Music production is an art that fuses the technical and the creative in a pursuit to craft something that both sounds good through speakers and that moves the listener to feel something. Easier said than done. Whether starting from scratch, building out ideas, or getting a track to the finish line — when you hit a wall there are many techniques you can use to tunnel through. We reached out to our friend (and Arcade expert), producer/writer OSCILLATR (Dylan Bowes) to share some of the tips and tricks he uses when creating his sample-heavy pop songs.
The Blank Session…
Sometimes getting started can be the hardest part. Instead of staring into a blank session, create limitations to narrow the infinite possibilities. Try contrasting unlike elements for unexpected results, start with soundscapes instead of chord progressions, and commit your choices to audio for further sonic manipulation.
Mix & Match Genres
Mixing and matching elements from different genres within a track can lead to fresh ideas and unexpected results. You can break genres down into sonics, melodics, and rhythm and then start building your track by mashing up sounds of these categories from wildly different stylistic backgrounds.
Improvise a Beat
Laying down elements over a simple loop is a beatmaking technique that can yield lightning-fast results. Even if you don’t keep everything you record, this method gives you something to work with and refine fairly quickly.
Make Samples Your Own
One of Arcade’s superpowers is its ability to take any sample or loop and easily chop, flip and warp it. In addition to the the Arcade library, it is easy to import any audio and generate your own Kits. Use the Sampler Generator to streamline the chopping process, then use Arcade’s Modifiers and Macros to manipulate your own audio.
Better Than Basic
When a beat feels too basic, there are many ways you can fill it out to have more movement and personality. Try adding tops, texture, polymeter, and even melodic elements.
The Home Stretch
How do you know when a track is “finished”? It can be a tough call. There are some creative strategies you can use during the final stages to button things up. Deleting (instead of adding) elements can be a path towards the finish line. You can try using restraint to “do something just once” and create a special moment. Finally, explore how automation can add that finishing sparkle to a track.
For more tips and tricks subscribe to Output’s YouTube Channel.
A few words with OSCILLATR
As someone committed to demystifying the music production process, what do you hope people take away from your videos and YouTube Channel?
My goal is always to make everyone who watches my videos feel excited about making music. I believe that everyone can make music and I want to empower people to express themselves and have fun.
How did you find your way into music production? Tell us a little about your background.
I’ve been in bands since I was 13. I didn’t know anything about music production. I didn’t even really know it was a thing. I bought the album Original Pirate Material by The Streets in 2002 and it completely changed my life. I was like, “What is this?!?” I became obsessed with making music on computers after that. Just being able to create something from start to finish on a laptop is so cool.
What’s next for OSCILLATR?
I’ve got an EP of half-finished songs that I plan to finish up and release in early 2024. Also, I just moved from Los Angeles to Raleigh, NC so I’m hoping to get some in-person sessions with artists in the southeast.
Keep up with OSCILLATR: https://www.youtube.com/@OSCILLATR