Monday, 8 December 2008

FREE Computer Music Production Software From Point Blank

Award winning audio engineering school Point Blank has launched an innovative online music mixer which allows you to produce your own tracks from a library of hundreds of professional loops and samples. It's completely free to use and you can choose from a range of styles including House, Hip-Hop, Electro, Drum 'n' Bass, R'n'B and Rock. Within minutes you will be mashing up beats, basslines, synths and even vocals to create your own unique mixes.

It's never been easier to make your own tunes. Just click here to get started

The Music Machine combines the key features of professional music software with a simple user interface and easy to use tutorials. Users can drag and drop hundreds of beats and samples, and automate looping, panning, volume and mute controls to control up to 16 tracks. You can save your mix and re-load it at a later date or, when you’re happy with your creation, finalize your track and publish it on the Point Blank website, so other users can listen and rate your skills.

For beginners, it’s the perfect introduction to the world of creative music production. If you are an experienced music maker, then you’ll be mixing your next hit track in mere minutes. Just make sure your boss isn’t looking over your shoulder first!

And if you decide to take your music production skills further, then Point Blank can offer expert training from music industry professionals who have worked alongside some of the biggest names in the game. You can study at the facility voted “Best Music Production & DJ College” for six consecutive years, or take an online course on the latest music software packages at

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Ableton Courses - A New Way of Making Music

If you are into music technology and already making music at home using a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) then I am sure this scenario will be familiar. You sit down to start making some music but faced with a blank timeline, inspiration deserts you and you are left feeling creatively uninspired. Music software packages such as Cubase, Logic or Sonar have all evolved along similar lines and operate in a similar way. Unfortunately they offer only one approach to the music making process which doesn’t necessarily encourage experimentation and spontaneity.

The good news is that Ableton Live has been designed to offer a genuine alternative way to work and is growing in popularity amongst those of us who are bored of working in the traditional way. Interestingly Live takes a similar approach to the old hardware sequencers that were popular with live electronic acts such as Orbital and Underworld. These sequencers used looped sections of a track (see Ableton Courses info for more detail) which would be triggered by the acts on stage and manipulated via FX and EQ to provide the audience with a live, spontaneous remix of tracks they already know and love.

Ableton Live has two modes or “views” in which to compose your music. The arrangement view will be familiar to anyone who has used some of the traditional sequencer packages mentioned above. But where Live really comes into its own is the Session View. The Session is used to organize and trigger sets of sounds, called clips. Think of it as a kind of musical sketch pad where you can experiment with audio loops, samples and MIDI sequences before arranging them into a track.

Another unique feature in Live is its ability to manipulate audio as if it was elastic. Live's Time Warp feature can be used to either correct or adjust the timing of any piece of audio from a sample to an entire track. This means that tempo becomes completely fluid and you can fit any audio sample to the tempo that you are working at. “Warp Markers” allow you to push and pull individual beats to correct (or destroy) the timing and create unique effects. You can choose from several Warp Modes depending upon materials you work with.

Ableton Live also features an array of built–in instruments and effects:

Impulse is a basic drum sequencer instrument Simpler is a relatively easy to use sampling instrument.

There are a number of additional instruments which can be purchased separately or as part of the Ableton Suite package:

Sampler is an enhanced sampler
Operator is an FM synthesizer.
Electric is an electric piano instrument.
Tension is a string physical modelling synthesiser.
Analog simulates an analog synthesizer.
Drum Machines is a collection of emulators for classic drum machines.
Session Drums is a collection of sampled drum and percussion instruments.
Essential Instruments Collection is a large collection of acoustic and electric instrument samples. Orchestral Instrument Collection is a collection of four different orchestral libraries, which can be purchased individually or as a bundle.

