Hard-hitting drums that really cut through the mix is key to any electronic music. But how do you get it right? Luckily, Max Rehbein is here to show you. Learn how to layer your sounds, EQ to perfection and spice things up with creative FX in this advanced tutorial.
Suspect and Stenchman, collaborating under the name Suspicious Stench, are two mad-men producers from Dover, UK. After hearing their music, we had to ask about their guttural, growling dubstep sound design. Read on to find out how they do it and download two free Combinator patches!
How do you use Reason in your music making? We use Reason for everything. Quite a lot of people ReWire it but with all the new rack extensions there isn’t much reason to add loads to the CPU when we have everything we need in one simple package.
Suspicious Stench are really two artists collaborating, how do you handle that? Sometimes we make stuff in the studio together and other times we just pass the file back and forth via instant messaging. Also if one of us was to start a project the other would sometimes finish it then go over final details and mix down together.
What do you do when writer's block strikes? We tend to make bass patches & drums when we hit writer's block just so something’s being done and normally it sparks an idea in the process. Either that or watch YouTube videos of people falling over.
Could you tell us a bit about how you approach sound design? We're pretty random when it comes to approach. We don’t really have a formula or a certain structure that we stick to, we basically just make whatever comes out depending on what mood we're in or what we’ve been inspired by at the time. We tend not to start from scratch when designing sounds but instead use a preset that has characteristics we like and shape the sound accordingly
Suspect’s Hover Craft Bass It's a pretty gritty wobbler style bass, which Malström is really good for. I started off with just a Malström and I pretty much just mess about with buttons until I get a good sound and then tweak it from there. I used the Modulator B curve 17 as I don’t use it very much and was after a bit of a different wave pattern. I used 2 square 16’s with a slight bit of oscillator motion on just for extra movement. I also moved the Index on one of the oscillators, but you can set this to how you want it. I set the Shaper to 86 on Noise, this just makes it a little more prominent and fuzzy if you like. I’ve also put the attack up on both oscillators so you don’t get so much of a stabby sound on the first part of the note. Also on the Modulator A, I’ve put a pitch bend on so that the note goes up a bit as it plays to make it more interesting.
I added a compressor to it just to level the sound out and stop it being so harsh. I then EQ'd it with an old school equaliser, the PEQ-2, just to take a little bit of the harshness out again and some low end. I then added a Scream 4 to it as I felt it needed to sound a little more distorted to sound fuller. Then at the end I added a bit of reverb, a Rv-7 Digital Reverb, just to make it sound a bit more wet and to help it sit in the track better. That’s basically all i did to make the sound. You can use this bass as short stabby notes or have it as a longer note to get the full wobble. Also you can change the Modulator curve to suite you and automate the Index which keeps the sound interesting as the track goes on.
Stenchies Lazer Reece This is a pretty simple dual layered reece patch with a bit of a twist. The oscillators are all Multi Osc's set to saw waves, all tuned slightly differently and with a little random detune as well to give a thick texture. The oscillators then go into a Notch Filter which is set differently on the two Thors to give the patch more width and character. The LFO also affects these filters on both instances, but only a relatively small amount (53).
I used slightly different effects on each of the thors, the top one has a Scream 4 on the Tape setting and an EQ with a wide mid cut. The other has a Scream 4 on the Fuzz setting and an RV7000 with the Hall reverb setting applied. I normally use the EQ on the RV7000 to cut all the low frequencies, but I kinda liked the muddiness with the full range of frequencies getting affected so I left it. The EQ is pre-setup to cut though so you can just turn it on if they wish.
I have used the built in Chorus unit on one of the Thors. I tend not to use it on multiple layers as it can soften the sound a little when used too heavily. There is also a Phaser unit that is routed to the AUX send of the line mixer. The amount it is applied to the second Thor can be controlled from the fourth rotary on the Combinator front. This is so you can give it some movement in productions. I have also used the other modulation routers to control a lazerish womp out of one of the multi osc's. The speed and intensity of it can be controlled from the Combinator. Finally there is a control for the filter frequency for one of the notch filters, again this is to give chance for automation that gives movement to the synths sound.
Disonata, based in Northampton, UK is a producer, DJ and musician. Making predominantly Dubstep in both hard hitting and chilled out forms, he is working his way up in the scene. He is getting airplay from some of the biggest names in Dubstep like Skream & Benga, Funtcase, Hatcha, BadKlaat, Requake, Lost, Beezy, Jakes and many more. We had a quick chat with him to find out more about his use of Reason.
How do you use Reason in your music making? I use it for my entire process, I have rewired it a few times but I always find myself just coming back to just using it as a stand alone DAW. With the advancements in the newer version it's making the process even better too. From start to finish 99% of my tunes are made entirely with Reason!
What's the best music making tip you ever got? As simple as it sounds.... to take my time and not rush myself into a finished product. Music takes time and patience. I can see too many producers rushing to get tunes out there, and if some of them focused their energy into just one tune instead of four or five then that one tune would be of such a higher standard.
Do you have any favorite sound or patch? Yeah, I have a few patches I use more then once, I'm a fan of the jagged metallic style mid synths and reese mids so I use them quite often. I have sound preferences depending on whether I'm writing something hard or something a bit deeper.
