions, wave cycle and wave random. These are invisible features to the user and what they do is, they will cycle through a set
of similar waves or randomize playback of a wave depending on the sound and the result is more natural expression because it’s like an acoustic drum. You don’t always get the same sound, even if you hit it with the same strength; factors of the head vibrating, factors of the sound still being in the room, position on the head. You don’t always have the repeating constant sound. What XS introduced was this expanded articulation function that the Yamaha Synth designers came up with and those two features of it, in particular wave cycle and wave random, are very useful for electronic drumming. So, what they address is really the natural expression of the instrument.
sculpt these sounds for a record. They are able to take those sounds and use them in a live situation. Last year, I know that Linkin Park did this with our then top of the line, DTXtreme IIS and it basically allows drummers and bands to bring their studio sounds to live venue. On top of that, it just opens it up, so where you could play any sound you could imagine. So, if you wanted to take a car door slam and make it into a kick drum, if you wanted to get creative and play some sound effects along with your intro to a song or whatever, this can now be put in the drummer’s
What options are available to me as much as sound design goes with the actual sounds themselves that come with the DTXtreme and what can I do to shape those sounds? Well, you have your standard parameters for volume panning. Those are simple ones and you have got a 3-band EQ per drum. You have got a filter with resonance. You have got attack, decay and release. You have got a effect synth. You actually have three effect synths per drum. You have got output, and you have got some other things such as velocity off set, velocity s e n s i t i v i t y, you can apply reverse curves to the drum to make it get louder as you play softer. The main ones being sound related 3-band EQ, attack, decay, release, filter and a effect synth.
n the future of electronic drumming we are going to see kids getting closer and closer toward what an acoustic kit can do, but there is never going to be a substitute for an acoustic drum set. when you go to see a Virtuoso in Carnegie Hall or ... they are going to have a real grand piano there. It’s just the way it is and it’s the same with drums.”
When you said articulation, you made us all very nervous over here because we know how obsessive Yamaha can be with articulations and I thought you might be including a squeaky base drum pedal or something? Well, no that’s not in here. You could of course sample a squeak and I have actually done that; not an individual squeak, but I have pulled samples off of records that have squeaks and just left them in there.
hands, but I would say the primary use for sampling would be a never ending supply of fresh new sounds because you can always put in any new sound that you could capture or that could be produced in the studio.
What about the sampling engine? It seems like it would add a powerful feature but for what use? Tom Griffin: Well, it’s probably one of the things that sets it apart from any other module drum, dedicated drum module on the market is that it has on board sampling and it’s actually drummer friendly, but what it allows the drummer to do is to place samples that they have perhaps worked very hard on in the studio with a producer in high-end mics in a high-end room and a high-end drum kit to craft these and
So what kind of interface am I using to adjust that, the multi sample drum sounds or sound effects? Well, we have what are called user voices and a user voice is created when you sample a sound or import a .WAV or .AIF and it’s then a simple matter of in voice select page, assigning that user voice to a trigger path, so whether it’s the Snare or the Kick or Tom-Tom, the procedure basically is highlight the voice -- get to the voice select page, whack the trigger and select the user voice.
Let’s talk about some of the hurdles that I face with electronic drum sets, is the sensitivity of the pads and the amount of real estate on the actual pad itself that’s sensitive for triggering. Well, our Xtreme III has brand new cymbal trigger pads which are 3Zone triggers. There is a bell area and there is a bow area and there is an edge area. Now, 360 degrees around this circular trigger, those zones are in effect, so I can strike the trigger in the edge at 12 o’clock, I can strike it on the edge at 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 9 o’clock, it doesn’t matter. It’s going to give me the edge whatever sound is assigned to the edge and then same with the bow and the bell, that’s up near the center. So these -- that’s something where the feasible trigger emulates the physical characteristics of the instrument, it’s
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duplicating or replicating. On a drum, we have something we call the TP100 and TP 120 Tom pads which are either 12 inch diameter or 10 inch diameter and that’s very much like your standard drum sizes, 10 or 12 are really common. Obviously, a snare drum, most snare drums acoustically are 14 inches diameter, that’s going to cost more to produce a 14 inch trigger when in fact, the sweet spot of the snare is about the size of a half dollar. If you are playing an acoustic snare drum, you try and go for the center typically, but you might also play rim shot and you might also play cross stick which our triggers allow. They have separate zones around a raised edge, around that 12 inch or 10 inch head surface area, that from 12 to 3 o’clock, would be a cross stick, in fact, we call that Rim 2 sound and then from 3 o’clock on around back up to 12 o’clock, is the Rim 1 sound that’s typically assigned to a Rim shot on a snare. On the Tom-Tom, on DTXtreme III, the 12 to 3 o’clock zone defaults to the Tom-Tom Hoop noise which is the sound of striking a stick on the hoop, okay, over the rim of the drum, like the clickity clackity sound and the head area obviously plays the main TomTom sound and then the Rim shot number one area plays the sound of the Rim and the Head being played at the same time, which is a technique that acoustic drummers use on TomTom. So you can actually recreate the acoustic voices of that Tom-Tom or snare electronically and the physics match to some degree, the physics of the original instrument. Now, cost imagine, obviously cost plays a factor in design. By having a 12 inch snare and 10 inch Tom-Toms, we think that’s a very comfortable scenario for anybody looking to play DTXtreme III. Nice. Now, I am used to sampling Jazz records and I have always noticed the difference in Jazz percussion as opposed to a traditional Rock and Roll or 78 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
Funk bands and I’ll be looking at something called a brush stick and I am wondering if I could still use that type of playing technique along with the DTXtreme III to get that sound? No, I would say that you wouldn’t use brushes per se, wire brushes on these triggers. If you did, you could do that, but I don’t think that it would give you the desired result. There are sampled brush instruments which are quite playable with sticks or what they call hot rods, like the drum sticks made of like some strips of Bamboo tied together. Those types of -- the type of stick used really has less to do with the sound you get and more of the feeling that you have while you play those particular sounds. So, I might want to try playing a brush set with brushes just so that I can feel more comfortable, but you have to be aware of the dynamics that occur when you use a wire brush stick versus a hot rod or a solid wood stick. I am a producer, who has a studio in his home, I am looking at a new option maybe adding a different angle to how I program my drums and I have always been fascinated with the electronic drum set. What
solutions does Yamaha have for an entry level producer? I am going to experiment with this. I am not really ready to invest in the top of the line unit, but I just want to actually get some kind hand percussion in my home? Well, we have electronic kits starting with -- the DTXplorer is our entry level kit and it would be perfect for use in a project studio to get your feet wet so to speak. It’s a complete five piece drum set with hi-hat, trigger, two similar triggers, snare, three toms and kick and it includes a base drum pedal, a genuine Yamaha 6110 base drum pedal, FP6110 and that’s sold for about $700 bucks.
CURVE OF COMMUNICATION What of the learning curve for the rhythmically challenged and now I have been using my trigger finger and my other sort of devices and now I have taken that dive in. Is there any sort of difference in the learning curve, in learning on an acoustic drum set and electronic drum set? No, I think that they are pretty much the same. What I’ve found though is that Yamaha’s triggers, the way they are constructed, are far more accurate than let’s just say the general competition, without pointing a finger. There is typically two types of trigger technology out there, when it comes to electronic drums, gum rubber type surface and the meshhead type surface. And I have found that both are adequate for learning to play the drums. However, when you go from an electronic drum set to an acoustic drum set, I have found that our triggers are -- because they are very accurate and they feel like practice
pads and they are less forgiving let’s just say of double strokes and ghost notes and they really bring out every little nuance is that somebody who learns on a system like ours is better equipped when making the transition to an acoustic drum set. They are going to have to adjust their playing because they are not playing membranes on round wood shelves and it’s a whole different ballgame, but the accuracy of our pads really allows you to practice and practice well so that when you go to an acoustic drum set, your playing is more on time. We also have something in all of our electronic drum sets which is an educational tool called Groove Check. Now, what Groove Check does is it analyzes the timing of your strikes in relationship to the metronome or a built-in song and so arguably the most important skill for a drummer is time keeping. The feature we call Groove Check is designed to help your time keeping skills one beat at a time. It works like a scale that measures how far ahead or behind the beat your hits are. You can measure all trigger inputs at the same time or the way I like to use it is focus on one specific trigger at a time, meaning one specific limb at a time. So, if I am concerned about my timing as a drummer, I may want to start with my right hand which is typically playing the hi-hat or the right cymbal to primary time keeping appendage and I can use Groove Check to analyze the steadiness of that, of my pulse. Once I get that then I can assign the Groove Check to look at my right foot and my left hand and my left foot and then bring it all together by looking at all the inputs. So that’s a very powerful feature that’s built into all of our electronic drum sets from DTXplorer. Now, that’s just going to tell me that my timing sucks or is there some sort of quantized function I could take advantage of? No, it’s not a quantized function. It tells you how close to ‘Perfect’ your hits are. Now, drummers like I said before, the most important skill for a drummer
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Drum sounds are the things that change more than anything else
in music. I mean, the piano is still the piano, acoustic guitar is still the acoustic guitar, but drum sounds change and they really are just different flavors of vanilla. You have kicks, snares, cymbals; time keeping elements that define the
part of a beat.” is good solid time keeping. We are not trying to turn drummers into drum machines with Groove Check, but we are going to give them a musically useful tool that they can use to analyze their time field. For example, guys like David Garibaldi, who is a Yamaha drum artist, who plays with the band Tower of Power, is known for the way he sets his pulse in groove. You can tell it’s David Garibaldi, because he got a unique time field and same with many other famous drummers, lots of Yamaha artists. So this feature Groove Check gives players a way to analyze how they put their pulse and it’s obviously geared towards improving your time keeping, but it also allows you to see into how you play. It’s a sort of a window into how you play and you can feel the difference as you are using Groove Check and trying to nail that center, trying to get all your hits to line up the “perfect” 16th note or 8th note, your body can feel how -- your body knows how that feels. So basically you can adjust your body using the input, using the read out of Groove Check, you can adjust your body to play more in time or more out of time to get the certain time field that you like. I don’t know if I am explaining it the best.
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Alright, let’s talk now about the person who has bought into a system. He has got his electronic drum set. He has brought it home. He assembled it. Everything is working fine. What resources are available for getting going with a system like this? Should it be lessons? Can I learn this on my own? Books, DVDs? Is there something available that I could use as a resource? Well, there’s never been a better time to learn music. There are so many resources available online, in your music store, in your school. All those schools I mentioned last because we know the systems and plans -everything is getting cuts. But there has never been more resources available to learn to play a musical instrument.
LEARNING LEANINGS what’s your best idea for me learning how to play better? Get a teacher. [laughter erupts] Still traditional teacher? Yeah, there is no substitute for a hands-on. If you have some skill already, you can fend for yourself by picking up DVDs. They usually have an accompanying book, but I would say having a teacher would be important and also learning to read music even
for a drummer -Wow! It is very important. Learning to read the rhythmic notation is important. There is no getting around that. I mean, there are entire institutions, universities dedicated towards that goal and those are some constants that I just don’t think as technological as music gets that you can ever get away from. If you can prove me wrong, I’d be curious to know what you have got to say about it, but the way music is communicated is usually with notes on a staff and you need to know that system, or words. A producer says give me a shuffle beat, okay, now if you don’t know what a shuffle beat is, what are you going to do? How are you going to find that out? You could research it by listening and then you can imitate it, but having a teacher to explain what a shuffle is will save your time and I think trail and error. Anything else you want to let our readership know about the idea of including electronic drums in a production work flow? The six minutes of sampling time. And that goes to this other field of electronic drumming where the sounds that are coming through the PA or on the CD are being produced by one person who is sitting down behind
an electronic drum set or a hybrid kit. Hybrid kit, meaning part acoustic and part electronics and all of our electronic drums modules can be triggered by placing acoustic drum triggers on real drums and sending those signals to the brain. Now, electronic drum systems are basically a simple two-part system. There is a triggering which pulses our drive from vibrations on a surface and those pulses are sent to the module which fires of a sound. That’s in the simplest way. In the future of electronic drumming we are going to see kids getting closer and closer toward what an acoustic kit can do, but there is never going to be a substitute for an acoustic drum set. It’s like a grand piano. I mean, as good as the Motif XS and S90 ESR and all the great digital pianos out here, when you go to see a Virtuoso in Carnegie Hall or whatever venue you want to put in, they are going to have a real grand piano there. It’s just the way it is and it’s the same with drums. Big time shows like The Grammy’s and American Idol are going to mic up an acoustic drum set. It’s just that there is no substitute for that. For air moving, and it’s that sound. Well, I think that it depends on the music also because there are new genres popping up all the time. Drum and Bass, chill, lounge, glitch, these types of genres really lend themselves to incorporating electronic drums because of the nature of the sounds used and they are not conventional Rock and Roll. They are not necessarily emulating Chuck Berry. They are brand new soundscapes and electronic drums, especially one that includes sampling is or can be a really integral part of those things. That’s kind of where I see electronic drums going in the future is more and more of a drummer not only keeping the beat, but adding to the overall composition or soundscape that’s coming from the band or the CD. Let’s go there with the 808 sound. Yeah, 808 sounds can go on for days if
you want. I don’t think they are going to necessarily make the track any better, but you can have a very long decay and they are like bomb drops in drum and bass or a Dope Kick in hip hop and you can certainly sculpt that using any of the Yamaha electronic drums modules. The new ones have quite a nice long one and so does the DTXpress 4. Drum sounds are the things that change more than anything else in music. I mean, the piano is still the piano, acoustic guitar is still the acoustic guitar, but drum sounds change and they really are just different flavors of vanilla. You have kicks, snares, cymbals; time keeping elements that define the part of a beat.
