Cover/ Thumbnail Photo Credit : Drew Ressler /Rukes www.rukes.com
Music can change your life.
There is always a perfect song for the exact moment of life you are experiencing.
Not only that, certain songs will forever be tied to time periods and emotions that you have have felt.
Music, for me at least is a time machine.
If I listen to Blink 182, Linkin Park or Green Day I flash back to early schooling.
If I listen to old Tiesto, Armin or Paul Van Dyk high school memories come flooding back.
Hell, even Deadmau5 tracks Faxing Berlin and Jaded bring back some amazing memories of long drives and past girlfriends….
ohhh , yea...going too deep there sorry.
But you see my point,
Great songs will go hand and hand with great memories( or I assume bad memories, but lets not go there).
I often think someday when I am on my death bed I will not only flash back to the best moments of my life, but also to the tracks I was playing or listening to at that time.
Some may say that this is because I am in the music industry, but I truly think this feeling is universal.
My parents still love music of their youth. It brings them back.
My friends not in the dance scene still love music from high school, it brings them back.
So what am I getting at ?
If you're reading this most likely you're a music producer or DJ, there are a ton of different aspects in this industry, but let's keep it simple.
Your goal (assuming you want to share music with others) is to evoke deep emotional connections in people with both your productions and your sets.
You are in fact creating memories.
Your music truly has the power to connect people, places and stories for years to come.
Your track could be the song playing when a guy meets his future wife for the first time. Forever holding that track to that situation.
Your track could be the song that pulls someone away from depression, forever changing the course of their life.
If your really lucky, your music can change the world or at least influence an entire generation( much like Skrillex did when he first emerged, he was the voice of that generation, at least IMO)
Of course, connecting with people on a deep level is really fucking hard.
I'm not going to go into complex theory on how music can do this, I am simply going to give you a few tips to make your track (mainly your mix/ master) translate better.
If your track does not convey your message clearly, it won't reach people. Period.
You could almost go so far to say that clean mixing and mastering is needed simply to hit the emotional state of people. If the mix isn't clear, the message isn't clear. It can't connect and people can't react to your track.
The below tips may seem simple, but these are issues I had ( and I hear) all the time.
5.5 Production Tip’s to Help Your Music Connect with People
1.Stop over producing everything.
This is a rather complex problem.
When I was new to producing, everything sounded super complicated. It sounded like songs had 10 layers of synths, 3-4 layers of kick drums, a number of rhythm elements etc.
The songs sounded so thick and full I figured there must be a ton going on.
I used to stack 5 different lead sounds all with the same melody.
I used to stack 2-3 layers of pianos, then some saw chords, all hanging in the same frequency range.
To be perfectly honestly, everything I made sounded like utter shit because it made no sense. It was way to complex and no one sound was " standing out"
One day it dawned on me…. wow, these songs aren't nearly as complicated as I thought.
They don’t have 8 layers of synths playing at one time.
They don’t need 4 kick drums stacked on top of each other.
What they need is a few key elements, that all have the ideal tones and textures to get your point across.
Often times I get sent tracks that would be really great songs, if they took out about half of the song.
Look at it this way.
You loop your song for what? 10-20-50 hours? To you the loop sounds utterly boring and simple, but to people listening to your track the FIRST TIME, it is utterly complicated.
Next time you produce your track, do so as you normally would , when your " done" take out 25 to 50% of the layers that you created. Go back to the remaining sounds and tweak those TO PERFECTION.
You don't need layers to get a loud track, I can get a single sine wav " pro loud" with a single compressor.
In the end, having less layers and sounds will allow you to create that loud powerful track you are after.
I know it sounds counter intuitive when you are starting out but give it a try and report back.
2. Keep the Bass Simple (Layers)
This could go in the above group, but feel it needs its own number. One huge issue I hear on a lot of tracks is that artists are stacking layers and layers of bass sounds.
This can lead to some problems with higher frequency sounds, but spells disaster in the low end.
I was recently mixing a track for a client that had 4 bass sounds, all the same progression stacked.
3 of the sounds also had sub content ( plus a kick drum of course)
Let’s break this down.
4 Sounds with 50hz content
5 sounds with 125hz content
All of these are trying to fight for the same space, simply put their isn’t enough room.
On the bass end especially, keep it simple. Go for one bass sound (75hz-300hz) maybe 2 if you must have it.
One sub bass ( usually single osc’s work best) obv, not all tracks have a sub bass line if the kick drum is holding weight there.
There is NO reason to have 4 bass layers.
Lastly, don’t leave a lot of over hang in the bass range. 9 times out of 10 tracks sound better with a single element holding the weight in the sub range ( 50hz) compared to having a sub bass + over hang from the bass in 100+hz range.
Long story short, EQ is your friend, why do Knife Party’s low ends sound fucking amazing?
Because they know when to stop adding sounds.
3. Can It connect in 10 seconds?
If you've read my blog before, you know I always chat about how there is a bunch of music on the web and you really need to put in the time with both your productions and marketing if you want to make it.
The fact that there is a ton of music online means you need to have your music connect INSTANTLY to new listeners.
If the person goes to the drop of your track, does it make sense on first listen? ( Remember, its going to make sense to you because you looped it 3 thousand times, your best bet is to ask someone else that knows whats up)
More importantly, can the person predict what's coming up next?
