Month: April 2018 (Page 2 of 2)

Dark Ambient 101: Instruments

8. Instruments

a. When you use instruments in your music do you play a real instrument yourself?

Treha Sektori: I play several instruments badly, but I play ’em, myself.

Kammarheit: Most of the time I play the instruments, myself. With the way I create my music, the live recording doesn’t have to be very good. I treat it as I treat my field recordings, by extracting the best parts, manipulate them, and turn them into a playable instrument in my computer. Sometimes I am lucky though, and there is no need for a lot of tweaking.

Pär Boström’s creation: The Shipwreck Device

Aegri Somnia: Yes. I plan to record more guitar-based ambient in the future.

Stuzha: I use many instruments. Hard to tell which is my favourite, but I equally enjoy ‘torturing’ a guitar or ‘hammering’ a synth.

Seesar: Yes. I play all percussion, horns, stringed instruments, re-purposed items, and any instruments I have constructed. Plus, I record my own vocals, whenever possible.

Skadi: I use guitars in my tracks. Furthermore, I own a Korg Wavedrum which might have an approach in one of my future works. I have some experience with other instruments like flutes, violin, etc., but unfortunately, I didn’t master any of them.

Shrine: I used to play various instruments before I turned to computer music, but not anymore. The last time I sampled myself playing real instruments was at some of the recordings for Somnia back in 2008. Now, I play virtual instruments.

Taphephobia: Yes, I play most of my music, myself. I play guitar and sometimes play around with synth.

Ugasanie: Yes, I play myself.

b. If you want to have violin, for example, (or any other instrument) in a song, but don’t own one and can’t play one, is there another option? (some sort of program that will create violin sounds for you?)

Treha Sektori: I’ll try to make a sound like a violin, but with another instrument (favorites to recreate are mandolin played with a bow and theremin).

Stuzha: There are great violins in various VST’s, like Atmosphere, as I remember.

Mebitek: I use some Kontakt libraries that I own (especially from Spitfire Audio).

Seesar: Since my music focuses on employing extended techniques on acoustic instruments, re-purposing items not originally intended to be used as musical instruments, and constructing new acoustic musical instruments, I rarely use simulated instrument samples. That is not to say they are not highly useful, however. There are several banks of excellent instrument samples in various libraries. Many of which are available to be purchased or free to download. Often, free libraries are licensed under creative commons licensing. Whilst purchased libraries are primarily copyright-free. So they are able to be used without additional acknowledgement. Native Instruments provides some of the more widely-used libraries. Ear Monk lists multiple free sample libraries, available for download on their website. Studio One offers their top picks for sample libraries, with reviews to help you select what is best for your compositions. Also, many production companies, such as the BBC, sell sound effects and instrument sample libraries that are exceptionally useful. Research whatever library you wish to use before purchasing, to ensure you get a collection of sounds that will be aesthetically matched with your style and works.

Skadi: Since I work alone, I mainly use specific libraries, like the Quantum Leap Orchestra Gold, to create authentic orchestral instruments.

protoU: Most Kontakt patches have really good sounding instruments. I don’t usually try to crack my head around that. I just try to find the one of the highest quality, and go from there.

Shrine: There are virtual instruments of amazing quality you can play in Kontakt. You can have an entire symphonic orchestra if you want (and can afford).

Sonologyst: I prefer to directly ask other musicians to realize the part, so to have a more natural and warm sounding effect.

Taphephobia: I have a friend who can play cello, harmonica or contrabass. There are programs that do this, of course, but it is not something I do on a regular basis. But maybe in the future, I will never say never. For now, what I do is just for making short samples or synth background sounds.

Ugasanie: You can try to replace the sound with a synthesizer. But, it’s better to find a musician who will agree to help.

Next: Dark Ambient 101: Mastering
Read the full article.

Dark Ambient 101: Mastering

9. Mastering

a. How important is mastering in dark ambient?

Atrium Carceri: On a scale from 1 to 10, very.

