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I *knew* Ableton was easier.
December 23, 2009 11:07 PM   Subscribe

How to actually create "Smack My Bitch Up." (previously)
posted by flatluigi (56 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite

 
mp3 of the remake
posted by flatluigi at 11:18 PM on December 23, 2009


Wow. It's an Ableton training video.
posted by koeselitz at 11:43 PM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


impressive.
posted by empath at 11:45 PM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry for the snark - I actually find this stuff interesting, as I like mixing sound as a hobby - but whenever I hear The Prodigy I get sort of pissed off.

More to the point: this is an interesting feat, but there's still room for one-upsmanship, isn't there? Ableton wasn't released until two years after "Smack My Bitch Up." [VERY NSFW] I don't know, so maybe somebody else can fill me in - what would The Prodigy have used in 1997 to mix this track?

Finally, can somebody do this kind of thing for music that's actually worth listening to? Like, say, this or this?
posted by koeselitz at 12:17 AM on December 24, 2009


I don't know, so maybe somebody else can fill me in - what would The Prodigy have used in 1997 to mix this track?

They'd have used hardware samplers, mostly -- which were a good deal more time consuming than preparing your samples in Ableton Live.

I'm guessing Akai 3000's and MPC's for the beats.

Liam gave it up for software too though.

posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:36 AM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also: Your favourite band, etc.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:38 AM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well mixing it wouldn't have been so hard. You could time stretch back in 1997 with CoolEdit (now Audition) or Sound Forge, I think maybe the EOS samplers could do it too. The deal with Ableton was that it did pretty much in real time instead of as a 10-20 second process that required you to wait for a progress bar to complete every time you tweaked the parameters. There's nothing else too complex in there, indeed it wouldn't surprise me if it was mostly done in a sampler or so.

I think it's a good example because everyone who likes electronic music knows the tune, and there aren't too many different elements involved in putting together, so it's an ideal 'Hello World' in that sense.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:41 AM on December 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


There's nothing else too complex in there, indeed it wouldn't surprise me if it was mostly done in a sampler or so.

Yea, and that Miro guy mainly painted circles and lines - what's up with that??
posted by victors at 12:51 AM on December 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I meant from a technical standpoint, there's no 'how the hell did they make that' sounds if you know your way around studio gear. This isn't a slam on the quality of the tune. Simplicity doesn't mean it's not creative or clever...indeed, it's harder to do simple well, than complicated.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:03 AM on December 24, 2009


cool - although I suspect it was a tad more labor intensive than you describe - perhaps not.
posted by victors at 1:21 AM on December 24, 2009


I thought that was absolutely incredible. Would love to see the "process" behind other music. DJ Shadow or something, maybe?
posted by meadowlark lime at 1:30 AM on December 24, 2009


This is kind of interesting because it doesn't exactly play to (Ableton) Live's strengths-- in fact, this work is more suited for an environment like Pro-Tools or even Garage Band. The video spends most of the time in the secondary view of Live, where he has an audio file spaced out in time. Live really shines when used as a improvisational tool, well, live.
posted by stresstwig at 1:41 AM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]



LLAWLAWLAWN
OFOFOFOFOFF
MY-MY-MY-MM
G-G-G-G-GET.

posted by _dario at 2:22 AM on December 24, 2009 [10 favorites]


I'm so relieved that this post isn't a how-to on domestic violence.
posted by rbellon at 2:55 AM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


meadowlark lime: “Would love to see the "process" behind other music. DJ Shadow or something, maybe?”

DJ Shadow uses a set of Akai MPC sampler/sequencers and a Korg Triton synth; I'm getting this from a great little book called Behind The Beat: Hip Hop Home Studios. Awesome photos there, by the way; it's worth getting a copy, or at least checking out.
posted by koeselitz at 3:02 AM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


stresstwig: “This is kind of interesting because it doesn't exactly play to (Ableton) Live's strengths-- in fact, this work is more suited for an environment like Pro-Tools or even Garage Band. The video spends most of the time in the secondary view of Live, where he has an audio file spaced out in time. Live really shines when used as a improvisational tool, well, live.”

