Soccer 96 – Soccer 96

Ah, the self titled LP. Check out this installment of Music We Love for our favourite debut of the week!

Comprising of two guys with some of the most ‘so bad they’re good’ names I’ve ever heard – Danalogue and Beatamax – Soccer96 are ostensibly an electronic act, but Beatamax is a ‘real’ drummer, which lends the self titled album more of an organic feel. It might not just be that; rather than sequencing and looping with MIDI and tweaking in a DAW until everything is just so, the guys prefer to play everything live, recording each track straight to tape.

This does give the LP a somewhat rough and ready sound, with levels bouncing around a little over its runtime, but it often serves to add to the energy and give the feeling leaning more toward live performance than sterile studio session.

Instrumentally the LP is bright and brash, with occasional soft underpinnings and hints at a little darkness lurking. Most tracks manage to combine all three of these aesthetics, not least Call to Arms, whose frenetic drum fills and bright polysynth chords are accompanied by an overdriven vocal and punctuated a deep, ripping bassline.

There are some interesting points sound design wise too – on EarthAttack it sounds like drums are going through a vocoder, and some serious gating and compression throughout helps the drums to feel right at home with the synthesiser dominated LP.

Check the video, check the album, give us your thoughts!

Ableton Live Beat Building Blocks with multiple MIDI Clips

Create a powerful personal song creation tool in Ableton Live with this Pocket Tip… Continue Reading

Better Drums with Group Mutes

This week we’re taking a quick look at how to make better and more realistic drums with group mutes. It’s not just drums that’ll benefit though, it makes a big difference for chopping things up hip hop style too – check it out!

numberlinefeat

Number Line Records – Sampler Vol. 2

When it comes to recommending new music – and that’s what our music posts are all about here on Oh Drat, we only post things we think will give you inspiration – there’s little better than a label sampler in our book.
[pullquote]Instead of one new artist, a label sampler is like a seed that branches out into a veritable harvest of new artists to get to know and love[/pullquote]
Instead of one new artist, a label sampler is like a seed that branches out into a veritable harvest of new artists to get to know and love, but a seed that continues to give after all the fruit from the current crop’s been plucked. Number Line Records is new to us, but we’ll certainly be keeping up with them from now on as their second sampler features a superb blend of electronic and acoustic artists, from the feedback swamped, reverb drenched guitar licks of Pious Kiss by Manuel Nicolas Alvero are perfectly underpinned by some electronic toms and cowbells, before drifting out into the ether. The change of pace with Tarsius’s housey Deathless Gods came at just the right time to assure me that the release would span both pace and genre, and following the grungey, garage band stylings of PNP’s Plant a Tree is another change of pace into a more acoustic themed, noisily mic’d, somehow tactile final third.

Oranges... good for an analogy

Quick Tips: Sound Consistent

Have you ever worried that your music just doesn’t have that sparkling sheen that the biggest and best seem to make so effortlessly in their productions? Today’s return to quick tips is a hint at an almost philosophical (don’t worry, we won’t forget that we’re here to help you make music!) tutorial that we’re planning, and we’ve got an important concept:

Our brains order everything relative to everything else vying for attention in a particular context.

When you’re given time to settle into a particular sonic quality, you appreciate the consistency

Take orange juice. If all you ever drink is concentrate juice, you’ll really notice a glass of freshly squeezed. Similarly, if you’re a connoisseur and never drink anything you’ve not seen pulverised with your own eyes, you’ll find the long life stuff pretty hard to swallow. However, keep drinking and soon enough you’ll stop noticing so much. It’s the initial change that’s the eye opener, and whilst your experience may be subconsciously better or worse, when you’re not being constantly given different types of orange juice… okay, it’s time to stop with the orange juice analogy. When you’re given time to settle into a particular sonic quality, you appreciate the consistency.

The best way to apply this concept is to accept your limitations – be they your own lack of experience and confidence with objectively ‘better’ sound quality or just your equipment’s weaknesses – and use them to set the bar. There are some great examples of this; Madlib’s Beat Konducta series has a sketchbook quality underpinned by the grainy, lo-fi sound of the Boss SP-303 and a portable turntable, and ‘giving in’ to the pumping compression and aliased samples rewards you with a raw, deep listening experience.

