Reverb

Reverb is a very important part in the mix process of making a song. It gives the entire mix spacial aspect and makes the whole track sound more realistic and alive. Using this and delay are the two tools to make a wider mix that will sound like the pros. There are different types of reverb, each giving their own special effect. These reverbs can also be processed to tracks in different ways.

There are 5 common types of reverbs. You can use these all as presets. No one is going to know or judge you.

  1. Hall
  2. Chamber
  3. Room
  4. Plate
  5. Spring

The hall reverb is for a room that would be considered for an orchestra and simulate a place where this would be played.

The chamber reverb is a smaller room simulation.

A room reverb is a simulation of a certain room. I include this type of reverb on all of my tracks to add a relation to the whole track. You can also just use a preset called ‘small room’ which is on Live or any other DAW.

A plate reverb is a reverb that originally is reflection of a plate that gives a brighter reverberation.

A spring reverb is just like a plate reverb but uses a spring instead of a plate.

The way to use reverb on a track in a DAW is something that should be followed a certain way. First rule I say is always use reverbs in you return tracks instead of adding it directly to the track you want to affect. Having reverb in a return track allows you to send one reverb, say a small room preset, to multiple tracks so you have a relation among all of those tracks. It also saves CPU.

Here is a video of using sends and return tracks:

Here is an article on how to set up reverbs from a professional mixing engineer from Dubspot’s Blog

https://splice.com/blog/daniel-wyatt-mixing-with-reverb/

 

Pitch Drop

The max for live plug-in Pitch Drop is probably my new favorite of the things I got with buying Ableton. Max for Live is a separate program from Ableton and allows you to make your own instruments and plug-ins for Live. You can also download plug-ins made with Max for Live by other people; Pitch Drop just happened to be one of them.

Pitch Drop pretty much works like the tape stop effect on Glitch (which is kind of expensive). It just drops the pitch a certain note value (ex 8th, 16th, etc) which is super effective in transition between different parts of songs. You can add it to any MIDI or audio track. The sharp and soft are for how hard you want the track to stop and drop.

PitchDrop

 

This is why I say to buy Ableton Live. You get Max for Live free and can use it get the free extra plug-ins that are possible to use because of having it. The convolution reverb (which is also free) is also a great plug-in to check out, but that’s a different story.

Multiband Dynamics (Your best friend) Pt.1

This week I am going to talk about Ableton’s built in plug-in multiband dynamics. This is probably one of the most useful tools Ableton Live gives you and is also an effect that is in almost every version (from 1 till now with 9). The plug-in has also been talked about in some of my past entries (especially in the complete mixdown tutorial). So I thought it would be a good idea to go over this difficult looking tool to process music. I’m not going to go over everything about it, but I will talk about some things that I have learned in the recent months that not a lot of new producers who use Live know about.

If you are using a different DAW then the next best thing to compare this plug-in to is any multiband compressor. There is a free third party plug-in by Xfer records called OTT (Over The Top) which DotEXE actually talked about in his interview as one of his favorite VSTs to use. So to all those producers on other DAWs, you should check this out if yours lacks in having a multiband compressor.

The first thing I would like to talk about within the multiband dynamics is the dynamics processing theory which talks about various types of compression (upward & downward) you can do to your audio. This all can be in the manual on Ableton’s site which can be accessed right HERE.

In most cases with compressors I’m guessing that most beginners know about downward compression. The definition of this is taking a loud signal and lowering it’s dynamic range. It puts a limit on how loud that signal can be. This is the type of compression you can do in Ableton’s normal compressor. There is also a less common form of compression where you take the quiet signals of a sample and make them louder. This is called upward compression.

Expansion is something you can also do with the multiband dynamics. The definition of expansion is taking an audio and increasing the dynamic range of it; this form is also called upward expansion. Downward expansion is when you take the quiet signals in an audio sample and make them quieter.

Types of dynamic processing summarized:

  1. Downward Compression:Loud signals get quieter
  2. Upward Compression: Quiet signals get louder
  3. Downward Expansion: Quiet signals quieter
  4. Upward Expansion: Make loud signals louder

Minimum requirements to make quality electronic music

Everyone who just starts off making electronic music seem to feel they need every single 3rd party VST and sample available to make music like the pros do. This is not true at all though. Most beginners try to download every VSTs they can find on torrent sights. In most cases, the beginner doesn’t stick to learning one synth inside and out. This is when someone becomes a “plug-in” hoarder and doesn’t really know much about any of the plug-ins; it handicaps the person when they make music.

I know all about this type of strategy to making music because I used to do it all the time. At one point I had around 30-40 different 3rd party VSTs in my folder on Ableton. Most of them I had no clue how to use; each has it’s own unique function which split it a part from the built in plug ins in Ableton. Things changed though as I learned more, I began to use less and less of those VSTs and after losing my first computer I was forced to go to the bare minimum. This wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be though.

Right now, I am currently using Ableton Live 9 Suite edition which comes with a ton of sample based synthesizers that I didn’t have originally. This is the sole reason I highly suggest that anyone trying to get Ableton Live should buy it. The benefits you get from the product are endless and you don’t have to worry about getting a new cracked copy if your computer crashes. I got everything from drum sounds to endless amount of orchestral sounds that make composing a breeze without even any outside samples or 3rd party VSTis. This version of Ableton also comes with all the effects and instruments possible to get with Live. The glue compressor and upgraded EQ Eight in the program are both amazingly good built-in plug-ins.

