What do you do to get loose? “Money please, I get loose off of orange juice”
Sometimes all it takes is the summer sun to glare through the window at a certain angle and BOOOOM, you’re in the zone. But, what if there’s no sun! What are the challenges of tapping into the creative mind set? Some say inspiration just hits us. Like divine intervention, lighting strikes and the magic comes out. Other producers argue that as long as you’re putting the time and effort in on a regular basis you’ll learn and find the inspiration somewhere in that day to day beat making routine.
However we look at, the key here is being able to put yourself in a position to access that part of the brain/heart/soul. So here are a couple of strategies for seasoned or beginner Electronic Music Producers alike that might help you get a little deeper.
1. Ask yourself a simple question. When the lighting does strike, am i ready to harness it? A few simple organizational parameters go a LOOOONG way. On those days that you’re not feeling terribly creative, what can you do besides curling up into the fetal position uncontrollably sobbing, whilst scrolling through Instagram. Well, how about set yourself up for the next time? Every session is connected. The lesson here is to be good to your future producer self! If you’re feeling lame do lame stuff. Reorganizing project files, deleting useless things, finding new drum sounds or synths, rewiring/tweaking your system. These are some examples of things that you can use that uninspired brain for. Now, if your studio gets too clean and too organized that might also be cause for concern! But that's another story.
2. Session goals. Keep it simple. If I’m thinking about laying down some drum patterns, don’t get sucked down the rabbit hole by trying to find the perfect compression settings for your kick. There’s a difference between creation and tweaking. Tweak some other time. If you can focus on one thing at a time, you’re more likely to finish songs. There are so many facets to learning how to be a good producer that if we try to do them all at once one of two things will happen: You’ll get confused, or you’ll go crazy. This goes for both beginner and experienced producers.
3. Time limits. Smart phones have timers. Use them. All the rage in the sports world is interval training. It has merits. I don’t believe that hardcore parameters are necessarily the best thing to promote creativity, but having no time limits or structure can also have adverse effects. Try giving yourself a set amount of time (i.e. 30mins) to accomplish a task. If you’re not done, that’s all good. Like I said earlier all sessions are connected. You’ll jump in where you left off next time. With time limits, most likely you’ll start making better use of your minutes and putting in a more concentrated effort than you would if you had a bottomless pit.
~ Erik Laar
We are very proud to present to you our Second instalment of "Off Centre Selections" which is a podcast entirely made up of songs created by graduates of the Full Producer Certificate Program.
Genres and influences are of course very wide in range. Expect anything from Trip Hop, to Trance, and EDM, to instrumental film soundtracks.
Congratulations to all the featured artists for their impressive efforts:
0:00 Micky Myers - Six Feet Over
2:31 FIddle-beaTZ - Shadow
5:30 Akeil Fields - Downtime ft. Bella Rose
9:48 Carli Cottrell - Cancer
12:42 Deadweight - Lakitu
16:15 FIddle-beaTZ - Leave
19:41 Creelo - Aquarius Ft. Hafs al-Ghazi
27:07 AKA - Remix of Zeds Dead X NGHTMRE - Frontlines Ft. GG Magree
30:48 Akeil Fields - Canada's Most Blunted
34:06 Carli Cottrell - Short Term Memory
Watch Part 2 of this series here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sx8OO55TjQE
Off Centre's Jonathan Kawchuk takes us through some of the ins and outs of bringing musical ideas to life. This is Part 1 of a 2 part series focussed specifically on creating melodic and structural variation. How do you turn a great 4 bar or 8 bar loop into a full song using Ableton Live. Star Wars represent!
Whether you're looking to learn the Art of DJing or develop your studio potential as a producer, at Off Centre you'll learn the skills, technical know how, and creative mind set to become a unique and well-rounded artist. Learn more about our programs here: http://www.offcentredj.com/certificate-programs.html
Check out Part 2 of the series - Playing Live with Ableton Using Controllers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6rwo3kyYLE
In this tutorial we’ll take a look at how you can take your live sets to new heights using mapping.
More info about Ableton and Electronic music production courses at Off Centre: http://www.offcentredj.com/full-producer-program.html
Kickin' it with JT from the Off Centre Camp. In this video we explore some details of how to combine multiple sounds (in this case kick drum samples) to make a fuller sound. Learn more about producing at Off Centre.
