fredag den 24. december 2010

The Gifted Songwriter

The Gifted Songwriter: "

While it may be more blessed to give than to receive, it’s also a lot more work. Anyone stressing about where and when to find that last elusive holiday gift will understand what I mean. I came to the realization last week that it’s a very dangerous thing to be at the end of my Christmas gift list– it’s like being named Zucker at a college graduation ceremony that’s proceeding in alphabetical order. By the time your name finally comes up, everyone’s lost interest and moved on to the reception. At this point, if I haven’t figured out what gift to buy for you, I’m likely to just give up and vow to do better next year.

The bottom line is: it’s crunch time. So in the interest of public service (and of course, being a music business weasel, some self service as well), I’m offering up a bag full of gift ideas for your songwriter friends or relatives. Or, with the understanding that songwriters tend toward the reclusive, buy these for yourself and save your family from buying you the scarf with musical notes on it, or the new edition of the rhyming dictionary.

Here’s the Songwriters Gift List (or “What To Get the Guy Who Gets Only 9 cents Each Time Someone Buys a $20 dollar CD”):

1. A spot at the ASCAP “I Create Music” Expo

Granted it ain’t a cheap gift, but at this time of year, there’s some deep discounts on the cost of the registrations for an event that takes place April 28-30. And all things considered, there’s no conference as rich in educational, mentoring and networking opportunities for aspiring songwriters, whether they’re producers, performers, composers or lyricists. The Expo covers every corner of the songwriting business, virtually every genre, and brings superstars like Quincy Jones, Justin Timberlake, Dr. Luke and Bill Withers together with writers just beginning their journey in the music industry. There’s no other event quite like it.

2. A subscription to Billboard magazine.

This one is pretty generous as well, but it represents a world of opportunity for whoever receives it. My first gig in the music industry came from reading an article in Billboard, so I’m a true believer. There is no way to survive in this business without knowing what’s happening– it’s how you discover the openings in the marketplace, jump on the trends, find your business model, or identify the people who you need to turn into contacts. Whether it’s online or in print, every songwriter needs to be looking at Billboard each week.

3. “What They’ll Never Tell You About The Music Business” by Peter Thall

Peter is one of New York’s top music business lawyers, a clear and insightful author, and one of my favorite people to run into on the weasel Habitrail– he’s always dapper, funny and leaves me with one piece of knowledge that I didn’t have before. If you need a guide to the contractual, legal and practical realities of building a music career, this new update of his classic book is a great place to start.

4. “The Hit Factory”: Making Your Music Make Money”, a one-day workshop at Songwriters Hall of Fame.

I told you there was a little bit of self-interest at work here. This is my own one-day, six-hour, intensive class at the Songhall in NY, which I led last year as well. It’s a chance for me to help those songwriters attending the workshop to develop a strategic approach to their career– it’s part lecture, part song-critique session, and part open discussion, and I love doing it. Last year’s class was sold out, and we had people from all around the country. I’m looking forward to doing it again, and have a lot of new material to cover. The cost includes both of my books, “The Billboard Guide To Writing and Producing Songs That Sell” and “Making Music Make Money”, so it’s not a bad bargain. I think all of us from the last session, myself included, felt that it was a day full of discovery, good music and valuable new contacts.

5. A Tip Sheet of choice: Songlink International or


There’s no greater challenge for most songwriters in getting their music out into the market than trying to figure out who’s looking for songs and where to send them. These are both very well put-together “tip sheets” that can clue you into both big and small projects around the world. It doesn’t mean your songs are going to get cut. But at least they might be heard. Every little lead helps…

6. The T.A.M.I. Show Collectors Edition DVD

It’s hard to imagine any pop songwriter or musician who couldn’t find something to love here. Filmed at a live performance in Santa Monica Auditorium in 1964, then lost for decades to legal disputes, this has just recently become available– it is a brilliant document of the energy and variety that made music the defining element of pop culture in that time. The mix of acts is simply a representation of what was, in the early 60’s, a Top 40 playlist. Now it reads like the roster of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. This was a time when you could have a concert bill that included: Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys (with Brian Wilson), Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Lesley Gore,the Supremes, The Rolling Stones, and James Brown, who gives what most consider his greatest performance of all time. The most remarkable thing is the consistency of the live performances. No lip syncing, very little rehearsal, and yet, no train wrecks. It’s a long way from Katy Perry or Britney Spears.

