I’ve got to say, the new features in Reason 7 are killer!  I’m having a whole lot of fun working with everything from the new Spectrum EQ Window, to the buses and parallel channels on the Main Mixer.  And of course all the rocking Rack Extension devices, especially the Korg Polysix and Propellerhead PX7 instruments, and the Pef Buffre and FXPansion Etch Red Filter effects, and iZotope Ozone for mastering.  Way too much fun and not enough time in a day to play with all these new shiny toys!

And did I mention that you can turn audio loops into REX loops directly in Reason now?  No more need for the ReCycle program.  This is so cool!

About the new bus paths in Reason’s Main Mixer.

And it’s so easy to create parallel channels now.

My Berklee Online Courses:

AES Report 2012

Nov 07 2012

The Audio Engineering Society (AES) held its annual conference in the beautiful city of San Francisco a couple of weekends ago.  It was the 133rd conference!  That’s a lot of shows.  I had the opportunity to visit the show room floor where manufacturers where hocking their wares.  It’s always a fun atmosphere in which to see, touch, and learn about the newest and coolest music production gear.

As a rule, when I hit the show room floor I’m keeping my eyes open for specific products, as well as anything groundbreaking that might make my job easier and inspire my music production work.  This year I was looking out for studio monitor control devices, mid-sized studio monitors with great bass response, MIDI controllers with finger pads, and innovative work surfaces.

The monitor controller that caught my eye was the Oculus by Shadow Hills.  Its fat, ergonomic level knob felt great, and its toggle switches for selecting input and monitor sources were a pleasant change from the usual push buttons.  Most impressive of all, it was wireless!  The company’s demo guy handed me the Oculus controller, sat me in front of an array of Barefoot Sound monitors, and asked me what I wanted to hear.  Of course I asked, “Got some dance music with good bass?”  He happily obliged my musical preference and the next thing you know I’m banging an EDM track while fluidly switching between three sets of speakers.  Selecting speakers with the Oculus was a real pleasure, and the Barefoot Monitors sounded amazing.  I was especially impressed by their smooth, consistent mid and high frequency response across three different sized speakers: MicroMain35, MicroMain27, and MiniMain12.  The large MiniMain12 and mid-sized MicroMain27 speakers both had excellent, tight bass response.  I was impressed.

Oculus by Shadow Hills

Barefoot Monitors

While fantasizing that I could somehow fit the MiniMain12 speakers into my home studio, much less afford them ($19,950 a pair, ouch!) I heard two people behind me say, “We’ve got these speakers in a room at Berklee.”  I turn around to see Mark Wessel and Leanne Ungar, both Berklee College of Music Associate Professors in the Music Production and Engineering department.  Pretty cool!  It’s always a lot of fun to meet people at these shows, especially fellow Berklee folk.

Akai also had a booth at which the new Akai MPC Renaissance and its little brother, the Akai MPC Studio were on display.  Of course I had to try out some finger drumming on the pads to see if they felt at all similar to the classic MPC pads.  I was not disappointed.  The MPC Renaissance felt especially good, with a solid feel, responsive pads that are velocity and after touch sensitive, and a bank of sixteen very grab-and-turn friendly rotary knobs.  The Renaissance is a surefire hit for folks wanting that classic MPC feel in a fully integrated MIDI controller and beat making platform.  The MPC Studio’s pads felt identical to the Renaissance, but its dials felt decidedly inferior to the Renaissance’s rotary knobs.  I found myself wondering why you would design a controller with dials that feel like mini plastic plates rather than knobs you can grab between your thumb and forefinger?  Maybe they’re for spinning rather than turning and I’m missing the point?  In any case, some knobs on the Studio would be nice.

