make music now 100 computer music tips

computer music
To celebrate our hundredth issue, we bring you 100 essential tips with which to take your computer-based music making to the next level

Your environment
Your working environment should be as conducive to creative activity as possible. If you find that you spend an inordinate amount of time surfing the net when you should be working, create a new user account on your computer just for music, and delete any shortcuts to your web browser. Even better, use a dedicated offline machine for your music. interface or internal card with a breakout box is useful if you often need to swap leads around. If you get a loud clicking sound through your speakers when you turn a certain electrical item in your room on or off, unplug it from the same multiway adaptor as the rest of your kit – this should solve the problem and save your speakers a bit of wear and tear. If you’re unable to use a separate computer for making music, there’s plenty you can do to make a regular computer a bit more

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musician-friendly. Consider buying a new hard drive and installing an OS on it strictly for music. If at all possible, partition the drive into data and OS halves so you can reinstall the operating system without too much hassle. Customising your computer can help speed up your workflow. Put a shortcut to your plug-ins folder on your desktop – this will make installing new plug-ins and managing existing ones much less hassle. Delete unnecessary icons from your desktop, and replace them with shortcuts to your most commonly used programs, such



Try to keep your leads as tidy as possible to avoid electrical interference and any potentially hazardous cable tangling scenarios. If you’re in a cramped environment you may find that an external audio

1 Unclutter your desktop for a more serene working environment


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If you find this makes text too small. Save instrument and effect patches to a TUTORIAL 100TH ISSUE COMPUTER MUSIC 12 | 029 CMU100. And try to keep all your projects in one folder so you don’t miss any when backing up your work. If your computer is connected to the internet. so even if your house gets demolished by a meteor you’ll still be able to get your work back. These days creating backups is cheap – a DVD writer can be picked up for well under £30. If you’re using a PC and can’t record with your machine’s built-in mic input.ccleaner. Head to the Control Panel and open Sounds & Audio Devices. Select the Audio tab and click the Advanced button in the Sound Playback panel. Make sure the right Speaker Setup is selected – use Desktop stereo speakers if you’re not sure. Many sequencer and instrument interfaces these days are extremely high-detail and display a lot of information at once. but if you keep experimenting with the sound without doing so. for example. Make sure your video card’s resolution is fixed at a decent setting – 1024x768 is a good start.t_100tips 029 7/4/06 9:26:32 am . Back up your work regularly – not just your projects. or to display virtual instruments while keeping your automation tracks visible in the main screen. If you’re not sure what anything is. name the folders they reside in with the dates you started them as well as the titles – this will make it easier to keep track of what you’re working on at any one time. It can be used as a dedicated mixer screen. Most webmail accounts now offer hundreds of megabytes of storage space – more than enough when you consider that the average patch or MIDI arrangement is only a few kilobytes. run your disk defrag software. If you’re creating large audio files. or you could invest in another hard drive and regularly back 11 up by copying your folders over manually or using a utility such as DriveImage XML (www. so take the time to hide any parts of the interface you don’t use.100 computer music tips make music now as your sequencer and sample editor. but even higher is preferable. 07 1 Get rid of all those dodgy files lurking on your HD 3 Customising your sequencer's interface will help you get more music done. it could be because it’s set up to be a subwoofer output – a strange quirk of many motherboard-hosted sound systems. so if your machine suddenly feels slower. No more excuses! 08 09 10 Most sequencers offer at least some degree of customisability. save it immediately before altering it any more – it only takes a couple of seconds. you can quickly back up non-audio data by simply emailing it to yourself. 06 Clearing unwanted programs and files from your machine can help you reclaim wasted hard disk space and even CPU cycles. PC users should try CCleaner ( use your computer’s font size settings to make it bigger. 14 15 1 iPod: handy for more than just playing music 13 One easy method of backing up vast amounts of data is to copy it to your iPod – this enables you to take it with you wherever you go.runtime. raise the font size Time management If you work on a lot of projects at once. This practice also enables you to get access to your MIDI parts and patches from other machines. Many computer musicians find that a second monitor helps increase their productivity. use the documentation to find out before you get shot of it – it could be something to tidy up their registry and zap unneeded temporary files.htm). but any sample or patch libraries you have as well. 5 Make sure you’re using the right speaker setup 1 If you're at high resolution. you may never be able to recreate the same magic. If you stumble across an interesting instrument sound or effect setting. regular hard disk defragmentation is also a must for both Mac and PC.

