Dance Music Equipment and Techniques

I want to talk about dance music. Electronic dance music. Techno, house, DnB, idk?

Recently I’ve become inspired to create dance music. I’ve always liked dance music, but this year something switched in my brain and now I have a greater appreciation for the art form. What finally clicked is the feeling of completely giving in to the music. Letting it take you over so you can dance for hours without getting tired. Finding “the notes in between” on your synth or sequencer feels truly incredible when you have a bangin’ beat backing it up. It’s hard not to lose yourself just jamming in a spare room in your house and that is an amazing feeling that I want to share with other people.

I am a part of the “ambient-guitarist-turned-ambient-modular-synthesist” wave, but lately I am finding that genre to be limiting to my process. Don’t get me wrong, I still love playing and listening to atmospheric (sans-beats, obviously there’s atmospheric edm) music, but it is much more challenging for me to create something that I can get completely lost inside. It happens, but it takes a lot more to get me in that headspace now that I have more time working with modular. On the other hand it doesn’t take long for me to become excited about four-on-the-floor beats and a simple sequence. I could go on this tangent longer, but that’s not what the thread is about.

Obviously the best tool for dance music is the computer, but after fielding some suggestions from my friends who are into dance music, I’m realizing that I genuinely enjoy hardware/synth-based dance music the best. Not because gear-fetishism, which I am unfortunately guilty of, but because there is something fantastic about seeing someone using a few tools that they know very intimately to melt people’s minds. Playing live is really important to me, and hardware translates better to a live experience. I have no qualms with computers for music production, but unfortunately I’ve spent too much money on gear and not enough on a laptop, so I’ve had this bias for some time. :sweat_smile:

Right now I’m using my Electribe 2 synced to my Shared System via a cv.ocd. I also have an Alesis Wedge in the send on my mixer. Part of what is driving my newfound appreciation of dance music is that it makes me feel like I’m working towards something when I sit down to play with my instruments. You really have to know how to control things to create the tension and drama for a big release, and it’s been rewarding to force myself to learn how to do that with the equipment I already have. I’m not nearly as proficient as I’d like to be, but it feels good to have a goal when I’m just jamming to blow off steam after work.

Okay this is a long post about my personal journey into the confusing world of dance music, so I will wrap things up with some questions. I have a sneaking suspicion that the community best known as the decorative houseplant hub also contains some people who really know how to rock a beat.

What do you use to create dance music?
Do you perform your music live?
How do you create tension in your music?
What artists do you like?

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This is my jam. I’ll have more to share once I get my system back in order,

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i use a grid and max… i used to perform live, but now revamping my style and setup…i never thought about how i ‘create tension’ but now that i think about it, i used to write most beats like a ‘battle-cry’… as i mature, though, i’m experimenting more with the idea that ‘less is more’(the desire to create more coupled with the restraint to distill something to its basic essence is a nice source of tension in and of itself; which is why everything about monome.org attracted me pretty constantly for the past decade or so).
aphex twin and flying lotus are my favorites, along with many others off the warp label. but i also like a shit-ton of others from ghostly, ninjatune, etc.

i guess this is another hardware thread, so i apologize if i’m a bit irrelevant here. to that effect i’ll just post some praise for what richard devine has been doing lately with his modular setup: it’s amazing to hear his voice come through, from back when he was mostly software to now when he’s much more organic, yet still very… ‘devine’ :slight_smile:

:point_up_2: i must admit i’ve been away for so long(about 4 years before this january or so), this place is new to me again: is this in reference to the Lines community? just curious, what’s the ‘houseplant’ part of it about? (all sounds cool to me if so, just asking to help me become more woke to the community here)

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I think it came from a criticism of the monome ecosystem from another forum, wrt the type of music a grid makes (which we know is nonsense) and the way it may have been presented in some videos/pics online. It was then embraced by this forum as an affectionate term thereafter.

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oh interesting! @steveoath thank you so much for your reply(i never would’ve guessed nor probably wouldn’t have come across those other communities).
i LOVE that it was embraced affectionately, too(when i grow up i wouldn’t mind becoming an ambient houseplant myself :joy: :sunflower: :sound:).
truly appreciated :pray:

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I’m a Eurorack modular enthusiast who’s fairly new to things. As such I’ve found mylarmelodies’ videos explaining his live setup, and approaches to techno, very inspiring - he repeatedly references steevio’s usage of OR combiners which I’ve enjoyed playing around with.

I’ve got a fairly modest setup but I enjoy using my Beatstep Pro - one thing I’ve been exploring lately is using two of the trigger channels into the Music Thing Modular Turing Machine, one clocking it and the other controlling randomness CV, which allows for very fine tuned yet random changes to an acidy bassline.

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Find videos of the performer "KiNK’. He is a matter master of what you are aspiring to do.

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Some of the most satisfying music making experiences I’ve had involved dance music improvisations (typically techno, juke/footwork, or some hybrid thereof) with a simple hardware setup (octatrack and a small modular). I tend to like my dance music simple and raw. For me nothing beats letting a step sequencer loop and getting lost in the sound for a little while. Even better if I’m synced to someone else and we can respond to each other to keep things exciting.

I find that I make a completely different type of music when I sit down in front of my laptop. Part of the draw to hardware is it necessitates simplicity and minimalism for me, whereas when I make computer music I have a hard time controlling myself, and will add layers and tweak things indefinitely. That and I love the sound of an overdriven analog mixer :metal: .

I guess I also haven’t figured out how to properly “jam” with my computer, and my music comes out sounding very produced and edited, which is fine depending on what you’re going for, but for dance music I really enjoy those moments that happen from really playing “live”.

