18 posts categorized "How to Create Your Own Drum Sounds"

March 21, 2016

Think Outside the Box for Custom Snare Sounds

Presets Get the Job Done, But Customized Sounds Help You Create Your Own Style and Sound

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)


An exclusive excerpt from The BeatTips Manual, 6th Edition by Amir Said (Sa'id)


You know the deal: drum sounds are fundamental. Whether you’ve made your 10th or 1,000th beat this week, you’ve learned the importance of dope drum sounds. And when it comes to drum sounds, you can get away with a limited number of non-descript kicks. But without a distinct group of snare sounds, your beats might suffer. Why? Because since the advent of the MPC 2000, widespread sample packs, and software programs galore, many beatmakers have taken to using the exact same stock snares. And, in the process, they’ve decreased the chance of giving their beats a distinctive sound.


Now, don’t get me wrong. There have been some beatmakers who have been able to get away with rocking one or two snares. But in those cases (most of the time), the snares have been cultivated to an ultimate level of distinction, a level in which they work almost with any non-drum arrangement. Keep in mind, however, in order to arrive at such snare sounds, some level of customization had to have gone on previously. So in this BeatTip, I want to discuss some different methods for customizing snares. Some of which were taught to me and some of which I developed on my own.


The first set of snare sounds that I ever customized were part of a classic rock kit (on floppy disk) that came with the E-Mu SP 1200, the first drum machine/sampler I ever used. Some of the snares on the kit were OK, but they didn’t fit where I was trying to go sonically. So after finally recognizing that none of the snare sounds fit with the feel and style of music that I was going for, I went about customizing them. At the time, I didn’t have an analog mixing console to run my sounds through; therefore, I couldn’t easily boost up the bass (the low end) of the sounds I wanted to modify. I did have a dual cassette recorder and a lot of imagination, though.


So here’s what I did the first time I ever attempted to customize snare sounds. I recorded every snare sound that I had to cassette tape. Next, I dubbed (duplicated) them. After dubbing the sounds, I sampled them into my Akai S950. Once inside of the Akai S950, I was really able to get creative. It wasn’t that I couldn’t have chopped or filtered the sounds inside of my old SP 1200, I could have. It was just that the S950 gave me a different sound, plus I felt more comfortable working with its sampling functions than those on the SP-1200.


Next, I went around my room (at that time) with a Shure SM-58 live microphone sampling all sorts of sounds. I took a hammer and hit the bottom of a metal folding chair. I took a drum stick and rapped back and forth on a Nike sneaker box stuffed with socks (I sampled the sneaker box with and without the lid on; there was indeed a noticeable difference). Switching up between the hammer, the drum stick, and a wooden hanger, I hit the inside of a window pain. Needless to say, I sampled every sound that I could imagine, anything that I thought might be interesting. All of this sampling probably took me no more than 10 minutes, tops. By the way, I would also like to think that this process taught me more about acoustics, but I digress…


So having sampled this wide assortment of sounds, all in the same room, mind you, I went about “matching” the sounds with the cassette versions of E-Mu’s classic rock kit as well as several other snare sounds that I had. Incidentally, this was around the time that I first began to understand the process of layering sounds. Particularly, I was discovering the potential for layering, both as a means for customizing drum sounds as well as other sounds. I was also learning how layering could affect the overall texture and tenor of a beat. Not too long after that, I began applying these techniques to all of the drum sounds that I used. And after while, I stopped buying other peoples’ drum kits altogether and I started sampling drums from records and literally making my own drum sounds.


Special Note: Since I first began customizing my snare sounds, I have never used a pre-set drum sound as-is again. Although pre-set drum sounds undoubtedly serve a purpose (I have heard some pretty nice pre-set drums), I’ve always found that customizing your own sounds goes a long way in helping you carve out your own unique style and sound. Still, if I come across a pre-set drum sound that I like, I’ll use it. Of course, I modify it to make my own.


Short list of items great for customizing snares:

• Live microphone with an extended chord to allow you to move freely
around your space.

• A tambourine. Any percussion instrument you can pick up from a music store will help you customize your snare sounds as well create sound composites that are unique.

• A wood block.

• At least one drum stick. (You can use two in rapid succession on any hard surface. You’ll be surprised at what you can come up with after you filter and adjust the pitch on a sound created by two drum sticks.)

• A mallet and a hammer.

• A shaker.

• A real set of bongos are ideal but not absolutely necessary.

