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Producer Corner Archives - Happy Hour Beats

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Using Reverb Pre-Delay

Aug 10, 2017 by Happy Hour Beats - 0 Comments

Reverb is a tool that helps us in the process of mixing music. It helps give the song a “wet” sound and feel. Most importantly it helps push back instruments in the mix to bring dimension and space to a song. One important setting to note in any reverb plugin is the reverb pre-delay.

Reverb pre-delay helps shape how the sound is affected by the reverb and gives it a more realistic acoustic feel. Here are a few ways a pre-delay can help achieve a specific effect or sound.

Up Front with Dimension

There comes a time when you would want an instrument to be up front in the mix but also have reverb. The added reverb will make the instrument sound like it’s in the same room as the others, but it will also push the instrument back in the mix. For a guitar or maybe a driving synth that you want up front, this would be problematic. To get around this, you can apply reverb pre-delay.

Reverb pre-delay separates the source sound from the reverb. This helps give the source sound the ability to stay in front of the mix but also inhabit the same space as other instruments. By adding a few milliseconds of reverb pre-delay (I usually stick to 10-30ms), it provides enough separation to stay present in the mix.

Delay Your Reverb

Another effect you can add to your sound using reverb pre-delay is simply doing what the name suggests, delaying the reverb. Perhaps you’re aiming to achieve an effect where the reverb comes in significantly after the source sound. This could be timed to align with another instrument or add syncopation to the track.

By adding more reverb pre-delay you are further separating the reverb from the source sound. By ramping up the milliseconds to well beyond 100ms, you will begin to hear the delay. The higher the milliseconds, the longer the delay. Play around with this setting to find the timing that fits your needs!

 

Producer Corner: Fatten Your Synth Sound

Aug 03, 2017 by Happy Hour Beats - 0 Comments

Every Thursday we will release a new Producer Corner tip to help with your production. This week’s tip is something rather simple: how to fatten your synth sound.

Synth’s are a mainstay when it comes to music production. What’s nice is that they can create such a wide array of sounds from one plugin. I’m not sure about you, but a few of our favorite synths are Sylenth, Massive, and Gladiator. The beauty of these synths is the ability to dig deep and change various parameters to fatten your synth sound.

How To Fatten Your Synth Sound: The Fine Tune

Fatten Your Synth Sound using Detune

If your synth has multiple oscillators (most have 2-3) then you can do this next trick! It’s quite easy.

Once you have a sound you like, perhaps you created it or you are using a preset, the easiest way to fatten it up is to fine tune the oscillators. Each oscillator (waveshape being added to the overall sound) should have the ability to tune the hertz of the soundwave by “cents” (could be called “detune”).

Please do not mistake this for tuning the oscillator up or down semitones/octaves. There are 100 cents per semitone, so you’re making slight changes to push the wave form slightly out of phase. I typically stick to a range of (+/-) 5-20 cents. Of course, use your ears to determine how much detuning works best to fatten the sound. You’ll especially fatten your synth sound up if you have multiple oscillators of the same wave type.

The Coarse Tune:

This one doesn’t need a whole lot of explaining, but another way to fatten your synth sound is by playing it in different octaves. You can either create a duplicate of the synth and transpose the midi down an octave or two, or you can simply copy and paste the midi notes in your composer so both octaves play from the same instrument track. Adding another line a fifth up (7 semitones) can also give a nice fat sound. Essentially, you’re harmonizing the synth to make it sound bigger. Give it a try!

Unison Mode:Fatten Your Synth Sound using Unison Mode

One reason we love Gladiator, aside from its solid sound engine, is its Unison mode located in the bottom left corner. Not all synths have this feature, but it is one sure way to fatten up your synth sound. Unison mode essentially stacks your oscillators and detunes them to make one big sound. Some synths call this “stacked” but it’s a term that causes confusion when “stacking” different synth sounds to create a new sound in your DAW. We’ll continue to refer it as Unison. You can also determine if you want to

Some Unison modes, like Gladiator, allow you to select how many versions are stacked and detuned to help you find the right fatness you need. It also helps with making your synths wider, which is especially helpful when you are aiming for a huge stereo mix. Of course, if you don’t have a Unison mode, don’t fret. At the end of the day, it’s following the steps listed above! So you can always pull it off manually, the mode is only meant to make life quicker and easier.

And there you have it! Go try these tips out on your production and let us know how it works in the comment section below. Be sure to come back next Thursday for another Producer Corner tip!

4 Ways to Use Parallel Compression In Your Next Track

Apr 26, 2017 by Happy Hour Beats - 0 Comments

Yesterday we discussed what parallel compression is and what it does. Today we’re going to go over 4 ways to use parallel compression on your tracks.

