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Free Sound and Sampling Sites

October 11, 2007 by admin

I was recently contacted about some sample web sites and decided to put a little review of the best ones here.

SoundSnap.com has a nice collection of sounds categorized by large icons.
Pros:

  1. Built-in audio player with a picture of the waveform makes browsing through sounds quick and easy.
  2. No signup required
  3. User-contributed sounds
  4. Tag cloud with popular categories of sounds
  5. All samples free for use under license similar to Creative Commons
  6. MP3 and WAV formats

Cons:

  1. None that I can point out so far

Soundsnap.com screenshot

The Freesound Project has been a personal favorite of mine for a while now. It’s got loads of sounds, from high quality field recordings to synthesized ambient soundscapes, they cover the spectrum of sounds, and best of all, they’re all Creative Commons licensed.

Pros:

  1. Built-in audio player with a picture of the waveform makes browsing through sounds quick and easy.
  2. Geotagging capability
  3. User-contributed sounds
  4. Remix tree shows sounds that have been remixed by other users
  5. All samples free for use under Creative Commons
  6. Sample Packs offered for quick acquisition of multiple sounds

Cons:

  1. Free signup required
  2. Design is a little dated

Read the rest of this entry


Sound mixing: 10 essential tips

September 21, 2007 by admin

407780_yamaha_monitor_mixing_board.jpg
I just found this helpful tutorial from The Whipping Post

And here is a basic overview of the tips:
1: Use MONO Sound Sources
2: Rest your ears
3: Keep the bass and kick panned dead center
4: Use EQ to cut, not boost
5: Fix frequency masking problems
6: EQ boosting also boosts your volume — keep this in mind when setting relative levels
7: Subtle effects are most effective — contrast is key
8: Use noise gates strategically, and before reverb
9: Cut off unnecessary frequencies, especially low rumble below 30-40hz
10: Avoid mixing with headphones


The Physics of Sound

September 3, 2007 by admin

I found a helpful article that will teach you some fundamentals about audio. If you have ever wondered what a sound wave actually is, or what’s behind all the complex audio terminology, take a few moments to read this article and fill yourself in on the background knowledge that will give you the upper hand as a producer.

Here’s what’s covered in the article:

* what sound is caused by
* what a sound wave is
* what a cycle is
* what frequency is
* what a hertz is
* what a pure tone is
Read the rest of this entry


10 Signs Your Track is Amateur

August 29, 2007 by admin

from hometracked.com

We’ve all experienced it: 3 seconds into a track you’ve never heard, you know instinctively that it was recorded and mixed in someone’s bedroom.

Amateur recordings often sound “amateur.” But what differentiates these hometracked opuses from professional recordings? It’s not just fidelity or sonic quality: Many competent engineers produce lo-fi or distorted mixes on purpose, when it suits the song. Rather, amateur recordings tend to share some key traits, telltale signs that the mixing and recording are the work of a novice.

You can learn to recognize and address these traits in your own recordings, and produce more polished, professional mixes:

Read the rest of this entry


Equalization: A basic overview

August 28, 2007 by admin

equalization.jpg

adapted from http://www.kubton.com/eq.html

I have read comments that compression is the most misunderstood audio process but I really think it is equalization. It might be the most over and under used audio processing tool at the same time. What complicates the matter is factors intrinsic to our humanity. We perceive different frequencies different ways. Some frequencies will sound louder or quieter than their actual volume. This is why some audio hardware has a “loudness” button. Most people will try to improve sounds by boosting frequencies. But EQ is a sculpting process. The best result will be attained by boosting and cutting. You can accentuate one frequency by reducing another frequency , and it not make the sound muddy. Following is a basic overview of the spectrum of audible frequencies.

