Cart 0

How To Start a Track With an Acapella in 10 Simple Steps

#PMLTipOfTheDay Music Production Tips 'n Tricks Writing Music

 

The way I start my tracks the most often is by finding a good chord progression. Sometimes however, I like to change things up and to start by playing around with vocals. In this 10 step guide I’m about to show you a really simple workflow to get started with your new track.

 

Step 1: Find and download an acapella

Having a killer vocal line to work with is key. It’s not always an easy task to find the vocals of your favourite song. Fortunately, there are plenty of great vocal recordings you can choose from, (and to make them sound original). From my experience Youtube and Reddit seem like good places to start looking for them.

Here’s a couple of my favourite acapellas:

Beyoncé - Best Thing I Never Had

Ciara - Dance Like We're Making Love

Ariana Grande - Dangerous Woman (whether you like Ariana or not, this acapella is really good to work with!) 

 

Step 2: Put the acapella into a Drum Rack


For beginners: A Drum Rack is essentially a device which is able to store Simpler devices in its ‘slots’. The reason why we’re going to work in a Drum Rack is because we will be able to trigger different samples by pressing different keys on our keyboard. 

Note: Make sure to duplicate the acapella into a few other slots by holding alt (option) and dragging and dropping it. That way we will have more phrases to play around with.

 

Step 3: Set up the choke group

After doing this, samples will automatically cancel each other out when you’ll start playing them (only one sample will play at a time). Setting it up is simple:

- Turn on the Chain List and the I/O of the Drum Rack by pressing these buttons:

- Set the same „Choke“ parameter to all of the samples. I chose 16, because it’s the nearest one (it’s faster to set it up this way)

 

 

 

Step 4: Find a good phrase for each of the sample slots

To do that, click on each slot in the Drum Rack and adjust the starting point. The point is to play around with it until you find an interesting sounding phrase. Find the sample triggering keys on your midi keyboard (or on your computer keyboard - white keys from A to L, changing octaves by pressing Z/X). Remember to turn on the red Arm button!

Step 5: Play around!

Try to trigger the samples in a way which forms a basic melody, around which a chord progression can be written. Don’t stress too much if the vocal shots don’t make any sense - in that case go back to point 1 and start with a different vocal line :)

Tip: You may want to increase the release on each of the samples. That way you won’t have to hold the keys when playing around. To apply a certain release time to all samples right click on the release knob and select „Copy Value to Siblings“.

When you’ve got an idea, quickly set up the tempo by clicking the „Tap“ button (in the upper left hand corner), hit the Record button (the black circle near the Play button) and save your phrase.

 

"Harmony and Chord Progressions" - Learn more about our new self-paced course!

 

 

This is what I came up with:

 

Step 6: Figure out a bassline for your vocal line

To do this, drag a synth onto a new track (I made a quick Operator with a Saw 64 oscillator and a lowpass filter) and find a bassline which would fit your vocals.  

If your vocal line is repetitive (like mine), you can really add some movement to it by making a bassline. This is my result by far:

 

Step 7: Make a basic chord progression using a Grand Piano

To do this, once you’ve recorded your bassline, you can copy the file over to a new track with a Grand Piano, and add more notes to form chords. If you have a MIDI keyboard, you can of course play around on it to add some more feeling. 

This is what my chord progression looks like - the notes played by the bass are G, D#, A#, F. I added a couple of other notes and came up with this:

 

Step 8: Make a lead and find a matching melody for your chord progression

What I quickly made was another saw synth (i copied the Operator from the bassline, opened up the filter a little bit and added reverb with 100% of wet signal). You don’t have to do it this way - in most cases another track with a Grand Piano will do. You can always change the instrument later for something more fancy! 

 

Step 9: Continue making the track

In my case the melody sounded very mysterious, so I went ahead and created a heavy trap beat from it. It’s important not to stop when having a good melody, but to go ahead and create drums which will accompany it well!

 

Step 10: Don’t stress over not having the next hit yet

Until now, I have tried maybe even hundreds of times to follow the process layed out in this tutorial. If you’re worried because your work doesn’t meet your ambitions, make sure to read my last article. I wish someone gave me the advice from there when I was a very beginner!

Anyways, good luck with your music production!

k pizza author soundcloud

k-pizza

I’m k-pizza, a chill trap music maker who likes to share his experiences with other producers. I’m regularly going to show up with music and content at PML.

Listen: https://souncloud.com/k-pizza

 

.

.

"Harmony and Chord Progressions" - Learn more about our new self-paced course!

 



Older Post Newer Post