What do you do when writer's block strikes? I try to listen to something aside from the genre I'm trying to make. Mostly I will listen back to bands I grew up on and that made me want to make music in the first place.
What has been the best moment in your music making career thus far? Hmmm, that's a though one. Getting my first play on Radio 1 by Skream & Benga on their show was a big moment for me. Was a great feeling to get that kind seal of approval from two main figure heads in the sound I was creating, and on the biggest radio station in the UK!
Any Words of Wisdom for aspiring producers and musicians? Aside from my earlier "don't rush yourself", which I can't stress enough. I would say build good relationships with important people in the scene. Don't expect to get anything back right away but if you keep sending them material and stay polite and friendly they will feel more inclined to help you. In my own experience, I feel more inclined to help people that don't just hit me up asking for music or to share their page etc... If someone is being friendly and asking for mixdown help or sending me music to see what I think then I will want to help them out more.
We caught up with music production duo KOAN Sound to learn a bit more about how they use Reason in their music. Little that we know that they'd reveal some truly amazing tips for designing synths and bass lines. Read on to find out how they create those gut-wrenching bass sounds and mind-bending effects!
Could you tell us a little bit about how you guys approach sound design in Reason? We use Reason mainly for creating synths and basslines. The Malström synth is used for pretty much every bass sound, and we normally use the different saw and square wave variations. By themselves they're very chunky waveforms so they provide a great basis for an endless number of sounds. Most of our bass sounds are made by first making a long bass note and giving it some movement so we can later resample it in interesting ways. To get the movement we tend to go crazy with automation and effects until we get a dynamic but clean sound. For example we'll add an EQ before a Scream 4 in the chain of effects because when you automate the EQ frequency and gain, it combines with the distortion to create really cool movement. Then we'll usually export and resample the sound.
We resample a lot in Reason with the NN-19. It's an easy way to get a bass sounding really techy. For example when we have a sound we like in the NN-19, we'll duplicate it then apply different effects to each one, dedicating one to the low end and the other for highs and mids. For example we might add a bandpass filter to one of them and slightly detune it in the sampler so when the bandpass is automated it sweeps through the frequencies and phases them which sounds pretty nice. We could then export this again and repeat if needs be. Also, the notch filter on the NN-19 is awesome and we use it often to give bass more movement.
The Scream 4 distortion is probably our favourite thing about Reason. It's such a versatile tool and can completely mangle sounds whilst keeping them relatively clean. We've used it to process snares too. The loud, metallic snares in 'Meanwhile, In The Future' were made by putting live snare samples through the Scream 4. It created these huge exaggerated tails which didn't sound overly distorted.
Any specific sound design tips you got that really helped you out? Best thing we learnt was to think about sounds in three parts: lows, middles and highs. This helps with the overall mix of the track because you can then add and remove frequencies so it comes together like a jigsaw. But it's also incredibly helpful when thinking about bass sounds. Splitting bass into multiple parts and treating each part differently with filters and effects can create very sonically pleasing sounds.
Do you have any favorite sound or patch or do you create everything from scratch? For our more melodic tracks we often use the Hall Strings from the NN-XT. When low pass filtered and with some reverb they can provide a very deep and warm layer to the track. Even when we've used live recordings of violins, like in our Sanctuary EP, we layered them with these Reason strings to thicken out the mix.
How do you use Reason in your music making? I use Reason to design different kinds of synthesizer sounds from the ground up which is really exciting due to the modular nature of Reason's devices. I start off with a set of blank combinators and just connect cables to my hearts content which usually ends up in a huge mess of cables all contributing to a wonderful wall of sound.
The common scenario is that I Rewire Reason to any other DAW I may be working on at the time and just use the combinator controls to automate the sounds of my combinator devices. Reason is a very visual software which is something I like very much and it lets the user go deeper in to programming devices than many other major DAWs and its just a breeze to come up with new sounds.
What's the best music making tip you ever got? I guess the best tip I ever got was to think of a tune as a combination of two or three main elements. That simplification has really helped me creatively to concentrate on the elements that matter. As a producer the risk of losing sight of the bigger picture is always apparent as the tools we use are so intricate and provide so many options. That's not so much of a problem when you're producing for someone else and they are in charge of the artistic decisions but as an artist I'm solely responsible for the overall vibe of the music I create.
Do you have any favorite sound or patch? In broad terms I do have favorite timbres that I prefer over others but they are more like personal preferences of how a certain instrument should sound in a particular context. I rarely have a specific patch in mind when I'm writing and in broad terms I'm just trying to select the right vibe for the track by listening to the sounds in my head.
What do you do when writer's block strikes? The frustrating part about a writers block is that they are hard to notice sometimes. I might be working on a tune for a week and then realize nothing I've done makes any sense. What I usually do is throw the garbage out and start from scratch. Sounds painful but its actually very relieving.
What has been the best moment in your music making career thus far? I don't have a specific life defining moment in mind but in general terms the greatest part about pursuing creativity is the small moments of gratification that happen after you've created something meaningful. Its that childish excitement that I'm looking for.
Any Words of Wisdom for aspiring producers and musicians? Work hard, play hard but don't take yourself too seriously and meet some real people every once in a while!