Daniel Lesden Blog

Music, technologies, and human experience from a Russian music producer and A&R manager based in Israel.
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Feedback for “Renaissance” by Euphoria

Hello Daniel, my name is George and I deal with music production the last 2,5-3 years. The DAW that I use is Ableton. It would be my pleasure if you hear a track that I have in process and tell me how it sounds based on my knowledge and your experience of course. I really hope to enjoy it.

George

Track overview in Ableton

George, this is a very weak work. I like how the bass and the high hats sound like, and that’s probably it.

The biggest flaws in your track are detuned samples. While the bassline is in Dm, some of the samples I hear are in G and other tones, producing those musically unpleasant moments.

I suggest tuning all your samples to Dm to match the bassline: plucks, synths, background effects. I’ve written about tuning earlier, be sure to check out that advice.

How to tune samples harmonically

Maybe I am wrong, but it looks like you just put a bunch of samples and synth presets together without particular meaning. For example, that acid riff at 2:18 and 4:09 — is it supposed to be the main theme? If so, why did you put it in the middle, where is anticipation?

Or that arp melody at 0:01—0:20, why it doesn’t appear anywhere on the track after the intro? What was the point of putting it there? You see, that kind of randomness I’m talking about.

And speaking about that arp in the intro, it seems that all of you, Zyce, and Flegma have used the same sample from the same sample pack, which is not cool. There is nothing wrong is using samples, but at least use it wisely — tweak and change it, otherwise you end up like a clone.

Attack of the clones

I suggest thinking what you’re trying to achieve first, what story do want to tell your listeners. And only then make the track accordingly. Take a read to my album behind the scenes to get an idea what I mean by that.

P.S. This post is a part of the weekly “Advice” series. I’m happy to advise on such topics as production, performance, management, marketing, and design in the music industry and beyond. Send me your questions, too.

“2000 Years Ahead” album is out now

Second studio album · Digital Om Productions

Dear friends, fans, and colleagues!

Today, my second studio album is released. It’s the result of my work throughout the whole last year and an important milestone in my music career.

I don’t want to pat myself on the back, so I’ll just put this quote here:

“A really sterling amazing album, well done. You have just slammed an injection of something fresh and unique with musical moments, I love it and I’ll 100% support this!”
John 00 Fleming

During the last two weeks, I shared all tracks previews one by one and I hope you enjoy it. Below are all nine previews all together, and a magic button:

... or buy a CD copy on Psyshop

Special thanks to: Nishan for professional management; to Marc for the excellent track we’ve made together; to Drasko, Jovan and Ivan for the opportunity to remixing your track; to Bart for the top-notch mastering; to Ryche for the vivid artwork. You guys rock!

Read also: Album behind the scenes: from drafts to finish

Track of the week: “Mystify”

On a contrast to the track I shared last week, today’s track of the week is a slow-paced, deeper Progressive Psy by Midimal. Love the speech samples at 4:02.

Artist Midimal
Title Mystify (Original Mix)
Release Balanced
Label Echoes Records
Year 2013

Controlling parameters in Ableton using modulation

How to make a non-destructive editing of automated parameters so I could change it one place and apply to the entire clip’s length?

Ilya Birman

Let’s say, we have some bassline with a cut-off automation recorded using a MIDI-controller:

The automation curves recorded for the bassline’s filter cut-off parameter (highlighted area)

It’s only an eight bars long loop and we want to stretch it out for the entire track’s duration. Then problem is when you stretch out the clip, the automation didn’t follow along the way:

The automation curves are not stretched out along with the clip (highlighted area)

The obvious ways of make the automation keep going are:

  • Flatten automation into a solid piece of audio
  • Copy-paste automation manually throughout the entire duration

As you can guess, both of these methods aren’t perfect: flattening is a destructive type of editing meaning you cannot go back to fix it if anything is needed, and copying-and-pasting manually is just not very productive. Besides, if you want to change anything in this automation, you would need to copy-paste all the changes again and that’s not what we want.

But here is a better way to solve this — using modulation.

Modulation is pretty much the same as automation, but with two key differences: it controls parameters within the clips (not on the global timeline) and relative to the defined parameter value.

