Want to create music on your computer? Get started here.

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SpacLock

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Thinking about getting into music production? Cool. I suck at writing and I'm bad at introductions. Sorry!

This thread is for people who want to get into creating music using midi, synth, computer programs, keyboards, and shit like that. I'm not going to talk about recording guitars or any other instruments. If enough people want to know about that then i could make another thread about it.

This thread is to get people started, NOT to teach them. I'll explain a little bit, but not enough for you to start composing orchestra with a mouse and headphones.

This is MIDI:

You probably think that midi is that bullshit low quality sound that you hear from .mid files and from peoples ringtones on their cellphones. That isn't really midi, it just uses midi. Midi has no sound. It is information. It's kind of like code for music. When i use my keyboard and I hit the C note while recording, midi is going to store the following information:

-I hit the C note
-I pressed the C key at [certain time]
-I released the C key at [certain time]
-How hard i hit the C key.

Midi controls a lot of what you do with the synth, soundfonts, and etc. you use to create music on a computer. If you're going to start using midi then you're going to have to learn what it is and how it works. You do not need a keyboard to use midi. All you need is a mouse.

This is Synth:

I'm going to keep it dumbed down. Synth is sound created by multiple oscillators, but you don't really need to know that. All you need to know is it's all of the cool sounds you hear in electronic songs. Midi is what controls this synth before it is recorded into a wave form. Soundfonts are real recorded instruments that you can control with midi.

What you need:

-Computer (PC or Mac) Decent. Not slow and crappy.
-Free programs that I believe you can find at neogaf's free software list
-Simple mixing program like Garageband or Acid Pro (we'll get into these shortly)
-Speakers

What you will want:

-Everything above.
-Either a fat wallet or a brain that knows how to use the program utorrent.
-A cheap USB midi keyboard or more expensive one with a built in synthesizer.
-New sound card.
-Programs that go hand in hand with each other like Reason 3.0 + Pro Tools or Fruity Loops + Ableton Live.
-Lots of HDD space or external HDD.
-I prefer some nice headphones. Bose and Sony make some nice affordable ones.

What kind of keyboard you want:

A keyboard isn't needed, but once you learn what the hell you're doing you're going to really want one. The keyboard you buy should at the very least have these features...

-USB connectivity and midi out
-Velocity sensitive keys
-Pitch and Mod wheels
-(+\-) octave buttons
-At least 49 keys
-An input for a sustain pedal if you really want to get into playing the piano.

The programs and what the hell they do:

I'll start from the easiest.

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Fruity Loops (DEMO)

This is your really basic easy to use stuff right here. The program is very simple to use and has a small learning curve compared to others like it. I recommend this to every beginner.

When you first open the program it's going to look a little something like this - minus the MSPaint circles.



Since this is a beginners program I'll give you a quick explanation on what some stuff does if you decide to check it out. I haven't used this thing in ages so a couple of things might have changed.

1. The first pinkish/orangish circle on the very left is where your sounds are. This is where you'll find your kicks, snares, synths, and weird ass sfx. Once you find the sound you want, you're going to drag it the the sequencer/pattern thingy that is circled in the color red.

2. In the top middle Red circle is your little beat sequencer. This is where you'll most likely where you'll be arranging your drums. You see all of those little boxes in it? Those are where you put your drums sounds. As you can see, some of the little boxes are highlighted and some are dark. The highlighted ones are where you placed your sounds. After you place your kicks, snares, and etc. in the spots where you wanted them, you hit play and they will play in the sequence that you placed them.

3. The very top right circle is your piano roll. This is where you pick your notes for the synths or soundfonts you're using. As you can see, it looks a lot like a piano. You place those green bars on the notes you want to play.

4. The very bottom white circle is your play list. This is where you arrange your whole song. Every box in there is one of the piano rolls or drum patterns you have created.

5. There's so much more to this program that I would like to talk about but I'm already getting tired of typing. You'll learn how to use effects like reverb and stuff like that on your own.

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Acid Pro (DEMO)

This is one of your mixing programs. You can mix in programs like Fruity Loops, but you'll find it to be a lot easier in something like this.



That shit probably looks pretty scary if you've never looked at sound editing programs like this before. You can edit video in this program too, that's why you see the dude spinning the record at the bottom.

1. Very right yellow circle. Those are your loops or sounds that you have recorded from programs like Fruitly Loops. The smaller yellow circles are the volume adjustments.

