Music Production Concepts Database

“Keep your focus very narrow: just this and nothing more, and make that absolutely exquisite and don’t get sucked into distractions, don’t listen to the siren chorus singing across the waves about this keyboard that has a billion sounds in it. I couldn’t care less about things like that. They just get in the way. I’m not bragging, but the way I work is that I focus entirely on a small thing and try to milk that for all it’s worth, to find everything in it that makes musical sense.”

Harold Budd

“Beauty is all around you. You open your eyes in the morning, the world is totally formed. You haven’t done anything other than be. It’s all around you. The whole idea is being able to recognize it, and pay attention to it, articulate it.”

Robert Irwin

“But we don’t necessarily want you to play things right, we want you to play things cool. You play over a groove until you have a good bar, and then we take that bar and loop it. I always say that our best music comes from mistakes that happen. You’re trying to do one thing, and then someone makes a mistake and that mistake ends up being the hook of the song, the coolest part of the song.”

Mike Simpson, Dust Brothers 

“Having things so that they’re not in any way masked, so that they’re really crisp, clear images in sound. So that you can always identify the source of the sound. It’s like a really vivid version of the thing that you’re hearing.”

Nicholas Worrall 

“I love recording synths or piano on it at a really slow speed. When the motor makes the tape just inch along in slow motion, it adds nice texture and unsteadiness to the signal which then I magnify by compressing and EQing it.”

“I have my own sample library which has a lot of my sound design experiments in it. Sometimes, I just create an interesting sounding thing and don’t know what to do with it yet. It goes into my library and when I’m working on a piece of music I can just go through my library and see what fits in.”

Robot Koch

“People associate electronic sounds with shiny and sparkly colours, but I’m not interested in that. I built analogue keyboards as a kid, these synth kits that you could buy on mail order. Unfortunately I don’t have any of that stuff any more, but it obviously had a strong effect on me. I now tend to roll off a lot of the high end in the electronics in my music, and this makes them sound very vintage-like.”

Max Richter 

“There’s so many different ways of generating and processing sounds that even if you had the same tools at your disposal as the person that made a piece of music, the relationship between the sound that comes out of their signal chain and the various parameters they have at their fingertips is so wildly unstable that it doesn’t necessarily make sense to try to recreate it.”


“One of the biggest problems these days is how easy it is to get caught up in the search for the perfect sound. You can scroll through literally hundreds and hundreds of different presets and drum samples, looking for something that the song doesn’t need. You’re looking out there in the big wide world or you’re looking inside the computer, but you really should be looking inside yourself. In your own head. Does it sound good to you? Do your ears like it?”

I might hear one chord that I like from a song I’m working on, take that, stretch it out to half a minute, re-pitch it. It all adds to the feel of a song. My studio isn’t a pristine environment creating highly polished products.”


“…It’s often these ones [tracks] where there’s really not a great deal going on, but somehow they’re still more than the sum of their actual parts.”

Hudson Mohawke

“I’m not a big fan of compression or limiting at all — I can’t emphasise that enough. On many of the recordings that you hear today, all the excitement and all the colour is gone because they’re so over‑compressed.”

Bruce Swedien

“I know the anoraks will say that virtual analogue synths aren’t as good as the originals, that they don’t go out of tune as wonderfully as the originals, but the automation possibilities of effectively having eight pairs of hands on every oscillator, and moving them in a coordinated way, are radically new. You could never have done that on a Minimoog in 1973. I think the automation of plug‑ins, reverbs and things like that, is a fantastic possibility, because it gives us a chance to manipulate musical space in unprecedented ways. Again, it’s like having eight pairs of hands on the dial of a Lexicon or something.”

Guy Sigsworth

“One of my production idols is Arca. She occasionally does these live streams where she’s showing her process, and it’s very destructive. She’ll print the reverb onto the track, then chop that up. There’s no restraint, no thinking ‘I should plan for the future by bussing this thing out, or separating it.’ It’s very spur of the moment. That’s been super inspiring.”

Mura Masa

“A lot of times I’ll throw a sound in and start processing and then I’ll change something earlier in the processing chain and that’s kind of how I sculpt my stuff.”


“Music doesn’t progress in a linear fashion like a lot of people like to think. You get musical innovations, but there’s always a cyclical relationship to the past and a generational relationship—with each generation, the time cycle starts again. So you can’t just picture it as a straight line going forward. It’s always devouring its own past and upgrading itself with younger ears and younger dancing crowds, and most importantly with new technologies which help nudge things forward to the next phase.”

Steve Goodman (aka Kode9)

“I always think of myself as being on this producer’s end of listening: the way that a producer might listen to a recording, or might listen to an instrument, or a microphone or whatever. So usually the way I would want people to think about sound is trying to listen to these details. And listening to any kind of recording and trying to think about, you know, what are you actually hearing? And then when you go a step towards making it, think about how that would have been done and trying to go backwards from the sound and try to deconstruct it a little bit.

But even if you’re playing an instrument—if you have someone who has a basic oscillator or something–to just listen to it, to just listen to things. And to really take time and listen to them and not just move on to the next thing but really think about that sound quality. And you could try making minute changes to things and really try to absorb what that sound is like.”

– Sarah Davachi

“Long drones—different ways of framing what the person is saying. Generally with samples I’ll make like five or six drones that it can live in, and the harmonic landscape of those drones will affect the emotion of the song—that’s what they’re born out of.” 

