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In the jungle of free VST plugins, there are many gold nuggets to be found, if you know where to look. Some of the free plugins out there hold such a class that they could easily go for several hundred bucks. And there are a lot.

Firstly, we would like to give a big thanks to all the VST plugin creators out there, who are willing to give out their amazing work for free. If you see a donation button anywhere on their websites, buy’em a cup of coffee, will you? Given how advanced and thought-out some of these plugins are, they probably live on the stuff.

So, let’s dive in. Here are our Top 10 Free VST Plugins of 2019. These definitely sets the standard of how good and thought-out a free VST can be. Our collection features some newer and some older. But with all great classics, they hold the test of time. 

Let’s dive in!

1. Dexed (by Digital Suburban)

Modeled after Yamaha DX7, one of the best selling synths in history, this top 1 free FM-style VST synth is ready to get you cooking. Included are over a thousand classic DX7 presets, with sounds ranging from classic electronic pianos to powerful stabs and strings. You’ll probably recognize many of the sounds from your favorite 80’s tracks as this, again, was modeled after the go-to synth of that era.

Really, it started as a tool to be used with the original synth. However, this is such a good replica that stands on its’ own. With so many different knobs and options for customizability, this is a synth that you can tweak forever.

Easy, powerful and stable are three things that summarise this freeware goodie. Go get it.

See article: Top 5 Free Emulations of Famous Synths

2. MinimogueVA (by Voltkitchen)

Here we have another great emulation of a classic analog synth. This time, of the Minimoog. The Minimoog’s success was huge when it came out in the '70s. For starters, it was the first synthesizer created for the average consumer and the sound was just incredibly rich and powerful.

Used in tracks such as Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn”, Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love”, and Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”, it’s easy to see why this synth sound is loved by so many.

So, MinimogueVA. It’s an emulation but includes additional features not found in the original. To name a few, you now have a fully programmable digital delay, you can control the tuning of oscillator 1 (and fine tune oscillators 2 and 3) and have 3 overdrive sliders for each oscillator to make your sound even thicker.

This free synth sounds and behaves pretty much exactly like the original and is a must-have for every electronic producer. Deep, rich and yummy, and in our opinion best used for lead sounds and basses. Just beware that it might need some taming because of its’ power – the sounds take up a lot of space in the mix. 

3. TAL-Elek7ro (by Togu Audio Line)

This powerful virtual analog synth has pretty much everything you’ll need as an electronic music producer. How about two oscillators (saw, pulse, triangle, and sine) with hardsync and PW/FM. One sub oscillator (saw and rectangle), one noise oscillator, wide-range LFO’s (0.1Hz up to 400 Hz) and a super user-friendly interface?

Users report a very analog sound from this synth, more than many of its’ competing virtual synths that comes with a price tag. So this free option will definitely satisfy you who wants to create rougher, analog, old school sounds.

The only thing really missing, in my opinion, is extra effects and an arpeggiator. But you can always use separate plugins for that, DAW-included or purchased.

All in all, a great, easy and powerful synth for electronic music production.

See Article: Top 10 VST/AU Plugin Synths (2019)

4. iZotope Vinyl (by iZotope)

You know that crackly sound from old vinyl? Or the electrical hum in speakers, when an audio cable is not fully plugged in? Well, it’s funny. Turns out those audio distortions are in again.

Commonly heard in triphop and retro synthwave-style music, some cracks, and noises can really bring a track to life. We don’t know what it is, but there’s just something about the warm crackle of vinyl. Is it nostalgia? A sense of analog? Making digital sounds more “human”?

I don’t know. But for those of you who want to achieve this to your mix, look no further than iZotope Vinyl. Rather than layering different vinyl scratch samples, this plugin is fully customizable and does the job extremely well.

Apply it to certain instruments or your whole mix, and choose the amount of the following parameters:

  • Mechanical noise
  • Wear
  • Electrical noise
  • Dust
  • Scratch
  • Warp depth

The last option, warp depth sets the amount of spin down applied from the "Spin-Down" button below. That effect mimics what would happen to the sound of vinyl if you slowed it down manually until it stops. You know what I mean. But damn that’s cool.

 

You also have options for what decades you want to emulate, ranging from the 1930s up to 2000. There’s also an option for the number of RPM’s (of the “vinyl”).

Overall, a really cool plugin that can make the most digital sounds a bit more analog.

5. FerricTDS – Tape Dynamics Simulator (by Variety of Sound) 

Looking for a great free alternative to the expensive tape saturators out there? Well, look no further. FerricTDS is it. Inspired to simulate the dynamics and warmth of high-end reel-to-reel tape recorders, this wonderful plugin does this in three steps.

Firstly, it controls the dynamics by gently shaping the overall dynamic response of the sound. Then it adds extra harmonics with its’ great sounding saturation and finally, the signal peak is controlled by its built-in limiter.

These three knobs are of course yours to play with as you wish, for a subtle or strong tape effect.

So, this plugin does a lot of wonderful things to your sound. Simply put, you can say that it warms up, controls and shapes. Like a compressor, saturation, limiting and a tape recorder emulator all in one neat package.

The plugin also won the KVR Developer Challenge of 2009. It’s ten years ago but its’ quality still holds with time.

 

6. TAL-REVERB III (by Togu Audio Line)

Introducing the TAL-REVERB III, the top of the free plate reverbs. This little gem will wow you with its’ beautiful non-BS interface and brilliant sound.

To break it down, the plugin has 7 dials. The low- and high cut dials make for easy reverb mixing. The room size dial controls the duration of the reverb. A stereo width dial for easy stereo control (mono to full stereo) and a pre-delay dial which goes up to one second. The last two are simply dry and wet dials. Easy peasy.

With 10 factory presets to choose from it’s also good to go from the start.

The sound of the TAL is fantastic, and their goal of creating a colorless, maximal diffused plate reverb without digital artifacts is really heard. It’s smooth, shimmering and nice.

For a free reverb plugin, this is good stuff. Check it out.

7. Synth1 (by Ichiro Toda)

Synth1 is another great synth that was made as a replica of the popular Nord Lead 2. The two actually sound quite similar, but being that the Nord Lead 2 is about $15,000, it’s not a great surprise that it beats a free plugin in sound quality.

But the Synth1 is totally free. It’s pretty cool that you can get at least half the quality of an expensive, top hardware synth just an easy, free download away.

So, what do we have in the Synth1?

For starters, we have 2 oscillators (sine, triangle, saw, and square) with FM and ring modulation, sync and a modulation envelope. 4 types of filters, 2 LFO’s and an arpeggiator. Included are also various effects, a tempo delay, and stereo chorus/flanger. You’ve got legato and portamento mode plus 16 notes polyphony. Not too shabby.

It’s optimized for extremely light CPU usage and is a fantastic starting point for any new producer who wants the learn the basics in sound synthesis. And the sound in this synth is great.

All in all, a great freeware synth that I think everyone should try at least once. It does have a few sound glitch bugs when changing the knobs sometimes. But generally, it's pretty stable and does the job. Very well.

See Article: Top 10 Free Kontakt Libraries (2019)

8. BootEQ (by Variety of Sound)

BootEQ is another freebie who’s definitely up there competing with the big boys (top of the line, expensive plugins). It’s an SSL-style equalizer and pre-amp simulator, which “provides some nice and musical signal coloration effects” according to the product description.

The plugin is simple and easy to use with its’ four parametric and independent EQ bands and several classic sounding curves. You also have a drive-knob for saturation and two switches for vintage color and tube on or off. With a simple design, clear text and meter display, you can’t go wrong.

It colors the sound beautifully warm, but subtle and not over the top. To add some more life to dull life, or to fatten up sounds, this could easily be your go-to.

