Finally Understanding Levels and Clipping

Posted April 14, 2016, 2:42 p.m.

Over the years I've seen a lot of confusion out there about levels and clipping during mixing - but only recently I came to realise that the confusion was so deep that people were altering their mixes to avoid clipping that wasn't even really happening! Once and for all, I thought I'd lay out for people in highly technical terms, but hopefully still keeping it fun too, everything they need to know about digital audio and clipping so that they can finally realise how little they really need to know. If your the type of person who has found themselves worriedly watching the meters more than your listening to the sound, this tutorial will put your mind at rest and your concentration back to the fun part: making music.



Professional Vocal Mix Techniques

Posted March 15, 2016, 8:06 a.m.

Nothing can elevate a beat to sound like a catchy real song faster than a good vocal. But on the other hand, nothing can sabotage an otherwise great beat to sound like an amateur mess than a bad vocal. And sometimes, all that stands between one thing and the other is mix technique.

In this video, Ryan shows us how he added vocals to his own song and went about making them sound every bit as polished and perfected as the instruments that make up the beat. You'll see how to make your vocals pop out of the mix, get natural tuning, and find that balanced with effects that are audible without being overpowering.

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Find vocals on Allihoopa to use in your own song here!

Posted March 15, 2016, 8:06 a.m.

Random Melodies

Posted Feb. 15, 2016, 9:08 a.m.

Here's a nifty trick that might not have a occurred to you before. It comes - again - from my nasty shameful habit of using hardware, where often necessity can be the mother of invention.

We're going to use the RPG-8 arpeggiator to randomly generate a melody. You might think of this as a tool for inspiration, or perhaps even some kind of semi-generative, or algorithmic method of composing. I like to think of it as cheating.

The long and the short of it is that we're going to set  up the RPG-8 to play a very slow arpeggio using a random pattern, but then we're only going to allow it to play the first note of the arpeggio. Essentially, for every note in the melody, instead of specifying a single note, we suggest several possibilities, and leave it up to chance which note is played.

First, decide the shape of your melody - where do you want the notes to play? Then decide which notes you want to select from. In this example, I've used the Akebono scale, quite common in traditional Japanese music. At each position on the grid where I want a note to sound, then, I've added all of the notes in the scale starting with A: A, B, C, E, F, and A. Where I felt the melody should descend, I used the same notes, but discarded the top A and played the E and the F an octave lower - see the screenshot below.

This clip is repeated throughout the piece - as you can hear, it plays differently each time.

The next part of the trick is setting up the RPG-8 to choose one of the notes to play at each step in the melody. Set the arpeggiator mode to random and decide on your range. If you want the melody to use ONLY the notes that you've entered, then leave the default range of one octave. I've selected two octaves, so that not only will the melody use the notes I've laid out on the grid, but also notes an octave above.

The most important step, though, is this: make sure that the step interval you choose for the rate is the same as the shortest gap between the notes in your melody. In the example here, no two notes are further than an 1/8 note apart, so I've selected a rate of 1/8.

It's adaptable, too. As noted above, if you feel that at a certain point the melody should descend (or ascend), you can shift your block of notes - all of them or just some of them - down (or up) an octave, almost like an inversion of a chord. You can add or remove notes from your block. Or, rather than leaving things up to chance, you can even remove all notes but one if it's important that a particular note plays at a particular point. And it doesn't need to be limited to melodies only - you could use the same technique to add some unpredictiability to your rhythm patterns, for example.

Posted Feb. 15, 2016, 9:08 a.m.

Dirty Reese Bass: Custom Patch Design

Posted Jan. 22, 2016, 3:32 p.m.

People have been requesting we show a method for creating currently trending version of a classic sound: the Reese Bass - namely, the "Dirty" Reese Bass, which is characterized by heavy distortion, compression, and filtration. When it comes to dirt, grit, and nasty sounds, Malström is a fantastic tool for the job. So in this tutorial I'll show you one of the many ways you can approach this type of sound, while thinking out loud along the way so you can gain some insight into custom patch creation in the Reason Rack.


So Why ReCycle?

Posted Jan. 18, 2016, 12:32 p.m.

A question that we hear on a semi regular basis - especially since Reason became capable of creating REX loops - is "Why would I want ReCycle? What can I do with ReCycle that I can't do in Reason?"

I thought that now would be a good time to look into this. So what can you do with ReCycle that you can't do in Reason?



Most obvious are the various tools that at your disposal in ReCycle for adding and removing slices. Opening an 8 bar WAV loop in Reason, and double-clicking the clip to open the loop in edit mode reveals that Reason has created 106 slices. This is probably just fine for most applications, but suppose I want to get granular and perform more advanced loop treatments. I can add or remove slices, but I need to do it manually - selecting a slice marker and then hitting delete, or selecting the pencil tool to draw in a new slice marker.

If I open the same 8 bar loop in ReCycle, I can simply adjust the Sensitivity slider to add or remove slices. The sensitivity slider determines how sensitive Recycle is to transients, and so governs how many slices will be created; the more sensitive ReCycle is to transients, the more slices will be created.

With a sensitivity of 71, my loop has 106 slices in ReCycle, just as it does in Reason. Maxing out the sensitivity to 99 gives me 175  slices, while pulling back the sensitivity to 1 results in 68 slices.

Moving a slider back and forth to automatically add and remove slices is far easier than manually adding and removing them!

But it doesn't end there. You can manually add and remove slices in ReCycle - exactly as you can in Reason - but you can combine this with automatic slicing using the sensitivity slider. In ReCycle there are Mute and Lock tools, which allow you to remove slices that were created automatically by raising the sensitivity, or to retain slices that would otherwise be removed by lowering the sensitivity.

A further advantage offered in ReCycle is the option to add slice markers at a zero-crossing points - holding down the shift key when manually adding a slice marker will snap the marker to the nearest zero-crossing.

ReCycle also has built-in effects that can be applied to sliced loops. As well as a gating function, and settings for adjusting the gain and pitch of your loop, you can apply an envelope, EQ and transient shaping to each slice in a loop.



The envelope allows you to apply an AD envelope and stretch each slice, where stretch applies a "tail" to each slice - useful if you know that your loop will be used at a slower tempo.

The transient shaper is effectively a compressor with controls for threshold, amount, attack and release with automatic gain compensation. The EQ is a two band parametric EQ with hi and lo cut.

If you'd like to try it out, the demo is available at the bottom of the ReCycle product page, here.

Posted Jan. 18, 2016, 12:32 p.m.