For something as powerful and complex as Ableton Live, reading the manual is surely not enough. But while there are many tutors out there willing to share their knowledge and resources for free, nothing beats expert opinion from actual professionals.
This is precisely what Noiselab claims to offer – in-depth tutorials, loops, samples, and many more – straight from some of the best producers of the industry. Given that we included Noiselab in our list of the best online music production schools out there, and that it currently is one of the most popular online courses out there, we believe a thorough assessment of their services is due.
We know the feeling of being undecided whether to take a paid course. If you want to know if the membership is worth taking, go ahead and peep this Noiselab review.
Reviewer: Levi Masuli is a writer specializing in music production. He is also an artist and composer.
Noiselab’s selection in its current form is very impressive indeed. All of the basics that a general producer needs are already there. And there is a lot to learn even for seasoned producers. New producers will also profit from how well-organized the tutorials are. We can only expect Noiselab to expand further and explore more specific topics in the future.
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- Fluff free content
- Quality samples, loops, MIDI
- Nice interface
- Legit Instructors
- Great attention to sound design details
- No forum
- No women producers (yet)
- Categories could be better organized
Table of Contents
- What exactly is Noiselab?
- What makes Noiselab stand out…
- Features Spotlight
- Our Impressions
- Customer Impressions
- Final Thoughts
What exactly is Noiselab?
Touting itself as “a community of Ableton producers and electronic musicians,” Noiselab is a new name in electronic music production education. The platform is made up of an exceptional stable of accomplished instructors, packing it with tutorials, sample packs, loops, and other goodies (which we’ll mention below).
Their educators include Paul Laski (Electric Dangerous Music), Thavius Beck (Ask.Audio Mac Pro Video), Grammy-Award-winning producer STINT, Mike Park (Leo Stannard, Lao Ra, Sälen), and Patrick Collier (Big KRIT, Chance the Rapper).
Each of these instructors have years of professional experience under their belt. Banding together under Noiselab enables them to cover a wide range of topics. This makes Noiselab an invaluable resource for those who want all important production information in one place.
What makes Noiselab stand out among other Ableton trainers?
Our opinion, of course, but while there is a ballooning number of music production tutorials available on Youtube, only a handful are as organized and finely-produced as those of Noiselab.
Although Noiselab users can freely choose to take any lesson they want, most courses are organized to build on each other. The courses have been crafted to avoid redundant lessons, so learners would not have to waste time listening to the same thing all over again. This makes the lessons more efficient and effective.
Moreover, Noiselab’s focused approach allows instructors to tackle rarely-discussed topics and elements in Ableton. These topics are not just for fun and novelty. Most of them can be very powerful in certain contexts, albeit rarely used. We’ll cover some of them in this Noiselab review.
No more copycat tutorials…
In some communities (Youtube, forums, communities), there is a tendency for some producers simply parrot what other producers are teaching or doing. That is not a problem for those who are just starting out. But these can be frustrating once you start to see people doing certain routines just because everybody does it in the same way. Noiselab offers a breath of fresh air by not simply teaching what to do, but also explaining how each component work .
In terms of convenience, students can also switch between their computers, phones, and tablets. That means you can learn almost anywhere.
In short, what you are paying for is top-quality knowledge and skills. These come not only from technical mastery of the DAW but also practical experiences as well.
There are some features in Noiselab’s oeuvre that deserve some attention. Here are some of them.
Electronic Music Production Series
The three-part production essential suite called “Electronic Music Production,” is certainly a highlight.
The first part is a must-take for new producers as it discusses in detail the theoretical and technical basics of music production.
The best part of about part one is that … it is COMPLETELY FREE! (Just remember to use the discount code MPN20 when you decide to go on to part 2 and 3.
The second part is particularly interesting because it has elements on songwriting, advanced programming, and a little bit of practical music theory (such as creating catchy melodies, etc). Many producers struggle with this part of music production, so we think discussing them in detail is certainly a big plus.
Lastly, the third part provides an exhaustive discussion of audio effects as well as practical ‘hacks’. The lesson on Creative Sampling Techniques, for example, is fun and very informative. It tells us that the instructor is not only technically-knowledgeable but is also a real creative.
Deconstructing Hit Songs Series
Another highlight among Noiselab’s courses are the “deconstructing courses”.
