Multiband compressor – Xfer OTT

Xfer-OTT multiband compressor

Xfer-OTT multiband compressor

Available from Xfer Records (and a variety of other places) the free,  OTT (Over The Top) plugin is a multiband compressor. Practically, for me, this means it cleans up any mix on which I use it. If you want to hear how much mid frequencies are muddying up your mix, just drop this plugin onto the master mix, then toggle it on and off.

There is much more to this plugin than that and for the best results, this should be adjusted for each individual mix. In my opinion, for the best results, apply instances to different groups of tracks and not on the master track at all. For example, I might use an instance for the drums, a separate instance for vocals, another for all other instruments (as a group) because each of those tracks or groups of tracks will sound best with a different configuration of OTT.

I’ve listed the steps that are shown in the video, as a reference for use after watching the video. The video that follows, does a very good job of explaining how to use OTT and making it easy to understand how to get good results for your mix.

  1. Adjust the high, mid and low frequency bands. In other words drag the black bars in the middle of the brown and green areas in the middle of the OTT plugin, to the left or right to get the desired boost or cut from each frequency band.
  2. Adjust the upward and downward compression dials at the bottom of the plugin.
  3. Adjust the time dial at the top of the plugin.
  4. Finally adjust the depth dial at the top of the plugin.

A few other things to consider when using this plugin.

Don’t be fooled by a volume increase. Ensure that the volume of your mix is the same with or without the plugin enabled. Louder can sound better even if a plugin isn’t doing anything other than increasing the volume. You want to ensure the tone is better, not just that everything is louder so be sure to adjust the output gain when comparing the mix with and without the plugin enabled.

When you first enable the plugin, your mix might sound worse, but literally after a few seconds spent on step 1 above, you’ll hear an instant improvement.

The following video explains and demonstrates the above steps.

OTT by Xfer Records Overview – by SoundShockAudio

Vocal Harmonizer – Pitchproof

Pitchproof - vocal harmonizer

Pitchproof – vocal harmonizer

From the Pitchproof web site:

Pitchproof is a free audio plug-in that can shift the pitch of the input. The effect is meant to combine old styles of pitch shifting with the quality you expect from modern plug-ins. The result is this pitch “pedal” simulation that has most of what is great about guitar harmonizer pedals, and still preserves the signal’s integrity.

I use it as a vocal harmonizer. With a few added tricks, the effect is sufficiently convincing in a mix. In isolation it can sound like chipmunks but use the tricks below and blend it appropriately with the lead vocal and you have instant harmony. As outlined in the video below, do the following to improve the quality of the harmony.

  1. Create a new harmony track in your DAW
  2. Create a send from the main vocal track to the harmony track
  3. To the harmony track, add the following plugins:
    • Pitchproof (set to 100% wet, 3rd harmony, key of your song)
    • a pitch shifter, (to shift the formants by about -54 cents – helps reduce the chipmunk effect)
    • an autotuner, (set to autmomatic pitch correction in the key of your song)
    • an EQ. (use high and low pass filters to include only the bulk of the harmony wave form)
    • reverb (to place the harmony track behind the lead vocal)
  4. Pan the harmony track to put the singer to the side of the lead vocal.
  5. Adjust the volume of the harmony track to blend with the lead vocals

The following video by MusicTechHelpGuy demonstrates the above tips.

Create Vocal Harmonies with Pitchproof – by MusicTechHelpGuy

Video – Composing With CINESAMPLES

A long, 2 part, live composing video stream worth watching. What I find particularly interesting is his use of scale runs in the woodwinds.

Total time of these videos is over 5 hours but even so, he’s fairly efficient and spends almost all that time directly working on his composition

Nite Session(s) – Composing With CINESAMPLES by Dirk Ehlert (1/2)


Nite Session(s) – Composing With CINESAMPLES by Dirk Ehlert (2/2)

Sample Looping Tool – Polyphone

Polyphone - sample looping tool

Polyphone – sample looping tool

PolyPhone – This tool’s intent is to provide a Graphical User Interface for creating .sf2 based sample libraries but I use it for it’s sample looping abilities when I’m creating .sfz based sample libraries.

To use this for looping, first create a new instrument (though there will be no need to save that instrument anywhere), using File > New. I just create an instrument called “temp” or “test”. It doesn’t matter because I won’t save the instrument.

Next, drag and drop a .wav file over the “Samples” label on the left side. Having done that, a blue waveform as depicted above should appear.

The simplest thing to do next is to let Polyphone scan the entire waveform to find a good loop point. Pressing the yellow loop icon near the top will begin the quick process.

This often works but it’s sometimes best to restrict the search to an area of the wave form that you can see is mostly stable. I have done that in the picture above. To first set the end point of the search area, simply click the right mouse button somewhere in the wave form. Then click the left mouse button to set the start point.