Modulation vs. Automation. Ableton Live knowledge base

Do the right-click on the parameter you want to control and select “Show Modulation”:

Filter’s cut-off in Spire synthesizer is the parameter we what to modulate

You’ll see a MIDI editor with the Envelopes tab opened. Copy and paste there all the curves from timeline automation to this area. Like this:

Now delete the automation since we don’t need it anymore. Do the right click and select “Delete Automation”:

Deleting the automation which is no longer needed

Now all you have to do is to drag the parameter (the little black triangle) up to its maximum value. Remember that modulation controls parameters relative to their volume:

Dragging the parameter up to its maximum value

And that’s it. Now you can stretch out your MIDI-clip as long as you want, and the modulation will follow. I’ve recorded a quick screen video just to show it in action:

P.S. This post is a part of the weekly “Advice” series. I’m happy to advise on such topics as production, performance, management, marketing, and design in the music industry and beyond. Send me your questions, too.

Track of the week: “Orba”

As you probably know, I’m using star rating system in iTunes to organize my music library. There are about 11000 tracks at the moment with 803 of them (and counting) rated as ★★★★★. These are my all-time favorite tracks.

Organizing music library

And starting from today, I would like to share some of these tracks, each one at a time every Saturday. You can find all further posts like this by the “Track of the week” tag.

***

John 00 Fleming and Ricky Smith beautifully crafted the dark atmosphere in this track with twisted leads and haunting voices. I suggest listening to from start to finish with no distraction to really get it. The climax is just mind-blowing.

Artist 00.db
Title Orba (Original Mix)
Release Heaven & Hell
Label Fektive Records
Year 2009

Time traveller’s archive — 10

Some stuff to read on the weekend.

Millennium Falcon. I love this ship since I was a kid.

  1. Millennium Falcon’s hyperdrive malfunction SFX. Nice and funny insights from sound designer Ben Burtt. It’s also a great example of the layering technique.
  2. The Truth About Popular Music. “The diversity of transitions between notes, chords, melodies, and other sounds has diminished over the last fifty years. [...] The study also found that producers are baking volume into songs at the production stage making them artificially louder. This over-compression has the effect of sucking all the dynamics out of a song. Everything is beginning to sound the same. [...] Now any stupid fucking bimbo or brain-dead twag can be dragged-off a reality show, chopped into a recording studio and have their shrill wobbling auto-tune for mass consumption.”
  3. The Biggest Home Studio Lie We Tell Ourselves. Good points from Graham Cochrane on being lazy: whether you’re composing, doing arrangement or mixing, never say “I’ll make it better later”. It’s like taking a bad picture on a smartphone hoping that Photoshop will fix it. You got to get it right in the first place.
  4. If you want to follow your dreams, you have to say no to all the alternatives. This is something I have problems with: I want to achieve so many goals, so sometimes I feel like I’m going nowhere. This article shows why you should focus on only one big dream in a funny visual way.

Feedback for “Rocketship” by Vernski

Can you give some feedback on my new work-in-progress track? What to improve?

Vern Junior Jones

Vern, I certainly hear a lot of improvements since your last track: there are more clarity now, better soundscapes, and arrangement. Well done!

But as you can guess, there are some issues as well. Let’s go through each of them.

Bassline

The first thing is about the bassline: I feel it has a lack of pressure, it’s too “weak”. I can’t know for sure what caused it since I haven’t seen your project file, but there are few possible reasons: volume balance, equalization, or phasing issues.

Psytrance bassline equalization

I’ll write about phase issues in one of the next blogs

I want to remark that this is not a problem generally speaking, but it is a problem for this particular genre’s sub-standards. Take a listen to few other tracks’ basses, which are in the same Am key:

If you don’t hear any difference, I bet you’re listening on headphones — it’s a common problem because headphones can’t give an accurate low-frequency response. I suggest checking the bassline on monitors.

Percussions

Take a listen to the offbeat hats that starts at the Bar 41:

It seems that velocity of each hat is set pretty randomly, causing a weird stress pattern. The offbeat hats are one of the key rhythmic element along with the kick and snares, so I would suggest keeping them in a more predictable way.

Rhythm structure basics

Now take a listen to the closed hats starting at the Bar 65:

These driving closed hats, on a contrast, could have a slightly stronger variation, it sounds almost straight at the moment. Besides, the samples of the both hats are very similar to each other making almost no distinguish — the offbeat hats are getting lost here.

