Producers Are the New Stars: NY Times

chainsmokers

As we have been saying for some time now, producers are the new stars. Typically using programs like Ableton in addition to a gamut of instruments, musicians can now make their own music–sometimes even on an airplane–so imagine our surprise when this Tweet came across from the New York Times:

As they explain here:

No longer relegated to the liner notes, digital composers in the genres of electronic dance music and hip-hop — both now firmly ensconced at pop music’s center — often take top billing on their tracks, even if the featured guest is Justin Bieber.

So even in this moment of dominant solo idols — Beyoncé, Drake, Rihanna — there exists a less instantly recognizable realm of rising studio superstars that have leapt from the depths of SoundCloud or the E.D.M. heap into the upper echelon of influence, dominating radio play and landing high-profile festival appearances.

Click through to read the process behind some of today’s biggest hits from Clams Casino, the Chainsmokers, and Make It New alum Flume.

Although Ableton goes unmentioned, we can assure you Ableton is the preferred instrument of choice for these acclaimed acts.

This isn’t the first time Ableton appeared in the New York Times.

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Mmmmaven Alumni Rubix DJs at FORM Arcosanti

Rubix the DJ
Right before our week long festival, Together, kicked off on Sunday May 15th, FORM Arcosanti was in full swing over in Central Arizona, complete with a Mmmmaven alumnus behind the decks. Yep, one of our former students, the fantastic DJ Rubix, got a chance to show off his stuff to festival attendees and performers at a pool party event Sunday afternoon, and even got a mention in the THUMP review of the festival.

Arcosanti landscape
As THUMP explains in their feature, the festival aims to change festival culture by creating a more intimate and fulfilling experience for attendees and artists alike. The idea was inspired by Hundred Waters’ experiences with touring the world playing at festivals, and is achieved in part by careful curation of both the talent and the attendees.

Hundred Waters’ focus on careful curation even extends to the festival’s audience. Attendance at the festival is free, but would-be festival-goers have to fill out an application for admission

For the attendees, that means they must fill out an application and be accepted, in order to tailor crowds to people of the right mindset. While it may sound restrictive, this is the first year that this policy has resulted in any major culling of applicants, and on top of that those selected get completely free admission. A small number of “patron” status tickets were sold, with an array of VIP perks for those willing to shell out the cash.

arcosantidome
On the talent side, the festival boasts a pretty diverse lineup of artists. As THUMP reports:

Drawing on the band’s network of musician and label-owner friends, the festival’s lineup, while diverse, seemed to nonetheless prioritize artists who fit a specific tone, favoring combined electronic and acoustic elements, strong melodies, and moderate experimentation.

While DJ Rubix wasn’t featured on the main lineup, he got a chance to perform at one of several surprise events and art installations. He also got an up close and personal look at some of the performances, getting to dap up headliner Skrillex a couple times during his Friday night set.

A great opportunity for a young DJ to show off his stuff and get noticed! You can find DJ Rubix on Facebook, Soundcloud, and Twitter, make sure to show some love for a young Boston artist!

Want to follow in Rubix’s footsteps? Make sure to check out our DJ program! Contact us to sign up for a free lesson!

5 Amazing Musicians Using Ableton Live

Skrillex Diplo Bieber Where are u now
Technology has had a radical impact on the way we make music today, taking the focus away from big recording studios with hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment in favor of a 13-in Macbook Pro loaded with the right software. Rising hip-hop producer Mr. Carmack sums it up perfectly with this tweet:


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Most recording studios today run a software called Pro Tools, a powerful program that is great for classic recording, mixing, and mastering jobs, but falls a little short when it comes to the demands of today’s musicians. Enter Ableton Live, one of the younger DAWs in the game, which has already garnered a huge following among musicians for its quick workflow, powerful features, and live performance mode. To help shed some more light on the Ableton-craze, we’ve picked out 5 amazing producers doing groundbreaking work

Diplo

Diplo‘s work in the dance music world is all over the place, from his solo work, to collaborations with Skrillex as power-duo Jack Ü, and Switch as the group Major Lazer, not to mention heading up indie label Mad Decent. His productions first started gaining notoriety in 2007 after he produced “Paper Planes” for MIA, but since then he’s had numerous hits, most notably 2015’s “Where Are U Now“, a collaboration between Jack Ü and Justin Bieber, and “Lean On“, the lead single off of Major Lazer’s Peace is the Mission. Diplo Nytimes

It’s a real writer’s program. One good thing about not reading any manuals or anything is that you’ve gotta play all day with it. I just like to DJ and scratch shit up. I love making straight-up 8-bit, nasty Nintendo sounds.

