beatz & funkz

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Acryl – Mixit 40 entry on

While surfing the web to find electronic music producing related
websites, I stumbled upon, which is an extremely cool
website for producers. The websites hosts a web forum, as well as user
pages with their releases. Every month, a mixit contest takes
place. Using only a given number of samples, every contestant has to
produce a track, which will be reviewed by the other contestants
afterwards. During the contest, samples for the next competition can
be uploaded. I love challenges, and when I found the webpage last week
I though “wow, I must submit a track for the mixit 40“. I downloaded
the sample package, and loaded them into Ableton Live, which is my
main music program at the moment (actually the only one I own, I
didn’t get around to try much of the free software lying around).

The nice thing about mixits and contest is that they put
constraints on the material that you have to begin with. I find it
much easier to work withing such constraints. Actually, I now play
around with sounds like a few hours, and then tell myself “ok, no more
sounds”. Then I play around with some loops and melodies, and then I
tell myself “no more melodies”. After that, I’ll start to modify the
beats and melodies, trying to introduce tension, using know break
schemes for examples, or just fooling around with plugins like
Supatrigga and LiveCut. I also try to use a few ideas I get by reading
books about classical music. In acryl for example, I found the two
main melodies by playing around on my keyboard. One I liked
particularly, and modified it a bit by using the different pieces of
the melodies at different times, and then by copy pasting and shifting
pieces of the melody on top of another. Here you can see the different
motives deriving from the same musical idea. The melody is then played
by two synths so that one answers the other, which gives the track a
bit more dynamism.

At the time (actually, last friday), I was listening to Incunabula
by Autechre, and to the Autechre Peel Session number one. Their tracks
consisted mainly of a simple, beautiful melody, played by a very
crystalline sounding synth, and I was totally into that sound. I
browsed the samples to find one from which I could extract a nice
sounding synth, and used the weird noise sample from which I also
extracted the bass. I loaded the wave sample into the
Simpler instrument of Ableton Live, which is a sample based synth
featuring additional features like a filter, an LFO, ADSR envelopes
for amp, filter and pitch. I played around a bit, and finally created
two synths which different only in the speed of their LFO, which was
applied to the LP filter. On one synth, I prepended a MIDI transpose
effect to get a lower sounding synthesizer.

I also needed a mean sounding bass, but didn’t find a very useful
sample. I extracted some kind of distorted mushy sounding bass from a
noisy sample “hazy-in-sept-845”, but didn’t get it to loop cleanly in
Simpler. As a result, I used the bass sound to play short notes. I
played two very simple bass lines, actually the bass is almost a part
of the beat.

There was a nice beat loop in the samples of the mixit, as well as
a single kick and a single snare, and a second drum loop. I used the
kick and the snare, as well as a hat from the second drum loop to
build a battery kit using the Impulse sampled based drum machine of
Ableton Live. I also modified the snare sound by stretching it to
generate a kind of softer, longer snarey sound. I used the battery kit
to build up a simple beat, which is kind of breaky, and also a simple
four on the floor house beat. I used the other drum loop as is, and
played it through supatrigga with some moderate repeat and reverse
probabilities. Actually, I played with a lot of glitchy effects on the
drumloops, but finally threw away all the different variations I
generated and decided to stick to a simple groove.

In the sample pack, there was a kind of weird aerial melody, which
I immediately noticed and thought “hey, I have to use that”. It
actually was the main part of the song in the beginning, but in the
final version, it only gets introduced at the end. I’m not very happy
with it also, because it doesn’t really fit well into the harmonic
setup of the first part, but it sound kind of weird, which is fine by
me 🙂

I used a harmonic note from a sample to generate a kind of
high-pitched beep sounds by importing it into an impulse tracker. I
then added some effects (grain delay and ping delay), and hammered on
my keyboard with quantisation set to 1/16. This generated a kind of
rhythmic note cloud, which I planned to modify dynamically by playing
with the wetness of the grain delay. I finally resorted to not use any
dynamic effect in the track (that is, no automation or so), so the
high-pitched note cloud is just used to add some rhythm to melody

Finally, I warped a kind of “ssshhhhhhh” noise and used it is a
kind of cymbal sound to introduce new parts of the song.

I spent most of my time arranging the different segments I had. I
tried to not repeat the errors I had made with The Web, and targeted a
much shorter song with a lot more variations. Also, I decided to use
fade-in and fade-out effects by adding automation to track volumes as
a way to introduce new parts. You can see this especially at the end
of the track. Another thing I tried to do was to inerrupt the beat in
order to build up tension, you can see this at 3:00. However, the end
of the track I am not completely satisfied with. I think the four on
the floor rhythm is too harsh, and the end melody doesn’t harmonically
fit very well with the first part. It also is a lot more boring 🙂

I learned a few things building this track: “less is more”, I think
I ended up throwing 80% of my ideas and loops and melodies away. I
don’t have to use every setting or even every loop I thought was good
in a single song. Actually, this song, without any big fancy effect is
my favourite so far. Structure is very important, and studying
counterpoint and classical music, as well as analyzing other
electronic music tracks really is helping. I’ll try to blog about a
few tracks I have analyzed. The funny thing is that after a few weeks
producing music, my perception of music has completely changed, but
not necessarily in a bad way. When I hear music now, I always focus on
how the track is built, what sounds are used. Sometimes I understand
what the artist is doing (or at least I think so), sometimes I don’t,
but in both cases I still really enjoy the music, maybe even more than
before. Anyway, enjoy the track. I think it’s the electronica
equivalent of simple pop tune, not complicated, plain, but somehow
beautiful 🙂 You can find the mp3 here,
and the ableton live set here.

posted by manuel at 12:00 am  


  1. Hi,

    ich hätte Interesse an einem mehrteiligen Workshop: “Electronische Musik Selbstgebacken” vorallem mit nicht technischem Schwerpunkt (wie mache ich meine Basline das sie groovt, wo setze ich Breakpoints usw.. so eine kleine Rezeptsammlung)


    Comment by BlueLoop — September 13, 2005 @ 9:08 am

  2. Genau das habe ich auch vor, aber vielleicht sollte ich vorher noch ein bisschen musik klicken 🙂

    Comment by netzstaub — September 13, 2005 @ 9:13 am

  3. splendid

    Comment by parquet floor — January 4, 2007 @ 5:26 am

  4. Bin an einem solchen Workshop auch interessiert. Habt ihr schon was gemacht oder habt ihr nähere Informationen?

    Comment by Herbert Malzahn — April 26, 2007 @ 6:21 pm

  5. Klingt echt gut, wäre auch interessiert.

    Comment by Abgemischt — July 4, 2007 @ 10:46 pm

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