[All customers who purchase Music Creator 6 Touch on Steam will have a Demo Project for the Portal 2 song “Want You Gone.” We suggest that you open the Demo Project and follow along to best understand the concepts explained below. Click on any of the images below for a larger view.]
One thing I’ve learned over the years, which I believe is a key component to making great music, is the art of collaboration. Sometimes creating music on your own is the way to go, but a lot of the times the genius and magic in music comes from creative minds working together. In Music Creator 6 Touch, it’s easy to collaborate with other Cakewalk users by saving your project as a “bundle.”
Recently, Cakewalk worked with the great folks over at Valve to make our Music Creator 6 Touch software available to their community, and the onslaught of new “music creators” has been nothing short of amazing and inspiring. To kick off our promotion, we thought it would be a fun experience to recreate Jonathan Coulton’s cult classic “Want You Gone” from Portal 2 all in Music Creator 6 Touch (MC6t) – but the kicker is that we had 24 hours to do it in order to make the deadline for launch. In this case, not only was collaboration creatively beneficial, but it was also essential. A big “thank you” goes to Mr Coulton for allowing us to recreate this awesome song.
To pull off recording this song quickly, we needed to create some complex drum tracks, record live bass and guitars, add keyboards and synths, find and track a female vocalist who could pull off the vocals, and finally… mix. Normally this would not be too difficult if all the components were in place, but considering that we had to quickly find and track an exceptional vocalist AND learn the song on top of our full time jobs, made it all quite interesting to say the least!
The track started out as most do, with the drums and percussion. Cakewalk’s Bill Jackson and Seth Kellogg did the heavy lifting in this department to get the track going and then I added some sonic embellishment to support the grooves. A combination of good ole midi programming in the Piano Roll View (PRV) along with MC6t’s Step Sequencer View got the track off and running to a good spot.
[MC6t Tip] In the Track View, double click on any midi clip and the Piano Roll View will populate in the lower MultiDock. The MultiDock is a great way to have multiple views at your fingertips. You will find that it automatically makes tabs for each view, so going back and forth is simple and effective. From there, simply double-click anywhere in the PRV to populate sounds with midi notes. If the Snap button is engaged, MC6t will automatically place your entries on the closest beat according to the “Snap Setting.” You can change this snap setting by right-clicking the snap button and select “Snap Settings…” To delete midi notes, simple right-click a note. To select multiple midi notes, right-click and drag a range to select the notes, and then right click any of the notes selected to delete the series.
The drum tracks technically came together consisting of Cakewalk’s Sound Center, 2 Studio Instruments Drum Kits, and a loop that is from the content folder in MC6t. The patch “Electric Blipz” in Sound Center was used for the cutting electronic sounds, and the organic drums came from the Studio Instruments Drum Kits.
[MC6t Tip] With any instrument in MC6t, click on the Step Sequencer button on the top right of the window to populate the Step Sequencer View with that instruments sounds. From there, you have an inspiring way to create beats, sounds and sequences. In the Step Sequencer View, clicking on the white triangle in each row will expand the editing to give you more control over each note (hit).
To embellish and support the sound of the kick and snare, another Studio Instruments kit was utilized. The midi data for the kick pattern was then copied and pasted in the PRV, and some EQ on the top end was added to bring out the snap and attack of the sound.
The chorus drums literally came from one loop included in MC6t called Pop29 which was combined with the programming from the Sound Center Instrument. The Electronic drums really worked well with this loop especially for the snare where you can hear the width open up in the stereo field. The kick and snare of this loop were also embellished and supported in the same way explained above for the verses. To bring the whole drum track together, hefty parallel compression was utilized along with quite a bit of EQ to shape the frequencies.
[MC6t Tip] “Parallel compression” is a great way to breathe life into any drum tracks. The technique is a bit advanced, but once it’s understood and applied it can really add depth to the final mix.
- Create 2 new busses and name them something similar to Main Drum, PC Drum
- On each drum track, set the output to the Main Drum Bus. To make this easier, utilize MC6t’s “Quick Groups” feature: select all the drum tracks by holding down Ctrl and clicking on the bottom of each track (experiment with the Shift key as well for added control), the bottom of the track will be blue, hold down the Ctrl key again and at the same time select the Main Drum bus on any of the selected tracks as the output – the output of all selected tracks will then be sent to that bus.
- With all the drums still selected, right click over the “SENDS” space on any track while holding down Ctrl and in the menu select PC Drum – all the drum tracks will now have a send created to the PC Drum bus.
- Navigate to the PC Drum Bus and add the Compressor/Gate effect by either drag-and-drop, or through the right-click menu.
- Turn down the fader on the bus all the way, and then in the preset menu of the compressor select the preset called “Hyperventilator.”
- Solo all the drum tracks, and then slowly bring the PC Drum fader up until you start to hear the compressor working in tandem with the Main Drum track. Usually, the desired level of the PC Drum fader will end up somewhere between 50% – 90% depending on what you are looking for.
- Send the output of both the Main Drum and PC Drum to the Master buss (if not by default).
- Turn on the Sonitus EQ in the Main Drum bus and the PC Drum bus and add some high end, and a bit of low end depending on the initial sound of your drums.
- Experiment with all the parameters in the compressors and EQ’s until you achieve the desired sound.
After all the drums were put together and sounding good, I then went through the song and edited some of the hits with the pencil tool. Sometimes I use a compressor to achieve this, but in this case it just sounded better making minor adjustments with the pencil.
[MC6t Tip] Adjusting volume, pan positions and truly any other FX parameters are easy in MC6t: Make sure the smart tool is enabled, click on the automation lanes symbol on any track, and then draw in the levels with the pencil tool. If you would like to add more automation lanes, simply click the “+” symbol on the bottom left of any automation lane to create a new one. The more you work with and adjust automation in lanes, the more creative you will become at mixing.
With the drums sounding pretty punchy and balanced, we then moved into the next phase of recording the instruments and vocals which were provided by the NYC based singer-songwriter Jodi Good. The next part of this blog series will tackle exactly that.
Thanks for reading, and please post any questions regarding these techniques on the Steam forum.