It’s Friday again which means our regular Forum returns and after a short break, we’re back live and direct from Point Blank London! This week, course tutor Anthony Chapman is exploring the concepts around layering and stacking synth sounds for deep, rich bass, thick wide leads and pads and a full, spacious mix using Rob Papen’s SubBoomBass, TAL Audio Bassline, FabFilter One and more! It all kicks off at 4pm (BST) and is completley interacive so get your questions ready, visit our YouTube channel and tune in for more unmissable production advice from Point Blank.
If you want to learn more about sound design, you can take our course here.
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Hopper: Welcome to Friday Forum Live. We’re back after a short break, broadcasting live and direct to you from Point Blank here in East London. Today I’m joined in the studio by producer, engineer and Point Blank tutor Anthony Chapman. Anthony is here to give us a bit of an insight into some of the concepts behind layering.
So, Anthony is going to be giving us a bit of an insight into some of the concepts behind layering, some of the techniques used to add depth and warmth to kind of create thicker and wider sounds for your productions at home. We’re going to see some of the techniques using Ableton Live and using a couple of different third party programmes. That’s right, isn’t it?
Chapman: Yeah. Absolutely.
Luke: Of course, as always, Friday Forum is your chance to get involved and ask questions as well. So, if you guys watching at home, make sure you post up in the chatroom any questions you’ve got and myself and Anthony will try and get through them towards the end of the session. Just before we get into it I’m going to give you a quick rundown of what’s been going on this week at Point Blank.
So, first up, we’ve just teamed up with Armada Music, Google Plus and DJMag to launch the Academy of Electronic Music. It’s a platform to give aspiring producers, you guys out there, the chance to get your tracks heard by some of your favorite artists, to get feedback from like-minded producers and DJs, and ultimately it’s a chance to get your track signed by Armada Music. It’s an amazing platform so make sure you head over to Point Blank Plus where you can find out all the details. Everything on there that you need to know.
Secondly, we’re approaching our Autumn term here at Point Blank London and it’s getting very full. All the classes are looking like they’re very close to filling up. If you want to come and study here with us here in London it’s pretty much your last chance right now, so head over to pointblanklondon.com or get in touch with one of the course advisers here and they can talk you through everything you need to know and we can get you signed up.
Lastly, we have our full range of online classes getting underway this month in just a couple weeks on September the 16th. So we have everything from production to the DJ classes as well, certificates. So make sure you head over to pointblankonline.net to check out all the classes and again get in touch with a course adviser if you need any more info. So yeah, that’s enough from me. Anthony, talk us through a little bit about what you’re going to be doing today.
Anthony: Okay, no worries. I’ve got this… this is a remix that I’ve done. It’s a remix of a very old track. It’s actually the 25th anniversary of this track being released. It’s a track by Finitribe who did De Testimony which was like one of the original sort of Balearic tracks. This era of the original Balearic tracks were basically tracks that weren’t necessarily dance music, they were kind of like lots of rock and pop bands who had maybe slightly dubby mixes that were kind of around 115-120 bpm.
Anthony: So, there was this compilation… I think it was on FFFR The label with the eye on the front of it. And pretty much all of the tracks on it were kind of like oddities from sort of bands that weren’t really known for dance music. And there’s this one, Finitribe from Scotland, and they were kind of like a John Peel type band, did a bit of electronics. So they went on from this kind of doubled-up on dance music, but basically this whole track, the hook in this track, is this bell sound. We’ll just give this a blast…
This bell sample is the hook of the original track. And anyone sort of my age, or a little bit older that was clubbing in the late ’80s will probably remember this. This hook was like a massive, massive track. So, I’ve worked with the band in the past as a sort of celebration of the anniversary of the release. They got a load of people to do different remixes. They’re releasing some, but this is just something I’m going to put on my sound cloud which is going to be up for download. In fact, I think it’s the same day as the online courses. So, the reason I wanted to look at this is particularly the main bass line in this track, when I originally did it, I was trying to do it with one synth. I was trying to use this SubBoomBass, Rob Papen, synth. This is one thing about this today, I don’t usually use Massive… I’m a bit difficult like that, because everybody else uses it, so it’s like, ‘Well, I want to use something different, ‘because I don’t want to sound like everybody else…’
Luke: Yeah, I know what you mean.
