60 posts tagged

Music production 

Composing, production, mixing, mastering, and all that stuff.

   

Reverb and delay 

I have a question about reverb and delays. In Psytrance, a lot of the atmosphere of a track is created with reverb and delays. Can you give some advice on using these effects and answer some specific questions?

Which devices do you use with what settings, do you use them on a send or on each channel, do you ever use reverb on kick or bass, do you ever use reverb on the master, any other tricks or general advice?

Hamish Strachan

   

I like to think of an effect, whether it’s a reverb or a delay, by its purpose. I ask myself: “What I am trying to achieve with this particular device?”. And with this in mind, I came up with two sorts of categories: general and creative effects.

The general effect is an effect basically used for mixing, you know, to put instruments into the proper space. Typically, I used built-in Ableton devices for this kind of reverb and delays because there is nothing really fancy about it, you can use pretty much any device or plugin for this purpose.

For general effects, I want all instruments to share the same settings. For example, if a bongo’s delay repeated every 3/16th notes, then a crash cymbal must be repeated on 3/16th as well. This is why I prefer to use this kind of effects via Send-Return channels: it gives more consistent mixdown, it’s easier to tweak some settings if needed, and it also saves CPU usage quite a bit.

I can’t recommend you specific settings simply because there is no one ultimate preset that works every time. I’d like to give one little tip, though, because I see many upcoming producers do this mistake: when adding a device on a Return channel, be sure to turn the Dry/Wet knob all way up to the 100% Wet, and then adjust the needed amount of effect via Sends knobs, not vice versa.

My typical Return channels are: a simple delay, short reverb, and medium reverb (coloured in green)

The creative effect is where all crazy things come in: special effects like a huge reverb tail with a sidechain compression on it panned across the stereo field. That kind of things. Check my advice on creating atmospheric effects because this is exactly the type of processing I’m talking about.

Since this kind of effect is unique for every instrument or an SFX I do, I add those reverb and delay right on top of the channel and then Freeze it. I like to use Native Instrument’s Replika for that because it has some creative features that Ableton built-in devices don’t. See also my recommended processing plugins list.

As for the other two questions. No, I typically don’t use a reverb on kick-and-bass because it would put them further in the background while should be the opposite, at least in Psytrance music. And putting a reverb on the master channel would put pretty much everything on the background, so no, I don’t think you want this either :-) Probably someday I’ll write about mixing basics to give a better understand of that concept.

The only case when I do use reverb or delay on the kick-and-bass group, occasionally, is for creative purpose as a special effect. For example, like here in “Pangea Proxima”:

Fellow producers, how do you treat reverb and delay?

   

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.

   
Apr 12   Advice   Music production

Time traveller’s archive — 14 

Some stuff to read (and watch) on the weekend.

   
Aleksey aka Sonic Elysium on sound design
  1. Ultimate Kick and Bass Tutorial by Sonic Elysium. Kick and bass are probably two of the most frequently asked topics, people asking how to synthesise it, how to EQ, how to fit them together. And I’ve written pretty much all about it, see “Kick and bass” tag. However, if you prefer to watch rather than read, I highly recommend watching this tutorial by Sonic Elysium, he nailed it.
  2. TechMuze Academy podcast with Budi Voogt. Interesting talk about marketing, promo campaigns, and automations. “Do you see a benefit in paid ad campaigns for producers? I’m actually inclined to say no to Facebook and Instagram [...] Revenue streams in music are very indirect. ”
  3. Is DJing just about beat matching? Great blog, as always from John 00 Fleming. I’ve also written about it before, see Vinyl vs. Sync button.
  4. A Beginner’s Guide To Audio Cables. If you don’t know what is balanced or unbalanced cable or what the difference between RCA and XLR — this article on DJ TechTools is right for you.
   

“Can you review my bassline?” 

   
 

First of all, thank you for your awesome and very helpful blog, and also for your music – love your latest album!

    

I’ve just read your most recent post about making kick and bass work well together. I’m producing some psytrance for a couple of years, but still my kbbb is very far from perfect. Can I ask you to briefly review my latest attempt? (it’s a short 1 minute snippet, some synths and percussion added for context). Just like the guy from your post, I feel the kick and bass refuse to work well together for some reason. Also I would greatly appreciate if you say something about the bassline itself (the frequency balance, the groove and stuff).

    

I’ve also read your posts about how you were involved into Russian psytrance scene. I’m from Russia and remember Psyplanet ;)

    

Arseny

    

Thanks for your words, Arseny!

