Studio Updates

Having quite some money but no life whatsoever, I made some upgrades to my studio setup over last few months.

Neutron 3 Advanced from my favourite company iZotope has been a tough choice, but everything that speeds up workflow at least by a little margin is always welcome. This one features multiband Transient Shaper with nice display to replace proven, but simple NI Transient Master with something more streamlined. The same is true with multiband Gate plugin. A completely new tool in my arsenal would be Sculptor, which seems to be multiband dynamics + EQ hybrid requested myself in one of user polls some years ago. Simple controls, but does wonders.

neutron-module-sculptor

Finally purchased a D16 plugin (with money – got all others free). This is Godfazer, multi-purpose phaser tool with a plenty of algorithms and controls for every scenario. Subtle or extreme, classic or avant-garde, periodic or dynamic – you name it. In particular, stepped phaser is something I always needed for uplifting trance basslines. So far only Hybrid 3 got it.

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Loudness War 002: FM Synthesis part 1

Let’s continue, shall we?

The early episodes misfired due to very bad microphone quality, but I’m still improving in both audio and video.

This episode is a retake on my presentation about FM synthesis I made almost 4 years ago. Got a lot of material ready to use and explain in some sensible matter, and part 2 is coming.

 

Massive X is a great synth

NI’s new flagship VST, the Massive X, was surrounded by controversy and buzz months before launch. Some claim it was a dissapointment, but I gave it a chance and it surpassed my expectations. As a matter of fact, Massive X might be my new favourite ūüôā

NativeInstrumentsMassiveX_01-9kyL90Cf9j6d9HzeOTId2Pga.kDmMrkL

Massive X is the holy grail combining ease of use, quick operation and vast possibilities. Beyond standard envelopes and LFOs there are also numerous handy features and options, such as “switcher LFO” or modulation bar next to every control, even synced delay times. An unbelievably flexible “performer” sequencer is accompanied by note-dependent, velocity and random modulators – all of them immediately available for quick use. No modulation matrix and no menu diving whatsoever.
In terms of synthesis options, everything is here – phase modulation / FM, sync and even wavefolders – till now rarely found in virtual synths, especially not all at once. Massive X also offers great sound quality for moderate CPU usage thanks to (brave) implementation of AVX instructions. These are commonplace in every CPU released since 2011, though many people already complained their machine is even older and thus completely incompatible with new synth. But hey, I’m up for latest tech advances!

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The secret plan is Komplete

That’s right! Finally I got the most popular plugin package in the world, which is Komplete Ultimate 12. It was heavily discounted during Native Instruments‘ Summer of Sound – still, not a cheap stuff. Been looking forward to Komplete for years.

Komplete Ultimate 12

So what’s inside?

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Black Friday loot

With new job and new tracks signed I felt like burning some more money this year. So here comes the new software:

Chromaphone 2

chromaphone-2-edit

This unique synth simulates the behavior of physical object oscillating, which creates realistic sounds of strings, drums, bells as well as some oddball contraptions. While modulation options are somehwat limited, it works great under any settings. Awesome plucks and tube bass out of the box – just can’t go wrong with Chromaphone. While I don’t need Chromaphone for any particular purpose, it’s great plugin for organic sounds of all kind.

AAS also made some plugins for Ableton Live, especially Corpus which I use every now and then. You will be able to hear some great Corpus bass working as a main motiff for my upcoming “Meteor Ride” track.

Got this thing from JRR shop for 75 USD, normal price is 200 USD.

Orb Composer

Orb Composer

Now that’s a big deal – automagical orchestral music composer based on artificial intelligence. It’s like having a classical-trained musican next to me: “Just write me a string section in G minor.” – snap. “Nah, another one” – snap. “Or maybe in C minor. Or faster and higher, but solo” – everything in split second. “Now, add flute accompaniament to it” – snap.

However, things get really interesting when I route this thing into state-of-art synths, utilizing complex sound design and perfect mixdown. By now I can make all the things just sound good.

