Tech tools and hardware

  • Prog chords

    Amazing proggy chords and stabs can be made by simply stacking a few saw oscillators together, detuning them slightly and running the lot through a low pass filter. Check if your synth has a unison mode or if you can add two or more voices for each oscillator to give the tone more bite. One trick for added thickness is to double the root note of the chord with the same note two octaves lower and one or two octaves higher.


    ‘Progression’ is obviously key in progressive house, so spend some time building up the arrangement with just the right amount of tension. A tried and tested structure involves 64 or so bars of build with relatively few elements and plenty of repetition until the first break kicks in. This break is intended to be euphoric and uplifting. Here is where you introduce your big melodic elements – chords, lead riff or both.

    Perfect fifths

    Lots of progressive tracks contain synth lines that play harmonically in perfect fourth or fifth intervals. You can arrange this easily in your favourite synth / plug-in by creating a sound with two oscillators, with the second oscillator tuned five (perfect fourth) or seven (perfect fifth) semitones up.

    Viva la imperfection

    Progressive beats are usually not much more than kick, hat and snare. To inject some movement, try nudging your percussion so that some hits are slightly out of time. This works especially well if you have doubled your snare with a clap. Move your clap hits ever so slightly so that they are triggered a little ahead or behind the main snare drum. Adding simple human touches can be the difference between a stagnant or exciting groove.

    Cut the lows

    When your melodic elements finally kick in, your track may sound fairly busy, with lots of elements – including lead synth, pads, harmonics and more – all playing at the same time, so it‘s good practice to make sure you high pass everything that doesn’t need a heavy low-end. A good technique is to sweep upward with a gentle high pass filter starting with the lowest of frequencies until you hear it affecting the body of the sound. When you can hear the sound changing noticeably it’s time to back off a bit and leave it there.

    Squeeze the mix bus

    It is now common practice among dance music producers to mix through a compressor to make the elements of a track gel better together. When you start mixing, slap a compressor on the master channel first and let it stand until the final mix is done. A good starting point for setting up the mix bus compressor is a ratio of 4:1 with 10ms attack and a fast release. Adjust the threshold until you see 2-3db but not much more gain reduction on the meter.

    Double the bass

    For a solid low-end with maximum impact, progressive tracks sometimes feature two basslines. One is a melodic bassline that occupies the higher regions of the frequency spectrum. The second is a sub bass filling the lower end. This sub is intended to really mark the groove, along with the kick drum and other percussion. Most of the the time, it is a simple one-note affair that is triggered off beat to avoid clashing with the kick. Different placements of the sub note will yield different grooves.

    Layer the kick

    To get a massive bass drum, layer your kick with a low sine wave and tune the sine to the key of the track. Remember to use a high pass eq on your original kick so that the low end doesn’t become too overbearing.

    Lucky arps

    If you’re struggling with a killer melody but have some great chords, copy the chords to another track and arpeggiate them. Play with the way the notes are triggered, adjust note lengths and so on. Sometimes you’ll get lucky!

    Post date: 23/06/2010 - 1:07am
  • In this video, one of our community contributors: Pilmat, Demonstrates how he uses a midi-fighter with Itch by using a midi to keystroke converter.
    From: eangolden
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    Time: 02:53 More in Howto & Style
    Post date: 19/06/2010 - 2:39pm
  • 1. Groove

    Deep House beats are faithful to the 4/4 rhythm but are programmed to sound loose and lazy. Keep the rhythm organic by using swing quantisation. If your DAW supports groove templates try sourcing ones from the infamous Akai MPC60: they work especially well for deep house grooves. Some DAWs offer MPC-style swing as standard. Others – notably Logic – don’t, so do a web search for the groove templates and import them manually.

    2. Lazy beats

    Offset percussion hits by a few milliseconds to give patterns a more human feel. Try shifting snares and claps a few clicks before or after the kick to get a looser sound. If your snare is layered from two or three different samples shift the start of each sample a little for a more interesting feel.

    3. Tight kick

    Deep house kick drums are usually deep and quite short, with plenty of fat bottom end. Fine-tune the length of the kick by tweaking the decay of the volume envelope so that the kick works in the context of the track. Try layering a deep kick with a high-passed bass drum from a live drum kit for a more acoustic and organic sound.

    4. Expand the stereo spectrum

    Pan percussive hits evenly across the stereo field. Even panning sounds by a couple of ticks gives more space for the rhythm to breathe. Remember to tune samples to the key of the track to make the drum kit made using a range of samples sound like a coherent whole.

    5. 7th, 9ths and beyond

    Deep house chords are built from minor/major 7th chords and their inversions. To get a more lazy feel producers use 9th and 13ths chords too. Don’t be afraid to give a track a slightly dissonant feel by using unusual chord combinations.

    6. Old-school workouts

    Double the root note of a chord to get a fatter sound or double the whole chord on a different instrument for more definition. A classic old-school technique is to render a chord hit as a short audio file and load the resulting wave into your sampler of choice. Now play it on the keyboard like you would a melody.

    7. Huge verb stabs

    You can make great background ambient effects by taking a house stab and inserting a hall reverb effect on it. The decay should be very long with the mix slider at 100% wet so you only get the reverb effect. Now go crazy with effects on the reverb tail. Try filters, phasers, bit-crushers or even outright distortion. For extra movement sidechain the effected tail to get it pumping in the background. Another option is to use a delay effect instead of reverb (tape style works here) and automate the feedback level.

    8. Filter it up

    Autofilters are great for adding movement and giving wah-wah-type sweeps to loops and one-shots. Add gentle distortion or bit-crushing to the filtered loop or re-sample at lower bit rates to get a dirtier sound. Remember to tweak the cutoff on the filter: lower cutoff values give a warmer and softer feeling while higher values give extra bite. If your plug-in supports it, try sidechaining the input of the filter to the kick drum to get a pumping filter sound.

    9. Dub delays

    Dub effects are made by using a delay effect with the feedback cranked up. Automate both the delay time and feedback at the same time to get warm and wobbly sweeps and crescendos. Remember to high-pass filter the reverb and delay returns to keep the low-end of the mix uncluttered.

    10. Edit binned tracks

    If you are running out of inspiration and find yourself reaching into your vinyl collection for a loop to sample, try rendering some of your older unused tracks as audio and then cutting, re-sequencing, filtering and mangling them up. You may be surprised how many new ideas are generated this way.

    11. Subtle variants

    Deep house arrangements rely on subtly changing repetition rather than big leads, so you need to make the most of the sounds you have to keep a production interesting. Programming slight variations to synth lines and effects and tweaking sounds will keep the track moving. Remember also to automate any reverbs, delays and filters.

    Post date: 04/06/2010 - 9:39pm
  • The two defining features of chillout and downtempo drums (defined for the purposes of this tutorial as drums in the 75-95bpms kind of area, but applicable to other tempos too if the style sits well) is compression (lots of it) and reverb (ditto). Getting both of these right – and picking the right original sounds for your drums – will give you a good start in creating original downtempo beats.

    Choosing your sounds

    As with all things dance, choosing the right sounds to populate your drum loop is key. Chillout as a genre covers so much ground that your source sounds could come from a variety of sources and cover a whole range of sound bases; from soft jazz-brushed hits through old big-band/swing one-shots, to more conventional housey drums sounds – albeit ones with softer attack envelopes.

    Because much of the bass work is done by the bassline in chillout, rather than the kick drum, it is often good to lean towards a less heavy kick drum, with a soft bite and the majority of the sound filling the 150-400Hz frequency range. Bright snappy snares work as well as longer, darker ones, and for the hats, anything that sounds natural will sit well. Generally, the more ‘human’ sounding your original drum samples the better – so unless you’re after a specifically electronic sound avoid classic drum machine-originated samples and stick with the live stuff.

    When choosing your drum sounds don’t be too keen to edit out dirt, reverbs or other nuances. We are aiming for an end loop that sounds battered and lo-fi, so keeping reverb tails on samples, as well as vinyl crackles and pops should be encouraged.

    When preparing your sounds, it is important to find samples that work together. Choosing a kick, a snare and a hat from the same kit (and recording) is one way to do this; another is to just listen – find a kick you like, set it to loop, and then work through snare samples until you find one that ‘works’ in context – the envelopes and tones of the snare sample ‘sitting’ well with the kick. It’s a hugely subjective part of the process this – so rely on your gut instincts.

    It’s also worth remembering that drums are tuned instruments – in the same way that cellos and flutes are – so to find a complementary set of samples you may need to tweak the tuning of individual samples by pitching them up or down. Deciding the pitch relationship between kick and snare will be a matter of experimentation, but if you feel you’re getting close to finding the right drum sound for your loop, then you can usually get it just right by altering its tuning a little.

    Aside from your standard kick, snare and hat, you might want to import some ride cymbals (with their long decay and often gentle transients, they can work wonders in the chillout palette), some shakers (vary between short and gentle and longer, rougher ones) and odd pieces of percussion. Import in short fx phrases too; triggered at the right time glitches and lo-fi fx can double with snares or sit ‘in the gaps’ to breathe life into your loop.

    You might also want to import some vinyl noise (sample some for yourself from an old record if you can). Layering your programmed drum loop with real vinyl crackles and hiss can help transform it into lo-fi heaven. Time the pops and crackles so that contribute to the groove of your beat – rather than clutter it. You can also use a side-chain linked to the kick or snare to help the vinyl ‘breathe out’ during in the periods between the louder kick and snare hits.

