Studio Tips & Tricks :: ‘Samples’ by Dutty Artz

04.05.10-shadetek-digital-ergonomics-production-tips-pt1

















DIGITAL ERGONOMICS 1: SAMPLES

Continuing from my first two articles on the theme of producing efficiently, in this piece I’m going to talk about setting up your digital work environment.  Since people started getting carpal tunnel syndrome from sitting at computers, attention to physical ergonomics (chairs, desks etc) has gone way up.  I’m not going to talk about that here.  Suffice it to say that if you can get everything cabled up all the time, within reasonable reach from where you sit, and are not in pain after working for a few hours, you are doing well.  Instead, I’m going to talk about how to get the most out of your digital work environment.

I use Logic, and teach it here at Dubspot, so I will use a few examples from the program, but will also try to keep this as open-ended and general as possible so you can apply it to whatever programs you work with.  In electronic music production, one of the main things that we spend a lot of time thinking about and working on are sounds: getting your sounds organized and under control can be a great way to improve your productivity.

One area where I have struggled in the past is with drum samples.  I have a lot of them.  When I’m starting a track its usually morning, I’ve just drank a big cup of super strong coffee, and I’m ready to GO: I am NOT in painstaking crafting mode.  I want to get the basics up quick so I can get into whatever part of the track I feel excited about.  I absolutely do not want to start looking through my library of a million kick drums to find the perfect one.  What I’ve done to deal with this is I’ve created a map in the EXS24, the built in Logic sampler, with 128 pre-selected kicks that I know I like.  To do this, I took a day and went through ALL of my drum samples, I picked out samples that might be useful, and put them in separate folders.  I then took those folders and built them into maps by type so I have maps for kicks, snares, claps, hats, percussion, effects, etc.  This means that when I’m rushing to get my track started I just pull up my map, poke around on my MIDI controller, find a hit I like, and lay a pattern with it.  Having done this pre-selecting stage of picking out a set of 128 kicks that I already like, I can be sure to find something at least close to what I’m thinking.  Later I will go back and tweak the EQ, compress, maybe layer in another sample to add some texture it’s missing or maybe replace it all together.  The point is, I did not have to stop and think.  I just pulled up my go-to map, lay in a kick pattern, and kept moving.

By taking time to pre-select and set up some sounds you are preparing yourself for when inspiration strikes.  Great times to do this set up work: when you are setting up a new workstation, feeling un-inspired, hungover, or otherwise should be making music but aren’t for whatever reason.  Dubstep producer Rusko takes this one step further, and actually sits and crafts whole drum tracks and saves them for later so that when inspiration strikes he can focus on what excites him, in his case, bass and melodies.  This works best if you are usually working at or near one tempo, in his case 140 bpm, and usually in a similar stylistic ballpark.  For me, since I tend to jump around tempos and styles a bit, I try to focus on having some nice customized drum and synth sounds ready to go, rather than whole pre-fabricated beats.

Logic has a great feature called Channel Strip settings, with which you can take a complete sound with it’s synthesizer or sampler, along with all it’s effects and plugins, give it a name, and save it.  I take these, and organize them into folders in a dropdown menu based on uses, so I have ‘drums with processing, basses, melodic’ and so on as folders full of my own pre-setup sounds.  There are also usually sounds that I like from one of my past tracks, and decided to save for future re-use.  I use channel strips to go one step further than selecting samples, thus saving some compression and EQ right there with my sample map.  With kicks I usually have some moderate compression and a 3dB EQ boost around 200hz.  This helps me because the sound will come right up with some punch and body, so I can start feeling it right away and be inspired and motivated to keep going.  A lot of people say, ‘oh just throw in any sound and change it later,’ with which on some level I agree, but it’s also important to have your sound SOMEWHAT close to where it’ll end up so that you can hear where the track is going.  This I usually find inspires and motivates me to go continue and finish songs.

3
  • EL NOU MON
  • 4/7/2010

I am really into these columns, bro. Keep up the good work!

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[...] One area where I have struggled in the past is with drum samples.  I have a lot of them.  When I’m starting a track its usually morning, I’ve just drank a big cup of super strong coffee, and I’m ready to GO: I am NOT in painstaking crafting mode.  I want to get the basics up quick so I can get into whatever part of the track I feel excited about.  I absolutely do not want to start looking through my library of a million kick drums to find the perfect one.  What I’ve done to deal with this is I’ve created a map in the EXS24, the built in Logic sampler, with 128 pre-selected kicks that I know I like. [READ FULL ARTICLE HERE] [...]

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