Help me get started making drum and bass/idm.
July 12, 2006 7:19 PM   Subscribe

MuFi has got the best of me - help me get started making electronic music, particularly drum 'n' bass/idm.

I have a pretty good idea what sort of sounds I want to make, but I need the tools to do it. I've perused other threads on the matter (1, 2, 3, 4) but there's a couple of things missing:

1. Samples/source material/loops. I'm looking for any and all downloadable, copyright-free or creative commons samples and materials with which to mess around. Preferably, but not necessarily d'n'b style sounds. (note: I am aware of freesound). Also, kind of speculative: does there exist such a thing as open-source music? Where artists make available the source tracks from a song, for others to remix freely?

2. Software. I never got the hang of Reason, Fruity Loops irritates me, and Acid Pro hurts. In my dreams there exists a simple, elegant (preferably free or cheap) program with which to arrange loops and patterns, and not do too much more fancy stuff. Or am I barking up the wrong tree somewhat, and should just make the effort to learn Reason? (note: I'm happy with AudioMulch and Soundforge for audio manipulation and editing).

3. Any tutorials or advice on starting out would be most useful, regarding making drum and bass/jungle/hi-bpm/idm type stuff.

Many thanks for any assitance.
posted by MetaMonkey to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
1) Google "Creative Commons" and "Copyleft".
2) Maybe give Synapse Audio's Orion a shot. The samplers you use in that have integrated beatslicers, and the effects were a lot better than Reason's last time I looked. Oh, and it can use VSTI's and do midi out and so on. It's not as pretty as reason, but I think that can be a good thing. I mean really, swinging cables?
3) There's a fair bit around if you look. Check out the Sound on Sound site, the Future Music site, and I would've suggested but it doesn't seem to be there any more. Oh, I know, spinwarp. Some good stuff there IIRC.
posted by pompomtom at 7:42 PM on July 12, 2006

Out of curiosity, what didn't you like about Acid? It seems perfectly suited for what you're looking to do.
posted by lekvar at 7:42 PM on July 12, 2006

Oh yeah, link for Orion
posted by pompomtom at 7:44 PM on July 12, 2006

lekvar: Out of curiosity, what didn't you like about Acid?

That's a good question, because now I think about it I can't explain. It was probably 4 or more years ago I tried it out, my only distinct memory is finding it somehow unpleasant. I should probably try it again.
posted by MetaMonkey at 7:53 PM on July 12, 2006

There's always a tradeoff between "simple" and "powerful." You will not find an easy tool that'll make good, complex music. I'd say the time investment to master Reason is worth it, for sure.
posted by Alterscape at 7:57 PM on July 12, 2006

FWIW it may be worth tracking down a version of Acid prior to sony taking over Sonic Foundry (who originally created it), which I think would be verison 4. From what I can remember it used to be more straightforward (why did sony take out the 'export loops at project tempo function??) and would still do what you want.

Have to say I agree, it sounds like acid should be your ideal app. Don't fancy ableton either?

I only skimmed through the other threads you linked, dunno if anyone's pointed you in the direction of the blog Create Digital Music yet, that's worth a look, alongside em411 etc
posted by chrissyboy at 8:00 PM on July 12, 2006

I think Reason is pretty easy to learn if you read the manual/help file. I taught myself about a week before I had to teach a class on it last year.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:02 PM on July 12, 2006

Forget Acid and Fruity Loops. Ableton Live comes with a tutorial built into the demo. It's as easy as looping gets, and the demo comes with Impulse, a drum instrument, so if you have a piece of equipment as simple as an Akai MPD16 or an M-Audio Axiom 25 you can lay down some d'n'b shit without troubles. Reason is an excellent "sound synth" — sound synthesizer — that will feed all kinds of nice sounds into Live very easily.

And when you're ready to get serious about music, you can move Live and Reason to a Mac without having to relearn and — more importantly — repurchase any Windows-specific tools. Acid and Fruity Loops run on one platform only.
posted by Mr. Six at 8:07 PM on July 12, 2006

It was probably 4 or more years ago I tried it out, my only distinct memory is finding it somehow unpleasant

Heh then you might like it now it's been sonyfied =)
posted by chrissyboy at 8:08 PM on July 12, 2006

If ACID is too complicated for you, you may want to consider approaching (even) less complicated music than D'n'B. I don't mean this in a snarky way, just keep in mind that those D'n'B producers use a broad swath of new and old tech in fairly complicated ways to get the sounds that they do.

