Point Blank developer and tutor Ski Oakenfull recently gave three EMC oriented seminars at the Amsterdam Dance Event. In the third and final one, he breaks down the 2006 Simian vs Justice track ‘We Are Your Friends’. The track is essentially a remix of Simian’s original song ‘Never Be Alone’, and started life as a submission by the French electro house outfit Justice in a remix competition. Ski used Ableton Live 8′s native devices and library to recreate virtually all the sounds of the track, and as a special festive gift, has made the entire project featured in the seminar available to download.
For the drums, Ski used some similar sounding samples from his drum library which he fattened up using parallel compression. The bass was simulated by creating a chain containing a preset from Live’s library called ‘Bass-Boffner’ and an Analog device combined with a phaser to create the warm fuzziness. The electric piano was again created by chaining the library ‘Keys-4 AM’ patch with an Analog device to give it more body. The only sound that was created using a third party plug in, was the repetitive A minor chord riff. Ski used a great free AU/VST device called the Combo Model F which can be downloaded here.
To download this project, all we ask is that you tell your friends by sharing it on Facebook or tweeting about it. Please click the link below to download the file.
(NOTE: The Ableton project is compressed using the .rar format)
Don’t forget to subscribe to Point Blank’s YouTube channel where you can watch the previous two seminars where Ski breaks down Mr Fingers’ ‘Can You Feel It’ and SBTRKT’s Wildfire. Meanwhile, here is the Justice vs Simian video just in case you missed it..
Hello, everyone. My name is Ski Oakenfull and I’m a tutor, course developer, and producer at Pointblank Online Music College based in London. We teach a variety of courses both in the physical college and online as well, and one of the courses that I’ve worked on, I’ve actually developed is called Electronic Music Composition, and it launched in June this year. It’s becoming extremely successful and the concepts of the course is to basically introduce music theory to people, music makers who might not have had any kind of music training like piano lessons or whatever when they were kids, but they really want to make music. But they just want to enhance their skills by actually knowing what they’re playing, maybe think about some chord progressions, melodies, bass lines. Just kind of go beyond maybe taking things from mini loops or sample loops or whatever and actually playing in things yourself. I think this can be a very useful tool for remixing and working with other people and just basically writing your own music.
One of the techniques that we use is to break down tracks, analyze tracks, take something and just look at the components the main elements of it like for example the bass line, the chords, and the melody, and from that kind of use that as a vehicle to introduce musical concepts. That’s what I’m going to do today, and I’m going to use this track by Justice Vs Simian it’s called “We Are Your Friends.” It came out in 2006. It’s a great track it’s a bass lead track, bass line lead track. I’ll just show you the cover of that so you can see it. There we go, Justice Vs Simian “We Are Your Friends,” and kind of an interesting tune, this because it actually came out I think the year before, and it was just a Simian track.
And it’s actually, what they’ve done they’ve essentially done a remix. I don’t know if Justice did the remix and then they called it Justice Vs Simian I’m not sure, but they’ve basically taken the vocal and kind of written the complete dance track underneath it. So I’ll play you the original now, and you can have a listen to the vocal. [music]
I’ll skip forward a bit actually; see if I can actually get to the vocal bit. [music] That is the bit they’ve taken, it’s that chorus line and I’m not going to play you the actual Justice Vs Simian track. I’ll play up to just past that actual main vocal bit and then we’ll start breaking it down. So I’m just going to play that to you now. [music]
It’s essentially a remix, and they’ve really got a completely new angle on it. It’s great. The original version is kind of much rockier in a way this is like totally dance floor. And was a massive hit as well. First of all, I just want to look at the key signature of this track. This is something that we look at in the first week of the course, of the Electronic Music Composition course, and it really is a sort of fundamental thing because once we learn the key signature we can then know what notes to play, we can work out the scale, we can try to work out if it’s major or minor. I’m just going to try to play over the top of this track and see if we can work that out. [music]
I’ll just turn down this original here, so I can actually hear what I’m playing. So when we look for the key signature, we’re looking for something called the tonic and that’s the note that’s going to sound most natural and comfortable over this track. If you could hum one note that was going to work over the whole track, that would be it. It takes a bit of practice, a bit of getting used to, but I’m just going to try to sort of play around the notes and see if we can find out what it is. [music]
So, it’s an A. Once we’ve kind of decided that that is the tonic, then we can decide if it’s going to be a major or a minor key. To me it sounds quite kind of melancholy, a bit sad. More likely it’s going to be a minor key. So in that case it’s going to be an A minor. The notes of A minor are this; it’s actually the easiest minor scale because there are no black notes. There are no sharps or flats. [music]
I’m actually going to bring up a virtual keyboard. This is something that I use in all the tutorial videos and it’s just a way to demonstrate, show the notes that I’m playing. Here we go. [music]
So I’m just going to play that track again, and I’ll just sort of play all the notes, and you’ll hear that most of them are going to work. [music]
There’s a bit of a clash going on there with the third chord, but we’ll talk about that bit later because that’s kind of a really distinctive part of this tune, so it’s got a really interesting chord. What I’ve done with this is, as you can see, I’m using Ableton Live. Let’s talk quickly about what I’m using here. I’m using Ableton Live, and I’m using an Akai MPK49 which as you can see is a lovely keyboard. It’s also got some pads on here which I can play some drums from. You can actually play anything but I’m using that for the drums. I’ll just show you that. That’s pretty cool.