9. ValhallaFreqEcho (by Valhalla DSP)

The ValhallaFreqEcho is many things, along with being a staple plugin you must have in your library. It's both frequency shifter and analog-style echo, which in combination makes for a very psychedelic, trippy delay effect that feels like it's going in and out of your head.

Frequency shifting the delay output makes for some very interesting results. Used subtly, it passes as your everyday light chorus/flanger or doubler but used in excess, you've created something entirely new and out of this world.

If you’re looking for an experimental effect to spice up your psychedelic production, or simply want something to get your creative juices flowing, get this. Right now.

10. VB-1 (by Steinberg)

The 4 voice polyphonic VB-1 is a plugin you either love or hate. It’s not the best sounding bass emulations out there, but it's not trying to be either. Its' strength comes from its' incredible ease of use. You basically have 4 knobs (release, shape, damper, and volume), a picture of a bass guitar and a pick you can drag left and right for different sounds.

On its' own, the VB-1 doesn't sound fantastic. But I've found great use for it in creating basses for trance music. It produces a nice, basic bass signal that is brought to life with the help of some extra plugins. Throw in some EQ, saturation and bass boost and it's suddenly kicking.

Definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re into creating rolling trance basses.

Thanks for reading!

Check out our in-depth music production courses, for example: 

Watch example:

Stephan Bodzin Moog Bass Lead Sound with Arturia Mini V3 (Sound Design Tutorial) - YouTube

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Stephan Bodzin Moog Lead Bass with Sylenth1 (Overdrive, Sound Design, 4k) - YouTube

A More "Basic" Version

In this session above, Francois shows how to recreate a Stephan Bodzin Bass / Lead sound with Sylenth1 and Ableton and goes through different production and sound design techniques.

Resources / Files: 

Advanced Version 

We had a very helpful addition to creating typical Stephan Bodzin sounds by user "M4l731". Here's how he achieved the sounds - there's a soundcloud example in the end of the text - the text is quoted from a youtube comment and slightly edited:


"Let me put some more tips on how to get even more in the footsteps of Bodzin. At least bass-wise. First of all, the Bodzin-Bass is (almost) always very gritty.

Distortion (Grit)
You can archieve that by choosing a distortion unit that is a bit better suited for that than the Saturator. Just try some free vst's that distort, overdrive, saturate or tube-emulate that sound good and choose one that adds grit and dirt especially in the low-mid frequencies.

There are some vst-filter plugins that even add harmonics based on the filter-cutoff, which can give even more perfect grit.

Otherwise you can use the multiband-dynamic tool (or groupings of the same soundsource with equalizers on each channel that only lets the low- mid- or highband through) and put the distortion right after the low frequencies or even use different distortions on different frequency-bands. That is important to get quite subtle distortion in the highs to get rid off of the harsh highs while still keeping a gritty and rumbling low-mid area.

Choosing a synth that can feed back into its filter-section is also a good idea to thicken the sound.

Filter / Synth

The quality of the filter is very important as well. Bad filters equals bad frequency-transistions and it ruins your sound by coloring the sound in a (mostly) unwanted way.

Recommend is a quite transparent filter which has the option to feed back into itself and adds (different modules of) filter-drive if wanted.
Mono-Synths are quite handy for that because they usually already bring a more beefy sound (even raw oscillators) than most poly-synths.

Automation
To get the vibe and feel of the Bodzin sounds you should use quite a lot of automation or knob-turning. While Filter-Cutoff is the primary thing you want to play with (play with it like all the time, but hold it subtle and only open it completely up on characteristic portions of the track) there are a lot of things you want to modulate throughout a song.

Namely there are: Filter-Drive, Filter-Resonance, Filter Feed-Back, Glide(!), repitching individual oscillators (!), Detune, LFO's that modulate different things (!), Filter-Evenlopes and the Volume-Envelope, Keytracking and and and. Simply modulate everything and you will quickly hear what Bodzin modulates throughout a track. Stack automations over each other to achieve even more spectacular moments and so on.

Keep it subtle with the reverb. With all that distortion you don't want to mud up your mix, better stick to delay and go a bit crazy with that one.

And of course: If you really want the Bodzin-Sound...buy a moog :D

Example

If interested, here is something I've made a long time ago as I was a little bit "obsessed" with that moogy sound. No hardware was used though.
It has no musical aspiration and was just a journey through lots of gritty distortion, filter sweeps, big chords and lots of modulation.
I've made use of the things I explained above and while it's not based on any specific sound of Bodzin, my goal was to recreate that moogy and gritty feeling his sounds have.
The beginning of it is quite boring, the second half is where the ear-candy happens :)"

Listen to example on soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/m4lte-1/legend-poly-sdrr-drop

Plugins used: Legend Vst Poly + SDRR + Drop Vst

 

Learn More 

Learn producing melodic techno like a pro:

6h+ Course: Producing an Analog Melodic Techno Track from Start to Finish in Ableton

Intro & Hello - "Analog" Melodic Techno Track From Start To Finish - YouTube
 

 

Keywords: melodic techno session ableton live, massive, francois, techno production, sub 37, moog, zulu lead sound, zulu bass sound, bodzin analog bass style, boiler room style, ableton

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In this article we’re going to make an awesome Ableton instrument in Operator. We’ll go through all you need to know to make this patch even if you’re new to Operator. Here’s the patch we’re going to make:

 

Deep Pad - SoundCloud
(18 secs long, 43 plays)Play in SoundCloud
You can download this patch & MIDI progression here for free. Required: Ableton 9.5+ Suite

 

Let’s get started!

Let’s load up Operator onto a MIDI track. Here’s what it looks like by default:

Now let me explain in short Operator’s UI. On the left of the device there’s four oscillators (they generate the sound). Then, the sound can be modified by using some of the sections on the right (LFO, Filter, Pitch etc). The center pad always shows the details of a selected section.

Before we begin make sure to deactivate the Filter section (2nd on the right, you deactivate things by clicking the orange buttons on the left of the sections)

 

1. Oscillators

If you click on the A section on the left, you’re shown that our current oscillator is a sinewave. Click on this dropdown menu and select Saw64:

 

 

That will change our oscillator type to a saw wave. For this pad sound we’re going to use three oscillators - A, B & C.

Let’s do the same thing for the B oscillator - select the B section but this time change the waveform to Sq16.

 

 

For the C oscillator we’re going to use white noise.

 

Now the synth is going to sound terrible, because by default Operator routes oscillators one into another, which modifies their shapes. (That’s called FM synthesis.) To make the oscillators play independently you need to click on the fourth section on the right:

 

Now the colorful boxes are stacked on top of each other - that means we’re routing one into another into another. If we select the last mode on the display (1), it’s going to switch to independent mode (2).

 

 

Now let’s turn down the level of B & C oscillators:

 

 

The synth should sound like this by now (still quite unpleasant)

Naked Oscillators - SoundCloud
(2 secs long, 43 plays)Play in SoundCloud

 

2. Filter

Now we’re going to apply a filter to take out the harsh sounding high frequencies. To do this turn on the second section on the right by clicking this box:

 

 

Also choose the „Low SVF” filter shape. It’s a lowpass filter - it cuts out frequencies above the filter frequency.

If you move the Freq knob the synth should sound like this: 

Filter Cutoff Fun - SoundCloud
(8 secs long, 33 plays)Play in SoundCloud

 

3. Effects

Now we’re going to add in some effects to spice up the sound.

First I’m going to add a compressor to even out the volumes. With higher filter cutoff positions we’re letting in more frequencies, what makes the overall signal louder. To prevent this I added a compressor with a low threshold (-40 dB), standard attack (2 ms) and a ratio of 2.5:1.

