Your Identity as a Sound Designer: A Quick Cheatsheet for Using Plugins to Find Your Artistic Identity

It’s hard to find your identity as a guitarist. Whilst it may seem as if there are no more legends along the lines of Steve Vai or Eric Clapton, the meaning of being a guitarist is still constantly changing. Now the ease of digital sound design means everyone has access to similar gear, it’s up to the individual to use it creatively in order to convey a unique sound. Read on for how sound design can help do this and quick tips as to developing your own unique sound.

Sound Design Identity: Understand How DAWs Affect Artistic Identity

In the age of analogue, much of an artist’s sonic identity could come from their gear, whether that was a quirky, refurbished guitar, or the amps and cabinets available in the studio. The shape of the room, it’s furnishings, and the number of people present would all have affected the way the finished product turned out. On a DAW, consistent and controlled settings prevent this variability, thus the ability to create a unique sound belongs to the artist themselves. This means when using a DAW sound designers must get creative with adding the things which would come naturally with an analogue recording- layering reverbs, equalising, and mixing and mastering so their sound has just the right amount of distinctiveness – something especially important for guitarists where so much is reliant on tone and feeling to get the musical message across.

Sound Design Identity: Learn From Your Idols

How did your favourite producers, sound designers, or guitarists get to where they are today? None of them would have been perfect from the get go. What separates them from the thousands of guitarists who give up is the fact that they not only continued trying but that they fine-tuned and adapted their creative processes to avoid ever making the same mistakes twice.

As sound designers- whether you have a small bedroom set up and are just starting out or a personal studio and you may be wishing to reinvent your sound, using plugins to experiment with adding and subtracting things from your sound is one way of ensuring all your tracks are unique and carry that distinctive fingerprint which sets them out as yours and yours alone.

Sound Design Identity: Use Reference Tracks

Reference tracks are a heavy part of the production process, but for any sound designer there is always the risk of sounding too much like your inspirations. It can be frustrating when you don’t have access to the same gear as them and you may spend your time in the studio trying to find that perfect sound. The important thing to realise is that any alternatives you choose will mark you out as separate from your influences and therefore give you more of a creative edge. As a result, embracing differences and realising it’s impossible to sound exactly like your idols is one of the best ways forward – it can separate you from the hundreds of other guitarists who get stuck at this stage. Reference tracks are just that – references, and expecting your work to sound exactly like them limits your creative possibilities. Whether a producer or sound designer yourself – or a guitarist working with a team of other creatives – understanding this can be one of the most freeing parts of developing a creative identity.  

Sound Design Identity: Repurpose Plugins and Sounds

Default plugins on DAWs such as Logic are often geared towards some of the most crowd pleasing and popular sounds. This means harking back to the heyday of guitar with rock and hard rock oriented amps which are versatile enough to still be used in modern genres such as indie rock. But what if you want something different? Before shelling out on specialist gear to sound just like your influences, see if repurposing the default plugins on your DAW can achieve similar sounds at a fraction of the price and whilst simultaneously giving your music a distinctive edge. That metal plugin you bought on a whim and have now forgotten about as your band changed direction? Some of the reverb could sound great for one of your darker, moodier tracks, even if it doesn’t strictly fit into the genre.

Think Outside of the Boundaries of Genre

Out of the wealth of plugins available, many are often geared towards specific genres, especially in niches known to sell consistently such as blues. However, these genre labels need not limit you if you truly want to break boundaries a bit. If you’re a rock guitarist, why not use an indie style reverb for a ballad? Or taking that same reverb heavy noise of underground and indie music and using it for experimental or noise music? By looking at your own genre through the eyes of another, you can get a more accurate picture of where you stand within wider sound design and make creative movies which pinpoint your sound yet keep it familiar enough that it can draw in new listeners.

Know What You Need

There is a lot of advice out there on the internet and ultimately every sound designer ha their own way of working. If you haven’t yet found yours, it can be hard to tell what’s relevant. Knowing what you need can bring exponential growth in both your artistic and technical development. Are you a bedroom producer who simply wants some decent reverb to make those low key, soft guitars sound more emotional? Or are you knee deep in technical shred guitar recordings and are looking to ensure every note of a guitar solo shines through? By focusing on what you love, it’s easier to find what you need- and find plugins which really work for you in the process.

Overall, these are just some of the ways in which the process of sound design can help you define a distinctive identity as an artist. By seeing your artistic identity reflected in the plugins you use, waveforms you see, and creative choices which you make, you can further hone and develop your sense of yourself as a musician so that all your work has your own distinctive stamp on it – a compilation of the gear you use and the way you use it in a pattern completely unique to you.

Budget Sound Design Guide: Free Plugins and Alternative DAW Options for All Levels

They biggest myth in sound design is the idea that defining your own sound costs the earth. Not able to afford the most expensive plugins? Want something other than Logic X Pro? Read on for some hidden gems – completely free plugins which are versatile enough to shake up the way you think about sound whilst still being adaptable to most genres.

Budget Sound Design Tool: Peavey Revalver 4

Peavey is one of the oldest and most established amp brands but they have used their past successes as a springboard for new and versatile products. Peavey Revalver 4 is just one example of this and how fine attention to detail pays off to create stellar sound design for absolutely free!

With instrument modelling at the input and tone matching at the output as a result of its finely configured audio cloning technology, the Peavey Revalver 4 is completely true to life and takes its name from valve amplifiers, renowned for giving a deep and rich tone bringing human warmth and sonic touch to your recordings.

Revalver 4 also allows third party plugins, pedals, and VSTs to be added, meaning it is without a doubt one of the more flexible free plugins you can find. Not only does the Revalver 4 meet the needs of audiophiles everywhere with its commitment to mimicking the natural tone of classic Peavey gear. While the amp store provides paid additions, at its basic level, tone cloning, independent mic placement, and the ability to control features by MIDI mean it still has much to offer.

Revalver 4 is available for free download at the following link and works for both Windows and OSX.

https://revalver.peavey.com

Budget Sound Design Tool: Chameleon by Guitar ML

It’s only occasionally you find such a hidden gem in the world of sound design. Whilst most plugin designers seek a competitive edge within the market, honing their skills so they can become the best at what they do, occasionally a designer breaks outside the mould to create something which really has a unique selling point. For a free plug in – and for what it does – Chameleon by Guitar ML is absolutely one of these.

Over the course of a song, the sound created by a guitar is in a state of constant motion, and this is responsible for much of the dynamism of both live music and analogue recordings. Chameleon by Guitar ML has gone one step further than most plugin designers, using artificial intelligence and machine learning to create a plugin which models three real world samples to create a virtual amp head. This is therefore the ideal plugin for those looking to develop an ear for sonic nuance, with less but richer and deeper options and extreme amounts of control.

