How do you set up your studio? Episode 2

In this new opus of “How to set up your studio”, we will simply talk about studio furniture.

Maybe I’m going to have a speech from another age, but in my day having a custom piece of furniture for his studio required placing an order with a carpenter!

Certainly, it is easy now with specialized builders to find the ideal piece of furniture for your studio.

But which piece of furniture do I need?

I find that this question makes a lot of sense because it all depends if you are a composer, sound designer, guitarist, drummer, percussionist or violinist but also a sound engineer!

That’s right, because we don’t have the same way of structuring our work environment according to our professional and musical practice.

Below is, for example, a cabinet designed for the mixing console and thus for the sound engineers.

Phoenix-Modson
Modson’s Phoenix equipped with SSL XL console

But what are the needs we all have in common?

In our operation we all have a computer, a sound card, a pair of monitors and a midi keyboard or control surface to drive our virtual synth and plug-ins…

Ikéa Bekant
Ikea Bekant used by Andrew Huang

The basis of the studio furniture is therefore a desk to put all this beautiful equipment.

Certains pourraient être tentés d’aller faire leurs courses à Ikéa. En effet, il est possible d’y trouver une table ou un bureau qui peut être détourné en meuble de studio.

In the picture above, you can see the IKea Bekant furniture that allows you to work both sitting and standing! Andrew huang speaks about it very well in this video from 3’39.

What about my keyboard?

As for the midi keyboard or your synthesizer, you certainly want a shelf underneath the cabinet to tuck in your brand new Kontrol komplete and demonstrate your sense of organization and tidiness.

If you can afford it, the furniture offered by Output, a company that develops software and equipment for musicians, composers, producers and sound designers of all kinds, could be just what you need. Put it on your list for Santa Claus’ visit!

Meuble de studio
The Platform furniture designed by Output

On the other hand, there are few stands adapted to a control surface such as Push 2 for Ableton or Maschine from Native Instruments.

A little trick!

To have a clean desk to put your surface on, I found this tilting stand on the online sales giant that is Amazon.

Stand Amazon
Tilting stand on Amazon

Of course there is a plethora of studio furniture manufacturers because it is a real business to design and sell furniture designed for the home studio in order to work well.

What about Projects Studio and Studio Pro ?

They, too, are entitled to furniture in more upscale categories such as can be found at Argosy.

Eclipse - Argosy
Furniture designed by Argosy with Avid S4 configuration

The advantage of these types of furniture is their adaptability to your mixing console.

Keoda also manufactures furniture in the same style.

From my point of view, whether it’s Keoda or Argosy, you’re on too big a budget, especially if you’re just starting out.

Which studio furniture is essential?

Simply an office chair to sit for long hours while you compose the title of the century!

For this, if your budget allows it, there is a very comfortable must-have that I highly recommend despite its price.

I’m talking about the Herman Miller Aeron chair. Personally, I have had the privilege of working on this little gem of technology for the past 20 years.

And honestly it’s on my top Christmas list for 2020! Moreover it is possible to buy it without the armrests, which is not really necessary in my case because I don’t have time to rest my arms.

The only snag is if you don’t work alone… Second option, opt for chairs that are less expensive but comfortable enough for your fellow musicians.

Or think drum stool or bar stool. It has its charm in a studio.

To finish on my studio chair tips, test them before you buy them.

What other studio furniture could be useful to you?

  • Loudspeaker stands because it’s very useful if you don’t want to put your monitors on your work cabinet.
  • Storage shelves for vinyl records, manuals, chord dictionaries, books, even a printer because I often need to print scores, technical notes or simply invoices.
  • A music stand: it’s silly to say but we don’t know all the lyrics of songs by heart!
  • A trunk that can be covered with a cushion to store cables, microphones and other studio accessories in an old or modern style.

The final word for this second episode of “How to set up your studio”?

If the previous proposals do not suit you, you still have the solution to have a custom made piece of furniture made, as it was my case. Beware, the cost is not negligible and even if at one time I wanted to market it, I quickly abandoned the project. If you are interested and if you want to know more about my studio furniture, you can see the picture on the home page, send me an email

To find out what happens next in this exciting adventure, check out the next episode!

What is sound design?

More and more people are talking about sound design, but what is really the Sound Design.

Whether it is in music, cinema, video games or more simply through the realization of an application for the phone or for a home device and until very recently in marketing, sound design in this 21st century takes a prominent place in our hearing universe.

A brief history of sound design.

The use of sound elements to achieve a desired effect is the basis of sound design.

We can say in this case that it is the staging of sound and we find this in the whole multimedia universe that our ears perceive.

It is present in all civilizations whether it is current or ancient with a mode of oral tradition sometimes considered as part of the folklore of a people.

If at the beginning the sound design was the reproduction of existing sound example, the barrissement of an elephant, the noise we hear when we bite into an apple, it quickly appeared a need to manipulate the sound capture made to be able to transform it and create new sounds specific to the atmosphere of film codes, music, video games and tools of our daily lives.

Let’s talk about this famous folklore, imaginary where music is not enough to transmit an emotion or a feeling. To explain it clearly, imagine a film where you see a dragon with powerful music in the background but no sound emitted by the dragon when, for example, it screams and spits fire.

Wouldn’t that be weird for you?

Sound Capture: the base

If at the beginning we talked about sound capture, this term will quickly turn into sound design as soon as there is an intention to manipulate the recorded sound.

A very simple example: deforming an impact that one would have given with a hammer on an anvil.

There are many ways to rework the original sound.

The basic processes of sound retouching are multiple and varied. To list them would be too important.

Knowing that currently with computer technology it is possible to combine several processes of sound retouching in order to completely deform, destructure a sound to reshape it according to a visual requirement.

Record, re-record!

Apart from the sound retouching that can be done, it is possible to record sounds that do not require major retouching but which allow by their re-recording to create new sounds.

A very simple example and that of Darth Vader’s breathing. It is no more and no less than a diving mask in which the inhalation and exhalation have been recorded. This same recording was played on a loudspeaker in a long corridor and re-recorded with the acoustic effect of the room. Lord Vader’s Breath had just been created by Ben Burtt.

