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veilofblue
Metal newbie

Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2010 11:24 pm
Posts: 188
Location: Ecuador
PostPosted: Fri Nov 16, 2012 12:22 am 
 

I've always been deeply interested in the whole electronic world of music, even though I have always been a metalhead. The whole electronic music stuff, wether it is sampling, programming, etc. have always been in kind of a dark side, at least for me. It's nothing you find a lot on the internet forums, or something that you can easily buy and learn to do.
I know there are some experts on the field here in this site, so I welcome any of your help, experience, or any information regarding this. How do you do it, what software/hardware you use or recommend, how do you play and tweak your samples live or in the studio, mainly that. Not much on the historical side of how or when it started, just all kind of practical information to apply on my music or whatever.
I am already very familiar with musical production and recording, mixing, etc. and the basics of the electronics of instruments, signal flow and that kind of things.
thanks for any info shared
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Smoking_Gnu
Chicago Favorite

Joined: Sat Mar 15, 2008 11:22 pm
Posts: 2719
Location: United States
PostPosted: Fri Nov 16, 2012 4:20 pm 
 

Right now I'm using Cubase Essential 5 as my DAW with a midi controller (M Audio Oxygen 49) and a few software synthesizers. I went the softsynth route just because I could record without a preamp (I didn't have one at the time, though I now use a Focusrite Scarlett 8i6) and I really enjoy how software gives you options that hardware synthesizers don't have in terms of sound design (that is, software can let you program things in ways that the hardware of analog synths wouldn't allow - check out the DCAM Synth Squad by fxpansion for a good example of this.) I still play/record most of my music live via my keyboard; I don't think I could ever be one of those "exclusively enters notes via the DAW's MIDI editor" types.

By the same token, I totally understand how it can be a lot more physically satisfying to play a hardware instrument (staring at a computer screen for hours gets fatiguing) and some of the arguments about how analog synths sound better than softsynths.

In terms of software, I'd highly recommend CamelAudio Alchemy and Synth Squad. Alchemy has GREAT sampling capabilities (including a granular engine) and lets you load a sample into any of its four oscillator slots. I usually use it for fine-tuning my drumkit sounds, though it has a capable virtual analog engine as well. Synth Squad has what a lot of people consider the best analog-sound emulation of any soft synth at the moment, and its actually three synths in one - Strobe, a straightforward analog emulator; Amber, which is really good at strings and pads; and Cypher, which has a frequency modulation engine and more detailed editing options than Strobe. There's also a "shell" called Fusor that lets you load up to three instances of the synths alongside with effects for each individual synths AND a master fx output - Kind of a CPU hog, but great if your computer can handle it.

I ended up with Cubase because I was working on a metal project with a friend who also had Cubase, though that never got off the ground. The metal bands in my area aren't interested in keyboards, so I've since ended up writing dance/ambient music and the like (I love prog house; think Deadmau5 and his ilk.)

I would like to try Ableton at some point since it's sort of the "industry standard" for dance music given its capabilities in live performance - You can set up "clips" of individual sounds and using a pad-based sequencing hardware (like the Novation launchpad) trigger those clips into songs, which is something I'd love to work with.
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CorpseFister
Metalhead

Joined: Mon Apr 21, 2008 2:07 pm
Posts: 1995
Location: Canada
PostPosted: Fri Nov 16, 2012 6:53 pm 
 

Shit yeah, let’s do this! I know there are a few people here who work with electronic music. Hard to say how many will respond (the keyboard thread got unsticked due to lack of activity) but I for one am always up to talk at great length on the subject haha.

Smoking_Gnu wrote:
I went the softsynth route just because I could record without a preamp (I didn't have one at the time, though I now use a Focusrite Scarlett 8i6) and I really enjoy how software gives you options that hardware synthesizers don't have in terms of sound design (that is, software can let you program things in ways that the hardware of analog synths wouldn't allow - check out the DCAM Synth Squad by fxpansion for a good example of this.) I still play/record most of my music live via my keyboard; I don't think I could ever be one of those "exclusively enters notes via the DAW's MIDI editor" types.

By the same token, I totally understand how it can be a lot more physically satisfying to play a hardware instrument (staring at a computer screen for hours gets fatiguing) and some of the arguments about how analog synths sound better than softsynths.


There is a misconception here, but it might have just been a lack of clarity. Hardware does not equal analog. In fact, the majority of hardware synthesizers produced these days are digital. Software synthesizers don’t really offer any distinct benefit over hardware, with the exception that the price is generally lower and they don’t take up studio space. For instance, the Strobe synth you mentioned is a virtual analog modeler which is the same exact concept driving say, my Roland SH201. Whether or not one sounds better than the other will be a matter of preference, but they are a similar type of synthesis.

That being said- on the actual issue of analog vs. digital it really all just depends on what you are doing, so it’s nice to have a few different synths at your disposal. For example, for a sharp, cutting bass lead I’d usually turn to my Moog (analog) but for a delicate, textured pad, I’d use my Roland (digital). It’s just about knowing how to use your gear and what its best application is.

Anyway back to OP. Since you’re familiar with production and recording I’m guessing you’ve already got a DAW of choice so I’m not really gonna speak to that except to say that I’m a big fan of FLStudio- it’s great for both electronic production and recording. But then again I might be biased since I’ve been using it since it was called Fruityloops (which was over a decade ago haha).

