top of page

Some tutorials I've made on music theory, composition, arranging, synthesis, stylistic approaches and production techniques.

Tutorials
Daft Punk Synth Tutorial
16:28
Alex Ball

Daft Punk Synth Tutorial

This week I thought I'd demo three Daft Punk synth sounds / samples on original hardware. As these are all VCO-based analogue synths that are the best part of 40 years old, you'll probably find that settings vary slightly from one unit to the next. In fact, the settings vary on a daily basis on my own synths, depending upon temperature or how long they've been switched on etc. Here's the settings. Korg MS-20 (Mark I): KYBD CV OUT patched into VOLTAGE CONTROLLED HP FILTER CUTOFF FREQ SIGNAL OUT patched into EXTERNAL SIGNAL PROCESSOR SIGNAL IN. Output from AMP OUT. Signal level 8.8 OSC 1: Sawtooth at 8' OSC 2: Sawtooth at 16' tuned up a 5th HP filter: Cutoff 3, Peak 0, MG 0, EXT 10 LP filter: Cutoff 3.1, Peak 7.8, MG 0, EG2 7.8 EG2: Hold 0 Attack 1 Decay 5.2 Sustain 0.2 Release 4 Roland TB-303: G down A# up G slide F up D# accent + slide C# down + accent C# down + accent + slide C# accent D# up + slide D# down F up + slide G up + accent + slide G# down G down + slide C down + slide G slide Distort with a stomp box or unit of your choice and dial in the cutoff and envelope with resonance all the way up. Tweak decay and accent. I was using the square wave setting. Sequential Circuits Pro~One: This is matching the quite tame sync preset from the Prophet 5, you can get lots of variations of the sync sound, including more aggressive versions. Oscillator A: Octave 1, square, 50% PW, Sync On. Oscillator B: Octave 1, no waves, Normal, KYBD Oscillator A level: 10 Oscillator B level: n/a as we've no waves Noise: 0 Filter: Cutoff 2 Resonance 0 Envelope amount 6 Keyboard Amount 4 Attack 4 Decay 7 Sustain 3 Release 3 Amp: Attack 2 Decay 5 Sustain 10 Release 0 Mod matrix: Filter envelope direct to Oscillator A freq. Amount 10. LFO frequency 6.5, shape triangle LFO wheel to Oscillator B freq. Amount 1.5. Dial up mod wheel. Alternatives to these synths: Korg MS-20: https://www.korg.com/uk/products/synthesizers/ms_20mini/ http://i.korg.com/LegacyMS20 TB-303: https://www.roland.com/us/products/tb-03/ https://www.cyclone-analogic.fr/en/34-bass-bot-tt-303-0701980493430.html https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/mode-machines-xoxbox https://errozero.co.uk/acid-machine/ Pro~One: There's a Behringer clone coming, but in the meantime there's these emulations. I have Repro-5 / Repro-1 and it's remarkably similar to the real thing. https://u-he.com/products/repro/ http://winecountrysequential.com/Soft_Pro_One.html
My Big Fat Guide to using a Virtual Orchestra
54:37
Alex Ball

My Big Fat Guide to using a Virtual Orchestra

This is a video I've been wanting to do for about a year as it's consistently the most requested thing I've had in emails and comments, so here it is! I've tried to make it as forensic and as in-depth as possible so that it covers everything, which means it's wound up being almost an hour long. But if you're looking for hints and tips on making realistic orchestral recordings with virtual instruments, the hour of your time should hopefully be worth it. If you've got any specific comments or questions, put them in the comments and I'll come back to you when I can. I'm aware of a couple of issues - my capture software has stopped capturing the cursor for some reason and I can't get it back. Apologies, but just had to go with it. Also, the way I had to capture audio for the screen capture without ASIO meant I had some mic level issues, which means there's plosives here and there. Hopefully it doesn't bother anyone. Timings: 00:00 - Intro 1:00 - Step 1 - Watch a real orchestra 2:20 - Step 2 - What is sampling? 3:23 - Step 3 - Which libraries should I buy? 7:46 - Step 4 - Supplemental sounds Step 5 - Putting it down: 9:36 - In-depth breakdown of my Bernard Herrmann / Vertigo remake 25:56 - In-depth breakdown of my Alan Silvestri / Back to the future remake 36:25 - In-depth breakdown of my Angela Morley / A Canadian in Mayfair remake. AKA "My Computer is a 1950s orchestra" 52:33 - Summary & Outro Some other questions you might have that I didn't mention: Q. Do you play the parts in or draw them? A. I play some of the parts in and draw some of them depending upon the difficulty. Q. Do you master your mixes? A. Yes, as a separate stage. I use T-racks for mastering EQ, compression and limiting but you can use any number of plugins for the job. Q. How long do the remakes take you? A. Depends wildly upon how complicated the piece is. I usually do them in segments late at night over several weeks, but probably something like 16 hours if I totaled it. Q. Do you work this out by ear or use scores? A. Mainly work from scores, but sometimes have reduced scores and have to work out the individual parts by ear. Q. Where do you find the scores? A. I have some that I've bought over the years, I borrowed others from music libraries and there's a lot lurking on Scribd. A lot of film scores aren't released publicly. Links to the remakes I mentioned: James Bond remake: https://youtu.be/zmDh242ehlM Back to the Future remake: https://youtu.be/iC4hEjFaEnk Alien remake: https://youtu.be/G8kn3xloIsQ Vertigo remake: https://youtu.be/uOMZXoFRd-k My computer is a 1950s orchestra / A Canadian in Mayfair remake: https://youtu.be/KpxdAJ9zQ3k Developers mentioned and/or demonstrated: Spitfire Audio: https://www.spitfireaudio.com/ Orchestral Tools: http://www.orchestraltools.com/ Audiobro: http://audiobro.com/ Project Sam: https://www.projectsam.com/Home 8dio: https://8dio.com/ Sound Dust: http://dulcitone1884.virb.com/ Cinematic Studio Series: http://www.cinematicstudioseries.com/ Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.
My Utterly Spiffing Guide to Light Music. Part 1: Harmony Overview
10:44
Alex Ball