Anthony: Don’t get me wrong, Massive is brilliant. It’s an amazing synth. You can do incredible stuff with it. But I just, I dunno, sometimes I’m a bit awkward and I just want to do something a little bit different. I’ve got this synth SubBoomBass from Rob Papen… now I don’t know if you… I’m sure a lot of the viewers will know a lot of these other synths like Predator and stuff like that. I know a lot of the trance guys really like a lot of his synths. But SubBoomBass, as the name suggests, is kind of focused on bass. And the way he has kind of done that is just made sure that all of the waves that are in it are really focused on the bass end and they really work well for the bass. It also has lots of percussion samples in it, as well. So, you don’t just have to use synth waves, you can have like… there’s drums, there’s tympanies and stuff like that. And I know I’ve brought tracks in here before on Friday Forum where I’ve used those kind of sounds where you mix up a saw wave with a sort of tympany or something like that. It gives you a really interesting flavour. And, you know the oscillators sound really good… It’s fairly simple in terms of root intermodulation. It’s not like Massive where you can do just anything you can think of. This is a bit more simple, perhaps. I’m a bit more of a simple guy, and that works.
Luke: I think I am as well.
Anthony: So, I just want to quickly have a look at exactly what I’m doing with this synth. When I first started making this remix I tried lots of different things. I was trying to do quite choppy bass lines, things with lots of movement, but in the end what I actually settled on was something really, really simple, Just some simple kind of notes. And I’m sort of playing off the bell sample, and really taking it melodically in a different direction, but what we want to look at is the quality of the sound and then how I brought in something else to maybe fill a gap that I thought wasn’t there, and then balance between the two to do a few different things.
So if we just have a listen to this…
So if we have a listen to this, what I’ve got going on here is… it’s like a relatively high sine wave, so it’s not kinda doing… When you look at this and you see it’s a saw and a sine, you would kind of expect it to be doing, you know, you’d expect the sine wave to be really low, giving it the meat and you’d expect the saw to be a bit higher. But actually, the way the oscillator is working in SubBoomBass, I actually found that in this, this set up was better. So that’s my sine wave there, and if…
So in that saw there’s a lot of sub as well. So again, this is how, with this plug-in this is how it’s focused towards bass. So you’ve got a saw tooth, but it’s a saw tooth that is very bassy as well. And it’s just kind of, you know, don’t get me wrong, you can use this for doing sort of lead lines and stuff like that. You can do monophonically as well, but if you’re doing bass it works really nicely. So, already within SubBoomBass I’ve kind of got a layering thing going on. Because, this one, the sine wave is twelve semitones up. And you can see that when I hold the cursor over the semitone knob there, we can see in the display over here that is twelve semitones up. So, if I pull that back there, to be like, in unison…
Now that’s super low, but…. It’s not quite as rich, because there’s already plenty of bottom end in happening in the saw. Okay, turn that one off. Okay, so, I definitely prefer it up. It just gives it melodically a little bit more interest, you know? So, this is a bit of layering I’ve got going on within this one instrument, but sometimes it’s good to be able to take it on even further and then layer between instruments. And there’s a lot of different ways of handling this. So, if we have a look in my arrangement here, we have got on the next track,
So I’ve got this sound, which obviously is completely, you know, it’s a totally different kind of sound. If we go in and have a look, we can see what I’m using to do this is the TAL BassLine plugin. And this is a free plugin. So this is a totally free synth. TAL has an incredible array of plugins. Lots and lots of free plugins. Some of them are used literally in every track that I do. They’re so good. He’s got like a very basic Juno emulator, lots of echoes, and of course those are great auto filter which is a bit like LFO tool or something like that. They just started doing paid plugins. They’ve got two or three which you pay for. There’s one which is kind of like a much expanded version of BassLine. And it’s really, really nice. And also they’re not very expensive either, and I feel like I’m definitely going to get that because I kind of want to support them because I’ve used their plugin so much over the years.
So, as you can see if you know your synths at all, you see what this is trying to do is emulate the SH101. I’m not sure why they call it the BassLine, because BassLine would give you give you [inaudible 10:27] 303. But you can see from the controls this is trying to present a monosynth in the same sort of mode as the Roland SH101. And, really what I’ve done here is I’ve tried to setup almost like the opposite sound to the other one. So if we just compare and contrast, if we listen to this one…
It’s got a little bit of buzz in it, but it’s mainly just fatness. It’s just big, big fatness. But this one, it’s just a little raspy. And on it’s own it’s a bit like, ‘Ooh, I don’t know about that.’ But if we put them together, we start to like hear, ‘Oh, this is making a bit more sense.’ If we just listen to the bass and this higher register synth… The higher register one sticks out quite a lot, but when we put it all in the track this one just pokes through enough to give you that little bit of, sort of higher register excitement. I’ve got some other great… crazy things going on there as well.
