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The best Ableton Live Effects

The Best Ableton Live Audio Effects – And how to use them

Ableton Live has several wonderful plug-ins that you’d expect to find in any DAW. It’s compressor, EQ-8,
and glue compressor are regarded as some of the best in the market. Ableton Live also has, however,
several unique plugins that are unlike what many of its competitors offer and each one is capable of
being used to sculpt your sound in compelling ways. These three effects strike a blend between being
unique and useful, with some playing both roles very well. The goal of this article is to outline what they
are and what they do, and give you some guidance in getting started with the effect. Enjoy!


1Auto-Pan is a wonderful tool, and one of my favorite
stock plugins once I learned how powerful it is. At its most
basic, it is a simple plugin that helps you add stereo motion to
our tracks by causing the output signal to be modulated from
left to right. We can set several parameters, from choosing
how far to modulate it (100% means the signal goes full left,
then full right), the rate we modulate at (Hz and tempo-synced
options), phase options, and the shape of the wave and how
much “hardening” is applied to it.

A common misconception is that this plugin is actually “moving” the signal in the stereo field. In
fact, all it’s really doing is a bit of volume automation. When the signal moves left, the plugin is just
increasing the Left channel’s volume and decreasing the Right channel’s volume, for example. Knowing
that it simply performs volume automation, however, means that we can use it for other effects as well.
The key setting is the “phase” setting. When the phase is set to 180 degrees there is a full wave cycle
between the L/R channels, meaning that the two channels have opposing amplitudes (in this case,
opposite volumes). So when the L channel is peaking, the R channel is at its lowest. If we set the phase
control to 0 degrees, there is no difference between the channels and they are automated as one unit.
This allows us to create vocal stutters. As we increase the phase separation, some stereo effect will
return bit by bit. Attempt to play with different waveforms to get more of a feeling for this, and try
playing with the shape control (as this further modifies the wave applied in interesting fashions).

Auto Pan can also be used to automate between two completely separate audio tracks- like
bouncing between two different breakbeat samples, for example. We can do this by setting our first
Auto Pan plugin to create a stuttering effect on our first track. Generally, we should keep the
automation sharper and more noticeable so that things don’t clash in the next step. Then, simply copy
your Auto Pan instance on the first track to the second. The only change you’ll make is clicking the
“Normal” button in the lower left. This will invert the signal on the second track. It’s like we set our
phase to 180 degrees and made one track the Left channel and the other the Right. Now, it will seem
that we are rhythmically cutting between the two tracks. It’s a great way to add some backing rhythmic
complexity to your tracks, or increase the groove considerably!

Grain Delay


Grain Delay is definitely one of
the best Ableton Live audio effects-
and also one of the hardest to get
used to at first. Differing from
conventional delays, it slices the
incoming audio into a number of grains and then modulates the grains individually.

It appears to be a hard-to-use effect, but the effect is one that becomes far easier to understand and
use when given a bit of information and some time to experiment. The hardest thing to initially grasp can
be the XY modulation matrix, or the box that dominates most of the plugins presence on a channel. On this grid,
you can assign parameters to an axis by clicking a parameter. So clicking frequency on the left and spray
along the bottom makes the X (left/right) direction of the matrix control spray, and the Y (up/down)
control the frequency parameter. When not highlighted, the parameters can still be adjusted freely but
are independent of the movements of the matrix. Each parameter modulates the grains differently.
Spray adds random changes to delay time between individual grains, and at high settings will completely
change the source signal. In my experience, it produces a textured effect that can add some lovely
accent to sustained notes or long vocal samples (at the lower settings, of course). Frequency controls
the sampling rate of the effect, so the lowest value of 1Hz means that its sampling at a rate of 1Hz and
can be increased to sample 150 more grains per unit of time at 150Hz. The parameter labeled “pitch”
simply transposes the grains in pitch according to how it is set- “Random Pitch” is another matter,
however. This parameter does what it says, randomly varying the pitch of individual grains up and down
within a range set by “Random Pitch”. At low values it sounds somewhat like a chorus effect (as its
pretty much doing what a chorus does) but large values are good for waking you up, if you happened to
be falling asleep at your desk. The same warning applies to the feedback parameter, of course. This is
much the same as it is on other delays, controlling how much of the output signal is fed back to the
input and thus lengthening how long the delay lasts. At high values it can cause a runaway feedback
loop though, so be careful and watch out for your ears!

One of my favorite uses for this effect is to lightly apply it on some vocals, as it can really give
them some lovely texture and movement. I’ve found that leaving the pitch settings alone and adding a
touch of spray while keeping the frequency in the 8-15Hz range works well. Now that you know what
each parameter does, the best way to figure this plugin out is to just throw tons of different things
through it- vocals are a start, but drum tracks can be fun too. Pads can produce fascinating grainy
atmospheres, and pluckier synth leads get decimated in the neatest ways. This effect tends to be so
radically different from most other effects in the Ableton Live stock plugin pool that just about
everything you do with it will produce interesting results, even if some are a little less musically pleasing
than others. Do maybe consider wearing headphones and letting the dog outside however– the
feedback setting doesn’t mess around.

Multiband Dynamics

The Multiband Dynamics plugin in Ableton Live is a wonderfully capable multiband compressor
that comes stock with Ableton. Most compressors will compress and modify the entire input all at once.
The multiband compressor allows us to individually compress and boost/cut the three core audio bands
(Lows, Mids, Highs). Multiband compression is essential for good mastering, and really helps to bring out
the character of individual instruments and tracks in our music.


When first dropped onto a track, the three bands will be immediately apparent. The High and
Low bands can be turned on and off by hitting the corresponding buttons, whilst the little yellow
buttons to the right of these buttons enables and disables the dynamics processing element for that
channel. S is the usual solo button, and each channel has its own gain-in control. On the bottom, we can
choose to enable Soft Knee compression (meaning the compression is applied gradually near the
threshold) and choose between Peak and RMS modes (RMS is good for less intense audio, Peak is best
for controlling rapid transients or peaks). We can also change what frequencies make up each band,
with the sliders below “Low” and “High”. The mids will just always be whatever doesn’t go to the others.
From there, we can adjust the compression controls more in depth. In the lower right of the display we
can see the “T-B-A” buttons. T is for our time controls, affecting the attack and release settings of the
compression on that channel. The B and A sections both have threshold settings and ratio settings. The
threshold sets the level at which the compression ratio specified is applied. The ratio values here can be
pretty confusing at first, as positive ratios have differing effects on the B and A sections. For the “Below”
compression, a positive value will pull the audio up to the threshold level, and usually boosts it a bit past
this level. If set to extreme values, it may get weird and boost it way past the threshold, so don’t have
the volume up too high! Conversely, the “Above” compression pushes audio back down towards its
threshold value. It works more like a conventional limiter, so to speak.

