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2 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009


ISSUE 06: Spring - Summer 2009 Drum Works III: The Final Concussion

Producer’s Edge Magazine

Info@ProducersEdgeMagazine.com

EDITORIAL Editor In Chief/King of Pops Drew Spence Senior Editor Will Loiseau Team Editor Crystal Johnson

BRAND BUSINESS Brand Specialist/Manager Pedro Mojica

W

e end the Drum Works series with a feature on the new products aimed squarely at being the center of our percussive endeavors. It’s the march of the drum machine groovebox as NI and MOTU all take their shot at merging the workflow of hardware with the convenience and flexibility of software. We’ll make our sounds with Amos Gaynes from Moog, learn our gear with SoundsForSamplers and synthesize proper with Simon Cann. We have sounds galore from Big Fish Audio, Madjef and LukeCage. The production team on deck is the Justice League- fresh off their stellar work with Rick Ross and John Legend. Let’s dive in and explore Drum Works part III: The Final Concussion. - Drew Spence; Editor in Chief

Marketing, Public relations Richera Jones

Producer’s Edge is now wholly created using Abobe Indesign CS4. Enjoy the new look.

Digital Content and Media Griffin Avid

© Producer’s Edge Magazine. No part of this magazine may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or resold without prior written consent of the publisher. Producer’s Edge recognizes all copyrights contained in this issue. Where possible we acknowledge the copyright holder. All contributions are submitted and accepted on the basis of a nonexclusive worldwide license to publish or to license others to do so unless otherwise agreed in advance in writing

Don’t just read about music production, Live it in the pages of Producer’s Edge Magazine.

Key Icons: These graphics represent additional content available in the Electronic version of Producer’s Edge.


Meet the new JUNO-STAGE, and get ready to forge new ground with your live performance. Start with its first-class, versatile sound set. then, enter a new world of performance possibilities by playing along with backing tracks using its USB Memory Player or iPod inputs. It even TM

transforms into a MIDI controller with , a single touch ------- so you ll love it in the studio, too. With all of this power under a new great-feeling, 76-note semi-weighted synth-action keyboard, the JUNO-STAGE gives your live p e r f ormance a w h o l e n e w start‌ and once you play it, you may never want to stop! To See the JUNO-STAGE in action, visit RolandUS.com.

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4 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009

MP3 playback from usb memory

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Simon Cann on Synthesis Words by Griffin Avid

Yamaha CX 5M: OLD....SCHOOL..... player who wanted to make his own backing tacks and added a few synths in to the mix. I had a Roland D-110 rack and spent ten years not doing much programming. In the 90s Native Instruments released Generator (the predecessor of Reaktor) which was the first synthesizer where I really got into the nitty-gritty of programming.

T

he Producer’s Edge includes an understanding of the relationship between craftsmanship, creativity and imagination when applied to the production task. To gain a better understanding of our toolset, we turn to the works of Simon Cann. He’s written a number of musicrelated titles including; How to Make a Noise, Cakewalk Synthesizers: From Presets to Power User, Building a Successful 21st Century Music Career, Sample This! (with Klaus P Rausch), Rocking Your Music Business, and Becoming a Synthesizer Wizard: From Presets to Power User. Griffin Avid: Firstly, can you tell us a little about your start with synthesizers? Simon Cann: Sure, I started back in 1985 with the Yamaha CX 5M [http://web.quick.cz/a.tom.x/cx5m.htm/] It’s a computer type synth with module cards. I was a guitar

So how does that inspire a book about programming? When I started the first book I felt I knew some bits and pieces about programming, but writing a book forced me into a learning process that would fill in the gaps of my knowledge. The process of being a teacher made me a better student. The only way to get good at something is by focusing. I focused all of my energies on learning the process and developing my programming abilities. Overall, it’s better to get one synthesizer and learn that and make every possible sound with it. And when you feel you have it mastered, dig even deeper. I know you have a history with the Cakewalk line of synths so I don’t want to put you on the spot, but what’s the first synth I should consider out of their line up? Oh boy, well Rapture is brilliant and powerful. It can do everything and anything. I enjoy the full sound from the underlying sample format. Their old rgc:audio synths are great, especially the popular Triangle series and the sfz player. But as good as these synths are, Z3TA+ is my “go to” synth. For me the choice of Z3TA+ is really a

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Simon Cann: Colorful hues for vivid tunes matter of purpose and focus and Rapture makes a great companion for Z3TA+. Z3TA+ and Rapture, for the most part, ran to the front of the line based on the engine and how it was showcased by their awesome presets. What are your thoughts on using presets? Presets…there’s nothing wrong with using presets, but they are programmed by people thinking about what sounds cool in isolation. It often doesn’t make for a sound that sits well in the mix. The sounds are meant to sell the synth. It’s the difference between making a great sound that works on a record. A bass sound can really be heavy and powerful, but won’t work in a record if it competes with the vocals. If you can program the correct sound, it can be tailored around the music. This is why programming matters. On the flip side, new programmers want to make sounds like their favorite record. We all start by emulating the sounds we hear, but that approach only takes you so far. You can’t just take that beloved sound and apply to your own record. It might be a sound that fits, but might not be the sound your record needs. That makes sense since music is about being creative and expressing yourself. What’s a good synth to start with and what should be the deciding factors? Picking only one synth to learn is difficult with so many choices. For the person looking to be a producer, you need good software combined with a professional audio workstation like SONAR, ProTools or Logic. The DAW is important so I would start there when looking for a comfortable set up. Now the free Triangle II 6 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009

is a recommended first synth. It has a good sound and intuitive GUI. In most cases though, I’d still suggest a producer should make use of the synths and tools included with their host. Sometimes it’s not only about the quality, but knowing your synth. Let’s talk about Becoming a Synthesizer Wizard: From Presets to Power User. Okay. It’s designed to teach synthesis. It focuses on the basics of how to make sounds and takes you all the way through to the world of modular synthesizers. We will be able to think about the different instrument parts and understand the role of each separately. The final goal is to combine the bits into a whole. The Synth Wizard is about synthesis from the very beginning. Additive synthesis, Frequency Modulation synthesis, subtractive. What about the different synthesis approaches? Is there a synthesis system I should learn first? I would say start with subtractive synthesizers first. That brings in the basics of modulation. And although the concepts can be difficult to grasp at first, it forms a solid and basic understanding that can be applied to synthesis as a whole.


I’m a big fan of FM synthesis and more people should explore FM since it has such a broad palette of sounds and the shifting nuances of sounds. Z3TA+ has a nice engine worth exploring as well as Sytrus (Image Line). Rhino from Big Tick Audio is another recommended synth. What are your thoughts about using loops and the creation of music through ROMplers? Most combine the loops with programming like Stylus RMX and use analogue [drum machine] styled programming. The difficulty of ROMplers is the way of thinking of pulling up an instrument sound and tweaking it to suit. If you want someone to listen to a sound and have them say that sound is you, you must work even harder to create your own sounds. Tell us then how to judge a synth and how it might fit in with the synths I already own and have been working with. First, judge a synth by its sound. Once you have a synth that sounds good, then think about the logic of its layout. Ask yourself does it make sense? It all starts with the signal path. The oscillators come first. Take the time to understand how this synth will generate its sounds and the inherent limitations of the architecture. Will it alias at certain points? Find out what the synth does well, what it can and can’t do. Filters are crucial. Understand the difference between

vintage and modern styles and the interaction between the core sound and the sculpted results. Another consideration is the modulators and envelopes. Listening to what happens when your sounds are mixed with other instruments and how to keep them from being lost in the mix. Does it wash out with reverb? Keep listening and trying different tweaks and seeing what happens. It’s a long process that takes time. What separates the synth player from the keyboard player or keyboardist? A synthesizer player is different than a keyboard player. Programming can become important for adding the performance-based nuances. It’s also depends on your style of music and the role the sequencer plays. A keyboardist may be mostly concerned with performing a piece and using the keys as his primary expressive interface. A synthesist may need to play the board and still control the other elements of the control surface in order to nail the sound he is providing in the composition. I’m referring to sounds and tones that change and morph over time. So the controller now becomes a key element in the actual performance and even how it is set up by the synth operator... Yes. One of the downsides is the amount of parameters you can edit and you’ll never seem to have enough knobs, much less remember what they all do. [Laughter] It’s good to have a tactile control. A computer based producer doesn’t need access to all the controls at once. It’s important to program that controller for the emotive parts of your patches so that you are performing expressive music and not just presenting expressive or impressive sounds. In the end you are balancing between being an artist, sound designer and musician. You need an open approach to your music that will inject enough creativity and personality to stand out from the crowd. The producer that spends his whole Friday night trying to create the perfectly fitting sound will achieve something that the producer who just wants to get a lot done quickly will not. In the morning, the producer who ran through several tracks will have more music and may feel more productive, but the artist who truly poured himself into his tools will have less music, but it will be more meaningful - both to himself and whoever he shares it with. Thank you for taking the time to talk. You can read more about Simon at his website simoncann.com and check out his other music-related books at his Noise Sculpture website, noisesculpture. com. Simon has also recently produced a series of videos about synthesizer programming which you can check out at youtube.com/ noisesculpture.

7 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009


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hen Dave Smith Instruments saw fit to cram half the power of a Prophet 08 into a small yellow box, we knew the results would be something special. The timing couldn’t be any better as producers incorporate more and more analog synth tones into their tracks. DJ Shab comes out on top and walks away with his own DSI Mopho. We plugged into his set up to see what’s spinning over at Sherrell Productions. What’s have you been up to? Right now I am just trying to get involved in anything I can to help my music progress and take it to the next level. I gotta say thanks to you all at Producer’s Edge Magazine for this! It’s just awesome! The Mopho is off the chain and I love it! I love the Magazine too and can’t wait for each issue to get online so I can check it out! Without Scratch Magazine, and now that Remix has gone away, you guy’s are giving us Producers and Beat Makers something to look forward to and it also serves as a learning source and gives us all insight into things a lot of us would other wise be unable to see!

up and what you were using for analog-style synth tones Here is my current setup: Apple Mac Pro Octo-Core 2 Quad Core 3.0 GHz Xeon Processors - 16 GB Ram 2 - 24” LCD Monitors Macbook Core 2 Duo, 2GB Ram Akai MPC 5000 - 192MB Ram Roland Fantom X6 (3-SRX Cards - 512 MB Ram) Yamaha Motif XS6 1GB Ram Dave Smith Mopho Alesis Micron Emu Mo’Phatt Rack Novation D-Station Rack Novation Zero Remote SL Waldorf Blofeld Synth Module 2- Numark TTX Fusion Turntables Numark CDX Turntable Stanton DaScratch Controller Korg Kaoss Pad 3 Rane TTM-56 Mixer Native Instruments Traktor Scratch Logic 8 Studio Ableton Live 8 NI Komplete 5 NI Kore 2 NI Maschine Sampletank 2.5 MOTU BPM Korg PadKontrol M-Audio Trigger Finger M-Audio Axiom Pro 61 MIDI Controller KRK Rockit 6 Monitors KRK Monitor Sub Blue Sky MediaDesk 2.1 Set Behringer Xynex Mixer Presonus FireStudio Interface Arturia MiniMoog V VST Reason 3.0 Analog Factory Acoustic Drums, 582 Pieces of Vinyl & Building…

I think you’re only saying that because you won that Mopho! Don’t gas us. Seriously though, you already had an impressive studio. Tell us a little about your current set

Holy cow! Before I got the Dave Smith Mopho, I was basically using my Alesis Micron and my MPC 5000 for Analog Synth tones. I also used Logic Studio and other 9 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009


have had it to warm up or thicken a sound from another source. What was it about the MOPHO that first attracted you? Anything Dave Smith makes is awesome! So, when I heard he was making a Synth Module based on the Prophet 08 that was going to sell for under $400, I knew I had to have one! I have used many pieces from DSI and he just makes magic if you ask me! What would you say are its best features… and featured you’d like to see tweaked? In my opinion, the best features of the Mopho are (1) Its Sound - Just Awesome (2) Amount of Presets (for getting idea’s then you can tweak to make it your own) (3) The ability to route other instruments/sounds into its audio inputs and use its sound and effects is a really nice touch and very usable!

Soft Synths, like NI Massive and Arturia MiniMoog V. What’s you musical background and how would you describe your current sound? I started as a Drummer in School and did that for several years and then after High School I started spinning records and scratching. I found my love for Hip Hop and kept Djing for several years then in about 1998 or 1999 I got my first MPC and never looked back! Producing, making beats and sampling is where I really belonged and I knew it within 5 minutes of getting that first MPC2000! I have been producing ever since and although I still DJ a bit, I no longer do it on a for-hire-basis. I fit it into a lot of my productions, but no longer do gigs. I would describe my sound as West Coast Hip Hop; I use a lot of strings, brass and acoustic instruments in my music. My biggest musical influences are Dr. Dre, DJ Quick and Battlecat. I love that smooth sound, where you can just lay back and chill. What’s your current project and where can we go to hear your music and keep up with your music? Right now I am working on a few different things. I am working with a few local Portland, OR Artists and making tracks for them. I am also working on creating my own web page where all my music will be available when it’s done. The website should be up within a couple weeks. Right now, you can hear some of music at www.myspace.com/sherrellproductions. If you’re interested in networking, or joint projects, get at me at caseysherrell@gmail.com Congratulations to DJ Shab and a big thank you to the good people over at Dave Smith Instruments for bringing Have you been using the audio inputs to process any external the Mopho analogue synthesizer to the production table signals through the Mopho’s filters? Yes, I have taken some and sponsoring this contest. If you still don’t know of my individual tracks and played them back through the Mopho, what all this hype is about, head over to http://www. its awesome! It has such a beastly sound that is just thick and davesmithinstruments.com/ and hear the sound that’s warm! I have used it several times already in the short time I missing from your studio. A studio’s workflow can tell us a lot about the creative process. Please share with the Producer’s Edge readership how you might approach track construction. I almost always start my tracks with either the sample I am using if I am sampling or a synth, string or brass sound that gives me the inspiration for the track. I will usually go into my studio and flip through sounds or mess with my synths until something inspires me and it just click from there. Its kind of hard to explain, but it usually goes like this, I will flip through samples or presets until I get an idea, then I will tweak the sound to make it my own and it just pops off from there!

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11 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009


http://www.native-instruments.com

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In The Loop Series: EastWest Club Revolution $90 USD Words by Fred Frederix

I

n this Loop, we’ll be reviewing another “house” sample CD, its content, ease of use, and its “applicability” to current genres of music. This collection is titled “Club Revolution, vol. 1”. It is manufactured by Best Service, which makes/distributes a wealth of different styles and genres of sample/loop libraries. They have been doing just that for many years now, and have been widely used by many of the top dogs in the industry. This CD covers a wide spectrum of Dance genres including Trance, Techno, Hardstyle, Electro and Progressive styles, which make it more appealing to a larger audience. So what’s under the hood you might ask? Well, here’s the skinny and the nitty-gritty specs that this collection includes;

-114 acid sounds -196 basses -103 claps -101 cutted sounds -130 cutted vocals -295 cymbals -152 electro “stuff” -311 kicks (damn!) -867 breakbeat loops -848 scratches -113 snares -850 synth sounds -120 toms and percussion samples -2700 samples -575 kick-free loops -Mac and PC compatibility -single CD for easy quick installation 13 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009


One quick note that I’d like to mention about this collection is it’s rave reviews by some of the biggest names right now in the ‘biz; DJ TIESTO: “Not just loops with kicks filtered off, full spectrum! Big sounds, revolutionary and unique in it’s kind.” “This CD is a serious contender for the best hard dance sample CD we’ve ever heard. [..] Oliver Schmitt has done his job well, crafting over 2,700 unique samples, all of which sound wide, deep, punchy and ready for use in cutting-edge dance music.” - Rating: 9/10 ** Reviewed by Computer Music Magazine UK / October 2008 NIC CHAGALL (Cosmic Gate): “[...] marks a new milestone in sound design. It’s the most inspiring sample CD I have ever encountered! [...] CR1 is so much better than the standard sample libraries with their boring ripped content and it rocks in ways that other developers can only dream of. Revolutionary !

mention is that Best Service has a free download on their site for a few sample sounds for the collection. In fact, even the free download provided directions as to where to place the associated files; nice! My motto in life is this; “if it’s free, it’s for me!” The download is comprised of 16.1 Mb of “sample” sounds in the same vein as the CD, which is great; this way you can get an idea of what you may be buying, before you actually buy it. Sounds, samples, and loops, to me, are like paint on a palette. It gives me more colors to choose from- some of which the “other guy” might not have. Sometimes, I will find a sound I can write a song around...........a key sound that sits “front dead center” in the tune, and makes my sound a bit different.

