102 posts tagged

Advice

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 at daniellesden.com/advice/ask

Celebrating 100 articles in the advice series

What I’ve learned and what’s next

In August 2015 I launched the advice series to help aspiring producers and spread the knowledge. And last week I posted the 100th article in this series. Hundred articles on music production, sound design, DJing, industry insights, marketing, and career advice. This is huge.

I thought such round number would be a nice moment to thank everyone who sent me the questions and contributed to the blog. So thank you guys, thanks for your curiosity and strive for knowledge which drive this series forward. You’re awesome! <3

And taking this opportunity I would also like to tell a bit of what I’ve learned for the past two years of writing this series and what comes next.

What I’ve learned

  1. Good always wins
    When I introduced the advice series, all sceptics were saying that people will steal the tricks and ideas I share, that I will look stupid by trying to teach other people whilst I’m still an uprising producer myself (“You know nothing, Jo... Lesden”) and more criticism. Well, I had no doubts that none of this will happen and I was right. I was amazed how many people found this blog useful and genuinely shared their own techniques as well. I have a feeling that over time we’ll see more producers sharing their knowledge, too.
  2. Knowing ≠ understanding
    I realised that knowing things is not the same understanding those things. When you explain things to other people, your mind process it differently and you certainly learn something new even if you thought you knew it before. I can’t stress enough how much I’ve learned from this.
  3. Content marketing works
    This whole advice idea came out purely out of altruistic initiative, I didn’t think about it as a marketing tool. But turned out, many people — including industry professionals — have discovered my music because of this advice blog. A kind of a side effect but in a good way. I certainly recommend other producers to start blogging, it helps people and increases the overall awareness about your name with no money investment needed, something that a classic advertisement can never do.
  4. Writing consistently is tough, but boosts your skills
    Back in 2015, I asked myself: can I possibly write a new article every week on a regular basis? Frankly, it was quite a challenge. I’m not a full-time writer nor a blogger, I’m a musician and DJ that writes about music and that’s a totally different thing. Writing a single article is tough, but writing a new piece of advice every week is quite a challenge indeed! Nevertheless, I have to admit that consistent writing helped me learn how to explain myself clearly and even become a tiny bit better in English.

What’s next

The advice series will continue to come out on Wednesday, but probably not every Wednesday. More like of When-I-can-s-day.

I want to keep delivering a thoughtful and well-made content that other producers hopefully find useful while experimenting with its frequency a bit — sometimes weekly, sometimes bi-monthly, sometimes less often.

I also have a few really cool projects on the way (won’t spoil it here), but sacrificing the quality of one project over another is the last thing I want to do. Quality > quantity, not the other way around.

As a consequence of this changing schedule, more questions will be stacked up in the queue. If you ever wanted to send me a question, I would suggest doing it today as from now on it will take a longer time to post a reply.

Jul 26   Advice   Behind the scenes

What’s in your DJ bag

Hi Daniel, I’m curious what do you put in your DJ bag for gigs? How to be sure you don’t forget anything? The reason I ask this is that I’ve got lucky to get my first international gig, don’t have much experience yet. Any tips on this?

Jared

Hey Jared, congrats on your first gig :-)

The things DJs put in their bags vary depending on their setup, event type, travel destination, and habits. I’ll show what I typically put in my bag, but before I’d like to give some tips that might help.

Essentials first

First things first, put whatever is essential for your performance. Whether you are a laptop DJ or playing on CDs, USBs or vinyl, put this first.

For USB sticks, be sure it’s not formatted as NTFS because Pioneer players won’t read flash drives with that file system.

For a laptop, be sure it runs your DJ software nice and smooth. Clean it from unnecessary apps that might be running in the background and slow down the performance. Don’t forget the charger with an appropriate plug and the cables.

Always have a plan B

Shit happens. I think none will argue with this. A software can crash, CDs can get scratched, USB stick can get lost. With that in mind, I highly suggest having a plan B and get some alternative source of music.

Let’s say, you perform on CDJ2000s with a USB stick, but entering the DJ booth you see CDJ1000 which doesn’t have a USB port. As being said, shit happens. You can start yelling to the organiser that he didn’t fulfil your tech rider but it probably won’t help. What would help, however, is a CD wallet that you’ve prepared in advance.

