Beatmaking Pioneer Advises To Keep An Open Mind To New Gear
By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)
For most beatmakers, gear changes and explorations are, at one time or another, inevitable. Pursuing your own style and sound has a lot to do with setup that you use. So it should come as no surprise that setup changes are often necessary.
In the video below, Large Professor talks about how he tried out all of the major beat machines (E-Mu SP 1200, Ensonic ASR-10, Akai MPC) of his time, and how it was RZA who helped influence his decision. But whether it was Large Pro's quest to broaden his sound, or a simple case of curiosity and exploration, one thing's for certain: the recording budget—something not afforded to most—definitely gave him the freedom and resources to try out new beat machines.
The video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship.
Large Pro talks machines and Rza's influence (via Grind Music Radio)
Unsung Hero of Creativity, Large Professor Mastered the Art of Bass-Filtering and Drum-Sound Customization
By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)
On "The Mad Scientist," one of Large Professor's best beatworks, it will serve you well to notice how the drums and the sample move together. Each drum sound is its own sample, yet when this song came out, many critics of sampling could not—did not—distinguish the individual drum hits that Large Professor used. Instead, in various "reviews," the drum sounds were incorrectly lumped together with the sample, and described as being simply "a part of the sampled riff." I can even remember reading one critic's assessment of "The Mad Scientist" as having a "lack" of creativity.
Well, the true fact of the matter is, there's a lot more going on with this track than many would easily recognize. First, each drum sound is customized and well-suited for the main sample, (which Large Professor uses like a break). The kick has what I like to call a rubber bottom. I use the term "rubber bottom" to describe those kicks that have significant bottom, but still manage to bounce. The snare, which sounds like a straight-forward snare sound with loose skin, snaps and suspends in mid-space, sustained by just the right amount of reverb. This is most pleasing to the ear, as it makes the snare sound much more fuller and balanced, unlike the over-compressed, "squashed" sounding snares in far too many of today's beats. Then there's the shaker-like hat that glides across the entire measure. (Underneath the main hi-hat there appears to be another light, truncated hi-hat that whispers.)
As for the main sample tha drives the beat, Large Professor speeds up its pitch, in a way that streamlines its warmth, without distorting its sonic value, or disrupting the drum framework. And the way that the sample is chopped, the beginning and end points are masked quite well, making the loop sound like two overlapping parts that dissolve into each other. Finally, there is one notable change: the ascending violin phrase (sample) that streams through the chorus section.
Looking back, I remember how I thought to myself that once critics start to challenge the creativity of drum patterns/programs, sampling would really come under attack by other beatmakers. Unfortunately, I was right. But I also believed that there would be more beatmakers who would disagree with the mostly uninformed critics of beatmaking and its various creative, often meticulous practices. Fortunately, I was right about that, too.
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Top 5 Myths About Sampling and Copyright Law
"Sampling is piracy."
Piracy describes the wholesale, verbatim copying and distribution of copyrighted works. That is not sampling; that's something entirely different. Read more
"You can legally sample and use any recording up to 1, 2, 3, or 4 seconds."
Under existing copyright law, there is no clear, predetermined length (amount in seconds) that
is “legally” permissible to sample. Read more
"If you use samples on a free mixtape, it’s perfectly O.K."
A free mixtape does NOT permit you to use samples from copyrighted recordings without the permission of the copyright holders. Read more
"Sampling is easy; there’s nothing to it. Anyone can do it well."
Sampling is an art form that requires technical skill, imagination, and artistic understanding. Read more
"Sampling involves the use of pre-recorded songs only."
While the art of sampling is most commonly understood to include the use of pre-recorded songs (traditionally from vinyl records), source material for sampling includes any recorded sound or sound that can be recorded. Read more
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