THIS THING RULES: Omnipulse

Welcome to a This Thing Rules edition a LONG TIME in the making. Truth is this track was done almost a year ago, but first of all, I was thinking of using it for my upcoming album, so I was holding it off. Then I got really busy with work and films and film festivals… But then a funny thing happened…

There was a contest to create a piece of music for the trailer to the excellent looking film “LFO,” and right away when I watched the trailer, I knew that this piece of music would be perfect for it. So I entered it, got a lot of great feedback, and since I’d hate to skip a review on a piece of software I received and loved, I decided to finally go back and get this thing up.

This is also a different kind of entry for This Thing Rules in that it wasn’t entirely created with just PlugIn Guru’s Omnipulse, the software I’ll be talking about today. I probably could make something only with Omnipulse… But it wouldn’t really go anywhere since the point of this package is sounds that pulsate rhythmically to help create tension and motion. As it is, you’ll notice once you listen to the track, it is a very tense piece of music, but I brought in sounds from other software to help mold it into a full track. This is also a different kind of edition of This Thing Rules because I’m embedding the track in the form of the trailer for “LFO.” I figured since it works so good in the context of the trailer, I might as well do it that way rather than a stand alone track. So here it is:

 

As you just heard… It’s a pretty tense and synth heavy track. The main two presets that I used from Omnipulse are “BPM BASS – Heavy Weight Offender” and “BPM GUITAR – 12 Stringer M.” The Bass sound creates that insane, heavy synth bass line while the Guitar sound adds a loop of tension to the track. I’m also using sounds from another of PlugInGuru’s Omnisphere Expansions, Omniverse, as well as some other sources.

While I wouldn’t use the sounds in Omnipulse alone to create a full piece of music, the presets that it does come with are absolutely essential for tense, dramatic underscore, as well as electronica music. The presets themselves are amazing as is, but they all have wildly variable results when played with the Mod Wheel… So much so that it’s seriously become my go-to for getting a score started. These sounds can provide the bed that any dark, atmospheric film needs. Then you can just build on top of it from there. Also, since they are arpeggiated based on Omnisphere’s built in Arpeggiator, they work with projects of any tempo. It couldn’t be easier to use.

The funny thing about this write-up taking so long, is that during these past months that I’ve been so busy, I was pretty much constantly using Omnipulse in everything I did! I really couldn’t recommend it more, and I really hope that they come out with a sequel. Omnipulse can be purchased at PlugInGuru.com for $30, and of course, requires a full copy of Omnipshere. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an item to cross off my to-do list that’s been sitting there for way too long…

The Past & The Future

The past few weeks have been crazy, and the future is looking awesome. Let’s start off with a recap…

“If Only Tonight I Could Sleep” won Best Music Video at the Pollygrind Film Festival where it screened twice (actually three times due to a little projector glitch haha). Seeing (and hearing) it on the big screen was amazing and something I hope to get to experience many times in the future. Also, “The Gradations of Purgatory” (which can be viewed on Youtube by clicking the link) was awarded Best Nevada Short. I scored it, and it was directed by Doug Farra, who also directed “If Only Tonight I Could Sleep” … So go Doug! We have a bunch more projects coming up together, and I always love working with him and his people at House of DON Productions.

I also got 8th place in a composing contest sponsored by music site Rekkerd.org. The idea was to create a piece of music that is inspired by an artist/band who inspired you to make music in the first place. Of course I chose The Cure, and created a track called “The Fallout.” It was a really cool contest to be a part of because all of the musicians had to vote on each other… It wasn’t just the usual popularity contest style thing you see all the time. Some of the other pieces of music were absolutely excellent, and getting 8th place was an honor. And also, the organizer said the track had a Disintegration vibe… Which if you know me, is pretty much the highest compliment anyone could ever give me, since it’s my favorite album of all time. I also won some really cool software that will probably end up being the subject of an upcoming This Thing Rules segment. You can check out “The Fallout” here:

 

In the past month I’ve also had my birthday, my girlfriend’s birthday, her grandma’s birthday (in California), and my grandma’s birthday (in New York). Plus two friends staying with me in separate weeks, Halloween (my favorite holiday), and a Community Event in the neighborhood I live in… So to say I’ve been busy is a bit of an understatement. I didn’t get to work on music as much as I’d have liked to, but now it is time to get back to work.

My second album is basically in the narrowing down phase now. I might still add another new track or two, but I am currently making my list of edits and adjustments needed to finish all the songs I’ve started. To put that in perspective… Last time I started that process, Echoes In The Dark was finished less than 2 months later. I think with the holidays and other work it might be a little longer than that… And I gotta start the promotional schedule, new music videos, and everything else that goes with the album launch… But the important thing is it is coming REALLY SOON. I’m aiming for the first few months of 2015. I love this second album so much. I’ve been listening to Echoes In The Dark and the second album back and forth a lot to make sure I really like it as much and I think I might like it even more. Oh, and it definitely has a title already. I’ll announce it once I have some artwork to go with it.

