Elevator Program founder and creator of the ARTIST DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM, Will Kinsella, recently shared his production tips with ATTACK MAGAZINE. We break down his five main points from the article:
Master your synth and drum machine
His first piece of advice is to learn the fundamentals of synthesis and become an expert with the instrument. The synth can be anything from Massive to Ableton’s Operator and make as many sounds as possible with it.
A lot of Detroit minimalistic music had limited resources and with them, artists created really unique music by pushing their instruments to the limit. The more you get to know the instrument and create samples from that instrument, the better your sounds will be.
He also suggests producing the same kick drum sound in ten different ways. This is the perfect way to get a bunch of samples that are your own sound. There are so many samples out there for you to choose from, but the best is to narrow your choice and work with the instruments that you have. Less is always more.
Prepare your loops and use clips for arrangement
Before working your track in arrangement view, it is essential that your initial loop is balanced and mixed well. Ensure that the sounds gel well together and that the actual production is good to begin with.
Try out different combinations of sounds with Ableton’s clip view. This allows artists to mix and match sounds from a Dj’s perspective. Imagine you are playing the track in a club, hit play and stop with different elements and see how the track sounds while you jam it out. When you play it back, you can see what works, what doesn’t/ Using the clip view can inspire the final arrangement.
When placing elements in the arrangement view, do this one at a time and work through them. Create a few loops, copy over different parts and build it up in blocks of 8 or 16. Add and subtract left to right one part at a time and keep that flow. If you are clear in your mind about the parts then you can make sure you’re applying your own stamp. Try to work instinctively and don’t think too much.
Focus on sound design
Try and avoid presets. They can be time-consuming and not worth the work. It is better to explore the basics of synthesis - as mentioned in the first point. Try teaching yourself how to make your favourite sounds – stabs, chords, etc and you’ll find that it will open a Pandora's box.
Sound design can also be finding a sound and morphing it into something else. The possibilities are endless. You can create a whole group of sounds from one sample and fit them into your track or live set.
Choose your setup for Live performance
When performing as Hybrasil, Will Kinsella has used to use a Maschine Jam and a Roland TR-909 with Ableton Live. The Jam controller triggered the 909 and loops/stems in Ableton. Today, he uses the Elektron Octatrack Sampler and a drum machine.
Start by getting your favourite loops and sound and render them out separately into the clip view. Use a midi controller such as Push or Novation Circuit and trigger the clip view. Hit play and use the tempo on the machine to beat match it. Just try it out while recording and see how it goes.
Live performers need to deliver as a DJ does. Make sure that you have a well-structured, arranged and solid one hours performance. Don’t just jam around for an hour. DJ tracks are built up and changing tracks to diversify the sound. Live performers need to keep the set interesting and moving.
Start simply and cost-efficiently with a laptop, Novation Circuit (or anything to launch clips) and get used to jamming loops together. Once you have the understanding then spice it up with a drum machine or a synth on top.
Try different techniques to master a track
One of the best ways to finish a track is to go through the creative process: mix, master it , send it to a professional, check it in a friend’s studio and just constantly see how it sounds in different environments. You’ll know when it sounds right.
Be prepared to make last-minute changes when needed. You may have to change a VST bass to an analogue bass or change a vocal. It’s a back and forth approach but if it needs to be done, then do it.
Take your time, move away from a track and come back to it later. You’ll hear it differently. For upcoming emerging artists, it’s worth taking the time as no one wants to listen to unfinished music. So spend time finishing each bit. Finishing tracks can take experience working through the process. The more you do it the more you know what to look out for. Remember the 10,000-hour rule and that experience helps self-confidence and confidence can influence better decision making.
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