Today I am going to walk through how I made this Chillstep groove using SoundBridge and a plethora of great third party plugins. I hope this background info and these general tips will allow you to get a good start on a new style. You certainly don’t need to use the plugins I used although some do have an unbeatable character to them (Serum).
- NI Battery 4
- NI FM8
- NI Solid Bus Comp
- Reaktor: Prism
- Reaktor: Rounds
- Xfer Serum
- Nicky Romero: Kickstart
- Waves: S1 Imager
- Valhalla Room
- iZotope: Ozone 6
- SoundBridge Delay
- SoundBridge Filter Unit
I started by making the drum loop with samples from the SoundBridge Sound Bank in Battery 4. You can drag samples directly from the SoundBridge file browser into Battery (the sound bank is free with your account – just log in and download it from the “My Account” section).
Then, I froze the loop to a new track and put a little gain, some compression, and EQ on it. For the compressor, you’ll probably want an attack time somewhere around 10 ms – quick enough to smooth out the harsh transients from the kick and snare, but long enough to avoid squashing them completely. Gently add reverb. If the kick sounds too wet, try sending the track to a return with a highpass filter before the reverb.
~ Drum Loop with treatment
I composed a bass line with a patch designed in a Serum demo and froze it to a new track with some EQ and Kickstart on it. The complex timbre comes from modulating the waveform itself with a customized LFO. (Serum allows you to punch in breakpoints in the LFO grid, pretty cool huh?) This is how you’ll get the majority of exotic sounding growls and groans.
- Make sure you’re in the right octave – I like to transpose the oscillator octave down to -2, but you can achieve the same sound by merely drawing the MIDI note in the octave you want in the sequencer.
- Another important aspect of this sound is the lowpass filter. Like in most synth sounds, filter modulation is a big deal. Use one of the LFOs to open up the filter and add a little resonance and drive.
- Experiment with the “Mix” parameter too – it can create some really cool liquidy content.
The FX are killer in Serum. They have quite possibly the cleanest sounding compressor I have ever heard from any plugin and the “downsample” setting on the distortion unit is SWEET! Adjust the mix and the drive to your liking. Too much of this effect can ruin the sub of the bass and make it sound cheesy, so be careful.
I brought up some nuance sounds in Rounds, filtered them and spread the stereo image-wide.
Added some simple sines designed in FM8, hard-panned left and right with a little bit of the default vibrato controlled by the mod wheel.
The return delay in this song is quite important. It is proper to bring the wetness parameter all the way up when it is being implemented in parallel. Otherwise, you have two dry tracks, which makes achieving balance tricky. With dry/wet controls, the serial delay is useful but does not allow you to process JUST the wet signal further. Check out my blog, Return Delay Magic, for a more detailed explanation. In this song, I have sent basically all of the high-end to the delay by some amount, and the delay time is synced to 1/2 note. There is not much feedback since the delay time is relatively long. Consider putting a volume envelope or LFO tool or Kickstart on the return to get it out of the way of the low end.
~ High End
I did not do much on the Master track. I just dropped the maximizer unit in Ozone 6 on it to increase the overall level by about 5 dB. That’s right… I sacrificed some dynamics on the master. You can probably do it too, just make sure you’re not losing your sub or truncating the percussive sounds.
- Try Freezing the return track to a new audio track. This way you have captured the affected signal and can edit or process it further in the sequencer.
- If you’re struggling to find a good variation on some phrase, try adding filtered versions or unfiltered versions (depending on what you started with) to change up the timbre and presence. Often times, a sound sits better NOT filtered – especially if the section is sparse like a bridge or buildup section.
- Instead of composing a new groove with your drum sampler and MIDI notes, try bouncing the drums you have to audio and cutting them up, shifting the time, pitch, position, direction…. etc. Something about working with audio makes arranging a lot less daunting.
- If you want to use the same melodic or harmonic phrase in a different section, try transposing the octave or changing the voicing. Simple adjustments like these can make a section sound totally re-developed when really, you have just swapped the part of the spectrum that each element occupies.