Yeah, I felt that way, too. I mean, I think it's a really instructive and interesting video if you're just learning Ableton (I've never used it meself) and there are parts of the video where he's almost starting to do real-time shit, but... well, what's always astounded me about Ableton Live isn't that you can mix tracks on it. It's that you can do shit like Gui Boratto does, mixing new electronic music live from whole cloth. Here's a decent sample vid of him at work. (Pretty rad little Lemur he's got, innit?) That's a great performance in itself, too - about five and a half minutes in he drops into "Beautiful Life," which is always worth a go.

Thousands of DJs all over the world are using Ableton Live to do this kind of stuff now. I guess, though, that if you really went through the steps in the "Smack" instruction vid, by the end you'd probably be ready to mix real-time.
posted by koeselitz at 3:18 AM on December 24, 2009


I'm getting this from a great little book

You borked your link there, koeselitz
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:18 AM on December 24, 2009


[Behind The Beat link, sorry it got borked]
posted by koeselitz at 3:20 AM on December 24, 2009


Awesome post, thanks.
posted by dabitch at 4:04 AM on December 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Awesome post, thanks.
posted by dabitch


Nothing personal.
posted by chillmost at 5:16 AM on December 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


Thousands of DJs all over the world are using Ableton Live to do this kind of stuff now.

Ableton is what I use to dj with and make mix cds with. I used to use vinyl and turntables, but ableton is just better.
posted by empath at 6:00 AM on December 24, 2009


Cool.
posted by kalessin at 6:02 AM on December 24, 2009


Actually, I should elaborate. It's stuff like this that makes me WANT software I have no conceivable justification for wanting and can't really afford. It's like how I felt about Sketchup before Google bought it and made it free for non-professional use. I want Ableton Live also to be free for non-professional use.

Because it's COOL, like any really cool software toy.
posted by kalessin at 6:03 AM on December 24, 2009


I'm so relieved that this post isn't a how-to on domestic violence.

Hey! Give it time.
posted by shadytrees at 6:11 AM on December 24, 2009


kalessin: “Actually, I should elaborate. It's stuff like this that makes me WANT software I have no conceivable justification for wanting and can't really afford. It's like how I felt about Sketchup before Google bought it and made it free for non-professional use. I want Ableton Live also to be free for non-professional use.”

It isn't quite as speedy to use, but Ardour does almost everything Ableton can, and is free and open-source. I use it all the time, and can vouch for its high quality, pluggability, and feature-rich goodness. Unfortunately it's Linux/OS X only, which I gather from your profile might not be right for you, but honestly I think it's a good reason to give it a whirl and try dual-booting Windows with Ubuntu Studio. Ardour is leaps and bounds beyond Audacity, which as a simple user-friendly recording interface just isn't designed for actual tracking and mixing of sound.
posted by koeselitz at 6:26 AM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


You can do pretty much all this stuff in Reaper. So far it doesn't have Ableton's live remix ability, where you drop parts in and out of the track on stage in a synchronized fashion(*), but it does most everything else and it's 60 bucks for a license that allows you to earn up to 20,000 a year with it... which is to say, it covers most of us non industry types. And the demo never times out, only pesters you for a few seconds when it starts up.

I have heavy electric googoo voodoo love for Reaper. It does everything a DAW should do, it's cheap, the installer is only a few megs, it snaps open as fast as a text editor, and it has an OS X beta so I didn't have to upgrade to Logic or downgrade to Garageband when I switched to an iMac recently.

(* it does, however, let you make synched jumps to looping sections of the arrangement so you can do a live performance, improvise over it and move on to a different part when you're spent or the audience looks glazed over)
posted by fleetmouse at 6:37 AM on December 24, 2009


This made me immediately nostalgic for the late 90s, pre-college days when I was awash with cash from an internet start up and could afford software like Propellerhead's Reason... and still liked electronic music. Thanks for that link to Ardour, koeselitz! I was just thinking "Damn! I wonder if there's software like this for linux..."
posted by johnnybeggs at 6:56 AM on December 24, 2009


It's stuff like this that makes me WANT software I have no conceivable justification for wanting and can't really afford.

Go ahead and download Ableton 5 from a bittorrent site. It's a few versions behind the version they're currently selling, but it does most of the magic of the new version and it's only like a 40 meg download. If you like it, go buy version 8, or whatever they're selling now.