Audio effects included in the package include:
Auto Filter
Auto Pan
Beat Repeat
Chorus Compressor I
Compressor II
Dynamic Tube
EQ Eight
EQ Three
Erosion Filter
Delay Flanger
Gate Grain Delay
Ping Pong Delay
Simple Delay
Redux Resonators
Reverb Utility

Additionally there are a handful of MIDI-only effects including arpeggiator, chord, pitch, random, scale, and velocity. Live is also compatible with VST and AU plug-ins so you can utilise additional software instruments and effects.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Making Music with Logic Pro

Welcome to part 2 of making music with Logic Pro. In this article we will cover getting started with your MIDI keyboard in Logic including set up for your audio card and drivers, latency and buffer size.

Once you have installed your MIDI keyboard and audio card, you will need to make sure that Logic communicates with them.

For Logic to communicate with external MIDI devices, first you will to configure the Audio MIDI Setup. The Audio MIDI setup is an application located within the Utilities folder (in Applications folder). You can quickly access it in the Apple menu bar: Go >Utilities (or press Command Shift U).

Once in the Utilities folder, open the Application Audio MIDI Setup, and click on the MIDI Devices button. You should see an IAC driver button, a network button and buttons for other MIDI devices connected to your computer. Please note that if you use a multi port MIDI interface with external MIDI devices (Synth, drum machine, etc...), you will need to make the connection manually.

Drivers for Audio Cards
To use a sound card with a computer, the operating system typically requires a specific device driver which you will have installed in the previous steps.

There are a few different driver formats available depending on the computer, the operating system and the sound card itself. Apple mac OS X uses Core Audio This driver for Mac OSX is tightly integrated into the operating system. It works with external sound cards as well as the Mac's integrated sound card (known as built-in). Nowadays, many soundcards support Core Audio out of the box, you simply 'plug & play'.

Set Up Your Audio Card with Logic
Now you have to make sure that Logic communicates with your audio card. In Preferences, select Audio > Devices > Core Audio.

Now you need to select the correct driver for your audio card. Use the drop down menu Device in order to select the appropriate driver.

Common Problems:
What Is Latency? When making music using software, the computer has a huge amount of information to process before being able to output the sound to your speakers.

This means that when you press a key on your MIDI keyboard to trigger a sound from a software synth for example, there will be a delay before you hear the sound. This delay is known as the latency.

As you can imagine, if the latency is too pronounced it will become extremely difficult to play any musical part, which is why it is important to use the best driver you can with your sound card. Furthermore there are certain parameters that you can adjust in order to improve your latency.

Buffer Size
You can reduce the latency by adjusting the audio buffer size. A small buffer size will reduce the latency, where a bigger value will increase the delay time considerably. So why not have the buffer size to the minimum value all the time to make the system more playable? Well, it is not as simple as that.

There are several parameters that directly affect each other. If the buffer size affects the latency, it also affects the processing power available to the software. Software instruments need processing power (CPU), so that the more CPU you have, the more software instruments you can load at one given time. Basically a small buffer size will put more strain on your computer in order to get a smaller latency (delay), thus using more CPU.

If you would like to learn more about Logic view our Logic Courses section on the Pointblank website.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Making Music with Logic Pro. Beginners Guide Part 1

Making Music with Logic Pro. Beginners Guide Part 1
Logic Pro is a powerful digital audio workstation (or DAW) which allows you to record and edit both MIDI and audio to a professional standard. Whatever style of music you wish to create, Logic has the tools for the job. Included with Logic Studio is a range of instruments and effects including a drum machine (Ultrabeat), a powerful sampler (EXS24) and an impressive range of synthesizers. You will also find emulations of classic instruments such as the Hammond B3 and Fender Rhodes pianos. To complete your track you can call upon a wide range of audio effects including reverbs, delays, distortion effects, compressors and much more. All in all, Logic Pro represents a complete music production package for your Mac.

