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How to make DnB / Drum and Bass

How do I get Started Making DnB? 

I get alot of questions about how to start making music as a complete beginner in DnB so I thought I would put some thoughts on "Paper" about how to achieve some progress in your musical journey. 

What Equipment do I Need to get Started?

To get started making DnB or Electronic Music in general you are going to need a few bits of equipment. 

Essentials:

• The Most Powerful Computer you can afford (A lot of music people use Apple Macs but its not essential)

• A Decent Sound Card (This is the window to the sound The headphone output is not good enough) 

• Good Pair Of Headphones/Powered Studio Monitors (Speakers)

• Some Software (D.A.W Digital Audio Workstation)

List of all the D.A.W's I Recommend for DnB:

  1. Ableton Live: https://www.ableton.com

  2. FL Studio: https://www.image-line.com

  3. Logic Pro (Apple you will need a MAC Computer): https://www.apple.com/logic-pro/

  4. Cubase (Steinberg): https://new.steinberg.net/cubase/

  5. Reaper: https://www.reaper.fm

  6. Reason (Reason Studios): https://www.reasonstudios.com

  7. Studio One (PreSonus): https://www.presonus.com/products/Studio-One

  8. Bitwig Studio: https://www.bitwig.com

All the D.A.W's have they're pros and cons, Alot of the new school producers at the moment are using FL Studio or Ableton, I have recently been looking at Bitwig but I think Logic is and Always will be my D.A.W of choice. 

The main thing is to get one and learn it inside and out every function and feature. If you are serious obout learning how to make DnB you will have to do quite a lot of research into how to achieve the sound you are looking for. 

What Are Plugins?

Now that you have your D.A.W and have started making tunes with the built in functions and features you might find that you want to expand the functionality of the software, this is where plugins come in. Other Software companies make plugins for D.A.Ws in various formats (VST, AU) These plugins can be instruments or Effects. Most Plugins will work with all the D.A.W's and there are literally hundreds of options for companies and thousands of plugins out there for music making. They range from free to very expensive and it is going to be a learning curve to get to know what plugins you might want to use for your DnB music making. 

List of Plugins I Recommend for Dnb:

I have used all these plugins and can attend to legitimacy in terms of usability and value for money. 

For the ones that cost money wait for a sale!

Synths:

1: Vital Synth (FREE): https://vital.audio/

2: Surge (FREE): https://surge-synthesizer.github.io/

3: Serum Synth (PAYED)https://xferrecords.com/products/serum/

4: FM8 (PAYED): https://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/komplete/synths/fm8/

5: Massive (PAYED): https://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/komplete/synths/massive/

6: ANA2 (PAYED): https://www.sonicacademy.com/products/ana-2

7: Kontakt Sampler (PAYED): https://www.native-instruments.com/en/products/komplete/samplers/kontakt-7/

Effects: 

1: Analogue Obsession Plugins (FREE): https://analogobsession.com/

2: Air Windows Plugins (FREE): https://www.airwindows.com/

3: Valhalla Supermassive Reverb Plugin (FREE): https://valhalladsp.com/shop/reverb/valhalla-supermassive/

4: Crave EQ2 Plugin (PAYED): https://cravedsp.com/crave-eq

5: Fab Filter Plugins (PAYED): https://www.fabfilter.com/

6: Melda Plugins (FREE/PAYED): https://www.meldaproduction.com/effects/free

Love The Process: 

Making DnB is going to be frustrating at times but also very rewarding, even if you are just making tunes to show your friends loving the process of learning and pushing the sound will be key to making good tunes. Have fun with it! Some of my best tunes came from just messing around on a funny or stupid idea that I never thought would turn into anything.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Where do I get Sounds/Samples for DnB?

Finding good sounds for your productions can be quite a challenge, Building your sound library will be a big part of your DnB making journey, there are lots of options for buying samples and patches for software plugins however I would recommend that you take time to find the best sounds and don't underestimate the power of recording your own samples and sounds and making your own patches. 

For DnB originality is definitely going to give you an edge in the market and using sounds from sample packs and patch packs without making them your own will not help you to stand out and be original. 

I can not emphasise enough the importance of making a large diverse Sound Library for your productions. I make a folder for every year for all the sounds I make in that year. It Will make all the difference when it comes to being able to consistently bang out big tunes that all sound different.

Is it ok to Copy Other Artists Tunes and Ideas

When you are starting out in DnB production I think its fine to copy other artists ideas as long as you keep the tunes as personal dub-plates and do not release them, as a way of learning copying is very effective and will help you to develop your own style in the long run. It is crucial though when you have got the skills to make tunes that you define your own style and brand in your music. 

Should I Release All my Tunes? 

In this day and age of Soundcloud and instant gratification there is a tendency for producers to chuck out everything they make into the public domain and this is good for building leverage and followers but I think as a producer just starting out it is a good idea to at least define your sound before you put out all your tunes. I think I have made the mistake of possibly putting out tunes that are not quite right and have regretted it. 

Where Should I Get My Influences? 

In my humble opinion the best producers I know don't get they're influences from other DnB producers and maybe look back to old music, I think the more you are influenced from within the scene the more of an echo chamber it becomes. Our goal has got to be to push the music forwards as much as we can. 

Do My Tunes Need to be DJ Friendly? 

Given that DnB is mainly a type of Dance music with roots in Jamaican Dance Hall / Jungle Techno culture, I would say it is a good idea to have DJs in mind when making tunes. A lot of people get into production from the DJ side and making tunes you would want to play in your set is a key consideration. Saying that there is Art for Arts sake and you don't have to be constrained by rules. Going against the DJ friendly grain might have implications on how much play you get and it is an amazing feeling seeing 1000s of people dance to your tune. 

Do I Need to Know Music Theory to Make DnB?

I think no, but it helps to know a little bit. Some people have a natural ability to be musical and I would say if you are one of these people then you might not need to know bout the theoretical aspects to music but if you are not able to sit down at a piano with no training and at least play a tune or two it might be worth getting some musical training to start off on the journey. I would also say this, knowing too much can be a negative in music, When you know too much you might not explore ideas because you are aware that they might have been done before and I believe that you should be able to do things in your way with your style and not be held back by the knowledge of others having been down the same roads. So definitely learn some basics but also feel your way through it cause its art at the end of the day and should not have rules or constraints. 

Making A DnB Drum Beat

How to Make a Drum Beat in DnB:

So you have your Computer, Sound Card, Headphones/Speakers and D.A.W and now you are wondering how to make a simple drum beat to get started. Here is a short guide to making a beat. 

Set The Tempo (Speed of your tune):

Every D.A.W will have a tempo setting usually in the top bar of the program. DnB has quite a specific range of tempos, the most common tempo used by most Drum and Bass Porducers is 174BPM one hundred and seventy four beats per minute but this is not a hard and fast rule. For the longest time I used 173BPM. A lot of jump up producers use 175 and Nuro Funk producers quite often use 172BPM. Alot of older jungle tunes range from 165BPM to 170BPM. Your choice of tempo is objective and stylistic.

Mostly to be current you are going to want to be at 174. 

Find Some Drum Samples:

To make a simple drum beat you will need a Kick Drum, Snare Drum and Hat Sample.  

Example Drums Here: TCDNB_Example_Drums.zip

 

Making The Beat: 

There are 2 ways to make a beat in most D.A.Ws in the case of the images below it is Ableton Live: 

1: By placing the different sounds on to audio tracks in the right places to sequence the beat.

