Rhythm Creation - Music Production and Sound Reocording

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I used to make a lot of hard house music and one of the most common sounds in hard house and similar types of hard dance music is the hoover sound. Even though it is used a lot (sometimes too much) some people have trouble recreating this sound themselves and end up using samples. The original sound was made on the Roland Juno Synthesizer and I’ve even heard of people buying that synth just to create this type of sound and spending hundreds of their hard earned cash in the process. In this tutorial I’m going to show you how to make a basic hoover without a Juno. If your not sure what a hoover synth is then play the sound below.

Click Here To Listen To The Final Hoover Sound

I made that hoover style sound above as an example for this tutorial using the Malstrom and the NN-XT sampler in Reason within a few minutes and I’m going to show you how to get that style of synth sound so you can make all the hoovers you require without a Juno and also so I don’t have to hear a hoover sample that I’ve heard hundreds of times before next time I listen to some new hard house/dance tracks.

The following tutorial is done in Reason but you should be able to reproduce this sound using any synthesizer or softsynth which is good at making some sort of nice fat lead sound.

Creating the Starting Sound
First we need to create a fat lead type sound, I shall leave you to choose one yourself here as most synthesizers should be able to create sounds which are good enough. Here is the sound I used, so you can get an idea of the sort of sound that you need to start off with.

Click Here To Download The Starting Sound

As you can see it’s nothing special, it is in fact just 2 x Sawtooth like waves with one of them an octave lower than the other. There is nothing special about this sound and you can find samples of this sort of sound all over the internet for free. Experiment with different sorts of lead synth sounds as your starting point for the hoover, but to get a real fat hoover you need something that sounds quite fat to begin with. You want to aim for lots of high and low frequencies in there as it will make the hoover sound fatter and more Juno sounding.

Making The Hoover
This is the bit which most people who try to make hoover sounds and fail don’t know about. We need to use a sampler such as the NN-XT in Reason which allows you to use a mod envelope (ADSR) to control the pitch of the sound. I’m sure that there are many other samplers that can do this too.

For this you need to first export the sound from your synthesizer and save it as a sample to reload into your sampler. You want to create a very long sample or create a loop in the sampler so you can hold the sample down for a long time without it ending.

Once you’ve loaded the sample into you’re sampler, you need to make the mod envelope affect the pitch of the sample. For the example I set the mod env to pitch setting to +600cents (about the 2-O-Clock position) on the NN-XT. I increased the attack on the mod envelope to about midway up and the decay just that bit higher than the attack. The sustain, release and hold were set to none.

I also made the sound play three notes at one time to give it more substance, these were C3, C4 and C5 on the MIDI keyboard and placed a notch filter on the sample with the frequency set about half way. Now we have the basic hoover sound, you can now go and add some effects on if you want to make it sound even better.

See it isn’t that hard to create a hoover once you know how it’s done. Hopefully this has shown you that you can create Hoover type sounds very easily and quickly within Reason. You don’t need a Roland Juno or other fancy kit to create one. You can also achieve this with most synthesizers and a sampler with the mod envelope to pitch ability. Experiment with the hoover sounds too by starting with different starting synths, there are loads that can be made. If you use Reason there are some great ones that can be made with the Subtractor and Malstrom as a starting point.

Tutorial written by Edward Cufaude for Rhythm Creation.

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One thing I try to do when creating drums for my tracks is to really try and get a BIG sound. I love big fat drum sounds. The drum tracks are the first part of a track that I lay down and I believe that if I can get the drums to sound great to me before putting any other sounds on, I know that my track will sound great to me also. One way I try to get a great drum track is by manipulating every single drum sound and layering it up so for example my main snare sound could have as many as five or six different snare samples in there. These are my tips and also my routine that I use for creating multi layered drum samples.

I use the Redrum in Reason for my drum layering because if you flip it over you can link the gate out on one sample to a gate in on another sample. This means that when sample one gets hit all the samples linked through these gate outs/ins will play together. This means that I can then manipulate each drum sound individually on the front of Redrum and play them together very easily. Whatever software or hardware you use, you need some way of editing each drum sound you are going to layer as well as some easy way to play all sounds together. This should make drum layering a much easier process.

Now you need some samples and there are loads to be had for free around the internet (Free Sound Samples). I doesn’t matter if some of these drum sounds you download sound weak or sound too much like a drum machine as when we layer them up they will sound stronger and very different. You need a good selection of different hits organised into categories (Kicks, Snare etc) so that you can choose a few that you like to layer up easily.

I start off by loading a single hit and manipulate it to how I want it to sound. Usually this is by pitching the drum sound up or down, changing the length, change the tone etc. Just do what sounds good to you for that particular drum sound. Don’t be afraid to change it drastically, or edit it in a audio editor either.

