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Subliminal Automation Boston MA

By applying what I call "subliminalautomation," you can hold listeners' attentionwithout resorting to abrupt shifts. The idea isto use very small brush strokes to keep a partchanging continuously but subtly.

Community Music Center of Boston
(617) 482-7494
Boston MA
Boston, MA

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North Bennet Street School Workshops in Musical Instrument Technology
617.227.0155 x 117
Boston MA
Boston, MA

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Boston University
855 Commonwealth Ave
Boston, MA
 
Boston University
(617) 353-2300
Boston MA
Boston, MA

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Brookline Music School
25 Kennard Rd.
Brookline, MA
 
New England Conservatory
290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA
 
Boston University Online Doctor in Music Education
855 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA
 
Boston University Online Master in Music Education
855 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA
 
Brookline Music School
(617) 277-4593
Brookline MA
Brookline, MA

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The New School of Music
(617) 492-8105
Cambridge MA
Cambridge, MA

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Subliminal Automation

As one of Brian Eno’s ObliqueStrategies cards states, “Repetition is a formof change.” For dance music, this isn’t merely astrategy, but a mantra. However, the fact of thematter is — unless your audience’s intoxicantsare extremely good — too much repetitiongets old fast. Too little, and you risk breaking the spell you’re casting on the dance floor.

The most common technique for keeping a riff interesting is to dramatically morph the synths and effects, creating crescendos andpeaks to enhance the listener’s journey. Thisis well-suited to progressive dance, sometypes of house, and of course, trance. Butdrastic or sweeping changes don’t always mesh with the tech and minimal genres.

By applying what I call “subliminalautomation,” you can hold listeners’ attention without resorting to abrupt shifts. The idea isto use very small brush strokes to keep a part changing continuously but subtly. To illustratethis, we’ll automate an analog-style square wave riff over a beat from Loopmasters’ JoeyYoungman library. The end result is a cyclingriff that keeps tickling the ear, while leaving sonic space for embellishments in the drumsand other synth bits.

0.001_StrobeStep 1. Create a simple riff with a sound that’s not too complex and has a bitof room to morph subtly. Here’s the isolated square wave riff, created withFXpansion’s Strobe synth from DCAM Synth Squad (reviewed Nov. ’09).

0.002_FilterAutoStep 2. Let’s start with a touch of filter automation. Inthis example (using Ableton Live), we’ve lowered thecutoff ever so slightly, then put a slight peak at themiddle of the eight-bar loop.

0.003_SawAutoStep 3. To change the wave shape slightly, we’llblend in a bit of sawtooth twice, with peaks atbar 3 and bar 7.

0.004_SustainAutoStep 4. Another useful parameter to automate is theenvelope sustain level. Large shifts are great forbuilding peaks and crescendos. A tiny amount addsjust a dash of flavor.

0.005_NoiseAutoStep 5. As a final touch, we’ll blend in a bit of noise. Aswith sustain and filter, a little goes a long way. For thepeaks, you can get a lot crazier, as we’ve discussed inprevious columns.

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