One area where many producers fall short is in the “life” of their drums. Today we explore how to use Ableton effects racks to produce a lively, driving techno 808 clap which will brighten up your mix, and add detailed rhythmic elements to the overall sound.
Key points to take from the video
Adding a glue compressor, even if the threshold isn’t set, is a really cool trick to add a bit of effect to the sound. This seems somewhat counter-intuitive – if it’s not set to compress, then why does it make a difference? The key lies in the design of the effect.
Ableton’s glue compressor is an analogue-modelled compressor which means it doesn’t behave quite like some other compression plugins. For starters, at a low ratio, it has a very soft knee (which hardens as you increase the ratio).
A soft knee means that the compression actually kicks in before the threshold is reached so that it is less abrupt. This means that transient heavy sounds being processed through it may well get compressed even if they don’t quite reach the threshold.
Another important point, also due to it being modelled on an SSL compressor, is that the threshold changes as you change the ratio. A low ratio actually is linked to a lower threshold and so compression is again likely to kick in, even just subtly, on a glue compressor at default settings.
Removing the low-frequencies after the reverb is widely regarded as an essential technique to prevent mud in your mix, particularly if you are working on electronic music with ample bass frequencies. There is already little room for stray rumbles from reverbs and non-bass instruments.
You will also notice that Stephen adds a bit of a boost in the higher frequencies to allow the clap to cut through the mix a bit, this can work wonders amongst splashy hi-hats and techno synths. The same can be said for:
Adding some overdrive. This again increases some of the brightness of the clap and the reverb tail, but it also adds some volume to it.
Use Auto-Filter to again add a spike to the brightness and bring the sound into the forefront of the track. The same can be done to filter out frequencies in problem areas and remove the harshest of frequencies.
Waves S1 Stereo Imager is one of Stephen’s favourite tools, he uses it to widen the stereo field of the reverb and make it sound larger. Tools like this work on a variety of instruments, particularly higher frequency sounds. A good (rough) rule of thumb is the higher the frequency, the wider you can spread it. One area to avoid this is the sub frequencies which should remain in mono. This can be done using the utility effect where the bass frequencies can be set to mono below a certain frequency.
Filter Delay is added before the overdrive. This means that the delay effect still goes through the brightening distortion, and sits nicely in the chain. Stephen’s key to this is the combination of the filter, the delay, and the panning. This creates a very wide, rhythmic effect which is heard in many of the best techno tracks. The filtering creates interest and modulates as the delay progresses.
You will see that in Stephen’s track, he doesn’t overuse this clap as it can be quite dense, but it works wonders at suddenly spreading and brightening up the overall moody textures which techno provides.