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In this tutorial, I'll show you how to make an experimental loop, based on urban field recordings. The chosen DAW is Ableton Suite 9, and the standard Ableton FX plugins were used. These recordings have a lot of noise, so I'll also show you how to deal with it.
We're going to make this loop.
1. What You'll Need
I used an ultra cheap (about $65 dollars) Sony digital MP3 recorder, originally intended for recording interviews, and a small stereo microphone which was included in the recorder's package. I chose the places to record randomly—in the streets and parks of Budapest, Hungary—and visited them in the daytime, between 10:00am and 1:00pm.
The golden rule is to use the best quality recorder and microphone, but in my case (and in this context) I didn't think this would be a problem. For example, I can use sounds with a fast attack to color and mix with drums, or I can put longer sections in the background, just to add an organic feel to a track or music. (For this you can also use sidechain compression on the field recording track, triggered by the kick.)
Original Raw Tracks
Listen to the raw tracks which are used through this tutorial.
2. Creating the Tracks
Use a tempo of 120 BPM, and the high quality setting for the samples. Use an eight-bar loop for each channel. The imported field tracks are warped by default (beats mode), which I forgot to disable, but the quality of the main loop is decent enough to be useful.
Track 1: Knocks
I chose a small section of the whole recording—a knock sound—and inserted it into a track in the arrangement view. Then I placed it onto every quarter note. Every second instance is tuned to +3 semitones to give it some variance.
Use this effects chain:
- First, an auto filter set to 440Hz (with 24dB roll off)
- An EQ Eight with a 48dB roll off, and a high pass and low pass filter at 440Hz and 3kHz
- A limiter to catch any peaks.
Track 2: Bass Noise
For this track, I sliced the recording into tiny pieces using the standard Ableton Slice to new MIDI track in the Transient mode. Then I made a custom sequence with the notes, mostly deleting and positioning parts.
Use the same effects chain as for Track 1.
Track 3: Tuned
The track uses three sounds: the first is a mixed noise, and the last two are knocks, but with a different character to Track 1. I placed these directly to the timeline.
Use this effects chain:
- EQ Eight (same as the previous ones)
- Chorus (amount 1.33ms, rate 0.94Hz, feedback 24%, dry wet 24%)
- Simple Delay (both left and right channels in time mode, with 2ms and 10ms, dry/wet 100%)
- Reverb (decay 3.46s, dry/wet 29%, size 100, pre-delay 40.3ms).
The chorus and delay are used for stereo widening and a minimal modulation, which is handy for sounds with lots of harmonics. The reverb makes a bigger space for the sound. I want to give the impression that it's coming from the background.
Track 4: Noise Hats
As the heading suggests, I'm using this sound as short hi hats. I dropped the whole recording into an Ableton Simpler instrument, and modified the start and end points. Then I made a rhythm with a small MIDI clip.
Use this effects chain:
- Limiter to catch any peaks
- Auto filter at 1.32kHz to remove low end
- A Ping pong delay to widen the stereo image and add textures
- And finally, reverb to sound like a small room (decay 1.22s, dry wet 39%, size 1, pre delay 13.6ms).
For this loop we don't need anything fancy:
- A Spectrum
- A backup EQ Eight (with the mid/side part is rolled off with a high pass filter set to about 150Hz to keep the bottom end in mono)
- And a limiter, with 0dB gain and a -0.3dB ceiling to catch any peaks.
Handling Unwanted Noise
In urban field recordings, there's often a lot of disturbing background noise. The first weapon to deal with it is heavy filtering, which rolls off all the noise above or below a specific frequency. The second is EQ, which can decrease specific frequencies in a sound.
Slicing Field Recordings Before Use
I often make field recordings that are one hour or more in length. To help sort and discover interesting sounds, it's useful to get a program and slice the whole file into 5-10 second blocks.
In my case, I used mp3DirectCut which can cut MP3 files without recompressing.
In this session we have learned about making a loop using samples, either in the timeline way or with a sampler, and also about effects chains. These chains can differ as you may have other ideas or concepts. I encourage you to experiment a bit with your next project.
