Abletonalies – A Tropical moment
A long hot summer is coming, so, it is time to arm ourselves with new set of tutorials, TB 303 clones, bass instruments and some vocal packs that will help us to survive the season.
by A. Arsov, March 2015
OK, no more winter please. The snow has gone, time to prepare ourselves for a Tropical summer. As you probably know, Big Room is slowly fading away while Trop House is climbing up the charts. For this reason, in this issue we’ll concentrate more on Tropical House tools, presenting various packs that directly target Trop House, or at least genres that have some common elements, like Deep House. We’ll make one exception with the Dance vocal pack, as good vocals are always in demand no matter which genre they’re intended for.
A good song needs good bass, so we’ll also explore some low frequency options with two instruments that can shake walls and shatter windows. And secondly, having solid bass and a strong vocal line is not enough if your mixing skills are more at the beginners end of the scale. So, for good measure we’ll also include a pretty cool mixing EDM tutorial.
Sample Magic – White Label – House Vocal Tracks
Ten different vocal arrangements sung by a male vocalist in different tempos (from 120 to 126 BPM) and in different keys. Every arrangement also offers some additional sub-harmonies. House Vocal Tracks is a breath of fresh air among all those “Ladies only” packs on the market. Not a Tropical House tool as such, but still a very useful and interesting one. At the time of writing, Sample Magic is also releasing House Vocal Tracks 2. Obviously every good story gets a sequel.
Dance Midi Samples
Searching for Tropical material, I found these two Deep House vocal packs from DMS, and they may just be what we’re looking for. These Producer Loops packs are available on the DMS website.
Deep House Vocals Vol 1
A very well-organized pack with five different arrangements, bundled together with all musical background elements and appropriate MIDI files. Every arrangement contains a standard number of vocal variations. (At first I was a bit surprised how little variation there was throughout all the packs, not just these two. Still, there’s enough material for your average Tropical House song.) All vocals are divided into various groups, as adlibs, bridge, verse and chorus.
Deep House Vocal Vol 2
Same number of arrangements here, and ditto for all other elements. The only difference is that this one brings you even more appealing vocal phrases. More or less, these two packs are the most solid material that I’ve got for this issue. You can definitely find something useful in either of them and you should easily be able to create a new arrangement using any combination of their features.
Tropical Deep House Acapellas
Five construction kits with everything you’ll need. Very cool drum elements, nice instruments and effects and, of course, acapellas. To be honest I expected more vocals – each construction kit brings just a few short phrases in both wet and dry variations. I’ve got mixed feeling about this pack. Instrumental parts are inspirational, while vocal parts are a bit too short for my taste, especially considering the name of the pack. At least you also get some MIDI parts with each kit, just to help get you started building your own patterns.
The funny thing is, all loops are actually whole stems, aimed at beginners just wanting to lay elements together and get their arrangement started. But OK, it’s no big problem to cut out a short loop. It just grabbed my attention, the size of all these loops being 27 MB.
SHARP – Tropic House Paradise
Similar to the previous pack, this one also contains five construction kits, three of which are accompanied by very interesting male vocals. Good loops, MIDI files, effects and melody elements, but a limited collection of vocal phrases. It’s a matter of personal taste, but I prefer these vocal lines over the previous pack. At least this male voice has some sort of character, somewhat soaked in all sorts of effects, but still quite interesting.
Time for the very low end of frequency range but also very affordable end of our article
It looks like that Roland TB 303 sound will never go out of fashion. Searching for some VST clones I found this one. It’s fully featured, boasting even more functions compared to the original, and is very reasonably priced.
€59.00 EUR and three YouTube video tutorials later and I had already managed to make my first patch. Initially it looked like rocket science, but after I’d seen the video from our old friend Sadowicks, programming Phoscyon became a pure joy. Years ago I thought programming the TB 303 was a nightmare – I lost my temper every time I went near it. But now Phoscyon has become my new best friend. It sounds almost identical to that classic synth and it offers plenty of additional features, like exporting MIDI notes – good for doubling your lines with some other virtual instrument. Then you get an arpeggiator with even more programming ability than the original, not to mention the ability to record directly into the arpeggiator with a keyboard. Next, there’s a distortion section which allows you to add some soil and dirt into your sound. And there are a number extra knobs and buttons to play with that further distinguish this machine from the original.
I can’t remember when I had such a good time with an instrument, as I had with Phoscyon.
Most definitely the best money spent in this issue.
TAL Bassline 101
I’ve been using TAL freeware for years and its Bassline ends up in many of my songs. I ordered this advanced version as it’s so handy to have a synthesizer that’s fairly simple but still very versatile and powerful. For $60.00 USD you’ll get over 300 presets – from leads and effects to pads – but my favorite reason for using this instrument is still bass, as the TAL Bassline 101 can produce really deep and powerful bass tones.
It is a single oscillator virtual beast with one sub oscillator and self-resonating filter, just like an original hardware bass synth. Actually, it nails the emulation of a Roland SH-101, sharing the same programming ability – you can easily make a good patch out of nothing.
Programming or just playing around, it’s so easy to find a good bass or produce an interesting effect with this synthesizer that it would be pure sin not to use it.
Talking about TAL we can’t overlook the Roland Juno emulation with funny name U-no-LX. It sounds totally retro and totally dangerous. Check out the demo tracks on the TAL website and it will bring back memories of songs from the 80’s. U-no-LX doesn’t sound as colorful as modern synths can, instead it sounds fat and aggressive, and that’s something I miss on many modern synths.
Maybe not for everyone’s taste, but for $60.00 USD you get a synth that doesn’t sound like any of your standard fancy modern ones. I played on a Juno many times in the past and the U-no-LX sounds almost identical to it, with all the advantages and disadvantages. Anyway, you get 300 presets and a bunch of additional free presets on the U-no-LX website. You definitely won’t already have those sorts of sounds.
And for good measure, for all beginners or semi pro fellows, a detailed video course of EDM mixing.
If you’re not a skilled producer, this video course could be just the thing for you. OK, I should be fair and confess that even I, as a more experienced producer, learned a good few things from watching these video clips.
You’ll notice that you probably don’t own some of the specific tools in these tutorials, but the general approach is the same. At the end of the day a compressor is compressor and an equalizer is still an equalizer, no matter how it looks or who made it. You can find these sorts of tools in more or less every modern DAW, so I reckon you’ll have no problem following the course.
There are plenty of video clips on YouTube about mixing, but the advantage of this course is that it goes through all stages of the mixing process, explaining some advanced tricks that I hadn’t spotted in any other freely available YouTube video. Maybe it’s not the cheapest video course on the market and maybe it doesn’t cover some up-to-date EDM sub genres, being more on the Dance side, but this course simply makes you a better producer. No matter that I already knew a fair amount of the presented tips and tricks, there’s always something new that you can learn. Especially if you are working with vocal tracks.
Till the next issue