1. Enjoy what you do
It might sound a little cliché, but if you’re not enjoying what you do in the first place, you won’t be enjoying what you do later on. I make music because I love to and sometimes people tell me I should make something like this or that, but if I don’t feel good about it, I won’t do it.
2. Kick vs Bass
Techno is music made for the dance floor and the dance floor is made for dancing. The most important frequencies to dance to are the low frequencies, in other words: the bass. I often start with only a Kick drum and a Bassline and try to let them work together in the best way possible. From there on, I start adding other elements to the track to make it more interesting. The best way to get your Kick and Bass right is to just experiment a lot and of course use some Sidechain, so the Bassline will be ducked when the Kick hits. This way, you’ll give your kick more space and the low frequencies won’t interfere with each other. You can also experiment with the keys of the Kick and Bass. For example: use a Kick in G and add a Bassline in different keys to see which works best for your track!
3. Keep your low frequencies mono
One important thing is to always keep your low frequencies in mono. You will ensure that your track retains it’s energy and it will hit hard on the dance floor. A lot of PA systems in clubs and festivals will make the tracks mono and if you have a stereo widening going on, it might sound inconsistent and that’s not what you want.
4. Stereo image
You want your track to sound fat and bright and with good stereo widening you can achieve that. When stereo widening is used right the track will sound pretty full compared to a track that’s all in mono. The only downside is, like mentioned in the previous paragraph, a lot of club and festival PA’s are in mono, so it’ll lose the rich feeling your track has. Luckily, people like to listen to music everywhere, so your track will sound fat when they listen to it on their headphones or speakers. Also label owners listen to the track in stereo. A little trick to notice how your track will sound in a club is to play your whole track in mono already in your DAW.
5. Less is more
When I started making beats, I always wanted them to sound full, so what did I do? I used a lot of samples and in the beginning, it sounded pretty full indeed. When I started building the track by adding other elements to it, I noticed that it wasn’t pleasant anymore to listen to. That’s the point where I listened to the whole track again carefully and noticed there were some elements used which had no real function in the track. When I got rid of those elements, the track sounded way better. The elements used had more breathing space and it felt less crowded. What I learnt from this is that less is always more. The focus is on the things that matter and now you won’t be distracted by elements with no function.
6. The human feel
Electronic music can be pretty tight and neat, as the sounds will be programmed precisely onto the grid. If a whole track is programmed perfectly on the grid, it would feel as if a robot has made the track. There’s no human feel in the track and that is what you have to aim for. There are a lot of ways to make your track ‘imperfect’ and therefore more human. In FL Studio (the DAW I use for creating my music) there is a ‘swing’ fader, which automatically moves elements to a certain place away from the grid. This way it sounds more human already. You can also use quantization to get this effect. I’m my Piano Roll I can choose a lot of different quantize presets which moves elements away from the grid as well.
A second method to give your track a more human feel is to automate certain things. For example, when I use short hihats that sound like if they’re rolling through the track, I put a reverb on them and I link the wet button to my Midi keyboard. Now I can record the reverb’s wet automation by just using my hands to turn the knob and give it a human feel.
7. Experiment… a lot!
The cool thing about creating music in your own (home)studio: you are (probably) the only one hearing what you do. That means you don’t have to worry about trying something that might sound bad or weird. It also means that you can experiment as much as you want. Maybe that one particular sound you’re ashamed of in the beginning might sound awesome in the track later on. You’ll never know it, unless you try it! When I try a lot of different things I mostly end up with new inspiration as well.
8. Compare your track to others
When you’re in a flow and you’re creating a track you’re proud of, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to compare your track to other tracks you really like. Using this method gives you an insight in what could be improved in your own track or what’s missing. I am a big fan of the music of Joseph Capriati for example and I always admired the way how he made his tracks sound so full. That made me do a little research on his music and I noticed he always has a lot of things going on in the background which you only notice when you pay close attention to it. When these background sounds would disappear you’ll notice instantly and the track would sound less rich. I try to use a lot of these “not-instantly-noticeable” sounds in my tracks now as well.
Can you hear when the background sounds have been turned off in this example below? (Tracks used are ‘Shades’ and ‘Streetwalker’)
9. Finished your track? Now wait…
You worked on your track for a couple days/weeks/months and now it’s finally finished. Congratulations… and now you wait. What I always do after finishing a certain track is letting it rest for a couple days or weeks. When you listen to it again after some time, you’ll listen to it with fresh ears and you might notice something you haven’t notice before being so caught up in finishing this track. Do you feel like you need to change something? Good! Do it! Do you feel like you shouldn’t change a thing?
Good! Your track is probably good like this, but you gave yourself the chance to improve it! My next step is uploading it on Soundcloud and set it to private. I always sent it out to a couple of producers i know and ask for their feedback. This always helps me a lot as they listen the track for the first time and notice some things I can’t notice anymore.
10. Test your track everywhere
Once you finished your track, you might want to check it out in a couple of different ways. I always listen to my finished tracks first on my studio-monitors, than I listen to it on my headphones. I try to test it out in the car as well and on a bluetooth speaker. By testing it out on all these different speakers, you will know how your track sound on any occasion. You might notice something you want to change. After this, the best test is always at the club or a festival, as the track is meant to sound good on the dance floor.
Written by Mitch de Klein, Orginal Article Published @Mitchdeklein.com