I’ve got also an Akai APC40. It’s a wonderful piece of kit that integrates. It’s designed to integrate with Ableton Live, and the brilliant thing about it is it allows you to step away from the screen, from Ableton Live and actually think of music using your ears more really and you can do a range, you can launch clips, you can set up some effects with these controller knobs here. You can control levels, you can record stuff. So I’m going to demonstrate how that works it’s pretty cool.
Going back to what we’ve got here in Ableton. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Ableton Live but there are two screens. We have this view here which is called the session view and we have lots of clips. These are segments of music that can be any length really but we can quantize those to bars and then we have our arrange view here and in general the way that Ableton Live works is that we record our ideas. We start off in this view here, the session view, and we have those horizontal lines here these are called scenes and once we build up the clips in one scene we can then trigger these different scenes ad we can, the reason it’s called Live is that once we’ve got these clips and scenes together we can then actually record those live into the arrangement.
But I’ve actually worked in reverse here. I’ve taken this audio file and I’ve put it straight into the arrange page and I figured out a tempo, well actually Ableton was able to help me with that. Then I basically went through it and tried to ascertain, work out the arrangement and I did that by cutting, when a new section came in I made a cut. And the command on this is command E. You can also label them as well so for example this first bit is like an organ intro. I’ll just play that to you now. [music]
And the next section is the beat and the bass comes in. [music] Next bit is the vocal. [music] Then it breaks down to the organ. [music] And then what I did is, because these are all synchronized to the metronome, to the tempo is I then dragged these sections back into the session view and we can do this by holding down the mouse button on the clip and the just pressing the tab key and then we can just drop it into a clip here. And if you open it up you can see the audio there. That just makes it easier for me work out the parts so let me just go through the elements first of all, of the actual track.
So first of all we’ve got the drums and I’ve tried to find similar sounds, it was impossible for me to actually sample from the original because there was no section where there were drums on its own. So I just went through my library looking for similar kick drums, snares, hats, or whatever, and this is what I got. [music]
Literally all these are just kick, snare, and a hat. I’ve actually done a bit of layering here, so for example on the kick drum, it’s actually playing two kick drums at the same time. Same with the snare, that’s actually playing three snares, and I did that by basically assigning those samples, those drum samples to the same note. On here it’s on E3. So we got that. There’s another section let me just play that to you, where a clap comes in. [music]
You can hear that clap. And that is quite a standard sound. It’s actually from an 808 a TR808 a classic old Roland drum machine. Brilliant thing is with Ableton Live is with Live 8 it comes with a massive drum library. All the old vintage drum machines are there the 808 and 909, 707, they’re all there to be used which is brilliant and they sound great, really cool. So we got that, we got our drums, the main kick, snare, and hat, we got the claps and then we got the bass line, and as I mentioned before this track is really kind of bass lead, and it sounds quite live, and I really tried to analyze the sound. And I figured out it was actually a combination of two sounds. Well, that’s how I felt I could recreate it anyway. I’ve done this in Ableton by basically creating a chain. I can kind of layer any number of instruments on top of each other. What I did for this is I took a bass from the library. It’s called the buff and the bass . . . [music]
It’s got a very live sounding bass there. And I layered that with one of the other Ableton devices, which is called the analog. That’s a fantastic device. There are two main synth devices. One is the operator. The operator is very, very versatile. It’s got a number of wave forms, but it’s great for more FM frequency modulation kind of sounding effects. The analog, as you can see by the name, is for the more analog warm kind of sound, and for this, I basically just used a saw wave. [bass sound]
And using the filter I used this envelope to emulate modulation to basically effect the cut off so I get this really nice sound I can show you what kind of effect that has. [sound] What I wanted to get was a kind of quite buzzy sound combined with the actual original more realistic sounding bass. So together you can hear what they sound like. [bass sound]
So we got the bass sound I felt that was a pretty good recreation of that. Then we’ve this repeating organ that happens at the front. I’ll just play that to you now. [organ sound]
And what I did because that’s kind of on its own at the start of the track, I just dragged that into a simpler, and I just kind of looped it up. I did a bit of searching around, actually quite hard to get an organ sound that sounds exactly the same, but I can play you what the notes are, what the chord is. Just get out my virtual keyboard again, so you can see what’s going on. [organ sound]
As I mentioned before, this track is in A minor, and it’s very simple. This chord is an A minor chord. And sounds to me that the top note is an A. What we have, just to quickly–this is another thing we cover in the EMC course, we talk about chords. And the first thing to introduce is the concept of triads and inversions.
