Posted on June 14 2018
In this exciting time of music production that is accessible to anyone with a laptop, iPad/tablet (or even phone now) you may struggle to make your music stand out among the crowd. Not to say that you may be looking to make music that is totally left field and unique but you may simply just be looking for ways to improve your tracks. Maybe you’re even searching for your own sound still. Here’s 3 tips that we gathered to enhance your production and make music that stands out.
Texture and Feel
This is essentially a big piece of our formula to production here at Soul Surplus as we seek to create products that offer producers the chance to add texture and feel to their work. It goes without saying that sampling is a good way to go about achieving these often elusive goals. These pieces to the puzzle are hard to quantify and are quite subjective and abstract but one could start identifying them mainly by a few categories within music sampling: sampled music tracks/instruments, vocals/vocal samples, atonal sounds and background/white noise. So for instance the moment you sample a track, chopping it up and manipulating it, you just began to add a specific texture to it that is new and not easy to replicate because it’s harder for someone to flip the same exact sample as you as opposed to copying sounds like drum patterns and stock synths in your DAW. Vocal samples especially are key to exploring new sounds and textures that will push your production forward. It has been said in many cases that “the human voice is the greatest instrument.” You may not always have a vocalist at your disposal but having vocal samples laying around to plug in your tracks can bring life to your songs. Also with some sound manipulation you could even sample your own voice, leaving your fingerprint on your music even more. Atonal and background noises really are great additions to your production if used correctly. This idea of feeling and texture most certainly exists in sound that doesn’t necessarily have close musical key associations. In one of our podcast episodes Wes told listeners how he always has a folder full of outside noise to plug in the background of his tracks to give this organic feeling and grit that we speak of. He even talks about how he’ll cut the tail of a sound and use that echoing harmonic throughout a track to build this feeling of texture. This is something you may want to consider! Go for a walk in your neighborhood or downtown and just record what’s around you in your phone. Get back to your work studio and import the sound into your tracks manipulating and processing it as you please! Along with all of these sampling aspects to building texture and feeling there also is the other end of the spectrum and approach which really focuses on EQing, mixing, mastering and adding plugins on sounds to give them a different feel. We all know the different categories of sound effect manipulation that are presented here (reverb, distortion, low pass/hi pass filtering, panning and of course all forms of equalization). Check out some of our staff plugin picks here! Also check out another podcast episode of our team talking specifically about EQ and mixing. There are endless plugins and ways to approach this. Find what works for you and explore!
This point pretty much is a continuation of the previous one, as mentioned before so many producers pull from the same libraries of sounds making a lot of their production sound similar. A quick way to counter this even if you are essentially using the same sound as someone else is to manipulate it on the back end. You’d be surprised how much of a difference tuning a snare, or any other sound, up or down can make in making your production stand apart from others. Many producers on our team take pride in never letting a drum or sound stand as is in a track without some form of custom manipulation. Challenge yourself to create this way for a while, never letting any aspect of your production not have ‘your’ custom touch on it. Whether you pitch a sound up or low pass filter it, the moment you do anything to a sound like this it becomes yours. And the more custom attributes within your production means that it will certainly standout.
Minimalism and the 4 Bar Loop
“Less is more” is the saying that never dies and always resurfaces in any talk about creating art. We all know that so many hit songs are simply just the same loop over and over again, “ear-worm type tracks with basic melodies and chord progressions. Now obviously it is extremely easy to fall prey to this formula and make boring music that definitely doesn’t stand out from the pack, but with intentional effort toward including the previous things I mentioned of texture, feel and custom sounds, you can now plug these pieces into this formula to not only make songs that are different, but also widely accessible. A big rule of thumb that you could use is that if you can create a 4 bar musical sequence that can be played over and over again without it getting boring, then you have the foundation to your track. In many cases you may be 80% toward completion of a track especially if minimalism is your aim. The benefits of minimalism stretch across the music making process from creation to post production. Having less pieces to focus on allows for greater attention to be given to the elements that are there—therefore maximizing the potential of each piece of your track. Ultimately minimalism is about space. Using space really allows your textures and custom sounds to breathe and speak!
Challenge yourself today and put some of these tips to use in your production! Also check out our newest sample pack that really is all about texture and feel!