If anybody needs help learning how to use it, memail me.

If you want something to learn music production with, though, I'd honestly recommend reason, because of the interface. It's terrible for any kind of real production work flow, but it gives you a feel for the how all the pieces fit together.
posted by empath at 7:02 AM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've downloaded their 30-day trial and honestly if I get a lot out of it, I may go ahead and pay $99 for their limited, non-professional version of Ableton. Or maybe go the Ardour route.

It looks like it will be a lot of fun. What I really need to do is install Windows 7 on my old laptop and see if it can handle it, then figure out what to do about this stuff. And also get back into my calisthenics and also learn French. Maybe French DJing will help. :)
posted by kalessin at 7:59 AM on December 24, 2009


Watching videos like this just make my fumblings with GarageBand seem even more feeble than I already thought they were.

I just wish I'd had access to all this kind of stuff 20 years ago, so I wouldn't feel so hopelessly behind the curve now.

(I'll stop whining now...)
posted by dnash at 8:09 AM on December 24, 2009


The big disadvantage of Reason is that your limited to the synths and samplers that come with the app, and can't use any of the huge amount of third party vst synthesizers that most sequencers can use.

(A vst is a software add-on. It might be a synthesizer, an effect, a sampler or have some other miscellaneous function. There are lots of free ones out there -- some of which I wouldn't be without.)

Not sure what you mean by 'terrible for any kind of real production work flow'. All of the various music apps have different strengths and weaknesses. There are generally work arounds (eg, using Reason itself as a vst within another app like Cubase) but they do tend to get in the way of performance/composition.

I'd advise anyone wanting to learn this shit to play with them all. Reason, FL Studio, Ableton are all really easy to start playing around with and learning shit on. If you start to feel their constraints, you might want to move up to one of the bigger 'industry standard' environments like ProTools, Cubase or Logic.

There's a hell of a lot of love out there for Logic, with many hardcore PC guys abandoning the PC in favour of Macs when Apple bought the application. The VST's that come with the Logic package are particularly highly thought of.

The thing that got me interested in making music on the computer (or making music at all) was a demo of Propellerheads Rebirth. Rebirth was a predecessor of Reason, and really just consisted of two simulated Roland 303's (the original bass synth that launched a million acid house tracks, a simulated Roland 808 and a Roland 909 (two drum machines).

Within five minutes of installing the app, I was whacking out my very own (very bad) acid house. Within fifteen minutes of playing with it, I was improving significantly. Within half an hour or so, I was completely hooked.

The Rebirth app is now free and it's still as much fun as it was when I first downloaded it back in 1997. If you're interested in learning to make electronic music on the computer, you could do a hell of a lot worse than starting right there.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:23 AM on December 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


empath's quick and easy guide to setting warp markers in Ableton (for the purposes of djing)

I'll assume you know how to how to drop a track onto a channel in ableton.

After it does it's initial warping, you need to find the 1st kick drum on the track. You generally want to do this by eye, but you'll probably have to listen to it first so you can get an idea of what the kicks look like. Usually it's pretty obvious.

When you find the first kick drum, drag the 1 marker to the very beginning of it, (not the middle and not the end). Right click on the 1, and then choose 'warp straight from here'. This will generally get you pretty close to perfect, especially if you're looking at electronic music.

However, you always need to make adjustments. What I generally do is look for the first break in the beat, and then find the first kick after that, and make sure that the nearest marker is lined up to it, and that it's a whole number (32 and not 32.2). If it is, then I go on to the next one, etc, until I get to the end of the track, and make the final adjustment and make sure that it ends at a bar, and not in the middle of one (which would imply that there was major drift earlier in the track).

Keep in mind when you are adjusting that small adjustments to warp markers at the beginning of a song make a huge difference at the end of a song, so generally always adjust from the front to the back.

As a sanity check, turn on the metronome and listen to it with the clicker. Make sure that the clicks always hit at the beginning of the kick drums.

For songs where there isn't a solid kick early, set the 1 at the first kick you can see that's at the beginning of a phrase, and adjust to the end from there, and then you can drag back the 'track start' flag to the beginning of the track(leaving the 1 where it is), and it will generally be warped correctly.