Nikola and Dalibor are the masters of groove:

Snares

Now let’s go back to the Bar 49 where snare drums starts:

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel that these snares have too much “body”, some unnecessary harmonics in the low-mid range. Try to sculpt your own snare by layering few different samples or just cut the low-end with an EQ.

Making a layered snare

Build-ups

My main concern is the lack of energy and overall progression. Even when the track does progress, it’s hard to notice because there are no time indicators for this: some build-ups or at least a crash cymbal on a strong beat every sixteen bars.

I’d suggest adding some noise sweeps, cymbals, snare fills, and other elements that would tell listeners “okay, something new is happening here”. This would make track more interesting and will help to keep listeners’ attention throughout the track. Here is what I’ve quickly made just to give an example:

Making build-ups and drum fills

Progressive music is all about building a tension and then release it, a balance between the “dry” and “wet”. It’s good to learn how producers in other genres do this, especially in Techno.

Listen to these two tracks, they’d be completely boring but Spektre and Alex Di Stefano are the masters of the tension-and-release game:

Keep them coming.

P.S. This post is a part of the weekly “Advice” series. I’m happy to advise on such topics as production, performance, management, marketing, and design in the music industry and beyond. Send me your questions, too.

Happy New Year 2016—2017!

Thoughts on the past year and a free download track

2016 was a tough but very productive year. This year, we’ve got Rave Podcast 5th year anniversary, I’ve managed to complete my second album, and Digital Om Production is now taking care of my bookings, kicking things off with the PLUR Festival next year in Greece.

To celebrate this, I’m giving away my single Surreal, released this year on JOOF Recordings, as a free download. It is one of the most unusual track from me as a Psytrance producer since it has a very melodic and emotional blend of Techno, Progressive Trance, and a pinch of Psychedelics at a lower tempo — something that I typically never do.

Hurry up to grab your copy because the free download time is limited:

Oops, it seems you’re late. The download has expired on January 3rd.

And just to let you know, there is something else is cooking behind the scenes (besides the album). It gonna be huge. Hopefully I’ll be able to announce by the end of 2017.

Happy New Year!

Dec 31   Free download

Telegram channels review

Opinion on a Telegram channels from the marketing point of view, and comparison with Facebook pages in numbers

Typically, Facebook pages occupy the primary slot among social networks for public figures and brands, gathering all news as a central hub. I’m an active Facebook user since 2011, but the more I use it, the less I like it.

As a DJ and music producer, I’m always looking for new ways of improving communication with the audience so followers could get my latest releases, tours, blogs, and other news. This search led me to Telegram channels, and today I’d like to share what I’ve learned about it.

What is Telegram

If you haven’t heard anything about Telegram yet, let’s start off with a quick 101:

  • It’s a fast and free messaging app founded in 2013.
  • It has a mobile and desktop clients and a cloud-based seamless sync between them.
  • It’s ad-free and will remain forever free.
  • It has a lot of powerful features like bots, secret chats, groups, channels, and more.
  • By the February 2016 (a year ago), it has 100,000,000 monthly active users and 350,000 new users sign up each day, delivering 15 billion messages daily.

I’ve been using Telegram as a messenger for quite some time now, but started my own channel just about a month ago.

Telegram me

What is a channel

Channels are a tool for broadcasting public messages to large audiences, similarly like you do on Twitter. A sort of blogs within the messaging app.

A channel has as a public username so you can search it within the app or access via browser by the direct link, like telegram.me/daniellesden.

Basically, it looks like just one of the chats in the app. You can share text messages, images, links, and even audio and video that playbacks using a built-in player.

By default, when you share a post, your followers will see a push notification. You can also send “silent” messages by clicking on the ring icon, this way they won’t receive notifications but rather just see an unread counter of your channel in the chats list, this is a sort of “gentle” notification. And since all broadcasts organized by chats, you don’t need to compete for the users’ attention in their newsfeed using cats pictures — they will see your messages when they want to.

Here’s how a channel looks in the desktop app

One noticeable difference with Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media is a lack of interaction. There is literally no way people can “like” or comment on your posts, at least for now. The only thing that makes you sure you’re not writing into the empty void is the views counter on the right side of each of your post.

