Showcase – HMA Productions
I first learned about electronic music production two years ago from one of my friends who introduced me to Ableton Live.
A year later, I decided I would begin seriously working with electronic dance music instead of passively dicking around with my software. Now I’ve been producing electronic dance music for a little over a year, and haven’t looked back on a single moment of it with regret; not even the first few remix contests I entered where I ended up hating the production itself afterwords.
I only forward to what I will become and do the best I can at any given moment.
1) Tell us a bit about your music (genre, inspiration source, goals)
As a whole, I don’t like to stick to one style. I have the overarching name of HMA Productions, but it’s really just a grouping that says “Stephen Goree produced this” because I plan on having multiple monikers for the different styles I produce.
My first real moniker that I came up with is MinKraft, which is the name I use for all my minimal and tech house works. The second and latest moniker I’ve come up with is Blackmasque, and that one doesn’t really stick to one style in particular. It started out as being a drum and bass project, but I just recently finished up a dubstep track and realized that anyone could really see my drum and bass and dubstep as coming from the same person. It’s got sort of a trance-y feel as well as sort of going back to the roots of the genres; my drum and bass has sort of a junglist feel to it, and my dubstep has a lot more 2-step and breakstep influence than I see from most dubstep producers today. But I guess if you were to take all my monikers and point out the one characteristic that I keep through all of them, it would probably be contrast.
I wasn’t always into electronic music like I am now, and the artists who really vibed well with me before I started really getting into electronic music were the ones who had a high level of contrast in their music, especially in progressive rock/metal and post-hardcore.
I’m a huge fan of music that evolves instead of sticking to the same verses with different lyrics or the choruses that are there for the sake of being catchy. Nothing wrong with the other music; it’s just my preference.
2) How do you use Massive in your productions?
Drums aside, I use Massive for pretty much everything now. It is without a doubt the most versatile synthesizer I’ve ever seen. Whereas before, I would’ve used Operator or Analog (for those of you unfamiliar with Ableton, those are two instruments included in Ableton Suite) for a relatively disappointing sound that needed a lot of extra effects and that wouldn’t sound good until the master, now I just pull up Massive and make the sound I’m looking for in maybe an hour or two max, and it sounds great to begin with.
I’ll admit that Massive probably won’t be quite that handy when I start work with MinKraft again (a project which needs a ridiculous amount of FM), but it should be useful for some of the atmospheric or noisy sounds I need.
3) Can you tell us about the creation of a specific sound in one of your tracks?
None of my sounds are all that complex, so I’m not quite sure if knowing how I made one of them is really worth it. I could go on all day about making your own sounds, but if I must, I will stick to one: the atmospheric pad in “Blood, Sweat, and Tears.”
-I started out by coming up with the chord progression and programming it into a MIDI clip. That’s always important when you make a new sound, as it gives you an idea of how it’s going to sound when you actually put it to use in the mix.
-I didn’t want it to be the most prominent sound the mix (although I turned it up so it could be clearly heard over everything) so I gave it a medium attack with a long decay, almost full sustain, and a very long release.
-I used three Square-Saw II waves, and kept the WT Position and Intensity at the default “New Patch” settings.
-Since I wanted it to sound trance-y, I used the same technique that I’m almost positive most trance producers use: I detuned two of them, one to -.07 and the other to .14 (I find it works best if the sum of the the absolute values is a multiple of .07…hopefully you know math), and the third I set to play an octave higher than the MIDI input (+12 semitones, or 12.00 in Massive). This gives it a wide, detuned, spacey sound, but also introduces a lot of higher harmonics.
-Then I set the ring modulator’s pitch to 7.00 (for the music theory nuts like myself, that’s a perfect fifth up), and set the Ring Modulation and Phase to both effect Oscillator 3 (the octave). I turned the RM knob to slightly higher than the 10:30 position and the Phase knob to slightly higher than the 9:00 position. I find the ring modulation helps add harmonic richness and the phase, while distorting the sound further, can give this sort of sound a soft quality.
