In a recent project, I produced three pieces of meditation music, but while spiritualism and mindfulness are certainly hot topics, the production of meditation music is not. In light of this, I thought I’d share what I learned in the hopes that it might offer some guidance to anyone writing their own meditation music.
Meditation Music Essentials
A quick search on youtube will show that meditation music is mainly atmospheric soundscapes, tranquil nature ambience (with a healthy dose of running water), or some relaxing piano. However, from the perspective of the meditator, there is only one real concern. The music must not be distracting. My approach to achieving this was to find the right balance between development and constancy in the music while taking care not to compose anything too complex. As you compose I suggest meditating to your music to uncover any parts that might be too distracting. This was beneficial in my Clear Quartz piece, where the granular crystal/twinkling type sounds were too strong, so I reduced the transients using a transient shaper, and rolled off the higher frequencies as well.
Here’s an overview of what I utilised to achieve a good balance of development and constancy in my meditation music.
Use drones as a foundation
This is a great way to keep your music constant, but try adding movement to your drones to add interest and avoid a fatiguing sound. I like to route fast and slow LFOs to the same parameters, dialling in a low intensity for the fast LFO and a higher intensity for the slower one. In the lower frequencies of my piece Amethyst, a sustained G note drone holds everything together from start to finish.
Keep instrumentation consistent
Also consider introducing each instrument early on in the piece. The sudden introduction of a new instrument could be distracting.
Automation should play a vital role
The keyword here is gradual, in order to avoid distraction.
Volume automation is a simple, but effective way to add textural development by bringing different parts in and out of the mix discretely.
Slowly increasing the intensity of modulation devices can give new life to sustained sounds over time. In my Rose Quartz piece an auto-panner device intermittently introduces a flutter to an otherwise continuous pad sound.
Layering lots of subtle automation like this can add a great deal of movement to your music without it becoming too distracting.
Manipulating found sound and field recordings
This is a great way to add an organic element to your music, and layering these kinds of sounds can generate a lot of interest. Try creating 3 or 4 new tracks with a sampler on each and set all their inputs to the same MIDI track. Next, load different found sound recordings into the samplers and get creative with different looping and modulation settings for each one. Lastly, polish off the overall sound by sending each track’s output to the same reverb or delay unit.
Layering complimentary pad sounds
This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to get rich atmospheric textures. You could duplicate a pad track, process it differently to the original and then oppositely pan the two tracks for a full and wide stereo sound. You could also try dividing the notes from a chord across 2 or 3 different pads and panning these differently. Together you’ll hear a dense chord with different timbres for each note. There’s a lot of room for creativity here, just be careful not to go overboard!
Some Helpful Links
Ambient music composers have a tonne of interesting approaches to composition, some of which you might find helpful for your meditation music. West Latta sheds light on a few of them here.
For a great selection of tips and tricks for creating atmospheric sounds, check out this list courtesy of Computer Music.
This article is from Nicholas Kula is full of information on ambient guitar techniques. It focusses on guitar pedals and signal chain, but you can apply lots of it to in-the-box processing as well.
That’s All Folks
I hope you found this useful! I haven’t discussed synth patch design this time around, but there will be dedicated posts in the future, so keep an eye out. And remember, after everything I’ve discussed here, there’s never one right way to approach production. If it works, it works.
If you like these tracks, you can download them here, along with the 20 minute versions too!
If you’ve got some meditation music production techniques of your own, feel free to share them in the comments below.