Today let’s dive into the workflow of a Berlin-based electronic music producer Cioz from the Stil vor Talent label. He made his production process an incredibly fun experience with a few simple techniques. Let’s explore how he creates his tracks!
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1. Using Drum Kits: Drum Pads vs Sequencing
Basically, every time I start the track with the kick drum, because it's the most important element. What I use to start are Ableton drum kits. You can choose your own kits in the drums section.
I prefer starting with a kit, because there are several different sounds, which makes it easier to express yourself and find your grooves. I prepared my own drum kit that I use most of the time.
Cioz usually starts making a track in the Clip View. He builds his drum patterns with the Ableton Push by combining sequencing with playing drum pads.
Quantized elements (like the kick, snare, hi hats) are usually put in through sequencing. Elements which are off-the-grid or swung are usually played on drum pads and recorded - and only after that, they might be nudged manually in the software.
In this way, Cioz gets the best of both sequencing styles.
2. Putting the Groove inside a Key
After the initial drums are done, I like to put the groove inside a key. By that I mean finding the right harmony for my rhythm. This can be done with any instrument you like.
Cioz does it by playing the keyboard over the initial beat. The goal is to come up with a background, yet rhythmic and harmonic texture that is going to give a bit of context for adding more harmonic elements later on.
The result is later resampled and the best bits are chosen to play continuously over most of the track. The amount of this background texture is controlled by a lowpass filter with the cutoff frequency automated to bring it in and out.
Ben Böhmer uses this technique to create a constant background rhythmic pattern for his tracks: Ben Böhmer In The Studio: Beyond Beliefs
3. Jamming with Hardware (or Plugins) to Come Up with Parts
Once you arrive at this point you can find your bass, melodies or all the other drums. My favorite machine is the Elektron Analog MKII, but you can also use plugins for this as well. I'm in love with the Elektron because it's really fast to work with.
Cioz has a prepared set of sounds to start from, so he can just record or sequence them directly. The goal is to do a little jam and come up with a few parts on the fly.
4. Adding Rhythmic Textures with Field Recordings
For additional textures, I like to do some field recording. I have this stereo microphone, but you can use whatever microphone you want - even your mobile phone. Phones have really good microphones these days. You can record the sound of your room - go around and try to record random sounds.
A good starting point for field recording could be handclaps, snaps, sounds of hitting household objects, as well as metallic sounds - keychains, coins, cans and kitchen utensils.
Even if it's not the best quality, you’ll find something to work with. To create rhythms you can warp and quantize the clips. Recordings from a mobile phone work perfectly - the dirtier it is, the better.
Try layering the foley recordings with your drums to create more interesting rhythms and textures - it adds a very warm, organic feel. Experiment with processing as well - you can add dirt - for example with saturation - or clean up the sounds with equalizers.
What I like to do with the drums is separating them instead of keeping them all in one track. At the beginning working in one clip is faster, and it allows you to think of it as a single instrument. However, arranging is easier if you split your drum hits onto separate tracks.
|Tip: To split a drum rack into separate clips, you don’t need to waste time copying and pasting samples and MIDI. All you need to do is expand your Chains List in the Drum Rack (the button is on the left of the rack). Then just select a chain with a sound you’re using and go to “Extract Chains”. The drum hit and the corresponding MIDI will be automatically moved to a separate track.
Once you have your drum hits split, you can still treat your drum sounds just like a single instrument by grouping all the drum tracks and adding effects to the group.
Cioz starts to arrange by copying the drums from the Clip View over to the Arrangement and extends them to create an introduction. Next, he starts introducing melodic elements one by one. In the next section he sometimes creates a break - removes the drums and leaves some harmonic elements. He creates transition effects by resampling:
To create an effect, don't go to your sound library and look for an effect. Instead, try to create your own sound effect by using the synths. If you have melodic elements, you can put a very long reverb, resample and reverse it to create a riser.