Category: Software

Creating Keyswitches in LA Scoring Strings

LASS Keyswitching with the Auto ArrangerThose of you that use it know that LA Scoring Strings is an incredible tool for creating realistic string mockups and recordings. But it can be a little daunting at first, especially with the A.R.C. and all of the complexity (and power) that brings. When I first started using LASS, I didn’t know how to set up keyswitches and quickly retreated to putting different articulations of a string section in different Kontakt instruments just so I could get my piece finished.

I’ve recently been mixing a piece for a fellow composer and saw that he had used exactly the same workaround that I originally had—placing each articulation on a different track in his mix. I realized there may be a lot of you out there who haven’t yet found the excellent video tutorials on the Audiobro site, so I thought I’d share those. As you can see from the video, setting up keyswitching isn’t all that complex once you understand how it’s done, but if you don’t know how to do it you’d be hard pressed to work it out on your own. The best part is, you only have to set it up once and then save your template in Kontakt. Continue reading

Music from Pistachios

Here’s an amazing piece of music created by composer and sound designer Brendan Hogan, producer of the Fractured sample library reviewed a few months ago. This time, the only instrument Brendan used was a bowl of pistachio nuts, which he then processed in Pro Tools and Kontakt:

Brendan also guest-authored a blog post on Designing Sound in which he reveals how he did all this (thank God). It’s a fascinating look at what you can accomplish with one sample and a lot of creativity. It’s also a great advertisement for the inspirational power of limitations. The accompanying YouTube walkthrough is below: Continue reading

Another free SoundToys plugin

Little MicroShiftFollowing up on their release of the excellent Little Radiator (exactly a year ago), SoundToys once again are pre-releasing a free version of what will soon be a paid plugin. The Little MicroShift promises to add “massive width, enormous depth, and huge thickness” to whatever you put it on. Basically, it makes mono stuff stereo, using three different algorithms emulating two classic pieces of kit.

I have yet to try this baby out, but I’ve gotten my free copy, and you can get yours here until March 29th (that’s this coming Friday). Go get some free stereo!

Forget Tech, It’s About the Notes

Photo by John McNicholas

I’m a little slow on the uptake this week, but my latest SCOREcast Online post went up on Monday. This month’s theme over at SCOREcast is technology, but I always like to stir up trouble, so I went in the opposite direction. Here’s an excerpt:

I know this month’s theme is about technology and all the hot new gear out there, but I wanted to step back from all that and share a bit of wisdom I’ve learned the hard way: when you’re composing, compose.

Don’t orchestrate, arrange, record or mix at the same time. Writing, orchestrating, recording and mixing are four independent processes which use different skills and different parts of your brain. Trying to do even two of them at the same time is distracting and counter-productive. It takes you out of the moment and diverts you down numerous paths that beckon seductively but will ultimately waste your time and weaken your finished product.

Read the full article here, and step away from your DAW.

Vir2 Fractured Review

I got my hands on Vir2’s Fractured: Prepared Acoustic Guitar sample library a while back and I’ve since been loving its strange and beautiful sounds. Fractured takes a much more esoteric, avant-garde approach to acoustic guitar sampling than you’ll typically find. Instead of trying to recreate a gorgeous-sounding guitar, Fractured’s creator hit the instrument with chopsticks and erasers, placed bobby pins and shoelaces in the strings, and completely destroyed the sounds with effects and post-processing. Many of the pads, drum kits and sound effects make you quickly forget that the samples were made by an acoustic instrument of any kind, let alone a guitar.

Full disclosure: I’m friends with the creator, Brendan Hogan, and I wrote one of the demo tracks on the Vir2 site in exchange for an NFR copy of the library. That being said, I’ve tried to be completely honest here and point out any flaws I found alongside the positive features. Continue reading

A Roundup of Black Friday Deals

Happy Thanksgiving! I’ve gotten a number of emails in the last few days with all sorts of early holiday promotions. Here in the U.S., these typically begin the day after Thanksgiving, a.k.a. Black Friday. Here’s a partial list of discounts. Go get yourself some cheap merch!

