Today we will discuss sound design and modern music production with the founders of Singomakers.
Singomakers — samples and plugins has been used by many professional music producers like KSHMR, Chris Lake, Joachim GARRAUD, 6IX9INE, Oak Felder, Demi Lovato, Dannic, Hardwell, Swanky Tunes, in music released on Warner Music, Spinnin' Records, Ultra Music and many more!
— Hello, guys! I’ve known Denis for ages, but it’s our first meeting with Yakov in person. Happy to see both of you!
DK: How are you, man, so glad to see you!
YM: Hi, nice to meet you!
— By the way, my first acquaintance with Denis, or his voice, to be more precise, took place thanks to his project Kuraj-Bambey, which has been voicing over a bunch of TV series, including How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory. In a couple of years I had the opportunity to meet him personally. How did you guys meet?
DK: Both of us used to communicate via a small DJ forum in 2006-2007, where enthusiasts like us uploaded their music and DJ mixes. We lived in different cities, but we chatted and discussed professional things there. In 2008 I started doing voice overs and dubbing with my “Kuraj-Bambey'' project, and quitted music for several years. However, since I’ve been a music enthusiast for all my life, I’ve started to produce my own tracks back in 2015 with the launch of my music podcast “TOO HOT!” Yakov commented on one of my tracks on Soundcloud that he dug this sound, and I texted him back: “Bro, it's been a while, but don’t you remember us on that DJ forum?” He answered: “Damn, it was like 10 years ago! Everything has changed.
I run my own sample pack label and we produce sounds for EDM and music producers now”. Finally, we met in person in 2019, when I visited Singomakers\IQ Samples\Samples headquarters studio in Tula. In four days back then we produced and released five electronic tracks together, and that was the start of a good friendship between two people with the same vision and shared love for music.
YM: As we worked in the studio, I remember Denis saying: “Let’s take these samples and I will play the melody over them”. I agreed and added that we could use any Singomakers samples to make our music.
DK: And then I said: “Bro, that’s dope. I’m a big fan. This sounds amazing”.
YM: “You should be our ambassador!”, I laughed then.
DK: You did, but that is the very thing that happened.
— Tell us a bit about Singomakers.
YM: Singomakers is an international team of producers, musicians and sound designers. I founded the label 11 years ago, and since then, we have created several sub-labels, including IQ Samples and Class A Samples. It has become more than just a label; it's more of an association...
DK: A creative collective I’d say…
YM: Right. We are a collective of creative and talented people who have become very close friends, moving musical progress forward every day.
— So, you create the beats that the musicians all over the world use for their music pieces?
DK: Firstly, we create ideas, then those ideas transform into music phrases, loops and patterns. Then producers take our samples and create something absolutely new with it. Shaping it into tracks that go viral on music charts or TikTok. But it always started with a sample first. That is why our slogan is “Singomakers: we make the future”.
YM: Precisely. We make sounds, loops, voices, basses, guitar loops, presets for synthesizers and, in general, anything that musicians and producers may need to create music, advertising jingles, scoring the movies, etc. We exclusively work with Loopmasters and Loopcloud, which is one of the most popular samplepack platforms in the world.
Moreover, this is all royalty free: if a user has bought a bank, he can use it in his works and without extra royalties for us. We also make music software – namely, plug-ins for audio processing, which are also very popular among music producers.
— Could you mention a few of your beats that were used to create popular songs that our readers might have heard?
YM: Our sounds were used by Demi Lovato, KSHMR, 6ix9ine, Twenty One Pilots. Some of them have collected more than 2 billion streams, about $6 million of royalties for each track. They were also used in various films, TV series and programs by Disney, Marvel, Fox, Discovery. Last but not least, our sound jingles in the “America's Got Talent” show.
Examples of tracks created using Singomakers and IQ Samples sounds:
— WOW! How does the process of creating music look like? I understand it very well with graphics. Music, however…
YM: There are plenty of ways to do it – from creating sound from scratch on synthesizers, by combining and changing various waveforms, noises and their post-processing, to recording sounds that surround us on professional recorders, and even those that are not audible to the human ear – for example, interference that creates magnetic fields on electronic devices. And, of course, just recording various instruments in the studio.