FAKING THE FUNK What about artificial timing aids? Now, in music you got pulse of strong and weak beats and the strong beat is usually on one and the weak beats are the others until you get to one again. You use different instruments to propel that. With electronic sounds you can mix that up. You can use anything you want, such as maybe instead of a hi-hat, it’s a muted triangle or it’s a shaker, or it’s a sound effect that’s been edited to sound like something completely different. The best music has a feel and it can be quantized and there are certain quantizations that apply to certain genres of music. Maybe I shouldn’t... No, be honest. You can take a step back and not answer. Answer as a musician. Answer as a drummer. How do you feel about the guy right next to you using a drum machine, using quantize and note repeat for his percussion elements and his timing structure? It doesn’t bother me. If it gets him from point A to point B that is a beautiful thing. Now, what you end up with the point B can be artistic or it can be utilitarian. If you need a 16th note hi-hat groove, you can quantize 16th note so that they are all the same velocity and dynamic and level and that will have it’s
own feel. You can also play a 16th note groove with a corrective sense that are artistically placed, perhaps by a real human being. That is going to give you a different point B. That’s going to be maybe a little more artistic and might take your music, might give listeners a little more appreciation for your music because it has that certain feel. It’s not just [rhythm], but it’s not just [rhythm]. It’s got a groove to it. Very nice. DTXtreme III has some amazing functions to it with regards to sampling. You can re-sample and you can also export as a wave or .AIFF. So essentially there is a function in there that allows you to re-sample your playing and you can determine the length of the sample based on the number of beats and the tempo. So making your own loop library just got very easy. Without having to use a computer, I can use the DTXtreme III to play freely or to click and then chop up sections of that. I can go for 6 minutes 40 seconds and I can chop up portions of that and export those portions as individual loops, ready to be plugged into a DAW by a producer or a buddy or whoever or made into a loop library that you can sell. How tight can I cut my slices? To the sample. To the individual sample. 16 bytes 44.1 kilohertz. Now, you can sample at lower rates, but that doesn’t give you the same sound quality, but you can edit your sample to the individual sample. So if I want a slightly less than a one second sample, I can go from my sample 000 to 440,999, that’s one sample under a second. For sampling and for every second of sampling at 44.1, there is 44,116 byte words to describe that sound. One of the nice things also about DTXtreme III is you have got wave form display. So you can use the wave form visually to line up your slice points, partition it and then crop out the unwanted sound and export it and you can export it right to USB drive which is very cool too. We thank Tom Griffin from Yamaha for taking the time. Additional resources: www.dtxperience.com
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INDUSTRY INSIDER Paul Erlandson
Lynx Studio Technology T
here are a few quintessential moments in a producers life where the sonic quality takes such a huge leap it changes the perception of your studios potential. It’s not always centered on the purchase of a new and more robust sound module or workstation. You’ll never forget the first moment you heard one of your tracks through studio monitors and you’ll always remember the audible change coming up from home stereo or computer speakers. While you may feel an entry level soundcard is adequate for you pre-production purposes, switching to a professional audio interface may eliminate many of the most common concerns of the budget studio; latency, sonic purity and mixing clarity. We all understand the edge of submitting radio ready tracks and when I say Radio ready I don’t mean catchy music over a club-friendly beat. I mean polished and ready for the radio. Teddy Riley is a big supporter of this company even without an endorsement deal. You can hear why. Producer’s Edge spent a few months with the Aurora 8 AD/DA converter along with the AES16 interface and were so impressed we had to contact Lynx Studio Technology for the inside scoop on this high end -and yet attainable system by talking to specialist Paul Erlandson.
’m going to start this on a personal note. I have been struggling with my setup right now- ASIO drivers and latency. The WDM settings on a lot of my sound cards are not getting it done. It’s like a trade off between an acceptable sound and acceptable speed or achieving great sound at the loss of responsiveness. What do you have in the Lynx cards that can address these kinds of issues? 82 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
Paul Erlandson: Well, the latency performance of a card is impacted by a variety of factors. One is from the hardware design. There are a couple of different ways for cards to interact with the BUS. Our cards are BUS Mastering Cards, which means the transfers in the system happen at the BUS level, with minimal CPU usage. So that hardware architecture tends to be more efficient than some of the other cards.
The other thing; our cards are all FPGA driven; so there is an EPROM on a card, there is a lot of things we have done as far as the Firmware Programming that really improved the efficiency and rely on just minimal CPU resources. Because that’s what you are really talking about with latencyhow much the CPU needs to get involved. The more the CPU is going to get involved, the more you are going to have to keep increasing the buffer size to get clean audio. All of our drivers are written in-house by someone on staff, so they are just continuously updated. It’s not something that’s outsourced. There has been a tendency towards that in the industry; that sort of arrangement has a lot of downsides. For one thing, maintenance doesn’t happen as regularly, and the other thing is that the Driver Developer doesn’t get quite as intimate a knowledge of the hardware as would be ideal. There are solid measures of real world latency performance. One of them, particularly for users of like Cubase and Windows, uses one of the demo songs that comes with the application that has been modified to add a number of phased or reverse sine waves, so
Lynx Studio Technology with Paul Erlandson The Aurora Series Audio interface 24 Bit / 192 kHz Mastering Quality A/D and D/A conversion 192 kHz AES/EBU I/O Supporting Single and Dual Wire Modes On-board Digital Mixer Flexible I/O Routing
it doesn’t change the sound at all, but adds more tracks. You just keep enabling plug-ins until you get audible break up. I think that test is one of the best as far as the real world measure of how a driver performs. There has been a lot of documentation of people doing well with different sound cards, different systems, running different buffer settings, etcetera, etcetera, but that test is good because it shows how it performs in the real world under load. What are you doing to make owning a high end audio card possible since most other manufacturers don’t seem to be able to get the balance right? Paul Erlandson: I think in the case of the audio cards, like the LynxTWO and the L22 and so forth, so much has to do with the component selection. I mean, we go higher end… I mean, let me put it this way. We can only do a total of eight analog I/O channels between some combinations, and then put an output. A lot of that is because of the components that we are using on these cards, as opposed to some cards that can do a lot more channels than that, but the compromise they are making is in audio quality. So we are using very, very high-end components.
Part of it starts with the design. We control the noise sources in the design so that it can reside inside of a computer and still perform comparably well to standalone, outboard, A/D and D/A converters. An outboard A/D D/A converter has a lot of other costs associated with it. It needs its own power supply and chassis. There is some sort of interface to interact with it. All those things are taken care of because we live inside of a computer. So I think that’s what we have been able to achieve, outboard sound quality inside the computer. Does the elimination of some sort of soft clipping device or additional compressor save me money or should I lean more on the card? Our general philosophy is: we don’t like to touch samples, we like to be hands-off. That’s a lot of why people are so impressed with the sound quality of our products because we have been rigorously adhering to that principle. The sound card should not be sticking its fingers on samples coming through to be recorded. So we avoid DSP operations at that level. That’s best done upstream from the audio card, to use whatever processes that you have. With 24 bit and the dynamic range you are playing with there, I have never
missed not having a limiter on the front end to be able to achieve the sort of signal level I am after. I guess it saves money as well, I mean that would be an additional cost to add that sort of DSP processing. But the main reason we do it is sonically, we don’t think that’s where it should be, we want to maintain purity. I heard from an audiophile that you had a special hard-to competewith solution for jitter and I guess I would like you to explain that a little bit to my readership. Why is jitter so important and what you have done to take care of that problem? Sure. Jitter is essentially a form of distortion, and it could originate from a variety of sources, but whenever you have two digital devices connected to each other, the potential exists for jitter to be introduced into the signal. The consequence of it is loss of imaging clarity and punch. Some frequency bands get disproportionally affected by the presence of jitter. It’s basically a de-clarifying factor. So controlling jitter is really important in a high-end digital audio product. For our AX-16 card and our Aurora Converters [outboard rack-mount
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converters- GA] we have developed a technology called SynchroLock. If one of these devices is a clock slave; most digital audio devices utilize a phaselock loop; an analog phase-lock loop to slave to that incoming signal. Those vary in quality, and we use them as well and we use very, very good ones, but it’s never going to be as accurate as a crystal oscillator generating clock. SynchroLock takes and measures the incoming clock signal from whatever the source and it phase locks our crystal oscillator to that specific frequency. So they are still clock locked together, but we are maintaining a crystal reference, which is much, much more accurate. So the final result of that is that the jitter suppression is in the order of 3000-1. So you can even be providing a very poor quality clock, and it shouldn’t negatively affect the performance of the AX-16 or the Aurora. It could also function as sort of a jitter firewall. So if you are daisy-chaining devices, clockwise you put the Aurora in between, it regenerates the clock on the way out so you don’t have to worry about devices further down the chain getting poor quality clock. Now, your cards also have a high reputation for how they handle the higher bit rates, could you explain what that could mean to a producer, the ability to actually bump up to a higher rate in his recording? Well, as far as bit rate, all our products are 24 bit. We do have built in dithering if you want to record at 16 bit. I would say at this point in time it’s critical that you work at 24 bit, I mean there is no reason someone would want to go less than that, for recording and mixing, particularly when you start using, processing plug-ins and so forth. You can also run harder input levels because there is greater clarity there. So all the cards, converters and the digital I/O, all of that operates at 24 bit. But we do have a number of products that also support the higher sample rates, up to 192 kHz. So it will support the sort of traditional music production rates; the 44.1 and 48 Khz and then the higher resolution rates now of 88.2 84 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
and 96 K, and then the really high resolution rates of 176.4 and 192 K. Right now a lot of music production is being done at the high resolution rates; 88.2 and 96. What happens when you start using those sample rates is -it’s different from bit depth, but a lot of what you get is this real sense of openness and air and much more expansion. Sonically too, you are putting a lot of noise sources out of the range of human hearing so that’s really beneficial as well. Even if you go back down to a lower sample rate later, you have kind of addressed that at the recording stage, so there is a lot of benefit to that. Now, the higher sample rates, 176.4 and 192, we see that used more in small group recordings, small ensembles or something like that. But why that could be really important is that, A) if you want to release to a medium that supports those rates, you need to capture those rates to really get the benefits. If someone wants to put out a DVD-A and wanted a higher resolution format then you really should capture that from the start. For a lot of people it’s about being able to capture in a format that’s going to keep your options open down the road. So if you are releasing a CD now, you might want to re-release it later in a high resolution format. You are not really going to realize the benefit if you have tracked your whole project at 44.1, and then you are going to upsample it later. It’s much better to capture all that detail right from the get-go with the project. It’s also future proof. If computers get faster and new mediums come out, our hardware has a lot of longevity. The LynxONE Card, we first manufactured in 1998, is still out there in large numbers out in the field and it’s used everyday by a lot of broadcast institutions and even mastering houses. These cards will last you for a long time; they don’t have a shelf life like some of the other products in this space. So it’s a good thing that you are future proofed by support of those higher sample rates.
