Welcome to Prime Loops

One Shot to Program Drums

Prime Loops / Thu 22nd Jul 2010 09:55 am

Want to venture on the wild side of making your own beats? Then it’s time to enter the wondrous world of one-shots…

What is a one-shot?

Simply put, a one shot is a single sample – it can be a kick drum, a snare, a blip, a wooshy effect or a whole big long echoey sample, but basically it’s a sound that is not generally looped continuously.

Making beats with one-shots

Drums sequencers are your friend here – load up your one shots, (we’re using hits from XXL R&B Drums) let’s start getting creative!

Some things to keep in mind:

1. Varying the velocity (essentially the volume) of the samples can make the beats you make much more natural and real sounding. Some of the kicks from XXL R&B Drums are brilliant for that more “live” sound.

2. Layering multiple one-shots is a great way to thicken up your sound – pick ones with different frequencies in to make a full, punchy hit!

3. Don’t just stick to conventional percussion! Sometimes unconventional sounds are great for adding extra frequencies into the mix to fill things out and make them interesting – why not try some beatbox samples, interesting percussions and fx?
Using loops with one shots

If you’re finding your one-shot beats don’t quite have that airy, well-produced loop feel, you can keep the originality and control from the one-shots and add the loop-y high end goodness by layering a loop over the top of your one-shot samples!

Try high pass filtering the loop to remove any low end that might make the mix muddy when combined with your beloved one-shots and put it over the top – this can be great when making minimalistic genres like Dubstep. We are combining some of the hits from Dubstep Nation with some of those loops to make something original and professional sounding!
Adding FX

Sometimes it’s more than just drum hits – one shot fx such as sweeps and reverses are essential for producers taking their track to that professional level. We grabbed some XXL Dance FX to get your tracks really standing out. With FX, it’s important to keep in mind…

1. Reverses need to be cut off in the right place. If they overlap after the drop has hit, it’ll sound like the build-up hasn’t quite finished and it won’t be as strong of a change.

2. Delay and Reverb are much more applicable to fx, as they aren’t usually the driving force of the track, more the cherries on top. So get experimenting with different effects on your fx!

3. Layering fx is just as important as layering drum hits! Be creative!
So instead of throwing a loop in your track, next time try having a go at making your beats yourself!

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The importance of covers and remixes

Prime Loops / Thu 22nd Jul 2010 09:54 am

In today’s musical climate, it’s getting increasingly harder to stand out from the crowd.   There are more and more people producing and more and more ways to get your music out there.   So how do you make an impact?

Well I’m here to discuss one method that seems to be working a charm for a metric tonne of internet-savvy musicians…

The importance of covers and remixes

YouTube has opened up a convenient door to anyone with a creative mind.   If you search for any song in the charts, chances are you’ll find a bunch of remixes and covers of it.   Try it out – then take a look at the play counts of some of the earliest ones.

Pretty cool, huh?   To expose your music to hundreds of thousands of listeners, all you have to do is re-work a popular song.   If you can come up with a title that catches the eye then you’re much more likely to get hits as well.   For instance: “Lady Gaga Telephone (DJ blah remix)” probably won’t draw as much attention as “Lady Gaga attacked by Drum and Bass!”.   Be imaginative and be a little bit mysterious if you can.
Picking a cover / remix

Well, the easiest option is to pick whatever’s at the top of the charts, but if you’re sick of doing Justin Bieber remixes, perhaps you should think about other things in popular culture.   How about adverts?   I’ve seen a dubstep remix of a Lloyds TSB advert with nigh-on 2 million views.   Or how about video game music?   Or TV shows?   Or internet memes?   The list goes on – I’m sure you know of some niches with content waiting to be turned into a quality cover or remix.
Promoting your track

If you have the most views of all the covers, chances are people will pick you – so how do you go about getting the most views?   Well, post the cover on relevant forums for a start.   The artist who you’re covering might be a convenient starting point, then send it to blogs, ask your friends to pass it on and in general let the internet know about it!
Video matters!

