Fun with Metronomes (Part 1)

 This is part 1 of a 4 part video series


Hey everybody - it’s Josh here!

This is gonna be the beginning of a series on playing with a metronome!

Most the time when I talk to somebody about playing with metronomes, I get a response of like “oh I hate playing with metronomes - they're so boring - they’re so restricting” - and I totally understand that because most of the time - we were all instructed to play with a metronome where it's just like the metronome is just clicking on the downbeats or on the quarter notes.

We're just told to just play right along with it something like this (beats) and and we're like ‘what am I supposed to do with it?’ It just seems very vague and just meant to be frustrating. So what we're gonna do is do something a little bit different! We're going to use the metronome to play on the silences between our phrases between the beats that we're playing or the riff that we're playing and in my case - I’m just playing a quarter note beat.

***See video for full tutorial***



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Get Creative with Your Signal Chain! ⛓

Let's talk a little about the order of plug-ins and effects that we use.

*Full Transcription Below*

A question that I got recently was, what order should I put my EQ and compression in? And that's one of the early questions that you get when you start working on your own mixes in your own production. And generally the response is that you don't want to put a compressor after an EQ because a compressor by its nature is going to flatten out the audio for anything that you put in it to varying degrees.

So if you've cut out a little notch, say like a six DB notch with your EQ, and then you put a compressor under that, then it's going to reduce that EQ notch that you've cut out. And that's kind of undoing all the work that you just did. So generally you'll want your compressor, and then you'll EQ after that. But there are some times where you'll put compressors and EQ's in different orders and places that you wouldn't normally think. So let's talk a little bit about those instances.

So one instance could be putting an EQ after a reverb. This is a little unorthodox but not unheard of. So here's a reverb and a piano that I've got happening right here.

[Music Playing]

All right, so just to make it interesting, let's put a, an EQ after this plate reverb here. Where do you close that out? And let's make it so that our piano sounds full range, but the reverb that's happening after it is notched out a bit. So we're only hearing the high end from it. So something like this. All right, so this is my reverb here - and then after I put in an EQ. Close that.

[Music Playing]

So it sounds really 'skinny' after that. Or we could do the exact opposite and make it just very like a dark reverb. Like it's in some kind of dark sounding wood room or something like that. Let's hear what that sounds like.

[Music Playing]

That sounds kind of cool because then all the bright attack is happening on the main piano and you kind of have like this muffled reverb happening behind it. That's kind of cool. So that's like an instance of how you could EQ out your reverb there.

And then you could also do it, not so much in an effects kind of way, but sometimes you'll want a reverb. Let's go back and make our reverb a little bit longer. And sometimes it can just get, if you want like a big gymnasium sounding reverb, it can get kind of muddy sounding. So maybe there's something in that reverb that you want to notch out.

[Music Playing]

So you might've heard there, I was boosting the EQ to kind of see where the muddiness was happening and I kinda heard it right in there. So then I cut it and that seemed to help a little bit. So that's an instance where you could use an EQ after a reverb.

Let's go over to our delay here. So I'm going to mute the reverb and turn on our delay. And what I've done here is put a compressor after the delay. So let's listen. So here's our delay. I've muted the compressor. So we're just listening to the delay right now.

[Music Playing]

Okay. So we've got our piano hits, and then the delay happening after. And what I'm about to show you can be done a bunch of different ways. But for the sake of this, we are going to use a compressor after the delay. And the goal of this is to say that we want those delays to be a bit louder, a bit more upfront and part of the sound. So what we're going to do is we're going to compress only those delays that are happening, not the main piano, just the delays. And that's what this is going to sound like.

[Music Playing]

So I think that sounds kind of interesting to me. That sounds like something Beck would do. That sounds like a kind of a quirky way to process a delay on a piano.

So those are just a couple of ways to creatively think about how you use your EQ's and compressors before or after a source in the signal chain.

xxx - Josh

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Do You Know the Three Basic Controls of Delay? 👨‍👦‍👦

All right. Today we're going to talk about delay.

*Full Transcript Below*

We're going to talk about one feature of delay that kind of gets overlooked when people break down the elements of what a typical delay does.

