Less is more with Stalvart John.




DJ, producer, label owner, radio show host and founder of Dynamite Disco Club & Ngoma Collective, Stalvart John has proven time and again that he is a force to be reckoned with. He is known for his deeper take on dance music and his unconventional attitude has made him the frontrunner for the house and disco scene in India.




His radio show (on Boxout.fm) and club event format - Dynamite Disco Club is a hit across the country gaining him ardent followers in all the major cities. Starting out as a radio show host, Stalwart built himself to the talent he is now and his impeccable taste in music got him producing records in no time. His tracks are supported by some of the biggest names in House & Disco worldwide. 


We had the chance to speak to the dynamite personality himself and get some insight on his production process on Ableton.


“Recently I realized, maybe over the last year or so, that less is more and I apply that to my production process because of which my tracks right now are very simple, very clean but musically better.. “


“Back in the day when I started producing music, I used to start with a kick, drum parts, bass and build from there. But over the last 6 months my process has changed. I first find the lead element to a track, especially in disco it’s based around vocals. I select vocal samples that I find interesting and that will fit into the verse and chorus sections. Then I make the chords around it.


I don’t have an in-depth knowledge of music theory so I use the Scaler 2 plugin to build my chords. This plug-in is next level if you’re not too well versed with music theory. It’ll help you learn and build your chords and melodies very easily, you should check it out.”




“Once I know the scale of the track, I input the scale on Scaler 2 and start messing around while playing the main vocal loop and build my chord progression around that. For me this is the most time consuming thing and Scaler 2 helps me do this with ease. Scaler 2 also has a performance mode where I can play around with the rhythm of my chords. Once I’ve found a rhythm, then the next element I bring in is the bassline. 


“I use the base notes from my chord progression and chop it up in a way that it fits the groove of the track. I also use the chord notes as my reference to build all the other musical layers in a way that the frequencies don’t clash. After this I work on the melodic parts - that could be guitars, pianos etc.”




“For bass sounds I go with classic synthesizer VSTz like the Arturia DX7 for wobbly basslines, IK Multimedia Modo Bass for guitar bass sounds, and also the Waves Bass Slapper for bass sounds that give the ‘live’ feel.”


IK Multimedia Modo Bass Plugin:



Waves Bass Slapper Plugin:



"Apart from these I love the synth bass sounds from the Arturia packs, Korg legacy pack and also the u-He Diva which is a super powerful plug-in."


Korg Legacy Pack Plugin:



u-He Diva Plugin:



"For guitar sounds I love using the Rob Papen RG plugin. It’s perfect for those nice disco riffs." 


Rob Papen RG Plugin:



“The next thing I work on is building my string section. I sometimes use the preset sounds from scaler 2 itself, apart from that the NI Kontakt library is also a favourite for string sounds. I use Kontakt instruments a lot in my tracks. I try to avoid as much digital synth sounds as I can, to keep things sounding natural and organic.”




Native Instruments Kontakt Library:



“Now we move on to drums. I start with the kick. I use samples from loopcloud. That’s my go to source for all my sample needs. It has a great filtering system so I use that to get exactly the kind of sounds that I need.”




“Once I build the kicks I start bringing in the hats and other percussion. Here to avoid frequency clashes I either chop up my percussion samples or use a gate plugin. Let me show you this really interesting gate plug-in that I use - The RX 950 AD/DA convertor.”




"I remember seeing this plugin in one of the masterclasses and I’ve been using it on my percussion ever since. It compresses the sound a little bit and adds a little bit of colour that I like.


Once my core sounds and structure are ready I then proceed to add the backing vocals and any other fillers I need to finish the track. I then go into doing my mix down."


"As I said earlier, my process has completely changed in the last 6 months, even when it comes to mixing down my tracks. Earlier I used to mix on the go while I produce each part of my track. Now I don’t even touch an EQ during the production phase. I make sure when I layer each sound in my tracks that there are no frequency clashes between each other.


