Original Article - http://analogik.com/article_writing_electronic_music.asp
What does it take to make a fine piece of electronic music?
How many times have you had that special inspirational moment and thought that that was it – you were going to write a piece that will leave its mark in the whole genre? If the answer is ‘never' then perhaps, you should stop reading this article and start doing something else, as it probably will not make the right kind of connection with you.
For all of you out there, who are going to keep trying, read on. This will be so obviously familiar that it might actually surprise you that you will find it helpful with stimulating and reassuring your inner cacophony of impulses about what is right, and what is wrong.
Firstly, let us clarify two things. If you are going to be an electronic music genius, keep in mind the two most likely scenarios. In both, the world of arts and the world of science, there are two types of geniuses. First one is like getting lucky with lottery numbers, which means that you might hit the spot quite randomly and produce something special without much structure or planning. Second scenario though, is not so Hollywood-movie-like sounding, however it is much more likely as it puts you in control over your faith.
So what is it then? Well, this model consists of hard and persistent work with appropriate education or acquisition of knowledge that makes you fit for handling a vast variety of variables that make the special kind of music. Do not get discouraged by the fact that most of the famous artists and scientists have dedicated their entire lives to, often, one line of research or style. Remember that we are talking about electronic music here and should not detach ourselves too much from the scientific, as this is one music style that unites science, futurism and art, and that is what makes it so special and beautiful.
So what do you have to do?
- Life is busy, so you have to make time for your music or give up right now.
- Be innovative, but research as lot. Knowledge is a good catalyst for inspiration.
- Organize your files and samples, keep history of your progress and track versions.
- Do not give up. Take a break and compose when you compose yourself first.
- Mistakes should not discourage you if you simply try to avoid repeating them.
- Others might not always understand. If you are sure it is good, then it is good.
- Do not slave to equipment and software; it is an idea that you are hunting.
None music way #1
Before you even start to make any music, make sure that the Internet is turned off. If it is a computer that everyone uses, make yourself a new user account without internet connection - this was my problem, so I turned off the Internet and saved myself 4 hours per day (surfing adds up)! If everyone is using that one computer, make sure that you have a secure section on it (passworded- so you can back up your section) as you can bet alot of money on something getting deleted. Even have a rota as who can have the computer at what times. You don't want to be interrupted in mid-fantastic-never-been-heard-before-number-one-hook making.
None music way #2
Do a mini spring clean and make things user friendly. I have a Temp Store, Downloaded Folder, VST folder (subfoldered into beats, FX etc). This makes my computer work well, quickly and makes my time in music making more efficient. If your computer is not efficient, or you have to have time to find a piece of software that holds the secret to your humming tune, then you will forget that hum before you find the folder. Having things at hand is a practical way of music making. I know of top artists that go around with a tape recorder or writing pad all the time just in case they get "inspiration". The 2006 UK Football World Cup Song came to the artist in the bath.
None music way #3
How about invest in another monitor? This may seem odd, as we all have been brought up with the idea of one monitor leads to one computer. However, leading computer music artists are leading the way in utilizing 2 monitors at once. In one monitor you have your sequencer running, in the other monitor you could have your software instruments, or mixing deck or any combination that you want. Making music this way is much easier than having to minimize, maximize all the time- you need the computer music making phase to be as realistic as possible, rather than stop starting every few minutes to maximize a window.
None music way #4
Make sure that you are using what you should be using and that you know how to use it. A hotkey function sometimes is much quicker than if you use the mouse, but if you do not know how to use them properly your work can be deleted within a key stroke. Knowing your software, and how to use it properly will save you a heap of precious time, and will also show you functions that you never thought that you had. I have read somewhere that there are secret functions within the Ableton software that you will only find by experimenting. Take time out once every 6-12 months and read up on your software. Keep it refreshed within your head, don't assume that you know it. Make yourself a practice screen and just mess around, nothing is going to get wiped out. By experimenting you will find some great sounds and work much quicker.
None music way #5
If you have something that sounds very good...save it. I shall repeat...save it! Unfortunately there are many bits of software out there that do not have a "undo" button, so getting back that classic sound is impossible. Repeating the process will give you a sound that sounded 90% close to your long lost original. I tend to store good sounds into a folder called "experimentation", and thats where it stays. If I play the same sound after a day or two later and it doesn't sound the same, then I tweak the sound. In the past I used to write down all the values on how I built up particular sounds. I would even have a "sound day" where I would just make sounds of various types, and this kept me away from tinkering at music making time.
Before you make any type of music, stand back and just think, have you actually done all your none music making tasks?
The One Thing That Can Set You Out From the Rest to Make Better Techno!