This can be done in Apple Menu»System Preferences»Desktop & Screen Saver in Mac OS X. but it’ll give you a little extra CPU overhead to help you get your track finished. 23 latency values. When your computer is recording audio it’s at its most susceptible to errors caused by background functions. | COMPUTER MUSIC 100TH ISSUE TUTORIAL CMU100. pack your instrument/effects chain into a Combinator and save it out separately. then reassess it. These days we’ve all got access to so many plug-in instruments and effects that it can be hard to know which ones to use and which are just totally superfluous. delays and reverbs on send/return busses. It only takes an inopportune system sound playing at the wrong time to ruin a take. into which you can stick all those untried plug-in files. If you find you have your best ideas away from your studio. you can give yourself a little breathing space by increasing your audio interface’s buffer size. When recording live instruments or vocals with a microphone. 17 1 Use Reason's Combinator to save your chains Create a template project featuring all the tools you use most often – EQ on every channel. take a break and do something else. so make sure you turn them all off before you start recording. for example. making any noise in the sample much more obvious. When you’re using a lot of instruments or effects and your sequencer’s CPU load is peaking. allowing you to get on with composing or recording immediately. Mac users can simply turn down or mute the alert volume level in the OS X Sound Preferences. 21 When a track gets to the stage where you feel you’re not making any progress. then turn off Use Fast User Switching.t_100tips 030 7/4/06 9:26:37 am . In Windows. Windows users should head to User Accounts in the Control Panel. Make sure you’re using the latest drivers for your soundcard. it could be that you’re using an unsuitable ASIO driver. This can be loaded up instead of your sequencer’s default ‘New project’ when you begin a new 19 22 20 1 Check those levels before you start recording! Computer optimisation If you use a MIDI keyboard controller to enter information into your sequencer. Make a subfolder in your plug-ins directory called New. you might be pushing your CPU too hard. To do a similar thing in Reason. or if you’ve got a lot of instruments or effects loaded. check your levels before embarking on a mammoth session. Similarly. The first thing you should do is turn off your machine’s screen saver.asio4all. or Control Panel»Display»Screen Saver in Windows. arrange your mixer sensibly so you can make quick adjustments at mixdown time. then select the Sounds tab. so make sure your account is the only one logged into the machine before you start. even if it’s working on another project. click Change the Way Users Log On or Off. Presumably you’re not going to need to change profiles on your machine during a recording session. If you feel a sound has tweaking potential. move them into the main folder if they’re good. use your mobile phone’s voice memo function to record any ideas you have – just make sure you’re in understanding company if you plan on beat-boxing into your Nokia for extended if you’re using an onboard sound system. If digital clipping is present in the sample there’s no real way to reverse the damage. Group sounds by category. This will introduce latency when recording MIDI and audio. Some sequencers. you need to make sure your computer’s latency is set at a reasonable level or you’ll suffer a delay between hitting the note and hearing it play. or ASIO4ALL (www. select No Sounds from the Sound Schemes tab. head to the 24 If audio playback starts to break up or glitch at low 25 27 1 Silence those obtrusive system sounds 26 28 1 ASIO4ALL is a must-have for most laptop PCs 030 Sounds and Audio Devices icon in the Control Panel. or delete them if they suck. Here. save it out for later use.make music now 100 computer music tips specific folder for the appropriate plug-in you’re using to create an easily accessible patch library. if you’ve been really struggling with a track for a long time. Once you’ve 16 18 tested them out them. enable you to save individual instrument channels and effect chains. Use your soundcard’s ASIO driver buffer setting to lower the latency value to an acceptable level. which could result in spoiled takes. if it’s too quiet you’ll have to normalise it. take a break from listening to it. you can save it in its entirety. piece. so if you make a hot sound. like Logic and Live. When working on a complex project. and consider routing sounds of the same type through a submix channel – this will enable you to change the volume level of every sound in that category using just the one fader.