Seesar: Extremely important. That does not mean do it yourself, if you do not have the equipment or experience to do it professionally. That means, if you can not do a professional job mastering, yourself, get your tracks to someone who can. Also, consider how much mastering is required. Will your record label be mastering your track(s) for you? Are your tracks being presented by themselves, as a collection, or as part of a compilation that will host other artists (and therefore other recording situations and masterings)?

Mastering a dark ambient track is highly important. Soundscape music often incorporates similar timbres and frequencies. So, ensuring that your track is crisp and all of your sounds are heard as you want them to be is very important. Mastering also provides a unification of sounds through balance, spacial simulation (primarily use of an overall reverb to make all sounds seem like they are coming from the same environment), et cetera. Alternatively, if that is not the aesthetic that you want as a composer, you can master your track to highlight whatever factors you see as being in need of enhancement or being pushed to the forefront of the piece.

Skadi: Mastering is as important for dark ambient as it is for other music genres. However, the specific requirements of dark ambient have to be considered during the mastering process.

Mebitek: It is very important, as in all productions.

protoU: Mastering is as important as it is in every music genre. It’s something that shapes the sound of the track and makes it look more professional.

Shrine: As important as in every other music genre: very important.

Shrine, various hardware.

Sonologyst: Fundamental.

Ugasanie: This is the polishing of the finished product, and an important part of the necessary process.

Taphephobia: I guess it is important to make the album sound as good as possible. It can change the track for the better. Also for the worse, if it’s badly done mastering. Just turning up the volume to maximum and forgetting about the dynamics in the music might destroy the whole track.

Treha Sektori: It can definitively improve your story. Personally, I use a lot of sub basses, mastering can clean ’em and make them more powerful.

Aegri Somnia: It is important, as it give your song final sound that will be good everywhere, on whatever speakers.

Stuzha: I find it essential, actually. I, unfortunately, don’t have enough time to learn the process properly!

b. Can a musician, with limited training, master their own album?

Atrox Pestis: Certainly not to the sense of what mastering really is. Without experience, you could run it through some preset and make it sound better to you. But, I would still consider this part of the final mixing process. If you have more technical knowledge and the studio capabilities, then certainly. I see mastering as an entirely different beast, and although I do master my own material, its often good to give it over to another set of ears. When I master other people’s material, I approach it with outside ears, completely detached from any feelings about the creative process that lead the album to its current point.

Aegri Somnia: Why not? Mastering is all about ear training, reference material, and use of specific plug-ins.

Atrium Carceri: Mastering is a subtle process, but it takes a lot of training.

Stuzha: There are very useful clips on Youtube, which will teach you how to do the basics.

Mebitek: Yes, but practice makes it better.

Seesar: It is possible to make a difference using mastering software without extensive knowledge of mastering engineering. But, I would also say that, whilst it is easy to make notable changes, it is also exceptionally difficult to make subtle, accurate, professional changes to an track’s overall sound without research, training, and experience. If you wish to master your own tracks for end result publication, definitely take the time to learn the software necessary, work through mastering tutorials to understand exactly what will help you achieve your mastering goals, and test methods and software with a critical ear on professional equipment, to experience the variety of ways in which your mastering can alter a track before settling on a final version of a piece.

Skadi: Of course. There are many guides and tips around in the internet explaining how to master a track correctly. It’s no witchcraft to produce good quality material with some reading and learning.

protoU: Sure why not. If you learn to make it all better – all means are good. Even the guys that master professionally still learn every day.

Shrine: Yes, but the results probably won’t be stellar, at first. Good mastering needs practice, like everything else.

Sonologyst: It’s not an easy job without a little bit of training.

Taphephobia: I will say that is possible, but maybe not the best idea. It is always better to learn it thoroughly, or let people – who are really good at it – do the mastering.

c. What programs do you use for mastering an album?

Aegri Somnia: Ozone and Waves have very solid solutions for mastering.

Stuzha: I use Waves.

Mebitek: Izotope Ozone.