Sounds, samples, and loops, to me, are like paint on a palette. It gives me more colors to choose from- some of which the “other guy” might not have. Sometimes, I will find a sound I can write a song around.....

BLANK & JONES: “[...] Even the kick free loops are not just low cutted, they are just programmed without the Kick, leaving the sound spectrum untouched! This gives you much more opportunities and they are fitting perfectly into your sound context.” So with these types of accolades, I was up for quite the challenge. Love him or hate him, DJ Tiesto (last time I checked) was one of the highest paid DJs currently on the scene, and definitely one of the highest regarded in the field of dance, so with his positive comments, I knew I was in for quite a treat. I’m the type of guy that likes to get right to work: minimal fuss and dragging and dropping of files and the like. Once the CD was inserted, a PDF file was provided with fast, direct and to the point directions as to where and how to install the collection. Because this is a CD and not a DVD, the installation was very fast, and took less than three minutes to install. Sometimes, and all too often I must confess, I’d prefer one disc full of great stuff, over 10 discs of total crap! One other quick note that I must 14 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009

Just for trivial facts, I figured I’d tell you a bit about the “Sample Guru” behind this collection; his name is Oliver Schmitt. Oliver Schmitt already has a massive praise and support from the most influential Dance Music producers on the planet including Tiesto, Nic Chagall (Cosmic Gate), BT, Markus Schulz, Headstrong, Martin Roth, DJ Shah & The Thrillseekers to name but a few

Let’s get right to the sounds! I’m using (again) my trusty Mac Quad 2.0 with 5 gigs of ram, and four separate HD’s for this review running both Logic 8.02, and Digital Performer 6.01. Because the sounds are already setup for Logic’s EXS24, I will concentrate on that platform. After launching Logic, the files were ready for action in the EXS24. As I scrolled though the various categories, I was thrilled with the sounds that came up; the 4/4 HH for instance was terrific. Not only one but, like a dozen usable choices! Damn, I’ve got a dilemma on my hands now! I guess things could be worse, and yes, they did get worse, because once I moved to the kickdrum bank......................... I couldn’t find “just one” that I wanted to use! Wow, this is great stuff. All of the sampled hits and single notes were very well EQ’ed and setup, which makes them ready for use. I really didn’t feel the need to throw an EQ on any instrument to “get it up to par”. I especially liked the inclusion of pretty much all of the basic elements of house, minus the vocals of course. This collection goes highly recommended by me. The sounds are quickly useable and very up to date. It’s quick to install, and use, and provides very fast results for house, R&B or any dance oriented production for that matter. Pickup a copy, and add a bit of zing to your trax!


15 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009


Synthesizing percussive sounds on the Voyager by Amos Gaynes Moog Music Applications Engineer

T

hese tips are written specifically with the Moog Voyager in mind, but the same general ideas will work with most any analog or virtual analog synth that has similar parameters.

< volume envelope >

First of all, the envelopes are the defining parameter for a percussive sound. Do you want the sound to hit hard and tight, or to boom out with a long decay? Fine-tune the volume envelope to get the tightness and timing of your hit the way you want it. Percussive sounds typically do not sustain, so I find that I usually do best to set the envelope Sustain level to zero. That way I can use the Attack and Decay stages of the envelope to shape the sound. Usually the Attack is pretty easy to set; somewhere between absolute minimum and “really short” depending on how hard or soft I want the initial strike to be. Then the Decay parameter determines the entire length of the hit, since at the end of the Decay phase the Sustain level is zero. 16 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009

< the release trick >

An interesting trick you can do with analog volume envelopes is to use the Release parameter to get subtle dynamic control of your hits based on the note length. If the Sustain is set to zero and you hold down a note, the volume of your hit goes to zero in the time dictated by the Decay parameter. If you turn up the Release parameter and hold down a note, nothing seems to change at first. However, if you play a very short note, short enough that the Decay phase hasn’t had time to go all the way to zero before you release the note, you’ll hear the note take longer to fade out, and you can use the Release parameter to control how long this fade-out takes. This is really useful for programming analog hi-hats, because you can get a tight closed-hat sound by pressing and holding a note, and a nice open-hat sound by tapping a short note and using the Release time to get a longer fade-out. If you are using a sequencer, you can get all sorts of variations on the dynamic by programming in different


oscillators except for Oscillator 1 (make sure only the switch for Oscillator 1 is in the ON position). Set the Oscillator 1 waveform to Triangle, which is fully counterclockwise on the Voyager waveform knobs. Finally, you want to make sure that any Modulation settings are turned all the way down or off; on the Voyager this would mean turning the Amount knobs to zero at the bottom of the Modulation Busses. Now any programming you do will be from a known starting point.

< putting it together >

note lengths on different hits. This trick works on all kinds of transient and drum type sounds.

< pitch sweep >

For programming analog kicks and toms, the most important thing is to get a downward sweep of the pitch. There are a couple of ways to do this on the Voyager, depending on what kind of sound you are going for. The simplest and sometimes most effective kick uses a sine wave generated by the filter at maximum resonance, and sweeps it with the filter envelope. For more complex or rougher sounds, you can use a modulation bus to sweep the pitch of the main oscillators, using one of the envelopes as the modulation source.

< default settings >

When you are programming new synth sounds, it is best to start from a set of known default settings, so there will be no surprises as you adjust the parameters. On the Voyager, you’d go to the Edit menu and select “Init. Parameters” then press Enter, cursor to Yes and press Enter to load the default settings. If you’re using the Voyager Old School, or any other synth with a Minimoog-like layout, you can set up a default patch manually using the following settings: Filter and volume envelopes, set Attack = 0, Decay = 0, Sustain = maximum, release = 0. Set the filter envelope “Amount to Filter” control to zero, which is at 12:00 for this knob. Turn the Filter Cutoff all the way up (full clockwise), and the Filter Resonance to zero. In the mixer section, turn off all the

Here is the simplest kind of kick you can get from the Voyager - a swept sine wave. This will allow you to play with the envelope time adjustments and hear what effect they have, and it’s easy to get good-sounding results. Set up your synth as follows and get ready to rattle some bass bins: First we want to turn off all the oscillators. On the Voyager, make sure that all the switches in the mixer section are turned off. For a sine wave kick, all the sound is coming from the filter. To get the filter to make a sound, turn the RESONANCE control to maximum. The filter will begin to self-oscillate, or feed back on itself, producing a sine wave tone. Next, we want to reduce the number of parameters that are affecting the filter. The filter can track the keyboard, which is useful for melodic sounds but not what we want right now. To take keyboard tracking out of the picture, set the KB. CONT. AMOUNT knob to zero. Now set the envelope AMOUNT TO FILTER to zero. The filter should now put out the same steady tone regardless of what key you press. Press a key and turn the Filter Cutoff control down until the filter is putting out a low bass tone. This is the tone you will hear at the tail-end of your kick, so you want it to be a good sub bass. If you are making the kick for a specific track, you can tune the Filter Cutoff until the tone is on key with the bass line - this is a good producer’s trick for getting a tight sound. Now we can set up the kick using the envelopes. Start with the Volume envelope as follows: Attack = 0, Decay = 0, Sustain = 10 (maximum), Release = 0. Set the filter envelope Attack, Sustain, and Release controls to zero, and set the filter envelope Decay to 12:00. Now start to turn up the Filter Envelope AMOUNT TO

17 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009


FILTER knob past 12:00, and repeatedly play a note on the keyboard to hear what’s happening. What you’re doing here is controlling how much the filter envelope sweeps the filter cutoff frequency. As you turn the “Amount to Filter” up past 2:00 or so, you’ll start to hear the pitch of the sound drop from some high pitch down to the lowest frequency that you previously tuned in using the Filter Cutoff knob. As you turn up the filter envelope Amount, this low note will stay the same, but you will increase the size of the pitch drop, so you’re dropping from a higher pitch the higher you turn up the Amount to Filter control. Low and medium settings will give you more drum-like sounds, and if you turn up the Amount to Filter all the way you’ll get something more like a sci-fi laser zap. Once you set up the amount of the pitch drop, you’ll need to decide how long it should take to drop from the highest to the lowest pitch. The speed of the pitch drop is controlled by the Filter Envelope DECAY parameter. With the Decay knob at 12:00, you should be somewhere in kick drum territory. For a tighter kick, you can turn down the Decay and you’ll get a faster pitch drop. If you turn up the Decay, you can get everything from booming 808-style kicks to long pitch drops that are useful for breaks or effects. The last element we need to define our sound is the volume envelope. Turn the volume envelope SUSTAIN all the way down to zero. When you play a note now, you should hear only a tiny click. Start turning up the volume envelope DECAY knob and striking a key repeatedly; you’ll hear the 18 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009

length of your hit increasing as you turn up the Decay. At this point, you can fine-tune the dynamics of your sound by adjusting both the Volume Envelope Decay, to determine how long the hit lasts, and the Filter Envelope Decay, to set how fast the pitch drops. Right now, the hit will only sound right if you press and hold a key until the sound stops. If you quickly tap a key, the hit gets cut off unnaturally, and you may also hear an excessive amount of “click.” Fix this with the envelope Release settings. Turning up the Volume Envelope Release controls how long before a quick tap fades out to silence, and the Filter Envelope Release controls how the pitch drops after quickly tapping a key. Set the Volume release first so that you can hear what the Filter release is doing as you adjust it. Refer back to the “volume envelope” and “release trick” sections for a little more detail.

< advanced boom-bap >

The process I just described here will let you dial in a wide variety of sine wave kicks, zaps, and Miami bass drops. However, the fact that you’re using the filter as your sound source and turning off all the oscillators means that your range of tones is limited. You can’t make the sound rough, or filter your kicks, without using outboard effects. Without going into detail, here’s a quick look at some of the more advanced techniques you can use for drum programming on a synth like the Voyager.


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20 Producerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Edge May-June 2009


21 Producerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Edge May-June 2009


“Ableton Suite is the XL version of Ableton Live. Suite 8 gives you all of the features in Live 8 plus SOUND, with a radically new Library packed with beautiful new sounds and a wealth of useful resources. Suite 8 contains 10 Ableton instruments including

Ableton Suite 8

Ableton Live 8 expands with SOUND. The Latest Update from Jeff ‘Madjef’ Taylor

synths, a sampler, electric and acoustic drums,

mallets,

instruments

and

numerous the

new,

sampled reworked

Operator. Two completely new instruments, Collision and Latin Percussion, round off the set. Ableton Suite 8 is a complete package: the tools AND the sounds.”

I

love this product. It makes me work in a completely different way each time I open it up. The ability to drag and drop drum sounds on Simpler is mind boggling. With a good controller like the Akai MPK49 at your fingertips, start, stop, play and record, as well as arming tracks and fader volume levels makes for a tight little production package. Some of the new features in Live 8 definitely take this product to the next level. The way that Ableton allows you to manipulate audio with the newly updated warping is really cool and they have stepped way out in front of their competitors. Let’s take a look at look at some of the new additions. FX- 5 new Devices Vocoder - flexible and very tweakable, easy setup and one of the best vocoders I have ever heard. This is my favorite new addition and you can use internal noise as a modulator to trigger it, but when you plug an internal synth into it the vocoder really comes alive. Multiband Dynamics – including a hands-on EQ & mastering section. Very good quality for master bus compression and limiting as well as use on individual tracks. The included presets sound really good. Overdrive - distortion FX is cool, sounds like the Boss overdrive guitar pedal to me. Always loved that. Don’t forget to run instruments besides guitars through it. Great with vocal pieces, synths, drums… whatever. Frequency Shifter– Sci-Fi sounds made easy. Ring modulator, lo-fi with an incredible range. 22 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009

Looper - So sick! Layer the beatboxing, guitar, scratching, whatever and Looper adds the layers on top and locks them in at the tempo. This allows you to throw tracks together very quickly; this is a real songwriter’s weapon if you ask me. New Plug-in Parameters: Open a synth, click configure, use your mouse to touch a synth parameter and its added. Simple. Much better than the giant list of all the synths parameters. Now you choose the ones you want to tweak. Warping engine - Beats mode is tighter and warping has changed; you no longer move the time line to lock a beat, you can now move the beat along the timeline to get it


LOOPER EFFECT Looper brings the creative power of classic soundon-sound looping to Live, without the limitations of a hardware device. Inspired by some of our favorite sample/delay devices plus a good deal of Ableton wizardry, Looper provides plenty of scope in a supersimple interface. in time. I love this new feature. Transient detection locates beats for you. You can quantize and markers will appear and then you can adjust those markers at will. Press & hold shift and drag to move the temporary marker, then double click to lock in place. Groove - The Groove template mode; you can set beat markers, then export the groove, open it in the Groove Pool and apply that groove to other clips. It’s somewhat complicated but worth the effort. Some might find the new way of warping a little awkward at first, but for me this is the way I always wanted it to work. The Cross-fading feature allows smooth track edits, vocal comping and track joining. No more clips and pops between tracks in the work window Multitrack volume & parameter Tweaking and track Grouping - select several tracks together and change the settings all at once. Group tracks together and hide them to make room in your work space. Can be done with both audio and MIDI! Zoom Feature - the entire window can be size adjusted by a slider, the odd thing is that it can be found in a preference window under Look and Feel. Click and drag up or down to decrease or increase the size of your window. I would prefer this be on the main arrangement page, oh well maybe in the next update. New instruments Collision Collision is a unique physical modeling instrument for authentic mallet sounds and creative percussion.

Operator Operator is a frequency modulation synthesizer that delivers an eclectic spectrum of sonic possibilities and musical inspiration. It’s get a complete overhaul is Live 8 and should not be overlooked.

Latin Percussion - I can never have enough Latin percussion, so I appreciate this. Live 8 has gone a step further by adding the midi grooves to trigger the sounds in drum rack form. Its crazy- so many acoustic perc instruments, and kits. with 128 sounds available at once. All the Latin styles are covered. New sounds - loads of new sounds on board as well. Instrument racks for all you old-school guys. It’s like working with the JV1080 all MIDI’d out and usable. Producers and musicians let me say this: sounds galore. If you need material for movie soundtracks and for sound design, this is the kit. Construction Kits - Midi tracks and Loop ideas similar to sample CD’s but available as presets in the instrument racks. Corpus - The effect is used on a send channel. Feed bass and drum sounds into it to create fat kicks and sub bass layers. Operator - New filters and envelopes, user definable, draw your own wave form in the new waveform editor they have updated this synth a great synth for dance music. Feedback is now available on all oscillators. You have 14 filter types. This is a deep synth, excellent for dance music as well as creative sound design. 23 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009


Workflow

Browser Preview Tab for both MIDI and audio - If you select a file to, you get a wav display to see and scrub thru its length. I love this. I can lay out a beat using Drum Racks or Simpler. Then I add a bass and keyboard sound using the included sounds. I’ll do my instrument lines until I’m satisfied and then drop a beat or loop or whatever samples I want on top. As it all syncs up instantly, I listen for elements to modify and work the drum or groove patterns. Next are the effects, with multiple sends and routing options for a full sounding mix. While I’m mixing, I can master at the same time with the quality Multiband Dynamics section. When I’m happy with my mix, it’s on to the arrangement as I drop and add parts in real time until I’m happy. It’s stable and efficient enough to work with only a laptop and headphones. I’ve worked full sessions on the road and even in the air. With Ableton, remixes are a breeze; just give me the a capella and that’s all I need.

