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Producer Dojo Common Terms To Adopt

Learning to make music depends entirely your ability to listen. Often learning new terms helps you hear things in a new, and more specific way.

Here are some lesser known terms and definitions that we use at the Dojo when teaching music, many of them are my original creations. Hopefully they can help you too.

Making “128s” – The practice of loading many samples into a sampler device and then using Note, Velocity, or Sample Selector to select your sounds in the context of your song (as opposed to making selections in the irrelevant and misleading context of solo previews in a sample folder).

Mudpie” A long recording made for resampling in which the producer attempts to generate as much diversity and chaos as possible by randomizing parameters, adding heavy modulation, and piling on effects devices with the full knowledge that 90% of the results will be too insane to use. The idea is to generate “happy accidents” or “magic moments” that would be impossible to preconceive.

The Mudpie technique was my official Ableton One Thing video:

Sparks” – inspiring sounds kept in a folder as starting points for future projects. These sounds should cause a whole new song or style to appear in your imagination almost automatically. They are great starts, but you are playing with fire when you bring a Spark into a “stuck” project!

Face” – The most obvious and verbally describable part of a song, usually encapsulating the main emotional theme of the song and serving as the source of its title. Generic songs, etudes, and iterations of form will typically lack a face.

Checkerboarding”- A composition style in which big, loud and wildly diverse sounds take turns in the spotlight. A “checkerboard” composition will typically include silences, percussion parts, vocals and other sound design elements that cannot possibly continue a single line played in the traditional sense.

*Similar to “call and response”, but with more than two elements.

**Similar to a “hocket” but without the necessity of a single, shared line spread across the voices.

Microtiming”- A catch all category for off-grid rhythms which includes not only swing, but also groove, “pocket”, tuplets, humanization/randomization, and most importantly: track offsets, channel offsets, and sound offsets. This term is designed to complement the similar term “Microtuning” which has come to mean all “off grid” tuning variations.

Fractalizing”- A compositional technique whereby the composer builds new motifs from the “seed” of an existing motif, often by sampling and “remixing” the main motif of the song. Fractalization as a process stands in stark opposition to the natural tendency to loop the main motif while piling on endless amounts of unnecessary accompaniment parts.

“You don’t need to add MORE things, you need more VARIATIONS of the ONE thing that works best.”

Middling Around”- The tendency to waste time with parts that aren’t good enough to be the “main thing” because “maybe they could go in the middle?”

Micropeaks” – Spikes in volume that last ten milliseconds or less. These micropeaks are often best transparently removed with digital clipping before compression is applied as they tend to make compressors behave in undesirable ways.

Buss Mastering aka the Clip To Zero Strategy”- A mixing strategy involving many stages of micropeak removal using digital clippers such as StandardClip. It is often beneficial to sum melodic groups to a “Comping” Buss with micropeak removal before summing with drums etc. at a “PreMaster” Buss. Lead sounds and Vocals will typically skip all the busses so that they sit “on top” and “in front” of the mix.

See Dojo member Baphometrix’s famous “Clip To Zero” strategy here:

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