35 posts categorized "Drum Programming Techniques"

May 24, 2013

Different Methods for Adding Bottom to Kick Drums

Techniques for Giving Your Kicks a Unique Low Sound

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Getting the kick drum to have that "right" amount of low-end isn't always easy. To be sure, it's a tricky thing to do, especially considering the risk of distortion that is always ever present, when the bottom level of the kick is boosted. So when the topic was raised in The BeatTips Community (TBC), there were a number helpful responses.

Here are several notable replies:

From TBC member BrandoF42088:

"Have you played around with parallel compression(NY drum trick)? This can make for some really nice sounding drums that bang...
Parallel compression is where you take take two copies of a drum signal or all the drum signals (you can do it on just the kick or your can do it on the kick and the snare and the hat Its up to you.) You leave one the 2 of the signals just clean and open not compressed at all. Then you blend it with the other signal which you compress heavily and eq to bring out the lows. With the open signal the drums sound natural and the compressed eqed signal brings out the bump.
Edit/Delete Message."

From TBC member NCVerdict:

"Hardware compression is particularly useful if you are recording a real drummer because the volume levels fluctuate widely and you want to keep a good level for recording that doesn't clip the inputs. In beatmaking though, the volume of your drums are already programmed into your machine before you put it into your software so getting the correct volume is just a matter of setting the correct level on your soundcard or beat machine. I think that there are some bad sounding software compressors just like I think there are some bad sounding hardware compressors. If you're looking for a good (and relatively cheap) stereo hardware compressor, I got the FMR Audio RNC and I really like it. And if you're looking for a "'warm" sounding software compressor, my buddy has the one that came with his waves renaissance plug-in bundle and it sounds really good to me.


Here's my reply:

Of course, one of the best ways to get your kick to have the low sound that you desire is to give it that sound before you actually enter the mixing phase. Although I can and do mix (and pre-mix) my own beats, my strength is in coming up with unique sounds before they even get tracked into my DAW.

once I've tracked my kicks into my DAW, I rarely ever have to do much to them at all, maybe a little pull up or down of the volume leveling but very little to no EQ. Reason why? I KNOW my sounds—especially my drum sounds—and especially my kicks. I've gone through several intricate steps to craft the no more than 10 (or so) kicks that I have and use. For instance, I've recorded kick hits through my analog mixing console straight to CD. I've also recorded kick hits to cassette tape, sampled them, than tracked them into Pro Tools, where I duplicate the hit and sample them again.

Because tweaking kicks in the mix can have a profound effect on what the overall final sonic impression of a beat (song) sounds like, I'm always focused on choosing the right kick for the right beat. For me, this saves time in the mix; moreover, it allows me to focus much more on the "color" of the non-drum sounds.

Now all the above being said, in those extremely rare times that I find that I need to do some additional EQ'ing of my kicks, it's never a question of getting a "low sound," it's a question of getting a "lower" sound. If I'm making a beat and I want a low (bottom-heavy) kick, I choose that kick sound from my small arsenal of kicks. Again, I know my sounds; it's not like I set out to find a *new* kick every time a make a beat. And in the case where I'm starting out with a low-sounding kick, (for me, it's usually my Kick 17), it just becomes a matter of boosting the bottom. So there's usually one of two things that I do.

(1) I just duplicate the kick, and "round out" the levels. For instance, I'll lower the volume on one of the kicks, leaving the other as is. And sometimes, I'll call up the 7-band EQ in Pro Tools, where I shave some of the highs off of the kick. But I never like to add much (if ANY) compression to my kicks. Being mindful that a mix engineer will most like have the beat, if and when it becomes a song, I'm only interested in representing my sound and leaving room for a more qualified mix engineer to tweak the compression. And in the case where I'm doing the final mix, I'm certainly not keen on compressing the kick UNTIL I have the vocals.

