Give Me the Beef: How to Beef Up Drums in Logic Pro
A few resources I found/read today on beefing up drums.  Your mileage will vary, and don’t forget to do your own research and experimentation :)
Prime Loops: Fat Drum Mixing in Logic [PDF]
Point Blank & Danny J Lewis: Layering Kicks In Logic [VIDEO]
Platinum Loops: Use Logic Pro’s Multipressor to Beef Up Drums [VIDEO]

Give Me the Beef: How to Beef Up Drums in Logic Pro

A few resources I found/read today on beefing up drums.  Your mileage will vary, and don’t forget to do your own research and experimentation :)

  1. Prime Loops: Fat Drum Mixing in Logic [PDF]
  2. Point Blank & Danny J Lewis: Layering Kicks In Logic [VIDEO]
  3. Platinum Loops: Use Logic Pro’s Multipressor to Beef Up Drums [VIDEO]
Batch Inserting Inserts to Save Time in Logic Pro
Got a simple tip for you guys, something I did by accident yesterday (should have read the manual ages ago, but that’s a lost case) that will save you time: in Logic Pro, you can add the same insert to a bunch of audio channels simultaneously through the Mixer.  For example, I use Voxengo’s free and awesome spectrum analyzer ‘SPAN' on all my inserts audio channels, instrument channels, aux channels, and, of course, the Master channel. Before, I had to insert the insert into one of the channels, and option-command-drag to each channel one by one.  Tedious as all hell.  The easy way: 
In Apple Logic, go to Window > Mixer
At the very bottom of the mixer, click and drag across all your channels
On any of the channels, click an empty Insert slot and navigate to the Insert/Plug-in you want
Voila, now all your channels have the same plug-in in the same slot position, without extra hassle

Batch Inserting Inserts to Save Time in Logic Pro

Got a simple tip for you guys, something I did by accident yesterday (should have read the manual ages ago, but that’s a lost case) that will save you time: in Logic Pro, you can add the same insert to a bunch of audio channels simultaneously through the Mixer.  For example, I use Voxengo’s free and awesome spectrum analyzer ‘SPAN' on all my inserts audio channels, instrument channels, aux channels, and, of course, the Master channel. Before, I had to insert the insert into one of the channels, and option-command-drag to each channel one by one.  Tedious as all hell.  The easy way: 

  1. In Apple Logic, go to Window > Mixer
  2. At the very bottom of the mixer, click and drag across all your channels
  3. On any of the channels, click an empty Insert slot and navigate to the Insert/Plug-in you want
  4. Voila, now all your channels have the same plug-in in the same slot position, without extra hassle

Binaural audio

Binaural Audio Heightens the Realism of Stereo Recording

So I’ve been reading a lot about mics lately, and one of the techniques used in the studio to record in stereo is to record with two microphones some distance from the sound source; options include using an X/Y coincident pair, a Mid and Side (MS) pair, a traditional spaced pair pointed at the sound, or even a ORTF spaced pair angled towards the sound source.  Depending on what you need, any of these techniques will lead to a convincing stereo recording.

But QSound Labs took stereo recording to a new frontier in 1996 with their recording of binaural audio—using two mics placed exactly where the two human ears are located.  This makes for an immersive and extremely realistic audio experience, an optical illusion for the eardrum.  In the case of this video, Virtual Barber Shop, you will feel like you are literally in the barber shop yourself.

So plug in some headphones, close your eyes, and be amazed by your brain’s ability to process stereo!

From the Youtube clip:

You’ll need headphones for this to work. Make sure there is no noise around, close your eyes, turn the volume up a little bit, hold and press headphone on your ears for better hearing, play it and enjoy this impressive audio work ( illusion ). Not a screamer not a prank!


Mysterious Flange Solved
One of the basics of sound on sound is that when two identical pieces of music are played at exact the same time, but with one of them delayed ever so slightly, you get the famous flanging effect (a type of phasing effect).  At the waveform level, flanging comes from the sweeping comb filter effect caused by that tiny delay between the two pieces, but it’s not supposed to happen if the two sounds line up exactly.
And yet, a few moments ago, I ran into a mysterious flanging in Logic Pro (in which I make my tunes) when overlaying the two yellow tracks above.  As you can see, the two match up exactly within the cycle region (that green bar up top), so there shouldn’t have been any phasing whatsoever (I confirmed their alignment by zooming in as far as Logic would let me).  
To troubleshoot, I first turned off the Platinum Verb insert in my Vox Aux bus, as well as the Fuzz-Wah I was using.  Still flanging.  
Next, I muted the Aux Send altogether.  Still flanging, so it wasn’t the Aux at all.  
I even tried muting the Stereo Delay on both tracks; not that it should have mattered, since it’s not a Flanger unit, but this, too, yielded no change.  Failing all of this, I solo’ed just the two tracks and kept starting & stopping the cycle loop—and I finally found a clue: sometimes the flanging happened; sometimes it didn’t.  That’s when I isolated the culprit.  
In Logic, when a cycle starts, if there is active audio right before the cycle region, a little bit of that audio is activated during playback.  In my case, a millisecond of audio from the leftmost audio region was spilling (Stereo Delay and all) into the actual cycle region—and that one millisecond of extra audio is all it took to cause flanging, perhaps abetted by the Stereo Delay effect.  After I muted the yellow piece in red, the flanging went away.  Yay!
So, the moral of the story?  Watch out for adjacent audio regions, even they’re outside the cycle region, and beware of flanging if you have two identical audio regions playing simultaneously!

