For all the time I’ve been spending in the home studio messing around with music production, I really haven’t written any blog articles about the topic in a very long time. So let’s start out with one of the essential tools of the trade. One of the difficulties while mixing/mastering music is making sure you’re judging changes fairly. When you slap a new plug-in onto your mix, often times it will increase the volume which winds up tricking your brain into interpreting the result as “better” – in fact, I suppose the vast majority of audio plugins rely on this little trick to make themselves appear more valuable than they really are. For the sake of fair evaluation of changes to your mix, it’s really important to compare them at as close to equal loudness as you can manage.
So that’s one reason why loudness is important to be aware of and to have control over. Ear fatigue is another reason. Of course music tends to sound “better” when you crank it up to 11, but when you’re mixing/mastering, you want to be able to sustain your listening level without fatiguing your ears so much they’re no longer hearing the important details which you’re trying to improve in subtle ways. You also want to become accustomed to a fairly standard listening loudness so you develop an intuition on how to compare how good things sound in comparison to everything you’ve heard in the past.
Taking these reasons into consideration, an essential tool for music production is to have an objective sense of how loud your current listening environment is. Sure you can make it a habit of setting the volume knobs on your computer and/or music hardware to the same position every time you listen – but internal to your audio workstation the levels are going to vary pretty wildly.
Enter the Sound Level Meter. I’ve got one which looks a bit like this below. Not terribly expensive and it comes in handy to make sure I’m keeping my actual listening volume consistent each time I work on a mix. You can select between fast/slow response and choose from a few weighting methods. These attempt to take into consideration the different apparent loudness caused by different frequency ranges. Human hearing isn’t linear in any sense of the word, and that includes how we perceive loudness across different frequencies. In fact, the so called “equal loudness counter” even changes depending on the overall loudness of the audio (yikes!).
Most of the time, I try to keep my listening levels centered around 70 dB or maybe 80 dB at the most. It’s a comfortable volume where you can generally hear the small details but without causing hearing fatigue. This Sound Level Meter makes it very simple to get into the habit. After doing this for a few years, I rarely need to even check the meter anymore because that loudness now just sounds “right” to me and whenever I touch the volume control that’s where it tends to wind up.
There’s a piece of functionality missing from Ableton Live. Say you’ve got an external device who’s knobs and other controls you’re using as input to Ableton Live through the MIDI learn functionality. This works great for controlling things like volume levels, effects parameters, etc. But oddly enough you can’t use this method to control program changes on an instrument. I searched the internet for a few hours trying to find a solution, until finally deciding to just program it myself. So a couple hours later, introducing the “RGProgram” VSTPlugin. Each time you change any one of the values (Program, Bank, Sub-bank), a MIDI program change message is sent out from the VST plugin. So you can use the routing in Ableton to send that MIDI output to whichever device(s) you’d like the program changes sent to, and map the plugin parameters to whatever MIDI controller you want.
I’ve only tested this in Ableton Live, so apologies if there are any compatibility issues.
RGProgramInstaller.exe (32-bit installer)
RGProgram.dll (or you can just copy the plugin to your VST folder manually)
This is probably the most common harmonic mixing transition – corresponding to one counter-clockwise rotation on the circle of fifths. In this case, the first track is in Bb minor phrygian, and the second track is Eb minor phrygian. So the root key has shifted up by 5 semitones. I call this a parallel interval because, due to the modes being the same, all notes are transposed an equal amount. Most harmonic mixing tools don’t actually differentiate between the different minor/major modes (instead only detecting major or minor and the root), so a parallel interval is a bit more specific. The transition starts at 6:10.
Ost & Meyer Vs 7 Skies – Dharma (Original Mix)
Markus Schulz feat. Sir Adrian – Away (Cosmic Gate Remix)
Here’s a full mix which uses this transition exclusively:
There’s a concept in musical set theory called complement, where the set of notes is given as the set of all notes which are not included in the original set. Applied to a musical mode, there may be multiple complements. In this case, I’ve chosen the complement whose root is a tritonic interval (6 semitones) from the original note. Specifically, the mode of the first track is A minor dorian and the mode of the second track is Eb Major Mixolydian.
This transition begins at 4:36, pivots at 5:34, and completes at 6:04. Try to pay attention to the notes involved, most prominent being the tritonal interval between roots. I’ll be uploading more examples of various mode transitions, cause it’s neat IMO.
Erick Strong – Payback (Matthew Nagle Remix)
Quincy Weigert – On A Midsummer Night (Bjorn Akesson Remix)
01. Neptune Project – Aztec (Original Mix) [Armada Music]
02. Henix E-Motion (Dito Groovespot Remix) [Phoenix Recordings]
03. Rapha & Reminder – Beyond The Clouds (Rapha Remix) [Vision Soundcarriers]
04. Static Blue – Fade Away (Ian Betts Mix) [Amon Vision]
05. Moonbeam – See The Difference Inside (Inside Mix) [Songbird (BH)]
06. Ralph Novell – Wrong Love (Alphazone Remix) [Skywarp Records]
07. Talla 2XLC feat. Skysurfer – Terra Australia (Jorn van Deynhoven Remix) [Armada Music]
08. Joop – The Future (Markus Schulz Remix) [High Contrast Recordings]
09. Push – Global Age (Original Mix) [Armada Music]
10. Aleete – Passion (Omen Remix) [Wild Records]
11. Nuera – Nostalgia (Original Mix) [Magic Island Recordings]
12. High Above – Eclipse (Northern Project Remix) [Resonate]
Here’s a mix with some older trance tracks (2006-2009)
Trance Evolution 001 [Listen]
01. Chris Corrigan pres Velvet Skies – Uplifter (Mike Koglin Re-edit)
02. Catching Dreams – Timeless (DJ Ray Remix)
03. Paul Davies – Ironic Perception (Luke Terry pres. Akemi Remix)
04. Jon O’Bir – Answers (Original Mix)
05. Kyau & Albert – Velvet Morning (Mirco De Govia Remix)
06. Marcel Woods – Advanced (Woods Re-visited Remix)
07. Mike Koglin vs Seventh Heaven – Sanctuary
08. Smith & Pledger – Believe (Smith & Pledger’s 2004 Mix)
09. Danjo & Styles – What Lies Ahead (Estuera Remix)
10. Rapid Sense – Insight (Original Mix)
11. Evbointh – One Wish (Daniel Kandi Remix)
12. Spirit & Dave – Afterglow (Original Mix)
13. Super8 & Tab – Delusion (Original Mix)
Caustik – May 2012 Electro House Mix [ Download MP3 ]
01. Hirshee – Bang This (Original Mix)
02. Hypster – Nitro Party Music (Heren Remix)
03. Neologic vs Beat Hunters – Logical Beats (Darth & Vader Remix)
04. Andrey Sher – Exodus (Original Mix)
05. Fatso – Nightlife (Original Mix)
06. The Slag – Crackling Vinyl (Original Mix)
07. Darth & Vader & Perfect Cell – Cellbacca (Original Mix)
08. Asser – Evil (Original Mix)
09. Ben Coda, Ad Brown – Rinse & Repeat (Magitman Remix)
10. Paul Oakenfold & Marco V – Groove Machine (Gareth Wyn Remix)
11. Dragon and Jontron – Sriracha (Original Mix)
12. Swen Weber – Back To Rave (Original Mix)
13. Porter Robinson – The Seconds (feat. Jano)
14. Digitalchord – Digicollapse (Paulo Pacco Remix)
15. Digitalchord – Digicollapse (Divine X Remix)