With these two compression “types”, so to speak, we can exercise really fine control over our
audio across the three main frequency bands. An example scenario (much like the one covered in the
Glitch Hop Start-to-Finish course, if you’d like to see it in action) is to restore a bass sound’s highs and
mids. Often, when we create a bass sound we’ll find that it lacks content anywhere except the lows, or
that the FX-chain we apply considerably dampens these regions. This is perfectly okay if we want that
sort of sound, but sometimes we want those crispy highs and warm mids. By tweaking our compression
values to pull up the mids and highs, and limit the lows a bit, we can bring these regions up among the
low end and restore the sounds we miss to our audio.

I found out the hard way that applying compression after reverb will make your mastering
engineer quite cross. I can’t recommend it! However, the rule of “If It Sounds Good, It is Good”, trumps
all. And in the case of multiband compression, there is a certain type of sound that really benefits from
post-reverb compression: Snares. If we put a reverb on a Snare, we can face the inverse of the problem
mentioned in the example above. The highs can end up emphasized, and the low-mids and the
important (and delicious) transients can be buried. Multiband compression after a ‘verbed Snare has a
unique, and in my opinion, lovely sound. The reverb lengthens the tail of the sound and fattens it up
overall, and the multiband compression ensures we still get our punch!

Besides restoring any channel into a fairly level output, this plugin can also be used with effect
racks to split the audio into different ranges so that each can be processed separately. This allows us to
add FX best suited to the frequency ranges involved. Low frequencies and reverb usually add to create a
muddy mix, for example, so splitting it off can stop this. It can also be used as a more refined bus
compressor, applied on a group of drum sounds to “glue” together the group, while leaving us able to
adjust the compression and gain for each range independently. Essentially, this plugin can function as a
regular ol’ compressor, but when you think carefully about how to use its band-splitting and
compression to your advantage it can be used for focused loudness optimization and band-applied
effects without compromising definition. It’s a boring name, and it isn’t as exciting as the grain delay,
but I imagine it will quickly become one of your favorites.

I hope this article was helpful to you, and helps you find use for some of the best Ableton Live
audio effects. These usually don’t get as much love or recognition as some of the more standard audio
effects in Ableton Live, but I imagine that once you use them you’ll find a place for them in much of your
work. The Auto-pan tool has become one of my favorites, as the simple effect it applies can really do
wonders for a track. If I hadn’t looked around though, I probably would never have used it! So, get out
there and experiment like mad with the best Ableton Live has to offer.

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Monthly Round-Up July 2016: Sónar 2016, Plugin of the Week + More

July 2016 was packed with exciting developments here at PB HQ. As always, we were busy sharing videos, production tutorials and exclusive free content with you to help you take your music-making to the next level. What’s more, we launched a brand new Facebook Live series and hit the road, presenting a series of masterclasses at this year’s Sónar Festival. Check out our monthly round-up below as we recap some of the highlights. To see each post in detail, click the corresponding title to be taken through to the page. And for those not already in the know, make sure you’re subscribed to our YouTube channel and following us on Facebook and Twitter so you never miss out on our cutting edge content.

New Order – Blue Monday Ableton Live Deconstruction @ Sónar+D 2016

In 1983, New Order created a timeless classic that’s celebrated as one of the most influential tracks of all time. The Manchester band are still going strong some three decades on, stepping up to headline Barcelona’s Sónar Festival in July. Indeed, when we were asked to take part in Sónar+D – the educational arm of the famous festival – it was a no-brainer that we’d honour them by giving the iconic ‘Blue Monday’ our world-famous deconstruction treatment.

New Series: Plugin of the Week

As part of our brand new series of Facebook Live streams, we’re taking a short and snappy look at some of the best plugins on the market to keep your inspiration flowing. In this broadcast, recorded live out of our buzzing Hub at Orsman Road, we spotlight AudioThing’s Valve Filter VF-1 – a simple, affordable and affective filter plugin. To watch Plugin of the Week live make sure you follow us on Facebook.

Composing for Film & TV (Part 2): Live & Sampled Strings

Back in November 2015 we teamed up with the highly respected Morley College to bring you two exclusive workshops focusing on composing, scoring and recording for film. In the second of these sessions filmed at our new studio complex, sound designer Adam JB (Eric Prydz, Channel 4) takes the recorded strings from the previous workshop and explores some production techniques to enhance the sound with recorded sound libraries.

Check Out These 10 Tips to Better Drums in Your Tracks


Your drum sound can make or break your track. Get them wrong and the rest of your song will suffer. With so many tones, textures and types, ranging in pitch, sound and size, there are thousands of variables – and decisions – that go into choosing, recording, sampling and mixing your drums. Of course, our London courses involve getting stuck into a huge range of concepts for recording and programming powerful, dominating drums so we thought we’d cherry-pick ten of our favourites to get you started towards better beats.

Register to Access Free Courses, Plugins, Projects, Samples & More

When you register with Point Blank, you access an array of free sounds, plugins, online course samples, access to our social network Plugged In and much more! Simply register below and visit our Free Stuff page to get your hands on a range of exclusive music-making tools and tutorials provided by the team. Fill your boots!

The post Monthly Round-Up July 2016: Sónar 2016, Plugin of the Week + More appeared first on Point Blank’s Online Magazine.

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Weird Gear – From the Pacemaker to the Fretless Fader

Electronic music is generally regarded as pretty cool. Hipsters will argue about the quality of vinyl, vacuous celebrities will upload instagram pictures of themselves ‘DJing’ and everyone you know – and their flatmate, and their flatmate’s ex – regularly goes to festivals.

