4 Unknown features for Live’s Compressor

The Compressor is your bread and butter in mixing. If you know can really wield EQing and Compression, then you can deal with 80% of all problems when mixing.  The Compressor is probably the most used Ableton live device. Even though producers constantly grab the compressor, there are some less known features that can greatly help the mix.

Adding the Auto Feature:Auto Feature Live Compressor

There are two features on the Compressor that can help make things automatic. The first one is the Auto Button. This will automatically decide the release amount compared to the input signal. It makes it quick and easy to let Live determine how long before releasing the compressor.  Once this is activated you cannot manually set the Release amount.

Second automatic feature is the Makeup button. Enabling the Makeup button automatically compensates the output level if the threshold and ratio settings change.  In other words, if you change the Ratio of the compression, then Live will automatically adjust the output gain.  These are both helpful in automating Live’s Compressor.

Expand instead of Compress:

I love using the Expand feature on the Compressor. It’s a little-known gem. With the Compressor set to Expand it acts as an upward expander, and will increase the gain when signals exceed the threshold. With this feature you can make the louder parts louder, giving you a bigger dynamic range. Normally a Compressor pushes the louder parts down, but now with Expand it will increase them if it is over the threshold.

expandupward-expansion (more…)

By | 2017-06-28T19:51:01+00:00 September 28th, 2016|Ableton, Producers Blog, Sound Design Tech|1 Comment

Quick Trick – Mixing Kicks with Transient Shaping

Transient Shaping is a great technique to help a sound punch through a mix. There are many transient shapers out in the world, but you can actually use Live’s Compressor for the same effect.  Below is a video walk through of using Transient Shaping on a kick.

 

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By | 2017-06-28T19:52:17+00:00 March 24th, 2016|Ableton, Producers Blog, Sound Design Tech|0 Comments

Top 6 Free Glitch Effects and Devices

If you ever want to spice up your music, then adding some well placed glitch effects and sounds will bring on the heat.  I love taking a violin part, vocal, or lead and glitching it out.  It adds a really unique sound and captures the listener. There are lots of tools out there to morph and mangle. In this article I am going to give you a rundown of the top 6 VST’s and effects I use for glitching out samples.


 

1. Hysteresis by Glitchmachines

Let’s start off with a pinch of some smeared out granular delay. Hysteresis is a free VST for Mac and PC by Glitchmachines.com. This device will take any input and stretch the sound, though a combination of delays and granular filters. In their words, it “creating robotic artifacts and abstract musical malfunctions.” Hysteresis_UI Glitch Effect

I love throwing these devices on drums or leads and using the Random button. I will then tweak it until I get these strange mechanical stretching sounds. I’ll resample that sound and use it as a strange layer in my track. This VST definitely makes some strange noises, and many of them are unusable. Just mess with it and edit the sounds to give you some interesting top layers to your track. Check out their demo video.

2. FIRE by MDSP

FIRE is a hidden weapon in my arsenal.  It’s a combination of short delays and panning to give this sharp little sparkles. It’s very easy to use and is available for MAC and Windows.  I  love using this VST on instruments more then on drums. It can add a really unique ghost delay. Perfect for pianos, or plucked instruments.

With shorter settings it works great on snare and high-hat to give a stuttered tail to things.

fire_-_mdsp_at_smartelectronix

3. dblue Glitch

First off lets get this out of the way, this VST is Windows only. Yeah… I know, bummer. Luckily I use a PC (Yes, you can tell me how my life can be better in the comments). I have been using dblue Glitch free VST for a long time. The random feature and simple controls make it really easy to come up with new rhythmic glitch patterns. All you have to do is throw it on any track and start tweaking the pattern and the different effects. It’s similar to Effectrics in this way, but it only has one layer.

Good News for the MAC users out there is that Glitch 2.0 has come out on PC and Mac. It is, however $59.

