How I Create Electronic Music
How do I make a song? Let me tell you.
on Thu Aug 6, 2009
First, at start, there's only a single piece of melody or a chord progression of two chords.
If I have a piece of melody (verse or chorus), I try to find the chords with them. Mainly, chords consist of 3 notes and are either major (0 0+4 0+7 semitones) or minor (0 0+3 0+7 semitones), and the nice icky notes lay around the 7th note in key of the chord, 0+11 semitones for major, 0+10 semitones for minor chords.
Then, I have some, say 2 chords, on paper.
I try to find the key, scale they're in, which one can find by trying to play the major and minor scales in one of the chords or any note and see if the chords fit within the scale with all of their notes.
in semitones, from the main (ground note):
major scale: 0 +2 +4 +5 +7 +9 +11 +12
minor scale: 0 +2 +3 +5 +7 +8 +10 +12
I then try to alternate the chord scheme by shifting some notes in the chords according to the main scale, sometimes by shifting all notes to make different chords that are in the main scale. Applying tricks here, such as switches in scales are sometimes very hard to make without making a tune sound false, but can add to the dynamic tension.
Optionally, I already had a melody in mind, so I make the melody go with all the chords I have so far, or I decide to figure some parts of it out here, or I decide to only get a general idea of where the melody is suggesting to be.
I try to make a different set of chords that lead in to the main chord theme here, one can "start" it in reverse, towards (from) the main chord schemes starting chord, to see if it goes nicely. Sometimes I just shift the main chord scheme and alter it a bit, or just alter a bit of the main chord scheme. Sometimes I have another melody (verse or chorus) that I need to figure out the chord scheme for, so I do that then. The scale of this part may differ from the main scale, sometimes be in the same scale but start on a different note, sometimes have a shift of scale, anything you can think of, but make sure it sounds well together to or from the main chord scheme.
I optionally add some parts of a melody here in mind and paper.
One can repeat creating as many chord schemes and melodies as you like here, for a chorus, another verse, outtro, but I shall go on to making the first dynamic structures in the track, as I first do.
I put the main chord scheme into sequencer, the chords get in along with (automation of) long dynamic variation applied to them (on certain parameters of the instrument, volume in- or decrement, note decay, volume fadeout, note cutoff length, sample offset, reverb room size, delay send amount) and add the basics of the drums, with (most important) different volume for accents, maybe a hihat and snare, most of the times the kick drum is good to put in already here.
Optionally, add the melody, with a same set of dynamics / fades applied, and accents, so it has different volumes (perhaps in a repeated scheme) or notes that stand out in height with accents.
Make a copy of the main theme or make a different part of chords, edit the fades to even more or even less tension, shift some of the lower notes in the melodies and chords to a higher octave or shift some of the highest notes in the chords or melodies to a lower octave.
Now, from listening, I make a hook in melodics.
That is, something that goes well with the tension and is repetitive but variating, mostly around the 4-5 octave, and has elements of or follows the structure of the chords. It can be as less as 3 notes, but it has not to remain too much in the music, only be remaining in the mind and rembered by the listener.
Now, I add the chorus chord part, with all the dynamics on the chords, such as filtering, note decay, chorus depth, distortion amount, gain, whatever you can apply to make it dynamic and full sounding, maybe some basic drums and melodic accents. Then make a hook to that. It has to be rock solid, something that you can hum or sing,
Make it within the shift you have applied to the chord parts, and think of shifting it more or back later when it returns, make it around the 7th note of the main scale or used chords maybe, maybe use combinations of 2 notes in the scale of the theme, from the used chord(s).
This is where I go adding more structure to the song, an intro with drums or instruments, then a verse, then chorus, then whatever, maybe the verse again, maybe the chorus again, maybe the outro already, choose and structure.
Making a break can be one of these things, so no drums, ambient chords, maybe some melodics, building up again is a big part of a break.
Then, I add bass notes to the track. These mostly have to be short and stabbing, and can add to the fullness of a track very quickly if they're long. Sine waves do very good as basses, as they give a good non-rambling bass. Try putting some sampled tremolo (volume wobble) on them, chorus, automated distortion, and more chorus, for a great dnb bass. Add send channels for mixed in filtered high mid distorted sections of the dnb bass to make it even more.
This would be about the first point to record some instruments or vocals when I do, that can be done at any point from here or even at the end as well and then mixed in. It is very hard to make a good song from only acoustic material, and it's easier making it work if you already have parts of the track in the sequencer.
I go on with adding more drums with their dynamic accents, mostly repetetive groups of accents which are building up or down with the used chord scheme.
I figure where the melody has to be placed and not to be placed by trying to put it in in different parts (mostly not the first 4 seconds, then it really gets boring easily). I try to alternate more in the build of the used chords and melody by shifting the lowest notes to higher octaves or shifting the highest notes to lower octaves.
I add sound fx, like splashes, basicly sounds with long reverb and on-tempo delay, reversed faded long reverbed samples, and I do this only real-time mixed when my processor is capable enough, otherwise I pre-render-to-sample the effects and optionally also the chords and mix them together as samples instead of huge stacks of effects and long delayed and reverbed sounds.
I add more solid equalizing, I mostly do some in the meanwhile while setting up the track, this is the point that I listen really close to individual sounds in the mix and the present section of the sounds (300-650 Hz) in that section, like bass kick, bass synth, main chord scheme *(has to be present a bit, but not too much, sometimes in the higher presence more than the lower presence).
I add compression to the master track from about 70 to 80% of input, as high ratio as possible (starting from 1:15 decreasing to 1:5), if that sounds impossible I use less low treshold on the compressor and try again first with high ratio.
I equalize after the compressor, sometimes cut off the lowest basses with a filter, reduce presence a bit and add or reduce 1 to 3k and very rarely add, sometimes reduce 5-22k.
I listen to the track as it sounds now, and add more to the dynamics in builds and fades and automation and sending to effects as goes along with the track. What is important is to keep the groove in, so that all accents are either answering to each other or together, everything builds/fades the right way in the structure of the song. I remove some parts that sound too full, try to make the melodic parts more clear and stand out of the track but fit with the sound, get a more tight mix so that everything fits together.
I most of all try to make something sound good after it has been put in, and not wait with making it sound good and add another part in first, I write down any ideas I get during making the song and apply them later. That is what keeps me focused on one thing at the time and not doing millions of things that do not make it to final desired quality.
I hope this helps you all a bit to create a groovy pounding track. Bai! iDJ/eatme