Ken Bauer’s musical talents are a gift that evidently comes naturally to the Swedish DJ and Producer, after playing piano from a young age Ken then took an interest in the art of music production.
Ken’s broad taste in music allows for him to blend multiple genres into his productions, drawing inspiration from genres such as Big Room, Electro and Progressive House, his productions as his music has been supported by the likes of Sander Van Doorn, Yves V, Quintino, and Nicky Romero. We caught up with Ken to find out some of his top music production tips.
T.H.E – First off, how did you learn how to produce music?
Ken Bauer – I learned by trial and error. I have always been interested in computers and started to play with Cubase on an ATARI ST when I was a kid. Then it wasn’t until several years later I found out about Reason and I started to play with music again. Then I took real music production courses both in classrooms and online.
T.H.E – Can you recommend any websites/apps/videos that are good to learn from?
Ken Bauer – I started reading the UK based Computer Music Magazine several years ago and got to know one of the featured authors, Owen Palmer, who has taught me a lot about music production and mixing. I really recommend the online school nextlevelsound.com founded by Danny Wyatt, which is a great school for learning mixing and mastering. Today I am also part of the teammbl.com community and I have learned a lot from my good friend & inspiration @musicbyLukas. For YouTube, my favourite place to learn and get inspiration from is the excellent channel Zen World.
T.H.E – What’s the most important thing to keep in mind when making music?
Ken Bauer – To have fun! When I started to get success support from other Heavyweight DJs such as Sander van Doorn, Quantino, Nicky Romero, etc, I actually got stressed and raised the quality bar so high that I didn’t manage to produce anything. I didn’t think anything I did was good enough but then I said to myself that I don’t care whether my next track will get support or not. The stress disappeared and I had fun producing music again. Also, make sure that you finish a lot of the tracks you start. Even if you don’t think they are good enough. You have to make a lot of bad tracks before you can start to make good tracks.
T.H.E – What are the essentials that any beginner producer needs to have?
Ken Bauer – Well, obviously a DAW. I know that a lot of EDM producers use FL and Ableton but I have been using Studio One for 10 years and I think it is the best DAW for me and it is perfect for both beginners and professionals.
T.H.E – What are your opinions on sampling?
Ken Bauer – Since I don’t sample myself, I don’t really have an opinion. I would say it is OK as long as you don’t violate anyone’s copyright or hard work. There are legal ways to clear samples.
T.H.E – Which part of the track do you find its best to start with?
Ken Bauer – The 4×4 kick ;-). Kidding aside. I always start with the drop. Adding everything and making the track as loud as I can without breaking it. Then I strip down all the elements for intro, breakdown, outros, etc.
T.H.E – How important is it to learn an instrument or music theory?
Ken Bauer – I know the basics and honestly, I wish I knew more. You can definitely make smashing club bangers with massive support with minimum to none music theory, but it is definitely a lot easier to produce great music if you have good music theory.
T.H.E – What is your go-to software for producing music?
Ken Bauer – My DAW is Studio One from Presonus. I do have Ableton Live and Logic as well, but I merely use Ableton to create my DJ mixes and to create perfect tempo matched loops when I get sent other tracks or stems for remix work.
I love all the plugins from fabfilter and even though I have literally thousands of plugins I always revert back to the fabfilter stuff.
My main synths are Avenger from Vengeance, Serum from xferrecords, Spire from Reveal Sound and Sylenth1 from Lennar Digital.
T.H.E – Do you think it is essential for a producer to know how to mix and master?
Ken Bauer – It depends. If you have a killer hook and/or vocal idea and play it for a label or artist they will eventually have to mix and master it properly before it is release ready. I would say that the cold and hard truth is that it does matter that the track is well mixed and mastered.
There are a lot of services out there from people offering to mix and master your music at reasonable prices. On a personal note, I think it is a bit unfair being a DJ & Producer in the EDM scene compared to for example Rihanna or Justin Timberlake. As a DJ & Producer, you are expected to come up with a music idea, write the melody and chord progression yourself as well as arranging, producing, mixing & mastering everything yourself.
T.H.E – When do you know a track is ready to be released?
Ken Bauer – I have finally realized that a track will never be perfect. You can always add an extra percussion, change the synth lead, add or remove another riser and if you would give the track to another producer, he or she would probably change 10 things right away. But I actually do a few things. I always send the track to a friend or producer friend that likes the genre I am working with and ask for their feedback. Then I listen to the track in my studio, iPhone, air pods and car and make sure it translates well in all speakers. If I have a DJ gig in the near future I try to sneak in the track in my sets and get a good feeling on how it translates in the club and how the crowd reacts.