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. 

8 Must Read Books for Music Producer

booklist

Don’t get me wrong, articles and videos are great, but that is only one way of learning. Over the years I have picked up a lot from different books on music production. A well written book can let you take the information in at your speed and can unpack some big concepts.  I believe these books will greatly help your music, creativity, and life.

The Daily Adventures of Mixerman

I started with this book because it is a hell fun read. I was just so captivated by this story and the characters.  It also gives you a very interesting look at the life of a mixing engineer. The book is basically a diary of Mixerman, an engineer. I am not sure if it is 100% true to actual events, but it is definitely a fun read and has some great insights in the industry.

The Daily Adventures of Mixerman on Amazon

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

This book has some foundational wisdom for anyone that wants to have a good life. I have found that having these habits as a musician has greatly lowered my stress, made me more effective, and a better person. This is a highly suggested book.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People on Amazon (more…)

By | September 27th, 2016|Creative Process, Producers Blog, Subaqueous Music Pages|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

 

Back to the Future Audio Effects

1D274907565618-biff.today-inline-largeCome along with me on a journey through space and time…. Today is officially the future. It is 10/21/2015 and is the date that Marty McFly went to in Back to the Future.  To celebrate I put together a collection of Audio Effect racks to help morph your sounds into the different time periods that Marty went to.

The Ableton Live Pack comes with 3 different Audio Effect Racks. One for each year; 1955, 1985, and 2015.  These effects are great for a single synth, or a full track.  Check out the video below that walks through the Effect Racks and grab the download for Free / Donation.

 

Download

 

 

COLLECT THEM ALL

Download the full collection of Free Live packs with the Download Archive. This collection includes all the Free Live Packs on Subaqueousmusic.com.  Instead of crawling through the site and other online sites that have featured Subaqueous Packs, you can grab all of them with one convenient download.

Download The Full Archive

By | October 21st, 2015|Free Music Tools, Producers Blog, Subaqueous Music Pages|0 Comments

Free MIDI Trap Drum Beats

Over the last month I got really inspired to remake a few of my tracks. I wanted to add new beats and energy to my older tracks, or the ones that just didn’t hit it. I found myself making a lot of Trap beats. Along the way I made quite a library of trap rhythms in MIDI format. I love using MIDI because I can drag and drop it into my live set and switch out different drums.  Below is an example of a track I added new beats to:

I put together a library of MIDI Trap beats for y’all. The parts are separated to make it easy to mix and match. I have the beats separated into hats, snares, and kicks.  Total of 36 MIDI Clips. The MIDI files work with any DAW. Just drag them into the track you are working on and add drum sounds to the MIDI track.

For all the Ableton Live users I have a Live Set with it all laid out and easy to use.  You can play High Hats and switch up the snare pattern. This makes it very easy to come up with new beats.

Trap

 

Download the Library

(more…)

By | September 11th, 2015|Free Music Tools, Producers Blog, Subaqueous Music Pages|5 Comments

Dedication to Succeed

Through the last decade of being an artist I have learned a lot around what it takes to succeed.  For me the key is recognizing what my goals are, and being true to my aspirations. If I want to be a professional musician, then I need to dedicate myself to that path. Go big or go home has been my motto.  Below is a video that shares my thoughts and how I have reframed this for myself.

By | September 11th, 2015|Creative Process, Producers Blog, Subaqueous Music Pages|0 Comments

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 Your Live Performance Setup

Technology has given artist new tools and ways of imagining their live performance. We can now sync live visuals, trigger samples on the fly, have access to unlimited effect processing, and all of this can be done through a single computer.  Ableton Live gives musicians an easy way to envision their live set and add as much simplicity, or complexity as they would like.

In this article I am going to go over some basics of live performance with Ableotn Live. This will help you envision what you want to make out of your live performance, and inspire new ways of looking at things. To start, let’s look at the different type of live performances.

2 Types of Live Set

This image shows the major types of Live Sets. I will review what these sets are and their advantages. This will mainly be centered around making these sets with Ableton Live as the backbone. (more…)

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