When Gianni Proietti, aka Gattobus, got his first Roland keyboard, he was only 16 years old. Thirty years later, he’s an expert sound designer for instruments like the SYSTEM-8, FANTOM, JUPITER-X, and others. Even in the face of tragedies and setbacks, the multi-talented musician never abandoned his passion. In this tell-all interview, he reveals the secrets behind his success.
Your Instagram post celebrating the 30th anniversary of your first Roland keyboard is touching. Looking back now, can you pinpoint the moment when you became a fan?
My first contact with a Roland keyboard was when I was 12, in an old theater near the church I attended. It was a JUNO-106. It struck me like a thunderbolt, and I immediately asked my parents for piano lessons. My music idols, Elton John, Pink Floyd, a-ha, and Duran Duran, all had Roland synthesizers, so the brand became a kind of religion to me. But my parents couldn’t afford to buy Roland instruments at the time, so they found me a Farfisa keyboard instead. I was so obsessed that I ended up drawing the Roland logo with a white permanent marker on the back.
Having a vast source of meticulously designed sounds in your library is a wonderful thing. But let’s face it: sifting through hundreds of presets can be overwhelming.
Here at Output, we’re all about fast-tracking your creative process. We don’t want you to spend hours looking for the right sounds, which is why we categorize them for you.
SIGNAL presets are no different.
If you already own SIGNAL, you know that it’s all about generating sounds that move. It provides any rhythm injector you can think of, from LFO to step sequencer and arpeggiator. Plus, it offers an inimitable library of instruments such as guitars, strings, analog synths and even some percussion! For producers who are looking for a software instrument that covers all the bases, SIGNAL is a prime choice.
Every Output instrument comes with special FX to help you take full advantage of the sounds at your disposal.
Take Flux in EXHALE, for example. Functioning like a sophisticated randomizer control, Flux can fluctuate the rhythm of any mod send in the FX engine!
The reason why this feature works particularly well in an instrument like EXHALE is due to the nature of the human voice. When you Flux the Filter and Phaser, for instance, you get a sound that gives the illusion of quick vowel and timbre shifts. It’s almost like the gender of the vocal samples keeps altering in ways you can’t predict in real-time!
If you want to design a texture like this but don’t know where to start, this tutorial is for you.
All the Output instruments have one wonderful thing in common: track-ready factory presets. But now and then, it’s fun to dive in a little deeper.
Thanks to their fully customizable wide selection of FX, layers, and rhythm engines, you’ll never get sick of these plugins!
If you associate reversed samples with transitional elements and risers, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re one of many producers who think too small! Reversing sounds opens up a wealth of audio opportunities.
Imagine laying down some lush chords made out of reversed piano pads. Picture sprinkling some flipped and plucked strings to liven up your instrumental in a way you’ve never done before. All that and more is possible with REV.
Within the past two decades, something magical happened in the world of film music. Classical instruments got dressed up in electronic, ambient, and rock sounds. The line between acoustic instruments and synthesizers got blurry. We even heard some scores that combined a drum set, drum machine, and orchestral percussion in a single cue.
Today, film directors feel drawn to composers who are just as interested in sound design as they are in classical music. Thanks to bold composers like Trent Reznor, Clint Mansell, and M83, the definition of the word “cinematic” in music is ever-evolving.
But how did these composers manage to make a name for themselves with their genre-defying creations?
“We’ve been doing this for a good 12 years, full time. We’ve had some highs, we’ve had some lows. Knowing what we’ve had and where we’ve been, even in that low spot, we have to figure it out. I feel like in the industry if you’re in a rut, you’re just one song away from changing your life. That’s basically what happened with Bruno, we broke through,” says Jeremy Reeves of the prolific music production team. And what a breakthrough that was: They ended up taking two Grammy awards home for “That’s What I Like.”
With an earth-shaking sub module and two additional sound generators, SUBSTANCE is the one synth bass you’ll never get sick of. Turn all the layers on and you can easily combine a triangle sub with a bass guitar and tuba if that’s your wish!
When you’re dealing with such an expansive software instrument, you never run out of options. But just in case the presets readily available in SUBSTANCE don’t cut it, the additions are here to broaden your horizons!
The Dystopian Bass pack in particular is the bread and butter of many EDM producers and film composers. It’s packed with all the hits, booms, drops, and risers you’re looking for and more.
Retreats have been around for decades in the music industry. Sometimes songwriters and producers get together to make magic in a cabin in the woods. Other times it’s a summer house by the beach that fuels musicians’ creativity.
The idea is that a change of scenery and a chance to socialize with other creators may lead to happy surprises. The best music tends to come out when its maker is having fun. So why not give them the perfect setting to do so?
