What Pretty Lights does so well and why people like his jams

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
Joefro
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What Pretty Lights does so well and why people like his jams

Post by Joefro » Tue Mar 22, 2011 8:09 pm

First off, this is not simply a PL fan thread. I am attempting to describe one of the reasons why I think his music is so "fun" to listen to. It's hard to describe, but many of his tracks contain extremely dynamic synthesizers that aren't merely a "pad" or "bass line". Some of his instruments seem to cover the entire frequency spectrum within an instrument, moreso than I hear in other artist's use of synth. This is probably most easily described with an example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GeSHt2tUfk - Easy Way Out

Listen to the synth lead between 1:30 and 1:50. This isnt just a bass line, or a mix of high and low instruments, but instead a single instrument that seems to dance between supplying the bass and melodies at the same time. Many of his tracks have this effect where a single synth can lead you on an audio expedition where you traverse the entire soundscape of the spectrum.This is a lot more interesting to me than the traditional 4 to the floor with a deep bass line, drop some pads, insert vocals, polish, repeat. Any idea what effect is used to get this sharp but smooth pitch shifts? I can never seem to achieve the sounds like this I have in my head and usually settle for something "close enough". I guess maybe I'm over-analyzing it, but there is something about his synths that are really appealing to me and I can listen to them over and over.

Joefro
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Re: What Pretty Lights does so well and why people like his jams

Post by Joefro » Tue Mar 22, 2011 9:15 pm

Here is another example. Same type of synth, all over the place highs and lows. Comes in with the beat at 0:40

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsVr-uS9VVU - Still Night

Anyone know if this is hardware or a soft synth? Any how would you achieve these types of sound transitions in a synth like Massive? Is this simply pitch shifting envelopes that are very rapid, or is this some specific "effect"? Thanks for any help.

Joe

beats me
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Re: What Pretty Lights does so well and why people like his jams

Post by beats me » Tue Mar 22, 2011 9:23 pm

I used to dig his music a lot but then it became all too formulaic and samey sans anything memorable.

agent314
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Re: What Pretty Lights does so well and why people like his jams

Post by agent314 » Tue Mar 22, 2011 9:32 pm

I used to dig his music a lot but then it became all too formulaic and samey sans anything memorable.
Agreed.

The first week I downloaded all his albums and listened to them, I was amazed. And then I kept listening, and I realized that they were all variations on the exact same formula, and got much less amazed.

Tried listening to them a few times since, and I get bored about 8 minutes in and turn on something else.

beats me
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Re: What Pretty Lights does so well and why people like his jams

Post by beats me » Tue Mar 22, 2011 9:47 pm

agent314 wrote:
I used to dig his music a lot but then it became all too formulaic and samey sans anything memorable.
Agreed.

The first week I downloaded all his albums and listened to them, I was amazed. And then I kept listening, and I realized that they were all variations on the exact same formula, and got much less amazed.

Tried listening to them a few times since, and I get bored about 8 minutes in and turn on something else.
The first 2 albums were EPIC with a lot of variety IMO. But then it’s like after ample touring he just got lazy and started churning out the same type sounds that probably got the most reaction on the floor and didn’t pay much attention to making each song unique. He got in a comfortable rut in his writing formula.

Without even listening to the above sample I can almost guarantee it’s the same token analog bass synth sound that appears in EVERY PL track.

Joefro
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Re: What Pretty Lights does so well and why people like his jams

Post by Joefro » Fri Mar 25, 2011 4:28 pm

scutheotaku wrote:I'd start with detuning two saw waves, distorting it heavily (try a bass or guitar amp simulator, like the free Voxengo Boogex). To get the right sound, you may need to cut some bass freq - try dipping the freqs around 100hz. Then send it to a return effect with a chorus effect to get the stereo width.

For the sliding, just use portmanteau.

Massive would be very well suited for this sound.

Thanks for the tips, I'll have to look into that this weekend when I have some time!

I guess I should have started out by clarifying that more just liking his music, I was actually searching for that "something" or "things" that seems to make PL so catchy. WHY? The reason is because I saw him live for the first time last September at the Outside Lands festival in San Diego. This festival brings in fans from a wide variety of musical tastes, and any artist you looked at generally had a certain "type" of fan around their stage.

However, when I saw PL took the stage, time stopped. No matter where you looked, EVERYONE was staring at the stage and moving to the beat. He brought all types of different people together. I've been to countless festivals of this type and have seen plenty of electronic aritsts play to passive crowds and I'm telling you, this was different. Since then I've been trying to put my finger on what it is that makes his music so accessible and "fun". I think it is much more than just the sampling he chooses because plenty of other sample based artists fall flat in terms of crowd response. That's what got me looking at the synths he is using instead, and that quasi-dubstep beat he drops a lot. Anyways, most people don't care but I thought I'd throw it out there.

agent314
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Re: What Pretty Lights does so well and why people like his jams

Post by agent314 » Fri Mar 25, 2011 4:45 pm

He's got a good ear for using samples in catchy ways and has a knack for a good beat that kids like to dance to, basically.