Compressed - SoundCloud
(18 secs long, 15 plays)Play in SoundCloud

 

 

Then I added a Chorus to give the synth more stereo width.

Chorused - SoundCloud
(18 secs long, 19 plays)Play in SoundCloud

 

 

The last effect on this synth is a reverb with a higher than default decay time (3.5 sec)

Reverb - SoundCloud
(18 secs long, 17 plays)Play in SoundCloud

 

 

Now I selected all of the devices on the track (select the Operator, hold Shift, select the Reverb) and clicked Cmd+G to group it inside an Instrument Rack:

 

 

I wanted to have all my controls in one place, so I opened up the Macros (3) and mapped a few parametres by clicking Map (1), clicking the parameter (green area on a device) and clicking Map (2) under the macro knob.

 

 

The parameters I mapped are:

 

- The Freq knob in Operator’s Filter section 

 

- The compressor’s Threshold 

 

- Chorus’s Dry/Wet knob 

 

- Reverb’s Dry/Wet knob

 

 

Deep Pad - SoundCloud
(18 secs long, 43 plays)Play in SoundCloud

 

That’s all I did for this instrument! Remember that you can download this patch & MIDI progression for free here. Good luck with your operator sound design!

  

k-pizza

I’m a music maker who likes to share his experiences with other producers. I’m regularly going to show up with music and content at PML.

Listen to my music: https://souncloud.com/k-pizza

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Ableton Live’s new update has plenty of new features, from which we chose our top 5. Let’s dive right in!

1. Freezing tracks with sidechain compression

When using CPU-heavy synth patches, freezing tracks is a life-saver. However, if only you used sidechain, this option was unavailable. There used to be two workarounds. You could record onto another audio track, which was very time-consuming. Another technique was to ”group” the track, put sidechain on the group and freeze the source track. Now it’s possible with a simple click of a mouse. This simple-but-useful solution is going to save you a lot of time when running out of CPU!

See article: Top 10 New Features in Ableton Live 10

2. User wavetables

Wavetable turned out to be an awesome synth, but it didn’t come close to Xfer SERUM because of the lack of this function. Now that it’s possible, it becomes a very powerful alternative with a completely different sound. All of the sudden this synth becomes the most powerful native Ableton instrument. With all its functionality, it’s suitable for almost all genres (even dubstep), and is not very CPU intensive, which its big advantage in comparison with SERUM.

See article: Wavetable synth in Ableton Live 10 Explained - All Features + Examples

3. New audio effects: Delay & Channel EQ

Have you ever thought that Simple Delay and Ping Pong Delay are too similar to be separate effects? Ableton now features a new effect with the functionality of both. There’s separate delay settings for left and right channels and a filter control, just like in the old effects. As for new features, the filter now has LFO modulation. The previously ”hidden” functions, such as Repitch, Fade and Jump, are now exposed on the main display. There’s also an infinite feedback option.

There’s also a new 3-band equalizer. ”Channel EQ” also features a handy display, a highpass filter and a gain control.

Check out article: The 10 Best Ableton Audio Effect Tricks

4. New automation features

Now you can choose from a palette of automation shapes, just like in FL Studio. These shapes, like sines, squares or saws, can be modified with stretching and skewing functions. You can also draw in automation in Arrangement View with the ”pen tool”. Breakpoints can now be adjusted by typing in values, which is useful if you want to be super precise — right click on the brakepoint and select ”Edit Value”.

See Article: 10 Pro Ableton Audio Effect Tricks #2

5. New zooming options

Zooming used to be tricky in Ableton Live, but now, thanks to the new keyboard shortcuts, it’s easier. You can use shortcuts for pinch zooming and zooming out. Another nice feature is the resizable ”Arrangement Overview” window — you can make it bigger for easier navigation.

Thanks for checking out this article!

k-pizza

I’m a music maker who likes to share his experiences with other producers. I regularly show up with tutorials, articles  & project files at PML.

Skype lessons with me: http://bit.ly/pml_s_one2one

 

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Remixes are a great way to piggyback on the popularity of already established artists or popular tracks and increase your reach as a music producer. It also allows you to express yourself as an artist by adding your own personal touch and adding something fresh.

There are certain aspects that you need to be aware of before you start, though. To get the most out of your remixes and avoid burning bridges with artists and labels, we’ve listed eight things that you need to pay attention to.

1. Pick the right track

There are several criteria that you have to take into account when remixing.
First, what do you want to achieve?
Many producers choose to unofficially remix popular songs for the “piggyback effect” that it generates. You could try to pitch the artists or record labels to see if you can make your remix official, but it’s going to be quite tricky to make an official remix of Another Brick in the Wall.

You’ll have to see if there’s any popular remix in your genre so that you don’t end up repeating someone else’s vibe. Use Soundcloud or Youtube and simply search for the original song plus the word “remix”. Maybe you are remixing a popular song so that it is more suitable to be played in a club. Maybe you want to delve into a different genre.

2. Determine if you want to do an official remix

If you listen to electronic music, you’ve surely come across terms like remake, edit, rework, bootleg, unofficial or VIP.
All these terms indicate anything but an official remix. Most of the times, unofficial remixes are made simply by ripping parts of the song to create a modified version or something significantly different than the original.

If you’re opting to do an official remix, it’s important to know that the song that you want to remix has two essential copyrights: the song copyright and the master recording.
The master recording is the end product that comes out of your DAW (the output). The song itself (the input) is the intellectual property of the songwriter. A remix is a by-product of the original and you will need permission from the songwriter to publish it and use it commercially.

Btw, see this video tutorial on making a remix for inspiration.

3. Know how to pitch for remixes

Pitching for remixes can seem daunting, especially for beginners. Why would a label or an artist agree to send you a song’s stems? Actually, the real question is “What’s in it for them?” Think of your genre. Is it popular enough for them to consider adapting a song to it? Is your fan base big enough to be worth mentioning? Do you have any other way you promote your music? You get the picture. The key is to center your pitch around what you’re going to bring on the table.

4. Add originality by creating your own chord progression for the remix

There’s nothing like a touch of artistry to showcase your fine taste in music and bring something new to a song. Try to create your own genre-specific chord progression and make sure you stay in the scale that correlates with the key of the song.

5. Be careful not to ruin a song

Okay, not trying to be a hater, but some songs are better left untouched if you can’t handle them. You can mash up a beat with a theme from a popular song, but you would be left with just the original song and a beat on top, nothing more. Make sure your remix is more than that.

Looking for ways to write progressive house? Maybe you'd like to make a remix in that style? See this video.

6. Add your own musical signature

Having your own style as a music producer is important because it reflects your own personality and artistic expression. Your listeners are more likely to remember you if your tracks are cohesive and bear your distinct personal imprint. You’ll want that to be obvious in your remixes as well.

7. Pay attention to mixing and mastering

You may come with a truly great idea for a remix, but if the mixing and mastering sound off, professionals will quickly pass you down. Popular labels and artists receive a huge amount of pitches and demos which they have to quickly sort out. Labels handle the mastering, so you should make sure that the mixdown is done right. If you’re sending your remix directly to the artist, you’ll have to send it properly mixed AND mastered. If you’re unsure of your mixing and mastering skills, then consider getting your track mixed and mastered by a professional sound engineer. Remember to keep your mix clean and avoid overcrowding sounds that don’t even match. Try to give each sound its own role in the mix.

8. Be patient Don’t be too hasty in getting a remix finished. When it comes to inspiration, you can “force yourself” to come up with new ideas, but trying too much is counterproductive. Maybe the way you’ve started out seemed alright in the beginning, but down the road you know that you could have approached things differently. When it comes to remix contests, it really doesn’t matter if you’re the first or the last to submit. You can try doing multiple versions of the remix and see which one resonates with you the best.