Kickin' it with JT from the Off Centre Camp. In this video we explore some details of how to combine multiple sounds (in this case kick drum samples) to make a fuller sound.
Learn more about producing at Off Centre:
One of the early producers to really break out of his shell internationally from Canada at the turn of the century is Alan Lam, better known as Stranjah, and more recently Skeezer. With over 15 years of experience behind the boards, the savvy veteran is still currently churning out some of his finest material to date. His early production endeavours were clearly influenced by house, low-end hip hop production and various other forms of earlier bass music. Splashing onto the scene initially with then-partner-in-crime Gremlinz, his music found its way into the hands of legends like Goldie, L Double and Doc Scott, all of whom were keen on playing his music out in their sets and ultimately signed him to their respective imprints Metalheadz, Flex and 31 Records.
A favourite here at Off Centre Alan inspires students in Ableton Foundation and our Full Producer Program.
"Don't Cha" wanna give this remix contest a try? ;) Follow this LINK for a chance to win some fantastic prizes including a $250 OCDJ gift card. DEADLINE IS MAY 28th
Ableton’s Scale is a powerful MIDI effect that allows you to constrain every note on your keyboard to a specified scale. For example, if you wanted all of your keys to play only notes within an A minor scale, Ableton’s Scale can do this.
In this tutorial we’ll take a look at how Scale works and map out some of our own scales.
More info about Ableton and Electronic music production courses at Off Centre: http://www.offcentredj.com/certificate-programs.html
This video is a brief explanation and demonstration of exactly what Global Quantization is and what it can do to in Ableton.
More Ableton course info: http://www.offcentredj.com/ableton-li...
Global Quantization is a powerful Ableton feature that can be used in session view. It's one of the elements that really sets Ableton apart from other DAWs and can change your workflow and overall engagement in your music making experience. It can be used on stage for live shows and can also bring that performance feel in to your beat making process in the studio.
Ableton's Operator is a little intimidating at first, but it's often overlooked for more commercial plugins. It's a versatile instrument and with a little time you can be on your way to making your own patches and basslines. Operator is an FM (Frequency Modulation) Synthesizer with subtractive and additive synthesis.
The Operator has 8 individual sections called ‘Shells’ and 1 display section at the centre. Depending on the shell you have selected, the centre display will show you a more detailed set of parameters from which you can modify your sound.
For info on Off Centre's Producer Programs: http://www.offcentredj.com/producer-programs.html
Oscillators : The noise makers inside the Operator. There are 4 oscillators (ABCD) which have their own parameters that can be tweaked in the centre display.
Waveform : Essentially waveforms are a representation of sound and can be complex or simple. In Ableton we can choose from a 22 types of waveforms, design our own or choose from the fundamental waveforms, sine, saw, square and triangle. We’ll choose a sine wave as it has a prominent presence in the lower frequencies.
Algorithm : In a nutshell Operator’s Algorithms are different routing options for the oscillators (ABCD). You can see that depending on which one you choose, algorithms can drastically alter your sound.
[How to make the Bassline]
1. Generally, the sine wave registers the best in the lower frequencies so, to create our bass sound, we’ll go to our oscillator 'A' and leave the waveform to run a sine wave.
2. We’ll then change the Algorithm to the last configuration so that our oscillators will run independently.
3. Add another oscillator with the same sine wave to boost the fullness of the sound. You could also add a third oscillator and run another waveform on top of the sine waves to add some tones to the sine wave.
Filter : The filter sections controls the Operator’s built-in filters. You can choose from a range of Filter-types (LP,HP,BP,Notch) and then adjust the cutoff with the Frequency knob which sweeps the band with whatever Filter-type you chose. The display will also allow you to change the envelope of the filter and also add curves to your waves with the Shaper Types. Choose from Soft, Hard, Sine or 4Bit to had that little bit of grit or guts to your sound.
LFO : By default, The Low Frequency Oscillator (LFO) shell will modulate the pitch of your oscillators ABCD, but can also modulate the filter cutoff depending on which ones you have turned on in the LFO centre display.
