Friday, November 11, 2011

SDK MONOPHONIX : A Free Windows Vst Incl. Standalone

Monophonix is a monophonic analog-ish synthesizer, with special attention brought to the filter and distortion sections. It was made to offer extreme control over distortion for deep basses and screaming leads. I wanted to make something that can squelch the shit out of saw waves with a combination of 2 sets of filters and a distortion and overdrive set up in a linear way.

3 sets of envelopes control ADSR, pitch and both filters and the initial patch shows what it can do.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lets Remix: Faithless - Insomnia, a step by step how to remix in Ableton

Greetings earthlings, Im a little late posting this. But here it is, a lets remix video tutorial of Faithless - Insomnia  Using Ableton Live you can easily remix and chop up a track, add samples, arrange and mix a new track. With commentary I kind of walk you through it. Please forgive my poor mic audio (and monotone voice), I blame Youtube (not really)

This is a quick remix you can do in under an hour, this is a the basic practical way to go about it, enjoy =]

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A little trick I used to make a few of my Hard Techno tracks sound oldschool...

I use this to get that oldschool percussive feel on most of my tracks. Now most new sample packs contain hits and samples a little too crisp and pristine, overly processed and they dont really do it for hard tech or hardgroove beats. but there is a trick to make your tracks sound oldschool.
1. Make loop of toms, percussive hits, quantize on 16ths and 8ths.
2. Tune down a few of them, this will give you the lowend you want. Tuning toms is what that retro feel is all about
3. Take that loop (no kickdrum yet) and render it to wav (also render it as loop if that option is available)
4. Open that loop in your favorite MP3 encoder
5. Render at either64kbps or 96kbps. This will kinda smoosh the sounds together and create a nice sounding downsampled sound (make sure its renderd in stereo)
6. Bring it back into the DAW and EQ boost the bottom and high end.
7. Compress it a bit and use an imager8. Finish and master the track as you usually would

This is a technique i figured out on my own, adds something extra to the processing. I know it goes against every rule but whatever.

Check out examples here: 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Dance Music Mixing & Mastering Theory

Music production in the early 90s and throughout became more and more accessible to the average person, starting with the sampler, sequencer and DAT recorders. Consoles were still as expensive as cars, synthesizers were 1000s of dollars but studios could be built for the production of house, techno and hip-hop production. Computers and Cubase could offered around 6 channels of recording and rudimentary automation and the parametric Eqs ran externally at around 2-6 bands. This was an exciting time for dance music, it had a grassroots evolution that when we listen to classic releases we can hear.

Early digital instruments like the TB-303, TR-909 and TR-808 were cheaper and used in techno in this time. Cheap rack mount processors were also available but would break on occasion.

Keep in mind cell phones were the size of bricks at this time and people felt awesome when they recorded things off the TV onto their VCR. Independent producers and labels were conducting voodoo magic seemingly creating tracks out of nothing on gear that carried the mystique of a jet cockpit. Mastering was done mostly at vinyl pressing companies as a preparation so needles wouldn't skip in the grooves and the record would sound as good as possible in clubs. This was the fundamental need for mastering, to prepare your audio for an analog medium.

Mp3s (as well as mp3 sharing) and the CDJ first came about together in 2001, for the first time you could pitch a CD in real time on a scratch-able platter just like you could on a record turntable, you no longer had to get an acetate pressing to play a song in a club and as a label owner you didn't have to gamble a run of 5000 records. You could promote yourself by putting your songs on Napster, giving music to the masses and in my opinion playing a key part in dance musics popularity world wide. Stores like Beatport, Trackitdown and Junodownload started up in the early to mid 2000's and now today mp3s (digital audio) is the standard.

Then POOF! There was no need for critical mastering!

Modern dance music is 95% if not all digital as a result of more powerful computers, the VST standard, high performance soundcards and firewire/usb interfaces. As a funny bit of irony music is made so much on screen that midi consoles in the spirit of hardware are used to aid in workflow. Now today you don't need an expensive workstation to make music, any computer you can buy at the store can run all the software you need out of the box, a lot of tracks these days are made by djs on the road on their laptops. These advancements have democratized the industry.

