Production Tips

Hey everyone… I was searching around and I stumbled upon this and almost started doing backflips. Its some great production tips for a few different genres and will come in very handy. I just did a C/P and posted it even if that genre isn’t my cup of tea. Hope this helps you all as much as it did for me.

Progressive House production tips

What’s the secret to the trademark prog house sound? Tight drums, confident lead line, a few perfect fifths and a doubled kick drum will provide a solid base. All these and more in the latest pro-tips…


Prog chords

Amazing proggy chords and stabs can be made by simply stacking a few saw oscillators together, detuning them slightly and running the lot through a low pass filter. Check if your synth has a unison mode or if you can add two or more voices for each oscillator to give the tone more bite. One trick for added thickness is to double the root note of the chord with the same note two octaves lower and one or two octaves higher.



‘Progression’ is obviously key in progressive house, so spend some time building up the arrangement with just the right amount of tension. A tried and tested structure involves 64 or so bars of build with relatively few elements and plenty of repetition until the first break kicks in. This break is intended to be euphoric and uplifting. Here is where you introduce your big melodic elements - chords, lead riff or both.


Perfect fifths

Lots of progressive tracks contain synth lines that play harmonically in perfect fourth or fifth intervals. You can arrange this easily in your favourite synth / plug-in by creating a sound with two oscillators, with the second oscillator tuned five (perfect fourth) or seven (perfect fifth) semitones up.


Viva la imperfection

Progressive beats are usually not much more than kick, hat and snare. To inject some movement, try nudging your percussion so that some hits are slightly out of time. This works especially well if you have doubled your snare with a clap. Move your clap hits ever so slightly so that they are triggered a little ahead or behind the main snare drum. Adding simple human touches can be the difference between a stagnant or exciting groove.


Cut the lows

When your melodic elements finally kick in, your track may sound fairly busy, with lots of elements – including lead synth, pads, harmonics and more – all playing at the same time, so it‘s good practice to make sure you high pass everything that doesn’t need a heavy low-end. A good technique is to sweep upward with a gentle high pass filter starting with the lowest of frequencies until you hear it affecting the body of the sound. When you can hear the sound changing noticeably it’s time to back off a bit and leave it there.


Squeeze the mix bus

It is now common practice among dance music producers to mix through a compressor to make the elements of a track gel better together. When you start mixing, slap a compressor on the master channel first and let it stand until the final mix is done. A good starting point for setting up the mix bus compressor is a ratio of 4:1 with 10ms attack and a fast release. Adjust the threshold until you see 2-3db but not much more gain reduction on the meter.


Double the bass

For a solid low-end with maximum impact, progressive tracks sometimes feature two basslines. One is a melodic bassline that occupies the higher regions of the frequency spectrum. The second is a sub bass filling the lower end. This sub is intended to really mark the groove, along with the kick drum and other percussion. Most of the the time, it is a simple one-note affair that is triggered off beat to avoid clashing with the kick. Different placements of the sub note will yield different grooves.


Layer the kick

To get a massive bass drum, layer your kick with a low sine wave and tune the sine to the key of the track. Remember to use a high pass eq on your original kick so that the low end doesn’t become too overbearing.


Lucky arps

If you’re struggling with a killer melody but have some great chords, copy the chords to another track and arpeggiate them. Play with the way the notes are triggered, adjust note lengths and so on. Sometimes you’ll get lucky!

Minimal house and techno pro tips

The Sample Magic team are back with ten bite-sized tips for deep, pared down minimal productions

All in the groove

It is vital that every rhythmic element has a place in the groove. Be critical when adding elements and choose samples carefully. Start with the kick and bassline and bring in other elements around them. One good technique is to imagine the elements in the groove having a discussion with each other. Introduce one sound and then counter it with another a few beats later.

Evolving effects

Keep effects changing constantly by automating them, especially reverbs and delays. Turn up reverb sends occasionally on percussion tracks to give your track big reverb splashes at key points. Automate the reverb size too. Put a short slapback delay on the melodic hook and automate the feedback slider and delay times.

Ride the 808

You can make deep minimal basslines by using nothing but an 808 kick sample with a long decay. Tune the kick so that it combines well with your main kick drum and add a volume envelope with the attack turned slightly up, so you keep the boom and not the snap of the kick. Adjust the decay to get the right length. Add a little pitch envelope to the sample with pitch shifting either slightly up or down. This kind of wobbly sound is heard in many minimal productions today.

Odd bars

Try looping percussive sequences at odd numbered bars, like the third or seventh bar, instead of at the regular 4/4 marker for interesting, ever-evolving percussive lines. To build towards a drop insert a ping-pong delay for an instant building carpet of sound.