Hopefully none of these will happen, but for those rare case when it actually does happen, this might save your performance. I don’t DJ with the CDs anymore but still keep several discs in my bag.

Spare pairs

Continuing the previous point, I also suggest having extra pairs of some basic things. Get a spare USB cable, get an extra charging adapter, get another USB stick. Just in case.

Again, you’ll probably (and hopefully) won’t need any of those things, but it’s better safe than sorry. And it doesn’t occupy much space either.

Travel

Once you packed everything needed for your performance, time to get ready for the travel. Take your international passport and be sure it has at least six months before expiring date and at least one page for the stamp. Don’t forget your visa if you need it.

If you’re planning to have a carry-on bag only, be sure its weight and measurements fit the airline’s terms. Otherwise, you’ll be asked to put your bag in the baggage, which might end up not quite well for the equipment.

If you’re an iOS user, I would also advise adding your boarding passes to the built-in Wallet app. It works offline and shows your passes in a very convenient way. Just make sure to have a nice and easy access to your flight info, especially when you have multiple flights.

As for the question what’s in my bag, I though it would be boring to simply list all the things, so here is a picture I took for you:

Stuff that I typically put in my DJ bag. Cloth not included since it’s depend on the destination point weather and travel time

Fellow DJs, what you guys put in your bags? More cables? A travel pillow? I’m not a very frequent flyer either, so would love to hear some tips from more experienced colleagues too.

Jul 19   Advice   DJing and performance

Музыкантам: советы при общении с зарубежными лейблами (18+)

To my English-speaking readers: the post below is written in the Russian language to help Russian music producers deal with foreign record labels. No worries if you don’t understand a thing :-)

Музыканты! Если вы отправляете свои треки на зарубежные лейблы, но при этом плохо владеете английским языком, этот пост для вас.

Я работаю A&R-менеджером на британском лейбле JOOF Recordings и получаю около ста новых демо-записей в неделю. Мне приятно, что среди них оказывается много русских музыкантов, но то, как написаны сопроводительные письма — это полный, кромешный пиздец.

Речь не об орфографии или грамматике, а о смысле: зачастую при дословном переводе с русского на английский (без нормального знания последнего) получается такая каша, что носитель языка либо ничего не поймет, либо подумает, что вы дебил. Перспективы так себе.

Приведу пять примеров из писем и расскажу, как надо.

1. Новая работа

Самая распространенная ошибка на моей практике — использование неуместного перевода слова “работа”. Пример из жизни:

“I would like to introduce you my new job.”

Хотя слово “работа” можно перевести как work, так и job, смысл у них совершенно разный в зависимости от контекста. Разумеется, гугл-транслейт контекст понимает плохо, поэтому и переводит чаще всего неправильно.

Говоря по-простому, job — это само понятие работы, деятельность, за которую обычно получают деньги. Это слово подойдет для фраз, например “я устроился на новую работу” (“I got a new job”) или “неполный рабочий день” (“part-time job”).

Словом же work обозначается скорее труд или достигнутый результат . Например, “я работаю с Васей” (“I work with Vasya”) или “работы Шекспира” (“the works of Shakespeare”).

Совет: если вы хотите назвать песню или трек работой, то используйте именно слово work, как показано в примере выше. Или так и пишите — “Here’s my new track”, без всяких ворков вообще.

2. Энджой

Еще одна частая проблема — письма в таком духе:

“Please check out my new track, I hope you like it. Enjoy!”

Вроде, с точки зрения языка всё нормально. Но проблема в том, что из письма не ясно, чего от тебя хотят, причём такие письма приходят в основном от русских музыкантов. Ну, заценил я трек, дальше-то что?

Капитан Очевидность может сказать, что отправитель конечно же ждет релиза, но вот нифига: иногда оказывается, что музыкант хочет чтобы этот трек сыграли на радио, иногда просто хочет услышать оценку, иногда — хз. Сам не знает.

