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Maschine Heart.


Image

I finally picked up Native Instruments Maschine last week and have spent all day today working on a remix so that I can learn how it works.  I’m not going to review it just yet because I’m still getting my head around it all.

All I can say right now is “MY BALLS!!! THIS SHIT IS DOPPPPEEEE!”.

Seriously.

You always take a gamble when you buy new gear.  This is particularly so when you buy complex gear like samplers and midi controller interfaces and software etc.  So far, Maschine has been awesome.  I’ll do a gear review of it in the future when I’ve mastered it a bit.

However, my experience with Maschine so far is bitter sweet.  I’m actually legitimately saddened.  The reason for my sadness is this:  I can see Maschine coming to replace my MPC2000XL for the majority of my production.  That is seriously heart wrenching for me.

I bought my MPC2000XL in about 2000/2001 when I got my first proper job.  Since then I must have produced well in excess of 1000 beats on it.  It has never faltered or caused me any issues.  It has travelled thousands upon thousands of kilometres with me.

Perhaps people who aren’t producers wouldn’t understand but the truth is – you build up a relationship with your music making equipment.  Sometimes these bits of circuitry and buttons are your only respite from all the bullshit that is happening in your life.  If I had a bad day, I always knew that I could go into the lab, fire up the MPC and forget about all my problems for a little while at least.  And you come to know ever little function, feature and quirk of the gear that you use regularly.  It really does become like a friend.

It’s not mere nostalgia talking here.  There is a genuine sadness.

However, the MPC2000XL does have its limitations and they are limitations that are now limiting my ability to keep up with the demands of my production cycle.  Primarily, the fact that I mix in Logic (and the MPC doesn’t interface with computers like Maschine does) means that I spend far too much time bouncing individual tracks out so that I can mix my beats.

I’m about to move my MPC2000XL to the small “ideas table” in the corner of my lab.  This is the place where I leave stuff to use irregularly whenever I’m looking at changing my workflow and generating some new ideas.  I’m going to put Maschine here in front of my iMac as my primary production tool and sequencer.

Just know that I do it with a very heavy heart.

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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in Audio production, gear, Production

 

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Gfted! Promo vid.


Hey folks,

Some friends of mine are getting a clothing label off the ground.  It’s called Gfted.  Here’s their first promo vid (directed by Maziar Lahooti and featuring music by my very good friend Lenny Rudeberg)  It’s pretty awesome.

PEESHE

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2011 in Audio production, Films, gear, Hip Hop

 

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Gear review… sort of… Celemony Melodyne.


The audio cassette greatly increased the distr...

Hi folks,

Whilst looking over the various websites I visit and magazines I read over the past year and a half, I have been bombarded with information about one plugin in particular.  It has always piqued my interest but, at the same time, I’ve been quite skeptical about comments and claims.  The plugin in question is a “pitch correction” tool called Melodyne Editor by a company named Celemony.  Anyway, I saw recently that they were running a free 30 day trial of the full version of the product so I decided to bite the bullet and check it out.

Firstly, let me explain my skepticism.  From reading reviews and promotional material, one could be lead to believe that Melodyne has the power to resurrect the dead, kill them in a blood-thirsty orgy of Zombie-death and then resurrect them again.  Okay… that’s probably exaggerating, but you get my point.  Every product always claims to be able to do 1000% more than it realistically can.  Also, pitch correction tools can be particularly nasty.  Whether you’re talking about Antares Autotune (hardware version or the various software emulations) or something as simple as your generic time-stretcher, these tools have an unavoidable capacity to generate unmusical audio artifacts and aliasing that makes a recording sound as if you’re listening to it inside a toilet bowl (literally).  Nevertheless, when a free trial comes up I figure there’s no harm in taking a bit of a look.

Let me just say… WOW!  This plugin in is absolutely incredible.

Before you get the impression that I’m some kind of paid advertisement, let me point out a few of the shortcomings before I talk about the positive aspects.

The idea behind the plugin is that it can analyse audio that is passed through it, deconstruct the various notes that are being played in that audio (including the individual notes that form chords) and then map them out on a piano roll interface which will allow you to shift and change each individual note in terms of pitch, length and timing/position.  The big claim is that you can completely modify an audio recording melodically, rhythmically and tonally and then export/play the modified progression pretty much flawlessly.  I wouldn’t go so far as to agree with that claim for the following reasons:

1. There is still a degree of aliasing and warble which is usually associated with pitch correction tools whenever you move notes around.  This, however, is less present than in any other pitch shifter that I’ve ever messed with.

2. Stretching notes produces some aliasing also.  See point 1.

3. It has some trouble with complex waveforms.  If you sample a well-mixed tune which contains drums, piano, bass and strings – for example – it will not be able to adequately distinguish the various instruments and overlapping frequencies well enough to allow for convincing reconstruction.  Sorry, Mr. Melodyne, that’s just a fact.