Making A DnB Drum Beat Audio Tracks.jpg

2: by putting the sounds into a sampler and triggering the sounds using the piano roll. 

Making A DnB Drum Beat Midi2.jpg
Making A DnB Drum Beat Midi1.jpg

There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods. 

With method 2 you are able to pitch the whole beat up and down using real time controllers and save the whole beat as a preset for use later and in other projects. 

In the images above it shows the simplest placement of the beats to make a simple DnB drum beat. 

Software Synths

The History of Software Synths:

Back in the day we (Producers) would use all hardware to make electronic music, it was expensive and very complex using all the different Operating Systems for the Samplers and Synths and sequencing them all with Midi. I remember getting logic 5 for the first time with the ability to use audio and plugins.

The first Virtual Studio Technology (VST) plugin became available in 1996. It was introduced by the German company Steinberg with the release of Cubase 3.02 software. VSTs revolutionized the music production industry by allowing developers to create a wide variety of audio effects and virtual instruments that could be used within digital audio workstations (DAWs). This innovation greatly expanded the creative possibilities for producers and musicians, enabling them to integrate sophisticated software-based audio processing and synthesis into their workflows. By the early to mid-2000s, VST had become a widely supported standard in the industry.

What is Midi?

MIDI, which stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, is a technical standard that allows musical instruments, computers, and other electronic equipment to communicate and synchronize with each other. Introduced in 1983, MIDI revolutionized music production and performance by enabling devices to send and receive various types of information.

Here are some key aspects of MIDI:

1. Digital Protocol: MIDI is a digital protocol, which means it uses a specific set of instructions to communicate information. It does not transmit audio; instead, it sends data about how music is played, such as the notes, timing, velocity (how hard a note is played), and other control signals.

2. Messages: MIDI messages are the instructions sent between devices. These include note-on (when a note is played), note-off (when a note is released), control change (like modulating a sound), program change (changing the instrument sound), and more. These messages enable precise control over musical performance.

3. Channels: MIDI can transmit data on 16 separate channels. This feature allows a single MIDI device or interface to control up to 16 different instruments simultaneously.

4. Connectivity: Originally, MIDI devices were connected using 5-pin DIN cables. Modern MIDI devices can also connect via USB, and there are even wireless MIDI solutions.

5. Applications in Music: MIDI is used in a wide range of musical applications. Musicians use MIDI keyboards to play virtual instruments on their computers, drum machines to send rhythm patterns, and MIDI controllers to manipulate software parameters in real-time.

6. Sequencing and Composition: MIDI is crucial in music production for sequencing, which is the process of creating and arranging a series of MIDI messages to form a musical composition. This can be done in a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).

7. Synchronization: MIDI also allows devices to synchronize with each other, ensuring that they operate in time with one another. This is vital in both live performances and studio settings.

8. Evolution: Over the years, MIDI has evolved. MIDI 2.0, the latest version, offers enhanced features like increased resolution for controller messages, more nuanced expression capabilities, and improved compatibility and communication between devices.

MIDI has been an essential tool for musicians, producers, and composers, providing a flexible and efficient way to create and manipulate music digitally.

What Soft Synths do I need? 

Starting out your D.A.W should include a few software synths to play with, it should be enough to get you at least started with making some bass sounds and other things you need for your music. 

After some time you might find that you need more advanced features and luckly they can be obtained for free in these times with Vital a free synth availible to all. 

Free Software Synth

Vital Synth: https://vital.audio/

What are the Basic Concepts of Synthesis?

Synthesis is the process of creating sound electronically. It's a foundational concept in electronic music and sound design, used in various contexts from music production to sound effects in gaming and film. There are several types of synthesis, each with its unique method of generating and manipulating sound. Here are some of the most common ones:

1. Subtractive Synthesis: This is one of the most basic and widely used synthesis methods. It starts with a rich, harmonically complex sound wave (like a square, sawtooth, or triangle wave) and then "subtracts" frequencies using a filter. By cutting out certain frequencies, it shapes and modifies the sound. The Moog synthesizer is a classic example of subtractive synthesis.

2. Additive Synthesis: Opposite to subtractive synthesis, additive synthesis works by adding together individual sine waves with varying frequencies, amplitudes, and phases to create a more complex sound. It's like building a sound from the ground up. This method can precisely control the timbre but can be computationally intensive.

3. FM (Frequency Modulation) Synthesis: FM synthesis uses one waveform (the modulator) to change the frequency of another waveform (the carrier), creating complex harmonic profiles. It's known for its ability to produce a wide range of sounds, from naturalistic instruments to electronic tones. The Yamaha DX7 is a famous FM synthesizer.

4. Wavetable Synthesis: This method involves using a table of waveforms which can be scanned or morphed through to create sound. It allows for rich, evolving textures and is commonly used in modern digital synthesizers.

5. Granular Synthesis: Granular synthesis breaks down sounds into tiny "grains" (small snippets of sound) and then recombines and manipulates these grains in various ways to create new textures. It's great for creating atmospheric, ambient, and highly textured sounds.

6. Physical Modeling Synthesis: This method uses mathematical models to simulate the physical properties of real instruments (like the tension of a string or the shape of a trumpet bell). By adjusting parameters, you can recreate realistic-sounding instruments or completely new sounds.

7. Sample-Based Synthesis: Rather than generating sounds from oscillators or mathematical algorithms, this method uses recorded audio samples. These samples can be played back at different pitches and manipulated in various ways to create musical sounds.

Each synthesis method has its characteristics and is chosen based on the desired sound and application. Synths, whether hardware or software, often combine multiple synthesis methods to offer a broad range of sonic possibilities.

 

But how do I actually make big sounds for my tunes?

Here is the thing. There really is no way of just magically getting incredible sounds, Every Snake oil sound selling company is going to try and sell you on the dream that if you only part with your hard earned cash you will magically be Nick from Noisia but it simply is just a matter of getting a synth and sitting down and working with it for many hundreds of hours until you kinda get what each control is going to do to a sound and making it happen. 

 

Some preset companies are better than others though Preset Food for instance (ok here is the shill for my preset and sample company) Preset food has a bunch of packs that are not expensive. £4.20 mostly per pack and I give you sounds you can actually use and they are good. ok shilling over I will mention it one time if you missed it thats your problem.

There are some incredible youtube resources out there for sound design. I tend to avoid watching the ones that say "sound like this artist" or "that artist" its just click bait and half the time its not as good as the original sound and I guess thats my point, its your sound make your sound even if its shit at first, at least its yours and original. 

Older Soft Synths Could Sound Better than New: 

recently I have been going back in on some older soft synths like FM8 and Massive I even saw a video of Bou in the studio using NI Massive for his main bass sound and it made me think. It's not just my ears or speakers or very expensive sound card. I can hear a difference between the older synths and newer more popular ones. Perhaps it's the algorithms that go into the Generation of the wave tables perhaps it's just that the plugins where not just shit out in a week by a coder using the JUCE framework. I know if you a beginner most of what I just said will be complete gobbledygook but trust me some old synths have a thing even in the software world.

EQ or Equalization

Personal Thoughts on EQ:

Personally I think that EQ could be the most significant tool in your arsenal when it comes to making DnB, Being able to control the balance of sounds in terms of a mix and then overall on the master channel is key to getting that edge, I would definitely have an EQ on every channel doing one thing or another. The more experience you get with EQ the more you are going to know what is going on. How much to Boost or Cut at what frequencies. 