Dark Vador !

Overlay!

it is possible to record tones that do not require major retouching but which, by the addition of other tones, make it possible to create new tones.

Another example coming from starwars with the Pod Race, Logically for this modern motor racing vehicle sound effects are used as a sound base if you listen carefully, you can hear Formula 1, jet planes, motorcycles, rockets, helicopters or even boats or old motor cars with extremely noisy engines. The sound design was brought to the forefront by superimposing these sounds with recordings of an electric razor in action pressed against a metal bowl. They did the same with an electric toothbrush.

Then in sound design we can use synthesizers, samplers … Whether physical or virtual.

Vive le 21e siècle vous me direz vous, not so much because for information the sounds of R2D2 are realized by a modular Arp 2600 Synthesis in the 70’s…

R2D2

Music and sound design

It is interesting to see the evolution from a sound and musical point of view.

For all American blockbuster fans, for a number of years now the orchestral music used for some action movies has been renamed Epic Music.

Many film music composers have worked on mixing genres through this musical style. Within this style, synthesizers took their place and rock music and even metal were included, but where the evolution of the style appeared was when sound design made its appearance in epic composition.

For the record, remember the movie Inception. In this film appeared in the music composed by Hans Zimmer a new type of sound that was called “Bramm” to attract the attention of the public.

Proof in different blockbusters

Sound design and marketing!

Yes, let’s talk about marketing for God’s sake! Because capturing the public’s attention is a necessity for marketing agencies. And as long as you need to use sound and/or video, Sound Design is necessary…

The sound design at the end?

Personally it’s been a long time that I’ve been doing sound design in my musical creations as well as in the making of sound banks.

The work of a sound designer is full of surprises and with the advance of technology and you have to put yourself in it even if only in your musical compositions, because what is important for you musically certainly requires to be heard, quality, and inspiration which inevitably nowadays goes through the sound design …

The question is what type of sound design can you incorporate into your music?

Let me hear your musical style if you want an answer…

Why buy sound banks?

Why buy sound banks? This is a question I was asked during lockdown following my previous newsletter.

Buying sound banks, certainly, but which one or which ones?

The market offers…

And your faithful servant in a very modest way…

If you look at the list above, there are sound banks and virtual synthesizers.

Explanation of the concept of sound banks.

We talk about sound banks when the sound source comes from a recording.

This sound source is called a sample so that most of the time the wave audio format predominates or a proprietary format in order to avoid piracy.

These samples in most cases require a sample reader or sampler according to some manufacturers.

Understanding the difference between a sample reader and a sampler?

The sample reader simply reads the bank made by the manufacturer.

The sampler reads the bank made by the manufacturer and nevertheless allows you to create your own sound banks.

A sampler offers the possibility to record a sound source. In the digital age this notion is disappearing in favour of the Daws which offer extremely advanced editing functions.

This leads to a new generation where the frontier between sampler and reader no longer exists. Welcome to the 21st century!

Akaï S950

It brings back many memories when I was recording samples in my S950 Akaï.

It took a long time to build a bank in these times…

Explanation of the concept of virtual synthesizers.

The virtual synthesizer, unlike the player or sampler, produces these sounds using sound synthesis and computer algorithms that do not require the use of any samples. But then…

What is Omnisphere from Spectrasonics

Spectrasonics has understood very well the stakes of computer-assisted music in these conditions, with increasingly powerful computers, which allow more and more advanced modes of sound synthesis. Why not create a hybrid between virtual synthesizer and sampler?

Atmosphere was the first draft to lead to a current version called Omnisphere, which is fearsome for its simplicity and sound quality. A must in my musical creation process.

Why buy sound banks?

Depending on your musical style, you will be required to use a variety of sounds.

The software you use will require the use of banks that it does not provide you with when you purchase it.

The way you compose will require certain types of banks.

For example:

Please note, for those who compose from audio loops, that because of this mode of creation Native Instruments bought the LoopLoft platform and created Sounds.

The goal:

Sell loops and one shot to users of their stations such as Maschine and Komplete Kontrol.

There are no rules, only affinities between your personality, your Daw, and your musical style.

I suggest you read the article I wrote about Native Instruments KOMPLETE 12 ULTIMATE Collector’s Edition.

In many tutorials on YouTube, we see the trainer composing in a software by taking the banks of another tool, which concretely translates into the use of Maschine Expansion samples in tutorials on Ableton.

The reason, to have sounds in a style (Trap for example) directly in the software you master without wasting time on the creation process.

Why buy sound banks when there are free sound banks?

Yes, that’s a very good question! To date, for me, the best sound bank offered by a manufacturer is Spitifire Audio’s LABS.

The free soundbanks are a call to make you discover the manufacturer’s universe and to inspire you to buy the high-end versions . There is a lot of them even at the biggest manufacturers…

Can we compose with free sound banks?

Of course, because you’re the composer, not the sound bank.

Pay attention to one thing, the quality of the bank and your ability to appropriate it to build a hit.

In the March newsletter, I talked about artists using Apple Loops to compose an international hit.

Note this: in general in free soundbanks, there is not necessarily what you are looking for. Therefore you will have to buy or make your own sound banks.

Is there anything to worry about before buying a sound bank?

Yes, of course: the financial, technical and operational aspects. For example, I use the East West sound banks:

  • Rental bank which requires a subscription every month. This can be a financial concern.
  • Quality of the bank? Honestly at this level nothing to say…
  • Installation which requires a fiber internet connection because it is long to download during the first installation.
  • Capacity of the computer to operate this type of bank. Indeed you will need a powerful computer.
  • Storage of the bank. For information the Composer cloud is installed on a 2Tb SSD hard disk.
  • Ability of the composer to use this type of bank .
  • Compatibility with your software. We never think about it because it’s 2020!

I invite you to look in the Studio page the list of the sound banks I use apart from the one I make for myself…

My tips

Like a painter, you will, depending on the type of composition and style, need a sound bank.