Atrium Creative Retreats takes this idea a step further by bringing mental health and wellness into the mix. “Atrium is an artists’ retreat where artists can go… a safe space for a week, internationally, with other artists that they may know or may not know,” states co-founder Chrissy Stuart.
Have you ever wondered why your tracks don’t hit hard enough? Sometimes you produce a sick beat, but it gets old fast. 16 bars in and somehow you’re already tired of it.
In these situations, the problem is usually not the groove. If the track doesn’t feel locked in, the lackluster rhythm of the chords might be the culprit.
When it comes to rhythmic flow, most producers rely on drum and bass elements to carry the weight. But no groove can fulfill its true potential unless the harmonic, percussive and melodic textures fit right in.
MOVEMENT is a multi-FX plugin that gives you all the tools you desire and more in this area. With its two engines, you can combine up to four different sequences! Want to manipulate the sound with additional FX? Try the built-in EQ, filter, compressor, reverb, and delay.
Composing string arrangements with a DAW can be easy and painless. But only if you’re truly touched by the sounds you’re working with.
There’s nothing like lifeless virtual strings to ruin what should be an exhilarating process. The notes might be perfect, but what’s the point if the samples don’t match their quality?
Analog Strings is considered a revolution by many because it’s all about giving composers an inspirational starting point. Browse through a few presets and you’ll eventually find the right fit for any production, whether it’s classical or contemporary.
Most soft synths come with merely a few choir presets that go unnoticed by producers. Some patches feel authentic but rigid, while others feel way too artificial.
Usually, there seems to be something lacking: taste.
And that’s exactly what sets EXHALE apart.
If you’ve ever checked out the Hooked pack on ARCADE, you probably already know how meticulous we are about vocal synthesis. Here at Output, we’re dedicated to designing track-ready sounds. We know achieving that goal with vocal samples is no easy feat. But what fun is life without a challenge? We took that motivation and ran wild with it. Thus the modern vocal engine was born.
Whether you compose for films or want to create the perfect retro backdrop for a beat, Analog Strings has you covered.
With realistic orchestral samples and vintage string synth sounds, it’s an expansive instrument unlike any other.
The Neon Strings addition provides delicate plucks and massive pads that will take you back to decades past.
Some producers already got their hands on it and we can’t stop listening to the tunes they’ve made so far!
Have you checked out The Base Bass expansion pack for SUBSTANCE?
It’s loaded with heaps of gritty electric bass samples and rich pluck synth patches.
But don’t just take our word for it. Hear how Output artists around the world make jaw-dropping beats with this boundless bass engine.
Songwriting can be an elusive form of art.
Some writers enjoy creating alone… Others depend on their peers for a spark of inspiration.
The pandemic has had a negative effect on almost all songwriters’ creative process. Those who normally enjoy attending co-writing sessions don’t feel at ease enough to do so anymore. Those who choose to go it alone feel that they ran out of topics to write about a long time ago.
So, how does one get inspired when their life experiences are limited?
In other words, how does a songwriter write when they have nothing to write about?
The idea of acquiring a home studio setup is nothing new.
In fact, bedroom producers all over the world have invested in their own equipment for decades.
But with technology advancing rapidly each year, software that once seemed niche has become more accessible. Now, any artist, podcaster or vlogger can make a one-time investment to record high quality takes at home.
The question is – how do you begin?
It’s not every day you meet a music producer who lights up the room with his positive energy. But Larrance Dopson is all smiles all the time.
With ARCADE, the fun doubles.
“Normally when I work, I start off with the chords. Then after that, I’ll do this thing I call peekaboo, where it’s just stuff coming in and out from all the cool ARCADE sounds,” he reveals.
But before ARCADE became a part of his creative routine, Dopson was already making waves in the music industry.
So what’s the secret behind his success?
“It’s always about the artists and the vocals,” the producer answers. He leaves enough room for the melodies to shine. And that’s where the magic happens.
“I feel a lot and I feel music,” admits Tyler Bates.
“I put myself in the audience and think about what would move me? What would prime me to receive the emotion that the director is trying to convey? I’m trying to feel what that is instead of intellectualizing it,” he concludes.
And it’s exactly that emotional and novel approach that keeps composing interesting for Bates.
But he is a believer in mixing things up. “I make records, I tour, I do films, television, and other things because they all inform one another in some way. It expands upon my experience so I have a little more breadth. If I just sit behind my desk and one movie after the next happens, at some point, I get tired,” says Bates.
Superstar producer Dante Jones doesn’t have a one-track mind. Having collaborated with stars such as Kelly Clarkson, Skrillex, and blackbear, he has built a wide-range portfolio within a decade. He continues to turn heads today with his passion project THEY., attracting other massive collaborators like Tinashe and Jessie Reyez.