Fred Again..

“The album would not exist, really, without convert to harmony. I’m too stupid to listen to somebody playing guitar and go like, what’s the chord? But this system lets you produce a kind of trace, and its unreliability gives you this funny little grit of chaos that you can use to grow something cool. I’m trimming this little bonsai tree of MIDI information, and getting it to grow in the right way.”

Drew Daniel

“I’m addicted to the idea that you put yourself in a place and surrender to it. It’s about making space for a kind of attention that you’re not normally offered by entertainment media.”

Brian Eno

“Sometimes it’s as simple as just pressing record and wandering around amidst the tools and instruments you’ve accumulated, forcing interactions until something clicks and the brain takes notice.”

Keith Fullerton Whitman

“Sometimes things have originated from a very simple synth but then there’s often a lot of layering, stretching and pitching within Ableton, which makes it sound gritty as well… and that’s all just from the DAW.”

Sascha Ring (Apparat)

“I tend to bounce effects channels into another track and treat them as other instruments, just so you can get their sound very specifically EQ’d, in quite a crazy way if necessary.”

Jon Hopkins

“When I listen to musicians–when I see a cellist embodying a cello, I want to hear into their soul. I feel that’s fairly easy however  good you are as a cellist because you’re connected to that object. But with a synthesizer it’s a lot harder because you’re behind all these circuits. So I long for electronic music where you hear beyond the instrument into the soul of the performer, and my entire search, my entire practice is that. So sure, I’ll dial in this sound, but you have to play with the modulation whilst you’re playing it to convey that soul of the instrument.”

Sam Shephard (Floating Points)

“This kick resampling thing, where I’m taking a kick and turning off the grid in Ableton, shortening it, copying it a bunch so that you end up with a bunch of kick hits in a row. And then consolidating that and fading it out so you get this weird [sound], and I panned it in the track. Instead of doing the—[sings EDM drum build-up]—that drives everyone crazy, it’s just a slightly more interesting way of using kicks to build a bit of tension. It’s quite elastic sounding.”

Mura Masa

“I try to control randomness. This is a big counterpoint, the encounter of randomness and control. The contrast is more interesting. If you really control a millisecond, there are other possibilities, even if they are microscopic. You can’t perceive the change directly, but if you pay very close attention, the entire composition changes. So, I try to add randomness, and I like to see the counterpoint, the counterbalance.”

Ryoji Ikeda 

“One of the best parts about being a computer musician is that you can really marinate in your own music. A lot of the music that I make is what I want to listen to. When I’m working on the computer, sometimes I’ll spend time crafting a palette of timbres and make a bunch of loops and then I’ll leave it on for hours, and go in the next room and read and hear it through the wall and I’ll just leave it on to get acquainted and deeply familiar with it. And then maybe the next morning I’ll add the next part. So it takes a lot of time, it doesn’t happen in real-time, and listening is the main part of the process and that can be done really directly, like just sitting and listening, but more often it’s oblique or with other activities.”

Celia Hollander

“But the actual composing, you don’t want to be thinking for that. You need to think to set things up then you want to channel whatever it is from wherever it’s coming from. If you can concentrate long enough and you get to the right place then hopefully you’ve stopped thinking completely.”

Apex Twin

“I really recommend that people try to compress different sounds together; it’s really creative to feel how the sounds start to work together as one instead of dancing in separation.”

Sebastian Mullaert 

“You know, you cobble it together and you take designs that people have done, little structures, new ideas adapted and reconstructed from other ideas, little architectures that other people have built, and then you build your own thing with. No other art form/creative platform does that.”

Thom Yorke 

“Don’t overwork things. When you work on things for too long, you lose perspective and objectivity, and will start focusing in on small, relatively insignificant details like ‘should the hi hats be 1 db quieter?’ Try and finish things relatively quickly to preserve the vibe that got you excited by the idea in the first place.”

Chris Todd

“When I can’t think of something to write, I just tweak knobs and suddenly you can get something quite interesting, and I do like coming up with wild, weird and wonderful landscapes of sound. But what I like doing is mixing and matching, because if you only have the amazing, expensive high-quality sounds in there, occasionally you need a small Casio just for contrast. If you don’t have contrast, you don’t have anything.”

Hans Zimmer

“The main thing is the jam format […] I’ll do sessions, say for one hour, and then I go through and look for interesting parts and think about where I could go from there. There might be a good idea for something, or a good line I can use.”

Christian Löffler

“Think about it. When you’re programming stuff into the computer, you are constantly assessing what it sounds like and whether this note needs to be changed. It’s a constant interruption because that’s how your brain works. But if you create a piece of music on an instrument and immediately record that, you are taking away your brain’s ability to doubt and question what it’s doing. Once it’s in the computer and you’ve moved on to the next bit of the song, that’s it… no more worrying if you’ve got the right hat sound. Timewise, it was a mindblower for me.”

Kelly Lee Owens

“The most important things in my room are my autoloads. I have one for each type of production work I do… and it really speeds up the workflow immeasurably.”


“It was really fun for me to try and take an electronic music approach to string libraries: distorting, crunching, reversing, and warping them.

I was able to take a DJ’s approach to building tension using classical instruments. I would take sounds from trance music, like white noise risers, and throw them in, too.”

Nathan Micay

“What I needed was to create music from the ground up with nothing but sound, and have that music reflect ‘being’ rather than ‘doing.'”

John Frusciantes

“I don’t have a process.”

Dylan Henner

“If a single bell is struck, and we contemplate the nature of its sound– the Klang at impact, the spread of sound after this initial gesture, and then the lingering cloud of resonance–what we hear takes us to the heart of tintinnabuli. A finely wrought bell makes one of the most mysterious and creative sounds; a sound that certainly ‘rings out’ and reaches towards us, yet at the same time pulls us in towards it, so that soon we realize that we are on the inside of it, that its inside and outside are in fact one and the same” (20).

Arvo Pärt 

“building these patterns and loops and kind of re-listening over and over again, just this really repetitive – almost like sculpture or something, just adding and subtracting things.”

Huerco S.

“…they just actually sound musically more interesting to me, those hiccups, those moments where something either is authentic or not, or electronic or acoustic, and you don’t know which. [When] people are using computers, I think that’s what inevitably happens, and what sounds really nice.”

A.G. Cook

“In your production, think about ways to add interesting twists or surprises for the listener. Think about how they could be feeling with the track at each moment, and what you want them to feel at any given point in a way that satisfies the way you want the story of that track to unfold.”


“One of the most beautiful things we can do in music production is create spaces that are unreal–that are impossible in the real world.”


“Those old samplers…the audio quality would be degraded through dithering of the audio in the sample, in the sampler, or there’s a natural built-in bit crushing element to a lot of those samplers. Those distortion elements are introduced by feeding audio into a new piece of kit.

So the next couple of [production] steps were decreasing the quality of this audio. So taking a bunch of information out using EQ, over compressing it using OTT (…)

So I was reading about the [1980s and 1990s] sampling and it was a case of trying to reverse engineer how sampling back then would sound in 2022—trying to replicate the shortcomings of those old samplers. The irony of it is that we have all this amazing equipment now and we spend a lot of time trying to make it sound shit again. Whether it’s the nostalgia or something about the audio that’s appealing to the human ear (…) It’s the same reason someone uses analog synthesizers or tape machines and stuff—there’s something about degrading the audio.”

SG Lewis

“Usually since I’m using a limited amount of equipment with few options, the sound direction stays largely focused in the same direction, and strays from there. I don’t try to build pieces too often that have too many different types of sounds, or things that were made at different times overlapping simultaneously – usually what is together was all made around the same time, in one sitting.”


“When I started to do electronic music I was obsessed — I more or less forgot that obsession along the way — about not having anything being repeated in exactly the same way. For me it was exactly the opposite attitude to that of Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and all those electronic bands who were doing something more robotic. I considered electronic music in a much more sensual, organic way, where nothing should be repeated.”

– Jean-Michel Jarre, Sound On Sound (2008)

“[M]usic is not so fast that adequate control of movements is lost”[8], “music is not art”[9], “music is not appropriate for worship”[10], “music is not always entirely clear”[11], “music is not so likely to use the voice as a conveyor of subjective experience”[12], “music is not solely a twentieth-century phenomenon”[13]

Einar Torfi Einarsson

“I developed this system of taking samples of already existing components and extracting them from—putting them out of sync with the track and then doctoring them externally through other boxes, maybe changing them to slow them down, and if I hit on something special then I go back in and find a spot for that special sound back into the track. It won’t work for most of the songs. I just run it randomly.”

– Daniel Lanois (2016)

“When I make loops on a sequencer, I always try to play them all the way through, so I play the whole part, then I listen to it, and quite often I find a long section that I like. Loop that, cut it up so that the loop doesn’t recur regularly. The idea of always editing in straight vertical cuts is the most single annoying thing about most of that music. Because a whole part of my feeling has been to make music that is ‘unlocked.’ And all that stuff like Thursday AfternoonDiscreet Musicand so on, is very deliberately that: music where the elements float separately from one another.” 

– Brian Eno

“When I was listening to this situation, it was as though there was another frequency which came through–that wasn’t done by that being played, it wasn’t being done by the combination of these things, but the combination of these things allowed this other frequency to come in.”

– David Chatton Barker

“A micro mastery has a structure that connects in a crucial way to important elements in the greater field it is a part of. It reveals relationships and balances in the elements of the task that mere words and explanation, textbook-style, cannot. Its repeatability and game ability…turn it into a self-teaching mechanism, where experimentation within certain defined limits greatly increases your learning.”

– Robert Twigger, Micromastery

“Over the past 5 years I have been sketching compositions on paper. Sometimes they are detailed, specific outlines of what I imagine for the music, sometimes they are how I would like a synth to sound, sometimes they are me thinking out loud about the structure of the music I am working on.

The main reason why I do this is because it is a way for me to problem solve away from the computer. I find the computer is so powerful at trying things quickly that it can get in the way and overpower some of my decisions.”

– Rival Consoles

“With some of the instruments I’ve used, people would be surprised about some of the results I’ve got out of them because they’re not designed to do certain things and yet, if you put your mind to it and really get to grips with how it’s built and not the manufacturer’s intentions, any machine will do a number of things above and beyond what the manufacturer intended. It’s just looking at it with an open mind, then those things become apparent.”