Release: In the Oscillator display you can adjust the Release to extend the tail end of the signal. Doing so will lengthen or shorten the amount of time for the signal to decrease after the key has been released.
Off Centre DJ School's Instructor Circles & Squares breaks down the intricacies of Sampling in Ableton Live with Part 2 of this multi part series. This video takes you deeper into methods of extracting samples (in this case melodies) and making quick use of them in your midi note editor to build upon your existing rhythmic foundation.
Take virtually any audio file and manipulate the selected source to create something new.
Learn more about music production with Ableton:
In Episode 4 of the OCDJ - TV series, Slowpitch along side Circles & Squares have some fun (as usual) breaking down some strategies for how to deal with one of the most important issues for new and/or seasoned DJs & Producers: The Equipment Purchase. It's easy to get pushed in the wrong direction, especially if you're not exactly sure what the best piece of gear may be. Tune in for some interesting and helpful commentary on how to protect your wallet!
Off Centre DJ School's Instructor Circles & Squares breaks down the intricacies of Sampling in Ableton Live with Part 1 of this multi part series. This video focusses specifically on the technique of "slicing" which is a streamlined method of extracting samples (in this case drums) and making quick use of them in your midi note editor. Take virtually any audio file and manipulate the selected source to create something new.
Ableton Live is used to create, record, produce, and even perform music. Learn about linear and improvisational approaches to producing electronic music as we take you through the software’s unique interface. Browse through our latest course offerings HERE
We recently met up with former student Will Bokan aka Ninja Bokan for a quick chat about his recent success, signing, release, experience at Off Centre and all around Ninja lifestyle!
OC1. So, what's it like being a ninja!?
NB1. Being a full time Ninja is the best thing I could ever imagine in my life. Ever since I was as young as I could remember I just wanted to be the Green Power Ranger when I grew up. Backflip kicks and other insane martial arts stunts were life necessities to me in late highschool and on into university.
OC2. Does your active lifestyle have an influence on your style of music or vice versa?
NB2. For me it is everything. Electronic music alone inspires all of my movement. I started gaining interest in learning how to make my own music for my martial arts. The interesting thing about this was once I started learning and becoming involved in production, it very quickly became all about the music. I’m way too obsessed with learning more about production and even just having great new music to listen to while I do Ninja activities or any activities in my life really.
OC3. What kind of music do you listen to (when you're not fighting Luigi!)? Mario's Street Challenge Are there any specific music influences that you can site?
NB3. Haha, this is a tricky one. I love all genres of music (except country). If it is good music I do like it. Typically I listen to the music suitable for the mood.When I am doing office work or monotonous tasks on the computer I like to listen to chill out music like Pretty Lights and Griz. I’m really falling in love with Shaun Frank’s new Deep House also. Deadmau5 is the best for so many things. Every now and then I love listening to Headhunterz and hardstyle. But once it is something that requires movement, high energy, or I’m feeling upbeat, I’m all over the Electro House. Dylan Francis, Nom De Strip, stuff like that.Actually right now at the very moment Nom De Strip makes me have a mental meltdown, definitely my favourite artist for today.
OC4. Congrats on your recently released a track "The Crew from 602" on BugEyed Records. Tell us a little about how all that went down. How did you find them or them find you? Any future plans with that label?
NB4. Well, The Crew from 602 was actually kind of an accident experiment track. Design wise it was inspired a little from hardstyle and at the time I was listening to some of Headhunterz new Big Room/hardstyle experimental tracks. So I figured “meh” I’ll fool around with that in mind, and then a track popped out. The overall inspiration for the track came from my stunt crew that hung out at after practices at this terrible junky house numbered 602. Everyone had the best time. I’m glad the house sucked, because it made it an amazing place to hang out with the right people for the right reasons.
I sent my demo over to BugEyed, they said they’d love to sign it after listening. It was that simple really. I’d love to provide them with more tracks.
I have some beauties in the hopper right now that I am super excited about. My current track is coming along a little slower than I'd like, but the quality is just epic for my expectations. I'v very happy with the results so far, I cannot wait to finish this gem, and I can't wait to send your way to have a listen when it comes out.
Maybe this track could also possibly end up on another label or maybe it stays with BugEyed? I can’t predict these things. I like to be a leaf in the wind; whatever works out best for everyone makes me really happy.