But how does he manage to adapt his skillset to so many genres?
“Don’t be afraid to use certain sounds that may not make sense on paper,” he says.
When asked to give an example, he replies, “One of my favorite things to do is use things like scissors. Random found sounds. Instead of hi-hats, maybe you use scissors. There’s a whole bunch of different things that you could do and you’re still creating a rhythm.”
Welcoming the Output crew into his 17 Hertz studio, Jones reveals the inner workings of his creative process.
Many film composers and modern producers depend on MIDI strings when they don’t have the budget to record an orchestra in the studio. In fact, from pop to hip-hop, electronic to ambient, you can hear strings in various shapes and forms. And it’s easy to understand why. Raw or heavily processed, strings can add a lot of lushness and expressive quality to any composition.
This is why some engineers are after creating the most realistic MIDI strings possible, while others focus on synthesizing them.
But what if we told you there is one strings engine that covers all the bases?
Output’s Analog Strings come with an expansive library filled with string orchestra and synth samples. You can even combine and manipulate them within the engine with just a few clicks! Artists Satta and The Album Leaf explain how.
Every year, the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) hosts one of the largest music conventions in the world.
A historic show that dates back to the early 1900s, NAMM attracts musicians and sound engineers alike.
But not everyone can take the time to go all the way to Anaheim in the middle of January.
If you’ve missed this year’s show, do not fret. We’ve got you covered!
Here is a list of a few NAMM show launches that caught our attention.
Roland Cloud is a relatively new platform, but music instructors around the world have already taken notice. It offers powerful opportunities for students looking to master music production, beat making, sound design, synthesis, and audio. Today, the cost-effective subscription model offers access to incredibly realistic ACB replicas. It’s also packed with a continually expanding sound library.
Back in the day, learning how to operate any synthesizer or drum machine required commitment. Musicians often had no choice but to invest in their favorite tools. For many, owning a JUNO-60 or TR-808 was the dream. Though the price tags were fair, they were too steep for many aspiring players to afford.
Soon enough, recording studios and music institutions began collecting industry-standard instruments. Producers signed up and waited their turn to play them. Next, soft synths became more widespread. Music technology companies offered emulations of hardware synths. Still, most of them couldn’t even come close to the sound of the real thing.
Until Roland Cloud came into play, that is.
“I was just getting a little frustrated,” she admits. After surviving several battles of her own in the male-dominated film industry, Letzler was done waiting for the change to happen on its own. “I know a lot of talented female film composers personally. Why can’t the rest of the world? Why is there not a platform for them? I’m just really excited to showcase all these women,” she says.
As a vocalist, Letzler’s credits include various blockbuster movies such as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman, and Thor: The Dark World. She has also composed the music for TV series like Vikings and Iron Fist.
Although she managed to find her footing, Letzler believes that many film producers and directors need convincing when it comes to hiring women composers.
“They’re hiring men over and over again, because it’s what they’re comfortable with. To put someone out of their comfort zone can be a difficult thing,” says Letzler.
Nashville songwriter and producer Andrew Petroff is no stranger to collaborating with big names in the industry. Through writing with Jeff Trott and producing for Sheryl Crow, he has carved out his own path in the country music scene.
Unlike most other country music producers, Petroff draws inspiration from sound more than anything else. Spending most of his time writing and recording with other artists requires him to pay attention to the flavorful details. As he puts it, “It’s usually a combination of getting in the room with an artist, trying to find a sound and create a thing, and write songs. And that turns into a record.”
His studio is decorated with a drum set, several guitars and Output’s Platform Studio Desk, which provide the perfect setting for making music. But Petroff’s secret sauce lives in his computer: ARCADE.
Having been born and raised in Wales, Joanne Higginbottom didn’t dream big at first. But she ended up in the heart of the film industry anyway. All it took was a friendly message to a certain high-profile film composer she had always looked up to.
“I was at the Royal Welsh College of Music studying music technology and sonic art,” she recalls, “I just said, ‘Hey, I admire your work.’ I specified some certain cues and scores and stuff that I thought were fantastic. I came out and did an internship with him for a month. I worked my ass off, but, obviously it worked.”
After completing her internship, Higginbottom returned to Wales to finish her degree. But she never broke contact with Bates. Her first recording session with him as a pro was at Capitol Records in Los Angeles. The rest, as they say, is history.
American producer and artist P.Morris ignited his career by producing Kelela’s “Go All Night.” Soon thereafter, Solange took notice. He even scored an opening slot on tour with FKA Twigs. Today, he makes music for his pleasure as well as for other artists.
Continuously drifting between R&B, hip-hop, trap and electronica, Morris has developed an inimitable style over the years. But how does he manage to turn heads in an industry where there’s so much noise?
