Welcome to the third installment of the Mindspawn Guide To Creating Dark Ambient Music. Today we’ll cover the final bits of necessary hardware that you need to start doing dark ambient music. Those who have been following along thus far might recall the hardware we covered last time; black t-shirt, computer, high end microphones, and distortion device.

The complete list is included below for anyone who missed it before:

  • At least one black t-shirt. Preferably vintage.
  • A computer, preferably vintage, with massive amounts of lifting power (dark ambient is very heavy).
  • At least 3 extremely high end microphones, preferably vintage, maybe costing as much as $50US.
  • A minimum of one vintage distortion device.
  • A massive analog modular synth with lots of lights. Preferably vintage.
  • A few dozen softsynths to ridicule, each costing a minimum of $50US. Preferably vintage.
  • At least one hardware synth with a keyboard. Preferably vintage.

Today the focus is on the final three bits of necessary kit. Namely a massive analog modular synth, softsynths, and a hardware synth.

You must have a massive analog modular synth. Please don’t be daunted by details like not knowing what synthesis is about. Most of all, this is to provide the right kind of ambience in your studio or at a live performance. It must have a lot of lights. It will be your main light source when working in the studio or at a gig. Without adequate lighting you could severely injure yourself or others.

Analog Modular withy plenty of lights
Now we’re properly lit….

It’s not necessary that you understand how to make sound with the analog modular, it really isn’t necessary that it makes sound at all (we’re getting to the sound maker shortly). You should spend a good part of your budget on this piece. It needs to be pretty huge if you want to potentially create a dark ambient hit. There’s a reason so many dark ambient artists use modular synths. The lights help them see the music. This is especially true at live gigs. Ever see a dark ambient artist on stage hover over their analog modular? They are desperately trying to see their crib notes, and or lyrics, for the performance. Hence, without enough lights on the modular, this becomes impossible and you’ve likely blown the gig! Invest in those analog modular lights!!!

Your analog modular should also be old, vintage of course. Almost all the great dark ambient artists use vintage analogs. However, you might need to add a few lights as older synths sometimes have a dim light or two. Sometimes buying an extra module, even a new module, just to add more lights will be necessary for safety. Spouses and significant others often do not entirely understand this. That’s okay, this is art.

You’ll also need a few fairly expensive softsynths that you won’t actually use In all likelihood.

Max, the real deal.
Perfect vintage soft synth.

You don’t even need to bother installing them. They are for ridiculing with your dark ambient peers. Again, quality counts here, so don’t skimp by just getting freeware, drop some coin. In addition, try and find vintage soft synths on eBay or something. It’s especially relevant to have vintage soft synth boxes. The best ones will have manuals  written exclusively in German, Chinese, or Enochian.

If you don’t have an array of expensive softsynths that you pretty much ridicule constantly, almost no one will take you seriously. That leads to lost sales and soon you’re on the street with former dark ambient superstars…. Remember Satan’s Juicebox? No? He refused to ridicule soft synths, and it was rumored he actually used them. Consequently, one night he’s on top of the dark ambient world, massive tour, lots of money. The next day, completely obscure, unknown, almost as if he never existed. I heard he ended up working on the dark ambient cruise ship circuit… (editor’s note: Satan’s Juicebox actually teaches dark ambient at an inner-city private pre-school as of this writing).

The final bit of gear you need is a hardware synth. This is definitely your main gigging tool.

Old Synth Broken Right
This is what you want. Vintage and broken keys to the right.

It needs to have a keyboard with at least one intact key. Make sure if it only has one intact key that it exists on the left end of the keyboard. That’s money right there.

Old Synth Broken Left
Note the broken keys on the left. Probably best to avoid if possible, but note the single key to the far left…. still usable on a budget.

While you might still be able to pull off some sounds on the right side of the keyboard just don’t expect too much.

Only one key is needed. As a result, you’ll see in the next installment, you’ll learn to focus your chi into one finger and stick it… well, I’m getting ahead of myself. It should make some sort of sound, too, although in a later episode I’ll explain how to use the keyboard without sound. Finally, it should be vintage if at all possible.

Tune in next time for an overview of the various methodologies. We’ll start putting together the hardware with the concepts, so make sure your brain has been well oiled. Yes? No? We’ll cover that in a later post, too.

Welcome to the second installment of the Mindspawn Guide To Creating Dark Ambient Music. Today we’re going to cover the gear requirements in a bit more detail. You may remember from the last episode that all aspiring dark ambient artists need the following bits of kit:

  • At least one black t-shirt. Preferably vintage.
  • A computer, preferably vintage, with massive amounts of lifting power (dark ambient is very heavy).
  • At least 3 extremely high end microphones, preferably vintage, maybe costing as much as $50US.
  • A minimum of one vintage distortion device.
  • A massive analog modular synth with lots of lights. Preferably vintage.
  • A few dozen softsynths to ridicule, each costing a minimum of $50US. Preferably vintage.
  • At least one hardware synth with a keyboard. Preferably vintage.

