MusicTech.net http://www.musictech.net The World's Best Music Technology Website Wed, 25 May 2016 12:16:42 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 Dave Smith Instruments OB-6 Review: The OB one you are looking for… http://www.musictech.net/2016/05/dave-smith-instruments-ob-6-review/ Wed, 25 May 2016 11:55:21 +0000 http://www.musictech.net/?p=42500
Why have one synth icon produce an all-new synth for the 21st century, when you can take two into the lab to design something with twice the kudos? Why indeed? OB-6 is the result of this ultimate meeting of synth minds, so the pressure is on and it had better be good. Andy Jones tried […]

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Why have one synth icon produce an all-new synth for the 21st century, when you can take two into the lab to design something with twice the kudos? Why indeed? OB-6 is the result of this ultimate meeting of synth minds, so the pressure is on and it had better be good. Andy Jones tried it at NAMM and has been rubbing his hands waiting for it to arrive ever since…





Details
Price  $2,999 (£2,250 street in the UK)
Contact via website
Web www.davesmithinstruments.com




sbtb


So it turns out that being really excited about something can make one break the law. Okay, not in a ‘lock him up and throw away the key’ kind of way, but I was so excited when I heard about this synth that I actually broke into entered the NAMM show early to get pictures of it. Crazy, eh?

I risked everything for you, dear MusicTech readers. And OB-6 went on to be our product of that NAMM show back in January. The excitement caused by it was pretty much all down to the fact that it has not one, but two names on it: Dave Smith’s and Tom Oberheim’s. We love Dave Smith synths (I gave the Prophet-6 a full 10/10 just a few months ago) and we love Oberheim’s synths (I am the very happy owner of an SE SEM, too). This, then, is the synth equivalent of Bowie meeting Jagger.

No it’s better than that; it’s Bowie meeting Eno. Have I just put too much pressure on the resulting synth? Yep. Okay, it’s not quite that, but back in 1979, Stateside you were either a Sequential synth head or an Oberheim synth head. In 2016, you can be both…

So you get the point. And this kind of meeting is rare in our studio-gear world. You don’t get the likes of Korg and Roland hooking up to do stuff together over the weekend, so we just love the intro video that implies that these two pioneers met in a bar and came up with the idea for OB-6 on the back of a napkin (see pic on the right).

However, the meeting did occur, and the result is obviously intriguing, to say the least. The main headline is that it’s an Oberheim SEM synth reborn – with variable oscillators and filters built into a synth that very much has a DSI aesthetic, including some of the looks and indeed features found on the Prophet-6 (which allowed Tom and Dave to get the synth to market very quickly and secretively – hence the excitement at NAMM).




‘Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world…’ etc. When Tom Oberheim (left) met Dave Smith, they came up with the idea for OB-6 on the back of a napkin. Okay, that probably didn’t happen, as the promo video implies, but we love the idea…


There are also extra modulation features; effects which include models based on an Oberheim phase shifter and ring modulator; the arpeggiator and sequencer from the Prophet-6; likewise, the LFO and Aftertouch modulation sections; plus lots of other fancy bells and whistles that bring this analogue superstar collaboration right up to date.

But really, it’s the core of the beast that makes it special. I’ll now go into a lot of depth on this on page 2, then, but if you want to jump to the sonic action, head to page 3…

Click Here To Continue

Click Here For Conclusion


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Dave Smith Instruments OB-6 Review – Part Two http://www.musictech.net/2016/05/ob-6-review-two/ Wed, 25 May 2016 11:55:18 +0000 http://www.musictech.net/?p=42501
Andy Jones delves deep into Dave Smith Instruments somewhat phenomenal OB-6… DSI OB-6 Overview a) Variable Oscillators The heart of the synth, these offer variable waveforms for a huge sonic palette. Oscillator 2 can be used as an LFO and can be detuned. b) Mixer Dials for a simple four-part mixer for both oscillators and […]

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Andy Jones delves deep into Dave Smith Instruments somewhat phenomenal OB-6…




DSI OB-6 Overview






a) Variable Oscillators
The heart of the synth, these offer variable waveforms for a huge sonic palette. Oscillator 2 can be used as an LFO and can be detuned.

b) Mixer
Dials for a simple four-part mixer for both oscillators and noise source, plus a dial for the sub oscillator/square wave.

c) Filter
A 12dB/octave filter in four parts, again variable between low, notch and high-pass. A fourth band-pass option locks this dial out.

d) Envelopes
The OB-6 has two envelopes, one for the Filter and one for the Amp, to control attack, decay, sustain, release and amount of each over time.

e) Output Section
Simple controls for the volume of the program and main output, plus a Spread dial to control the amount of panning.

f) LFO Section
The first part of the modulation features is the LFO section: simple and effective modulation of oscillators, filter types, frequencies and more.

g) Aftertouch
Again, lifted from the Prophet-6, this allows you to easily assign destinations to aftertouch and is very easy to implement.

h) X-MOD
You get two extra modulation sources, but they can utilise all of the oscillator power for much more varied and evolving sounds.

i) Arpeggiator/Sequencer
Basic arpeggiation and sequencing is also included, as with the Prophet-6. Again, these are pretty easy to use.

j) Effects
Some of the effects are all new, including Oberheim models. Digital effects are standard, but bypassing them keeps the synth in a true analogue state.

OB-6 In-Depth
The OB-6 is inspired by the original Oberheim SEM and the heart of that effectively lies in the OB-6. It features two oscillators (plus sub) per voice, and one of the big draws of the synth is that the oscillators feature continuously variable waveshaping.

So on VCO1, for example, you can twist between sawtooth and square wave in one sweep, so one of your core ingredients can be sitting anywhere you like for lots of sonic possibilities. These are enhanced further with a Pulse Width dial. Oscillator 2 is also continuously variable, but features a triangle waveform plus the pulse width modulation and detuning.

Oscillator 2 can also be used as a modulation source, with a Low Freq button that puts it in LFO mode so you could, for example, apply it back to modulate oscillator 1. A Keyboard button changes the frequency of this oscillation according to the key you hit – I’ll talk more about that when we cover modulation in the X-Mod section.

Also in the Oscillator section, there’s a square sub wave to beef up your bass sounds. It also adds a more subtle richness to other timbres or, should you want, just use it as a separate source. Finally, there’s a noise source to add an extra top end and fuzziness.

The other important element of the OB-6 is the filter. It’s an ‘Oberheim-inspired’, two-pole, 12dB/octave filter in, effectively, four parts (hi, low, notch
and band) which offers a zingy, harmonically rich sound that lends itself to pads – hence the great reputation Oberheim has for them.

In a similar way to the oscillators, filter types are state-variable. so you aren’t just switching between types but flowing from one to another; you can sit anywhere between low and notch, or notch and high-pass, should you wish.





This creates particularly interesting sounds when you go between the latter two and sweep the Resonance knob – you get added meow… There’s also a Band Pass switch that lets you define a band and sweep through the frequency range, again offering rich results.

The variable nature of the Filter section means that you can create some very diverse sounds and, of course, with the oscillators variable, too, we’re talking vast timbre possibilities.

Next up, you can then bring the OB-6’s Filter Envelope section into the equation for movement and variation over time to really breathe life into more static sounds. Then, combine this with keyboard velocity (so hitting keys will alter your filter envelope and change sounds according to how hard you press them) and you open up another performance element.

In short: variable ingredients plus variable filters plus variable ways of playing them over time and velocity equals massive potential.

Modulation Possibilities
We’ve seen how Oscillator 2 can be used as a separate LFO, but OB-6’s next section is for a dedicated LFO. Here, you get a Frequency dial to set the frequency of the modulation and what it applies to (VCO1 frequency; VCO2 frequency; VCO1 and 2 pulse width; amp; and filter cutoff and mode).

