On December 21st our team hosted a live Q&A about Dubstep and electronic music production in our Facebook group.
Thanks to everyone who participated! We received a lot of good questions from Soundtrap users around the globe. Below we highlight some of the questions answered by the Dubstep producer Alexius (Soundcloud, Facebook) and the members of the Soundtrap team.
Since the whole session was in a form of a conversation, we kept individual messages largely unedited to keep the original tone.
“How to become a great music producer?”
Put time into it. Educate yourself, take courses, watch tutorials on YouTube. Once you start to know the tools of the craft, start experimenting. Try different music genres. Sure, I’ve mainly done rave or EDM-music, but I’ve still produced everything from hip hop to hardcore metal to movie soundtracks. And it’s really fun to try writing something you’ve never done before.
I would say that experimenting is the no.1 thing that helped me.
“How do you start?”
Depending on the genre I might start with a specific element. When writing beat-oriented music I always start with drums. Then maybe I find a sample I really like and start chopping it up or distort it, and eventually build upon that foundation, adding lead melodies and chords.
When producing with a band or another artist we might start with an idea they already have, or start jamming on a midi-keyboard or perhaps record some chords on the guitar or whatnot.
Sometimes when I’m not on my computer and a melody pops up in my head I usually hum and record it on my phone and when I get to the studio I write it into my DAW.
“How to create a good dubstep growl lead?”
Essentially what makes the organic and vocal sound in the growls are the formant emulations. Basically, resonances that recreates the “throat” of a voice.
I usually start with a synth like FM8, Serum or Massive and find a Wavetable or oscillator that works as the basic sound.
Then there’s are some filter plug-ins that can emulate the vowel-sounds like Sugar Bytes WOW-filter for example, but it’s achievable with a basic 2-band bell EQ that you can automate.
When you got the resonances right, you can start moving them up and down to recreate movement in the voice. For example, recreating the vowel movement between “oh and eh”.
Add some distortion, more filters and different plugins that creates movement in the sound.
Finally I usually adjust texture. This is mostly foley sounds in the treble-area. Adding and layering noise or reverb basically.
There is loads of tutorials online how to make specific growls, but that’s the basics of it.
“What do you suggest for beginner music production?”
When I started out I had no knowledge of making or playing music. There were no tutorials online, only some production forums which I constantly visited e.g. dogsonacid, but nowadays there’s so much tutorials on YouTube and information online on how to start out.
Collaborations with other producers are also key to developing your own skills. Mostly because you share your workflows and tips & tricks you’ve gathered on your own.
When I started in secondary school and studied music production I’ve met the people I work professionally with today, and these artists and producers are my main inspirations and from whom I’ve learnt most from.
“Where do you see the future of electronic music going?”
Let’s start with saying that electronic music is really rich. And it contains a lot of genres.
If we focus on what people call EDM (Electronic Dance Music), from my POV, it’s always a bandwagon of what’s “cool” at the moment. And it switches really fast.
We’ve had progressive house, then dubstep (or brostep), mombathon for a while, then trap became “festival-trap” and big-room house.
All these genres already existed before they became mainstream. And when they became mainstream they rapidly built upon the foundation of genre they once were and then evolved to something really different.
Predicting where electronic music is going is really difficult because of this.
“What are some things to keep in mind when writing music?”
When I get stuck sometimes I put on a playlist with a different genre on low volume and go do something else for a while.
When hearing glimpses of music your brain usually fill in the blanks, and sometimes you get ideas from your “interpretation” of what you’re hearing.
Keeping energy levels up are also important when working with other artists.
I always serve coffee in my studio.
“What are some good strategies and effects for dubstep production?”
Instead of just making noises I try to write a melody or rhythm that you can “sing”. Some tracks are more groove-oriented, and It has happened that I beatbox into a mic and then write upon that foundation.
Sound design is of course really important, but for me it’s more important to have a musicality to the song. Otherwise the listener won’t remember it.
Stay tuned for the next Q&A and join our Facebook group.