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]


Continue Reading...

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.
Continue Reading...

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
Continue Reading...

Quick Tip - Vocal Mix Levels

Quick tip for how to check if your vocals are balanced at the right level within a mix. If you turn it almost all the way down and the last thing you hear is ONLY the vocal then your vocal MIGHT be too loud. However if you turn it almost all the way down and the last thing you hear is something louder than the vocal, then your vocal MIGHT be too quiet in the mix.

Continue Reading...

Quick Tip - Listen Like a Teenager, Analyze Like a Scientist

Many teenager's listen to music with a passion that most of us lose as we get older. Let's see if we can get some of that back but also take time to analyze what is making us have physical reactions to certain music. Music is magic! Let's figure out how the tricks are done!

Continue Reading...

Quick Tip - Creating Within Your Limitations (Part 2)

In Part 1 I talked about ways to play and record an instrument that you might not know very well. In this video I'll show you how I took that approach and used it to create a fresh sounding guitar part (without using much actual guitar playing at all)! The point of this is to inspire you to try recording other instruments in simple ways that can result in sounds which not many others would ever think to try.

Continue Reading...

Quick Tip - Creating Within Your Limitations (Part 1)

Not every self-producing artist is a multi-instrumentalist and you don't need to be! Here is one way you can approach playing an instrument that can result in fresh sounding ideas on your next recording. (In Part 2 I'll show you how this one-note-at-a-time technique can sound in a song.)

Continue Reading...

Quick Tip - 3 Songwriting Hacks You'll Love!

For me production starts right at the very beginning when the song is being written. Check out 3 of my favorite songwriting hacks that have helped me bridge the gap between Songwriter and Producer. 

Continue Reading...


Challenge Rules and Guides:

- Pick one room/location (ie- bathroom, your car, shed, etc) and find as many unique sounds as you can. Record them, import the audio into your DAW of choice, chop up the usable audio clips and arrange them on different tracks.

- Create a beat or song using those sounds as a primary element. You can choose to make the beat or song as simple or complex as you want. It could be instrumental or it could have vocals. It doesn't need to ONLY be those sounds from your chosen location (you could choose add guitars, vocals, piano if you'd like) but I want the sounds you've found to be a featured element in the recording you share.

- The goal is to be as creative as possible and be as unique as possible. Find music in your surroundings and use the limitations of your current skillset as an advantage.

- Due by 10pm (PST), Sunday, June 9th.


- The week following the deadline I will post a video of the challenge winners and honorable mentions.

Continue Reading...

Quick Tip - Find the Answer Within

Sometimes when we are struggling to find the right sound or the right part for a song, we discover that the answer was within the song itself all along. In this video I discuss one way I used existing parts of a song to create new hooks.

Continue Reading...

50% Complete

Let's Stay Connected.

If you'd like to join our newsletter, just add your name and email here. We LOVE giving value to other like-minded producers and songwriters, and we will never sell your email address to the evil empires. 💚