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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 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
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
| COMPUTER MUSIC 100TH ISSUE TUTORIAL
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ccleaner. run your disk defrag software. If your computer is connected to the internet. If you stumble across an interesting instrument sound or effect setting. Back up your work regularly – not just your projects. so if your machine suddenly feels slower. 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. for example.org/dixml. And try to keep all your projects in one folder so you don’t miss any when backing up your work. but even higher is preferable. If you’re not sure what anything is. but if you keep experimenting with the sound without doing so. 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.com) to tidy up their registry and zap unneeded temporary files. Save instrument and effect patches to a TUTORIAL 100TH ISSUE COMPUTER MUSIC 12 | 029 CMU100. raise the font size Time management If you work on a lot of projects at once. No more excuses! 08 09 10 Most sequencers offer at least some degree of customisability. 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. Many computer musicians find that a second monitor helps increase their productivity. PC users should try CCleaner (www. This practice also enables you to get access to your MIDI parts and patches from other machines.100 computer music tips make music now as your sequencer and sample editor. or to display virtual instruments while keeping your automation tracks visible in the main screen. If you’re creating large audio files.htm). you can quickly back up non-audio data by simply emailing it to yourself.runtime. it could be because it’s set up to be a subwoofer output – a strange quirk of many motherboard-hosted sound systems. so even if your house gets demolished by a meteor you’ll still be able to get your work back. use the documentation to find out before you get shot of it – it could be something useful. Head to the Control Panel and open Sounds & Audio Devices. but any sample or patch libraries you have as well. 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. If you find this makes text too small. 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. 06 Clearing unwanted programs and files from your machine can help you reclaim wasted hard disk space and even CPU cycles. use your computer’s font size settings to make it bigger. save it immediately before altering it any more – it only takes a couple of seconds. 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. so take the time to hide any parts of the interface you don’t use.t_100tips 029 7/4/06 9:26:32 am . Select the Audio tab and click the Advanced button in the Sound Playback panel. Make sure your video card’s resolution is fixed at a decent setting – 1024x768 is a good start. It can be used as a dedicated mixer screen. regular hard disk defragmentation is also a must for both Mac and PC. 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. 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.
23 latency values. Some sequencers. allowing you to get on with composing or recording immediately. arrange your mixer sensibly so you can make quick adjustments at mixdown time. check your levels before embarking on a mammoth session. so make sure your account is the only one logged into the machine before you start. Once you’ve 16 18 tested them out them.t_100tips 030 7/4/06 9:26:37 am . you can save it in its entirety. Make a subfolder in your plug-ins directory called New. then reassess it. | COMPUTER MUSIC 100TH ISSUE TUTORIAL CMU100. When you’re using a lot of instruments or effects and your sequencer’s CPU load is peaking. save it out for later use. 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. If digital clipping is present in the sample there’s no real way to reverse the damage. This can be done in Apple Menu»System Preferences»Desktop & Screen Saver in Mac OS X. When working on a complex project. or if you’ve got a lot of instruments or effects loaded. 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. take a break from listening to it. if it’s too quiet you’ll have to normalise it. which could result in spoiled takes. click Change the Way Users Log On or Off. It only takes an inopportune system sound playing at the wrong time to ruin a take. In Windows. If you find you have your best ideas away from your studio. 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. it could be that you’re using an unsuitable ASIO driver. 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. Here. then turn off Use Fast User Switching. you might be pushing your CPU too hard. Mac users can simply turn down or mute the alert volume level in the OS X Sound Preferences. 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. piece. so make sure you turn them all off before you start recording. When your computer is recording audio it’s at its most susceptible to errors caused by background functions. or Control Panel»Display»Screen Saver in Windows. Make sure you’re using the latest drivers for your soundcard.com) if you’re using an onboard sound system. Windows users should head to User Accounts in the Control Panel. making any noise in the sample much more obvious. pack your instrument/effects chain into a Combinator and save it out separately. but it’ll give you a little extra CPU overhead to help you get your track finished. Similarly.asio4all. 21 When a track gets to the stage where you feel you’re not making any progress. The first thing you should do is turn off your machine’s screen saver. like Logic and Live. select No Sounds from the Sound Schemes tab. if you’ve been really struggling with a track for a long time. delays and reverbs on send/return busses. then select the Sounds tab. 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 periods. Group sounds by category. To do a similar thing in Reason. Presumably you’re not going to need to change profiles on your machine during a recording session. or delete them if they suck. 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. so if you make a hot sound.make music now 100 computer music tips specific folder for the appropriate plug-in you’re using to create an easily accessible patch library. or ASIO4ALL (www. into which you can stick all those untried plug-in files. Use your soundcard’s ASIO driver buffer setting to lower the latency value to an acceptable level. This will introduce latency when recording MIDI and audio. enable you to save individual instrument channels and effect chains. even if it’s working on another project. 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. move them into the main folder if they’re good. for example. If you feel a sound has tweaking potential.
