Integrating synths and vst's with samples

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This post is about integrating synths and vst's with samples.  This is a fun one for me but also somewhat new to me as well.


As most of you know by now, my background in beat making history is strictly with samples inside the MPC and very little knowledge of playing any instruments.  I mentioned in a previous post that I have been experimenting with different vst sounds this year.  Honestly, this has taken my production to the next level.  If you haven’t tried this yet, I strongly recommend it.  For those of you out there not using samples, I would still suggest trying this method and see what happens for you.  


I start by tracking out my drum sequences and then I lay down the sample the way I imagine it will be used.  Nefarious trick of the trade: I found an iPhone app that I really like called “Key Detect.”  Using this app, you can isolate the sample and find the musical key that you are working in.  This is the first step to greatness.  This ensures that all of your sounds will blend together in harmony.  Then it is time to start finding the right sounds to complete the track: keys, pads, bass, synth etc.  Using this method, it can be easy to over do it, so here’s the pattern that I usually work with: I start with a lead, some keys, and a pad...then I add some bass and tweak the volumes.  The volume is important because you want everything to blend evenly.  You don’t want any one sound to overpower the others.  A well adjusted volume helps the beat sound full.  


Creating the beat this way should be a fun experience for you.  It's a chance for you to dig down deep and let your musical soul come out.  Feel the experience.  Don’t be so technical.  Experiment with both the sample and the synth.  As long as you stay in the key, you’re golden.  When I started using this method, it changed the quality and the sound of my beats.  It also helped me create beats that didn’t come from a sample.  If you are reading this and you only make beats with samples, I understand the struggle.  It is hard to make beats without a sample.  This process made my life easier when dealing with a beat that didn’t come from a sample.  It is easier to come up with melodies this way.  


I’ve been experimenting with with lots of different vsts.  If you’re looking for more natural sounds, I would suggest any native instruments, mostly Kontakt or even Omnisphere.  This has lots of natural sounds and is also good for scoring.  For other synths in my arsenal, I have Sylenth, Elektra X, Reaktor, Ray Blaster, Kontakt libraries, and lot more.  All of these vsts have great presets.  If you do enough searching for the sound you like, tweak certain parts so that you stand out and don’t sound like everyone else.  Have fun with this!  Make it about the experience and learning the process.  After a while, it becomes more and more natural.  This method has helped me add melodies to non-sampled beats a few different times.  You can actually talk out the sample and it ensures you will have a full beat that is very close to a replay.  You can even replace the sample with a made up melody!  


I know it can be a struggle transitioning to this new way of creating.  I hope this post can help you because this process really helped me.  Feel free to ask any questions you have with this method!  Comment here and share your own thoughts and experiences.  As always, I can be reached at



Digging in the crates, by DJ Nefarious

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In this post, I’m going to share some magical record digging experiences and some nefarious secrets of how and what I do when I dig!


Loud music blaring in my headphones is and will always be my happy place.  Growing up, I could always be found wearing headphones.  I got my first couple of records at age 13.  I had a suitcase turntable with speakers on either side.  My mother and father told me about their own record collections when I was very young.  When they spoke about their precious records, it was obvious to me how sad they were to see them go almost two decades before.  They taught me that records have a completely different sound than tapes or CDs.  You can hear certain instruments better and the sounds on vinyl are full and warm.  My first record collection looked a little something like this: Jimi Hendrix, Ramones, The Clash, White Stripes, and other bands of that nature.  After I bought my first set of turntables, I started purchasing hip hop records.  The hip hop records alone were awesome...until I found Serato and once the legendary MPC came along, sampling records became my life.  


I was off and running, trying to find anything I could get my hands on.  With all the soul and jazz influence in hip hop, I started learning about Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes, Earth, Wind and Fire, and other classics.  I grew up in a predominantly white area so these records weren’t always easy to find.  I was constantly finding classic rock, opera, folk music, and other stuff that I didn’t want to sample at all.  I went to every Goodwill and touch every single record they owned.  I would get strange looks from little old ladies wondering why this stylish young man wanted all these dusty records.  I was able to find a few store owners that felt my pain.  They would go to record conventions and bring back soul, funk, and jazz records to me.  My best advice to anyone starting their own collection is to become friends with the owner.  Tell them about what you do with records and show them that you are knowledgeable about your craft.  That will impress them.  Ask them what they like.  You might be surprised.  I found one of the best soul selections I’ve ever seen at a punk rock store.  It just so happened that the owner was obsessed with soul and funk.  Don’t ever give up finding YOUR records.  Do the research.  I used to read online forums and blogs, search for drum break records for weeks, find ones that were rare or just completely classic, and go to the stores with a list.  This will save you an insane amount of money.  Find producers that have records that they don’t like.  If they don’t like them, you probably do.  I have done that before.  The producer had no clue that there was a drum break on two of the records he gave me and I made a great song with a few of them.  I’m going to be real with you right now, I don’t listen to every single part of every record.  I don’t know anyone that does.  I also found some better tricks to make sample finding easier.  I bought a portable turntable to bring to stores with me to listen to the records before I bought them.  I learned about drummers, sax players, other instruments I found interesting.  I realized when you look at older records, if they have a dark ridge in certain spots, that means something magical is happening there.  Listen to the record without listening.  Yes, listening without listening.  If your ear is good enough, stuff jumps out at you.  Sometimes, I will distract myself by doing something else while “not listening” and all of a sudden, bang!  There it is.  The perfect 5 seconds.  Naturally, you just leap from the other side of the room!  At one point, I had thousands of records in 3 different rooms of my house.  When I made the big move to NYC, I realized that I had lots of unwanted crates and piles so my collection is a bit smaller BUT it’s a lot more useful.  I have a few crates of records with drum breaks that I like.  I keep the ones that I have already sampled separate from the ones that I would like to sample in the future.  I encourage all of you to go to shops that have $1 record bins frequently.  But remember to be smart about knowing the shops owners.  Some stores will always suck and are just a waste of time for you and the needs of your collection.  Other stores have so many records, the owners overlook records they had no idea they had in the store.  I love when that happens because they are surprised and impressed at your $1 record find!  So, be smart about the digging but also how your chop up the sample.  Think about how many producers are out there today.  We are all trying to stand out.  So, do that.  Stand out!  I won’t tell you what I have been sampling a lot lately, but it has been forming a new sound for my brand.  Mixing, chopping, and layering this new sound is incredible.  


OH!  Don’t forget about my last post how we talked about paying attention to the album art.  If it speaks to you, it is probably doing that for a reason.  Don’t overthink the digging.  Make it fun and serious.  Get a shit ton of records.  You can always resell the ones you don’t like or put them in a pile to be donated back.  (I do that all the time.)  


I’m grateful to share my experience and tips here.  If you have any questions, want to share what you’ve learned, or tell me about your own experience, comment below or reach out to me at  If there are any subjects you need help with, reach out and I will cover them in a future post or video.  


Peace y’all.  Now, go get dusty.








The Start of DJing and producing

Sound Mixtures

Through the journey of different gear, sounds, vst's and vinyl... Yes, vinyl!  I will be talking about that one a lot.  Thinking back to when I was a kid, I have always been passionate with anything involving audio.  I loved anything I felt I could control, especially gadgets.  The first time I saw someone scratching a record, (yes, you guessed it) my entire life changed.  Of course, I had no clue at the time but I was sure something happened: I became obsessed.  Now, I did not become a music producer or even a DJ overnight.  Actually, my first set of turntables were a pair of belt drives (I know all you DJ's out there can relate)!  I played around with these for about a year or so until my love of music took a backseat to my addiction of drugs and alcohol.  I let music slip away from me for a few years until I found sobriety.  I came back to my music with nothing but a vestax mixer, one belt drive and one direct drive for scratching.  I knew I would have to work hard to become the DJI knew I could be.  Heaven came early when I found  a pair of Technics and a whole collection of vinyl from a retired dj.  I began practicing day in and day out with real vinyl.  I was finally able to purchase Serato and taught myself the art of mixing and scratching.  One day, a friend of mine told me about a sampler called the MPC 1000... oh, baby.  The first time I hit those pads, I knew it was game over.  It took me about a year but I was finally able to master the sampler.  I was hooked.  I bought any little piece of gear I could find: rack mounts, MPC chords, slip mats, and RECORDS!  Record shopping became my newest habit.  I would go every couple of days.  People found out about my record obsession and started dropping them off to me by the crate.  As I mentioned before, my new sampler was love at first sight.  My true passion is and will always be my MPC.  It is the biggest weapon in my arsenal and the brain of anything I create.  I became friends with the owners of every small shop I could find.  I think they were pleasantly surprised when such a young kid would come into their store and talk about the oldies and ask weird questions like: "do you have any records that only have drums?"  They would make the funniest faces.  (This was before I knew how to sample my own sounds, of course).  To this day, artwork plays a key role in the records I buy.  If I can look at the cover and the artwork looks the way I want the tracks to feels, it's mine.  Don't get me wrong, it is also important to learn how to read the information on the back of the record: musicians, instruments, genre, style, the year it was released, etc.  All of that is really important.  You should also know how far down the rabbit hole you are willing to go.  I would binge for weeks looking for a certain style, collecting literally hundreds of records from stores and radio stations and realizing I only liked 10 of them.  All of this is part of the passion.  If you love something as much as I love creating music, you know exactly what I mean.  It's the entire process: the hunt, the methods, the gear, the smell of the dust.. OH GOD.. the smell of DUST!! That's my favorite part.  When you get home from the record store and realize the tips of your fingers are covered or your body is sore because you were hunched over in weird positions all day digging.  When I get home with the records, I turn the world off.  I put those records on alongside a large pot of coffee and some nicotine.  I look for something the makes my jump, makes my head move, makes me want to dance, makes me feel anything at all.  I look for grooves in the grains of the record, skip through the tracks quickly and record lots of little pieces of each song.  I can only explain it as a sexually spiritual experience.  After I record everything, I chop up the samples, program it onto the pads, find the right drum sounds, and begin to create.  I've recently been using the the MPC studio and the Akai MPK25.  I mentioned that I went though my phase of buying everything but I've since sold it all except these two pieces because that's all I need.  I always told myself that I wouldn't produce on the computer but with all of the vst's and software out there, I love using the computer now!!  My setup is perfect for me, someone who needs to be touching and playing with knobs but also needs a very fast work flow.  
Akai makes really solid gear and has never let me down with anything I've purchased from them.  


This post was to hopefully give you an insight on how I became a music nerd.  I will go into more detail about various things in later posts.  Thanks for reading my blog and I'm looking forward to chatting with you very soon.  
Drop any comments, ideas, or thoughts that came up when you read this.  What was your first piece of gear?  What's your process?  How did you fall in love with music?  Comment anything you want me to know!