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Why You Should Be Using Presets to Learn Sound Design

using presets for sound design

This is a guest post by Jake from  www.cryonautmedia.com. To learn how to get started with sound design, download his free 10 step guide to sound design here.

If you were to ask 100 producers whether they use presets or create their own original sounds, you would probably find the results to be pretty evenly split. While some producers use presets as they are, or tweak them a little, others refuse to use any sound they didn’t create themselves. This is a fiercely debated topic. In this article, we’ll examine the merits of both sides, and then go over one way you can use presets to your advantage when it comes to learning and doing sound design.

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How to Increase and Decrease Energy in your Tracks

This is a guest post by Zac Citron of  www.zenchamusic.com. Zac has a new eBook out about arranging electronic music. I’ve read it and it’s very good. Check it out.

In my recently released eBook, “Electronic Music Arrangement: How to Arrange Electronic Music,” I discuss a concept that I’ve labeled the “Trinity” of music arrangement — Energy, Tension, and Emotion.Continue Reading

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How to Express Yourself

This is a guest post by Zac Citron of  www.zenchamusic.com. I recently hooked up with him and quickly realized we share a lot of similar views about music production. This post is about how to express yourself and discover your own sound. Check out his website for more.

YouTube user stefanhyltoft recently responded to one of my videos asking why I made certain compositional decisions.

Why did I use those chords — what was I thinking when I wrote that section. Etc.

I spent some time reflecting on it. While I do remember some of the specific reasons, they don’t underlie the fundamental principle that I was following.

This principle is so obvious. It is so apparent. And unfortunately, this causes people to gloss over it (both deliveree and deliverer).

What’s the tip?

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Resources

One of the most common requests I get is to talk about which plugins, sample packs, books, websites, tools and so on I like to use in my craft. To answer your call, I have created this page. It lists the things I use and love the most. I have also included comments for each resource on why I like it/how I am using it. I’ll be adding more here so you may want to bookmark this page and visit every now and then.

Disclosure: Please be aware that I am affiliated with some (not all) of the companies and products mentioned on this page. Please understand I only recommend things I use myself and find helpful in my craft. Don’t invest in anything unless you are sure it’s what you really need!


 

Plugins

Here is a list of my most beloved go-to plugins. No fluff – I use these guys all the time.

  • FabFilter Pro-Q 2: The best EQ plugin around. I love it.
  • Sonnox Oxford Inflator: Simply put, the Inflator makes things sound louder and more powerful while maintaining headroom. I also like to push it hard sometimes which gives you saturation. Great, great tool – use with moderation though. Note: requires iLok.
  • iZotope Ozone 5: I use this for DIY mastering on almost every track I make. I also sometimes use it inside the mix for processing stereo image, multiband compression and harmonic distortion. Incredibly cheap for what it offers too – great value for money.
  • iZotope Trash 2: A brilliant distortion/sound mangling tool. This is one of those plugins that you can use to transform a sound to something completely different. Also works for subtle coloring though. I love the built in convolution feature.
  • Waves Element: One of the best sounding soft synths I’ve come across. I love the deep analogue-like smoothness, nice clean interface and vast preset library (614 presets!).
  • Waves L2 Ultramaximizer: A classic limiter plugin. It gets used on pretty much every track I make. I tend not to use it on the master, but mainly to push drums and catch overly peaking transients. It adds some of it’s own character to drums which I like.
  • Waves Platium Bundle: If you are looking to get a solid plugin bundle with a versatile range of quality plugins, this is a great choice. Over 40 plugins – loads of time-tested classics. Some of my favorites are the L2, S1, MaxxBass, C4, Metaflanger, UltraPitch and Enigma. Great bang for buck.
  • TDR VOS SlickEQ: My go-to EQ for standard coloring/balancing work inside the mix. State of the art sound quality and user interface. It is also free! Go grab it.
  • Brainworx BX_Digital V2: A great mastering processor, which I also use in the mix. I love the mid/side processing and the way you can isolate each Mid or Side band and listen/adjust separately. The low end mono maker I also use a lot.
  • ProAudioDSP DSM V2: The dynamic spectrum mapper is the brainchild of Paul Frindle (the legend behind SSL G-series, Oxford plugins, etc). It’s one of those rare plugins that seem to possess magical powers.
  • SoundToys EchoBoy: The best sounding and most versatile delay processor I’ve come across. Produces deep, rich echoes and has loads of different modes to play around with. Tons of good presets too. I use it on every track. Note: requires iLok.
  • SoundToys FilterFreak: A great filter plugin, which I also use for saturation (it sounds great when you push the input gain, and you can choose between different saturation modes). I especially like what it does to bass. Fat and deep. Note: requires iLok.
  • Sample Magic Magic AB: This plugin is a game changer when it comes to referencing. And if you’re serious about your music you are serious about referencing.
  • SPL DrumXchanger: Really nice trigger plugin for layering and fine-tuning drums. Love the interface.
  • Camel Audio CamelPhat: A classic distortion/filter plugin which I use a lot. I love the random button and the many different filter types sound great.
  • Wavesfactory Trackspacer: Trackspacer is an innovative EQ plugin that uses sidechain to listen to a source signal and apply EQ cut to those frequencies in your target signal in real time. Note: Ableton Live’s sidechaining structure doesn’t work very well with this plugin. I can confirm it works great in Logic and Pro Tool – it’s a golden plugin and I think adaptive plugins like these are the future of mixing.
  • Voxengo SPAN: A free spectrum analyzer, loudness meter and phase correlation meter. I use this all the time. Indispensable.
  • Flux Bittersweet V3: A free transient designer plugin. Extremely useful for making your drums smack.