What else do you think we need to understand about the Lynx line of sound cards and PCI options as far as interfaces go? The L22 and the LynxTWO are our PCI cards with analog I/O. There are two ways to look at it. One is to look at some of the competing products in that space, PCI cards with analog I/O on board. People use those for a little while, and then they run into the limitations, the recording is just not sounding like what they are hearing on the radio. They are hitting that sort of threshold of quality, and they just can’t breakthrough to make it sound more like their productions were made in an expensive recording studio. So that’s a very reachable way to jump up to that level. I think the other way for people to look at it is that, this is an alternative to buying an expensive outboard rackmount converter. Something like the L22 for $695 is going to sound very similar to a Two Channel Converter that cost you $1500-2000, plus all the other features and benefits; the drivers, and the fact that it had Digital I/O, and the number of other things it does. So I would suggest for your readers that are outgrowing the entry level and mid level stuff and looking for a way to get into the higher end sound, this is a really affordable way to hit that quality level. Then our other products have their niches. The AH-16 Card is really, really popular for people that use Digital Mixers or have existing Outboard
Converters. It’s one of the few 16 channel AES/EBU cards on the market. So it’s really flexible. There is a lot of context that it can be used in for people that just want Digital I/O and they don’t need the Analog I/O. Then our Aurora Converters are quite simply the best value for a rackmount converter on the market. They are high-end and they are used on Grammy winning productions. There are a number of expansion cards you can put in there to adapt to different formats, either Pro Tools HD or Firewire or ADAD, or just AES/EBU that comes with it. It’s high-end, super transparent audio at very affordable prices, in a single rack space. They are great for project studios where you don’t have a lot of space, but you do occasionally want a lot of channels of I/O. You can get 16 analog I/O’s in a single rack space, that’s really very unique with that. We go all the way through the line with attention to quality. We are not going with the McDonald’s mass produced mindset. All these tools are designed in-house from the ground up- meticulously designed and tested. Our reputation is built completely on uncompromising quality. The new card is called the AES16e, and so that’s an updated version of our already popular AES16 card, but designed for the higher speed PCIE by some modern computers. All Macs
that have shipped in the last two years have those types of cards. It has a number of advantages over the PCI. One of the things is that it can read and write at the same time which PCI can’t do. You have to have a read and then a write and then it kind of goes back and forth and because of that it’s quite a bit faster. So we have been clocking the AES16e operating without glitches around a half a millisecond of latency in one direction. Now, can this improve my virtual instrument’s performance? There are a number that have come out recently that have been called the CPU hogs where its just tying up resources. Essentially,low latency translates as more efficient, so it frees up more CPU overhead. When a card is capable of low latency numbers like this, one advantage is when you play a PCPI, the lower you can get the latency, the more organic the feel when you hit a key. Because it operates so with little overhead it also means you can mix with a greater load on your system before you get any kind of glitches. It’s a benefit on both sides of the spectrum. Now let’s talk a little about that, the actual hardware production itself. Are you facing some sort of adjustments or challenges trying to make it PCIe compatible or is that just a natural next step that was pretty easy to accomplish? Well there are -- too many things to go about it. You can take an existing PCI card and adapt it to PCIe, using some bridge technology, that’s a really quick way to do it. The problem is that you are not taking advantage of some of the benefits of the higher speed when you do that. So in other words your card will perform exactly the same way it does under regular PCI Bus, if you do it that way. We did a redesign specifically for PCIe so it does take advantage of the performance benefits. It’s a different bus and the fact that it has simultaneous reads and writes is very, very different. But we still had a big jump on the fact that components like the digital receivers, the synchronization lock technology and the structure of the mixer were
worked out already; they only had to be adapted. In a sense it was a lot quicker than starting from scratch, but as far as how all of the circuitry interacted with the bus, that was new and we did a lot of research and worked really hard at it and the results came out great. I couldn’t be more pleased with how the things performed. And let’s say I am using some sort of notebook, a laptop and I bring my studio with me wherever I go, what’s a Lynx solution for portable recording? Aurora 8 or an Aurora 16 with a FireWire adapter would be a good solution for that situation. If you need something lower latency than FireWire can achieve -- you can get the AES16e and put it in an ExpressCard box so that it has an ExpressCard output that you put in a laptop and run it that way. But that’s only a few cases where you need ultra super low latency otherwise I would say an Aurora with a FireWire adapter would be the way to go for that situation. Teddy Riley gave Lynx his highest endorsement, not as an official representative but he mentions you often. What does it mean to you as a company to have world-class and known producers using your products and bringing them up in interviews? That’s been happening more and more. Definitely it’s very, very important to us and it shows that we have crossed a hurdle that our equipment is no longer perceived as cutting edge or bleeding edge. We are much more main-stream now. You have entire studios building their systems around our converters now. We’re making incredible in-roads into post production, music production, mastering and all of the major fingers of the audio industry. To our project studio or home studio users, a lot of the technology in Aurora is in our LynxTWO and our L22 card. They are affordable and can get you pretty close to what Teddy Riley is using at an inexpensive price. Now what he actually said was that he had lost a lot of definition of his drums and by switching to the Lynx
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Card he was able to retain it. So what part of the Aurora construction does that actually happen in? Yeah that would be the Aurora that’s responsible for that. [Lowers voice] There’s negligence with devices on the analog side. They put the emphasis on the digital side, but if the analog is not right then it doesn’t matter how much detail you are persevering downstream you have already lost it in the initial conversion process. We focus on Operational Amplifiers, the converters and even power management. Anything can have a negative impact on a final result. A more detailed drum? It’s not a mystery – you can even see it on a scope. That’s what Teddy was referring to. Does it matter what my direction is? Should I be looking for a quality chain just for vocals or should I be recording streams of audio going in and out? Well, it depends which product you are talking about. For the LynxTWO and the L22, those are relatively small in channel count. I mean, the most you can get on a single card is six analog inputs. So if you are going to be recording a full band; a drum set and everything else, then it starts making more sense to look into our Aurora rack-mount converters, and 86 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
then our AX-16 card or something to get multiple signals into the computer. I would say in general, we find the LynxTWO and L22 are really good for someone who has their own home or project studio, who wants to record. They are not going to do a full drum set, but they might do several musicians at one time, or they are just overdubbing one musician over existing projects. You are paying for really, really high quality, but low channel count I/O. When you do want to do large ensembles; the Aurora steps up to bat. Now, what about if I hybrid my machine and I use it as my audio rig and maybe something as silly as multimedia or gaming? Yeah, you can do that. There are a couple of areas where they come into conflict a little bit, particularly with gaming. With gaming, the emphasis is so heavily turned towards video performance that sometimes that comes at the expense of audio performance. Gaming does a lot as far as your registry and system files are concerned. That can have a negative impact on how audio programs perform. Another thing you could do is to do a dual boot system and have the gaming stuff on one partition and then all the audio stuff on another- that’s a
little bit cleaner. Then you could really optimize for audio performance. A lot of what you want for audio is completely different from what you want for gaming. So you can optimize each side independently. Dual-Core is now the norm and we’re all talking about eight quad machines and eight core machines. Does any of that affect or impact the card itself? Not so much the card because our drivers have always been completely multi-threaded and they have always worked with multi-cores. We were one of the first cards that had drivers for NT for early dual processor machines. Where it’s going to make a big difference is in the performance of your DOS software. How they handle multicores will have a lot to do with how much benefit you actually get. There’s different ways to handle that even with Dual-Cores and some applications just fly and with some applications it’s a subtle benefit. Same is true with plugins and virtual instruments. So it’s a bigger factor for the applications than it is for our hardware. see. Are there some companion pieces you can maybe name to go along with the Lynx card. Let’s say now I bump up my studio to the
Lynx level and I want a quality set of speakers. What speakers are you saying are good enough to hold up with that card and not be the weak link in the chain? If you are upgrading to Aurora from what you have before, the Aurora is so transparent and detailed and accurate- it’s going to reveal deficiencies in the rest of your system. You’ll find that the speakers you are perfectly happy with when you had a lower quality card, are all of a sudden a problem because you have a whole other layer of detail. The general rule of thumb is that your studio is only as good as the weakest link of your chain. If your converters move up, you are going to want Preamplifiers that aren’t noisy and good monitors on the output side, to really realize the benefits. Explore Focal, ADAM, and Genelec to stay on that level generally. Well, I have a suggestion, I mean with specs this incredible, and a quality at this level, is there any idea that maybe we should pitch this type of card or system to someone outside the music industry, like shouldn’t someone else be using this type of a card system besides just producers and musicians and agents? Yeah, and as a matter of fact, that is the case. There are other spaces where we do really well. One of those is broadcast. Our cards are used a lot by large broadcast organizations with multiple stations and installations, and that’s a popular area for us. The other is a lot of home theater enthusiasts, audiophile home theater enthusiasts, love our cards because the equivalent products cost so much more and don’t sound as good. An HTPC System with one of our cards sounds incredible for a pretty affordable price range. We do well in other little niches like acoustic research and so forth because our frequency response is so flat and our cards are so accurate
and transparent. They are used a lot for acoustic measurements and for scientific research. We are very popular in that space as well. Yeah, there are a number of places these things go. It’s not just music production, point well taken. Okay. Now, what about legacy devices, like supporting some very old software, if I buy this card, and I expect it to work with something like maybe an earlier version of Pro Tools, maybe I am using an early version of some sort of recording software. Is there any sort of legacy drivers or something that I can go back, something compatible with a slower PC maybe even? So, I mean one of the machines we do some development on is an old 486 [laughter]. Our current systems work fine on that. We don’t require a whole lot.
Mainly from the hardware level, you want Bus Mastering and capable PCI slots, which most motherboards are going to have, that’s not really asking a lot. The nice thing with something like ASIO Driver Model is that it does support any ASIO application - even much older versions so it’s not much of an issue. On the PC side we post two different versions of our driver; there is a Version 2 and Version 1. The Version 2 has all the current stuff, it supports, GigaStudio, WDM on DirectSound, WDM Kernel Streaming, and of course the ASIO 2. It’s plug and play, etcetera, etcetera. The other one is an NT 4 based driver, so it’s not plug and play
and that just supports MME and ASIO. So, older applications or an older computer running Windows 98 (which we don’t officially support) but that older driver is going to work. Is there any difference between the Windows performance and a Mac performance? Yeah, there is. Now with BootCamp on a MacPro, you can see the performance differences with the same hardware. Although, BootCamp is not perfect, but in general I would say that, you are going to be operating it at a slightly lower latencies, under slightly heavier loads with a Windows Machine, all else being equal and the difference really mainly has to do with just Core Audio on OS X and how that behaves. Core Audio, touches samples more than you do with something like ASIO on Windows. ASIO tends to be a little bit more hands off so as a result, you tend to be able to push it harder. Is this negligible or is this actually some consideration I should have? I mean it depends on the context. One of those off setting factors is that MacPros are getting so fast, the hardware is so good, but honestly, we can operate with the PCIE card at a buffer size of 30P samples at 96 Kilohertz and we can’t do that on OSX. OSX, we can operate at 64. It’s still extremely low latency. No one’s going to complain about latency that low and also some of the stress tests that we have done, you can load more equivalent plug-ins on a Windows machine with something like Cubase that you can’t under OSX, but there are other benefits to OSX so that wouldn’t be the only factor. If you are the user that pushes the machine right to the very, very edge, you are just a power user that’s just pounding the thing, well, you can get equal and more performance out of the Windows side. PE Mag thanks Paul Erlandson. lynxstudio.com/
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Dave Smith Instruments Mopho Monophonic Analogue Synthesizer $439.00 Words by Drew Spence
Smaller than a Breadbox with Knobs
t’s metal. I don’t know why I expected a hard plastic chassis. Maybe Dave Smith took design inspiration from guitar pedals for the size, build and striking color scheme. It’s going to be that mustardy metal box that stands out in all the studio pics. The knobs are detented and endless rotaries placed just close enough for uninterrupted tweaks. There is a raised notch for a pointer that’s easily read by the finger tips although I wish there was a colored stripe to indicate its value at a glance. The knobs on the Prophet 08 are of a higher quality but exhibit play just below the surface whereas the Mopho plastic encoders are studded firmly in place. Clearly labeled on front are Pitch, Cutoff, Resonance, Attack and Decay/ Release. When I first saw the unit I thought 8 knobs- killer! 88 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
But then I saw four were ‘assignable’ which was code speak for ‘do some programming before you have any fun’. In a nice move, they are already programmed for a DSI-thinks-this-would-sound-cool parameter. You can explore each specific tweaking choice per patch. Assigning your own parameter couldn’t be easier as you press the Assign Parameters button to arm it, grab your knob, scroll through the list of choices and press the Assign button again.
Presets Test Tones You’ll cruise through three banks of 128 Programsabout 380 presets ranging from the classic to the bizarre. Easy enough using the + and – and holding
Soft Editor Browser
either one down briefly switches banks. And above is the program knob which rotates through the current bank. The Mopho retains the tone and texture of the Prophet. It’s an aggressive sound that really shines for leads and nasty stabs. Even the swelling bass patches have a pleasing undertone of growl. The cutoff is default to gentle tonal shaping- that won’t do for us! To get the oft-used hip-hop super deep and warm bass tone, I simply grabbed my Assign and dropped the Low-pass Frequency to…zero! Then snatched the Low-pass (set to 4-pole) Envelope Amt and lowered it till my bright and snappy bass was substituted and subdued by a blue-hued mushroom boom. You can up the noise to bring in an I-sampled-a-crusty-source or make variations by altering the Oscillator shapes. Osc 2, Pulse 27 is a nice place to be.
It’s a utilitarian presentation that works just fine to display all the programmable facets. Although the view menu has a screen resolution of 1024 X 768 it still wraps onto my second monitor and changing the resolution to 1154 X 864 had no effect. I wish you could resize it manually. To be fair, this is only the current (and free) version. Soundtower has already released new updates since the initial launch and will soon be releasing the MophoPRO version. We expect the same level of detail and functionality as their well received analog Moog Voyager soft editor. Check the Soundtower.com website for updates. I’m delighted to NOT see a tree system where categories open in branches. The three banks are listed in a vertical scroll of presets which makes jumping around a breeze. You’ll first see the program number, name and then category. You’ll have to go through the presets and learn how each one sounds or you’ll overlook a great tone or two with a misleading category, not misleading by description, but how you’ll be using it after a few tweaks! The virtual knobs are huge and jump to wherever you place the mouse pointer as you engage them. I would have liked clicking on the virtual knob to just engage it while it stays put AND THEN my mouse movements change the value. It’s a minor drag. Dragging is best done in a horizontal wide arc and I wish there was a way to right click and enter exact numbers. There is a V-piano to trigger the Mopho, a sequencer to edit your steps. The little red push it button triggers the sequencer. I dived into the step-sequencer on the hardware by scrolling to the end and picking a destination for each of the 4 sequencers followed by choosing a velocity at each of the 16 steps. It was the aha moment in figuring how DSI managed to get a whole electronic drum track going on a monophonic synth. It’s an easy enough process, but still a little too tedious. Soft Editor to the rescue.
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for more rough support or used as mod sources for creative sound sculpting. It’s one of the nice touches that keep the Mopho from being the poor man’s Prophet 08. Tip: since our square wave is a pulse wave with a 50 duty cycle, you’ll want to filter a triangle wave to reach for a sine wave-like building block tone.
The Soft Editor V-Piano and Step Sequencer Screen
We know the trick of using any module with an audio in as a filter box. Usually it’s the headphone jack that gets routed back in to play with feedback distortion effects. The Mopho has it hard-wired. Simply crank the External Input up and you get the audio output mixed back in pre-filter. This means the headphone out is free to be used somewhere else in your studio chain. We’ll approach this whole filtering audio idea from the angle that you have your ROMpler bread and butter sounds covered. You have strings, keys, pads and other traditional instrument categories covered and you want to move beyond the few synth patches available in your workstation. Synth sounds are all the rage and you want to add them to your palette. You with me?
