1-1 Tuition: December offer

For many years I’ve worked as a teacher alongside my career in the drum & bass scene. I’m now taking on new students for 1-1 production lessons, and until January I’m offering 3 hours of tuition for £100.

If your partner is an aspiring producer this could be a perfect Xmas gift, or you might just wish to take advantage of this offer for yourself and sharpen your skills. All students will receive:

• Feedback on your music from an industry professional
• Bespoke music production lesson (1-1 via Skype) with content tailored directly to your current skill level and your needs
• Three hours tuition for the price of two (must purchase before Jan 2019)
• Lesson arranged at a time and date to suit your schedule – evenings and weekends available
• Optional Gift Certificate to open on Xmas Day

I’m looking forward to helping more people advance their production skills. Email me for bookings and more information:


Philth Tips #14 – Mute the drums

I haven’t blogged for a while, but I have been writing an absolute ton of music over the summer while I have a break from my day job at the college. And more than anything I have been focusing on arrangement, making tracks interesting all the way through and avoiding looping/repeating stuff as much as possible. Here is my top tip for writing interesting arrangements:

mute the drums, and focus on everything else in your track….

There are two main reasons why I do this. First, drums are very tiring for your ears. All those transients, and lots of high frequency. As a tinnitus sufferer, I find it is nice to give my ears a rest to avoid them getting fatigued. But the most important reason you should mute your drums is so you can hear what the instruments are actually doing! In DnB the drums are always going to be right at the front of the mix, and they mask a lot of your other sounds. Yes, you need to put the work in and get your drums rocking. But even really good drums do not hold the attention for 5-6 minutes.

Once you mute the drums you get a better understanding of what your instruments are doing, and how they relate to each other. Here’s the challenge: can you make the track interesting and lively all the way through without relying on the energy of the drums?

Switching the drums off forces you to focus on the journey of your track. It doesn’t matter if you are writing the deepest liquid or the hardest neuro, your track should be evolving and keep the listener guessing from start to finish. When the drums and bass are playing it is too easy to just ‘roll it out’ and copy and paste whole 16 bar sections. But why would you just repeat the same section twice? You end up with what is effectively a really long loop, and if you don’t keep the listener on their toes then their brain will habituate and switch off.

Once your drums are muted, start soloing instruments and looking for pairs – two sounds that compliment each other both musically and in terms of frequency. It could be that the two sounds have textures that work well together, or you have found a nice call and response between the two melodies. I will move tracks up and down in the DAW until the pairs are next to each other. And I colour everything so I can see the arrangement more clearly. I think Ableton does this by default, but in Logic you should take a minute to give each sound it’s own colour and it is so much easier to read the arrange window.

When you have identified some pairs, try swapping them around to see how they interact with other parts. Soon you will have a better idea of all the possible combos within your track. I like to have pairs playing for alternate 16s, so that just as the listener has got used to the musical parts in a section, you make a switch and introduce a different combo. For example, a sampled piano with a complimentary pad for the first 16 after the drop, then answered by a strings and keys combo in the alternate 16. By not playing sounds for too long you leave the listener wanting more and encourage them to listen all the way through.

If you get it right you can then combine your pairs with the special element of a vocal or lead melody to really lift your track. Save a few special parts for the last 4 bars of a section and then every 16 and every 32 feels like it builds to a climax. You can also think about the elements in the way a band would – does the piano play during the verses or just the chorus? Let the keys play a solo in the 16 bars before the breakdown. Save your pad for the sections where you want to calm it down.

I put this technique into practice last night, which inspired me to write this article. I had been sent stems for a collaborative project, and once I had loaded the sounds into the right channels in my mix template, I went through the musical parts and looked for pairs. I then added some new parts of my own, and soon I had all the musical elements needed for a full tune. At this point I sketched out the arrangement in full, thinking about how the energy built up and down, some sections are busier and then drop down into a stripped section so it can build up again. You can’t play all your sounds all the time, so think about how they relate to each other and you can develop an arrangement that is progressive.

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I worked for 2-3 hours with no drums. I focused on the journey and had a track that kept me interested and changed enough to avoid the boredom of familiarity. When I finally switched the drums back on it had the desired effect – suddenly the track was full of energy and I was dancing in my chair! But most importantly it held my attention for 5 minutes, and if you’ve ever listened to one of my mixes you’ll know I have a very short attention span.

Give it a try and tell me what you think. Your ears will thank you, and hopefully you will put more focus on the structure and arrangement of your music and keep the listener locked in for your whole track.


Philth Tips #1 – Stop listening to drum & bass!

This might seem like a ridiculous tip coming from a DnB DJ/producer, but I’m not telling you to give up on the genre and go and listen to techno… This tip is aimed at helping producers to avoid getting caught in the trap of listening to so much DnB and suddenly running out of original ideas.

As a producer who is learning, of course you need to be aware of what is happening in the scene, but it shouldn’t be the only influence going in to your music. If you spend your free time listening to DnB then it is impossible not to be directly influenced by it, and you’ll find that that your music inevitably just sounds like a copy of the latest banger. This used to happen to me all the time, I would check loads of new releases on my journeys back and forth around London and then when I got into the studio all I had in my head was other people’s music.

This can happen whatever sub-genre you are into; listening to a load of Dawn Wall will send you into the studio searching for euphoric samples and rolling beats, listening to DLR all day is a sure fire way to end up getting stuck in a loop trying to match his funky basslines, trying to match Break’s drums will never make you feel good, and a day listening to Noisia will just make you depressed and not want to write music! Even if the influence is just sub-concious (and it often is) you will still end up mimicking the artists you love and who inspire you to make drum & bass.

I’m not saying you should cut yourself off from the scene, and of course it is important for DJ’s to be up to date so it impossible to cut DnB out of your diet entirely – but it is possible to manage your time and let those promo emails stack up for a while. In a period of trying to write new music it isn’t healthy to spend loads of time listening to all the new releases in the search for inspiration. The great thing about jungle and early DnB is you could tell what other styles of music a producer was into through the samples they chose to use. As well as just the samples, its the influence and mood from other styles that can have a massive effect on what you write, and it is much more interesting to take influences from other styles and bring them back into a DnB context.

When I’m focused on writing new music I listen to anything other than DnB. Often a lot of funk and soul in the mornings, and tonnes of ambient music, soundscapes and film scores. I find Spotify is a great tool for doing this, it exposes me to a huge range of artists that I wouldn’t hear otherwise. Every week I find a new composer who blows me away. Sometimes the killer sample just arrives through a search for new music, but more often it is the overall vibe and palette of sounds that provides the spark of inspiration to write some original DnB. Bringing these different influences back into my music helps me to create something with more depth. Of course the drum and the bass themselves are still the essential elements, but I try not to get bogged down worrying about making them sound like somebody else. I concentrate on the overall vibe of the song and then engineer the beats and bass to suit my vision.

Here is a collection of music I have been building over the last year, there’s no real method to the curation of this playlist it’s just things that have caught my ear and I want to hear again. Listening to this playlist so many times on my travels is giving me a whole library of ideas to draw upon when it’s time to get back in the studio….