Today’s guest, Hyperbits, is a brilliant producer and educator. Based in San Diego, Hyperbits has remixed artists like Laidback Luke, Tove Lo, Beyoncé, and more. He also teaches music production on his website, hyperbitsmusic.com.
In this episode, he shares his tips on creating electronic dance music, as well as advice on producing in general. You’ll also hear how he transitioned from the corporate world to making music professionally and his tips on making a career in music.
The audio tip of the week is about finishing your projects. It’s so important to complete what you’re working on, not only for your own sanity, but also for the sake of building your confidence, your momentum, and your portfolio. Too many people get caught up in perfectionism and continue tinkering with a project in an effort to get it just right. The problem is, this ultimately hurts you. It puts you into a cycle where you’re not finishing projects, which means you’re not putting your music out there.
So instead of perpetually messing with a project, finish it. Then take what you like and what you don’t like from it and move on to the next. You’ll learn more that way, and you’ll keep improving your audio skills.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode:
- Audio tip of the week: Finish your projects! Don’t let perfectionism stop you from putting your music out there.
- The best advice Hyperbits has on producing.
- Techniques for getting better results from remixes.
- How Hyperbits made the leap from the corporate world into a career in music.
- Advice on making music professionally.
- How to use compression well.
- Tips on using EQ.
- Strategies for programming great beats.
Featured on the Show:
- Connect with Hyperbits: Website
- 20 Lessons In Music Production I Wish I Knew When I Started
- Freebie Library
- Start-to-Finish Course
- Connect with the Show: Website | YouTube
Don’t miss an episode – subscribe to the AudioSkills Podcast!
Full Transcript of This Episode
Scott H: Hey, how’s it going everyone? Scott back with you and we have yet another excellent show for you today at AudioSkills. I am going to be joined by Hyperbits who is a brilliant, brilliant producer and also educator. He’s going to be offering up some tips on producing EDM and just producing in general, and just sharing his experience moving from the corporate world to a career in music. Before getting into all of that it’s time for your audio tip of the week.
My tip this week is this, finish your projects and don’t go overboard with perfectionism. Okay, so what do I mean by that? Well so many people, and myself included, I’ve struggled with this, we get perfectionist. It’s like, “Oh it’s not just right, it’s not sounding as good as I want it to, it’s not as good as it can be, I can do better.” Then you just keep working on it, you keep messing with that snare and trying to EQ it just a little bit and get it just a little better. You keep messing with that compressor or whatever you’re doing. The problem with this is that that can get you in the cycle where you’re not finishing projects, and I know so many people who they struggle to finish projects because they get in their own way.
This ultimately hurts you because rather than trying to make each project absolutely perfect and everything that you want it to be, it’s better to finish it, take what you like, what you didn’t like about it, and then move on to the next project. That will build momentum, that will build your confidence because you’ll be just finishing things, you can actually start building up your portfolio, your music by having more and more projects finished, rather than having just a few epic projects out there that you’ve been just trying to get just right. Ultimately it will serve you better in the end because you learn so much more from a completed project than you do from one that you’re just still tinkering with.
Again, don’t get too in your head, and again this is something that I need to remind myself of, finish the project, finish your projects, get it done, and then move on to the next one. Of course there’s no shame in trying to get things right, but at the end of the day you may have things that just are not going to be perfect, and it’s better to release something that isn’t 100% perfect and then move on and try to get better next time than to just keep doing that. That is your audio tip of the week.
All right, so moving on to our interview this week. I am so pumped to introduce the music producer and educator Serik, professionally known as Hyperbits. He’s going to be giving us some awesome advice on producing electronic dance music. Hyperbits is based out of San Diego and has remixed artists like Laidback Luke, Tove Lo, the Neon Trees, and more, even being ranked by Billboard.com in the top 10 of their next big sound charts. He also teaches music production on his site HyperbitsMusic.com. When it comes to music production he knows a thing or two. Serik, welcome to the show man.
Serik: Thanks for having me.
Scott H: How’s your summer been? Starting to officially wind down into fall? Well I guess you’re in San Diego so you really don’t have …
Serik: It’s an eternal springtime, summer, so I don’t really … Nothing’s winding down, if anything it’s just getting better.
