Many people nowadays do not appreciate electronic dance music enough. Since the music is created by instruments that are not traditional music instruments, people believe that creating EDM is easy and everybody can do it. But, true EDM fans know this is so far from the truth.
The various electronic sounds we can hear in popular tracks nowadays do not come from one, but from several EDM instruments. Producers use samplers, drum machines, synthesizers, and even additional loopers. But, of course, all the magic starts on your computer.
A computer is one of the must have EDM instruments if you want to make electronic music. When it comes to the computer, any modern computer will do. And, by modern we mean anything made in the past five years. A laptop will also work as good as a computer. However, when it comes to the computer there is one choice you have to make – PC or Mac. Both systems are widely used in many professional and home studios. You can make excellent music with both platforms and most of the music making software is available for both. You should choose a platform you are already familiar with.
Besides the computer, you will also need a sound card and studio monitor speakers and studio-grade headphones. A modern computer usually comes with sound ships, so you can start making EDM without spending money on an external audio interface. However, if you’re looking for a higher performance and/or planning to do a lot of recording from external sources, then a decent-quality sound card or audio interface is recommended. And, even though you can use cheap headphones/speakers bought from a local supermarket, you will experience the true magic of making music only with high-quality speakers or headphones. Studio monitor speakers and studio-grade headphones will tell you what is really going on with your music, when it comes to frequencies.
And now, let’s start talking about other types of EDM instruments.
The first one we will introduce you to is the synthesizer. A synthesizer is a sound modifying and reproducing unit. The word ‘synthesizer’ itself refers to synthesis – a process of multiple elements coming together to create something new. You can install a synthesizer on a computer system, or get yourself a real, physical synthesizer. Synthesizers are truly amazing devices, since they help producers make more than one sound by manipulating traditional sounds to create a new one. Each sound has its own instrumental characteristic. Just like every other instrument, a synthesizer will not make a sound by itself. It requires a plan and a performer who will use subtractive synthesis to create a sound.
The synthesizer is the part of the electronic instrument that produces the actual music: the beats, the rhythms, and the tones, however nowadays it is used synonymously with “electronic musical instrument.”
Early synthesizers were monophonic. This means that they were capable of producing only one tone at a time. An example of a very popular early synthesizer is the Moog Minimoog. Polyphonic synthesizers (that an produce multiple tones at once) appeared from the mid-1970s.
Have you ever heard of a sampler? It is a “DJ’s weapon of choice.” A sampler is a device that has a turntable and allows you to make various changes such as a change in the tempo, change the equalization, or repeat certain phrases manually by using the turntable. Samplers have loops that can play audio files repetitively and insert certain percussive or instrument phrases in some parts of a song.
Also, sampling can consist of the beat of an already existing song, repurposed to form the beat of another song. DJs often use this to enable continuous mixing and ensure there will be no breaks between the songs.
Originally, a sampler was hardware. But, nowadays a sampler, just like many other EDM instruments, is contained within a computer program. Sampling was invented around the 1960s when experimental musicians began playing with electroacoustic music. They physically manipulated tape loops or vinyl records to achieve samples for external use. Besides EDM, hip hop music uses the art of sampling quite extensively.
In addition to these EDM instruments, drum machines are used quite often in the production of EDM tracks. Drum machines are instruments that basically replicate the sound of drums. This instrument is great for producing unique sounds and composing exclusive drum beats.
Usually, drum machines are programmable. This means that you can implement drum sounds in real time and create various drum patterns by simply pressing trigger pads on a ‘keyboard’. These patterns can be manipulated to include certain elements, such as fillers or breakdowns. Drum machines are very useful and they provide endless beat possibilities.
When it comes to drum machines, they are one of the few EDM instruments where spending more money does not necessarily mean the ‘unit’ is better. However, a correlation between price and desirability still exists, whether it is based on sound, workflow, versatility, classic status or even potential returns on the investment.
But, believe it or not, the key to creating good dance music is bass. Amplified bass exists for the last fifty years or so and the big bass has been around for a couple of generations. The reason why bass is so important is because it is far the most adrenaline-inducing frequency that we are capable of producing. Simply said, bass gets you excited.
Tony Andrew, the owner and founder of the Funktion-One sound system, said:
“Below 90 or 100 Hz, bass becomes more of a physical thing. It vibrates specific organs. It vibrates our bones. It causes minor molecular rearrangement, and that is what makes it so potent as a force in dance music. The molecular vibration caused by bass is what gives dance music its power. It is what makes dance music so pleasurable to hear through a proper sound system.”
Just like everything else, bass has its limits. Too much bass, or too much sound even, can be harmful. There is a fine line between having enough sound to make everybody excited and having so much sound that it is damaging.
EDM instruments are not enough when it comes to making good music. You will also need music-making software. Here are several you should check out.
Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is music-making software that enables all other software components to work together and make music. The interface usually simulates the mixer, track, and transport controls of analog music studios. It can also display a waveform of a recorded sound.
An audio editor program is necessary and it gives you the ability to edit samples and to convert your composition to other formats. There are many free and paid audio editor programs. For example, Audacity is one of the free programs, whereas Sound Forge Audio Studio is a great example of a good, yet inexpensive audio editor.
Virtual Studio Technology is the software version of EDM instruments previously described. It allows you to install them as plugins into music-making software, such as Digital Audio Workstation. Many of the plugins can be found online for free.
And, the last but not least element for making good music is samples. Samples are snatches of musical sounds, beats, and rhythms you can use to enhance your compositions. They are usually organized according to genres and they include both individual sounds and sound loops. Some samples can be found online, whereas others must be bought.
So, these were the necessary EDM instruments and software everyone needs for the creation of some cool tracks. Of course, it can be quite expensive owning them all, so you might have to settle for one of them only. But, each instrument comes with so many possibilities, so one can definitely be sufficient.