I’ll give you four tips before you buy:

  1. Ease of use, quality and compatibility with your software.
  2. The purchase should not put your bank account in the red.
  3. The bank’s exploitation over the long term
  4. Goal of this purchase
    • Out of pleasure, be careful not to indulge yourself too much because point n°2 could suffer from it…
    • To discover, understand, learn and develop your creative process
    • Produce an album, a single, or get a contract to earn money

These are the guidelines I use to build my sound banks and make them financially accessible and easy to use.

In conclusion

This article is intended to help you in your purchasing decisions. Soon I will write more articles to develop the banks of the manufacturers mentioned in this blog. I wish you good purchases…

Discover the MIDI standard and its future


Maybe you’re from the generation that uses Ableton Live, Logic Pro X or Native Instruments’ Maschine?

Are you familiar with the standard MIDI acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface?

This communication protocol dedicated to music allows your synthesizer, master keyboard, drum machine… To communicate with your favorite sequencer, to allow you to compose your music.

The MIDI born in 1983, evolves slowly but surely.

At noon* a bit of history!

Interoperability became an important issue with the democratization of synthesizers in the 1980s.

Musicians are limited to playing only one or two synthesizers simultaneously. This requires several musicians to play several synthesizers.

Being able to control several synthesizers from a single keyboard became a necessity.

The midi
Jean Michel Jarre studio in the 70s

In this context the synthesizer designers Dave Smith, Ikutaro Kakehashi and Tom Oberheim met at the NAMM show in June 1981 (yes, the NAMM show already existed!).

From this meeting a reflection on the standardization of communications between synthesizers was going to be born…

3 years after this meeting, the first demonstration took place at the 1983 NAMM show between a Jupiter 6 from Roland and a Prophet 600 from Sequential Circuit by their two representatives and founders, Ikutaro Kakehashi and Dave Smith.

The ATARI ST computer was released in 1985 because of its integrated MIDI connectors and the quality of its sequencers. It popularized the MIDI standard among musicians and the general public.

It reminds me of a time when I was using my ATARI Mega STE with Notator from Emagic, the ancestor of Logic Pro X.

The IMA, which stands for International Midi Association, manages the MIDI standard, while the MMA MIDI manufacturers Association manages the manufacturers’ position.

At noon and a quarter actually

The physical connection is managed by 5-pin DIN connectors. A midi cable with a maximum length of 15 meters. A symmetrical serial type connection as shown in the diagram below.

official MIDI cable connection diagram
official MIDI cable connection diagram

For those who are familiar with the connection of a HIFI Din cable, the difference in cabling is noticeable.

HiFi Din cable connection diagram
HiFi Din cable connection diagram

Pins 1 and 3 are unused, pin 2 serves as ground and pins 4 and 5 carry a voltage of 5 volts with a current of 5 mA.

Unidirectional MIDI links require 2 connectors. One for the input named MIDI IN and one for the output named MIDI OUT.

Basic MIDI link
Basic MIDI link or synth 1 drives synth 2
Midi link IN / OUT
Midi link IN / OUT

Some devices equipped with these 2 sockets have a third socket called MIDI THRU. In practice, synths are often connected in cascade, forming a communication network.

There are two methods to achieve this kind of network:

  • Cascading as shown in diagram 1.
  • In parallel via a MIDI interface as shown in diagram 2.
Midi cascade link
Diagram 1 midi cascade link
Midi link with an interface
Diagram 2 Midi link with an interface

TRS and other connectors

Very important point to understand with the MIDI Standard !!!

This protocol does not transmit an audio signal. It only transmits messages to control a B device from an A device.

The list of possible messages:

  • Note on/off to start and stop each note. Each note has its own velocity to indicate how strongly the note is played.
  • Control change this protocol allows to control 128 playing parameters such as volume, panning, filters…
    • each control changes at an adjustment range of 0 to 127.
  • Program change, which allows you to select a patch (a tone) from a synthesizer sound bank.
    • The MIDI standard does not specify which program number changes (from 0 to 127) for which instrument sound.
    • To compensate for this, in September 1991 MMA adopted the General MIDI standard to provide a mapping between program changes and synth sounds.
      • The GM standard will evolve with Roland’s GS and Yamaha’s XG proprietary format.
      • Officially launched in 1999, version 2 of General MIDI was released. It remains compatible with version 1
  • The protocol allows the tempo of the devices, called slaves, to be synchronized to a master clock.

I haven’t yet talked about the number of MIDI channels that can be used on physical synths. The standard uses 16 channels.

Depending on your configuration when working with virtual instruments, in my opinion you only have the limit of your software.

Noon minus a quarter limitations and alternatives

The rise of computer sequencers, software instruments driven by dedicated control surfaces has pushed MIDI to these limits.

There is a standard specifically developed to drive pipe organs and digital organs taking into account the specificities of the organ (multiple stops on the same channel), it is the POMI standard for Pipe Organ Midi Interface.

MIDI POLYPHONIC EXPRESSION Revolution

MPE, which originally stood for Multidimensional Polyphonic Expression, was adopted by MMA in February 2018 and renamed MIDI Polyphonic Expression.

Present on instruments and controllers for several years now such as Roli keyboards.

Many softwares such as Reaktor, Kontakt, Cubase, the UVI Falcon, or Logic Pro X to name but a few support this particular MIDI protocol.

an example to better understand…

My Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol keyboard transmits all notes on the same MIDI channel.

Example: I play a chord on my keyboard and I move the pitch bend wheel, all the played notes are affected by the pitch bend.

Hence the term Polyphonic Expression.

The MPE Protocol uses a specific channel for each note, using a separate channel for each note, making it possible to transmit these controllers individually for each note without influencing the other notes played.

Here’s a video with Roli keyboards: Roli Block in action

MPE settings in Logic Pro X :

Open the Roli Dashboard application on your computer and make the settings as shown in the image below.

Roli Dashboard
Roli Dashboard on Mac

The MPE settings in Logic are found in each of the virtual instruments as explained in the image below.

Alchemy MPE setting
Alchemy MPE setting

List of virtual instruments Logic Pro X MPE compatible :

  • Alchemy
  • EXS24
  • ES2
  • Sculpture
  • Retro Synth
  • Vintage Clavinet
  • EFM1

To discover more about Logic Pro X don’t hesitate to click on this link.

we find as manufacturer Haken with the Continuum, Expressive E which is coming soon with the Osmose keyboard made in partnership with Haken.