I’ll come back to that in a minute. And if we have a look at the effects chain I’ve got on the bassline… So, if we just turn all of these off so we can hear… So that’s the raw sound. It’s incredibly simple, you know. Really, really just a kind of… is it a saw… I don’t remember which oscillator I used… I’m not sure, but it’s got that raspiness that’s kind of what I wanted. But then, going through the effects chain step-by-step I’ve like rolled off quite a lot of the bottom end and I’ve emphasised a bit of the top end. And if we look at the spectrum, if I pop the spectrum up, we can see there’s certain areas where there’s a lot going on. So I kind of want to capitalise on that. Because that’s the stuff that I want to poke out in the mix. Then just a bit of compression, and this is a very fast bit of compression, because I want to squash down that transient when it first plays so it doesn’t poke out too much, but it also gives the impression of lengthening out the end. Because if you think about the shape of one of those hits on the synth it’s kind of like, it goes up really quickly and tails off straight away. But what I’m doing by compressing that transient really quickly is almost tilting it like that. So the transient gets squashed down, and when I add the gain at the end of the, I mean I’m adding five and a half dB of gain, the stuff that isn’t compressed comes up. So you almost get this kind of tilting effect. And first, this is something I cover in the Art of Mixing course and also the online mixing dance music with Ableton Live course with compression, is my favourite bit, and this kind of really fits in with working with synths, because you’ve got to know when to use a bit of quite fairly… Well it’s not super extreme, but it’s quite an extreme attack…
Anthony: ..sort of 0.3 milliseconds. You need to know when to use that because the temptation…
Luke: Kind of a little bit daunting I guess, as well, if you’re not familiar with it.
Anthony: Absolutely. Part of what I think is important when thinking about stuff like this, and I know when I do the master classes, is just getting people to listen. Because I know when I first started out I was like, ‘Oh my God, Wow, wow.’ I mean it wasn’t with computers, but it was like, you know, hardware samplers and stuff like that. And it was just like, ‘Oh I can do anything. Wow, wow, wow.’ You find yourself, you’re not really stopping and taking a moment to have a listen. And stuff like this, I think, really helps that.
And then just at the end of the chain here, I’ve got the Ableton Overdrive, only like 50% wear. It makes an incredible difference, you know, it’s got some real mid range kind of grunt. And then this, which is one of my favourite things at the moment, which is the SoundToys Little MicroShift. This was a give away, it’s the thing they gave away a few months ago and it’s basically just a very nice sort of spreader and thickener modelled on the Eventide H3000 which is like a classic bit of studio hardware. Because they’ve done this, I’m going to guess there’s going to be a paid version coming soon. That’s normally what they do. They do the freebie, and then maybe six months to a year later there’s like a super version that you can get relatively cheap.
Luke: Get you excited about it, and then get your credit card out.
Anthony: Exactly. First taste free. So yeah, if we listen to those together, we can hear that basically what I’ve kind of tried to do is two completely different things, but because I’m running them in tandem together I’ve got ultimate control. I can take it whatever way I want.
I might find, you know, I might do something like this in a mix and think, ‘You know what? I don’t need that other rhythm.’ Or sometimes it might be the late stage of the mix and I’m like, ‘Oh it just needs a little bit more.’ And one of the main reasons I think for adding something like this buzzy one here, and also in the SubBoomBass, the higher register sine wave, is we need something so that we can give the listener an impression of bass, even if they’re listening on a really small speaker.
Luke: Yeah, which is something I’ve spoke to a few people about. Definitely, about you know, adding a little bit of distortion or something that you can fit, you can hear it even if you’re listening on small ear buds or a laptop.
Anthony: Exactly. Because there’s so much kind of like, psychology in this. You almost have to give people the…
Luke: Like an outline of what is happening.