-I added bright noise with the color set around the 1:30 position and the amp level set to about 10:30. Noise in general helps to give your sounds a fizzy quality, but bright noise will give your sound more clarity and make your mix less muddy later on. I added feedback with the knob set around 9:30 just because it sounded better that way.
-With the filters working in series, both filter amps turned up to maximum, and the filter mix set evenly between 1 and 2, I used the Daft filter first. I put the cutoff at about 2:30 and the resonance at about 10:30. I used a Scream filter second with the cutoff slightly below 3:00, the scream between 1:00 and 1:30, and the resonance at roughly 11:00.
-I used Chorus Ensemble to thicken the sound and give it an almost vocal tone. The dry/wet knob was turned to roughly 10:00, the rate was at 11:00, the offset was unchanged, and the depth was at 1:30.
-I used reverb to give it an even more atmospheric sound. The dry/wet and density knobs were both unchanged, but the size was set to 2:30, and the color was set to 3:00.
-When I got to the EQ, I didn’t want the sound to have a lot of low frequencies, so I turned the low shelf down and turned the high shelf to roughly 1:00. I also set the frequency knob to 1:00, and pushed the boost slightly past that.
-I set up a triangle LFO with sync turned on at a 4/1 ratio, “Pos” turned on, and “Restart” turned off, with the X-Fade turned all the way to the triangle. Then I shifted the triangle position to my liking so that it would make a small dip before climbing. I put it on the Daft filter cutoff to move roughly 1:30 in either direction with the green side up, and on the Daft filter resonance and on the Scream filter’s scream to move roughly 2:00 in either direction, with the green side down.
-Then I set up a sine LFO, position-adjusted in the same way I adjusted the triangle LFO, with the X-Fade turned all the way to the sine. I turned “Sync” and “Restart” off, and set the rate to something between 10:30 and 11:00. Then I set it to modulate the Scream cutoff about 1:00 in either direction and the Scream resonance about 1:30 in either direction, with the green side up.
-Lastly, I set up one more sine LFO with no position adjustment and the X-Fade turned all the way to the sine. “Sync” and “Restart” were turned off, and the “Rate” knob was turned up to full.
4) Tell us a technique in Massive you use not many know about?
I’m not sure if it’s a technique that’s really unknown, but I really like modulating the middle frequency on the EQ. For instance, in “Blood, Sweat, and Tears,” I used a saw wave to modulate that frequency in the bass sound where the pitch either ascended or descended. I found that instead of making two instances of the exact same instrument, it was much better to have the sound evolve so that it caught the more robo-vocal frequencies near the end of every two bars, but not at the beginning of those two bars. It also gave the stabs in “Outrun Time” almost a wah-pedal sound.
It’s just an interesting technique that adds a little variety; nothing life-changing or awe-inspiring.
5) How has MassiveSynth.com helped you on your production journey?
MassiveSynth has been one of the most useful sites I have come across since I started producing electronic music. Before I started using Massive, all I had was the instruments that came with Ableton Suite 8, so when I started using Massive, I wasn’t used to having that many sound options open to me. All the tutorials featured on the site gave me some sort of insight into how I should use the features of Massive. It’s really quite liberating to know what options are there for me.
Out of all the different tutorials, though, one that really stood out was a tutorial where the video creator (whoever that was, thank you) pointed out that you should make the sound good before you try putting effects or modulation on it.
That was the driving creative force behind my entry into Ableton’s “Beat the Clock” competition, which ended up being my track “Outrun Time.” From listening to my tech/minimal house EP before I had Massive and comparing it to my entry into BtC, I can hear the tremendous difference in quality.
Thank you, MassiveSynth, for everything that you have taught be about sound design with this amazing synthesizer and for continuing to give me direction towards programming all the sounds I need and/or want.