Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

TUTORIAL: S1gnsOfL1fe - "Aphelion"

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • TUTORIAL: S1gnsOfL1fe - "Aphelion"

    I was inspired by fellow moderator V0RT3X to create a tutorial for my latest track "Aphelion" based on the amazing tutorials he's already shared with us on ambient online. I truly believe the more we share with each other, the more our community will benefit from each other's knowledge of production, sound design, and composition. With that being said, buckle up and enjoy the ride!!!

    First of all, if you haven't already...have a listen to the track while you are reading this. I present to you: "Aphelion" from my upcoming album "Language of The Ancients." :tu:

    http://soundcloud.com/s1gnsofl1fe/aphelion


    Before we dive into each individual part of the song, let's have a look at the track as a whole once it's done. Notice that there are no more virtual instruments left in the song, it's only waveforms!!! Also notice that my cpu meter while the track is idle is only at 2%. This is because I have basically no more plugins running, everything has already been preprocessed and rendered into audio. This allows me to utilize the performance of my machine and make sure I don't get any "clicks and pops" while bouncing it to disk. I will discuss this later in the tutorial...but my basic workflow is this. Create/perform a "layer" of the song...ambient pad, bass, drums, fills, etc...modify it if necessary, render it to audio waveform, then right click on the virtual instrument and click "hide and make inactive" which can be done in most DAW's. Not only am I speeding up the process, but like I said, I'm saving a TON of cpu by doing this. I know other people have different ways of working, but that's just how I do it!!! Anyway, here's my layout once everything is finished.



    FIRST STEPS

    The first thing I do is usually lay down an initial "texture." In this case, it's a stretched out minor chord with an instance of Alchemy running. Like this:



    Here's the instance of Alchemy: I often "perform" over this instance by using the remix pads in realtime. I love the variations in sound I can get just by moving slowly over the remix pads. (Sampleconstruct: I know you know what I'm talking about!!!)



    Moving on: I start to add more layers. This time, I like to perform 16 or so bars on the keyboard to give it a more natural feel. Like this:



    Here's the instance of Alchemy I had running behind it:




    SECOND WAVE

    Now the fun part begins. I like to provide alot of variation in my sound by using the step sequencers in Numerology. It is hands down one of the most powerful and versatile step sequencers ever made!! What's even more crazy is being that it only comes in standalone, AU, and VST format...how do I have it running in Pro Tools 10?! HA! Enter VE PRO 5. In a nutshell, VE PRO allows me to run AU and VST plugins (instruments and effects) inside pro tools with no strings attached. It's AMAZING. It also saves SO MUCH cpu I can't even begin to tell you. Basically it offloads all the cpu that would be running in your host and processes everything OUTSIDE of your DAW. Therefore freeing up your DAW to do what it does best...RECORD. :razz:







    BUILDING RHYTHM

    After I've got my structure moving and the song is beginning to emerge, it's usually time to make a decision. What type of ambient piece is this? What is the song telling me it WANTS to be? Straight synth-ambient? Rhythmic ambient? A cross of something in between? I get a feel of where I want to go and then I start to build...simply by feel. I am a big fan of the stuff that Audio Damage makes...and one of my latest additions was Axon. What a crazy and interesting plugin for ambient percussion!!! I love experimenting with it. I added a couple of instances and started messing with the presets. Changing tones...adjusting attacks...adding more rhythm to the piece. I also added another synth to sort of "counter balance" the rhythm I just added.







    FILLING THE GAPS

    Once I sense the piece is starting to take complete shape, it's time to give it some structure. Usually that means adding transitions from samples. I rarely (like most of us!) add samples "straight out of the box." I like to put effects on them and give them some of my own touch and flavor. Some of my favorites for doing this are camelspace, MFM2 from U-he, and Etch which I scored for only $20 on an AudioMidi.com no-brainer deal. This just gives you an idea of what kind of tools you need to make the kind of sounds you hear in my music. I LOVE original plugins...I also love the good ones, the tried and true to the genre. These are definitely some of those.