Anthony: Yeah. And we fill in the gaps. We all know if somebody sends you something, or there’s a track you downloading on your phone and you have a quick little blast on the speaker. And you know, if you listen to it enough you can actually, your brain will fill in some of the gaps and it will be listenable to you. I mean if you look at it totally subjectively and think, ‘How could I listen to that? It’s like, so tinny.’ But your brain will kind of fill in the gaps, and really we need to give the listener… It’s almost like a coded message saying, ‘Oh, there’s a bass line and we’re telling you where the bass line is by giving you this one that’s an octave higher and maybe…
Anthony: …over driven with a bit of distortion.’ Or something like that. So yeah, absolutely, I don’t know if we’ve got any questions or anything coming in…?
Luke: I’ll have a quick look here. We haven’t yet, no.
Anthony: Okay, that’s cool.
Luke: Yeah, guys watching at home make sure you do. If you’ve got any questions post up in the chat room and I’ll get them over to Anthony as we go.
Anthony: Cool. No worries. Well, while we wait and see if anybody has got any burning questions, what I’m going to do is I’m just going to quickly look in the mixer so we can see exactly what’s going on with the main bass and that kind of buzzy bass as well. So, there’s various kind of ways you can approach this when you’re using two different instruments to do the same thing over a fair period of the track.
What I’m doing here is, I am… So this one here, this is my SubBoomBass track here. This one is called main bass. And then this one here, the TAL bass, this is the bass line. So this is like the kind of buzzy one. And what I’ve decided to do in this instance is tell the TAL bass to receive midi from this track. So the midi on this track is playing SubBoomBass, but that same midi is also being received by the TAL bass line track to play on that track, Okay? So if we have a look in the…
Luke: So you don’t have to copy down the information.
Anthony: Yeah. There’s some stuff here where I think I was… This was an early stage of the process, where I was kind of working out what I was going to do, and then in the end what I’ve done is I’ve recorded some automation separately on this track. So what’s happening is, the TAL is getting the midi from the main bass track, but you can still have completely separate automation going on. And then what, in this instance, what I’ve done to arrange it is… Hang on a second, let’s get my mixer automation up… I’ve automated it using the speaker on like the mute in my mixer.
Luke: So rather than arrange it the traditional way you’ve just let the midi run and then just switched it off…
Anthony: Yeah, just switched it off. And this section in the middle here, I didn’t want it to come in, so if we just…
Yeah, so it’s when it comes back in after this breakdown. So yeah, I’ve just left it muted out there, and when we get a bit further up here…
And it just comes back in there. So yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. But the one thing you must remember is whenever you’re using a midi track in Live, and it’s receiving midi from somewhere else, if it doesn’t have midi on the track, you’ve got to remember to have the monitor in switched on…
Luke: Oh okay.
Anthony: …for that track. So this essentially is basically telling it whatever comes into the track, I’m going to play out live. If you have it on auto you’re never going to hear it because it would only play the midi out if you were recording.
Anthony: Okay? For stuff like this, you’ve always got to use that monitor in button. And also, for example, if you do like a drums bus or something like that on a separate track you’ve always got to use that monitor in button. That’s a hurdle and I know, with a lot of students that when they start to get a bit more advanced then they want to start routing stuff like this, and this is a little hurdle that they hit because it’s sometimes not made obvious what the function of that is.
Luke: Yeah, I guess unless someone else points it out…
Luke: …it isn’t immediately obvious.
Anthony: If you’re recording audio with a mic and stuff like that it becomes quite obvious quickly. But then, sometimes, it’s not obvious straight away that it also applies to midi as well, so yeah. I just wanted to sort of show you a couple of these other synth elements that I’ve got going on in here, because this… So we’ve got this track here, chords. Okay? For this track I’m using, again, this is me with my… I always want to make life difficult, or you could say ‘interesting’ for myself..
Luke: Let’s say interesting.
Anthony: Well, you know. On the one hand I like to be a bit different, and you know, like I said I kind of try not to use Massive in the way that everybody else uses… But then also, another thing I’m certain, with my students, I’m well known for is I like a bargain, I like a nice bargain.
Luke: Yeah, yeah. the TAL stuff?
Anthony: Well, exactly. How better a bargain can you get than for free? But I always love to keep an eye out on… there’s a few blogs I keep an eye out on for when there’s plugins and special offers. And this FabFilter One synth, I think I paid £5.
Anthony: Yeah. They had a special offer on, and I just liked the look of it. So basically, this is… it’s kind of modelled on… anyone who’s used like a classic sort of Korg MS10 or MS20. Obviously there’s a reissue of the MS20 out now, will recognize a lot of these controls. This is essentially based on that synth, Okay? The difference with this is that it can do polyphonic as well. So, the MS10, the MS20 can only do monophonic, but this can do polyphonic. And I just love the simplicity of it. It’s such a simple synth. And you can really work it hard and get some good results. It’s got the envelope generator in it which you can use to modulate the pulse with, the cut off, the volume as well. And so in this track I’ve used it to do some sort of like quite rhythmic chords. Quite sort of a parping, raspy, kind of chords. If we have a look here…
So if we have a look at the sort of effects chain I’ve got going on, it’s a little bit… a fairly long one. We’ve got our EQ here, okay? So I’ve railed off quite a bit of the bottom end. I’ve identified this frequency here. Let’s put it up on the spectrum. I identified this frequency here in the low mid as being something that was quite crowded in the mix. So I’ve kind of cut it down a bit there just to make a bit of room for everything else. Then I brightened it up a little bit at the end. I’ve got my regular compressor and you know I’m just kind of using that to keep it under control. Good old Little MicroShift again, some stereo spreading… Then I’ve got my side chain compression. So you can see that’s being side chained off… I’ve got a ghost kick in there. Let’s fold down this spectrum and just get back to…
So my side chain compression is kind of last in the chain in terms of like all my effects that have got to do with the dynamics and stuff like that. And this is, again, this is something that you know, with synths, is always important for students is obviously with modern dance music lots of people, they want to layer up the synth and then they want to get that side chain sound that really obvious side chain sound.
Luke: Yeah that kind of pumping… yeah.
Anthony: Yeah. And I do get asked a lot, it’s usually when I do the online courses, one of the first things I’ll get asked is, ‘Where should I put the side chain compressor?’ And I always say, ‘At the end.’ Because, you know, you want to shape your sound first, get the sound how you want it, then you do the side chain. Because if you do a side chain compressor first, and then put a normal compressor afterwards, in theory the normal compressor is going to compress out the side chain. It’s going to try and compensate for that. But here, I’ve sort of broken one of my cardinal rules, which is I almost always have the reverb and delay on sending returns back. But it just seemed to work with this delay actually on the channel you know.
Luke: That’s not something I ever do actually.
Anthony: I always, always, always use sending return for reverb and delay but I just don’t know. For some reason I was just feeling it, you know? If any of my students that I teach see this mix they’d probably going to give me hell next week. And then, on this, I actually did a bit of layering as well, because the synth is like a second layer for stuff that I’ve got going on up here. If we can uh…
So it’s the good old Live 9 strings. Orchestral strings that come with Live Suite which I think are fabulous. They’re really good. If you’re like me, you’re not looking for something to do Hollywood movie scores, you just want some really good strings sounds? That’s brilliant. It’s absolutely brilliant. They’re so nice. They really work with that kind of grime type.
Luke: Yeah I think we talked about that before.
Anthony: Yeah, they’re really, really nice. So I’ve got two tracks for them. I’ve got the main one on this sort of yellow track here, then we’ve got…
and I just added like a little pad for the breakdown. If we loop up these ones here you can see…
So basically what I’ve done there is I’ve just tried to like take that melody that I’m doing on the strings and give it this synthetic edge as well. In the mix, because they’re both on separate channels, I can just completely decide whatever mood I think suits the track. A bit more organic or a bit more electronic. There’s one other thing as well with this FabFilter synth that I… I’ll come clean, it was totally by accident. And it just sounds so nice. And that’s to do with the automation I was using. If we open up the automation for the FabFilter synth, you see I’ve modulated the cutoff at various points. But this one, the sustain, on the envelope, okay? So, this was an accident. I was drawing some automation in, and I thought it was on something else and I drew it on the sustain, and it came out really nicely. If you watch the envelope here, you’ll hear what it does when it gets to it.
It just does some weird things with it. Depending on what level you put it on it can either sound like the notes are just quietly carrying on, or they’re loudly carrying on. Or sometimes you can even…
Luke: Gliding up or something?
Anthony: Exactly, yeah. It gives you that gliding up. So I was like, you know, I’m here to come clean. A lot of other people would go, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. I knew exactly what I was doing. Check out my amazing automation.’ It was a complete accident.