The LFO lets you select from one of five waveshapes: sine, sawtooth, reverse sawtooth, square, or sample and hold – which doubles as a noise waveshape when the LFO frequency is turned to its maximum setting. It’s a more basic modulation setup than you’ll find on other synths, but very easy to use because of that, and not unlike the Prophet-6’s (albeit with a slightly different layout). You select what the LFO modulates just by pressing the buttons, which then light up – which means you’ll very quickly start experimenting.

In my tests, modulating the pulse widths got some very pleasing results very quickly and, of course, using it on the filter frequency yields even more dramatic results. The Filter Mode option is also well worth experimenting with, as it cycles through the filter types for some very varied sonic movement. Again, though,

I have to go back to the fact that the core ingredients of what you are modulating are key here and with the variable nature of both filter and oscillator, you will get some exceptional results as you try different things out. It’s also worth pointing out that an LFO Sync button is on hand to keep all of this experimenting in check.

The Aftertouch section is also simple to use, and lifted from the Prophet-6. The amount of modulation that your aftertouch pressure will apply is controlled with a main dial (either positively or negatively) and then this can be applied to both oscillator frequencies, LFO or filter type and frequency. A typical use of this could be that you use aftertouch instead of the mod wheel to affect these parameters.

Combine this with the velocity/envelope performance options I discussed on the previous page and you’re talking easy, fun and very varied sonic performance capabilities. Continuing the modulation theme but getting into a bit more depth, we’ll now look at the X-Mod section.





X-Mod: Days of Future Sound
X-Mod is similar to the Prophet-6’s Poly Mod – a highlight of that synth and an area where you use Osc 2 and the filter envelope as extra modulation sources.
The advantage of this is not initially clear, as you may think that having an LFO is good enough for this task.

But, essentially, if you think of your LFO as a single oscillator modulating whatever destination you choose, then you can think of X-Mod as that multiplied by six. This is because X-Mod uses all of the oscillators available within the synth; so if you dial in VCO2, you have six oscillators modulating separately and independently from each other to create far more vibrant textures.

Waveforms start at whatever time you press a key – and this is a particularly dramatic effect when you hit the Keyboard button so that you start modulating destinations at the varied frequencies of the notes pressed. Also, because you are modulating with VCO2 rather than the LFO, you are modulating with a variable waveform with all of the extra sonic flexibility which that gives you over the fixed waveform (from five options) of the LFO.

Things get even more interesting – and slightly complicated, I have to say – when you use these six oscillators to start modulating other parameters, such as the shape of the six oscillators in Oscillator 1. Or you can, for example, use the six oscillators in Oscillator 2 to modulate the sounds created by Oscillator 1 while the filters swing between normal and band-pass types. Either approach gives pretty stunning results, with a minimum of work.

As I’ve said, it’s not just VCO2 that is used as a modulation source in the X-Mod section, but the Filter Envelope dial can also be used; again, with the same destinations as VCO2 uses. So it can control Oscillator 1, its shape, the pulse width and so on, all the time mixed with VCO2 modulating, too.

Don’t worry too much if you’re not completely with me regarding the X-Mod feature. It basically opens up more sonic pathways than are available with other synths, routing more things, fattening things, and joining things up that might not be traditionally joined.

As for the results? Well, we’re really talking about more complex, evolving sounds, with a lot of movement, or richer timbres. Rather than everything moving ‘as one’, all modulated by one LFO, complex tones are created by this individual modulation per note/oscillator, or the filter envelope.

X-Mod is a section you’ll need to spend time with and is worthy of an article on its own, as it has so much potential. But the bottom line for now is, yet again: more sonic power!

Click Here To Continue To Conclusion


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Dave Smith Instruments OB-6 Review – Part Three http://www.musictech.net/2016/05/ob-6-review-three/ Wed, 25 May 2016 11:55:13 +0000 http://www.musictech.net/?p=42502
Andy Jones concludes his review of the OB-6 with a look at it’s various other features… Other Features As with the Prophet-6 – and apologies for my continued references back to that synth, but it was a recent review and many of the features are understandably shared – you also get a great Unison Mode. […]

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Andy Jones concludes his review of the OB-6 with a look at it’s various other features…





Other Features
As with the Prophet-6 – and apologies for my continued references back to that synth, but it was a recent review and many of the features are understandably shared – you also get a great Unison Mode. This allows you to turn a six-voice poly synth into a great-sounding mono.

By that, I don’t mean it simply makes a mono synth with sounds stacked together – well it does, but it’s a bit more fully featured than that. Essentially, you can choose how many voices you stack – up to six. OB-6, like Prophet-6 (sorry), is at its best when you detune these parts in Unison Mode. By increasing the detuning between the oscillators – be subtle about this at first – you can create massive mono synth sounds, and I mean massive.

You can go a bit too bonkers here – especially when you bring the sub and noise in – but it’s a surprisingly usable feature. You may think you only want a poly synth, but when you hear what‘s possible here, you’ll understand the thinking behind it.

Within Unison Mode, there is also a Chord Memory function which stores the chord you play per note and transposes it up and down the keyboard as you play – useful for setting up chordal stabs.

Now we get to the two sections at the top of the OB-6 front panel, where we find the very useful Sequencer and Arpeggiator features. I didn’t really have the room to cover these in my Prophet-6 review, but both are fairly standard and easy to get your head around.

The Arpeggiator is linked to the Hold button (located nearer the keyboard) to latch the notes i.e. carry on playing your played chord even when you release the notes. This is great for making evolving sequences that move in real time according to edits made on the front panel – showing off, basically! You can easily sync clock sources or the internal delay effects, too – all good stuff.

The sequencer is a step sequencer comprising up to 64 steps, with up to six notes per step. You use it by hitting the Record button and recording step by step including Rests (gaps) if you need them, or Ties to extend notes. It’s more useful as a live song player so you can play along to it as a backing track (as long as you don’t exceed the six notes of polyphony in total). This (and the Arpeggiator) can be synced to an external audio source via an input socket, so you could play along to a drum machine, too.

Both the Arpeggiator and Sequencer really do extend what are already pretty good performance features on the OB-6. It’s much more a players’ synth than you might at first think – I certainly approached it as more of a sound creator than performer. Yes, it obviously has the elements for creating many great sounds; but in its modulation features plus the Sequencer and Arpeggiator, it has plenty of options and tools to manipulate, perform, record and play back live, too. Solo performers and players really can noodle away on it as much as they like.





Effects
We come to the final section of the synth, and this is the one that distinguishes OB-6 from many other analogues: digital effects! It is a dual effects engine (Effect A and B), so two can be stored per program. You get delays, chorusing, flangers, phasers and reverbs and the effects are placed in series with all reverbs on Effect B (as they would normally be placed in an effects chain).

Yes, the Prophet-6 has these effects, too, and they are broadly similar. However, the OB-6 also features a ring modulator and phase shifter modelled on classic Oberheim designs, the former offering a pleasingly gritty and metallic edge, and the latter rather more subtle phasing based on an Oberheim six-stage model.

Using the effects couldn’t be easier: simply select A or B, dial in your effect and then choose the Mix dial to blend each. You get two main parameters to adjust, which are usually the most commonly accessed ones for each effect (so you’ll find delay times and feedback for delays, and rates and depths for flangers).

As we’ve said, the delay effects can be synced to the Arpeggiator as well as an external MIDI clock and to the onboard Sequencer.

In use, the effects are gloriously simple to employ and incredibly clean, not surprising, given their digital nature – unless, that is, you layer distortion on there.

