Research Was The First Step
Where I'm at/ was at?
It's been over 6 months since I last finish a track. Felt pretty lost for a while because I didn't know how to create the music I was hearing in my head.
It was actually when I started hearing dubstep in quite a few game trailers that I became intrigued by the style of music. More importantly I knew creating that music would help me solve two problems I had put up with for ages
The first problem was every piece I had written using Reason was always using preset sounds. My latest track I did add a scream filter to one of the sounds but that was the extent of my experimentation. I didn't feel in control of the sounds I made and had no clue how to alter or change certain aspects of the sound. That was frustrating.
The second problem was mixing a track. I honestly didn't have a clue and even the advice I got, it was still very difficult to know how to do it right.
What I did?
Can't tell you how amazing youtube is if you want to gain knowledge on something. The first step was to start listening to dubstep and more electronic music.
A great youtube channel is UKF dubstep as any great dubstep track is probably there. Also if you have Spotify there was a good dubstep playlist I found by Henrikwils so check that out.
After filling my head with wub wub it was time to learn how to make this music. MixPanMasterClasses was the first youtube tutorial dubstep channel I discovered. These really are master classes by the guys at the top of the dubstep world.
What surprised me was how open they were about telling you how they made their tracks. I come from a jazz background and I felt at times there was so much secrecy and closed doors to learning that music. So electronic music was very refreshing to learn because those guys love what they do and are happy to share their experiences with you.
Another youtube channel which I would recommend you start with is Dodge & Fuski tutorials. These guys do a tutorial every month, have a twitter page to ask question and live stream too. The tutorials are brilliant break downs of every aspect of dubstep, answered lots of questions I personally had and have given me enough knowledge to try making a track myself.
Lastly Reason which is the sequencer I'm using at the moment. Well Propellerhead has a tutorial youtube series for how to side chain and loads of handy tips.
What I discovered?
The main thing that stood out to me was that producers really do put a lot of time in creating sounds. They start with something that sounds so basic like a square wave. Basically imagine the sound of a melody line in a NES tune. I was amazed how that simple sound changed when they play the end result after all the filters, EQ, layering, LFOs have been added. I finally understood how to create a sound whether it's a lead noise or that "wub wub" synth. Here's a few of the top things which stood out while I was learning.
All the time I had listened to dubstep I had never noticed this. When you here a kick drum, synth etc it is usually multiple sounds put together. 2 or 3 sounds layered together and it helps to add character and a uniqueness to the sound. After you learn this you start to hear the different layers of sounds, it's weird XD
How to mix a track
I had been doing it completely wrong. These producers EQ as they go along, every sound gets EQ, or they put sounds in a group bus (drum group) and mix that. By the end of the track there's little EQing to be done because it has been an on going process throughout making the track. Will definitely being doing it this way from now on for the simple fact that you don't have any major balance issues at the end. It's like remembering to reference the quotes you use in an essay instead of finding all the references at the end. That's a nightmare.
Automation or live editing to bring life to your sounds
The best dubstep tracks have life and the sounds have life. You would be surprized how much work you have to put in to make an electric sound less, well like a machine. Automation is basically setting something to do something at a certain time. So I might want a filter to turn on at one point in time and then off at another point in time. This gives character to a sound and makes it more interesting.
Another way of creating life is live editing. Check out Glimpse as he's the master of this. He will record 7-8 minutes of him twisting different dials on 3 filters he has on the desk. It creates some really interesting sounds. On top of that he layers actual recording such as when he went for a walk in the park. The characteristics of those peaks of the audio will then influence other sounds. Acting like a filter to change those sound constantly, making it become alive.
Producers create a lot of sounds but they don't make everything. Thing is if an amateur creates a dubstep track it sounds dry. There's a tone of samples of "wosh" noises, white noises all sorts to really fill the spectrum of the track. These are straight from sample packs you can buy or get free. Again you will start hearing them in dubstep after you learn this.
The drop and structure
So much to talk about XD Best to check out my notes or check the videos that Dodge & Fuski have done. You get all the answers along with some great tricks to pulling off a great drop and have the right structure for your track. 16 bars sections are the key :D
I'm very excited right now because I feel more confident about using the tools I have available to me. All I got is a crappy laptop, a copy of Reason 5 and some headphones. With these tools there's a ton I can do and experiment with that I didn't think was possible before. I thought I needed a high end PC, top notch speakers and a ton of sample packs. That is the dream but for now I can still make great music with what I got.
You can probably tell I'm not a pro on dubstep from just reading this. I made this blog because I wanted to let people know that the tutorials, music and tools are there to be used. All you need is the focus to put in the time in to learn it and experiment with sounds in a sequencer of your choice.
In my next blog I will show the stages of how I made a dubstep track. Not sure if it will be purely dubstep, but it will have influences from that style of music.
Looking forward to getting started :D
Notes and links
Dodge & Fuski
Here are my notes on the MixPanMasterClasses and Dodge & Fuski tutorials. I will put the first video of every tutorial and then my notes in a spoiler below the video.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to share your experiences of music making below. Where are you at with it? Stuck in a rut? Finished any tracks/ recordings recently?