The advancement to emulation and digital processing as apposed to analog in a way has separated the artform from on vast polar opposites "Underground vs Commercial"

So what is mastering as it applies in these modern times? How it is done is by artist, its in our hands. We build things from the ground up and its all our own, for example Sander Van Doorn does all his processing and mastering with a UAD card and other plugins all digitally in Logic. He knows what works in a club and uses what he has perfected over the years. He also has his own sound and style because of the instinctual way he routes and processes sounds.

Alternatively, many pursue to get their tracks mastered by a third party or work with engineers to pretty much make the track themselves; robbing themselves of their own styles and the rewarding aspect of making dance music, learning the voodoo themselves. The use of engineers is a hot topic, I feel its a shortcut and all shortcuts lead to dead ends. The discouragement of the discipline of production leads people to resort to these things.

Modern mastering is not about making a track "fit" on a vinyl record but is now about giving a track a shine, grit and loudness comparable to other tracks. It is now possible to "get away" with a lot more these days and the rule now is ; If it sounds good use it. This is not something that needs (in most cases) to be played and sound good next to a Nickleback song on an FM station, TV or movie soundtrack.

As soon as you combine two sounds mastering has begun, mixing should be done as you go. you cant fix a kick and bassline in the master section if it sounds shit, garbage in garbage out. Mastering is not an exclusive end process.

Mastering these days is mostly about compression be it multi band compression, using a maximizer, brickwall limiting. Also added depending on the track you will see an highpass and lowpass EQ, mix saturator, Imager and a maximizer. There is no wrong way to do it in reason, theses mastering effects have been used in extreme values with good results. Examples of extreme compression values would be Justice and Skrillex, examples that would make veterans cringe but no doubt its still musical. See? Special effect.

With sample libraries geared for club music and processed accordingly they pretty much hold our hands, its very hard to make a track sound bad in a club. The key is to be overly critical of your sounds and get them tight in a mix and build a track outwards.
There is a large misconception that mastering will make a dull recording sound good and that it will fix anything. This is impossible and counterproductive, you will waste your time muddying up your track, plugins are not that magical yet. Software is only an algorithm and under the hood it does equations to the signal, it doesn't know what will make a track sound good. It is only a dumb window with knobs, and a tool for you to use in only as much values as needed. It takes a while to find you own way of things but it will pay off when you achieve your own unique style.

The way to do it is to get your naked mix sounding good then add your favorite mastering chain after, slowly boosting compression and loudness carefully and compare it to other tracks, do A/B comparisons on a good set of monitors. Instead of boosting the frequencies of the clap on the master buss you should try boosting them on the channel or reduce a bit from the kick. Too loud and distorted? Pull things down and find a harmony for what you are going for, DJs have a gain knob for a reason.

I was told many times that you should never master your own tracks, that it should be left a professional, you will fail and go to producer jail if you do. There are many peoples set ways and fetishes in dance music productions. There is no right way to put music out, no one really knows whats going on and its a good idea stay away from this elitism. As an example I was told that "trance music can only be made in logic and electro can only be made in windows"...

There are over 16,000 tracks released every week on dance music stores, music is and should be ours.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Free Polyphonix Vst I Made

This is a basic synth and upgrade of my previous monophonic Vst I made. Its my first one and I hope to work on more development of bigger and better ones including emulation of famous synths and hybrids of current ones that I personally dig.


- 3 Oscillators using wavetables with ADSR section
- 5 type Hybrid Moog/SM filter with TB-303 like distortion and overdrive under the hood with ADSR
- A volume thingy on the right

Monday, April 18, 2011

The SDK Rekords Remix Competition

'The Big Crunch', 'Keep In Coming', 'A Night To Remember', 'No Tolerance' 'Disko Time', 'Dirty DJs', 'After Dark' & 'Smoking Dubs'

Prizes & All That:
A release on an SDK Rekords remix album, a hug and moar learnings!

