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What is mastering?

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A look into the black magic that goes on inside the mastering studio…

A good resource for producers, a new blog that can help producers etc, worth a quick look.

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Mixing Like a Conservative: Gain Control and Headroom

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dubstep production
There happen to be a decent number of possible pitfalls along the way to achieving a great mix but the most critical lies in the treatment of your gain levels. Without proper control of the dB levels of your tracks, your master fader may clip causing undesirable distortion, noise, and general poor quality. In order to avoid this problem, you need to get into a unique mindset specially made for the mixing stage; you need to think like a conservative.

Now, before you start assuming that this article is about to turn into a political shitstorm, take a moment to recall what the term “conservative” really means in a music production context. It refers to a very modest approach to the utilization of your production tools and techniques. In the context of gain levels, a conservative treatment will fare your project well and leave you with plenty of headroom in your master fader.

The master fader itself should be brought down at least -5 dB to begin with. Keep your kick and snare set anywhere from -8 to -10dB so as to allow for extra headroom for your basses. Don’t worry about your track sounding “loud enough” at this stage; this is a MAJOR pitfall that will cost you a balanced mix if you worry about your overall loudness at this stage in the game. Getting your track to be a strong contestant in the “loudness war” comes during the mastering stage. Worry about it then, and only then.

It is always a good idea to A-B (compare) your work-in-progress with a professionally mastered song of a similar genre or sound. However, it is easy to get anxious and frustrated while doing so since your track is obviously a work in progress and has not been treated with the mastering components (loud amplitude, cohesive saturation, stereo metering, etc.) but don’t let this get to your head. Remember, you are in the mixing stage, not the mastering stage. Pay close attention to the professional track’s mix and do your best to see beyond the mastering aspects, i.e. volume. It is the sound of the professional mix you are after right now, not volume. One tip I have picked up over the years that will aid in making the A-B process more fruitful is to bring down the volume of the song you are trying to emulate so that it matches your project rather than boosting the volume of your project to match that of the other song.

Let’s say, for example, that you are trying to create a growl bass similar to the one from Skrillex’s “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” but you are finding that your drums are sounding a bit weak in the mix. You open iTunes and play back Skrillex’s song to compare and you find that not only do his drums cut through the mix but they are punchy and have a vitality all their own, and the overall volume of the track is much louder than your work-in-progress. Well, as I said before, forget about the volume issue right now. Bring down the volume of iTunes, listening by ear, until it matches the volume level of your session. This will allow your focus to go where it should: the mix.

Now, back to the drum issue. You want yours to kick and snap with the punchiness of Skrillex. Instead of simply dragging the fader of your drum bus up a few dB, simply bring everything else down -1 or -2 dB and leave your kick and snare hitting right where they are (which should be -8 to -10 dB). You should find that, with proper treatment such as sidechaining your basses and melody synths and proper EQing, your drums will definitely cut through the mix in a much clearer, punchier manner.
A conservative approach to gain control will be sure to put you on the right track for a clean mix that is powerful, crisp and huge. It is important to remember that power comes from a good mix, not from an over-limited slab of non-dynamic sound waves. Think like a conservative and bring down dB levels of opposing tracks rather than boosting one or the other so that it overpowers its opponent. Headroom is your best friend when it comes to dynamics and a clean mix, and when you leave enough dB between your peaks and 0dB, you will make the mastering process incredibly easier. That volume that you seek to emulate from professional tracks comes from the mastering process, but the power comes from a mix that was treated carefully and conservatively.

via dubstepproductiontips

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14 dubstep production tips

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Dubstep might be the genre that everyone’s talking about at the moment, but unless you’re on the scene, you might struggle to describe how it sounds.

There are two primary characteristics. Firstly, it’s driven by a high-tempo bassline (138-142bpm as a standard), but with syncopated, shuffling beats that appear to play back at half tempo and loop over two bars instead of one.

And secondly, as the ‘dub’ part of its name suggest, it’s largely instrumental.

As with any style of music, though, these things aren’t written entirely in stone. Sometimes you get vocals; increasingly, you get MCs performing over the top; the basslines aren’t always fast; and very occasionally you get a four-four kick drum.

