Tools needed to achieve Jake Bowen(Isometric) style songs

Discussion in 'Recording Studio' started by bpprox22, Sep 20, 2017.

  1. bpprox22

    bpprox22 String Breaker

    Messages:
    402
    Likes Received:
    90
    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2014
    Location:
    Warren, OH
    Hi everyone,

    I remember jamming to this album a lot in college when studying and I started listening to it again. Now, I'm wondering if I can try my hand at making something similar. What particular plugins/effects do you think will get me there?

    Reference:


    In a Facebook post he made:
    Are there any decent free/less expensive options out there?
     
  2. NickLAudio

    NickLAudio Audio/Video Engineer

    Messages:
    299
    Likes Received:
    49
    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2013
    Location:
    NY
    What daw are you using?
     
  3. synrgy

    synrgy Ya ya ya I am Lorde

    Messages:
    6,314
    Likes Received:
    1,120
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2009
    Location:
    Frederick, MD
    Komplete aside, most of Jake's suggestions are relatively cheap, compared to the available alternatives. Reason's pricetag is a fraction of alternatives like Ableton, Cubase, etc.

    For DAWs, I've used Reason, Cubase, GarageBand, Logic, and other similar software over the years. Most such programs are all equally capable, differing only in user-interface. I started with Reason and found its interface very helpful for learning, but I eventually ended up falling in love with Ableton. However, that's me; one man's 'pleasantly intuitive' can be another man's 'dickpunchingly frustrating'.

    On the cheaper side, I've heard good things about Reaper and Studio One, but haven't used either, so I can't speak from experience.

    As for cheap or free individual plugins, you can find a bunch of stuff at KVR Audio.

    Disregarding price tag, these things are just like cars/computers/etc; different individuals have different needs, and can respond differently to the same products, which is to say that what works for Jake might not work for you. His productions suggest to me that he's patient with programming, and subtle with arranging; skills/talents that are regrettably not available for download or purchase.
     
    bpprox22 likes this.
  4. bpprox22

    bpprox22 String Breaker

    Messages:
    402
    Likes Received:
    90
    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2014
    Location:
    Warren, OH
    Reaper

    I agree with your remarks about not being able to purchase skills (what a world that would be). But, Reaper has worked out extremely well for me so far so I'm going to stick with it for now. Aside from a DAW, what are the essential types of plugins/tools I'll need to get going? A Synth and some Sound samples? I could be looking at this wrong.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2017
  5. JohnIce

    JohnIce Singlecoils = tr00

    Messages:
    4,882
    Likes Received:
    1,671
    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2009
    Location:
    Sweden
    I don't know what Reaper comes bundled with, I do know you could whip up something similar with the stock sounds in Logic or Cubase. It's definitely the arrangement and production that gives the sound, he could probably switch out a lot of the sounds and not really change the vibe of the song. Not saying this is you, but it can be easy as a rock/metal musician to hear music like this and think "oh it's electronic music, plugins are doing all the work, I could do that if I had the plugins!" Truth is there's a lot of manual labour and skill going into a production like this, even though it may sound relaxed and chill. Especially the glitchy bits here and there.

    Anyhow, he seems to favour sine and square wave synths, with cutoff set pretty low in most cases. A lot of the leads seem to have some bit crusher to get them a little more videogame sounding. Virtually any synth should be able to reproduce these tones, much of the ambience is in reverb and delays.

    For drums, I assume he's using some Native Instruments stuff like Battery or Polyplex. These are great because they have those really crisp, punchy drum sounds in the box. But technically, you could just look around the internet for samples until you've gathered your own collection. But if I were you and wanted to spend money on one thing, some NI drums would be my recommendation.

    For pads, he seems to favour a string patch that's filtered both in the low and high end. Could be an expensive library, but filtered that much it could just as well be some really basic string patch. There's also some really dark saw pads in there, again with cutoff pretty low.

    Other than that, it seems to be mostly guitars and buckets of reverb. Valhalla make great, cheap reverbs.
     
    bpprox22 and synrgy like this.
  6. synrgy

    synrgy Ya ya ya I am Lorde

    Messages:
    6,314
    Likes Received:
    1,120
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2009
    Location:
    Frederick, MD
    It really sounds like you just need to study and play with synthesis for a while. Speaking from years of personal experience, there aren't any shortcuts. It's no easier to produce great sounding electronic music than it is to produce great sounding rock/metal music, or any other genre; one has 'the ear', or one doesn't.

    JohnIce has provided a pretty stellar assessment of the sounds, or at least as I'm hearing them: Most are based on simple waveforms one would find in virtually any synthesizer; Sine/Saw/Square. Creative usage of filtering is key, and of course one can add effects to the signal chain, too.

