Panning techniques can be used to create space, and a much more immersive musical experience.
In much of today’s music, the central rhythm and solo voice are the main focus of the mix. Because of this, the bass drum, snare and singing voice are centrally located – usually called ‘C’ or ‘0’ in most DAW software.
Usually, the rest of the elements in the mix is what the engineer, technician or producer uses to create a stereo image of the track. Our ears tend to focus on the elements of the mix that are in the center or panned at the left or right ends, while the rest becomes more diffuse.
￼The idea is to create an image in audio to obtain movement and excitement, making elements appear in the stereo field to maintain attention of the listener. In many cases you can close your eyes to visualize the musicians playing their instruments as if they were positioned on the stage.
We provide some guidelines, along with certain tricks and practical advice.-
1) Duplicates Guitars: When you record doubled guitars (recording the same part twice on separate tracks), if you separate one track completely to the left and the other fully to the right, you will get a much fuller sound without needing to saturate the whole arrangement.
2) Complementary Panning: If you have two instruments in your mix that occupy a similar range of frequencies, try to pan each one opposite the other. It does not have to be to extremes. For example, a guitar slightly panned to the left could complement a keyboard that is slightly to the right. This creates a better balance in your mix, and the listener does not perceive all the instruments as coming from the same position, which can fatigue and make the listening boring and confusing.
3)Snare in the center or outside it: Pan your snare completely in the center makes your sound with much punch. While sending it slightly to one side, it can make the listener focus more on other elements, such as the lead vocals or bass drum.
4) Closed strophe, wide chorus: Try a more closed stereo image throughout the mix during the strophes of your songs, but apply a more open image when panning the elements of the choruses beyond the center. Keeping certain elements in that way – or simply at specific moment – will create interest in your tracks.
5) Listen to it in mono: Try listening your mix in monophonic mode to make sure you are not missing out on the process. You may have spent a lot of time working on the panning of all the tracks, just to realize after your mix sounded much more shocking at first!
6) Keep in mind clubs: If you are mixing any type of electronic music that is susceptible to be played in a club, keep in mind that many of these systems sound works in mono. The provision of identical audio signals panned left and right may cause phase cancellations during monophonic playbacks, particularly in the bass area. Create a good and wide stereo mix, but go alternating mono to make sure you will not lose anything when playing your music on monophonic systems.
7) Check with headphones: Listen to your mix with headphones to make sure it does not sound incoherent or unbalanced. Your studio monitors may be excellent, but since your headphones will not have crosstalk problems (right speaker information interfering with your left ear, and vice versa), your experience will sound different. Remember, perhaps most of your audience will eventually hear your music through headphones!
8) Do not overload: Try that items that pan on the left or right do not overload too much, rhythmically speaking. For example, mixing two rhythm instruments that occupy a similar range at high frequencies – such as an acoustic guitar and a hi-hat – you can locate each on opposite sides. If these two instruments normally play a similar rhythm (1/8 or 1/16 measures), holding them in opposite panoramas will create a similar rhythmic feel on both speakers. Panning too many rhythmic elements in a single channel can distract too much.
9) Give it a vintage air: That said, some old recordings – or modern mixes made with nostalgia and classical methods – tend to pan the battery almost to the right of the whole set, while the bass is in opposition, to the left. Doing this may compel listeners to listen with more effort and attention, but could result in interesting textures for your music.
10) Less is more: Many times, the broadest mixes do not come from panning everything, but from doing so only in certain interesting elements, while maintaining a balanced center and with footprint. This type of mix usually sounds correctly in mono, too.
Try to give space and amplitude to a single element of your mix, such as double guitars, a piano track or aerial drums, and leave the rest around the center, taking care of the levels and applying an EQ with judgment and moderation.
Slate Digital’s Virtual Tape Machines (VST / AU) plugin aims to recreate the warmth and nuanced sound of authentic analog tape saturation in the digital realm.
Analog Tape Machines
Over the past 20 years, the audio industry has followed a steady path into the realm of digital production as computers are providing more power and capability per dollar than most analog gear on the market. This movement is empowering new musicians to create, but it’s also changing the sound of contemporary music. Many of today’s producers are creating music entirely “in the box,” a technique that can be efficient and powerful but sometimes leaves the end musical product with a distinct digital sound. To remedy this, many producers have recently turned to analog tape to achieve a warmer, thicker sound before publishing. However, the dilemma here is that tape is expensive, hard to come by, and the process of recording to tape can be time-consuming. Wouldn’t it be easier if someone could emulate the sound of analog tape in the digital realm as well?
