Saturday, August 25, 2018

Seymour Duncan Blackout vs Emg 707 bridge pickup comparison (with video sample)

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
The title speaks for itself: I wanted to compare my 2 favourite active pickups, the ones that I am mounting in the bridge position of my 2 guitars, to see how they perform with exactly the same settings (Jst Ben Bruce amp sim).

To be honest the comparison is not 100% fair, since I have used the same settings and as you can see the Emg 707 has a much lower output compared to the Blackout, nevertheless I wanted to show you how big can be the difference from one pickup to another, even among actives.

The Emg 707 (that I use in a LTD MH-417) features an alnico magnet, which gives it a more classic tone, thus retaining power, tightness, and sits extremely well in the mix.
By tweaking the amp you can achieve many different tones and due to the not so extreme output it retains also some dynamics, which are not so common in active pickups.

The Seymour Duncan Blackout (mounted on my Ibanez ARZ 800), on the other hand, is raw power. It has a much higher output, a ceramic magnet, and even if it has a bit too much lower mids, it has this slightly scooped high-mids that makes it clear in a very pleasant, not ice-picky way. This is the first version, the AHB-1 designed by Dino Cazares of Fear Factory, which is more manageable than the others.

From this comparison probably the Blackout comes out as a winner for metal, it is punchy, full of low end, and it has the right clarity to bite in the right frequencies, but I strongly recommend anyone also to try the Emg 707 and set the amp accordingly, you will discover why it is still today considered a 7 strings standard, especially in the studio, where a more controlled tone and the right mid range can make the difference in the mix.

Which one do you prefer?

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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Review: It Might Get Loud - KVLT Drums (with video sample)

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to review a very particular drum sampler, produced by It Might Get Loud Prod., that tries to recreate a sound that made the history of heavy metal: the classic early '90s Norwegian black metal one.

In the early '90 Norway took by storm the metal scene with the most extreme, satanic, fast and malevolent fringe of heavy metal ever conceived up to that moment, with some young metalheads that took the sound of Venom, Celtic Frost and Bathory and brought it to a new level by adding to the speed of the fastest part of thrash metal (like Slayer) screaming vocals, a pinch of raw punk attitude and lyrics that depicted black and cold atmospheres, often referring to Satan and occultism. 

Bands like Darkthrone, Mayhem and Emperor were formed by extremely young guys, angry with the establishment and the modernity, and their sound is characterized by very raw and lo-fi recordings: the early albums of Darkthrone were literally recorded with a four tracks tape recorder, and those limitations contributed in making the records even more menacing and unpolished.

Kvlt drums is a very peculiar drum sampler, because it tries to recreate this raw and unprocessed sound, that feels like being in a rehearsal's room, and that lends itself to the fastest and most in your face blast beats and grooves.

As I mentioned, this drum sampler is completely unprocessed, unlike the Dieswitch Drums produced by the same company, and it lends very well to a deep mixing session, thanks to its many layers of velocity, but I have decided to use the raw sound, completely untouched, for my video sample, in order to give you an idea of the starting sound.

This is another very pleasant drum VSTi to work with, a good bang for the buck, and I suggest any fan of the cold, northern sound to check it out, also because, being unprocessed, gives us a lot of room for shaping the sound exactly the way we want.

Thumbs up!

Specs taken from the website:

- 1 Kick

- 2 Snares (Piccolo & Wooden Tama Snare, Sidestick + Left & Right Articulations)

- 3 Toms

- 1 Hihat

- 1 Ride

- 2 Crash

- 1 China

- 2 Splash

- 2 Unique FX Cymbals (Lid of a stove = minichina & an aluminum pan = zilbell)

Drums played by: Peter Zana
Engineered & mixed by: Ron D. Rock

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Saturday, August 11, 2018

5 ideas to get your music creativity running

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
It's been a while since our latest songwriting article, maybe I had some songwriter's block myself, so I started thinking: what could be some effective way to win back some inspiration?
Here's some tip I think may be useful:

- Mix things up: try to look at your music from a different point of view; if you are a singer that writes starting from a vocal line try to start from a guitar riff, or from a drum beat. If you are only a guitarist try using a different guitar, with different sound features, or a different amp, stompbox etc. If you are a mix engineer try to ditch your daw, your favourite plugins and get out of your comfort zone: change daw, change plugins, start from zero just following the rules and your knowledge, all these small changes will help you seeing things from a different perspective.

- Take a pause: creativity is not (luckily) a "use it or lose it" skill, either you have it or you don't.
Sometimes we expect the creative flow to be constant, like water from a tap, through all our life and we get scared when it is not flowing ALL THE TIME.
Sometimes it stops because we have other things in our mind, or because we want to put these ideas into practice at a faster pace than they come. Let the ideas arrive slowly, don't push them, even if it takes months: every attempt in forcing them will result in uninspired, procedural music.

- Try to draw inspiration from other media: music is only one of the many forms the human creativity can be expressed: go to an art exposition, read a book (believe it or not the world is freaking full of AMAZING ones), go to cinema, explore the best videogames and you will notice that all these inputs will pour new mojo in your half empty musical ideas glass.

- Listen to a completely different genre of music: I know, all you want is to listen and play true norwegian satanic black metal, but, guess what, music doesn't end there, and you shouldn't take every other genere with diffidence.
Choose one or two genres at the complete opposite of what you are currently listening to and deep dive into them: try to understand them, to find out why people listens to them, what are the feelings those musicians wants to express with their music, you will find out the reasons WHY that music is being played, and you will find out that usually they are good reasons, and this experience will give you a fresh perspective also towards what you are currently loving.

- Change your environment: what we have around us influences our creativity and our perception of reality. Sometimes if everything around us is always the same we can end up with the same ideas, the same colours in our palette. I am not saying to move to another house, but maybe taking walks to different parts of the city, hanging out (or jamming) with someone different or having a vacation to some place different can literally make new ideas bloom into our mind.

I hope this was helpful!

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Saturday, August 4, 2018

Review: It Might Get Loud - Dieswitch Drums (with video sample)

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to review a VSTi instrument, the Dieswitch Drums virtual drumset from It Might Get Loud Productions!

IMGL is a recent Finland-based brand that offers several samplers and Midi grooves, focused on punk, rock and heavy metal; the prices are very competitive and the quality is pretty good.

The drumset we are going to review today is a sampler with pre-processed sounds that tries to recreate the classic "early 2000" metalcore vibe that can be listened on the Killswitch Engage records for example, and it's surprising that a dedicated library is coming out just now since how beloved and searched for is this type of sound.

The layout is quite simple: besides the 3d model there is an integrated mixer to control individually each drum part in the box, and the content of the library includes 4 velocity and 4 variations for each drum part, so it's pretty essential, it can be considered a sort of Ezdrummer, and it includes also a dedicated metalcore Midi pack.

The sound is surprisingly similar to the original KSE one, although being pre-processed it won't let us intervene too much on the samples, but as a songwriting tool or to put together a quick mix it's the ideal, and the tone that can be heard on my sample is the sampler without any further processing from my side.

I really recommend this product, since it's easy, affordable and provides a very good tone for all the metalcore lovers out there.

Thumbs up!

Specs taken from the website:

- 1x Kick

- 1x Snare

- 3 x Toms

- Hihat, Ride, 2x Crash, China, Stack, 2x Splash

- Includes Metalcore Essentials MIDI Pack

Each Drum contains 4 velocity layers and 4 Round Robins.
Total Library Size ~60Mb.

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