DK: The process is very similar to design and graphics, by the way, since i have a degree in Graphic Design too. Everything starts with an idea, then you have to understand how to transform this idea into a sound. Next, the practical step of using DAW follows, same as designers using design software (DAW - Digital Audio Workstation i.e. Logic Pro X, Ableton Live, Pro Tools – DUROV’S CODE).
— Do you play any musical instruments?
YM: You don’t have to play if you want to produce music. Vice versa: those who know how to play, most often do not know how to write or produce a sound. I can play the piano a little, but most of the work is done in DAW on a laptop.
DK: Sure, but you have to learn music theory anyway. Technology nowadays is so advanced that you can play piano chords and any instrument in the world using your laptop keyboard only. But never stop to educate yourself and spread that knowledge too. For example, we release music production courses at “Producer Tech” and “Loopmasters” platforms.
— Is it difficult to invent something new, or is there no notion of “new” in music?
YM: Depends on the genre of music. Electronic music is always #1 for me because it always pushes forward the progress in the music industry. Everything that is invented in electronic music appears in all other genres in a year. As soon as this happens, it ceases to be fashionable in electronic music and we invent something new.
DK: As a sample pack label, we should be on top of that movement. I mean, we should at least try to predict electronic music trends and create packs that will engage music producers on creating new music and subgenres in the next 6-9 months.
— Let’s switch to sound design and sound logos. Could you cite a couple of the most successful examples of it?
DK: A Netflix’s “TUDUM” sound, of course. Also almost all major Hollywood Studios from Warner Bros. Pictures or Universal Pictures have their signature music themes at the movie opening.
YM: One of my favorites is a classic Mac welcoming sound. Of course there are such examples created by Singomakers too, but we can't talk about them because of the NDA. But these companies are known by everyone.
— I'll add my own: McDonald's sound logo (Parapapapa) and EA sports’. And, of course, the ones from my childhood: SEGA, Nokia, MGM, GTA and ICQ. Probably, the most powerful and intense project with a sound branding personality was in the game Mortal Kombat as well. But let’s proceed and talk about the role that sound plays in communications. Can a person have his own sound identics?
DK: I recorded my original audio ID around 15 years ago, and I am still using that very sample for all my voiceovers and music works as a brand ID. as an audio mark. And it works. Still.
YM: Yes, it works like a leitmotif in a movie. It is a special soundtrack that is attributed to a specific character. In modern society, it is important to create your own brand and to care about recognition, especially for professionals or companies. For example, when Batman appears and you hear his personal melody/theme, recognition enhances the whole effect. Those same goosebumps appear due to a combination of what you see and hear. If you want your brand to be a Batman, create your leitmotif.
— What do you think about AI? Is it a competitor or a tool?
YM: You will not be replaced by a neural network, you will be replaced by a person using neural networks.
DK: We keep an eye on technology and how it develops. However, for example, the Voice AI systems will never replace a real actor, his acting skills, emotions and human tone changes. Creating music by AI will never possess human feelings, soul and stories are missed behind that AI-created music. These are only patterns. And, sure, Yakov is right. At least, it needs a human-being to operate and to control such things, to humanize them.
— Taking into account the development of modern technologies, how has the creation of music changed in the last 15 years, for example?
YM: It has become much easier and more accessible. Previously, there were very few companies like us, you could count on your fingers. Currently, the market of sound design and sample pack companies is already oversaturated - the quality is lame catastrophically, but the natural selection rule still works: the strongest survives.
DK: Cheers to that, brother! (laughing)
— What equipment do you use on a daily basis?
YM: Each artist of our company has his own studio, but there is also a flagship one. We have a lot of equipment from such brands as Moog, Korg, Roland, Soyuz, UAD, Access Virus, N-Monitors, Erica Synths, Arturia, Avalon, Manley, etc. Some brands send us their new synths, monitors, mics, software etc, just for the promotion. As for the new synths, we can use them to create new sounds for our sample packs. People like it and then buy their original equipment too. We love such collaborations.
