2011 is now over, and 2012 is just beginning. Looking back on the year in reflection, it really was quite a poor year for my own personal musical output. This is due to a couple factors:
1. I have seen moderate success as an online educator on Youtube. I brought in the new year with somewhat of a landmark: 400 subscribers and 50,000 upload views! This is very exciting and motivational for me, and it definitely encourages me to continue working on these tips in the future. I won’t lie and act like this takes up all my time, but I have been throwing myself at this a little more than music lately, as it has been a little more gratifying for me.
2. I have undergone a pretty drastic change in artistic direction over the last year. I had a sort of genre nailed down that I had been working towards for quite some time, and in my opinion I was getting pretty good at it, but one day it all seemed sort of stale. I no longer have any desire to make the music I was able to make, and therefore required a reinvention. This meant learning new production techniques, songwriting, etc. that are somewhat foreign to me. I have made spectacular progress and hope to be putting out some great stuff soon, but 2011 we more of a “go back to the drawing board” kind of year.
Anyway, with that out of the way, I have uploaded what I did accomplish in 2011: 2 lengthy tracks that are stacked with several works in progress. I have not finished these, I may never finish these, but they are an auditory record of some stuff that were fortunate enough to be rendered out of Ableton during this drought. The one track contains some ideas I came up with for my new project that has been a bit of an outlet for my softer stuff. It’s sort of an indie-folk style, I maybe shouldn’t say “acoustic” but “non-electronic”? I do use electric instruments (guitars and stuff) but it’s far more traditional than what I usually do. It’s a great style for when you just want to focus on songwriting and leave all the music production quite minimal. The other track is just a continuation of my experimental electronic endeavors, some ambient stuff, some beats, etc. I hope you enjoy!
In this video I describe how to use Ableton Live’s Return Tracks to apply sidechain compression on several tracks at a time. This technique also allows you to “dial in” different amounts of compression to different tracks very easily.
In this quick tip I demonstrate how you can save your configured VST/AU plugin devices to quickly recall them whenever you need to automate or control with a midi controller.
In this video I describe how to achieve a REAL tape stop effect in Ableton Live, without time-stretching! Slow down & pitch down your audio at the same time.
I’ve uploaded 3 new video tutorials to Youtube that discuss 3 different ways to chop breaks. Each technique has it’s own advantages and can be used to achieve different results. Enjoy!
Hello readers. I tried a few times to make this tutorial as a video for upload on youtube but just found myself talking for far too long with far too little visual content, so I figured I’d write it up instead.
I’d like to talk a bit about a little known feature in Ableton Live that I like to call Audio Hot Swap. Audio Hot Swap is very similar to the regular hot swap feature that I’m sure many of you are familiar with which allows you to swap out instruments/effects/presets/grooves and many other things in Live. This is commonly identified by the orange circle with rotating arrows in the corner of all of Ableton’s devices, etc. All you do is click this orange circle and you will bring up your browser on the left which will allow you to try out different presets or whatever until you find what you are looking for. As I’m sure all of you know, this is very handy and I use it on a daily basis. Audio Hot Swap is similar to this in the sense that it allows you to swap out the actual audio contained within your clips in the arrangement, while leaving the actual arrangement of the clips intact. Not only does Audio Hot Swap leave the placement of your clips at the same point in time in your arrangement, but it also preserves clip settings like volume, transposition, envelopes, etc.
I should begin by explaining the relevance of this. I have recently begun to start composing in a slightly different manner, dragging and dropping samples and audio files directly onto the arrangement view and arranging them by hand into beats and patterns. Common functions like copy/paste, duplicate, chopping, fades, reversing, etc. are all tools at my disposal. It’s actually amazing how flexible working with audio can be when you get right in there and mangle the waveform by hand to sound exactly how you want it. Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks. One particular example is this: imagine you choose a kick drum sample. You spend all day programming in an entire song’s worth of kick drum patterns using that sample, only at the end of the day you decide you don’t really like the sample so much any more. What are you to do? If you decide to go choose another sample you are basically going to have to re-program your entire song again. Or so I thought…
It helps to understand how Live handles audio files. You need to separate audio files from the containers that hold them (clips).