• A cassette tape player! Yes…they’re dirt cheap now, and they allow for connection back to the analog age (if that matters to you). Also, nobody will ever be able to duplicate your sounds if you’ve used some combination involving a cassette tape.

• Some sort of wooden board, maybe a chef ’s cutting board, something that you can strike with anything, like a bottom of a shoe, a mallet, a set of keys, a hockey puck, and, of course, a drum stick.

• Some studio foam.


---
The BeatTips Manual by Amir Said (Sa'id).
"The most trusted name in beatmaking."

February 29, 2012

Think Outside the Box for Custom Snare Sounds

Presets Get the Job Done, But Customized Sounds Help You Create Your Own Style and Sound

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

You know the deal—drum sounds are fundamental. Whether you made your 10th or 1,000th beat this week, you’ve learned the importance of dope drum sounds. And when it comes to drum sounds, you can get away with a limited number of non-descript kicks. But without a distinct group of snare sounds, your beats might suffer. Why? Because since the advent of the MPC 2000, widespread sample packs, and software programs galore, many beatmakers have taken to using the exact same stock snares. And, in the process, they’ve decreased the chance of giving their beats a distinctive sound.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There have been some beatmakers who have been able to get away with rocking one or two snares. But in those cases (most of the time), the snares have been cultivated to an ultimate level of distinction, a level in which they work almost with any non-drum arrangement. Keep in mind, however, in order to arrive at such snare sounds, some level of customization had to have gone on previously. So for this post, I want to discuss some different methods for customizing snares. Some of which were taught to me, and some of which I developed on my own.

The first set of snare sounds that I ever customized were part of a classic rock kit (on floppy disk) that came with the E-Mu SP 1200, the first drum machine/sampler I ever used. Some of the snares on the kit were OK, but they didn’t fit where I was trying to go sonically. So after finally being honest with myself about the fact that none of the snare sounds fit with the feel and style of music that I was going for, I went about customizing them. At the time, I didn't have an analog mixing console to run my sounds through; therefore, I couldn't easily boost up the bass (the low end) of the sounds I wanted to modify. I did have a dual *cassette* recorder and a lot of imagination, though.

So here’s what I did the first time I ever attempted to customize snare sounds. I recorded every snare sound that I had to cassette tape. Next, I dubbed (duplicated) them. After dubbing the sounds, I sampled them into my Akai S950. Once inside of the Akai S950, I was really able to get creative. It wasn’t that I couldn’t have chopped or filtered the sounds inside of my old SP 1200; I could have. It was just that the S950 gave me a different sound; plus I felt more comfortable working with its sampling functions than those on the SP-1200.

Next, I went around my room (at that time) with a Shure SM-58 live microphone sampling all sorts of sounds. I took a hammer and hit the bottom of a metal folding chair. I took a drum stick and rapped back and forth on a Nike sneaker box filled with socks—I should note that I sampled the sneaker box with and without the lid on; there was indeed a noticeable difference. Switching up between the hammer, the drum stick, and a wooden hanger, I hit the inside of a window pain. Needless to say, I sampled every sound that I could imagine, anything that I thought might be interesting. All of this sampling probably took me no more than 10 minutes, tops. By the way, I would also like to think that this process taught me more about acoustics, but I digress…

So having sampled this wide assortment of sounds—all in the same room, mind you—I went about "matching" the sounds with the cassette versions of E-Mu's classic rock kit as well as several other snare sounds that I had. Incidentally, this was around the time that I first began to understand the process of layering sounds. Particularly, I was discovering the potential for layering, both as a means for customizing drum sounds as well as other sounds. I was also learning how layering could affect the overall texture and tenor of a beat. Not too long after that, I began applying these techniques to all of the drum sounds that I used. And after while, I stopped buying other peoples' drum kits altogether, and I started sampling drums from records and literally making my own.

Special Note. Since I first began customizing my snare sounds, I have never used a pre-set drum sound again. Although pre-set drum sounds undoubtedly serve a purpose (I have heard some pretty nice pre-set drums), I've always found that customizing your own sounds goes a long way in helping you carve out your own unique style and sound. Still, if I come across a pre-set drum sound that I like, I'll use it. Of course, I modify it to make my own...

