20 Ableton Live Tips & Tricks in 8 Minutes

March 21, 2012 § Leave a comment


Will Marshall’s DJ Template Pro for APC 40: Walkthrough

March 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

“This is a walkthrough of my DJ Template for the Akai APC40. It provides an overview of all the core features, but does not go into detail. To download the template, visit WillMarshall.me

Understanding Audio Effects

March 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

An Overview of Audio Effects

This week we’re taking a step back to the basics in order to give our beginner readers an overview on audio effects and how they work. If you’re just starting out on your audio production journey, you’ve most likely come across effects in your gear or software. These might be delay, reverb, distortion, compression, phase, flange, pitch-shift, ring modulators or filters. This article aims to get you familiar with these terms and what these devices do. In future installments of this series we will get a bit deeper on specific types of effects (as some subjects such as reverb require an article of their own.) For now we begin at the beginning…

What are Audio Effects?

Audio effects are devices (analog or digital) that are used to intentionally alter how a musical instrument or other audio source sounds. Effects can be subtle or extreme and they can be used in live or recording situations. A good example of audio effects are the “stomp-boxes” that many electric guitarists use to realize their desired sound. By chaining together many different types of effects units a musician can sculpt a unique tone. Almost all popular music benefits from creative use of effects, the only exception being an all-acoustic show (and even then there are usually effects involved). All commercial music is enhanced with effects and electronic music makes liberal use of these devices. With proper use they can really enhance your sound and take the listener to new sonic spaces.

A Brief History of Audio Effects

Modern day effects are all a result of the evolution of technology and the advent of recorded sound. Around the Mid 1940’s recording engineers started to use reel to reel tape machines to create delays, echos and sound effects. In addition to tape, microphone placement and movement were found to create sounds that had not previously been recorded. In 1948 Harry DeArmond, creator of the first guitar pickup, created the first stand-alone effects processor called the Trem-Trol by running the electric current of the signal through liquid to create a tremolo sound. This device was used by Bo Diddley and  led to more development in the guitar industry of the 1940’s and 50’s where guitar amplifiers started to introduce vibrato and reverb effects. Reverb was initially created by driving an electrical signal into a metal plate or spring to create multiple echos or reflections of a sound.

Back in the studio, recording engineers started to use echo chambers to create echo effects or a unique tone to their recordings. Echo chambers were usually long, low rectangular spaces made from sound-reflective materials such as concrete. They were fitted with a loudspeaker at one end and a microphone at the other to create an echo effect that was used on many recordings to enhance vocals. As they were often custom-made, these echo chambers became the sound signature of a given studio at that time. As technology developed, many reverb devices allowed for electronic re-creation of the echo chamber effect. Equalizers and compressors arrived in the studio in the 1950’s and 60’s with the Pultec equalizer which defined the sound of many recordings of that era.


Hardware and Software Effects

Today audio effects devices come in both physical and digital form. Audio signals in electrical format are processed with physical (analog) hardware whereas audio signals in binary format (digital) are processed mathematically by software. Both methods can achieve similar results. In the physical world, effects are usually rack-mounted devices that have cables running to and from a mixing board or they can be something like guitar effect pedals which receive signal from the instrument and alter the signal as it flows to a mixer. On the digital side you can find effects in most music recording software packages. DAWs such as Ableton, Logic, Cubase and ProTools all come with audio effects built-in. Other software packages likeReason, Maschine, Traktor, Audacity, Peak, and Soundforge also come with audio effects. Audio effects are often simple devices that do one specific thing to a sound, although multi-effects processors are also popular for those who want many different effects in one package. It is also worth noting that many instruments (especially synthesizers) come with effects built-in to the machine. (read more)

Great Blog and Ableton Live tutorial

November 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

I came across a great place for audio tips recently: Oliver Chesler’s Wire to the Ear website. He’s got great insights on all forms of electronic music production and lots of links to browse through. Among these I found an Ableton Live tutorial that taught me a LOT of tricks in one sitting. I watched yesterday and found myself pondering a bunch of new workflow ideas this morning. Check it out here.

Mr. Bill – Tutorial 2 : Making complex drumbeats using arpeggiators from Bill Day on Vimeo.

