Random Studio Tip #3
Nudge the bass. Most of the time when I’m writing bass lines I’m playing them on a keyboard. Could be midi or could be one my hardware synths. Regardless, after the bass line is tracked and processed (sometimes resampled) I always try nudging the whole line over to the right by an 1/8 note. Sometimes it sounds waaaaay funkier and sometimes it sounds waaaaay stupid. It’s hit or miss but when it hits….it really hits. I do this a lot on the 2nd drops to change up the feel a bit.
Random Studio Tip #5
Create a default template. Figuring out your workflow is going to take some time but once you have something you are comfortable with it’s extremely beneficial to create a default template; this will save a lot of time.
Here’s how mine is set up. First of all, every sound in my project file is sent to a corresponding group (buss). So for example all of my mid bass sounds are summed up in the mid bass group. There are several reasons for doing this.
1) If at any point I want to mute or solo all the mid bass sounds I can just mute that group (buss) and viola. There’s no need to go through every single mid bass sound and hit mute or solo.
2) If I want to process all the mid bass sounds I can just throw one vst plug in on the insert of that group and now all the mid bass sounds will be effected. Very handy if you want to say automate a filter, eq, sidechain, volume cut on all the bass sounds, or all the drums, etc. Rather than doing this on every single sound; saves on cpu as well.
3) If your collaborating with someone else and they don’t want 56 tracks sent to them you can easily just bounce out all your groups (busses) and now you’ve narrowed it down to the essentials. The essentials are what make up my default template so lets take a look at that real quick.
I have the groups broken down to drums, compressed drums (discussed in studio tip #4), sub, mid bass, atmospheres / fx, vocals (if it’s a vocal track), and master (which we discussed earlier in studio tip #1)
Sometimes I have another group called sub harmonix and sometimes I have one called mid processing. That’s a topic for another day
I also have two FX groups which have two reverbs on them, 1 for a short reverb and one for a long reverb. (I don’t always use these though)
So now when I go to start a new song my project file already has groups set up and I can just send every sound as I record or import them to their respective home without having to create all these groups first. Saves a fair amount of time. My master group (buss) also has inserts already on it which include an EQ, a spectral analyzer, a compressor, a harmonic exciter, and a limiter. That will also be covered in more detail on another day.
Random Studio Tip #6
Mid Bass Modulation. For any aspiring Neurofunk producer the mid bass has got to be the most challenging part to figure out…after the drums. The biggest downfall to many producers mid range sounds is the lack of movement. A track in general needs to have some kind of dynamics to it and the mid bass is no exception.
A common trick used is to take your existing mid range bass line and duplicate it (as many times as you’d like), then slightly detune them all. Usually less than a whole semitone is used for the detuning and each track is detuned by a slightly different amount.
You can think of each mid bass track as an oscillator on a synth, by duplicating it multiple times it’s the same as activating another oscillator. By detuning them all you get the classic “reece” sound.
From here you process some more using what ever you think enhances the sound. Aside from fluctuations in pitch, filtering is quite popular and can definitely take the mid bass to the dynamic level we are looking for.
For a closer look at how filtering tricks are done I have requested the input of mid bass mastermind Merikan!
Merikan: “(A) great way for boosting your mids (of any sound) is to apply parallel filtering. This gives more character and richness to a sound. Here’s how I do it: chuck a BR filter in your chain (preferably a Sugarbytes WOW as it is ace with high resonance settings and doesn’t damage a sound to much) with Resonance up to 80 and cutoff at around 300hz. Then duplicate this track and set the cutoff point for the other filter a bit higher. (Usually works good at around 400/500hz).
On Ableton its possible to do this without having to duplicate tracks as there is an option that enables you to group effects. To do this simply right click on an effect and hit group. After that click the show/hide chain list on the left and duplicate the chain. And here you go!!!! You’ve now got 2 filters in parallel in the same channel. Some might be thinking why not boosting it with an Eq? Well thats because a filter (especially the WOW) colours the sound differently with a unique character. Try it yourself!”
Well for me side chaining is hit or miss. Sometimes the compression is too much and I find that the mid loses some character. When this occurs I do volume automation instead. So for example when ever the snare hits ill cut like 5db or so from all the mids to make the snare really pop. Of course for that pumping effect compression works better.
