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Monday, 15 August 2016

Re-brand

Hey everyone, just wanted to say although there hasn't been a lot of activity of late, there is more content (blog articles and music) coming, I'm just working on a re-brand. Check back in a couple of weeks!

Cheers.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Drum Layering With a Room Mic

OK so another quick drum tip this week which follows on from what I talked about previously regarding using a short delay. It's the same idea but instead of a short delay we are going to layer a synthetic kick with an acoustic kick that has a lot of room tone in the signal. A room tone generated by a room mic is akin to adding in a short delay but will sound more natural.

This also works really nicely on snare drums, although its a little more fiddly to get it right.

So the theory behind this comes from recording a drum kit, often you'll have a room mic or mics that might be say five meters away from the kit. This adds a unifrom room tone to all of the kit's peices (kick, snare, toms etc.) and can also be used as a dirt mic to rough up the recording a bit.

1. Find a good synthetic kick sample

This sample is essentially going to work as your "sub kick" with an acoustic kick sample sitting on top of it for dirt and character, as explained above.

2. Layer this with an acoustic kick from Addictive Drums / Superior Drummer / BFD etc.

Personally I use Addictive Drums but any of the above mentioned products will work fine, the key is to turn up the room mic to taste, then tune this kick to match your sub kick's frequency. You may find that you need to use an envelope of some sort to fade out part of the tail of the acoustic kick particularly if you set your room mic to be quite far away from the kit peice in Addicitve Drums etc.

3. Add processing to taste

Here is where the dirt part comes in. Take that room tone and apply saturation / distortion / compression / whatever until you've added the sufficient character. You've now got a couple of direct sounds and a room tone that you've sculpted and layered to fit your track.

4. Rinse and repeat with the snare drum

Instead of stacking the sounds as sub / top combination, focus on a mid / side combination, where the room tone forms the side signal. Add a harmonic exciter or a bitcrusher (lightly does it) to the side signal for some really unique sounds and keep your synthetic snare mono and in the centre for power. If you use enough room tone on your side snare, you'll find you don't need to use reverb on it.

Here's an example: https://clyp.it/avj22bdr


Thursday, 23 June 2016

Drum Processing With a Short Delay

Quick tip this week, centered around using a short delay to thicken up your drum sound. So onto the details.

Step 1: Create a Send / Auxilliary

On this send, add a delay or any other tool that will allow you to shift the timing of what is being sent by 10ms to 30ms. Ableton will let you do this in the channel strip, as shown in the below picture. Another way to do this is to use a plugin, such as Soundtoys Microshift.




Step 2: Copy some of your kick and snare to each send. 

Then adjust the delay time until you have the best result, or the best combination of original and send / auxiliary. This will take some careful listening and adjustment. A delay that's too long and you will get an audible flanging type sound, a delay that's too short and you won't get the desired result.

Step 3: Rinse and repeat with a second delay time (optional).

Once you have a couple of versions of your kick and snare layered at slightly different delay times, you can experiment with panning these left and right, particularly effective on your snare drum. Pay attention to the kick and snare in the below clip and you'll see what kind of effect this has on drums. 


Step 4: Experiment by sending other elements to your send.

You could try and do the same to your bass sounds wich puts everything slightly further back in the mix in a really pleasant way, or you could even look at delaying your reverb send. This would be particularly effective with  a short plate or room style reverb. 

Hope you found this useful. Cheers.


Thursday, 9 June 2016

Acoustic Treatment vs. Monitoring

Today I'd like to take a quick look into the benefits of acoustic treatment, and why this should be something that you prioritise ahead of buying better monitors. Many new producers seem to think better monitoring options are a surefire way to a better mixdown. While there are a lot of variables between monitor types, such as frequency response, there's hardly any benefit to upgrading your monitor speakers if you have an untreated room.