Особенно обидно, когда трек оказывается хорошим. Ты такой “класс, давай издадим?”, а тебе в ответ “не-не, ребят, трек уже подписан на другом лейбле, я просто так вам отправил заценить”. Энджой, блеать!

Совет: не поленитесь добавить, с какой целью вы отправляете трек и чего вообще от лейбла хотите. Пишите ясно, как есть: “Хочу у вас издать трек, вот демо” или “У меня тут есть классный трек, возможно подойдет для вашего радио-шоу, вот промо”.

3. ФИО

Бывает, подписывают русского музыканта на лейбле, просят прислать данные для контракта, а он им такой:

“Real name: Vasiliev Gennadiy Andreyvich”

Ну ладно я, я-то пойму. А другие зарубежные лейблы, где нет русскоязычного менеджера? Ребят, пожалейте бедных иностранцев: они искренне недоумевают, почему фамилия стоит первая, что “среднее имя” (привычное для них middle name) на самом деле имя, а последнее — вообще имя отца, и самое главное как всё это друг от друга отличить.

Совет: если вас просят написать полное имя для контракта или другой формальной процедуры, пишите просто имя и фамилию. Без отчества и именно в таком порядке — имя и затем фамилия: Gennadiy Vasiliev, Daniel Sokolovskiy. Вроде мелочь, но сильно облегчает жизнь.

4. Творческий псевдоним

По-русски часто говорят: “я музыкант такой-то, мой творческий псевдоним такой-то”. И так по-английски и пишут:

“Hello! My name is Pavel and my creative pseudonym is Paul Sandy.”

Это как раз тот случай, когда вас поймут, но вероятно подумают, что вы дебил. Тут дело такое: по-русски фразу “творческий псевдоним” можно заменить на “псевдоним, под которым я занимаюсь творческой деятельностью” и будет всё в порядке. По-английски же слово “creative” еще означает “оригинальный” и “уникальный”, поэтому получается, будто вы сразу даете оценку своему псевдониму.

Это все равно что сказать “у меня потрясающая музыка и очень оригинальный псевдоним” — согласитесь, как-то не очень, отдаёт хвастовством. Вдобавок, если вас зовут Павлом и вы издаёте музыку под именем Пол, то такой псевдоним нифига не криэйтив.

Совет: stage name и alias — этими словами чаще всего называют псевдонимы артистов. Просто запомните. Никакие “pseudonym” не нужны.

5. Письмо

Находчивые русские музыканты знают, что если лейбл не отвечает на письмо уже неделю, то можно смело отправить второе — напоминание. И в общем-то правильно, вот только такие письма зачастую выглядят примерно так:

“I sent you a letter last week, please check it.”

В 2017 стало нормой называть электронные письма просто письмами, без всяких корявых “e-мэйлов”. Но гугл-транслейт об этом не знает, поэтому фразу “я отправил вам письмо” скорее всего переведёт как “I sent you a letter”. Разница в том, что letter — это бумажное письмо. Конверт такой, который отправляют “Почтой России”.

Как-то из-за такого письма пришлось пройтись по всем сайтам и аккаунтам лейбла, чтобы проверить, не указан ли где-то физический почтовый ящик в качестве контактов для демо. Короче, не делайте так.

Совет: запомните, письмо — это mail или email. Не пугайте людей спамом почтового ящика в подъезде.

У меня таких примерно еще штук сто, но пока остановлюсь на этих пяти :-) Если есть что добавить — пишите, комментарии ниже открыты.

Читайте также по теме (на английском):

Jul 12   Advice   Music industry

Learning music production for authentic results

Some thoughts on how to learn using a reference track but not ending up like a someone’s clone

Stormtroopers from Star Wars Episode VII. Sometimes, browsing Beatport new releases causes the same feeling

Hey Daniel, a lot of forums, tutorials and courses out there recommend learning by using reference tracks, deconstructing arrangements and rebuilding sounds/presets.

This sounds fine in principle, but in practice, I can’t help wondering if this has also created a lot of similar sounding music on Beatport, across all genres.

It may take longer and be more challenging to not use any form of reference but do you think that ultimately, it will lead the producer (over months and years) to more authentic results?

