Today, the most crucial part of setting yourself apart from the masses, aside from mastering the basics, is infusing your own creative identity into your music. And, luckily for you, today we’re discussing how to do just that. Let’s get started!
Just recently, we helped to mentor a producer from India’s capital city, Mumbai. He was a promising student. But, he would always fall short when looking for new, imaginative vocal samples to put in his work.
We tried everything with him. Whether it was sampling diva vocals, Disco, or even Hip Hop, nothing seemed to stick.
That is, until we came across a folder on his external hard drive that hadn’t been touched in three years: “Bollywood Vocals.”
“What’s that,” we asked him?
“Oh it’s some lame Indian music I should have deleted forever ago,” he replied.
Thank goodness he did not.
It turns out that his grandmother was a semi-famous Bollywood singer in India. And, he just so happened to have an entire folder of her old recordings, even a few acapella tracks.
Needless to say, he’s stumbled upon sample gold. Not just because these files have never been used before, but also because this music is a part of who he is. Mind you, this is not just as a musician, but just as a person as well.
There’s a skill in recognizing what’s good, and what’s not. And, it’s talents like these that we try to drill into the heads of our Toolroom Academy students.
As the famed English author Ernest Hemmingway once wrote: “…rather than thinking, you must bleed onto the page every time you write.”
And, when it comes to music production, we couldn’t agree more.
As we’ve discussed previously, music allows you the opportunity to “let it all out.” This means releasing all types of emotions, from your highest highs to your lowest lows during studio sessions.
And, a great way to do this is to simply find sounds that remind you of such experiences.
This is often easier said than done, but bear with us here.
One particularly clever trick we saw one of our signed artists do was watching him create a custom sample folder from a favorite video game from PlayStation 1.
That’s right. This person went onto YouTube, found a video with every sound featured in their favorite childhood game, and spent 2 hours in Ableton cutting it up and organizing it into a folder.
“How quirky,” we thought at first. But, once this same producer ended up in a few Toolroom A&R sessions, it was clear he had struck gold.
While it may have been tedious at first, this producer now has a set of sounds that is not only unique but also personally meaningful. This producer loved playing this game as a child, and the sound FX from it bring back fond memories. Best of all, something like this requires no real advanced knowledge of Ableton or music production.
It’s literally just ripping files off of YouTube, chopping them up, and bouncing them out of your DAW of choice.
This is exactly what we mean whenever we ask: “who are you?” Whether you’re a 90s raver, a millennial video gamer, or even a classical composer, it’s up to you to channel your life experiences, and your personality, into the art you make.
Do you like embarrassingly cliché Hip Hop? That’s okay. So do lots of other people, and you’ll certainly find people who appreciate a good bootleg. Or, maybe you’re a political science nerd. By that same token, a well-sampled political speech can truly rock a dance floor in todays highly charged times. No matter who you are, let it show.
This, at its root, is the path you take towards infusing your creative identity into your work.
At Toolroom Academy, there is perhaps one piece of advice that we preach above all else…
Not all samples are created equally. Not by a long shot!
The biggest mistake most producers are making today is that they are choosing sounds that do not work well together.
It’s quite a shame. We frequently receive demos that are actually quite decent but are ruined by one or two poorly chosen elements. This could be an overly obtrusive kick, a snare that lacks snap, or even a set of high hats that are too bright for today’s Tech House sounds.
The saddest part of this is, most producers don’t realize that they are choosing sounds that do not work. Mind you, this is not something that can be corrected by throwing 9 different VSTs on your channel strip.
In fact, if you were choosing sounds that worked well together, you wouldn’t need much processing prior to your final mixdown.
Learning proper sound choice is a lifelong process that is similar to being able to pick out two tracks that work well together in a DJ set. It simply takes trial and error to get right. It is for this reason that this concept is one of the primary things that we focus on in the Toolroom Academy Production Certificate Course.
Think to your DJ library. Though you may stick to one genre, you probably have many different iterations of that style.
Though you may play House, you likely have a fair amount of Disco House, Latin House, Tech House, Techno, and a few Progressive tunes, a folder of Classics, and maybe even some remixes of popular records.
Any DJ who’s well prepared to read a room goes into their sets with their “guns loaded” so to speak.