However once upon a time, electronic music was a fairly niche concern. Whilst there was still a healthy, emergent underground scene, it’s been conveniently forgotten that not so long ago an awful lot of electronic music was hugely, gloriously nerdy. Don’t believe us? Take a trip into some of the most bizarre tech that’s emerged over the last decade or so. Remember, people really used this stuff.

The Pacemaker

Let’s start with a favourite. Named after a device designed to keep your nan alive (useful, but cool..?) the Pacemaker was designed to “remove the inconvenience of having to take DJ kit everywhere”. Because every aspiring DJ just dies with embarrassment when they find themselves at a house party surrounded by decks.

Besides, it looked like a failed flip phone. Whilst allegedly the mixing was fine, people just couldn’t quite adjust to the fact that when used in a club environment it just looked like the DJ was texting his mates. It was released around the time that people start getting heavily into smarphone apps too. That didn’t stop Richie Hawtin gracing the cover of Mixmag holding one while the whole industry went dizzy with excitement for a few months.

ModularGrid Mixers


Admittedly this one does get the Point Blank staff here a little tickled. It’s a mixer you can make yourself. The possibilities are endless – all the faders you can eat! Even more knobs than the VIP area! Rows of useless but really cool lights!

The only problem is every single module is pretty pricey, given they’re all self contained in their own boxes. Which means all together your homemade mixer ends up being more expensive than a – let’s be honest – better put together mixer by Pioneer or Xone. They’re so expensive in fact, that when searching on the internet for modular mixers you’ll mostly end up with pictures like the above: yes, that’s photoshopped. We’re not fully convinced anyone ever made one of these.

Alesis AirFX

This writer actually used to own one of these. It’s a 50-odd setting effects unit that you control by waving your hand above it. Which, after eight vodka red bulls, makes you feel like Gandalf at your local bar residency. Unfortunately it wasn’t very practical.

Fretless Fader

At first glance, this is actually pretty badass. A fader that goes up and down, as well as side to side (sorry: that can be realised along both the X and Y axis, simultaneously). It’s the work of an individual named John Beez, who intends to sell it eventually. At first glance it looks incredible, but there’s a few gigantic caveats. The first: you need a turntable with midi pitch, which isn’t cheap. Secondly, we can’t help noticing it’s always the same kind of hip hop with an 8-bit lead that he plays in the demo videos, which makes us suspect that it’s not going to sound great with anything else.

Haken Continuum

It’d be interesting to see how many people bought this on the name alone, only to be infuriated that it wasn’t actually a spaceship. The Haken Continuum is essentially a big red keyboard, albeit the keys appear to be touch sensitive and have some element of 3D interactivity too. It’d probably be cooler if it could play several different instruments at different sides of the keyboard rather than low-key murder music but hey, we don’t make the rules. To add to the suburban murder vibes, you can also buy a stand that looks like it belongs in a sex dungeon. Whoever said music teachers had dull lives?

Prolight Laser Harp

It is beyond us why the EDM world didn’t collectively lose their mind over this one. I mean it’s garish, tacky as hell, and not particularly musical but it would probably look pretty balling to the right kind of crowd. It looks to us like there’s a bit of lag on the actual lasers/midi and we’re not sure if you can get any velocity variation. But that doesn’t matter when you’re 22 and eight shots in.


You might not have heard of it, but you’ll have definitely heard it’s sound – most likely in some old school sci-fi or comedy. The Theremin has been around for decades, but despite several flirtations with the mainstream, it never really broke through. Maybe because the idea of playing an instrument just by moving your hands through the air may seem pretty neat, actual performances tend to wind up looking a little… strange.

Midi Flute

Yep. Yamaha made these. We’re not sure what the point of them was, but these could’ve kept tropical house alive, at least by sheer comedy value. Skip to 1:20 when the dude plays guitar on his flute and ask yourself how we live in a world where things like this could happen.

We’re now curious as to how all these weird and wonderful bits of kit would sound if combined? Has a band ever done this?

Yes, they have…

Register to Access Free Courses, Plugins, Projects, Samples & More

When you register with Point Blank, you access an array of free sounds, plugins, online course samples, access to our social network Plugged In and much more! Simply register below and visit our Free Stuff page to get your hands on a range of exclusive music-making tools and tutorials provided by the team. Fill your boots!

The post Weird Gear – From the Pacemaker to the Fretless Fader appeared first on Point Blank’s Online Magazine.

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Dubspot Radio Podcast: Nihal Ramchandani (Innigkeit Mix) + Interview

Nihal Ramchandani (Hotflush, Halcyon) brings his impeccable taste to the Dubspot Podcast series with “Innigkeit,” a heady mix of ambiance and experimental sounds that he holds close to the heart.

Nihal Ramchandani

Nihal Ramchandani is one of those people who just seems to get it… someone with the right attitude and impeccable taste in music who everyone seems to love. He’s not one to promote himself but simultaneously he’s one of those DJs who gets credit constantly as a result of his unique style (and a sick collection of tunes.) Nihal made his way onto the scene as part of the Hotflush team and simultaneously worked for Halcyon records, sharing his love for vinyl with other record junkies. Over the past several years, he’s refined his sound and has become quite popular amongst the industry’s tastemakers with his live DJ sets and numerous mixes online. His podcasts for Table Tennis and Hotflush have yielded interesting combinations of deep mood, hints of techno, a dash of dub, and a critical ear for electronic music without regard to genre. We are very excited to bring Nihal into the Dubspot family with this podcast, a special blend of sounds that he holds close to the heart. Nihal explains the mix in his own words:

“The title of this mix is “Innigkeit,” a German word I came across in my studies. Its meaning harkens back to the Romantic composers of the early nineteenth century who started feeling secure in their expression. Social forces from the church and aristocracy became weaker, so composers felt less pressured to impress an audience. Essentially, they started making music for its own sake, looking inward, and reaching toward the ineffable. All of the records I’ve selected for this mix take me personally to that place beyond (you know the one), so the name “Innigkeit” seemed appropriate. Some of the transitions may sound a little awkward; only two of them are beat-matched, but hopefully you enjoy the music. Throw it on your headphones. Many thanks to Sougwen for creating the beautiful artwork.” – Nihal Ramchandani



Nihal Ramchandani Interview

Nihal Ramchandani

I see your name on flyers all the time for events in NYC. What parties/clubs have you played?