Scott H: That’s funny, one of my friends used to live in San Diego and she was telling me this story about it was January or something and there was NFL playoffs on and it was a New England game. There was snow, and she turns to her friend at the bar, and she’s like, “Why is it snowing?” He’s like, “Because it’s January.”
Serik: Yes, that’s what San Diego does to you, it just makes you super oblivious about what else is going on in the world because everything’s just so nice here. It’s pretty ridiculous actually.
Scott H: Whenever I’ve been out in California, and I’ve never been to San Diego but I’m always jealous of the weather because I live in Chicago here, so we get punished.
Serik: Sorry to hear that, my condolences.
Scott H: To start us off, can you just tell us a little bit more about your music, the projects you have going on right now, and then also you have a pretty cool story of getting into music professionally from a different area, which I think a lot of folks out there would appreciate.
Serik: Yes of course, so the biggest projects that I’ve been working on this year really has been the Hyperbits Masterclass, which for anyone who doesn’t know, it’s an eight week online course in music production that I just kind of naturally put together over the years. I keep updating it, I keep expanding it, so it’s really just this ongoing beast of a project that never really dies down. Plus I run it three times a year so there’s always a lot going on with that. I also put together a start to finish course this year where I did that Laidback Luke remix. Basically, it starts with an empty session so it’s just like Ableton and Logic, completely blank, and then I kind of go through and make a remix in about six hours that eventually got released on Mixmash Records.
Scott H:That’s awesome.
Serik: It’s definitely a cool, almost a chance for people to just sit in a room with a producer. I just talk through what I’m doing but it’s not edited or anything like that, it’s just literally sitting down, making a track in six hours. Aside from that I guess I can talk about my story. I’ll try to give a quick version of that at least.
Scott H: Yes, the Cliffs Notes man, that’d be great.
Serik: I’ll try to be quick. Basically I graduated from college, I got a corporate job in Manhattan where I was marketing pharmaceutical conferences. I’m not going to lie, I struggled big time with that transition. Just the lifestyle, going from college being off four to five months of the year to all of a sudden having 10 days off per year. On top of that doing something that I couldn’t have been less passionate about. I didn’t care for pharmaceuticals or anything like that. I don’t know, I just showed up everyday and I’d try to paint this picture for people but there’s really no color in it. I was going into beige offices with gray cubicles, and everyone was just kind of lifeless and I don’t know …
Scott H: That’s my nightmare, oh my gosh.
Serik: I know, I mean I’m honestly kind of looking back on it and I’m kind of thankful that that all happened because it made me much more aware of what I could do to formulate where my life was going. It got me thinking like all right dude, you could sit around and work here for the rest of your life if you don’t do anything about it, so it kind of did get me a bit motivated to work on other projects and to spend some time … Basically I would just count down the seconds everyday. Go home, get to the gym real quick, and then I would work on either music or something to do with entrepreneurship until it was time to go to sleep. I did that for a few years. It’s not like I didn’t give the whole corporate life a try. I was there for a good three and a half, four years, and I kind of got to the point where I got super into making music on a computer, it was absolutely my outlet, it was the reason I was waking up everyday.
I was like, all right I’m going to sign up for a class at Dubspot because at the time I only lived 10 or 12 blocks from Dubspot, which is in the West Village in Manhattan. A lot of these physical schools most people don’t live right around the corner, so I was just like hell yes, all in, going to sign up for this class. Honestly, it’s funny because signing up for that class is what got me fired from my job. Basically I was managing this conference down in Florida and that conference literally ran the first week of classes at Dubspot, and so I just told my boss, I was like, “I can’t make it.” I played it up, I was like oh I got accepted into this super prestigious school, and the company did not take it well. They were like super disappointed in me, really dug into me during that meeting. They were not happy at all with me, and then a few days later they called me into the HR’s office or whatever and fired me and let me go.
I got severance and stuff like that and I was able to collect unemployment for a bit, which is awesome because those next few months was a great time to reassess my life, figure it out exactly what it is I wanted to do, and once I really kind of thought about it and looked at my life there was no plan B. I was all in, I was going to figure something out inside of music and I think getting fired from that job was literally the jump off point, it’s what started pretty much everything for me from there.
Scott H: That’s awesome, that’s such a cool story too. I mean obviously ups and downs and everything, but that’s how you can find your passion sometimes and you already knew that what was getting you up in the morning was music. Sometimes that extra little push, I know there’s so many people out there that want to make music and they say, “Well I don’t have time, or I don’t have the money, or I can’t do this.” Of course there are obligations and challenges, but making time for it and just kind of pursuing it in whatever way you can I think is so, so important.
Serik: Everyone sometimes just needs that little kick in the ass or something to kind of push you over the edge a little bit. I don’t know, as I’ve gotten older I feel like there’s ways to recreate that, maybe not so drastically. You don’t need to get fired to get your motivation in place and all that, but for me at least it was kind of a pretty big turning point. I definitely look back at that as that’s where things really changed for me, at least as far as what I wanted to do and directly attacking it kind of.
Scott H: Right on, so speaking of music, you got into music and electronic music. That has really seen such an explosion in popularity. More and more people want to sit down and just start producing because the barrier to entry … I was talking with Sam from EDMProd and the barrier to entry is so low, just a DAW and a laptop can get you there. What would your best piece of advice for producing electronic music be? How do you make something that sounds great? I know that’s a loaded question and you could probably talk on it-
Serik: Super loaded.
Scott H: Yes, you could talk on it for days at a time, but if you could try to boil it down. Is there a good piece of advice you could give?
Serik: Honestly, I feel like this question is rooted in the idea that there is even a single piece of advice worth mentioning right now. I don’t think one thing particularly even exists that would make or break, even if it’s a non-technical tip in terms of mentality or perspective or work ethic. There’s just no one thing that I feel like would really be worth mentioning. The thing is though that I went through this exact kind of at least mentality or phase. I was making music for a bunch of years, getting super into it, but I just could tell that I didn’t have that X factor, my stuff did not sound like the guys that I was looking up to.
Actually a friend of mine at that job where I got fired was really, really close with this guy named Chris Zane who’s the producer of Passion Pit. Couple artists that other artists also, Friendly Fires, Holy Ghost, but so I actually was able to talk to him. This is literally what I asked him was basically this question. I was just like, “What is the one thing that I’m missing? Is there one thing that I should be doing to make my stuff sound better?” His answer, again this is for me like his answer kind of acted as a catalyst for how I looked at music. He basically was saying that at the time he had been producing for over 10 years and was just starting to get half decent. He basically said there’s no one thing that makes you a good music producer, there’s hundred and hundreds, if not thousands of little tiny moves that slowly start to add up over time to help create a great sounding mix or a great sounding song.
The way he phrased it, it’s really just about acquiring as much of those tiny moves and details that eventually, over time, start to add up to something great. I guess my answer is just rehashing what Chris Zane said because there is no one thing. The more you acquire information wise, the more details you accumulate, slowly, slowly but surely it adds up into something kind of special I think.
Scott H: Absolutely and that’s why we’re here, that’s why we have AudioSkills, and that’s why you have your Masterclass and your courses at Hyperbits Music. I mean that’s what we’re trying to do is give you those little pieces that can add up to something really special. Because I think so many people, well if there’s just one thing, if you just tell me this one thing whether it be a technique or whatever, that’s going to do it and unfortunately that’s just not how it works.
Serik: If you asked me one thing inside of reverb maybe there’s something, or one thing inside of saturation maybe there’s something worth mentioning, but overall it’s a crazy learning curve and I’ve always felt that there’s something about music production that it just feels a little harder to get into than a lot of other hobbies or a lot of other things that you can be involved in passion wise. I mean I get that whole perspective of looking around for this one thing, but I promise you, I really feel that if you just accept that that one thing doesn’t exist, all of a sudden bang, your mindset changes and you start looking at the world of music production a little differently.
Scott H: For sure, so one of the big things that you do is you do remixes. So many people want to get into remixing or get official remixes, remix something that sounds great, gets their name out there, all that good stuff. In fact you of course have a course where you remix a Laidback Luke track from start to finish, as you mentioned. What tips or techniques, just a few, might you have for someone who wants to get better results from their remixes? What sort of things do you do?