    Programming chill

    There are as many different styles of chillout drum programming as there are subgenres of chillout, but some key suggestions will take you a long way.

    Kick and snare

    Start by getting your kick and snare sounding right using a very basic kick/snare sequence (kick on 1 and 3; snare on 2 and 4). Tune your snare until it works well with the kick. Don’t do much processing at this stage – although some compression on either or both of the sounds to help bulk them up may me useful (don’t worry too much about settings for now though – just go with a factory ‘kick’ or ‘snare’ setting).

    Lots of genres make use of a different snare sound on the fourth, so try doubling the fourth with a second sample – giving some variation to the loops.

    Also experiment with layering. Few dance classics use single hits for their drums – most use a combination of snares and kicks to give added body and punch.

    Import a live break

    Because chillout so often features a lazy, live kind of sound, the use of a live break (from your own recordings, from a sample CD, or wherever) will help deliver your top quality loop. For Sample Magic’s Sunset Sessions, the majority of drumloops mixed programmed beats with session drums that were recorded separately. A good drummer will bring elements of swing and character that it’s almost impossible to mimic, so audition a selection of breaks and loops to find one that works well with the basic loop you’ve programmed. When you feel you’re getting close, import the audio and timestretch / retune as necessary. Compress using a “full kit” compression setting and remove bass frequencies below around 110 (higher if your kick drum sits higher), so that it doesn’t interfere with the kick you’ve already selected. Depending on how in time the loop is, you may also want to get down and dirty with your audio editor, cutting the loop until it works with your basic programmed beat.


    You should now have a basic beat overlaid with a live break. Now you’ll want to start adding some top end hats.

    Sound-wise, you’ll want to find a sample that works well with your emerging loop. Anything from tight, crisp strikes, through long, dirty open hats to jazzy bells and rides may fit the bill. Certainly you’ll want to import a few – most drum loops will use at least two different hats; many will use more.

    Hats in chillout drum programming can be great fun; they can be detuned massively – up to and sometimes over an octave down for real grimey lo-fi appeal. Doubling a low sound with a higher pitched one (with accompanying high frequency content) can give you a mix of downtempo dirt and refreshing upper-frequency air.

    If you re-tune your hats down a lot you will need to get out your EQ and remove some of the low end content – you won’t normally want your hats getting in the way of your snare.

    Playing with envelopes will breathe life into your programmed hi-hats. When a drummer is striking hats some strikes will be harder and have more bite, while others will be soft and ease their way in. To replicate this, either set your attack envelope to respond to note velocity levels (or modulation), or set up a series of the same hat sample across two or three sampler notes, each with different attack velocities so that you can trigger slightly different variations of the same sound using MIDI note data. It’s also worth altering the lengths (as well as velocities) of the notes played so that some hats are very short while hang around for longer.

    Keep it human!

    From the moment that you have your basic beat with the overlaid live groove, you should deliberately be keeping your programming as live as possible to maintain the imperfections of a live-sounding beat. The point is that unlike, say, trance, where quantise rules and you don’t want to deviate from your rigid groove template (usually a straight 16), chillout and downtempo drums get their life from their authenticity and their mix of programming alongside human elements.

    So switch off your quantise and play in your new MIDI lines (like the hi hats) using your keyboard. If you work using a matrix or drum editor, zoom in on your patterns and shift notes a little back or forward to maintain the human-feel (you’ll need to switch off any ‘snap to’ settings). If you have some kind of MIDI humanizing feature (in Logic it is under the Transform window > Humanize) then fire it up – every little shift in velocity and note position will help give your loop life, and if you ever go too far you can always hit undo.

    Start processing

    By now you should have a fairly full chillout drum loop, with a kick and snare that work well together, a subtle live groove and hats that work with the groove and fill the top end. Now for the fun stuff.

    As outlined earlier, reverb is key in chillout – and it can be used on individual drums, across buses and across the entire loop. For now, concentrate on your snare. In whatever kind of music you make, the choice of snare reverb can affect an entire mix, so you will want to spend some time getting this right. Your choice is huge – and will depend on the sound you’re after and what’s already happening in your drumloop.

    Generally speaking the bigger the reverb, the further your snare will sound away, and – again, generally – big reverbs can sound great in chillout. The secret is making the sound work with the groove, so play around with pre-delays and alter the decay length so that they work in time with the beat. Experiment with any kinds of algorithms, although the ‘live-based’ ones – including classic old spring reverbs and the more effect-based ones – often work well.

