Surgical EQ, Creating Huge Buildups, and Putting Your Drums In Key With IYFFE

IYFFE aka Pedro Alexander is quickly becoming known as one of Brazil’s fastest-growing bass artists.

He has releases on labels including Dim Mak, Monstercat, and Circus Records, and even won a remix competition scoring him a release on Skrillex’s OWSLA label.

In this episode we speak at depth about his songwriting process, how he processes sounds together, and even how he approaches the promotional side of things.

Specifically, you’ll learn:

  1. How to prioritize when starting a song
  2. Processing tips for a full, powerful mix
  3. Tricks for creating huge buildups
  4. How to make sure your drums are in key
  5. Tips for booking your first shows

 

Check out these lessons from IYFFE below (or listen to the podcast episode for even more details).

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1. How to start your songs

There are countless ways to start a song, and it seems some are definitely better than others.

IYFEE likes to start his songs by focusing on the beat.

Early on, he will begin to mentally lock down the genre, BPM, and style of track.

This enables him to start creating a roadmap in his mind for what the rest of the track will look like.

Be clear on the focus of your song

Prioritization and efficiency are both very critical to having a good workflow.

Your goal when starting a track should be to translate your creative idea into your DAW as quickly as possible.

Whether your idea revolves around the melody or the sound design on your bass, you should prioritize that aspect of your song and try not to get hung up on the little details along the way.

One of the ways IYFFE likes optimize his workflow is by using samples and presets.

He doesn’t believe producers need to design every preset or sample they use in every track. At the same time, you should develop a certain style of sounds they use, something that your listeners would recognize.

Instead focusing on sound design, he says producers should focus on developing their own style of sequencing and phrasing.

 

2. Processing tips for a full, powerful mix

IYFFE is a big fan of using FabFilter Pro-Q. He likes to visualize the frequencies each sound has to see where potential sounds might conflict.

By first identifying the primary sounds in his mix, he can then surgically EQ all other sounds around them. When he finds an area he might need to cut on a sound, he will visualize the sounds frequencies while also listening to hear how the EQ changes the sound.

Throughout this process, he is also listening intently for any resonant frequencies, or as he likes to call them, “our enemies.

He even gave an example of when, on his track “Stress”, he had to cut a resonant frequency on his vocal during the first drop. To IYFFE, something just sounded off about that drop. After isolating his vocal and visualizing it with an EQ, he noticed a resonant frequency he missed.

By removing this frequency, not only did he track sound better, but he was able to gain a substantial amount of additional headroom.

Don’t sacrifice dynamics for loudness

When discussing mastering, IYFFE was clear that he doesn’t worry about the loudness war. To him, louder isn’t necessarily better.

Streaming has come to dominate how music is listened to today, and most streaming platforms make the issue of loudness obsolete.

For instance, Spotify has a maximum loudness of -14 LUFS. This means that no matter how much loud you’re able to get your master, Spotify will just turn the volume down.

This has helped shift the focus from loudness to the actual dynamics of a track.

In order to preserve dynamics when mastering, IYFFE will sometimes use two limiters on his master, rather than just one. The first to catch any peaks, and the second for some additional gain.

The best way to use reverb and delay

Both reverb and delay can really useful in adding depth to your track.

Unfortunately, they can sometimes present challenges to new producers trying to use these effects in their mix.

IYFFE recommends producers use them on groups of tracks together, rather than on individual channels. This allows you to affect all layers of a sound consistently, treating them as one cohesive sound in your mix.

He also really likes to automate his reverb during different sections of the song, and freeze/flatten reverb when necessary.

For example, IYFFE mentioned that pianos can get muddy pretty quickly when using reverb. To fix this, he simply automates the amount of dry/wet on the reverb during different sections to ensure the reverb from one note won’t conflict with that of the next note.

When it comes to sidechaining, he also likes to utilize groups of tracks, sidechaining them as one. IYFFE is a big fan of using Ableton’s stock compressor to perform his sidechaining.

BONUS: Want more tips? Learn the layering, mixing, and goal setting strategies used by PeaceTreaty

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3. Tricks for creating huge buildups

Creating big, high-energy buildups like IYFFE’s is no easy task. Luckily, there are a few tricks he recommended producers try when approaching buildups.

One is to automate the volume of your mix throughout the buildup.

Starting at the first bar of your build, slowly decrease your volume down 2 or 3 dB. This is a slight enough change that your listener won’t notice the volume decreasing, but they will notice your drop seems much bigger.

Another trick is to use plugins like Endless Smile to add tension to your build. They add reverb, delay and filtering to your sounds to create tension and help sweep your listener up throughout the drop.

How to create awesome fills

At the end of the buildup, IYFFE likes using fills right before his drop.

To create a fill, he will use a Drum Rack inside of Ableton. He adds a bunch of drum sounds he likes, making sure they are all in the same key.

He will then use an arpeggiator to create a unique pattern of sounds. From there, he will pan the individual sounds around to different sides of the stereo field.

 

4. How to make sure your drums are in key

When layering sounds into his track, IYFFE is careful to ensure all of his sounds are in the right key.

Whether its his kick, snares, cymbals – he makes sure they are in key with the song.

He recommends producers use a spectrum analyzer to determine what key a song is in. You can do this by figuring out where a sound’s peak frequency is, and referencing a table like this to see which key that frequency corresponds to.

All these things are important because your listeners will be able to hear sounds that are out of tune, even if not at a conscious level. You’d be surprised how easy it is for listeners to subsciously notice the imperfections in your song.

BONUS:  Learn how to strategically approach songwriting, sound design and promotion with Dack Janiels.

 

5. Tips for booking your first shows

Booking your first shows will be tough. You’re going to hear a lot of no’s early on.

“If you’re not doing anything for yourself, no one is going to do it for you.”

IYFFE says that you will need to take the initiative and market your music to local promoters, booking agencies, and record labels.

Relationships with other musicians can also be very valuable here. Whether you’re gaining support from a well-known artist or collaborating with another producer, you’ll be able to access a new audience of listeners who might really like your music.

Also, don’t be afraid to submit your music to your favorite artists. Many of them have their promotion emails public on their Facebook or Soundcloud (IYFFE included).

Remember that no matter how popular they are, they are just people too. Your favorite artist might even be your biggest fan someday – you never know.

 

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Want to help out the show? Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.

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