Techno stands for technology. When you’re creating techno, keep in mind that you can and should use every available means to you. As the genre and style evolved from the early ’90s until now, the methods and evolution of the tools we are using as producers have done so equally with technology break-throughs constantly providing new and easier methods of getting results better and quicker.
In this post we’ll take sampling versus synthesis as two main methods of sound generation when crafting the music, and get a bit deeper into these topics and techniques, but also help you understand that you shouldn’t be limited to neither, and as I’ve mentioned when I started this, you should use all means to create your music.
There are no rules, you know? Learning how the basics work will just let you help understand how things work, however don’t limit yourself to anything except your very own imagination.
If you’ve missed the first introductory post about starting out from scratch, you can read that article on this link.
Sampling has been a very controversial topic when it comes to music, however don’t underestimate this technique, as when you master it properly it can be as equally, or even more powerful than synthesizing your own sounds. This completely depends on you, as both of these methods are just ways for you transfer the ideas into real sound.
An example of sample-heavy techno back from the early days are the Infamous Player stuff, just a good set of tracks that will give you the opportunity to listen to something that’s been created back in early 00’s and mostly is based on samples.
Imagine that you’re a hip-hop producer, right? And you only have samples to use in your drawer, but you decide to make techno. Well, Infamous Player is exactly that. It really doesn’t matter if the bass is chopped from another funk song as long as it creates something on its own when it’s played within its own sound universe.
The basic drum kit samples can be found throughout the whole and vast history of electronic music and is repeated very often, however don’t let that limit you, as there are countless of ways of using the same piece of sample to get very different results at the end. You can sample traditional folklore elements to create synths of your own, and you can use a kick to craft a bass-line with the proper experimenting as you go forward.
I’ll include Andy Stott and Zomby as two of my favorite producers who have the perfect blend between samples and synthesis, however still rely on heavily sampled content in their music. People such as Burial have went even further to have crafted the whole sound universe out of samples and breaking the rules of the “grid” that’s commonly found in every modern DAW.
Don’t be fooled into believing that sampling is a lesser form of creating music, as legendary musical acts such as Massive Attack and the whole trip-hop genre have been created and based from it (for example), and having the idea to use the same methodic, but create techno is nothing that you shouldn’t be proud of.
Loops and go-to packs
Being a sampler at your core doesn’t mean that your music will just sound good. It takes years of practice, music listening and experience to get things right and go beyond, to reach as close as possible to the “final product” envisioned in your head. A sample at its original form can vary completely when you hear it at the end. You can add pitch changes, equalizers, reverbs, stretch it, and countless of other sound manipulation techniques that will open up whole new universes to you.
Lately it’s been a trend to use these finished loops and packs that are specifically designed for a style of music, however my suggestion is to not go that path at all, if you can. Simply the drum machines and your music library as a whole should be more than plenty to get you in that creative mood that will just follow flawlessly after you get comfortable enough to understand what you’re doing.
It’s much easier downloading a “dark/industrial techno pack” than it is compiling your own library of sounds, but this doesn’t mean that these kinda loops are completely unusable and unhelpful. Loops are there to help you get your idea ‘on sound’ as faster as possible, and can be helpful when you’re really starting with the complete basics, however anything beyond will just break your progress further, and get you stuck before you can even experiment and develop your own sound.
The roots of electronic music and techno are in synthesized sounds, Kraftwerk and other early acts have set a revolution with making up music out of machines, and we can see synthesizers and hardware equipment to be very present in the music-making world nowadays, especially when it comes to techno.
When it comes to techno, people that have mastered these machines can craft, or produce something that’s beyond anything we’ve heard before. The thing that distinguishes the good ones from the rest is the ability of these people to create sounds with their own signature that’s floating in the sound universe they’re creating.
One of my favorite examples is Inigo Kennedy’s Strata album that follows this distinct uniqueness in the synths, the bass-lines and literally everything that’s included for you to listen in those tracks. Simply the sound color is very easily distinguishable and constant all-throughout, and this is one of those releases that’s easy to know what I’m writing about after you take a listen.
However somebody that has completely changed my view and respects towards these people that have dedicated much time with these machines that generate frequencies and manipulate with them is Aleksi Perälä, he just goes a step beyond anything I’ve heard before in my life.
Many of the veterans such as Surgeon, DVS-1, Regis and countless of others in the vast styles that this “genre” of techno gifts us, are people that have been using synthesizers as their main instrument to craft their sound.
Because these days getting yourself the ‘luxury’ to play around with the real set of hardware tools costs lots of money, for most mortals, the vast universe of virtual instruments (VSTs shortly) are more than enough. You have from free synthesizers, plug-ins, replicas to groundbreaking software synthesizers such as Serum to bring you the ability to have these frequency generation toys ready at your disposal with just few megabytes or gigabytes away.
This does not mean that the cost behind the real hardware is a fictive ‘snake-oil’ baloney stuff, as when you have a complete machine with every bit of it dedicated to generate a certain frequency and play with it won’t ever result the same with a digital reproduction or a digital synth on its own. However, don’t let this limit you, both have advantages and disadvantages, it’s about knowing what you can afford, and what’s best for you to get started.
These are the two basic methods of creating, or crafting your own sounds. But as I’ve mentioned when I started this post, you shouldn’t limit yourself to anything in the process of creation. At the end, when the listener is experiencing your sound universe, they really don’t care if you sampled or synthesized something, as long as it has the power to deliver your emotion and idea effortlessly.
When playing around and enriching your virtual instrument library, it’s important to remember to not get carried away too much and start hoarding plug-ins that you won’t ever use. Start with the basics, a TB-303 acid-generating madness and synths that are already found on your DAW should be more then plenty to get you started.
If you have any questions regarding everything that’s included in this post, feel free to comment below.
- melody.ml – Online tool that will separate the audio channels and give you stems that you can use for remixing songs, or take your sampling to another level.
- Surge VST – A free synthesizer that’s open source and has been backed up by countless of techno producers including Inigo Kennedy and Korridor for its abilities to craft those magic techno sounds.