What else do I need?
Well as you can see, Logic is a pretty comprehensive package, but to get the most from it you are most likely going to need a couple of additional pieces of kit. Firstly a sound card or audio interface. Most computers come with a built-in sound card to listen to your mp3s, watch DVDs, play video games, etc... This sound card, if equipped with audio inputs & outputs, can also be used (if compatible) with your software. However, if you plan to do a lot of recording and mixing, you really should invest in a dedicated sound card.

Secondly a MIDI keyboard. This will enable you to “play” all of the instruments within Logic. Again this is not an expensive purchase. But it will be invaluable in terms of creating musical ideas – even if you don’t play piano. Otherwise you will have to resort to programming in each individual note or sound step by step which is not only laborious but also creatively stifling. Remember the great thing about software like Logic is that you can go in and edit what you’ve played at any time so you don’t need to be a great keyboard player to start making music.

In our next lesson we will cover midi keyboards, audio cards, latency and buffer size. In the meantime there's plenty more useful information to be had in our our free lesson excerpts in Point Blank's logic courses.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Making Music with Ableton Live

Ableton Live is a little different from some of the other music software packages. The program is set up to encourage a more improvisational approach to making music. In addition to the traditional timeline based approach we saw in Reason, Logic and Cubase, Ableton Live also features a unique "Session View".

The session view is a kind of musical sketch pad that allows you try out lots of different ideas before adding them to your track. This approach is particularly appealing if you are performing onstage, or using Ableton as a DJ tool.

Ableton Live is increasingly popular with music producers and is widely used by DJ's, because it allows you to produce remixes, re-edits and mashups very quickly. Check the video clip below to see how:

To learn more about producing with Ableton Live check out our Ableton Live Courses here.
To learn more about DJing with Ableton Live check out our Ableton Live Courses here.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Learning Reason 4

This time round we'll take a look at Reason. Like I said before this is a good choice if you are new to music production because it's reasonably easy to pick up and features all of the synths, samplers, drum machines and instruments you need right out of the box.

In fact it behaves very much like a hardware studio as you can see in the video below. You connect up the various instruments and route them into the mxing desk in exactly the same way that you would with a "real" studio. You can even flip the rack around and see how everything is connected behind the scenes as demonstrated here:

Want to know more? Learn Reason on our Reason courses.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

What's The Difference Between Logic & Cubase?

And here's Danny again with a quick guided tour of Logic 8:

All of the sounds featured in this track are contained in Logic itself. In other words there are none of those third-party "plug-ins" we were talking about in previous posts. These are all instruments that come bundled with Logic 8. Within Logic you will find synthesizers, a drum machine, a sampler and so on. As you can see, there are lots of sounds to explore and plenty to keep you busy here if you are new to music production.

You can learn more about making music with Logic here:
Logic Courses

Friday, 22 August 2008

How To Make a Track in Cubase

OK - so let's take a look at some of these DAW's that we were talking about in yesterdays post.

Here's an insight into how a track is put together in CUBASE. Acclaimed producer and Point Blank Tutor Danny J Lewis demonstrates how the various elements in a tune work together and how they are arranged within Cubase.

You'll notice that Danny has used software synths (or VST's as they are sometimes called) along with audio tracks and various effects.

If you like the sound of this then the track is called "I Can See The Light". It's by Enzyme Black and is available to download here:

If you would like to learn more about making music with Cubase then head for:
Cubase Courses

Thursday, 21 August 2008

What's The Best Music Software?

This is probably the most common question that we get asked here at the music school. If you are new to music production there is now a bewildering number of music production software packages (often referred to as DAW's or Digital Audio Workstations) out there to choose from and it's difficult to decide what is going to be best for you.

There's a number of factors that can affect your decision. Here's some of the key things to bear in mind before you spend your hard-earned cash:

What is your budget?
Are you a Mac or a PC user?
Do you want to record "live" instruments or record vocals?
Do you want to connect external devices like synthesizers, samplers and so on?

Here's a summary of some of your options - there are others of course but these pieces of software are all widely used and will give you professional results (provided you take the time to learn them thoroughly!).

