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Monday, 11 February 2013

Guest Article & Free Tune By S.E.B!

Have a listen to S.E.B!'s latest track, "When I Die"...


... FREE to download (click the download arrow on the right hand side of the player or find it here) and reap the benefits of his considerable experience producing music in the article below. You can connect with S.E.B! using any of the following:


Top 5 Ways to Increase Your Work Flow

By Sebastian Gawlik / S.E.B!

To me, being a music producer is equal parts creativity and having a technical skill set. I've emerged into an era where a good idea will be better received, the better produced it is, turning it into a great idea. The leading trend in modern music at the moment is a loud, high standard of production, the catch is engineering isn't a walk in the park. Engineering takes time and effort to configure and balance, stealing time from the creative process. Here's my top five ways to keep things moving in both sides of the court.

1.              Sample Organising

At some point or another I'll use samples, whether it be a kick drum, foley recordings, a bass tone or whatever.  Having a folder separated into stems that go something like...

DRUMS            >
KICKS
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
SNARES
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
HATS                 >
CLOSED
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
OPENED
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
TOMS                >
HI
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
MID
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
FLOOR
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
BASS                 >
SYNTH
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
BASS LOOPS
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
HELP
YOURSELF
TO
FIND
**************
**************
WHAT
YOU'RE
LOOKING
FOR!



...makes things hell of a lot easier. The sounds are organised into one location that are ready to be easily auditioned and further manipulated.

If you haven't organised your samples from the get go, DO IT NOW. Don't fret though, there's an easy way! Start off with creating the folder stems you want and search your sample collection with simple keywords like chords, bass, guitar, strings, kick, hat etc. and move to appropriate folders accordingly. Now just find that Trumpet stab you want in seconds, load it into your Sampler and bash away.

2.              Save Your Presets

You'll find yourself repeating some tasks on every track, for example, cutting low frequencies from sounds that don't need them and vice-versa, cutting high frequencies from sounds that don't need them. Start from a default setting in your EQ of choice, create a low cut at 20Hz, anything below is unheard and only chewing up valuable head room. Add  a high cut at 19kHz, the best set of human ears can only hear up to 20kHz, 19kHz is a good place to start cutting for a rounded sound. Add a few bell filters/parametric EQ at some key frequency points like 500hz, 1000hz, 3kHz, 5kHz with 0dB gain and SAVE! Save your preset for it to be loaded each time it is required. You can do the same thing with customized delay lines, reverb settings, routing for modular filter plug-ins and more. Save variations of your favorite Synth patches, and create then save your own Synth Patches! Organize your Presets the same way you organised your samples to save time and increase speed. The way in which I do this is as follows... Plugin Name > Subcategory (Synth Patch Type, e.g. Lead) > Preset Name.

3.              FX Chains

If you're using Ableton Live you'll have the option of using the Audio Effect Rack. There are similar things in other DAWs, take advantage of this! So we're aiming for a Noisia style midrange bass tone? One of the components we're going to need is multi layered Distortion. Add five of the same or different  Distortion plug-ins, each followed by an EQ pre-loaded with your default preset . This way we can EQ out any unneeded frequencies that may be introduced in a quick and efficient manner. After your EQ add compression/limiting (optional) as well as another distortion and EQ. Play with running these Distortions in serial or parallel and mix gently using the input gains and dry/wet mix on each of the units. Keep it subtle! You may want to add phasers or a filter (cut off) tweaks before and after the distortions for a more textured sound. As you can probably guess, complex sounds involve a complex FX chain, so once the desired result is achieved, SAVE! Save your newly created chain for speedy use at a later stage, it's now ready to go on a new core sound. You could even use this whole rack as one layer of Distortion running in parallel against new chains you're creating! This is just one example of FX Chains you could create and save to speed things up.

4.              Analyze, Analyze!

Producing music isn't just about using your ears, use your eyes as much as you can for the fastest; best results. Frequency analyzers are among the most important plugins around, not only does it reveal problematic frequencies quickly, it's a good way to learn your frequency ranges. Three of my favourite frequency analyzer VSTs that I use on every track are:
    • Ableton Live's Spectrum
    • Voxengo Span (Free download here)
    • Voxengo Anspec (Free download here)
Other analyzers that assist and speed up the writing process are:
    • GVST GTune (Free download hereA pitch detecting plugin with note, frequency, and cents information display.
    • Smartelectronix s(M)exoscope (Free download here) This provides a real time waveform display of the incoming signal. This is useful for the compression novice and just generally cool to see what's going on!
Using a combination of Frequency Analyzer and s(M)exoscope will help with producing dance music (and I should add all other types of music) greatly. For example checking if your snare drum is tuned to 200hz and how loud your  kick and snare are relative to your cymbals and percussion elements. On the musical side of things, using an Analyzer like GTune can quickly reveal    the note of monophonic material, very handy for the untrained ear, from there you can load it into a Sampler on the correct root note and play your tuned sample in key adding to an existing structure, or creating one from scratch. Gitcha Gitcha Freq (Analyzer) On!

5.              Templates, Combine and Keep!

Staying true to the things we've covered, let's look at the big picture. You should have lots of customised default presets tailored to your work flow, things like default EQ settings, Reverb send presets, Ratios and generic Attack and Release times for Compressors. After taking that a step further and creating preset FX Chains, you now could have things like a Mid/Side encoder/decoder, so you can process the signals independently of each other whenever you need to, and parallel compression with your favourite compressors ready to go. Now combine all these things together into a blank project to create an intuitive work space. My template goes something like this:

Master
               
Drum Bus:
    • 6 Audio Tracks
    • 2 Drum Racks
Bass Bus:
    • 4 Audio Tracks
    • 4 MIDI Tracks


 Midrange Bus:
    • 6 Audio Tracks
    • 5 MIDI Tracks
FX Bus: 
    • 6 Audio Tracks
    • 2 x Reverb Send
    • 2 x Delay Send
Each audio track is set to -8dB and my buses are set to 0dB. Each audio track, bus, instrument channel and return track has an EQ and Compressor on it ready to go. Specific to the master there is a spectrum analyzer, two compressors, a loudness maximiser, and a dithering plug-in. Once you have set this up, save the current project as a template, if your DAW does not have this option, save the template as a new file but be sure not to save over it.

Don't take for granted how important it is to have a clear, precise laid out canvas to start you work on, I did and wish I only had done it sooner! The importance here is to keep the idea fresh in your head get as close to it as quickly as possible. Setting up a project like this should apply from anyone just starting out right through to an advanced, disorganized producer, it's not too late to change!

3 comments:

  1. Brilliant tips. I'm just starting out on my production journey but being a neat freak, keeping my folders organised is a must!

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Tiberius, thanks for your comment. Workflow is an often overlooked element of making music that is just as, if not more important than synthesis or other technical aspects. Do everything you can to get your ideas down fast.

    - Niwun

    ReplyDelete
  3. @Tiberius, Thank you for the comment. It definitely helps, it's the start of a professional pursuit.

    ReplyDelete