Whilst those above-mentioned flaws are pretty significant (though entirely expected), I still stand by my initial claim – WOW!  I stand by it for the following reasons:

1. Whilst distinguishing between the melodic and rhythmic lines of various instruments is a little imperfect, Melodyne Editor is phenomenally accurate at picking the actual notes that are present in the audio.

2.  The processing of audio is simple and very quick.  I run an iMac Core2duo with 16gb of RAM (a lot of RAM, I know).  Melodyne takes about 30 to 45 seconds to analyse an ENTIRE song of audio.  If you’re grabbing 5 second sections of a given song here or there the processing time is more like 5 to 10 seconds.  That’s well within the scope of being “interruption free” for a producer.

3.  The software has some extremely useful features which are intuitive to access and use.  For example, you can lock the analysed, mapped out audio parts “to scale”.  This means that whenever you move an individual note on the Melodyne piano roll you will only be able to move it to another note which is within the same scale.  Creating melodic variations within sampled material has never been so easy.

4. And this is my favourite feature – you can export the analysed audio as a MIDI file.  This allows you to import the MIDI file into one or more virtual/software instrument tracks.  Why, you may ask, is that so great?  Well, just this.  Suppose you have a sample which is composed of a beautiful bassline, amazing keys and a long droney trumpet that (if you looped it) would just repeat over and over and over and… well… drive you nuts.  If you analyse this audio, and then export it as MIDI and load it up on to two software instrument tracks (one for bass, one for keys) all you need to do is delete every midi event which is not bass note for the bass channel and every event which is not a key note on the keys track and, voila, you have a MIDI version of the bass and keys from your sample.

Sure, I know MIDI always sounds pretty dodgey in comparison to the live instrumentation in a sample but, used delicately and with discretion, this is an incredibly powerful process for a producer to have access to.  It sure beats painstakingly recreating the various elements of the song using only your ears and the precious hours of your life (come on, we’ve all done it).  Plus, if you’re going to have a band play the song live, you can follow the process in point 4, then hit print from the Notation screen on your DAW and suddenly you have all the sheet music available for each of the instruments in the song.  Pretty cool.

The truth is, Melodyne will not be your go to plugin for every single track – you won’t even use it for 10% of your songs, I’d guess.  However, it has the very real potential to save a song from the garbage bin in those instances where you find yourself reaching for it.

I’ve had one song (heavily chopped piano sample driven) sitting on my DAW for a long time.  I love this song but I have never been able to get it to work right.  I’ve had to filter the samples so heavily to bring forward the elements I like that it just sounds over-filtered.  The bandwidth of the song elements are too narrow and it just doesn’t sit together right.  Using the Trial version of Melodyne I spent, literally, 15 minutes producing complimentary software instrument lines via MIDI and, suddenly, the mix sounds full and natural.  Bear in mind, I never removed the original sample, I just used Melodyne to produce software instrument lines to layer beneath it.  With a little level mixing and some judicious EQ, the new instrument lines sound as if they are part of the actual sample.  15 minutes to do a task that I had been avoiding for months because I knew it would take me the better part of three days to get it right (if I didn’t get too frustrated to continue).

Anyway, this is not so much of a review as a glowing rant.

I stand by my words, though.

WOW.

PEESHE

 

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Gear review… Logic 9 continued and ended.


Hi folks,

It’s been a few days since I posted the last instalment of this three part review of Logic 9.  This time I’m going to be looking at Software Instruments and Logic’s native plugins.   Creating Software instrument tracks follows the same process as creating audio tracks (see last blog).  In most instances, you’re only going to be able to make effective use of them if you have a MIDI controller keyboard of some sort (if you’re strapped for cash, try the Korg NanoKey 2 – it won’t make you weep with joy but it works).  Alternatively, you can use the Piano Roll window to enter MIDI notes manually.  This can be a good way of using the samplers to arrange a chopped sample but is a bit counter-intuitive if you’re looking create, for example, a piano progression.

An instance of Ultrabeat

Software Instruments

Logic includes a number of core plugins to provide virtual instruments.  For those that don’t know, a software or virtual instrument is a digital-based tool that allows you to play “instrument” sounds within your PC.  They generally have three formats: synthesised, which operates as a software version of what you would find in your normal hardware synthesisers; sampler style, which allows actual sounds to be recorded and played back over a ranged of notes (pitch shifting sounds to fill in the gaps); and ROMpler style, which is based on recorded sounds like a sampler but which provides you with specific sounds to use rather than letting you provided your own recorded sounds – they sometimes combine ROMplers and synthesis elements in one instrument.  An example of a ROMpler would be something like Native Instruments Kontakt.

In terms of synthesisers, Logic has eleven options ranging from old style and traditional synthesis through to synthesisers that emulate particular instruments.  Here’s a run-down of the various synths:

EFM1

This is an FM synthesiser.  In short, that means that it generates sound through the esoteric process of frequency modulation.  It’s a decent synth and a fair emulation of your generic FM synth but I find it a bit harsh and tiring to listen to for extended periods.  This is, for me, a little characteristic of FM synthesis in general.

ES E

This is an ensemble synth that aims to provide a one stop shop for synthesis of “synthy” strings.  Some people love strings.  Some people love synthesised strings even more.  If you’re one of these people, then you’re sure to be happy with the ES E.  For me, this is probably my second least used synth.  It’s decent for providing a little body to organic, sampled or recorded strings but (like synthesised horns) I think synth strings just sound bad – even when they’re good.

ES M

This is a really simple little synth that takes on the world of Monophonic synthesis.  In other words, it only allows you to play one note at a time – just like a MiniMoog.  Whilst it bears no resemblance to the Moog, the aim with this synth is to allow users to make Moog-ish basslines.  It’s not too bad either but it has pretty limited options and the oscillators always sound a little to “squelchy” (when the resonance is lifted a little) or otherwise to “flat” (when the resonance is off) for the music I make.  Nevertheless, with some creative effects you can often get a decent sound out of this synth.

The ES Monophonic synth

ES P

Another simple synth, this time taking on the world of Polyphonic synthesis.  Again the emphasis here is on basslines but you can get some good sounds out of this for melodic elements or sound effects.  It allows you to mix together a variety of wave forms before running them through frequency cutoff, resonance, envelope generator, chorus and distortion.  You can also put the sound through vibrato or wah to varying degrees and at varying speeds – when combined with the resonance knob, you are able to drive the synth in to self-oscillation territory.

ES1

This is the first of the generic, all-purpose synths.  Rather than emulating particular types of synthesis or particular eras of synthesiser the ES1 just tries to provide a useful tool.  And it does.  It has a fair few features (and LFO, Modulation routing etc) but is pretty straight-forward to use and has a lot of potential for producing good basic synth sounds (and some more complex ones).  My only minor gripe is that it can sound a little too simple – it doesn’t quite have the flair that one looks for in a good synth.

ES2

The ES2 is by far my most loved “synthy” synth in Logic 9.  It is similar in concept to the ES1 (an all around work horse) but it is much, much nicer to use and to listen to.  There’s too many features to list but it is still relatively intuitive to use.  The ability to run Oscillators 1 and 2 in series or parallel is a probably my favourite thing about this synth.  Very, very good.

EVB3

The EVB3 is a tone-wheel organ emulation and a damn good one at that.  I love this synth.  Easy to use, with some great options for creating a more natural organ sound (drawbars, key click emulation on press and release, cabinet control, rotary speaker emulation etc).  Whilst it lacks the temperamental nature of a real Hammond B3 (or such like) you can still create a pleasant character and tone with this plugin.

The EVB3 Tonewheel Organ

EVD6

The EVD6 is a clavinet emulation.  And it is very, very funky.  If I could play “Superstitious” by Stevie Wonder I would lose many hours of my life on this synth.  However, much like the clavinet itself, this synth is a bit limited in usefulness.  A great and flexible emulation of a clav but, really, how many songs do you really need to put clav in?

EVOC 20 PS

Okay.  Let me be honest.  I’ve never used this synth.  It’s a vocoder and, since I have a MicroKorg, I don’t need it.  Additionally, I really don’t like vocoded sounds very much.  So…

EVP88

This one is an absolute gem.  It’s always my starting synth when I’m putting together ideas (and not just because it’s the default synth when you add a new software instrument track).  It’s an electric piano emulation and it is just plain beautiful.  With a little coaxing and some careful manipulation of the various parameters you can produce anything from thin melodic tinkling to rich warm Rhodesy chords.  Of all the synths, this has the most useful and well made presets, too, which will always give you a decent starting point to work from.

EVP88......... I love you.

Sculpture

When Logic 9 was released there was a great hoo-hah about Sculpture.  The hoo-hah was probably justified because this is a powerful, stringed instrument modelling synth (i.e. it uses synthesis to replicate what occurs when you play plucked, bowed or strummed stringed instruments).  However, I just never use this.  Partly it’s because I rarely need stringed instruments for my music.  Partly it’s because, like horns, violins and pianos – synthesised guitars always sound second-rate.  And lastly, if I do need some small guitar part I’ll (clumsily and with an excruciating lack of skill) play it myself.  Oh, and this is an insanely complex synth to use well.

 

Whilst the above synthesisers all have their uses, they probably only make up a small percentage of the sounds I use in Logic (except the EVP88 which I use all the time).  Most sounds that I reach for are delivered by Logic’s two excellent samplers, Ultrabeat and the EXS24.