Put it this way, if you go to Beatport’s top 10 tracks, on the very first listen they all make sense.
The Groove makes sense
The Melody makes sense
Most importantly, your ears don’t go wtf is going on here.
For example, a lot tracks from new producers that get sent to me don’t musically make sense to my ears. Not from theory standpoint, but more so my ears just go….uhhh, that’s a bit odd.
It’s kinda like there are progressions and melodies that work, your ears natural can tell what's coming up next and track is “easy to understand”
Sadly, when your new it’s hard to design the tracks to be easy to understand.
There’s not a lot of advice I can offer on this other then listen to a shit ton of music and try to mentally picture what’s going on. Over time, you will naturally put down beats in the right spots, you will naturally make melodies that hook correctly and you will make your tracks easy on the ears.
If you play pro tracks in the club, but when you drop yours the dance floor doesn't really know how to move, you can assume the track is hard to connect with and the audience can’t anticipate what is coming up next.
A simple way to learn " what works" is to study MIDI files of your favorite songs. After a few hours of this, most people will realize they are making their tracks WAY to complicated musically.
Dance music, at least club music needs to be fairly simple to work the very first time a person hear's the song. This allows it to connect instantly with the listener.
4. Chorus and hook should be memorable.
Look back at the most popular dance tracks of the last 5 years, you can most likely hum the hook’s to this day.
Levels...yea I can still mentally hum that.
Animals...yea, that ones never leaving my mind.
Lately, Tiesto and Niles Dhar’s (KSHMR’s) track Secret’s has been locked into my head.
Quickly listen to the hook, yes the production quality and synth work is beautiful, but the hook itself is simple and memorable.
The VERY first time you hear this song it makes sense. A lot of times when I get sent tracks the hook will be overly complicated. Again, this goes back to the first issue we chatted about.
Back to the Secret’s track, take a close listen to the rest of the track. Is there anything that’s really memoriable other then the chours/drop/hook?
It’s all great solid work, but doesn’t create a ear worm like the drop does.
For years, I would always try to make the entire song “one hook” I figured, I should make the entire thing catchy right?
For whatever reason, this doesn't really work, I feel it’s because you go on a mini journey when listening to music and the tension created during the non hook parts is key.
Recently I was working on something in the pop realm, we had a great chorus that I was stoked on, but me and the other guys in the group couldn't figure out why it didn't SLAM in the way we wanted.
Tame back the rest of the song. Although the dynamics where inline and the structure was normal, the part’s leading up to the chorus where a bit too memorable.
They didn't over shadow the chorus, but it was almost like the track peaked before it was supposed to. We ended up toning that back then BAM, the chorus hit the way we wanted.
When you get your hook set, use the rest of the song to simply build to that point. Make everything support the hook, but when the time comes make sure the hook shines alone.
That's the part of the track people will connect with, that’s the part that will hook ( no pun intended) your listeners and evoke emotions.
5. Focus on the sound(preset) not the layers.
Again, this was lightly touched on before but let's dig a bit deeper.
At some point in everyone's production timeline they will discover the magic of using layers. 1 more layer, no, 2 more layers, wow 7 layers !
This is what happened to me, I would use a bunch of crappy or badly designed sounds then stack a bunch of preset layers assuming that was the way to go about it.
Not only did this make the mix impossible to keep clean, it made the track impossible to connect with people.
People will sometimes shoot me over tracks and ask if they need more layers, 90% of the time they need less layers and more aggressively processed single sounds.
Focus on making 1 or 2 awesome sounds in your mix. Process them to the extreme.
Use crazy filters
Use distortion plugins
Use unique setting on chours/ verb etc etc.
Now, I know you most likely do this, but reallyyyyy focus on making the main element awesome.
Don't spend 20 mins making a layer then add another layer. Spend 3 hours making one layer HUGE and in your face, make that layer the main hook sound.
After you get 2-3 awesome main sounds in the mix, add more fill sounds if needed.
In the end, your going to end up with a track that's easier to mix if you use less layers.
Your going to end up with a track that's easier to make loud if you use less layers.
Listen carefully to any popular professional track , good examples are Deadmau5, Zedd, Knife Party.
Their songs are all beautifully produced , but if you start to break down each sound layer, there isn't a ton of "stacking" going on.
A few awesome well produced sounds ( along with perfect drums for the situation) is ideally the best way to get that clean connecting sound.
5.5 Make music your emotional about
I didn't originally want to include this, but I figured it should be said.
If your goal is to connect with people, evoke emotions in them, its REALLY hard to do so when you aren't feeling it.
I'm not saying only produce when you feel like it , because you'll never get a damn thing done.
I am saying make sure you produce music your 100% into while your making it.
There are some genres I enjoy more then others, no matter what I tired to do I couldn't make some genres work as they don't evoke emotions in me.
So forget the trend boat, make music you truly care about. Over time this may change which is totally cool, but try to at least keep yourself honest about what your making.
In the end, if you make music true to yourself, if the music your making brings a true emotional response out in yourself, you can assume it will have the same effect on others. Regardless of what's currently in demand.
Cool, there you have it !
Most of these tips are fairly simply, but I struggled with them for a long time. With the recent onslaught of people sending me tracks with 10 patches( synths) playing at once I figured it was time to post this.
keep killin it, I hope this post will allow you to convey your message just a little bit better in your next track.