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5 Critical Elements Your Techno Track Needs

5 Critical Elements Your Techno Track Needs

What are the critical elements your techno track needs to rise to the next level? There are five, ranging from deep bass all the way to intricate effects. I mean, what's a techno track without that heavy, rumbling kick and bassline with crispy hi-hats in between?

If you do these things solidly, chances are you're a proud artist and creator of an excellent techno track. But if you're just starting out, use this list as a guide-line for the critical techno elements your track needs, with included pointers on things to think about.

Let's dive straight in, starting with number one. 

1. Deep Bass

The first and most crucial element of your techno track is a deep bass. You never listen to a techno track and get impressed by a thin, lifeless sounding bassline, do you? No, when you listen to techno, you want to feel it. The bass line needs to make your heart pump. And since your techno track is best played at a rave party somewhere, you need to make the crowd dance. How do you do that? The answer is, a deep, rumbling bassline.

What you need to keep in mind

In the best techno tracks, you’ll find something called “rumbling bass.” It’s that deep, rolling bassline that just keeps going. The bass that rocks the entire room and shakes your subwoofer to near destruction.

A techno bassline is like one in psytrance in the sense that it's rolling and repetitive to induce a trance-like state. Techno basslines are often deeper, though, with more focus on your kick. The rolling bass kind of sits in the background like an echo-y bass reverb, ducking and diving your kick for a better groove.

But how do you make a rumbling techno bassline? We covered precisely this, with a step-by-step guide in our article 6 Steps To Make That Rumbling Techno Kick You Love (Johannes Menzel's Secret).

You can also find a detailed walkthrough for basslines with ready-to-go project files in our Techno Masterclass course, which walks you through the entire process of creating your professional techno track.

Deep bass in your techno track does this:

  • Danceable. Deep bass makes people dance.
  • Heavy. Techno tracks should be heavy and deep basses help this along.
  • Trance-inducing. Ultra-low frequencies are very trance-inducing and make you want to listen for hours and hours.

2. Crispy Hi-Hats

You’ve got your deep bass in place, perfect. What better to accompany your low, rumbling frequencies than with some crisp hi-hats?

Like the repetitive, trance-inducing bassline, techno percussion and drums should be repetitive. I think it stems from early history and tribal times. Shamans and villagers, rhythmically banging drums and licking frogs, to enter dream-like trance states.

But just because techno music “sounds a particular way” doesn’t mean you do it all the time. There are always exceptions.

What you need to keep in mind

To keep a few elements repetitive and some unpredictable works very well in techno music. Because the bassline and other parts often stay in the same notes, you can always switch things up in your percussion department. Vary the grooves, but keep some recognizable elements. And when if they disappear, make them come back.

The “kick HIHAT kick HIHAT” structure is an integral part of techno drums.  Meaning, an open hi-hat hits between your kicks, preferably with a closed hi-hat hammering away at a constant 16 note loop.

Crispy Hi-Hats in your techno track does this:

  • Contrast. To accompany your low-end, use a bright hi-hat to bring contrast and rhythmically take the listener through the lows and highs of your track.
  • Groove. A hi-hat between kicks introduces a new groove and base that you can make more complex with surrounding sounds and FX.
  • Trance. This groove acts as something the listener can “return” to. A reference point within the track that works to make your track more trancey.

It's rough searching for solid drum and percussion samples, though. Many libraries are very low-quality and don't seem to fit in with the rest of the track. That’s why we created Deep Premium Drum Sample Packs. We know exactly what type of drum sounds fit with techno music and have selected only the best in our sample pack. The 410+ samples and loops require little to no EQ work and sound fantastic in your track right from the start. If you’re tired of searching for the perfect hi-hats and kicks, check them out.

3. Vivid Pads 

What better way to set the tone of cosmic techno with some dark, vivid pads? When surrounding your more in-place kicks and hi-hats, your pads are a critical element to bring movement and space in your track.

Depending on which textures you’re aiming for in your track, your pads can be dark and smooth, or bright and lively. But one thing stands; they must be vivid to breathe life in your track. Having great-sounding pads is essential as your track runs the risk of sounding too monotone with dull pads. Remember, you're aiming for flow, space, and (often) a cosmic vibe. So make your pads work towards your purpose.

What you need to keep in mind

There are a few ways to achieve movement and flow. But one of the simplest is changing things up with automation. You can have one pad playing through-out your entire track if you keep your volume, panning, LFO, and different effect automations interesting.