  • Native Instruments is offering 50% off all Komplete instruments and effects, 50% off Maschine expansions and 50% off Traktor Pro 2, through November 26.
  • EastWest also has 50% off most of their virtual instruments, everything but the Complete Composers Collection and Hollywood Orchestral Woodwinds. Their sale lasts all the way until December 31st.
  • Waves is having a Black Friday sale but are keeping the details secret until November 23rd is giving away their One Knob: Louder compressor/limiter for free and offering up to 80% off the rest of their collection. Looks like most bundles and plugins are 40% off.
  • Sweetwater’s 8 Days of Black Friday Sale has lots of great deals on hardware and software. Highlights include Toontrack EZdrummer for $29.99 and 70–75% off select Alesis products.
  • Slate Digital is offering all their products for 20% off throughout November, including their new Virtual Tape Machine, which is getting great reviews. Plus, if you own other qualifying Steven Slate products you’ll get an additional $50 off VTM.
  • Lastly, Plugin Alliance is having a sale this week: 30% off one or two plugins and 50% off three or more. Follow them on Facebook for even more deals.
  • EDIT: Look for other deals from Ilio, Soundiron, McDSPeSoundz and Vintage King Audio (for those of you looking for hardware).

Again, this is just a small sampling of this weekend’s sales. If you know of any other good ones, leave a comment below.

Quick Tip: Setting a Compressor

Here’s a quick tip on setting a compressor properly so you’re not overcompressing the signal. I got it from reading through the excellent posts like this one on Production Advice (mentioned in an earlier post). I’ve been using compressors for years and I can’t believe I never knew this bit of wisdom! Here it is:

In normal use (i.e. not for a special effect), set your compressor’s threshold so the gain reduction goes back to zero a few times each measure.

That’s it! That way you know you’re only compressing the loudest parts of the signal and not crushing the whole thing. It also ensures that the release time isn’t too long and the compressor has a chance to “let go” of the signal before the next loud bit. Continue reading

Quick Tip: Get to Know Your Gear

Photo by Matt Brock ☼

I was reading a back issue of Sound on Sound last night and I came across this nugget in an article profiling songwriter and producer Alex Da Kid:

“Every month or every two months I’ll take another soft synth, and I’ll read the manuals and I’ll watch the YouTube videos on it, and I’ll go really deep into it. I may create a whole track just using that one synth.”

It occurred to me that we all probably need to do this. I know I do. I read magazines like Sound on Sound and lust after all the pretty new software and gear when I don’t really know how to use half of what I already own. I mean really know it. Sure, I can fire up presets on my virtual Moog Modular or OSCar and tweak them a bit, but I can’t quickly program a patch from the ground up on either one.

Just the other day I was trying to find the perfect drum beat for a project and realized to my dismay how poorly I knew all the beats I had on hand (and I have a lot). What I need is a library of MP3s with all my beats in various categories: Shuffle, Swing, Half-Time, Straight, Funky, etc. Not only will that enable me to audition beats quickly but the process of creating the library will make me much more familiar with what I own. Sure, it will take time, but it will save more when I really need it—when I’m on a deadline.

Consider adopting Alex Da Kid’s policy and dive into one of your underused pieces of gear every month or two. Read the manual. Watch some tutorials. Use it in a few pieces—without touching the presets. Having more than one or two go-to synths, delays or beat generators will be a great help when you’ve got three hours to compose a masterpiece. Remember, if you can really impress your client with your speed and talent you’re pretty much guaranteed to get the next gig.

FREE SoundToys Little Radiator

Until March 29th, plugin makers SoundToys are offering their new Little Radiator plugin for free. The Little Radiator is an emulation of the classic Altec 1566A tube mic preamp. The 1566A and 1567A were a big part of the early Motown sound, and the units are prized today for their colored, warm tone. Indeed, the plugin does add quite a bit of punchy fatness and it sounds especially good on drums. The controls couldn’t be simpler: the Pad attenuates, Heat adds gain and warmth, and Mix adjusts the mix of clean and effected tone.

As a bonus, by downloading a copy, you’ll also be entered into a drawing for a chance to win a Plugged For Life bundle—free downloads of all SoundToys plugins for eternity. Runners-up will win SoundToys plugin bundles and free upgrades to the upcoming Radiator plugin, the Little Radiator’s big brother.

One caveat: users must have an iLok USB key and account. If you do, get your copy here: And the more you pass around your link, the more chances you’ll have to win!

Free Stuff for the New Year

Native Instruments has just released Skanner, a new wave-scanning synthesizer for Reaktor and Reaktor Player. It’s a pretty incredible little sound-mangling tool, especially considering it’s FREE. Skanner seems more suited to sound-mangling than anything else, making it a sound-designer’s dream, but it is possible to get it to make pretty music if you’re careful. One of the coolest features is the ability to morph between two presets, and even modulate the morphing with an LFO. If you don’t own Reaktor. you can still use Skanner with the free Reaktor Player.

In that spirit, here are a few other freebies out there on the Interwebs. Enjoy, share, etc., and if you like them, be sure to buy some actual products from the generous vendors:

Continue reading