Luke: ‘I bet you didn’t know you could do this.’
Anthony: But honestly, in terms of layering, with those two elements in particular… the bass, I think it was just really important to sort of differentiate between that big SubBoomBass sound which I really love. If any of you watching this are thinking… You’re feeling a little bit jaded about Massive and stuff like that, give it a go. Get the demo and give it a go. It’s a strange synth. It’s totally different to Massive because it’s not a great big sound design monster, but there’s some great presets in it. One thing I’ve not looked at, to be honest, this could probably be like a Friday Forum all of its own, is the sequencer in it. Which is sort of hidden away in here. And with this, this is like an old school kind of like analogue style sequencer so you can actually record little step sequences so you just hit one key and it will play this sequence. But you can make it slide a bit like a 303…
Anthony: …and stuff like that. So you can do some pretty crazy stuff with it, and it’s also got some very nice effects built into it as well. So with this one I’m just using the effects while I’m using the ensemble just to spread it out a little bit. Honestly, for a bit of different flavour. And I don’t think it’s very expensive. It’s under £100, so you know. I definitely recommend people check it out for a bit of inspiration.
Luke: Yeah, definitely. We’ve actually got a few questions in for you Anthony.
Anthony: Yeah, cool.
Luke: First one, I’ll have to shout out BassBanger who said that the bells in the track remind him of Steps Tragedy.
Anthony: That was what I was going for. Of course.
Anthony: Or we could say Finitribe they were responsibly.
Luke: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Anthony: …wasn’t Steps Tragedy was that Stock Aiken Waterman. I think was that. One of their latest… I’m sure Pete Waterman was involved with it, maybe secretly Finitribe were like, you know, on the sly…doing these tracks and not telling anybody.
Luke: …[SS]…[laughs] Oh I’d love to think so.
Luke: So we’ve got a question from Diego who’s asked, ‘How do I compress the bass and the kick in the same group so they sound strong?’ I guess that’s kind of side chainy slightly…
Anthony: Yeah, well, it is. I mean, so let’s have a look here. Because it’s very probable… Yeah, so I’ve got some stuff here… And you remember what I was saying about me breaking my cardinal rule?
Anthony: Look what’s here on the bass track. Side chain compressor before…
Anthony: …before an EQ and a… I can’t defend myself. It probably just sounded good at the time and I went for it.
Luke: That’s the way to do it though, isn’t it?
Anthony: But this is the thing, I always say to students, it’s not rules. There are no rules in mixing. I can just give you… show you different ways of using gear and plugins and techniques and stuff like that. I always say, it’s best practice. I kind of hate using that kind of business speak. But best practice would be to have that at the end. But then again, sometimes…
Luke: And also, from what you said earlier, you know, just sticking to the rules isn’t really the way to do it. You know, open your ears, reference, listen to it, but if it does sound better the other way then go for that obviously.
Anthony: Exactly. So, Diego, what we’re looking at here is… This is basically how I would handle it. And it’s how I do it every day with… it doesn’t matter whether I’m doing dance music… like the last three days I’ve been recording crazy rock music by this band Tim Benson [sounds like 30:44] , and I did exactly the same technique when I was mixing this yesterday, which is bass and the bass drum obviously share lots of the same frequencies. So, you know, around 60-100 Hertz there’s load and loads of stuff going on in there. And, a lot of the time the bass and the kick drum are going to hit on the same note. So we need to work out some way of getting them to live together. And there’s a couple of different things we can do.
One that we can do is we can EQ sort of sympathetically. So, on my bass sound here we’ve got quite a big boost around, what’s this? About 77 Hertz. So just under 80 Hertz. This is the bass line, you know? So if I took that and went to my kick drum… Now, in my track it’s a little bit more complicated because there’s a few different levels of drums going on, but if we had a look in my drum rack with my 909 in it, you know, then I could go into this… and if I went into the EQ I could sort of scoop out a chunk here. So if I scooped out around 77 Hertz, that might help the situation. But I actually prefer to do the side chain, because I want to create the sound of each one to be the best that it can be. But then, having the side chain just means that every time the kick drum plays the bass just gets pushed down momentarily just a little bit, and it’s almost like this, this is how I always explain it to students, it’s this seesaw effect of the kick drum is that end of the seesaw and the bass is that end of the seesaw. And it’s always going to be kind of like one or the other. But we’re not talking about huge amounts. We’re just talking about little few dB kind of cuts just to give them their own space, and I like, I kind of like introducing a bit of movement with this side chain. So if you just look at the bass here… let’s have a look… So if we…Just actually listen to it here. Just gotta find it… Quite a big session…
So you can see here, just got a little… it’s not a huge amount, if we look at the larger thing here it’s only about 2 db. If I pull the threshold down we’ll be able to hear it more.
