Madeon /r/edmproduction AMA

http://www.reddit.com/r/edmproduction/comments/186kli/im_madeon_lets_talk_production/

Workflow

How much time on average do you spend on a track?

Recently it's been 75 to 200 hours, but i've been experimenting with a more spontaneous approach to songwriting and production.

Do you by chance have synesthesia? or is there a reason for how you color-code your layers?

I think to some extent everyone associate sounds with other concepts, such as color - i wouldn't qualify that as synesthesia unless it's an actual, automatic, associated stimulation. Using the same color scheme for years obviously strengthen that association. (For what it's worth : Basses red, pads blue, drums brown, lead green, vocal pink)

What is the most effective way to conserve cpu? Do you bounce every sound to wav?

I do use a lot of audio, i enjoy the flexibility and the limitations of it. There's a feature in FL Studio you can activate (smart disable) which dynamically switches plugins on and off, really improving performance.

You mentioned you like to use a lot of audio and bounce stuff to .WAV in another project. Don't the audio clips make you feel kind of limited?

I design and keep the synth sounds i freeze to audio in a separate .flp, that way if i need it to play a different melody/chord or modify the sound, i can easily go back and render it again.

I remember you and FeedMe having a small conversation about slide in FL. What were you saying about the shifting all the sounds with one LFO?

We were talking about swing (a small delay in the 2nd and 4th quarter of every beat, giving a noticeable groovy feel.) It's very well integrated in the step sequencer, but not in the Piano Roll or Playlist, the solution i suggested was to use an LFO to automate the shift control (which delays notes) of every instrument.

hey madeon, any tips for someone who has trouble sitting down on a daily basis and devoting x amount of time to working on new music?

My observation is that it can be very unproductive to force yourself to make music. You have to find the conditions that get you inspired and start producing when it feels right. Once the process is started, it's easy to get lost in it for hours.

What DAW do you prefer to work with in terms of producing?

I use FL Studio as my main DAW, it's fantastically underrated.

what's typically the hardest thing you come across that you have to deal with when producing?

Keeping faith in a track. After being exposed to a song constantly for weeks, it's easy to start questioning it. I try to hang on to the flash of excitement and energy i felt when i had that first burst of inspiration for that track.

Regarding the picture of the Technicolor .flp, there is so much automation; do you ever edit your events through piano roll to save vertical space?

No, piano roll events are an outdated part of FL Studio, automations are so much more convenient and flexible, i wouldn't trade that off ! Vertical playlist space used to be an issue (i reached the 99 track limit a couple of times), but thankfully they double the amount in FL11.

Once you have completed a portion of a song that you feel satisfied with, how do you think of what the next part of it should sound like, and how do you decide that something is "done" and you should move on?

I don't produce songs chronologically, i'll keep on changing sections throughout the track until the very end. Once i feel like a song is completed, i do a full render (i call it RC1, like in software development) and listen to it a few times, writing down a list of changes or improvements i want to make. I then amend those problems and do a new render (RC2) and give it another listen, writing other potential fixes. This can go on for a while, once i listen to the song and i have nothing to write on the list, i consider it finished.

Songwriting

What is the most important thing new comers should learn? That is, what should they focus on the most?

Music ! Good engineering comes with time. Meaningful composition should come first.

How do you stay creative in the writing process? (aka not write a typical house track or something you've done in the past)

Stop working on the track for a while and listen to completely unrelated music. You come back to it with fresh ideas.

Is it true that you like to play out all of your melodies with a piano or piano VST before making a synth patch for them?

Yes, i always start a song at the piano. It allows me to play with different chords, variations and tempos right away. Once a song is already going, i'm more comfortable writing melodies directly in the piano roll.

Any tips on transitioning from one section of a song to another? For example smoothly going from a chorus to a verse, or a verse to a breakdown etc.

Having an event that starts at the very end of the previous section and continues into the next one can help a lot (a reverbed clap on the last beat of the final bar of a section, a delay on an instrument.)

How did you go about arranging your "Pop Culture Remix"? Did you pre-select the songs that you wanted to use or did you just keep adding them on as the project progressed?

I kept on adding them along the way as i found usable snippets to use

do you create your songs from pure emotion, creativity, and energy without genre in mind?

 try to, but it's natural to be drawn to certain conventions of a genre too, and it's not a bad thing ! Clichés are clichés because they're powerful. Finale was perhaps a more noticeable attempt to break free from genres, it uses a fairly unusual tempo.

how do you choose your vocalists? how much involvement do they have in the production?