    There's thousands of free, simple, and pretty great VST synthesizers out there. The thing is, they're just like OSs, DAWs, and everything else; most provide the same basic functionality, but each use a different (if similar) interface. Visit this link and go nuts, basically. Grab one, play with it, see if you can do anything with it. If so, great; if not, move on to the next one.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2017
    bpprox22 likes this.
  7. bpprox22

    bpprox22 String Breaker

    Messages:
    402
    Likes Received:
    90
    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2014
    Location:
    Warren, OH
    Thanks for the input @JohnIce and @synrgy

    Believe me, I don't expect to just get some plugins and instantly sound like Jake. I mainly just need a starting point / idea of where to begin diving in. This is definitely enough to keep me busy for a while.

    Also, KVR Audio is pretty nice to have in my tool belt so thank you for the reference!
     
    JohnIce and synrgy like this.
  8. synrgy

    synrgy Ya ya ya I am Lorde

    Messages:
    6,314
    Likes Received:
    1,120
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2009
    Location:
    Frederick, MD
    FWIW, I don't mean to imply that you're operating under any delusions, and I don't mean to be overly generic by not recommending specific instruments. It's just that these things are so subjective. I mean, sure, folks tend to argue that an Ibby RG is 'better for metal' than a Fender Tele, for example, but that's not inherently true: There's potential for infinite variance, depending on how the individual uses the instrument(s). Similarly, Ableton's interface is super-intuitive to me, but there are others out there who genuinely hate it, and while I used to think Reason was the perfect tool to teach guitar players how to make electronic music - because that was my experience - I've since been told by many people that it didn't work for them at all.

    TL;DR = I just wanted to head off the obligatory wave of folks who insist that you need to be using what they're using, because it's just the best, they swear. ;)
     
  9. bpprox22

    bpprox22 String Breaker

    Messages:
    402
    Likes Received:
    90
    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2014
    Location:
    Warren, OH
    No worries, I knew what your intent was. Thanks for clarifying anyway :cheers:
     
  10. billinder33

    billinder33 SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    61
    Likes Received:
    29
    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2017
    Spectrasonics Stylus RMS is a package that you can easily and quickly write this style of music. I have a friend who used to write a bunch of ambient and pad-synth music like this in StylusRMX. It's $400 retail, but you can really do a lot with it, and it's super easy to compose in it. Go to the website and check it out.

    I own NI Komplete and whatever synths comes with Waves Mercury (never use those). I primarily use Komplete for adding synth as a last step to tunes already composed with Drums, Gtr, Bass... so much different use case. The package has everything, but it's not as easy to use as Stylus, and it's not cheap (huge understatement) either. But it literally has one or more modules for every type of synthesis - Drum, additive, subtractive, FM, sample, etc.

    Honestly for what you want to accomplish, I'd get Stylus and you'd be knocking these types of tunes out in 48 hours or less.

    For DAW, I've used most of them, and IMO Reaper is top of the line pro software at a fraction of the cost of the other commercial packages. It's the only thing I use these days. If you're a Mac user, Logic has awesome features and is super easy to use, but definitely more expensive.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2017
    bpprox22 likes this.
  11. JohnIce

    JohnIce Singlecoils = tr00

    Messages:
    4,882
    Likes Received:
    1,671
    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2009
    Location:
    Sweden
    When I was learning about synths, I found this series by Ed Diaz very clear and helpful. Ignore the specific brand of synth he's using, you'll find that the four squares on his synth (1 blue, 3 yellow) are found on basically all synths. What you want to learn is what does what on a synth, much like you know what does what between a guitar, amp and pedals. After this first video about the basics, Ed continues in more videos showing how to make strings, bass etc.

     
    bpprox22 likes this.
  12. bpprox22

    bpprox22 String Breaker

    Messages:
    402
    Likes Received:
    90
    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2014
    Location:
    Warren, OH
    Sweet. Now I have something to watch on my lunch break!
     
  13. Rizzo

    Rizzo SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    1,021
    Likes Received:
    35
    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2012
    Location:
    Italy
    *This won't be directly related with Jake, just sharing some thoughts from a fellow wannabe electronic producer.*

    First, don't care about the DAW. Go with what you know. Any DAW is fine for electronica if you know how to use it. Yes there are some specifically designed with electronica in mind, but it's still all means for an end and learning a new DAW from scratch can be pretty frustrating and is overall useless. TL,DR: if you have Reaper, just work with it. I've started tinkering with electronica lately as well -on Reaper as well- (and it's such a damn long way, more than I ever imagined!), never had any problems so far to create some experimental snippets.

    I already mentioned not overthinking DAWs, well don't overthink VSTs either. It's about skills. Same as guitar playing, you won't play better with a 5k guitar if you still suck. So don't fantasize about pro-grade VSTs until you can't exploit all the potential of basic ones. I mean, granted you can't have the same palette of sounds on a free synth VST than on say something mostrous like Serum, but limit your options first because as anything, you won't be able to use the best *insert thing* in the world until you know how that thing works inherently. And you don't really have limits on synthesis if you do KNOW how a synth works, the rest is pretty much icing on the cake.

    IMHO, electronica is 10% VSTs, 50% automation, and 40% creativity. It' more about how to create an arrangement, stacking and layering, clever sound design and good mixing than anything else.
    Yeah about sound design, the infamous "how can i get that sound"! Prepare for sleepless nights and endless trial and error.
    Also, in electro, you can't separate the arranging from the sound designing from the mixing and mastering, it's not your average rock production to be done step by step. It's all a big mess happening all at once and it makes it really damn intimidating.

    In addition, while synthetizing you'll be basically creating sound from nothing (that's sound *design* indeed), so you'll have to be able to give form to the chaos. Think about this metaphor: you're a rock music producer, need drums recorded. Let's focus on the kick: you'll just record a drumkick (that inherently and naturally has that sound, given from its natural attack, decay, sustain and relase characteristics). Record it in the best way, mix it and you're done.
    In electronica (excluding samples, that would be too easy), you'd have to synthetize a drum kick. So basically you'll have your entire hearing frequency spectrum at hand and you'll try to isolate some portion that resembles a kick to you, by identifying its ADSR characteristics and its needs for compression. All by ear, filters and other audio tools. Not really easy. Like using a bottle to get water from a flowing river and hoping you get the "right" water inside the bottle. Intimidating right? But that's also part of the fun.

    There are lots of free VST out there, just look at the top rated on VST4free and KVR. Off the top of my head: synth1, dblue glitch, TR910 are all great for a minimal starter pack. Then you'll find free samples of anything around the net. Grab yourself a soundfont reader (ex. SFZ sforzando) and a sampler (Reaper has a decent sampler already called reasamplomatic5000 or something like that). Some bitcrushers, distortions and granulators will come handy along the way. But that's another story.
    The rest is about your skills and creativity really, plus study EQ and compression in and out. You'll be using a lot of sidechain and parallel compression. The good thing about electronica is that you'll really force yourself to learn audio engineering, because it's the only way!

    Naively, I was actually looking for some "how to" tutorials as there are for other kinds of productions, at least to understand "how the fvck do they do *sound x*" because I felt so lost, but there's really none of that from an instructional perspective. You'll maybe find someone on YT trying to recreate a top EDM hit, but not explaining the mechanics of it. You're basically on your own, but the dots do connect petty fast once you have the basics.

    It's such a long way but so much fun. As mentioned above, do learn about the basics of synthesis and sampling (basically, in electro and related genres, everything that's not synthetized is sampled and viceversa, so you'll get the tools of the trade, then it's about how to use them). Learn something about hip hop. Learn about the different kinds of synths and what did they imply, both technically and culturally.
    Listen to a fvckton of different stuff, learn the aesthetics and try to grasp the sound design. Once there, an entire universe will open up to you already.

    Moog (who else really? lol) has a nice instructional series about synthetizers on their website: http://moogfoundation.org/
    Also the book "Synth Cookbook" by Welsh is great to get a grasp of synthesis.

    Umm nothing else off the top of my head by now. I'm still in the deepes sh*t about learning electronica, just wanted to share my experience in case anything could be useful. :)
    I'll follow the thread, there's always something to learn.
     
    synrgy and bpprox22 like this.
  14. bpprox22

    bpprox22 String Breaker

    Messages:
    402
    Likes Received:
    90
    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2014
    Location:
    Warren, OH
    @Rizzo Thanks, I appreciate the insight! I had a lot of time to spend on this topic a few nights ago. I can already tell that producing something like Jake and other good electronic artists would take A LOT more than a few tinkering sessions here and there.

    With that said, I'm digging it so far and am having fun learning about synths. As a practice, I am going to try to reproduce Jake Bowen's "Angry God" off the album Isometric. Maybe I'll post my progress after I get a fair bit of it done.
     
  15. Rizzo

    Rizzo SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    1,021
    Likes Received:
    35
    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2012
    Location:
    Italy
    Thank you for finding it any useful, it's merely personal and I'm still a full-blown beginner haha.

    That would be a great learning project! Also would be nice to share for general knowledge, I know I'd be interested at least.
     

Share This Page