1. Add Punch To Your Drums

Most often when we think of making our drums “punchier” we think about adding a compressor to the drum group with a slow attack and a quick release. This will keep the transients uncompressed and lower the volume of the sound after the transients. The result is a “punchy” sound. The downside to doing this is you can lose characteristics of the drum that make it feel weaker or smaller. The bass thumps are the first to go.

Ways To Use Parallel Compression

To get around this, we add parallel compression. We apply the punchy compression to the drums on a duplicate track that we can mix in with the uncompressed drums. We don’t care if we make the drums sound weaker on the duplicate track as the original will maintain it’s true presence. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Create a duplicate track of the drums you wish to add punch to
  2. Add a compressor to the duplicate track (our personal favorite is the CLA-76)
  3. Set a slow attack and a fast release
  4. Set the ratio and threshold to obtain -6 to -18dB in reduction
  5. No make-up gain is needed as it will increase the noise floor
  6. Mix the two sounds together until you find the perfect blend for the track (less sometimes is more)

2. Increase Fatness

Parallel Compress to add fatness

The opposite of punch is fatness. This technique will give your drums more body without compressing the transients or add to them. Therefore, we’re going to utilize the same setup as if we were to add punch. The difference between the two is how we apply the attack and release. A fast attack will eliminate transients and by adjusting the release time you can control how much fatness you add.

  1. Create a duplicate track of the drums you wish to add punch to
  2. Add a compressor to the duplicate track
  3. Set a fast attack and a release that gives you the right sound (listen to how the characteristics change as you move from a fast to slow release)
  4. Set the ratio and threshold to obtain -6 to -18dB in reduction
  5. No make-up gain is needed as it will increase the noise floor
  6. Mix the two sounds together until you find the perfect blend for the track

3. Bring An Instrument Forward

The third of 4 ways to use parallel compression is to make instruments stand in front of you. The key is to use drastic settings on the compressor to achieve a sound of the instrument being in your face. The ratio you set will determine how the blend will sound. Low ratios will provide a more naturally compressed sound while higher ratios will provide more crunch (and distortion). A little distortion applied to drums with this technique gives them more energy and presence. However, each track requires different uses and sometimes a natural sound is better. Here’s how you can set it up in your DAW:

  1. Duplicate the sound to a new track
  2. Add a compressor of your choice to the duplicate track
  3. Turn the threshold down to where the signal’s sustain begins to release
  4. Set the attack to a fast setting and the release to a slow setting
  5. Select the ratio accordingly for your desired sound (low ratio =  natural, high ratio = crunch)
  6. Mix the two sounds together until you find the perfect blend for the track

4. EQ Without Phase

Side chain Compressor

This technique will require a compressor that allows a sidechain input. What we’re doing here is using an EQ’d signal of the sound you wish to enhance as a sidechain into the compressor. If we remove the part of the sound we wish to stand out from the input signal, the compressor will attack the rest of the sound. That way, when we blend the two sounds together the untouched part is more prominent as if we boosted the frequencies through an EQ. The benefit to EQing through parallel compression is that unwanted artifacts aren’t made louder since no boost is happening. Instead, we effectively lower the rest of the signal we don’t want to boost. It’s great for making the low end of kick drums more prominent. Here’s how to do exactly that:

  1. Duplicate the kick drum to a new track
  2. Add a compressor with a sidechain option to the duplicate track
  3. Set the sidechain as a bus of your choice
  4. On the original kick drum channel, add a send using the bus set as the sidechain (100% volume send)
  5. On the bus channel used for the sidechain, add an EQ
  6. Apply a high-pass filter to the EQ so that the low end is removed
  7. The compressor will not act on signal coming from the low end, only the signal post-eq
  8. Mix the two sounds together until you find the perfect blend for the track

There you have it! 4 awesome ways to use parallel compression. Try them out and let us know your thoughts and how they worked for you. Happy Producing!

Splice Sound Library Adds SFX

Apr 25, 2017 by Happy Hour Beats - 0 Comments

If you’re not yet familiar with the Splice sound library, your world may change forever! Splice is a cool startup that offers music producers a home online. The platform offers producers the ability to backup DAW sessions to a cloud and access production tools. From plugins to a million samples, to presets, Splice is a one-stop shop for producers. Now, as of today, the Splice sound library has added SFX to their sound library. This opens the platform up to film composers!

