2 posts categorized "BeatTips Drummers' Guide"

January 21, 2014

Using Multiple Drum Sounds for Movement, Depth, Texture, Variation, and Masking

There Are a Number of Different Creative Uses for Drum Sounds and Drum Sound Arrangements


With the bevy of quantize (time-correction) features, plug-ins, and effects available in today’s EMPIs, the temptation is to over rely on them, especially when it comes to creating movement, depth, texture, and variation. But the truth is, there are a number of different ways to generate movement (particularly swing and shuffle) and to add depth, texture, and variation by creatively using multiple drum sounds. The key is to know and understand the different types of layering and arrangement schemes and the results that they’re likely to produce.

Working with Two or More Kicks for movement, texture, and knock
One of the most common methods for adding knock (a hard, dominate drum pulse) is to layer together two or more kicks. But this isn’t the only effect that two or more kicks layered together can produce. Two layering techniques that I frequently use are “punch and boom” and sound fattening.

Punch and boom scheme
The punch and boom scheme refers to a two-layer kick scheme involving a punchy kick in tandem with a boom kick. The effect achieved can be anything from a booming kick that punches through, to a rounded boom with prolonged sustain. Typically, this scheme involves layering a standard sounding kick over an 808. But even here, you’re only limited by your imagination. For instance, any kick, especially a sustained 808, can be adjusted in the sound envelope. Adjustments in, let’s say, the attack of each kick allows for even more stylistic customization.

But the punch and boom scheme is not only for creating unique sounds and texture, it can be used to create movement as well. When layered, the boom “moves” the punch. That is to say, the effect of the layering of the two kicks is that it increases the combined span of the kick sound. This means, even though there are actually two kicks present, they represent, in effect, one sound. And the manipulation of the sound properties of each kick (separately) effects the combined sound property of the two kicks together. NOTE: whether you use this layering scheme during the making of a beat or not, you can save considerable time by simply making the kick before hand. For example, I have a kick called “PB Kick”, which stands for “Punch Boom”. Whenever I’m making a beat that I think calls for a punch/boom layer effect, I just use my PB kick, and adjust its velocity and/or ADSR to the specific beat that I’m working on.

Important note about ADSR: Every sound (dynamic tone) has three components: attack, sustain, and decay. Taken together these three components (parts or dimensions) are known as the sound envelope. (I should also point out that I like to extend the definition of sound envelope to mean: the entire span—from start to go—of a sound.) With regards to synthesis techniques — synthesizers/samplers — there is a fourth component, release; taken together these four components are known as the ADSR envelope. When you modify or remove any one or a combination of these ADSR components, the sound’s properties change, rendering an array of different effects. Thus, it’s important to understand what each component within the ADSR envelope represents, if you’re to modify them in ways that best serve your beats’ arrangements. (In The BeatTips Manual, I discuss the ADSR and drum arrangement in even greater detail.)

Also, you should note that while there are various ways to blend/mix a punch and a boom, one general idea to follow is that the boom should remain at a low velocity and the punch should be light on the high and high-mids.

Sound Fattening
Sound Fattening refers to a two- (or three) layer kick or snare scheme wherein a weak or shallow kick or snare sound is fattened or rather “beefed up”. Often, like with the punch and boom scheme, sound fattening layering techniques are usually done to create more knock. However, this is not why I typically fatten up sounds. Instead, I use a sound-fattening layering scheme whenever I what my kick in the drum pattern to be more out in front, particularly when the volume of the non-drum sounds is too low. Think of a the effect of a louder break-beat inspired drum pattern. I also use this scheme when I’m thickening up a sample (part or whole) or the entire texture of beat. For instance, if I fatten up a sample or non-sampled sounds and I want the drums to match the weight and texture, I’ll fatten up the drums as well, or a I might just fatten up specific parts of a primary sample or the non-sampled sounds that make up the core groove.

Multiple Drum Sounds Arrangements

Syncopation is a mainstay in beatmaking. But lesser known is the many different ways in which drum sound arrangements can effect everything from the swing to the overall feel of the beat. For example, using the same hi-hat at two different pitch levels and filtered/EQ’d differently — one high, the other low — can push, shuffle, or pull a beat, depending on the actual hi-hat arrangement and other sounds within a beat.

Drum sound arrangements can also be used to mask gaps in sounds, loop-glitches, and pitch-shifts. Furthermore, they can be used to effect the feel of the tempo without actually changing BPM settings. This is especially helpful, as it’s an alternative to using quantize features to fix or correct unwanted blemishes. Personally, I try to avoid quantize features because I like my arrangements to be blended and cut together as natural as possible, something akin to a DJ cutting, mixing, and blending different sounds and rhythms together. This, plus other techniques and customized — NOT STOCK — drum sounds, help me maintain my own style and sound.