Is it a good thing? Let’s see.

My experience with channels in numbers

I have a very humble experience with Telegram channels as I’m using it only a month now, but here is what I’ve learned so far: per follower, Telegram posts reach much more audience than in any other social media.

I think since it’s a messaging app, people treat channels like a one-on-one conversation and hence trust the authors. For example, if on Facebook people can “Like” your page just to show some support, here on Telegram people follow channels because they really want to read it.

Just to give some numbers to compare with, let’s take a look at my Facebook page which has about 14700 followers.

On Facebook, organic posts reach and engagement is quite suck

You’ll instantly notice these two quite nicely performed posts with 10k and 13k audience reach and probably think “huh, not bad!”. Well, the truth is such spikes happen very rarely, and besides, we know that Facebook artificially gives your native videos higher priority in the users newsfeed in order to compete with YouTube videos.

Theft, Lies, and Facebook Video by Hank Green

If you look at the other posts, they typically reach in between 1–3k, let’s count it as 2k on average. That only about 13% from the total amount of followers.

Just think about it a for moment: you spend a huge amount of time (and sometimes money, too) on getting a solid fanbase on Facebook, but once it’s time to actually speak to your audience — let’s say, you’re announcing a new album or a gig — only 13% on your followers will see your important announcement.

Now compare this to what I’ve experiencing on Telegram:

Stats Facebook page
14 700 followers
Telegram channel
74 followers
Average post reach 2k, or 13,6% 205, or 277%
Top-performed post reach 13k, or 88% 2k, or 2500%

Yes, that’s it. Having only 74 followers on the channel so far, my posts typically reach as twice as the audience I have. And my top-performed post so far viewed by more than 2000 people (once the counter reaches thousands, Telegram only shows short “2k” without specifics). Imagine if I’d had 14700 followers here like my Facebook page has :-)

How is that? Well, It seems that having no ability to “like” or comment motivates people to share your posts — this function is called forwarding here. And people actually do forward posts — to their friends, groups, and other public channels.

Even those posts which under-perform still reach out about 50~80% of your followers, which is equally to the most top-performed posts on Facebook.

Such broad audience reach isn’t unique to my channel. For example, take a look at the Telegram’s own news channel: they have 78k followers while their typical post reaches about 250–400 thousand people. That’s huge.

Telegram News channel’s post reach is ×4-5 more people that the amount of followers they have

Conclusion

Frankly, I have no idea what Telegram will be like in few years. I also have no idea where to get the audience, I’m not even sure how most of these 74 followers I currently have found me in the first place.

What I know, though, is that Telegram is certainly worth to try.

On cover image: a futuristic art from Telegram.org. All numbers are taken from the moment of December, 15.

Dec 30   Facebook   Marketing   Telegram

What speakers do you use

What headphones/speakers do you use and why?

rob662

Rob, I have a counter question for you: what would you do with this knowledge? Let’s say, I’ll told you that I’m using a Super-duper monitors by SomeAmazingBrand. Now what, you’ll want to get one of these?

You see, there is a catch: audio equipment sound very differently in different circumstances and environment. Room shape, acoustic treatment, sound card, cables, and even monitors vertical position relative to the ears, among other factors, affects our perception of sound.

If you would like to buy speakers, I suggest doing a research. Start off with the price range, then see what manufacturers are reliable and trustworthy, then read more about specific models, their type, power, and size. Hint: for a typical home studio, you’d need near-field monitors with the size of the speaker no more than 8 inches.

Home studio basics

But in case you’re just curious what speakers I have, the answer will be pretty boring. For the last seven years I’m using low-cost active near-field monitors Tapco S5 by Mackie. It’s not what I would want to use, but rather something that I can use at the moment. I intend to upgrade the monitors in the foreseen future in a favor for some higher grade.

Tapco S5 Review on Sound on Sound Magazine by Paul White

Tapco S5 by Mackie is a fine choice for beginners due to low price

Fellow producers! What speakers do you use and why?

P.S. This post is a part of the weekly “Advice” series. I’m happy to advise on such topics as production, performance, management, marketing, and design in the music industry and beyond. Send me your questions, too.

Dec 28   Advice   Equipment
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