Friday, 7 October 2011

Fire... Blackstar, Common, Nas

It's been a while but the train's back up and running now. I'm gonna be dropping some more production articles in the near future including the follow ups to the EQ article. If you're just here for the fire though, this won't disappoint.

Blackstar, aka Mos Def and Talib Kweli, aka one of the best duos in hip hop. (Not to be confused with Binary Star) Coming in hard on this one, with that nice jazzy New York flavour and of course the lyrical finesse. Throw in some Common and you've got a nice joint sprinkled with style and lit with consciousness.

And again. Intelligent concepts and a catchy track stitch this one up tight. Read along with the lyrics if your ears can't snipe it live.

To finish up, some gritty from the King of NY. Part 2 to the OG track from Illmatic, this one's even darker. Piano adds a lot to the atmosphere and the production overall just bangs hard.

That's it for now. Roll credits, shout it out in the comments.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Flying Lotus, Pacewan, Appleblim and Ramadanman

Ok today I've got some stuff of all styles to keep my minions happy.

First up, if you don't know, you need to know.

This song defines "jam". One of the top FlyLo tracks out there off his Cosmogramma album, this showcases his skill at constructing funky psychedelic beats like no one else. Pay attention to how he builds energy throughout the song and caps it off when the trumpet drops.

Next up to hold down the hip hop heads:

Drums are sweet. Hihats are money. Etc.

Finally we need a healthy dose of dubstep flavors,

This track has retarded subs. Hopefully you've got a decent system to listen on and you've set everything up after reading the previous post on speaker placement for best sound quality. Apart from the sub barrage, this track has some nice floating atmospherics and a cool switchup up in the middle. After the break it comes in with some chord stabs and when it finally drops you get treated with more sub blasts on dotted half notes. Some real head-nod action to be had here.

Let me know in the comments if you like, if you don't, if you're just commenting to fish for ad clicks, etc.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Speaker Placement for Best Sound Quality

Most people when placing new speakers, simply choose the most convenient spot or wherever they look the best aesthetically. If you're more concerned about sound quality and fidelity there are some guidelines to follow to ensure the sound hitting your ears is a true representation of what is coming out of your speakers.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

What Is EQ?

Eq or equalization is the technique of balancing the frequency spectrum of a piece of audio. A primitive example of this is the bass and treble knobs on your car or home stereo. An equalizer boosts or attenuates a certain range of frequencies relative to the rest of the spectrum and it is one of the most valuable tools in the producer's arsenal.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Style Wars, The Dusty Movement

This is like my walking home at 3 am song. Actually it's my whenever song but it's prime for chillin. You gotta turn it up loud to hear all the detail in the background. He's got another little melody tucked in under the keys, which sound fantastic by the way. Like churned butter. The chord voicings are what nails it though, I could listen to that progression forever. It holds on one chord to build up suspense and then releases nicely. There's a fake out fade-out in the middle which just makes you appreciate how tasty it is when it comes back in again.

More smooth jazz progressions here. Track reminds me of the leaves changing colour and the smell of fall. It'll be here soon enough I suppose, whenever summer gives up.

And again. Drum and bass groove is locked up nice here. Melody has a nice lazy feel to it. Its timing lags just a bit, with a more triplet feel than the rest of the elements.

The rest of this EP is great as well, really chill groovy songs that conjure up memories of walking through blizzards, midnight treks across town, and looking at the stars. Best part about this EP? It cost me nothing! There was a free download on his bandcamp, and it's been on my ipod ever since. It's still available if you wanna cop it, go check it out! Link here.

Note: it requires an email signup kind of deal which is understandable. I did it a long time ago and have never received an email so you're not gonna get spammed. If you don't wanna put in your real address, try a disposable email service or post up here in the comments. If enough people are interested I can upload it to a fileshare site.

Also a bit of a teaser on what's coming up. The observant ones might have noticed I skipped a couple days there. Don't stress, just been working on some things in the background. Namely a giant music theory guide that will explain everything from the ground up. Should be big things, so stay tuned for that.

