Spread and duck the delay

Dance music – and all its subgenres – require heavy imaging and wide-spread delays, all sorts of ambiences and reverb washes, and usually the stereo image can get a bit too crowded with every delay being totally in sync, up to the point where delay taps start disappearing. Sometimes a mono delay would be just fine and enough for a certain track. Though simple, it’s still very effective if you use a few tricks to give it some depth or width (but not too much, keep Logic’s Direction Mixer handy).

Just start with a sound and its delay on a send (in this case, Bus 4): delay1. It’s what you were after, feedback fading just before the next line etc, but something’s missing: it has no depth and changing the motif causes dissonance, although it’s not too severe. However, no matter how pleasant it may sound, it definitely should be altered, just a bit.

Enter Sample Delay. Instanciate a Sample Delay after the send’s Tape Delay. Move the other channel away from the other by just, say 240-530 samples and remember to check the mono compatibility by pressing “sum” or “mono” on your listening device or monitor switch. It would be sad to lose a few notes by phase cancellation. Now that delay is a bit more lively, yet still relatively modest and doesn’t bounce all over the place like Stereo Delay would. Demo: delay2. It’s still a bit dissonant from the bar 3 onwards, but we’ll take care of that a little bit later.

That “little bit later” meaning “now”. Add Compressor after Tape Delay and Sample Delay. I prefer the ClassA or Optical settings due to their behaviour and like to punch the signal with its own send connected to Compressor’s side chain (i.e. if send 4 (Bus 4) is going into delay-compressor, set compressor’s side chain to Bus 4 as well). This way it’s easy to avoid “overlapping” motives and dissonant arpeggios with a self-automated ducking delay. Demo: delay3. The level of the send is intact, but the send ducks everytime there’s something going on in the appropriate bus (Bus 4 in this case). Logic’s busses and sidechaining are t3h suck! 🙂 Just play with the attack/release controls and let the signal duck for about 6 dB, depending on your taste. If you happen to prefer dirt and grittiness, put your Compressor’s output distortion (click that triangle) into use. “Soft” is pretty much everything you will ever need.

To play more with the idea, replace the Sample Delay with a Stereo Spreader. This way, your delay pans depending on its frequency content. I think you want to slide the Lower Freq. and Upper Freq. controls closer to the necessary frequencies – I mean, why bother with something under 100 Hz if there’s not one bleep. Demo: delay4. You could, of course, use any modulation effect as well, my favorites being Ensemble (with two voices and full random modulation), AVerb and Ringshifter. The latter is exceptionally effective with its envelope follower: delay6. I used quite modest settings here, so that only the first repeat of Tape Delay is effected, after which Ringshifter’s envelope follower slows the movement down. Actually, I’m quite keen on frequency shifters. I’ve got a Bode-style freq shifter in my analog modular and I constantly use a few patches I’ve made for Nord G2X and Kyma, both of which utilise both compressors and frequency shifters. There’s just that extra sizzling, moving something you cannot describe any better.

The last trick is to use an AVerb, probably the most underestimated and undervalued plugin ever made. Using that in a send/insert chain with “unprofessional” settings – as I was once told by an older engineer – just smears the delay taps beautifully. I don’t, however, suggest anyone use that with percussion loops, the attacks are gone. I used to like to insert that into a vocal send, after any delay – I’m a fan of tape delays (both modeled and real), and that smearing effect is actually quite nice. If you add some “flutter” to Tape Delay and pump its out distortion to +20dB, raise the HPF and lower significantly the LPF, remember to insert a self-ducking Compressor to that particular send, crank the levels and – yep, you got the idea. Demo: delay5.

One thing: never let the signal spread too wide, it’s no use to use these tricks if everything is wide left and right. Most of the mix-in-a-box tracks I’ve heard lately suffer from incredibly wide pans, like people had only three positions in their virtual “mixers”: L, C and R. Use that Direction Mixer, dammit.

Summary: the order of the send’s inserts.

Logic Pro 8 files (put into ~/Library/Application Support/Logic/Channel Strip Settings/Bus): download here (Ringshifter delay send and AVerb delay send).

Drum replacement (sort of)

I just recently saw a movie of Depeche Mode working in a studio, getting strange drum sounds with a speaker attached to the drum sticks placed onto a floor tom with just about every nickel and dime on the drum head as well. Nice job, reminds me of my youth and the years being an adventurous engineer. It was quite common back then to plug a cable into 808’s snare or kick output and do similar tricks with speakers placed onto drumheads, and then remiking them.