If you have the best remix ever and it’s got a still image, it’s not going to do as well as if you’ve got some clever little video accompanying it.   It takes extra time and effort, yes, but it will undoubtedly pay off.   If you put in effort, the YouTube audience will recognise it and be more likely to let their friends know about your tune!

So what are you waiting for?   Have a think, pick a song, then make your mark on it and watch your fanbase grow!

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How important is image in dance music

Prime Loops / Thu 22nd Jul 2010 09:53 am

However often weathered, artsy producers claim “It’s all about the music, maaan!”   They can’t deny that some of the biggest acts in dance music spend just as much time on their style as they do on their sequencing.

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest case studies in the scene and try to understand the reasoning behind their attention-grabbing looks…


Let’s start relatively small – Deadmau5 has become one of the biggest electro house producers in the world in a matter of months thanks to some incredible production and heavy internet hype.   His first performance was in front of thousands of people, but to really make himself stand out he equips himself with an oversized dead mouse head mask (stylised to match the one on his music artwork).

It doesn’t stop there though – flashing eyes and who knows what else on the mask itself render it as a memorable prop that gives fans something to latch on to – something to doodle absent-mindedly when they find themselves humming “Ghosts n stuff” with a pen in their hand.

Deadmau5 teaches us that having an image that’s simple but strong is vital.
Daft Punk

Deadmau5 wasn’t the first dance artist to wear a mask – Daft Punk have been donning robot masks and gloves for years, accompanying the image with the backstory that at 9:09 on September 9th, 1999, they were working with their sampler when it exploded, turning them into robots.

While they may not be convincing backstory writers, their music speaks for itself.   Literally – in a robotic, synthesised voice.   Its robotic sound is reflected perfectly in the image, making the whole Daft Punk entity that much more powerful and enticing.   After all – who wouldn’t want to see robot DJs spinning future-funk?

Their music videos are similarly mysterious, with most of them being a continuation of an anime storyline.   Japanese cartoons instantly spark images of robots fighting, so there, once again, is a tie-in with there music.

In interviews they have mentioned that the masks also have the convenient side effect of avoiding the stardom conventionally found with world famous musicians.

Daft Punk teaches us that reflecting the music in the image is a powerful idea.   Also, if you don’t fancy being stopped in the streets as a result of your beats, masking your real image is an ideal way to avoid it.
Lady Gaga

Let’s jump straight in at the deep end here.   You’d be hard pressed to find an act who has as diverse a fashion sense as Ms. Gaga.

Leaping from one outfit to the next, her performances are as much fashion shows as music shows.   From cool, collected and fashionable to shocking and sexy to downright hilarious (post-it note dresses are clearly in), she knows that fashion is a vital ingredient when enticing large crowds.

Her music is undeniably dancey (Incidentally, she produced or co-produced every track on her debut “The Fame”) and yet it has hit the mainstream pop charts hard, in no small part to her extravagant and eclectic image.

Gaga teaches us that if you’re always willing to push the boundaries of what’s acceptable, people will pay attention.   Whether that’s fashion or lifestyle (or in this case, both) – it all attributes to the image people associate with the music.
Benny Benassi

…and if you don’t happen to be a hot chick, don’t worry.   Benny Benassi’s (totally original) idea of recruiting a bunch of models to wear skimpy clothes and move provocatively in music videos has certainly served him well.

Reflecting the lyrical content of his songs such as “Satisfaction” and “Who’s your daddy”, his image pretty much revolves around releasing images that are as close to pornography as possible, clearly getting the male audience to take an interest in his productions.

Benassi teaches us that you don’t have to rely on your own image to sell your music!   Also, if you didn’t realise by now, sex sells.   Especially when the basslines are as sexy as the women moving provocatively in time with them.
So there we have a few choice case studies that prove how image is just as vital as music.   So how will you stand out amongst the crowds of producers, performers and DJs vying for attention?

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Let’s talk about tags, baby!

Prime Loops / Thu 22nd Jul 2010 09:52 am

So you’re about to give your music to the world.

You’ve conceived your idea, used some freakin’ awesome samples (you’re welcome) and created your masterpiece.

