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!
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.
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.
SPECIAL AWARDS 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
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.
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]firstname.lastname@example.org[/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.
DJ PAS, a TBC (The BeatTips Community) member, posed a great question about getting into DJ'ing to help his beatmaking skills, "Strictly Sample Based Chopper goes Komplete 8 Ultimate" In his comment, he mentioned his recent interest in incorporating Native Instrument's Komplete 8 into his setup in an effort to include live instrumentation ("keys, strings, and horns...") into his production. He specifically wanted ideas on how to mesh his sampling with his non-sampling. PAS's original question, followed by replies from Castro, Kregan, and myself. Note, the thread kind of went in a different direction after Kregan's post, but the breast of Kregan's comment, as well as my own, are nonetheless important to this discussion.
As strictly a sample based producer, I didn't think that I'd spend some money on instrument software. But as NI has done a crossgrade price drop, I couldnt resist.
So I'm starting to collaborate my sampling skills with live instrumentation soon.
It's less of a question than it is searchin for tips on how YOU do it as a non-sampling producer.
How you get your chords together?
I remember times that i tried to play the keys
(I had 4 yrs Keys education as a child) for producing, but most of the time it sounded for me like childish gibberish toy melody, you digg?
How do you get your shit together on a pro melody (Keys, Strings, Horns...)?
Thanx for tips n tricks how you get your non sample music groovin. —DJ PAS
What Up Pas,
Right out the gate I can truly appreciate what you're doing, furthering your means for which music can be created. What NI products are you looking into?
If I'm not mistaken, I believe what you're asking is how to arrange instrumentation as well as playing chords. As far as arrangement goes, that's entirely up to you. (It should be noted however that this is by far one of the most difficult things to do in music. It's one thing to play an instrument, it's another thing to know where and when it fits into compositions.) Strictly speaking, listening to artists like Queen, who were able to make a song into this rock opera style, is really impressive. The arrangements of songs like Bohemian Rhapsody are a testament to true musicianship. Listen to artists who do more than loop phrases, even a song like Ronnie Spector's Be My Baby is a good example of a perfect arrangement. Knowing where and when to make transitions is just as important as knowing how to create the actual sounds.
With Chords, it's a little less ambiguous than arrangements. http://www.8notes.com/piano_chord_chart/ That's a website for learning chords, use it. Most people who start playing stuff out on keyboards are generally limited by not being ambidextrous, which is natural, as it takes time to build up muscle in your "weak" hand. There are finger exercises to do in order to increase elasticity as well as speed across keys. Practicing with a metronome is advisable as well in order to learn how to stay with the time signature.
Here's a trick I learned regarding chords: Take a scale from any note, pick out a couple of notes from that scale and play it in a chord like fashion below C 0 (or down 1 octave). Then take some of the remaining notes from the scale you haven't triggered in the lower octave, and play them one or two octaves above. This is a kind of "cluster" chord or scale chord that tends to have real full and pleasing tone.
Piano notes are measured in halves, so a white key to a white key is full step. In other words, if you go from C to D, that's a full step, but if you go from C to C#, that's a half step. So in order to figure out the Major Scale for any given note, here is the formula: 1 w(hole) 2 w 3 h(alf) 4 w 5 w 6 w 7 h. This means if you start on C, the next note in the scale is D, then D#, then F and so on. For a minor scale, the formula is: 1 w 2 h 3 w 4 w h 6 w 7 w. The 8th note will always be the note you started on in the octave beneath it.
There are also some VSTi's, as well as hardware, that have a "Chorder" option, like the Fantom X. You can create and program your own chords and then trigger them by touching just one key. The only problem is that most chorders only allow a single chord at a time, (not just that you can only press key at a time, monophonic, which is true in most cases), but you can't put two or more different chords across the keys at once. It acts as more of a "hit" than actual piano playing.
I hear good things about Komplete 8, let me know your thoughts on it after you've had some time to explore it.
I must admit, I'm still somewhat confused by what you mean as far as "process of finding chords". I can't say that I've personally gone into a beat with the mentality of let me start in the key of C or play a diminished chord etc etc, I just go with what feels right. Sometimes I create my own chords, a combination of keys that just sounds pleasing to my ear that I run with, might not even be a "real" (major, minor etc) chord sometimes. I will say however that once I've found that initial chord, depending on its complexity, finding the next appropriate chord in the progression can be tricky, sometimes I even have to play it out key by key. It's in doing this though that you start to understand how one chord moves to the next, and it becomes simpler to do with other chords.
Again, arrangement is entirely up to you. There is no "right" way, there may be some templates for certain genres, like hip-hop having an 8 bar hook and a 16 bar verse with a 4 bar breakdown or bridge occasionally. Arrangement should compliment the sounds/instruments that comprise it and vice-versa. Sometimes you might have a dope patch, something totally unique or just dope for whatever reason, but rather than obliterating the track with the same noise in a repetitive fashion, maybe you just throw in a pinch here and there. Think of arrangement like cooking, you don't have to over-do it on the spices in order to get flavor, they just have to be balanced.
If you are not a trained pianist, then you should not expect yourself to perform as such. You know how to get to Carnegie Hall? Practice! It might sound "childish" to you right now, but that could be more than just your ability to play. Sometimes, even the simplest melodies/notation, are brought to life by how they sound and not how they are played. (Interestingly enough, the counter argument, that it's how you play it, is just as important, so it's quite the paradox) Consider adding reverb, adjusting the Cutoff or Resonance, ADSR etc etc.
What might be most beneficial to you at this juncture would be to learn more about sound design. The more you know about wave shapes and what goes into creating a "voice", the deeper you will be able to edit and modify sounds according to your specifications. I would recommend the Yamaha Sound Reinforcement Handbook, technical read, but worth it. There's also the tried and true method of just messing around as well, even though if you wind up making something dope, you might want to know how you did what you did (of course you could always work backwards but hey).
I experimented with synths and such a couple years ago after I had been sampling for a year or so. When I did, I didn't even really stress about melodies, I made a handful of beats that were right there in quality with my sample based beats very quickly.
However I wasn't using traditional sounds like pianos, I was using more atmospheric sounds, tweaking the patches, then laying other random sounds over the top and that sort of thing.
If you want to learn how to play melodies and such that's cool, more power to you, but don't think it's required or even necessary especially since we are talking about hip hop music.
There's so much flexibility and customization with a good synthesizer that being able to play a melody won't even come up, unless of course that's what your aiming for which is also cool.
What's Up Kregan, I was hoping you could elaborate further about the end of that statement, the "especially since we are talking about hip hop music" part.
I was referring to how in hip hop music rhythm is the main priority, and melody and harmony play a secondary role to the rhythm.
I learnt this from the beattips manual and have made it a focus in my own practice.
Out of curiosity what is your compositional style? I would guess your either sample based or you take the hybrid approach.
A part of me agrees with that initial statement about rhythm but it seems somewhat quixotic or somewhat of a paradox. I don't wish to derail this thread by going into it, but I'm not sure if it's as simple as rhythm>melody>harmony.
I try to cover all sides of the spectrum when it comes to my style, a little bit of sampling a little bit of keyboards etc etc. For the most part I do not sample anymore, unless it's just one of those "have-to-flip" scenarios. It's been more rewarding creating my own material by far. As of late my interest is in playing the actual instruments, because the one thing that synth's don't replicate is the "air" and "warmth" from certain recording processes. Aiming to be a one man band, so one day someone will want to sample my material.
With regards to hip hop/rap music, I don't think Kregan was trying to simplify the roles that rhythm, melody, and harmony play. In nearly all twentieth-century popular American music, musicians can not escape the principles of rhythm, melody, and harmony—typically, all are always in effect in some form or fashion. However, it is a *fact—objective, and nothing to agree or disagree with—that certain musics and music traditions (here in America and around the world) prioritize rhythm over melody and harmony.
That said, people are welcome to make music in any way that they prefer. This means that people can play up the role of melody and harmony in the music they make, and decrease the role of rhythm whenever they want to. Of course, in hip hop/rap music, this is where subjectivity meets the crux of the tradition.
Thing is, everyone has there preferences for styles, sounds, and methods. And it is this choice of each beatmaker that represents the *subjective realm. The *objective realm involves the facts. Fact is, hip hop/rap music began as a music tradition that focused squarely on the rhythm. Over time, starting with the Studio Band Period of beatmaking, the role of melody and harmony grew in hip hop/rap music amongst a number of beatmakers. Again, these are the objective facts of the tradition over 30 plus years.