Now that you know what you should and shouldn’t do when remixing, it’s time to actually do it. Choose a track and see if you can get the stems or if there are any parts from which you can extract some main elements yourself. Reinterpret the track, ideally by changing the genre.


Thanks for reading this article, good luck with your remixes!

Check out our Arrangements course:
How to Arrange THE DROP in Electronic Music - Lesson out of Arrangement Course - YouTube

 

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One of the most common struggles of a music producer is to create a sense of vibrant, realistic depth in a track. It usually comes together with the feeling that “this could be done way better”. Maybe you’ve had to endure comments like “your track sounds too flat” or “that’s way too two-dimensional” on your creations.

You’ve probably realized that you need to work on your depth-creating abilities when producing music, but how and where do you start? You probably already know that reverbs emulate the echoing acoustics of different spaces… but throwing a bunch of reverbs in randomly doesn’t quite seem to do it. What exactly is depth? How can we even perceive the depth of sounds?

Many questions… but we’re here to assist you in creating awesome depth. Let’s dive right in with 5 steps to create depth in your mix.

1.Contrast

Having contrast in your track is vital for depth. Picture this…

It’s a beautiful, sunny day in early summer. Your legs are sore, but with the promise of an amazing view, you push the last distance up the great hill ahead. Finally, you reach the summit. The lush forest and sturdy mountains seem to go on endlessly… You close your eyes for a few seconds to soak in the view.

Now imagine you take out one of the trees that you saw from a great distance and put it in an endless Matrix-like white room with nothing else in it. With no recollection of its’ distance from the summit, would you still be able to assess how far it is?

For all you know, it could just be a very small tree, very close to you. Or it could be absolutely massive. Without anything to compare it too and without depth, you can’t assess size.

How exactly does this apply to music production?

Imagine if you, in your new track, only used sounds that are upfront and in your face. It could sound pretty nice, but without any effects, there would basically be no audible depth. The track would just sound try and two-dimensional.

Take that same track and add some reverbs. Now we have another diffused dimension that feels like it’s “behind” your dryer sounds. Going a step further, what if you edit some of the sounds in your arrangement to sound like they are further back in the mix? Mixing these two types of sounds would create contrast and depth.

See article: 10 Mixing Mistakes To Avoid

2.EQ

The frequencies of sounds change depending on their distance. A human voice heard in front of you will have different frequency spectrum than the same voice heard from a hundred meters.

Here’s a simple rule of thumb:

  • Sounds heard from a close distance: more high and low frequencies. Higher frequency sounds are generally perceived as "closer".
  • Sounds heard from a far distance: less low and high frequencies, generally in the mid frequency zone.

If lead sounds and lead vocals should be at the forefront of your mix, these should be brighter and more distinct than the rest of the sounds.

Let’s say you have a sweeping pad sound that’s playing simultaneously to your lead instrument/vocal. The pad should have less high frequencies to create the illusion that it’s sitting "behind" your lead instruments.

You may use a lowpass filter to remove some of deep low-end, and use a highpass filter and remove some high-endIt could look something like this:

Position your instruments

Using this technique, the pad gets a secondary focus. Your lead sounds and percussion will now dominate your high-end and stay positioned at the forefront. The pad will sound as if it’s further back.

Bonus tips:

  • You can control the illusion of depth by how much low and highs you cut
  • There are no limits to sounds you can apply this too – experiment!
  • Don’t forget to remove harsh peaks and do the usual “EQ” work
  • Combine this technique with reverb or delay effects for the greatest realism 

See article: Mixing in Mono: Why & Why Not

3.Reverb

Reverb is probably the effect that pops into your head first when thinking about creating depth in your mix. You’re absolutely right – reverb is the effect for creating virtual spaces in your mix. This directly affects perceived depth.

What is reverb?

If you’ve played around in Ableton Live (or yelled something in a huge space), you probably know what the typical reverb effect sounds like.

It’s a reflection of sounds of different spaces. The reverb effect in music production is re-creating this sound phenomenon, most commonly by using mathematical delay-type algorithms. The effect distorts and reflects the audio signal in the sound characteristics of various rooms.

For example (using Ableton’s reverb as an example)…

A Small Room reverb has the following characteristics:

  • Decay time: 850 ms
  • Size: 3.00
  • Predelay: 10.0 ms

A Large Hall reverb has the following characteristics:

  • Predelay: 65.0 ms
  • Decay time: 2.80 s
  • Size: 80.00

The numbers in the larger hall reverb are a lot higher for all these settings.

What do these settings mean anyway?

Decay time

The decay is the time it will take for the reflections to stop. If you set a long decay time, the reverb reflections will be heard for longer, which simulates a larger space. A shorter decay time simulates a smaller room because the reflections die out quicker in a small space.

Size

It means, as you probably could have guessed, the size of the room. The lowest value of 0.22 means the smallest room, equal to a tiny bathroom. The highest of 500.00 means a huge cathedral.

Predelay

Predelay means how long it takes for reverb to be heard. Imagine you are standing in an extremely large church, shouting “HEY!”. The echo will not be heard instantly but will be a bit delayed due to the mere size of the space. It will take a while for the sound to bounce.

How to use reverb in your mix

Can you just throw random reverbs on the sounds in your mix and call it a day? Well, you can, but in order to create the best depth in your mix, you really shouldn’t. Reverb needs a bit of planning before-hand.

Match your reverbs to your story

Say, for example, you want to create a track with a huge sound stage. Epic strings, heavy battle drums, and a deep piano to accompany it. Long, large reverbs are probably the best route to go, as thin, subtle reverbs wouldn’t quite portray the feeling.

When using reverbs to create depth in your mix, do this:

  • Start off with the basics, then experiment
  • Group your reverbs – use the same reverb for similar sounds (guitars for example)
  • Consider what feeling you want to convey,
  • Use reverb sparingly, don’t soak everything in reverb
  • Having both dry and reverb-heavy elements makes for a nice contrast
  • Use reverb buses for maximum control – don’t clutter reverbs
  • Equalize and sidechain your reverbs to fit better in your mix

See Article: 5 Essential Mixing Tips

4.Delay 

The delay effect repeats your chosen audio signal. It plays the signal back, often in a rhythm matching the tempo of your track. It usually comes with a few settings.

Most delays can be set to beats like 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, 1/32 and have an option for choosing milliseconds is often included. A delay can also, depending on the model, distort and twist the repeated signal for a more experimental result.

How to use delay in your mix

Similarly to reverbs, you should use different settings in different contexts.

It depends on:

  • Types of sounds and instruments used
  • How huge you want your mix to be
  • What feelings you want to convey to the listener

There are some very specific delays that sound amazing on the instruments they are intended for…

Slapping delays

Slappers are very short delays, with little to no feedback, that add both depth and extra energy to your sounds. These are often used very subtly as a way to make a signal less dry, without impacting the dry sound too much. The result is a more fluid, spacious sound that fits better in the mix.

Longer delays

Tape and analog style delays are amazing for a more trippy space effect. Commonly used as long delays, in beats ranging from 1/2 to 1/16, they are great for sounds you really want to echo into the depth of your mix.

For most delays, except slap delays with are better left a bit off-beat, experiment with how the delay fits in with your tracks rhythm. See if 1/8 sounds better than 1/4, and don’t forget triplets. If your track is straight 1/4, triplets can really add an extra dimension to the groove, filling in the rhythmic gaps.