Akai MPC Renaissance

 

Raven Multitouch Audio Production Console by Slate Pro Audio

One booth that always had a crowd was Slate Pro Audio, where they were demonstrating the Raven Multitouch Audio Production Console.  It appears to be a truly innovative work surface, a giant touch screen from which to control your DAW program.  I’m always wanting a bigger screen and this definitely fits the bill!  But wait, didn’t I just say I like knobs to turn?  This is more like a really giant iPad.  In any case, it’s a truly innovative concept and it will be interesting to see how the platform develops.  Really amazing technology.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve got the best gear money can buy if your studio isn’t properly set up.  I can’t tell you how many home studios I’ve seen with improperly positioned monitors, uncomfortable workstations, and a poorly tuned room.  What you end up with is a sound that might be fine in your home studio but doesn’t translate at all to the outside world.  And you’re left scratching your head, wondering why you just bought the best gear you could afford but it’s not sounding right?  Well, you’ve got to set it up correctly in order to truly hear what you’re doing.  This doesn’t mean you have to build your own room from scratch, or spend a ton on acoustic material, you just need to understand basic acoustic principles and apply some common sense.

When I did consulting I used to go into home studios and help clients set up their gear for the best results.  When I saw Grammy award winning audio engineer Francis Buckley’s Studio Rescue series (sponsored by Rode Microphones) on YouTube, I said to myself, “Wow, that’s exactly what I would have recommended. I’ve got to tell my students about these YouTube videos.”  They’re really excellent.  Buckley knows what he’s talking about and offers practical advice on working with the space you have, and how to tune it using furniture placement and a few strategically placed Vicoustic foam panels.  Watch this video series if you’re not sure about how to position all the gear in your home studio.  I guarantee you’ll learn a ton.

There are twelve episodes posted so far.  Here are a few direct links:

Studio Rescue – Episode 1

http://youtu.be/02qpJt0hsL0

Studio Rescue – Episode 9

http://youtu.be/pf_7sC9wV8Q

Studio Rescue – Episode 12

http://youtu.be/K0iuj56c_eg

There once was a DAW program called Record, and then there wasn’t.  In its place rose Reason 6, with all of Record’s features (audio tracks, a new Main Mixer, and Line 6 Guitar and Bass amps) but without its marketing cloud of confusion.  Or, so it would seem, I’m not really sure since I’m not privy to such top secret information.  But, as an end user, the sudden drop of Record like it was a scalding hot potato and the Release of Reason 6, with a name your own price upgrade path, made me feel awfully uncomfortable about what might be going on inside Propellerhead.  Fortunately, the heads at Propellerhead appear to have a plan, a path back from the precipice that was Record.

With the release of Reason 6.5 (due sometime in the second quarter of this year) featuring a newly unveiled third party effect development system called Rack Extensions, and a spanking new iOS App called Figure, I’m excited to report that Propellerhead is definitely back in action and firing on all cylinders.  I think that Rack Extensions is a brilliant move both from a business and creative standpoint, and the complaint that Reason doesn’t support third party plug-ins will be a thing of the past.  Plus, Figure looks like an absolute blast and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

While I’m talking about Reason, I should mention that we’ve been having a ball with Reason 6 in my Producing Music With Reason course at Berkleemusic.  The projects students have been cooking up with all its new features and the audio tracks are amazing.  It’s really exciting to be hearing students put all these creative tools in Reason 6 to good use.  I can’t wait to hear what our community does with Rack Extensions in the next version of Reason.  But now, enough of me talking, check out this video detailing the new music-making wonder tools from Propellerhead.

Headed to SXSW

Mar 06 2012

I just want to let everybody know that I’ll be in Austin for the SXSW Conference next week.  I will be presenting a workshop on producing music in Reason in the Artist Central area on Thursday, March 15th, from 4 to 5 PM.  If you’re around, definitely drop in and say “Hi!”  (Or is it “Howdy!” in Texas?)

If you would like to hear a couple of the EDM tracks I’ve been producing in Reason lately, check out my new singles,  “Energy” and “Hiccup”.  “Energy” is out now (available everywhere, including iTunes, and soon Beatport), and “Hiccup” will be released next month on my Synchronized Music label.

“Energy” on Juno Download

“Hiccup” on Soundcloud

 
Hiccup (Original Mix) by Erik Hawk Music

Stutter Edit by BT

Jan 23 2011

The new Stutter Edit plug-in, conceived and developed over the past fifteen years by pioneering electronic music artist and composer, BT, is pretty amazing. Upon installing this plug-in on my system I feel like I’ve got BT in the studio with me helping to produce stutter edits and breaks in my song. Really, it’s like I hired him as a technical consultant just for his stutter edit production techniques. It used to take me hours, even days to cook up these sound effects, through intricate slicing and dicing of waveforms and automating stacks of effects. Now, I can simply play a key on my keyboard and get the same, if not better, results! I can’t restrain myself from exclaiming, “It’s BT in a plug-in!”

