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Ambient Logbook

Posts 1 - 25 of 249
  1. 636839
    simmerdown : Fri 26th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    How do you approach making an ambient track?

    What makes a good ambient track in your opinion?

    I'm talking about any/all sub-genres as well

    Ive heard some great ones here on the Loop, I'm trying to wrap my first ambient piece and im looking for some direction

  2. 230755
    Unknown User : Fri 26th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    Yeah me too.

  3. 247253
    n0mad23 : Fri 26th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    All I can offer is the observations of a heretic, but maybe it'll resonate with you.

    To me, Ambient music is about creating a deliberate emotional location in the audience. This is a cultural construct that transcends most cultures as most find minor chords and notes sound 'sad'. I think the operative term here is "deliberate."

    Looking at Ambient music as a genre, it's pretty obvious that it's yet another branch that's developed from another branch - in this case Industrial music branched out into Post-Industrial which sub-branched into Ambient. The title, "Industrial music," when created by Throbbing Gristle was actually debated within the band and won over "Metabolic Music," which gives you a sense of what they were experimenting with. Throbbing Gristle was out to create very specific psychological states within themselves and their audience. Quite successfully too, I should add.

    That's what makes an Ambient track good.

  4. 159051
    Unknown User : Fri 26th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    Ambient music needs warm, soothing sounds. Percussion should be more in the background or be used at all. Ambient should require no attention during the listening. Pure relaxing: P nature sounds (water, wind) also makes a share at a good ambient track. Quiet choirs are not to be despised.


  5. 230755
    Unknown User : Fri 26th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    Plus, stereo seperation plays a neat little role, or so I claim. I tried it on some ambient pads earlier, and I liked the over all effect. I've never done this before, and I feel wicked doing it, but listen to "Serial" on my page and you'll see I've used TheHandThatRocksTheDeck's (I almost forgot what I was typing while I was typing that name) loop in that same way. Plus, there's some stereo seperation on the second bassline as well, including inverted phase. Just play around until you get the same vibes from the tracks you say you've heard here. Easy now,


  6. 165125
    Unknown User : Fri 26th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    I can't really add anything to whats already covered but just wanted to type Throbbing Gristle again lol love that name and looking it up now.

  7. 636839
    simmerdown : Fri 26th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    The pieces that i have heard here that work for me are almost like audio poetry, meaning that im not so concerned with figuring out a meaning behind each element, or the whole piece even, just noticing the feel that it evokes. Great history there n0mad, i honestly though ambient came more out of classical music, and just the early messing around with synths

    a good one:


    pianosounds, that helped answer one of my big questions about the extent of percussion, i keep removing drums and perc from this one im working on, so far ive taken off enough to start two dnB tracks, lol

    great tech thoughts dv8, mine is running as wide as possible right now, with a fair amout of panning , and so i agree with you thoughts on that, ill check that track...

  8. 247253
    n0mad23 : Fri 26th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    OK - the reference is questionable (but so is the whole impulse of genre categories anyway), but here's some stuff from WIKI coupled with my own thoughts.

    Classical music is probably a significant influence, as the "roots" really begin with the art movements of "futurism" and "Dadaism." Erik Satie did something he called Musique d'ameublement.

    "Ambient music is a musical genre that focuses largely on the timbrel characteristics of sounds, often organized or performed to evoke an "atmospheric", "visual" or "unobtrusive" quality." -wiki

    Brian Eno is generally credited with coining the term "Ambient Music" in the mid-1970s to refer to music that, as he stated, can be either "actively listened to with attention or as easily ignored, depending on the choice of the listener", and that exists on the "cusp between melody and texture." Eno, who describes himself as a "non-musician", termed his experiments in sound as "treatments" rather than as traditional performances. Eno used the word "ambient" to describe music that creates an atmosphere that puts the listener into a different state of mind; having chosen the word based on the Latin term "ambire", "to surround"." - wiki

    Eno's album notes in 1978 included the following - "Ambient Music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting." Music for Airports liner notes, September 1978

    So, from this we can see that Ambient music isn't necessarily "soothing" or "warm" but it needs to create an atmosphere that invokes another state of mind, or psychological state - deliberately. I'm guessing that "Chillout" is itself a sub-genre that's geared more toward the soothing sounds.