But hold the phone!   Before you chuck your MP3s into the scary world wide web, have you thought about tags?

What are ID3 tags?

I’m glad you asked, Kevin!   ID3 tags allow information such as the title, artist, album, track number, BPM and other information about the file to be stored inside the MP3.   Even artwork can be included.   It barely does anything to the file size and it’s seriously useful.
Why bother with ID3 tags?

Well, have you ever considered that ID3 tags are…

- the only way to keep your digital music library sorted (iTunes uses them so they’re reasonable popular)

- necessary to enable scrobbling with last.fm or Spotify

- a must if you want to keep your DJ set in Native Instruments Traktor tidy and organised

- very important in connection with automated music recommendation functions (such as the “Genius” function in iTunes for example.)

- a hit with the ladies

It just gives that professional edge to the presentation of your songs.

The importance of uniqueness

So with all these tags flying about, it’s only a matter of time before some French rapper called “Beyonce” comes to the horrible realisation that he’s going to have to get a new stage name.

This is why it’s vitally important to have a unique name – or at least be the most famous person with your name!

Not just for ID3 tags – though you obviously don’t want other people taking the credit for your tunes, but search engines are another reason.   If someone gets your MP3, uses the tags to find your name and Googles you, if there are a million other “DJ AwesomeTunez”s in the world then chances are they’ll lose interest, no matter how awesome your tunez were.

So ego-Google yourself and find out if you have to do a quick name change!
About that artwork…

With iPods and the latest iTunes updates pushing artwork back into the foreground of musical consumption, it’s never been more vital to have a pretty picture accompanying your tracks!

Not only is it another method of artistic expression for the fans to consume, but it’s also a way to add some more of that vital professionalism.   If you are not exactly an artist and shrivel up at the sight of Photoshop, make some art-inclined friends and exploit their skills so your MP3s can have a 300×300 .jpg file embedded (that is the standard) that will reflect your music appropriately.
And all this for free?

You don’t have to spend money to keep your tags organised, like with pricey programs like “TuneUp“ because there are also a bunch of really cool free applications that will help you to fix your tags and keep them organized – such as the amazing MusicBrainz Picard for example.

Otherwise, just jump on Google (if you can stop Google-ing yourself for one minute, geez…) and search for some ID3 tag editing software and I’m sure you’ll find something fantastically useful!

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The Big 4 Major Labels

Prime Loops / Thu 22nd Jul 2010 09:50 am

The music industry is a confusing one.   Labels are changing fast, but one thing that has remained consistent is the existence of major labels – the big players.   The ones that can in theory pick up an artist and turn them into a global phenomenon.

But who are these labels?   And how did they get started?   Let’s take a look…
The Big Four

Firstly, let’s do some introductions.   Since 2004, we’ve had four major labels.   These are:

- Warner Music Group


- Sony Music Entertainment

- Universal Music Group
Warner Music Group

Warner’s record label was born in 1958, when one of their actors got a hit song and they saw another financial avenue open up.   Frank Sinatra made “Reprise Records” in order to have control over his tunes around this time and 3 years later Warner Bros purchased it, growing their label considerably.

Over the 60s they took over Atlantic records, adding many other artists into their line-up including Ray Charles’ back catalogue, Aretha Franklin and more, but as they progressed from the late 60s to 70s they signed many ground-breaking rockier acts such as Cream, Yes and Led Zeppelin.

Proceeding to acquire The Rolling Stones’ back catalogue and signing Fleetwood Mac, they then created MTV in 1981, but sold it four years later to concentrate on what they did best – signing quality artists.

Madonna and Prince joined the label, as well as less poppy acts such as The Ramones – with such strong artists, the label went from strength to strength and during the 90s, they bought a 50% stake in Interscope Records, who released many gangsta rap recordings from the controversial label Death Row Records.   In 1995 they were pressured into selling their stake, however, as activist groups apparently really don’t like Snoop Dogg.

And that brings us to past the millennium, where they turned their attention to the future of music as pirating became rampant (though involved considerably less rum than the last time pirating became rampant) and CD sales plummeted.