Here are three pointers (we’re working on more, as we said – but this is Quick Tips, after all) for achieving a sound that will help to provide a consistency that glues an EP, album, or even your entire sound, together:

  • Work from a pool of drums. Rather than picking fresh drums from multi-gigabyte libraries every time you start a project, try and resolve a go-to personal drum library. Listen to your favourite producers; most producers have – certainly for kicks and snares, if not more – a handful of drum sounds that they base the rest of their percussion around. Doing this will help to ground your drums in the same acoustic space in your productions, providing consistency in your tracks.
  • Bit crunch is your friend. Although it can be overused, a little bit of bit crunch can go a long way to smoothing out sounds and making things fit that little bit better. A quick A/B comparison with the bit crunching off will help you to establish whether you’re going too far; bit crunching is best utilised to soften the edges of sounds, making them less obviously from wildly different sources.
  • Choose your character with master EQ. When you make tracks, don’t worry too much about EQing an individual track to tick as many characteristics (‘deep bass’, ‘snappy snares’, crisp ‘hats’, and so on)  as you can, instead try to keep things fairly flat. Different dynamics, instruments, moods and so on will make the ‘perfect’ EQ for each track different, so it’s much better to EQ with an entire EP/LP on the table to see where you can join the dots, and to a certain extent let the material choose how it wants to sound.

Let us know what you think to this concept, and any of your own tips! Compression, both precision and creative uses, can also play a big part in creating your own coherent sound, but that’s another tip for another day…

batteryfull

Review: Native Instruments Battery 3.2

Battery has been around for a long, long time, and has survived more than one rationalisation of Native Instruments’ product line. Battery 3’s been hanging on in there with point releases for a couple of years now, and the recently landed 3.2 update adds in a few more features. We decided to take a look, and get a little refresher course on v3 as a whole while we were at it…


SPECS:

Windows (XP/Vista 7), P4 2.4GHz or Core Duo/Athlon64 min / OSX (10.5+) Core Duo. 2GB RAM.

 

PROS:
  • The best software, cell based sample player available
  • Huge library
  • Very nice onboard effects
CONS:
  • No synthesis
  • Sample pack support appears to be winding down
Price at Review: £149. Battery is the best at what it does, it’s mainly a shame that it doesn’t have a drum synth engine built in.

[like action=like]


As far as drum samplers go, Battery’s had the pleasure of sitting at the top of the pile more or less since its inception. Battery 2 didn’t mess with the original’s winning formula, and Battery 3 has also wisely stuck to the foundations of the software. That foundation is essentially a matrix of sample cells up to 16×8 in size (increased since version 2), which can load a wide variety of audio file formats into them ready for velocity layering, application of effects, and eventually triggering either in standalone mode or by your favourite sequencer. The interface itself is separated into said matrix, at the top, and an edit pane below. Selecting a sample cell brings up its editing options in the multi tabbed pane, and it’s these editing options that have been bolstered most in the 3, 3.1, and 3.2 updates.

velocity level editing is made really simple in Battery

Whilst Battery doesn’t support direct sampling, its sample editor is very powerful and if you’re used to a hardware drum sampler you won’t be disappointed, as sample level editing on a high resolution screen facilitates new levels of precision.Similarly, velocity level editing is made really simple in Battery, with visual cues and a mouse led design, and loop points (four per sample, no less) are very quick to define and set rules for.

Those of you who are still stuck to your hardware samplers for their ease of use and immediacy will find the improved MIDI learn and autoload two of the most useful additions to 3.1 and 3.2 respectively, opening up a much more modern workflow whereby a basic controller pairing is memorised by the software, trumping previous versions’ slightly awkward initial patch setup. Battery’s 16 outputs also come in handy for bussing out individual sounds to effects chains and groups, and with colour coding of cells a simple process, having Battery on a large monitor as opposed to a miniature (and often monochrome) display is a real boon.