This is an effect that you access by holding down the Effect button, one that is always just a dial away and also one that’s been used so well on the more in-your-face presets.

But going back to the ‘digital subject’ and, for the analogue purists among you, bypassing the effects keeps the analogue signal of OB-6 completely digital-free. So if you don’t want this modern technology influencing your classic sound, you can switch off the evil magic at the touch of a button/dial.

To do that, though, you’d be missing out on a rather good feature on the OB-6, and a great and versatile weapon in its already well-stocked sonic armoury.

The Sound
The first thing to note about the OB-6 sound is that it is instant. As I found at the NAMM show, the presets quickly draw you into their lush world. There’s a lot of movement, a lot of grabbing, a lot of: ‘come on in and feel the noise’.

The Prophet-6 was a little less forthcoming; where that said: ‘you know what I’m capable of, I don’t need to shout about it’, the OB-6 is singing from every rooftop. My first pass through was halted on a number of occasions by sounds I simply got lost in. It happened as early as preset 7, a sound with a dreamy electric piano repeated so well that it almost becomes a pad, and a preset that added 20 minutes to this review’s time before I wrenched myself onwards.

Others just show off; you play what you think will be high notes at the upper register and then go for a low version and the whole sound swoops down to it, often demoing part of that X-Mod functionality.

There are some incredible pads – of course there are – some searing, gorgeous strings and organs. OB-6 also does squelch well; the 303, the bloody 303… And continuing on from that theme, this is a great dance synth: lots of bass, lots of movement, lots of ARP-ing… I used to be a little shy of US synths, thinking that they leaned a bit too much towards playing the intro to Van Halen’s Jump (played on an OB-Xa).

But while this can do that, and we’ve already seen it is a players’ synth, it also does big dance sounds well. The US has adopted dance big time, and it shows. Some of the presets that utilise the arpeggiator are simply stunning, too – press the Hold button on number 39, stand back, tweak the filter or resonance every so often and you could charge an entrance fee (some people back in the 90s did a lot less for a lot more, let me tell you!)

There’s inspiration and atmosphere around every corner, too. I normally take notes if I get any tune ideas as I play – and I filled a side of A4 in no time during this test. If the makers of Blade Runner 2 need a score, then I’m available to do it… with this synth, right? I even, and this has never happened before, left the studio to tell my wife how good OB-6 sounds (she looked at me with that ‘who the hell is he?’ expression again).

Negatives? Don’t play preset 22 – it’s a trumpet-thing; a ghastly effort, but pretty much the only blip on the OB. OK there are a few other duds – maybe I could have done with less of the percussive sounds and the odd simple, thin bass – but these are rare, and programming this synth is just so easy that I can quickly make it my own, with my own sounds, and I’m sure I will…

Alternatives
Must. Not. Mention. The. Prophet-6. Again. Oh, well. Yes, it’s got a different sound; yes, it has fewer effects – but you can’t deny that the Prophet-6 is a classic analogue synth with modern sensibilities, just like the OB-6.

And considering it currently weighs in at £300 less than the OB-6, I’d say it is an alternative (spend the £300 on a modular Oberheim filter!). Then there’s a new Oberheim, in the form of the Two Voice Pro, which Tom describes as his favourite synth and ‘very similar to the original, but with the addition of a few interesting upgrades’. That retails for $3,495.

Alternatively, well, there’s always software, but I can’t help thinking if you’re considering software then you probably wouldn’t have read nearly six pages of one review of a £2k+ analogue synth. Having said that, as I write this, Arturia is announcing an all new V-Collection 5 which has a whole bunch of classic synths in it (including Oberheim SEM and Prophet-5), for around £300.

Finally, we couldn’t not mention the SE SENSEI I reviewed last month, complete with Oberheim filter (and Minimoog, and ARP etc, etc). Not so much an alternative, more a great excuse to put a pic in the mag again!

Conclusion
I can’t avoid comparisons (and haven’t!) with the DSI Prophet-6, as so many of the features on the OB-6 are shared with that synth. X-Mod is Prophet-6’s Poly Mod in all but name, the Arpeggiator and Sequencer sections are identical, as are the Aftertouch, Mixer, LFO and other features.

But the heart of the OB-6 – its oscillators and filters – are Oberheim through and through, so the resulting overall character is different… it’s a bit like having a couple of children with very different personalities.

The differences? Well, if I have to put them side by side and call it (which I did in the test), I’d reiterate that the OB-6 is more in your face, perhaps more versatile, more dance, more electronica and less refined in some areas. It’s grittier and darker, but the Prophet has a class all of its own – maybe it leans slightly towards more classic sounds, whereas OB is more ballsy and new.

It’s tough to call, if I’m honest… However, what is obvious is that, like the Prophet-6, OB-6 is a classic reborn into very much a 21st-century synth, complete with many mod cons. So while the sound is different, feature-wise, there is little to separate them.

And, having given the Prophet-6 top marks, you can almost see where this one is heading. Having said that, I did nearly mark OB-6 down on the price, as the OB synth is currently listing at around £300 more than the Prophet-6 in the UK – which is significant. However, after listening to it, I fell for its OB charms, and wanted to return to them again and again. At every turn, it inspires new riffs and complete tunes and, when all is said and done, you can’t ask for more than that from any instrument.





Key Features

● 49-note, 6-voice analogue synth with velocity and aftertouch
● 500 user and 500 factory presets in 10 banks of 100 each
● Two VCOs/voice
● Cont. variable wave shape
● Osc 1 syncs to osc 2
● Square-wave sub (osc 1); LFO mode (osc 2)
● Mixer for osc 1, osc 2, sub and noise
● 2-pole resonant filter per voice
● Filter and Amp envelopes feature 4-stage ADSR with velocity modulation
● LFO with 5 waves
● Arpeggiator with up, down, up/down, random, and assign modes
● Polyphonic step sequencer with up to 64 steps, ties and rests
● Effects: stereo analogue distortion; 24-bit, 48 kHz digital effects: reverb, delay, chorus, flanger, phase shifters, ring modulator
● Effects bypass retains analogue signal path
● Connections: Left/mono and right 1/4” outs; h/p out; MIDI in, out & thru ports; USB MIDI; expression, sustain & volume ped. i/p; seq. start/stop f/s
● Dimensions (L x Wx H in mm): 807 x 323 x 117
● Weight (kg): 9.5

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Gary Numan – The MusicTech Interview http://www.musictech.net/2016/05/gary-numan-the-musictech-interview/ Wed, 25 May 2016 10:10:46 +0000 http://www.musictech.net/?p=42480
With the success of the album Splinter, Gary Numan has finally come to terms with, and is proud of, his early work – including tracks like Cars and Are Friends Electric? that kick-started synth pop and heralded a new world of music technology back at the end of the 1970s. Andy Jones meets a very […]

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With the success of the album Splinter, Gary Numan has finally come to terms with, and is proud of, his early work – including tracks like Cars and Are Friends Electric? that kick-started synth pop and heralded a new world of music technology back at the end of the 1970s. Andy Jones meets a very English man in LA and finds someone more at home with today’s studio technology, but still coming to terms with newfound levels of respect…





You could argue that Bob Moog was the guy who did more for the advancement of music technology than any other person in history – this was the man who brought the synthesiser to the masses, after all. But you could also argue that Kraftwerk put the sound of the synth on the music-making map.

They exported their robotic noises Stateside and contributed to and informed – heck, some even say formed – techno and hip hop. Indeed, such is the hushed reverence that these German robots are held in, it surely can’t be too long before some kind of hi-tech religion starts.