Mysterious Flange Solved

One of the basics of sound on sound is that when two identical pieces of music are played at exact the same time, but with one of them delayed ever so slightly, you get the famous flanging effect (a type of phasing effect).  At the waveform level, flanging comes from the sweeping comb filter effect caused by that tiny delay between the two pieces, but it’s not supposed to happen if the two sounds line up exactly.

And yet, a few moments ago, I ran into a mysterious flanging in Logic Pro (in which I make my tunes) when overlaying the two yellow tracks above.  As you can see, the two match up exactly within the cycle region (that green bar up top), so there shouldn’t have been any phasing whatsoever (I confirmed their alignment by zooming in as far as Logic would let me).  

To troubleshoot, I first turned off the Platinum Verb insert in my Vox Aux bus, as well as the Fuzz-Wah I was using.  Still flanging.  

Next, I muted the Aux Send altogether.  Still flanging, so it wasn’t the Aux at all.  

I even tried muting the Stereo Delay on both tracks; not that it should have mattered, since it’s not a Flanger unit, but this, too, yielded no change.  Failing all of this, I solo’ed just the two tracks and kept starting & stopping the cycle loop—and I finally found a clue: sometimes the flanging happened; sometimes it didn’t.  That’s when I isolated the culprit.  

In Logic, when a cycle starts, if there is active audio right before the cycle region, a little bit of that audio is activated during playback.  In my case, a millisecond of audio from the leftmost audio region was spilling (Stereo Delay and all) into the actual cycle region—and that one millisecond of extra audio is all it took to cause flanging, perhaps abetted by the Stereo Delay effect.  After I muted the yellow piece in red, the flanging went away.  Yay!

So, the moral of the story?  Watch out for adjacent audio regions, even they’re outside the cycle region, and beware of flanging if you have two identical audio regions playing simultaneously!

Very important topic: sidechaining.  Here’s a decent video explaining one way to sidechain the bassline to the drum kick—which is a total must to clear up clashing low-end frequencies and give your mix more headroom (loudness) in the mix for mastering.  Depending on your taste, it also sounds pretty cool.  Keep in mind that the effect can be be very pronounced/obvious (as in this video and in styles like Electro, French, and Tech House), or more subtle—but the end result is a brighter, cleaner, more thumping mix.

Worth every penny: Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio
There are oodles of books out there that tackle the art of mixing your music, but this book is a treasure chest packed with tips, advice, and—most importantly—in-depth explanations about every aspect of mixing.  
By mixing, I’m talking about the technical and artistic stuff that goes into making a track that ‘gels’, with each element (percussion, vocals, effects, pads, bass, etc.) sounding great in its own space.  When you listen to songs by heavy-hitter producers and think, “Wow, how do they get their songs to sound THAT good!?”, the answer isn’t always just their budget, mastering, or studio gear—it’s also their experience in mixing their tracks well.
The 352-page book, which my Australian homie KREAP turned me onto about two months ago, will help you get the best sound possible out of your gear, and addresses “subtle editing, arrangement, and monitoring tactics which give industry insiders their competitive edge, and master the psychological tricks which protect you from all the biggest rookie mistakes.” It has rave reviews on Amazon, with a 5-star rating to boot.
Grab it!

Worth every penny: Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio

There are oodles of books out there that tackle the art of mixing your music, but this book is a treasure chest packed with tips, advice, and—most importantly—in-depth explanations about every aspect of mixing.  

By mixing, I’m talking about the technical and artistic stuff that goes into making a track that ‘gels’, with each element (percussion, vocals, effects, pads, bass, etc.) sounding great in its own space.  When you listen to songs by heavy-hitter producers and think, “Wow, how do they get their songs to sound THAT good!?”, the answer isn’t always just their budget, mastering, or studio gear—it’s also their experience in mixing their tracks well.

The 352-page book, which my Australian homie KREAP turned me onto about two months ago, will help you get the best sound possible out of your gear, and addresses “subtle editing, arrangement, and monitoring tactics which give industry insiders their competitive edge, and master the psychological tricks which protect you from all the biggest rookie mistakes.” It has rave reviews on Amazon, with a 5-star rating to boot.

