Monday, November 26, 2012

RJD2 Talks about Production Techniques

I found this great conversation with producer RJD2 on 
I really enjoyed the discourse and thought there was some useful insight into his production techniques and wanted to share!


Since this has been requested on another thread, i'm gonna kick it off.

first off,
i'd like to know everything about the production and recording process of DEADRINGER.

-how long did it take you to finish this album? ... from the first sketches to the final mix and mastering.

-what equipment did you use?

and since this was asked on another thread:

-how did you get your drums to bang so hard?


haha, ok! here we go folks, im gonna do my best to answer 'em all....

re: deadringer. ok, the SPECS. get ready to laugh.

the album was entirely produced, arranged, and composed using one mpc2000, one
1200 turntable, and one numark bullshit dj mixer with a fader that kept falling into the mixer, and an ADAT.

it was mixed using a
behringer eurorack 20-something channel board, one lexicon outboard unit i'd use for reverb, one ADAT. that's it. scratches on ADAT, synced to mpc. sounds dumped from mpc-ADAT to mixdown to DAT.

98% of the processing happened either going into the mpc, or within it. to go into this more would require specific examples. but i'll go into the drum thing a little:

I'd generally hit the mpc inputs kinda hard. not distort hard, but not like 30% peak, more like 85% peak. I 've built up alot of tricks over the years for internally processing drums. one is to double up drum hits-same hit on two pads, assign to trigger both, then pitch one down AND filter it. More important on this is finding the PITCH of it, not just the filter cutoff of it. use your ears doing this, not the numbers. Big trick here-you can double up bigger portions of drums, not just single hits, if you dont pitch them, but just use the filtering and resonance controls. Again, use your ears, dont look at the numbers.

A big thing to mention if we are gonna talk drums is that i have a personal aesthetic about drums. i like drum loop type sounds. I like to hear long portions of drums sampled. So I spend a lot of time trying to make programmed drums sound "real". again, lots of tricks to do this, but main thing for me is to think about the whole song, and try to put as much variation as I can throughout the WHOLE song. There's individual things I have learned, like sampling the decay portion of a drum hit, not the big transient part. Then, assign the attack and decay so it has no transient at all. It just whooshes. Now, think of this like spackle. After you chop a break, and reassemble it, you paste these little pieces into any places where there's silence. You can smooth things out like this. Even if its not a silence portion. It can make an awkward decay sound more natural.

There's alot of "thinking like a guy directing a drummer" in the composing part.

Also, don't discount the simple act of finding ALOT of drum breaks, and prioritizing them. I always have lots of breaks that are chopped up and ready to go, saved as a program, with no song.This gives me the option to go thru lots of drum programs and see what drums work on a loop/groove/song. LOTS of a/b/c/d comparisons to see what drums really WANT to be on a track. lots of revisiting songs and trying other drums. then deciding the original, or the new, are better.

Another thing: I dont need the feel of the drummer. I want the tone of the engineer who cut the record. I'm gonna take it apart and put it back together anyway. So drums in 4/4, 5/4, 7/8, it doesnt matter. In fact, lots of my drum breaks arent even drum breaks. here, lets play a fun one, ill rat myself out:

YouTube - Billy Thorpe - Children of the Sun

Please, do me a favor - I don't EVER rat myself out, so lets just leave it here ok? who can guess where i used these drums? It's a good example of what im talking about. I just want the tones. I don't need anything resembling a groove sometimes.


Hey RJD2,

Thanks again for doing this and I hope you had a good Xmas day.

I wondered if you'd care to talk about sampling records versus playing "real" instruments in terms of the creative and sonic advantages and disadvantages.....
Could you also cover the average speed of your workflow involved with each approach?

Also, do you mainly prefer studio work or touring?

Paul G


I see the big sonic advantage being in samples, cause you acquire tonalities that you will never-ever-be able to recreate, they last for one song, and then they are over.

w/ playing, I like the freedom it allows in the writing aspect. I would always get frustrated w/ samples, cause if you wanted a bridge, you;d have to use a totally different sound most of the time.

My compromise is usually to play the verses of songs - if I am playing-super repetitive. No wanking. It gives it more of a groove/sample type of feel, then, you add the spice by writing different parts, or turnarounds, etc.

If im on the sampler, a beat gets done usually in about 25-20 minutes for rough draft, mind you, that doesnt include all the hours/days i spent looking thru records. Then, another few days to do the song steps, touch it up, dump it in PT, for a BEAT, for an all sample song, like "iced lightning", that usually takes about 4-5 days of work, but not 8 hour days, couple hour days.

Touring vs. studio? Studio, mostly because the downtime isnt so painful. the 90 minutes im on stage, I love touring, but the 12 hours of travel/prep time makes it much harder. but i've never taken a year off since I started touring, so I might feel differently after that happens-someday....

Posted by Josh Groessbrink