History of Splice

Splice sound library logo

A few years ago, while working at Universal Music Group, we had the opportunity to meet the Splice team. Back then, Splice was looking to offer Stems to DJs and music producers. If you’re not familiar with the term stem, it’s an audio file of a specific instrument isolated from the rest. An example of a vocal stem is an acapella.

Right then, we knew the team is solid and had the vision to address a music creator’s needs. The downside is that stems are costly to produce and take a while to clear. It’s also an untapped market which makes it a risk to invest heavily in without knowing the potential revenue outcome.

Luckily, this did not stop Splice in pursuing their goals of supporting the creator community. Instead, they found an alternative route – offering music samples and presets. These are just as valuable (if not more) to a music producer than a stem. Welcome to Splice 2.0 or the Splice that you know of.

Producers Love Splice

Aside from offering samples and a cloud backup system, Splice also allows producers to collaborate. Producers are able to share their sessions and ask others to jump in and help out. It’s quite cool to see in person and helpful when you’ve reached a roadblock on your track.

Major producers, such as Just Blaze, have partnered with Splice over the years. For Just, he released his “Meow The Drums” sample pack exclusively on Splice. He also collaborated with them on Beat Maker, an online tool to create beats using Just Blaze’s drum samples. This comes in handy when you need to create something quick for one of their online remix competitions.

just blaze collborates with splice sound library

Yes, remix contests. Splice offers contests that allow producers to remix tracks using supplied acapellas and stems. It’s another way Splice provides an opportunity for music producers.

Splice Sound Library

With sound effects added to the library, Splice is looking to capture a new set of customers – foley artists and film composers. As a startup, you always need to find ways to maximize your revenue. It’s what makes the company valuable for a potential IPO or acquisition. I don’t think Splice is quite there yet, but this is definitely a move in the right direction for either.

The startup is already generating revenue and potentially profit.  Their monthly subscription is now meaningful to a subset of customers who need sound effects (DJs perhaps?). Now, why couldn’t I join for a month and rip all the samples? I guess you could, but Splice continues to add new presets, samples, and sound effects monthly – all of which are exclusive to their service. Is $8/month really that expensive to spend hours ripping content? Is it really worth it? I don’t think so and neither should you, especially when you have to spend that time making new tracks!

So now that you know about Splice, what are you waiting for? Go check out their library and see if it’s a fit for you!

What Is Parallel Compression?

Apr 25, 2017 by Happy Hour Beats - 0 Comments

When you listen to your mix, do you feel things aren’t hitting the way they should? The drums just aren’t slapping as hard as they can? So you throw the track through a compressor and it still isn’t sitting where you want it to? It’s times like these that perhaps what’s missing is a bit of detail that a parallel compression can add to the mix. What is parallel compression you ask?

What Is Parallel Compression?

Parallel compression is a technique that blends a highly compressed version of audio with a dry version. Dolby started the technique in 1965. Their noise reduction circuitry sent the audio signal to two busses simultaneously (parallel busses). One of these buses utilized a compression set at a very high ratio while the other was dry. The two busses are summed together at the output resulting in the expansion of dynamic range (more on how below).

Parallel Compression Signal Map

Audio engineers soon adopted this technique from Dolby. Over the years it has become known as ‘New York Compression’ since the audio engineers in NY heavily relied on this technique. We know what you’re asking, “Why? What does it to do to audio?”

What Does It Do?

We use parallel compression today as a way to “upwards compress” audio. This sounds counter-intuitive, right? Well, it’s not…

1176 Parallel Compression

Sometimes we wish to increase the audio’s quiet parts. If we increase the track’s overall volume, the quieter parts do get louder but so do the louder parts. That doesn’t work, so we opt to use a compressor as a way to lower the audio’s loudest parts (the peaks). This reduces the audio’s dynamic range and pushes quieter parts of the audio up closer to the loud parts. However, it’s tough to get these quieter parts to be equally as loud as the loud parts. To do so you’d need to really compress at a high ratio, which can remove the track’s characteristics and groove that you like. This option also doesn’t work.

That’s where parallel compression comes in. It keeps the audio signal untouched on one bus, retaining the dynamics and groove we want. Then, by sending the same audio signal to a separate bus we can use a compressor to squash the living hell out of it with a ratio of at least 20:1. This removes all the dynamics of the track, forcing the quietest parts to equal the loudest in volume. Therefore, when we mix the squashed audio in with the dry signal, we effectively increase the low-volume parts of the track which is where detail and energy live, without losing the groove.

For more information on upward and downward compression read this write up by SOS.