Yet the person who I would say did more for the ‘tech’ in MusicTech – albeit unwittingly – was Gary Numan. While Kraftwerk impressed the beardy geeks with 22-minute tracks about motorways, while The Human League stayed in the lab in the midst of their white-coat phase in Sheffield (pre-girls, pre-pop and pre-hits) and John Foxx’s Ultravox impressed the art school with their synth rock, it was Gary Numan who picked up a Moog, used the first sound he played on it for the track

Are Friends Electric? and suddenly, everyone wanted a synth. He’d hate to admit it, but the sound and popularity of the instrument wouldn’t be quite where it is now without him. Indeed, John Foxx tells us (in an interview for our sister magazine, Classic Pop): “Gary triggered the whole synth thing off in 1979. It was an instant changeover and, of course, very welcome for everyone who was doing that sort of thing – it was great.”

But over the last 30-odd years, Gary has had a hard time coming to terms with the impact he made. Never one to dwell on the past or be retro, he has struggled to move on, to get ‘out of the shadow’ caused by numerous number-one hit albums and singles at the end of the 70s and start of the 80s.

“I was very sensitive to things that put you in an era,” he tells us now. “I’ve had a very long career and it’s still going. I might not be having number-one singles, but I am still having an ongoing career.”

You’ll notice he now describes this sensitivity in the past tense. It was the album Splinter that not only injected new life into Numan’s career, but also helped him come to terms with his past. Splinter was released a couple of years back not only to huge acclaim, but it also became an album which, when played live, actually went down better than Numan’s classic material.

“It happened regularly where we’d say ‘we can’t believe that that song did better than Cars’,” Gary recalls. “I never thought that would happen and it was lovely. It really did feel like, ‘I’ve finally done it, I’ve moved on!’, and as soon as that happened, it made me feel different about the old stuff.”

“Here I was with magazines making Splinter Album Of The Month, saying it was the best album I’d ever made, better than Replicas and The Pleasure Principle, which are now regarded as my classic albums. When that happened, I suddenly found myself in a position when I could look back on my catalogue and be proud of it, as it’s not a ball and chain around my ankle – now, it’s something I could actually use; not only have I done Splinter, but I did all of that cool stuff back then that you talk about as being classic. It has become something that I can now brag about rather than keep at arm’s length.





“My whole way of life is about ‘what are you going to do next?’ That’s what I find exciting. That is still the case, but I now have two ends of my career: the beginning of me which people will come and see but now I have Splinter – two guns rather than one! And the longevity has become something to be proud of, having albums out in so many different decades. It is something cool, whereas before, I didn’t want people to know I was about in the 70s. I wanted to keep that quiet!”

On the Up

So, Gary’s move to LA three years ago seems to have paid dividends. It was a move, in part, to get more film work (although he has since shifted his targets on this one: “I don’t really want to be making film music now, because I still love doing my albums, I still love touring, I love the life I’ve had, more than ever, actually, and I don’t want to get rid of it!”) but more for family reasons, and the fact that he fell out of love with England: “For the first year, I didn’t miss anything, just mum, dad, brother; the second year, I missed a few things, visiting the odd castle! I missed that history, and the green colours, and the third year, I’ve started missing it more.”

And Gary does like his castles. He might miss his English visits, but he’s more than made up for it by buying a castle. It might be a modern one, but it comes complete with secret staircases, apartments, turrets and a 200-strong sword collection, and we’ll come to the studio shortly… So everything is pretty rosy, except knowing Gary, we’re not quite there yet.





With Splinter, he regained something of a peak, but has now put the pressure on himself with its follow up. Not only that, he’s decided to do it by way of PledgeMusic, an option taken by an increasing number of bands wishing to avoid the traditional and less financially viable record-contract route and fund a release by way of this crowd-funding resource.

Numan announced the PledgeMusic project at the end of last year and quickly reached double his target. Like other bands, he offered many more options to buy than just a physical CD or a digital download of the new album.

There are signed instruments including classic synths (quickly snapped up, sadly), plus VIP events and all sorts of packages to include fans and keep them in tune with the album as it develops.

Gary explains why has he decided to follow this particular funding route… “It’s not about funding, funnily enough. I had a real chip on my shoulder about crowdfunding at one point. It always seemed to me when it started a few years ago, that people who did crowdfunding were a little bit desperate, and needed the money. I wasn’t down on it, I actually thought it was a good thing for people to be doing, but I didn’t want to be seen as one of the people that needed to do it, ‘cos to be honest, I’m doing alright and I have my studio, so I can make albums pretty cheaply anyway.

“Instead, I see it it as a way of trying to circumvent some of the layers that get between you and the audience, so I’m there [points to studio] making an album and a year later, it comes out as this shrink-wrapped item for the fans. But a lot of things happen in between, and there are a lot of people in between, each one taking a bit, and I wanted to try and find a way of being more direct with fans.

“With the conventional label-and-distribution route I did notice, with Splinter, that the number of albums you sell compared to money you make now is incredibly disappointing. And as an independent artist and without a record company giving me stonking great advances, I have got to do whatever is possible, so Pledge is a way.

“I also wanted more control over it; I wanted to give fans what they wanted without people interfering. Essentially, it’s controlling things myself and making sure I owned it at the end of the day, so if a sync offer comes in I can just say ‘yes’, rather than email everyone for two days getting people to agree it – you lose things that way.”

But letting fans in on the process can obviously be both a blessing and a curse as can having a deadline to work to… “I do find making albums tough, and I thought it [the PledgeMusic deadline] would give me the necessary push. Having a really heavy deadline to work to is normally a good thing, but the problem I have got is I’m doing 18 hours of organising a day at the moment, and it’s been a bit of a nightmare and I’ve not been working on the album. I should have been doing weekly updates, but I’ve not been doing nearly as much as I should have, to be honest.”

Surely there is scope to move the deadline now he has set the process up to give himself longer?

“No, I’ve committed to it,” Gary replies. “But I don’t think it’s the end of the world. And actually, at the moment I’m bothered by it and I’m desperate to be getting out there in the studio, which is good in its own way… and I don’t want to lose that motivation.”




A Typical Track

So how does a Gary Numan track come together?

“Normally, when I did Splinter, I’d get up in the morning, sort the kids, they would go to school, and I’d do a bit of email and I’d like to be over in the studio by 10. So I’d start then and it was quite regimented because of the children, actually – they make you have an organised life to make it all fit. So say that was a Monday, by the end of the day, I’d like to have a basic song structure, melody, chords, piano, maybe some drum loops in the background.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I’d flesh that out and start adding production layers to it, and by Thursday morning, I’d have a working song under way. Then I’d do rough or guide vocals.

I’d write the melody for them on the piano and then start singing it – you adapt once you get your voice in and add things to it. So Thursday would be doing that – not singing any words, just singing any old nonsense that comes to mind just to do the phrasing, where it should be, and from that, you can begin to get an idea of which points of the song that will need certain words.

I know, for example, that if I’m going to be singing at the top of my range or where it needs any kind of power, because I don’t have a powerful voice that there are certain words that work better than others. So anything that has an ‘aw’ sound at the end of it is great for singing really loud or really high because it is easy. Anything with an ‘ee’ or an ‘ind’ or ‘find’, ‘kind’ or ‘mind’,

I can’t sing them loud or high – they sound a bit feeble. But ‘or’, ‘war’ or ‘law’, they are easier, so you work out what it’s going to need and that helps you with the lyric a little bit. The mood of the song and certain phrases come out naturally when you do the gobbledy gook, certain phrases come out and form the lyric.

On Friday, I do the proper lyric, hopefully sing the proper finished vocal and that is my demo done with a finished vocal.

“So that is the one-song-a-week turnaround as I was doing with Splinter, and at the end of that week that song would go on the shelf and I would try and get 15-20 of them done. Then I’d go back through those and spend another week with each one finding things to make them better.”