I feel fortunate to have played at some amazing parties. There are a few that stand out in particular: the first edition of Dave Q’s party named Twisup; the first edition of a dubstep party named Reconstrvct; Juan Gaviria’s Den of Thieves; Opening for SBTRKT at Electric Zoo; Tagging with Nooka Jones at Percussion Lab.

What styles of music do you usually play?

It depends on the context. Some crowds are open to weirder, more psychedelic music. Other crowds just want to freak to some booty bass. Playing in different contexts always excites me. The challenge of figuring out what the crowd likes and then leading them into territory they usually don’t explore never gets old. My record collection extends well beyond what I play out in clubs. There is a wealth of fresh sounds developing in the different scenes around New York and beyond. I don’t see the point in genre discrimination. I go to and play at very different parties. A footwork tune made in 30 minutes with pirated software can work just as well as a finely-crafted heady techno record made with tons of analog equipment. Again, it just depends on the context.

What’s your DJ aesthetic?

Well like I said, the context doesn’t always allow certain styles of music to be played. In an ideal situation, though, meaning the crowd is open-minded and willing to dance interesting sounds and really listen to the DJ, I would just play my favorite tripped-out records. Music with psychedelic qualities really messes with your mind when everything is correct at the venue. I once saw Donato Dozzy and Nuel play an 8-hour back-to-back set at The Bunker. The sound system was fantastic, and the room was spare and dark. There wasn’t a single moment when I felt like leaving. Their aesthetic has had a massive influence on me. The transitions were smooth and simple – subtle work with the faders and EQs. Through careful, sensitive selection, they slowly and gently ease the crowd into a trance. At the risk of sounding cliché, It really was all about the musical journey, the trip. That set was probably the most inspiring night of music I’ve experienced. Way out in deep space is the place. Trippy music for losing yourself, a quality not specific to any one genre or mood. It can be dark and pounding, or deliver something groovy and floaty. “Innigkeit” goes through many different moods, but all of the music retains these psychedelic qualities (to me at least). Variety is important. I try to connect the dots among different styles into something sonically coherent.

How did you get involved with Hotflush and what do you do with them?

I had heard a few opening sets from Alex Incyde at Dub War that I really liked; he was a resident when the party was still around. We met at The Bunker one night and started chatting. He mentioned that Hotflush needed an intern. We have similar interests in music, so it just made sense. He lives in Maui now, but spending time with him while he lived in New York was always something I looked forward to. It’s made me happy to see how he has progressed with production as well. He introduced me to a lot of new stuff – music and beyond. I used to do different tasks for the label here and there: things related to licensing, fighting piracy, social networking, promoting new releases, etc. – basically whatever Alex asked me to do. He and Paul handle much of the work now. I did a podcast for Hotflush, which was a cool opportunity. Now I just rep them and don’t do as much.

How did you get involved with Halcyon and what did you do with them?

In my previous visits to New York, I had stopped at Halcyon to go record shopping. I met the owner Shawn at a DJ night and asked if they needed any help around the shop. I started interning there for a while and eventually became an employee helping out customers or doing data entry and the like.

How old were you when you started DJing?

My older brother got me into electronic music. I got my decks when I was 13 and played my first gig in Houston at 15. The local techno crew there let me open one of their warehouse parties.

How did you learn about so much music at a young age?

Ah well, I don’t think I know that much about music compared to some other young people I’ve met with some insane encyclopedic knowledge. I really struggle to keep up with new releases haha, but then again most people do now. I guess one thing I learned from early on is to be open to all music. Even if you think some particular musical sub-culture is stupid, try and make an effort to understand why others enjoy it. Learning about the qualities of a specific style may help you foster an appreciation for it. Like with anything I suppose.

Why did you decide to release this mix without a tracklist and if we freak out about a track on the mix will you tell us what it is?

I want people to listen to it without knowing what’s coming. After they listen to it, I have no problem identifying a record for them.

Who is inspiring you in the realms of electronic music these days?

Too many to mention! Surgeon, Peverelist, Donato Dozzy, Raz Mesinai, Adrian Sherwood… the list goes on. There is too much incredible music out there.

You mention juke music in one of your responses. Are you into the juke/footwork scene that is happening?

Yeah. I used to be dismissive of it because of how rudimentary many of the tracks sound, but if the criteria we use for judging art only focuses on the craft, then we would all be listening to Rachmaninoff or something, you know? The WALACAM videos on youtube are awesome. The music makes total sense in that context. What interests me in particular is that the stylistic qualities of footwork music are dictated to some extent by the dancers themselves. The main reason why it’s at 160 bpm is because people just got really good at dancing and needed faster music. Inventive use of polyrhythm also creates some really bizarre grooves that work so well with that style of dancing.

Do you make music? If so, what platform do you work with?

Yes, though I haven’t made anything I’m happy with yet. Three main tools: Ableton, Maschine, and my guitar.


DJ Extensive Program

Immerse yourself in the complete art of DJing: from the fundamentals of beatmatching and mixing to using effects and programming extended club sets. Whether you’re a beginner wanting to learn fundamentals or a seasoned pro looking to take your talent to the next level, our curriculum is designed to accommodate all skill levels and styles of music. This comprehensive DJ program covers everything from basic mixing to advanced digital DJing with both Serato Scratch Live and Traktor Scratch Pro.

Click here to view the embedded video.

About This Program

At Dubspot you’ll be working at personal student workstations equipped with industry standard and cutting-edge technology: Technics SL-1200 / 1210 series turntables, Pioneer CDJs, Pioneer DJM or Rane TTM mixers, Apple iMacs and MacBook Pros, Native Instruments’ Traktor Scratch Pro, Serato Scratch Live, vinyl, CDs, timecode, and MIDI controllers.

Our instructors teach you the necessary techniques and draw on their vast collective experience to give you insight into the mindset, workflow, and art of DJing. Graduates of the DJ Extensive Program will have an opportunity to perform at an event in a New York City venue, organized and promoted by Dubspot together with you and your fellow students. At Dubspot, we want you to do more than just learn. We want you to be great at doing what you love. Let us help you get there!

