Archive for the ‘Music Production’ Category

So back to my roots again, after vearing off in a different direction with my previous track (H19) I produced a Drum n Bass track again.

Once I had completed the sound design and general structure of the song, I had a real battle with mixing this track. I wanted the drums to sound clear, and the snare to be prominent in the mix, sharing its space with the distorted lead sound. To achieve this I really had to concentrate on the drum elements, applying EQ, amplitude envelopes, transient shapers and compression to both the Kick and Snare’s, followed by a Drum Bus containing further EQ, reverb & compression. I am still loving Cytomics ‘The Glue’ compressor for the majority of my buss compression duties,  this thing is so nice, has a good SSL vibe, glues thing’s together nicely and gives the sound a bit of gloss/sheen.

Brainworx BX-Limiter

Brainworx BX-Limiter

A new plugin I used on a lot of my tracks to shave off some pesky peaks is the Brainworx BX_limiter. I find this to be transparent if used in this way, and not too hungry on the CPU.

On a similar theme, I also found ‘KClip’ by Kazrog to be a real good clipper on the master buss, to bring the levels up a bit, prior to limiting. Yet again, like the BX_Limiter I find this tool to be transparent when used lightly, but you need to have it set to 16x oversampling which takes a bit of CPU resources up. It would be nice if this plugin had some form of meters on it, but hey, I suppose it forces me to use my ears!!

Anyway, enough of my babbling, onto the tune!!

My first tune to incorporate my modular synth!! And yes, it is House, not Drum & Bass. I fancied a bit of a change, and to be honest, the modular does lend itself to House & Techno styles, and I just found it great fun to do!!

For the synth heads out there (if not your thing, skip this bit), the modular sound (the bouncy sound at the beginning of the tune) is produced using 2 No. Tiptop Z3000’s Oscillators going through a Tiptop Z2040 Low Pass filter, which is heavily modulated via some LFO’s, synched via a 4MS QCD and Audio Damage Sequencer 1. This is then further processed within the DAW with a delay, another filter (cutoff tempo synched), a bit of distortion, compression, EQ & finally some soft clipping. The sound is duplicated onto another track, with different processing to provide the mid and low frequencies. This was a real pain to get right, as I wanted some depth a points, but also I did not want the sound to get too muddy.

Anyway, onto other aspects of the production!!

This track totally veered off from my original vision. I wanted the result to be much harder, but I played around with some chords, that ended up becoming the main arpeggiated lead, that I could not resist to use. This resulted in a much more laid back and chilled track. With this basis, I then used the same root note and chords for the violins.

I have used “Cytomic – The Glue” a fair bit on this tune, which has to be honest become my “go to” compressor. I just love the SSL sound, and I have got used to the way it works on the transients, and like how the attack & decay work. I have used “The Glue” on quite of few individual channels, from Violins to tame down some of the high frequencies, to the arpeggiated chords. I love this compressor on the 2-bus it’s just got this lovely “sheen” to it.

The mix down was a long drawn out process, but to be honest, there was some learning on the way that slowed things down, I’m sure a pro could have mixed this in a 10th of the time I have. I used a few new tools this time, mainly “KRK KNS-8400” Headphones that helped me shape the bottom end and Kick (Even with extensive treatment, I cannot trust my room 100%), and they also are a good second reference. I also used the Elysia Museq EQ. Wow, is all I can say about this plugin. It is so transparent, and you can really push some gain without it sounding harsh. I would not use it for clinical chopping, it’s not for that, but to just bring them violins out a bit, and to do wonders on the Master Buss it’s great.

Another new first, was using soft clipping techniques, to clip the transients on the snare and on the Master Buss (amongst others). This allowed me to bring the overall volume of the track up in a more transparent way, than say a compressor, prior to some final limiting.

Samplemagic AB was another great plug-in I have started to rely on, so that I can easily compare my track to commercial releases. I’m still working on getting them to sound as good as the commercial releases though ;-p

Anyway, now this tune is finished I can go back to my modular for further inspiration. Mmmm damn, that means more nights lost in the deep deep hole of the modular world 🙂

I have been busy lately delving into that deep dark place called modular synthesis.

I must admit I was apprehensive at first, as all that I seemed to find on youtube was guys making, ummm, well, bleeps and bleeps and more bleeps. It was a revelation to find some  videos with people using modulars for techno and electro house, including Deadmau5. Don’t get me wrong, if you want to make bleeps and drones, that’s fine, everyone to themselves, but this was not the direction I wanted to go in.

It took a lot of research, but finally I have built a system, that at first seems like a standard synth. But with the addition of a Make Noise Rene sequencer, some Ginksythesis LFO’s and the awesome expert sleepers ES-3 module, I have been able to work in a different way and produce different sounds and melodies than I normal would.

The modular synth

The modular synth

The ES-3 module together with the TipTop Z3000 VCA’s allow me to keep to musical scales and synch everything up perfectly with my DAW. I have more modules planned, including a wave shaper to give me more sonic possibilities.

I have got to say, that even though I cannot save presets, something that worried me when I first thought about getting into modulars, it is more than compensated for, with the programming and sound shaping possibilities. Another thing to mention is that the modular synth community is full of really helpful & friendly people, with the forums having less trolls than other ones I have visited in the past.

So what am I going to do with this? I really fancy trying out some electro house style music, giving me a break from the DnB, so stay tuned!!!


Due to the complex nature of the bass lines I write,  I often use soft synths such as Native Instruments Massive. The soft synth realm allows you to modulate and twist up sounds to your hearts content, with DAW’s such as Ableton Live providing ultra flexibility. So I surprised myself, just over a year ago when I bought my first hardware synth, the Moog Slim Phatty.

I was in my local synth store (Production Room, Leeds) and one of the guys said “Hey Keith, check this out, you will love it”, and there it was, a Moog Slim Phatty. I must admit at first I was thinking “Are these guys nuts, it’s a Moog, it’s just for prog rock guys, have you forgot that I do dnb?”. Once I played it though, and the speaker cones started shaking, I was like “Wow I need one of these!!!”.

So now back to the current time line, I want to share with you my experience with this synth for Modern Electronic Dance Music production.  (more…)

In most forms of modern music compression is of great importance, especially dance music, where it is often used as an effect in addition to being used for traditional compression.

In the past, I have tried out compressor plug-ins, but had never got the “wow” factor, certainly not enough “wow” to make me spend $99. But this has changed with, Cytomic The Glue. I had one of them rare moments, when suddenly your productions improve through the introduction of a new toy.

A quick introCytomic The Glue

The Glue is based on the SSL Bus Compressor, so the first thing you will want to know is, does it sound like a real one? Well I have to admit, I have not got a clue, as I don’t own a hardware SSL Bus Compressor, but I can say that it does impart some very pleasing warmth to your productions and has a magic ability to balance things out nicely, but more on that later.

As it is based on Hardware, the user interface is laid out in a nice easy to understand classic design. This also means that unlike with some modern software compressors, you are a bit more limited with your settings, for example set release times. But I found this not to be a problem, as the  settings seem to have nice sweet spots. (I’m sure this is the same with the hardware). I also found the display showing the gain reduction to be nice and clear.

In Use  (more…)

It’s not exciting, it does not have flashing lights, but it in my experience it has been the best investment for my studio, so here is why….

I have always struggled, like many producers, with trying to get the low end to translate well across different systems. I have done many a mix where I have mixed on my monitors, checked on headphones, then gone to the car, then my hi-fi and found that the bass level either sounds too loud, or too weak. So you just keep going from house to the car and back again, and again and again and again, for weeks on end. So much so that your neighbours start twitching at the curtains, wondering why the hell the strange guy next door keeps going to the car to listen to music for a few minutes, disappears then keeps repeating the process. (more…)

When I first got into music production I had my heart set on an Korg Electribe, I wanted hardware, but the nice guys at the Production Room Shop in Leeds suggested that I try out a Launchpad at a fraction of the price, and use the free software that came with it, Ableton Live. What great advice it was, as I found the Launchpad (and Ableton Live) was a great introduction to music production, great fun & shaped the way I make music.

So I thought a Launchpad review was in order, as it has been so instrumental to how I make my music.

Right, first a quick overview:

Novation Launchpad

The Novation Launchpad is a 64 button USB powered midi controller (no power cable required) and comes with Ableton Live (music production software). You can use each of the buttons to trigger loops (clips) in Ableton Live, pan, change the volume, add effects, programme beats, the list goes on. It feels well-built and the buttons have a nice feel to them.Lets now go into a bit more detail on its functions:
Launching clips and Scenes

I have got to say that the launchpad is excellent for Launching clips and scenes. Basically the Launchpad Grid copies what’s on your screen, indicated by a red box on your Ableton Live Set (whatever is within this box, is displayed on the launchpad). It works pretty flawlessly with the Launchpad providing coloured feedback on the state of each clip (playing, recording, stopped). (more…)

After hearing great reviews about the touchAble app for the ipad, I have been looking forward to getting my hands on one to trial and have finally had the opportunity. It sounds like a possible contender to my novation launchpad, or indeed the need for an Akai APC40.

So first for those of you who do not know what the touchAble app is all about, here is a quick description: (more…)

I like the idea of being able to get samples for free, without worrying about copyright infringement and so decided to add a few links. I use these websites myself and licence my music under the Creative Commons Licence so that people can sample them without any worry, but you must give the artist credit or pay up if it goes commercial. But hey that’s fair enough, so if you use any samples from the free sample sites, then do your bit and upload samples yourself, put something back into the community.

Whilst I was at it, I decided to also list a few companies that I own hardware or software from, and also a list of forums that I have found useful.

Check it out at