I’m a pretty big fan of cover songs given the fact that I just released a cover song of This Is Our Night on my own record label. Here is a cover of the deadmau5 song Cthulu Sleeps. Pretty quality work if you ask me!
Edited: May 4th, 2011
Last night I submitted my remix for Moguai’s competition with Novation, Ableton, Soundcloud and mau5trap. I may later post a Remix Tutorial like I did with my other remix tutorials. I went through a few different creative stages to create this remix and it might make an interesting topic.
Edited: May 7th, 2010
Last fall the British pop singer known as Little Boots held a remix competition for her song “Earthquake.” I was very excited to jump into this project for practice but I immediately ran into some problems. You can grab the Earthquake stems here.
My first problem stemmed (pardon the pun) from the choice of files that were provided. Unfortunately the vocals arrived as one giant stem reducing the possibilities to remix the incredible harmonies within the vocal track.
I tried to work around this limitation by using Melodyne, the vocal tuning software. This would have allowed me to make different melodies out of the single stem. Unfortunately my version of Melodyne does not have Direct Note Access. The polyphonic chorus block really confuses the software’s automatic pitch detection. I decided to leave the vocal alone for now, I really liked the results of my work in Melodyne, but since it wouldn’t work during the chorus and other parts of the song I felt this would leave the song sounding bad.
My other problem was very spooky until I resolved its source. My metronome was staying in time for the first few minutes of the song, but very quickly it started to totally drift off from the song. I eventually discovered that the song changed bpm from 125 to 125.5 across the second verse (right screenshot). Tracking down simple problem probably consumed over 4 separate 1 hour sessions at The Lab. Luckily I now have a solution and know what to watch out for. Maybe next time I will only waste two hours on something like this!
After the song begins the speed starts to speed up to a point that I estimated by zooming in on the grid and looking at where the drum samples started to drift from alignment. The BPM probably returns to an absolute value by the end of the song, but when I placed that bpm marker near the end I was just trying to figure out if it slows down for just one verse or the entire song. The clock fit so well through that quick attempt that I left it in place, even though its not at the end of the song.
These stems are also missing an introductory sound that takes up about 2 bars at the beginning of the original mix. The bass and synth stems are also made up of several layers of instruments and effects, just like the vocal stem. This informed the next few choices I made with the remix. I talked about stems in my last Tutorial/walkthrough, so my next goal became simple. I set out to replicate all the synth sounds and bass sounds from scratch, starting with the drums. My goal first would be to make a cover of the song so I would be able to control all of the sounds and also to help me learn mixing better.
The drum loop has a basic bare section that I used to make a loop from a section where it played on its own. The rest of the cymbal, snare, clap and reverb effects (a common production effect to make a drum hit fade in) were re synthesized by me into an early audio arrangement as seen in the photo on the left. I used the plugin Adictive Drums from XLN Audio because it sounds so much like real percussion. I have not found a better sounding way to replicate the sound of a drummer inside your computer. After I figured out the permanent timings of the drum parts I made custom loops out of the 8 bar segments for each drum sound so that I could arrange and re arrange the parts with ease later.
I also often colour code my tracks as I go because it makes it easy to arrange the parts later. For this project I made all the drums red, the bass orange, the vocals blue and the synth yellow. At this point I have almost completed my “cover” of the original. I have recreated the drums, bass and synth parts, but I’m still not happy with the way the bass part is mixed together. This is why I have left it as MIDI rather than bouncing it down to audio.
I need focus on this part the next time I work on this project and it is likely that I have set the compressor too strong; this often throws the bass sound out of balance, as does tight EQ filters (narrow frequency bands are terrible for sine waves or pure bass). Since the bass is still in MIDI I have absolute freedom to change the sound around, or even make a brand new sound that is played on another synth. With the stem file I would have only been able to re-arrange the timing or placement of notes, but this would not be very practical.
I have recorded some MIDI parts from Logic as audio on track 11 “Ableton In.” You can find out more about how I did this in the ReWire tutorial that I made earlier this month. Check it out if you want to find out how simple it is to use these two programs together.
