Drum and Bass Project - Postmortem

Updated: Nov 23, 2018


 

The project is finally finished, uploaded and submitted. I feel pretty good about it, having never really written a Drum and Bass track properly. I've wanted to for a long time and I guess I've just never put in the required effort, meaning I've always just tried to sit down and produce like I normally do expecting to write something I'm not used to writing. But sitting down and actually listening to DnB tracks and engaging with the concepts and styles that they portray I was able to create something that I was happy with and grow my skills in a new field of production.


In this blog I'm going to discuss the ups and downs of my project, what worked, what didn't, and how it all came together.


 

Project Fl Studio Session

Managing the Project


This project started of with a lot of steam, as soon as I was sure I knew what I was doing I drove home listening to DnB, sat down at my computer and start messing with some ideas. I spent some time coming up with some synthesis that I was happy with and some melody lines for basses, before I started working on the drum pattern. I knew that I could come up with some cool sounds for bass lines and lead synths but I wanted to nail the drums before I started piecing the project together. Needless to say, one of the most important features of Drum and Bass is the drum sequencing. I figured I was pretty good with my synthesis, so I had the Bass part down, but the drums are what I usually struggle with. So I spent some time listening to some tracks, analysing them and paying attention to the kind of drum patterns were being used and how they were put together. After some listening I decided I was going to try and mimic the drum pattern I heard in majority of DnB tracks, which you can read about in my track teardown of Bricks Don't Roll - Dj Hazard (which was also my reference track), and then once I had the basic idea constructed I would replace the basic sounds I had used with some sounds that I found interesting. Just samples from one of the many sample packs I've purchased, but still something that I could use to put my mark on this project. With the drums done it was time to construct my lead and bass lines from the synthesis I had created earlier. With some minor tweaking to the sounds and a bit more listening to my reference track I had pretty much completed my scratch track. Once this was done it was planning time, what came next? What was going to make this project evolve?


I had decided that I was going to add in some elements that I wouldn't normally, sticking with the theme of working outside of my usual box. I wanted to record some guitar, I'm a guitarist myself and have been trying to write some stuff for a while so I figured this would help that along. During my listening to other DnB tracks I heard a lot of brass instrumentation, and after an impromptu chat with a friend of mine about recording some trumpet for the project, I quickly booked a studio session to do just that. The rest of my planning was basically just organising what weeks I would expect to have all my tracking and mixing done, which wasn't hard to follow with a little bit of self discipline. There were some things that didn't really unfold the way I wanted them to, for example I really wanted to get some guitar tracked for this project but I just couldn't bring myself to write something appropriate for the track. Looking back I should have asked somebody to play guitar for me and let them write the parts with a clear vision in mind of what I wanted. There definitely were plenty of people I could have contacted but because I took it upon myself, it didn't even happen. On the bright side, the trumpet parts I tracked sounded great, and I picked up a whole new skill along the way. I never really knew how to record trumpet because I had never done it before, but throwing myself at the concept of recording brass was exactly what I needed to learn the skill. I turned out it was really quite easy and now I have a great baseline set of skills that I can build and experiment with the next time I record brass.


 

Project Pro Tools Session

The Process


I've already spoken a bit about my writing process and how I adapted it to writing a new genre, but I think there are some important points to discuss when it comes to my process during the rest of the project.


I definitely tried to stick to the scratch track as much as I could, mostly because I was happy with the way it sounded and I didn't want to change much with the synths I had created. In my head changed the synths would mean changing a lot of the track. However, going back and listening to the track now, there are things I would like to improve. The drums came together nicely and I'm happy with what I had acheived with them because I had reached a milestone in writing DnB, but there is a lot to improve. They still sound a bit too bare for my liking, and the cymbals and hi-hats don't have that kind of floaty, airy quality like most DnB drums. The over all mix is also something that can be improved, it isn't bad but it could definitely be better. I think the fact that the last thing I mixed was a grungy rock band that I didn't want to overly process and over polish may have affected the way I mixed this project. I wasn't really thinking of it as a mix that needed to be super tight and polished and was more or less trying not to mess with the original sounds too much. Maybe in the future I could do some kind of a scratch mix session where I try everything I want to with the elements and really go over the top with processing, just to see what works and what doesn't. Then start another mix that applies what I learned from the scratch mix.


I've never been exceptionally good at the musical aspect of my production, meaning I don't know much about chords and writing melodies. This was pretty obvious when I tried to write some guitar parts for the track. I haven't really found the time to play guitar properly in the last few years so I think just simply picking it up and learning some songs could help, but as I want to improve my electronic music production maybe I should take up learning something like piano. I have a MIDI keyboard that I used to write a lot of the parts of this track, but a lot of what I was doing was just messing around and then writing in the MIDI notes with my mouse, I would love to get to a skill level where I can play keyboard and record the MIDI notes I'm playing.


Over all, I think I need to take a bit more time to just practice my various skills, both in mixing and in writing.



 

So how did it all go?


Well like I said, the project panned out the way I wanted it to for the most part and I'm happy with the result. I think the only thing that really changed from my original plan was the fact that I didn't record any guitar. So there weren't any huge failures or oversights that had my project plan changing too drastically.


Even though I'm happy with the outcome I find myself not wanting to upload the final product to my artist Soundcloud page. This is probably mostly due to the fact that I don't usually produce DnB and it would seem a bit out of place, but I also don't think it's the best I can do. I don't really want to put it out there because I know I can do better. In fact when I finished this main project I wrote a small snippet of DnB that sounded much better than the original project. But all in all I've learn a few importnat things throughout this project; I need to practice my instruments and become proficient in writing from a musical aspect; I should practice mixing a project before I start a serious mix just so I can get my head around what I want from the track. I know I can carry these few things through to my next project continue improving my production abilities.