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Unconventional methods with Unnayanaa




Unnayanaa aka Prashant Pallemoni, Has been constantly pushing boundaries through his style of DJing and Music Production for many years now. He’s been a flag bearer especially for African and Electronic music since 2006 and has seen a steady rise in popularity for his style of Afro, House and Electronic music in India and around the world. His last track “Taht Min Aini” was played by literally every DJ on the planet.


His music production and collaborations with other artists have been played by top DJ’s such as Ame, Dixon, Trikk, Toto Chiavetta, Marcus Worgull, Solomun consistently for the last two years. His tracks have been remixed by Toto Chiavetta, Osunlade and Trikk for releases in November 2019 on Toto Chiavetta’s label Border of Light (Italy).




He performed on the Redbull stage at Magnetic Fields in 2018 last year. His remixes have reached the top 20 Afro/Latin/Brazalian charts on Traxsource and Beatport. His music has been part of noteworthy labels over the years such as Itstillmusic (Chicago), Papa Records (London), Rainy City Music (Manchester), Atypical Dopeness (New York), Borders of Light (Italy). Unnayanaa’s new feather in the hat: Now an artist for Toto Chiavetta’s Label Borders Of Light.




We had a word with Prashant in the midst of his travels to give us a quick insight into his process and advice he’d like to give upcoming producers.


Unnayanaa: Hey. Thanks for having me on board. 


You use a lot of unconventional sounds in your productions, how do you approach each session? 


I approach every track I make differently, depending on the lead element. I always start with the lead element, vocals or a particular instrument and I use a lot of unconventional sounds than the usual things you hear in electronic music. More afro, ethnic kind of sounds that stand out from the others.


For one of my recent tracks I was using an Ethiopian Vocal, which I’d recorded in a studio with the vocalist. I’ve never worked with Ethiopian vocals before. The scale and melodic movement of this is very different. So I had to find some kind of middle ground that works. Because I feel in dance music you can’t really complicate things too much. You gotta keep it as simple as possible. In Jazz it’s different, in any other form of music also it’s different but for dance music listeners it needs to be as easy as possible, or as melodic as possible.


Your music is very organic and different from the usual dance music spectrum, especially with your use of unconventional sounds. Was this a sound you always wanted to go for or something that evolved over the years?


In my earlier days, say around 2016-2017 I used to make more soulful music, that was the sound I was going for. My music had a lot of chords and stuff in it. But I had a hit track that became a big hit and I was caught in these two worlds where my heart wants to make really soulful stuff but the audience expects me to play a lot of electronic music. So I try to club them together where there’s a middle ground for both. 


Do you have any specific techniques or go to things that you do on each track you work on?


Yeah I do. I go through many combinations and permutations before I lock down on any idea. So there’s a lot of struggle that I go through before I finalise. For me, I come up with 8-10 ideas for 1 particular track. Which can be a problem at times, trying to stick to one idea from the many that I have. Which is a blessing and a curse to be able to make a lot.


My process when I start with a track is, I listen to the time signature of the main element/vocal. I’m very conscious about making a track musical while having the electronic sound. The thing is today, people want noise. When I say noise I'm not talking about it from a negative point of view, i’m not saying the music is noise but they need that element of noise in the music. Which is that additional distortion or so that adds on to the sound. I don’t think this is necessarily needed but that’s what the trend is now. As long as you can take something that’s melodic and add that distortion and noise to it, your sound is evolving between musical and non musical. 


What’s your favourite Ableton plugin?


The Wavetable. I love using the Wavetable from Ableton. The cool thing about it is you can automate a lot of parameters, even the wave shapes on Wavetable which is very cool. The cooler thing about Wavetable is I can bring in my own wave shapes/audio files from outside and I just need to drag and drop it into Wavetables oscillators. 




Since you have multiple ideas for a single track, how long do you take to finish tracks?


Like I said earlier, I will have 8-10 ideas for one track itself. If I come up with something that fits the main element, I let it sit for a while and try something else, layer a few things and put it together. I take time with every idea, I don’t rush into it. Whenever I think it’s ready, that’s when I put it out. If you look into my project files you’ll see I make multiple versions of the one track with all the different ideas I have. 


How do you go about processing the sounds you use or making it fit into your style? And how do you finally mix it down?


If it’s a live recording, I record it clean. And I already have an idea of how it will fit into my track. Processing wise on Ableton I’ll do a basic EQ and compressor. Towards the end when I want to drive it I put it through my tape machine. Especially string instruments and vocals. It adds that extra warmth and nice analog feel to it. When I’m finished with the track and mix it down, sometimes I even send the entire song through the tape machine to get the warmth of it. 


