Cohesion in eclectic sets?

As a maker of electronic music I’m still learning. As a listener I come from a clear background of techno parties, so I’m used to locking into a hypnotic kind of slow evolving cohesion. Not really accustomed to listen to more eclectic sets. But as a maker I tend to not create that cohesively (yet?). Not that I make eclectic stuff for the sake of it, but when I line them up in a try-out techno set I realize that they diverge more then dancefloor sets I’m accustomed of.

When preparing/doing a live set, do you stick within a certain narrative, genre, bpm range, or stylistic framework, to keep people locked in? Maybe that’s just a good musical method to help people enjoy? Or if you play more dynamic/eclectic, are you thinking of ways to keep the set being cohesive? Or not at all?

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I’m also curious about this and come from a similar perspective. As a DJ I liked making ‘eclecticness’ (within house/techno) my kind of personal signature. As a producer I’m still finding my sound and have tried lofi house, trancy stuff, melodic, etc. My first few livesets were super diverse, but upon listening afterwards I realized those livesets were more an excuse to try and play all the different things I’d produced, and weren’t backed or grounded by any coherent, cohesive concept. Listening to livesets from (for example) David August or Voiski kind of changed my perspective on this - the cohesiveness was really alluring and hypnotic, even if it means having to give up things that might be fun to make or explore.

I’m taking a different approach this time around:

  1. Use a limited set of tools for production. I’m limiting myself to DT, DN, OT and Peak for extra sauce. There’s still obviously a lot of sonic ground I can cover, but this limits both palette and workflow.

  2. Do a little ‘soul searching’ to come up with a concept. Who am I, what is my story, what story do I want to tell with my set? What does that sound like? This will help me for the next step:

  3. Produce A LOT, then filter. I got this tip from several more experienced producers. Going for quantity over obsessing on quality (at first) helps you in the end to generate enough ideas that a few of them are good. It also means that when I filter down by my ‘what fits my concept?’ criteria above, I still have enough material to compose an entire set. Therefore, I’m jamming a lot this winter, and in the spring I’ll throw out 80%.

Would love to hear what approaches others are trying!

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Fun question! I am relatively new to this but this how I am currently preparing a live set:

  • I drafted a rough sketch of how the liveset will progress in terms of bpm, mood & genre and energy. For this I’ve created a spreadsheet where I copy-paste lots of short snippets of music (from my music library, or soundcloud/youtube urls).
  • Then I start to work on the key parts of my set based on those snippets. I try to work/develop a certain sound that kind of flows throughout the whole set.
  • For the transitions I try to mix in key as much as possible and stick to a certain genre for a little while (for example: at least 2 -3 elektro tracks before switching to techno/house). If I wanna transition from melodic track A to melodic track B I would often make a percussive track in between that can connect those two (both in terms of mood, gerne or key). For this I agree with @fffiiissshhh to focus more on quantity than on quality. Not every track needs to be super creative or crazy banging, sometimes they just fill a certain role in the mix.
  • Now I’ve got a bunch of demos ready that are chopped up and sampled in ableton with each track divided in 3/4 parts (bass, perc, melodic, etc). They are all structured according to the rough draft of the whole mix which allows me to do lots of fun transition between tese tracks, often switching quickly between different genres. Still work in progress but so far super satisfied with this approach!
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Good topic!

Sometimes I like to cut a loop from two neighbouring tracks and overlay them 50/50. Listen to that on repeat repeat repeat. That way I can kind of feel out which elements work together and which ones don’t.

Remixing your own stuff also makes things more coherent.

Letting some elements of one track overextend into the next track is good to. Or maybe reintroduce these elements later on, so the listener remembers things. Have the same underlying melody played by two different sounds/voices is also nice.

Transition patterns that you only hear for a handful of seconds seem to tie things together pretty well too.

But really, a hard surprising cut here and there is nice too. Suddenly entering a different room, instead of running down the same evolving tunnel.

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This really depends on the story you want to tell.
Is your set a like a part of a party or event? Say you prepare a warm-up or peak time sound?

A concept that I have in my mind is a set that’s like the compressed version of whole night of clubbing.
Starting with IDM ambient stuff going into heavy dub sounds, non-4/4 beats, going from deeper to heavier styles, doing some trancy and very emotional at the end as a closing.

Stylewise and tempo wise I find it okay to switch even with rather abrupt transitions.
Mixed style event and party goers seem to be very open to style and tempo changes.
We techno-heads want a constant seamless stream of sound, but not everybody ticks like that.

The point I want to make: don’t fixate yourself to ideas only you care about.
Of course if you can make smooth transitions, why not? I’d argue that you as the creator got the power to make tracks that fit nicely together.

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And there it ties into what @fffiiissshhh was saying, that it helps to have enough material to pick from, to be able to really choose what story you want to tell. The latest two sets that I did were a bit uncohesive in part because I only wanted to use material I recently made within the one project I was working in. It’s a bit of a pain to move tracks between projects between Rytm and OT; especially with sample management:)

In that regard it proves also fruitful how I’m currently making tracks/sketches within single Patterns; instead of built up with multiple patterns and Parts. Way easier to commute between Projects.

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This is an interesting topic, as I am also putting together possible sets from aprox 50 or so ambient / IDM / dubby tracks I have in my OT (these are mostly bounced complete tracks sliced up, ready to ‘remix’ on the fly)
From my freestyle jamming band days, I found it really exciting to not plan a set list too thoroughly, but to jam through the night, sometimes it would be great, sometimes not so, but was always exciting !
I’d like to incorporate some of that philosophy into my OT set, but flow is important too. I did a set before lockdown, where the biggest issue I had was not allowing for proper transitions between tracks, and ended up with silence for 5 seconds or so, which was not cool, and the biggest mood killer.
From experience I got while DJing, it’s good to have the options to go in many different directions depending on the night / mood / crowd / phase of moon / weather etc etc

Just for reference, I found this set by Tobias very together flow-wise. He used a limited palette of sounds / instruments, and kept the groove flowing really well I think, though maybe not eclectic, I found it inspiring

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There I have to disagree. At least from my perspective it’s very inefficient to build something in the hopes it may become the thing you already imagine. If you have a vision why not work towards it with focus? May be the fact that I only have limited time to make music, but when I work on not only set’s I’d like to get to the result.
Having time for noodling is priceless, though.
Not judging here, just saying.