But first let's just start with the basics. Right here I've got a Sound Toys EchoBoy Jr pulled up, and we're not going to get into everything because there's plenty of tutorials on Youtube about all these plug-ins - like basically how to work a Sound Toys EchoBoy Jr. I just want to talk about the elements that are pretty much in every delay plug-in and that is the mix, the echo time, and the feedback.

The echo time - we're going to start there - is the easiest to grasp. This just tells you how much a delay is going to happen. So right now it's set to a note increment, so this is one-eighth note. So it's going to be delayed by one-eighth note. If I move it up, it'll be delayed by one quarter note and then a half note and so on. Then you can take it down to a 16th note, a 32nd note. So I'm going to take you back to an eighth note here. You can also set it to time, so that's like a 375 milliseconds. And things like that. The feedback tells you how long the a delay is going to send that signal back to itself.

And therefore, how long is that delay going to happen for one note. So if you've just got one note that just happens on, you know, just 'dhhhhh' - how long is that signal gonna keep on looping back to itself and trying to delay and eventually fade out. You'll hear examples of this as I get going here.

The knob that we're going to talk about that doesn't get talked about as much is this mix knob. And I'm gonna show examples of this. But what can happen is when you start getting creative with your delays, maybe you want to have a delay, say on the last word of a phrase, you know of a vocal, right? And it's like 'let it be' and you want the word 'Be' only to have a delay. So let it ‘Be’ 'be' 'be' 'be'' be'.

What can happen is if you have your mix NOT set to 100%, you are also going to let in the original audio source, which is gonna make it so that your word ‘Be' is going to sound louder because not only do you have the original, but now you've got the double coming from the delay happening at the exact same time. So what will happen is it'll sound like, 'let it BE' and then it will delay. So it'd be like, 'let it BE' 'be' 'be' 'be' 'be'. And you don't want that. You just want the vocal to sound normal up until the delay starts happening. So you just want it to be 'let it be be be be be'. I'll show you exactly what I mean here.

So right now we've just got a piano set up and I'm just going to play it with no effect.

[Music Playing]

And it just loops there. And then if we have the delay on, and I've set the delay to try to be as weird as possible so you can hear what the original sounds like and then what the delay is doing.

[Music Playing]

So right now you can hear that it's pretty much just giving one slap back. Now if I increase the feedback, you're going to hear that it lengthens the amount of time that the delay happens.

[Music Playing]

And you can hear it there when when it's trailing out, it's really extended.

[Music Playing]

Whereas if I just have it here and I do that same thing, [Music Playing] it just ends with just a single one.

So let's check out what I was talking about with the mix knob here. I just want a four bar phrase. Let's say that I just want to mute all of them. And let's say that I just want the last cord here to have a delay. All right, so let's listen to this.

[Music Playing]

All right, so that sounds cool. What I'm going to do is I'm going to turn down the output so that the delay isn't so loud.

[Music Playing]

Nice. That's better. So now the delay is a little bit quieter than the initial. Now if I turn the mix to say 50% that means that it's going to let in 50% of the original and blend that with 50% of the of the delay. So let's listen to that

[Music Playing]

All right. So let's take it from here and listen.

[Music Playing]

Now, if you're listening carefully, you'll hear that last chord was actually played louder. It actually sounded louder. And that's because we're getting double the amount of information on that one cord. So we want to set it to a hundred percent 'wet' so that you're only hearing the delay from the delay plug-in.

[Music Playing]

All right, and just to show you, if you set this to 100% 'dry' and you actually mute the original track, your actual piano track here, you will still hear the piano played through here. I'm going to set it so it's not muted there. You will actually still hear your piano even though it's muted because 100% of it is still going through the echo plug-in.

[Music Playing]

You see that? Your piano track is muted, but it's still sending that audio to your EchoBoy Jr here and it's set to 100% dry, so it's not giving you any echo. So that's what's causing the sounds to double up on each other.

So if we set it to 100% wet, that means that none of the original signal is being played as being passed through. And we're only hearing the echo.

[Music Playing]

So right there because our piano is muted, we're only hearing the echo, we're not hearing the actual main source. So if I unmute that now we'll hear the main source.