40 1 Get Classic compression for free from Kjaerhus If you feel your drum sounds are lacking that certain something. but a couple of free ones we’d certainly recommend are Digitalfishphones Endorphin (www. but in the meantime it’ll save you a few CPU cycles. The same goes for other drums – it’s important to have a good sound in the first place before you carry out any processing. it may be intrinsically lacking bottom end. Mac users can get rid of the cycling desktop background by heading to System Preferences»Desktop & Screen Saver and disabling the Change Picture option. as they say 38 same note. Some instruments feature rendering options with which you can lower the quality of the instrument’s output. media players.com/ classic-series. In Windows. Drums Getting the right drum sounds is key to creating a professional sounding track. and stop them from loading on start-up. 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. 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. your computer could take a performance hit if it’s being accessed a lot. This usually results in a slight reduction in sound quality and CPU usage.php). the cumulative effect could be enough to give you a useful amount of processor breathing space.upf. Again. 1 Four samples are better than one. Just remember to turn it back up before you export your project as audio. and click OK. If your sequencer enables you to change the global sample rate. and playing with the individual volume levels of each. leaving it free to read and write audio info at the highest speed possible. etc. If you can’t tell the difference with or without the effect. so try and get your hands on the best compressor plug-in you can. 35 each one individually to see if you actually notice any difference to the sound when its turned off.com/compressor. click the Settings button in the Performance panel. A turd is still a turd even with a liberal application of polish. The idea behind this is that the 29 secondary drive doesn’t have to cope with all the demands of running the OS.100 computer music tips make music now To claw back even more CPU cycles. you can TUTORIAL 100TH ISSUE COMPUTER MUSIC | 031 CMU100. shut down every bit of extraneous software you can – ie. 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. PC users should shut down any non-essential System Tray items. Unfortunately. make sure the Adjust for Best Performance radio button is selected. you may find they sound better layered up with other drums and percussion. this is only a 32 33 30 7 Do you really need all those effects? Be honest… 31 34 temporary solution.iua. Look for another kick drum sound to use instead or layer with the sound you have already. as to get the best quality mixdown you’ll have to use the 24-bit sounds. Check out the cm DVD and http://freesound. For example. Try out a few until you find one you like – check out www. try turning it down to a lower value. file-sharing clients. 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. so if you do find CPU usage to be an issue. If your kick drum doesn’t sound meaty enough. 42 41 Dynamics tools are important when dealing with drum sounds. You’ll save processing power and make your mixer less cluttered at the same time. try bypassing Certain internet software can really cane your computer’s processor. 37 36 If you’re using a lot of effects on a channel. Select the Advanced tab. go to the Control Panel and double-click the System icon. so use the best quality loops or drum sounds you can get your hands on. but if you’re using a lot of instruments. The ways in which drums are compressed vary from producer to producer and project to project.html for loads more. it’s best to turn off any superfluous graphical effects.com) and Kjaerhus Classic Compressor (www. bin it.edu/ for drum sounds by the barrowful. It’s common practice for producers to layer up multiple samples of the same type in order to achieve a full sound. no amount of EQ will help in this situation as it can’t add frequencies that aren’t there. you might find compressing drums individually gives you the polished sound you require. Prevent this by unsharing any shared folders or disconnecting entirely. especially if you’re making dance music. Experiment by loading up four snare samples triggered by the 39 This comes down to personal preference. so try a few different setups to see which suits you.sadglad.digitalfishphones.t_100tips 031 7/4/06 9:26:41 am . virus protection.kjaerhusaudio. Alternatively.