– Tom Jenkinson (aka Squarepusher)

“The resulting flow is a complex pattern of tensions and relaxations which evolve as the musical material is worked out. The words ‘controlled’ and ‘worked out’ do not really convey what I mean. There seem to be no suitable English words. I am hunting for some word which brings a hint of the skillful yachtsman in fierce mid-Atlantic, guiding and controlling his craft and yet being taken along with it, sensing the best way to manage his vessel, freely changing his mind as unforeseen circumstances evolve, yet always applying the greatest discipline to himself and his seamanship…The composer has to guide and evolve his material in all its aspects.”

– Daphne Oram, An Individual Note of Music, Sound and Electronics (1972, p. 27)

“It’s about getting to the molecular level of a particular sound — realizing what that sound actually is made of, and why it behaves a certain way when processed or cooked. Then you use those molecules to build new forms, mixing and reappropriating those raw materials, and of course, it should be bloody delicious.”

– Sophie

“Usually I try to find a balance between a rhythmic pattern and filter modulations which together articulate some interesting quality. For me, sketch is a strange word because it means something like trying to manifest an idea. Of course I have some kind of idea, but many times I just look at my idea as a starting point and then I let the technology change it. So basically my idea is an input for the environment in which I’m working, and then there is an output which carries out the idea and the properties of the technology itself. This way I think there is a better chance to end up at musical situations which are not predefined.”

– Gábor Lázár

“Today one can compose music with a computer, but the computer always existed in composers’ heads—if they had to, composers could write sonatas without a single original idea, just by ‘cybernetically’ expanding on the rules of composition. Janáček’s purpose was to destroy this computer … My purpose is like Janáček’s: to rid the novel of the automatism of novelistic technique, of novelistic word-spinning.”

Milan Kundera 

“The electronic medium seems to attract a long, motley caravan of young, inexperienced and often unprepared ‘beatnik type’ self-titled composers, who believe that the world began yesterday and they you only have to push buttons and prepare IBM cards to achieve magical results.” 

– Aurelio de la Vega, “Regarding Electronic Music” (1965)

“I made most discoveries by exhaustive trial and error, over time gathering each lesson into a simple approach based on what I had learned. The approach was not rigidly scientific, but results were documented by concise shorthand notes and photos of the bread on days when something notable was achieved in crust or crumb.” 

– Chad Robertson, Tartine Bread (2013)

“The real problem thus becomes therefore one of producing accidents with sufficiently enhanced probabilities for selection.”

– Niklas Luhmann, “Communicating with Slip Boxes”

“The moment we have two of a thing we create form and create an energy of relation.” (219)

“Style is analog. Style is a matter of perception.”

Kyle Beachy, The Most Fun Thing (2021)

“The biggest achievement for music is empathy. You can transform into someone else’s emotional state. And you can go into situations where it’s incredibly difficult to find the right words. Music in general is somewhere between words…Music morphs you into the one who created it.”

– Martin Stimming, Hanging Out With Audiophiles podcast, Episode 89

“The magic is that there is no magic. Start where you are. Don’t stop.”

– Seth Godin, The Practice

“In the last fifteen years, new noises have been uncovered by musicians that we have no set way of interpreting or wrapping our imaginations around. Sounds have been created that make no sense; they have no correlates in the wider culture so they just seem to be completely alien to our ears.”

– Kit Mackintosh, Neon Screams (2021)

“The artworks I’ve described so far could be thought of as training apparatuses for attention. By inviting us to perceive at different scales and tempos than we’re used to, they teach us not only how to sustain attention but how to move it back and forth between different registers.”

– Jenny Odell, How To Do Nothing (2019)

“It’s noteworthy that the first action a computer program designed to detect patterns undertakes is not to analyze but to collect. Which is consistent with how many writers, musicians, and designers view themselves: not as master craftsmen but as collectors. They consume voraciously, pursue obsessively, and accumulate influences the way chefs hunt for ingredients.”

“The most effective practice regimens avoid extended repetition, even if that means spending less time working on a target skill. Instead they harness the power of novelty and shake things up by blending an assortment of tasks, which results in sharper learning and stronger performance.”

– Ron Friedman, Decoding Greatness (2021)

“The fancy music that is here synthesized is absolutely astonishing. Few of us would have imagined that so much progress had been made. But most listeners won’t be able to suppress a snicker or two, in the midst of their amazement—for this music, in all its variety, still has a grotesquely inhuman quality that comically defies the very meaning of music […]

The machine, having no composer-of-the-future and no new musical language to operate upon, is forced to use present stock and, absurdly, to go about imitating the very instruments and performers that it is supposed eventually to supersede. A fine contradiction!”

– Edward Tatnall Canby, “Synthesized Music”, Harper’s (September 1955)

“All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there is this gap. For the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not that good.

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you. A lot of people never get past that phase. They quit.

Everybody I know who does interesting, creative work they went through years where they had really good taste and they could tell that what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. Everybody goes through that.

And if you are just starting out or if you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you’re going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.”

Ira Glass

“Avoiding Squareness

[…] contrapuntal thinking encourages overlap. The habit of always keeping interest alive in at least one part, even when another cadences, makes for more interesting phrasing, and mitigates squareness of construction.”

– Alan Belkin, Principles of Counterpoint

“When you are close like this, nearing satisfaction on something that has taken a very long time do to, you don’t want to be tempted to decide too soon that you are done. You need to add time for a final assessment of the over-all form and structure before removing those bits of clay and polishing the detail. 

In the effects of a change of scale…there is an artistic message that carries beyond sculpture and into other realms, like writing, and I’m still trying to figure out how best to summarize it, relating, as it does, to the idea that a piece of writing ought not to be planned for a given size but developed to the length most suitable to the material, and no farther.”

