Sounds & Synths for Trap Music – Production Techniques

sflosstra

Trap Music is a form of hip-hop which typically utilises thin 808 hi-hats and snare samples. It originated first in the 90s, but wasn’t exactly mainstream until T.I.’s second studio album “Trap Musik“, where both the name for the album and style originated from being ‘trapped’ in the ghetto’ – where drugs were sold and gang violence was the most prevalent.

The aesthetics of trap today are usually quite dark and edgy, with deep, droning moog & sine basses, and melodies crafted from chilling, percussive synths such as bells, plucks, and eerie vocal cuts. The synths are often very ‘echoey’ due to the effects of time-domain based plugins such as reverbs and delays. A lot of modern trap could be classified as ‘dark ambient’ if it weren’t for the bright drum samples that fuel the beat.

Starting off as a form of hip hop, it’s now widely considered a huge EDM phenomenon, influencing a lot of today’s mainstream pop music. Modern trap also often borrows the sampling aspects of its hip hop roots, whether it be vocals or instruments, or basically any random sound that’s been tuned to a pitch (EDM influences). The recent mainstream attention that dubstep managed to attract in 2010 also gave Trap another source of inspiration to borrow from (high pitched, screechy sounding synths). Polish producer ak9’s track entitled “GØД managed to encompass elements of EDM, dubstep and hip hop, making it what we would describe today as trap music:

An important production technique in trap music is Sidechain Compression, which I’ve touched on in earlier blogs. Since kick drum samples and 808 bass hits are both pretty subby, they will clash for the frequency space in the mix if you just try blending the kick and 808 together without it.

Normally instead of using Fruity Limiter to side-chain my basses to my kicks like this guy did, I use Gross Beat, which is not a compressor plugin but a time and volume manipulation plugin, which has side-chaining presets. Now that I’ve researched it a little, I feel like this method is probably easier and would take less time in the long run, without having to automate in and out different instances of gross beat running different volume envelopes for specific kick patterns.

In an attempt to make my own trap track (entitled ‘Underpass‘ below), I tried creating some sounds of my own.

The main sound of this track is a ‘clangy’ sound which came from a session in class where we formed groups and took the location recorders and microphones outside to record a bunch of foley samples – one of which was this clanging sound I made from hitting a metal pole. In FL Studio 11, after some top & tailing processing I assigned this sound to a pitch (F#) and then created a simple melody, which to me sounded dark, like you’re walking down some unfamiliar alleyway. The melody consisted of syncopated noted and tight rolls which added to the mysteriousness of the atmosphere I was creating. Then I added an EQ which emphasised the tones of the melody, some reverb to give it the echoey trap feel, heavy compression to accentuate the reverb as if it was part of the actual ‘synth’ i was making, and then to top it off, put an instance of Gross Beat on the channel, which helped me side-chain it to the kick. After watching the video on sidechain compression earlier, I realise I probably could’ve just used the same instance of fruity limiter that I used to compress the sound to side-chain it to whenever the kick hits, but I can keep gradually working at introducing that technique to all of my future projects.

This song was the main influence for Underpass:

I pitched the track to a couple of classmates and the feedback was mostly positive, where the only improvements they could suggest were to give it more variety in terms of stereo field, but that’s something I can keep working on later. For now, I’m happy with what I achieved, and I feel it represents today’s iteration of the genre well.


References:

Bein, K. (2012, July, 3) It’s a Trap! An 11-Part History of Trap Music [Web Article] Retrieved from http://www.miaminewtimes.com/music/its-a-trap-an-11-part-history-of-trap-music-from-dj-screw-to-gucci-mane-to-flosstradamus-6475986

DJMag.com (2013, February, 28) Trap Music: Under Lock & Key [Web article] Retrieved from http://djmag.com/content/trap-music-under-lock-key

Haithcoat, R. (2012, October, 4) What the Hell Is Trap Music (and Why Is Dubstep Involved)? [Web Article] Retrieved from http://www.laweekly.com/music/what-the-hell-is-trap-music-and-why-is-dubstep-involved-2408170

I’mAMusicMogul.com (2016, September, 2016) THIS IS THE MOST USED SYNTH/SOUND IN RAP, HIP HOP AND TRAP (TUTORIAL) [Web Article] Retrieved from http://blog.imamusicmogul.com/2016/09/this-is-the-most-used-synthsound-in-rap-hip-hop-and-trap-tutorial/

Pepin, C. (2016, June, 12) Genre Breakdown: What is Trap Music? [Web Article] Retrieved from http://thesixthirty.com/ravefaced/genre-breakdown-trap-music/

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Sounds & Synths for Trap Music – Production Techniques

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