I try to work with vocalists whose voices have unique characteristics that fit the theme of the song. I prefer to collaborate with people who do not normally evolve in the electronic music genre, i really try to avoid the clichéd "dance studio vocalist" sound.

Do you have ideas for your songs while you're doing other things, or do you tend to get your ideas while you're producing them?

It's not uncommon for me to get an idea for a song i'm working on while doing something completely unrelated. When i'm in the middle of the production process, it tends to take over all my thoughts.

What do you do at times that your stuck/uninspired?

I take a walk outside and listen to songs on shuffle, thinking about music until something clicks.

Sound Design

How did you go about learning synthesis and what do you recommend to someone that's still a beginner regarding the subject?

Playing with synths, reading manuals, trying to reproduce sounds i liked. And patience ! 2

how do you emulate your electric guitars as of now? Any favorite distortion plug-ins of choice?

Guitar rig ! I use it on synths a lot actually

I use Kontakt often for source guitar sounds, but it's hard to beat recorded guitar parts. The sound of a finger touching and running through the string goes a long way towards realism.

The dancing bass in your Alphabeat - DJ remix: How did you achieve such a lovely rolling bassline?

This was probably the most straight-forward bass i've used in a song, i made the patch with Sytrus. A lot of the feel comes down to the pitch automations (slides, legato, etc).

favorite Vst?

mda ePiano, not even kidding.

i've been really into Sylenth and Diva lately.

What's your go-to plugin for those huge leads?

Poizone, perhaps surprisingly - it's a basic substractive but so much of sound design comes from processing.

Do you Chop/Slice manually on FL to create those complextro style sound?

Yes, i chop and process every sound manually, it's an intricate but fun process.

Do you find yourself making your own synth sounds most of the time, or do you usually play with presets? A mixture of both? What advice would you have for someone approaching synthesis?

I don't really use presets for anything other than acoustic instruments. Don't underestimate processing and effects !

Your DIY Vocoder on the IL forums.. Could you explain the routing and how it works? :)

The .flp is available so you can take a look yourself ! It's a fairly simple vocoder, basically the carrier and modulator are each split into 16 frequency bands, and the amplitude of each modulator band controls the level of it's corresponding carrier band. If you're not familiar with vocoders the main thing to understand is that it's an illusion. 0% of the modulator's audio signal is actually outputted, it's simply used as information, so that the carrier can replicate it's timbre over time.

How do you come up with the chopped vocal lines in songs like The City?

I actually came up with the "words" and melody of the chopped vocal first and asked the singer (Cass Lowe) to record those syllabes dozens of time separately, which sounded a bit silly. I wanted a sampled feel so i worked with a different singer for the rest of the song.

Sampling

How do you feel about sampling?

When done creatively (SebastiAn comes to mind), it's an amazing tool.

that bass slide in the drop of Icarus - sample, synthesized...?

The bass slide is live, a kind of friend of mine recorded a couple of slaps and slides for me !

I just want to know how do you make that kind of slap bass that we ear on raise your weapon/icarus/the island/technicolor, is it a plugin or you sample?

Samples, Native Instruments has some nice sampled bass instruments, and you can find libraries with individual guitar/bass notes played in various ways too.

Drums

Do you tune your kicks and hi-hats for each song? I'd assume so. What's the most effective way to go about doing this?

No, unlike deep kicks for example, the kicks i use have a fast decaying pitch, so they don't really have a noticeable root note. I don't think i've ever heard of people tuning hi-hats, although it'd make sense for highly resonant rides

 I'm a huge fan of your snares & kicks, and the relationship they have within your tracks. How do you go about processing them?

I mix my snares quite oddly in anticipation of my mastering. I'll always test my drums with a mastering chain on to make sure they still feel punchy and snappy.

Mixing/mastering

do you still mix and master your own productions?

Yes !

how long did it took for you to get the hang of it? Do you assign some of your tracks to another mixer to mix your tracks?

I do mix/master my songs - it took me a while to get to a satisfying result. There's a point where it started clicking for me - it wasn't about the tools or techniques as much as some sort of understanding of the way instruments should interact with each other. It's not necessarily conscious, i'm sorry i can't offer solid practical tips. EQing and sidechaining are certainly the key for me.