There is no hard and fast rules to EQ of a particular sound source as every sound is different. This is where feel and experience come in to the mix. An EQ is like any instrument you have to learn it and practice its use in order to be good at it. 

To learn a particular EQ I will load up a pink noise source and chuck on the EQ I want to learn and just listen to the changes and look at the changes on a Spectrum Analyser. 

Babies Cry at 3.5khs: 

As humans we have evolved to be able to hear our babies when they are in distress. You are saying what the hell does this have to do with EQ. It means your ears are very much evolved to be more sensitive particular ranges of frequencies. Im not saying that you should just add 3.5k to every sound for attention it would soon become very fatiguing / Painful to the ears. But knowing the ears and the reasons why they might have sensitivities in some ranges could have some benefit to the choices you make when it comes to EQ. 

Highs and Lows are Addictive and Everything is Relative:

Ears are essentially measurement devices, The thing they measure is the difference between one state to another. As you are making a tune there is a tendency to want to make tunes brighter and brighter and more and more Bass as you go on because your ears become used to the sounds and you need more of that top end and bottom end hit to the brain. This is the devils work because true power and loudness is in the impact of the mid range centred around 1khz. 

History Of EQ:

The history of the equalizer (EQ) is a fascinating journey through the evolution of sound technology. Here's a brief overview:

1. Early 20th Century - Telephone Networks: The origins of EQ technology can be traced back to the early 20th century with the development of telephone networks. Engineers needed to adjust (equalize) the frequency response of the long telephone cables to ensure clear transmission of voices. This was the birth of the concept of "equalization."

2. 1930s - Film Industry Adaptation: The concept of EQ began to find its way into other fields, such as the film industry. The first graphic equalizers were developed to fine-tune the audio for film soundtracks. They were bulky, mechanical devices using large slide controls to adjust different frequency bands.

3. 1950s - Recording Studios: Equalization technology significantly progressed in the 1950s as it became integral to the recording process. The recording studios started using passive EQ units with fixed frequency bands. These units were primarily used to compensate for deficiencies in recording equipment and environments.

4. 1960s and 1970s - Advent of Active EQs: The development of active EQs (using amplifier circuits) in the 1960s and 70s marked a major leap. This era saw the introduction of semi-parametric and parametric equalizers, offering more control over frequency, bandwidth, and gain. These advancements revolutionized studio recording, live sound reinforcement, and home audio.

5. 1980s - Digital Revolution: With the advent of digital technology in the 1980s, EQs underwent another significant transformation. Digital equalizers provided unprecedented precision and flexibility, allowing for complex EQ curves and real-time adjustments.

6. 21st Century - Software-Based EQs: The proliferation of computer-based audio production in the 21st century led to the development of sophisticated software EQs. These digital EQs, available as plugins in audio editing and mixing software, offer a wide range of features, from emulating classic analog EQ units to providing advanced spectral manipulation.

Throughout its history, the EQ has evolved from a tool for basic sound correction to a sophisticated device for creative sound shaping. Today, EQs are an indispensable tool in audio production, with applications ranging from live sound and studio recording to broadcasting and home audio systems.

EQ Plugins and Stock EQs:

So you have gotten yourself a Synth plugin working and now you want to change the sound of the synth by making it brighter or adding more bass, an EQ plugin is what you need. Every D.A.W is going to have what we call Stock Plugins, Stock Plugins are plugins that come with your D.A.W as part of the package. The Stock Plugins that come with D.A.W's are actually very good and most of the time they are going to function as you need for simple EQ tasks. Also in many cases they will be optimised to work with lower CPU (Processor Power) giving you the ability to have more tracks with EQ. 

EQ Types:

Within any EQ plugin there are going to be many options that are the same across all the D.A.Ws and Third Party Plugins.

Bell EQ (or Peaking Filter): A Bell EQ boosts or cuts a range of frequencies around a central 'target' frequency, creating a bell-shaped curve on an equalizer graph. This type of EQ is very versatile and commonly used for general tone shaping in music production and mixing.

  • Adjustable Parameters: The Bell EQ typically has three main adjustable parameters:

    • Center Frequency: This is the frequency around which the boost or cut is applied.

    • Gain: This determines how much the selected frequency range is boosted or attenuated.

    • Bandwidth (or Q): This controls how wide or narrow the range of affected frequencies is around the center frequency. A high Q value means a narrower band (affecting fewer frequencies around the center point), while a low Q value means a wider band (affecting more frequencies around the center point).

High Pass Filter (HPF): A high pass filter allows frequencies above a certain cutoff point to pass through and attenuates (reduces) frequencies below that point. It's like a filter that "lets the highs pass." This is commonly used to eliminate low-frequency noise or rumble in recordings, such as handling noise or wind noise. For example, setting a high pass filter at 80 Hz means that most of the frequencies below 80 Hz will be significantly reduced, while those above 80 Hz will remain unaffected.

Low Pass Filter (LPF): A low pass filter does the opposite of a high pass filter. It allows frequencies below a certain point to pass through and attenuates frequencies above that point. This type of filter "lets the lows pass" and is often used to remove high-frequency noise or to make a sound appear more distant or 'muffled.' For instance, setting a low pass filter at 5 kHz means that frequencies above 5 kHz will be reduced, making the sound warmer or less sharp.

Shelf EQ: A shelf equalizer boosts or attenuates all frequencies above or below a certain point. There are two types:

  • High Shelf EQ: Boosts or cuts frequencies above a certain threshold. For example, if set at 8 kHz, all frequencies above 8 kHz will be increased or decreased by the same amount.

  • Low Shelf EQ: Opposite to the high shelf, it affects frequencies below a chosen threshold.

​​

What is Phase in Audio Processing?

In audio, "phase" refers to the timing of a sound wave's cycle. When two sound waves are in phase, their cycles match up perfectly, and they reinforce each other. When they are out of phase, they can partially or completely cancel each other out. This is critical in audio processing because changes in phase can affect the tone and clarity of the audio.

When using an EQ, phase shift can occur. This means that the EQ process doesn't just change the amplitude of various frequencies, but it can also alter their timing relative to each other. This shift can sometimes cause unwanted artifacts in the sound, especially when multiple overlapping frequencies are adjusted.

1. Natural Phase EQs


Characteristics: Natural phase EQs are designed to minimize the phase shift caused by equalization. They are often analog or analog-modeled digital EQs.


How They Work: These EQs adjust the phase of the signal in a way that's more natural and analogous to how sound behaves in the physical world. The phase shift they introduce is proportional and harmonious with the adjustments made to the frequency spectrum.


Applications: Useful in scenarios where maintaining the natural tone and character of the original sound is crucial, such as in mastering or when working with acoustic recordings.

2. Linear Phase EQs


Characteristics: Linear phase EQs are a type of digital EQ that avoids phase shift altogether. They maintain the phase relationships between frequencies, regardless of how the EQ alters their amplitude.


How They Work: These EQs use complex algorithms to ensure that all frequencies are delayed by the same amount, thus preserving the original phase relationships. This is achieved by applying an equal amount of latency to all frequencies.

Applications: Ideal for situations where phase coherence is paramount, like when EQing individual tracks within a mix to avoid phase cancellation. They are especially useful in mastering and in situations where transparency is key.

