Finish Faster – Luca Agnelli “Voltumna” Analysis and Mock Arrangement in Ableton

Free Ableton Arrangement Template Based on Voltumna by Luca Agnelli

I listened to this tune in great detail, jotting notes down below and making a template to arrange from in Ableton. Shorten your production time when you study the masters and take the guesswork out of arranging.

The screenshot above isn't the real working session of the tune, but a template I made in Ableton using silent “dummy” midi &audio clips.

Studying other people’s music is a great way to improve your own productions. This way the process becomes internalized and you’re no longer guessing how to finish a track.

Today we’re taking a look at Luca Agnelli's Voltumna - the original mix. 

Here Are Some High Level Notes And Key Takeaways

The structure is quite typical.  Lots of 16 bar patterns, the main drop is at bar 145 which I've seen in other tracks. On a macro level there's 3 main sections.  Intro, middle section, and conclusion.  This is a great example of less is more.  I don't think there's too many individual sounds used in this tune but the ones picked are very good and well used.

Also a good example of varying these parts over time to increase energy and attention.  
Listen to the open hi hats, there are points where they shuffle through out the tune.  The chord stab sound also has varying energy levels through out.
What I've done in this file is label the different patterns when I heard changes.  For example the ride cymbals wash out with a hi pass filter.  

Bar 1-8  Track opens with a pounding kick, hi hats and percussion pattern. There’s a pumping airy sound you can tell is side chained to the kick.  The congas are mixed low in the mix, I almost didn’t hear them.  The other percussion part is more prominent 

Bar 9-16  More of the same only the kick is hi passed for a the last 2 beats of bar 16 and some delay is applied to the conga 

Bar 17-32 Another distorted “clank” kind of percussion sound is added, the kick is hi passed for 4 beats of bar 32 or the 16 part pattern  making it sound like it’s not there - the percussion is delayed.  At Bar 17 there are some very very subtle shakers in the mix panned a bit left.   

Bar 33-48 The melody or hook appears it’s the flute like sound, we also hear some rides which are hi passed as the pattern evolves.    The rides have a hi pass filter where the cut off is increased so as bar 49 approaches the rides “wash out.”   At Bar 41 the kick is severely hi passed meaning the lows are removed.  This is a little 8 bar break down

Bar 49-65  Here’s the first little drop where we hear kind of a vocal drone sound.  This gets used throughout the track typically every 8-16 bars.  When the energy of the song is highest it’s used more frequently The melody or hook is fully present in the mix.  At bar 57 the chords start fading in so by bar 65 both the hook and chords are at full volume.  There’s also a more open hi hat that starts at bar 49

Bar 57-89 Here’s a typical 32 bar section often found in many techno tracks.  At Bar 57 the chords fade in by bar 73 all sounds are present in the mix.  The riff or hook and the chords plus all the percussive parts.  So far this is where energy is highest in the tune.  At bar 73 we here some subtle variations to the chords and the hi hats.  

At Bar 85 the Kick is hi passed so it sounds like it’s not in the mix for 4 bars.

Bar 89-112 .  This is another drop in the tune where the melody has been removed and the chords are mostly faded out at the start of Bar 89. They fade back in and in this section the chords kinda get wild as do the hi hats.  At bar 112 the kicks are reversed for a subtle effect. 

Bar 113 - Here’s we’re moving towards the main break down of the track.   The melodic part that sounds like a flute returns at bar 121 the kick is hi passed.  The Rides come back in and “wash out” with the hi pass filter like we heard previously.  The drone sound repeats to give some sense of repeating patterns. 

Bar 129 - the chords come back and slowly fade in.  All percussion is out of the mix.  The kick is out for 8 bars.  

Bar 137, A hi passed kick returns along w/ some cymbals to build energy -  The “clank” percussion sound is there but low passed so it’s not super present in the mix.  Just enough to build  energy for the drop at Bar 145.   Bar 145 is a typical spot to end a break down. 

Bar 145 -160 Typical 16 bar pattern where all elements are playing together.  At the end of bar 160 the kick is hi passed for 2 beats.

Bar 161-176 - another 16 bar section.  At the beginning of the measure list to the hi hats they shuffle and have some repeated notes which vary the energy of the track.  The keys also go crazy for 8 bars and then wind down as bar 177 approaches.  Also the kick is hi passed for the last 4 beats of bar 176.

Bar 177 - the chords are removed as energy is removed from the song.  The melodic part fades out over the next 8 bars.

Bar 185 This is the DJ outtro or conclusion of the tune identical to the intro of the song.  Just kick, hats and percussion.

Bar 209 is it and the song is over. 

Dance Music Production Production Tip: Layering

I've always liked classic rock and have a new found appreciation for how it's produced and mixed.

In this post I'm referring to the use of layers.

My older cousins Mike and Tony are purely rock fans - they never "got" the DJ stuff I do. To them it's all noise, lol.

As they say an "Apple doesn't fall far from the tree" so their kids dig Led Zeppelin and what not.

After seeing my cousin Taylor make a few appearances w her Dads cover band I asked if she wanted to collaborate so long story short she picked Fleetwood Mac's Dreams to so an interpretation of.

With rock layering is used a ton - especially on vocals and guitars.

We ended up with a total of 5 vocal tracks - 2 takes for the lead and 3 background vocal tracks.

That ear candy and airy sparkle we seek to add in our own productions really isn't anything new and is an age old way of adding interesting content to a mix.

Listen to Stevie Nicks vocals in the original version of "Dreams" - the song itself is a master lesson in simplicity and less is more.

But the various vocal parts all work together in complimentary ways to sound big and lush.

Leading into the chorus there's some single word backing parts "stillness" "heartbeat"

Have a watch of this in-depth video where I play you all of the parts where I used layering.  Lead vocals, back ground vocals, rhythm and lead guitar.  And yes all that guitar works in this cover - it's still very much house.  

Stream "Dreams" by Eric Louis & Taylor Paige

Also available for purchase on places like iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play

So, Berlin happened...

Hey readers,

I know I've been a little quite. This past April I started a new 9-5 job and 2 weeks later had my 2nd kid.  So the company I work for is German, and they've sent me there 2 times now.  The first was mostly work, the most recent trip was mostly party.

I think smarter companies are realizing it's a better trip when employees can mix and mingle rather than spend too much time in meetings fighting off hangovers.

I knew this was going to be a good trip because I saw US House Maestro Todd Terry in the airport.  I travel out of Newark most of the time and saw who i thought was Todd sitting at CBGB. It was his signature backwards NY Yankee hat that made me realize it was him.

Todd was cool enough to chat for a few minutes, he was coming into Newark from Pacha Ibiza and off to Atlanta.

Awesome guy!

Anyhow I arrived in Berlin quite sleep deprived, rested in a hotel for a few and had to do some meetings and stuff from 2-6pm.  Then it was dinner.

The next day I was off "the Castle," rather Schloss Beesenstadt.

It's more of a manor than a castle and about 3 hours from Berlin.   Many of the popular Berlin clubs have held off site parties there.

It was beautiful, strange, creepy, crazy and cool this place.  I'm actually really happy they booked it because the local people have  a lot of pride in it and booking it helps fund renovations.

The place was once a military spot where horses were raised, another time an elite boarding school, probably at some point was run by communists as there was a big mural of Karl Marx.  At another time maybe some Free Masons did stuff there.  Was taken over by Nazis for a time, then used as a party place for East German Gov, and definitely spent some years in an abandoned state prior to being bought by a private owner after the fall of the Berlin wall.

So that's that. I have plenty of crazy pics of the place.

My employer is cool as fuck so they had various workshops to choose from.  Music production, grafitti, volleyball or just chilling by a local lake.

You know what I chose to do.

My employer also has it's on DJ on retainer, Mr. Marvin Hey a Sisyphos mainstay.  This year he brought in 2 DJ pals, his Ableton tutor Ingo and Ingo's girlfriend Diana May. (all great people).

I had found out some little details about the work outing and messaged our event planner about playing in a couple songs or something. I asked her to put me in touch w/ the DJs so I could work out technical details.

(They rented 4 CDJ 2000 Nexus players, a DJM 900 and an Allen & Heath Zone 92) Ingo brought in a bunch of production stuff too.

The first night was a gala dinner and masquerade ball/techno party (some top 40 was played too) and the next day was a DJ and production work shop.