Seesar: I use the mastering suite, within Adobe Audition, and Wave plug-ins, at least for initial mastering tests. Spectral and frequency analysis is essential for determining how to use your equalizers, compressors, reverb, stereo-enhancers, exciters, or whatever else you opt to use in your mastering engineering. There are multiple programs, plug-ins, and suites you can use to master. However, you must also have reliable amplification, playback means, and preferably various locations/environments in which to listen and analize your mastering. Take your time, and listen to your mastering attempts carefully. Be sure to label your files clearly and informatively. Send your final tracks to your label and have your producer give them a listen, too, in case something that works on your DAW does not work as well on another system.

Skadi: Izotope Ozone.

Atrox Pestis: Pro Tools, Peak Pro, Izotope.

protoU: Ableton Live.

Shrine: For the last several years my approach is based on hybrid mastering – I’m using both hardware and software. When down-mixing a track, I pass the mix through an aural exciter in real time (a SPL SX-2 Vitalizer, or a SPL MK2-T Vitalizer). Then, I pass it through a multi band stereo imager, in order to manipulate the stereo field performance of the signal for different frequency ranges. Then, I use the T-Racks 3 audio suite (imported as VST into Sound Forge) for final EQ-ing, compressing and limiting.

Shrine, rack-mounted hardware.

Taphephobia: I don`t master my own albums. I know people who are better at doing it than myself.

Ugasanie: If I do it, myself – Adobe Audition.

d. If paying another person to master an album, what credentials should they have?

Atrium Carceri: They need to understand the process of mastering for more than one genre of music, preferably two polar opposite genres, in terms of mastering. I’ve seen EDM only masterers wreck ambient albums, by using faulty settings on compressors. I’ve seen ambient only masterers use the same long-drone settings applied to styles of ambient that should have a completely different approach.

Shrine: I am aware of several cases of mixing or mastering engineers refusing to work on ambient material. You see, mixing and mastering ambient is quite different from mixing and mastering any other music that’s based on rhythm or singing. No, it’s not necessary for the person mastering your album to be making dark ambient themselves. But, it is necessary to have experience with low dynamic range music that is full of sounds that spread over the entire audio spectrum.

Atrox Pestis: It completely depends on the versatility and experience of the person. Check their portfolio, do they only master a certain genre?

Seesar: Preferably, you would want someone who is familiar with your style of music, whatever that may be. In this case it is dark ambient music. Although, it is not altogether essential. The main concern is making sure your track is treated for balancing the sounds with which it is composed and smoothed out professionally.

Treha Sektori: I like people that are not really in dark ambient, for mastering. They have strong ears on different paths. It is interesting to hear how they feel it about the music.

Stuzha: I did pay a couple of times for mastering, in the past. I think, now, it was a bit useless. You can do better basic mastering on your own, since you know exactly what to accentuate.

Skadi: If you’re using third party mastering, they should have knowledge about ambient music, since it has to be mastered differently. The best approach would be to provide a good mastered example track, in order to have some comparison.

Sonologyst: It would be better if the mastering service comes from a person with a good sensibility for that kind of music. If a musician who plays himself that music, that’s even better.

Taphephobia: I will say it is a good thing to make dark ambient, but it is not the most important thing. The most important things are having good ears for this kind of music, and understanding that mastering dark ambient is not done the same way as, for example, metal or rock.

e. What are the differences between mastering an album for various formats: digital, CD, cassette or vinyl? Should each have a separate mastering?

Atrox Pestis: Absolutely. They are all different forms of media and have different tonal and physical playback characteristics. I split hairs even further, and master records depending on other factors such as: where and how the cassettes are being dubbed, who or where is cutting the master lacquer for vinyl.

Atrium Carceri: Digital can have a bit more oomph in the lows and highs. CDs need to be mastered with 16 bit dithering in mind. Vinyl needs monolized bass and more bass control so the needle doesn’t skip when played back.

Seesar: The final media of a release determines playback means and each device has a unique set of frequency ranges reproduced and highlighted, even if played through the same reinforcement system. Therefore, the final media type of a release should definitely be considered. Separate mastering should be engaged for each media type. For instance, a mastered track for a cassette release will necessarily be quite different from a CD or LP release.

