Q: Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What genre would you classify yourself as?
I am originally from Bolivar, NY, a very small town on the border of Pennsylvania, about 2 hours south of Buffalo. I moved to Orlando, FL around 1997 and that is where I got my intro into “techno” (it wasn’t EDM at the time) listening to DJ Icey, Baby Anne, and DJ Stylus spin Orlando Breakz. I am DJ Majestik, and my music is so unique and different you never know what I am going to release. I most fall under Dubstep, Electro, and Progressive House.
Q: Who would you say your biggest influences are?
A: My influences go way back to the days of Crystal Method, Fatboy Slim, but also the Chicago DJ’s from the 90’s, Bad Boy Bill, Bobby D. Today, I have a very eclectic mix of production influences, ranging from Infected Mushroom and Aphex Twin to Dank, Bassnectar, Datsik, and others.
Q: What does your production set-up look like?
A: When I started producing, I was using Propellerheads Rebirth and Sony Acid! Those were the days. I graduated up to using Propellerheads Reason and Ableton Live, but even with the ability to rewire them together, it was such a chore to get samples from Reason to Live. So now, I just use Reason for all my sequencing and synth building, and with Reason 8 it works seamless and flawlessly! I also use maschine to beat out rhythms at times, and even use my phone to save new ideas or new flows I have. I am a huge fan of technology and making it work for me.
Q: What are you working on at the current time? Any exciting news as of recent?
A: Right now, I am working with 2Four, a rapper out of Nashville, and we’ve released one 4 track album to start. We have other tracks that are sitting on the shelf, just waiting to get out. Right now we are planning a college US tour. I’ve also been signed to DJ Central Records, so things are really starting to get busy, and I love it!
Getting high quality engagement has always been difficult. Tracking whether someone is an actual fan, rather than a accidental click has never been easy, as the play statistic is not very elucidating. A songs success is often judged by the number of likes, comments, and reposts that it gets. Unfortunately, the casual Soundcloud user does not often do any of these things, making the popularity or quality of a track be far lower than it actually is. Cloudkillers is a community of highly engaged Soundclouders who comment, like, and repost your tracks while providing helpful insight into your productions. It is a great platform for learning production techniques and becoming part of an online community who can turn into future fans or friends.
Read on to learn about the great community that is Cloudkillers:
Cloudkillers is an online, social promotion community geared towards underground producers who wish to increase their exposure via actual engagement in the form of high quality comments. Cloudkillers monitors the comments made. If a comment is too short, irrelevant, or plain rude, the author of the comment will be removed from the community. In addition to making comments to earn points, which can be exchanged for comments on your own tracks, you also accrue plays, potential favorites, and potential followers by being a part of the community.
Cloudkillers is excellent for producers who are just starting out.
The community is 100% free to join and to benefit from. Every comment that you make on a specific track awards you one point, which can be exchanged for comments on your own tracks. The more points you have total, the more likely your track will randomly appear for others to listen to. In addition to earning points when you comment on another’s track, you also earn “luck”. Luck is reset every 24hrs and it benefits those users who make a large number of comments in one sitting. If you have the highest luck percentage at one time, you will automatically jump to the front of the line, regardless of how many total points you have earned.
Cloudkillers boasts a knowledgable community, helpful, active chat, and wonderful moderators.
In addition to getting actual engagement on your Soundcloud tracks, Cloudkillers is an incredible helpful community full of experienced producers who will help you become better at your craft. Interacting within the community is rewarded. I received a 50$ pro account, (which has a myriad of benefits), for continually making high quality comments in addition to helping newer producers in the chat when they had questions.
If you do not have the time to comment, yet want the real engagement from fellow producers, Cloudkillers has the option to buy points at roughly 10 cents per point. While not terribly expensive, it can add up overtime if this is something you continually do. My personal suggestion is to comment roughly 100 times, see if you like the community, and then purchase the 500 point pack. Having 500 points in your account will earn you 20 comments a day. In addition, purchasing the 500 point pack (55$) earns you a pro account as well.
Cloudkillers is the strongest Soundcloud specific community around, and the only one directly supported by Soundcloud. Sign up today if you wish to strengthen your musical following, or get advice from experienced producers.
