DIY Music Blog #3 – Slate Digital, Mixing and Hip-Hop

Hello there DIY music people. How are you all? All well, I hope… Been busy?

I have.

Here’s a little catch up with what I’ve been doing DIY musically since the last post, including testing out the Slate Digital plug-ins, working on new mixing projects and guides as well as finding myself writing a new hip-hop style track. Let me tell you all about it…

Getting to Know Slate Digital Plugins

If you read the last DIY Music blog post you’ll know that I’ve signed up to Slate Digital’s mix/master monthly bundle.


I’ve since received my iLok dongle, downloaded and installed the series of plugins and started playing with them. So far I’ve not had a chance to really get used to them and know the different qualities of each. I have tried out a couple of the compressors on individual tracks and the master bus on some projects and they definitely do seem to have a nice warmth and clarity to them. I’d say my opinion so far is that they are subtle but effective.

I did however have a slight issue with the FG-X in FL Studio on a ‘pre-master’ mix bus. Although I could tell it was working and sounded great, the display wasn’t working properly and none of the dials and meters were moving. Definitely some kind of glitch going on there. I managed to fix it by routing through another track before the actual master. I’m not sure why that worked though… Weird!

Do let me know if you’re using the new bundle from Slate Digital and if you’ve had any problems.

New Mixing Projects

As I have these lovely new plugs I’ve asked around to see if anyone had anything I could have a go at mixing (this offer still stands so get in touch if you have anything for me to practise on). I’ve already had a few offers and will be looking at those over the next few weeks. The first one (which I’ve already completed) was a new demo track for my friend, Neil, who had recorded the parts for a new punk song to showcase to the rest of his band and just needed them mixed.

This was a nice little job as the recording’s were done well and it was just for a demo so there wasn’t a huge amount of pressure. I used the Virtual Mix Rack on the vocals and guitar bus and the VBC Rack over the master. I have to admit they do a nice job of adding warmth and tone as well as the actual compression required. Definitely won’t be cancelling my subscription just yet.

On the subject of mixing, I’ve also recently written about my ten most significant mixing lessons in a new article on this very site. This covers a few significant things I’ve learned about mixing which I think are very important and I kinda wish someone had told me about sooner! So check that out if you’re in to mixing. Maybe there’s something in there that will help you.

Straight Outta… My Spare Room?

I’ve always been a fan of hip-hop, especially the drums and the use of samples. Maybe it’s because of the new film that’s out, Straight Outta Compton, or maybe it was just random but I recently started putting together a hip-hop inspired piece of music.

Actually, I’ll back-track a bit. I do know what caused me to start working on this. It was the discovery of an awesome collection of YouTube videos called Beat Breakdown, in which a chap skilfully dissects some of the biggest hip-hop tracks from history and shows how they were put together. It’s really inspiring to see the elements that come together to make such great sounds.

So I actually revisited a track I’d started playing around with a while back. It had a hip-hop beat and used some old-school synths based on the Yamaha DX (Dexed by Digital Suburban. Check it out, it’s really cool, and free). What I decided to do was to actually sample the synths and then chop them up, instead of just playing them through the piano roll. The result was a very pleasing change in the sound and style of the music. Just the way the sustained notes and reverb tails cut off at the end/start of each sample is a great effect.

I took it another stage further by recording myself improvising on the piano along with the music I’d already written, then sampling and  chopping that up too to add another layer. I’ve started getting that feeling of excitement about this track that encourages me to carry on with it and finish it off. I’ve even sent it to a friend who’s working on vocal ideas. This will be a bit of a different direction from stuff I’ve released previously and may even need a new name to release it under… In the meantime you can listen to my work-in-progress below.

Until Next Time…

I’m going to stop this blog here. There’s a few other things going on but I don’t want to bore you too much. Just one last thing… I’ve set up a mailing list. If you would like to receive new posts in your email as well as all kinds of other exclusive content (I haven’t exactly worked out exactly what content yet but that’s part of the fun!) then SIGN UP HERE, if you haven’t already. I promise not to annoy you with spam. 🙂

Otherwise you can still keep up with new posts as well as chat about anything with me on my Facebook page and Twitter account, as well as mingle with other DIY musos in our Facebook group.

See you there!

PS. Seriously. Sign up to the mailing list! Thanks. 🙂

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