Each week, I like to audition sounds that I discover (sometimes rediscover) in my MPC 4000. The reason why I consider these sounds to be "discoveries" is because I bought my MPC 4000 used, and as such, it contained thousands of sounds from the previous owner, who had it serviced at Forat. Anyway, while I was recently auditioning and organizing sounds, it got me to thinking about the perks of "prep-cooking" (pre-treating) sounds as well as making them to order.
Although I'm adept at modifying (customizing) any of my sounds to fit whatever beat that I'm working on, I tend to prefer to prep-cook my sounds. Reason why? Well, aside from speed and reliability, prep-cooking—pre-treating—my sounds, in particular my drums, allows me to focus on carving out a consistent style and sound (my own style and sound). However, that being said, I do concede that tweaking sounds made-to-order often creates more zones of spontaneity, which is a big plus for real-time creativity.
For this BeatTips Readers Poll™, the aim is to see which method—pre-treated or made-to-order—everyone prefers to use.
For Many Beatmakers, the Monitors or Speakers that They Use Can Be a Strong Point of Debate
By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)
Over the years, I've used an assortment of monitors and speakers, each complete with its own sound character. And what I've learned is that no matter what monitors or speakers that you use, your unique environment (space/room) always plays a key role.
Every room has its own unique dynamics—shape, width, length, height of the ceiling, wall density, furniture, etc. Hence, your room (production space) has to be learned, in order for any pair of monitors or speakers to truly be beneficial to you. You have to learn how your room renders bass and treble. You have to learn where your room offers the best play back. You have to learn where your room puts out a lot of "slap-back." In short, you have to learn the unique acoustic nature of your room/production space. Once you really learn your room, in tandem with whatever monitors you're using, you'll be good to go.
For this BeatTips Readers Poll™, the aim is to see which monitors or speakers everyone prefers to use.
If We Go by the Numbers Over Three Decades, Can there Be Any Consensus?
By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)
In major league baseball, numbers don’t lie. Just look at the Yankee’s sure-shot first-ballot Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera, who in 2011 season recorded his 603rd save, giving him the all time major league record (one that will likely stand forever...)
Just as numbers don’t lie in baseball, I believe that they shouldn’t lie in hip hop/rap music either. Take for instance the greatest beatmaker (I prefer to use beatmaker, “producer” is too often misused and misrepresented) of all time debate. Ask someone who the greatest beatmaker of all time is, and they’re more likely to give you an answer that reflects their personal favorites than they are to give you an answer that objectively considers the available facts. For instance, Mariano Rivera is the best closer in baseball history, it's a fact. Period. Ask a knowledgeable baseball person who's the greatest closer of all time in Major League Baseball, and they'll reply: Mariano Rivera. But does that mean Rivera is the best pitcher in baseball? Some say yes; some say no because he was a closer.
In baseball, the closer usually enters the game in the 9th inning (sometimes the 8th) when the game is on the line, when a team needs to save a victory from defeat, or when a team needs the score to remain close (usually tied), preserving the opportunity for their team to win. Thus, the role of the closer is very different from that of the starting pitcher, who usually pitches roughly 6 or 7 innings (the bulk of the innings). And because of this, closers aren’t typically in the final discussion about greatest pitchers of all time. But Mariano Rivera isn’t your typical closer. For starters, 603 saves is nothing to sneeze at; but then there's his post season wins record—42 wins! Again, in the post season—when it counts the most, no? This is made even more amazing when you consider his ultra low ERA (Earned Run Average). In other words, the guy is basically un-hittable all the time but especially when it counts the most! That's why when Mariano Rivera enters the game, it’s usually lights out for the opposing team. Numbers don’t lie...
Yet when it comes to the question of Who’s the Greatest Beatmaker of All Time, I’ve found that many people either ignore the numbers, or they believe that numbers do indeed lie. For instance, if you examine hip hop/rap music from 1985 (roughly the start of the Modern Rap era) to the present, how many people can realistically lay claim to the "greatest" beatmaker title? If we go by the numbers—in this case, the sheer catalog, the number of quality songs with quality lyricists; the reach of influence on future beatmakers; the number of years and consistency; and similar metrics—can we draw a consensus? I believe so. But I'm interested to learn what others believe.
Also, after considering the many conversations that I've had with various people—across geographic, race, and age spectrum—about this question, and reading some "greatest" lists online, I'm often left asking three questions: (1) What criteria are most people using to determine who the "greatest" is? (2) Are most people loosely broadening the definition of "greatest" in favor of an interpretation that merely allows for inclusion of their favorites? and (3) How much history do most people know about hip hop/rap music?
That said, from 1989 to 2011 (and still going), has there been anyone who’s dropped—chronologically and consistently—a larger overall body of acclaimed beatwork than DJ Premier? Clearly no disrespect to Marley Marl, The RZA, Dr. Dre, Pete Rock, Just Blaze, J Dilla and a few others who all certainly deserve to be in the discussion for who’s the greatest. But in terms of the numbers—quality wins and impact songs and albums; and work with key lyricists; and range of influence over other beatmakers (many acclaimed in their own right)—over the longest period of time (not just five years), is DJ Premier the greatest beatmaker of all time?
Opinions vary with questions like these. Of course everyone has their personal tastes and biases. Moreover, it’s understandable that many people will favor the beatmakers that are linked to their age and era. And as I mentioned previously, there are a handful of names that should no doubt be in the discussion—for various reasons. So frankly, I don’t know if there ever will be complete consensus on the “greatest beatmaker of all time” question. But one thing’s for certain, when you consider the inception of beatmaking (more than 35 years ago), and then scan year by year with a cold, objective eye, all the way up to the present, examining the catalogs of each beatmaking icon, patterns—and sometime indisputable anomalies—inevitably emerge.
For this BeatTips Readers' Poll™ I’m interested in seeing everyone’s honest and objective take on this question.
For Many Beatmakers, Getting the Beat Started with the Drum Sounds or Non-Drum Sounds is Part of a Creative System
By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)
For this BeatTips Readers Poll™, the aim is to see how everyone else likes to start their beats: Drum sounds first, or non-drum sounds first, or sometimes drum sounds first, sometimes non-drum sounds first? Interested to see if there will be a consensus. Feel free to post comments.
Drums. Every beatmaker knows their importance, but each one of us takes a slightly different approach to how we cook 'em. And even before we get into the finer details of flipping our drums and locking in our drum programming, we all have a preference for when we start work on the drums.
My default approach is to start with non-drum sounds. A major part of my creative system is seeing the music in my head without the drums. I've gone through great lengths to customize my drum sounds, so much so that when I pull sounds from my drum sound library (to match), they're the right ones—95% of the time—for what I'm trying to do musically. Therefore, when I'm making a beat, I like gather the riffs and non-drum tones first, before I assemble the drum arrangement.
Still, there are sometimes I'll start with drum sounds to get a beat going. But this depends on the mood that I'm in and the direction that I want to go in expressing that mood, or if I'm making a sample-based joint or a non-sample-based one. More often than not, when I'm making a non-sample-based beat (which I play outlive on my Fantom, then ultimately sample), I start with the drums. This is particularly helpful for me, because it establishes a rhythm and vibe guide for me to follow.
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
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