Polyrhythms are an incredibly interesting way of quickly adding complexity to one of your music productions. They are far more likely to bee seen in genres such as IDM, dubstep, and trap as opposed to house music genres, although this does not need to be the rule. Including polyrhythms in a production often times results in increased musical tension, which is valuable in every genre. If used correctly, polyrhythms can take a track from average to a musical master piece.
Aphex Twin, an IDM heavyweight, is an expert at using polyrhythms, and uses them in numerous of his productions. One of his more famous, “Window Licker” uses them extensively to great affect. Before polyrhythms can be explained, it is best that they are heard.
Listen to the track “Window Licker” below:
The track has a unique pulse far different than that often heard in a typical house track, or even dubstep. The structure chaos of the song is what makes it great on top of the interesting vocals.
A basic definition of a polyrhythm is two or more rhythms played simultaneously. This even includes rhythms in the same time signature. While this is technically true, this does not yield very interesting results. For the sake for this article, we will refer to a polyrhythm as two different time signature rhythms, or ratios. The superimposing of one rhythm on top of another creates a cross-rhythm which gives a unique pulse to the track.
In creating polyrhythms, the easiest way is to think in terms of note ratios. For example, a basic polyrhythm would be a ratio between snares and kicks of 7:4. This means that for every four units, you play one kick drum. For every 7 units, you play one snare. This will yield a progressively shifting pattern that is interesting. If you wanted to add in some more interests, for example, with a rim shot, you could have the rim shot play at a 5:4 ratio to the kick.
You can extrapolate these ratios to include the full assortment of percussion that you wish to use in a track, creating a structured chaotic piece that drives forward yet retains tension. An interesting way of shifting energy and resolving tension is to use two polyrhythmic riffs juxtaposed in a sort of “call and response”.
The track below uses juxtaposed polyrhythms as a key part of the song’s structure.
Listen to the drop of the song. The change in the vocal pattern is coupled with a rhythmic shift that drastically elevates the intensity of the track.
To create two “dueling” rhythms, simply use the same elements but use different ratios. For example, if your snare was originally 7:4 to the kick, change it to be 6:4. If you open hats were at 3:4 to the kick, change them to be 5:4, or even 5:3. The easiest way to do this is to use the grids of the midi editor in your digital audio workstation.
Do you want your mix to stand out from the crowd? Do you want to have seamless transitions that, unless the listener is paying the utmost attention and knows both songs, won’t be detected? Look no further that here. I will describe how you can find your track’s key and analyze its energy level while also figuring out the best ways to mix between the two tracks.
I recently posted this mix on my Soundcloud:
I performed this mix live. Aside from the first two transitions, where I was warming up (they are still seamless, just a bit long) all transitions in this mix are virtually undetectable. In addition, where I bring in the new song completes a unique and unexpected melodic phrase that is pleasing to the listener.
There a several steps to creating an excellent, harmonically mixed DJ set that will help you stand out from the crowd as a performer:
1. Find your track’s key
This is easily the most important part of creating a harmonic mix. If two track’s keys do not work together, it is best to steer clear trying to mix them together if your goal is mixing harmonically. That being said, if you are mixing only rhythmic elements the key of the two tracks does not matter. Currently the industry standard for key detection is Mixed in Key’s key detection software. Unfortunately, it is quite expensive at 98$ dollars.
However, there is an easy solution that can be had at half price:
Mixed in Key also produces a DJ software called “Flow“. It is only 58$ and comes with Mixed in Key’s key detection software and their energy level detection software. In addition, it is a fully fledged DJ mixing software. I personally do not use it for live mixing, but that is because I typically work with tracks with complex rhythms, or tracks that change tempos. If you are working at a consistent tempo (ie 128bpm, 140bpm) it works excellently.
If you do not want to spend any money however, you can detect a song’s key by listening to the last note or phrase in the track. This is a trick that I have carried over from my classical music experience. Typically, the last note in a song (if it sounds like the song resolves) is the tonic note, and the key that you are looking for. Then decide if the track is major or minor and then manually assign its camelot value using the camelot wheel.
More advanced harmonic mixing techniques can be found here.