I don't write D'n'B, but I did buy a copy of Reason and Ableton, and they're competent, capable tools that will do what you want and a lot more.
posted by fake at 1:14 AM on July 13, 2006

fake is right. Start with something less complicated. Classic techno using 303, 808 & 909 moving onto more acid (303 knob-twiddling) will help you get used to making music and using whatever software you want to. (I started learning Reason on a 12" G3 iBook reading from a PDF file. And playing via the piano roll as I didn't have a MIDI keyboard. It's worth the effort. Alternatively Ableton is highly recommended by a lot of producers I know.)

DnB beats are chopped up and put back together in quite a complicated way and are not as regular as, say, techno or house so you're having to get to grips with all that as well as actually having to learn software & music construction.

If you are going to go the DnB route start with an Amen break and concentrate on getting the sound you want rather than getting the beats...the AB will loop forever.

Join a class! Seriously, there are some decent evening classes out there for beginners and you'll make contact with other like-minded types as well as having access to loads of advice from the teacher.

Make contact with more experienced musicians/engineers/programmers. If you've got good ideas and -- more importantly -- you get on, they'll be happy to spend a few hours or even days doing tracks with you and this is the best way of learning. (I learned most of what I know about making electronic music like this by having friends who'd worked with the likes of 4Hero, DeeLite, Banco de Gaia, Medicine Drum etc. And had a lot of fun too.)

DJ. You'll learn a hell of a lot about music & what you want to make if you get out & play some records. You'll also meet people who are into making the music you like. You don't have to be playing big parties all over the world...even just friends' front rooms is enough. And when you do start making good tracks you'll be able to play them...and you'll be playing something no other DJ has ;-)
posted by i_cola at 6:09 AM on July 13, 2006

does there exist such a thing as open-source music? Where artists make available the source tracks from a song, for others to remix freely?

there are usually remix competitions floating around music sites where you can get the multitrack files or sample-packs of songs (here's one that is going on now that came to me in the Ableton newsletter), but I don't know of a site where users swap them regularly.. The closest thing I know of is ccMixter, and there is a decent collection of cc music links here.

And regarding software- you can really use almost anything you like. Whatever is easy to learn and supports samples I guess. From your o.p., I might recommend getting started with the Ableton Live demo to try it out, but I have a friend who makes d'n'b/break-core and has released on labels like Rephlex and still uses the simple old tracker apps, so i would imagine you could use just about any decent program.
posted by p3t3 at 6:25 AM on July 13, 2006

My great thanks for all the answers and advice so far.

I think I'll just try everything over again, considering the range of opinion on software. I am most intruiged by the tracker apps, as it's a system I haven't played with, and I imagine closer to the roots of d'n'b. And this time, I'll actually read a manual or two ;)

As a side note, are any mefites making this style of music? I keep waiting for something to pop on MuFi.
posted by MetaMonkey at 11:48 AM on July 13, 2006

I'll second p3t3's recommendation for tracker apps. They're odd programs, and take a bit of effort to learn, but they're capable of minute detail (like the heavily edited drum tracks that are a signature element of the styles you mentioned) and they have a pretty fast workflow, once you get into them. Keep in mind that they're somewhat obsolete. I use Buzz, (link to some music in profile) a rather quirky tracker program with lots of free plugins available, but also some stability problems.

Ableton Live is very powerful but has plenty of tutorial material included int he demo and manual. Definitely try out the demo before settling on anything.
posted by cathodeheart at 4:07 PM on July 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'll third the recommendation for trackers, though the ones I've used can be a bit lacking in user interface ease-of-use. But they are surprisingly powerful.

On the other hand, if you want something dirt simple and cheap, try playing around with Mixman. It's about the furthest you can get from pro software but it is a lot of fun to play with.
posted by lekvar at 4:36 PM on July 13, 2006

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