Psychill Tutorial : Tips and Tricks Part 2

Here we continue the psychill ambient music tutorial with another awesome collection of tips from 14 artists about how to make ambient, psybient, psydub and general downtempo music. As in part 1 of the series the artists involved were asked to provide any kind of tip they like so you will see ideas ranging from indepth studio technical wizardry to more 'out of the box' thinking. Oh, if you click on the artist names you will be taken to their respective websites where you can hear samples of their music and get more involved. 

Itai Argaman first came to my notice with his playfully twisted psychedelic music in 2009 with the release of his debut album Mt Little Forrest. His music has a very melodic feel that combines classical piano, jazz, electronica, ambient psychedelia and more. A truly gifted musician he has recently released his follow up album Living In A Bubble.

Itai's Tip :

Ok, The musician is the director, the pads, FX and atmosphere are the decoration, leads and melodies are the actors and your stereo image is the size and place you want to put all of this together, our mission is to connect our art with the special dimension, the only dimension that give soul to our creation, keep it real.

Kilowatts is the work of James Watts, an American IDM, glitch, electronica producer who has continually evolved his sound over the last 10 years and really hit the sweet spot with the release of the Groud State album in 2007 which has since been followed up by two fantastic albums Undercurrent and Acceptitude.

KiloWatts' Tip :

I don't think coffee is the best chemical for producing ambient music. Instead, I would recommend the element of subtraction. Remove something from your everyday life, and fill the gap with sound.

One of my favorite groups of recent times would have to be the dynamic duo of Radioactive Sandwich. Their music covers a wide range of styles, is always interesting and inventive and sometime a little tongue in cheek which is also a nice element I think. The group compromises of members Slice One and Slice Two ( get it ? ) who are on a mission to twinkle galactic sonic dust into your ears and have recently teamed up with Globular on a 4 track EP titled Sorbet For The Soul.

Radioactive Sando's Tip :

Tip 1 (Slice Two): Use your voice! You'll notice a lot of vocal scatting and gibberish in our tracks. That's all us. We'll sing a melody, then run it through FLStudio's Netwone and Pitcher (pitch editor and pitch corrector software) to give it a crazy vibe and tune it or change the melody. Then we'll run it through mad effects, or cut it up to all hell. There are things you can do with a voice that are virtually impossible to do with a synth. 

Tip 2 (Slice One): Learn basic music theory. Knowledge of music theory can really make a serious difference in how you write your music and how it turns out.  We can almost always notice when a producer has a musical background, either as a musician or with training. If you can understand complex harmonies, time and key signatures, you can apply all of that to your music in ways that most entry level producers will never care to learn. 

Globular has become a firm favorite of psychedelic ambient music lovers around the world over the last few years. The reason for this is two fold. Firstly, he makes superb psychedelic dub music that is so trippy your brain will do back-flips ( brainflips ? ).  Secondly he was a a huge fan favorite on the Ektoplazm website where he offered his albums for free. I suspect this helped to spread Globular generously globally and galactically gaining gleeful groupies. Geee !

Globular's Tip :

Setting up Aux sends for your snares:

I've always found a nice simple trick to keep your drums sounding interesting, is just setting up 2 - 4 different aux sends for your snare drum. Depending on what DAW you use, the method will vary slightly, but essentially they are all the same process. 

1) Set up new aux send tracks. Right click, or navigate to 'Add new send/return track'. Repeat this 4 times, so you have 4 sends. You should find that on each of your regular audio tracks, you now have 4 adjustable send paths/pots/knobs, each correlating to the new tracks you just set up. 

2) Add some FX! I tend to stick with reverbs and delays, but you can get as creative as you like. Generally, I'd do something like adding a spring reverb on send one, a long boomy plate or chamber reverb one send two, a cleanish dub-delay on send three, and a dub delay with a wide phaser on 4. 

3) Once you've got each individual effect sounding just right, automate the send knobs! Even better, if you've got a basic midi-controller, you can midi-map each of the 4 sends to your controller. This means you can record the automation in real time, making it sounds more spontaneous and natural - just like the old dub masters 

4) Don't over do it. Try and get your drums so they sound great even without the added sends, then drop your favorite send in juuuust at the right point to really accentuate the hit.

5) Have fun.

Hinkstep came as a real surprise in  2011 with the release of his debut album Sunrise From The Tree Tops. A mix of dub and experimental ambient sounds it proved to be an immediate hit. A real gem of an album. Keep an eye out in 2013 for his upcoming second release.