(2) I simply add a more truncated or pitched-down version of the kick I already have in the beat. Usually, until I have a rough mix of a beat, I still have the beat called up on my MPC. So if I need to add anything, I add it to the beat, NOT the Pro Tools session. After I'm satisfied with whatever additions I've made, I mute all the Pro Tools tracks, and I only record the additional sound.

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

February 12, 2012

When and How to Use Time Stretch or Pitch Shifting

Clarity on Oft-Misunderstood Timing Concepts

By CASTRO BEATS and AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

In a TBC (The BeatTips Community) thread about drums, core TBC member Castro Beats offered up a great breakdown of the differences between Time Stretch and Pitch Shifting. Below is Castro's post, followed by my reply.
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I personally use Time Stretch when I'm doing Post production work (sound FX for movies) because it helps keep timing/pitch, but that's the only time I really use time stretch/elastic audio. My "time stretching" is typically done on the MPC by Up pitching or down pitching whatever I have on the pads to meet a certain length or just change the sound. The only difference is that this isn't really time stretching because it speeds up or slows down what you pitch. In Pro Tools/Cubase nowadays they have things like elastic audio, so you can create warp points (just like Recycle/Ableton) and it is able to adjust the loop to the tempo you set without changing the pitch. Depending on how far you go up or down with the tempo, the loop you're stretching could sound right or real choppy. You might apply the elastic audio rhythm to a track in pro tools and be very pleased, till you pull the tempo down far enough that the kick happens then a second later the hi-hat etc.

Now that that's explained, (I did so so everyone can understand what the difference is between time stretch and pitch shifting), Recycle has a similar but different style of time stretch. It's more of "expanding the tails of your slices" then time stretching, because when you throw a sample in Recycle and create slice point and put it into a program like Reason, it uses the now longer tails to compensate for tempo adjustments. It doesn't change the pitch it just helps match for timing in the event that you do alter the tempo. I only use that for two reasons, 1) corrective 2) the extended tail sound is cool. I personally want to hear the pitch alter the speed of the sample in most cases, not necessarily keep it at it's original tempo. The flip side of the time stretch is that it works the other way too. Instead of stretching the tails, you can make the slices super tight by shortening the decay and turning the stretch to 0%. If you play the whole loop it will sound choppy, but the individual hits will sound on point.

The way the MPC pitch shifts is great because if you have ever tried to do this in pro tools, you know that you can only go so far or do it so much before the sound is now destroyed and riddled with artifacts. The MPC and programs like SoundHack do some of the illest pitch shifting handsdown, and that is how I handle my drums to fit. I have used elastic audio/warp point features before for samples and other things, but it's more in moderation then anything else. I don't like the idea of the tempo controlling the sample/sound like Patch Phrases. That is a really good feature, the Patch Phrasing on the MPC, but it's only really useful when using the whole loop, something I don't typically do. On the MPC I can pitch something down by -36 and be able to use it without it syncing to tempo. As far as making it sound unnatural, yes and no. If you timestretch then you can get it to sound like that same loop is being played at a slower/faster tempo. Which up to a certain point will sound very natural. But when you pitch shift, things can be slightly bigger/smaller hit depending on +/- pitch. If you do it excessively it can become a whole new sound which is something I totally support doing. I feel that Pitch Shifting should be applied to slices, and time stretching to loops. If you're looking for natural you might as well sample an actual drum kit. Since I actually mic'd up a drum kit and did that, I can tell first hand that while those "real" drum sounds are great, specifically the smaller percussion (tambs, hats etc), it can become real "Eagles" sounding. Not much character, but definitely it's own sound.

In short, there is a huge difference in time stretching and pitch shifting. I like to pitch shift for creative purposes, and time stretch for corrective purposes. At present I am good enough at chopping samples that time stretching is just a "dusty tool" in the toolbox as I find slicing/pitch shifting more effective for what I am doing.
—Castro Beats
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Here's my reply

Castro,

Excellent breakdown! Bravo!!!
I particularly like your explanation for when, how, and why you use pitch shift and time stretch: "...pitch shift for creative purposes, and time stretch for corrective purposes;" and "Pitch Shifting should be applied to slices, and time stretching to loops."

