On March 2020 the world was abruptly thrown into collective disarray. The pandemic stopped almost…
Simon Schmidt, aka Blindsmyth, is a musical globetrotter – his live sets are a voyage of discovery between deep electronic soundscapes and experimental pop music. His music could be described as an intense sound universe, with most of the sounds growing from acoustic roots.
After completing his composer-, music and studio production degree at the Prins Claus Conservatorium in Groningen, The Netherlands, and already having a great deal of live performance and tour experiences, Simon started to explore different music genres and techniques. As such, he started to combine his instrumental background with electronic production- and performance techniques.
Since 2014, Simon has been a freelance artist, producer, liveact, and DJ in Berlin. The project ‘Blindsmyth’ evolved from an artistic examination of his internal and external surroundings, which are the source of his inspiration and are represented in his music by numerous field recordings. Blindsmyth is exploring sound and space in order to create something new, using his impressions and recordings. His sound spectrum ranges from impulsive and groovy to experimental and dreamy. Therefore his music cannot be labeled or limited to one niche.
Blindsmyth shared with us some production tips to bring your ideas to life in the studio.
1. Keep the spark of your first idea
We all know about this moment. You’re working in your DAW, drum machine, or groove box and you have some loops that really catch you. You feel the vibes and start dancing in your studio. Good! Preserve that vibe somehow. Make a little arrangement immediately, record what you are doing. Record audio snippets. Make a quick rough mixdown and bounce it down to a file.
Then in the process, you will start working on your project. It will evolve, transform, and many people get lost in this process. Always when you feel you don’t know where you are going, put that recording of your first session. Maybe it will sound a bit rough but it will also remind you what is the main spark that inspired you at that moment. That vibe, that key idea. Sometimes you realize you went a completely different road on your track, and that could be Ok. But sometimes you also realized that you were overdoing your sound, making your arrangement too complex. And the spark and simplicity of your first idea is what you want to go for.
2. Vocalize your hook
Ok, this one will sound a little stupid. But try singing your hook/bassline/lead. When you go biking through the city when you are under your shower when you are alone doing the dishes.
It doesn’t matter if you sound like an 8-year old trying to beatbox. It doesn’t matter if you have a clear melody line or just an abstract pumping techno groove. Sing it!
I always feel the moment that I vocalize my music I connect with it on a more intuitive and natural level. I dive deeper into the musical idea and really feel it. And very often a singable hook is a good hook! And yes this works with techno as well. Does it sound stupid? Maybe! But who cares, a good hook is a good hook.
3. Use your DAW as a sketchbook.
If you have played live sets with hardware (or with Ableton sessions based on simple building blocks) you will realize that an arrangement is always just one possible version of a track out of infinite possibilities. And that is fine, it’s good to make choices, and how else would you release your music?
Nevertheless, I think focusing too much on this one absolute timeline can hinder your creative process. What I like to do when I arrange is use the timeline in my daw more like a sketchbook. I would freely put together different elements in one fragment of the timeline and make a possible 2min part of the song. Then I would do this repeatedly until I have many mini parts that show different facets of where the track would go. Then when I go into the full, real arrangement I would draw Ideas from these little snippets having the main arrangement at the beginning of the timeline and the loose sketchbook part after. Sometimes I also have to kick out ideas of the main arrangement. Then I would still save them in the sketchbook part. If you really have to kill that part this technique makes it easier to do so. If that part just didn’t come in the right moment, you still have it saved and could use it at a different moment in the arrangement.
4. Tune your Bassdrum (with distortion)
If you’re into house and techno music production, tuning your bass drum is everything. It’s literally the pumping heart of your production.
All though there are tuners around, they can be sometimes confused with the exact pitch of your bassdrum because this is essentially a falling sine wave that comes to rest at a specific frequency. And sometimes the pitch the tuner sees doesn’t feel alright. So sometimes you have no choice but to tune it by ear and sometimes it’s not that easy to hear the exact pitch of your kick, it’s might too low.
And here comes a little extra trick that I can recommend: Put a shit load of distortion/saturation (anything that does harmonic distortion). It will sound horrible, like a gabber or hardstyle bassdrum. At the same time, the more saturation you dial in, the better you will be able to perceive clear tone in the bassdrum. That is because the overtones that you add through the saturation will make it easier to identify the pitch for your brain.
5. Try out different Tunings/Temperaments
Ok, so you like the detune knob on your synthesizer? Good! It’s nice how you twist it and suddenly hearing more or less phasing and beating coming in while turning it, isn’t it? What if I told you that there is a detune implemented in our tuning system, the 12 tone equal temperament? If you just press any two notes in the piano or synthesizer there will be always an amount of detune added between these two notes.
Many world music and historical tunings are based on pure intervals, which equals to no detune in my analogy here. And many synthesizers and DAWs let you put in different tunings. Just try out a „just intonation“ tuning and you will know what I mean. The sound stands like a block, there is no phasing or whatsoever. Just like two oscillators in perfect unison. Then if you turn it back to „normal“, you will hear the phasing, the detune going on. This is something you can use creatively in your music. Aphex Twin is one of the electronic musicians that have been pushing this a lot, thanks to him we have these kinds of features implemented in a couple of hardware synths too.
In my own music, changing the tuning or temperament of my tracks, helped me breathe live in chord progressions that I had heard over and over. By changing the tuning I suddenly heard nuances in my chord progressions that I had never heard before.