Thursday, December 15, 2011

New song: Aflecht - Junkies

Alternative content

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New song: Aflecht - Drive

This month's track is ready.

Alternative content

New song: Kraku - Two Hours of Sleep

I forgot to post my last month's song here. So here it is.

Alternative content

Sunday, September 18, 2011

New song: Kraku - Disco Mama

Here's my latest track. It should have been an authentic 70s disco track with a black fat lady singing with a raspy and powerful voice, but I  ran out of those. So here's an instrumental version for you. It's still a very short version. Maybe one day I'll make a proper arrangement of it.

Alternative content

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Technique: How to make that dubstep formant bass

There are several ways and variations on how to create formant sounds (ie. human vowel sounds) with synthesizers. Today I'll concentrate on one of them: filtering + sample rate reduction.

The theory goes that when the audio frequencies hit the Nyquist Frequency (samplerate/2) the higher frequencies start bouncing/mirroring back to the lower frequencies. This causes the harmonics to modulate each other as some of them are moving up and some are moving down at the same time. You can use this phenomenon to create formant sounds. First make sure your samplerate is really low, like maybe 6kHz or so (try different settings in sample reduction plugin/hardware). Then sweep your audio source from low to high frequencies and see what happens. You should hear something resembling formants going like "ayyayyyayyy!" as made famous by Skrillex and others in the dubstep community.

It's best to use simple sounds which you run through sample rate reduction. This usually gives the best results. Try a simple oscillator + lowpass/bandpass filter with resonance cranked high. When you move the filter cutoff, you should hear clear formants coming out of your speakers. You can also try changing the sample rate while you're changing the filter cutoff. This gives you even more wide range of interesting and usable sounds.

If the sample rate is stable, you'll hear metallic hissing kind of artifacts in your sound. If you don't want this in your sound, you can reduce the effect by modulating the sample rate with noise ever so slightly.

So to recap what's been told so far, here's the signal flow:

Oscillator --> Filter(lowpass/bandpass with resonance) --> SampleRateReduction --> Speakers

You should note that reducing sample rate has a destructive effect on the lower frequencies also. Because of this it might be a good idea to highpass filter the formant sound and layer it with sub bass. This will give you best of the both worlds: crispy formant action + clear and powerful low end.

The above is exactly what I've done in my latest song. Here's a short clip of the bass synth soloed:

Alternative content

As you can hear, the formant bass is frequently switched between a non formant bass sound. The main difference between the sounds is that the non-formant bass hasn't been ran through the sample rate reduction. Just to give you an idea how the non-formant bass sounds on its own, here's a clip of it:

Alternative content

If you're interested in hearing what the above bass sounds in the context of the finished track, you should listen to this:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Just received my very first 5U modular - MOTM

MOTM setup, consisting of Oakley modules. (thanks Paul!)
It'll be interesting to see what kind of noise this baby here can do:

One more filter is still on it's way to fill up that last empty slot.
I'll be using my eurorack's ES-3 to control this setup.
I will post some audio examples of this setup early next week or so.

Monday, August 15, 2011

New song: Aflecht - With My Voice

I've been thinking of writing a dubstep track for over a year now, but never got myself to actually start the project. But here it finally is. My very first dubstep track ever:

Alternative content

Gear used:
Eurorack modular synthesizer
Moog Voyager RME
Distressor EL8-X
API 2500
Battery 3
Silent Way
M-Tron Pro

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Updated studio setup

It's been quite awhile since I've updated my studio setup / gear list. So here it is.


Monitoring / Signal path:
Genelec 8250A (x2)
Avantone Active Mixcube (x2)
SM Pro Audio M-Patch

Mac Pro, 8 core, 2.26 GHz, 6GB
RME Audio Fireface 400
Logic Pro 9

Hardware synths / Controllers:
Eurorack modular analogue synthesizer (12U)
MOTM modular analogue synthesizer (one 19" row)
Moog Voyager RME
Novation ReMOTE 37SL

Guitars / Bass:
ESP EC-400
Ibanez SR900
Larrivee B-03RE

Hardware processing / Preamps:
API 2500
2 x Empirical Labs EL8-X Distressor
Millennia HV-3C

DPA 4091
Shure SM7B

Software instruments:
GForce M-Tron Pro
LennarDigital Sylenth1
Native Instruments Battery 3

Software effects:
Cytomic Glue
IK Multimedia CSR
SoundToys EchoBoy
Voxengo Elephant

Friday, July 15, 2011

New song: Kraku - Friends

New song is ready. It's a shame I didn't find a singer for this track. The vocal part was replaced with a synth melody.

