How to tune 808’s and why?

808’s are incredible sub sounds that are used heavily in hip hop since the 80s. The whole dirty south and trap genre is based on 808’s, as was Rick Rubin’s style in the 80s (Beasty Boys, LL Cool J etc). 808’s can be used to replace basslines cause no other sound so far can compete with the sub of an 808. No wonder is still so relevant.
808’s can be used to just fill the space on the one. But they got a tone/note to it so you need to tune them to the track. And because of this you can (re)play entire basslines using 808’s. There are several ways to do this.

808s pic002
Melodyne:
You can run your 808 thru melodyne to see what note it’s played in. Once you know that you can pitch shift the 808 up and/or down till it’s in tune with the song.

808s pic001

I usually don’t do this in Melodyne self but I rather use the Pitch Shift tool in Pro Tools. I always make sure that “Time Correction” isn’t selected cause it muffles the sound. Also I don’t like to pitch the 808’s too much so when (re)playing/programming basslines I use at least two 808’s; one that’s played in/around “C” and one that’s played in/around “G#” so I never have pitch up/down more than 6 semi steps.
FL Studio
FL Studio is pretty good for tuning 808’s. Real easy to use too.

808s pic003

After you loaded your 808 sample you right click on the wave form and select edit.

808s pic004

Once you’re in edit mode you click on the symbol that appears to be a flag and click on “Detect Pitch Regions“.

808s pic005

Now you exit edit mode and go to “Miscellaneous Functions” . In my example you see that the 808 I’m using is played in the key of C so we right click on “C2”. Now our 808 is in tune with the key of C2 on our MIDI controller so we can actually play the 808 like a melodic instrument on our MIDI controller. If we would have used an 808 that was in the key of let’s say “F” then we would have assigned it to F2 in the miscellaneous functions.

808s pic006
If we want to let our 808s glide like they do a lot in Trap music then we select Porta in the miscellaneous function Polyphony and turn the slide knob way up. Now if you play the 808 on your MIDI controller you will hear it glide up and down.
Mixing 808s:
808’s usually sound great from itself so you don’t have to really do too much to it in the mix. You can compress it if you want the tail of it to go on a little longer. Or you can add an RBass to it if you want some more low end. I like to put a little bit of distortion on 808’s sometimes to make them cut thru the mix some more and then they’re also more audible on smaller speakers that got less to no low end.

 

by Shroom

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Channel Strips and Parallel Processing

I recently got a request if I wanted to do a blog post about “channel strips” and “parallel processing”. So let me cover both subjects real quick. I won´t be going too deep, just want to give you guys my take on this.

Channelstrips and parallel pic 001
There actually is only one channel strip that I use on almost everything, that’s the channel strip of my SSL Duende. The Duende is an external card from SSL that takes care of all the processing of the plugins that came with it (channel strip and bus compressor). It’s like the UAD cards only then from SSL. They don’t make them anymore tho but the plugins are still available. I’ve got the first one that came out, it connects thru firewire and supports 32 mono or 16 stereo channels of processing. I loved it since the first time I used it.
When I mix in my own home studio I mix in the box so I actually treat the Duende Channel Strips as an SSL board so I put it on every channel and if I got too many channels I run them thru buses and put the Channel Strips on the buses, so every channel still runs thru it. This way I still get the feeling a lil bit that I’m mixing on a digital SSL board if that makes any sense. I also like the Waves and UAD SSL Channel Strips.

