Even though I use Ableton as my main DAW for over a decade I was in love with Cubase. I went to the Steinberg user group in NYC and wrote many of my great songs using Cubase. Steinberg has always been one of the most innovative music software companies and lately they are shining again. Cubasis for iPad is amazing and with the power of the iPad Air it’s actually a viable way to make full on tracks. Steinberg also showed off a little recently by adding Leap Motion tech to Cubase allowing you to wave your hands in the air Minority Report style to control your DAW. They just released Cubase 7.5 and one feature I really think is stellar called TrackVersions. TrackVersions allows you to create different versions of parts in a neat manner. One “trick” I use when making music is to always try out 4-5 things per transition or part. I love the idea of being able to keep this different options labeled and inside the track. With Ableton I end up with a very long page full of muted ideas.
“Create, rename and manage parallel versions of the same track or tracks and use them to compare takes or create alternative versions of your recordings while keeping all track settings. Interfacing perfectly with existing track handling features like lanes, the flexible new TrackVersions feature will significantly speed up your workflow when working not only with audio but also MIDI, instrument, chord, tempo and signature tracks.” – steinberg.net
For more info: steinberg.net
I use Melodyne often on my own vocals. Sometimes I use it to correct pitch and other times for creative strange things. On my song I Stand with You (link) I sent my vocal to my friend Gabri Negro in Italy and he created a few harmonies of my own voice using Melodyne on specific words. He’s a classically trained musician and knew exactly where on the scale to place my “other” self. In the video above you can see Melodyne’s Random Deviation function which speeds up creating variations of original material.
“Simply copy the vocal track, insert slight deviations in pitch and timing, and place the tracks in the stereo image. And with the clever functions of Melodyne, you don’t have to move every note by hand.” – celemony
For more info: celemony.com
This entry was written by plug-ins, song writing and tagged Celemony, Melodyne, random, songwriting, vocals. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink and follow any comments with the RSS feed for this post.
What we have here is one of Depeche Mode’s earliest recordings. Some say is Vince Clarke on vocals however I’m not certain. YouTube commenters also say Fletch is the one playing the bass. What a great version and it shows right out of the gate these guys had “it”. I love how when the vocal “Resurrect, as a feeling…” comes in the first time it’s off/minor and then they sing it straight right after to show it’s power. That part is just wonderful. It also comes to a great crescendo towards the end.
“Resurrect, as a feeling, on my window, Of a past reunion.Resurrect as a feeling on my window Of a past reunion. Mission of a picture like the city and the air we breathe. The air we breathe. Air we breathe” – Depeche Mode
For more info: depechemode.com
I really love the technology in Yamaha’s Vocaloid series. Basically it’s a sequencer that allows you to play a synthetic voice. The newest Vocaloid incarnation is named Avanna. From what I understand these voices are used a lot by videogame producers and some are even stars in Japan. Unfortunately this is PC only software but many of us have virtual machines these days. It would be more useful if I could re-wire it into Ableton on my Mac side though. This version is $130 USD. Let me know if any of you use Vocaloid in your own productions.
“AVANNA is the clearest and sweetest sounding English vocaloid yet. Ideally suited to pop and celtic, she can also be used in a myriad of musical styles. The new Vocaloid 3 interface allows you to import wav files so Avanna can sing along with your compositions from within Vocaloid. Avanna also comes with a default reverb for added realism and you can add vibrato and expression to her voice. Whether it’s sweet and pure leads, harmonies or backing vocals, Avanna can sing anything you like any time you want!” – soundsonline.com/a>
For more info: soundsonline.com/Vocaloid-3-Avanna
If you read this blog you know I like song writing helper software. Cthulhu is a VST plug-in thats a simple/complex chord generator and arpeggiator. I would say it reminds me a little bit of the Max for Live Device Schwarzonator. Cthulhu is $39.
