As you may have noticed, i have random ideas all the time. It’s just a matter of finding the physical time to implement them. One idea i had which didn’t take super long to implement was to make effects based on the “Special Zone“ (aka “Special World”, “Star World”) levels from Super Mario World on the Super Nintendo. I grew up playing and loving NES and SNES and so get all predictably nostalgic over such things, as many people in my age range tend to (thus the almost-nauseating overpopularity of 8-bit retro throwback stuff currently).
I tossed the idea of effects based on the “special zone” levels at AfroDJMac to see what he thought, knowing that he’s somewhat into retro video game stuff too.
One thing led to another and another and… well, just that one thing, actually. It was pretty straightforward.
So now you have The Special Zone Pack for Ableton Live. <- Click that to go to AfroDJmac’s site to read about / grab.
Super, super huge thanks to AfroDJMac for hosting this pack! If you browse around his site, you will find a near-limitless supply of amazing, weird goodies.
Please note that the pack includes absolutely zero content copyrighted by Nintendo! It is merely inspired by the awesomeness of Super Mario.
FreeVST Racks Set #3
This time you’ll have coming at you some racks for a handful of free VST effects by eaReckon.
I personally really, really love these effects, finding them upon numerous testing to be of excellent audio quality and usefulness. The company (in contrast with many who seem to “pump up” their wares) is very appreciably humble, merely calling their offerings “good” (while i find them to be quite outstanding).
If you’ve already used these effects you’ll know what i’m talking about. If not… go ahead and grab them right now for free from eaReckon.
Once they are installed you will be ready for the custom-crafted ableton racks for them… just sign up to the isotonik performodule newsletter via this link (if you haven’t already) and they will be delivered to your inbox soon, along with lots more periodically.
When you get the link from the email, use the password
to grab the racks.
Overview of the Effects
The Free87 series includes versions of devices from the Analog87 series, with full audio quality, but limited controls, which i don’t mind, as i find limitations to often be creatively liberating. Having few controls make these effects very easy to understand, apply, and get to know. These effects really feel like using analog gear, moreso than most plugins.
Hard-knee, smacky FET-style compressor. “Attack” and “Release” each only have 3 settings, making decisions easy. I almost always use it with attack on “med” and release on “fast”. Use slower attacks and faster releases to preserve punch. The key for vibe here is to balance attack, release, and threshold for musical groove pulsation. Dialing in attack and release is quick as the wrong settings will be obvious. Then it’s just a matter of fine-tuning the threshold (consider automating it). Unfortunately there is no sidechain filter, so if you use this on a drum buss your low bass is going to get a bit suctioned out. But that might be exactly what you want. Maybe try setting it to a drum buss which includes everything but the kick drum. That might sound awesome. It also includes an output brickwall limiter, for safety or for an extra layer of dynamic control. This is useful as FR-Comp is definitely one of those compressors which is more about movement than about squashing peaks. Depending on the settings, it can actually increasing peak dynamics, so engaging the limiter and chopping those off a touch can be just what the doctor ordered.
Another favorite for mixing due to the fact that it “always sounds good”. It’s hard to mess gating up with this puppy. The attack and release times are ranged to prevent that dreaded “snap crackle pop” minus the yummy cereal taste. Increasing the attack and release settings results in what i also probably erroneously think of as “optical gating”… it has a nice ever-present smoothness to it. Here’s a couple weird tricks: set the attack extremely slow and give it a very fast release and start with a low threshold and inch it up so a peak below the threshold will cause an instant level drop, which will then slowly creep back up. Or, do the opposite: give it a super fast attack and ultra-slow release and start with the threshold high and inch it down until it will slowly falls in-between peaking moments, which will remain punchy (a way to lessen the density of quieter sections between peaks, i.e. anti-compression).
The effect i’ve used the least out of the bunch. Don’t think i’ve used it in a project yet. It’s a single parametric bell band with adjustable resonance and frequency from 40Hz to 20kHz. I would classify this as “resonant”, “focused” and “crisp”. It is easy to get carried away with this and get harsh with boosts, so the built-in safety brickwall limiter is appreciated, keeping the level balanced and the resonance under control even when maxed-out, meaning this could be very cool for doing flavorful resonant filter sweeps on synths safely. If wanting to use this for surgery, i would say to be very careful and use spectrum analysis pre and post to laser in to the exact frequency and gain settings desired, and especially be careful about high-end boosting. Cuts seem a bit less narrow than respective boosts. Since it’s one single band, it could be useful if you’re EQing something with a different EQ, run out of bands, and you just need one more band to tweak one little frequency.
This is one of my favorite limiters to use for mixing. I would not use it on the master buss for limiting, as it behaves more like an analog compressor/limiter than as a digital brickwall.
It’s probably not accurate but i think of it like an “optical”limiter; it has a soupy, syrupy reaction which i adore for using on soft-attack instruments and especially on airy vocals, great for smoothly curtailing errant peaks. You can control the threshold and have a switch for extra-slow release times, which can be interesting applied carefully to slowly-blooming instruments (like a synth pad, for example) but would not be appropriate for percussive transients. The slow release option seems to also add in a soft knee to the response curve. Keep in mind that you will usually want to adjust a track’s gain after this effect if using it for mixing as suggested.
