Archive for December, 2010

Nittens trackmaking recipe No. 1

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

This is one of my recipes, got a few of them and i usually mix and match them to the task at hand.

I hope this will give new guys a starting place, and give more advancer guys a few new ideas

This is a very general guide, and there are a million ways to rome, but i hope you at least will get a little out of this.


I’ve been asked about when to add effects, and since this is related to this topic i’ll give you my view on this: If it’s part of how the instrument (sampler/synth/real whatever you use) it should doing the recording of that instrument. For example if you are using a electric bass in Kontakt, you want to add an amp from Guitar Rig to it to get the sound you looking for, you should find it and set it up before recording the bass, it doesn’t have to be that kind of effects though, let’s say you want the kick drum to sound over-compressed, i would set the compressor before recording here to. If we are talking effects that are not part of the sound of any instrument, but used on the track in general or to make stuff fit so to speak, i would add this in the mixing phase of things. That been said, if you get a cool idea afterwards, like using a specific amp model after you record the bass, of course you add it, but if you know you want it on the bass from the start, don’t wait till after production to add it, you might forget or ruin your flow while mixing.

The First Step – Chaos

Grab a cup of coffee (or whatever fuels you), fire up your DAW, MPC or whatever you use, lock the door and sit back. Alright now start with what you got, for this blog we assume it’s a basic kick snare groove, lay it down in a 4 bar pattern, add hats, percussion, toms and cymbals until it feels right. Time for the bass, simple or complex, electric,  acoustic or synth, whatever fits the bill, try out a few different ones. Once you got the bassline down take a 2 minute brake, check your mail or refill the coffee, now press play, does it feels right, if not get back to working on it. If it fits it’s time to move on, make a chorus of 8 bars and a 16 bars verse, make a few changes to both drums and bass. Now they are done get creative, load up the sampler and chop little riff or brake up, add a string section, a piano what ever. Don’t think about whether the stuff fits together, matter of fact press solo before recording, just lay it down, don’t think just do, make the stuff sound good alone, but don’t think about them together just yet embrace the chaos, i will tell you why in step 2. Make a brake, í usual just keep the bass and the drums, maybe add a bit of this and that, all depends. Make a intro and outro, a cool trick is to reverse the intro for the outro, bounce it to .wav, load it and press reverse, makes a cool effect.

All right now press play and listen, don’t think about how it sounds yet.

Reward Brake

Now it’s time for a brake, take at least 2 hours if it’s past 8 P.M. you will be better of putting it of till tomorrow. First however give yourself a reward, something that really makes you feel good, a cool beer, a piece of chocolate cake, whatever your guilty pleasure is it’s alright.

Step 2 – The clean up marathon

Okay back to work, press play again, now it’s time to get some order in the chaos, but first here’s way you shouldn’t do this before, when we trying to make stuff fit together well in creation, we may limit ourself to stuff we normal hears together, this shouldn’t happen, now we got a lot of stuff that sounds good alone, but not together. Don’t bang your head, instead start thinking, maybe keep the string section and the synth lead, maybe if i use a sitar instead of the guitar it will work maybe if i tune the chop a few semitones, maybe if i rewrite the piano line, you are going to ask a lot of maybes here, try them all, take a few brakes now and then. Save everything you aren’t gonna use either as MIDI or audio, you never know when you gonna want to use it. That isn’t really that much to this step, the proceed is almost the same as step one, but with the whole in mind this time, it’s gonna take a lot of time, a marathon of deleting, muting, editing, playing, changing instruments and scream at yourself, don’t give up, you may end with 20 tracks less or 20 more, it doesn’t matter as long as it sounds good. When done you should have a intro, outro, a chorus, a brake and a verse, now copy verse and chorus one time, so it goes chorus, verse, chorus, verse, then add the brake after the last verse, add a verse or a chorus after the brake, then the outro, now you got a basic arrangement done with two or three identical verses and chorus, a brake, an intro and an outro, now press play, it’s still a bit messy but not chaotic.

Reward Brake

Same rules as the first one enjoy.

Step 3 – Changes

Make section unique, add a bar of that synth pad you just deleted in part 2 in one of the verses (that’s why we save them). Move the Bassline a semitone down in chorus 2, that kind of things, changing drum patterns a bit from section to section. Use random quantize on the hihats, make every section it’s own. You can go extreme or subtle here, the project will tell you what to do. I find that subtle changes works best in chorus 1 and 2 same for verse 1 and 2. For the chorus or verse after the brake you might want to be more extreme, however there is no rules in being creative, the track will tell you what’s right.

