Some Digital Audio
Tricks and Tips
(this article goes back to 1999)
computers get faster
and can handle more of these processes we used to relegate to outboard gear, it
may become possible to rid ourselves of the need for any equipment other
than a keyboard, amp and speakers. Those days are not here yet, but they will
be soon. Just noting my own behavior, I no longer mix to DAT, but rather
bounce to hard disk, sometimes through an analog desk right back to
the application sending and mixing the 20-50 tracks of a typical song. Call
me Old Fashioned if you want, but I am not ready to give up analog mixing yet. (It's
making a comeback). By the way, a lot of the guys of my generation still don't
like this virtual stuff. Nothing like the feeling of having invested $100,000
in hardware to find all the teenage girls dancing to some track made in Reason on
a laptop in someone's parent's basement! But even the pros have gone into the virtual realms, now that vintage
compressors are being emulated perfectly in software with high end plugins.
There's no way to avoid it now and there is no going back.
Also, one should consider that
it's now possible to emulate any of the classic synths down to such detail,
and soon only collectors will want the original hardware synth. If the Pro53, FM7
and MiniMoog V is an indication of what is possible, it's not going to be long before
we have anything we want our virtual racks. And this is looking backwards to old
gear we know. When we look forward, we are looking rather dumbly into an open
sky of sonic possibility.
Use Two Computers.
Right now we can have more plugin devices than a single computer can handle.
Just try running 16 channels of Reaktor inside Kore2 and call up a Korg Legacy or MiniMoog
V. Now add convolution reverb. You might find some new stuttering wretch of an effect. 2 computers
helps you balanced the load and put a big 'n heavy virtual device on the second
one. Today you can easily and inexpensively connect these digitally, via ADAT.
If your audio interface on both computers has an ADAT connection, with a single
cable you can transfer 8 channels of audio in real time from one to another.
To trigger the virtual instruments on your second computer, all you need is a single
Can all your audio sources
get to your computer? Can you use your computer as a Track at your mixing
The most common ways to get multiple
sources to a computer is a mixer or a patchbay or both. As the studio branches
out to different rooms, a patchbay becomes more necessary. Basically you run
everything into the patchbay and run just a few pairs to the mixer or audio interface.
And you sit there like a phone operator connecting the gear when it needs to be
connected. This will also allow you to set your cables up in a more permanent
fashion, i.e., running behind the tables and shelves rather than right through the
middle of your room.
01V96VCM Digital Mixer
Connectivity is everything.
And everything must be connected. Do you have a website? If not, get
one. Can people access your music from anywhere in the world? These
days is a must. Say you finally do have a song that is great. Hey, one
song can change your life forever. Its an amazing thing when someone on the opposite
side of the globe and hear your music 5 minutes after you master it.
1. Know your gear and software.
Test all the features. While this is a task of magnitude in itself these days,
when you need to use a feature, your experience with it will often spell the difference
between success and failure. Read the manuals. When you aren't working
on a song, do experiments in the sequencer. Do you know the
finer points of Quantize? Time-stretching? Can you split an audio file?
Are all your key commands defined so you can actually remember them? MIDI
bank Select working? Importing a Rex file? Are you using MIDI clock sync with your
synths? Have you tried Rewire yet? Can you make a tempo map? Can you go into a 1000
note sequence and change only the Ab notes to F#? Ok, think you're smart huh?
Can you transform all CC21s to CC91s? Can you do a sysex dump from a synth
to your sequencer?
2. Digital outs on instruments
allow you to send huge voice chunks to a wave file, which free up that instrument
for other uses. In other words, rather than use a synth or sampler in multitimbral
mode, where all voices get routed through the same effects, you can use the performance
patches, which typically are of higher quality and track each instrument at a time.
You just make a midi track, bounce to audio, make another bounce again.
3. Time stretching
digital audio loops is not only about tempo matching. Stretching the audio
adds artifacts to the sound that have in themselves become "cool". This is
particularly the case in dance music.
4. Record at 24 bits.
Not only does it sound better, but the noise floor is so far down that you can record
without a compressor and wait to compress in software.
5. Make a stereo track with
just effects recorded 100% wet. Use the sequencer's mixer to bring it
in and out artistically. You can also add effects to the FX tracks.
6. Many sequencers allow
you to break up a drum loop into regions. Each region has a
start time that is quantisable. Hence you can re arrange the regions
and quantize them with a different groove and at different tempo that the original
loop with no loss of audio quality. The result is sometimes outstanding.
7. If your drum kit is wimpy,
make an isolated track of your favorite snare and perhaps throw in the toms
too. Process with 2:1 compression. Using MIDI drums?
You'll have better sounding drums if you dedicate a channel (in software or on your
mixer) to kik, snare/toms, cymbals, Adds nice dimension.
8. Even with all the great
drum loops out there, I find it best to keep my kik and hats in the midi
domain. Often I will use the loop as a guide to getting the kik placed exactly
as it is in the loop. having MIDI drums allows you to do better transitions
changes. Its perfectly acceptable to do both together.
Pro Loop-Based Creation Software
9. Lots of innovation going
on with playing 2 even three drum loops together, even hard panned L/R.
10. Nearly all sequencers now let
you use audio loops in a way that adjusts them automatically to project tempos.
We often neglect to make our own loops out of our own audio material. When you have
a nice track, bounce down 8 bars or each track and add a loop to your collection.
11. EQs on audio sequencers can
be used to create lo-fi- audio effects. High pass filters are
good at this. Use to help short vocal passages cut through the mix.
Little accents here and there are easy to do but to the casual listener, its what
separates the wanabees from the artists.
12. Plugin processors and
other real-time FX eat up valuable processor time. Rather than bogging your
system down doing, for example, reverb, render the effect to its own audio track
to free up the plugin resources to do something else. Ditto for midi
tracks that use lots of controllers. Restore some breathing room to the limited
MIDI bandwidth by putting the controller intensive tracks into an audio file.
And it doesn't hurt to use outboard for reverb. Average hardware reverbs will
sound better than all but the best software reverbs.
13. Its so easy to get lost
with all these toys and tools at our disposal. I try to keep a focus on one
thing--what's coming out the speakers. Everything else is a means
to that end. Helps keep it all in perspective.
14. One more.
While we all know there are copyright laws that keep us from sampling others tracks,
we often forget that it perfectly legal to sample our own library of compositions.
You should consider anything you ever wrote or recorded as your source library.
If you have been doing MIDI for a while like I have, with old classic synths like
Juno's and CZ's, you are probably sitting on a goldmine of vintage synth loops.
These may add tremendous color to your stuff. get the biggest hard drives
you can and keep some of your classic gems "ready for ripping".
Best of Luck to you in your music
Rich the TweakMeister
Go to the
Go to the
"The feelings that Beethoven put into his music were the
feelings of a god. There was something olympian in his snarls and rages, and there
was a touch of hellfire in his mirth.."
H.L.Mencken (1880–1956), U.S. journalist