Music is mostly about concepts for me. Once I have the concept completed in my head everything comes very quickly. I find that when I do not have a concept I noodle around for days with sounds and drums and the best I can hope for is a “tracky track” which means basically means “average” in my book which is not really something I want to do.The process of this remix went like this in 10 easy steps haha…. (I have to summarize a lot of things that take many hours but this is the main jist of it.)
1. Originally I was offered a few tracks to remix by Alex Flitsch, the label owner. I have been chatting with him for a few years on email because I really like the music on his label. I picked this particular original because I felt like it had an old house piano sound that was very rave and very cool for possible manipulation in my style.
2. The first thing I did was isolate this sound in the parts and then I created 20 to 25 versions of the sound. Some of them were completely blown out with huge reverb tails and some of them had slower attacks so they sounded like they were wooshing in. I also made a few reverses and things like that. The point of this exercise was to see what the possibilities were using the main sound. It is usually impossible to hear in your mind how a sound will be changed by using effects so I like to try a lot of different things at the start.
3. The main groove is what I worked on next. In my head I was thinking that this specific remix would be much different than my usual work, much more techno, almost, dare I say it…progressive? The key to this sound is having a nice hi-hat hitting on the off beat of the kick drum. Usually people use a hi-hat sound but I found a nice clicking sound in the parts and I laid it in and offset it so it sat just a little bit of the beat. This usually gives a more human feel to the music. I have also found that alternative drum sounds make tracks sound more interesting. After that I laid down the kick which happened to be very nice from the original parts and then I added a real hi-hat for accent purposes.
4. After the kick and drum groove was laid down I proceeded to load the sampler with a bunch of the original 25 effected piano sounds. I chose a specific group of the long blown out sounds in general. Then I put a lowpass filter under the sampler so I could modulate how hard the big washing piano sound would hit every 4 bars. This soon became the theme of the remix. (a modulating sample coming in and out harder and softer.)
5. Once I had this all completed I noticed that the track was not really grooving at all. So I loaded in a synth patch but instead of playing it as a pad I programmed it in a step sequencer as a grooving staccato type rhythm part. I made it in tune with the piano sound and it immediately gave the track that feeling like it was alive. Using a synth for rhythm is very cool because you can play with the filters to add dynamics as the track goes from section to section.
6. Sometimes when you add something cool the drums have to do something to help it fit. Because of this new synth rhythm agent I then added a little wood block sound in a very basic Latin rhythm on top of all the drums. This really helped the overall feel and gave it more of the funk that I like to hear in everything.
7. At this point everything was working well but I was really missing a bass-line. I argued with myself that the track did not need a traditional bassline for a while but then I really listened and knew that this was not true. So this is when I started working with the arrangement. The arrangement is the most important aspect of a track. The point at where you decide to add and remove sounds is the entire success or failure of the music. So for many hours I built in breakdowns and played with filtering sounds in and out until I felt like I had a proper intro into a bass drop.
8. The bass drop: the bass is almost always the most difficult because it must be Eq’ed and sit in the mix perfectly. All the other sounds can be marginally perfect but the bass must be absolutely perfect in my opinion. So I played with the placement of the sounds for a long time. Usually there is a battle between the kick and any other low frequency sounds and the bass. There is only so much room in the bandwidth of a track and so if you want everything to sound loud you really have to be careful about where you place the bass notes in relation to the other sounds. All the best tracks I have made have specific ranges of sound where everything fits in and doesn’t clash. Eventually I figured out the correct pattern for the bass to work and still fit the vibe of the track. In the end the solution for this track was not to overdo it and to just lay a nice mid-subby sound in there with short rhythmic notes instead of long hits.
9. After the bass is in I listen to the track several times and I realize that it is kind of boring and it doesn’t have a anything that would tell you that I made it. So…I go through and add a secondary breakdown area where I take the original piano sound and load it into a second sampler device. Then I just start playing little jazzy riffs with the piano sound and it ends up sounding really cool! I get excited and fix any mistakes and now I have a real remix on my hands.
10. In the end I go through all the programming in the sequencer with a fine tooth comb and fix any mistakes. Then I add a filter on almost every sound and decide that a lot of the sounds including the kick will filter in and out on this track (not typical for me.) But it definitely fits the mood of the piece. At the end I do some final Eq’ing on all the sounds and the master output. Then I take a day off and come back and listen again. It still sounds good still so I send it to Alex at Connoisseur and he really likes it so we are all good!
(a lot of this was highly simplified so if anyone has any specific questions I will try to answer as many as I can.