2. Analyze your track’s “Energy”
Analyzing the energy in a track can be a slow and tedious process, especially until you have determined what you want your benchmarks to be. This is another excellent reason to purchase Flow. Flow assigns an energy value for you, so you do not have to make the decision yourself. However, if you do not want to purchase Flow:
Listen to the track standing up. If the track makes you bob your head, assign the track a “5”. If the track has a comparable energy to a high powered electro house anthem, give the track and “8”. If the track is mellow, and could be listened to while chilling at a lounge, give the track a “3”. From here extrapolate the rest of the tracks that you want to use in your mix, assigning all of them numbers.
Energy level mixing is incredibly important, and helps keep the listeners attention throughout the mix.
In the mix that I made above, I began the mix at an “8”, dipped down to around a “6” where the Prodigy track kicks in, then brought the mix back up to an “8” to “9” when Bro Safari and UFO’s track “The Dealer” plays. After that I lower the mix’s intensity back down to a six.
When creating your mix, do not skip energy level numbers. This will confuse your listeners, and will likely have them stop dancing if you are performing live. If they are listening at home, it might jar them enough that they will turn off the mix. If you want to skip an energy level, try to mix out of the playing track when it is either in a lull or an energy spike (depending what you need for the incoming track).
3. Be sure to count.
While this is not specific to harmonic DJing, it is more important when attempting to DJ harmonically because melodies exhibit very strong phrasing structures. Melodies are not typically shorter than 16 bars. Typically, a melodic phrase will run 32 bars. When mixing in and out of two tracks, be cognizant of how long the melodic phrase carries on for, and try not to make your loop shorter than that phrase, otherwise the transition will sound unnatural.
If the phrase is very short, like in many hip-hop tracks, you can get away with having a short 4-8bar loop to mix in an out of.
4. Mix in rhythmic only track portions
This is a trick I sometimes use if I cannot find a track at the correct bpm that sounds good with the outgoing track. If I need to mix out of something that has no melodic partner, I will mix in a rhythmic only portion, like I did around 18:30 in the mix above.
Rhythmic loops can be far shorter than their melodic counter parts. Asides from a fill every 16-32 bars, most tracks do not have strong phrasing elements. This can be leveraged to help get you out of a tight spot when performing live. Be warned, rhythmic loops are far less interesting than melodic loops so try not to make your listeners listen to a beat for too long.
With the ever increasing number of DJs out there as a result of electronic music’s growing popularity, the need to differentiate yourself from the crowd becomes ever stronger. No longer will excellent beat matching skills and a quality taste in music get you famous and plenty of gigs, you need something extra that will cause people to remember your performance. VJing alongside your DJ set is an excellent way to do this, as many people do not make this part of their routine. Unfortunately, the lights, smoke machines, and software to run the can be incredibly expensive, making the barrier to entry into VJing relatively high. That was until ApexVJ came along.
ApexVJ is an an inventive, online software app started by Simo Santavirta. Without getting into all of the technicalities, the minds behind ApexVJ made the software in such a way that it runs as native code on whatever platform you are using. This means that it is robust and will not fail on you; ideal for the performing DJ. Furthermore, the web app can be used 100% for free.
The sturdiness and price of ApexVJ are not its only advantages. While creating the web app, the developers of ApexVJ found that while listening to music, your brain is in an “anticipation-reward mode”, where you are in suspense, listening for specific patterns to happen. When these patterns happen, your body releases dopamine, making people enjoy their listening experience more. When patterns surprise us in a positive way, even more dopamine is released! The sound analyzing algorithm of ApexVJ works in such a way that it is able to detect these moments in the must successfully. It then leverages these moments to increase the dopamine producing effect while listening to music.
Setting up ApexVJ for performance:
What you will need:
Auxiliary Cord for Microphone hookup
Projector or HDMI cord to TV
ApexVJ has an option for “input”. This is the option that as a performing DJ we must pay attention to. Once you have clicked on ApexVJ’s “Input” option (found here), allow chrome to access the microphone’s input. From here you have one of two options.
Use a secondary computer to listen to the music and display the visuals.
Route the DJ Mixer into your computer’s microphone input.