They weren’t pioneering in selling mp3s online, being the 3rd major label to jump on that bandwagon, but they were the first company to make a business relationship with YouTube… until the relationship broke down soon after and all their music was taken off the site.   Similarly, they licensed their songs for use with the free streaming software Spotify, and then promptly withdrew the license a few years later.   So it looks like after trying the new alternatives they’re sticking firmly to convention, even though it’s in decline.

The British major label EMI is the smallest of the four, but boasts a roster to be reckoned with.

Electric and Musical Industries Ltd was born from a merger of two older companies, one of which was behind the famous HMV label.   As the name implies, they made electrical products, but more relevant here – they were a music label.

When the company was formed, they opened the Abbey Road Studio in London, where The Beatles recorded – a useful band to have on your label.   Other useful bands they had include The Shadows, The Beach Boys and later Pink Floyd, who they put on their Harvest Records subsidiary label.

Through the next few decades, they topped up their roster by buying several labels, including United Artists Records (Tina Turner, ELO), Liberty Records (Idle Race), Imperial Records (The Hollies) and Virgin Records (Mike Oldfield, Sex Pistols).

From 2000 onwards, as with most music labels, things went a bit sour.   Although they made record breaking deals such as the one with Robbie Williams for £80 million for a 6 album deal, they proceeded to lose a lot of money.   This might also translate into losing a lot of artists – Joss Stone has reportedly offered to give up £2 million so she can leave the label.   So looks like things aren’t going too well for EMI.   Unless Robbie Williams can save them, of course.
Sony Music Entertainment

After the great depression in the 1930s, several smaller record companies combined to make ARC – the American Record Corporation.   They were acquired in 1934 by CBS, then the popular label “Epic Records” was founded in the 50s.

This really paid off when they signed ABBA and The Jacksons to their label amongst others and proceeded to release albums from Johnny Cash and Barbra Streisand on other subsidiary labels.

The fact that Sony jumped on board in the late 60s was a real help, as they were one of the developers of CDs.   When CDs came out, you can bet that CBS records got them out first.

In the late 80s, Sony acquired CBS Records (Including freakin’ Michael Jackson – in the 80s!!!) for $2 billion, and then in the 90s, changed the company name to Sony Music Entertainment.

A joint venture in 2004 with BMG led to the birth of Sony BMG, which 4 years later became SME again when Sony acquired BMG fully (BMG had acts from Rammstein and Linkin Park to Britney Spears, Shakira and Avril Lavigne – quite a diverse label!)
Universal Music Group

Another record label that sprouted from a film company, Universal Music was originally called MCA (Music Corporation of America) Records.

During World War 2, the UK and US branches were severed and things got a little bit confusing, but all was well after the war, when another label, “London Records” was made for the American Branch of the severed UK branch (man, that’s unnecessarily complicated.)

But yes – artists!   Elton John, Cher and the Pope had records sold by MCA (I’m not even joking.)   They went to the rockier side of music too, with Meat Loaf, Marilyn Manson and Blink 182 all appearing on the label.

But before Travis Barker was even known, MCA had to work its way up.   From Elton John’s boost, they set up Infinity Records, then Acquired ABC (Cliff Richard, Genesis).   They were a money-savvy label though, attempting to increase the price on CDs for the most popular artists – calling it “Superstar Pricing”.   It didn’t stick, however and eventually they went back to consistent pricing.

Buying Motown, Sugar Hill a few other record labels, they grew exponentially and it wasn’t until ’96 that the name “Universal Music Group” was used.   With more of a market share than any other label, they’re a force to be reckoned with.
So when you get that deal through from the major labels as they realise how awesome you are – take a moment to look at the history of the label and ask yourself – do you really want to be on the same label that the Pope was on?

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5 ways to inspire yourself when you get writer’s block

Prime Loops / Thu 22nd Jul 2010 09:48 am

Have you found yourself stuck in front of the computer, desperately attempting to make those musical cogs turn and get your next super-mega hit started?