Sonologyst: There’s a certain difference about mastering a vinyl compared with cd or cassette mastering. It’s related to the output levels that differ, in the vinyl case, depending of the track position (closer to the edge or the center). So as matter of fact, they are two completely different mastering.

Skadi: Each media needs to be mastered differently. You can master them on a generic level, but you have to consider different aspects on each media. For example, CDs need headroom, and in some cases dithering is also helpful. On tapes, you have to deal with tape saturation. The best is to gather information for any specific media you want to release your music on.

Shrine: There are some differences depending on the media – digital music platforms have a specific set of loudness rules, for example, that you may want to follow. With vinyl, you have to approach some sounds differently, for example, bass (if too loud or out of phase) can cause the needle of the turntable to jump out of the groove. It’s best to have a separate mastering for each different media, but I never bothered with that. I master my music for CD and later just upload it to Bandcamp without any changes. Online music platforms are performing volume “normalization” based on specific loudness targets for every uploaded file, so a possible negative effect you can experience is to lose some loudness, especially if you tend to compress a lot.

Next: Dark Ambient 101: General Advice
Read the full article.

Dark Ambient 101: 10. General Advice

10. General Advice

a. What are the best aspects of creating dark ambient?

Kammarheit: It is a great tool for dreamers and introverts. The music allows us to go on adventures in our own minds, which is a wonderful thing. The music can be a helping hand to reach other worlds for a moment. A tool to express or re-create these worlds. For me, it began as a way to deal with insomnia and a way to explore a certain type of environment I kept picturing in my head. The music kept me occupied and was a good companion, that made sure I was still experiencing a sort of dream world, even if I couldn’t sleep. Today, it is so implemented in my life that I can’t imagine being without the mindset this music puts me in. An everyday feeling of awe.

Aegri Somnia: Freedom and endless possibilities of sound design. You really can do what you want, how you want.

Seesar: For me, the best aspects of creating dark ambient music are the incorporation of my most exciting influences and my lifestyle into a creative form, resulting in artistic output that I can embrace, with the possibility of making it my vocation. The musical possibilities are unlimited, and always exciting, and ever inspiring. The dark ambient genre continually provides an body of works that truly is enriching and unequaled.

The genre is only a mile wide, but a thousand miles deep.
– Simon Heath (Atrium Carceri)

Skadi: For me, dark ambient creation is a catalyst of emotions. As some people use a diary to write down their thoughts, producing dark ambient music is also a method to “write” down the feelings. Dark ambient gives the best opportunity to express yourself. Creating dark ambient music is a true relief.

protoU: The opportunity to play with listeners’ minds. You can manipulate and influence them. It makes me feel like a cool kid, that makes grown-ups live a fantasy through sound.

Shrine: The joy of the music.

Sonologyst: It gives you the possibility to be in deep connection with your profound states of mind.

Taphephobia: I improvise a lot. So, for me, it is to create something that used to be completely unknown to me, in the first place. To create something I hadn’t imagined or known about before.

Treha Sektori: The surprises, the physical experience.

b. What are the worst/hardest aspects of creating dark ambient?

Ugasanie: For me it’s an idea, a concept. If I do not have an idea or any history (I call it “have a legend”) – I will not create anything. Just because it does not work. For me, this is the basis. When I have an idea, I start to hear how it should all sound.

Treha Sektori: Not repeating yourself.

Kammarheit: Staying awake in the studio is the hardest aspect of creating this kind of music. Once a meditative loop is playing, I feel the urge to lay down and start dreaming. I take more naps in my chair than I care to admit. And, I have the back problems to prove it.

Pär Boström’s studio

Mebitek: To be original, and to create non-boring things.

