How do you create and develop your own signature sound? All super-star producers making the most significant moves in electronic music have something in common: a signature touch to what they produce.
If having a 'signature sound' in Ableton Live is so crucial to lasting success in such an over-saturated industry, why are so many amateur producers okay with only imitating their idols?
Developing a habit of finishing music can be a task by itself. But these habits are only half of the battle if you want to leave a lasting impression on the music industry. Developing a unique sound takes time, but being mindful of certain things can help focus your attention and guide your sound to something truly yours.
Here are four tips to follow to find and develop your signature sound faster:
1. Produce Hundreds of Songs Consistently
It takes producing many dozen, maybe even hundreds of songs before we slowly stumble upon a sound that is all ours. Reaching this milestone will require years of deliberate practice and discipline. You are reading this article, so you are probably not expecting success to come overnight without grinding and putting the work in.
Throughout the course, you will explore new approaches of composing, different selections of sounds, and reaching for various plug-ins. You begin to notice yourself falling into predictable habits as you consistently work through your tracks. It is in these habits that your signature sound develops. Many producers use the same approaches to individual problems. Still, it is highly unlikely that any single producer does everything exactly as you do from start to finish.
Remember that creativity is much like a muscle, and only gets stronger when used consistently. Being able to produce one-thousand songs will not happen overnight. It will likely never happen at all unless you commit to working at the craft continuously. If you find your workflows stale and uninspiring along the way, start-to-finish courses are a great way to see how professional producers work through the creative process. Following along a professional producer gives you new techniques, ways to streamline your workflow plus sound design secrets worth 5+ years of hard work in the studio.
2. Never Stop Learning
It is crucial to invest in yourself, no matter how long you have been producing music. Just because we fall into familiar habits mentioned above does not necessarily mean these habits are working for us for the better. Masterclasses, in-depth tutorials, one-on-one sessions, and other options are all readily available for producers who know the value of self-investment. Spending time away from your DAW to study will pay off both in your time and money when you open Ableton again.
We discussed earlier how amateur producers make carbon copy versions of the productions of their favorite producers. While this is generally something to avoid, you can gain vast amounts of knowledge by seeing how a music project unfolds. Seeing how all the parts come together to create a melodic techno track like the legend, Stephan Bodzin might change how you automate your bass filters. Learning how to craft techno percussion similar to the Drumcode heavyweights can add more drive and swing to the drums of your productions. Your results are more pronounced if you produce genres very different from your studied templates.
3. Save Your Favorite Samples and Presets
It might not take long for you to realize how tedious scrolling through hundreds, if not thousands, of samples on your hard drive can be. You only need a handful of clean, powerful drum samples to make many great tracks. It is just important you know they sound great across a variety of systems.
Make sure you are saving synth presets and processing chains into Instrument/Audio Effect racks. These presets make reusing them a simple task instead of a tedious chore. As your ear and taste develop, overwriting the previously saved racks with new and more refined processing chains takes only a simple click.
Pro Tip: Ableton's browser makes creating these folders simple. Select the samples you find yourself reaching for frequently and hit the numbers 1-9 on your keypad. This action will mark the sample with a colored dot and place it in the corresponding tab at the top of your browser. You can relabel all these different tabs, like labeling one Favorite Drums, another Favorite FXs, and so on.
4. Be Flexible, Stay Adaptable
Remember that your creative output is directly affected by the music you take in. Listen to a wide range of musical genres and pull whatever you can into your productions. Classical music may inspire you to new synth pad orchestrations, and the textures in industrial rock music could inspire similar characteristics in a techno track.
Be open to explore producing outside of your primary genre. If you aim to make more driving techno, it helps to explore some of the drum sequencing ideas used in popular tech house records. The sound design used in more bass-heavy genres could easily cross over into the four-on-the-floor beats in modern progressive house. It is essential to stay flexible and never assume that you know it all. Music trends are continually changing, and being able to call upon as many different methods will help keep your sound as unique as it is current.