Battery has a big library: 12GB of big. Within, you’ll find a huge variety of acoustic and electronic drum kits, and best of all a huge amount of acoustically recorded velocity layers for maximum realism. It’s not the only library you’ll ever need for drums, but it definitely covers most bases.

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drumkit

Smart Tips: Get More Realistic Drums!

Welcome to the first in our new regular series, Smart Tips! The idea of quick tips is to give you a little titbit of info and a little bit of inspiration between our more in depth tutorials.

When you’re programming drums, it’s easy to make a pattern that just doesn’t sound quite right, somehow… and it’s often down not so much to any rhythmical errors but more to do with what we associate with being ‘correct’ when it comes to drum sounds.

There are two very important things to bear in mind when it comes to programming drums:

  • How many hands and feet the virtual percussion section has
  • The physical attributes of the instrument that’s being hit
Waste of a great drummer?

To start with, let’s deal with the first point. If you’re creating a part for a standard western drum kit, then the assumption is that there are two hands with drum sticks in them and two feet for pedals. With this in mind, there’s no way that a high hat, a kick, a snare and a cowbell can all hit at exactly the same time. Similarly, if you are making a bongo part both skins and a rim all at the same time just won’t sound right. There’s an art to figuring out how to make a drum part as varied as possible in real life whilst accepting the fact that we’re not all Dr Octopus, and if you can simulate those decisions you should immediately hear a more realistic style to your drum patterns.

The second point requires an understanding of how the instruments you choose to use make their sounds and how we can simulate the same kind of response on our equipment.

  • As a basic example, take hitting a drum twice in quick succession. The second time we hit the drum, the natural decay of the first sound will be interrupted by the second sound.
  • We also need to consider instruments that can make more than one distinct sound, like a high hat. The short, sharp, closed high hat sound will interrupt the natural decay of an open high hat.
  • Thirdly, it’s extremely difficult to hit a drum exactly the same way consistently – especially for, for instance, a ride cymbal that will be constantly moving and thus nearly impossible to guarantee the exact same volume every time.
  • Finally, a drum kit takes up a fairly large amount of space, and so occupies more than one place in the stereo field.
Battery 3 has excellent voice group settings

In order to get sounds to cut themselves or each other, we use our sampler’s group and choke functions. Different samplers will require different methods to set groups up, and some (usually specialised drum samplers) are structured so that each individual slot can already mute itself, like Akai’s MPC series, and sometimes even a neighbour, like Reason’s Redrum. Because you can assign groups their own polyphony, putting your open and closed high hats in their own group and setting polyphony to 1 will allow them to cut each other out without affecting the rest of your kit. Some samplers also have ‘choke groups’, which do the same thing but don’t require polyphony to be cut.

When it comes to making samples make slightly different sounds, we have a few options. One option is to use an LFO to modulate the sound, and another probably preferable method – providing you have a keyboard/pad input device – is to use velocity so that you have complete control. Attach whichever you choose to volume, and voila.

The final point is such a simple but often forgotten tip, and that’s to give your drums some subtle stereo wideness. Maybe hats go a couple of clicks to the right, cymbal a couple to the left, and so on. Don’t forget that open and closed high hats need to be in the same place!

Now, go use these rules to make some more realistic sounding drums! And then break them all and make something crazy!

Rob Papen Punch

Rob Papen Releases Punch Drum Synth

There are two schools when it comes to drums in electronic music: sampling and synthesis. Each have advantages and disadvantages; perhaps chief amongst the pros for sampled drum libraries is the replication of real acoustic percussion, and for synthesised sounds its the purity and smoothness of modulation available.

Punch relies on synthesis to get its breadth of sound

Rob Papen’s Punch relies on synthesis to get its breadth of sound, and each percussive element has different generator models to choose from to create sounds. However there are also some sampled hits from classic drum machines, as well as unique samples from Papen’s own library, to round off the offering. Emphasis appears to be placed on speed of workflow in Punch, evidenced both by the quick control section for sounds that gives access to common sound design tools and the sequencer section, which is designed to enable very quick building of patterns and breaks.

Punch is out now from Rob Papen’s site; keep an eye out for our review soon and take a look at the extended introduction to its features below…

 

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