Henrik Schwarz

Also a DJ, producer, and remixer, among a slew of other things, Henrik Schwarz has been making beats and rocking dance floors since 2002. He has also branched outside of the techno world to collaborate with famous pianist Bugge Wesseltoft for an album, Duo, and live performance that saw them grace the stage of Jazz Festivals and Concert Halls around the world.

Schwarz Wesseltoft
Henrik uses Ableton for both production and performance, though sometimes there is little difference between the two for him, and he relies heavily on software for all of his work. He’s even built a Max For Live plugin, the Schwarzonator, to help him stay in key. Be sure to catch him at this year’s Together Boston Festival!

Flying Lotus

A legend of the LA Beats scene, FlyLo might once have been seen as the second coming of Dilla, but his wild and exploratory concept albums have proven that he has his own unique character to bring to the jazz, hip-hop, and electronic music worlds. His genre-traversing music has earned him the praise of musicians like Herbie Hancock, and has helped to push the Low End Theory to international recognition. On the topic of Ableton he has this to say:

I’ve also just really fallen in love with making music again. It feels so new to me, especially because I switched to using Ableton. I feel like I’m finally in a position where I can make things almost as fast as I want to; I can move really quickly, and it’s really inspiring.

Flying Lotus Performing

Giraffage

Not too far from Flying Lotus, Giraffage grew up in the San Francisco Bay area making bootleg remixes in his bedroom, but his personal project blew up after two self-released albums. He now lives the bedroom producers dream, releasing music on Fool’s Gold and Dim Mak, and playing festivals worldwide (including this year’s Together!). He uses Ableton for both production and performance, as you can see in this video of him performing his track “Moments” while in the car:

I’d say probably 90% of the melodies that I do write have started out as just me jamming around, and then after the fact I go in and mess with the MIDI notes inside of Live. I sometimes spend way too much time just jamming out though.

Giraffage Live

Skrillex

Yes, the Almighty US Dubstep Titan uses Ableton exclusively. Skrillex grew up in Northeast LA and rose to fame as the lead singer for post-hardcore band From First To Last, before leaving to eventually drop his Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites EP that would kickstart his astronomical DJ career. He is known to use Operator, Ableton’s FM synth, for some of his characteristic monster bass sounds, as well as Native Instruments’ Massive and FM8.

Ableton's Operator Synth
Ableton Live’s Operator uses a combination of FM, Additive, and Subtractive synthesis

His setup consists of a Macbook Pro running Ableton Live and a few VSTs, two KRK monitors, a Focusrite Saffire interface, and an Alesis Midi controller. In addition to praising Live for its synths, he’s also said that its workflow is incredibly intuitive:

“I think, for laptop producers especially, it’s just so intuitive in the box. Everything is laid out and you don’t have to go searching for things like automation or plug-in parameters – in fact, all the things that are really hard to do in other DAWs. Ableton’s just very fluid and quick.”

And for anyone wondering how he does those incredible vocal chops…

I use Melodyne for formant stuff and basic pitch, but then I’ll print a whole line of audio. To be honest, for all my detailed cuts, chops and actual lines I’ll just basically take my vocal or someone else’s and process it through Melodyne in a certain way. All the stylistic treatments I do then all come from audio slicing and transposing in Live.

Skrillex

The reasons all these incredible musicians use Ableton, are the same reasons why we teach it in our music production program! Watch some of our tutorials made by our talented instructors on our Youtube channel, then come by the studio for a tour! Contact us to schedule an appointment.