So if we think about an A Minor triad we have the root note as A which is the tonic and we call it like stack of thirds so we can go up. This is our first note one, two, three . . . four, five. So we have the one, the first and the third, and the fifth notes, and it’s making up our triad. If we take this bottom A and we kind of leap frog over and play this top note and we don’t play that bottom note we have the same notes, the C, the E, and the A. We call this a first inversion. We can do the same thing, we can take this bottom note now C and play that at the top and then we have our second inversion. Still playing the same notes the A, the C, and the E. So we basically have this chord repeating pattern that goes pretty much all the way through the track. [music]
I’m actually playing this bottom note as well but I decided just to keep it authentic sounding and because I was able to actually sample it to have it [inaudible 17:55], I’ve just used this chord here.
And there’s also a section in the track where the vocal is on its own as well so I thought it would be quite cool just to have that to illustrate how that vocal is working. So what I’m going to do is just kind of use this APC40 to start putting a few of these sections in. I might stop and refer back to the original if I forget what the part is but as much as possible I’m going to try to put these parts in and I’m going to try not to stop as well, just try to keep it going and we can just kind of build up the track. Let’s have a go at that. Let’s see what we can do first. Let’s maybe start just with this repeating organ. [music]
So I’m on the APC40 here. We’ve got a metronome, which is great, and we got this MIDI over dump button as well so what that allows us to do is basically kind of audition parts and when we’re ready to actually record it in we can press the MIDI overdub button and that will go in. But the first thing to do is to record this part in. [music]
I’m going to quickly stop that just to let you know what I was doing. When I press this one of these clip buttons here, I’ve got the quantize set to a bar on here which means that if I just hit this clip button just before the end of the bar it’s going to loop exactly on that bar. It’s going to quantize [SP] that loop to the bar. And I did that but just this last note could be a little bit longer so I’m going to just quickly go into that MIDI there and just going to link them that note. [music]
What I could also do is increase the release a little bit just to kind of let that tail last a bit longer. [music] So let’s think about the drums now. [music] Just record that in. [music] Mix those last notes that I’ll put in. [music] Okay, that’s looping around. Let’s put the high hat in. [music]
I’m going to hit the MIDI over dub button now, and I can then just [practice our high hat]. When I’m ready to record it in I’ll hit the MIDI overdub button. [music]
Okay, we got our drums in now. Let’s try some bass. [music] Tell you what, I’ll put the virtual keyboard up so you can actually see the notes. [music] So I got to try and record that in now I’m sure if I can actually get to the clip to stop it in time but let’s record it in anyway. [music]
Okay. I’ve got the fundamental part of the track so really just drums, bass, and then that organ and as I mentioned before I’ve got the actual vocal, and I just kind of took that, and I looped it up as well, and I’m just going to drag that audio up there. Now you can see we’ve got this horizontal line now of clips and on the far right-hand side you can see just where it says master, this is where we can launch these scenes, and that’s very handy because basically if we just click on this little triangle here it’s going to play all those clips together. So let’s just do that now and you can see how it works. [music]
And we can now kind of use this APC40 to start soloing things, muting things, and just kind of playing around and wherever there’s a slip on this APC40 these buttons are lighting up green. So I’m just going to play that. [music]
So the way that these scenes are really useful is that we can actually start building up our arrangement. So for example, what we could do is we can just drag, say just this organ part here just drag this up here, and if we then hit this scene button here, it’s just going to play the organ on its own. And then we play the next one down, it’s going to bring everything in. [music] And we can do that from here as well. [music]
It’s really cool. So basically what I did, I talked about this earlier, is I took the original track, and I kind of mapped out the arrangement and I just did it just, so I could see what I was doing I just kind of wrote things like plus B plus bass plus vocal, organ and then this kind of other clap section comes in as well. I’ve actually sort of put these parts in already, so I think what we’ll do is record these into the arrangement. You can see it being recorded in, and then maybe we can look a little bit more in detail about how we can actually manipulate the arrangement and do a bit more production on top of that.