If not, how do you recommend reference tracks/sounds/arrangements are used to enhance learning but not limit creativity?

Doron

That’s a great question, Doron. I’m in a camp with those who suggest learning and training your ears using a reference track indeed, and I do agree that stores are flooded with similar music with a lack of originality. But I don’t think that using a reference whilst learning is what caused this. 

Train your ears using a reference track

You see, there is a different between analysing and trying to recreate certain sounds for educational purpose and deliberate copying someone’s else music. When you just starting out, you seek for answers for the questions that puzzling you: how is this bassline made? Is that a saw or a square wave? Does my lead sits well in the mix? And learning other producer’s music is a great way to answer them. Those who want to blindly copy other’s music will find a way, anyway.

When I started this blog, people often asked me something like “are you not afraid sharing your trade secrets so the others will steal your tricks?”, and I always said “no, I don’t”.

For example, I shared the way I made the robotic texture and atmospheric effects used in my tracks. There is nothing really fancy about it, it’s all basic stuff for anyone with a decent experience, but for beginners it might be a breakthrough. “Hm, so he made the texture using a simple noise oscillator and a filter... what if I’ll change it to a saw wave instead? And do this instead of that?” — that type of thinking I would advise to have when you read a tutorial or when you use a reference track. Think of a general concept, a method that can be implemented in so many ways rather than using any given tutorial or reference as it is. This is how the learning curve goes.

I would also like to talk about two more things: the format and the content.

Let’s take newspaper as an example. Typically, there are some current events printed on a low-grade paper, probably with some logo on the top and a big bold heading. You know it’s a newspaper just by looking at it. But I don’t think anyone accuses “The Guardian” of ripping off “The Time” or vice versa, or any other newspaper cloning each other. That’s because a newspaper is just a format of the production.

Now speaking about music, all those kicks, basses, mixdowns etc. are just a format of some particular genre. Let’s say, you know it’s a Psytrance when you hear a certain tempo and beat patterns. But you shouldn’t solely focus on that alone, and I think this is where many producers fall off.

Beginners forget that the content is what people listen to music for, same reason why they read the newspapers. And when I say content in terms of music, I’m don’t mean a fancy kick drum but rather a feeling, emotions that this track awakes in you; something that will make you want it to listen again and again. How to create an interesting music content is another huge topic, and it’s a talk for another time.

Fellow producers out there, I’m keen to know what do you guys think about it? The comments box below is open for you.

Jun 28   Advice   Personal development

“Is this standard practice for a label to share profits 10/90%?”

I have recently been contacted to submit a track for a compilation by a small label, Ghost Label Records. I know you have covered this before, but I have some questions about it. The contract I have been sent to sign seems a bit ‘dodgy’, specifically:

“a) All profits from sales of physical CD’s, digital downloads will be splitted 10% for the Licensor and 90% for the Licensee.
...
c) Payments may be withheld if sum does not match or exceed withholding amount of 1000 euro. The label’s accountant department will only contact the artist in the event their dues have reached 1000 euro. The label is not responsible for contacting the artist should their royalties not reach the withholding amount. ”

1, it seems a bit one-sided. Artist gets 10% label gets 90%? Is this a usual split? 2, it seems like they are saying that they will only pay me if the sales reach over 10,000 euros (highly unlikely). Is it standard practice to have a clause like this in a contract?

Having already been asked to re-do my mix as he wasn’t happy with the eq on the kick, which I did twice, I was then asked to re-write the first minute of the track because “the start of your track is very insufficient and poor. Till 01:10 the track has no meaning and sounds poor because only the kick/bass is playing”.

Is this standard practice for a label to ask for a rewrite of a track they have asked to include on a release?

Hamish Strachan

Hamish, it’s good you questioned the contract because the terms you’ve mentioned doesn’t seem promising at all.

Typically, labels and artists have a 50-50% split share. That’s the industry standard. I heard some purely commercial labels offer 60–40 and even 70–30 split deals, but never 90–10. It’s a nonsense. Here is one of the contracts I previously signed to give an example:

One of the contracts I signed. The standard 50-50% split is highlighted

But in this case the split share doesn’t really matter because of the second term:

“Payments may be withheld if sum does not match or exceed withholding amount of 1000 euro. The label’s accountant department will only contact the artist in the event their dues have reached 1000 euro.”