I saw him last year and was bored as shit at the show, but I appeared to be the lone exception to an otherwise rapt crowd.

beats me
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Re: What Pretty Lights does so well and why people like his jams

Post by beats me » Fri Mar 25, 2011 6:16 pm

Joefro wrote:However, when I saw PL took the stage, time stopped. No matter where you looked, EVERYONE was staring at the stage and moving to the beat. He brought all types of different people together. I've been to countless festivals of this type and have seen plenty of electronic aritsts play to passive crowds and I'm telling you, this was different.

I’d say the major stage light show has a lot to do with it too.

It’s not as exciting when just playing it in the background at a BBQ.

UncleAge
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Re: What Pretty Lights does so well and why people like his jams

Post by UncleAge » Fri Mar 25, 2011 7:40 pm

oooh-oooh, can I hijack this for a second?

to my old ears this sounds a similar to stuff i've heard from an artist called Gramatik (spelling?). anyway, what word best describes this style of music? (genre?)

ze2be
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Re: What Pretty Lights does so well and why people like his jams

Post by ze2be » Fri Mar 25, 2011 9:24 pm

Joefro wrote:Here is another example. Same type of synth, all over the place highs and lows. Comes in with the beat at 0:40
Its two synths. Its a lead and a bass. The bass, when it hits, it hits on the same keys as the lead. They are tweaked to be glued well together.

Id do this: First create the lead sound. Then copy the synth and your preset plus the midi clip to a new track. This will be the bass, so pitch it down 2 or 3 octaves. Cut away some of the notes, so it plays kind of slow. Now, tweak the synth a bit to fit as a bass to the lead. When your done, EQ is next: cut all high frequencies of the bass. If there's some part of the lead frequency you want to stick out, cut those on the bass too. Cut all low frequencies of the lead. In the end, try to compress them carefully together. It might help to give the impression that they are one.
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agent314
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Re: What Pretty Lights does so well and why people like his jams

Post by agent314 » Fri Mar 25, 2011 10:16 pm

Just to muddy the waters a bit, it could also be a single synth with multiple voices, a la something like Camel Alchemy or something like two Operators in a rack.

Not substantially different from what you just explained, but it could make it a little easier to manage a single device/track rather than two separate.

ze2be
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Re: What Pretty Lights does so well and why people like his jams

Post by ze2be » Sat Mar 26, 2011 12:45 am

agent314 wrote:Just to muddy the waters a bit, it could also be a single synth with multiple voices, a la something like Camel Alchemy or something like two Operators in a rack.

Not substantially different from what you just explained, but it could make it a little easier to manage a single device/track rather than two separate.
Well, even if you could set different eqs on different oscillators in Alchemy, it would be easier to just copy the whole track like I described.

Alchemy is amazingly flexible. But I find it really hard to back trace modulation assignments. At least, a matrix overview would help out a lot. Im not really comfortable with its work flow, but I like the comb filter, and the flexible oscillators very much.
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agent314
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Re: What Pretty Lights does so well and why people like his jams

Post by agent314 » Sat Mar 26, 2011 12:48 am

Alchemy is amazingly flexible. But I find it really hard to back trace modulation assignments. At least, a matrix overview would help out a lot. Im not really comfortable with its work flow, but I like the comb filter, and the flexible oscillators very much.
Hah - I found the exact opposite. I get so confused whenever there's a matrix, but Alchemy I just click the thing and see how it's getting modulated.

Different strokes for different folks I guess

agent314
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Re: What Pretty Lights does so well and why people like his jams

Post by agent314 » Sat Mar 26, 2011 12:51 am

Also
Well, even if you could set different eqs on different oscillators in Alchemy, it would be tricky to have the bass osc play notes different then the lead osc. Itd be much easier just to copy the lead track, pitch it down, and cut some notes
You can have independent filters for each oscillator, as well as independent tunings - I'd think that would be simpler than doubling the device (although possibly more complicated)

ze2be
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Re: What Pretty Lights does so well and why people like his jams

Post by ze2be » Sat Mar 26, 2011 1:16 am

agent314 wrote:You can have independent filters for each oscillator, as well as independent tunings - I'd think that would be simpler than doubling the device (although possibly more complicated)
Then, how do you set different oscillators on different notes? I haven't gotten my head around the step sequencers yet.

I know you can right click on the parameters to see what they are assigned to, but there still needs to be more clicking to find and adjust the right envelope or lfo. I don't know, im new to it and the work flow hasn't really clicked with me yet. Surge has 12 lfo/envelope combos. And every assignment can be directly found and tweaked with just one mouse click. (almost) Maybe unfair comparison, because that synth is lightning fast to work with.
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