Now you add new life to old patches by running them through the Mopho and extend the life of your played Clicking in the vertical space above the step drags the velocity bar into position. It’s wickedly fast and here you can right click out – *ahem* familiar sounding keyboard. I used and enter exact numerical values. Let’s load A:012 Sequence a Triton string [only because an old Triton was the Triangular and see what’s good. As stated earlier, it’s a destination closest keyboard- honest!] and ran it through the open that’s playing on any filters. I then picked the step and NOT an “I wanted to give it a character of its own, first lead I came across individual program. A:004 Bright Lead and something to distinguish it from its big brother. It For a snare to drop, merged the two together I chose sequence 1 has taken on a life of its own. It’s an inexpensive, and finally arped the and used Noise Level patch and dropped feature-rich mono synth that really excels at (7). For a ‘clappier’ drums behind it. type sound I could basses and big, fat lead sounds.” –Dave Smith have used the Mod 1 Tone Stop amount. If it seems like we’re approaching the nerdier aspects It’s an aggressive metal box that changes the of sound design, it’s a simple process to study and analyze conversation surrounding the current crop of VA the sounds used in the different sequencer-based presets. It’s and digital synths and what manufacturers should electronic music on tap here. Never the less, the program bank do about bringing back that ole analogue tone. It’s does have a good amount of usable drum hits for hip-hop and one more indicator of the sonic renaissance ahead rap and should be remembered for future sampling and as and it comes at a perfect time as rap and hip-hop starting points for your own kit construction. continue to embrace and explore electronic and classic synth sounds. At ~$399 it’s going to sit right Sub-Oscillators next to the Korg MicroKorg and Alesis Micron. So in The engine of the Mopho is powered by two analog oscillators. conclusion, we have a third choice for affordable synth Each is paired with a sub-oscillator- generating a square wave; sounds, except this one is analogue. Well done Dave one octave down under Osc 1 and two octaves down for Osc Smith Instruments. The review unit ain’t going back. 2. It can be raised in volume underneath the main oscillators davesmithinstruments.com 90 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
3-Way Conversation... Mopho: Hello guys, any room for a real analogue at this party? Micron: Don’t be a pretentious a-ho -- Mopho: A whole lot of producers want my sound. MicroKorg: A whole lot of producers HAVE my sound. Micron: Hey, I’m selling well too. Mopho: Didn’t your big brother bomb? Too bad nobody respects specs. MicroKorg: My big brother is a classic! Mopho: How old is that dude anyway? MicroKorg: You aint even got keys! Mopho: And nobody plays yours. Micron: You’re yellow! Mopho: You’re the last guy to be talking about looks. Nice end caps by the way. MicroKorg: I have a monster sound for 399. Mopho: Me too. Micron: Yeah, but you don’t have a keyMopho: He said that. Besides, I’m an analoMicroKorg: You said that. We know. Micron: I’m multitimbral and I’ve got a sequencer! MicroKorg: No knobs. Micron: Hey, whose side are you on? MicroKorg: I’m just saying… Mopho: I’m easy to tweak. MicroKorg: Me too; Matrix Editor once you pick it up… Mopho: Once you pick it up? Micron: Wait, wait..wait…I’ve got drums! MicroKorg: He’s got drums. Mopho: I’ve got some drum sounds too. Micron: I’ve got more. Mopho: It’s easy to make more; I’ve got analo*Micron and MicroKorg: WE KNOW! Mopho: I was saying; I’ve got two analog Oscillators and two sub-oscillators, I can – Micron: Hold up! I’ve got 8-voice polyphony with 3 oscillators per voice! MicroKorg: I’m a 4 voice polyphonic with two oscillators embedded inside a monophonic mode with a dual-oscillator configuration locked in unison! *Micron and Mopho: What?! MicroKorg: I sound great. Micron: Me too Mopho: Me three!
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“I want to mix for artists who are serious about their music, whatever the genre. I have hit records in Rock, Pop, R&B, Hip Hop, Dance, Latin, Christian, and Reggae. Rarely will you find anyone anywhere as versatile.”
Ken Lewis Mix Engineer, Producer and Musician W
e sit with Producer and musician Ken Lewis whose credits include the platinum hit from John Legend Once Again “Another Again”, a Grammy with Usher’s Confession “Throwback” (mixing and guitar) and sample creation on Grammy winning Kanye West The College Dropout “All Falls Down”, “Never Let Me Down” and “Family Business”. He’s mixed for Mariah Carey, Joe Budden, Mary J Blige, The Game, Lenny Kravitz and many more. Let’s get behind the boards- early. Ken Lewis: I’m eight years old and begging my parents for a guitar. They finally got me one when I was ten. I got my first four-track recorder when I was 16 and just fell in love with the recording end of things and went to college, the Berkeley College of Music, got out, got an engineering job in Ohio for a year. I came to New York City when I was 22 years old, basically, completely flat broke and I had a place to stay and a job. I was working at the Soundtrack Recording Studios and basically I pulled 102 hours in my first week at 92 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
Soundtrack and that pretty much set the pace for the next 16 years of my career. Drew Spence: Now, why so heavy in the urban genres of music? Ken Lewis: I think if you are a successful record maker in New York City, chances are you are doing urban or pop or hip hop or R&B or something like that. I definitely had some good successes within Rock as well and many other genres, but I’ve always loved the urban music and that’s where the opportunities presented themselves when I got to New York City and so I just went for them and so far so good, it’s been working out. You share a lot of different inputs, meaning you wear a bunch of different hats while you are working. Could you give us a little bit about the different mindset between the engineering hat, the mixing hat, maybe the artist hat where you are actually contributing musical instruments to the song. I think in order to like an engineer, be it a recording engineer or a mix engineer,
it’s like having the technical ability to go in between the artist and the producer’s creative vision and knowing what they have in mind for a song and how to get that song through a medium that the rest of the world can hear. So when I am wearing the engineer’s hat I am thinking about what’s the best way to record this vocalist or what’s the best way to record this piano or drum kit or MPC-2000 or something like that, you know, when I am mixing I am thinking alright, is this going to be club record or is this going to be a pop radio record? and tailoring my mix to be suitable for whatever that is. If it’s for the club, I am making sure that the subs are hitting hard and then it’s got a lot of energy and if it’s pop radio I want to make sure it comes across radio nice and loud and clear and when I put on a producer cap, then I am the one who is creatively guiding the ship. Even if I’m maybe also mixing or recording, most of my brain is focused on the creative aspect of what’s going to be best creatively for this record that I just get the best vocal performance out of the artists or does the song have
all the parts it needs, stuff like that and is that better, is that covered? Certainly. So much of a studio experience is based on the vibe inside the studio. What percentage would you spend on trying to create a healthy environment where creativity can really flow? Well, as a producer I am much more focused on that stuff and I used to think that I always set a really good vibe for the sessions, until I worked with the 7 Aurelius recently and 7 is one of the coolest guys that I have met, but he also puts about ten times more emphasis on setting vibe than anybody else I have ever met. Last time I went and saw him in a studio, the fog machine was going, he had stage lights flashing all over the place, external blades were going and when it felt like you were walking on to stage in front of 10,000 people and I walked in and I was like this is the coolest session I have ever been in.
me try and make sure that it does that. With a song like Pray I knew it was going to be a big radio single and I mean CeCe Winans is a legend, so it was just about making sure that CeCe sounded amazing vocally on the song and that the song really translates well on radio. I think we accomplished both of those goals and that one makes your Grammies and like you said Grammy number one, so that’s certainly one of those special records that I have made in my career.
came out after that was amazing. Sometimes you can’t force it and sometimes you have to be like that drill sergeant, taking the same line over and over and over until you know you have it. Tell us about working with Sean Combs or George Clinton or a Hank Shocklee. How is the vibe between those different types?
I would say, the best would be how I work with people as a mixer. You quickly figure out their vision for the song and try and give them exactly that. So a guy like Diddy, he is all about vibe and sometimes he doesn’t care if it’s sonically great as long as it feels It’s over when you start believing your own great and a guy like Kanye is more bullshit. When you think you are so good about vibe than he is about Sonics, that you don’t have anything else to learn although I think all of his records sound or that you are not open to new ideas or great. What happens when the session is going off to the left and you want to add that input and you see something that’s just not going right, what about that moment?
you think you are better than everybody
Whereas like a guy like Just Blaze, he else. It starts with getting that big chip is a very technically astute engineer as So I don’t know on your shoulder. That’s quite often the well as being an amazing producer, if I am going to go to that so it might be a extreme, but he certainly beginning of the end. more collaborative re-emphasized my belief effort, mixing a in setting a great vibe record with Just. He can verbalize for a session and that doing that more of the technical engineering Well, as a producer I am never stuff really matters. So I am going aspects and it makes for a much easier afraid to inject my ideas and creative to take some of those lessons and working relationship where I am not vision into a song. I want to grab as up my game in that respect as well. trying to figure out what he wants. He much creativity from the artist as I expresses it clearly. can to make a record they are very You’ve worked with nine time comfortable with. They have to love it; Grammy award winning artist CeCe Let’s talk a little bit about the they are the ones who have to go out Winans on a song from the, Purified sound design revolving around and promote it for the next two years. album called Pray; what type of drums. Where do you go first when There have been times where vibe does it take to create that it comes to a drum sound? Now, I kne type of music? Do you feel some you’ve figured out what the record w it wasn’t working and I just grabbed pressure on maybe yourself to should sound like, you are hearing the artist and I said you know what behave differently, working with the the drum performance for the drum let’s just go, walk around the city for different genre? programming itself, what’s that first half-an-hour. One of the best vocal thought you have in your head when performances that I ever got was like Well, I guess no matter what I do, the you start to reach for the board or that. We just walked and chatted about main objective is to make a great song. reach for some sort of sound design nothing music related at all and just So I just approach it like, let me figure enhancements? cleared our heads and went back and out, where this record is supposed to they jumped behind the mic and what go and what it is supposed to do and let 93 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
First, where is this song going to be heard? Boom-boxes, the club or on the radio or in headphones… the main medium and then make sure that if it’s club that means maybe the drums have more sub impacts, snare sitting crazy or if I might pull some of that back a little bit for a more radio mix and make sure if it’s really one out for the radio and that the drums are still there and hitting but they are not so dominant on the track. I think every song is different. You may get something more, you know that you want the snare way up front, the Hi-hats to be really sizzly or the crashes to be like way upfront or sometimes you may have a song where it’s more about the music going on and the importance of that. You just need to know when to focus what and make sure you are doing the right thing, sort of what the song needs, it’s better to just kind of put your signature on it. Now, you have got a pretty extensive toolbox let’s say, but what are you reaching for first as a priority? Is it the Mix Board enhancement? Is it outboard gear? Is it Plug-ins inside the box? To start a mix, I pull everything up on the console and get a good rough mix going. I need to learn the vibe of the song by relying on the SSL board. That’s my main tool before I reach for Outboard gear and plug-ins. I start sculpting from there, but I like the tactile feel and the vibe that you get by sitting in front of the speakers and cranking them up, grabbing the faders and just pushing faders and turning knobs and getting the feel for the song, so I guess gear wise it would probably start with the console. Kanye West The College Drop Out … I was the co-writer on Last Call” and I did almost all the music for it. Same with “The Family Business”. Kanye produced Common’s ChiCity, in which the kick and snares are Kanye and all the music is mine. Half the time, I don’t even know what 94 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
record the sample was from and that’s why I get the call because Kanye doesn’t know where he’s sampled it from and so they can’t clear it. They give it to me to recreate or translate. The first thing I do is just spend hours listening and trying to pick apart every little detail. It’s like an onion. The more you peel back, the more that you see and hear and learn and there will be sounds that come down sonically only after six hours of listening. There might be a sound which lays in the background or a second guitar line that didn’t pick up right away. That’s when you start really digging and dissecting all of that stuff -it is really hard. It is not just about figuring what the notes are; it is how it was played and what type of instrument was used. Let’s talk maybe briefly about “Throwback”, Just Blaze, Usher and your work, your input on that record. I was the Mix Engineer on it
and I also played the main guitar riff on that song as well and I recorded some of it, I recorded some of Usher’s vocals and some of the music and I think there were three mix sessions for that song and I mixed it one time and he heard it and he wanted to go to the backend and really rework the arrangement. I recalled it and reworked the arrangement and then Usher heard it. He wanted to add more vocals, so we went in and added more vocals and then we finally finished the mix and that was a real process record. It came together over the series of many sessions and boy! I don’t know what else to say about it. , I think we knew what we had when we finished it. Usher came in and heard the final mix and I turned it up and his smile went from here to here [points to his cheek bones]. That’s got to be great feeling. Oh man! It was the best and Usher was such a nice down to earth
guy. I actually worked with him on his first album in 1993 with Puppy, but that was the last time I had seen him until a decade later and we were making “Throwback”. This industry is a lot of who you know and how ready you are when opportunity knocks. How much does formal education play in your career? What about the new producer, new engineer who wants to get into the music business? I think you got to, as long as you understand that going to school to learn how to engineer or produce is not going to teach you how to engineer or produce. It will give you a foundation upon which to learn when you get out in the real world. It certainly can have a value, but if you are very astute and you pick up things very easily and teach yourself things on your own, I don’t think you need schooling, but you definitely need determination. You definitely need that real hunger that just makes you work twice as hard as the next guy and twice as long as the next guy and if you have those, I think it doesn’t matter if you went to school or not, you are going to find a way to succeed. I don’t think I succeeded because I went to school, but it certainly gave me a great foundation so that when I got out in the real world, I had some semblance of the clue of what to do inside of a studio and how to do it, but my drive and determination is what has given me a career and I think that goes for almost anybody who is really successful. What happens when you have a session that you are just not feeling? Well, as a mixer or an engineer, I don’t give myself a luxury of not liking or playing favorites. I figure if somebody is hiring me to do something then I am going to give a 110%. A s a producer, if I am doing a song and if it is not coming out right then I am going to stop and backup and figure out creatively what went wrong and if it means going back to scratch and rewriting a verse or rearranging a chorus- whatever it takes.
Do you have any tips or tricks for drums- maybe an unknown source, tool or product pointer? One thing I like is Stylus RMX, because it instantly locks in to the tempo, and it has thousands of different loops. It’s not something that I may start a drum track off with, but it’s something that I reach for when I want inspiration. It will give you 500 different high-hat loops. I mean just listen and you click through each one of them and listen to it and figure it out -- find the one that really gels with the song that you are doing. You may not have come up with that high-hat loop on your own, but if you search for it long enough, you will find that great idea, like a Congo loop or like an auxiliary drum loop that really boxes it in and makes things feel that much better. Stylus RMX. I think is one of those great tools
I don’t even know which ones I use the most. I will go through them whenever I am doing a project or need a drum loop. Percussive Adventures [East West] is really good and also Backbeat [Spectrasonics], and oh man, there are so many of them. I get drums from all over the place. I have got drum samples from Natural Studios that I have recorded big drums in. If I am doing a hip-hop thing, I have got hundreds and hundreds of sounds.
