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Pro Tips Progressive House production tips

Tight drums, confident lead line, a few perfect fifths and a doubled kick drum all provide a solid base to prog house productions.

Prog chords

Amazing proggy chords and stabs can be made by simply stacking a few saw oscillators together, detuning them slightly and running the lot through a low pass filter. Check if your synth has a unison mode or if you can add two or more voices for each oscillator to give the tone more bite. One trick for added thickness is to double the root note of the chord with the same note two octaves lower and one or two octaves higher.


‘Progression’ is obviously key in progressive house, so spend some time building up the arrangement with just the right amount of tension. A tried and tested structure involves 64 or so bars of build with relatively few elements and plenty of repetition until the first break kicks in. This break is intended to be euphoric and uplifting. Here is where you introduce your big melodic elements – chords, lead riff or both.

Perfect fifths

Lots of progressive tracks contain synth lines that play harmonically in perfect fourth or fifth intervals. You can arrange this easily in your favourite synth / plug-in by creating a sound with two oscillators, with the second oscillator tuned five (perfect fourth) or seven (perfect fifth) semitones up.

Viva la imperfection

Progressive beats are usually not much more than kick, hat and snare. To inject some movement, try nudging your percussion so that some hits are slightly out of time. This works especially well if you have doubled your snare with a clap. Move your clap hits ever so slightly so that they are triggered a little ahead or behind the main snare drum. Adding simple human touches can be the difference between a stagnant or exciting groove.

Cut the lows

When your melodic elements finally kick in, your track may sound fairly busy, with lots of elements – including lead synth, pads, harmonics and more – all playing at the same time, so it‘s good practice to make sure you high pass everything that doesn’t need a heavy low-end. A good technique is to sweep upward with a gentle high pass filter starting with the lowest of frequencies until you hear it affecting the body of the sound. When you can hear the sound changing noticeably it’s time to back off a bit and leave it there.

Squeeze the mix bus

It is now common practice among dance music producers to mix through a compressor to make the elements of a track gel better together. When you start mixing, slap a compressor on the master channel first and let it stand until the final mix is done. A good starting point for setting up the mix bus compressor is a ratio of 4:1 with 10ms attack and a fast release. Adjust the threshold until you see 2-3db but not much more gain reduction on the meter.

Double the bass

For a solid low-end with maximum impact, progressive tracks sometimes feature two basslines. One is a melodic bassline that occupies the higher regions of the frequency spectrum. The second is a sub bass filling the lower end. This sub is intended to really mark the groove, along with the kick drum and other percussion. Most of the the time, it is a simple one-note affair that is triggered off beat to avoid clashing with the kick. Different placements of the sub note will yield different grooves.

Layer the kick

To get a massive bass drum, layer your kick with a low sine wave and tune the sine to the key of the track. Remember to use a high pass eq on your original kick so that the low end doesn’t become too overbearing.

Lucky arps

If you’re struggling with a killer melody but have some great chords, copy the chords to another track and arpeggiate them. Play with the way the notes are triggered, adjust note lengths and so on. Sometimes you’ll get lucky!

Post a Comment


Posted by Ally Mac at 16.59 on 15th February 2011

EXTREMELY bad idea to slap a comp over the mix bus……….this is the reason why we have had the loudness wars over the last few years, and along with young producers throwing out over limited, heavily comped tracks.

The problem is you over compensate everything when you have a master comp running live, you lose focus on Eq, send levels are off balance and misleading, .

The best way to get a truly better level & balance, is to turn your monitors up louder while composing……..not to try and fatten things up before your final mix. Off course it will sound better with a master comp……..but you are fooling yourself into what is exactly going on in the mix itself.
If you dont learn from the beginning the fundamentals, all you ever do is take shortcuts…and a master comp is BAD for dance music production period. It is a lazy mans shortcut to learning the proper way to produce & Mix.

For 40 Years top flight Mixing & Mastering Engineers were paid a fortune by the worlds Major record labels to do their job, and now, just throw a piece of Ozone or T-racks on the master bus and they are all redundant!.
Uptil 2001, most all dance & electronica was given to a mastering engineer at about -16-18 db rms……..He then had some headroom to master the track to -13db RMS.
Nowadays the bloody Kick level I see on most Beatport tracks is about -12db!………you all be the judge, but lets get back to dynamics and take away the Master comp bus idea…… always leads to reduced dynamic, which means ultimately if your track ever ends up as an MP3 there will definately be clipping!.

Anyone who uses Platinum notes will have a chance to see whats really going on in the dynamics stakes, when you see tracks with 15000 clips regularly.

99% of all internal VST synth patches do not need compressing, compressing is better used for “recorded” analogue tracks where you couldnt at the time get a higher record level. To fatten a track use eq and a higher volume level….if it doesnt “fit”…..lower the rest of the channels……(Link your DAW channes to groups, it makes this task easy as pie)

Get the mix to sound balanced first, level wise – then introduce your Eq (Hi Lo cut filters where needed) along with using automation on duplicate tracks of your main parts..