There is no limit to how many remixes you can send in but all samples and creations remain property of SDK Rekords and stealing is bad. Also because its Canada you have to be over 13 years old. Deadline is May 1st.

How to enter:
Download the parts, remix and make a track.
Upload to soundcloud via a PRIVATE LINK
Send the private link with DOWNLOADS ENABLED to

Download Link:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Hologram Of Sound Within Our Universe

How can vibrations, disturbances I the air create something so humanly subjective called music? Since all matter is made of atoms and those atoms vibrate can we call the universe an orchestra?

Sound is just information. Sound travels from source to your ear, eardrum, synapse and becomes an intangible thought. Sound waves do not carry the emotions we feel from different chords, they are created within. Even when def modern musicians can still play and feel music suggesting that music has a deep cognitive mechanism. 

Sound is an intangible substance, you can't hold it in your hands. It only manifests itself when there is an observer. It can hit you like a bag of concrete or bring you to your knees.

I have a theory that the people who enjoy dance music do so be because it contains early fetal memories of our mothers heartbeat. Blues follows the rhythm of the heart as well. Puppies sleep and don't cry as much if near a ticking clock.

Early tribal drumming thousands of years ago share similarities to raves. It was a great honor to play the drums to the tribe during ceremonies, the drum becoming you as you dance and trip balls on peyote, mushrooms or ibogaine. Chemicals and music have always gone well together.

Nothing has reflected the evolution, development and advancement of a society than the music of that area. From Bach to the newest Brittany Spears song comparing large orchestral sections playing music in unison to computerized impossible voice stutters, autotune and digital drums. Music and technology are relative and always have been.

Was music played around the time the wheel was invented? Wee animal skins stretched over hollow logs and drummed when creating fire was mastered?

Music can be broken down mathematically in turn making it more in common with algebra than anything.  Like the universe music is a fractal or hologram. There is a a wide belief that a lot of composers have used the Fibonacci sequence in their compositions, if memory serves correctly BT produced a track using the golden ratio, a ratio found all over nature.

Music and sound in general is the most important manifestation within our universe. Apart from smell is the strongest sense tied to memory and more of our brains are dedicated are processing sound than vision. Music is a portrait painted within.

"all nature consists of harmony arising out of number"

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mastering - A Love Story

Mastering music is by far the most complex and misunderstood aspect in music production. I lot will struggle and it takes a lifetime to learn. Don't get frustrated mastering a track, you aren't meant to.

Mastering was a big deal back in the day because tracks needed to fit and sound nice on acetate/vinyl. It also needed to be as loud as other tracks and there was to be as little stereo phasing as it could make the needle jump.

In recent years, with the advent of CDs and digital djing strict preparation of tracks for vinyl was a bit relaxed. Most tracks these days get a compressor thrown on the master bus and it's off to beatport.

Now keep in mind this is all my opinion and it may be warped to some people. A few engineers my facepalm and think I'm an idiot. It's all the same.

Mastering is no longer important.

Now hold on, don't stop reading. Mastering to me is making sure the track is not clipping, is as "loud" as other tracks, has a small bit of reverb and stereo separation on the higher frequencies and making all the sound kinda "mold" and "squish" together.

Mastering is can not be a magic wand. A PSP Vintage Warmer preset will not make a poor sounding track into an ACDC record.

The key to good tracks is the mixdown, making sure everything sits well together at a lower volume making sure to not clip then compressing/maximizing the master bus. Processing the sounds with eq, compression, limiting and sidechaining. You should never try to boost the bass on the master bus as it will effect the kick giving you mud most of the time, boosting the bass should be done on the individual bass channel unless you know what you are doing.

Plug ins are stupid, don't assume they know what you want to do, some are dynamic but hey don't have ears sitting next to you, give smart plug ins another 10 years. I used to stare at meters and analyzers all the time till I failed to see what hey were telling me, use your ears!

