An Unorthodox Approach to Tracking Guitars with TH2 – Norman Matthew [MURDER FM]

REINVENTING THE STEEL

Murder FM FestRecording Guitars in this day and age can be a daunting task. With so much to choose from, the possibilities are endless, yet, with so much groundwork already being laid by artists, engineers and producers before us, what else is left to do and where can we go? Luckily, I found the answers regarding my own work. We can’t reinvent the wheel, but we can put our own rims and wheels on it and make it a banger.

Technology has made it amazing for me to create the sounds I’m looking for quickly and easily, especially with the new OVERLOUD / TH2 Producer plugin in SONAR X2 Producer. Ideas flow through me quickly and when inspiration hits, I want to commit my idea to “tape” (aka the hard drive) but not have to commit them to the tone. This is where SONAR X2 has really become one of the greatest things I’ve encountered in the studio.

CLEAN IS THE NEW “HEAVY”

TH2 is my partner in crime. I laugh at how I used to maneuver in the studio without it. The Randall modeler is just explosive as can be. How I track guitars is probably the weirdest thing you are about to hear, but as you progress in your own endeavors, I guarantee it will make a ton of sense. As I mentioned earlier, I like to lay my idea down without having to commit to the tone, so how do I go about the perils of tracking decadence without getting in the way of creativity? Simple, I track my guitar with a DRY direct signal.

Now if you have heard my band MURDER FM before, you will undoubtedly be scratching your head “huh?” This method solves multiple issues for me in the studio and here’s why:

1.) I can start the creation process quickly without having to noodle around with tones. I can concentrate simply on writing as if I was sitting on the couch with my acoustic guitar just letting the song write itself, that’s the best way for me – heartfelt and innocent.

2.) With a dry signal, I have the most optimal amount of flexibility as the song begins to grow. I think a lot of artists can sometimes put the proverbial “cart before the horse” in production, by wanting their guitars to “sound like this guy or that rig” before even writing the song, but to me that’s a big mistake. You aren’t creating your own signature sound and you aren’t letting the song grow and speak for you. Instantly you have set parameters and guidelines on your creativity without even realizing it.

3.) With very heavy guitars, you tend to brick-wall your transients and this can make for massive migraines when it comes to editing. Further, if you are meticulous like me, you’re heading for disaster in the editing department. So having a clean direct signal helps me to see where the dynamics in the riffs are and to really expand on that in terms of editing to make the tightest (or loosest) composite tracks possible. Another bonus is that the plugin responds so much better to a DI signal versus a straight up – ramped up signal, and this is where the OVERLOUD / TH2 plug really make its presence known AND felt. Heavy guitars can now sound like chainsaws and clean tones can be dark, majestic and celestial.

So now that I’ve tracked my dry signal, I go to TH2 to start messing around with scratch tones. I load up the click-track and start tracking drums. Once drum tracks are down, I re-track guitars with a clearer picture of the song and what it is saying as it is “speaking to me,” then start to formulate my tones around that. Some of the HEAVIEST riffs I have ever recorded have been the least “gainy” tones believe it or not; it’s all about sitting in the right place within the song and letting the track tell the story. I then cue up a tempo with the click track and start creating. SONAR X2′s simplicity along with the Skylight User Interface have allowed me to literally start tracking on my PC in the airport, on the tour bus, backstage and in the hotel room. Low Latency = High results in my world and X2 is amazing at handling that.

SLAPPIN’ THE BASS, DROPPING THE TUNING

Since I play in “Drop B” or “Drop C” tunings with MURDER FM, clean tracks come in VERY handy again because I can actually adjust the tones to the riff and really bring out those low B and C notes. TH2 has some great benefits. The Randall modeling is second to none, the flexibility, low CPU usage, Mic positing, Amp Channels, Smart Control and SLR technology make combining tone & personal style with the greatest of ease. I also use TH2 on my bass tracks.

