In this blogpost I'll explain my process about creating a track from scratch. From walking into the studio with (not) an idea, to a finished track ready to hit the clubs. I'll talk about Jamming, Organizing, the Arrangement, Effects, Mixing & Mastering and Feedback.
It feels like total freedom, walking into the studio and starting a new project. No guidelines, no one telling you what to do. Just you and the studio. I have a few ways of starting to create a track, depending on the inspiration I have at that particular moment. Sometimes I have something in my head that I want to transfer to actual music, and sometimes I just start with a nice sounding Kick and Bassline to build the track with. In both ways, it’s important for me to be in the right vibe to make music. The first moments in the studio are all about just having fun, jamming and see what sounds good and what not. I just let the creativity flow. Soon enough there is a concept of the track which I can work out later on, most of the times this is ‘the drop’. Once this is done, it’s time to organize all elements to get a clear overview of the track.
I use FL Studio 12 for my music production and a great thing about it is the fact that you can make it look organized pretty quick. I split all the elements that belong together in different patterns, meaning I have separate patterns for the Kick, Bass, Hihat, Snare, Clap, Percussion, Synths etc. This way I can lay out the arrangement really fast by just pasting all the patterns in the playlist.
So when the idea is there, it’s time to actually build the track. There are a lot of different choices to make when it comes to arranging, but I always try to have in mind playing the track during a DJ-set. This way, the track will be functional for other DJ’s to play as well. I will explain what could have been a choice of arrangement for me. Keep in mind that there are no rules when it comes to making music and what I’m about to lay out is not how I arrange all tracks.
Intro (32 bars):
I start with a 32 bars intro (which is about a minute), enough time to seamlessly mix it on top of another track. I like to keep the intro basic, for example: Kick, Hihat, Bassline. If the intro is too busy, it’s much harder to mix the track without hearing the transition.
Intro 2 (16/32 bars):
I put some more energy in the track by adding some elements that will make the track sound more alive. It’s a nice thing to have some things going on in the background with some automation, so it always sounds different. It also works for me to low-cut the Bass section in the intro and than bring in the bass in this part.
Break 1 (16 bars):
I usually take out some of the low frequencies on here and add the Main element of the track with some automation to introduce it. After, I will work on the buildup to ’the drop’ by using a couple of FX samples, rolling snares or a fill, whatever works for the track to raise it’s tension.
Drop 1 (32 bars):
This is the most important part of the track, the part people go crazy on. The bass kicks in with all the energy of the elements around. The perfect moment for people to dance. What I often do is split the drop in two parts. In the first part everything comes together again and the crowd will dance again. In the second part, I’d like to introduce another element to the track: Rides. Rides always work for me really well, as it gives the track just a little more energy than it already had.
Break 2 (32 bars):
Cut the low frequencies again or strip down the track to just a Kick and Bassline. From here on try to raise the tension just like in the first break, but now I use a longer break. This way I have more time for the buildup and make it way more interesting and exciting compared to the first one. This will be the most exciting part of the track, the moment just before the people will go crazy.
Drop 2 (32 bars):
After the excitement of the break I like to begin this drop with the highest level of energy that’s available in the track. That means the second drop starts the same as the first drop, but now with the Rides already in it.
Outro (32 bars):
In the last part of the track I get rid of the main elements of the track and go back to a basic beat for the outro. I use automation to seamlessly fade out elements. The important thing about the outro is the ability to mix another track into it of course, so it doesn’t have to be very special.
Below you'll see an example of how my Arrangement looks like. I gave markers to the different parts of the track so you can see what happens during which stage. This is the Arrangement of my track 'Streetwalker', which you can listen on Soundcloud.
Throughout the track, I always use a lot of effects or FX samples to spice up the track and make transitions between different parts sound smooth. I use samples for this, but I also like to create them myself. To make the track sound full I always use a little trick in the beginning of the process. I record a synth I like with a lot of reverb and bounce it into the track. I copy/paste it throughout the track and set the volume real low. It fills up the track real nice. For an example, listen to the player below where you can clearly here the difference of background noise being turned off and on.
Mixing and Mastering
At the start of a new project I always begin with mixing right away. I load every single sound in a different channel and start processing the sounds the way I like, so they sound good in the mix. This way, you’ll quickly hear how the track would sound when it’s finished. When I finish a track, I check if every sound has been loaded into a channel on the mixer. If not, I’ll add them and do some final touches to make the mix sound tight. When every element is loaded in the mixer, it’s easy to adjust the volume of each element to your taste. Only thing left to do after is rendering the track to WAV for the final step, making it sound louder. I always render the track in WAV at -6db to leave headroom. I open the WAV file in a new project and open a mastering tool for the final touch. I try to keep the the volume somewhere around -8 or -7db on the master channel without clipping.
After all the work on the track is done, it's time to let some fresh ears here my new track. This always helps me a lot to improve the track a little more, because other peoples opinion's are worth a lot. They hear the track for the first time and don't have a tunnel vision like I do after working on it for a lot of hours. For me, feedback is the key to improving my sound.
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