Break Downs Posts

Our new series where we speak to artists and get an insight on their production process, favourite tricks to use & more...

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


Humanizing Drums with Greg Tomaz




Producer, DJ & Label A&R - Greg Tomaz is on the forefront of the Indian progressive house scene. His flair for deep progressive & melodic techno leaves a lasting impression which can be heard in his well crafted DJ sets and the music he produces. His production can rightly be described as deep with a definite share of the underground which has him signed on some of the top labels globally such as Juicebox Music, Particles, Soundteller, Stripped Digital, 3rd Avenue etc. to name a few. His aesthetic sense of music has also allowed him the opportunity to share stage time with some of the best artists in this space like Nick Warren, Cid Inc, Cubicolor, Roger Martinez, Dousk, Tim Engelhardt, Ben Coda and the likes.




Greg produces his music on Ableton Live and we had the pleasure to speak to him and get an insight into how he approaches his projects.


“One of the things I focus on most while producing is the groove. Especially for progressive house, this lays the foundation and strengthens the core of the entire track. You can have a killer melody but if your track's groove isn’t tight it won’t make the impact that it should.”


"I use loops as a reference to come up with groove ideas but I don’t like using the loops directly in my tracks. These loops will have some great percussive sounds and rhythm to it but it’s already heavily processed and I may have to re-process them to fit into my track better. If I do this, it will mess with the overall mix of my track. 


What I do instead is to open up another MIDI channel with Ableton’s Drum Rack or Impulse and load up one-shot samples that are similar to the one I have in my reference loop. I then program it exactly like the loop. This allows me to fine tune every sound I use and gives me more flexibility to play around with the rhythm, giving me new results and a better overall sound mix."




"It is also important to have your drums and percussions to sound organic in your arrangement. I play around with velocities and quantization of my midi notes to give it a swing and a more human feel. I also make use of polyrhythms to give it that unpredictability."




If you're not familiar with Polyrhythms, you can learn more about it here - https://www.musical-u.com/learn/making-sense-of-polyrhythms/


"Sometimes I also use the groove pool on Ableton to add swing to my percussion and drum loops. This is a super handy feature on Ableton if you don’t want to spend a lot of time adjusting your quantization or velocities manually."




"You can just drag and drop a swing preset from Ableton, preview how the swing works and if you like it, all you need to do is just hit the ‘Commit’ button under the groove settings on your clip.


This is also why I don’t use loops directly on my track as you can’t control or change the velocities, you won’t get the organic feel out of it."


"One of things that I do for percussion hits is this - I select multiple percussion one shots that I like and are in tune with my track, I load it up in Ableton’s Drum Rack. I then add a long reverb on the same channel. On my MIDI clip I start by writing 2 x single notes that fit into my existing groove and duplicate that for 4 bars. I then play the track and rearrange the hits every bar so that each time it hits, it feels like it hits randomly and is a different sound each time. This keeps things unpredictable in your arrangement."




"Another trick I use to come up with ideas for the percussion groove is to load up a lot of samples onto a drum rack and use the Arpeggiator from Ableton’s MIDI effects. This will generate a lot of different ideas, grooves etc. I also sometimes throw in the Random plugin from the Ableton’s midi effects to randomise the hits once in a while. Once I find a pattern I like, I record this into an audio track, play around with the loop till I’m happy with how it fits with the rest of my track."




"While I have all of this going on, I also tweak my Kick drum pattern for every 3 bars. I either add a double kick or remove kicks based on how my groove is going. I do this again to keep things unpredictable and reduce monotony. 


I try to imagine how a drummer would play live and accordingly try to program and sequence my drums. Apply this same concept with the velocity of each note as well and that’s what helps me keep things more organic and humanised."




"As the drums keep changing I also automate my other elements, even the smallest changes will make it feel like the track is growing. This is also something I spent a lot of time on to make sure when I automate that organic feel still stays intact even on all the other elements apart from the drums.


So even if I have a simple chord progression or melody, the track still sounds like it’s evolving with these variations and it doesn’t get monotonous."




"These are the most crucial parts of my production process and why I spend so much time on it. Because if you don’t work on programming your drums and your main elements, it will feel like there are things missing in your track and you’ll keep adding more and more things which you very likely don’t need..."

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


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 Gregs's music on the following links:


Greg Tomaz on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gregtomaz/

Greg Tomaz on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/1idzhWTAvwVwS86kZMh58w

Greg Tomaz on Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/greg-tomaz/668557369




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."