Ultrabeat

This is a drum sequencer and sampler.  It is set up as a ROMpler at first glance, with a bunch of different drum kits that can be used in its sequencer window.  However, one of those kits is called “Drag and drop samples” and this one allows you to import your own drum sounds and save your own kits.  So it is, in fact, a sampler.  And it’s a great sampler, too, though it has some niggling limitations.  On the plus side, it has a bunch of options for treating, pitching, EQing, LFOing, envelope shaping etc each individual drum sound that you import – an excellent range of useful options but I wish they were laid out better.  On the minus side, it has a 16 part step sequencer that allows you to arrange drum patterns and apply swing but there is no way to push or pull individual hits (IF YOU KNOW HOW TO DO THIS, PLEASE COMMENT!!!!!!!).  The minus is only a niggling problem though as you can always copy the pattern into your arrange window as a MIDI region and then push or pull individual drum hits in there.

Probably the best thing about Ultrabeat is the ability to load it as Multi Outputs (8 x Stereo, 8 x mono).  You can then route the individual hits to their own channel in the mixer window and EQ, compress etc each of them separately.  Before I figured that out, I pretty much thought that Ultrabeat was useless, now I use it on probably 40 to 50% of my tracks.

EXS24

This is your traditional software sampler.  Again, it acts as a ROMpler with a big range of pre-made sampled sounds.  However, you can create an EXS sampler instrument from any number of regions in the arrange window (actually it’s a maximum of 128 regions I think), and thus it is in fact a sampler.  The limitations of this tool are found only in your imagination.  That said, it is not always the most intuitive thing to use.  Creating loop points for multisample instruments is a pain in the ass, and the routing options are fiddly.  Since I have a couple of MPC’s I rarely use it as a sampler (though I have done so before and it is quite useful).  Mostly I use it as a ROMpler based on the packaged sounds or multi-samples that I’ve acquired myself over the years.  Make note – this thing eats RAM.  If you have less than 4gb RAM and an i5 processor (or top of the line Core 2 Duo) you may as well give up before you begin.

 

EFFECTS PLUGINS

As for effects, Logic 9 comes with a full range of delay, modulation, dynamics control, EQ, utility, filtering, stereo imaging, pitch-based and reverberation effects.  The beautiful thing is, with the exception of one or two, they are all excellent quality and highly useful.  I’ll just mention a few of my favourites in passing.

Compressor

This is a well-featured plugin that allows you to control all the normal features of a compressor – attack, release, threshold, ratio, knee etc.  It also has a limiter on the output which can be turned on or off.  Interestingly, it also models popular compressor types such as Opto, FET, Class A_U and Class A_R – these all have distinct characteristics (though I’m not really convinced that they are faithful emulations).  Generally, you’ll find one type that best suits your style of music and then you’ll stick it it.  I leave it on Platinum mode which I find to be perfect for most sound sources.  Compressors are so necessary for producing music that I had to include this on the list simply because it just works.

Channel EQ

By far the effect that I use the most.  This is a 4 band parametric EQ with additional, adjustable high and low band shelving as well as adjustible high and low band roll-off.  It is extremely flexible and can do anything from gentle boost or cut a broad range of frequencies to brutally or surgically obliterate the frequencies in a sound.  It’s rare that you won’t find this on a channel that I am mixing.  Like most digital EQ’s, it can sound a bit artificial when you start boosting things in narrow bandwidths at high levels (though even analogue EQ’s start sounding dodgey then) but if you are reasonable in its use then it performs well.

Overdrive

This one is extremely simple but absolutely useful.  It allows you to boost the gain of a sound below an adjustable cut-off point.  When used lightly it can give crucial body to digital instruments and push them that little bit closer to “real instrument” territory.  Great on kick drums, too, whether used as an insert on the kick drum channel or on a send buss as a parallel effect.

Space Designer

This one is a convolution reverb.  Convolution reverbs are all the rage at the moment and I have to admit that I like them more than traditional digital reverbs (which all sound a bit tinny with the exception of Hyperprism’s HyperVerb which was an incredible sounding reverb).  Basically, a convolution reverb recreates the reverb profile of an actual room through something called an Impulse Response.  Basically, they play a sound in a room and they record the sound as it is heard in the room.  They then deduct the original sound from the sound recorded in the room and what is left is a “template” of the reverb in that room.  They can then apply that template to any other sound and it will sound as if it is being heard in that room.  At least that’s the theory.  It doesn’t quite work as well as all that but it does have the potential to create very natural sounding reverbs and I use it a lot.  It’s best to set this one up on an auxillary buss and use it as a send because it tends to swallow a bit of RAM.

