How to Make Your Electronic Productions More Organic
Do you ever feel like your electronic productions are sounding just a bit stale? Here are 8 ways to breathe life into your music and make it feel more organic, more human and more exciting to listen to.
A Human Voice
There's nothing more organic for a production than a human voice. Layering various vocal parts into your track is a great way to add some one of a kind character. I don't just mean a top line or some backing vocals, I mean using you voice as an instrument, embedded within the instrumental arrangement. Get creative with samples, manipulation and effects to create textures and tones that complement the electronic elements of your song.
Guitars and Amps
Guitars and amplifiers have certain amount of unpredictability in that no two notes sound exactly the same. This can be exploited to give electronic music more of a natural, familiar flavour and make your textures more interesting on the ear. You don't have to be the best player in the world, all you'd need to do is layer some simple melodies or chords underneath your synths and samples in a way that doesn't distract from the overall sound of the song. If you have a re-amp box, you could also send your electronic sounds out of your DAW, through a real amplifier and record them back in to give some more unique flavour to the sound.
Real World Samples
Instead of using pre-made samples, go out, creative and record some of your own. You could add real world soundscapes to the background of your recording, warp everyday sounds into crazy sounding samples or create you own drum kit from recordings you make around the house. Layering all of these "non-perfect" sounds with other elements of your production could easily give your song some awesome organic qualities.
Deviate from the Grid (Slightly)
When a professional musician plays their instrument, they will never be 100% locked in to the metronome like a quantised MIDI part would be. This is what makes real instruments sound more interesting than samples most of the time, so when you're next programming a piano part or your drum beat, try moving each note ever so slightly off the grid to add a human touch.
Play with The MIDI Velocity
Just like a professional musician wouldn't be 100% in time, they wouldn't hit each note with the exact same velocity either. As an example, if you're programming a drum part (even if it's meant to sound electronic) try to think from a drummer's perspective and adapt the velocity of each note in the piano roll. Which parts would they hit hard? Which ones would be slightly softer? The way in which each hit interacts with the next is really important.
Automation by Hand
On certain instruments, recording some live volume, panning or plugin automation can add a really nice human touch. To do this, put the automation setting (on whatever parameter you want to manipulate) to "write" and tweak the setting while the song plays.
Saturation and Exciters
Lastly, many synth sounds are just too clean and digital sounding. If you want to add some depth and richness to a boring electronic sound, trying using some saturation or an exciter plugin. If used subtly, this will add to the harmonics of each note, to create some analog style warmth and character. If pushed further, you can create some huge "in your face" distorted sounds to add excitement. Here's an awesome, free saturation plugin from Softube.