Ajgi's Mixcraft EDM Guide

How to make House, Dubstep, Drum n' Bass and more in Mixcraft

Introduction

I'm Ajgi.

I play Saxophone, Piano, Guitar and Bass, and make electronic music in Mixcraft
I made the video "Dubstep in Mixcraft Pro Studio 7"



Several people in the comments have asked me to make a tutorial, so I made this guide. I would make a video, but I really can't be bothered (by that I mean I'm bad at talking).

This guide was made in one of the late beta versions of Mixcraft 8, so the project files at the end will not work if you are still using Mixcraft 7.

Downloads

There are some things Mixcraft falls short in by default.

The first is drum samples. Here is a sample pack I purchased a few years ago. I feel it is acceptable to redistribute this as the original creator's website no longer exists.

Download link


The next thing Mixcraft lacks is a good Parametric Equaliser. Pro Studio has two, but the one that is my style is quite dated, and the other isn't visually oriented enough. My favourite one is TDR Nova, probably the best free VST in the world.

Download link


Finally, Mixcraft until recently lacked a good Synthesiser for EDM purposes. Messiah, Renegade, etc. are powerful synths, but I find them weird to use, and prefer alternatives. Acoustica released Nightlife, which looks great, but I haven't experimented with it much.

I like to use Oatmeal. It's comparable to the premium Synth VST Sylenth1. Nowhere near as good, of course, but it is very powerful, especially for a free synth.

Like the sample pack above, the original site for Oatmeal no longer exists, so I don't feel bad about distributing the plugin directly.
I've included the skin in the download for ease of use, but here's the source.

Download link

Synthesisers

Create a new Virtual Instrument Track, then select Oatmeal from the VSTi Instruments section.

You should see this.



If you don't, you probably see the default skin, which looks disgusting. Click on skin, then open lf_legacy_light.oms, then reopen Oatmeal.

The default patch will be a fat bass sound. Click reset patch on the right side. Now, if you play a sound, it will be a simple sine wave sound. This, across other synthesisers, is known as the init, or initialise patch, and is a neutral starting point for making sounds.

Let's make a sound. Up the top left, change the waveform to a sawtooth wave by left clicking once, or right click to see a list of different waveforms.
Next, maximise the voices knob in the Unison section - the third section down on the left. Now increase the unison detune very slightly. If you play a sound now you will hear what is called a supersaw. This sound is the basis to a large portion of EDM. Try playing a chord around middle C, or a bassline around C2. You may recognise the sound.

Here is what Oatmeal should look like now. I have highlighted in red the things that should be changed



From here, experiment with the different waveforms. Watch tutorials on sound design to understand the basics of a synthesiser. Sylenth1 tutorials are probably a good place to look, as it is a similar plugin to Oatmeal.
A rough outline of the process I use when making a sound is as follows:
Select a waveform (generally sine if smooth, saw if sharp, square if hollow, and triangle if a mixture of them all).
Add unison if necessary, depending on if I want the sound to be full or thin.
Adjust the filter to get the basic sound I need - I mostly use lowpass filters.
Adjust the Amp ADSR (Attack Decay Sustain Release).
Change polyphony mode (Monophonic, Polyphonic, Monophonic Legato).
Add effects (the dark green section across the middle) like distortion.
From here everything is done with external track effects (I don't usually use Oatmeal's reverb, usually Fusion Field).

Drums

There are two different ways to use drums in Mixcraft. One is to put the .wav files straight onto Mixcrafts timeline, and the other is to use the plugin Omnisampler. Personally, I use both - I drag Kicks and Snares straight onto the timeline, but I use Omnisampler for hihats, and other sounds that need to be in more complicated patterns, as Omnisampler allows me to sequence them with Midi clips.

Dubstep Drums

Set your project BPM to 140. Dubstep is a half-time genre, meaning its kick (bass drum) is on beat 1, and its snare is on beat 3 of each bar.
From the Sample pack, open Dub Drums, then Dub Kicks. Drag Dub Kick 1 onto the first beat of a new audio track. Next, go into Dub Snares and drag Dub Snare 1 onto beat 3 of another new audio track.

You should now have something like this.



For ease of use, I always turn this into a loop. Copy and paste the kick and snare to the next bar. Select both kicks and press Ctrl+W (Mix to new clip). Now drag the clip back to only one bar, then Ctrl+W again. Now you have a one bar loop. The same can be done with the snare, but you have to copy some silence to the first two beats of the bar for it to loop nicely inline with the kick.

Here's what I mean



The final thing required in Dubstep drums is some hihats. For these I like to use Omnisampler.

Create a new Virtual Instrument track, and load Omnisampler from VSTi Instruments.
Load 3 different Hihats from the Dance Hats folder from the sample pack into Omnisampler. I used 2, 3 and 4.
Now create a midi clip, change mode from Piano roll to Step Sequencer, and arrange them like this.



Now you should have a beat that sounds like this

There's your Dubstep Drums

Drum n' Bass Drums

Drum n' Bass Drums are similar to Dubstep drums, in that they use the same main sounds. However, DnB is at 170-180BPM rather than 140BPM, and DnB is not half-time (unless you're making Drumstep of course)

Set your project BPM to 175. This is the most common speed for DnB.