So naturally, where we stand today is, there are beatmakers who hold tight to rhythm more than they do melody and harmony. Conversely, there are beatmakers who hold tight to melody and harmony more than they do to rhythm. And that's where the subjectivity comes in to play. Some beatmakers prefer to stick closer to the crux of the tradition, the more fundamental or primary tropes. For others, however, such an approach is less important, as they're less interested in that and more interested in creating a style and sound that prominently infuses tropes from other music traditions. One compositional path might focus more on sampling; the other might focus on live instrumentation. Both choices are valid, and as such, they should both be respected. However, this does not mean that we should ignore the fact that one style is closer to the roots of our tradition than the other.
But let's be clear, here: The methods, styles, and general approaches that we choose keep us squarely within, on the margins of, or outside of one music tradition or another. Each music tradition has its own boundaries. And that's a good thing. These boundaries help us identify, understand, and distinguish one music from another. However, for years, musicians have been pushing these boundaries, merging the edges of multiple traditions into a new style and sound. This is called "fusion" (which I'm sure you know). Fusion is responsible for a lot great music. For example, British ska, seriously one of my all-time favorite music traditions, relies on a blend of reggae, Jamaican ska, punk, and pop. But it's important to remember that a fusion of styles and sounds is not necessarily better or worse than any of the singular styles that comprise it.
So Kregan has simply made an educated choice. He's looked at the history of our tradition, he's considered the mainstays and numerous developments over the last 30 plus years, he's factored in his own sensibilities, and he's concluded that he'd like to identify with a style and sound that's closer to the roots of our tradition, which means opting for a more rhythm-based style and sound. However, another person could read the exact same history and information in The BeatTips Manual and come to an opposite conclusion, opting for a style and sound that's further away from the roots of our tradition, going for a style and sound that prominently features melody and harmony and reduces the role of rhythm. That's certainly not beyond the pale of things. But for the prior choice (Kregan's case), a focus on melody and harmony is not a requirement, "especially since we are talking about hip hop music."
Youknowmysteeze22, a TBC (The BeatTips Community) member, posed a great question about getting into DJ'ing to help his beatmaking skills, "First DJ set up.". In his comment, he mentioned a debate that he had with a friend regarding whether or not boom bap is dead. He argued, and rightfully so, that "boom bap will never die." Youknowmysteeze22's original question, followed by my extensive reply.
"After reading beat tips it has inspired me to want to learn how to DJ, to get back to the roots of hip hop and help my beatmaking skills. What route do you guys think I should go to get the equipment. Should I go the vinyl route or the digital?" —Youknowmysteeze22
Here's the thing. The four main DJ skills that will translate the most to beatmaking are: (1) A knack for diggin' in the crates; (2) the development of a good ear; (3) a deeper knowledge of music history; and (4) timing and beat/rhythm blending/matching skills. Thus, before you make your investigation into DJ'ing, please keep that in mind.
As I state in The BeatTips Manual, a DJ background certainly helps, but it's not necessary. A number of beatmakers get into DJ'ing because they feel like they missed something or because they believe a DJ background will help. That's cool. But more than anything, think about the skills that you hope to extract from learning how to DJ. This way, you'll be sure to pick up the things that will broaden your skills as a music maker.
Now, as far is what route to take? If your aim is the "roots" of hip hop DJ'ing, then *starting off* with digital is not the way to go. To me, it seems counterproductive. If it were just a case of you wanting to play some tunes on a couple of decks like a so-called celebrity DJ (think of a female model on Serato at a Manhattan night club), then maybe that would be the move. But if you've decided that you want to dive into the roots, then at least *start with vinyl. There's nuance involved with vinyl and decks. Plus, there's a mental connection to the tradition and a long list of beatmakers who have some level of DJ'ing skills in their background. That may matter to you (or not). Listen to Diamond D's "Best Kept Secret". Then consider the fact that he started as a DJ. No coincidence...
As far as cost, my DJ mixer (Numark DM 1200) cost me just $120 brand new! You could probably get a cheap Gemini joint (with no EQ on the channels) for $90, maybe $50 used. And I bought two used Technics 1200 turntables in the last several years off of Craigslist. I paid $150 for one and $175 for the other. So total cost for a decent DJ setup could be $425, maybe even less! And you can buy vinyl off line if there are no vinyl stores near you. Last month, I bought a mint condition Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds album for $10. *If I could have found that exact album at a vinyl shop in New York or at a record show, it likely would have cost me at at least $75 for the same condition. And the thing is, you don't need like 500 vinyl records to get going. You can rock with two records (same record) and practice your blends. Then you build your collection as you go.
Truth is, you can always build your DJ rig up slow and cheap. And for vinyl records, you can shop online at Dusty Grooves or Bonanza, and other similar sites.
Bottom line: If you want to go for the "roots" of it all, you know what I mean, if that's what's inspiring you, then do it. You can always switch to a digital setup later. Serato or Serato-like technology isn't going anywhere. Always go in the direction that you're already leaning. That's your gut feeling trying to guide you...
You’ve been hammering a way at your own style and sound now for a while. And I can say, without any trepidation, that you do have your own style and sound… It’s all here! There’s the “Castro drums”—the booming, well-balanced kick that shapes the groove, the tucked in punch-snare, and the truncated tambourine hi-hat sound. There’s the synth-line stacking; you’re a pro at this now (you’ve been practicing your chords or what? dope!). And the two most important things that caught me about this joint: (1) the dead-steady rhythm; and (2) the furious, hungry feel that the beat gives off. This beat is so pure to its own style and sound that it could run the gambit of uses—everything from gutter rap, to air-out-the-club music, to sci-fiction/mystery film noir.
Special points: That minor embellishment at the 1:02 mark is powerful, not so much because you can hear, but because you can feel the change and rise of tension. And the synth stinger that crashes in around the 1:20 mark raises the ante even further. All around solid composition!
One more thing, what also makes your style and sound so interesting is that your drums pay homage to your natural sampling intuition and instincts, while your synth lines service your non-sampling influences.
Uhohbeats - "This is My Prayer"
This beat was similar to the one you entered into the January battle. That’s no surprise, though, because you used the same source material, no? Either way, there is enough of a difference for this joint to stand on its own. Now, I don’t know if this joint was the “A” or “B” version, but I was drawn to this one more. It’s slower, and therefore, it simmers and grips you. Most importantly, this simmering feeling coupled with the relaxed drumwork leaves more room for a rapper to dig in to.
Waldo - "Question/Answer"
Beautiful. The groove is serious on this. The drumwork is deceptively simple, that up and down tumbling drum pattern with delicate brushes of percussion? Yo, that’s not easy to pull off, and you crush it. This beat acts like it wants to lull you to sleep, but it’s the drums that turn the otherwise passive sample into danger.
SPECIAL AWARDS Segundo Award for Consistency and Contribution
--- The DJ Pas Rhyme Award for the Beat that Made Me Write a Rhyme to It (All New Award!)
Castro – “Oh Lord"
(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
--- TBC Most Improved Award
Anomaly – "Aqui Te Esperare"
Your sense of rhythm—or perhaps better stated, your ability to incorporate a clear, sustainable rhythm structure in your beats—has improved substantially. You’re approaching that one plateau of understanding that every good musician eventually reaches: to enjoy and embrace simplicity is the key to anything complex or otherwise that you can imagine. Your ideas used to be sporadic, unfocused. Now, I hear a deeper level of control and direction in your music. You’re no longer trying to force all of your musical influences. Instead, you’re toning everything down and getting to the heart of what you want to say with each specific beat.
One thing, though. I strongly recommend that you look into sampling your own drum sounds.
d.C. – “Concert for Rose”
The drums on this joint were bangin’ harder than usual. Good! This beat had a more sinister feel but with your customary audio polish. Also, this beat had more edge to it than your previous “cinematic” efforts. One thing’s for certain, when you make harder, straight-forward drum arrangements, the overall beat sounds more raw and gutter.
Rex Rey – “Music Makers & Dreamers”
Solid all-around sound scope. The ambient feel clashing (in a good way) with the break-beat drum feel made for an interesting mix. Saxophone parts were excellent, and the understated bass line “glued” together the whole piece nicely.
Speologic – “Science”
This beat is very similar to the Boyz N Da Hood theme song. Have you seen that movie? Main differences between that theme song and your beat is that your beat is set at a faster pitch (higher key) and the drums swing more. The saxophone parts work well. The overall rising nature of the piece, along with the shuffling drums, is what really makes this beat.
One thing, though. This joint is more film score than “beat” beat.
Mike Millz – “Stolen Emotions”
The primary sample is solid and looped perfectly. But the drum programming lacks a clear direction and commitment. With such a powerful sample, the drum pattern has to be tight and steady. With this type of sample and arrangement, a simple “K K S K K S” pattern would have worked just fine. At certain points (too many), the kick is all over the place. A misplaced kick drum is a sure-fire sign of a less effective drum program. Trust the structure of the most dominant part of your beat (in this case, the primary sample), then build an accompaniment for it. Don’t think that you have to do more with the drums. Just do what works—supply a solid backbeat and call it a day. (Hit me up through email, so I can break it down further.)
Andy Mayhem – “So Tired”
You can hear punches (where you're "punching in" the samples). Also, I was waiting for something else to happen, but it never did. As the beat is, it sounds like a shell idea.
SC Beatz – “Hight Votage”
Your consistency is here. The changes are flawless. My only concern is that this is more film/television music/score. Sure, it’s a beat, but I had trouble envisioning what type of rapper it would be for. Again, this joint is solid. I just hear your more R&B polished side in it, and I’m not sure if that was your intention or not.
Don Productions – “Who Are You”
On the surface, this beat is put together decently enough… But here’s the thing, it sounds too contrived, nothing distinct! It’s like a knock-off caricature of a familiar idea, concept, and sound. It doesn’t sound like it’s your own style and sound. In fact, it sounds mentally forced like you’re following some conceptual script. I can say this because I’ve heard a number of your beats, and some had a natural feeling, whereas this one doesn’t. For instance, here you incorporated a number of unnecessary clap hits (listen to the 1:02 mark, and the 1:24 mark). I never heard distractions like that in your beats from a couple of years ago. Stuff like that happens when you’re looking for extra stuff to add to the jumbo stew…
I know you’re still working your way through the Maschine and all; and in fact, I don’t know what you used to make this joint. But my big warning to you use is to recapture your ability to insert feeling into your music before it’s too late. That live beat-battle-intentionally-no-sample-Dr. Dre-keys-with-a-side-of-Just-Blaze-elements will never sound bad, because to do it requires some base level of proficiency. But that said, I don’t think it will ever lead you to your own distinct style and sound.
Note: This is two beats now back to back that shared these same non-distinct, forced qualities…
Brandon – “DRMG”
Sounds like a rough idea. Try turning the tempo up and adding a drum fill at every 8th or 16th bar. That Stylistics song is inviting, but unless you can make it swing, or chop it up into new moving parts, it might not be worth messing with.
MelloKid – “What”
I liked this. I wanted to point out that the heart of the beat happens at 0:23 through 0:46, before that change. Listen to the tightness of this part of the beat. Think about who could rhyme over it, then go back and listen from the 0:47 mark and ask yourself if it would enhance their rhyme flow or distract from it.
Cool thing about this battle was that you could hear the directional moves that several members have made. That’s important, because a clear commitment to one direction or another leads to your own style and sound.
In comparison to last month’s battle, I’d say that January’s battle was the more competitive one; and so that’s the bar to beat for each month…
My apologies for posting the results of this battle so late. I took an extra week to listen to everybody's beat two more times before I made my final notes. As a result of the delay, March’s battle will begin on the 19th, and the submission deadline will be extended until the 27th.
Finally, 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. Thank you for doing so.
One more note: The BeatTips.com Beat Battle is for BeatTips.com subscribers and TBC members only. If you have not subscribed to BeatTips.com, please do so before the next battle begins. You can subscribe to BeatTips.com by going to the home page, [url]http://www.beattips.com[/url] and clicking the “Get email updates” button near the top right, just beneath the menu bar. TBC members who are not subscribed to BeatTips.com will not be able to participate in future BeatTips.com Beat Battles.
The March BeatTips.com Beat Battle will begin on Monday, March 19, 2012!!!
Congratulations to Castro
Castro email me at: [email]email@example.com[/email], include your full name and complete address for where you’d like your book delivered. 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.
TBC Member Upright on Music Process and How Community Sparks Creativity
Interview by AMIR SAID (SA'ID)
California based beatmaker Upright is a humble, thoughtful music maker who takes the art of beatmaking seriously. After years of studying the art form and sharpening his craft, he as emerged with a style and sound that he's finally pleased with. Find out how one of The BeatTips Community's own has developed his skill and hit on a new direction.
BeatTips: Where are you from, Upright?
Upright: I was born in LA [California]. But right now I’m living out in San Bernardino. Basically, about an hour and half from LA.
BeatTips: How did you first get involved with hip hop/rap music? What drew you in?
Upright: Well, in the ‘90s, I was pretty much a big, big, big fan of East Coast hip hop. So basically, that’s where it really came alive at. Man, so many artists. But yeah, back in the ‘90s is when I first got hip to hip hop. I was probably like 16 or so.
BeatTips: Who put you on to it? Friends or family?
Upright: Friends, definitely friends.
BeatTips: So describe you in the ‘90s.
Upright: I would go to the club scene, you know, just like a hip hop dancer. So in the ‘90s, I was dancing and just listening to a lot of music. And that’s really how the love for hip hop kind of started.
BeatTips: Wow, a dancer. So what were the first hip hop songs you heard?
Upright: The first song I heard was the Geto Boys. And that was really like, uh, gangsta rap kind of, you know. So Geto Boys. That was like my first taste of hip hop. And I don’t know where I got that from. And then from there it was like Brand Nubian. So I went directly into East Coast stuff. I stayed with the East Coast phase for a long time, man. I wasn’t really too much into anything West Coast. Even though I lived on the West Coast. Not that it wasn’t good; I just wasn’t in to it.
BeatTips: What was it about the East Coast that you preferred over West Coast Music?
Upright: It seemed like the rap was more…it seemed like it had more substance, more style, more just creativity. The beats sounded better, you know, to me; that was to me. And out here on the West Coast, man, it was more like, the big guys like Cube, there was a lot of them. But they were mainly into like gangsta rap. See, me being on the West Coast, I was trying to get away from that type of mentality, you know what I mean?
Upright: So the East Coast, the East Coast was more about lyric flippin’, you know, flippin’ lyrics and just the skill behind the rapper more so than the gangsta lifestyle.
BeatTips: You mentioned beats. When did you start? How long have you been making beats?
Upright: I started making beats about 13 years ago.
BeatTips: How old were you at the time?
Upright: I was 23 when I first started producing, trying to produce beats. And I got started on the little—man, it’s crazy, it was the little, uh, Sony Playstation. They had this little thing called Music Generator. And that’s really where I started trying to make beats. It all kind of started from there. And I was always a guitar player. And it kind of came together because I would want to play my guitar and kind of have a beat to play my guitar to. So that was kind of in there, too, a little bit.
BeatTips: Wait. You were playing guitar before? How long were you playing guitar before you started making beats?
Upright: I was playing guitar, that was probably about four years before. No, no, no, you know, when I was about 14, I got the guitar. But I didn’t play it much. I had it since I was 14, but a few years before I started making beats, I started playing the guitar heavy. I was playing the guitar real heavy before I really started making beats. And then I started making beats, once I felt like I had a little bit under my belt on the guitar. I wanted to move on to something else. So that’s when the beatmaking came into it.
BeatTips: That’s dope right there. How did you make that transition? What made you say, ‘You know what, I’m going to put the guitar on the side for a minute, and I’m try this out?’
Upright: Man, it was just that—really, it was the availability of that PlayStation game…I mean, I was playing a lot of PlayStation at the time, and just sitting around playing my guitar. And then that game popped up, and I was like, ‘Man, this game is…’ ‘Cuz really, it was like a production tool. But it was in the form of a game, you know what I mean. So when I saw that, I was like, ‘Man, this right here is something I could probably use,’ you know. So I sat down with that, and was really getting into it… I didn’t know that it was really like a starting tool, you know. I really didn’t know about your MPCs and your SP12s and stuff like that. I really had no idea that there was real, like, where I would even go to try to make a beat, as far as hardware. Earlier in my hip hop, like just when I was listening to hip hop and going to clubs dancing, and I saw this one cat. He hand a drum machine; at the time, it looked so complex to me. I didn’t even know what it really was, how you could even use something like that. I figured, man, you gotta have all kinds of money to get something like that. But then years later, I came across that little Sony Playstation thing, and that was it for me.
BeatTips: So did you have a teacher, or did you just start doing everything on your own?
Upright: I just started doing everything on my own. And for years, I really didn’t—I was trying to do my own thing, so I messed with that [Music Generator] for a good couple of years, just that by itself, before I even began to branch out and really try to get some real equipment.
BeatTips: Wow. Two years. So what was the first setup that you had?
Upright: The first real setup I had was Sony Acid. I was messing around with Acid in a computer, just a computer a friend gave me. And I was playing around with that. But I couldn’t really figure out the software side. So it was kind of frustrating, because I knew that I wanted to stay software at the time, because I had came from that game. And that was cool for about a year a so. And then my brother, he was into house music, and he was starting to buy a lot of hardware. He had an old Yamaha drum machine, and then he had this crazy sequencer, man, it just looked like a straight typewriter, like a computer keyboard. He told me that was his sequencer, and I was blown away. But he was really the first one that got me into hardware. So I went out and bought a Korg Electribe (sp). That was the first real piece of hardware that I had.
BeatTips: What’s the Korg Electribe?
Upright: The Korg Electribe, it’s basically like, it kind of looks like a 808 a little bit. Or no, you know what, maybe more like the 303. Roland had a bass module; it kind of looked like that…It’s basically just a synth, and you know, it had drum sounds in there, too. You could program it and do all kinds of stuff in there.
BeatTips: And how long did you rock with that?
Upright: I rocked with that—I had that in my main setup for a while. I got that in ’04. And I had that up until 2009.
BeatTips: So wait. You were using the Korg Ectribe along with Acid? Or at that time, had you left Acid alone?
Upright: Yeah, I had left Acid alone. I was just messing around with that by itself. And I wasn’t even really, you know, making anything…I was really just trying to figure out what hardware was at that point. And since my brother got me into hardware, he had so much hardware. We would MIDI up his machine with my machine and then run it into a mixer, and we would just kind of collaborate on music. So it wasn't really hip hop, it was his house stuff with what I was trying to do.
BeatTips: So your brother taught you a lot about music-making in general?
Upright: He taught me a lot about hardware, how to MIDI-up stuff, how to connect two modules. And so from there…he had a sequencer, and I needed something more. Then I remembered, my mind went back to the ‘90s, I was like, 'Man, I can sample!' My buddy said I ought to get some records. And I was like, 'Yeah, records!' So when I got some records, I needed something more than just that Electribe because I can’t—No, actually, you know what, that’s backwards. He was telling me that I need to sample. So then my mind went back to the '90s. So I went and bought a SP606. Which was like a kind of knock-of the, really, the MPC. Roland was just trying to knock-of the MPC. So then I realized that the 606 wouldn’t really chop, it wouldn’t chop like the MPC would. So I got rid of the 606 and I got the MPC 2500.
BeatTips: And what did you notice when you got the 2500? What happened to you as a music maker and your whole understanding of beats?
Upright: When I had the 2500, I was starting to really get into sampling records. So I started realizing that there was a lot more control. Like, you could take a sample and really manipulate it and do a lot with it. That’s what the MPC first introduced me to—so much I could do with just recording a sample. Because before that, I hadn’t really tapped into what could be done with just a piece of audio. I was just programming beats and trying to make synth lines and stuff like that. But once I got the MPC, I started realizing you can take a sample and manipulate it and flip it and take it to another level and really make it your own. So that’s what the MPC really opened me up to.
BeatTips: And at that time, what were the things that you were studying? As far as like, people, tools, books, anything? How were you learning?
Upright: Well, at that time, man, I wasn’t really–I still didn’t have a direction that I was trying to go. I know I wanted to sample, but I didn’t know...I didn’t think to go back to some of the music I was listening to. I didn’t really think to do that until a while later. But at the time…my mindset was like, O.K., I’m going to take these records and do my own thing. As I was doing that, I noticed that things just didn’t sound like I wanted them to, you know. It was a sample, I was flippin’ it, but something was missing. And I think what that was...I didn’t have any structure, any inspiration.
BeatTips: So where did you find that inspiration and structure at?
Upright: Well, I really, I just started dissecting people like Kev Brown. He was one of the first ones that I really was like, 'Man, this cat’s pretty fresh right here.' I started dissecting what he was doing and just getting inspiration off of people like that.
BeatTips: When did things start to click for you? Like when did you start to get the hang of it?
Upright: Man, to be honest, I think that was like last year! It hasn’t been that long since I really felt like things are starting to click. And for me, I guess it was slower because I didn’t go to people and try to look at, like, ‘O.K., what is this dude doing? What makes his tracks dope?’ until recently. And then what really brought it together for me, man, was the EQ’ing and compression. Cuz I had my drums, and I’d listen to other people’s tracks, and I’d be like, 'Man, they sound so much fatter, so much more.' It still didn’t click with me that it was the drum track that was really driving hip hop. I don’t know why, man, it just never clicked with me. But my buddy, Matt Hoffman, and he does more like his own compositions of rock and stuff like that, I would listen to him and his stuff sounded so dynamic. And I was like, 'Why does his track sound like that?' I could hear everything real good. And the drums were crisp and the sounds were crisp. And so, just talking with him, he introduced me to compression and EQ’ing and stuff like that. And I started studying that stuff. He would tell me, “EQ this and compress that,” and I really didn’t know what he was talking about. So I started looking into that, then I would go back and listen to people’s beats, then I put 2 and 2 together.
BeatTips: What’s your current setup?
Upright: Right now, I’d say my main piece is Reason 6. That’s my main tool. And then I have the Maschine, too. I can just stand alone with Reason 6, but Maschine is pretty dope, too. And then I have the MPD. I had the MPC 2500, but when I saw what Reason could do, I had to check out Reason. Once I started messing with Reason, I realized that basically everything that I can do in the 2500, I can do in Reason. So I got rid of the 2500.
BeatTips: So translate your workflow for how you use Reason 6, based off of your experience using the 2500. How does that translate?
Upright: So like a comparison between those two?
BeatTips: No, not necessarily a comparison, but how are you able to achieve on Reason 6 what you used to achieve on the 2500?
Upright: O.K., I see what you’re saying. Well, basically, the 2500—you know you could slice up samples and then it had 16 levels. So those were the two things that I was like, 'As long as I can do that, then I’m going to be O.K.' So I had to get Recycle. That was the thing. You chop up in Recycle. And then from there, once it’s a Rex file, it’ll go in the Rex player. So there’s your chops right there. And then anything you have chopped up, you can throw into one of the other samplers, and get basically your 16 levels. So for me, it was those two things; and then being able to record whatever I want. My turntable runs right into my computer. If I need to record a guitar, bow, it’ll go right into Reason like it would the MPC.
BeatTips: What interface are you using? How are you going into your computer?
Upright: I’m just going through a ProFire. It’s a little M-Audio interface, ProFire 610. It has 4 ins, MIDI, and 4 outputs.
BeatTips: And what are you using to control Reason with?
Upright: I control Reason with a MPD 32. And then I have a MIDI keyboard, an Ediorl M30…the MIDI keyboard for playing like chords and stuff like that.
BeatTips: So break down your music process. Are you systematic or more organic?
Upright: Lately, I’ve been real systemic. Because I feel like if I can get the melody that I like first, if I can really feel the melody, that’s what I want there first. Because I know I want to bring the drums in hard…If I get a good melody that I like, then I know that behind that I can bring a drum track in that’s going to hit and compliment the melody. So I’ll pull all my drums off of vinyl. That’s where I start. I’ll get my melody going, then I’ll find a break on a vinyl record. And then find one that matches that melody, that goes good with that melody. And then I’ll chop up the drums and lay the drums down; and basically that’s the foundation. Then from there, I’ll probably add something subtle or light on top of that to kind of compliment the groove. And then from there, I’ll got to the bass line.
BeatTips: Let’s go back to Recycle for a moment. With software, have you found that it takes you longer or just about the same time?
Upright: Uh…[thinks long about it] To me, it seems faster, because if I have an idea, I know everything is in the computer already, pretty much. Unless I want to get something from another record and throw it in there, too. The only thing that I’d say is the extra step is when I have to chop something up. So that’s kind of why I got the Maschine. Because the Maschine is just like a chopping beast. Where the MPC 2500 could have 64 slices, the Maschine can have 4,096 slices! You can put one Rex file on one pad of the Maschine. A Rex file can be 92 slices, so now you have 92 slices on one pad.
BeatTips: But tell me what’s the benefit of that? How have you used that capability before. Give me example.
Upright: So you can drop a Rex file on one pad, and then use your keyboard to play that melodies and those chops, or whatever you have on that Rex file on that pad. And so that’s just one pad. So instead of having, you know, a whole MPC dedicated to your melody or something, let’s say you chop something up that extensively to where you have all those chops on there, now that’s just on one pad. I have all those other pads for whatever else I may need them for. The Maschine is crazy because I could put a compressor on one pad and run my chops through this pad over here to pad 16 in group A. It’s just a whole nother work flow on that thing. That’s why I got the Maschine, to speed up my chopping. Because when I want to chop and get something going, and I don’t want to start in Reason, I’ll open Maschine and do it that way. And then I’ll export everything out of Maschine and drop it over into Reason. But regardless, I always finish everything in Reason. No matter where it starts, the final product is gonna go into Reason.
BeatTips: So if you have all of those slices on one pad, how do you take out, let’s say, just two or three that you want to use? Do you take them out and assign them to a different pad or what do you do?
Upright: Yep, yep! You can take ‘em out. So like if I have a little sound that I want to accentuate or do something to, flip it, reverse, whatever, you can just extract just that one sample and put it on another pad and do whatever you want to it.
BeatTips: Clearly, listening to your music, you use a combination of sample-based and non-sample-based approaches, but are you more of a sample-based beatmaker or non-sample-based? What do you consider yourself?
Upright: I consider myself…If I had to choose one, I’d say sample-based. If I couldn’t use any synths, I’d do my bass lines, grab a little piece and just make my bass lines like that.
BeatTips: So you’re probably more like a hybrid?
Upright: Hybrid! Definitely! Definitely!
BeatTips: About your drums, you mentioned that you sample them. Do you use sample packs as well or stock sounds from your gear?
Upright: No, I really don’t get into those kinds of sounds. I generally just keep it records because I want to have that grit, that grit sound that hip hop sound that you can only get from when your drums come off records. So that’s what I really, really want to have in my tracks. One example of what I had to do lately is, I sampled a kick and a snare from a break, then I chopped it up. Once I got it in the track, I realized the kick wasn’t cutting through like I wanted to. So what I did, I kept that kick there, but I blended in something that had some more high frequencies that could punch through, you know what I mean?
Upright: So it still had that underlying grit sound, but the kick was cutting through because of that little tiny layer that I had on top. So I do stuff like that. But really try to keep it vinyl-based drums. And there was one tip you gave on BeatTips that really took me to the next level, man. When you talked about sampling just stuff, you know you were talking about, take your microphone and hit on boxes and do this and that. And I hadn’t really considered that, man. That took me to a whole nother level. That helped me to really branch out, and see that there was more to defining your sound. You know, and how when you talked about how to make your snares. I read that, too on the BeatTips website, and I was like, 'Man, this is some really good stuff right here.'
BeatTips: Do you sample your drum sounds dry or do you EQ or amp them up in any way?
Upright: I sample them straight dry. I keep them where their way below clipping, way below being hot at all. So once their in there, and they sound good just like they are on the record, at that point I’ll EQ them and do different stuff to them. You know, maybe pitch them down, or depending on what it takes. You know, whatever it takes to get them to sound like my ear is feeling it should sound.
BeatTips: What’s the signal flow that you’re using when you sample?
Upright: Turntable going into a DJ mixer. It’s just a Numakr PT-200, nothing special, just a basic mixer. I think it’s their bottom of the line “cheapy” mixer.
BeatTips: From your Numark, where do you got to?
Upright: That runs into the computer interface and then straight into the computer…Then I sample it into either Reason or Maschine, either one of those.
BeatTips: What determines whether you’re going to sample using Reason or the Maschine?
Upright: Really, it’s just what I feel like, where I feel like I want to take it. Like, where my inspiration is feeling like I want to go. So if I feel like in Maschine...they have like different synths…so if I feel like I want to use a VST, I’ll go to Maschine because Reason doesn’t host VSTs…you know, Massive or whatever, Absynth, or something like that. But if I feel like I want to use some Reason synths, then I’ll go into Reason.
BeatTips: Tell me about your main creative influences. Be it music or any other creative art forms. Specifically, what and who are they, and how do you incorporate them into your music?
Upright: I listen to, man, it’s a lot of stuff. A lot of my influence comes from what’s there on the record. But a lot of times, you know, I’ll just vibe on what other people are doing and just kind of let that spark my creativity. Because I feel like…If you separate yourself from what people are doing, then you really can’t grow as an artist. And that’s really what I feel like. So basically, it’s a community. So if you’re part of a community, the community sparks everybody. You spark off one another. That’s like big for me. Like, if you have an artist over here, and he’s creating by himself, you know, his stuff will be dope. But if you have five guys, and they’re really learning, and these five guys are kind of sparking each other, I feel like their art will go to a whole nother level, you know, than just the one dude by himself, you know what I mean. Because he knows only the techniques that he knows. And so you got these five dudes who know…You got five vibes, and five vibes are thinking five different ways. And so, you put all those methods together and all those guys will go to another level.
BeatTips: I completely understand. It’s similar to how bebop developed in jazz.
BeatTips: From the beginning, like when you first started, did you understand that beatmaking was an art form, or was it something you came to learn recently?
Upright: I do understand it’s an art form. Recently, I’ve come to learn that, within the past, let’s say…and I know it’s cliché to say, but Dilla, the Donuts album. Because that, for me, you know he was doing some pretty crazy stuff on there. And that’s when my mind kind of clicked. I mean, I know there’s a whole spew of people that have been doing stuff like that and being creative and being artistic before that. But when I heard that—and I’m not a huge Dilla fan—when I heard the Donuts album, I was like, 'Man, I can listen to this and really appreciate it for what it is.' It doesn’t have to have an MC on it. And I’m not in love with every track on there, but you know, that’s when I realized…there’s a lot of creativity in the expression just within the beat by itself.
BeatTips: Do you mix your own beats?
BeatTips: What do you use?
Upright: I do everything right there in Reason. Reason 6 has that SSL 9000 emulator in there. So basically, it’s like a replica of the SSL 9000 mixing board. So I got real comfortable using that, man. And that’s where I mixed down everything.
BeatTips: Do you save a level of creativity for the mixing process?
Upright: Definitely! Definitely! Definitely! And to me, mixing is like real subjective. It’s like, one person my think, you know, “Your hi-hats are a little too loud.” But for me, I want them to really cut your ears in a certain section. And that’s the subjective part of mixing. Once you figure out what you’re doing, as far as mixing down your tracks, you can really put your touch or your creativity or your stamp, your signature, on the mixing process.
BeatTips: How did you find out about The BeatTips Community, and what made you join TBC?
Upright: I found about The BeatTips Community through Saint Joe. I was checking out his website…He had a list of websites that he likes, you know. And it had BeatTips there, and I hit it. And ever sense, man, it’s just been one of my favorites.
BeatTips: I appreciate that. And what made you ultimately join TBC?
Upright: Man, the level of insight, especially you. The way you break down your analysis; your perception of beatmaking, it’s just like you want to be around that, man.
BeatTips: And what was cool is that you joined TBC recently, and then you won the first battle of the new year. And you see how our battles get. So I definitely want to congratulate you on that again. And for your winning beat, “Bear Fruit,” that was a formidable composition. So tell me how that beat came about.
Upright: Basically, I got this old 45. Let me—I have the 45 right here. It’s Lee Davis, and it’s either “Two Ships Passing in the Night”…or “Everybody;” so it’s one of those two. I can’t remember, but there was an organ on there. So I got that organ and then…I chopped it up and laid those chops down. And then from there, I got the drums off a record and then laid the drums down. And I was doing that in the Maschine. And that bass line, I got that from Massive, that’s a Native Instruments synth.
BeatTips: You’re saying the bass parts? Because you played the bass line, right? Or was that whole bass line a phrase that you sampled?
Upright: No, no! I played that on the MIDI keyboard from Massive, the synth, Massive. So once I had those couple elements right there, I threw it over into Reason. And I started working from there. I sampled a shekere, well, I call it a cabasa, you know, it’s got the little beads on it. So I sampled that and then a couple of things, like a knock. And I layered the knock with the snare. And just kept building it...basically, adding little elements and tightening up the mix. And it was a wrap.
BeatTips: Coming back to your process, it sounds like you use the Maschine now to get your ideas going and to develop the main framework of where you want to go.
Upright: Definitely! I start a framework in Maschine, then shoot it over into to Reason and work out the rest of it there, you know, maybe add a few instruments.
BeatTips: Now, is that “Bear Fruit” beat an old beat or a recent beat?
Upright: Nah, I made it for that [BeatTips.com] beat battle.
BeatTips: Was it a late night joint or day time?
Upright: That was a late night joint, man, sure was.
Below is "Bear Fruit," the beat Upright won the January, 2012 BeatTips.com Beat Battle with.
The music below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship.
One of the most sinister, all-around dope beats that I’ve ever heard… It’s dark, eery, rambunctious, and hypnotic. It’s mysterious and yet hauntingly familiar. This beat makes a powerful statement…
The first thing that hit me about this masterfully crafted beat was the swing. On my first listen, of course I heard the bass part (I address that below), but it was the swing of this joint that grabbed me. Not only could I feel the swing, I could hear it. It tumbled and shuffled along with an emphatic, menacing, decadent arrogance (and, man, how hip hop is that?); I felt like it was taunting me and daring me to try to rhyme to it… Excellent room for various rap styles.
And dig the arrangement of this joint:
Two slow-dragging harmony lines that feature a progression that dissolves more than anything else; combined with warped, wavy, wobbling bass stabs—absolutely fantastic! Then the drumwork is flawless, no missteps whatsoever. Each sound—from the silhouette-heavy hi-hat to the tuck-punch snare to the straight forward and clear kick—is a spot-on match for the feel created by the aforementioned harmony chords and bass part arrangement. The tom fill, which is totally unexpected, works as a magnetic change that keeps the listener—more importantly, the lyricist—on his or her toes. I dig the use of toms in any capacity, and Upright’s choice to let their velocity speak rather than tuck them in the mix demonstrates his deep understanding of a drum element many beatmakers often get wrong. Finally, the placement and limited occurrence of the open hi-hat shows great discipline on your part. As I listened to and studied this beat, I wondered if you at first had the open hi-hat running more regularly throughout. If you did, your removal of it exemplifies another important quality of a master beatmaker—knowing how to revise, i.e. knowing what to remove and where and when to remove it.
One more thing: That “Something terrible has happened” vocal sample at the :41 mark is just a beautiful touch.
Uhohbeats - "Lost in My Own Mind"
First impressions: All around good feeling soulful beat with extraordinarily tight construction. Uhoh, this level of construction has become a staple feature of your beats. I should add that with this beat, your understanding of how to flip and merge different parts of the primary source material has greatly improved (and note, your skill with this was already on an advanced level before).
This beat conveys a sure-minded composition. In that I mean, you fully committed to the direction that you wanted to go in. There are no wasted parts or changes that don’t belong. Instead, everything works; every element flows (effortlessly) with the next. The drums are sick (as usual). The salt-n-pepper shaker hi-hat pattern is perfect—it’s velvet hardcore brush taps give the framework a dope shuffle. Then, on the main breakdown, the hi-hat pattern switches up to a sparse staccato pattern—brilliant programming!
This beat battled it out for first place—for four days straight! It’s a perfect beat in every way…. Just as I did with Upright’s beat, I considered everything from which rappers would sound dope on it, to what feeling it conveyed, to the nature of the composition; I even considered what type of episode of the shows “Entourage” and “Californication” this beat would serve as a perfect ending for! In the end, it came down to feeling. One beat was smooth, sharp, and deadly; the other was raw, sharp, and deadly. In other words, they were both sharp and deadly, but the raw slightly edged out the smooth.
BrandonF42088 - "RobinJonez"
This is slick-funk, 2am, slow-roast shit. (Damn if it didn’t taunt me into rhymin’.) So subtle, so smooth. I really dig this soulful, spine-crawling type of beatwork. It offers great space for dope lyrical word play and inspired flow. Another thing that I really like about this beat is that you immediately get it; you immediately knod your head to it; it sticks with you.
SPECIAL AWARDS Segundo Award for Consistency and Contribution
DC - "Gorge"
Your beats have their own distinct sound, style, and quality to them. And with this beat, you demonstrate how to be creative while staying squarely in your own zone. I dig the drums, especially the heavy rolls. And the change at the :57 mark gave this joint a dimension of urgency.
I get the feeling that you’ve moved into a creative space where you deliberately make beats that can be used both as stand-alone instrumentals and for rappers. No doubt this is due to your burgeoning success on the licensing market. Only thing that I would caution is that as you do gain more success in licensing, do not forget about making joints specifically for cats to rap to. Your arsenal is deep and always polished; I’d hate to see your sound lose some of its hunger and rawness.
The DJ Pas Rhyme Award for the Beat that Made Me Write a Rhyme to It (All New Award!)
DJ Pas – “Light Pas"
Immediately drew me in. Halfway through my first listen, I stopped the beat, began it again, and started writing a rhyme to it. I dig the break; I dig the simplicity of it; I dig how the drums trail the sample, how they’re not locked completely on top. That style is reminiscent of Marley Marl’s early drumwork.
Because I was so inspired to immediately write a rhyme to this joint, I had to create a new award and name it in your honor.
Get Paid With Heart Award for the #1 Crossover Joint that Still Pays Homage to the Beatmaking Craft There’s a tie: between Castro Beats – “Daggers” and Influence1210 – “Getting It Together”
Castro Beats - "Daggers"
Castro, you’re quite the methodicalist. I hear a focused experimentation in all of your beats. This is good because even with all of your experimentation, there are always signs that you know where you’re trying to go with a particular beat. On this beat, there are a collage of different things happening. In a fundamental way, this beat puts you in the mind of a Hank Shocklee and the Bomb Squad beat. Only your construction here works in some of today’s synth themes; and it does so in a way that gives this beat a decadent balance. This beat is certainly not for a weak lyricist or a rapper with a shallow voice. It’s imposing and the balance of sounds gives it a weight that only the most self-assured and lyrically agile rapper could handle. (Ay, yo, wait a minute. I should rock on this beat, come to think of it…)
Influence1210 – “Getting It Together”
Influence1210, your musicality is immediately and absolutely apparent. In fact, this is a brilliant piece of work; I was immensely impressed. However, this joint doesn’t fall squarely in the hip hop/rap side of things. Could someone rap over it? Certainly. But it has a more “urban dance/pop” feel to it. Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not. Like I said, this beat is superb. For its design and scope, it’s everything it should be. But for me, it even goes beyond that because it doesn’t just mimic an urban dance tune, it delivers a unique punch and feel, something that certainly pays homage to the art of beatmaking.
TBC Most Improved Award
--- Honorable Mentions:
SC-Beatz – “The Street Tip”
Again SC you return with a beat that showcases your usual shine and polish. However, the transition at the :56 mark takes this beat to new heights of SC-Beatz-craftsmanship. To be certain, this is more of an orchestral style composition. But it doesn’t have the clunkiness or coldness that you often find with that style.
One thing I should point out is that this beat is so grand that it would be better served for a film score. As a beat to rhyme to? Not so much.
Krazyfingaz – “Asylum”
Solid. This was some gothic, netherworld shit with a boom-bap underpinning. This beat has a lot of angst to it, which is good because it gives it an edge. The drums keep the sound scope together.
Greenmonstermuzik – “If You See Me”
Nice flip of a well-known classic song. The embellishments are dope; drums dope; and the bounce on this joint is crazy. Ghostface would destroy this beat!
Jtnonefive – “Crazy”
This beat displays a RZA, Wu-Tang Clan influence. The framework locks in from go! Get a rapper on with a devastating flow and you’ll have an ill song.
Jerz-E-Ric – “By Any Means”
This beat has a stadium-level weight to it, a sound and feel that would serve well even a less experienced MC. Decent, polished construction from start to finish. But two notes that I want to make: (1) This beat sounds “safe”, it’s like a run of the mill “beat battle” beat, the kind you regularly hear on the live beat battle and beat showcase circuits. Not necessarily any flaws, but on the other hand, there aren’t any chances being taken here, which ultimately leaves the beat less interesting and soulless. (For comparison, check Castro’s beat. It’s interesting, it’s pushing towards its own uniqueness.) And (2) Although this beat does stand on its own merits, particularly with the inclusion of the guitar work, it exemplifies the Just Blaze-bread “big drums” style and sound.
Mike Millz (The Beatsmith) – “Midnight Madness”
Nice mood and sound scope. This joint is laid back, too laid back. It has no “teeth” to it. The kick is dramatically understated; if it had been more forceful or even louder in the mix, the entire beat would have presented differently. Also, the snare sounds like it wants to be opened up and let out.
MelloKid – “ K echo”
Straight forward boom bap. The Bass part is one event/note too many. Stay out of your own way with one too many bass-stabs. The drums are on point, but let the drum framework and the main sample work for you.
Chazz Sweet – “Indian Girl”
The sitar pokes out at you too much, if you’re considering this beat for a rapper. But for background in a movie, for example an establishing shot for a locale switch, sure, this beat works great. Also, the overall structure of this beat echoes a Dr. Dre/Mike Elizondo number. But their production always has a very tight rhythm to it, and it never carries needless embellishments.
Your synth work (chords) are very much on point! As a beat for a film score, “Indian Girl” is excellent as is. But as a beat for a rhyme, the sitar is not needed; in fact, it doesn’t help at all.
(With regard to the sitar “poking out”, listen to 2 Legit Productions beat, “Long Haul”. Notice how subdued the guitar is.)
The Beat Pharmacy – “Valley of Centuries”
Drums are dope, nice sound to them. Overall, the beat is decent (transitions are excellent), but it doesn’t grab you. And like several other beats in this battle, this joint might be better suited for a film/television score. If you already haven’t, you should look into licensing.
Donproductionsbeatz – “Nightmare”
First impression: It sounds like a “beat battle” beat—the kind you routinely hear now in on the live beat battle circuit. In particular, I hear the bright, “big drums” trend that’s beginning to dominate the live beat showcase circuit.
There’s room enough for a rapper to do something with this joint. But it comes off as if the idea of a rapper on it was a second thought to you. Also, even though this beat is fairly decent, it appears that you’ve either lost or abandoned the soulful quality that used to figure into your beats. Don P, that’s not a good thing... In fact, this beat sounds labored, not so much natural and distinctly original, more like an attempt at an well-established template. Although you’re able to pull it off to a commendable degree (I’m sure there will be those who dig this joint), it sounds more manufactured than created.
This was by far the hardest BeatTips.com Beat Battle to judge… The celebration of the art of beatmaking was so much in effect that it was difficult for me to pick one clear winner. In previous battles, contention for the top spot typically came down to a choice of two. But in this battle, on my initial passes through everyone’s beats, there were at least five beats in contention for the top spot. (The range of beats was incredibly encouraging to hear!) This is a major testament to the level and quality of our community. I’m convinced that in the near future, our battle will be the most important and sought after online.
Finally, I want to welcome all of the new members to TBC! Our ranks are growing, we’re getting stronger, and our collective voice is going to make a difference…watch!
One more note: The BeatTips.com Beat Battle is for BeatTips.com subscribers and TBC members only. If you have not subscribed to BeatTips.com, please do so before the next battle begins. You can subscribe to BeatTips.com by clicking on the “Get email updates” button near the top right, just beneath the menu bar. TBC members who are not subscribed to BeatTips.com will not be able to participate in future BeatTips.com Beat Battles.
The February BeatTips.com Beat Battle will begin on Friday, February 17, 2012!!!
Congratulations to Upright
Upright email me at: [email]firstname.lastname@example.org[/email], include your full name and complete address for where you’d like your book delivered. 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.
Finding the Right Signal Chain for Your Style and Sound, When Your Mixing Samples in Your DAW
By DARRELL KELLOWAY (DK) and AMIR SAID (SA'ID)
DK: "Is there a proper signal chain for mixing samples (pre-recorded material off records) such as drums, basslines, and non-drum sound instruments?"
Sa'id: dk, First thing. When you say "*signal chain* for mixing samples," do you mean to ask about what signal chain to use to when tracking (recording) into your DAW? The reason I ask is because, if you're at the *mixing* point, you're already past the signal chain point...
I don't think that the use of the word "proper" is the best way to phrase your question or kick off this thread. Perhaps the word "effective" is better. "Proper" sounds dogmatic, as in there's only one way. In regards to signal chains, there are multiple effective ways that different people like to choose, for various reasons
If you are asking about what signal chain to use before the mixing point, well, then consider the fact that an *effective* signal chain completely depends on the beatmaker (and mixer) and the style and sound he or she (or they) is/are going for. Different sounds produce different signals, but the degree of difference changes with the sample. For example, a stand-alone bass sample will generate one kind of signal; while a sample that contains basslines, drums, and non-drum instruments will generate yet another kind of signal.
DK: First of all, thanks the reply.
Secondly, I agree wholeheartedly that "effective" would have been a much better word for what I'm asking. The best thing about TBC is that we have no "know it all's" here that claim to know everything and therefore bring down the integrity of the boards. Amen to that.
Back to my original question though, I meant once the samples are tracked into the DAW, is there a certain signal chain on the inserts that would help me mix my samples more efficiently? For example, say that I have a high-pass filter applied on my primary sample track (the sample contains a guitar, strings, piano chords, organ etc) and I planned on "bumping" the sample like you described in the BeatTips Manual. Say, I wanted also wanted to compress the sample and add some reverb as well. Would the proper plugin sequence on the inserts be 1) high pass filter 2) compression 3) reverb, or should I compress the sound last? If so, is there a reason behind doing so?
I remember you posting here a few months ago that it helps to know your sounds, and to have that sound available if possible before entering the mix phase (eg. using a kick drum with lots of low end in your beat before tracking it into your DAW).
Before sampling, I also use your trick of playing around with the DJ mixer so I can get the sound that I'm looking for before sampling. What I mean in this case is that for this particular I noticed that the bassline didn't really stand out, but I wanted the strings and the organ sounds (the mids and the highs) to stand out so they would be easier to chop. Doing so, I turned down the low end on the dj mixer so the bass was less audible when I sampled it. This did help me get the sound I was looking for, but if I was looking to tweak it even further in my DAW, which plugin effects chain would be the most beneficial for what I'm trying to do with the sample?
OK, now I get what you're asking...
Generally speaking, compression would be last on the chain you described. As for the high pass filter and the reverb, that depends on what you're trying to achieve. I usually work my levels (EQ/Filters) before I apply reverb. But then there are other times (for instance, sometimes when I re-sample my own snare sounds) where I apply the reverb (for the elongated sound and roominess) before the EQ. In cases like these, I'm interested in the "shape" of the sound before the "color" (feel, EQ) of the sound. So once I get the shape of the sound (the duration, spacing), I can then go about modifying how it knocks (or doesn't), shuffles, or tucks through the mix, etc.
It's often a good thing to compress last because compression actually "squashes"/restrains the fullness of a sound. In fact, with my style and sound I tend to avoid compression as much as possible. This is why I've spent a great deal of time knowing my sound before I track into my DAW... The idea is to have the sound as close to complete as possible before I mix. This way, when I mix it or turn it over to someone else to mix, there's no guess work—The sound scope is already there, like a map... Check out my interview with mix engineer Steve Sola in The BeatTips Manual where he discusses receiving a near-finished mix, before he even touched it.
As for the DJ mixer amplification/EQ, please note: I pretty much have the left and right EQ bands (channels) set to a default! In other words, I don't adjust my mixer for every record (or other source material) that I sample. Instead, my DJ mixer's EQs stay the same... But remember, I route my DJ mixer through my analog Mackie board. And it is there where I may modify the Hi's and Lo's of the source material, before I sample it. Keeping my DJ mixer with my custom default EQ setting helps keep my own style and sound.
Finally, remember, once you get any bass part into your DAW, you can just duplicate the tracked bass part (as needed) and boost the low end (I like to use the multiple band EQ) on the duplicates or turn their volume up.
Taking Short Breaks from Computer; Self-Imposed Refresher Course Helps Rejuvenate and Improve My Creativity
By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)
Every other week or so, I work on making new beats without the use of my computer. That is to say, without tracking my beat into Pro Tools, my DAW of choice.
What brought about this decision? Two things. First, I like to revisit the mind frame that I was once in, when I didn't have regular access to, or the convenience of, a computer. Second, and this is perhaps more important, I want my son, Amir Ali Said, to always view the computer as an aid, not necessarily a necessity, to his beatmaking skills.
My son, Amir (now 14), first began seriously watching me make beats when he was 4 years old. Back then, I didn't have a computer...I didn't even have a CD recorder. Nope. I had a cassette recorder, and that's what I used to record my beats to.
Looking back on that time, I realize how much I adjusted my beatmaking style to accommodate how I would be recording my beats. In fact, every new piece of gear that I added to my setup—that was supposed to improve my tracking (recording) process—actually prompted me to change how I made my beats. When I first got a mixing console, a 16-channel Mackie board, I changed up how I modified my bass lines. When I got my first CD recorder, I doubled the time I usually spent on "mixing" my beats. And, finally, when I first got Pro Tools, I tripled the time (if not more) that I spent on "mixing" my beats.
In the past 10 years, I've probably acquired five different mixing consoles, three different versions of Pro Tools and its hardware interfaces, four different CD recorders, and no less than seven pairs of speakers and monitors. And with each of these new acquisitions, I increased the time I spent tracking (recording) my beats, while at the same time, I decreased the time I spent actually making my beats.
Lately, this dilemma has been resonating much more. Particularly, because my son's understanding of, and interest in, beatmaking has grown dramatically—much more faster than it took me to understand certain things. So as Amir becomes more in tune with the art of beatmaking, I'm finding that some of the best things I have to teach him are the many things I learned prior to getting a mixing console, prior to getting a CD recorder, and prior to getting Pro Tools. And although I realize that's it's just plain practical to use a DAW, I specifically, think it's important for him to learn how to protect the imagination and creativity of his musicianship from an over reliance on particular music production tool.
BrandonF42088 Scores Long Sought Win; TBC Still on the Move
By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)
Here's my breakdown of the most recent BeatTips Beat Battle.
BrandonF4208 - "Sliver"
This joint has masterful command. Every element is well-stated and uncompromising. For instance, the bass-stabs show up ONLY when needed. Not only are they properly spaced, their discrete, smooth, and booming all at the same time... so effective—timing so perfect it's natural. Your pick for the snare was right and exact. And I dig the kick drops; nice touch! Also, this beat has that special kind of *room* that lyricists need to dig in and carve out something engaging. Finally, I gotta point out that this beat has *guts* and soul, with a sort of "chip on its shoulder." Great beatwork, man. Very impressed.
Last Ritez - "The Magnificent"
This is bottom-dollar, gutter boom bap, with enough swing to absolutely murder a club! You kept the rhythm up front and center, and let everything "glide" unforced with it. Drums are steady, but *deadly hard*. This joint is well-paced and relaxed; and it has ample room for any lyricist to rock on. Dope.
dKelloway - "Blast"
dK, it's clear that you now have a much stronger sense of rhythm. Also, I notice that you are branching out more into percussion. Dope! And was that a rising synth harmony line that I heard on this joint? Nice combination of samples and synths. Overall, your sound is *bigger* with this beat. I'm not necessarily sure if that's a good thing though, because I don't know if that's the direction you're actually trying to go in. Truth is: your more grimier, raw, straight boom bap is when you're at your best. And it's like I told SC a long time ago: embrace your influences, but don't fight against what you actually do best.
TBC Members Talk Shop About The Use Of Sidechain Compression
By D. Kelloway, Brandon F42088, and Amir Said (Sa'id)
Sidechain compression has been coming up a lot lately. In The BeatTips Community, it's been a lead topic for several months, and in recent weeks I've received a number of emails about it. So I thought it would be a good idea to feature this TBC shop talk between members dKelloway and Brandon F42088.
While making hip hop/rap beats how often do you find yourself using sidechain compression w/ the kick and bassline? Lately for me I've been using it often. How about you?
Not too often for hip hop beats I will sometimes have the kick trigger the threshold for a compressor on the bass if I am mixing a live hip hop track but generally not on my own tracks.
I use compression pretty lightly on my own tracks because a lot of bass samples that I have got off of records have already been compressed when they were originally recorded or mixed.
I also use a compressors sidechain for ducking when I am mixing other music or post production stuff. Sometimes I will have the vocal trigger the threshold for certain musical elements so the vocal will bring down the other music a little.
hmm, interesting. I thought that in the 1970's that engineers used little compression on the drums. Does this apply to the bass as well?
It depends on the record but they did compress bass and drums too as well as other elements to some extent. If you look at some of the boards that where used to track bands in the 1970s, there are built-in compressors right on the channels as well as master bus compressors (console manufacturers like NEVE and SSL).
The compression you are talking about—I believe—is the limiting done in the mastering stage that squashes the shit out of the dynamic range of a track that is very commonly done by mastering engineers today. In the 1970s they did not use hard ceiling limiters like they do today. If you look at a record from the 1970s that has not been remastered recently and then you take that same record that has been remasterd, there is a huge difference. You will see that the remastered record sounds much louder and has way less dynamic range.
The reason for this over limiting is to compete with the loudness of records today. Look at the latest metalica record and import a track into your DAW that shit is a straight up square wave. Square waves = distortion!
Sorry I totally got sidetracked.
Anyway there is nothing wrong with using sidechain compression with samples, if it sounds better to you. On the next track I track out I will experiment with some sidechain compression with the kick and bass.
For over 95% of the beats that I've made, I haven't used sidechain compression. As for beats/songs that I've gone on to mix (by a mix engineer or myself), I have used sidechain compression.
As my own general rule, I try to avoid—as much as possible—what I consider to be mix treatments in the beatmaking phase of recording. What I mean by "mix treatments" are measures and methods that I consider to be typically reserved for the mix stage of recording.
For one thing, I'm pretty tuned into (no pun intended) to the sort of sounds (textures) that fit my style and overall sound. Therefore, when I sample—either from a record or such, or even myself playing live—the ways in which I chop (truncate) my samples often keeps me from having to use a measure like sidechain compression. Reason why? I know my drum sounds, particularly my kicks, which means I already have a good idea of which of my kicks will "turn up the bass," that is to say, make the bass part's signal (or any other sound) too hot. Thus, when I'm crafting a beat, I'm very mindful of both the sound, feel, and signal that the elements I'm using are giving off.
So before I even track into my DAW (in this case, Pro Tools 7), I've already "tucked" my kick or smoothed out my bass parts in a way in which one element is not slamming the harder, making sidechain compression unnecessary for me in the beatmaking stage.
Now, that being said, once I've tracked everything into my DAW, there are some instances in which I will apply sidechain compression. But even then, the times that I do so is far and few between. The reality for me is, if I didn't focus so much on customizing and thus knowing my drum sounds, I might find that I need to use sidechain compression more often. But because I can hear when a kick of my is slamming or something spiking in certain parts, I like to make the adjustments before I track into my DAW.
Dedicated to exploring the art of beatmaking in all of its glory.
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Top 5 Myths About Sampling and Copyright Law
"Sampling is piracy."
Piracy describes the wholesale, verbatim copying and distribution of copyrighted works. That is not sampling; that's something entirely different. Read more
"You can legally sample and use any recording up to 1, 2, 3, or 4 seconds."
Under existing copyright law, there is no clear, predetermined length (amount in seconds) that
is “legally” permissible to sample. Read more
"If you use samples on a free mixtape, it’s perfectly O.K."
A free mixtape does NOT permit you to use samples from copyrighted recordings without the permission of the copyright holders. Read more
"Sampling is easy; there’s nothing to it. Anyone can do it well."
Sampling is an art form that requires technical skill, imagination, and artistic understanding. Read more
"Sampling involves the use of pre-recorded songs only."
While the art of sampling is most commonly understood to include the use of pre-recorded songs (traditionally from vinyl records), source material for sampling includes any recorded sound or sound that can be recorded. Read more
BeatTips Essential Listening
BeatTips.com is a website dedicated to music education, research, and scholarship. All the music (or music videos) provided on this site is (are) for the purposes of teaching, scholarship, research, and criticism only! NOTE: Under U.S. Code, Section 107 “Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use” of the Copyright Act of1976: “Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching… scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright."(U.S. Code)