Now I find another drum sound that sounds nice with my first sound, I link the samples together (explained above) and listen to them together. You want to get a nice sounding mix between these two drum sounds so you can hear them both at the level you want to hear each of them. Now edit our new drum sample exactly like we did with the first by changing the pitch etc until we find something that sounds like what we want and mixes nicely with the other drum sound (re-adjust the levels if you have to). Now repeat this by layering up even more samples until you are happy with the overall sound of all samples together.

After this add any processing (for example a bit of compression or EQ). The example above shows a very basic drum layering technique and the more you do this yourself the more you will find different combinations of samples that will sound great with each other and find your own techniques that give you your own sound.

Here are some more of my tips that I use for multi-layering certain drums.

Snare Drum layering - Image from Stock Xchng (www.sxc.hu) User:sonofwil
  • Multi-layering kick drums can be trickiest as when we add more and more kicks our drum sound can actually sound weaker and more muffled as they are all fighting for space. You can stop this from happening by EQing each kick to have different dominant frequencies. For example if you are layering 3 kicks, on kick one increase the volume of 30Hz to 60Hz (or decrease the frequencies outside this band), on kick two increase the volume of 80Hz to 120Hz and on kick three increase say 150Hz to 180Hz. This will give each of our kicks a different space in the mix between them.
  • Try layering bass sounds with your kicks. Create a very quick bass sound so it’s the length of your kick, filter out any high frequencies and then layering it together with your kick can give a nice low end sounding kick if done properly.
  • For snares reduce one sample in length so it’s very short with hardly any tail (a snare that sounds poppy or cracky at the start) and layer this with another sound that has a nice sounding tail will create a very nice effect. This works great too with layering different crash and ride cymbals as well as other drums.
  • Pitch up and down the same sample. For example take sample one and pitch it down, then take the same sample in another channel and pitch it up. Try this with already layered samples, by exporting your multi layered samples then reimporting.
  • and finally experiment with different drum sounds as much as you can, drum layering seriously increases the number of samples and styles of drum hits available to us for music production and is well worth having a mess around with.
There is a lot to the art of drum layering, but I think once you know the basics you will develop your own techniques and way of doing it and in the process the sound of your music will benefit and you will create your own sounding style by creating different drum sounds that others don’t have.

Tutorial written by Edward Cufaude for Rhythm Creation.

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Many musicians who make music with a computer make drum tracks using software and recorded samples of drums, but all too often they find that their drums just don’t seem to sound like a real drummer could be playing them and sound too electronic (unless of course electronic sounding is what you are after). These are my tips for getting a drum track to sound more realistic and hopefully they will help some of you to create some amazing human sounding drum tracks and give a whole new feeling to your music.

Firstly we need to realise that a real drummer isn't a robot, a real drummer doesn’t hit every drum with exactly the same force every time he hits it and neither does he hit it on the exact same millisecond of a bar of music every time. So the main aim is to basically make your drum track less perfect because drummers aren't perfect.

If you are using the mouse to input notes on the screen you may find that by switching to a MIDI input device you can use it to play each part of your drum track in and it will start to sound more human (Making sure you don’t set it to quantize your notes too harshly). You will find that you will hit each drum with a slightly different force and at a slightly different time, if you make any big mistakes or any notes that just sound off you can always retake or start editing those notes with the mouse. If you don’t want to use a MIDI input device you can use these two methods of editing individual drum hits to effectively do exactly the same thing.
  • Change each drum hits volume slightly (Effectively changing the force that the drum is hit).
  • Change the time a drum hit is hit back or forward very slightly by small amounts.
Snare Drum - Image from Stock Xchng (www.sxc.hu) User:sonofwil With both of these don’t do it overly excessively, we are just looking for a very slight variation. This should improve the feel of your drum track slightly. Try experimenting with it, sometimes just changing these two aspects can really change the feel and groove of a rhythm.

There is another thing we can change which is the tone of the drum hit. As a drummer varies the force with which he hits a drum, the tone of the sound produced changes. On most drum machines such as the Redrum in Propellerheads Reason there is a tone feature, by varying this slightly with each drum hit (especially on the snare drum) we can give it more of a human feel. Try making the tone reduce when the volume reduces gives a nice combined effect.

We can take this further now by making our drums act like real drums. If you use snare rolls a lot, this is a nice way of making them sound much better. Drummers hit drums slightly differently with each hand. So set up two keys on your MIDI input device with the same snare sample on, but vary one ever so slightly in tone, pitch, volume or whatever other properties you want to experiment with and then play the snare hits one after the other on the keyboard creating a snare roll. This drastically improves the sound of our snare rolls. You could even have three or four variations of the same hit and change between them on each snare hit during the snare roll.

With the hi-hats, we often hear a drummer hit the hi-hat with it open and then quickly close it which cuts the sound off and gives a nice effect. So with your hi-hats you will want to make it so that when a hi-hat closed sample plays it stops the open hi-hat sample. Some drum machines have this feature built in, so use it effectively. If it isn’t built in try varying a hi-hat open sounds length so when the close hi-hat sound plays the open hi-hat sound stops.

This next way is the Ultimate way of getting that real drummer sound, but it is not always practical with samples. If you are recording your own drum samples make sure that you record differing volumes of each drum. Some software allows us to change the sample used depending on the volume of the note. So for example when a MIDI volume message says a note is played at a loudness of 100 to 127 it will play sample 1 (A full whack drum hit), if the MIDI volume message is below say 100 it will play sample 2 (a softer recorded drum hit). We can line these up with as many samples as we wanted at carying levels and that would create an extremely realistic sounding kit. Often though this is not practical for many people as many drum hits are electronically produced or the hit we want to use only has one recorded sample.

Hopefully this has taught you some great ways in which you can make your sound less computer sounding and more realistic. These methods certainly improved the realism of my tracks and hopefully it will with your music too.

Tutorial Written by Edward Cufaude for Rhythm Creation.

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One of the music signal processing effects that many people struggle to understand is the compressor, the reason they fail to understand it is because firstly with a compressor it is harder to hear the effect it is creating but also because they haven’t learnt why and what it is for, this quick tutorial will quickly explain what a compressor is and hopefully put some people on the right track.

What Does A Compressor Do?
Putting a sound through the compressor will make the loudest parts of a sound quieter, reducing the volume gap between the louder and quieter parts of a sound. If you could see the waveform of the sound you would see that it is flattening the peaks down closer to the troughs. It is basically an automatic volume fader.

When Should I Use It?
  1. Because the peaks of a sound are clipping (sending the volume into red) - compressing it will bring down these peaks and so no more clipping occurs and you will end up with a better behaved sound.
  2. Because you want to raise the quieter parts of a sound (such as the tail/sustain section of a sound) - A compressed sounds peaks are reduced and so therefore the overall volume of the sound can be pushed up via the output gain, in effect making the quieter parts of a sound louder. Because the sounds tail section is louder, it makes our ears perceive the whole sound as louder. (This technique can be used on the final mix to make the track loud). Advertisers also use this on TV adverts so the sound is much louder, so you can hear it when your in the kitchen making a brew.
  3. Because you want to emphasise the first part of a sound - Using the attack (see below) we can let the first part of a sound through uncompressed and then compress the rest of the sound. Making the sound more punchy.
How Do I Use It?
The best way I can explain this is to go through each part of a typical compressor and tell you what each one does. These individual parts should be available on most hardware and software compressors.

Compressor: Image from Stock Xchng (www.sxc.hu) User:sibaudio Threshold
This sets the volume level at which the compressor starts to do its compressing. Whenever the sound volume goes above the level of the threshold the sound will get compressed. Anytime the sound's volume is below the threshold the compressor is doing nothing and the sound will therefore stay at the same volume.

Ratio
When the volume goes above the threshold it gets compressed and the ratio is by how much should it get compressed. 1/2 ratio is going to compress any volume above the threshold to 1/2 the amount above the threshold. For example if the threshold is 50dB and the sound going through the compressor is 70 dB. The sound will come out at 60dB. At 1/4 ratio it will come out at 55dB. 1/10 ratio will be 52dB.

Attack
This sets in milliseconds how fast the compressors reacts once the sound level goes above the threshold. Most of the time you will want to set this to a very low setting. As you set it higher more of the beginning of the sound will be let through after breaking the threshold. This allows you to place emphasis on these parts (commonly used on kicks to make them more punchy).

Release
This sets the time that the compressor stops doing it’s compressing after the sound has dropped below the threshold, setting this too low can make the sound sound like it is pumping. Commonly used on dance style recordings as a wanted effect.

Knee
Not seen on all compressors, sometimes might be seen as a soft knee on/off button and on other compressors you can control it with a proper dial. The Knee is the time it takes for the compressor to reach the maximum ratio of compression once compression has started to set it. A soft knee will take more time to reach maximum compression.

Output Gain
This is where you can increase the overall volume after it has been through the compressor.

Common Mistakes
  1. Compressing a recorded sound can cause any noise, hum or unwanted sound in the background of the recording to become louder reducing the quality of the recording.
  2. Too much compression applied doesn’t sound good. Sometimes a pumping like effect can be heard which can sound dreadful on the wrong sort of music. There is also quite a backlash from some people saying that some modern music sounds dreadful and of less quality because it is so loud due to overuse of compression.
  3. Removing the ups and downs of music on recordings that don’t need it. You won’t hear very much if any compression at all on classical music because you want to keep the very quiet sounds quiet to give more feeling and flow to the music. Adding compression may ruin the feeling of the music in situations like this.
This should help you to use compressors easily and effectively, one last thing to think about is where in the effects chain you apply the compression. After or before reverb and delay effects can sound very different as your also raising the levels on those effects. So think about when you want the compression applied.

If anyone has anything to add or other ideas on how to use it, please add it to the comments.

Tutorial Written by Edward Cufaude for Rhythm Creation.

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