Dude, do you master as you mix or do you master after everything else is done?

I master as i mix. I'm gonna be trying to separate the process for my next track and see how it impacts the final result.

Do you have any simple mastering tips?

A little bit of controlled clipping sounds better than a bad limiter

Do you use any of the Izotope lugs to master?

Yes, i use Ozone 4 often as part of my chain.

How do you keep all the highs in your synths and drums so clear without them blurring together uncohesevely?

Avoid redundancy - There's no need to have two simultaneous chorded instruments with loud highs. Dynamic is also a huge asset, having snappy, fast decaying highs on rhythmical elements can go a long way.

How do you go about keeping the whole track so tight knit and glued together while having so many complex elements?

Being patient and careful with the processing (EQ/Dynamic) of individual elements is crucial. You don't want one sound to be excessively bright or loud compared to the rest of the composition. Pop Culture is my only released song that features any sample from other songs.

Do you side-chain all your synths on a bus? or do you individually side-chain each element separately?

I use different amount of sidechain for different instruments.

what is your position on monitoring equipment? Is it crucial?

I believe if what you have is decent enough and you're extremely used to it (listened to a lot of other people's music with it) you get so used to the flaws of your room/system that they sound like standard, thus compensating them. My room arguably sounds terrible but i know it inside out.

Gear

You are known for your use of the Novation Launchpad. But what was your first MIDI controller?

Alesis Photon X 25 was my first

Any interest in hardware synths like the virus? How about outboard compressors and vintage EQs and stuff for color?

Virus synths are digital so it's ultimately a plug-in with a cool physical interface, i'd miss the convenience of dropping a VSTi. I was never particularly endeared by analog products and haven't felt the need for them given the quality of the emulations nowadays (and the aforementioned convenience.)

Live

Do you control the video on the diamond with both your customized software for it and the K3? Or is there a Launch pad for it, too?

It's controlled automatically by the songs/samples i play, a dedicated video launchpad, and a dedicated video K2.

How much does the idea of performing a track live affect your production of said track? That is to say, will you do or not do something in making the track when you consider its live performance in the future?

No, i feel like keeping them independent removes a limitation. However i'm not shy when it comes to making live friendly edits of my tracks later on. Pop Culture was the other way around, it was thought out and built as a live track from the beginning.

Learning

where/how did you learn to produce?

Mostly by experimenting on my own and trying to extract knowledge from analyzing songs i admired. I'm sure there are more effective ways to learn the basic skills now, but experimentation and mistakes are precious too.

Any tips for a dude who is JUST NOW starting to make it in the DJ/music world?

Thank you. I'd say give yourself time to discover what you really want to express through your music - following a popular trend is not as satisfying as making something personal and unique !

My question is, approximately how many years our how many songs did you produce before you had songs that sounded "professional" (stereo balanced, full sounding, club worthy)?

Thousands of songs and tests.

Étant débutant dans la musique électronique, je devrais m'équiper de quels programmes de bases pas trop chère?

Un ordinateur ! Aujourd'hui, c'est vraiment l'outil central du studio moderne.

[ed. translation: “What equipment should a newcomer to electronic production get (that’s inexpensive)?” “A computer.”]

Misc.

Favourite producer atm?

Oliver are sick. Stylish, fun and expertly produced.

Why do you think so many people dismiss FL Studio as an inferior DAW?

Historically, it used to be targeted at the beginner market. Its first iteration was an unambitious drum machine, but over time it grew into a fantastically featured professional solution. It's "toy" reputation remains amongst the older community, and i suspect the people dismissing it haven't really tried a recent version thoroughly. There's also the fact it uses a fairly unusual "free playlist" and "free mixer" logic, which is super flexible but may be confusing to users who spent their lives on linear sequencers.

What has been your favorite track to produce?

Making my remix of "Yelle - Que Veux Tu" was a smooth and pleasant process. I can get really insecure about a song or remix after investing a lot of time in it. It takes me a couple of weeks after completion before it settles and i can have an objective listen. I had a significantly easier time with Que Veux Tu.

biggest musical inspirations?

I always give this answer : The Beatles, Daft Punk and Stuart Price. The Beatles may not be the most recognizable influence sonically on my music, but they hugely impacted my approach of structure and composition.        

At what age did you started learning how to make music ?

11. Went on and off for a while and became fully dedicated to it at 15.