87 posts tagged

Advice

Weekly knowledge exchange. Send your questions here: daniellesden.com/advice

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

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

“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

“Is it worth releasing on a compilation?”

Do you think it’s worth to sign a track on a compilation? I’ve got a message from one particular label that interesting in signing me up, they said they’ll do the mastering and stuff but I’m not sure whether I want it in the first place because that compilation seems to be a multi-genre medley. Perhaps you have some experience releasing on compilations?

Radio Dynamica

To answer this question, you have to make a research to see what kind of compilation it is because not all compilations are equally good.

Due to my nature, I often organise things by categories, so I came up with three tiers of compilations.

“Shitty” compilations

“Techno Trance 2014 – 30 Top Best Of Hits, Acid, House, Rave Music, Electro Goa Hard Dance, Psytrance” by EDM Records; “Space Trance Vol. 2 State of Universe, an Ultimate Voyage into Electro Trance” by GR8 Trance Music

The first and probably the most common compilation type I call “shitty compilations”, as you guess the name is self-explanatory. You can easily identify a compilation from this category by its terribly bad cover artworks and the titles like “100 Top Best Future EDM Psytrance Hits”.

The only reason why such compilations exist is because their labels want to make money. Artists, decency, and reputation are not the things they care about.

“Recycling” compilations

“Goa Culture Vol. 34” by Yellow Sunshine Explosion; “Universal Frequencies Vol. 2” by Digital Om Productions

These compilations usually curated by the label’s DJs, and basically they recycling tracks from the previously released albums and singles. Don’t get me wrong: recycling is a good thing. It gives listeners an opportunity to catch up some tracks they probably missed, and also gives some extra income and exposure to the label and the artists.

As you can see, these compilations typically has much better visual look as well. They also often hit the top charts because over time they’ve built a reputation of a quality content provider.

“Featured showcase” compilations

“JOOF Editions Vol. 3” by JOOF Recordings, “Full On Fluoro Vol.1” by Perfecto Fluoro

Featured compilations are long-awaited releases that showcase the label where it currently stands and where it heading to. The tracks selection is picked very carefully, sometimes artists make new track specifically to get into tracklistings so the compilation often includes previously unreleased works.

Typically, such compilations generate a solid buzz in social media and press and also hit the top charts. That’s the reason why most artists want to be featured on a compilation like that, but not everyone can get there.

***

I want to say it again, do your research first, see what kind of compilation is it, check the label and their previous releases. Is it a credible name? What other artists are released there? Otherwise you may end up on a compilation from the first category which would give nothing but a bad reputation. Or, perhaps, you should make a solo release instead?

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 1   Advice   Music industry

Feedback for “Vibrations” by MKZ

Hello Daniel, my name is Adrian and I’m from Argentina. I started producing Psychedelic music about 3 years ago. I would like you listen to my track and get some advice and your opinion about my track based on you knowledge. Sorry for my English :) thanks for your time and hope you like it :)

Adrian

Adrian, I have to say this is a fantastic track I enjoyed a lot, reminds me of the good old days of Full-on Psytrance and also gives slightly reminiscent of Electric Universe. Well done! I have just a few comments.

First and foremost, the track progressed in a very strange way, sometimes by eight bars and sometimes by twenty. I can’t stress enough that most electronic music should progress by 16-bars sections, otherwise you not only make it weird but also make DJs job much harder. I’ve written about it earlier in the “Criteria of professional production” mini-series, make sure to check it out.

Criteria of professional production. Part 3. DJ-friendly arrangement

Extra four measurements at 49—53 Bars (highlighted in red) messes up the structure of the track

Now, maybe it’s just me, but I have a feeling that the kick and the bass are not quite in sync. You know, It’s like when you mix two tracks on CDJs and the beat is mismatched just a little so you hear those phassy high-end clicks? It’s like the bassline is somehow rushing (or dragging? :-).

Are you rushing or are you dragging? scene from “Whiplash” (2014)

Perhaps, you have some processing plugins causing latency of the channel? If that’s the case, I would suggest either using phase alignment plugin like Voxengo PHA-979 or manually adjust the individual track delay.