2. Big red circle. Those are sound waves Wav, Mp3, etc. This is where arrange all of your sounds. You you loop them, mix them, modulate crazy effect stuff (those lines shooting through some of them).

3. Bottom blue circle. This is your main mix. It's where you make things start sounding better.

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Reason 3.0 (DEMO) In the downloads section.

One of my personal favorites.


Yeah... I saved as .gif through MSPaint. Sorry, but i'm not going to get into this one because it would be too difficult to explain. I suggest getting the demo and messing around with it for awhile. It can be a lot like Fruity Loops in some ways. If you decide to give this one a try and have any questions at all just post in this thread and I'll answer them.

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Ableton Live (DEMO)



This is another one of my favorites. It's really cool to use when messing around with electronic music. I'm not going to get into this one either, but if you get the demo and have any questions, just post them. It's similar to Acid Pro.

Both Ableton Live and Acid Pro let you use Fruity Loops and Reason with them. You can connect the two programs of your choice together to make things a lot easier. If anyone has any questions about this just post.

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Others:

OrgMaker
Link brings you to his post.
Recommended by - salva

BUZZ
(you better read the manual)
Recommended by - Teknopathetic

n-Track Studio
"Great for sound design and audio mangling, it allowed for very user-friendly envelope editing of a shit-load of parameters, including VST effect automation"
Recommended by - Senor Silky



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Start downloading these demos and messing around. See what programs fit what you're trying to do best.

I will update this thread as time goes on. I'm sure there's quite a few people at Gaf that can help out with this stuff too.

Ask questions. I'll answer them when I'm around.

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UPDATE 2: Bump for the new NeoGaf compilation album

With the new NeoGaf music compilation coming up I've decided to help with some links to orchestra soundfonts.

Click here. Go to the sounds tab on the left hand side. I'm sure some of you can find a few decent ones that can come in handy for the new album.

I'm going to keep searching for some more free soundfonts and if anyone knows where to get some please post a link.

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UPDATE: Mixing Practice

Here's number 1

Recorded Sounds Here - Just download, uncompress, drag all of the sounds into your mixing program. 140.00 BPM

Original Mix Here - Please do not download this until you have finished creating your own version of it. I'm interested in seeing how different each will be if you haven't heard what you're making. If you're not mixing then I wouldn't download this until others have posted their versions of it. Yeah it's a mess I know.

Have fun practicing.
 

Beezy

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I had Fruity Loops once upon a time, but I deleted it because it was so confusing. :(

Had Acid Pro also, I don't remember why I got rid of it. All I have right now is Cool Edit Pro.
 
Apr 13, 2006
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i have ORGmaker, the program that was used to make the music of Cave Story.

It's really simple and easy
 

Teknopathetic

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While these days I use a midi controller and Ableton, not too long ago, I used

BUZZ, which is a REALLY powerful tracker that has a somewhat less than stellar interface. Completely free, though.

To use Buzz, you pretty much HAVE to read the Manual.
 

FightyF

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Great idea for a thread...I'll try to write something up int he same format you have for BUZZ and ModPlug Tracker (and maybe some DOS trackers).

But now I'm gonna head off and play some Resistance! :)
 

Karma Kramer

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Aug 16, 2006
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SpacLock said:
Especially Aphex Twin. NIN uses Ableton Live for some effects.
I am on mac so I am downloading... Reason and Live... I will hopefully have something by tomorrow to share. I would love to get into making music similar to aphex twin... even if I aint that good.
 

Senor Silky

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Beezy said:
I had Fruity Loops once upon a time, but I deleted it because it was so confusing. :(
I think the reason Fruity Loops can seem initially confusing is because, at least last time I used it, it's design was still firmly based upon it's evolution from the more traditional 'tracker' based method of music making. As it grew, it basically just kept piling more and more contemporary features on top of this kind of niche form of computer music creation. Once you get your head around the pattern mixer, and how to string them all together, it's probably one of the easiest programs out there to use.

I still think the best version of Fruity Loops was 1.3 - hands down the best unintentional digital distortion I've ever heard and so perfect for getting audio based ideas down quickly.

For anybody working with a lot of audio, or maybe into the more ambient side of things, n-Track Studio (http://www.fasoft.com/) used to be one of the best audio based sequencers I'd ever used. Great for sound design and audio mangling, it allowed for very user-friendly envelope editing of a shit-load of parameters, including VST effect automation - I haven't messed around with audio for about 18 months, but still couldn't recommend it highly enough, particularly as a cheap alternative to the higher end sequencers.
 