What’s Included

  • DJ Level 1: Rookie Sessions | Essentials I
  • DJ Level 2: Phrase Mixing | Essentials II
  • DJ Level 3: Beyond The Blend | Intermediate Skills
  • DJ Level 4: Preparation | DJ Psychology
  • DJ Level 5: Classroom to the Club | Advanced Techniques I
  • DJ Level 6: Club to the World | Advanced Techniques II

Additional Information

Visit the DJ course page for detailed information on this program here.

If you have questions, please call 877.DUBSPOT or send us a message.


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It's tutorial time!

Scales & Chords: Capture Ideas, Discover New Ones!

The new Players introduced in Reason 9 have the power to change the way you make music, helping you work faster, smarter, and imagine more than you once could. If you’re new to music theory or a begrudging keyboard player in the age of MIDI controllers, you’ll love Scales & Chords for its ability to assist you in the real task: realizing your musical vision, and maybe even exploring new things you didn’t think were possible.

In this tutorial we’ll walk through the fairly simple controls that make Scales & Chords work but then dive into the beautifully complex music you can make with it by building up a song together. If you think you might want Scales & Chords in your music, you should check this out. However, if you think you don’t need Scales & Chords because you already know music theory then you REALLY have to check this out!



Note Echo: Explore and Expand Your Music in Reason 9

When it comes to Players in Reason 9, Note Echo is perhaps the simplest Player to learn and the deepest to explore in your own music making. That’s because the seemingly simplistic rule-set that governs how Note Echo operates belies the complex musical result that comes from it.

In this tutorial we’ll quickly learn the basic layout of Note Echo and dive into some musical examples for how it can be used. But the end of this tutorial is just the beginning. Note Echo is all about personal exploration and experimentation.



The Dual Arpeggiator Player: Music in Motion

The Dual Arpeggiator Player in Reason 9 can be a simple arpeggiator, adding monophonic complexity to static chordal input, but it is so much more than a basic arpeggiator. Its polyphonic approach, pattern ability, and parallel construction of dual arpeggiators all adds up to something quite unique.

In this tutorial, we’ll walk you through and show you how Dual Arpeggiator works – from basics to wowzers.




Perfect Your Vocals with Pitch Edit

Often times perfect vocal takes aren’t captured, so much as they’re crafted. The exactitude in modern recording technology from pitch perfect synths to quantized MIDI sequences has placed responsibilities on vocalists and producers to match that meticulous level of precision in their audio tracks as well. Now, thanks to Pitch Edit mode in Reason 9 meticulous doesn’t have to mean tedious or difficult. In a special Reason 9 tutorial, we’ll walk you through the basic process of taking a vocal by our own in-house resident untrained singer, Ryan, and getting his potential up to match the rest of the song.

Throughout this tutorial you’ll get a basic walkthrough of Pitch Edit, its various workflows, and how to take the techniques you learn here and apply them to your own music, creativity, and advanced experimentation if you want to dive deep.


And a bonus tutorial by Ryan:



Reason 9: Using Players with the Neptune Voice Synth

Someone on Propellerhead’s Youtube Channel asked a question: Can you use Players in Reason 9 like the Scales and Chords Player on Neptune to create Imogen Heap style chords on a vocal? The answer is YES! But there’s a little trick to doing it that I’m demonstrating here.


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The Different Types of Microphones Explained

This guide will help you understand the different types of microphones and how they are typically used. Microphone Shopping for a new microphone can often become a daunting task because of the wide variety of mic types and features associated with the hundreds of available models. To help you find the right mic to meet your needs, we worked up a guide that covers many of the characteristics associated with the different microphone types and models.

Understanding Polar Patterns

Polar patterns describe a microphones field of sensitivity and how each type picks up sound. It’s important to know where a mic ‘listens’ spatially and which positions are blocked. Having a good grasp of these polar patterns will help you select the right mic that captures the sound you need while minimizing unwanted noise. Below are the most common types of polar patterns.

Cardioid Microphones


Cardioid mics capture sound from the front and reject everything else from the rear and sides. This front-focused pattern allows you to point the mic to a sound source and isolate it from unwanted ambient sound, making it ideal for live performance and other situations where noise reduction and feedback suppression are needed. Cardioid mics are the most common type used for a wide variety of applications from live performances to miking instruments. Be aware that these types of mics add subtle sound coloration in bass frequencies when the sound source is close, so mic position is important.

Supercardioid and Hypercardioid Microphones


These two types of mics are more directional than cardioid and have a narrower area of sensitivity. These mics provide improved isolation and higher resistance to feedback. Their enhanced ability to reject noise makes them ideal to use for loud sound sources, noisy stage environments or even for untreated recording rooms. However, these polar patterns have sensitive rear lobes making them difficult to position when trying to reject unwanted sounds like stage monitors and drum kits.

Omnidirectional Microphones


Omnidirectional microphones capture sound equally from all directions. This type of mic has a more natural sound because of their non-directional design that eliminates any rejection. Omnis are excellent for capturing room sound in studios and other venues with great acoustics. They can also be used for recording multiple instruments, as long as the noise level is low. However, the downside is that they lack background noise rejection and are prone to monitor feedback, which makes them unsuitable for loud and noisy spaces.

Figure-8 Microphones


Figure-8 mics capture sound from both the front and back but rejects sounds coming from the sides. This type of mic produces a polar pattern that looks like a “figure-8.” This pattern is also known as bi-directional. The front and back sensitivity make them ideal for stereo recording or for capturing multiple instruments.

Shotgun Microphones


Shotgun mics have a very narrow and extended polar pattern that is even more directional than hypercardioids. They feature a tube like design that has a longer pickup range. These type of mics are often used for broadcasts such as sporting events because they excel at isolating sounds in higher noise environments from a distance. They are also used as overhead mics for capturing sounds in a room. However, shotgun mics often have very poor sound quality.

Switchable/Multi-Pattern Microphones


Multiple pattern microphones allow you to switch between different polar patterns. Many of today’s USB condenser microphones have a feature that provides the option to select a polar pattern that meets your needs with a simple flick of a switch. Other types provide the same flexibility through changing the mic head. These mics offer more positioning possibilities and more usage.