– John McPhee, Tabula Rasa

“Piano first, generally. Though maybe a small rhythm element may be put in place to spark the harmonic gateway that the piano provides. Then starts the long process of embellishing it, or orchestrating it. I say orchestrating, as I like to think of the synth elements that I add as orchestrations.”

Neil Cowley, Headphone Commute

“I want to promote a description of creativity as a process of attunement to the material environment, not an isolated or inward journey further into one’s thoughts or mind or soul. In this sense, the description I want to promote is one driven by a critical curiosity rather than a thing called inspiration…which I know nothing of.” 

“When creative practice is understood as an attempt to explore how materials and processes interact under certain conditions, like some scientific activities, it becomes situated in something–materials, processes, conditions–rather than somehow impossibly floating outside the material world.”

Mark Fell, Structure and Synthesis: The Anatomy of Practice (2022), pp. 14, 21

“To not work in a linear way when making a track. It’s better to just start somewhere and explore from there, don’t try and write a song from start to finish, make it random. And also don’t be afraid to get theoretical when making music, especially electronic music. There is a lot to be found in classical theories for composing which can be inspirational, and also surprisingly fun.”

– Anna-Karin Berglund

“I like styling with something that’s really intricate and complex, sound‑wise. Like dragging a whole finished song into a granular synth. So, you’re starting from a point of real intricacy and trying to find order in it, as opposed to coming from a pure sine wave and trying to add intricacies. I like going the other way around more.”

– Fred Gibson 

“Well I’ll tell you very frankly that this whole ‘new age’ business is very distasteful to me. I don’t like being even considered in that category and I have almost no respect for it at all. To me it’s a kind of arrogant philosophical point of view where music has a metaphysical or biological function. I agree that music has a metaphysical function but when that’s your whole point of view, when it isn’t just a thing that happens out of the normal course of events, I think it becomes arrogant and rather precious. It smacks to me very much of science fiction religion and that’s not me. It’s very lightweight and very bothersome to me. ‘New age music’ is a marketing ploy and I don’t think it has anything to do with the actual truth about the meaning of the music. The only thing that rings my bell is serious music and music is that way when it’s impossible to analyse: ‘new age music’ is easily analysed.”

– Harold Budd, Sound On Sound (1986)

“The kind of signposts I’m thinking about are often little more than short phrases—or even single word neologisms—that, due to what ideas they have compressed within them, reorient how you see specific spheres of experience. These are ‘catchy’ concepts that often combine two or more words in unexpected ways, creating a mental hook for a vague penumbra of facts and experiences. […]

How to begin? Recognize patterns in the world and name them. Smash unexpected terms together and see if they sing. Realize when you are struggling to describe something and spend some time just sitting and figuring out how to compress that description down into a short pithy phrase.”

– Samuel Arbesman, Constructing Signposts in the Memescape

“We develop skill at the live edge.”

– Richard Sennett, The Craftsman

“Having things so that they’re not in any way masked, so that they’re really crisp, clear images in sound. So that you can always identify the source of the sound. It’s like a really vivid version of the thing that you’re hearing.”

– Nicholas Worrall 

“As John Cage discovered through his use of the I Ching, a complex dance of chance-driven and unexpected encounters was both the best way to approach the more-than-human world, and the best way of representing its heterogeneous, omnicentric reality. Cage’s realization prefigured that of evolutionary biologists, who in recent decades have started to acknowledge the crucial role that randomness plays in the creation of life itself. This has proven to be something of an uphill battle because the importance of randomness has been consistently undervalued in studies of evolution since its establishment, while the role of natural selection – competition – has been consistently overvalued.”

James Bridle, Ways of Being, pp. 178, 234

“The sequencer’s automatic sound sequences and the drum machine’s loops hypnotized me. These black boxes brought the trance quality of African, Indian and Asian musical cultures into pop music, a quality that had been the starting point for the minimalist concept.”

– Karl Bartos, The Sound of the Machine

“No machine can compare with a man’s hands. Machinery gives speed, power, complete uniformity, and precision, but it cannot give creativity, adaptability, freedom, heterogeneity. These the machine is incapable of, hence the superiority of the hand, which no amount of rationalism can negate. Man prefers the creative and the free to the fixed and standardized” (108).

“One may be able to turn intuition into knowledge, but one cannot produce intuition out of knowledge” (110).

“Freedom comes from infinite repetition of a technique” (175).

– Soetsu Yanagi, The Unknown Craftsman

“The way to create something beautiful is often to make subtle tweaks to something that already exists, or to combine existing ideas in a slightly new way.”

“The only style worth having is the one you can’t help.”

“Unseen details combine to produce something that’s just stunning, like a thousand barely audible voices all singing in tune.”

– Paul Graham, Hackers and Painters

“Presence died a million deaths in the seventies. In its place was the Edisonian dream: record the music, not the room. There was a cultural and geographic component to the dry-as-a-bone sound. It was especially prevalent in West Coast studios, and especially audible on the California-centric rock bands of the seventies—put on an Eagles record and you’ll hear it. Or better yet, listen to the early Steely Dan records, technological masterpieces made with the engineer Roger Nichols. But really, it was everywhere—rock, disco, funk—the sound of the age. It wasn’t necessarily bad from a listener’s perspective. Minimalist seventies classic-rock records—ZZ Top, Bad Company, AC/DC—do sound ‘live’ in an Edison-biting-into-wood sense. The music is intimate, unencumbered, right in front of you. But if you stop and think, they really don’t sound the way bands do when you hear them live, when ‘presence’ is blown up to mammoth proportions. Kick drums and snare drums, for example, end up sounding similar.”