From his love for Output’s Analog Strings to his go-to strategies when he works with a vocalist, Morris shows us what his flow looks like in the studio.
With almost 35 years of experience under his belt, Canadian film and TV composer Mychael Danna needs no introduction. He has won numerous awards, including the Golden Globe and Oscar for Best Original Score for Life of Pi. He pushes the boundaries of Western classical music with instruments he collects during his travels around the world.
As he gives us a tour of his 1910 and Bombay-inspired studio based in Hollywood, he explains how he ended up here: “We all started music because we loved it, because it was fun, because we got to hang out with cool people and play together. Fast forward 20 years, you’re alone in a black room with light blocked out, sound blocked out, with you and your computer.”
But how does he continue to make it fun after all those years?
Delay is one of the most common audio effects used by music producers, artists, and mixing engineers alike.
Delay differs from reverb by the simple fact that it generates echoes as opposed to reverberations in a virtual space. This is why, in most cases, syncing delay effects to the tempo of the track is generally preferred.
But delay can be used in a myriad of ways to fatten up your mix project, add dimension to your sounds, and even create unique, evolving soundscapes.
Let’s take a look at how you can incorporate delay into your own productions. And I’ll be mentioning some great plugins to use along the way, whether you’re working in Logic Pro, Ableton Live, or any other DAW.
The New Zealand-born singer, songwriter, and producer, Kimbra, is an artist who achieved global recognition early on in the beginnings of her career.
As the featured vocalist on Gotye’s instant classic, “Somebody That I Used to Know,” she won two Grammy awards in 2013. Since then, Kimbra has evolved and blossomed as an artist, pushing the boundaries of pop music with each project she embarked on.
One of the main reasons why Kimbra remains an exciting act to watch to this day is the fact that she uses her voice to its full potential, not just for belting out top-line melodies. Her unique approach to vocal production in particular makes her stand out even more; and she’s only getting started.
K-pop groups like BTS, BLACKPINK, and SEVENTEEN now claim the spotlight on the world stage. This self-contained music industry continues to expand at a dizzying pace. Is there room for international songwriters, producers, and session musicians to join in? A few years ago, New York-based musician Megan Dervin-Ackerman booked some songwriting sessions in South Korea. At the time, not all musicians were yet aware of K-pop’s growing status. However, she certainly was.
Following that trip, Dervin-Ackerman delved even further into the K-pop universe. Last year, she co-produced the Girl Crush K-pop Vocals sample pack with collaborators EJAE and Dominique. Inspiration for the pack came from girl groups such as BLACKPINK, EVERGLOW, and (G)I-DLE.
Technology plays a big part in music education today and is more accessible than ever before. With so many music creation applications, parents can convince kids to make music from an early age. Let’s look at some of the app choices available and the reasons for introducing your child to this approach.
But how do you strike the right balance between traditional music education and utilizing technology as a learning tool? Traditional subjects like reading music and playing an instrument remain crucial. However, some applications might help make the learning process more efficient.
Many people who are new to music production get overwhelmed by the sheer number of plug-ins available to use. However, no matter what kind of music you’re interested in making, there are four audio effects you should learn to use well in any production: EQ, compression, reverb, and delay.
At the end of the day, music is measured in notes, frequencies, volume, and time. In fact, once you boil them down to basics, the common parameters become a whole lot easier to wrap your head around. In the examples below, I’ve used Roland Zenbeats to illustrate how these audio effects can bring your mixes to the next level.
In most modern pop productions, vocals are the centerpiece.
For any vocal take, the goal is to not only make them sound polished, but also engaging all the way through.
That’s why vocals always take a lot of work to get them to the finish line especially when it comes to songs with busy arrangements.
To make your vocals stand out the creative use of vocal effects is crucial.
Accompanying yourself as a singer can be a daunting task. The main challenge is dividing your focus between playing and singing. The secondary challenge is to keep the performance interesting and engaging for the listener. In this article, I’m going to share a few strategies that helped me improve my self-accompaniment skills.
With the pandemic re-defining the rules of collaborations in the music industry, it can be tough to assess how to utilize your time wisely.
Many musicians love collaborating with other songwriters and producers. Some artists have just found themselves in need to collaborate more often due to lack of human interaction in the recent months.
Regardless of which category you might fall under, as an artist, you should set your priorities straight before you take on a collaborative project.
There are all kinds of royalty-free sample and loop packs these days. Anyone can use them in their records and make money off them without worrying about any legal complications. One can even buy a beat, top line and release it without owing the beat maker a penny more than what they’ve already paid. That's how Lil Nas X got his start, and now, buying and selling beats is becoming more commonly accepted in the industry.
