5 Tips for Fast and Furious Songwriting

To continue with this whole theme of Time Management, I want to dive into techniques in Ableton live for fast songwriting. These tips and tricks will help you stay creative, bust out songs, and feel confident in how you are spending your time.
If you are not using Ableton Live or, what to read the article on taking your time, it will look at the bigger picture of how artists can better manage their time.

1. Good Old File Management

Nothing says “I am an artist” like spending a day going through your files. Every successful musician I know is ruthlessly efficient with their sample library. We each have our own way of managing our files as well.  Here is what I do with my Sample Library:

Drum loops File Management_2This example shows how my Drum Loops are separated from the genera.


6 Mixing and Processing Tips

As a Professional Producer in it for the long hall we are always looking to improve our mix. It’s never “perfect” and there are always tricks and things you can learn to get faster, and better at mixing. Here is a list of a few Tricks I’ve learned along the 8 years of mixing and mastering in Ableton live.

Tips to improve mixing in Ableton Live


Lowpass and Highpass can sharpen your mix, if used right. There are two techniques here. First being Low Pass. If you have a bright guitar you might think having all that high end is good, but staking it on top of all the other high end might make it seem harsh and not “bright” so cutting off the top lets the clear frequencies through and leaves room for the hats, or anything else you need be more in the realm of shimmers and accents.


By | 2017-06-28T19:57:19+00:00 June 20th, 2014|Producers Blog, Sound Design Tech|0 Comments

Making and using creative impulse responses

I am Sam Windell, composer and the creator of the website FrozenPlain. The site hosts my sample libraries and Kontakt scripts, which focus on atmospheric instruments. Over the past month I have been immersed in the world of impulse responses creating a library of IRs called Frostfall.

Convolution reverb is an excellent tool for emulating real spaces, it is employed by many. Most of the impulse responses about are directly recorded from halls and rooms using sine sweeps and microphones. With Frostfall, I have taken a slightly different approach. In this article I hope to show how it was made and my general experiences with impulse responses (IRs) and convolution reverberation. (more…)

By | 2017-06-28T19:57:31+00:00 May 28th, 2014|Sound Design Tech|0 Comments

Using Velocity with Multi Sampled Instruments

Then a drummer hits the high hat, each hit has a unique quality. A harder hit has a different timbre than a soft hit. There are different harmonics and ringing with every hit as well. There are some techniques you can use in Ableton Live to really capture that quality.

Single Velocity Instrument:

A common drum rack in Ableton live uses samples. They take a sample, like a high hat, and put that sample into a Sampler. Then every time you hit that note, or drum cell, it will play that sample. You can affect the playback in different ways.

Sigle Velocity Drum Rack

You can make it velocity sensitive to effect the sound. This way, when the MIDI had less velocity it will play back the sample at a lower volume, and Higher velocity at a higher volume. This is one way you can affect velocity, and the playback of the sample. (more…)

By | 2017-06-28T19:57:43+00:00 April 10th, 2014|Sound Design Tech|0 Comments

What is Mid / Side Mixing?

When I sit down to make a new track I want to insure I have the cleanest and most professional sound out there. On my quest I have found out some techniques to really get a great sounding mix. I haven’t shared these before, but wanted to finally let the knowledge be known about how I really take control over my EQ and panning of my sounds.

Most people get the idea of Panning a Signal Left and Right, but might not ever hear of Mid/Side Mixing. In this article I am going to explain the basics of Mid/Side Mixing as well as show how to use it in Ableton Live. These techniques will apply for any DAW though.

Definition of Mid/Side Mixing:

Mid/Side processing works by decoding a stereo signal into two components. The ‘Mid’ channel contains just the information that appears in both the left and right channels. In other Words it’s the Mono signal.  The ‘Side’ channel contains all the information that differs between the left and right channels. In other words, this is the sounds only on the sides and no where else. Once encoded into M/S, these two signals can be processed completely separately. They are then summed together and you can use the normal Panning Left and Right.

Think about it this way, You can change the quality of your stereo field separate from the menu. This will give you a lot of new ways to manipulate the sound.


By | 2017-06-28T19:58:22+00:00 March 19th, 2014|Sound Design Tech|0 Comments

Getting the Best Spatial Panning For Your Mix

One of the keys to having a good mix is the position of all your instruments. If you look at your soundstage of where all the sounds are coming from, you will have a richer mix. Not only that, but you can make it sound bigger and clearer sounding mix. In searching for the best way to position my instruments in Live I learned a lot about how Live Pans things and other techniques.

