I had the opportunity to make it out to Berlin for Ableton’s music summit called Loop. The event left me inspired, helped grow my creative network, and gave me a lot of ideas to take into the studio. In this article, I am going to be sharing my thoughts on the event, highlights, and some review videos at the end. To start, I want to share my highlights of the event and what I think made it an amazing experience that I will want to come back to every year.
I’ve gone to a lot of conferences over the years. Almost all of them are top bottom classes where you are listening to lectures. Sometimes there are panel discussions to get people engaged, but they don’t quite do it. Loop is on a whole other level when it comes to getting the attendees to collaborate. The event included open roundtable discussions where groups of strangers had structured conversations. There was open meet up sessions and rooms full of instruments that people could jam on. (image below is of me helping out the “Jam Room” with a 20 person set up. All sorts of gear and technology to play with). I loved seeing collaboration being such a strong aspect of the event.
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.
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 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Come 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.
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.
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.
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.