Do you need a fresh start and work flow for your productions? If you're tired of simply using software to produce, it could be time to explore new territory and develop a whole new workflow. Incorporating hardware into your studio setup is an exciting venture, as it offers an organic, hand-on experience. Here's five ideas on how to use hardware to start your tracks.
Start out by making the drums for your track on a drum machine, like Roland's TR-8, TB-09 or Arturia's Drum Brute. Using a drum machine is a fast and easy way to create rhythms that groove. Once you've programmed a drum line you like, record the drums into your DAW. I tend to record both the master group of drums to create a loop and individual drum tracks for further processing.
If you're a producer who wants to work with with hardware, it's a good idea to invest in one good quality synthesizer. Learning a hardware synth gives producers a deeper understanding of synthesis, and the ability to add unique signature sounds to your tracks. Analog synths have come down in cost and there are many good quality options available for affordable prices. A semi-modular like the Moog Mother-32 may be the way to go, as its offers a raw analog sound and can easily connect with other electronic ecosystems. Other reputable analog synths for producers include the Moog Sub Phatty, Arturia Microbrute or the Korg microKORG. If you're more interested in digital synths, check out Roland's System-8, the A-01 or the Modor NF-1. No matter which synth you have, spend time learning the presets, how to modify them and how to create new sounds from scratch.
Customized Beatstep painted by: Melle Oh
Start out with a sampled percussive loop or two in your DAW and use the analog synth to create a bass line or lead line that's synced via MIDI to the DAW. You may want to use an analog sequencer along with your synth to program something really fun. A controller like Arturia's Beatstep or Beatstep Pro is a fun tool to use with synths that allows producers to quickly create sequenced lines.
Have a jam session with a drum machine and a bass line generator or synth. A few notable options for this could be Roland's TR-8 and TB-3, or Roland's TR-09 and TB-03. Both of these drum machines and bass line generators offer old school sounds and programming abilities that have been updated for the modern producer. Many great tracks can be started or even created with just a drum machine and bass line generator. Once you've created a hook you like, record it into your DAW and edit the parts afterwards.
Analog hardware gives producers the freedom to create tracks that be performed live. If you create with live performance in mind, this will give your songs structure and a focus they may have previously lacked. Composing for live performance means that songs need to be simple enough to be performed with your setup, so the music can't be overly complicated. Writing with live performance in mind can be a helpful exercise to establish a workflow that's straightforward and a minimal writing style where less is more.