I certainly see the advantages to this approach. I'm sure that you probably even have found some ways to use time stretch creatively as well...
For me, I've practically never used time stretch on loops. I have, however, used it on various sounds that I wanted to elongate and sustain, but that's about it.

One reason that I try to avoid time stretch, and instead rely more on tempo, is because of control. Part of my approach—especially when it comes to sequencing and arranging—is to try and *control* all of the musical elements that I use, in a way that encourages me to rely on my DJ background. Time stretch is certainly a great tool, and you're are absolutely right, as far as correction goes, it can smooth out sound flaws and time issues.

When I went through my experimental phase with time stretch, I learned how to drag faster tempos and push (shuffle) slower tempos. However, I also soon figured out how to do the exact same thing, by doing things like modifying the tempo; re-recording certain sections of the drum framework with timing correct turned off; inserting elongated sound-stabs where the timing wasn't quite right, etc.

Thing is, I never want my drums to sound perfect, I just want them to move and feel the way I envision. Also, I should mention that at the time when I was experimenting with time stretch, I didn't know if I was on the right course or not. I just knew that I didn't like relying on time stretch as some others did. Then I spoke to DJ Premier about it, and he told me the instances in which he liked to used time stretch. Since I was already using it similar to how he described his use of it, I continued my move away from it, as my drum frameworks had already taken on the sort of swing and shuffle that I like. Even still, if I'm making a beat and I believe that time-stretching something will be useful, I won't hesitate to rock with it.

—Sa'id

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

July 19, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Sa'id - "Before We Started Fightin'"

Getting to the Rhythm, So I Can Get to the Rhyme

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

"As a beatmaker, rhythm is fundamental to any structure I compose. As a rapper, rhythm is vital!" —Sa'id

A couple of weeks before I made and recorded "Before We Started Fightin'," I had been experimenting with extended bar structures. That is to say, rather than doubling up 1-, 2-, and 4-bar schemes, I was exploring the use of 8- and 12-bar frameworks. Throughout this exploration, I learned a number of different things. I learned new ways to anchor my beats with lightly syncopated drum patterns; I learned more about blending separate sampled pieces into single cohesive riffs; I learned more about why certain changes work better at specific points within a sequence, depending, of course, on the number of bars in the sequence; and I learned how "double time" tempos of longer bar structures could be manipulated in ways that allowed me to avoid timing correct (quantizing).

So it was the "double time"/bar structure manipulation discovery that had the most impact on how I made "Before We Started Fightin'." As a rhymer, I like to push past the typical AB AB AB AB rhyme scheme, and come up with new rhyme paths. So as a beatmaker, my focus is always on capturing the sort of rhythms that will allow me to create the vocal syncopation that best matches the idea, topic, or subject matter that I'm rhymin' about. Moreover, I don't see my vocalization as something separate from the mix; instead, I like to view my rhymes as just another instrument in the mix. (I will be writing more about that in an upcoming article.)

So when I came up with the idea—a semi-autobiographical story about a guy who realizes (almost too late) that his girl has just double-crossed him—, I wanted a beat structure that was aggressive, but not overpowering. I wanted something that would rumble in the beginning, then taper off at the end of the sequence. I also wanted something that didn't easily fit into 4/4. After re-arranging what was initially a *12-bar* sample, I chopped off 3 bars (shaving the tail of the main sample), and started experimenting with a 9-bar sequence, adding a lone snare on "the one" (rather than a kick) with a piece of silence, right before the main sample starts. Then I added in a hi-hat that I played straight through, live, with no timing correct. After that, I color everything with random low-velocity kicks. I had also added another guitar sample, but it distracted me when I was writing my rhyme; so I stripped it from the beat, and added one more hi-hat, and I was done.

For the mix, I EQ'd the bass in a way that turned up the rumble that I wanted. In contrast, I peeled back the highs to temper the vinyl static and to allow my vocals to come through stronger without using any compression. I tucked the hi-hats and kicks in the mix, so that they blended more with the main sample.

