No, not the 90s rave producers, the rich and vibrant worlds of freely usable and copyright free audio!
TV theme tunes. If you’ve been following our assignments then the subject of theme tunes shouldn’t be too far out of your consciousness – so how about you make a TV theme tune remix?!
Have a spring clean in your project folders… have you got any ideas you never quite ran with? Release some remix stems and collaborate!
More music production ideas! Okay, we’re not all super heroes. That said, we can always pretend…
After last week’s slightly more abstract Assignment, this week it’s time to look at something that’ll directly help your workflow for every project you start!
Sometimes the best way to get better at making music is not to think about making music for a second. Cod philosophy aside, let’s take a little look at how paper can be an inspiration…
The piano is a wonderful instrument, and can be all you really need to write a song. How often do you hide behind lots of different instruments to create interest in your music when you could just write a better composition?
We usually think about key and scale in a very strict, closed off fashion. Even if you’re not too hot on music theory – and there’s nothing wrong with that – the sixth sense you develop for which notes to use in your tracks will tend to revolve around things working in comparison to a root note.
It’s getting a little hard to hark back to the days when dubstep was an emerging sound that was quietly gathering acclaim as a movement that housed some of the most creative and forward thinking electronic musicians in the world; impossible to pigeon hole, on the cutting edge of production technique and ideas, dubstep was an antidote to cookie cutter music and a constant pallet cleansing experience. In under six years from first poking its head above the parapet and getting hit by its first signs of mainstream acceptance, dubstep has become a victim of its own success and the public face of the genre is perhaps now amongst the most formulaic of any music in recent history, based almost solely around the visceral effects of hard synths and wobbling drops and eschewing any pretence of smart songwriting.
Keep the blueprint, change the tools
The original genre luminaries have largely disowned dubstep as an allegiance and are busy behind the scenes creating the same new, exciting music they always were, albeit without calling it anything in particular. The important point is that as soon as you define a genre by a specific sound as opposed to an approach or a philosophy, the walls close in, freedom gets reduced, and what was once an exciting, edgy side to a broad spectrum of music suddenly becomes cliched and, without different audio aesthetics to bounce off, samey sounding.
Still with me?! Good. This assignment is all about remembering what it is you love about making music by removing the most overused technique you have from your audio pallet. Do you make dubstep, and do you abuse that wobble formula a little too much? Glitch and breaks, and sit a little too hard on those auto beat stutter plugins? How about hip hop, and stuck sampling the same sounding records, with the same chops…
Throw it out! Try and approach the same goal with your music, without using your most overused tool to get there. Take a look at these examples of tracks that exemplify what I’m talking about:
I’m a nut for detroit hip hop, and to extend a cliche, J Dilla changed my life. A particular track that had a huge effect on me, however, was Slum Village’s Tainted, produced by Karriem Riggins. The soul, swing, and unmistakeable groove of my favourite sound is all over the track, but rather than being a sample based outing, the lead line is a live played electric piano. Getting the confidence to play instruments to create grooves rather than rely on records made me think about how I liked music to sound in a whole new light…
If you need any further inspiration to think outside the box and expand your style, Boonie Mayfield has taken the concept of moving from sampling vinyl to playing samples he would have looked for and run with it:
I’ve laid into dubstep a little bit today, but the truth is that because ‘dubstep’ was just a label that meant many things to many people, there’s really no canonical way of retelling ‘where it all went wrong’. At its most basic, though, I’d characterise dubstep as a genre that relied on laid back, even half time drum patterns, with the rhythmical drive dictated by bass. To that end, James Blake fits the bill and his particular brand of sub bass heavy, borderline experimental music is simply an approach to the same end as anyone else experimenting with halftime percussion and floor shaking sub frequencies…