The Making of Doorway to the Sun

Thanks for visiting this is an overview of my latest tune "Dooryway to the Sun" out now on Jannowitz Records.

Some readers of the site asked how I got this done while holding down a lot of other responsibilities.  Another common question was mixing and sound - how do I get that clarity and punch (hint - a lot of that is in mastering - HIRE A PRO)

OK Let's Talk Techno Production

I started this tune back in the Fall of 2016.  It was just released this week so don't get tripped up thinking your material will sound dated by the time it sees the light of the day.  The only reason it would sound dated is if you're leaning too heavy on popular sounds of the day.  So shy away from fads.

This tune was completed in September 2017 when I emailed about 20 labels to get this track and a couple others signed. 

More on that here

Lars of Jannowitz Records gave it a thumbs up and said it would be released on a compilation.

Here's how I got it done.

Started with kick from a sample pack followed by a bass preset that's a go to favorite of my from Native Intruments Prism. 

From there I layered in some percussion.  This was all done in Native Instruments Maschine as I prefer sampler based production. I'm not a keyboard player. 

I like to take percussion sounds and pitch them down a lot and then use a hi pass filter to remove low end.  

I then stumbled upon a nice synth preset used for those ominous sounding chord stabs.

The chords repeat enough but don't over do it.  

Then I found a percussive synth sound that added a bit of melody.

At this point I had about 73 bars of music done in Maschine.  Now Maschine isn't like Ableton, Logic or any other kind of DAW.  Maschine forces users to use scenes and patters.  In short, it's hard to take say an 8 bar kick drum loop and draw it out for say 209 bars.  You can do that in Maschine by duplicating scenes that are 8 bars in length that contain the 1 8 bar pattern but if you change that pattern it will change it EVERYWHERE that pattern is used in the track.

To me that's the limitation of Maschine. It's great for short loops and ideas but for tracks that breath and evolve where you would want to automate parameters for 16+ bars of music it's not so hot. 

Off to Ableton we go.

In Ableton I opened my track notes from Layton Giordani's "Dragon Fly."  My track has some similarities so I thought I could leverage what Layton has done in terms of structure.  "Dragon Fly" moves along in 16 bar sections and there's a clear beginning, middle, and end.

So I began to lay out my tracks within this framework.

A Few Important Things

One I get to the point where I want to further flesh out my song, whether it's just 8 bars of music, or 65, I am at the point where I'm confident in how it sounds sonically.

It's not yet perfect (is it ever?) but it is sounding good enough so that I can move on to the arrangement stage. 

While I'm getting my ideas down I often use a hi pass filter to unclutter the low end.  I'll also add a dash of tape saturation and perhaps a little compression to keep volume levels in check on certain sounds.  

Since I exported audio from Maschine into Ableton - elements like the kick and bass were exported with a dash of tape saturation.  UAD's Studer is my go to on that.  I like simple but elegant solutions. I did spend decent coin on a Quad DSP card to run the plugins and later upgraded my audio interface to the solo core Apollo.  In total I've spent like $500 on UAD plugins and it's been ALOT less in recent years. I really don't give a fuck about plugins. I'm done looking at sales...it's such a distraction.  You'll see in the video that I barely know how to use the UAD Fairchild.  

So when I get to the arrangement stage I'm not going to get distracted by tweaking anything with the mix. That will come later. 

Once I had the basic structure down and I knew where my break downs would be and where I'd increase/decrease energy levels it was time to find some melodic parts.

I got that done and after this it was time to just add subtle effects and ear candy - then give it a final mix.

Check the video for more. 

If you want more detail on what this tune looks like in the early stage where I walk through each individual track then check out my course.  There's about 20 minutes spent on this.  

My general work flow is -

Get my ideas done in a sampler - long time user of Maschine but more recently the Pioneer Toraiz.  

Make them sound nice - this means using a hi pass to roll off low end i don't need on tracks other than the kick and bass. 

Then tweak the arrangement and enhance the mix. 

Send off for mastering. 

Regarding life....I don't produce a ton of tracks.  I do 4-6 per year and I spend 4-10 hours on each track. 

Personally I think good music is born out of struggle and experience so fill up and live your life so that you don't have free time to fuddle around tweaking stuff.

Parkinson's Law - Work will expand to fill time allotted to it.  So if you have lots of available free time, production will take long.

In the beginning this is kind of OK.  There's a fun learning curve and time needed to sort out the basics. 

If you're at the point where you can make an 8 bar loop that sounds dope, you need to discipline yourself to finish.

I don't like will power, but use some will power to complete a track.