    FINAL TOUCHES

    Once I'm happy with the piece, it's time for a bit of mixing, routing, and frequency analysis. I should probably be using something a bit more professional, but BlueCat's FreqAnalyst (freeware) seems to work just fine for what I need it to. I just want to "see the mix" before it goes out to the mastering deck. Not only to get an idea of what I'm listening to, but where my "main" frequencies are located. If i think there's too much mids in the piece before it goes to master, I'll try and mix those out of the individual tracks that are "mid heavy." The same goes with the bass. Too much of either of those can cause a muddy mix. I've learned this through experience. Another thing I learned was to route all of my finished waveforms to a submix AUX channel BEFORE the master fader. This allows me to make a sort of fake brick wall before I reach the final output...basically, adding headroom if I need it. (seismic1: distortion issues solved!) :biggrin:





    MASTERING

    For mastering, I started on T-Racks 3 deluxe (which I picked up $45 new at AudioDeluxe) and just recently upgraded to the new T-Racks CS Grand. T-Racks is awesome because in my opinion...it just works. It's almost automagically in some cases. Not that I don't spend time peering over every module in the stack (I do) but what they've done is given normal producers (like me) simple, easy to use tools that get the job done when it comes time to ship your tracks out the door and out to the world. It really saves time and money spent sending your finished pieces to expensive mastering engineers. I'm sure they could do a hell of alot better job than I could, but now that I've got the tools I need...right now, I'm happy with the results I'm getting. And at the end of the day, that's really all that matters.



    FINAL THOUGHTS

    Wow, that was fun!!! I hope you learned something from that tutorial. It's my first tutorial ever and now that it's over, it was a blast to make. This definitely won't be my last! If you couldn't tell already, I'm really passionate about ambient online and the small yet growing community we have here. I'm both dedicated to seeing us succeed as well as excited as ever to watch us expand and fill this brand new site with tons of useful and engaging content.

    Be sure to check out my new album "Language of The Ancients" coming January 23rd! Thank you all for your support and I'll see you online!

    Cheers!!!!!!!!

    -S1gns
    Last edited by S1gnsOfL1fe; 01-20-2013, 01:47 PM.
    Synphaera Records
    Space | Time | Matter

  • #2
    I like how you did this S1gns! It's great to see the workflow with pictures!

    Etch is a incredible filter plugin for quick easy filtering tasks! Im totally digging Numerology!

    I had no idea you could run numerology as a Audio Unit or a VST! Thats so cool!

    This is a inspiring walkthrough of your track! Thanks for the share and descriptions!
    -=| (Youtube)|(Bandcamp)|(Ambient Online Forums)|=-

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by V0RT3X View Post
      I like how you did this S1gns! It's great to see the workflow with pictures!

      Etch is a incredible filter plugin for quick easy filtering tasks! Im totally digging Numerology!

      I had no idea you could run numerology as a Audio Unit or a VST! Thats so cool!

      This is a inspiring walkthrough of your track! Thanks for the share and descriptions!
      I got you on the Numerology band wagon??! YES!!!!! That's so cool! Yeah when it installs, it also installs the plugin making it a REALLY handy step sequencer in any compatible host. It's incredible really. And once you get the hang of how to use the "presets" and making new stacks you can compose and sequence it right in your DAW!

      I'm really glad you like this. Like I said, total tutorial newb here...and this was a learning experience but a really enjoyable one at that. :tu: :thumbsup:
      Synphaera Records
      Space | Time | Matter

      Comment


      • #4
        Some very interesting and useful information in this post S1gns. I'm probably going to come back to this later when I start making new tracks, probably late next year. I saw your comment about headroom. I'm only just getting comfortable with that aspect of my mixes after completing 45 tracks. For the album I am currently revisiting that aspect of every track. I now know how to maximise the dynamic range of the mastered track by pulling down the individual faders in the mix pre-master. I've achieved improvements in the order of approx 80% by ensuring that the limiter on the end of my mastering chain barely flickers. The only problem is, sometimes that limiting effect seems to sound quite natural in moderation.

        I see that you are using Master#2 in T-Racks3. I tend to use #1. Something I would like to do next year is to spend more time experimenting with the EQP-1A, and the compressor. I'm sure I can get a better sound out of these than I have so far managed.