Have you explored the Expansion Libraries like Metamorphosis and Backbeat? Yeah, I use a lot of that stuff. Yeah, man, I have got so many of those libraries. When I was hired to do sample recreations, I ran out and spent thousands and thousands of dollars on sound. My sample library is just retarded.
What is a common pitfall or a flaw in a personality that could really end it for you? What is something that we should really be focused on avoiding or watching out for? It’s over when you start believing your own bullshit. When you think you are so good that you don’t have anything else to learn or that you are not open to new ideas or you think you are better
Have you upgraded to BFD2? I have BFD, which I think is still good. It is really cool for what it does, but it’s more geared towards live drums than it is for urban stuff, but I have used it in place of live drums several times with success. Drumagog is also a really great program.
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than everybody else. It starts with getting that big chip on your shoulder. That’s quite often the beginning of the end. Some people can pull it off like Kanye, but how many Kanye’s are there? Remain humble and remain hardworking and have a drive for what you are going to do and there is going to be success in that. Now, we know the level of tools inside your toolbox, but now I am a new producer, I am thinking of maybe even tracking sessions at my home, having my local favorite rapper come through and begin to spit over my beats. What are some of the tools and I notice it is a tough question, but I am going to ask anyway, what are some of the tools that as an Entry Level producer or wanting to get into mixing should I put inside my studio? And I do mean console, I do mean speakers, even microphone suggestions like what are some of the stuff that is affordable or what type of range could I be looking forward to start building my studio with? Well, I think the first key is to figure out what your budget is and then start trying to figure out how best to use that budget. I use Logic Audio, which is a $500 program and it comes with a ton of great creative tools and it does everything sonically the consoles would do and on top of that, you get a ton of synths and samplers and everything you would need to create music. Usher’s In the Club was made on Apple Garageband, so Logic was a huge step after that, so you get an idea of Logic, you can really make record. So there is $500. All you need then an interface like a Digi OO2. One of my systems is OO2 and it does the job. I would recommend a Stereo Project T3 microphone which is around $500 or $600 and I think it’s comparable to a U87 microphone at a quarter of the price. It is truly a great microphone for the money. Event speakers. I endorse them because I’ve used them for five years. I love the speakers. Their top-end speakers are pretty pricy, but they 96 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
You can catch up with Ken Lewis on his website: ProToolsMixing.com
My forte as a musician is the guitar. Electric or acoustic. 6 string or 12 string. I also play bass, keyboards, and i have programmed strings, horns, percussion, loops, drums, and so many other musical textures on Gold, Platinum, & Grammy winning albums. I do not typically offer my production services, but it might be helpful to know that I am also a major label producer. That experience helps me to know what a
song needs musically.
make all-around speakers that sound great too. The key with speakers is to just find speakers that you can trust and that tell you what you need to know. And then you probably need to think you need a 61-note midi controller. Don’t forget about quality cables. Man! I spent so much money on cables, it’s ridiculous. I think if you have a basic setup like that, a pure Logic Audio, a couple of T3 microphones- you can do a lot of damage with that equipment and you could really make professional records. Do you hear a difference between producers that are using virtual instruments and ones that are using old analogue gear or the newer ROMplers? What are you hearing sonically and what do they give you to work with as they are bringing their tracks to your studio from those different sources? This constantly surprises me like when I was making a Joe Budden Album and I mixed a song called 10 Minutes and there were a lot of bass players on it and I saw it as the most amazing bass sound that I ever heard and it was the
bass guy from Saturday Night Live, and he came in the studio and I said, “Man! What did you record this through?” And he said, “I just plugged it right into a [Line 6] pod and like the pod defined process and recorded it straight from the pod which you wouldn’t think will give you a great bass sound, but there it was.” So I think it is more about how creative you are and how you deal with the equipment that you have and really it is just that. I think vintage gear in the wrong hands can sound terrible and vintage gear in the right hand can sound amazing, but if you have that creative vision, that’s where it all starts and I think if you have a vision for knowing what you want, then you will take the tools that you have and you will find a way to get it. Okay and could you please tell us a glory moment and we call that a moment in your life, where you looked up to the sky and said, “Thank God, I chose to do this with my life,” like one of those high points that you just said this makes it all worthwhile?
Man! that’s every morning, every single morning, but the real specifics, I guess during the 2005 Grammy Awards when I was a part of seven nominations and then the 2006 Grammy Awards when I was a part of eight nominations, I got fifteen nominations in two years and those two moments were just like wow. I can’t even visit this tunnel beyond, it is surreal for me, that was definitely an incredible highlight and I want it back. So everyday I am working hard to try and make records that are going to bring me back to the Grammy’s and try and find projects that I can get myself on that are going to bring me back to the Grammy’s, I want more man, I am hungry.
Double DVD, 8 Gigabyte,
Awesome, I thank you for your time in. Producer’s Edge, thanks Ken Lewis for sitting down and sharing some of his knowledge.
over five thousand MPC Style Breaks, Loops and Vinylstyle Samples
What tools should I bring to the table, if I decide this is the career I want to carve out for myself? What should I have in me before I hit that table? You need drive and determination, that is the best tool and believe in yourself and then unrelenting desire to keep going, even after you have heard “no” for the 100th time or the 100 unreturned phone calls, unreturned emails and pick yourself back up the next day and make call 101 and send out email 101 and hit 1001 and just keep pushing. You keep trying to push yourself to get better at what you do and make more connections and get out there and keep puzzling because your competition is me and I am out there every single day doing that seven days a week, 16 years into my career and I am still working seven days a week making phone calls everyday to people looking for work, dropping emails everyday to people looking for work, always trying to get better at my craft. Those are tangible tools that really separate the people who have the raw talent from the people who turn that talent into a career.
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98 Producerâ€™s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
Jeff ‘Madjef’ Taylor
MADNESS FROM THE START...
e were able to catch some time with Jeff ‘Madjef’ Taylor; producer, musician and sound designer who was earliest on the set producing his first sample packs and construction kit CD in 1999s. He’s been an engineer and drum programmer for artists, including Barry White, Boyz II Men, John Secada and Michael Jackson. We are going to start with the hardware first and I did see that you had an MPC2500. Jeff Taylor: My first machine was an MPC60 from the mid 90s through the
year 2000 with a hard suitcase full of floppy disks that I still own to this day. The MPC62 and the 3000... After the 4000, back to the 2000XL and I now am at a point where it’s just pads with Akai MPK49 keyboard. Let’s go back to the MPC60 era, does that touch on the Barry White and Patti Labelle era? Yeah man, oh yeah definitely, right around that time it was straight samples in to the MPC60 for a lot of those records I was doing with Jam and Lewis back in those days.
You have gone a pretty big circle from ‘Sounds of Blackness’, ‘Boyz II Men’, even the ‘Janet Jackson’ to more of a swinging type music. Do you have to learn different types of programming styles to accommodate different artists? You have to learn the history of music. If a guy comes to you and says, “We want a Motown beat.” You must say to yourself, “Okay, what was a Motown beat and let me do some research and figure out what truly is a Motown beat, not just one song from the era, but let me really study this era. For me, studying the eras of music has been a necessary part of becoming a musician. I am not satisfied unless I know who the players were in the group, during which era, which instruments were used.
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“I really want to get that CD in somebody’s
hands and have them go, “Oh damn! Not only is the track hot or whatever, you got a background hook on there, he has got all this instrumentation, this is the track we want.”
That knowledge over time removes all limitations in terms of when somebody says, “Can you do a beat like this?” It is like, “Well, hell yeah, I can do a beat like that because I know I have got to swing the Hi-Hat a certain way, I know I got to do drum fills, I know I have got to do live things that are certainly different from what I would do if I was supposed to do a hip hop track.” Where does it begin creatively, does the artist actually sit down with you and say, “This is what I want” or is it in an executive producer meeting first? When I get up in the morning, I walk straight to the studio , sit down and grab beats; the kicks and the snares and keyboard ideas or guitar -- something is going to trigger an original thought for me. I may even sing vocals or so forth in order to complete the track, because I really want to get that CD in somebody’s hands and have them go, “Oh damn! Not only is the track hot or whatever, you got a background hook on there, he has got all this instrumentation, this is the track we want.” That is not based on anybody’s feedback unless somebody comes to me right from the Jump and says, “I want you to do ‘XYZ’ which you did on such and such record.” You’ve already lost me if you come at me with that approach because I am thinking new, fresh and clean out of the box every time.
How does that work with an artist that has a long catalogue? You need to satisfy their fans’ expectations and also modernize the sound. It’s about knowing the history of the artist. You have got to be able to look at that artist and go this is what he did, this is what the hits were, this is what the solo tracks were, maybe try to combine some of these ideas, bring it into the new millennium with a bit of new flavor, whatever, but the core has got to be there, it is always going to be that root thing that ruled their music that is going to be a part of any beat that I do for an artist. As a multi-talent, do you have some sort of issue between songs that you could have made yourself versus given them away to another artist? I am totally behind the scene, this is why cats don’t know who I am to this day, because I live behind the scenes and I prefer it this way. For me it is about doing the work and then letting other people get the shine. I have built a family, I have built houses and I have managed to support myself pretty well in the process. How did the relationship work out with Jam and Lewis creatively? Real simple, you had to be prepared to be in the studio for eighteen to twenty hours a day for starters and you really had everything that you needed right there and these guys didn’t come in
and say, “Okay this is what is going down, you are doing this, you are doing that,” you had to get in there and make yourself available basically. And I would go in everyday, I was on staff, I would show up and I was either recording a series of records with them or already on schedule or during downtime finding myself in the studio with an MPC trying to bang the speakers out of the wall with the hottest track that I can come up on, knowing that eventually Jam and Lewis are going to stick their head in there. Nine out of ten times they’d stick their head in and go, “Okay, we want to use that tonight on such and such record. You have to be in the spot in order to get that opportunity. What about your engineering responsibilities? Are you actually in there in the session while they are tracking? Yes, I’m the guy setting up microphone: “I want to move this mic back, I want to put these drums over here, I want to isolate this” because I understand how records were made back in the day, Motown days. Live bands; where the room sound is very important to achieve an element, a certain era of music. I know what it is supposed to sound like and that gave me the confidence to start recording things many years ago and that kind of brought me to the attention of Jam and Lewis who said, “Wow! If this guy can do all this and be creative, then Yes!” and Terry would tell me all the time, “You will never go hungry, you will always be working.” That’s definitely been true to the point. Now, you have also worked with some artists that are hugely established and monstrous when it comes to stardom. So, how are you able to take it back to that creative level and maybe even coach a Janet Jackson or a Michael Jackson on what they could be doing with their vocal technique or recording? Well, I learn from the best in the business, I mean Jam and Lewis were no joke when it came to getting the melody and the lyric sung properly and in time and everything else. Just
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sitting in the room with these guys and watching them, tell Patti Labelle I need you to do this or I need you to do that. You learn how to deal with people. I also found that the reason that some of these people are the biggest stars in the world is because they are humble enough to accept that kind of input from somebody who has been thrown in the room with them. Obviously, you are in that room for a reason, there is a reason that they got me sitting in here with you instead of some other guy. So, either they are going to give you the respect right out of the box and respect what you are doing. The music will speak for itself. For me, whenever somebody comes with a huge ego and I can see I do not even have room to speak, I just wait till it’s my opportunity and just hit the play button on that track and that levels the playing field. They say, “Damn! Now you got me, you got my attention.” Where did the idea for that first sample CD come from? I was on staff full time with Jam and Lewis and Aerosmith, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, “Hey, we are coming out from Boston,” They were going to fly me to Minneapolis and have a songwriting session with Jam and Lewis because they were trying to get the rock and R&B world together. This was years ago. It is a real secret and nobody knows, but when they showed up - it was Jam on keys and Terry on bass, Steven had a keyboard and a vocal 102 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
mic, and Joe Perry on guitar and me in the room with an Akai MPC60. I’m thinking “Okay these guys are giants, they are super rich, dude’s have got houses on the lake, they have got everything they need in this world, but now they are still trying to come up on something new and interesting and all I had to do was play some drums.” I am not a drummer by any sense, but I am smart enough to know, with technology, I can go through their entire library and sample every single kick and snare that was ever used on any of their records. I started cranking out big rock drums from the MPC60: boom, bap, boom, bap. They froze like, “Where in the hell did you get those sounds?” And I was like, “I just took all these from all your records,” and this was early in the game where people were like, “What do you mean, you went in and isolated the snares and the kicks?” “Well yeah, I did, every single one of them because I knew that was an element that we wouldn’t have here today.” Back in Boston and I get a call from their engineer who is very successful in the industry today doing various things, and he said, “Man I don’t know what you did to those guys, but they said whatever this guy Jeff Taylor is out there doing, you need to get on it like Jeff is doing it” And that led to a friendship between us. He eventually said “Man, you are supertalented, you ought to be doing it like
this for everyone. He introduced me to East West and I have been selling ever since. So, how did you make the transition from East West to Big Fish Audio? Painfully. It’s a tough game and there are only a couple of guys in the game. It was only Big Fish and East West, really. I wanted to go independent. I wanted to do it with somebody who cared a little bit more about me as an individual and Big Fish took a liking to me. We had some good years together. So, how do you approach putting together a sample CD, do you start with listening to the radio, do you just decide to jam on your own, do you listen -- I never listen! I am not influenced by anything. I come totally original. I do know what’s hittin on the radio, but I believe we are never going to break through unless you think new from the start. You combine the modern features of Logic. Do you have an experience with any other sequencers? I have been using Logic since it was Notator on an Atari ST back in the 80s. So, when I started expanding my system, I went from an MPC60 and I added Atari ST with Notator, which is what Logic Audio became and that was how I got into it. Over the years, I just stayed with Atari and just kept rocking that system until I couldn’t do anything with it anymore, eventually jumped on the Mac. Notator was not quite there, yet. So I jumped into the Pro Tools in the early 90s. I walked in to an office meeting with Jam and Lewis with a two track on Sound tools running on a Mac. I say “This is the future,” and they were basically saying, “You are bugging, there is no way we will ever