Luke: Yeah you can really hear it now.
Anthony: You know, and I kind of like a bit of that movement, you know? I really do. So then if I solo as well… the kick drum… So to me, that really helps it.
Luke: I think one thing that we’ve talked about in the past as well is the choice of sound. You know, the choice of your kick drum and the sound of the bass line really to save yourself so much work, as much as possible. See what you can do on the choice really.
Anthony: Exactly. Absolutely. And that’s partly why I went for this kind of bass sound, because that SubBoomBass has got, you know, there’s a bit of buzz there. There’s enough there to give you a bit of lushness, but the bass is really smooth.
Luke: And the kick drum is not some, you know, huge…
Anthony: Yeah, it’s just a 909, it’s just a 909. And the other thing I would say to Diego is, try not to over compress the kick drum on its own. This is one of my great hobby horses, is like, trying to sort of encourage students to lay off the compression on single drum sounds or kicks or snares when it’s a sample because it’s the same sound every time. They go, ‘Oh yeah, whack the compressor on.’ and it’s doing loads of compression and I’m just like, all you’re doing is squashing all of the life out of it. What you’re better off doing is taking all of your drums or the group of your drums then compressing those, and shaping it a bit more subtly. Because often I find people will like really compress the kick drum, and then they squash all the life out of it, then afterwards they add loads of bass.
Anthony: …well I mean, the top end it’s all, well you didn’t need to do…
Luke: ..Yeah, most definitely.
Anthony: So I hope that is useful for you Diego.
Anthony: I think so, yeah. Let’s have a look… So we’ve also got a question from JustToGetARep who’s a regular viewer actually, who said, ‘I notice you didn’t group the two instruments in one track. Was there a reason for that, or is there another way of doing the same thing?’
Luke: JustToGetARep, that’s a Gang Starr reference, I assume… You know, that is definitely something that I do quite a lot. And I do quite like the functionality of groups in Live because it’s really simple. It’s just really, really, you know, so easy. We could just take these two tracks here, and then command and G and it groups them together like that. So now if I fold that up we’ve got the one fader. So this is what we’re just getting ready to talk about. We’ve got the one fader here to control the level. But what’s really great about it is now that they’re in there we can process them together as well.
So this is what I would do, like I was saying with the drums, avoiding the compression on the individual channels and trying to concentrate on the drums as a whole, or groups of the drums. So here, now I’ve got this, what I might start doing is… let’s see… get the glue… I always like to use the glue whenever possible. And just do like, you know, because I’ve shaped all my sounds completely, I just use the glue on like fairly slow settings here… just to kind of knit them together. And then maybe, who knows, like I might also think, I need to just tweak the EQ a little bit. So maybe I’ll need to like… maybe it needs a bit of air. Which sometimes will happen. So this is what we’re talking about. And this is totally valid and I do it a lot. And why I didn’t do it on this one? To be honest I’m not really sure, but I just think they were functioning quite well separately.
Luke: Yeah, it’s not a necessity.
Anthony: Yeah, I think this is partly a sort of symptom the way we make and mix dance music as well. Because in the paradigm of like pop and rock bands in the studios of the past, you had the very obvious recording phase and the very obvious mixing phase, and sometimes it would be on different days, it might even have been in different studios. And you would always like reset the desk and kind of start from scratch. But when we’re writing and mixing in the same software, sometimes it’s not really as easy to do that because a lot of the time the little mixing things you do with the EQ and stuff like that are part of the writing process. And I think this is probably what was probably… This was my thought process here because particularly I did all of this, if we go and have a look, we did all of this automation on the TAL BassLine. If we look here…
So I’m modulating the cutoff there. It’s great. It does a really good squelch there. Really, really nice. But the overdrive and the Little MicroShift especially really help that, so it’s fantastic. So yeah, in terms of why I didn’t do it… Don’t know, but it’s completely valid thing to do and it’s a great feature of Live. And Logic X has kind of nicked it, but with track stats it’s very similar.
