You need to know Dance Music inside out. The genre of Dance Music is divided
into many different sub-genres. Make a slight mistake on any of the basic sonic
components and you will be out-of-genre, which is possibly the biggest mistake
a budding Dance Music producer can make. Since Dance Music evolves so rapidly
there are no rules (except for the ones that are already out of date). You have
to watch and listen. Go to a club that plays your favourite kind of Dance Music,
watch for the tracks that get people on the dancefloor. They are the tracks
to analyse and imitate.
You need to be able to coax vibrant exciting sounds from your synthesizer.
Perhaps you can get away with using just the presets, but that is hardly being
creative in the true sense of the word. You need to be able to make sounds evolve,
often over long periods of time. You need to be able to make a track build and
build, using filter sweeps, changes in resonance and a whole armoury of tricks,
preferably under automated control.
You need to understand the rhythms of Dance Music. You could use a sampled
drum track, or you can create your own. You need to understand the essence of
the basic Dance Music percussion sounds; kick, hihat, snare and clap. Each can
come in limitless variations, but only some are suitable. You need to be able
to make a snare drum crescendo using the automated functions of your computer
The equipment you need…
'Synthesizer', in Dance Music, means 'analogue synthesizer', or a digitally
modelled version of analogue synthesis. Analogue synthesizers can be hardware
with real knobs to touch and twist. Or they can be software living inside your
computer. Either way, a good analogue synthesizer can provide a rich palette
of sounds for the Dance Music producer. Software synths are great because you
'buy once and use many'. A hardware synth can only work to the limit of its
multitimbrality, which is often quite a severe limit with digitally modelled
analogue synthesizers. Software synths can have several 'instances' on separate
You need a computer sequencer that will allow you to automate almost every
parameter of your sound sources. You can perform a filter sweep live as you
mix. But what about two or more sweeps happening at the same time, together
with a pan and volume change?
If you can manage without vocals then your basic kit will be a synthesizer
and computer sequencer. If you have a sampler, which you will need for vocal
samples, you can also get sample CDs which include commonly used sound elements
which you can mix and match with your own creativity. You don't necessarily
have to have a multitrack recorder, but it can certainly help.