Do you struggle to make thick, evolving bass lines like those made by producers like Noisia? You're not alone. Scores of producers create simple, generic bass lines that sound thin and don't hold the interest of their listeners. In modern dance music heavy, aggressive bass lines dominate the mix and shake the earth. Sadly bass sounds that don’t live up to today’s standard can hurt your music and cost you fans. Fortunately there’s an answer. Modern software synthesizers like Native Instruments’ Massive offer amazing modulation capabilities and can be used to make incredible bass lines. Pair the synthesis power of Massive with Ableton Live’s resampling workflow and the results can be astounding.
Most producers don't include instruments in their songs that are playing out of key. The reason being instruments playing out of key sound dissonant (or bad depending on your point of view) and can be unsettling to the listener. However when it comes to drums, many skilled producers load up a sample, put it in their song and process it with EQ, distortion, and compression without giving a second thought to pitch. This could be that many people assume drum sounds don't have a distinct pitch. These people are wrong.
Few people have been a part of the Beat Drop community as long as Kloves (or NJVK). This talented Calgary based producer is well known in western Canada as a purveyor of exquisite four to the floor beats and has experience rocking clubs and destroying dance floors on the festival circuit. This rising young star of the Calgary scene is one to watch. Kloves began her time at Beat Drop as student of our Music Production Certificate Program. Since she graduated Kloves has been a TA at Beat Drop helping instruct Ableton Core I and Music Fundamentals.
Ever listen to a track and been floored by the thick, rich tones of the synths? My guess is yes and if so you've probably stopped and wondered, how do they make these incredible sounds? You may already know the answer or at least part of it, layering sounds is a hallmark of electronic music. To make interesting dynamic synth sounds producers layer synths. In Ableton, the easiest way to layer synths is with Instrument Racks.
Many producers don't fully understand the power of Clips in Ableton. Most see them only as containers for MIDI or Audio information. While this notion isn't wrong, clips can be used for so much more than production tupperware. If you learn to harness the power of clips you can add a whole new set of creative tools to your musical palate. Below are eight powerful techniques that take advantage of unique features of clips and will add interest, complexity and general gnarliness to your tunes:
What is feedback and how can it be used in sound design? Feedback as we know it, is a special kind of positive feedback loop where a sound loop is created between a sound input and a sound output. The classic example is the horrifying and ear piercing screech of a microphone getting too close to a loudspeaker. In this case, the signal received by the microphone is amplified and passed out of the loudspeaker. The sound from the loudspeaker can then be received by the microphone, amplified and passed out the loudspeaker again and again and again creating a feedback loop.
The name of the game for most digital music producers is workflow. Working quickly, efficiently and in a methodical way allows you to finish tunes that sound spontaneous, full of life and not overworked, but there are other considerations. In today’s digital age the half-life of digital media is very brief. The never-ending deluge of content means often your creations are buried in new content before your audience even has the opportunity to listen. For better or worse, this means creating quality content on a regular basis is immensely important to artists today in order to keep on their audience’s radar. There are numerous methods producers can use to be efficient and fast in the studio. Organization, separating your sound design and writing session and using keyboard shortcuts are some examples.
By Brandon Smith
Judging by the number of modular synths, drum machines, effect units and other lovely knob and button-laden things at this year's NAMM show, it's clear that hardware music technology isn't going anywhere. Producing music entirely "in the box" (i.e. with a computer in a DAW environment) is now common and widely accepted. People 20 or 30 years ago would have been amazed that you can do all that stuff on a computer - let alone a personal computer. Yet there are now more modular synth manufacturers around today than there were in the 60s and 70s, when names like Moog, Arp and Buchla were at the cutting edge. So why would more manufacturers be making hardware when you can just do everything on a computer now? These may be contributing factors:
1) Hardware is cheaper and easier to manufacture than ever before which makes owning gear nowadays comparatively far more affordable than in the past (owning a modular synth in the late 60s was akin to buying a luxury car).
2) Some people prefer the tactile "feel" of an instrument. Even "in-the-box" productions require outboard MIDI controllers, speakers etc. to interface with the people making the productions. Computers can't read our minds. Yet......
3) While the software emulations of things like Minimoogs and other classic synths are getting quite good, there is a lot of variation in sound and feel with the real Minis out there. They were made for a decade. Therefore, a 1971 Mini won't behave exactly like on made in 1980. Individual instrument quirks can be important to musicians - analogous to a guitar player who really likes the feel of the neck or the tone on a particular guitar.
