How to make electronic music
With the numerous music software packages out there, digital electronic music is the easiest way for amateur producers to get in to the game. The good thing about electronic music is that all instruments can be done by yourself and you don't even need much technical music experience however it will definitely help.
Everybody has different methods in making electronic music but there are definitely efficient ways to get your production up to scratch, and we can start by following the below procedures.
For me this is what sets the mood for the whole track, and once you have the chords laid down, then everything else can fall into place a lot easier.
In case you are not familiar with chord progressions, the most easiest to learn is the 2-5-1 progression which is also said to be the basic Jazz progression. Basically, every key has seven chords in the progression, so the key of C has the following.
CMaj, Dmin, Emin, Fmaj, G7, Amin, Bdim. Note that it is always this pattern Maj, Min, Min, Maj, 7, Min, Dmin
If you take the 2nd, 5th and 1st chords then that will be, Dmin, G7, CMaj. Play these three chords and you magically have a chord progression !!!
Try other progressions and other keys. I like the keys of Eb or F for Soulful / Jazzy type music and also useful in electronic music.
The Bass line
Now you have the chords, the key of the bass line should be easy. In the case above it should be in the key of C. The only creative part is the rhythm, for dance type of music the bass line can bounce along with the tempo of the music and the root can follow the chords e.g. D, G, C - very simple.
For Soulful sounding music you may want the bass line slightly offbeat for more of a jazzy swing feeling and don't be afraid of using passing note (key outside the scale). Don't linger on passing notes otherwise it will sound odd.
At this stage, you should have metronome ticking in the back ground and try not to quantize the bass, unless you are doing techno or similar genres.
you have heard of slash chords, this is where the bass line is note at the root but at an inversion. E.g.C/G simply means to play a C Major chord but using G as the bass note. It gives a slight different feeling and mood.
Synths and melodies
Similar to the Bass Line, once you have the key of the track from the chords, you should basically know what to play here. With a dance / house type track, the melody with follow the key in the chords in repetitive type fashion based around the chorus. Many synths to try out are the Square tooth, saw tooth or a combination of both, however the saw tooth sythns tend to stand out a little more in Volume.
For Hip hop or R&B, the synths may not work the same. Better to use mallet type instruments such as Vibraphone, Xylophone, soft brass instruments or a guitar.
The piano as a melody in the mix is sometimes difficult since it occupies a large frequency range which can clash with other instruments. A Piano melody is usually good if there a little or no other instruments in the mix.
It is also a good idea to try humming along to the bass and the chords to try to find your own melody.
Drums can be simple or complex depending on your preference and how it fits into the track. In any case you should begin with the following.
- Snare - if using a 16 beat grid then this should be programmed in on every 5th and 13th bar. Remember to EQ the kick for maximum sharpness and don't let it cross the 0db Zone, around -2 to -3 db is best. Try to layer different sounds for a deeper snare, e.g. Snare + Clap
- Bass / Kick drums - this is what sets the groove. Again, EQ the kick so it sits nicely in the mix. Use the swing factor for a jazzier groove.
- Hats - Please experiment with these, the easiest way to start is to program them in, every 2 or 4 steps. Move them around if is sounds to dry and genetic. I like to place them in manually with Grid Snap OFF for a more natural feel.
Strings are always good for the chorus and are the most easiest things to insert. They can simply follow the Key are often 5 steps away, e.g. For the Chord C Maj, the strings to play would be C or G (5 steps away).
For a live sound you may want to eventually replace each synth track with live instrument tracks. This is easily done because you can simply mute out the track you want to replace and meet up the musician to record over it. Nobody needs to be there all at the same time. Everything can be done separately unless you are rehearsing for a band performance.