I also think that the mix can be improved. At the moment it seems like you’re trying to push everything at the front, as the result making all elements compete with each other rather than support and create several layers of depth. You can hear it especially at 2:18—2:45 minute.

Other than that, with some more effort it can be a really nice track. Keep ‘em coming!

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.

What should I post on social media as a music producer

What should I post on social media? Do you have any ideas? I’m also trying to find someone who can help me with posts.

From the previous question of Timothy

Bedroom producers be like: “Ok so it’s Wednesday, let’s see what I can post on Facebook today”. Illustration by Alexander Nanitchkov

Before answering these questions, I’d like to make one thing clear first.

There is no one ultimate winning strategy for social media content that would work for everyone. Some people engage their audience by posting funny pictures, others prefer to make it strictly business.

Whatever way you choose, I suggest being genuine. I know words like “be yourself” sound cheesy, but once you accept where you currently are it’ll be much easier than pretending to be someone’s else. Music producers are different from corporate companies in a way that our communication is much more personal. Behind every alias and track is a real human being, and people feel that too.

Nevertheless, I know where this problem comes from. Look at any successful artist’s social feed and most of the time you’ll see either his upcoming gig announcement or photos and videos from the past gigs. But what if you don’t have twenty gigs a month yet? And obviously you can’t upload a new track every week either, so “I don’t know what to post on social” can be a real issue.

Well, here are some ideas for you. Keep in mind this is not an instruction but rather general categories of a content that you could possibly post as a bedroom producer:

Making-of’s Show what you currently working on or tell how some of your previous works were made of. It always goes nicely, especially with the videos.
Studio Demonstrate your workplace, gear, and tools you use. I find that this type of content attracts both listeners and producers.
Mentions Did some credible DJ played your track? Have your track climbed at the top chart? Did you give an interview? Tell about it.
Share Shout-outs to the other producers you enjoy. Share their music, give them a credit, tell why you like that particular track or song.
Trivia Some episodes of your daily life. Remember that something that seems ordinary to you as a producer might be interesting from the fan’s perspective.
News Official announcement such as signing on a record label, release dates, new track’s preview; milestones in your career.
Hashtags Share content on specific day of the week with a trendy hashtags, like #ThrowBackThursday or #FridayFunday.

But you can go further and create your own sort of series of content. For example, I host a monthly radio show, run a weekly advice blog, and plus occasionally share “Track of the week”, “Weekend readings” and other blogs. It helps to fill the gap between releases as so I always have some content to share. And people know that too so they have a reason to keep an eye on my updates.

Here are some of my posts just to give an example:

As for you trying to find someone who could post on your behalf, read the advice on artist’s manager if you haven’t yet because it’s a quite similar story. If you have no idea what to post on Facebook, how do you think someone else would know it unless you expect some generic phrases and producer’s memes? It might be a good idea to put social media management on someone’s else shoulders later, but I wouldn’t recommend doing that in the beginning because that’s how the learning curve goes, you have to get that experience from the first hand before hiring someone.

I also highly suggest checking out my experience of managing social media using Amplir. If you have the right tools and know how to use them, turns out, managing social media isn’t that hard and time-consuming. In fact, you can have several active social accounts just by spending hour a week if you work efficiently, so time is no excuse even for busiest persons.

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.

Feb 15   Advice   Facebook   Marketing   Social media

Feedback for “H N Y” by Myrtillus

First of all thank you very much for your awesome site, I have to confess this is somewhat gold, thank you very much for you availability and expertise sharing in the scene with such an open mind.

I have been persuing passionately the psytrance production for some time, and it is clear you are very passionate about your work as an artist.

Recently I have managed to finally achieve a track with which I am comfortable to share and ask for feedback and I think you are the best person to whom I can ask for that advice. Please, tell me your point of view.

Myrtillus

Myrtillus, this track has some nice melodies but overall it doesn’t hold up as a whole. The structure is very weird too: it seems like throughout the track you turning on and off different layers with no particular reason.

Let’s take a listen and look closely what happens at the first two minutes:

Bars Time What happens
33—41 0:56—1:10 Kick, bass, and textures
41—49 1:10—1:24 Snare drums added
49—50 1:24—1:26 Short break
50—57 1:26—1:38 Snare drums removed, hi-hats added
57—65 1:38—1:52 Drum loop added
65—66 1:52—1:54 Short break
66—68 1:54—1:58 Just a kick, bass, and textures again
68—73 1:58—2:06 Hi-hats added
57—65 2:06—2:20 Drum loop added

Different elements turning on and off

What’s wrong with this? Well, it’s bad for two reasons.

