My approach with composing Akira

I’ve been working on an album for a Bandcamp release lately that is centred around space and and science. Its been taking me a while as its very experimental. Parts of it are complex and parts ambient. So to take a break from that I decided to practice my beat making skills. Akira is one of those tracks, Culture is another.

I have thousands of choices when it comes to drum sounds. I have many modules collected from over the years (from Alesis DM kits to a Novation Drum Station). Inside Live Suite I also have many sounds I’ve recorded and many I can tweak. I started with the snare sound – there are actually four. An Operator preset was used to create one, I added compression, a touch of room  reverb and then a limiter over that. A couple of the snares have an enveloped filter over them too, to give them a retro nod. One of the snares was given a slightly longer release. The kicks were also presets that were tweaked. There are two to give some range and interest, compressed and EQ’d. I put highpass filters and delays on high hats and rimshots too. I mixed the drums so that the focus would be mostly on the kick, followed by the snare. Hats and rimshots were used to texture the drum beats.

The bass is actually two Max for Live Digital presets that I tweaked and merged. I adjusted the filters to give them more welly in the low end and compressed with an EQ on the sidechain to focus on that low end without losing the kicks. I wanted it to sound heavy and dark, like a mutant offspring of the old Electro tracks.

There are subtle things in the arrangement too. Like having half-bar beats or fills in between the main beat. I did this to stop it sounding boring. It makes people’s ears prick up. The whole track was then mastered by myself. Sometimes I get this wrong but I think I did a good job here.

Culture started with a piano sound that had been bowed. This is a sound that I bought, I added effects on top to get it to sit in the mix, I like this sound as it has a violin and cello sound but is a little darker. The beats were made to fit over the top. I wanted them to sound more lofi so I chose kicks and snares that had less top-end. The crash and hats were put through delays – one of those being a granulation delay as it adds a sort of pitching to the sound which again pricks up the ears. The kick was chosen because it sounded more woolly – this gives the beat a more chilled sound. Its not as in yer face but gives the beat a grounding.

As I always say – I love the ability to change things around and go from one genre to another day to day. Beats should always be seen as mini-compositions in their own right, and you should feel free to tweak the sound as you add bass, harmony or melody to the mix.

If you want to hear more of my beat-based production then have a listen to The Dance of Collapze:

Thanks for reading/listening!

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