What else is happening? Well I have a bunch of film projects lined up. Just waiting on the film-makers to finish things on their end before I get started on those. I’m also submitting music for various potential opportunities and just continuing to push myself out there. I feel like I accomplished a lot this year. There are some things that didn’t quite go how I had hoped, but overall, I think it’s been a great year so far… And it’s not over yet.

Next week I’ll be posting another This Thing Rules segment with a new piece of music… Well, that’s not entirely true… If you pay really good attention to everything I do, you may have heard it before… But chances are, most of you haven’t heard it yet, so it’s basically new. I’ll get another one up ASAP too. Hoping to get two in November and two in December. Ideally, I think I’ll be ready to share a song from the second album this year too. We’ll see. Might happen. Might not…

OK… I get the feeling I might be rambling a bit haha, but you know what, I’m catching a plane soon, and like I said… It’s just been nonstop running around this past month. Once I get home, it’ll be time to get back to music. I can’t wait to get this album done. Thanks for reading.

– David

 

This Thing Rules: The Coil

Before I get started on this edition of This Thing Rules I just wanted to say sorry for taking so long to get back to this series! I had a constant string of composing work, promoting my “If Only Tonight I Could Sleep” Video and Fundraiser, and just lots of other stuff that kept me incredibly busy. I’ve got a backlog of about 6 This Thing Rules posts to finish up, but I wanted to get started getting back into it with something brand-new… The amazing new Omnisphere expansion pack The Coil by Plughugger. Let’s give the song “Fallen Angels” a listen.

The first thing you’ll notice in the track are those sinister, dark drone sounds at the beginning. That’s a preset in The Coil called “The Day After” and it’s just so… EVIL sounding haha. I love it (update: I realized just as I was getting ready to post this that it’s also used in the opening of their promo video)! The Coil is an expansion based all around one sample of electricity.  That’s right… the  people at Plughugger took one basic sample of raw electricity from a Tesla Coil and using the power of Omnisphere, transformed it into 150 new presets including atmospheres, arpeggios, pads, leads and basses. These things aren’t just overly similar sounds either… Everything is completely different and completely playable and usable.  Plughugger claims that the sounds are “set in a zone between the normal and the weird” and that’s a perfect description.

Aside from the drums, every single other track within “Fallen Angels” comes from The Coil. The bass line is a combination of a bass preset called “Distorted Menace” and a very dirty arp called “Quantum Heap.” The main echoing synth line is created with a sound called “Ambiano” which is a lot of fun to play with. I didn’t want to get too crazy on this simple demo track, but I can already tell you that I’ve used “Ambiano” for a solo-like piece on one of the songs on my next album. There’s about 4 or 5 more tracks mixed in there with more sounds from the collection as well and I could have easily continued to layer without running out of ideas.

The Coil

Is there anything missing from this collection? Not really. It’s pretty much perfect, especially for the price of $18.87 (or $12.54 if you get in before October 12th!). Please note that those US prices are roughly converted from the Euro price listing on their website. I’d love to hear these guys make a companion drum kit using electricity based sounds… Although Omnisphere wouldn’t really be the right place for it… Maybe make it for Native Instrument’s Battery or something.

If you already have Omnisphere, there’s really no reason not to pick up The Coil. The included sounds are highly usable in any kind of composition, and the price is absolutely killer.

 

 

 

This Thing Rules: BreakTweaker

Before we start this edition of This Thing Rules I just want to say thank you to everyone in the music forums who have been giving me feedback on this series. I’m really enjoying doing them and I’m glad you’re all digging it. Eventually I’m going to get into a groove and make it a weekly thing, and I’m also toying with the idea of adding some videos to the segments as well, but for now, a couple times a month, each with a new song…

This time I’m digging into probably the biggest piece of software I’ve done yet, iZotope’s brand new “is-it-a-drum-machine-or-is-it-an-effect” BreakTweaker. Co-created with electronic musician BT (who also helped design the excellent iZotope StutterEdit which I use all the time), this is a piece of software that will definitely be working its way into my regular songwriting process.

Before I get into what makes it special, let me give you a little bit of back story about me. For the past 15 years of making music, I’ve stayed away from drum machines, drum patterns, loops, breaks and drum sequencers. It’s just not the way I do things. I will occasionally add a loop into the chorus section to beef up the percussion for a couple bars, but very rarely, and even when I do, it’s only to augment the drum beat I played out on my keyboard. It’s not that I have anything against that way of doing things… The industrial music I got into this stuff because of was all done with sequencers and drum machines, and most of my favorite hip-hop beats all use breaks and loops. Maybe it’s a control freak type of thing, I don’t know, but I just like knowing I hit all the notes (even if it’s on a keyboard and not an actual drum set).