Greg Milner, Perfecting Sound Forever, p. 162

“I feel the important part of making a track is to recognize the point where you have to listen to what the track wants. This point comes in around 40 – 50% of the whole process, where it’s not so much about what you want with the track anymore, but what the track wants you to do with it. To figure out this change of perspective is the only way to successfully finish a track. Of course it’s intuition, but at a certain point the music is the boss. And you always recognize it when you want to finish a very fancy idea for example and it doesn’t work. You build the arrangement and it doesn’t work, you try something else and it doesn’t work. If you just listen to what the track wants, it’s much easier.”


“We also work with a lot of audio files, so we’re continually flattening and rendering stuff out, whether they’re stems, loops of an entire idea or some kind of sound bed or texture we’ve been working on. So we’re throwing these audio files backwards and forwards all the time, which plays into how you generally use Ableton really well.”

The Black Dog

“When I first started using Max it was a bit intimidating, you’d get blank canvas syndrome, that moment of “what should I do? I could do anything!” Once I started to build stuff, narrow it down, reduce the capabilities, you start to get more ideas. It’s all about narrowing down for me. There has to be a seed.”

– Sean Booth, Autechre

“Almost every sound is decayed, or shadowed, or manipulated in some way. I’ve been interested in injecting noise into my productions lately; using a lot of tape noise samples, distortion, old spring reverbs, bits of vinyl crackle, and the noise floor that my synths generate to create this softly breathing field of noise.”


“I’ve created a mixture by accessing any number of abstract sources of unknown origins and auras, which I then modified and blended like a painter who mixes his colors before he paints the painting.”

Wolfgang Voigt

“There were so many times I had the Ableton quantization grid turned off and was arranging sounds grain by grain, millisecond by millisecond. It was draining, but tenfold rewarding.”

Little Snake

“‘Why do I want to play much slower than before?’ Because I wanted to hear the resonance. I want to have less notes and more spaces. Spaces, not silence. Space is resonant, is still ringing. I want to enjoy that resonance, to hear it growing, then the next sound, and the next note or harmony can come. That’s exactly what I want.”

Ryuichi Sakamoto

“Many of my sounds are based on short samples of classical, acoustic instruments. Preferably from the quiet parts of symphonies where the musicians play carefully and where you can often hear the chairs creaking. When I amplify these sounds and run them through various filters and envelopes, I often get sounds that are almost impossible to make on a synthesizer. So the sampler has been my most important tool all along. I often start a composition by creating a theme with an acoustic-digital filtered sound. Over this, I often try to integrate pure synthetic sounds from a synthesizer. This makes the music sound a little more organic than if I just used synthesizers.”

“The best compositions often have no revisions.”


“It’s ideas about new ways to synthesise patterns that don’t sound like they came out of other synths; looking for ways to make sounds that don’t sound like they came out of the Prophet; looking for ways to make arpeggios that don’t sound like they came out of a simple arpeggiator – things with that level of movement and complexity and expression but not as predictable, not as linear.”

James Holden

“There aren’t necessarily things happening in my music all the time, and it’s always interesting to hear how people experience it in a totally different way from me. I created it, but they can hear something totally different. Maybe it’s just out of boredom that the brain can make a loop exciting.”

The Field

“I sort of play YouTube like an instrument and put things straight into Audacity. If you play something on YouTube, you can hit the number key….4…7…2 or whatever and it skips the video so you get a sort of random sample allocation. So, four or five of the tracks came about just by doing that and mashing the random start-points in a video.”

Proc Fiskal

“In terms of track arrangement I tended to favour A, B, A, you know? You start with something, you go into something, then you come back to what you started with, but make it a bigger version. Yeah. Or, I quite like the Part Two where you do something, and then do a kind of moodier second part…”

Paul Hartnoll, Orbital

“The simple pursuit of fidelity and editability in DAWs is all but over. Today, developers must think laterally and embrace the sonic character of analogue warmth, lossy digital formats and hybrid synthetic sounds as creative tools.”

William Stokes

“The musical idea is worth more than how it sounds.”


“We must never lose sight of the fact that the most intelligently designed, the most versatile and the most complex piece of kit we have at our disposal is our own body.”

– Deckle Edge, Cræft (2018), p. 24.

“The essential thing is the contrast between a little and a lot. It works every time. Your brain is eager to tune in when the music is in a borderland where it can fluctuate—suddenly it’s quiet, a sound follows a soundless pause, or else you dance and wait for the tone to shift or the volume to change. It feels like your brain is expanding outwards.”

– Erling Kagge, Silence (2017), p. 109

“We may find it not so interesting to cook the same thing over and over again every day. It is rather tedious, you may say. If you lose the spirit of repetition it will become quite difficult…Anyway, we cannot keep still: we have to do something. So if you do something, you should be very observant, and careful, and alert. Our way is to put the dough in the oven and watch it carefully…Actual practice is repeating over and over again until you find out how to become bread.”

– Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind (1970).

“You can drown in the sewage water of our time’s creativity. The capability to select is important, and the urge for it. The reduction to a minimum, the ability to reduce fractions–that was the strength of all great composers” (114).