Well grease up your musical mechanisms with 5 suggestions that never fail me when writer’s block strikes!

1. YouTube-ing spree

The related videos in YouTube are endlessly useful – find a song you know and love, then explore!   Chances are you’ll wade through tons of crap, but eventually you’ll find that gem you’ve been looking for.   Listening to new tracks is always helpful, try your own spin on the quality songs you find either in the form of a remix or an original tune – you’re sure to find something that inspires you during the process.

2. Movies and Games

Some of the best music is in the background.   Get some friends over and tuck into some popcorn (ideally not whilst playing a game like Modern Warfare 2, or you’ll probably lose) then keep your ears pealed.   Movie music is great for sampling since it’s such high quality and so epic!

3. Ask the Audience

I can’t count the number of times that my listeners have introduced me to awesome new music.   Just send out a status update on facebook/twitter or have a chat with them at your next performance in the real world.   You already know they love music because they’re listening to you, so squeeze their brains until some aural gold comes out!

4. Tutorials

Not only will it expand your horizons and inspire, but you’ll improve as a producer.   When you learn how to do something new, you’re going to want to test it out, right?   So have a search for some tutorials (there are literally thousands of free ones available on YouTube – Shockingly enough, I suggest checking out boyinaband.com for a starting point) and tuck in!

5. New Plug-ins and Samples

Same principle above – give yourself some new toys and you will want to play with them.   There are more free plug-ins on the internet than you can possibly conceive, so dive into Google head-first and crunch your way through them!

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Top 5 Musical Philanthropists

Prime Loops / Thu 22nd Jul 2010 09:36 am

For those that don’t know, Philanthropy is the inclination to increase the well-being of humankind.

This generally takes the shape of rich people giving starving children money.   As you’ll know if you saw Live 8, or have been to an Oxjam festival show, music and charitable work often go hand in hand.   But which musicians are the most philanthropic?

Let’s take a look…

Justin Timberlake

After capturing the hearts of children through the boyband N*Sync, JT went on to found the imaginatively titled “Justin Timberlake Foundation” which initially funded music education, but now does all kinds of charity work.   One of his biggest charitable endeavours was a celebrity golf tournament, raising millions of dollars for children’s hospitals.


For a pop starlet with hips that seem to be epileptic, Shakira is a deceptively intelligent woman.   Speaking 5 languages and with an IQ of 140, she’s technically a genius and has put her smarts to good use – founding the Pies Descalzos Foundation that helps educate poor children in Colombia, working on the Live 8 and other charity concerts, and campaigning heavily for education for all. She’s strongly of the belief that it’s a quality educational system that will solve the majority of the world’s problems.

Michael Jackson

As one of the most famous people in the world, MJ used his position to great philanthropic success, with millions of dollars donated to countries around the globe to assist where famine, war and disease had hit.   Also, his “Heal the world” foundation brought underprivileged kids back to his personal amusement park where they could enjoy the rides and forget about real life for a bit.   Aww.

Bob Geldof

The lead singer of the band “The Boomtown Rats” pretty much pioneered the modern musical philanthropic concept, founding band aid and raising millions through the single “Do they know it’s Christmas” and founding Live aid, raising further hundreds of millions.

His shaky voice and shakier etiquette (throughout live aid he frequently swore at the British public, ordering them to give money for the cause) belie his steadfast belief in charitable causes.


It’s undeniable that U2 frontman Bono has become one of the most iconic musical philanthropists in living memory.   He’s become the go-to-guy for comedians wishing to mock charitable musicians and for good reason; not only does he give money to causes, he gives time.   He’s organised many charitable campaigns, including live 8 with the aforementioned Bob Geldof and the ONE campaign, which raised literally billions of dollars for poverty and disease in Africa.

Not bad for one Irish musician whose band-mates decided to kick him off guitar and onto vocals because he was so bad with a 6-string!

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5 DJ Rises to Fame

Prime Loops / Thu 22nd Jul 2010 09:34 am

Ever seen a DJ performing to thousands of people, producing massive pop artists and getting ridiculous amounts of YouTube views and thought; “How did they manage that?   My tunes are way better!”

