Using Side-Chaining and Rhythmic Filters on Pads and Strings

One cool effect that you create with any type of sustained note or chord progression, is to break it up into a rhythmic pattern, similar to the ‘pad sound’ on the Timbaland produced track ‘my love’.

4 Ways to Add Rhythmic Effects to your Pads

There are different ways you can add rhythmic effects to your strings or pads.

This type of effect sounds really good when you have a nice chord progression, and you break it up into a rhythm.

I’ll go over 4 different ways to do this:

  1. Side-Chaining a Gate or Compressor

One way to break up a pad or strings into a rhythmic pattern is by side-chaining a gate to a kick, snare, or percussion track to add some rhythmic movement. A gate will cut the volume in time with the kick or percussion.

Side-chaining can also be done with a compressor to create a ‘pumping effect’ on the pad, which also sounds good.

Here’s how you can sidechain a gate to your pad:

To sidechain a gate to your pad, you need to create 2 tracks.

A drum track and your pad track.

Next, route the output of the drum or percussion track, to a bus that will be used to trigger the side-chain on your gate on the pad track.


Change the key input on your gate (or compressor) to the bus that is on the output of your drum track.




Then, click the key input button on the gate or compressor.



Now the gate or compressor will be triggered by key input, which is the bussed audio from the drum track.

I’m doing this in pro tools, but its pretty much the same concept with any other DAW.

2. Using a Rhythmic Filter to Break Up a Pad

Another way you can break up a pad, is with a rhythmic filter.

There is a stock plugin in protools which has some nice rhythmic filter effects as presets called AIR Filter Gate.


Air Filter gate allows you to change the pattern, rate of the notes, and other aspects of how the filter is triggered. Filter Gate is one of my favorite plugins.

3. Chopping up an Audio file in a Rhythmic pattern

One more way you can add rhythmic effects on a pad, is by chopping up the wave form into a pattern.


This is probably the easiest method. Just delete sections of the waveform in a pattern, to create a nice effect on a sustained note.

4. Using Plugin Automation to Draw Effects in a Rhythmic Pattern

Another way you can chop up a pad into a rhythmic pattern, is by drawing in plugin automation.

You can use any plugin this way by automating the master bypass.

Just pull an effect in and out of a track by turning its master bypass on and off with plugin automation.

What can you trigger with a key input?

Key inputs are not found on every plugin, but ones they are usually found on are gates, compressors, de-essers, filters, lfos, and eqs.

In addition to effects, you can use a key input to trigger an LFO or Envelope and use that to modulate the pitch, volume, effects, etc of a sound.

If you have any other ways you like to use key inputs, let me know @puzzlevortex



Using Filters to Mix Music and Warp Audio

Filters are used to ‘boost or cut’ certain frequencies of a track, or to change a sound for creative effect.

Static filters‘ like a high-pass filter (HPF) might be used to remove unwanted low-end frequencies from a vocal track. It would also help separate the vocal track from the other instruments, like guitar, and add clarity to your mix.

Moving filters‘ like a band-pass (BPF) controlled with a sinewave LFO would create an auto-wah effect. Any type of filter or parameter can be controlled this way with an LFO to create different types of sounds.

Filter types include: high pass (HPF), low pass (LPF), band pass (BPF), notch, peak, and comb filters.

Why Would You Add or Remove Frequencies with a Filter?

It is important to remove frequencies, so instruments don’t occupy the same space in a mix.

A piano and guitar occupy some of the same frequency range, so you might use filters to separate them.

Filters also let you add frequencies for creative effect.

For example, you might add 80HZ to a bassline to give it a more booming bass sound.

Types of Filters

All filters either ‘remove or add certain frequencies’ to a track. The most commonly used types of filters include: high pass, low pass, band pass, peak, notch, and comb filters.

High Pass (HPF) – a high pass filter removes the low frequencies below a point.

Low Pass (LPF) – a low pass filter removes the high frequencies above a point.

Band Pass (BPF) – band pass filters allows a wide or narrow band of frequencies to be heard and removes the highs and lows.

Notch Filter – notch filters can be used to remove frequencies in a narrow band, like hissing on a vocal sound.

Peak Filter – peak filters boost a frequency in a narrow band.

Comb Filter – a comb filter is a type of signal processing which creates a slightly delayed digital copy of itself.

This causes constructive and deconstructive interference in a waveform that creates a series of peaks resembling a comb.

Comb filters are used mostly for creative effect. Comb filters create a sound which is similar to a phaser or a flanger.

How to Control Filter Parameters

Filters might be used to separate frequencies of your tracks, or they can be used to creatively color or mangle your sound.

You can also control the parameters of your filters with LFOs (low-frequency oscillators), envelopes, sample and hold, and side-chaining.


Low frequency oscillators like a sinewave, squarewave, or sawtoothwave can be used to control ANY parameter of a filter.