On the other hand, releasing unofficial remixes or sampling other artists' records without their permission can be problematic. The music you make with the sample or a cappella file you illegally obtain might sound incredible, but taking the risk of releasing your work without clearing it with the copyright owners of said sample could become a problem that follows you.
In the second part of the series, I explored some arranging and instrumentation strategies for newcomers.
In this final offering, I’m going to introduce processing and mixing techniques every producer should know about.
You don’t have to learn how to use every single audio effect out there, but you should understand the ones that are essential in any mix.
There are 4 audio effects that producers and mixing engineers use more often than any other: EQ, compressor, reverb and delay.
Musicians who are new to songwriting generally struggle to put their fragmented ideas into song form at one point or another.
They often ask themselves, “How do you know when a song is done? How long is each section supposed to be?”.
While there are all kinds of song structures out there in the world, some are more common than others. Writing in common structures as a beginner can help you organize those fragmented ideas.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common song structures that keep popping up in today’s music world.
So many artists that have found success with a signature style are content to stick with a formula.
The enormous effort it takes to break into the industry leaves many at the top unwilling to take risks.
But there are certain pop visionaries who can’t help but reinvent themselves—and their craft.
In this article I’ll look at some of the most creative artists currently rewriting the rules of mainstream pop.
For pop music to chart these days it pretty much has to go viral on TikTok.
It’s a key platform for reaching new audiences on social media.
For me, it started with Lil Nas X’s breakout single “Old Town Road”.
Ever since he proved that tapping into meme culture is the key to modern success, the mainstream music industry has followed suit.
Today, we still see Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” trending on the app’s “For You” pages weeks after its release.
K-pop stars Blackpink are also dominating the platform right now with “How You Like That”.
There’s no doubt about it. TikTok is a critical marketing strategy for today’s biggest stars.
In the first part of the series, I offered some pointers about how you can get started with your demo-making process in the comfort of your home.
In this article, I’m going to break down how you should approach arranging your songs and editing your productions.
While there is much debate about the future of TikTok in the U.S., the app continues to attract pop stars and indie artists alike. As social media platforms are increasingly saturated, TikTok offers a wellspring of opportunity. For now, anyone has the chance to go viral on the app without spending a dime. All it takes is attention-grabbing content, strategic hashtags, and a little luck.
We’ve gotten used to seeing viral videos pouring from TikTok these days. Even if you’re not on the app, you can’t escape them. From the outside, it seems like an enigma. Isn’t this a platform where users post funny videos with their adorable pets? How do so many independent musicians go viral on there?
Electronic music producer Christopher Kah highlights Roland instruments in ECHO, his new immersive 3D audio performances.
Christopher Kah started out like any other self-taught producer 15 years ago. Today, he is a respected performer known for his intricate take on techno. With his latest installation, ECHO, Kah is raising the bar for 3D audio. Christopher explains how he found new meaning in sound through the process of playing Roland instruments through 32 speakers.
With remote positions on the rise, so many people are considering working and living abroad these days.
Some people are in need for a change of pace and scenery, while others consider the financial and cultural advantages that might come with such an experience.
Since I’m an international artist working in the US with an artist visa, I got curious: how do other music centric countries handle cases like mine?
A lot of music producers are very excited about the new Step Sequencer in Logic Pro X. And for good reason. The way it’s laid out right next to the Piano Roll makes it so easy to incorporate to anyone’s workflow.
With dedicated, automatable parameters assigned to each note division, Logic’s Step Sequencer pushes the boundaries of a traditional but monumental creative tool that’s usually found built into synthesizers.
Before this update, I often refrained from using sequencers in my arrangements, since I generally found them a bit rigid. So here’s why the Step Sequencer has changed my point of view as a producer, and nine ways you can integrate it into your creative process from the beginning.
One of the positive impacts of this surreal time we’re living in is the surge of artists and songwriters who are drawn to home producing their demos and records.
Some songwriters flocked to Zoom to co-write during quarantine and many musicians have recently started making music in the same room again.
But let’s face it – collaborations are not for everyone. Translating your vision into reality can prove to be a struggle especially if you lack the ability to give your producers a solid starting point with a rough demo.
Whether you’re interested in learning everything you can about music production, or simply want to know enough about it to make your own demos at home, the beginning stages are the same for everyone.
Several US work visas have been put on hold due to the pandemic. But O-1b, which is more commonly known as the "Artist Visa”, is not one of them.
The immigration office classifies the O-1 visa beneficiaries as, "Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement”. As such, this particular visa does not only apply to musicians, but also athletes, scientists, visual artists, directors and even educators.