As before, click the yellow loop icon to create a loop.

Press space bar to toggle the playing of the looped sample.

To try a different loop range, press Ctrl-z to undo the previous loop thus allowing you to set new loop begin and end points.

Once the loop is sounding good, select File > Export Samples to choose the directory where the looped sample is to be placed.

To continue, I drag another waveform over the “Sample” label and delete the previous sample from that list (just click the previous sample to highlight it and then press the delete key.

See also: Sample Looping Tool – Endless Wave

Video – Making Easy Motif Based Melody

Below is a short video with some tips on how to take a motif

“Motif: a short succession of notes producing a single impression; a brief melodic or rhythmic formula out of which longer passages are developed”

… and make a few simple changes to expand it into a verse or chorus. The idea expressed in this video is to come up with a small melody idea and be able to repeat it 3 times but each time changing it just enough to keep it interesting. This strikes a good balance between something familiar for your listener while at the same time, providing something new with minimal effort.

There are many methods for altering a motif that I won’t list here, but this video shows 2 examples that should be easy to re-use in your own composing efforts.

Method 1

  • play the motif
  • repeat the motif but add a different ending to it
  • repeat the original motif with the original ending
  • play the motif a 4th time with another new ending.

Method 2

  • play the motif
  • repeat the motif unchanged
  • play a shortened version of the motif twice (in the time allotted for the first version of the motif)
  • play the original motif again.

How to Easily Write a Strong Melody – by Success For Your Songs


I’ve seen the transcribing of other people’s music recommended many times as a way to learn the art of orchestration and composition. The idea is to get a recording of a classical piece of music, attempt to recreate it by listening to it, performing the parts you hear into your DAW and then checking the actual conductor’s score to correct any mistakes. Doing this for a while will help to recognize patterns and be able to re-use those patterns to compose our own music.

There are places that sell conductor’s scores but I’ve found another interesting (free) way. Some live composing videos on YouTube are detailed enough that you can see exactly what is being recorded, by seeing the composer’s hands on a piano as they record a track, or seeing the piano roll in enough detail to figure out exactly what notes were recorded.

I would recommend performing a YouTube search for “live composing”. This will lead you to videos of composers as they work on a new piece of music. You can see step by step exactly how they do it.

Here are some of those videos (if you’re interested in epic/trailer style music):

In the video description of the following video, you will find a link where you can actually download the audio of individual tracks and the MIDI as well. If you become a patreon (paid subscriber) of Alex Moukala, you will be able to download the audio tracks and MIDI of many of his compositions for studying purposes.

Thor: The Dark World’s Theme – by Alex Moukala

In the following video, by carefully watching his hands, you should be able to figure out exactly what is being played so you can create your own version for studying.

CineSymphony LITE Composition Screencast – by Michael Patti

This next 2 part video series walks you through a live composition that eventually is submitted to be considered as background music for use on T.V.

Does melody even matter? – by Nick Murray

Does Melody Even Matter – Part 2 – By Nick Murray


How I make EPIC CINEMATIC MUSIC – bY Olexandr Ignatov

And finally:

Making Beats: Epic Cinematic Score – by Landmarq

Video – Doubling Orchestral Instruments

A short video demonstrating the sound of doubling, in unison, various combinations of instruments. I thought this video would make a useful reference. The instrument combinations demonstrated in the video are:

Brass & Woodwinds

  • Trumpet + Oboe -or- Flute -or- Clarinet
  • French Horn + Clarinet -or- Bassoon
  • Trombone + Bassoon -or- Bass Clarinet
  • Tuba + Bassoon

Woodwinds & Strings

  • Violins + Oboe -or- Flute -or- Piccolo
  • Violas + Oboe -or- English Horn -or- Clarinet -or- Bassoon
  • Cellos + Clarinet -or- Bass Clarinet -or- Bassoon
  • Double Bass + Bassoon -or- Bass Clarinet

Strings & Brass

  • Violins + Trumpets
  • Violas + French Horn
  • Cellos + French Horn
  • Cellos & Double Bass + Trombone & Tuba

Strings & Woodwinds & Brass

  • Violins + Oboes + Trumpets
  • Violas + Clarinets + French Horns

Doubling Orchestral Instruments (by Global Composers Network)

Video – Epic Orchestration in 5 minutes

A short video but I found it interesting how the composer starts by creating a 4 bar loop in his DAW, adds one chord per bar (Dm, C, Gm, Am), then while the loop is still playing quickly adds accompaniment. This seems like a good idea for quickly generating ideas.

