From the creators of “Rolling Techno” – here are 5 production tips guaranteed to elevate your tracks.
Drench your drums in reverb
If you want to recreate a classic warehouse techno sound you need to go for some slow decay reverb on your kick and clap. This works best for punchy or grainy kicks rather than smooth, “subby” 808 kicks. It can sometimes help to mix in a small amount of 1/8th delay with your kick, at very low wet levels and short to medium feedback. This style of kick can be heard on tracks such as “Born Slippy,” by Underworld.
Don’t be afraid of higher BPM’s
Go crazy – if you’re into making wall punching techno tracks you sometimes have to crank up that BPM dial past 130. At very high BPM’s you can also create some interesting cross-over tracks by adding old school jungle beats over a 4/4 kick. You’ll never fail with that.
Distortion is your friend
Distort those kick drums, toms, and claps, or run them through old tape deck preamps and cheap mixers. Some personality never hurts. VST tape saturation emulators are also highly recommended. Don’t go too overboard – high levels of distortion can be fatiguing in a club.
For Rolling Techno, pads are sometimes employed to set the mood right. You’d want to go for the darker textures here – play them in minor chords or peculiar chord combinations which you can experiment with until you get an uneasy vibe going on. Then you know you’re on the right track. A simple example would be to employ a chord using two “neighboring” notes, just one semitone apart, then transpose the first note one octave up, or the second note one octave down. The result will be extremely dark and tense, which is what you want. Sometimes brighter pads can work to good effect, but you run the risk of making your track too atmospheric and passive, this is Rolling Techno, you need to keep people on their feet, dancing their socks off.
Arpeggios and sequences
Try odd 3/4, 5/4 or 7/4 time signatures with your arpeggiated synths – it’s a very common practice among techno producers, and it creates a very ritualistic, trance-like environment. Translated in bars and beats, this simply means that you will resize the length of your midi clip at 3 beats, 5 beats, 7 beats and so on. Anything that’s not 4, 8, 16, will sound great for this effect. This doesn’t mean that 4/4 doesn’t work for sequence – it’s just that it’s easier for the listener’s brain to pick it up and decipher it. An odd time signature will keep a listener on his toes, never to expect what notes are coming next. Be sure to modulate your arpeggio’s Filter, Release or FX by hand or automation; no one likes listening to the same dry sequence over and over again.
One other cool trick is to mix in a bit of syncopation by randomizing or adding an LFO to the velocity of the sequence’s notes. You can do this with Ableton’s Velocity midi effect for randomness, or hook your Velocity effect with a Max for live LFO midi for more control.This will surely liven up your synth lines.
Get your hands on a three oscillator synth – set OSC 1 to 0 semitones, OSC 2 to 3 semitones, OSC 3 to 7 semitones and voila! Techno chord machine at your fingertips. Experiment with different waveforms, filter settings, add delay and reverb to liven them up a bit. If you want to make a chord from a single synth sample in Ableton, just hook it up to the native Chord Effect and apply the same semitone formula as before: 0, 3, 7. If you’re into Detroit vibes you might want to add another oscillator/chord shift at ten semitones to create a seventh chord – this practice will open your chords up a bit, making them sound more playful.