Women Only Workshop – House/Techno Production Techniques with Tanya Leigh
On July 18th, Beat Lab joined forces with The Athena Collective and hosted a free house/techno production workshop featuring special guest Tanya Leigh.
Tanya Leigh has been involved in Minneapolis’s underground dance scene since 1998. She is also half of the techno DJ duo Complicit (Travis Norman is the other half). They are best known for their high-energy performances, which embrace the underground techno scene.
Beyond her DJ skills, Tanya knows how to play the piano and flute. She also has a BA in music and a diploma in Audio Engineering.
For the first half of the workshop, Tanya shared with us her house music production workflow in Ableton. She started by using Ableton’s 909 drum rack to build a kick loop in the session view at 125 bpm. She then duplicated the clip and layered another drum element. She repeated the process by adding elements such as high hat, claps, and congas. After the rhythm section was built, she sequenced the bass line, pad chords, and piano melody using Push I.
The final element that Tanya added was a vocal sample, which, she emphasized, was a really important element for house music. She processed the vocal creatively, with grain delay, eq, and compressor. Another important piece of advice that she gave to aspiring producers was that to differentiate yourself, you must spend time on sculpting your unique sound.
For the second half of the workshop, Tanya presented her live DJ setup using Akai’s APC 40 mkII. She had four channel tracks set up on the APC and a fifth channel dedicated to triggering drum loops. Effects such as reverb and beat repeat were mapped to the knobs. With the setups, Tanya performed a dark, groovy techno set that delivered all the goodness of the underground dance scene.
Check out more of Tanya’s music at https://www.mixcloud.com/tanyaleigh/followers/
Groove & Tone
Near the end of the workshop, Beat Lab founder and instructor Yeuda also shared with us a few tech house production techniques. The two most important elements of tech house are groove and tone. To build the groove, Yeuda used a free techno drum kit from music radar. He started in the arrangement view at bar 32 to build the drop first. A tip for tech house drum programming is to think in long bar phrases, such as 16 and 32. To keep it interesting throughout the long phrase, automation is key. To add groove to the drums, changing the sample release and velocity and slightly shifting the sample position makes a big difference on the groove. Another more cpu-intensive trick is to adjust the track delay. All these tricks are adjusted according to the ear, since groove is all about the feeling.
Having established the basic groove, the common effects that set the tone for tech house include filter, eq, reverb, and delay. Reverb is probably the most important of these. To create the bass line, Yeuda created an acid house bass using operator and shared a sequencing trick that allowed users with no music theory knowledge to easily create a bass line in key. The midi effect that he used was max4Live’s mono sequencer. This is included in the free Max 4 Live essential pack. The mono sequencer is a versatile sequencing device that allows users to adjust the pitch in key with ease. Other parameters that could be sequenced are the velocity, note duration, and octave.
At the end of the workshop, Christina, the co-founder of Athena Collective, shared with us the goals and visions of the collective. The Athena Collective is an international collective that connects female artists around the world. You can stream the workshop again on their Facebook page.