Weekly Music Project - Song #17

April 30, 2014

While I toil away on a new website design for the Exit Signs home base, please enjoy this moody tune from a rain-soaked last week:

The weather here in the northwest has a funny way of playing tricks. Just when you fire up the grill and kick back in the hammock, the dark clouds roll in and unleash the fury of a mid-winter's rain storm. Such was the case last week, so I decided to take the opportunity to hide out in the basement studio and try out a few production ideas I had brewing in my head.

Firstly, a workflow that I've been wanting to use for ages but never fully conceptualized: Work out the skeleton of the song in Cubase, export a number of sounds and loops to be processed in Ableton Live, then bounce and import back into Cubase and slice up and arrange accordingly. Why go to this trouble, you ask? Live's interface lends itself to rapid sound design techniques with its flexible routing and grouping, effect racks, and resampling capabilities. While such things are also possible in Cubase, I find it simpler to handle this process externally and avoid muddying up my main project file with complex chains of effects and automation. With this dual-DAW workflow now figured out, it's time to make some noise.

I will first admit that the rainy week was accompanied by repeated listens of Ametsub's fine albums. It could be said that such careful listening be called my "homework", as I found myself studying this fine producer's techniques very closely. He is a master of fine glitchy percussion details that relentlessly baffle my ears, but I feel I'm on the right track towards the mastery of such sounds. So: I get a basic drum beat and Rhodes-esque melody worked out, and drop these sounds into Ableton to be stuttered and stretched into new forms. Two hours later, we emerge from a pool of granular soup ready to lay out these fine details in Cubase to compliment the main elements of the song.

I won't go into specifics this time around regarding which plug-ins were used for which parts, as I think this higher level overview of writing & arranging versus sound design is the key take away from this experiment. I very much look forward to using these techniques for all future productions, and can't wait to show off new ear-baffling sounds of my own.

Key equipment/software used for production:

- Tascam DR-2d digital recorder
- Ableton Live
- Inear Display/Glitchmachines Fragment, Oxymore effect plug-ins
- Amazing Noises Grip, Spectrum Runner M4L effects
- Boscomac Stellar Reaktor effect
- Lazysnake Rhodes plug-in
- Novation V-Station plug-in
- Audio Damage Axon drum plug-in
- iZotope BreakTweaker plug-in
- Native Instruments Maschine MKI
- ValhallaDSP ValhallaRoom plug-in

Key: D Major
BPM: 120
Time Signature: 3/4


A look at some sound design in Ableton Live:

And plenty of reverb and side-chain compressor automation in Cubase: