Daniel Lesden Blog

Music, technologies, and human experience from a Russian music producer and A&R manager based in Israel.
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Track of the week: “Ground Tracer”

Here is another crossover between Psytrance and Techno worlds. Dalibor Delic and Nikola Kozic aka Ectima masterfully crafted percussions and hypnotic atmosphere in this track, I love it.

I also recommend checking out their entire album “The Clash Of Civilization” if you haven’t heard it yet, it’s totally badass. I’m sure we’ll see more of Ectima in this blog in the future.

Artist Ectima
Title Ground Tracer (Original Mix)
Release Ground Defense
Label 2010
Year TesseracTstudio

How to fit kick and bass together

Hi Daniel! This question is the biggest problem for me when producing psytrance music, how do I make my kick and bass fit together? I have a decent bassline but it really seems to go along the kick, I have used an entire kick sample pack and no one make sense together with the bass, is it the EQ, comp? The initial attack freq? This frustrates me a lot, hope u can help me :D

Alberto

First things first, make sure to use a proper kick sound in the first place whether it’s taken from a sample pack or you making your own sound from scratch. Psytrance sub-genres has very strict sub-standards on that matter, you can’t make a Progressive-Psy using a Goa Trance kick, neither make a Darkpsy using Full-on kick: they all have different transient, pitch, body, length, and overall character.

3 ways to make a kick drum

Compare these kicks, for example:

Another crucial thing to keep in the mixdown, or simply the volume balance of kick and bass relative to each other. Although bassline plays a very important role in any Psytrance track, kick drum is actually the loudest element. To be more specific, I would suggest setting your kick drum level at 2-3 dB higher than the bassline.

At last but not least, the EQ. Usually I gently cut the kick at the frequencies of the key bassline harmonics. Let’s say, we have a bassline in A, which means its harmonics would be at 55 Hz, 110 Hz, and 220 Hz (in 440-tunning). In this case, I would slightly cut these frequencies from the kick to give bassline a little bit more space in the mix, just –1-2 dB with a narrow bell-filter.

Psytrance bassline equalization

Sometimes I also use Ableton’s built-in Glue Compressor on the kick and bass group to slightly “glue” them together, but compressor is a tricky device that can easily ruin your sound, so I wouldn’t recommend doing that unless you know what exactly want to achieve with it.

That’s pretty much it. You can hear the outcome in my productions.

Fellow producers, how do you fit kick and bass together? Post your routine in the comments box below.

P.S. This post is a part of the weekly “Advice” series. I’m happy to advise on such topics as production, performance, management, marketing, and design in the music industry and beyond. Send me your questions, too.

Mar 22   Advice   Music production

Backstory series. Part 2

First local gigs as a DJ

Previously in the backstory series I wrote about the Psychedelic community I created, and today I’ll tell how it affected my career.

Let’s get back in 2006. Psyplanet became a quite large website and our team grew up to twelve members. As a community founder, I had to do a lot of coordination, negotiation, and all in all it gave me a huge experience.

Psyplanet helped me to know the scene inside-out: I knew pretty much every professional and enthusiast involved, such DJs, artists, promoters, agents deco designers, flyer designers, photographers, street teams. And to be fair, the Psytrance scene in Moscow was quite big at the time.

But it wasn’t just that. It also helped to build a trust. I didn’t have ambitions of being a professional DJ back then, but due to relationship with the party promoters, I played as a DJ too.

Flyers of the Psytrance party series in Rotonda Club, organized by Syntex Lab. The big flyer on the right is one of the first parties where I played as a DJ. It was July 6, 2006. See also Psytrance flyers 2005—2007

Here some are of the tunes I played at that time just for you to feel the mood:

For various reasons — mostly, financial — I had to shut the website down. Psyplanet didn’t make me rich, but it doesn’t matter because it gave much more than that — a priceless experience, networking, and industry insights from which I learnt a lot from.

Advice: playing local gigs is a good way to start a career, but don’t just come to promoters saying “Hey, I’m a DJ, do you want me to play at your party?” because the answer is most certainly will be no. Go to their parties a few times first, find out who is the main person in charge for artists, have a little chat. Ask if they need some help, perhaps volunteers or a street team to promote an upcoming event. Slowly but surely, you build a trust. And now compare it to that random guy who came up and said “Hey, I’m a DJ”, — who do you think have more chances to be a warm-up DJ at the next event? The answer is clear.

Bonus reading: The importance of proper opening DJs

Marketing by sharing

A technique of creating a captivating audience by sharing your knowledge and teaching other people about your domain

Jason Fried, the co-founder of Basecamp (formerly known as 37signals), is the advocate of marketing by sharing. Photo © Intercom

Hi Daniel. I’m learning audio engineering and I would like to offer mastering services. My question may sound odd for your blog, but how to get clients? Maybe you have some advice from the producer’s perspective and your experience in social media and all? How do you find mastering engineers as an artist? Is it worth setting up a Facebook ad campaign or Google AdWords?

