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Facebook is my main news hub where I share upcoming releases, gigs, photos, videos, and blogs. Typically, I post 3–5 times a week.

Telegram and Twitter duplicate what I post on Facebook, with occasional extra content.

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Advice

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 at daniellesden.com/advice/ask

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Making a robotic texture sound in Spire

Could you explain how you got to producing that arp on Machinery (Preview) at 0:02 sec?

Mohammed Sharook

I’m glad you asked because I love that sound and quite satisfied with it :-)

In few words — it’s all about a comb filter. That particular filter type is what make the sound so badass and “robotic”. But let’s try to recreate this sound entirely from scratch.

Comb filter

First things first, we need to use a synthesiser that has a comb filter. For instance, Sylenth1 which I know many Psytrance producers use a lot, won’t work in this case since it doesn’t have that filter. So, for this example I’m gonna use Spire.

Recommended synths

Let’s create a new MIDI channel, put a new instance of Spire with initial preset, and draw a MIDI note. Keep in mind that actual note on a piano roll doesn’t matter because we gonna use noise as a waveform which obviously doesn’t have a tone.

Picture1. A new instance of Spire synthesiser with init preset

Now let’s do some tweaks. In the oscillator section, change Classic mode which is set by default to Noise. Right next to it, turn off oscillator key tracking and turn the Wide knob all way to the right.

By default, Envelope-3 in Spire is mapped to a filter cutoff. We don’t need it here, so set it to “Off”. Here is what we’ve got so far:

Picture 2. A simple noise with no envelopes

Nothing fancy so far, just a basic noise sound. Now, turn on the arpeggiator at 1/16 notes to add some rhythm. Map Envelope-1 section to the filter resonance and crank up its amount to a maximum position, and also slightly adjust the Release parameter for 15~20% of its total volume.

Now comes the most interesting part: in the filter section which is off by default, choose the combo (Mono+) filter type. You should notice a pretty dramatic change as soon as you done it. What’s interesting about this filter is that its cutoff frequency determines the actual tone of the sound. For example, at cutoff about 235~240 (Spire’s value, not Herz), we get the sound at G# — that’s the root key of Machinery since you asked about that track:

Picture 3. Arpeggiator, comb filter, and filter envelopes

That’s pretty much the basics. Now you can add EQs, compression, delays, reverb, more filters, play around with arp gate parameter, and more. With this in mind, you should be able to make something like this:

Or add any twist to this sound, as you like. I hope it helps.

2017   Advice   Music production   Sound design

“Should I post in every social media?”

As a music producer, should I post on every social media? Is it worth posting the same content on different social channels? Should I treat them differently? How frequently to post?

Mike L.

I used to think that as many social websites you use as better. Several years ago I would say “yes”, you need to be on Facebook, Twitter, Vk, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Telegram, Snapchat, Viber, YouTube, Vimeo, HearThis, ReverbNation, Google+... did I forget to mention anything?

Now, I’m saying this: you should to be only on those social websites at which you certain you can handle it at 100%. And by that I mean constantly posting and working with the audience — not just once in three months when your new EP is out, but daily or at least weekly. Consistency is the key here.

Let’s say, could you post on Snapchat few times a day, every day, without sacrificing your other duties? If the answer is “no”, you probably shouldn’t even start then. Remember that semi-alive public pages are even worse than their absence.

The importance of building a fan base

From my experience, here is what different social channels best for:

Social media Best for How frequent
Facebook Central hub for your social presence 3-5 times a week
Twitter Mentions and interactions with other artists and fans 1-3 times a day
Instagram Studio, travel, and behind the scenes pictures 4-7 times a week
Snapchat Daily life, mostly for a younger demographic 1-3 times a day
Telegram Quick news for mobile users 2-4 times a week
Vk Russian-speaking audience from Russia and CIS 3-7 times a week

If you just started building your web presence in social media, I’d suggest starting off with two: Facebook and Twitter. This is essentials. The rest depends on your time, your audience demography, and your creativity.

If you still have any question, feel free to drop a line in the comment box below.

Read also: my experience of managing social media with Amplifr

2017   Advice   Marketing   Social media

“Can a label own the masters based on an email conversation?”

Hey there! I landed on your nice blog and started reading. I’m grateful I found some nice pieces of advices! I bother you a bit more, hoping you can help me – that would be so much appreciated if you have some time to give me your opinion. Here’s our story:

I work as an A&R for a new label. We signed in February of this year an artist, with proper contract. The contract transfers us the rights for a vinyl EP. Let’s say, that on this EP the strongest track is called “Karr”. Now we were ready/going into test-pressing on last Tuesday morning. But had to stop it all. Why?