Alternative content

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Empirical Labs Distressor EL8-X on electronic drums

A while ago I bought an Empirical Labs Distressor EL8-X. It's a wonderfully diverse compressor capable of delivering really usable results on almost any sound source you feed into it. The transients Distressor is able to create on electronic drums fit perfectly into dance floor tracks.

Here's a quick and simple demonstration of Distressor's characteristic slappy/snappy transients on a kick drum. 16 beats first without and then with Distressor:

Alternative content

Those transient can really cut through the mix and make your drums sound powerful and aggressive.

The only problem with a Distressor is that you want two of them :-P

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

New song: Aflecht - Feed You To Sue

Alternative content

MP3 download.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

New song: Aflecht ft. Delia St. Claire I - Gotham by Night (compo version)

Alternative content

Aflecht ft. Delia St. Claire I - Gotham by Night

Voted fourth in the dance music competition at Stream Party 8 in Tampere.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

New song: Kraku - Good Morning

Alternative content

Here's the download link to the song:

Gear used:

Eurorack modular synthesizer
LennarDigital Sylenth1
Native Instruments Battery 3
Ohmforce M-Tron Pro
Logic Pro 9
SoundToys EchoBoy
Voxengo Elephant

Thursday, April 21, 2011

API 2500 compressing electronic drums

I just bought my first hardware compressor - API 2500 - and I gotta say it sounds pretty damn sweet. It doesn't break the transients the same way as software compressors do. It always seems to keep the sound clean, natural, snappy and punchy, regardless of the parameters you dial into it.

Here's the API 2500 in action, compressing a dull sounding kick drum with different setting. After 8 beats new settings kick in, which are listed below.

Alternative content

Here's the uncompressed WAV file for those who want the tiny bit of extra fidelity in the signal.

Be sure to listen to this in loud volume, since a lot of the action is with the bass dynamics.

Also try to compare each of the settings with the original and you'll realize how drastic effect the unit has on the sound without "breaking it to pieces".


Threshold has been slammed all the way down to -20 (maximum).
Attack = 10ms
Release = 0.5 sec
Ratio = 4:1

Only "Tone" settings of the compressor have been tweaked in these examples.

1 = dry mix
2 = Type = Old, Thurst = Loud, Knee = Hard
3 = Type = Old, Thurst = Norm, Knee = Hard
4 = Type = New, Thurst = Norm, Knee = Hard
5 = Type = New, Thurst = Norm, Knee = Soft
6 = Type = New, Thurst = Norm, Knee = Hard comes a pause...

Threshold is still all the way down to -20 (maximum).
Attack = 1ms
Release = 0.5 sec
Ratio = 4:1

7 = Type = Old, Thurst = Loud, Knee = Hard
8 = Type = Old, Thurst = Norm, Knee = Hard
9 = Type = New, Thurst = Norm, Knee = Hard

Thursday, April 14, 2011

New song: Aflecht - Irresponsible part 1

A new track is ready once again. It's the first half of a two part song. The second part will be a song in it's own right with actual vocals, which I hope to finish soon.

Alternative content

Here's the download link of this song:
Aflecht - Irresponsible part 1

Gear used:

Logic Pro 9
Native Instruments Battery 3
LennarDigital Sylenth1
GForce M-Tron Pro
Eurorack modular synthesizer
Future Retro XS

Cytomic Glue
IK Multimedia CSR
SoundToys EchoBoy

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

First test using MOTU Volta + Expert Sleepers ES-3

I just made my very first test with MOTU Volta + Expert Sleepers ES-3 controlling my Eurorack modular:

Alternative content

I have to admit that even though I was aware that the timing would be sample accurate, I'm still blown away by the preciseness of the results. Since Volta does all the envelope generation, triggering and legato/slew limiting, the results sound like a VST/AU, but still have that analogue character to it. Best of both worlds.


Another great thing about Volta is that you could build a modular setup with half the modules you'd normally need. You don't need any modulation sources anymore; it's all handled by Volta.

I highly recommend Volta + ES-3 combo for everyone tampering with modular synths.

Monday, March 28, 2011

New gear purchases

Got some new gear for my studio this month.

The most important purchase was Millennia HV-3C mic pre amp. I've been using RME Fireface 400's internal mic pres for now and I felt that the quality could be improved with this baby here. I wasn't wrong. This mic pre sounds quite smooth, transparent and natural :) I'm currently using it with my AKG C414XLS and DPA 4091, but I'm planning on buying Gefell UM930 as my main mic for most duties and a matched pair of Gefell M300's for stereo recording. I would imagine HV-3C and the Gefells would be a killer combo.