Serik: Yes sure, so when it comes to remixes I would say first off remixes are pretty awesome because some ideas fundamentally already exist. You’re not working from a completely blank slate. You usually have a proper vocal to work with, so there’s just a little bit of a better jump off point I think into the production world. I’ve always been a huge fan of remixes but they’re also just a great way, I think, to get going. Someone has already taken the time, a band or an artist or a producer, someone’s already made the song somewhat commercially viable, so you kind of get to come in and put your own stamp on something that already exists in the world. Right off the bat it’s an easier entry point.
Then as far as getting better results on the actual remix is I would say one thing that I didn’t do in the Laidback Luke course, but it’s awesome I think to change genres if possible. If you’re remixing a pop track bring it into the deep house space, or if you’re working on a deep house track bring it into a future bass space. Some sort of genre change, for me at least, usually sparks a lot more creativity where I feel like I get to create something new as opposed to just remaking something that already exists. I feel like genre changing is absolutely huge if you can pull it off.
Beyond that, if again, if you can, it obviously depends on the song and what genre you’re bringing it into but changing BPM. Doesn’t have to be drastic, but something to speed it up a little, slow it down. The whole point of changing all this stuff is that you get to bring the track into a new place emotionally that maybe wasn’t there before. You’re kind of just bringing the song or the remix into your own original space, which is again probably why … I mean if you’re getting commissioned to do a remix that’s why someone’s reaching out to you because you have some sort of sound or some sort of element in your production that they want to get brought into an existing track.
Then beyond that, I’m just trying to think technically speaking if there’s anything I could say. The thing with remixing is that I don’t know if there’s technically that much stuff that you should be doing differently on a remix than an original track. Maybe that’s worth saying, though when you’re attacking a remix it’s still pretty much an entirely original piece, so a lot has to go into that. Other than the vocals, I would personally probably only use two to three stems from the original track. I really try to bring in my own sounds, my own percussion, my own effects, and not just recycling or rehashing what was already there.
Scott H: I love that, and that’s something I’ve seen. We just had a music production tips article we put together and someone mentioned that about not trying to … Limiting yourself to what you bring in from the original track.
Serik: Honestly I got that from Audien back I think when he was getting interviewed about … Might have been his Pompeii remix. He just said when he attacks remixes he only uses pretty much the vocal. Once in a while there might be some small element that’s maybe a little important to the song that he might want to chop up or use, but for the most part he’s just using his entirely own collection of sounds. Again, that’s like going back to the idea that if you are being commissioned for a remix there’s a reason for that, there’s something about your sound that you’re trying to get out and bring into the world.
Scott H: Right, they don’t want you to just rehash what is already there in an unoriginal way. They wouldn’t commission you for something like that. No that’s awesome, really awesome insight into remixing, which again I think is something that a lot of people want to do but maybe they’re unsure about it.
Serik: Just last thought because I feel like there was this trend for a while where people would almost like they would do a remix and use a whole break section of the original track. I mean a lot of that stems from doing bootleg remixes where you’re basically taking the song and literally not touching anything and maybe just changing a drop. To me that’s the least exciting remixes. I just feel like you have to change something in order for it to be worthwhile and be memorable and have some longevity in a pretty quick moving space.
Scott H: Yes to stand on it’s own.
Serik: Exactly yes.
Scott H: Compression, compression is important in all music, but certainly if you’re doing EDM. There’s side chaining for nice pumping sound and there’s all these other different things that compression can give you. Unfortunately a lot of people struggle with compression and using it well when they’re producing. What tips or advice would you have for someone to use compression well or effectively? Do you have any specific techniques you use when it comes to compression or approaches?
Serik: Yes definitely, I would first off kind of separate compression from side chain compression just because those two things are like they serve very different purposes. First for classic compression, honestly we were joking around about this earlier but I would tell people to stop using it so much. From a really, really simplistic perspective, the point of compression is to make loud audio a little quieter and maybe some quiet audio a little louder. You’re just trying to even out a performance.
Scott H: Bring it together, yes.
Serik: Yes, and so compression then is great for really dynamic stuff, vocal performances, guitar leads, saxophone solos, a bongo performance or something, all this human stuff, human recorded elements. In electronic music so much of what we’re working with is synth right in the form of midi or samples that are already squashed and if they’re not squashed they have almost no dynamic range because you used a one-shot sample that you’ve programmed out into midi, which all has the same volume anyway. I’m almost saying why would you need to compress something that doesn’t have an insane amount of dynamics or transients to begin with?
I just don’t think compression is that important of a tool for already synthetic sounding stuff. If it’s a human performance by all means use it and use it modestly, shoot for gentle settings, slow attacks, fast releases, a few DBs of gain reduction and that’s it. If the compressor isn’t making it do what you want to do you’re probably not working with either a good source sound or not a good sample to begin with and I would just recommend starting over with whatever sound you’ve got.
Scott H: Yes, go back to the drawing board. Then for side chaining, something like that.
Serik: Yes, so side chain, there’s another kind of big differentiator within side chain compression. At least in my mind there’s kind of two really big uses for side chain. Number one would be kind of for effect, what I think most of us talk about when we talk about side chain, it’s like the massive pumping that you hear in electronic music, it’s that defining thing, especially in progressive house was so important. Side chain is also a mixing tool just to make space for musical elements, and I think if you separate those two things. The effect versus a spacing tool, I just think that that’s really important because when it comes to creating space in your mix, that means you can apply a little bit of side chain just on your high hats for the groove of it, maybe side chaining your chords against your vocals so that the chords respond a little and actually feel a little more dynamic and get out of the way of the vocals if a lot of things are kind of playing at once.
I just feel like everyone uses side chain as an effect, but not as many producers are using it as a mixing tool, which is really what it was intended for. All of these visual side chain compressors that I’m sure you use all the time, I use them all the time. Side chain compression wasn’t that simple back in the day. You would actually have to trigger the side chain based off of some sort of ghost track or some sort of audio that already existed. I just think it’s a super powerful mixing tool that I don’t think as many people are probably taking advantage of.
Scott H: At the top you were kind of telling us your story about how you got into music, and for lack of a better term, made the leap and you were able to change your career and go into music full-time. A lot of people want to do that, they want to have a career in music. What advice would you have for someone who wants to make a career in music?
Serik: Not to reference my own website but I literally just wrote an article that I put out yesterday literally called 20 Lessons in Music Production I Wish I Knew When I Started. I definitely talk about a good amount of stuff that I probably wouldn’t be able to cover really quickly right now. Anyone listening to this just go to HyperbitsMusic.com, check out there’s a blog link and it’s the most recent post at least from when we’re recording this.
To add to that, I mean I would say … Actually I didn’t even think of this in the article which is funny, but the most important aspect of making a career in music I think is to stop relying on someone else making it for you. I’m saying someone else with air quotes, you can’t see me, but I feel like a lot of people have this idea or perspective that I’ll just sign to this label, or I’ll collaborate with this artist, or I’ll just get played on this radio show, and then the exposure from whatever marketing action you’re talking about will somehow catapult everything for you and really jumpstart your career.
I don’t think that’s true really at all. I think you still need to really take charge of your own destiny. The days of the million dollar record deal with a major label are kind of gone, it’s not the 80s and 90s anymore, but I still think that for some reason people think that’s going to happen to them, that someones going to discover them and hold their hand and take them on this massive journey and they’re going to be rich and famous. I don’t think that concept really exists anymore. For example, if you have a track supported by Tiesto’s ClubLife or something, great exposure but what are you going to do to take advantage of that.
Scott H: Capitalize on that, yes.
Serik: Are your fan gates in place? How are you going to retain any fans? Are you collecting any email addresses? Are you providing any value for the people that stumble across you? What’s your release schedule like? Are you working on a followup? How many blogs or repost channels are in your current network? There’s just this never ending amount of almost business oriented and marketing things that you can be doing to up your odds, up your exposure, and up your place inside of social media to really actually warrant the fact that you want to make a career in music. At least if you’re going the route of being an artist.