For example, you can use a sinewave to control the frequency of a bandpass filter and make an auto-wah effect.

If you used a sinewave to control the volume, you would get a tremolo effect.

If you used a sinewave to control the pitch, you would get a vibrato effect.


A a sound’s envelope is the attack, sustain and decay of a sound.

You can use the envelope of a sound to control parameters like pitch or a bandpass filter.

Sample and Hold

Sample and Hold is a type of LFO that ‘grabs and holds the voltage’ of a signal, then lets go after a certain period of time.

It creates an almost random sounding movement of a filter.


Sidechaining allows you to control a filter with the input of another track.

For example, if you side chained a kick drum to control a the frequency of a band pass filter, each time the kick hits, your synth would create a wah effect.

Sidechaining a Filter to Warp your Audio

One interesting effect that can be done with sidechaining, is to use a kick drum to trigger a filter sweep, each time the kick hits.

Here’s a video that shows you how to sidechain a filter to a kick drum in Ableton for a cool effect on a synth pad:

2 Filter Plugin Reviews and Demos


I liked Etch, because it really allows you to warp the characteristics of a sound.

Etch allows you to easily tweak MANY of parameters to create some very unusual sounds.

The Etch presets were divided into 6 sections: non-moving filters, sweeping filters, light coloration, heavy coloration, crazy, and self resonating.

Here are the Features i liked:

    • radically altered the sounds
    • i liked messing with the self resonating filter patches and using them to really warp the sounds.
    • also included the basics like bandpass, notch, resonating.
    • i like the simple interface
    • certain parameters altered the sound so much, they were like instruments

Features i disliked: none. It has everything i would want included in a filter plugin. The interface is also easy to work with.

Advertised features of Etch:

  • 3 classic synthesizer filter models
  • traditional filtering including: high-pass, low pass, band pass, notch, and peak filters.
  • comb filtering for detuning, pitch-wobble, and chorus/phaser textures
  • internal TransMod modulation system

Etch comes in VST, AU, and RTAS formats.

The cost of Etch is $99. Try a demo of Etch here.

Filtershaper 3

Filtershaper3 does give you the ability to color and warp a sound using multiple filter types.



Here are the Features i liked:

    • it provided basic filtering to create effects like tremelo, phasing, and wobble.
    • simple interface

Features i disliked:

  • had to dig into the settings to create interesting sounds
  • presets were unorganized
  • pop-up window, when you alter a present, then try to move to the next preset.

This plugin comes in VST and AU format.

The cost of Filtershaper3 is $79. Try a demo of Filtershaper3 here.

Reverb Mixing Tips and 3 Reverb Plugin Reviews

In this article, I talk about: 

  • Reverb Basics: What is Reverb?
  • 4 important Reverb Parameters you can tweak
  • 6 tips to help you apply Reverb to Vocals
  • I also tested 3 Reverb Plugins including: Eaverb, Sparkverb, and Toraverb. I link to the demos at the bottom of the article. (so you can test them if you want.)

*ALSO, This week I started a 30 day Ableton Live free trial (i’m a Pro Tools user). So far, I love Ableton. If you use virtual instruments, you need to check it out. I’ll give a full review of Ableton in a couple weeks.

Reverb Basics: What is Reverb?

Reverb is the sound reflection that a listener hears when it bounces off of a surface in a room, or surface of an object.


The density and type of material that make up a surface, as well as the number of surfaces, determines how a sound reflects around a room, and what the reverb will sound like.

For example: a square room with 6 surfaces will have less reflective surfaces than a church. There will be less reflections as a result.

The density of the surface also determines the type of frequencies that will be reflected back to the listener. Certain materials might absorb or reflect high or low frequencies.

For example, a church with marble floors or walls will also bounce back a different spectrum of frequencies, than a carpeted room.

4 Reverb Parameters to Tweak

Here are 4 parameters of a reverb that you can tweak to get the sound you want. They are 1) early reflections, 2) decay time, 3) damping, and 4) pre-delay.

  1. Early reflections are the initial echoes that are heard when the first reflections hit the listeners ear.


These early reflections usually occur within 5 – 20 milliseconds after the initial sound.

  • Louder early reflection settings tend to be used on longer sustained sounds like vocals, instead of drums.

2. The decay time is the length it takes for the last perceptible echo to
be heard by the listener.

The longer the decay time, the longer it will take your reverb reflections to die out.

Longer decay times might work better when instrumentation is minimal, but they can make a mix sound washed out in a complex arrangement with many instruments.

3. Pre-Delay is the time it takes for a sound to generate its first reflection.

  • Try increasing the pre-delay time to add separation and clarity to vocals and instruments.

4. Damping occurs when a reflection hits a soft surface, such as a carpet, and it loses some of the high frequencies in its reflection.

  • If your reverb sound contains too many high frequencies, try increasing the level of damping.

6 Main Types of Reverbs

Reverbs used in music production usually fall within the 6 categories below:

Plate: A plate reverb is a method of generating reverb in which a sound was played into a metal plate, held in place by springs. Digital plate reverbs mimic this technique.

Plate reverbs are commonly used in production on vocals, organs, and snare drums to give them length, width, and a bright sound.

Hall: A hall reverb mimics the reflections that occur in a concert hall. This type of reverb generally lasts between 1.2 to 3 seconds.

Halls reflect from the low end of the frequency range.

Hall reverbs can add 3 dimensional ambience and width to a mix. Halls tend to have strong first reflections and can be used on lead vocals, strings, or a stereo mix.

Chamber: a chamber is a smaller space than a hall an creates reverbs ranging from .4 to 1.2 seconds. Chambers can be used on pads, vocals, or drums.

Room: A room reverb mimics the acoustic reflections of a small room.

Room reverbs have a ‘short decay time’, that can last between .2 to 1 second. The reflections of a room reverb are initially strong, but fade quickly. Room reverbs can be used on stereo mixes, drums, or guitar.

  • Room reverbs can also be used as a slap delay alternative, by lengthening the pre-delay and shortening the reverb time.

Spring: a spring reverb simulates the reverb generation method in which a sound was played through a metal spring by a transducer; a spring reverb is most commonly used in guitar amplifiers.

This type of reverb gives a vintage sound and is most commonly used on instruments like organ or guitar.

Reverse Reverbs: with this type of reverb the sound of the reflections runs in reverse, gradually getting louder instead of quieter.

6 Reverb Tips for Vocals

Here are a few tips you might test out when tweaking a reverb on your vocals:

    1. Use longer pre-delays to add clarity by separating the vocals from your initial reverb reflection.
    2. Try EQing the send to remove unwanted high and low frequencies, that can make you mix muddy.
    3. Compress the reverb after it hits the plugin to smooth it out.
    4. Try pumping a dry vocal into a natural space and record the natural reverb and ambience of a real room.
    5. Add in your reverbs while playing the full mix, instead of while you are soloing the instrument or vocals.
    6. If you have a complex arrangement, reverbs that are too long will make your mix sound washed out.

Reviews of The 3 Reverb Plugins I Demoed

SO, I tested demos of 3 well rated reverb plugins in Ableton that are available in both VST/AU format. They include: Toraverb, Eaverb, and Sparkverb.

The plugins cost in the range of $40 – $150. All of the plugins have demos 10 – 14 day demos, so you can test them yourself.

Toraverb Review

Toraverb is a great, low priced plugin at $45. It is well rated, and it was my favorite, even when compared to the $130 – $150 reverb plugins.

Here are the Features i liked:

    • simple interface – i preferred the simple knob interface over the graphical interface of the more expensive plugins. Some of the features of the other plugins i felt were a bit overkill.
    • sounds great – i preferred the presets and overall sound of Toraverb over the more expensive reverbs. It just sounded better to me, when compared to the others.
    • low cost – it costs $45, compared to $130 – $150.

Features i disliked:

      • none. It sounded great, its pretty cheap, and i preferred the simple, classic interface.

Advertised Features of Toraverb

Toraverb features include: high quality diffusing algorithms that eliminate flutter echo effects, equalization of early and late reflections, modulated tail, and spacial reflections.

It was rated 5 stars, out of 116 ratings.

It comes in both VST and AU format. The cost of Toraverb is $45.

You can download a two week free trial (with some limitations) of Toraverb here.

EAreverb Review

Eaverb is well rated, has MANY features to tweak, but it more expensive reverb plugin at $136.

Eaverb has a nice graphical interface, and has MANY parameters you can tweak. (Almost TOO many.)


Here are the Features i liked:

      • many, many tweakable parameters
      • graphical interface
      • you can alter the left and right reflections individually
      • POS mode – you can position a sound in anywhere in a room
      • i preferred working in SE mode (which is a simpler interface)

Here are the Features i disliked:

      • i felt it was overkill.
      • it didnt sound as good as the cheaper $45 Toraverb
      • the cost is a bit high at $136

Advertised Features of Eaverb

It has six different reverb algorithms including: natural, bright, Alu box, Auditorium, Plate, and Reverse.

It includes three modes including: Pro mode that gives access to all features and parameters.


 SE mode provides a simpler, limited, interface to create your reverb sound.


 POS mode allows you to place an instrument in a particular location in a room.



Eareverb comes in AU, AAX, VST format. The cost of Eareveb is $136

You can download a free trial of 10 day trial of Eareverb here.

Sparkverb Review

Sparkverb is a high quality reverb, which has a unique interface and make dialing in the right sound a quick, and simple process.

It has a feature called Preset Voyager, which allows you to surf though presets based on their characteristics.