In general terms, I think one of the most important parts of making electronic music is the ability to work with and understand how sounds are being generated. The line between artist and producer is gone, so what sounds you are using is just as important as how they are arranged and played. Honestly it’s pretty easy to just load up a bunch of presets and fire away, but if you want to make anything interesting or unique that just doesn’t cut it. There are a few basics that apply to both sampling and synthesis which you’ll want to be good at to make decent electronic music. Forgive me if you know any of this or I sound patronizing at all (I hope not haha) but I’m gonna start assuming no knowledge of making electronic music.

Filters- These are absolutely key. Everything from psy trance to downtemp to dubstep is dependent on good usage of filters. There are many types, but at their most basic you set a filter at a certain frequency and it removes every above that frequency (lowpass) or below that frequency (highpass). You also have a control called resonance, which applies a boost at whatever frequency the filter is set to.

Doesn’t sound all that exciting, but where filters become interesting is in movement of the frequency they are set at. For example, say we took a nice pad and applied a highpass filter and we set the frequency right at the top so nothing is getting through. If we then slowly turned the knob down (letting more and more frequencies to pass through the filter) to the middle and slowly worked our way back up, it would create a sweeping sound, like something you might hear in a trance tune. Or let's say we started with a low, growly bass noise and applied a low pass filter somewhere in the middle. If you then started wildly tweaking the frequency of that filter up and down, you’d get something like that BEEooBEEooOOWWWW bass sound that dubstep is known for.

That’s just a couple of examples, but filters are everywhere in electronic music. The best way to understand it is probably to just start messing around with one and see how it sounds. It is pretty basic and anyone who is good at working with synths and electronic music probably skipped or groaned their way through that, but this concept is absolutely fundamental to producing electronic music and it’s worth spending the time to develop your skills at applying filters.

Anyway, I was gonna talk about envelopes next but this post is getting loooong. If that was helpful at all I can get into it more, but if not I’ll just shut up and maybe post some drum and bass later.

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Smoking_Gnu
Chicago Favorite

Joined: Sat Mar 15, 2008 11:22 pm
Posts: 2719
Location: United States
PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2012 1:03 am 
 

CorpseFister wrote:
Shit yeah, let’s do this! I know there are a few people here who work with electronic music. Hard to say how many will respond (the keyboard thread got unsticked due to lack of activity) but I for one am always up to talk at great length on the subject haha.

Smoking_Gnu wrote:
I went the softsynth route just because I could record without a preamp (I didn't have one at the time, though I now use a Focusrite Scarlett 8i6) and I really enjoy how software gives you options that hardware synthesizers don't have in terms of sound design (that is, software can let you program things in ways that the hardware of analog synths wouldn't allow - check out the DCAM Synth Squad by fxpansion for a good example of this.) I still play/record most of my music live via my keyboard; I don't think I could ever be one of those "exclusively enters notes via the DAW's MIDI editor" types.

By the same token, I totally understand how it can be a lot more physically satisfying to play a hardware instrument (staring at a computer screen for hours gets fatiguing) and some of the arguments about how analog synths sound better than softsynths.


There is a misconception here, but it might have just been a lack of clarity. Hardware does not equal analog. In fact, the majority of hardware synthesizers produced these days are digital. Software synthesizers don’t really offer any distinct benefit over hardware, with the exception that the price is generally lower and they don’t take up studio space. For instance, the Strobe synth you mentioned is a virtual analog modeler which is the same exact concept driving say, my Roland SH201. Whether or not one sounds better than the other will be a matter of preference, but they are a similar type of synthesis.


Indeed, I was writing this is somewhat of a rush so I didn't get around to elaborating. I'd say (at least from what I've gathered) the majority of *mass-produced* hardware synths are digital; I've seen all sorts of smaller companies selling analog systems (Buchla, Macbeth, Doepfer, Dave Smith, etc) but those are rather cost-prohibitive.

(For the record, CorpseFister gave me boatloads of advice when I was a mere synth newbie, so take his word over mine. :D )
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elf48687789
Metalhead

Joined: Mon Feb 02, 2009 2:03 pm
Posts: 1634
PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2012 10:42 am 
 

Some hardware info:

As far as drum machines go, the Boss DR and Yamaha RY series are pretty good, they have acoustic sounds as well as some basic electronic sounds like TR-808 in most of them. Some are easier to program, but most don't have enough memory to put in a whole set for playing live unless you do very simple music.



Sequencers: these are more sophisticated than the drum machines.

Korg Electribe series: very easy to program, but the sound is not very good, sometimes even horrible. It depends what kind of music you want to make though.

Roland MC series: sound can be superb, great sounding, but very hard to program, especial tweaking the levels for the drum sounds can be pretty time-consuming. Can also do step keys like the Electribes, but somewhat more complicated to find the sound.

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veilofblue
Metal newbie

Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2010 11:24 pm
Posts: 188
Location: Ecuador
PostPosted: Mon Nov 19, 2012 10:41 pm 
 

Thanks! all info is helpful so far, except that I forgot to say that I already know a bit about synths haha you know, the basic deal. I pretty much use Reason for everything, but all the time I hear people saying Reason sucks, so I wanted to know what is your opinion about it, which programs you think that replace Reason greatly both in live or studio situations, whether it comes to synths, sampling or sequencing. I knew CorpseFister would come and help :P he's also given me some advice on keyboards before. So please all, expand on any of the fields already mentioned as you may like :)
btw I now own a mac so try recommending programs compatible with this weird system, I know there are few but any are welcome, especially if they are free or cheap :)
Also, what do you think about playing samples with hardware? You know, using the proper sampler thing, 'cause the other day there was this presentation at college, commemorating the 100 years of the birth of John Cage, and there were some classmates playing weird stuff on their samples. I don't know much about this and I'm veeeery curious about it.
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