Seesar: Perhaps, not repeating musical motifs to a fault. I have many compositional and performative favourites. So, reusing them is something that happens occasionally. I have to regulate my use of certain sounds and dynamic patterns, to ensure I do not risk my pieces sounding the same. But, also, without losing sight of my stylistic traits I have honed. There is a balance I must observe, but it is not so much of a hardship. Rather, a challenge that assists in formulating my personal contribution to the body of works in the genre.

Skadi: When you have to deal with thoughts/emotions, which you want to transfer to music, but you’re not able to. It’s hard to have sounds and melodies in your head, but cannot put them together as a track. That’s probably the hardest aspect of dark ambient, for me.

protoU: The darkness of it sometimes comes into your life, but it is only a matter of your mindset and control. I am very emotional, empathic, etc., but I try to manage that currently.

Shrine: The pain of the music production, in case you care about good sound quality.

Sonologyst: There aren’t bad aspects, for me.

Taphephobia: There are times when I feel numb, and every time I record something, it sounds uninspired. It can be really hard. It is also hard, when you have a deadline and you just feel drained after work or other activities that have nothing to do with the music.

c. What are some things that an amateur should avoid doing at all costs?

Shrine: Instead of talking only about things that should be avoided, I’d rather share some general thoughts here:
It is best to check your mixes on different sets of speakers. If you can only have one pair, get the biggest ones you can afford (only if your room is big enough). Listen to your mixes really loud for a moment – the human ear’s frequency response is not linear, and it will deceive you, if you listen quietly all the time. Get a pair of studio headphones (not hi-fi, they are usually biased), and use them to check details when composing and mixing. Never mix only on headphones, though. And, never do mastering on headphones. Avoid low quality sound sources (be it synths or samples). It will be hard or impossible to fix later. Understand the essence of equalization. Why it is important to achieve loud and powerful mixes. Understand the essence of compression and side-chain compression, and why they are important to achieve loud and powerful mixes. Know what dynamic range is, and why is important. Know what a headroom is, and why is important. Understand the difference between perceived loudness and actual loudness Learn how to use loudness measuring tools. Do not use dynamic-range measuring tools, though. They don’t understand ambient. Remember that, when it comes to loudness and sonic power, less is more. A track with too many sounds will never achieve the same level of perceived loudness as a track with fewer sounds. And finally, but most important of all, take long breaks from the music you are working on. It’s a common psychological phenomenon that, when you spend too much time on something, you stop seeing (hearing) it realistically. Taking a break that is at least a couple of days long will show you the difference between good music and boring music the next time you listen. I, personally, delete about 70% of everything I compose. At the time of composing, all sounds great. But, a week later… not so much.

Treha Sektori: Try to succeed at any cost. It’s by falling that we find our way.

Artwork by: Dehn Sora / Treha Sektori from ‘The Sensation of Being One of Them’ artbook.

Stuzha: Spending lots of money on equipment, and not using it afterwards!

Mebitek: You can do all for free, as you can find some good, free VST’s and a good, free DAW (Reaper).

Seesar: I would suggest, rushing the completion of new works could be an issue. Take your time and develop your pieces. Try not to fall into traps of producing tracks that are easy to make. Making dark ambient music need not be difficult, but hastily creating a work can result in a lack of reflection that will be quickly noticed by fans and critics. Furthermore, seek something unique to inject into the genre. Respecting and utilizing staple musical elements of the genre is completely acceptable, of course. But, introducing personalized nuances to your tracks will not only gain fans, but also a means to cultivate your self-expression, and carve your niche in dark ambient music.

Skadi: First off, spending too much money into equipment, without knowing if you will stick to music production or not. Secondly, starting to think that your production is crap. Even if the early work sounds less impressive or complex, it’s still a part of the composer. If you don’t like aspects of your tracks, try to improve them to get better. Defining one’s own work as crap will most likely stop the composer from producing more.

protoU: Using samples without permission of the author. Using ambient as a way to convey very bad emotion.

Ugasanie: Lack of interest in what you are doing. Also, do not adjust to someone, do not copy their sound, effects, and/or tricks.