Well give your bruised ego a hug, then check out 5 choice rises to fame of some of the world’s top DJs and see if you can learn something…

Arguably the most famous DJ in the world, Tiesto has one hell of a story to tell…

He started out DJing professionally at age 14 at school parties, then proceeded to become a resident DJ at several Netherlands clubs, refining his DJing ability.

He began producing and releasing material on “Noculan Records”‘ sub labels, nothing like he makes now – hardcore and gabber tracks were the order of the day, and he was known as “Da Joker”.   I guess that was his rebellious phase.

After being discovered by the manager of “Basic Beat Recordings”, he was signed in 1994 and released a bunch of records, beginning to veer towards trance.   In 1997, however, he left and made a label called “Black Hole Recordings”.   Creating the “Magik” series amongst other things funded his continuing rise to success.

In 1999 he made a trance duo called “Gouryella”, which was massively successful.   Trance was huge at the time and he played some massive shows, such as the renowned “Gatecrasher” in Sheffield on a monthly basis.

It was in 2000 that he went solo and released his remix of Delerium’s “Silence”.   This charted well and he made his own label “Magik Muzik”.   He proceeded to release several major charting hits on it from his first solo album “In My Memory” over the next few years.

2004 saw the release of “Just Be” and his fame grew – being the only DJ to sell out an arena on his own.   He played one of the biggest gigs ever – the olympic games opening ceremony, for 90 minutes and he released several new tracks on an album “Parade of the Athletes”.

Releasing more compilations, touring around the world, winning countless #1 DJ polls and making several more albums has brought him to his current status.

Lesson to be Learned: Making your own label, even if you’re already signed, can be a great way to take control of your career.

Starting out in Australia as a rock band called Xygen, Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen decided to turn to Drum and Bass after hearing Konflict’s “Messiah”.

In 2002, Pendulum was formed between the duo and Paul Harding, a veteran Perth DJ.   After releasing “Vault” on 31 records, an underground anthem, they made several more tracks and eventually two legendary DJs Adam F and DJ Fresh asked them to join their new label “Breakbeat kaos”.   In 2003, they followed their dream to the DnB capital of the world and moved to the UK to join the label.

After a #1 on the UK Dance Chart on this label, they released “Hold Your Colour” – this sold over 300,000 copies and they soon began playing live with a full band – the first popular DnB act to do so.

Continuing to combine their eclectic influences of Drum and Bass, Rock and Pop, they released “In Silico”, which, while alienating some of their core DnB fan base, brought them massive success, hitting #2 in the album charts.

Playing ridiculous amounts of festivals, releasing another album “Immersion” and Rob Swire co-producing for Rihanna (Rude Boy went straight to number 1), they’ve just continued growing and growing.

Lesson to be Learned: Follow your music no matter what – if Pendulum didn’t move to the UK, they might never have achieved all this!

For someone who doesn’t want to be known as a DJ, Deadmau5 is a pretty famous DJ.

After learning to produce chiptune music as a young Canadian kid, Joel Zimmerman proceeded to grow up into a web and software developer.   Creating several pieces of pioneering computer music software and thoroughly immersed himself in the technical side of music production.

His personal music creation took a back-seat.   It was only when he released a track on beatport.com as a joke with a friend and it reached number 1 that he knew he had things the wrong way around.

After his friend had to go home he created a track called “Faxing Berlin” under the moniker “Deadmau5″ – the same name as his web development company (he once found a dead mouse in his computer and was inspired).   He sent it to DJ Chris Lake, who sent it to Pete Tong, who played it on Radio One in England.   Blam – massive hit.

Donning a large mouse helmet for his image, he was an immediate internet sensation.   He made several more hits and proceeded to learn how to perform live.

Performing at massive venues and working with Rob Swire of Pendulum are just the start of his career.

