Saturday, September 29, 2018

Review: Ignite Amps ProF.E.T. with video sample

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are going to review a new Ignite Amps free Vst plugin: ProF.E.T. guitar preamp!

As we know, Ignite Amps (click here to read the intervies) is an Italian guitar amp and stompbox producer which releases also the vst version of its products for free, and it has created some of the finest guitar related plugins ever made, check out our reviews on this website to know more.

The ProF.E.T. is an overdrive/preamp/distortion in stompbox form, and it is based on an Ignite pedal designed in 2018.
The pedal features 4 eq knobs (the mids are divided in low and high mids, allowing a more precise control), a tone shift switch called "shape", gain and volume.

This unit can be used in front of an amp in the clean channel as a distortion, as an overdrive or as a preamp, and in our sample I have used it as a preamp, putting a booster in front of it to give it even more bite.

The signal chain is all composed by Ignite Plugins: Ltd Mh-417->Tyrant Screamer->ProF.E.T.->TPA-1->NadIR.

I must say that this is probably the best preamp Ignite has ever done: I hardly had to do any adjustment and it sounded killer.
With a booster in front of it it's easy to get a very usable metal tone: in the case of our video it's not too distant from the classic Killswitch Engage vibe.

Without a booster it reacts very similar to an amp, and it's nice to witness how the Ignite technology develops plugin after plugin, delivering with the ProF.E.T. a very realistic, tube-like distortion rich of harmonics.
I suggest anyone interesting in a good distiortion preamp to check out the ProF.E.T: it's extremely good and FREE, and if you like it, you can buy the hardware version too!

Thumbs up!

Specs taken from the website:

- Ignite Amps proprietary JFET non-linear modeling engine.

- 4 controls tonestack with additional Shape switch.

- Mono / Stereo processing support.

- Selectable oversampling rate (up to 8x).

- Global input / output level controls.

- Double precision (64-bit) floating point mathematical model.

- Fully automatable controls.

- Ignite Amps proprietary preset management system with bank file import/export functions.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

5 tips on how to make vocals sit better in the mix

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
This article is intended to be an expansion on our general "how to mix vocals" article, and the purpose is to help, besides the in depth steps of the aforementioned page, the vocals to sit even better in the mix, because vocals, snare and the management of the low end are the tree core components of a mix in which home studios and amateur mix engineers struggles the most.

1) nail the recording: the vocals, as already mentioned in our "how to record vocals" article, needs to be recorded in a room without resonances, otherwise we will find ourselves with a boomy take that will be extremely hard to clean up. If the room is not ideal, consider using a vocal shield behind the microphone: it's better to have an extremely dry take than an oddly resonant one.

2) recording through a hardware compressor: this one is obviously doable only if you do actually have a hardware compressor (it doesn't matter if it's a 1000$ one or a cheap one), or if you are recording through a mixing board with an integrated comp. As we know vocals are one of the most dynamic instruments that can be recorded, and a touch of compression (for example with 2 or 3 db of gain reduction) can help to get "tame" the peaks and the quietest parts in the take at the source. This will simplify a lot our work when mixing.

3) high pass filter: assuming that the take is clean and that we don't have particular eq adjustments to do, the basic step to take is to clean up the low end rumble, which can be caused for example by the breathing, or by an accidental touch of the mic stand, especially when using a condenser microphone. A high pass filter set anywhere from 100 to 300hz down should clean up the vocal track of all the unwanted subsonics that could mess with the compressor.

4) parallel compression: once we have compressed our track normally, we may find ourselves in the common situation in which the vocals are still weak, thin, too dynamic, but that if we compress more, the take becomes dirty and we lose some transient: in this case we can use the New York trick: double the track, crank the compressor in the second track to squeeze it like crazy and put its volume fader to zero, then, while listening to the full mix, slowly and carefully raise the fader of this second track until the vocals are full and round, yet mantaining the transient of the original track unaltered.