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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/


Creative Auto Filters with HAEN




Sachin Menon, who goes by his artist name HAEN, is a rising star in the Indian electronic music scene. He is also one half of electronic duo - Feeling Sunsets with Yash (artist name - Scarr..), who together also run Soule Studios in Pune, a production house and a mixing and mastering studio.





Within a year of inception of both projects, Sachin has released a plethora of music independently and on some of the top labels in the world as both Haen & Feelings Sunsets. His and Scarr’s debut EP Moved was released on Silk Music (now known as Monstercat Silk), followed by releases on Songspire Records, ​​Traum Schallplatten, Elliptical Sun & Mango Alley Recordings under his HAEN moniker, and a whole lot more signed & scheduled for release later this year. Having a good ear for emotive music, production skills he’s polished over the years and having no boundary for genres is what makes him a very talented, very versatile artist and one to definitely keep an eye (and ear) out for here.


We had a word with him about his production techniques and his favourite tools to use on Ableton Live. Here’s what he’s got to share with you..


HAEN’s go-to plug-in is Ableton Live’s Auto Filter, which he uses in his own unique way to create grooves, rhythmic melodies, chords and pretty much anything else under the sun. “I happened to stumble upon this trick on my own while I was experimenting with Ableton and now I use this on pretty much anything to get interesting ideas. You can try this with anything - midi & audio. The LFO feature is super useful, plus amps, reverbs or delays post the auto-filter helps me build unique sounds. It all starts with the auto filter though..”


In this exercise he’s shared with us how he uses the auto filter creatively to come up with different ideas for his tracks. Let’s have a look.


Here’s how you can get creative with bassline grooves using both midi clips and audio samples.




  • Open a midi channel and drop your favourite VST plugin, select a bass preset
  • Open a midi clip and draw a simple note for your bass
  • Load up the auto-filter and cut the frequency to around 400 hz
  • Open up the LFO amount all the way to 100% and select an LFO shape. Over here we use a triangle wave
  • Adjust the rate in beat mode and find a rate that generates a groove you like
  • You can further enable quantize and select a quantize setting. Each setting gives you a different groove
  • Add some phaze to your sound. Please note, if you’re using Phase on a bassline make sure you use an imager or stereo modulation to control/prevent phase cancellation in the low end
  • You can additionally change the filter mode and increase the drive. Here we use a MS2
  • You can automate the filter for modulations

Voila! You now have a crazy sub/bass groove going on from a simple single note bassline.


You can do the exact same process with an audio sample too. Play around with the parameters till you get something that you like.




  • Load up a bass loop from your samples and add the auto filter to the channel
  • Reduce the frequency range to approximately 100-300 hz. In this example we want the low and mid low range area of the bass sample
  • Enable the LFO - open up the LFO amount
  • Adjust the rate to your liking. You can start hearing a new sequence forming
  • Further fine tune this by activating quantize and choosing a quantize setting
  • Play around with the LFO, rate and quantize settings to come up with really fun & unique grooves
Here’s how you can use a simple guitar loop to create a rhythmic melodic sequence using the similar process.



  • Drop a melodic audio loop that you like and select a small section on that clip
  • Add an auto filter on the same channel and adjust the frequency to your liking
  • Open up the auto-filter LFO all the way
  • Select ‘beats’ on the rate and adjust the rate to your liking
  • Enable quantize and choose a quantize option that you like
  • Add a reverb to the same channel to enhance the sound
  • You can further play around with the Auto Filter frequency, quantize options and the Reverb decay to get really interesting sequences and rhythms
Insane, right? Now again we use the same process on a chord stab sample. Check it out -



  • Select a chord loop that you like. Make sure Warp is enabled on your clip and select complex or complex pro
  • Pitch down audio sample by an octave or to your liking
  • Add an auto-filter. Adjust the frequency, open up the LFO and adjust the rate to your liking
  • Enable quantize
  • Add a delay/reverb to give movement to your sound
  • Play around with the LFO, Rate and filter settings to get really interesting rhythmic chord variations
As shown in the first video, you can play around with the filter types, increase the drive, phase settings and add a different combination of effects to get some really creative ideas out of your elements.

If you’ve enjoyed this exercise, do try it out and please drop a comment and share your experience with us. You can also reach out to Sachin for any guidance or help regarding production techniques or how to make it as an independent artist.

Also go check out Sachin’s music on the following links:

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