Edward Hansen

Edward, I believe there is a better way of getting clients than advertisement — by sharing your knowledge and creating an audience. Tell other people about what you doing, teach them, show your expertise. I know there are some people thinking that others might steal your ideas if you share them, but it’s a paranoid, defensive way of thinking.

I would like to quote Jason Fried’s talk at The Chicago Convergence in 2008 because I couldn’t say any better:

“I think this [marketing by sharing] is especially relevant for small business and especially in creative industry because it’s really expensive and difficult to break out: there is a ton of small design shops, there is a ton of video shops. And how do you get known, how do people find out who you are? Of course you can hire a PR firm but it’s a waste of money and I wouldn’t do that, you can advertise somewhere but I don’t think it’ll work either because it’s hard to advertise design to kind of right people and it’s expensive. You can try some more traditional marketing ideas but I don’t think those generally work either.

What I think you should be doing is thinking about how can you teach people about your domain. If you are a web designer, for example, you can teach people about what it’s like to be a web designer, about CSS, HTML, what it’s like to land a client, you can talk about what it’s like to prepare a proposal or respond to an RFP. And these the things you can do on your website.

So, when you start sharing and start teaching other people, the great thing about it is all of a sudden you create an audience, which is a kind of a secret weapon when it comes to promoting your business. If you don’t have an audience, you have to constantly spend money to tell more and more people about your service, and after they buy something they go away and they don’t coming back until they want something else. But when you build an audience, when you generate a useful content, people keep coming back to you every day for more information. Eventually, when they’re ready to sign up or they need a web designer or whatever you do, they will have you in mind because they been coming back to you every day. And that’s a really effective way of reaching people without spending a lot of money.

Or, let’s say, you a writer. A freelance writer, or a journalist, or someone like that who needs to find more gigs and looking for more people to hire them. You should be talking about what it’s like to be a writer on your site. Most sites simply have a ‘Portfolio’, ‘About us’, and ‘Contact us’ page and that’s pretty much it, but you should have a section where you share drafts that were rejected, words that you left out. You should share one sentence you’re working on, share all different iterations and talk about why you left this one out, why you change these words, why you transpose these two words, what’s difference between final version comparing to the initial one. You need to share this process because people who read this are gonna go like: ‘This guy knows his shit. He cares enough about the words, he cares enough how words sound and structured to share with me the process he went through’. And that mean a whole lot more than someone who simply shares a series or essays or articles they’ve written. That’s how you begin to build your audience.”

The best thing about this technique is it can be used for pretty much any small businesses or services, even in music industry. I highly suggest watching the full video above whether you are a songwriter, a mastering engineer, a film score producer, a journalist, a label owner, a visual artist and so on.

Read also:

P.S. This post is a part of the weekly “Advice” series. I’m happy to advise on such topics as production, performance, management, marketing, and design in the music industry and beyond. Send me your questions, too.

Mar 15   Advice   Marketing

Track of the week: “Zlow”

This track is weird. It doesn’t sound like a typical Progressive Psy and even sound a little bit “dirty”, and strangely enough, this is probably what attracted my ears when I heard it for the first time. That YouTube video is just a 3-minutes long preview, be sure to check out the full-length version.

Artist Duotekk
Title Zlow (Original Mix)
Label TIP Records
Year 2011

Listen also this track in my mix on Sunlife FM.

Time traveller’s archive — 13

Some stuff to read (and watch) on the weekend.

Eduardo Briceño talk at TEDx Manhattan Beach

  1. Eduardo Briceño: How to get better at the things you care about. I like how Eduardo separate activity between learning and performing, and funny enough, I’ve been using pretty much the same technique for quite some time. “Research shows that after the first couple of years working in a profession, performance usually plateaus. This has been shown to be true in teaching, general medicine, nursing and other fields, and it happens because once we think we have become good enough, adequate, then we stop spending time in the learning zone. We focus all our time on just doing our job, performing, which turns out not to be a great way to improve. But the people who continue to spend time in the learning zone do continue to always improve. The best salespeople at least once a week do activities with the goal of improvement. They read to extend their knowledge, consult with colleagues or domain experts, try out new strategies, solicit feedback and reflect. The best chess players spend a lot of time not playing games of chess, which would be their performance zone, but trying to predict the moves grand masters made and analyzing them. Each of us has probably spent many, many, many hours typing on a computer without getting faster, but if we spent 10 to 20 minutes each day fully concentrating on typing 10 to 20 percent faster than our current reliable speed, we would get faster, especially if we also identified what mistakes we’re making and practiced typing those words. That’s deliberate practice.”
  2. Research this music industry. Great blog, as always from John 00 Fleming. It’s posted in 2013 but its value hasn’t become any less since then: “Also look into the mechanics of how this industry works, many will have a track released and expect the label to get them bookings? The job of a label is to get your track (and name) marketed making sure it gets to the right DJ’s, into the right shops for sale, air play on radio shows and online and in magazines. Labels don’t have databases full of promoters and club owners, they have no need? The gig side of things falls to agents, its two completely different businesses that many think are one. A good label with assist an agent due to the marketing they provide, it makes the agent’s job easier to get gigs due to the exposure the label is giving the artist. ”
  3. Native Instruments: Making strummed acoustic 2. If you ever wondered how those guitar samples that you probably have in your library has been made of, this is gonna be interesting reading for you: “For the recording sessions, we teamed up with three different guitarists – each brought a fresh perspective and lots of great input. We focused on staying in the creative spirit as we wanted every recording to have the feel of a real take on a real track. So we would always warm up with a jam, and instead of recording to clicktrack, we used various drum tracks to help the guitarists perform each pattern with a distinct attitude. It makes sense that the more musicality goes into the recordings, the more comes out in the final product. Recording lasted around 6 months.”

