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Music with purpose: Sahar shares 5 studio tips

Sahar, also known as Levi Stubbs, is a talented electronic music artist from Middlesbrough. He combines indie rock/pop and electronic dance music to create a distinct fusion.

Photo credit: Imaani Iris

As a resident at Riffraff and a regular at ISOLATE, Sahar has built a strong reputation in the electronic music community. His live performances feature vocals and self-written lyrics that provide an intimate glimpse into his artistic soul. Sahar has gained recognition from influential figures like Pete Tong, Dixon, and Ame.

Recently featured on BBC’s 2023 ‘Ones to Watch’ list, Sahar’s sound continues to evolve, drawing inspiration from British post-punk music and synthesizers. He has collaborated with Isolate, Paradiso, and Buttress Records. In 2023, Sahar aims to expand his catalog, promising a year of progress and deep connection through his music.

Sahar’s latest musical venture, ‘Stereo Love’ on ISOLATE, is a collection of five tracks that blend electronic beats with nostalgic tones. It combines reflective lyrics, vintage instrumentation, and pulsating rhythms.

To celebrate the release, Sahar invites us into his studio to share five tips for creating purposeful music.

1. Automation, automation, automation – on everything!

This should really be a given, but the main reason most people feel that their tracks aren’t finished is because many of the parts are ‘stuck in the loop’ – things like filters, delay, and reverbs are the three essentials. But also be sure to automate things like modulation speed/depth and distortion settings too.

2. Make a mess, tidy up later

In your DAW, I mean… You only need a few bars recorded of the ‘perfect loop’ that you can reuse and recall back to in your track. Once you have that, I find it’s best to do long audio recordings where you take many divergences and go crazy with your equipment (the improved workflow of having the functions of each instrument accessible by dedicated knobs and sliders is the only reason I use hardware). I will usually go for 10-15 minutes. All that audio will come in really useful in the later stages of creating the track; you can get creative with your resampling and also layer the more musical sections with your perfectly designed loop to give your track that feeling of progression, which brings me to my next tip…

3. Double it!

Clutter is bad. All the parts of your track should have a purpose. One of the biggest mistakes I see from people starting out is when frequencies are missing from their track, they try to fill the gaps with something brand new that totally counters the main theme. It will either sap some of the life from the main idea or just sound generally messy. Layering is key for making your tracks sound rich and full. With drum sounds, white noise is your best friend. Also, adding distorted versions of the sound around the stereo field is perfect for adding depth and width. With synths, try doubling the MIDI from your main theme and running it at different octaves, through other synths, or even experiment with weird sample instruments. Once you start bringing all these different layers in and out on top of all your automation, you should basically have a finished track.

4. EQ – remember, less is more

There’s something about stacking poorly EQ’d elements that makes tracks sound so unnatural and bad. The main thing you need to remember is this: When boosting frequency, you’re doing it for the vibe of the sound, so keep your Q nice and wide. When cutting frequencies, keep it surgical. The only cuts you should make are to reduce very specific overpowering or ringing frequencies.

Lastly, if you want your tracks to have a natural ‘organic’ feel (minimal producers, stop reading here), lay off on the low-cut. I know the first thing you learn as a producer is to cut all the unnecessary low frequencies, but it’s easy to take this too far, which can make things sound sterile. I reach for a low-shelf way more often these days as it sounds more natural and doesn’t mess with the phase of the source sound.

5. If you run out of ideas, just make your track shorter

Another thing that should be obvious but isn’t. I get sent 8-minute tracks and people saying “I don’t know what to do to finish it” – just make it shorter! 2 minutes of the track are boring, that’s why it doesn’t feel finished. So make it 2 minutes shorter. In fact, make it 3 minutes shorter and watch how all of your build-ups and sound effects come closer together and start to interact with each other. Now you have a really cool 5-minute track and you can stop pulling your hair out and move on to the next one.

Sahar’s ‘Stereo Love’ is out now via ISOLATE. Stream and download here.

Follow Sahar: Spotify | Soundcloud | Instagram | Facebook

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