6 tips for effective build ups

Illustration: Script & Seal

When build ups lack detail, it’s a recipe for sounding amateur.

As a producer who has remixed some of the biggest artists in the world (Beyonce, Tove Lo, Nick Jonas, etc) for some of the biggest labels in the world (Universal, Island Def Jam, Sony, etc), I’m always amazed at how easy it is to make a terrible build up.

That said, build ups are an opportunity to create tension, emotion, and much-needed energy in your music. Here are 6 huge build up tips, tricks, and techniques I’ve come to embrace and utilize in almost every single track I produce.

1. Get creative when entering the drop

Yes, the drop needs to be memorable, interesting, and well-produced. But if there’s an area that most producers overlook, it’s how they enter the drop. The way you present a new sound can sometimes be more important than the sound itself. Instead of relying on the same Pryda snare or reverse cymbal for every transition, try a unique gap of silence, or introduce a sound using triplets, or get creative with drum fills.

Long story short, don’t skimp on creating a unique entrance to your drop. This can be relatively time-intensive and test your creativity, but if it were easy, everyone would do it. Want to see this in action? Check out how I entered the drop in my latest official remix for Laidback Luke on Mixmash Records.

2. Automate parameters on the master

There are at least several things I automate on the master of every build up:

  • Volume (lower the volume just 1-2 dB during the build)
  • EQ (automate the low cut and resonance to taste to get the famed DJM effect)
  • Reverb (small amounts of reverb can create tons of depth and spacing)
  • The mono build trick (automate your stereo image for added drop impact)

Bonus: For Ableton users, there’s a simple rack for all of this that Bass Kelph made called “Easy Wash Out.”

3. Program intricate snare work

Intricate build ups require multiple layers all working together to create one dramatic moment of tension. There’s no single secret to making this work, but here are some things that might help:

  • Start with foundational elements (you can’t make the build interesting unless the basics are there first).
  • Layer by automating the volume of loops and snare rolls to slowly come up over time. This will create the perception of a much more intricate, detailed build.
  • Don’t forget your basic white noise and risers for background tension. These make builds a lot easier.

4. Use the Splice Sounds library

When it comes to searching for a one-off sample, don’t forget that Splice was built and organized specifically for your sample-finding needs. There is absolutely no better way to add details to your productions than utilizing the Splice Sounds library.

5. Let samples do the work for you

First off, don’t limit yourself to only using samples from sample packs. Google stuff. Listen to random YouTube performances. Get sounds from the world. Then flex time, pitch, distort, and warp the sounds to get them to match your track. There is nothing more refreshing than unique, original sounds outside of the norm of what everyone else is using. This doesn’t take too much work either – just a decent amount of experimentation. If this doesn’t sound fun to you, you might be in the wrong field.

6. Create unique drum fills

The best drum fills are a combination of self-programmed MIDI alongside chopped up loops and pre-made fills. There’s an art to this, but generally speaking, someone spent a lot of time making those drum fill samples sound good – so take advantage of their efforts and use them. Combine the pre-made fills with some of your own chopping and self-programmed MIDI, and you’ve created a unique fill that no one else has on any track.

If you’re enjoying these videos, I put together more than 60 videos totaling just under 5 hours of footage on how I wrote and produced my latest remix for Laidback Luke from start to finish.

To learn more, click here to see how I recorded the process of making this remix in just under 5 hours.

May 7, 2018

hyperbits Hyperbits has done official remixes for artists like Beyonce, Nick Jonas, Tove Lo, Neon Trees, Mako, Felix Jaehn, and Syn Cole. He has signed record deals with Universal, Island Def Jam, Sony, Ultra, Virgin EMI & more. He is part of over 15 Hype Machine #1 Records, over 15 million streams across Soundcloud, Spotify & YouTube, and is the founder and creator of the online Hyperbits Masterclass.