Education & Bass founder and all-round low-end guru Nomine refreshes our studio technique for the year ahead
Few artists are as driven and motivated by helping out the next generation as the bass-smith known as Nomine. He's the man behind Education & Bass, a project that launched in 2015 as a hybrid event comprising workshops, classes and a big fat rave, and that's since been hosted across Australia, New Zealand, Japan, America, Canada and all over Europe. It's now developed to such a point that Education & Bass has become a full-blown online production school, and will be launching monthly livestreamed TV shows next month.
If that isn't quite enough for the budding bass producer community, Nomine also frequently hosts extensive live demo feedback sessions online (often with special guests such as Digital and Macabre Unit) and, as of last year, has been sharing insightful tips on all aspects of production, the industry and maintaining a healthy DJ lifestyle every single day. You can find all 365 tips from 2017 right here.
"If we don't pass the knowledge down, who will?" says Nomine, who studied bass for decades before the education part came into his life in the late 2000s, when he took up teaching and went on to achieve a master's in music production. "We made our own rules, using hardware and software in the way it shouldn't be used - these tips now need to be passed on. I care about the longevity of bass music - of all electronic music - so it's my responsibility to pass it on. And I think it's important to be doing it now, as an artist who's still active in the game and applying everything I'm teaching."
Nomine's daily advice ranges from complex technical wizardry to simple lifestyle tips. No longer than a minute apiece, his short, sharp inspirational punches have developed a cult following among the community he's developed online.
"A lot of them are made up on the spot, and are inspired by something that's happened to me that day," he admits. "I didn't sit and plan them. But the first tip was really important for me, and it's something I tell students at every opportunity: look anywhere beyond the genre you want to be in. The early innovators weren't influenced by what was going on in the genre, but those who enter it later begin to feed off the genre. It eats itself and doesn't develop. You need to understand the journey the genre has been on and the influences that built it. The culture, the aesthetics, the references. Understand as much different music as possible and you'll be a much better producer."
Nomine's boundary-less approach is a great place to start for any budding or advanced producer. So here are 12 more of his daily tips, with added thoughts (just for iDJ readers) from Nomine himself...
Look after your physical and mental health
"Since opening up about mental health and not being ashamed of it, my world has completely changed. We all suffer it to different degrees and talking about it and helping each other can only make us all stronger."
Listen to techno and understand loops (courtesy of Bronx)
"The art of the loop is so important. With most electronic music, the magic is in those subtle phrases and developments. Marcus Intalex was incredible at that in both his drum & bass and techno. Try to understand how you can capture that hypnotic phrase development by tricks such as dropping or adding a percussive layer."
Find inspiration from a picture
"I started doing this a lot with my university students a lot. It helps force you to jump into different keys, use majors and minors and think about musicality. So if your picture is about destruction, what happened to create that destruction? What happens after? Represent that story musically: it really works and I did it a lot with my last album. It's a great way to snap out of writer's block and experiment with musicality."
Breakbeats and drum sampling
"Don't be lazy sourcing your samples! Sample packs are heavily processed already so can be very limiting, and YouTube rips or dodgy downloads just sound terrible. Source the best quality samples you can or you'll restrict yourself. Use sites like WhoSampled or JungleBreaks (if you're making drum & bass) and find remastered versions or even the original vinyl to invest in. It gives you so much more control and you can sculpt them yourself to how you like them."
Understanding chord inversions
"This is a really nice way to spice up chords by staggering the notes. It's simple but sounds really complex in the tracks. Such a nice way to jazz up your productions."
Create perceived loudness with the Fletcher-Munson curve
"Our ears are in-tune with certain frequencies, and things that are in the 2-4kHz range are perceived as louder. This is great, because we can create artificial layers at that frequency and trick the listener that an element is louder. So if you want the vocal to be louder, then turn up that layer. This works for synths, drums, anything: turn something up at that frequency and it will dominate the mix. But don't do this for too many elements on a track. You can do it on the master, too - just a touch of boost at 2-4kHz."
A crafty kickdrum trick
"A reversed hi-hat just before the kick pricks up the ears where they're the most sensitive. It's good to tune hi-hats to 2-4kHz because of what we've just said above - it's where our ears pick up and localise sounds."
Another crafty kickdrum trick
"It's great to create a kick from scratch, and you can do it in seconds. Add a pitch glide for a really authentic kick: start with a high pitch and attenuate to where you want it to be. You have full control doing it this way: you can sculpt it to be as long or as short as you want. The power of sound design."
Get a wider sound with panning, delay and pitching
"This is about the 'heart effect' and how our ears localise sound. By panning two of the same signals left and right with a delay and pitch, we can give the sound a great wideness. It's a very old trick but it really works. Try it!"
Using mono for a wider mix
"Another way to get a wider sound is by doing everything in mono. This sounds crazy, but most soundsystems are mono-based and if you have elaborate panning on your track, then sounds either attenuate or completely disappear. Doing things in mono gives you the best of both worlds, as you can pan mono signals. It sounds wide because they're not bouncing around channels. For example, you can have bongos panned to the left, bongos panned to the right and one in the centre so it has a stereo effect, but its fundamental foundation is mono. This was an eye-opener for me and it gives things a thick, wider sound every time."
"We often battle with turning everything up but we shouldn't have to. If I want more highs, I'll take out mids. If I want the snare to be louder, I'll turn everything else down so I don't upset the balance of the mix. Keep everything sensible and low. Fuck the loudness wars!"
Use parallel processing for FX
"Parallel processing for me is a massive one. Instead of putting effects onto a sound, you put them on a buss or a send and apply the effects there. It means you're not saturating the original sound, and have the additional processing tucked underneath as a parallel."
Words: Dave Jenkins Pic: Chelone Wolf