27 Feb 2019
27 Feb 2019
Fresh from playing Earth Frequency Festival, Ben Finocchiaro AKA Safire, considered one of Australia’s finest Drum and Bass producers, visited SAE Byron Bay on Wednesday 20th February for a special Masterclass presentation.
After delivering this same Masterclass around the world, Safire brought it back home to SAE Byron Bay where his journey began as an Audio student 12 years ago and he formed a connection with Music Production lecturer James Lyall through their mutual love of bass music.
Safire says presenting the Masterclass to an audience at SAE Byron was a pleasure.
“Studying at SAE was an inspiring time for me, I came without a vast knowledge of the industry and left with the drive to pursue a career in audio.”
“Song creation for me is an outcome of what is influencing me at that point in my life, whether it is light or dark, as an artist I need to put feeling into my creation.”
Safire is also the founder of Plasma Audio and delivers workshops in Melbourne where he is now based.
If you missed it, here’s what we learnt from Safire’s Masterclass
Songwriting and the creative process
Get the idea out quick. If it’s happening be prepared to lock into the studio and get it out as fast as possible…those moments don’t come around all the time. Don't too focus to much on mixdown and engineering in the early stages unless your doing sound design sessions before song creation. Adding basic things like a basic limiter on the master bus is nice as it shows you what’s going on in your mix . If the track is clipping early on, you need to make some adjustments to avoid clashing frequencies.
Separating the left and right brain is a an important factor, removing the linear, mathematical side of the brain (left) to give room for the more creative, thinking side (right), capturing the feeling and visualization of the theme that will be then transposed into a song.
Safire explained that it is important to be in touch to what’s going on in life and try express that into music/art. Listen & be inspired by lots of different genres you enjoy and bring those elements to your production. Capturing how you feel, and using expression is important to developing what u want to say.
It’s good to listen to a lot of music but also try not to follow others, focus on creating something original. If you feel yourself getting bogged down or having a creative block, getting away from the project for a few days can be helpful. Listen to lots of music again, get fresh ideas, go into nature, spend time with friends/your partner or do some physical activity to find that creative spark.
Bass & Melodies
Safire was a big advocate for the OMNISPHERE Plugin, with a lot of his chords and synth sounds being developed from this software instrument. There was a non complicated notation of the chords, which laid the foundation for the melodic progression of the track. This is where intervals come into the equation, bouncing between the 3rd and 5th, but creating levels of tension call and response techniques. This form of tension and resolution is vital for creating interest for the listener. As electronic music can be quite repetitive, it is great to include sonic differences within your track. Once you hear a loop for more than 16 or 32 bars, the brain is hungry for something more.
Safire’s Bass techniques included varieties of processing like saturation, compression and overdrive to bring out the higher harmonic qualities in the signal. In most cases adding small amounts of processing helps bring up the overall gain and sharpen the tone & quality rather than pushing processors to hard causing the signals to sound undesirable. He also sent the bass to a white noise bus, an interesting technique, which I will discuss in further detail below. He used a stabby bass patch, combined with the slow gliding bass, using pitch bends and automation to emulate a natural feel. This replicates an authentic bass guitar player, mimicking the pitch discrepancies when a bass player’s fingers slide between the frets.
Gluing your tracks with bus/ sends
A interesting technique used by Safire was adding white noise to his bass tracks, this allowed them to cut through the mix and fill up the space with higher frequency signals. The white noise was used on some the instruments through a bus channel, glueing the mix an adding coherence & filling up space. He also created rhythmic qualities with a white noise layer going thru the track & sidechaining it to a percussive instrument.
Safire’s drum programing comes from the Superior Drummer 3 Plugin. This includes high-quality drum sounds based upon super-detailed drum sampling, comprehensive mixing and a huge catalogue of MIDI drum grooves. He explained that getting the roll in the high hat can be difficult in funk grooves. Some techniques to try are moving hits around the grid (some off and some on) and making sure you have different velocities on the drums. You can also have different variations of the same hits, meaning 3-5 different types of the same sample to give an authentic feel, like it's being played by a real drummer. Other techniques include bus sends with room reverb on the drums and distorting snares tails. A final keep safe to fatten the drums is some light parallel compression, as this can really make it sit well in the mix.
Mixdown and mastering
Finally Safire went through his mixing and mastering process, which was the obvious switch from right brain to left brain thinking. The focus is now on sonics, sound quality, transients, engineering etc.… He recommends listening to reference tracks in headphones and try and push your tracks as close as you can to those tracks you like. A good tool he used was the Magic AB Plugin, which is a simple, powerful reference tool that allows you to switch between the audio you are working on and up to nine tracks in an instant.
My top 5 takeaways
1. Try to have a theme or direction when you create
2. Aim to separate right and left brain functions
3. Tension and resolution is vital for creating interest for the listener
4. Mixing and Mastering isn’t the most important thing, focus for making good ideas & continue to develop those areas over time.
5. Don't worry if it’s not working out, Safire has tough days in the studio too!
Meet Byron Bay shire local Dan Musgrave - Surfer, Event Manager, Music Producer, Digital Marketer, Photographer & DJ, Dan is a fellow who embeds himself in the creative industry and is the Marketing Officer at SAE Byron Bay.
SAE Byron Bay offers Diploma and Bachelor programs in Audio, Film, Design, Animation and Games. If you are interested to learn more about the programs on offer, or the facilities on campus, book a personalised tour of the Byron Bay campus today by calling 1800 723 338 or by visiting sae.edu.au.