Hinkstep's Tip :

1 cup of coffee, 1 hit from the bong, 1 snus ( Swedish tobacco you put under your lip)  visualize your song in your head. Create depth and space first by simply adjusting the volume and the add reverbs, delay and eq to push it even further. your imagination is the limit.

Ambient music fans will instantly recognize the name Robert Rich. Robert is one of the world's leading ambient musicians with over 30 albums to date ! His latest release, Nest, is one of the most relaxing albums I have listened to in the past decade and will melt your bones. 

Robert's Tip :

OK, here's one: I like to make "melting trails" using rhythmic echoes processed through sweeping resonant filters. The Eventide H3000 was my first choice tool to do this for many years. Logic's "Delay Designer" plug-in can come pretty close to emulating that effect, although it requires some careful programming due to the fixed filter frequencies. The more random quality of un-sync'd LFO filter sweeps makes it more interesting.

DJ, producer, label manager and overall psychedelic legend Raja Ram is best known to PsyAmb listeners as one half of the psybient duo Shpongle. Always ready with a humorous anecdote, he offers this quick yet rather important tip for keeping things organized in the studio or when playing live.

Raja's Tip :

Always have a torch with you

Speaking of psychedelic music legends, Bill Hasley aka Cosmosis has been pumping out dance floor monsters since early 1990s and is constantly touring the world with his signature funky goa-psy sounds. Amidst all this he has released a number of classic psychill tunes over the years including the the fan favorites The Himalaya, Tim's Trip and Contact. 

Bill's Tip :

Bill has too many tips on offer so he has wisely chosen to direct readers to his own collection of helpful production tips here :


Dj Zen is a psydub, psychill producer and graphic artist. He has had a long career as a DJ representing a wide range of labels and artists including his current home, Altar Records.  

Dj Zen's Tip :

Please make music with your heart and using good sounding samples. Take inspiration in beauty, nature and people you love. Try to get a sample-package if you are starting up your first project and learn tips from others through online videos. Do not make music to impress, stay simple, far from your ego and learn music scales if you can. Remember: more time and energy you put in your music, the better it is; your first album might not be the best, tho. If you have an amazing response on your first 'live' plays from the dance-floor people then you can try to get a serious label to represent your art or even better try to produce yourself if you have time. Happy music making !

Alien Soap Opera, Dub Trees, Subsurfing, The Orb and Suns Of Arqa are just a few of the acts associated with musician and producer Greg Hunter. His latest works can be heard under the Dubsahara name where Greg continues to explore a mixture of electronic, dub and world music sounds.

Greg's Tip :

Know your stuff, know sound, know music.

Recorded music is in its infancy as an art form. Study what has gone on before (ie last 150 years). It doesn't take long, and will prevent you from having to 're-discover' what others have already done. If you don't like reading, at least listen to the music. All genres, not just the stuff you like, and watch some documentaries on music and sound. Have a broad knowledge of all genres, and detailed knowledge of the music style you like. 

'Tom Dowd and the Language of Music' is a great film on the history of recorded sound. 

This knowledge will help you immensely to make original music. 


Iacchus is a psychedelic dub, psybient artist from London. He has three albums full of psychedelic goodness which any fan of psychill like Shpongle and Ott would readily appreciate. He has been very generous in offering many handy tips for us so read on for some Iacchus magic.

Iacchus' Tips :

Some general hints:

1. The only kit I advise are some good monitors, and a good synthesizer. I love the Access Virus TI, it's an absolute beast and sounds amazing, if you can get the money together it will give you a massive leg up. Software synths *can* sound great if you work hard, but the Virus sound warm and rich out of the box. 
2. Resonance resonance resonance, so many psychedelic noises are about the use and abuse of filter resonance. Use it, experiment with it, turn it up high, and see what happens. Push the boundaries. Low notes (that barely register as a stutter) tend to sound great when pushed through a lot of filter resonance

3. Delay! Delay makes everything sound better, gives your music depth. Experiment with automating delay times for cool funky and psychedelic effects

4. Mixing your music - brutally EQ out everything you don't need. Cut the top/bottom of sounds as a matter of default (especially the bottom), until the sound starts to change in a way you don't like. You'll be surprised how much you can chop out that you can't hear, but actually all adds up to a muddy mix. Your tracks will sound more crisp and clear if you EQ everything with some thought. Only the kick drum and bass needs any low end.

