Adding variety in beats with Santpoort
Santpoort also illustrated the cover art for his album "Inward isles"
Santpoort is an artist with a whole lifetime of musical background and beats that are fluid, enchanting, and painstakingly crafted. He's been featured several times by Chillhop and many other user-created playlists. I found his style really dope and representative of the Tsunami quality and wanted to pick his brain regarding the production of his beats. I've included three of his beats in the article. Stream them as you read through our discussion!
Firstly thank you for being willing to share your thoughts with us! I admire how much movement your music has. It's constantly evolving and full of the smallest details that make the most difference. It builds up, fades away, and transitions seamlessly while remaining simple. From my curating experience, I feel like this is where many producers fall short. The standard route is to make a beat that conveys little emotion, tension, or diversity. It may be a cool loop, but it's not a great song if that makes sense.
Q: With all that in mind, can you explain your thought process behind your beat arrangements, and what you believe is the most important thing(s) to creating that "Movement" or "smooth transitioning" in production?
Thanks for having me!
I think it’s of importance for creators to not see a “beat” as a static piece. One of the things I notice when collaborating with all types of people in the past is that everyone tries to make the perfect loop. I see myself more like a sonic film director and try to capture the right scene and accent on something that flows into a story. I’ve always been very visual (that’s why I also create all the art around Santpoort) and try to translate it into musical journeys. Also, graduating with my Bachelor with Honours degree in composition and music production at the Academy of the arts Utrecht in 2012, it gave me a lot of thought on how to treat music as a book. A passage can be excellent, but without the right context, it’s lost.
That's some great context and a great way to look at it!
Years ago, I became overly accustomed to the whole "Verse - hook - verse" structure for lyrical beats; And I felt like it ended up hurting my creativity. Even after I stopped selling beats to vocal artists, I couldn't think outside of that structure. I realized that if I were always thinking strictly in terms of verses or loops when producing, my mind would never allow my brain to make creatively structured pieces. I also believe that music isn't necessarily meant to repeat, but to evolve. Something like you said, capturing the scene. I know many producers who don't know much about music theory, and it can sometimes discourage them because they seemingly can't figure out how to create engaging melodies or progressions or venture past basic chords or structures.
Q: What would you say to a beginner or anyone in general who doesn't know much about music theory? And how can they practically learn to be more creative in this area?
To be fair, I don’t think music theory does any good for your creativity.
My music theory teacher once said to me to learn it all and forget it all right away. Much brilliant music has been written that is absolutely “wrong” in many ways theoretically. But the thing is that when it follows all the rules, the result can be truly lifeless and dull. The only composer up to date to be able to combine the two is Johann Sebastian Bach, in my opinion. It’s like reading a recipe, and while not deviating from the plan, you've got to bring some of your own ingredients in the mix.
I’d say start instead with experimenting with what emotions or color specific musical notes and sequences gives you, and see what it does if you follow it up with certain melodies or harmonies. Listen to your favorite songs and see what kind of structure it follows. Not saying you should copy but experimenting with certain hooks or compositional shapes helps you develop your own musical idiom
I like what you said about thinking of it as like reading a recipe, and while not deviating from the plan, you've got to bring some of your own ingredients in the mix. Whenever I listen to artists who have a definite style that is unique from the rest, I find that quite often, their music is much more straightforward than those who generally haven't found their signature "sound" yet. Why? I wondered. It reminded me of the saying that "subtraction is better than addition" in music. Anyone can add several layers to a beat, yet subtraction is where the real artistry is; knowing where to cut and what to leave out requires more than just curiosity, but also experience. Lots of it.
This is not only true in music but most art forms. Generally, the more concise you can get in your message- the more focused and clear the overall result is. And usually, those who can accomplish that are the ones who have an emerging style. I feel like the "spiritual" side of skill development in music is really overlooked, Perhaps because it's so abstract. Still, in my own life, it seems my progression in the arts actually came from using beats to tell the story of my life at that moment, rather than asking myself, "What type of beat should I make."
Q: How has your environments and life circumstances shaped the evolution in your style? Do you feel like producers tap into this abstract part of creation enough?
I agree, totally! It seems many musicians, composers and producers are very focussed on the technical side of creating music, which is, of course, important as well. I think it’s essential to put yourself in the perspective of the listener as they want to emerge themselves in your world. Its the same with books and films, so why not music?
I highly take my own experience and life in my music in an abstract way. Every release I’ve done describes a part of my life. "Picturebook" is a nostalgic snapshot of me as a child. Mudflat Hikers is the sense of adventure and the environment where I grew up. Cloudstreet is the longing and isolated homesick feel of returning to my own country after staying in Australia for more than three years. Santpoort is a homesick project but also a project for new adventure and exploration, and I want to bring my fans on an imaginary train through this landscape.
Great points. I can hear what you mean, especially in your beat "Wading through wetlands," which I linked above. You mentioned that the album was a sense of adventure, and the beat perfectly reflects this emotion. The bass-line makes you feel like you're floating in the air while the super busy hi-hats give off that playful and explorative feel. The piano chords give me a movement feeling. A constant pulling towards the part where the bass melody switches up and those flutes come in. You seamlessly transition back to the main theme while fading out. No verses, no hooks, no distinguishable structure, yet it portrayed the scene super vividly.
Thanks again, Santpoort, for sharing your thoughts behind this topic!
You can find him at the links below;
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TL;DR (My own opinion)
If there's anything I've learned from Santpoort and this conversation, it is to embrace your life journey and to think more abstractly about music rather than so practically. Music is best created as a narrative and glimpse into the creator's life, and when it is faked, or non-existent, it just doesn't have that "soul" or "style." Developing a style and signature sound is more about good old fashioned practice towards fluency of translating your ideas and emotions into a scene that flows perfectly from start to end.