The elements of this composition are as follows (in the  order they were added to the video):

  • strings playing chords
  • harp playing arpeggio
  • low brass playing bass notes
  • basic steady percussion rhythm (sticks or something light)
  • taiko drums providing rhythmic accents
  • violins playing legato lead melody
  • strings playing simple ostinato (alternating between 2 or 3 notes, but simpler than harp arpeggio
  • horns play melody when violins are not playing melody, then harmony/counterpoint when violins are playing melody

What I would do after what the composer has done, is go back and pull apart the added accompaniment so it eventually builds up to the point where all the accompaniment is playing. I’d try mixing and matching the accompaniment, perhaps repeat the whole process to create a B section then put everything together for a complete composition

Orchestration in 5 minutes with 4 chords (by Wangching Vamnokhu)

Here’s how the composition from the above video sounds when pulled apart a little bit and rendered using Virtual Playing Orchestra (plus some taiko drums)

Video – Smooth Chord Transitions

This video demonstrate a few good techniques for smooth transitions between chords. My explanations below, taken from the video (far below), assume a general knowledge of scales and chords. The techniques used in the video are:

1. Using a pedal note. This is a note that remains the same through each chord in the chord progression, usually higher or lower in pitch than the chords in the chord progression. This could be a common note in the chords or the root note of the scale from which the chords originate. For example, in the key of C, if playing a C F G C chord progression, you could use C as the pedal note. This technique can be a good effect when used sparingly. Hearing the same note frequently or for long periods of time, gets boring quickly.

2. Chord inversions, or voice leading. For smooth chord transitions, it’s best to keep the distance between adjacent chords to a minimum. For example, if transitioning from a C (CEG) to an F (FAC) chord, recognize which notes both have in common and place those notes in the same position in each chord. Look at the difference in movement to get from one note to the other in these 2 examples of transition from a C chord to an F chord.

This is good voice leading with minimal movement between a C and F chord (C root position to F second inversion or C to F/C):

C -> C (no movement)
E -> F (semi-tone)
G -> A (2 semi-tones)

This example is more movement which will not sound as smooth between C and F chords (C root position to F root position):

C -> F (5 semi-tones)
E -> A (5 semi-tones)
G -> C (5 semi-tones)

3. Suspended chords. A suspended chord is achieved by moving the 3rd of the chord up or down. This is a useful way of providing a smooth transition between chords that have no common note. For example, to transition from a C (CEG) to a Dm (DFA) a suspended chord can be injected between the two as a short transition chord. In the following example, the 3rd in the C chord (the E) is raised to F to create a Csus4 chord. This means the 3rd has been suspended and replaced with another note.

C -> C -> D
E -> F -> F
G -> G -> A

In the above, there are now common notes between the C and the Csus4, and the Csus4 and the Dm chord.

4. Anticipation. This involves playing a note from the next chord, early in anticipation of the new chord. A suspended chord achieves this but this can also be achieved by anticipating any note in the new chord:

C -> D -> D
E -> E -> F
G -> G -> A

… or both can be used one after another for an even more smooth transition, first the sus chord, then the anticipation:

C -> C -> D -> D
E -> F -> F -> F
G -> G -> G -> A

As you can see, the C (CEG) chord, one note at a time, blends in to the Dm (DFA) chord.

5. Joining notes. This means instead of playing the same note twice, hold the note twice as long. In the first example where the chords were C played as (CEG), and F, played as (CFA) instead of playing the C twice, just hold the C.

C ____
E -> F
G -> A

The above is meant as a brief summary or reference. This is best understood by watching the video from “Hack Music Theory” which demonstrates these concepts very well.

5 Hacks for Better Chord Progressions – (by Hack Music Theory)

Video – Finding Harmony (The Easy Way)

This short video shows some simple steps to easily create a harmony for your melody, whether the harmony is for a vocalist, a piano or an accompanying instrument.

To find the high harmony, start with the melody note and move 2 scale notes up. The low harmony is the melody note but 2 scale notes down. For example, if your melody note is an E (in the key of C), your high harmony is a G, your low harmony is a C. You can use either the high harmony, the low harmony or both harmony notes together with the melody.

If the high and low harmony notes are played together, they form a chord with the melody note, so adjustments may be necessary if the harmony forms a diminished chord (which may sound too dissonant). Try lowering or raising a harmony note to avoid this.

Check the harmony notes against the chord progression. In the video, the low harmony note had already been lowered a tone to avoid a diminished chord. This turned the harmony from a 3rd below the melody to a 4th below the melody but this clashed with the chord progression so the low harmony was lowered another scale note, which then made the low harmony a 5th below the melody which fit with the chord progression.

Also note that the high harmony can be played an octave lower, and the low harmony can be played an octave higher. This turns harmony in 3rds to harmony in 6ths.

All this is demonstrated in the video below.

How to find harmony the easy way – (by Quincy Kane Morris)