 

Click Here To Continue to Part Two of our Gary Numan Interview


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Gary Numan – The MusicTech Interview: Part Two http://www.musictech.net/2016/05/gary-numan-interview-two/ Wed, 25 May 2016 10:10:30 +0000 http://www.musictech.net/?p=42482
Andy Jones kicks back with synth pioneer Gary Numan as this insightful interview continues… New Sounds Gary details how he wants the new, as-yet untitled, album to sound. “The idea is to do it myself and I’ve done that plenty of times before, but that would make it sound very different from the last one, […]

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Andy Jones kicks back with synth pioneer Gary Numan as this insightful interview continues…




New Sounds

Gary details how he wants the new, as-yet untitled, album to sound.

“The idea is to do it myself and I’ve done that plenty of times before, but that would make it sound very different from the last one, too. I know that Splinter did really, really well, but I think this one needs to move a little way away from it, not radically different – I don’t want to do a country and western album! In fact, if I wrote up a list of where I want the new album to be, Splinter would probably fit that list as well.”

“I still want it to be heavy, I still want it to be dark, I still want it to be aggressive in places; very electronic – more so than guitar-y. As I say, all of this could apply to Splinter but I know that when I did the demos for Splinter, some of those ended up being quite different, in a good way – I’m not saying there was anything wrong with it; I think Ade [Fenton] did a great job with it, but they are different”

“So I’m thinking I could have easily done the versions I’d done and it would have been a slightly different-sounding album. It would have been more basic, that’s for sure! Ade is brilliant at refining things and his attention to detail is very impressive but it does change it, it gives it a different feel. He is, I guess, more like an audio craftsman, and I’m like a heavy-handed plumber!”

At the time of the interview, Gary had what he described as “Mickey Mouse bits and pieces – maybe nine or 10 things on the go…” Since the interview, progress has been made with one or two snippets, released via the PledgeMusic page. The original release date of October would mean finishing the album at least three months prior.

“I’d ideally have to have it ready by mid June, and I’m supposed to be gigging throughout May!” Gary knows that many of these problems will be shared with the fans – it’s all part of the PledgeMusic experience after all…

“Yeah, I wanted them to know the grief I’m having, but it was meant to be the grief I’m having about making an album, not about life outside of it! In a sense, it is part of the process, but it’s not typical. I wanted them to see the process, the songwriting, the good days when it goes well, and the bad days. I want you to see me being upset because I can’t think of anything, and stomping around, as it is part of it. So I guess these extra pressures that are coming in are part of the album, but it isn’t what I intended.”

So now having tried this route, would he recommend PledgeMusic to other bands? “Any band that wants to do something like this I would recommend Pledge 100 per cent, as they have been brilliant. But it isn’t going to sell the number of albums I want, so that ultimately involves some kind of other distribution – but it will be from a position of more security after the Pledge campaign.

I don’t know about the next album. I’ll be touring this one for all of 2017 and ‘18 so I don’t have to look at the next album until then. As we’re living in an age where there are new technologies almost every week, there might be something new… or it might all have gone back to vinyl and cassette again by then!” Turn the page for Numan in the studio…

Splintering Success

The success of Splinter has been double-edged. On the one hand, it’s meant more sync work than ever, with tracks from the album used on TV and in film, but it’s also led to many more offers of work, almost too many…





“I’ve been doing loads of collaborations and doing vocals for games. I did a single with the Vowws, a track with John Foxx, a track with a Mexican band called Titan, and I’m doing a separate album with a good mate of mine, Andy Gray, which is a collaboration – he’s been doing the music and I add the vocals and lyrics.

We’ve done a few things together. He’s done loads of remixes [including live favourite, Prayer For The Unborn] for me and a track called Ancients, which is pretty much where the songwriting thing together started. We did one called For You after and we’re now working on a load more stuff, but he’s crazy busy, a little workaholic!

“The sync on Splinter was amazing,” Gary continues. “My sync history has tended to be one of Cars. That track gets used on everything and it does really well. I’m aware of that. But I had more syncs on Splinter than any other album that I have done, combined. It was phenomenal. You can do alright on album sales, but it’s nothing like it was.

But the Pledge campaign has been an eye-opening exercise in another way of doing it, an amazing experience so far. It’s still done better in terms of everything else, and the Pledge people themselves are amazing.”




Cars Was Written on a Bass Guitar

Cars is possibly the most famous Numan song, an iconic synth tune that was surely written on, well, a keyboard of some kind? Nope. It was written on bass guitar, one that has been leaning against a wall outside the studio during the interview.





“That one guitar, more than anything, has changed my entire life,” says Gary. “In my life I have written, I don’t know, maybe 300 or 400 songs out on record, but only two of them on a bass and one of them was Cars.

I went to London in the morning and bought this bass, came home, took it out of its case and the very first thing I played was ‘da do do do’ [main riff of Cars] and I thought ‘that sounds alright’ and I had the whole song done including lyrics in about half an hour. The quickest song I ever wrote, Cars, and only one of two done on bass. I haven’t really looked after the guitar, it’s a bit rusty!”

Numan in the Studio

Gary has his own studio, which he uses to produce complete albums as well as remixes and collaborations – of which he has many lined up as we interview him. After our main chat, we step out to this studio to discover a comprehensive software set-up, a Moog and the bass that he wrote Cars on…





Numan’s studio is a self-contained unit, formerly a guest house in his garden. He had it converted while his main house was being worked on, but had to work within several constraints, financial and otherwise…

MusicTech: Tell us how the studio came about?

Gary Numan: “I was going to get it fully converted into a studio, but I was getting nervous that it would not be affordable, so I started looking at alternatives. I came across the VocalBooth website one day and realised that they made bigger rooms, not just vocal booths and I talked to them about helping with the conversion. I gave them the sizes and we came up with this – it’s essentially a vocal booth, dumped inside a bigger room!

“All the sound-proofing is in there, there’s nothing outside at all. Another problem with getting the building converted was that I needed planning permission and in this zone [in LA], we weren’t allowed an audio studio, so I was nervous about that, but this doesn’t need any planning permission as it’s a removable structure – it comes as a flatpack kit! It turned up in the morning and by that evening, it was built – it’s great.

We have one of the busiest airports in the world just down the road, but you don’t hear a thing inside it, and I’m pretty deaf so I play at an ear-splitting volume, but you can stand outside and not hear anything at all. So I can sing in here and know that no one’s listening outside!”

MT: In recent years, we’ve witnessed the return of the analogue synth with new models from the likes of Moog, Sequential, Oberheim, companies who provided you with your synths originally…

GN: “Well, I’m watching it, but I’m still deeply immersed in software. Omnisphere 2 is the best thing ever invented – more useful than the wheel! It’s an amazing bit of kit, so I think software is still very much the heart of it for me.

I’ve got a Moog Voyager XL, but you’ll see it leaning up against the side of the studio as I’ve not actually plugged it in yet. It’s a good bit of kit, though. I’ve also got a couple of Roland bits coming. I don’t have the names yet, but it’s a big red thing – the JD-XA…”

MT: We noticed that part of the PledgeMusic offers were some of your old synths, which were quickly snapped up. So do you have any classics left?

GN: “I have two Moogs, actually. One is in the Hard Rock Cafe in one of their display cases and one is back in England. I didn’t buy any Moogs until I was working on The Pleasure Principle album. For the two albums before that, I didn’t have my own synths, I didn’t have any money, I used to rent them. But I ended up buying eight or nine Minimoogs and four Polymoogs!”





MT: Because of your long association with synthesisers, you’d have expected synth companies to be offering you gear all the time. Not so, it’d seem?