Especially the O-1b visa, which is the best suited option for international musicians, is quite competitive. However, it comes with unique advantages and for many, the application process is worth the perks in the end.
Remember how blown away the industry was by the success of Lorde’s “Royals”?
Back in 2012, no one thought such a modestly produced record could land on the radio.
Then, Billie Eilish walked in and took that minimalist approach to a whole new level.
With trap taking the lead now, we’re used to hearing music producers strip-down tracks to their bare bones.
But why are tracks with minimal production so powerful?
When done right, a minimal arrangement demands the listener’s utmost attention.
Singing is an intuitive activity for most artists. Every vocalist starts out as self-taught, because their vocal cords are built-in, waiting for an excuse to vibrate. And thus begin bad habits and techniques which most singers spend years to correct.
A lot of that correction process takes place during vocal warm ups, but if you force your voice to project in a way it’s not equipped to do so, you might end up doing more harm than good. Attempting to belt out a high pitch out of the blue, or focusing on vocal range expansion exercises right off the bat, are some of the most common beginner mistakes.
Instead, you should pay attention to the order in which you practice vocalese exercises. Think about it this way: if you were an athlete warming up to train, wouldn’t it make sense to ease your body into it?
If your voice gets tired after a warm up routine, or you feel a strain in your neck, you might be missing a step somewhere.
With the swift advancement of technology, rise of digital platforms and music distribution services like TuneCore supporting independent artists around the world, it’s easier than it’s ever been to make your music accessible to the masses.
Nowadays it’s becoming more and more common to come across artists who not only produce, but also mix and master their own material.
On the other hand, there are still many artists who write and perform, but don’t produce their music. Singer-songwriters who don’t enjoy working on the technical side of the creative process generally depend on sound engineers and producers to get that part of the job done.
Because of the case-by-case circumstances in today’s independent music industry, the lines between each creative role can get a little blurry.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re creating new music.
There’s been so many times I got distracted by browsing preset libraries that I’ve lost count!
That’s why I’ve been paying attention to pitfalls in my creative process lately.
It’s great to have so many tools to play with and all–but at the end of the day, the best music comes out when you fully immerse yourself in the process of making it.
Toplining is a popular songwriting technique. It’s common practice especially in the world of pop, hip hop and electronic dance music.
But a topliner is slightly different from a traditional songwriter.
In topline songwriting, the creation of the melody and lyrics is based on beats. In fact, sometimes it’s based on fully fleshed out productions.
In this article I’ll explain everything you need to know about toplining, how it works and why you should consider it as a songwriter.
There are tons of free plugins out there. In fact, there are so many that it can be downright overwhelming to find the true gems while looking through hundreds of options.
That being said, some free audio effects are so invaluable that they’ll make great additions to any producer’s library. In this guide, I’ve listed some of my favorites that no paid software can replace for me. I use them all the time- and so should you!
Online marketers and social media strategists are familiar with search engine optimization (SEO), but the term rarely comes up in the music world.
The idea is that in order to increase your visibility as a brand in search engines such as Google or Bing, you need to not only strategize to increase the quantity of the traffic, but also the quality.
Companies that have the budget to place ads in search engines can appear on the first page in related searches for a limited time. However, organic results play a much bigger role in the long run.
When you hit a writers block, shifting your creative focus can be immensely helpful.
Can’t seem to find the words? Play around with some chord progressions.
Struggling to put your melodies in context? Perhaps some loops can help you get in the mood.
Even if you’re a traditional songwriter who prefers composing with an acoustic instrument, you can benefit from learning basic arranging skills in a user friendly Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).
There are many options to choose from. The most important thing is to find the right fit for your creative process and dive in.
If you’re a Logic Pro X user, you probably know about this already, but if not, drop what you’re doing: Apple has just released the latest version of our beloved DAW!
But this is not like the other updates we have seen since the release of Logic Pro X. The 10.5 Edition is packed with new features we’ve all been waiting for and a wide selection of kits, loops, and samples to boot! Let’s unpack all of my favorite updates, shall we?
A vocal chain is essentially a chain of effects you process your vocals with. Some of these are inserted directly on the audio channel strip while others are placed on return channels which you send the vocals to.
Therefore, a vocal chain usually implies a combination of direct and parallel processing.
While many DAWs come with templates and presets designed for vocals, finding the right combination of effects takes some trial and error.
For one thing, most singers prefer a vocal chain that makes them feel confident in the booth. But more of then than not, one that works perfectly at a recording session will not be sufficient to get the job done at the mixing stage.
It looks like this is going to take a while.
Sure, there will come a time when we’ll better adapt to this new normal. The real question is, how can we stay in tune with our own lives as we wait for the rest of the world to catch up?
