Music production

Perc: 5 things I learned about music production

A mainstay of the British techno scene, Perc has been advancing the genre for nearly 20 years, incorporating influences from noise, drone and industrial music into extensive 4/4 builds that flirt with experimentation without losing sight of reason. to be music – to make people dance.

Perc’s latest EP is a distinctively vigorous three-track collection of tête-à-tête that sees the producer reducing his ideas to a handful of powerful elements that compress maximalist intensity into a minimalist package. After the record’s release, we sat down with Perc to hear his five essential tips for music production, covering kick layering, sidechain build-ups, and the dangers of over-EQing.

1. Analog front digital

“I’m not a purist and use a mix of analog and digital processing ranging from free plugins and cheap second-hand guitar pedals to more expensive circuit-modeled plugins and valve rack units. It might just be me, but I’ve found that getting a signal out of my computer through analog gear, and then into a chain of plugins, always works better than the other way around.

“I think the analog gear colors the signal and takes away the digital advantage before the very precise control of the plugins kicks in. I use Ableton Live and all of my external hardware effects are set up using routings. recorded external audio effects, so it’s easy for me to change the order of an effects chain when experimenting with a sound.

2. The sidechain build-up trick

“I don’t use a lot of risers or stacks of effects when I start to break down a track, but if I want an increase in the intensity of an arrangement before a breakdown, I automate the ratio controls. all tracks that are sidechain compressed from the kick In. As the track approaches a break, I automate the ratio controls of all compressors slowly down to 1: 1.

Bass drums made up of six or even eight layers often sounded good in the studio but terrible when testing the track in a club

“This reduces the side chain effect and the separation of the tracks and also gradually increases their volume. It makes the trail a bit more chaotic and messy when you get to a break without having to use risers or white noise or something (which I don’t like). Then as the track picks up after the break, I automate the ratio controls to their original setting before the first kick.


(Image credit: Jimmy Mold)

3. Pay attention to stack the kicks

“I used to lose my focus sometimes and build bass drums that were six or even eight layers and they often sounded good in the studio but terrible when testing the track in the club. Working with Ansome has taught me how important it is to make sure all elements of your kick are in sync and that’s something I’m really watching now. I also reduced the number of items I use for a kick. Two or three layers are the most I’ll be using now and if the kick doesn’t work with just a few layers then throw it off and start over.

“Most of my songs now only have one kick layer, then maybe a high-pitched transient like the very beginning of a closed 909 hi-hat, but the transient will be filtered by a high-pass filter at a frequency. so high that it is far from close. interfering with the main kick frequencies. I like that my transients are barely noticeable, they should just provide a bit of attack and click the kick, and like the reverb, I only want to notice them when I’m cutting them, not when they’re active.

4. Do not use templates

“I’ve seen people on YouTube open their DAWs and the kick is already on channel 1, snares and claps on 2, some kind of bass synth on 3, lead synth on 4 etc with a reverb on aux. 1 and a reverb on aux 2. Yes it’s handy and if you want to do a track in a few hours it really helps, I prefer to start from zero every time.

Think about every production and engineering decision in relation to that particular sound and its place in the song you are working on

“I think it helps each track sound unique and keeps you from doing the same things over and over again. When I open Ableton Live there is a limiter and a plugin for mono low frequencies on the master channel, but they are disabled and that’s it. Everything else has to be done from scratch every time and that means I never know which direction I’m going to go and I really like it.

5. Don’t equalize the life of your song

“Years ago I would automatically add a high pass EQ band to every channel that wasn’t kick or bass and to all of my aux return tracks. After a while, I realized that it made my pieces lifeless and brittle. Cutting frequencies to prevent a sound from overlapping the kick is fine, but doing it by default on each channel without stopping to think about whether it’s really necessary can quickly suck all the life and warmth out of a track. .

“The point to remember is not to fall back on default behaviors and to think through every production and engineering decision in relation to that particular sound and its place in the track you’re working on. “

Perc’s Greed Dance is now available on Perc Trax.

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