I’m going to hold off on this project until I get my hands on the newest version of Melodyne. I had a lot of early ideas that involved re-tuning some of the vocal parts, but this option was limited to only some sections of the vocal. Parts that were mixed with a harmony sound terrible with this technique since my older version of Melodyne is not able to detect the polyphonic audio (like chords). Also high on my list of things to change would be balancing the sound of the bass.
At that point I plan to make a different bass line and drum part. I really like when a remix is able to retain most of the original tracks sound but transfer it to a different genre. With any luck I will be able to apply this concept to Earthquake over the summer months, stay tuned!
Edited: April 10th, 2010
By Alex Massaad
Here is a video tour of the space where I experiment with audio:
Edited: April 10th, 2010
By Alex Massaad
I just finished making a tutorial video that teaches how to use Ableton Live and its plugins as an instrument within Apple‘s Logic Pro 9. This is acomplished using the ReWire protocol (link to wikipedia description) to stream audio and timing information between the two programs.
Make sure to watch the video fullscreen and also make sure you are playing it in HD if your machine is capable.
Edited: April 10th, 2010
By Alex Massaad
A few weeks ago I made a remix of a song by a band that I’ve been a really big fan of for a couple years, Vibrasphere. You can check out the link above to get caught up with the song I’m about to describe and break down.
In this post I’m going to explain how I put together this arrangement, as well as some details on how I’m configuring Ableton Live to play around with the samples before I get to the arrangement stage.
I save a lot of time by playing around with musical ideas in the Session View before commiting myself down to an arragement. After I create this arrangement I usually don’t need to spend more than an hour or two making automation changes and other mixing since I’ve been able to organize so much ahead of time.
If you haven’t heard the original song, you should check out this YouTube video of Wasteland:
Stems vs. Individual Samples:
All of the remix parts that I used can be purchased at the Vibrasphere music store for $6.80 US. I bought a whole pack of them because I think this band is really great! The samples are really well sliced, unlike some remix packs that I have bought. Generally what producers provide is a “stem” of all or some of the tracks but Vibrasphere has provided all the samples in their original form. In cases where effects have been applied, they have provided both a wet (effected) and dry version of the sound. For those of you not familiar with what a stem is I have provided a definition from Sound on Sound below. You can always find a handy list of technical definitions at the Sound on Sound Glossary.
STEMS: When mixing complex audio material it is often useful to divide the tracks into related sections and mix those sections separately before combining the whole. In mixing film soundtracks, the material would often be grouped as a dialogue stem, a music stem, an effects stem and so on. Each stem might be mono, stereo or multichannel, as appropriate to the situation. In music mixing, stems might be used for the rhythm section, backline instruments, frontline instruments, backing vocals, lead vocals and effects — or any other combination that suited the particular project.
The main disadvantage with stems is low versatility. If there are multiple layers that make up a synth part and they are mixed down into a single stem there is no way to separate these parts for editing later on. Also, I often notice that producers mix effects, such as reverb and delay, with stems making one entire drum or vocal track. This limits your creative options unless you recreate and re-synthesize the sound from scratch. With this project I was able to re-synthesize the individual vocal samples which allows much more freedom compared to working with a single vocal stem.
Session View and saving time:
Recently I began working with a standard arrangement that I borrowed from JazzMutant. While I don’t own any of their products (Lemur or Dexter) I was interested to see what their Max4Live code looked like since I was interested in an OSC project a while back. It wasn’t very useful from that standpoint since the code was impossible for me to decipher, but I did get an fantastic layout for most “electronic” based songs that I have begun using to layout ideas in a playable format.
This basic layout has tracks for the following drum sounds: Kick, Clap, Hats, and additional Perc. There is a track for bass and four melody tracks that can play any of the synth sounds that I might want to play. I also have a “steam” channel that is always sending some of its signal to sends A & B, a reverb and delay. This steam track provides a broadband hiss (like . . . steam) that I can use at any point to provide a transition sound. This is such a great component of the set that I often use it when DJing with Live since it provides a nice sound and it is very light on the CPU (but big on the dance floor!).
I have begun to make use of Scenes within Live so that I have a playable version of the song. This makes adding compatible parts really simple since I can just record the changes in the Session view and work with new sounds until something clicks. Check out the photo to see what the Session view looked like with my samples loaded in.
Vocal Sample as point of interest:
I really wanted to work with the vocal sample, and usually to do this I would load up the sample in another audio application and start applying effects and edits. This time, rather than destructively edit the original sample, I loaded the sample into the Sampler instrument in Live so that I could re-edit the pattern using MIDI. This is easy to do with the “Slice to MIDI” operation that you can apply to any audio clip. Using the 16th note preset it automatically creates 16 slices for every bar. You can then individually manipulate the MIDI notes to re-arrange the playback. I also applied some distortion and EQ effects on certain slices. This is what provides the variation from the original vocal theme.
I would love to hear your comments, thanks for reading!
Edited: April 10th, 2010
Download an mp3 of my remix of Vibrapshere’s Wasteland. I have uploaded it to zippyshare, for the time being. Download Vibrasphere – Wasteland (firewire coldplaysucks re-edit) here.
You can also check out a video of the remix in Ableton here:
Edited: March 5th, 2010
Anatomy of a remix – Feel It by Tiesto feat Three Six Mafia – coldplaysucks.com. I have added the synth parts and my own kick sound. This concludes my second day on the remix.
Edited: January 15th, 2010
Here is a quick screen capture of where I’m at so far in this remix.
The first stage involved setting up all my samples in time. The vocal was really tricky on this one, and took a lot of playing around with to get it timed properly but perhaps you won’t have trouble with it.
Next I was trying to replace the first synth which, as it turns out, is very complex. There are many effects on Tiesto’s final version. The files in the remix pack already have been processed with reverb, delays and (too much) side-chain compression by Tiesto and his production team.
Since MIDI was not part of the audio stems I received with this project I had to record it in manually on my MIDI keyboard. Here is a screenshot of what I recorded, click to enlarge:
Next I assigned a synthesizer to this MIDI track in order to turn those notes into sound pressure! A very nice 3 oscilator synth that I go to a lot for this type of modern lead synth sound is Rob Papen’s Predator synthesizer (Official Site includes mp3 examples and a demo version). I used a preset as a starting point, first I want to get every sound in place and I’ll fine tune all the details as the project progresses. Here is a look at my settings for this part, click to enlarge:
The next thing that I added was a compressor so that I could get the volume of the synth to dip in intensity for a brief moment every time the kick drum hits. This is a technique called sidechain compression, and there are no shortage of tutorials littering the internet teaching how to do this common audio magic in your DAW, in your neighbour’s DAW, on Public Transportation, on the way to the Moon and everywhere in between so I won’t bore you with the details. Do notice that I have Bus 11 designated for the Kick drum signal in this project. This way, if I wanted to, I could have the kick drum cut out, and keep its pumping effect on the synth. On a dance floor this gives the impression of a beat and causes a lot of anticipation during a breakdown or similar song part, click to enlarge the screenshot:
The final touch was to alter the EQ. Looking back now it was a questionable decision to mix EQ so early in the song, but either way I ended up strapping on a HPF (high pass filter) at around 18db @ 60hz and a boost of 4db @ 3000 hz, we know for sure that we don’t want any noises coming from this synth that are below 100 hz. I’m sure I had a mix reason for the boost at 3 khz but I can’t recall right now. If i had a second complimentary instrument that is competing with the synth sound for head room I might apply the boost to this one, and an identical reduction at 3 khz You can check my exact settings in this screenshot:
This goes a long way towards explaining what it is that I did, but this video ties up all those words into one simple segment of the remix. Check it out and don’t be afraid add your comments.
Edited: January 13th, 2010
Now for the official video:
Feel free to check out the later videos that break down my remix of Feel It.
Edited: January 13th, 2010