Customise Your Sound
Our guide to help you find your unique style
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.
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.