how did people add life to their mixes in the late 90s and early 2000s

In my opinion, the best way to add "life" to your music, is to play and record as many of your tracks as possible by hand.

If you can't play a certain in tempo, a common trick is/was to lower the tempo on your multitrack recorder before recording record and turn the tempo back up again and record the result as audio (with modern DAW this has become super easy).

..and if you still want more movement on a track, you bounce it it in real-time while "playing" the efx.

The way you physically adjust a knob while dancing will ALWAYS be different from automated variations!

Using DAW MIDI-quantisation, pitch-correction and built in swing or groove functions can be both useful and fun, but they will always remove "life" and personality from your music.

The main reason so many people today shy away from this kind of approach is probably, that in order to make it work, you need to be able to play first.

/r/synthesizers Thread