A beginner’s guide to hyperpop production

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A beginner’s guide to hyperpop production

100 gecs hyperpop
Words by Mixdown Staff

The genre marker, like many, is of course a sliding scale, and the aesthetics of the artists who have popularised hyperpop vary greatly in intensity and style.

For the unacquainted, an initial listen to a track by an artist that falls under the generally agreed upon umbrella of hyperpop, may prove to be an affront to the senses.

In fact, it’s a testament to the cultural temperature we find ourselves in; that the abrasive and garish production style once relegated to fringey, deep-internet dwellers; to twitter shitposters and soundcloud sleuths, now has not one, but a handful, of official Spotify playlists dedicated to showcasing the kingpins of the genre. Amidst an infinite cacophony of short form, loud and fast content that we find our cyborgian selves steeped in, there is a sizeable appetite for music that cuts through the noise.

Read all the latest features, columns and more here.

Hyperpop is loosely defined as an exaggerated amalgamation of early 2000s pop sonics (think autotuned, cutesy vocal hooks and floor filler synth stabs), distorted and compressed to the nth degree; garbled up with highly referential nods to y2k Internet culture and the Web 2.0 era. The key production tenets we will look at today, however, can pretty much be observed across the board. Start thinking of some campy, bonkers lyrics, and gear up to process the hell out of those vocals. Let’s begin!


While distortion might seem counterintuitive to the crisp, polished and refined sounds of a lot of hyperpop production, it serves another purpose. Distortion augments and exaggerates a sound, boiling it down to its core elements, or core sound.

Dynamics are simultaneously lost and gained, the sound itself becoming fatter, deeper and more forward, while the dynamic range between the source sound is exaggerated, the space around it being under the threshold for distortion. Distortion doesn’t need to be overtly gritty and fuzzy, it can simply serve to saturate a source like a synth or vocal, percussive elements reacting particularly well to distortion.


There’s a difference between tuning a vocal per se and using Autotune. The former is generally done with the intention of being invisible, giving the impression of a natural performance, sung perfectly. The latter is where autotune is used for an effect, the hard-tuned result becoming inhumane but musical in its own way.

Think Cher’s “Believe” or T-Pain’s… entire catalogue, where the tuning is part of the musical arrangement. Autotune has adjustable formants that can make a vocal sound more natural or less so, pushing a robotic, almost jarring tonality, this being a great addition to a hyper pop track. While conventionally used for vocals, Autotune works on a lot of monophonic (one note at a time, i.e. a bass guitar) sources, with the latest version having polyphonic (multiple notes and chords) functionality. Celemony’s Melodyne software is manual, but gives tuning functionality an overhaul, allowing you to have more control over the tuning. Get creative!


This might seem like an obvious one but proceed with caution! Compression can help to bolster a sound, compressing all the energy of a performance into a smaller dynamic range, but it can also ruin the dynamic of a sound, making it sound smaller overall. Big, weighty and present sounds often have big gaps between their sounds, i.e. a big sounding kick drum has a massive dynamic range and a huge sound when the kick hits, before reverting to silence before the next hit.

Heavy compression on sources like drum rooms and overheads can help to level them out, allowing spot mics on kicks and snares to have a bigger dynamic range from them, placing them more forward in the mix. Ultra dynamic ambience can sound great isolated, but in a mix it envelopes sources a bit, blending them all together. A sound all on its own, but not what we’re aiming for in hyperpop!

This applies to VSTs as well, i.e. drum software instruments as well as other instruments like synths! General background ambience can be compressed heavily, crushed even, to really exaggerate the dynamic between them and a closer-sounding source like a vocal, synth or lead synth.

Pitch-shifting and sub-harmonic synthesizers

Low end can be a difficult area to manage in a mix, partly because if there’s no low frequency information to begin with, it’s difficult to turn up with an EQ. That’s where pitch-shifting or sub-harmonic software comes in.

Pitch-shifting is reasonably self explanatory, and you can shift an entire performance up or down to create a totally new sound. Pitching down, an octave for example, gives you more sub information quite quickly. A smart use is to duplicate a track, pitch one down, and roll off a lot of high end to be left with one a ‘sub’ track to mix in with a keyboard, kick drum or bass, similar to using a sub-kick mic on a kick drum.

Sub-harmonic synthesisers offer a similar result in both the analogue and digital domains, but synthesise the sound entirely, which is great for the larger-than-life sounds of hyperpop. This is great for filling out a kick or guitar, making a sound larger than life and expanding your arrangement’s frequency response. Great options are available from UAD, Avid and Waves, while the analogue domain is dominated by Little Labs and DBX.

Listen to some of these sounds and effects in practice here.