I am always scared of attracting metalfaggots with slam-related posts, but by popular demand I am bringing your this exclusive tutorial on how to write and record your very own slam album in the comfort of your own home. Just follow these easy steps to SLAM DAT SICKNESS!!
There are already a zillion tutorials on the basics of recording, mixing and mastering so I’m not going to cover the fundamentals. Instead, I will focus on the specific aspects of making slam songs, since to my knowledge there are no tutorials about our favorite genre. I’m not saying it’s the pinnacle of achievement in terms of production, but I will walk you through how I made this ENPEDESTALMENT song:
[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/57618311" iframe="true" /]
Here is what it takes:
That means ‘digital audio workstation,’ which is just a gay name for the application you will use to record, mix and program everything. The most popular ones are Ableton Live, Logic, The Reaper, Pro Tools and Cubase, but it doesn’t really matter which one you use, they are all good enough for slam. All the important parts will be done with plugins anyway so the DAW itself really doesn’t matter. I personally use Logic because that’s what Big Chocolate told me to use, but definitely do not spend any time reading tiresome debates about DAWs, just pick one and move on.
This is a gadget that lets you record sounds coming into your computer (unlike your shitty soundcard it has a preamp and all that). You want to get one with both instrument and XLR inputs so you can plug a microphone into it too. I have a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, which I’m happy with and seems to get good reviews but there are a zillion options.
As you might guess, this is the easiest part. Considering that I have the most faggoty voice of all time, if I can do halfway decent gurgles then I’m sure you can too. Compress the fuck out of them to even out the volume, put some delay and reverb on there and you are good to go. I don’t even bother recording unique vocals for each song, I just copied and pasted pieces of one vocal track for all the Enpedestalment songs and you totally can’t tell. I do NOT suggest using a pitch shifter because that will make your shit sound like goregrind, just keep practicing until you can do legit gurgles.
Searching for ‘joey sturgis tone’ on Youtube is a good way to learn about getting a siqq guitar sound (srs)
Guitars & bass
Expect to spend about 50% of your time on getting a good guitar sound. Getting a br00tal guitar sound is a big big topic, and without a doubt the hardest part of making #slam. The good news is that these days it can all be done in software, and you don’t need to mess around with real amps, cabs or any of that. You just need to choose one of the many amp sim plugins and you’re good to go.
There are a million options, but for slam I suggest using Toontrack’s EZMix 2 plugin for pure ease of use. Record two tracks, one panned hard left and one panned hard right, and throw on the EZMix rectifier or 5150 preset and you are pretty much good to go. Pod Farm is good too, but it requires a lot more tweaking to clean it up and sound tight.
These are the cuts I made for the guitar in the right channel, with similar but slightly different ones for the right channel. I routed them both to a bus which has a boost at 3k for clarity and a cut at 6k.
The real trick to making your guitars sound good is the right EQing. Specifically, it’s about making the right cuts– getting rid of the annoying frequencies that make it sound fizzy or shrill (500hz and 5-6k are the biggest offenders). You shouldn’t have to do this very much with EZMix, but if you want more info there are a lot of helpful threads on IMN recording forums such as this one and this one that are definitely worth reading. Also, route all your guitars to one bus and throw the EZmix ‘metal guitar bus’ preset on there (turn EQ and compression up all the way).
I’m not saying my guitar sound is the best, but I don’t think it’s terrible and I recorded it with a $140 LTD with crappy stock pickups and strings that hadn’t been changed in a year. That said, having a decent guitar and being able to play well make a BIG difference. The point is, this is what’s possible with a completely piece of shit guitar so if yours is decent you should be able to do even better (as Eyal told me, ‘The way you’re doing it wouldn’t even be good enough for our scratch tracks’ lol).
For bass, it’s best to have an actual bass, but you can also just play the bass parts on your guitar, pitch shift it down an octave and put a bass sim on it (EZmix ‘Rock Bass’ is good). That is what I did for this song– it’s a little muddier than a real bass but again this is slam we’re talking about so who really gives a fuck.