Sep 3, 2004
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SpacLock said:
What kind of keyboard you want:

A keyboard isn't needed, but once you learn what the hell you're doing you're going to really want one. The keyboard you buy should at the very least have these features...

-USB connectivity and midi out
-Velocity sensitive keys
-Pitch and Mod wheels
-(+\-) octave buttons
-At least 49 keys
-An input for a sustain pedal if you really want to get into playing the piano.
About how much would a keyboard with those features cost?
 

SpacLock

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Parallax Scroll said:
About how much would a keyboard with those features cost?
You can get some as cheap as $40 used. I recommend this one here. It comes with a free version of Ableton Live too. $130.00.

Karma Kramer said:
I am on mac so I am downloading... Reason and Live... I will hopefully have something by tomorrow to share. I would love to get into making music similar to aphex twin... even if I aint that good.
After you download them i'll help you out. The more questions you ask the better, that way i can build up these tutorials.
 

SpacLock

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Karma Kramer said:
Live is freaking amazing... I have already made a pretty cool track
I'm glad you like it because it's one of my favorites by far. Tomorrow i'm going to throw together a couple of short mixes in Ableton, then i'll split up all the sounds and put them up for you guys to download and mess around with in Ableton. That way we can see how different some people will arrange them.
 
Sep 3, 2004
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SpacLock said:
You can get some as cheap as $40 used. I recommend this one here. It comes with a free version of Ableton Live too. $130.00.
On the m-audio product page, this has me a bit concerned:
Windows 98SE / Me / 2000 (SP4) / XP (SP2 Home or Professional Edition only)*
* Home and Professional Edition only. Windows Media Center Edition is not currently supported.
I'm on Vista Home Premium, so I don't know if that will work for me.
 

SpacLock

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Parallax Scroll said:
On the m-audio product page, this has me a bit concerned:

I'm on Vista Home Premium, so I don't know if that will work for me.
I see. I'll look into it for you. I do know that it works for media center even though it says that it doesn't.
 

Karma Kramer

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Aug 16, 2006
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Wow thanks so much spaclock for bringing these products to my attention. This is an absolute blast.

You wouldn't happen to have a AIM account or something?
 

Phobophile

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Apr 24, 2006
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Reason is so ****ing confusing. I'd recommend against using it for an amateur novice.
 

haunts

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Sep 20, 2004
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Phobophile said:
Reason is so ****ing confusing. I'd recommend against using it for an amateur novice.
??

I thought reason was pretty strait forward when I used it at one point. I think FruityLoops is the best way to go as beginner.

to me Live is the most fun to put tracks together in.
 

Mr Nash

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Jun 8, 2004
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Interesting thread. I'll need to come back to this after I get a new laptop later this summer. I want to upgrade my recording stuff, as I still just use an old version of eLogic that came with my Audiowerk 2 card from almost 10 years ago. >_< Speaking of audio cards, anyone have any recommendations for such to use on a laptop?

Edit: I should also ask if anyone can recommend a good USB-based MIDI / audio input device that I can snap up at a reasonable price. Any suggestions, folks?
 

Armitage

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If you want to get serious about mixing on a computer, you can't do better than getting a (LEGIT) copy of Ableton, it's becoming close to an industry standard for laptop mixing and can be extremely powerful if you know what you're doing.
 

Karma Kramer

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Armitage said:
If you want to get serious about mixing on a computer, you can't do better than getting a (LEGIT) copy of Ableton, it's becoming close to an industry standard for laptop mixing and can be extremely powerful if you know what you're doing.
Yeah seriously... the demo just blew me away.
 

Ryo

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If you want a really simple tool for creating sample based music I recommend ModPlug (http://www.modplug.com/).

Oh the hours I have spent making sweet music with that tool =).

It is free too.
 

BocoDragon

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Dec 5, 2005
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Wow... THANK YOU. This thread was made for me... I'm very interested in this stuff and I know precisely zilch.
 

Karma Kramer

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Sucks that the demo for Ableton doesn't let you export... anyone know how to export without the full version so I can share my first track with you guys?
 

Agent Icebeezy

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Karma Kramer said:
Sucks that the demo for Ableton doesn't let you export... anyone know how to export without the full version so I can share my first track with you guys?
Are you using stock sounds? If so, upload the Ableton Live Set file and I'll export the music for you.
 

Karma Kramer

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Aug 16, 2006
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Agent Icebeezy said:
Are you using stock sounds? If so, upload the Ableton Live Set file and I'll export the music for you.
Doesn't even let me ****ing save... :(

So either I upload this somehow or when I quit I lose my song?