Another really backwards sort of thing I do is track the bass after the guitars have been laid down. Why? Well for one, drop tunings tend to lend themselves to tuning issues when you hit certain frets, so I start with the tuner, but usually tune the bass to the majority of movements in the track, or to those fickle 7th and 8th frets (since I LOVE my minor keys and flats). In a break glass scenario, I use “V-Vocal Editor” in SONAR X2 to fine tune the track! How’bout that for ground-breaking? Also, with the super-heavy-groove-oriented beats MURDER FM regurgitates, I don’t approach things in the typical rhythm section mentality. Sometimes we are precise, sometimes very loose, and I feel the bass is the glue between the two worlds when trying to create our own brand of tuned-down metallic-voodoo.

Once I’ve heard the drums, the dry guitars with the TH2 plug ins loaded up, and the bass in its place, I move to the mic’d tracks. Let’s face it; nothing beats the feeling of pushing air with a loud cabinet against your back or in your face when you hit that Drop B chord. I then tweak my tone not to “sound like this or that”, but to fill in what is missing [air and frequency-wise] in my dry / TH2 signals. Sometimes its missing feedback, fret noise or even that irritating squawk a non-gated – heavy gained guitar has, but I put in whatever I need to make the track feel loud and real. After all this, I then mix my two tones together to get that chainsaw I so desire. This same method also works for getting very angelic, celestial and glassy clean tones reminiscent of one of my favorite bands, THE CURE.

NEW STRINGS, PUTTIN’ ON THE SQUEEZE AND NOISE GATES

I did an experiment with my dry tones and realized that brand spanking new strings responded to the TH2 plugins MUCH better than old dead strings. With the transients being tracked so bright and clean, things just sounded a lot heavier through TH2 with new strings. So do yourself the solid and before doing some serious tracking, change those strings dude. Now, we’ve got dry signals, TH2 plugins loaded, mic’d amps/cabinets committed to the track, let’s clean ‘em up. Noise Gates – NEVER leave home without them. Using my SONAR effects, I pull up a few different noise gates and adjust the threshold and ratio to my noisy mic’d amp signals. Once I’ve found the cleanest, tightest settings, I make my own user preset and apply it to my dry signal chain right behind the TH2 / OVERLOUD for consistency. The dry signals are more often than not cleaner and tighter, but JUST in case, In the world of the gnar and loving tight guitars, I make sure these are set to match one another; and it works beautifully. Add to that, the fact that I can see the CLEAN .wav and its transients, I can almost set the noise gate by simply looking at the guitar tracks without even having to listen. Didn’t I tell ya earlier, those clean tracks can save you the migraine bro!

PUTTIN ON THE SQUEEZE

As far as compression goes, ProChannel modules are amazing! However, I don’t generally use compression on guitar tracks because I really want the natural dynamic of the riffs and clean guitars to shine. It doesn’t have the same “feeling” to me if you can’t feel those peaks and valleys. If you track properly, you won’t really need to compress guitars to keep things at bay, although I’ve had to mix some projects that were sent to me tracked very poorly, and SONR X2′s CONCRETE LIMITER and ProChannel compressors really saved the day.

To add the feeling of old 2 inch tape saturation, I will run my guitar tracks through the CONSOLE EMULATION in the ProChannel Strip using the “S Type” setting. This mode emulates a clean and transparent British console that is popular among mixing engineers in rock and pop genres, and has been used on more platinum selling albums than all other consoles combined.

BEFORE YOU TURN THE SINGER UP, TURN YOUR GAIN DOWN

Now sitting in the mix, the chainsaw metal guitars I love tend to hover around the same frequencies as the vocalist (in this case myself as well ha) and cymbals. Not many people think about it, but EQ should be used for correction, not enhancement. I’ve seen too many guys go straight for the EQ before even hearing what it sounds like. Mixing guitars with vocals is like putting together a 10,000 piece puzzle; every little move, transient, frequency, pan, and volume point matters. So before you start cranking up the singer because “I can’t hear my vocals”, try turning down the gain or ready for this metal guys?… turn UP the mid-range (mind=blown) and really let each instrument reside in its own frequency range before nudging the EQ and moving the faders.