This is where choosing the right sounds for your track is very important. If you have the right sounds, with high quality, you won’t have to do much during mix down. Just the basic EQ’s, compression, saturation etc.


I do add reverbs/delays on certain sounds so that it adds to the vibe. I use return tracks for this. I already have this set in all my sessions, there will be return tracks for long reverb, short reverb, long delay, short delay & parallel compression."




"I do this one specific thing for my reverbs. I set the decay time based on the bpm of the track.

I calculate this using the formula - 60000/bpm and multiplying it by 2. This gives me an approximate value for setting my decay and pre-delay times."


You can read more about this method here - https://www.homestudiosimplified.com/p/reverbdelay-calculator.html


"This gives me a very clean reverb and it doesn’t mud up my mix. I use the stock Ableton reverb and delay itself on my returns. And for parallel compression I switch between Waves SSL G glue compressor or the CLA 76 compressor."


Waves SSL G Compressor Plugin:



Waves CLA-76 Compressor Plugin:



"On my Master channel I use the Waves VU Meter. There’s a trick I learnt from the Waves Masterclass - when your kick alone is playing, the VU meter should hit -3dB and when you add your sub and/or bass the VU meter should hit 0dB. This is a good Kick to Bass ratio you can start with and bring up the levels of the other elements with this as the foundation. You can do this method with any analog modelled VU meter as well."




"For Spectrum I use Voxengo Span. This is my favourite spectrum analyser. I also use a s(M)exoscope to see the waveform of my sounds. I can check for unwanted peaks and trim them down."




"And that’s it, this is how I keep my mix downs also simple and clean and then send it off for mastering."

----


Huge thanks to Stalvart for taking the time to talk to us and show us how he approaches his projects. As you can see Stalvart also sticks to the less is more approach, something he’s come into with years of experience as a producer and swears by it.


If you’ve liked these methods and it has helped you in your own production process, do drop a comment below.


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


Stalvart John on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/stalvartjohn/

Stalvart John on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/3sWYkQ9F0l2Mto9NFOhY8Z

Stalvart John on Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/in/artist/stalvart-john/id982135157


You can also tune into his monthly radio show ‘Dynamite Disco Club’ on boxout.fm. It airs every second Wednesday of the month at 6 PM IST - https://boxout.fm/residents/stalvart-john/episodes



Keeping It Simple with Scarr.




Scarr. is the brainchild of Yash Salvi. Pune based electronic music producer and one half of Feeling Sunsets, with friend & partner Sachin Menon (aka HAEN). Together they both also co-founded Soule Studios - a production house & mastering agency.


Yash was doing his undergrad in Media & Communications when he realised music was his way and dropped out to pursue a career in music. Drawing inspiration from artists such as Ford, Kina, Kasbo, Eden, Tourist and the likes, Yash’s music can be described as easy going, emotive-ambient electronica. 




2020 was a milestone year for Yash, with a slew of independent releases as 'Scarr.' and his & Sachin’s debut EP - Moved as Feeling Sunsets got picked up by Silk Music (now known as Monstercat Silk), receiving high praise from listeners the world over.


Currently, Yash is working on an EP and live set for his solo project, a second album for Feeling Sunsets and a second EP on Monstercat Silk, that just released a day ago. We caught up with him in the middle of all this to get an insight on his production workflow and process.


“My production process is very simple. It’s all about using the right sounds & samples to make everything fit than over-processing any of it later on. I’m always on the lookout for sounds that I like and then experiment using them..”


He shows us one of the tricks that he does on most of his tracks using the stock Ableton reverb and its freeze function to create big sustaining atmospheres that fill up space and sets the ambience to his tracks. 


Here’s how you can do the same:




  1. Add Ableton’s stock reverb on to your channel
  2. Set the Dry/Wet signal to a value between 20-30% based on your taste
  3. Enable automation for the Freeze function and draw your automations on to the clip channel as shown in the video
  4. Enable the Reverb unit’s Device On/Off automation and draw automations where the reverb turns off just before the end of each clip and starts again with the next clip
This works best on shorter samples to give a bit of hang time for the sustained reverb.