If you're warping a track without a 4 to the floor beat, keep in mind that even in breakbeat tracks, their will almost always be a strong kick on the 1st beat of a phrase, and there will generally be snare hits right at the 2 and the 4 beat. You may not be able to clearly see the snare hit, but you should be ablet o hear it.

If you're warping a non electronic track, then you are in for a much, much harder time warping it. I wouldn't recommend even trying it until you figure out how to warp 4 to the floor techno and house records first.

For good songs to practice warping with, i recommend anything on the charts at Beatport.

If you don't know what 'phrasing' is as it applies to djing, start listening to house records (or really any pop music) and count like so from the first dick drum.

1-2-3-4-2-2-3-4-3-2-3-4-4-2-3-4-1-2-3-4, etc.. Every 4 beats is a bar, and Ableton will only start tracks at the beginning of a bar (by default). You generally only want to mix dance music at the beginning of a 4 bar phrase (16 beats). And preferably at the beginning of an 8 bar phrase. Generally you'll only hear drum rolls at the end of an 8 bar phrase, and you'll generally only hear cymbal crashes at the beginning of an 8 bar phrase (though there are obviously exceptions to everything). Also, new melodies, vocals, or other elements are generally only added at the beginning of 4 and 8 bar phrases.

What you're trying to avoid is situations such as one track playing a drum roll, and then immediately after, the track you're mixing with it plays another one. Or 2 tracks with melodic elements that start and end at different times.
posted by empath at 8:24 AM on December 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


Also: audionews.ru
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:27 AM on December 24, 2009


Very cool. I used to build the analog audio rooms for music production. Interesting to see the knobs and meters digitized and yet retain their real world shapes and look.
posted by Argyle at 8:27 AM on December 24, 2009


Not sure what you mean by 'terrible for any kind of real production work flow'.

No native support for VST's and the whole 'flip the rack over and move cables around' thing is really time consuming if you don't need that kind of interface to visualize the audio paths. I found it really, really useful for learning how all the various effects and synths worked together, but once I 'got it', i much preferred the interface in ableton and cubase, etc..
posted by empath at 8:27 AM on December 24, 2009


Oh right. In that case, I agree with everything you've said, completely. My experience was identical to yours. After playing around with Rebirth for a while, I really learned most about that stuff in Reason. While it's very dated now, there's a tutorial CD by Peff -- something like Making Music in Reason -- that walks you through the process of creating a House track, that I also found extremely useful right at the start. It helped me get to grips with the idea that you didn't need to play (or 'write') every single note. That we're dealing with loops, and you can copy and paste a pile of them, and then put your energies into making variations, either by varying the midi, or simply by varying the effects.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:35 AM on December 24, 2009


Yeah, I learned a lot just putting random shit into the matrix and doing random stuff to the synths. It's amazing what kind of epic sounds you can get with straight 16th notes and the right delays, etc, on it.
posted by empath at 8:38 AM on December 24, 2009


EQ. MONO.
posted by odinsdream at 8:40 AM on December 24, 2009


EQ. MONO.

There reason you do that to samples is that all the stuff he's sampling is already mastered to fill the entire frequency range and stereo field. What he's doing is making the samples 'thinner', basically, so he can control where they sit in the mix, so they don't muddy up the track. Then if he needs something to sound 'fatter', he can just add the appropriate panned delays, reverb, compression, etc, just like he would any synth.
posted by empath at 8:47 AM on December 24, 2009


Reason will get you pretty far under the hood, but not as far down as puredata or max/msp (yeah you can open up and tweak the low level stuff in reason, but their low level operators are not as low level as the puredata ones - which makes it easier to make stuff do what you probably want, but also makes a bunch of other things impossible at the same time).
posted by idiopath at 9:05 AM on December 24, 2009


Damn it, I managed to get away from making horrifically bad music with my computer (a fact for which the world should be thankful). Threads like this make me want to start experimenting again.

You should all be afraid. Very afraid.
posted by quin at 9:13 AM on December 24, 2009


Absolutely fascinating. Thanks.
posted by alasdair at 10:07 AM on December 24, 2009


Hey, kalessin (and anybody else who's Windows-based and feeling froggy about playing with audio) -

You should go over and download this neat little (free, open-source) program called Psycle. I've found it very, very cool, and extremely useful for learning about how VST instruments and effects work.