Panning is achieved by changing the level of one stereo channel in relation to the other channel. That is a very simple way to make something sound more to the right or left.  This doesn’t truly represent what we as humans hear, but it is the easiest and cleanest way to do it. This is why Ableton Live has a Pan Pot, or the Pan function, on each track and master.


By | 2017-06-28T19:58:41+00:00 March 3rd, 2014|Sound Design Tech|3 Comments

We Won The Loudness Wars?

We Won The Loudness Wars?

Guest article by Erik Magrini (Tarekith)

For the last few months, more and more industry experts have been proclaiming that the loudness wars have been won. No longer do we have to fight each other to get the loudness master on the planet, we can all go back to just enjoying nice dynamic music.

Except nothing has really changed, has it?  How has this been won, when everything is just like it was before?

As a professional mastering engineer, I’ve noticed an increase in clients asking about this potentially confusing situation.  There’s a lot of misinformation out there on the topic at the moment, and not much real understanding of why this may come to pass.  To help people get better understanding of what’s going on, I thought I would try and briefly summarize the main causes of why someone might claim the loudness wars are over.

It all starts with ITU­R BS.1770.  Yes, that’s what it’s really called, and you can read it yourself if you really want:


Originally introduced in 2006, this standard was written to help TV broadcasters transmit audio at a uniform volume.  That way one show is not louder than the next, and TV ads don’t playback louder than programs.  It not only defined what that uniform volume should be, but also described the way audio must be measured to comply with that standard. 

It gave us the means to measure music in a way that accurately reflects how humans perceive loudness.

By now, almost all TV broadcast stations around the world follow this standard, and slowly radio broadcasters have been following suit. Currently radio broadcasts are also volume controlled, but often with dynamic compression and other audio processing; this is not only expensive, it’s time ­consuming.  The new 1770 standard only allows for raising and lowering of the overall song volume, the audio content itself is not being altered at all.  Much cheaper and easier for radio stations to implement, and it sounds better too!

So far, this has nothing to do with us, I know.  But recently internet radio has become much more popular, and it too is starting to follow this standard.  Spotify has had a variation of it from day one, and Apple just adopted it for their iTunes Radio as well.  iTunes has a similar function called Sound Check that does this for your music library as well.


By | 2017-06-28T19:58:46+00:00 February 28th, 2014|Sound Design Tech|3 Comments

Granular Synthesis in Ableton Live

I’m always looking for new ways to manipulate sound and create unique effects. The last few weeks I have been using Granular Synthesis to add a whole new level to my production.  In this article I wanted to walk though what it is and how to use it.

What is Granular Synthesis

Granular Synthesis is a method by which sounds are broken into tiny grains which are then redistributed and reorganised to form other sounds. This way you can take any original sample and put it into a device that cuts it up into grains. Those grains can then be effected in different ways to create a new sound. Once you have the grains you can change their attack, release, randomize them (jitter), and more.

At low speeds of playback, the result is a kind of soundscape, often described as a cloud, that is manipulable in a manner unlike that for natural sound sampling or other synthesis techniques. At high speeds, the result is heard as a note or notes of a novel timbre. By varying the waveform, envelope, duration, spatial position, and density of the grains, many different sounds can be produced.


By | 2017-06-28T19:58:54+00:00 February 25th, 2014|Sound Design Tech|5 Comments

Transient Shaping to add punch

Transient Shaper allows shaping the dynamics of a sound. With a Transient Shaper you can makes your sound louder, gives it more expressiveness and more punch. A Transient is a high amplitude, short-duration sound at the beginning of a waveform that occurs in phenomena such as musical sounds, noises or speech. In other words, it is the initial hit of a sound. You can use a transient shaper to move and effect the transient. Such as make it hit faster or slower.


The image above shows the original sound at the top left.. Then you can run it through a Transient Shaping VST to move the transient, such as the images example of the other waveforms. You can have more attack, or less. This works can sound like a compressor, but it actually works differently. This can be ideal for individual or summed drums/percussions shaping. You can even use this as a Gate replacement, Transient shapers can really add punch to your kick, and other aspects of your production.

The best free VST for Transient shaping I know of is the Bitter Sweet from Flux. This works for mac and PC. http://www.fluxhome.com/products/freewares/bittersweet-v3

For a paid version I actually really love Isotope Alloy. It’s simple and got a great interface that lets me see what is happening. http://www.izotope.com/products/audio/alloy/ 

Now that you know the basic idea of a Transient Shaper and where you can get one, you can start adding punch and dynamics to your sound.

By | 2017-06-28T20:00:29+00:00 October 3rd, 2013|Sound Design Tech|0 Comments
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