You need to go through the whole process so you get a feel for each stage.  

Again it's like cooking.  A track in it's basic form is like eating dinner.  Appetizer, entree, desert. Beginning, middle, and concluding section.

If you're a chef, you have to make an entire meal.  Beginning producers get stuck making new ideas but never a while meal.

This would be like a chef who keeps making new appetizers and instead of developing a meal based on the first appetizer she stops, get's frustrated and learns to make a new appetizer.

Maybe this makes sense.

Anyhow, my course exists to help those of you struggling to turn your short ideas into complete polished songs.  If that's you check it out.

Hope you enjoyed this post. 

6am Premiers "Doorway to the Sun" by Eric Louis

Thanks so much to the 6am fam for the extra coverage of one of my 2 new singles.

Click Here for more.

The tune was inspired from staying at the club when you can start to see daylight creeping in from under the doors.  In my early days going out it would often feel a little devastating walking out into sunlight after a nice night out because that was the nail in the coffin.

"Sun is out time to go home kid, show's over"

That's the doorway to the sun, but I'm just not ready to go.

This is the kinda tune and vibe that would keep me from going home for another hour or so.

Enjoy.

Almost Free Ableton Session and Audio Files

Rather than piece meal tips and tricks I go over all the ingredients of production and how the different things came together for this track.The music, drums and what not were done in Maschine.

I brought everything in to Ableton to finesse the arrangement and mix. Think about how Ableton is advertised and sold - it's nearly always shown in a small studio set up w like guitars, synths, drum machines and what not. Ableton is great for capturing ideas, but I"m not a "Live Geek" doing fancy things.

Tip 1 (2 minutes). Bus or group your bass and kick drum to process them together. (EQ, Side Chain Compression etc)

Tip 2 (4:30) I bounced my hi hat and snare to 1 stereo track as the mix on them was OK in Maschine. Typically it's better to keep them separate but I was going for speed and simplicity. I use some heavy NYC compression on this track. Watch and Listen to hear my EQ and compression settings.

Tip 3 (7 min) All drums flow into a "Drum Bus" track or group so that all the drums are process.(8 min )Mixing the keys and pad sounds - only required a dash of compression and EQ

Tip 4 (8:30) Gain staging and freeing up headroom on your master fader. Here's a refresher on this concept in a post I did last year. https://itsthedj.com/if-youve-ever-us...Basically you don't want tracks coming in too hot and then going too hot into your plugins. Yes this matters in a DAW, despite "32bit floating point headroom" In the link above a professional mastering engineer debunks this.

Tip 5 10 Minutes - Track Structure/Arrangement. A lot of new producers cram too much into a track so elements become repetitive and boring. The most basic way to think of track structure is like going to dinner. Appetizer/Main Course/Dessert. What this means in the real world is that you want your main elements to make their appearance at about 2 minutes into the track. They can be teased and hinted at prior to this, and this is certainly not a hard and fast rule but it is a good frame work for approaching track structure. For example the keys in this tune start at Bar 65. Watch out for overusing elements in your track. Look at and study what other people have done for where to place things in your arrangement.

Tip 6 (13:30) . Use delay to spice things up. See how I automated the send button on the vocal to the delay return track. I also automated the level of feedback on the delay track to 100% to push the sound into a near constant feedback loop. Delay is a nice way to add some ear candy to your music.

Tip 7. (14:40) See where the vocal part fits into the mix sonically. It fill s a gap where I didn't have sonic content. The vocal part was helpful in the 300-800Hz area.

Tip 8. Don't Master Your Own Tracks. don't burden myself with anything to do w/ Mastering. I use Landr for rough masters so I can check my stuff in the car, and Landr has been fine for sending demos and getting tracks signed. For final masters that will be sold in stores like Beatport, I do hire professional, human engineers. I do have a couple things on my master channel which you can watch and listen to. Typically I use the UAD Fatso Sr. Plugin on very gentle settings for mix bus compression. Quick shoot out of the UAD Fatso versus Ableton's Glue Compressor.

Want access to this Ableton Project?

You can get it for almost free. Only $2 or Pay What You Like using the Green Button Below.  

Or I added this to my flagship course "Underground Elite" in the "bonus" section so that students can experiment, dissect, and learn from it.

Sign up for my course here.

Free Stuff – Snow day Tech House

Love days like this when the weather is foul and I'm stuck in side for most of the day.  Also got me a new sampler which makes it even better.  Enjoy these free loops! Download using the link below.  It's an Ableton session, if you don't have that just open and grab the raw audio files.  

Let me know what you think in the comments.