Setting up levels etc, for your drums/bass etc, and then leaving them static with no changes as the track progresses, i.e when other parts come in….again a NoNo….your EQ & comping should be dynamically changing as your track progresses, with slight alterations when other parts are plying along.

Otherwise the above tips are cool !.

Posted by rob at 14.35 on 29th April 2011

thats an absolute fact Ally,

good comment!!

Posted by VP at 21.41 on 26th September 2011

Ally Mac what’s your email?

Posted by at 1.50 on 5th October 2011

I dont know what it is with this forums and production tips sites that generally just mislead and give out totally wrong info… And then users comment about the topics knowing nothing practically speaking about the issue – they just read it on some other forum and liked it and then are wise asses on some other forums – lol… Let me just say that there are no rules as it comes to mixing – while they are a good reference point – rules are ment to be broken ;) So its a subjective thing – everyone has his own preferences.. Having a compressor over a master bus can be a good approach if u know what u are doing – not for the beginners. Important thing is to understand the compressor – overcompensating that is – whatever is above the treshold gets cut by the amount set by the ratio, so you just need to be careful when introducing each new sample – your kick and the baseline are usually most pronounced – so always adjust the volume of all samples according to them. U can always turn off the mix comp to see whats happening with the punch of the song. For me personally mixing with a comp – helps me actually retain the punch and the bite of the overall song. … … Reading further of Ally Macs comment – mastering engineers are still needed if u ask me – u can not master ur own songs.. True that mixing and mastering engineers are being discarded by some labels – but that labels are not labels that make good releases or fame or certainly not any money – so if u want to go pro do it like its supposed to be done – do it like it was always done – I wouldn’t do it any other way. And just for your info Ally Mac – the songs off Beatport electronic type go to up until – 4 dBFS RMS – thats a huge miss calculation on your part lol.. And while I agree that the dynamics are important – u can make a heavily compressed song still very dynamic. And suggesting to automate the compressors and eq’s to a novice or even seasoned producers is a bit 2 pro dont u think?? It would probably result in even bigger mess than having a master comp live. My opinion is also that just throwing samples in there and mixing on the final stage is a mistake- while u can do it like that – u can never get all sounds its own place in the mix unless u place each sample in its own space as u introduce them, 1.cut off all thats not needed 2.compress 3.eq 4.effect 5.eq 6.compress (if needed – no limit on creativity) 7.limit and go on to another sample. Whatever sounds good – ur ear is the judge – ALWAYS do A/B comparison ;) this way u dont even need to mix at the end and u learn a lot more in the process. Also it helps u think outside of the box and think a few steps ahead. Its good to have as much order in creative stage as in mixing stage. And always reference to a good professional song!! Ok thats it for the critique of this post. Its probably meant for PoP HouSe not progressive at all – true progressive never has fifths or sevenths – minor chords have eights and sixths.. Good progressive songs always have awesome perc and drum section – songs that have only kck snr and hat ??? i dont know – this post is just about 2% of all u can do while producing any genre and 0.00001% of what u must do while producing progressive house. Ok now im getting 2 wiseass my self haha so heres a good reference of rules to be broken ;) Mix Techniques

1. Rough mix
2. Panning
Pan to left, roll off some highs on right and delay the right for »15ms« 
Higher the freq, more panning can be applied
When mixing – lover the volume constantly to gain more of the direct sound, higher the volume – more reflections from the room ambience!
3. Balancing
Midground – Reverb, Hi freq roll off, lover volume – any combination of the thing.
If u have set vocals set and they are in the foreground, apply reverb – they automaticly sound more midground. U can compensate with pre-delay 
To listen to the balance – again lover the volume and see if everithing can be heard! At different volumes – the balance should be the same.
4. Envelopment
Adding Depth to a certain instrument – chorus, delay, reverb, eq … to add character – overdrive, sample delay.. etc.
5. Dynamics
Healthy dynamics while still retaining a natural feel of the songs – compression  – Highly subjective – depending on what u want to achieve
6. Separation & Definition
Create space, eq individual samples to not mask each other. The most prob thing is to get definition at the low end. Cut all low end in the samples that have no or dont need no low end. Even if it isnt audiable – it will certainly have some energy.
7. Reverb
– Using it in a creative way – to achieve more fuller sound, not to mimic the actual natural ambiances. Creating more depth, colour…
8. Freq Balance

Peace! And dont always trust what u read!! That goes for my comment also ;) Try before u buy some crap! Let ur own experience be ur guidance!!

Posted by House Music Production Tips | Dr. House Music at 14.30 on 26th November 2011

[...] Music Production Tips 26 House Production Tips Progressive House Production Tips House Music Production – Producing House Music [...]

Posted by promotion web at 5.28 on 25th January 2012

well worth the read. I found very informative as I have been researching a lot lately on practical matters such as you talk about…