Let’s examine each of these required bits of gear in a little more detail.

Mindy Black TAt least one black t-shirt – necessary to balance the dark energies when creating dark ambient music. Regular shirts or long sleeved t-shirts or shirts of any other color simply won’t do. You might think you can ignore this requirement, but you can’t. Trying to create dark ambient with the wrong kind or color of shirt will end up with you just making ambient music. I have actually seen an incorrect shirt type result in inadvertently making pop music.  Vintage black t-shirts will greatly enhance the whole effect and are highly recommended for beginners. Even cooler are black Ts with awesome band logos on them. Pants are optional.

Da ComputerA massively strong computer – Dark ambient is very heavy, and it takes a lot of computer power to manipulate it. Don’t scrimp, get the heaviest computer you can find. Remember, vintage is best. The very best ones are those old beasts from the 1950s and 1960s that have those round bits on the front. You may be told you’ll need to punch cards, but that is a myth. You’ll want a full deck of playing cards to be sure, but you should set them on fire instead of punching them. Your music will be much more dramatic with the cards burning. Lots of smoke also aids with ambience.

Da MicThree extremely high end microphones – Don’t scrimp on this one, especially if you plan to incorporate method 3, Field Recordings, into your creative process. Yard sales are great places to find vintage mics that were once bundled with old cassette recorders. Those are the very best as they convey an air of mystery unlike any other microphone. Make sure you pay at least $20 each for these. Even if the seller has them at a cheaper price, paying more actually enhances the quality. Paying $50 for one of these mics will maximize its performance potential to the highest levels.

Da PedalOne vintage distortion device – At least one old scratched up, dented and otherwise mangled distortion device is an integral part of your kit. You can sometimes find vintage distortion pedals on eBay selling for upwards of $500. Those are perfect. Get two or three if you can afford to. The cool part is, these don’t even have to function to add depth to you and your music. You just ned to own them.

Next episode I’ll finish covering the rest of the necessary gear, and please, be patient. Do not jump ahead and start trying to create with only part of the gear requirements. Otherwise, no one will take you seriously. It’s imperative that you’re serious or at least that you’re perceived to be.

Dark Ambient 01Part 1 – Getting Ready

Greetings faithful. A little something different today. I’ll be presenting a multi-part guide to creating dark ambient music. If you don’t know what dark ambient music is, so much the better. If you do know, or perhaps even create dark ambient music already, I’ll be presenting techniques that will undoubtedly speed up your process and correct all the things you’re doing wrong.

The process – knowing how to do it correctly.

All dark ambient music, without exception, is the music of the devil, so let’s get this straight from the outset. You cannot do quality dark ambient music without being in league with the devil. Doesn’t matter which devil, mind you, just pick one. Maybe you’re tastes run to some obscure Goat God from the Ozarks, or Great Cthulhu, or Baphomet, or Mr. Pointy Toes, whatever your flavor of devil or demon, just make sure you’re a card carrying member in good standing and you’ll be halfway to your goal of creating amazing dark ambient music. If you’ve been slipping in your proselytizing, worshipping, sacrificing of small (or large) creatures, this is the time to get squared away. Not having this part in place will only hurt the process later, especially when we get to the mastering process (which is 95 percent about your godlessness quotient).

There are three basic methods for creating dark ambient music.

  1. Take existing sound and manipulate it according to the Rules Of Dark Ambient
  2. Find one of the many hidden dark ambient presets on your favorite synth
  3. Make field recordings of construction or industrial sites

Once your squared away with the devil of your choice, the next part of the process involves picking one of the three basic methods (mentioned above) to start creating your music. There are a handful of other methods (usually only employed by beginners who don’t know any better) but there’s really no point in wasting your time with those. In this series we’re concentrating on the real deal. It may be tempting to try and combine more than one method or even all three into a single dark ambient piece, but such an undertaking is only for the most advanced practitioners of dark ambient, let me assure you. We will explore each of the three methods a bit later in the series, but right now we need to make sure you have all the necessary dark ambient gear…..

No matter what kind of dark ambient method you decide on, you will need:

  • At least one black t-shirt. Preferably vintage.
  • A computer, preferably vintage, with massive amounts of lifting power (dark ambient is very heavy).
  • At least 3 extremely high end microphones, preferably vintage, maybe costing as much as $50US.
  • A minimum of one vintage distortion device.
  • A massive analog modular synth with lots of lights. Preferably vintage.
  • A few dozen softsynths to ridicule, each costing a minimum of $50US. Preferably vintage.
  • At least one hardware synth with a keyboard. You guessed it, preferably vintage.

Estimate of total cost: You need to spend at least $20,000US or five times your current salary whichever is greater.

This may seem like a lot, especially for those on limited budgets, but you’ll have to find some way to secure these items to be able to achieve the results you want and to be truly dark. Don’t scrimp, get a job if you must, but make sure the gear above is in place before you begin.

Next episode, we’ll explore each of the gear requirements in more detail as well as offer explanations of the major methods that are used to create dark ambient music so you can choose the best one for your particular style.