Yash’s favourite plugin since 2015 is Lennar Digital’s Sylenth. He uses it to make his main lead sounds but the LFO in Sylenth is one that he wishes could have been better. So instead of automating or using the LFO directly, he re-samples his sounds from Sylenth into an audio track and manipulates it in the audio clip to create an LFO effect. 

You can do the following technique with any audio sample. Check it out -




  1. Double click on your audio sample to open clip view
  2. Under the clips Warp settings, go to Preserve & select 1/16th duration to start with
  3. Enable No-Looping ( -> ) for the preserve setting
  4. Adjust the envelope box amount to your liking as shown in the video. This acts like a gate
  5. You can further play around with the same 3 settings to get different variations from the same sample
“Another thing that I do is reversing samples. Whenever I like a melody or a hook, I like to reverse it which is so simple to do on Ableton, you just hit CMD + R, and the reversed sample creates a very interesting pattern and other textures along with it. I like to use this as a counter to the original melody so it seems like they’re talking to each other.”



  1. Duplicate the audio sample you want to another channel
  2. Hit Ctrl/Cmd + R to reverse the clip
  3. Layer it with the original sample clip to get more harmonic textures
“I love this technique a lot. It’s simple and gives you a lot of interesting output. Back in 2015 I even wrote a song completely with reversed samples that I loved so much. Unfortunately, I lost the hard disk that had all my projects and files from back then.”

Another trick Yash likes to use at pre-drops and at the end of the song is transposing down (or up) at the end of audio samples to create a tape stop effect. 

This is a very common technique used by hip-hop and other electronic producers -



  1. Go to the clip automation section on your audio clip
  2. Under Envelopes select Clips & Transposition to enable automation on your clip
  3. Mark your automation points for the clip to pitch up or down as per your liking
We then got a little more insight into his production workflow and how he approaches his new projects.

"I’m trying to do different things right now, experiment more with drums and sounds I’ve not used. As said before, I like to keep things simple and not overdo them.”

“I always start my projects by writing chords and pianos. That’s my go to. I use Labs (Spitfire Audio) a lot because that’s the only synth I have apart from Sylenth on my laptop. 

I’m big on writing chords in Ableton rather than playing them. There was a phase where I was very dependent on my midi keyboard but I had to move to Delhi and couldn’t carry any of my gear along with me, and had to keep my setup portable so I could write music anywhere I went.

I randomly start with a note. See how it sounds. Then I’ll go make a chord out of it and then build the progression around it. Once I have a good chord pattern going on, I add filler notes. Once this is done, I start writing the other melodic elements like pads & synths..”



“One of my most favourite pad sounds to make is a sine wave with noise. It’s very simple, just open up any synth. Get a sine wave in stereo on 1 osc and noise on the 2nd osc, add some attack. I’ve used this sound so many times on my tracks & I never get bored of it.”



“Once I have all of this, I go and make a bassline. Drums are usually the last thing I do because I need to get the feel of how the melodics sound and then start programming my drums according to that.”

“The first thing that I add when I make my drums is a snare to keep track of time because I rarely use the metronome. Then I add the hats, and finally the kick drum. Recently I’ve started doing more complicated hi hat patterns. If there’s a hi hat sample that I like, I chop that up to a rhythm pattern that I like while listening to the other parts.”



“Another thing that I like doing with my hats is to use Ableton’s groove pool to add swing. I also use this on other drum parts and even melodies that I want a swing on. This is very helpful to make grooves rather than the usual 1, 2, 3, 4 pattern..”



Yash, like a lot of producers, currently approaches his production with the “less is more” concept which works very well for him.

If you liked his process and found some useful tips you can use in your own production, do drop a comment below.

You can listen to Yash’s music and follow him through the following links -


Feeling Sunsets on Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/wearefeelingsunsets/