Alternative snares

Alternative snares Crafting a great sounding beat or drum kit is a big part of making strong electronic music. To stand out from the crowd why not experiment with snare sounds. I find that percussion samples with a layered hi hat to fill out the top end work really well. You could also modulate some crazy synth runs and cut out points of interest for more of a digital sounding hit.

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Listen Stop making music with your eyes. Fancy looking interfaces, advanced analysers and colourful DAW’s can distract you from making great sounding music. Even when adjusting parameters don’t get in the habits of using a partiulcar percentage or amount; listen for how you’re really effecting the sound and set it where it feels right. Music is about feeling and no analyser can tell you what frequency shape works for situation.

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Ambient contrast

Ambient contrast Some producers set up one or two reverb sends for the whole track which may be efficient but on the downside may end up sounding congested or washed out. By setting sup various types you can create a lot of contrast and depth to your sound.  Set up various reverbs to tailor for different instrument groups/spaces and take the time to tailor the reverb settings to your needs. A preset may help as a starting point but reference along with your source material and carve accordingly.  Some bright plate style short reverbs may work to help…

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Synth foundations

Synth foundations Many producers are quick to jump to processing their channels as opposed to getting the building blocks strong. Take the time choosing filter slopes, envelope amounts and oscillator combinations and types to get the right result. If your bass is sounding thin, for example, you can use a sine wave layer for some sub. Or even changing the filter slope to something more steep can give a deeper feel. Filters are technically EQ’s so using high quality oscillators and filters you should be able to get solid results from the get go.

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BPM Key relationship

BPM Key relationship Producing with a variation of BPM and key can help bring out the best of a musical idea.  Despite this issues may arise when it comes to DJ’ing as in most cases the track will be played at a different speed than originally produced. As a general rule of thumb I find that if you produce a track in a low key, choose a BPM at the lower end of the scale. If the track is in a high key choose a BPM at the higher end of the scale. This way if a DJ…

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High and low EQ cuts

High and low EQ cuts A lot of producers get rid of unwanted low end to help clear up a mix but often overlook the top end.  Take the time to cut high frequencies too, as treble can often build up creating a bright yet crowded mix. From around 10khz upwards is mainly hiss/noise which can be reserved for the very brightest of elements such as hi hats, for example. Other sounds such as guitars and synths don't need all that top end detail in most scenarios and can ironically sound cleaner with hi end cuts. In turn…

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Compressor or EQ first?

Compressor or EQ first? I almost always EQ after compression but I find it very helpful to have an EQ before the compressor in the signal chain too.  Even if you’re happy with the original tone an EQ can be used as a tool to drive the compressor in different ways.  Or on the contrary if you feel the compressor is squashing a particular frequency too much, you can use the EQ to cut this area to help the compressor to work on the rest of the spectrum. Some compressors such as the FabFilter Pro-C 2 have this…

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De-esser uses

De-esser uses De-esser plugins are often used just to control sharp resonances in vocals. Try rot think of them as dynamic EQ’s instead of just a vocal tool.  You can use them to tame sibilance with all sources whether it be harsh cymbals, a peaking acid synth or even a percussion loop with some sharp tambourines for example. The benefit of this is that it can sound more natural as it only affects the tone when the harsh peak breaches a threshold rather than a constant eq cut of the harsh frequency which will make the rest of…

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Delay with character

Delay with character Create interesting delay tails by adding a dedicated delay channel instead of just adding a delay plugin as an insert or send. To do this duplicate the dry track, add some unique processing and add a delay plugin 100% wet. You now have the dry signal and delay channel where you can get creative. I normally like to use extreme EQ settings and distortion, for example, to get a gritty lofi delay. You can also experiment with flanges, chorus, filters etc... the options are endless. 

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Mixdown headroom

Mixing headroom When learning how to mix it can be tricky to manage levels of various tracks without clipping the master output. Instead of using limiters or bringing the master fader down , set your loudest track to -12db, such as a kick drum if dance music or a vocal in other genres for example, and work around that. By the time you finish your mix you should find that you will have around -6db headroom, which is ideal for mastering. Another technique to achieve this is to use an analyser, such as Voxengo Span, and change the…

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