I also use Izotope’s Neutron 3 and relay. They’re really really good for mix downs. They also have a visual mixer that I use a lot. Basically you put the relay on to any channel you want and the visual mixer on the master channel. When you open up the visual mixer you’ll find all the tracks that have a relay on will show up here and you can put it wherever you want - levels as well as pan it left or right. It’s like you can create your own stereo picture right here, it’s really easy.



This is perfect for quick mix downs, especially if it’s a track I just finished and want to test it out in a club. You can open up Neutron 3 elements and just choose a preset and it’s done.


You can also use their track assistance, select what you’re going for. Play your track and it’ll analyse it and it’ll give you a mix down based on that in just a few minutes. 


You may not always get the best mix but it gives you a playable version for a club and test out how the crowd reacts to it. 


You use a lot of recorded sounds, Do you have any specific methods when you process samples or your folly recordings, something that’s signature to you?


Not really, I try not to do the same thing again. Maybe when I’m using the Wavetable to drop the sample in because there’s so many options with the Wavetable that I can try out and there’s so many variations with changing just the waveform, or automations. With Wavetable in specific, you get something different from what you put into it. So I definitely drop samples into Wavetable to see what it gives me. Prior to this I’d just use the Sampler or Simpler to chop and select, add a beat repeat to the chain and some other units to make it a bit more fatter, some basic EQ to clean up and add some effects to it. 



I always like to keep the option of being able to be surprised with what is happening in my project. If it fits, great! I’ll keep it. 


So the only thing I keep constant is my mixing and mastering processes. The creative processes are always changing depending on what I’m working with. 


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Huge thanks to Prashant for taking the time to do this for us.

 

You can follow & listen to Unnayanaa's music on the following links:

 

Unnayanaa on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/unnayanaa/

Unnayanaa on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/2vvnbj7sKT8Yd8ArfqENPp

Unnayanaa on Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/unnayanaa/349743893


Tuning drums & strategies with Farhan Rehman



Farhan Rehman is a Mumbai based DJ, music producer & radio host known for his groovy music productions and funky beat-driven disco, house & afro sets featuring unconventional, multi-cultural elements.


  

Farhan first broke into the scene when his Beatport remix competition entry for Josh Wink’s track ‘Balls‘ was chosen for an official release by the Techno icon on his label Ovum Records. With collaborations and remixes for some of the symbolic figures in the world / jazz genres like Asha Putli, Bassekou kouyate, Farhan’s music has garnered supported from some of the biggest names in the electronic music fraternity such as Hernan Cattaneo, Nick Warren, and Eelke Kleijn, along with many others from the home grown DJ community. 




Farhan has co hosted the much hyped Cosmic Disco Bar at Magnetic Fields festival 2019, closed for Jodhpur Jazz Safari and has also performed at leading venues in the country such as Kitty Su, Bonobo, Whiskey Samba, Antares Goa amongst others. Currently the host of the popular show “The House of Juju” on boxout.fm where he pushes his musical boundaries by inculcating genres like disco & house music along with jazz, afro and funk. He has also shared the stage with leading industry figures like Red Rack ‘Em, Toto Chiavetta, Wanklemut, Undercatt, Big Miz, amongst others. 


With a slew of releases lined up this year, this young powerhouse is definitely one to keep an eye on!


We caught up with Farhan to speak about making music and learn a few of the tricks off his sleeve.


“Hey Guys, thanks for having me on board for this. I’d like to start with a simple trick that I do to tune my kick.


"You can try this with any kick sample. I’ve taken a standard kick sample that I’ve chosen randomly and loaded it into Ableton’s Simpler/Sampler. 


Earlier, my method would be to use a kick with more top end and layer it with this kick that I have but this process takes longer and you may over process the sound. The trick I’m going to show you now is something I learnt while teaching one of my own students.


You can do this with Ableton’s Simpler/Sampler, I’m going to use Sampler to show you how. You can hear that it has a nice sub/low end to it. My preference is to have a more rounded kick, what I mean by this is I’d like my kick to have a bit of high frequency/top end to it as well.”




Steps:

  1. Load your kick sample into sampler
  2. Turn on the pitch envelope under the Pitch/Osc tab
  3. Start up by turning up the Amount. (I’ve used -12 st to start with but you can adjust these settings by ear
  4. You can hear the kick sound has changed, but this isn’t near to what I want
  5. Next, we’ll start adjusting the Peak and bring it down to somewhere between 30-40%
  6. You can now start hearing a slight difference
  7. Play around with the amount and peak settings till you find your sweet spot. For this i’m keeping my Amount at -12st and bring down the peak to about 31%


“On it’s own you hear this sounds pretty okay, with the rest of the track this kick will now stand out in the mix because the transient is more present now.


You can further play around with the decay and fine tune it.