GN: “No, no one has offered before now, which is weird considering how I seem to be well known for electronic music. In fact, I think that Moog was the first in 36 years. I’m not good at dropping hints with them [gear companies], though!

I’ve got a mate back in England who isn’t particularly well known, hasn’t sold any records to speak of, and he has a sponsorship deal where he actually gets a wage! And he has gear coming out of his arse! I had another mate who was the same and he had a garage full of gear. He’d say, ‘just ask the companies, blag it’, but I said ‘I can’t!’”

MT: Synth-wise, on top of the Voyager, there’s an Access Virus, and an Alesis QuadraSynth which you say you use mainly for its piano sound…

GN: “Not a lot of people liked that when it came out, but I thought it was great. I’ve got another one back in England, I think, but I’ve lost it, I need to find out where I left it.”

MT: So the rest of the studio is a software-driven affair, with just one or two choice pieces of gear?

GN: “I have no outboard gear to speak of. I use Pro Tools. I used to have an HD3 system with the expansion chassis which was noisy and horrible and I didn’t like it. So when I finished Splinter, I went over to this system which is the native one and was told it would be every bit as good as the HD3.

I didn’t really research it and I should have – it’s useless, it runs at a really low speed. But that’s pretty much it. I’m very much Native, Omnisphere. I have most of Native’s stuff – Kontakt, Damage. The Spectrasonics stuff is at the core of what I’ve got.

“I’ve got [Unity Audio] Rock speakers and Tannoys I’ve had something like 30 years or more. They’re Tannoy Little Golds, the ones to have back then; really, really cool speakers. The good thing about the Rocks is that you can take them right down to low levels without losing the bottom end. Most main speakers, as soon as you go back on the power, the bass starts to disappear, but they don’t. As a reference speaker, they’re great. You can listen to things quietly, but still true.”

MT: Finally, what about beats nowadays – do you have any preferences?

GN: “I’ve not had an actual drum machine for 30 years, but the new Roland TR drum machines that I’ve tried are great. All that key triggering you can get with one sound; there’s some pretty good stuff that can come out of it, so I’m really looking forward to getting into it.

“Ade [Fenton, one time collaborator] was a bit of a programmer for drums, which I often found was a waste of time! So I don’t know what I’m going to do with that now – I guess it depends if Andy [Gray] is involved and if I end up working with someone over here. I like the idea of having a real drummer, but I also love the rhythmic complexity and power of combining loops. Maybe one song with one thing, one with another, we’ll see…”

Numan On…

…Film Soundtracks
“You just hear so many stories about what a horrible experience it can be, but there are many successful ones, like Junkie XL. I’ve only just found out that he’s out here and his name is on everything now; he’s really, really cracked it, so I’m trying to find a way of hooking up with him.

“But when I came out here, the reason was to sow the seeds to my future with film music. It was something I thought would be a natural progression that I’d do when I had to to do it, and by coming out here I would build my knowledge, experience and skills up at it and get known to be competent at it. I would get to know people and over five or six years, I’d get to know people and build up a meaningful portfolio to do with film music.

But then I thought, ‘I don’t really want to do it, actually’, I just want to make another album, do another tour and all of that. It is a bit childish, actually, because it is a very sensible idea and is something I should be doing…





…Getting Back into the Top 20 With Splinter

“Well, you can’t put much faith in the charts. It’s easier to get in the charts than it was. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way, but you just need a good pre-sale – then it’s possible to get a chart hit, especially if you’re lucky and time it on a week when not a lot of other people put albums out.

So it looks great, but if you sit back and tell yourself: ‘Oh, look at me, I just had a Top 20 album,’ you’re kidding yourself. I shouldn’t be too down on it, though, because it genuinely did do much better than anything else I’ve done for a very long time.

“I was nervous about it. I’d only done a UK-only album, Dead Son Rising before that was meant to be a side project with me and Ade but ended up as a full album. So it had been about seven or eight years since my previous album, which is the kiss of death, usually, to be away that long.

But I liked it, I was really proud of it as a record and I thought we’d done a good job with it. I was really happy with my songwriting and when I got down to do it, it was coming easily and I had very few of those horrid days where nothing works and you get down on yourself – which have all been on this one so far!”

… Not Being Retro

“I use to be fiercely ‘anti’ it. The problem was for me is obviously that I made it really big early on and I had this massive success and nothing else I did since then ever came close, even though I’ve had a long career. So you had this shadow, if you like, which isn’t the right way of looking at it, but you had this huge success that feels like it casts a shadow over everything else you do.

“Nothing else is ever as successful, people refer back to it all the time, when there’s a photo of you in a magazine it says ‘80s pop star’, and you begin to resent the very thing that put you where you are and you try and distance yourself from it and just want to be known for new stuff, and it becomes an obsession, and it’s been like that for almost my entire career.”

“Ever since Cars in 1979, I’ve been trying to come out of the shadow that they created, I feel, and trying to establish the fact that I am still around and still going and not an 80s pop star. So it became a massive thing for me… I was turning down things, big things. There was a long period when I was desperate for promotion. I couldn’t give myself away for a while.”

“The albums weren’t selling, the gigs weren’t selling and I was really in trouble, but even then, I knew that if I started doing anything retro because it was there as an option, the long-term effect of that would be catastrophic, because once you become a retro act you are fucked. I didn’t want it anyway, and I didn’t want to be seen that way and I thought from a career point of view it would be very counter-productive.”

“There were things like The Big Breakfast – a huge programme – where they wanted me to go on there and do a duet of Are Friends Electric? with Zoe Ball. And I was like, ‘No, I won’t be doing that, thanks’, but it was a big thing to turn down in terms of being out in front of people and reminding people that you’re still alive, which is what everyone around me was saying: ‘People will remember you!’ But I didn’t want to be remembered, that was the problem! So you start turning down this and that and I went through two or three years where I said no to almost everything that came in, because it was so retro-orientated.”

Check out Gary Numan’s official website here

Gary Numan: Android in La La Land is a fantastic new documentary film following Gary as he transitions from living in the UK to LA, and documents the creation of Splinter. The film premieres has it’s UK Premiere at EIFF on 19 June, is Closing the EEFF on 3 July and will be released in UK & Irish cinemas from 26th August. Read more about the film here

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Native Instruments Una Corda Review http://www.musictech.net/2016/05/native-instruments-una-corda-review/ Wed, 25 May 2016 08:07:49 +0000 http://www.musictech.net/?p=42471
Alex Holmes checks out a versatile sampled-piano instrument from Native Instruments that will add the ethereal to your material… Details Price £129 Contact via website Web www.native-instruments.com System Requirements Mac OS X 10.9 to 10.11, Intel Core 2 Duo, 4 GB RAM, Windows 7, 8, or 10 (latest Service Pack, 32/64-bit), Intel Core 2 Duo or […]

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Alex Holmes checks out a versatile sampled-piano instrument from Native Instruments that will add the ethereal to your material…







Details
Price £129
Contact via website
Web www.native-instruments.com
System Requirements Mac OS X 10.9 to 10.11, Intel Core 2 Duo, 4 GB RAM, Windows 7, 8, or 10 (latest Service Pack, 32/64-bit), Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD AthlonTM 64 X2, 4 GB RAM, Free Kontakt 5 Player or Kontakt 5 (version 5.5.1 or higher)




sbtb


Piano instruments are like drum samples for the modern producer; you’ll likely have more than you need of various styles, sizes and quality that you’ve collected over the years.

Una Corda from Native Instruments is a little different, though, and offers up a deeply sampled version of a unique piano, hand-built by David Klavins in collaboration with composer Nils Frahm. It only has one string per note, which gives a much purer sound than the usual three strings found on your average piano, and allows the user to easily slot in different prepared materials to dampen and affect the way the hammers hit the strings.