How It W-w-w-works

Here’s how it works, simply insert Stutter Edit on the audio track that you want to stutter. Then, set up a MIDI track to send MIDI note and controller data to the Stutter Edit plug-in. Now, play your song and whenever you want to hear a stutter effect press a note on your keyboard to trigger one of the preset stutter effects. It’s that simple, and the presets sound great! Plus, to add more dynamics and enhance your ability to really play the effects, Pitch Bend is assigned to the plug-in’s global, resonant filter effect, and the Mod Wheel let’s you control different real-time dimensions of a preset. For example, moving the Mod Wheel could alter the speed of a preset’s stutters. You can record your MIDI performance and automate Stutter Edit directly from the MIDI track.

Sutter Edit comes with a ton of ready-made stutter effects spread out across the entire keyboard, right when you open it, so you can get to stuttering immediately. It also includes banks of stutter effect presets from BT himself, and a other electronic music luminaries, such as Richard Devine. If you’re not into the presets, you can certainly program your own stutter effects, from a simple eighth note stutter to crazy lo-fi distortion with delays and noise sweeps. Its many controls—Quantize, Delay, Gate, Filters, Buffer Position, Bit Reduction, Pan, Lo-Fi, Stutter Matrix, and Arpeggiator—combined with its Generator noise synthesis section gives you the ability to cook up just about any cutting edge stutter effect that you can dream of. Way too much fun!

Imagine the Possibilities

Sutter Edit is incredibly useful in the studio, but what I’m equally impressed by is its live performance potential. For example, stutter effecting loops in Ableton Live, in real-time right from your MIDI keyboard. Obviously, BT is deep into such things. He didn’t just dream up this plug-in in the studio, he wanted to take his stutter effects to the stage for live performances. And, clearly, he’s done exactly this, giving Stutter Edit plenty of beta testing during his Laptop Symphony shows. So, even though this is just version 1.0, it’s reassuring to know that it’s been out on the road and thoroughly tested by a pro, in high-profile, real life gigs. We know it works for live shows, not just in how it’s designed, but that it’s reasonably stable as well. How many software companies can say this about their newest software?

I’m already seeing and hearing grumblings on discussion threads saying, “I’ll never use Stutter Edit. I take pride in programming my own stutter effects one edit at a time.” Well, fine, I’ll have an entire track of stutter effects produced in the time it took you to do just one. And, besides, given a little time and patience—I know stutter edit producers have plenty of this—you can program your own unique stutter effects in this plug-in, assign them to keys on your keyboard, and save them in your own bank of presets. You don’t have to sound like the factory presets, you can develop your own unique stutter effect sound. Then, you can perform your stutter edits live, whether in the studio or on stage. This most certainly isn’t something you can do with that one stutter edit you just spent all day programming in your DAW. OK, enough said.

In the coming years, I predict that Stutter Edit will be massively overused, not unlike the AutoTune vocal sound (you know, Cher and T-Pain). Hopefully, the effect will be used tastefully, artfully, and without going completely overboard with it. Though, admittedly, I’ve probably already failed in this department—it’s just too much fun to play with. In fact, after about six instances of Stutter Edit in my Pro Tools session I managed to crash hard, several times, eventually completely freezing my Mac. Fortunately, after a quick reboot I was back in business and everything was running smoothly again. I also had problems controlling clipping at the plug-in’s output, because some of the effects pumped out serious amplitude spikes. A soft clip limiter section in the next build of Stutter Edit would be greatly appreciated.

Stutter Edit is distributed and supported by Izotope. There’s a lot of wonderful information about Stutter Edit on their Web site,
http://www.izotope.com/products/audio/stutteredit/index.asp
But, the best way to really appreciate Stutter Edit is download the trial version and take it for a test drive yourself. Also, check out this video tour of how I used Stutter Edit in a remix of my song “Delicious People”, for which the remix stems are available on my CD, Erik Hawk & The 12-Bit Justice League.
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/erikhawk

iMusic Live

Apr 30 2010

I’ve been intrigued by the tiny music applications on the iPod. They’re fun to play but you can’t really make serious music on them, right? Well, maybe not, unless you have the super powers of iPod Girl!