If you enjoyed the tunes or have something to say, hit up them comments.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Follow With Bloglovin

Follow my blog with Bloglovin
If you're not familiar, check it out.
New content soon, got some big stuff in the pipeline.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

How To Use Your Headphones as a Microphone

Quick tip today for those situations when you find yourself without a microphone. Say you come up with a cool idea and need to get it down quickly. You just want to beatbox or sing it into your computer but you've got nothing to record your voice with... or so you thought. Chances are you've actually got something hanging around that will do the trick in a pinch...

Saturday, 13 August 2011

How The Beatles Didn't Sound Like Crap, Tips on Pre and Post EQ

Today a tip from the old school days! When tape machines were the only recording medium in studios, there were some sonic compromises to go along with the nice saturation and warmth, namely tape hiss. When recording was limited to 4 or 8 tracks, things would have to be recorded, mixed, and then all recorded down to a single track to free up the rest of the tracks. This process is known as bouncing, and it exists in the modern world of computer recording as well. Except now instead of bouncing down to a single tape track, you're bouncing to a single wave file. Now with tape, the issue was that as you re-recorded things, the hiss would get recorded as well and the more times you bounced something, the more hiss that would build up.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Burial and Four Tet, Some Songs About Insects and Mannequins

The heads who know will already be on it, but in case you haven't heard this track do yourself a favour, it's sublime. Chill and deep to the max. In the intro how it fades from kicks on every other beat to four on the floor... first time I heard that was like an explosion of high fives in my mind. Simple yet effective. This is one of the best collaborations since Batman and Spiderman crashed that wedding. The video's cool too, it's like free drugs.

Another four on the floor tune, this time from Four Tet on his own. Dare I say danceable? Meaning in the conventional club sense of course. I've never had the chance to drop this in a set but one of these days I'll get the right crowd. Here Four Tet works his usual magic over a more conventional stomper. Percussion is stand-out for me. As is the orchestration, it just builds and builds without trying to go over the top.

I really dig producers that have that ninja style locked down, where they only use as much force as necessary. It's really difficult because not only do you have to have technical skill in using restraint and making each element as powerful as possible, but you have to have that artistic intuition to know exactly how much of each ingredient is enough. One of these days I'll develop a formula...

Ok, that's all folks!
As usual give me your opinions and general chatter in the comnomnoments.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Fight Laziness With Momentum, Create Creativity

Laziness' best friend is the excuse. This excuse can come in many forms, and you'll discover all of a sudden you've become a master at rationalization as soon as it comes time to do something. A common excuse for avoiding creative work is lack of inspiration, and indeed without inspiration it would be difficult if not impossible to create anything of value. But don't let this excuse keep you waiting around, get things moving right now.

Light Patterns

Today for your listening pleasures is probably my very favorite producer, Bonobo. This guy is a real master at arrangement among many other things. His tracks are great for when you're working on something and need a reference to compare to.

The intro of this track is so effective, he hints at many parts to come without actually giving it away. Finally the flute convinces the bass to follow it into the chorus at 1:21. Tasty jazz flute always wins points.

This song has such a crazy pulse. The bass just fills up the room and makes things vibe along with it. The last couple of albums he's done have featured vocalists and this is a prime example from his most recent LP.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Back to Essentials, Cleaning Out Your VstPlugins Folder

In the previous article on Komplete 8 I brought up the problem of having too much software and the distractions it could pose. If you're like most producers, over the course of trying new plugins, downloading freeware, etc. you've amassed a large amount of software you never use. Not only is this taking up hard drive space, but it's slowing you down when making music. You have to pick the best and ditch the rest. You know what time it is; Let's clean out that Vst folder!

You Don't Know Me and You Don't Know My Style

Some hip hop tunes from the underground (that's where hip hop lives in case you didn't know)
Check out the dynamic duo known as Binary Star:

Tasty chromatic bass riff. Tagteam style. Nuff said, track is fire.

This one is smoother and pensive. Wait till the 50 second mark when the intro is over. Lyrical skill is strong like an ox. Flows fit perfectly over the jazzy minor beat.

Hip hop the way it's supposed to be, undiluted and sporting ties to its roots, with lyrical conscience and rhythmic proficiency.

If you enjoy, let me know.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Komplete 8 Ultimate, Overkill? Separating Wants From Needs

Komplete 8, the comprehensive package from audio software giants Native Instruments, releases September 1st. Sporting some updates to workhorse legacy products and some new additions to the family, NI seeks to provide all you'll need in one bundle. But how much of it is actual need and how much is gear lust?

