House music is a crowded genre, requiring producers to create standout tracks to capture attention. While this may seem challenging, it’s encouraging to know that there are countless ways to leverage your skills to make a mark and get recognized by top labels.

To introduce distinct textures into your music, you can infuse unique melodies, employ creative plugin techniques, and manipulate your synths and samples in novel ways. Often, combining these strategies results in the most compelling tracks.

Tjaro, an up-and-coming producer from East London, exemplifies this approach. In just one year since his debut, he has built an impressive and diverse catalog of dancefloor hits. Each release showcases his ability to blend robotic tech-house melodies with brooding deep house grooves, creating energetic and hypnotic tracks.

His latest EP, Verve / Tex, continues this trend with its lead track, “Verve,” which masterfully fuses Detroit’s timeless low-end funk with frenetic disco vocal samples. So, take a listen to the track below to get a feel for the sauce he’s about to share, and then dive into the plugins he uses to make such hypnotic house music in the latest iteration of How It Was Made: Tjaro – Verve (Instruct Records)

Repro 5 by u-he

Repro 5 by u-he

Repro 5 by u-he is hands down my go-to poly synth regarding software. I remember my teacher at school recommending this to me for a little while and when I saw it on offer, I went for it. It models the infamous Prophet 5 and is amazing for any pad sounds. Alongside its superb VCO emulations and low pass filter, its effects are brilliant as well. I particularly like the ‘Velvet’ effect, which allows you to model what the patch would be like going through tape – which can give the sound a lovely, crisp texture that I have used a lot.     

In my tune ‘Verve’, the main synth lead part that comes in at around 1.40 is directly from Repro 5. I like to take some of their initial stock presets and try to change them as much as I can from their original form to create something new and fresh while trying to maintain much of the original preset’s character and tone. The actual melody itself is very simple, but I have tried to vary it through frequently automating the cut-off frequency while also varying the overall texture to give the tune a constant sense of movement. 

With Repro, I recommend getting stuck into all the different parameters within the VST, especially learning the modulation matrix to be able to modulate various parts of the synth that allow you to make some really interesting patches. Also, manually automating the parameters within the plug-in (especially the cut-off frequency and resonance) is another big one for me. I feel it’s easy to become quite lazy with software and sometimes it can make certain sounds feel quite repetitive. Frequently changing the tone of the sound can go quite a long way to making a tune feel more alive and fresh!

Learn More About This Synth Here

Black Box

Black Box

Brainworx’s Black Box Analog Design HG-2 is my go-to saturation plug-in. Modelled from the 6U8A pentode and triode tubes from the original hardware, it is unreal for drum bus processing and giving an added warmth to the overall mix. I love this for its versatility – it can be used for more subtle distortion and saturation, or if you want to really crank things and create a much more distorted, overdriven tone, it’s brilliant for that too. 

I tend to use the triode more than the pentode largely because it creates uneven harmonics, and I find it can produce a more aggressive, gritty tone compared to the triode. But also using it to lower the peak level is also something I do a lot. Using the Black Box allows me to create a more punchy and louder sound but at the same peak level, which is really useful when processing drums or just using it subtly on the overall mix bus. 

Learn More About This Synth Here

Step FX

How It Was Made: Tjaro - Verve

Logic’s Step FX is one of my favorite plug-ins to use in production. It is essentially a multi-effects plug-in which uses a step sequence processor to modulate individual parameters within the plug-in. I mostly use the step modulator on the filter cut-off and the gate mix, but you can get quite creative with it, especially with the Kaoss filter that is a useful asset to have when performing live as well as all its other powerful, built-in effects such as reverb. 

I tend to use it a lot on vocals, using its step modulator to transform a vocal melody. The chopped-up vocal heard in ‘Verve’ largely comes from Step FX – and I have used it specifically on the gate mix to automate the volume of the vocal to change the tone and rhythm of the sound. Using it on synth chords is also interesting and the stutter chords heard at the beginning of ‘Verve’ have also been processed in Step FX. 

I do strongly recommend Step FX to Logic users as it can be a useful tool to use when processing audio to create some really interesting lead sounds!

Sequential Circuits

Recently, I was lucky enough to get hold of a Sequential Circuits Prophet Rev2, which has been revolutionary in my approach to production. It is a 16-voice polyphonic synthesizer with two DCOs and a Curtis filter, which gives it its signature, rich sound. I start almost every tune I make with this beast now, usually jamming and having fun until I find something I’m happy with. If I had to take one thing from my studio if the house burned down, I’d save the Rev2! 

Although repro plays the main role in ‘Verve’, much of the chords supporting the main riff come from the Rev2, and the stutter chords heard at the beginning of the track also come from the Rev2 but are then heavily processed within Step FX. 

Combining analogue with other software and VST instruments can be a powerful way to build the track’s sonic character by integrating different types of synthesis to blend with one another—and I have found quite a lot of success with this approach.  However, I strongly feel that having hardware is unnecessary, and I have never underestimated the value of stock plugins!

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