Customise Your Sound

Our guide to help you find your unique style

Future Music - - CONTENTS -

Acou­ple of decades ago pro­duc­ing mu­sic was a lot tougher. You ei­ther had to stump up the cash for stu­dio time or buy lots of ex­pen­sive out­board gear. In con­trast, to­day’s wannabe pro­ducer only needs ac­cess to a com­puter and some soft­ware, which has blown the doors for cre­ativ­ity and ex­pres­sion wide open. Tal­ented mu­si­cians of all ages can now cre­ate en­tire records from their bed­rooms.

Although this is a fan­tas­tic thing for mu­sic mak­ers, this non-ex­clu­sive ac­cess has also be­come some­thing of a curse, re­sult­ing in a com­plete loss of qual­ity con­trol. For ev­ery stand­out record, there are hun­dreds of for­mu­laic tracks added to iTunes and Beat­port ev­ery week. With ev­ery man and his dog lay­ing down beats on their lap­tops, DJs and la­bels are now flooded with cookie-cut­ter ef­forts that are merely poor pas­tiches of the best 5% of artists.

So with an ever-in­creas­ing num­ber of peo­ple dab­bling in mu­sic pro­duc­tion, and with more and more generic tracks flood­ing the down­load stores ev­ery week, it’s more im­por­tant than ever to forge your own unique, inim­itable style, so your mu­sic stands apart from the crowd. Your favourite artists prob­a­bly have a dis­tinc­tive sound that’s uniquely theirs – so why should you be any dif­fer­ent? Over the next few pages we’ll help you break away from the for­mu­laic, and in­spire your own tastes and work­flow habits to forge a unique artis­tic style.

Soul-search­ing

As a pro­ducer, you’re com­pet­ing with ev­ery­one else do­ing ex­actly the same thing. But while you have ac­cess to the same tools and tech­niques as ev­ery­one else, there’s one vi­tal as­pect that sets you apart from the rest of the pack: your own life­time of mu­si­cal in­spi­ra­tion! Taste is highly sub­jec­tive, and it’s likely that your mu­sic fold­ers and playlists are filled with sin­gles and al­bums span­ning many dif­fer­ent gen­res. Pro­duc­ing your own mu­sic is a chance to col­late all of the best bits from your wealth of mu­si­cal ex­pe­ri­ence and throw them to­gether into one big melt­ing pot of in­spi­ra­tion. This is where a di­verse taste is es­sen­tial: lis­ten to generic EDM on re­peat and your own mu­si­cal out­put will likely sound the same as ev­ery other big-room artist out there.

To truly carve out your own niche in to­day’s sat­u­rated land­scape, you must first pick apart what makes a ‘unique’ sound. Lis­ten through your favourite artists’ tracks and pick out their in­flu­ences; note how they com­bine el­e­ments from dif­fer­ent gen­res to form some­thing new. For ex­am­ple, House pro­ducer Shadow Child has found suc­cess with his own brand of raw, stripped-down House – a cock­tail of rugged drum ma­chine beats, sam­pled break­beats and old-school Rave-in­spired melodic el­e­ments. Cana­dian artist Kay­tranada fuses four-to-the-floor House rhythms, Hip-Hop-es­que sam­ples, Soul chord pro­gres­sions and Trap-style 808 basses in his own raw, skit­tish style. On a more main­stream scale, Ma­jor Lazer front­man Di­plo’s phe­nom­e­nal suc­cess can be at­trib­uted to his unashamed merg­ing of dis­parate genre cliches – from Reg­gae­ton and Trap to EDM and Pop.

With this in mind, take a good look at your favourite records. Which el­e­ments from your favourite artists and gen­res can be ex­tracted and com­bined to form some­thing new? If you want to take this ‘mix-and-match’ con­cept lit­er­ally, it’s easy to har­vest chunks of chords, vo­cals, beats and FX from your record col­lec­tion and playlists for re­use in a myr­iad of dif­fer­ent ways – the process of sam­pling has been at the core of elec­tronic mu­sic pro­duc­tion since the ’80s, af­ter all! If you’re more into cre­at­ing your own sounds from scratch, and the no­tion of sam­pling other records is a lit­tle too pla­gia­ris­tic for your tastes, you can still take in­spi­ra­tion from your love of mu­sic and take pride in gen­er­at­ing your own sonic iden­tity from a com­bi­na­tion of dif­fer­ent artists and gen­res. Why not merge your love of James Brown and fre­netic break­beat grooves into your own en­tity of Funk-fu­elled polyrhyth­mic mad­ness? How about su­per­charg­ing your Techno rhythms with a sprin­kle of Hans Zim­mer-style cin­e­matic epic­ness?

De­fine your tastes and goals, and you’ll al­ready be well on your way to carv­ing out a be­spoke game­plan come DAW-time. You can then fo­cus on build­ing banks of your own cus­tom sounds that fit the aes­thetic you’re try­ing to achieve.

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