The Essential Instrument Collection is great. It’s a key point when you need to travel and work or just be flexible in where and how you work. How do they sound? Phat and warm. The woodwinds have the ability to control the breath which really adds to the realness. There are nice classic keyboard sounds, synths and amazing pads. It tops off as each sound is a rack with FX construction kits, grooves, real recordings and loop libraries. Suite 8 is packed. One of the key aspects of Live 8 is that it’s made for all kinds of producers…those that play samples or traditional instruments like guitars and keyboards. It truly does allow you to work and remain creative. As long as you know how your library is setup and where to find stuff, Live 8 makes the creative process a blast. The work tasks for the modern producer are made easier by a product like Live 8. , Matching beats to tempo- cool FX and warping audio with the ability to do it all on the fly, mix and even master as you go. Would I recommend Live 8 to the newest generation of producers? Absolutely. There is a slight learning curve but if you take a little at a time, you’ll find yourself shying away from other sequencers in favor of the monster that is Ableton Live 8. Jeff ‘madjef’ Taylor

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Dream Machine Devine Machines’ OTR 88 Electric Piano Standalone, VST, RTAS, AU Mac PC $359.09 electronic delivery with additional payment plans. Words by Jeff ‘Madjef’ Taylor

My first instrument ever was a 1970’s Mark I Stage 73 Fender Rhodes piano. There are two Things that I remember most about that instrument. It had that amazingly warm Fender Rhodes sound and it was heavy, very heavy. The first song I ever learned to play was Stevie Wonders “You are the Sunshine of my Life”. Stevie really got me with that song and I practiced it for hours. Years later I would load this piano into my car and take it to gigs, causing severe back pain. It was a problem that I continue to grapple with years later. In those days I convinced myself that it was worth the trouble- mainly because I didn’t have a choice. If I was recording R&B or Jazz it had to be a real Rhodes since nothing else would do. After seeing footage of guitarists like Hendrix, Jeff Beck and Pete Townsend coaxing amazing and glorious sounds out of their pieces with the help of stomp boxes, I was soon mimicking these guitar greats with my own cheap stomp boxes. One day I decided to feed the sound from the Rhodes into the stomp box, hitting it with distortion, phase, and flange. The instrument went beyond that one sound and became a twisted orchestra of colors- big phat and beautiful. During the synth revolution in the 80’s and early 90’s , I eventually went along with the masses in believing that the sound of the Rhodes could be captured in synthesis. I stored the instrument away in the corner of the basement. I tried many synths that promised a true Rhodes sound and recorded on several projects with emulations of the real thing. I longed for that true analog phatness. The sound of a 70’s Rhodes piano in its true vintage nature was forever etched in my mind. Eventually, thanks to the emergence of Neo Soul that sound became popular again and I was again lugging and recording the beloved Stage 73. It never occurred to me that anyone would be able to emulate the sound enough to please me until now. Designs on Divinity Nicolas Lacoumette and Efflam Le Bivic of Devine Machine, have managed to take the soft synth to the next level with the release of the Rhodes OTR88. Devine machine has decided that not only can you have your basic Rhodes 26 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009

tone, but you can also color the sound with a multitude of tweaking features, guitar stomp pedal type effects all in an eye popping and beautiful graphic interface. The stomp boxes in this soft synth are super sexy. I have had the chance to play around with the OTR88 for a couple of weeks and it is an amazing piece of software. Bringing together two things I love most, a true Rhodes sound and Stomp boxes. The OTR88 comes with a number of presets for you to select, each one sounds great but wait! It goes so much beyond that by allowing you to add stomp boxes in order to create one-of-a-kind sounds. You can chain up to 5 stomp box effects together, Just left click on the area where the pedals exist and you get a pop up menu asking which of the FXs you would like to insert, right click to remove. You never have to leave the window for anything, all the controls happen in the plug-in window. Each parameter on each stomp box can be controlled via midi control. The effects sound very nice out of the box with reverb pedals, delay, tremelo, phase and distortion to name a few. I loaded a preset called AM Funk, it had a wah wah pedal, distortion, phasor and tremolo. I played a chord, used my mouse on the wah and scrubbed back and forth to simulate a wah wah pedal. It worked flawlessly; there was so much control of the pedal at my fingertips, that I was able to actually play the wah wah pedal with the mouse. I then decided to assign the pedal to a midi controller, so I pressed the button for the midi section,


27 Producerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Edge May-June 2009


graphic overlays appeared on top of the stomp boxes and within minutes I was controlling the software with knobs and faders. Knobby Knockers The knobs and controls were very easy to grab and control with the mouse, they seemed to be smoother than some other plug-ins I’ve used. It feels super hands on. One of the things I like most is its GUI, if you select presets, the current piano and FX chain slides neatly to the right of the screen to make room for a very long list of presets. Believe me they have every Rhodes sound imaginable as a preset to get you started. I was able to create a Rhodes sound from scratch while being in control of things like the pickup, distance of the pickup from the tines, tip hardness, decay, etc. Not that I needed to do this because the included presets are already very good. HOW DOES IT SOUND? In one word I would describe its sound as Vintage. I was able to use it to recreate the 70s vibe sounds of musicians like Gil Scott Heron or the Jazz of Herbie Hancock. The possibilities are limitless with the OTR88. CONTROL Midi automation with this software is very simple. Load your preset, add the effects stomp box of your choice by left clicking on the plug-ins screen, right click to remove a box. Activate midi learn by clicking on the midi icon, overlays appear, touch a knob, move 28 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009

a fader and you are controlling everything from tremelo to reverb time. Rhodes Scholar The graphics are amazing and the entire interface opens in the plugs window, no need to search thru menus etc. It has 4 main sections and they are Presets, FX, Build and Midi. Press a button for the appropriate section, and the whole window of the plug-in slides to the right to make room for that window. Its very slick indeed IN THE MIX these pianos and effects sit nicely in my mix. Nice phat and warm, just like I like it The software really excels in the Effects department, from reverb pedals, wah, to tremelo and faze that all blend well into your mix. The reverb and delays are awesome and added depth to the mix. This is the best Electric Piano software emulation I have ever heard. As for tweakability, It will allow you to build Rhodes patches from scratch in minutes, tweak the sound of individuals notes on the instrument in ways I have never been able to do with an actual Rhodes. You get lots of presets and even an emulation of the Wurlitzer Piano - which Neo Soul tracks have made popular in recent years. It’s a Fat deep and creamy sound, but the kicker for me is the mutilations you can heap on the presets with the generous helping of Stomp boxes. This plug-in is absolutely beautiful, sounds incredible and also doesn’t hog your CPU. Its the most fun I’ve ever had with a softsynth. Did I say it was Phat and Warm? You can find out more about Devine Machine software by visiting their site. http://www.devine-machine.com/


29 Producerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Edge May-June 2009


Beyond Mastering

High-End Mastering & Mixing Suite 9 Dynamics/EQ processors, full metering, plug-in and standalone

30 Producerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Edge May-June 2009


IK Multimedia

T-Racks 3 mastering Suite Standalone and VST, Mac PC VST RTAS, AU Deluxe $499, Standard $399 Single Plugs $99 Available as Digital Download Words by Saga Legend

In use

E

ntering the mysterious world of mastering can be difficult for those jumping in for the first time to even the experienced engineer. The fact that this step can literally make or break a record can be enough to send any novice or professional reeling. Fortunately IK Multimedia has taken some of the voodoo out of mastering with their introduction of the new T-Racks 3 mastering suite. This suite is an upgrade from the older T-Racks system.

What’s Inside the Rack The new T-Racks comes stocked with new plugins as well as all the old ones from the previous versions. The new batch includes a Linear phase eq, opto compressor, Fairchild 660, an impressive brickwall limiter, plus other dynamic processors. You can run it standalone or open the whole suite inside your favorite DAW. Now with the newest update, the individual plug-ins can also be used separately inside your workstation in real time! The T-R3 also comes stocked with a phase scope plus other invaluable audio analyzing tools.

My first experience using the T-R3 was inside my Pro Tools HD rig. The sheer power of it was too CPU intensive to run in conjunction with my session. I recommend it be used in standalone. The TR-3 has everything you need to get your CD master EQ’d, compressed and maximized. The T-racks workflow is similar to a chain. Each plugin follows the other in succession. You can add up to 8 plus at a time but you really will only need about 3. Also included in the GUI is a spectrum analyzer, phase scope, peak and perceived loudness meter. Your audio files can be imported into the interface by drag and drop and then ordered as you please. Once you are satisfied with the sound on each track you can process and export the whole CD. A real cool feature is the seamless integration of the Tr-3 and the A.R.C. The A.R.C. pops up as a switch on the bottom of the GUI that can be turned off or on.

The End

The world of mastering can be a daunting place to explore without the right tools and a map. The T- Racks 3 gives you all the tools you need plus a simple map (in this case an intuitive GUI) to navigate through almost effortlessly. The included plug-ins are powerful and rival some of the best. Being able to use the A.R.C gives you peace of mind that you are listening accurately to your master. The fact that you are able to use the plug-ins in your mix also sweetens the deal. If you are the novice trying to get a decent sound out of your mix or an experienced audiophile looking for that perfect all in one mastering plug; look no further than the Tr-3 mastering suite. This is the answer to all your mastering needs. http://www.ikmultimedia.com 31 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009


MOTU BPM Standalone VST iLok protection (key included)

M

OTU is a strange company. They’ve always been there supplying the composer with a proper sequencing environment with Digital Performer. They have the powerful MachFive sampler and high end virtual instrument libraries from Symphonic Instrument to the very sexy Ethno Instrument. Their audio interfaces and MIDI devices are all top-notch solutions. By many they’re seen as a Mac company first and PC support is there, well just because. It’s because of this I was a little worried when MOTU turned its attention toward the Rap genre with a product straight from a producer’s wish list or an accountant’s ledger. Let’s dive in and find out. It arrives in quality packaging containing three discs, an iLok USB device (dongle) and a thick manual. Installation was pretty straightforward with a quick update to the iLok drivers and a set-up exe. Along with the install disc are the two DVD-ROMS with the actual library folders BPM ufs and BPM ufs1. These can be placed on a different/ separate hard drive (NTFS). In this case RTFM does not apply. For windows the listed location was wrong. It’s actually Program Files/MOTU/BPM. That’s where your short-cuts to the library files go. The manual itself is very well laid out and (perhaps for the first time ever) follows a logical order. Yes, the chapters actually flow in order to how you would typically use the product. The quickstart isn’t the usual PDF and instead is the first chapter and that’s really all you need to get into track construction. Honest.

Main Interface

The main interface is a perfect model of a drum machine complete with virtual pads. These Bank Pads have 32 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009

unlimited layering, with individual mix and effect settings. The right holds the browser strip where the choices of construction kits, pattern + kit, patterns alone, loops, sounds and instruments. All of these different groupings are interchangeable and play well together so you’ll have a huge assortment of beats and sounds out of the gate. You’ll choose how the browser and file loading operates on the lower right. I chose the Auto Load option to make hearing the results of sound swapping in real time while I mixed and matched drum patterns and drum kits.

Boom-Bap to Snap Clap

The sounds are all here and completely usable without additional help. The kits include themes like Acoustic Mood, Beat City, Big Star, Machine, Old School, South and West Coast. Four additional banks round out the package and serve as additional options to increase the number of colors on the palette. Many of the sounds will be familiar to beatsmiths, but that adds to the authenticity of the offering. Fine research was done into nailing the core sounds of these genres and the material is appropriate and fitting without the edge of parody some sample libraries seem to fall over.

Synths and Sounds

I must not have read the promotional material correctly. While exploring the Sound category I thought this would be really sick if it had regular instruments too. Somebody could make something really crazy if they…oh wait. Guitar, Keyboards, Pad and Strings. Synth Aggressive [rez-leads], Synth Bass, Synth Poly & Leads, Wood and


the Loop Mode, you’ll be deciding how BPM treats the material. Sample is for straight non-chopped phrases and works like a traditional sampler. Pitch and duration are affected. Stretch adjusts the pitch only, Slice works with ‘sliced’ samples and is used to sync samples or switch tempos. Slice with Map activated is the sample set for variations in slice ordering.

Sequencer First

X-Samples. It’s a huge library that avoids the ROMpler trend of grouped patches sounding similar. Every sound is distinct and useable. The default reverbs are tasteful and short. The sound design direction is ‘sampled instruments’ and not captured like a [Big 3 bright and shiny] ROMpler. The instruments have a slight dusty nature which is a perfect fit for our genres of interest.

By initializing a Rack, we ready the main sequencer window to capture our performance. The Racks are for adding instruments, loops and even audio phrases. For MIDI control I can enable several devices as once and have both a pad controller and MIDI keyboard active simultaneously. My chosen workflow is to channel any incoming MIDI to the selected Bank/Part. This ensures whatever I reach for will be accepted as a controller and I can alternate MIDI devices as I see fit. I mean to drive this point home as it’s part of the overall feeling of speed when working with BPM. The piano roll gives us the option of bar length up to 32 bars and has a metronome count-in. After you’ve dropped your notes onto a track, you can switch to Graphs and edit Rolls, TimeShift, Velocity, Length, Pan, Semi - Fine, Cut off Mod, Resonance and Decay Mod.

One Step at a Time

Drum Synthesizer The Drum Synthesizer allows the user to create electronic styled drum hits or choose among the numerous presets on offer. Use these sounds as your own unique percussion or beef up your current kits with layering.

Chopping Block Blocked

BPM does not slice audio, but handles sliced audio (Rex) quite well. Map (button) is where most will go next to arranging the individual slices chromatically to MIDI. You will be triggering each slice with a MIDI note. The timing is preserved and can be dragged away from BPM for further editing in the host app if you wish. By choosing

I found it dead easy to drop in drum beats and or mangle the presets into all sorts of percussive mayhem. It’s a fun exercise to compare the sound of a kit and pattern and its visual layout on the step sequencer and alternating between dropping notes at exact points and using a pad controller for groovy drops. It’s nice that the pencil tool (mouse left click to add notes) also is the eraser, but I’ve erased many perfect live hits while trying to select the note for editing. I would love to have a track lock or a simple undo. Quantize resolutions range from 8 to 32 and I’m a little surprised BPM doesn’t support higher resolutions. Man, they are taking this groovebox thing seriously. So much so there are multiple Groove Templates to add feel to the often rigid programming associated with step sequencers. There’s MPC style with Swing percentages, live drummer with a lay-back, push-beat, shuffle and straight- all with variations. There is an ode to the Linn drum under the category Machine which seems to hint that these categories could be expanded in the future.


Beats as a Bridge to a Building Each instance of BPM can run a max of 16 Scenes. Consider a Scene to be the current state of BPM and its patterns and sequences. Similar to a pattern based sequencer, the idea is create a song by placing your Scenes in a particular order. A Scene can have up to 16 Patterns. Bottom left, above the Transport area allows us to choose among the patterns. A Song is composed of an arrangement of Scenes and the Pattern that plays for any Scene is controlled by the Scene Editor. The Song Editor is a linear timeline where we drag and drop Scenes to create the arrangement.

Although I “did get it” and was able to lay out my song, I found this approach a little unintuitive and in contrast to the rest of BPM’s quickness and ease of use. I would have liked an exact object called Scene01/Pattern01 with a phrase of my own choosing at the end. Then I could drag my ‘Scene01-Pattern01-second-verse-starts’ onto the Song Editor at the appropriate bar.

The Effects and SP Mode The Effects assignments are pretty flexible and allow you to insert effects at many points along the signal path or audio chain. It’s a staggering amount of effects with the bread and butter matched with vinyl noises to crust and dirt, and lovely Impulse Response reverbs. MOTU deserves a knock for claiming to have an [Emu] SP [2000] Mode. It’s an obvious attempt to pull producers in by claiming to capture the gritty and lo-fi goodness of the 34 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009

legendary sampler. To the left of the bank and Rank is a small radial that activates the mode. What does it sound like? Real good, but real good as in sounding like a well chosen combination of effects and filters from the FX engine. I felt I could dial this sound in myself. Now that could be taken as a compliment to the numerous effect choices and their overall quality or it could be the truthful observation that a product done this well doesn’t need the extra boost of a gimmicky SP Mode. MOTU could have easily included this effect as a preset in the FX choices. It would have made it much more flexible and allowed the user to tailor the effect.