[Music Playing]

Here is just the echo.

[Music Playing]

So yeah, that was something that caused a lot of issues for me. I didn't realize it - because some of the pre-sets on here won't have the mix set to 100%. I don't really know why. But yeah, it was causing a lot of issues. All of a sudden I was like trying to figure out why one word was super loud when I was just trying to put delay on it.

It's that 'mix' knob that you need to watch out for!

xxx - Josh

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Like a lot of people right now in 2019, I am obsessed with Billie Eilish and her productions.

Her productions are done mainly by her brother Finneas. I've been listening obsessively to interviews with him. One of the things that surprised me the most was when he is asked what his vocal chain is for his sister. He just says it's just the logic stock compressor and that's it. And then they send their songs off to a mixer.

I'm sure there's other things that are done afterwards, but while he's working, he just throws up a Logic stock compressor and just goes with it. He didn't say this, but I kind of think that part of why he does that is about having an uninterrupted flow, an uninterrupted creative flow. When he's working, he doesn't bog himself down with a really intricate vocal chain that is going to distract them from what is really important - the big picture of the song.

That's really the point that I want to make is try not to get bogged down too early in the details if they're not really essential to the big picture that you're working on. There is a time and a place to get into the weeds, into the details and really cut off the fat off of what you're working on. But most of the time - early on - that's not the time to be doing that and it can really get us all - including myself - sidetracked and really slow us down in our creative process.

The other thing that I wanted to say is pay attention to what your interests are at that moment. Like there's a lot of times where we make to do lists of like - gotta finish song - gotta finish writing lyrics - do the bridge - gotta comp vocals - gotta tune the vocals.

And those are two completely different mindsets. And a lot of times it can be really difficult to just call up that mindset, you know, just because your to do list says that you should. Pay attention to what your mindset is. If you're in one of those moods - and I get in this head space often where I feel like doing very analytical type things like tuning vocals or comping tracks or whatever those are, those are kind of tedious, but sometimes I kind of, they feel like putting together a little puzzle. Other times I just can't stand doing that. And I just want to be creative. I just want to write emotional lyrics or whatever I'm just feeling. Whatever it is that you're feeling, do it and do it 110%. Don't try and be bouncing back and forth and distracting yourself, doing a little bit of lyrics and a little bit of this other stuff. Just go in and just put yourself in that space and finish what it is that you set out to finish.

Have a great week.

xxx - Josh

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How I Get Those Nasty, Dirty Drum Sounds 💩🥁

So yesterday, I was talking to a friend of mine about what I do to get drums to sound a little bit more nasty, a little bit more gritty. That's what we're going to be talking about today.

As I was preparing for this video, I was going through a couple of the things that I thought that I did - that I ended up not doing - and it kind of surprised me. But before we get to those things, let's just start with just a few of the elements that help create the type of nasty and gritty drum sounds that I like to hear.

I'm going to play a section of the song so you can kind of hear it in context and then we'll break down some of the things that I did for this. So here we go.

[Music Playing]

Okay. So one of the first things that I did is I put a trigger on my bass drum. So here's what the bass drum sounded like before I did any sound replacement. And that's what trigger is - trigger is a sound replacer for drums. So this is what the bass drum sounds like before.

[Music Playing]

So what I did, just to make things easy, I pulled up trigger, so I'm making it active now. And then what it does is it just reads the "wave form" of whatever you are feeding into it and then it replaces it with whatever sound that you want. So I just go to my browser and I just picked, (I don't even know where I got this), this one specific library from, this is from "That Sound" ( is the name of the library. But yeah, this one's called bottoms kick and then fuzzy kick and Subi kicks. I feel like I picked and choose from different places to create this one. And so this is what it sounds like now.

[Music Playing]

So it's definitely a bass drum with more grit and and more room to it. The next thing - this is what my snare drum sounded like.

[Music Playing]

And so what I did is I just duplicated it. I only recorded it on the top, so I just duplicated it. And I also put an incidence of Trigger on it. These are big beauty, big and dry and room. This is a Ludwig Black Beauty snare drum.