Even if you’re not trying to be an artist and you’re trying to do something kind of different, I don’t know start a music production school, or just do mixing and mastering as an engineer. All of those things I think just require a bunch of initiative on your part or my part, in my case at least. I just felt like nothing really would happen unless I sat down and started to work on it. I’m not saying I didn’t have help, I had tons and tons of help, I continue to have tons of help all the time, but it’s because I’m putting myself out there and because I’m trying to make things happen that I feel like things start going in that direction.
Scott H: Absolutely and it’s the initiative and then it’s the persistence and the consistency. Yesterday I did a Facebook Live and then someone commented on it, they asked, “How do I make a number one hit?” I was like-
Serik: First steps one through five to do that.
Scott H: First of all I was like well if I knew that answer I’d be just churning them out and I’d be retired by now. I’d be hanging out with Taylor Swift on a beach or something. The truth is is that the best thing you can do, is what you mentioned, is put yourself out there, work on your craft, be consistent, and work on just producing, creating things, and if what you’re doing is good and if you’re putting yourself out there, making good connections, and again what you mentioned taking advantage of those connections and pursuing them and making the best use of them, then you might get lucky or whatever and you might make that one connection that really helps take things to the next level. It’s not just this overnight, it’s like well if I just do this one song and then this one person is going to automatically find me and I just got to wait, it’s not like that.
Serik: Exactly, and I think the word luck is a little bit of a loaded word. I really do believe, this is a popular quote or whatever, but luck is just when persistence and opportunity kind of meet. It’s this time where you’ve been doing the work and all of a sudden some sort of opportunity arises and you put yourself in the position or in the place to take advantage of it. That requires a lot of dedication and a lot of consistency, and I think that moreso than anything just needs to be in place to even have a shot at making, I guess whatever making it might mean for you. A career in music is a tough career to get involved in, but I think that if you love something enough anyone can really do it as long as you’ve kind of put in that effort and put in that work.
Scott H: For sure, so kind of circling back to more production focused questions. When it comes to using EQ in music production, do you have any tips or advice to help people get better results? Do you do things like EQ sweeping, that’s something that I know a lot of people do, or do you just roll off a lot of the low end? How do you approach EQ? Are there moves that you find yourself making often?
Serik: I definitely do some sweeping, I definitely roll off some of the low end. I definitely had a phase where I was rolling off too much low end for sure. My Dubspot professor had this analogy where he’d be like it’s cooking a steak. You have to remove some of the fat but you can’t remove all of it or it’s going to be super dry. I feel like with EQ I’ve gone through these phases in life where I just got really excited about something and then I overdo it and eventually I figure out there’s this balance that exists kind of in the middle.
As far as EQ, again I’m big on kind of separating out what really matters when you’re trying to use an EQ for what purpose. I do think that reductive EQ versus additive EQ are two completely different animals. For reductive EQ you can really use almost any EQ because you’re essentially just removing frequencies that either you deem to sound harsh, or maybe they bother you in some way, or they might conflict with another sound in some way. For me reductive EQ is fairly straight forward. It’s still something that takes a decent amount of practice and getting used to and familiarizing yourself with frequencies in general, but with additive EQ I think the EQ that you select actually matters a decent amount because what an EQ is trying to do when it’s boosting a sound is that you’re basically trying to replicate that original sound or audio information through it’s own algorithms and trying to add certain frequencies.
Some of the stock DAW EQs like Logic, Ableton, or FL I feel like using them for a massive additive EQ boost can sound a bit like little rough sometimes or a little tinny. It just doesn’t always sound great. For small little moves sure, it’s not a big deal, but if you’re really trying to boost a sound and color it, I probably would stay away from some of those stock EQs. Basically, what I would reach for is an analog emulation of some sort for additive EQ because you just get something that sounds pretty different. It’s emulating something that has existed in the hardware world, so that usually means it’s a little bit more imperfect, or a little dirtier, or a little brighter, or warmer depending on what EQ you actually choose.