If anyone knows how to help... AIM me = Pagoda454
 

MobiusPigeon

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i learned long ago using cubase in a college class. anyone use cubase? how easy are these other programs compared to cubase?
 

MIMIC

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I used to have Fruity Loops. It's so damn confusing, but after messing around with it, I kinda got the hang of it.

Right now, I use Cool Edit Pro to mix/remix songs.
 

FightyF

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Trackers
Since Modplug tracker can play any tracker format, and it's a bit easier to use due to it's Windows interface (I used to use Impulse Tracker in DOS with no mouse support :( ), I'll focus on it.

A tracker is a program that allows you to create music by using samples (basically wave files, could be sounds, pieces of music, recorded bits of instruments, whatever). It's basically a sampler.

You can lay down these samples in patterns, to make music. You can also apply some effects to these samples, and control their loudness and panning.

To make a pattern is very simple. There is no sheet notation, it is basically a screen with vertical columns to represent your channels. From top-down, you put in what note of what sample you want to play. I'll get into details with some pics...

For more info check out the wikipedia page on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trackers

Here is a quick rundown of how it looks and works...



You would spend most of your time here.

-The area circled in GREEN is your pattern editor. Note the numbers on the left hand side, they represent "ticks". You can determine how fast through the ticks you want to go to determine your tempo. Imagine a bar coming from the top of the page down, and playing notes in that order. Usually there is 64 ticks per pattern but you can specify how much you want. Each column represents a channel, and you place notes in there. The BLUE ARROW is pointing to a note specified. In that case, "A" on the 6th octave. The PURPLE ARROW is pointing to the sample number. In this case, sample number 22, which is a string sample. As you can see there is a chord being played using the strings. The BLACK ARROW is pointing to nothing, but that is where you specify effects such as panning. The ORANGE ARROW is pointing to the volume of the instrument. As you can see the artist is using them as gates (ie. to play a sound and to cut it out right away).

-the area circled in YELLOW is your pattern sequencer. You make a bunch of patterns and them put them together to make up your song.

You can also view your samples used, and tweak them to your liking, whether it's the pitch, volume, or default panning. You can also apply volume and filter envelopes...but I won't go into that now...


pic of a snare sample used in that song.

Why use trackers? First off, they are free. Secondly, they are easy to learn and use. And thirdly, there are so many great songs out there, that you can not only enjoy, but learn from. For a complete n00b to making any music, I would suggest taking an existing song and fiddling around to remix it. Just don't release it and claim it's your own. :p And then work on original peices.

The end result from a mod song is that it may sound great, but not on the level of current day productions. This is because it lacks any post production effects such as compression , EQing, and touches of reverb. But it's a great place to start.

DOWNLOAD MODPLUG TRACKER @ http://www.modplug.com/


BUZZ
Next up is BUZZ which is considered to be an advanced tracker. It is a free program, and is open source, that is to say that people are making stuff for it all the time. But it goes far beyond a tracker's capabilities. It's basically an entire studio rolled into one program. You can compose, engineer, and master the track all at once. It is like a virtual studio, and so it is limited by your CPU, rather than your wallet or studio space.

It can use samples, or soft synths to generate sounds. There are built in soft synths and you can use VSTs as well. What VST/soft synths are, are emulated sythesizers. Also built into BUZZ are many effects that can be applied. Reverb, Echo, compressors, equalizers, and all the typical ones are present, but also ones that aren't often used in real life, ie. doppler effect fx, 3D spacializers, and experimental mathematical resynthesis effects.

But it's very hard to master, it takes a lot of knowledge regarding the mastering and engineering process to get the most out of it. But once reach that point it can do things no other software can, or any real studio for that matter (mainly because of costs :)).

Actually there's so much you can do I don't know where to start...I suppose I'll start with the simplest sort of things you can do, and later show some of the more impressive stuff.

Actually I found something on YouTube...goes into the ultra basics.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77zg3fJyaH0

As I was typing this second portion I was starting on a song and I can't stop, so I'll end it here. :p
 

hobbitx

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Just starting screwing with FL and damn, I'm really getting the hang of this. Before with other apps the hardest part was getting the note durations just right, it's very easy to get them down in this program. Finally, grooves sound exactly as they do in my twisted mind. :)

Two questions though, are the voice options I saw in the menu samples only or are they vocoders too? I want to use my speakers as general output, but use my headset for audio input, but couldn't find any options for microphones at all.