Never leave your pads to stagnate. Your stereo-field is your playground, use it.

But don’t get lost entirely in the detailed automation process in the beginning. It’s better to save the picky work for the mixing stage, where you can automate reverbs, delays, and other advanced effects to make your track next level.

Vivid pads in your techno track do this:

  • Depth. Pads add an extra dimension and make your track sound deeper.
  • Flow. Background pads work to increase overall flow in your track.
  • Change. Make your track change and take new turns from the repetitive elements. 

If you need inspiration or techno presets for the track you’re working on, check out our techno presets. Lock-and-load ready presets that give you instant inspiration and help you move forward to completion.

4. Flowy Synths

When I say techno synths, you know I’m talking about. Alien arpeggiators, heavy digital stabs, and goosebump-inducing swooshes. Flowy synths are indeed a critical part of a techno track, that together with your bassline, percussion, and pads set the stage.

You can go for a wide range of different synth sounds in techno. The most recognizable being the arpeggiator synth that continually plays, slowly evolving as your tracks go along. Another vital synth element is melodic stabs that come and go. They generally don’t play as often as the arpeggiators, but rather works as groove and melody amplifiers.

What you need to keep in mind

As techno often is quite dirty and gritty sounding, don’t be afraid to go hard on saturation and distortion. Having a synth that is clean as a sunny day together with a bassline that is hellishly brutal usually clashes a bit. You don’t have to go overboard, but just make sure your synth matches with the atmosphere you’re trying to create.

For your arpeggiator synth, automate both the filters and the arpeggiator settings. These automations can create some interesting results and keeps your track interesting all the way through. Introduce elements that the listener couldn’t possibly expect. That will make sure they continue to listen because they want to hear the next exciting thing.

Flowy synths in your techno track do this:

  • Melody. Flowy synths provide the melody, improving your track in the process.
  • Playfulness. By utilizing flowy synths, you can introduce a level of playfulness from the otherwise dark and heavy elements.
  • Interest. Your lead synth is what often contains your hook and makes the reader listen through.

Need help coming up with melodies and hooks? Our Melodic Techno MIDI Pack features over 150+ techno progressions, plucks, and arpeggios that you can switch up as you desire.

5. Spacy Effects

The last and final critical element to have in your techno track is, of course, spacy effects. Like for real, what would a techno track be without them?

I’m talking phasers, flangers, reverbs,  delays, and everything in between. These make up an essential part of your atmospheres. You ultimately want your effects to be a symphony on their own, making all sounds flow and go together.

What you need to keep in mind

Let your effects tell a story. What does adding flanger on your synth sound say to the listener? It might make your track sound more alien and otherworldly. If this is what you want, go nuts. Otherwise, you might want to opt for a different effect or add less of the flanger.

You can also try to create different effect chains that you turn on and off or change the amount of WET. For instance, you can let your delay ring out sometimes, and other times let a reverb ring. Other times, combine both, with different amounts of DRY/WET on both.

Also, I know it’s difficult, but try to save the heavy effects work for your mixing stage. It’s so easy to get stuck with trying to create the perfect effect chains, that you sometimes forget to focus on the more critical arrangement part. Doing most effects work in the final stages also makes sure everything is coherent and fits together.

Experiment. Don’t be afraid to change things up and have fun with the process.

Spacy effects in your techno track do this: 

  • Details. Create fantastic details in your track by layering and using a lot of spacy effects. 
  • Groove. Delays and reverbs work in your favor to enhance or introduce new grooves as they work together with your other elements.
  • Enhance. Enhance your sounds with effects, like a spacey phaser on your lead sounds.

Do you want to learn the secrets on how to create a dark, cosmic Techno track from start to finish?

Johannes Menzel has just released his Techno Masterclass, with over 6+ hours of high quality, step-by-step instructions to crafting a mixed and mastered, club-ready techno banger in Ableton Live.

Follow along with an included, finished template at your own pace, and learn how to do your own deep techno basslines, haunting atmospheres, crystal clear lead sounds, percussion and more.

Join the Techno Masterclass today.

 See you in the next article.


Pelle Sundin PLMTRZAbout the author
Pelle Sundin is a Swedish music producer and freelance copywriter, currently active with his chillout project PLMTRZ. He also produces psychedelic trance. When he's not producing music, he surfs, skates and chugs coffee.

 



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