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4 posts from January 2013

January 25, 2013

BeatTips Tutorials: Working from 3-Bar Loop Arrangement Schemes

My Method for Building 3-Bar Loops


Although 2- and 4-Bar loops are among the most common arrangement (sequence) structures in Beatmaking, the 3-bar loop is not only just effective, it can often produce more interesting results. Still, getting the 3-bar loop to work can be difficult. A couple of weeks ago, TBC member Ace2CWB posted a question about 3-bar loops in the community (3 Bar Loops). There were some good replies. sframpt pointed out that "you can do interesting things in terms of composition with a 3 bar loop,... for example, consider creating a 2-bar rhythmic pattern against the loop (ie the clave in latin music). The rhythms will only sync up every six bars in that case. it gives the music rhythmic tension and makes it less predictable." I also chimed in with a response, seeing how I dig working from 3-bar loop schemes.

There are many ways to go forward with a 3-bar loop. However, it depends a lot on which part of the sample (samples are not loops, we *make* them loop) that you like or need the most. If you want to keep the entire sample *as is*, then within the 3-bars, you can create a drum pattern that makes everything mesh together.

In the past, when using 3-bar loops, I've placed a snare on the first step of the sequence, and then arranged my kick pattern around it, usually something rather simple. Most of the time, that solved the issue. Other times, an additional "covering sample" (usually just a snippet of the same sample) at either the end of the 2nd bar or 3rd bar solved the issue for me. Usually, this would involve somehow getting a 4-bar structure, though.

But in those cases where that didn't work, I copied the 3-bars, making them six. Now with the six bars, I deleted the last two, giving me 4 bars. I'd play the 4 bars to see what/where I was lacking something. Keep in mind, I would not delete the original 3-bar loop, because I wanted to use it as a reference. So even though I was working on just one beat, I would have three (or more) separate sequences of the same idea. This means that I would have the original 3-bar loop sequence, the 6-bar loop sequence, and the 4-bar loop sequence. For each sequence, I would construct a slightly different drum pattern, varying in complexity and syncopation.

Now, this is where mute groups (I call them "cut offs" in The BeatTips Manual) really helps. On each of the sequences, I would experiment "cutting off" different points of the sample. Often this would tell me exactly which part/moments of the sample that I really wanted and which parts I didn't actually need. Having discovered that, it became easier to identify if I needed a 3-, 2-, 4-, 6-, or 8-bar sequence. If I still found—after all of that—that the 3-bar loop was the best, I would just make a 2-bar drum structure (lead by the snare) inside of the 3 bars, then I'd duplicate everything to give me 6 bars (a pair of 3-bar sequences). Main reason I duplicate up to 6? Because as a rhymer, I like the longer structure, because it allows me to put in a specific sound (like my infamous Hat X) on the 6th bar, which helps me with my timing, and gives sound a level of uniqueness.

The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted name in beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

January 22, 2013

BeatTips Rating: Big Noyd, Large Professor & Kool G Rap – “Naturally Born” (prod. by Ayatollah)

Vintage Rap with Fresh Bite


BeatTips Rating: 4.5/5

The knee-jerk tendency is to say that these four rap veterans have “brought back” this style and sound. Truth is much more simpler than that: This style and sound has never left.

Ayatollah has always made smoothly grungy sample-based beats with drums that matter more than thin tin cans. Big Noyd has always made karate-hard rap music that was street serious in rhyme tone, flow, and approach. Large Professor has always dropped rhymes with a steadfast delivery and lyrical chip on his shoulder that conjures up the MC bravado that triumphed at the height of the park-jam era. And Kool G Rap—1/3 of the lyrical trinity that includes Rakim and Big Daddy Kane—has always worked beats as part street poetic, part human film projector, using rhyme bars to seer close-up street experiences and lyrical dexterity in the minds of rap fans.

So the aptly titled “Naturally Born” is not new in the sense that these four stewards of hip hop/rap music are drudging up something lost or forgotten. What is new (or perhaps renewed), however, is the force and intensity of this latest non-tinkerbell offering from four rap pros who collectively tout a long list of similarly biting songs.

The beat is no less than one of Ayatollah's best. Apparent here, as with all of Ayatollah's work, is real-feel timing and a slicing snare that registers in the mix just above a tuck. Then there's the main sample work, where Ayatollah uses a small guitar pluck and riff to rupture the smoothness and otherwise sadness of the strings. Chopping ain't easy; and looping your chops is never as easy as the uninitiated to beatmaking would have some believe. And here, Ayatollah keeps the theme and feel of the beat steady, splashing in a perfect tambourine sprinkle here and there throughout. Through in the scratch hook, cut up by DJ Dutchmaster, and what you have is a hook that comments on the present while nicely backing the theme of "Naturally Born" with some of rap's 2nd Golden era voices.

If “Naturally Born” is any indication of the quality to be found on the forthcoming Coalmine Records compilation, Unearthed, then I suspect it will be one of 2013’s best reviewed and best selling hip hop/rap projects.

The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted name in beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

January 14, 2013

Demystifying the Art of Mixing, Part 1

How to Use EQ to Get the Sonic Effects You Desire


Mixing can appear to be a black art to the uninitiated. In this article I will break down how I have used EQ (Equalizer) in my remix of ‘Memory Lane’ by K.I.N.E.T.I.K. I will focus my attention to application of EQ on the main sample, drums and bass.

Before I get into the breakdown of my use of EQ in this track, I should briefly point out what EQ permits you to do and how it’s often used. EQ allows you to change the tone of an instrument. It’s used to remove unwanted frequencies and boost desired ones. In the context of a mix it allows you to carve out pockets in the frequency spectrum (20Hz-20kHz) for instruments to reside in. EQ will need to be used on the majority of your parts to help blend them all together to create a cohesive mix. When you understand EQ and how to use it effectively, you should notice immediate results in your production work.

One more point before we dive into the mixing analysis: It is always worth noting the lyrical content and ‘feel’ of the track. Establish this first, as it will affect your mixing decisions (as you’ll read later). For this track, I started with the acapella and worked backwards to create the beat. ‘Memory Lane’ is about reminiscing back to the days of childhood, when life was simple, you listened to Hip Hop, played video games and your world was turned upside down when you were told wrestling was fake. This nostalgic theme had an impact on how I used automated EQ.

Application of static EQ

Using EQ is more about reducing and removing unwanted frequencies than boosting pleasant ones. Therefore, the biggest tip I can offer when using EQ is to always have a HPF (High Pass Filter) on all tracks that have no need for low frequency content. Essentially, this is everything except the Kick drum and Bass. There is more often than not unwanted low frequency content on signals. This will build up without you realizing, and take valuable dB of your mix. You can use 100-150Hz as your starting point.

In “Memory Lane,” I applied a HPF at 165Hz to the main sample. I have done this as I have then added my own sequenced bass line underneath. This prevents both signals from fighting for the same space and creates a cleaner mix. The sequenced bass is comprised of 2 tracks playing the same riff. One played by a bass guitar software instrument and the other a sine wave. The sine wave is very low in the mix, but helps boost out the fundamental frequency of the bass line. I have a LPF (Low Pass Filter) on the bass guitar at 530Hz (see image below) removing the higher harmonics, as I wanted the bass to sound ‘round’ and ‘full’.

Listen to the audio examples below of the bass mix, with and without EQ.

Bass without EQ:

Bass with EQ:

The drums have a modest amount of EQ, just enough to bring out the sweet spots of each drum sound. Below is a list of the EQ applied to each drum and what it is achieving.

Kick: Peak boost of 8.5dB centered around 100Hz. This is the key area to be boosting if you want more ‘boom’.
Snare: HPF at 65Hz, a peak boost of 7.5dB at 200Hz (add fuller tone) and a high shelf boost of 6.5dB (for more ‘slap’ and brighter tone) beginning at 4.1kHz.
Hi Hats: HPF at 160Hz, high shelf cut of 4.5db beginning at 8.4kHz. I used this because I deemed the raw hi hats too bright for the track.
Shaker: This is used in the chorus and has a HPF at 350Hz and high shelf boost of 9dB beginning at 5.4kHz (for brighter tone)
Toms: HPF at 47Hz and wide Q peak boost centered around 200Hz (add fuller tone)
Cymbals: HPF at 200Hz and high shelf boost of 5dB beginning at 5.3kHz (for brighter tone)

Listen to the audio examples below of the drum mix with and without EQ.

Drum mix without EQ:

Drum mix with EQ:

Application of automated EQ

At the end of the chorus I have used the “Synthetic Substitution” drum break by Melvin Bliss. I included this break as it is used on many hip hop records and projects that takes the listener back into an earlier golden era of hip hop. I have added a LPF with the cutoff being automated (moved over time) from 20kHz down to 700Hz through the duration of the one bar break. This helps the transition down into the verse and also emphasizes the nostalgic lyrical content mining the depths of your memory.

In addition to this I have a LPF on the sample chop that opens and closes through automation during the verses. It generally opens at the end of every 4 bars, then is reduced again. Artistically, this adds some tonal movement to keep interest in the beat during the verses. Practically, it creates space in the frequency spectrum for the vocals so they don’t compete for the same space. The LPF opens up into the chorus giving the desired lift for the hook.

(Image below shows the automation of the LPF for both the sample and the break)

Full Beat Comparison

Listen to the audio examples below of the full beat with and without EQ. I haven’t done much more than use EQ appropriately, but the difference is obvious. There is a noticeable lack of clarity and unwanted low frequency rumble on the version without EQ. When EQ is added, the mix is clear, tight and sounds alive.

Full beat without EQ:

Full beat with EQ:

You can listen to the full track in the player below.

Dave Walker (Imperial)

The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted name in beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

January 11, 2013

BeatTips.com Beat Battle, December 2012 Winner Announced

2 Legit Gets Past Radio Maschine to Win the Final Contest of 2012


The winner: GeeWiz - ""Give Her the World""

Here's the December, 2012 BeatTips.com Beat Battle breakdown. You can also read it in TBC at: Winner of the December 2012 BeatTips.com Beat Battle Is...
And you can hear all of the beats for December, 2012's battle here: BeatTips.com Beat Battle, December, 2012

2 Legit - "Yeah Just"

Now for the March, 2012 BeatTips.com Beat Battle breakdown...

2 Legit - "Yeah Just"

This shit just simmers and cooks! Excellent example of letting the "umph" of the sample guide the arrangement. With one main change, this is a very musically disciplined joint. That color is smooth yet aggressive at the same time. Crisp production all around; not one forced or no unnecessary element, no errors at all. Instead, the beat knows its feel, as the rhythm instantly pulls you in. Finally, your mix on this beat greatly enhances the overall feeling. Dope!

2nd Place:
Radio Maschine - "My City"

Mighty polished! Beats always work best when there's a clear vision. Not only is there clarity here, there is also a perfect level of precision. The arrangement of this beat is well conceived and executed. Present in this joint is a commitment to the style and sound that you were aiming for, not some half-ass knock-off. I was thoroughly impressed with how all of the changes and dimensions of this beat meshed together. And the breakdown/bridge near the end was a nice, professional touch! This is beat is certainly ready to go on the urban/pop charts.

3rd Place:
Bwest - "Haze"

The slightly off, rumbling drumwork gives the joint the fuel to go. The bass is cooked perfectly, and the guitar echoes with the signature of a bonafide bluesman. Not an ounce of filler present in this joint. More importantly, no producer self-aggrandizing moment.

Segundo Award for Consistency and Contribution

d.C. – “Soul Live”

Man, I gotta tell you: You have a career in music scoring (and perhaps music supervision) ahead of you. Certainly, your sound has blossomed and matured. Your knack for consistently managing tempered layers, agreeable melodies, steadfast drumwork is quite impressive. This beat had a delicate but deft touch. It's a truly dynamic piece that would work for multiple movie scenes as well as rhyme styles.
The DJ Pas Rhyme Award for the Beat that Made Me Write a Rhyme to It

2 Legit – “Yeah Just"

(For breakdown, see 1st Place breakdown above)

Get Paid With Heart Award for the #1 Crossover Joint that Still Pays Homage to the Beatmaking Craft

Radio Maschine – "My City"

(For breakdown, see 1st Place breakdown above)

TBC Most Improved Award

Honorable Mentions:

Upright – “Levels”
One thing's for certain: You have your own style and sound. Rhythm is tight on this joint. No nonsense. Easy soundbed for a rapper to interpret.

Architect - "I Am"
Solid structure. Drums are crisp, violins—clean strokes. Arrangement well put together. Great for score music; could also work for a story rhyme.

DJ Pas - "Early Morning News"
Like Upright, you have your own clear style and sound that's rooted in your core interest. And this, brother, is serving you well. At the core of your sound is your deep appreciation for the break-beat. Thus, you have a natural break-beat sensibility; and here again with this beat, it's on display. But what's different here is your composure. Your mixing has improved, and your drum blends have become more precise.


Jerz-E-Ric – “Luvmystyle”
Yo, from 0:00-0:08, this joint had the strength to go the length and take the crown. Unfortunately, you made some rather questionable decisions. The piercing, "M.C. Breed" style synth line over of the top of the sample and groove was the first thing that took this beat down. It didn't fit; it was a drag on the beat. And, simply put, it wasn't needed. But the MAJOR change you incorporated at the 0:37 mark is the thing that destroyed what ultimately could have been the winning beat.

This beat was undone by overproduction—most notably, odd embellishments and awkward changes. Listen to 2 Legit's "Yeah Just." Listen to the discipline in the beat, how he manages only two changes within one theme. Conversely, listen to Radio Maschine's "My City". In his beat, there are a number of different elements and changes, but they all flow within the same theme, rather than obstruct where the beat is going.

Side note: Thing about most live beat battles and beat battles in general, is that sometimes beatmakers get caught up in doing more for the sake of doing more, as if the beat needs to account for the absence of the rapper. In fact, in many battles, people have taken to making the kind of beats (with curious changes and overbearing breakdowns) that might move the crowd or "judges" but are not the type of instrumentals that rappers could realistically write to or rhyme over. I'm not sure if you fell victim to this, but either way, never forget the rapper's (vocalist) space to get busy!

DonProductionsbeatz - "Day After"
Don P, you've regressed. At this point, I think you've tried out so many different electro and synth-like styles and sounds that you no longer know how to do what you once did best. Your beats used to have great rhythms and muscular movements. They used to sound fun. Now, they just sound like work—flat and contrived, as if the gear is dictating to you what and how to make it.

I understand we all grow, that our interests and sensibilities can change. I also understand that many sample-based beatmakers come to a crossroads where they feel the need to incorporate or switch almost completely to live instrumentation. But once your music starts sounding labored or like a poor knock-off of certain style and sound trends of the moment, you've lost your own unique sense for making beats. Bottom line: If we're not careful when we experiment or add new gear or new style/sound elements, we can get too far away from what we simply do best. When that happens, if we're not making significant strides with the new style/sound, regression sets in.

Mike Millz - "BK Boom Bap"
Too many programmed chops! You can "hear" the chops being played. The 808 sounds out of place, and with each overused chop-event in the arrangement, it all sounds awkward and distracting—something that brings on listener fatigue quickly. Such sound distraction makes it difficult for a rapper to find his footing.

Strip the beat down to its drumwork. Listen to that rhythm, then see how you can work in a more agreeable arrangement with different samples. Concentrate on not making the chop-events (where you're playing the chops) so obvious.

Final thoughts.

It felt good to get the BeatTips.com Beat Battle going again. I've said it before: It's a rewarding experience to listen to everybody's music. Moreover, I consider it to be a privilege to listen. There were some surprises in December's battle, both good and bad. Still, the one thing that remained a constant was the collective commitment of everybody who entered the battle. That should be a source of pride for everybody in our community.

As always, I want to welcome all of the new members to TBC! Each month we’re growing stronger, and I count on everybody to raise the bar of our discussions and the level of our collective participation. Thank you for doing so.

The first BeatTips.com Beat Battle of 2013 will kick off next Tuesday, January 15th, so get ready!

Congratulations to 2 Legit
2 Legit email me at: [email]beattips@gmail.com[/email], include your full name and email address for where you’d like your book emailed. Also, include a pic so I can feature you on the home page of BeatTips.com, and a phone number to where you can be reached at for your interview feature.


The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted name in beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

Dedicated to exploring the art of beatmaking in all of its glory.

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