upf. You may find you get better disk performance if you use a hard drive other than the one your OS boots from to record and store audio. If you’re on a network. file-sharing clients. Prevent this by unsharing any shared folders or disconnecting entirely. your computer could take a performance hit if it’s being accessed a lot. 1 Four samples are better than one. PC users should shut down any non-essential System Tray items. but in the meantime it’ll save you a few CPU cycles.100 computer music tips make music now To claw back even more CPU cycles. Some instruments feature rendering options with which you can lower the quality of the instrument’s output. try bypassing Certain internet software can really cane your computer’s processor. it may be intrinsically lacking bottom end. go to the Control Panel and double-click the System icon. etc. so try a few different setups to see which suits you. A turd is still a turd even with a liberal application of polish. This usually results in a slight reduction in sound quality and CPU usage. so if you do find CPU usage to be an issue. If you’re using a lot of 24-bit samples you could economise on processor usage by bouncing them down to one or many 16-bit files. If your CPU’s close to maxing out there are a few things you can do to make your project’s processor overhead a little lighter. In Windows. Mac users can get rid of the cycling desktop background by heading to System Preferences»Desktop & Screen Saver and disabling the Change Picture The same goes for other drums – it’s important to have a good sound in the first place before you carry out any processing. 37 36 If you’re using a lot of effects on a for drum sounds by the barrowful. If your kick drum doesn’t sound meaty enough. you may find they sound better layered up with other drums and percussion. especially if you’re making dance music. 42 41 Dynamics tools are important when dealing with drum sounds. Again. Alternatively. You’ll save processing power and make your mixer less cluttered at the same time.t_100tips 031 7/4/06 9:26:41 am . virus protection. leaving it free to read and write audio info at the highest speed possible. this is only a 32 33 30 7 Do you really need all those effects? Be honest… 31 34 temporary solution. so try and get your hands on the best compressor plug-in you can.iua.html for loads more. Try out a few until you find one you like – check out www. but if you’re using a lot of instruments. If you can’t tell the difference with or without the effect. It’s common practice for producers to layer up multiple samples of the same type in order to achieve a full sound.kjaerhusaudio. it’s best to turn off any superfluous graphical effects. Extra system resources can be freed up by closing unneeded Widgets in Dashboard and turning off the Dock’s graphical effects in the System Preferences»Dock menu. the cumulative effect could be enough to give you a useful amount of processor breathing space. click the Settings button in the Performance classic-series. Look for another kick drum sound to use instead or layer with the sound you have already. and stop them from loading on start-up. as they say 38 same note. Unfortunately. The ways in which drums are compressed vary from producer to producer and project to project. The idea behind this is that the 29 secondary drive doesn’t have to cope with all the demands of running the OS. 35 each one individually to see if you actually notice any difference to the sound when its turned off. make sure the Adjust for Best Performance radio button is selected. 40 1 Get Classic compression for free from Kjaerhus If you feel your drum sounds are lacking that certain something. For example. Just remember to turn it back up before you export your project as audio. bin it. you might find compressing drums individually gives you the polished sound you require. but a couple of free ones we’d certainly recommend are Digitalfishphones Endorphin (www.sadglad. media players. and playing with the individual volume levels of each. If your sequencer enables you to change the global sample rate. so use the best quality loops or drum sounds you can get your hands on.php). no amount of EQ will help in this situation as it can’t add frequencies that aren’t there. shut down every bit of extraneous software you can – ie. as to get the best quality mixdown you’ll have to use the 24-bit and Kjaerhus Classic Compressor (www. Check out the cm DVD and http://freesound. and click OK.digitalfishphones. you can TUTORIAL 100TH ISSUE COMPUTER MUSIC | 031 CMU100. Experiment by loading up four snare samples triggered by the 39 This comes down to personal preference. Select the Advanced tab. Drums Getting the right drum sounds is key to creating a professional sounding track. try turning it down to a lower value.

For example. A good first step on the road to synth programming greatness is learning how to initialise your synth’s parameters. 44 43 STEP BY STEP Ducking in Reason Compression plug-ins have many uses. Plug the > Compressor's output into the mixer. > 2 3 1 Give your percussion some edge with a touch of emulated tube amplification Load House Kit 1 into Redrum and put it into Run mode. If this is overly powerful. > 5 Turn the Threshold knob down on the Compressor and you’ll hear the sidechain compression start to kick in. then add a Redrum. If your synth has loads of oscillators. Click the Sidechain Solo button on the > Compressor to hear what you're doing. and if 032 | COMPUTER MUSIC 100TH ISSUE TUTORIAL CMU100. 48 If you want to create synth sounds that really stand out. creating a pumping house-style effect. the more apparent they’ll be. Program a four-to-the-floor kick drum pattern. Try using automation to sync an oscillator’s pulse width modulation to the beat. can help warm them up. You can also create your own sub-oscillator by turning a regular oscillator down an octave or two. Call up a Malström patch with a high sustain level. Compress it on a separate channel then adjust the make-up gain so that it sounds right with the rest of your beats. If the part sounds too busy. 49 50 Effects like reverb. 1 Initialise those parameters and get creative! 47 try automating features that most people don’t bother with. By programming a more complex drum part you can create more sophisticated effects. One drum sound you’ll generally need to process on its own is the kick. but be careful not to overdo it – over-processed drums can lose their dynamics or become so distorted that they lose their groove. try reducing the velocity of less important beats to give the impression that they’re being played more softly. chorus and overdrive are as much a part of the overall sound of a synth as the oscillator and filters. filter sweeps are all very well. 45 If you’re programming your own drum parts and are having trouble getting them to sound right. For example. such as a tube amplification plug-in or even a subtle overdrive or degrader. you can use your kick drum to trigger a compressor on a channel running a synth or musical loop. Running percussion tracks through a little light processing. Get to know your synth’s effects section inside out. compressing it along with the rest of the beats could result in them being drowned out whenever it plays.make music now 100 computer music tips create a submix to group any number of drums together on one mixer channel. Synth patches can be made to sound phatter with the addition of more voices. so periodically bypass any such effects to make sure you’ve not lost the original beat’s vibe. > 1 Unplug everything and route Malström's main outputs into the Compressor’s audio input. load up the default New Project. turn them on one by one to see how they affect the sound. The more you detune these extra oscillators. This technique is particularly important when triggering the same sample multiple times.t_100tips 032 7/4/06 9:26:46 am . but they’re pretty familiar to the majority of listeners. and the Redrum outs into the Compressor’s sidechain input. or you might have to load up a supplied ‘Init’ patch. On playback you should see the Gain meter on the > Compressor start to flicker. turn down your track’s tempo to get a better idea of what’s going on. or set an envelope to control the speed of an LFO assigned to filter cutoff. such as Ducker or Reason’s MClass Compressor. which can then be compressed for a less clean-cut sound. Malström and MClass Compressor to the rack. In Reason. especially those with sidechain capabilities. There might be an option somewhere on the interface to do this. > 4 Make sure the Sidechain Solo button is off and record or enter a chord into the Maelström sequencer channel. 46 Synths If you’re a bit of a preset jockey you might not realise the true sonic potential of your favourite synth. > such as Etheral (in Pads).

6 Bass Bass can be a difficult thing to get right. If your favourite synth enables you to modulate its pitch with an envelope. use a separate plug-in instead. or simply want to hear the notes a little better. change Poly to 8 and set the Render quality to Normal. set the Source to LFO1. > 4 In the first row of the Modulation Matrix. You may find you need to adjust the octave of the bass sound.100 computer music tips make music now an element isn’t up to scratch. Be sure to filter out the very bottom of the sine (50Hz and below.4%. as well as saving on CPU usage. 55 1 Start by selecting the Initialize option in Z3TA+’s Program menu. Set the filters up in series so that the sound passes through one then another. get around this by exporting single or multiple notes as audio and loading them into your sampler. This can 51 52 53 impart a human touch to lead sounds. and try using various envelope settings and cutoff frequencies on either filter for interesting textures and effects. Set the first two oscillators to Vintage Saw 1.0. Set the Modulation effect to Chorus/Phaser and you’re done. say). Most plug-in synths feature multimode filters. experiment with any band-reject or band-pass modes on offer. Now you can > play chords. simply copy it onto the track that triggers your bass synth. > 2 Set both oscillators’ Phase values to 150 degrees. Click the Effects button.t_100tips 033 7/4/06 9:26:56 am . In the Master Section. so you might find it helps to double your bass part with a sine wave tuned to as low an octave as possible while still being audible. though. To make your synth sounds more expressive. More expressiveness can be added by using an LFO to control the patch’s overall pitch – assign the Amount or Depth parameter to your mod wheel to control it manually.or low-pass filtering. Once you’ve got it sounding right. tie parameters such as cutoff frequency to controls on your MIDI controller such as velocity. These filter types work best when used dynamically – ie. 59 60 Filling the frequency range is key to getting a good. Free mode. > 1 There are ways to deal with CPU-hungry synths 56 3 54 STEP BY STEP Programming a lush pad in Z3TA+ So far so unexciting – the sound is pretty basic and very synthetic. so if you normally limit yourself to high. Switch LFO1 on by setting Wave 1 to Triangle. fullsounding track. 58 You can emphasise certain parts of your track and make them sound weightier by getting your bassline to double them. especially if you only have feeble desktop speakers at your disposal. Try using filters of the same type in series at slightly different cutoff frequencies. This will make the output of your synth sound more organic as the parameters are affected by your playing style. simply transpose it back down again. Sustain and Release in the Amplitude Envelope panel – check the screenshot to make sure > you’ve got the right kinds of values. Now turn up the Attack. This makes its pitch a lot easier to discern. 57 If you’re having trouble getting your bassline in tune with a sample. Synths with multiple filters can be useful when programming lead and bass sounds for dance music. depending on how the patches are programmed. when they’re swept using an envelope or LFO. try adding a quick ‘hump’ at the beginning of the note. and Destination to All Osc Pitch. as sonic energy that low takes overall dynamic headroom away from the rest TUTORIAL 100TH ISSUE COMPUTER MUSIC | 033 CMU100. turn the Delay and Reverb effects on and turn up their levels. Some synths demand a great deal of processor power. > Time to enhance our basic pad sound with a few effects. and put them both into Multi. We want this to modulate the pitch. Set both oscillators’ Bus values to > 100:0. routing them through Filter 1. Curve to U-Lin-. This can lend a more ‘immediate’ quality to the sound. at least use headphones until you can afford to buy some – these will give you a better idea of what’s going on with your track’s low-end frequencies. aftertouch or the mod wheel. > 5 Set Filter 1 to any of the low-pass filter types and set the Cutoff to 3000Hz. so we must turn our > attentions to the Modulation Matrix. and consequently makes it a lot easier to tune. Range to 0-1. While there’s no substitute for a pair of half decent monitors. transpose it up a few octaves. If the part you want to double is a MIDI part. Transpose > Oscillator 2 up by seven semitones.

> 2 3 That’s pretty bouncy. 66 from vinyl are clicks and scratches. This can be removed with a high-pass filter set to a low cutoff frequency – around 30Hz. > 63 64 Next comes the Unison effect. > Pukka. you’ll probably find that adding a low-pass filter makes it sound better. all we’ve done is turned up the Detune amount to give a nice thick > mid-range buzz. process samples in your audio editor before loading them into your sequencer.make music now 100 computer music tips 61 STEP BY STEP Making a crunchy bass in Reason of the track without actually benefiting it in any way. If your synth bass sound lacks mid-range punch. leaving you with the just the low-end groove. Next in the chain. try applying an EQ cut to the kick drum from about 80Hz down – most frequencies below this are generally only taken up with bass or so-called sub-bass frequencies. and trim them down to size. you’ll find you get noticeably better quality results ripping the tracks digitally rather than sampling them through your soundcard. This filters out high frequency sounds. This can add the necessary dynamics to make the start of the note stand out. Sidechain compression can be used to ‘duck’ the bassline when the bass drum kicks. there are sounds present other than the bass part). which is to be avoided unless you want to intentionally thin it out. try layering it with another bass sound or even an acoustic instrument patch from a ROMpler or real-world recording. add a distortion unit. but here we’re going to process a more mid-range > bassline using Reason’s built-in effects.t_100tips 034 7/4/06 9:27:05 am . Don’t set the filter too high. > 1 Begin by selecting the SubTractor synth. making it more percussive and its rhythm easier to discern. 1 Give us a WAV: rippin' it up in iTunes 034 67 68 Another problem you may encounter when sampling If you always max out your CPU due to over-ambitious plug-in use. Program a bassline in the octave starting at the note C1. as you’ll start removing frequencies from the sound itself. 62 If you’ve sampled a bassline from a record that’s not entirely ‘clean’ (ie. This time. you can simply lower their volume using your audio editor’s pencil tool.sourceforge. but they’re not always desirable. but it could be cooler – turn the SubTractor’s LFO1 Amount control up to about 90 and set its mode to F. delay-based effects such as chorus and flanging don’t work well with really low bass parts. If your bassline and kick drum are clashing. but a bit random. These can add character to your tracks (a la Portishead). > 4 5 That’s cool. We’ve increased both values over their default settings for > more crunch. If there are only one or two noises in your sample. > 6 This effect works better with Sync mode on and the Rate set to 3/16. Run it through a chorus unit > with the same settings as we have here.Freq. 65 When sampling from vinyl you may find that you get a lot of low-end noise. but generally it’s a better idea to get the two co-existing. but we’re not quite surfing on sine waves yet. and it’s totally free – you can then open the resulting files in Audacity (also free and cross-platform – see http://audacity. If you prefer working in | COMPUTER MUSIC 100TH ISSUE TUTORIAL CMU100. Beautiful! We’ve also added a Phaser before the Unison effect for more modulation mayhem. 3 EQ and/or sidechain compression can be used to tidy up your basslines Sampling If you lift samples from CDs a lot. though. for example. iTunes can be used to rip uncompressed audio files from CD to WAV or AIFF format.

Effects processing Effects and processing are as much a part of any track as virtual instruments and audio recordings. atmospheric piece. turn the decay amount up and the sustain value right down. Short.100 computer music tips make music now your sequencer. without which your track may sound unnatural. too long and bright a reverb 1 Keep it real – apply some reverb! TUTORIAL 100TH ISSUE COMPUTER MUSIC | 035 CMU100. If you want the sound to fade out over time. > 5 1 Sample looping definitely works best with notes that go on for a bit Repeating the same sample over and over again can sound unnatural. although this option is not available in every program. try using a variety of samples instead of just one to create a more human-sounding 71 performance. there are a few things you can do to stretch it out. export processed tracks as audio. This will stop the channel quickly going from silent to loud or vice versa. Alternatively. you could vary the sample’s volume. Listen to the sample and locate the part you want > to edit. save the sound using the Export as WAV option in the > File menu. 75 69 70 STEP BY STEP Editing samples When using drum sounds that you’ve recorded or sampled yourself. percussive sounds are susceptible to timing problems if not sliced correctly. sustained notes. > If you need to fade a sound in or out. Load your audio file by dragging it from the Finder/Explorer into Audacity. > 4 Press Ctrl/Cmnd+X to cut the highlighted section of the sample. This effect puts your sounds in a virtual space. > 1 To zoom in and see a smaller section of the sample more closely. for Mac and PC. zoom in as close > as possible. Live musicians can’t keep time as well as computers can. you could loop the tail portion of the sample. use the magnifying glass icon at the top left-hand > corner of the interface. For the greatest editing accuracy. If you get a click at the start or end of a sample on a sequencer 78 If you’re creating a slow. Once you’ve got rid of everything you don’t need. The first is to timestretch it in your sampler or sample editor. use the envelope tool to the right of the selection tool. This enables you to create fades by simply dragging the edge of > the sample. 76 77 Reverb is one of the most frequently used effects. pitch or filter settings using automation. check the CM Studio and Library on the cm DVD for a selection of alternatives. Windows Media Player doesn’t. use your software’s fade out/in function to apply an extremely short fade where the click occurs.t_100tips 035 7/4/06 9:27:14 am . By turning up the attack time you can make a sample come in more smoothly. so it’s important to use the best quality plug-ins you can get your hands on. but iTunes and QuickTime are available for free (www. If your sequencer’s native plug-ins aren’t up to scratch. > 2 3 Use the selection tool (the icon above the magnifying glass) to select an unwanted part of the sample. Alternatively. although this won’t sound as natural in action as our first suggestion. If you have a sample you really like but that’s too short for your purposes. 73 74 72 Don’t overlook your sampler’s amplitude envelope. placing them all in the same tailor-made environment. This can be avoided by cutting the sample into individual beats and playing it back along with the rest of the track. then re-import them and turn off the original tracks. you’ll need a media player that supports the format. while turning the release level down makes the end more abrupt and snappy sounding. you can afford to have longer reverb times and less severe damping because there’s more room in the soundscape – if you’re creating a fast piece with a lot going on.itunes. make sure they’re accurately edited. and the vast majority of tracks feature at least light use of reverb at some point. you may find it goes out of time. If you want to audition a large number of 24-bit and www. which is what causes the noise. By deploying a reverb plug-in as a send effect you can use it on several tracks at once. though this works best with longer. so if your sampler offers a ‘round robin’ feature.quicktime. so when you try to get a piece of live playing looping along with the rest of your track. so use an audio editor like Audacity to cut them up.

85 Overdrive. and should be used with due caution and reverence. it’s good to change the track in some way every eight bars or so. It can be tricky to know when and where EQ should be used. This is an important part of most tracks – especially those in the dance music category – and introducing or removing it has a massive impact on the overall feel. You may find that this notch EQ sounds good at particular frequencies. so try listening to a rough version of your track on a variety of stereo systems to see which parts 79 need bringing out. load a well-produced track by another artist into your sequencer. 1 Excite those synth parts with a bit of flanging 1 Just the Tonic: sync the LFO to your track's tempo Although equalisation is an extremely useful sound-shaping tool. If the filter is a plug-in it’ll probably have a ‘sync to host tempo’ option. amp simulator and degrader effects can all be used to warm sounds up. if you’re not sure about a part or section. or turn off the EQ plug-ins and start the mix again from the scratch. it’s no substitute for having a decent sound in the first place. cut it down a little.t_100tips 036 7/4/06 9:27:20 am . ‘Can I tell the same story in less time?’. 88 87 036 As a general rule. Time to re-record. sweep through the available range while your track plays back – this should give you an idea or what value works best. With the multiplicity of media available to us these days. 84 83 Filters are among the most powerful effects in the computer musician’s arsenal. if it’s part of a synth or sampler it will likely have an option to retrigger the LFO with each note played. Mixing in some of the original signal can help take the edge off. then reintroducing it with a subtle variation.5Hz or thereabouts and go from there. perhaps there’s a problem with your source sounds or general mix. Also. Too fast and it’ll just sound wobbly. but used excessively they can do more harm than good. it’s important to give the listener something to grab their attention as soon as possible. Try removing the bassline for a bar or two at the point just before you feel it’s getting tired. Think about where you drop in and take out your bassline. 82 When using a filter with the cutoff tied to an LFO. reducing the gain by a few dB and sweeping it through the frequency range. 1 Change will do you good. compare it with your work and use it as a corrective guide.make music now 100 computer music tips will detract from the other sounds. but keep it subtle! something as simple as changing a hi-hat part’s rhythm or adding a layered synth can help reinvigorate the piece for the listener. turn it down a little. don’t dawdle for too long at the intro before getting to some kind of interesting musical ideal. If you find you have to apply inordinate amounts of EQ to your tracks when mixing. Once you’ve found a sweet spot. then gradually increase the distortion control until you get a good tone – if the sound starts to crack up. tweak the Q and gain levels to get the sound just where you want it. Rather than deciding on an arbitrary resonance level. removing any sections that aren’t up to the standard set by the rest of it. This doesn’t have to be a radical change in direction – Fills are an extremely useful tool for keeping a track flowing – if you feel a section of your track is getting stale. Equalisation (EQ) is another tremendously important processing tool that can have a disastrous effect when misapplied. you’ll probably find it best to have the LFO synced to your track’s tempo. Begin by using low values. think to yourself. If your track gets repetitive or boring. or simply cutting the drum part out for a few beats. This will go no small way towards easing the potential monotony that repeated sections of a track can cause. try turning up the Q value on your EQ plug-in. or ‘sweet spots’. so start with a Rate value of 0. As a general rule. 90 89 | COMPUTER MUSIC 100TH ISSUE TUTORIAL CMU100. Arrangement 86 Unless you’re intentionally creating some kind of long-winded ambient piece or film soundtrack. but try to keep the rate set to a reasonable level – too slow and the processing could distract the listener from other things going on in the track as the effect slowly peaks and troughs. 81 1Sounding it out: play with those Q and gain levels for added impact and bite Flanger or phaser effects can add sparkle and movement to your synth parts. 80 If you feel a sound could do with more bite. try putting a drum fill at the end of a bar or halfway through it. you’re probably better off without it. When finishing off a track.