Channelstrips and parallel pic 002
Parallel Processing
Parallel processing means that you duplicate a signal, leave the original dry and do your processing on the parallel signal. Then you mix the two signals together. You can basically do this with everything; compression, EQ , distortion, whatever. And you can do this with drums, synths, vocals etc. There are no rules, whatever works for you.
For instance I like to use it on snares sometimes if I think the it doesn’t hit hard enough. Most of the time I just throw compression and EQ on the parallel signal but like I said there are no rules. Just be creative and use your ears.
I personally don’t use parallel processing that much anymore, but I used to do it a lot, and I never actually use it on vocals. While super engineer Derek Ali uses a Fairchild on a parallel signal on Kedrick’s vocals. Then you got other super engineers like Dave Aron (2Pac, Snoop Dogg, U2) and Mike Dean (Kanye West, Scarface) who don’t use parallel processing at all. So it’s just about what works for you to get the sound you want.
There are endless possibilities, there are no rules! Just use your ears and be creative!

 

by Shroom

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9 Tips that will help you present your tracks the right way

Before we send out our tracks or beats to any artist, A&R or other music business person we should always make sure we send the highest quality possible. We want our stuff to stand out. We want it to knock, we want it to sound clean, we just want our stuff to translate so when that person who we sent it to jumps out of his seat as soon as he or she press play. And to do so there are a few things to keep in mind that will help a lot.

Presentation Pic001

1. Headroom and Gain-structure
Make sure your gain-structure is right and you leave enough headroom through the entire process. Gain-structure is basically how we setup the gain/levels to optimize our sound and keep the best quality possible. If you go over 0dBFS your mix won’t translate right. In the digital world we never want our master fader to clip. In the analog world it can add a little grittyness/punch (that sounds good) to your mixes or make the beat knock a little more, but digital clipping just sounds horrible so that needs to be avoided at all times. So just treat -18dBFS on the master fader as it is 0dBFS. The peaks can go a little bit over that but never over -10dBFS. This way we keep enough headroom and avoid digital clipping on the master fader. Also when we use plugins (compressors, EQ’s or whatever) on some of the individual channels we should always make sure that the output of those plugins never clip. If we record live instruments to our beats make sure the levels are setup right too, so the inputs and outputs don’t distort but we still record loud enough to keep the amount of noise down as much as possible. Also don’t use any unnecessary mixers that generate noise or so in your recording chain. Keep your chain as direct as possible. Every element in your chain should only be there for a good reason.

Shroomadelic Drums Vol. 1   Shroomalicious Instruments

2. Use the right sounds
You can create the best composition in the world but if your sounds suck nobody wants to hear it, no matter how genius your composition is. So always make sure you use high quality sounds. Nowadays you can get sounds everywhere but not all them are as great as others. There is so many garbage out there. That’s one of the reasons I started to create my own Sample Libraries (Shroomadelic Drums, Shroomalicious Instruments etc) cause it’s just hard to find good sounds. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of great sounds out there but there are way more wack sounds that it’s hard to find them sometimes. On ProducedByShroom.com I made one small sample pack available for FREE for you guys. All you gotta do is fill out your email address and you get it send to you right away. Especially great royalty free Drum Breaks and Fills I feel are really hard to find so I recently started to create my own. I just recorded my drummer Wessel, made him do a lot of Breaks and Fills and now I’m editing and mixing that to make it sound like old school samples. You can do that too!

Presentation Pic003

3. Mix while creating
I think it’s important and will save us a lot of work later if, while we’re creating, we craft and tweak our sounds exactly like we want them to sound right away. Instead of just importing the kick drum sound you like and set the level right, tweak it! I always immediately throw a compressor on it if I feel I need to bring it out more “in your face” and start boosting the “sweet spots” with SSL EQ’s, cutting anything that bothers me with FabFilter EQ’s, maybe throw a reverb on it if that’s what I want for it etc. And once that kick drum sounds exactly how I want it to sound I’ll move on to the next sound and do the same. So I’m basically mixing the track while I’m creating it. This will probably not be the final mix but it will make it sound nice right away and save a lot of time on the final mix.

