For those who follow the ever-changing fashions of the
dance scene, the four-year reign of “the EDM sound” is finally starting
to fade somewhat, with a new set of styles swiftly coming to the
forefront. In several of last year’s columns, I touched upon the
resurgence of old-school house music, which was merely on the horizon in
2014. This year, that trend has picked up a lot of steam and genres
like deep house, classic house, and a new offshoot called “future
garage” are quickly becoming the focus of a new generation of producers.
As is often the case in dance music, everything old is new
again with the latest incarnations of these classic sounds.
Accordingly, one of the most popular synths for making modern house
tracks is the Korg M1. While some producers take a purist approach,
relying on vintage hardware (an M1 in good condition on eBay will set
you back a paltry $700), in-the-box artists are opting for the much more
affordable Legacy software from Korg, which is a mere 50 bucks as a
direct download from the korg.com website.
Whichever version of the M1 you select, the first thing to
do is check out those immediately recognizable patches that are
dominating the latest releases from powerhouse dance labels like
Toolroom and Spinnin’ Records. Here are a few standouts that are all the
rage this season. Ableton Live’s Drum Racks are so incredibly flexible
for creating custom drum kits that it's a shame that many users don't
dig deeper than using sampled drums with a few effects for flavor. One
of the coolest things about Drum Racks is that you can put any synth on each of its pads, including third-party plug-ins.
There are quite a few flavors of piano on the M1, two are
multi-sampled acoustic versions, while the others include more pad-like
textures, along with some recognizable electric pianos. That said, the
piano du jour for the
latest house tracks is the bright and tacky “Piano16”g—patch number 01
on a hardware model. This is the source of those stabby, comped chords
in recent tracks like Mark Knight’s remix of the Basement Jaxx song
“Never Say Never.”
While there’s a plethora of organ sounds and variations in
the M1—especially the extended collection of patches found only on the
Legacy software version – purists will want to stick to the standard
“Organ 1” and “Organ 2” options (presets 67 and 17 on an original unit).
It’s worth noting here that “Organ 2” is the definitive bass organ
sound from Robin S’s seminal house classic “Show Me Love.” Two
additional organs, numbered 3 and 4, naturally, can be found on the
later-issue M1EX hardware.
While there are quite a few familiar brass and reed sounds
in the original M1 collection, the go-to horn patch of the house scene
is preset 62, “Tenor Sax,” which appeared in quite a few ’90s house
hits, but hasn’t been overdone in the modern era yet, so it’s still ripe
for the picking—and I have no doubt that someone will have a major hit
with it soon.
The M1 comeback isn’t just limited to keyboard sounds. If you
listen closely to some of the latest tracks coming out of the European
house scene, you’ll hear that the now standard TR-909-style kits are
being augmented by a few classic M1 percussion sounds. Standouts here
include its crisp and bright “FingerSnap” preset (69) and the metallic
and slightly ethereal “Pole” preset (19).
Tweaks and Edits
Regardless of which M1 sounds you drop into your new house
tracks, it is essential that you keep two things in mind when
integrating them into your tracks. First off, the original M1 effects
may not work in the context of modern production, especially if you’re
using one of the organ presets for your bass sound. Savvy producers
immediately attenuate or mute the effects and apply contemporary
alternatives. Secondly, the M1 can be a tad flat right out of the box,
so adding your favorite compressor or transient-shaping plug-in for
added punch is a common trick to give these parts more presence and