Also the samples the majority use are pre-processed. The Vengeance guys have there kicks and other sounds made to the same standard, volume and processing. Producing with these samples is adjusting volume, eqing and adding effects basically, you make all your sounds based off the other sounds to make everything in harmony, compressing the leads, pads and basses.

I don't buy into the whole "loudness war" hype, songs are louder that what they were 30 years ago and this war applies to commercial music, don't listen to all that noise people say. Dance music is supposed to be loud, compression can be used to extremes and sound good (listen to and Justice track). If it sounds good use it, as long as it doesn't clip and make ears bleed. You can still have dynamics and shake a club.

Best mastering plugins are as follows:

The waves L1, L2 and L3 maximizers are a bit of an industry standard. People love the L2 and hate the L3 and others dig L1 only. It's funny reading arguments about them, I think a blind listening test is In order comparing them.

PSP vintage warmer is a favorite of mine, it adds some analog fuzz and it just sounds unique. It has a nice limiter as well. I use it on all my tracks now. The great thing about it is it can add extreme drive if you wanted. An amazing algorithm under the hood I would imagine.

Izotope Ozone may be called ToysRUs by some but its a mastering suite that all who are new to mastering should use. It had a nice EQ and limiter/maximizer. The limiter is a simple slider that you can easily adjust make your tracks LOUD. I use it from time to time still,  I now have the computer power to run it's EQ on individual channels, the EQ has analog and digital modes with extreme cut. Izotope released a stand alone EQ but it lacks what this has.

Long story short it's - make a great mixdown then master to make it sound a whole lot better. Don't try to polish poo.

Think of it like making a sculpture with a chisel then buffing it to make it shine, as a posed to using a buffer alone to make the sphinx.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mac vs. PC for Audio Production

This is a touchy subject for most. A lot of the production community is torn between using a Mac vs using a PC. Mention that either is the way to go on a forum and expect a flame war that will last for weeks.

Here is the truth; they are fundamentally the same. Macs and PCs have been the same for around a decade since Mac went intel for their machines. They are both based off the same kernel also, they share the same deep roots and all established developers of software support both.

The advantage of having a Mac is being able to use the proprietary software that it offers such as logic pro and final cut. Both are arguably the "standard" in professional fields. If you are into emulating trance guys and want to use logic pro go at it but the same producers will tell you it's bugged and crashes a lot when simply recording midi notes. (note that Avid is still used by most studios as aposed to final cut)

Using a Mac for editing film professionally was extremely frustrating personally, spinny wheel and unresponsiveness while scrubbing and encoding kinda turned me off for the most part. Using Vegas pro even on an older toshiba produced video that was comparable and did so in half the time (was still HD video in mov with h264)

I still have problems with my custom PC, I have to reformat every year to keep things running smoothly. Using ableton live 99% of the time makes it so I dont need a Mac. Also using high quality components and windows 7 makes it so it never hangs or freezes and since release of windows 7 it has never crashed(especially surprising due to my experiences with XP on the same hardware setup)

Logic on a Mac and ableton on a PC both run plug ins the same way, they both share the same 30 year old midi standard and they are both supported by hardware manufactures. Can someone listen to a track and tell it was mixed in logic or FL studio or ableton? What about ableton on a Mac? What about a Mac running bootcamp? Should we even go as far as to say that spreadsheets should only be edited on a Mac?

It comes down to price, components and software. With windows bases PCs obviously in the lead for price when you compare a Mac pro to something you can build youself. Components? Well the use the same components such and intel CPUs, Texas instruments chipsets and SATA drives. Software has already been mentioned as it does the same thing on both platforms if you exclude the proprietary software apple owns.