Either option will require you to turn the visualization’s volume to zero, otherwise you will have a nasty feedback loop. (press Z-Key and adjust the volume).
If you chose to the first option, all you have to do is set the second computer up and allow it to use its internal microphone to capture the DJ set’s sound and it will do the rest. From here, just put the second computer in full screen visualization mode, connect your HDMI cord or projector and you are set. This is the recommended option as you will not have to deal with potential mid set accidents. The extra computer need not be anything fancy; the visuals will be the only thing running on it.
If you chose the second option and you use your computer to DJ as well, you will need to have a way to keep the HDMI or Projector’s focus on the Chrome page that is running the visuals. Depending on what software you are running, this could be easy to incredibly difficult.
ApexVJ can also be used to create creative, interactive visualizations for your Soundcloud tracks that you can post on forums, websites, or social media. The listener gets to control what they see by clicking different keys on their keyboard.
Compression is a hugely important aspect of music production across all genres. It reduces the loudness of the “louds” and increases the levels of the “quiets”. Initially you may believe that this would be detrimental to the listenability of an instrument or track, however it is quite the opposite. Human hearing behaves logarithmically, while recording does not (an article discussing the non-linearities of the human ear), and adding in compression helps even out the discrepancy between recording and playback. That being said, over compressing corrects the issue to much and should be avoided if you want your track or instrument to have any life.
The compressor threshold is the decibel level at which the compressor begins to reduce the signal’s intensity. Reducing the threshold makes the compressor kick in sooner. For louder signals, the threshold does not have to be set as low as with quieter ones. This is because setting it too low would introduce too much gain reduction.
This is the amount that the signal passed into the compressor is reduced by. For transparent compressing a good target gain reduction is right about 3db. More compression than that will be able to be heard by a discerning ear. However, intrducing more compression can be used as an “effect”. This is especially common when the producer wants a pumping side chaining effect.
The ratio tells the compressor the amount to reduce the signal’s strength by for every unit that it is over the threshold. For example, for a ratio of 4:1, a signal that is 4 units over the threshold will be reduced to 1 unit. Similarly, a signal that is 8 units over the threshold will be reduced to 2 units. Low ratio levels give more transparent compression.
Attack and Release:
The attack and release affect when the compressor kicks and lets go after the threshold has been breached. These can be adjusted to preserve transients, control the sounds tail, or provide a wide array of interesting effects. These controls are deceptively important and can really affect how an instrument or track sounds.
While the knee is not as important as the ratio, attack, and release, it still can affect the sound. The knee changes the rate at which the compressor acts. In a sense, the knee allows the producer to dynamically adjust the ratio.
Side chaining is incredibly prevalent in dance music. Instead of using the signal that the compressor is placed on to trigger the threshold, an secondary signal is routed through the compressor to act as the trigger. When a kick drum is routed through the side chain, it gives the signature “pumping sound” many tracks have.
Peak vs RMS:
Not all compressors have this functionality, however the ability to switch between compressing a signal’s peak vs its RMS level can drastically change how a compressor sounds. Compressing the RMS level is typically what you want to do if you want the overall “loudness” to be raised. Compressing the peaks is what is done if you are trying to remove loud, sharp transients.
The make-up gain allows the producer to add back gain after the signal has been reduced via compression. This is not necessary to have in a compressor as it can be done easily outside of the unit.
Acapellas are hugely useful for both music production and DJing. They give you an opportunity to remix on the fly while performing, or and the finishing touches to a track by incorporating vocal samples. However, it is sometimes difficult to get the acapella track for the desired song; it is many times easier to find a track’s instrumental. Using the original song along with the instrumental, you can create your own acapellas thanks to phase cancellation.
Phase cancelation is when two signals with the same frequencies are not synced, resulting in a reduction in the overall level of the signal. If two identical signals are 180 degrees out of phase they will cancel one another if played at the same time. Even if the two tracks are not 100% out of phase, most of the backing track on the newly created acapella will be removed
1. Get ahold of the track’s instrumental track
Getting ahold of the instrumental track is the most difficult and important part of creating your own acapella track. Good places to look for instrumental backing tracks are iTunes, Youtube, or Djservicepack.com.