Apples, Oranges and Sampling Applets The Sampling Sport is done through one of two ways; a separate, but linked application called the BPMSampler applet or directly onto a pad. The applet has its own independent audio and MIDI settings and can monitor incoming audio levels. In the main BPM, above the Editor Area are the Sampling Controls where you choose the sampling system and start the actual sampling. By not allowing you to sample or better yet record audio directly into your sequencer grid, MOTU maintains the virtual drum machine motif. It’s still a little off-putting that the sampler app is a separate program instead on a button inside the main interface. Once audio is sampled into a clip, I can slice the audio


Entire Session. This is how you should SAVE you Work. You can drag a Scene to your desktop or any folder and to export the current audio.

Studio Integration

using Slice, Grid or Transients and adjust the sensitivity. Initializing BPM as a [track] VST effect will allow the sampling/recording of the host’s sequencer channel. This could be a short cut for sampling in time with your session and taking advantage of BPM’s effects. It’s dead easy to drop

You’ll have 16 separate outputs in addition to the Main Outputs. These multi-outs will also be available when BPM is run as a plug-in in your hosting app and will appear as normal track out assignments. The Mixer includes auxiliary channels- used as independent busses. The Aux Sends follow a traditional consoles’ set up and can be paired with the FX Send [FX button, then press add FX] to control the amount of wetness. You can also record MIDI automation to capture your tweaks

Concussive Conclusion

Trax Exploitation BPM makes exporting and sharing tracks a simple affair with drag and drop working to move your projects into a finalized folder - including Individual Loops (of audio or MIDI) . A Scene is a snapshot of the patterns and sequences active in the bank and rack. A Performance contains all the settings, including all the scenes, edits to the kits, effect and mix settings. A performance is the

MOTU BPM, the Beat Production machine is aimed at answering the common request from producers to have an MPC in software. Minus the hardware integration products such as NI Maschine offers, MOTU have done just that. It’s part Spectrasonics Stylus and part Fxpansion GURU, but with a much simpler interface that pushes the most common features needed for urban production front and center. It takes the next logical step of adding ROMpler soundbanks to lay down full music on top of the beats and promises to add UVI expansion packs in the future. The current sets available cover a wide range including atmospheric sound effects, vintage synths, toys, solo instruments and even a producer pack jammed with sounds, instruments and loops. Prices vary from $149 to $299. This is destined to become a franchise piece as MOTU provides an excellent choice when asked What do you use to make beats? For more information www. MOTU.com Don’t forget the UVI expansion Packs Link: http://www.motu.com/products/software/BPM/moresounds.html 35 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009


36 Producerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Edge May-June 2009


Nucleus Soundlab

Viral Outbreak VST Plug-in and Refill based on Access Music TI $124.00 USD $99.95 for Refill, $139 for Multi-format bundle. DVD and electronic download. Words by Griffin Avid

Viral Outbreak is a new soundware product based on the sounds of the Virus* TI hardware synthesizer. Using the power of extensive 96khz multisampling, manual looping and professional preset design, Nucleus SoundLab brings this powerful electronica sound to your productions! Viral Outbreak is available both as a VSTi plugin, and a Reason 4.0 Refill. In the ongoing war between the hardware and software approaches to creating a production sound palette, there exists a Maginot Line. This line of defense used by both sides relies on samples of hardware to create their soundbanks. The ROMpler [presets are made from samples stored on ROM chips] asks the question which is more accurate representation of a sound; a modeled emulation or a sample? As hard drives sizes increase, the multi-gig virtual instrument has become an easy solution for getting the sound of hardware to merge with the flexibility of software.

efficient. I appreciate the File Browser opening in a separate window and being able to stay open as I continued laying down tracks. This seems like an obvious approach all VST GUIs should consider. I’m still used to using the virtual keyboard and wish it was an optional drop down feature. The Mod Matrix and newly added Arpeggiator add to the flexibility and are some of the tools worth exploring for creating a more customized sound in a preset-based offering. The sounds chosen highlight the range of the TI and supply the producer with key sounds that are able to define a track as the main and catchy element.

In comes Nucleus Soundlab with their Viral Outbreak VST and Refill based on the Access Music Virus TI. We have all been hearing the TI’s presets on many tunes and have always known the synth programming was stellar on the Access line of synths. The interface is a replication of the synth’s surface with great attention to detail and a logical layout that does not require any sort of manual to explore. The engine tossing around the multisamples is the powerful Wusikstation. Wusik.com provides a shell app with a robust effect and routing engine that makes the Viral Outbreak much more than a sample library. I find the sounds inspiring and the workflow fast and

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Surprisingly, Nucleus Soundlab did include the Access drum kits, but for our heavier drum work this serves as additional layers and not the meat and potatoes bottom weight. It is true to its source, but not enough for a standalone collection. I only point this out for those who have heard the TI has drums and expect the usual assortment shipping with most workstation ROMplers. The Oscillator banks are generally preset destinations and allow for some very big layering. I was able to push the synth to its limit without pops or clicks without a multi-core system. I have a new friend in my virtual rack. To find out more about the Viral Outbreak, I snatched a few minutes to talk time with head programmer Jeremy Janzen from Nucleus Soundlab. Griffin Avid: Aside from its popularity, why was the Access Virus TI chosen and is their anything about its architecture that made it an obvious choice? The main consideration was that the TI has a very unique timbre that undeniably isn’t easily available in software form. The TI model was chosen in particular because of its interesting wave/formant/grain synthesis types. Could you tell us a little bit about the creation of the VST and how the sampling was done? Sure. The VST itself and the sampling followed very different paths. For the sampling, I used a program called Extreme Sample Converter. It’s excellent for sampling hardware synths. I sampled a wide variety of my own TI presets, as well as other sounds. I sampled these at 32-bit 96khz using my RME interface, then downsampled them to 24-bit 44khz. What followed is the real work - trimming, processing and looping each waveform. As the final product contains about 1500 waveforms that took quite some time, especially as my looping standards are very high. I won’t accept loops that don’t sound natural, or click - and I don’t use autolooping tools either. The VST itself uses technology from Wusik.com. Basically I license that from them for a fee on each copy sold. It’s worked out very well for both of us. Why use the Wusikstation as a host? What about that company made them the clear choice over something like NIs Kontakt Player? I did attempt to contact NI but I never received a reply. That narrowed down my choices considerably. But even if I had the Kontakt Player as a choice, I would have been tempted to use Wusikstation. Its wavesequencing features are a perfect fit for the Virus waveforms. Kontakt Player has nothing like that. You’ve used the Wusikstation engine as a shell and added several surprising features like the Mod Matrix and now the arpeggiator. As a product generally 38 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009

aimed at being a preset bank, why did you feel it was necessary to add this features? After all, you would have been fine with layering, general tweaks and modest effects. Actually, we have directly followed the Wusikstation versions. So when William (William K is the author of Wusikstation) adds new features, we add them to Viral Outbreak as well. You’ve made your product also available as a Reason Refill. Why is Propellerhead Reason an end format and what is your experience with Reason? Honestly, Reason Refill is my preferred format right now. It’s so wide-open for sound design. You can create very large modular arrangements and save them as Combinators - as well as map ‘macro’ controls so beginner users don’t need to delve into the depths of the patch to tweak it easily. The other factors are that the Refill market is very large, and the Propellerhead staff are extremely friendly and great to work with. Are there other hardware synths being ported over and what other products are on the horizon? Right now there aren’t any plans to do more products based on a single hardware synth. That doesn’t mean there won’t be hardware synth samples coming in different types of packages though... Our next products will focus on two formats - Reason Refills and Camel Audio Alchemy. I can’t speak any more about them right now, but if you own Reason and/ or Alchemy you’ll have plenty more goodies from us soon! Could you please go into a little bit of detail behind the Master Unison and how it can be used to beef up the final output? Master Unison is a monophonic unison that uses a variable number of voices. Depending on what your channel polyphony is set at, it will use that many unison voices. The level of detune is global for the entire patch and set in percentage values. Personally I didn’t use the Master Unison much in my Viral Outbreak patches. The reason for this is many of the samples themselves are recorded very fat, with Unison set on the Virus. So there really wasn’t a need for more fatness. Of course, its there if you want to experiment! Are there any other tips or tricks to getting even more of the Viral Outbreak? I think it’s easy to ignore the advanced wavesequencing features of Viral Outbreak and just use it like a Virtual Analog synth. But that’s really missing the point of the synth. It’s not just meant to sound like a Virus, but to


take the ‘building block’ sounds of a Virus and use those with wavesequencing for a very modern sound. I recommend checking out our Viral Outbreak videos for more information on this. See: http://www.nucleus-soundlab.com/video/Viral%20 Outbreak%20VSTi%20Intro.mov Any other words about Nuclear Soundlab as a company and some of the other products you offer? While it seems there wasn’t time to include this information in the review, Viral Outbreak VSTi has been recently updated to version 1.5. It’s a fairly major free update. The biggest and most important addition is the Groovebox. This is an internal sequencer than turns Viral Outbreak into a complete production environment! Not only that but 136 new presets are included, many of which take

advantage of the Groovebox features. It’s a bit hard to describe so I really recommend watching the 1.5 update video below for more details. http://www.nucleus-soundlab.com/video/Viral%20 Outbreak%201_5%20Demo.mov Finally I’d like to thank Producer’s Edge and all it’s readers for the interest in our products! For those looking in inject the sound of an Access Virus synth into their production without the pricing hurdle, the Nucleus Soundlab Viral outbreak is a viable solution. It’s recommended because of the quality sampling job, ease of use and tweakable sound engine. You can find out more about this powerful ROMpler styled VST by visiting www. nucleus-soundlab.com. Producer’s Edge thanks Jeremy Janzen for taking the time to talk to us.

39 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009


KORG microKORG XL The Retro Box that Rox Words by Drew Spence

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o you really need a first paragraph that explains what the original microKORG was or is? In a live context the original microKORG represents a portable and fun little synth with a big sound, usable vocoder and excellent sound design behind its popular presets. In a studio context, it’s an easy way to capture the tone of the father unit, MS2000, in a smaller package. It arrived in 2002- ahead of its nearest competitor the Alesis Micron. For many, it became the first purchase intended to add synth tones to their productions. The points against the microKORG were squarely based on its physical presentation. The micro keys and matrix based editing kept a used MS2000 on the list of possible alternatives. The analog modeling was a clear winner and the MS2000 is one of the top selling synths of all time. The family system was repeated recently with the RADIAS and R3. Korg shifts gears and adds on to the MicroKorg fever with an XL version. Korg is quick to explain that the microKORG XL sits between the R3 and microKORG. Yes, it’s the MMT (Multiple Modeling Technology) engine from the RADIAS, and yes, it’s the same 8 voice polyphony… aside from the motion sequencing, the MicroKorg XL is the R3 with the addition of the PCM waves. 40 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009

The Look and Feel Form and Function

So much to love and so much to whine about. The retro styling of the MicroKorg XL adds to its charm. How could you not want a synth that looks like this in your studio? The big round silver dials seal the deal. The DJ styled toggle switches for bank select, timber and octave range (wow) really top it off. There is a slight wobbly looseness to the knobs, but nothing to be too concerned about. The detented knobs for patch, genre and edit knobs are looser than the microKORG but exhibit a satisfying snap at their notched locations. The knobbage is marked with a stripe down their sides, but offer no indication of clock position on their tops. When looking directly down at the Knobs, it’s a little hard to tell what position they are in. The LED is huge. I mean huge. You get two lines of large text that’s easy to read, but it’s not a whole lot of information. The problem with the lack of markers continues as the LED does not change from its current setting until you turn one of the value adjusting knobs. In other words, you might turn the Function Select knob to Effect and expect and LED to update and let you know you are now editing the effects. The LED does


Sound generation system MMT (Multiple Modeling Technology) Number of timbres Maximum 2 (when using Layer, Split, or Multi) Polyphony 8 voices (up to 4 when the vocoder is selected) Synth 2 oscillator + noise generator Oscillator 1 Waveform SAW, PULSE, TRIANGLE, SINE, FORMANT, NOISE, PCM/DWGS, AUDIO IN Modulation WAVEFORM, CROSS, UNISON, VPM Oscillator 2 Waveform SAW, PULSE, TRIANGLE, SINE Modulation RING, SYNC, RING+SYNC Wave shaping Wave shaping types DRIVE, DECIMATOR, HARDCLIP, OCT SAW, MULTI TRI, MULTI SIN, SUB OSC SAW, SUB OSC SQU, SUB OSC TRI, SUB OSC SIN, LEVEL BOOST Multi-mode filters Filter 1-24 dB/oct LPF – -12 dB/oct LPF, HPF, BPF, Thru Filter 2 LPF, HPF, BPF Vocoder 16-band, adjustable level and pan for each band, Formant Shift function, Formant Hold function Effects 17 KAOSS-based algorithms + Master EQ Programs128 programs (banks A/B x 8 genres x 8 categories)

synth incidents. The key action has been addressed in a few ways. That ratio and size of the keys themselves have been improved. On the microKORG, the black keys are pyramidal in shape on the MK and were a little prone to finger slipping. The action is very fast and the vertical throw seemed to end a little too abruptly. There is a gentle sloping downward of the black keys at their far ends that almost leveled their tops to the white keys. Due to the small key size, my (massively manly) fingers usually pressed down in this area and even pressed down on the panel instead of the keys sometimes. The XL has what Korg refers to as “Natural Touch Keys”. The first thing I noticed was raised square edged black keys that simulate semi- weighted keys and give them a tighter feel with a cushiony landing at the fully depressed point. This really feels more natural and satisfying and you would swear there were real hammers underneath the hood. Now my fingers can slide and stop at the rear wall. The white keys are also squared off in front with a small lip - giving them a more substantial feel as well. This all makes the XL much more playable in the studio without the need for a full sized keyboard. The MK XL’s editing matrix has been changed to a cleaner and more simplified version of the MK’s grid layout. Although scaled down a bit, it’s actually easier to navigate. Since Griffin Avid is basing his Corner on programming patches using the soft editor, I’ll let him run through those details and move on.

not change until you actually adjust a value which makes not having an actual on-top-ofthe-dial marker an issue. I fixed that with a magic marker by placing a single dot at the stripe. No biggie. This continues round back as the lettering for Audio and MIDI Ports is created from raised molding and not the expected decals or printed lettering of any kind. You will need a flashlight to see what’s what. For a unit that’s destined to be used live, this is a strange oversight. Since they do follow the standard IN, OUT and THRU in left to right order, you’ll be okay.

Chasing the Chassis

Okay, okay. The microKORG and XL have a metal plate covering a plastic chassis. It’s actually so light that I’ve dropped my unit several times while moving gear around the studio and dropped it once on the street while bringing it to the filming studio. So far so good and no problems to report. The microKORG has wooden panels and the XL has an impact-reducing shock lip that runs around its sides, um I call it that after those dropped-

Various Vader Vocoder

The 8-band vocoder and included mono-jacked condenser microphone let you know vocoding on the MicroKorg was going to be more about fun than a serious production choice. The XL bumps up to 16 vocoder bands for improved clarity and includes an XLR condenser mic of much better quality. Since so many producers are experimenting with vocoder and talk box effects, I think we can spend a little more time here. 41 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009


The voice is formed by the interaction between the basic sound wave generated by your vocal chords and all the modulators (shape of the mouth, nasal cavity and tongue) that affect its tonal character. In a gross sense, a vocoder (VOice CODER) works by using a bandpass filter to reduce or strip away information from a source (your voice or formant) and apply this data to another signal called the carrier (the instrument you play to generate the speech-like tones). The change in volume or amplitude of your voice is kept as a modulator and this envelope information is also used to affect the carrier. The presets run the usual course from lush chorals to gritty robot voicings. Mixed in are some nice Vox patches that can take on new character when your own voice is added. The better mic also means it’s more sensitive so you’ll need to make small adjustments to the Audio In knob round back depending on the preset to stop the sound of your fingers on the keys being vocoded! [Don’t worry, we’ll put this to good use later on -GA].