“Reduction certainly doesn’t mean simplification, but it is the way–at least in an ideal scenario–to the most intense concentration on the essence of things. In the compositional process I have always to find this nucleus first from which the work will eventually emerge” (116-117).

“The compositional task is to find the appropriate system for the gesture” (117).

– Arvo Pärt, The Cambridge Companion to Arvo Pärt (2012, Andrew Shenton, ed.)

“Although there is much in this world that is incomprehensible, you can nevertheless discover a meaning as long as you have managed to limit your field of search.”

-Fredrik Sjöberg, The Art of Flight

“In music we start with the parts and adduce the whole.”

– Dave Hickey, Pirates and Farmers (2022), p. 87

“My compositional process can be broken down into two steps. The first is processing the source material. The second is determining what to do with the prepared material. Using computers and outboard gear, it is possible to process material in an infinite number of ways, so you could say that processing could go on forever. In fact, processing continues until the composers makes the conscious decision to stop and move on. As such, I feel that nothing in the digital domain is absolute or definite.”

Chihei Hatakeyama

“Improbable arrangements of the world, crystallized consequences of energy generation, are what both life and technology are all about.”

“Innovation, like evolution, is a process of constantly discovering ways of rearranging the world into forms that are unlikely to arise by chance—and that happen to be useful.”

“Techniques and processes are developed that work, but understanding of them comes later.”

Matt Ridley, How Innovation Works (2021)

“I feel like I’ve woken up somehow to focusing on the big ideas and realizing the rules that I keep thinking apply, just don’t really exist.”

Four Tet

“At the end of the day it’s not so much the editing style that matters, it’s more about having a real cool, concrete idea. Even if it’s a whole line of bits and crazy parts, it still has to stick with you and have… almost like a phrase.”


“One of the techniques that has appeared in the studio is if we’re looking for a very, very quiet, delicate performance making the headphones that the musicians are hearing very loud. So loud that if they play at normal level it’s deafening. It forces everyone to play so delicately that it’s almost as if just touching a guitar string—and it’s really loud—it creates a whole different feeling…When someone’s playing very, very delicately and you mix it well, and you can hear it loud, you can feel the touch being so careful, it creates an energy that’s really beautiful to hear.”

– Rick Rubin, Ezra Klein podcast

“It’s like a process of incremental discovery everyday.”


“My workflow is to do a lot of pre-production.”


“We must never lose sight of the fact that the most intelligently designed, the most versatile and the most complex piece of kit we have at our disposal is our own body.”

– Deckle Edge, Cræft (2018)

“The essential thing is the contrast between a little and a lot. It works every time. Your brain is eager to tune in when the music is in a borderland where it can fluctuate—suddenly it’s quiet, a sound follows a soundless pause, or else you dance and wait for the tone to shift or the volume to change. It feels like your brain is expanding outwards.”

– Erling Kagge, Silence (2017)

“I feel the important part of making a track is to recognize the point where you have to listen to what the track wants. This point comes in around 40–50% of the whole process, where it’s not so much about what you want with the track anymore, but what the track wants you to do with it. To figure out this change of perspective is the only way to successfully finish a track. Of course it’s intuition, but at a certain point the music is the boss. And you always recognize it when you want to finish a very fancy idea for example and it doesn’t work. You build the arrangement and it doesn’t work, you try something else and it doesn’t work. If you just listen to what the track wants, it’s much easier.”

Martin Stimming

“Some of the most gorgeous grooves are wonky, and so I’ve just become obsessed with moving things so that they have exactly the right amount of wonk. I want to lean towards this beat, and the computer won’t help you there, ’cause a computer is so rigid. So, I have to bring the human element to that process by allowing the thing to be wonky.”

Jacob Collier 

“Because order sucks. I mean, look at the Stones. Keith Richards is always on top of the beat, and Bill Wyman, until he quit, was always behind it, because Richards is leading the band and Charlie Watts is listening to him and Wyman is listening to Watts. So the beat is sliding on those tiny neural lapses, not so you can tell, of course, but so you can feel it in your stomach. And the intonation is waving, too, with the pulse in the finger on the amplified string. This is the delicacy of rock-and-roll, the bodily rhetoric of tiny increments, necessary imperfections, and contingent community.”

Dave Hickey, Air Guitar

“With my music I am trying to construct a space that is as open and wide as possible without collapsing back upon itself; hardly any support columns or visible framework. There is a sense of emptiness, of lines that have been drawn but not completed.”

Thomas Koner

“Since all the tracks were based on this broken filter that just crackles and hisses randomly this was very often the beginning of the recording of a track – that gave the rhythm structure, the main part. And then I simply started with some basslines or some atmospheres. In general, I’m really working more in atmospheres than in song structures.”


“The way we used to compose was sort of like filling a 24-track tape full of loops, basically. Some of them will be 8-bar loops, some of them will be 2-bar loops, some of them will be 6-bar loops. So they’d all spiral ‘round each other while you composed on the Mute buttons. And one of the aspects of there being four of us in the band—is eights hands operating the mixing desk. Because we didn’t use automated mixing back then.”

Graham Massey, 808 State

“There are definitely other producers who are more technically educated. But I was technically adventurous. And I was very diligent and relentless in putting in the time in the studio and trying different things. Just trial and error. Relentlessly putting the time in.”

