Making electronic music

A mind map bringing together many of the best techniques that I have discovered for producing electronic music. (Author: Digital genes /

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Making electronic music by Mind Map: Making electronic music

1. Creating

1.1. Overall

1.1.1. Composition Basic music theory Hooktheory Rick Beato music theory and song analysis Songwriting is more important than production Train your ear Chord crush Listen actively to music Idea generation Need one big idea / hook Where to start

1.1.2. Structure Typical Structure Intro Body Outro Other links Number of tracks Limit to the 4 core elements Don't over layer stuff Limit to 24 tracks absolute max Themes and Variations The rule of 3

1.1.3. Sounds Choice of sounds Complementary characters, tones Some artists select all sounds for a track before they start Otherwise, need to do fast previews Drones, ambience Sound design Top tips How to copy a sound you hear Layering For thicker / more characterful sounds Risk to make more muddy, carve out frequencies Add transient sounds to emphasise plucks Doubling Other effects Saturation LoFi / Glitch Bitcrush / chiptune Chorus

1.1.4. Expression Filters Slow evolutions / transitions Wobble effects Pumping (sidechaining) Patterns With volume shapers With midi patterns Audio effects Reverb Delay Granular Autopan Shapers / movement Use automation throughout to keep interest

1.1.5. Transitions Rises, hits and downers Risers Hits Sound Modern pop tracks play with elements already in the track Drops Drums Cut some parts early and start some parts later around the transition Add FX to emphasize what is there already Pre-echos of lead in background Add delay / stutter Add lush (ducked) delay / reverb Add reverses Washes / filter sweep Dynamics across the song De-emphasize before chorus or during break Emphasize Chorus more Change positioning in 4D space (see mixing) Silence before next key section Tape stops Cut sounds + reverb

1.1.6. Add surprises Sudden volume change (Teen Spirit) Sudden keychanges (e.g. Fm --> E) Sting, Steve Wonder Sudden change of style System of a Down Change time signatures Genesis Change in vocal character Change into parallel major/minor key Seal - Kiss from a Rose Rhythmic unrest that then resolves Rush Change tempo (less common these days) Same melody, different key Strawberry fields, Beatles Unusual sounds

1.1.7. Ear Candy Vocals Vocal hits: 'hey' / 'ho' etc at end of section or to launch the next Adlibs Copy bits and add formant / shift down 1 octave Synth fills Stutter fill chords Arpeggio fill in background (subtle) High violin fill in background High twinkly notes Glide note changes Percussion Clicks and pops Drum fills FX Clever way is to link to lyrics e.g. star twinkle sound when singing about stars Links Andrew huang

1.2. By instrument

1.2.1. Drums Kicks Start with the right sample / sound Tonal balance Kick (40-100Hz) peaks between -3 and 0 db Claps / snares (800-4kHz) peak at -3 db Hats (>4kHz) peak at 0 db

1.2.2. Bass Two basses / parts Foundation / sub-bass Melodic bass Rhythm and Movement Note length & timing Note variations Common Patterns Adding character / interest Add subtle noise Add extra layers to accent some notes Subtle pitch bend Subtly automate

1.2.3. Pads Be discrete, unless going for 80s style Pumping effect is common Ambience and Drones

1.2.4. Synths & leads Give them character Call / response (reverse audio) Sample layer Formant shifter layer Extreme pitch layer (ear candy) Top/bottom different synths Add noise Pitch envelope Double envelope

1.2.5. Plucks / stabs Make them pop : emphasise transients 1. Subtle distortion 2. Transient designer: increase attack of mids and highs 3. Compressor: hard knee, 20ms attack, 200ms release

1.2.6. Vocals Synth & lead techniques equally applicable to vocals More ... WIP

2. Mixing

2.1. Working method

2.1.1. Setup Groups / buses May help to colour code types of instruments, easier to group Option: bounce out to stems pre-mixing Send/return busses Drums & Bass Room reverb Synth / lead reverb Widening bus Gain staging Ensure no track is clipping, ideally at -6db Bring whole volume to -6db before start to mix Set reference track & volumes Adaptr AB Metric is great for this Set reference at -10db to be equivalent to mix level Identify key points e.g. verse, chorus, buildup, drops to ensure vol balance between them Add EQ after the AB Metric pugin to focus on different freq bands Cut frequencies Hi & Lo Pass every track Cut all lows except 1-3 essential tracks Cut harsh frequencies, resonances High mids instruments Put everything <150Hz in mono Unless essential non kick + bass parts need this range, but will still need to separate them in the mix!

2.1.2. Process Work on climax section first Drums then bass then the rest See 'by instrument' section below Pick one track/group to be up front in each section of the song, don't try to put everything up front Balance the mix i.e. separate the instruments / groups Positioning in the 4D space Separation techniques Smooth flow / transitions between sections

2.1.3. Good habits A/B test key mixing decisions Perception A/B or similar Gain compensation Keep comparing to reference track Take a 15 min break every hour to rest your ears

2.2. By instrument type

2.2.1. Drums Keep the drums up front, essential rhythm Mix drums first (electronic music) Separate kick, snare, tops Start with the kick Align to ref track at each freq band Keep the character, keep the mids Rest of drums, align to reference also No need to do band by band Add subtle room reverb to put into same space Add more punch (slow attack, faster release) with compression Sometimes better to keep kick out of the compression

2.2.2. Bass Sidechain off the kick All-band sidechain -6db-ish + Sub sidechain on top, extra -6db Cut top frequencies But not too much, keep the character Sub Tone Widen Break / melodic bass Add subtle room reverb. Take attack out of the reverb to make it smoother

2.2.3. Synths & Leads Sidechain chords etc. off kick, but not stabs / main lead Ref check at different bands Remove harsh frequencies Reverb - via synth/lead reverb bus Delay - via synth/lead delay bus Echoboy

2.2.4. Vocals Compress overall if necessary (more for pop) Ref check at different bands Cut frequencies with dynamic EQ Boost higher end >4k with saturation for crisper sound De-ess at >4k Sometimes use saturation to add grit Sometimes put super short, subtle plate reverb on channel strip Send to vocal (ducked) reverb bus Send to delay bus Saturate signal going into delay Add low mix subtle reverb before delay When vocals are right level, lower other instruments to make room

3. Mastering

3.1. Glue compression 2-3db, low ratio (1:2 / 1:4)

3.2. Enhance transients if necessary

3.3. Reduce harsh frequencies (>4k)

3.3.1. Oeksound Soothe (ear friendly top on master preset)

3.3.2. Baby audio Smooth Operator

3.3.3. Acon defilter

3.3.4. Matering the mix Reso

3.3.5. Gulfoss

3.4. Add back 'air'

3.4.1. e.g. dynamic reduction + make up at 4k+

3.5. Ref check whole master band by band

3.6. Multiband compression to dial in 1-3db compression per freq band

3.7. Ensure mono <150Hz

3.8. Limiting

3.8.1. Set to give RMS -7 to -8

3.8.2. Checking LUFS Can run a quick check at 999 bpm Error of 0.5-1.5 LUFS Freeze tracks first to limit error

3.9. Listen on different devices / listen from another room

3.10. Alternative approach: Reverse Mastering