Considerations:

Natural Phase EQs are often favoured for their musical and natural-sounding results. They are great for tasks where the character and warmth of the sound are important.


Linear Phase EQs are chosen for their precision and transparency, especially useful in detailed mastering work or when dealing with complex mixes. However, they can introduce pre-ringing artefacts and require more computational power.

In summary, the choice between natural phase and linear phase EQs depends on the specific requirements of the audio material and the desired outcome of the equalisation process.

Detailed Reading Materials: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equalization_(audio)

Learning Frequencies

How can I Learn Frequencies?

There are several ways to learn your frequencies, my favourite is to load up a Spectrum Analyser and look at individual samples, This will give you an idea of what is going on in each sound in a mix. 

Human hearing ranges from 20hz or 20 cycles per second to 20,000hz or 20,000 cycles per second in wavelength. 

Snare Drums

A snare drum is essentially 2 diaphragms strung on each side of a tube which produces a bongo drum style thud which ranges from 150 hz to 300 hz in the low mid to bass range and a string of wire beads which is the thing that the snare is named after that gives it the high end snap sound. Knowing this gives you insight into what you are going to see on a spectrum. Usually a strong sharp transient knock at around 200hz and then flat white noise up from there which is the sizzle of the snare. 

Kick Drums: 

In DnB Kick drums usually centre around 100 hz, this gives loads of space for the sub bass to be able to sit below it and for the 2 to not clash. This is not a strict rule as every tune is different but if you are looking to make space for your bass it is a good idea to try and get your kick to sit in the 100hz range. you can achieve this with with EQ or by pitching the sample. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages.

Its all Physics! or is it? 

Knowing a bit about Physics and Frequency and engineering can be a great advantage when it comes to technical aspects of music although you have to remember that music is also a feeling and sometimes big tunes are not technically what we would call perfect and this is the art of the process. 

I think it is a good idea to have a rough idea of what frequencies elements in a mix occupy in order to be able to EQ them, an eq will have no effect on an area of the spectrum that does not contain any content in that part of the spectrum.

Dynamics (Compression)

Is Dynamics Compression? 

Essentially the dynamics of a sound is how punchy it is, the dynamics of a whole tune is the difference between the loud parts and the quiet parts. In this part of the Dynamics section I am going to be dealing with the former, the punchiness of individual sounds or parts in a tune. 

Firstly I am going to put this out there, I am not a fan of compressors, I don't really like the sound of them on many things and when its comes to mix-downs I think they can add a layer of complication to the process that I am not a fan of. Some producers fall into the trap of using a Compressor on every channel. it does look pretty but its about what it sounds like. Compressors on every channel can suck the life out of a mix. 

If I wanted more punchy drums I would be more inclined to use and envelope on the individual samples that make up the beat and then crush them with either clipping or overdrive. 

Analogue Compression is a Thing:

There are literally hundreds of software Compressor and Dynamics Plugins, some are better than others but essentially they are all limited by the mathematics of digital audio. I am fortunate enough to have a couple of analogue compressors and they really are a thing but its an old sound. I could go into a rant about how old tunes sound better than new ones but the reality of this game is you have to stay current to stay alive so you have to work within the parameters available to you. The new DnB fans and listeners are used to the way it sounds now. I think there have been studies that say that younger people prefer the sound of MP3 to Wav or Vinyl. 

Overdrive / Saturation: 

Overdrive or Saturation can be like compression, it starts to distort in a soft way as your level goes beyond a set level. This has a tendency to add harmonics to the sound which in a digital situation is always problematic in terms of high frequencies given the nature of digital audio but I have personally always prefered the sound of Overdrive and Saturation to the sound of compression / limiting. 

Can dynamics be EQ?

I find the concept of dynamics in terms of brightness of a sound to be an interesting way to think about the tone of a sound. When a drum hit for instance is very sharp and punchy your ear is going to feel that it is brighter. This is what I mean by dynamics being a factor in terms of EQ. 

Side Chain and Compressors:

On most Compressor plugins you will see an option for Side Chain. Sometimes this will be an internal Side Chain and Sometimes it will be External Side Chain.

WIth internal side chain you will usually get the option for a High Pass filter, this is not on the part of the sound that you can hear but the part of the compressor that triggers the gain reduction. 

With External Side Chain you can trigger the gain reduction with an external source, This is used alot in House Music for that super pumping FX on samples etc. It is used quite alot in DnB (not by me cause I am mid AF) but I know alot of others use it to make space for things in the mix such as side chaining the bass to the kick to give the kick space to breath. 

Personally I like to just either have the kick and bass in different frequency ranges or just let them battle it out and maybe get over driven together. Im old school what do I know. 

Want to know more about compressors? 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_range_compression

What is Loudness? 

What is a Loud Tune?

I think that loudness can be achieved with a combination of the correct EQ and Clipping or Limiting. Loudness is subjective but there are things to keep in mind. Loudness is about balance. Not too much of anything. 

Clipping or limiting but not perceivable distortion. 

Mid Range but not so much it is over powering. 

The mid range thing is really key to loudness in my opinion. Imagine I was to whisper a word its all bass and treble then imagine me saying the same word but out loud with presence and like an announcement. It has very different effects to the ear this is the effect of mid range to the perceived loudness of a sound. If you load up a sound as an experiment and chuck on an EQ with a Parametric band at 1khz with a wide q setting and start adding you will see how much of a difference it makes when you turn it off and on again. 

Then add some Overdrive or Clipping and you are well on your way to getting all the loudness you need. 

remember it is all a balance thought as you add mid range you are going to start to get to a point where it can sound crazy. I think you can always push mids more than you think is ok though. 

If you reference released tunes you will see that the loudest ones are very mid-rangey (is that a word?) to the ear.

Just slapping a Hard Limiter on the final is not going to make your mix-down loud, you have to combine it with good balance and you will be away! 

Some Science:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness#

Sub Bass

Technique: 

There is a technique that has been used in DnB for the longest time where we take out all the low information in any sounds apart from the kick with a High pass Filter on all channels with the frequencies effected and then replace it with a clean or semi clean Sine Wave Sub Bass. 

A clean sine sub bass in your tune will help it to be more defined and have clarity in the low end. It also makes the bass have the same level throughout and it is not effected by phase issues. 

Make Room for the Bass:

With the kick drum in DnB the fundamental frequency in particular is centred around 100 hz, you can achieve this with EQ but also with pitching the kick drum in a sampler to move it up in range a bit. Having your kick up in the 100 hz range you are giving your tune plenty of space in the low end for that Sub Bass you just put in your tune. 

Remember that there are no hard and fast rules and I have seen all kinds of tunes with lower kicks and slamming bass. sometimes it just works and you should not fight that. There are also other techniques that I have seen from Nurofunk artist with side-chain on the sub to give room for the kick. 

DnB Tune Structure

What is Structure?

When I say Structure what I am taking about is the Layout of the tune the different sections and how they are layed out on your sequencer. In General a DnB tune is going to be made up of different sections they will have different names depending on who you are talking to but I will try and make it as clear as possible. 

The Structure of tracks is always evolving, particularly now in these times of Digital DJ Equipment making it much easier to Beat-Match records.

The lengths of tunes are also getting much shorter. The Average tune nowadays like it or not is between 2.5 Minutes to 3 Minutes. For a producer of my age this is a shockingly short amount of time. Yes I am now a grumpy old DJ. 

