“And” — a simple connector of things. Before the sounds of electronic music dominated the airwaves, there was a communal experience among those who had discovered this obscure genre of music. Out of a desire to celebrate the connectedness of that community, Anden was born.
Brothers Tom and Pete Cuppernull have spent the last decade applying their lifelong musicianship to their music. Classically trained on the violin, cello, and trumpet, Anden’s organic and warm productions have garnered cross-genre acclaim from Pete Tong, Diplo and Solomun, supporting their rise as New York City’s breakout house and techno act.
To celebrate 8 Years Of T.H.E, the brothers share important music production tips that might prove to be useful for upcoming producers.
1. Finish music
If we could give one tip, it would be this one. There is simply no substitute for finishing music. It allows you to move on from old ideas and forces you to do the single most important thing a music producer does: actually produce music. As an extreme, work on one idea at a time and don’t move on until it’s finished — constantly cycling through multiple half-finished ideas is a recipe for stagnation.
2. Quantity over quality
Following from the first tip, we’re believers that the key to finding your sound as a producer and making great records is to literally make 1,000 songs. We’re just about at that mark today (after 10 years producing) — if you’re spending months tweaking productions (and not finishing music!), you’ll never get there.
This tip might feel a bit backwards, because we certainly need quality in our music too. But, the quality we need most is in the song, in the musical idea underlying the production. Almost without fail, the best Anden songs came together within the first two hours of work. Spending days (or weeks) tweaking a subpar idea won’t get you a great song — writing tons of ideas and picking the best ones will.
3. Sample relentlessly
Sampling and electronic music go hand in hand — the fastest way to create great sounds is to borrow great sounds from other places. Sample kicks and other drums from different songs, isolate synth one-shots and put them into your track, take a recorder outside and capture street noise to layer under a production. The best producers we know are recycling tons of sounds from other songs — we advise you to do the same.
4. Reference for creativity, arrangement, and engineering
Every song that exists presents valuable material to learn from, and there is no need to reinvent the wheel with your own music. Adapt chord progressions from other songs, remake and slightly tweak synth patches, map out the arrangements of songs that have great energy and rearrange your songs accordingly, and drop well-mixed songs into your production file to try to match their mixdowns.
Use a different song for each of these steps and you’ll have something uniquely yours. Picasso said “art is theft”, and your own voice will come through in this process via your decisions of which ideas you choose to borrow.
5. Perfect sounds are boring
Perfectionism is your greatest enemy. Not only will it stop you from finishing music — creative work is never really “done” after all, we just decide to stop working on something — but perfect sounds are boring. They’re sterile, rigid, and lifeless. The sounds (and songs) we love have mistakes, imperfections, and they don’t follow a perfect structure. They’re human.
Perfectionism poses a massive challenge when creating electronic music because with computers, we have the ability to make perfect sounds. It falls back on us to implement intentional imperfections. Introduce noise, random movements, humanized midi, and evolving synth patches, use analog gear (or samples) and real-world sounds, and avoid “8 bars, make a change, 8 bars, make a change” arrangements. Even though you’re using machines to make music, the best productions are the ones where the human controlling those machines is present.
6. Use saturation and distortion
This is the first of two technical tips. We would argue that the best thing you can do to create music that is warm and full is to use saturation and distortion (saturation is just harmonic distortion, so it’s a bit more pleasant). Saturation and distortion bring thin, synthetic sounds to life, make things sounds more analog and “real”, and add perceived loudness and size.
There are tons of ways you can do this. The Soundtoys Decapitator is our favorite saturation plugin, you can use preamp emulations at the beginning of your processing chains (UAD 610-B, Waves Scheps73, and Soundtoys Radiator are some favorites), use analog modeled EQs and compressors (Waves API-2500, Waves API-560, and the UAD Pultec plugins are all amazing). We have our grandfather’s old guitar amp in the studio, and will send synth sounds into that and record them with a microphone. Guitar Rig by Native Instruments can be heard on almost every Anden record.
7. Use fewer FX
The overuse of FX is a dead giveaway of a lackluster production. Try producing your track entirely without FX. Energy and flow should be created with your songwriting, arrangement, and movement in your sounds (a great trick is opening or closing a filter over time, or adding extra delays and reverbs in a buildup). Only at the very end of your production should you think about adding risers and crashes — they are the icing on the cake of your great track.
8. Invest in education
Trial and error is a painfully slow way to learn music production (or anything). Youtube tutorials are great, but it’s impossible to know which advice you should follow. The alternative approach is to invest in education. Your music will sound better if you spend $100 learning how to properly use a compressor than if you buy a $100 compressor and use it improperly.
There are plenty of online production “masterclasses” out there — we advise avoiding the very expensive programs (like Icon Collective) and the overhyped generic classes (Deadmau5 and Armin van Buuren masterclasses), and go for mid-tier priced, artist-driven resources. The Hyperbits Masterclass and EDMProd programs are both great. Also, most mid-level artists we know offer some sort of private lessons and engineering services (we do as well).
Take this in two steps. First, seek out an online education resource that provides a broad overview of music production topics. After you complete that program and distill what you’ve learned, find a mentor that can provide you personalized training.
Whew! These are some amazing, and comprehensive tips that will definitely add value to any producer’s arsenal of production processes. Make sure you share those with your producer friends!