Chameleon is available forWindows 7 and up, Mac 10.11 and up, as well as Linux. More information can be found on their website.

https://guitarml.com

Budget Sound Design Tool: Valhalla Supermassive

Valhalla Supermassive is all about reverb, reverb, and more reverb. Named after interstellar phenomena, it’s different settings all conjure up ethereal, spacey sounds which bring a dramatic edge to your sound design.

Is it worth it? Absolutely. For free, there is no reason not to give this plugin a try. Valhalla Supermassive has a clean interface and easy to use controls – perfect for anyone who wants to shake things up without learning too many new skills. Easy to master, it can be used both in moderation to add something subtle or to go all out and drown your guitar in dreamlike, deep space sounds ready to redefine anything from shoegaze to doom metal.

One of the biggest pros of this plugin is the neutrality of the sounds in the first place – they are bold and adaptable to any genre – a stellar plugin at zero cost and with plenty of features to explore.

It’s latest version (1.5.0) is available for both Mac and Windows computers with Intel and Arm features also available for Apple M1. This update sees VST fixes for Studio One and FL Studio as well.

https://valhalladsp.com/shop/reverb/valhalla-supermassive/

Logic Pro X’s Amp/Pedalboard designer

It is extremely easy to overlook the options which are right there at our fingertips. Most of us graduate from Garageband to Logic X Pro or an alternative DAW very, very early on in our musical careers, often skipping it entirely.

However, for anyone with a Mac, Garageband is a worthwhile feature to investigate because of its availability alone – plus the achievement of working creatively with some of the most default plugins. Logic’s Amp/Pedalboard designer may not have the reviews, renown, finesse, or attention of the rest of what is out there, it’s important not to overlook what it has to offer. The humble pedalboard designer contains amps styled after those by Mesa, Orange, Vox, Marshall, and Fender, plus rare boutique cabinets, seven microphone options, and the ability to reposition the mic at will. Though not as specialist as some other plugins on the market, these generalist options mean it’s literally up to you how you use them – pushing your creativity to new heights.  

Naturally, Pedalboard Designer has been developed for IOS, and comes with Logic, though can be accessed freely on Garageband if you wish to test it before downloading Logic itself.

Reaper: An Alternative, Budget DAW as Worthwhile as Logic

With three hidden-gem, free plugins, and an unconventional option on the list, what about your DAW itself in terms of budget gear? Whilst most producers and sound designers choose to work on macs and use Logic or other popular DAWs such as Ableton, Reaper is an overlooked budget DAW which has a 60 day free trial period and after that costs only $60 for a discounted licence. Whilst commercial licences cost more – at $225 – Reaper is very easy to begin with at a low cost and offers plenty of freedom for deciding whether it is for you or not.

At a cheaper price, Reaper has a pretty mind-boggling range of VSTs and plugins. It’s simplicity and the fact it doesn’t cost the earth makes it great for sound designers on a budget who are happy stretching themselves to adapt to a new piece of software.

https://www.reaper.fm/download.php

Reaper is adaptable, supporting Linux with Intel and Arm, MacOs 10.5-12, and Windows from Windows XP to Windows 11 as well as working with WINE.

These are just some of the budget friendly options on the market, however, with them it is entirely possible to create a sound design setup for a very small amount – one which, when you get to know it, is as useful as any at a higher price or with seemingly more sophisticated gear.

Six Powerful Tips to Give a Compelling Presentation

Giving a stellar presentation entails the investment of time, effort, and practice. After all, not everyone has the right skills to present themselves in public. So if you’ve been looking for the best tips to give a good presentation, we’re glad to have you here.

In this article, we will shed light on some of the most important tips that will help you pitch your project in the best way possible. And if you need help with making your assignment stand out, our recommendations will impact your final decision. Continue reading this article till the end:

✔   Rehearse What You Have to Say

As a rule of thumb, beginning with the rehearsal of what you plan to say will allow you to know how your final presentation will unfold. Basically, this part is divided into two major steps. If you prepare yourself emotionally and mentally, it will help you uplift your confidence. Plus, these two tips are a good way to become a better speaker in public.

Notice we have recommended you memorize your presentation. But, we have asked you to master the art of telling a story. The difference is, within reach is, you have to memorize your presentation. However, when you open up about the story, you have to focus on engaging the audience with your tone. You’ll be better off if you begin with jotting down an outline of the slides before working on the entire presentation.

✔   Prepare Yourself, Technically, Mentally and Emotionally

It’s like, you’ve already gone through tons of presentations in school but speaking to a receptive audience in university or at work is a different experience. But let’s be honest about one thing, TED talks are much different. But why? Well, they are the accounts of the speaker’s personal experiences with life, so they are compelled to speak with utmost confidence.

Here, we are preparing to focus on multiple presentations, various notes, and taking high stakes. So preparing yourself technically and emotionally for every segment of this work will be a good idea. As for the technical preparation, you are aware that the order of the slides is important. And, you wouldn’t want to get embarrassed in front of the crowd with your slides getting stuck.

As for emotional preparation, focusing on interacting with the crowd and solving their issues is important since they will be influenced by what you say.

✔   Be Confident

Confidence is the only key to nailing any performance in public. Whether it’s a presentation or singing in front of a lot of people, confidence can easily make you stand out. Plus, if you exercise public speaking in front of the mirror, acquiring more confidence will be easier.

Let’s get it straight, the moment you lose your confidence or embark with a shaky personality, the audience will lose interest in talking to you. Stand firm, look into the mirror and see how you can manipulate yourself in the mirror.

However, if you have reservations about being vocal with confidence, you can try some vocal exercises, as they smoothen your tone. And, when you feel good about your voice, standing out in the presentation won’t be difficult. Today, confidence has become a key to cementing a strong reputation for yourself in the corporate world and in any academic institution. There is a reason why confidence is considered the key to success.

✔   Start Strong

The day of your presentation is here, and it’s your time to shine! Starting off with compelling punch lines, quotes, or a decent slide presentation will be a good idea. And, not to forget, the first few seconds of the presentation will have a strong impact on the audience. Therefore, starting strong is a major factor that determines the overall success of your presentation.

Most of the time, starting weak will never have a compelling impact on the audience. You can say leverage the advantage of starting strong.

Plus, your body language must be sturdy since the audience notices it. As explained earlier, starting off with a shaky body or not so confident attitude will make it hard to win the audience’s interest. Take a few deep breaths before starting off since it will help you declutter your mind.

No wonder, keeping yourself physically fit will help you stand concrete on your feet when speaking publicly to a lot of people. So now is the best time to practise deep breathing, as it will declutter your mind.

✔   Use Props If Necessary

Are you wondering about starting off with a good presentation using props?

Here, you need to think creatively. Using props is a good way to prepare for any presentation. Using props doesn’t only provide you with enough support but allows emotional support to the speaker.

Even using a small prop such as a book can help the audience understand the crux of the discussion. And, if you bring a small prop In the presentation room, it will only be more damaging for everyone.