Then, I saw the iPad, and the first thing I thought was, “Wouldn’t it be cool if somebody developed some music applications for that.” I can imagine myself relaxing on the couch writing beats, with everything I need directly on the screen. Or, better yet, playing a couple of these live in a club. For example, one on either side of a DJ mixer. How cool would that be? Sure, neat idea, but we’ll see when this becomes reality, probably not for a long time.

Well, I had the right idea, but, wow, was my projected time line off. Korg just released the iElectribe for iPad. It looks really cool. I’m nearly ready to drop some cash for an iPad just so I can run this app. I think this is the future of laptop synths and music making programs. Rather than having one Korg Kaoss unit sitting on my desk, next to an Access Virus, next to a Dave Smith Tetra, next to an Adrenalinn, next to a . . . well, you get the idea. Instead of all this, I’d have one or two iPads sitting on my desk ready to be turned into any effect device or synth I can imagine. Obviously, this level of power and connectivity in an iPad is still a long ways off, but I can see the future and it looks fabulous!

iELECTRIBE

KORG’s first dedicated iPad musical instrument app!

For over a decade, Korg’s Electribe•R has been go-to gear for creative musicians from around the world and across multiple electronic and dance music genres. Now, you can take the power of the Electribe•R with you thanks to iElectribe, Korg’s first dedicated app; bringing the fun of analog-synth style beat making to your iPad. Best of all, the iElectribe takes full advantage of iPad’s 9.7 inch multi touch display to deliver a new style of musical instrument.

Main Features
Faithful recreation of the Electribe•R’s entire sound engine and sequencer

64 Preset patterns ready for immediate use

8 Supercharged effects

Advanced Motion Sequencing takes the iElectribe to new frontiers

Available now at Apple’s App Store (inside iTunes Store) for a special introductory price of $ 9.99 (US Dollars). Promotional pricing expires June 30, 2010 (regular price is $19.99 USD).

Classic must-have Korg dance gear, now available as a dedicated iPad application

Since its debut in 1999, the aggressive sound, unique functionality, and intuitive beat-building style of the Korg Electribe series has continued to make it a favorite of creative artists around the world. Over the years, the Electribe series has continued to evolve in new directions. The vacuum-tube equipped Electribe•MX and SX went on sale in 2003, followed by the updated MKII versions of the Electribe•A and Electribe•R. The year 2010 marks another chapter for the Electribe family with the iElectribe – one of the world’s first dedicated iPad musical instrument applications.

While fun to use, the iElectribe is no toy; it brings to the iPad the legendary capabilities of the Electribe series. Sound creation is easy and intuitive. Simply touch the step-sequencer’s sixteen individual step keys to quickly start a groove, pick another part and repeat. This simple and understandable interface offers an intuitive “hardware” feel that will captivate the imagination of anyone – those familiar with the Electribe’s power, and those who are experiencing it for the first time!

Faithful recreation of the Electribe•R’s entire sound engine and sequencer
Like its hardware counterpart, the iElectribe offers a four-part percussion synthesizer and a four-part PCM synthesizer. The percussion synthesizer features analog synth-style versatility, including exciting cross modulation! The sample-based PCM parts deliver realistic drum hits, cymbals, and more. Using the Accent function adds emphasis where you need it – vital for creating compelling grooves. All in all, that’s eight programmable parts combined with the easy-to-use 16-step sequencer, so anyone can start creating powerful beats instantly!

64 preset patterns ready for immediate use
The 64 preset patterns include familiar patterns from the Electribe•R as well as new patterns created especially for the iElectribe. The preset patterns cover a wide variety of dance music styles including techno, house, electro, trance, drum ‘n’ bass, dubstep, hip-hop, and R&B. Of course, there is plenty of room to program patterns that are all your own.

Supercharged Master Effect with 8 effect types

The Master Effect has been enhanced from the original Electribe•R, and has been optimized for use in today’s music scene. The eight effect types can spice up your beats in a variety of ways that can become indispensable. Included are a chorus/flanger that fits any type of sound; a tempo-matching BPM delay; plus effects such as a grain shifter and decimator which can dramatically transform the sound.