The music below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship

Sa'id - "Before We Started Fightin'" (prod. by Sa'id)

Download Sa'id - "Before We Started Fightin''

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

July 06, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Traffic's "Glad" Taught Me How To Shuffle

Lessons From One Of Progressive Rock's Most Engaging Bands

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Beatmaking, the chief compositional method of hip hop/rap music, allows for one to pull from a wide variety of musical forms (and sources) for instruction. For instance, progressive rock has always been a mainstay influence in my style and approach. And no other progressive rock band—other than Led Zeppelin of course—has had a direct hand in how I construct drum frameworks, and subsequently, my sense of time, more than the group Traffic.

Here, in their song "Glad," listen to the percussion hats that strike with suspenseful urgency on the quarter notes. And see if you can make out where the kick "hits" on the up-tempo sections of the overall arrangement. Then around the 5:00 mark, the arrangement dives into a slow, milky smooth bluesy-funk jam session that drummer Jim Capaldie laces delicately, with the sense and craftsmanship of a cat burglar. Indeed, there have been few songs that have shown me how to incorporate—and more importantly, account for—the "shuffle" element in music, while at the same time helped me improve my sense of timing.

The music and video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

Traffic - "Glad" (from the John Barleycorn Must Die album)

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

June 28, 2011

5th Seal Vlog #7

Brooklyn Beatsmith 5th Seal Drops His Latest Beat Vlog

For vlog #7, 5th Seal raids the infamous (and well-tread) dig spot A-1 Records in New York City (and runs into one of the greatest ever on the beats). As per his other installments, he offers a glimpse of the making of one of his beat gems. 5th Seal is a friend, so I'm happy that he's gaining a new level recognition.

The video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship

5th Seal Vlog #7

5th Seal Vlog #7 from 5th Seal on Vimeo.

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

April 17, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Royal Flush - "Ice Downed Medallion" Prod. by EZ Elpee

Hungry Beatwork and Rhyme; Appreciated More in Middle of a Storm

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

"Motion picture/analyze your world Flush'll hit ya..." That's the emphatic declaration that Royal Flush makes to open the New York hood classic, "Iced Downed Medallion" from his debut album, Ghetto Millionaire (1997). Speaking from the rapper/lyricist part of me, I've always considered Royal Flush to be one of the illest lyricists in rap. Cut from the same Queens lyricst bloodline that bled inside of areas like Corona, Queensbridge, Lefrack City, and Astoria Projects, Flush was a street-respected M.C., circa 1996-98. Unfortunately, however, Flush never rose to the level of notoriety that I felt he deserved.

Thing is, Royal Flush came on the scene—with the right skills—at the wrong time. It was 1997/98, right in the eye of Diddy's (formerly known as Puff) storm. This was when Puff was throwin' shit in the New York rap game with the shiny-suit, bubble gum-rap mystique. (Note. Puff's reign would eventually help lead to the undermining of New York's hip hop/rap structure—a near fatal blow that New York has yet to recover from.) The years in rap 1997/98 would also serve to mark the beginning of Jay-Z and Hot 97s (New York's #1 hip hop/rap radio station) meteoric connection to the top. Had Royal Flush come on the scene just two or three years earlier, he would have missed what I like to call the New York Kill Zone of '97/98, and in all likelihood, he would have gained as much (perhaps more) shine as Mobb Deep, AC, or O.C.

Speaking from the beatmaker (producer) part of me, "Iced Down Medallion" was one of the most aggressively programmed beats I've heard. Produced by EZ Elpee, the beat utilized a straight-forward, two-bar loop of a 70s music phrase (I don't name sample sources that I'm not sure about their cleared status) with the bass frequency of the phrase filtered milk-smooth, and the high (mid/treble) levels left just as warm and even when let out. For the drum framework, Elpee went with a standard double-kick snare pattern. Wisely, he tucks the kick while exploding the snare with a handful of reverb. And the hat, which is truncated (no prolonged sustain), is a shaker that he politely sprinkles over all measures. It is further worth noting that because of how the bass frequency of the sample is filtered so fat and warmly, the kick—which is actually truncated short—sounds so much more rounder and booming every time it lands on the one, and as it sets up the two.