As far as artists go, recent favorites have been Skee Mask and DJ Python. But I like so much of this stuff that it’s hard to name just a few.

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I like ebcidics modular workouts on YouTube. He’s designed a system for dance exclusively, but allows improvisation.

His interview with mylar melodies is insightful

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Awesome topic! I was exposed to this music over 30 years ago and it had a huge impact on my life so I always get excited when people share stories of discovery like this.

I’ve mostly been listening to and making ambient music for the last 5 years, but over the last few months I’ve been diving back into my past and listening to lots of early jungle and 90s house. The way some of these artists used samples so creatively inspired to get a Digitakt. I’ll be using it for percussion, sampling and sequencing my modular via Shuttle Control…so somewhat similar to what you’re doing with the Electribe, ocd and Shared System.

I would like to experiment with some breaks and vocal samples mixed with what I’ve been doing which is more generative and lots of looping and I really have no idea how it will work out. Unfortunately, I’m in the middle of moving and have to wait a few weeks.

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I’ve been thinking about this a ton recently and have even begun the process of doubling my rack to allow for dance/downtempo music. I have a wonderfully expressive rack for ambient work (mainly mannequins, teletype and a few more bits and bobs involved with that) but found that if I wanted something a bit more groovy, I could only really get one or two layers going.

Having an OP-Z allowed for a groove to be well synced as well, but that’s just been my experience.

I’ve found good results in the box, but often times it requires some hardware/controller integration for easy manipulation of the layers and sounds. Monome grids, an ancient v1 maschine I got for $50 at a garage sale, and twister fighters have been key to my experience in that regard.

With my rig, I’ve actually found the teletype brilliant for this kind of work and am going to make the jump to a ER-301, ES-8 and a Poly2 to go with my preordered Polyend Tracker for full integration and improvisation.

The idea that I could track beats and some melodies from the Tracker, Control CV and other rhythms from the Teletype with some controlled randomness, and use the ES-8 for VCV Rack effects would allow for the generation of interconnected quantized improvisation with the ability to go continuously, without pause from one to the next.

If anything, this kind of thing would be a blast to stream to friends during the quarantine, but most of the equipment won’t show up till later

And the monome crew reappropriating the house-plant ambient terminology is freaking ace.

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Yes. I am also a fan of dance music, and attempt to make it every now and then. I find the little modular system I have is great for generating sounds and patterns to sample in Ableton, but it’s rare that I churn out a completed track on it. As @kasselvania mentioned, I think I’d need to expand to something bigger than 104hp 3u.

That said, I’m pretty happy just treating it as a sound source. I’ve been getting deeper into Ableton’s CV tools and I don’t see how a hardware LFO/Envelope Generator could be as precise, fast, and easy. I’m now looking at that ES-8 expander or thinking about an ES-9.

I am loving the new Lorenzo Senni album that came out today! https://lorenzosenni.bandcamp.com/ And love most of the stuff on Presto!? and Diagonal (they’re related in my mind). There’s way too much high energy dance stuff I love to list. :slight_smile:

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Recently I’ve been really into Container, whose music is 100% hardware-created. His new album Scramblers is amazing. He did a quarantine live set earlier this month and it rules:

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Stumbled across this video the other day and found it inspirational

This guy does some nice stuff too

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I keep it simple and slimmed down. Deluge for drum and bass lines, hydrasynth for leads, and delay, reverb, and compression on the send of my KMix. Super portable and covers all the bases for me. I’m experimenting with adding a norns or OP-1 on another send to do some resampling and ambient interludes, but haven’t mastered that part yet.

EDIT: This is for minimal electronic and dub techno, mostly

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On simple live setups for techno, Surgeon is a very much active reference. Both with eurorack sequenced with an Octatrack (there’s a good Resident Advisor’s video on YT) or eurorack sequenced with an Arturia Beatstep Pro and even more minimal setups like the one in the video.

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Thanks for sharing! The thought processes are pretty much the same but I’ve completely changed my live techno system since this interview.

I’m now down to a single 7U case, swapped out the ER101/102 for the nerdseq, have the ER301 as a processing/mixing hub & have a Teletype for special CV duties for the ER301. At the same time of slimming my system down I’ve been able to bring greater flexibility to what I do due to both the Nerdseq & the various sound generators I use (samples & 2 plonks).

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I think this video by Ricky Tinez is a good example of a relatively simple setup for live dance music consisting of the trinity of drum machine, sampler, and synth.

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I have a live act that stays mostly within dance music tempos and rhythms (although is pretty varied within that) and I use an Octatrack, Machinedrum, Lyra-8, and an analog mono synth (right now it’s a Vermona Mono Lancet) plus some effects and a mixer. A lot of times this feels like too much to keep track of but it gives a fair amount of flexibility. It’s good to remember that you don’t have to use every piece of gear on every track, especially when playing live. A couple of tracks might rely really heavily on the Machinedrum, while another would leave it out entirely and just use drum samples with the Octatrack. The nice thing about having both the MD and Octatrack is that it allows me to switch up drum patterns on the fly without disrupting any of the patterns playing on the Octatrack. I’ve considered getting a smaller, cheap drum machine for live use as the Machinedrum can be a little unwieldy at times (16 tracks is a lot to keep track of live) but for now it’s working.

The Lyra-8 allows me to create transitions between tracks with different tempos and also to add a bit of chaos to some of the material that is more planned out.

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Also, here’s a really nice video of Adam Jay using the (humble) Elektron Model:Samples as the main instrument in an hour long techno set. The Octatrack is mainly for FX and looping (as well as master tempo).

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