Taphephobia: Don`t try to copy others. Make your own signature sound. Don`t ask people how to do everything for you. It is good to ask for advice, when it comes to creating music, but don`t let others do the steps for you.

d. How frequently should an artist aim for releasing albums (several times a year?, once a year?, once a month?)

Kammarheit: I have tried both things. An album each ninth year and a few albums each year. I can’t say for sure what I think is the best. I seem to have an endless need for exploring and expressing things with music. If I have put my heart into an album, and I feel that it is truly completed, and that I have lived it, then I think it should be released. Just don’t be one of those people who have a hundred albums that all sound the same, on their Bandcamp page. Or, even worse, hundreds of albums that don’t seem to have anything in common. Not everything we create needs to be made public.

Shrine: Once a month? Seriously? Unless your aim is to release uninspired cheap cliches that have been done hundreds of times already, this seems like a really bad idea. You better take your time.

Treha Sektori: Which ever time they feel that it is the right moment.

Stuzha: Quality vs quantity… In music, the former is, and always will be, more important. Take your time.

Seesar: That entirely depends on your level of professional engagement, your support of your releases, and your connection to labels or other means of disseminating your works. If you are planning and able to support your releases with live tours, then releasing full collections of tracks should be less frequent. However, if you are primarily a studio artist, then producing more works and making them available online should be far more frequent. In either case, you should always compose and release a variety of tracks in smaller settings, such as compilations and stand-alone videos, continually, to keep your fans interested in your music and aware of your style. For me, I prefer to release three full albums a year, and approximately eight to ten tracks on compilations or videos. I perform live, when possible. But, the regularity of live performance fluctuates depending on many factors. Regardless of frequency, I recommend playing live to support your music as much as you can. The combination of live shows and recorded releases is invaluable for the professional dark ambient artist.

Skadi: It’s helpful to improve the awareness of people by releasing one or even more albums per year. However, I don’t think that any producer should force his or herself to produce albums. Dark ambient is very personal and emotional, and so the emotions and situation should fit during the creative phase.

protoU: I think several times a year is more than enough.

Sonologyst: Every artist has to find their own way for that. It’s impossible to give general advice. In my case, I found the good and natural rhythm working on one release a year. And, I don’t exclude to increase the interval between two works. That allows me a major deepness, awareness and consciousness of what I’m going to do. Basically, I start a work when I really have something to communicate. After I’m aware of that, I need time to explore how to communicate it.

Taphephobia: It is impossible to say, because labels do not always release the music right after it is finished. Personally I find it kind of confusing when artists for example release 5 records in a year. But, that is me. Do they make music all the time, or they just make some fast McDonald’s ambient to spread to the masses!?

Ugasanie: However it goes. I try to release an album when I feel that the album is ready and everything is in place. How many times a year? It does not matter. Of course, I would like to do this more often. But I work on two jobs almost without days off for 12 – 16 hours a day. I do not have much time for music. All that I create is done contrary to circumstances and because of a lack of sleep.

e. Should a musician know the history of the genre before creating their own music?

Treha Sektori: I don’t think so. Might be even more interesting to have your own work without knowing any standards and get into it with virgin ears.

Aegri Somnia: Absolutely. What is the point, if you do music and don’t know the history nor are you a fan of the specific music genre that you have decided to make.

Stuzha: Not at all.

Mebitek: I think that is not important. A musican should know what he’s doing. That is enough.

Seesar: Before creating their own music? No, not necessarily. Should an artist know the styles and their development within dark ambient music? Absolutely. If not coming into the genre, then learning over time as you embrace the genre. It is a useful means to cultivating your own style, being aware of what is happening in your area of music, and, of course, it is fun and exciting. That being said, creating new works without a depth of knowledge of the genre is perfectly acceptable, and can assist in creating new directions and forms. Either way, engaging in your music with creative fervor is the key, no matter how much you inform yourself about the genre beforehand.

Skadi: It’s not required but recommended to know at least some history of dark ambient.

protoU: I think a musician should be aware, but it is not some kind of school or university. So, there are no strict rules here. Maybe, music naturally comes out of a person’s mind, before knowing it is dark ambient. Before knowing what it’s about.