The music and videos below are presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

Royal Flush - "Iced Down Medallion"

Royal Flush - "Iced Down Medallion" (Official music video)

April 04, 2011

Boog Brown Passes My MC Lyte Test

Amid Questions Surrounding the State of “Female Rappers,” Boog Brown Impresses…Without the Hype

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Discussions about "female rappers" carry little weight with me, because I rate the rapper and their rhyme, not their gender. However, when pressed about my list of top female rappers, I always began with MC Lyte. For me, MC Lyte—in her prime—sits comfortably in the 1st tier of great lyricists, regardless of gender. But as far as any list that excludes male rappers, I rate MC Lyte #1. Therefore, before I can rate any female rapper that has appeared after MC Lyte, I first have to hold them up to what I call the "MC Lyte Test."

The MC Lyte Test (a test that could equally be used for male rappers as well) is a set of parameters that I use to rate any female rapper. These parameters include: style, delivery and flow, word mastery, sound, feel, non-contrived attitude, and raw edginess.

Since MC Lyte graced the mic in 1988, various female rappers have emerged with respectable skills. In fact, there have been a number of female rappers that many music critics and fans alike have lauded with great acclaim. But political correctness aside, since MC Lyte's prime, there's only been two female rappers who have passed my MC Lyte test, and a couple more who had the potential to, but never did.

Well, now I'm compelled to let it be known that Boog Brown passes my MC Lyte Test.
Like MC Lyte, Boog Brown understands the rhythm of words. She molds them, folds them, blends them, caresses them, and snaps them. Equally comfortable with straight and slant rhyme, Boog Brown chooses words for their full value, not for the brevity of writing rhymes. Moreover, she doesn’t rely on gimmicky deliveries or overly wordy rhyme schemes and phrasings. Such rhyme tricks have impressed (mesmerized) some, but I’ve always found those sort of rhyme gimmicks to be cliché and boring. I dig rhymes straight up. Gimmickry, particularly the borrowed and oft-used type, is usually less engaging, if not outright whack. Straight forward inflection/intonation, especially when it's delivered with believable—non-contrived—attitude, is dope.

What also impresses me about Boog Brown is her delivery and flow. It's agile and multi-directional, not grounded and predictable (listen to "Masterplan" produced by Apollo Brown). Moreover, she utilizes superb breath control; you never hear her take extreme gulps of oxygen or stumble over her pauses, both marks of a complex lyricist with just as much style as substance.

On "Understanding" (also produced by Apollo), Boog Brown shows off how she presses go, then drops a string of well-measured lines of dense poetry that regularly come together to give insider looks at various snap shots of life. And in the tradition of the most advanced lyricism, she drives by each bar of her lyrics without glancing at its effect, without giving a glimpse of uncertainty or exhaustion. Such confidence echos the pedigree of all dope complex lyricists, male or female.

Then there's Boog Brown's sound. It's effortless, smooth, and genuine. Even when she's romantic (check out “Hey Love”), her sound and feel is in tact, not compromised. And while many female rappers fall pray to a lack of expression in their rhymes (perhaps a side-effect of a male-dominated tradition), Boog Brown strikes through with a clarity and feel that never sounds forced. Rhyming, in its highest degree, is an art wherein words are made to grab, dance, punch, rock, and shock, all with style, and no sense of effort on the part of the rhymer. Once you can “hear” the effort—the forced flow, the superficial borrowed style, the clumsy lyrics—the magic of rapping ceases to exist. And this is where Boog Brown excels. She doesn’t fall into the “Look at me, I’m a female M.C. mantra.” Instead, she soars on her own lyrical terms, without the benefit (or detriment) of “female M.C.” charity praise.

What's Next for Boog Brown

Although Apollo Brown’s beats have certainly served Boog Brown well, most of the beats off of their stellar Brown Study album carry a similar texture and form, and they usually move in the same “mid”/mid-tempo range. That’s no knock against Apollo Brown—that sound is dope. In fact, he’s mastered that sound and feel; it compliments the drum frameworks that he favors for most of his beats. I'd just like to hear Boog Brown on a couple of slightly uptempo joints, or some beats with a different type of swing to them. To Apollo's credit, the “U.P.S.” beat, I think his latest release with Boog Brown and a joint I really dig, finds him using a bit more “bounce” in the beat. Promising signal for what's to come from the the Boog Brown/Apollo Brown enterprise.

Still, the thought of Boog Brown branching out and incorporating beatwork (and different production nuances) from other perennial beatsmiths (I’d really like to see her paired up with Statik Selektah, DJ Premier, The Alchemist, or Kevlaar 7), is something I can’t help but consider. Currently, Boog Brown is sitting on the cusp of league MVP-caliber talent. But I believe if she maneuvers right—that is to say, split the wig open of the hype machine by matching her rhyme skills with other key beatmakers—she could be looking at a hall of fame career.

The music videos below are presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

Boog Brown "UPs" [prod. Apollo Brown]

Boog Brown – “Hey Love”

Boog Brown & Apollo Brown – “Masterplan”

MC Lyte - "Paper Thin"

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

March 26, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Roc Marciano, "Game of Death;" Pete Rock on the Beat

Tough Strings, Solid Drums, Jabbing Bass-Stabs, and Punch-You-in-the-Face Rhymes

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Been following Roc Marciano's development for a while now. He's reached that rhyme confidence level that many rappers fall well short of. Here on one of Pete Rock's more sinister beatworks, Roc Marciano is all bravado, no filler or un-useful slang. Each line of poetry flows effortlessly with each meter of the beat. Dope.

The music and video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

Roc Marciano - Game of Death (Prod. Pete Rock)

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

March 25, 2011

BeatTips List of Great Records for Drum Sounds, Vol. 2

Record Gems with Open Drum Sounds

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

I'm a strong advocate for using custom drum sounds. And although I have no issue with stock drum sounds (I've used stock drums in the past, and I have no problem with using them in the future) I believe that one of the most effective ways of creating your own style and sound is through the use of your own customized drum sounds.

That being said, I will be compiling an ongoing list—the BeatTips List of Great Records for Drum Sounds—of ALL of the records that I (and many others) have found to be great for drum sounds. For each installment or volume of the list, I will try to post at least five songs. Furthermore, this list will also include those songs that I have studied as a guide for drum pattern arrangements. And it is my hope that the songs on this list well help serve as a guide for those who want to tune the drum sounds that they already have to the sounds showcased on this list.

Finally, although some readers will note that there are some obvious choices that should be on this list, please bear with me, as I will be rolling out this list periodically without, necessarily, any preference to the most well-known "break-beats" (this is not a list of break-beat records). In fact, I suspect some songs on this ongoing list will surprise some of you. But after a "full-listen" of the record, you'll see just why it earned a spot. Still as always, I invite discussion. So any and all suggestions, whether well-known or obscure, are certainly welcome.

The music and videos below are presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

ZZ Hill- "I Think I'd Do It" (1971)

Beatmakers are sure to be immediately pleased with this joint, as the drum break opens up the song. In the intro, the kick, snare, and hi-hat are all open and free from other sounds.



The Soul Searchers - "Ashley's Roachclip" (1974)

The sly brass section and the furious wah wah guitar-lead rhythm keeps me returning back to this classic by The Soul Searchers. Throw in the tambourine and the bass, and you've got one of the finest songs for MusicStudy. And as far as drum sounds to sample go, catch the break at the 3:31 mark.