        Great post :thumbsup:
        Whatsisname's Little Fluffy Clouds | Campsite | Hearthis | Orfium | SeismicTC | Twitter | Ello

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by seismic1 View Post
          I saw your comment about headroom. I'm only just getting comfortable with that aspect of my mixes after completing 45 tracks. For the album I am currently revisiting that aspect of every track. I now know how to maximise the dynamic range of the mastered track by pulling down the individual faders in the mix pre-master. I've achieved improvements in the order of approx 80% by ensuring that the limiter on the end of my mastering chain barely flickers. The only problem is, sometimes that limiting effect seems to sound quite natural in moderation.
          It's so important to get this right. As I'm sure you can relate, I cannot stress enough how this takes a piece from sounding "good" to "professional." I'm like you and only getting used to how much dynamic range is "too much" and how if I use too little I feel like I'm losing harmonics in the track that are inherently there. It's basically mad science. I'm going to try the limiter trick and see if that works for me. I've been peering over my tracks and listening at both high and low volumes to see if I'm comfortable with the mix. And to tell you the truth...I don't know if I will ever be!!! At some point you just have to accept what's possible and move on. This is something I'm still learning as well. Patience and acceptance during the engineering process. :razz:

          Originally posted by seismic1 View Post
          I see that you are using Master#2 in T-Racks3. I tend to use #1. Something I would like to do next year is to spend more time experimenting with the EQP-1A, and the compressor. I'm sure I can get a better sound out of these than I have so far managed.
          I'm with you on that one too!!! I'd like to spend more time taking apart all the modules and seeing how the changing settings or replacing certain modules entirely actually alter the end result. Again, this is all personal preference as to how you want your tracks to sound. There is no ultimate "magic button" as every track is different. And if you're an audiophile (as I'm sure everyone here is) nothing will ever be good enough!!! LOL. I suppose that's why we do what we do.

          Thanks for your comment. More of these tutorials to come next year!!!

          Cheers!!

          -S1gns
          Synphaera Records
          Space | Time | Matter

          Comment


          • #6
            Thank you for posting this, S1gns! :thumbsup:

            I'll need to go over this a few times to get everything, but there's a lot of good information here, and I'm sure I'll be able to take something away from this.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Dax IX View Post
              Thank you for posting this, S1gns! :thumbsup:

              I'll need to go over this a few times to get everything, but there's a lot of good information here, and I'm sure I'll be able to take something away from this.
              Awesome Dax IX!!! That was the intention...so all you experienced cats could at least take away something useful. :D
              Synphaera Records
              Space | Time | Matter

              Comment


              • #8
                Im going over this and I am definitely interested in how you do this! I really like the sound of your mixes, and it has driven me even more to buy a pair of proper studio monitors! I think the only thing I do differently is that I usually rely on raw processing before I freeze! I am lazy because I dont like having to resort to a bunch of "Project presets" for each track in case I want to make some fundamental changes to the midi data or actual plugin automation changes.

                This was one of the highlights of Reason, because I was able to basically rewire reason into live and control Reason using ableton lives midi editor. I could do this and not have to freeze at all and this was pretty cool, because I could make as many real time changes as I wanted and still get up to about 50 to 60 tracks in REALTIME! Which was absolutely outstanding considering how much stuff I could layer up in addition to my VST plugins.

                I really miss that, and even though I mentioned that I wanted to no longer use Propellerhead products, I may end up going back to it simply because of that workflow!

                It just WORKS and i love it for that.

                Can't way to see more tutorials! I am actually considering writing out a Video Tutorial for a song featuring my Reason process when I re-buy Reason ;)
                -=| (Youtube)|(Bandcamp)|(Ambient Online Forums)|=-

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by V0RT3X View Post
                  Im going over this and I am definitely interested in how you do this! I really like the sound of your mixes, and it has driven me even more to buy a pair of proper studio monitors! I think the only thing I do differently is that I usually rely on raw processing before I freeze! I am lazy because I dont like having to resort to a bunch of "Project presets" for each track in case I want to make some fundamental changes to the midi data or actual plugin automation changes.

                  This was one of the highlights of Reason, because I was able to basically rewire reason into live and control Reason using ableton lives midi editor. I could do this and not have to freeze at all and this was pretty cool, because I could make as many real time changes as I wanted and still get up to about 50 to 60 tracks in REALTIME! Which was absolutely outstanding considering how much stuff I could layer up in addition to my VST plugins.

                  I really miss that, and even though I mentioned that I wanted to no longer use Propellerhead products, I may end up going back to it simply because of that workflow!

                  It just WORKS and i love it for that.

                  Can't way to see more tutorials! I am actually considering writing out a Video Tutorial for a song featuring my Reason process when I re-buy Reason ;)
                  Thank you V0RT3X!!! I am really stoked that it's motivated you towards monitors. You know even if you mix your stuff late at night at lower-than-normal volumes, it's still more accurate than mixing in headphones!!! Trust me, I've been there. And the monitors you're thinking about getting...oh man, those are gorgeous!!!

