Here’s how to get that worn tape sound


How to get that worn tape sound.

Imagine you’re in the studio and you want to give your track that warm, vintage sound. Or perhaps you want your track to sound like it was recorded off a worn-out cassette tape with all the wow, flutter, and hiss that come with it. What do you do?

While there are certainly plugins out there that can achieve such a result, I think the easiest way to get this effect is right inside Ableton Live by simply using what comes with the program and some good old-fashioned ingenuity.

Here’s how we’re going to do it:

1. Create a new audio track and route it to an audio channel of your choice (if you don’t know how to create send tracks in Ableton, here’s a great tutorial to help you out).

2. Place a Utility plugin on the send track (which will be our “tape recorder”), and set its Gain knob to -18 dB (this will be our gain-reduction control). Then place an EQ Eight on this same track and turn off all bands except Band 1 (this will be our high-frequency reduction control). Finally, place a Simple Delay

The tape saturation effect is a difficult one to emulate digitally. You can get very close, but the subtle noise and artifacts that real tape imparts cannot be accurately replicated in software. Here are some tips for getting that worn tape sound using digital tools.

First off, I’d like to mention that the first step in achieving this type of sound is to find a decent plugin emulation of an analog tape machine. My favorite is still Waves J37, but Slate Digital VCC and Universal Audio’s Studer A800 are also very good choices. If you want to use vintage reel-to-reel machines, then UAD has a whole assortment of those as well, including the Ampex ATR-102, Studer A800 and Teletronix LA-2A (as I mentioned in a previous post).

After loading your chosen plugin onto an aux track or master bus, start with the input gain at 0 dB or so and adjust it until you start seeing the needle clipping into the red on heavy hits (in an ideal situation you would have an actual VU meter display if you’re going for realism). The more hits you have hitting into the red at once, the more saturated your signal will be. If you push

Worn tape sounds are a common effect in modern music. It can be heard in tracks by The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, Jack U, and many more.

In this post I’ll show you how to get that worn-tape sound using Ableton Live 10’s new Wavetable synth.

Step 1: Create an Instrument Track

The first thing we need to do is create an instrument track. To do so, click on the “Create” button at the top left of the Ableton Live window and then click on “Instrument Track.”

Next, click on the “Add Device” button and choose “Wavetable” from the drop-down menu.

You should now have an instrument track with a Wavetable synth inserted into it.

The sound of tape saturating is used a lot in electronic music. Think of the analog drum sounds of Boards Of Canada or the fuzzy, distorted synths of Com Truise. That quality really helps glue everything together and can make your productions sound more “warm” and “analog.”

I’ve experimented with a few different methods to get this sound, but one in particular has become my go-to method: using a sidechain compressor to compress the signal going into a tape saturation plugin. This allows you to use the tape saturation plugin on certain elements within your mix (e.g. drums or bass) without affecting other elements (e.g. vocals).

In this video, I show you how to do just that!

I have some news. I just finished up a new studio space. It’s got great big windows, lots of natural lighting, and a separate mixing/mastering room. I’ve been working in it for a few months now, but today I felt like it was finished.

The past few weeks have been interesting, as I’ve been evaluating the sound of the new space. It sounds great!

There are a few things I’ve done that have improved the acoustics of the room, and I’ll cover those in another post. For now though, I want to talk about something that has really helped my recordings sound more “real”: adding analog tape saturation to tracks.

The tape sound is a staple in modern music, from analog synthesizers and drum machines to electric guitars and vocals – but what exactly are we talking about when we say “tape”?

The term refers to a specific set of distortions that you get when recording and playing back audio on magnetic tape. These distortions arise because the material on the tape isn’t rigidly fixed, but rather sits there as small magnetized particles suspended in some kind of goo (the actual formula for which is a pretty well-guarded secret).

The physical properties of these particles and the properties of the medium they’re sitting in can be controlled to some extent with the tape’s manufacturing process, but ultimately you can’t really control how the particles will be arranged on the tape or how they’ll move around when you play it back. So, by recording a signal on to magnetic tape and then playing it back, you introduce some amount of distortion.

The most important thing I’ve learned as a producer is that music production is not magic.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s still a lot of mystery involved and the artists who create truly great works are doing something that the rest of us might never understand. But the techniques they use, the tools they employ, and the decisions they make to create their work are all accessible to anyone with enough time and attention. In fact, it’s just these techniques and tools that separate professional producers from everyone else.

A few months ago I wrote about how to get started in electronic music production. Now I’d like to go deeper into some of the basic concepts behind using synthesizers and making beats in electronic music. This series will be aimed at people who are new to electronic music, but experienced musicians may find some useful tips here as well.


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