To remedy this situation, Slate Digital, creators of high-end boutique audio plugins for mixing, mastering, and post-production have created an excellent plugin called Virtual Tape Machines that aims to replace the reel-to-reel tape deck and give classic analog warmth and compression to digital recordings. To create this new plugin, Steven Slate (an accomplished professional producer and engineer) tapped into his community of professional engineers to find the best possible reel-to-reel decks to emulate. He then worked with Slate Digital Chief Technology Officer Fabrice Gabriel to create a “comprehensive study of the physical processes that occur when recording to analog tape through a tape machine.” The result is a program that employs advanced algorithms to recreate the warmth, presence, and nuances of a 2 inch 16 track from NRG Recording, and a ½ inch 2 track machine from Howie Weinberg Mastering.
“When we created the Virtual Console Collection it was the first time that I could mix inside the box and really enjoy what I was hearing and feel that there was no sacrifice. Once we added the Virtual Tape Machines, that just took it to a whole new level. Printing a mix to the virtual half-inch alone just makes the music come out of the speakers in a way that I’ve never heard before in the digital domain.” – Steven Slate
In practice, VTM delivers a warm, rich, and smooth sound that gives analog tape a run for its money. This emulation of true magnetic tape delivers pro-quality sound at a price far under that of an actual reel-to-reel tape machine. The authentic analog sound of this plugin adds dimension, fatness, depth, and warmth to your mix. Use this plugin on individual tracks to bring presence to parts of your mix, or load it on your master during mixdown to give the entire mix a richer sound. VTM offers two tape machine types (2″ and 1/2″) and two speeds (15 ips and 30 ips), along with controls to adjust noise reduction, wow & flutter, bass alignment, bias settings, level calibrations, and more.
“We take modeling very seriously. It’s a no-frills approach; it’s a no-compromise approach. Either we recreate the exact sound of what these tape machines are doing, or we don’t release the plugin. These are famous tape machines that thousands of major pro engineers have heard, and I’m not gonna insult them by trying to add extra stuff. We want to recreate the sound of these machines and what they do. Because what they do is perfect.” – Steven Slate
Two tape machine types
2″ 16 track
1/2″ mastering deck
Two tape formulations
Two speeds: 15 ips and 30 ips
Noise reduction control and auto mute
Wow & Flutter control
Bass alignment control
Normal, Low & High Bias settings
Settings global or per channel
Tape reels start and stop in sync with DAW transport
Continuing with our series of live instrument tutorials from Riverside Studios, this tutorial from Henne Müller is focused around recording kick drums. The technique is a bit different than traditional kick recording, and Henne shows off how to capture a few unique angles for use in your productions. Watch the full thing inside.
Recording Kick Drums
Choose the right instrument – different kicks work better depending on what type of sound you want to capture.
For this style of recording, use a Shure Beta 52 inside the kick ($189 on Amazon) or an ElectroVoice RE20 if you prefer a cleaner sound ($449 on Amazon)
Try different angles of recording the kick – if there’s no hole in the kick, point it towards the bottom middle of the rear skin. Recording different angles means you have more options!
Use a subkick microphone – essentially a speaker turned around in front of the kick drum – to record the lower frequencies.
Also consider adding a room microphone, Henne uses a Thomann t.bone RB-500 ribbon microphone – about $100. Do a few different angles here as well to capture what the kick sounds like in the room.
Having these options recorded when going into the studio and making a track means you have a lot of options to build a unique kick. As Henne enumerates in the video, you won’t like every angle you record kick drums from, so move the mic around and listen to it to find out what works best.
The Roland AIRA TR-8 is an incredibly powerful standalone performance and production tool – but what would happen if you super-charged it with a bit of creative MIDI mapping and sound manipulation in Ableton Live? In part one of a new series, Ean shares his technique for taking the tom-tom channel on the TR-8, adding resonance to create a synthesizer-like sound, and then adding more effects on top. It makes for an expressive and fun performance tool – watch the full video inside.
MIDI Mapping Roland TR-8 In Ableton
Basic Setup Instructions
As a reminder for if you’re setting this up for yourself, here’s what Ean did in this video:
Connect the Roland TR-8 to Ableton Live via USB
Send the TR-8’s audio output into Ableton Live – set up a new audio channel for each instrument on the TR-8
Make sure the TR-8 is also set up as a MIDI input device in Ableton’s preferences – this allows you to MIDI map the controls on the device
Add an Ableton Resonator device to the Tom channel – in the video, Ean applies the Berlin preset.
Hunt for expressive controls inside of the Resonator (Color, Decay, etc), find a solid range, and MIDI map the TR-8’s knobs to them. Use Ableton’s mapping interface to set the start and end points for the knobs’ controls!
Note that the original control of the knob will still exist – for example, in the video Ean maps the resonator’s decay to the decay knob for the tom channel. Try to find controls that work well together!
Add a Grain Delay audio effect, apply the Kick Toner preset to detune and repitch the synth – and map the
At this point, many of you have probably heard about the Stems concept from Native Instruments, which allows you to play songs with four parts and isolate each part from one another – for example, removing the drums. While these files are available for purchase on many online stores, until now you needed to use NI hardware and software to isolate the parts and use their power. Today Ean shares how anyone can isolate a Stem file’s individual elements using a simple, free process for Mac and PC, allowing you to create custom instrumentals that will play in any DJ software or hardware.
Hacking Stems / Extracting Instrumentals
Everyone loves the STEM concept, and who has not wanted to break down a track and take out the bass, vocals or drums. In my experience, this is often something that you could do once, and not worry about live. It would make sense then to create a permanent “edit” of your stem that has those parts removed and not bother with isolating things in the DJ set.
Here are the steps you need to take in order to break apart a Stem file and isolate the parts outside of Traktor (or Mixed In Key’s Flow 8 Deck, which is the second DJ software to support Stems playback). First, get your system set up with the right software:
In this video, Dubspot Instructor Adriano Clemente introduces us to Live Video Tools, his new Max For Live video manipulation device for creating captivating visuals with Ableton Live.
Developed by Adriano Clemente and Thomas Martinez, Live Video Tools is a creative suite for live music performers looking to create sound responsive visuals. With simplicity in mind, the interface has an intuitive design making it easy to generate captivating visuals that dynamically reacts to your sounds. In only a few short steps, you can quickly import videos, stills, and animated GIFs to perform and manipulate alongside your Ableton Live set. Live Video Tools comes loaded with fully mappable effect controls for manipulating feedback, RGB levels, strobe, saturation, hue, inversion, kaleidoscope, and other modulation parameters to generate interesting effects. For example, you could map a filter frequency control to Live Video Tools Saturation control to create expressive filter sweeps. You can also automate modulation destinations using LFO controls so you can focus more on your live performance.
Learn more about Live Video Tools and purchase a copy HERE.
Check Reaktor experts, including the folks who built the tool, last month in the software’s hometown Berlin. Discussion comes right on the heels of the release of Reaktor 6, the team behind that update got to talk about their work.
In this video, Dubspot Instructor Cliff Callendar aka SentZ takes us into Live 9.5 and demonstrates his approach to chopping up samples in the redesigned Simpler using his custom Slicing preset included as a FREE download below.
In this video, Dubspot Instructor Cliff Callendar aka SentZ takes us into Live 9.5 and demonstrates his approach to slicing and chopping samples in the redesigned Simpler using a custom Slicing preset he created. Learn how to use Simplers built-in Warping capabilities and ‘Slice to New MIDI Track’ feature to chop up samples into a custom Instrument Rack that works perfectly with Ableton Push for laying down some MPC-style grooves. While offering up some solid production techniques, Sentz also shows us how to take advantage of the all new filters included in the 9.5 update to create that classic lo-fi retro tone ideal for styling hip-hop samples.
Download the ‘SentZ Sample Slicer’ preset and easily chop your samples up into an organized Instrument Rack designed for laying down grooves MPC-style!
Reverb is necessary in order to create the impression of distance and separation between elements, but it also contributes a lot to the ‘glamour factor’ you’ll need for a modern commercial production. Quite simply, making the wrong reverb choices is a strong indicator of a non-professional mix. It is potentially so destructive that many of us are either too conservative when we use it – resulting in no real benefit – or else it’s applied too liberally and smears over all your previous delicate mixing manoeuvres.
What follows then are 10 essential tips to help you steer clear of the pitfalls and build a more effective reverb workflow:
1. Long and Short Reverbs
A good general piece of advice would be to use short reverbs in busy mixes, longer reverbs in music with more space. What can be deceiving though is to judge the validity of reverbs by name i.e Halls and Chambers as long, plates and rooms as short – if you think you need short reverbs you could find exactly what you want from a short Hall and you could find just the tail your after in a mix using a long plate. Rather than thinking purely in terms of long and short, think in terms of the quality of the tails, longer tails can disguise the presence of reverb where short ones can draw attention to it.