One other thing I suggest on guitars, ALWAYS double track your chorus rhythm guitars and pan each one hard left and hard right. This leaves room for more vocals, backups, and harmonies in the panoramic spectrum and also leaves room up the middle for guitar solos and all the little bells and whistles we need with guitars and percussion. Depending on the track, I like the verse guitars to run up the center, then explode with the panned hard left /hard right chorus guitars. Just because it’s heavy doesn’t mean you can’t tell a story. If you hit the wall out the gate, you have nowhere to go but down and I just can’t live with that. \m/

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Recording and Mixing Our Signature Vocal Sound in SONAR X2 – Norman Matthew [MURDER FM]

Hey world, forget your Monday-hate and dive in with me to make the first day of the week a little less sucky and a bit more murderous. Henceforth, it’s NorMonday. So if you find crawling back into the grind a bore, let’s get board–maybe a little chitty-chat about production techniques, tricks, voodoo, esoterica and sleight-of-hand. No blahs here, just blast.

MURDER FM has been blessed with some really nice response to our sound both here at home and the U.K. and the Cakewalk folks were kind enough to ask me to talk a little about the things that go into producing our sound. Hahhh! The real trick’ll be to shut me up, let’s get to it—hopefully it’s helpful.

The nuts, bolts and screams of “We The Evil.”
Coming back from our Sold Out UK Tour, I really wanted to push the envelope with MURDER FM’s new record, so when SONAR X2 arrived, I immediately went to work on using it to shape what would become MURDER FM’s heavier and darker sound.

I recorded the Vocals for “We The Evil” using a Cakewalk UA-101 as my interface into X2. Using a Nady condenser mic, I always track as direct and flat as possible, including no preamps for multiple reasons, 1.) I have the cleanest signal for optimal mix options and preamps will color the signal nicely, which leads to reason number 2.) Cleaner signals force me to have to be a better singer and really develop my character versus letting the effects and preamps shape my tone. It’s a bit more work in the end, but much better for what I am trying to do with my own signature production techniques.

Oh yeah, screamage. There’s a lot of textures in the vocals on “We The Evil”. You don’t “hear” some, but you “feel” them and that’s what I’m going for. It’s a lot more orchestral in the arrangement than one might think when it comes to creating “big dark vocals” that feel huge, but are still intimate. There are some lower octave vocal accents in the verses and lots of doubles and harmonies in the chorus to create that arena sing along vibe. To really make the screams punch, I cranked the SOFTUBE “saturation knob” about 40% of the way to get my point across!

Mic, pre and chain (or not).
Here is where I would sing the praises of the Nady SCM-1000 Wired Cardioid Studio Condenser Microphone. For it’s price, this thing is a beast and has yet to let me down. It captures my voice perfectly and really accentuates things without me having to going into a preamp. On “We The Evil” I used and abused X2′s ProChannel feature for everything I needed vocal wise. It’s such an amazing and powerful tool from the PC2A and Console Emulator Channel/Bus to the Compressor and Saturation Knob, it really gave me everything I needed for the vocal track and is perfect for drums and my master bus.

Getting my grit on: Not a perfect science.
For FX, I used VX-64 Vocal Strip. The doubler really helps the chorus vocals pop out, especially in the gang vocal sections and the Compander in the vocal strip really brings out the “throaty” tone in verse vocals, so much so, when mixing I cranked the tracked and could literally feel the grit in my throat in my stomach, it’s really a powerful tool. TheDeesser in the strip helps to clean up the throaty “s and p” mishaps. The “tube equalizer” allows me to bring out that mid range punch. I used the Delay within the VX-64 on my main chorus vocal help to create the hugeness of the chorus vocal by putting it just a tad out of time with the backup vocals and harmonies. That way, everything isn’t hitting directly at you–but more at slight little milliseconds off of one another, much like the natural movement of a choir…Too perfect is tooo bland in my opinion.

