In this blog I’m going to delve into the aesthetics of my track Miss Demeanor and compare it to the sources of inspiration I used to guide this track to completion.
As Miss Demeanor is a hybrid between pop and future bass, I’m going to focus on two key aspects of future bass; the use of LFO’s to create a tremolo, and the drums.
My original jumping of point for the tremolo effect was Mazde’s Battas below.
I’m a big fan of this effect. It makes any lead, sound far more interesting. What I particularly like about the tremolo in Battas is how tight, or accurate, it sounds.
Mansionair in Easier, also makes great use of the tremolo effect. What I like about this track, is that the modulation which creates the tremolo is dynamic and it actually adds some swung-groove to the airy lead.
The final example is You & Me by Flume. I love that ‘wonky’ sound Flume creates. It is worth noting here that much of that ‘wonk’ is generated from the drums, but in You & Me, a healthy portion also comes from the tremolo-affected leads.
In my own track, Miss Demeanor, I focused heavily on the first two examples. I wanted to create that tight tremolo from Battas, but also wanted to add in some dynamism to the modulation, like in Easier.
First I’ll briefly mention the bass, briefly because the effect is subtle and can only be heard toward the end of the track. The bass is a two-tiered stack; a clean un-modulated sub-bass, and a bass layer pitched up one octave with the tremolo applied. Within Serum, I used an LFO source to draw a custom LFO pattern. This LFO ‘designer’ is incredibly flexible and I was able to create a custom pattern which would cycle over 2 bars. I drew in the curves and assigned this LFO to a filter-cutoff which is what created the tremolo effect.
Now, on the lead line in Miss Demeanor, I used Soundtoys Tremolator (which is a brilliant plug-in!).
I went deep within the settings to eek out the precise groove I was after. I changed the rate of the LFO to a dotted 1/8th, selected the ‘premier’ waveform and adjusted the ‘groove’ & ‘feel’ knobs. The last action I performed was to dial back the ‘depth’ value (which is effectively a dry/wet knob) so that some of the original signal passed through un-hindered.
I loaded up a second instance of Tremolator and created a brand new groove. The reason for this, was to get the LFO to “hold” at some points in the track and create that dynamic groove that I liked from Easier. Once I had the settings dialed-in, I needed to automate when each instance of Tremolator was active. Throughout the majority of the song, the first instance of Tremolator is engaged, whilst the second instance is bypassed. But, over the course of 16 bars, I created automation, such that the first instance of Tremolator was bypassed whilst simultaneously engaging the second.
To generate that ‘wonky’ Flume sound, I did what is very common in future bass; using an envelope to modulate the pitch of each note. Within Serum, I engaged an envelope and set it to modulate the pitch of both oscillators of the lead. I set the starting pitch of each oscillator one octave down from where the note was originally played. Then, when the note is triggered, the envelope would move the note back up to its intended value. The envelope had a short attack but it was still slow enough to hear the effect if you listen out for it.
Overall, I think I came admirably close to matching the tremolo from Easier and Battas. The depth knob was the key to getting the ‘tight’ tremolo from Battas and I think I achieved that. The groove and ‘hold’ from Easier came from using two separate instances of Tremolator and I was pleased with the outcome there too. The ‘wonky’ sound of Flume came mostly from the pitch bending, however, I don’t think I quite nailed that ‘wonk.’ I didn’t feel that Miss Demeanor genuinely needed that ‘wonky’ feel and if I did go that route, I would have had to embellish the pitch bend with a different combination of Tremolator settings; that in turn would have meant sacrificing the feel from Battas and Easier. It was a trade-off and I can accept it not matching up there.
Drums & Foley
I had three main sources of inspiration here. The original was Adieu from What So Not.
I love the layered Foley in this track. The birds chirping, the percussive hits (which sound like cutlery) and the cheering scattered throughout. These elements all give the track an organic flavor which I love.
The next jumping off point, was again from the master (Flume) in You & Me. I love Flume’s drums here. In particular, the reverses into big snares; the layered textures on those snares, which add a decay separate from what you would expect from the original sound; and his tom fills which often preempt the start of a new loop.
The final source of inspiration is You Know by Jerry Folk. Like Flume, I love Jerry Folk’s toms and together with the snare fills, they make You Know come alive. The feeling created is of real drums being played which belies the fact that it is actually programmed samples firing. Also, there is a ‘ting’ sound which he layers onto his snares (albeit vary sporadically). That triangle ‘ting’ rings out and is incredibly satisfying to my ears.
All these elements combine to create drum patterns which are interesting and dynamic and it was that which I wanted to replicate in Miss Demeanor.
The first thing I did was to create a drum template. I set it to 16 bars which gave me enough scope for variation. I started with a Foley layer which actually plays throughout the track; it’s just a loop of a recording from a busy coffee shop. I rolled the low end off so it didn't bleed into my kick and bass space and ducked it away at each hit of my kick or snare.
Next I recorded the sound of a page being flipped over. This sound became the reverse which would lead you into the snare. I preferred this to reversing an actual snare sample as I thought it sounded more natural. Next, I layered that ‘ting’ onto the snare and let it ring out. I layered in some “hey’s” and some finger snaps at different intervals and the sound of water splashing. Finally I added the toms. The toms always fired at the end of the loop to preempt the start of a new loop. Ultimately, the goal was to have each snare, sound slightly different from the last and to give the drum pattern a sense of movement throughout. Although the 16 bar loop is itself a recurring pattern, the pattern is hard to predict and so it feels like new layers are constantly added.
Overall, I think my track accurately matches the aesthetic of Flume, Jerry Folk and What So Not. The organic textures scattered throughout work well, while the snares, reverse and triangle ‘tings’ all help keep the pattern fresh. The toms work too, although they don’t quite compare to those of Flume & What So Not. I’m not entirely sure how they create the sound of their toms but they are distinct from those of Jerry Folk. It sounds as if their toms are pitched down throughout the cycle of the sample; they may not even be ‘toms’ but rather some hybrid of sine waves and drum textures. I’m unsure. My toms did better match Jerry Folk’s though, which are closer to what you would expect toms to sound like.
I’m very pleased with the drum pattern in Miss Demeanor and although it is glossed over within the mix, I still find it very satisfying to listen to.