Don’t feel too threatened dance producers, I’m not here to rip into the global empire of rave kids, nor am I some ignorant twit who has never danced all night. Well, maybe I’m ignorant (I wouldn’t know if I was, that’s how it works right?) but I have spent a great deal of my life listening to and producing dance/trance/techno and I still love nothing more than to shake it until I fall over in the wee hours of the morning. The title of this article is to get your attention, which it obviously has if you’re here.
Allow me to pose a rhetorical question which I intend to answer directly: WHAT THE HELL IS THE POINT OF TECHNO ANYWAY?
I believe that it is to blow minds. My lasting impression of techno, having been throwing raves, producing and DJ’ing for many years now is that it’s to inspire an (almost?) mystical experience in the listener/dancers. It should be “predictable” enough that your listeners can still dance to it and know when something’s going to switch up so they’re not tripping over their own feet to catch up with an unexpected change in direction, but clever enough to still keep you guessing as to what that switch is going to be.
Let’s be honest with ourselves here – have you ever gone to a really big record store? Have you ever spent an entire weekend listening to record after record, throwing down the wax, dropping the needle, skipping to the breakdowns (lighter shades on the record) and essentially listening to a whole track in 15 seconds?
That’s what a DJ does. Why? Because there is SOOOOOO MUCH TECHNO OUT THERE. Which means that unless you make your track tricky, it’s probably going to remain on the shelf. If it even gets to the listening station from the shelf to begin with. And even if it gets purchased, it still has to strike the DJ as being something that would fit into the set when he’s behind the decks.
It’s not enough for it to be “well produced” with all your levels set right and clean sounds. That’s a prerequisite; proper mastering does not make a track in and of itself. Anyone with 15 minutes training can compress and normalize a song. The song has to have some purpose. It must tell a story, express a mood, elicit visual imagery, make you horny… something other than JUST BEING.
Modern synths – soft and hard – have made putting the sounds in the right place a snap. Pardon the pun. Even if your autonomic nervous system can’t even regulate your own heartbeat let alone keep tempo, there are dozens of ways to input sounds into a sequence without ever actually “playing” the part.
But the notes must MEAN something.
Classical music is a great thing to study if you produce electronic music. In fact, you can learn a lot about producing good techno by listening to almost any genre of music – just pay careful attention to what notes are played and where those notes go. Graph it out if that helps; turn it into physics equasions. Draw pictures about what you think a “song looks like.” Do what you’ve gotta do, but for the love of god, do SOMETHING.
I’ve just been hearing a lot of music these days that is well produced and with good sounds, but the tracks themselves seem.. pointless… just filler tracks for some DJ mix (which you won’t get credit for anyway because as soon as he mixes it with something else, he puts his name on it).
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve written some pointless songs – just generic beat + bass + hats + clap + lead, bring in each part seperately in 4m increments and once they’re all going for 8, drop it into the breakdown. Every producer writes songs that are never meant to be released… they’re like training wheels. Learning by doing.
But as you write your songs and ESPECIALLY once you’re done it, ask yourself these questions:
1) Was this song inspired?
2) Does this song inspire?
3) Do I feel that I have to make excuses for or appologize for any part of this track?
4) If I found this on a third generation mix tape, completely anonymously, would I like it?
5) Does this track fit into a defined genre, or does it define a genre?
There is too much meaningless music out there today. Personally, I’ve produced close to 200 tracks – but I only have a few dozen of the SONGS that I consider to be the best (ie my favorite) available for download.
There’s still so much that hasn’t been done yet .. it is, quite literally, beyond our imaginations — for now. Until we imagine them, they will be as such; but unless we try to imagine them, they will never be.
And if we just keep writing the same songs in different keys then even the producers will lose their passion for exploration and eventually the listeners will also become jaded and turn to whatever the next new thing is. Which is how all of this started in the first place, isn’t it? Because it was new and the possabilities were thrilling.. the sky was the limit – and it still is.
Keep the new stuff new, and let the old school be.
But enough of my pep speech. Go ahead and write tracks that fit right into the norms, and I promise you that the reviews will reflect the reviewers’ boredom with a tired genre. Re-invent yourself, and reinvent us all.
/me gets off his soapbox …..