So this is what it sounds like. Oh - and what I did is, unlike the bass drum, I didn't completely replace the sound. I still kept my original snare, but I brought in this extra kind of Trigger sound-replaced snare. So now there's kind of two going at the same time - I just blended them together.

[Music Playing]

Because I still liked a bit of the attack that I had from my original snare. Sometimes when you sound replace drums that you've got, they can almost sound too perfect. A lot of times these samples have been recorded in really nice studios with great gear and they've been dialed in super perfect. You know? But I don't necessarily like that on every song that I do, so I'll still keep my original drums in there sometimes.

So that's what I do to get my kick and snare happening. So here it is, the kick and snare.

[Music Playing]

And what I was surprised about is I actually thought that I had put a little bit of distortion on my kicks and snares, but really I just used the sound replaced samples to bring in a bit of that grit. I just looked for the drums that already had a bit of that distortion, a bit of that dirtiness already built into it. But what I do sometimes here - is I will create an aux track, which is what I did right down here. I called this 'distortion effects' or 'dist FX' and I put a "Devil-Loc" plugin from Soundtoys ( and this is where I can blend in some of the distortion into the overall drum sound. I've got it sitting here on my drum sub and so all of my drums are feeding into this drum sub right here. And then I'm able to use this as an effects bus to just blend in a bit of the distortion that I have here on this track. So without it, this is what the entire drum set sounds like. Actually, let me just solo the drums so we can hear what we're dealing with. So these are the drums without any of the distortion.

[Music Playing]

And then with this distortion plug in, I'll unmute that. I've just put it a little bit right here. This is what it sounds like now:

[Music Playing].

It's probably not a huge difference. I'll keep it going, but I'll toggle the mute on and off. It's not a big difference, but for what I needed for this song, I just wanted just a little bit more. So here's with it off and then I'll put it back on.

[Music Playing].

So here I'm going to increase the level of distortion so you can really hear the drastic difference it can make. So here it is - just a little bit.

[Music Playing]

So as it got more and more, you could totally hear why I didn't keep it up there all the time because they can really get out of control with this Soundtoys Devil-Loc plugin. It's a nasty little booger! But it is one of my favorite little boogers! Do people have favorite boogers, I don't know. I do!

So that's it! That's, the quick and dirty of what I reach for when I'm going for quick and dirty drums.

xxx - Josh

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Don't Rush for Feedback on Your Music 🧘🏽‍♀️

I was recently reading this book from Stephen King called "On Writing". And in the book he talks about the importance of waiting for feedback on anything that you've created.

He talks about the value of getting feedback, all that that entails, who you should ask for feedback from, and things like that.

He said that if you let your creative process be influenced too early on by feedback from others, then you'll never really get a chance to see where your intention could go.

He uses the analogy of "create your first draft with the door closed, and then your second draft with the door open".

And what I think he means is, don't let anybody influence what you're doing when you're very first creating your idea. Give yourself the chance to explore and make some mistakes, back-step, and then take some steps forward.

And, and then when you feel like you've gotten a chance to do what you wanted to do, say what you wanted to say... then, and only then open up your door and let some feedback in.

I believe this is something us musicians, producers, and writers need to strongly consider.

Don't let your creative vision be influenced too early on by what other people say.

xxx - Josh

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The Most Overlooked Vocal Production Tool


Do you ever wish that you could change the timbre of a voice, make it sound a little bit younger or maybe a little bit older?

Or make it sound like maybe the singer is smoked too many cigarettes, maybe inhaled a little bit of helium?

There's a tool in Melodyne that gets overlooked in a lot of tutorials, and it's the formant tool. And I'm going to jump right into this and play a bit of this vocal. And this is just a scratch a song that just a scratch vocal and track that we're working on. So it's not fully produced or anything, but just pay attention to the vocal here.

[Plays music]

So this thing has got a really cool tamper tour voice already and she's kind of got this like, I feel like a low end kind of grittiness to her voice, which is really cool. So normally I wouldn't use this on her voice unless I was going for something that was really interesting and different, which is what I'm going to try and do in this pre-chorus section right here. So this busier section that happens right here,

[Plays music]

I'm going to pull up the formant tool, which is this little tab right here. And all you've got to do is just hover over it, click, go in, click, drag up or down. I'm going to put it back and I'm going to manipulate it as it's playing so you can hear what it does.