Short list of items great for customizing snares

*Live microphone...with a LONG chord to travel freely around your room.
*A tambourine. Any percussion instrument you can pick up from a music store will help you customize your snare sounds as well create sound composites that are unique.
*A wood block.
*At least one drum stick. You can use two in rapid succession on any hard surface. You’ll be surprised what you can come up with after you filter and adjust the pitch on a sound created by two drum sticks.
*A mallet AND a hammer
*A shaker.
*A real set of bongos are ideal but not absolutely necessary.
*A cassette tape player! Yes…they're dirt cheap now, and they allow for connection back to the analog age (if that matters to you). Also, nobody will ever be able to duplicate your sounds if you’ve used some combination involving a cassette tape.
*Some sort of wooden board, maybe a chef’s cutting board, something that you can strike with anything, like a bottom of a shoe, a mallet, a set of keys, a hockey puck, and, of course, a drum stick.
*Some studio foam.

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

December 27, 2011

BeatTips List of Great Records for Drum Sounds, Vol. 3

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 feel free to post comments below; any and all suggestions, whether well-known or obscure, are certainly welcome. Also, if you have any questions, post those as well.

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

Brother Soul - "Cookies"

The opening 4 four bars of this joint essentially contains a three-piece kit: snare, kick, hat. But for me, the snare is the real draw. It already has punch; it's round, and the reverb is already just the way I like on my snares. Aside from the drum sounds, as with many funk numbers from this period, herein lies a great MusicStudy record for rhythm and groove.


Garland Green - "Jealous Kind of Fella"

If you drop the needle (literally and figuratively) anywhere after 4 seconds, then you've missed the drum gems off of this record. The opening drum fill features dope snare and tom-tom combination. Otherwise, I still recommend listening to this soul ballad about man who punches another guy in a jealous rage.


The Soul Lifters - "Hot Funky and Sweaty"

Perhaps familiar to some, no doubt, but The Soul Lifters' "Hot, Funky and Sweaty" is one of the meanest slow funk grooves ever recorded. From visuals of 1970s hit men with old fashioned pistols, to B-grade karate flicks with big fights in small lounges, the groove smokes and refuses to simmer. Great MusicStudy from minimalism and use of silence. There are two plum drum breaks with the ill snare, one begining at the 0:49, and the other at the 2:22 mark.


Wilson Pickett - "Get Me Back on Time, Engine #9"

Wicked Wilson Pickett! Man, does the moniker fit this joint. This is an example of a soul/funk joint that simmers. The opening and the 0:23 mark has the snares.



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

BeatTips List of Great Records for Drum Sounds, Vol. 1

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

October 21, 2011

Think Outside the Box for Custom Snare Sounds

Presets Get the Job Done, But Customized Sounds Help You Create Your Own Style and Sound

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

You know the deal—drum sounds are fundamental. Whether you made your 10th or 1,000th beat this week, you’ve learned the importance of dope drum sounds. And when it comes to drum sounds, you can get away with a limited number of non-descript kicks. But without a distinct group of snare sounds, your beats might suffer. Why? Because since the advent of the MPC 2000, widespread sample packs, and software programs galore, many beatmakers have taken to using the exact same stock snares. And, in the process, they’ve decreased the chance of giving their beats a distinctive sound.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There have been some beatmakers who have been able to get away with rocking one or two snares. But in those cases (most of the time), the snares have been cultivated to an ultimate level of distinction, a level in which they work almost with any non-drum arrangement. Keep in mind, however, in order to arrive at such snare sounds, some level of customization had to have gone on previously. So for this post, I want to discuss some different methods for customizing snares. Some of which were taught to me, and some of which I developed on my own.

The first set of snare sounds that I ever customized were part of a classic rock kit (on floppy disk) that came with the E-Mu SP 1200, the first drum machine/sampler I ever used. Some of the snares on the kit were OK, but they didn’t fit where I was trying to go sonically. So after finally being honest with myself about the fact that none of the snare sounds fit with the feel and style of music that I was going for, I went about customizing them. At the time, I didn't have an analog mixing console to run my sounds through; therefore, I couldn't easily boost up the bass (the low end) of the sounds I wanted to modify. I did have a dual *cassette* recorder and a lot of imagination, though.

So here’s what I did the first time I ever attempted to customize snare sounds. I recorded every snare sound that I had to cassette tape. Next, I dubbed (duplicated) them. After dubbing the sounds, I sampled them into my Akai S950. Once inside of the Akai S950, I was really able to get creative. It wasn’t that I couldn’t have chopped or filtered the sounds inside of my old SP 1200; I could have. It was just that the S950 gave me a different sound; plus I felt more comfortable working with its sampling functions than those on the SP-1200.

