There may not be any guaranteed formulas for success, but some artists manage to come up with wicked tracks time and time again. Although a few of these people claim that this talent just comes to them naturally, more often than not their success is the result of acquiring skills, sensibilities, and strategies through years of sweat and hard work. Remix asked seven top artists and remixers to share their hard-earned wisdom by divulging the elements that are at the heart of their approaches to creating music.
1. LEARN SOME BASIC MUSICAL SKILLSFatboy SlimA lot of DJs only know about beats, which is why a lot of DJs make monotonous-sounding records. It's good to know about music, about notes and chords and how they work together. You don't have to be trained in music theory. If you play an instrument, you can get by fine knowing little more beyond a few minor and seventh chords. It's not even necessary to learn how to play an instrument, but if you understand music it's a lot easier to take a variety of samples from different sources and mix them together in a way that makes sense and sounds good.
2. EXPERIMENT WITH SOUND DESIGNRob PlayfordI'm not musically talented at all. When I'm working on a song, I can't simply start putting some chords over things. That really limits me creatively, but I make up for my lack of musical ability by layering sounds together or using processing in unusual ways. When I started making my own songs, I had to sample things because I couldn't play an instrument and I didn't have access to any musicians. But I'd take those samples and make them do what I wanted them to. I would process and manipulate them until the original sample was no longer recognizable. That's still the basis of what I do today. I just need a sound to start with, and then I can make it do just about anything that I want it to.
3. STRIP AWAY THE EXCESS FATArmand Van HeldenWhen I'm working on a remix, I start by selecting the sounds and samples I want to use, and then I put them all together on the sequencer. I'll throw down a bunch of ideas, just stacking things up until it starts to sound overcrowded. After that I start eliminating things until I'm left with only the best parts. That's where the real work starts. The dopest-sounding remixes are usually the simplest ones, but they are also the hardest ones to do.
4. USE CHEAP GEAR TO BUILD CHARACTERDaft Punk's Thomas BangalterAnybody can make good-sounding tracks with any equipment. You don't need to have the latest and most expensive piece of gear. It's actually better to mix cheap gear with state-of-the-art equipment. Cheap instruments have more character than professional gear, but you have to spend some time experimenting to get the best results. You also have to be careful not to become so involved with the machines that you forget about the music. We use a lot of guitar pedals. Digital instruments sound too clean, but a guitar pedal can make them sound dirty and alive.
5. RECORD TRADITIONAL INSTRUMENTS IN NONTRADITIONAL WAYS