The Ableton 9.5 Upgrade Walkthrough
This is kind of a big deal. Although Ableton hasn’t yet made the jump to Version 10, 9.5 has some game changing features.
Although I won’t be going into how incredible Push 2 is yet (and it IS really impressive), let’s take a quick look at what Live has added in this upgrade:
Simpler gets a major upgrade (which also affects what Drum Racks is capable of)
Now looped samples will stay the same length when played across a keyboard
There are 3 modes: Classic, One shot, Sliced
Incredible Filters modelled after classic synths (OSCar, MS-20, Moog Prodigy etc)
These have been added to Auto Filter, Simpler, Sampler & Operator
Improved Waveforms giving much more detail
Volume Meters now show Peak & RMS level
Better color coding. Tracks now get a color assigned to them & by default, & clips added or recorded to the track will stick with that color scheme. Simple but helpful.
Link: Although not yet released, this technology allows users on different laptops or tablets to sync all their separate software together. What is cool is there is no master unit. Anyone can change or adjust in realtime, creating a previously unheard of flexibility.
New Max for Live instruments: Live 9.5 has also introduced 3 new M4L instruments. Bass, Poli & Multi
Happy music making!
Samples from Mars
Vintage Samples with Real Tape Saturation
These are some of the best sounding synth & Drum samples I have heard.
All of the sounds are processed through real hardware, vintage samplers &
reel to reel tape saturation.
I bought some of these myself & decided I had to work with these guys.
Listen to what they have to offer Here:
They were kind enough to make 2 exclusive deals for you all.
For a completely free sample kit, pulling from several of their great sample kits.
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Coupon Code for $12 off!
$12 off any purchase of $18 or more. (and trust me, you will find it hard to pick just 1)
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(as well as a 33 detailed Ableton Essentials course)
happy music making!
Turning your Loser Songs into Winners
We all have them
Maybe they were 8 bar loops that you took to the arrangement stage. Or maybe you didn’t even get that far. Either way, something about your idea just isn’t sitting right with you so you send it to purgatory, or worse yet, the trash bin.
I used to be the same, but I have reformed.
Just like finishing songs is a habit that gets stronger the more you do it, the same goes for recovering songs. If you haven’t built up your instinct & listening skills, you may recognize something is not quite right, but you won’t know what. Recognizing this is something I get pretty deep into in the Producer’s Playground but I wanted to share some tips with non-members as well.
I’ve had many songs that had taken a bad turn somewhere & made me want to trash the whole idea, but I found that with practice, I could recover 90% of them and turn some of them into favorites. So far, out of around 70 songs, there are only 2 that I haven’t yet been able to recover. I DO get closer with each revision though. You’re not polishing shit here, you are removing the crap to expose the gems.
You might love most things about your song except perhaps a lead sound or a stab or whatever. That is simply about understanding the subtleties of the sound you are going for, but most the time, the problem is deeper.
Songs are a lot like building structures. If you haven’t got a good foundation, everything you build on top or it will often be enhancing the mistake, not improving your song.
In order to improve something that is not working, you have to deconstruct it to it’s basic groove & tone. If you didn’t get this right in the beginning, this is probably the basis of your problem. Maybe it’s too simple & lacks subtleties. Maybe everything sounds to straight & quantized & can use some human swing. Maybe the groove is fine, but the sounds don’t work well with eachother. It could be that everything sounds too clean & pristine & can use a bit of grit. Then again, it could have to do with how the drums and bass are playing off each other.
All of these things can be determined by muting all the tracks that aren’t essential & listening to the part of the track that makes you want to dance, or nod your head.
If you find that you can bring the foundation of the song to life, often the extra layers won’t require too many changes to fit back into place, but you need the basic groove to be solid. Kicks, snare, Clap, hi hats, percussion & bass should all add just enough to sound like one whole. Start with your kick & add 1 element at a time. Each of these elements should make the groove more & more infectious & danceable. If you add an element that loses the feeling, you want to first try to change that is being played.
Maybe there are too many notes, or maybe there are too many things happening at a certain time & you need to free up that space. Usually simply tweaks will bring back the groove. If it doesn’t, you probably want to change the sound, or ditch it.
Keep adding 1 element at a time & making sure each part continues to add to your song. The difference between a good tune & a bad one is usually more subtle than you would think.
Once your groove is locked into place. Continue adding the secondary elements and listen to how it effects the essential parts. If something is lost, try changing the timing or the new part, simplifying reducing an EQ frequency that isn’t needed or ditching the sound. Don’t get precious. Each part either works or it doesn’t. You’ll know when you hear it.
Practice makes perfect
Although this process might not be easy at first, when your brain starts solving common issues in your songs, it will start to become instinctual. You will also build up your confidence when in these situations, because you know you’ve worked through it before.
Personally, when working on a song & I get stuck, I usually will feel the down cycle for 2-3 days before something clicks again & I find my way out, but if I keep pressing on, I almost always end up with something I’m happy with. Don’t let a couple of bummer days discourage you. Many peak performers know that the feeling we like to call flow, typically follows a feeling of frustration. It’s all part of the process.