I've worked in a lot of untreated rooms, and some really bad acoustic spaces in my time as a music producer. Rooms with a lot of hard surfaces in particular are problematic, as are very large rooms. If you have the option to, you should go for a medium sized room and setup so that your speakers are firing the long way down the room. Invest in some broadband absorption foam panels, and place these on your side walls and behind your speakers. Place some diffuser panels behind the listening position, on the far wall, and some bass traps in the corners if you can. Finally, make sure that your speakers aren't too close to that wall, and that you have an equilateral triangle between the listening position and the two speakers. 

If you follow these general guidelines (note that all rooms are different and require that you take this into account) you'll find that your mixdowns will improve a lot more than if you had simply upgraded your monitors and placed them in an untreated room. No matter how good your monitors are, they're only as good as the room that you put them in. With a treated room you'll find that you don't need to work so hard to get things like your sub bass to sit right in the mix. You won't need to take your mix out to the car or other listening locations as much as you have had to do so previously, and most importantly when you're mixing you won't be compensating for your room. 

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

On the Benefit of Listening in Different Environments

OK so a simple one this week, but one that bears mentioning still. I want to talk about the act of simply listening to your mix in a different location to the location you made the track in. Now a lot of people will tell you to reference your music on different systems and for sure this is a beneficial, even necessary part of the process. However, there's another less spoken about psychological effect this has.

So what am I talking about? Well, it's the ability to be able to focus on the detail in your mix that you won't necessarily notice if you listen to it in your studio. This happens for a couple of reasons. Firstly it's that if you are changing your environment it will change your mindset, and change how you feel about the track. If you listen in headphones you can get inside a different headspace cut off from external auditory stimuli. Secondly, it forces you to listen to the track without being able to immediately adjust any of the parameters in the mix, as presumably you'll be listening on your phone or in your car or the like. This forces you to really listen critically and you'll often get an urge to change something when you're next at your DAW refining your mix. Thirdly, you aren't taking in visual stimulus from your DAW, meaning you aren't watching your mix but rather listening to it. The visual cortex in the brain takes up a large part of our brains processing power, and by breaking the link with your visual cortex you can analyse the mix or song purely through your auditory cortex, allowing you to hear things you haven't heard before.

Finally, if you choose to play your mix to a friend or audience, you'll immediately notice what needs to be changed with the mix or track structure without your audience saying anything, you'll become acutely self-conscious or aware of anything getting too boring or elements not having enough impact etc. Especially if your audience are also music producers.

Hope you found this useful. Stay tuned for a track coming from myself very shortly, click the video below for a preview:

A video posted by @niwun on

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Guest Post: Jaidyn Green aka Nerdology / Carnivrus

Hey everyone, this week we've got a guest article coming from a former student of mine. Since Jaidyn started out on his journey into making music relatively recently compared to myself, I asked him to write an article on the most important things he's learnt in the last year (since he finished studying at SAE) in the hope that it might help people that are just beginning to get a leg up. I have myself covered extensively a bunch of stuff that I wish I knew as I was starting out, but Jaidyn has a different perspective and set of experiences he brings to the table in addressing this subject. You can find out more about Jaidyn and listen to some of his music as part of different aliases below.





Five Things i've learnt in the last year by Jaidyn Green

1. Learn your effects properly

I know this sounds like a an obvious statement to make, but hear me out. Every good producer uses effects like equalization (EQ), reverb, compression, etc. But a lot of producers do everything just by ear, and just mess around with knobs until “something cool happens”, but they don’t learn what each parameter of an effect does. More often than not, you’re more likely to get your desired result if you know what you want to accomplish, and how you go about doing it, rather than just messing around. So spend some time learning your effects, such as learning what the Threshold and Ratio on a compressor do, and how to use it effectively; rather than just turning knobs until your kick drum is ‘super phat’. Learn when to cut, notch, boost etc. when using an EQ, to get the optimal result from the audio you are tinkering with.

I’m not saying to never “mess around” with effects though, but it is beneficial to your production to learn what each parameter does, to not only improve your productions, but also your workflow. The way I learnt to do this is by watching videos, reading about it in books, or online, and most importantly – analysing it myself. Get a sample from somewhere, perhaps a drum loop from your favourite sample pack, and sit there and critically listen to what the effect is doing to the audio. Listen to how as you push the threshold on your compressor, how the audio becomes more uniform, but you start to lose dynamic range. Which brings me to my next point...

