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Archive for December, 2009

club sense

December 31, 2009 By: Brian Crawford Category: Personal

lately I’ve been working on a new melodic trance song; unfortunately it won’t be ready until next year (as I’m not getting it done in the next four hours or so), but hopefully soon after.

you might say I’m getting back to my roots, as I first started dabbling in melodic trance well over a decade ago, but I do notice that the trance songs I’ve been working on lately on have somewhat of a minimal feel to them. They rely heavily on minimal-sounding drums and sweeps, and though the songs themselves aren’t minimal (having many layers) I do tend to add minimal touches to them.

another thing I’ve noticed is that I don’t tend to feature huge long instrumental (and beat-free) buildups in the middle of my songs. These are pretty popular in trance these days, especially in epic and Dutch trance, but I can’t seem to feature them in my tracks, and I think the reason is because the tracks that feature them seem to lack dance-ability. True, these massive buildups are awesome for building intense emotion and mood, and can trigger a euphoric state if done correctly, but when done incorrectly they leave the crowd standing around on the dance floor staring at the lights and boggling while waiting for you to get on with the beats. I don’t want to be the cause of that.

maybe in a remix I’ll spend some time trying to work such a break into one of my trance songs. But until then, I’ll continue with smaller breaks, steady beats, and more danceable tracks.

some studio tutorials for trance

December 17, 2009 By: Brian Crawford Category: Links, Tutorials, Videos

Sander van DoornSander van Doorn, a well-known trance producer from Eindhoven, has put together some pretty good studio tutorials for people interested in producing their own trance music. Like many professionals he uses Logic Studio for Mac to produce his music, so the tutorials have a bias toward that combination of tools. Regardless, his tutorials are fun to watch, feature some great tips, and also give some advice about what specific synthesizers and software synths trance producers might want to invest in.

his studio sessions can be viewed on his personal website (in the members section), or on YouTube, which is where I’m going to link to them. I’ll also describe what you can find in them, in case you’re looking to learn something specific, or want to learn more about the tools and sample sets he uses. I’m writing this post for my own benefit as much as for anybody else’s; it is interesting to me to see what kinds of instruments and techniques other producers use to create music.

Episode 1: Sander gives a brief tour of his studio before starting in on a track. He loads up a kick on his software sampler and lays it down in Logic, then uses Klopfgeist to produce an amped-up drum bassline. He then adds some distortion with Logic. He adds a clap and a hi-hat from the Vengeance Minimal House sample set via the EXS-24 sampler, then ends with a simple percussion pattern.

Episode 2: Sander works on the melody of his new tune, and adds some reverb. He chooses a good trance-oriented sound for this melody using the Rob Papen Predator software synth, then adds a sub-layer bass and quantizes it. Finally, he selects a strings sample from the Spectrasonics Omnisphere software synth for this layer.

Episode 3
: Next, Sander adds compression to give punch to the kick, and side-chain compression from the kick to the melody, before putting a limiter on the output. Next he demonstrates the use of the Neve compressor in Logic. Then Sander introduces some of his synths; the Access Virus C, the Waldorf Blofeld (which I use myself), the Minimoog Voyager (rackmount), the Nord Lead 2X, and finally, the Dave Smith Evolver PE. Okay, I admit it. I’m more than a little jealous of this fine collection of synths.

Episode 4: In the final installment, Sander answers viewer questions about basslines, track composition, minor keys, sound creation and quantization. In the process he demonstrates the Delay Designer and Space Designer in Logic. I’m still jealous of those synths by the way.

overall, quite useful information, so if you’re just starting out creating techno music I do recommend spending the time to go through the lot of them (which will take about 45 minutes total).

stay in the riddim

December 15, 2009 By: Brian Crawford Category: DJ Mixes, Links

Droid Inna Dancehall Volume 1I lived in Ireland for a while, working at a large bank in Dublin. It took me about an hour to walk to work every day, and an hour to walk back afterwards (for those who know the city, I lived in Terenure, Dublin 6W, while working in Ballsbridge and Donnybrook, Dublin 4). The results of this were twofold; one, I got into pretty good shape walking a good two hours every day (in a suit no less), and two, I listened to a heck of a lot of different music during my walks.

of all the mixes I listened to during that time, perhaps the most memorable were two dancehall mixes spun by an Irish DJ called Droid, of Droid + Slug, a pair of DJs normally known for spinning old skool, jungle, dubstep, etc. I think these dancehall mixes may have been a bit out of the ordinary for this pair.