From the listener’s perspective, this track sounds like you just playing around with various loops turning them on and off randomly. There is no development, no storyline, it just goes nowhere.

From the technical point of view, all electronic dance music progresses by 16-bars sections. You can’t just add a new instrument layer at a 7th Bar or make a 23-Bars-long breakdown, it breaks the entire structure of the track. I’ve written the advice on how to make a proper arrangement, make sure to read it.

Criteria of professional production. Part 3: DJ-friendly arrangement

Also, maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like the track tempo isn’t a whole number. To make the track goes along with the metronome, I had to warp it at 136.50 BPM. Is that the case? If so, that’s a total nightmare for DJs, please don’t do that :-) Just remember: always use whole numbers in tempo, 135, 136, 137 BPM... whatever, but with no decimals.

There are more issues in the track, but at first I’d suggest learning more about arrangement, structure, the “flow” of the track. And the best way to it is to listen to more music around, put some reference track and try to recreate its structure, the same way like painting artists learn by copying other artists’ masterpieces.

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.

The importance of building a fan base

Or why you should have a solid online presence and be active in social media

I had this conversation in Telegram with Timothy recently, we’ve talked about his upcoming EP, the buzz that he’s hoping to get, and his social media that clearly has a lack of activity. In this blog, I would like to emphasise the last one because it’s one of the key components that glue everything together.

Many young producers think that once you get signed on a decent label and your track is out on Beatport, it somehow creates enough buzz allowing you to get an audience. And it’s true at some point, however, this is only one part of the larger mechanism that doesn’t work alone.

In today’s world, music is a marketing tool that helps to reach career goals. I don’t know your career goal Tim, so I’ll assume it is having international gigs. Now let’s try to put yourself in the shoes of a potential party promoter that would like to book you.

The truth about music sales

Let’s say, a promoter is listening to your track on Beatport and think: “Wow, great music! I want to find out more about this guy”. The next obvious step is to search your alias in Google hoping to find your website, social profiles, and any mentions. So he googles “Tim Bourne” and sees this:

To see how search results would appear on someone’s else computer, use “Private window” or “Incognito mode” in your browser

None of the top search results is relevant to you, and that kind of sucks. There is only one useful link at the bottom of the first page, your SoundCloud profile with just a hundred followers, which again doesn’t have any externals links to your networks.

But let’s assume that our potential promoter won’t give up on this and he hunts your name within the Facebook search. Okay, your official artist page, he found in. Then he scrolls down the page to see your recent posts. And turns out, you had just four posts last year. Four!

If I would be that promoter, I’d think you either quit the career or you just one of those producers who simply make music “just for fun”. And that’s it, your potential lead is lost.

Moral of this story: as a music producer especially whose goals are international gigs, you have to build a solid online presence. It is your duty to build a fan base. And by that I don’t mean posting on Facebook all days long, but you have to provide your audience some web space, some connection point whether it’s be a website, blog, or social media.

Online presence management, Wikipedia

Even if you locked yourself in the studio to work on the best track you ever made, tell about it, share it, give other people a reason to care. Otherwise it’s a path leading to the dark side: no public activity → no audience growth → no gigs → disappointment and quitting. I’ve been a witness how producers with absolutely fantastic music quit their career because of this, Anton Chernikov, Cosmithex, Whirloop are just to name a few.

On a contrast, look at successful artists’ social accounts, they share pictures, blogs, and status updates daily (or at least few times a week) because they know it’s an important part of their work too. Don’t be confused, such activity on social media is not done for an entertaining purpose. By sharing you give people a reason to care, you build a relationship and that naturally helps your name spreading.

As for your questions on what should you post (and whether it’s worth to find a person who would help you with this), let’s talk about it next time.

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.

Feb 1   Advice   Marketing   Social media

Beat Repeat MIDI-mapping

Hi Daniel, as far as I’m aware you are using Xone K2 controller. How did you control Beat Repeat when played a set at PDJ TV (at 0:37 sec)? It seems that you turning on and controlling the repeat value by a single rotary knob, but I can’t figure out how to map it that way.