2. Get ahold of a phase inversion plug-in
Logic gain plugin
Fruity Phase Inverter
Reverse the polarity of the instrumental track. This will make it so when the full track and instrumental track are lined up that the backing instrumental will be removed from the full track
3. Line up the tracks
In order to achieve maximum phase cancellation, make sure the tracks are lined up as well as possible. This can be done by putting your DAW’s BPM to the track’s BPM and lining up the first percussive strike.
While this will not yield as good of results as having a studio acapella, the newly created acapella will sound essentially flawless providing that you have the two tracks lined up well.
You may be a professional or struggling music producer, or you are just beginning to learn the craft, this guide on how to choose the best compact midi keyboards will hopefully be helpful to you. From beginner to expert levels, there are various light weight midi keyboards to choose from. This guide will help you determine the best budget midi controllers depending on your preferred price range, your computer’s specifications and usability of course.
We are focusing on light weight midi keyboards because it is easier to transport and store. Its compact features also make it easy for you to find its perfect spot in your home or office. Most midi keyboards are used as an attachment to a computer or laptop. If it’s too heavy or bulky, it will be difficult to move it to a convenient spot when you decide to use it. Depending on your intended use, various models and specifications of midi controllers are available. Most music producers, however, plug these into their computer or laptop. Some midi controllers may operate on batteries while others require a power supply from a wall outlet. If you are a travelling DJ or a member of a band who would go on gigs, USB-powered midi controllers would probably be the best choice.
Amazingly, if you go online and search for the best budget midi controllers, you would find a wide range of models that are brand new or used. Now, if you are a beginner or you are just curious, and you would like to experiment on your musical skills, probably getting a used unit is recommended. You will be able to save money and determine the features that you will be able to use. By the time you are ready to buy one of those brand new light weight midi controllers for your own use, you will at least have an idea on what brand or model you would get and specifications you would need.
Best Budget Midi Controllers for Beginners, Intermediate, and Expert Users:
We have narrowed down some of the best compact midi keyboards we have seen. It is good to note that these are all basic plug-and-play devices that you may use on a PC or a Mac and are also USB-powered unless otherwise specified. While there are many other models and brands available, we’ve chosen the ones that wouldn’t put such a huge hole in your pocket.
Alesis Q25 25-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller, for $59.95 on Amazon (Original SRP $179.00)
Among various light weight midi controllers we have found, this has got to be impressively cheap considering its awesome features. Though a newer model of the Alesis Q25 is currently available for just $30 more, this seems like a good choice especially for beginners. To ensure high-quality performance, it features 25 velocity-sensitive keys. It is also kept simple by having only one USB cable that’s used for both power and data. The best part is that it just weighs a little over 3 pounds. Dimensions: 7.5 x 19.5 x 2.2 inches
Alesis Q49 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller for $79.00 on Amazon (Original SRP $199)
Because it has 49 keys as compared to the 25 listed above with the same brand, the Alesis Q49 is an affordable choice especially for those who don’t only produce music but perform them as well. If you’d like to play music on the keyboard, this is a cheap alternative than buying your own piano. It’s also great if you’d like to start your kids young in learning the beauty of music. It weighs only 5 pounds.
Dimensions: 7 x 32 x 2.2 inches
Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII 25-Key Ultra-Portable USB MIDI Keyboard and Pad Controller with Joystick for $99.99 on Amazon (Original SRP $199)
Now this is glam. The Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII is fairly affordable yet it’s a good choice even for experts and professional musicians. Its black and red color combination would surely look great on your desk and on the stage. In addition to 25 synth-action mini keys, it has a 4-way joystick for easier modulation and pitch control. The best features would be its 8 MOC-style pads, 8 Q-link knobs and that it weighs just less than 2 pounds! If the joystick and color doesn’t matter much to you, you can check out a cheaper alternative, the Akai Professional MPK Mini 25-Key Ultra-Portable USB MIDI Keyboard Controller, which will save you $20.00.
Dimensions: 7.1 x 12.4 x 1.8 inches
Novation Launchkey Mini 25-Note USB Keyboard Controller for $99.99 on Amazon (Original SRP $124.99)
When it comes to value and performance, this is probably one of the greatest choices on this best compact midi keyboards list. Basically the same features as the Akai MPK Mini except for the joystick part, this Novation Launchkey Mini features not just 8 but 16 velocity-sensitive pads. Reviews of this awesome midi keyboard claim that it is compact yet tough. It would be a great choice for those who plan on transporting this controller regularly. It weighs only 2 pounds.
Dimensions: 15 x 8.7 x 3.1 inches
IK Multimedia iRig Keys Pro full-sized 37-key MIDI controller for iPhone, iPad and Mac/PC for $115.83 on Amazon (Original SRP 149.99)
For those who like working on their iPhone or iPad but would still want the capability of working on their laptop or computer, this IK Multimedia iRig Keys Pro is a great choice. Weighing just 5 pounds, it has all your basic needs to keep the music going. It’s not exactly compact, but it’s not too big either. Besides, its features will allow you to work even when you’re on the go with just your iPad or your iPhone!
Dimensions: 162.5 x 57.2 x 12.7 inches
The list of light weight midi keyboards above will gives you a price range, its basic features, weight and dimensions to help you decide which among the best budget midi controllers you should get. No matter what your decision is, it should still be good for as long as you keep on making the world a better place by producing great music.
Twitter is an amazing promotional tool used by millions of people world wide. The speed at which information is syndicated on Twitter makes it an ideal platform for musicians to promote their music. Many musicians realize this, however almost all of them misuse the social network, falling prey to the lure of spammy tactics which yield fleeting, or nonexistent results. In the past, I used spammy tactics and got punished for it (I had to remake my Twitter). Now I am quickly building a Twitter following the right way, and achieving far better results. This article covers many common mistakes and how to fix them, as well as ways to attract new followers.
Automated DM’s to new followers.
Almost everyone hates receiving these. Not only are they impersonal, they are incredibly spammy, and have an abysmal clickthrough rate. The amount of followers who are turned off by receiving these far outweighs the number that actually visit the link that you supplied for them to click. People want to follow people, not an automated promotional tool that will fill up their feed with useless hashtags and uninteresting links. Do away with this immediately and improve your Twitter reputation.
Not Tweeting enough.
Even if you are supplying the highest quality content on the entire social network, if you are not Tweeting regularly, (Buffer.com suggests 14 times a day, roughly once every hour), you will not gain new followers, and will likely lose your existing fan base. Many people care about their follower/following ratio. If you are not tweeting enough, people will not see it worth their while to “worsen” their ratio by following you. In addition, people will not be excited to see new content from you if you are not supplying it regularly. Using sites like Buffer.com can greatly ease this process by allowing you to write tweets in advance.
You can use RSS feeds to supplement your content, via services like Twibble.io, however do not let this be the only content on your channel. You still want to tweet things that you feel are meaningful, and would interest or amuse your follower base.
Not repeating your message.
Most people are not on Twitter 24/7, and therefore will not necessarily see your message if you only post it once. It is a good practice to use Buffer to post the same tweet at several different times across multiple days. If it is an important message, post it between 3-5 times. Posting it much more will come across as spammy, and will cause people to unfollow.
Tweeting too much.
On a similar note, tweeting too much will cause people to unsubscribe. (This account is an excellent example of tweeting too much, multiple times every second). People don’t want one account taking up all the space in their feed.
Not following back.
As an artist, you should be using Twitter for promotional reasons, not reasons that boost your ego. Following your followers back is a great way of showing appreciation, and maintaining their loyalty. Furthermore, it allows you to better see what your fan base is up to and interested in.
Not interacting with other users.
Favoriting, retweeting, and replying are incredibly important parts of the platform. Taking the time to respond to users talking about popular topics, retweeting and favoriting content that you support is a great way to attract new users, and to seem more human at the same time. However, retweeting should be done sparingly (try not to let more than 25% of your tweets be retweets, you want to spread your own message).
Searching for new followers:
When starting out, attracting new followers can be incredibly difficult. Statistics show that most accounts that have less than 1,000 tweets have less than 100 followers. The best way to get new followers is to first supply high quality content (relevant RSS feeds, good personal life tweets, non-spammy promotion) and then to interact with users relating to your musical niche.