Scene of the rhyme.
All of the new MURDER FM record was tracked at my studio, THE SOUND FOUNDATION in Dallas. I’ve got multiple amp setups, drum isolation booth, a collection of different mics and all the latest Cakewalk plug-ins. One of my new faves for guitar tones is OVERLOUD. I track a mic’d amp tone and a clean DI signal for both post production and editing purposes. Heavier sounds such as MURDER FM’s tend to brickwall with distorted tones. Having a clean signal helps to view the transients gives me the flexibility to plug in anything missing in the mic’d amp tone to obtain the fullest guitar tone I possibly clean and avoid that “thin” one dimensional tone.

I told you—get me going and I don’t stop. But hey—God is in the details and I don’t wanna make him mad, so I spend a lotta time there. Besides, who wants to think about how far it is to the weekend when you could be thinking interfaces and plug-ins. ‘Tis the diff between a mere Monday and a NorMonday.

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Free Platinum Samples Rock Legends Kit 3 with SONAR X2 Producer

Content Club

Free Platinum Samples Rock Legends Kit 3 with SONAR X2 Producer
Now through June 30th, all customers who purchase or upgrade to SONAR X2 Producer will receive the new Platinum Samples Rock Legend Kit 3 free as part of the SONAR X2 Producer Content Club May-June giveaway. This kit was recorded by Grammy nominated recording engineer Rail Jon Rogut whose credits include Meshell Ndegeocello, Ry Cooder and Michael Jackson. Designed for Session Drummer 3 and Dimension Pro, this expansion kit was recorded via a classic Neve 80 series console, Sontec Equalizers and a Fairchild 670. Microphones used included Telefunken ELA M 251′s on the Overheads and the Floor Toms, AKG C12A’s on the Rack Toms & Neumann M49′s on the Stereo Room.

The free Rock Legends Kit 3 is a natural ambient kit with a shank style hi-hat. Rock Legends Kit 3 is a larger, roomier version of the kit with a different Crash 1 and additional EQ and compression on the Kick, Snare & Toms.  The free Rock Legends Kit 3 only has 2 round robins with 16 velocity levels.

Highlights:

  • 125th Aniv. Limited Edition Gretsch Rock Legend drum kit.
  • Played with metal tip sticks.
  • Recorded using vintage Neve, Sontec, Fairchild gear and Telefunken, AKG and Neumann microphones.

If you already own SONAR X2 Producer, your free download is now available on your My Account page on the Cakewalk Store.

Upgrade to SONAR X2 Producer today or
Buy SONAR X2 Producer at a retailer near you.

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Get Started with SONAR X2′s Inspector and Loop Construction View

CakeTV

Two new SONAR X2 videos added to CakeTV
We have posted two brand new videos on CakeTV that show you how to get started with the Inspector and the Loop Construction View.

The SONAR X2 Inspector will save you valuable time when working on your projects. Access critical data from your project with the touch of a mouse and speed up your workflow.

The Loop Construction View has been given a facelift in SONAR X2 and allows you to edit and customize your loops so they sound fresh and exciting. If you are working with loops, this is a great video to watch to get the basics down.

Plus we have over 20 Get Started videos on the SONAR U channel with more to come!

See what’s new in SONAR X2
Try SONAR X2 Producer for free

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New Videos: Create Amazing Things with SONAR X2 and Intel Technology

Intel video

Chuck Carr creates amazing content for Twisted Metal
Chuck Carr is a multi-faceted game audio professional and accomplished musician for over 60 games and counting. Intel has put out a new video showing how Chuck Carr used SONAR X2, an Intel® Core™-based PC and SSDs in his creative process to create the soundtrack for the hit game, Twisted Metal. It’s just one example of the amazing results that can be achieved with Intel technology and SONAR X2.