2. Pre Delay
Pre-delay is the single most powerful feature in most reverbs, setting a pre-delay allows for a certain amount of dry signal to get through before it is washed in reverb, this means greater intelligibility. It is particularly useful for keeping the attack of words from a lead vocal upfront and clear. In this sense it is much like how you use a compressor, setting a slower attack time or in the case of reverb – pre delay, lets vocal information through which is re-assuring to listen to. Anything from 20ms to about 80ms will be the area you need to work in – beyond this you will create a distinctive slap back effect that could be cool in the right circumstances but less suitable for most.
3. 3D Reverb
For a far more dimensional reverb and richer spaces you should try using multiple reverbs together. For example, using three you can create a much more convincing ambience.
To get you started – first find a small room reverb, this to give a little air around the source, second use a plate reverb and blend it as you might pour sauce into pasta, adding flavour. Third use a hall with a long tail to add ceiling, be careful not to overdo it. How do you know when you’re overdoing it? Read on…
Successful reverb should enhance the mood you are aiming for; it is not just about adding size, but embellishment of your central theme.
4. How much?
It is a taste thing of course, if the reverb is a big feature of your production ala Phil Spector, you’ll use a lot more than if you were just using it to blend, glue and create a believable ambiance. Remember that a little reverb goes a long way. When it comes to applying reverb, solo the instrument or voice, then bring in the reverb until you can hear it, then back it off a smidge until you sort of feel you want a bit more. That’ll probably be about right.
5. High Pass Filtering
Hopefully you are aware of the benefits of high and low pass filters, and you’ll have been applying these to instruments in your mix already to keep low end rumble and other toxic frequencies at bay. The same wisdom works on reverb, high passing reverb with an EQ – i.e. rolling off its low end will keep the space open. Leaving the low end in, could mean you lose definition as you add more reverb to more channels.
6. Brightening with Reverb
Reverb can be especially useful for brightening vocals where you might feel that EQing the vocal directly is working against you. This same approach can of course be used on any instrument, the trick is to identify the presence EQ range and then boost that in the reverb. For example, vocals usually have a strong presence around 3K, so, rather than EQ the vocal audio, instead, insert an EQ after your reverb and push that in the 3K area to get a more airy, transparent lift.
7. Impact with Reverb
Snare drums can regularly benefit from gated reverb, whereby a half second or so pre-delay followed then by a reverb that is gated, i.e. cut short abruptly – creates an un-natural, but useful artefact that might be described as smashed glass. The effect if used proportionally and blended well will give dimension to the snare without adding body. Used heavily it is a very distinctive effect brought to popular consciousness by Phil Collins and David Bowie, however, despite how dated it can make a drum sound, it is still used a lot for sound re-enforcement even in today’s most cutting edge productions.
8. Grouping Reverb
A useful tip for gauging the effectiveness of your reverb, especially if you are using multiple reverbs is to group them together so you can then solo or mute them with a single mouse click. Being able to A/B processing in this way can be very informative and help you reign in your levels or feel confident about adding more. Having control of all your reverbs on a single fader will allow you to fine tune how you want them, plus you can of course apply EQ as mentioned in tips 5 & 6.
We often think of reverb being stereo but there is huge benefit to setting up mono reverbs.
9. Springs and other ‘Dirty’ Verbs
Certain instruments take better to reverb than others, some don’t play so nicely. Often we like electric guitars to feel upfront, but regular reverb tends to soften their impact. Spring reverb and certain other lo-fi processors work especially well, the harshness of them can add body and presence to the audio, don’t discount cheap sounding processors and springs for use on vocals either, for a vintage lo-fi vocal reverb springs are extremely fashionable right now.
10. Mono Reverb
We often think of reverb being stereo but there is huge benefit to setting up mono reverbs. Mono reverbs are great for spot lighting or where you want to draw attention to an instrument without swamping the mix. If you wanted to spot light a keyboard solo that was panned off to the right, setting up a mono dedicated processor and then the pan to match the pan setting of the keyboard, will really help retain the dynamics in your production.
Buss compression is when you apply a compressor to a whole group of instruments and/or even the entire mix.
As you add a compressor to a group, you will notice your song take a more consistent dynamic signature making your song sound more cohesive and “glued” together.
In this tutorial I will be showing you how to apply buss compression using two plug-ins. One will be Waves Audio SSL G-Master Buss Compressor and the other will be Apples’ stock compressor in which we will attempt to emulate the SSL compressor by Waves.
You can download a set of presets made for Apples stock compressor that closely emulates the classic SSL 4000 G console here.