When you duplicate a file, you are not inserting a second audio file into your project folder as this would most definitely lead to massive project sizes very quickly. Instead, when you duplicate a “clip” you are only telling Live to reference the same audio file at another point in the timeline. So for example in the following picture you can see on the Perc 2 track there is a hi-hat repeating itself over and over again. Every one of those green containers/clips is referencing the same file. For this reason even the most complex looking projects may only reference a few separate audio files on your hard drive.
Now, Live has a couple very useful references that can be accessed by selecting “View – File Manager” at the top. There are other things in here worth noting, but we are mostly concerned with “Manage Set” then “View Files”. This will bring up a list of every audio file currently being used in your Live Set. Some will be located in your project folder, others may be External (located elsewhere on your hard drive). An easier way to access this list, and one that you should discipline yourself to use as it can get very confusing very quickly, is to double click on a clip in your arrangement, and in the sample window right-click and select “Manage Sample File”. This has the benefit of highlighting in the list exactly which sample you are currently working with.
At this point you may have noticed that every entry on your file list has our beloved hot swap button! If you select this hot swap button, you will encounter similar behavior to any other hot swap in Live, and you will see the browser pop up on the left with your sample highlighted. From here you can swap out different samples, and you will notice as you select different samples it will change the audio files in all the clips in your project that are referencing the same file!
Go ahead and attempt this with clips that all reference the same file, but have different volumes, different lengths, different transposition, different clip envelopes, etc. and you will see that all of that stuff stays exactly the same, only the audio inside the clip changes. The only time you will run into trouble is when you either consolidate a clip or reverse a clip. Both of these functions create new audio files within your project which will then isolate them from the rest. For this reason the method isn’t perfect (I do a lot of both of these functions when composing), but it is better than nothing. This is extremely useful specifically for percussion and beat elements that have a ton of repeated samples spread out across the arrangement, but can be applied to anything that references the same file. Play around. Discuss.
It has been a long project, but I can confidently say the studio is complete. For those of you that don’t know, my girlfriend Kyla and I sold our apartment back in November and moved into a new place. The usual awkwardness of taking all of your stuff out of one room and trying to make it all work in another room was a factor, but this is also my first room dedicated 100% to music. In the previous place my gear moved back and forth from my living room and bedroom, but now I’ve got my own space that I’ve designed totally to inspire creativity. It is the most accurate expression of my sense of style and design when it comes to decorating a space, and I’m quite happy with how it turned out.
Finding the balance between aesthetics and functionality was difficult, and I’m not sure I’ve nailed it perfectly, but what can you do. The trouble is that targeting the acoustics of a space can be quite a daunting task, and often what you are left with is acoustic treatment all over the walls, ceiling, etc. The ideal placement of your monitors (and consequently your main workstation/computer) is all dictated by the way sound bounces around the room. My problem is that I want a room that I can feel comfortable in, and if you look at the nicest recording studios and they are all quite sterile. My room is far from perfect acoustically, in fact I had a setup in my old place that actually had better bass response than this one, but I figured what’s the point in having an acoustically treated room if you don’t enjoy being in there? I hung a large area rug on the wall behind where I sit to catch some of the twang in the room, and I’ve got it densely furnished to try and deaden the space (got a great love seat from The Brick that I love to just kick back on). Other than that though I don’t really have much treatment.
The music I create does not require a ton of “live-off-the-floor” recording using mics and whatnot, other than vsti’s on my computer most of what I record comes in through a 1/4″ TRS cable. I went out and bought myself a killer set of Sennheiser headphones, really splurged and went for top of the line stuff, and paired with a nice Aphex headphone amp I’ve got a great monitoring system for referencing my low end. I bounce back and forth between those and my Mackies, and I like to think I cover all my bases mix-wise.