Also, even though I found some pretty old school sounding synths, what are some good synths or whole fonts I should look for that will let me use some of the classic 70's style synths like what Boards of Canada and other artists use? Any help would be most appreciated.

..........err three, once I get a good groove going that I want through the whole track or during most of it, how can I loop it?
 

Midna

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Oh, this is a wonderful thread! Also if anyone wants to just fiddle a bit, you could really try Pixels music program. It's called Pxtone. It seems to be much more simpler and it could be useful to beginners who just want to peck and play and are intimidated by the bigger programs. More information is here: http://hp.vector.co.jp/authors/VA022293/ It includes an English menu translation I believe, just rename the japanese.ico to something else.
 
Fruityloops is incredibly versatile. I've been mainly recording rock and classical with it. Here's a few quick fire production tips:

SOUNDSTAGE - Music is 3D. Panning left and right gives you width. Adjusting EQ gives you height. Adding reverb creates depth. Don't chuck everything in the middle, use the whole stage.

EFFECTS - Go easy on them. Record anything live dry. My workflow: Compression->EQ->Free slot->Delay (if required)->Reverb.

VOLUME - Go with dB values. Rhythm instruments should be -15dB, Lighter stuff at -20dB. Primary lead (solo stuff) at -5dB and backing lead stuff at -10dB. Adjust to taste after.

SOUNDFONTS - These are your friend. Download sfz player and start collecting these. You can get a practically real sound out of the best soundfonts, I've been working on a classical piece that is entirely made out of various soundfont libraries. If anyone is interested I'll post a demo of it.

These are basic general guidelines for an even mix:

ROCK - Rhythm guitars should be double tracked and panned hard left and hard right. Leads go in the centre. Harmonizing guitar parts should be 25% left/right. Any interesting rhythm parts at 50% left/right. Drums in the centre, put the kick to the left and the snare to the right by 3-5%. Bass is centred. Any backing keyboard work at 75% unless you want it in the front of the mix.

CLASSICAL - For that full wash of sound, double up the first and second violins. Have one set doing rhythm work at 100% left and 100% right. First and second lead violins at 50% left/right. Double bass and cello near the middle. Brass and wind can go in the 25%-75% range, left and right. Percussion depends on taste, but I prefer to put all the low stuff (bass drum, timpani)in the centre and the tam tam/piatti/etc nearer the sides, up to the 50% mark. If you want a choir in, put it at 75 left and right.

EDIT - Learn music theory as early as possible. Get a cheap MIDI keyboard. Start with basic chords (major/minor) then sustained chords, diminished/augmented/etc. Then learn a few scales for soloing. Go from there.
 

aurto511

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Jun 27, 2006
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nice thread SpacLock.
I've got Cubase SX 2, downloaded it years ago and did an evening course on using it at a basic level. I don't use it much as it freakin tanks my memory when using VSTs (my PC is at a good spec for SX 2), and it felt like I got myself into too much as I was and still am a noob when it comes sequencing/mixing; nowadays I concentrate on composing and writing songs.
 

SpacLock

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I'm glad people are trying this stuff out. If you want to send me an instant message for a quicker response to a small question, my AIM name is foreheadbasher. I'm going to upload some samples and loops of stuff that I have made so you guys can mess around with them in Ableton, Acid Pro, and others like those. I'll update the first post as soon as i get these sounds ready.

I'm also going to make a more in depth tutorial for Reason + Ableton Live if enough people are interested.
 

SpacLock

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Here's number 1

Here is the first folder of junk I'm uploading for you guys to mix. This is just a test to see if enough people would like to do it so it's a very short, quickly thrown together, repetitive mix.

The first download is for the mixers. It's a RAR compressed folder full of sounds from a short song that was made using Reason and Ableton. You can use any program you want when mixing this.

The second download is the actual short song that is now in pieces in the first download. i uploaded this so that people can hear the original mix. I think it would be better if the people who are mixing would not listen to this until they are finished so we can hear how different everybody arranges the song.

Sorry that it was thrown together so quickly. If enough people like the idea I'll make better ones in the future. If anyone else would like to make one of these then that would be cool too.

Recorded Sounds Here - Just download, uncompress, drag all of the sounds into your mixing program. 140.00 BPM

Original Mix Here - Please do not download this until you have finished creating your own version of it. I'm interested in seeing how different each will be if you haven't heard what you're making. If you're not mixing then I wouldn't download this until others have posted their versions of it. Yeah it's a mess I know.

Have fun practicing.
 
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