The Total Sound and Terrific Tone Korg holds the bar steady at Fun products that are cool to use. The microKORG XL is another fine addition to the theme of big sounds in a small box. The full engine of the R3 is here and presented to you in all the groovy retro-ness of the XL. The live performance angle makes it a very fast production tool with the most commonly tweaked parameters clearly labeled and quickly available. The sounds are of the expected Korg quality and you’ll find several key patches 42 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009

that could easily carry a song as the main and catchy element. I can almost guarantee you will find the bass and lead tone you’re looking for or at least a close choice that requires minimal tweaks. It’s a hybrid approach that combines wave samples with MMT powered oscillators to create a modern top layer supported by a dirty undertone. Adjusted pricing for only $499USD, which is a great value, lands the XL between the microKORG (mini keys) and the R3 (full sized keys). The light weight portability and 3 to 4 hours of battery time adds to the value. The XL is not a replacement for the microKORG although the sound bank from the microKORG has been translated and ported over along with the one for theMS2000. You cannot import your old custom patches, but it’s so easy to create your own or replicate familiar tones, you shouldn’t have any trouble rebuilding your favorite patches and extending the range of your sonic palette. http://www.korg.com/microkorgxl


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Griffin Avid’s Corner Programming the microKORG XL

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’ve always had an interest in the Korg R3, but I never done more than program a few patches at Sam Ash and record some of its audio for my review comparisons. I appreciated the abilities of the new MMT engine, but was never really inspired to put it through its paces until the microKORG XL. For hip hop and rap we will focus on powerful sounds that can maintain interest or become the meat of the record using a minimalist approach. In other words we’ll be making a few good sounds as opposed to layers and layers of average patches piled up to sound useable. We’ll also avoid drowning the patches in effects and do what we need to do with raw waveforms and oscillators and modest virtual patching and modulation.

Soft Editing 101

system needs to recognize another Korg device. Once the soft editor initializes and scans the XL (all settings you can edit) you’re given the Program List. After initializing a patch and deciding its Voice Mode (Single, Layer, Split and Multi), we can dive right in and begin editing the two Timbres. We’re going to create a combination of lead and bass in layer mode. Our goal is a sound that can hold the bottom melody for a track with a very simple and catchy pattern. Creating your own custom sounds may seem like a chore, a distraction or something so complex; it’s not worth the effort to learn. There are many types of synthesis and various approaches to sound design, but the basics remain the same. Learning your gear will extend its life and usefulness in your set up and will give you complete control over your Producer’s Edge.

The first thing you’ll need to do is install the USB driver for the microKORG XL. If you have any previous Korg USB- In Layer mode, we have two Timbres, each with two aware-gear you’ll still need to install the driver as your Oscillators. We have seven different waveforms (think 44 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009


shapes) to choose from. Oscillator 2 gives us four choices and an additional option to use them as RING or SYNC modulators. [Remember: Modulate means to cause a change]. Both Oscillators run through the mixer for volume level and for the addition of noise. The bottommost knobPunch Level adjusts the amount of Pulse waveform that is added during the attack. Think of it as a drum’s accent being used on waveforms. Shaping the sound is done by the filters and AMP follows to control the volume possibly affected by the filter stage. The Wave Shape Type works like the kind of tweak you’d find buried in the effect menu, but here you get more MMT goodness with the ability to affect and transform the input waveform. Use the Decimator for 8 bit destruction and the SubOscs for added bottom. During my experimentations I did want to chain several of these Wave Shapes together. Oh well. For the XL, the envelopes and ADSR (Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release) is controlled by the Envelope Generators or the EG1 (filter), EG2 (volume) and EG3 (true ADSR). It’s great to be able to both drag the control points AND dial numerical values indirectly. Since the XL Soft Editor does not come with a manual, I’ll highlight some of the more interesting and not so obvious features. Firstly, you can open

several patches and exchange different module settings between them. Any section with a crosshair can be dragged and dropped into another patch window. If you’ve designed the perfect undertone timbre, you can keep adapting it for different sound banks without copying and pasting the whole patch.

Oscillator the Grouch While you were choosing Oscillator types, you may have seen one or two unfamiliar types listed. VPM is Variable Phase modulation meant to [manual quote follows – GA] produce metallic-sounding overtones, using a sine wave at a harmonic (integer) multiple of oscillator 1’s fundamental to modulate the phase of oscillator 1. That spells FM (Frequency modulation) Synthesis to most of us. PCM/ DWGS uses actual waveforms and Formant is based on samples of the human voice. The LFOs (Low Frequency Oscillators) are used as modulators. Although they are indeed oscillator waveforms, they fall below the audible range and are used to affect the other oscillators. This is how we achieve the wah wah pedal sound by using an inaudible LFO to raise and lower (modulate) the cutoff frequency. Of course rules are meant to be broken, but only after you understand them! Bass bottom {Sine wave} Leads {Sawtooth} Basses and Pads {Sawtooth, Square and Triangle} Wind {Pulse, Square or in combination as Pulse-Width} Wind 2 {Triangle can be substituted for many waveforms, but Sawtooth is the most versatile}

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The Virtual Patch area shouldn’t be overlooked. While it serves as a modular patch bay, it’s actually a great source for controlling the expressiveness and the character of your patches depending on how you play them. Korg gives you an additional six user assigned patch routings. The arpeggiators has a simple step sequencer with six different types of pattern directions. The Gate Time is the effect many producers are looking for to add shimmering sounds to their patches. Also you’ll want to take advantage of the unique Swing Time and enjoy the mayhem caused by negative swing values. The Voice takes advantage of analog emulation by thickening the tone by detuning the surrounding voices and spreading them across the stereo range. Analog tuning refers to the drifting pitch caused by the instability of analog oscillators. Sample based producers will want to pat attention to the pitch Detune to match the semitone changes due to stretching and inaccurate scaling of the sample up and down the keyboard. It’s always been a difficult task to match perfect-pitch instruments with detuned samples.

Making the Mix

Most avoid the Combi (nations) patches in ROMpler banks since they usually consist of two tones that do not compliment each other. The architecture of the R3 powered XL allows the user to combine certain characteristics of a patch and build a Combi-layer much larger than the sum of its parts. Mixing and matching the timbres of the included soundbanks is a great way to create a unique palette and a randomization feature for patches settings can lead to a creative spark during a flat session. It’s Bass SHR2 (Griffin Avid B62) that can be used multiple ways in track. The ARP is used for the chorus and halfway the timbre being affected by the arpeggiators can be switched for a variation. The stripped down sound of bass and lead forms the meat of the track. In the “AWALL remix”, you can hear the bass and lead followed by the bass alone filtered. The ARP and delay adds movement to the floating pad. The nasal nature of

a triangle helps the short horn-like stab turn into tasty cheese. In “Day of Scarecrows” I’m using the combination of bass and lead in two instances. The opening sound is only different because I switched oscillator shapes and ring modulation for an almost metallic sheen. During the verse, the triangle waveform does double duty. The same patch is lowered in volume to create a ghost bassline running as the variation.

Banging for Drums

The microKORG XL patch A27 Syn Drum uses a crossmodulated triangle and white noise to make the snare and the kick’s bass tone is a sine. The bonus translated patches from the MS2000 contain many drum patches and rhythmic sequences. We’ll process all of these and sample them for layering and additional sonic sculpting. It was Korg Hardware Specialist Rich Formidoni who gave me the idea to crank the mic input way up in a vocoder patch and sampling the background noises. I created the percussive noises by interacting with the surface of the XL while holding down a key. All in all, I find the microKORG XL to be an excellent addition to my sonic arsenal. Its simple interface and the inviting design of the soft editor ensure I will be able to move beyond the included presets and create unique and usable sounds. This is the first use of the XL suffix by Korg and it signifies something different than a part two to the great selling microKORG. For now XL means cool looking synth that’s fun to use. I’ll see you next issue.

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In The Loop Series: Big Fish Audio Bollyhood Beats $99 USD Words by Fred Frederix

I’ve been lucky enough to have been asked to review an absolutely awesome sample CD by BigFishAudio, entitled “BOLLYHOOD BEATS”. This double DVD set is unique in several manners, which we’ll investigate a bit further in a moment, but first I’d like to give you an overall description of the product. Bollywood Beats is basically a double DVD set, configured in five different formats; Acid and Wav on DVD one, on the second DVD it has Apple Loops, Rex, and RMX files (YES! RMX, as in Stylus RMX). This is one of the first sample libraries that I know of that actually includes all five formats, and one of the first I’ve ever seen to include RMX files. This is significant, in that, many (and I mean MANY of the house and

trance guys are usung Stylus RMX, and there are less that 20 known expansion libraries that I’m aware of, and this title makes the first one to my knowledge that’s a unique genre as well! ) Because this collection has been configured for so many formats, virtually any writer or composer could utilize this collection; it all boils down to anyone that can import a “WAV” file can use it. This also includes (all in native form) ACID, LOGIC, REASON, STYLUS RMX, GARAGEBAND, CUBASE, SONAR, and DIGITAL PERFORMER. Now a few words about the actual sounds/loops............... all are played by a REAL Indian Percussionist, on REAL ethnic percussion instruments. They sound big thick and chunky, with the realism that can only be achieved from 49 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009


a real instrument and a microphone; there is no programming here! The one thing I did find odd after listening, and utilizing some of the loops in a track, is that they were all played by one guy; Sanket Athale. I must tip my hat to him, because the loops are all quite different, and sound as if they were played by a variety of great percussionists; no wonder I’d have to say, is why BIGFISHAUDIO chose him to do the collection; great work indeed. The loops run the gamut from simple tabla parts to intense rolls and breaks that can be used for all sorts of productions. I especially enjoyed how the loops were done, in that, there are many simple hand percussion loops that can be layered on top of one another to create a really nice complex backbone for almost any type of percussion based production. My primary genre is Vocal House, with soulful flair, and I do love to use ethnic hand percussion as it adds realism to the texture of the track.

all I did was (and I’m not joking) insert the DVD with the Apple Loops, created a new folder entitled “Bollywood Beats” on my secondary drive, then copied the files from the DVD into that folder. This took about 3 minutes I believe as it was 3.2 gigs in size. Once finished, I opened Logic, opened it’s Media Browser (where your loops are), clicked on the Loops tab, then dragged the folder named “Bollywood Beats” onto the “View” box. At this point Logic will ask you if you would like to keep the current location of the library, or to copy it onto the main drive, which I preferred its current location on a separate drive, and that’s it; I was dragging loops in! That’s what I call quick! It really couldn’t have been easier. Within 10 minutes I had a killer percussion track, and simply added a kick and a 4/4 High Hat to give it a Tribal type of house sound.

In use is where this collection truly shines. Logic 8 on a Mac Quad core running OS 10.4.11 is my main platform, and the one this was tested on. At this point, I have to let people in on a little secret; I’m probably one of the laziest people on earth, and I want instant gratification; I’m not one to fiddle around for hours copying files and moving things around to get some music going. Well, this collection, and I’m 100% honest here, had me up and pulling loops into Logic with 10 minutes of inserting the DVD into the drive! That fact alone is mind-boggling! There was no fussing around with “aliasing” or “locating libraries” in any fashion at all. I was so happy with it,

This collection will be highly recommended by me to anyone that wants to spice up a track with some very unique hand percussion, that doesn’t sound like “everyone else’s” loops! Think of it this way.........92 kits, 930 loops, and the ultimate in ease of use.......for $99.........What are you waiting for? 10 out of 10 review here! Great job BIG FISH!

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DJ Fred Frederix myspace.com/thewerkinbrothers


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Native Instruments

Maschine

Hardware drum machine controller with integrated Software interface. $699 USD words by Will Loiseau

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ative Instruments comes in roaring in ’09 with Maschine, a hardware/software midi controller/ drum machine built for enhancing your studio DAW or as a tool during live gigs. Downloading the update was a bit tedious but other than that the installation was straight forward. It’s the appearance of the hardware interface that’s attention-grabbing and screams fun all day. What will get most peoples attention is the sixteen, velocity-sensitive pads that light up on the hardware for observable feedback. Due to the overall light weight of the hardware ( A plastic outer cover with a thin metal plate composing the top layer), traditional drum machine users may need some time to get used to the softer gummy pads and the thinner base underneath the pads of Maschine. The clearly labeled functions on the interface give the feeling of sitting in the driver’s seat of a car with a user friendly dashboard. I had been searching for a way to not have to stare at a computer screen for long hours and the mode of operation here is plug-and-play. After skimming through the pages of the manual I was able to navigate without much stoppage. The browser, reminiscent of the NI KORE, allowed me to maneuver through the over 5GB of sounds and assign them to the pads of my choice. The library of sounds include some quality kicks, snares, hi-hats and various other drum sounds as well as strings, basslines, and samples. The Quickbrowse feature allowed me to narrow down 52 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009

the sounds I was looking for by selecting a sound on a pad, hitting the browse button, turning the knob to sample and watching the high-resolution display window until an appropriate sound was found.


Numerous effects that can be automated in real time can help to alter your sounds and samples in a variety of ways. Thirty minutes in I had to remind myself that this thing actually came with a software editor. The software can be used to import and export audio, tag files, find samples quicker, and save songs. It’s a refreshing feeling to not have to rely on a keyboard and mouse to make beats. Maschine can sample from the internal group audio buses or from an external sound source. When the source is internal audio, it’s possible to sample up to 16 bars of the arrangement and slice the recorded loop to a new group, where the slices will be distributed among the 16 pads. By doing this you can freak your remixes and work with two new effects slots per slice. One issue that I noticed early on is the inability to import REX files. Only AIFF and WAV files can be imported. I would like to think that a future update can address this issue but until then many Reason users will be extremely bummed out. Maschine can be used as a plug-in to record from a DAW or as a standalone when used with an interface. The favorable size and lightweight of the hardware made me wish it was standalone in the sense

that it was portable with no need for software assistance. It would be even better if Maschine’s software were able to send MIDI out in order to trigger other VST’s. Since you can run as many instances of the software as your CPU can handle the user also would have access to the additional number of effects. The Maschine can be setup to directly control programs such as Ableton Live by using specially designed templates and copying a documentation folder from a controller editor application directory into Live’s resources folder. Selecting the Maschine controller as the MIDI control surface, input and output options under the preferences menu readies the two applications to sync together. The NI Maschine provides an economically sound alternative to classic drum machines and newer models currently on the market. For those whose introduction to music production was software based and for others who have been looking for experimentation this provides a worthwhile method of integrating the video screen approach of software with the hands on control of hardware. More information www.native-instruments.com/

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54 Producerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Edge May-June 2009


Hardware Special

SoundsForSamplers

AKAI MPC 5000 Website resource DVD Tutorial, Sounds samples and even tech support Words by Drew Spence

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e continue the heavy focus on the drum machine and groove box by sitting down with SoundForSamplers. com. Issue 01 brought us a sampling of the customized and commercial line of drum work available on their website. SoundsForSamplers.com is also an outstanding AKAI hub and home to many MPC resources including tutorials, articles and an active forum. To get a behind-the-scenes- look, we caught the ear of Joe AKA MIDIchlorian Now before we begin to discuss your latest tutorial, I’d like to get your opinion on AKAI’s newest workstation; the MPC 5000. How does it stack up against the older units and why would I make this kind of an investment over the less expensive entry models like the MPC 500, 1000 and 2500?

Arpeggiator, a huge hard drive, hard disk recording, and new timing correction values like 1-64th. Speaking of timing and quantize, you have so many options with the MPC 5000 including a new timing strength. It’s for those who want quantize off but would like a little note correction applied.

The MPC 5000 brings some great features to the table that makes it, in my opinion, the best MPC made to date. Most of the sequencing on any of the Akai MPC samplers are about the same, its the features that separate them and the MPC 5000 has the most features of any MPC ever made.

Another thing that really put this MPC over the top is all the features of OS 2.0. It made the workflow of the 5k the fastest of any MPC to date. So many short cuts where added to make doing comping tasks much more simplified - like assigning sounds to pads and finding a sound to trim. What I love probably best about the new 2.0 update was the ability to group multiple sounds together for quick editing of all the selected sounds.

I agree, but what about its physical specs? The MPC 5000 packs a huge screen, an on board synth,

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PCs crash and my rig crashes a lot, but my MPC hardly ever crashes.

