Adventures In Audio

Make an attention-getting lo-fi introduction for a track

by David Mellor

If you want to get people to listen to your music rather than just hear it in the background, then one way is to grab their attention in the first few seconds of your track or song.

There are many ways to do this, and all the good ones have become musical cliches. There's nothing wrong with using a cliche, as long as it is done with a bit of imagination and flair.

In this tutorial, I am going to demonstrate the common device of the lo-fi intro. The music starts out as though it was recorded decades ago, then suddenly blooms into full-on hi-fi sound.

Here's my example. I've kept it simple so that the music doesn't distract from the effect...

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I've created this example with Ableton Live, but you can do it in any DAW using the same methods. To set the scene, here is the session from which the example was taken. It's the same session from which I took my trance riser tutorial (you can click on the image for a larger version)...

Lo-fi introduction session


Let's start by listening to an important element of lo-fi sound - vinyl clicks and crackles as though the track is being played on an old record...


Izotope Vinyl

For this, as you can see, I have used iZotope's Vinyl plug-in, which *yay* is free! Well it's free right now so perhaps you should download it quickly before they put a price on it again.

I haven't actually used vinyl as it is intended to be used. In theory, if you want a vinyl sound for your completed track, then you should put the whole mix through the plug-in. You can do this by using vinyl as an insert in your master track.

The reason for this is that it wall add all of the artefacts of the vinyl record cutting, pressing and playing process to your sound. That is noise, wear, dust, scratches and warps, plus a horrible electrical noise if you really want it.

I tried the 'correct' procedure on this track, but I didn't like it. On another track, I might to it the proper way. But here I preferred the sound of noise, wear, dust and scratches overlaid on top of the music. This is very much down to personal taste, so you should follow your own instincts.

Oddly enough, I found the sound of vinyl a little too hi-fi for my purpose so I added an EQ. Here it is without the EQ (you can compare it with the EQed version above)...


Vinyl EQ

The vinyl effect is only used in the lo-fi section of the introduction. I used automation to switch it off when the full track comes in.

Master EQ

In this example of lo-fi, which can be achieved by a variety of methods, I have simply added an EQ to the master track and automated it. Here's what it looks like...

It really is that simple. If you were expecting something more complicated then yes it is possible to go way more complicated if you want, but I believe that in most situations if the simple solution works, then it's probably a good solution. But let's listen in more detail...

Individual tracks

Here is the effect on the first track of the piece, which is an Omnisphere patch with EQ and reverb...



EQ and reverb


The next track is a Reveal Sound Spire patch with a little EQ...


Reveal Sound Spire

Jupiter EQ

And next the reFX Nexus2 using the Balearia patch and EQ...



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Balearia EQ


The last point I have for this tutorial is that there is a little more to the transition from lo-fi to hi-fi than merely the processing of the lo-fi section. If that was all I did, then it would sound like this...


That's OK, but it needs a bit more drama, which is supplied by this combination which comes in at Bar 9...


This is simply a collection of samples that sound good together. When working with samples it is necessary to try out lots of options before making a decision. So I didn't just throw these samples together and it worked straight away. Instead I tried a number of possibilities before deciding what to go with. The result, from Bar 9, is this...



This is a simple example of a lo-fi introduction. There are many other ways to do it, and many alternative techniques to explore. As an opener to a track, it can often work very well indeed.

The whole intro once again...


Thank you for reading and listening.

Download the audio files for this tutorial...

Monday February 22, 2016

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David Mellor

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

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