Happy New Ear – Stimming’s 30 Days of Music Production Advice

On my endless quest for new music, listening to mix after mix searching for a new sound that excites me, I finally came across a M.A.N.D.Y. mix that had a song titled “Blacklist – Pezzner (Stimming Remix)” and I really liked the song. I found it to be both sexy and magical, so I decided to do a bit more research on Stimming. Looking a little deeper I found a cornucopia of amazing songs in his catalogue. His take on house music is truly unique, incorporating a variety of noises and sounds that constantly make me question, “how did he take this weird sound and turn it into music?” His sound ranges from beautiful/etherial to something that you might hear on a galactic parade in the future. His songs are guaranteed to get your friends dancing in your living room next time you guys are all pre-gaming before a show, give it a try.

Check out 2 of my favorite tracks “Die Taube Auf Dem Dach” & “Ferdinand” from his self-titled album Stimming released earlier this year…

Below are some of my other favorite tracks…

As an added gift for the Holidays, Stimming decided to help out all aspiring music producers by posting (on his Facebook) an advent calendar of useful tips for producing music which I have reposted below.

Dec.1
…my clap sounds thin and if I make it ‘loud enough’ it destroys my mix…
put a one shot shaker on top of it. this also works really well on all kinds of snaredrums!

Dec.2
…I’m sometimes confused of my own track and lose the general view…

use the colors from your daw and name your tracks – what I also do pretty often is bouncing things like the added shaker on the clap – bounce this as one signal so its easier to stay focussed.
I try not to have more than twenty tracks in one arrangement, otherwise things are becoming too complicated for me.

Dec.8
…no matter which chorus/widening effect I use, the stereo effect still could be better…

play the hook, percussion or whatever by your own hand, twice, don’t quantize and then pan one to the left and one to the right. you might need to practice this a little bit – try to be as tight as possible. human playing makes the stereo effect amazingly wide!
(and the organic feel in general)

Dec.9
…this amazing organic shaker loop I have seems to make my groove slower…

shakers are the main/most important ingredient for the feeling of a groove and they usually work best when they´re added very quietly. its on them to make a groove laid-back or uplifting.
you can move them a little bit on the msec scale but this works just in certain limits, because an interesting shaker loop has a feeling of its own. experiment with different shakerloops to get an idea of how different the feeling is they add to an existing groove.
when you increase high frequencies you can make ´em audible even when they´re very quiet.

Dec.11
…my bd/bass structure seems unclear and mouldy…

the first thing you should try is placing the bassline notes on different ones than the bassdrum. once they share a rhythmic note there´s about twice the energy which usually makes problems (it’s not such a big problem if you chose the right frequency for the bassdrum – change it slightly after knowing which bass you wanna use. if you’re doing it “right” here, you may not need the next steps)
the problem is that this usually leads away from your initial idea.
so, there are two more options: try to reduce the velocity of every shared note (for us, this is every quarter note)
or apply a sidechain controlled compressor, which is controlled by the bassdrum. this will duck away the bassline on every bassdrumhit and is my preferred method.
for this task, compressor quality pays out. I used to use the api 2500.

Dec.12
…where else can I use sidechain compression for?…

I very often use sidechain compression on fx busses – this is a very convenient way for delays/longfxreverbs being in the groove grid. just build a return bus with weird plugins (delays don’t even have to be in time) and the last plugin on the chain is a sidechain controlled compressor.
my foundsounds are sc compressed as well.
on chord and pad sounds this works very well too (but don’t overdo it here).
the threshold and ratio are the two important parameters for compression strength.
attack=0 and release=between 100 and 300ms (on 120bpm an eight is 250ms)

Dec.13
…what do you consider a good mix?…

When the master level is very close to 0db, without the use of a limiter. I recommend not to use those little helpers like limiters on the master level, cause they curtain the quality of your mixing work.
My last step to a finished track always is listening while watching the master level indicator to identify the little bites where frequencies are overlapping. I zoom in this bite and recover it by hand (cut it out, decrease volume or use the EQ like I mentioned on dec, 3rd)

don’t use a limiter on your master chain, this is the mastering engineer’s purpose and he knows better than you/he has better equipment how to do this right.

Dec.14
…do I need a headphone?…

yes! they allow you to immediately hear your mix from a different angle which is very valuable. If your mix sounds good on your speakers AND your headphones then its fine.
I found out that everything I tweak on the headphones makes sense on the speakers as well.
you need headphones built for studio work though.
the ones I have: akg k702 and shure srh 840

Dec.15
…building a loop is fun, but it becomes boring very soon…

therefore you need ‘carry-over’-sounds. these are small effects, little melodies or little drum-fill/-variations which you put in every 4, 8, 16 and/or 32 bars. I recommend doing them smaller as they come more often and bigger, more dramatic if they appear every 32bars.
look out for soundfx libraries, this will help to get an idea of what I mean in the beginning.
you can also do stuff like the first note of your hook in a long reverb, bounced, reversed and put at the end of every 16bars… there’s a lot of room for being creative!
these little variations will make your mind willing listen again to your boring loop.

Dec.16
…whatever I try, my percussions sound like plastic…

The mixture between samples and real, organic sounds is really interesting for our ears. this also holds good for synth sounds.
My advice for perc sounds: go to a music store, buy two different shakers, a pair of bongos, maybe some other drums and a Shure sm57 (add some high frequencies on shakers after the recording).
add your own sounds to your samples.
if you find it difficult to play a whole loop by your own you can start with one-shot, self-made samples to add.
this will automatically make your sounds/tracks very individual as well.