Lesson to be Learned: Knowing your software inside out results in quality production and it’s always worth releasing random songs; jokes or not, they might hit it big!
David Guetta

So how did a young French entrepreneur grow into a world-class superstar?   Let’s take a quick look…

At 17, he began DJing at a club in Paris, then after discovering house music, he decided to host his own club nights one year later.

in 1992, a few years later, Guetta had his first lucky break – at one of Guetta’s club nights he met Robert Owens, a Chicago-based house artist.   After playing Owens some of his own tracks, Owens agreed to sing over one of the tracks, which became a minor club hit.

He proceeded to become the manager of “Le Palace” nightclub and organised more and more parties.   Eventually, in 2001 (Yeah, it took a while), he founded “Gum Productions” with Joachim Garraud.   His debut album, released on Virgin Records, sold 300,000 copies.

However, his real breaks started in 2004 with his album “Guetta Blaster”.   Tracks such as “The world is mine” and “Walking away” charted well, the latter appearing on a popular car TV advert and getting massive attention as a result.

2007 dawned with his album “Pop life” – after playing all over the world to promote it, he and his wife organised a show back home in France with Tiesto and Carl Cox amongst others.   He must love his event management!

2009 brought his 4th album, “One love”, which contained the track “Sexy Bitch” with Akon amongst others – around this time he also produced Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” which was a massive number 1.

Now he’s working on productions with Akon, J. Lo, Rihanna and is even rumoured to be producing with Lady Gaga.

Lesson to be Learned: Take things into your own hands – by putting on his own club nights, he was able to perform to loads of people and talk to all the famous faces that popped in.

For a relatively new producer to the scene on a relatively new genre, Chris Mercer aka Rusko has done alright for himself.

Pioneering an upbeat, danceable type of Dubstep in 2006 on the label Sub Soldiers, he’s gone from strength to strength.   His more mainstream-friendly approach to the stereotypically underground genre has brought a plethora of popular artists asking for his production.   Who you ask?   Oh, only Rihanna, T.I. and he’s currently working on a track for Britney Spears.

Lesson to be Learned: Try taking an underground genre and make it more listenable to the masses.

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5 ways to make robotic voices

Prime Loops / Thu 22nd Jul 2010 09:32 am

So you’re entering the dehumanising world of robotic voices…

Attempting to find the right sound for you amongst the sharp, emotionless and downright alien sounding tones you can get from digitally processed vocals can be a veritable nightmare – so here are 5 different paths you can take to start your computer communicating with you!

1. Ring Modulation

Ring modulators multiply two waveforms together and output the sum and difference of the frequencies present in each waveform. This creates a signal with lots of harmonic overtones from both signals, making some mental metallic sounds.

While ring modulation has an uncanny habit of destroying melodic sounds, it works wonders on speech.   I fact, chances are you’ve already hear the effects of ring modulation on vocals exclaiming “Exterminate!” at you – the Daleks in Doctor Who are great examples of the robotic tones that can be achieved.

2. Speech Synthesis

If you just don’t want the bother of recording, then speech synthesis is for you!   This method entails the computer generating the vocals from scratch.

Great if you’re going for that entirely artificial “A computer is talking to you” or “This is what they thought robots sounded like in the 1950s” effect with your Robovocals.

3. Pitch Correction

Automatically correcting pitch can have more uses than just on singing vocals – Crank up the speed and auto-tune amount to full and get that Cher – Believe vocal effect.   Then, simply run your speech through it to give it a very synthetic tone!

4. Comb Filter

For a cheap and quick metallic voice that gives an unmistakeable air of robosity (I just invented that word, hope you don’t mind), a comb filter is the way to go – it’s essentially a really quick delay (under 10ms) with a really high feedback.   The sharpness of the metallic tone is ideal for Decepticon-like vocals.

5. Vocoder

Speaking of Decepticons, “Soundwave” from the original transformers series was brought to life (kinda) by running the voice actor through a vocoder!   This device removed all the original tone and changed the pitch to whatever the synth plugged into the vocoder’s carrier signal played.   This allowed the Decepticonic tones to come through when the sound engineers played his voice through a minor second chord.   Pure evil.

