Tuesday, March 2, 2010
So....for the last year...I have been practicing exclusively DJ skills with ableton live. I said when I started into it, that it would be a good idea to play around with other peoples music, learn the effects and improv elements to DJing, and then it would be good to apply that to track making. I was SO right. After learning what I have in the last year....i'm ready to stop Djing (just too time consuming)....and get deep into the track making process. For my birthday, my wife bought me the Novation Launchpad....and its a perfect addition (well not perfect, ill explain in another blog all about midipipe) to my setup. I now use the VCM 600, Launchpad, Trigger Finger, Microkontrol, and a little nano kontrol while making tracks. Each have their functions, but that is for another day.
What I didnt realize until recently is that my improv set, containing fixed up samples, huge drum kits with youtube pulled samples, and having all the most used effects....all prepared, has made the track making process a breeze....which brings me to the topic of this post.
TIME SPENT ON A TRACK
Up until recently, I thought it was a good thing to spend 60 plus hours on a track. Working out tiny little details, so you had a track that stands out against the rest....this is not the case. When you spend so much time on a track, hearing that same 4 bar loop over and over....not only do you get sick of hearing it, but your ears do not hear it the same as when you started....or as the ears of a first time listener. Your brain hears it in a whole different way. Now theres the scientific idea that you are hearing it different...which I do not know much about. But what I do know, is how I come to HATE every song I ever finish...by the time I finish it. (up until now) A good electronic track is NOT about how technical you can be....its about a good funky bassline, some nice high frequency percussions that stand out in their own frequency range, and a nice side chained kick. Tuning everything is important too, that is why ableton 8's new frequency shifter tool is a godsend. I have my VCM all mapped out to the 6 main channels for all my improv beats, and then the left side which is normally for effects, programmed to elements of tracks. (Kicks, Snare, 1/4 HH, 1/16 HH). Each has a frequency shifter right above it, so I can easily improv a nice beat, and then find the perfect frequency of each of the elements to match the light percussion...and WALAH! Its like the backbone of the track can be created in minutes.
Now some might say...thats a REALLY lazy approach to making music....you should take more time and pride in making a UNIQUE sound....ok, ok....i get the purist approach to it....but the bottom line is, you can either love your song when you finish or hate it....so get it done as quickly, and with the most talent as possible. That does not mean to make a shitty track....it still takes a couple days to really get a track finished up (not including EQing or Mastering....which I never like to do anyways because I prefer other ears to do it over mine, and its so damn BORING!!!)
Ableton, used with the right controllers, and right template set (handmade to your controllers) can make all the world of difference when making tracks quickly and efficiently....and as a producer....being signed....labeled...managed....you gotta make them funky beats...and fast.
Another key to speed in making tracks is to dedicate a few weeks, months (or even a year like in my case) preparing everything ahead of time. I made many drum pad kits (drum tool within ableton) filled with my most common used samples. For instance, I have 5 full pads (matching my launchpad)(500+ samples) of only sweeps. These are nice samples I have made, found, or purchased. I never know which one i'm going to like, but, I am 100% sure that every track is going to need them. So, just drag in my saved pad (by clicking the save button after making it...the little icon on the right of the pad). Now I can reuse that pad of samples over and over. Having the pads mapped out the the launchpad is great for switching through them before using them...and much more efficient than searching my 700+ gigs of samples and using the mouse. Using abletons transpose button (mapped out of course) is nice to change the key on the fly to match the song i'm making. Now I dont just have sweeps, I have full pads dedicated to chinese instruments by using the "slice to midi" feature. Ive sampled out arhu and dizi instruments in traditional progressions (even from youtube) into nice playable pads...which I can come back to at any time. I dont even want to get into the number of kicks, claps, and snares I have prepared. These are not just samples like ones in your library....these have all been sampled from songs where I liked the kick, cleaned up, and ready to be used on the fly. All helping to maintain speed during the music making process.
You dont want to waste your time on the simple elements of a track....especially when dealing with funky house or tech house like I am doing. They always have a steady kick, always have a nice sharp snare or clap, always have a nice rolling HH....so have those ready to go, and easily swapable.
Another little tip is to have sample making sessions....where you solely make basses for a whole day, or make nice chord sounds..etc. Once you get deep within a synth or soft synth, that is when you find the best sounds. Take extra time preparing nice loops that you may or may not use in the future....but, you HAVE THEM. You never know when that funky bassline you forgot all about just might be the perfect match for that beat your making. Dont just jump into a synth and pick the first sound that comes. Have a session dedicated to sound making, especially basses and melodies. Toss on a nice background beat without many tones, and JAM AWAY. Record one, after another....funk around with the settings....and record more. Thats when you will find your best sounds. NOT EVERY sit down has to be about MAKING A TRACK...you can't go from point A -Z in the music world without going through B,C,D etc (unless your avril lavine or something)....we all just wanna hear some bad ass beats anyway.
Well, all that being said...remember, time is your enemy. Too much is bad. Keep tracks coming, and dont over do it...especially if you are making a living off of it. Its bad enough being in the club night after night and hearing shitty beats over and over in your head...let alone listening to the SAME ONE over and over at home. Keep it fresh....and your soul will be happy with you...and your musical spirit will come into the track rather than being forced. Stay happy while making tracks, and dont make it a job. The more you prepare before hand, the funner your making session will be.