Cubase 4
Will run on a Mac or a PC and is used by music producers all over the world. Cubase 4 comes bundled with a whole series of software instruments and effects, plus you have the ability to record audio tracks so if you want to record your guitar or vocal then you can just plug in and hit record then edit and re-record to your hearts content. You can also use a variety of "plug-ins" within Cubase which replicate just about every instrument and effect you can think of. If you are a newbie then this is going to keep you busy for a while.
Cost £649 (student discounts are available when you enrol at Point Blank)

In terms of how it works and what it can do, Logic is very similar to Cubase. With two major differences. It's only available for Mac and it's much more affordable since Apple lowered the price and removed the copy protection! The instruments and effects that come with it are awesome and it also supports third party "plug-ins" so you can incorporate lots of other instruments and effects too. Logic is favoured by many producers but there are a lot of features to get to grips with so it can be a bit daunting for beginners.
Cost £319 (students at Point Blank qualify for discounts on Apple hardware & software - view Logic Course including free lessons)

Ableton Live
This is the package that has got people talking in recent years. It has a completely unique approach which offers seasoned producers a new way of creating tracks but is relatively easy for beginners to get results with. If you like working with loops and audio samples it's hard to beat. Recent updates have also added some pretty decent software instruments and effects and it supports external "plug-ins". DJ's love it too because it allows you to improvise and perform live (hence the name) in a way that just isn't possible with decks and a mixer.
Cost £449 (student discounts are available when you enrol at Point Blank - view Logic Course including free lessons)

Reason 4
Reason is modelled on a "real" hardware studio so you start out with an empty rack and add a series of "virtual" synths, samplers, drum machines, effects and mixers. Connect them all up and you're ready to make some noise. Reason comes bundled with a host of instruments to keep you busy and the "rack" system is a great way to learn about how the elements in a hardware studio are routed together. No support for "plug-ins" I'm afraid but you can buy Refills which are basically sound libraries designed specifically for Reason and available in every genre you can imagine. Reason is great for beginners and reasonably easy to learn but at some point down the line you're probably going to want to start recording and editing audio.
Cost £269 (student discounts are available when you enrol at Point Blank)

Pro Tools LE
Pro Tools is the professionals choice and is used in many pro studios. It integrates both hardware and software and specialises in particular in recording and editing audio tracks. The downside is that it costs thousands and is therefore out of reach for most home recording or project studios . The manufacturers have introduced a "lite" version in recent years (Pro Tools LE) which you can run on your PC or Mac without all the additional HD hardware. It's more affordable certainly and the audio recording and editing is still hard to beat, but the MIDI instruments that come bundled with it could be better.
Cost Pro Tools LE from £199

Remember whatever software you choose - it's not going to do all of the work for you. The quality of the music that you produce is down to you; your creativity and your skills as a producer. The software is just a tool for turning your ideas into reality. So whatever DAW you go for try and learn it as thoroughly as you possibly can.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Introducing Point Blank's Music Production Blog

Hi and thanks for checking us out.

The purpose of this blog is to offer professional insights into music production, sound engineering, DJ skills and a variety of other music business subjects. The contributors are all on the teaching staff at Point Blank which is a music school based in London, UK.

If you have not come across Point Blank before then let us introduce ourselves...

Point Blank has been voted “Best Music Production & DJ School” for the last six consecutive years by the readers of DJ magazine.

Why? Well, the school prides itself on small classes and personalised teaching from music industry pro’s. Among the teaching staff are Grammy winners and songwriters with record sales in the millions. Plus producers and remixers who’ve worked alongside the likes of Bjork, Massive Attack, New Order, Leftfield, Portishead and many others. These guys will be sharing their experience and expertise right here with a variety of tutorials, tips and occasional rants.

The school welcomes students from all over the world each term. You can find out more about the courses on offer in London at

And for those of you who don't live in the UK we have a range of online music courses which attract music makers from all over the world. You can check them out at