    You might also try the more basic of your reverb plug-ins, ditching your Waves ones for the very basic native reverb in your sequencer; the Silver Reverb in Logic makes great dirty sounding reverb tails because it is so basic. Reversing reverb tails in time with the beat in another tricky that can give your loop a breathing feel and push the groove forward (or hold it back, depending on the timing). To avoid cluttering your beat, edit the tail feedback frequencies and cut some low-end from the reverb return to cut out some muddiness and air that would otherwise interfere with the drums in the loop.

    A more obvious, dubby effect is to use a delay on the snare. Set the delay so that it repeats at 16ths and turn down the high frequency return, so that when the snare is triggered you get an echoey return – instant downtempo dub. Alter the delay tempo so that it is at 32s; this gives an almost chorus feel which can work well at points.

    Added character

    The great thing about downtempo and chillout production is you can get more-than-usually creative with your drums. Introducing short, subtle (or not so subtle) snaps of effects within your loop can introduce further character. Raid FX folders from sample CDs – including more dancey ones – or play around with loops that you’ve created for other projects. Then import them and introduce small snippets that work in time with the groove, be they percussion hits, swoops, reverbed hits – whatever; a whole pallette of sounds might work with your loop.

    Next up experiment with plug-in FX – including more extreme ones like Ring Modulators and distortions. The idea is to introduce new rhythmical elements that contribute to the groove – often without being at all noticeable (as with many vocal effects, the rule is that if you can hear the sound – rather than feel it – then it’s already too loud.)

    Live instrument loops can also help here – particularly if they have rhythmic content. A slap bass loop, with bottom end removed and filtered until it is unrecognisable for example, will add groove to your loop without also adding melodic elements – which you will want to avoid for now.

    Another trick is to use short vocal snippets. Breaths, aahs and glutteral noises (the kinds of samples you’d usually edit out when creating a dance vocal) can work well when weaved into the drum loop mix, adding additional character and movement. Stereo delays that sync with the tempo are often effective on these.

    A further trick is to add vinyl noise – either a sample or a recording you have done yourself. If you can get a pop to start just after the first kick, and then a second pop timed to add to the groove, you’ll be helping to push the beat along while also dirtying it up as well. Watch top end hiss – if there is too much then it might threaten the clarity of your hats; if it does reduce tit with a high cut EQ.

    A final trick – that can give real depth to your loop – is to add some organic ‘ noise’ behind the drum loop. This noise should com from a sustained organic instrument sample – windchimes work particularly well – or a sounds effect like wave noise or cafe ambient noise. Cut your chosen sample into a one bar loop and loop it up so that it plays for the duration of the drum loop. Then shift the pitch of it until it sits well with the drums. Finally, add some chorus or detuning and delays, EQ to fit and pull it way back in the mix. This very subtle ambience will fill out your drum loop nicely.

    Gelling the beat / post production

    Using drum samples from different sources has the inherent potential problem of giving you a loop that doesn’t sound fully ‘together’. This problem can be worked at using a number of methods – including compression, EQ and various finalising plugins, but reverb plays an important part here too.

    Reverb groups

    When you’re happy with your snare reverb, group all your drum parts so far and send them to a bus in your sequencer. Now set up a reverb across this bus, adjusting the level of wet/dry signal so that only a very small percentage of the signal is wet. (A similar thing can be done by simply sending a little signal from each track to a reverb bus). You will probably be looking for a fairly short (live) roomy sounding reverb (bear in mind that the verb will apply to everything – including the kick drum, which you don’t want to make too woolly). By making the whole drum loop go through the reverb (albeit subtly), you will be helping to gel together the sounds and give them the feeling that they were recorded in the same room (or chamber or hall).


    To further help that gelling, place a compressor across the same bus (before the reverb – unless you’re after a very specific effect). Try a variety of settings on this – from subtle to extreme – bearing in mind always that the higher the attack value, the more transients will get through and the more ‘up-front’ and crispy your beat will sound. Using a compressor across the whole drum part will alter the relationship between different drum sounds – so you will need to be prepared to go back and change levels or EQ to push sounds back into place. Some kind of finaliser plugin – like the wonderful PSP Vintage Warmer – can add the final magic dust to your loops.


    Another nifty trick for making your drums gel is to use ‘comparative’ EQ. While a normal EQ, using a full-mix setting can pull sounds together nicely, you can often get a more characteristic sound by using one of the new generation of comparative EQ plugins (like Logic’s Match EQ). For your ‘source material’ sample an old jazz or swing record, then import this template onto the drum loop you have made. Instant old-skool EQ! Often using 100% of this EQd signal will be fairly unusable, but using a mix of it might bring more useable results.

    Post date: 04/06/2010 - 9:38pm
  • Purchase Dicer Here:
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    Post date: 28/05/2010 - 3:42pm
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    Post date: 27/05/2010 - 9:20am
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