This bassline is fine. However, If you want to match your bassline to the current Psytrance sub-standards, you need to clear the mud and tweak up the filters. Clarity (or should I say, the lack of it) is the main issue here.

   

I suggest using a reference, it really helps a lot. It’s especially true if you working on headphones which I personally not recommend to do. Here are few tracks by other producers, also in Cm key. Compare these basslines with yours:

    

Train your ears

   

Do you hear these crispy, sharp, punchy basses? That is what you should aim for.

Earlier I’ve written about pretty much everything that could be said about the basslines, so rather than repeat myself I’ll put for you these four useful links here:

  1. Psytrance bassline synthesis
    Filter envelopes, resampling, MIDI-notes
  2. Psytrance bassline equalisation
    Boosting harmonics, clearing the mud
  3. How to make a punchy bassline
    Phase, layering, processing
  4. How to fit kick and bass together
    Read about the volume balance in particular

By following these tips you should be able to make a nice punchy bassline. But if none of this helps, let me know what exactly do you struggling with the most in the comments below and we’ll try to fix it together.

   
Mar 29   Advice   Music production

How to fit kick and bass together 

   
 

Hi Daniel! This question is the biggest problem for me when producing psytrance music, how do I make my kick and bass fit together? I have a decent bassline but it really seems to go along the kick, I have used an entire kick sample pack and no one make sense together with the bass, is it the EQ, comp? The initial attack freq? This frustrates me a lot, hope u can help me :D

    

Alberto

    
 

First things first, make sure to use a proper kick sound in the first place whether it’s taken from a sample pack or you making your own sound from scratch. Psytrance sub-genres has very strict sub-standards on that matter, you can’t make a Progressive-Psy using a Goa Trance kick, neither make a Darkpsy using Full-on kick: they all have different transient, pitch, body, length, and overall character.

    

3 ways to make a kick drum

   

Compare these kicks, for example:

Another crucial thing to keep in the mixdown, or simply the volume balance of kick and bass relative to each other. Although bassline plays a very important role in any Psytrance track, kick drum is actually the loudest element. To be more specific, I would suggest setting your kick drum level at 2-3 dB higher than the bassline.

   

At last but not least, the EQ. Usually I gently cut the kick at the frequencies of the key bassline harmonics. Let’s say, we have a bassline in A, which means its harmonics would be at 55 Hz, 110 Hz, and 220 Hz (in 440-tunning). In this case, I would slightly cut these frequencies from the kick to give bassline a little bit more space in the mix, just –1-2 dB with a narrow bell-filter.

    

Psytrance bassline equalization

   

Sometimes I also use Ableton’s built-in Glue Compressor on the kick and bass group to slightly “glue” them together, but compressor is a tricky device that can easily ruin your sound, so I wouldn’t recommend doing that unless you know what exactly want to achieve with it.

That’s pretty much it. You can hear the outcome in my productions.

Fellow producers, how do you fit kick and bass together? Post your routine in the comments box below.

   

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.

   
Mar 22   Advice   Kick and bass   Music production

Feedback for “Vibrations” by MKZ 

 

Hello Daniel, my name is Adrian and I’m from Argentina. I started producing Psychedelic music about 3 years ago. I would like you listen to my track and get some advice and your opinion about my track based on you knowledge. Sorry for my English :) thanks for your time and hope you like it :)

    

Adrian

    

Adrian, I have to say this is a fantastic track I enjoyed a lot, reminds me of the good old days of Full-on Psytrance and also gives slightly reminiscent of Electric Universe. Well done! I have just a few comments.

   

First and foremost, the track progressed in a very strange way, sometimes by eight bars and sometimes by twenty. I can’t stress enough that most electronic music should progress by 16-bars sections, otherwise you not only make it weird but also make DJs job much harder. I’ve written about it earlier in the “Criteria of professional production” mini-series, make sure to check it out.

    

Criteria of professional production. Part 3. DJ-friendly arrangement

   
Extra four measurements at 49—53 Bars (highlighted in red) messes up the structure of the track
   

Now, maybe it’s just me, but I have a feeling that the kick and the bass are not quite in sync. You know, It’s like when you mix two tracks on CDJs and the beat is mismatched just a little so you hear those phassy high-end clicks? It’s like the bassline is somehow rushing (or dragging? :-).

    

Are you rushing or are you dragging? scene from “Whiplash” (2014)

   

Perhaps, you have some processing plugins causing latency of the channel? If that’s the case, I would suggest either using phase alignment plugin like Voxengo PHA-979 or manually adjust the individual track delay.

I also think that the mix can be improved. At the moment it seems like you’re trying to push everything at the front, as the result making all elements compete with each other rather than support and create several layers of depth. You can hear it especially at 2:18—2:45 minute.

Other than that, with some more effort it can be a really nice track. Keep ‘em 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.

   
Feb 22   Advice   Feedback on your tracks   Music production

Feedback for “H N Y” by Myrtillus 

 

First of all thank you very much for your awesome site, I have to confess this is somewhat gold, thank you very much for you availability and expertise sharing in the scene with such an open mind.

    

I have been persuing passionately the psytrance production for some time, and it is clear you are very passionate about your work as an artist.

    

Recently I have managed to finally achieve a track with which I am comfortable to share and ask for feedback and I think you are the best person to whom I can ask for that advice. Please, tell me your point of view.

    

Myrtillus

    

Myrtillus, this track has some nice melodies but overall it doesn’t hold up as a whole. The structure is very weird too: it seems like throughout the track you turning on and off different layers with no particular reason.

Let’s take a listen and look closely what happens at the first two minutes:

Bars Time What happens
33—41 0:56—1:10 Kick, bass, and textures
41—49 1:10—1:24 Snare drums added
49—50 1:24—1:26 Short break
50—57 1:26—1:38 Snare drums removed, hi-hats added
57—65 1:38—1:52 Drum loop added
65—66 1:52—1:54 Short break
66—68 1:54—1:58 Just a kick, bass, and textures again
68—73 1:58—2:06 Hi-hats added
57—65 2:06—2:20 Drum loop added
Different elements turning on and off

What’s wrong with this? Well, it’s bad for two reasons.

From the listener’s perspective, this track sounds like you just playing around with various loops turning them on and off randomly. There is no development, no storyline, it just goes nowhere.

   

From the technical point of view, all electronic dance music progresses by 16-bars sections. You can’t just add a new instrument layer at a 7th Bar or make a 23-Bars-long breakdown, it breaks the entire structure of the track. I’ve written the advice on how to make a proper arrangement, make sure to read it.

    

Criteria of professional production. Part 3: DJ-friendly arrangement

   

Also, maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like the track tempo isn’t a whole number. To make the track goes along with the metronome, I had to warp it at 136.50 BPM. Is that the case? If so, that’s a total nightmare for DJs, please don’t do that :-) Just remember: always use whole numbers in tempo, 135, 136, 137 BPM... whatever, but with no decimals.

There are more issues in the track, but at first I’d suggest learning more about arrangement, structure, the “flow” of the track. And the best way to it is to listen to more music around, put some reference track and try to recreate its structure, the same way like painting artists learn by copying other artists’ masterpieces.

   

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.

   
Feb 8   Advice   Feedback on your tracks   Music production

Time traveller’s archive — 12 

Some stuff to read (and watch) on the weekend.

   
John 00 Fleming doing his first Facebook livestream
  1. John 00 Fleming Q&A talk. John gave a nice almost 1,5 hours-long Q&A session prior to his set at Avalon and people asked a lot about the Trance scene which was quite interesting to listen. I like his advice for bedroom producers: “Best advice is keep it as a hobby and stay in love of it because a lot of people think they gonna hit ‘X-factor’, like a quick romantic story. It’s like you get a track, three months later you gonna be touring around the world, and that’s how the magic happens. But it is much more than that. It only happens for certain people. You’ll get angry, you’ll get stressed if you think that. Sort your day-to-day life first, get your day-time job which pays your bills, and slowly invest some extra money in music. At some point you’ll notice that your hobby will become more serious. But it takes a long time”.
  2. Making of “The Prodigy – Voodoo People” in Ableton by Jim Pavloff. This is quite an old video but I just stumbled across it recently. Great job on sampling. I didn’t know Liam Howlett sampled so many songs back then. Watching this video makes realize how I love Ableton, working with audio channels and processing are so convenient in this DAW. Watch also the other two tracks recreated by Jim Pavloff, you can find it on this YouTube channel.
  3. The Berghain Backstory: Building Berlin’s Most Legendary Nightclub. Some nice behind the scenes of one of the most important nightclubs in the world of underground Techno music.
  4. Rewriting bad writing. Nice advice, as always from the Basecamp team. This time on writing: “While writing isn’t an easy skill, people make it way harder than it needs to be. They think choosing complex language shows skill and smarts. It doesn’t! Writing plainly and clearly does.”
   
Feb 3   Music industry   Music production   Sound design   Time traveller's archive

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.

   
2017   Advice   Feedback on your tracks   Music production

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.

    
2017   Ableton   Advice   Music production

Time traveller’s archive — 10 

Some stuff to read (and watch) 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.
   
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