Here are the Features of Sparkverb i liked:

      • the interface is pretty cool, it makes altering the sound very easy.
      • Preset Voyager mode is cool. It lets you surf through presets based on a graphical representation of their characteristics, instead of one by one.
      • tweak parameters easily
      • sounds pretty good

Here are the Features i disliked:

      • the cost is a bit high at $150
      • didn’t sound quite as good to me as the low priced Toraverb

Advertised Features of Sparkverb

It allows you to adjust decay globally, across multiple frequency bands w/ hi-lo multipliers and crossovers directly with a single interface.

The supported formats are AU, AAX, and VST.

The cost of Sparkverb is $149.

You can download a 15 day free trial of Sparkverb here.

Vocoder Plugin Tips, Tricks, and Reviews

A vocoder is an effect that uses two signals, such as a vocal (the modulator), where it captures the formants of the voice, and combines it with another sound such as a synthesizer, guitar, or even drums (the carrier).

Vocoders create what is sometimes referred to as a ‘talking synthesizer’. This effects has been used by artists such as Daft PunkImogen Heap, and Herbie Hancock. 

I have an Electrix Warpfactory hardware vocoder, which i bought over 10 years ago. It works ok, BUT outboard gear, (especially a vocoder) is a pain to setup! I prefer vocoder plugins, due to the easier setup, larger set of features, and the ability to use plugin automation.

A vocoder can transform a weak sounding vocal (like mine) into a complex synthesized sound when you play wide, complex chords over it.

If you turn up the modulation, the sound becomes very robotic. (Think beastie boys: intergalactic, planetary, intergalactic)

Below i created a list of vocoder tips and tricks as well as songs from Daft Punk and Imogen Heap that show what you can do with a vocoder. I also reviewed some of the best vocoder plugins including Vocalizer Pro, Orange Vocoder, Vocoder II, XILS Vocoder 5000, and the XILS V+ vocoder.

Unfortunately, i couldn’t find any free vocoder plugins for you :(, but there are some paid options i review below ranging form $59 – $200. Most of them let you demo the software for free. (Also get a free samplepack here)

Examples of vocoders in electronic music

Daft Punk – Around the World

Imogen Heap – Hide and Seek

Herbie Hancock

Vocoder Tips and Tricks

Here are a few tricks you might use to get the most out of your vocoder plugin:

    1. Certain types of vocals such as consonant sounds and plosives will be more audible when you combine them with a synthesizer. Vowel sounds are less audible.
    2. Vocoders sound great when you combine vocals with wide complex chords. Some patches might work better due to the harmonic content in the high end (5-10k) of the frequency spectrum. A complex chord might sound better than a single note.
    3.  Boosting the high-end frequencies above 5K and distorting the modulating signal can make vocals more audible.
    4. You can increase the ‘modulation‘ to create a sound that is much more robotic. (like beastie boys: intergalactic)

  1. Try adding effects such as distortion or lo-fi (lowering bit rate) to the signal before it enters the vocoder.

Vocoder Plugin Reviews

Vocalizer Pro – This plugin has 4 synthesis modules that can be combined or rerouted through each other.

It also has 16 filter configurations with full envelope, cutoff, resonance, and saturation controls, and a sync-able LFO with multiple waveforms, pitch envelope, balance control.

  • Its available in AU, VST, RTAS and AAX formats
  • Cost $200. It is a very well reviewed plugin. Try a free demo Here

Vocoder II

Vocoder II is a low cost ($59), well rated, vocoder with a decent feature set.

Vocoder II contains a Vocoder module, a built in Synth, Compressor and an Effects module, with Chorus and Delay.

The user mode allows producers to adjust each of the 17 vocoder filters with plugin automation.

Vocoder II works with internal and external signals for analysis and synthesis. From a mono voice it is possible to generate polyphonic sounds, complex ambient textures, and robotic sounds.

Vocoder II is well rated and available in VST format only.

The cost is $59. Try the Free Demo here.

XILS Vocoder 5000 

Based on the classic hardware vocoder from the 1970’s allows you to process vocals, guitar, or even drums.

This plugin emulates an oldschool vocoder, but lets you change parameters with plugin automation.

It is available in VST, AU,  RTAS , AAX formats.

The price is $159. Try a free Demo here

XILS V+ Vocoder

The XILS V is based on the classic hardware vocoder.

It contains a ten band vocoder, an octave divider based on human voices and strings, plus reverb and phasing effects.

It allows LFO and envelope modulation and all features and parameters can be automated with midi.

It comes in VST, RTAS, AAX formats. Try a free Demo here

The cost is $159.

How to Use Virtual Instruments (50+ Free VST Plugins)

Virtual instruments allow you to make complicated synth parts with NO external gear.

They require a very simple setup and make editing or
altering your parts very easy.

(Links to over 50 FREE Virtual Instruments are at the bottom of the article. Also get a free samplepack here)

With virtual instruments, you use midi to program in your notes.

