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How to Create the Theme of "Faxing Berlin" by Deadmau5

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In this tutorial I'll show you how to create the theme block of "Faxing Berlin" by Deadmau5. We'll program the kick, snare, hat, cowbell in MIDI using one shot samples, and create the pumping pad bass and lead chords (based on detuned and effected saw waves) in Ableton's Analog synth.

Here's the original track:

project-view

The Ableton project view.

Workflow

First I programmed the main saw synth sound. Note that Analog synth is best for this type of sound, based on the analogue character as opposed to Operator, which can sound very digital. Also, Analog's unison mode can thicken up the sound even more.

Next, I found some MIDI chords on the net, which I compared to the original song. I fixed some notes which were incorrect. Next I created the drum beats, and finally the pumping pad bass sound, on which I used standard sidechain compression using Ableton's Compressor plugin. For the cowbell, I found a free sound on the net, and the other drum samples are from sample packs.

To get the vibe and movement of the original track, I automated the filter cutoff on the lead synth patch. At the first part it goes up, and then falls down very quickly to return to the deep sound.


Basic Settings

The project is at 128 BPM, the rhythm is 4/4 and the scale used is D minor.

1. Kick

This is a solid, 4/4 kick playing every hit on the downbeats. Note that the last two hits (at the end of the section) are two 8th notes, rather than quarter notes.

Simpler settings:

  • Volume: -1 dB
  • Volume release: 587 ms
kick

A kick is loaded into Simpler.

Mixing settings:

  • EQ Eight: 4x times low cut at 43 Hz
kick-eq

EQing the kick.

2. Snare

There is a hit on every second downbeat.

Simpler settings:

  • Volume: -2 dB
  • Volume release: maximum
snare

Snare sound.

Mixing settings:

  • EQ Eight: low cut at 220 Hz
snare-eq

Snare EQ.

3. Hat

A usual disco feel is created using open hi hat hits with 16th notes.

Simpler settings:

  • Volume: -2 dB
  • Volume release: maximum
hat

Hat sound.

Mixing settings:

  • EQ Eight: low cut at 1 kHz
hat-eq

Hat EQ.

4. Cowbell

Delete the first notes of the hat pattern, so every second hat hit is actually a cowbell. Tune the notes below C3 to A2.

Simpler settings:

  • Volume: -2 dB
  • Volume release: maximum
cb

Cowbell sample.

Mixing settings:

  • EQ Eight: 4x times low cut at 1.2 kHz
cb-eq

Cowbell EQ.

5. Pumping Pad Bass

To make the pad, we need two detuned square waves. We widen and enhance the sound further by using a small bit of unison detune. The filter is fairly low at 880 Hz, and is a LP24 type.

pbass-notes

Pad bass MIDI notes.

Synth settings:

  • Osc1: square, 0 dB, detune +0.1
  • Osc2: square, 0 dB, detune -0.1
  • Filter1: LP24, frequency 880 Hz
  • Filter envelope: default
  • Amp envelope: attack 43 ms, decay 436 ms, sustain 1, release 103 ms
  • Unison detune: 33.0
  • Global voices: 16
  • Unison voices: 4
  • Volume: -7 dB
pbass1

Pad bass patch.
pbass2

Pad bass patch.

Mixing settings:

  • Reverb: decay 2.3 s, size 400, dry-wet 23%
  • Compressor: ratio 1.75:1, threshold -23.2 dB, sidechained, trigger is the kick
  • EQ Eight: low cut 55 Hz, -7 dB bell cut 220 Hz (Q 0.65), high cut 800 Hz
  • Limiter: default
pbass-eq

Pad bass EQ.

6. Lead Chords

This is similar to the pad sound (in using detunes), but here saw waves are utilized instead of squares. The filter is a bit higher than the pad—to be specific, it's at 1 kHz. We can say that this is that typical Deadmau5 plucky chord sound which started its own subgenre. For mixing, a good amount of reverb (and some delay) and filter cutoff automation is important here.

lead-notes

Lead MIDI notes.

Synth settings:

  • Osc1: saw, 0 dB, detune +0.1
  • Osc2: saw, 0 dB, detune -0.1
  • Filter: LP24, 1 kHz
  • Filter envelope: default
  • Amp envelope: attack 5 ms, decay 436 ms, sustain 0, release 15 ms
  • Unison detune: 33
  • Unison voices: 4
  • Global voices: 16
lead1

Lead synth patch.
lead2

Lead synth patch.

Mixing settings:

  • Ping Pong Delay: feedback 47%, dry-wet 25%, triplet notes, cutoff 1 kHz, width 3.36
  • Reverb: decay 6 s, dry-wet 36%, size 160
  • EQ Eight: low cut 100 Hz
  • Limiter: default
lead-delay

Lead delay.

Filter cutoff automation blocks set up with mouse clicks:

  • 1 kHz, constant
  • 1 kHz up to 3 kHz, slow curve
  • 3 kHz up to 22 kHz, moderate curve
  • 22 kHz down to 1.1 kHz, quick curve
  • 1 kHz, constant
lead-filter-automation

Lead filter automation.

The Master Chain

Use this standard chain on the master channel.

master-chain

The master chain.

Plugins on the channel:

  • Spectrum is used to see what is happening with the frequencies.
  • EQ Eight is used for removing low frequency content on the sides (in mid/side mode).
  • Limiter is used to catch any peaks with default settings.
  • Utility is used to check mono compatibility width width 0% (we can switch this on and off when testing).

Conclusion

berlin

Berlin, photo by Pedelecs (Wikivoyage and Wikipedia)

That's the end of our session of recreating Faxing Berlin. We created drums using Simpler, and tweaked Analog to make that trademark Deadmau5 saw sound.

To change the chord sound further (to customize it to make it your own), you can try different low pass filters, and use frequencies a bit higher or lower. Other synths can give you more unison voices as well.

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