This thing is unique and nifty. It’s a routing box you can use to send audio from different tracks into. This can expand your routing flexibility beyond Ableton Live’s grouping and send capabilities. Why is this useful, you might ask, when we can already send tracks in Live wherever we want? One function unlocked is the ability to have a track playing both a clip and audio routed into it (no need to turn on the track’s input switch). So if you need a channel to be able to both play audio within itself while simultaneously playing audio routed from other tracks, this is your ticket. For example, let’s say you’ve got a track which is grouped, but you want to send the audio to a different group, but for some reason can’t or don’t want to move the track to the other group. You could use Ferret 4×4 to send the audio to wherever you want it to be.
It also adds in the very cool functionality of deciding where in your processing chain you’d like the audio to come in. For example, i could have a track playing a loop with some EQ on it, followed by some reverb. I could place the Ferret 4×4 plugin in-between the EQ and the reverb and route a loop into it from another track. The result would be: the original track’s loop will be processed by the EQ, summed with the sidechain input loop, then both are processed together by the reverb.
Controls are simple input and output levels for the track it’s placed upon and for the 3 sidechain inputs. Use the input level controls to make sure the box doesn’t overload, and use the output levels to fine-tune the desired output submix.
Q: Why password / email stuff? That’s annoying. Just provide a download link.
A: Unfortunately, there are shady sites out there, operated by humans and/or robots, which like to subvert my links to their sites. If i wait a few months and google around, i find my links embedded elsewhere, meaning that producers are grabbing the stuff which i crafted without ever even seeing this blog. That’s not really all that groovy, so links are periodically changed so that these naughty thieves are left offering dead ones instead.
This is an alternate method we’re trying out in order to protect that from happening when i want links to be active for many months.
Also, it ensures that people who want the goods are actually signed up to the newsletter, and actually check it. It’s a way to let know what’s happening and provide free goodies to those who are interested. It is a bit annoying and i might come up with a better solution, but for now it seems to be working ok.
Q: How to route audio to a plugin’s sidechain input in Ableton Live?
A: Simply choose a track’s “Output Type” selector and select the track which contains the Ferret 4×4 (or whatever you want to sidechain). Now use the “Output Channel” selector below that to select the plugin’s sidechain input. Awesome! (Note that sidechain input doesn’t work for waves brand VSTs in Live. Please work on that, waves!)
If you need to use something as a sidechain source but also need it to still be playing, you can either duplicate it and just send one copy, or you could make an auxiliary track which routes the audio you need to send without interrupting the original channel.
Note: No rack for MIDI Polysher is included because non-instrument MIDI VSTs don’t work right in Ableton. You don’t need it anyways because you can already define your own MIDI zones with Instrument and MIDI Effect Racks in Live.
PS: Mixing Challenge
So i took part in the 1ST Melda Mixing Challenge.
I try to do every mixing challenge i can find, as they are exceedingly great practice. You should do so, too, when you get the chance!
The last one i did was the HOFA mixing challenge which was wicked fun. This one was too.
The first round of voting is now happening.
3 randomly selected people voting for the winner will get a 50 EUR discount coupon to Melda Plugins.
So you should definitely vote for my mix, since it is guaranteed to win, because it is the best. LOL. i doubt it; but perhaps!
Thanks, and good day.
*BONUS OLD MAN VIDEO GAME RANT!
I think playing video games was a lot more fun back in the 80s and 90s due to the mystery aspect. Nowadays you can look up anything you want to know about any game instantly online. We used to have to ponder, philosophize, and tinker to figure shit out, and most of the time got stuck and angry anyways. But, on those rare occasions where we figured out some obscure puzzle with no hint, it was incredibly satisfying. How satisfying is it to play a game, get to a difficult spot, and then look up the easiest way to get past it? That is not challenging or interesting. Sure, if you get stuck on a spot to the point of frustration, it can be useful to look up a solution to avoid spending an inordinate amount of time aggravated, but it seems way too tempting to do so the moment a test of mental or dextrous fortitude is failed a single time. I know that i have given up too quickly on certain games and looked up something online, instead of being persistent and thinking outside the box by trying different things, which we otherwise have to do in order to figure out solutions without cheating. Anyways, i still to this day definitely prefer to play games without looking up too much about them, as that is way more fun to me as it includes the sense of mystery and adventure. A good example is when my wife and i were playing Terraria together years ago, not looking up anything about the game, just trying to figure it out, and we found a floating island in the sky. We were like giddy children, and the sense of excitement was palpable. We were so damn happy. Imagine if we had already known that floating islands in the sky were a thing in that game. It would have probably not been exciting at all. “Oh. We found it.” [Hope i didn’t just spoil it for you; oops!]
Of course, my dad would just end up calling the Nintendo Hotline when he got stuck on games, and that was kind of a ripoff…