20-40hz: Edge of human range of unwanted rumble often complete removed.
40-80hz: Sub-bass or “feel” of bass. Can add low end kick or over power mix. Is not produced by small speakers..
80-250hz: Bass 100-200hz can be boosted to add fullness or cut to reduce boomy sounds.
250-600hz: Fullness or some vocals and percussion. The cardboard box sound of kick drum is around 300-400hz.
600-4khz: Midrange all too easy to add mud. 800hz is where the “cheap” sound comes from. 2k-4khz is where the attack of most percussion and some other instruments reside.
4-6khz: The “presence” range that determines how far out in front of the mix vocals sound. Can easily become grating.
7khz: The nasty realm of sibilance, the unwanted “s” hiss
8-20khz: This is the range of “air” or “brilliance”, and its presence adds sparkle.
Read the rest of this entry


Pseudo-granular synthesis in Reason

August 5, 2007 by admin

Granular synthesis is the creation of sound by taking tiny slices of audio from another source and playing them back really quickly. Here’s a handy trick for chopping up samples into pieces without ever leaving Reason. First, create a Redrum drum computer. Next, notice that the function of the bottom left knob in the Redrum varies depending on the channel number. In the third, fourth, and fifth channels, the function is “START”. What this does is alter the starting point in the sound file that you have loaded. So, load up any sound file of your choice (vocal sounds are good) into channel 3, 4 or 5. Then turn Channel 3’s length knob to the left. You want the sound to be just a short burst. Next, while holding Shift, right click (or command click for mac users) on an empty space in the rack. Select “Matrix Pattern Sequencer”. Now, flip the rack around with the Tab key, and then drag a cable from “Gate CV” on the Matrix to “Gate In” on the Redrum. Flip back around again, and then press the Run button on the Matrix. You shuld now hear a stuttering sound. Now play with the Start knob and you will hear the effect we were looking for. Now you can record the automation of the start knob (make sure the Record button next to “Redrum 1” on the sequencer is lit up red, hit record and then press play). Go wild with the pitch and the start time, and you should get some cool sounds. Even cooler: play with the Resolution knob in the matrix to adjust the speed of gate triggering.

[audio:reason-granulation.mp3]

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What is Mastering?

July 25, 2007 by admin

adapted from the iZotope Ozone guide to mastering.

Graphic EQ

UPDATE: This article is merely a brief introduction. Here are a few links to check out for more detailed information:

  • TweakHeadz Guide to Mastering in the Home Studio
  • WikiPedia entry on Audio Mastering

Mastering most commonly means the final step in the recording process, before the music goes off to be pressed into CD or vinyl format. It is a process that involves creating consistency among all of the tracks on an album so that they fit cohesively. This process is typically carried out by skilled audio engineers who have very trained ears. All record companies employ professionals who master all material, even if the mixing is spot on.

It is important to note that mixing and mastering are worlds apart. Recording and mixing all occur within the sequencer of choice, but mastering is applied to an audio file that is already mixed down, outside of the sequencer. My personal favorite choice of mastering tools is izotope ozone, because they offer the tools you will need: equalizer, reverb, multiband compression, volume maximization, stereo imaging, and harmonic excitation.

More and more today, bedroom producers are emerging, and they are taking on many roles, including songwriters, producers, recording engineers, and they are even mastering their own material. When you are on a tight budget, it’s impossible to afford the high prices of mastering services, so many of you would like to learn to master on your own. However, mastering is best when it is done by someone other than the producer, because you as a producer are too close to your own music. You won’t notice things that another pair of ears will notice, and therefore you may improperly master your own material without realizing it. If it’s possible, always get someone else to master your music. That being said, if you’re not going to get your music professionally mastered, at least learn how to mix and apply mastering effects to get the best sound possible.

First, what’s wrong with my song?

