Today Danny J Lewis shows you another way to twist up a vocal using a custom Ableton Live Effects Rack.
This post was originally published in DJ Magazine’s free online edition DJ Weekly issue 96
When you consider what’s available to listen to on youtube and other sites it’s fair to say that the web is a digital crate digger’s paradise. But how do you get the sound from youtube into your DAW for manipulation? A fantastic free tool is Soundflower from Cycling74, the people behind Max/MSP (and Max for Live). This allows you to re-route audio internally, almost like a digital patch bay and allows you to record from your browser, quicktime player and pretty much anything else that can be ‘heard’ on your laptop or desktop. It’s an amazing tool that opens up an almost infinite world of sonic possibilities. It literally allows you to grab any sound bite you want but be aware of copyright issues. Always look into whether you are allowed to do something with the audio or not – it’s very likely that you are not!
At times like this it’s great to know that sound design tools such as Native Instruments’ Kontakt are out there. This allows us to work with source sounds in a malleable fashion, twisting them up beyond recognition, breaking free of the existing time and pitch constraints that most other samplers have to conform to. If you map midi controllers, this manipulation becomes more hands on and far less academic than some other tools. It’s truly a fun way to experiment with sounds you have ripped from the web. Turn a voice into a rise/fall effect with ease, slice up existing elements and re-arrange them, just do whatever you can to take the listener away from recognising the source – this is the key to staying on the right side of the law.
And watch more free tutorials on Point Blank’s sample course page.
Free Loopmasters Samples
Here’s another batch of high quality, royalty free samples, from our friends at Loopmasters. The pack draws a nice selection of sounds from Freemasons in anticipation of their 100th Artist series release. It includes a great selection of not only sounds but also patches for various softsamplers such as MPC grooves for logic.
Click here to grab the samples and enjoy!
Hello. This is Danny J. Lewis, course developer and tutor, here at Point Blank Online. This week, I got a great video for you, it is covering two things, the first of which is to introduce you to Soundflower, which is a really good tool for grabbing audio from the internet. I am talking about, maybe for YouTube, QuickTime, iTunes, any of these places, so if you hear something, you can rip it very easily for processing and integrating into your own compositions. The other thing is I have noticed a lot of people talking about Kontakt. I featured it on a couple of videos, but I have noticed, for example, Ben [inaudible: 00:36] on Twitter the other day talking about it. [inaudible: 00:39] he was saying that Sage has been working with it a lot, so it is a tool that a lot of producers are getting on to. To be honest with you, I have been working with this thing for a long time and it was almost like a bit of a secret weapon for me. It is really good to pass on some of the things I would do and something that other people would do, in terms of creating sound design, using Native Instruments’ Kontakt.
Firstly, let me play you an example that has been created using this technique, and then afterwards, I am going to show you how to work the Soundflower and Kontakt, to get some really interesting sound design down. That bumpy, underground 90s vibe is back, so this musical example is that style, and it features some of the techniques that you are going to learn about in the video. You have heard the example that I created using this technique. Here is the Soundflower landing page. There is the web address, put it into your browser, and then head over to free download. You got the list of the files here, I am going to go for the latest one, and I am going to save this to the desktop so you can see it downloading. It is going to come down here, and once that is finished, just install it as you would any other DMG file. I am not going to go through that process. I will come back on the other side, and show you how to use Soundflowerbed.
Soundflower is a small application. I am just going to come up here to spotlight and type in Soundflowerbed. You can see it listed here, I am going to click it, you can see now that this is running. What we need to do is to configure it. The 2-Channel version is the one that we are using; we are not using 16-Channel. We are going to come down to select the Built-in Output; this is what we are going to use to hear what is coming through Soundflower. You may have an interface that you want to select, of course go ahead and do that, but for me I am using the Built-in Output. That is the first stage. I want to record some stuff from YouTube. The vocals that you heard are basically coming from a YouTube video. We come to System Preferences, and we come to Sound, and we route the output of the Mac operating system, in fact, to Soundflower 2-Channel. That means that anything that is coming through, QuickTime, iTunes, or the browsers, that is going to be able to be recorded into either Logic or Ableton. This is the initial setup, that is the routine: The output goes to Soundflower 2-Channel, and Soundflower sends the information that is coming through to the built-in output, or of course, your audio interface. I got Logic to start with, I got Chrome, the browser, and I am going to record some audio from DJ Tutor’s little speech about becoming a world-famous DJ. I will show you what it sounds like at the moment.