But with all that said, BreakTweaker is just different and for my purposes, worth using. It’s not just taking your kicks snares and hi-hats and making patterns, although you could certainly just use it to do that. The sequencer module is extremely powerful and easy to use. But it’s the other 2 modules, the Generator and MicroEdit Engine that set this thing apart.

BreakTweaker

 

With the Generator you have built in tools to create your own drum sounds. You can combine and tweak until you find exactly the right kind of sound for each piece of your digital kit. The built in kits are already a great place to start though, and for the purposes of my review track up above (you did listen, right?) I didn’t dig into the Generator module too much. Where I had the most fun was in the Sequencer and most improtantly, the MicroEdit Engine.

Playing with the MicroEdit Engine feels like you’re using an instrument that someone brought back from the future. iZotope says you can “manipulate audio at a molecular level” and they’re not kidding. You can take any clip from the sequencer and adjust its pitch, rhythm and texture by adjusting the easy to use knobs. You can take a normal snare drum and pretty much just destroy it… in a good way. Make it stutter, make those stutters pitch shift, transform the changes mid-change. It’s simply insane the amount of room you have to experiment. The Randomizer button adds crazy ideas to your selection which you can then learn from, figuring out how each setting actually effects your sound.

For the sample track, “Broken Glass,” I started out with two instances of BreakTweaker, each with a different but fittingly similar presets (Sin Bass & Tweak Woofer). Each preset loads an already made kit and 12 patterns, with 12 extra empty spaces to add and save your own patterns.  I used a mixture of preset patterns and my own created ones. These are spread across the keyboard so you can trigger them easily, and below the patterns are each of the 6 pieces of your drum kit individually so you can add some custom playing to the mix as well. You can also start completely from scratch creating every piece of your kit and totally new patterns. Of course since this software is mainly for drums I added some other synths into the song as well, but everything percussion you hear is from BreakTweaker.

So as you can imagine I’m absolutely recommending BreakTweaker. The drum tracks you can make with this thing are simply insane and if you even could make them without it (and that’s a big IF), it would take you hours of tweaking to do what takes seconds here. It’s a very specific kind of program and not for every kind of composer, but if you make any form of electronic or hip-hop music, you absolutely will not be disappointed. It’s currently on sale from iZotope’s website for $199 (regularly $249) or an expanded version with extra Expansion Packs for $249 (regularly $299).

 

This Thing Rules: Lounge Lizard & Ultra Analog

Welcome to another edition of This Thing Rules… I should call this one These Things Rule because I’m doubling up this time and reviewing 2 excellent pieces of software from Applied Accoustics Systems (the makers of the also excellent Chromaphone which I reviewed last year): Lounge Lizard EP-4 and Ultra Analog VA-2. As always, make sure you listen to the music sample up above. To be honest I had a little trouble coming up with a way to combine just these two into a piece of music, so I decided that this time around I’d just use them as the main instruments and allow a little extra sources to complete the song. In this case it’s the drums that didn’t come from either of these pieces of software. Everything else, however, is done with either Lounge Lizard or Ultra Analog. Also, since these are very different sound sources, I figured something kind of hip-hop would be the right way to combine them, since when it comes to hip-hop, there are kind of no rules as long as you can bob your head to it and it sounds good. I think I did a pretty good job…

As for the software itself, lets tackle them one at a time. Lounge Lizard EP-4 is kind of exactly what it sounds like… a virtual electric piano with lots of cool authentic Rhodes & Wurlitzer keys, as well as uniquely different sounding presets that provide a twist on these classic sounds. As far as sound quality goes, this thing could easily be used in a live atmosphere. The sounds are rich, and it uses a surprisingly small amount of memory, allowing for greater flexibility when you start layering the keys. And in the studio, the presets are categorized in a way that makes finding sounds very easy. Another plus is that everything loads super snappy making sound selection a quick, smooth process. Most of the track up above is made of Lounge Lizard sounds.

 

Lounge Lizard

Lounge Lizard

The other piece of software is Ultra Analog VA-2, which is a beautifully powerful software synthesizer. It offers all the features and options you would hope for in a classic synthesizer, with tons of presets and effects to play with to get the sound you’re looking for. The sounds range from keys, pads and synth leads to rhythmic percussion loops and and beautiful ambient tones. It also shares Lounge Lizard’s super fast and efficient interface. Another great advantage of these two are their options for expansion. There are many official expansion packs available for them at dirt cheap prices, and a community of members that share new presets. I actually picked up a couple of the expansions during the Xmas sales and there is some great stuff to choose from. Loading the expansions and presets is dead simple, and with this smooth interface, everything is super quick.

