Blog Archives


Ableton Blog

A new community based blog has been set up by Ableton called Ableton Blog……genius!

Well actually it is, the idea behind the blog is for Ableton users to share everything Ableton, from free max for live plug-ins to tutorials and free instruments.

One of my favourite items on the blog at the moment is a free drum rack using a Casio Rapman keyboard and you have Florian Blauensteiner to thank for it. You can download the drum rack here.

Ableton Update

If you use a Mac for Ableton then you’ll be please to know Ableton have recently released Live 8.2.6, which among other things promises to fix the issues with the Lion operating system.

The latest version of Ableton is now ready to download now.

Read more →

Interview with DJ and Producer Mr G

An interview with DJ and producer Mr G, courtesy of the team at Sounds To Sample

Mr G interview

A stalwart of house music for more than two decades with releases on Defected, Skint and Rekids and with remixes of everyone from Roger Sanchez to Miss Kitten, Mr G is a genuine house legend. Now he talks exclusively to S2S about his studio methods.

The term ‘legend’ is often banded around willy nilly in the dance music realm, but Mr. G, aka Colin McBean, is one of the few who can rightfully lay claim to this accolade. Having been in the game for around two decades now, Mr. G is widely considered to be one of the most under-rated artists about – with only true music fans appreciating his vast contribution to dance music. We caught up with the living legend to talk shop…

1.What is the prognosis for the music industry: terminal decline or steady recovery?

Terminal decline. People aren’t going out there and digging for new beats. They’re relying on being spoonfed instead of going out there and looking for a sound of their own like my peers always used to do. It’s not good that so many people don’t dare to try and do things that are out of the box.

2.Does the industry these days dictate that artists need to be both creative artists and businessmen in equal measure?

Definitely, and for people like me that’s hard because I’m not a business man – I simply love making beats. So for people like me who don’t have the time or understanding to do that it’ll seem like we’re not at the top of our game, which I find sad. You work so hard as an artist and go through so much but if you’re not that way inclined you can go unnoticed. That’s why I’m grateful to both Rekids (James and Matt) and Bass Culture (D’Julz) for believing in me and working so hard to put me out there.

3. As an international touring artist who can regularly find themselves on different continents in the same week, how do you strike a balance between your touring schedule and time in the studio?

I’m not on the road as much as I should be so finding a balance is easy – it’s a way of life and I’m just built that way.

4.Who’s currently rocking your world as a producer and why?

The greats are always rocking my world – Jeff, Joey, Luke, Matt, Moody, Theo, Moritz, Carl. These guys love or hate ‘em have all been around a good while and they still continue to evolve while still retaining their own sound.

5.What one piece of kit or plug-in can you not live without?

My dear mpc200xl that’s been modified to the way I work and sound.

6.When building a track how do you normally work? Do you start with the drums and build from that?

It’s just whatever I’m feeling on that day. It can start anywhere – it’s the final destination that rocks me. If I’m dancing away in the studio then that’s me and I’m happy. Oh, and don’t forget the workings off a great RUM. ?

7.Do you prefer to use loops or one-shots? Do you use samples or sound design from scratch, or a mix of both? Do you like to record your own sounds?

Make my own sounds then sample and mangle them. It’s all good. I just make ‘em fit the way I feel and if it sounds right to me it’s good. Also I don’t make the sounds fit too tight, it needs that swing.

8.Any advice on monitoring? Quiet? Loud? Do you prefer flat and boring speakers, headphones or big, phat and chunky monitors? Do you reference on multiple systems?

What! You’re asking a lot here, can’t give it all away… ha ha! No but really, I’m using a bit of every thing. Quiet when building a track, loud when checking the weight and sound and I sometimes mix down using two sets of flat monitors which make me work sooo hard to get things right. I want hear what’s really there unenhanced.

9.What are the biggest barriers new producers face?

There are no barriers in the music world if you’ve got the money. It’s now a place you can do just what you like. Only one thing though – you’ve got to make great music and try to find your own picture to paint. And even then you can’t be sure you’ll get your due rewards…

10.What three pieces of kit / software could you not mix without?

Good old analogue synths my MPC and a great set a monitors. Also, all my mixes are done live on the board, cuts and all. Whether it’s mix one or mix 101, I work until it’s right. Oh, and I also need rum to get me going , haha!

11. If you could give one piece of advice to yourself when you started out in music, what would it be?

That’s a tough one. You’ve got to really love what you do above any fame or money and stay true to yourself. Don’t follow fashions – make your own path. Be humble. Start well, end well. Good in, good out, as they say!

12.What do you find hardest to get right when making a track?

It’s always the balance between the drums and bass, and the weight in the two. I’m an old skool sound boy so the low end is what I’m all about.

Related Articles:
Interview: The UK House Legend Steve Mac

Read more →

Focusrite VRM – Monitoring by Headphones

We’ve all been there, you’ve been working on a banging tune all day, you’re at the mixing stage but it’s getting late, your neighbours are moaning about the noise and your misses is going to bed…… what do you do?

The long held belief was that you couldn’t mix in headphones as you don’t get the depth and richness of sound.

Well fear not any more, as the clever people at Focusrite have taken their Virtual Reference Monitoring (VRM) technology and packaged it in a palm-sized audio interface, for use in your home studio.

Focusrite say that VRM overcomes the major obstacle for mixing with headphones by giving you multiple perspectives on you mix, you simply choose from a list of industry-standard studio monitors and speakers, so late night mixing is now sorted!

Click here for more information on this genius product.

Read more →

ABLETON: Free Retro Synths!


There’s a free Ableton update available on their website for all Live 8 users.  Basically, they’re offering a free download of Retro Synths by Puremagnetik, which is very nice of them indeed, you can download your free copy here, just make sure it’s before 31st October.

According to the Ableton website, Retro Synths represents the best of Puremagnetik’s meticulously multi-sampled vintage synthesizer packs, including samples from classics such as the Korg MS-20 and Roland D-50 and with intelligently selected macros, Retro Synths is immediately playable in Live, enjoy!

Read more →

Interview: The UK House Legend Steve Mac

Steve Mac House Legend

Article courtesy of Sounds To Sample

The UK house music legend talks about his analogue-packed studio, offers up an EQ tip and explains why the artist should always read the contract.

He has remixed for the likes of Michael Jackson, INXS, Jamiroquai, Junior Vasquez, David Morales, and Roger Sanchez, released records with Paul Woolford and Todd Terry and has also scored a UK Top 20 single. Now the UK house stalwart takes to the S2S hot seat.

What is the prognosis for the music industry: terminal decline or steady recovery?

It’s not in decline or recovery. The music industry will always be here but there’s no denying it has changed beyond recognition in the last ten years. Long gone are the days of the local record shop and many of the bigger music stores are on their way out too – the main market place for music is online.

While it might be easier for people to get their music out there I think the flip side has been that it’s become harder for artists to get paid. One search of Google and reams of music show up for free on blogs and torrent sites – it’s almost impossible to keep up with where the music is being illegally shared. This is just other thing that the industry will have to come to terms with. On a personal level it means I have to work that much harder to make a living.

Does the industry these days dictate that artists need to be both creative artists and businessmen in equal measure?

It does help if you know the ins and outs because there are a lot of sharks out there that will take advantage if given half a chance. Always make sure you know what you’re signing and try and follow a few basic rules like not signing your music away for life and making sure that the master rights always come back to yourself.

As an international touring artist who can regularly find themselves on different continents in the same week, how do you strike a balance between your touring schedule and time in the studio?

I take time out of touring throughout most of the winter to spend time in the studio making new music. However, now the summer is coming and I have an album to promote I will be out on the road a lot more!

Overall I’d say I ‘m more of studio person, as that’s where I spend most of my time, but I still love the buzz of the party and playing my records on an amazing sound system.

Who’s currently rocking your world as a producer and why?

Sirusmo, I find what he is doing very interesting. Musical and clever.

What one piece of kit or plug-in can you not live without?

I have so much kit so it’s difficult to say because I don’t like to be without any of it!

I use a lot of vintage analogue outboard gear – I’ve got a rack of Neve 1084 originals that I use on just about everything I produce. I also have a stack of Urei compressors, 2 1176 Revision A and a Revision D – the A is amazing for vocals and tracking.

Recently I’ve just started tracking all my sounds through my Studer ½ inch tape machine and it gives bottom end like you wouldn’t believe! It’s a long process but for me the results justify the extra effort and time.