Stereo Delay

There are never really any bells and whistles when it comes to delays.  What you want is one that does what it’s supposed and does it quickly and easily.  Logic’s Stereo Delay does all that.  With the additional benefits of being able to adjust the push/pull of delayed sounds and narrow the frequency bands that the delay effects – this is a incredibly useful for giving life you your mix.  The only thing I would like which this plugin is missing, if the ability to adjust the degradation of the delayed signal (so that it becomes less bright as it decays/echos).  If I really need to have that happen I usually turn to a free third-party plugin called KingDubby (look for my old blog entitled Free Plugins for Mac if you want a link).

The following effects get honourable mentions: Stereo Spread, for widening the perceived sound very effectively; Noise Gate, simple and effective; Pedalboard, an awesome collection of digital guitar stomp boxes (which I use on keyboard sounds mostly); and Match EQ, which allows you to create a frequency profile from one sound source and then create that same EQ profile in a different sound source (rarely used but really useful whenever I need it).

 

Other things worth noting

You can automate any feature of any plugin in Logic 9 by hitting the Automate button at the top of the screen and then clicking the Volume button that automatically appears in the Channel Header of the channel that has that effect in it.  A list of plugins and instruments on that channel with appear – choice the feature that you want to automate from the relevant drop down menu and then draw the automation in on the channel in the Arrange window.  Easy, right?

You can copy and paste your settings in most of Logic’s native plugins.  Just look in the top right hand corner of the plugin’s interface.  If it’s not there, try making the interface larger (grab the bottom right corner and drag it) – the copy/paste buttons may just be hidden.

You can also automate any Aux Sends (busses) that you have created.  It works the same way as the automation I mentioned above, however, you will first need to go to the Mixer window (press ‘x’) and click on the Aux track you want to automate.  Then, still in the Mixer window, select Options –> Create Arrange Tracks for Selected Channel Strips… A new track will appear in the Arrange window which corresponds to the Aux track in the Mixer window.  Automate away!

 

Overall

Reviewing a DAW is like reviewing a 10000 head herd of cows.  You can start checking them one by one but in the end you’ve just got to say “Yeah, they’re good cows” or “I’ve seen too many horses here to feel confident that his is a legitimate herd of cattle”.  Confusing analogies aside, let me just say – Logic 9 is a wonderful DAW.  Sure, it has limitations and there are some things that other DAWs do better, but it is incredibly usable for very high end recording and production anyway.  Logic 9 will not blow you away with sleek styling and a sense of mysterious je nais se quoi – but it will always impress you with its limitless ability to get the job done and its conservatively guised grunt.

If Logic 9 was a car it would be a Volvo.  A bit dull but will drive 300,000 kms without breaking down and you know you will be safe in all but the worst accidents.

If Logic 9 was a cow it would not be a horse.

PEESHE

 

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Gear Review… Logic 9 continued…


Hey folks,

Now for the second instalment of my review/walkthrough of Logic 9.  Today we’re going to look at recording, importing and editing audio tracks in the Arrange window.

Recording

Step 1 – Create an Audio track.

As of last post, you should know how to start up Logic and create an audio track.  In this case you should be ready to select an input, record enable and then record.  Maybe you want to record a new track though, or you’ve loaded up a software instrument first.  Here’s a few pointers.

Settings for Record on the Track

There are three main ways to add a new track.

You can duplicate an existing track by clicking the duplicate button.  This will not only create the same type of track (e.g audio or software instrument track) but will also carry over all the plugins and eq settings you’ve used for the first track.

You can create a new track by either clicking the Create New Track Button or by selecting New… in the Track tab.  This will allow you to create a new audio or software instrument track with initialized settings.

You can also arm the track to record by clicking the record enable button in the track header.  Then, when you click the record button, you will start recording to that track (and any other record enabled tracks) from their selected inputs.

Alternatively, you can select record enable from the Channel Strip which is also where you will be able to select and change the inputs (and/or outputs) for that track.  See below.

Channel Strip record options

If you’ve got a stereo soundcard, then you will only have the one stereo option for input/output.  You could, depending on your soundcard, switch the audio track to mono (if you’re recording from a mono source such as a microphone) and then have two channels of audio (which would normally be your left and your right channel).  If you have a multichannel soundcard (such as the Mackie Onyx 820i that I use) you will have as many inputs available as your card provides.  The input selection button also allows you to record from any buss within the Logic 9 mixer – so you could, for example, send a bunch of tracks to a buss for effects and then record the effected sounds on their own track for further messing with.  This is quite handy if your Mac lacks the grunt to run a bunch of plugins as, once you’ve recorded the output of the buss, you could delete the buss entirely and free up some RAM.  Other than that, I can’t really see a use for it.

The next step is to hit record.  To do that you’ve got to look to the Transport controls at the bottom of the page.  This has some cool features.

Transport Controls

I’ve put a red box around the Transport control buttons.  These operate just like the buttons on your DVD player and don’t need any explanation.

Beside them is the transport readout which has a few useful features.