not be recording on tape,” and I am just looking at them, and going “Man, but I can take every lead vocal man, I can just chop in, look at this, look at this, look at this” Eventually they came around and they were sitting in my house, watching me do Pro Tool sessions after I went independent. Now I am hardcore Logic Audio, kind of using Logic along with Ableton Live. I am telling you, I just did a session yesterday with Logic running, Logic slave rewired to Ableton Live and Reason 4. Believe me; I am in total heaven right now with the flexibility and ability to manipulate these beats and samples. Why have you bypassed the whole ROMpler workstation? I have owned one of them at some time in the past three years, I mean just for the sounds. I enjoy being able to work strictly with my laptop or desktop setup because of the power. We are talking terabytes of samples. I have been collecting things for many years and I can’t really do that with a workstation. Where does Reason 4 fit in with your production? I make a lot of REX files. I have done sample CDs where I take the whole loop as a REX sample, load it into the EXS 24 in Logic or Dr. It gives you the flexibility of slowing things down, speeding things up. I come from an era where it was hard to flip your sample without turning it into a
to chipmunk symphony. I can plug my laptop into any studio, anywhere, get a USB keyboard plug in we can do a record. Why stick with the MPC series? I like pads man, I have tried everything. I just stick with what works for me. Are you able to ignore the outside media influence on your production? Let’s say you are now working with Michael Jackson and it’s the History album, are you at all concerned with his place in the music business, his relevancy, where the album is projected to go? Does any of that effect you in a studio? Not me man, believe me in a situation like that, I am watching a lot of other guys face the pressure and I am letting them handle that because I got into this game strictly because I loved it. I started as a guitar player and my goal was simply to play on as many records as I could. I love to practice the guitar, I love to play. I don’t really want to be sweating about this or worrying about this and if people bringing that noise to me about this or that or how you need to be worried, you have got to leave the room because seriously this is a creative vibe -where I am burning incense. I got candles going and I am really just trying to be in my own world and nothing should be able to affect that. You also have a keen interest in giving back to that new producer,
the guy that just started making beats this year, why is this person so important to you? These new dude needs to know. There is a reason for the 88 keys on a keyboard. Those other 87 keys have a purpose and a pitch and we need to really educate dudes. We are going to lose this and it is going to go away if we don’t get these new producers to focus on musicianship. I feel like I have to enlighten these guys and say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, you want to do a beat, that’s great, but there is more to it than just a beat, you can either know the business about these beats, because if you play the little keyboard like on top of that beat and it goes Top 10 or whatever, you just played a melody on a song to collect copyrights. Have you been listening to the new crop of producers and their output? Yeah absolutely, I am always on point with who is doing what. What are your thoughts on the production scene right now? I see it slowly starting to change. You are getting some more musical producers in the game. We are realizing that, we just can’t keep sampling James Brown and the same old loops and expect it to be fresh. As long as there are A&Rs in the industry that keep saying “Yo, just flip me that beat just like old dude did it last week,” we are going to always be in that place. I hang around with real proficient players and the overall sound is more like a record as opposed to as a sample. So, in that sense then, I guess I am going to ask production wise, the quality of sounds of virtual instruments versus hardware units. Man, now you know what, you are talking to a guy that at one point almost have had 35 keyboards MIDIed up in a studio. They all had one or two sounds that I really, really liked in them. But now, I have got all those keyboards in software, just about everything from the Moog to the M1 to the Jupiter series, got all of them joints in the system. Any engineer with an inkling of how to warm them up or how
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to make them less digital sounding will understand how to make VSTs fit into the recording. Hands down these digital synths are killing, they are killing, they are so good. My favorite software is Trilogy. Finding the right bass is one of the hardest things to do. The bass has got to work when you are doing R&B tracks. Trilogy gives you every possible bass choice and they all sound really good and they work really good within the track. The Korg Digital Legacy series is real hot because of the M1 and the Wavestation, Arturia and their Jupiter 8, Vanguard and the reFX line up. Logic has got some really good things happening too. SampleTank and Kontakt? Not as much. I have a lot of what I need. I am making a lot of samples and doing sound design in Ableton Live and Logic. I avoid sample libraries and presets; I’m trying to be the guy who is generating the sample pack and Refill content. So do you actually listen to other sound and loop libraries? I never do. I just don’t really care what anybody is doing because I know that when I drop mine… When I started there was no one else doing it. I get a lot of respect from people that are saying to me, “Yo man, I used your joints all the time,” I’ll be slipping them pieces around left and right. And that’s what it was for, but end of the day, it is what it is, it’s out there as a product. If it benefits you, you can go ahead and use it but if you don’t like it then that’s fine too but you don’t have to love it. For me, it was an expression; it was a way of being creative. Alright, before we close this out, can I get an idea of your musical training? Man, I’ve studied with the Jazzmobile Harlem as a guitar player, way back. I also remember being in a Santa Monica store before I could afford the MPC. I remember I wanted to buy one and the guy who was next to me buying one was Teddy Riley. So it’s kind of goes way back to those days. I studied at the Bronx Community 104 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
college a little bit trying fit into the mix of what was going on with hip-hop up in New York. Self-taught as a musician to play keyboard, drums, guitars. I am practicing everyday. I still take 20-30 minutes a day to just play the guitar, run the scales do nothing else. Practice because it lends itself to the overall production process for me. So are we going to be expecting to hear any more releases of sample CDs? I don’t know; I don’t think I’ll be doing any more of those at this point in time. I could be persuaded otherwise but it would have to be really something that was motivated more by me than anybody else because, like I said, I did those because I needed an outlet for creativity, and I kind of have that covered right now in terms of doing original tracks for people and ghost writing. What are your thoughts on the combination of hardware and software computer angle from Openlabs? I think it’s sexy. If a guy can afford to carry one of those around with him it probably wouldn’t be a bad thing [laughter erupts] I love that concept, but I want to be able to take my little laptop to my hotel and sit there and keep working. So it’s all-in-one but it’s not that much different than plugging a USB keyboard into a laptop or a laptop into a regular workstation. To me it’s just stuff that someone is trying to pack and sell you. I have got a couple of friends that are using it. They swear by it and I can see where it works for a lot of people but for the way I work, I want to be able to work in a coffee shop, put headphones on and have you not know what I’m doing. What about plug-ins? I use them just like the next guy, I am trying to do everything hardware, if I record a guitar, I’ll try to record
it through a Focusrite, if I need to strap another compressor on top or something, a software plug-in to smooth our the rough edges, I’ll gladly do that, but I am certainly not jumping for software plug-ins as my first choice. Is there anything else you want to share with our readership before we let you go? I am encouraged; I feel like I have been given an opportunity, I have been in this business now for over 20 years. Whenever I get a chance to enlighten anybody about what I’ve gone through- I am happy to apply my production experience. You could do it too and not necessarily by sampling but by getting some training and applying yourself to the technology and the history of music. You’ll find that you can actually make strides that are far greater than people who are just running with the tried and true workflow let me just chop this, chop this in order to make people think I am hot. You’ll only be…semi-hot because they are all from the same source material. I want to encourage people to pick up some instrumentation, make your own guitar amp and then sample the output of what you’ve played in, flip that in your next beat as opposed to sampling somebody else’s work. Producer’s Edge thanks Jeff madjef Taylor for his sample libraries and his time! Visit Jeff at madjef.com
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roducer’s Edge was able to score an interview with Grammy and Urban Award winner LROC. He’s the song writer, musician and producer whose work includes artists like Usher, Janet Jackson, Lil John, Bow Wow, Monica, Mariah Carey, Nelly and Paul Wall. He discovered hip hop in Liberia [West Africa-WL] and jams on the keys and bass. Currently his talents ride shotgun with Jermaine Dupri. We’re delighted to get some time in behind the boards. Words by Jason Montroc/Drew Spence
Is the MPC 3000, is still in effect? It is still in full effect. What’s good with the Roland SP-808? LROC: You know what? I haven’t been using the SP808 lately. I mean, it’s not for the sampler, it’s a drum machine. Every now and then I will put it out for some percussion since I have a lot of percussion sounds in it. Since I have been using my 3000 and increasing my library of percussive sounds in Logic, I haven’t been using the SP-808 lately. Is your eye on the MPC-5000 at all? Not at all, I am 3000 man. I love it and it’s tweaked up by Bruce Forat customized for me. That’s what I am on- the MP and Logic. Alright, let’s talk a little bit about your mixture of both the keyboard and the bass. Has the bass been fully integrated yet? Yeah, absolutely. When I feel a song needs it…sometimes I’m starting my song off with my bass even if I don’t record with it, I like to write with the bass, because it gives me just a great sense of melody all around.
As far as, the keyboard chops are concerned, it does seem the recent trend that the producers that are able to actually compose and play music seem to be going a lot further than the ones that can’t. Have you noticed that? Yes I have and it’s interesting to say that because when people ask me what I do? I say I am a song writer and musician. I believe the DJ producers and the musician producers are the ones that go further. For the DJ, it’s what they hear at the club. The musicians who can switch up styles and the musicians are the winner.
having to put anything on it; just the raw sound, and the spontaneity with it, it’s hard to replace that.
You have also been known to keep a few vintage pieces around. Why are those units irreplaceable? You mean the MiniMoog and the Voyetra. When I am recording with the moog, it’s the fact that it has no presets that makes it more spontaneous for me. So I record and I tweak as I record. It’s just hard to replace that. The Virtual Moog; I use those just for the presets when I am working in Logic. There is something about the MiniMoog - the warmth without
I know on a certain level as a producer you could pretty much make a good piece of music using any piece of equipment, and you can basically afford anything you want. Why or how do you choose the pieces you keep using in your arsenal, seeing that you can use anything? I like the Access Virus TI. The sounds are just so incredible. Certain keyboards like the Fantom have those real band sounds. I need that. Roland
What about your rack units? Is the Mo’Phatt still a viable choice? Not really. The [E-mu] Mo‘Phatt and the Proteus 2000... I just acquired the library for the 2000’s sounds that I can use in the virtual world. So I think I am going to be putting that to rest. Now as for the hardware; what I find hard to replace is the Roland stuff, I got a V-Synth and the Fantom. Those two are still in my chain. The hardware stuff just kicks ass. Exactly. Yeah.
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I believe one of the keys to success is having a great team and each person plays their role. They know their role everything is in sync. Some people will think about the brand name of a company. The artists may be the heart and his name may have value, but the team behind them is what makes them successful or a failure.
stuff, like I said is so thick and I just love the sound. Excellent, well let’s integrate some of the sounds of the drums with the keyboard and what are you doing to actually get the two to mix, including pitching and in changing the tone? Well, of course, on an MP you can fix these levels a lot. I like certain keys so my drums are usually tuned to those keys anyway. The 808 at 16 levels- I used it for my last mix. It has basslines and if I am working in Logic, I have my synth kits on the MPC. I am working on my laptop because it’s just a matter of spreading the notes across the keyboard and having to tune them to fit to music. The transition from the hardware to software has taken me some time, but once I got Logic 8 and got really comfortable , it’s been a breeze. I just put those wave files in there and tweak them. I use the Apogee and a few plug-ins to compensate. I use [TriTone Digital] ColorTone-Pro a lot. It really warms up the sounds. Even when I use the Virtual Moog, I use it to make the sound more analog. A lot of it is just your processing after you have the general sound that you want. The MP -- the stuff coming out of my MP; I don’t have to do nothing. I just track. It hits so hard and the sounds are great, especially my custom set because of Bruce. He did the outputs so I have to literally turn the channel down when tracking they are so loud. The punch! It’s got a lot of weight. On the virtual stuff, I got the presetstemplates according to the mix of the song. I just lay the stuff down and then I go in and after the song is done and 108 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
start tweaking stuff. Lately I have had some good templates where I don’t have to do that anymore. It’s already done. The stuff coming out from the speaker is jamming and hitting hard. That’s awesome, now you also are one of the few producers that have a very solid business base behind them. How are you able to balance out the businessman and your creative side? Geez! I have a great business manager, and we separate it. We never conduct business in the studio. There is a time for business and there is a time for creativity. They don’t overlap. We meet outside the studio to handle business and when I am engaged in the business I am engaged 100%. When I am engaged in the music, it’s 100%. It’s having a team, knowing about the business and having a great business manager that you can make plans, strategize and make decisions. My business manager handles that and I go to the studio and create. When it comes to creativity, there is a big sharing of talent that goes on and there is also a lot of credit points to be distributed. Does that ever affect how much effort or work you put into a project - how your name may be listed after it’s done? Not at all. I approach everything the same; the song, the sessions. I go in with an open mind and do the best that I can. It doesn’t matter for who and for how many writers or whatever. It’s the creativity first. I like to work with people who are eager to work and understand the business side, so you don’t run into problems. It’s pretty easy. I just go in and work and just create. When I
collaborate with Jermaine [Dupris], we have a system, we don’t talk business, we go in there and we do the music. Every time I do a session, I am on my sidekick, I send my manager the session info and notes and he handles the business. So it works like a smooth system. Nice, now let’s contrast that with the Lil’ Jon experience- which is another thing you are pretty much known for, and how that workflow could come into play. How do you approach that? With Jermaine, it’s the two of us. Sometimes Lil’ Jon has two other musicians on the production and writing team. Craig Love who plays guitar and LaMarcus Jefferson on bass. Jon does the drum beat, he lays the drum down first and we start to add stuff on it. He will go in the studio and lay a whole lot of beats. No music. Once in a while he will lay some keys or just a melody on something, and I’ll come in and add to it. He pulls up a sound or I go through the sounds and a lot of times he has a vision of where he is trying to go. When he listens to something he likes, we usually look at each other and smile. We know when we hear it- when it fits and then he hits record. We go over the next sound. With Jermaine, it’s a little different Jermaine -- first of all with Lil’ Jon we do a lot of tracks in one day, in the session, but with Jermaine, usually we go in there and we are doing the one song, a full song. Jermaine has a vision, he would say, yeah I know who this artist is We worked on a commercial for a rapper
a hook, saying Grills. I notice a lot of R&B producers are going more with the Pop music of the 80s. With Lil’ Jon, we basically took a techno sound and made it into R&B and Crunk. We got that Synth sound. Now I hear a lot of songs with Synths, the chords, the Arpeggiators.
