Break yourself free from 4/4 time signatures and classic 70s synthesizer sounds

There is a lot of hype again about retro music. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of music – both the original inspiration of the classics (from that synth soundscape of Shine on you Crazy Diamond, to Van Halen’s Jump), I even find myself loving a lot of the Synthwave genre in how its bringing classic Juno and DX7 sounds to young ears.

You can learn a hell of a lot from emulating your heroes, but you can also learn a lot from sitting at a DAW and saying “what happens if I press/install/change this?” Sometimes this leads to a new sound, or even a new take on a genre. Never worry about that little voice that suggests “..but I don’t know how to construct a drum beat in 5/4 time!” Music and rhythm is as much about the space in between as the space filled by the noises you use.

When you start to layer sounds it can produce new dynamics. So much music in the charts is an 808 kick drum and a 909 snare, with a little 303 style bassline for the electronic and just an amped and ramped guitar for the rest. Music in the West forgets that other cultures have other instruments and rhythms we can all explore. Barrel drums, tabla and doogi, setar, tar, djembe. Even the way they’ll take a humble Stratocaster and play it off the beat!

If you do one thing with your music, even if you intend on setting out to write a specific genre – try to experiment with at least one element. Ask that question: what if?

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