Next, I went around my room (at that time) with a Shure SM-58 live microphone sampling all sorts of sounds. I took a hammer and hit the bottom of a metal folding chair. I took a drum stick and rapped back and forth on a Nike sneaker box filled with socks—I should note that I sampled the sneaker box with and without the lid on; there was indeed a noticeable difference. Switching up between the hammer, the drum stick, and a wooden hanger, I hit the inside of a window pain. Needless to say, I sampled every sound that I could imagine, anything that I thought might be interesting. All of this sampling probably took me no more than 10 minutes, tops. By the way, I would also like to think that this process taught me more about acoustics, but I digress…

So having sampled this wide assortment of sounds—all in the same room, mind you—I went about "matching" the sounds with the cassette versions of E-Mu's classic rock kit as well as several other snare sounds that I had. Incidentally, this was around the time that I first began to understand the process of layering sounds. Particularly, I was discovering the potential for layering, both as a means for customizing drum sounds as well as other sounds. I was also learning how layering could affect the overall texture and tenor of a beat. Not too long after that, I began applying these techniques to all of the drum sounds that I used. And after while, I stopped buying other peoples' drum kits altogether, and I started sampling drums from records and literally making my own.

Special Note. Since I first began customizing my snare sounds, I have never used a pre-set drum sound again. Although pre-set drum sounds undoubtedly serve a purpose (I have heard some pretty nice pre-set drums), I've always found that customizing your own sounds goes a long way in helping you carve out your own unique style and sound. Still, if I come across a pre-set drum sound that I like, I'll use it. Of course, I modify it to make my own...

Short list of items great for customizing snares

*Live microphone...with a LONG chord to travel freely around your room.
*A tambourine. Any percussion instrument you can pick up from a music store will help you customize your snare sounds as well create sound composites that are unique.
*A wood block.
*At least one drum stick. You can use two in rapid succession on any hard surface. You’ll be surprised what you can come up with after you filter and adjust the pitch on a sound created by two drum sticks.
*A mallet AND a hammer
*A shaker.
*A real set of bongos are ideal but not absolutely necessary.
*A cassette tape player! Yes…they're dirt cheap now, and they allow for connection back to the analog age (if that matters to you). Also, nobody will ever be able to duplicate your sounds if you’ve used some combination involving a cassette tape.
*Some sort of wooden board, maybe a chef’s cutting board, something that you can strike with anything, like a bottom of a shoe, a mallet, a set of keys, a hockey puck, and, of course, a drum stick.
*Some studio foam.

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

September 19, 2011

BeatTips Jewel Droppin': True Master Interview, Part 1

Truly a Master

Interview by AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

True Master is a sharp dude. You can tell he calculates three (or more) moves ahead. He’s the type that could have excelled in a career business, had he not chosen hip hop/rap music as his primary vocation. He always speaks carefully and with a purpose. And his understanding and appreciation for beatmaking is among the deepest that I have seen yet.

Most well-known for his contributions to the Wu-Tang Clan collective, a closer examination of True shows you just why he’s been a big influence on many beatmakers and rappers. I got up with True Master for this interview in 2007; I held back widespread publication of it because I knew his words would prove to be timeless, and that they would become incredibly value to a new emerging breed of beatmakers. Hence, this is BeatTips Jewel Droppin' with True Master...

True Master’s setup: Ensoniq EPS 16, Ensoniq ASR 10

Notable credits: “Fish” – Ghostface Killah; “You Know What” – Black Rob; “The MGM” - Wu-Tang Clan; “Brooklyn Zoo” – Ol’ Dirty Bastard; “Heaterz” – Wu-Tang Clan; “Milk The Cow”, “Slang Editorial” – Cappadona; “Rec Room”, “Lovin’ You” – Inspectah Deck


BeatTips: Your music is sharp and never sloppy. You can never tell on your beats where the loop begins and ends.
True Master: Well, I don’t loop! Most of my career I haven’t looped. I’ve only cleared one song in my whole career, so far. And that was “Til It’s Gone”, on Busta Rhymes album, It Ain’t Safe No More. I sampled the hook. Other than that, all my tracks, I chop ‘em up and reassemble them. So it doesn’t have a looped sound. So it sound more of…like a live feel, not synthetic, ‘cuz I try to sit down and redo it so that it’s not too…Like, my sh*t is sharp, but at the same time, I try to make it a little off, you know what I mean. I try to create a live feel to the machine, somethin’ that’s more realistic… I break everything down into so many pieces…that art form in itself, a lot of people ain’t gonna go through that time. That’s how I started making beats, and I like to stay on that same thing, you know what I mean. Rather than deviate from that. I use my same old machine.

BeatTips: What did you start off using?
True Master: EPS 16 Plus. I got ASRs and all that. I made joints on the ASR, like “MGM” [Ghostface & Raekwon], you know, stuff like that. The EPS is an Ensoniq machine. They come in a rack mount or keyboard version. The keyboard version is more simpler to use. Even though the ASR 10 is supposed to be an upgrade to that model, the EPS 16 Plus is killin’ the ASR!

BeatTips: Did you use the EPS for that new Black Rob joint?
True Master: I used the EPS for that. And that’s an old ass machine. It’s the same machine, all the way from “Brooklyn Zoo” to now. Actually, it’s the same machine that RZA used to use when he made most of the classic Wu Tang sh*t. Before I had a machine, I used to go to his house and make beats on that machine. Then I bought the machine from him and I started f*ckin’ with it.

BeatTips: How do you approach drums? Do you sample from records or sample CDs?
True Master: I sample off of records, sample CDs. I got live drummers that let me sample snares and kicks. I’ve sampled off of T.V. programs, anywhere that I could find a snare or a kick.
One of my greatest inspirations and mentors is a brother named, Eazy Mo Bee. He taught me a lot with drums. ‘Cuz really, drums is the essence of the sh*t. You can have the illest sounds in the world, but the drums gotta have a certain feel to ‘em, you know what I mean. They gotta hit a certain way. Drums is the pulse and heartbeat of the whole sh*t. I give credit to Eazy Mo Bee, as well as RZA, for inspiring me. But Eazy Mo Bee was the one who definitely showed me how to get ‘em tight. He used the SP 1200. I never used the SP 1200, but nevertheless, I learned a lot from him. How to truncate sh*t. He showed me tricks…

BeatTips: What tricks?
True Master: With hi-hats and snares, volume changes… If you take your kick, and let’s say, you copy it, three times, then lower the volume on one kick, then keep one volume the same, then lower the volume on one. So it’s a three-hit flow. One hit is softer, one hit is milder, you know. That’s one of the tricks… Adding an echo to one hi-hat is another trick. There’s gotta be some unique ingredient while you’re doing your beats. ‘Cuz a lot of times it’s more of feelin’ your way through it, as opposed to knowing exactly where you want to go!

BeatTips: When you sample ‘em, do you sample dry or do you add effects before hand?
True Master: I put effects first. A lot of times I track it with the effects already. These EPS got crazy effects already built in.

BeatTips: Were you ever a DJ?
True Master: Yeah, I had my two Technics, I used to do my DJ thing. I used to pause tapes… And I first used to make beats on a Casio SK4. It had like four little pads on it, each one was like a second. So I had to get real sharp with little stabs. Create beats from sharp stabs.

BeatTips: Describe the Hip Hop-Rap formula. For you was it more gettin’ the sample to match the drums or how was it.
True Master: I could do it both ways. I could start with a sound and go to the drums or start with the drums and go to the sound. Most of the time, I start with the drums and go to the sound. So my drums is basically my foundation, most of the time. But I’ve learned how to match drums through snares to sounds, you know what I mean. And that’s been important.

BeatTips: Do you use Timestretch?
True Master: Nawgh, I was never able to f*ck with that. All those advantages that people was using, I don’t even have those sh*ts.

BeatTips: What do you think is the most significant change in hip hop/rap music today?
True Master: It’s a lot more advancement in the way things are being made, which makes people take shortcuts. You can still be creative…but that [from before] kind of sound, you just can’t get that sound. There’s so much you gotta do. You gotta be able to chop the sh*t up, and put it back together in an inventive, melodic way.

BeatTips: Sounds like you listen to a lot of music before you even sit down to make beats.
True Master: Well, I listen to every form of music. At the same time, you have to make a lot of beats. I always tell people that you gotta make so many beats that you forget what the f*ck you got! If you know what you got, you don’t have enough. Sometimes when I’m listenin’ to my sh*t, I’m just as surprised as the motherf*cker hearing it. Keep it movin’. Go back in your archives. Always keep working.

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

Ghostface Killah feat. Raekwon and Cappadonna - "Fish, produced by True Master

---
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)

---
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.

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

June 12, 2011

TBC Thread of the Day: "Proper Signal Chain for mixing samples?"

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...

Second thing:
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

Third:
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?

Thanks


Sa'id: Dk,

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.


Participate in this TBC thread here: "Proper Signal Chain for mixing samples?"

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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 10, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Evelyn "Champagne" King - "Love Come Down"

Personification of the polished, post-disco sound of 1980s R&B

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Whether you're into the most rugged boom bap or the cleanest orchestral sound, at some point, you learn to value the ability to add a level of polish to your beats. One thing that all of my beats share, to some degree, is "sheen" or polish. No matter what base style of beatmaking that I'm working from or what overall sound that I'm going for, I always incorporate an element of polish. In fact, for me, giving my beats—even the most grungy, hard core joints—some sheen is an important component to my own style and sound. But this approach, subtle as it may perhaps be, is something that I developed from listening closely to early 1980s cuts like Evelyn "Champagne" King's "Love Come Down."

If it could be said that the musical arrangements of early 1970s soul, funk, or rhythm & blues were best characterized by raw, organic or wide open jam-session like sketches, then it might be best said that the arrangements of early 1980s R&B was characterized by slick, streamlined and heavily formulaic arrangements. Although I favor the music of the early 1970s over the early 1980s, I'm still able to appreciate the technology influenced slickness that the early 1980s R&B ushered in.

One of my favorite songs from early 1980s R&B was Evelyn "Champagne" King's "Love Come Down." Released in 1982 (the same year as Michael Jackson's Thriller), "Love Come Down" featured an arrangement scope that captured the nuance and possibilities of the newly minted synthesizers of the time. Furthermore, "Love Come Down," which utilizes a smashing electric snare on the "2" and a bouncing synth-bass,
personified the slick arrangement style that would go on to characterize the sound of 1980s R&B. But that's not all that "Love Comes Down" exemplifies.

Listen to "Love Come Down" (especially the drum sounds) and you will notice that the vibe of the arrangement is highly electric, with an assembly-line like formula quality to it, something akin to modern beatmaking structures. In fact, you could see why "Love Come Down's" arrangement could more easily be achieved with today's EMPIs (Electronic Music Production Instruments) than the rougher—warmer—sounding music scopes of the early 1970s. (Also, on King's song "I'm In Love," listen to the hand-claps layered over the smashing electric snare, another technique utilized in modern beatmaking.) Yet for all of the formulaic qualities that "Love Come Down" has, the song still manages to simmer with both warmth and polish, while it avoids sounding "too mechanical." That's a lesson that I think of every time I craft a new beat.

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

Evelyn "Champagne" King - "Love Come Down"

Evelyn "Champagne" King - "I'm In Love"

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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 02, 2011

No Quick-Fix Core Setup

Building Out the Setup That’s Right for You, Means Taking No Shortcuts

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

When it comes to beatmaking setups, if there's almost one sure thing, it's the likelihood that you will, at some point, add and/or subtract something from your setup. Indeed, the right core setup is not something that most beatmakers obtain easily, or early. Although some beatmakers are still using the exact core setup that they began with, many more are using a core setup that is different from the one that they began with.

For years people have asked me one of the most deceptively simple questions, "What do I need to make beats?" Well, the truth is, what I need, what someone else needs, and what you need are three entirely different things. Because each of us are different—in terms of taste, creative style, and work ethic—it naturally follows that each beatmaker needs the music production tools that are best suited for them. Now, it's certainly understood that beatmaking requires specific electronic music production tools. However, although these tools may share some similarity in the functions that they embody, the ways in which these functions manifest themselves in an individual's own music-making style and workflow differs dramatically.

This brings me to the point of the article: No quick-fix core setup. I've received many questions about "how to make my drum sound like MPC drums," or "What's the best way to customize .wav file sounds?" Typically, these sort of questions are followed by, "Should I just get...?" Thing is, many beatmakers approach building a setup like they're trying patch multiple holes in a broken water pipe system. Sticking with this analogy, one must recognize when it's time to not merely add or replace a pipe here and there, but instead, to replace the system itself.

Thus, when building out your beatmaking (music production) setup, I strongly recommend that you do not take the "quick-fix" approach. That is to say, take no shortcuts! Whether you have the financial resources at the time or not, invest in the sort of music production tools that fit your personal approach to creativity and your preference for working within a hardware or software environment. And keep this in mind: More often than not, the beatmaking tools that are right for you are usually the tools that are perhaps most right for the sound and style that you're trying to achieve.

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

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