and Jermaine said “let’s go Gothic”. So I get some voices, and strings, and from my classical background, I start playing melodies, some classical melodies, Gothic classical melodies, and I will do about three or four patterns, and he will listen to all of them and which ones -- he’ll see will fit the best, the hottest one, he will do the drums to that. So I create the music loop, and he does the drums, and Lil’ Jon does the drums, and then I add the music. So it is like a by and by expressive approach. Excellent. Yup. What era of music were you born into when it comes to hip-hop? What age or decade did you discover hiphop? “Rapper’s Delight”. That was a remake of ‘Good Times’ by Chic and ‘Good Times’ was until this day one of my favorite songs - it inspired me to pick up a bass. It’s perfect. Listen to the bass, the guitar, the piano, the hook…. So when I heard ‘Rapper’s Delight’, and that same music, and this guy rapping on that song, I am like, wow, that’s crazy. So that was my first time, but I was still an R&B head and funk, and Jazz, and really it wasn’t until 1989 when I moved to Atlanta I started to
get into Rap. It was just that era. They were sampling a lot of music that I liked and grew up listening to. Do you see some, sort of, paradox or the circular relationship in Air Force Ones about Sneakers or Grills which is about fronts - the recycling of all the early concepts of hip-hop, rhyming about Sneakers, rhyming about Jewelry. Do you see the whole circle? Absolutely, I see the circle now lyrically, conceptually, and musically. Music has been 10-15 years, people go back and it’s like the generation, your parents’ music. When you were kids, the music that you heard, as a kid, growing up, by the time you become an adult you, kind of, remember that music and as a person who creates, you remember those who influenced you as a kid. So from generation to generation it definitely recycles. A lot of people grab the 80 sounds. I know Justin Timberlake definitely went 80s and definitely the concepts. When we went to do Grills, we needed a record to put Nelly back in the hood. He just wanted to do a club record. I didn’t have anything to do with the concept of the song Grills, but once I started playing that bassline, Jermaine and Nelly came in the room and they just flowed and the next thing I heard
Nice! Let’s see, I guess I am also going to ask you about the difference of -- let’s say you are breaking a new talent in, and he is a new rapper and you are basically going to preview some tracks for him…how finished are the tracks you are letting him hear? Usually I try not to do too much. I have the songs with a full melody. Sometimes I have sketches. A lot of times when artists come to the studio wanting to hearing the stuff on my MP I have a bunch of sequences that are bare sketches, I call them sketches, sometimes they may be complete when you put that artist on it, but I try not to do too much. Once I know who the artist is then I can go ahead and produce that track to fit them. I may add more stuff or just the way they flow, I may have to go back, take some stuff out of it or they may come with certain ideas and I may change the arrangement. Certain things that do not fit what I am doing will be changed. I am open, nothing is in stone. I love people who can really, really sing and rappers who understand rhythm; artists who understand music, who listen to the music. It doesn’t mean that they know music. Sometimes you can know music or you can just have a good instinct for music. But Jermaine doesn’t play, he rarely plays keyboards. He can fiddle around, but he has a great ear, he knows. He has instinct, he has musical instinct. Lil’ Jon has musical instinct; he can play enough to play the simple stuff that fits. It’s amazing; as long as I have been playing- much longer than those guys, even before they were born. If I do something wrong they know, they are like, “That don’t sound right.” And I know it too. So I after working years with them I’ve learned that it’s more about instinct.
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Being a good artist means, when you play a track for them, their instincts kick in. I avoid working for artists that are puppets with A&Rs and managers deciding what they should do. I love working with artists that just have an instinct about the music and how to flow and fit with the vibe. What are you doing in your own studio to create an atmosphere of creativity? The ambiance, the lighting, the neatness, the odor. Odor? Even the odor, I mean you walk in my room, the first thing people say is “Man, this studio smells good” and theys ay they love the vibe in my room. It’s a symmetrical thing. Everything is placed right and the space is comfortable. I am big on lighting in my room and just the balance of where everything is. I can reach everything that I need without having to move around too much. All of the hardware, the software, it makes things flow. When people come in to work, it’s not like I am looking for this, I am looking for that. I can move quickly. I am spontaneous on everything. So I am prepared. It’s about choosing where everything is and knowing my gear definitely helps. Is there a next piece of hardware in mind or software that you are looking to get your hands on? I have more than enough and my thing is I try not to jump on everything that’s coming out. I am a master of what I have and make the best of it. I have got all these modules, all these soft synth modules and instead of buying new ones, I just increase my library or tweak the sounds that I already have. I think sometimes we get carried away with buying this and that and getting all this new stuff. It leads me away from the creativity so I am more about mastering what I have. So I am good right now. Excellent! Is there anything else you want to add before we close? I am working on branding. Like you can brand a sound, but I am working on branding the personality of what we do, and it’s really from an international perspective because me and the other 110 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
two writers have traveled the world and we are just drawing on the influences from around the world. Before I let you go, what are the ATL Chapter and the Recording Academy about? ATL Chapter; the Recording Academy. It’s a community project. We do a lot of community-based work for the schools, trying to increase the Grammy representation and membership. I mean for years, Atlanta has been dominating the urban scene on the business of music. But when it comes to the membership, it doesn’t represent the same. I have been here in Atlanta since 1989, and man the scene was booming when I came. The Atlanta Chapter has grown but not as much as I as the music has. We need more people involved because there are a lot of benefits for musicians and it’s a great networking situation. It’s going to the colleges and high schools and talking with the kids about music and the business. It’s a lot of smoke-and-mirrors and people can see the glamour side. When you get involved in these chapters, you see what’s really going on with copyright protection in conjunction with the government and Congress. The laws that run this industry are changing. The copyright has been a whole
different ballgame than it was before because of the Internet. So getting involved is so important, especially if you are trying to do it for a living. The Atlanta Chapter is a great community; it’s just good to be involved. Is there any piece of advice you can give us, in leaving, about business and managing a business? Yes, as I was speaking about earlier, I believe one of the keys to success is having a great team and each person plays their role. They know their role everything is in sync. Some people will think about the brand name of a company. The artists may be the heart and his name may have value, but the team behind them is what makes them successful or a failure. A lot of times, the music is one part of it; we are in the music business. So I have been privileged and blessed to have a great team - a business manager, a great entertainment lawyer, and an accountant. If you are going to make money in this game, you want to take care of the working system. We are all on the same page and that’s very crucial. That is awesome! Producer’s Edge thanks LROC for inviting us into the studio and Pricilla Chapman for orchestrating this interview.
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112 Producerâ€™s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
TEDDY RILEY FINDING THE
GHOST in YOUR MACHINE W
riting the intro for an interview is usually pretty easy. I pick one of their favorite accomplishments and roll with that. The problem with Teddy Riley is figuring out how to categorize him; musician or producer or artist? Each aspect of his dynamic personality contributes in such a way that there is no easy way to separate the different roles he played over the years. Guy, Blackstreet and we might have to go in about the whole New Jack Swing legacy. Let’s get to it.
Drew Spence: You play keyboard, guitar and drums. What influence does that have on your production style? Teddy Riley: Oh man, you can hear it in many of the songs in my catalogue, it really affects me, I play all of the instruments, and rarely get someone else to play for me, unless they are just that incredible. Where does the inspiration for melodies and hooks and choruses come from? Do you still review old records? Do you listen to other modern producers and sometimes get ideas? No, I don’t listen to modern producers. I always listen to the legends and the people who came before me. That’s where I get it from. I mean, I still listen to Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan, all of the old guys, Chick Korea, Herbie Hancock,
Stanley Clarke. Then the funk guys, Parliament-Funkadelic, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Stevie Wonder, Prince, all the guys before me, I still listen to them. Guy and Blackstreet; musical success. A lot of it is powered by your ear. Why was there such an emphasis on the quality of the vocals? There’s always an emphasis on the quality of the vocals. I am very, very picky, and I am a perfectionist when it comes to vocals. It doesn’t even have to be technically tight, but it has to be sonically right. Wow, that sounds crazy. Yeah, you might have to use that in a hook or something. [laughter] But yeah, I just like when it’s right; like right to me could be in a bathroom- it could be the acoustics of the bathroom,
which becomes my little verb. The first Guy album I did in the bathroom. We never changed the vocals; we took the 12-track Akai to the studio, and transferred the 12-track Akai to the Studer-24 channels. Wow! And this was 1986. Alright, let’s dive right into one of the most favored topics -the New Jack Swing sound, and how you stumbled across that. Well, basically I stumbled across it while listening to all of the legends, like the James Brown, R&B and gospel, funk and jazz and fusion records. What I wanted to see was something impossible that I just made it happen, I just tried it, just put all that music together. Mix the genres and mix the styles, and start putting gospel with funk. That’s where it all came from, morphing them together, and making
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became a Guy New Jack Swing sound or Blackstreet New Jack Swing sound. Do you consider the uptown years to be some of your best or some of your favorite years? Well, of course, it was definitely some of my best years; I just wish I was smarter business wise, I wish I was in a different setting. I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know what I had, I just knew at some point I was being robbed, I was making the music and not making the money. But it’s all good.
different music. It came to be New Jack Swing. What it really means, it’s all music in one bag, and you get heavy R&B, which is called New Jack Swing. Even with the choice of sample selection, many other producers were able to get over using one main popular melody or sampled element, but you were able to combine three and four per track. So what type of ear did you have, and what technique did you actually use to be able to mix four different pieces, get it all to blend together into one song, a formula that hasn’t really been duplicated since? That was it, using all of those guys…I tried to just take James Brown, and what I did from the James Brown sound, and locked it in with the smooth chords of ‘The Isley Brothers’, and put the vocal backgrounds of the ‘Temptations’, or the Gap Band and made it Guy, and what I did with the vocoder from Roger Troutman, and it 114 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
So you feel in someway you wished you had dedicated maybe a little bit more time to understanding the business itself, or just having better representation earlier? Better representation earlier. I see. Much, much better representation earlier. Now, let’s talk about the movie itself, ‘New Jack City’, and your relationship to that movie? My relationship to ‘New Jack City’ was Barry Michael Cooper who wrote the film, who actually gave me that name, New Jack Swing. I wrote with that name, I didn’t know what I would call my music, I just said it’s heavy R&B. He said man, this is a New Jack something, just call it New Jack Swing. I said wow that sounds cool. Yeah, and that’s awesome. Yeah. Does that movie play out as a soundtrack for your life? Yeah - definitely signifies my life; the life that - I was like the kid who was making the music and Nino Brown was
my manager, and his voice was heard, that was his cue, it’s actually real. Let’s talk about equipment for a moment. I am sure you are probably going to say that you can make good music on anything, but there must be some choice tools in you arsenal that you can turn to, time and time again, that’s reliable. What would those pieces be? Okay, that piece would be, I can take Studer-24 827, and put it with an SSL, E-Series with the G computer, with the Outboards of Pultec APIs, Lunchbox Vs with the PCM 42, about three or four of those, with Lexicon Reverb, with the Yamaha FX, the PX-81m I forgot the number, but Yamaha FX, and MPC-60 if I wanted to go back to that, it will be over, and a D-550, with an Oberheim. The D-550 Rack, sir? A D-550 Rack or the D-50 keyboard, with the SVC-350 Vocoder and the S-70, along with the Mophat. Wow! And the Planet Phat with the virtuoso strings, all that mounted. That was it and I still have that whole setup in my storage. So what about modern pieces, have you been keeping up with recent releases, the new age of ROMplers; the Fantoms, the Motifs? The Motif is cool, I like the Fantom, I am a big Roland fan, I have been a Roland user. I have been endorsed by them since 1996, but I have been using Roland since 1984-1985. So you were never interested in the JV series or the XV series? I had every Roland you could ever imagine, I still have, the 808, the 707, the 606, the 626, the 303… You have a TB-303, is it modified? Oh no, I didn’t modify it. Okay. So as a gear head, what about your drum processing? Processing my drums, just SSL does it all, I don’t need any outboard, I don’t need nothing else, but the SSL and some 160s, the BBX160s. So basically you are using the EQ
on the strip itself? Exactly. I did the whole album with the SSL, no extra processing. Uptown, Harlem, USA. How does that upbringing and also your gospel background influence your musical choices now? Oh man, it influences me big time. I am still making my music, and always have thoughts of going back there. Everybody still loves that sound, and it’s so crazy that it’s still being played.
with my own swagger? I was always aware of it. I said I was going to put that phrase everywhere, and people are going to be saying it, and you see everybody was saying it. Let’s bridge to the current times, and the VH1 hip-hop awards. With all your accolades, does this still have some sort of meaning to you, or are you just pretty much beyond awards now? I am kind of beyond the awards, but you know, if it happens, it’s an honor. I just thought that it could have been better, much better presented. I thought that
still talking to people. How are you able to maintain some sort of sanity in this business? Just stay positive, and believe in yourself. I followed something that was ahead of me. Something told me this is what you have been doing for so long and that’s called the secret. I don’t know if you know about the secret, but the secret is a great lesson to a lot of people, and if you can stay positive, it weighs on you, but the moment you get into the stressful side and depressing thoughts - it weighs on you.