Using the same method as for Dubstep, place kicks on beat 1, and the and of 3 (beat 3.5 if you're not familiar), then put snares on beats 2 and 4.
This is the basis for DnB



Like last time, use those same 3 hats, but also get a ride or a light crash (experiment to see what you prefer). Arrange them something like this.



I have the rides timed with the kick, and the other hats sound a bit like snare chatter.

Another way to make DnB drums is to, rather than using hats, layer a break underneath the kick and snare. One of the standard Mixcraft loops called DrumNBass Drumbeat 1 will suit just fine. It's in the Drum Loops Song Kit of the loop library.

Drag it into an empty track. Because it's a Mixcraft loop, we don't need to stretch it to be in time. Now we need to EQ it using TDR Nova. If you've used an EQ before, Highpass it at around 300Hz, and boost it around 10KHz.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, watch this:



As you can see, with this particular break it sounds best layered with the hihats too. This always depends on the break you use. There are heaps of different breaks you can download, and some of them will have more high pitched content meaning the hats are not as necessary.

There's your Drum n' Bass Drums

House Drums

House and its subgenres are my weakest to make, mostly because I in general just don't really listen to that kind of music. However, I do know the basics on how to make it, I'm just not very good at it.

Set your BPM to somewhere between 120 and 128. I personally like 125, but the speed of house varies, with club music usually being 128.

House uses what is referred to as a 4 on the floor beat, meaning there is a kick drum on every beat of the bar.
Place a kick drum of your choosing from the Dance Drums on every beat of a bar on the timeline, then loop with the same method as used earlier.
The next standard in a house beat is a clap/snare on beats 2 and 4, which you can once again find in the Dance pack.
With House snares and claps, it often gives an improved sound layering several samples together. This is not always necessary in this pack as they are already very processed, but like all music, this comes down to personal preference - do it however you want.

From here, anything goes. You can use any hats, depending on the type of house you are making. Sometimes having open hats on the offbeats gives the right sound, other times you don't need hats at all. Sometimes a shaker loop is what's needed. Look around the internet for various free samples and loops. I'd also recommend subscribing to Splice for ~$10 per month, as that gives you access to an enormous library of samples, and you can pick 100 per month. You only need to subscribe once, 100 samples is a lot of you're only looking for drums.

Music

A final thing worth talking about is Sidechaining. There are people who can explain this far better than me, but pretty much it's a way to make a track's volume "duck" depending on how much noise is coming from a different track. In electronic music this is mostly used to make the drums more punchy, by making other tracks volumes decrease when the kick and snare play, meaning they stick out more.
Normally I would use "Sidekick Sidechain Compressor," a plugin that comes with Pro Studio, but for this track I have used a simple Mixcraft 8 audio trigger to give a similar effect. You can see how it's setup by clicking the settings button beside the edit button in Virtual Instrument settings.



I will now put the drums and synths I've shown you into some context. I will do this by recreating my song Burst in Dubstep (the original), Drum n' Bass and House.

Note: Burst will not be exactly the same, as good, or as long, because I am specifically creating it only using standard Mixcraft features (no Pro Studio features). Something that gives the original a more professional sound is iZotope Mastering Essentials, a plugin that comes with Mixcraft Pro Studio.

Dubstep

In this, I'm also using a free Synth called Synth1, a digital emulation of the Nord Lead. I'm using it because it has a nice distortion and better FM capabilities, allowing for mean wubwubs. I'm also using a plugin called Glitch (Download link) for the drop.
Finally, I'm still using the Pro Studio reverbs, because I can't handle using stock ones. The others work fine, and you can replace them (They're just on the send tracks), but yeah, I don't like not using them.

Here is the track



I would be wasting my time to go through every single step I made. Here's the project file so you can look for yourself

Download link

Drum n' Bass

This is made with Oatmeal and TDR Nova, and of course the pro studio reverbs which you can replace if you don't have them.
Here's the track:



I'm also using the standard acoustica piano with some reverb on it. The track is not perfect, I would make many changes if I were to release it, but I feel it is good enough as an example of what can be done with these few resources.

Once again, here's the project file

Download link

House

House uses a lot of sidechaining. The sidechaining would sound a lot nicer and smoother if I was using the proper plugin, or a sidechain compressor, but doing an audio trigger on Oatmeal's master gain did the trick for this example.
Here's the track:



As with the previous tracks, I would still change a fair bit if I were to release it as a complete track (obviously extending it too). I once again tried to use as few pro studio features as possible. If you don't have pro studio, just put Classic Reverb on the send track "Verb", with the mix set to 100% wet, and Acoustica Reverb with 100% wet on the "Room Verb" send track. This should be close enough.

Here's the project file

Download link

Contact Ajgi

Feel free to email me any questions. I'll make a FAQ section at some point if I uh... get frequently asked questions.
If you have any interest in my music, you can listen to it here.

Ajgi.net
Andrew@Ajgi.net

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