Intense Tech With Defense Mech – Let’s Mix It Up (and Down)!

- Posted April 30th, 2020 by

Hello again, and welcome back to another edition of Intense Tech! This month, let’s take a look at some different ways to consider mixing in LSDj. After reading this article, I hope you’ll have some new ways to think about working with the volumes, stereo panning, and frequency ranges of your instruments to make them shine throughout your tracks! Let’s dig in!

Art by @dethrood.


Ever since I started using LSDj, I’ve always struggled to make the parts fit in such a way that they enhance each other, but I’ve stumbled upon some ways to help balance instruments and channels such that each part has a place and complements the others.

While it’s worthwhile to think about mixing in terms of volume of the instruments and channels, there are other ways to adjust the sound that don’t involve simply turning volumes up and down. We can also think about stereo placement of the sound, as well as frequency range. If we consider these three options together, we can have even more possibilities when balancing the components in a mix, even on a Game Boy!

Control Space Using Panning

One of the great strengths of the Game Boy’s sound chip is that it has stereo sound control. Even though you can only control Left, Right, or both channels at once, it can still be used to great effect. Even just adding some alternating panning on things like pulse channel notes or noise channel hi-hats can create a sense of space and ambience. In this example, first an arrangement plays a lead in the first pulse, some backing harmony in the second pulse, a kick and bass in the wave channel, and hi hats and snare in the noise channel. Listen to the difference between the first part without panning, and the second part with panning:

Control Frequency Using Octaves

This might seem so obvious, but don’t overlook the possibilities that you have by doing some simple octave transposing. Using the previous example, let’s examine what happens when we apply an octave transpose to the melody:

This can freshen up a lead that might seem a bit stale, and it has the added benefit of making sure that two instruments don’t get caught fighting in the same frequency range. Think about playing a piano with two hands: it’s much easier to place your left hand in a lower range of the piano, and your right hand above it in a higher range. If both hands are trying to play notes in the exact same octave, it can seem like the hands are trying to battle it out. Rather than increasing the volume, try seeing if you can change the frequency so that each channel is situated comfortably in its own range. While this won’t work for every case, you might find that it opens up quite a bit of room in the mix — and when you only have four bits of dynamic range, every little bit counts!

Control Volume Using Transients

A transient is a sound that contains a sudden loud, short burst at the beginning. I learned this great trick from Pain Perdu: You can utilize this burst of noise to make a snare stand out in the mix without overpowering the other channels. Here is are three example of a snare that’s soft, then loud, then utilizing a transient:

Setting the instrument volume to a relatively medium or high volume like 90 means the instrument starts with this loud volume, and the volume is reduced when the E command plays in the table. This also means you can use E commands in the phrase next to the snare if you want to raise or lower the volume of the transient. As you can hear, it can help the snare cut through the mix and creates more impact without blasting over everything else, offering some nuance to your percussion. This can also be used effectively for other noise instruments or even pulse instruments.

Control Wave Channel Volume Using Limit

The wave channel can provide a lot of power and impact in a track, but sometimes volume control can be tricky. Using E commands provides limited help in cases where E03 at 100% volume is too loud, but E02 at 50% volume is too soft. Using Limit in the wave synth instrument lets you keep the wave synth at full volume while controlling the maximum volume of the waves. You might recall that Limit will constrain the dynamic range of the waveform to a certain range of volume, no matter how loud the Volume for the wave synth or the wave instrument is set. Setting Limit to 8 will reduce the wave instrument to 50% volume even while set to Volume level 3, so setting Limit anywhere from 9 (about 56% volume) to E (about 94% volume) will allow you to access more variation in volume. See the example video below:

Additionally, if you set the start and end points to different Limit values, you can use W commands to control the speed and length. This allows for even greater control of volume, as shown in the following example:

Control Pulse Channel Volume Using ADSR

Lastly, there is a wonderful feature in the newest versions of LSDj which is the volume ADSR. It might seem confusing at first, but you can consider it like chaining E commands together. For each stage of the ADSR, the first digit specifies volume and the second digit specifies the length. Once you provide the second digit, the next stage opens. This can be used similarly to a transient, to start loudly and fade to a lower volume. Or, it can be used to start at a low volume and fade in to a higher volume. The big advantage to fading in with ADSR is that, unlike with an E command which fades in, increasing in volume until the volume maxes out at F (or until the next E command), the next stage of the ADSR can be set to a lower maximum volume. Here’s an example of how the ADSR works:

In previous versions as well as current versions of LSDj, ADSR can be mimicked with the volume column of a table. Although it uses an extra table, it can be helpful when the regular E commands don’t provide the extra level of detail you might need when trying to get that part to sit just right in the mix.

That’s it for this month’s edition of Intense Tech! What other topics would you like to see covered? Feel free to send your comments my way at defensem3ch@chiptuneswin.com. Until next time, this is DEFENSE MECHANISM, signing off!

Note: traducción al Español por Pixel Guy encontrado aquí.

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