Firstly, the Transport Position readout tells you in both Bars and Minutes/Seconds where the Playhead is located in the track.  You can double click this and type in your own values to immediately move the playhead to a specific part of the track – very useful when you want to go to the first tick of a bar or beat and you don’t want to be scrolling the playhead tediously.

The Loop From/To box tells you the position and length of any sections in the arrangement that you have set up to loop – this is done by clicking on a grey box in above the tracks (it turns green if looping is activated).

The Tempo and Length settings show you the speed in Beats Per Minute of a track and how many bars it runs for.   It’s best to set your tempo before you start recording as, if you slice the audio up and then set the tempo, your slices will all go out of time.

The MIDI In/Out window seems pretty innocuous but is actually very useful.  Firstly, it shows you when MIDI notes are being sent and received (which is good when you can’t figure out why you’re pressing keys on your midi controller but not producing sound).  However, it also has a clever little function of telling you what notes you are playing and also what chords you are playing.  If your music theory is a bit weak (like… ahem… mine) this can be invaluable.   Plus it makes you look smart when you turn to the bass player and say, “The progression is D minor, B flat, D minor 6th.” like you actually know what you’re doing.

Lastly, there’s a couple of meters that show you how much strain you’re putting on your CPU and Hard disk.  Good. Useful.

Anyway, you’ll just want to choose your input and hit record.

What you should see when you’re done is something like this (this is an old session so there are a few things that I’ve added which won’t magically appear when you’ve finished recording – I’ve pointed them out):

Recorded Tracks

This is an image from a song that I’m currently working on for my album (“Making Space” – shameless plug).  I’ve stripped out most of the other tracks and just left the vocals so you can see what’s going on more clearly.  I’ve added some effects to the vocals (not much at this stage – for vocals less is more).  Anyway, read the annotations.

Aside from recording audio directly you can also import audio.  Lets see how this is done with a break.

THESE... ARE... THE BREAKS!

Okay, so in the screenshot above I’ve imported a break.  Here’s how I did it.

Step 1 – Go to the browser tab and find your way to the folder with the file you want.

Step 2  – Select the file you want then click and drag it to an empty track in the Arrange window.   You can position it wherever you want.  If you drag it earlier than the first bar, Logic will automatically set it to begin playing at the very beginning of the track.

Step 3 – Adjust the tempo to match the break (that is, if you’re using it as a loop which I tend not to do but it’s a useful thing to know)

A few more things to note.  When I looped this break, it had a nasty click at the end.  I selected the audio file (now called an Audio Region) and turned up the Fade In and Fade Out settings in the Inspector window.  You can see the fades on the file (they’re the white bits at each end).

All very quick and simple – this is the beauty of the browser.

 

Slicing Regions

This is the last thing I’ll post about today because I’m beginning to ramble on.

Slicing regions is a process where you divide an existing audio (or MIDI) region into two or more regions but cutting it in to pieces.  These pieces don’t actually exist as separate audio files on your hard disk – they act more like cue points that tell Logic when to start and stop playing a section of a file.  The beauty of sliced regions is that you can shift them around and rearrange them to make new drum or musical progressions.

The process of slicing is relatively easy.  Firstly, you can move the playhead to the point where you want to slice the region and then select Region -> Split -> Split Region by Playhead.  You will then have two slices.  See below:

Sliced and diced.

This process can be a little laborious though if you’re doing more than some simple editing.  If you’re a hip hop producer you’ll probably be slicing everything into hundreds of little pieces.  In that case I would suggest going to Logic Pro -> Preferences -> Key Commands and setting up a keyboard shortcut for Split Region by Playhead (I’ve set mine to “\”).  That way you will not only be able to slice by simply pressing a key but you can in fact slice a region as you are playing through and listening to it just by hitting a key (very, very useful and quick).

Anyway, that’s it for the working with audio regions section.  If I haven’t explained something well (highly likely) or you haven’t read something well (come on… let’s be honest, that’s likely too) then just hit me up with a comment.  I’m more than happy to go into more detail for you or to try and help you with any problems you’re having with Logic 9.

PEESHE

 

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Gear review… Logic 9.


MIDI connector diagram

The elusive Unhappy Five-eyed Roundface A.K.A a MIDI connector.

Hi folks,

Another gear review for you.  This time I’m looking at Logic 9.  I have Logic Studio but, to be honest, I never use MainStage, WaveBurner or any of the other doo-dads that come in the package (though I probably will in the future).  You can make of that what you will.  This review is so big I’ll have to break it down into sections. Today I’ll give you an introduction into the workspace.

Logic 9 is one of the major DAW (digital audio workstations) that are available for computers, though in this case, Logic is only available for Macs.  The other major DAWs are Cubase and ProTools.  There are plenty of other options (FLStudio, Ableton, Propellorheads Reason and Record to name a few), and whilst Ableton has had a meteoric rise in popularity, Logic, Cubase and ProTools still own the lion’s market share of professional and project studio users.