For example, one of my musical niches is dubstep. I would go to Twitter, search for “dubstep”, click on the “live” button to see all tweets relating to the keyword, and then begin interacting with the users that are talking about dubstep. This involves following those users, liking their content, and if it is really good, retweeting it. They will receive a notification which may lead them to viewing your profile. If they see that you have high quality content they may return the favor. Doing this for multiple keywords daily is guaranteed to grow your follower base.
However, this will lead to you following far more people than who are following you. Do to Twitter’s limits, you will have to unfollow some people. Services like socialbro.com make it very easy to see who you are following, who is following you, and who is not. I suggest using this service to follow all the people who are following you, and unfollowing ones who are not, or who have not been active on Twitter in a while.
These tactics have done me very well in increasing my Twitter following. If you have any questions regarding the subject, sign up for our forum and ask away.
An often over looked aspect of sampling is micro editing your midi sequence. This includes varying velocity, length, and modulation of the notes after you either draw or play in the series that comprise your melody. Micro editing will improve any instrument’s midi sequence, however when working with mechanical instrument samples (cello, piano, guitar etc…) an effort to “humanize” the midi sequence must be made. Software samplers, such as Native Instrument’s Battery 4 has an option for auto humanizing samples by randomly varying the pitch and timbre. Unfortunately, many samplers do not have this. Furthermore, often times it is not pure randomness that you want to achieve.
To demonstrate the power of humanizing a midi sequence, I have included a 4 bar section of an upcoming track that I have been working on. The sample below (the same as the one pictured above) has not yet been humanized, and sounds harsh and flat.
I was not happy with these results, so I decided to make several changes to the midi sequence after strategizing for several minutes. I varied the midi sequence’s velocity where I felt the violinist should change their bowing direction. I lessened the intensity at the end of each bar, since I wanted it to sound as if the violin was slurring their notes.
The results of my changes are pictured on the right. As you can see, the downbeat is heavily emphasized, while the upbeat is quite a bit lighter (30 velocity points). This gave the violin melody substantially more bounce, and a more realistic sound than the sample before.
While the velocity change may not be overly striking on its own, the emphasis on the downbeat is hugely important in this track. With the drums and piano added back in, the importance of the soft upbeat and lighter violin fills are more noticeable.
How to mimic real instruments:
While it certainly helps to have experience with whatever instrument that you are trying to imitate, the necessary knowledge about how the instrument is used to achieve different effects can be discovered relatively easily. All that is required is an internet connection, a video (where you can see detail) of whoever’s style you are trying to imitate, and the ability to pay attention to detail. Below I articulate how I would go about mimicking this pianist:
1. Find a video.
To find this video, I went on Youtube.com and searched “up close piano solo”. The reason I wanted an up close version is so that I could see what the pianist’s hands were doing as well has hearing what happened. While this is not required, I find that it helps speed up the other steps.
2. Analyze phrase velocity.
The easiest aspect of humanizing a midi sequence is changing entire phrases velocities to mimic volume changes. For instance, at some points the pianist performs a call and response, with quieter, and then louder musical phrases. I would lower the velocity of the quieter phrases to “piano” (70ish on my sampler), and raise the louder ones to “forte” (100ish typically).
3. Analyze individual note’s the velocity.
This may seem daunting at first, however it is mostly a matter of listening to what notes are louder than the others. In this example, the chords, isolated notes, and the notes at the end of scales and flourishes are typically the loudest. In the midi sequence that I created, I would go through, set all the velocities in a phrase at a medium level for that phrase (ie a “forte” phrase would all be set at 100) and then make notes that fit into those categories have a higher velocity.
In addition, the pianist typically crescendos over the course of quick sequences. Any phrases that I have that are a bar or less I would go through and change the velocity to match.
4. Further humanization.
While the pedal on the piano is not used in very much in this piece, in some cases it is. The piano’s pedal can be mimicked with added reverb. To copy the piano’s pedal action, automate the reverb accordingly. If you are feeling adventurous, you could make certain notes “out of tune” by increasing the modulation for that particular note. Depending on how busy your composition is, and your sampler’s settings, this could create an incredibly lifelike piano.