It can be done without a terrible mess, just with Logic Pro and several samples – if you ever need to. Just put your kick and snare, for example, on different tracks. Demo: loop, then place Channel EQ in the first insert, put a Space Designer in the second – do this for both snare and kick. Then open the Space Designer and click on the right side of the IR Sample text. A menu pops up. On the “snare” track, load your favorite snare sample as an IR, then repeat the procedure on the kick track’s Space Designer. You’ll probably have to adjust the EQ of the raw sounds before getting appropriate effect on the convolution, but once in place, you’ll be able to do quite fancy tricks with just replacing the IRs used in the Space Designers. And who says they have to be track inserts? You could use rhythmic loops in the sends with some heavier processing as well. Demo: just_kick_thru_loop. This could be done in the MainStage as well, if you’re adventurous enough and willing to risk your credibility playing “live loops”, with a metronome clicking at a deafening volume.

With some noodling, your dry loop can be turned into something else with automation. Demo: loop_fx “Oh wow”, I hear you say. 😀

Seriously, you’re probably disappointed by now, but isn’t it wonderful to have a convolution fx processor in your computer? It’s anxiously waiting for abusing and mistreating. If Apple manages to create a polyphonic convolution player with dynamic tracking, we’d have a baby Neuron inside Logic. Now think about THAT.

Churchbells revisited

Ok. I got a Hartmann Neuron a while ago, after a looong search (thanks, DG, for that). Since its ModelMaker software is PowerPC-processor only, I had to grab my trusty old Powerbook to take care of the model making. I had kept the Powerbook quite tidy, and I deleted all unnecessary bits and pieces and de-fragmented its hard drive before archiving it. However, it was quite a pleasant surprise to notice it still had an old MetaSynth app on the hard disk (thanks, Mr. Pajanen, for selling me that back in the jurassic age). Now, that piece of software is probably the only thing older than my stint with Logic. Talk about ancient, computer-literally. Whoa, dude, a double trap: Neuron and Metasynth. That’s going to eat all my leisure time and cozy home evenings.

Which they surely did. I’m currently after bell sounds and had found a lovely churchbell sample from a diskette belonging to my Korg DSS-1. I have practically NO idea where I got it from, but just to avoid possible copyright issues, I had to edit it beyond recognition – the only way to “clear” samples without clearing them is to mangle them into something entirely new. That mangling being something else than just closing the filter…

I transferred the DSSCBell sample to MetaSynth, analyzed it, and got the picture attached here as a result. I know, it’s cropped, but almost everything else was just black and I didn’t want to fill this article with black. The original sample suffered from bad looping and artifacts in the background (someone, probably myself, had stepped on a glass shard in the ground, for example), and since the bells were obviously recorded from a distance, there was quite a lot going on. And as I wanted the original tone of bells, with original attack transient AND longer body, it needed to be lengthened… Right. Ok, it was already in the picture form, with enough harmonic and enharmonic info included. And all the noise as well. What next? Enter certain photomangling software, which came in free with a scanner back in when granny had teeth. I had to keep the transient, since the sound had to be recognizable, so just scaling the x-axis wasn’t an option. Copy, paste, erase the beginning with a soft rubber, switch on the original picture, rubber off everything after the transient, combine. Remove everything else not needed, including the stepping on the glass shard. It seemed ok, and could confirm that after I imported the PICT file back to MetaSynth.

PICT after editing:

Now, what to do with looping? Audiofile Engineering has a lovely tool, called Loop Editor – a VERY cheap piece of software – which has been a tool I couldn’t live without. Though its crossfade looping can be quirky at times, causing bumps if used blindly and not appreciating loop ends and beginnings and zero crossings, it is also a magnificent time saver when the loop kicks in. If there ever was a basic tool for sound designers that should be very high in the purchase list, it’s Loop Editor.

Audible result: longbells1, please note that this is not the looped version. With some Neuron treatment – goodness gracious me, what a sound!

Hobbies you have to have.

I’ve got a skeleton in a closet. I usually keep it there firmly, with its door locked, but sometimes the stench of it makes me go nerdee. The results are usually time-consuming Reaktor or Kyma noodlings – but sometimes something fruity comes out. Meet Revautin:

The name is actually in Finnish, but VERY difficult to translate, due to its quibble nature. If I’d try, it should be something like Pussiator (as in, well, kitten). It’s a Reaktor FX vocal doubler, and it uses a randomly modulated diffusion module with very short delay times to gain a “cloud” of vocals. Quite an unnatural sound, I have to admit, but it surely does its job 100%. Silky smooth, eerie, works very well with female vocals and higher male falsetto.

Haven’t tried that with ganstas, yet. I assume they’d be amazed at the silky pussiness produced by it.

The other one is called Turilaattori, which is midi controlled delay. Nothing fancy here, except that every parameter is controlled by envelopes – which, in turn, are triggered by six different midi keys. You can control its feedback with infinite sustain, or whatever, depending on the ADSR settings.

However, since I’ve got my hands full, they’re both “in the making” and filled with bugs I’m trying to hone out even as I write this. I’ll be adding a tempo sync to the ADSRs as well, maybe. These were purely for personal use and I found out during the making of Trancelations that Revautin was incredibly cool on solo cello and small sections as well. Violas were singing, literally.