[Plays music]

So I'm sure you've heard this kind of voice manipulation a lot in pop songs, especially on the echoes of phrases. So they'll have a phrase like in the normal vocal timbre and then they'll, they'll have it like echo with the formant kind of way up or way down. It's a really cool technique. And I feel like if you, if you go extreme, you know, it can sound like you're, you've got helium in your voice or the other way.

But what I have liked to do when I'm not trying to go for something extreme is just manipulate it just a little bit. Especially like if you've got a voice that sounds a little bit younger and you want it to sound more mature or vice versa, you've got a voice that sounds a little bit too mature, too old, and you want to bring some youthful elements back. I just bring the formant up just a little bit and you can make it sound like a more youthful voice.

So listen here. So this is gonna start a regular, non-affected.

[Plays music]

So I would find the sweet spot in there, but you can, you can get just a little bit of more useful sound in there. And then here, if I wanted to make her sound a little bit more mature. She's already got a low end kind of great, like I said to her voice. So this might not illustrate it the best, but you could bring it down..

[Plays music]

So those are the ways that I like to play around with this formant tool.

Experiment. See what you can do with it.

xxx - Josh

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How I Took a Car Horn and Made It Into An Instrument (using Ableton Live Simpler) 🚙 → 🎹

What's going on guys!

Today I want to show you how to make an instrument with a sample.

And this is a monophonic sample. I'll get into what that means, but today I did it with a car horn and it's pretty cool. It's a lot of fun.

I'm working at an office right now downtown in Phoenix and my ac went out on my car and had to take it to the shop. It's a 110 outside and Phoenix, so I used my godfather's car. He's got this beautiful old Buick.

When I went to arm the car and locked the door with this key fob it made this amazing sound throughout the parking garage. I'm like, "this is cool. I want to record this". So I grabbed my phone and recorded a couple of samples of it, brought it into my laptop and started clicking away.

Let me show you what I did.

Okay, so I want to make an instrument out of this car horn. What do I do? Well, right off the bat, we're going to open a mini track and I'm using Ableton live.

- Open simpler. Simpler as a built in instrument in Ableton that's purposely for monophonic instruments. So instruments that you're just going to hit one note at a time, like a bass or synth lead, something like that. But not like a pad. If you wanted a pad or piano or something you'd need "sampler."

- Put in the file that contains your sample sound.

- Go in and “dial it down” to put in beginning and end points to select the specific parts of the sound you recorded and want to use.

- Indicate the “C” note - C is just where it starts,

- In this example, I’m going to use the one shot mode.

- Adjust the length and the pitch envelope.

- Simpler automatically transposes notes across the keyboard.

- A car horn has a lot of frequency in it and it's actually like a cord. You're actually hearing multiple notes that are playing at once.

- Add some pads and some, some drums and other items to the mix. My example is just a looped chord progression for 16 bars.

- The original sound I used is the wrong key. If that happens, transpose to the right key.

- Adjust the synths up or down, and add other effects.

- I added some portamento glide to it.

- I also used some Neutron, a mixing tool by isotope and I've added an equalizer, cutting out a lot of the low end.

- I’ve also added some transient shaper to it and I lowered the attack on this so that it gives the appearance that it is a little further away.

- Adjust the various settings as you prefer for the sound you’re working with. This example also includes some compression.

- Next I added some reverb.

- Lastly I dropped on an auto filter. I used Ableton's auto filter.

- Adjust the filter as needed to get the sound you prefer.

- Boom, bob's your uncle! To hear it, hit play in the video above.


