Dam Swindles’ Top Five Tips For Producing Music

Apr 27, 2022

Who are Detroit Swindle?

Amsterdam deep house devotees and all-round good guys Dam Swindle sat down for a chat to give us their top five tips for breaking into the music industry and sharpening up those production chops. From early smashes such as ‘The Break Up’ and establishing their own successful label Heist recordings, the pair have successfully navigated the scene on their own terms collaborating with a string of top musicians from an electric range of genres. They always bring their unique groove and love of live instrumentation to the dancefloor so this is golden advice for anyone looking to get into the music production game.

How can I make tracks that stand out?

When it comes to making deep house music Lars and Marteen are quick to dismiss ideas of writing only for particular labels or trying to simply to copy the sounds of others. They stress the importance of making music primarily for yourself ‘if you do your own thing it will work’. Emerging producers should ‘look for their own voice rather than thinking about what people want to hear’ and then ‘do the thing that makes them happy’. While they acknowledge that some producers make the choice to recreate a sound for particular labels, it is important they note to look inside at ‘what you want out of it’ and realise that if you are just making music to make someone else happy, you need to be aware that they ‘are always looking for the next thing’. Wise words indeed.

How can I get signed to a label?

Feedback and rejections are just a necessary part of the industry. Their most important tip is simply to ‘not make it personal’. Martin goes on ‘Music is from the heart so it can be difficult but it is also a job and a product and it is important to keep this perspective’. The pair elaborate on how in a similar way not all DJ shows are fun but state it is important to ‘deliver your best’ and not get disheartened when things are not as expected. Before getting signed the pair remember sitting on their music for at least year and they still ‘didn’t feel it was ready’ when a friend sent their music to Huxley. Things blew up from there, not that it has all been plain sailing as whilst getting tracks signed brings fresh energy it also brings pressure and remix deadlines. Something to be mindful of, is that success can come with expectations and new stresses that need to be managed. 

How can I make my tracks more interesting?

The pair describe their creative approach to making deep house as trying to ‘capture moments in time’ the irony being that they have found these often occur ‘during the warm up’ when they have live musicians working with them. The love jamming and capturing those moments that ‘can’t be repeated’ although Lars adds that ‘best solos and chord progressions come without the pressure of recording’. Their only advice for this is to ‘hit record straight away!’ and to trust your intuition as the first take is ‘normally the best’. The pair go on to add that ‘there is no one way to do things’ and the best way forward is to experiment with what works for you. Sometimes they will combine multiple takes of live instruments such as the African drums, creating ‘Frankenedits’ by cutting and pasting takes until they are happy. Ableton 11 users can make use of the auto-record and new comping features to try out techniques such as this. When they introduce synths into the melting pot they are drawn towards their older analog machines as they often produce things ‘they didn’t intend or ‘accidental’ sounds. This is a great way to add more rawness, flavour and groove to your sound.

How can I get my tracks to work on the dancefloor and improve my mixdown?

Managing mixdowns can be a phase of the production process which can be a strain for many deep house producers. The pair have simple but sound advice when it comes to having a robust system for testing out your new mixdowns. Firstly, they advise listening to your track on as many speakers as humanly possible. This includes moving away from studio speakers and checking out your tracks on Macbook speakers, car stereo and playing it on home hi-fi speakers. Ultimately, the track has to translate through all of these mediums so it pays off to test it in different environments. Finally, they conclude it is important to get a pair of headphones you trust for mixdown. They both use AIAIAI headphones and despite being initially put off by the incredibly neutral sound, they now love them because they are ‘super honest’ meaning they can trust them to get the desired result.

How can I be more creative in the studio?

Having knocked out some absolutely cracking remixes, the pair are no strangers to the remix game. Their process is to start with a brainstorm of ideas, map out a ‘sketch’ and then look to see if they ‘can add something special’. They will look to take the track in a new direction and are prepared to just ‘jam and see what happens’. It is worth noting that they say you may have to deal with ‘the expectations of the label particularly if they wanted something different’ and have had many occasions where they created ‘lots of versions’ before hitting the winning formula. They advise that you should ‘try to be your own worst critic’, then if it stands your criticism it is likely to be strong enough for release. Finally, they conclude that whether it be a remix or your own production, labels ‘want to hear something completely new. Not an imitation of something already done’ so creativity and an inventive playful approach to your art are key in creating deep house which will grab the attention and get signed. 

What solutions does MYT offer?  

To act on the insightful tips above and develop your production skills further, you can check out our online courses on the MYT website. There is the ever-popular MYT Mixdown Mastery course and our special MYT Remix Mastery masterclass from none other than Matthew ‘Bushwacka’ Benjamin. 

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