Ableton Tip: Creating Easy Bass Wobbles

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Wub wub wub. Everyone recognizes that deep, low, rumbling sub-sound that we all love and feel in our chest when we blast music through speakers. 

Artists like Pretty Lights, Skream, and Skrillex have all mastered the technique of bass wobbling to create movement in their tracks, and contrary to popular belief, it is actual a very easy thing to do.

This can be done effectively in Simpler, one of Ableton’s sampling instruments. Open up Live and load Simpler onto an empty MIDI track. The default settings should look like the ones below.

Default Simpler

Next, find a bass sample that you’d like to use. I have a nice bass sound that has a lot of grit and sub. Currently, it has no processing on it, so what you’ll hear below is the raw sample.

 

Turn on the two filters, one in the bottom left corner and one between Volume and Pitch. You’ll know that they are turned on when they are highlighted in yellow, verses greyed out when they are off. You’ll also need to turn on the LFO. Your settings should look similar to the ones below.

Simpler - Turned on

First thing we’re going to do is raise the LFO to 24. LFO stands for low-frequency oscillation, and its a very effective way to modulate  synthesizers and samples to create pulses and sweeps. We’ll also be altering the envelope (abbreviated “ENV”), which is the change in intensity of a sound over time, setting it to -72. This is what the bass sounds like after processing thus far.

 

You should be able to notice a slight delay in the opening of the sound, which is caused by the envelop that we just adjusted. Next, we’re going to change the LFO rate from Hz to Beats by clicking the little music note. Underneath Beats you’ll see that the LFO default is programmed for 1/16. This is what your Simpler should look like so far.

Simpler - LFO and Envelope On

Next, I’m going to turn the Resonance (abbreviated “Res”) all the way down to 0, change the Beats to 1/8, and turn the frequency down 2.50 kHz. This is the result.

 

As you can hear, we have a nice wobble sound! The filter is currently set to a low-pass filter (LP) but you can easily change the filter to a high-pass (HP) or band-pass (BP) filter, based on what frequencies you would like to remove. You can also play around with the frequency in each filter setting to achieve a desired result. Increasing or decreasing the LFO rate will change how fast or how slow your sound wobbles. Logically, 1/64 will be very fast, and alternatively, 1/4 will be much slower. Genres like Trap and Dubstep, which are usually composed in half-time, usually utilize lower oscillation rates, such as 1/4, 1/8, and 1/16, but these are by no means limitations and concrete rules. The modulation rate is contingent upon the goals of the producer and the nature of the track, so it is important to not restrict yourself and always abide by these guidelines.

Additionally, you can tweak the envelope and type of sound wave to your taste. Right now the sample is set to a sine wave, which gives it a nice, flowing wobble sound, but its worth playing around and experimenting with other waves types as well, such a square, triangle, and saw waves.

Sine Wave Setting Square Wave Setting Triangle Wave Setting Saw Wave Setting

Square waves will give the sound a bit more chop and triangle waves (the /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\ in Mmmmmaven!) will sound similar to sine waves except a bit more aggressive. Finally, saw waves will give the sound a more raw, metallic texture. You can listen to each one below, and for further understanding, check out this great article that explains each wave’s properties in more detail.

Square Wave

 

Triangle Wave

 

Saw Wave

 

In order to demonstrate how the wobble can be changed over time to achieve a nice groove for a track, I created a simple dubstep drum pattern and automated the LFO of the bassline to change over the duration of the loop. This can easily be done in Live’s arrangement view by clicking on the down arrow, selecting the instrument you desire (in this case Simpler, which I have renamed “BASS”), and then selecting “LFO Synced Rate” and automating it to your taste. The bass is set to a sine wave and the tempo is set to 145 bpm. I also threw on a simple compressor to sidechain the bassline so that it doesn’t conflict with the kick, while simultaneously giving it a nice sucking sound. You can see the settings for the loop and also have a listen below.

LFO Automation

Don’t be afraid to play around with the different types of waves, filters, frequencies, and LFO rates. You can also further customize your basslines through other ways like adding distortion or automating filters to fit the sounds you have in your head. Get creative!

Interested in learning more about music production? Email me today!