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Dealing with the artist (in a performance venue)

March 11, 2009 by bjorgvin

“The artist is always late”

by Björgvin Benediktsson

There is considerable tact involved when dealing with an artist. Whether it be in a hectic live setting where everything is running late or recording sultry vocals in a cozy recording studio. If some of the below statements offend you engineer/artists remember that I also whine when my vocals sound bad.

The artist is always late

When I started mixing live concerts, underground bands were notorious for always being late. When I said the soundcheck would start at five, this usually meant the first bands showed up at around six. After a while I got used to this as I could use the empty time to set up and linecheck at a relaxed pace. It’s amazing what you can do in an hour if there is no stress involved.

So when the artists finally showed up I had everything set up perfectly without having to show up early to get everything done.

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Create bigger sounds using layering

March 7, 2009 by Daniel Rothmann

Layering sounds

Download this tutorial as a PDF

Listen to these tracks to see what you will be creating in this tutorial:

Layered Bass:

Layered Chord Synth:

By Daniel Rothmann (T7)


At some point in your career of music-making you might encounter the problem that your synthesizers just aren’t sufficient for creating sounds big or fat enough for your tracks. This could, for example, be a really heavy bass or a big lead synth. Luckily, there is a technique of achieving these sounds. That technique is layering.

What layering is all about is pretty obvious, yet many electronic producers fail to apply it to its full potential. In essence, layering is “stacking” synths on top of each other, having them produce different sounds to more precisely achieve output in the areas of spectrum you desire. Let’s say, for instance, you want to produce a really heavy bass sound. This could consist of a sub-bass (clean sinus waves at low frequencies); a middle consisting of distorted saw waves with some filter modulation and possibly a 3rd synth playing high octaves to the middle waves. Very few synths come with more than 2-3 oscillators (the oscillator is the component of a subtractive synthesizer that produce raw waves from which sound is built), and in this particular case, we will need 5-6 or more. That is why we will need to layer our synthesizers to produce the sound we’re looking for.


Layering can be achieved in a number of ways: The first, and (possibly) most obvious, is to put 2-3 keyboard players next to each other, playing the same melody on different synthesizers. Naturally, this is a very imprecise and probably inefficient method of achieving the sound you want.

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“Killing your darlings”

February 26, 2009 by admin

guest article by John P.

It’s a rainy day, perfect for holing yourself up in your room to work on a new song—and if you’re like most of the music-making world, that means firing up your Mac or PC, connecting your MIDI keyboard, hunching your neck and shoulders, and playing endlessly with your virtual drum machines, pianos, and saxophones.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Computer power has liberated home music producers in too many ways to list in this short article. Pair up some modest multi-tracking software with a basic six-hundred dollar PC and you can create sonic wonders. But this very blessing can be a curse. How would “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” sound if Eno and Byrne recorded it today? It would sure be easier for them. Maybe too easy. Without limitations to overcome, artists get lazy and bored.

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Huge, free audio sample library

February 8, 2009 by admin

I just had to make a mention of this great resource available for free: Over 8GB of free samples under creative commons license.

Loops, Grooves, Licks, Stings, Hits, Pads, Melodic Motives/Themes/Phrases, Sound-Effects, City and Country Soundscapes…, Motors, Machines, Toys, Guns, Explosions, Swords, Armor, Cars, Jets, Pot & Pans, Acoustic and Synthetic Noises, Acoustic and Electronic Drums, Voices, Western and World Instruments, Real and Human Animals, Industrial and Natural Ambiences, Film and Game Foley, and more, more, more! This huge collection of new and original samples have been donated to Dr. Richard Boulanger @ specifically to support the OLPC developers, students, XO users, and computer and electronic musicians everywhere. They are FREE and are offered under a CC-BY license for downloading and use in your teaching, your demos, your research, your music, your remixes, your songs, your games, your videos, your slideshows, your websites, and your XO activities. Each of the 7000+ samples is 16-bit, WAV, Mono, normalized to -3dB, and provided at 3 sample rates – 44.1K, 22.5K and 16K.

