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The skill-set of mixing house music is an essentiality for any Electronic music producer. This is not just due to the genre’s increasing popularity but due to the multitude of possibilities to branch off into different sub-genres.
It’s commercial appeal is also endless and the genre boasts some of the largest playlist-followings on digital streaming platforms like Spotify.
If you’ve always dreamed of becoming a House producer but have no idea where to begin, don’t worry, read on to find some essential tips to becoming a professional.
Hone In On A Subgenre
This may feel like an audacious tip to start as you would assume that subgenres derive from an understanding of the main genre itself.
Truthfully, house music is an amalgamation of sub genres and so it is important to know what kind of sound you are looking to develop prior to even starting.
Subgenres of House music include the following: Deep House, Future House, Tech House, Tropical House, Progressive House, Electro House, Disco House and Bass House.
You can discover which subgenre your style suits by focusing on the BPM of your specific track, for example, Deep House usually has a BPM in the 120-140 range. It also has a more relaxed feel than Bass House and tends to include vocals/samples.
Start With A Loop
Once you have chosen a specific subgenre, start with an appropriate loop. Ensure that your loop contains these four key elements: kick and snare/clap pattern, chord progression, melody, percussions, bass groove.
Fortunately, most loops will automatically contain these crucial elements. Once you have placed your loop, start to build in other loops that emulate the natural progression of the track.
In order to ensure that your track sounds polished and professional, you should use samples. High-quality samples will bring an added nuance to your track.
It is imperative that these samples are of a high quality as it will be virtually impossible to mix in a low quality sample and make it sound blended and professionally produced.
Some of the world’s top producers have also started to release their own sample packs and these are perfect if you are looking to emulate the sound of a pro. These samples don’t have to be cliched or specific to the House genre either.
In fact, the beauty of House music is that you can amalgamate a variety of sampled sounds into one steady groove.
As a fan of House music, you will be familiar with the traditional, pulsating, pumping sound that is a key component of many tracks. This effect is produced via a process called ‘sidechaining’.
Sidechaining is a technique where an effect is stimulated by an alternative audio track.
For instance, a compressor is added to an underlying sub bass, so that every time the ‘kick’ hits in the looped track, the compressor will lower the volume in the sub bass to allow the ‘kick’ to be heard with clarity.
There are numerous tutorials on YouTube that lay out this process in depth.
Offset Your Snare
Digital streaming platforms automatically feature an ‘audio equalizing’ feature that can only be turned off in the listener’s playback settings.
As such, this has forced a number of producers to make their mixes louder than before in order to retain the dynamics of each track. This knowledge is essential when selecting a snare or clap for your track.
Aligning a snare on top of another snare, for instance, will only serve to make your sound distorted which is the opposite of what you need to increase the clarity.
However, to fix this, you can manually offset your snare so that it doesn’t hit exactly on the beat. By doing this, your limiter will not have to work as powerfully and this will avoid any unnecessary distortion.
The beauty of House music often derives from its simplicity. However, there are numerous layers involved in building a House track that are often underestimated or devalued.
To achieve such a polished, intricate mix with only a few distinguishable elements requires mastery. Layering different sounds that are often undetectable as solo instrumentation, fills the frequency spectrum and makes the sound more wholesome and dynamic.
Although, you should exercise caution with this technique as layering incompatible sounds together can muddy your mix in an instant.
You should start by choosing your leading sound, this will be the most prevalent layer in your overall mix and can be a preset loop or made from scratch.
Then search for another loop or create a sound from scratch that will add a unique twist to the track. Maybe adding a layer that is grittier or contains a differing level of distortion or reverb.
There are a variety of tutorials on Academy.fm that outline the layering process in more depth but to simplify, enjoy the experimentation involved in layering your track and finding the intricate flow of your own sound progression.
Experiment With The Limiter Turned On/Off
This step is pretty self explanatory. Sometimes limiters can quite literally limit the dynamics within the track. Experiment with the limiter turned off and on and produce ‘into it’ to discover and enhance the dimensions within each track.
Whilst it may be tempting to just loop your beats over one bar. Try to add variety in your loops, generating variations over longer periods (whether that is two, four, six or eight bar periods).
Like with sentence structures, in order to maintain a flow in your musicality, it is important to add a variety with regards to the length of your bars.
What Should I Mix House Music With?
To mix house music, you need a DAW or Digital Audio Workstation. This software can host a variety of samples as well as virtual software instruments and arrange them in a way that simplifies playback.
The most reputable DAWs include the following: Ableton Live, Image-Line FL Studio, Apple Logic Pro, Steinberg Cubase, PreSonus Studio One, Cockos Reaper 6, Reason Studios, Bitwig Studio, Apple Garageband, Acoustica Mixcraft, Avid Pro Tools and Cakewalk by BandLab.
Apple Logic Pro, Apple Garageband and Avid Pro Tools are probably the most known out of these DAWs. However, Logic Pro and Garageband are only compatible with Apple products. There is a wide range of tutorials available for these three Digital Audio Workstations.
Where Do DJs Get Their House Music?
Most DJs will find their house music via websites like Bandcamp. This is because Bandcamp is known to support the artist and only takes a marginal cut in revenue. Bandcamp also has a strong community with regards to Electronic (House) music.
Locating new music via this website is easy as the listener/DJ is able to use hashtags and genre-specific searches to find music within any subgenre.
Many DJs will also source their music from Spotify and Apple playlists. Spotify, in particular, hosts a large variety of House music, incorporating every sub genre into playlists that boast some of the largest followings on the entire platform.
A lot of DJs will also discover music on platforms like SoundCloud that enable underground talent to be showcased without the need for digital distribution.
Many different producers will also be willing to offer sample packs and promote different samples via this platform that will be readily available for download/purchase.
Some DJs will take the old-school approach of discovering new music at live events and DJ sets. Although traditional, this is actually a refreshing approach in an age of digital streaming dominance.
This also gives the DJ or producer the opportunity to discover new sounds in a setting where they are able to really feel the bass and different complexities of the music.
They are also able to observe how the music is received by a live audience and which elements provoke the best reaction in the listener.
There are also numerous Youtube channels that platform House music with a backdrop of different, relaxing scenes. Often holiday snaps or pictures of vast beaches are included to relax the listener and these channels often have millions of subscribers.
As a producer or a DJ, it is well worth approaching the curators of these channels in order to promote your work or to source new music.
Mixing house music starts with a passion for the genre itself. You will need to be able to hone in on a specific sub genre as it is a multifaceted style of music that encapsulates many differing and often contradictory sounds.
Once you are fully aware of which sound you would like to pursue, downloading a reputable Digital Audio Workstation and watching the related YouTube tutorials will help you to navigate the software more easily.
When you have a strong familiarity with your DAW of choice, you will then be able to use loops (or create a sound from scratch) and start to layer your track.
Do not forget the importance of including samples in the creation of House music and above all, allow yourself the freedom to experiment and enjoy the creative process.