7. “Murphy’s Laws of Songwriting: The Book” by Ralph Murphy

A legendary country songwriter and publisher, Ralph is both one of the most astute students of songwriting and one of the most engaging teachers. He has analyzed hundreds of popular country and pop hits to understand the nuances of what makes them work, figured out what audiences want to hear, and what radio needs to play. Then he’s able to actually explain it– and be funny as hell at the same time. I’ve recommended his classes and workshops before, but now he’s got a book coming out, just in time for Christmas. Definitely worth studying and sharing with every other songwriter…

Ralph Murphy

8. A consulting session with “Ask The Music Business Weasel”

So guess who the weasel is? This is my own hourly consulting service that I launched this year– it’s available to songwriters, publishers, or artists looking for specific advice for a career situation, some overall strategy, or detailed feedback about their work. Happily, it’s been a big success, not just on my end, but for the writers involved– there have been management deals, record contracts, and business partnerships that have grown, in least in part, from some of the discussions. I love the opportunity to really dive into someone’s business, rather than just offering up cursory observations or song critiques. If you don’t have a weasel on call, now you do…

As the phones in the office have gone eerily silent of late, I think we can safely say that the music biz is shutting down for the remainder of 2010, and I’m about ready to join everyone else in cueing up in the airport security line. So here’s wishing you a great holiday and all the best for 2011. It’s not always been easy out here this year for anyone, but the weasel’s greatest qualities are perseverance and resilience. You can’t kill this beast. I’ll see you all next year…



søndag den 12. december 2010

How to Make an Unique Kick from Samples in Ableton

How to Make an Unique Kick from Samples in Ableton: "

This tutorial is for producers who don’t have drums kits or drum machines. Using kicks from sample libraries is good choice for production, but many producers including me think that using other people’s samples doesn’t sound unique enough. If you want to make unique kicks you have to do it on your own.

You don’t have to buy an expensive drum machine or real drum kits. You do have to buy or download some excellent drum libraries, and use them to create some fantastic and awesome kicks which will be the foundation of your song.

Why is this so important? Listen some dance record from the top artist like Armin Van Buuren, Garreth Emery, Ferry Corsten and you will realize that the kick is the most important element of their song. How we shape the sound of a kick is one of the most creative decisions we have to make—we control aspects like how solid, how punchy, how thick and how snappy. If your kicks lack energy, or are too soft, they won’t bring satisfaction on the dance floor.

For best results, use the Playpack (download source files above) to follow this tutorial step by step in Ableton Live.

The Basic Idea of the Technique

The technique which I want to show you is kick layering. The basic idea is that you layer different kick samples and mix them. The result is a completely new kick.

To understand layering you do not need to have a PhD in frequencies. You need to understand low, mid and high. You need to understand cut and boost, filter and ADSR.

But before we start. I highly suggest that you train your ears. Listen to quality music. What you listen to and what you hear determine your taste and perception about how a sound should be presented. It is the art of listening. If you are not listening to quality music and only just random badly produced “trash” tracks (which believe it or not are very often played on radio) you have no chance of making good tracks and good kicks. Attuning your ears and mindset to the right frequencies is crucial to a good mix.

Step 1: Setting Up the Devices and Channels

We need to have the right stuff on each channel—if you put the wrong effects to the channels you won’t be able to mix them together. So we need a Simpler, an EQ Eight, a compressor and a spectrum. With the spectrum you can analyze the fundamental harmonics of the kick and make experiments of the kicks frequency ranges on the fly. You can try different effects, but these give you enough to build your own kicks.

The most valuable device for this tut is Ableton’s excellent sample device, the Simpler. The Simpler is an instrument that integrates the basic elements of a sampler with a set of classic synthesizer parameters.

Step 2: Setting Up the Channels

I have already set up three channels because we will use three individual kick samples. The most suitable samples for this simple technique are probably from the club and house libraries. I’m layering them on top of each other, and will eventually bounce to them a new audio channel. I will use three kicks and three separate frequency ranges: the midlow, the sub and the high (I call it attack). And last but not least I group them together.

Don’t forget to create a MIDI clip for each channel. Use a standard one-bar looped 4/4 pattern, one grid, and place a kick every 1/4 on C3. Keep in mind that our sample needs to be on C3, or at least needs to be transposed suitably if the original tonality is different. Set the overall tempo to around 135 bpm.

Step 3: The Transient of the Kick

I have chosen from different genre libraries because my goal was make a very special kick. The first one comes from a Clubhouse kick because it has a high noisy attack so its bite creates attention in my track. I heard many productions with kicks which lack transients so the audience can’t feel enough rhythm to rush to the dance floor.

So it is very important to search your libraries and find a kick which has got strong attack. Once you find one, take it to the Simpler. This is our first element, but we don’t need all of the kick so use the the length knob and turn around 35.7%.

Listen again! Did you noticed that the sub frequencies have gone? That was our aim. I used to turn the knob around 7-8% so I only keep the transient of kick. But it wasn’t a good idea because later on I can’t mix the two or three kicks together because the first kick was too short to connect to the other ones.

I feel that transient hasn’t got enough energy and bite. By emphasizing harmonics we increase the definition of sounds. Lower harmonics are louder than higher harmonics. For example, the second harmonic is louder than the twentieth harmonic. So a compressor is needed to emphasize the transient. I create a compressor preset from scratch which looks like the following:

Bear in mind that increasing the attack of the compressor emphasizes the high frequencies of the transient, and lowering the release time increase the quiet frequencies. I added an EQ Eight equalizer in order to fix the frequency crashes with the other two kick samples.

