Spend time to make wicked transitions.

When producing a song I can spend a good 20-30 minutes working on creating a single ear tingling transition. Usually I make transitions when the song is almost finished. The reason I wait until the near end of the song’s creation is two fold. First, I like to hear the entire song from beginning to end and as I do so my brain tells me, “This is the spot where something is needed!”. Second, I use the audio of the full song’s mix to create the effect. You can here the kind of transition I am talking about at :06 seconds right before the vocal starts:

Here’s how it was done using Ableton Live:

  • I rendered one bar of the full song exactly where the transition is going to be placed.
  • I created a new Audio Track.
  • I delete the audio on all the channels where the new transition will be (cut a hole).
  • I drag my rendered clip into the arrangement on the newly created audio track and place it horizontally where I created the hole.
  • Now I play back the song. It should sound just like you have not done anything yet.
  • I experiment by loading different effect plug-ins on the new audio channel where the rendered clip sits. I try and find some heavy mangling plug-ins to really make the transition stand out.
  • I re-render the clip with effects on it. I will usually do 4 different variations.
  • I delete the plug-ins and the original plain rendered clip leaving a blank channel again.
  • I drag in each of my rendered variations one by one replacing them with each other and listening to figure out which one is the most interesting fit.
  • I also reverse each variation (in the Clip View) and listen to how that sounds.

Usually by this point I have a wicked sounding transition. In the audio sample I above I also cut and repeated the last 4 sixteenth notes and automated Ableton’s built in high pass filter to sweep down.

This process may seem like overkill but its the minor sweet effects that are the icing on a good song.

What’s your render recreation?

What’s that plug-in? No that’s not the new Audio Damage Automaton. Notice the Ableton Render bar? What you see here is Quinn, the best Tetris clone ever made. I’m certainly not going to just going to sit and watch a lime yellow line go from left to right.

I used to jump online and catch up with my favorite blog or forum. However, today’s rendering is pretty quick and by the time I get to something worth reading it’s time to go back to music making. Quinn fits the the bill perfectly. I have it set up to start with a certain amount of “junk” or messy blocks. I try to get the screen to a point where there are no more holes before Ableton is done rendering. Quinn is free and barely takes up any CPU cycles.

Quinn is OS-X only: click here

So what do you do while your DAW renders?