What Did I Learn?
Get hands on. As I have been on the move a bit over the last year, my setup has been kept pretty portable so I have been using either the mouse or the QWERTY keyboard to enter notes. Although this is fine, I decided to finally plump for a MIDI controller that had minimal latency and more feel to it. I opted for the Novation Launchkey 25 as I didn’t really need anything bigger and it had auto mappings for Ableton. As soon as I plugged it in I found myself playing for ages with the assignable knobs and excited by the limitless possibilities of parameters to automate. Not only will this help with arrangement ideas, it adds a human element to the performance and it’s fun.
There are no rules. Do what comes naturally when you are playing riffs or arranging sounds. Although it’s good to have a rough workflow, try not to copy or emulate other artists or styles too much. There is no wrong way to do things. Deliberately trying a different approach keeps the creative process fresh and the results will give your productions a unique sound. So, rather than comparing your output to other artists (and probably being disappointed with the outcome), you can get on with your own thing and only use yourself and your previous efforts as a benchmark.
Momentum. This one took a while to finish off as I left it a while between sessions. The longer you leave it, the less likely you are to finish it off so I always try to keep the momentum going and complete in a few days. I actually got bored of hearing it near the end but remembered when I first made it that I was bouncing around the room so at one point I was loving it. I used that reference point as motivation to finish it but it is fairly common for producers to lose interest during the final stages. You just have to remember that your potential crowd still hasn’t heard it yet so they aren’t as bored of it as you may be.
Control the stereo field. I recently attended the excellent Digitallabz production seminar in Bristol where the legendary Optical did a talk covering his methods. He suggested converting all your sounds into mono first and then mould the stereo spread to your liking rather than plumping with how the sounds comes as is. Not only will this help prevent masking etc but it will keep some of the power needed down the middle for mono club playback. Another related tip I picked up via Fanu was to HP EQ the sides (up to about 150-200Hz) using the Mid/Side option on Ableton’s EQ.
Keep template up to date. I think I slightly procrastinated on this track as I knew my sends weren’t up to date and had the wrong settings. Before each new piece I start I usually try to make sure my workflow and template are prepped accordingly so I can crack on with making music.
What Do I Need To Work On?
Riffs. Although a lot of my music is sample based, I haven’t thrown much into a sampler to jam with (in favour of plonking the one-shot on the arrangement page). By playing a riff, it keeps things musically interesting and opens up possibilities for different variations throughout the tune. Now I have a controller to do this with, I will aim to incorporate this more into my creation process from now on.
Start With A can be purchased at the Diffrent Bandcamp.