Ad Infinitum – Follow Up Questions

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Well, it’s been a bit more than a week since I released my latest album and the accompanying video walkthrough of the Live Projects for it, and I’m super pleased with the way it’s been received so far. All that work putting together the walkthrough wasn’t a waste of time, though I’ve been getting a few questions from producers about some of the things I didn’t cover in the video. I figured it would be good to collect them all here so other musicians who might be curious about these can read them too!

So, without further adieu, here’s some follow up questions I was asked about making “Ad Infinitum” (rephrased for clarity/brevity):

1. What settings from the Groove Pool did you use for the songs on the albums?

I actually didn’t use Grooves at all on this album, instead I just set the Swing parameter on Push 2 to roughly 7% when I was recording new parts. The Groove Pool in Live is a nice idea, but I find it a bit cumbersome to use myself. A little bit of swing here and there when using things like Note Repeat goes a long way towards making things a bit more human sounding I find.

2. What sample-rate and bit depth did you for this album?

I actually spent a couple days before I started trying out various sample rates to see which I should use for the rest of the album. Namely I wanted to see if running at 96kHz was something I wanted to use. Every couple if years I start telling myself that perhaps now is when I’ll be able to notice an increase in sound quality, so I like to spend some time revisiting the idea before larger projects.

But, as in the past, I still ended up preferring the 44.1kHz versions of my songs once everything was down-sampled to that setting for release online. In a couple cases the 96kHz raw versions sound a tiny bit more open on their own, but once you add in a pass of sample-rate conversion to get the standard 16/44.1kHz wav files most online aggregators like CDBaby.com want, then I preferred the regular 44.1kHz versions.

In the end I decided that for my music (and the way I write it at least), sticking with 24bit/44.1kHz files while working was the best way forward.

3. In the past you’ve said you almost never use MIDI and prefer working with audio files directly in Live, however in the video it looks like you’re using a lot of MIDI clips. What changed your mind?

It’s true, normally I prefer working with audio as soon as possible when writing my songs. On this album though, every one of the songs was written from the ground up with Push, which largely was created to control the built in instruments in Live via MIDI. So while in a few instances I resampled the MIDI tracks to audio if I needed more CPU power, overall it was just easier to keep things as MIDI after I recorded them with Push.

Even audio loops from my own sample library were typically imported into the new Simpler for further tweaking.

4. You seem to have a lot of nice gear available to use in your studio, why did you decide use only Live?

Actually the initial plan when I started working on the album was only to use Live as a DAW for writing the songs, and everything else was fair game if I thought it should be used on the album. But once I started diving in with Push and exploring some more of the Ableton Live Packs, I just found a workflow that seemed to fit me really well so I ended up ultimately using mostly the Ableton instruments for most of the writing.

There’s a little bit of other things still scattered throughout here and there though. In one track I used Absynth 5 for one sound, and I think Synplant might have been in one song as well. Plus I have a lot of audio loops I’ve made with other gear that got chucked into Simpler for the album. A few were from the new electribe, and there’s a lot of MicroTonic drum loops from the Patternarium website on there too.

So while the actual hosts of the audio loops were Simpler or Sampler, there’s a few years of other gear as the source material too.

5. For awhile there you were heavily into the iPad for music making, did you use it for this album at all?

I’ve been using Auria a lot the last few weeks for the album, though not for the actual writing per se. Where Auria really came in handy, was letting me take all rough mixes of the songs as I was close to finishing them, and play around with the track order while not in the studio. I’d load them up on the iPad at the end of the day, and go sit outside to listen to what I had done and play with track spacing and track order (it’s meant to be listened to as a continuous album).

Also, because I was going to be using Pro-L to master it on the laptop, I could use Pro-L in Auria to get a rough idea how it might sound on different headphones once it was done. Useful for gut-based mix checks as I work. It was really handy for letting me listen to everything with a fresh perspective out of the studio.

6. Will you do your next album with Live and Push 2 again?

At this point I haven’t decided what the next album will be, or even when I’ll start it, so it’s hard to say. Given how complex this album was though, I think in the short term I’m going to rachet things back and focus on my Novation Circuit which is arriving any day now 🙂
Hope that clears things up for people, if you have any other questions by all means put them in the comments!

Peace and beats,
Tarekith

Ad Infinitum – Video Walkthrough

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I wanted to create a video walking through all of the Ableton Projects that made up my new album, as well as talking a bit about hwo it was created in general.  There’s a few tips and tricks in there as well, hope you find it useful!

Peace and beats,
Tarekith

Ad Infinitum – New Tarekith Album

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Ad Infinitum Album <- 320kbps AAC files

For high-quality WAV and FLAC versions,
please visit my Bandcamp page by clicking the image below:

Bandcamp

The Ad Infinitum album was probably one of the quickest projects of mine to come to fruition, from start to finish it took me almost exactly one month to complete. Well, the audio aspects anyway, artwork, promotion, and writing things like this took slightly longer of course. And what’s most surprising for me, was that I approached this album a lot differently than I have most of my music making the last few years.