With props, you don’t need to use the slides at all. To draw inspiration, you can go through the TED talks to know how they benefit you. A prop Is also acknowledged as a confidence tool since it can take your presentation skills to the next level.

✔   Keep Everything Short and Precise

The audience will start losing interest after a couple of minutes post your presentation. So, keeping everything short and precise will be a good way to make the most out of the situation.

Simply put, the attention span of the modern audience is a few seconds. Therefore, you have very little time to win their trust.

On the contrary, providing the audience with too much information and slides will only leave them dumbfounded at the end of the day.

We recommend you divide the paragraph with bullets, numbers, and clear headings. Plus, the use of infographics shouldn’t be avoided. Thus, the presentation can be inclusive of pictures, videos, audio recording, flow charts, diagrams, and whatever makes it convenient for the viewer to perceive the slides.

TrainYourEars – GREAT Music ear training software – Honest Review

What is Train Your Ears?

Train Your Ears is a revolutionary new Music ear training software tool for fine-tuning your ears and mind to the frequencies of different bandwidths, thereby showing you the differences between different sounds at a technical level as well as comparing before and after a bandwidth is changed. A fantastic product for both beginners and seasoned musicians alike, it goes into the granular details of equalisation, bringing a new perspective to a tool all music producers have encountered yet which is so commonplace that it normally becomes an accepted part of production. Train Your Ears is an incomparable way for all musicians to think more deeply about EQ – and in turn about their own music.

Why purchase this music ear training software?

Outside of simply requesting the user to match EQ bands with examples of noise which has been cut or boosted, this music ear training software allows you to move bands around to your liking and experiment with the interface to fine tune your understanding of how it works. In fact, Train Your Ears lets you literally take sound apart and reconstruct it – simply by listening to the different frequencies which resonate within it. So far, no other product comes close to giving the user this amount of freedom to experiment with sound – Train Your Ears is virtually unparalleled in giving musicians a way to EQ which matches their composition process.

When purchasing a DAW, there are many options for an EQ plugin which works for you. We have just recently reviewed probably the best new EQ software right now – Eventide Split EQ, read the review here. However, all of these tend to leave the user alone in terms of working out how to use them. In fact, they presume a pre-existing knowledge of the EQ process. Train Your Ears is therefore totally novel in letting artists combine it with any EQ plugin they wish to show you not just how the technology itself works but how noise itself interacts, creating real effects on the sounds of a song.

How to use the Train Your Ears music ear training software?

Too many articles on the internet attempt to teach EQ and fail because they are explaining a very nuanced concept in words – and yet it is one which is much better shown than told.

Train Your Ears does away with all the unnecessary written details and goes straight into showing you the difference between two versions of the exact same piece of music – one with EQ and one without. A typical practice session has seven bands which correspond to the division of EQ into bandwidths on a typical DAW such as Logic or Ableton.

It is very important for music ear training software products to provide the user with as much interaction as possible.

After a sample is played, it encourages you to match the audio with the corresponding bandwidth change, determining by how much it has been boosted or cut. Checking afterwards will then confirm how accurate your ear is.

The training session will then ask you to change the EQ’d signal so that once again it manages to sound the same as the original, and you are able to check afterwards to see if it is correct. The product also contains a monitor which allows you to see the exact level in decibels by which the signal has been boosted or cut, allowing a precise measurement of the amount of sound.

You can check the price for this product on the Train Your Ears website, by clicking here.

Once you install the product, be sure to check their own documentation and exercises by clicking here.

Here is an example assignment for Train Your Ears

Personal Review

I personally found that the software easily translated from a digital product to actual, tangible results which I was able to apply to my own music. At first, I was not able to hear the difference between the subtleties of different bandwidths and the smaller, technical divisions music falls into such as bass and sub-bass, but with even a small amount of time spent listening to Train Your Ears, I found myself becoming more finely attuned, simply because I had reference points.

By allowing the usage of songs which are already familiar, the music ear training software product manages to hold attention and makes the process of getting deep into some of the most subtle and technical aspects of music much easier. It translates terminology which is understandable first and foremost to those who are intimately familiar with the equipment into something manageable for most if not all musicians to turn into a fantastic reference for their own production skills.

It could be assumed that the applicability of this technology heavily depends on the style of music you are producing. Some genres, such as heavy metal, have very specific, niche methods of production which do not necessarily align to the customary methods of EQ’ing. Therefore, for those working in these genres, one key point for Train Your Ears would be if it is adaptable to managing other methods of working. Personally, I found the interface had a beautiful cleanliness and simplicity – which means it is flexible enough that in the hands of someone familiar with their genre, it can be adapted to suit any kind of music.

Pointing out the different bandwidths numerologically also means that there is a tangible, logical, concrete result for any EQ changes. EQ changes are not just an abstract wall of sound – instead they are given as precise numerical data so you can see exactly which bandwidth has been changed and where – as well as keeping track of multiple boosts and cuts.

You can check the price for this product on the Train Your Ears website, by clicking here.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Train Your Ears is an indispensable way to get more in depth and understand the full picture of how EQ works before applying it to your own music. Any musician can benefit from it – whether novices or pros, it shows the real vibrations and elements which make up any production. Not only this, it does this in the abstract whilst also directly linking the sound you hear to measurable values.

In this way, it is a really valuable piece of kit – and most importantly gives you a way to change in real time an equalised piece of music to make it match the original again – demonstrating how much EQ’ing can change the sound of a song but also how, with the right skills, it is possible to manipulate it at multiple levels to reach a broader and more nuanced picture of your production, therefore giving the artist more freedom.

DIGITAL and ANALOG – How you can use ANALOG effects with DIGITAL MUSIC production

While analog seems like a pretty much forgotten domain, digital music production using DAWs such as Logic, Reason, and Ableton, has become the norm in the modern music industry. With so many instruments, FX, and VSTs in one place, they seemingly have everything a modern musician needs. Yet to expand the sound of your music you may want to combine digital and analogue sounds. 

Choose your DAW

All round BEST DAW: Logic

Logic is by no means the only DAW on the market yet is the first option which many musicians jump to. Nevertheless, to combine digital with analogue it isn’t always the best option. Logic has such as wide range of different VSTs, plugins, FX, and ways to mix and master your music – but producing everything similarly can starve your creativity. There is no true BEST when checking out DAW options, but Logic is a great all-rounder that can do everything you need.

Check out these other DAWs for alternative options, if you are on a budget or if you are still learning digital music production: 

Budget friendly DAW: Reaper  

Reaper is basic, but this can be exploited by the savvy musician to further creativity. Due to not using much power, it can be modified with many of your own plugins or external equipment like external FX plugins for a low cost and streamlined way of working.