So let’s do that now. I’m just going to leave these ones at the top here and use the ones that I’ve actually recorded already. There’s this other slightly different bass line. I’m just going to play that to you now, just take out the original, here we go. [music]
I’ll just solo that. [music] We’ve got that one and let’s play the first one. [music] And there’s also these claps that come in. I’ll just play those to you as well. [music]
Cool. So you can see I’m just going to, on the scene launcher here, I’ve actually named these as well, and you can do that very easily you can basically click on that, click on command R and you can type in whatever you want. [Let’s say start]. There’s nothing actually on that scene at the moment but can be quite useful to put in.
Let’s demonstrate recording these into arrangements. On the APC40 you can scroll up and down, so obviously there’s a limited number of actual clip buttons. And if you can see on there, there’s a kind of a green box. Wherever that green box is that’s the kind of clips that can be represented on this APC40. But the main thing I’m going to do is I’m just going to be launching the actual scenes and I’m just using these buttons on the right hand side.
So let’s record this in. I’ll put it back onto this arrange page so hopefully you can see that being recorded in. Let’s go to the start, press stop, and let’s go for it. So I’m just going to hit record and then when I hit the first scene button over here it will start recording into the arrangement. So here we go. [music]
So you can see it being recorded in now. [music] We’ve got our new section here. [music]
So you can now see in the arrange page it’s actually recorded those clips in a kind of linear way in a more traditional DAW kind of representation looks a bit similar to Logic, Pro tools, that kind of thing. So we’ve now got that in there. There’s one thing I actually forgot to mention which were the chords and I’m going to play those to you now and just say what those chords are. [music]
Again I made another sound here where I used the chain in Ableton, and I chained two sounds together. I got this sound here, which is kind of road sounds again comes with Live 8 library. And also it’s got quite a fizzy sound to it. I also put an analog underneath that as well. And I put some effects on it as well. I think there’s a bit of distortion on these, some chorus that’s overdrive yeah chorus and there’s also a phaser so what we get’s a really nice combination. [music]
Just quickly bring up my virtual keyboard again. So these chords, these four main chords. The first one is this one we mentioned earlier which is the A minor. There’s a passing chord which is the G then it goes to the F and then we have this really interesting chord here, which is E flat major over a G going to a G major.
So when we talk about chords in the diatonic system we take every note of the scale, and we can build a triad with that note as the root note. For example, we have this, which is our one chord because we’re in A minor. We have this which is our two chord, so C major is our three cord, D minor our four chord, E minor is our five chord, F major is the six chord, G is our seven chord, and A is back to our one chord again.
So with this chord sequence we’ve got the A which is the one, the F which is the six. Then I’ve got this chord here which is actually kind of going outside of the A minor scale. It’s kind of a very interesting chord but then it kind resolves onto a G which is the seven chord. So essentially, we’ve got the one, the six, and the seven chord. So those are the chords of this track, and I really think that this is one of the distinctive things really kind of makes this track sound interesting is this chord here, very interesting.
So anyway, let’s go back to our arrangement and when I press play now, it won’t be playing the clips from here. It’s going to be playing all the MIDI and audio information that’s actually on the arrange page and we can sort of move things around so for example we’ve got this… [music]
…section here. What I could do is I could just highlight that, hold down the mouse button and Alt, and I can just drag it over to the arrangement here. There we go and it will then play from there. [music]
One of the great things about Live as well is that we can mark sections, so for example, if we want to hear what it sounds like, not actually going to make the change. You want to hear what it sounds like if we go one section to the other we just click on this line here which is the start of that section. Click on set and then it will create this little arrow here we could name that so section one and we could do that I don’t know, from here as well. Let’s do click on set and then command R, call that section two. Didn’t actually spell that properly, but here we go, and then all we have to do is click on this little arrow, and it will play from there. [music]
It’s very useful just for trying out ideas with the arrangement. There’s so many ways you can manipulate your arrangement in Ableton Live it’s fantastic. Let’s just talk a little bit about the APC40 and what we can do with some effects. So for example we got the drums here.
