Less is more with Stalvart John.
DJ, producer, label owner, radio show host and founder of Dynamite Disco Club & Ngoma Collective, Stalvart John has proven time and again that he is a force to be reckoned with. He is known for his deeper take on dance music and his unconventional attitude has made him the frontrunner for the house and disco scene in India.
His radio show (on Boxout.fm) and club event format - Dynamite Disco Club is a hit across the country gaining him ardent followers in all the major cities. Starting out as a radio show host, Stalwart built himself to the talent he is now and his impeccable taste in music got him producing records in no time. His tracks are supported by some of the biggest names in House & Disco worldwide.
We had the chance to speak to the dynamite personality himself and get some insight on his production process on Ableton.
“Recently I realized, maybe over the last year or so, that less is more and I apply that to my production process because of which my tracks right now are very simple, very clean but musically better.. “
“Back in the day when I started producing music, I used to start with a kick, drum parts, bass and build from there. But over the last 6 months my process has changed. I first find the lead element to a track, especially in disco it’s based around vocals. I select vocal samples that I find interesting and that will fit into the verse and chorus sections. Then I make the chords around it.
I don’t have an in-depth knowledge of music theory so I use the Scaler 2 plugin to build my chords. This plug-in is next level if you’re not too well versed with music theory. It’ll help you learn and build your chords and melodies very easily, you should check it out.”
“Once I know the scale of the track, I input the scale on Scaler 2 and start messing around while playing the main vocal loop and build my chord progression around that. For me this is the most time consuming thing and Scaler 2 helps me do this with ease. Scaler 2 also has a performance mode where I can play around with the rhythm of my chords. Once I’ve found a rhythm, then the next element I bring in is the bassline.
“I use the base notes from my chord progression and chop it up in a way that it fits the groove of the track. I also use the chord notes as my reference to build all the other musical layers in a way that the frequencies don’t clash. After this I work on the melodic parts - that could be guitars, pianos etc.”
“For bass sounds I go with classic synthesizer VSTz like the Arturia DX7 for wobbly basslines, IK Multimedia Modo Bass for guitar bass sounds, and also the Waves Bass Slapper for bass sounds that give the ‘live’ feel.”
IK Multimedia Modo Bass Plugin:
Waves Bass Slapper Plugin:
"Apart from these I love the synth bass sounds from the Arturia packs, Korg legacy pack and also the u-He Diva which is a super powerful plug-in."
Korg Legacy Pack Plugin:
u-He Diva Plugin:
"For guitar sounds I love using the Rob Papen RG plugin. It’s perfect for those nice disco riffs."
Rob Papen RG Plugin:
“The next thing I work on is building my string section. I sometimes use the preset sounds from scaler 2 itself, apart from that the NI Kontakt library is also a favourite for string sounds. I use Kontakt instruments a lot in my tracks. I try to avoid as much digital synth sounds as I can, to keep things sounding natural and organic.”
Native Instruments Kontakt Library:
“Now we move on to drums. I start with the kick. I use samples from loopcloud. That’s my go to source for all my sample needs. It has a great filtering system so I use that to get exactly the kind of sounds that I need.”
“Once I build the kicks I start bringing in the hats and other percussion. Here to avoid frequency clashes I either chop up my percussion samples or use a gate plugin. Let me show you this really interesting gate plug-in that I use - The RX 950 AD/DA convertor.”
"I remember seeing this plugin in one of the masterclasses and I’ve been using it on my percussion ever since. It compresses the sound a little bit and adds a little bit of colour that I like.
Once my core sounds and structure are ready I then proceed to add the backing vocals and any other fillers I need to finish the track. I then go into doing my mix down."
"As I said earlier, my process has completely changed in the last 6 months, even when it comes to mixing down my tracks. Earlier I used to mix on the go while I produce each part of my track. Now I don’t even touch an EQ during the production phase. I make sure when I layer each sound in my tracks that there are no frequency clashes between each other.
This is where choosing the right sounds for your track is very important. If you have the right sounds, with high quality, you won’t have to do much during mix down. Just the basic EQ’s, compression, saturation etc.
I do add reverbs/delays on certain sounds so that it adds to the vibe. I use return tracks for this. I already have this set in all my sessions, there will be return tracks for long reverb, short reverb, long delay, short delay & parallel compression."
"I do this one specific thing for my reverbs. I set the decay time based on the bpm of the track.
I calculate this using the formula - 60000/bpm and multiplying it by 2. This gives me an approximate value for setting my decay and pre-delay times."
You can read more about this method here - https://www.homestudiosimplified.com/p/reverbdelay-calculator.html
"This gives me a very clean reverb and it doesn’t mud up my mix. I use the stock Ableton reverb and delay itself on my returns. And for parallel compression I switch between Waves SSL G glue compressor or the CLA 76 compressor."
Waves SSL G Compressor Plugin:
Waves CLA-76 Compressor Plugin:
"On my Master channel I use the Waves VU Meter. There’s a trick I learnt from the Waves Masterclass - when your kick alone is playing, the VU meter should hit -3dB and when you add your sub and/or bass the VU meter should hit 0dB. This is a good Kick to Bass ratio you can start with and bring up the levels of the other elements with this as the foundation. You can do this method with any analog modelled VU meter as well."
"For Spectrum I use Voxengo Span. This is my favourite spectrum analyser. I also use a s(M)exoscope to see the waveform of my sounds. I can check for unwanted peaks and trim them down."
"And that’s it, this is how I keep my mix downs also simple and clean and then send it off for mastering."
Huge thanks to Stalvart for taking the time to talk to us and show us how he approaches his projects. As you can see Stalvart also sticks to the less is more approach, something he’s come into with years of experience as a producer and swears by it.
If you’ve liked these methods and it has helped you in your own production process, do drop a comment below.
You can follow & listen to Stalvart's music on the following links:
Stalvart John on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/stalvartjohn/
Stalvart John on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/3sWYkQ9F0l2Mto9NFOhY8Z
Stalvart John on Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/in/artist/stalvart-john/id982135157
You can also tune into his monthly radio show ‘Dynamite Disco Club’ on boxout.fm. It airs every second Wednesday of the month at 6 PM IST - https://boxout.fm/residents/stalvart-john/episodes