Glitch VST Effect for Ableton Live (more…)

Adding and Manipulating Backing Vocals

Backing Vocals:

There are a lot of ways to add interest to your vocal tracks. In previous articles I talked about treating your vocals to get a clean mix as well as creative vocal effects.  Both of this article shows off some pretty essential techniques when working with vocals. In this article I want to look at Backing Vocals as a way to spice up your tracks. Backing vocals can make a vocal sound bigger and give it more depth. A great example of this is doubling a vocal to make it sound like there are two people, albeit the same vocalist.  This can make it seem like the singer had another back up vocalist singing along. Using trickery and the power of Ableton Live we can create some really cool backing effects.Backup

Multiple Takes:

The easiest way to create a doubling and chorus effect is by having multiple takes. When you are tracking the vocals just have the vocalist, record a few times. Then choose one as a the vocal lead and have the other as a backing. For the backing track I generally lower the volume and pan it slightly different. You also are not limited here by the numbers and have 2, 5, or more layers of vocals. A great example of this is Imogen Heep (if you are a vocalist you might be interested in this interview she did on her vocals). She uses a lot of vocal layers and edits to give it the depth she is looking for.

Whisper Track:

Heather Christie, or Cheraki, showed me this simple but effective technique in the studio called Whisper Track. The idea is you do a few takes of the vocal line as a whisper. By recording the soft whispers, it lets you add an interesting breathy quality that you can layer in the mix.

Harmonies:

Another common technique is to re-record the vocals, but harmonize them. So you would be singing the other parts of the chord, like a 5th up or a 7th, and so on.  This technique will get you closer to a vocoder sound and a harmonized vocal. The key here is to have really solid intonation. All the vocal takes need to be spot on in terms of pitch, otherwise strange harmonics will come out and not sound as good as you will like.

Different Processing:

If you only have one good take of the vocals, there are a few ways to “hack” it into sounding like a backing track. One way is using the Complex Pro technique I showed in the Creative Vocal Effects Article.  You can also duplicate the vocal and then process the second vocal a little different and lower it in the mix to give it a backing vocal sound. One example would be to use a different reverb and have it 80-100% wet. Or you can nudge the sample slightly before or after the Lead Vocal.

Here is an image nudging the sample. You can click the Clip and then press ALT and hold it to move the sample off the Grid.  Slight movements here help give it a different timing and create that doubling effect.

Offset

Pro Tip: Use Warp Markers for interesting backing vocals.

If you want to take this a step further play with the vocal timing with Warp Markers. You can slightly change note by note, or word by word. This will give it that natural backing vocal sound of not being the same take. Use wisely.  I also like using effects like saturation, EQ, slight delays, and so on to the vocal to change the character of the duplicated vocal. If it’s low in the mix and panned differently, it can give it a unique quality.

Warping Backing Vocals

 

Share your Tips and Tricks:

If you have techniques you like to use for backing tracks, please share a comment bellow. Love to hear what other ideas are out there.  Also check out Cheraki’s music to hear here brand new album

 

Turning your Drum to a MIDI Controller with Triggers

A year ago I wanted to turn my drums into a MIDI trigger. I didn’t want to spend a 1,000 on a drum brain or E-drums. In my search I found an awesome Hack / DIY way of doing it with Ableton Live. This lets me take any drum and trigger samples in Live, be it drums or even loops.

The key to this is using KTdrum trigger. This VST is for Windows and Mac. It lets incoming audio be turned into MIDI messages. Download the VST here.

I created a video walk-through of setting up KTdrum Trigger in Ableton Live. Check out the video below:


For the Piezo Mics I ended up grabbing some off of Amazon for super cheap. I just ran those into my soundcard to Ableton live. You can use these mics on anything. I have tacked
them onto my desk, books, and even sculptures.

 

If you use this technique for an art project, performance, or whatever I would love to hear about it. Comment below on how you use Drum Triggers in Live.

By | 2017-06-28T19:52:26+00:00 March 2nd, 2016|Ableton, Gear Review, Producers Blog, Sound Design Tech|5 Comments

Creatively Using Warp Modes for Sound Design – Free Video Series

Sound design is one of the funniest things to do as a music producer. Being able to mangle a sound and bend it to your will is an awesome feeling. Hvw you ever wondered some of the techniques that Halfred used in his Free Effects Library or the Animatronix in his Sound Wizards FX samples, then read on. Warp Modes are my weapon of choosing to do this. When most people think of Warp Modes they either don’t know what it is, or just know how to set it to stretch their audio, but there is a lot more that you can use them for.

I put together a free video series on using Warp Modes creative and wanted to share this with y’all. I walk through the basics of each Warp Mode and then take it to the extreme. I use the distorting effects of Warping to my advantage in sound design. In this article you are going to find a download link to grab the Ableton Live Sets I use as examples in the video. The download is by donation. I’ve put a lot of effort into this series, so if you want to donate a few bucks it will help me in making more creative videos on techniques.