When using delays to create depth in your mix, do this:

  • Use delay buses to leave your original audio signal intact
  • Try side chaining your delays to your kick drum and/or other sounds
  • Automate your delays to change things up
  • Be mindful of how your delay plays into your groove
  • Use the low and high pass filters of your delay to shape the sound
  • Try a subtle slap delay on your guitars and vocals

See article: 5 Tips For A Better Mix

5.Space

What we mean with “space” is that in order to create depth in your mix, you have to be able to hear it. At least sometimes. Full mixes with many different sounds are great, but sometimes it can be hard to make out space without having any silence. Having a part where only a few instruments play is a great way of creating space and ultimately depth in your mix.

Do this to create space:

After your tracks highest peak, remove some of the instruments and give the listener a sense of the space in your mix. Let your reverbs and delays fully ring and show off that sweet contrast of yours. For the best effect, make sure you leave something at the forefront of your mix for comparison, maybe a hihat or a kickdrum.

To summarize…

In order to create depth in your mix, follow these steps:

  1. Create contrast – use both sounds that are up-front and in the back for great depth.
  2. Use equalizer – equalize your sounds with depth in mind.
  3. Reverb – use reverbs to create virtual spaces in your mix.
  4. Delay – use delays to add depth and rhythm.
  5. Space –space makes the listener aware of the space and depth of your mix.

Now you have the 5 ultimate steps to create depth in your mix. Get out there and create some deep mixes!

Check out our in-depth music production courses, for example: 

Watch intro:

How to Mix a Track with the Best Plugins Available - Full Course - YouTube

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One might say that there’s no mistakes when producing electronic music, as long as it sounds good. However, when giving feedback to fellow producers, I find myself noticing the same things I don’t like over and over. I thought I’d list these issues in an article, so that you guys make sure you’re not making these ”mistakes”. I’m also going to include techniques of dealing with these problems, which should greatly impact the sound of your tracks. Let’s get started!

1. Overproducing

I’d say that the most frequent mistakes producers make is producing without a strong core idea. It could be the catchy harmony or amazing drumming, outstanding sound design or just the awesome vibe of your track. I think you should go into making your track with a certain approach which is suitable for the genre you’re trying to make. Otherwise you’re going to end up stacking tracks and overproducing a weak idea.

The best tracks are often made of fewer elements than you think. In fact, very rarely are there more than 5 core elements playing at one time in a track. The most basic track structure is a kick, a snare, a percussion element, a bass and a lead sound. However, with the possibility of adding countless new tracks in your DAW, you might get tempted into doing too much.

If you feel like you have too many tracks in your project, it might be because you're overproducing. The screenshot above is a typical EDM project file.

I find that the best approach is to learn to distinguish between the different elements of electronic music and to make your music with a constant focus to these key elements. This way even if you’re going to create many tracks, you’ll still be able to easily distinguish between the core of what’s going on. I’d rather listen to a few well produced elements than hear fifteen FX samples over a weak core of the track.

Check out another "10 mistakes" blog post!

2. Getting lost in advanced stages of production

Have you ever made something cool, gotten excited by it and tried to polish that idea, just to find out that you’ve been messing in a synthesizer for an hour? You may have made your idea sound a bit better, but you’re still far from a full track arrangement, and the initial excitement has evaporated leaving you frustrated with a half-baked idea.

Same goes for other aspects of production. You may get lost trying to layer samples, trying to compress the drums or adjusting the levels. To avoid this situation, keep your cool when producing and don’t get too excited by a good idea. When starting a track, focus on each element for just a while. I find that the best tracks are made as a result of a series of quick and good decisions. Try to also limit yourself to fast moves only. Focus on the track as a whole, don’t try to make each move super precise.

3. Getting stuck in a loop

We’ve all been there. You made a cool loop, but there’s way too few elements for a full track, and you have no idea what sections should the arrangement consist of. There’s two things you can do.

First, you should know your genre. This means you should know what sections a typical track in your genre consists of and what elements play in each of these - remember, there’s rarely more than 5 at one time. To make this easier, you could import a reference track into the arrangement, warp it and map out sections using time markers. In most genres, copying the sections order from another track is no sin at all. If you need help with warping, here’s a tutorial to help you.

Here's what a bare-bones EDM arrangement looks like. 

Now you need more elements to fill out your arrangement. You may or may not need to come up with a different chord progression, depending on the genre you’re making. If the reference track is not much of a rollercoaster, you may even do fine with making just slight variations of the initial loop elements and spreading them out across the arrangement. Modern genres however frequently feature new elements in each new section. 

Check out the article: 5 Ways to Get Better Using Project Files

4. The BPM

This one is too simple to get wrong. It’s not easy though! When starting a track, you may start from a ”default” tempo, i.e. 128 BPM. As you produce, you should adjust the tempo, but I find that most times I forget about it. The ears adapt to the tempo quite quickly, even if it’s off. At the end of making a track, you should always check if a faster or slower tempo doesn’t make the track better. You may want to have a break from the track just to refresh the ears. Often times I find that my track’s too slow and I need to speed it up a bit.

 

 

5. The key

It’s not as easy as it seems to stick to one key. The more tonal samples and loops you use, the harder it becomes, as samples come in various scales. It’s easier if the tonal centre is included in the name of the sample, but that’s not always the case. To combat this problem, I frequently use the Tuner audio effect to figure out what note the samples are playing. It gets more tricky when the samples include multiple elements. In that case I either isolate frequencies with EQ before checking it with the Tuner, or I rely on the ears and try to match it to a key using a simple instrument.

It doesn’t always need to be done though. If some samples come from very distant keys, they might sound more interesting without transposing. It may take a long time to match the tonal centres of the samples correctly and the samples may sound completely different when pitched.

If you’re struggling with keeping to one key when writing progressions and melodies, check out this freebie with ready-to-use Ableton scales!

6. The harmony

Too little harmony and your track sounds boring, too much harmony and it’s too complex. It’s essential to know how much harmony is needed in your genre. Very often I come across tracks, which have a very complex arrangement, but there’s barely any harmonic elements. It may be very subtle and repetitive, but harmony is necessary to keep the listener engaged. 

Check out article: 5 Ways to Write a Melody

7. Excitement

Another thing I notice frequently is dull-sounding synths. This can easily be fixed using OTT, EQ (boosting the highs) or saturation. It happens especially when you make your own synths, presets often use some kind of excitement. A classic example of synths that need excitement are future bass supersaws. These monsters usually use upper harmonic synth layers and OTT. Brighter tracks also result in tracks being perceived as louder.

Check out article: 5 Pro Ableton Audio Effect Tips 

8. Stereo

Everybody knows what stereo is, but using it properly isn’t common knowledge. While panning is pretty obvious, stereo enhancement is a subject with a lot of myths floating around. Most producers know that bass should be kept mono, but even that is not a rule of thumb.

First of all, a stereo image is created when there’s difference between the left and right channels. It could be a difference in pitch (for example when using unison in a synth) or in time (for example when using delay or reverb). The lowest frequencies most times are kept mono, so that they can be played on mono subwoofers. Higher frequencies however may be wider without issues. Some instruments may be wider (pads, synths), while others may be kept in the center (kick, leads, vocals)

Making something mono is as easy as turning down the stereo knob in Utility. Widening is trickier, but the easiest technique is using the Haas effect - it’s in our freebies section.

 

 

9. Loudness and clipping

The loudness war’s been over for some time now, yet I still see producers limiting their tracks like crazy. These loud masters are simply turned down in volume by most streaming services. As a result these tracks don’t sound any louder than other tracks and are less dynamic because of the limiter. When mastering, keep the loudness in moderation.

Here's a useful chart on LUFS (loudness) levels for streaming platforms. More in the article here.

