How to make melodies sound vintage

Giving melodies that “vintage” or retro feel is something that’s been a staple in production for a long while now. But there are a few ways to really elevate that old school vibe.

Here are my gems for getting the perfect vintage touch:

1) Tape emulation plugins (duh). This one’s so obvious I’m not going to even gonna go into it. There’s a bunch of free and paid one’s out there. I’ve been using the free plugin chow tape a lot recently.

2) Use a bitcrusher as a filter. Seriously. Kilohearts’ bitcrusher has a great feature that lets you control the ADC and DAC quality. This removes the artifacts and classic “bitcrush sound” and turns it into a bitrate reducing filter! Just make sure you’re only reducing the bitrate and not crushing anything! Cymatics Origin is a free tape emulation plugin that utilizes this concept.

3) Use percussion and ear candy elements. I can’t stress how over looked this is. Old samples have drums and the like. While you shouldn’t add full drum pattern adding some subtle percs and ear candy will really elevate your sound. Kicks also sound crazy in a sample if you know how to sauce it!

4) Pay attention to sound selection. (I’m a big fan of processing modern sonics with vintage processing so this is in no way a hard rule). If you want that true vintage feel though, make sure you’re using era appropriate sounds. LISTEN to old music that you’re being inspired by, not just other producers samples. Do your research on the era, and you’ll learn some gems. For exampe, EMT-140 plate reverbs were utilised a lot in the 60s and 70s and fit really well in the vintage sound.

5) Pitch up, process, pitch down. Doing this really adds depth to your samples. Pitching up, then adding your effects like EQ, compression, reverb, phasers etc, then pitching back down completely changes the vibe. The great thing about this, is depending on how you pitch up your original melody, it will give you different feels. Transposing your midi will give the character ,of the higher notes on the instrument (EG softer notes on a piano). Pitchshifting audio without timestretching (playing faster and slower) has an effect on timebased effects in a unique way. Pitchshifting audio with time strtetching (plaing the same speed) adds some real grit and dirt depending on how much you pitch it.

6) Bounce and chop in a sample. You don’t even have to chop it in an intersting way. Just adding chops will give it and extra “sample-y” vibe. That being said, if you wanna add a real vibe, bounce your stems, and chop them individually, and build your full melody like that. Doing this adds a unique feel and really lets you play with things like silence. I tend to avoid doing this with bass and drums but that’s not to say you can’t

7) Combine all techniques. If I make vintage samples, this is how I process them:
Tranpose MIDI up ~6 semitones>add processing like eq, reverb etc, finishing with a tape plugin and a bitcrushing filter (just to clean the top end, not to filter hard)>bounce stems>drop individual stems into a sampler, pitch back down in sampler, and chop up>add bass and ear candy.

I hope you found something useful in the tips. Be sure to experiment with all these processes on different kinds of sounds to see what unique vibes you can come up with!

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