Recently I have been creating simple, interesting/weird songs as part of one of my projects called Sky Bleu EP Part I and in this post I would like to talk about where the idea for it came from and the creative process behind it.
Initially, the idea for it came when I discovered that we have Ableton Live 9 Lite at the studio that I work at. What I wanted to do is to challenge myself by limiting myself, because if you know anything about electronic music production, you know that there is limitless amount of sounds, instruments, samples, tracks and plugins out in the world, which sometimes can be a bit overwhelming.
I decided to limit myself to using only the 8 tracks and samples that came with Ableton Live 9 Lite, only one synthesizer, called Fab Filter One, one equalizer Fab Filter Pro Q2 and one compressor Fab Filter Pro C2 and iZotope Ozone 7 for mastering. One thing I did allow myself to do is to use different plugins for reverbs, delays and distortion , as they were the only thing that would allowed me to shape and create more interesting sounds. I could potentially be forgetting about some of them, but I definitely used plugins from Valhalla DSP and SoundToys.
With this mindset, all I had to do is create interesting music focusing on the notes, arrangement and automation as these were the only things I could endlessly explore to create textures, musical phrases and sections that would keep things interesting and have the songs constantly change and evolve.
Once I had decided on my limitations, I could focus on creating the music, and what was interesting is how the limitations allowed me to expand my creativity.
By committing to only 8 tracks, I was limited to a single kick, snare, hi-hat, loop, lead, synth, pad and bass track.
I could no longer pile up tracks of drums, with endless amounts of samples, that I would layer to get the sounds I wanted. I had to carefully listen and choose which samples could stand on their own, for example the kicks and snares. Another interesting thing was having only one hi-hat track forced me to put different sounding hi-hats on one track, but what that taught me was that by having them on one tracks with the same processing, I could create more interesting hi-hat patterns while have a cohesive sound. If I was to create multiple tracks for hi-hats, I would have eventually ended up having too many different patterns and too much overlap, completely losing the space between the kicks and the snares, thus having it sound like a lot was happening at the same time rather than different things happening all the time.
The limitation of having one synthesizer to create the pad, synth and bass sounds allowed me to create a more cohesive sound but it also forced me to focus on writing more interesting parts, vary the chord progressions to create different sections and constantly evolve the sound and create smooth transitions through automation in order to keep things interesting.
Having one EQ and compressor to use for mixing pushed me to make better choices in terms of sample selection, arrangement and sound design. With my samples, I had to chose the right sound to begin with. It had to have the right sound characteristics, because I could only use the EQ and compressor to fit them into the mix. I had to make sure the bass and kick were working well together and that the snare was not covered by the pad, synth and hi-hats. If things were getting cluttered, the way to fix that was to go back and change the notes, the arrangement or sonic character of each sound rather than with copious amounts of plugins.
At last, my way of making the songs interesting was the use a lot of reverbs and delays. The challenge here was not to over do it, so that it all become one big wall of sound, but rather learn how to control the tails of the reverbs and delays and try to have them aid in the change of atmosphere and feeling from one section to the other, or even create whole new sections by alternating between a completely dry and completely wet signal. Again, the way I achieved this was by using a lot of automation, which allowed me to evolve the sounds through multiple stages.
To sum everything up, the initial goal for this project was to challenge myself by limiting myself in the technical aspect of music production, so I can improve in the musical aspect of it.
Now that you’ve read all of this, I hope you will go ahead and try it for yourself.
I will keep on doing challenges like this and keep writing posts on what I have learnt because I have realized that every time I try to do another song with these limitations, I learn something new, that I could have missed by having an endless amount of options.
Thank you for reading this, I hope you found this inspiring and helpful.
Best of luck on your creative endeavors,