Monk Higgins - "One Man Band (Plays All Alone)" (1974)

For the most part, this song is laid back jazz/rhythm and blues fusion. But don't let that fool you, as a mean 21-second drum break comes in at the 2:17 mark.



Duke Williams - "Chinese Chicken" (1973)

A serious early funk number that had countless b-boys destroying the dance floor. Short, but dope, drum break appears at the 1:40 mark.



Dennis Coffey - "Son of Scorpio" (1972)

This is the one Dennis Coffey song that I studied the most. The "marching", half-open hi-hat sound on this song is something that I incorporated in to my own style of drum programming. Then there's the bongos and the rumbling bass line: Classic... As for the drum break, catch the 1:30 mark.



Funk Inc. - "Kool Is Back" (1971)

One tough, but short, break. Catch the 1:48 mark.

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted name in beatmaking."

March 24, 2011

Beatmakers and Trade Secrets

Shop-Talk Elevates the Beatmaking Art Form and Tradition

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Musicians have long shared tricks of their trade amongst each other. It's a tradition as old as popular music itself. However, for some reason, many beatmakers (producers) pride themselves upon keeping a vale of secrecy over their beatmaking methods. What gives?

I could speculate about the cultural undertones of this, but that's not what this piece is about. On the contrary, this article is about why the notion of secrecy (specifically among some well-known beatmakers {*producers*}) in beatmaking is ridiculous. As I told a fellow beatmaker the other day, "there are NO secrets between real musicians!" What I was saying (and he understood immediately) was that dedicated musicians share a common fundamental goal: to develop their skills and elevate their craft. Indeed, this is why we constantly seek out people and resources that we believe will help us reach that goal. In this regard, beatmakers should not view themselves any different. We are musicians, and as such, we stand to benefit a great deal from an exchange of information.

No Two Beatmakers Are One in the Same

Regardless of the method or technique used, no two beatmakers are the same. Given the same tools and the same understanding, each of us will inevitably develop our own approach. And I've found that it is within this approach that you find the most interesting "secrets." But instead of having an attitude that promotes the talking of shop (beat talk, if you will), when pressed for specific ideas, secrets, and the like, some beatmakers clam up, or offer the proverbial: "don't wanna' give the secrets away." Huh? What's that all about.

Listen, at face value, there are NO magic secrets that can instantly transform a beatmaker's skills. Secrets (or better yet, pointers, tips, hints, insights) are only as good as the beatmaker who understands them and can, in turn, incorporate them into what they're already doing. For example, DJ Premier is known for his drums, chops, and his ability to finesse the bass out of the breaks that he chooses to use. However, there is no doubt (and he has said as much), that he would not have been able to develop those skills, had it not been for Large Professor. As Premier told me (rather matter-factly), it was Large Professor—another beatmaking pioneer in his own right—who showed him how to filter bass sounds in samples, and also how to make the Akai S950 really work for him. In turn, Premier introduced Large Professor to a new way of diggin' in the crates and surveying music. And before that, another beatmaking pioneer, Showbiz, schooled Premier on diggin' in the crates and surveying music. Thus, these examples of sharing trade "secrets" demonstrates how, for each of the aforementioned beatmaking pioneers, the common goal was to get better and elevate the art form.

Needless to say, I've always been against the notion of not not sharing knowledge ("secrets"). In fact, those who know me, know very well that I consistently share as much as I can, whenever I'm asked by a fellow beatmaker. Likewise, some of the most well-known beatmakers have shared as much as they could with me. Also, consider this, even if one beatmaker breaks down their entire beatmaking process to another beatmaker, chances are, the latter beatmaker isn't going to utilize everything that he (or she) learns from the former. Not at all. The latter beatmaker is only going take what he needs and/or can use from the other beatmaker's process. It's this sort of exchange that each beatmaker can use to further develop their skills.

Final note, keep this in mind: the entire beatmaking (hip hop/rap production) tradition is only as good as its weakest beatmaker. Hence, there's merit in all of us trying to help each other step up our skills.

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

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

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