Dive into ‘Start Small (Growth Mix)’, the new extended mix of the previously released single from Ninajirachi
Ninajirachi has been successfully building her brand of electronic music since 2016 and what’s further impressive is she’s all in-house on the writing, production and mixing.
May 2022 saw the first release in over a year from Ninajirachi. She dropped Start Small, a self-affirming banger reminding us to start small, watch out and don’t get too far ahead.
Just this week, June 29th (to be exact), Ninajirachi dropped the extended mix of the single called Start Small (Growth Mix), and she’s opened up the Ableton Live set to show you all the secrets, tricks, processing and a few choice plugins she loves.
Read on as she talks through the parts of Start Small (Growth Mix).
“The drums were the first part of this song that came together. I started by making a loop from some audio samples and they became the drums that you can hear in the drop.
I layered a few different kick and stomp sounds together to create the perfect tone and character – same with the hats. After the first hat sound comes in, they don’t rest until the end, which keeps the rhythm moving even throughout the more ambient moments.
The three different hat sounds moving forward and backward in the mix means that the sound doesn’t become incessant, it just becomes as present, airy, sharp, soft, noisy, etc. as it needs to be in each moment.
Fleshing out the drums from that point was very easy, because all I had to do was subtract elements from the loop that I had made so that the rhythm was more sparse in the less energetic sections of the song. The different drum sounds gradually stagger in, pull pack for the build up, drop in altogether for the big bass moments, repeat, then stagger back outwards for the outro.
The kicks have been group processed with a bunch of saturation and compression, and the snares are running through an Auto Pan with fast settings to make them feel nice and wide. I like to mix as I go, so it goes without saying that virtually every track in this project has been EQ’d and compressed to some degree. You’ll see those devices in the screenshots but I won’t talk about them because I don’t wanna be boring haha.”
Percussion & FX
“My favourite part of this song is its percussion – there were so many happy accidents along the way that made for really interesting percussive moments. I used a lot of found sounds and foley like keyboard and mouse clicks, mouth sounds, etc.
The break sample that appears for a little while in the build up is being run through an Auto Pan and a jittery Shaper mapped to the frequency filter of an Overdrive, which makes it feel more alive. A lot of the percussion is grouped and being processed altogether with Portal, which I automated to be more or less intense depending on what I needed for different parts of the song.
Most of the percussion is also running through various amounts of slapback delay and OTT. One of my favourite plugins is Soothe2, which I’ve used virtually everywhere but particularly on the percussion to soften some of the crude foley recording artefacts.
I should mention that I made Start Small in December 2021 after returning home from a Melbourne trip where I made a bunch of music with Swick, who has a similar taste in percussion timbre to me. He is one of my favourite producers and our sessions were really fun and inspiring, I came away with so many ideas.”
“There are a few different bass sounds throughout this song. Up until the drop, there is a basic organ bass-esque sound that I made in Wavetable and processed with some filtering and Overdrive.
Two other bass sounds take the lead in the drop and call and respond to each other. One of them is a one-shot sample that I processed using filters, OTT and Overdrive, and the other is a layered sound that I made using Operator and the same processing, plus Trash2.
The sound is split up across four tracks so that I could process the sub and tops separately from the meaty ‘bass’ part. There’s also an ‘ambience’ layer on top with a bunch of reverb that makes the bass feel really full and wide.”
Chords & Melodies
“The glitchy bell chords at the very start of the song were made using an Omnisphere patch run through Portal, reverb and delay. This was the second idea that I came up with after the drums, and those two parts layered together formed the first instance of the song.
After a little while, an Xpand vocal choir patch appears and plays the repeated A minor chord which is sidechain gated to the hi-hat. It’s an important background element that really grounds the mood leading into the breakdown. I used Thermal on it which is another Output plugin that I love.
The chords and melody that you hear throughout the breakdown, leading into the drop, was maybe the last big part that I added to the song. I created the drop and the intro simultaneously, but I was struggling to bridge the two and find a meaningful way to transition between them – they sounded like parts from two different songs.
I ran the same chord progression from the intro synth through a few layered Omnisphere presets and an Ableton Wavetable patch that I made to create the trance-esque chords, and filtering these upwards over time gave me the meaningful build up that I needed to move into the drop without it sounding corny or forced.
The melody throughout this section was made with the same Xpand vocal choir patch as I had used earlier, just layered with a mallet sample in Simpler for a harder transient.”
“The vocal recording in this song was a very stream-of-consciousness moment. I didn’t ‘write’ anything, I just started recording into my iPhone voice memos and that verse was what came out.
I didn’t edit it or change any words – what you can hear was the first and only ‘take’. I think I initially intended to replace it with something ‘better’ down the track, but the first recording made so much sense and in the end there was no reason to swap it out.
The vocals were pitched up a tone and processed using Thermal and a bunch of delay. The most important device on the chain for me is the delay – I love how the slapback effect becomes more disorderly towards the end of the song.
I used some distortion and Little Alterboy formant shifting on some of the other vocal layers as well. There is some Waves Tune on the ‘lead’, but since it’s a spoken word track, it’s being used more as a creative tool than a pitch corrector.”