Some labels indeed withheld the sum until it reaches $50 or $100 just to make their accountant’s work easier, but $1000 is a scam. Don’t forget that stores and distributors also take their commission, so typically labels get only half of the price tag you see in the cart.

Let’s say, if an average price per track is €1, then the label’s share is 50 cents, which means your share would be 5 cents in this case. And that, in turn, means they would need to sell 20 000 copies just to reach that payable threshold of €1000 that suppose to go the artist. Basically, it means that’ll never gonna pay the artists, and I mean it — never, literally.

Don’t get me wrong, you should’t expect a solid income from music sales alone anyway. Releasing on a label has a marketing purpose. For example, I didn’t get a penny from my debut EP released on Ovnimoon Records back in 2012: they sent me a nice pack of CDs instead. That was a part of the original deal so that was fine by me, clear and simple. But when those guys from Ghost Label Records say they will pay you some money whilst in reality they won’t, I think it’s a scam. It’s up to you whether you want to deal with the people like this or not.

The truth about music sales

As for the second part of your question when a label asks to re-do the track, well, it depends. Generally speaking, I would say it’s a good sign, it means the label care. You can get an idea of what kind of feedback I give as an A&R at JOOF in the Tim Bourne’s success story. But looking at the contract terms above, I don’t think give a shit about the artists.

Jun 14   Advice   Music industry

What do you need to play a live set

I have a couple of questions about playing a live act because I’m quite confused now about this topic. What do you need to do if you finished a few tracks and want to play them as a live act?

I watched some videos but I only saw people launching a few clips in ableton but I don’t understand how to play for example an hour long live act with many of your tracks. How to prepare your tracks? Chopping into kick, bass, leads etc? What about the arrangement? Sorry for the loads of question but I got lost in this.

Thanks for your help and also for this amazing advice blog I think it helps a lot for us!

Viktor

Viktor, I cannot answer your question in details saying like “chop it here” or “map this to that” because there are a plenty of things I don’t know, giving any specific advice without knowing your music or setup as least would be unprofessional.

First of all, the question is what do you want to achieve. Why do you want to play live sets in the first place? How exactly do you want to make your tracks played live different from playing a record? How would you like to build up the set, both musically and energy-wise?

The next big question is the musical genre you playing because there are some differences too. For example, is it a Techno or Progressive that slowly builds up over time? Or it’s a fast-paced Psytrance with several melodic layers played simultaneously? Compare these two snippets:

I would say, the more intense, complex, and fast-paced your music is, the less freedom you have on the stage. Well, no surprise: supposedly you have only two hands, so the numbers of things you can manipulate in a given time are pretty limited. And it’s important to understand your limitation because it allows to think of possibilities.

The next is equipment. Various gear allows to play and map things differently, hence your Ableton setup would be different as well. Let’s say, do you have a drum machine, sequencer, sampler, synthesiser, effects rack? Or you have just a MIDI-controller with 8 rotary knobs and that’s it? I’m not saying that having a MIDI-controller isn’t enough to play a live set, but again it’s a limitation that you have to be aware of to prepare the set accordingly.

At last but not least, where are you going to play a live set is another thing to consider because live sets require a certain type of event and audience. Most clubs don’t give artists time for changeover and sometimes there are simply no space in the booth for any extra piece of equipment. You have to negotiate and discuss it with promoters first, these are the real things you have to deal with if you are going to play live, it’s even more important that thinking of what button you should map on a controller to launch a clip.

I’m sorry that this blog gave you more questions that answers. We can theorycraft about preparing tracks for a potential live set of course, but I’d advise answering these questions to yourself first to get a bit of real-life sense.

P.S. Watch this amazing video by Minilogue playing a live jam studio session. They also have another video explaining this setup: what each piece of equipment does, how the signal flows is set, what’s going on in Ableton of each of their computer, etc. I find it inspiring. Perhaps, it’ll answer some of your questions.