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Make Noise 0-Coast

So I finally¬† decided to buy my first hardware synth (or any hardware device that doesn’t just serve as an interface for PC) – 0-Coast by Make Noise. Why this one?

0-Coast

I always wanted to have a hardware synth (or a dozen, you know this feeling), but realistically they are very expensive compared to functionality they offer. A cheap hardware synth is still 3 times more expensive than the best VST, such as Serum – and offers a fraction of its possibilities on paper. The hardware, however, has the advantage of fast work and also is great for learning and experimenting with hands-on experience. There are no presets in this curious box, so every time I need to make a patch from scratch. Also, it encourages experimenting and improvising.

There are a plenty of synths I considered, but they all miss something. Some have keys, some have polyphony, some have sequencers, others have eurorack connectivity – but in general their feature list is always limited. There is no one box to rule them all, and they are expensive.

However, I never gave up 0-Coast – simply because it has no replacements. It’s a truly weird eurorack-style synth using unconventional modules arranged as a traditional monosynth. Make Noise are the leaders in eurorack and develop modules which do not resemble traditional synths at all, yet still allow to build incredible musical contraptions. Evolving and self-generating, aperiodic and atonal sounds are something that not many people deal with, and something that I’ve been missing in my setup. So here it is.

Mind this is not a magic box that makes music on its own – early I encountered shortage of supplied cables. Also menu diving is abysmal, and number of signals is limited. Still, I plan to make extensive use of it. It’s great for plucks, basses, agressive synth sounds for psy-tech, but also a source of samples and wavetables for further use. Certainly there’s a lot to discover. However, I have the skills to make use of it all, and will explore 0-Coast to the max.

The making of Introscope

Since it’s out now for everyone to hear (and to buy, apparently), I can say a few words how this track came to life. It took incredible amount of time and effort, but was worth it.

https://www.beatport.com/track/introscope-original-mix/9963922

It actually started as far as two years ago, with the rough idea to create some true hard-hitting and dark trancer with evolving structure. The title “introscope” means “device to look into yourself” – it was meant to be a journey through different emotions and states of mind.

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2016 Roundup

Ending year 2016 was quite interesting, full of ups and downs. For sure it was busy.

First and most important, I got my first track released – it’s remix of Ruska – Saimaa made for a contest. I was hoping now releases will be flying every month or so.

However, since then it was a downfall. Even though I feel I improve the quality of every new track, none of them was accepted. Some remixes were not good enough, others seemingly were off the style.

It took me a while to understand what is still wrong with the tracks and why people don’t enjoy them as much as commercial releases. And eventually¬†I figured it out. Check the improved remix of Impellent:

The stats… we live in the world where no one cares who you are and what you do, but only how popular you are. I’m not very popular at all (especially compared to 2008), but the blog stats keep growing this year:

wordpress-stats-2016

This is with lowest post count ever. Most of visits hit Chaotic Wavetable Pack for Serum, which turned out very interesting for users even though it was made over one day and in fact is nothing extraordinary. Personally I never used it yet :P.

Growing stats may also come from the fact that I no longer post about “work in progress”, but simply finish tracks and post worthy pieces of music. Certainly it would help if I posted some tutorials and started video blog, but there are other things I need to deal with first. Neverthless, I gave some lectures on production this year so it’s not far from here. Especially earlier show on FM synthesis turned out great.

I only mixed like 9 DJ sets this year… unfortunatelly it takes a lot of time. Even though, these few sets get great number of plays, so once I get back to it someday, things should¬†be running¬†well.

The studio… I got quite some gear and a number of synths this year. Acually it’s more than I was able to use so far. Which doesn’t mean I don’t try to – the quest for ultimate studio drives me both creatively and at regular work. I not only need money for better place, but also need to actually make use of all the synths (yet alone gear) I gathered so far. Now the only thing that limits me is the time. Which leads to one last point…

The workflow. Earlier this year I decided to learn how to use Push for real. And I did, it just works so well. Now I’m working in Session mode, creating clips and layers one by one. Then switch to Arrangement View, create whole arrangement in one go and… voila! Track is finished. Let’s do another one. Making tracks, even very diverse, is quite repeatable process – one I know how to. And creating better track doesn’t neccessarily mean spending more time on it. It’s all about the skills and just know-how.