The music industry is now coming to terms with a version of 2020 they probably couldn’t have imagined in their wildest dreams. With no live concerts or music festivals in sight, some clubs have already announced that they would not be re-opening.
This is all grim without a doubt, but unlike those who rely solely on live entertainment for their livelihood, we, as artists, can still find new ways to sustain our projects.
As part of our “Life During Quarantine” series, we have already covered a lot of ground on this subject.
But then I got curious: how are my fellow artists actually coping with this new reality?
Inspiration isn’t always there when you need it.
Sometimes you sit in front of a piano and stare at a blank piece of paper for hours. Other times you might try to make a beat from scratch and struggle to come up with a concrete idea.
Hip-hop producers have been making sample-based beats for decades.
But if you’re a songwriter first and a producer second, you might have your doubts about incorporating samples into your music.
How can you make samples sound authentic? Can you become a great songwriter if all your songs are not created out of thin air?
Until recently, I had the same doubts too.
Everyone is on Zoom nowadays. From webinars to happy hours, Zoom has become the hot spot for not just business meetings, but also collaborations and social calls.
But did you know that Zoom is one of the best options out there for music lessons, co-write sessions and live shows as well?
While the sound quality of a live stream will never be lossless in the foreseeable future, Zoom’s computer audio share feature stands out among its competitors. If you want to continue your musical activities remotely, you might want to explore what this program has to offer.
As soon as it became clear that it might be awhile before we all go back to normalcy, many artists rushed to their social media accounts to host live stream sessions. At first, we got used to seeing more live concerts and DJ sets from our favorite artists’ homes and studios, but soon enough, the live stream trend became all about “Anything goes.” Now, even friends seem to go live on Instagram, just because.
Don’t get me wrong- I’m all for it. I admire anyone who’s making an effort to stay connected and active at a time like this. But what do you do if the idea of streaming is enough to raise your anxiety levels to an all-time high? How do you motivate yourself to connect with your fans if you’re getting a little sick of seeing so many people appearing on your feed all the time?
If you’re a songwriter or artist who depends on co-write sessions, this period we’re all going through together might be particularly difficult to manage for you. Sure, you can still write on your own, but how do you write when you don’t even go out and live like you used to?
It feels like we have all the time in the world now, but staying productive and motivated is easier said than done. Lots of artists are shifting their focus to staying active online, which might make you feel like you should do the same. They make it look so easy, right? How do they get excited about the future of their projects when everything is more unpredictable than ever?
New York had a surprisingly mild winter this year, but the dry cold weather outside combined with the heater running in my apartment all the time led to some of the worst sinus issues I’ve ever experienced.
In the past few months, I spent many mornings trying to quench my thirst with several glasses of water, and waking up with a stiff neck became an ordinary occurrence.
As a vocalist, I try to keep my vocal cords flexible and hydrated around the year. Even if I’m not getting ready for a recording session or a live performance, I’m a big believer in warming up my voice almost every day for maintenance.
If my body doesn’t feel relaxed and healthy, I feel it in the way I sing immediately.
I had the opportunity to host a vocal production workshop at this year’s Sónar Istanbul festival.
In the workshop, I was asked to discuss and demonstrate the strategies I’ve developed over the years to process my vocals.
As part of my workshop, I did five 15-minute-long, one-on-one mentorship sessions with the first five people who signed up.
Something special caught my attention during the mentorship sessions.
A few months ago, independent alternative pop artist HANA came out of her shell with a revolutionary experiment: an album fully written, recorded and produced by her, live on Twitch, within four weeks.
There have been similar attempts in the recent past: most notably, Esperanza Spalding live streamed the recording process of her album three years ago. Artists who are aware that fan engagement is more important than it’s ever been take over platforms like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat to share bits and pieces of their creative process all the time nowadays.
So then, you might be wondering, what was so revolutionary about HANA’s project?
Collaborations can be a lot of fun, but they can also be quite tricky. At the beginning of our careers, we may be willing to take any and every opportunity in order to grow, but as we move up, determining which projects are worth our time gets harder.
If you’re not just a songwriter who prefers to stay out of the spotlight, making toplining a side hustle can be a bit of a balancing act. Do you collaborate with producers as a featured artist, or do you co-write and then hand the song over to another singer? Do you make important decisions like royalty splits and advance payments right off the bat, or do you figure it out along the way?
These are just two of the several important questions you should answer honestly for your own good. Even though you may be emotionally attached to your work, you still should view your career for what it is: a business.
NAMM 2020 is finally behind us and the latest technology at the industry’s biggest trade show is creating a ton of excitement.
If you follow a lot of music producers on social media, you’ve probably seen a lot of flashy new gear on your feed lately.