Step 4: The Midlow Area

The next bass drum is from the same library. This will give some sub and low mid range so our kick will have enough energy to pump in the clubs. This time I don’t need the first milliseconds of the transient because the previous kick has do the the job so I turn the start knob to 15.9%. I lower the volume with -7.65 to match the overall volume the two kicks. You can do the same with the mixer track volume slider too.

Play the same MIDI clip together with first kick and you will hear something is not going well. Yes you are right—the two kicks are out of tune. A quick tip is that if something sounds wrong always check first that the two kicks are in tune. I decide that the transient is almost one semitone higher, so I lower one and I make some fine tuning with the detune knob.

Now listen again. It’s much better, but it isn’t perfect. I use the Simpler lowpass filter 12 to remove the remaining high frequency. It has to be done because the high frequencies will threaten the first kick transient. Next I add another compressor to this channel because I feel that it has too much peak in the lower mid range.

Now it has much bigger impact. The lower range is much stronger. Meanwhile I lower around 622 Hz at the transient kick so it isn’t too boomy.

Step 5: The Sub

The last kick is responsible for the earthquake heartshake sub frequencies. This kick from a trance library. I searched for a kick that has very prominent sub tail—the tail of the sound will be our main source. I took it to the last channel. I set the start knob around 10% and apply a lowpass 24 filter and filter out the high frequencies. After that I use the filter resonant knob to push the low frequencies a little bit harder.

Step 6: Final Adjustments

So we have all of the kicks together. Let’s do some final adjustments. I added a compressor, an equalizer, and finally a maximizer plugin to my group channel.

Kicks have two primary spectral components—the impact and the attack. These two components closely resolve to the lows and high mids respectively. Within these two ranges, different frequencies have a different effect. For example, 60 Hz might produce more oomph, while 90 Hz more thud. Dance and hip-hop might benefit from robust oomph, while rock and pop might benefit from a solid thud.

On the high mids, the higher the frequency the more the click. A healthy boost around 8 kHz can produce the typewriter click that many associate with heavy metal. The low mids of the kick have little offering, and attenuating them can clear resourceful space for the low-order harmonics of other instruments. On the highs, kicks have very little valuable energy, which is sometimes entangled with hiss. Often rolling off the highs from a kick would go unnoticed.

According these principles I used a compressor to get slightly louder and stronger kick without making the high frequency of the transient louder. So I turn the release knob over 250 ms. I raise the output knob about 22 dB because of the heavy compression. I hardly use the auto makeup because it not precise it is too loud and sometimes is too quiet. I suggest you use the output knob without the auto makeup gain. Now our kick is much stronger.

Next is an equalizer. I provide a picture about the frequency range of a kick and relevant frequency ranges.

I added two bands First is (Freq=433 Gain=2.7 Q=0.71) to remove some low frequencies because it was a bit much. Band 2 (Freq=5.79 kHz Gain=2.48 Q=71) and I raised the output level for 1.31 dB to make the attack of the kick easier to hear clearly.

I lower the sub kick volume about 5 dB because I feel it was bit much.

Finally I put an L1+ Ultramaximizer from Waves to compress the kick drum a bit more, which prevents extreme peaks during the kick fills. The settings (Threshold -3.0 Out of Ceiling -1 dB) create a consistent kick amplitude without overly constricting the dynamics. You can use any kind of maximizer plugin. Fx

So we have finished the job. Now we only need to bounce and free up some CPU power. I create an audio channel and in the I-O section I set the audio to this new channel name Kick Final. I set the monitor in on the kick final channel. Hit the record button and and you have the kick sample. Just crop it into one bar of 4/4 or whatever you want, and use it on your productions.

Or you can freeze the group channel (right click on the Channel’s name, then select “Freeze”), automatically turning the MIDI clip into an audio clip. (Don’t worry, you can “Unfreeze” the track if you like.) Hold Ctrl and drag and drop the clip into a new audio channel. So listen our final kick sample.

This technique works quite well for me. I hope you find it useful and helpful. I’ve included an Ableton Playpack with the MIDI file inside. Thanks for reading, and happy music making!


tirsdag den 30. november 2010

Google Translate Beatboxing

Google Translates udtale kan måske, måske ikke imponere, men den har nu visse beatboxing evner. Reddit brugeren harrichr videregiver et sjovt resultat:

1) Gå til Google Translate

2) Sæt oversætteren til at oversætte fra tysk til tysk

3) Copy paste følgende ind i oversæt boksen: pv zk pv pv zk pv zk kz zk pv pv pv zk pv zk zk pzk pzk pvzkpkzvpvzk kkkkkk bsch

4) Klik på 'lyt'

5) Gør dig klar til at blive overrasket :)

Tæller det som beatboxing hvis stemmen ikke er en menneskestemme ? Thanks, vade!)

More variants: check out comments.


mandag den 22. november 2010

Ableton Live on stage

Ableton Live on stage: "

Tom Cosm has been traveling the world, giving lessons on going from the studio to a live performance with Ableton Live. This video is a collaboration between him and Pitch Black on this subject.