One drum sound you’ll generally need to process on its own is the kick. 44 43 STEP BY STEP Ducking in Reason Compression plug-ins have many uses. This technique is particularly important when triggering the same sample multiple times. You can also create your own sub-oscillator by turning a regular oscillator down an octave or two. turn down your track’s tempo to get a better idea of what’s going on. Program a four-to-the-floor kick drum pattern. If the part sounds too busy. but they’re pretty familiar to the majority of listeners. 48 If you want to create synth sounds that really stand out. There might be an option somewhere on the interface to do this. which can then be compressed for a less clean-cut sound. 45 If you’re programming your own drum parts and are having trouble getting them to sound right.t_100tips 032 7/4/06 9:26:46 am . > 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. and if 032 | COMPUTER MUSIC 100TH ISSUE TUTORIAL CMU100. The more you detune these extra oscillators. > 1 Unplug everything and route Malström's main outputs into the Compressor’s audio input. A good first step on the road to synth programming greatness is learning how to initialise your synth’s parameters. In Reason. such as Ducker or Reason’s MClass Compressor. such as a tube amplification plug-in or even a subtle overdrive or degrader. Plug the > Compressor's output into the mixer. > 5 Turn the Threshold knob down on the Compressor and you’ll hear the sidechain compression start to kick in. Malström and MClass Compressor to the rack. so periodically bypass any such effects to make sure you’ve not lost the original beat’s vibe. Get to know your synth’s effects section inside out. you can use your kick drum to trigger a compressor on a channel running a synth or musical loop. By programming a more complex drum part you can create more sophisticated effects. For example. or you might have to load up a supplied ‘Init’ patch.make music now 100 computer music tips create a submix to group any number of drums together on one mixer channel. For example. or set an envelope to control the speed of an LFO assigned to filter cutoff. then add a Redrum. 1 Initialise those parameters and get creative! 47 try automating features that most people don’t bother with. Compress it on a separate channel then adjust the make-up gain so that it sounds right with the rest of your beats. Click the Sidechain Solo button on the > Compressor to hear what you're doing. chorus and overdrive are as much a part of the overall sound of a synth as the oscillator and filters. Call up a Malström patch with a high sustain level. Try using automation to sync an oscillator’s pulse width modulation to the beat. creating a pumping house-style effect. On playback you should see the Gain meter on the > Compressor start to flicker. If this is overly powerful. especially those with sidechain capabilities. Synth patches can be made to sound phatter with the addition of more voices. the more apparent they’ll be. > such as Etheral (in Pads). try reducing the velocity of less important beats to give the impression that they’re being played more softly. Running percussion tracks through a little light processing. can help warm them up. If your synth has loads of oscillators. 46 Synths If you’re a bit of a preset jockey you might not realise the true sonic potential of your favourite synth. 49 50 Effects like reverb. filter sweeps are all very well. > 4 Make sure the Sidechain Solo button is off and record or enter a chord into the Maelström sequencer channel. load up the default New Project. and the Redrum outs into the Compressor’s sidechain input. but be careful not to overdo it – over-processed drums can lose their dynamics or become so distorted that they lose their groove. compressing it along with the rest of the beats could result in them being drowned out whenever it plays. turn them on one by one to see how they affect the sound.
Transpose > Oscillator 2 up by seven semitones. You may find you need to adjust the octave of the bass sound. set the Source to LFO1. 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. To make your synth sounds more expressive. get around this by exporting single or multiple notes as audio and loading them into your sampler. when they’re swept using an envelope or LFO. Free mode. Switch LFO1 on by setting Wave 1 to Triangle. 59 60 Filling the frequency range is key to getting a good. Click the Effects button. These filter types work best when used dynamically – ie. aftertouch or the mod wheel. depending on how the patches are programmed. > Time to enhance our basic pad sound with a few effects. Synths with multiple filters can be useful when programming lead and bass sounds for dance music. routing them through Filter 1. so we must turn our > attentions to the Modulation Matrix. Most plug-in synths feature multimode filters. tie parameters such as cutoff frequency to controls on your MIDI controller such as velocity. 57 If you’re having trouble getting your bassline in tune with a sample. Once you’ve got it sounding right. 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. and put them both into Multi. > 2 Set both oscillators’ Phase values to 150 degrees. In the Master Section. Range to 0-1. though. If your favourite synth enables you to modulate its pitch with an envelope. 55 1 Start by selecting the Initialize option in Z3TA+’s Program menu. say). Try using filters of the same type in series at slightly different cutoff frequencies. Set the Modulation effect to Chorus/Phaser and you’re done. This can lend a more ‘immediate’ quality to the sound. try adding a quick ‘hump’ at the beginning of the note. While there’s no substitute for a pair of half decent monitors. Curve to U-Lin-. simply transpose it back down again.100 computer music tips make music now an element isn’t up to scratch. This can 51 52 53 impart a human touch to lead sounds. change Poly to 8 and set the Render quality to Normal. > 4 In the first row of the Modulation Matrix. and try using various envelope settings and cutoff frequencies on either filter for interesting textures and effects. Set the filters up in series so that the sound passes through one then another. 58 You can emphasise certain parts of your track and make them sound weightier by getting your bassline to double them. If the part you want to double is a MIDI part. transpose it up a few octaves. Now turn up the Attack. Sustain and Release in the Amplitude Envelope panel – check the screenshot to make sure > you’ve got the right kinds of values. We want this to modulate the pitch. or simply want to hear the notes a little better. use a separate plug-in instead. Some synths demand a great deal of processor power. as well as saving on CPU usage. Set both oscillators’ Bus values to > 100:0. experiment with any band-reject or band-pass modes on offer. Now you can > play chords. Be sure to filter out the very bottom of the sine (50Hz and below. This will make the output of your synth sound more organic as the parameters are affected by your playing style.t_100tips 033 7/4/06 9:26:56 am . and Destination to All Osc Pitch. simply copy it onto the track that triggers your bass synth.4%. Set the first two oscillators to Vintage Saw 1. 6 Bass Bass can be a difficult thing to get right.or low-pass filtering. as sonic energy that low takes overall dynamic headroom away from the rest TUTORIAL 100TH ISSUE COMPUTER MUSIC | 033 CMU100. fullsounding track. This makes its pitch a lot easier to discern. 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. > 5 Set Filter 1 to any of the low-pass filter types and set the Cutoff to 3000Hz. > 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. especially if you only have feeble desktop speakers at your disposal. and consequently makes it a lot easier to tune. turn the Delay and Reverb effects on and turn up their levels.0. so if you normally limit yourself to high.
If there are only one or two noises in your sample. Generally. for example.sourceforge. Program a bassline in the octave starting at the note C1. Next in the chain. This time. We’ve increased both values over their default settings for > more crunch. all we’ve done is turned up the Detune amount to give a nice thick > mid-range buzz.t_100tips 034 7/4/06 9:27:05 am . 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. 65 When sampling from vinyl you may find that you get a lot of low-end noise. but they’re not always desirable. These can add character to your tracks (a la Portishead). This filters out high frequency sounds. If your synth bass sound lacks mid-range punch. > Pukka. Don’t set the filter too high. but it could be cooler – turn the SubTractor’s LFO1 Amount control up to about 90 and set its mode to F. > 63 64 Next comes the Unison effect. 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. > 4 5 That’s cool. leaving you with the just the low-end groove.Freq. 62 If you’ve sampled a bassline from a record that’s not entirely ‘clean’ (ie. process samples in your audio editor before loading them into your sequencer. If you prefer working in | COMPUTER MUSIC 100TH ISSUE TUTORIAL CMU100. but generally it’s a better idea to get the two co-existing. This can add the necessary dynamics to make the start of the note stand out. and it’s totally free – you can then open the resulting files in Audacity (also free and cross-platform – see http://audacity.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. but we’re not quite surfing on sine waves yet. 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. Sidechain compression can be used to ‘duck’ the bassline when the bass drum kicks. add a distortion unit. which is to be avoided unless you want to intentionally thin it out. there are sounds present other than the bass part). > 6 This effect works better with Sync mode on and the Rate set to 3/16. delay-based effects such as chorus and flanging don’t work well with really low bass parts. > 1 Begin by selecting the SubTractor synth. as you’ll start removing frequencies from the sound itself. but a bit random. > 2 3 That’s pretty bouncy. This can be removed with a high-pass filter set to a low cutoff frequency – around 30Hz. making it more percussive and its rhythm easier to discern. but here we’re going to process a more mid-range > bassline using Reason’s built-in effects. Run it through a chorus unit > with the same settings as we have here. you’ll probably find that adding a low-pass filter makes it sound better. 66 from vinyl are clicks and scratches. though.net/) and trim them down to size. you can simply lower their volume using your audio editor’s pencil tool. If your bassline and kick drum are clashing. try layering it with another bass sound or even an acoustic instrument patch from a ROMpler or real-world recording. you’ll find you get noticeably better quality results ripping the tracks digitally rather than sampling them through your soundcard. iTunes can be used to rip uncompressed audio files from CD to WAV or AIFF format.
although this option is not available in every program. > 2 3 Use the selection tool (the icon above the magnifying glass) to select an unwanted part of the sample. but iTunes and QuickTime are available for free (www. which is what causes the noise.com and www. Listen to the sample and locate the part you want > to edit. sustained notes. without which your track may sound unnatural.itunes. and the vast majority of tracks feature at least light use of reverb at some point. For the greatest editing accuracy. 78 If you’re creating a slow. so if your sampler offers a ‘round robin’ feature. Windows Media Player doesn’t. though this works best with longer. so it’s important to use the best quality plug-ins you can get your hands on. 73 74 72 Don’t overlook your sampler’s amplitude envelope. percussive sounds are susceptible to timing problems if not sliced correctly.t_100tips 035 7/4/06 9:27:14 am . try using a variety of samples instead of just one to create a more human-sounding 71 performance. This enables you to create fades by simply dragging the edge of > the sample. If you want the sound to fade out over time. turn the decay amount up and the sustain value right down. use the magnifying glass icon at the top left-hand > corner of the interface. This effect puts your sounds in a virtual space. for Mac and PC. If you get a click at the start or end of a sample on a sequencer track.100 computer music tips make music now your sequencer. > 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. you could loop the tail portion of the sample. although this won’t sound as natural in action as our first suggestion. so when you try to get a piece of live playing looping along with the rest of your track. use the envelope tool to the right of the selection tool. > If you need to fade a sound in or out. By turning up the attack time you can make a sample come in more smoothly. too long and bright a reverb 1 Keep it real – apply some reverb! TUTORIAL 100TH ISSUE COMPUTER MUSIC | 035 CMU100. pitch or filter settings using automation. If you have a sample you really like but that’s too short for your purposes. you’ll need a media player that supports the format. zoom in as close > as possible. Short. placing them all in the same tailor-made environment. Effects processing Effects and processing are as much a part of any track as virtual instruments and audio recordings. > 1 To zoom in and see a smaller section of the sample more closely. Live musicians can’t keep time as well as computers can. you could vary the sample’s volume. Alternatively. 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. export processed tracks as audio. you may find it goes out of time. use your software’s fade out/in function to apply an extremely short fade where the click occurs. The first is to timestretch it in your sampler or sample editor. while turning the release level down makes the end more abrupt and snappy sounding. Alternatively. then re-import them and turn off the original tracks. By deploying a reverb plug-in as a send effect you can use it on several tracks at once.quicktime. If you want to audition a large number of 24-bit samples. there are a few things you can do to stretch it out. 75 69 70 STEP BY STEP Editing samples When using drum sounds that you’ve recorded or sampled yourself. 76 77 Reverb is one of the most frequently used effects. Load your audio file by dragging it from the Finder/Explorer into Audacity. atmospheric piece. so use an audio editor like Audacity to cut them up. > 4 Press Ctrl/Cmnd+X to cut the highlighted section of the sample. If your sequencer’s native plug-ins aren’t up to scratch.com). This can be avoided by cutting the sample into individual beats and playing it back along with the rest of the track. Once you’ve got rid of everything you don’t need. make sure they’re accurately edited. This will stop the channel quickly going from silent to loud or vice versa. check the CM Studio and Library on the cm DVD for a selection of alternatives. save the sound using the Export as WAV option in the > File menu.