A weird thing I noticed is that plenty of producers believe that internal clipping between Live’s native devices. I’ve tested it and can say with certainity that that is not true. You may get clipping on the master track or between plugins which don’t handle loud signals well. Most times, tracks’ volume may go red with no consequences at all.

10. Not using monitoring tools

When mastering you should rely mostly on your ears, but monitoring tools can help you immensely. Loudness meters allow you to measure not only the peak levels of the master, but also give you an overall loudness index. Stereo imaging plugins allow you to visually see the stereo image when comparing it to the reference tracks. You may also find it helpful to preview your track in the MP3 format - Izotope Ozone allows you to do that using the ”codec” function.

Thanks for checking out this article!

k-pizza

I’m a music maker who likes to share his experiences with other producers. I regularly show up with tutorials, articles  & project files at PML.

Skype lessons with me: http://bit.ly/pml_s_one2one

 

Course Info: Mastering from Start To Finish - YouTube

 

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Thanks to artists like Flume, supersaws have become a very popular sound in EDM. Making a great supersaw isn’t as easy as choosing a saw wavetable and cranking the Unison. There’s a lot of tricks you can use to make that sound more exciting. In this article I’ll show you what you can do inside Xfer Serum to make your supersaw stand out.

1. Use both oscillators for different octaves

Serum has two wavetable oscillators, so I like to use one for lower frequencies and transpose the second oscillator one octave up. I use the B oscillator for rich, harmonic frequencies, while the A oscillator makes sure there’s enough lower frequencies. 

2. Use „Stack” for upper harmonics

„Stack” is a hidden Serum function in the „Global” tab. It allows you to transpose some unison voices up and down, so that one oscillator plays more than one octave. I like to use this option on the B oscillator to create rich upper harmonics. The „12 (1x)” setting transposes some unison voices up one octave and creates very nice harmonics.

Stack off:

Stack Off - SoundCloud
(13 secs long, 273 plays)Play in SoundCloud

Stack on: 

Stack On - SoundCloud
(13 secs long, 256 plays)Play in SoundCloud
 

Looking for more general sound design tips for Serum? Check out this article.

3. Use „Bend +” warping to make sawwaves square-ish

Sometimes it’s nice to change the sound of the sawwave into more of a square wave. There’s an easy way of doing it - pick „Bend +” in the warp selector on an oscillator and adjust the warp knob. If you want to apply more warp settings now, you can use the „Render Oscillator” option from the Menu in the upper right corner of the synth.

4. Use „Sync” warping to create upper harmonics

If I’m in need of even more upper harmonics on the B oscillator, I throw in some „Sync” warping. Low „Sync” values are perfect for adding harmonic content. Combine this with the „Stack” option and there may be no need to add a noise oscillator - Osc B alone is going to create enough high frequency content. 

Check out this video on how to make Future Bass like a pro.

5. Use Multiband Compression

Serum’s Compressor has a „Multiband” mode, which is great for adding „OTT”-type compression to supersaws. Here’s how to use it. First, crank the „Mix”. I like to work with the Compressor while fully hearing what it’s doing. I keep all other knobs other than the „Threshold” all the way down. This way the Compressor isn’t actually compressing the sound much, it’s just giving the supersaw a bit of extra character. Now all you need to adjust is the first „Threshold” knob - mess around and achieve a sweet spot for yourself.

6. Map „Envelope 1” to the „Mix” knobs on FX

Some effects, like Dimension may give you unwanted delays. To avoid that, you can simply map Envelope 1 to the Mix knob. Env 1 controls the volume of the synth, so it should cut off any unwanted delays after the release time. You can use this function even with Reverb - sometimes it’s nice to add a splash of wide reverb, but to avoid the reverb tail, you can use this tip. 

7. Add character to the sound by using Chorus and Flanger

If you’re in need of an original sound, try using Chorus or Flanger. Chorus can give you a wide, detuned sound, while Flanger can be used to add a bit of wobbly spark to high frequencies. These effects, used in moderation, may have a very nice impact on the sound. 

8. Add Hyper and Dimension to make the sound bigger

Hyper is an effect which can multiply the sound into a few unison voices and detune them. This can result in a very big and detuned sound, but if you don’t go crazy with the Rate and Detune, you can actually improve your supersaw by a lot. Dimension is pretty similar - it works by adding short delays to the sound. Keep the Size low and map Env 1 to the Mix knob to avoid hearing delay.

Check out this video on making the future bass synth from Mura Masa's "Firefly".

9. Use subtle Delay to add Haas effect

This tip is very optional, because there may be no need to add width to your supersaw if you’ve already made it big with other effects. If in some case your supersaw is still not wide enough, try to add Haas effect with Delay. Keep the Feedback all the way down and turn off BPM & Link. Now delay one channel by a few milliseconds more than the other one. If the effect is set to „Normal” and you’ve picked enough frequencies with on the filter panel, you should hear your sound get wider as you turn up the Mix.

10. Use EQ to polish up the sound

Serum’s EQ may not be the greatest EQ ever made, but it’s certainly useful for supersaws. All you pretty much need is two curves - one highpass curve to cut excess low end, and another one to boost high frequencies. This step is very important - most supersaws boost the high end by a lot. Excess low end may also need to be removed, so that it doesn’t clash with the bass, or to make the supersaw sound a less heavy.

Bonus tip: Boost high frequencies with Filter’s lowpass curve

Sometimes I find that the Filter’s lowpass curve is ideal for adding very nice, airy top end. I like to choose the „MG Low 6” curve, go all the way up with the Cutoff and adjust the Resolution. This gives me a lot of control over how airy the synth is.

All of these effects can be applied to one instance of Serum to make one, huge sounding patch. Bear in mind that layering is also very cool - you have a lot more options of creating interesting sounding supersaws when you do that. I just think that layering is not necessary - you can achieve an awesome sounding supersaw with just one synth.

This is exactly how I achieved the supersaw in our project file - Shipwrecked. I applied all of these tips to the supersaw, and it turned out great. Check out the project file here!

Shipwrecked Future Bass / Ableton Template
Shipwrecked Future Bass - Ableton Template - SoundCloud
(179 secs long, 1240 plays)Play in SoundCloud
 

Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you found something useful!

About the author:

k-pizza

I’m a music maker who likes to share his experiences with other producers. I regularly show up with tutorials, articles & project files at PML.

Skype lessons with me: http://bit.ly/pml_s_one2one

 

 

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Your bass, always a hassle to get right. It lacks boominess, power and doesn't seem to fit right with your track. What can you do about it?

For starters, just finding the right bass preset, or creating the right bass can be a hassle. The presets in your sound banks sounds great on their own, but just misplaced and too spaced-out in your track. And using a simple sinewave is boring, right? You want something beefier, heavier. Something that you know could blast the crowds out of their shoes on concerts.

Struggling with the bass is a part of the learning curve for every producer. However, there are very simple but effective techniques you can apply to make your bass sound amazing. And shh, don't tell anyone. These secrets I'm about to tell you about will make an insane difference in your tracks. Don't take them lightly. 

Let me give you some production secrets…

So, before we start. I'm just going to assume that after some searching, you found/created a bass preset you think fits your track great. It sounds good, but you feel that something is lacking…

Then proceed with these 5 golden tips:

1. Limiting your bass

What? A limiter on a bass? You heard me correct. It's kind of a cowboy move, production-wise, but it's very effective. When your bass plays in different notes, the volume of the sound may change. This happens mostly because of lowpass filters on bass sounds, which cut off higher frequencies. This causes higher notes to lose their power and volume.