By using midi to program your parts, you can transpose or quantize the notes with one button press.

To do this, go to ‘Event Operations‘, under the Event tab. You can easily see what a melody will sound like up or down an octave by transposing the notes.

I started working with VSTs in the past six months and i love it. I have a Korg Triton, but my keyboard skills are kind of weak and its much easier to program in my parts with Midi.

What is a Virtual Instrument?

A virtual instrument is a sound module that can emulate many types of synthesizers like classic analog or modular synths, or even acoustic instruments like violin or piano.

A virtual instrument allows you to program notes in with midi, or play them in with a midi controller, like a keyboard or a midi guitar.

You add a virtual instrument module to your DAW session, the same way you would add an effects plugin.

VSTs allow you to create complicated parts even if you dont play an instrument.

How to set up a Virtual Instrument

To create a virtual instrument track, click “new”, under the track tab. Then choose instrument track.

Next, add your virtual instrument as a plugin on the mix window. Next, program some parts, or play them with your midi controller. That’s it.

I like using midi to program my parts because you can do everything ‘in the box’, without any cables of outboard gear to worry about.

You can take your laptop to a coffee shop and make music if you want.

Types of Virtual Instruments

I’ve only used one type of virtual instrument so far, which is called Xpand2 (which comes stock with pro tools).

There are many types of sound modules that you can buy, so, i wouldn’t say  that i’m an expert in all the types. But i plan on testing more out soon.

I would say that Xpand2 is decent, so far.  But, it definitely works well enough and will give you some good sounding parts if you process everything correctly with effects.

Free Virtual Instruments

Here are some links to free virtual instruments i found that you might wanna check out: (Also get a free samplepack here)


Togu Audio



About 50 more

How to use Plugin Automation

Plugin Automation allows you to change parameters of an effect or EQ , by drawing them into a track. You can use automation on a master bypass, to pull an effect in and out of a track, or increase the rate of a tremolo effect.

(*download free samplepacks and get our newsletter here)

Automation can be used on ANY plugin, but i most commonly use it with filters, reverbs, or delays.

I use plugin automation to:

1) change a sound over time.

2) add or remove frequencies of a track or song.

3) or make a track stand out at particular points in your mix.

Use plugin automation to switch up your production style during different sections of your track to make it more interesting. I like to use it on the intro, prechorus, break, or outro.

How to Automate a Plugin Parameter

To automate a plugin in protools, click the ‘plugin automation box’, underneath ‘auto’ to bringup the automation window.

Then you can add or remove plugin parameters that you want to automate.

What types of parameters can you change with plugin automation?

You can use plugin automation to change ANY parameter of an effect.

But, I use it mostly to pull EQs, reverbs, delays, and choruses in and out of mixes at key points in a song.

In addition to pulling effects or EQs in and out of a mix, you can draw in automation on things like the mix %, or the delay time, or the rate of an LFO, to slowly change an effects over a period of time.

Removing and Adding Bass Frequencies

One of my favorite effects to create with plugin automation is to cut out bass frequencies during intros, prechoruses, breaks, or outros with a high pass filter.

Then you can bring the bass frequencies back when the verse comes in along with the drums, for a nice effect.

Automating the Mix % or Time on a Reverb

Adding in and pulling out a heavy reverb on the master bus before the verse, sounds great with parts like the intro, prechorus, or break.

BUT, you can also automate the mix %, or reverb time, and draw in an increase over 4 or 8 bars leading up to the verse for a cool build up effect.

Automating spatial effects like reverbs and delays and increasing the mix, adds a build up before you pull it out and transition to the next part of your song.

Automating Filters with Plugin Automation

In addition to just pulling a high, low, or bandpass filter, in and out of a track, you can also ‘automate’ the frequency and draw in movement of the filter.

I like to boost frequencies in a narrow band, then draw in a frequency sweep on the last bar before a song transitions into the next part.

You can also use a high or low pass filter and reduce or bring the frequencies over a period of 4 – 8 bars, before you transition to the next part.

(*download free samplepacks and get our newsletter here)

Automating the Rate of An LFO

Another technique is to control the rate of an LFO (low frequency oscillator) with plugin automation.

With effects like tremolo, you can automate the rate of the LFO which controls the volume or pitch. Drawing in changes can add variation and can be used to alter the sound of your melody, bassline, or entire track.

How to Make EDM with Samples and Loops

Producers that make EDM, use different techniques to make their music including using, virtual instruments, live instrumentation, and samples.  Production techniques will continue to evolve as technology changes.

Today, producers are even using cellphone apps to produce their music like Arturia iMini or Propellerhead’s Thor.

But, if you are a beginner or an advanced producer, try using some high quality, well produced samples, to improve the quality of your music.

Download my free EDM samplepack here.

How i use Royalty Free Samples in my Electronic Music

When you make electronic music, you create different parts that are mixed together each track including a bassline, a lead melody, ambient effects, etc.