Be Prepared
The technical side of this massive 10GB Kontakt Instrument has been put together by Uli Baronowsky and Galaxy Instruments, who are also responsible for The Giant, and Definitive Piano Collection for Kontakt. The one-of-a-kind original instrument was recorded using an array of mics and kit in Saal 3 at the Funkhaus in Berlin, a famous old broadcast studio in East Germany.

You get three different Kontakt patches with the pure piano sound, a prepared piano with felt between the hammer and string, and one with cotton, plus 100 incredibly varied snapshot presets saved across all three versions.

Essentially, the pure sound is closest to a normal piano, with a more resonant and clean tone; the felt has a more gentle, electric piano-esque sound with softer attack; and the cotton is more percussive, with hints of harpsichord. Where things get really interesting is in the huge tweakability afforded by the Kontakt GUI. There’s a basic front page with tone, dynamics and space, and three more for deeper sound design.





More Than Meets the Eye
The first page is the Workbench, which allows you to sculpt the primary characteristics of the instrument. Here you can add harmonics, reverse samples, control the tonal depth, and add a second fabric to the prepared piano sound. You can also choose from a long list of ambient background noise, dial in mechanical and pedal noise, and even add in the sounds of the pianist moving and breathing. These interesting textures can even be brought to the forefront by removing the main piano sound.

Next, you have the Response section where you can control how the instrument responds with controls for dynamics and overtones, and finally, you have the Finish section. It’s here that the sound-design opportunities really open up, as you can choose from a large number of vintage-effects-chain and convolution reverbs.

You can give the instrument a shimmering electric piano or toy-speaker effect, then feed it through simple reverbs or complex, swirling space convolutions to create some incredibly deep, pad-like tones. You’ll also find controls for EQ, compression and saturation, transients and stereo image. It’s the more ethereal textures where Una Corda really shines. There’s a richness and depth to the instrument that sounds infinitely beautiful and cinematic. The flexibility of the GUI and excellent convolution options make this a great sound-design tool for soundtracking.

Alternatives
If prepared pianos are your thing, then you could check out the IRCAM Prepared Piano from UVI ($399), which is more expensive, but has 45 different preparations. Alternatively, there’s VSL Prepared Piano (€65) at a much cheaper price, but neither has the deep, ethereal quality of Una Corda.

Strike a Chord
Una Corda is more expensive than NI’s other piano instruments, but it’s also more versatile. It’s been created with love and attention, and the results are often breathtaking. This is an inspiring instrument that oozes class and with very few tweaks can be morphed from a gentle, upfront piano, to a swirling, dissonant and clunking beast.





Features
● Prepared piano instrument for Kontakt 5 and Kontakt 5 Player
● 10GB of audio
● Three Kontakt Instruments, with 100 snapshot presets
● Clean, plus felt and cotton preparations
● Deeply sampled from a one-of-a-kind handcrafted instrument

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Produce A Track From Start To Finish – The Ultimate Guide http://www.musictech.net/2016/05/produce-a-track/ Mon, 23 May 2016 10:56:44 +0000 http://www.musictech.net/?p=42458
It’s time for the ultimate advice on music production: how to produce a track, from start to finish! We have top tips from the pros and advice to get you inspired, composing, mixing, arranging and mastering your music The art of music production can, like most processes, be broken down into several stages – some […]

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It’s time for the ultimate advice on music production: how to produce a track, from start to finish! We have top tips from the pros and advice to get you inspired, composing, mixing, arranging and mastering your music





The art of music production can, like most processes, be broken down into several stages – some creative, some perhaps more scientific than others. For this special feature on producing a complete track, we’ve explored the best advice ever assembled on the art of music production and broken it down into five main areas: starting a track, arranging it, mixing it, finishing it and mastering it.

We’ll start with the best ways and practices to help you to get moving, to get creative and to make the most of inspirational thoughts when they strike; to capture the moment… fast! We’ll tell you how to avoid using other people’s ideas, and also (confusingly) when to use other people’s ideas!

Then there’s the all-important stage of turning those ideas or simple loops into complete works. This is often the stage you get caught up in. Like us, your hard drive might be full of great ideas which will become incredible killer tunes… one day. But for now, they are one, two, five or six sounds and melodies that might work together, but nothing more. This part of our feature will help you turn them into complete tunes.





Then we move onto the art of mixing: checking levels, checking pan positions, adjusting EQ not only to enhance certain frequency ranges, but also to prevent elements clashing – the art of mix ‘breathing’, and adding space to enable your main song elements to shine.

In our penultimate feature, we bring you essential advice on making the ultimate move in composition: finishing! Here, we also team up with Novation to bring you insight into the ways certain top-name producers complete their songwriting process.

Finally, it’s time to tackle the mastering process, with top advice on how add a professional sheen. We’ll suggest ways to add that elusive sprinkling of sophistication and magic dust to your tunes, to make them sound as good as your reference material – the track that you initially admired, which inspired you to go full circle, back to the start of your music making in the first place.

Without dwelling on the clichéd ‘journey’ analogy, it’s true that music production is a process that can be massively enjoyable, but also have the odd stumbling block or creative frustration along the way. With our feature, we’re hoping to make your process smoother and your songwriting experience more fulfilling.

As ever, send us links to your resulting tunes at editorial@anthem-publishing.com.
















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Computerless Recording – Part Four: Mobile & Tablet http://www.musictech.net/2016/05/computerless-mobile/ Mon, 23 May 2016 09:38:29 +0000 http://www.musictech.net/?p=42448
Mobile music-making has really come of age in the last couple of years. Here’s our guide to producing on just your mobile device… Mobile music-making is the area that has seen the most radical changes of all, primarily because, until the release of the iPhone, ‘mobile’ meant carrying a portable recorder of some kind, usually […]

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Mobile music-making has really come of age in the last couple of years. Here’s our guide to producing on just your mobile device…





Mobile music-making is the area that has seen the most radical changes of all, primarily because, until the release of the iPhone, ‘mobile’ meant carrying a portable recorder of some kind, usually based on tape and not flash memory.

You might argue that iPhones and iPads are still computers because they have CPUs and RAM, but the way we interact with them and the software they run is fundamentally different from a desktop or even laptop computer. So it’s reasonable to say that they constitute a separate category of music-making tools just like Portastudios did, or modular synths still do.

We’re going to focus heavily on Apple’s iOS devices here, simply because they have practically all the pro music applications. Android is just beginning to receive some serious development as far as music apps go, but it’s still early days. As soon as the iOS App Store first appeared, and later when the iPad was released, people began to make music on their devices.

For a while, the selection and quality of apps was limited by the immaturity of the platform and the power of the devices, but that didn’t take very long to change. And although many apps still let you start a project on iOS and then transfer it back to your computer for ‘proper’ work, it’s becoming increasingly common to find apps that will let you do the whole thing on your device. For example, Damon Albarn made a whole album on an iPad 1, using technology that seems primitive even by today’s standards.

Mobile DAWs
One of the most useful developments has been the emergence of mobile DAWs, which are much more flexible than you might think. With iOS hardware approaching the levels of performance of lower-end laptops (especially with the iPad Pro), there’s no reason you can’t record, edit and mix music on your iPad or, with a bit more fiddling, your phone.

One of the most affordable is Apple’s own GarageBand, which is actually rather nicer to use on iOS than on the Mac, since it doesn’t have all the legacy code that still somehow seems to make the Mac version feel sluggish.





It lets you record audio and use Smart Instruments to play some of its drum, guitar or keyboard sounds, and these are really very good. It packs basic sampling and modelled guitar amps, as well as MIDI loops and effects. Since Apple subsidises the app, it’s very cheap and is honestly one of the slickest mobile DAWs around.

