Six years ago, on this day in April, we arrived in the United States with some suitcases, and with traveler checks to pay for our temporary apartment. As I wrote in the first two parts of my “Sad California” playlist (here and here), it’s always a bittersweet experience to relocate to another part of the world, leaving family and friends, but it also gave me a new freedom. Being a freelancer again, I could finally focus on my music, develop my skills, and start to build a local network in the entertainment industry. And as I usually think more in musical terms, and rather remember what music was playing at what time in my life, here are my personal musical highlights from these past six years – the very personal part of the soundtrack of my life, it seems:
Mixing music is quite often a thing of personal taste – while some like to have crispy highs (and loud HiHats and Cymbals), others prefer a more bassy sound. But why is it still a bit muddy or muffled (or too tinny)? Here are five quick tips that can help your mix – plus one quick look at a picture showing how not to do it:
Everyone has his favorite instruments, plugins and production tools, that can range from pretty basic stuff to weird things that just make the difference. So I thought I write about five of the effect plugins that I use all the time (not totally weird ones 😉 ) and basically can’t live without. Of course I can only talk about the specific plugins I’m using, and what I like about them, but you’ll find similar effects from other vendors as well, and I’m sure there are also a lot of great free ones out there. Oh and I don’t mention basics like compressor, reverb and delay here 😉
If you’re discussing music and sound design – especially with a group of synthesizer fans (or should I say “synth nuts”) – you often hear a strong sentiment against the usage of presets. They say to avoid them like the plague. But are presets really all-out evil?
So you’ve recorded great vocal takes, edited them and now you’re mixing your song, but the vocals won’t shine out as much as you’d like them to. No problem, but it’s not just about frequencies…
Rises, stings and transitions are a stable in modern film scores – especially with movie trailers, tv promos and reality shows. They make dramatic string crescendos and finales even more dramatic and epic. They underline the superhero flying over your head with a big SWOOOOSH. And although the sounds and plugins used for this usually sound good already, they often don’t deliver that full sound you might want.
But with a few little tricks you can make your rises and transitions fuller and more piercing in the mix.
Step sequencer patterns can be pretty repetitive, and although that’s what you often want when using them, you don’t want them to be boring. So you can use filters and other tricks to liven them up. Or: If you’re into electronic instrumental music, I bet you’ve heard of Klaus Schulze. He’s one of the founding fathers of the so-called Berlin School (as opposed to Kraftwerk‘s Düsseldorf School) in which you can find artists like Tangerine Dream, Manuel Göttsching, Bernd Kistenmacher… And Klaus Schulze is famous for using step sequencer patterns that, although being repetitive in their parts, don’t really repeat over time, as they weave into each other more or less randomly and create new patterns over a song of, say 15 minutes.
Recently I wanted to try this, too. So I started a tribute song for Klaus Schulze. Of course there are other ways to achieve these kind of (more or less) randomly interweaving patterns, but here’s how I did it this time: