Welcome to the first in our regular new series of Production Analysis tutorials. In the series we will take an element of a well-known track, be it the synth, pads, bass, percussion, or arrangement and analyse how it was created.
Today Danny J Lewis takes a look at one of the biggest underground club hits of 2011, the Solomun remix of Noir & Haze’s Around.
Even a few months into 2012 we can’t just get that infectious vocal out of our head… but the element that has truly driven the meteoric success of the track is definitely the bouncy bassline which drops like an absolute bomb!
So Danny has had a go at reverse engineering the bass sound in Ableton Live using a custom rack with two layers; one with an instance of Analog and one with Operator. The key advantage of working in this way is that you can EQ and process each layer separately. Dive into the video below to see this analysis in action.
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Danny is otherwise known as Enzyme Black, with releases on labels such as Defected, Masters At Work and his own imprint Enzyme Black Recordings. He is the head of course development at Point Blank’s online music production school.
You can learn techniques such this and much more on the online Ableton Sound Design course. The next course start date is 25th June. Watch Danny discussing the course below. Please get in touch with our course advisors at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to find out more.
Big respect to the Noir & Haze and Solomun. If you love the track like we do support them and buy the release here
Hi. This is Danny Joe Lewis; as well as being a music producer and DJ, I’m a course creator and tutor at PointBlank Online Music School, over in Hogstown, in London. What I like to do every now and again to challenge myself is to take a sound from a famous tune and try and recreate it, we’re going to do that in this video. The track is Noir & Haze’s ‘Around’, and it’s the Solomon remix. I’m going to recreate the sound using Abelton Live; I’m going to use a custom instrument rack, with 2 layers of 2 separate synthesizers to create the sound.
Firstly I’ll take you on tour of what it sounds like in context, and then afterwards I’ll show you how we actually build the sound itself. I’m just going to solo the original audio that I’ve got looping, I’m going to bring in my bass, and then the kick drum. We’ve got two chains; I’ve got one instance of Analog and I’ve also got an instance of Operator. You can see what’s going on, EQ and Spectrum Analysis. That’s so I can explain some concepts to you guys a little bit later. Over here, EQ and Spectrum, as well.
The key advantage of working with this kind of concept is the fact that you can EQ each layer separately and affect it, of course. My sub-layer is Operator, which is going to mono. I could add some width to that analogue layer, which is the octave above, if I wanted too, that’s the whole flexibility of this concept.
You can see I’ve got the keyboard ready. I’m going to be assigning some controls to make it a lot more hands-on. The first step in creating the sound is to come up to the Create menu, go to Insert MIDI Track, and we’re going to come to the Instrument Rack. What we do is we double-click. You can see down we have a section ready to drop some instruments. I’m going to take the Analog and bring this down. I’m going to click on this icon to see the chains. Then I’m going to take Operator and bring this down too, so they’re both available.
I’m going to set this up. I’m going to come into the Analog, going to click the Filter On, and I’m going to set the Filter Envelope settings onto the first 4 MIDI controls. To do this, right-click, go to Edit MIDI Map. I’m just going to move the first slider, that’s the Attack set. I’m going to come to Decay, Sustain, and then Release. The other that I’m going to do is, this slider, I’m going to set to the Envelope amount. This is all going to be clear a little bit later on. The final 4 faders, I’m going to set these up with the Amplifier Envelope; the Attack, Decay, Sustain, and Release. That’s the Envelope setup. The other thing that I want to do is to click on the Filter Frequency, adjust this rotary control and Resonance, over here. Now we’ve got everything setup for us to be able to work with this virtual instrument, much like a real synthesizer.
I’m going to start off with the Analog layer, which is going to be used to create a plucky kind of texture. This is what it sounds at the moment. I’ve got the filter mapped; this is a low pass filter. You can see in the spectrum, if I rotate it to the right, it’s bright, and if I rotate it to the left, it’s warmer. We want to go from high to low very quickly. It’s really hard for me to do that manually. What we do is assign the Filter Envelope to job. Let me show you: I’m going to bring the cut-off frequency down, and what we’re going to do is adjust the amount that the frequency is affected by the Envelope. When I bring this slider up, you can see the Envelope amount go up, too. Let’s see how it sounds.
If I increase the amount on this Decay slider, it’s going to take a longer time for the filter to go from the high frequency to the low frequency, and that brings in that plucky texture. What I’m going to do is just exaggerate that by increasing modulation amount, and I’m going to bring the cut-off frequency down, too. It’s really starting to resemble the Solomon bass. I want to exaggerate this by increasing the resonance, which is going to add level at the actual cut-off frequency. It’s just a little bit too much though, I’m going to reduce it a little bit. All I want is just a little extra bite to the sound.
I’ve come back to my original instrument, and this is created by constantly referring to the Solomon remix. It wasn’t practical to do that in the demonstration that I did before, so I’m just going to show you the key differences. This is a lot more muted, the Envelope amount is less. Have a listen. I had something that was more like this, so I’m going to take back to the 2.74. A couple of other things, the frequency on the cut-off is slightly different, it’s a little bit higher. Resonance is very similar. That’s what’s working there.
I’m going to explain now the sub-layer. I’m going to turn this on. This is a sine wave, it’s a default setting for the Operator, but what I’ve done is used an EQ to roll off the mids and the highs. We recommend that the sub- layers are in mono, its dead-centre. That means that in a club, you’re going to get a solid bottom-end. The Analog layer is designed to sit above. What I’ve done is EQ’d this, I’ve rolled off the lows. This is where that sine wave is sitting, so this sound now is occupying the mids and the highs, and I’ve boosted it just a little bit on the mids, too. The great thing about this is when we play the 2 together; they create a composite bass sound. A very modern thing these days is for people to add width to bass, and we can do that safely by not adding the width to the sub-layer, but in fact by doing it to the Analog layer. I’m going to drop in a chorus so you can hear what that sounds like: Without the width, and now with the width. Some people prefer that, it’s a very contemporary approach.
Just as a reminder, let’s have a listen again with the new bass in context with the original, and this time, with a section where there’s a vocal.
If you enjoyed that example of programming a bass sound, you might want to check out some of our courses. We’ve got the Abelton Live Beginner course, which designed to take you, over 8 weeks to a really good level from having no experience with Abelton Live. Then we’ve got our second-level course, which is more focused on sound designed and audio processing for the more experienced use. For full information about these courses, visit PointBlankOnline.net. You can check out some free tutorials on the YouTube channel, YouTube.com/PointBlankOnline.