Random Studio Tip #7
Making the Kick & Snare shine through the mix. It’s called Drum & Bass for a reason. Those two words compose the backbone of the music. If either one is lacking then the tune overall is not a hit. When it comes to the drums the kick and snare are probably the most important elements.
A common problem when mixing down DNB tunes is that the kick and snare are not prominent enough. Something to keep in mind is that kick and snare are hitting in both low and high regions of the audio spectrum.
For a Kick somewhere around 80 – 150 hz (for low) / 5 – 10k (for high). For a snare somewhere around 190 – 300hz (for low) / 5 – 10k (for high). Some people boost a bit in the 500hz area for the snare as well. The range is pretty large because is depends on the kick and snare samples. Instead of just automatically boosting the kick at 100hz I would recommend throwing a spectral analyzer on it and seeing where it’s hitting naturally. Same for the snare. Then boost or cut as needed.
Since we know that both of these sounds are hitting in these regions and we also have sub bass and mid bass sounds hitting in these regions and maybe even FX and pads as well, we can than determine that when the kick and snare sound hidden it is because either A.) they are too quiet, or B.) something else is clashing with them.
One thing I like to do to make more room for them is to cut the volume on those other elements when the kick and snare are hitting. So for example every time the kick hits I cut out maybe 5db or so of volume from the sub bass using automation. In retrospect when the snare needs more room I may do the same thing to all the mids when ever the snare is hitting. This is where those groups (busses) come in reeeeeeeeal handy Instead of volume cutting every mid sound I can just apply this to the mids group and viola!
Why not just use sidechain compression? Sure you could do that if that’s the sound you want. It generally produces a pumping effect that may or may not be what you are looking for. Quite often it’s not what I’m looking for and I don’t necessarily want to compress those other elements, I just want them to back off a bit when the kick and snare are hitting. Therefore volume automation works like a charm.
When doing volume automation make sure the shape of your slope is more like a “V” shape as oppose to a “I/” shape. If your volume cuts off in a downward straight line you will get a clicking sound. I always start ducking the volume on what ever it is I’m effecting right before the kick or snare are about to hit. It’s not way before, maybe a 1/32 or 1/64 note or some where around there.
I’ll talk about the importance of automation in another post as it deserves it’s own post. For now just understand that for me, volume automation works really well when trying to get the kick and snare to shine through.
Random Studio Tip #10
Using Volume Automation for Movement.
I’ve talked about using volume automation before to make room for the kick and snare by ducking out other elements that might be clashing or interfering. You can also use a side chain compressor for that as well.
In addition to this though, I like to use volume automation to make things move / change / evolve. For example If I have a mid range that sounds kind of flat I might automate the volume of that mid range to fluctuate or flow with the groove. Certain parts of it may seem a bit more in the background and then certain parts of it will be more up front in the mix.
Movement is a big part of making interesting sounding tracks and this is one easy way to make things move. I always use a plug in for this as opposed to using the track volume because If I need to adjust the levels of the entire mix later on down the road I won’t have to re-write the automation lane on this track. If I use the track volume to do this then I will have to go back and lower the points in order to lower the volume of that track. I would much rather just grab the fader and lower it without having to worry about redoing the automation. Hope that makes sense.
I use free plug-ins for this by Sonalksis. They are called Free G Stereo and Free G Mono.
Of course you could use anything that has a volume control but I find these plug ins don’t color the sound at all which is a plus for me.
Give it a shot. It’s easy and will add some dynamics to your tracks.
Well I’ve been asked to contribute “studio tips” to an upcoming website designed for EDM Producers. Starting with the tips I had already posted on here. Definitely honored that they even asked
Random Studio Tip #11
I take any sound but usually it ends up being vocals or a synth line. I stick with single hits or stabs or words if its vocals. I’ll heavily drench that sound with reverb, big room, long times, and then bounce that sound out making sure that I have the entire tail of the reverb in the bounce. Then I’ll take that sound and re-import it, reverse it, and place it usually right before the original sound.
I will generally go back and bypass the reverb on the original sound and only leave the reversed one wet, the original might have a little bit of reverb but not nearly as much as the bounced version. Definitely makes for some really cool sounding edits or just help build the adrenaline leading up to a drop or a highlighted section. Works great with delay as well! Very easy to do! Give it a shot!