Music Production Club - Round 3

So, in the process of making my submission for this week (will probably post tomorrow), I found this website made specifically to list/discuss production techniques related to dub techno and other dub-inspired electronic music. I believe its from early 2000s.

I’ve been interested in this kind of sound for a long time. The sound design and atmosphere created by these techniques make for very unique pieces of music. My favorites right now are this one and this one. it’s verging on “ambient” music which i adore. I’ve been trying to emulate some of that warmth and grit that dub techno greats seem to have down to a T.

Anyways, I felt like sharing the website because some pages in it have a lot of great wisdom from established dub/dubtechno artists – down to very detailed descriptions of “best practices” in emulating the sound. However, outside of this being interesting for fans of this music, there is a great deal one can extract from this page and its underlying DIY philosophy.

For example, they have a page for techniques on replicating/creating effects commonly found in his kind of music. Here’s some examples:

  • When recording vocals, put a large cowbell (or long steel pipe) and mic up to your mouth while singing or chanting to get a cool natural-sounding reverb effect.
    submitted by Apostle Solomon Jabby “The Dub Revelator”
  • If you are the lucky owner of a spring reverb: Kick it and it will utter wonderful thunderous noises. (Done by the late great King Tubby)
  • If you don’t own a spring reverb: Go to your local flea market or pawn shop and you might find one. Many older guitar amps incorporate spring reverbs: Just kick them hard to find out. (The sales person probably won’t like it though…). You may find other cool stuff too like for example old tape echos, old synths, … (Since you’re already sitting in front of a computer screen you might try ebay too.)
  • try adding chorus to an entire finished track, for a quite trippy (and smooth sounding) finish. use a pedal or fx unit or anything that’ll give you a bit of chorus (like a sample editing program or whatever)
  • BMG’s effects manifesto : “The basic tools of dub are: Your brain and creative rearangements of reality. The goal: To make the music come alive with madness, to be constantly inventive, deep, liquid, organic. Technically, classic dub uses 3 main effects: tape echo, analog phasing and spring reverb. The order of the effects depends on your mood. No dub player lets the efx unit stay in the same position for a whole track, dub is about playing the efx unit. King Tubby was the maestro of the echoplex, Lee Perry could play the Bi-Phase and Space Echo like no other. get inside the effects and learn how to turn the knobs so the music comes alive. You can’t automate this and no plug-in can truely immitate tape delay feedback and if you aren’t using analog pre 80s efx, then you are just a step cousin of dub!”

(you can tell the age of this page because “old synths” now are quite expensive!!)

Here’s some advice of their advice on sound sources to use in music:

  • All samplers offer a method to loop samples and you will have a hard time to create a natural sounding smooth loop with anything else than a synth wave. So why give a damn? It’s very fun to make bad loops (for example with voices, instrumental sounds or even drum hits or percussion) and use them as effect sounds or for very strange melodies. Ever played a melody with a looped snare drum?
  • Use unusual sound sources like radio, TV, video, old computer games, ragga dancehall tapes, records. If you got loads of bucks go for the Portishead approach: Hire and record a classical orchestra. Cut the session on a dubplate and use it for scratching.
  • A neat dub technique is to run an AM radio (with a knob) into effects and slowly tune between stations - really trippy static/pink noise, and you can get snippets of music or speech.
    submitted by davyvelocirapt0r
  • Use cheap toy walkie talkies near each other for delay,static, and distortion. Employed by KMFDM
    submitted by davyvelocirapt0r

Even if I don’t end up employing any of these exact techniques, it is helping me unlearn some “rules” about music production and mixing that I’ve picked up over the years. Because I learned most of what I know about production from youtube videos, my process sometimes is very by-the-book – especially when making music exclusively with a laptop like i’ve been doing these days. Finding a way to bring playfulness and experimentation into the creative process is something I struggle with and reading this page has unlocked a lot of that for me. There’s also something cool about making music with stuff you find around you/used stuff you can find for cheap at a thrift store :)

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here’s my submission for this round. it’s kind of a mess lol – drenching stuff in delay and distortion is fun but is a headache to mix. but this time i learned that sometimes restraint is better when it comes to sound design and even song arrangement. i went for a hazy and somewhat dark vibe for this one.

the track started in a more ambient direction and then i abandoned that when i introduced the percussion. next time i think i’ll pick one or the other. i saved some of the sounds i made for this for use in a different song, think i’ll start from scratch tbh. eitherway this was quite fun to make.

went in an quickly remade the track with a slightly more toned-down approach.

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here’s mine. i had less time to work on it this round than i’d hoped, so it’s a little bit duct-taped together… it’s supposed to be a smaller-scale sort of piece. i’d envisioned it as an intro to the album i’m sort of working on, bringing in the ideas i want to work with - the lyrical themes, leaning harder on guitar. originally there was a very soft synth pad working in the background, but it felt a little off with the other stuff so i took it out. might toss it back in.

i think the melody/lyrics are strong, and the bones of the arrangement are there. i used a lot of acoustic guitar on my last album and i want to use more electric guitar this time, so i like that the song transitions between them. i need to play with the arrangement more though… and redo the vocals. just needs some fleshing out.

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i like this! i do think the second draft feels more… itself, a little more coherent as a whole, and it fits the hazy/ambient feel more closely. but i really dig the moment in the first draft where the percussion comes clattering in - maybe it doesn’t work for this particular song, but i think it would work really well in another context. i like the way you treat the vocals too, it’s a really cool effect.

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Just listened to this while preparing breakfast. i loved how this one turned out. i like that we both went with elements in the track that were heavily distorted!

the way it builds was well done and can definitely see it as an intro. love how the distorted guitar sounds. if i had to make one suggestion it would be to have the vocals reflect some of that distorted sound as well, i think it would fit thematically with the theme as well as sonically with the distorted guitar. as the song builds, its like the backdrop is changing but the voice stays the same and part of me wants it to match the vibe as the song progresses. as you can see i love distorting vocals to the point where you can barely understand it so take what i say with a grain of salt hehe

i can’t comment much on the mix because i lost my headphones :( but it sounds good on my phone and laptop speakers!

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yes definitely agree. i think that having the percussion be such a prominent element in the track but not starting with it when i started producing the song was the mistake. next time i will start with the beat and build the track around it.

thats what i tried doing the second time around but i rushed that one as well. i dont mind not having had time to do a proper rework though, the exercise itself was rewarding and i learned a couple of things about using delay as an instrument/sound design tool instead of just an effect.

as for the vocals, i used this free plugin that sounds very good on basically anything, it adds texture when used correctly, this time around i used it to create a a “fake” clipping sound to add heavy distortion and then EQ’d it to get rid of the low and high end. i think i also used it on the drums. and lots of delay as well.

i followed the advice posted earlier and put a chorus effect on the whole master and i gotta say it sounds way better than expected and didnt mess up the mix too much.

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