One great unit I use on the mix buss is the SSL buss compressor – they call it the magic button. It just glues the mix together like nothing else. In fact I have 3 of them as I use one for the mix, one for drums and one for backing vocals.

Analogue kit is still fundamental to what I do in the studio. I’ve got about 17 analogue synths, I still mix on a big analogue desk, I track through tape and I EQ mostly on outboard gear. That said, I’m a fan of plug-in technology and I’m not an analogue purist – get the best of both worlds because they’re both completely different and they both have lots to offer.

When building a track how do you normally work? Do you start with the drums and build from that?

Drums always come first. I like to mess around on a drum machine for a few hours to try build a good rhythm. I feel that if you get a good beat then your track is half way there and a good rhythm gives you musical ideas.
Sometimes I use my old Emu SP-1200 which just has a sound like nothing else. But lately I have been using Native Instruments’ Maschine. It’s so cool. I build all my drums with one shots. Sometimes I like to sample records, it just gives you another feel, but I also like to make my own drum sounds with synths. I have an Arp 2600 which is just brilliant drums, you can get one hell of a kick drum out that synth!

Any advice on monitoring? Quiet? Loud? Do you prefer flat and boring speakers, headphones or big, phat and chunky monitors? Do you reference on multiple systems?

I like a bit of both depending on where I’m at in the mix. I go loud when I’m working on the bass – that’s when I want to really feel the track. Then I’ll lower the volume for the more detailed mixing.

I own a few pairs of speakers, I have a pair of boring flat Yamaha ns10s which I love to mix on. The great thing about them is they sound crap so If you get a good mix done on those you know it’s going to sound good almost anywhere. I also have a big, big pair of Genelecs and some smaller Aura Tone Genelecs.

What are the biggest barriers new producers face?

Dance music is becoming a bit like the X Factor, everybody thinks they are a DJ or record producer in the digital age. It’s the market saturation that results which is the biggest barrier for new producers. That said, I think if you’re good and have something special, people will find out about you sooner rather than later.

What three pieces of kit / software could you not mix without?

Sony Oxford EQ, L1 limiter and Sound Toys effects.

The oxford EQ is just an all round good sounding digital EQ. It’s a workhorse and the cut frequencies on it are great.

I love the L1 for over pushing and distorting everything, you get a great sound out of the L1 using it like that.

The Sound Toys FX bundle contains some of the best plug-in effects I have ever heard. The guys making these use to work for Eventide, the analogue FX company.

If you could give one piece of advice to yourself when you started out in music, what would it be?

Listen to the people around you and learn from them

What do you find hardest to get right when making a track?

The mix down, it takes longer than making the record in some cases but in a way it can be the best part of the process, but it can also be the worst when its going wrong!

I always try and get the frequencies right on the sounds in the first place, and I try and set the levels as I go.

My best mix secret is cutting with EQ. Most people add on the bottom and the tops, I cut them. It makes more space for the entire mix. The mastering engineer will only cut the frequencies anyway but if its already done, your mix will be much louder. For instance, when you get a sub bass, it’s good to put an EQ cut on it (everything under 45), because you can’t hear that those frequencies anyway. This should tighten up your mix, and doing the same on the high frequencies can really help too.

Read more →

Article: Minimal House and Techno Production Tips

Article courtesy of Sounds to Sample

Minimal house and techno production tips

A choice selection of bite-sized tips for deep, pared down minimal productions

All in the groove

It is vital that every rhythmic element has a place in the groove. Be critical when adding elements and choose samples carefully. Start with the kick and bassline and bring in other elements around them. One good technique is to imagine the elements in the groove having a discussion with each other. Introduce one sound and then counter it with another a few beats later.

Kick & Snare

Generally the key with Minimal House beats is to keep the kick nice and deep without too much mid or high-end energy so the high frequency elements can ‘breathe’ and inject life into the groove. Choosing drum sounds that fit each other well is also extremely important – if the kick is heavy the snare should feel light and toppy. For this reason 808 and 909 sounds can work particularly well.

