How can I create unique sounds

Producing deep house - sound design, arrangement and beats

Deep House workshop

Producing beats using the example of Marc Narrow ft. Robin Gambler & Ian Late - L.O.V.E

The deep housegenreis actually a further development of house music. The simplicity and depth of this style are meant to represent emotional moods rather than creating hands-up moments. Usually reduced, analog and warm sounds are used to minimal beats, which "develop" over a complete song through automation drives. These parameter changes create a suction that is supposed to hypnotically cast a spell over the listener. Deep house is therefore slower than club house or techno tracks.

In the following workshop I explain how I produced my rather poppy deep house song "Marc Narrow ft. Robin Gambler & Ian Late - L.O.V.E.". Sound design, bass and melody, vocal and song arrangement, effects and mix are among the main components of the work, but also the minimal yet varied groove.

The genesis

Deep house is derived from house music that became popular in the late 1980s. The groove (shuffle, swing) of a house track is retained, but nowhere near as many sounds are used. The house songs, which are more in major, are cheerful, while deep house is more of a minor-key. The main feature of well-known deep house tracks are sampled and filtered piano chords, which are placed and played as a chord over the keyboard using a sampler. These chords usually consist of two notes that are seven semitone steps apart. The producers are happy to put tape delays on it, the intensity, speed and feedback of which are automated.

In the past few years, the deep house genre has developed into a new scene. A more trendy and radio-friendly deep house became very popular (for example: Robin Schulz). Singing and simple pop melodies are in the foreground, the actual character of the deep house is almost impossible to recognize. Fortunately, electronic music is back in the charts and is gaining more weight.

My project “Marc Narrow” is primarily in the more pop-up area of ​​deep house. The song "L.O.V.E." was created in several steps and in two studios.

Basics

First, I build a beat in my DAW Ableton Live in four-four time, which is common for electronic dance music. The speed of my song "L.O.V.E." is 122 BPM. In addition, I play melodies and chords with a piano that I can replace with another instrument at any time if I don't like the sound of the piano. In Live's Session View, I create several loops and sequences that I collect like in a library. I incorporate the appropriate, inspiring parts into the arrangement. This is how an instrumental is created. I send this song to a lyricist and singer, who then sends me his vocal recordings. Together with my instrumental, the finished song results, whose structure and sound design I will go into in more detail below.

This is my workplace where the song was created.

Building a deep house track

The different versions / edits of my track are structured as follows:

Radio Edit (maximum 3:30 minutes):

  • Intro (starts with main melody and vocals)
  • Beat part 1
  • little break
  • Beat part 2
  • big break
  • Beat part 3 with outro

Extended Version:

  • Intro (a minimalist beat part that the DJ can start or mix well with)
  • Beat part 1
  • little break
  • Beat part 2
  • Transition to the big break
  • big break
  • Beat part 3
  • Outro

I almost always use the Roland TR-909.

Sound design

My bass drum is a sample of a Roland TR-808 kick drum, mixed with the click part of a TR-909 kick. The belly of the 808 has been greatly reduced with a volume envelope so that the bass only sounds briefly and succinctly. This has the advantage that, despite the huge sub-bass, I get a lot of space for another bass line. The click part of the 909 is also a sample that has been cut in the low frequencies by the equalizer. For me, only the mid and high range of the sound is interesting. Both sounds mixed together make up my kick drum.

While layering the two samples, I can easily shift a sound in time (in the nanosecond range or in samples) until I get the kick I am looking for. Try this out for yourself and you will notice that every time you move it, new kick drum samples are created. Have you found the right sound, freeze it or resample the track. Now you can build a new sequence with the new kick. My track only consists of four kick drums, each set to full beats (1, 2, 3 and 4).

My hi-hats are also a mixture of different percussion instruments and analog drum synthesizers. I really enjoy taking on real shakers. My inexpensive egg shakers from thomann.de are always attractive in terms of sound. In the Thomann Store you can get a bundle with four different eggs that contain different sizes of sand or stone and therefore differ in volume and intensity.

I succeed very well with the recordings with my Sontronics STC stereo microphone pair. With slight movements in front of the microphones, I also create a stereo movement in the recording. It is also interesting to use two egg shakers for one shot. Mistakes in the groove are not bad. On the contrary, they bring variety to the rather rigid sequencer construct. If the errors are negative, you can straighten them out with Ableton Live's warp function.

Live recordings of percussions enliven the groove.

If you want to invest a little more, you should buy a large box with real percussion instruments. This is the only way to create unique grooves and beats with your own sounds. Studio shakers, tambourines, bongos, congas - these are just a few of the instruments I always use.

I mix a closed hi-hat from my Roland TR-909 or TR-8 with the shakers. This sits between the full beats ("and"). With this I give the groove a further accent and more dynamism.

For the further groove I look for some bongo and conga samples that I load into an NI machine. There I program a loop that matches the beat, which should be kept unobtrusive and rather minimal. To program this loop, I usually record a short sequence live, which I fine-tune afterwards. So I keep the different velocity values ​​that give the whole loop more life.

The next element is a snare drum sample from a library. It sits on the two and the four. A clap of the TR-909, which I cut with an equalizer in the lower frequencies, enriches the overall sound in the mids. This sits on the two and four and and every second bar shuffled 1 / 32nd later. I like to pull the clap track forward one or two milliseconds so that the sound comes out shortly before the snare and kick drum. This results in a pulling to the full blow.