                  I also can't believe you're going back to reason!!! :p No really, that's pretty cool though. Reason has it's uses...and for someone like you, who is so into tweaking and cabling, the modular environment and the ability to rewire will serve you well. Reason really isn't that expensive considering what they've included in the package and like we've said before...if you know how to use the stuff in reason the way it's "supposed" to be used, well, that basically like quadruples the value for what you pay for it.

                  More tutorials soon!!! I've been so wrapped up in other stuff (album release, etc.) I've barely had time to compose any new tracks...all in good time I guess!!!

                  Cheers and thanks again!
                  Synphaera Records
                  Space | Time | Matter

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Yesterday I decided to give this tutorial a try. I've been postponing it, but getting an insight into another producer's method is really an interesting and enlightening thing.
                    And never having made an ambient track I have to say... it's a lot harder than it sounds
                    I'm having a lot of fun working the sounds and interplay and actually playing more than copying and pasting sequences.
                    I just wanted to say how inspiring this was :D
                    Thanks Chris
                    https://soundcloud.com/mariosprt74

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by mariosprt View Post
                      Yesterday I decided to give this tutorial a try. I've been postponing it, but getting an insight into another producer's method is really an interesting and enlightening thing.
                      And never having made an ambient track I have to say... it's a lot harder than it sounds
                      I'm having a lot of fun working the sounds and interplay and actually playing more than copying and pasting sequences.
                      I just wanted to say how inspiring this was :D
                      Thanks Chris
                      Oh you are so welcome Mario!!! I was flattered that this truly helped you. The fact that you are just starting out in the ambient genre is so awesome. I remember when I started!!! I think that feeling in and of itself was what drived me to make this tutorial in the first place. I just wanted to share with others how it was done so they could connect with it and use it to help them along. :tu:

                      Dude you are amazing. Thank you so much! You truly brightened my evening.

                      Cheers!

                      -S1gns
                      Synphaera Records
                      Space | Time | Matter

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Yeah, I still plan on going back to this tutorial and doing a test piece just to see how it goes. First I have to finish sorting out my computer/studio issues. So, hopefully this weekend.

                        I have to say that my perception of what is considered ambient has changed a little since coming here and it's been truly amazing and inspirational enjoying Language of the Ancients and also all of the work that all of you guys are doing!!!

                        Although I think I'm doing much better these days, the biggest challenge for me continues to be slowing things down and simplifying. The balance between saying too much and not saying enough, and letting things unfold at their own pace. Sometimes it feels to me that what people say in seven or ten minutes is like a three minute piece for me. It's like my pieces are all done on way too much caffeine!!!
                        My Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/sequent7

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Nemo View Post
                          the biggest challenge for me continues to be slowing things down and simplifying. The balance between saying too much and not saying enough, and letting things unfold at their own pace. Sometimes it feels to me that what people say in seven or ten minutes is like a three minute piece for me. It's like my pieces are all done on way too much caffeine!!!
                          I totally agree, a track may seem empty, so I need to put more stuff in and I haven't reached 2min yet
                          This helped me make something that can just go on and not sound empty. And then I can put more stuff that does not sound hurried if that makes sense!
                          https://soundcloud.com/mariosprt74

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Have to say this was a fantastic tutorial, S1gns. Nice to get some insight on how other producers work.
                            I will give this tutorial a go on my next track, and see how it goes. The workflow seems great, and its not so far away from how I do things now.

                            I start with laying out some chordprogression, or chords, and fill out the track from there. I also use Pro Tools, but often use loops of my recordings,
                            instead of recording the whole miditrack.

                            I see you use VE PRO, is that another sequencer, or is it an instrument? It seems nice to be able to use AU and VST-formats on Pro Tools.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Great tutorial ... thanks so much for posting this! I really like the track, and it's awesome to see the step-by-step breakdown. I've done stuff with one chord before, but never with a sustain (with variations) all the way through like that. I'm going to give it a try. Of course, Alchemy is perfectly suited for that and it happens to be my favorite synth at the moment! Lots of other good stuff in the tutorial too ... it will take a bit to digest. Thanks again for the post ... it's inspiring.
                              https://soundcloud.com/waltmusekamp

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X