(PeterMcDermott and a few others above mentioned VST plugins - VST is a standard plugin type which was originated (I think) in Cubase, but which was later opened up so that anybody could develop VST plugins. Just search google for "VST plugins" and you'll see hundreds of sites with thousands of different free VST plugins you can download and use. There are generally two kinds of VST plugins: instruments and effects. I think that makes pretty intuitive sense - an instrument makes the sounds, and an effect changes the sounds.)

Psycle is neat because it's so gosh-darn simple. It's a result of the realization that with VST plugins you can do most of what you'd need to do to make music in most situations. So Psycle is just a blank slate where you can link VST instruments and effects and then sequence them however you'd like. It's a great way to learn about how VST plugins in general work, since it's so very simple. Seriously, it's flow-chart style, so all you have to do is plop down an instrument and maybe an effect like so:

MiniMoog+ -----> Reverb -----> MASTER

...and then you can press the buttons on your (typing) keyboard and you get the sound of the VST plugins. You can open these up and tweak them, play with the waves on the synths, click this and that and press buttons to your heart's content - if you're anything like me, it's ridiculously awesome and fun to play with. Even the bundled set of instruments and effects is very, very good. And then you can go out and look around on the internet and find all kinds of cool VSTs. It's a blast.
posted by koeselitz at 10:17 AM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


making horrifically bad music with my computer

Yeah, mine's horrifically bad as well. I've no desire to inflict it on anyone else, but I get so much pleasure from the process of making it, I can't see myself ever giving it up -- even if I'm not as obsessed by it as I used to be.

One of these days, Propellerheads will come out with their next killer app and I'll be right up there again, cranking the stuff out on a daily basis. Then flinging it to the back of the hard drive.

It might help if I ever wrote a complete song instead of yet another 16 bar phrase.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:24 AM on December 24, 2009


Wow, this says that Reaper works on Linux through WINE. I'll have to try that. The big drawback I have on my machine is that my version of Vista is 32-bit even though the machine is 64, so I get a lot more performance out of Linux. As much as I love Ardour, it'd be nice to try some other stuff.
posted by koeselitz at 10:28 AM on December 24, 2009


Also, Psycle looks rather like a tracker. Trackers have been around since the days of the Amiga and the Commodore and have always struck me as unduly complex and counter-intuitive. That said, other people feel the exact opposite to me -- but there are dozens of them, for every conceivable operating system. Just as you think they're about to be obselete, someone releases a new one with remarkable features and they get a new lease of life.

I've had a play around with both Renoise (a commercial tracker) and Jeskola Buzz (which I think is open source) and Buzz in particular was fascinating, with an enormous volume of user-contributed tutorials, 'buzz machines', vst's, etc. etc. etc.

http://www.buzzmachines.com/

posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:35 AM on December 24, 2009


Thank you all for all of your suggestions. I'm going to play around with them next week. :)
posted by kalessin at 11:04 AM on December 24, 2009


If you wish to create "Smack My Bitch Up" from scratch...

you must first purchase Ableton. Or just create the universe.
posted by rxrfrx at 1:40 PM on December 24, 2009


OK, mind officially blown. Great post, thanks!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:42 PM on December 24, 2009


Yeah, I'm the one invented, twisted animator.
posted by bwg at 3:53 PM on December 24, 2009


Not my favorite song, mostly just because of the lyric. But this was a fun link. I know all the synth nerds are unhappy but for people like me who aren't, this is a nice look at how sausage is made.
posted by chairface at 5:29 PM on December 24, 2009


Watching this, I was immediately reminded of the making of the Michel Gondry's video for Chemical Brothers' "Star Guitar".
posted by hypersloth at 6:30 PM on December 24, 2009


*minus "the"
posted by hypersloth at 6:31 PM on December 24, 2009


I could play "Stairway to Heaven" when I was twelve. Jimmy Page didn't actually write it until he was twenty-two. I think that says quite a lot. (Vim)
posted by zog at 2:38 AM on December 25, 2009


This furthers confirms my idea that we haven't created new music in 30 years.
posted by kepano at 1:11 PM on December 27, 2009


As much as I love seeing where individual samples come from, I love hearing it more.
posted by Eideteker at 9:51 AM on December 31, 2009


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