September 28th, 2023Tech Talk

From Silence to Symphony: A Music Maker's Software Journey

Artists have completely changed the way they make beats. Composers used to start their creative process by staring at a blank music sheet. Today, most work on an empty music-making software track. Artists from all backgrounds and all countries can now download their Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) of choice and produce beats by themselves. To obtain the best results, choosing the right beat-making software for your needs is important. Learn how the Dutch producer San Holo started to make music on Ableton Live and how he found international success.

The Silence: Setting the Stage

Also known as San Holo, Sander van Dijck is among the industry's most celebrated electronic music producers. Born in the Netherlands in 1987, he was always drawn to music and started playing the guitar when he was 12. He even studied this instrument at the prestigious Rotterdam Conservatory, where he gained knowledge in music theory. But San Holo is also a self-learner who continuously pushes his own boundaries by experimenting with different genres and instruments.

The producer was exposed to electronic music very early on by his brother. In 2008, he started experimenting with Ableton Live and making his own beats. At the time, he played in traditional bands, but none of his bandmates understood his new passion for electronic music. Shortly after, he launched his musical project, San Holo. He was determined to explore new musical horizons and to have a complete say in the creative direction of his music.

Introduction to Ableton - The First Note

Today, Ableton Live 9 Suite is still San Holo’s Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) of choice. This music-making software is one of the most popular DAWs in the market, specifically for its flexibility in workflow, advanced capabilities, and user-friendly interface.

Receiving classical training definitely helped the artist set the foundation for his future career in music production. According to him, having some musical knowledge allowed him to create specific atmospheres and musical harmonies.

But San Holo’s genius is not only based on theory. His innate musical sense inspired him to explore his DAW’s possibilities to create new and different beats. With diverse tools and audio editing features, Ableton Live 9 was the perfect free beat-making software to turn his ideas into sound.

Experimentation - The Crescendo:

The platform’s “session view” feature allowed the artists to intuitively explore different ideas without defining a precise start or ending point. This feature is particularly helpful for electronic music producers who often like to create and play around with small loops. It allows them to work on a rough version of the loop and then integrate it in the “arrangement view” once it’s finalized. This shows the importance of choosing the right free music-making software for your needs.

In just a few years, San Holo went from playing the guitar to becoming an independent, all-around multi-instrumental ensemble with Ableton Live 9. Through trial and error, he started producing his first marketable beats. The artist first posted his creations to Bandcamp to share them with his peers. The young producer later discovered SoundCloud, where he started posting unofficial remixes when it was still acceptable, and producers didn’t have to worry about their accounts being deleted. He quickly started gaining popularity in the electronic music scene.

Challenges & Triumphs - The Symphony

San Holo burst into the electronic music scene with his remix of Dr. Dre’s The Next Episode, which gathered more than 2.7 million views on YouTube since 2014. The artist’s soft basses and melodic touches were considered innovative and quickly positioned him as one of the most talented producers of his generation. San Holo later gained widespread recognition with his debut album Album1, which includes tracks such as Brighter Days and Lift Me from the Ground.

Despite his talent and early success, the producer still faced some creative challenges, especially when it came to collaborations. While working with different artists is common in the electronic music scene, San Holo considers himself a perfectionist and struggles to understand other producers’ artistic vision. For example, he had worked on a new track called Alright, which he created from sounds he designed on a synthesizer. After a few listens, he felt it was missing a human touch. The artist asked the Dutch DJ Yellow Claw to send him some vocals, which he then mixed into his instrumentals to elevate the track. After this experience, which showed him how collaboration facilitated through DAWs could enhance his music, San Holo felt more open to working with other artists.

Every musician faces challenges when making beats. But with perseverance, resourcefulness and the technologies offered by different DAWs, they can find workarounds to reach their goals and elevate their music. 

Evaluation of Ableton Live 9 - The Encore

The Ableton Live 9 Suite music-making software has been crucial to San Holo’s success. From crafting unique basslines to improvising onstage, San Holo has become an expert at music production and a true showman.

For example, the producer uses Ableton Live 9 to trigger tracks with MIDI controllers while onstage. There is no set routine: he decides what he does as he goes. On top of his team’s preparation and support, San Holo wouldn’t be able to have this kind of flexibility on stage if it weren’t for the DAW he chose.

Ableton Live 9 is also known for offering:

  • Session view - a dual-view system that allows users to intuitively switch between two views (a rough version and a final one) to create tracks.

  • Audio-to-MIDI conversion - allowing users to turn sounds into MIDI data.

  • Improved audio warping - offering more accurate tie-stretching and pitch-shifting in audio recordings.

  • And more!

Advice for Fellow Music Makers - The Conductor's Notes

Every artist can benefit from different music-making platforms. What’s important is to evaluate your particular needs to choose the right DAW for you. Do you want to create tracks on stage? Ableton Live 9 could be the platform for you.

Moreover, no one becomes an expert in a day. Patience is the name of the game. With practice and resilience, you will learn to master your DAW of choice and create beautiful tracks. Follow your artistic intuition and do what feels right for you. There's no "one size fits all" approach to music creation.

San Holo’s musical journey shows how important it is to choose the right DAW for your needs. Through self-learning and basic music theory, he was able to craft unique tracks. He always stayed true to his beliefs and processes, which helped him set himself aside in the electronic music scene. Like San Holo, you can also build a successful career in the electronic music industry with the right DAW for your needs. Try BeatConnect for free, and sign up for your first Beat Battle!