The final round; if you want a rock solid laptop go for the MacBooks. If you don't want logic and dig ableton build a PC yourself. There's no right or wrong choice here. The biggest misconception is that using logic will make your tracks sound better, they will sound the same but that rainbow circle will show up more.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Acid Sounds Of The Roland TB-303, TS-404, Rebirth And A Fruity Loops Project File

The Roland TB-303 was a analog bass synthesizer made between 1982-1984 originally used to accompany guitarists and initially it was a commercial failure and only 10,000 were made. Roland has stated that it was made using inferior parts and some of them aren't made anymore (a few reasons why they wont remake it, even though there is a HUGE market for it). In the late 80s producers and Djs picked them up for next to nothing and they discovered with its distortion, filter+resonance and accent they could create a new unique sound. Acid house from the early 90s emerged from this and the 303 has been heard and is still loved over 20 years later. Also you will find them on Ebay for over $1500 and its sound has been emulated over and over again.

I'm a fan of classic monophonic bass lines and I think they should be enjoyed by everyone, its almost a spiritual experience to have a loop open and move the filter about. And a there are a few ways that this can be done.
Rebirth is about as close as you can get without going back in time, its an older program (that doesnt work on vista/windows7 without modification) that has been discontinued by Propellerheads (however freely available) but is now available on the iPhone, iTouch and iPad. It offers two 303's, an 808 and a 909 and they all sound insanely accurate. Its confusingly pattern based but its fun to jam with. Imagine yourself in front of this in a rack and a DAT recorder like they had to do back in the day.

I used to create these jamming sessions on my dads laptop in Fruity Loops 3 a long time ago. Its quite simple really. A single saw wave with a bit of an attack and a long release. Followed by a LP (lowpass) filter with the setting a little like what you see to the left. Using the distortion section is easy, just max out everything and there you have it!

Download project file here

Kick, hats and the TS-404 should be all there, here you can really play around with the 3 knobs in the filter section. It may sound familiar. The combination of the resonance and distortion makes the acid sound what it is, to add a bit more try to add some values to the LFO section.

Using these techniques can be applied to modern basses, the theory of it all hasn't changed much even though VSTi's have become far more advanced since then

Monday, February 7, 2011

Kick And Bass - Bass-Boost And Side-Chaining

The harmony of kicks and basses is important, its the driving factor and gets people moving in clubs. People like bass sounds more as apposed to high sounds, ever notice people stop and stare at you during a massive breakdown, wishing the kick and pumping bassline would just start again? Yep, its THAT important.

Getting a kick and bass tight and sitting well together can be a challenge notationally but with the acquired use using the technique ( not "special effect") of side-chaining you get everything rolling along quite well in those face down, driving parts.

The kick and bass have to share a common key (yes kick drums have keys as well), choose a kick you like, prepare it at -3db so you have a lot of play when you are happy with it. Add a Vsti and program your rough bassline or use a sample based one from one of the popular sample packs.
The image above is a kick and a midi clip with a simple arpeggiated baseline (2 saws -0 and -1 with filter), When its played right now we have frequency conflict, a problem when frequencies of the kick and bass clash making it muddy and bleh. A common mistake is to compress the track to make the bass more pronounced again but this makes it worse and it caused me to become frustrated. You must always remember that production is reduction and instead of boosting one sound, cut the others back. In time you will get it.
This is what my bass channel strip looks like, a small cut and boost in the top that will be changed later and a standard Ableton compressor at the end. Notice that everything is at a quiet volume, must not "pump up the jams" in the beginning.
To enable side-chaining theres a hidden triangle in the top left of the plugin. Click on that bad boy like I did in the image above. 
In the "audio from" section on the right of the menu that has appeared you need to select the audio channel that the kick is in. do that. In my case its "4-Audio".
Now the kick is being routed into into the compressor like magic. You wont hear much difference until you adjust the threshold to taste, turn up the monitors a bit, solo the bass. You now have the pumping sound present in almost every modern dance track. It saves you frequency conflict by ducking the sound so each kick and bass gets its own turn. Its a beautiful thing.
You can also automate the volume slider in the compressor as an alternative to setting up the side-chaining feature. I sometimes do this for a quick and more manual way to duck sounds, mainly out habit from when I did it this way in my FL Studio days. Keep in mind you can get latency issues doing this when using third party plugins. I do this on loops mostly or on effects when setting up the compressor takes too long or would take up too many resources. Ctrl + Alt + D to quickly paste automations along the strip FYI.
Here is where a lot of Trance and House guys get the meat into their tracks. Waves Renaissance Bass is a magic wand for bass sounds and is a more simpler to use than Maxxbass, don't ask me how it works. To use this effectively you have to play around to see what the original lacks in terms of the frequency and how much you are going to boost. Be careful, this can play tricks on you. Don't go for the MOST bass but boost and use your best judgment until you can say "Yep, this brings the bass and kick together juuuuust right" instead of "MOAR BASSEZ!!!" . Do not make this work too hard or you will get mud.
A bass booster plugin does not always apply or could be too extreme for a sound or sample you already have. If you are looking for a more subtle boost in your low end you can do it easily with the Ableton Auto Filter adding a bit of resonance to the lower frequencies. It works great because its a native plugin and boosts bass less intrusively, You can also do this with the regular EQ-8 but the filter is my preference as it has an LFO for a more advance approach if needed.