A sample is just a starting point which you can chop up, reverse, and rearrange to make the part you want.

When you mix in some samples, you can try to find a sample that fits exactly in your track, but more likely your going to have to ‘edit it‘ to make it fit in by time stretching it to match the tempo, or changing the pitch to fit the key.

You can make a song that is entirely constructed of samples, you can mix  parts from different samplepacks from different genres, or you can combine parts from samplepacks with your own synth parts, live instruments, or vocals.

I personally like to combine virtual synths (like Xpand2 that comes with pro tools), live instruments like guitar or piano, and samples that i download to make my parts.

High quality, royalty free samples can be layered into your music to help fill out all frequency ranges and create a full, rich sound that you hear from a professional artist.

I usually add samples towards the end, to fill in the sound, but i’ve made songs entirely out of samples and it sounded really good.

Download my free EDM samplepack here.

What types of samples do you need to produce EDM?

To make a track, you will usually need about 6-8 parts including drums, a bassline, a lead melody, some ambient parts, and some percussion.

You can make these parts with a hardware synths, soft synths, or live instruments yourself, or you can start with some pre-made audio that you download from a samplepack.

Samplepacks are also good if you want to add an instrument that you dont play like piano.

For example, if i want to add some piano part to a song that i have in the key of A minor, i’ll look for a piano samplepack that has parts in the key i need (here’s a piano samplepack that i like).

Then, I’ll chop up the piano samples, pitch shift them, and rearrange them audio to get the progression that i want.

Matching the Key of your Song

One issue you might have when you use samples is that the key of the sample might not match key of your song.

In this case, you can use samples that are in a relative key, or you can shift the pitch to match your key.

Sometimes altering the pitch of a sample works great, but other times it can leave artifacts that make the sample unusable.

I’ve noticed that bass frequencies don’t pitch shift well without leaving artifacts, but higher frequency sounds like leads do.

Matching the Tempo

The tempo of a sample will usually not match your song perfectly, but you can stretch or compress it, to make it fit.

Stretching or compressing audio can leave artifacts if it is more than a 10 bpm difference, which can make it unusable.

Any less of a difference than 10 bpm and it usually will be fine.

Making a Bassline with Samples

You can download some really cool basslines in a samplepack, but in my experience, shifting the pitch of a bassline doesn’t really work that well. It can leave artifacts, that dont occur when you shift higher pitched samples.

One way you can alter a sample bassline is to cut, paste, and rearrange different parts into a bassline that you like.

The bassline is the core of your song, so I work hard to make it sound simple, but interesting. Sometime i’ll spend an hour or more, trying new basslines and patches.

One way to make you basslines more interesting is to use a filter with plugin automation, to sweep the frequency for a cool effect. This will make simple basslines more interesting.

Using Samples and Loops to Make Drums in EDM

When i use drum samples, I like to layer loops and individual samples on top of each other for a really complicated drum track.

Sometimes loops that you buy are separated into top loops, kick and snare, and the full loop. I usually find a kick and snare pattern that i like, then blend them with multiple ‘top loops’, which are usually just the high hat and percussion. You can also use high and low pass filters to separate them even further.

After i have a few loops together, i will add another layer of snare, highhats, kicks, 808’s, and percussion which will give a really full and complicated drum sound.

How i use Ambient Samples in my Electronic Music

One thing i’ve been doing lately is adding ambient samples to fill out my drum n bass tracks.

I usually try adding  ambient parts to the into, 2nd half of lead melody, break, and outro.

It sounds good when you add some wide reverbed chords to a lead part that is playing by itself, then bring back in the drums and bassline after 4-8bars.

If you mix a couple ambient samples together, you can get some really complex sounds that make you song sound full and professional.

Download a Free Trap Sample Pack

The trap sound is very popular in both the hiphop and EDM genres. It drum sound mostly consists of booming 808s, claps, paper thin sounding snares, complicated hi-hat patterns, and chants. The instrumentation over the drums is usually pretty sparse with a bassline, a lead, some samples, and maybe vocals. Most of the sounds come from the Roland TR-808 and TR-909.

Download free trap drum samples when you sign up to my newsletter here. <—

I’ll be sending out more samples to my subscribers as i make new sample packs for you.

The trap sound comes from southern hiphop, but has recently become more popular in the EDM world and is popular at EDM festivals. It is also being incorporated into other genres of music including dubstep and bass music, who make use of the low 808 bass sound and fast hi-hat rhythms. The sound is even showing up in Korean pop music.

How to make a Trap Beat

The signature sound of this genre i would say is the drums. The 808s are very loud. Producers also make use of tuned 808s to create additional bass movement.

If you want a more defined kick drum sound, you might also try layering in a boxier sounding kick over the 808.

