After hearing SBTRKT's recent self-titled full-length (which you can stream below), you might be surprised to know that the heaving, heavy jams he kicks out are largely the result of simple tools in Logic Pro. Here, the masked mastermind behind one of our favorite albums of late fills us in on how he goes about making his clubby bass tunes.
1. Make use of the basics
If you use Logic Pro as your sequencer, don't hesitate to use the basic instruments. ESP is great at making polyphonic lo-fi synth sounds. Pretty much all of my remix of Modeselektor's "Art & Cash" was created using the ESP instrument—basically a lot of square wave, a touch of saw wave, a long attack/decay, and sustain all the way up. Also, a touch of reverb on the channel gives it some more depth.
2. Automate your effects
The easiest way to add dynamism to an otherwise linear synth or drum arrangement is to automate effects on the channel. On an instrument channel, instead of using Inserts, add a couple of bus channels in the Sends and to each bus add an effect. If you set the button above the volume control to Touch, and play the track back, you can use the Bus Send knobs to add more or less of the chosen effect. If you let go of the knob, it will automatically go back to zero. If you then press the letter A, it will bring up the automation overlaid on the sequencer window, and you can adjust it with the mouse. Don't forget to reset your Touch back to Read, to make sure you don't overwrite the automation you've already done.
3. Transform your individual tracks
One of the most usual features to use is the Transform feature. Say you've played in a melody quickly, but want to tidy it up a bit. Double-click the part to get to the drum layout page, select Function and Transform, and then a number of options come up. You can try things like Double Speed, Fixed Note Length to create unbroken chords, or Fixed Velocity.
4. Need inspiration? Mess around!
The easiest way for me to get inspiration to make songs is just to mess around with synths and virtual instruments until I come across a great sound. So having various software tools makes that much easier. One of the best soft-synth makers is Native Instruments, and they have a free plug-in called Kore Player that you can download sounds for. There are already a number of sounds included. I've made a number of tracks using that as a basis.
5. Compress your sounds before mastering
To make sure your tracks have enough weight and dynamics if you work inside the box and don't use outboard, you have to utilize compressors on separate sections of your track. I tend to bus drums, keys, and vocals separately, and add master effects to each of these before they go to the master channel, where I add a multi-band compressor. It is better to have your tracks sound great at a lower level than to max the channels out and for sounds to go over the 0 db line, as there is little room for error if all your channels are already at the top level. Be aware of how your tracks will translate onto bigger systems, and try to play on as many types of speakers as possible—from iPods, to cars, to club systems. Tracks should sound great on all formats before they go to mastering. Mastering should only enhance what is already there.