4) Inspiration. With everything conveniently at your fingertips it's all too easy to fire up Massive and start cruising through the list of presets until you find something that's close-ish to what you want. Then you mess around with parameters trying to make the sound more like what you hear in your head. It's not any easier making sounds from scratch on a hardware synth - in fact it's usually harder. But eventually one gets sick of all the presets and wants the inspiration that may come more naturally on and instrument with limitation - but has lots of character. It seems counter intuitive, but sometimes we can be the most creative by limiting our tools of expression.
5) Sound. Kind of stating the obvious here, but people wouldn't go through all this hassle if the sounds weren't worth it.
So how does one use a hardware instrument within DAWs like Ableton? It depends on what the instrument is, how old it is, and how you intend on fitting it into your productions. Of course the most obvious way to incorporate a hardware is to just record the audio into Ableton. Sometimes there's something to be said for a sloppy, un-quantized synth line played by hand and recorded direct. If it's an old synth that has no means of MIDI or CV control recording the audio output may be your only option. If it's a pre-MIDI drum machine there might not be any way to "clock" or control its tempo externally. If that's the case its probably best to sample a pattern and loop it. Ableton's "Slice To MIDI" feature makes it easy to break down cheesy preset drum machine patterns into their constituent parts and re-sequence them in the box. If it's a more modern machine with MIDI you can opt to tempo or "MIDI clock sync" it. That way you still get the "feel" of the drum machine's own sequencer, just running in sync with Ableton. MIDI-equipped machines usually have the ability to trigger the individual sounds using MIDI notes, so patterns can be sequenced directly from the computer that way as well. There are lots of possibilities. Below is an example of a setup where the computer is controlling a Roland TR-8 through USB. The MIDI out of the TR-8 is going into the MIDI in on the Oberheim DX, which is a much older machine from the 80s and only has MIDI. The DX is being "slaved" by the TR-8 (they could both be used that way without a computer). However in this instance, they are both slaved by the computer which controls the master tempo and start/stop via USB. Sync has to be enabled in Ableton's MIDI preferences for this to work properly.
It can be really frustrating to get your gear to work the way you think it should work. It doesn't help that MIDI has been around for over 30 years, and USB is only now starting to replace it. Very often outboard synths/drum machines won't sync properly or at all on your first try (make sure you are using the correct sync mode in your DAW’s preferences). Learn how to do a factory reset procedure on your gear (usually by holding a combination of buttons and powering the unit on and off) in case you get into a mode and can't get back out. Again, this is why reading the manual is a good idea. Luckily the latest hardware boom comes complete with devices designed to make our lives easier - marrying the old with the new. One such device is Roland's SBX-1 (see below). It can also hook up to a computer via USB and drive multiple drum machines/synths/grooveboxes through its 2 MIDI outs. For pre-MIDI machines it features "DIN Sync" which is an older proprietary system that Roland used back in the day for syncing and start/stop messages. The ubiquitous Roland 808 and Jupiter 8 both have it. The SBX-1 can also convert MIDI messages into CV and gate signals to drive old analog synths and modulars. Gotta love mixing the new with the old!
Find out more about the TR-8 and the rest of Roland's AIRA line-up on June 13th, 2015 at Beat Drop. The Roland AIRA Clinic runs from 1 - 3 PM, is hosted by Lyle Crilly and it's totally free.
On Saturday, June 14, Beat Drop will be running our monthly Ableton Live Quick Start course. From 10 AM to 5 PM Sandro Petrillo will be be providing an in-depth look at Ableton's fundamentals. This is an excellent opportunity to get a head start on producing music with Ableton Live and is aimed at those who have never used the program before. By the end of the course you should have a solid idea of how the program functions and will have plenty of ways to bring your musical ideas to life.
The announcement of Elektron's new drum sequencing, multi functioning rhythm in a box ... the Elektron Analog Rytm, has swept the nation, tantalizing the gear heads hopes and dreams. Elektron has made waves with their units over the years, Machinedrum being one of it's amazing productions. A widely used drum machine/sequencer with eon's of potential. Over on the Ask Audio site, Canadian (now living in Berlin) producer Noah Pred has put together a weighty pack of samples grabbed off of a Machindrum, and it's up for grabs .... FOR FREE!!! (after you register on their site) We highly recommend you head on over, even if just for a listen, these are great sounds and samples to add to your collection.
See the article and get the files >>> HERE
A tiny bit more about Noah Pred; he's a great producer with a few sneaky monikers. Ableton recognizes this fellow as a Certified Ableton instructor and developer. Currently living in Berlin, the techno mecca of the globe, but still completely supporting and carrying Canada forward in the movement. Enormously proud to tote this guy as a successful Canadian doing this thing and honing his craft! Check out his productions at the links below and do yourself a favour and have a poke through his label's back catalogue, great stuff!