The future. The future is now, 2017 will be a breakthrough. Just at the end on the year I have all the pieces I need to produce great music. Just have to sort out earlier unfinished projects before getting new PC and moving on to future productions. All I need now is time Рand to make good use of it. The same is true for DJ sets. These should come back in a month or two.

Happy new year 2017!

Ups and downs

I didn’t post for last 2 months, but it was busy and productive time.

First of all, I won a remix contest of Ruska РSaimaa by Black Lemon Records (details on Soundcloud).

It was only 4th place, but enough to make it. Looks like my first and only release will be progressive house. Will make another post when I get more details on this one.

It was my 3rd track this year, but 20th till date. It takes¬†good time to learn production, but finally I’m there.

Secondly, due to this achievement I gave a lecture on how the remix was made and got free LuSH-101 plugin from D16 Group as reward. This trance workhorse is worth another post. My performance was recorded and will be avaliable on video in some months (only in Polish).

lush-101

Finally, I also took part in remix contest of Andy Groove – Impellent.

Unfortunatelly this time didn’t make it, which makes me sad. It’s a simple but huge¬†uplifter, going to share it soon. I still believe it’s better than anything I made till date.

All in all, you can expect 3 more posts exploring both remixes and the synth in detail. Other than that, I have a bunch of real-life events to sort out for now, but once I’m back, the music will be coming quickly ūüôā

Studio synth setup

Finally got all the synths I need. I’d like to share with my studio setup and explain each choice

First of all, I tried to keep synth pool as small as possible and have all sounds covered. Well, good plugins are pricey. But that’s not the only reason – to many synths can distract you from getting the actual job done.

Sylenth1

Sylenth1

Industry standard substractive. Very simple and easy to program, but with great sound quality. The main advantage of Sylenth1 is the filter section, which can withstand wildest modulation without overdrive or artifacts. Always smooth. Also, CPU usage is minimal. Used for rather simple and clean sounds – kick, psybass, supersaws, acid, random blips.

Dune 2

Dune 2

Bigger cousin of Sylenth1. Can do substractive, FM and Wavetable synthesis all at once and has great modulation possibilities. The key feature is unison section which allows you to dial up to 32 voices for any patch. Program whatever you need and just instantly make it big and awesome with multiple voices. Great at leads and pads, but also has cool acid presets. However, tends to glitch at small, fast-modulated sounds.

Serum

Serum

Wavetable monster. It would be just another substractive synth if not the impressive wavetable engine. Serum allows you to manipulate sounds in variety of ways, including wavetable scan and weird warp modes as well as more standard PWM, FM or phase distortion. Unmatched at basses and evolving arps as well as gritty FX. Great GUI makes it my new favourite.

Operator

Operator

Comes in Ableton Suite. This tiny toy can do substractive, FM and even additive synthesis. Very fast to program wih incredible sonic possibilities. Can produce¬†some bass, but mostly practical in FX / electro / dubstep madness. Unfortunatelly it’s monophonic (or stereophonic at best), but can be easily layered thanks to negilible CPU usage.

The Mangle

The Mangle

Granular synth suited for harmonic sounds. Still in beta, but can already deliver beautiful pads as well as monstrous FX and risers. Great drag-and-drop GUI make it easy to program.

Granulator II

Granulator II

Another granular toy coming in Ableton Suite. Many custom options result in evolving pads, risers and rolls. ‘Scan’ feature will change any sample into warping monstrosity. For when you need to get dirty.

Sylenth1 and Dune 2 have custom skins.

This post will become more important once you hear tracks made with all of these 8)