Making your own DJ edits and remixes is a great way to start learning production. Why? Because you're not starting completely from scratch your adding your own sound and personality to something that's already done.
To do this you'll want to identify a song to work with. Maybe an old classic or something current. From there you'll want to start layering in your own sounds and samples. Which is where samples, drum machines and samplers come into play.
OK so I'm a long time user of sample libraries and I got to the point where it was time to start making some sense of my collection.
Somehow in the process I discovered a hidden feature in Pioneer Rekordbox that allows you to export loops of your tracks as wav files.
This is a win because Rekordbox is free and exporting these loops right from Rekordbox is a lot faster than finding loops in a DAW and exporting them. Plus Rekordbox tells you what key the song is in and DAW's don't really do that.
Having this ability to export loops is big especially for you more creative DJs. Maybe you just want to play loops of a track to tease the audience, or perhaps you want to go further and start making your own edits and remixes.
Now I'm a big fan of proper progressive house from the early 2000s, the problem is that tempos were faster back then and today's music just hits in a different way compared to the past. Part if it is louder masters but mainly everyone's mixing and sound has evolved for the better in the past 15 years or so.
Anyhow, this feature of Rekordbox is awesome and it's worth using Rekordbox (the free version) if you don't have it. (link)
If you have a sampler you can have a ton of fun taking your favorite tracks, cutting them up and making your own edits and what not. Again, just use Rekordbox to identify what track you'd want to remix, find parts of the song you'd want to use and quickly export them so they can be loaded in your sampler of choice. HINT - you want to find songs that have break downs or parts with a key musical or vocal riff that have little or ideally no music or percussion playing in the background. You may also want to work with the intro drum section to grab a top loop or something like that.
This brings me back to sample libraries. It's a good idea to have a process for organizing your library. In terms of this specific example you'll want to have your samples key labeled. So if you're going to edit or remix existing music you're using samples in the same key.
Remember - no amount of EQ can fix samples that don't match sonically. Particularly with kick and bass.
Check out the video above - and for more tips on organizing your sample library I wrote this post last week.
Let's talk techno samples. Here are the problems I wanted to solve. Now if you don't have a reason to do this you can end up drowning in near pointless activity.
What I wanted to do was make better use of the samples I do have, pick more specific sounds which will help define the music I make, have it better organized by mood/genre. Organizing by mood/genre is important - for the same reasons you'd organize playlists for a DJ set. Different songs are more appropriate for different parts of the night. Same for samples. The problem with samples is that they aren't organized by energy or feel so you can just end up with a bunch of kicks or hats. Different kicks are better for different kinds of tracks. The same applies for bass, lead sounds and so on.
I also wanted my samples key labeled which makes things sound tighter and more cohesive. And when you get things sounding great at the onset it means less time mixing. Plus key labeling makes it easier to pick out what samples to use. (I tend to focus around the Key of A or something close to it)
Here we go.
Before I get into these tips let me give you a little back story.
The first sample pack I ever bought was a double data compact disk. This was ages ago and it was by East West which is still around today. However finding usable samples for underground music or techno was not an easy task.
Imo very little was actually good - like 5% at best.
So when modern producers started making packs I found them to be tons better however I'd still use less than half of the pack's content.
More on this in a moment.
Over the years I'd grab packs from beatport when they do really deep Holiday sales - this doesn't mean I'd gorge myself on them.
To date I have maybe 20 or so packs in total including 5 (Maschine) Native Instruments Expansions. The NI ones are quite good BTW.
Anyhow it was time for me to start getting more particular about my sounds so it was time to get them organized.
What I did was make one folder called "select samples" - this folder would Be a home for the good stuff I'd use.
So, I went through each pack and searching for kicks loops hi hats synths riffs noises and so on. I then put them in folders.
From there it was easy to find gaps in my sonic palette. To fill those gaps I signed up to Splice for $8 to get more interesting usable stuff.
The beauty of Splice is you only get the samples you hand pick - I have about 79 so far.
You want to organize your sounds so they represent the frequencies in a club track. This way when your selecting stuff you'll have the spectrum covered. Now leads and melodic content may come from synths and stuff - I'll get to that.
Anyhow once your done and trust me this can be a never ending task, but once an initial pass has been done you'll want to key label your sounds.
I have an old copy of Mixed In Key version 5 that was up to the task. All I needed it for was to key label my samples - the ones that were missing this that is.
The benefit of having your stuff labeled by key is that when you get a groove going and then reach for your keys for a melody or bass line you know what key to play in.
Synth presents are another animal to organize - honestly I have yet to go there, but that's next on the list.
In short a good first pass at this would be to:
Splice (Pretty solid for shopping techno samples by label (Sample Magic, Audio Tent) or by artist collection. Remember you can download them individually and combine them in your own sample packs or re-packs.
Raw Loops (A Personal Favorite)
Native Instruments Expansions - also quite especially if you're using Machine or Komplete Control
Samples from Mars - great for samples of analog gear
Personally I don't go out lookin for free stuff. Anything worthwhile isn't typically free.
Designing your own samples for techno is a another story soon to be covered.
In the meantime have a look at these free samples I've put out in the past.