In this digital age, technology can easily take over and dictate sound. We make music in all shapes & sizes, but your unique voice is what counts most.
A David Gilmour guitar solo, for example, is recognizable, as is a Deadmau5 synth pulse or a John Williams melody. We know them instantly, regardless of whether it’s a ballad or and angst ridden dance track. So how do we find that inner voice? Here are few technical tips that might help.
1. Master Your Tools
Focus on just a few of your favorite tools (synths, sample libraries, etc..) and spend the time to master them. Presets are great starting points, but you are in fact working from another sound designer’s tool kit. Sure it takes time to learn an instrument inside and out, but when you do, you can create the presets that have your sound, not someone else’s. Maybe spend a few days just building presets so that when you reach for that particular tool, it’s 100% you. Bottom line, the more you know your instrument, the more you can dial in your own sound. So dive in!
Here’s a good example using REV:
2 . The First Idea Isn’t Always The Best
I had a client that would ask me to deliver 3-5 really rough sketches for each final track we’d end up producing. What I learned is that my first “good” track or the one I normally would have completed was rarely the best or either of our favorites. It was a valuable lesson. Before you spend hours, days, weeks (months even??) fleshing out a track, make sure it’s the right track. Start on an idea, and when you like it, leave it and move on to a few more. The next day pick your favorite and make that the starting point. Sometimes that first idea will be the best, but often over a few sketches you’ll find your soul.
3. Impose Limitations
These days we have practically unlimited sounds and track count, which makes for a giant blank canvas. And as a result, we often build vertically more than horizontally. For those not clear on this, how many of you come up with an interesting progression and immediately start adding layer and layer? That’s fine and it sometimes it has the right place, but often you are building the wrong track (See Tip 2).
One way to push yourself is to self-impose limitations, and a good exercise is limiting yourself to two tracks to start. They can be monophonic or polyphonic, the can be percussion or melodic instruments. Doesn’t matter. The idea, is stick with only these two tracks until you are 100% satisfied … and when you are ready to move on, lock them (or print them to audio). Pretend you are laying down to tape and that it can’t be changed. If you do, you’ll focus more on the performance (as bands used to) and you’ll make sure you’re satisfied before moving on.
4 . Quantize Less
We all quantize, and that’s fine. But let’s do it a bit less… It will humanize the music. I’m not saying that you have to remove it completely, but at least bring down the settings so that it’s at 75 percent or less. If we all quantize, then we all sound the same. If we play things in a natural manner it will have more of your own feel.
On the production side, sometimes sounds are thinner when they all start at the exact same time. So if you use quantization more sparingly, you can actually stagger the attacks – making the sound fatter and ultimately more powerful.
5. Collaborate More
Sure it’s counter-intuitive to think that collaborating could help you find your inner voice, but musicians weren’t meant to play alone, isolated in a room. When you have an idea down shoot it to a friend or a musician and see what they add. Ask for multiple options. Collaborators bring lot’s to the table – and sometimes a fresh perspective helps you find your own voice. Edit, tweak, use it all or not any of it… Either way, it should help to clarify what works and what doesn’t.
6. Change Up The Parameters
No one wants to write the same track over and over. Yet, we often start with the same meter, tempo, key etc… and then we’re forced to make drastic changes to create new results. Why not change up the parameters and see where it takes you. The end result will sound quite different, but it will still carry your voice. And that’s the goal… To have a sound that’s unique and identifiable.
It might not seem so important, but having a sound is the essence of who we are.
REV is a revolution in software instruments, dedicated to flipping your perception of audio in reverse.
More than your standard DAW reverse function, REV is a four-part instrument packed with a world of sound based entirely on reverse elements for producers, composers, artists, DJs and sound designers. Each of the 4 parts of REV have their own unique sound engine loaded with over 14GB of content including synths, real instruments, multilayered organic pads, loops, rises, pulses, swells, stutters and more.