I also purchased Expert Sleepers ES-3 ADAT to CV converter (Eurorack module) to be used with MOTU Volta. These allow me to have sample accurate control and timing with my Eurorack modular synth. The super tight timing is really important if you write dance floor stuff like electro-house etc.

Expert Sleepers ES-3:

MOTU Volta:

Sennheiser HD25-1 II Pro headphones will be used from now on for tracking and headphone mix checking. They're closed back models so they don't bleed out sound to the mic during tracking vocals and acoustic instruments.

And finally: Larrivee B-03RE acoustic bass. I've wanted to buy a good acoustic bass for years now. I'm not much of a bass player, but I like the idea of just sitting on my couch, computer turned off, and composing new music with it. I'm also going to incorporate it into some of my dance floor productions. I'm thinking of using it for progressive/electro-house genres as well as more traditional groovy trip-hop and so on.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

New Song: Kraku - There And Back Again

Here's a new song I wrote:

Alternative content

Gear used:

Logic Pro 9
Native Instruments Battery 3
LennarDigital Sylenth1
GForce M-Tron Pro
Eurorack modular synthesizer

Cytomic Glue
IK Multimedia CSR
SoundToys EchoBoy


It'll be interesting to hear what this track sounds like tomorrow, when my ears have a few hours of rest from listening this track non-stop. I hope the mixing doesn't suck completely...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Song: Kraku - Krapularipulihumppa (Hangover Diarrhea Polka)

Alternative content

That's the cheeky song I made this month. It was composed while I had a hangover and I finished it while I was drunk...

Here's the download link to it:
Kraku - Krapularipulihumppa

The name is in english "Hangover Diarrhea Polka" or something close to that...


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Technological Idea: DCO that emulates a VCO

In my previous post you can hear what the digital oscillators sound like when ran through analogue filters. There's still surprising amount of digital preciseness to the sounds you get. If you somehow get rid of that preciseness, you should probably end up with much more analogue sound.

This preciseness doesn't necessarily come with digital oscillators alone. Some DCOs are very capable of it too. One great example of this is Dave Smith Instrument's Prophet '08 analogue synth. Its DCOs are super precise and cutting. They're probably even more precise sounding than most VAs, which might be the results of really high speed control over the DCO cycle times (much higher than 44.1 kHz). To be honest, I've no idea in what frequency the Prophet '08's DCOs are controlled. All I know is that they sound super precise and they're a perfect example of a precise DCO sound. This got me thinking one technological idea I had a while ago.

What if DCO could emulate very convincingly the unstable VCO sound?

The basic concept is fairly simple:
Trigger the DCO using an analogue modeled simulation of VCO's cycle triggering circuitry. For example take Korg Legacy Collection MS-20 software synthesizer and throw away everything else except the algorithm which triggers the oscillator cycles. Now put this very same algorithm inside the chip/cpu which triggers the DCO cycles. What you should end up with is a stable DCO which still sounds like your unstable vintage VCO.

Here's hoping for that one of the big three synth manufacturers would release a new analogue synth with such oscillators... Not gonna happen :(

Technique test: Sylenth1 used as oscillators for a modular synth

A short while ago I tried out what it would sound like if I used LennarDigital Sylenth1 synth plugin as the oscillators for my Eurorack modular synthesizer. I've had this idea for quite some time already, but it was only recently when I actually tried it out. I send the unfiltered oscillator sound to various Eurorack format filters and triggered the envelopes using MIDI and then recorded the results back into my DAW. Here are the results:

Alternative content

The filters can be heard in the following order:
0:00 - 0:21 = A-124 (Wasp filter)
0:21 - 0:45 = SY02 (MS-20 filter)
0:45 - 1:12 = Boogie Filter in 24dB mode
1:12 - 1:42 = Boogie FIlter in 6dB mode
1:42 - 2:15 = A-106-6 in 4L mode (XPander Filter)
2:15 - 2:44 = A-103 (303 style filter)

Note that I didn't try to aim for any cool sounds with this experiment, but tried to draw out the different characters of the filters. I also mixed the bass very loud so you'd hear their character and still hear the timing of the sounds (hence the drums in the background).

What's surprising is that there's still quite a lot of that digital preciseness in these sounds. This was mentioned by several people who heard the results of this test. Yes, the analogue filter gives a very different flavor to the sound, but there's still some of that liveliness missing from these examples. This probably means that a lot of the analogue character many people love comes from the unstable oscillators. This is actually quite logical when you think of it. The filter does just what it says on the lid: filters out different frequencies. Sure it also adds distortion etc. but it doesn't modify the harmonic content the same way as for example pulse width modulation or unstable oscillator cycle time does, which is the oscillators territory.

