This is the first in a series of classic production tutorials from my 18-year run as the Dance Mix columnist for KeyboardMag.com. This year, I'll be hunting through the online archives for tips and tricks that are timeless and remain relevant to electronic music production of all kinds...
As one of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies cards states, “Repetition is a form of change.” For dance music, this isn’t merely a strategy, but a mantra. However, the fact of the matter is — unless your audience’s intoxicants are extremely good — too much repetition gets old fast. Too little, and you risk breaking the spell you’re casting on the dance floor.
The most common technique for keeping a riff interesting is to dramatically morph the synths and effects, creating crescendos and peaks to enhance the listener’s journey. This is well-suited to EDM, some types of house, and of course, trance. But drastic or sweeping changes don’t always mesh with the techno-related genres.
In this vintage tutorial from the Keyboard Magazine archives, I explain “subliminal automation,” a production technique for holding listeners’ attention without resorting to abrupt shifts.