Dubspot Instructor Spotlight: Ming Talks New ‘Blackout’ EP, Crossing Genres, Production Techniques

Ming is an accomplished DJ, Grammy nominated Producer and Dubspot instructor. Following the recent release of his latest EP, Blackout, released on Datsik’s Firepower Records, we had a conversation with him to learn more about his production process, advice for young producers and how to stay versatile in an ever-changing musical landscape. 

Dubspot Instructor - MingDubspot: You seem to not discriminate against any genre when making tracks. how important is versatility in your sound?

Ming: My sound stems from an understanding of the connected nature of genres. I hear music as a sum of its elemental parts. For me, borrowing sounds from one genre to produce another is like putting together an outfit. Understanding how and where music is derived really helps in connecting genres. For example, the use of early techno in hip hop, or dub and soul in drum and bass allows me to use the elements of those genres to create something new that may seem disparate in its elemental form but, as a whole, creates a cohesive new piece of music.

DS: What are some production techniques that are consistent in producing a polished sound across all genres?

M: The most important part of creating a successful music production is to understand its final destination. I ask myself basic but important questions such as: Who is the audience? Is the song going to be played by DJs? Is it a single? Is it part of an album? When will the song be released? Will there be vocals on the track? What types of instrumentation, sound design or textures are used in this type of production? Are there formats (song form or structure) that other producers have used that have been successful for that genre? Once I have a clear understanding of where the track will ultimately land, then I can I focus on creating a song that will speak to my desired audience.

For example, if it’s a pop song, then there has to be a discernable verse and chorus. If it’s an instrumental dance track, then I need to work in an acceptable BPM and create a melody that speaks to the listener in the same way the vocal does in a vocal track.

I pay close attention to where each element lives with respect to frequency within the production. The placement of sound in the correct frequency can make or a break a genre-based production. For example, if the kick drum in a trap production is too low in frequency, it may render the mix unusable by other DJs and therefore make the production unsuccessful.

I’m also interested in the spatial relationship between each instrument and sonic elements. Naturally, the human brain tries to locate sounds in a three dimensional spatial plane. If it has to decipher too many planes because of overuse of reverbs or artificial delay spaces, then the melodic content of the music suffers. By limiting the amount of spatial effects in a production I’m able to focus the listener’s ear on the desired element and move that focus as the track progresses.

My recent Blackout EP on Datsik’s Firepower Records has a lot of this type of spatial interaction.

DS: How do you feel about aliases and using different monikers?

M: I’ve used a number of monikers over the years. In Ming+FS, we were primarily focused on hip-hop and drum and bass. We used the Leadfoot moniker for our early break beat material and Uncle Bubble for our two-step garage tracks.

I’ve also used the name Some Swans Are Evil (SSAE) to release drum and bass and the moniker Abstract the Ism to release experimental hip hop with fellow artist, Jumpshot. (I’ll be giving a full Abstract the Ism album Paper Dragon away for free for my hundred-thousandth ‘like’ on Facebook.)

I’m in the group Kelly Green that is a rock/electronic collaboration with Toby Martin from the Australian band Youth Group. We’re currently finishing our first full-length album.

Going forward though, I’m going to stay focused on my MING brand unless I’m part of a group and that group merits another name.

In short, my suggestion is use one name until that name is recognizable to the general public.

Dubspot Instructor - Ming 2DS: Drawing from your experience in the industry, do you have any advice about the business side of music?

M: Unfortunately, in my experience, most musicians misunderstand the business part of the “Music Business.” So much time is spent honing production and song writing skills that artists don’t develop the other skills necessary to bring their brand to the public.

It’s no longer enough to write a great song or create an interesting production. The reality is that most successful artists and producers learn to market and promote their own music. We are our own publicists, social media strategists, website designers, mailing list administrators, graphic designers, accountants and managers. Only when your career is off the ground and earning money can you attract outside help via a publicist, booking agent or manager.

DS: Can you talk a bit about your involvement in music for TV and film? Do you have any tips for young producers trying to get started?

M: I started licensing music to film and television while part of Ming+FS. Around 1999, I was also hired as a session musician to scratch on commercials for commercial music houses. One of the commercials we scored for Nissan ended with our being the featured actors playing ourselves in the commercial. Soon after, I graduated to production work in those same houses. Somewhere along the line I realized that I was making a lot of money for these other companies; so, in 2007 after leaving Ming+FS, I started my own commercial music company called Habitat Music. Habitat Music serves as the commercial music arm of my production and publishing company label Hood Famous Music, and we’ve scored music for everything from CSI New York, the Discovery Channel to commercials for Sears, Burger King, and Nokia.

The best way to get started is to listen and study the format. For a thirty second commercial, the music needs to get to the point very quickly. It’s often in a super concise arrangement and it cannot distract the viewer from listening to the commercial’s pitch message.

For film, I pay close attention to the mood and pace of a scene. The music is often the guide to how the viewer is supposed to be feeling about the characters’ interactions. The right music will help the scene play out smoothly and will add dimension to the characters.

DS: What do you enjoy about teaching Logic here at Dubspot? 

Logic is the digital audio workstation behind all of my productions. The course digs deep into the workings of Logic while promoting production concepts that translate to any DAW. I love seeing the students’ reactions when they realize that Logic X is powerful but easy to use. It’s a must class for anyone looking to understand the traditional DAW environment.

Check out Ming‘s latest EP, Blackout out on Firepower Records which debuted at #2 on Beatport’s hip hop chart and #45 on iTunes’ dance singles chart.  Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud.

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