 


 

Equipment

  • Adam Audio A77X monitor speakers: I’ve been using Adam speakers for years and these are the ones I am on currently. I love the bass on these guys – I don’t need a separate subwoofer.
  • Native Instruments Maschine: Maschine has been a starting point for most of the tracks I’ve been making in the past couple of years. I have the MK2 model. I also use it as a MIDI controller in Ableton Live.
  • Macbook Pro: Since I switched from PC to Mac, my computer problems have stopped almost entirely. I’m happy to pay a little more for the peace of mind I get. I have the 2010 17″ version (i7 2.66Ghz / 8GB RAM).

 


 

Software

  • Ableton Live: A great DAW for making and performing electronic music. Sets you up for creative experimentation, which I love.
  • Avid Pro Tools: I use Pro Tools for final editing and mixing of my tracks. Super solid, precise and professional. Enables me to make my music sound exactly the way I want it. Note: Requires iLok.
  • Clean My Mac: This beautiful program helps to keep my computer in check.
  • Gemini: I always get lots of duplicates on my HD and iTunes library. Gemini searches from them and lets me get rid of what isn’t needed. Very cool.

 


 

Sound Libraries

  • Wave Alchemy Complete Drums: This is THE drum sound library for me. A vast collection of pristinely recorded drum sounds. Ever since I started using these sounds the quality of my mixes went up a notch. I got to hand it out to Wave Alchemy – they really know what they’re doing. Check out the rest of their packs too, they’re all great.
  • Loopmasters Designer Dance FX: This is a pack I draw for when in need of good transition FX. Great risers, effected cymbal hits, etc. Very useful and includes loads of sounds.

 


 

 

Online Services

  • Backblaze: Unlimited and cheap data backup. I researched a lot of automatic backup services before settling down on this one – its great – no more worrying about backups.
  • Wetransfer: The best service for transferring large files (such as project files, stems and mixdowns). It’s free for files up to 2GB. It’s very streamlined and you get a notificiation when the recipient has downloaded your file. Also great for sending out demos.
  • Dropbox: Great for sharing folders to collaborate with other people. 2 GB free space.
  • Google Drive: Another option for sharing folders (also great when you run out of space on Dropbox). 5 GB free space.
  • Lightning Base Managed WordPress Hosting: If you run a WordPress blog, this is the hosting I recommend. They specialize on WordPress so they know how to make things fast and secure. Their customer service is also super helpful and fast.
  • Genesis Framework: The WordPress framework I use for this site. Secure, clean, fast, SEO optimized, mobile responsive and always up to date.

 


 

 

Productivity Tools

  • Doit.im: The task management/time planning app I use. It’s based on GTD, but I have my own (more simple) way of using it, so I don’t use all the features. I love the fact that it’s quick to use, truly cross-platform and syncs both ways with Google calendar.
  • Evernote: I use Evernote to make note of ideas and archive all kinds of non-task things I need to remember.
  • Sunrise Calendar: A great cross platform calendar app (uses Google Calendar).

 


 

 

Websites

  • Gearslutz: I go to this forum a lot especially to look for information and user experiences on different equipment and software. Invaluable resource of information.
  • We Spin: Music marketing education for electronic artists. Being a member of We Spin has taught me a lot about what it takes to become a successful artist in todays crowded music world.
  • Pensado’s Place: Dave Pensado is a mixing engineer behind loads of Billboard artists: Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson, Mariah Carey, Elton John, Michael Jackson just to mention a few. He is one of the nicest guys in the industry and likes to share what he knows. I have learned so much from watching his shows and am eternally grateful for his work.
  • Zen Habits: Solutions and advice for simplifying and living a more meaningful life – always a source of inspiration.
  • Zencha Music: My buddy Zac’s blog – it’s great, check it out. By the way, Zac also writes for Computer Music.
  • Thomann: I have been buying all my music things from this store for about 15 years now. No fails, great selection, good guarantees, always great prices and service.

 


 

Articles

Here are some extremely useful articles that I keep coming back to again and again.

 


 

Books

I like to read. It keeps my mind active and sparks new ideas and inspiration. Here are some of my favorite books.