Presentation Pic004

4. Panning
This actually is a part of the mixing process of course but always make sure you create a lot of space and set the stereo image right by panning. Give stuff their own place in the mix and make it sound wide and open. I (almost) always keep all the low frequency instruments like Kick and Bass in the middle, the snare too and then I start building the rest of the instruments around that. There are no rules. Sometimes when I don’t want the hihat to be left or right but I don’t want it to take up space in the middle as well I double it and pan one side left and one side right and then I delay one side slightly and maybe pitch it a little bit to avoid phase problems. Now it sounds like a wide stereo hihat that comes out as loud out of one speaker as the other and it doesn’t take up any space in the middle. Also I like to use S1  imager on certain instruments to place them right in the mix, create width and let the beat “breathe”.

Presentation Pic005

5. Filtering
To help make sure that every sound gets his space in the frequency spectrum we use filters. We want the bass, kick and/or 808 to sound as big as possible so it needs it’s space in the lower frequency range. So we filter out the low end on a lot of all the other instruments so the bass, kick and/or 808 can have that space. And maybe there are certain instruments that just sit in the way of the top end of the hihats so we’ll just cut the top end off of those instruments. There are no rules so use your ears and do what sounds right. We can also divide certain instruments in different frequency bands to get more control but if you want to go a little deeper on filters check out this other article I did last week.

Presentation Pic006

6. Parallel Compression and Layering
Let’s say you found the right kick drum sound and you tweaked it exactly how you want it but it still doesn’t knock hard enough there are two things you can do; you can layer the kick with other kick sounds (check out this article) or you can parallel compress it. Parallel compression means you duplicate the kick drum, compress the duplicated signal (maybe a lot) and mix it in with the original signal. You can also do other stuff to the duplicated signal; maybe EQ it, distort it, pitch it or whatever. You don´t have to limit this technique to just drums, Derek Ali recently said on Pensado´s Place that he uses parallel compression on Kendrick´s vocals sometimes. Just use your ears and be creative!

Presentation Pic007

7. Make your stuff LOUD
Once our beat or track is almost finished and we kept a lot of headroom (like we’re supposed to) we want it to be as loud as possible. But we also don’t want to distort it and ruin our mix. So we’re just throwing a maximixer/limiter on the master bus. I like to use L2 for this but there are many other good ones you can use for this like iZotope etc. Don’t limit it too much tho cause it will entirely change your mix. I usually knock off around 3dB till max 6dB on L2. After we set the maximizer/limiter we probably still have to re-balance our levels a bit, cause limiters “push in” the peaks a little bit. Maybe you want to use more than one limiter on your master bus like Mike Dean (Kanye’s right hand) does. Again, there are no rules. Just use your ears and be creative!

8. A/B your Mixes
Use reference tracks. Compare your mix to your favorite mixed track or to something you kinda want it to sound like quality wise. Play your mix for a little bit, then play that reference mix for a bit and listen to how everything sits in the mix, how much top end, how much bottom, the balance, how hard the drums knock etc. And try to aim to come as close as possible to that professionally mixed track you like so much. Just go back and forth and keep tweaking.

9. Take Breaks
Sometimes when you’re tweaking and mixing for hours you just don’t really hear it that good anymore, so take breaks once in a while. Go do something totally different for a little while then come back to the track. Or maybe after an entire day of mixing you’ll just have to go to bed and go back to the track the next morning to listen to it with “fresh” ears.

 

by Shroom

ProducedByShroom.com

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How to use Filters on Samples?

I recently got a request for doing an article on “filters on samples”.
To be honest my filtering on samples is pretty basic but I will let you know what I do.
Every sample is different so there is no one way of filtering. Like everything else I do I always filter to be in service of the beat/song and not just to filter. Sometimes I don’t even use any filters at all.

But here is how I often use filters:

Filters pic001

1. High Pass Filter (HPF)

I mostly use High Pass Filters when I sample a part of a full song. Let’s say I sample a part of an old soul joint where you hear a lot of instruments playing at the same time (Drums, bass, guitar, strings etc), then I probably want to filter out most of the kick and the bass to make room for my own drums and bass. I usually cut off around 100-200hz but that really depends on the sample, this is just a starting point. Sometimes I divide samples in multiple frequency bands but I will get to that in a little bit.

I also often use a HPF on kick samples in order to make them work with the bass. A lot of these digital kick samples got way too much bottom that just sits in the way of the bass. So I usually cut around 50hz on kick samples. Again this is a starting point, use your ears. And you don’t always need to do this on the kick, just listen to what sounds right and what works for the song.

Also I use HPF’s on snare’s, hihats, vocals etc to keep a lot room open for the kick and bass.

Filters pic002

2. Low Pass Filter (LPF)
Again when I sample a part of a full song I often use a Low Pass Filter, especially when I pitched a sample up. Usually I will cut around 5Khz but of course this depends on how that sample sounds, what I think it needs and how I want it to work together with the other instruments/sounds in the song.

Sometimes I like to use a LPF to eliminate hiss or noise. Mostly I will start cutting off at 20Khz and then slowly move the cut off frequency down till the hiss or noise is gone without affecting the rest of the sound too much. This counts for every filter; always start at certain cut off frequency and then slowly move around till it sounds the way you want.

A cool effect you can create with LPF’s is to make stuff sound like it’s playing in the next room or that you are standing outside the club and the music is playing inside the club. Try to put a LPF on your master bus, cut off around 150hz and boost the low end a bit. You hear what happens?

Filters pic003

3. Frequency Bands
Sometimes I like to divide a sample in multiple frequency bands. For example in case I want to threat the bass different than the rest of the sample. What I do is duplicate the signal (duplicate the channel where the sample is on) and put a LPF on signal 1 cutting off above around 150hz. On signal 2 I put a HPF cutting off below around 150hz. Then I usually pan the low freq signal (signal 1) to the center and put a compressor and RBass plugin on it to give it more bottom.

You can also use this technique to divide the signal in more than two frequency bands, maybe you want four or five different frequency bands to have full control over the sample.

The possibilities are endless. Be creative!

 

by Shroom

ProducedByShroom.com

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5 Quick tips to improve your Drum sample layering

To get better results drum layering can be a little more complex than just playing two or three sounds at the same time. Here are 5 quick tips that will help you improve your drum layering skills.

Drum layering pic001

1. Envelopes
When layering the drum samples sometimes it´s more convenient to just take the attack, decaysustain or release of certain samples. Let´s say you really like the attack of Kick 1 and the decay, sustain and release of Kick 2, but when you just layer them together it doesn´t sound right or like you thought it would sound. So what you do is edit the envelope of both samples; cut off the decay, sustain and release of Kick 1 so you only got the attack left and cut off the attack of Kick 2 so you only got the sustain and release left. Now layer them. There are limitless possibilities with this technique (you can get attack, decay, sustain and release of four different samples, you can layer that again with other samples etc etc) so use your ears and be creative.

Drum layering pic002

2. Phase
Always check the phase relationships between samples you’re layering. One way to do that is put an EQ plugin on one of the samples and simply just press the phase button and listen if it sounds better with or without the phase button pressed. When layering more than two samples make sure you start with just one sample and mute the other ones. Then unmute and check the phase of the samples one by one.

Drum layering pic003

3. Time shifting
Sometimes when you play two samples exactly at the same time it just doesn’t sound right, but when you timeshift one them a few samples it suddenly sounds great. So always play around with shifting the sample back and forth till it sounds right to you.

Drum layering pic004

4. Filtering
Another technique that can help when you layering samples is filtering out certain frequency bands of certain samples. For example you like the bottom of Kick 1 and higher and mid frequencies of Kick 2. Just filter out everything above around let’s say 200hz on Kick 1 and everything below around 200hz on Kick 2. This is just a starting point, play around with it till you get it right.

Drum layering pic005

5. Kicks and Toms
Sometimes when you want a “big” sounding kick it sounds dope to layer your kick with a low tom.

All of these techniques are just starting points to help you improve your drum sample layering. Play around with it, use your ears and be creative!

 

by Shroom

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Easily replay the Bass-line of a sample in 5 steps

Sometimes it’s hard to replay the bass-line of a sample by ear. Therefor I want to share a technique that makes it a lot easier to replay the bass-line of a sample without having the best musical ear.

Bass Replay Pic001.png
1. Filter out the High’s
The first step is filtering out everything above 100-150hz, so that you only hear the low frequencies of the sample. In most cases you will just hear the bass-line and the kick drum.

Bass Replay Pic002.png
2. Melodyne
Put Melodyne on the filtered sample and let it calculate which notes are played in the low frequency range.

Bass Replay Pic003.png
3. Replay or reprogram in MIDI
Now that you calculated which notes are played in the low frequency range of the sample you can replay or reprogram those notes in MIDI.
For now just use any bass sound till you got it right, once you get the bass-line right you will focus on finding the right bass sound. So for now it doesn’t really matter which bass sound you use.

Sometimes (if for instance another low frequency instrument is playing at the same time as the bass-line) it’s possible that Melodyne calculated two notes that are playing at the same time. In that case click on each note separately to hear which note is the right one. If you click on a note in Melody you will only hear that note that you click on. Instead of replaying or reprogramming the bass-line you can also “export to MIDI file”. If you do that you might have to clean up the MIDI file and delete any unwanted notes. Melodyne is pretty accurate but not always 100% accurate so don’t rely just on Melodyne and always use your ears and listen to what sounds right.

Bass Replay Pic004.png
4. Find the right sound
Now that you replayed or reprogrammed the bassline in MIDI you still have to find the right bass sound. Scroll through your MIDI instruments and synths until you find the right sound that fits the sample. I like to use Trillian and the bass sounds of my Roland Fantom. Sometimes I sample one of my live bass recordings and tune that to the sample. Or sometimes I like to play the bass-line in 808’s.

Bass Replay Pic005.png
5. Filter out the Low’s
Not that you got your bass-line right you can take off the filter you put on the sample in step 1 and replace that filter with another filter where you cut off everything below around 100-150hz. You listen till you find the right cut off frequency.

This technique works very well on bass-lines but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it for other instruments as well. Just be creative!

 

by Shroom

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Drum Programming Tips: How to make your drums sound “Live”

Nowadays it’s easy to create a quick drum loop with all the different programs available (Pro Tools, Logic, FL Studio etc). Within a few seconds you can click and drag any drum pattern you got in mind. The only “problem” is that most of the time the drums sound computerized and don’t got that human live feel/sound to it. Instead of having that bounce/groove it just sounds real static.

Fortunately there are a bunch of ways to (re-)create that feel/sound or at least make it sound as live as possible, just by using your ears and spending some extra time on your drum programming.

In this article I’m going to show you a bunch of techniques that will help elevate your drum patterns.

DM1-main-interface-with-Cubasis-IAA-swutch
Listening
First of all you need to know “how” you want your drum pattern to sound. Do you want it to sound like a heavy Rock record? A smooth 70’s soul ballad? Or maybe a super grooving Funk track?
I always say that “the most important thing of making music is listening” so once you know exactly what drum sound you want for your track a great help is listening to some of your favorite tracks with that sound. If you chose for a smooth 70’s soul drum sound go and listen to some of your favorite Motown records for example. Just study every aspect of that drum sound; How does the kick sound? How does the snare hit? How hard does the drummer hit the cymbals? How does the reverb sound? Does it sound like the drummer is playing in a huge concert hall or just in a small garage? How loud does the drummer play? How is the timing of the drums? Is the snare coming slightly late or maybe he is trying to sound as tight on the click track as possible? Where does he place the fills? How are the dynamics? Is he constantly hitting every note as hard as possible? Or are some notes much softer than others? Etc etc.