    Sub-genres include Ambient Dub, Organic Ambient Music, Dark Ambient, Black Ambient, Ambient House, Ambient Industrial, Space Music, and Isolationist Ambient Music.

    Want to bet there are other sub-genres either being birthed or currently gestating out there currently?

    My most popular ambient track (and winner of the 2009 All Genre Competition here for Ambient Genre - thanks for that one gang!) "Dancing in the Dreamtime" attempts to create a meditative or reflective state in the audience. It retains a deliberate edginess to promote thinking in those paying attention, but it definitely can be played unobtrusively.

    Here's the ignoble link:

  9. 636839
    simmerdown : Fri 26th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    Supurb answer n0mad!

    'Dancing' is great, had it in my mix for a long time as you know.

    I wont ask how you did it! The main frame at L man cental would blow a fuse!

    But ill ask, how did you know it was done?

  10. 247253
    n0mad23 : Fri 26th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    @dungbeatl - straight to the heart of the matter?

    The first draft was basically done when I stopped recording it as it was a live mix, and my own response to SlapJohnson's 10 minute challenge.

    However, what's posted now represents many, many hours of post-production work. The final mix-down was imported into Ableton Live 7 LE and I really worked on teasing out particular underlying textures. This includes panning and stereo separation as it's a technique that can really emphasize particular sounds. The drones created by Donnie_Vyros's bass loops I think are a good example of playing with textures, and how stacking effects can work.

    It was done for me when it sounded right - lol.

  11. 636839
    simmerdown : Fri 26th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    Oh, hadn't read your description til just now so i didnt know there had been a previous ten minute challenge. I guess that explains how you knew it was done!

    Such a cool piece, if you did that in ten thats amazing

  12. 331356
    Unknown User : Sat 27th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    Oh wow Dungbeatl, if you don't have it already Native Instrument's "Absynth" VST is an ambient wonder, it can produce some of the most gorgeous, heavenly sounds! It's one of my favorite VST's for sure, it could surely aid you in creating some great ambient tunes!

    Don't forget the reverb and delay, every good ambient track should have a dash of both somewhere.

  13. 636839
    simmerdown : Sat 27th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    Thanks koukotsu! I just grabbed the demo of Absynth, if it is like other NI synths im sure it is great. The piece i have going now uses Massive (lovit), there are some really nice pads in there as well, but Absynth looks great, i'm going to get into it today...The other vst i've really been getting into is a free one called String Theory, some great capabilities for a free one , and for me the bonus that it is light on the cpu ( Massive is big to run for me, i have to freeze 1/2 the other stuff so as not to overload my craptop.) If any one want to check it:

    i'm wondering, the demo will cut out after 30 min, but if it is docked in Live 8 am i still going to be able to 'have/keep' the sounds?

  14. 636839
    simmerdown : Sat 27th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    Here is the Most Downloaded (69 dls) ambient track in Loop history from Psychotropic Circle, very cool piece

    Here's one of the latest Ambient tracks to come up on the loop, i think it is really well done

    Arkeytexture and Salook collab

  15. 340647
    Phyruis : Sat 27th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    atmosphere is everything which is kinda a give considering the name of the genre... but that's where I start create the atmosphere and work out

  16. 247253
    n0mad23 : Sat 27th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    So here's my question to you all specifically regarding creating ambient music.

    Do you begin your creative process with an idea, a inspiring sound, or as a mechanical exercise? Or is it a combination of all three (or something else I'm not considering)?

    For example, in the track "Dancing in the Dreamtime" I sat down to this creatively responding to my own annoyance with the evangelical hip hop posts that had been going on for several days. Specifically it was the subtext of those posts that got me going, so I deliberately chose a "sonic banishment" as the motivation of the composition. The Australian Aborigine concept of the Dreamtime seemed a non-dogmatic "ground" to approach this from, so I began to work with transforming bass loops into appropriate drones. From there it was really just following the Muse and listening with the ears in my hips to find the danceable movement behind it and then hitting the record button.

    After the original recording, it really came down to listening intently and teasing out the textures that create this and maintain the atmosphere that you now hear.

  17. 158799
    alividlife : Sat 27th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    where the frick is SIENsystem man.....

    Well.. I will say this....

    Ambient to me... Is by far most personified by Aphex Twin's/Richard D. James Selected Ambient Works Volume II....