“Should I quit job?”

Hi Daniel, I inspired a lot by many music producers and thinking to start a music career too, but my day-job is holding me back. Should I quit? I have some savings which would allow me to sustain life for a bit, not much but I guess half a year or so. Do you think it’ll be enough to make an album and make some progression?

Adam K.

“I’ll quit the job and will be free! I could make an album and quickly become a successful artist!”... No.

Adam, the short answer would be “no”, you shouldn’t quit your day-job just for sake of starting a music career unless you have some other source of income to pay your bills. And here is why.

I don’t know whether you already have some experience in music production or not, but I’ll assume you don’t. In this case, you’ll have to spend at least two-three years just learning the basics and getting your skills to a decent quality level. I spoke to dozens of producers and for none of them the learning process was fast. Even if you see some new name with great music appearing out of the blue, it always turns out he or she had years of music background prior to that release.

Another thing you have to keep in mind is that income in the music industry may be very indirect and not always match your expectations. Music sales give pennies, and it might take years before you’ll start touring on a regular basis. Just like in any business or entrepreneurship, you have to invest both time and money first and there is always a risk to never return it back.

The truth about music sales

At last but not least, what are going to do with the free time? You see, there is a catch: the more of something we have, the less we appreciate it. There are some wisdom phrase for that, I don’t remember exactly but it’s something like this: “If you want something to get done, give to the busiest person”. The truth is you probably don’t need 12 hours a day to make it, because if you do have all days long available for doing something, at some point you’ll find yourself sitting on the couch watching the fifth season of “Lost”.

Re-energizing for music production after 9-6 work

What you need, however, is to be consistent. Be sure to learn stuff, to make small but frequent steps. And while you still have a day-job to back you up financially, keep music production as a hobby.

John 00 Fleming recent Q&A where, in particular, he also advised to treat music as a hobby

P.S. This post is a part of the weekly “Advice” series. I’m happy to advise on such topics as production, performance, management, marketing, and design in the music industry and beyond. Send me your questions, too.

Mar 8   Advice   Career

Backstory series. Part 1

Psyplanet, the Russian Psychedelic community

I remember back in the days when I was a teenager deeply passioned about music, I was always wondering how did artists reach out their milestones, such as the first local gig, the first international gig, the first studio album etc. That curious and passionate music lover guy still lives inside me, but now being also a music producer I have experienced all these milestones myself.

So, I decided to write a kind of “backstory series” with behind the scenes of my past career goals and how I managed to achieve them, and with some career advice along the way.

***

To really understand where I coming from, I have to begin my story with the Psychedelic community I created almost 13 years ago, which probably not many of my nowadays’ followers know about.

The year of 2004. At the time I just graduated the high school and, as most teenagers, I was thinking what should I do next. After some time, I came up to learning HTML and CSS and building a website. I was one of the few lucky ones who got the very first PC earlier around 1999, so learning the web and these languages in particular came naturally to me.

So, armed with the “HTML for noobs” book I started making my own website. I never hesitated what the website should be all about, because the answer was clear — about Psychedelic culture, of course! At the raves I was one those guys with white gloves and fluorescent clothes, so making a website about Psytrance was also naturally to me.

Slowly but surely, in 2005 I launched “Psyplanet”, the Russian Psychedelic trance community. We had a forum board, events announcements, party photos, artist profiles, free download music (oops!) and more goodies. Quickly it became one of the leading Psytrance websites in Russia.

Keep in mind the Internet was very different from today’s, it was a time before Facebook opened registrations and before Steve Jobs introduced the very first iPhone.

Here are some of the screenshots I found on my disk:

Psyplanet.ru final look before it was shut down in 2008

Advice: when thinking of what you suppose to do in your life, always trust your gut instinct, no matter what is currently trending or what your parents say. Doing what love to do is always pays off.

In the next instalment, I’ll tell how Psyplanet affected on my career.

Track of the week: “Human Being”

Drasko Radovanovic make fantastic tracks under his alias Relativ, they have those melodic components of the Full-on music from the mid-2000’s which I like a lot, but at the same time wrapped in a modern arrangement with a top-notch quality.

It’s safe to say I like every single track of Relativ, this is just one of his recent works. I would highly recommend more of this productions.

Artist Relativ
Title Human Being (Original Mix)
Label Digital Om Productions
Year 2016

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