DK: Since I am more of “on the run” guy, all I have to grab is my laptop, iPad with music apps on it, my Antelope Audio Axino mic and - old but gold - Beyerdynamics headphones.
DK: Ableton Live, Logic Pro X on a laptop. Korg Gadget 2 and Apple Garageband on iPad.
YM: Again, everyone at Singomakers has their own preferences. As DAWs, we use Logic Pro X, Cubase, Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Bitwig, FL Studio, etc. Regarding plugins, there are hundreds of them for different tasks, and we are constantly looking for new ones to provide more diversity of sounds and ideas.
DK: We develop our own Singomakers audio plugins as well, so we are looking forward to invading that market too.
YM: We’ve already released Fatmaker, Magic Stereo, Cristal Eq, Phat Booster. All our plugins are available for Mac OS and Windows. Kick Tweak is our flagship plugin, its ambassador is legendary music producer and artist Chris Lake. Other plugins are also in the arsenal of artists like Hardwell, Dannic, Joachim Garraud, DOD, W&W, Swanky Tunes, Filatov & Karas and many more. And our new plugin Faturator is coming up very soon. Stay tuned!
— Has the culture of consuming music changed lately?
YM: It has, and it never stops to. With the appearance of the possibility to download digital music 17 years ago, there was a huge boom in piracy. People began to treat music with less reverence. Well, I downloaded the track for free and it doesn't matter that the artist is sitting in his home studio penniless. 5-7 years ago that has changed with the arrival and dominance of streaming.
It makes no sense to download, because everything is convenient if in one place for a reasonable monthly fee. Streaming has actually killed piracy in the music industry. That's cool.
DK: Although, 38 millions tracks have had zero plays on music streaming services last year. Lord have mercy!
— Do I get it correctly: the musical piece that was created with tender in studio can sound differently in headphones or through speakers? What could be done to fix it?
YM: You need a good sound engineer, who will give you a proper mixing and mastering.
DK: And go get yourself AirPods. If it sounds good in your AirPods, you can be sure that millions of other AirPods owners will hear the same sound that you hear. Neat little trick at least for bedroom producers.
— You say, it is easy and simple. Music can be done on a smartphone. Now, sitting in a Dubai cafe, can we create a musical sample?
YM: Easy. I love such challenges. I always carry a laptop, headphones and a portable recorder, if occasion happens. We can now make an audio jingle for Durov’s Code.
DK: Hold my Moroccan tea. I’ll go get my iPad. You won’t believe, how many Billboard Charts hits have been written in Garageband.
— Wait a second. We need no studio equipment? A laptop, a talent and a little time?
YM: I would say, the value of talent is exaggerated. Effort, practice, and hard work count. And a little bit of magic, of course.
DK: We are talking David Blain’s type things. Real street magic. (laughing)
— Great! I suppose you could describe the whole process with examples.
YM: We will start with the Xfer Serum synthesizer, one of the most popular synths in music production and sound design today. Switch on two oscillators. One is a “triangle” and another one is “saw”.
— Are these movie names?
YM: (laughing) Nope, these are the types of soundwaves. Every sound around us has its own type of wave. We can hear them mixing and then our brain recognizes it as either a car alarm, or is it bird singing. Ok, next we have to filter this sound and put a distortion effect to it. And filter again.
— Why so many filters?
DK: Well, same as filters in Instagram masks, they are required to make the sound more interesting. Pure sound waves are very rare in nature, most of what we hear around us is already mixed with noises and nature filters and sound reflections.
YM: Now we play a chord to it. Then export it to .WAV format. We need this step to create something like an old school sampling effect. Now, we are slicing this sound into three parts, and adding some synthesized noise. Next, we have to put some reverb on it. Valhalla VintageVerb is our favorite here. Adding some BitCrusher effect to get more of that cyber style feeling since it’s Durov and Code in your naming. Voila, here is your new signature sound.
— It’s a great result! We will ask our telegram followers to access Durov’s Code newest jingle.
Follow our Telegram channel: Durov's Code
Let’s switch to the next point. Who of the modern musicians, in your opinion, is a true innovator?
