Start With the Beat

Electronic Dance Music Thrives on the Beat

Beat Box

In this article, we'll work on putting together an introduction to an electronic dance music (EDM) track.  Topics covered will be instrument selection, effects usage, tempo, repetition, velocity, drum pattern variation, and we will also do some light mastering.

Keep in mind this is a tutorial, and by no means the only way to lead into an EDM track.  You can use any sound, tempo, note velocity, effects, etc. that you want.  It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish, or the feeling you want to convey with your music.  Remember that as you compose, that music is ultimately an expression, a way for you to communicate a feeling or an idea.  And every part of your music should work towards that as a common goal.

<Puts away soap-box>

Now fire up Caustic, and let's get right into it!

"Bring Out Yer Drums!"

First thing you should do is set your tempo to 110 BPM.  To do this, touch the OPTIONS menu button:


Then, press the "+" or "-" buttons under TEMPO (BPM) to change it to 110.  Hit the ARROW icon in the upper-right corner of the screen when you are done.

Second, go to the BEATBOX synth, and load the preset called "trance".  On the control screen, adjust the VOLUME dial for the 'trance kick' drum as loud as it will go without hitting the yellow zone on the VU METER.

Caustic Trance Bass Drum Dial

Bring up the pattern screen for the BEATBOX, and place a box on each beat of the measure as shown below:

Kick drum beats

Hit play, and you have already successfully created a monotonous sounding pattern.  
-Awesome.  Let's fix that a bit by changing some velocities.

Select the 1st kick drum hit, and on the right side of the screen, run the velocity slider up until the value is 100.  For the remaining 3 beats, change their velocities to reflect a value of 65.

Caustic Velocity Adjustment

Now touch the SEL button, so that we can select these 4 beats, and copy them.  Press the ALL button, then the EDIT button, and finally the COPY button.

Selecting 4 Beats for Copying Copying 4 Beats

Next thing you'll need to do is change to a new (and empty) pattern.  You are currently working in pattern 'A1'.  Touch the '2' button to make pattern 'A2' active.  It is best to try and use the patterns in the order that they appear in the song.  If you plan out your song in your head before creating it, reaching this goal is more realistic.  But as you tweak your song, you may find that it is not always possible to keep everything in sequential order.  Stay organized from the start as much as you are able to do so, and things will be easier later on.

So with pattern 'A2' active, and you still being in the EDIT mode, press PASTE.  The 4 kick drum beats will appear, and your pattern will look just like pattern 'A1'.

Now let's add some hi-hat.  Place a hi-hat on each half beat as shown:

Adding Hi-Hats

What?  You want to know why that last hi-hat looks funny.  I'm glad you asked!

The reason the note is 'thin', is because I applied the note using a higher density grid.  I did this because I plan to later add some more detail at that point, so I just decided to set myself up for it now.  To obtain the higher density grid, long-press the '2' button and you will see the following:

Caustic Pattern Settings

Change the grid resolution to 64, and then return to your piano roll view by hitting the back arrow in the upper-right corner of the screen.  


Like, We Need Some BASS!

We need some bass in this intro, but you don't have it.  Not yet at least.  So you'll need to create a bass sound.  I created one with the SUBSYNTH in Caustic that I call "LOW BASS WAVE", and it'll rattle your house to the ground if you have a good subwoofer.  To make this preset, bring up the SUBSYNTH screen, and load the DEFAULT preset.  Your screen should look like this:

Caustic Subsynth Default SettingsCredit: Screenshot by CreativeDesign

To create the LOW BASS WAVE preset, make all the waveforms, dials, and settings look like my screen:

Caustic Replay's Low Bass Wave

After you have everything setup correctly, save the preset as 'LOW BASS WAVE'.  Then press key C2 with your headphones on and have some fun feeling your eardrums bounce around.

Sequencing and a Little Automation

Make the Introduction Interesting

Go to your sequencer screen and lay down your 2 BEATBOX patterns as shown:

Caustic Beatbox Pattern Intro

Touch the STOP button twice, which will stop any play, and return the song to time marker "0:00".

Switch to the MIXER screen, and on Channel 6 (your BEATBOX channel), touch the REC button, and turn the VOLUME dial for Channel 6 all the way left (off).  Now, I'm going to have you hit the PLAY button, and then immediately begin slowly turning the volume on Channel 6 to the right.  Your goal is to have the volume dial pointing straight up by the time the song has completed 4 measures.  Go it?  Ready, steady, GO!

Hit STOP after you have completed recording the volume going from the track start to the end of the 4th measure.  You've just recorded your first control automation!  Great job!

More Drums!

In Caustic, nobody is forcing you to use only one BEATBOX synth, and if you like the sounds from more than one kit, than use both kits.  Just go to the rack/machine screen, REMOVE a synth you aren't using, and add another BEATBOX.

For my second BEATBOX synth, I loaded up the 909 kit preset.  Create a simple pattern like this one, and store it as pattern 'A1':

Caustic 909 Drum Kit Preset

Then switch to pattern 'A2', and create this pattern:

Caustic 909 Drum Kit Piano Roll

Now return to the Sequencer screen, and setup the patterns to match this:

Caustic Electronic Music Intro Sequencer

Finally, make sure your mixer screen looks like this:

Caustic Electronic Music Intro Mixer

Now with your headphones on, hit PLAY.

Next Steps

Where Do We Go Now?

So, now you are maybe wondering "where do we go from here"?  Well, one next step might be to round that introduction out to the start of the 16th measure.  Copy everything between the start of measure 8 and 12, and paste it in starting at measure 12.  

Caustic Sequencer Loop Electronic Music Intro

Then, I'll apply a loop (shown above) on the 8 measures before the end of what I've written so far, and just listen to it for a while, until I get an idea in my head of what I want the next, unwritten part to sound like.  To make the loop, just press on the measure number you want to start the loop on, and drag your finger to where you want the loop to end.

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