Now

‘an MPC in software’ that would be interesting, but would it have the timing and sequencer feel you expect from a MPC... I’m sure the MPC will still carry this kind of weight it 10 years from now if Akai keeps adding new features. The MPC from day one had been a time

the face behind the place... I would tell anyone that was on the fence about what MPC to get to save up and get the MPC 5000, its well worth the extra change. Some of the top groovebox and drum machine solutions have been passed over by this generation of software-based producers. Even so, it’s still common to find producers looking for ‘an MPC in software’. Many companies have fully integrated software and hardware controllers to merge the feel of a traditional drum machine workflow with the power of the PC. Why do you think the MPC and its name still carry so much weight in the production world? So many reasons why the MPC has staying power. Even with computers as fast as they have become over the last decade, you’re not getting the workflow of a MPC. I have used software and you can do great things with many Apps out there, but that same thing I did in software, I could have done on the MPC in half the time. Another thing is PCs crash and my rig crashes a lot, but my MPC hardly ever crashes. Now ‘an MPC in software’ that would be interesting, but would it have the timing and sequencer feel you expect from a MPC and would it have the ability to hold down a button for Note repeat like a MPC? I’m sure the MPC will still carry this kind of weight it 10 years from now if Akai keeps adding new features. The MPC from day one had been a time saver and that’s why it is still going strong today. Simplicity and speed are key factors that often decide a producer’s workflow. There seems to be a disparity between the amount of features a workstation like the 56 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009

saver and that’s why it is still going strong today. MPC has and the number of functions or tasks its users take advantage of or fully understand. What will your tutorial series do for the MPC user that wants to step his game up? Exactly so many people are not taking advantage of their full MPC potential. We currently have 5 MPC instructional DVDs: The MPC 2000XL, 1000, 2500, 500 and 5000. Every DVD we have made will teach you EVERY feature of that MPC model. So seeing it done and not just reading about it, you will fully digest that MPCs features and that will give you ideas about things you would have never thought to do. Many people I have seen get into bad habits will be able to get the job done but if they fully understood all their MPCs’ features they would spend far less time programming and would have many more ideas and options for their music. I have had producers with platinum records tell me “WOW I used my MPC for almost 10 years and I never knew how to do that.” I’ve gone to Akai music store product demos on the MPC and ended up teaching the Akai reps things. So that being said, our tutorials are for both the advanced and the new users. They are put together in a way that even a noob can understand, and will make just about all MPC users step their game up. We planed to start out with the 5000 instructional DVD seven months ago but when OS 2.0 was announced we waited until Akai dropped the update. I’m glad we did because OS 2.0 really took the MPC5000 to another level. So would he be learning the basics of getting started or does it advanced features that lean toward mastering your gear? Most of the ‘it’s-ya-boy’ making a beat on the MPC videos learn towards the common workflow for chopping samples, placing them on


pads and bangin away- hoping for something hot to jump out. How will you unlock a greater degree of creativity? Each Instructional DVD covers EVERY feature of that MPC. All our DVDs are made in a way that cover the basic though advanced features. But it is not limited to just learning every feature of the machine. Making beats, arranging songs, drum programming techniques and tons or tricks on tips are crammed onto each DVD. When you see everything that can be done on you MPC, that’s when more creative ideas come into play and a greater degree of creativity is achieved. Could you give us a little insight as how these tutorials were made? It’s quite a process. First naturally I master the machine. You are never going to get an instructional DVD from us right when that MPC comes out unless Akai decides to make me and my staff beta testers. I always spend months on the new MPC to really get to know it inside out. Then I decide all the chapters and topics I want to cover. The trick with this last DVD [The MPC5000 DVD-GA] was to get it all to fit on one DVD. When I finally edited everything and made the DVD it came out to be a little over 3 hours. That is one HUGE DVD, but there is just so much you can do on the MPC5000 and I wanted to make sure to cover it all. So much time and work went into all our DVDs, but this MPC5000 DVD was really a process. Just the filming alone took months. I want to not only teach the people their MPCs I am hoping to actually change their life. Especially the people just getting into making music, the jump start I can give them is almost priceless. One thing I noticed when I started making music 15 years ago was producers do NOT help other producers. It’s like most producers think this is a super secret musical martial art no one should teach [pauses and laughs]. So it is great to be able to potently give a person another avenue in their life, especially those involved in the street life. I remember reading a interview with Just Blaze,and he totally dissed the Mpc5000. What is your take on that interview? Yes this was done when the MPC5000 first came out, and I will admit Akai should have waited until OS 2.0 to put this machine out. All his beefs with the mpc5000 where fixed in the OS 2.0 Update. He said “YOU CANNOT TUNE AN ENTIRE PROGRAM AT ONCE?!?!” FIXED IN OS 2.0 AND EVEN BETTER THERE IS A NEW FEATURE TO SELECT MILTI DRUMS PADS TO EDIT ALL AT ONCE He said “You can’t even PREVIEW them (SYNTH PATCHES) before you load them” FIXED IN 2.0 [Yes, he

is yelling-DS] He also said “Every time you go to assign a sample to a pad, it starts at whatever is the first sample in RAM. But hey… if you have a few hundred samples in your ram already, that means that for every pad you go to assign a sample to, you are scrolling though a few hundred sounds just to get to the one you just sampled” FIXED IN 2.0 AND GIVEN 2 NEW OPTIONS TO FIND SOUNDS FASTER IN TRIM MODE. Everything Just Blaze hated about the Mpc5000 is now fixed, I’m sure if he downloads OS 2.0 he will be singing a different song about the Mpc5000. But I am glad he put them on blast with his interview. I think Akai listened well and from that we have a much better MPC 5k. Is there anything else you’d like to say in regard to checking out your tutorials and how it could impact a hardware based producer on the MPC 5000?I really think any of our 5 MPC instructional DVDs are really a must have for all MPC owners. Most people that I talk to that invested in getting a Instructional DVD from us say they should ship with the machines. It’s one thing to read something in a manual, but another thing entirely to see and hear it done right before your eyes. I personally learn quicker seeing something done not reading it, and most people are like that as well I’ve come to find out. Also when you order a tutorial DVD from us you get some free sound kits. We been making custom drum kits for over a decade under SoundsForSamplers. com. So you get to test the waters of our sound design as well. I think it’s quite safe to say that we make some of the illest Hiphop drum kits you will find anywhere. Even though places that say that have quality hip hop drum kits are plentiful these days, almost NONE actually deliver on that. So if you got a MPC be wise and make a small investment in yourself by getting a MPC tutorial from us. It will save you years of time and give you the inspiration and know how to use your Akai MPC to its fullest potential. If you are reading this and are interested in our MPC Instructional DVDS visit our website at www.akaimpc.com. If you want some of the illest drum kits for your sample visit our site www.SoundsForSamplers.com Make sure to check us out on youtube as well. Youtube.com/soundsforsamplers http://www.akaimpc.com/ Thanks Joe. MIDIchlorian! Okay, Midichlorian. Peace.

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58 Producerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Edge May-June 2009


There was no Ableton Live, ProTools LE, Software Synthesizers, Fruity Loops. Meaning no magic programs to make my hit song.

You actually

had to know a little something about music and programming machines and yes EVEN READ THE MANUAL.

Me And My TR words by Mike Acosta

XC Subscriber Content TR Original Samples

I

f there’s two letters that every producer knows or should know its TR. The Roland TR series of drum machines have played a historical role in the shaping of Electronic, Urban music. Whether these machines were used in the making of hit songs or they were just samples inside of an ASR-10 or MPC, you have definitely heard at some point in your life the sound of the TR drum machines. I have my own memories of the TR series, some great and some that required a few Advils. I have owned a TR-909, TR-808, TR-606 and TR-707. Of these machines the TR-909 and 707 still reside in my studio and I’m back on the prowl for a TR-606 Drumatix which closely resembles a TB-303. I have to say the TR-909 is one of my personal favorites with its unique tonal quality and on-board features. The 909 was, and probably still is, The true analog standard in House & Hard Tech music. Its kit includes a kick, snare, and handclap, open and closed hi hats, low mid and hi toms, rim shot, ride and crash cymbals. The Sounds are adjustable from the front panel knobs - attack, tone, tuning, decay, snap and accent. These adjustable features of the TR-909 are what set it apart from many drum machines including the TR-707, which looks just like it. The sound of the TR-909 was nothing like acoustic drums and that’s what made it so popular at the time with House & Techno producers. I can remember programming 8th notes with the TR-909’s ride on a house track and then tweaking the pitch in real time as I would mix it down to DAT. I’m sure there’s a few of you thinking “What the hell is DAT? “.

Now don’t get me wrong the TR-909 was also used in a lot of early Hip Hop tracks from artists such as Kurtis Blow, The World Class Wrecking Crew (Dr. Dre) and so forth. This is where the TR-808 and Legendary Linn Drum came into play. Each of these machines was used for different things, 1 for hi hats, 1 for the snare and another just for the kick drum. Take a listen to DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince’s – Parents Just Don’t Understand to get a taste of the sound of these early drum machines. This is also where the “sampler“came in and played a huge part in shaping the music from then till now. At the time these drum machines were very expensive and very limited in comparison to modern gear. So it only made sense to invest in a sampler (SP12, SP1200, EPS, ASR, MPC) and have the best sounds of all these machines in 1 sampler. In other words you couldn’t just have a TR-909 and make an entire song. You would need sound modules, a hardware sequencer, midi interface / router, analog hardware mixer of some sort, an effects unit, and finally a device to mix your completed song to such as a DAT machine, ADAT, or 2 track tape. This was the pretty much the ONLY way to have a semi-pro or project home studio and it was very costly. There was no Ableton Live, ProTools LE, Software Synthesizers, Fruity Loops. Meaning no magic programs to make my hit song. You actually had to know a little something about music and programming machines and yes EVEN READ THE MANUAL. Wow imagine that! No Internet with instructional videos from music manufacturers and definitely no YouTube with a million videos on “How I Make a Beat with Fruity Loops & my MPC “. Right now one of the hottest drum machine sounds that you hear on nearly every hit song on the radio right now 59 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009


is from the Roland TR-808. That serious low-end boom- bap is alive more than ever from a machine that is extremely difficult to find. And if you do find one they’re still very expensive.. A used TR-808 that is in great condition will run you upwards of $1400 to $2000 or more if it’s a modified unit with midi since the original TR-808 did NOT have midi only Roland’s Din Sync. The TR-808 used analog synthesis to create its sound, which was very warm and “pure “. Its successor the TR-909 had a more aggressive bite to it, which is probably why the TR-808 is The signature sound and beatbox from the 80’s associated with Hip Hop & R&B today. Booming bass sounds, crispy snares, the popping clap [and that cheesy cowbell] is what made the box famous. Every time I think TR-808 the first songs that pop in my head is LL Cool J’s – “I Need Love” and Keith Sweat’s – “I’ll Give All My Love To You”. Those two songs are the best examples of the TR-808 in all its glory. There always seems to be a big debate about which sounds better; the real deal machine or a sample of it. That is all based on personal opinion and how well the machine was sampled and the quality of the converters used. It also has a lot to do with just having the hands on time with the real machine that adds on to the whole experience. The legacy of the TR-808 has spawned a great amount of software emulations and even hardware emulations. On the hardware side you have Novation’s Drum Station, Elektron Machine Drum, JoMox Xbase 09 (TR-909 Emulator) and a great DIY unit called the MIDIbox 808 or MB-808 for short. I would love to get a MB-808 myself, but I’m just not sure if I am the best person for building it or soldering. If you’re really strapped for cash and you’re really not into hardware you 60 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009

should check out these great software 808 emulators. The D-16 Group’s Nepheton and Audio Realism’s ADM. Native Instruments Maschine comes with a variety of classic drum samples including 808 drums and a very cool hardware controller. Another beast to mention is the very popular hardware sampler workstation from Roland, the MV-8000 and MV-8800. It has a generous 450mb sound library which includes a couple variations of the classic 808 drum machine sampled with various methods to change the flavor of the sound. There’s even a TR-808 kit re-sampled from the classic Roland R8 Drum Machine with the 808-expansion card thru a variety of EQ’s and compressors to give it some edge and grime. I should know: I’m the guy that designed that kit for Roland. Nowadays most DAW applications come with a plethora of built-in software synthesizers and drum sample players or emulations. This is great for people on a budget that want everything in one application to create their music out of the box. If you find yourself wanting to get a taste of what some of these classic drum machines sounded like or you want to inject some of those sounds into your recordings, try downloading some of the software demos from the companies I mentioned above to find what works best for you. Technology & software has made some serious leaps and bounds in the last 20 years making it extremely easy and affordable now for the common Joe to get into making music. I mean you can literally purchase an Apple Macbook and it comes with GarageBand,


There

always seems to be a big debate about which sounds better; the real deal machine or a sample of it. That is all based on personal opinion and how well the machine was sampled and the quality of the converters used. It also has a lot to do with just having the hands on time with the real machine that adds on to the whole experience. which is ready to go, and simple enough that even my 2 sons at the age of 12 were making their own songs in it. The final question and everlasting debate is, which is better software or hardware? That is a very long and exhausting topic, which could be a whole separate article. I will say this I think both hardware and software play equally important roles in music production today. I own both and use both in all my productions. I love being able to take my TR-707 run it thru my Boss OD-20 pedal then into my Focusrite ISA 220 for compression and finally into Ableton Live 8. Once I have the drum track in Live I can further process it with some great plug-ins, then use Live’s “freeze” function and copy the frozen parts to new audio tracks. Doing this keeps my original drum sounds as is and offers a variety of parts now that I can chop up and replace to create fresh new drum sounds. Can this be done with just a software sampler you ask? Of course, but there are tonal qualities and differences that make a huge impact on my sound that really make it worth it for me to go this route. I also get the personal satisfaction of sculpting these sounds from scratch with the original machine. It’s a great feeling that every producer or music maker should try at one time or another. Overdriving a TR-808 or TR-909 thru a distortion pedal or a nice hardware compressor is definitely an experience that needs to be heard. You can even get creative and run your TR-808 into a cassette deck and record it or record it onto an old VHS/VCR tape machine. You then play the cassette deck or VCR back into your DAW to digitally sample it into your favorite software sampler such as N.I’s Kontakt or Battery.

There are so many ways that the combination of software and hardware can enhance your productions. To simply cut yourself off from one or the other is a disadvantage for your music in my humble opinion. There are some that will argue and say, “well Just Blaze or 9th wonder and so and so ONLY use software for all their drums and it sounds great “. Yes that is true to some extent what most people forget is that these guys have access to multi-million dollar studios where a dedicated engineer is running their software based tracks thru some very high end external analog gear and back into a ¼ of a million dollar SSL or Neve console. In the end you can and will have to use whatever is available to you or in your budget. There is no real right or wrong way to make your music. If all you have is a bucket and some sticks, I’m sure the desire and love for making music will find a way to get the job done. There has been a great amount of legendary hit songs that have been recorded in the most unconventional ways and it’s in those ways and quirks that made the song famous. I’ve been making music now for about 20 years and it is still a learning process for me everyday. The advancements in technology make every release of new software or hardware like Christmas for me. Sometimes I’m extremely enthused and a lot of times its like I got a pair of socks. Either way, whatever route you choose for your music making needs always remember this: a little analog never hurt anyone. Mike Acosta Aka DJ Michael Trance Producer – Remixer – DJ – Sound Designer www.djmichaeltrance.com www.myspace.com/djmichaeltrance

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Mastering Part IV:

CD Mastering A By L-ROX, Redsecta Mastering, Los Angeles Why are we even talking about CDs? If you’re relatively new to recording your own music, I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably wondering what the point of making CDs is these days, since most of the music we listen to (and a growing majority, download) is online. I’ve heard people say that the CD is an “outdated” format, and that doesn’t make sense to me for a few reasons.