Let’s see if I can give some examples. I really love the Waves API 550 for lead sounds, I think it just sounds great for that. Whereas I really like the Waves Pultec EQP, I think it’s the 1A. That one sounds great for low end and sub information. I really love the VEQ4 for boosting the air of the sound. I just kind of feel like over time you start to figure out what EQs sound good with your sound for what you’re trying to accomplish. Someone else might have a completely different collection of these types of-
Scott H: Yes, they might say those EQs you sited don’t work for them for whatever reason.
Serik: Yes exactly, exactly, and then also there’s these analog emulated EQs, but there’s also the clean digital EQs like the stock EQs but if you want to boost with something that’s a digital EQ I would just recommend using FabFilter Pro-Q 2. It’s the cleanest, the least dirty.
Scott H: It’s the best.
Serik: Yes, it’s just super, super clean additive EQ. Again, it’s really just finding about finding the EQs that work with your sound and just experimenting a bunch. I think that’d be kind of my overall perspective on EQ.
Scott H: For sure, so when it comes to synthesis or sound design, what’s your process like for getting the synth sound that you want for creating that? Do you have any tips or advice for folks who might be struggling with getting the sounds they want if they’re working with synth and things?
Serik: Yes, I mean I have some loaded thoughts on this that I’m sure not everybody would maybe appreciate or love, but-
Scott H: I want to hear them.
Serik: I just feel like sound design is not something worth getting crazy, crazy obsessed over. At least I feel like in the production communities and stuff it seems to becoming more and more of a bigger deal. I just think that being able to tweak an existing sound or using multiple sounds when layer, it’s just way, way, way more effective than trying to make all of your sounds from scratch. For me being truly proficient in sound design is a pursuit that I mean that alone could take years and years, and I’m not saying it’s impossible to get good in a relatively short time, you definitely can, but I’d just rather be spending my time on creating a great mix, or writing a great composition, or learning to use some plug-ins, and processing chains before I would ever devote an insane amount of time to sound design.
Sound design, if you just look at your ADSR the basis of sound design, the types of sounds you’re trying to create is really rooted in just your envelope. If you want to pluck, fast attack, no release, these types of things. I don’t know, I love being able to manipulate sounds that already exist, but to me it’s also not as fun to sit around for three and a half hours trying to create one patch. I have no problem spending half hour, an hour one day doing something like that but I just feel like people get really, really lost inside of sound design when they haven’t even touched upon mastering composition or getting their mixes sounding right.
It’s a practice that eventually maybe you want to get more into and deeper into but I just stand on the side that it isn’t the utmost important thing to be working on.
Scott H: For sure, no that’s a really interesting perspective and it does make sense to me when you say that. It’s like well if you get so caught up in just designing this one sound but your arrangement is not so good, and these other parts of the whatever you’re doing are not great. Well okay great, you created this original sound that you really like but the rest of your mix is not great, so what are you going to do with that?
Serik: Yes, and I feel like most of the times where someone has asked how did you create that sound or what did you do to make that, most of the time it’s from obscure layering techniques and putting together some sounds that really maybe you wouldn’t think belong together or something like that, and then finding ways to smooth them out and use processing change to really beef them up. I just feel like there’s a lot more room for manipulation in that world then trying to do everything inside of just one synth.
Scott H: For sure, no I like that. Programming a great beat is so fundamental to music production, what sorts of strategies do you employ when it comes to creating a beat? Do you have any advice for programming something that sounds good, that works well because I know a lot of people struggle with this.
Serik: Yes, I mean I would say first off maybe using obscure sounds is a lot of fun. Trash cans and glass bells and water droplets, or metal hitting metal. Literally the stranger the better. I just think that manipulating audio to fit a more traditional beat with these strange sounds can just really sound super special. I think the weirder you can get and if it works, which you’ll have to use your taste and your ears to determine that, but if you can get it to work I just feel like that excites people a lot.
Then I guess programming a beat to me is all about making it sound human or somewhat organic so it doesn’t sound like you just put in some midi hits. You want it to sound like a live performance. Inside of that world I mean there are so many things you can be doing. Using sample delay to create some width. You can use actual delay to have some kind of artifacts hitting after the fact. You can layer every other high hat, for example, just with a completely different high hat, literally just give it a different groove on every other hits. You can use auto-panners to make things jump around the stereo spectrum, or auto filters, or tremolos. Anything to kind of get your percussion bouncing around in the stereo spectrum and kind of feeling more like a human performance. I think that, to me, is one of the more fun things to mess around with and play around with.