It would be interesting to try this experiment the other way around; analogue oscillators filtered using digital filters. How analogue/lively would the sound be then?

But anyway, it's an interesting technique and I might start using it in some of my tracks in the future.

One final thing:
Naturally this technique works with any software and hardware VA-synth/sampler/ROMpler/FM-synth/etc. you can lay your hands on. Just take your favorite sampler/FM-synth and use it as the "oscillator" for your modular synth.

The Quest for Dynamics: part 2

Let's think about the audible frequency range as two separate (and partly overlapping) ranges: high and low frequencies. Everything below 250Hz or so could be thrown into the "lower frequencies" category (no hard and fast rules here). Rest of them are higher frequencies for the purpose of this example. No "middle frequencies category" on my list here today.

Here's how the listener perceives these frequencies:
  1. Higher frequencies = loudness & presence
  2. Lower frequencies = power
If you feel that your track isn't kicking your chest, you need to concentrate on the dynamics of the lower frequencies. If you feel that your mix sounds stuffed with sounds and/or doesn't have depth to it, you need to concentrate on the higher frequencies. In this post I'm going to concentrate on the higher ones.

There is no substitute to keeping the frequency spectrum as clear as possible by designing the sounds in your song so that they don't overlap much in the first place. However, the mixes still tend to swallow certain instruments, like drums in this example. Let's hear the two example audio clips.

A cheeky tune called March of the Underpant Gnomes, with a proper drum mix:
Alternative content

...and here are the same gnomes marching without extra dynamics on their drum bus:
Alternative content

The only difference between the two audio clips are the extra dynamic processing on the drums. The drums in the second clip sound like they're further away in the mix due to the reverb on them. Your first instinct might be to turn up the drums or take away most of the reverb AND then again turning up the drums a little bit. Then you'd be left with a track that's surely "in your face" sounding but would sound much more dull due to lack of dynamics.

I achieved the cutting and present sound of those drums by running the whole drum bus through Logic's Enveloper plugin, which is a dynamic enhancer plugin, kinda like Transient Designer I guess (haven't used it so I can't be 100% sure). See the attached image for reference on the parameters I used. All I did was set the initial transient boost to 64% and left rest of the parameters alone.

Ultimately what I'm doing here is making the transient relatively bigger to the rest of the drum sound. You can achieve this same effect by different methods:
  1. Enveloper / Transient Designer type of processors.
  2. The standard compressor trick on the drums:
    • used either separately on each drum or on the drum bus, which ever works for the track
    • you can use side chaining here to achieve different effects, for example compress reverberated drums with dry drums on the side chain bus
  3. Tweak the drum synth's/sampler's AMP envelope:
    • attack = 0
    • decay = 10-30ms
    • sustain = somewhere around minus 4-8dB. The lower you go, the bigger the transient is, of course
All these methods give you different sound flavors. Also different compressors can sound very different indeed so it's worth trying all the gear you can get your hands on. It would be interesting to try slamming my drums on some high end compressor like a pair of Distressors or API 2500. Maybe some day...

The final thing I want to say is that the more you have dynamics in your song, the more you have choices where to put your sounds in the mix. If for example the drums have a huge dynamic range, you can choose if you want to mix the bass or guitar up loud or put them more in the background and still sound good. Just some food for thought.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Quest for Dynamics: part 1

Lately as I've been trying to add more and more dynamics into my mixes, I've ran into interesting problem with how different musical genres "should sound". When you tune in to your favorite radio/TV channel, most of the time you hear this flat and overly compressed sound wall coming your way. No dynamics to speak of; just this huge "block of sound" making its presence known through your speakers.

Many dance floor productions don't achieve this sound at the mastering stage by over compressing / limiting the final mix. Usually the sound comes from using dynamically "lacking" sounds in the first place, which is fine and many dance floor stomping teens don't seem to mind at all. But I do. The hard part would be getting those dynamics into the mix and still sounding good and familiar to the regular listener. It may sound simple enough, but the whole feel of the dance tracks changes dramatically when you create more dynamically/transient rich sounds and mix them well together. The mix starts sounding musically more interesting, but does it appeal to the club frequenting audience? Probably not. The mix just doesn't have that hugeness to it anymore which is expected of every dance track out there. That's the problem.

Most of the time I can't be arsed about this stuff since I usually won't spend that much time working on my tracks anyway. But from time to time I feel like paying closer attention to the details of production and on getting better results. When I'm doing this, I usually learn something new. My intention is to blog these new things I've learned, so expect a couple of blog entries on the dynamic range tricks with some audio examples included.