Great for beginners: Ableton

Meanwhile, Ableton live is a great way of bringing analogue gear into digital music production. By pushing the buttons on the live pads, even with entirely digital sounds, layering them can free up your creativity and create thicker, richer, and more nuanced sound. Loading both digital and analogue sounds, which can be run through FX pedals for a richer warmer sound or combined with digital instruments like synths.

Digital and Analog Music Gear: What’s on the Market? 

Using electric guitar and pedals, or stomp boxes, may not be immediately obvious in electronic music but can be done to great effect with low key guitar and heavy usage of FX making the humble Fender Strat or Telecaster sound otherworldly and unique, generating sounds which could not be achieved with digital FX or production but which you would not necessarily know were analog. For the rest of the article, we will only focus on pedals, leaving analog synthesisers and other instruments to a separate one.

Of course, if you want some more in-depth information you can check the Music Hardware section here on idesignsound and also the “ANALOG” tag.

Guitar Pedals

I have experimented with combining analogue stompboxes and other FX pedals with digital production, especially with digital drum patterns. They work together very well when combined with electric guitar as this can be produced in such a way that its rich, raw analogue sounds are modulated and toned down to combine with slick electronic synths and drumbeats.

They can also change the sound of your guitar. So that it is less obviously a six-stringed electric or acoustic, making it ambiguous and therefore creating all sorts of fantastic and ethereal sounds. This can open up more options than may even have been on your DAW in the first place. It’s a reminder that sounds do not just come from our computers and online but that the world around us can be a constant source of inspiration.

Music producers usually group the pedals into different circuits on a Pedalboard

Best analog stompboxes for combining with digital music production:

Naturally there are loads of different stompboxes to choose from on the market, even within any one category such as fuzz or wah pedals. These are only a few of the possible options out there and are simply a good place to start.

Behringer

Behringer pedals are relatively cheap and are great pedals for beginners. There are many different kinds and they can easily be combined with your existing digital gear due to the fact that their controls are very similar to those which exist on DAWs such as logic. A basic Behringer distortion pedal can be used with Logic to bring some authentic, raw sounding distortion to low key electric guitars for bedroom pop or indie music.

EVH Phase 90

Phaser pedals are a great way of introducing weird sounds to your electronic music. Synths and other forms of sound modulation are great for creating tense and exciting electronic beats but missing out on the variety of other sounds out in the analogue world would be a mistake.

Phaser pedals are generally used with electric guitar for classic rock and roll sounds, especially in the 80s. With the current focus on retro and the vinyl revival, why not bring them to the present era by recording phased guitar and using it as a sample or synth patch for high-powered electropop.

Wah Pedals

Like the phaser, it may not occur to you to use retro sounding pedals in modern electronic music. Nevertheless, with enough production, a fuzz pedal or wah pedal can be used to add layers of depth to your electronic music.

With digital, bedroom-based production one thing which is lost is the warmth and depth of tone of analogue production. There is always a fine balance between creating depth or interesting sounds and keeping the crispness which makes electronic music so listenable.

A wah pedal can be used to create a wall of sound effect which is great for combining with mixed vocals and synth sounds for big choruses. Dunlop pedals are a great middle of the road brand for this as for a pedal you may use quite a lot but which needs to stand up to the wear and tear of production, they are not too expensive but still provide great sound. Try the cry baby pedal for big noises to mix down and combine with synths and electronic drums.

We also recommend you check out our article on the BEST DELAY pedals by clicking here.

Ways to Combine ANALOG and DIGITAL MUSIC workflows

Dry Recording

It isn’t every guitarist’s first preference to record guitars dry into their interface and DAW, but for electronic musicians who are not bound by the conventions of rock history, it is a way to get subtle and low-key electric guitar sounds into otherwise electronic songs and have them still work, without sounding overpowering or like two completely disparate genres have been mashed together.

Try it and then layer FX to your choice over the top of them. The dry base can give you more options for creativity as you add different musical textures and ingredients.

Recording and then adding FX

Recording wet sounds such as by miking up amps can result in a rich sound which is not always desirable in electronic music as it can drown out the other elements. However, if you choose to record this way, good, pro level EQ plugins can allow you to mix to your liking and have the best of both worlds – the multiple tones and the appeal of real instruments, as well as the cleanness of electronic sound and the ability to manipulate sound to your liking to create bigger, punchier dynamics like pulsing EDM drums for a danceable pop song or the hazy atmosphere of dreamy bedroom pop by adding reverb and delay.

Digital and Analog Music – Conclusions

Combining analogue and digital sounds is as simple as using your gear creatively and making sure that you understand the contexts in which different sounds are used.

Black Friday 2021 DEALS: 50% OFF Soundcloud Pro Unlimited

The Black Friday 2021 and Holiday Season 2021 sales are going insane right now. Soundcloud is the latest to join in and we will just keep this short: They are offering a whopping 50% discount off their Pro Unlimited package.

We know you wanted the Soundcloud Pro Badge for long, but at the usual rate some would find it just too expensive for what it offers. Well this is your lucky week! The offer ends on the 21st of November so you better hurry-up and click here to get 50% off!

It is worth noting that this offer is limited to first-time subscribers and to users returning to the service (last subscribed 14 November 2021 or earlyer)

If you like this Soundcloud Black Friday 2021 DISCOUNT, we recommend you always and regularly check out our category of Deals by clicking here – we regularly keep you updated with the best offers the market has to offer.

The Soundcloud Pro Unlimited package allows you to:

  • Unlock unlimited upload time (individual file size limitation is 4GB, individual track time limitation is 6 hours and 45 minutes)
  • Get paid fairly for your plays
  • Access advanced audience insights
  • Replace your track without losing its stats
  • Pin your favorite tracks

Plus, you get the benefits of the platform (included in the free package and in “Repost”:

  • Upload up to 3 hours of your work
  • Get lossless HD storage
  • Distribute tracks to all major music services
  • Extend your reach with promotional tools
  • Get premium services to help you get paid
  • Split payments with your collaborators

You can access this one time promotion until the 21st of November by clicking this link.

Happy deal-hunting!

Best portable electronic music studio gear – for production and live acts [2022]

Hello and welcome to our round-up of the best portable music studio gear in 2022, for producing electronic music on the go and also for live music shows. This list is by all means non-final, and will get updated when the market provides us studio-heads with more options. So if you want to go on the road, you found a nice spot that gives you inspiration or even if you don’t have a permanent place to stay, this one is for you.

Below you will find only the greatest portable music production equipment, we bring you the best of the best and the second offer, so don’t expect an all inclusive 15-item list, just our own selection.

Best portable electronic music studio mixer: 1010music blue box (very) compact studio mixer

This one is a no-brainer basically. It is the most compact portable digital audio mixer in existence, and had a very good reception when it was introduced back in 2019. While the 1010music blackbox studio – compact sampling and mixing device does not have the hands on control of a traditional mixer, it packs in all the features.

1010music bluebox provides 6 stereo 3.5 mm TRS inputs. Of course you are not going to get your studio-grade 16, 24 or 32 input mixing console, but if you are travelling, you will not be doing so with your full collection of synths to actually plug in to 24 audio channels. Yes you cannot do the smooth fader movements, often 3-4 at one time, but again going portable is all about compromises.

So yes, there is menu-diving and yes you rely on a touch screen for most of your work with this, but the size in unbeatable and the price is extremely good too. You can record everything on one or more micro-sd cards which is also a very nice feature as it can completely remove your laptop from your portable setup if this is what you want. If you are travelling on a plane and you are limited in weight of your luggage, it is excellent.

It also has two outputs plus headphones, so there is the option to have some outboard processing as well, as it has the option to create bus style routing. Overall, it can be the centre of you portable music studio or live act setup as it also comes equipped with MIDI I/O, a four-band EQ for each channel,

The Bluebox mixer supports USB power so it most definitely can run off an USB power bank, just make sure you get a name-brand one as the cheaper alternatives are not that stable and may end up frying your gear or just cutting the power without saving your work.

For live acts, it might not be the best weapon that you have as it lacks tactile speed of a normal mixing board. This one is more of a set-and-forget device, so you have to be aware of it’s shortcomings.

You can buy the 1010music bluebox mixer on Amazon right here.

Yamaha MG06x 6-Input Compact Stereo Mixer with Effects

This portable music studio mixer is more for the old-school types that want to have a more hands on approach, and prefer to trade off some space for this (obviously). This Yamaha mixer does not have a screen, but it does have two microphone XLR connections with phantom power, plus two stereo/four mono inputs. It does not have the ability to record on external media, but it offers a metal rugged chassis and you can just use what recording device you can get including a sound card and a laptop; maybe take them from your fixed studio?

Yes while it has it’s drawbacks, it still boosts an extra compact layout and has some rather good built-in effects, two sets of (identical) outputs, phone outputs and high pass filter option on the inputs (to filter out the low 80hz frequencies). While 1010music are a newcomer to the game, Yamaha has been building studio gear for a long time, and knows its way around mixing equipment.

The inputs of the Yamaha MG06x are studio grade and other than the effects, the sound processing is fully analog. It is also good for the money you pay for it, and weight in at just about 2 pounds, it will fit into your bag without problems. Just don’t expect to run this thing off batteries, it will only work with mains level power.

You can buy the Yamaha MG06x 6-input portable music studio mixer on Amazon right here.

Best portable electronic music studio sampler: 1010music black box (very) compact sampling studio

Again a piece of studio gear from 1010music, who specialises in very portable equipment. The blackbox is a very interesting sampler with extra features. It has a touchscreen that is both bright and generous (given the full unit size).

Again, the purpose is mostly to replace your computer as it features an arranger and song builder completely out of your samples, but you can also use it to capture performances on your $20.000+ synths that never leave the studio and just jam with what you recorded when out and about.

For that purpose it gets the job done with a bit of creativity to spare thanks to the internal effects and presets.. The 1010music blackbox also supports an SD card like the blue box and takes in both mono and stereo samples at 16, 24 and even 32bit. It has a 24 bit DAC so your recordings from the analog world will sound best.

Just like the Bluebox portable music studio mixer, the Blackbox sampler can run off an USB power bank, just make sure you get a good one that provides a stable voltage.

As i/o connectivity goes, you can put one stereo channel in and get three stereo channels out but don’t forget that you can internally mix these analog signals with the samples that are run internally (16 channels). It also supports 16-note polyphony and USB and TRS midi (you will need an adapter if you want to MIDI interface with other traditional 5-pin sockets).

So this portable music studio piece of equipment seems to tick all the boxes, but what it does not have is hands on approach. So while it is good for production, in a live show you might not really want this as it takes a bit of time to do significant changes to your sound and also because of the touchscreen interface, the control might be a bit wonky.

Still we think it has it’s place arround gear-heads and you can buy the 1010music Blackbox sampling studio it by clicking here.

Elektron Model:Samples portable music studio sampler

While the previous sampler is considered by us the best, this is mostly because of the portability factor and also because most people use samplers more as sample players, and just changing the sample recorded from time to time without serious editing in real time.

However, for those that want more control and are willing to sacrifice a bit of portability, there is the Elektron Model:Samples.

Yes we are huge Elektron fans here at idesignsound. These Swedish guys nailed it with their grooveboxes, their workflow is fun and their specialty is flexibility. With the exception of the mixer and effect category, Elektron are present with offerings on all portable music studio gear types presented in this article

The Elektron Model:Samples is considered a very entry-level way of getting familiar with the way that this company handles it’s workflow. Everyone will tell you that they have a bit of a learning curve and that they see things a bit differently. Some will even say that they tend to make user experiences that are overly complex, even for the most trivial of tasks. But we tend to disagree, as all things that they do, they do for flexibility and power.

It is clear to us that with the Model:Samples they tried a bit of simplification. They offer a lot of one-function-per-knob controls which is very rare these days, especially in compact gear. They seem to create a lot of space between these knobs so they are perfectly suited for live performances where you don’t really get great lighting and you may twist the wrong knob if the controls are very close to each other.

The features are great on this product, and we would like to firstly point out the sequencer. Yes, Elektron have probably the best and most powerful sequencing options in the game and have made this their most important trademark. You can record live, you can program changes of parameters in each step, you can have odd sequencing times and you can have probabilities and micro-timing settings too. This is basically standard for this company, and the Model:Samples makes no exception. Then, you have the six velocity sensitive pads to get finger drumming, the retrigger and the stereo effects, all very useful.

While the sampling and sound engine is limited, this is to be expected as the company offers more products with a higher price tag and better sampling features. Let’s remember that this is an entry level product and that sampling is mostly just sample playback.

You can buy the Elektron Model:Samples portable music studio sampler from Amazon by clicking on this link.

Best portable electronic music studio polyphonic synth: Elektron Analog4

Ok, now we get deep and dirty with the Elektron offerings. While the previous product we discussed, the Model:Samples was considered an over-simplification, the Analog4 ticks all the boxes of the Elektron not-so-beginner-friendly way. The Analog4 is an excellent sounding and extremely versatile synth. Most people swear by it in every live show, although some consider the oscillators and sound engine to be a little thin. We personally disagree, and we have alywas enjoyed the sound that you can get with an Analog4.

This is mostly because of the complex modulation routings possible with it (basically you can modulate every parameters of the synth) and the waveshaping possibilities (all oscillator wave types can have the pulse wave modulated). There is a very interesting trapezoid wave type, there is partial oscillator sync, there are a lot of envelope shapes to choose from and there is AM. The new MK2 version of the Elektron Analog4 has a redesigned outer shell, it looks very pretty but if you want extreme compactness, you should look for a used MK1 as they have the classic rectangle groovebox shape profile.

The 4 in Analog4 stands for the separate synth channels that this thing can output. This is called multi-timbrality. What this means is that while you are buying one single unit, it is capable of creating four individual and distinct sounds that can have their own sequences and their own modulations (albeit these four distinct channels will be monophonic meaning you can only play one note at a time)

If you don’y want four mono channels but actually need some polyphony, this thing can switch to four-note polyphonic play (so you can do chords with it). The voice routing is extremely flexible and you can have eveything in between (two mono channels, one 2-note poly) including four note unison.

The sequencer on the Analog4 is state of the art, with every possible creative trick at your disposal. There is a lot spoken about the Elektron sequencer, it being an entire subject on its own, so it is important that you actually research this if you plan on buying this product. What is important to say si that with the most recent patches applied, you can even send the sequencer notes via MIDI to other gear and have the Analog4 as a midi brain, sending notes to the other compact equipment that does not have a means of inputting notes.

There are three stereo effects on board this beast, and there are also two audio inputs so you can use these effects for your other sound generators. The delay shines and you can sync it via MIDI too. Speaking of audio inputs, the Analog4 can even work as a sound card via USB, getting two mono channels of sound in your computer or getting two mono channels of sound from your computer in the analog realm. The converters on this are 48khz-24bit.

You can buy the Elektron Analog4 MK2 from this link.

Oh, and if the Analog4 is up to your taste but not your budget, you can also check the Elektron Digitone – not analog, more compact, more cheap. We will write a review soon!

Moog Minitaur portable monophonic synth

So for those of you that were a bit intimidated by the Analog 4, there is a much more streamlined option: the Moog Minitaur.

Sure, the first thing you will loose is features like a sequencer, polyphony, midi output, sound card features, modulation matrix, pulse width modulation, FM/AM modulation. Now that we got that out of our heads, the Minitaur is the easy way into the Moog Sound. And boy what a sound that is. if you are into bass-heavy music, you can’t go wrong with it. They even call it a “bass” synthesiser, but that is mostly because of the limited feature set.

What you actually get is a two oscillator one lfo synth. The wave shapes are limited; pulse or triangle and there is no way of modulating anything other than the pitch and filter. You do get two ADR/ADS envelopes, glide/portamento and an audio in for either plugging in external gear through the filter and envelopes or (more commonly) creating a feedback loop to thicken the sound.

Although by using a computer and the control VST you will get some added features including a preset management library, in a portable setup that can or can not be achieved. It all depends if you use a computer or not.

Although the computer brings in more flexibility (and midi – USB), we still think that the Minitaur is made to be tweaked-upon. The sound is lush and the filter is what you expect from a Moog.

You can buy the Moog Minitaur here.

There are some new offerings from 1010music but since we did not get to play with them yet, we cannot state our oppinions. But they are compact and are synths, so they get the mention:

1010music fireball – wavetable synth

1010music lemondrop – granular synth

Best portable electronic music studio drum machine: Elektron Analog Rytm

As we said, we are big Elektron fans. Elektron Analog Rytm is made to be paired with the Analog4 and is Elektron’s take on drum machine, and also a successor to the highly sought-after digital drum machine from the previous generation: the Elektron Machinedrum.

What you get with the Analog Rytm is: basically everything.

You want to do finger drumming like on the MPC – you got it!

You want to use samples – you got it!

You want analog drums – you got it!

You want to modulate as much as possible – you got it!

You want to control other gear with the sequencer and midi – you got it!

You want to output individual tracks – you got it!

You want to process external sounds in each of the total eight tracks – you got it!

Coming it with it’s distinctive sequecing power, individual step settings (p-locks) and all the workflow improvements that this company is known for, the Analog Rytm is an eight-track monster packed in a very compact format.

The sounds it’s analog engine make are world class, you can hear it in most modern productions and if you still don’t like them, you can switch to your own samples without issues. You can even mix both in a single drum kit.

Drum machines are, in our honest oppinion more simpler than synths, so there is not much we can cover about them, the sounds you can either love or hate but the workflow, once you get used to it, will raise your standards for life.

You can buy the Elektron Analog Rytm here.

If you would rather have something even more compact and more affordable than the Rytm, while still keeping true to the Elektron workflow, you should check out the Elektron Digitakt.

MFB-522 portable drum machine

Yes this is a classic and yes this is discontinued for a long time. Yes this is an 808-clone. But it is by far one of the most compact drum machines ever.

While really very simple and very hard to use, especially if you have big fingers, we still felt the need to mention this tiny piece of 100% analog gear. We just love it.

Yes we love it’s weight and it’s color scheme. We love that it has four outputs given it’s size and that you can really get some punchy sounds out of it. The hi-hats choke, and the kick bounces.

Just throw it in your bag, purse or even your pocket (this thing is tiny) for some instant 808.

What we don’t like is the sequencer. You really should not fiddle with the 522 during a live show, but for a portable music studio you really can’t go wrong.

You can find the 522 on the used market, however in recent times it’s becoming a rare sighting.

Conclusion

While the portalble music studio equipment landscape is as dynamic as ever, nothing will be able to replace the laptop or even an eurorack modular setup in terms of flexibility. This is why we did not bother to go into effects, because these tend to be one trick ponies and it’s a good idea to actually add effects in the digital realm. We have a great article about using analog effects right here, if you are interested. Most hardware effect units are actually digital inside so the whole analog vs digital battle does not apply to them. There is also something magic when you max in the digital realm and use a laptop, or max the opposite, analog spectrum and get a very multipurpose eurorack module selection. These are maximums for compactness that also allow you maximum flexibility and the most efficient storage space management possible.

While we did make a point into not discussing these two tools – eurorack and laptops, having a portable music studio for both production and live performances is extremely fun and inspiring. Just breathe in that fresh mountain air and sport a nice solar panel to recharge your batteries (you should have multiple packs of them), while you make your own flavour of music and soak all the inspiration that the outdoors can provide!

How to Produce, Design and Launch a Music Album

These days, you don’t need to be signed to a label to create and release your own music album. Whether you’ve got a few select tracks for an EP or enough music to lay down a full-length album, you can create your own masterpiece and release it to the masses. To get started, take a look at this step-by-step guide on how to produce, design and launch a music album:

1. Create and Select Content

If you’re releasing original music, you’ll need to write it before you can set about creating your album! Writing your own songs can take a significant amount of time but, if you’re passionate about creating music, this might be something you’ve been working on for months or years. If you’ve got this far, you may already have some tracks that are ready to go, but take the time to figure out whether they should be included on your album.

Typically, artists use an album as an opportunity to send a message or make a statement. Not all of your songs will necessarily work well together, which may indicate that they’re best featured on different albums. In the same way that you’d craft a set list, listen back to your tracks and decide which ones should be featured on your next album.