That, what else? Using tonal percussion is pretty huge. I feel like a lot of professionals, so EDX is all over this even outside of dance music, like Coldplay does this all the time is just using tonal percussive elements tuned to the track. You can just layer your two and four claps or your two and four snares, and that alone right away gives a completely different vibe to your track. Messing around with tonal percussion is definitely huge, and then The Chainsmokers always use vocal elements in their percussion, sometimes in their beats. Getting some kind of dope samples of vocal cuts or vocal shots, gang vocals, and then just layering that into the beat. Not to push everyone towards my sample pack, but if you just go to HyperbitsMusic.com/free the Hyperbits sample pack volume two, there’s a ton of these vocal sounds or vocal percussion sounds and tonal percussion labeled by key, which you can kind of use directly in your productions.
Scott H: That’s awesome, and just to speak again to the first part of what you said there talking about having kind of unique sounds and kind of crazy, creative whatever, there’s this video on YouTube that’s really cool. You know Owl City of course, and he made a video showing the different percussive sounds that he makes, and he makes his own. He’s like oh here I’m using this, this is me, I was just jingling some change in my pocket. Oh and then here’s this other sound, there’s this old beat up truck outside my house and I went around and I just kind of tapped different parts of the truck door, and then I found one that I liked and I recorded that and I used that. That just gives you an idea of the kinds of things you can do when you’re just thinking, just be creative and find a sound that you think is cool and do that.
Serik: Yes, I mean that’s awesome, that’s the type of stuff it gets me all excited. That’s why this space can be so fun. There’s a really cool YouTube video of Nightmare recording pots and pans, just finding things in his house or apartment or whatever and just recording them, and manipulating it in Ableton, and turning it into completely different sounding stuff. I feel like when you get into that physical world, when you’ve removed yourself from the limitations of maybe digital algorithms and all that, there’s just some really dope tambers in the world that you can bring in and play around with, and it definitely adds to creating your own sound and to just doing your own think.
Scott H: Well Serik, I wanted to thank you so, so much for joining me today. This was super informative and insightful.
Serik: Yes, this was a lot of fun. Thanks for having me man.
Scott H: Right on, and if you’d like to learn more from Hyperbits you can visit his site HyperbitsMusic.com. You can check out his Masterclass and he also has a free page with a bunch of webinars, learning tools, and sample packs as he mentioned earlier, so definitely check that out if you really want to level up your music production skills. Thank you so much for listening today, and as a reminder for links and information about today’s show and our guest please check out our show notes at AudioSkills.com/podcast. Remember, no matter where you are, what skill level you’re at, just go out there and make some great music.
Not Sure The Best Way To Get Started?
Here are some of my best resources to help you get started FAST...
=== Watch & Listen ===
- Step #1 - Listen to The AudioSkills Podcast for actionable tips you can immediately apply to your music
- Step #2 - Subscribe to my YouTube channel for new tutorials on mixing, mastering & music production
=== The Essentials (Everything You Need To Get Started) ===
Free Guides: 121 Mixing Tips 'n' Tricks | 47 EQ Tips 'n' Tricks | 47 Compression Tips 'n' Tricks | EQ Cheat Sheet | Compression Cheat Sheet | Home Recording Cheat Sheet | Mastering Cheat Sheet | Music Production Cheat Sheet | Top 20 DAWs
=== Go Even Deeper With Premium Video Courses ===
- Art of Home Recording [Instant Download]
- Art of Mixing Vocals [Instant Download]
- Music Production Crash Course [Instant Download]
- Ultimate Mixing Crash Course [Instant Download]
~~~ "Just Give Me Everything, Please!" ~~~
Get instant access to ALL of the video courses (plus a whole lot more) with a Free 14 Day Trial to AudioSkills. You'll be joining a private, friendly community of musicians and producers who are upping their game, just like you!
Personal Note: Thank you for being a member of the AudioSkills community! If there's anything you need, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me on Facebook. — Scott Hawksworth, Founder