And a bonus suggestion:

Vocaloids – computer programs that generate singing vocals from just lyrics and melody without a microphone in sight!   These are programs that are getting better by the year and soon we’ll no doubt see them hit the charts.   Another example of robots coming over here and taking our jobs…

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Pop Loves Games

Prime Loops / Thu 22nd Jul 2010 09:30 am

Over the past few decades, video games have become a vital part of the music industry.

With licensed soundtracks, original theme songs and games that are entirely music-based dominating the video game charts, they certainly pack a punch when it comes to promoting popular music.

So let’s take a look at some of the matches made in heaven between popular music and video games…

Licensed soundtracks

Many games have opted to include soundtracks from popular artists to accompany the on-screen action.   One of the first was…

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater

Setting a precedent that still goes on today, the Tony Hawk’s franchise incorporated tracks from punk bands and rap artists to perfectly reflect the energy of the extreme sport.   Or “X-treme” sport as their marketing team has been trying to tell us.

Anyway, bands like The Vandals, Anthrax and Papa Roach adorned the soundtracks of the first few titles in the series, going on to add Motorhead, Xzibit, House of Pain, Red Hot Chili Peppers and zillions(ish) more.   Many young gamers developed their first love of alternative music through these games – I’m sure they played no small part in attributing to the success of some of the younger bands.

However, taking the idea of licensed music a whole step further was…

Grand Theft Auto 3

Amongst other ground-breaking video game firsts, GTA had an in-game radio with multiple stations featuring multiple licensed songs, including from artists as popular as Debby Harry!   This theme has continued through the games, with different genres of music on different stations, making the game’s soundtrack appeal to a massive range of gamers with different music tastes.
Original Music

It’s not just licensed music that’s been affected by video games, however…

Nine Inch Nails and Quake

Trent Reznor was the first popular musician to take to video game composition after working on the score for the violent first person shooting game “Quake” in 1996.   An inspired teaming as the industrial music fit the grimy, similarly industrial looking visuals in the game.

Kumi Koda and Final Fantasy

However, it’s not just evil music, more recently in Japan, Kumi Koda, essentially Japan’s version of Britney Spears, recorded the vocals for Final Fantasy X-2′s theme songs “Real Emotion” and “1000 words”, even releasing the former as a single!   She also did the motion capture for a large introductory CG scene at the start of the game where the main character is performing the song.   Now if that doesn’t show the popularity of video games, I don’t know what does.

Halo 2

Going back to the alternative scene for a moment – artists such as Joe Satriani, Incubus, Breaking Benjamin, and Hoobastank all contributed to the soundtrack for the best selling Xbox game ever – Incubus even went as far as to call their album “light grenade” after an in-game weapon.
Music Games

And then we come to games that rely entirely on pop music – these have become so popular that they’ve already made billions, saturated the market and declined in sales.   That market saturation has had quite an effect on popular musicians, however…

Guitar Hero

The series that sparked it all in the western world, Guitar Hero put legendary rock band’s songs in the hands of untrained gamers and allowed them to live out their dreams – whilst listening to a host of popular music.   This meant a young audience was exposed to older music, giving bands like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple new audiences that may have completely missed them had they not had these games.   Newer bands such as Sum 41 and Franz Ferdinand were included as well, however – and there’s little doubt that this propelled their fan base through the roof too.


Karaoke has always been popular, but competitive karaoke was popularised by the Singstar games, which actually measured the pitch of the player’s voice.   A scary amount of Singstar titles have been released (over 70!), essentially adopting a “NOW that’s what I call music” approach and releasing whatever’s popular at the time.   This has become a huge sales phenomenon and opened up a new level of interactivity with the charts for music lovers and a new method of accessing music for gamers.


It’s not all licensing, though – games like Audiosurf generate the in-game content from music.   Audiosurf makes racetracks based upon the music loaded into it, for example.

There are loads of innovative musical games about; as the music industry declines, the ever-growing video game industry will be able to give it a breath of life in the form of vital promotion through popular games.   The music charts are already being affected by what people have heard in-game.

Things have come a long way from the blips and bloops of yesteryear, that’s for sure.

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