Diaphragm Sizes

Microphones pick up sounds through their diaphragm, which is a thin material that vibrates when it comes into contact with a sound source. The size of the diaphragm affects the microphone’s sound pressure level handling, sensitivity, dynamic range, and internal noise level. There are three standard mic diaphragms classifications, small, medium, and large.

Small Diaphragm


Small Diaphragm are commonly called pencil mics because of their thin cylindrical shapes. Their compact design makes them lighter, easier to position, and ultra-responsive. These type of mics are great for capturing acoustic guitars, hi-hats, cymbals, and other instruments with sharp transients.

Medium Diaphragm


Medium Diaphragm mics are more modern and often combine the characteristics of small and large diaphragms. They tend to have a slightly fuller and warm sound similar to large diaphragms while retaining some of the high-frequency content that small diaphragms are known for capturing.

Large Diaphragm


Large diaphragm microphones are a studio staple often used to capture everything from vocals to all types of instruments, room spaces, and more. The larger diaphragm is capable of capturing sounds in great detail making them the prime choice for high fidelity recording. These mics almost always require external power and suspension mounting to isolate them from external vibrations.


Types of Microphones

There are four types of microphones most commonly used for music, available with either XLR or USB connectivity. When shopping for a new mic, you will typically come across Dynamic, Condenser, Ribbon, and USB models.

Dynamic Microphones


Dynamic microphones are known to be reliable and extremely versatile. The audio signal generated by a moving coil within a magnetic field makes this type of mic less sensitive to sound pressure levels and high frequencies which means they can take more punishment. They are often used to capture loud sound sources like guitar amplifiers and drum kits. They also tend to be less expensive.

Condenser Microphones


Condenser microphones are the most responsive and the best choice for high fidelity recording. They feature a thin conductive diaphragm that sits close to a metal backplate. This configuration works like a capacitor where sound pressure vibrates the diaphragm which creates an electrical charge to produce the audio signal output. The use of capacitance instead of actual moving coils makes these mics ideal for precision recording in the studio. However, condenser microphones are generally more expensive than dynamic microphones and require the use of an external power supply, internal batteries, or phantom power supplied by a mixer.

Ribbon Microphones


Ribbon microphones were commonly used in the golden age of radio but are making a comeback with more modern production designs. Instead of using a diaphragm, they employ a thin metal ribbon allowing them to pick up the velocity of the air and not just air displacement. This design makes them more sensitive to higher frequencies but retains a warm vintage voicing. Newer models work well for live multi-instrument recording in venues where the noise level is not loud. They also work great for getting that vintage vibe when recording.

USB Microphones


USB Microphones are becoming a popular choice for many applications. Their design contains all the elements of traditional microphones except they include an onboard preamp and an analog-to-digital (A/D) converter. The preamp eliminates the need to be connected to a mixer or external mic preamp while the A/D converter changes the mic’s output from analog (voltage) to digital (data), so it can be plugged directly into a computer. This ability makes USB mics ideal for mobile digital recording with DAW software or other recording software.


Mixing and Mastering Program

Transform rough ideas and basic compositions into dance floor bangers and sonically pleasing commercial quality masters. Learn the well-kept industry secrets of EQ, compression, panning, level balancing, reverb and special effects.

Mixing and MasteringAbout This Program

This program gives you everything you need to refine tracks into a clear commercial quality release, including special mixing and mastering techniques for dubstep, techno, house, trance, downtempo, hip-hop, and the gamut of electronically-produced music. You will learn to mix and master your tracks using the same plugins that top industry engineers use every day, including plugins by Izotope, Soundtoys, Sonnox, Altiverb, and more.

What’s Included

  • Mixing & Mastering Level 1: Mix
  • Mixing & Mastering Level 2: Modify
  • Mixing & Mastering Level 3: Master

Additional Information

Visit the Mixing and Mastering course page for detailed information on this program here. If you have questions, please call 877.DUBSPOT or send us a message.


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The Point Blank Guide to Blockchain: The Future of the Industry?

In July, experimental musician TCF announced the news that he was becoming an advisor for an innovative new streaming platform, Resonate. Not surprising – streaming has triumphed over digital downloads as the way most people access music in 2016. But unlike, say, Spotify or Apple Music, Resonate bills itself as a cooperative, using pioneering technology – known as blockchain – to ensure independent artists receive fair compensation for their art. In a climate where Spotify is roundly derided for applying a subscription model that earns money for a handful of huge megastars and – most notably – their labels while giving independent artists next to nothing, Resonate offers an alternative. And when industry insiders continue to declare, in no uncertain terms, that streaming killing music, or creativity in music, an alternative is crucial.

But what is blockchain? In the simplest terms, blockchain records permanent and transparent string of transactions viewable and stored by everybody on the network. Chances are, your first encounter with blockchain technology – if you’ve heard about it at all – is through BitCoin. Remember that? This peer-to-peer cryptocurrency was championed a few years ago as an alternative to traditional money. Boundary-free (therefore not tied to exchange rates), secure, anonymous and decentralised, no single institution controlled the flow of BitCoin. It disrupted the idea that you needed an intermediary – a bank – in order to buy or sell. Free of the banks, free of inflation, jurisdictions, charges and other weaknesses inherent within traditional banking. Also, no more bankers. Easy.

It’s not hard to see why this could be read as a revolutionary force when applied to the music industry. It’s an area that has traditionally struggled to embrace new digital technology and when it has, it has often tried to merge pre- and post-digital models into a messy, knotted, fragmented system. Royalties earned via streaming, say, can take a long to work their way through the outmoded processes. Plus, if you’re an independent artist, the skewed maths of Spotify (just one example) are stacked against you. Blockchain offers a new way, with musicians having increased ownership of their music and the relationship between fan and artist streamlined and transparent.