White hats

Make a free-flowing techno hat pattern by using a white noise oscillator playing a shuffling

pattern (short 16th notes with some triplets thrown in) with the volume envelope decay/release controls constantly changing using automation.

Less is more

Your track is destined to be rocking a big club system. If you cram in every idea and then some more, the track will soon sound messy on a big rig. At some point you should sit back and selectively delete parts that don’t add much to keep everything simple. This is minimal dance music: having a few choice elements that work well together is your ultimate aim.

Infinite pads

Soundscapes and pads give depth to a mix and play an essential part in intros, outros and breakdowns. To make extending pad sounds insert your chosen pad sample, then insert the same loop again after the first and reverse it. Join the two together using your sequencer’s crossfade function. Instant ever-changing pad variations!

Wobbly synths

To create the classic ‘moving tuning’ synth line, pull up a sawtooth wave on your preferred synth and automate the tuning knob so that it moves slowly up and/or down. Another way to do this is to assign an LFO to the tuning of the oscillators. This kind of technique is also often heard used on other elements such as percussion and even basslines.

Tidy percussion

Keep percussion hits neat and tidy by adjusting the decay of the samples according to the groove of your track. In general the percussion hits in minimal techno are short. Also remember to check the decay of your kick drum sample. Too long a decay and the kick will interfere with the bassline and too short a decay will not yield enough punch.

The mighty whoosh

Plain white noise hits and sweeps are common in minimal techno. Slap a compressor over a white noise effect with your kick drum feeding the sidechain input for some solid pumping action. Remember to cut out low frequencies using a hi-pass filter on the white noise sound to keep your mix clean.

Nu-Rave quick tips

It’s compression, bit-crushers and sidechains that give you the big, lo-fi disco sounds of artists like Daft Punk, Justice and MSTRKRFT, writes SM


Compression is key here – lots of it and on every possible hit. Use fast attack and release times on kicks and snares and try sidechaining a hat or shaker loop with a bass drum for that maximum pumping effect. Use further compression or limiting on the entire loop or mix bus to get additional slam and volume.

Keep things uncluttered and choose sounds that don’t carry much bottom end to allow for greater loudness in the overall mix. Using a combination of vintage drum machine hits coupled with live hi-hats or shakers helps create a great rhythm track to build on.


Sidechaining synths and carefully eqing them will ensure maximum punch in the mix. Experiment with resampling synth loops at a lower bit rate to give them genuine old-school vinyl grit. Cut, paste, glitch and bend sections of the loop or rearrange Rex files using MIDI to add variation and spice to your arrangement.


Lo-fi is key here. Use distortion or stompboxes on live bass or synth sounds (analogue is best!) and try using guitar amps and recording the DI out alongside a mic’ed signal to give extra beef. Keep the low frequency elements tight and punchy to ensure maximum volume. Multiband compression and transient designers work extremely well on slap bass sounds. Trim the fat by low-filtering bass-heavy sounds.


Record your own voice on the oldest, most battered mic you have – even through your computer mic. When you have a hook you like double, triple, quadruple-track it to bulk it up,then mangle it. Pitch-shift, vocode, ringshift and bitcrush.Vocal transformation plugins will give instant robotics. You can also get retro spoken phrases by sampling a computer’s internal speech utility.

To add further movement get gitching: cut and paste parts of your loop (usually picking the most characteristic elements) to create stuttering new loops. Finally, get sampling! Dig around in your attic for Speak’n’Spells, kid’s computers with speaking abilities, mobile phones –­ anything that has a speech output. Then sample, downgrade the bit-rate and get mangling.

Mix Bus

Feel free to pile on the effects on the mix bus. Experiment with flanging, filtering and distorting selected sections of your arrangement. A heavily clipped or compressed mix bus is a defining characteristic of Nu-Rave so don’t be afraid to bend the rules. Distorted or overdriven high frequency sounds have richer harmonics and give a greater impression of volume so don’t underdo the distortion either! Automate eqs and multiband compressors to drop out during breakdowns to ensure maximum effect when all the elements kick back in.

Cut whole sections of your arrangement into 32nd notes and rearrange or reverse segments. Repeat and stutter transient-heavy slices or pitch-shift selected hits to give your track that characteristic dancefloor boost.

Top 10: Electro production tips revealed

Picking the right drum sounds, keeping your arrangement simple and perfecting breakdowns all help create the perfect Electro-House record, writes Sharooz Raoofi

1: Attention to detail

Concentrating on making just a few core elements sound exceptionally good will make all the difference. Specifically, pay the most attention to your kick, bass sound, snare and hi-hat. There is an old adage that if the drums are rocking the rest of the track will slot easily into place. It’s amazing how many times producers overlook the importance of a well-defined kick and a bass sound that complements it well.