These are both great packages and I can definitely recommend either one to anyone looking to expand their virtual instrument arsenal. I would say though, that while Ultra Analog is a really cool synth, most likely you already have some great software synthesizers, so if you’re just going to check out one, I’d definitely make it Lounge Lizard. The quality of the more traditional sounds are excellent and the ability to dial in new versions of the classics really give it an edge. Ultra Analog and Lounge Lizard are both available for $199 each at the time of this blog post, so if you’re making music, go check them out!

– David

This Thing Rules: PLUGINGURU Omniverse 1 & 2

So my weekly This Thing Rules segments got pretty messed up by the holidays, BUT I am back with a brand new installment and a couple more already lined up. Time to get this thing back on track! This time I am writing about PlugInGuru’s Omniverse 1 & 2. What a beautiful collection of sounds! Before you continue reading, make sure you listen to the sample track above, which was created completely with sounds from these two volumes. Omniverse 1 & 2 are Expansion Packs for Spectrasonics’ Omnisphere, which is probably my favorite piece of music software, so I’m always excited to get some new presets to mess with, but it’s especially a treat when the presets are so ME. PluginGuru says that “it’s called Omniverse because of its versatility” and it’s absolutely right. You’ve got hard electronic sounds, beautiful lush strings and pads for film scores, as well as great keyboard sounds and tons of other patches. As a bonus they include special Envelope and Arpeggiator Presets for messing with any of the included or existing sounds and creating even more unique possibilities.

Omniverse

Omniverse

In the demo track above, I start off with the “Obsessiv Pluk” Lead and then begin to add multiple layers of Guitar sounds including the “Classical and High Voices” and the “Sad Baritone.” From there I include various keys, plucks, percussive elements and big beautiful pads. The overall effect is very cinematic and pretty, but with some definitely electronic edge. It’s too early to start talking about my second album, a follow-up to Echoes In The Dark, but I definitely think this track is something I could continue building off of to create a new killer song.

So there you have it. If you’re making music and you have Omnisphere, Omniverse 1 & 2 are a great collection. At $30 each, they’re an absolute steal, and PlugInGuru recently released a 3rd collection, OmniPulse which I’m dying to check out. I definitely recommend these guys and will be using their sounds in a lot of my upcoming productions.

– David

This Thing Rules: Chromaphone

Welcome to another edition of THIS THING RULES where I try out some new music software and share my thoughts. This time I’m checking out  Applied Acoustics System’s CHROMAPHONE.

Chromaphone is a really awesome piece of software that I’ve been playing with for a couple months now. I would have written this post sooner, but I was busy finishing up, releasing, and promoting my album (which you can of course check out on the album page). The track you listened to at the top was created COMPLETELY with sounds from Chromaphone. Yes the drums, the keyboards, the bass, the synths, the pads… All of it. Pretty cool, right?

I’m not going to go into my whole process of composing music in these posts (although I may let you in on that in a future blog series). This is more about the specific software and what it’s like using it. Chromaphone is really cool in that you’re essentially starting off with percussion sounds and bending and tweaking them to sound like all different kinds of instruments. Woods, metals and other materials can be adjusted in all kinds of ways for really interesting results. Of course there are tons of presets too. These little reviews aren’t meant to be big, long in depth articles, so I’d like to specifically talk about my favorite feature of Chromaphone… Coupling.

 

Chromaphone

What this does is adjust the amount that two objects would interact. In a real life example, imagine your hand and the desk. Some of the sound you hear when you slap the desk is coming from the desk, and some from your hand. Adjusting the coupling not only allows you to choose which you’re hearing more of, but how the one effects the other. You can use this to make instruments sound more realistic… Or more weird and unique.

In this specific demo track I created up above, you can hear examples of drums and percussive elements, keyboards, strings, bass and pads, all created with Chromaphone. In fact between the included presets and the awesome expansion packs available you can really have fun without even having to dig into the powerful sound creating abilities of the software. I did plenty of messing around with the sounds though in composing this piece of music and it’s a really cool process. AAS has laid out the VST software in a way that is really smart and easy. As you can see from the above screenshot, there are tons of effects and settings to play with right there on the main screen. And where in some pieces of software, you can sometimes adjust things all over the place and not really notice or understand what you’ve changed, tweaks within Chromaphone are instantly noticeable making for a remarkably hands on feel.

If you’re a composer like me, I hope you check out Chromaphone. It’s regularly $199 but they have deals pretty often (until January 15th its $99.50 or half off!). It’s a great piece of software and the possibilities with it are really endless. It definitely digs into your CPU usage, so make sure you’ve got a good, powerful machine if you’re going to give it a try… I had to freeze a couple tracks to stop some crackling that was occurring… but what do you expect with 9 instances of the software going at once. And if you’re not a composer and just enjoy the music, well I hope you enjoyed this track, and I hope you enjoyed reading a little about how it is that I do what I do.

– David

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