Neil Paterson

Well spotted, Neil! Yes, I use Allen & Heath Xone:K2 in my current setup, and I trigger Beat Repeat and controlling its value with a single knob.

Effects like reverb or delay typically have a Dry/Wet parameter, so it’s easy to adjust the desired amount of parameter and the rotary knobs of Xone K2 are perfect for this. But Beat Repeat is different, and basically you have to map two separate parameters: turning the device “on” and “off” and the repeat value. And this is very clumsy when playing a set.

Beat Repeat default parameters

The trick is to make some starting point where nothing happens whilst the device is “on”. It can be achieved in few different ways, you can just set the same parameters as I do:

  • Interval to 1/4
  • Grid to 1/6
  • Gate to 4/16
  • Turn on “No Trpl” button

You see, since we turned on the “no triplets” button and set the initial grid position to 1/6, nothing really happens. it means we can map this as a maximum left position of the knob to emulate the “off” state.

Beat Repeat trick

Half work is done, now we have to make a proper mapping. By default, when you map the Grid parameter, it sets 1/256 as a minimum value (left position of the knob) and 1 Bar as a maximum (right position of the knob). Obviously, we don’t need that.

First, you need to do the right-click choose “Invert Range” because we want our knob to control the grid in the opposite way. And now set the minimum value for 1/6 as this is Beat Repeat initial state as described above. I also suggest limiting the maximum at around 1/48 because 1/256 is way too extreme.

Mapping the Grid parameter with inverted range.

That’s it — this is exactly what I used during the set at PDJ TV.

But we can go further and bring this effect into a level by adding an extra EQ that would cut the low frequencies along with the intensity of the Beat Repeat. Here’s how to do it.

Add EQ Eight with a low-cut filter after the Beat Repeat and group them into a new Effect Rack (Select both → ⌘+G). Now do the right-click on the Grid and select “Map to Macro 1”, and then do the same for the EQ’s filter frequency:

Mapping both parameters into a single macro knob

Now open macro mapping tab by clicking on the “Map” button and set a maximum value for the filter frequency at around 1000 Hz. It doesn’t have to be precise, but I suggest limiting the frequency that way otherwise the signal will be completely filtered.

And here is a tiny video I’ve recorded (excuse the shaking camera and the editing, I’m not a pro on making videos). You don’t need to do this effect that often obviously, this is just for the demonstration purpose:

Track playing on the video: Daniel Lesden – Ignition (Waveform Remix).

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.

Jan 25   Ableton   Advice   DJing and performance

Feedback for “Renaissance” by Euphoria

Hello Daniel, my name is George and I deal with music production the last 2,5-3 years. The DAW that I use is Ableton. It would be my pleasure if you hear a track that I have in process and tell me how it sounds based on my knowledge and your experience of course. I really hope to enjoy it.

George

Track overview in Ableton

George, this is a very weak work. I like how the bass and the high hats sound like, and that’s probably it.

The biggest flaws in your track are detuned samples. While the bassline is in Dm, some of the samples I hear are in G and other tones, producing those musically unpleasant moments.

I suggest tuning all your samples to Dm to match the bassline: plucks, synths, background effects. I’ve written about tuning earlier, be sure to check out that advice.

How to tune samples harmonically

Maybe I am wrong, but it looks like you just put a bunch of samples and synth presets together without particular meaning. For example, that acid riff at 2:18 and 4:09 — is it supposed to be the main theme? If so, why did you put it in the middle, where is anticipation?

Or that arp melody at 0:01—0:20, why it doesn’t appear anywhere on the track after the intro? What was the point of putting it there? You see, that kind of randomness I’m talking about.

And speaking about that arp in the intro, it seems that all of you, Zyce, and Flegma have used the same sample from the same sample pack, which is not cool. There is nothing wrong is using samples, but at least use it wisely — tweak and change it, otherwise you end up like a clone.

Attack of the clones

I suggest thinking what you’re trying to achieve first, what story do want to tell your listeners. And only then make the track accordingly. Take a read to my album behind the scenes to get an idea what I mean by that.

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.

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