A lot happened this week so I’m going to break it up by day.
Last week I neglected to mention that I worked on a second version of the track, which felt slightly more relaxed. The drums were in half time as opposed to the standard timing of the initial demo. I also used a couple of different drum loops I showed the girls the second version, and they preffered the slower pace of the new drum patterns. A new “natural” sounding bass preset was also added. Check out a more detailed breakdown of the first version here.
The above screenshot shows the main drum pattern of the chorus section in both versions. You can tell just by looking at the patterns that the first one looks significantly more involved than the second.
The synth plugins I’ve used so far have been Sytrus and reFX Nexus, but none of the presets are my own – but there is one Sytrus preset that I’ve edited into something slightly more original than just the basic presets that come with the plugin. The drum samples I’ve used come from a number of different sources, with the main source being the Terror Drums for Dubstep pack by Cymatics, which I purchased last year. A worthwhile purchase, I must say.
Before the tuning session I refined the track yet again by making a few changes. I added in some percussive patterns, utilising the sample pack I made for an assessment task last trimester. The patterns were in standard timing instead of half time, so I created an interesting contrast between that percussion and the half time drums. The samples were processed on the same mix channel using a high pass filter, a bit-crusher and a delay plugin. I wanted to go for a higher spectral register with these sounds so they didn’t take away from the main drum samples.
On Monday we had the Project Tuning session, where each group got up in front of the class and showcased in-progress snapshots of their projects. The feedback received for our group was fairly positive, some classmates stating the mix was “great” already, although there were some concerns about myself being the person contributing to the project the most, with the other two members in my group not having enough roles. Another really well made point from a classmate was that the drums/percussion sounded too “abrasive” for what we were going for and could end up not sounding very nice on some PA systems if it were to be played at some sort of event. My lack of a reference track also kind of concerned my tutors. I didn’t really feel it was much of an issue yet as it was just meant to be a rough mock-up of the track, which is completely okay since we’re only really halfway through the project, but I’ll need to consider reference material to get the track sounding more “commercial”, which let’s be honest, means more “pop”.
So I understand this as “I need to make the drums softer, try to make some original sounding synths, and get a reference track”. Normally it’s a go-to thing for me to include wacky sounding, gritty percussion in my productions but I’ll have to dial all of that back. My processed samples from last tri also don’t really work that well on this track. I feel like I tried too much to make them work because I stated in our pitch that the track will include my samples. Well, plans are made to be changed, and in this case since our project has changed quite a bit by this point, the plan has only really served to kickstart the project rather than act as something we refer to over the entirety of the project.
Through the week I contacted the rest of the team about team roles. The feedback presented to us in the tuning session got me thinking of what roles I could give to the others in an attempt to spread out the workload. So after some consideration I appointed Chace and Rachel the job of selecting the guitar take for me to use, and also doing the vocal edit together. We booked a session in the Raven Midi studio for Friday to have a jam on the synths there to see if we could come up with any cool sounds we could use in the track.
This version was also created on Wednesday – I had been working on the track in relation to the feedback we received in the tuning session. I did a bit of timing editing to the guitar so it was in time with the click, but I focused primarily on the drums to try and make them less abrasive and more punchy. I changed the drum samples and added syncopated 808 snares in the main patterns to go for that new school hip-hop/trap feel, while still holding back enough so the whole track doesn’t feel like that genre – I’m just borrowing elements from different styles, which is how I usually make my music.
I also managed to do this really cool distorted effect on the drums, where I utilised parallel compression (using Fruity Limiter), reverb (Fruity Reeverb), delay (Fruity Delay 2) and a distortion plugin (Fruity Fast Dist) in that order. The delay only occured halfway through the last chorus for about a bar before the drums became standard timing again.
I utilised Gross Beat to sidechain the signal to the beat. The reason why I did this was to give the main drum mix some warmth and variety without having it clash. I also tuned this signal using a Parametric EQ (Fruity Parametric EQ 2) so it sounded less dissonant. I’ve been told by fellow producers that it’s important to tune drum samples, and I looked into that a bit later in the week.
(GETTIN’ DOWN ON) FRIDAY
The Friday studio session came around, and the session wasn’t as productive as I would have hoped – it was more like a jam to try and find the weirdest sounds & presets on the Virus and Moog synthesizers. I also had a bit of trouble with signal flow, so I’ll need some more practice in the Midi studio if I want to use it to its full potential. The girls, using ProTools 12, had the vocal edit done (or at least to their standard of “done” – there’s a few dodgy parts, but I should be able to fix it).
Our tutor David Page also popped his head in while we were in the Raven Studio and had a chat to us. I showed him the mix so far and he thought it sounded a lot like Lorde’s Yellow Flicker Beat. I thought it was an interesting comparison, since Lorde’s vocals seem too “indie” for the sound we’re trying to going for, but he did have a point about the synths/instrumentation.
After I got the vocal edit from the girls, I imported it into the project and started making changes to the vocals and drums. Rachel suggested I use a softer kick sample because the one from the previous versions felt “too much like a snare”, and I agreed. I also added a grand piano type synth to give the pad synth a bit more flavour in the choruses, and also the outro. I also removed the samples that I used from my sample pack, since they didn’t really suit what I was trying to go for anymore – it was a nice experiment that went nowhere. Maybe they’ll be usable in the future, but not for this.
In this demo I managed to tune my drum samples to the octaves of B. I achieved this by adjusting the pitch of each sample and using Parametric EQs on the kick and snare tracks. Fruity Parametric 2 has a visual spectral analyser built in so I could easily tell that a sample was close to tuned by observing. This webpage helped me out with figuring out what frequency to tune the drum samples to.
At this point it seems redundant to mix the track ProTools or Ableton when I’ve got a pretty good mix now in FL Studio. There are just a few things I’m not too sure about, so I may consult some people exclusively for feedback. Next week should be an easy, downhill run into wrapping up this project.
ProductionWisdom (2015, January, 22) How To Tune Electronic Drums – Tuning Samples [Web Article] Retrieved 14th October, 2016, from http://www.productionwisdom.com/2015/01/22/how-to-tune-electronic-drums-tuning-samples/