The hi-hat pattern is also really important in this type of beat. It can be fast, and complicated, with alot of variation throughout the track. I also like to use chorusing or flange on my hi-hats to give them a more metallic sound that cuts through in the mix and widens them.

The snares in this genre of music are very thin sounding and can have a more complicated snare pattern with snare rolls at the end of 4 or 8 bars. I like to cut off some of the low end with a high-pass filter and add a plate reverb. Sometimes the producer will even alter the pitch of the snare up or down during a snare roll.

Claps are also found alot in this genre. They can be done on the 2 and the 4 or on the offbeat along with a chant. I would add a reverb to make it spacey and very wide.

Chants are another sound that is common in this style. Chants are repeated vocals like “hey”, usually on the offbeat. Alot of time they are very reverbed out and wide. Try cutting alot of the lowend off, so they fit in the mix over the 808s and the bassline.

Top Artists in the EDM Trap Genre

The trap sound has recently evolved more from a hiphop sound into a dance music sound. Popular artists in the EDM traps genre include RL Grime, Flosstradamus, Baauer, and Dj Snake. These artists have recently become popular with EDM festival goers and is even transitioning into pop music.

Download Free 808 Samples Here

808 drum samples are used in many genres of electronic and rap music. They give a low end sound that hits you hard like a rock guitar, and they work really well in drum n bass, trap, edm and hiphop music.

This popular drum sound comes from the Roland TR-808 drum machine.

This sound is basically just a sine wave and can be made by any modular synthesizer.

If you have this type of modular synth (hardware or software), you can make your own.

  • Download a free pack of 808 samples when you sign up to my newsletter here. <—-

How to Add Effects to 808 Drum Samples

808 drum samples sound good on their own. But, in a lot of tracks, they can be heavily effected. Here are some of the effects i like to put on an 808 kick:

Distortion – A distortion or lofi plugins sound really good on an 808 kick sound. This type of sound is currently very popular in trap music and hiphop. This is probably the most common effect you’ll hear on an 808 kick

Reverb – A short reverb is something i tend to add to my 808 kicks. You can even add in a bigger sounding reverb on parts of the song like the intro or pre-chorus, and pull in and out during the song using plugin automation.

Chorus – Sometime i use a little bit of chorusing on my 808s to make them wider.

Layering Kicks with an 808

Layering different types of kicks that occupy different parts of the frequency spectrum on top of your 808 sounds really good.

One thing i like to do is cut off some of the high end of an 808 with a low pass filter. Then i will layer a boxier sounding kick (like a rock drum kick sound) on top of the 808. Layering different types of kicks makes your kick sound huge and fills out the frequency spectrum.

Sometimes i even layer percussive sounds like a chopped up synth part or a high hat to make it really sound big in the mix.

Using Pitched 808 Kick Sounds

Since an 808 kick drum is made from a synthesizer, it has a pitch which you might want to match to the key of your track.

Most of the time, when you add a kick, you dont really think about the pitch. But, with a tuned 808 you want to match it to they key of your song, but with 808s you can create your own melody out of tuned 808 kicks.

These days lots of rap music is pretty sparse sounding, but they make use of tuned 808 kicks to provide a bass progression. This would sounds especially good if you don’t have alot of extra instrumentation going in in the track.

Making Your Own 808 Kicks

Here’s a vid that explains how you can make you own 808 kick with Native Instruments Massive Softsynth.

Dont forget to sign up to my newsletter here for some free 808 kicks (i’ll send you lots of free drum samples, synth loops, and softsynth settings) and also follow me on Twitter @puzzlevortex

How to use Royalty Free Samples in your Tracks

In this article i wanted to talk about how i use samples to fill out a drum n bass track. Lately, I’ve been using virtual instruments to make the main parts of my track, then i’ll use certain types of samples to make it more complex and more interesting.

You can download some royalty free samples to try out, if you sign up for my newsletter here.

There are certain elements i use in almost every drum n bass track. They include drums (kick, snare, and high-hat), a bassline, a lead melody, usually a chord progression, some additional percussion, and also some ambient sounds to fill out the sound in particular parts of the song like the intro or breakdown.

For the album i’m making now, i’ve been using a mix of programmed virtual instruments (xpand2 that comes with protools), samples, and sometimes live instruments (i play guitar). I’m going to put a layer of live guitar on top of my tracks to fill it out and emphasize the chord progressions.

I’m not really into buying lots of plugins, I just use the stock plugins that come with protools. I think its more important that you use your plugins creatively, than to blame your gear as the reason your music doesn’t sound good.

Starting a New Track

I’ll usually start a new track by programming a main melody or bassline with midi. OR, i’ll find a sample with a melody or bassline i want to base the song around.

I’ll find or make about 6 parts that work together, then or add them in or pull them out as the song progresses. Its important to that each part of a track is strong. If your song doesn’t sound good, make better parts instead of adding something on top of it.