2: Ride the buss

There is an ongoing debate over whether or not to process the mix buss. Some maintain that it should be left well alone, and that trying to match the levels of commercial recordings is best left to the mastering engineer. In some cases this is true, but it’s surprising how many of the pros stack up numerous plug-ins on the mix buss. Using a multi-band compressor or limiter will give your mix brick-solid volume peaks to ensure your tune is as loud as others on the dancefloor. Experiment with threshold and release settings so that you aren’t left with sudden volume jumps - but don’t go too far: if you do you’ll kill all the track’s natural dynamics.

3: Control your bass, get more volume

It is tempting to boost sub-bass EQ to add weight to kicks or basslines. Unfortunately this usually compromises the overall master level. To get more volume from a part, try filtering out all low-end below 20Hz (the stuff the human ear can’t hear) with a low-cut EQ or changing your kick / bass sounds instead.

4: Perfect your breakdown

Use all the tricks you can to make your breakdowns as unique and memorable as possible. A combination of hi-pass filtering, gradually increasing levels of elements, a nice uplifting FX sweep and, if all else fails, a snare roll should get even the toughest of floors moving.

5: Check it on the floor

The best indicator of whether or not you have a hit is nearly always the dancefloor. If you DJ, drop your tune at peaktime in one of your sets, or inconspicuously slip it onto a hifi at a party when your mates are around. Compare the reaction to your track with that of your ‘biggest’ record, noting which sections make people dance and which parts leave the crowd cold, then go back and fine-tune your arrangement accordingly.

6: Automate to stimulate

A surefire way to build excitement in your mix - and on the dancefloor - is by increasing the volume or reverb / delay times effecting your hook. Increasing the reverb time (and amount) will push your hook further back into the mix. You can then bring it right back to the fore by killing the reverb. Similar effects can be acheieved by opening filters and lengthening notes in your hook. Think of automation ‘builds’ as the snare roll of the noughties. Automate elements in drops or leading to breakdowns for maximum effect.

7: Increase and release tension

A key factor in many great pieces of music is the building and releasing of tension. The same rings true of Electro. When arranging a track work out how best to build tension, be it with a mammoth breakdown or an infectiously building musical hook. You can relieve tension by moving into a ‘full-on’ section - with all elements blazing - or a pared-down ‘kick and bass’ section. The transition between builds and releases will define the feel of the entire track.

8: Variation is key

When repeating elements countless times, it is important to vary the sound to keep the listener interested. Try making a bass or lead line out of a variety of different synth patches, varying which synth patches are playing at different times and using one sound to start and another to end. You can also experiment with your sequences - muting individual notes from a sequence or cutting notes and playing them with different patches. These often subtle variations make musical hooks much more exciting for the listener.

9. Keep it simple

Less is nearly always more. It’s fine to keep stacking on the elements to maintain interest, but cram in too much and your mix and energy levels will suffer as a result. From time to time try muting all parts and gradually unmuting them to see which parts are the most effective and which are merely filler. Filler can be lost.

10. Just finish it

This might sound obvious, but so many of us get stuck inside a four-bar loop and never end up taking the track to the arrangement stage. Sometimes new ideas come much easier - and mistakes become glaringly obvious - when sections are linked together.

Serving it chilled

How do you get the lazy, downtempo sounds of great chillout productions? Jake Island offers some suggestions…


The secret to lazy downtempo beats lies mainly in the sounds you choose and then two key production tools; compression (lots of it) and reverb (ditto). For the hits themselves, samples of real kits work best (big-band style drums are ideal). If your samples have reverb on them already that’s great. Give them a boost with an overdrive plugin or a guitar distortion simulator. Use compression on the individual hits, and then again across the whole drum mix bus.

Lots of downtempo music mixes the drums back, so consider cutting the top end EQ. Play around with predelays and reversed reverbs. A predelay on the snare that fits the rhythm can sound great. Use reverse reverbs to create breathing sounds. To add instant dirt, mix vinyl crackles into the beat too ñ but itís worth timing the pops so that they contribute to the groove, rather than clutter it. Humanise your beats! Play them in yourself - unquantised - or move the notes a little in either direction using your note editor. Alternatively, use the humanising function in your sequencer.

To add the final polish to your loop flow it through an EQ cloning plugin matched against an old jazz or big band record (the dirtier sounding the better). Alter the percentage effected to suit. To add an extra lazy ingredient, try varying the pitch of your snare drum during your drum loop. Pitching up and down by a few cents, and maybe more sometimes, can give some great sounds.


The most important thing about bass is mixing it in relation to the kick drum (often kick drums in chill don’t have too much bite or low-end, allowing you to mix your bass lower in the frequency spectrum). Make sure the two complement each other well by carving a ‘hole’ with EQ in the bassline, so the low frequencies blend cohesively as one unit. Live bass often sounds nice with a subtle top-end boost to bring out nuances in the playing. Play around with slides and fills to give programmed basslines interest.

