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Electropolis: Simply Samples (Classic Mix)

From vinyl to digital, sampling has been apart of electronic music since the introduction of the first computer. In short, sampling is the recycling of recorded musical ideas to use as an instrument or a sound recording within another piece of music. The legality of sampling remains in limbo as DJs and various other e-musicians continue to turn a profit from the recorded work of others. Despite what side of the law the issue happens to fall on, the public seems to appreciate what hip hop and EDM artists do with samples. Therefore, this week Electropolis discusses some masters of the art and offers some visual stimulation to accompany.

Bonobo Live From Beatport

As seen in the above performance, Bonobo’s style incorporates a wide variety of samples in tandem with hip hop beats and bass lines. His music is linearly progressive, yet mysteriously interesting. From start to finish, his set consists of an expanding development harmonic soundscapes. However, Bonobo’s consistant and steady introduction of unique musical ideas keeps his mix refreshing.

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Electropolis: It's All About The Production – Skrillex, Rusko, and Deadmau5

Here’s some video footage, analysis and commentary on the three biggest EDM producers in the business. They should give you some pro insight and hopefully inspire you get up and make some music. Enjoy.

Skrillex’s Live Performance Setup

The clip above demonstrates Skrillex‘s live performance setup, but as you can see”there isn’t much going on.  Despite this, he and the most successful masterminds behind popular music (a.k.a producers) are now “socially accepted” to perform anywhere around the world. And even though this has broadened the scope of entertainment for you, the fan, tremendously”there’s still a lot of high school drama within the EDM scene as “traditional” DJs complain about being categorized amongst similar live setups. However, it’s obvious that the EDM culture has been quite lazy at defining the word “DJ” for quite some time now. FYI: The official definition of discjockey is “a person who plays popular recorded music on the radio or at a party or nightclub”. So, since there are literally hundreds of uses for the word “DJ” in EDM that don’t abide by this definition, there’s no reason to be hatin’ on Mr. Skrillex because he isn’t turning a few knobs, pressing a couple of buttons or scratching a few records. By the way, it’s pretty rare to find a bad review regarding his shows.

Rusko Demonstrates His Music Production Process

As the founder of “modernized” dubstep, or brostep, Rusko has denounced the genre as becoming non-musical. He previously associated it, especially its rise in America, to the post-introduction of “heavy metal””claiming that the newest fans of dubstep seem to be interested in the extreme noise, not the music. Despite this claim, it has been hard for Rusko to completely step away from the WOMP WOMP. Nevertheless, his popularity and musicianship has successfully landed him gigs such as producing music for Britney Spears. In regards to his production process, it’s similar to most modern producers. You can see in the above documentation of his production, he composes and records his music in DAWs similar to Ableton. And evidently, the popular rumor that he always creates his drums first is true (see video).

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Electropolis: Monthly Wrap-up – Arps, Dynamics & Phrasing, and Rough Mixin'…

Wow, it’s been an entire month since the first Electropolis post and now it’s time for January’s recap! As musicians ourselves, we’ve read and discovered many flaws associated with explaining complex digital music topics within a variety of publications. One of these flaws consist of fifteen to thirty second audio demonstrations that merely skim over the applicate of the topic throughout an entire song. If you’ve ever taken guitar lessons from one of those dudes at the music store, you can see how these very short demonstrations are quite similar to learning a snippet of Van Halen’s “Eruption”. You may learn the technique very well, but can you incorporate it into your own music? Therefore, we’ve discovered that the best way to inspire your musical evolution is by providing an original tune produced with all, and only, the topics discussed. Although seemingly complex, it’s possible to make a very original piece of music by combining a bunch of random ideas. Let’s hear the tune, then revisit and do a little review on what we’ve discussed.

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Electropolis: Mixing & EQ Bootcamp for E-Music Noobs

Mixing and equalizing can seem like an intimidating task, however you don’t need to be a professional sound engineer to make a very listenable track as a producer. In the real world, many songwriters send their music on to get mixed by fresh ears all the time. Part of the reason is to simply have the track mixed from the audience’s point of view, the other reason is that you just spent twenty-four to forty-eight straight hours of recording it and your ears are about to throw up. Therefore, if you’re merely a composer, then you probably don’t need to be 100% up to date on mixing and equalizing. You are meant to drain your creative energy on the best part of music”making and performing it. However, it’s good to know some basics or maybe even establish a process for rough mixes. Doing so will allow you to go ahead and perform/publicize a new song your excited to share. Let’s get started!

Overall, this is a very basic and proven process for mixing and equalizing a rough mix. Now before we begin, take into consideration that this mixing process is solely meant for mixing digital electronic music. However, whether you love or hate Propellerhead, their Web site offers free mixing and EQ techniques for recording audio vocals, guitar, bass and drums. Although these tutorials are meant to help Record users, 90% of the information is generic enough to apply to most mixing and EQ setups. Since it’s a popular DAW, we’ll be using Reason 6 to reference its mixing board for visual stimulation.

What will you need?

  1. A fully recorded song
  2. A pair of good monitors and headphones
  3. A digital audio workstation (DAW) with a generic mixing board as seen within Reason.