2. Perfect Your Performance

When people listen to your album, you’ll want to ensure that the audio and performance is of the highest quality. As every musician and singer knows, there’s no substitute for rehearsals. Dedicate as much time as possible to rehearsing ahead of recording your tracks for your album. The extra effort you put in will elevate your album and could have a considerable impact on your future music career.

Of course, rehearsing in the right environment is always important, so don’t settle for practicing at home. With band rehearsal space, you can access the equipment and acoustics you need to hone your performance. Some quick research will help you pinpoint the spaces available in your area. For instance, if you want to find band space in Dallas, take a look at Pirate’s Dallas rehearsal studios. Featuring drum kits, guitar amps and mics, you’ll find acoustically-treated rehearsal spaces that cater for up to six people and affordable hourly rates that allow you to rehearse to your heart’s content.

3. Find or Hire Session Musicians

Unless you’re a member of a band, you might need to work with session musicians when recording your album. These talented pros will play your music and provide the backing you need as you perform. Of course, modern technology means you can actually play every instrument yourself, if you choose to. However, if you don’t have the skills to play every instrument, working with session musicians can be an easy and effective way to complete your album. Use local industry listings or network contacts to find the right team to support you as you record and release your album.

4. Start Recording

Artists rarely record a track in one take, so don’t expect recording your album to be done in just an hour or two. Instead, you’ll want to record parts individually and listen to them back before mixing them together. This allows you to modify the sound and create the best final edit. In many cases, you’ll want to re-record parts after you’ve mixed them, so be sure to leave yourself enough time to head back into the studio.

While some artists use at-home equipment to record, this can be tricky to do in reality. Unless you have a purpose-built studio at home, noise disturbances or poor acoustics can have an impact on the quality of your album. What’s more, hiring a professional studio for a limited time can be a lot more cost-effective than investing in your own industry-grade equipment!

5. Post-Production and Mastering

Once you’ve recorded your album and you’re happy with the mixes, it’s time to enter the post-production phase of producing your own album. Although you can use professional software to do this yourself, working with an established mastering house is often the best bet. With their input and expertise, your tracks can be elevated and enhanced. In addition to this, getting your tracks featured on the radio or purchased by video producers is always easier when they’ve been professionally mastered, so it’s worth bearing this in mind.

6. Designing the Artwork

When you’re releasing an album, your primary focus will be the quality of the audio, but don’t overlook the importance of the artwork. You’ll need to reflect your personality as an artist and the content of the album, as well as engaging your target demographic.

There is a variety of software you can use to design your own album cover but getting expert help with the artwork may be beneficial. As well as including imagery, you’ll need to consider who needs to be recognized as a contributor and include any relevant legal information. Of course, you’ll also want someone to proofread the text before you approve the final version!

7. Promoting Your Album

Ideally, promotional activities should start well before your album is launched. However, you’ll need to have a clear timeline and be confident about hitting your deadline if you’re going to start promoting it in advance.

As well as featuring your album on your own website, submitting it to audio streaming sites can help you to reach a larger audience. Similarly, putting your music forward for inclusion on playlists can be a great way to attract more listeners. In addition to this, you can use online, local and even national marketing strategies to generate publicity. From reviews in industry publications to guest spots on podcasts, there are numerous ways that you can promote your music and acquire new fans.

Are You Ready to Make an Album?

Many budding musicians feel apprehensive about making an album, but there’s no need to be put off. With access to the technical equipment you need and support from industry professionals, you can begin laying down tracks, recording your set list and promoting your album any

Free alternative products to the BEST VST instruments and effects

Hello ladies and gentlemen, for today iDesignSound.com will bring you our own favourite free alternative vst plugins to the most popular digital music production tools on the market.

Sure, VSTs are great, and VSTs are usually much more cheaper than actual hardware music production tools. Still, when it comes to digital products, there will always be a free option. This is because digital is literally, well, digital meaning without physical form. This means that once some effort has been put into development, copying and distributing the product can be free of charge. This has in turn provided never before seen accessibility and democratisation of the music landscape. Now, all you need to make music is basically talent, a (fairly cheap) computer and your DAW of choice (which can also be free, of course). Let’s dive straight in and see what’s on “offer” in 2021:

Serum free alternative plugin synth: Vital

We start with the biggest one, in our oppinion. So big that it is extremely hard not to use. Ok so we all know and love Serum, it is one of the best sounding and most powerful sound design tool there is. We stand by our words here, and we actually wrote a lot of articles here at idesignsound.com involving serum, such as a detailed comparison between Serum and Omnisphere and also there is an evergreen, always updated article on the top best VST synth which Serum won (on the Value/Budget choice).

Thus, finding an alternative is a bit hard, but it is possible. Without further ado, we present the closest match in the free vst market for a Serum replacement: Vital. It comes pretty close in terms of power and sound quality, albeit it does have some bugs.

You can get Vital from their website right here, unfortunately there is no mac version, only windows. Don’t confuse it with Glitch 2, which is a (very good) paid effects unit.

Effectrix free alternative vst: Glitch

Step into the world of sequenced effect units. Basically, they apply effects only to certain parts of your sound, and you control which part you want to modify with a simple and known interface. The resemblance is not there, but trust us, it is basically the same thing. The effects are on par in sound quality, and there is even a randomiser on board for those that like to experiment.

Glitch is available free of charge here.

RC-20 Retro Color free alternative vst: Izotope Vinyl

This is one of our favourites. It is soo simple to use and the results are extremely good. What we like about Izotope Vinyl that is comparable to RC 20 VST is the instant gratification element. You just slide a little fader and the sound takes so much color and character, a smile is guaranteed to appear on your face.

Sure, the graphical user interface is extremely spartan compared to the RC2o plugin but who cares, as long as the results are comparable. And they most certainly are. You even have the wobble from RC-20, represented on Izotope Vinyl as the “warp” control, with the added bonus of actually controlling the warp shape.

On the RC-20 there is the “Digital” and “Distort” control which is basically a bit reduction and a form of distortion that can be replicated in any daw with built in effects, it’s really nothing special. If you really must have a 3rd party VST alternative, any distortion and bit reduction plugin works. Also, the “Space” control on the RC-20 is just a normal reverb, there are a lot of free reverb options out there. If you don’t know any free reverb, bit reduction and distortion plugin, let us point you in the right direction with this free vst mega list.

Izotope vinyl is available on Izotope’s website.

Guitar Rig alternative: Amplitube

Well, kind of. Yes, Amplitube is a paid/licensed piece of software that has a free of charge version. Guitar rig also has a free version, a demo mode. Still, we consider that Amplitube is a good contender if you want to find a Guitar Rig replacement that is also free of charge. We decidecated a whole article on comparing Amplitube to Guitar Rig here.

Antares Auto Tune free replacement: Graillon 2

Ah Auto-tune, the effect we really love to hate here at iDesignSound. That is because we consider ourselves serious music makers who don’t really like pop and the pop sound that you can find in basically all mainstream music including a lot of hip hop.