“Cthulhu is firstly a chord memorizer and player, allowing you to experiment with creating and reworking chord progressions with single-note presses. Included are over 150 factory chord presets allowing for a near-unlimited amount of possible musical-sounding chord progressions. Import MIDI or ‘record’ chords straight in, Cthulhu is able to analyze the chords you play and allow for various sorting options (Circle of 5ths, Chromatic, low note, etc) allowing for easy access over your chords! The other half of Cthulhu is a unique pattern-based arpeggiator, allowing incoming notes or chords to be manipulated in various rhythmic ways. The 8 tabs of the stepsequencer allow you to completely reshape the incoming MIDI notes, even a single note fed into the arp can become a unique and rhythmic riff! Even if you have other arpeggio software plug-ins, Cthulhu’s arp is unique and powerful with advanced features such as chord-arpeggio mode, ties, duration / velocity sequencing, intelligent transpose, harmony, and more!” –
For more info: xferrecords.com/products/cthulhu
On a few occasions I was going to pick up the original Vielklang. Instant Harmony V2 was just released and it looks really good. Imagine Melodyne with auto-harmony creation. I like how you can drop audio from your DAW directly into Instant Harmony’s plug-in window. Price: $149 USD
“Vielklang Instant Harmony generates harmonies with 2-4 voices. It is packed with musical intelligence and music theory: it detects the best fitting harmonies for each individual input melody, and automatically synthesizes up to four voices with the voices not merely running in parallel but with their voicings selected to sound most natural (voice leading). The advanced pitch editing controls (full version only!) give you fast and easy access to pitch, timing, vibrato control, formant shift, and to many more editing options.” – zplane.de
For more info: zplane.de/products/plugins/vielklang
This entry was written by plug-ins, song writing and tagged Instant Harmony, Melodyne, vielklang, vocals. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink and follow any comments with the RSS feed for this post.
One of the major reasons for starting this blog was to share my studio notes with you. I love sharing the creation process and hearing feedback. Take This Step was released last month with remixes by Pet Duo, Mark Hawkins, Brian Burger and Lenny Dee. You can get the full details of the song including a promo video on it’s original post page: click here. Today let’s get into how I created it. My last album Joyless Pleasure was very autobiographical, song structured, love songed and a real listeners album. For my next album Fire Funmania which will be released later this year I wanted to go back to my roots a bit. The first single Take This Step clears the way. Lyrically it has two themes. You can take the song literally as an indoctrination anthem. Join the army, the troop and fight. You can decide if I am being satirical or not. However, the theme could also be about getting a day job or even being pushed into marriage and society. As a 42 year old trying to conform and be healthy yet keep my art pure surely there’s a reason I was able to make this song. The arrangement shows the nervous tension with 5 parts growing to a peak each higher than each other until the cresendo at the end. I think I’m trying to say yes it’s ok to join but if you do do it strong, properly and aggresively!
Ok so yeah now to the toys. There are several kick drums on the track. I’ve been DJing on my Traktor S4 a bit and you can hear that influence here. As I use NI’s Traktor anytime I put a loop into one of the Sample Decks and it loops more than 2 times is saves the loop on my hard drive for later use. I grabbed 2 of the kicks on Take This Step from this folder. I also created 2 kicks on my Jomox Mbase 01 which is signed by Jürgen Michaelis. The Mbase has a depth you can’t get from samples. There are parts of the song where you hear the underlying kicks booming and that’s the Mbase in action. In sections of the song there is a Boss DM-100 bucket-brigade analog delay on the kicks. You can hear it right away as the song starts. The ride is from my MFB-522. The 522 is like a mini Roland TR-808 and I like it quite a lot. You can get some really clean shimmering rides from it that again most of the time samples can’t match. I used Ableton Live’s built in Auto Filter to cut some of the high’s out from it so it fit well in the song. There are some large long white noise crashes that bring in new sections. Those are from an Ensoniq ESQ-1. I bought a Crystal-X cartridge off eBay that has a few hundred sounds on it and the crash/smash is on there.