Sonologyst: Not necessarily. But, it would be a crime to ignore all that beautiful music created in the latest decades.

Taphephobia: Some basic knowledge is important, like knowing what not to do.
I personally stay away from an elitist way of thinking. Good music is good music. Freedom to make music to be the music you want is more important than having the right records in your collection. Personally, I don’t care what the creator is listening to at home, or how much he/she knows about the genre. If they don`t know anything they would probably make other kind of music.

f. What advice would you give to a person just coming into dark ambient, as a potential artist?

Kammarheit: Spend time with your concept, know what you want to express. Have patience and don’t expect your music to instantly sound like the perfect mixture of all the established bands you like so much. Maybe, start as a minimal drone project, and gradually add more elements to the music. See what you can do with the equipment you already have. And most of all, don’t sit and wait for inspiration. Open the program or connect the equipment and see what happens. Do this a few times and inspiration should come. At least, that is how these things works for me. Procrastination is for the soul crushing everyday tasks, not for creativity.

Procrastination is for the soul crushing everyday tasks, not for creativity.
– Pär Boström (Kammarheit)

protoU: I would recommend to listen and absorb nature and the city. Dark ambient has no strict rules or limits. It is about nature, environment and feeling. So, as long as you listen to the surrounding and get the vibe of it, you will convey it nicely into a dark ambient track.

Atrium Carceri: Innovate, don’t imitate. Have a vision of what you want the listener to experience. Think visually if going for a cinematic vibe. What do the sounds represent? Be clear on why sounds are panned to where they are in the mix. If the audio was a soundtrack for a movie, what would the scene look like? Once you get a clear picture of the scene, you can start building it up as an audio representation. The click of a blinking tail light from a crashed car. The hiss of smoke from the smashed hood. The sway of trees in the wind. Gravel creaking as the subject walks from the left side of the screen (speaker) to the right. The freedom to build scenes like this is what separates dark ambient from other genres. Have fun with that.

Treha Sektori: Dig, fail, try again.

Artwork by: Dehn Sora / Treha Sektori from ‘The Sensation of Being One of Them’ artbook.

Sonologyst: Work with passion and don’t be in a hurry. Don’t release huge amounts of music, just to show the audience what is going on. That is a mistake many people make. The process of improving your own style should be something private.

Taphephobia: Find the music program you are most comfortable with using. And, learn to play an instrument. You don’t have to be a really good musician, but it will make it much more interesting, and it gives the music a very personal feeling. Learn to make drones and a good flow. There is nothing worse than a track that sounds unfinished, and lacks this flow. Never give up, even if you get some bad feedback. It is more important to have friends that say what they really mean, than friends that tell you it is good because they are afraid to hurt your feelings.

Skadi: Listen to your inner self. Listen to your emotions. Let it flow into the music you want to create. Try not to please other people with your music, but produce music you like. Don’t be ashamed, be inspired by other bands. Find your own way and style, step by step.

Ugasanie: Do the music that you like most. Do the music you want to listen to yourself.

Aegri Somnia: Take your time. The only imortant thing is that you like what you do.

Stuzha: If you do music, do it only for you. Others might like it, but don’t be disappointed if they don’t!

Mebitek: Be original and always experiment!