As a producer, your sample collection should be similarly set up. Though you may never make a Latin House record in your life, the bongos and conga drums you get from these packs are often second to none.
And, while you might not be able to listen to a DnB record without getting a headache (oh, to be young again), you’ll find some seething Reese Bass samples in old school Jungle packs.
We encourage you to keep your sample selection lean and mean, as if it’s just finished CrossFit. Eliminate (or at least backup) what’s useless and you don’t use for over 6 months. But, by that same token, don’t be afraid to dip into foreign territories to find some truly memorable, unique sounds.
Plus, chances are you haven’t only ever listened to House music. Like most producers, you likely started off listening to a different genre of Electronic music, and slowly grew into House.
Don’t be afraid to pick through your favorite rave anthems of your younger years. Try to find little bits and pieces, or perhaps even full vocal or drum loops that still inspire you.
Still, be careful, as it’s important not to come across as overly commercial.
Of course, while sampling everything under the sun has been commonplace in House music from day #1, it’s important to remember that even knowing a little bit about how to make your own sounds can give you quite a lot in return!
Want to know a little secret?
At least half of today’s producers know next to nothing about sound design.
It’s true. With sample packs being so popular today, many producers see there to be no clear reason to actually open up a synthesizer and get to work.
Even the simplest of tricks, such as those, which we teach in the Toolroom Academy Creativity Unlocked Program, can be massively helpful with setting yourself apart from today’s artists.
Understanding even the most basic aspects of sound design and sample manipulation can help you get miles ahead of your competition.
Our Creativity Unlocked Program discusses the basics of sound design, including how to write a bassline, how to make basic FX, and how various plugins can help to make a sample into something that is uniquely your own.
It’s fundamental skills like these that not only help you to stand out, but also solidify your understanding of the process of making today’s House, Tech House, and Techno.
Sometimes in life, we need to take a hard look at our process to attempt to identify our weak points.
After all, progressing as an artist is often very much reliant on your ability to accept constructive criticism from others. Chances are, if you haven’t gotten to where you want to be, you still have a few things to learn.
There’s no shame in admitting that we’re all weak in a few parts of our production process. Whether it’s making thumping basslines, finding vocal hooks, arranging tracks, or even the mixdown process, 90% of producers aren’t getting the results they want because their music simply isn’t up to snuff.
This is a huge problem in the music industry today, with many tutorials and online courses even teaching aspiring artists the absolute wrong way of making music. Little do they know, this can set them back even further on their production journey.
The truth is, before you stand out as an artist, you must have music that “fits in” with the quality you’re up against.
And, it is for this very reason that we’ve launched two courses here at Toolroom Academy that are designed to help producers make the music they need to break through in today’s music industry.
again), you’ll find some seething Reese Bass samples in old school Jungle packs.
Today’s music producers need courses that can teach them the ins and outs of how to make House, Tech House, and Techno the right way.
And believe us, there are countless courses out there teaching the exact opposite.
Toolroom Records has been at the forefront of modern-day, cutting edge Electronic music for over 15 years. Toolroom Academy’s Foundations Program & Production Certificate Course has distilled nearly two decades of knowledge into two six and twelve-week programs whose goal is to push you to the next level.
The Toolroom Academy Production Certificate Programme is a 3-month online course designed to take you step-by-step to building a relevant Tech House record to a professional standard. For those of you who already understand the basics of Ableton but want to take a deep dive into House music, this is the course for you.
The Toolroom Academy Creativity Unlocked Programme, on the other hand, is designed for those who need to inject that little extra “something” into their tracks. Whether it’s basic sound design, sample manipulation, or even just finding a killer hook, the Creative Unlocked Program is where you need to be. If you wish to dive into a program that’s going to give you the tools that mean the difference between another lonely upload on Soundcloud and a record contract, this is it.
With global quarantine orders letting newcomers all over the world try their hand at production, spots are filling up quickly. Producers all over the world are locked up in the studio right now, and we’re expecting an explosion of new music once the Coronavirus madness is over.
You too can use this time to sharpen your skills in production, because you can bet your competition is doing the same.
Interested in studying with Toolroom Academy? Get in touch with us today.