For the moment the MPE standard is a young one in the world of computer-aided music . Since its adoption by the MMA the development will become interesting, to be watched closely, even if for the moment the prices of MPE keyboards remain high.

Some manufacturers are making efforts in this direction, Roli for example with the Blocks makes the MPE financially more accessible.

Maybe I’ll tell you more in a future article, stay tuned…

*midi in French means noon

How to build your studio? Episode 1

How to build your studio? A very important question these days, on which I thought it was very interesting to write an article. While thinking about how to write this article so that it is relevant and gives you answers to the questions you are asking yourself, I realized the need to do it in several episodes, like the blockbusters of the cinema!

How to build your studio
How do you build your studio?

Before we embark on this exciting adventure, let’s ask ourselves a few questions about the future studio of your dreams.

What kind of studio?

It is important to define specifications for the studio you want to create, for the following reasons:

  • The purpose of this studio: what will it be used for? Is it a mixing studio, a mastering studio, a beatmaking studio or a recording studio?
  • From the purpose flows the place: we do not set up a recording studio to receive the public, and more precisely groups, on the 4th floor of a residence…
  • From the purpose and the place comes the acoustics, because you do not isolate your Home Studio in the same way as a Mastering studio.
  • And the most interesting thing: the furniture. This is the position that suffers the most in all the configurations I have had the opportunity to meet since I started working in this profession.
  • The central core of your studio: the equipment, whether virtual or physical.

To resume, we can say that there are 4 configurations.

  • The Home Studio versatile enough to enjoy and practice at home.
  • The very versatile Project Studio with a fairly high pro level.
  • Studio Pro for recording, mixing and mastering.
  • The Nomad Studio to collaborate with other artists, or friends….

Let’s detail the configurations to better understand how to set up your studio.

Home Studio

Who doesn’t dream of having their own Home Studio? Still need to know what a Home studio is? Simply, a studio at home, in a room of his apartment, his house, or an outbuilding of his house. We then arrive at a very large home studio.

Moving to the countryside?

Personally, I know of some that are over 70m2 and others barely 9m2. You can choose to settle in the countryside in a place well isolated from the rest of the world, to make music and therefore noise without any concern for sound isolation.

In my opinion, this is a mistake in several aspects:

  • you isolate yourself from people who could collaborate or come to work with you because you are located outside a city and its means of transport.
  • you may not have access to the Internet with a speed close to or equivalent to that of fibre. We must now consider that many of our software tools and plug-ins require updates, not to mention sound banks. A small example: it takes about 4h30 with the fiber to make a complete installation of the Native Instruments KOMPLETE 12 ULTIMATE Collector’s Edition pack…
  • Another disadvantage of being in the countryside and this I have already seen several times alas, your studio may be visited and the equipment you accumulate will be stolen from you, which is not very reassuring.

And the city?

That being said, being in the city also has its disadvantages. You will have to make your Home Studio in a room of the apartment where you live or even in the dining room! Neighbours may often come to tell you that you make too much noise (this is an experience I personally had when I started more than 25 years ago…) If you buy your apartment, no worries about doing some small sound isolation work. If you rent on the other hand, it’s another story… The advantage is of course friends who can come and share and collaborate with you and even remotely, because with the Internet now everything is possible…

What are you planning to do with your Home Studio?

Let’s assume that every studio is alive and that as you experiment, learn and achieve, it will evolve. A Home Studio in general is made to please yourself, even if with time you can spend a lot of money and energy on it. So, whether you want to do beatmaking, electro music, rock, pop, dance hall… There is no need to think big from the start. One piece of advice I can give you: yes, you can dream, but not too much. Stay reasonable!

Project Studio

What is this word attached to the word studio?
It is true that in France we do not hear much about this term. It is used much more on the other side of the Atlantic, and particularly in the United States where it comes from.
To define a Project Studio and its role, it is a hybrid studio between the Home studio and the professional studio.
You can do recording sessions, vocals, guitar, solo instruments but this type of studio is not intended for group recording or re-recording only.
We also work on mixing, arranging, composition, recording, but also mastering. In general it is possible to work on the entire sound chain. In addition, it perfectly integrates all MAO tools, but also analog tools such as synthesizers, drum machines, electronic drums, but also compressors, equalizers and preamplifiers.

The clientele

Its target audience in terms of clientele is not very different from a professional studio. It is simply very varied: you can work for amateurs as well as professionals, labels or record companies. Important customers for a Project studio are television channels, and audiovisual production companies. Working for video games is not excluded, quite the contrary. To give you a simple example, this is the case of my studio, where I can modulate what I want as I want and define processes and working methods according to the needs of my clients. I don’t have the same constraints as the pro studios. In summary, a Project Studio is a professional studio without recording booths.

So where do you set up this kind of studio? It can be in the city or on the outskirts of a city. It requires good acoustics, a space reserved for the work part and a space reserved for the customer reception part. A good Internet connection is essential for a Project Studio, as many jobs are processed remotely. A parking lot for customers and musicians who come to work at your place is a significant plus. I say this from experience, because for my clients and the artists who collaborate on certain projects, it is very pleasant to be able to park next to the studio. The easiest way is to invest in a house that will allow you to install your Project Studio, without forgetting to foresee that it too will live and evolve according to the weather and technical and musical practices.

Studio Pro

Who hasn’t dreamed of working in a professional studio? Personally, I spent a lot of time there 15 years ago in the past. Today this type of studio tends to disappear and the reason is simple, because it is economical. Having a structure for recording, mixing and mastering with a sound recording booth and a control room capable of recording groups becomes a heavy financial burden.

The current trend is that more and more artists are producing themselves at home. Like many, they use Logic Pro X, Ableton Live or other software such as Pro Tools to make their models and find ways to finalize them at a lower cost. There are labels or professionals who are looking for suitable locations, both acoustically and technically, with a renowned mixing board (e. g. SSL or Neve mixing board) and interesting devices. From there to having a financial regularity in invoicing, it may become complicated. Unless you have a star who makes you the reputation of your studio.

