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

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


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)

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


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.

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


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.

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

March 23, 2011

Treating Your Samples Before the Mix Stage

Prior to the Mix, Amplification is Key


When it comes to treating your sampled sounds prior to the mix phase of recording, there are a number of different methods beatmakers employ. Still, all methods are commonly used to achieve—fundamentally—any one of four things: (1) a thicker sound; (2) a warmer sound; (3) a thinner sound; or (4) a louder sound. Each of these four goals usually corresponds to a method and recording tool. In this article, I want to discuss the results that amplification (the most common sound-treatment method used in sampling prior to the mix stage) produces, when it's applied to samples.

Having been inside of the recording studios of various beatmakers (from the biggest commercial studios to the smallest bedroom production rooms), I have seen quite a few sound-treatment methods and techniques. But if I had to narrow down the common thread that most beatmakers share in this regard, it would be our focus on the amplification of the sounds that we sample.

In some shape or form, we are all usually concerned—and for good reason—with how we can amplify the samples we use. Although a lot of the source material that we tend to sample has a lot of warmth and richness (most of it comes from a time span between the late 1960s through the late 1970s), it's often just not loud enough to translate well to today's recording palate. Therefore, in order to amplify the sounds that we sample, we have to come up with ways to "boost" the sound source before we sample it.

Boosting the sound—or more accurately speaking, the overall audible signal—of the source material that we sample is most often achieved by the signal chains that we like to use. For instance, some beatmakers like to route the signal of their source material through another piece of gear, for instance a DJ mixer (the method I use) or even a mic pre-amp. Still, others prefer to go directly from source to capture medium; that is to say, for instance, from turntable output directly to sampler input.

By routing source material first through some type of amplifier (especially one with multiple EQ bands), then on into your sampler, you're able to both amplify and further "color" the texture of the sound(s) that you're sampling. In contrast, the signal chain in which there is no additional amplification applied prior to the actual sampling of a source offers no such advantage or opportunity for unique sound treatment. (As with any sound, you can always tweak the color and amplification of your sample(s) in the mix stage, but keep in mind, the sound may be less "fat" than with pre-amplfication.)

Should You Compress Samples Before the Mix Stage?

In all of beatmaking, one of the most misunderstood uses of compression takes place with sampled material. To be clear, although compression may be able to raise the volume level of the source material that you want to sample, it's important to remember that when you compress a sound before you sample it, you are in fact subtracting frequencies from that sound. In other words, you are actually making the sound thinner, not fatter. Thus, in order to "beef" up or warm up a sound prior to sampling it, I recommend using some form of a multi-band equalizer. As I mentioned earlier in this article, I've always used a stereo DJ mixer with a 4-band EQ on both the right and left channels. But if you're looking for even more control along these lines, you could also use a standard stereo graphic equalizer that has even more bands.

Finally, I should point out that no matter what you decide, always keep in mind that however you treat the source material that you sample—at the input level—that will be the sound result that you'll be stuck with going forward. This is why some beatmakers opt to sample certain sounds "dry" (without any treatment). Also, it's important to remember that the ways in which samples are treated in the mix stage are typically different than the ways one might treat them prior to the mix. But in either case, personal preference for sound design will ultimately dictate which route you take. Thus, how you determine to treat your samples before the mix stage also depends on your overall sound design goals and your own beatmaking style and sound.

*Editor's Note: In TBC (The BeatTips Community), there's a great discussion about the use of compression with samples:
Compressing Samples

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

March 22, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Samuel Prody, Top-Notch Blues-Rock

This Contemporary Of Led Zeppelin Could Have Been A Contender


Regular readers of BeatTips.com know how much of a fan of Led Zeppelin that I am. Zeppelin has—and always will—play a major role in my understanding of and approach to music. For this reason, I'm sensitive to Led Zeppelin "knock-off" bands. Can't stomach them at all. Still, who could blame anyone for trying to emulate Zeppelin's style?

But emulation, followed by one's own imagination or innovation is one thing; "wannabe" duplication is something entirely different. Fortunately, Samuel Prody—a band who's sound closely mirrored Led Zeppelin—had enough individual imagination to carve out there own sound and avoid being dismissed as another Led Zeppelin knock off band.

Truth be told, Samuel Prody were contemporaries of Led Zeppelin. However, this status was short-lived, as the band's only album, Samuel Prody, was released in 1970. But had Samuel Prody kept it together and recorded more, the similarities (and differences) between them may have gotten plenty of air time. In fact, the band's lineup matched-up rather well against Led Zeppelin.

Samuel Prody's lead singer Tonny Savva could have perhaps been every bit as dynamic as Zeppelin's front-man Robert Plant. Prody's bassist Stephen Day had a style that was nearly equal to the bluesy style of Zeppelin's John Paul Jones. John Boswell, Prody's drummer, maybe wasn't a match for John Bonham, but then again, who was? Still, Boswell was damn close (check out his drumwork on "Time Is All Mine," included below); and he was certainly much better than most drummers of the time. Finally, Samuel Prody's lead guitarist Derek Smallcombe was not only formidable, he was imaginative and bluesy; although not to the degree of Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page. But we're talking Jimmy Page, here.

So all things considered, in 1970, Samuel Prody was poised to maybe give Led Zeppelin a run for their money, most likely setting up a rivalry situation similar to that of the The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. But even though that never took place, Samuel Prody still stands for me as the band who came the closest to Led Zeppelin's sound—without completely "knocking it off," while also creating a sound that was just as engaging. For that, and because their music did indeed cook, I salute Samuel Prody.