You should have a tight combination of a kick and bass that you are going for. Be prepared to change and adjust later but its excellent groundwork if you want a driving, face down Simon Patterson groove. Add some stabs, hats, claps, bleeps and bloops. What matters is that everything in the track has a place and gets along well. You can make everything loud and comparable to other tracks when you are mastering at the end.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Equalizing And Processing Kick Drums

Equalizing and processing kicks is very important because it sets the tone for the rest of your track, having it setup correctly makes the kick almost like a reference for all other instruments and percussion you add. Kicks are often over compressed and processed when desiring that "pumping" sound in turn eating up a lot of the headroom, clipping, sounding muddy and cursing the rest of the music making process. Production IS reduction and you will be cutting frequencies 90% of the time and boosting frequencies 10% of the time ever so slightly with an EQ and multi-band compression.

Choosing a kick drum is very straightforward, choose one you like. Depending on the kind of track you want to create you may want a punchy one or a kick thats very round with a long decay. Its up to you! Although I wouldn't really use hardstyle kick for a minimal house track unless its a fill or something but there are no rules in dance music.

Kick drums have 3 components; the sub bass that you feel in the clubs, the mid that punches you and the click that should be self explanatory. Browse your favorite kick library and you will hear these 3 components. pick a kick and plop in in your DAW, in this case I use Ableton.
In the case of Ableton live, I recommend right clicking on the clip in arrangement view and clicking on "show fades". This feature prevents inter sample clicks by fading a sample (bottom of picture above). You will want the click to be present in the sample so move the red line over so the whole kick is there in all its glory.
To buy yourself a lot of headroom, I make a fine cut around 150Hz like in the image above right away, this takes away a frequency that is not very relevant in clubs. This wont take away too much but will give you a but of play later when you add the bass, this EQ cut will not be absolute and I will generally move it it around and compromise with the tight bass and kick im looking for.

I always place is shallow curve like the image above to my kicks EQ. This is in place to add room for snares, claps, leads and bass fundamentals, think of it as a placeholder for something else, its not much of a obtrusive change in the sound. Remember, its not about how instruments sound together not how they sound by themselves, everything has to have its own place. Keep your tracks at a low volume or you ears will get tired and start to play tricks on you. Ever make something late at night that sounds great then you listen to it the next day and sounds way off? Yea our ears get bored and make up things like harmonics, perceived loudness  and the likes.

Once you have something you are happy with, check the levels. Since the track will be based around the kick in many ways you will want it around  -3.00db to -2.00db giving you ample head room to work with, never clip on the master buss. Keep things nice and clear with their own space with the kick all sounding great.
If you are missing a click in your fundamental kick you can add one by jacking a click from another kick like the image above. Mixing kicks together to create new ones is the way to do it. It Requires some EQing and level adjustments but the end result is boom. =]

If you have your kicks set up this way and build your track around it you will have an easier time mastering and making the track louder in the end. You NEVER want an effect working hard on a sound thats loud, make their job easy by keeping sounds low in the beginning and pumping them up afterwards.