Advanced Motion Sequencing makes patterns come alive
Simply stated, Motion Sequencing records all of your sound enhancing knob-twisting and tweaking so it can be memorized and replayed as part of a pattern. The knob motion of all parameters, for each and every part, can be recorded – so you can go wild and create diverse and complex patterns like never before.

Winter NAMM 2010

Jan 22 2010

Here’s just a quick report on this past weekend’s NAMM show in Anaheim, California. Watch this, it’s the next best thing to going to the show. Well, actually, probably better than going to the show because you don’t have to deal with the crowds. Hopefully, you’ll find this video both informative and entertaining. Some of the highlights include the Korg Kaossilator, Akai MPC20, Max for Live, and Teenage Engineering’s OP-1.

Also, here’s a more extensive look at what I think is one of the coolest new products, the Ableton and Serato Bridge. The ability to mix your Live multitrack sessions straight into your Scratch DJ set is impressive. The ability to save your DJ set as an Abelton Live multitrack session is downright amazing! I’ve been dreaming of a product like this for years, ever since trying to multitrack DJ sets in order to tweak and overdub new parts after the fact. This really takes DJ “mix tape” productions to a whole other level. I can literally see a cottage industry of entrepreneurial music producers offering DJ “mix tape” production as part of their services. And, I’m pretty sure it could be a very lucrative side business.

If you haven’t already heard, Propellerhead has released a brand new recording application called, Record. Though Propellerhead doesn’t advertise it as a DAW software program, this is indeed what it is. There’s been a lot of buzz about Record, so chances are you already know something about it. But, even though Propellerhead’s promotional video is informative, and very entertaining, there’s nothing like actually using the program to hear how it sounds and feel how it handles. Over the past couple of months this is exactly what I’ve been doing, putting Record through it’s paces. Now, after spending some quality time with this new DAW, I feel comfortable commenting on Record and answering the questions I keep hearing from students, “Should I buy Record? Is it a good DAW and can it take the place of other DAW programs like Pro Tools and Logic?”

If you’re a registered user of Reason (any version, from 1.0 to 4.0), it’s hard to pass up the deal that Propellerhead is offering. For only $149 USD you can pick up a copy of Record. Plus, if you haven’t yet upgraded your last version of Reason, you’ll get the upgrade to Reason 4.0 in the package. So, if you’re a registered user of Reason, picking up a copy of Record is a no brainer.

Considering that this is only version 1.0 of Record, it’s a fantasy to think that it could replace a time tested DAW program like Pro Tools or Logic. But, Record does indeed sound impressive, and if you’re already comfortable using Reason, transitioning to working in Record is a piece of cake. Indeed, as I was composing and mixing in Record I couldn’t help but feel like I was using Reason on steroids, with a side of audio tracks. It’s really much more than this, but the user interface and general operations very closely mirror Reason’s interface and operations. For example, there’s a rack of virtual hardware devices, complete with a backside view and a jumble of cables, just like in Reason. And, the sequencer window in Record looks pretty much identical to the sequencer window in Reason. It’s the improvements that make me feel like Reason has been pumping up on steroids, such as the ability to have racks side by side, the virtual SSL mixer, and the Line 6 guitar and bass POD effect devices.

There’s a ton of great features in Record, far more than I can cover in a single blog. For example, its real-time audio time stretching algorithm that allows the audio tracks in your song to follow tempo changes. And, this is after you’ve recorded your audio to track. This feature is similar to Warp in Live and Elastic Audio in Pro Tools, and sounds just as good. It’s also easy to find fault with Record. For example, it doesn’t support third party plug-ins and there isn’t a bussing function on the mixer. But, these shortcomings are more than made up for in the fact that Record supports rewire. That’s right, it will operate as a rewire slave. This means that you could compose entirely in Record and then rewire your tracks into a Pro Tools HD system for a killer TDM mix down! Don’t try this with another DAW program. I’ve always said that the rewire slave mode is one of the coolest features about Reason, and I’m happy to see it lives on in Record.

