Ever since young production up-start Oliver Heldens burst onto the scene with his crossover smash ‘Koala‘ on Spinnin’ Deep, the future house sound has rapidly grown to dominate clubs, festivals and radio worldwide – making it the genre du jour 2015.
So on the back of the release of our epic 1.3GB Future House Generation sample pack, we thought we’d touch base with the producer at the controls to get the inside track on the top production techniques behind the distinctive future house sounds.
1. Fifth element
Fifth chords or “power chords” are the key musical motif in future house. This means that the synth and basslines consist of the the root note and the fifth note (five semitones up). An easy way to achieve this to simply tune the second oscillator on your synth of choice five semitones up or alternatively, seven semitones down. Now you can play lines with just one key to get your fifth chord sound. Finally, add some portamento for that sliding hook effect.
2. Stack it
A clever trick to make your synth and basslines sound big and bold is layering. It’s not uncommon to have up to four or more different layers to create a single synth or bassline. Try thinking about the lead or bass sound as jigsaw: all the pieces (high, mid and low frequencies) have to fit together to complete the puzzle. Each layer should add harmonics to the frequency spectrum, whilst paying attention that different layers are not fighting for the same sonic space. Using a spectrum analyser you easily can see any potential frequency overloads or gaps. Use EQs and filters to sculpt and carve out frequency clashes and look to add in a new layer to shore up any frequency holes. With basslines in particular, it’s good practice add a separate sub layer (below 60kHz) to fill up the low-end for a more heavyweight sound. This can be a simple sine wave playing the same notes transposed down one octave from your main riff.
3. Bus processing
Route your your different synth and bass layers to the same mix bus and process them as whole. For the bus processing use multi-band distortion to add some more grit to your sounds as it allows you to process low, mid, high frequencies independently for a more controlled processing. For example, add distortion only to high frequencies to help the sound cut through in the mix whilst leaving the low frequencies intact for a cleaner low-end. For your lead bus processing, mid/side EQ can be very useful. A good trick is to boost high frequencies of the side signal (the stereo information) to make your leads sound even wider.
Conventional music production wisdom says that basslines and reverb do not mix. That’s not the case with future house. Against common practice, future house tracks often have reverb-processed bass lines. The trick here is to only add reverb to specific frequencies in the bassline to ensure it still maintains punch and weight. The low-end of the bassline should be left unprocessed and in mono. If your reverb doesn’t have have low-cut option you can simply use an EQ to cut out the low frequencies.