Drum Machines Iced with Organic Percussion
Layering organic percussion over a drum machine can enhance your drum track significantly. Many producers have access to similar 808 and 909 kick and snare samples, so why not add something truly unique to your high end. Once you have programmed a basic pattern on your drum machine or drum rack that you are happy with, take some time to set up a microphone and layer that beat with your own hand claps, snaps, shakers, tambourines or whatever other objects that are available and will resonate. In adding organic percussion, you will brighten your mix, physically engage with your track, and bring a human feel to your rhythms. Listeners will hear that you’ve gone outside the box.
Reinforcing Bass using EQ to Boost Sub Frequencies
One of the best ways to beef up the bass line of your track is to accentuate its sub frequencies between 20 – 60 Hz. This is a delicate technique; if you add too much, the sub-bass will swallow your track and cloud your mix. Once you find and boost the frequency in your bass that gives your track some metro-boom, experiment with a low-pass filter to see where you can roll off the rest of the low frequencies without losing the feel created by the sub boost. Even if you can’t hear the lowest frequencies (0 – 10 Hz), rolling them off will bring clarity to your overall mix and the accentuated sub frequencies will actually thrust that much more.
Using Synth Pads to Thicken Mid-Range
If you already have your drum, bass and lead elements in place and the sonic environment is still feeling a bit empty, adding an ambient synth pad to your mid range might give your track buoyancy. A string sound with a soft attack and longer decay usually works well for dreamy indietronica. Have this synth match or compliment the bass line for instant depth. Going beyond, side-chain that same synth patch to your kick drum to maintain the new ambience without losing the drive and pulse of the overall track.
Lead Synth to Mirror Vocal Line
In this genre, vocals are usually more embedded within the music than standard pop where vocals always reside on top of the mix. A hushed vocal can be fortified by having a lead synth exactly mirror the vocal melody so that they work in tandem. This might make the vocal more musical and less intrusive to the ethereal atmospheres often associated with indietronica and synthwave. If you fancy a more robotic sounding voice for your track, you may want to vocode the shared melody by using the vocal as a modulating signal and the synth as a carrier signal, to the point where the two sounds merge to produce kraftwerkian sibilance.
Employing Reverb Tastefully
Reverb is without a doubt one of the most important effects for creating indietronica. Adding just a small amount of reverb to your snares and claps can open up space in your drum and overall mix. For harsh, grainy or coarse synths, reverb can also help round and smoothen the edges. While it can certainly add great breath to individual elements in your mix, remember that reverb can also dull important musical events, so be sure to use it with restraint. The sweet spot is often a result of splitting the difference!