“The way I chose to define [drum and bass] to them was as a style of programming, a style of using sonics to make music, as opposed to using instruments to make music. This was music purely about soundscapes, space, bass.”


“I pick sounds for the texture in them.”


“I think a lot of people have a problem getting from a basic loop to a finished track. I think most of that is a case of getting a basic, rough idea of how you want your track to sound and just going for it. Not focusing too much and trying to hone every sound to perfection before you start arranging a track—because by the time you get around to doing that you’ll be totally bored of everything.

So it’s best to get something in the ballpark and then start spanning it out as quickly as possible…Then you start picking away at various bits and say, ‘I’m going to process this bit because this feels exciting at the moment.’ I suppose the whole thing is about keeping the excitement alive for you as an artist while you’re being creative, so by the time you finish the track and people are listening to it, it sounds exciting to them as well.”

Dom & Roland

“Usually since I’m using a limited amount of equipment with few options, the sound direction stays largely focused in the same direction, and strays from there. I don’t try to build pieces too often that have too many different types of sounds, or things that were made at different times overlapping simultaneously – usually what is together was all made around the same time, in one sitting.”


“Finding a sound that works is half the battle. I am not one of those producers that considers themselves a ‘sound designer’. I hate the term, actually. It makes me think of cinematic rumblings, car park door slams, and Hans Zimmer – all that does nothing for me. I am a musician. I like to use what’s at hand to create music. Using a preset in a more creative way can do more to advance music scenes sometimes.”


“It’s really hard to have a functional, simple drum loop that fascinates or inspires you.”

Skee Mask

“It doesn’t matter what [equipment] you’ve got.
As long as you have the patience to sit down and do it, I suppose, the dogged determination.”


“With electronic music […] you get a feedback system, and get drawn in to areas of experimentation that you just would not discover. I think that’s a lot harder to realise than with a traditional approach of sitting at a piano and orchestrating. You don’t get that immediate feedback of what it does when you bend it and shape it. That’s relinquishing to the machine, but it is part of the process as well.”


“When I work as a producer, I do a lot of reamping and reworking of sounds. Then in the edit, it’s very much about automating between those different choices. I do the same with reverbs: rather than just sticking to one I like to be able to dip into different sound worlds and different physical spaces. Sometimes that’s a seamless transition from a really intimate sound into a really expansive sound, and sometimes it’s a very hard cut.”

Lucinda Chua

“Once we’ve got the snares and kicks in there, sounding nice and fresh, I put a few incidentals in—extra sound effects to give it that sort of shuffle. I’ve got a piece of filtered white noise for the start of the bar […] It sort of thickens [the texture] up a little more, kind of fills around the top end. Especially if you don’t have a lot of rolling hi hats, it’s good to have some top-ish, white-noisy to fill it out. In drum and bass you’ve got airy, natural breaks with all the top end fussing around. So little bits of white noise and stuff like that can be used to fill in the gaps between the individual drum hits to make it sound full […] It almost ties it together as the whole drum beat as one.

“If you can make it interesting when there’s no melody in there, it’s a good start.”


“I try to process as little as possible. The most simple ways of audio editing are naturally the most effective ones: deceleration and acceleration. Especially deceleration is a wonderful way of microscoping analysis. It exposes rich and abstract textures full of former hidden information.”

Jan Jelinek

“I don’t use synthesis, but I use Logic like my own synth. I add distortion, I add filters, bounce things, change the pitch. Put it back in a sampler—just resample and resample until I’ve got something that I’m happy with. I can sometimes spend three days working on one bass sound, getting it exactly as I like it.”


“I think it’s really essential to explore tone—the tone of synths and drums and how bright or dark they are and to listen carefully to how they behave alongside other sounds, exploring tiny amounts of distortion, delay, filtering and compression. But also, don’t be scared to destroy sounds. Sometimes, chaos is needed in electronic music more than acoustic music, because, by its very nature, it’s quite rigid rhythmically and clean-sounding. I would also add that to generate more interesting melodies and chord progressions, you should regularly approach this without a beat or grid. Simply record long passages of improvisation with a synth sound that you enjoy, and then later you’ll be more inspired to make it work with rhythmic samples, because grids often restrict some amazing yet simple possibilities.”

Ryan Lee West

“Let’s say you have a bunch of hot AF signals that hit a limiter and now, suddenly, these waveforms have gone from being big and round and way over zero to being square and sitting right at zero. Anytime you have square wave forms on the sides of those squares–as the wave transitions from the peak moment to any of its preceding to the peak, or post-peak receding back to zero– you get what we call side band harmonics. And those side band harmonics are oftentimes things that we find as pleasurable.

When you saturate a bass and suddenly you take this pure tone and it turns into all these upper band harmonics–we like the sound of those things. That is distortion and it’s adding harmonic content that wasn’t present at the beginning of this path. So no matter what you do–whatever system you pick–if you’re squaring your waveforms in your master you’re ending up with artifacts. Doesn’t matter if you can say, ‘they’re bad’; by definition they are square and you now have side band harmonics. It is by definition distorted and you are by definition adding artifacts.

That piece for me matters because we have all this dogma around clipping and distortion […] You can get this saturation, this harmonic coloring out of the clipping, which gives you these side band harmonics, which gives you this richer, fuller sound that doesn’t have a tiny profile associated with it.

These processes…have been part of the mastering process, and it’s just been something that they’ve kept aside.”

Seth Drake