Sage Audio and Mastering the Mix both wrote great articles on the levels required for the various streaming platforms so I thought I would share these as this is a common concern for music producers. I’ll also tell you how I am rationalizing my mastering.
Equalization can be of benefit in the post-processing of most field recordings. Here are some of my commonly-used equalization schemes and reasoning. I will update this periodically as I make changes to my workflow or learn new methods.
I like Biosphere’s (Geir Jenssen’s) music very much and one of my favorite albums is Shenzhou. The album is made up of repeated looping of Debussy orchestral track samples. The title song is particularly interesting to me as I like the depth and width of the sound. I was able to figure out how to remake it and I’d like to show you how I did that.
Making music with loops is not a new process. However, after thinking about it, I was surprised at how many different ways there are to loop samples to make music. I’ll add to this as I discover more, but the list is long right now.
It may seem strange to want background noise in a recording, but it gives it a certain realism as opposed to the cleanliness of a digitally-mastered DAW creation. I like the sound I hear in the background of Susumu Yokota’s Saku from his Sakura album, so I was able to replicate it using common pink noise and equalization. Here’s how:
For the aspiring tape loopers out there, I’m sure I speak for us all when I say that we’d all like to have the time to play around with splicing tape into loops and recording through a four-track. But when this is not possible, here’s an easy alternative right in your DAW.
Using TAL Vocoder (free), you can make some really interesting “percussive-toned beats” that have a sound similar to the band, Plaid. But, you have to use the vocoder in an unusual way. The idea came to me as I read an interview with the members of Plaid – a band I like.
After having been to Budapest and found an 1896 C. Bechstein piano in the lobby of The Continental Hotel, I’ve learned much more about how I can make the same sound of it or any other piano within Pianoteq or via other vst instruments and effects. But, in fact, I aim to make it sound even better. Here’s what I have learned so far.
I had the goal of creating a great multi-band compression/expansion scheme using Pro-MB. Fortunately for me, Xfer Records gives away a free plugin effect called OTT that is a three-band compressor. It performs upward and downward compression and is a recreation of the Ableton Live OTT setting (Over the Top) in their compressor.
I like it because it gives a bright and vibrant sound quality to any track it is applied. Also, it is free.
But, I wanted more control like I can get from Fabfilter’s Pro-MB multi-band compressor. So, I set out to replicate it (kind-of). While not the same as OTT, I found it quite easy to get the sound I was after once you know what the OTT is doing:
Glitchmachines makes some fantastic plugins for making music. Their plugins are generators and effects or combinations of each. They are packed full of features and are intimidatingly complex while being simple to use. I find that I experiment for hours with them.
I am trying to learn how to use them effectively in my music process and will be updating this post as I progress.
Air is a term used to describe that high and lofty feel to a mix. Sometimes your mix may get muddy or you just want to get a bit more high frequency into it. “Air it out” so to speak.
The U-he Satin plugin is based on tape and there is an old trick that studios did to air out a mix using tape. It was to record at a high speed and playback at a lower one. I’ve made a preset for it and you can download it. Here is what I did to replicate it and how I use it.
Cassette tape is a medium that many bands recorded their sound on before mastering them. I wanted to reproduce this effect using U-h Satin so I made a preset that approximates that.
The U-he Satin plugin does not come with a preset for this, but I can choose the cassette speed of 1 and 7/8 inches per second (i.p.s.). I’ve made a preset for it and you can download it. Here is what I did to replicate it and how I use it.
VHS tape is a sound that groups like Boards of Canada have been compared with. It is that glitchy, old tape sound with plenty of dropouts and fluctuations.
The U-he Satin plugin does not come with a preset for this, but it can be somewhat replicated by choosing a slow tape speed. I’ve made a preset for it and you can download it. Here is what I did to replicate it and how I use it.
Dolby HX Pro Headroom Expansion was a method used in tape recordings in the 80’s to give an improved signal-to-noise ratio. As a result, the recordings were much more powerful-sounding with clarity and presence as well as low-end strength. It did this by introducing a bias signal at the high frequency to push the recording out of the inherent non-linearities of tape.
I had one of the tape decks that could record in HX Pro and it made every recording just shine. I wanted to achieve this with today’s vst plugins and I believe I finally have with the U-he Satin tape simulating plugin.
Xfer Records Dimension Expander is a free vst plugin effect that makes any synth or instrument sound much “wider.” This means more presence and stereo effect.
I wanted to create this in FL Studio using the stock plugins, so first I had to understand what the Dimension Expander plugin was doing. It seems to be modeled on an old trick where the incoming signal is split and the split-half is phase inverted and then fed back into the main signal that is not. Then there is some delay added. This is what powered the Roland Dimension D, a piece of hardware from the 80’s.
Fortunately, you can get something that sounds quite similar, and maybe even better, from FL Studio. I used the Fruity Stereo Shaper plugin. Continue reading →
Xfer Records Cthulhu program creates arpeggios and chords like none other. Lots of patterns when used with the correct synths, can sound a lot like deadmou5 and this makes sense as Joel Zimmerman has been known to use Cthulhu made by his associate, Steve Duda.
I find that often it is desirable for me to get the actual notes Cthulhu creates out to the piano roll in FL Studio so they can be edited individually and outside of Cthulhu.
I’ll start by showing you the basic set-up and then the one where you can get at those individual notes.