Because a few hours sooner a big known label in the Techno industry *outed* a post on their Facebook page, promoting a digital V.A. in which we were stunned to see OUR main title track of EP being listed as one of the V.A. tracks.

It appears that ‘our artist’ had been in touch with that label during 2015-2016 and had discussed a possible release for 2016. Which never took place. Basically, that label has remained sitten (sleeping on that track they now outed) for two years.

Without any renewed expressed interest after December 2016, four months later and without warning, they sent the masters to our artist per email six days ago! Thing is, neither the artist neither us never planned that previous label would have the balls to do such! That’s crazy!

We immediately emailed that label, stating the artist had signed with us. Their defense line is the following. They state they own the masters because of the fact they had previous exchange of emails (that can be indeed be seen as a kind of an agreement), but they were discussing a release for 2016. Again: never took place in two years.

My question is: can a label state ownership over the masters, basing themselves on fact they had received the pre-master (-6db Etc.) and that, *this*, is considered as “transferring” the copyrights? In my knowledge, that agreement would only be valid on the discussed year (2016!) and not after that. Are they allowed to ‘further’ exploit a file, never saying anything in four months? Just sending it over “mastered” and boom! Six days later they post and promote it?? Not asking for any renewed consent of the artist? (poor dude, he almost did a heart attack.. as he was super happy to work with us.. )

We really care for that artist and the all situation seems clearly abusive. but it’s a big, big label.

We suggested they replace the file and keep the ‘Name’ as it’s only in pre-order on their bandcamp page (for now, will be released on 26th of April). We thought showing them we were okay to try limit the hurt to their image (cuz that’s what they fear – such a big label doesn’t want to be ‘in fault’ publicly. so they don’t want to retire the track.. first people could push play, now this morning i just noticed we can’t anymore.. good sign for us?)

What do you think? We have no money to afford a lawyer, so all we have is state our points and tell them that we think no label can say that they own a track indefinitely (time) if NO contract.. and if NO release in the planned period – in what they state is their “agreement” (exchanged emails...) right? I mean – if so, means that every pre-master we get ONCE = would bind an artist to a label lifelong? WTF?

Sam

Sam, thanks for sharing your story. I’m not a lawyer nor an expert in this field, so before taking any legal actions I suggest consulting with one.

As far as I know, the fact an artist sending a demo saying “I would like to release it on your label” does not allow the label to actually release it. It’s basically just a letter of intent indicating an interest of one party in the deal, but not the final agreement.

Typically, most contracts work this way: “everything that not clearly specified in the contract is not allowed”. This is why we see 20-paper contracts specifying every tiny and obvious detail. A notarized email conversation could have a legal power, but all terms of the deal have to be written very precisely. So unless your artist and that big label specifically discussed having a release on a compilation, I don’t think they had rights doing so.

Don’t start a lawsuit: it might be a long, exhausting, and expensive process with a unpredicted result. And if your and that big label are registered as legal entities in different countries, that means you would need an international court which makes things even more complicated and expensive. It’s just not worth it.

I would suggest trying to solve this situation peacefully. Ask them politely to pull-off the compilation from the stores or to remove that track individually. We at JOOF had to shut down a release once too, so I know for the fact it is possible. Your argument is simple: you have the contract signed by that artist, they don’t.

If for some reason they won’t agree on shutting down the release, ask them to deal a sub-licensing contract. In other words, to pay you and the artist a fixed amount of money in exchange for allowing them to release that track legally. This is a standard deal in the industry.

“Label re-released a track without my consent” 

As a measure of last resort, at least tell people the truth. Share this story (with the real names) in public. This probably won’t change anything, but it’ll bring some justice.

I’m keen to know what other label managers and artists think about it?

2017   Advice   Music industry

Using reverb and delay: send-return vs. insert

I have a question about reverb and delays. In Psytrance, a lot of the atmosphere of a track is created with reverb and delays. Can you give some advice on using these effects and answer some specific questions?

Which devices do you use with what settings, do you use them on a send or on each channel, do you ever use reverb on kick or bass, do you ever use reverb on the master, any other tricks or general advice?

Hamish Strachan

I like to think of an effect, whether it’s a reverb or a delay, by its purpose. I ask myself: “What I am trying to achieve with this particular device?”. And with this in mind, I came up with two sorts of categories: general and creative effects.

The general effect is an effect basically used for mixing, you know, to put instruments into the proper space. Typically, I used built-in Ableton devices for this kind of reverb and delays because there is nothing really fancy about it, you can use pretty much any device or plugin for this purpose.

