Mixing Electronic Music? Don’t Make These 2 Vital Compression Mistakes

I was chatting with Rob Mayzes the other day about compression. Rob is a freelance mixer, musician, and educator. He has helped thousands of home studio owners produce better music and mixes through his website Musician on a Mission. After chatting a while I asked him to write a guest article on Compression techniques for Electronic Music. Here is his article. Love some of the ideas and reframing he shares:


If you find yourself applying compression because you feel you should, stop what you are doing. It took me a long time to truly understand compression. At first, I didn’t quite understand how it worked. But it didn’t take long to get to grips with the various parameters… Yet once I understood how compression worked, a new question came up.

Why do I need compression, and when should I use it?

I have spent 12 years mastering the use of compression and taught over half a million people about mixing in the process. Along the way, I have noticed one vital mistake pop up time and time again…

The assumption that the use of compression is the same in all genres.

It simply isn’t.

You’re about to learn why compression can make your electronic music sound far worse if used incorrectly… and what you should be doing instead.

Using Compression in Electronic Music

For most genres, compression is vital. After the volume fader and EQ, it’s one of your most useful tools.But most genres doesn’t mean ALL genres. In electronic music, this isn’t the case. You may have been misled by mixing tutorials that refer to genres with more acoustic elements, like rock music. In genres that contain a lot of acoustic instrument, compression is an absolute necessity. (more…)

By | 2017-09-15T09:15:52+00:00 September 14th, 2017|Music Theory, Producers Blog|0 Comments

How to escape the 8 bar loop and finish more tracks

Written by Daniel Dixon, content writer for Outro.io

We’ve all been there before—you’re writing a track, the separate elements are falling into place, and a steady groove has emerged. But when it comes time to arrange the loop into a full track, things start to fall apart. You’ve become too entrenched in the loop to take it somewhere new, and you’re left feeling stuck.

Not knowing where to take your track is a common crux for many producers, leaving us with folders full of incomplete projects. There are, however, many ways to avoid this from happening—check out these seven tricks to help you escape the 8 bar loop and finish more tracks.

1. Use a reference track

Listen to a great track within the style you’re trying to create—how did the producer structure it? Drag and drop the track into your DAW, and use locators to make note of where it changes (intro, drop, breakdown etc.), using them as guidelines for your own music. After doing this a few times, you’ll stop needing the reference, and start adding in unique twists and developing a signature style.

Create a reference track, change it’s output to ext. out 1/2 (your master output) so the reference track doesn’t run through the mastering chain. Then mute the track—you don’t want it to play while yours does.

Add Locator:

 

Adding a Reference Track:

 

2. Make Loop Variations

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Generative Music with Abelton Live and Randomization

Sometimes we get stuck. We just hit a wall and need something to break us out. In those cases, I love to use randomization and generative music techniques. I like to think of it as using the machine as a collaborator.

I took a section of my Fast Songwriting course on Generative Music and posted it for free below. I wanted to share some of the ideas I use to speed up my production and come up with ideas.

Here is the introduction video:

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What is Generative Music?

Generative music describes music that is ever-different and changing, and that is created by a system. In other words, it is using a machine with set parameters to generate new music instead of writing it from scratch.  With Ableton Live I generally look at using randomization with MIDI and devices to generate new musical ideas.

How do you use Generative Music?

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By | 2017-06-28T19:49:41+00:00 February 27th, 2017|Ableton, Creative Process, Music Theory, Producers Blog|0 Comments

List of Microtonal VST Synths and Plugins

To easily make microtonal music in Ableton Live, or other DAW’s, I find it’s best to use third party VST’s that support Scala files. That way you can pick your tuning and write new parts in that temperament/tuning.  I compiled a list of my favorite microtonal VST’s, synths, AU’s, and plugins. There are more synths out there, but these are my favorite.

You will also see a few rows that are highlighted green. These synths are my all-time favorite for working with Microtonal music.

If you have suggestions, please comment below. I would love to check them out and maybe add them to the list. If you are interested in learning more about tuning instruments in Ableton Live and microtonal music, then check out my article on Microtonal Music in Ableton Live. 

Ultimate Guide to 432 – VST’s and AU Plugins

In the first part of this series, we went over the theory of Tuning and Temperament.  Then I went into detail on tuning your synths in Ableton Live from 440 to 432 in part two of the series. In this article, I will walk you through using third party plugins, AU, and VST’s.

Third Party Plug-ins:

If you are like me then you might have a host of Third Party Plugins you like to use in your production. These extra synths give you a whole host of new sounds to play with. Here is a list of Plugins you can use and the where to find the parameter to detune the instrument.  This is in no particular order.

To start here is a video I made in response to questions of tuning Massive and Serum.