Dusty Rhodes

Another characteristic sound of the genre is the slightly chorused, filtered shimmering Rhodes sound. Whether you’re using samples of live Rhodes or a virtual instrument, you can go far with a few FX. First, add a little overdrive (rather than distortion) to add harmonics and give your Rhodes a more beaten-up sound. Next, add a nice wide chorus to add depth to the sound (be careful not to overcook it or your mix might not work in mono). Finally, choose a filter from your plugin selection. Turn the resonance up and the cutoff down until you start to get a nice warm sound. Now try automating the cutoff around the point youíve set it at ñ try syncing to the bar or, if your filter has an envelope or LFO, play around a bit until you get a sound that adds some movement to the Rhodes.


Trombones are made to be filtered. Apply the same treatment as above to your trombone samples for instant audio candy. Slap a nice delay or hall reverb on the track (with high frequencies rolled off on the return) and you’re away…

Producing minimal house

How do you get the techy pared-down sound? The Sample Magic team offer some choice production pointers


Generally the key with Minimal House beats is to keep the kick nice and deep without too much mid or high-end energy so the high frequency elements can ‘breathe’ and inject life into the groove. Choosing drum sounds that fit each other well is also extremely important - if the kick is heavy the snare should feel light and toppy. For this reason 808 and 909 sounds can work particularly well.

It is always advisable to keep the kick (and other bass elements) in mono as these backbone elements of the track are often the most prominent and many club systems are still wired in mono. Having a stereo spread on hi-hats and other percussive elements helps keep the beat interesting and merges the rhythm nicely with synth loops or fx patterns.


Minimal basslines need to work well rhythmically, musically and in the context of the mix. Kick and bass frequencies should be carefully mixed and matched so that one of the two is more prominent than the other – a common trick is to carve an EQ ‘notch’ in the kick for the bassline to sit in.

Rhythmically the bass pattern should complement the drum loop so the two move together as a solid foundation to build other elements on. When composing original minimal basslines less is usually more. Experiment with 32nd notes and make fine edits with your sequencer step-editor.

Ultimately your bassline needs to be good enough to listen to over and over without causing the listener to tire.


When choosing a sample as a raw sound, look for complexity; something which is rich in harmonics and overtones – an obscure jazzy chord is the classic example. Vocals and organic sounds also work well. Try running your sound through a bit-crusher to add some dirt, then apply a low pass filter controlled by an envelope to give the sound some shape. Saturation and compression will really start to bring the sound alive and give it the classic punchy-techy sound.

Assign tone-shaping parameters to various controls to get as much variability in the sound as possible – the velocity mapped to the volume, cutoff and decay for example, and the mod wheel to a pitch LFO and reverb send. Some 3/16th delay will help give a strong rhythmic emphasis to the stabs.

Complex rhythmical textures

Take a vocal sound, set it looping but with a relatively short loop size. Now, map the loop start position to a rhythmical step sequencer. This means the start point of the loop will jump around in sync with the steps in the sequencer, by however much you set on each step. Immediately you will notice your sound has transformed from a stuttering sound, to something much more complex.

Try sending the cutoff to the step sequencer also, and maybe the sample rate too – you’ll quickly start to see how incredibly rich complex sounds can spring out of nowhere.

Cheers - some good stuff there.

What site did you get it from out of interest?

Hey Gatesy. i got it from soundstosample. you can go to They sell some great samples too.

cheers howiegroove,

A nice collection of tips.

Great tips:)

Great post howiegroove! Iv collected a few tips like this over the years but its always nice to have stuff documented together like this.

Excellent tips Howie!!

Thanks for passing on!

No sweat! Hope this helps everyone out!

Great post!

you are the best howie nice info very usefull:)

Cheers Hg well good read some handy tips and tricks in there:D Thanks

no sweat dude!

Thanks for this Howie, some great tips in here…thanks for sharing your find:P

copied and pasted

[quote]mussi81 (17/03/2010)[hr]copied and pasted[/quote]


[quote]howiegroove (17/03/2010)[hr][quote]mussi81 (17/03/2010)[hr]copied and pasted[/quote]


lol its copied to a word file on my desktop

[quote]mussi81 (17/03/2010)[hr][quote]howiegroove (17/03/2010)[hr][quote]mussi81 (17/03/2010)[hr]copied and pasted[/quote]


lol its copied to a word file on my desktop[/quote]

ahhhhh! Well WORD UP! Sorry, I can be dopey sometimes.

Brilliant - what a find! Thanks for sharing, howie! :D:D

finally got time to read this, awesome stuff. thanks howie

Rep for Howie!!

:slight_smile: :stuck_out_tongue: :hehe: