Junior explores genres of music production

April 1, 2020 — by Preston Fu
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Junior shifts from a piano player to a respected member of the music production community.

Junior Raymond Yan was stunned when he was awarded the grand prize in Electronic Dance Music (EDM) this past January of the Cymatics’ Euphoria Song Contest, where he competed against producers of all ages from around the world.

“I was utterly shocked,” Yan said. “I just saw an email so I submitted. I didn’t expect to win.”

The win was evidence of his excellence as a creator of music in multiple genres. 

 The basic features of the songs he produces are the same: He always works with the familiar four-four time and never messes with tempo or tuning.

“I like to start from randomness and then slowly form a unique loop, involving chords or even just a basic melody,” Yan said. “That section I made might become the intro, a bridge or the drop. The song could take many paths.”

After finishing the song’s structure, he balances between the different sounds and blends them together. He performs more advanced edits afterwards, like adjusting contrast, automation, boosting frequencies and changing depth perception, but these processes are not required as long as the song seems loud and balanced.

“A beat could take just 10 minutes to make,” Yan said, “while something involving vocals could take anywhere from a few hours to several years.”

Yan realized his interest in music production in sixth grade, when his piano teacher suggested it to him. The concept was new but quickly developed into one of his favorite hobbies.  Working with other producers on an online workspace called Audiotool greatly added to his enjoyment.

As Yan grew more experienced, he discovered more popular music-making communities on online platforms such as Discord and Reddit, which were also filled with supportive people with similar interests.

“There’s always people who appreciate whatever obscure genres you make,” Yan said. “I often collaborate with other members of the community, whether it be giving feedback, helping with vocal mixing work, or occasionally producing an entire song.”

Despite his stellar performances in music-producing competitions like Cymatics, Yan feels that all of his music pieces are always unfinished works — meaning there is always some aspect to improve on. Nonetheless, he does release some of his music under his name on SoundCloud.

“Typically, if I finish a song it'll stay unreleased for several years because I don't think it's good enough,” Yan said. “I only release it if there is a deadline or if it's a collaboration with someone else.”

Over the course of his musical journey, Yan has faced several setbacks. A notable one occurred in December 2017, when Yan was hacked. Only a few days before, Yan downloaded a Lil Pump Acapella audio from a website he hadn’t used before.

He was trying to make an unofficial remix of the audio due to Lil Pump’s popularity at the time. When he opened his computer, he discovered that the webcam was on while he was on the lock screen, and he knew it had to be a virus. He was afraid that the hacker would be able to see his face, so his only option was to reset the computer.

As a result, he lost years worth of work, amounting to almost 100 projects that he had stored on Logic Pro X, the digital audio software that he now uses the most. Although it was difficult for him to recover, his online friends remained supportive.

Over the years, Yan’s participation in online communities has enabled him to develop an interest in all kinds of musical genres. He has learned to produce Lo-fi music, in which mistakes in recordings are included deliberately, and has figured out Hip-hop and EDM on his own. Knowledgeable guitarists and drummers he met online have taught him rock and roll and heavy metal. He also taught himself to make pop music, which borrows elements from other styles he was already familiar with. Currently, Yan generally produces songs in a microgenre called “chillwave,” which combines pop genres with electronics and nostalgia.

Aside from the people he has met in online communities, he has also collaborated with junior Proby Shandilya on several songs, including the rap piece “Kimball Small” that Shandilya uploaded to his SoundCloud.

“Raymond has always been extremely dedicated to his work in music production,” Shandilya said. “He has amazing taste in beats, and his execution always impresses me.”