Seesar: Listen, reflect, and be inspired. Dark ambient music is a form of composition and performance that draws heavily from emotion and intelligent critical thinking simultaneously (as with many forms of creativity, of course, but particularly in the case of dark ambient). Research your influences. That does not mean specifically other dark ambient artists. In my case, it means reading Lovecraftian fiction and learning about Italian Futurist composition and aesthetic concepts. Whatever drives you, embrace it. Allow it to assist you in formulating your compositions and personal style. Use what means you have at your disposal to inform your particular nuances. Know you are entering into a very unique and welcoming genre, where assistance, discussions, collaborations, and camaraderie are constants. Enjoy and flourish!
A few more explicit pieces of advice I may impart include: be sure to explore the treatment of your sounds and samples, to find methods you prefer and timbre you want. Then, compose afterwards. Creating a new piece can be approached in a plethora of ways, from recording tracks and manipulating them, to taking samples and building a soundscape from those, to live, untreated sound production. Find the compositional approach that suits you and your aesthetic best, including the treatment of sounds to make your composing faster, more enjoyable, and professional.
Also, take the time to analyze your methods and music periodically. Assess whether or not you feel you are engaging with your music as you would like. Are you wasting time? Are you getting the sounds you want? Are you getting the number of releases you expect? Do you feel your work is professional? Is your business as a dark ambient artist composer and performer reaching the goals you set for yourself, creatively and financially? By taking just a few moments on occasion to think about some of these questions, you can find strengths to embrace and less strong areas to improve, keeping your music fresh and your work as a professional musician moving forward.

Conducted by: Michael Barnett

Next: Dark Ambient 101: Artists’ Sites & Social Media
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Dark Ambient 101: Artists’ Sites & Social Media

A huge thank you goes to all the artists that took part in this undertaking. This could never have been possible without all your time and effort. Much appreciated! If you found their information helpful or entertaining, please show your support by purchasing their work!

Links to websites and social media for the involved musicians:

Pär Boström:
Kammarheit: Website, Discogs, Facebook, Bandcamp, Instagram
Cities Last Broadcast: Discogs, Facebook
Hymnambulae: Discogs, Facebook, Bandcamp
Altarmang: Discogs, Facebook, Bandcamp
Bonini Bulga: Discogs, Facebook, Bandcamp
Hypnagoga Press: Website, Discogs, Facebook, Bandcamp, Instagram

Will Connor:
Seesar: Website, Discogs, Facebook, Soundcloud, Youtube, Twitter
New Leaders of the Eldritch Cult: Facebook
Dread Falls Theatre: Website, Facebook
Dagon RecordsFacebook

Hristo Gospodinov:
Shrine: Website, Discogs, Facebook, Bandcamp

Simon Heath:
Atrium Carceri: Website, Discogs, Facebook, Bandcamp
Sabled Sun: Discogs, Facebook, Bandcamp
Cryo Chamber label: Website, Discogs, Facebook, Bandcamp, Twitter, Instagram

Daniil Kazantsev:
Stuzha: Discogs, Facebook, Bandcamp
Algol: Discogs
Black Wanderer: Discogs, Bandcamp

Alexander Lesswing:
Skadi: Discogs, Facebook, Bandcamp, Patreon
CoM: Bandcamp

Pavel Malyshkin:
Ugasanie ((Угасание): Website, Discogs, Facebook, BandcampVK
Polterngeist: Discogs
Silent Universe: Discogs

Claudio Mebitek:
Mebitek: Website, Discogs, Bandcamp, Twitter

Raffaele Pezzella:
Sonologyst: Discogs, Facebook, Bandcamp
Unexplained Sounds Group label: Discogs, Facebook, Bandcamp, Twitter
Eighth Tower Records: Discogs, Facebook, Bandcamp

Sasha Puzan:
protoU: Discogs, FacebookTwitter, Instagram

Grant Richardson:
Atrox Pestis: Discogs, Bandcamp
Gnawed: Website, Discogs, Facebook, Bandcamp, Instagram
Maniacal Hatred label: Website, Discogs, Facebook, Bandcamp

Jurica Santek:
Aegri Somnia: Discogs, Facebook, Bandcamp
Tertium OrganumDiscogs, Bandcamp
Esoteric Terrorist: Discogs

Dehn Sora:
Treha Sektori: Discogs, Facebook, Bandcamp
Throane: Discogs, Facebook, Bandcamp
Church of Ra: Discogs
Ovtrenoir: Discogs, Facebook, Bandcamp
Sembler Deah: Discogs, Facebook
Dehn Sora artworks: Website, Discogs, Facebook

Ketil Søraker:
Taphephobia: Website, Discogs, Facebook, Bandcamp
Aural Whiteout: Discogs

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