Grab it!

Mistakes Make The Track (Sometimes)

Doh!

House Music production is by its very nature an experimental process where making mistakes contributes every bit as much as the conscious decisions you make while creating your songs.  Sometimes, those mistakes can even lead to magic: sweet B-sides, a new way of interpreting your song, or unique percussive trends in your track.

For example, I was listening to Shining (Part 2), the sister track of an upcoming song I’m releasing on 1200 Traxx, and I realized that the claps do something I didn’t actually intend them to do.  The clap pattern in the counts adds an interesting layer to the track, but that pattern actually emerged after a copy-paste mistake I made early in the production process for the track.  

Another instance of a mistake-gone-right comes from a song most House Music lovers know well: Just Won’t Do by Tim Deluxe feat Sam Obernick.  Check this out, from an e-mail interview I gave Tim last year (read the full interview here):

Fast forward to WMC 2002 – “Just Won’t Do” hits Miami and the rest is history… did you have any idea that the track would be so big? And how did it come about? 

I knew “It just Won’t Do” would be “big”, but not as “big” as it went on to become. I could tell I’d made a catchy tune and it worked in the clubs, but after that you have no control; [like] “it’s not mine any more”. It came about because I had the backing track of “It Just Won’t Do” and Miami WMC 2002 was coming up. I didn’t just want to put another track/instrumental out, so I thought, “lets get a vocal track together for release”. I’d previously released “We all love Sax/Sirens” (Oct 2001) on Underwater records, which were both instrumental tracks. “It Just Won’t Do” was to be [a] follow-on single from them.

…snip…

Looking back on it, it’s like it was all meant to be, especially the fact Ben and Sam were working in the same studio complex. Even down to the happy accident of [where] the vocals should sit on the track. I remember they were originally sitting on the beat but when I was moving them around, I accidentally dropped them onto the off beat. Both Ben and I were like “woooooooh that’s way better–why didn’t we think of that originally[!]“. Synchronicity, happy accident? Who Knows!

So there you have it—making mistakes is as big a part of making House Music as it is in learning in real life.  Next time you fire open a session, be more open to creative errors, and don’t be too quick to hit the Undo button when you do something unintended.

Happy producing!

Blue Cat FreqAnalyst is an awesome free frequency analyzer, and you most definitely need one in your arsenal.  Mixing down and mastering your tracks (if you do your own mastering, which isn’t recommended but is a reality for a lot of producers on a budget) without this audio unit is like taking pictures without a light source—it’s gonna get pretty muddy.
I say Audio Unit because I use Mac’s Logic Pro, but the Blue Cat’s analyzer work in many DAWs, as it comes in RTAS, VST, WIN DX, and other flavors.

So what do I like/recommend it?  Well, it has color-coded memory slots so you can compare the frequency spectrum of your song to the spectrum of your reference song of choice (this is called A/Bing).  So if I’m making a Funky House record and I want it to sound comparable to something Jay West, 1200 Warriors, Duck Sauce, or Louis La Roche made—and I’m only talking about mixdown quality, here—then I’ll visually compare my song to theirs so the bottom end isn’t too muddy and the top end isn’t too bright.  Sometimes your ears deceive you, especially if you work on a song for long, so it’s helpful to have something visually objective, like a frequency analyzer.  The ChanEQ equalizer plugin in Logic is useful for this, and I use that all the time, but nothing beats a dedicater analyzer like Blue Cat’s.
Download it and stick it in your template!

Blue Cat FreqAnalyst is an awesome free frequency analyzer, and you most definitely need one in your arsenal.  Mixing down and mastering your tracks (if you do your own mastering, which isn’t recommended but is a reality for a lot of producers on a budget) without this audio unit is like taking pictures without a light source—it’s gonna get pretty muddy.

I say Audio Unit because I use Mac’s Logic Pro, but the Blue Cat’s analyzer work in many DAWs, as it comes in RTAS, VST, WIN DX, and other flavors.

Blue Cat FreqAnalyst

So what do I like/recommend it?  Well, it has color-coded memory slots so you can compare the frequency spectrum of your song to the spectrum of your reference song of choice (this is called A/Bing).  So if I’m making a Funky House record and I want it to sound comparable to something Jay West, 1200 Warriors, Duck Sauce, or Louis La Roche made—and I’m only talking about mixdown quality, here—then I’ll visually compare my song to theirs so the bottom end isn’t too muddy and the top end isn’t too bright.  Sometimes your ears deceive you, especially if you work on a song for long, so it’s helpful to have something visually objective, like a frequency analyzer.  The ChanEQ equalizer plugin in Logic is useful for this, and I use that all the time, but nothing beats a dedicater analyzer like Blue Cat’s.

