Oliver on 3 key practices for making your best music yet

Few producers have left their sonic footprint on modern music like Oliver.

The veteran producer’s sounds, available via his Power Tools sample packs, have been used to craft countless tracks spanning underground releases to chart-topping hits like Doja Cat’s “Say So.” “It’s always great to hear how people are using my sounds in their music—it never gets old to me,” Oliver shares with us. “Burna Boy’s ‘Big 7’ just came out, and it also uses one of my keys loops from Volume 2. I’ve also heard my loops and drums on records by The Weeknd, Adele, Dua Lipa, SZA, Marshmello, J Balvin, and Kygo.”

In celebration of the recent release of Oliver: Power Tools Decades – ’80s, the veteran producer took a moment with us to share some of the key learnings around making music that he’s gathered across the span of his career.

1. Don’t hesitate to combine contrasting elements

In the process of defining your own unique sound as a musician, don’t hesitate to combine elements that you genuinely enjoy—even if they may seem oppositional on the surface. For Oliver, this meant intersecting the past with the future. “I think my sound just comes from my taste in music—pulling different elements from the records I love,” he says. “I grew up listening to a lot of hip hop, so I always gravitated towards hard-hitting drums and grooves. From there, I expanded to house music and disco. If I had to define it, maybe it’s ‘retro-futurism’—influenced by the past, but sonically pushing into the future.”

The idea of retro-futurism is also a through line in Oliver’s latest pack, which puts a cutting-edge spin on sounds from the ’80s. “This is the first pack I’ve done that’s just focused on drums, so it was quite a different creative process,” he tells us. “It was fun researching the kinds of techniques and hardware that were used back then, and then trying to elevate and combine them with modern engineering and sound design.”

In terms of the tools he uses to achieve this, Oliver cites one gem in particular. “Devious Machines’ Infiltrator is probably the coolest plugin to come out in the last couple years,” he says. “Once your wrap your head around how it works, it’s an incredibly powerful tool. I’m also very excited to get my hands on Synplant 2.”

2. Be true to the music you love

Expanding upon his first point, Oliver emphasizes the importance of being true to the music you love. “I wish I would have done this earlier in my career,” he reflects. “Be true to the music that you love, and don’t chase trends—you’ll never develop your own style if you only follow what’s hot at the moment.”

3. Learn from the songs that inspire you

And last but certainly not least, whether it’s sound design, mixing, composition, or anything in between, there’s plenty you can learn by diving deep into the music that inspires you. “Learn an instrument, and learn to play the songs you love,” Oliver stresses. “If I hear a song I really love, I like to learn it on the piano and try to understand the theory behind it. Right now, I’m mostly learning different scales and chord progressions. I spent so many years learning production, so now I’m more focused on the writing and arrangement.”

As you continue on your own creative journey, your goals for what you want to absorb from the music that inspires you may also change—and that’s totally natural. No matter what skills you’re looking to develop, the key is to stay consistent in practicing active listening and carving out the time in your routine to dedicate to learning.

Oliver on his latest collection of sounds

While Oliver has also released numerous sample packs on Splice Sounds in the past, he brings a renewed energy to this latest installment. “I’m very proud of this new pack,” he tells us. “I went to great lengths to get the sounds of these drums just right, trying to capture the essence of what made me love ’80s pop / funk and bringing it to today’s sonic standards. I made a lot more content, but only put the best material in the packs.”

“I’m so grateful that people find my sounds inspiring,” Oliver concludes. “If I made your music creation process more fun and more easy, I’ve done my job.”

Incorporate Oliver’s timeless sounds into your own productions:

August 14, 2023

Harrison Shimazu

Harrison Shimazu is a composer, content strategist, and writer who’s passionate about democratizing music creation and education. He leads the Splice blog and produces vocaloid music as Namaboku.