There is a solution!

Find a very large room that you will equip acoustically, in terms of furniture and equipment. To make this professional studio profitable, you will need to build four rehearsal booths. Of course, as the booths are all connected to your control room, you will have the opportunity to offer an attractive rate for the rental and recording of the rehearsal sessions.

Album making will come naturally next, which will give your pro studio its reputation if you do a good job! However, expect to live on staggered schedules, and to have to manage the rentals of rooms, musicians and bands that come to work, which may leave you less time to focus on your work as a sound engineer.

Needless to say, the structure must be located on the outskirts of the city with impeccable sound isolation and good facilities. There should be no walls attached to a gym or repair shop, which could make noise and make your recordings unusable. Avoid renting! For example, one of my clients rented a room that is now completely unusable during the day because of the noise pollution caused by workshops with walls adjoining his professional premises. In addition, he does not have the owner’s authorization to carry out the necessary work for sound isolation.

If you wish to embark on this adventure I strongly recommend that you call me first via this link. I could give you some very good advice to avoid a lot of trouble. The ideal place for this room is to have a car park, with access via public transport, fiber, a nice relaxation area, and very good equipment.

Nomad Studio

It is becoming more and more common to have everything in your laptop. Example: his MacBook Pro, even if I see more and more people working on Mac Mini. The advantage of Studio Nomade is that you can work with friends, on the train and even on holiday. Studio Nomade is essentially ITB, i.e. In The Box. A lot of plug-ins, a software that we master ideally designed to make the stage! I will talk in a future episode of Ableton Live 10 about a very good sound card, and one or more good microphones and a very good headset.

Concerning the acoustics of a nomad studio

This is not the most important thing, but there are solutions like Filter reflections from sE Electronics.

Personally, I have a mobile configuration that I use when I go to some customers or when I work with friends or family.

But recently I also opted for another configuration, namely an H6 zoom magneto to record in any situation without having to bring too much equipment.

The objective is simple: this is only for sound design work. If having a Nomad Studio does not restrict you, it is also important to say that it can be used to bring sound material back into your Home Studio. A place where the sound card and your laptop are the heart of your configuration. In this case, a small room with a minimum of acoustics is required to ensure quality listening.

Let’s talk about acoustics.

Having gone through these 4 configurations, let’s now look at an important point: acoustics. Whether it is on the floor, walls, or ceiling, solutions exist depending on the result you are looking for.

The easiest solution: avoid egg boxes! It isolates very badly and interior decoration is not the best!

For a Nomad Studio or a Home Studio, I was talking about the Reflexion Filter. Another inexpensive solution is a library full of books. From experience, I have recorded many voices in reading spaces or libraries. In addition to the sound aspect, this brings a cultural touch, which can be useful. It doesn’t matter what the books are. The important thing is that there are many of them. For the record, it doesn’t work as well with vinyl libraries, which doesn’t mean you don’t have them!

Solutions

A solution from the United States: Acoustiblock, a viscoelastic polymer material that attaches to floors, walls and ceilings. It offers important sound insulation properties. I let you visit their website via this link.

Of course, if you don’t want to do major work on your home, your resellers can provide you solutions. Here are some examples here and there. Attention these solutions can be expensive….

Finally, alternative solutions can be put in place. As a floor and ceiling in Wooden bar, 15x15x30cm for the floor and 10x10x30cm for the ceiling. The part to be treated requires a large volume, as it will be reduced by about 60 cm in height (max 30cm for the ceiling with relief and 30cm without relief for the floor). The walls can be insulated with acoustic rock wool isolation. In double thickness, this reduces the noise by about 30dB.

Also think about the decoration. It’s important because it’s a room where you might spend a lot of time… So, you might as well make yourself feel good there…

The final word for this first episode of how to build your studio?

I hope that this series of articles on “How to set up your studio? ” will please you, the continuation to the next episode…

KOMPLETE 12 ULTIMATE Collector’s Edition

Why am I talking about Native Instruments KOMPLETE 12 ULTIMATE Collector’s Edition?

Native Instruments is a company that manufactures electronic musical instruments, mostly software, but also hardware.

These are intended for professional musicians, producers, DJs or sound engineers, as well as home-studists.

It was founded in 1996 and is based in Berlin.

This article is not intended to advertise the Komplete 12 Ultimate Collector’s Edition. I just want to provide you with some information following a question I was asked about the need to buy such an important Native Instruments collection.

In the 25 years I have been working in the audio industry, software has evolved in terms of tools and functionalities to improve processes and workflows.

But there is a part that can be found in all software such as Logic Pro X, Live 10, Cubase, FL Studio and which has also evolved considerably: I mean sound banks.

Why is it that manufacturers are so keen to include sound libraries in their software?

The answer is simple, it’s to allow you to compose quickly and efficiently.

When you are in a creative process, making a sound bank is certainly part of the process. But it is also a good way to lose the musical ideas you have. This is why manufacturers have every interest in providing you with ready-to-use sound libraries in their software. Depending on the musical styles in which you wish to compose.

Bank format?

Today, the offer is much more important than what can be composed. 

If I have to review the sound banks I have, they use about 7 terabytes space in different formats.
We can distinguish different sound banks:
Virtual synthesizers
Samplers
Romplers,
Emulators.
Audio loops
The one Shots

You’re going to tell me: what’s the point of all this ?

Musical styles?

Depending on the musical style, we will have to use certain types of sounds types of samples. Especially since in today’s music, we now do “cross genre”, i.e. the crossing between different musical styles.

Here’s a very simple example: over the past 10 years, we’ve often heard about Epic music, which is a mix of contemporary and classical music.

It is a specific format for cinema, but variations have been made to make remixes or rework of existing music in this style.

We have the original.

And the remix…

You understand that for this kind of music, sound libraries are very important to recreate orchestral ensembles.

We have different types of formats, different types of banks… What I have found very interesting since the creation at Native Instruments of the Komplete collection. Initially created through Kontakt, is that in this collection we find all of what I mentioned above in all styles. In addition, it works on all studio software on the market, including Logic Pro X, Live 10, Cubase, etc. But also on Native Instruments Maschine‘s own sequence software. In addition to banks and synthesizers, there are also audio processing plug-ins. This is done in a format called NKS that is compatible with other plug-ins or banks that do not belong to Native Instruments.

Let’s develop the tools of the collection.

To illustrate my previous example concerning Epic music, the collection gives access to 16 orchestral and cinematic instruments. It is a complete section of sampled instruments that can be used in any project. This allows you to be in charge of a complete orchestra, either with sections or soloists thanks to professional quality banks, played and recorded by musicians and sound engineers from all over the world. All the necessary tools are available to create trailers and orchestral music.

In the collection, we will find synthesizers that I will not detail in this article. I invite you to visit the Native Instruments website to discover them! They are faithful reproductions of existing synthesizers. Some have an innovative sound design that exceeds the capacity and capabilities of most real models. Being with everything that exists in terms of synthesis and with all the tools necessary to create music such as EDM, Trap, Techno, Drum&Bass…, I must admit that it’s fabulous! The sound palette is extremely rich and we must be careful not to get lost in it…

Let me give you a tip:

Take the time to read the manuals of each of the synthesizers to understand how they work, but also how to create your own sounds. To learn and understand, there are some tools, the Trutorials, tutorials put online by Native Instruments!

For those who are sampling enthusiasts, the suite offers 30 quality sampled instruments such as pianos, electric or acoustic guitars, violins for pop music, organs, basses…

Not to mention to build his rhythmics 12 drum and percussion instruments. With Battery 4 the samplers dedicated to drum sounds, Damage for cinematic percussion, DrumLab, a sound laboratory to layer acoustic and electronic samples. And for those who dream of the Abbey Road studio, there is a collection of drums recorded in this mythical studio…

Of course Native Instruments has thought of the sound engineers that we are, with 28 effects to sculpt our sounds, our tracks, our recordings!
The icing on the cake, in the effects there is Guitar Rig 5 Pro, which alone provides 17 amp simulations, 27 speakers and 54 additional effects ! 

As we are in the Komplete 12 Ultimate Collector’s Edition, we must not forget the 50 expansions!

These are sound packs specific to specific styles, containing synth presets, drum kits, samples in one shot and loops. And of course, they can be used with Native Instruments tools, but also in any Daw.

My opinion

I use it every day. Moreover, if you choose to use it with a Komplete Kontrol keyboard and/or Maschine, it is a Must have! 

Saving time is precious and important.

In the current operation of my studio, my configuration is based on Logic Pro X, Ableton Live 10 & Push 2, Native Instruments Komplete & Maschine. So you might ask me why so many software and tools? Because it’s a composition studio, and it’s interesting for me not to have any limitations in my creative process.

Last year, following the design of an album produced in one month, I developed a training course called CEMM (Compose, Record, Mix, Master). In this training, I use Native Instruments Komplete 12 Ultimate Edition in conjunction with Logic Pro X or Ableton Live 10. Contact me if you are interested.

I regularly discover new sounds. The search for sounds by tag is very interesting and sometimes makes you choose a sound that you would never have been looking for spontaneously. One advantage is to be able to listen to them before loading the bank.

What fascinates me the most is the possibility of creating new sounds. I use it a lot for sound design and the integration of my own samples gives me even more important possibilities in my creative process.

And to top it all off, the Native Instruments suite also includes Creator Tools software to create your own Kontakt format banks !

Certainly the Komplete 12 Ultimate Collector’s Edition has a price that may be out of reach for your budget right now. However, there are several versions of this fabulous collection and even a version called Komplete Start for free! And every year Native Instruments makes an offer called Summer of Sound with a 50% discount. Be careful, it ends on June 30th! 

What is mastering ?

In the merciless world of music, after having composed, recorded and mixed your track or album, there is a last step called the Master.

Many do not know exactly what this term means. I will try to explain as simply as possible this decisive process that can bring the final touch to your musical production.

Imagine that you have made several titles and that all have different levels of dynamics and equalization…

The Master and therefore the mastering is the search for a sound rendering optimized for all the titles in order to homogenize them to have a coherent album in terms of volume and sound color. This is referred to as a standard. There are several in two categories: the Master Music and the Master Broadcast.

The most important thing when it comes to mastering is that the result must be able to be listened to on any type of speaker, whether it is an audiophile, sound system, domestic, computer or simply your iPhone headset, or your OLED TV.

Before preparing the Master for a vinyl, CD, download or streaming platform, it is important to understand the stakes of mastering.

Quite often when you look at a professionally mastered stereo audio file, you see this:

Mastering a phenomenon?

Fichier Skrillex Bangarang
WaveLab

This is due to a phenomenon that appeared in the 2000s and is known as the “war of loudness”.

We are really talking about war since the labels, with decibels, are trying to bring a maximum level into a digital standard that cannot exceed zero dB.

Let us not dwell on the things that are controversial…

There are two simple ways to do mastering:

The first being digitally with one or more plug-ins.

The second is hybrid, digital and analog, with very high-end equipment.

In general, mastering is not there to solve mixing problems. The goal is to work on the accuracy and details of frequencies and levels so that everything is in a broadcast standard.

Mastering is a precision work that requires high quality tools, impeccable acoustics, a monitoring bench calibrated very precisely, but above all – and this is the most important thing – good ears! In addition to this precision work, a mastering engineer focuses his work on several criteria:

  • Master Music Standard
    • vinyl mastering
    • Mastering CD
    • Mastering for streaming platforms example: Deezer, Spotify, Apple music…
  • Master Broadcast Standard
    • Television broadcasting (PAD – ready to broadcast HD TV).
    • DVD – Blu-Ray.
    • Film for cinema (analogue and digital like D-Cinema). These specific mastering will add a step of encoding, data compression adapted to the broadcast format, matrix encoding and the addition of metadata…

Each of these masterings is specific to the format and market to which it corresponds.

Let’s take a very simple example concerning mastering for CDs or streaming platforms. In this case, it is important to include in the audio file a code called ISRC, which is the international identification system for your song. It is not mandatory, but highly recommended.

You are probably wondering how to go from mixing to mastering?

The first thing to do regarding mastering is to have a reasonable level of mixing. In general, we recommend sending files that are mixed at -6 dB, so avoid compressing and/or limiting the master bus of your mix.

The most important thing is to have a margin. Quite often I receive files that are mixed and that have been normalized. Understand that mastering under these conditions is not possible. Why? Why?  Because there is no margin for processing and upgrading the different tracks of the album.

Here are my tips to prepare your mixing session for a stereo mastering:

1: A balanced mix without too much compression and that is not too aggressive in the high frequencies.

2: The maximum level of your files should not exceed -6 dBFS.

3: Your files must have the same sampling frequency (44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz…).

4: 24-bit resolution. If you work in 32 bits, let me know. I will have to do a conversion called Dithering.

5: The format of your tracks in wav or aiff. Let’s avoid the MP3 format which is compressed.

6: Your pieces must have a primer at the beginning and at the end (a blank).

7: Name your files as follows: Track number – Artist – Song name.

8: To preserve your file when sending it over the Internet, make a Zip file.

9: A text or pdf or Evernote document containing:

  • Your ISRC code
  • Name of the track
  • Artist’s name
  • Album name
  • Name of the composer,
  • Name of the author,
  • Track number,
  • Style,
  • Editor
  • record label

(To obtain your ISRC codes to ensure the identification and protection of your pieces, make a request on the IFPI website)

Master From Stems ?

And for those who would like to master from Stems (Stem files are a set of audio files containing a piece separated into four musical elements: for example the drum group, the bass group, the harmony group and the melody group. Or also by musical family: the drum group, the bass group, the guitar group and the vocal group…), the above instructions are the same except that I receive the Stems mono or stereo tracks.

They are named by category, for example:

Stem Drums – Name of the song – Artist

I will not detail the working methodologies for mastering in this article.

As it is the month of Mastering, I invite you to discover what it would bring to your mix thanks to my 3 offers

How to compose The drum

I decided to answer through the blog a question about drum tracks, and more specifically how to record them or how to compose them with plug-ins as software instruments.

I have often heard that for many people, the most difficult thing to compose in a song is the drum part, and there are many tools to help you compose your drum part.

The drum
The drum

The easiest way is to use audio loops.

There are tons of them in GarageBand, Logic pro  and Ableton live and Sequel and Cubase from Steinberg.

Gold loops!

Obviously, the problem with audio loops is that they are composed on a certain number of measures and do not necessarily have an adequate structure with break, relaunch and variations that we could have on a real drum set.


Be aware that there are also tools to break them down ! Such as Regoover Pro from Accusonus or to re-cut them with ReCycle de Propellerhead or in your favorite Daw…

Another way to enjoy a drum track is to ask a drummer friend to record the drum part of your dreams.

Usually from a good feeling and your friend will want to help you.

First of all, ask him if the musical style you are looking for in the rhythm section is in the style of the drum parts he likes to compose.

I’m telling you this following an experience I had: a so-called pop-rock drum set, recorded on a metalhead’s drum set. Understand that you can end up with 3 disadvantages: 

  • the drummer will play the style he likes…
  • there won’t necessarily be the right number of microphones at the recording…
  • the sound of the drums will not be in accordance with your composition…

With or without drum that is the question?

A third solution is to use virtual instruments. Indeed, they have the advantage of reproducing drum sounds according to style. There are many of them, the best known being:

This will allow you to compose your drum section thanks to midi loops recorded with real drummers to compose your verses, choruses, breaks, bridges…

The result is quite amazing and now these tools have a premixing or even mixing section that are worthy of great recording studios. 

The disadvantage of these tools is reproduce an acoustic drum set with the feeling of a drummer offers.

So don’t ask him to compose a section of EDM, Trap or Hip Hop drums.

If you want this style you will have to switch to other types of more complete tools.

A very simple example:  Machine from Native Instruments.

Thanks to this combo control surface and software, you have all the power to create your own batteries on your own realizations.

Is it too difficult?

Finally, for all musicians who find the composition of a drum section a difficult exercise, there is a fourth tool that can simplify the task for them, as they have Logic Pro X.

Indeed this software has a track called Drummer.

The purpose of this track is to automatically create drum sections for you based on the structure of your song and it works beautifully well.

Each time you cut your region to create new sections automatically, Drummer creates the restart break before the next part. 

What is admirable is that everything you create with Drummer will be in audio directly usable to help you in your composition. To go further, we choose the style, the drummer, and the type of battery.

This Drummer track is:

  • convertible in Midi to edit notes and velocities
  • it can be re-interpreted by another software instrument such as EZDrummer for example.

However, whatever tool you choose, there is a flat.

I give you some important information that may help you in your future compositions whether it is pop rock, dance, hip-hop or electro, from the moment you define the key of your song (example in C minor).

t is important that the elements (bass drum, snare drum, cymbal, toms, charleston…) of your drum set are in tune.

I have demonstrated this time and again in training sessions, and it will make it easier for you to compose.

To the tuning!!!!!

I mention this subject today in this blog, because I receive mixing orders to do and most of the time I find that the batteries are not tuned.

I regularly solve friction problems (example between the bass drum and the bass drum) simply by tuning the bass drum. Some will tell me “I knew it”, others will tell me “I already do it”…

All the tools mentioned above have a note tuning potentiometer, think about it!

If you don’t know how to do it, the easiest way is to ask ! Don’t hesitate to ask me if you have trouble composing your drum track. I am a drummer by training and composing rhythms is really a passion for me, in any style.

Believe me if I tell you that the drum tracks I compose are always in tune with your project. That’s also being a drummer, I would even say that’s also being a Beatmaker…

Photo by Josh Sorenson from Pexels

How to prepare your mixing session

Hi, everyone do you know your mixing session must be prepared!

As I recently had this question, I thought it would be good to start the first article of the blog with the topic that concerns you all: «How to prepare your mixing session? ».

“How do I prepare a track for audio mixing? ».

Audio Mixing
Audio Mixing in Logic Pro X

For those of you who don’t know the term audio mixing follow this link

This morning, I received a message asking me: «If I send you my Ableton session live, could you mix it? ».

