Category : Producers BlogDED_HERE
One of the most daunting tasks as a music producer can be starting a blank project. Your mind starts asking what genre… what bpm… what style… what synth… where do I start? In this article I am going to describe my basic writing process and what I found works for me. It will be step by step. This is a guideline. There are no rules, but I find myself using this logical progression a lot in the studio.
#1 START WITH THE VIBE
The first thing you are going to want to do is get in touch with the feeling of what you want to create. Check out this article on the Creative Mode to learn more about “getting in the mood”.
For this process I suggest just playing around. Just rock out with an idea. It could mean you play the guitar, keyboard, step sequencer, or whatever. Just make music with a sense of play for a little while as the vibe begins to emerge. Once you have this the rest can begin to fall into place.
I’d like to add that this is a give and take process through out writing music. I begin to feel out the vibe and idea of the track, but I am also fluid and move where it wants to go. Sometimes ½ way though the track I make this totally awesome synth section that feels more like acid house then glitch hop (what I was going for). I just follow that route. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The key is to come up with ideas and just play.
#2 GROUND ZERO
At this point I will start to build my track. I generally start in 1 of 2 places. If I am creating a more harmonically driven track (like ambient of downtempo) I will start with texture. I have used the Morphonic Textures as a great place to build lush textures. From this place I will start to hear different harmonies and melodies. It’s like starting off a canvas with a random texture and seeing what shapes can be found in it, like cloud watching.
If I am making a more rhythmic based track I will start with the beat. It will be the cornerstone of everything else, so I will start with it’s structure. Sometimes I just grab some prefab look. If I like the groove I will remake it by listening to the parts and writing a new midi / audio sample based looping. It’s important to create your own loop as quickly as possible so you don’t build the track around any other drum loop and when you build one later it just doesn’t fit.
#3 BUILDING THE INSTRUMENTS
Now that we have the foundation , either textural or rhythmic, we can start to build the other instruments involved. 80% of the time I start with the presets. It’s just really easy to throw in my favorite synth and play with a few sounds. I see which one inspires me. Maybe this rhodes is awesome, but needs a little saturation or attack. I then edit the preset and tweak it to my liking.
Usually I change it by ½ to ⅓ of what the original sound was. Just minor tweaks here and there to make it unique and fit what I want. It’s important to understand the basics of synthesis so you know what is happening and how to affect it in unique ways.
Once and a while I will start with a blank instrument, like operator. If I know exactly the sounds I am looking for, or it’s easy to make, I will just dial it in. A good example of this is sub bass. I know I can use a sine wave, or a triangle wave with a few tweaks here and there.
In building instruments remember you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just because you’re a musician doesn’t mean you have to build all the instruments from scratch. Do you think every band leader should know how to build a drum kit, guitar, bass, and cowbell? Granted if you do develop the skills of synthesis and sound design you will have a stronger control over the sound and can start doing the crazy synthesis shit.
#4 WORKING YOUR WAY UP
Now that we have a foundation, and starting to build out our instruments we now just work our way up the track. This image is a great example of the stems to build a track. Granted this is a rhythmic based track. If it were more ambient and textural I would just add a layer at the bottom.
This is also a very basic formula to look at with songwriting. If you start with the drums, then the bass has a groove to play off of. That helps support the groove in the guitar part and so on. If you started by recording your lead and vocal then later added drums you might notice there cadence was off. That is why this is a simple and logical progression for writing tracks. Not a rule, just one formula.
#5 BUILDING THE COMPOSITION
Now the parts are being built you are ready to start expanding the composition. I wrote an article showing off some tips and tricks with writing your composition. With the composition you are just expanding out the ideas you already created. Maybe you add an intro, break, new part B, or whatever the track wants to turn into.
KEEP ON KEEP’IN ON
That is a look into my process of building a track. The key is to cover that blank canvas as quickly as you can with the basic elements and let the evolution move you forward. Don’t get stuck in your head worrying about what the track should sound like. Let the track move you as much as you create the movement.
If you are an Ableton Live user, you might also want to check out this article on Fast and Furious Songwriting. It looks at some techniques in Live that can keep you moving in the creative process. This article and much more can be found in my one on one classes. If you want an in depth look at the creative process and techniques on speeding up your music production, then check out the Private Online Course, Fast and Furious Songwriting to get the music flowing.
2 months ago I joined up with Mycelium Music for a remix competition for Numatik, an amazing up and coming artist. I helped support with some prizes and help with the event. Today the winner was announced.
The winner of the contest was Charlie Bartlett, aka False Identity
I asked Charlie about his music and here is what he said:
I’ve been playing instruments and into music since I was about 5, both my parents are musicians, early influences were pink Floyd, the doors, and led zep. I discovered electronic music through Ott and Shulman when I was about 17-18 and instantly fell in love and had to learn how to make music like that and so about 6 years on now it’s working out pretty well and still learning loads of sweet new things and tricks
I also asked him about his process with this particular remix. He had some awesome words to share:
As for the remix, its the 3rd one I’ve done. I only started giving them a go earlier this year and it was sooo much fun. Loads of awesome sounds to chop up, warp, mangle and recreate as well as all totally usable in their original form. Basically, started off just throwing a few of the stems in, seeing which bits I wanted to use and arranging them with a simple beat and bassline. From there was just a matter of playing around with extra sounds, different beats, etc til I had the whole tune. The double speed dnbish bit at the end was intended from the start really, had been wanting to do that for ages! And finally, it took me about 2-3 weeks to write (as I work a full time job) maybe 60-70 hours actually writing and mixing.
Adding deeply rich textures to your tracks can add a new dimension to the sound. It can add depth, interest, warmth, and even a cinematic feel. To help create cinematic texturs I put together an Ableton Live Pack called Morphonic Texture.
This collection of instruments lets me easily create a unique and moving background for me to perform or produce with. I wanted to share one of the instruments in the pack. It was actually the first one I created for the track Depth Of Field. This video walks through what it does and how you can use it. Free download below it.Ash and Air Instrument
Author: Subaqueous License: CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Date: September 21, 2014
Here is an example track I made with this instrument and the others in the pack.
Download the full (aq) Morphonic Texture Live Pack here, and enjoy the free pack.
Creativity is an elusive subject. It’s hard to quantify when and what is creative. Then take it a step further and try to get in a creative mode is even harder to comprehend, well with the logical mind that is.
The other day I watched this amazing talk by the legendary John Cleese from Monty Python. He has had an astoundingly creative career. In this video he shares some interesting research and ideas around what he called the creative mode.
John Cleese brings up a point that really hit home for me.
The most creative professionals always played with the problem much longer before they tried to resolve it. Because they were willing to tolerate that slight discomfort and anxiety when you haven;t solved the problem.
This brings up a really interesting and powerful point. When you sit down to write music you might hash out an idea in the first hour. You might want to just jump on it and finish it up to feel like you did something creative. If you follow the easy route of what comes first, you might be holding back your true potential of what comes next.
The greatest song ideas can come if you are willing to push yourself just a little bit more. In practice, I do this by writing many sketches of songs. This way I can bust out a bunch of different ideas. I have endless amounts of useless sketches at this point. Sometimes I will make my first sketch and it is amazing. Then I make the next 3 and they are no where near as good as the first. Then other times I make a sketch I think is amazing and want to work on it, but the 3rd sketch of the day ends up being the most powerful track I have ever made.
The point is to push your boundaries, play with the problem / idea longer than you might need to. This will help new original ideas surface. Once you have multiple ideas, though, you can go through and pick the best then fully commit to it.
This idea has been really true about my unreleased album, Tides of Twilight. I got the basic work on this album done in April / May. Basically the album was 70% done. Now normally I would just push it out in a month or so. I get this feeling that if I am not making new music and getting it out then I am losing steam. For this album I decided to take a different approach. This time I decided to truly take my time.
Now 3 months ago I thought the album was almost done. Since then I have just worked on the album lightly when I have time to get creative. Something amazing happened during the process. Since there was no need or rush lots of little improvements happened. I found other musicians to collaborate on a few of the tracks and write new melodies. It feels as if it lets the music really round it’s self out in an organic fashion instead of being forced.
Now the album goes out for mastering in a few days and I feel it is a much better piece of work than if I stressed to get it out instantly. Sticking with that slight discomfort has lead to a much more original and high quality work.
Take your time and enjoy the process.
The new PMX-300 Instruments are a series of Ableton Live 9 instrument racks which are going to be released in packs of between 6-12 instruments by category. The packs are developed by Animus Invidious ofPerforModule, and will be released at IsotonikStudios.com in sets of 3 packs at a time. The first three sets, now released, are “PMX-301 Classic Pianos”, “PMX-302 Funky Pianos” and “PMX-303 Organs”.
Here at subaquousmusic.com, exclusively, is one of the instruments from the “PMX-303 Organs” pack: the “PMX-300 Drawbar Organ”.
The samples which have been recorded through a dual triode vacuum tube at 96kHz with per-note reactive intelligent processing for maximum audio quality. (more…)
So far I have clocked over 350 hours on my next album. I know that because I actually track my time. Through out the process of writing tracks there are some major landmines you have to avoid. One of the biggest ones is tweaking things to death. Since I am getting all my tracks ready to send to mastering I am finding myself running into those landmines, so I am writing this article as a reminder to you and myself.
My good friend Danceher once shared the concept of diminishing returns with me. The idea is there is a point in which your effort brings you less of a return. So in this case working on a track past the point of anyone being able to notice or care.
I am so honored to finally share this. About a year back Akara asked me to do a remix of the track. I have been able to play this at festivals this summer, and was so excited to share it online. The original always moved me so deeply and it was an honor to blend in some of my own craft and interpretation.
Original Track: akaramusic.bandcamp.com/track/project…album-version
An important part of any mix is the Low End. Getting that sounding solid, having a punch to it, and bring out a lush bassline is the key to an epic track. Mixing all the Bass Elements is also one of the hardest things to do. The first key in understanding the low end of your track is to understand there is more than one layer to your bass.
There are multiple layers and frequencies that make up a good bass. The way they flow together and interact with your other elements is what will make the bass truly punch through, or be a murky mess. A bass can have a click on it, a warm mid range, a synthy top end, or more. In this article I will go over the different parts that make a up the domain of the low end and share some insight on how to wield it in your music.
Here is a chart to show off the 4 Layers of Bass:
There are a lot of DJ’s and performers out there. It can be a monumental task climbing up the endless heights to be known as a performer. One way you can quickly rise above the crowd and get recognition is through bootlegs and remixes. You can take any track and make your own spin on it. By taking popular dance tracks and adding your own spin you can quickly get your sound and vibe out to the world.
I just created a new Bootleg Remix Pack to help speed up the process and wanted to share some techniques and tips I use a lot in remixing.
WHAT IS A BOOTLEG REMIX?
To start, lets define what a Bootleg is.
A Bootleg is one type of remix of a song in which the remixing DJ uses an entire song or samples from a popular song without the explicit permission of the original artist. A bootleg remix generally uses the stereo master track and or accapella of the track.