2. Be sparing in your effects

Time and time again, producers will send me a track give critique on, and by far the most common mistakes I hear, are when they try and use an effect too heavily. Whether it is compression, delay, distortion, reverb. Sometimes less is more.

When using a compressor on your kick drum, there is no need to have a -44dB threshold, with a 10:1 ratio. That isn’t going to make your kick ‘loud’ or ‘phat’, all that is going to do is ruin the dynamics of your kick and make it sound hollow and dead. Use it sparingly, or even better, don’t use one at all. Rather than relying on heavy compression to fatten your kick, use some light saturation, EQ it effectively, EQ and sidechain the rest of the mix to allow the kick to shine through.

Same goes for reverb, reverb is a great thing. Reverb is used to give something a sense of ‘room’, to make it sound like it is in a space, rather than in a vacuum, where no sound reflects off anything. Go easy on it though, don’t drown everything in reverb, use it to compliment the track. Perhaps try using effects busses, and buss the reverb on the audio, rather than applying it straight on the effect – this can allow for a bit more control, in my opinion anyway.

3. Less is more

As a mix engineer, I do mixing for other producers. Something I see a lot of producer try and do is have too much clutter in their tracks. 7 layers of a singular synth, 7 different kinds of risers, and 19 layers of hats and percussion, aren’t always necessary to make the next festival banger. Keep it simple! Sometimes, one layer of a well synthesized patch, or a well-chosen sample, is better than several layers of mediocre patches and samples.

This isn’t always the case, as certain genres (i’m looking at you, IDM) are completely driven by an insane amount of layers within their tracks.

For an example of how simple can be effective, listen to Horus by Slumberjack. Very simplistic in idea and layering, but immaculately executed in production. Having done a masterclass with them, they gave the point that they “rarely have more than 3 things going on at once” - Drums, lead, bass, and perhaps some effects. A song that has 20 layers which are perfectly executed, trumps a song with 120 layers which sounds messy and cluttered. When executed correctly, like Madeon and Mr Bill, more can be more, though. Just mess around until you find the perfect medium of being simple and catchy, but not too simple that listeners lose interest.

4. Use reference tracks

The fastest way to improve your production is to listen to artists who have work at the industry standard. For me, I listen to Virtual Riot, Muzzy and Skrillex, when referencing the quality of my work. When I say “reference the quality of my work”, I don’t mean whether my track is a “banger” like the other producers’ songs, I mean to listen to my own work critically against theirs, checking my synthesis, mixing, master, etc.

A tip I heard a while ago which is a great thing to remember: don’t be disheartened if you can hear that other people can produce better than you. In fact, rejoice over the fact you can hear what you need to improve on. The fact you hear what you need to improve on shows you have the potential to be as good, if not better than those who you listen to. Those who are ignorant to the fact that other producers may do things better than they do, are those who will stay in the same rut their entire music career.

5. Keep on producing

In my opinion, this is by far the most important tip I could give anyone. Even if it’s just for 5-10 minute, try and produce each day. Set yourself a challenge; each week try and develop a new idea, and work on it for that week. As time goes on, you can see a gradual progression of quality in your tracks; but you’ll never see that progression if you don’t keep working at it. Try and strive to finish every song you start, but even if you don’t, that’s okay – I know I certainly don’t finish everything. But developing new ideas is how you develop as an artist, instead of just another producer.

Think outside the box when you produce, try something new. Start a project and produce a genre you’ve never produced before. Close your eyes and randomly select some effects and see what you can do with them. Strive to re-invent, rather than just create another generic hit like everyone else. Strive to not only create a number one hit, but to be renowned as a number one artist. Shoot for the stars!

Never give up and strive for greatness – put your heart and soul into your production, and people will notice. Don’t produce just to make a hit, produce because you love it. Develop and enhance your passion for all music, and watch yourself grow.