Use any limiter (the built-in ones in your DAW works fine) with the ceiling at -1dB and crank it up until you see a maximum of 6dB reduction. Then listen. Voilà. All your sweet bass notes are at an even, maxed out level. Full power.

Some pointers for limiting your bass:

  • This technique is best for a sub and electronic bass with smoother attacks. Using a lot of limiting on plucked acoustic basses could mess up your transients and make it sound too squashed. Use a nice compressor instead.
  • Don't overdo it - or you'll risk squashing your bass too much. Just a bit is enough.
  • Put the limiter last in your effect chain, or first. Adding distortion, EQ and effects on the limited bass signal could work better than using it last in the chain. Try both and see what sounds best.
  • Sidechain AFTER limiting – you want to sidechain the limited signal and not the other way around. Do this for the best amount of control.
  • Try using soft clipping instead of limiting - soft clipping also keeps the volume under a ceiling, but adds some extra distorted flavour. Ableton's soft clipping in the Glue Compressor works well for this - turn on the "Soft Clip" function and crank the Makeup Gain.

See Article: Making Bass Cut Through - 8 Production Tips

2. Saturation and distortion

SATURATION! DISTORTION! Sorry for shouting. The caps letters are kind of what these two effects sound like when you think about them. You think about what your distortion pedal does to your electric guitar. It makes it sound angrier, grittier and just more heavy metal.

Starting off, distortion and saturation are similar, but different...

Easily put: distortion is an angry saturation. Distortion, as it sounds, is meant to distort your sound, while saturation colors it. The effects can be used to boost perceived volume and power. Both are priceless tools to have.

Saturation is a kind of distortion, but when we talk about the distortion and saturation effects, they are very different animals indeed. Let’s explain.

Distortion

Distortion is an extreme effect that is commonly used for electric guitars, producing a growling, gritty sound. It works by pushing the audio signal through the roof (also called hard clipping), which adds sustain, overtones and compresses the sound almost flat.

The most notable things that stands out are the harmonic and inharmonic overtones that comes from the distortion effect. What result you get varies from type of distortion used to amount of effect applied. But it can range from a mild fuzz to a crazy overtone buzz.

Sound characteristics:

  • Extreme
  • Gritty, buzzy, biting
  • Very compressed (hard clipping)

Saturation

Saturation, which also is a form of distortion is thought of as gentler. Introduced in the good old analog days, engineers discovered that they could make sounds warmer and more pleasing by overloading their amps, preamps and tape machines.

The result is a much less aggressive and extreme form of distortion where the characteristics of the sound are left pretty much intact. Saturation nowadays is commonly processed digitally, where plugins emulate the overloading effect of tubes, tapes or transistors, with strikingly similar results.

Sound characteristics:

  • Warm
  • Smooth
  • Less compressed (soft clipping)

Why use distortion or saturation on a bass?

A warm, nice sounding bass is fantastic, that’s just a fact.

Whether you produce chillout, trance music or hell… even blues music, you want your bass to be as powerful and sweet as possible, while still fitting nicely in your mix.

Yeah, some musical genres tend to be more bass heavy than others, but I promise you… no one will ever complain of great bass. It more a matter of having the right bass and the right volume for your track and genre.

Distortion and saturation add upper harmonic content to the bass signal to make it sound richer.

Used in excess, these effects can alter the bass sound in a profound way, making it almost synth like. This is especially true for distortion, which completely transforms the signal when the effect is maxed out. Plenty of saturation does similar things but acts a bit more civil.

See Article: 8 Tips For Better Bass

Too make your bass sound better – use in moderation

You can use a little distortion to make it sound just slightly more angry, gritty and more defined. Bussing your bass to some distortion can also layer it nicely, giving it a buzzier edge.

Saturation is amazing for warming up, nicely compressing and rounding up your bass sound.

You may also try lowpassing the bass after distortion. This may result in more powerful lower frequencies, while the higher frequencies will be left for other elements of the track. Some overdrive plugins have built-in functions for this.

When to use saturation

  • A mild saturation works wonders on smoother basses
  • If your bass sounds a bit cold, use saturation to warm it up
  • Use it to increase volume, compress slightly and rounding it up 

When to use distortion

  • A bit of distortion is great for dubstep, experimental basses and ‘heavier’ music
  • If you want to transform your bass into something new, use distortion
  • When you want an edgier, buzzier feel
  • Use a small amount, or buss your bass to some distortion for a grittier dimension

See Tutorial: Stephan Bodzin "Zulu" Bass Sound Design

 3. Stereo Bass effect

As you probably know, the lower end of your frequency spectrum (bass and sub-bass) should be in mono. If you didn’t know that already, I’ll repeat…

Frequencies under 100 Hz should almost always be in mono!

But why? There are three main reasons:

  1. Phase issues
  2. Lack of power
  3. Lower frequencies are perceived as less directional

To start off, phase issues are a big concern, especially with lower frequencies. You don’t want a loss in power or definition of your bass because of phase issues. While on the topic of power and definition – your lower frequencies play best in mono. Having one source of audio information for these frequencies directly translates to your bass sounding more direct, and powerful.

Also, you can barely make out the direction of frequencies under 80Hz. Well, maybe in headphones… but you probably want your tracks to rock a club somewhere on fat sound systems.

Keep your low frequencies centered and your lowest in mono. The more centered the better.

This brings us to the more fun question…

How do you achieve a stereo bass effect if your bass should be in mono? 

  • The lower you go in the frequency spectrum, the more centered the sound should be.
  • The higher you go in the frequency spectrum, the wider the sound should be

This means that we can play around with the higher frequencies of the bass. If we leave the lower frequency part in mono, we don’t have to worry about widening the wrong frequencies.

If only there was a way to separate the frequencies of the bass into two channels…

Oh, but there is a way! Do this:

  1. Create an audio track next to the midi track containing your Bass VST
  2. Choose your Bass VST track in “Audio From”, on your new audio track
  3. Voila! You now have your bass playing in two channels.
  4. On the new audio track, high-pass and start playing around with effects/widening
Now you have retained your low end and have a more interesting mid/high end!

    When you have successfully separated the frequencies of your bass, play around with the mids and high ends. Try a widener, a chorus effect or a slap delay. Maybe even some distortion? It’s amazing how this trick can bring your bass to a new level.

    The most powerful thing to take away from this though, is...

    The higher frequencies of your bass CAN be wide

    But not unless you don't want to… of course. It’s a neat trick that works wonders for making a dull bass more interesting.

    See Article: Making 808 Bass Patterns

    4. High-pass your bass

    Using a high-pass filter on your bass is controversial. I mean, why would you want to remove the frequencies that your bass is mostly about? 

    What if I told you that high-pass filtering your bass could make it sound even better?

    Let me explain…

    Human hearing is remarkable. We can hear frequencies ranging from 20 Hz to 20 kHz on a good day, which is cool. With old age and too many rock concerts, the frequency span we can hear is lessened and could look something like 40 Hz to 6 kHz. The upper range often goes first, as higher frequencies require more delicate tuning by our ears.

    Compared to a dogs hearing, which ranges from 67 Hz to 45 kHz, us humans are not too bad. I myself cringe at extremely high frequency sounds and I'm quite content to not hear 45 kHz sounds.

    We can’t hear sounds below 20 Hz, but we can feel it. If you were to play 15 Hz in a huge subwoofer capable of such low frequencies, the room would be quiet but shaking.

    Ultra-low frequencies can be too powerful

    The problem with extremely low frequencies is that they take up a lot of amp power, which is why many subwoofers and speaker systems cut off below 30-40Hz. It just takes too much power to process and play back. These lower frequencies take up a lot of signal information which can be unnecessary.