5. Don't get frustrated, it took me about 10 years to start to get happy with my production. You can master ANYTHING you set your mind to (look up the 10,000 hours theory). You WILL get there if you stick at it. 

How to make a psy squeak:

1. Set your oscillators to saw wave

2. Attach an LFO to both oscillators pitch. You will hear it sounds a bit like a siren.

3. Set the filter to a band pass filter. Turn up the resonance.

4. Experiment moving the cutoff frequency of the filter around. It should start to sound like a psy squeak. You can either get the effect you want my manually automating the cuttoff, another option is to send the cutoff to another LFO that goes at the same speed as the pitch LFO, but in the opposite direction so the pitch goes up as the cutoff goes down. From here you can experiment loads with LFO offsets and slight differences in speed to get cool effects. Consider using two band pass filters in parallel to get 'talking synth' effects, vowel sounds etc

Extra hints:

A low note with a large LFO pitch range tends to work best.

On my synth (Access Virus TI) it sounds better if you turn the ring modulation to maximum, and the unison to 2.

Automate the pitch LFO speed for cool 'engine speeding up effects'.

Experiment with delay, reverb, and all manners of other effects to taste.

Dubsalon is an electronic dub producer with over 10 years in the game and a real head for quality productions. As manager of recording studio Freestyle Recordings he is busty producing albums for various bands and solo artists. You can hear one of his very latest tracks on the new Nutek Recordings compilation First Step.

Dubsalon's Tip :

In this short tutorial I like to talk about fx mixing and processing.

It is important to think of your fx channel as a regular audio channel so that you can add eq, compression and other processing to it just like any other track.
Let’s pretend to have a drum beat going on separate tracks and we want to add some reverb and some delay to it.

I will be sending a long plate reverb to the snare drum and what I like to do is to go into my fx channel and eq off the low end. We can roll off everything below 250hz.  This way the reverb will only affect the mid and high range of the snare track avoiding unwanted muddiness.

Another example is to add a short delay to the hihat, this works very well on a cool down tempo beat, now what we want to do is to pan our hat towards the right, and then we can send a short (mono) delay to it and pan it to the left. This will give you a wider interesting spatial sound. We can also go into our delay channel and work on the eq, rolling off the low and top end, then boost a couple of dbs between 2 & 4khz to achieve a slightly different color tone from the original signal.

This are just rough guide, there are no fixed rules. But I find that it is very important to roll off unwanted frequencies on our audio and fx channels prior to mixing, this will help enormously to achieve a clean mix, especially on a complex psychedelic tune, where we can have up to 40 to 60 tracks to deal with.

Pitch Black are a New Zealand based duo known for there electronic dub and progressive sounds. The lads hit it big around mid 2000s with the release of the Ape To Angel album. This got them a lot of exposure and they began touring across the planet with their hypnotic rhythms and spatial sounds.

Pitch Black's Tip :

Leave lots of dynamics in your mix to give the mastering engineer a chance to finish your track properly.

Some years ago around 2000/2001 I picked up a copy of All India Radio's debut album, 002, through the PsyHarmonics label store. I didn't know anything about the group but I'm so glad I gave it a shot as it has been a favorite ever since. Their music is quite stunning, combining haunting guitar work with waves of cinematic electronica and soft beats.

All India Radio have released nine albums since 2000 and their music has been featured in film and TV including CSI: Miami, One Tree Hill, Sicko, Till Human Voices Wake Us (starring Guy Pearce and Helena Bonham Carter), Big Brother Australia, Bondi Rescue and Recruits. Guitarist Martin Kennedy from the band sent in the following. 

Martin's Tips :

My songs always begin on an acoustic guitar. Even if the final song contains no acoustic instruments or bears no resemblance whatsoever to something that may have begun life as a simple ditty on a guitar, that's the way I have to do it. Melody is everything for me so that's where I start. Everything else comes later. I'd rather construct a song around a melody than try to fit a melody into a drum pattern or loop. Of course the best artists manage to do both effortlessly. I've got a ways to go before I'm at that level !

Kanc Cover

Serbian producer Kanc Cover ( Vladislav Radulovic ) has been releasing great singles for the past 6 years or so culminating in the release of his well received 2011 debut solo EP titled "Sleepy Cells".

