In this series we will be following Ben Kama, one of this site's most esteemed producers with numerous releases under his belt, as he takes us on the journey of a drum and bass track from sketching out initial ideas all the way through to the final production. Along the way we will learn about his techniques, listen to the various stages of the track as it progresses, and follow through all the highs and frustrations of putting a piece of music together.
We have no idea how many parts there will be to this series, or even if the finished track will be any good. But in this first entry, Ben has been struck by inspiration, so let's follow him as he lays down the foundations for his new track.
Entry #1: The pain of creation
During my last 2 hours at the construction site I was really distracted from my work because I was so excited about the idea of creating something like a "public" tune. On the bus ride home a simple melody popped into my mind and I started humming it right there, on the bus. On the ride I also decided to make every audio clip here downloadable, so anyone reading this can "hop on" the track at any point and do their own version!
Once home I laid the melody down on FLStudio's piano roll with a bass sound I had created earlier as I was just tweaking sounds and saved it because it sounded gully. This is actually coming from the EMU sampler - I recorded a multisample of the synth (TAL Elek7ro, free) because it had a bug where the filter attack setting wouldn't save itself, plus I love the sound of EMU z-plane filters. Here's the raw sound doing the melody:
To me it sounded a bit plain so I went for some LFO & filter attack action from the EMU z-planes. I still kept the sound coming from the sampler (ie. didn't record it as audio) in case I wanted to change something.
It's pretty hard to judge a single sound so I decided to add something to see how things would develop - I started searching for a lush pad sound. In pads my go-to synth is Rob Papen Albino but this time I tried some samples from a package called "evolving pads" that I got off a music mag cover dvd. After 20 minutes of playing around with them it simply started to bore me and I thought it might sound better with something more bouncy.
I went straight for a cheesy lead (just a preset to see how things roll out) from Rob Papen Predator and followed the key of the bassline.
At this point I'm really not sure if all of this is gonna work out or not as to me the "tune" sounds nothing special so far. I still decided to go for a little bass science before trying any beats on it. I split the bass into 2 channels - low and high - and went crazy with the high channel on distortion and filtering. It did sound a little better but again, it's hard for me to judge just two sounds against each other, so I thought it was time for a cigarette break (yes, I failed to kick the habit).
After the little break it didn't sound as good as I thought, and I hate to admit it but the melody was to blame. So it was back to the ol' drawing board for a complete makeover of the clip. I went on with the same sounds but duplicated the original bass and made a highpassed version of it. At this point everything was still in the sampler. I went for something much more simple and straightforward. After a while of twiddling I had almost given up hope but this made up for the failed first try.
As a happy accident things started sounding really alive when I recorded them and put them on the same FX channel I had split into two before:
And once I had made a tiny basic drop with the duplicated sound I was happy for the day. It wasn't much, but after the disappointment from the first sketch I thought it was a good start.
All in all the session was riddled with interruptions - my boss called me, I received my next forthcoming single from mastering and I had a few chats on AIM, and of course every once in a while I wrote this journal. Perhaps next time I will just create what I feel and write everything after the session, not during it.