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Ferry Corsten: Production Practices

One of the most well known and prolific DJ's and producers of all time, Ferry Corsten's music has become ingrained in the history of electronic dance culture. He routinely performs at the some of the worlds biggest festivals (EDC, Tomorrowland, Ultra) and has been steadily releasing new productions since the early 1990's, under his own name or as the pseudonyms System F, Moonman, Pulp Victim or Gouryella (originally with Tiësto). With a broad sonic palette he has reached countless people around the world through his music and live shows and has been frequently recognised by DJ Mag as one of the world's top performers. Ferry's 2018 project UNITY sees him teaming up with other iconic Trance acts with the aim of raising money for VH1’s Save The Music Foundation, which helps reinstate music programs in schools. On the eve of his Australian tour we were lucky enough to ask Ferry a few questions about his production process, his studio and what advice he has for upcoming musicians.

Tell us a about your current studio set up, what are the staples in a Ferry Corsten track in 2018 and how do you implement them in your projects?

My DAW of choice is Cubase and has always been. I’m crazy about Native Instruments Kontakt and some of the third party libraries - big fan of Spitfire Audio, Output, and Heavyocity, Omnisphere is always a main player. I tend to make my own sounds from them. Obviously I use Cubase for composing and arranging the tracks.

Can you tell us a little bit about the workflow you employ when creating a track (Do you always start with drums, melody idea or a particular sound?)

Usually, since my music is very melody driven, that is the first thing I look for in a track. Once I have that in combination with the chord progression, usually the track builds itself around that in terms of groove and vibe.

Ferry's studio.
How long would the average track take you to complete and do you work start-to-finish on the one track or go away and work on something else them come back with fresh ears?

When I start on a track I like finishing it straight away. The average would be 2-3 days. Obviously this is when I have time to be in the studio fully and don't have to prepare shows, travel, or other mundane work I have to do in connection to my profession ;)

Having worked on quite a few collaborations in recent times, most notably the UNITY project, can you tell us a bit about how you go address the creative process when doing a collab?

With the UNITY project there is never really a set of rules. I tend to send the other artists ideas of music I’ve been working on. Sometimes, they've sent me something as well. We take it from there, once we both feel comfortable with the initial idea and direction. So far all the collabs have gone pretty smoothly, keeping an open mind is key.

You’ve made some new Gouryella tracks in recent years, did you need to transport your production mindset back to those times or did the same principles apply today?

Due to the unique sound of Gouryella, I definitely had to go back to the mindset of Ferry Corsten 15 years ago as a starting point. Once I had that figured out again, it was easy to bring fresh elements to make it up to date.

Music technology is always advancing, what are some of the changes you’ve seen in your career and how have they improved your productions?

Of course when I started, everything was hardware, it was always a hassle if you wanted to revisit a project because the settings would be different. Of course most things, if not all, are software based now which makes it easier and faster to recall. The creative possibilities are also now endless which is an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time because when do you say this is good enough if there is so much to choose from?

Some of Ferry's vintage hardware.
Finally, could you give us your top 5 tips for up and coming producers?
  1. Listen and learn, list your 5 best producers and see what you like that they do and learn from it.
  2. Be Unique. Learn from it but do something different. Nobody likes a copy cat.
  3. Keep abreast with the latest software/ production developments. That is always handy.
  4. Network with other producers, it’s hard enough being alone in the studio all the time. It’s great to always have friends.
  5. Believe in yourself. It’s a blessing to be able to do what you love as a job especially in this industry. Positivity and believing in yourself will go a long way.

For more info on Ferry's Australian tour check and to purchase tickets to any of the shows, check out the links below:

And have a listen to his weekly radio show Corsten's Countdown:

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