Kanc Cover's Tips :

How do you find inspiration to write a new track ?

With ambient music it goes much more easier then with any other style I compose. Why? Well, because ambient music offers you a lot of space for doing experiment and to free your mind during the production. Usually, nobody order tracks to sound like "this" or "that". You just let your self go with the flow. There is a lot of space to put what ever you want, find a match, no time limits you and everything is much more easier. To be honest, the best enjoyment is when you make something without standards, and that's exactly what you can get from ambient music. And, of course, the best inspiration is in that fact.

How do you make your music sound unique ?

My sound is unique on the first place because of the inspiration I have. Maybe, because I never tried to copy anyone. Of course we all have a influences from other artists but in my case it's based only on listening. I always consider that people are like a fingerprint. Different of all others in the world. Music should be that way too. Only on that way you can expect to be recognizable. By the price to not be commercial, at least you will have your own identity!


Voonoom is the work of Danish producer and journeyman  Michael Sundo.  He has released plenty of great music on a number of popular compilations over the past few years. To find out more about what makes Vonoom's music special you can read an interview we did together at the following link.

Vonoom's Tips :

One thing I like to do quite often is bounce out effect, lead or bass tracks to audio. Once you have the track as an audio file (with or without effects) you can then chop them up into smaller bits which themselves can be effected, reversed, bounced again and further chopped and then made to work with the original track. By jumping between the original track and the chopped up ones you can make some pretty trippy variations that keep things interesting. Doing the same without bouncing requires a lot more automation, so it's often quicker to work with audio.

Another thing I'd like to share is a tip I read somewhere once that recommended hitting the spacebar as often as possible. Pause that track if you're fiddling with some little detail that doesn't need the track to be playing. Hearing the same loop over and over can, at least for me, drain my creativity and fatigue my ears. You get to hear it plenty anyway, so take the opportunity to pause it when you can, it gives your brain and your ears a short rest which might help keep your creativity flowing.

Easily Embarrassed

The Dutch brothers Nick and Jeffrey van der Schilden and Peter Spaargaren have been exploring musical emotions with deep, atmospheric layers since 2006, forming the electronic act ‘Easily Embarrassed’. Combining various styles and flavors, from electro to ambient and from dub to psychedelic, they blend retro synthesizing with today’s sounddesign. Each album they release has a distinctly different flavor as their sound evolves. Personally my favorite track is the awesome "Moon People" from "Tales Of The Coin Spinner".

EE's Tips :

Music is emotion. Imperfections give character to your music. Also, create the music that you like the most. Don't get distracted and/or influenced by irrelevant external factors too much.

Mixing wise: Less is more! Keep in mind that every sound needs its own space. If you add too much, you will have to cut away too much to prevent a clashing and chaotic mixdown.

Last but not least: If you are a beginner, don't care too much about mastering. It's way more important to create a proper mixdown, because mastering can't fix everything. It's a big misunderstanding that mastering engineers are some kind of wizards that can transform the worst mix into a great sounding track. It's true that they are wizards, but they are not Gandalf


Naturelement is a psychill electronica music project by the talented 29 years old producer Dimitris Dritsas. Dimitris started his journey into music at the dawn of the underground psychedelic scene in mid 90's, collecting experiences and influences from outdoor festivals and parties in the magical Greek landscape.

After years of experimentation and a full album release, Chill-o-Matta, his sound has matured and developed offering listeners musical journeys to the inner self and the nature elements surrounding us all. '

Naturelement's Tip:

The key is the imagination to begin the trip into the sound! Just open your soul and tell with notes that you can't tell with words!

>> Part One of the psychill and ambient tutorial is here

Posted on 26.3.13 by PsyAmb TAG : | 4 Comments ( ADD NEW COMMENT )


Anonymous said... @ 16 April, 2013

Niceee!! Thanks

Antandra said... @ 21 August, 2014

Some really solid production tips for making ambient and chill music.

Anonymous said... @ 25 December, 2014

Inspiring tips on here! Can't wait to power my DAW back up and start experimenting. Thanks psyamb

Anonymous said... @ 19 August, 2015

Liked makyo's tips, and some others which where tech.

I disagree, tips of learning western theory of music, and angry tone for people , who try to avoid it.

Have been lucky been Thar desert with quawalli musicans, do i try to tell them learn western music theory first,

Thank you all your tips , like much your art, its important.

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