Imogen Heap, who has cultivated a blockchain ‘fair trade’ project called Mycelia told City AM: “Blockchain is completely enabling us to rethink the basic, core structure of how monetary distribution works in the industry. It can be used to build a united platform and create an ecosystem, but most importantly builds innovation under the standards that make sense for artists.” Likewise, in this blog entry on Hypebot, Bas Grasmayer highlights three main areas where blockchain could be applied: metadata, rights and payments. Metadata, stored in the music file, would include who wrote the song, who played what instrument, who penned the lyrics, who created the artwork etc. Rights – who has rights to what and where – would benefit from the transparency offered by blockchain, and payments would be faster and again, traceable. A live prototype platform, Ujo, is experimenting with the idea of creating this networked database using Imogen Heap’s ‘Tiny Human’ song as a test. According to the Ujo website, “You can explore the ‘Tiny Human’ network, examine the policies associated with the track, see how payments are automatically distributed to the different contributors to the song and – if you have the cryptocurrency Ether – buy a download of the song and have your transaction recorded permanently on the blockchain.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 16.50.56Image © Ujo

The key idea here is transparency. The music industry’s lack of transparency has been thrown into sharp relief recently as songwriters have taken high profile actions against DSPs including Spotify, TIDAL and Rhapsody. “Spotify is addressing the issue by brokering a settlement with the NMPA, but this seems like a short-term fix to a bigger problem,” says Benji Rogers, chief strategy officer of Pledge Music in this Midem blog post. “With an industry that complains about how little it gets paid, we make it very difficult for users of our copyright to know exactly how to pay the correct people.”

As it is, if you want to use a song in an advert sync, it’s actually very hard to track down who owns it, who to contact and how to license it. Blockchain would create a database accessibly to everyone, updated across all copies at once and owned by the public. The data would include information about who and how to pay, and who to contact. Every time this is altered the change would be recorded and attributed and – crucially – approved by the correct parties before being locked into the system. “This won’t stop incorrect data being inputted in the system,” continues Rogers. “But creates a solution for how to resolve it.”

But there’s an added bonus for artists, producers, vocalist and remixers. Look at the below DAW sequence (nabbed from a super informative post of the Resonate blog by Peter Harris):


Image ©Resonate

We see five players listed, sequenced in different sections of the song. Harris asks you to imagine that the vocalist has allowed you to sell the full song to a TV or film, but doesn’t want her commercials being used in an advert. Or what if a DJ wants to only use the keyboard? If the band built rules into the blockchain, they could issue licences and deliver stems without the need to negotiate a deal. What, on the other hand, if they want to be notified when someone wants to use there work so they can make up their own mind dependent on the circumstances? That can be built in too. “Then think about the engineers, producers and mastering specialists who have been typically unaccounted for in these situations,” says Harris. “It becomes easy to imagine that everyone involved could finally be effortlessly compensated for their role in the creation of a particular piece of music.”

This piece also cites how blockchain would stop artists’ material ending up in places they never agreed to, like, say, the thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of artists who are on Spotify without their knowledge. “Those artists likely sent their work to an aggregator like TuneCore to get into iTunes, unaware of some minor point in their terms and conditions that would allow them to place that content elsewhere. Imagine for a moment that embedded within music files was a smart contract that could run 24/7 sending out automated licensing, usage and payment agreements to hundreds of parties around the world”

But before we get too excited by this brave new and dizzyingly fair world, getting the industry to adopt the new model wholesale may take a little while. Ujo founder Phil Barry, who also worked on Thom Yorke’s BitTorrent-released Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes as a consultant on user experience, business model and media strategy doesn’t expect it to happen overnight. Talking to Billboard he said: “People have their own vested interests in keeping data private and all the existing systems are outdated and don’t match up. [But] if we wait for all the music publishers and all the collecting societies and everybody to organize themselves, sit around a table and reach an agreement about creating this central database we’ll be waiting until the end of the next century.”


Likewise, in the Hypebot piece, Bas Grasmayer warns that the main barrier to wholesale uptake across the industry is competing interests. “For instance, if you’ve invested a lot of money into marketing a sub-licensed work in a certain territory, you wouldn’t want everyone to be able to see when your right expires… because then you’ll have a lot of competitors who might try to secure those rights.” He also flags up privacy issues: “There’s a lot of interest in making payments transparent, so that it becomes clear how much a party like Spotify actually pays to certain labels, and what happens to that money along the chain to the creators. Creators are likely to have privacy concerns about having their income being public though.”

Despite these challenges, Phil Barry remains certain that, over time, the changes will be implemented, if only because the old models as they stand are unsustainable. “The music industry absolutely needs new revenue and business models, new ways of consuming music and simplify the way music is managed and licensed,” he told Billboard. Returning to Resonate, the streaming platform championed by TCF, its cooperative model and #fairmusicstreaming MO – built on blockchain technology – suggests a way forward that ensures independent artists can continue to earn money. That means advancing the careers of countless songwriters, performers, producers and other creatives, which, in turn, means our favourite artists can keep making music. Which means we can keep making music.

Sure, blockchain may still be in its infancy, but as more and more startups begin experimenting with its application, more alternative pathways will open up for the future of the music industry. Or, as Phil Barry says, “Just standing in the middle, collecting money, waiting a year, sending it on and taking 10 percent won’t work anymore. If anybody wants to build a new curation or streaming service, a negotiating service or other things that no one has imagined yet they can just build it on top of the blockchain. If it is a good model that benefits the creative community it will succeed, if not, it won’t.”

Do you want jump in and start shaping the future of the music industry. Point Blank offers the perfect foundation for tomorrow’s biggest artists and industry leaders. Our Music Business module, part of the  BA (Hons) Music Production & Sound Engineering degree, covers publishing, the international market, how to set up a business and even the history of the music industry. Plus, as it’s validated by Middlesex University, you won’t find a better way to immerse yourself in your passion for music.

Register to Access Free Courses, Plug-ins, Projects, Samples & More

When you register with Point Blank, you access an array of free sounds, plugins, online course samples, access to our social network Plugged In and much more! Simply register below and visit our Free Stuff page to get your hands on a range of exclusive music-making tools and tutorials provided by the team. Fill your boots!

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Dubspot Summer Sale: 30% off Courses in NYC, LA, and Online.

Do More Than Just Listen! Summer savings on all Dubspot Courses. 20% off for new students and 30% off for returning students. Sale ends Tuesday, August 9th at midnight. Enroll Today!


