Category Archives: Remixing

ccMixter: A Memoir

I wish I was better writer because the story of ccMixter is very cool. If you can overlook the atomic level hair-splitting, churlish, defensive, chatty exaltations then I hope you’ll enjoy a document that tries to capture the history and lessons from the first four years of ccMixter. I’m releasing 33 pages in a PDF document called: “ccMixter: A Memoir OR How I Learned to Stop Worrying about the RIAA and Love the Unexpected Collaborations of Distributed Creativity During the First Four Years of Running ccMixter”

DOWNLOAD PAGE for “ccMixter: A Memoir”

I don’t have a research assistant or literary editor and it shows. Still I had several volunteer reviewers and I can’t thank them enough because this document was a real mess before they helped clean it up.

Leave your comments and typo finds on this thread.

Thanks everyone for a killer four years. What happens next is what happens next….


My (Throwing) Muse: Kristin

I’ve lost count of how many singers I’ve remixed from raw a cappellas, the number is probably in the dozens. There are some, like Frank Carter (who I recently interviewed for ccMixter) that are obviously brilliant singers but for some reason I can’t remix. Frank could be particularly frustrating because I claim to have some cred in R&B and funk, yet, I have never remixed him to my (or anyone else’s) satisfaction. I have no idea what’s going on there. If I were touchy it about I’d be freaked that as a musician I should be able do a competent production on any singer, especially as good as Frank, in any genre. In school we used to call that ‘8 bars of anything’, as in: “play me 8 bars of anything and I’ll be able to re-create it and make it my own.” But as I get older and (god help me) mellower about these things I’m starting to feel totally comfortable being the loungy-elector-70s-porno-soundtrack-chill guy. So in that sense, I am not flogging myself over a case like Frank because, I guess, there’s just something in the harmonics and timing (for you kids: “flow”) that isn’t lining up to the type of mixes I’m doing nowadays.

On the other hand, it feels like I have an affinity for other singers like c. layne or Colin Mutchler. Those mixes “just work.” I hear the pell, I get it, the options are endless.

But nothing in my music experience can match what I feel when I get my hands on a pell by Kristin Hersh who started uploading pells to ccMixter a few months ago. Basically, if I could sing I would want to sound 100% like her. She cuts me deep.

Kristin is the lead singer of Throwing Muses a band I was aware of as I was bar hopping around Los Angeles in the record biz in the 80’s but never latched on to. In those days I was seeing between 5-10 bands a week so it’s more than possible that I saw them perform but I never owned one of their records.

All I know is that now, with the separated pells I’ve lost my mind with pleasure. Do my mixes of Kristin connect with anybody else? (or even her?) I don’t really know. They tend to be warmly, received by the other mixers at ccM but really, I know what’s there and I’ve said everything I need about it here and in the music. Here’s the latest:

Ableton Live 7: A Late Review

The Live 7 upgrade has been out since last November but due to a serious falling out with the 6 upgrade I had not bothered to check it out. This was a heartbreak because I loved to be in the application but I found it unusable for one simple reason: its render to wav file (which was always a bitch) had degraded to a shocking degree. In other words, I would work hours and days on a remix and the file that got rendered sounded nothing like it did when I played it in the application. Now I know that every DAW software has some issue here but I felt, with 6, they were out of control.

Then about a month ago I hit upon this white paper (PDF) from Ableton in which they claim to have “implemented a number of low-level improvements to the audio engine” specifically during the render to file function. The paper focuses on what they call “neutral operations” which is a fancy way of saying “not fucking with the sound.” Not every operation in Live is “neutral” (like applying effects) but they do spell out which are and when you stick to those operations “you can be sure that using these functions will never cause any signal degradation. Applying neutral operations to audio that was recorded into Live ensures that the audio will be unchanged from the point of analog-to-digital conversion… Applying neutral operations to files being exported from Live ensures that the quality of your output file will be at least as high as what you heard during playback.”

I stopped reading about half way through of the rest of paper, got out my credit card and downloaded the upgrade.

For my purposes there were several areas that I changed in the way I would normally work: 1) lining up the project, hardware and samples I use to the same bit rate (44k), turning off all dithering during rendering and 3) taking mastering completely out of Live.

I’ve been using this method for my last few remixes at ccMixter. Here’s one of the more successful mixes (this is playing through Flash but you get the idea):

They weren’t lying, if I pay attention to what is and what isn’t a “neutral” operation the render is worlds better. I still don’t get the pristine sheen on the mixes I’ve gotten out of FL Studio where I don’t have to pay any mind to ‘neutral’ vs. not but I’m encouraged enough to (finally) throw away FL after a love/mainly-hate relationship. I don’t know how they get such a great sound off their engine or how they can do $0 upgrades (“forever”) but I’ve been looking to dump their awful, incoherent user interface and terrible wav clip handling for years.