For general effects, I want all instruments to share the same settings. For example, if a bongo’s delay repeated every 3/16th notes, then a crash cymbal must be repeated on 3/16th as well. This is why I prefer to use this kind of effects via Send-Return channels: it gives more consistent mixdown, it’s easier to tweak some settings if needed, and it also saves CPU usage quite a bit.

I can’t recommend you specific settings simply because there is no one ultimate preset that works every time. I’d like to give one little tip, though, because I see many upcoming producers do this mistake: when adding a device on a Return channel, be sure to turn the Dry/Wet knob all way up to the 100% Wet, and then adjust the needed amount of effect via Sends knobs, not vice versa.

My typical Return channels are: a simple delay, short reverb, and medium reverb (coloured in green)

The creative effect is where all crazy things come in: special effects like a huge reverb tail with a sidechain compression on it panned across the stereo field. That kind of things. Check my advice on creating atmospheric effects because this is exactly the type of processing I’m talking about.

Since this kind of effect is unique for every instrument or an SFX I do, I add those reverb and delay right on top of the channel and then Freeze it. I like to use Native Instrument’s Replika for that because it has some creative features that Ableton built-in devices don’t. See also my recommended processing plugins list.

As for the other two questions. No, I typically don’t use a reverb on kick-and-bass because it would put them further in the background while should be the opposite, at least in Psytrance music. And putting a reverb on the master channel would put pretty much everything on the background, so no, I don’t think you want this either :-) Probably someday I’ll write about mixing basics to give a better understand of that concept.

The only case when I do use reverb or delay on the kick-and-bass group, occasionally, is for creative purpose as a special effect. For example, like here in “Pangea Proxima”:

Fellow producers, how do you treat reverb and delay?

2017   Advice   Music production

Capturing audio on macOS

Hey Daniel, thanks for your great blog! Quick question: how do you capture internal audio, let’s say some streaming in the browser or a dialogue in a film? I’m running macOS Sierra.

Anton

Anton, in order to capture internal audio, you need to change signal routing using a special tool. There are quite a lot of such tools out there, but among the others, I’d recommend checking out “Soundflower” — it’s a free, open-source, and tiny system extension.

Soundflower by Matt Ingalls on GitHub

Once installed, go to System Preferences → Sound → Output, and choose Soundflower (2ch):

System preferences

Now all you need is any audio recording software, whether it’s your DAW or an app like Audacity. Just choose Soundflower (2ch) in the audio recording settings:

Audacity recording preferences

And that’s pretty much it. Once you hit the record button, it should start recording any sound that is coming from applications on your computer.

2017   Advice

“Can you review my bassline?”

First of all, thank you for your awesome and very helpful blog, and also for your music – love your latest album!

I’ve just read your most recent post about making kick and bass work well together. I’m producing some psytrance for a couple of years, but still my kbbb is very far from perfect. Can I ask you to briefly review my latest attempt? (it’s a short 1 minute snippet, some synths and percussion added for context). Just like the guy from your post, I feel the kick and bass refuse to work well together for some reason. Also I would greatly appreciate if you say something about the bassline itself (the frequency balance, the groove and stuff).

I’ve also read your posts about how you were involved into Russian psytrance scene. I’m from Russia and remember Psyplanet ;)

Arseny

Thanks for your words, Arseny!

This bassline is fine. However, If you want to match your bassline to the current Psytrance sub-standards, you need to clear the mud and tweak up the filters. Clarity (or should I say, the lack of it) is the main issue here.

I suggest using a reference, it really helps a lot. It’s especially true if you working on headphones which I personally not recommend to do. Here are few tracks by other producers, also in Cm key. Compare these basslines with yours:

Train your ears

Do you hear these crispy, sharp, punchy basses? That is what you should aim for.

Earlier I’ve written about pretty much everything that could be said about the basslines, so rather than repeat myself I’ll put for you these four useful links here:

  1. Psytrance bassline synthesis
    Filter envelopes, resampling, MIDI-notes
  2. Psytrance bassline equalisation
    Boosting harmonics, clearing the mud
  3. How to make a punchy bassline
    Phase, layering, processing
  4. How to fit kick and bass together
    Read about the volume balance in particular

By following these tips you should be able to make a nice punchy bassline. But if none of this helps, let me know what exactly do you struggling with the most in the comments below and we’ll try to fix it together.

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 is 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.

2017   Advice   Kick and bass   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:

2017   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

2017   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 can guess the name is pretty 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 [put any random word here] 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:

2017   Advice   Music industry
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