How to implement it:

Parallel Compression Setup

The easiest way to implement parallel compression is to add a send to the audio track (single or grouped auxiliary). The send should be bussed to a new auxiliary track that has a compressor on the insert. Make sure the volume of the send is 100% and the send is pre-pan so that it’s not affected by any adjustments made to the audio channel itself. Set the compressor’s ratio to at least 20:1. Adjust the auxiliary channel’s volume to find the perfect blend of the two.

We’ll go over parallel compression techniques and tricks in our next blog here.

17 EQ Tips To Improve Your Mix

Apr 24, 2017 by Happy Hour Beats - 0 Comments

If there is one tool every music producer needs to understand and utilize, it’s the EQ. It is one of the most effective and utilized tools in music production, mixing, and mastering. Think of the EQ as a robot that can control how your instruments sound and blend together. Except, it’s not a smart robot. Instead, it needs your direction for it to perform its job. The hard part is, what instructions should you give the EQ to perform for you? Well, here are 17 EQ tips that can help you determine what to do.

EQ Tips - Cut frequencies

17 EQ Tips

1. Cut frequencies first before boosting.

2. Cut narrow, boost wide. It balances out the frequency spectrum.

3. Cut to manage frequencies and allow other instruments to break through.

4. Boost frequencies to add characteristics and tones to the instrument.

5. You cannot boost a frequency that is not there. Which leads me to my next point.

6. Do not apply cuts or boosts unless your ears tell you it’s needed. Doing so on a whim can damage your mix.

7. Clean up the low end by using a high pass filter on instruments that are in the upper octave regiments

8. Hard-cut frequencies below 100hz on reverb & other FX tracks to prevent extra muddiness in the low end.

9. Carve out frequencies of the bassline to allow the kick drum to punch through if they clash.

10. EQ the Left and Right channels separately to fine-tune and widen the mix.

11. Use 0.5 dB intervals to pinpoint the perfect amount of cut/boost.

12. Most frequencies only need a bit of EQ (-/+3dB max) to fix the problem at hand. However, extreme cutting and boosting are required in some cases. Apply when appropriate.

13. If EQing does not give you the tone you’re looking for, try a different sample or re-record the instrument with a different microphone. The sound you start with limits what you can add to it.

14. Cutting at 250hz helps reduce muddiness.

15. Boosting at 1K adds the “am radio” sound.

16. Cutting at 8K reduces sibilance – apply to vocals and harsh hi-hats.

17. Boost frequency harmonics of an instrument to accentuate characteristics. If the bassline is at 150hz, boost multiples of 150hz (300, 450, etc.) to highlight the groove. This helps prevent muddiness and adds clarity.

Keep In Mind

Despite having these EQ tips readily available to use, do remember that each device you listen to music through (monitors, headphones, etc.) can affect how you hear the song. Many headphones and monitors EQ the sound themselves, giving you a misrepresentation of how the song sounds. Make sure to utilize flat-EQ monitors and headphones. For headphones, we strongly suggest the Sony MDR-7506. They are fantastic and are true to the sound.

Sony_MDR_7506

Another good habit is to bypass the EQ after making adjustments to hear if you made the correct adjustments. The best way to do this is to hover the mouse over the Bypass button, close your eyes, and then click the Bypass button multiple times. With your eyes still closed, listen to the instrument and how it fits into the mix. Afterward, hit the bypass button and listen to the instrument again. Go back and forth until you decide which version you prefer. Open your eyes and see if you ended up liking the track with or without the EQ edits. It’s ok if you choose the non-EQ’d version, it happens all the time!

Which EQ Is Right For You?

1073 EQ

There are many EQs out there that have different EQ curves, features, and interfaces. We suggest starting with the EQs that come with your DAW. In most cases, they will do whatever it is you need them to. From there, test out other EQs and change the scenarios. How does one EQ perform on a bass compared to another? How does a specific EQ curve change the tone on a guitar? Let your curiosity roam and get the better of you. It will only help you down the road.

And remember, at the end of the day there is not a wrong or right way to EQ. That’s the beauty of art and music, you do what you think sounds best to you. Stay creative, stay foolish, and be humble. Good things will come.

Producer Playlist: Timbaland

Apr 18, 2017 by Happy Hour Beats - 0 Comments

Coachella is here and it reminds fans who are the top artists each year. Well, as I look back at the lineups in years past, I’ve noticed there is one producer / artist who never had the opportunity to grace the Coachella stage. So as my way to petition for Timbaland to headline in 2018, here’s the ultimate playlist of all his hits. It’s sort of the best of Billboard’s hot 100 for the past 20 years. Hits on hits. Be sure to check out our Producer Corner to get the latest production tips and tricks! *insert baby cry sample*

Hits By Timbaland: