In this section I will simply be showing the development of my DJ setup over the years.
There will be 2 main setups, my DJ setup and my Live setup. As for the Live setup, god only knows how long this is going to take to develop. It’s definitely going to be quite a long time I know that for sure, but I will be documenting it all here.
Psychoacoustics – the scientific study of the brains interpretation of sound
This is something that I chose to study for my dissertation at uni as I found it super interesting. The title was:
The two main composers I studied were Diana Deutsch and Al Bregman.
Here are the few of the chapter titles to give you a brief example of the stuff I researched:
Chapter 1- Perception of pitch and melody and fusion of independent signals and their effect on perceived location
Chapter 2 – Effects of rhythm, pitch, timbre, frequency of repetition and spatial location on stream segregation
Chapter 3 – Perceptual grouping and masking techniques and curiosities, ambiguities and assumption relating to how the brain interprets speech
WHAT DO I INTEND TO DO HERE?
Instead of just posting my dissertation here, I’m going to go over what I learned whilst writing it, but this time more in depth and I’ll be sharing it here.
This is good for me too as it’s been about 5 years since I looked at any of this and I know I have forgotten a lot of it.
WHY IS THIS GOOD TO KNOW AS A PRODUCER?
I found that after learning about this stuff, when composing and particularly in mixing my productions, this stuff pops up all the time. When I recognise it I’m able to apply some of these effects to get elements to sit in the mix more harmoniously, and with more clarity and consistency.
I personally feel that it’s almost like a secret dimension of music production, and I don’t think it’s unfair to say that it doesn’t (stereotypically) get talked about much (or at all) in other music production courses. So I hope whoever sees this stuff gets a lot from it and can apply it to their productions too.
After learning a few lines of Arduino code, it’s relatively easy. In fact, they do a lot of the work for you. You just need to adapt some lines of existing code, wire up your board correctly, send signals through to your program of choice and you’re off.
I’ll be doing some real fun stuff here (using flex sensors, force sensitive resistors, ultrasound ping sensors, potentiometers, LDR’s and much more…) and linking it all up with my live dj sets… Stay tuned 😉 K
This is the first in the series of free releases I have created for 2015’s Free Food Series, Just In Time (Ft. Andizzi). Andy Crowe (House Of Strings – Vocals, Guitar)
For this track, I was thinking of new ways to emphasise the buildup and development of my synth lines, but mainly experimenting with timing and groove, with inspiration from Steve Reich’s Come Out.
1 – The Groove
The first idea related to timing was to use contrasting rhythms and grooves overlapped to create a final unique groove. I had been through phases over the past few years of quantising everything to the same groove and then moving on to using no quantisation at all. In January I decided to experiment a different way to program in my own unique groove. I did this by snapping one-shot samples to Live’s grid (in the Arrange Window), then applied varying amounts of track delay (on chosen channels) as an effort to make these programmed parts a little less rigid. For some of these, I pushed them as far as I dare, so they are almost out of time.
In the clip below I bounced out the rhythm section and solo’d each element so you can hear how their timings sound against the click. After this the elements are brought back together so you can hear the result.
Audio Example 1:
0:00 Rhythm Section
0:15 Rhythm Section Plus Kick
0:30 Kick 4/4
0:38 Kick Fill Layer
0:46 HH 1 – (sent to a delay aux to pick up the pace)
0:54 HH2 – Fill Layer
1:01 HH3 (fast/rigid)
1:17 Clap 1
1:25 Clap 2
1:33 Latino Clapping Sample
1:48 Majik Beat
1:57 808 Cowbell
2:19 to 4:07… Individual samples repeated without metronome for you to take. These are processed, so if you want the unprocessed stems for remixing just send a request via the contact page.
4:07 to 4:39 Rhythm Section without metronome
Fig. 1 – Kick Tracks 1 and 2
You can see how the first channel ‘K1’ (the straight 4/4) is sat perfectly on the grid of beats 1, 2, 3 and 4, whilst the second channel K2 for the extra swung fills is sat on the grid too, but the track delay is set at 40ms, which is giving it some extra swing.
Looking back at this, there is a mistake here, becuase the samples for K2 are overlapping K1, which is not good for phase cancellation reasons. A different way to do this without overlapping kick samples would be to use a sampler that is set to re-trigger mode. (Look out for blog soon)
Fig. 2 – HiHat 1
You can see this is snapped to the grid in the arrange window on the 4/4 upbeat, but it is delayed by 50ms to swing it out.
Just in case your’e not sure about where the track delay section is, just click the circular ‘D’ button, which can be found bottom right of the Arrange Window (same place in Session View). See Fig 3 above
You can also see here the ‘ms’ button, which can be switched to samples, for sample delay. Default is milliseconds. See Fig. 4 above
I like the outcome, it’s not too bad, but I’ll be looking to play in my one-shots on an MPC velocity sensitive pad soon and experiment with applying certain amounts of Live’s existing groove templates. (Look out for blog soon). I will also be posting about how you can capture and use someone else’s groove and apply to your own. Very cheeky.
2 – Picking Up the Pace
I sent a couple of the elements through to a delay on an auxiliary send channel to create extra rhythmic content. You can hear that with the Hi Hats here at 0:46 in the Audio Example 1.
I find this technique is good for picking up the pace of the track and gives the effect of playing double-time. You just need to make sure you have the correct setting on the delay. Sometimes I do it with snares, claps and synths too. I find that a lot of the time the default setting on the delay in Live’s send already does the job effectively. That’s the one I used in this track.
3 – Stereo Imaging / Psychoacoustics
Something to take note of when mixing these elements is to pay close attention to the panning as the difference between a few degrees can massively change your perception of rhythm. This is called stream segregation and is an example of psychoacoustic phenomena.
Psychoacoustics: – the scientific study of the brains perception of sound.
I’ll be writing lots about this in my blogs later on as I’m super interested in psychoacoustics and auditory illusion, with large reference to works and research by Al Bregman and Diana Deutsch. I found after studying these areas my understanding of production improved greatly, especially when mixing.
4 – Synth Intensity Development (Process) – Steve Reich – Process Music
What I was doing here was to come up with ideas to maintain interest in the sound (in this case the synth) by having it constantly changing and evolving, whilst also applying new ideas to develop it’s intensity for the peak of the track.
Audio Example 2:
This is how I achieved the effect similarly to Reich’s phasing process:
1 – Duplicate the synth channel
2 – Pan one hard left and the other hard right (for multichannel expansion)
3 – Extend (or shorten) the clip/region to the desired amount and copy/paste forward
You can see all of this in Fig. 5 below
You can hear the beginning of the phasing process start at 01:02 (Audio Example 2)
Fig. 5 – (01:02 Beginning of process) Showing one clip slightly longer than the other on separate channels zoomed in to 1/4096 scale. Green area highlighted shows the area of difference
Fig. 6 – (01:02 Beginning of process) Zoomed out to 1/16 scale you can hardly see the difference in clip/region length
Fig. 7 – (03:05 End of process) Now you can see the process has developed and moved the clip/region on the right channel out of time, by roughly 1/12th note triplet
So the synths start off in time at 01:02 and move further out of time resulting in the phasing process similarly used in Reich’s Come Out.
Although the synth line doesn’t actually complete an entire revolution of the phase cycle, it still passes enough movement in and out of time to create the desired effect.
The way I used this technique is very subtle and goes un-noticed if you are unaware of it. I still listen to the track and forget it’s there, but I’m happy with the intended purpose, which was to build the synth’s intensity.
Other ideas used for Synth development – Filter, Distortion, Delay
To help develop intensity of the synth and keep interest I also automated some sends in the synth group (bus) to a couple of delays and some distortion. I also automated filters within the two iterations of the predator synths, which sit at separate sides of the stereo field.
Fig. 8 – Displaying filter, distortion and delay automation for the synth in Audio Example 2 above.
I have achieved constant movement and interest with this synth line by using phasing, filtering, delay and distortion.
This phase movement effect together with the exploration of (nearly) ‘out of time’ groove patterns is why I named the track Just In Time. [H]
5 – Polyrhythms
Polyrhythms: are essentially rhythms within rhythms, which are usually as a result of two counterparts with contrasting periodic meters (different tempos), played together. This is partially produced with the phasing process used on the synth line (as explained above), but this really isn’t the best example of this at all. It’s still good to be aware that’s what is occurring though.
I’ll be blogging about polyrhythms, hemiolas and cross-rhythms and how to apply them in your productions later on and I’ll be showing a few ways of achieving them. They are cool.
As a quick example… try applying this same effect to the rhythm section using larger separations in time so the process moves much quicker.
6 – Word Painting
Word Painting: – Conveying/representing the meaning of words through expression of a non textual format (i.e. music, art)
There’s a little bit of word painting I slipped in at 2:35, where Andy says the word ‘delay’. So I couldn’t resist popping in a quick delay-ay-ay-ay in there for fun and games. I did that just by quickly sending to a delay using automation.
Brief Mix Overview:
Drum mix – Needs more processing
Bass – Processing too messy and incoherent
No Saturation! – Hardly any used in this production. Need to research
Limiting – Hardly any used in this production. Need to research
NY Compression – Hardly any used in this production. Need to research
Overall Analysis/things to improve on:
I think the piece is OK. Not too bad. The mix needs more work and it’s too long. No saturation used at all really except for a little distortion. No parallel compression used either. I think I need to work on the structure as I received feedback saying it’s too long. Fair comment. I need to research playing in my own groove instead of just programming. Do it by hand using velocity sensitive pads.
James Utting – Mastering Ben Simmonett – Artwork
Andy Crowe – Vocals/Guitar
I have been a chef on and off since 2002, and when I make music I am constantly drawing parallels between the two. So I have decided to use this term ‘MEP’, which chef’s know is what you call the prep list. MEP stands for mise en place, which is french for ‘put in place’.
So get yourself a separate notebook, away from your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) and title it ‘MEP’, or ‘Prep list’, or whatever you like and add this to your list of things to prep before you start creating your music. (I am getting on really good with Evernote – Mike Monday recommended).
The more you prep, the easier your workflow is going to be. I highly suggest (if you haven’t already) to invest the time in thinking about what you can organise before you make your next piece of music and put in the extra effort to actually do those things that you think about doing every time you open your DAW, but never actually do. This is something I am mentioning from my own experience in creating music by the way, and I bet I am not alone, so I hope this helps somebody out there.
Whenever I do a blog that I think should be something to put on the prep list, I will label it [MEP] at the beginning of the title, so you know now where to find these.
Here are just a couple of example MEP blog’s to come…
– Saving channel strip settings…
– Organising samples
– Prepping Ableton for Live performance (production)
– Creating a DJ template in Ableton
KAT: WORD UP
I believe, and have found that since I have finally got a lot more things organised in (and out) of my DAW it has been majorly beneficial for many reasons. For example, one area in particular I have been working on hard this year, is really honing in my ’sound’. Now that I have got into the habit of knocking things off my prep list that have been on there for literally years, I have been able to create two or more pieces of music, which can keep focus on the same area of sound and production that I was exploring at that particular time.
Before this, I was making one piece of music, stopping for a while, opening a fresh new project, using different synths, sounds, samples, techniques, effects, processing and all other factors involved in making a piece of music. And there would be no real coherence at all from one piece to the next. I felt like I was not progressing in a logical way and it was massively frustrating.
So finally, after almost 7 years of making music, I feel that only now I amreally ready to start knocking out EP’s that show true musical (and sometimes conceptual) coherence and progression. This will all be documented here so I can look back on these pieces of work and remember where I was, what I was working on, how I have progressed and maybe go back and pull some ides out of for a new piece.
For tracks that I have released, here is my most recent example of an EP that has coherence in both sound and production technique.
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