As for 3rd party plug-ins, I have a very slim selection. First I would like to point out Native Instruments offers a free VSTi called Kontakt which comes with a pack that contains a few different granular based synths for the plug-in. Another free VST that I have found to be useful is Flux’s ST Tool which is a stereo imaging tool that gives you a reading to tell whether a sound has a wide stereo spectrum or not. Another thing that Flux makes for free is a transient shaper which Ableton does not have as a built plug in. Flux Audio’s Bittersuite has an easy interface with only 4 different parameters to deal with and makes it easy for you to get drums sounding just as punchy as other transient shapers that cost around $150.

For a synth that I can build sounds from scratch, I use Native Instruments Massive. The reason I use this synth is because it’s super easy to use and I have watched so many damn YouTube tutorials that I understand the synth really well. It is a wavetable based synthesizer and can create some awesome synths for any type of electronic music.

Another type of synthesizer you can use in replace of this one is an FM based synthesizer. In my opinion this type of synthesizer is very hard to use but you can make absolutely any sound you can think of if you know how to use it.

Here is a list of different 3rd party synthesizers (Wavetable, Granular, and FM based) you can use that are just as powerful as Massive.

**This is the best synth on the market right now. You have the ability to take wavetables from massive and load them into the synth. Anything can be a possible wavetable in this, even a sample of a crumpled piece of paper.

A combination of all of these plug-ins is what I use to make music and have achieved to make good music. So if you’re just starting don’t worry about having that many plug-ins. If you have the ones I mentioned above you should be able to be fine with making music like the pros.

Also, another little tip, always read up on what your plug-ins or DAW do. When you know what everything you’re using does, then it becomes easier and faster to finish a song without getting lost on figuring things out while working on a project.

DotEXE Interview

I got a chance to get a quick interview on production on Ableton Live from the electronic artist DotEXE.

Just recently he started a side project as the alias of Summer Was Fun. This project is a complete change from the heavy bass style he originally became famous with.

Q: What is the sole reason you use Ableton over other DAWs?

A: Ableton’s GUI is very friendly and keeps everything simple. i stayed with it because of how easy it was to keep my samples organized as well as VSTs. The workflow fit best for me, but each DAW has their own flow.

Q: What other DAWs have you used in the past other than Ableton

A: The only other DAWs I’ve used before Ableton was Fruity Loops back in the day, before it was really consider a professional DAW to use. There was also Cakewalk Sonar but that was way way back 3.

Q: What 3rd party VSTs do you use? Which of them is your favorite to use?

A: I like to stick to my Komplete plugins. Sylenth/Serum are probably the only outsiders as far as synths go

Q:What is your favorite free plug-in (if you have any to recommend)?

A:Honestly the only free plugin I really have/use is Xfer OTT/ and the dimension expander. Simple plugins that do wonders.

How to get that perfect dubstep styled snare

Dubstep, is known for it’s super strong kick and snare. The snare in the drop (and usually through out the whole song) is super fat and cuts through the mix. It also has a reverb that is different than the rest of the instruments in the track which sounds more lo-fi.

Recently I have just figured out how to route audio so your snare has that perfect lo-fi sound. With this tip I hope everyone learns how to route audio and parallel channels in Ableton Live.

To start your set up, take a drum rack on a new midi track or a new audio track to place a snare in the arrangement view.. It can be any type of snare, but in this case I’m going to use a dubstep snare (specifically a “brostep” styled snare, not a trap or “riddum” styled snare).

snare drum rack

It might be kind of blurry, but above is how I set up my snare in its own channel. I don’t use a drum rack to place all of my drums into because I feel that makes things confusing and I don’t know how you would do this trick I am about to show you to do.

After you have your snare all set up, place a snare hit every 3rd beat on either a MIDI track or in your arrangement view. Either way will work. After doing that create an audio track (Cntrl-t or Command-t) right under your snaresnare parallel

Once you have done this, you are process the snare to be routed into the audio channel. Doing this makes it so the snare has a second channel playing a completely reverbed version, while allowing the original snare still have it’s girth in sound.

Problems with other techniques

  1. In my experience, having the snare having it’s own reverb placed within original track makes it so my snare is too transparent.
  2. Using a separate return track for the snare also causes issues because I bus my drums (snare, kick, toms, and weird drum loop breaks) into one group and use a return to send a small room reverb to the whole group to make the whole kit sound like it has similar spatial aspects. When I send a different reverb from a return track to the snare with this set up, once again I get a weird phasing issue because it is filtering the snare through the small room reverb and it’s dedicated reverb. The end result just never lets the snare punch through the mix.

Setting up a parallel reverb track

After setting up the audio track underneath your snare channel, set the routing so the input of the audio track is the snare channel above it. This means that the audio output from the snare is playing through that audio track also; they’re both parallel tracks playing the same thing.  Make sure to make the ‘In , Auto, Off’ section is at ‘In’ so this works also or you won’t be hearing anything.

routing

When this is done and set up, place a high pass filter at 400hz and THEN a reverb of your choice. DO THIS IN THIS ORDER SO YOU DON’T GET A BAD REVERBERATION. It’s makes it so only the frequencies above 400hz are the only ones affected by the signal going into the track.

reverb

In this case I used Ableton’s built in EQ and a Convolution Reverb by Max for Live (which pumps a lot of CPU out of your computer.)

Once this is all done you should be able to play your track with the snare and hear the difference with reverb. You snare should sound like Must Die! or Barely Alive’s.