OC5. Is there anything in particular that sticks out in your experiences at Off Centre that has helped with your music (or just in general)?
NB5. Well, everything haha. I’m sure it is different for everyone, but for me specifically Off Centre was the turn key enabler that opened the opportunity for me to start and understand how to make electronic music. Before I started at off centre I knew I wanted to start making music but I had no idea how. Taking a look at ableton on my own wasn’t all that intuitive.
I took the offcentre course, everything started making sense and I learned how to make a track from beginning to end with confidence. I learned all the necessary tools and more to get a producer going on their own. Not only that, the environment and the positivity from the instructors was so inspiring and unreal. I really felt like they believed in me and enjoyed teaching me because they wanted to.
A whole new world opened for me. The way I heard songs and the audio pallet that opened up for me was insane. Probably one of the coolest milestones in my life; truly discovering what music really was.
Thank you so much Off Centre.
OC6. In a short time your beats have really developed and evolved nicely into some high quality production. Is there any advice you could give to producers and beat makers that are in the early stages?
NB6. Oh man so much advice. I could write a massive report at this point, and still have limited knowledge as I am just “starting” my journey. The most important to me is to keep learning new things. I know it sounds really obvious but really focus on growth and new production tactics that lead to a “cleaner” track. Every time I finish a track I am already disappointed with it due to new things I have learned to make the next track better. It’s okay to have high standards and put pressure on yourself as long as you are having fun.
The 4 actual production points I found the most important right away after I finished Off Centre are the following:
1) Sidechain Compression.
I now use Nicky Romero’s Kickstart. Highly recommend. Sidechain Compression is the most important part to getting that rock solid clean kick and overall mix out there. Make sure you never miss getting this right.
Layer your snares, layer your synths, layer everything that needs to be layered. You get way more control over your sounds. You pick the parts you like form them, remove the parts you don’t and then glue them together. Really separate your bass and your mids and highs.
3) Pick a professional track to compare yours to.
Listen back and forth. See where yours is missing pieces and sounds that the other track has locked down. Are your samples just too weak? Is your mixing levels off? It could be many things, a reference track similar to yours is great.
4) Take breaks.
For me, I found once I started going too long that my ears would start becoming too used to the track and unable to be effective in focusing on making the right changes. If they are getting tired, just take a break for half an hour and then come back. You’ll be surprised at how “fresh” the track and canvas sounds to work with again.
To find out more about will and his evolving body of work, checkout:
In the last post we talked about taking away existing elements to make variations and sounds less repetitive. While that method proves to be effective in a busy or full-sounding track, it can not fill up a less busy or thinner track. So this post will dig into the melodic modifications that can help fill up those empty spaces or enrich the harmonics of thinner chord progressions (in many cases this would be the first step of making loop variations, followed by rhythmical changes, and finished with tonal adjustments).
One of the easiest ways of achieving a richer/fuller sound is to add a 7th note to your basic triad chords, to form 7th chords. In the past, 7th chords were almost exclusive to genres like blues and jazz for their unique harmony and potential to create more complex chords through inversions (will be covered in pt.2 of this topic) and add-ons (9th, 13th, etc). In today's music scene, 7th chords, along with other complex chords are ubiquitous -- from R&B to HipHop, Folk music to EDM. Let's say you're working on a loop with 2 chords (e.g. A minor -> F major) as the main chord progression of the track (or it could be just for a specific part of the track). All you have to do is find the 7th note of the corresponding scales, A minor and F major scales in our example, which happen to be G and E, respectively, and add them on top of our triad chords, A minor (A-C-E) and F major (F-A-C). As a result, we end up with an A minor 7th chord (A-C-E-G), and a F major 7th chord (F-A-C-E). If you feel that it is still not full enough, try adding an additional 9th note of the scale (which also happens to be the 2nd note since the 8th note is the same as the root note, just an octave higher) and you will get even richer and fuller sounding chords than before.