Happy music making & may all your songs be winners!
How to fail your way to success
To dispel any myths you might be thinking. Music production didn’t come naturally to me. It took years of making some pretty embarrassing mistakes & getting my ass handed to me to learn what works & what doesn’t.
I also was pretty financially unstable through much of my music life & made some pretty poor decisions just trying to keep a bit of money in my pocket. The reason for me sharing these stories is in hopes that you see that if I was able to pull my head out of my own ass & figure things out, you should have no problem reaching your goals.
My EQing nightmare
So I found myself on the other side of town dropping off a mixing job (the worst mixing job on the planet) to a hip hop act when I was living in Riverside, California. I was in the middle of a rough neighborhood with not enough gas or money to get me home. I needed to be paid for the job ($100).
You’ll want to file this under “don’t take on an impossible job because you are desperate to make rent”.
See, it wasn’t entirely my fault. I took on a job that would have been impossible for anyone. The idiot factor is thinking I could work with the files I got, regardless.
They had delivered me stems (mixes of all the separate instruments) that were actually not separated. every instrument, instead of being solo’d was the full stereo mixdown of the song (a bad mixdown at that). We didn’t have internet at the time, so if you get a project in the mail that isn’t right, you can’t just ask for an update to be delivered through dropbox.
I should have made a call & had them get me something proper to work with, but money being so tight, I opted to try to carve away EQ to somewhat attempt to have the fundamentals of each instrument for mixing purposes. I was almost proud of myself for being so “resourceful”. I know what you’re thinking. I’m the biggest idiot on the planet & deserve to die from 1000 spork wounds.
Needless to say, the mix I delivered sounded awful (did I think they wouldn’t notice?) and there I was stranded with a bunch of pissed off hip hop guys looking at me. I thought I might lose a kneecap that day. I had to beg for money to get me home. As I said before, I made it here on fumes. By the grace of the giant spaghetti monster in the sky, they took pity on me & gave me $5 to get home.
Never again would I make such a dumb mistake… or would I?
An idiot’s story part 2
Somehow, I was still getting work. I guess I had done some decent work as well. Mostly with electronic bands with guitars & word got around that my bedroom was a cheap place to get a song done. I think I had some ads out of Craigslist as well that were getting me phone calls ( I had dial up internet by this time).
So I get a call from Cracka. A cracked out white kid who wanted to be the next Eminem & who was I to say no? Sure, the friends he brought over were pretty sketchy, but I was getting paid in cash & they didn’t steal anything. It could be worse.
So, I was being hired to make the beats & everything. I think they had some samples on cd, but that’s about it. I was pretty good at programming drum machines & working my sampler, but I wasn’t very educated on proper hip hop tones.
When I sent this guy home with a rough mix, he called back particularly unhappy with the kick drum. He wanted it to be big, deep & punchy without too much boom & he questioned if I could give him a tone that would compete with bigger artists.
Never turning down a challenge that was paying, I told him I’d get him a wicked kick that would thump any car stereo…and I did, kinda.
Back in the studio I went through my kick samples, looking for the right sound, but it was eluding me. I’d have to make my own out of what I had. I had heard stories about other producers layering drum sounds to get a bigger sound. If that was the trick, I would layer a crapload of kicks together. 26 to be exact.
Yep, that’s right, I went with the more is better approach. If they wanted a kick, I would give them the biggest fuck off kick they’d ever heard.
Did I roll off any EQ on any of the layers? Oh, hell no.
Did I edit the length of any of the sounds? You kidding? Who needs that?
I strictly was using volume levels. A little of this one & a bit more of that one. It’s so embarrassing for me to recall being proud of myself. I even got a pat on the back when Cracka heard it by itself.
Little did he (or I) realize that this sound was taking up so many frequencies that were cancelling eachother out that kick would be all that you would hear in this mix. It sounded so big & aggressive, that nothing could compete with it. Vocals, bass, everything got drowned out.
Since everybody was so focused on the sound of the kick, nobody really noticed how bad the overall mix sounded. Not long after, I didn’t get calls from him anymore.
How am I still here?
Somehow by some small miracle, I got my head together over the next couple of years and went on to do some good work that I’m proud of, working with industrial bands, new age artists, pop, rap, electronica & R&B, I learned to adjust my skills & add much to my producer’s toolbox.
I think it’s really been about not saying no to anyone & trying to put my head into the space of the artist or band. With that much exposure, I was able to fail my way forward, picking up little bread crumbs of information with each new project.
These days I am much more selective about what I work on & who I work with. I also found myself better as a mixing engineer than I am with recording. Plus, it’s nice to not have to go through all the arguing that bands go through in that process. I get my stems & am left to myself until I have something to share.
If you can learn anything from this, I hope that it’s that anyone can learn to do this & that some people take longer than others. Luckily there are so many resources out there that were never available when I started, that can get you from point A to point Z much faster & with far fewer idiot mistakes.
Hopefully, as an electronic artist, my kicks & mixing techniques are noticeably better. I’m still always learning though.
happy music making,