30 Second Logic Pro Timesaving Tip

A short and sweet timesaver for all you Logic Pro users this week…

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Get a More Analogue Sound From Your Software Synths

Do you want your software to sound more like a classic analogue synth? Let’s look at a cool technique to help you achieve it…

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Pre Fader VS Post Fader Aux Channel Send & Return

Send and return channels are super handy for a lot of things, but do you know the difference between pre and post fader and what each is handy for?

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LFO and Modulation Shapes

This week’s Pocket Tip focuses on the different kinds of sounds you can get from changing the shape of your LFO or other modulation automator. Continue Reading

Quicker Editing in Ableton Live plus Free Slicing Preset!

This week’s Pocket Tip is a neat trick that will save you tons of time in Ableton Live. While we were making the guide I couldn’t help but play around with some of the things it made easier for me to give you guys a little gift on us – a super slicing preset! Carry on reading to download it free! Continue Reading

Jeremy Ellis’s Finger Drumming Tutorials

Finger drumming, or pad playing, or whatever you want to call it, is a skill that despite pads being so popular a feature on production gear very few people regiment themselves to practice with them in the same way they would another instrument. Jeremy Ellis is one of – in our humble opinion – the world’s leading finger drummers, and he’s keen to spread the love and help you guys out. Continue Reading

Filter Resonance

This week’s Pocket Tip is a look at how we can use filter resonance to change, subtly or dramatically, the character of a sound. Check it out, and as always let us know what you think!

 

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OD101: Get Started Making Music at Home Free!

It’s here! As a gift to all our members, OD101: a Free Foundation Course to Help You Begin Your Quest to Make Music at Home is now available for free download! Continue Reading

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…

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Smart Tips: Understand LFOs

From wobbling basslines to subtle, organic sounding sound morphing, the amount of uses an LFO has make it one of the most powerful oscillators on a synthesiser without it even making a sound. Let’s take a deeper look at how they work and how to use them…


First things first, LFO stands for Low Frequency Oscillator
. Unlike the other oscillators in a synth, which operate at frequencies conducive to generating sound, an LFO typically oscillates in single digit hertz. The goal of the LFO is to create a rhythm and shape by which other parameters on a synth or sampler are modulated; most LFOs have four main functions:

Destination. An obvious one, this: you need to create a link between the LFO and whatever parameter you want it to modulate. Some of the most common are pitch and filter cutoff, but different synths have varying parameters that the LFOs can control – from envelopes to oscillator mix and phase – that will fulfill your sound design cravings.

Shape. The shape of the waveform on the LFO defines how the target parameter will move; you can imagine the shape’s up and down movements as your hand adjusting the parameter, and the rhythm with which you do it is defined by the horizontal axis, representing time. Select a sine wave and the parameter will smoothly increase and decrease through its values, select a square and it will switch between them sharply. Many LFOs have crazy, arhythmic waveforms that can be used to create natural sounding changes in a sound.

Rate. Most LFOs allow you to switch between synced and non synced rates, and each is handy for different reasons. Rhythmical effects like wobbing synths are obviously better off synced to tempo, whereas when using an LFO to create surprising and naturalistic changes to a sound, the less of a distinguishable rhythm there is the better. Changing the rate of the LFO on the fly will give you that dubstep rhythmic wobble, and sweeping the rate of an unsynced LFO that’s also set to a weird and wonderful waveform will create a totally unpredictable sound.

Amount. The amount of movement of the parameter, from minimum to maximum, will depend on this dial. Typically, the point at which the parameter you are connecting to the LFO is set is the central point, and so a sine wave will make the parameter travel the whole peak upwards and whole trough downwards from where it is physically set. Some LFO amounts will allow you to set the minimum and maximum separately for even more control. For subtle effects, like for instance simulating unstable oscillator pitch, set the amount to very low. The higher you set the amount the wilder the effect will be.

Example: Wobble Bass

The infamous wobble bass sound is created by making a synth patch that has a low pass filter in its signal. When the low pass filter is static, there is a constant ceiling above which frequencies are deadened out.

Here’s our synth with the filter sitting still:

move it, though, and a sweeping effect occurs as we become aware of that ceiling moving and the tonality of the sound changes.

Rather than sit manually twisting the cutoff knob throughout an entire song, we can ‘attach’ the cutoff to the LFO, which will modulate it for us. Using a sine wave LFO will smoothly raise and lower the cutoff by an amount we specify, so all we have to do is dial the cutoff of the low pass filter to the ‘middle’ of the sound, and adjust the LFO amount to control how wild the sweeping effect is.

Low amount:

High amount:

Next we just set the rate of the LFO, and in this case we want to sync it to the track tempo so that we get a rhythmic wobbling sound. If we change the rate of the LFO as our bassline plays (making sure to get a healthy mix of straight timing and triplet timing to really emphasise the groove) we will be able to change our rhythm as we go!

There you have it; now you don’t just know how to get those wobbling sounds, you also know how an LFO actually works. Now you too can attract the ire of purists everywhere for using wobbling synth sounds in your productions – until they come back into fashion in six months, that is.

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