I’ve been using Logic myself for about a year and a half, having migrated from a PC setup with Adobe Audition to a Mac setup.  Given that I’ve got a background in audio engineering and sound production, I was able to pick up the workflow and concepts inherent in Logic pretty quickly but, don’t be fooled by pithy advertising, this is a beast of a workstation and will blow the minds of most beginners in the field.  The only advice I have for those who have picked up Logic as their first DAW is this – read the manual.  Twice.

Rather than try to take you through the ins and outs of every available feature in the program, it’s probably going to be more enlightening if I run you through the process (or processes) that I go through when I’m producing a track.  I’ll comment on the various pros and cons as I go.

When you first load Logic 9 you’ll get a page that looks like this:

Logic 9 New Project Page

Of course, your desktop will probably be cleaner and void of any copyright issues with George A. Romero.

The New Project page allows you to begin from preset templates which will automatically load a range of instruments and settings.  Personally, I find these to be pretty useless, though the ability to create your own templates is good.  I always click on the Empty Project template and start from scratch.  If you had a bigger desk than I with a number of predetermined inputs, you could easily create a template to load all the tracks you will need with their assigned audio inputs – that would be useful.

If you click Empty Project the next screen you see will look like this:

Empty Project Screen

Logic 9 asks you to create a track (since it has no tracks at this point and a DAW with no audio or MIDI tracks is pretty useless).  You have three options: a stereo/mono audio track, so you can record live instruments and microphones; a Software Instrument track, which will allow you to record MIDI information for the virtual instruments that come with Logic or from third-party manufacturers; and an external MIDI track, which allows you to use Logic to control external synthesisers or drum machines or any other MIDI enabled hardware you have.  I’ll load an audio track.  What you see next is this:

Logic with Audio track created.

Lets have a closer look at what we’ve got.

1.  The Audio track

Audio Track overview

The Channel Header acts as your link between the tracks (think of them like the tracks on a cassette tape) and the channels on your mixer (think of that like a… err… mixer).  It has a few options such as the ability to arm a track for record (the R will glow red), the ability to monitor the input for that track (the I will glow orange), the ability to Mute the track (the M will glow blue), and the ability to Solo a track (the S will glow yellow).  You can add more options (such as the ability to Freeze the track and, thus, save RAM) but I get by fine with the four options I’ve mentioned.

The Playhead scrolls when you click play to show you where you are in a particular arrangement.  This is handy if you set up your system like mine so that whenever you hit “\” a selected piece of audio or MIDI will be sliced at the point where the playhead is currently located.  This can make chopping samples pretty quick.

The Track is where any recorded audio will be seen.

And the Locater Bar (though I’m sure that’s not what it’s really called) shows you in Beats and Bars where you are in an arrangment.  If you hit “U” on your keyboard it will also show you your location in Minutes and Seconds, which can be handy.

2. The Channel Strip

Channel Strips and Inspector

This is the Inspector window/frame which also gives you access to the individual channel strips for the selected track.  Again, let’s take a closer look.

The Inspector Frame

The contents of this box varies depending on whether you’re looking at the MIDI controls or the Audio Region controls.  It allows you to make adjustments to individual Regions within the track (that is, discrete sections of audio or midi).  You can adjust the level of a specific region or affect it’s MIDI data (swing, quantize, transpose etc).

The Channel Strip

This is a mirror of the channel strip that you will (later) see in the mixer window.  It allows you to insert audio effects (delay, compression, phasing etc etc) from Logic’s inbuilt effects plugins or any third-party plugins.  These are called up by clicking on the Insert boxes.  Although there are only two boxes, more are added as each one is filled.  I’ve probably had as many as 12 effects on a channel but I’m not sure if there is a maximum number.  I know, 12 effects inserts is excessive and probably unnecessary.  Sometimes I get carried away.

There are also auxillary send busses, which allow you to send pre/post fader audio to a separate channel where you can apply more effects and include them in the mix.

You can also adjust the levels via the Level Fader. Duh.

The second channel strip (on the right) is for your Stereo Mix output.  You can treat this as a Master channel and are able to do anything with it that you can do with a track Channel Strip. Except ofcourse send it to a buss – that would create an infinite loop which would undoubtedly destroy the fabric of space-time and take us to a land where dinosaurs ride humans and drink no one drinks beer.

3. The Library Frame

The Library Frame and Tabs

On the right of the screen, a frame with tabs pops up that, whilst innocuous, is crucial to a speedy workflow.  It contains a number of useful tools.

