Experimenting in the studio is one of the best parts of being a musician.
Inspiring ideas aren't always at our fingertips when you need them.
Getting out of the rabbit hole and back to our creativity calls for a musician to try new techniques. I have put together the 15 top experimental techniques to inspire you to climb out of that hole and get back to creating.
1. Beat matching
Beat matching is the process of manipulating the tempo of two tracks playing simultaneously playing (Timbaland does this).
You will start to discover hidden melodies and rhymes in your existing track.
2. Double tracking
Double tracking is the classic studio technique of stacking multiple takes of the same part on top of each other. I recently applied this technique to a my new record, 'Before The Doors Close' and was blown back at how much more breath and punch shot out of the speakers!
You might be surprised how much a sound can change when it’s layered with itself!
The subtle variances between performances can create a massive sounding effect.
3. Field recordings
Bring the outside world to your DAW session with field recordings. The sounds of a real environment verses plugins... the environment is unmatched. One Republic is known for getting a lot of their inspiration for new material by listening to the sounds of cities they perform in.
So take it outside, with whatever mobile recording method you have at your disposal-I use the app Voice Record Pro. Even your phone’s built-in mic can be enough to get a convincing sonic image of place.
Gates are way for more than just eliminating noise.
You can get seriously creative with gates and expanders by using them on non-traditional sources or routing their sidechains to other sources.
5. Key change
I've found when working with artists and my own music that a key change can be the most dramatic part of a song.
Whether it’s a simple modulation to refresh things for the final chorus (great change up) or a radical departure to an unrelated key, moving a song to different harmonic center is a perfect way to shake things up.
Layering multiple sounds and samples together can turn your tracks into something musically magical.
There are going to be elements in the sounds you use that you love. Experiment with stacking your sounds on top of each other and you may find you created something new.
Stuck in the same old scale? Trying one of the modes of the major scale could be what you need to break out.
Each mode has its own unique colour and mood. Their melodic signatures can bring a lot of drama and freshness to your sound.
Quantizing is normally used to synchronize MIDI note events on the DAW grid. I would suggest throwing out the rule book and get more creative with your process.
See what patterns surface when you try quantizing a part using “incorrect” note values... I'm not going to say its genius... but, it is pretty intelligent music producing.
This is one of my favorites! I used this on a record I produced for an R&B artist. The sound of audio played in reverse will never stop sounding mind-bendingly weird, but it is inspiring. This classic audio technique been around since the psychedelic sixties.
Try reversing your tracks and samples to create new and unexpected textures.
Samples are truly experimental. There’s nothing like digging through a bizarre SFX pack to discover you perfect experimental sound that you can add to a track.
Don't be timid-be aggressive with your sample choices and think of things out of our atmosphere. .
There’s no rules when it comes to samples.
11. Time signatures
How often do you change your DAW’s time signature (click on signature to read my blog on music theory and time signatures) to something other than 4/4?
Even if it’s just a basic triple meter like 3/4 or 6/8, switching it up is a great way to experiment in the studio.
You will see how different time signatures flip your phrases and rhythms.
Varispeed is another classic tape technique that’s still fresh and experimental today. Manipulating the speed of your recordings can completely change their sound.
You might find things you never expected lurking in the depths of a track that's been radically time stretched!
Focusing on the appearance of the waveform itself is a great way to be experimental.
Use an oscilloscope to dial in your synth patches visually. Using a visual display only, will really take you out of your comfort zone.
It's easy to get stuck using the same few instruments on every track. Maybe you always start with a drum beat. Disrupt that pattern! Try starting with an instrument (or sample) you've never used before. Such as...piccalo. Why not!
The best experiment and most innovative to bring to the studio next time... is you! The best things come from you and your imagination.
Don't put any limits on experimentation in the studio and try anything that pops into your head. If you find you are blocked, take time out and get out of the studio. Write down what is going on and ask 'WHY'. You're in charge!