Indeed it would be easier to send me your session that I could work with Ableton Live. However, it would require a tune-up on the plug-ins you are using, the version of the software you are using, and ultimately we would waste time on compatibility issues to be able to share a file for mixing session.

To be simple, we need to be able to share tracks universally and the only way is to export tracks.

The general idea will be to export your separately recorded tracks, then synchronize everything in an uncompressed audio format, for example a WAV or AIFF file. I do not recommend sending compressed MP3 files for mixing session because it will influence the quality of the mix. 

Here are the 8 steps to follow to prepare your song to be mixed:

1- Your audio editing:

check your cuts and fades.

  • Use the zoom of your software to check the end of each file in each audio region.
  • The cut must be done correctly and you must not hear a digital click so that I don’t have to edit the audio when mixing.

2- Finish your job:

Check you have not forgotten anything

  • Both in terms of midi and audio editing
  • Activating plugins, removing those that do not perform any processing (plugins in bypass mode)
  • Of the arrangement of your composition of its structure, because afterwards you won’t be able to ask me to make the modifications.
  • The activation of the automation on certain effects or synths.

3- Naming Properly:

  • Name each track well, so if you need to discuss a track during mixing, you don’t have to explain that “It’s the Audio_1_24/03 track of the guitar that… » !!!

4- Before exporting:

  • Check that your tracks are not saturated, that there is no clip on the audio file
  • Watch your clip indicator in the mixing console (the red led above the vu-meter).
  • Check that you have a correct waveform, i.e. a volume that is neither too low nor too high.
  • The ideal is to have headroom to be able to do the mix.

5- Synchronize your audio tracks:

It’s one of the most important parts!!!!

  • If your song starts with an eight-bar introduction, the guitar goes back to the beginning of the next eight bars
    • The guitar must contain eight bars of empty space
  • Ditto for the other tracks of the same song

Why check the synchro because the software on the market does it?

  • In the mixing software, I block the tempo and the signature (ex: 120 BPM and 4/4)
  • Then I import your audio tracks into the software to mix them.
  • I check the placement of the tracks at the first bar of the mixing session.
  • The important thing is to know at which measure you start and stop.
  • Leave a margin of two bars before and two bars after to make sure everything is exported correctly.
  • If you do it manually, I recommend that you take care to always start your exports at the same place.

6- When exporting:

  • Concerning the audio export format, I recommend the Wave format, in 44.1 khz, 24 bits.
  • Make a stereo export (Bounce) of your own mix as you hear it.
  • In the jargon, we call this a rough mix: it’s your version of the track before the mix.
  • This allows the sound engineer to see how you, as an artist, hear your music.
  • It serves as a reference and allows comparisons to be made with the final mix.

7- Note:

It is important to put a text or PDF file in the folder that will contain your audio tracks.

In this document, note the following:

  • The tempo (BPM).
  • The tone of the song.
  • Your indications concerning the mix or what you expect to work with, such as effects, your instructions, commercial references.
  • All of this will help me to better understand your instructions

8- Session format:

  • All exported files.
  • The text or PDF file of information must be gathered in a folder that you will compress to zip format.
  • This allows audio files to be sent over the Internet.
  • Backup in case of need.

Questions and Answers

Frequently asked questions about exporting for a mix:

How to do with my drum track:

should I export my drum track as separate elements or do I make a stereo file of the drum? »

So be it:

  • For the Drums
  • Guitars recorded with multiple pickups
  • Stacking of synth sounds (a technique called layering).

If you group your tracks into a stereo file, it is because you are used to making your own artistic selections and it is your choice. On the other hand, you give me less freedom to do the mixing work on your track.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m going to work with your subject.

Personally, in today’s music I prefer to have the most separate elements possible

Specifically for the drums concerning the bass drum and the snare drum, as well as for the guitars and vocals.

An example: recently I received a Lead voice file to mix. The client sent it to me with the choirs in it. Result: it is impossible to process the lead voice without affecting the choirs.

Another different example, which is 100% assumed by the composer. It is when you send me a recorded sample from a vinyl or live recording that you want to remix. It’s not embarrassing, it’s part of the sound material of your composition.

« Do I have to leave or remove my effects such as equalization, compression etc. before exporting my tracks? »

 It is true that with all the possibilities we have in terms of effects and sound processing possibilities, it would be a shame to deprive ourselves of these tools during the composition stage.

In addition, we want our music to sound pleasantly before the mixing stage, simply to please us and to make others listen to it. From my point of view, I consider that effects and plug-ins, whether digital or analog, are part of the arrangement or composition stage of your music.

Your Flavor

The easiest way is to leave them, with a little flat: If, for example, you have put a reverb on your voice, it is because you like the way it sounds. You like the audio rendering that is done with this reverb and maybe you would like to keep it in the final version. The same is true for choruses, equalization, compression…

In this case, the easiest way is to make two exports: the first without effect, the second with. Don’t forget to specify it on the track and in the notes file that you will attach to your export!

From my point of view, I consider that effects and plug-ins, whether digital or analog, are part of the arrangement or composition stage of your music. The easiest way is to leave them, with a little flat:

If, for example, you have put a reverb on your voice, it’s because you like the way it sounds. You like the audio rendering that is done with this reverb and maybe you would like to keep it in the final version. The same is true for choruses, equalization, compression… In this case, the easiest way is to make two exports: the first without effect, the second with. Don’t forget to specify it on the track and in the notes file that you will attach to your export!

« My reverbs and delays are on auxiliaries, should I export them? »

Yes, making sure that the plug-in has the Wet setting at 100% and specifying it on the audio file (example Lead_vox_Reverb_WET) and in the notes file.

« During the realization of my music production, I put a Master bus plug-in. Do I have to remove my Master bus plug-in before exporting? »


If you have put a Master bus plug-in or several plug-ins to make a Master bus, it means you know what you are doing. However, you will have to ensure that your export does not become digitally saturated. Preferably, leave some margin at the decibel level, think that there will be mixing and maybe then mastering….

The final word

Now that you know how to prepare your mock-up for mixing session, you can choose between my 3 offers