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



Clark 1 month ago
Farhan Rehman 1 month ago
Thanks Clark!
Rishikesh Sharma 1 month ago
I like how almost all the artists so far go by Less is more/keeping things simple idea. I've been trying to follow the same and have come up with better results on my own music than what i used to do before. Also getting rid of the plugins i don't really want and try to learn the few fully. Thanks for the tips guys These are really helpful
Farhan Rehman 1 month ago
Indeed Rishikesh. Not only is it a time saver, but you also understand your plugins better!
Rohan D 1 month ago
Mind = blown on how he that random bass sample so quickly became a slap bass! Damn cool and simple & quick. I spent hours trying t tweak a synth and get something decent. Thanks for this guys!
Farhan Rehman 1 month ago
I know right? It's something that I discovered while teaching one of my students and I was pretty blown too haha
Kavish 1 month ago
I've seen Farhan play at mag feilds. what an amazing dj and producer! Great insight into how he works on his music. 🤗🤗
Farhan Rehman 1 month ago
Aww thanks for the kind words Kavish :)
Ratheesh Varma 1 month ago
Amazing stuff. Love how he tuned the kick and bass from just random samples.
Farhan Rehman 1 month ago
Thanks Ratheesh! You just gotta know how to tweak a sound well :)
Sachin Thomas 1 month ago
These are some great tips! Thank you Farhan & DJP team for sharing this with us. I do have a lot of synths but I don't know all of them really well. Time to do a clean up 😅
Farhan Rehman 1 month ago
Cheers Thomas. Glad you find them useful!