Luke: Cool. Ollie. Ollie Gardener has asked, ‘How do you layer synth to make it pop but still keep that low end? Not going up semitones?’
Anthony: Yeah, well I guess really that’s kind of what I’ve been trying to do here. So it really is, if we compare these two… The way I think about it is we want, you know, in the bass line we want it to be warm and bassy, and we might want it to be quite sort of growly and maybe even percussy at the top. Expecting to be able to do that in one instrument is a bit of a big ask.
Obviously if you were using something like, if you weren’t using a synth, if you were using like contact or something like that, you could totally do it. But if you’re using synths I think a lot of the time it’s good to give yourself that full flexibility by either using two instances of the same synth or do what I did here where I’ve got a separate synth altogether being triggered by the same midi.
Luke: Do you have any rules about, you know, about certain sounds working with one another? Or is there anything to go by?
Anthony: Ooh, yeah. It’s mainly by ear, to be honest. I know some of my mixing and dance music with Ableton Liv, students, in this course I’m doing at the moment, I think at first they just thought I was crazy. They asked me all these really technical questions and I’d say, ‘You just got to listen to it. You know, does it sound good?’. There is one rule that I generally tend to have in the back of my head, which is, the more complex a sound is, and when I say complex what I’m talking about is lots of different timbres to bring such a high falutin’ word into it. So if we look at this, I’ve got three timbres going on here. So if we got back into my SubBoomBass…
So I’ve got the sine wave, but a fairly high register sine wave. Then I’ve got the saw,
Luke: Growly saw.
Anthony: … which is bassy but growly as well. You could almost say full. And then we’ve got the TAL BassLine, which is much higher. It’s a much sort of faster wave. And the way I look at it is, the more complex the sound is in terms of what are the different aspects of the sound, the more room you’re going to need for it. This track’s fairly busy. Because it’s not like it’s got 424 [sounds like 41:13] off beat snares and everything, and it’s fairly busy. In a way, I think that’s why I have to work it so hard. And, you know, a track like this is never going to sound as spacious and epic as a great big sort of progressive house track. But, I think if you work on those separate sounds you can get good results. But generally speaking, something to bear in mind, if you’ve got very harmonically and tonally rich sounds you’re going to need a lot more space.
Luke: Yeah, most definitely. So, Mr. Athory [sounds like 41:46] has asked about the strings that you were talking about, the strings plugin.
Anthony: Yeah, slightly awkwardly, the track is frozen. Let’s see. Hopefully I’ll be able to…
Luke: So they’re the Ableton strings…
Anthony: It’s just the ones that come with Suite. These are new, these are the ones that come with 9. Let me unfreeze this. Here we go, yeah. So this is it basically. There’s not a very exciting interface to look at, but this is one of the presets that comes with Suite. I don’t think you get it with Live, although I could be wrong. I know with Suite you get a much bigger library. About 50 gig worth.
They’re really nice. This is this like staccato strings with ensemble, so it’s lots of lows. It’s really nice. But if we have a look in the library… let’s have a look… instruments… I think it’s in the instrument rack…orchestral… where is it? They’re in here somewhere… This is the problem with the Suite library is it’s difficult to find everything. But anyway, they are just the Live strings. If you’re not using Live already, Live 9, you want to check to see, whether they actually, you get them with Live.
Luke: Standard version of the Suite.
Anthony: Yeah, yeah.
Luke: Cool. I think that’s about all the questions we’ve got, and we’re kind of approaching time anyway, I think. So yeah, a massive thank you, Anthony, for coming down as always.
Anthony: Thank you for having me, thank you everybody, for watching and commenting.
Luke: Yeah, and you guys watching at home. If you do have any more questions, feel free to post up in the chat room. We will go through them. Also this whole session is going to be archived pretty much straight away as well. Within the hour, you can go back, watch it all, I know we’ve gone through quite a lot, so…
Anthony: Yeah, and if anybody has still got any questions, or if you’re watching this in the future put a question in the comments, and I do keep an eye on them. I do tend to pop in and do answers.
Luke: Cool. Yeah, so there we go. So there’s another edition of Friday Forum and we’ll be back next Friday same time four o’clock. Until then, keep locked to the Facebook blog, and the Point Blank London and Point Blank Online sites, and we’ll see you very soon. Thanks for watching.