Category Archives: Electronic Musician Presents

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: J.R. Rotem | Producing In the Fast Lane


By Mike Levine

Thriving as a producer in the ultracompetitive L.A. pop and hip-hop music scenes is no easy task, but J.R. Rotem has proven himself more than equal to the task. Between his freelance production work and his work for his own label, Beluga Heights (which is affiliated with Epic/Sony), Rotem has produced a host of major artists including 50 Cent, Dr. Dre, Rihanna, Lil’ Kim, Jason Derulo, Sean Kingston, Lindsay Lohan, and Britney Spears, among many others.

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Rotem spent much of his childhood in Canada before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area when he was in junior high school. He began his musical life as a student of classical piano but moved on to jazz when he enrolled in Berklee School of Music. After graduation, he embarked on a career as a jazz pianist in the Bay Area. At that point, producing was only a sidelight for him. “It just kind of seemed like a hobby,” he says. Continue reading

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GEAR REVIEW: MOTU The MasterWorks Collection (Mac) Review

Third-party EQ, dynamics, and reverb plug-ins are arguably the most ubiquitous and oft-used effects processors. MOTU now enters this crowded playing field with its MasterWorks Collection, three plug-ins that were previously available solely to Digital Performer users. We all have favorite “go-to” choices, so should we care about these? Do they offer anything new or different? The answer is a hearty “yes” on all counts.

The MasterWorks Collection bundle has an EQ, a leveler, and a convolution reverb, and each brings something new to the party. They ship in MAS, AU, RTAS, and VST 3 flavors for use in mono, stereo, or multichannel surround configurations 
with any DAW that supports these formats. The package also includes a pre-authorized USB iLok key, saving you from having to purchase one separately. (Thanks MOTU!) Installation and authorization is a breeze, and the included hard-copy manual is comprehensive without being overwhelming. Continue reading

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TUTORIAL: 12 Common Mixing Mistakes

By Michael Cooper

As a mastering engineer, I hear a lot of mixes from other studios. Some are great, some are not. But what is striking to me is that the mixes that need help usually suffer from many of the same problems. The good news is that these shortcomings can all be avoided or corrected by using a few simple techniques.

In this article, I will describe 12 common problems with wayward mixes and discuss how to solve them. If your mixes are routinely restrained by a lack of punch, clarity, and detail; if your productions are held hostage by unruly dynamics and spectral imbalances; or if your results don’t sound as wide and deep as the mondo tracks created by your competition, read on for some liberating pointers. I’ll address each problem and its solution individually, beginning at rock bottom. Continue reading

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TUTORIAL: Sound Design Workshop: Serendipitous Acts of Synchronicity

Layering a phrase over itself with a time offset is as old as the canon, but the technique took a giant leap forward in the ’60s with the use of tape-loop techniques pioneered most notably by American composer Steve Reich. In addition to being a fascinating and well-explored process for composition in many genres, phasing is a powerful sound-design tool that you can use with material as diverse as percussion, speech, pads and ambient sounds, and rhythm tracks (guitar, keyboards, etc.).

The most basic tape process amounts to using two loops of slightly different lengths or two loops of the same length running at slightly different speeds. The results, when reproduced digitally, can be manipulated in different ways. I’ll start with the loop-length approach, which is a bit simpler and easier to reproduce. (In the days of tape-loop splicing and analog tape machines, neither length nor speed was absolutely precise, so both processes were always in play.)


Start with a fairly active 1-bar electronic-percussion loop and copy it to two tracks of your DAW. You can do this with audio or MIDI, but choose an audio loop so that you can visually compare the waveforms. Set your DAW’s tempo to match the loop’s, shorten one of the loops by a 16th-note, and then repeat both loops for 16 measures. Notice that at each measure, the shorter loop falls behind by a 16th-note until, at measure 16, the loops are back in sync (see Web Clip 1). Among the 16 1-bar segments you’ll find some interesting variations on the rhythm, which you can then render as new loops.

Repeat the process, but this time shorten the loop by a 16th-note triplet. Now the process will cycle after 24 measures but, depending on your material, fewer of the 1-bar segments will be usable. The ones that are useful will often introduce some syncopation and swing into the pattern (see Web Clip 2).

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GEAR REVIEW: Cakewalk by Roland V-Studio 20 (Mac/Win) Review

By Mike Levine

Since Roland acquired a major stake in Cakewalk, the two companies have developed products together using Roland’s hardware experience and Cakewalk’s software savvy. The combination of the two has resulted in products such as the V-Studio 700, a comprehensive hardware/software recording system. The V-Studio 20 is less ambitious but is still an intriguing product. It combines a USB audio interface that has some control surface functionality and Roland’s VS-20 Editor software, which lets you access the unit’s BOSS COSM modeling effects for guitar, bass, and vocals. Cakewalk’s Guitar Tracks, a guitar-oriented recording software (Win), is also included.


Fig. 1: The hardware component of the V-Studio 20 features audio interface and control-surface capabilities.

The V-Studio 20’s hardware component (see Fig. 1) is a plastic-housed unit that has dimensions of 11.8 × 5.7 × 2.2 (WxDxH) inches. On its face it has eight small faders, each with a corresponding Track Select button. It also has transport controls. Each fader’s throw is less than 2 inches, but they have a decent feel—not too stiff and not too loose. The plastic construction makes the VS-20 lightweight and therefore easily portable, although likely not as durable as a metal-housed unit.

On the left side-panel, the VS-20 has a USB port, RCA output jacks, a Foot Switch input (for remote control of record and playback with an optional footswitch), an expresion pedal input, and a ¼-inch headphone jack. The right side-panel has an XLR mic input (phantom power is switched on and off in the VS-20 Editor software), a pair of ¼-inch line inputs, and a ¼-inch hi-Z guitar/bass input. A pair of mics in a stereo configuration is built into the unit, with one mic on either side of the back part of the front panel.

Other front-panel features include an Output Level knob that controls the headphone and main outs, an input control, and switches to activate the various inputs, turn on and off the COSM modeling, and change COSM patches. The DAW output controls the sound of tracks playing from your DAW, while the Direct Monitor knob controls the level of input source that you’re hearing.

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