02 Dec Pro-tip: A lot of the time, it pays off to ignore and just stop listening to a lot of the music you want to emulate or try and write.
In the world of drum and bass, it’s very easy to get caught up in the technical side of things, get obsessed over drum sounds and how people make basses and sidechain synths and weather or not your tune is up to scratch. While it’s important to be technically proficient, I believe the best tunes get written when people go off on their own tangents, say “screw it” and get lost in their own tangents.
This all sounds very abstract and workplace motivational poster-ey so here’s some things you can actually do:
- Instead of constantly A/Bing your tunes with others as you work, instead just focus on your own and think of how to add to or improve it on your own terms. I think it’s fine, however, to reference your tune at different points against other tunes to ensure you’re keeping the production and technical side at a competitive level.
- Come up with a strange idea or production technique or goal and try to execute it. There are no “correct” ways to achieve sounds, if it works it works. I can guarantee that getting lost in strange synths and going down deep, weird producing rabbit holes will yield some of the best and most unique results. Sometimes you just gotta duplicate that bass 5 times to get the right layers.
- Listen to a lot of non-drum and bass and get inspired by that. There are literally millions of different ways to take inspiration and steal ideas from different genres; mix-wise, arrangement-wise, timbre-wise, etc etc.
- Come up with simple ideas or sound palettes in your head whilst not working on music to work on. I like to come up with simple rhythms in my head during the day as starting points for tunes, I like to imagine writing tunes with a certain timbral quality or focus on a texture and I also like seeing what things come into my head when I see movies or music videos with cool combinations of visuals and music.
- Focus on your strengths. After you’ve been writing tunes for a while, you’ll probably notice you tend to subconsciously gravitate towards certain sound, styles and techniques. It’s usually a good idea to keep focusing on these and hone in on them. There were certain things and ideas I wanted desperately to bring into existence when I started producing which I just failed to do repeatedly, for years. Over time though, I’ve figured out a workflow and learned better ways to get down things which I know work better, and get faster at it too. This process is also handy as it helps you develop your own sound as you refine your idiosyncrasies into unique, musical virtues. The things that can set you apart from everyone else doing the same thing as you are the tendencies and things you discover yourself during production.