Reward brake

Step 4 - Arrangement

You might have been wondering why you should make a whole arrangement, when not every song has all the sections, well here’s why: Now you got them, should you need them. Now it’s time to decide, is this a straight cypher 16 bar beat, or a complex song with it all, do you need 3 chorus or none, how many verses is the right amount and should they all be 16 bars. should verse 2 be 20 and verse 1 be 8, is the brake right, do you need one should you just fade out after verse 2, are the intro right, will it be better to extend the first verse and fade in, how about the outro, will fading out over the last chorus be better. This is a hard one, remember the rules in step 2 anything you are deleting you save, both the individual parts and the section as a whole (makes for great chopping later). In other aspects this is a lot like step 2, deleting, muting and kicking yourself, keep at it and you will come out with something great.

Reward brake

Step 5 – Rough mixers

This step isn’t too creative, make a rough mix of the beat, make sure each part is audible and somewhere near where you think it should be, i tend not to think to much about this step, usually i can get by here with some panning EQ’ing and setting the levels. This is not a finale mix, so you shouldn’t worry about bringing out all potential here, the idea is just to give the vocalist an idea of where the instrumental side of things is heading, so no need to spend to much time. Of course it need to be somewhat intelligently done here, but don’t worry about whether the bass’s level should be -10, -12 or -15, just put it in the ballpark. I never felt it was necessary to go into reverb, compressing or what ever here, but you might, just keep in mind that you risk loosing any momentum if you go to deep here. One thing i do here, if i’m making the track solely for myself is monitor using my headphones, i know i shouldn’t mix with headphones, but here’s why: I know that i use this headphones when recording the vocals, i know i use them when i write the lyrics, this mix want have to translate to anything, just my headphones, it can make this step a bit easier, so if you are in this position, (and only IF you are), i find this a great way of keeping up momentum. If somebody else is going to be the vocalist, this is where you send them the “finished” beat.

Reward brake

Double time here.

Step 6 – Lyrics

I’m not going to go deep here, i’ll write another blog on this subject, basically you want to write lyrics that fits the beat here.

Reward brake

Step 7 – Recording vocals

Again i’m not going deep here, there is a great article in the guide on this, and countless posts on SC about the technical site of things here, so read them. However the most important parameter here is the vocalist and their performance, so make sure they are motivated and comfortable, never criticizes a take, make sure they got refreshments, if they ask for a little brake give them one, listen to the takes meanwhile. Never delete a take keep it should need to compile a take afterwards, they might also make good doubles. Don’t saturate the performance, once you are sure you got what you need move on, unless the vocalist ask for another take. If possible the artist might like a reverb and compressor in the monitor chain, most sequencers can do this and even if it means you are gonna get it to, put it on, just remember to bypass when you are judging takes. After the recording you might need to compile sections from the different takes you got of this, also double parts if you feels it’s right.

Reward brake

Step 7,5 – Can i still change thing

Of course you can, while it may seem counter productive, it’s entirely possible to change anything up to the point where you release the track.

Step 8 – Post-production

Again i ask you to go to the guide and SC for technical advice here. I wasn’t originally going to include this step for two reasons: one i wanted this to be about the creative side of things, not sound quality and two it’s far beyond me to give any useful general advice that isn’t covered in the guide and SC. The only thing i really want to bring to your attention is that you should use your network here. While professionals is the best choice here, not many of us got the budget to send every track to the pros for mixing and mastering, however most of us might know a home studio guy who is better then us in one of these, so maybe you can get them to do it for less the pros. Even if you can’t afford that you might be able to get them to sit in on it with you guiding you, or just listen to what you done and recommend changes.  After you are all done, do something special something you almost never do, spoil yourself a bit you earn it.

Musings on good and appropriate

Let’s be honest here, most gear in the mid, high-mid price range are good. If you add price into it even a lot of low end stuff is at least decent. So why do we spend time and money research and investing in different preamps, effects, microphones and so on.  Because we are looking for preamps effects and microphones that are appropriate to what we do, this may be on a general scale as a go to piece of gear or for something more specific if we got the basics down. The thing is, when you start out and you get something not appropriate, you might think it’s a bad piece of kit. This leads to nothing good, so think about it, maybe it just wasn’t an appropriate choice. After some time, you realize the difference, between bad gear and gear that just not appropriate. Of course there is a third parameter in this; do you know how to use the piece of gear.

That’s all from me.

Happy Holiday