For educational purposes...

Samuel Prody – “Woman” (1970)

Samuel Prody - "Time Is All Mine"

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

March 17, 2011

Using the Alternating Pitch Technique on Drum Sounds

Technique Adds Unique Dimension to Your Drum Frameworks


Even though "the drums" are fundamental in beatmaking, many beatmakers overlook the various ways to get the most out of their existing drum sounds. One way to get more out of your drums sounds is to alternate the pitch of each drum sound within various measures—if not all measures—of a beat.

Changing the pitch of drum sounds is something that I often do in the creation of my beats. For snares, I typically have the same snare sound landing in a beat at three different pitch speeds (degrees). That is to say, I'll have one snare sound set at its original pitch level, the same sound set at a faster or slower pitch speed (usually one eighth or quarter note faster or slower), and the same sound again set at a faster or slower pitch speed (usually one eighth or quarter note faster or slower). Sometimes I determine the right pitch-degree of each snare-hit in real time usually by assigning the same snare sound—at three different pitch-speeds—to three different pads on my MPC, and playing the snares while the rest of the beat is in play/record mode. Still, there are other times (perhaps more often) where I simply play each snare-hit at the same pitch, then I later go back in and program the pitch changes at the points that feel right to me.

For hi-hats, rides, and tambourines, I use the same alternating-pitch technique for; however, for hi-hats, I usually only alternate the pitch of hi-hits at specific points within a beat. And when it comes to kick sounds, I use the alternating-pitch technique even more sparingly. With kicks, I only slightly change the pitch of the kick at certain times within the drum pattern.

Finally, I should point out that not only does alternating the pitch of your drum sounds allow you to get much more out of your existing drum sounds, such a technique also helps you create drum frameworks that really come alive. In other words, in addition to creating unique textures and sonic impressions, using the alternating pitch technique allows you to make your drums come off more natural, and it helps decrease the mechanical feel that often occurs with electronic drum sounds. Moreover, used in the right way—that is, for feel and sound, NOT just for the sake of using a technique—the alternating pitch technique also helps with the tightening up of the rhythm of your beats.

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

March 16, 2011

Nipsey Hustle's "Hustle in the House," a Reusable Good

Recycled Sample Drives New Beat


I remember when I first heard of Nipsey Hustle. His song, "Hustle in the House" immediately made me think that he sounded like a cross between 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, and Ice Cube... And I mean that in a good way, because I think he pulled it off.

The beat for "Hustle in the House" is built around a sample that was first made famous by Detroit rapper MC Breed's 1991 hit, "Ain't No Future in Yo' Frontin'," and then later the rap teen duo, Kris Kross, for their 1992 runaway hit, "Jump." Aside from the overall quality of the song, I've always liked the drumwork for this beat the most. The kick and snare play off each other and the escending riff of the sample, like a doomsday death march of rhythm and force. The snare doesn't such much as land on the "2 and the 4" as much as it crashes. And the kick drum stomps, but without any distraction or unnecessary movement.

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

Nipsey Hustle - "Hustle in the House"

MC Breed - "Ain't No Future in Yo' Frontin'"

Kris Kross - "Jump" (official music video)

Notice the difference in the way the same sample source material was used and flipped? Specifically, notice the tempo and what type of drum framework each beatmaker went with?

Side Note. Wow, can you believe that two teens from Atlanta ever sounded like this? Jump-dance aside, notice that they do not use any extra exaggerated "country" slang. Of course, this was a time when New York lyricism still had heavy influence over rappers nationwide.

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

March 14, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: O.C. & A.G. - "2 For The Money," Beat by Showbiz

Street Corner Laced Rhymes and A Hard-Hitting, but Intricately Arranged Beat


Attitude. More specifically, the "hip hop attitude." That's one of the core components of any of hip hop culture's four primary elements. And in O.C. and A.G.'s "2 For The Money" (beat by Showbiz), there is no shortage of attitude. Moreover, there's no shortage of the components that comprise a dope song.

O.C., long one of the most surefire (but slept-on) lyricist to ever grab a mic, sets off "2 For The Money" with a bravado that can only be summed up as New York City confidence. O's rhyme flow is as fluid as it is abrasive. And his lyrical content—always engaging—is as clever as it broken-glass serious. Then there's A.G., every bit "street corner" and aggressive as O.C., but less agile and more direct.

Then there's Showbiz on the beat. Here, the fellow D.I.T.C. brethren crafts one razor blade of a track. Showbiz's arrangement on this beat is masterwork! He builds the core groove around bass piano chops. But the real standout work on this heater is how he uses horn and string chops to weave a structure that packs a powerful punch. The first horn sample is a quick 3-note phrase that jabs in and out. And then there's the string samples. Dope! Showbiz uses several string samples. The first one dances up and down in a suspense-like fashion; it's this string sample that's prioritized during the first quarter of the verses in the song. The second string sample is an ascending, bottom-heavy string-horn phrase that carries a sustained whine after its crescendo. It's this string-horn phrase that Showbiz uses to relieve the first string sample, at the midway mark of the verse. After the string-horn phrase gets burn for four bars, the first string sample returns, followed by one more 2-bar round of the string-horn phrase, which finally gives way to the climax: a subdued and sustain brass stab with all other music elements (drumork included) dropped out.

Finally, got a mention that the hook cuts on this song are served up by DJ Premier.

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

O.C. & A.G. - "2 For The Money" (from Oasis, beat by Showbiz, featuring cuts by DJ Premier)

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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