Before we go further, I would like to ask those of you who feel that CDs are outdated to go back to the first part of this series to review how far recording mediums have come, and if you don’t have time for that, let me refresh your memory with at least the second-to-last paragraph on page 10: The key thing to keep in mind at this point is that with computers and CD-R technology becoming affordable for musicians, this meant that they could now publish their own CDs. The need to have a mastering engineer do the final transfer of the material to publish a CD was no longer a required step. The CD is still the most playable, cost-effective tangible medium available to artists today. You can probably play a CD in more places than MP3s, as they can be played on computers (without the need to access the internet), consumer DVD players, gaming systems and of course, cars. Even most portable DVD players will play audio CDs. Most of the music that we get online is lower than CD-Quality and to degrade the quality even more, most of the devices that play MP3s have lesser-quality DA converters than most consumer CD players and hi-fi equipment, but this is the least of most peoples’ worries because at the end of the day, the current trend is not about quality so much as it is about convenience. Being able to download an album in a minute is convenient, and it’s also true that most people don’t mind that a low bit rate-encoded file is like the sonic equivalent of a rice cake; the attractive part of it all is that in less than 5 minutes, you can grab a new album from the web, transfer the songs to a player and take with you wherever you go. The truth is that most MP3s don’t sound that horrible, and that for the majority of listeners, the difference between a CD and the better DA conversion of more hi-fi gear is still not worth the hassle; most wouldn’t even care to make the comparison. 62 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009

But you’re not just a listener. Chances are that you’ve been creating music and have realized that the best way to capture your recordings and mixes is by working in the highest quality/resolution possible. You might have already compared one of your 24-bit mixes to an MP3 mix you bounced from a session and went “wow!” when you heard how much of the definition was lost. To you, making a CD feels like downgrading (that’s because it is!), especially if your recordings and mixes were done in something like 24-bit/88.2kHz, and you have to “shrink” them to 16-bit/44.1kHz in order to playback on a CD, you also know that making even lesser-quality versions is done only for the sake of convenience and fast delivery through the internet, and you know that your original mixes sound better than the MP3 versions you put up on your myspace page. Let’s forget about quality for a second, and consider something that I feel has gotten lost in this world of convenient web downloads: a more solid connection to the listener through album art. Don’t take it as scientific proof, but there’s certainly something extra when having a tangible product in addition to the music for the listener; having something physical that is sharp in quality and presentation can definitely help make a more solid connection to your listeners (that is of course, assuming you’re trying to take your releases to a more official level than producing tunes for your myspace page music player). In the days of vinyl (in comparison to a CD), the canvas for artwork was huge. A lot of them had some kind of introduction on the back cover, usually by someone connected to the project, giving you some kind of insight about the record. Some albums had four panels, and you opened them like a book and they might have had lyrics you could read along to, or a huge photo spread that you could pin up on your wall (the Ohio Players album covers come to mind). Cassettes had a much smaller version of the LP art for the cover, and it wasn’t as impressive as the larger LP cover, they usually included all of the text you might find on the vinyl version, except you usually had to unfold the “J-Sleeve” to see all of the panels (they called it this because when


you look at a tape’s case from the top, the part where the sleeve goes looks like a “J”). Then the CD came and it was roughly 15% the size of an LP. I think this is part of the reason why most people don’t have the same connection with cassettes and CDs they way they did with LPs, and if this is definitely a factor, that means your listeners aren’t connecting with your music as much if all they’re looking at for your album’s artwork is a tiny little square on their computer or MP3 player screen. Do you know who the artists thanked on the last album you downloaded? CDs can also hold non-audio data, something I feel has definitely not been explored to the fullest. In the mid to late 90s, this was an idea that some artists & labels explored (remember Wu Tang Forever?) The “Enhanced CD” probably didn’t take off because computers weren’t as fast as they are now and Flash was in its infancy, with not nearly as many people making Flash content as there are today and so for most people who tried accessing the data portion of these CDs, it was more of a hassle. As I noted in the first part of this series, the first generation AD converters and overall CD authoring methods were also in their infancies and most people making the switch didn’t like the new “cold” sound of digital. These days, AD/DA conversion is a lot more accurate, computers are much more powerful, and Flash has become a sophisticated authoring platform for delivering multimedia content (at slim file sizes) that I really can’t imagine why the music industry isn’t working towards making more sophisticated CD releases. It’s probably because the music industry in general, has given up on CDs as a delivery medium because they can be easily copied. Who knows? So, what am I saying? The CD still has a lot of potential. It’s still the cheapest way to mass-produce a project giving the artist complete control and the ability to publish and distribute their works on a physical medium without the need for a major record label or distributor. Today, most independent artists send their CDs to professional replication houses directly. It also gives the listener the ability to make copies of the disc for backup and create lesser-quality files for portability, just like how back in the day you bought an LP and could make a copy on cassette tape- except now you can do this faster than real-time with a couple of clicks on your favorite software media player. These days, the recording industry wants to restrain the number of copies you can make off a file that you’ve downloaded, including putting limits on the number of devices that you can play them in; it’s up to you to decide if this is going to fly or not. Until the day comes where it’s typical to see an artist selling their CDs with enhanced content (videos, remixes, etc.) and creative booklets, for $10 or less, I’ll refuse to call CDs “outdated” as their full potential, in my opinion, has yet to be achieved.

To end my rant on why I think CDs are still relevant, I also want to add that the reason why CDs sound harsh and thin these days is not because of the limitations of what the Compact Disc offers, now that’s an outdated topic, as said earlier, digital conversion has come a long way. It’s somehow become acceptable to abuse the range that is available on the platform, so the answer is to fall back a little bit and learn how to best make use of what we have available. For you that already know this and have gone through great lengths to make sure your audio is optimized (not necessarily “maximized”), ready to be put on a CD-R to send to a replicator/duplicator for mass production, the next step is to make sure that you hand over a properlyburned pre-master disc to replicate/duplicate CDs from.

Technical terms for those that still wanna know Having an understanding of common CD Mastering terminology and where they fall into the world of making CDs is important; let’s cover what the most relevant terms mean: Replication – This is the process of making CDs (not CD-Rs). A CD plant takes your source, creates a master disc also known as the Glass Master, because glass is used in the process of making it. The process of making this master is sophisticated; strict requirements are in place to prevent any sort of contamination to the glass master which might affect the transfer of data. Out of this “father” master, a “mother” is produced from which “sons” can be created and these are the actual stampers that are used to stamp the image of the (father) glass master on to a layer of aluminum, which is then protected by other layers of plastic. Each “son” stamper can produce roughly 30,000 discs. From each “father” glass master, 3 “mothers” can be produced and each of these can produce 3 “son” stampers. Duplication – This process is the same as making a copy of a CD on your laptop’s burner, it refers to making copies of a CD to a CD-R disc. CD-Rs use a layer of vegetable dye that the burner’s laser burns pits on, which are then playable on most CD players (earlier CD players didn’t support CD-Rs but over the years, most manufacturers have incorporated support for CD-R and other various non-red book formats). Making one copy at a time for a large number of copies is obviously not efficient, so there are commercial duplicators available with multiple drives that can create copies of your CD, with models that also offer inkjet printing that is done on the same machine, provided that you use the required printable CD-Rs that are compatible.

63 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009


Master – The Glass Master used in the Replication process. There can be some confusion when talking to a replicator when the subject of the “master” comes into play, as in the world of Pro Audio, a Master can mean the final collection of songs after the audio mastering process. Mastering engineers refer to the final disc they produce for their clients as the “pre-master” for this reason. Pre-Master – The CD-R (or other digital source) that is ready to be delivered to a replication plant to serve as the source for the Glass Master (or source to be used by a duplicator). There are several error-checking steps that can be done to a pre-master disc by the mastering engineer to ensure the best transfer of data which we will cover shortly. Red Book & other Books – Sony and Phillips (the inventors of the CD) created a series of standards, officially called “The Rainbow Books” for developers to follow when creating platforms for the creation of CDs. Rumor has it that they came up with the names for each of the standards based on the color of the binders used for storing the paper docs for each of them. Below is a list of what they represent: Red Book: CD-DA – Digital Audio extended by CD Text, Yellow Book: CD-ROM – Read-Only Memory and CD-ROM XA, Orange Book: CD-MO – Magneto-Optical CD-R alias CD-WO or CD-WORM – Recordable, Write Once or Write Once, Read Many CD-RW alias CD-E – ReWritable or Erasable, White Book: VCD – Video and CD-Bridge - Hybrid discs, e.g. CD-Ready, Blue Book: E-CD – Enhanced, CD+ – plus and CD+G – plus Graphics (karaoke) extended by CD+EG / CD+XG, Beige Book: PCD – Photo (not Picture), Green Book: CD-i – interactive, Purple Book: DDCD – Double Density, Scarlet Book: SACD – Super Audio. 64 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009

There are software packages available that allow you to author CDs for one or more of the Rainbow Books standards. They range from the basic wizard-type programs that will burn a disc with a few clicks of the mouse that cost about $50 to sophisticated platforms that produce professionalquality discs with advanced tools for hundreds of dollars. The Red Book standard applies specifically to audio. The basic set of standards for Red Book CDs is: • Maximum playing time is 74 minutes (including pauses) • Minimum duration for a track is 2 seconds • Maximum number of tracks is 99 • Maximum number of index points (subdivisions of a track) is 99 with no maximum time limit • International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) should be included In order for audio CDs to be Red Book compliant (meaning that they’re guaranteed to playback on any player that supports audio CDs), they need to follow the above standards. This isn’t an issue now because as mentioned earlier most of the newer CD players can also play discs that are Orange Book (and other standards) encoded, which allow you to do things like burn an 80-minute CD-R and play it back, but if you were authoring CDs in the early ‘90s, chances were that you would be running into issues getting an 80-minute CD-R to play back on most players. Mastering Engineers, when mastering projects intended for audio CD release, will adhere to these guidelines as much as possible, to ensure that the CDs that are produced will have the best chances of playing back over any player.

Information Wars In 1996 the Red Book standard was updated to include text data (CD-TEXT). This allows you to encode the album title, artist name and song titles while still maintaining the strict Red Book standard. Most players found in cars these days support CD-TEXT, but where the support for this feature lacks most is in software players & CD drives for computers. Often times, artists find that


their properly-encoded discs don’t display the CD-TEXT information when inserting their CD in the computer, and there are two main reasons why. First, the firmware of the CD drive on your computer must support CD-TEXT (most newer drives do) and second, the software on your computer must also support CD-TEXT. On the software side, it almost seems as though software developers purposely don’t support it. Typically, when you insert a CD into a software media player, the program attempts to download its content’s graphical information from a database known as the CDDB by Gracenote. In the early years of the CDDB, independent artists couldn’t get their discs’ information stored in the database unless they purchased a license from Gracenote, and software players that weren’t licensed could also not make use of the database. As a result of this, a free database called “freedb” was launched and developers created software patches that could be installed to work with the unsupported applications. At the time of this writing, Gracenote allows users to enter their CDs’ text information directly on certain applications that are licensed to use the database, iTunes being the most popular. You can’t however, upload album art and other metadata to the database as this feature is something that is reserved for paying licensees. iTunes lets users store album art in their hard drives, so if the user wishes to also see album art for their own CD releases, they would need to store the album art on their own computers. Other popular media players such as Windows Media Player don’t use the CDDB to display a CD’s information, instead it uses a similar database service called Windows Media Database that is maintained by Microsoft, so in short, there isn’t one standard way to get graphic and text data information delivered. In all fairness to the CDDB, it predates the extension of CD-TEXT for the Red Book standard by about 3 years and it’s unfortunate that the CD-TEXT extension didn’t include the ability to store metadata such album art and other useful information on the disc itself, rather than require users to access the internet to download it and because the recording industry in general has declared the CD dead, I doubt they (Sony & Philips) will extend the standard again. If you would like to have your CDs information displayed on computers, the workaround is to learn what database the software players you think are most relevant use and find out how to submit your disc’s information to them. Then again, the easiest way is to distribute an MP3 version of your album on a compressed folder that contains album and other data; for this purpose, MP3 files are great because of their ability to store metadata that is compatible with practically all software players.

ISRC codes are distributed (freely, all you have to do is ask for them) by the RIAA. These codes are unique track codes that can help you track spins at radio stations that have a system in place that pulls these codes directly off your disc for reporting royalties to ASCAP/BMI. Ironically, most people I do work for have no knowledge of what these codes are for (probably because most people aren’t concerned with getting spins on the radio these days, but hey, they’re free and you never know, radio can one day change and everyone might get a fair shot, so why not!?)

Making the Pre-Master So now we know that when speaking about your final mixes in the world of mastering, they are considered your “premaster source”, since the “master” is the actual stamper that makes your CDs. Once all of the tracks in your project are mastered, you’ll need to decide who is going to layout your project in terms of track IDs, space between tracks, ISRC Codes, UPC code (should you want to have this information also encoded on the CDs themselves); these bits of information are referred to as “PQ” codes and subcodes on the Red Book Standard. What does “PQ” mean? Good question, they call it that after the expression “Mind your P’s and Q’s” and it’s so old that it’s debatable as to what “P’s” and Q’s” mean. I’ve heard it goes way back to 16th century English pubs where the barkeep would be told to mind his “Pints” and “Quarts” when pouring for clients. For our purposes, this means to make sure you place your track IDs where they need to be, for example. Your Mastering Engineer should have a platform for encoding all of this information on your pre-master source. Expect to pay a little more for this service from some of them, but there are others (such as yours truly) who do this part of the mastering process at no additional cost. Replication plants can also do this for you, but they will charge you extra. If you’re doing your own mastering, it may be a benefit to you to have the replication plant do this process for you, and send them your audio files instead, as it would guarantee an error-free pre-master source for making CDs, if all you have is an average CD burner and burning software that doesn’t do precise Red Book encoding.

Burning the Pre-Master Part of a solid mastering chain also involves the tools needed to burn a properly-encoded pre-master with as little errors as possible. There’s always going to be a small amount of data errors (due to the CD technology as well as the Red Book Standard for audio CDs) that are acceptable, these errors in the transfer of data are known as “recoverable errors” which means that any CD player will be able to compensate for them during playback. Over the years, Mastering Engineers have found out what 65 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009


combination of drives and media work best for making premasters with as little errors as possible (Plextor drives and Taiyo Yuden media being the one of the most common combinations), as well as running systems with the least amount of background processes (as opposed to burning on a computer that’s also running the internet and other software at the same time, which can lead to more errors on your pre-masters). The speeds at which to burn can also be a factor, although not as much as it used to be in the past, when drives, media, and operating systems were not as efficient and reliable as they are now.

Error-checking the Pre-Master The last step in a professional mastering service is errorchecking a pre-master CD before delivery to the client or replication plant. As mentioned earlier, there’s always going to be a degree of recoverable errors on the media, and when checking the Block Error Rate (BLER), Mastering Engineers will check for unrecoverable errors (E32) that will cause problems when CDs are replicated. If the replication plant catches the error and makes you aware, this is where a BLER report can come in handy so that the problem can be pinpointed. In many cases, replication

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plants will simply assume you’ve checked the pre-master source and skip any error-checking mechanism, so if your discs have unrecoverable errors and the plant is not checking for these errors, you can end up with a bunch of replicated discs that will have issues on playback, so this is definitely one service you want to make sure your mastering engineer is performing on your pre-master. The process of checking for BLER takes on an average (for me) about 15 minutes and I don’t automatically print out the reports, but do provide them on request, so if this is something you would like to have for your records, ask your Mastering Engineer to send you the BLER report(s) when he mails off your pre-master(s). Keep in mind that BLER checking happens almost immediately after the burning of the pre-master disc, which is free of dust or any scratches, so always treat the pre-master discs that you get from your mastering engineer with care. Avoid getting any dust on them, or exposing them to direct sunlight as this may damage the layer of dye. In part V, we’ll explore how we have somehow screwed up a good thing; how audio is typically maximized for loudness these days - so much that some of it literally hurts to listen to, and hopefully offer some thoughts that will help us work towards an optimal sound.


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T

here are production teams and then there are production teams. It’s one thing to pool resources and submit tracks for placement opportunities under a common banner and it’s another to have the Whole be greater than

the sum of the parts. Justice League is one such team of superhero producers. Based out of Tampa Florida, Rook (Sampling monster), Colione (Percussive beast) and Kenny (board- certified) combine their talent and interests to create the sonic backdrop for a slew of hit records. They have gone into action with Juelz Santana (“Rumble Young Man Rumble”), Rick Ross (“Maybach Music”), Jeezy and R&B future legend…John Legend. We tap the trio for another feature and get heavy behind the hitz. Let’s roll! Drew Spence: That’s the easy part. We need to discuss the chemistry and how it works and how each member decides what his part will be. How do you avoid fighting over who does what and which producer gets the green light for the main idea? They say working in a group hampers creativity because no one wants to experiment in front of others and accept early criticism before an idea is fully fleshed out. 68 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009

Colione: When we first got together it was natural. We did ten beats in the first day. It wasn’t like “No, don’t do that or we want to do this”…we vibed out and figured out where each one of us was creatively. It wasn’t that hard of a formula to put together. Which one of you is Superman? There is always one dude who feels like he’s the most


powerful cat in this equation and that he should walk in front a bit. [Laughter] Colione: That all depends on the track and who we’re working with. Kenny: Whoever starts off something that’s dope, they become the Superman of that track. They take the lead and we add on to what they’re doing. We might have ideas for your track and we’ll build off each other.

the hook was already done and John Legend went and wrote around that arrangement. When you worked with an R&B talent like him, did you still feel pressure or did the Mary J experience prepare you enough for that kind of day? Kenny: At the end of the day it’s all music. We’re professionals at what we do. R&B artists are professionals and we know music. We’re not intimidated to work with anyone.