Still, if you must use it, there is really no point in getting a paid plugin unless you really really need all the very pro features, But if you just want to tune vocals without ruining the sound qualities then the alternative vst called Graillon 2 will work just fine, and you can find the free version here.

That was it, we hope we managed to make your music production journey a bit more budget friendly. Still, if you want to use the paid plugins like a bigboy, sign up to our newsletter, we always provide our subscribers the best deals on the market!

Conductive Labs NDLR – opinion and ideas

So we have had this excellent Conductive Labs NDLR sequencer, or how we like to call it: the midi “brain” for quite some time now. And boy what a brain this is.

We have been comparing it a lot to the Torso T-1 sequencer (review coming very soon). It is different but not quite that different. As loopop said in it’s video, the NDLR is quite unique. Traditional sequencers allow you to input notes fast on a grid type structure. In turn, they allow you to listed to the idea that you have laid down pretty fast, and judge A. it’s own musical qualities and specifics and B. how it sits along with the rest of your tracks. Thus, sequencers are a very powerful creative tool, most of us techno and minimal heads consider them the centre of our creative process (mostly because we can’t be bother to take the proper time to learn to play keys properly).

Traditional sequencers vary in complexity and flexibility, from the very primitive ones that can be found in groove-boxes (like the old Roland drum machines and Korg volca line) to very sophisticated ones that can allow you to program velocity, note length, probability and all the other parameters that can be tweaked on that specific piece of gear (think Elektron with it’s parameter locks). At the top of the line of traditional, note-input sequencers is the Cirklon, which is a dedicated step sequencer that can do all kinds of fast, creative tweaks and has a great workflow that most producers swear by. Let’s not forget software, basically all DAWs have a sequencer, be it direct like fruity loops or a piano roll (which is a two-dimensional sequencer, with time and pitch in the same screen). Also, pad-style instruments like the Ableton Push and Novation Launchpad can be configred so that the pads work as a sequencer.

Conductive Labs NDLR: a non-traditional midi sequencer

Now, let’s move it up a bit. We talked about the traditional sequencer, what they all have in common is that they always start with a blank slate, a noteless sequence of 16 steps (usually). You place notes there in the order and pitch that you desire and you can instantly hear how that ‘sequence’ sounds. You can ajust the notes and hear changes, so you immediately get a feel for where you want to take the melody of drum tracks of your music.

Non-traditional sequencers differ because you usually input the ideas and the midi hardware takes care of the notes. For the NDLR, you input the key, the degree and if we are talking about chords, the type of chord that you want and it spits the notes on it’s own. There is swing of course (called “Humanization”) and there is velocity. For monophonic melodies, there are two aspects that contribute the most to your notes: the patter and the rhythm.

Conductive Labs NDLR: Motifs

So the way sequencers work is that they create a rhythmic pattern for your sound generators. With the NDLR midi sequencer you get two dimensions to control this: pattern and rhythm. The pattern controls the notes, or pitch of each step in the sequence. There are three types of patterns: scale, chord and chromatic. The values that each pattern step takes indicates the note in an imaginary piano roll: chromatic is in absolute terms, not keeping any scale, scale limits the values to notes in the selected scale and chord is like scale, functioning with limited note choices but also makes the notes relative to the degree of the chord that you choose from the main panel.

Rhythm is similar to pattern but the value per step actually indicates velocity. You can create ties and rests here. For both rhythm and pattern you can select clock division and total length, separately from each other to get extremely interesting sequences.

The way that NDLR presents the sequence pattern and rhythm that you chose this is truly unique. Instead of providing you with a blank slate for rhythm and pattern settings, it always provides you with a filled sequence. This is so you can get grooving A.S.A.P. There are 20 presets and 20 user generated rhythms and patterns. To mark the departure from traditional sequencers (which present the sequence is a straight line), NDLR shows the pattern and rhythm as a circle, going clockwise.

This is just a slight scratch on the surface for what NDLR can do. The way described above is called Motif in NDLR, and represents the monophonic sequence way. Other than Motifs (which NDLR has two independent ones), this midi sequencer can output two more midi sequences, which are polyphonic and independent.

The way it works is very simple, you just select the rhythm, pattern, the way you want it to be played (left to right, right to left, random 1, random 2), clock division, etc and just press play. The sequencer takes care of all the note placements, so you can start tweaking in real time.

Conductive Labs NDLR: Drone and Pad

While Motifs are the core aspect of the NDLR Midi sequencer and the most flexible parts that this tool has to offer, they are monophonic. We like monophonic sequences but there is much more composition possible than this. NDLR has two poly modes as well: Drone and Pad.

Drone is a very basic form of note generation. It can be polyphonic but also in mono. What it does is play the root note of the scale that you selected, and if you want, you can add a 5th interval, and then you can add an octave on top. It has a simpler rhythm section than Motifs, but it is there in case you want to go a bit deeper.

Pad mode is for chords. You have a bit more flexibility than Drone and also you can select which chord you want NDLR to play. You do this with the circle of buttons that is close to the centre screen. With the same buttons you select the degree of chord in that scale as well as the type of chord you want to play. This is especially useful for producers that do not know music theory. You can instantly listen to any chord progression that you want, with pushing a minimal number of buttons. You can have the option to strum the chord, playing each note with a small delay so that they individually stand out.

We said Pad mode is a bit more complicated than Drone. This is in part because you can set up the voicing by using some presets that in NDLR talk are called “spread”. There are a lot of spread types, and we fully encourage you to explore them as they can lead to extremely interesting harmony. You can also select the number of notes in the chord, which goes pretty high if your synth has the proper polyphony.

NOTE: There is no rhythm section for Pad mode, The Conductive Labs NDLR midi sequencer sustains the chord for as long as you don’t press the chord type/degree button. If you want to trigger the same chord again, press the same degree button.

For an in-depth feature and usability review, we recommend this excellent loopop video. It is from an earlier firmware version, but still pretty much on-spot:

very in-depth Conductive Labs NDLR review

Extra modulations and MIDI I/O

This Midi sequencer has a lot of modulation options, you can use a multitude of sources to modify any parameter that you want. There are LFOs and Randomisers as sources, and they can be synced to time as beat divisions or actual seconds. There are four modulation busses, so the possibilities are virtually endless.

As far as Midi I/O goes, the offering is diverse. You have four channels on midi USB mode. Then you have two midi ins and two midi outs. You can configure each NDLR output to your preference. There is no power connection and on-off switch, NDLR gets power from the USB.

Overall, this little piece of gear has become the centre of my midi synths, the ones that don’t have a sequencer. It is flexible and it is fast, with extreme ideas flowing extremely fast. There is always a melodical touch to what it outputs and I really can’t part ways with it, nor can I see myself doing this in the foreseeable future.

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