If you’re an instrumentalist or a sound engineer yourself, maybe you even got a little envious. You pictured how far you could get in your career if you just had all the equipment you’ve ever wanted.
Today, being a self-managed artist can mean a variety of things. If you have a day job or are involved in other musical projects, chances are you only go as far as putting your music out and playing a few shows every now and then. Maybe you have a team of people around you who help you along the way and altogether, you’re making strides.
Still, regardless of budget, level of progress and status, there’s no denying that we can all do more to aid our careers as self-managed artists, especially in this age of social media and streaming.
If you’re a musical artist who runs their career without a team, you probably feel a little stressed every time a new release cycle comes around. With social media rapidly taking over our lives, the visual representation of our work as musicians has never been more important than it is today. From elaborate preview videos for each release to flyers for show announcements, we have to create consistently alluring content for our fans.
Lyric writing is often romanticized by songwriters.
Some believe that unless you live your life, collect memories and let the words come to you in moments of bursting inspiration, your songs won’t come out true.
Experienced songwriters don’t sit around and wait for those moments, because they know better: learning how to play a musical instrument requires plenty of practice. The same is true for the skill of lyric writing.
In my years of writing, co-writing and teaching songwriting to others, I’ve compiled a list of strategies that seem to stand the test of time, regardless of skill-level and genre.
Turns out, there is a way to prevent writer’s block, after all!
In the recent years, playlists have taken the lead in new music discovery. Today, a placement in an editorial Spotify playlist with millions of followers is so coveted because it can be a career-defining moment for some newcomers.
While there are some pretty diversely curated playlists in most major streaming platforms at this point, it’s obvious that just like the rest of the music industry, editors flock towards genres that are well-received by the general public. Perhaps this is why almost every Indie Jazz artist or band I know personally seem to prioritize strategies that are geared towards building a loyal fanbase, instead of putting all their energy and funds into PR and social media marketing. As an Alternative Electronic Pop artist myself, I was curious to find out how some of those friends of mine view the music industry we all live in today.
When you’ve been in the music industry long enough, you get used to hearing certain terms after a while. And I’m not talking about the kind of timeless terms that have been determined by musicologists, but the ones that have been coined only recently by musicians who felt the need to do so in order to communicate better with each other.
For example, the whole concept of “toplining” may still be foreign to most non-musicians, but if you’re a songwriter who frequents co-writing sessions, there’s no way you haven’t heard of it before. Likewise, the term “scratch vocal” might confuse some, but almost every singer or songwriting producer you meet will know that one intimately.
Chorus impact accentuators, often abbreviated to “CIAs,” is a term that’s still fairly new in this category — whether people know about it at all yet — but it keeps popping up more and more nowadays.
These days, it’s as common to hear human voices in electronic music productions as it is to see an artist on stage playing a synth. And while the vocoder and talk box have been around for quite a while, they’ve started appearing more and more frequently on chart-toping mainstream tracks — think the vocoder on Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek,” and the talk box in Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic.”
And it’s not just in pop tracks. Chopped up and morphed vocals appear in songs in so many different genres, like EDM, electro-pop, and alternative R&B. It’s almost become a recipe — cut and select a few different vowels from your singer’s take, load them into your sampler, and there you go: the ultimate music trend of our generation!
We all have different skill sets, and we all battle different obstacles. Some musicians find it difficult to deal with technology; it hinders their ability to be creative in the recording process. Others are capable of producing radio-ready instrumental tracks because working in a DAW, like Logic Pro, is a completely native experience to them, but struggle to fit vocals in.
The DAW presents an environment of infinite possibilities — but all the options can create serious writer’s block. Singers and instrumentalists can feel overwhelmed at having so many options in front of them, and producers can find themselves focused more on creating specific sounds than on the needed melodic, harmonic, and lyrical elements.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where the final mix of your track or album sounded perfect to you before, but now, something’s just off?
Perhaps the mix lacks clarity and balance all of a sudden, or perhaps it sounds just totally off on your home speakers, but great on headphones or in your monitors. As you sit here, doubting your own opinion about your own music, even though you’re the one who’s supposed to make the final call, it can be frustrating not knowing how to proceed.
How do you decide if and when a mix sounds “right”?
If you’re set up to produce your own music, but not necessarily mix engineer it, the road to that “final mix” can be a rocky one. People you work with can influence the way you hear any mix, and if you’re listening through expensive monitors in an acoustically treated room, your track may sound misleadingly grand and flawless.
As a singer who records and produces her own vocals, I’ve been through that lengthy process of “learning by doing.” After years of hitting record without a plan for my session, the mistakes I’ve made over time have led me to develop some systematic techniques that allow me to dive in more quickly and confidently every time. These solutions often save me time and headaches when I enter the mixing process, as well.
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