Do More Than Just Listen! Find your passion for creating music in our Music Foundations, Music Production, Mixing and Mastering, Sound Design, and DJ Programs. Join the world’s leading learning environment and community for musicians, DJs, producers, visual artists, audio professionals, and enthusiasts of all music genres. As a premier Music School for both aspiring and experienced artists alike, Dubspot’s mission is to inspire and enable students to achieve their creative goals. Classes are kept intimate in hands-on lab environments and are designed to teach you the powerful functionality of today’s leading music technology while guiding you through fundamental concepts to advance your skills and apply them creatively to develop your signature sound. Our talented tribe of musically diverse educators are more than talented musicians; they are mentors who are devoted to seeing students develop and grow as artists. Their collective experience in the music industry spans many fields, continents, and years. They are the heart of your Dubspot experience!

Contact Admissions today to learn more about our extensive course offerings and programs by calling 1.877.DUBSPOT.

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Upcoming Courses in NYC, LA, and Online


Find your Music Production or DJ Education at Dubspot and discover a learning experience that goes beyond software education. Our collection of carefully developed programs explore the core elements that inspire and shape the music you create. Whatever your interest, whatever your level of experience, we can help find the right class for you. Select a program that interests you to learn more about the curriculum and related courses.

Ableton Live Producer Certificate Program

Six Levels | 48 Sessions

The flagship of our music training, with every Ableton Live course offered at the school. After completing this program, you will leave with a portfolio of original music, a remix entered in an active contest, a scored commercial to widen your scope, and the Dubspot Producer’s Certificate in Ableton Live. Read more

Upcoming Start Dates

  • Aug 08 | New York
  • Aug 09 | New York
  • Aug 29 | New York
  • Aug 15 | Los Angeles
  • Aug 29 | Los Angeles
  • Aug 27 | Online


Logic Pro Producer Certificate Program

Six Levels | 48 Sessions

Master Logic Pro X with our complete program. You’ll get a comprehensive overview of the composition process in Logic and create a portfolio that includes a collection of original tracks, a remix entered in an active remix contest, a re-scored scene from a film, and sound effects and music for a video game. Read more

Upcoming Start Dates

  • Aug 02 | New York
  • Oct 03 | New York
  • Oct 16 | Online


Sound Design Komplete Program

Six Levels | 48 Sessions

Become fluent in the language of sound design and synthesis with this comprehensive program. This six-level Sound Design program uses Native Instruments’ Komplete as a platform for learning synthesis and sampling techniques. Starting with an introduction to the properties of sound, this comprehensive series of courses covers the major techniques used for contemporary sound design. Read more

Upcoming Start Dates

  • Aug 07 | New York
  • Sep 12 | New York
  • Sep 26 | New York
  • Oct 16 | Online


Mixing and Mastering Program

Three Levels | 24 Sessions

Transform rough ideas and basic compositions into dance floor bangers and sonically pleasing commercial quality masters. Learn the well-kept industry secrets of EQ, compression, panning, level balancing, reverb, and special effects. Read more

Upcoming Start Dates

  • Oct 17 | New York
  • Sep 13 | Los Angeles
  • Oct 16 | Online


Music Foundations Program

Three Levels | 24 Sessions

Unravel electronic music’s origins, build your chops, learn musical language and theory, and make and play music the way you want. Students will develop a deeper understanding of the roots and lineage of a variety of electronic and dance music genres, strengthen their keyboard skills, and learn valuable music theory, deepening their creative practice and facilitating effective collaborations with musical partners. Read more

Upcoming Start Dates

  • Oct 20 | New York
  • Oct 31 | New York
  • Sep 13 | Los Angeles
  • Aug 07 | Online
  • Oct 02 | Online


DJ Extensive Program

Six Levels | 24 Sessions

Immerse yourself in the complete art of DJing, from the fundamentals of beatmatching and mixing to using effects and programming extended club sets. Whether you’re a beginner wanting to learn fundamentals or a seasoned pro looking to take your talent to the next level, our curriculum is designed to accommodate all skill levels and styles of music. This comprehensive DJ program covers everything from basic mixing to advanced digital DJing with both Serato Scratch Live and Traktor Scratch Pro. Read more

Upcoming Start Dates

  • Aug 22 | New York
  • Aug 28 | New York
  • Sep 08 | New York


DJing with Traktor Program

Three Levels

Starting with a historical overview, students will learn the fundamental concepts of DJing via Traktor’s intuitive interface. They will then delve into the vast array of possibilities offered by this groundbreaking software, presenting their work along the way. Students will leave with finished DJ mixes, a thorough understanding of DJing with Traktor, and a solid skill set ready for further development. Read more

Upcoming Start Dates

  • Aug 07| Online
  • Oct 02 | Online


Maschine Program

Three Levels | 12 Sessions

The future of production is here. Native Instruments’ Maschine redefines the intersection of hardware and software, performance and production. With Dubspot’s Maschine program for producers and performers, you’ll go from shaking hands with this cutting-edge music platform to making full tracks and performing your music live. Read more

Upcoming Start Dates

  • Sep 12 | New York
  • Oct 16 | Online


Turntablism Extensive Program

Six Levels | 24 Sessions

Turntablism is the art of manipulating turntables like an instrument. Starting with the fundamentals of “Scratching” and “Beat Juggling,” the program will focus on proper technique, optimal practice habits, creative exploration, group work, applications, and eventually full-blown turntablist sets. Read more

Upcoming Start Dates

  • Sep 28 | New York


Visual Performance Program

Two Levels | 16 Sessions

Learn how to use a toolkit of the latest software including Vidvox VDMX and Quartz Composer. Create your own performance setup for live shows. Learn from a variety of visualists and producers who are pushing the medium in new and unexpected directions. Read more

Upcoming Start Dates

  • Aug 15 | New York


Open House in NYC: Sundays 11am | Guided Tour of LA

Ask questions. Watch demos. Test drive workstations.

Visit our New York and Los Angeles locations! Ask our Admissions Counselors in-depth questions about our programs, curriculum and philosophy. Watch live music production and DJ demos, and test drive our student workstations. If you are still trying to decide what you are looking for, stop by one of our Open Houses in NYC or schedule a tour in LA to find out more about the learning process at Dubspot. We can also help with scheduling details and payment options.

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