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I am trying to learn a DAW, Logic Pro and I want to copy (cover?) a song to match exactly (well 99%) like the original record. I know you can cover songs on Guitar I play guitar and I have done that before. Is there such a concept in electronic music as well?

I did some research on youtube and there are people making a song. But it is not the song that I am interested in. Is what I have in mind possible? I want to do this because I want to know what the producer did to make the song sound like it does.

The song I want to cover:

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  • Could you add a bit about what is behind the question? It doesn't really make sense to me to "cover" a song that only exists electronically, with no live element. That would just mean copying a file and playing it back. An electronic "remix" of an original would be the closest analogy I can think of to a cover.
    – Aaron
    Dec 12, 2022 at 4:17
  • Do you mean an instrument to "cover" the song or a software to record it?
    – user87626
    Dec 12, 2022 at 4:17
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    I want to know what's going on behind the scenes. How are those sounds created. What midi instruments were involved. Ideally, I would want the daw file with an explanation on what they did and why they did it and ideally how they did it.
    – shampoo
    Dec 12, 2022 at 5:08
  • Just like figuring out the guitar, drum, and bass parts for a song played on those instruments, you can figure out the synth sounds and notes for electronic music. Dec 12, 2022 at 5:51
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    One thing to note, that as a beginner if you have no grounding in what makes up an arrangement, musically or sonically, then a soundalike cover is going to be one of the hardest projects ever - because you don't even know where to start. You need to work on simple covers using the original chords etc before you also try to copy something sonically. You need to know what synths are capable of before you can bend them to your will… otherwise you'll just spend weeks clicking through presets on various VSTs without ever getting any closer except by accident.
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 12, 2022 at 16:19

2 Answers 2

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(Hm, started my answer while this post was still in the Music-community ...)

I understand that you look for a kind of recipe or guideline to reproduce songs like this. When you go through the themes I mention down below iteratively, you can come closer and closer. Reaching “99 %” then basically is a matter of persistence. Enjoy your ride.

1. Tempo

The easiest to answer: determine the tempo. Is there only one? Does it vary? If so, when and how? Take notes.

2. Composition

In classical music we know about motives, melodies, harmonies, forms and variation of all these. In contrast, this song sounds more like an endless variation of the same basic riff or pattern, and variations in sound, not in motives, melodies, harmonies or form.

For analysis it’s a good idea to (over-) simplify first, and introduce more and more refinement during synthesis, step by step (see 5.4).

3. Parts

So let’s neglect the beginning (intro) and the end, where there may be an outro. You can master these parts later, after mastering the main part. For this section your major tools will be taking notes and listening.

So, take notes of the times, when changes happen you’d consider “a new part”. (From knowing the tempo you can calculate the number of measures per part, which is also a kind of crosscheck for the overall composition. E.g is it a multiple of 8 measures, which is a common approach?)

3.1 Instruments

On quick listening I spot at least 3 major instruments:

  • a drum set
  • an organ-like instrument (synthesizer, synth-1; see 4.2)
  • a different synthesizer (synth-2)

There are sometimes sounds staying more or less on one note, called pads. So soundwise you probably will identify more synths (synth-3 … synt-n). Take notes, where they are introduced, how similar od different they sound compared to each other and so on.

3.2 Melodies

The drum set seems to follow a simple and constant (?) pattern.

Both synths (synth-1, synth-2) seem to have similar simple melodies. Identify them. Ignore shift in pitches for now (introduce them via Glide or actions on the pitch wheel in your synthesizer, later, see 4.2).

3.3 Repetitions

Now, pay more attention to the endless repetitions of sound variations:

  • take again notes when major changes happen (time, i.e. measures)
  • verify, whether or not the 3 melodies (drum, synth-1, synth-2) remain constant or not.

4. Sound

Because most of the variations in this song are varied sound, you need to build up experience here: how do certain effects sound like? From this background you can approach sound variations one by one. Some will come easy, some will take more time to figure out, some may be generated differently in hindsight. That’s all ok, and part of the learning process.

Now it’s time to transfer all your notes and observations into at least one DAW-version, step by step:

  • instruments
  • melodies
  • repeating parts
  • insert the following manipulations

4.1 Audio effects

It will be a good idea to create an extra DAW-version, where you take instruments you like and apply all kind of audio-effects to it. Instruments can or should be

  • sine (not always spectacular, but if you know Fourier analysis, you know why)
  • square (a hollow sound, from its spectrum = series of sine waves)
  • saw (a fuller more organ-like sound = different series of sine waves))
  • guitar (just another series of sine waves)

Try effects like reverb, echo, drive/distortion, EQ, delay, chorus, vibe, phaser, flanger, wah-wah, tremelo, envelope and what have you. Having tried these you know the characteristic sounds of each effect, which makes identification in the song easier. Also try some combinations of these, which the song probably did here and there. (If in doubt, try to determine the main effect by ear, first, and try that during synthsies (5.4).)

Finally, transfer your finding to your (current) main version of the song.

4.2 Synthesizer

You should have a basic idea about how synthesizers work and how they sound. The range is huge, so be prepared to spend time here.

Synthesizers do manipulate the sounds spectrum. So you have two key ingrediences:

  • a noise source (saw, triangle, rectangle; noise)
  • a good filter (this mainly tells the bad synths from the excellent ones)

So you vary sound by changing the sources noise AND adjusting filter type, center frequency, bandwidth and flanks. Take a very simple synth from your DAW’s instrument list and play with these 2 ingredients, i.e. explore their effects on sound.

The range you’ll hear can vary from a deep bass-guitar to flute-like ones, including all kind of scifi- or techno-sounds. (It will almost always NOT sound like a classical instrument.)

4.3 Parameter-Automation

Now, while exploring your analog effects and the simple synth, you can vary sound by manually detuning knobs, like reverb, center frequncy, bandwidth and hear all kind of sound variations. E.g. filter variations do a lot here.

Synthesizers and DAWs can automate these kind of manual operations, see below, e.g. to create a bubbling-like sound/noise.

4.3.1 Synthesizer

The major ways of parameter control in synthesizers, which impact the scetrum generated, hence sound, are:

  • varying the oscillator (sine, saw, square …) by a second oscillator
  • using Low Frequency Oscillators (LFOs) to vary parameters (”knobs”) like center frequency very slowly
  • envelope-units for some or all LFOs.

Of course, the sky is the limit, which usually requires more complex and more expensive synthesizers. E.g. as far as I recognized in your example you will do fine without FM or sample reconstruction.

From mastering these you can cover many if not all synthesizer sounds in your example.

4.3.2 DAW

DAWs many times provide extra tracks for automation. At least you can vary volume of an instrument track this way, or LR-panning etc., if it’s needed. Depending on your DAW you can perhaps manipulate aduio effects this way, i.e. letting the DAW “turn the knobs” for you in certain parts.

5. Left to say

5.1 MIDI

MIDI comes in several flavors.

As a control signal you can chain many external instruments on stage together, e.g. to remote control internal states of various external devices.

If you do all inside your DAW, there will be hardly any need for such outside control: it will probably provide more instruments than you could ever buy as hardware.

So the major use remains: MIDI representing notes (pitches, melodies) and actions on the instrument (like key-press, glide etc.). However, please keep in mind:

  • MIDI-notes are like the printed notation of a song: it can’t sound
  • you need an orchestra assigned to the various MIDI tracks (that’s why MIDI-music can sound very ugly on a different computer … it has a different orchestra inside)

So finally you may want to convert your DAWs final results into audio (.mp3 etc.),

5.2 Ear training

To stress again, the knowledge of how different electronic effects do sound basically will pave your way to re-create the song above, step by step.

Listen to the sound character of one of the instruments in some part, try separating synthesizer from audio effect, try approaching what you hear in a separate DAW-track or file.

5.3 Experience

You won’t do without. Be prepared to spend quite some time on exploring and mimicking electronic effects, both from synthesizer and audio.

Even, if you should stop for this song at some point in time, it will broaden your musical horizon considerable.

And you will start to recognize what you worked out in various songs you’ll hear streamed, on TV or radio etc.

5.4 Putting it all together

Following the route of stepwise refinement you could e.g.:

  • start with 3 instruments for the repetitive part, like any drum set, organ and piano (focus on melodies first)
  • add or replace any of these in parts where you identified the parameter settings (synth & audio)
  • in a DAW you can have, and usually will have, a huge amount of instrument tracks, which sometimes play just a very little part, once and for all.
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    +1 for even attempting this. I'd have just voted to close as 'too broad'. The OP is asking 'how to cover a song… from soup to nuts.'
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 12, 2022 at 10:05
  • guitar (just another series of sine waves) what a beautiful take on the guitar sound, lol. I'd love to hear your take on the piano. ;)
    – n00dles
    Dec 19, 2022 at 14:09
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    @n00dles, if you like it, I’ll repeat that lovely phrase for you ;) See above.
    – MS-SPO
    Dec 19, 2022 at 14:24
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I wouldn't call doing this a "cover". Perhaps a "recreation". I don't think you'd be able to release it as your own; if it was truly a 99% match, it would probably be considered copyright infringement (but that's more of a legal question). But it certainly makes for a great learning experience.

MS-SPO's answer is excellent, but I would just add one quick tip to help pick out some of the more subtle or buried components of a music track:

Most DAWs will include the ability to "invert phase" or "reverse polarity" (I believe that "polarity" is the correct technical term but sometime it is called phase). Import the original song into your DAW and apply "invert phase" on one of the stereo tracks (either left or right, but not both). Then have a listen and see what you hear.

This will have the effect of removing a lot of the main instruments from the mix. Any instrument that is mixed to center will have equal amplitude in left and right channels; by inverting one of the channels, it will cancel those out, leaving behind only the instruments that are panned right or left that normally tend to be more buried in the mix.

And of course, listen to the song on a hi-fi system with good quality headphones, if possible. The right pair of headphones can make a huge difference in hearing subtle details in music. Personally I find Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7bBK very crisp and detailed, though I'm sure it can get even better if you spend more.

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  • Excellent! You revealed one of my secret analysis techniques! You can actually take it a bit further, but I'll leave that to your imagination.
    – n00dles
    Dec 19, 2022 at 14:14

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