music, audio and recording

Some new VST’s

The Slate Digital VST’s have become part and parcel of my mixing now, and have helped me make a significant improvement. In particular, ummm, all of them…the virtual consoles, the bus compressors, the tape emulation, the mastering compressor. I even bought the drum trigger thing as well, and its pretty handy.


AB Magic from Samplemagic is also proving worthwhile, especially considering the poor monitoring environment of the home studio. It lets you load up 9 different reference songs on the mix bus and switch between them and you mix. Trim sliders let you balance volumes so you don’t get suckered in by the “louder = better” mistake. Recommended.


Although I have downloaded the latest VoS plugins, I haven’t had a chance to try them out yet. Doubtless the Slick EQ is good, and the odd looking Slick HDR will require a bit of work to get to grips with.

The Making of Boy Dust part 2 – drums

So, some idiosyncrasies about recording Roland Vdrums or whatever they are.


Snare – When recording we mostly went for a high pitched ka-doing type of snare drum – we were thinking pop I guess, and overall something a bit different from “You Can Have It All”. Later on I supplemented or replaced this with lower pitched samples mixed in, mostly done with either Drumagog or Reaplacer. I bought the “pop sticks” sample set from, who are in fact based in Auckland. US$20, pretty good value. I tried to keep some of the ka-doing and hit variation if I could while adding a bit off beef and acoustic sound to it.


Kick – I had some real challenges with some of the kicks. “Find You” and “Dotted Line” for example are radically different from what they started out as. The kick samples from Matts kit were every bit as susceptible to inconsistent hits as a real kick, and changed their tone and size according to how hard Matt hit them. Although it seemed to have plenty of weight at the the time, I think this was largely due to Matts boombox, which was our, err, monitoring system. I think this also gives a kind of buffer when playing, and you kind of fool yourself that you’ve got a good, consistent, big sound when maybe you haven’t. In retrospect, we should have listened more closely at tracking time and got it more consistent. There is only so much you can do with eq, compression…the real rescue package in some cases was “transient designer” type VST’s, which kind of let you slide the click around relative to the thump. This is CPU heavy stuff, and I was running out of it towards the end of mixing so struggled to run samples in real time + compresser + eq + saturation + transient designer + reverb. I had to listen to a bit, make a decision, then bounce the track, hoping it would be ok for the duration of the song. Repeat if not. Not surprisingly this really slowed mixing of some songs down! By the end I think I was losing the plot a bit, so for example the kick/bass guitar balance on “Dotted Line” (the last song I did) is out of whack.


Cymbals – Matt used quite high pitched samples, and later on Paul decided he wasn’t keen on them. they were kind of wussy splash instead of manly crash. I figured this was a low priority – it hadn’t bothered me or anyone else – so left it right to the end. The last thing I did was go through every song, and where I could, replace Matts crashes with lower pitched samples. Very boring job, luckily not possible on everything! (This maybe is where the midi tracks would have been useful if I had figured out how to use them). I would rather have got Matt to redo them with real cymbals, but one of the disadvantages of the virtual band is that this wasn’t possible. My neighbourly drummer Myles Allpress (whom I played with in the Broken Heartbreakers) was too busy with a young family. I was/am concerned that it would all sound too samey and mechanical, so tried to mix up the sounds and vary the volume. I figure only aficionados will notice…..


Toms and hats – sounded fine so weren’t changed much.


Overall – Maybe because of the assembly of different samples and the absence of spill, I sometimes found it hard to make the drums hang together as a kit. I used a fair bit of Variety of Sound‘s Ferric TDS VST to dirty up the drum sounds. For reverbs I used VoS Epicverb and VallhallaDSP‘s ValhallaRoom, and usually the drum bus was compressed and/or had another dose of FerricTDS. EpicVerb can be very handy for adding a bit of room without really sounding like reverb. The snare on “The Healing” has a slapback echo fromthe free ValhallaFreqEcho, which I like a lot, it’s my goto delay. The drums on “Hot Air” I think have too much reverb, if I had another chance I’d wind that back.

The Making of Paul Winders “Boy Dust” part 1

Well, since about half way through 2011 I haven’t done much Complex Engine music, as my efforts have been directed at making a CD with Paul Winders and the Goodness. It has just come out – we have the CD’s! – and is available at and

This was quite an interesting project all around. Paul is a primary school outdoor events coordinator in his day job, and lives in Arrowtown. Matt, who drums on it, lives in Dunedin. Kiri, Paul’s sister who does BV’s and keyboards, is in Brisbane, and I am in Auckland. We had a budget of y’know, about $0. What dollars we had went into airfares to get us in the same place to do something, and then on mastering and printing the CD’s. I am a big believer in proper mastering.

We are playing 3 gigs in Dunedin, Riverton and Arrowtown over Easter, selling the CD and tickets together. This was pretty successful for Paul when he made his previous CD “You Can Have it All” a couple of years ago and may cover some of the CD production costs.

No studios were used in this recording. No acoustic drums were used either. The whole thing started out with Paul’s demos from Garageband. Matt has a Roland electronic drumkit – pads that trigger samples. So to record drums Paul and I settled into Matt’s home office where the drums reside, with a laptop and soundcard. The 8 audio outs from the Roland thing went into the soundcard, as did midi, and straight into Reaper. I dumped an mp3 of whatever song we were doing into reaper, and played it back through Matt’s (terrible) computer boombox + satellites. I hit record and he drummed along to the demo. Easiest drum set up I’ve ever done – not a microphone in sight!

I figured that later on I could a) replace the audio or b) use the midi to trigger new audio if the sounds weren’t right. I never got to grips with (b) but ended up doing a fair bit of (a). Sometimes the samples weren’t great for the song, other times they were pretty good. It was certainly nice to not have to deal with spill, and it worked a whole lot better than I expected – I had been pretty sceptical at the start.



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