How to control Ableton Live with your iPhone [updated]

February 4, 2009 by admin

osculator and touchosc
With a new iPhone version comes a new method of using it to control Ableton Live. This post is an update to a previous post that is now obsolete. The best new method of controlling your iPhone doesn’t even require you to jailbreak your phone.


TouchOSC is an iPhone / iPod Touch application that lets you send and receive Open Sound Control messages over a Wi-Fi network using the UDP protocol. Using this program on your phone along with Osculator for Mac, you can control Ableton Live with your phone.


  1. Wireless Router to create a wireless network for the iPhone to send OSC messages through
  2. An iPhone with 2.0 or newer software
  3. Purchase of TouchOsc and Osculator


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Creating beat mashups with Live

February 2, 2009 by admin

Editing the volume envelope on an audio clip in Live
If you have  a lot of  audio loops laying around your hard drive, then this tip is for you. You can be more creative with drum beat loops by splicing and dicing them instead of just looping them over and over.

  1. Open up Ableton Live, and use one of the the file browsers in the left panel to browse for some loops. This works great for drum beats.
  2. Drop several loops into their own audio tracks. Let’s start with 4 or 5 for now.
  3. Double click on one of the clips and you’ll see a waveform display at the bottom of the screen. To the lower left of the waveform is a tiny “E” buttom, which shows you then Envelope Editor. Click that, and then click the now-visible Volume button (right under the Transpose button).
  4. Now right-click on the waveform to choose the grid size. Select any resolution you want (1/8 or 1/16 is a good start) and press Ctrl + B or Cmd + B to turn on the pencil, and start drawing on the volume envelope. This is a great way to take out parts of drum beats that you don’t like. Try leaving just the kick or just the snare , or maybe just the hi-hats.
  5. If you want to isolate just the hi-hats, another way to do this is to add an EQ and cut the low frequencies. Another fun thing to do is mess with the transpose envelope to pitch certain hits up or down.

    Keep doing this to all of the loops/clips. Now when you play them together simultaneously, you should have a drum beat that is a mashup of many different loops.

  6. Now if you want to record all these beats together to create a single loop, the easiest way to do this is to create a new audio track and make sure the “I-O” button on the right is on. Now turn monitor to “off” to avoid any feedback issues, then change the “Audio From” to “Master”. Arm the track with the red button at the bottom of this audio track, make sure all your tracks are playing, and then click record (either in the session view or the arrangement view). Let it loop once or twice then stop recording. Now you should have a clip that is a recording of your mashup beat.

How to record the output of Ableton Live’s arpeggiator

January 8, 2009 by admin

Ableton Live's MIDI arpeggiatorI enjoy Live’s MIDI arpeggiator effect that you can drop into a midi track. It’s a quick way to come up with a rhythmic melody. But sometimes I want to alter a few notes from the arpeggiated melodic line. This is where this tip comes in handy. It will allow you to capture the output of the arpeggiator into a midi clip so you can edit it to your liking.

Listen to this audio example made with Live’s Arpeggiator and NI Massive:

Step 1: From the Live Device Browser, open “MIDI Effects”. then open “Arpeggiator” and drag an arpeggiator preset into a new midi channel. Rename this channel to “Arpeggiator” (Ctrl + R for PCs or Cmd + R for macs)

Step 2: From the Plug-in Device Browser, drag a VST/AU plugin of your choosing into the midi channel alongside the MIDI arpeggiator. I prefer Native Instruments’ “Massive” plugin, which has great analog-style waveforms for rich, punchy sound.

Step 3: Arm the arpeggiator track and begin playing notes to feed the MIDI arpeggiator. When you’re ready to record, click one of the record buttons in the Captured Arp session channel to begin recording the output of the arpeggiator. You can use your computer’s keyboard as a midi keyboard (as long as the Computer Midi Keyboard button in the upper right corner  of the application is switched on). When you’re finished playing, click the red play button to stop recording.

Step 4: Create a new midi channel. I’ve named it “Captured Arp”. This channel will be used to record the output of the arpeggiator.  Change the  “Midi From” to “1 – Arpeggiator” (channel 1)

Step 5: Click the record button in a blank clip in the new midi channel as the arpeggiated clip you just recorded is playing. Click again to stop when finished recording.

