Both as a solo producer and through her work in the duo Him_Self_Her, Claire Spooner – aka just Her – has established herself as a highly creative producer capable of blending carefully crafted sound design with catchy melodies.
His career to date has seen his releases land on labels such as Anjunadeep, Armada, Circus, Get Physical and Global Underground. Before its session at this year Brighton Music Conference – which runs May 25-27 – we caught up with Just Her to talk creativity, sound design and how to stay productive.
1. Less is more
“Probably the most important thing I’ve learned about music production – which took me a while to figure out – is that less is more in pretty much every way. Initially, I was going crazy with the EQ and compression on every sound on every track, thinking it was vital to my mix, or to “fix” sounds that weren’t going well. In fact, all of this was just muffling the mix and killing the natural dynamics of the sounds.
“Someone then gave me some golden advice: remove as much EQ and compression as possible and work on getting the sound straight from the source instead. Suddenly my mixes came to life. Game changer!
“A similar mistake is trying to add too many different sounds or instruments to ‘fill’ the mix, which can actually result in a cluttered and overworked arrangement or mix. It’s much better to strip things down and choose only the right sounds, using the full frequency range and stereo width, using tools like delay and reverb to fill in the gaps. And of course, make sure you have a kill hook to drive the track and hold the arrangement together.
“A final aspect of the ‘less is more’ idea is to impose limits on studio time and equipment. It’s very easy to buy a huge amount of analog gear and/or plugins and then sit for hours and hours in the studio, tweaking into oblivion and never finishing anything. It can be very useful to add restrictions on the time or equipment you will use for a track (or both) and stick strictly to that.
“You suddenly find yourself making decisions faster and moving on. The best pieces are almost always the ones that come together very quickly.
2. Thicken your sounds
“It may sound contradictory, but hear me out… In order to get more with less, it’s important to really work the sounds you have to the max and get as much thickness and harmony as possible.
“Sound layering is the easiest way to achieve this and has become a staple for me, especially for drums, bass and synth sounds. Often one of my synth melodies will consist of four or five sonic layers, each subtly covering a slightly different frequency range with careful use of synthesis and EQ.
“It is important, however, to be aware of phase cancellation when using this method, especially when layering low-pitched sounds like a kick drum or bass.
“Another brilliant – if slightly more technical – way to achieve this is to use parallel processing. This involves creating an auxiliary track containing compression, distortion, or any combination of effects, depending on the tone of the track. You can then add it in parallel to any sounds you want via sends, allowing you to dial in just the amount you need to create that extra harmony and thickness. This is a great way to amp up your drum sounds.
3. The beauty of reassignment (and happy accidents)
“A great way to maximize creativity and form new, original ideas is to use items for different purposes and see the results you get. For example, playing a synth melody through a vocal plug-in or moving your MIDI pattern from one channel to a different instrument channel and see how it sounds through a different plug-in.
“One trick I use very often is to add vocals in Ultrabeat (it’s Logic’s drum machine plug-in, but you can do this with any sample-playing instrument from drums) and triggering them with different start and end points, and vice versa to create random glitches or different wording.
“Accidents can also often spark a new idea, so don’t be afraid to just play around with sounds and instruments, trying to create in free flow without judgment or end goal – that’s often where the best ones lie. ideas.”
4. Take a step back
“Spend hours in the studio working on the same loop over and over again and you will undoubtedly lose your perspective and point of reference. Every producer got lost in a long late night studio session, creating something that ‘he thinks he’s amazing in the depths of sleep deprivation, only to listen in the morning and realize it’s rubbish.
“Short sessions or switching from one project to another are essential. Also, have on hand a bank of reference songs to listen to quickly in order to reaffirm your point of view. These should be tracks that you admire for the mix, arrangement, or overall sound and aesthetic.
“As a solo producer, it’s also really helpful for me to get a second opinion on tracks, so I’ll always send a new project to trusted ears for feedback. However, it’s important to remember that art is subjective and your music is your music, so follow your instincts if you disagree with someone’s opinion.
5. Creativity and productivity are essential
“Ultimately, with electronic music, the listener typically consumes your art on a dance floor, in a car, or some similar place. They probably appreciate the timing and the musicality; they don’t care how much time you spent EQing your snare or tweaking your compression settings.
“Dedication, productivity and creativity are more important than studio equipment or technical jargon in my opinion. A good hook, melody or arrangement are the most important elements of a track for those moments of euphoria on the dance floor or for the listener at home.
“Of course, tracks still need to be solidly produced, but the best way to do that is to just get in the studio and make as much music as you can. Even if you throw some of it away. Your music will get better at every track you create and you can gradually add new techniques, methods, or studio equipment as you go.It’s a better way to improve than getting lost in YouTube videos and trying to learn all the techniques at the same time. Just. Making, building. Music.”
Just Her will speak at the ‘Art of the Remix’ panel on Friday, May 27 at Brighton Music Conference and DJing at the Lady of the House networking event on Thursday, May 26 at Southern Belle.