Psychill Tutorial : Tips and Tricks Part 1


I recently asked a number of psychill, psybient and ambient music producers for some tips and ideas about making music that they would like to share here on the blog. I didn't specify any particular format for the tutorial and simply asked artists to provide any ideas, as short or long as they like, that they feel are worth sharing in terms of production or inspiration.


I received a lot more feedback than I expected so I'll post these ideas over a number of different articles in order to keep things readable and at a manageable size.  If you are a psychill producer or ambient musician and would like to share some ideas about how to make psybient music then please feel free to email me or contact me on Facebook and I'll be more than happy to add your input to this ambient tutorial. 

Okay, Lets begin ....


Kalpataru Tree is an ambient dub producer who combines both digital and acoustic elements to create a hypnotic blend of ambient bass-scapes that has proven highly popular. His latest full album, Luminosophy, is a fine example of what can be achieved in music if you follow your heart.

Kalpataru's tip :

Disassociate yourself from all practicalities of living, find a remote cabin in the woods somewhere, dive into your soul and believe that you are channeling the magic of the universe, and begin to dream sound for days and nights on end.




Russian producer Mahaon draws inspiration from his experiences as a monk and produces a vibrant pallet of ambient and psychill sounds from his studio culminating in 2012 with the release of his critically acclaimed album "The Awakening".

Mahaon's Tip :

I make clear crystal sound. The secret of this sound in equalization. Every instrument must sound in his spectrum, frequencies of different instruments should not intersect. When I make a kick, snare and hihats, I remove decay and release to a minimal point where it can sound with no tail. When the kick is short enough, I put plugin Waves RBass 80 hertz on it. On snare and hihats I put some reverb. Bass must be very deep ! I cut a lot of high frequencies from it. After that I put also RBass on 65 hertz. Also you can add some chorus.

This is the base of crystal sound - no "porridge" in drums and bass. In all leads and pads I cut low frequencies, until it will sound good. This instruments should not mix with kick and bass at low frequency. But this is only a recommendation. To make good crystal sound and music - you must have good taste and beautiful soul ! It's very important.



Xerxes has been creating awesome psychedelic ambient music for a number of years and has appeared on many successful compilations. His success is built largely on his fundamental understanding of his sequencer, hardware and software. 

Xerxes Tip:

I think my tip would be to learn your sequencer, whatever it is, by heart. Take a few months to really learn the tools you want to use. There are tons of tutorials on the internet for both DAWs and various synths etc. Learn them ! And then, once you have practiced and are ready to rock, you don't have to spend time thinking about anything else other than music composition. I guess pretty obvious advice, but I have seen many people lose interest in composing because they gave up on the tools themselves.




Gabriel Le Mar is one of the most recognized names in ambient psychedelic music over the past two decades. He has a huge fanbase from his solo work and as a member of acts like Saafi Brothers and collaborate work with Pete Namlook.

Gabriel's Tip:

A nice method to produce bits and pieces and interesting parts out of already existing material on your sequencer or from your mixer is to use the Effects Return track. I use Ableton Live but you can produce this also on any other DAW or even analog through your mixing desk as well. 

For example: you put a ping-pong delay on your send-effect track (or Aux send) and mix it into the Bass Drum - you adjust the timing of the delay, filter the EQ of the delay send, cut out the bass frequencies.

Stop all clips and play back only the bass drum with the send return on it and mix both signals. Then press solo on the Effect Send Track where the ping pong delay is on so that you only hear the effect. Copy the bassdrum part into the arrangement and loop it for some bars for example 8 bars. Adjust the loop-marker and then export (or bounce) audio.

The result is a new rhythmic sample that you can use a new musical piece in your tune.




Brujos Bowl are one of the rising stars of the psychedelic music scene and their debut EP was a hugely popular release of psychedelic dubstep/breaks that showed a dedication to experimentation mixed with desire for perfection in sound.

Brujo Bowl's Tip :

If your not 100% happy with your productions. Don't stop until you are 200% happy with them. And if you do become this much happier with your productions (I have never felt this way). Then it is likely that you can learn more, and that you can do better. Never stop learning. And always experiment with different styles. When you keep producing the same beats in the same BPM with the same rhythm. There is something wrong and the water will become still and stale. As an artist it is your job to keep a constant ventilation and flow to your work. Thinking outside the box, going for walks in the country side and a good healthy life style will keep your creativity tank full of inspiration.

Love it, Live it and Learn!!



Mystical Sun is the  ambient, psychill and downtempo solo project of artist Rihcard Plom. He has had numerous releases on labels like Interchill, Waveform and Ultimae Records. Known for is atmospheric emotive sounds, Richard is a multi instrumentalist and also builds his own software to assist in music production. 


Mystical Sun's Tip :

Be careful with your sounds, sometimes what sounds cool in one state of mind, might actually send someone into negative tailspin in another. Remember the mind is a filter and when the filter is turned you need to treat sound very delicately.




One of the most quoted albums of recent years in the psybient music scene would have to be Yggdrasil's debut release Prose Edda. The group quickly became known for their wildly psychedelic psychill sounds that compared favorably to the likes of Shpongle, Shulman and Androcell. They have just released a new album under the Kurbeats moniker which also marks a slight departure in style as they explore the traditional sounds of their Scandinavian homeland mixed with electronica. Kind of similar to what Shpongle did with the release of their second album as they sought out a larger audience.

Yggdrasil / Kurbeats Tip :

Our best tip when it comes to producing music is something that is easily forgotten when making music in a studio. Let your ear get some air regularly. It´s easy to spend hours without a break. After a nice break you´ll get "a new pair of ears" and can more easy spot things in your mix that sounds weird or if somethings missing. So don't forget to let you ears breath ! 


 

Always innovative and seeking out new directions in psychill is Simon Heath, aka Krusseldorf. His last two albums are testament to what can be achieved in ambient music production with a careful ear. 

Krusseldorf's Tip :

Take it easy on the compressors, this is music for the couch not the club.



Ralf is best known as the studio partner of Sven Väth, with whom he made several dance classics and artist albums, and the ambient/new age/rock outfit Earth Nation. Psychill fans will known him from his classic ambient dub tune "One Day" which appeared on the Caribbean Eclipse album.

Ralf Hildenbeutel's Tip :

Keep the studio-lighting low, start with a noisy ambiance, add some decent echoed FX on it, listen to it for quite a while in circle modus before you continue.





Glitchy dub producer Martin Juhls began his "Krill. Minima" project back in 2003 and has recently released a new album, after many years of touring and compilation work, titled Sekundenschlaf. I'm still in love with his 2007 album Nautica which I think go play again right now ! For this article he offers up the typically minimalist tip as follows :

Kill Minima's Tip :

Listen where no sound is.

PsyAmb : Now that may well be the sortest tip on offer but it is by no means the least affective. Almost zen like in it's wording, it is a simply mantra that is easy to remember and powerful enough to improve your music time and time again.



I'm a big fan of everything Gus Till. A real sonic wizard who's fundamental understanding of sound, melody and groove makes him one of the world's leading electronic musicians today.Here he provides a short tip for anyone looking to expand their range of sound and seek out new areas.

Gus' Tip :

Do something different - if you think you've heard it before try something else.

PsyAmb : Again another short tip that is should not be ignored. Innovation and creativity is what keeps music alive.  Seek out the new and evolve your sound.
 


Chris has been making chillout, dub and downtempo music for about 20 years. Some of you will recognize him as the artist Genuine under which name he relased the successful albums Nu Ambient Grooves 1 and 2 in the late 1990s.

Chris' Tip :

If your track sounds too full, complex or dramatic - try to make all pads mono !




Aaron Peacock, aka Ocelot, has been producing electronic music since 1993. His last two albums have been psytrance affairs however before that he made some excellent psychill music on the album One, released in 2009.

Ocelot's Tip :

Listen to non-electronic non-pop music. Listen to traditional music, classical music, folk music, music from every corner of the world. Learn about what lies behind scales, modes, chord theory, etc : which is resonance and dissonance. Learn more about chords than mere major and minor ones. Learn why the western 12 note scale and arabic 17 note scales and all others are ways of dividing the octave up. Learn about chord progressions, tonic notes, relative majors and minors. Learn about MUSIC.

Today's electronica has so much focus on production and the music itself has become quite pathetic, as it becomes increasingly driven by mass popularity, "club sounds", and regurgitated sickenly self-similar melodies and chord progressions that have been mindlessly copied from blues, rock, new-wave, and other electronica (witness the 80's revival in clubland for the last decade ) there is too much respect and reverence for "the great gods of pop shit; mindless assemblers of sound who don't know anything about music. There should be more respect for the human history of music.

Do you seriously think that thousands of years of music should be thrown away just to accommodate ignorance re-runs of recent history ? Shall we all worship the endocrine systems of 13 year olds whilst in search of stardom ? Why are we constantly trying to make our music more simple and stupid ? Don't we create stupid people this way? Plato apparently thought so.

Learn about music. Take your music to another level. Our art has only begun




Trance, psychill and ambient producer Benji Vaughan is no stranger to listeners of the PsyAmb podcast. An acclaimed solo producer and member of the popular psychedelic electronic band Younger Brother, Benji's music has long been captivating the hearts and minds of audiences around the world for many years now. He recently released his latest solo album - the brilliant Even Tundra.

Benji's Tip :

My tip would be ..... spend as much time as possible with your computer monitor off.  The less you use your eyes the more of your brain's capacity is free to listen




L and BG have produced two of the best psychill, ambient dub albums of the last few years in Monolith and Langbortistan. Their sound is full of rich atmosphere that massage your brain until it is devoid of any stress. Perfect relaxation music. For or psychill tutorial, Baba offers us these words of advice.