For a while there, Russia was practically silent. House and techno may have been global phenomenons by the 90s, but we heard precious little about it from the planet’s ninth most-populous nation. Recently, however, that’s begun to change. Alexey Kalik, who runs Udacha with his wife Oksana, can’t explain the quiet revolution. All he knows is, “three to four years ago, we had an absolutely different situation here.” At the time, there were no labels like Arma or Ethereal Sound, and artists Anton Zap were barely known outside the country. Now, though, having achieved a “certain level of self-expression,” Russians are finally beginning to attract international attention.
29-year-old Kalik, who produces under the moniker A5, is one of a number of artists and label owners helping to lift the lid from the native scene. “It’s difficult to say about the future,” he admits, “but I’m sure we will find a lot of new names.” Udacha, which means “luck” in Russian, has showcased a good number of them already, as well as cultivating an approachable and subtly unique brand of music. Its seven 12″s have been a tour de force fusion of house, jazz and good-natured synth weirdness. Udacha 5, for instance, is bookended by two slices of sharp jazz swagger, while the middle is dominated by Kurvenschreiber, a Russian trio who record their rambling, dream-like tracks live.
Oksana & Alexey Kalik
“[The label] is not strictly about jazz, or my love for jazz,” Kalik says. It’s a necessary comment, given how many of his signings throw cool bass or classic Rhodes keys into loose, improvised-sounding arrangements. This recurring theme, he says, reflects his high school years, where he played in a grunge band and spent his days listening to Nirvana. The jazz bent isn’t the aim in itself. He simply remains fascinated by the tangible feel of live (or live-sounding) instrumentation, and even has plans to put together an Elektro Guzzi-type project using drums, bass and piano. Exploring outside the boundaries of electronic music is important, he believes, because, “Everything affects everything. And this experience can help you make more distinctive music.”
It’s an attitude clearly reflected by the Moscow-based label, which dances quietly to its own beat, ignoring the current trend for lo-fi or retro-inspired productions. Its second record was almost the complete opposite, in fact, featuring Russian artist Bipolar Depth and an idyllic, future-gazing take on house. Even Udacha 4 by PJOTR, the straightest, most upbeat record in the catalog, carries this dreamy spirit with it. It’s surprising, given that the music is sourced from a mix of close friends, and strangers on SoundCloud. Maybe it’s like the famous Infinite Monkey Theorem; search long enough online, and you’ll eventually find music which suits your style, even if it’s the jazzy, elated form of house Udacha seems to be pioneering. Or at the very least, collecting all in one convenient place.
Once the music has been corralled, Kalik sits down with his wife and conducts a brainstorming session of sorts. From these come the ideas for Udacha’s stunning artwork, which she draws in pastel crayon. Like the music, the images themselves, such as a lighthouse, a hot air balloon floating over icy water, or a drum kit suspended in space — are seemingly disconnected, but their underlying style brings them all together. Naturally, Kalik’s podcast for Little White Earbuds performs a similar feat, collecting music from as far back as the ’60s, and mixing it with his label’s latest records via non-beatmatched fades and other unconventional devices. He doesn’t always program and mix this way, Kalik says. “I just wanted to record something which tells the weird story that I associate with our label.”
Download: Talking Shopcast 19: A5 (61:56)
01. The Funkees, “Akula Owu Onyeara” [Soundway]
02. Daphni, “Mapfumo” [Resista]
03. A5, “Whirligig” [Udacha*]
04. Mashine, “Trippin’ With Me” [Ethereal Sound]
05. Dices, “Confuse” [Udacha]
06. Ashes To Machines, “Resistance” [Leleka]
07. Dada Ques, “Outerealmer” [Udacha]
08. Trueman, “Odyssey Saga” [Udacha]
09. The Doors, “Light My Fire” [Elektra]
* denotes tracks which, as of the time of publishing, are unreleased
Gigs are nerve racking enough without technical failures and software breakdowns. If you want to have total confidence stepping on stage, then follow this basic pre-game procedure every time and I guarantee it will reduce your stress to a very manageable level. THE EVENT THAT INSPIRED THIS POST Last Thursday I played a one-hour short set to test the new Midi Fighter Twister sequencer. Unfortunately the first 40 minutes of the set sounded terrible with none of the synced effects or MIDI clock out running in time with the decks. A full system restart fixed the problem, but with only 10 minutes left in my set; the Twister never got a single minute of real play time. Of course, the frustrating thing was this issue could have been...