But at the same time, follow trends from the outside.
Some advice there. What I need to do is to setup Logic. We come to the Audio, and we say the Input Device is Soundflower 2-Channel, and Apply Changes. This means that the signal that is coming through Soundflower, we can now record into Logic. The audio track here is ready. I am going to push Record Enable, just going to show you. Let us get this running; I am going to record now. It does not matter about the click or the tempo. Let us bring this back on YouTube, and hit Play.
Become famous. It is very simple, be different, follow trends, but at the same time, follow trends from the outside. Do not follow trends from the inside, in other words . . .
There we go, some interesting words. We can see now, if I double-click, come over on the Sample Editor, the audio recorded.
Setup Live, we come up to Live Preferences, Audio tab, input device is Soundflower 2-Channel, and also I would suggest setting the outputs as well, so you can hear stuff afterwards, that would be the same in Logic too. We are ready to go with the Record Enable on the actual track. You make sure that is red. I am going to play Jonathan.
Follow trends, but at the same time, follow trends from the outside.
Just stop the clip. You can see this, let us have a listen.
But at the same time . . .
This is ripe for experimentation now. We can record from anywhere: iTunes, QuickTime, anywhere that is playing on the Mac. We can record that through to our DAW of choice. I am using Logic for the demonstration, but you can use any DAW, because I am going to be featuring Native Instruments’ Kontakt sampler. This has been a bit of a secret weapon for me over the years. I have noticed that quite a few people are talking about it; I mentioned that on the intro. We are going to have a look, I am going to show you one of the key sound design and experimental techniques you can use. Software Instrument: I am going to go for multi-timbral because I want to have several instruments coming from the same instance.
I am going to click on Create. I am going to load on here. I am going to choose Instruments, Native Instruments, Kontakt 5, and we are going to go for the multi-output stereo version. I am going to set this up so that I can use some of the assets. You may have seen on my Logic project, I got a few bits and pieces here, and one of them is the vocals that I recorded through Soundflower, of Jonathan DJ Tutor. I got a plane taking off, some piano chords that I created in Logic, and a beat I created in Maschine, as well. Project is at 126. I am going to try to create something interesting with these elements. What I am going to do with the vocal is bring this through as an instrument. If we go to Files, New Instrument, and we are going to open it up, clicking on the wrench, and click on the Mapping Editor there, which is where we can place samples onto the keyboard for triggering. I will show you, if we come to the file browser, you see on the desktop I got the Jonathan vocal here, and I can drag this on. What I am going to do is span it across the keyboard, on one key. There is a reason for this, and you will find out in a second. Here it is, and the reason for it being on one key is because I want to use Kontakt’s ability to slice up the vocal into individual sections.
We can do this by coming onto the Wave Editor. If you click on Wave Editor, then we scroll down, you are going to see we got different sections here. Kontakt is a very complicated beast, and we do not have enough time to go into massive detail here, but I am going to show you. We are go into Sync and Slice, and what we can do is actually slice it up. We are going to do so using something called the Beat Machine. When we click on this, you can see a grid, and this is a moment, running with this subdivisions setup, according to the actual quantized grid. What we do is click on Auto, and instead, we can actually adjust the slider to pick out main sections of the vocal, very similar, in fact, to using Recycle. There are going to be some that I do not need. You are going to need to go through it. It is going to take me a little bit of time, but I am going to take away the ones that I do not want. I am looking to get the main sections of the vocal. I am not looking for this to be ultra-precise, to be honest, I think I am looking for just certain key phrases and I want to work with those. Just taking this one away, you can see we can just click on it. When it is highlighted, we can take it away. I am going to work on this, I am going to get the main section sorted out, and I am going to show you how we can actually work with this, sliced up.
I worked through this, I picked out the main sections of the vocal. That did involve, actually, me manually adding a couple and moving some. I will just show you here, if you want to add one, click on the plus, you can put it anywhere you want; just going to take that one away. Then the other thing is if you want to move stuff, deselect, pick out one of these, and then move it. I am not too fussed about these being ultra-precise, because I want to do something abstract with this. Basically, the whole concept is that for every one of these vertical lines, we are going to have a sample on a new key on the keyboard. I am going to get this setup; you can see I have got my original sample on C1. I am just going to go from C2. The map base key, if we just un-tick this, and then we go to C2. That is going to be our reference point, so we are going to have all these slices going from C2. We can have one of these sections per key on the keyboard, which is going to be great. To actually get this working, I need to pick up Drag MIDI to Host, and bring it over onto Logic. Now you can see this setup, we got all of the slices ready. I do not need this actual MIDI data, so I am going to delete that, but we can start working on processing the individual slices.