The fact is, I have fun in Live while FL always, always felt like work.

FL Studio 6, Worth Every Penny

Made w/FL 6

[ listen ]
[ download ]

Musicians invest a lot in their music host software. Hours, dollars, patience and emotions all get stretched to their limits. Learning the software, using the software, cursing the software. The solitude leads to back aches, blurry eyes, divorce and a visit from Child Services. After a while the musician will get dependent on and defensive about the host they use, sometimes to point of fanaticism. The name for this is “software Stockholm syndrome.”

An “upgrade” is typically where the musician gets to pay for the privilege of having bugs fixed in the last version at same time as paying for the introduction of a few features they were hoping for, several they can’t fathom and of course, all new bugs in the latest version of the software that, without fail, forces a hardware upgrade simply to open the default demo project.

FL Studio, with it’s upgrade to version 6, remains the bargain of the century, remains one the best sounding hosts out there, remains stable as ever and it remains one of the hardest and most obtuse applications to learn and master.

But as always, the new features are very cool. The best way to describe the latest upgrade to FL Studio is “two steps forward, a bunch of steps of not taken.”

Continue reading

ACID, FL, Live Falling Over Each Other

Man, there’s a lot going on in software hosts.

Sony announced Acid 6 (kvr press release) which I’ve been beta testing, Image-Line has released FL Studio 6 which I downloaded, used for my latest ccMixter upload and I’ll be reviewing here soon and now comes word that Ableton will be releasing an Intel-Mac version of 5.2 “immediately” (I think Steinberg and NI have announced the same but I can’t find those releases.)

TimG’s Vocal Extraction Tutorial

Hello Digga’s.

I’m including the full text of a specific method for extracting vocals from fully mixed tracks. This tutorial was posted to what is now the dead part of the gybo boards. This method is very hit or miss, but when it hits, it’s magic:

Tim G‘s Pella making tutorial

1. Get ur mp3 (make sure its atleast 192kps , preferably 256 or more) or WAV (much better obviously)

2. Load it into soundforge and do a ‘PAN/EXPAND’ process with the settings set to ‘mid side’ ..
This gives you a WAV with the Left-right material and centre mono material separated..

3. Grab the Centre mono material (which will hopefully have significantly more vocal than instruments/music.. save it as a mono WAV and load into Cool Edit

4. In Cool Edit select a section of instrumental with no vox (bit you want to reduce/remove from the vocal) and get a noise reduction profile (at 24000 FFT size + about 300 snapshots in the profile)…

5. then select the whole WAV.. preview the noise reduction.. listen to what it does..

6. In the eq graph line bit.. increase the noise red below 200 hz and less between 300-10000hz .. giving a bit more clarity to the main vocal ‘region’

7. Then maybe try some midband compression (300-8000hz) with a very fast attack (with readahead set to about 12ms) and 100ms release.. (i’ll have to post a pic of the comp curve to show you how to get good results) to help gate some of the background music left over.

8. Then go to and download the amazing, yet seemingly unheard of,.. spectral plugins (VST) (theres a free trial)

9. go into cubase (or wot ever prog u use) import the ‘pella’ you’ve made and use the spectral gate to reduce non fundamental harmonics (see soundhack pdf for more info)…

The trick is to do this ‘in the mix’ for best results… Using a fast attack and slow release with the spectral gate helps remove transients like snares and cymbals..

bloody hell .. can’t believe i’ve told you all how to do this.. took me bloody ages to perfect!..

Thanks for sharing Tim.

“my ableton live method for improv jungle”

Buried in my logs I found a referral from a very good example of using Ableton for exactly what it was intended for over at

If you’re wondering what a uc-33 is, it’s the thing in my lame picture.

In fact, if you’re wondering what any specific reference is just ask, this is the setup most of us arrive at eventually but with this kind of expose you can get there a whole lot faster.

UK: Remix Commons

Remix Commons is more than just a web site, it’s a network of local free culture projects.

Damn this site looks great. They got tag clouds, remix tracking, all CC licensed and even a familiar zeitgeist.

Started by a group of infectiously proactive remixers in Redding, this project has branched out all over the UK and is part of an even wider grass roots movement (although it’s not clear to me where the funding to run the websites or very cool events is coming from.)

Remix Redding guys came to me about a year ago to try and coordinate with ccMixter but I was just starting ccHost (generic open source project that now powers ccMixter and this site) and they were too eager to wait a few months while that came together. Considering the overall free music movement’s life will hopefully be measured in years and decades a part of me thinks it’s a shame that only a few months difference would put us on different codebases.

But overwhelmingly I’m excited (and jealous of their energy) and since both our projects are developed out in the open I predict the two codebases will be sharing remix sources within the year.