Putting Flow into your piece – the missing Pro-Tip

All over the internet, there are people offering one essential (click-bait) Pro Tip after another. If you just do this (often silly) thing, your music will suddenly become Pro. Interestingly one of the things often not mentioned in this flow of material is the concept of Flow.

If a thing flows, it feels organic, real, like it is for real or legit.

That makes it seem far better than any technical thing. A mix can be questionable and if the music flows, it works great. This however is skipped over, or even pooh-poohed by most for some odd reason.

Before deciding your track is ready for Mixing, step away for a bit so you can hear what is really “on-tape” and see if it flows. If not, then maybe these approaches will help you liven things up so that your message becomes a lot clearer – therefore easier to get a good mix.

This trio of videos covers the two main technical things that you can do to take exactly the same performance that you have in your DAW and put better life into it.

Velocity & Sustain

There are some other similar but less powerful things you can do to help make your music move and flow better. While these are in many ways less effort to do, all of them at once won’t really add up to even one of the above methods more often than not:

  • Vibrato & Tremolo adding vibrato or tremolo to sounds so they feel less flat is very simple and effective. Even better, if you assign your Mod Wheel to vibrato, you can have it come and go at key times (or even somewhat randomly) to add more expression.
  • Aftertouch is similar to the Mod Wheel in that you can assign pressure to something like a Filter, LFO, FM etc. Even if your keyboard doesn’t send Aftertouch or Pressure, you can still use those features in your DAW.
  • Automation: is the same as above, move some instrument parameters to help the music seem to swell or recede with the phrasing.
  • Flanger/Chorus/Phaser/Leslie effects can add movement just as well as thickness. That can even be changed in speed and intensity over time. (if sending off to a Mix Engineer, be sure to either remove this or send dry & wet stems if not already discussed and agreed that the effect is part of the performance).
  • Random Modulation: if you have the option, and many DAWs do now, assign very small amounts of random movment to anything from note/instrument tuning to parameters like Filter, Env ADSR, Delay Time etc. Just take care that this is very suble or the music just sounds broken.
  • Frequency Shifting: Frequency Shifters are kinda ugly, like Ring Modulators if used agressively, but at subtle settings with an LFO they can really help soften the rigidity and repetiveness of samples and static synths. If it is anything more than feel, it is probably too much (unless you want it to sound gnarly).
Making the Pieces Fit

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