Hardstyle was born out of trance music around the turn of the century and is popular in the European electronic dance music scene. In addition to trance and hardcore music, modern hardstyle borrows from nu-style gabber and NRG, which gives the music its anthem-like quality.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Digital audio workstation
- Drum samples
- Synthesizer modules
- Effects modules
Open your digital audio workstation and begin a new track. Set your beats per minute to somewhere between 140 and 150.
Add kick drum and bass channels to your step sequencer. Layer a Roland TR909 kick drum sample with a sub-bass kick drum to obtain a booming sound and sequence it to play eighth notes. Sequence your selected bass to play eighth notes on the same beat as the kick drum and add overdrive to both channels to make it a heavy pulse. This emphasis of the downbeat is distinct to hardstyle, so copy it throughout your song.
After the pattern is copied you may decide later to delete the drum or bass in certain measures or add rolls to it for variety. However, the majority of your song should feature this pattern to emphasise the downbeat.
Import hi-hat and snare sounds. Have the hi-hat emphasise by playing sixteenth notes, or twice the speed of the kick drum and bass. Sequence the snare to play eighth notes on the down beat with the kick drum and bass. Add hi-hat and snare fills every four bars to keep the song rhythmically interesting.These fills typically fall on the upbeat to stand out in the mix.
Add a synthesizer pad to your step sequencer. Much like trance music, hardstyle tends to focus on sine- or square-wave synthesizer sounds with a long attack. Chain the sound with reverb and delay effects to widen it and then program the synthesizer to play whole note chords over the drum beat. The chord should begin on the one beat of the measure. Add overdrive to the synthesizer if it does not sound full enough. This will be the sonic backing of your beat.
Create an arpeggiated melody that cycles back on itself after eight or 16 bars. Hardstyle arpeggios tend to focus on major triad triplets, which give the song a marching, happy tone. Make your arpeggios of sixteenth notes with the triplet starting on the upbeat to counter the hard pulsing of the kick drum and bass.
Use equalisation and compression to finish mixing your hardstyle beat. Boost the 20-to-40-Hertz range of your kick drum and bass to make it the centrepiece of your mix. Add to the middle range of your snare’s frequency and compress the signal to make it stand out above your melodic instruments.
Tips and warnings
- Add vocals and other final touches after you have completed your basic mix.
- Do not over-compress your drums or they will lose their power.
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