 

Timothy Michael Wynn Composes Amazing Content for Darkness II
Timothy Michael Wynn is an award-winning composer for films, television and video games. Hear how he uses SONAR X2 and the Intel® Core™ Processor and SSDs in his creative process.

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Final Day for April Specials on SONAR X2 – Plus Save 15% Off Storewide

April Promo

Last day: Save 15% off anything at the Cakewalk Store thru April 30th
Enjoy incredible savings from now through the end of April. Just use the promo code APRIL2013 to take an additional 15% off every product at the Cakewalk Store. Get instant savings on anything we offer including SONAR X2 upgrades, videos, instruments, FX, expansion packs, and much more.

Offer ends April 30th.

Start shopping today

SONAR X2 upgrade

Last day: Huge savings on X2 Producer: Plus get 3 amazing products free
You can download SONAR X2 Producer today and save 15% off the regular price. SONAR X2 Producer has been completely redesigned to streamline the music production process. We’ve updated the Skylight user interface with over 100 enhancements. We’ve added a modular ProChannel and a Console Emulator to the mixing console making it easier to achieve great sounding mixes. Editing is now far more intuitive with the improved Smart Tool and new Smart Grid. And we’ve also included many new plug-ins like BREVERB SONAR, TH2 Producer Amp Sim, R-MIX, Rapture, and more.

SONAR X2 has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from the press and user community. Future Music magazine raved that, “working in SONAR X2 feels so natural and intuitive.” Sound on Sound magazine endorses this upgrade stating, “for existing SONAR users, this is undoubtedly a worthwhile upgrade.” 

In addition, when you upgrade to SONAR X2 Producer today, you also get 3 free products worth almost $100:

  • Get up to speed on all the new features with SWA Complete SONAR X2 Video (9 hours)
  • Get additional sounds with (1) AAS Sound Bank and Player
  • Get inspiring new FX Chains with the FX Chains Odyssey Pack
  • Plus use promo code APRIL2013 to get 15% off your already low upgrade price

Below are some of the new features in SONAR X2 Producer:

  • Skylight enhancements including Auto Zoom, Timeline Zoom and revamped NOW time
  • Better views including Take Lanes, Clips Pane, PRV, Loop Construction View and Matrix View
  • Enhanced editing tools including the improved Smart Tool and the new Smart Grid
  • New Automation Lanes with Latch, Touch, Overwrite, and Punch modes
  • Modular ProChannel for that big pro-studio sound
  • Additional ProChannel modules including:
    • Console Emulator
    • QuadCurve EQ
    • BREVERB SONAR
    • Softube Saturation Knob
    • Support for FX Chains modules
    • And more
  • Rapture Synthesizer
  • TH2 Producer amp simulator
  • BREVERB SONAR (VST version)
  • Improved LP-64 Mastering plug-ins
  • R-MIX SONAR
  • SoundCloud integration
  • And more

Now through April 30th, save an additional 15% off when you use the promo code APRIL2013.

Upgrade today

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Free video tutorial with any SONAR X2 purchase in April

SONAR X2 Complete

Buy SONAR X2, get 9 hours of video tutorials for free ($40 value)
SONAR X2 is a huge leap forward in DAW technology. From the Skylight interface, to the Smart Tool, to the ProChannel (Producer Exclusive) – almost every part of SONAR X2 has been enhanced based on feedback from customers and professional users. In addition, SONAR X2 now includes Windows 8 and touch support in all versions, proving once again why SONAR X2 is the best choice for Windows based recording studios.

Don’t take our word for it – SONAR X2 has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from the press and user community. Future Music magazine raves that, “working in SONAR X2 feels so natural and intuitive.” Music Tech magazine declares, “it’s a DAW in the truest sense of the description: a complete production environment with a wealth of features that enable you to take your ideas from initial sketches to finished masters – and throws in things like remix and live performance tools to boot.” 

There has never been a better time to make the leap to SONAR X2. In the month of April, when you purchase any version of SONAR X2, you will also receive the SWA Complete SONAR X2 video for free ($40 value). Featuring over 9 hours of video tutorials, SWA Complete SONAR X2 offers the most comprehensive look at SONAR X2 to date. Learn more

Below are just some of the new features in SONAR X2 (more…)

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Learn SONAR with Berkleemusic – enroll today for spring semester

Berklee

You can study Berklee’s renowned music production techniques directly from their renowned faculty members, in a collaborative online community of like-minded musicians. Learn to operate SONAR X2 Producer like a pro from anywhere in the world. Sample a free lesson in SONAR, as well as other areas of music production, guitar, music theory, and more.

Learn more

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Save time with FX Chain Presets – Plus Bonus FX Chains for SONAR X2 Producer users

We all know the feature-set and workflow in SONAR X2 is world-class.  It still amazes me that we can make Major Label sounding records in our homes these days as long as you have a good system, good enough ears and some good old fashion knowledge.  The one feature I personally love that I think gets overlooked is the FX Chain Preset.

We live in a musical world these days where time is of the essence.  While some folks have the luxury of spending as much time as needed on musical works, other folks like myself are not so lucky.  I look at it as a balance between creativity/quality vs. time/money.  With this being said, the FX Chains Presets have been a life-saver for me.

The beauty of FX Chains is that they are in fact a massive time-saver, but still allow you to get unique sounds by creating your own effects.

Time-saver:

What starts to happen when you uncap the power of FX Chains?  You start to build your own library of Effects where at any given point in time you can simply drag-and-drop a chain on any effect bin, bus, or even clip.  For example, let’s say you are working with a certain vocalist/songwriter one week who returns back for another song a month later.  If you have saved that vocalist’s chain as an effect chain preset, you can simply drag-and-drop it from the preset folder to the track in this new project.  It sounds basic but it’s not; what happens over time is that you develop your own catalogue of multiple effects that are instantly available to you on any project.  What is significant, is that these FX Chains presets work with any Cakewalk or third-party plug in your arsenal.  Personally speaking, I don’t know what I would do without them after becoming accustomed to their ease of use.  I’m constantly fighting for minutes in a day, and having the ability to fire-up FX Chains instantaneously without sacrificing any creativity has been a game-changer.  In fact FX Chains presets actually inspire me to create new sounds.

Unique Sounds:

It’s simple to map multiple effects’ parameters to single knobs and switches.  The uniqueness comes in to play when you start to automate the knobs and switches to get some interesting sounds.   The fact that you can control multiple parameters from a single source opens countless doors of sound-character.  For example, the ability to map the “left” and “right” panning sliders to one knob allows me to control where a reverb rests in a mix.  Now if you take that one step further by mapping the “left” and “right” pans of a delay to another knob, you can start to split effects’ signals up.  An interesting effect from here would be adding a flanger, and mapping its’ depth and speed parameters along with the delay’s feedback parameter to one more knob; so as the delay repeats more and more, the flanger effect becomes more intense.

These are just a few real-world examples of how I find the benefits of FX Chains very useful and practical.  SONAR X2 ships with 48 FX Chains in Essential, 76 in Studio, and 160 in Producer.  As a bonus for SONAR X2 Producer Content Club members, I’ve created a new set of 15 FX Chains that work particularly well on buses.   These can obviously work on tracks as well, but I built them in buses thinking they would work well on spacious recordings that encompass vocals, clean guitars, piano and light drums or percussion.  You can experiment with other types of music as well, but I think these are best suited for recordings where there is some room in the mid-range department between 600Hz and 2K.

Some of the highlighted presets in the bonus FX Chain Odyssey pack include:
(Please note for demonstration purposes I have turned up the Effect Send considerably on these examples.)

Circus Buzzards – An eerie reverse reverb that is entrenched in a warm overdrive provided by TH2 and finished off with a modulation option.

Panable Ambiance – A great reverb and delay effect for vocals where you can position the reverb in the stereo field.

Smoke Stack  – This is basically a button box where I have mapped overdrive parameters, wideners, and modulation to various knobs to create interesting overtones.

 

How to download the FX Chain Odyssey pack:

If you already own SONAR X2 Producer, the FX Chain Odyssey presets download is already in your account as a bonus treat from the SONAR X2 Producer Content Club.  If you purchase or upgrade to SONAR X2 Producer by April 30th, you will be able to download the presets from your account on the Cakewalk Store.

Customize your own FX Chains:

Another cool feature about FX Chains presets is the ability to customize the skin with your own designs. You can add interesting graphics, knobs, switches and background colors to keep your eye and mind fresh for those long mixing sessions.

So with all these components packed into the FX Chains preset feature, it’s easy to get uniquely creative while staying on top of the clock.  If you have not done so already, I highly recommend you get acclimated to the world of FX Chains in SONAR X2.  Here is a great overview video to get you started.

 

Thanks for reading and watching!  Try SONAR X2 for free today.

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Remixing in SONAR: An MGMT inspired remix using SONAR X2 Producer and Z3TA+ 2

While working as a Quality Assurance Engineer for Cakewalk I have the privilege and duty to test the latest builds before they are available to the public. While testing SONAR X2a and the CA-2A T-Type Leveling Amplifier I decided to work on an MGMT inspired remix of new song written by Cakewalk Graphic Designer Dan Kaplan.  Dan gave me the stems from his studio sessions and from there I remixed the song using SONAR X2 Producer, the CA-2A, and Z3TA+ 2.

 

When I first listened to Dan Kaplan’s song Sink or Swim one of my favorite things about the song was the dynamic between the male and female vocals. I thought it would be interesting to try and approach the song more as a duet or at least feature the female vocal more than in the original. I started by putting the original stems in one folder in SONAR and began setting up tracks for the remix in another. I created some instrument tracks for Session Drummer 3, Studio Instruments Electric Piano, and Z3TA+ 2. I then brought in sections of the bass and piano stems and began working on the first chorus trying to get the vocal dynamic working. I added Kick samples and built a pad to fade between chords using Z3TA+ 2. The Bass needed to be a lot more aggressive and the saturation knob in combination with some EQ got the sound I wanted. I used a synth sample from the original stems for the instrumental sections that reminded me of a MGMT riff and layered some different snares and claps to add more energy. Things were already moving well towards the end of the song but I needed to figure out how to get to the first chorus. I found a great background vocal sample from the end of the original track that reminded me of something the band FUN might do and thought that it would be a cool way to start the song. Using 4 different instances of SD3 I built the giant drum circle intro and added some of my own guitars using TH2. I put some rhodes and strings in the intro as well which to me kept the space that was there but left some nice texture. The strings also really helped the transition into the first chorus when the pad comes in and takes over.

 

I’ve always liked well planned vocal arrangements in pop music and wanted to build a 3 or 4 part vocal section for the end. I copied and moved the original chorus to the end and began playing around with other vocal samples to see where other phrases could come in without hurting the melody. It started with the female sample “There’s one more step” which besides adding to the context of the song helped setup the lead vocal when Dan repeats the same lyrics. I then used it for the bridge as well. I cut up the lyrics “Sink or Swim” that Dan sings and also layered that in a few choice spots.

 

I added some splashy electronic cymbal hits for added effect throughout the song and chopped some of the kick and snare samples to give it some life and not be too repetitive. I found a great long kick hit in the included sample library that I reversed for the sub swells along with reversing some other samples and sections of the guitar. Each track went through the A-Type console emulator which I think adds more air to the track and used a lot of the BREVERB SONAR plug-in for reverb on tracks and busses. To get the weird watery effect on the female vocals in the bridge I pulled out the original Z3TA+ which can be used as an audio plug-in also and found a preset to start with and tweaked it so the words were still understandable.

 

Listen to Dan Kaplan’s original version of Sink or Swim.

Sink or Swim
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