Dec.17
…what can I use a gate for?…

if you do what I mentioned yesterday, sooner or later you will be upset about the noise your recording has, simply because you usually will not have a “quiet” room (me neither, still).
therefore a gate processor will become a good friend of yours – it will help you to get rid of the unwanted noise in your recording, but its helpful for creative sound shaping as well.
you don’t like the reverb from a sample? cut it away with your gate.
you only want to use the attacks/transients from your guitar loop? use the gate with a “high” threshold (here this means low numbers 0 to -5db).
you want to know how your bassdrum sounds when its shorter? use a gate but, please, cut it by hand afterwards.

for these actions you can also use an envelope shaper, but a gate is the more radical but also more neutral solution.

take care that your gate doesn’t cut away the very first transients. there are some on the market which “look forward”, use this.

Dec.18
…does it makes sense to buy analogue hardware, like compressors or even preamps when you can buy a digital ‘recreation’ for a tenth of the price?…

yes, it makes a lot of sense. real (good) analogue hardware adds a certain presence or attendance which plug ins aren’t capable of (still?!). good preamps make a sound similar to ‘being carved in stone’.
also, they very often colour sound in a good way.
and some devices make a sound come out always better than before. which, in the end, helps you to save time and stay focussed on the music itself.
you might recognize – I’m in love with real knobs, real electricity.
unfortunately there is a reason why some are more expensive than others – gearslutz.com is the source to look for before buying anything.

Dec.19
…where does your bassdrum come from?…

my bassdrum usually comes out of a jomox mbase.
but apart from that – how a bassdrum sounds in a mix is strongly dependent of the mix-hierarchy. that’s why its necessary to decide for a bassdrum at the very beginning of a track (unfortunately).
the tuning of your bassdrum in relation to other bass-sounds is important too, i try to slightly detune the bassdrum away from the bassline center frequency.
higher -> more uplifting, lower -> deeper, handbrake like

some jomox parameters and their tweaks:
tune: 0-10
pitch: 27-33
decay: 20-40 (a mbase bassdrum shouldn’t be longer than an eigth note, I find something between a 16th and an eigth usually suits best)
harmonics: 0

in these free soundsets you find a lot of my bassdrums.

Dec.20
…what is the most forward thinking synthesizerplugin?…

izotope iris – a sampler which displays your loaded sample in a fft spectrum. in this spectrum you can draw with photoshop-like tools and play it on your keys immediately.
I’m very much bored from the 8945th synth emulation via software – its time for new possibilities and iris really does it!

Dec.21
..where do your effects come from?…

my favourite effects are the ones from ina/grm.
I also use NI’s reaktor and its prebuilt instruments like the mouth a lot.
the best general sound improvement in my opinion is the uad – I don’t like their marketing behaviour, and you will not need all those plugs but if you just buy their basic ones (the la2a and 1176 emulation, the 88rs is a good ‘bread and butter’ one as well) and some from the precision series (the precision eq and the precision maximizer (for live) are my favourites) you can easily enhance your soundquality.

if you guys will add the one’s which stand out for you we can have an interesting list over here. and – if you know native plugins which reach the uad quality – add them!

Dec.22
…how do you build your arrangement?…

arrangement building is the part of our making which is very similar to storytelling. there are similarities to cooking and painting, but the arrangement basically is storytelling. that means – you need to know where you wanna go before you start. a writer knows where his story leads to before he begins to write therefore we need to think about this very early as well. Once I have a satisfying loop ready I play around with different effects, with filters, see from which element I gain tension from (which element is bringing me to the climax) and once there pops up an idea I start to build.
unfortunately, no plan survives the incident on the reality.
that’s why its important to be flexible, usually what works is pretty close to what I imagined. and sometimes something completely different does it. this is the one of the biggest reasons for being frustrated during process, I see this as a fight which I usually win – sooner or later

Dec.23
…criteria which must meet your sounds to be used…

love.

if you build up an emotional relationship to your sounds you gonna use ’em different than ‘usual’ or ‘functional’ ones.
the reason why I said so much about recording and playing stuff by your own wasn’t the sound quality or individuality in the first place – sounds which needed your effort to build are automatically used with more respect and care, and thats audible!
I recommend having at least one sound in your track which was very tricky to build. later it might be necessary to use ‘simple’ sounds as well, but I found for myself that I need a relationship to the material I’m using, because this helps a lot for not getting stuck. this is why I love all kinds of hardware and stuff which happens ‘out of the box’ that much – its increasing the value of my signals. for me.
no listener will be able to tell “ah, this little noise has been a tube, leaving the central station”, but the way you gonna use it will be recognized.

Dec.24
…Finishing tracks is the biggest problem for me…

well, a finished track is the sum of all decisions you made. so, the problem truly is that you can’t decide.
Decision making is the main challenge we have to face, and its only finalized decisions which you learn from. Basically its about making mistakes and to learn from those. If you hide from making decisions you will not improve and you will not move forward.

These are the two factors which shall guide you – your levels (the master out) and your TASTE!
don’t go above 0dbfs, trust your own taste and ears exclusively and learn the rules to be able to break them.

thanks a lot for joining me over the last 24 days and for being respectful on my page.

merry christmas and a happy new ear!

 Check out the links below for more Stimming:

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