Baba's Tip : 

I think most important thing for me must to get a really good groove going. Bass, drums, pads, etc. to float really nice together. I think I really often end up discarding small ideas because the groove doesn't make it for me. And then when you hit the sweet spot there is no way back - a good track will come. The mixing part is also very important but hard to do without a good groove.


 

Side Liner is always working heard on evolving his psychill and ambient production skills. He has released an album every year for the past seven years and shows no sign of slowing down !  

Side Liner's Tip :

Never leave an unfinished track. Always moving to a new one after finishing the last. Personally never worked on 2 projects on same time.Sometimes is not bad to delete an unfinished project,that restart can be proved refreshing and more inspiring. Don't think a bit the deletion - inspiration usually is generous and comes fast , so cannot finish, delete and move forward.




One of my all-time favorites, Zero Cult, was kind enough to offers a few great tips that he uses to create the driving psybient tunes one his record Dreams In Stereo and the more spatial ambient sounds to be found on his latest release Vacuum.

Zero Cult's Tips :

3 tips for the ambient production.

1. Be careful with dynamics, especially compressor. The compressing should be soft and not aggressive as in trance or techno music.

2. If you are using  drum loops, put it at the background of your main drum track For the best result, try to cut the loops and apply various effects.

3. Don't use a lot of reverb on every track, insert different room spaces.




Evan created a  whole new genre of music with the release of his first two Bluetech albums. The glitchy psychill that Evan created at the time ushered in a new period of psychedelic ambient music that saw producers abandon the old paradigm of swirling goa leads with dubby bass in favor of experimenting with melodies created with the shortest of glitchy, poppy noises and twinkling reverberated keytones. 

Evan's Tip :

Don't be afraid to turn something upside down once in a while, whether its a melody or a bassline or a whole concept

PsyAmb : With a philosophy like that no wonder he always comes up with something new.




Gio's music as Makyo / Padmasana, has been a constant fixture in my home stereo system for as long as I can remember. Combining dub, ambient, trance and world music, Makyo's sound has enthralled listeners around the globe. I am eagerly anticipating the release of a new Padmasana album which is due out this year after a 10 year gap !


Makyo's Tip :

This is half production tip, half pet-peeve: the nature of modern DAWs, especially loop-based ones like Ableton, encourages people to work within 4-beat, 4-bar chunks of sound, and this can get really predictable and repetitive. Same sample comes around 4 times, ok change now and repeat, etc. 

Challenge yourself to find ways to break out of the 4-bar structures that define so much lazy electronica. I have a technique I like to call "random structure", where after laying down some loops to start the track, I will do a one-take live improv of something on top. That could be jamming out a drum sequence, doing a long filter tweak on a bassline, actually playing some phrases on a keyboard, a live dub-delay pass on some samples, or whatever. Go back and listen to what you just did. Let the peaks and drops of what you just played, where they naturally fell , dictate how you start putting the song together instead of plotting it out 4 x 4 x 4. This will give you a much more organic, flowing, less predictable feel to your music, even if you are working with very tightly sequenced grooves.

PsyAmb : Now that is an awesome idea !



Prolific psychill artist Lemonchill released his sixth album earlier this year. Titled Buddism it is full of great tracks from psychill and downtempo to progressive trance. His music always has a very distinctive clear sound to it in which every element is afforded its own breathing space. Here he provides a few tips for the tutorial about how he creates the magic.

Lemonchill's Tips :

You don't have to take drugs or use chemicals to make good music but on a more serious note:

Vocals must be mono

Kick and the whole rhythm section part must be mono but you can use panning to use the whole spectrum and create mote interest in the track.

Bass line must be mono used by saw wave (create the best sound for bassline).

Cut the kicks around 30-60 hertz for powerful kick sound.

Cut the bassline 60-120 hertz for noticeable bass sound.



Posted on 22.3.13 by PsyAmb TAG : | 8 Comments ( ADD NEW COMMENT )

8 comments :

Ambolic said... @ 25 March, 2013

What a great post. My keyboard and I are looking forward to part 2. When will that be online ?

PsyAmb said... @ 25 March, 2013

Tomorrow I hope !

Crispy said... @ 26 March, 2013

Awesome post!!!! :)

Anonymous said... @ 27 March, 2013

Thanks very interesting :-)

Dangereel Oily said... @ 20 December, 2013

Thanks for the great advice guy's

kassiantheprotean said... @ 20 January, 2015

thank you for this insight

Patrick Palone said... @ 24 July, 2016

These are great I want so many more of these to look through. It feels like such a tray to look into the minds of these artists

asosyalpsikolog said... @ 20 February, 2017

Great post! =^)

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