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Tune Up: Mixing Beyond Volume

If you’d been reading the OurStage Blog, you’ve undoubtedly been keeping up with the best ways to achieve success in your musical career yourself thanks to the Generation DIY posts. In a similar vein, this week’s Tune Up will focus on the most neglected aspects of a home mix.  Once you’ve gone through the process of recording your songs, you’ve got a big pile of sequenced audio that will most likely sound weak, muddy or unpolished. We have some simple tricks you can utilize in the mixing stage to remedy this problem.

Mixing is a familiar concept for most people who record their own tracks. But you probably aren’t sure what the process really entails. Sure, you know that you need to adjust the volume of the different parts of your mix (i.e. if the snare drum is too quiet, boost it so it can be heard). But, you might notice that your mix is starting to get muddy, the vocals aren’t cutting through quite enough or maybe you just aren’t getting enough of that guitar twang. Well, there are a lot of techniques used by mixing engineers that have nothing to do with volume. In the interest of importance and simplicity, We’ll highlight some of the most important tricks.

Equalization

Just like mixing, everyone is familiar with the concept of equalization, and some are even pretty talented at making that great guitar sound using their DAW’s EQ. But, let’s step back a moment. EQ isn’t just about making the individual instrument sound good. In fact, when it comes to mixing, that isn’t the goal at all. When dissected, some of the best radio mixes would contain individual instruments that sound really bad. Let’s lay the technique out for you.

Say you’re mixing a guitar track and a piano track. They’re both comping some chords and filling out the accompaniment for that big chorus. You’ve EQ’d your guitar sound so that it sounds great. You’ve got some nice EQ boosts at certain frequencies. But, it sounds really muddy alongside your keys track. Well that’s because the piano, in this case, occupies a very similar frequency range as your guitar. So, now we have a flood of similar notes traveling through similar frequency bands, making everything clogged with sound. The simple solution: Go to the piano’s EQ and cut a little bit of its sound right in the same frequency ranges that your guitar’s EQ has been boosted. Note the pictures below. The EQ’s have opposite peaks and dips:

Rhythm Guitar EQ: Boosted around 1050 Hz, cut around 290 Hz

Keys EQ: Boosted around 285 Hz, cut around 1050 Hz

Not only does this allow you to keep track of my overall volume outputs, but it clears your mixes right up. Please keep in mind that this isn’t an exact science. You won’t need to cut/boost at opposite frequencies on all tracks exactly. Play around with the EQ to find the clearest positions. If you’re having trouble figuring out which frequency ranges need to be boosted in a given track, use a graphic EQ. Create a very narrow band, boost it to maximum level, and sweep it across the whole EQ left to right. You’ll hear certain points where the sound seems to resonate. Boost these to get a rich sound. Chances are, other instruments will have different resonant peaks. Therefore, you can cut and boost opposite peaks on different EQs, creating a clearer mix. You can also use this “narrow band sweep” technique to determine problematic frequencies and cut them from that track. This is called “notching”.

Pan and Reverb

The other important mixing techniques are probably also a little obvious, but often underused. Pan has been a staple of recording forever. You may be familiar with it because of its use for laying out harmonies in a mix, or creating that great stereo image for a drum set. However, panning tracks for mixing purposes can be very effective in more subtle ways. Say, for example, you have lead vocals and lead guitar performing simultaneously. It’s best not to pan these hard left and right, because this comes through a little awkwardly in the final track (and the listener might not be sure what the focal point is supposed to be). However, positioning them just a few clicks on either side of dead center will clear it up in the speakers. You may not hear the difference individually, but it does help to make the tracks sit better in the mix.

Reverb is the final touch when mixing a track. While, it’s a familiar effect for making instruments sound terrific and assigning them a great modeled space, you can use it to clear things up even further. We’ll go back to thelead vox/guitar example on this one. Let’s say you assigned the reverb of a much larger room to the lead guitar than the vocals (i.e. a more distant sound for the guitar). Suppose you also made more dry vocals come through than dry lead guitar. This would come across to the ear as if the singer is closer in space than the guitar. Thus, you’ll tend to hear them as much separate entities. Again, ˜verb is a awesome way for make something sound cool, but if used in this way, it can also clear things up.

While mixing is a process that is far more complicated than the scope of this article (and we would strongly recommend taking a look at some longer how-to articles online), we decided to take a break from gear reviews/recommendations this week and give you some tips.  We can tell you that, even if that individual bass sound isn’t quite what you normally like, it might fit into the mix much better. Your instruments need to work as a team, and in the end, the clarity of your mixes will make the mastering stage easier and the listener more impressed.

Generation DIY: All About Recording

Over the years, pricey studios have catered to the big fish recording artist so the idea of home-based recording seemed pretty far-fetched. For newer artists, the questions of who to record with, what studio to use and is there a cheaper and easier way to record are vital. But, in today’s do-it-yourself climate, conventional thoughts about going into a studio to work with a producer/engineer in order to create that first album or EP are rapidly changing. This is Generation DIY and we’re all about taking control, remember? So let’s take a few minutes to talk about ways you can record on your own and still get that nice studio quality sound.
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