    I really think Aphex Twins early stuff 1980 to 1987 or whatever and then his Melodies from Mars was EXCEPTIONALLY ethereal.

    To me personally. since I am a metal head.. It's more of my personal opinion on what AMBIENT really is.. because for someone like me, I can hear static and saw waves and still get a feeling for AMBIENCE.

    I think the thing, and it's been said a lot, but it's atmosphere. Not only is it atmosphere, but it's also a representation of the authors state of mind, and also HIS STYLE.

    I hear a lot of people rant and rave CONSTANTLY about genres and techniques and stylistic approaches, but it's really all about our unique voice that supersedes any one-dimensional technique or production approach (IN MY OPINION).

    Technically speaking, it's obviously half-time... so if you are working on something that is 120 BPM, you would want to focus on half-notes .... so basically 60 BPM...
    And then add some textural nods to 120 BPM.
    Absynth is the best synth for this type of synthesis, great point dungbeetle!

    also, CRYSTAL is a GREAT VST, and is completely free, and is the closest thing to a free absynth I have ever played with
    It has lots of voices and is really atmospheric.

    I dunno, listen to n0mad23 for sure... that guy is tapped into the spirit of the thing ;)

    SIENsystems ambient tracks are EPIC. AMAZING.

    Great post,
    I will enjoy reading more replies!!!!

  18. 158799
    alividlife : Sat 27th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    someone PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE write an ambient song at 180 beats per minute lol

  19. 247253
    n0mad23 : Sun 28th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    @alividlife - haven't installed it yet, but wanted to say thanks for pointing out Crystal! It...supports...soundfonts...pant,pant!

    Packrat that I am, I have a superb collection of sf's! I even have a 180 meg SoundFont file of a 16th Century French harpsichord! Expect this to appear in one of my future tracks.

    This is very exciting!

  20. 636839
    simmerdown : Sun 28th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    great post alividlife, and n0mad

    This has actually gone deeper than I thought it would, very cool.

    I'm wondering about Sien too, his image-to-sound scan of one of my paintings is the basis and starting point for the track im working on
    After last nights go round i threw out the take i had of my piece and started reworking the instruments, all inspired by thougths that came from this thread, i think it will be much better than before, so fun for me this is!
    Grabbed Crystal as well, ill have to see tonight if there is something to add from that one...

    Im really inspired to continue now, i know this post is mostly rambling but im really stoked by what ive read!

  21. 247253
    n0mad23 : Sun 28th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    Awesome choices in linked examples gang!

    I want to add optym's "Affectionate Moment" for an example of texturing and full on Ambient sensibilities in a Chillout track. Very soothing.

  22. 247253
    n0mad23 : Sun 28th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    I've been corresponding with dungbeatl regarding various things, and of course this thread has come up quite a bit.

    Since Ambient music is atmospheric and unobtrusive (but can be deeply listened to) I'm wondering more about the aspect of texturing the music.

    Since Ambient music privileges the characteristics of timbre, it seems pretty obvious that textures play a significant role. I probably spend the bulk of my composition time working with these sounds - and it takes far more time that the arrangement of the song.

    My question then is: when adding textures to your track (ambient or adding ambient textures to another genre) do you do this with musical sounds exclusively, or do you weave in non-musical ones as well? It seems in the "tradition" much creation of music from noise comes specifically from this genre.

  23. 636839
    simmerdown : Sun 28th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    #1 Chillout track in Loop history (382 dl's! huge for any genre i believe)

    Serial Chiller-Acid de la Playa

    plays right into your question (that i dont have the experinece to answer), but a prime example

    chillout seems to fit all the criteria for ambient above, but with more emphasis on the percussion, just my impression not a declaration

  24. 636839
    simmerdown : Sun 28th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    and, Crystal is a great vst, just had time to get into at a bit, but I can see the potential, thanks for that one alividlife

  25. 247253
    n0mad23 : Sun 28th Mar 2010 : 11 years ago

    Maybe we should put together a compendium in .pdf form as a theory-practice tutorial at the end of this discussion. Certainly, a list of "must hear" exemplar tracks should be compiled.

    Serial_Chiller is of course Shan, AKA Looperman, and for some reason I'm not surprised he'd have the perfect Chillout example to add to this discussion.

    That may be the best merging of field recordings and music I've ever heard.

    Good call linking that one dungbeatl! Yeah!

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