Download it and stick it in your template!

You Need a House Template. ASAP.

Sample Logic Pro Template

I use Logic Pro, and when I first started making music, my production mentor, Dan Morris of SOMO Music, gave me some advice: “Read the manual.  Learn your gear inside and out before hopping on the next synth or piece of hardware.  And for god’s sake, create a template.”  Knucklehead as I was, I ignored that last bit of advice—for a year.  And, boy, did it take me a long time to make songs back then!

Fast-forward to 2011 and my songmaking is faster, stronger, and much better than last year.  Experience is part of it, but I have to give some credit to the Template.

When you start a new session in your DAW (production software), you avoid starting with a blank or default template (even one of Logic’s pre-made ones).  The reasons why are simple:

  1. Your workflow is much more efficient when you fire up a template you’re familiar with.  Especially if you’ve color-coded your channel strips
  2. Your songs will be more consistent because your template has your presets, aux/bus channels,  and other things that together make your songs sound like your songs

In Logic, you can either go to New > (select a Template), or, like me, go to Open > (find your template manually).  Take 30 minutes today to set up a template with the following things:

  • 1-2 Bass Synth instrument channels (one for bass, one for other synths is good)
  • 1-2 Kick audio channels
  • 1-2 Snare audio channels
  • 1-2 Hats audio channels
  • 2-5 Vox/Sample audio channels
  • An FX audio channel (for those uplifters, downshifters, and other effects)

Logic Pro Sample Plugin Settings

Do this, too:

  1. Name your channels something simple, like B1, K1, K2, S1, S2, H1, H2, V1, V2, FX1, etc.  This will definitely help when you’re looking at the Mixer window.
  2. On each channel strip, insert an EQ, a compressor, and and a Delay (where it makes sense).  If you already use certain presets on those plugins depending on the channel, even better—get them in there.
  3. On the Master strip, add an EQ, compressor, and a Frequency Analyzer (example, the free Blue Cat FreqAnalyst)
  4. Route your Kick channels to their own Bus (1), so you can sidechain-compress the bass to the kick later.  Route the other drums to one Bus (2).  Do the same for Vocals, Synths, etc. if you want.
  5. Optional: Add the Bus channel strip to the Arrange window if you plan on doing a lot of channel automation
  6. Set up locked Screensets in Logic: for example, Window 1 for the arrange, Window 2 for the Mixer, Window 3 for the Piano Roll, etc.  This helps save major time in your workflow.
  7. Make sure to color-code your channels by instrument type (or whatever).  In Logic, you have to set the colors for the audio channels in both the Arrange window and the Mixer window, so do that now.  If you send a channel to a Bus, color that Bus with the same color, too.
  8. On that note, consider Grouping your channels in the mixer by type so you can quickly Solo/Mute/Automate a whole group of related instruments

Now SAVE that mother as whatever you want, somewhere easy to access manually (or in the template folder), and you’ll see how much faster and more consistently you’ll burn through tracks!

I’ll be coming back to each of these points in the future, so if all of this doesn’t make sense, keep checking back in, or drop me a line at danceisafeeling [AT AT AT AT AT AT gmail.com.  And remember—Google is your best friend :)

True Colors: Color-coding your DAW to Improve Workflow

Computer Music Magazine Issue 171

This month’s issue of Computer Music Magazine (Nov, #171) is sure to please you House Music producers that also make Dubstep, but one article in particular caught my eye.  From page 65:

True Colors: Intelligent use of color-coding in your DAW could potentially transform your workflow and help you make tracks faster and more efficiently.  Here’s how it’s done

I’ve been color-coding my audio and midi tracks and regions for a long time now, and it’s definitely something worth getting into a habit with.  For example, my drums are always red, my vocals and samples always yellow, and my basslines and synths purple.  Youd’ be surprised what taking 5 minutes at the beginning of your session to color-code your stuff can do for your long-term efficiency.  It really does help speed up your workflow.  By the way, once your tracks are color-coded by instrument, you can use the Select Equal Colors command in Logic to highlight all the drums, for example, which you can then Mute or Solo in one fell swoop.  Pretty neat.

Similarly, in Logic Pro, I code the channel strips with the same color code.  So if I set up a Bus/Aux Strip for drums, I make sure to color that strip red as well.

The article shows you how to color-code in all the major DAWs: Logic Pro, Pro Tools, and Ableton Live.

There was one tip the article gave that I had never thought of before (one of the many reasons why these kinds of mags can be so useful): instead of coloring by instruments, you can color entire blocks of your song (intro, lead-in, verse, chorus, outro, etc.).  This can be very helpful when it’s time for you to arrange your song, or to quickly jump around from part to part.  Sweet!