Anyhow at the beginning of Day 1 when our awesome event planner was saying a few words to the whole company, she spoke about how her team of DJs had been there 2 days earlier setting up. She mentioned Diana who joins the team as the first girl DJ and then announced me as guest DJ from NYC.

"Oh hey everyone...no pressure now, thought I'd just play a few songs here and there didn't know I'd get proper announcement"

I curtailed my drinking during dinner a lot as to not mess up my set.  I played from 1am to 4am in this sexy library turned techno room.

I totally rocked it and it was HOT.  Germany had an unusual hot spell and there was no Air Conditioning up in there.

Anyhow really good time, great crowd as many of my European colleagues are totally up for the music.  Not like fucking Americans - I love Americans but not too many where I'm from understand electronic music.

Maybe you can relate, but I learned a while back it's better to not even mention the whole DJ thing at work.  No body gets it.

"Oh u dj like parties and weddings and stuff" - Nope.

"Then you must scratch like wika wika"  - Nope not that either.

"Oh so then like EDM big David Guetta DJing (Puts hands in air)"  Not not like that either just forget I said this.

So that's how it went a couple jobs ago so I don't mention it at all unless I know they "get it" first.

Anyhow, my coworkers thing Berlin DJs are like the worlds finest - they had no idea I could totally hold my own w/ them.

I made the switch to Rekordbox 2 years ago.  I also have the XDJ-RX at home which makes walking up to CDJs quite easy.

Good thing for hot cues because sometimes equipment is a little shoddy. One deck had a cue button that didn't work. I usually drop cue point A on beat 1 so that was an easy work around.

I finally called it a day(night) at about 8am. The party went strong for a while.

Anyhow.

The next day was DJ/production workshops and as honorary member of "Team DJ" I ended up teaching the DJ workshops which was fun.  Didn't mind goofing off w/ a Nexus set up for a few hours.

Was fun teaching others how it all works.  We let them try and mix without training wheels (the sync button)

If you're in the Berlin area Diana May gives lessons on the regular in addition to club/festival appearances.

Speaking of Berlin - you must be wondering if I made it to Berghain.

I did but didn't get in.

I got back to Berlin Saturday afternoon but had to be back to the hotel by 6am so I could be ready to leave at 7am.  That made Berghain a tough one and when I got to the place the long line made it a no go.  12am-4am are peak entrance times so my chances were basically zero.

What I should have done was gone to Watergate - but we decided it was Berghain or bust.  So I had a bust of a night.

What you should know about Berlin is that there are too many patrons and not enough venues.  What this means is that Berghain isn't the only club in town that will deny you entrance.  Getting in during peak night time hours can be annoying.

However from what I'm seeing there's so much nightlife activity that you can go out in the afternoon and have a blast with no stress of lines or getting rejected.  There's enough people to have fun but still room to have plenty of space.

Hit up Reddit for advice about Berlin.

Here's links to the fine people I met

Marvin Hey made it all possible https://www.residentadvisor.net/dj/marvinhey

Ingo Reiber is a teacher here. https://www.em-school.com/

Diana May https://www.residentadvisor.net/dj/dianamay

 

 

Music Production for DJs – Making Edits and Remixes

How to Make Your Own DJ Edits and Remixes

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.

Techno Samples And Organizing Your Library of Sounds

Having the Right Palette of Sounds is Essential for Hassle-Free Techno Production

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:

  • Hand pick the samples you actually do lik
  • Categories them into folders - kick, hat, ride, bass, top loop etc
    • You could make sub folders as needed (Peak hour kick) but it might not make sense to go too crazy on this
  • Spot categories of sounds your weak in - for me this is lead sounds, plucks, noises, and metallic percussive sounds - use the image below to see what "space" your techno samples occupy.  Tracks that sounds "big" and "full" tend to fill out the entire spectrum.
  • Keep in mind this is an on going task that will evolve over time. Don't let this become overly time consuming.  Use a timer.  This is a way you get smarter and more precise about the sounds you do choose to use.
  • Organizing is helpful but organizing is not producing
frequency of a club track

credit Future Music

Places to Shop for Underground / Techno Samples

Beatport

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.