The main synth is a Moog Slim Phatty going through Audio Damage’s Vapor diffusion chorus plug-in. In different sections of the song the main synth pattern changes. I used 3 plug-ins each seperately at different times to achieve the different synth patterns: Izotope’s Stutter Edit, PSP’s N20 and Sugar-Bytes Turnado. These are the type of plug-ins that are nearly impossible to replicate in hardware without a serious amount of work. What I usually do is go through the presets, do some editing and then render the same part 5-10 times. Then as the song plays back into the section I swap out the different renderings and choose the one that’s the coolest. It’s that little extra work that makes all the difference. Towards the end of the song there is a build up where the synth starts panning, changing and “lifting”. This was done with Sugar-Bytes Effectrix and automation.
I wanted to keep these vocals clean and commanding. The chain was a Shure SM7b mic through an API 512c micpre. I also used Izotope’s Nectar plug-in. There’s quite a few places where the last song in a verse has some effects on it. Like the synth parts I would render the last word, move it to a blank channel, load several effects on the channel and change presets, edit and render about 5 different versions. I would again listen back to the song with replacing each version and choosing the best one.
I follow my own advice and the faders were all at about half height so the mix came out nice and clean. I added some volume to the master file using Izotope’s Ozone. I didn’t work on this song all day in a succession of days so it’s hard to tell you exactly how long it took to create it. I would guess about a full week or two weeks on and off. For me the most difficult part is always the arrangement. It’s like a puzzle and if you don’t feel inspired or take the time to get it right you can really ruin a song. So this song is a mix of the best hardware and software I have.
The next single which comes out in August is called The Man Master. I shot a music video for it in Berlin, there are remixes by David Carretta, Millimetric and Dupont and there will be a limited edition 7″. Production wise this song is a full analog affair using only analog sequencers and such. More on that when it’s released!
“The Horrorist’ new single is pretty awesome. His new record is going to be the best one yet.” – alexxaugustus (via Twitter)
This entry was written by effects, hardware, music, promotion, song writing, synthesizer and tagged song writing, The Horrorist, Things to Come Records. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink and follow any comments with the RSS feed for this post.
I love songwriting helper Apps. ProChords helps you find the next chord. I was using it last night and it definitely helped me make a progression I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. It’s a bit more than your standard App at $8.99 and keep in mind your still doing to have to work hard to create a song.
“ProChords is a hand held road map of chords from 9000 songs. So if you are working on a song Fx. “Am7, Em7, Am7, Em7″ and don’t know how to get out of the loop. Tab it into ProChords and you will instantly know 31 different ways to continue. It makes it fun to explore odd chord progressions and get inspiration for more original songwriting” – prochords.dk
For more info: prochords.dk
This entry was written by iPad, iPhone, song writing and tagged iOS, ProChords, songwriting. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink and follow any comments with the RSS feed for this post.
The Beauty Voice Changer is a “device” that helps you tune your voice. It comes in either orange or purple. It’s $57 and yes I think it’s crazy. Is there any chance in hell this actually works?
“The Beauty Voice Trainer helps give you the dulcet voice you know you’ve always wanted, in just five minutes a day. The system works in three ways: without training, the human throat is restricted. The specially designed mouthpiece positions the tongue to open the voice passage, allowing a much stronger sound.” – Japantrendshop.com
For more info: japantrendshop.com/beauty-voice-trainer
This entry was written by live performance, song writing and tagged Beauty Voice Changer, Japan, Japanese. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink and follow any comments with the RSS feed for this post.
I love software that helps with music theory and composition. Off the top of my head a few of titles come to mind such has Harmony Navigator, SoundPrism, Polychord, Songsmith and LaDiDa. I’ve yet to try it yet but Melody Music Maker looks like a nice addition. Nothing beats some piano lessons of course.
“What have Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney and Ray Charles in common? They could not read scores but nevertheless their songs captured the world. With Melody Music Maker you are walking in the trails of these super talents. You can fully focus on one thing: the melody that you enjoy, without taking care for the notes and theoretical correctness. Colors guide the user through the composition of the song.” – melodymusicmaker.com
For more info: melodymusicmaker.com
This entry was written by iPad, song writing and tagged iPad, Melody Music Maker, song writing. Leave a comment or view the discussion at the permalink and follow any comments with the RSS feed for this post.