I think knowing about the way tunes used to be structured can be valuable even in these times. so...

This is the basic structure of a tune from my era. 

16 Bar Intro Sectoin - 16 Bar Build Section - Drop Section 32 Bars - B Section 32 Bars - Breakdown 32 Bars - 

Second Drop Section 32 Bars - Second Drop B Section 32 Bars - Outro  (5-6 Minutes 174BPM)

Nowadays it is more like.... (has to load up a bunch of new tunes into Ableton to see what the trends are)

 

32 bar Intro/Build - False Drop/ 16 bar Build - 25 bar drop then mini 8 bar build - 25 bar second drop Mini 8 Bar Build then - 32 Bar outro (3:30s at 174BPM)

Essentially the way you structure your tune is very important to how it will be received by your fans and DJs it has a massive impact on how it will perform in the market. I think it is really worth looking at the current trends and making choices on how you want to lay out your tunes for maximum impact and being as current as possible. It is definitely worth loading up a few tunes and seeing how they are structured out in terms of bars. 

 

Key

What key is my tune in and does it matter?

Musical notes on the keyboard are named with letters. C, C# D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B 

The # symbol denotes sharp and is a black note on the keyboard. 

There are 12 notes in an octave 

For the longest time I had no care or clue about the Key of my DnB Tunes, I just made tunes in whatever key it was happening in, As I became a more experienced DJ I realised that Keys of tunes do matter for a number of reasons. A lot of my old tunes are in the key of C or C#, this means that the fundamental note in the bass line is low C. Low C or midi note C1 = 32.7hz Frequency, a lot of sound systems like small clubs and bars are going to really struggle to play this frequency of sub bass. This is one reason why Key really matters. Im not saying you cant make tunes in Low C but its going to have to have some clever production. 

if you take anything away from this part it is that: 

Some Keys Sound Better on Sound Systems than Others

The following table is all the fundamental keys with they're respective frequencies.

C = 32.7hz,

C# = 34.65hz

D = 36.71hz

D# = 38.89hz

E = 41.20hz 

F = 43.65hz 

F# = 46.25hz 

G = 49.00hz 

G# = 51.91hz 

A = 55.00hz

A# = 58.27hz

B = 61.74hz

On the other end of the scale up in the A Keys and B Keys you are going to be problematic but the nature of the higher bass can be interesting but its not going to rattle the room in the same way as the lower keys. 

Low C on a spectrum analyser.jpg

Popular Keys: 

When I put a tune onto my DJ Laptop I work out the key to guide me on what tunes it might potentially mix with, This is not always the case as some tunes in completely different keys will mix really well but thats for the DJ Academy. Anyway the popular keys are:

• D, D#, E, F, F# - There are loads of tunes in F, I could name 20 off the top of my head

• G and G# have a lot of nurofunk tunes don't know why but they do

• C and C# are rarely used but I have used them a few times

• A, A# and B have very few tunes. I know of a few (Perhaps if asked I will look on my Dj laptop and show some examples.

DJs and Pitch: 

Most DJS play at 180 BPM and most DNB is at 174 or there abouts so there is going to be a pitch change unless they press that little demonic time pitch button next to the pitch slider that makes bass sound like poop. This is a whole different subject. But fundamentally there is going to be a rise in pitch. I am debating wether or not to work out exactly how much it is with a 6 bpm increased change. OK fuck it 0.6% per bpm change * 6... ok my brain just shut off and I needed to have a cup of tea and a biscuit. but its a bit anyway and it definitly has an effect on the key of things. 

In summery the key of your tune really matters wether you know it or not and knowing it is better than not knowing in my opinion.

The End of a Tune Matters

The End you Say TC?

When I am listening to a new tune from unknown or new producer a lot of times after skipping to the drop the first place I go to is the end. If I hear a good ending to a tune, something interesting or innovative there is a good chance that the producer has taken a good amount of time to make sure the whole tune has had love care and attention spent on it. 

never underestimate the power of a good ending to a tune to get you to want to go back and listen to the tune again from the top. 

Good endings include, the classic Hip Hop delay/echo of a key element or a totally different feel ending thats good too to make you feel like there is going to be more interesting material from this artist in the future. 

Fin.

Spectrum Analysis in Music Making

What is a Spectrum Analyser? 

Essentially a to me a spectrum analyser shows you what is going on in your tune in a visual way in real time. Usually it will be set up to show from 20hz to 20khz (higher Sample Rates might go higher in Frequency) on the left to right axes and then the gain in DB on the up and down axes. 

Below is an example of Digi Check NG in my setup (Digi Check will only work with RME Soundcards)

Setting up a Spectrum Analyser: 

I set up my Analyser as fast as possible. I want to catch all the Transients (Sharp Peaks) in the tune or track I am looking at. Usually I will have the Floor at -60 db but this is not a hard and fast rule. 

Reading the Graph:

Learning to read the Analyser is a big part of using it. I have Digi Check and Mini Meters on all the time when I am Listening to Spotify, Watching Youtube, Checking out tunes people send me. I find a visual reference to be essential as I cant always trust my ears. Depending on the daily air pressure, weather I have a cold, Having been on an aircraft, Spend time in loud environments my ears are going to be unreliable but I can always trust the Analyser. 

The way I learned to read Analysis was to load up every tune I loved in a D.A.W project and just listen and watch the Spectrum, I started to see all the elements pop out of the graph, You will notice that the sub bass on the left hand side of the graph will be hitting the same area on the up down axes on every tune that has been mastered. 

The top end or high frequencies will also hit the same levels and also the mid range. This will give you a rough guide to where your tunes should be hitting.  

Links to Analysers I use: 

1: Digi Check NG (Free with RME soundcards): https://www.rme-audio.de/digicheck-ng.html

2: Mini Meters ($10): https://minimeters.app/

3: Melda Analyser(FREE): https://www.meldaproduction.com/MAnalyzer

Not all Analysers are Built the Same: 

Most D.A.Ws will have analysis and there are loads of plugins out there for Spectrum Analysis but they are not all built the same. One thing I look for in an analyser is if I can see the low peak of the snare every time it hits. Some seem to not show every peak and thats an analyser I cant trust. Trying out many Analysers to see which one is for you is the key and also learning the one you use like learning speakers 

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectrum_analyzer


 

Mix-Downs

What is a Mix-Down?

A Mix-Down is the final blend in volume of all the tracks in your tune with some tweaks to eq and placing things in the right space. With experience it will get easier and the great thing is you have as many chances as you like to nail it.

A lot of people say they hate mix-downs, for me I think its one of my favourite things to do in the Journey. It means you are close to a finished tune! and thats got to be a good thing. 

Don't over think it the magic is in the blend of all your ideas.

If you have really good source sounds in your tune your mix-down will be easy!

Mixing as I go:

At this point in my DnB music making journey I am Mixing as I go most of the time, when you have made a tonne of tunes you know what you are going to need to do to each one so why not do it as you make the tune. 

Getting Organised:

Personally I find getting the project I am working on organised really helps me with Mixdowns: 

• Rename Tracks (Having your own naming conventions will help for finding an element quickly)

• Colour Tracks (Sub Bass is Always Red for me Drums always Blue)

• Put the Tracks in Order (Drums Top, Next is Bass, Music, FX, Vocals)

Does Every Track Make Sense?

I feel that every track in a mix-down should make sense when in solo mode. There will be some tracks that are kinda supporting the sound of other tracks and they might not have to make sense without the context off the relating track but in general if every track makes sense it will make for a much more coherent mix.

Space: 

Reverb and Delay for music is like light and lenses for a film maker. A film with bad lighting and crappy lenses no matter the quality of the writing or the star power of the actors will not be the film it could be. The same is for mix-downs good choices of space for each sound in a mix is key to that glue people go on about. 

Reverb is so strange, you can put reverb on a sound and then have it so you can hardly hear the reverb at all and then when all the tracks are running it can bring the whole thing to life. 

Busses:

Some producers like to have complex routing setups with multiple buses for, Drums, Bass, Music, FX, Vocals, When it comes to Bouncing out Multiple stems this can have an advantage over just all tracks into a final master track but I am not really a fan of too much bussing and side chaining elements or tracks to other tracks. 

I think its really important to develop your own systems and methods for your production and not fall into the trap of thinking because you have seen or been told to do something any kind of way that it is the right way. 

There are loads of producers on all kinds of platforms that have never had any kind of real musical success saying they know the way things should be done and I would caution being any more complicated that you need to be when it comes to mix-downs. 

Clipping Tracks/Plugins is Not Good: 

I would say that avoiding any red lights in the track stage will really help you to have a good mix. Clipping the master channel is fine (Kinda) in my opinion but clipping in plugins and on tracks has a bunch of issues. if you like the sound of the track that is clipping put a clipping plugin on it and turn it down. 

Testing: 

I think it always takes a few goes to nail a mix, Testing on multiple sound systems for me is a great help in feeling it out. Some places I recommend listening to your Mix-Down are: 

• On your Phone Speaker (A lot of people will use this as they're primary method of consuming your music)

• On Ear-pods / Headophones

• In the Car (The car gives a new perspective as you are in the driving zone you will hear it in a different way)

• Listening to your tune with producer friends (You will her it as if you were hearing it for the first time again through they're ears)

The Writing Phase Might Not be Over:

If you are having problems mixing down your tune it might be that the writing phase is just not over yet, maybe you need to roll back and add more elements change some stuff. Move things around a bit. There is a 3d video maker I am very inspired by called Ian Hubert who did this talk on world building who says when people ask him how he makes amazing videos and he says "Don't get to the point where you think it's done yet". 

Mastering

This could be a page in itself but here we go....

History of mastering

As far as I understand it mastering was "The process of taking and Audio Source / Format and converting to another Format", From Master Tape to Vinyl for example. The purpose of mastering was to make the format change with the best level and EQ to match the formats capabilities.

I think it is good to know the history of mastering to be able to understand the fundamental job at hand. Instead of going from Tape to Vinyl like back in day we are going from Digital Pre Master to Digital Master File. 

Personal History of Mastering:

In the early days of my DnB journey vinyl was still the only format that mattered when it came to releasing records so you would have to use a Mastering Service, It made a big difference who mastered your record in terms of the quality of the final product, where possible I would cut with Stewart Hawkes (STU) at Metropolis Mastering. I would always try to attend cutting sessions to get the best possible outcome for my records and I am fairly superstitious and felt that it would somehow endow my record with some kind of good energy iff I attended. It was mind blowing to go to the Mastering room and see all the Equipment and the massive PMC monitors. Hearing your record in that environment was really interesting.

Vinyl Mastering and why it could still matter:

Here is where we start to step into the technical aspects of the mastering process. As far as I understand it there are limitations with what you can cut to vinyl in terms of Frequency Content.

Starting with the high end there is a limit to how bright you can cut to vinyl especially above 10KHZ. The Physical width of a Stanton cart is 14Khz giving it a hard physical filter above that frequency. The Cutting heads on a Naumann Lathe have limits and the energy involved in cutting high end to vinyl creates a lot of heat. I believe that the cutting heads have a limited lifetime and can blow/break if they are not cooled 

Low end, as I understand it there are limitations to how much stereo information you can cut to vinyl. What I was always told is that anything below 300Hz has to be in mono and that there cant be any low end anti phase. 

Understanding the physical limitations of a particular media or format is key to understanding the task of Mastering. I am not saying that you have to master as if you are cutting to vinyl in these times but it does help to root your thinking in a reality. 

Where are we going? Balance / Level:

The next stage to learning how to master your own material even if it is just for DJs to play out and you get the final product mastered by a professional is to know how loud to take it and how it should be balanced in terms of relationship between Low end Midrange and Top End to compete in the genre you are making.

 

To do this you are going to need: 

• A lot of tunes that you like and would like to be matched with your master.

• A Metering tool for Level Measurement with an RMS scale. 

• A Spectrum Analiser 

For more Advanced Mastering you will need 

• An Acoustically Treated Room

• Good Digital to Analogue Converters

• Good Speakers

It is time to learn your setup: Listening to all the tunes you like on your setup and looking at the Metering and Analyser to see where they hit in terms of level and balance. Making notes on the levels is a good idea for each particular measurement tool. 

After you have done all this you will have a reference point with which to start Mastering your own material. 

Master Chains: 

The simplest master chain is just to simply clip the output of your D.A.W. I know a lot of producers do this for Dj masters and it really is one of the most effective ways to achieving level with the least artefacts. 

More advanced chains would include:

Good Linear Phase EQ - Compression (less is more) - limiter (Fab Filter Pro L or equivalent) - Clipping (K Clip or Equivalent)

The better you manage to get the mix the less you should have to fix it in mastering. 

Mid Side Processing:

Within some plugins you are able to split the Mono and Stereo information and treat them Separately. For example I might use a High Pass Filter in Fab Filter Pro Q2 and set it to just high pass the Stereo Information cutting Stereo from the low end below 300hz. This it not for cutting to vinyl but to get more of a solid low end. 

There are more mid side tricks I am aware of but they are not really anything I would be Messing with. I think its best to get things perfect in the mix stage and then have the mastering be more about level and slight balance changes. 

The Chain Continues Past the WAV:

It is wise to think beyond the master chain. After you bounce that master file there is a good chance you are going to be converting it to MP3 to send to DJs and even this process can require some headroom.

Andrew Scheps says that he thinks that a -0.6db limit to the master file can give the MP3 converter enough headroom to do its thing. 

When the DJ is playing the tune in the dance it is going through the following chian:

CDJ D/A Converters > Pioneer Mixer > A DI Box > Front of House Mixer > Some Crappy old Behringer compressor in small clubs for speaker protection > A crossover unit > Amps > Speaker Cables > Speakers > The Air (this is a thing, a full hot sweaty club is going to sound very different to an empty cold one) > Into ears

Thats a hell of a lot of things before you get into the brain of your listener. Worth keeping in mind perhaps or just being aware of.

Separate Mastering Projects: 

Some people like to separate the mastering process into a separate D.A.W project, I think there are advantages and disadvantages to this approach. It can give you a bit more processor power to be able to use higher grades of over sampling in the plugins on your master chain and this can give you a little more clarity and less distortion but we are moving into a time where processors are insane and I don't think it will be a factor of limitation for very much longer.

I think that in this day and age the levels are so insane in DnB that you have to be doing mix downs and tune making into your master chain to make sure you are not making mistakes. 

Professional Mastering: 

Having tracks Mastered by a professional can be very satisfying and can give you the closure on a project you have been working on for a long time, there is a big advantage to having a new pair of ears on your music and especially from a pro who has many years of experience in mastering. Some of the records mastered by STU are my most successful and I think having his ears and experience be a part of the record really made a difference but the cost is not insignificant. 

Levels: 

The levels in Modern DnB are actually insane, I have seen records that are clipping RMS and still sound clean and not distorted, this is some voodoo shit! I think it is best to aim for a good level. 

Best Practice for Delivery to Mastering: 

If I was going to engage the services of a mastering engineer I would deliver the following files:

• Description of what I want to achieve either in the correspondence or as a text file.

• A Self Mastered Reference File (24bit 44.1k Wave File) This is so the Mastering Engineer can hear what you want to achieve. 

• A Pre Master with no master chain on the final Output Channel of the D.A.W (24bit 44.1k Wave File) or (The Highest Sample Rate and Bit Depth Available from the output from the D.A.W)

Payed Mastering Services List for DnB:

Here are some people I recommend for Mastering DnB:

For Vinyl: 

Stu @ Metropolis 

Digital: 

TC (Contact for Mastering dontplayrecords@gmail.com)

Nu Tone (Very Conservative Masters but Very Good!) https://www.ntmastering.com/

Break (Not sure how to contact Break about his mastering but he is a don)

TeeBee (Again its not clear how to get him to master for you but his masters are amazing!)

Joker

There are no Rules: 

As with everything in music there are no rules and things are always changing and evolving and what a beautiful thing that is. But it also means that you cant say just add this here and do this there to say how to master a record. Its about learning what needs to be done and doing it right. you don't need crazy money and you dont need to be doing things in any particular way. I have heard what I would say are not the best masters do really well in DnB and other tunes that sound spectacular that just don't connect with the people its so subjective. 

Frequency Charts

I was looking around for a frequency chart or eq chart to have a visual reference for you to look at but the truth is that there is no chart I could find or make that would be right all the time cause music just aint like that. You have to feel it. 

Online and AI Mastering Services: 

Personally I would steer clear of any Online/AI mastering services, I have not used them but there is no way you can beat a human at this in this current time. Mastering Engineers have many tricks and secret sauce that would be very hard to re create with an AI/Algorithm. 

The 1DB Bump: 

Some mastering Engineers will use the following trick. On the drop of a tune they will have a bump in volume by 1DB (One Decible) This will give quite a significant boost to the perceived impact of the drop. Alternatively you can reduce the volume of the intro by 1DB. This can be done Pre or Post mastering or by automation on the clipping plugin. Sometimes even 2DB can work but I have found it is a lot more intrusive. Also if there are Breakdowns and Builds throughout the tune they have to be taken into consideration when using this technique. 

Your ears are relative measurement tools this is why a bump in volume even 1DB is perceived as being better.

 

I remember a story that STU from Metropolis told me back in the day he was talking about how him and the team were testing out new AD/DA converters, trying out all the different models. One of the converters stood out by a mile to everyone. They were blown away by a particular model and everyone was very excited about this new bit of kit. When they came to hook it up to calibrated measurement gear it turned out that this particular unit was out of calibration by 1/2 a DB+ (just up by one half a decible) to the finely honed ears of all the mastering Engineers this was enough to fool them into thinking that there was a new game in town.  

Vocal Chains

What is a Vocal Chain?

A vocal chain is all the steps, equipment and plugins involved in making a great vocal. A really great vocal sound and performance can be the difference between your tune being what you want it to be and it not quite hitting the mark. 

Writing: 

There is nothing more frustrating than having to come up with words and lyrics on the fly in a recording session. It is a good idea to make sure that the song is written before you enter into a recording phase. 

Start with the recording space:

A great acoustic environment is almost more crucial to an incredible sounding vocal than any other part of the chain you could take a £20k mic and preamp combo and put them in a terrible room and you are going to get a really bad sounding vocal. Alternatively you could get a cheaper mic and preamp combo and have an incredible sounding vocal. A good recording environment does not have to be expensive, I have heard stories of artists needing to get a vocal completed for an album project while they are still on tour and using the closet with all the bed sheets and duvet stacked inside with the mattress behind them to get the right acoustics. If it sounds right it does not have to be pretty or impressive. in this day and age of social media it might even be a good part of your story as an artist to show your janky vocal recording setup.

The deader the better meaning the least amount of reflections and reverb in the recording environment will give you the best results. You can always add the space with reverb later. 

A good Performance:

Wether you are the one performing and recording yourself or you are recording a singer getting the right performance can be a challenge. When recording a singer it is a good idea to record every performance. Record everything no matter if its wrong or right get it all down, you never know when in the post production you might need a slightly different performance of a word or phrase.

Wether the performance is Going well or not so well Positive Encouragement is essential to keep the energy in the room. Singers need to be in a good mood and loving what they are doing even if its a sad song we are keeping the energy positive. 

Technical Information: 

The simplest chain you want to have when you are recording vocals is: 

Recording Gear:

Good Room > Mic > Preamp > Audio Interface (The More Expensive the Better but not Essential)

Plugins on the Vocal Channel: 

De Esser > EQ > Compressor > Limiter > Chorus (Subtle) > Reverb

What is a De-Esser?

Words that contain the letter S will add alot of very high volume SSSS to the top end of a vocal, if you want to turn up the top end with an EQ to get a brighter and more Air like vocal you are going to have to deal with the Esses, some producers like to go through an entire vocal and individually turn down every ess and some use a De-Esser.

EQ:

I like to roll off the low end with a high pass and add some air in the top end. With the right setup you are noto going to have to do a whole lot in the post production if you have nailed the Room and the Mic setup. 

Way better to get that right before you hit the daw. 

Chorus:

For that massive classic vocal sound you are going to need a tiny bit of chorus effect. The pros use the Eventide on the Micro Pitch Shift setting. I don't wanna give it all away but this is a thing and there is a plugin. 

Reverb: 

I like really good reverb on a vocal that you cant hear in the mix but only in the solo and even then its low in the balance. When you listen to classic Accapellas of massive tune you love you are going to hear a subtle reverb. Even on Vocals you thought sounded dry in the mix have a bit of it. 

Recording Distance:

The distance you or a singer sings away from the microphone can make a massive difference to the sound of the vocal and the EQ required in post production to achieve the right balance for the tune you are working on. 

Closer to the mic is going to give you that pop music close vocal sound but you are going to need a Pop Shield to protect your mic and to filter out the Plosives, Words which start with the letter B or P for example will emit a pop of air that can overwhelm mics and cause a pop or low end bump kind of sound that will be very obvious on a recording and very hard to get rid of in post production. Plosives become less of an issue when you move further back from the mic but the sound of the room is going to become more obvious. 

Takes: 

I would recommend at least 8 takes of each phrase as a starting point for recording a vocal performance. By the 8th time round a singer will have it in the pocket. 

Waves R-Vox is a thing:

Not a massive fan of waves as a company but R-Vox is a thing you cant ignore when it comes to vocal processing. 

Submitting Music to Labels / DJs

Formats:

When sending out tunes to DJs / Labels I recommend you send 320MP3 Files NOT WAVE FILES. Yes there is a very slight difference in quality but the less friction to hear the music the better, DJ's and Label Executives are very busy and always on the go if you send your pristine 24/96k wav it is going to be 90MB as opposed to the 9MB of an MP3 and depending on Hard Drive space and internet bandwidth the time it takes to DL and get to the the ears could be the difference between them hearing your masterpiece of giving up and moving on to the artist that sent the MP3s. 

They will request WAV files if they need to either hear / play out a better quality version. 

Beware some unscrupulous Labels might release your music without contract or permission sending Mp3s will offer you a little protection against this as they will not be release quality but I know of tunes that have even been released in the past from the MP3 version without the permission of the Producer. 

Delivery:

The service you use to send your Demos matters. I would say that Sound Cloud and Dropbox are acceptable, We Transfer is ok but not recommended and any other untrusted file sharing network is NOT recommended.

 

Number of tunes:

Just send your best 3 tunes thats it, don't send the 30 tunes you have in the folder of finished ideas. Dont cold send demo material / unfinished tunes, that is for your friends unless you have a relationship with the DJ or label. DJs don't want your half finished tunes. 

Best Practice:

• 320MP3s ONLY

• Be Polite and Respectful

• No More Than 3 Tunes for first contact

• Sound Cloud (With Downloads Active) or Drop Box Links (No Funny Looking File Sharing)

Bootlegs, Self Releasing and Dubplates

Bootlegs: 

A bootleg in Drum and Bass / DnB is an un official remix of a another tune. In DnB there is a very clear distinction between Bootlegging another DnB tune and Bootlegging a tune from another Genre. If you remix another DnB artists tune I feel that you should show respect and not hand it out to other DJs or put it out for free as a DL to collect emails. Send it to the person that made the original and at least give them the option to release it. As for bootlegs of other genres it is fair game to use them as you wish. In Drum and Bass there is a long history of bootlegs in the Genre and long may it continue.  

Self Releasing

If you have a load of momentum and everyone it after you to book you and loves your tunes you might as well start your own label and get a distribution deal with a company like Cygnus Music, This way you will get 100% of the profits from the recordings you release. 

Unless a record label can offer you Advances / Promotion / Marketing Leverage there really is no reason to sign a record deal with anyone. 

Dub Plates: 

A Dub Plate used to be the name of a one off record recording that DJs would use to test out new tunes in the raves before they were released, Nowadays in the new world of the Digital DJ it means an un released tune. 

Dub Plates are a huge part of the Scene. Having a bunch of un released tunes that everyone wants can get you alot of bookings to DJ and give you leverage when trying to get other un released tunes from other artists. 

Build a Stack of Dubs even if its just for you to play out. 

 

Data Management in Music Making

Folder Structures:

There are a few ways you can organise your files for music making and I have never found a system that is perfect but I am fairly happy with the system I have.

I have a folder for music and within that folder is the year and within that is the months with month number and name as in “01 Jan 2024”.

I started doing this in 2004 and now I have 20 years of music and ideas.

Everything I do in terms of music goes into this structure with small exceptions.

 

Music - Year - Month - Project Name

 

 

Should you have a Database for your Projects / Releases?

an XL Spread Sheet for your projects and releases is a great idea, it will help you to keep track of all the projects ideas and releases. There are so many little bits of information you need to keep track of when you are a music producer.

Keeping track of your ideas and Releases will be a massive help. Every big project always has a database!

 

Checklists:

When you put your life in the hands of a pilot on a flight they are using a check list through every stage of the flight. There is no shame in the aviation world using checklists. Even when you are a very experienced Pilot/Producer there is a tendency to miss small steps of the process that coudl be crucial to the flow of a release/flight.

 

Stems:

I think when you put a track together for release you should always stem it out. 10 years down the road you are going to thank me when the DAW you used to make the tune is no longer supported or your files get corrupted. The stems will live on much longer than a project file. Also the midi files of the more complex musical passages.

 

Backups!:

Data does not exist unless it is in 3 places!

Data does not exist unless it is in 3 places!

Data does not exist unless it is in 3 places!

 

There is nothing worse than loosing your hard work. I would recommend buying 3 hard drives (Same Model, Same Make, Same Size) whenever you think of buying one. This will cover you when inevitably one of them dies or a power supply for a drive fails.

Be Very Careful when handling them they are delicate and need to be handled with care.

Operational Security (OPSEC)

Keeping Online Accounts Secure: 

As an artist you are going to have to have multiple online accounts. 

I know of many artists that have been hacked and lost money and momentum through the process of having to sort it all out. It is way better to have your system set up from early to never have to go through the headache of dealing with hackers. 

There are some key concepts to keep in mind to stay safe and secure online:

Use Strong Passwords: Random Letters (Upper Case and Lower Case) / Numbers / Symbols 

Use Long Passwords: use passwords as long as the account will let you use within reason 

Use 2FA: (Two Factor Authentication) wherever possible

Never use the same password across multiple accounts

There are multiple systems out there for password management personally I recommend NOT! using a password manager that is built in to your Operating System or Phone. 

The unfortunate reality in this time is that there are some bad people out there that would like to take the leverage you have worked to build or to hold you back. Keeping your online accounts secure from the start will make it much harder for anyone to disrupt your plans. 

Beware the Defensive Hire:

If you are a young artist with a lot of momentum and reach, just cause a label is offering you a record deal they might not be on your side. There is a fine line between being over paranoid and realistic but knowing that in the past people and labels have been known to sign artists to slow progress is worth keeping in mind. Most people and Labels have good intentions but be aware that if you could control your competition with a hire it might be tempting.

Contracts (This is Not Legal Advice):

If a contract contains the word "Perpetuity", it means forever and always. This is not standard in a Music Contract (This is not legal advice). Usually a contract will have a term for the length of time the label is allowed to exploit your music. 

Mostly contracts will never have to be enforced and are meaningless, It costs a lot of money to take someone to court and good legal advice is expensive. 

That being said it is still a good idea to have a contract with a label if they are putting out your music as it lays out the terms in a way that you and the label know your respective responsibilities. 

Music is War: 

I wish it was all Peace and love I really do. But the very sad reality of humanity is that its not all Love. There are bad people out there and you have to know that you are going to get ripped off a couple times in music. 

Tax:

If you start making money from music wether that is from Royalties or Playing live you are going to have to declare it with HMRC or the relevant Tax Authority wherever you live. I am no Expert in this subject but getting your act together in terms of TAX is very important. You really don't want to get down the road and end up with a crazy tax bill. 

Suggestions and Changes

This is a list of Suggestions and changes to this page that I am going to work on from time to time, if you have any suggestions or changes please hit me up dontplayrecords@gmail.com or join the Discord:

Page: 

Hyper Links 

Basics:

• Kick and Sub Bass Relationship 

• Mastering Advanced Technical Levels and Current Trends / Level Metering Tools

• Filters and Why they are a foundation to the dnb sound

• Why do I need Studio Monitors? How do I learn them?

• Use of Automation to create movement in your tune 

• Sampling 

• Useful Resources List: Youtube / Reading 

• PRS / MCPS - Register Your Music with the collection agencies

Advanced:

• Vocal Tuning

• Recording Techniques

• Acoustic Treatment 

Disclaimer: As with everything on my website it is a constant work in progress. if there are any questions or topics you think I should cover please feel free to dash me an email dontplayrecords@gmail.com or join the Discord and ask me on the-wolfpack I check in there daily. 

Created: 6/1/2024

Latest Update: 6/2/2024

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