After you download the Live Pack, install it and watch the videos. You can follow along with the activity at your own pace by pausing the video and playing with the pack.

Download Live Pack

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By | 2017-06-28T19:53:16+00:00 November 17th, 2015|Ableton, Producers Blog, Sound Design Tech|5 Comments

Bouncing Down A Project to Mix in Another DAW

I have worked with many musicians on mixing and mastering their music. I’ve worked with many different DAW’s in mixing.  I mainly like to work in Ableton Live and sometimes need a musician to send me bounced down the audio from their DAW of choice so I can use it in Ableton Live for mixing. This article will look at the process of preparing stems and individual tracks for exporting to another DAW.  We will first look at what our objective is and then doing it in each DAW.

Two Methods of Mixing Down

There are two ways I work for producing with musicians and having them send me files of their project. Each one is specifically for the needs of the project. Below we will look at the different methods.

Full Individual Mix Down

Let’s say I am working with someone that wants me to redo their track. Maybe change instrumentation, add deep processing and mixing.  If that were the case I would want to have control over every individual part. This means I want each instrument sound separately, and not just all the melody as one audio file.  To do this I want the musician to bounce down each track.  It is very important that they name each track or sub bus in a way that is easy for me to know what it is. (we will look at this later).

Optionally, you can also browse some tracks down as MIDI if the engineer / musician is doing more complex editing and rewriting of parts.  (more…)

By | 2017-06-28T19:53:37+00:00 October 6th, 2015|Ableton, Music Theory, Producers Blog, Sound Design Tech|1 Comment

Creating Binaural Beats with Ableton Live

The origin of Subaqueous and my trip down the musical rabbit hole, came from Binaural Beats. Through the years I have had many musicians contact me about it. It has been 10 years since I started experimenting with Binaural Beats. It’s been an amazing experience, and I have decided to distill the information I have learned from the years to help others that are inspired to play with consciousness and sound.

Introduction to Binaural Beats:

First off lets look at what Binaural Beats are.

Binaural beat recordings are specially generated sounds, designed to alter our brainwaves and consciousness. The basic idea behind binaural beats is that our brains operate at certain bandwidths, which are measured in frequencies. Our brainwaves change depending on how we are feeling, and what we are doing. Using binaural beats we can emulate natural brainwave frequencies and then slowly change them to another brainwave frequency. This is based off the theory of entertainment.

When the perceived beat frequency corresponds to the delta, theta, alpha, beta, or gamma range of brainwave frequencies, the brainwaves entrain to or move towards the beat frequency. For example, if a 315 Hz sine wave is played into the right ear and a 325 Hz one into the left ear, the brain is entrained towards the beat frequency 10 Hz, in the alpha range. Since the alpha range is associated with relaxation, this has a relaxing effect, or if in the beta range, more alertness. An experiment with binaural sound stimulation using beat frequencies in the beta range on some participants and the delta/theta range on other participants found better vigilance performance and mood in those on the awake alert state of beta-range stimulation.

Binaural beat stimulation has been used fairly extensively in attempts to induce a variety of states of consciousness, and there has been some work done in regards to the effects of these stimuli on relaxation, focus, attention, and states of consciousness. Studies have shown that with repeated training to distinguish close frequency sounds that a plastic reorganization of the brain occurs for the trained frequencies and is capable of asymmetric hemispheric balancing. Wikipedia

binauralBeats1

When we are in a meditative state, then our brain operates at a theta frequency. If we are very active, or a little stressed, then we operate at the beta frequency. Here is a list of the different brain wave frequencies.

My Exploration:

Over the past 10 years I have used binaural beats. It first started with a art instillation I created with my friend Jael Topek.  After many experiments we traveled the west coast with the yurt sharing and studying the experiment.  This video is an overview of my experiences.

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Creating Risers in Ableton Live – Top 5 Techniques

Risers can add depth and movement to your tracks. They help inform dancers that a change is happening. Adding your own unique sonic pallet to your risers will give you a distinct sound and overall improve your tracks.  In the video and article below I will be showing indepth how to build unique riser sounds.

Techniques in Building Risers

There are lots of ways you can add movement to a riser. You can stretch the sound using warp modes to add a cascading sound to it. Or you can use transposition to make the sample fall or rise in pitch.  Bellow is my top 5 techniques I like to use. (more…)

By | 2017-06-28T19:54:03+00:00 July 15th, 2015|Ableton, Producers Blog, Sound Design Tech|1 Comment
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