Michael Jackson, ’Heaven Can So what you internalize… It’s what you Wait’, what are your thoughts on attract. I try to attract that record? Wow, positive, that’s why that was one of my favorite songs t’s what you attract. I try to attract positive, that’s why it happens for me, I just keep it moving, that I have done; from just the whole it happens for me, I just keep it moving, because I because I know God knows what I did. As process of it; doing long as we know, we the music and know God knows what I did. As long as we know, we are good, we will get making everything through. That’s why sound really real, are good, we will get through. That’s why I stay healthy I stay healthy and except the strings, try to stay healthy it’s real strings, but and try to stay healthy because I know my day is going because I know my everything else day is going to come, was played with to come, this business is made up of turns, and when this business is made keyboards. I left it wasn’t my turn, so now I am back, it’s my turn, up of turns, and when I left it wasn’t my turn, During the creative so now I am back, process, are you and I am coming. it’s my turn, and I am actually doing his coming. New Jack Swing was pretty much my vocal inflections and singing in genre, and I should have been named his voice as you are laying out the I see. Are you aware of the staple instead of New Jack Swing. song? virtual instruments? Everyone knows where it came from, Yeah, we had it all created before he Of course I am very aware of virtual who started it, who created it, and the even sung it, usually that’s how it goes. instruments. I am Mr. Technology, truth is the truth. I mean this happened modern technology to the fullest. to me so many times before that I am As a producer yourself, there has used to it. I just stood for the love of got to be some choice between What’s running on your DAW? music, and the critical stuff, people whether you put a record out or You are sure you want to know, do you who want the credit, take it, as long as you let someone else put it out? So have enough time? people know the real is real. where does the artist in you stand Well, is it that long a list of plugs? right now? I don’t know, I don’t know What?! Are you sure you want to go How do you pick which projects to if I am going to put out another record, one on one with me? work on and which ones to avoid? it really depends on how things feel, it Let’s do it! Spectrasonics It’s not about who is who. I just like depends on the deal and how it works. Atmosphere? Yes. music. It is not about who sounds good I don’t really have to, I like to make Trilogy? All of it. and who is wack and who has got music with other folks, so if I have to Z3TA? All of it. ..swagger. if it’s a good record and I continue doing that, I will do that, and Oh man, okay. can make it great then I’m up for it. just tour, take my instruments and tour. I may use some stuff you have never heard of. You seemed to have kept a level Do you remember your Yup, Yup- do Let’s see if you can stump me.. head. We saw you at Winter NAMM, you look back and say wow, I was Okay, you are ready? Yes. you are still looking good, you are one of the first guys to ever produce
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You ever heard of Zebra? Yeah.. Crystal? Yo! Morphine? Okay, yes. Do you have Morphine? No, damn. AudioRealism? AudioRealism, so then okay, if you are going to go with AudioRealism, then you got to be messing with PSP? PSP, of course, always PSP. Now PSP with Korg, you have got all of the Korg instruments, the Legacy. Korg Legacy. Check. So do you have the Analog Box, the scaled MIDI controller MS-20? I have the Analog Box. We could go back and forth. You have Rapture? Yes. How about Vanguard? Yes. How about Realguitars and RealStrat? Alright, those I haven’t played with, but then you are talking heavy -how about BFD? BFD, yes. How about Rob Papen? Okay, Albino Series and BLUE? And the Predator...I am endorsed by Steinberg. So you know what I have got. It’s Groove Agent 3? Groove Agent and me, all day. Have you ever heard of Magnus Choir? No. that’s a new one. Oh, oh, you got to get it. How about Nexus? Nexus, yes. Okay. Now, let’s go into some stuff that you have never heard of. Have you ever heard of the Xchanter? No. How about the Woosh? No. Okay, c’mon now. How about Cube? Yes, definitely, I have the Cube right here. Addictive Drums, how about EZ Drummer? Addictive Drums is in this issue with the RetroPak. I am going to tell you another drum machine that you have got to get; it’s called the DKS Pro. Oh my God, it’s another ballgame. I have all of the Absynths; I have the [ARP] 2600, I have the Analog Factory. You have got to call Openlabs, call Native Instruments, call everybody, because they all call me and ask: ‘Can you tell me what you think of this?’ I am endorsed by East West as well. 118 Producer’s Edge Jan-Feb 2009
I come next to you with my car, which I call the MiKo or the NeKo, and I got a 120 plug-ins, and I can pull up at least 50 of them, which I don’t need, but I can pull them up. When I shift into high gear you aint with me- I am gone. So Logic can stay in the box, because that’s where you are going to always be in the box of Logic, while I am outside of the box, messing around with a bunch of pretty girls. Vienna? I got it. I just beta tested it. I have the Storm, I have the Passion, I have the Pro String edition. Oh my God! I am sitting here installing it right now so you know… You win. Let’s talk about sequencers then. What sequencer do you feel is the one for you- that has your workflow cut out? To me, the number one sequencer, bar none… that nothing can mess with. I am talking about the feeling…. Spit it out, man! Are you going to say Logic? No, hell no, hell no, hell to no, and you can put that in there, hell to the no to the Logic. Um…okay. Yes, and I am going to tell you this, and this is my education, Cubase, Steinberg, Nuendo are one and two for me. Why? Because I am a real player. If you are a two-finger player, you go ahead and mess around with Logic. Or, if you are a player that likes to edit MIDI and delete all the time in your music, then you go ahead with logic. If you want to get stuck in the box without any plug-ins, you are limited because when I come next to you with my car, which I call the MiKo or the NeKo, and I got a 120 plug-ins, and I can pull up at least 50 of them, which I don’t need, but I can pull them up. When I shift into high gear you aint with me- I am gone. So Logic can stay in the box, because that’s where you are going to always be in the box of Logic, while I am outside of the box, messing around with a bunch of pretty girls. I have two copies here of Logic and that was the one thing I wanted to see before I even did anything. I hooked it
up to the computer to the Mac, tried to play some stuff, edited it with the audio and it doesn’t sound the same. Even my guys are Washington professionals and with L.A. Music stores, they know because I sold them the desktop. My guys from Washington Professional his name is Spenser, he argued with me, he argued me down and he said -- he called me one morning and said, “I want to apologize to you” I said, “why?” He said, “Man that Logic thing you were telling me about, it’s true, the Quantization is not the same. We A/B- it’s not a strong as Cubase,” If you are a real and true player you know you are going to go to Cubase. Wow! That’s a serious endorsement. I don’t care. I am for real music, I am for real tools, sequencers are meant to make people lives easier. So it sounds like some kind of paradox like you need a really powerful sequencer to get back to your performance, the pure you: just the equipment and your performance? Cubase and Nuendo I am telling you. That’s what leads back to what I am doing and what I like to do. My sound wasn’t powerful enough or punchy enough until I got the Aurora. When I got the Aurora it showed me a different sound and that I can put that punch back in my drums again. Now, let’s talk about that box, have you ever tinkered with either Reason or Fruity Loops? Of course, all day. Reason and Fruity Loops just get ReWired to my Cubase. Check it out with Reaper. What, there’s no way you know about Reaper.
This is the one box, it’s called the MiKo. The Triton is gone; I have the sounds in my MiKo. I am sorry. I have their little house in my box.
Wow, that’s heavy stuff right there. I don’t play with it. I am dealing with the Pro Tools because the artists that I work with, they love it, they feel like they are not getting their music right without Pro Tools, so I am dealing with it. But when I A/B the music, it’s a different story, it’s a different world.
I know DJs have record collections w h e r e they can remember w h e r e thousands u p o n thousands of titles go, so how are you able to organize your collection in your own mind, or are you looking for a particular set? So how long does it take you to come to grips with the brand new plug-in? Let’s say you have just installed it, are you a read the manual type guy, do you just dive in and play with knobs? I am going to read the manual for about 20 minutes. Once I get past the first chapter, I know it. Sometimes I don’t even have to read it, I know where to go, how to get to it, because it’s the same language; Oscillators, modulation. Then you get into effects. Then you have your channel separations, envelopes and routing. It’s just like dealing with The Prophet - so it’s like dealing with the hardware but just in the box.
Wow! Well, let’s talk about doing it all from one box, because that kind of leads us to the Neptunes and the Triton sound. [Teddy Riley is given much credit for discovering the Neptunes]
On the opposite end is the new resurgence of analog boxes, like the Prophet 08, the brand new Moog Voyager OS, what are your thoughts on the new analog gear coming out? The new analog of gear is great for
Man, do you know who you are talking to? Reaper is the hottest thing going, and a lot of people don’t know it. But for the final mix, let me tell you what I am about to get into, and I am studying right now, Sequoia [Magix-GA]. For my final mixes… I my mastering through Sequoia. That’s getting close to real tape machines.
live [performances. Sometimes I would mess with it inside the box, but I like the sounds that I have, which are inside the box. Some of it I can do without. The hardware…I would do it if I had a great setup. But if I had to roll with one box, like I am supposed to be going over to Russia and Europe, they want me to come over and work with artists over there, so I can’t take all this stuff and they ain’t going to let it go through customs, but they will let my little box go through, because I have my MiKo in Japan. It was perfect, I had it in my bedroom, and it was setup on my desk. I thought you would be associated with the Korg OASYS. Korg OASYS, my buddy, he swears by Korg OASYS, I don’t play the Korg OASYS, I have messed around with it, I just don’t think it could do everything I wanted to do, and it definitely can’t bring in a bunch of my other plug-ins. They say that how a musician approaches his own internal life decides how his relationships and business are going to go. So do you have any advice or gems for people trying to build relationships and put a network of people together around them, building a staff or a team? Most of the guys who built relationships with me were just guys who hung around the studio and got to know me first, and then we clicked, we are still hanging together. One of the guys, who, was one of my producers, became one of my good friends and attorneys, and he is a producer, and we are like best buddies. If I need something looked at, or paperwork or anything, he is on it, he is like yeah, I will send it today and you will have it tomorrow. Then he will say, can you check out some music for me, tell me what you think, am I in the right direction. That’s how we build. And a lot of the guys who I met at NAMM, we will meet again next year we are good friends. It’s almost like going to a little league finals, when you go to NAMM; you meet all of the tech heads, and you meet all of the traders, you know what I am saying, like the card traders; when you trade baseball cards, that’s what we do at NAMM.
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That’s why I like to go, and that’s why I participate, and I will do something just to help, I will be a part of it. It doesn’t cost anything, because it’s for the love of music, and it is the love of the art of NAMM. NAMM is just like a real family event. Now, getting near the end, as a new producer, maybe I am sitting home, putting my music together, trying to get my sounds right, how do I build up my confidence enough to take my sound on the road and attempt to make headway into the industry? Man, it ain’t about building the confidence, it’s about just going. You already know your sound, you already know. You have a plan, you can go and you can follow that plan. We didn’t know what we had; we didn’t know we were going to make it. In our first show, and I will tell you this, our first Guy show, we got booed, because the people didn’t know us; they knew our music, but when Johnny Kemp, who did ‘Just Got Paid’ introduced us, he said, these are my boys, and when we came on stage, we got booed, because they didn’t know our faces. But when we sung “Groove Me” and that record came on, it was another story, and then people just went crazy. Oh, it’s them. Your music speaks for itself. Whatever sound you have, you go out there and you put that sound out there, trust me, let the DJs spin it, that’s what happened with us. Our record first got spin in Amsterdam, and we tested over there first. Then from there we just went far, we didn’t know what we had, but you don’t know what you have, and I can’t tell you what you have, because it may be something that I can’t hear. I am sure I can hear it, but it’s just, that I might not get it. What’s going on with your audio chain? My interface is the Lynx Aurora. That’s like number one, like most people can’t mess with it.
not as strong as the Aurora, and it doesn’t have any cutouts. The RME, to me, Firewire has cutouts. The only way I would do RME if I do Matty. But the Aurora, Firewire, with DSUBS, I am analog all day. Well, that’s my testament; you can put my testament with that one, because man, the Aurora sound is amazing. Are you using the Expander, or you are also using the AD/DA box Yes, I am. I am using it for Pro Tools, and I am also using it for my MiKo. I am strong sound wise, I can go through that with my Mackie DXB as my board, with a bunch of outboard. I’ve maxed that board out like nobody has ever maxed it out. The Mackie board I am fully 72 channels with the Pro Tools suite setup up to 200 channels, everything is going at the same time, simultaneously with the MiKo. So I got 200 channels going at the same time. My Lord, man. Okay. My favorite two microphones. When I use my Vocoder, I use the 400 AKG. For my vocal, when I sing, studio-wise, I use the Telefunken. . I did the Snoop Dogg album with that What are your speakers of choice? My favorite near field speaker is the ‘AR tone’. What about loudspeakers, do you ever reference loudspeakers? Number one favorite, and my ‘AR tones’ are loud, not the awful tones, because there are some awful tones out there. You know what I am talking about? The wanna-be ‘R tones’ is the awful tones. They come in colors like cream and lacquer, and it looks pretty, but it sounds awful. Those are awful tones.
[laughter erupts] Now, loudspeaker wise, the loudspeaker, the Yamaha 10 and 12. I can’t forget, I mixed the Snoop Dogg album with NS10 and the ‘AR tones’. Adams [ADAM-audio.com] - light and flat and going to give you the true sound, the Adams 6. So now I am going behind the Adams with JBL speakers- that’s not with the tags. It’s more in-depth, more crunch, flatness, sweetness, with a nice, warm sound, so that’s what goes there, not because I wanted to get cheap, because I liked the sound of the JBLs better. In closing, what would you like to say to your fans that have been following you, and also your fans that are looking forward to another project coming out? I don’t know what to tell you, but I hope if you guys really, really want it, we will definitely do it. Do you want Blackstreet, or you want Guy or you want both, we will do it, and we will be happy to do that. We have a plan to go out on the road and tour and really jam for you, but to do a record, we don’t know if that’s going to happen. For all the people who have been following me and following my music, I really appreciate everything, and I appreciate your support and the love of the music, and I look forward to chatting with you again at NAMM or conventions. Teddy Riley: That’s it, everybody, God bless you, and I look forward to seeing you all soon, and look out for more shows; I was on the Snoop Dogg, Hollywood show, and we have a bunch of other stuff coming up.
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Published on Jul 29, 2009
Published on Jul 29, 2009
Issue 04 Producer's Edge Magazine Winter 2009 eXtra Content Subscribers package from Producer's Edge Magazine Issue 04. Includes DSI Mopho...