Note: Be careful when you play with big chords a lot, as it takes up more space frequency wise. One easy and creative way to avoid having too many notes with one instrument is to select some of the notes from the chords and let another instrument play those notes and delete them from the original instrument. It will give you the full depth of the harmony while creating interesting layers of textures. Also, while the extra harmony opens up the potential for the use of new melodic lines, it may collide with certain notes (or take away its effectiveness) that used to work in the old melody before modifying the chords.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this topic, as it will cover how you can take these new chords and create close to infinite amount of variations.
Covering all the essential components of music creation from the perspective of the musician, DJ and Producer, the Music Fundamentals class starts from the basics and assumes no previous musical training. With a hands on learning approach this is a lab style course designed to fill the gaps in any artists theoretical understanding of how electronic music is made. Using Ableton Live 9 and Midi keyboards we will show you how to have fun with melodies and harmonies by focusing on foundation skills and concepts that will give you the confidence to create meaningful changes and progression in your tracks. Our primary focus here is to teach the language of music without the tedium of traditional music theory by directly translating your ideas into sound. See More...
There are many ways to make variations for repetitive sections in your tracks (introducing new instruments, adding more melodies, etc.,) but one of the most effective and underlooked method is to take away some of the existing notes or shifting the timing of percussive instruments very slightly. For example you can take away every other chord or bass notes instead of trying to add new ones, and you can also let the snare hit slightly early (or late) instead of adding more hits. You can do all this through volume automation or warping (in audio tracks), and taking out/shifting the midi note (in midi tracks). So next time you're in need of variations, think of what you can do with what you already have before trying to add new things, it will keep the track from sounding too busy and consequently you'll have more space for other things at the same time - if you need more that is. For more tips and tricks, check out our Music Fundamentals course!
If you ever run out of ideas for melodies, you can always break down your chords into single notes (arpeggio)
and play around with the spacing for a simple in-key melody/harmony. For a little more variation and originality, you can add any notes from the appropriate major/minor scale (according to what type of chord you just broke down) between the original notes from the arpeggio. Refrain from adding too many notes though, more notes could mean less space to play around with creative rhythm. If you have no clue what any of this means, come check out our music fundamentals course!
Steely Chan is the impressive and ambitious remix project of brothers Trevor and Matt Chan who are also both instructors at Off Centre. They're originally from Vancouver but make music in Toronto with the current mandate of posting a new remix every week for free download. They produce, dj, arrange & perform with laptops, turntables & controllers. Drawing from their hip hop background they create anywhere from funk, afrobeat and disco backbeats layered cleverly with a variety of hand picked and manicured vocal selections. Recent mashups include Jurassic 5 & Shawn Lee - World of Lagos, Adele and John Legend - Rolling in the Deep, and of course the remix featured in the above video Cee Lo Green - F*%k You B - Murray Mix. At one remix per week, there's obviously a lot more where this came from. Check the variety of flavours and/or download at your leisure to get some fresh remixes for your next gig http://soundcloud.com/steelychan.
Upcoming Ableton Classes at Off Centre...
This instructional Ableton video (from the Ableton library) breaks down the ever elusive art of drum sampling, programming, and building your drum library using Live. Most people agree that successful production is about developing your creativity and expanding your artistic imagination, but your beat making potential is very much tied into the platform that your using. As seen in the video, Ableton makes it quick and easy to throw down ideas and change them up as you go. The program also allows for on the fly parameter tweaking including velocity control which is a key ingredient in giving your beats a natural feel. As with all electronic music production, the grid lines can be used to keep your beat perfectly on time. But once you get your foundation rhythm going, try turning snapping off and get a little looser with your kicks, snares and percussion details to add more character to your beat.
The delay between getting an idea out of your head and onto the canvas can be a painfully long process. Sometimes the idea dissapears before you have a chance to actually record it. The beauty with this program is that it allows you to keep an intuitive flow as you create which enables you to add more layers and edit your patterns with ease.
Ableton Foundation Course - April 30th - June 4th // Sat, 1 - 2:30pm // (6 weeks)
Our Ableton Live Foundation course focuses on all the basics that will enable you to release your production potential. In our 6 week program you'll start making your own beats and get comfortable navigating Live's unique interface. From triggering multiple tracks on the fly to building your own drum library, we'll break down all the technical aspects and offer production tips so that you can focus on what's important...being creative. At the end of the Foundation session you'll walk away with your 1st of many production pieces.