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6 Production Tips From Our "Calvin Harris - Slide" Project File

Here are a few techniques we used while making this track:

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1. Grouping groups and Bus Limiting

In Ableton you can „group groups” by creating buses from audio tracks. Here’s how to do it:

- create a new audio track

- in the Monitoring section set it to In (Input) 

- go to the groups and set their output to the bus track.

In our project file we used this technique to create a Kick/Snare Bus. On this bus we placed a limiter to make sure that when our kick and snare play together, they won’t drive the limiter on the master track crazy. This way we’re splitting the limiting on our drums between many limiters and that way we avoid distortion. We’re also avoiding the problem of the kick+snare sounding too loud in comparison to the kick alone.

2. Make a custom EQ for an audio effect like Reverb

Sometimes a built-in audio effect EQ isn’t enough. In that case it’s easy to make a custom EQ for it. All you need to do is:

- make the effect 100% wet

- select the effect

- press command/ctrl+G to group it inside an Audio Effect Rack

- expand the rack view to show the Chain List

- add a new chain with no effects and call it Dry

- add an EQ8 onto the chain with Reverb

- adjust the dry/wet balance with the Chain Volumes.

Here’s how I used the custom EQ:

3. Make a riser from a reversed piano & guitar

Reversed piano works well as a riser right before a drop. Here’s how I created this effect:

- I took a chord and placed it on a separate MIDI track with a grand piano loaded up

- I right clicked on the track and selected Freeze, then Flatten. That’s going to convert the track to audio.

- I reversed the audio clip of the chord in the Clip View using the „Rev.” button

- I did the exact same thing for a single note guitar sample

- I processed the two tracks through a Flanger effect which adds a bit of weird interest.

4. Blend in the Haas effect

Haas effect is created by delaying one channel a few milliseconds to create a wide sound. However, when you play back this signal in mono, some frequencies will disappear. To avoid phase cancellation (disappearing frequencies), use a dry/wet knob to blend in the Haas effect with the unaffected signal. This way even if the stereo-enhanced layer disappears, there’s still some mono information that will be perfectly audible on mono systems.

Tip: Don’t use the built-in Dry/Wet knob when creating the Haas effect with Ableton’s Simple Delay. It’s going to create even more phasing because the minimal delay on Simple Delay is 1 ms. Blending in an unaffected signal with one delayed by 1 ms sounds terrible. To solve this problem create a custom dry/wet knob by using an Audio Effect Rack (here’s how you can do it) and use Simple Delay to delay the „Dry” chain by 1 ms on both left and right channels. I’ve included a custom rack of mine that will do this for you in the project file. 

5. Process sounds through Reverb

Sometimes you can completely change the sound of a synth layer by processing it through a Reverb effect with 100% Dry/Wet and a short Decay Time. To avoid delay caused by the Decay Time, use the Track Delay option in Ableton to move the whole track in time a few ms back. Another option of processing synths is the Reverb filter in Serum. That crazy filter will destroy anything you process through it but mess around with it can bring original results. If you’re not using Serum as a synth you can use the SerumFX module and select Reverb in the Filter effect.

6. Add harmonics in Serum’s Wavetable Editor

To easily add a few harmonics to a sinewave, open up the Wavetable Editor and draw in a couple of „columns”. Drawing them in the grey areas will sound most harmonic.


We used this technique to add harmonics to an organ patch: 

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I’m k-pizza, a music maker who likes to share his experiences with other producers. I’m regularly going to show up with music and content at PML.

Listen to my music: https://souncloud.com/k-pizza

Skype lessons with me: http://bit.ly/pml_s_one2one

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