These are the basics – now let’s look at some specific things you can do to improve the quality of your dubstep productions.

1. Don’t neglect the beats
Dubstep beats are almost always lazily syncopated. The snares and other hits generally occur slightly later than you’d expect in other breakbeat-driven genres, which often gives them a broken beat and almost disjointed vibe, acting as the perfect contrast to the faster basslines. Try nudging them manually or using channel delay.

2. Pitch your drums down
Dubstep often uses slightly distorted and degraded sounds, and one of the best ways to give drums an edgy quality is to simply pitch them down. You’ll be at an advantage if you use a drum sampler such as NI’s Battery, as pitching drum samples down requires shifting start points and tightening envelopes to ensure that they stay punchy.

“Part of the charm and character of dubstep is that it’s not the most polished or overly processed sound, which means that it’s ideal for those on a budget.”

3. Hit some black keys
The key to creating authentic musical parts is to focus on the darker side of music theory! Minor key and diminished chords are the order of the day. But if you’re not classically trained, there’s another simple rule of thumb – black keys make everything sound a little darker, so try to include them in all of your chords and riffs.

4. Stretch and shift
You can add some additional grime to your percussive loops by recording a section, timestretching it and/or pitchshifting it (Ableton Live is a great tool for this, but make sure you deliberately use lower quality settings) and then resampling, ReCycling and re-importing them all into your track.

5. Slow things down
You can use the legato function on your ReCycled basslines to ensure they slide convincingly, but this only works if the slices are long enough. It’s often useful to timestretch any bass or musical loops so that they’re a couple of BPM slower than your basic tempo before ReCycling, so that the slices overlap when played back faster.

6. Progressive basslines
UK bass-driven styles are notoriously fond of basslines that progress over an octave. This can be played out slowly over bars, played consistently quickly, or simply used as a flourish at the end of each four- or eight-bar section, but it’s a surefire way to make sure even an aspiring urban novice can inject some authenticity into their tracks.

7. Wave editor
Anything that grunges up samples is useful in dubstep, and one of the best ways to do this is to use your wave editor (whether in your DAW or a separate program) to reduce sample rates and bit rates, thus reducing the audio quality. Just keep in mind that this can have an effect on a sound’s attack, so you might need to edit the sample too.

8. Keep it real
Part of the charm and character of dubstep is that it’s not the most polished or overly processed sound, which means that it’s ideal for those on a budget. Search the net for free synths and effects, as these can often be more convincing than overly smooth and polished high-end commercial plug-ins.

9. Stutter is good
Stuttering effects are a staple in UK urban styles and fit well with dubstep rhythms. There are plenty of plug-ins you can strap across the master output (Audio Damage Replicant and Live’s Beat Repeat for example) and apply to the last beat of every two bars, but you can even just manually chop up your bounced loop and sequence the stutter.

10. Keep things simple
Dubstep isn’t particularly processing-heavy, so if you find yourself applying ten plug-ins to every channel, you’re probably working with the wrong sounds. Keep things simple. Delay, compression, limiting and reverb are the order of the day.

11. Take the tail off
When you’re sampling sounds and synths from other tracks, you’ll often find them liberally coated with reverb. In this case, it’s usually best to leave the reverb tail off your own samples, as these will be adjusted to fit the original track and so will often tail off too soon, interfering with any reverb you add.

12. Keep things breezy
We’ve said it before, but really try to keep things simple. Dubstep grooves need space to breathe, so if your bass is busy, keep your beats sparse, and when your bass slows or drops, try ramping up the number of drum parts playing. That way you always keep things grooving without losing the energy.

13. Up the octave
Whatever kind of bassline or musical riff you have playing, a great dubstep trick is to let the last bar of every four or eight play one whole octave higher. Riffs also benefit from alternating between playing ascending and descending patterns, and vice versa. Ascending then descending within a two-bar loop is pretty effective, too…

14. There are no rules
Most important of all, feel free to ignore all of our advice – these are only guidelines. Do be sure to have a good listen to the genre before you start re-inventing dubstep, though.

via Music Radar

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Free dubstep Synths

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free dubstep synths

Radian Sound Lab has released some free synths for you to download, just pay with a tweet

Demo Song:

Download them here

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