Below I have a included a beat that demonstrates some of the schemes and effects that I’ve discussed earlier in this tutorial. I recorded the beat to play through for about 40 seconds with all of its elements, 8 tracks, then for specific elements to drop out so that you can hear the changes and the immediate effect that each dropped element has on the beat. This way, you can reverse engineer the beat and get a better idea and understanding for why I added particular drum elements and structured the arrangement the way that I did. The 8 tracks include: kick, snare, hat 1 (“hat X”), break (primary sample), hat 2, clap, bass-stab (boom), and a tambourine.

Particular things to listen for:
How the clap alternates where it hits.
How hat 2 seems to play quarters, but there's never a fourth hit in the sequence.
How the tambourine shadows hat 2.
How the bass-stab (boom) fattens the front of the primary sample, giving it a rounder sound and thus sustaining its effect.
How hat 2 and the tambourine layered together shuffles the beat along, which creates a great pocket to rhyme in.
How "hat x", which is something like a crash, effectively represents a change.
How all of the variation gives the beat one solid texture and nice depth.

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

"Cut 1013" - Produced by Sa'id

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

July 10, 2013

Use Your Drum Sounds to Improve Your Compositional Workflow

Knowing Your Drum Sounds Makes for a More Efficient Compositional Workflow


Compositional workflow, the collective processes, methods, and time it takes a beatmaker to create a beat, can be improved in a number of different ways. Depending on the individual EMPI (Electronic Music Production Instrument), the steps within most beatmaking processes can be condensed. Likewise, the various methods of achieving particular production goals can be realized, retooled, and/or retranslated in ways that bring about desired results faster and more efficiently. Even the reshuffling of one’s production environment can improve workflow. (Do not under estimate the power of a comfortable chair and/or a good view.) But among the countless ways to improve compositional workflow, often the most overlooked way can be found in the area of drum sounds and drum sound modification.

Most beatmakers—myself included—take pride in crafting their drum sounds, despite the fact that there are also lots of beatmakers who depend (heavily) on pre-set drum sounds with little to no customization at all. For those beatmakers who see their drums as a major component of their overall production identity, individualized drum sound customization is key. But that being said, the processes of drum sound customization can impede workflow whenever they are overly applied during the making of a beat. This is why simply knowing your drum sounds is a great way to improve compositional workflow.

Check it out… Whenever I’m making a beat, I choose my drum sounds quickly because I know them. I know their texture; I know their color; I know what types of sounds they’ll go well with; I know how they’ll sit and sound in the final mix. So for me, selecting the right drums for the right style and sound of beat that I'm working on at the moment doesn’t involve a prolonged scroll through my drum library.

And although I may make a couple of modifications to a drum sound during the process of making a beat, those tweaks are minimum and on the fly, nothing too tedious or vibe busting. Again: I know my sounds, so I reach for the sounds that I think may fit with the current arrangement that I’m working on. I do not, however, embark upon some sort of drum-tweaking journey that can shift my focus from the beat—the entire arrangement—to just drum sounds. Moreover, I do not allow my workflow to be disrupted by a prolonged search of a drum sound folder. This is yet another reason why I like to keep my drum sound library tight with a reasonable number of sounds. In other words, when I’m composing a beat, I’m leery of shifting too far away from composer to drum sound technician, or anything else for that matter.

Compositional workflow determines your ability to harness your creative moments in real time. Therefore, the longer your compositional workflow is disrupted, that is to say, the longer the act of composing is left on hold—in this case, by drum craft or “tech” work—the more you defeat your ability to harness your creative moments. This is why it's just as important to look for ways that improve your compositional workflow as it is to guard against anything that can inhibit it.

Now, technically speaking, any tweak of a drum sound during the creation of a beat makes you a “drum sound technician,” which, in effect, disrupts your compositional workflow. But to what degree? During the “live vibe/feel” of making a beat, should the arrangement and scope of the beat be placed on hold until you tweak drum sounds to perfection? Or should drum sounds defer to the overall arrangement, with little to no consideration of their fit within the arrangement? What I mean here is, is easier to find what fits from a well-known personal arsenal of drum sounds than it is from a big box of endless unknown sounds? Further, isn’t it better to spend time making major tweaks to a drum sound, in a stand-alone context outside of the beat arrangement at hand? I certainly believe there is a time for major tweaks—customization—of drum sounds, in a stand-alone context. This is why I strongly believe that it’s important to set aside time for beatmaking sessions that are solely for the purpose of going through new drum sounds, modifying them to specific taste, and creating a trusted core set of drum sounds.

But implementing extensive drum sound modifications and/or a prolonged drum sound selection process during the composition phase of making a beat can disrupt your flow of ideas, and severely limit your ability to bring about the beat you envisioned. Simply knowing your drum sounds, particularly a core set of sounds, can improve your compositional workflow and cut down considerably the amount of time it takes you to complete a beat from start to finish.

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

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