Most of the beat elements disappear in the breaks to give the listener a break and focus on the melody. Shortly before the end of the break, a “wind” sound or white noise is faded in over two to four bars. This effect ends on the first beat of the following kick drum, equivalent to a drum roll that is played before an important part of the song.

As a bass instrument, I use a Novation Bassstation 2 at "L.O.V.E". The very warm and round sounding, easily filtered square wave is shaped by an envelope in terms of both volume and cutoff intensity. This gives me a short sound in the overtones of the bass, but also a slightly longer subbass in the bass line being played.

The two-bar melody sequence runs quite monotonously through the entire title. Since some notes are played at the same time with the kick drum, I use the “Glue Compressor” supplied with Live with the sidechain activated. My kick drum triggers the compressor via the sidechain input so that the kick and bass don't get in each other's way.

The BassStation 2 takes over the foundation.

I play the main chords on a piano (contact: "Alicias Keys"). This chord progression also runs through the entire song, but is kept constantly in motion by filter and effect automation. So there is no boredom. In addition, I mix the same piano gently in the beat parts, raised by an octave. This gives the whole thing more overtones and doesn't make the sound disappear completely in the mix with kick drum and bass.

As an encore and variation, chords and single notes of the Fender Rhodes MK 1 are occasionally added. Fortunately, I have a real electric piano and can include it right in my arrangement. There are hardly any good emulations of this electric piano, which reacts differently to each key stroke and thus has a very varied effect in the song.

I use filtered chords as the pad sound, recorded with a Roland Juno-106. I like to record modulations manually with this synthesizer from the 80s / 90s, because mistakes often result in very good and interesting new sounds. You can emulate this synth with the TAL U-NO-LX plug-in.

The most important melody line for the song comes from an electron analog four. It was programmed directly in the synthesizer's arpeggiator using extreme modulation of various parameters such as filter, resonance, decay and release as well as the internal reverb and delay effects. In addition, an automation of the Xfer LFOTool, which is responsible for pumping the track, runs on this track. By constantly changing the intensity of the LFOTool, the melody seems to literally fly through the room.

The chords are played with the piano sounds of NIs Alicias Keys.

The vocal samples in L.O.V.E come from a vinyl. Here I recorded short cuts and loaded them into Live's Simpler. The recordings were adapted to the mood of the song with pitch and time stretching. The idea for the song "L.O.V.E." arose through the skillful stringing together of the two samples.

The actual vocal tracks were recorded in another studio in Berlin. After receiving the individual tracks, I cut the best parts together and adjusted them to fit. Some places have been improved with Melodyne and the timing has been shifted. The second and third parts were also matched with Melodyne and the notes were partially changed in order to achieve a more exciting result. The vocal track got more movement through filter and effect automation.

The two external bus effects from Strymon: BigSky and TimeLine have a big impact on this song. BigSky creates a huge reverb that is already heading towards Shimmer. TimeLine is a filtered delay that is synchronized with the song. A high feedback value is also used here. The moods created in this way make up the song.

I tried to recreate these effects with plug-ins, but unfortunately couldn't find any counterparts for the two hardware effects devices. I find the Eventide Blackhole or Valhalla VintageVerb equally beautiful.

My two Strymon floor kicks are firmly integrated into my system.

arrangement

The arrangement was roughly structured according to a model for radio and extended mix. Here I dragged a well-known song from the charts into my DAW and analyzed the structure. After that I was able to incorporate my own ideas and give the title other distinctive passages that you can hear in the transitions from breaks to beat parts. All in all, it's a pretty simple arrangement with no experimental sections. Since the title should be used both on the radio and in the club, confused and stumbling elements are rather annoying here.

This is the finished arrangement of the title.

Mixing, tips & tricks

The mix of the track "L.O.V.E." was mostly created during the creation of the song. Since I separated every single track with the equalizer and compressor from the other tracks from the start, there are no overlapping frequencies. Light transitions are okay and often create nice warm movements. It is important that the kick drum and bass are low-cut at around 22-25 Hertz so that there are no problems later during mastering.

I also trimmed the bottom of the piano, but still left so many lower mids that it doesn't look too cool and sounds like plastic. As an equalizer, FabFilters Pro-Q2 is my main tool that I wouldn't want to be without.

I usually leave the recorded percussion sounds as they are (maybe a slight low cut), because that's the only way to make them appear authentic - and that's the sound signature of my songs. In order to create a fast master for a test, I took a Maag Audio EQ4 in the master track to slightly increase the air band, an NI Solid Bus Comp (an SSL Comp emulation) for light sum compression and a FabFilter Pro-L, which sounds very good here as a limiter. Finally, you can use an analyzer to check again whether there are any outliers. If not, the song is complete. Below you will find a short music video for the radio edit of the song "L.O.V.E." and a soundcloud link to my project "Marc Narrow".

Soundcloud / marcnarrow

If you have any questions about the workshop or want to read more articles about the creation of electronic music, please post a comment. If you have any requests or questions about Deep House, we will be happy to answer them or perhaps create another workshop on a different title. We appreciate your feedback!

Best regards

Your Marcus aka Marc Narrow

For all those who want to delve deeper into the subject of "Deep House Producing", we have another book recommendation:

-> Produce electronic music (Amazon Link)