I like to make basslines the part of the track that everything else is built around.  In bass music, its important for the bass to be wide and move along with the kick.

I’ll add effects like distortion, lo-fi, and eq to improve the tone and width of the bassline. I might also use a little chorusing or flange to make the tone change as the song progresses. You can also use filters with plugin automation to change the tone of the bassline in certain parts of the song.

With the lead melody, i will usually add some reverb, delays, flange, eq, and/or chorus to address the wideness of the melody and help it stand out in the track.

I love using midi. I used to play the parts on a keyboard and work with the audio, but lately i’ve switched to programming them with midi because i’m not that great of a keyboard player and its much easier.

Midi is great because it allows you to change the melody, progression, or bassline as the song develops. Sometimes you get new ideas and get sent in different directions as the song progresses, midi makes it really easy to change it without having to replay the part.

I’ve found that if you focus on creating an interesting melody, bassline, and chord progression, you really don’t have to do that much else. The song will sound good based on a well written melody, chord progression, and bassline. If you have that, mixing the song is easy. If your song sucks, make better parts.

After i have a cool melody or bassline, i’ll usually add a drum loop. This will quickly give me an idea of how the track will sound with drums.

After this, i will layer more individual drum samples on top of the loop.

Layering Drums

After i’ve got a couple parts and a drum loop, i’ll add a second layer of drum sounds on top using individual drum samples placed on the grid in pro tools.

I’ll add in a nice sounding 808, another snare, and another high hat on top of the loop.

Adding multiple layers of drum loops and individual drum samples on top of each other help create a layered, more complicated drum sound that is important in drum n bass music.

Creating a lead melody or main loop

Interesting loops can be found in any piece of audio. I work hard to create a strong main melody or find a loop that is good enough to carry the song.

To find a good loop in a piece of audio, I’ll import some audio that i like, then highlight different sections of the audio in pro tools, then I’ll listen to them on loop playback. I’ll do this until i find a good repeating piece of audio that is strong enough to use as my main loop.

Or if i dont use a loop, i’ll program my lead melody with midi.

I love sampling songs, but I don’t really want to worry about copyright, so i will usually work with royalty free sample packs, and find a piece of audio that i like, or i’ll program it in with a virtual instrument.

A loop is just a piece of audio that is a starting point for you build a part with. I always change the loop. The loop will almost always sound different after i alter, manipulate, chop up, or layer the samples on top of each other. It will usually sound nothing like the original sample.

I like to add some samples once the basic parts are laid out. Mixing in loops can also give you new melody ideas or chord ideas and send you in directions you might not have thought about.

When i pick a sample, i’ll look for ones to use which are in the same key as the song or will shift the pitch of the sample to match the key of the track. You can also use samples that are in relative keys to your track.

Sample packs is a cheap, quick way to work with audio from something you might not have had access to like an orchestra or choir. If you were going to hire an live musicians, it would be really expensive and a pain to setup.

Filling out a sound with ambient samples

When i have the basic elements of a song together (melody, bassline, drums), i will use ambient and percussive samples to thicken up and add some variation to the track.

I tend to mix in ambient samples on the intro, outro, breakdown, and the 2nd half of the lead melody part to make it more interesting.

I also like to add lots of reverb or delay to make the sounds very wide when contrasted with the main melody part.

Its a cool effect when you have a melody playing by itself (with no drums) for about 4 bars during a breakdown, then bring in a wide, reverbed out, ambient part. The contrast between these parts sounds really cool.

Adding Percussion and FX

If you buy a sample pack, there will usually be a folder called “one shots”

One shots are just short stabs of a percussive sound, ambient sound, or chord that you can use in a pattern throughout the track, or very loud at transition points in the song.

I usually add one shots every 4 – 8 bars, or in a pattern as percussion.

I look for fx samples that have a unique tonal characteristic in the high or low range that might be missing from my track and use it fill out the frequency spectrum.

Filling out the entire range of frequencies with different instrumentation is what phil specter did with his “wall of sound”. This makes the song sound full and finished.

Changing the BPM and pitch of a sample

It is nice when you find a sample that fits the exact key and tempo of the
track you are working on.

But most of the time you will have to stretch the sample or shift the pitch to get it to fit into the track you are working on. In protools you can do this pretty easily using the time stretch tool. Here’s a video that shows you how to use time stretching in pro tools.

In my experience, if the sample is plus or minus 10 bpm of the track you are working on, you will be able to get it to stretch or shrink without any artifacts.

But if there is any more of a difference than about 10 bpm, there may changes in how the sample sounds when it is stretched or compressed.

Also, if you have to shift the pitch too much, you can also have some artifacts which ruin the sample. This is especially true in the low bass frequencies. Sometimes shifting the pitch in low frequencies can produce an unusable sample.

But, altering the pitch of higher frequency samples will usually work without too much damage to the sound quality. But if the pitch is shifted to much, it can make it unusable.