My pride and joy of this room is how it’s been decorated. When I moved into the place one of the first things I did was stay up almost all night painting the room. I’ve always hated that standard apartment white, and so I covered it up with a nice chocolate brown on 3 walls and a creamy beige on the other. Next I got one of those modular desks from Ikea that you can build from various extensions and whatnot, and set up a nice big corner desk, with lots of space for all my gear (as well as room to grow). I ended up actually buying the wrong corner piece (got the left-hand one instead of right), but ended up liking it better. Like I said earlier, I put a comfy love seat in there because I’m totally lazy and most days want to just crash on the couch after work. I figured putting a couch in there would be incentive to spend more time in there, just make it a more general hang-out space. It’s great because I’ve got all my tv shows loaded up in iTunes, also I’ve got Netflix, so i can just kick back with a nice view of my imac and relax all I want.
Another thing I love is my lighting. Aside from installing a new overhead light, I’ve fallen in love with LED strip lighting. I picked up some multicolour strips from Ikea, they have a bunch of different colours that you can leave as stationary or have them flash/fade between in series. I mounted these to the back of the desk, so that they shine onto the wall, which creates an awesome glow around the edges, as well as to the back of my computer. They work great on light walls, not so much the darker ones. I really made it funky when I started building up my lava lamp collection. I love lava lamps, some people make fun of me, calling me a hippy, but they are still relevant for sure. They are like moving art, constantly forming interesting shapes and designs. Here’s a tip for any fellow lava lampers out there: heat them up just to that point where they start looking like freaky bottled organisms and then turn them off. They will harden that way and you get these sick formations that look like they should be locked up in a lab. I had one extra lamp stand from a previously failed experiment with a black/orange lava lamp (ugly), and I made another cool lamp dropping highlighters into water, and illuminating with a blacklight in the base. The thing just glows green, so awesome. Believe it or not, the electricity bill hasn’t gone up that much higher…
Finally I’ve got the actual gear. Over the last few years there’s been a settling that’s gone on as far as hardware. I have times when I go all out and pull out everything, and other times when I stick it all in the closet in favor of a more minimal setup. Aside from the guitars mounted on the wall, all of my hardware is midi gear, which I love simply for the hands on control of hardware, but the versatility of software. The most complicated thing to do in a studio is figure out the ergonomics of it all. You need to set things up in a way that they’ll actually get used. Maybe it sounds ridiculous, but even something a small as turning your chair around and rolling to another station can be enough to make you just do something else instead. For example, in these pictures I’ve got my APC40 off to the side in my “drum workstation”. Whenever I wanted to automate something, I ended up just using the crappy knobs on my Novation Remote when I should have really used the APC40 more. Not cool. I’ve actually moved some stuff around since these pictures were taken, and now my drum station is right in front of me (in front of the iMac) with the addition of a new little m-audio axiom 25 as well. I get 90% of my work done using all that, and I feel great about the fact that I’m actually using my stuff to get better results, and the other 10% of the time when I really want to get into playing piano or something I’ll spin around to my Novation which is now in front of the secondary computer screen. I’ve just recently developed a fairly hefty new technique that has opened up a lot of doors as far as recorded jams and sound design goes, so I’m very interested in incorporating more hardware synths and stuff into my setup. I may start a rack in the corner where that plant currently reside by the window. I’m interested in a Nord Rack, maybe a Tetr4 or something, Slim Phatty would be cool, and I’d also like to start building a modular bit by bit. That’s some long term stuff though for sure. For now, it’s perfect.
Of course, the room is alive and always changing. I just took these pictures recently and already have changed the layout a bit since then. I just love it though, it’s been through a few iterations and now it’s settled to the perfect place. I go in there late at night, fire up the lava lamps and led lighting and it totally just puts me in the zone for the style of music I’m into. Very inspiring. At the same time middle of the day I can look out the window at the trees and that pumps me up for a completely different style of music. That’s what I was aiming for, the acoustic treatment and all that came second to the aesthetics and ergonomics for sure, and I don’t regret it at all. Now that this ongoing project is coming to a close, let’s see if I can crack down and get some music happening!
Yesterday I completed two new videos discussing Ableton Live’s “Stretch Notes” function which allows you to scale a series of notes by however much you’d like. I have found two awesome uses for this that are shared in each video. There may be more to come on this topic, I’m not sure if I’ll do a separate video on making granular glitches with stretch notes or if I’ll just include that in another series I’m working on regarding IDM drum chopping in general. Anyway, enjoy!