My Utterly Spiffing Guide to Light Music. Part 1: Harmony Overview

A project I've been working on for several months. I had a few jobs last year that involved composing 40s and 50s Light Music and I was frustrated with the lack of material online. So, I rolled up my sleeves, did a lot of research and searching and managed to track down a bunch of scores from this era. First, I did a few mock-ups to get my head around how it all worked (the "My Computer is a 1950s Orchestra" series): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_22rDauDR0&list=PLS-pN_Fz3OFde0rCQi_9bnwo2l3El-MSN Moving on from that, I thought it would great to make some content breaking down some of the theory and ideas behind this great genre. I'm planning to make a couple more covering the orchestration and arranging further down the road. Links to recordings of the pieces referenced in this video: Pizzicato: Holiday for Strings (David Rose): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2u0BvyDxdM High Heels (Leonard Charles Trebilco as Trevor Duncan) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTn4Z2LLu3U On a Spring Note (Sidney Torch): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWvBbCbHymw Melody on the move (Clive Richardson): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyDIs89OPNY A Canadian In Mayfair (Angela Morley): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EvrBGrYJSU Legato: Holiday for Strings (David Rose): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2u0BvyDxdM Lady In Love (Leonard Charles Trebilco as Trevor Duncan as Steve Bretton) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GX5UxcoXDjo A Canadian In Mayfair (Angela Morley): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EvrBGrYJSU Melody in the Sun (Ernest Tomlinson as Alan Perry) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZILiuDCR6cQ Portrait of a Flirt (Robert Farnon): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gbq4hjzM9g Sounds used to recreate these excerpts: Spitfire Audio Chamber Strings LA Scoring Strings A few live overdubs of violin & viola I did myself here and there Spitfire Audio Symphonic Woodwinds Sequenced in Cubase FX: U-he Satin, Waves Abbey Road Vinyl, Waves EQ & Compressors Edited in Filmora Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.
My Utterly Spiffing Guide to Light Music. Part 3: Complex Harmony
12:10
Alex Ball

My Utterly Spiffing Guide to Light Music. Part 3: Complex Harmony

Good heavens! Part 3 of our foray into Light Music from the 1940s and 50s. This time we're having one last look at harmony and string writing with several demonstrations of more complex harmonic concepts. I was incredibly pleased to be able to track down some ultra-rare sheet music for this, so I'm hoping the authenticity is of interest and use! As mentioned in the video, things like tri-tone substitutions, modal interchange and altered chords are a bit too heavy to get deeply into. In fact, I made this video a total of four times! When I cross-checked it with some actual jazz theorists, there was too much going on, far too many mistakes and a lot of things I couldn't cover precisely enough. So, I've cut it back into something much more palatable and hopefully it covers the major elements. Beyond this episode, we'll cover use of woodwinds and brass and I'm also hoping to do a video on using Vsts to recreate this genre. Bare with me as these take an awful lot longer to research and make than my other videos. Huge thanks to the folk who helped me with this video - you know who you are. Sounds used to recreate the excerpts: Spitfire Audio Chamber Strings LA Scoring Strings Processing: Abbey Road Vinyl and PastToFuture reverb impulses. Voice over: Processed with Waves "The King's Microphones", CLA-2A and some channel EQ. I'm on Facebook: http://facebook.com/alexballmusic I'm on SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/alex-ball-1 Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.
bottom of page