Monday, 8 August 2011

Is Modern Music Killing Patience?

It's a symptom of the times. Our culture has evolved to such a point where people expect instant gratification in almost all aspects of life. This is an extension of fairly primal instinct, why wait when I can have it now? Of course it's a natural reaction to waiting, but with modern technology, people are becoming accustomed to faster and faster results with less waiting time between getting what they want. Because of this, less emphasis is being placed on anticipation; the idea of waiting for something is seen as bad and something to be avoided at all costs. This mindset is taking a negative toll on our patience and attention span.

As seen in the previous article on dynamics and attention, the brain awards attention to stimuli that are changing and tunes out things that stay static. This is used in many forms of media, from fast film cuts in movies and tv shows, to radio and music. I'm sure you've heard your local radio station flip through a thousand sound effects and name drops in the span of 20 seconds before. This is like revving the listener's attention. By engaging them with highly dynamic audio it causes their brain to have to focus intently on what they are hearing. As we already saw, dynamics in the music itself can be used to great lengths for capturing attention. This is beneficial to an extent because it allows for entertaining captivating media that engages its audience. Technological advances in other areas like high speed internet, satellite tv, etc. all help the user to access what they want faster and easier. Unfortunately the tradeoff is that we begin to develop an addiction to this constantly changing landscape of information and media that is being fired at us nonstop.

Some Tunes to Listen To and Analyse

Couple of jams for your entertainment. I'm going to deconstruct them a bit and emphasize the parts I thought were effective.

Myrkur - Transmission by Myrkur
This track is a favorite of mine and is an awesome example of what can be done with sub work. The chords set up rhythmic continuity along with nice driving drums. Then the sub bass drops which adds another dimension. It provides its own melody and has awesome rhythmic interplay between the chord stabs and the kick drum. The way it dances in between the drums gives the beat a bounce and adds new context to the stabs. Also, listen to how the hihats follow the sub. This track is arranged quite well and supports the philosophy of 'not too much, not too little.' Everything is in the right place.

This track has an exotic sort of vibe. Its arrangement progresses quite linearly, starting in one place and ending in another. The real climax of the song is at what I'd call the chorus I guess, although the section doesn't make another appearance. (1:56) Nice raw dirty bassline here that locks well with the drums. Background vocals providing supporting harmony that sets the stage for the lead vocal which comes in 16 bars later. The lower harmony on the lead vox here sounds really awesome and give it that extra character. After this climax it mellows out considerably as it brings the album to a close with more of the exotic vibes the song started with. My only complaint is I'd like to hear a more traditional arrangement with that badass bass brought back a couple times. This track is serving as the epic album closer though (note the track length) so in the overall scheme of the album, I'd say the arrangement does its part well. The supporting instruments and sound design are also very well done, especially in the first half leading to the climax. Listen for the things in the background.

Post your opinions or analyses in the comments!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Dynamics and Their Affect on Attention

Ok the subject of this first post is dynamics! Not just dynamics in volume but in all aspects of sound. In order to save processing power and increase efficiency, the brain is programmed to acclimatize itself to static sounds. (or any static stimulus really, but we're talking about music) In the same way you grow to take something for granted, your mind will pay less and less attention to something if it does not change perceptibly over time. This is due to the fact that it can't spend attention on everything and if there's no change then there's no point in continuing to report that stimulus. Think of going to visit a website every day to check if they've published a new article. Day after day you check and most days there's nothing new. Instead of wasting your time and resources you decide to subscribe to the page by rss and ignore it until you're notified something new has been added. This is similar to how the brain handles input.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Maiden Post

This marks the debut post of this blog! It's centred around music production so it will be mainly geared towards the electronic musician but the articles should provide interest to musicians of all genres, creative types, and listeners who love music.

I will be covering subjects ranging from music philosopy, production techniques, theory, and the creative process. Basically I'm going to try to run the gamut from abstract inspiration ideas to practical techniques, in hopes of documenting the process of creating and refining music, while stopping to ponder about where these ideas actually come from and how to streamline the whole process.

Seems a bit daunting, but with the right approach it should turn out nicely.
Now let's break that champagne bottle!