Thanks to its 16-part multimode architecture and powerful features, KONTAKT is a great full-blown sampler for making a complete production without needing any other instrument plug-ins. In his "The Making of Icebreaker" tutorial, the German Drum and Bass producer Simon V explains the various steps and considerations in writing a complete track with KONTAKT and Steinberg™ Cubase.

And what's really hot: You'll receive everything you need to work through the making of this track, from the original Steinberg™ Cubase™ sequencer arrangement to the KONTAKT multi- instrument file with all samples.
This way you can load the entire song in Cubase™ and follow along in full detail (KONTAKT or the KONTAKT Demo version must already be installed).

Listen to the track Icebreaker (MP3 - 6 MB)

What you'll need: KONTAKT 1.2/1.5 (or KONTAKT Demo) and Cubase 5.1 or SL/SX.
What you'll get: "Simon V - Icebreaker" (.zip package incl. Kontakt multi instrument files, samples, and Cubase arrangement file)

 

"... One of the kingpins of the German scene ..."
-Rewind April 2001

About "Icebreaker": "Dense, harmonic, and spacious…the track rocks into ever higher levels and with its massive sound stands alone as one of the biggest hymns of the summer…"
- de:bug (06/2003)

Note: In November 2004, Simon V is releasing his new album "Because We Can", completely produced with Cubase and KONTAKT!
More info can be found at Santorin Records

If you don't own KONTAKT, you can install the KONTAKT demo version (see above left) to take advantage of this tutorial. Make sure to install the plug-in version to the Cubase™ VST folder correctly. The tutorial files will also work with the Cubase SX™ demo version!
(Users of the KONTAKT demo version will additionally need to rename the "KontaktDEMO.dll" file inside of the sequencer's VST folder into "KontaktDEMO.dll").

Now download the Tutorial zip. file (4.9 MB) found on this page in the above left navigation. Expand the .zip file and copy the content of the folder. The file "icebreaker.all" is the Cubase arrangement. This file along with the "icebreaker.nkm" (Kontakt multi) file should be outside of the folder with the WAV files (one level higher).
Now open Cubase™ and load the file "Icebreaker.all". (If you use Cubase™ SX: Load the file using the command "Import - > Cubase Song"). If the samples for KONTAKT are not found, use the AutoFind function in the error message popup and confirm by clicking "Yes" twice.
Now the complete arrangement is at your disposal!

If KONTAKT is not found or opened within Cubase™, there is something wrong with your KONTAKT plugin installation.

I had the ascending bass pattern in my head for a while and really wanted to try it out in a piece. Usually the concept for a track begins by searching for inspiring sounds or rhythms. Then after selecting a tempo and key things really get going!

With KONTAKT’s Drag & Drop capabilities an individual drum kit for the track can be made very quickly. I lay the samples out in groups and assign them to individual outputs, so that each sound can be individually mixed again on the mixing desk. Tip: Select all zones, right click on “Each Zone -> 1 Group”. This makes the work much easier!

You can edit each sound nicely using KONTAKT’s envelopes/pitching/filters/etc. and edit poorly cut samples in the loop editor.

The basic rhythm pattern was played in via MIDI using the notorious “finger jamming” technique, quantized, and then fine-tuned with the mouse. I cut a few drum loops and placed them under the beat so that the foundation doesn’t sound too cold and digital. One of these is a tambourine loop that gives the track punch right from the start.

Now the dirty amen drums for the escalation into the main section. A few fill-ins at the beginning or end of the bars bring some variation to the whole rhythm track.

 

This is the basis of the track – like a piano accompaniment for a vocal track. Here I went straight for the PRO-53 sounds, which thanks to the filter section can conjure up some lovely, lively bass sounds. A simple trick here is to resample the desired sound and edit using a high-pass filter to remove inaudible frequencies. Once you’ve done that try adding a bit of distortion or saturation so the sound retains its original character.

The bass for Icebreaker is built in three parts:
The sub bass can be felt in clubs and on good stereo systems. It’s composed of a saturated sinus wave. For differentiating between notes, I added a distorted saw sound, which not only has the respective harmonics, but will also be used with filters for the main part. Finally, there’s also a middle bass in there, in order to give the whole sound the necessary fullness and more movement. It’s important that the three sounds cover three different frequency ranges.

 

While searching for samples I was especially taken by the horn-like lead sound from an old track of mine. To fatten it out there is edited white noise and a sampled synth sound underneath.

The strings provide harmonic support for the lead. They’re composed of a sawtooth string and a choir-like sound.

To finish things up it should be enough to have a loop with few bars, to hear whether all elements sound smooth and round together. Only then is it time to start on the arrangement.

 

Now things get interesting: our small loop will become a complete arrangement. We’re going for a blend of DJ-friendliness and musicality. In the intro it builds up evenly with plenty of room to breathe, so that it can be nicely placed in a DJ set. At 1:30 the lead begins to unfold, rising with each part. In the middle comes a long break for air, after which it moves forward again. The arrangement is generally speaking a 2-part wave.
Keeping things interesting comes down to trying things out along with a few basic considerations: how does the track start off, when does the main part enter the picture, and how do we keep it exciting all the way to the end. The best way to do this is by muting and soloing the individual tracks to see what stands on its own and what only works with other parts. Listen to the track from the top. If your instincts tell you a certain part gets boring, then you know that’s where something needs to happen in the track.

This is like the icing on the cake. Whether it’s the drum fill in the intro, the vocal before the main section, or the quiet sounds in the background, a long delay as an instrument effect can provide the space and deepness. The effects and modulation stage is also where KONTAKT really makes experimenting a pleasure. Try a sample backwards, run the drums through tone machine, hack loops with the envelope, etc.

"There’s no problem we can’t fix, because we do it in the mix".

In the beginning it’s enough to set all tracks to the same volume. Only then should you think about improving the sound with equalizers, filters, compressors, etc. Don’t play around with effects too much in the beginning: what didn’t work before isn’t necessarily going to get any better through effects and editing.

For mixdown it’s always good to start with fresh ears, either after a break or fresh the next day.

Have a good time making music,
Simon V

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Simon V. Homepage...

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