PRODUCER SPOTLIGHT: Alex Cortez of Noisy Labs has some tips for beatmakers interested in refining their older music. 

By Alex Cortez

Thanks to computers and new technologies, you can give old music a facelift and make it sound more modern. As a matter of fact, older songs have distinct drums, but, with a few drum programming techniques, you can make them sound like it was made today.

The following are a few tips to help you spruce up some old tracks you may be revisiting or tinkering around with during lockdown.

How to Make Old Music Sound Modern: Rediscovering Older Tracks

There’s so much value into retro music that shouldn’t be defined by time. Using several tools and a little bit of imagination, you can change vintage music to something more modern that can be played at gigs and clubs. 

Modern music is all about letting go of old patterns to create something different. There are so many styles out there, so you can create a new style that works for you. Even if there’s a track that was once a hit 20 years ago, it can still be popular with the younger crowds if you give it some thought. 

Get Rid of the Hissing Sound

The hiss and pop heard on older tracks could be the result of grime and dirt that accumulated on the record, causing scratches that distort the sound. The dirty-record listening experience can be eliminated to clean up the record and make it sound more modern.

There are several software programs that can be used to reduce or even eliminate noise, pop, and clicks that can be heard on vinyl records. You can try Audacity, Wave Repair, or Groove Mechanic to clean up vintage music.

Compress As Much As You Can

Compressing music is one of the best tools that you can use while mixing your music. It allows you to make things punchy, catchy, and loud, so your old track will sound hip enough for the modern-day audience. 

Using compression, you can add a modern effect to loud drums making them more muffed. You can keep the drums and bass punchy and loud while compressing other instruments to add a new character to the track. 

Reduce Reverbs

Drying up your track by removing reverb is another way to make your track cleaner and more modern. If you don’t want to remove it altogether, you can tune it down a bit without affecting the melodies’ ability to blend beautifully. When there’s too much reverb, your track might sound too wet, something you don’t want if you want your music to be edgy. 

Make Use of Pluck Synths

These short and plucky sounds will add a new vibe to your old music when the plucked sound is used as a percussive element. Adding little details to your vintage tracks, pluck synths will make older music sound more modern and catchy. Using a low-frequency oscillator or LFO, you can make different variations every time you add a pluck synth. 

Pluck synths are made using envelopes on your synthesizer controlling 4 elements that affect the sound produced; attack, decay, sustain, and release. You can choose to spread the pluck synth in stereo space to have a more profound effect. The result could be short and snappy, warm, and deep or wide and spacey depending on the parameters you adjust. 

Give Sidechaining a Try

Sidechaining is the process of using the output of a track to alter the compression on another track to modify the mix. Most music producers use this technique to change their music tracks, and you can use it to get rid of the vintage vibes by making music more modern.

By incorporating non-instrument sounds into your music, you’re adding a new dimension to older tracks that would definitely make your music sound different. For example, you can use this technique to alter the string sections on your older track, changing them to something that sounds like a synth so people can dance to your new remix. 

Music producers also use sidechaining to give more room for the vocals to shine. If your older track shows more focus on the instruments, you can sidechain other tracks into your mix to draw more attention to the vocals. 

Limit Melody

One of the most distinctive differences between retro and modern music is in the weight given to melody. In contemporary music, only the simplest riffs are used. Riffs are quite popular in several genres like pop, jazz, and rock, so you need to minimize them if you’re looking to give your track a modern look. 

Back in the day, music was created by real musicians who played real instruments. Nowadays, some superstars know nothing about playing any musical instruments and would still create popular and catchy music. 

Unlike old musicians, you won’t have to imagine how your music will sound after adjusting the melody, because you can give it a try and reverse any adjustments. It’s easy to return to the original track or make more changes if you don’t like how the track will sound. 

Add a Sound Effect

You can make a new copy of old music with new permanent filters. Filters were used in the ’70s but resurfaced again in the ’90s, especially the low-pass filter. You can add the low-pass filter to block the highs while allowing the lows to pass through, giving old music a new edge. 

Other filters include high-pass filters and band-pass filters. These are designed to allow specific frequencies to pass through, creating new music. 

You can buy new filters like TAL-Filter II that works if you’re on a tight budget. It looks pretty simple but offers dynamic panning with a multimode filter. Sugar Bytes Wow is another good filter that combines traditional filtering while adding vocal-like effects. 

For more tips, visit Alex’s blog.

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