  • It’s not loud enough. It sounds wimpy next to other CDs. Turning it up or mixing down at a higher level doesn’t solve the problem. It sounds louder, but not, well LOUDER.
  • It sounds dull. Other CDs have a sparkle that cuts through with excitement. You try boosting the EQ at high frequencies, but now your song just sounds harsh and noisy.
  • The instruments and vocals sound thin. Commercial songs have a fullness that you know comes from some sort of compression. So you patch in a compressor and turn some controls. Now the whole mix sounds squashed. The vocal might sound fuller, but the cymbals have no dynamics.
  • The bass doesn’t have punch. You boost it with some low-end EQ, but that just sounds louder and muddier. Not punchier.
  • You can hear all the instruments in your mix, and they all seem to have their own “place” in the stereo image, but the overall image sounds wrong. Your other CDs have width and image that you can’t seem to get from panning the individual tracks.
  • You had reverb on the individual tracks, but it just sounds like a bunch of instruments in a bunch of different spaces. Your other CDs have a sort of cohesive space that brings all the parts together. Not like rooms within a room, but a “sheen” that works across the entire mix.

Don’t worry. It’s not that you’re doing anything wrong. There are just some things you still need to do to get that “sound”. You just need the right tools and an understanding of how to use them. You won’t become Bob Ludwig overnight (or probably ever) but you can make dramatic improvements in your master recordings with a little work.

Read the rest of this entry


Transitioning from triplets to sixteenths

July 18, 2007 by admin

This is a trick that you can use with any quantizer that provides the ability to apply a range of strengths of quantization. In Reason, there is a dropdown bar next to the quantize button that gives you a list of percentages ranging from 5% to 100%. What we are going to do is create a length of triplet notes on a hi-hat or any instrument, actually. In this case, let’s use 4 bars. For each bar, you should have 12 notes (the grid on the sequencer is labeled 1/8 T). And it helps to accent (apply a higher velocity to) to the first of every three notes. This creates a more natural, less robotic sound. For the first bar, leave the notes as triplets. On the first half of the second bar, apply a 1/16th quantization at 5%. On the second half, quantize the notes at 10%. Then at each additional half-bar, you will apply 25, 50, 75, 90, and 100 percent quantization. At 100%, you will have groups of three notes that are aligned to the 16th note grid, which is 16 notes per bar. It sounds kind of like a shuffle. You can also just leave out the 100% quantized triplets, and just fill in more bars with 16 notes per bar, with the first of every four notes accented. Listen to the included demo sound to hear this effect.

[audio:tripletsixteenth.mp3]


Outside The Club Effect

February 20, 2007 by admin

You’ve all heard it… a low-pass filter on the master out.

[audio:lpfilter.mp3]

Low-Pass filter on the master outHere’s how to do it in Reason: Create an ECF-42 filter unit, and wire your mixer through the filter into the audio interface. Right click (Ctrl + click for mac) on the device and choose Create Sequencer Track for name of device. When your track is playing, hit record and turn up the FREQ knob to make it sound like you’re going back into the club. Try experimenting with the modes on the filter. BP 12 means band-pass filter. It allows only frequencies a bit lower and a bit higher than the frequency specified by the cutoff point (FREQ knob). The “angle” at which frequency amplitudes drop off is 12dB per octave. The LP filter has two modes: 12 and 24 dB per octave. The 24 cuts off frequencies above the cutoff point much more dramatically then the 12. The 12 leaks more high frequencies than the 24.


Song Intros

February 19, 2007 by admin

Visual representation of a song introIf you think of a song as an arrangement of layers of audio, then it makes most sense to begin a track with one or two layers. Instead of jumping right into a beat, it helps to ease the listener into the song. The intro gives the listener an idea of what the rest of the song will be like. It sets the mood, and at raves or other dance parties, it gives dancers a chance to catch their breath and rest for a bit.

If you are writing a downtempo or ambient song, it’s good to start the track out with sound effects with lots of delay on them. Try finding some sounds from the special effect presets on your synth. You want to ‘hook’ the listener from the first few seconds of your track. I can’t tell you how many producers start their tracks with a basic drum loop that stretches on way too long before anything interesting happens. In my opinion, that’s a very boring way to start a track (ok, it can be helpful for DJ’s, but still…)