Listen. This is vitally important. If you do not listen then your track will be very poor indeed . Listening is what most musicians have forgot to do and that is why we do not hear from them again. They have lost their roots, what ultimately made them famous. Trying to move away from your group roots is very risky. The Prodigy made fantastic rave and deep techno, then starting to go into a rock phase. It didn't work out too well, now they are trying to get back into their old territory but its hard. Their fan-base has shrunk as new groups have come up. The Prodigy are now releasing their classic hits to try and re-energize themselves to grab back their old fans, telling them "remember this, you liked it and now we are going to do the same".
Alot of money spent, alot of marketing time used. With example 2, Elton John has constantly chirped out piano tunes for along time now, always variation on the same theme and he is still lasting the time.
Listening to your audience , your dedicated audience (that will buy from you regularly) is the life-line to your selling. Go off-track and some will not like it but then again you might attract some new customers. For me, I would stick to what you know , you are good at it so why change? Sure re-invent yourself or adapt to the ever changing music market , but never change style. Case in point. Kyle, pop queen and the lady who brought us the Locomotion and I should Be So Lucky. But instead of keeping with cheesy pop she has slowly re-invented herself- pinnacling at Can't Get Your Out Of My Head. Same pop, but with 21st Century twist.
Listening also means you should listen to other tracks , go to concerts, clubs, wherever they play your music. DJs are always, and have to be, up-to-date with "whats hot and whats not". They listen to their audience, and they know sure well that if they get it wrong they either won't work again or they will get booed at!
Listen to other peoples comments . I had a real hard time listening to other people rip my music apart but I realised it was for the best. You must make sure that the people who listen to your music is your audience. If you do Drum and Bass and give a track to your grandparents to hear they might not like it. Playing a track to your friends of similar style liking, or a group of people is much better. A group increases the reliability of your "little study into your tracks" , more people increases the reliability and gives you a better opinion of how your tracks will be accepted. If one person says "ohh I didnt like that sample" keep it in mind, but if alot of people say the same, change the sample. It is a rare opportunity to see how your audience will react to your tracks, in the real world your sales would reduce, and you would just scratch your head wondering why.
Listen to the best in the genre . If you want to know what excellent and top techno tracks sound like ask your target audience who their top artists are, sometimes you might get inspiration from artists that you haven't heard from before, then surround yourself with the tracks. Listen to the tracks and bathe in their coolness.
Listening can sometimes mean not to listen . Sounds strange I know. But if you have been listening to your tracks day in day out, then listen to other peoples tracks, you can get a bit bored, tired, and to a point the tracks get samey. Have a day out in the week for a no music day . When you come back to your work you will be refreshed, your ears will be willing to take a pounding and you will listen to your music differently, tagging pieces that don't fit, sounding strange or having a better idea to implement.
Listen to the worst music . Now this isn't an exercise of laughing at poor techno, but it is to train you to what is poor and what is good . For an example, if I sat in any Ferarri I would think it is pretty cool, but top motor journalists would always give a downside, will always compare it to something else. Why? Because they have sat in poor cars and they have sat in the best, now they have a scale to use to judge any car. This is what you need to do. How do you know a good song is a good song? Subliminally you cross-reference it with something poor. But instead of doing it in the back of your mind, dig out the poor songs and (unfortunately) listen to them. Another example. I have seen on some websites they give away cassettes of their work. I know that this is poor practice because I have seen MP3s being offered for download (quicker, free and better quality).
Listen to other styles . This may be triggering the "what is he talking about" response, but hold with me. On my site I have demonstrated a fundamental fact through alot of top techno acts. They all have elements of different styles intertwined within their own . For example, The Shamen and The Prodigy have most noticeable rock influences. The great thing about rock is that there is only a few things that you can do with an electric guitar. So their tracks have to be really catchy, employing good lyrics, cool bass and hook able leads. It is no wonder then that other artists from other styles look to rock as an influence. If I was into ambient music, I would listen to classical music for inspiration. Both are similar to each other in that they have long sweeps and can go on for a while but still sound fresh, evolving, and can still use hooks. Classical music has been an influence for William Orbit (helped Madonna with her Ray of Light CD, including that cool track Frozen), and he technoified Barbers Adagio for Strings, a cool classical track in itself and was brought into the light when it was played in Platoon.
Finally Listen to yourself . Why did you make the track in the first place? Were you going to build it up into a cool chorus, or was there an idea that you wanted to tinker around with that sounded really cool? Not knowing where the track is going, not seeing the light at the end of the tracks tunnel, or the loops are just not sitting right can have a negative effect on your confidence and moral. Write down what you would like to see from this track. Maybe even before you start get all the basic loops, or downloading website names all collected before setting off. If the track is just a notepad, make it so, don't spend too much time on something that is just a sketch pad. If it doesn't work, fine, but why, if you have no joy, leave it. Go back to it later on, don't make yourself too angry or involved in something that can have a negative impact on all your techno making.