This is the ninth installment in guest blogger Frank Klepacki’s series on music production. Today Frank explores the possibilities of electronic dance music. If you missed Frank’s previous post on video game scoring, you can read it here.
The Electronic Dance Music genre has gained popularity over the last few years to the point that it has crossed over into pop, and there have been festivals dedicated to it and created a number of lucrative DJing opportunities for the artists. When I first took notice of it, I asked myself what is the big deal? Why is this a thing now?
I decided to spend an entire year listening to nothing but EDM music – to embrace it and learn as much about what makes it special or sets it apart from any other electronic music. What I found was quite intriguing. First of all, I really enjoyed the sounds of the synths being used in this music, which gave it a sense of its own style and production. The merging of electronic styles such as house, trance and dubstep had been exercised with pop sensibility, and, much to my liking, a good number of songs being produced were actually well written at the foundation. For example, a lot of the melodies and hooks could strongly stand alone if only accompanied by an acoustic guitar or piano.
So my appreciation began there. Good songs, cool sounding synths and production techniques. What followed that however was a real eye-opener: The artists gaining in popularity were in fact the producers, and not necessarily the singers, or whatever we’ve been used to as the norm in how we think of bands and artists. So the fact that the producer is also the star of his own work seemed like a nice rebellious new idea that was now possible, whereas before, traditionally, the producer was the person behind the scenes, advising, making decisions in the studio, tracking the band, contributing arrangement ideas or approaches to recording, but not publically known in the same capacity as the artists. This greatly appealed to me. I said to myself, “I can do this.”
I always separated the idea of DJing from performing live – but this genre has put DJ/producers in the center of huge clubs and even arenas, mixing their own produced music from their laptops! I’ve been producing myself and other bands and artists for 20 years. I love synths and multiple genres of music, and I compose for a living. I was inspired to make use of synths in the manner of those I was hearing and liking, and to do some creative pop-centric songwriting, which led me to start remixing some of my older work into a more modernized EDM-style sound and inevitably to learning the foundation of DJing. With the more accessible and flexible options of today, such as Native Instruments’ TRAKTOR program, DJing greatly appealed to me and was easy to navigate. I can walk into a club with my iPad and a controller packed with my supercharged remixes and all the electronic work of my career and pull off a unique set that no one else has access to.
Which leads me to my final thought. If more musicians and producers get more tech-savvy and tap into this side of the industry, it’s anyone’s game – and the quality of songs churned out could continue to be great. You can take advantage of the musical skills you have, and shine by mixing your own content into the club-going crowd’s favorites. Music styles may change with the times, but good composers and producers will always remain. As long as they recognize the change and move with it rather than against it, they can continue to add different aspects to their livelihoods, rather than complaining about how it used to be and standing still with an unwillingness to do the new thing in their own way.
In Frank’s next installment he’ll discuss what it takes to truly find your voice – look for that post next week!
– Frank Klepacki
Frank Klepacki is an award-winning composer for video games and television for such titles as Command & Conquer, Star Wars: Empire at War, and MMA sports programs such as Ultimate Fighting Championship and Inside MMA. He resides as audio director for Petroglyph, in addition to being a recording artist, touring performer, and producer. For more info, visit www.frankklepacki.com