Aurex templates raise the desire for a Novation Launchpad in my workflow

October 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

Admittedly I haven’t dabbled with the Novation Launchpad as much as I would like. I don’t own one.. and do I really need more gear in the studio to learn? Probably not. But this series of templates for the Launchpad and Ableton Live (from Aurex) are starting to make me a believer. Lots of love to Aurex for publishing these templates for Free!

What you’ll need:
Aurex sequencer templates
– Ableton Live 8.1.3 (or higher version)

Using the iPad / iPhone for music creation, DAW control and interface design

October 13, 2010 § 4 Comments

Here’s the short story that some of you already know but I just got my head around last week: You can use your iPad to control your DAW software, audio apps, dj software such as Traktor and Serato. You can do it on the cheap, making your iPad work like a Lemur. It’s not perfect but it’s pretty much amazing and has occupied my brain for the last week or so. If you want to dive in on your own just pick up TouchOSC for your iPad/iPhone ($5). Next, download Osculator (free trial, $20 to purchase) for your computer and hit their forums to understand how to get templates to work with your audio software. Have fun! For the long-winded explanation, read on.

I have always been obsessed with portable music, wireless devices and the idea that someday we will be communicating without wires. (Yes, I have a bit of OCD in the studio and wish all these cables would just go away.) The iPad and iPhone have blessed many gadgeteers with a glimpse of the future, with new workflows and apps that allow us to create on-the-go and control iTunes without getting off the couch. There have also been some amazing apps including: iElectribeLooptastic HD and Electrify, all of which allow mobile music creation, fulfilling a longtime desire for many subway and airplane producers.

However neat this is, we still have a long way to go with actual productivity and streamlined workflow in the studio. Hardware controllers still rule our music studios. Many producers would love to get their hands on a Jazz Mutant Lemur, which allows a customizable do-anything sort of graphic interface. But the Lemur costs about $2000 and for the purpose of this article we are assuming most readers can’t (or won’t) afford one and wish to make their iPad do something similar. (The good news – it can. Read on.)

Many of us have been waiting for something like this for our iPad. But until recently most applications for these devices allowed another method of creation or maybe a sketchpad for ideas. Aside from exported WAV files or bits of creativity to import, there are few applications that actually have much to do with the software you use in your day-to-day music workflow. For many producers the initial apps for the iPad/phone were gadgets or toys, allowing idea creation and tinkering but these apps were not directly connected to our professional workflow – specifically with DAWs – the center of the digital studio.

Sometime last year I remember reading about Touch OSC, a modular touchscreen controller for the iPhone and iPad. “How neat” I thought, downloaded the app and then forgot about it like many others. Then a few weeks back I opened the app again (reminded by an update that was sent) and realized how amazing this application really is.

TouchOSC is a program by Hexler that provides a graphic interface that can send messages to your computer, giving the ability to control just about anything on your computer, in realtime (low latency), with multi-touch interfaces on your iPad/Phone. OSC stands for Open Sound Control, a method of transmitting information between devices that has been used experimentally on many high-end devices like the Jazz Mutant Lemur. TouchOSC can work with a variety of protocol including: Pure Data, Max/MSP/Jitter, OSCulator, Reaktor, Quartz Composer, Vixid VJX16-4, and Supercollider.

Now you need one of these protocols installed to use TouchOSC to control other software on your computer. For my purposes I found Osculator to be the easiest, most fun and instantly gratifying to use. As much as I’d like to be tinkering with the back end of my software, I rarely do. I’m a plug-and-play guy. Osculator works for me because of the large community of people who are developing on this protocol and the variety of templates that are available to users like me. Through the Osculator forums I met many friends, developers and found endless ideas and uses for Touch OSC and Osculator including controllers for Reason, Reaktor, Ableton Live and Traktor.

I currently have templates on my iPad to control Reason, Ableton Live, Traktor, and Logic. It’s a bit clunky sometimes and it takes a while to get it all working perfectly. But once I did get it working – damn is it fun! I’ll be posting a more in-depth look at DJing with the iPad using TouchOSC, Osculator and Traktor. I’d love to hear about anyone else who is using this software and may have found other uses and bits of excitement to share. For the moment I’m getting back to mixing techno on the couch..

WE ARE MOVING!! http://soundsdefygravity.com/

September 24, 2009 § Leave a comment

We are moving! I have purchased a URL and have moved SDG to a new place where I hope to develop this blog even further.. please check us out over here:


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