Other big music developers make their own mobile DAWs as well, often allowing transfer to the full desktop version. Some of the best include Cubasis, FL Studio Mobile HD and Korg’s Gadget synth sequencer.

Some third-party developers skipped the desktop altogether and went straight to mobile. Retronyms’ Tabletop, Auria and NanoStudio are all examples of clever and powerful mobile recording and programming environments. There are a ton of software synths for iOS as well, many from established developers, with some modelling classic hardware.

They tend to be pretty affordable, so if you check out instruments like Animoog, iProphet, Thor or Nanologue (to name but a few), you will find much to like. Pressing keys on a screen isn’t particularly exciting, of course, so there are peripherals you can use to get more hands-on with your iPad synths and beatboxes.

These include IK Multimedia’s iRig Keys models and also many class-compliant USB MIDI keyboards and controllers via a camera-connection kit. IK leads the way with this stuff, making other iOS-focused hardware as well as guitar-, DJ- and microphone-input devices to connect directly to your iOS device.

Extra Hardware
There are iPad Docks available which give you professional-level I/O for connecting MIDI devices, studio mics and monitors, all via your Lightning connection, Focusrite’s iTrack Dock and the Alesis StudioDock are the two main contenders, but a new generation of smaller audio interfaces are offering universal compatibility so you can use them with your Mac, PC or iOS device.





Again a result of maturing technology, these can be a great choice, as they essentially save you having to buy two different devices. Models from Steinberg, MOTU and Apogee are among those that can be used wherever you need them.

Hardware is necessary when you’re doing things like using an iOS device for effect processing, as guitarists and bassists increasingly do through apps like AmpliTube and BIAS, two powerful guitar FX suites from IK and Positive Grid respectively. These apps are used not just for live performance but also for studio recording, potentially replacing whole stacks of amps, cabs and pedals.

If you are staying ‘in the box’ with your device, technologies like Audiobus and Inter-App Audio mean it’s possible to route MIDI and audio between synths, effects and DAWs inside your device. Apple has even developed a plug-in format for iOS 9, although it’s taking a little while to break into the mainstream.

Mobile Mastering
All this programming and recording on iOS is great, of course, but if you have to move to a computer to mix and master, surely you could have just started on one in the first place? Well, luckily, this side of things is taken care of as well.

Your DAW will let you mix out of the box – some even allow automation – and if you’re monitoring properly through a decent I/O device, you should be able to mix accurately. There’s an app called Final Touch available for iPad, priced at around £10 (the cost seems to vary over time), but which is far more powerful and professional than an iPad app has any right to be.

Again, just as with any mastering task, you will need to monitor properly, but the results are way beyond what many people might expect could be achieved using an iPad-based app.





This final link in the production chain is what iOS was missing – but it’s now complete. Producing music on iOS requires a slight reorganisation of your working methods and is still technically more limited than on the desktop, but it’s light years ahead of where it started out, and is only likely to get more powerful.

Four of the Best

GarageBand for iOS




Web www.apple.com
Price £3.99
Apple’s own mobile DAW is not the most advanced on the market in terms of features, but still a fantastic sketchpad for many users, as well as being really inexpensive.

Record, arrange, edit and mix live audio and software instruments in a way that almost anyone will be able to pick up easily.

 iProphet




Web www.arturia.com
Price £7.99
There are quite a few iOS recreations of classic synths, and Arturia really knows its stuff. This is the Sequential Circuits Prophet VS and can swap presets with the company’s desktop version.

It supports all iOS audio and MIDI protocols and is Tabletop-ready, so it can be used in the iPad-based modular-synth system.

Apogee ONE




Web www.apogeedigital.com
Price $349
Apogee is best known for its high-end studio electronics, but in recent years, has been adding iOS compatibility to its more portable models.

The ONE is a 2×2 USB audio-and-mic interface with top-quality circuitry that will give you proper I/O via a mic input, headphone out and also a built-in omnidirectional condenser mic.

BIAS for iPad




• Web www.positivegrid.com
• Price £14.99

Positive Grid makes a selection of amazing guitar and bass amp, cab and pedal effects suites that work across iOS, and also your desktop computer.

BIAS is an incredibly powerful iOS app for creating authentic-sounding guitar setups with very fine levels of tweakability.

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Novation Release Bass Station II Soundpacks http://www.musictech.net/2016/05/novation-release-bass-station-ii-soundpacks/ Fri, 20 May 2016 09:19:52 +0000 http://www.musictech.net/?p=42441
Novation have just released some very cool new sound packs for their flagship Bass Station II, created by a range of artists from a variety of different genres. Read on below… Press Release At the heart of being a synthesist is developing your own patches – taking an initial waveform(s) and tweaking the available parameters […]

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Novation have just released some very cool new sound packs for their flagship Bass Station II, created by a range of artists from a variety of different genres. Read on below…





Press Release

At the heart of being a synthesist is developing your own patches – taking an initial waveform(s) and tweaking the available parameters to generate a customised sound that’s all yours.

We decided to put a call out to a handful of our Bass Station II artists to have them create some patches for a new soundpack.

Nite Jewel – LA-based producer, artist and serial collaborator

Cian from Super Furry Animals, the kings of Welsh psychadelia

Jeremy from Everything Everything, a guitar band from the UK who make weirdo indie for stadiums

Jason Miles – uber Jazzer who programmed synths for Miles Davis and has a Grammy on his mantlepiece





Victor Parris Mitchell – ghetto house legend

Adam Freeland – head honcho of Marine Parade Records, DJ and one third of electronic band The Acid

That’s not all…
To celebrate the original Bass Station turning 22 years 8 months 17 days and 4 hours old*, we’ve decided to partner it up with its younger sibling and give them away together. So you can win a Bass Station II. And a Bass Station too.

Read more here

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Arturia Announces V Collection 5 http://www.musictech.net/2016/05/arturia-announces-v-collection-5/ Thu, 19 May 2016 14:36:03 +0000 http://www.musictech.net/?p=42437
17 authentic recreations of the legendary synths, organs, electric pianos and more that made music history—enhanced to help you make tomorrow’s music. Official Info V Collection 5 is your one-stop dream collection of the legendary keyboards behind many of the hits ranging from 60 years ago to 6 minutes ago. Our award-winning modeling technology faithfully […]

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17 authentic recreations of the legendary synths, organs, electric pianos and more that made music history—enhanced to help you make tomorrow’s music.



Official Info

V Collection 5 is your one-stop dream collection of the legendary keyboards behind many of the hits ranging from 60 years ago to 6 minutes ago. Our award-winning modeling technology faithfully reproduces the way the original components behaved, delivering the very soul of these instruments in a way that samples simply can’t.

We also took giant leaps in augmenting them with features the hardware inventors never dreamed of—like bringing polyphony to the mono synths you’ve always loved. With over 5000 designer presets, the included Analog Lab 2 makes it easy to harness all that power to find just the right sounds for your sessions and gigs.



All-star keyboard lineup
V Collection 5 gives you every classic keyboard you’ve ever dreamed of owning.
Do you prefer a Stage 73 or a Wurli? Did that classic song have a B3, Continental or Farfisa? Would a Mini, 2600, Modular or Matrix sit better in this track? Now you don’t have to choose, because V Collection 5 puts every major keyboard you’ve ever lusted after right at your fingertips, all with faithful realism. Each one of them has inspired countless hits—and we can’t wait to see what you do with 17 of them.

With V Collection 5, you own a complete stable of the greatest thoroughbred keyboards of all time.

V Collection V will retail for 499 Euros. More from

https://www.arturia.com/products/analog-classics/v-collection/overview

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RENAUD MARION