All right guys, that's it for this week. We will see you on the next video. If you'd like to learn more about how to produce your own music, please consider joining the Producer Course here:

xxx - Zion

All music is copyrighted by Zion Brock. For licensing information please contact [email protected]


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Choosing the Right Beat for Your Song 🥁

Hey guys!
I want to do a video just talking about drums today. This is something that I'm really passionate about. Drums are my main instrument. I've studied them for more years than I care to mention. And I want to talk about choosing the right beat for your song. 
Check out the video. :) 
xxx - Josh
… one of the reasons that your song misses the mark. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to play a piano chord progression and it's just going to be on a loop and I'm going to play a variety of different beats over that chord progression. And it's all gonna be the exact same tempo. Nothing's going to change. And you're going to hear how these different beats over the same piano, a progression change the entire feeling of it. It'll make it sound like it's all of a sudden a dance song or one might make it feel like it's a ballad.
One is going, we're going to explore some Latin fields like reggaeton. Maybe that kind of like gives it like a, that kind of like island flavor. I'm even going to change the time signature. Like right now I hear this piano in a four, four times signature. We're going to see what happens if we change it to a six, eight or 12 eight a time feel all within the exact same tempo. So here we go. I'm going to play a little bit of the piano progression and then I'm going to start playing some ideas and I'll talk to you in between
Right now in your, this one, two, three, three, one, two is it right there in the snare is on B3 and the kick is on me, but we could switch it. So the snare drums are two and four, the scenarios on two and four. We could also do, we could also do like a Motown feel where the scenarios are on every downbeat or we can do the scenarios and on me. So
I also look at some Latin flavors. So one of the traditional Latin fields is Samba, which has a double bass drum repeating pattern like this
That could lend itself going into like a Boston Nova field. Or we can go into like a reggae feel, which is like this. We could also look at switching it from an eight four, four to a six eight by four, four I mean there's four county, four beats per measure. One, two, three, four one, two, three. We get switch that accounting to me like one, two, three, four, five, six one, two, three, five, six
Going back to four, four. We could also do something like what they use in Ed Sheeran's photograph where the snare drum just hits on beat four and the rest are accented on the toms. This kind of gives it like a tribal feel or we can take those accents that were split between the Tom and the snare and put them all on this snare, which is going to give it a more driving tribal field.
And then just to show you where we'll kind of run through a bunch of these seamlessly using kind of hear how it changes. So this is where we began.
So yeah, that's just a, just a handful. Those are just the ones that I could think of off the top of my head. And you can hear how drastically that changes the exact same chord progression without changing the tempo at all. So put some serious consideration into what rhythm you want to be the foundation of your song. And you know, you don't have to pick one cause you can see that, you know, I could switch between a bunch of those so you could have one for your verse, one for your chorus. But just be thinking about that. It makes a big a big difference on how your song is felt.
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Blending Synth and Sampled Horns

In this video I show how I blended real sounding horns with a not-so-real sounding synth horn patch to create something new and interesting.

I think it was Martin Scorsese who said to an actor something like "Don't give me real, give me interesting. Interesting is better." And that's what we're doing in the studio today. 
So I I like to take that approach when I'm using virtual instruments where I can't get the real thing.  And again, I'm not trying to go for real, but instead I'm trying to go for interesting. I'm trying to make it something that you might not have heard exactly in this way before.
So I'm gonna play a little bit and then I'll show you what I what I've done with it. (playing example)
I've got these horn parts here that are just kind of playing this line right here. And those sound cool. But what I did is I panned those to one side and on the other side I doubled it with a synth that kind of has a little bit more dirt to it. And by itself the synth doesn't sound very cool but it blends really well with the horn. So here's the synth by itself. (plays music)
It doesn't sound doesn't sound very cool. It doesn't sound much like a horn. But when you blend it with this it sounds much better… (plays music)
So originally I tried actually just doubling the horn parts. You know and just putting one to one side and one to the other. But it didn't really add anything, it just sounded like the same horns on both sides. eIf I had like trombones I'm one and tuba on the other... I just found that it sounded more interesting to have that synth in there just to kind of like make it a little unusual. 
The other thing that I did too created an interesting part is I took this little section and I reversed it and that's what creates this swell at the beginning of the phrase here ..(plays music)
So instead of always trying to make your instrument sound more realistic, try to make them sound more interesting. 
You're gonna find more success in trying to make your virtual instruments sound more interesting than trying to make them sound more real, and trying to fool the masses.
- Josh
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