The Snapping settings tab allows you to vary the way Logic interprets your movement of audio regions and midi notes.  Smart snapping tries to keep a region in the same position relative to where you moved it from (i.e moving a region from Bar 1 Count 2 to Bar 3 would mean that the snapping would lock it to Count 2 of Bar 3).  It also allows for find movements if you’re insistent with it.  However, you can make it snap to bars, beats or even MIDI ticks.

The Project bin is where all the audio that you have used in a project is stored (even if you have deleted it from the main window).  This is great for those times when you delete a horrible section of audio, save a few times and then realise that the “horrible audio” is in fact your lead singers trademark howler monkey impersonation.  You can then go and dig the deleted audio up from the Bin.

The Loops tab is perhaps the most useless tab in Logic 9.  It is where they file all the Apple Loops that come with the software.  Unless you’re making advertising jingles – stay away from this.  But it is easy to sort through if you do use it.  And, theoretically, you could use it a little bit like a REX file tab if you wanted to spend some time converting your samples into Apple Loops.

The Library tab is very useful.  Through here you can quickly sort through the presets and options for whatever software instrument or plug-in you have selected.  Since you will generally start with a preset of some sort (unless you’re a synth-Nazi) it can be a quick way of zipping through the options until you find a good starting point for the sound or effect you want.

The last tab is your Browser tab.  This gives you direct access to your hard drive so you can rapidly find the drum hit or break that you’re after.  It has a preview button at the bottom of the frame which allows you to hear the audio file you have selected in the browser.  There is a bit of a delay to the preview, though, if you are simultaneously playing tracks in the Arrange window (by the way, the main screen shot is the Arrange window).

There are a couple of useful buttons at the bottom of the screen.  One button increases the visual size of the waveform (not it’s actual volume) which is useful when you’re editing an audio region.  The two sliders allow you to zoom in or out on the screen.  Zooming is easier to do, however, by holding Alt and sliding your finger up/down/left/right on your magic mouse or mouse scroll-wheel.

Okay, that’s way to much information for one post so I’ll stop there.  Next post we’ll look at recording and importing audio files and then editing them in the Arrange window.  After that we’ll look at effects and Software Instruments, then MIDI, and then I’ll sum it all up in a general review.

See you then!

PEESHE

 

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Gear Review… AKG C3000B Microphone


A "sound" microphone. Ah, I crack me up.

Hi folks,

Time for another gear review.  This time it’s the AKG C3000B large diaphragm condenser microphone.

I bought my AKG C3000B about, probably, ten years ago now and have used it fairy frequently since then.  It’s your typical entry-level professional condenser microphone with no real bells and whistles but it is a trusty and flexible piece of kit, nonetheless.

It has a 1 inch, gold-spluttered diaphragm housed in a zinc cage with a finer mesh inner cage.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t act as much of a pop stopper (not that you’d expect it to) so you’re going to need a separate popper stopper if you’re using it for vocal work.  There is a -10dB pad switch on the side of the housing and a low-frequency roll-off switch.  And that really rounds out the feature set.  As I said, this is a basic entry level model.

The earlier C3000 was a popular microphone but the C3000B shares very little technology with that model – AKG seems to have borrowed the name just to juice a few more sales out of it.  It doesn’t really sound like that C3000, either.  However, the C3000B has a distinct and not unpleasant character of its own.

I’ve used it for vocals mostly but have also miked up bass and electric guitar cabs, acoustic guitar as well as snares and hats with it.  I’ve used it as a room mic on a number of occasions, too.  In all circumstances, it has performed well.  And this is one of the great things about the C3000B.  It really is about as all-purpose as a condenser mic can get.

The frequency response is relatively flat.  It dips a few dB on a steady slope from about 130Hz down.  There’s a 1 or 2dB lift from about 2.5kHz to 5.5kHz which can, in the right conditions, give a nice presence lift to your sound.  However, the mic can be a bit temperamental in poor quality environments and has a tendency to sound a bit thin unless it’s in a well-treated acoustic space.  That’s probably symptomatic of the fact that it has a large diaphragm transducer and a cardioid polar pattern.  I don’t think I’ve ever used a professional large diaphragm condenser that doesn’t sound bad in a boxy room – they simply pick up too much room sound.  My Neumann KM185i, on the other hand, handles boxy rooms quite well (but it is a small diaphragm, hypercardioid model and it’s worth about 5 times what the AKG is worth).

I recently had a conversation with an emcee who was looking to begin buying some recording gear.  Obviously, his main concern was the microphone (as was mine when I started out, though if I could go back in time I would have kicked my ass and forced myself to buy acoustic treatment instead).  I made two recommendations to him, given his relatively small budget.  The first recommendation was a Rode NT1A – a great entry level mic with similar flexibility to the C3000B but, perhaps, a slightly warmer sound.  The second recommendation was the AKG C3000B.

I guess, if you can still recommend a budget mic after 10 years of use it has to have something going for it.

PEESHE

 
 

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