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Showing posts from October, 2012

Free up your CPU by Rendering

Rendering is a vital process if you ever want to listen to your music outside of your DAW.  It is also a higly useful tool - albeit one you should use carefully - for cutting down CPU usage in your DAW.  This article sheds a little bit of light on both uses. 

In this article I use the term 'track' to mean an individual item, such as an instrument, loop, or sample, sitting on it's own row in your DAW.  

Reasons to render number one: Listen to your tunes wherever you want

As you progress at music making, a good habit to get into is listening to your tunes outside of your DAW as well as inside it, so you can get a feel for how your tune might sound to other people.  Should you wish some day to upload your tunes to a site such as Bandcamp or Soundcloud, or give CD's to friends or fellow musicians, the quicker you appreciate just how different your music sounds in different formats, in different systems, in different acoustic environments, the quicker you will be able to mak…

Using Effects

Effects make all the difference to a tune.  Here's an overview of some of the most popular effects in modern music making.


A chorus effect is the making of one voice or instrument sound like many.  In the analogue days, this was done by engineers who would replay the same voice or instrument recorded on a tape over and over again, at slightly different speeds, making a new recording as they went.  Digital plug-ins emulate this effect, one of the most used production techniques.  This video by shows off how to make a chorus effect in Ableton, with a great example starting at 5:40.

Compression is another much used effect in today's beat making and music production.  One use of compression is to even out the volume of a track by making the loudest bits of a track quieter and the quietest bits louder.  Compression can also be used to 'reign in' frequencies to make a particular sound sit better in a mix.…

How to Make Better Drums

It all begins with the drums.  Whatever music you're creating, if you're drums don't hit, you haven't got a hit.  Here are some excellent video tutorials to help you out.  For more, check out Eddie Bazil's brilliant 'The Art of Drum Layering' in Reads.

Drum & Bass Beat Making with Parallel for Point Blank

DnB artist Parallel breaks down the drums on his track 'Future Shock' to Point Blank's Luke Hopper as part of their Friday Forum Live Series.  Like a lot of these tutorials the advice given is not restricted to one genre.  Well worth watching. 


Creating Dubstep Drums in Cubase

A nice little tutorial from the dubstep and drumstep duoDodge & Fuski.  Although its main focus is on creating dubstep drums in Cubase, it gives a good insight into the art of drum creation in general.




What is MIDI?

Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) enables musical hardware, such as keyboards and drum machines, to communicate with your computer.  Rather than playing actual sounds into a computer, MIDI plays 'messages' containing information like the note played and how long and hard it was played.  MIDI is also used to edit parameters and effects, such as filters. 

This is a great introduction to the world of MIDI.  For more, visit


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From musical ins…

Installing your DAW

When I first started out, I was so ignorant about PC audio issues that I didn't even know which driver my PC had.  This led to at least a day of me hitting play on REAPER's transport bar, wondering why I couldn't hear the metronome tick.
Even after I figured out which driver my PC had, through trial-and-error on REAPER'S preferences page, I didn't realise that using a driver like ASIO4ALL would help bypass the issue of latency.  If you have set up REAPER or another Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)  and have got as far as playing an instrument via your MIDI, but have an annoying delay (or 'lag') between you hitting the keys / pads and the sound coming out - that's latency.  The less latency = the smaller the delay.  There are other things you can do to reduce latency, but setting up the ASIO4ALL is probably the best way to begin.
'Audio Stream Input/Output (ASIO) is a computer sound card driver protocol for digital audio specified by Steinbe…

Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs)

So, you have ideas, you have a computer - what now?  This is where software Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) come in. 

DAWs allow you to do the following:
Play midi instruments and record tracksEdit sound files, samples, etcMix and render your tracks The Mixcraft series of DAWs is highly popular:
There are numerous DAWs to choose from, each with there own strengths and weaknesses.  Things to consider when trying and / or buying your first DAW include:
Initial cost and - if applicable - renewable license feesSpecification: does the DAW do everything you want it to do? Not every DAW does everything, so check that it does what you want it to do System requirements, is your computer powerful enough to run the DAW smoothly?Ease of use,  Plug - in compatibility: what third - party software will your DAW hostWhat - if any - instruments come with the softwareWhat type of music you intend to make. For example, should you be making heavy metal, the style and workflow of, say, Ab…

Free Piano VSTs: The Diary

In this post I describe some of my experiences of searching for VSTs that emulate pianos. 

I recommend a couple of very good software companies that I advise you check out for yourselves.  

I also share some of the difficulties I have faced whilst searching and offer solutions that I hope you find helpful. 

A freeware favourite: DSK
One of my favourite freeware manufacturers is DSK.I have used DSK’s free VST’s a lot over the past couple of years and I am usually really satisfied with the results.  They have a wide range of plugins that emulate both electronic and acoustic instruments to often good, sometimes great, degrees of success.This is something to be thankful for for two reasons: It is difficult to find an emulation that realistically replicates a ‘real’ instrumentWith DSK, you get a good rendition for free. DSK products I love and recommend trying out include: Overture – This is fantastic and probably my favourite plugin of theirs.  It contains so many rich, evocative and re…