To summarize, Record is an awesome program. And, it didn’t crash once on me while using it these past couple of months. If you use Reason and want to get into recording audio, Record is an excellent choice for your first DAW program. But, don’t expect it to replace a tried and true DAW program like Logic or Pro Tools. Though, I wouldn’t be surprised if someday it has features that rival today’s most popular DAW programs.

Keep up the great work Propellerhead!

When to Solo

Jun 27 2009

Every term, without fail, I get a few assignments handed in with all of a mixer’s solo buttons enabled. The usual problem seems go something like this, “I turned a solo button on and it muted all of the other channels on the mixer. I’m not sure what happened but in order to hear my mix again I had to turn all of the solo buttons on.” As ridiculous as this might sound to a pro, it’s a common mistake for beginners. If you don’t know what the purpose of the solo button is you’re not going to understand what’s going on when you press it. So, let’s clear this up once and for all.

At its core, the solo button on a mixer channel allows you to quickly audition a signal all by itself, or with a group of other solo enabled channels, without needing to mute all of the channels that you don’t want to hear. For example, if you see a signal on Channel 10 but you’re not sure what it is because you haven’t labeled that channel yet, press the channel’s solo button. Or, if you need to have a closer listen to the blend on a three part vocal harmony, press the solo buttons on all three harmony channels and instantly mute all of the other tracks in your mix. Then, to return your mixer to its normal monitoring mode, turn off all the solo buttons. Pro mix engineers are constantly switching back and forth between listening to soloed signals and the whole mix as they’re working.

The obvious reason why you don’t want to leave mixer channels in solo mode is because you might have a channel muted somewhere on your mixer that’s supposed to be in your mix. It’s easy to hear if you’re missing something really obvious like a guitar or vocal part, but you might not so easily realize that you’re missing an aux effect return channel. For example, if you’ve soloed a bunch of tracks your reverb return channel might be muted, and, consequently, you’d be missing much of the depth and space in your mix that was being created by your group reverb effect. (If you’re not sure about how a group reverb effect works, check out my earlier blog titled, “Let’s Talk Reverb“.)

At this juncture, it’s worth noting that there will be channels you never want muted when you press a solo button. For example, if you always want to hear a soloed track with its group reverb effect intact. Or, when you have a MIDI control track that always needs to be running in the background (such as a drum track or controller data). In these situations, you never want the tracks muted when you solo a mixer channel. So, to safeguard these tracks the best designed mixers have a function called solo-safe which allows you to disable the track mute action for those channels in solo-safe mode. For example, in Digidesign’s Pro Tools you press Command (Mac), or Control (PC) and click on a solo button to enable a channel’s solo-safe mode.

It’s also worth noting that there are several different types of solo modes, dependent on the level of mixer (hardware or software) that you’re using. Top of the line pro mixers may have three or four different solo modes that you can switch between, while a basic home studio mixer usually just has one set solo mode. The two most common modes that you need to understand are latching and canceling. They may have different names dependent on the mixer’s manufacturer, but they will always operate in the same basic fashion. On a mixer with latching solo the solo button stays on until you turn it off. You can keep pressing solo buttons and they will all stay on until you turn each one off. On a mixer with canceling solo pressing a solo button turns it on and pressing another solo button turns the last solo button off. Consequently, in canceling mode you can only have one channel soloed at a time unless you hold down a modifier key while pressing additional solo buttons (such as the Shift key in Pro Tools).

I wish every mixer had, at the very least, these two basic solo modes. However, more often than not most mixers only feature the latching solo mode. And, those mixers that do have both modes are usually set by default to latching. Though, I can’t help but think that having the default solo mode set, instead, to canceling would help beginners avoid a lot of confusion. This, and Mackie’s brilliant feature on their hardware mixers, the Rude Solo Light. It’s a big red indicator that let’s you know whether you have a solo button engaged somewhere on your mixer. Indeed, novices and pros alike can use this feature because when a mixer contains a ton of channels and a solo button is accidentally left on somewhere on the mixer, especially on a channel that has little or no audio, trying to figure out where all of your sound went can leave even the best producer scratching his (or, her) head for a minute.

Mackie Rude Solo 420
photo credit: inweaknessbe’s photostream