Some of these courses, such as the lesson on Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s “All The Stars”, analyze every aspect of the song, giving us an insight to the creative process that gave birth to the track. Some courses in the series also focus on particular elements, such as the “Drum Production of Skrillex, Carl Cox, Calvin Harris”, and other prominent producers.
These courses allow us to see the production concepts in action. It is not only informative but also inspiring.
Synthesis is the heart of electronic music production. Everything from sampling, mixing, side-chaining, to compression and sound design are based around the idea of sound as a material. Noiselab’s synthesis course provides students detailed introduction to the world of sound creation.
Synthesis tends to overwhelm most producers, but the Noiselab course is well-organized. The instructor, Thavius Beck, also does a great job dividing the components into smaller and easier-to-digest bits.
Oftentimes, producers use a large number of plugins without being able to dig into each of them deeply. But hidden in each of these plugins are worlds of possibilities. Noiselab’s plugin-specific courses provide in-depth courses on some of Ableton’s most powerful plugins, such as Sampler, Operator, and Wavetable.
Samples, Loops, MIDI
The membership also offers royalty-free samples, and MIDI chord loops. While these are not part of the accessible content, they are certainly worth checking out. I personally found the Bubble Gum Beats interesting as the samples can be used for K-pop-style songs. Given that these songs are often a headache to make, having a few ready-made samples at your disposal can be very handy.
Take a listen it here:
The Vintage Drum Machines Sample Pack is also charming as they have successfully captured that warm, saturated sound that we usually associate with analogue gear.
Listen the pack here:
Aside from these, it seems that the guys at Noiselab are more focused on their tutorials rather than merch.
The first thing that impressed us the moment we entered Noiselab is the variety of the content that they are offering. They offer 47 courses, with each course containing more or less 10 lessons. The rigor that has been given to conceptualize each of the courses is apparent and honestly impressive.
As for the teaching style and the general user experience, Noiselab seems to be going for a ‘masterclass’ feel that balances a serious, professional tone and a more casual way of teaching.
Students can choose to take whatever they want from Noiselab’s buffet of courses. The lessons also are very specific, covering everything from 808 sub kick programming to stereo imaging. In short, Noiselab is a serious learning space for any serious musician who wants to learn at their own pace.
What we like
To get a taste of what Noiselab has to offer, we took several courses. The first one we took is “Advanced Sound Design with Wavetable” with Paul Laski, aka P-Lask of DubSpot New York and Icon Collective Music Production School in Los Angeles.
1. No nonsense teaching
The first thing that struck me about this course is how tightly-edited it is…
Have you ever come across one of those free Youtube lessons with 10-minute introductions, a 5-second jingle, and a digressing teacher that can’t seem to focus on a particular point?
Noiselab isn’t messing with any of those.
Right off the bat, the course goes right into the heart of the topic. This tells us that a lot of preparation has been given for each course. This also tells us that Noiselab values every second that their students are spending to learn.
After checking out other lessons, we found out that this is actually the case with most of the other courses. No fillers, awkward moments of silence, advertisements. The lessons are compact and well-organized. For people who have a short attention span, such lessons that avoid any dilly-dallying are heaven-sent.
2. Clean and presentable interface
As for the platform’s interface, Noiselab’s website is as simple and organized as it gets. The courses are arranged according to specific niche topics, with the fundamentals in the first page and the more in-depth topics in the succeeding pages. Each course has a colorful and tastefully-designed thumbnail that makes you want to dig in and start hitting the play button. The speed is also very reasonable and I’ve never encountered any playback error.
3. Professional lesson quality
The audio in the videos are also very clear and are properly mixed with other audio elements in the video. They also used some nifty highlighting/ editing tricks to help users follow what is happening on-screen.
As for video length, we found most are of suitable duration. Lesson length usually hovers around 3 minutes to 15 minutes, depending on the demands of the lesson.
It’s difficult to sustain the interest of the viewer even for a 5-minute video. This is why we appreciate that the instructors usually mix it up by changing camera angles, modulating their voice, and doing something quirky on-screen.
4. Totally legit instructors
Unsurprisingly, the instructors are awesome, given that all of their instructors are Ableton Certified Trainers. This means that they have demonstrated a high enough level of mastery of the DAW to teach it.
P-Lask’s lesson on wavetable synthesis, to give an example, is enjoyable because he doesn’t only teach the student how to use the plugin. He also ‘plays’ with it by trying new things, such as using just one oscillator, or mapping a random parameter to another random parameter, just for kicks. This not only shows the full creative potentials of the plugins, but also inspires students to be weird and creative.
But aside from the technical knowledge, the instructors also speak with confidence and a passion to teach. For example, I personally enjoyed Thavius Beck’s lessons because he speaks with a dynamic and authoritative voice.
5. Attention to detail
It will take years even for a seasoned veteran to master Ableton. This is something you’ll only realize once you get into the nitty-gritty details. Noiselab does a great job teaching its students not to be afraid to fall into the rabbit hole.
In the course “Making 808 Sub Kicks,” you’d be surprised that a lot of things can actually be done with an 808 kick. If you’re someone who prefers just sticking in a downloaded 808 sample, you’re missing out a lot.
Noiselab’s course introduces learners to the fun world of analog 808s and making your own kicks. Moreover, the lesson on shaping the kick has mixing aspects as well, making it easier for the kick to ‘sit’ in the mix before the mixing stage. Or you can do something really weird, such as a heavily-compressed and distorted 808 with a lot of mids, just for the kicks (pun intended).
All this enables producers to further shape their own sound and style. Thus, Noiselab’s attention to detail aims to produce unique creatives, rather than -dime-a-dozen soundmakers.
6. Top production
The production level in some of the courses are also top-notch. For instance, in the course “In The Studio With Stint,” we see the producer in his studio talking about his creative process. The set has been properly lit and designed, making it a delight to watch. It actually feels like you’re watching a carefully-made show, and not just one of those hastily-made vlogs.
It’s also refreshing to see the actual producer talking about his work in a nice-looking setting, compared to just watching a laptop screen and listening to a faceless voice.
What we don’t like
Given all these virtues, there is not a lot to dislike about Noiselab. Nonetheless, there are some areas that are worth pointing out.
1. A better website
While their website presents the most important content in an easy, intuitive manner, we have to say that something feels lacking. For example, there is no About section that tells you more about the company. Such details, although very minor, add more credibility to the website. The website, in its current iteration, just feels too naked and basic.
2. More genre-specific content
In terms of the actual content, it would also be great to see some genre-specific lessons. Paul Laski has a lesson on “Making A House Track Start to Finish.” What about a lesson on low-fi hip-hop production? What about grime or K-pop? These are something to look forward to as they build their platform.
3. History lessons
Some non-technical lessons to satisfy the music production nerds (heh) would also enrich the current collection.
For instance, a lesson on the history of development of electronic music, with a focus on the sounds, would be awesome. How is dubstep connected to reggae and dub? How did the dub siren become such an important sound in club music? Why did the 808 become such a phenomenon? These lessons can actually help producers have a more comprehensive knowledge about the music they are producing. Moreover, it can deepen their appreciation for music.
4. A place for people to interact
Communities or forums where people can connect and interact are also much needed. Students should be given the opportunity to share work that focuses on the elements covered by the lesson. The instructors or other students can give feedback. This will certainly give the website a more legit ‘learning space’ feel.
5. More women producers
Finally, we also wish that there is at least one woman among their instructors. It would be great to see how women producers approach their craft as opposed to men producers. It would make the website more open to women who want to get into music production.
Being relatively new, it is difficult to find user reviews for Noiselab aside from those featured in their website.
Some users were also impressed with the customization course, “Layers and Custom Sounds with Instrument Racks.” The comments say the course discussed a lot of things that were not included in the Ableton manual.
One Reddit user even remarked that “the information I have picked up from that website has literally transformed my work flow in Ableton.”
Indeed, the attention to detail and the instructors’ playful approach to the application encourages users to craft their own unique routines and shortcuts.
Noiselab’s selection in its current form is already impressive. All of the basics that a general producer needs are already there. Thus, we can only expect Noiselab to expand further and explore more specific topics.
That being said, we believe that a Noiselab membership is worth taking. There is a lot to learn even for seasoned producers. New producers will also profit from how well-organized the tutorials are.
But aside from the variety of content that they offer, the breadth and depth of their tutorials are impressive. No second is wasted in every lesson. And the instructors know how to have fun. It makes learning a lot more enjoyable. This is music production, after all, not rocket science (not that rocket science is boring, but you get the point).