May 31   Advice   DJing and performance   Music production

EQing individual bass notes

After reading your bassline equalisation advice, I’m curious because of the different harmonic positions relative to the note frequency, if you have a baseline that changes notes, should you / would you gain any benefit from having each note on a unique track with separate EQ, or automating the EQ to respond based on the note sequence? Or is that just overkill?

Michael Roy

To EQ or not to eq each individual note depends on the genre you working on and the results you’re aiming for.

For example, if you have a kind of a soft, smooth, and groovy bass like typically used in Full-On or House music, it’s probably not worth it:

On a contrast, if you aiming for a really crispy and punchy bass that typically used in Progressive-Psy or Uptempo Psychedelic, then I would say a yes to extra EQing:

Now I would like to share some tips on how to use different bass notes with each individual EQ.

First of all, having several MIDI channels with different bassline notes is certainly an overkill. For every tiny change in the bass sound you would need to change it manually on the other channels as well. It’s also not convenient working with MIDI that way and not efficient for the computer resources.

Picture 1. Having multiple MIDI channels for each bass is a bad idea, don’t do like that

And what if your bassline MIDI pattern is going crazy with changes every 1/16th notes? In case of having a unique track for each bass note, it’s simply impossible:

Picture. A pattern like this is impossible if you have several MIDI channels for the bass

A good solution that I’ve been personally used for years is using resampling. Just put an EQ on the bass channel, resample that one note as a piece of audio. Then put an EQ with different settings for another note, resample it. And repeat for any other notes. I know it sounds like a huge amount of work when you read it, but in fact, it takes just a few minutes tops if you know your DAW well.

Eventually, you should audio samples for each note. Like this:

Picture. Resampled notes, each with EQ tailored for its frequency

Now create a new MIDI channel and add these samples into a new Drum rack:

Picture 4. Bass samples loaded in the Drum rack

And now create a new MIDI clip and draw any pattern using these samples, as easy as it gets:

Picture 5. MIDI pattern played by different samples, all within one clip

You can hear this technique in action in any of my productions which has that kind of “jumping” bass pattern, for example like in Structured Chaos:

I hope it makes sense.

May 24   Advice   Kick and bass   Music production

Insights on sending a demo to a record label. Part 2

It’s safe to say that my previous advice on sending a demo is one of the most popular articles on this blog: there are thousand of upcoming producers looking for a proper way to reach out record labels, and I hope these insights helped to shed some light.

Today, I would like to continue that topic and share five more short tips on sending a demo to record labels based on my experience of A&R.

“Void — A Sector To Avoid” art by Kuldar Leement. So as this artwork title suggests, in this blog we’ll talk about things to avoid

Send only finished track

People often say something like this: “here is a 15-seconds draft of my new track, I’ll finish if it fit your label”. What? How can label approve something that doesn’t exist yet? What if this 15-seconds snippet is fine, but then you will suddenly come up with something entirely different that not suits the label?

Demo is a demonstration of your best skills. So show a finished track, not a half-assed product.

Double-check your links

You’ll be surprised how many broken links labels see in their inboxes! From my experience, roughly every third link is broken due to incorrect privacy settings of the track or just because of copy-pasting a wrong URL.

Apparently, I’m not alone with this. Here is what Basil O’Glue, a manager of Saturate Audio, wrote on Twitter:

Producers! Please, double-check your links, be sure another person can open it.

Simplify your signature

Have you ever received an email with a signature that includes full sender’s address with ZIP code, fifteen links to all of his social pages, several international phone numbers, fax (who the hell still use fax nowadays?), and a huge wall of text of “dont-print-this-email-save-the-trees” and other bullshit? If so, you probably know this feeling: it’s annoying.

Such signature is nothing but a visual noise, it takes extra effort to scan the email searching for some meaningful text. Please, don’t do that. Keep it simple, your name and one link to your website are totally fine.

Don’t brag too much

Ah, this is my favourite: listing the entire discography, every single DJ’s support, and all chart appearances. Why, just why are you doing that? What the logic behind it? Every time I receive an email like this, I imagine two label managers having this conversation in my mind:

— A quite mediocre demo, not for us...
— Yeah indeed, not good enough...
— Hold on, he said his previous track has been supported by David Buretta!
— Seriously? Sign him up!!!