To process everything together, using the Time Machine, I need them all to be in the same group. Let me show you something: If I click on the Group Editor, and I select in the Mapping Editor, you can see where it is actually setup in the groups. My new slices are in their own group, so I am going to double-click and say Time Machine. In fact, what I will do is this group here, I am going to basically take away the original sample, and I am going to say Delete Selected Groups, so I only got the Time Machine group, and every one of these slices is located inside the group. It is a very important part of Kontakt you got to understand: Groups allow you to process them all together. I want that because I am going to use the Time Machine on that complete group, so let me take this away.
The Source module is where we actually setup the Time Machine. I am going to drop down, and we are going to go for Time Machine. This is the original mode which gives us independent control of tuning, speed, and also the grain size. This is very experimental. We can slow a sound down without affecting its pitch, or we can adjust its pitch without affecting its speed. This is an amazing thing to be able to do, and we can do so on the MIDI control, which really brings a hands-on vibe to it. In the next part, I setup the hardware controls on the machine to tune, speed, and grain size, which are going to give us a ton of scope in sound design. The three most important parameters on the time machine are Tune, Speed, and Grain. I am going to map these to a MIDI controller on the machine. Right-click the MIDI CC#, I am going to rotate, the same with speed, the MIDI CC#, and then grain size. Basically, what is happening is the sound is being sliced into tiny chunks known as grains. We can adjust the size of those, and we can actually adjust the tuning and the speed, independently of each other.
I got the first slice on the Beat Machine setup now to play the whole vocal, because I needed to have something longer to demonstrate the technique. Have a look at this; I am going to adjust the speed, firstly. Jonathan is going to speak.
Follow trends, but at the same time . . .
What I have done is taken the speed down to 1%, which is essentially freezing time. I can now take the grains, and make them bigger and smaller, down to a really buzzy texture. Look what happens now, if I adjust the tuning. Back up to normal, roughly, that is edging forward. It is a technique you have heard on a lot of contemporary tunes. We can play around with this and experiment, recording the results into the sequencer to get something that we can piece together as an arrangement. It is more spontaneous performance sound design. We can pick and choose the best bits afterwards.
Let us take a look back at the project that you saw at the beginning of the video. I solo’d the Jonathan Abstract Vox region, which is actually a sound effect, so have a listen. Taking a look at the Time Machine settings, the speed is at 1%, to create sustained sound. You can see in the MIDI region, the different note lengths to create the texture. There is a grain size of 35 milliseconds so that we can hear buzziness. Tuning is a key element, you can see the MIDI controller data rising, falling, and then rising again, so that is creating that effect. Also, there is a plane taking off, something that I recorded with Soundflower. I just simply typed into YouTube, ‘plane taking off,’ and it was one of the first ones that came up. That
is a nice, simple one. That is just going through a couple of Insert effects, the CMX, to add a little bit of widening, and the Tremolo to move the sound left and right.
The other element that is in Kontakt is the piano stabs. If I fold up Jonathan Vox on MIDI Channel 2 we got the piano. You can see that I got these chords cut up; these originally came from Logic. These can be triggered. Also, I put some up here as well, because I wanted to be able to experiment and transpose some of these upwards. That brings more creative scope. I did not actually end up using them in the track, but it is a nice thing to try, sometimes.
The key to this sound is the filter. You can see that there is a low-pass filter; this is the Ladder LP 2. This is being controlled by an envelope. If I click on this, you can see down below that this is a filter envelope setting, so it creates movement. I will take it off so you can hear it, and with the filter back on. It is creating a really nice, interesting element. You are seeing that we got a variety of different textures that have been created in a number of different ways. The starting point was Soundflower, the creative side was working with Kontakt and Native Instruments.
If you have enjoyed the sound designer aspect of this video, then you might want to check out the sound design courses that we offer at Point Blank Online. Head on over to PointBlankOnline.net and check out the brochure. There is a sound design course that focuses on Native Instruments products, and also, a sound design course that is specifically for Ableton Live. Also, make sure you subscribe to the Point Blank Online YouTube channel. We got tons of videos there for free, and you will be notified when the new ones come up immediately, so click Subscribe on www.YouTube.com/PointBlankOnline.