Now we can go to the Filter/Global settings tab on Sampler and tighten this kick sound with the Amplitude envelope. Let’s adjust the decay and sustain just a bit.”




“If you compare the before and after, we started with a kick that has a good low end but not enough transient. And now with this process so far we have a kick with a more overall presence and that will cut better in the mix as well.


We can take this a notch further and add a little bit of drive to this.”




Steps:

  1. In the Filter/Global settings, select OSR under Circuit
  2. Adjust the drive to your liking. You can already hear the kick has better body
  3. Add a shaper. Select Soft Type and adjust the amount


“We can go another step further and experiment with the frequency modulation under Pitch/Osc”


  1. Activate OSC
  2. Set the coarse value to a higher pitch. This will ensure it won’t interfere with the lower frequency as that’s the driving part of the kick and the track as a whole
  3. Now we adjust the volume accordingly
  4. Tweak the decay to tighten the sound


“You can now hear the kick sounds more full, it has a better transient and presence.

We can also take this a step further by adding a sub to this. Let’s see how that sounds.”

  1. Load Ableton’s Operator on a new MIDI channel
  2. Select a Sine wave on a single oscillator (by default this will be it when you load Operator)
  3. Reset the transpose to match the key of the kick (In this case it’s -22st)
  4. Tweak the sustain and decay till you find the sweet spot

“Group the kick and sub channel together & a little compression on it. I usually like to turn off the make-up gain because that’s one of the last things I would want.”


Compressor settings:

  • Ratio - 2:1
  • High release - ~ 230 khz
  • Attack - ~ 1-2 ms
  • Threshold between -5/-6 dB


“These are minor tweaks as we only want a max of -2dB gain reduction. Now we can hear that the kick is much punchier and this is because of the higher attack on the compressor which is allowing the initial transients to pass. This gives my kick that's `Knock” and the rest of the kick is well rounded."


"This is one of the few ways to tune your kicks without overly processing them with plugins. 


We can use the similar method and layer 808 kicks and Cymbals with your original kick to achieve a similar result. But layering again will take up a little more time.”




“Something to note, if you’re layering kicks, it’s always a good idea to transpose each sample by a few semitones up and down to ensure that they are in key."




“I do this method for tuning my kicks because it saves me time. I’ve come to believe that most of what you want is there within your stock plugins itself. For me, I think going through samples takes a lot away from your creative time. The time that can be spent writing musical ideas can go away very easily in the pursuit of finding the right sample. So if you’re able to develop better strategies on how to approach your music, it will save you a lot of time."


"I can apply this same exact process on a Bass sound. Let’s try that out now."




“See that? I picked up a random bass sample from Ableton and in less than 10 seconds we have a slap bass sound.”


DJP: Considering you strategize your approach when you work on your music, we’re guessing you have some go to synths that you use for your particular style?


“The Arturia Prophet is my go to synth. I’m so fond of it and the other Arturia plugins because it’s very close to the analog sound in terms of warmth & is so easy to use. I love the filter on the Prophet, it has its own flavour to it. For the kind of sounds that I want for my music, it’s very effective and a great sounding plug-in. I LOVE using this a lot. I use it for my leads, bass and other melodic elements.”




“I also like using Ableton’s operator for main sounds and to layer around my core sounds.


One of the great things about the operator is, it is an FM synth and you have options for modulating chains for your oscillators.


Other plugins I like to use are the Fabfilter Pro Q and C (EQ & compressor), they’re both very powerful and easy to use. Every 3rd party plugin comes with it’s own coloration of sound and I quite like the Fabfilter ones for the final output they give as I can do my processing without too much added color to my sound.”






DJP: Any advice/points you’d like to give upcoming producers?


“If the foundation of your track is good, all your workload will be reduced to just choosing the right samples and sounds, sticking to the musicality and the arrangement. The rest is just tweaking and fiddling with things. It’s like your diet - the better food you have, the better your body will function otherwise you’ll have some ailments or the other."


“There’s also a lot of influx of information and products out there which sometimes make you feel like having or wanting things you don’t really need and that can deviate you from the creative possibilities. You should be exploring creative possibilities. Essentially what you’re doing otherwise is throwing something at a wall and hoping it sticks. That’s great for your learning curve but it’s always better to have a maximum of 2-3 synths and getting to know them better as opposed to having 10 different synths for 10 different sounds and having no clue of what each one is capable of.”


“Keep things as simple and organic as possible.”


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We’re very grateful to Farhan for taking the time to do this and share these valuable tips. If you liked these tips, try them out and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


You can follow & listen to Farhan's music on the following links:


Farhan Rehman on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/farhanrehman_/

Farhan Rehman on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/6ErzjIzJFGx5e3dQKEduhD

Farhan Rehman on Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/farhan-rehman/982134691