Mono vs Stereo

It is always advisable to keep the kick (and other bass elements) in mono as these backbone elements of the track are often the most prominent and many club systems are still wired in mono. Having a stereo spread on hi-hats and other percussive elements helps keep the beat interesting and merges the rhythm nicely with synth loops or fx patterns.

Evolving effects

Keep effects changing constantly by automating them, especially reverbs and delays. Turn up reverb sends occasionally on percussion tracks to give your track big reverb splashes at key points. Automate the reverb size too. Put a short slapback delay on the melodic hook and automate the feedback slider and delay times.

Ride the 808

You can make deep minimal basslines by using nothing but an 808 kick sample with a long decay. Tune the kick so that it combines well with your main kick drum and add a volume envelope with the attack turned slightly up, so you keep the boom and not the snap of the kick. Adjust the decay to get the right length. Add a little pitch envelope to the sample with pitch shifting either slightly up or down. This kind of wobbly sound is heard in many minimal productions today.

Odd bars

Try looping percussive sequences at odd numbered bars, like the third or seventh bar, instead of at the regular 4/4 marker for interesting, ever-evolving percussive lines. To build towards a drop insert a ping-pong delay for an instant building carpet of sound.


When choosing a sample as a raw sound, look for complexity; something which is rich in harmonics and overtones – an obscure jazzy chord is the classic example. Vocals and organic sounds also work well. Try running your sound through a bit-crusher to add some dirt, then apply a low pass filter controlled by an envelope to give the sound some shape. Saturation and compression will really start to bring the sound alive and give it the classic punchy-techy sound.

Assign tone-shaping parameters to various controls to get as much variability in the sound as possible – the velocity mapped to the volume, cutoff and decay for example, and the mod wheel to a pitch LFO and reverb send. Some 3/16th delay will help give a strong rhythmic emphasis to the stabs.

White hats

Make a free-flowing techno hat pattern by using a white noise oscillator playing a shuffling pattern (short 16th notes with some triplets thrown in) with the volume envelope decay/release controls constantly changing using automation.

Less is more

Your track is destined to be rocking a big club system. If you cram in every idea and then some more, the track will soon sound messy on a big rig. At some point you should sit back and selectively delete parts that don’t add much to keep everything simple. This is minimal dance music: having a few choice elements that work well together is your ultimate aim.

Infinite pads

Soundscapes and pads give depth to a mix and play an essential part in intros, outros and breakdowns. To make extending pad sounds insert your chosen pad sample, then insert the same loop again after the first and reverse it. Join the two together using your sequencer’s crossfade function. Instant ever-changing pad variations!

Wobbly synths

To create the classic ‘moving tuning’ synth line, pull up a sawtooth wave on your preferred synth and automate the tuning knob so that it moves slowly up and/or down. Another way to do this is to assign an LFO to the tuning of the oscillators. This kind of technique is also often heard used on other elements such as percussion and even basslines.

Tidy percussion

Keep percussion hits neat and tidy by adjusting the decay of the samples according to the groove of your track. In general the percussion hits in minimal techno are short. Also remember to check the decay of your kick drum sample. Too long a decay and the kick will interfere with the bassline and too short a decay will not yield enough punch.

The mighty whoosh

Plain white noise hits and sweeps are common in minimal techno. Slap a compressor over a white noise effect with your kick drum feeding the sidechain input for some solid pumping action. Remember to cut out low frequencies using a hi-pass filter on the white noise sound to keep your mix clean.

Complex rhythmical textures

Take a vocal sound, set it looping but with a relatively short loop size. Now, map the loop start position to a rhythmical step sequencer. This means the start point of the loop will jump around in sync with the steps in the sequencer, by however much you set on each step. Immediately you will notice your sound has transformed from a stuttering sound, to something much more complex.

Try sending the cutoff to the step sequencer also, and maybe the sample rate too – you’ll quickly start to see how incredibly rich complex sounds can spring out of nowhere.

Read more →

Video – How To Produce Maya Jane Coles House Organ Lead

Sounds to sample logo

Sounds To Sample serve up a nice quick tutorial on how to produce the old skool organ lead from Maya Jane Cole’s deep house smash hit ‘What they Say’.

To carry out the tutorial you’ll need a synth with at least three oscillators (in the video they’re using Logic’s ES2) which has chorus functionality. Reverb and stereo delay plug-ins.

Read more →