I’d already been into dancehall to some extent, having previously attended several Dub Island Soundsystem jams here in Charleston, SC. Droid’s mixes took this to a new level, however, if only due to the sheer amount of time I spent walking around Dublin while listening to them.

Droid Inna Dancehall Volume 2the mixes are called Droid Inna Dancehall Volume 1 – Basement Bashment and Droid Inna Dancehall Volume 2 – Alternate Roots (free downloads of zip files of the music can be found down the page, as well as track listings and explanations of what Droid was up to).

perhaps the most interesting thing about the first mix is that it leads off with a track by ยต-Ziq (heavy electronica) and mixes with a bagpipe riddim (dancehall). The mix is strictly dancehall after that. In Droid’s own words it doesn’t quite work, but it certainly does add interest to the mix, and I doubt such a pairing of these widely different genres has been attempted before.

a melodic trance sample

December 13, 2009 By: Brian Crawford Category: Samples

Futurists – melodic trance sample 01 (C2-C4) (download here).

Futurists – melodic trance sample 01 example (download here).

in the spirit of sharing, I’ve uploaded a melodic trance sample for you to use in your productions, if you can find a use for it. I made it by modifying a sound from the Waldorf Blofeld; for example, I completely chopped the release off the envelope, changed the shape of the oscillators, randomized the LFO, and so on. I didn’t, however, use any software to filter or compress it in any way.

the sample comprises two full octaves, starting at C2 and hitting every note between that and C4. In order to use it you’ll have to cut it up using Ableton Live, or Pro Tools, or whatever you use. You can also cut off the delay from the sample if you don’t want that plucky ringing sound in your song. I’ve also added an example of what the sample might sound like if you gave it a melody at 135 BPM.

let me know if there are any other samples you might want me to cook up, and I’ll be glad to give it a shot.

a minimal techno mix

December 11, 2009 By: Brian Crawford Category: DJ Mixes, Links

Brian Neckela few posts back I mentioned my old friend Brian Neckel from Detroit (now living in Louisville), with whom I occasionally collaborate on some music (I’m still waiting for that up-tempo Bobbins Remix by the way). I thought now might be a good time to offer up a link to one of his mixes!

so here it is, a minimal techno mix called MNML 502. You’ll note there is a free download link on the page, so snag it and stick it in your rotation!

what electronic music is what

December 10, 2009 By: Brian Crawford Category: Links

a couple of posts ago I made an offhand reference to Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music. I suppose this is a “re-link” but it’s definitely worth pointing out; Ishkur’s Guide is a valiant attempt to make sense of how electronic music has evolved through the past decades, and what the “electronic music map” looks like today.

it should also be mentioned that Kenneth John Taylor, the lone gunman behind the site (and a Canadian I might add, as indicated by the site’s wiki page), is pretty opinionated about certain forms of electronic music (for example, check out what he has to say about Dutch Trance), but his colorful musings only serve to add to the charm of this site. I recommend finding a good chunk of free time and spending a couple of hours clicking your way through this very colorful history of electronic music.

what we’re gonna do right here is go back

December 03, 2009 By: Brian Crawford Category: DJ Mixes, Links

Chicago Skylinelately I’ve been jamming to some excellent old school house mixes, mixed by DJ Scott Miller, on the Classic House Mixes podcast site. As the site promises, they feature “over 25 deep, soulful, vocal, gospel, classic to fresh quality house music mixes and podcasts”. This is all fine and good, but what it amounts to to me is a journey back to the year 1989, when house music was huge in Chicago and, among other places, Toronto (where I grew up).

I think the mixes are pretty good, though truthfully I was never (and am still not) as into “soulful, vocal house” as I was into the more dance-ready, club-oriented tunes generated by such producers as Steve “Silk” Hurley, Todd Terry Project, Royal House, and so on. Nonetheless, these mixes are definitely worth a listen, and will bring back some excellent memories, if you have them, of one of my favorite eras of music.

P.S. Because I get a lot of searches for this quote, I thought I’d mention here that “What we’re gonna do right here is go back” was featured in the 1988 house music hit Weekend by the Todd Terry Project. The original sample, however, comes from the 1972 song Troglodyte (Cave Man) by the Jimmy Castor Bunch.

P.P.S. For more classic, vocal, acid and hip house, check out this more recent post.