YM: As I said, electronic music invents something new every six months, new genres and subgenres are constantly appearing. Most often this happens, when someone comes up with something new and unique, and a new subgenre of music appears. The one who is setting the trend now is Fred Again.
DK: Definitely, he is. His album and collabs with Sonny and Kieran (Skrillex and Four Tet - DUROV’S CODE) is the most innovative and soulful thing that happened to electronic music last year. But Sonny's new albums are good too. (Skrillex has released two albums in February 2023 - DUROV’S CODE). I really liked the new “Jungle” album by The Blaze as well.
These two french cousins made an absolutely sweet musical masterpiece. I also recommend you to check Macklemore’s new album “Ben”. Mack is back on his BS with some 80’s nostalgia indie sounds and with absolutely genius rhymes and punchlines.
— Noted. Which artists of all time have influenced music the most?
DK: Beethoven, The Beatles, 2Pac, Portishead, Aerosmith, Massive Attack, Eminem, Luther Vandross, Elton John, Alicia Keys, Moby, Burial, Jamie XX, Daft Punk, as well as music producers who became artists: Timbaland, Pharrell Williams.
YM: Michael Jackson, Madonna, Kraftwerk, Faithless, The Prodigy, Notorious B.I.G, Eminem, Chemical Brothers, Scooter, Donna Summer, Fatboy Slim, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, MR Oizo. I have a big list, to be honest.
— What do you think about bootlegs (audio or video diffused without copyright – DUROV'S CODE)?
YM: With tolerance. I’ve change my opinion, however, when I found terrible remixes of my own Rezone tracks on the web.
DK: Come on, man! I really love your Soundcloud bootlegs. Your version of Manizha’s “Vanya” is always in my DJ playlist, when I'm gigging. And you, guys, should definitely check his ‘Sherlock Holmes’ TV Show Music Theme flipped into a dance anthem.
— You mean, you did a bootleg yourself, made it MP3 and uploaded it to the net?
YM: Precisely so. We do it on professional ground, however, with respect for the author and his original version. And, of course, all copyrights are reserved to their respective owners. Bootleg is used for promotional purposes only.
DK: By the way, MP3 is an outdated format. All patents are expired. Most music streaming services use lossless audio formats now. We just export to .WAV all our samples.
— Do you perform or participate in music fests?
YM: Yes, I tour quite often as a Dj and also gig with my live electronic project with my synths and vocalist in clubs and festivals.
DK: COVID-19 ruined almost two years of DJ gigs for me, but now I’m back on track. This summer I’m planning to play some more DJ gigs and participate in a festival in Cyprus this June.
— Can you describe the most emotional moment related to the music you create?
DK: Probably, the first time I played my own tracks at a music festival in front of a crowd.
YM: The moment when my track was played by the legendary Pete Tong on BBC Radio 1 “Essential selection”. My heart was pounding so hard that I was actually afraid that I was dying!
— What is your favorite musical piece at the moment?
DK: Man, there are almost 400 songs only in my “Favorites” playlist, i can’t choose one. Let’s see the latest song that I listened to on my iPhone. Oh, it is Nelly - “Getcha Getcha”. Big “Hello” from the 2000s, golden era of R&B.
YM: One of my favorite tracks of all the time is Planet Funk - Chase The Sun.
— The last question: give a piece of advice to young creators who aspire to make music.
DK: Love music and listen to good pieces. Explore different music genres. Try to find out why you like that exact music element or the instrument featured in the song and how you can transfer that into your own musical style. Always keep your mind free open to ideas and feelings of your own.
Then go get a music app. Garageband is free, simple and powerful, though. There it is. Now you can start writing your own music and beats. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and always remember to put that little piece of your soul in everything that you do.
YM: Keep on learning and developing your skills, improve the sound and its quality. Never listen to those who start giving you advice on the creative part of your work, otherwise it won't be your own anymore - you can listen to advice regarding mixing and mastering, but not in the area of creativity and ideas!
There will always be another musician who will tell you: everything is cool, but I would have done it differently. That's when you'd better stop him. listen to yourself and do what you want, not what the industry or label managers requires of you. This is the only way you can invent something new, fresh and original and be the next person who will make the future of sound. Like we do. Good luck!