5) fx track: instead of loading the effects directly on the vocals track, we can create an effect track, load a delay and a reverb on it, tune them in order to make them with a short and not too invasive tail, and then eq this track in order to make sure the effects will only work from around 1000hz up. This way, when we will send this fx track to the vocal ones, the reverb and the delay will add their magic only to the high end of our vocals, instead of affecting it all, because otherwise they can make the low end of certain types of voice resonate too much and become unpleasant and "dirty".

I hope this was helpful!

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Saturday, September 15, 2018

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

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are reviewing another drum sampler by It Might Get Loud prod.: RIOT Drums!

Riot Drums is a library of processed drum samples that is inspired by the classic '90s punk and hardcore albums, and it tries to recreate the raw power of that sound, which was very natural and similar to the rehearsal room one, even in the high end albums.

With this sampler you can achieve very realistic sounds, but unlike for KVLT drums, this one doesn't need any particular extra mixing, the sounds are already very usable (in facts in the video sample I haven't touched them), although with some fine tuning you can really obtain some fantastic drum tones.

This sampler is different from the others of the same software house also because it offers more: more drum samples, several adjustable microphones, a super cool old school mixer interface, which lets you basically mix the drumkit as with a live mixing board, one of these cheap ones that you find in the rehearsal rooms (even with missing knobs!), and several other goodies very useful, but I like how everything is kept simple and essential.

Riot drums is another product of It Might Get Loud Prod., software house that is slowly building itself a name for its products with a very good quality to price ratio, and because it offers something different from the competitors, libraries for specific genres which were simply not available before, and I can't wait to see what will come next (personally I would love some Fear Factory/industrial metal type of library).

Thumbs up!

Specs taken from the website:

- Over 2700 drum samples.

- Drums: 1 kick, 1 snare, 3 toms and a whole set of cymbals (hihat, ride, 2 crashes, china, 2 splashes).
- Each drum has many adjustable mics: Close, room close, room far, overheads and bassdrum & snare 

- includes also close rear mic.
- Each drum has it's own pan and gain knobs.
- Each mic has it's own gain knob.
- Each mic can also be routed to any of the 16 stereo outputs.
- A simple 1 stereo output mode by default.

- Each drumhit's midinote is freely adjustable.
- A soundcheck-mode for adjusting drums without the need of external midiclips during the pre-mix.

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Saturday, September 8, 2018

5 Songwriting Tips to make your chorus more effective

Hello and welcome to this week's article!

Today I have gathered together some interesting tips on how to create a chorus that would work for our song, regardless for the genre (obviously these ideas needs to be worked and adapted according to the style).

It's important to say that this is not some sort of marketing technique, I don't believe in creating music or any form of art as one would create an industrial product; these are just ideas that have proven to be successful from where to start if we are crafting a song, but the most important requirements, the idea, the inspiration, are up to you.

1) A strong message: a chorus is called like that because, ideally, it would be the part of the song that recurs more often and that encourage people to sing it as a choir, therefore the message works better when it's simple, straightforward and capable of grabbing the attention of the listener.
There are several ways to obtain the attention of a listener: to use a very easy phrase, to use a question, to use terms that calls for a vocalization (for example the "woooh" in Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer"), or using an interesting word or a short phrase that makes the audience think.

2) Buildup and dynamics: As I have already mentioned in my other songwriting articles (use the meta tag to visualize them all), dynamics are crucial. To make a chorus really stand out it's important to put it at the right place in the song, so that the song is dynamic.
To make a song dynamic there must be alternation between quieter parts and louder parts, parts in which the drum beat is less strong and parts in which it's more in the spotlight, and more importantly for the chorus placement, there must be a buildup. In order to make a chorus effective there must be a pre-chorus that prepares the listener to the best part of the song like a wave: first there is the backwash, then the wave comes with full force.

3) Frequencies and tempo of the chorus: ideally, unless we are experimenting in the opposite direction (loud chorus and pre-chorus and super quiet chorus), the chorus is the part in which all the frequencies of the song explodes, so for example it is where, if a singer was singing the verse on a lower octave, he passes to the higher one.
Similarly as per the voice, we can set up the arrangement of the song to make sure the "hook" (the part of the song that grabs the attention of the listener) is in the chorus by using the frequencies that the human ear is programmed to prioritize, the ones of the human voice (around 2/2.5khz), by adding instruments (piano, strings, synths and so on) with octaves that gravitate also around that area.
On the other hand, in the other parts of the song, we can make the opposite: leave room for lower octaves, or, alternatively, we can use only thin sounds during verse and pre-chorus and let the mid-low end part of the song drop only during the chorus.
Finally, some famous producer likes to add 1 or 2 bpm to the chorus tempo: they say it's practically unnoticeable, but it gives the chorus an additional sense of upbeat that makes it even more energetic.

4) Choose the emotions to transmit: this suggestion is interesting because it applies to many forms of art, from writing a book or making a film, to composing a song;
it's important to have clear in mind the emotions we want to provoke in the listener.
You wouldn't like to see a comedy film that halfway, out of the blue, becomes a scary horror, and the same concept applies to a song: you need to have clear in mind whether you want to talk about something happy, melancholic, angry, and let the song soak into this mood, so that you will carry your feelings through the song (and the song will be more authentic), and at the same time the listener will connects more to it and it will resonate with his soul.

5) Chord progressions and alternation: many memorable songs have a theme that repeats during the various parts in different forms, but to make the song not repetitive it's important to spice things up: if the verse is fast and full of chord changes, a chorus with few slow open chords can bring balance to the song, or on the other hand a song with a slow verse can double its speed during the chorus to add energy and an uptempo feel to it. Don't be afraid to mix and match, to take the chords of one part and change their position to give the song continuity and variety, and, final suggestion: never stop creating.

I hope this was helpful!

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Saturday, September 1, 2018

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

Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today we are reviewing a very specific product, created by the software house It Might Get Loud Prod.: Djenthuggah Drums!

Djenthuggah Drums is a drum sampler with sounds created explicitly to replicate the very particular sound of Meshuggah: the band that literally created the Djent genre, a type of metal that unites extremely low tuned instruments, a fast thrash metal riffing that sounds like an evolution of the Fear Factory tone, growling vocals (although other bands of the same genre offers also clean singing) and a very, very complex, prog-like drumming.

The drum tone is very specific, because the band relies heavily on samples for their albums (to the point that some member created the famous software house Toontrack, which is one of the leaders in drum sampling today): it has a powerful mid range designed to cut through the most dense mix, and a lot of attack and "clickiness".

Djenthuggah Drums is a sampler that features only the drum shells (kick, snare and toms) and no cymbals (in the video sample I have used the ones of Dieswitch Drums), and they come either with their standalone interface, or in Gog and Tci format, to be used with a Drum Replacer.

The sound is as expected powerful, and it's designed to poke easily through a mix, although I find it somewhere in between KVLT drums and Dieswitch Drums: in KVLT drums the samples are not processed at all, so it needs to be treated like an acoustic drumset, in Dieswitch Drums the samples are already processed, so they can be used right away, while in Djenthuggah the samples are yes processed, and they also offer 3 parameters each to fine tune them, but I still had to mix them when working on the video sample, adding some reverb on the snare and toms and some highs on the kick in order to make it sit better in the mix.

The bottom line is that this small sample pack will be very useful for all the Djent lovers out there, but be ready to work on it and blend it with other kits in order to obtain a polished result.

Thumbs up!

- Snare: Kumu Birch Custom 14″ x 5,5″, SuperWoodHoop

- Toms: Kumu Birch Custom 10″ x 7″, 12" x 8, 14″ x 12″, PowerHoop

- Kick: Kumu Birch Custom 20″ x 16″, SideHoleOver 50 samples.