In the history of the Justice League, there’s a tendency to rotate members in and out. Any possibility of adding new cats into the team? Colione: Of course not! The League is Right.

You’re going to help my readership. Many producers coming up are skilled with the traditional Boom Bap side of production, but have very little experience with an R&B arrangement and the flow of a song. How can they get up to speed with these two different approaches?

Wow. So a new producer wanting to get into the camp, you’re just going to say no way? We’ll tell them No Applications Available. We might put you on somehow. Justice League is Justice League and it’s a family thing right now. We’re sticking with our people. We’re really humble and loyal dudes. Kenny: It’s not that we won’t help someone; we’re just very set right now.

Colione

Is there a breakthrough moment when you thought this could really work out for us and become something special? Kenny: Yeah, when her (Mary J. Blige) vocals hit the track, that’s when I knew it was going to workout great. Most say it’s the big check that seals it and makes your career official. Colione: I think it becomes official when you’re able to have money in your pocket and be able to do music full time. You feel like you are able to do a hobby you love as your job.

Let’s talk about Maybach Music, Rick Ross and Magnificent. The track has a transition at the 8-bar mark where John Legend turns over and follows the track. I’m wondering if that was written before hand and that was worked into the arrangement or was that already in the composition? Colione: That part was in the track and he followed the music. After the song was done we went ahead and rearranged a couple of things to cater to the song as far as drops and transitions. The 8-bar transition at the end of

Colione: There’s a fine line with Hip Hop , R&B and Pop. A lot of rap records could be R&B and R&B songs could swing and become Pop. It depends on the song. For traditional music sheet-based R&B, you’d have a big difference. You’d have to know how to write notes and know your melodies and chords. Even if you can’t write the notation, you’d have to at least be able to play by ear.

How much of the skill is just listening and how much is formal training? Colione: It’s damn near all ear. With Kenny, he has a formal musical background. Rook: Me and Colione, we go ahead and arrange the chords and music using our ears. We all learn from each other and as a team there’s nothing we really can’t do. Can we talk synths for a minute? Okay. Let’s talk about the first synth purchase and how back you go. Colione: I think the first Justice League purchase was in 2003. No…that was actually given to us by Rooks pops. It was a Plug-in for Logic it was the Moog and CSV-80 all vintage synths. I knew about them, but never really played them and knew about how they worked. I found they were pretty accurate and cool. They had the kind of sounds we used a lot. I was really impressed. How have you added to your arsenal or are you straight with your Logic set up and its included plugs?

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We’re open to all new sounds. We’re kind of like… nerds when it comes to sounds. We want every sound ever created so we can just play and experiment. If there’s a sound out there, we want it. What’s Florida about when it comes to your production sound? Rook: That’s where we were raised and came up. Florida has a sound that’s coming out now, but I wouldn’t base that as the ‘sound of Florida’. Florida is definitely southern with a lot of down south beats, but that’s not all that’s there. We’re able to reach out and do different types of music. In the direction of sampling, you’ve been using samples in all kinds of ways. You’ve arranged around the sample, replayed and added bits in after. The League mixes and blends. What about the producer who uses strictly samples and loops. What are your thoughts on that? Rook: That’s the beginning. Rap and Hip Hop came from samples. That’s a base for music. As you become advanced you do more things. Sampling is the root of hip hop. So we try not to take it away from hip hop, but it adds grittiness to your beats. It takes away from your money, but it adds the music masters and geniuses from the past. We don’t have that today so it’s keeping that tradition alive. Many can’t hire orchestras or hire talented musicians to come to their studios to record for them. We’ve advanced so much that we can do stuff like that. We just want to keep the sample in there to keep that traditional hip hop alive.

It’s a tough position in the beginning to figure out if you should get as much as you can up front or put yourself in a position to make more money in the long run. In the beginning when you don’t have power, what kind of compromises is necessary? Is it better to lose publishing for fame? Is fame a way towards better money with being known? Kenny: It depends on who you’re producing for. If it’s a major artist that always goes platinum then go ahead and take the risk. If it’s an independent artist who only going to sell 5,000 CDs then you should get what you can get and there probably won’t be any publishing for that. Many producers say they feel a limitation since the only tracks the world hears are the tracks an artist picks. Meaningyou’d mostly be known for any singles that you’ve placed and it’s an unfair view of a producers potential. Kenny: Yes, that’s true. An artist isn’t going to vibe to everything. They will like what they like. Sometimes we’ll have a complicated arrangement and the artists will say that it’s dope, but they won’t know how to approach the track and you have to work with them on it. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. You can’t get a southern artist to do a pop record if they aren’t feeling it. We may know it’s going to being a hit and even have the hooks laid down, but the artists can’t relate to it. You have to stay in their lane and get something they are comfortable with. And that may not be the best arrangement you ever made.

Rook

Could you break down your publishing situation and the difference between short term money and long term money? Colione: The publishing situation is like…you get your publishing damn near forever. 75 years after you own that. Short term is all about the advances on your royalties and publishing. The more hits you have, the more records you have the labels will go ahead and recoup on the money they’ve already given you. Rook: Paperwork-wise. Kenny jumps in… 70 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009

Rook: On the other side, something that comes with being in the game for a minute and getting to know the artists is the more your work with them, the more they trust you. The most flexible artists will let you guide them more than just listening to beats and picking hot tracks. It’s a great point to be able to influence their work based on your track record and clout. Do you feel any responsibility to bring someone up under your sound? Maybe someone in your hood


you’ll develop? How about a slew of guest rappers? Kenny: Oh a Justice League album? That’s in the future, but right now we’re on our grind and we’re working with so many people it’s not just possible. We would like to. At Kenny, are you even in a bind between replaying a sample and creating original instrumentation? We never like replaying a sample. If there’s a particular idea we like form a particular song that was created before, we like to keep that sample just the way it is and add our own instruments and flair in.

The League’s Logic For producers collaborating on a singular DAW, why was Logic chosen over something like Pro Tools? Rook: The way Logic comes as a package it may be a little complicated at first, but it’s such an in-depth program that caters to a faster workflow- It’s a bit easier to use for a producer than Pro Tools, That’s a heavy statement my friend. Colione: We have a whole career to back that statement up. Pro Tools is okay; we’re not hating on Pro Tools. We still use it to track vocals. It’s just not the center of our production. What hardware exists in the studio? With us it’s mostly digital but we still use live instruments. We use horns, Saxophones, guitars and bass to keep the real vibe in our music. Your music begins with big sweeping and huge and heavy epic sound. Is that intro style branded and thrown in every track or it is added as an after effect? Colione: A lot of our intros come pre-packaged and that’s how they fall in love with the beat. But sometime the artist has an idea for how they want their intro. We give the artists what they want, but we don’t want to disappoint and it’s about making the best music possible. Let’s talk about the pricing of tracks and how much flexibility there is between the artists, the producers and the label. How would an early producer figure out his worth and his worth after he’s had a few hits in direct relation to the current market? Colione: I think…negotiating tracks….our prices remain solid. We’ve earned our respect in this music industry. When you get in the studio with the Justice League we’re not going to Overnight the Production. We know what we’re doing and we’ve established a brand name. Our prices are usually not negotiable unless you’re going to buy multiple tracks. Then you might get a package deal. With what’s happening in the

music business today with the record sales declining, I think we would be making more money now. It’s now and we have to roll with the punches. Before the Internet downloads…we would be making more. Help me out. I’ve got a bunch of profile sites. I think I’m nice with beats and people are asking about how much I sell beats for. How do I figure out my numerical worth as a new producer and how should I begin to run my business? Colione: It’s hard to say because when we came in the economy and the music business was in a different place. The average for newcomers is about 4 or 5 Gs. That was back in 04’. The average now is like $1,500 to 2,500. To put it bluntly it’s around that price range for new cats. Get what you can get. Get that new equipment and go with the independents. You can always make more beats. As a new producer, what about my drum sounds? What’s a good starting source for the foundation of my Drum Works? Is it still advantageous to build these massive libraries by downloading all the loose drums from the Internet? Is it about buying a software package with drums, a hardware drum machine…where a great place to start today? And I mean usable sounds, not just bulk for the sake of a huge drum folder. Colione: For Drums? Get it how you live. It doesn’t matter how or where you get them as long as they sound good. You could steal Dr. Dre’s disk straight out of his MPC and if you’re wack, it’s still not going to sell. It’s HOW you use the sounds. It’s not where they came from. You have Kicks, Snares and Claps. It not based of the drum sounds alone; again, it’s how you use them. What about the programming? Colione: Logic. Logic and a MIDI controller and that’s all you need? Colione: Yessir. Rook: It does both the audio and MIDI. So I can drop in live violins or guitar right along the MIDI so it’s flexible for all programming [tasks]. Who do you think is nice and who do you respect, production-wise? Rook: Premiere. Trackmasters. OutKast’s production shines. Colione: We’re all over the place when it comes to top producers. Kenny: I like Dr. Dre, Timbaland, Premiere, Pete Rock and Organized Noize. Who would you like to work with as far as artists are concerned? Kenny: Jay-Z of course, we’ve been trying to get him on some tracks since the beginning. Artists like Kenny

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Perry, Justin Timberlake. Anyone who’s just making good music in hip hop or anywhere else. We do pop and rock and roll too. We’re willing to step out the boundaries of urban music. We have the video of Rick Ross’s reaction to your music, but what was your reaction to you hearing his rhymes? Colione: We met before his first album even dropped. We gave him music for his first album, but we didn’t fit his sound, which made sense. For his second, he came back around and we just made some classic records. As far as meeting and working with him. Trilla was like meeting him for the first time again. Creatively he was in a different space. He knew exactly what he wanted to do and he told us and then he got it done. Once he heard the Maybach track he said: “I want Jay-Z on this.” Do you also keep ties with people you’ve worked with before or do you move into a new creative space. Would you go back and work with a Jeezy—

Kenny: That gets kind of tough. You have to realize it’s your job and it’s what you do. It’s hard to balance. Your family calls you all the time. When are you coming around? It’s been months without heavy time. You have to take a break every few months and go away with your family. You’ll still get a call from management while you’re on vacation asking where the tracks are at. [Laughter] Have you been listening to the up and coming dudes, surfing profile sites and hearing what the younger cats are making…or could you care less? Colione: Could care less [laughter] Rook: No. You have to keep your ear out there and hear what people are doing. You might be missing on a on a different way of making music, different sounds. We listen to all genres of music and it could be an idea from a Jazz musician and how he went at the bass. You could find a new inspiration. What about management? Rook: Management came to us. I knew Ivan a very long time, but when I got with Colione and Kenny and we started doing tracks, that’s when Ivan and Chuck wanted to help us out. Once they heard the music that’s when they wanted to manage us. It worked out beautifully. In most cases managers come to you when you’re that hot dude.

Kenny AKA Barto

Of course that’s the homie. Whenever he needs us, we’d be there. Suppose he wanted an older track sound. Would you make that kind of track or would you try to bring him where you’re at today? Rook: Jeezy is different because of his creativity. He knows what he wants and he will tell you. He has a vision and we try to bring that to life. He’s in the studio creating with us. He likes going back and forth giving you feedback on the music. How do you balance the work ethic and family, career and your life outside of music?

Kenny: It’s crucial for the right people to be looking out for you. You might have the right music, but still not be able to do anything. Colione: A lot of people tend to look out for themselves, but our managers look out for what’s best for us. And sometimes we disagree with them. Our Publicist is great and we didn’t realize how important she was until we got her. Once you move forward in your career, everything falls into place. Anything else you want to add? We’re expanding our sound and touching new genres. Look out for us on some interesting projects where you might not expect us to be involved. Watch out ColionJL on Twitter. KennyBartow and RookBeats. 75 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009


Final Word: The Next Thing for the Copy Cat, Sloppy Cat Words by LukeCage

The State

Here’s he deal: here in Los Angeles and also around the Internet it seems as if everyone is looking for the next “thing”. The next new hot idea for millions to cannibalize and claim as their own. We all know how it goes; well at least with US radio and popular music. Someone creates a hot track and within ten minutes it seems there are at least two other songs on the radio that sound exactly like it and fifty more online. For those who don’t mind music that sounds so similar from artists to artist or for a person that can’t tell the difference until the hook or the break down, I’m not speaking (specifically) to that individual. For those who find nothing but a barren wasteland where good music used to be and wonders where all the original honest music went - I’m talking to that individual (not that either is wrong, right wack or genius) I simply speak on what I believe. Hopefully the thoughts I share might propel producers into a new state of creativity and thought.

The Question

Why is there such a lack of good music on the radio or rather in the hands of the general music buying population? There is multitude of reasons, but one key area is the drastic change in technology. Back in the day it was unheard of to record an album at a home studio. Usually it was a rich mans’ luxury to have expensive gear at his house- no regular musician with a day job could ever afford any kind of pro recording equipment. Today, that is not the case. Home studios have replaced large studios in many ways. The big boost in music tech made learning easier and the skills to assemble a composition became something someone could learn in six months unlike taking piano lessons for ten years to become a proficient piano player. Because of the ease of use of all the new affordable toys, non-musicians, i.e. someone that 76 Producer’s Edge May-June 2009

plays like piano or guitar or drums, are producing music. This makes for a very interesting dynamic. In a nutshell, people who never really played a note began to produce their creative ideas. Therein lies the problem, nothing wrong with hitting keys buttons and making a mouse click and making a fat piece of music, but there is something wrong with that same individual ignoring the thousands of years people have been making music in the traditional way. I’m not saying that one should go out and be a music major in college or anything, what I am saying is that without a foundation nothing stands the test of time, thus much of the music we hear to day is made by someone who may not have started out being a musician. They could have started out working as a graphic designer and kind of fell into making music digitally. Much of what I have heard recently has lacked a learned musical foundation.

Style over Substance

Style is style and taste is taste and regional music is … but nothing trumps originality, character, and honesty. Without fundamentals, the novice musician results in copying because he or she doesn’t have enough information about his craft to go any further. If you are a beat maker, stay original. Nothing says sell out more than a person that is obviously copying a JD beat …JD had mad skillz and capitalized on his weaknesses and developed a sound that was unique his skill set. You can include Alchemist, Scott Storch and Just Blaze. The list goes on. It’s okay to take an idea and change it drastically and make it yours. It is not okay to copy someone’s drum pattern and sampling style and call it yours; it’s a straight up lie. To do that thing that makes a track a classic, a person has to be honest, hard working and ORIGINAL. The next time you are sitting at you workstation , don’t just open up a folder of sounds that you downloaded from somewhere called Just Blaze kit and expect to make a Just Blaze beat…sit down and play with sounds and layer your drums. Play with the stereo field on kicks snares and other rhythmic elements; twist those sounds up until they become original. And when you pull up a virtual synth, don’t use the presets. Remember the presets are just a guideline and most of the software made that professionals use are designed to save your own presets. This is a big step towards making your sound(s) original. Yes, it does take more time, but that’s part of the cost. If you make music to feed your ego, then carry on. Some of us will be grinding away and working towards that next classic. …yep that’s right, it’ll be the next thing for you to copy… Lukecage is a Sound Designer, Producer and Musician. He was interviewed in issue 03 of Producer’s Edge. Visit him here. LukeCage


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Issue 06 Justice League  

eXtra Content Subscribers package from Producer's Edge Magazine Issue 06. Includes a sampling of the following packages: Big Fish Audio Boll...

Issue 06 Justice League  

eXtra Content Subscribers package from Producer's Edge Magazine Issue 06. Includes a sampling of the following packages: Big Fish Audio Boll...