Choosing drum sounds                                                                                                                    Once you know exactly “how” you want your drums to sound it’s time to choose your drum samples/sounds.

Make sure you select your drum samples very carefully. If you’re going for a live sound use drum samples that already sound live or sample of a live drum recording. For example on Shroomadelic Drums Vol. 1 I sampled a lot of my own drum recordings I recorded in major studios over the years but I also sampled of existing drum recordings and tweaked them so they sound totally different than the original.

Shroomadelic Drums Vol. 1

But sometimes if you want for example a Snare to sound exactly like the Snare on a specific record you love and there is a part in that record where you just hear the drums playing without any other sounds, it might be the best to just sample that Snare and leave it as is instead of spending hours to re-create that exact sound.

Also if you’re trying to get a live drum sound use a few sounds that sound slightly different from each other. For example use 4 different hihats instead of just one because when a drummer hits the hihats, not every time he hits it sounds exactly the same cause he might just hit it at a different spot. I hope you understand what I mean LOL.

Programming
If you’re going for a real tight computer sounding drum feel you can just program your drums on the “grid“. That’s pretty easy and you’re done pretty quick. But if you’re going for a more complex groove you’ll have to spend a little more time on your programming. One way to do it, especially when you’re not so experienced yet this is great way to “learn” grooves, is to start with a 4 bar or 8 bar loop of a great drum groove. Then study the wave forms and re-program this groove with your own drum samples. I will show you how cause that’s easier than just telling you.

Programming Drums Pic001
Once you re-programmed the drum groove you’ll mute the sampled drum loop so you only got your own drum loop playing. Once you did this a couple of times you’ll start to understand better how drum notes are timed to get a certain groove/feel. Personally I like snares to be timed pretty tight on the 2 and 4 for Hip Hop. The kick I mostly program slightly “off grid” but rather a bit “late” than “early“. If you program drums “early” before the grid it doesn’t sound so good to me. It sound like the beat is “running” if you know what I mean. But in a few cases it works.

To me to biggest factor in making your drums groove is the way you program your hihats. Even if your kicks and snare are programmed “on-grid” you can create a groove by programming the hihats “off-grid“. I’ll show you an example.

Programming Drums Pic002.png

Velocity
A drummer never hits each note exactly at the same loudness/hardness. So even if you programmed a perfect groove in timing it still doesn’t sound right if all the notes are hitting at the same loudness. That’s why you need the play around with the “velocity” of the drums to make it sound more “live“. For example on a basic “boombap” drum pattern you probably want the kick drum your programmed on/around the 16th note before the 3 count to be less loud than the kick ON the 3 count.

Programming Drums Pic003
Especially with hihats you probably want to create a lot of dynamics by playing around with the “velocity” to enhance the live feel/groove of your drums.

Programming Drums Pic004

Ghost Notes
Ghost Notes are notes that are played real soft in volume that you barely don’t hear them. They are played to add feeling. By programming ghost notes you will improve the live feeling of your programmed drums. Ghost notes work really well with snares, especially when you are trying to create a “marching” feel.

Programming Drums Pic005

Drum fills and Snare rolls
To even take your “live feel” another step further you might want to add drum fills and/or snare rolls every couple of bars. Or maybe towards the end of the song at the climax. You can either use sampled drum fills/snare rolls, program them yourself or even record a live drummer. You can also sample your own recordings of course.

For example for Shroomadelic Drums vol. 1 I recorded a couple live drummers doing drum fills over my beats, I edited/engineered/mixed that and then sampled that so they can be re-used in other beats. So there are a lot of possibilities, just be creative!

One more thing. A drummer might be playing louder on the hook than in the verses or might go all out at the climax of the song. Or maybe he plays the rim shot instead of the snare on the intro or breakdown of the song. Keep all that in mind when programming drums. You might want to use different drum samples on different parts of the song. Like I said there are endless possibilities, be creative!

 

by Shroom

ProducedByShroom.com

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