Sunday, 30 January 2011

The Stab In Electronic Music

In this posting I'm going to be looking at the stab, which as I'm sure everybody knows is a chord played in a staccato fashion. Musical traditions from ska to house utilise these abbreviated bursts of sound. In production terms the sound has an almost percussive envelope i.e an immediate attack, a relatively short decay and no/a little sustain and no significant release. The waveform(s), type of synthesis and effects used, all combine to give the particular sound its characteristic qualities. In this assortment of video tutorials I will be looking at emulating some stabs as well as developing original sound designs. I will, I hope, give an insight into how to produce a sound that is appropriate to a particular genre but also show techniques that will allow for novel sound design and enable us to avoid a slavish adherence to a given set of genre boundaries.

Electronic music of the club centric variety tends not to be intensely melodic. The stab often provides a timbral richness, as well as contributing to the groove when used as a rhythmic element. Sometimes it's up front in the mix, other times its sitting out back, residing on an off beat, staying out of the way of the kick, but providing a lilting rhythmic forward movement to the track. The idea that electronic music and in particular its sequencer based work flow allows people who are not virtuosos, or classically trained musicians to actualise there ideas is not original one, but I would suggest the existence and longevity of the stab in electronic music is in some part, borne out of the same deficit of virtuosity, why bother with beautifully resolved chord progressions when that what minor chord every four beats conveys all the meaning that you want? And please don't construe this as a criticism, as it's not, in my opinion some of the worst electronic music is made by people who are 'classically trained' such as BT or Moby, or however you care to mention, and genre's that are music theory heavy or stick to the rule book all the time, such as trance, are just plain awful - to my ears at least.

If we take a look along the house-techno spectrum we can see how the various genres/sub genres typically use/have used stabs, check out some of the randomly selected examples below.

This blog is focused on sound design using software and not hardware, but indisputably hardware is key in the evolution of the stab. Instead of analysis into which particular vintage synth was used to create a certain seminal sound I will be looking at attempting to emulate/reproduce some stabs from tracks i like, as well as producing some of my own.

In researching this post i have come across lots of posts on forums where the question "how do i produce stabs like…." is often posed, and so I have taken on the task of producing a fairly comprehensive set of video tutorials. As well as posting up the accompanying set(s) I have also put together some links to interesting forum discussions and useful web pages.

cheers and enjoy

the stab in electronic music - video 1

In this video I attempt to emulate a stab from Nikola Gala's track 'Broken Chords'.

the stab in electronic music - video 2

In this video I attempt to emulate a stab from Sven Weissman's track 'Activity Chain'.

the stab in electronic music - video 3

In this video I attempt to emulate a stab from Eric Borgo's track 'Mopti'.

the stab in electronic music - video 4 - downloadable stabs in a variety of keys

fleet music blog - the stab in electronic music, downloadable files by louis fleet

the stab in electronic music - video 5 - 3 house stabs

CORRECTION - at 5:00 I forget to hit the solo button on the required frequency bands of the two multiband dynamics effects, make sure you do this otherwise it doesn't work properly!

the stab in electronic music - video 6 - dub techno stab, using square waves

the stab in electronic music - video 7 - dub techno stab, using saw waves

Useful links and downloads

for nemaja's patch check out these links. The download is located in the posting by 'misiu', its also in the link that I have here.

Links to ableton live set
The ableton live pack (.alp file) has all the audio files that I have shown in the videos (apart from the case study tracks, the .asd files are there so that if you buy the tracks they will be good to go). The zip file is the smaller of the two, as it doesn't contain the audio files just the midi tracks

Sunday, 16 January 2011

tutorial 02 - follow up

This is a really quick follow up to the previous tutorial, check out the video and download the mp3's from the soundcloud window by clicking on the arrow if you like the sounds and want to use them.Enjoy

fleet music blog by louis fleet

Saturday, 15 January 2011

comprehensive list of ableton and sound design resources

General/Theory/Production tutorials:

I'm sure everyone knows this one already, but in case you don't, this is the best blog there is on the broader subject of electronic music and its production:

Audio Tuts is another good site, some very good stuff on general theory plus some ableton specific stuff. lots of stuff to go through;

DubSpot, good stuff from the new york dj and production school;

Ableton Production Specific;

Quantize Courses have some good, well put together videos on their site, which are definitely worth checking out;

Ableton Life is a basically a repository for lots of tutorials on ableton as the name would suggest:

VST cafe is another big collection of good tutorials:

Loudon Yukons youtube channel is very good to;

Im sure everybody has come across Tom Cosm's work he's been uploading lots of great videos for a long time as well as running a very useful site, the musical direction might not be exactly to my taste but the content and general intent is really good, here are the links:

Bill Day's vimeo channel is also really good i think:

keeping it antipodean there is Nick Marshall's blog, again, if you're like me psy-trance might not be your cup of tea, but there are definitely some great things here, especially if you want to set up your Akai APC40 in a more intelligent way;

Tutorials to buy/Sound design to buy;

I must say that I've spent a lot of time looking into packages of video tutorials that are out there. Some of the big, seemingly well established names I have found to be average verging on disappointing. I'm talking about these guys;

and these guys:

...I think that this is maybe in part down to my own interest in synthesis which isn't really covered in these videos, groove 3 videos are definitely better but I found them both to be derivative and very elementary in their scope. I'm all for tutorials that try and talk about arrangement and song structure, but I think that the way it's covered here doesn't really wash.

I would however strongly recommend Nick's Tutorials:

I have bought both the Analog and the Operator series, they are very reasonably priced, actually really cheap, and through following them you will gain a valuable insight into sound design.

The Covert Operators have been on the scene for a while and I recently bought there package; 'surgical tools' and really enjoyed unpicking their instruments/sound design. They have lots of really interesting ideas and approaches to sound design and I would recommend buying some of there work.

Pure Magnetik put some good sound/preset packages together, and similar to Covert Operators work, there is real merit in buying some of their packages and unpicking what they have done.

I have no idea about how good these fairly recent, more professionally put together online courses are such as:

I would be interested in hearing peoples first hand experiences.


And I think that is it ! If anyone knows of any other high quality websites/resources that I have missed please let me know. I've covered all the ones that I think are both interesting and reflect the agenda of this blog.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

synthesising 3 different kick drums with ableton's operator synth

Hi this is my first post, and to get things started I wanted to do something pretty elementary. So in this video I look at synthesising some different kick drums using operator. The first is a simple one oscilator kick and the second utilises a bit of FM and the last makes use of subtractive synthesis in addition to a bit of FM.

here's the download link for the live set;

cheers and enjoy