Welcome to the Beatportal Master Class series on production techniques.
Starting this month, we’ll be polling Beatport artists and producers on their approaches to various production techniques and reporting their answers in roundtable format.
As artists, we all have our own preferences and philosophies that comprise our sound, and those philosophies are what makes each artist unique – and to some DJs and audiences, even inspirational.
In the interest of increasing that inspiration, we’ll be getting insights and tips from producers with tried-and-true techniques that have earned them their place at the peak of many DJ sets.
This month, we’ll be talking about approaches to track intros and outros.
Some artists start with full-on music, some with just drums, some with just a floaty pad or heavily effected passage.
Personally, I’m a fan of the old school drum in/out, since it makes track selection an almost painless process, especially with brand new remixes you’re itching to try out later tonight.
That said, I also know a few DJs that skip over tracks that have intro qualities that make them more PITA than HITA.
Here’s what some of Beatport’s top artists have to say.
(Note that the responses are in alphabetical order, since everyone involved is a star in their own right.)
Nowadays, I think you are able to start a record however you want, it doesn’t always have to start with a 32-beat (or eight measure, if you prefer) intro of drums alone.
I tend to start with a beat intro to make it easier for DJs to mix-in, but I think if you have a good enough musical hook at the beginning then why not start with that?
Don’t think you have to be the same as everyone else, try something new because you want to stand out from the rest.
MySpace link: www.myspace.com/richarddinsdale
When approaching the beginning and end of a track meant to be played by other DJs I always try to have no music present in either the beginning and the ending.
The reason for this is simple: It makes the track more playable.
There is less of a chance of keys clashing when the new track enters and also leave a clean slate for when the next track comes in.
Also, I try to build the energy in the intro of a track, adding instruments one at a time so the new track feels like it’s taking over the old one.
Same on the outro, take away parts until you are left with as little as you can handle.
MySpace link: www.myspace.com/joshgabrielmusic
I personally come from the old school of formatting tracks with the DJ in mind, without any concern for the “casual listener.”
Having done this for the past 15 years, it’s just become second nature when arranging a track—I don’t even think about it anymore.
Usually the technique calls for at least one minute of beats / minimal groove at the beginning, and the same at the end.
I like to build the groove and the drums for the first minute, adding little percussion elements, and teasing in sounds that are fun to mix.
I do the opposite at the end.
I almost always bring in the bassline sometime between 1:00 and 1:30, whether through a simple “drop in” or a small build-up.
And I do the same at the end—removing the bassline with 1:00 left in the track.
This technique allows a DJ to work with minimal concern over melodic elements & key matching, and slam in new basslines without worrying about clashes. In short, it’s extremely DJ-friendly.
MySpace link: www.myspace.com/djwolfganggartner
Nowadays there’s certainly nothing wrong with having a very short intro or no intro to a track at all – it may make the tune a little more difficult to be placed in a set, but the DJs of today shouldn’t have much of a problem with that.
When I make intros and outros I generally try and keep at least 15 seconds free of any basslines or melodic parts, so there’s a bit of headroom for DJs to mix with.
I have some tracks are just beats for the first minute or even longer, and they can be fun to mix with as they’re a bit more versatile.
If you are going to have a long beats intro to a tune, you can still make it interesting with little fills and effects!
MySpace link: www.myspace.com/jaytech
Intros and outros are definitely important aspects of a song that make it DJ friendly.
I’m very particular about how they are structured, and it often annoys me when people get too clever with this – or don’t provide a strong transient in the beginning (kick, snare, something) that I can set my warp markers to, or set the cue point on CDJs.
I think you need to strike a balance – simply doing drum intro and outros is boring. The records need elements that talk to each other, and space so the record coming in and can have some breathing room.
I try to put in syncopated parts that mix well, but maybe aren’t so tonal that they will clash musically.
One trick I like is starting the intro with the small kick, and moving into the big one after 32 bars – this allows you create impact and excitement without having to manage the DJ mixer’s EQ so much.
Using FX, percussive hits, and subtle musical stabs – especially with automation is essential to creating an interesting record for DJs to mix.
I also love filtering chords and sweeps to build up to the first breakdown, where the next record can drop.
MySpace link: www.myspace.com/morganpage
[Pictured above with Cristina Soto]
Creating the introduction of a piece of dance music can be a tricky thing.
Most producers stick to theology that says, begin the track with a basic kick, snare, and hi-hat so that the DJ has something tangible to latch onto in the mix.
As DJs who use the decks, we understand this and to a certain degree subscribe to this method as well.
The thing that we try to do is to make our percussion and effects unique in the intro, so that the new track coming in sticks its head up in one manner or another.
We also like to take one element of the track, bounce it and create a unique stab or effect out of it in order to get that, “oh here it comes moment”.
We also use Ableton Live 7 in our sets, and in this case do not need a traditional mix-in.
We feel that as more and more DJs begin to see the magic that can take place within an environment such as Live, the entire way that dance music is introduced could change.
MySpace link: www.myspace.com/tritonalmusic
Speaking of outros, if there are any producers out there with a body of solid Beatport tracks under their belt who are interested in participating in future roundtables, please feel free to contact me directly at: email@example.com
Next topic: The relationship between kick and (b)ass.