Compare each mix on each stereo you use to see which sounds best. except for channels with dynamics plug-ins inserted (changing the input > volume will affect their response). you could have a mix with louder drums or slightly less bass. turn it down until the vocal is nice and clear. emphasising the frequencies around the cutoff point. it’s important to remember that boosting a sound’s EQ increases its volume. take another break before mastering it or listening to it again in case you’ve lost the plot. This can take the form of stereo effects such as delay or reverb. 96 1 Elektrik Piano features drastic variations between soft and hard velocity settings 97 manually changing the notes’ velocity levels. For example. pull all your mixer's faders down to zero. you might just spot important things that need changing that you wouldn’t have noticed had you not given your ears a rest. of course. 93 It doesn’t take long for the human ear to get used to frequency changes in a sound. or you can get creative with the placement of sounds in the stereo field. Always be sure to give your ears a bit of a break between finishing writing a track and starting work on the mix. see if you can use your sequencer’s automation to do it rather than 1 Inspector gadget: size up against the pros 100 STEP BY STEP Quick-fix mix tricks If you want your track to sound good in people’s homes as well as on their iPods. TUTORIAL 100TH ISSUE COMPUTER MUSIC | 037 CMU100. Using an EQ cut helps bring a sound out but can also take away from its weight somewhat. When working with vocals. you’ll probably want to start with the kick drum or any drum loops you’ve got going. get rid of or turn down any superfluous effects. When you’ve finished the mixdown. If you’re making dance music. you could try panning one synth part slightly to the left and another slightly to the right. such as over-complicated delay lines. This technique works in a similar way to the resonance of a filter. This can be achieved by clearing some space for the vocal in the mix – ie. don’t have an instrument part play at the same time in the same frequency range. You might find that resetting > each track’s send level helps too. you need to get in on a bit of stereo action. They display what frequencies are being produced by the mixer channel into which they’re inserted. reduce the sound’s overall level by turning it down in the mixer. 99 94 98 Play your draft mix through a few systems to get an idea of what it sounds like coming out of a variety of speakers. and make notes about any changes that need to be made. a piano patch from a ROMpler will sound tonally different when played at quiet or loud velocities. Toning down excessive EQ settings will probably help too. extreme compressors or muddy reverbs. or if you must. Consider doing a few alternative mixes – for example. take a break and A/B your track with a professional mix to make sure you’re not going overboard with the top-end. Analyser tools such as VST Inspector enable you to visually compare your tracks to professional pieces. so if you find yourself continually applying high-frequency EQ boosts. as that could alter the sound in other ways. so try also adding a slight EQ peak just above or below the cut. If you boost anything heavily. so use one on your sequencer’s master output and another on the channel with the professional track loaded onto it. For example. which could make it too loud. When it's time to come back to it. > 2 3 If you’re still having trouble. 95 If you feel your mix is going nowhere.100 computer music tips make music now Mixing 91 92 When mixing. > 1 Pull the faders up one by one. it’s important to make them as intelligible as possible – unless you’re a Napalm Death-style shoutist. When you want to change the volume of a MIDI instrument part at a certain stage in your track.t_100tips 037 7/4/06 9:27:25 am .

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