1. Drum detail
Great sounding drums start with great sounding source material. The better the quality, the less work you will have to do. Whether you are using samples, software or hardware spend some time getting the right sounds that work together. After that, try and inject some human energy into your beats by playing some of the parts, rather than sequencing them. But if you do chose to sequence, try to vary the velocity of hits when programming rather than have everything at the same level. This will help accentuate the groove and add dynamism to the beat much like a real drummer.
2. Sumptuous synths
Adjusting the filter settings on your synth gives the widest range of new tones. A good place to start is cut-off and the modulation sources that affect it – especially envelope amount, keyboard tracking, keyboard velocity and the settings of the filter envelope. Also check if your synth has a unison mode or if you can add two or more voices for each oscillator to give the tone more bite. If not, one trick for added thickness is to double the root note of the chord with the same note two octaves lower and one or two octaves higher.
3. Adding ambience
To create some nice background ambience try using a delay effect on a synth stab with a long decay and automate the feedback level. High-pass filter the delay return to keep the low-end of your mix uncluttered. Keep your loops sounding interesting by automating a reverb ramp on the last bar. This process can also be used within your track arrangement before breakdowns or to introduce a new element in the mix.
4. Wary of widening
Stereo-widening effects can create a lot of space in the mix, but they can also take away from the weight, punch and direction of individual parts. A good way to maximise space without detracting from the sound is to insert a stereo reverb, then apply your widening tool to the reverb rather than the dry signal.
Make sure to check out our Melodic Deep House pack for some inspirational sounds.