Tutorials

Ski's Music Technology Tutorial work

Deconstructing Daft Punk - Get Lucky

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For me, this track by Daft Punk exemplifies everything that the French duo are great at.. namely a brilliant groove, simplicity, a strong hook line and of course tight production. For this video tutorial, I figured there was no point trying to create an exact replica of the track, as all the parts (drums included) were played on real instruments by real musicians! Instead I concentrated on working out the main parts, namely piano chords, bass line, wurlitzer riff and the cool lead synth line at the end of the track.

The verse, bridge and chorus sections of the tune are defined by the changing vocal melody and the variation in the the wurli riff, with the guitar and bass holding the same groove and chords for the full length of the track. Of course we shouldn’t forget the great vocoder section in the final section which provides an electro funk element to the song.

The four chords that make up this track are: Bm7 | D | F#m7 | E. The interesting thing is the way they are played using different inversions which increases the range of notes that are used... check out the video and see if you can play along!

X-Press 2 Live In Session: Deconstructing 'Lazy'

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In 2002, X-Press 2′s deep house single “Lazy” featuring an unlikely collaboration with Talking Head’s David Byrne, became one of the most notable dance records of the decade by hitting the top of the UK charts. The breakout single from the ‘Musikism’ album, ‘Lazy’ featured Byrne speaking and singing over a barely up-tempo house track.

In this live interview Point Blank’s Course Developer and EMC (Electronic Music Composition) course tutor Ski Oakenfull (who deconstructs ‘Lazy’ as part of our online EMC course) and presenter Luke Hopper chatted to Rocky and Diesel about the track, what made it so infectious, their approach in the studio and the story behind the vocal. Make sure you check it out below…

Logic Pro X - First Impressions

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The appearance of the upgrade to Apple's flagship audio Application Logic Pro from 9 to X yesterday came as a complete shock to everyone. Some people had almost written it off, thinking there might never be another incarnation of this popular program. As soon as it was announced, it became almost instantly available from the App store so I didn't waste any time downloading it after seeing the spec.
Apart from a overhaul of the graphic interface, two of the most attractive (and long sought after) new features to me were the Midi Effects and Flex Pitch. There have been Midi devices such as Chord, Arpeggiator and Velocity in Ableton for years which have always given Ableton the edge when it came to creative programming, so integrating these into Logic will give it a massive boost.
I've been a fan of Melodyne pitch editing software since it was first released, and have always dreamed of having this facility working natively in a DAW… so I was over the moon when I saw the new Flex Pitch feature which works alongside the existing Flex Time facility. Not only that, but in my mind it makes the editing process easier, as you can use Logic's tools to chop up notes for example.
Add in the new Drummer tool, new look mixer, Soundcloud integration, new sound library, the Retro Synth, smart controls and free iPad controller App to name a few, and this is a major improvement to an already very powerful application. Oh, and did I forget to mention you get it all for £139?

Skream - Midnight Request Line (Deconstructed at Sonar 2013)

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The task I set myself for this deconstruction video, was to program the whole track using Ableton’s Push controller, without looking at the computer screen. The key, as ever, is in the preparation. The more you can work on your presets and racks beforehand, the more you can concentrate on playing the parts and getting creative. Over the last year or so, I have made a point of diligently saving any presets I have created into my user library, and labeling them clearly so I can dial them up whenever I want. I generally include the track name in the preset title so I can easily make the association between the original track & preset. This especially makes jamming with Push a real joy, as you then have access to your own palette of sounds.

Automation with Ableton Push (Course Extract)

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In this video Ski let's you know about the brand new Push content that's been integrated into our Ableton Live 1 Production course. All the basic techniques of Push are introduced alongside the existing course content, which has also recently been updated to include all the new Live 9 features … We kick off by showing you how to program a beat, and then guide you through things like the Scale function, Building Scenes, FX and Automation.
In this video, we check out an extract from the course, where course developer and tutor Ski Oakenfull looks at how you can use Push to record Automation into clips and also directly on to the arrangement...

Kraftwerk - The Model (Deconstructed at Sonar 2013)

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Ski Oakenfull breaks down one of the best known tracks from electronic music pioneers, and Sonar headliners, Kraftwerk. This deconstruction took place at Ableton's artists meet and greet at Sync Studios, Barcelona. Win an EMC online course AND Ableton Live 9 in our Vocal Verk competition - http://ow.ly/mt5I5

In this video my aim was to show how quickly you can record and arrange all the parts of this classic track by Kraftwerk using Push and Ableton Live 9. After using Push for a few months, it has become my central hub. The ability to jam down ideas quickly straight into Live and arrange them on the fly without the distraction of the computer screen is truly inspirational.
Push also made me get my act together when it came to organising my user library. Once you start categorising your presets using Ableton’s own folder names (ie Bass, Synth Lead etc) and place them in the appropriate device list, they will be easily accessible from the browser. I also found that adding a space character before the preset name forces them to the top of your list so you don’t have to trawl through Ableton’s factory presets.

Deconstructing Roy Davis Jr feat. Peven Everett - Gabriel

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Ski breaks down an all-time house and garage classic, Gabriel by Roy Davis Jr feat. Peven Everett.

Deconstructing Kavinsky - Nightcall

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Taken from the soundtrack to Drive, Nightcall is an amazing track and one which Point Blank thought was more than worthy of the deconstruction treatment.

Logic VS Ableton: Recording Audio (Comping)

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Before becoming an Ableton Live 'convert' about seven years ago, I was almost exclusively using Logic, and still love revisiting it, especially to provide an alternative approach to writing and programming. Every DAW has it's pros and cons, and one thing I always rely on in Logic, is the Take Recording and Swipe Comping functionality.

Rather than having to create fresh tracks each time, Logic allows you record over the same section of audio, placing the different takes into a folder. Comping then allows you to extract all the best bits and piece them together into a single master take, using the innovative swipe technique.. This is a real godsend, as sifting through endless vocal takes for example, can become incredibly laborious.

For this video I wanted to try recording some Roland MC-202 synth parts over a deep house track to get more of an organic live feel. You can see how I was able to 'jam' down different takes and then piece them together very quickly.

Ableton Push Challenge (Part 2)

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The main goal of the first part of my Push Challenge was to create the seeds of a vocal track from scratch using Push, while trying not to look at the computer screen at any point. I'd never met vocalist and ex Point Blank student Viv May before, so I had no idea how the session would pan out. Thankfully, it went really well and Viv came up with some killer vocal lines.

As promised in the broadcast, I wanted to make a part 2 video to show how to take these initial ideas and start turning them into a finished track. For the live session we used a standard SM58 dynamic mic together with a reflexion filter to cut down on ambient noise from the speakers, but afterwards we re-recorded the vocals using a better quality condenser mic together with headphones. Viv had some new harmonies and a bridge section that she was keen to add as well.

I decided to record these new vocals directly into the arrange page of Live as I generally feel more comfortable recording in the traditional linear way. When it came to arranging however, I realised I could make use of Live 9's fantastic new 'Consolidate Time to New Scene' feature which allows you to grab whole sections of the arrangement and place them back into Session view. You can then build up the arrangement using Scenes, and 'Jam' the structure back into the Arrange page.

After building a basic arrangement, the next stage is to start getting deeper into the production, which might well make up the next part of this video series!