 

Massive: Go to the Global tab. Here change the global tuning to  -0.32

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By | 2017-06-28T19:50:09+00:00 January 12th, 2017|Ableton, Music Theory, Producers Blog, Sound Design Tech|0 Comments

Ultimate Guide to 432 – Using Ableton Live

Tuning into 432 with Live

To play music in 432 you must retune all your synths and presets. This might seem overwhelming idea at first, but it actually takes very little time at the beginning of your tracks. Once you get a library of instruments tuned, then it will also be that much easier.

The simplest way to tune to 432hz is to just detune each of your instruments. By detuning you lower the first note, from 440-432 for example.  since A=432 Live will then base every note from that point forward. You can not just lower the pitch at the end because that will not retune it, it will just lower the overall pitch.

This image shows the different tuning you could use for notes found in the Equal Temperament. As you can see when you move from 440 to 432 you are lowering the pitch by -8hz. You can also see that just 2 notes down 440hz Equal Temperament are 494. If you -8hz to that we do not get 484.90.  The reason why is equal temperament is a ratio that moved up from the root of A. A ratio of “2 11/12” from 440 is very different than a ratio of “2 11/12” at 432. Because of this, you can not return the finished song. You must tune the instruments correctly to start with. (more…)

By | 2017-06-28T19:50:12+00:00 January 12th, 2017|Ableton, Music Theory, Producers Blog, Sound Design Tech|1 Comment

Ultimate Guide to 432 – Theory and 432 Tuning

In this article I will be going over the basics of 432 tuning and a little history. This will get you rolling as a music producer and give you the tools for making music in 432.  If you want to speed things up even more, grab the 432 Essentials Live Pack. It contains a bunch of presets in 432, e-book, and even micro-tonal instruments.

If you already got the theory down and just want to implement it in live, go to part two of the series on tuning to 432 in Ableton Live.

Beautifully Imperfect Tuning

There is a lot of information, and even misinformation around tuning. I don’t believe there is “one answer”, but there are a lot of questions worth asking. it is that endless search that brings us incrementally closer to understand the beautifully imperfect nature of reality. That is why I propose we continue the quests of our forefathers, and seek after unknown territory within music. And in this case, lets look at tuning.

The History of Modern Tuning

To start on this path lets discuss what tuning is. When you are building a scale for music, you must start with the root frequency. The first note is what the rest of the scale builds from. This very first note is called the Concert Pitch.

Concert pitch refers to the pitch reference to which a group of musical instruments are tuned for a performance. The most common modern tuning standard uses 440 Hz for A above middle C as a reference note, with other notes being set relative to it.” Wikipedia

In most western music, instruments are all tuned to 440 Hz at A. For hundreds, and thousands of years though there was no standard tuning. Each instrument, group, or culture had a wide range of tuning. Once orchestras became more popular all the instruments had to be tuned together and many orchestras started to standardize their own tuning. (more…)

By | 2017-06-28T19:50:15+00:00 January 12th, 2017|Music Theory, Producers Blog|3 Comments

Final Mixdown Checklist

So you got a rocking song written and you’re ready to move it over to the mixing stage. There are many technical steps as well as room for creativity in the mix down process.  After years of being a professional mixing engineer and musician I have found a basic guideline that helps me insure a solid mix.  Below is a checklist / cheat sheet I made to help visualize the steps needed.

Download a hi-res version for print. I love having a binder of images like this I can reference along the way. If you find the information helpful and want to see more checklist like this, then donate. Thanks!

Step by step checklist for the final mixdown.


Download the Image

Here is deeper run-through of the steps and ideas in the Infographic. If you use Ableton Live then check out the Mixdown Toolset. It is packed with tools to help your stereo imaging, advance EQing, and more. (more…)

By | 2017-06-28T19:51:25+00:00 July 28th, 2016|Ableton, Free Music Tools, Music Theory, Producers Blog|1 Comment

Geometry in Music Composition with Ableton Live

The Golden ratio unlocks a nature’s harmony, we see in the world around us.  Beautiful never lacks proportion, and mathematics is the language of proportion.

The Golden ratio occurs in nature all the time. From a shell spiral, architecture, growth patterns of plants, the human form, and more. Using this ratio in our music it injects a kind of natural beauty, similar to Da Vinci’s portraits.

last-supper-phi-golden-ratio

The golden ratio, also known as the divine proportion, golden mean, or golden section, is a number often encountered when taking the ratios of distances in simple geometric figures such as the pentagon, pentagram, and dodecahedron. It is denotedphi , or sometimestau .

The formula for the Golden Ratio is: (more…)

By | 2017-06-28T19:51:41+00:00 June 22nd, 2016|Ableton, Free Music Tools, Music Theory, Producers Blog|7 Comments
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