Jokes asides, please don’t show off all that stuff unless it’s relevant to the label or that particular track, it’s not cool.

“Please suggest some label where it might fit”

Sometimes, when I say that the demo doesn’t fit the label, some smart guys come back asking “can you suggest some labels where it might fit?”. This question sounds harmless at first sight, but just think about it for second. Imagine if you would fail a job interview and then ask: “do you know other companies that might be interesting in hiring me?”. Sounds, erm... not quite appropriate, don’t you think?

if you don’t make any attempts to learn the industry by yourself, how are you going to work in this field? This is where we came back to what Part 1 begins with: do your research first.

2017   A&R   Advice   Music industry

Phase cancellation explained

Earlier in the blog you mentioned “phase cancellation” as one of the reasons why bassline may sound flabby and not punch enough. Could you explain that please? 

Ivan

Let’s take some simple audio sample. I’m going to use a kick drum from some sample library. Just a regular kick, nothing fancy:

Now I’m going to duplicate the channel, add Utility tool to reverse the poles of the phase and flatten this channel into a new piece of audio. Here is what’ve got:

Two audio samples with inverted phase

Take a closer look at the waveforms: their peaks go in the opposite way. And now listen what happens when I’ll playback both of these samples at the same time:

No, your speakers are fine. The result of these two samples playing together is silence — no sound, literally. This is what called a phase cancellation.

Typically, in the real production your sounds’ phases won’t be exactly the opposite causing silence like in the example above, but even a subtle miss-phase will cancel some frequencies out. You should keep it in mind especially when dealing with low-frequency signal such as bassline.

Watch also this excerpt from Lynda course. It demonstrates phase cancellation of an acoustic signal but the principle applies pretty much in every production:

2017   Advice   Music production

Making a robotic texture sound in Spire

Could you explain how you got to producing that arp on Machinery (Preview) at 0:02 sec?

Mohammed Sharook

I’m glad you asked because I love that sound and quite satisfied with it :-)

In few words — it’s all about a comb filter. That particular filter type is what make the sound so badass and “robotic”. But let’s try to recreate this sound entirely from scratch.

Comb filter

First things first, we need to use a synthesiser that has a comb filter. For instance, Sylenth1 which I know many Psytrance producers use a lot, won’t work in this case since it doesn’t have that filter. So, for this example I’m gonna use Spire.

Recommended synths

Let’s create a new MIDI channel, put a new instance of Spire with initial preset, and draw a MIDI note. Keep in mind that actual note on a piano roll doesn’t matter because we gonna use noise as a waveform which obviously doesn’t have a tone.

Picture1. A new instance of Spire synthesiser with init preset

Now let’s do some tweaks. In the oscillator section, change Classic mode which is set by default to Noise. Right next to it, turn off oscillator key tracking and turn the Wide knob all way to the right.

By default, Envelope-3 in Spire is mapped to a filter cutoff. We don’t need it here, so set it to “Off”. Here is what we’ve got so far:

Picture 2. A simple noise with no envelopes

Nothing fancy so far, just a basic noise sound. Now, turn on the arpeggiator at 1/16 notes to add some rhythm. Map Envelope-1 section to the filter resonance and crank up its amount to a maximum position, and also slightly adjust the Release parameter for 15~20% of its total volume.

Now comes the most interesting part: in the filter section which is off by default, choose the combo (Mono+) filter type. You should notice a pretty dramatic change as soon as you done it. What’s interesting about this filter is that its cutoff frequency determines the actual tone of the sound. For example, at cutoff about 235~240 (Spire’s value, not Herz), we get the sound at G# — that’s the root key of Machinery since you asked about that track:

Picture 3. Arpeggiator, comb filter, and filter envelopes

That’s pretty much the basics. Now you can add EQs, compression, delays, reverb, more filters, play around with arp gate parameter, and more. With this in mind, you should be able to make something like this:

Or add any twist to this sound, as you like. I hope it helps.

2017   Advice   Music production   Sound design
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