Let’s try to maybe add some reverb every now and again on the snare drum. What we can do is assign a controller knob on the APC40 to reverb send and then we can record that in. So I’m going to do that now. So I’ve just got this drum rack here and in the bottom left-hand corner the drum rack we’ve got our IO button and our send and return. And if I click on that you’ll see that we have this drop audio effect box here. And what that allows us to do is to have some sends and returns that are kind of embedded within the drum rack. We don’t have to use these returns, these sort of main mix returns here. We can actually have it all inside the drum rack. So I’m going to take a reverb device here and I’m going to drag that down to where it says drop audio effect here. Just click on that and I want to make sure that we just got 100% wet on that. Let me just see if I can bring that up. I think I need to click on this button here, there we go, there’s the reverb there. So I’m just going to set the wet value to 100%. We don’t want any of the original signal coming through that reverb. I’m also going to take decay time up a bit as well. So let’s choose some snares. Let’s just play that from here. [drum sounds]
Cool. So what we can do is assign a controller knob here on the APC40 to those two sends. So I’m going to click on this MIDI button up here, and then all I need to do is just click on the send A and just wiggle this controller knob around and the next one as well and turn the MIDI off, and then you can see on here that all I’m doing is just controlling that send from that knob.
So it’s quite loud at the moment I’m going to turn it down a bit. There we go. Take it up a little bit more. What we’re now going to do is record those sends as automation into this arrangement. What I’m going to do is I’m going to take the arming off all the tracks because we don’t want to overwrite any MIDI data by accident, and then I’m going to hit record and let me just try to open that up a little bit there we go. And I’m going to record in that automation. Here we go. [music]
Okay. Let’s just try to find that. There we go so you can see. I’m going to turn it up a little bit that reverb because you couldn’t really hear it very well. But you can see how I’ve written in that automation there. Just turn it up and we can play it back. [music]
We can go in and tweak that. We could put any amount of effects in really. We could put some delays on it, whatever. We can do that through any of the tracks as well. It’s a really good way to start having fun with the arrangement and putting a bit more production into it. Basically, that’s how we build up the track. We could also do some things with the drums for example we could add some extra kicks and snares. I often like to do that at the end of the arrangement rather than having it so it feels like it’s very much loop-based. We can start adding some kick drums and some fills and things to go into different sections. For example let’s try adding some snares in here. I’m just going to click on the over dump button here and let’s go for it. [music]
So that’s recorded, that is kind of over dump those extra snare hits and kick hits into that MIDI section there. So cool, that’s basically a breakdown of this track showing you how I can recreate it. Hopefully, I’ve managed to introduce some musical concepts with key signatures and some chords, basic chord stuff as well
And in the college we have master classes every week. They’re online master classes where we have an hour with the students and the students can actually see my computer screen live they can see my face, they can hear my voice and hear the audio coming out of the computer and I often ask them to send me track beforehand to breakdown, analyze, and use it as a vehicle to introduce musical theory. It’s a really great technique and is really proving to be very popular.
If you want to find out any more information about Pointblank, any of the courses, please I’m going to be here, come up to me, ask me any questions, or if you want to ask any questions about Ableton or general music stuff, then please don’t hesitate. I hope you’ve enjoyed that. My name is Ski Oakenfull, and thank you very much indeed. Cheers.
Recording: At Point Blank Online, you’ve got two methods of interaction with your tutor. Firstly, you’ve got the weekly online master class which is in real time. Then also we’ve got feedback on your assignments. That’s known as DVR.
The online Master class is a one-hour session you get with your tutor every week. You can ask questions about lesson content and get instant feedback and also demonstrations on the fly from the computer desktop with our streaming technology.
DVR stands for Direct Video Response, and the concept is really simple. You upload your Ableton Logical [keybase] project to your tutor, you download it and then push record on the screen captioning software and it evaluates your work basically giving you one to one feedback. You see all of the mouse movements and any parameter changes made by your tutor. It’s like sitting in the studio over their shoulder watching what they’re doing whilst they work.
We have found the DVR process has truly revolutionized the way that we teach online, and the results speak for themselves. Book your place in the course now by visiting PointBlankOnline.net.