    Some debate that the difference can be heard on the dance floor, but I disagree…

    High-passing your bass to 20-30 Hz allows you to increase volume – and power

    An increase in volume of the bass increases power.

    When you get over 20 Hz (especially 40, 60, 80, 100 and 120 Hz) you get a tone with your bass sensation rather than just the sensation. I’d rather have that in higher volume, than ultra-low rumble eating up my headroom…

    Another thing… high-passing may notch your sound, boosting a bit at your chosen cut off destination. This accomplishes two things, you will both get a cleaner sounding bass and a louder fundamental frequency. Good stuff.

    5. Use a sine wave as a sub-bass

    The last and final tip is one to increase your bass power and smoothen out your lower frequencies, by using a sine sub. This is tremendously powerful, as a sine wave in lower octaves is pure bass information. Pure bass goodness.

    Layering your bass

    Similarly to layering a kick drum (or any other sound), with low, mid and high-end, you can layer your bass as well. Since bass is generally lower/more mid focused, a sine wave playing the same notes as your main bass gives you fantastic, smooth low frequencies.

    For the best result, you want to high-pass your main bass a bit. You do this so that the sine sub can play around on its own (at around 20-80 Hz) and complement your higher frequencies nicely. High-pass your main bass to 80 or 100 Hz as a starting point, but feel free to experiment and see what sounds best.

    Smooth Operator

    The easiest way to get a playable sine wave oscillator in Ableton Live, is to use the built-in synth “Operator”. It’s a very simple but effective synth that will give you a sine wave right at the start-up. Copy and paste your bass notes to the channel containing your sine sub-bass. Then listen.

    You can also use a small amount of saturation or distortion on your sine wave sub. Use with caution.

    See Article: Operator Kick & Bass Sound Design

    Bonus tip: Don’t forget to side-chain your sub as well, to avoid clashing with your kick.

    So there it is. Five excellent tips to make your bass sound better. As always, experiment and try different things.

    To summarize:

    1. Limiting your bass – use a limiter or soft clipper on your bass to make the volume even and more powerful
    2. Saturation and distortion – use these two effects to increase power and make the sound more pronounced
    3. Stereo Bass effect – separate the frequencies of your bass and use widening/effects on the higher frequencies, leaving your low end in mono
    4. High-pass your bass – high-pass the lowest frequencies to get more bass headroom, and a notched lower end
    5. Use a sine wave as a sub-bass – layer your bass with a sine wave playing the exact same notes as your main bass

    Hope these tips helped you as much as they have for me. Now go make some sweet basses!

     

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    Check out our in-depth music production courses, for example: 

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    Stephan Bodzin Moog Bass Lead Sound with Arturia Mini V3 (Sound Design Tutorial) - YouTube

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    The success of this track is indisputable. This track has been the Number 1 on the UK Official Trending Chart, and has topped the Spotify’s „Hit Dancefloor” Chart. Today I’m going to take a deeper look at it to find out what makes this remix so catchy and popular.

    Dynoro, Gigi D'Agostino - In My Mind (Official Audio) - YouTube
    The original track

    The original title of the track is L’Amour Tojours and you know it for sure. It’s one of these 2000s „guilty pleasure” tracks everyone secretly listens to. It’s a track with an iconic synth line in the chorus and a „not so interesting” melody in the verse. That’s exactly what Dynoro capitalized on. He removed the verse melody entirely and swapped the main synth line for a simple vocal hook. Combining it with a fresh future house production, he gave new life to the track and created a massive hit.

    Gigi D'Agostino - L'Amour Toujours ( Official Video ) - YouTube
    The arrangement

    It’s so simple that I decided to make a basic outline in Live.

    Click here to enlarge the image

    There’s the vocal, 3 harmonic elements and 5 drum tracks. Arrangement-wise, we have an extremely basic intro with the vocal and a „brass-like” bass sound, a buildup, then a drop with an A and B section, and the arrangement repeats with just one more repeat of the drop’s B section.

    The harmony

    Dynoro gave new life to the track not only by changing the sounds - he also tweaked the harmony of the track. Let’s compare the harmony to the original.

    Dynoro's track

    In My Mind Harmony - SoundCloud
    (14 secs long, 192 plays)Play in SoundCloud

    The chord progression is a simple 1-3-7-4 in F# Major - the progression is lower in the register than the original one. The only trick used here is that the second chord (the minor 3) is major (playing D instead of C#). By using that borrowed chord, the chord progression sounds fresh and exciting.

    Gigi D'Agostino's track

    Gigi Harmony - SoundCloud
    (14 secs long, 156 plays)Play in SoundCloud

    In L’Amour Tojours the character of the chords isn’t clearly defined. The bassline is also a 1-3-7-4 (in D# Major this time), but the second chord doesn’t have the major 3 playing, so the progression doesn’t isn’t that „spicy”. You can easily achieve this effect by playing fifths and skipping the thirds, which determine the chords’ major or minor quality.

    See this article to learn the 6 types of remixes - do you know the difference between bootlegs, VIPs, re-edit and mashups?

    The melody

    The melody is also different. You can see that Dynoro made it simpler. In the first half, Dynoro’s melody simply descends, while in the second half mostly the rhythm is simplified. By using these tricks the melody is even more catchy and can be easily sung or hummed. The synth line also uses some glide notes which make it extra modern.

    Let’s talk about some specific elements of the track now.

    Let’s focus on the track’s main element, which is the future house bass, playing alongside a ”4 to the floor” kickdrum.

    The drop bass

    It is the element that gives the drop its bounce, so both sound design and MIDI notes are very important. It feels like it’s not layered, but comes from one great-sounding preset - we explain making future house patches for example here.

    The magic lies mostly in the swing. Some notes are simply delayed by a bit and left unquantized. To make it easier you may disable the grid in Clip View by right clicking and selecting ”Off” under „Fixed Grid”.

    The drop’s structure

    The drop is structured very simply. In its „A section we have the bass and kick, then there’s a clap and percussion sound, and in the „B” section we also have the main lead and a hihat pattern.

    The buildup may have come from a sample pack loop. It may also have been made with a single drum rack with samples - for that I always use the trick with global pitch bend. In Clip View I use the Envelopes section and automate the „Pitch bend” upwards as the buildup progesses.

    Buipdup - SoundCloud
    (20 secs long, 133 plays)Play in SoundCloud

     

    Thinking about remixing a track? See this article for 8 essential things to consider while remixing.

    The intro / verse

    These sections are extremely minimalistic and consist of just two elements - the vocal and a sawwave brass bass playing the root notes. After the drop we have exactly the same structure, but we also have the thirds - that makes it more interesting and highlights the borrowed second chord.

    The second drop

    In the second drop some variations are introduced too. The bass pattern changes - some ”stutters” are added here and there. We also have a different clap - this time a stereo clap - probably two claps layered and panned differently. There’s a completely different hihat loop and between the second and third repeat of the section we have an experimental bit - probably made with four bass samples cut to fit this short bit. The section repeats once again and ends with a vocal chop with lots of delay.

    Template

    You can download this track’s ”arrangement project” in our freebies section. If you’re making EDM, starting from a template like this is very useful, as it prevents you from getting stuck in a loop. The tempate includes empty MIDI clips, you need to write the MIDI and choose the sounds yourself.

    Thanks for checking out this article!

    k-pizza

    I’m a music maker who likes to share his experiences with other producers. I regularly show up with tutorials, articles  & project files at PML.

    Skype lessons with me: http://bit.ly/pml_s_one2one

     

    Check out our in-depth music production courses, for example: 

    Watch example:

    Stephan Bodzin Moog Bass Lead Sound with Arturia Mini V3 (Sound Design Tutorial) - YouTube

    Read Full Article

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