it’s good to change the track in some way every eight bars or so. You may find that this notch EQ sounds good at particular frequencies. Also. so try listening to a rough version of your track on a variety of stereo systems to see which parts 79 need bringing out. amp simulator and degrader effects can all be used to warm sounds up. and should be used with due caution and reverence. think to yourself. If you find you have to apply inordinate amounts of EQ to your tracks when mixing. As a general rule.make music now 100 computer music tips will detract from the other sounds. 80 If you feel a sound could do with more bite. 88 87 036 As a general rule. it’s important to give the listener something to grab their attention as soon as possible. 1 Change will do you good. it’s no substitute for having a decent sound in the first place. you’ll probably find it best to have the LFO synced to your track’s tempo. then reintroducing it with a subtle variation. 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. if you’re not sure about a part or section. If the filter is a plug-in it’ll probably have a ‘sync to host tempo’ option. 82 When using a filter with the cutoff tied to an LFO. turn it down a little. ‘Can I tell the same story in less time?’. Once you’ve found a sweet spot. Too fast and it’ll just sound wobbly. It can be tricky to know when and where EQ should be used. or turn off the EQ plug-ins and start the mix again from the scratch. if it’s part of a synth or sampler it will likely have an option to retrigger the LFO with each note played. load a well-produced track by another artist into your sequencer. Mixing in some of the original signal can help take the edge off. 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. Try removing the bassline for a bar or two at the point just before you feel it’s getting tired. 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.t_100tips 036 7/4/06 9:27:20 am . 85 Overdrive. Begin by using low values. don’t dawdle for too long at the intro before getting to some kind of interesting musical ideal. Think about where you drop in and take out your bassline. sweep through the available range while your track plays back – this should give you an idea or what value works best.5Hz or thereabouts and go from there. Time to re-record. 90 89 | COMPUTER MUSIC 100TH ISSUE TUTORIAL CMU100. Rather than deciding on an arbitrary resonance level. but used excessively they can do more harm than good. or simply cutting the drum part out for a few beats. perhaps there’s a problem with your source sounds or general mix. Equalisation (EQ) is another tremendously important processing tool that can have a disastrous effect when misapplied. then gradually increase the distortion control until you get a good tone – if the sound starts to crack up. removing any sections that aren’t up to the standard set by the rest of it. reducing the gain by a few dB and sweeping it through the frequency range. try putting a drum fill at the end of a bar or halfway through it. you’re probably better off without it. 84 83 Filters are among the most powerful effects in the computer musician’s arsenal. or ‘sweet spots’. try turning up the Q value on your EQ plug-in. so start with a Rate value of 0. 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. This will go no small way towards easing the potential monotony that repeated sections of a track can cause. 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. tweak the Q and gain levels to get the sound just where you want it. compare it with your work and use it as a corrective guide. If your track gets repetitive or boring. When finishing off a track. With the multiplicity of media available to us these days. cut it down a little. 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. Arrangement 86 Unless you’re intentionally creating some kind of long-winded ambient piece or film soundtrack.
emphasising the frequencies around the cutoff point. When it's time to come back to it. it’s important to remember that boosting a sound’s EQ increases its volume. don’t have an instrument part play at the same time in the same frequency range. When you want to change the volume of a MIDI instrument part at a certain stage in your track. 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. which could make it too loud. you might just spot important things that need changing that you wouldn’t have noticed had you not given your ears a rest. They display what frequencies are being produced by the mixer channel into which they’re inserted. pull all your mixer's faders down to zero. and make notes about any changes that need to be made. When you’ve finished the mixdown. or if you must. get rid of or turn down any superfluous effects. such as over-complicated delay lines. turn it down until the vocal is nice and clear. If you boost anything heavily. you need to get in on a bit of stereo action. take a break and A/B your track with a professional mix to make sure you’re not going overboard with the top-end. For example. you could have a mix with louder drums or slightly less bass. This technique works in a similar way to the resonance of a filter. except for channels with dynamics plug-ins inserted (changing the input > volume will affect their response). as that could alter the sound in other ways. You might find that resetting > each track’s send level helps too. extreme compressors or muddy reverbs. you could try panning one synth part slightly to the left and another slightly to the right. 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. it’s important to make them as intelligible as possible – unless you’re a Napalm Death-style shoutist. Using an EQ cut helps bring a sound out but can also take away from its weight somewhat. a piano patch from a ROMpler will sound tonally different when played at quiet or loud velocities. Always be sure to give your ears a bit of a break between finishing writing a track and starting work on the mix. This can be achieved by clearing some space for the vocal in the mix – ie.100 computer music tips make music now Mixing 91 92 When mixing. Consider doing a few alternative mixes – for example. of course. > 2 3 If you’re still having trouble. If you’re making dance music. or you can get creative with the placement of sounds in the stereo field. When working with vocals. > 1 Pull the faders up one by one. take another break before mastering it or listening to it again in case you’ve lost the plot. Compare each mix on each stereo you use to see which sounds best.t_100tips 037 7/4/06 9:27:25 am . so try also adding a slight EQ peak just above or below the cut. so if you find yourself continually applying high-frequency EQ boosts. 96 1 Elektrik Piano features drastic variations between soft and hard velocity settings 97 manually changing the notes’ velocity levels. reduce the sound’s overall level by turning it down in the mixer. Toning down excessive EQ settings will probably help too. For example. 95 If you feel your mix is going nowhere. 93 It doesn’t take long for the human ear to get used to frequency changes in a sound. so use one on your sequencer’s master output and another on the channel with the professional track loaded onto it. This can take the form of stereo effects such as delay or reverb. you’ll probably want to start with the kick drum or any drum loops you’ve got going. Analyser tools such as VST Inspector enable you to visually compare your tracks to professional pieces.
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