Most of my music projects recently have been focused on creating music I could perform live, patterns and motifs that I could use to shape the overall structure of a piece over the course of 30-60 minutes. The focus was on creating performable material, with the performance being the main thing I was worried about capturing. Most of the time with no editing, or any sort of post-production, after the fact. What I performed WAS the end result I was aiming for, even if it wasn’t recorded in a live context on stage, and only in my studio. This time around I wanted to go back to actually shaping songs individually, really crafting songs that stood on their own and not just as a piece in a larger context.

I only had a few rough ideas about the shape of the album when I started, and I planned to let it evolve once I started the writing process and saw where things were headed. However, I knew I wanted to slow things down a bit compared to my more recent work which was mostly 120BPM or faster. A blend of downtempo and what I’ll call modern ambient, mixed with enough sound design shenanigans to keep even the quietest moments interesting. I wanted the album to be very dynamic in terms of loudness, soft gentle sections leading to and from the more drum-heavy songs.

And most of all I wanted to use Ableton Live and Push 2 to do it all.

It’s been years since I really dove in and spent a lot of time working on my own songs in Live, even though it’s something I use many times a week for my studio business. Nothing against Live, I’ve just been exploring other ways of making music the last 3-4 years; hardware, iPads, acoustic guitar, etc. However three things came together at the right time that made me excited to dive back in and bury myself in one application for an entire album.

The first was becoming one of the Ableton forum administrators. In effect I was now working for Ableton and that brings with it certain benefits like access to Live Packs I might not have tried otherwise. The second was getting a Push 2, and being blown away by the enhancements Ableton made to it compared to Push 1. Mainly how we could now work with audio as fluidly as we could with MIDI on the first version. Heck, MORE fluidly since the entire workflow of Push 2 just made loads more sense to the way I think about making music.

The final step that really helped push me (no pun intended) to follow my creative ideas with Live was being invited to Ableton’s first Loop event in October 2015. It’s hard not to come away inspired after spending a weekend hearing musicians and producers you respect share their insights and tips on the music making process. I’m glad Ableton will be posting more of these talks on their blog soon, as I think a lot of people will really benefit from hearing what successful artists go through when they create music. And how often they face the same struggles as someone just starting out when it comes to music production.

To say it was a kick in the pants to just focus on getting things done would be an understatement!

So, on November 7th, 2015, with my wife away on a work trip for 2.5 weeks, I sat down in the studio in front of Push 2 and started to write. All of the songs started on Push 2, sometimes with drums first, occasionally a melody or just mangling a sample led to a song idea, a few times I even used it to help me capture my guitar playing as well. Just being able to quickly record something, hit the Convert button, and then keep on tweaking it into something new was a load of fun. Sometimes I would just throw some random Max4Live devices on the master channel and record audio in realtime as I tweaked and messed about with things that I had no idea how they worked. “Raveere” was one song that was done 100% this way in fact.

Instead of working on the songs one at a time from start to completion, I started a bunch of songs at once. This gives the entire album a bit of cohesion since nothing was created in isolation, I was able to keep the same headspace across the tracks. It also lets me jump around from track to track if one of them is just not doing it for me that day. Rather than stopping for the day and coming back to it later, I could just open up another one of my songs and keep working on something different instead. These were long days, often 8-10 hours at a stretch just sketching and refining my ideas, trying different rough arrangements, fine-tuning the mixes as I went, etc. I was 100% focused on Push 2 at this point, I wasn’t even looking at the laptop most of the time.

By the end of 2 weeks I had 9 songs roughly laid out that I was really happy with. They fit the mood I was going for, and I could see how they would progress as an album through all sorts of different emotions I wanted to draw out. It was at this point that I decided to not just release all of the songs as nine separate entities, but also to combine them into one longer piece complete with custom transitions to make them flow together how I was hearing them in my head.

So, I set aside Push (job well done you), and set about focusing on the laptop and mouse to get more detailed with the arranging and editing. In the last few years this is where I’ve started to get bogged down, not for lack of ideas, but more of a “been there, done that” sort of mindset. Mousing in transitions and fills can get a little tedious for me at times, but luckily the time away from such activities let me come at it with more enthusiasm than I had in the past and it actually was pretty fun.

Not having to worry how I’ll be able to pull something off live, and instead just focus on getting it down permanently to hard disk can be greatly liberating I found! Or maybe I should say I re-discovered it, since it wasn’t necessarily a new insight with 20+ years of music making behind me.

It took me about a week to work on all the songs like this. Occasionally turning to Push when I needed to record something new real quick, but often just sitting with the laptop, a mouse, and a pair of headphones at my kitchen table focused on the task at hand. I spent 3-4 days after that doing final mixdown tweaks and mastering the songs, and then 2-3 days taking all the individual songs and combining them together for the continuous form of the album I wanted to release as well.

And then…. I was done.

This sort of realization always hits me suddenly, when I realize there’s nothing more I need to do with the songs. What was most surprising to me though, was looking back at the album back-ups and realizing I finished exactly 31 days after I started. I can’t recall a time I’ve ever written this much detailed music in such a short period of time.

And so, I give you “Ad Infinitum”, my newest album.

Tarekith
http://tarekith.com