Superior Drummer with Meshuggahfag’s preset loaded– sounds pretty fucking great right out of the box, we just need to make that snare sound a little shittier!!
Expect to spend a lot of time on the drums as well, which are obviously very important in slam. The good news is that getting a solid drum sound is pretty easy these days, and you can focus your efforts on what really matters, which is writing good drum parts.
You definitely want to use Toontrack’s EZDrummer or Superior Drummer plugins– the difference between the two is not huge for the purposes of #slam. Most people use EZDrummer and Drumkit From Hell, which is fine but imo is almost overkill. For this song I used Superior Drummer and loaded in the fggt from Meshuggah’s kit, but tbh the stock EZDrummer ‘rock kit’ or whatever would work just fine too. The first thing I did was delete about half of the pieces of the kit because they are not needed at all for slam and just get in the way when you’re programming.
Here is the recipe for trashcan snare: turn up ‘snare top’ for more ring, turn up ‘snare bottom’ for more crack/thickness and adjust to taste. Compress the top a decent amount so your gravity blasts won’t be too quiet.
The trickiest part will be getting that ringy trashcan snare sound that is vital to slam. You will not find any tutorials on this because according to most people ‘it fucking sounds like shit,’ but fortunately for you I figured it out. A snare is miked on both the top and bottom of the drum. The top is the ringy part, the bottom is where the actual snares are and is where the ‘crack’ comes from. So, what you need to do is send the top and bottom to two different tracks and turn the bottom way, way down so the ringy top head will dominate. You will not find this in any preset because like I said ‘it sounds terrible,’ so it will take a bit of effort on your part but NO TRASHCAN SNARE? NOT SLAM. Give the top head a boost at 500hz and 7k and you will have dat ringy, Eastern Euro budget slam snare! Because I love you, you can even download my Superior Drummer preset here (requires Metal Foundry).
The key to getting real-sounding performances is to draw every note in by hand, one at a time. Also note that I am pretty sloppy, with the velocity of each hit varying quite a bit– this is important so it doesn’t sound too perfect.
Throw the EZMix ‘Metal Kick’ preset on your kick drum and ‘Metal drum bus’ preset on your entire drum channel and you are good to go sonically, and you can focus on actually writing the drum parts. This is CRITICAL to good slam, because drums are the lead instrument. The basic rule is that the guitars are relatively simple, laying down the foundation of the song, and the drums are more complex, adding the variation and dynamics that make it interesting– it is very very important for slam that you push yourself to write unique, highly-polished drum parts that work closely with the guitars, not generic double-bass-metronome crap.
I suggest actually tapping out every drum part on your desk with your hands to make sure they are what a real human being would do, then once you have it figured it out in your head, program it. There is no shortcut, you just have to draw in the notes one at a time (the screenshot above is Logic’s Hyper Editor, but every DAW will have something similar).
Oh and for bass drops just use a TR-808 kick drum tuned down to 50hz or so with a very long decay and compressed a bunch.
Mixing and mastering
The last part is putting it all together. Again, there are a zillion tutorials on this by people who are much more qualified to talk about it than I am, and you should read them so you understand the fundamentals. But here are a few slam-specific guidelines:
- Turn off mic bleed completely in EZDrummer/Superior Drummer. Room tone and all that do not really have a place in slam; there’s no space for it in the mix.
- The ride bell is a very very important part of slam, much more so than any other genre (see CEPHALOTRIPSY). Put it on its own channel in your mix so you have lots of control over it.
- Mastering is really complicated, but also really important. Unless you have a good handle on the nuts and bolts of this stuff, I suggest just using iZotope Ozone’s ’12ax7′ preset for mastering. That will make your guitars sound a LOT thicker and brighter and the whole mix in general much louder and more dynamic.
So there you go, that is all your need to SLAM DAT SICKNESS on your own, please let me know if you have any other questions! Liek ENPEDESTALMENT on Facebook and say thank you to MR EYAL LEVI of AUDIOHAMMER STUDIOS for teaching me all this shit as well as TOONTRACK for hooking me up with Superior Drummer and EZMix!