Step 6: Congratulations, you’ve just recorded arpeggiated notes. Now you can double click on the new midi clip to edit the notes. Click the “Fold” button to only see the notes which were played by the arpeggiator. This makes it easier to use the arrow keys to move midi notes around, it will sound good no matter where you move the notes, because it will always move around in whichever scale you were playing

Massive Wobble Bass for DnB & Dubsteb

December 13, 2008 by admin

This tutorial requires the VST/AU Plugin Massive from Native Instruments

Pro Mixing Series: Episode two: The Haas Effect

August 26, 2008 by admin

Ableton Live’s Simple Delay Haas presets

For some of us this may be a very mysterious image: “panning” presets in a delay device of a sequencer DAW…

Well it IS a mysterious image until you check this article about the Haas effect.

Have you ever been so frustrated with a mix that doesn’t have life, wide stereo image and airy, “natural” space? Are you not getting enough depth in your mix? Have you added so much stereo reverb to add “space” to your mix that you end hating what you have done? Well… I have…

It is truly horrible getting every track in a mix sounding so “mono” after panning left and right different lines or instruments. It feels truly like there is something in the way from the original tracking to your final mix. The panning of some tracks helps very much to make a clear mix but sometimes that is just not enough to make things clear and certainly deeper, spacious, open and rich-sounding.

There is a solution to this lack of depth: The Haas Effect . It can take a simple mono instrumental or vocal line and give it presence or take it to the back of the mix, depending on how you use it and what other effects you add to the chain.

Basically, what you are doing with the Haas effect is making the listener’s brain to interpret the sound coming from a certain direction and angle in a way that is more natural to the ear than a simple panning adjustment. The Haas effect takes full advantage on the fact that we have TWO ears.

In real life, when a sound comes from the left it is received by the left ear BEFORE the right ear, so the brain interprets this difference as “a sound coming from the left”. The interpretation depends on how long is the delay between the two ears the less the delay, the more centered is the sound. This very short delay can be interpreted as a phase shift because the sound reaches first one ear and then the other. So, when there is no phase shift, no delay between the two perceived signals together are interpreted as dead center, with no panning at all.

We CAN use this psychoacoustic effect (the Haas effect) to print more depth and directionality into our mixes without even moving the panning control of the console! That’s why I put the snapshots from Ableton’s Simple Delay. You can make your own Haas effect presets in any delay that permits very, really shot delay times and also inserting a time shift between the two channels. The Haas effect is performed delaying one of the two channels (left or right) just a little bit, from a couple of samples to no more than 30 milliseconds (more in depth scientific info in the article from Wikipedia referenced above); the channel that reaches our ear first is the one that dictates where is the sound “coming from”, the later channel is interpreted as the natural tail of the sound.

Haas panning presets in Live 6.0.10

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Pro Mixing Series: Episode one: Monitor Gain

August 24, 2008 by admin


We love Mixing (at least I do). Mixing is always challenging and fun, it’s a stage where you can take some creative licenses (that you didn’t or couldn’t when composing) in the type of sound and expressive response you want to print in the final representation of the work. You become the director of the project, while you still have to take care of not ruining the composition and it’s first, original intention. It is truly a universe of its own in audio creation.

In my experience I have to say that when anyone begins the process of mixing for themselves or for someone else, they do it (and I did it too) thinking about mixing as a simple volume and panning tweak. Wrong!

Both volume and panning are the very main pillars of mixing since stereo audio was possible and since traditional analogue mix consoles were invented, but, as we all know, there are dozens of other factors that get into the picture and change it when you are trying to take your program into the next level.

One of these factors is Monitor Gain and its relationship with the way you may mix your records in the analogue console or DAW faders.

A very frequent mistake for every beginner in mixing (a mistake I committed a long time ago) is to try to “balance” the volume of the summing buss so it stays close to 0dB. I think this happens because we try to get the “finished-CD” sound quality out of the box without thinking about mastering.

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