21 posts categorized "Editorials"

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 03, 2011

Some Recording Artists Are Better Off Selling Free Promotion Flyers

Over Saturation of PR-Type Music-Makers Will Give Way to New Era of Quality and Creativity


Even though most A-list recording artists have taken some financial jabs over the past several years, they still earn decent money. However, B- and C-listers (which make up the vast majority recording artists) had better either (1) accept the peril of their musical fate; or (2) pimp out their brand (if it's anyway serviceable) to some to establishment that's not endangered by the clutches of P2P technology and some consumers stubborn reluctance to by buy music.

I used to cringe when recording artists conveyed to me their strategies for new music sales. In some cases, these were people I have been friends with for 10 years or more. In other cases, these were artists who I had long respected, but had only more recently felt comfortable calling friends. And still, these were also artists who were neither friends or enemies, but simply music people that I know. However, now I no longer have to cringe when I hear about plans like that redundant one; you know the one in which the strategy itself is predicated upon some delusional phantom "movement." Or how about all of the misguided and woefully under-matched DVD/video strategies. Indeed, in today's music scene, one has a better chance of making more money selling free promotion flyers than do using the stale (over played) strategies of the day.

One reason that I don't have to hear any of these non-reality-based strategies is because I have consistently (and cold-handedly) removed myself from even the most remote music-industry connection. Understand, I have never been, nor have I ever wanted to be a music industry "insider". As a kid, I learned early on that you don't have to be in the circus to see all the clowns. The other reason that I don't have to hear (and/or subsequently entertain) any of these non-sensible music-money-making strategies is because most of the once "new" and "imaginative" strategies have become so old and repeated that they have successfully paralyzed wholesale numbers of unsuspecting recording artists (many of which who operate more like defective "androids").

Certainly, this does not mean that I glory in the demise of the dreams of many artists. On the contrary, I reserve a special level of respect for the kind of dedication that many recording artists demonstrate. However, contemporary "success schemes" have converted a large majority of recording artists into de facto marketers and/or PR types, who seemingly just dabble—by chance—in making music in their spare time.

Thus, with the undeniable collapse of many of the most popular music money-making tactics, I'm convinced that a new crop of recording artists (especially in hip hop/rap) will continue to emerge. I'm not saying that this new group will ignore the necessity of some level of marketing and PR. I just believe that they will concentrate less on marketing/PR and more on the novel idea of, well, making creative, imaginative music. In fact, I envision that this new group of recording artists will reject the "quick fame and money" routine, and focus on generating something fresh, new, and eerily indicative of what history shamelessly has left to peddle. If I'm right, we are in the last days of the PR-type music-maker dominated era, and are at the horizon of something more engaging and fresh.

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

March 01, 2011

What's the Source of Energy In Your Beats?

Let The Rhythm Be Your Guide


All music has it's own energy source. That is to say, every music form is guided by it's own use of the three main elements of music: rhythm, melody, and harmony. Hip hop/rap music, in it's most traditional form, is guided by and predicated upon rhythm. Thus, fundamentally speaking, the energy of hip hop/rap beats comes from rhythm (specifically, the use of the break), not melody.

When it comes to creating quality beats—in the style that you're after—, understanding where the source of energy lies in particular beat styles is absolutely critical. For nearly all beat styles, especially "boom bap" and break-beat influenced joints, rhythm is where the energy comes from; it's what both drives and informs those beat styles. In contrast, with these types of beats—again, we're talking nearly all beat styles—, melody takes a backseat.

Unfortunately, however, some beatmakers either fail to embrace this fundamental fact about the role of rhythm and melody in beatmaking, or they simply ignore it outright. But here's the deal: A collision—forced combination—of rhythm and melody always results in a mutated (less "hip hop/rap") version of hip hop/rap music. Now please understand, I'm not saying that that there is never a place for melody in a hip hop/rap beat. On the contrary, in certain cases, I believe that melody can enhance a beat. But it must also be acknowledged that in other cases, typically beat styles that ascribe to hip hop/rap's most fundamental structures, melody can undermine a beat. Thus, for those beats intended for traditional rhyme schemes and the like, knowing how (where and when) to apply melody is absolutely essential.

For Hip Hop Fusion, However, Melody Gains More Importance

Unlike traditional hip hop/rap songs, for contemporary pop or better yet "urban pop" tunes and "emo" beats, melody moves more toward the center stage (as it should for that music forum). To the vast majority of pop/urban pop music fans, melody is often the most identifiable aspect (element) of music. Moreover, most pop tunes do not feature the rhyme schemes, poetic density, and verbal dexterity of rapping itself, especially complex rapping styles. Therefore, although rhythm is obviously always at play in pop/urban pop instrumentals, it must be remembered that urban pop and emo beats rely more on melody.

Bottom Line

Familiarity with melody aside, what makes music most accessible for most people—perhaps I should say, what makes most people move is rhythm. More importantly, for beatmakers, it's paramount that we acknowledge (if not embrace) this one point: That it is through the core rhythm of a beat that a beatmaker is most likely to craft the sort of beatworks that attract the most capable rappers, not singers.

*Editor's note: In The BeatTips Manual, there is an even more extensive analysis of the roles rhythm, melody, and harmony play in beatmaking.

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

January 24, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers Taught Me How To Shuffle

Listening To One Of Jazz's Most Prolific Groups, I Learned How To Add Natural Shuffle To My Beats


The Jazz Messengers are one of the richest sources of musical knowledge that we still have available to us. Initially Co-fronted by drummer Art Blakey and pianist Horace Silver, Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers (the moniker that was upheld after Silver left the group) was no ordinary outfit. Throughout the mid-1950s and late 1960s, the Jazz Messengers served as a virtual "music school" for some of jazz's (especially hard bop's) most recognizable names.

For me, what I got most from Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers—I mean aside from a strong sense of timing—was how to "shuffle" certain elements within a song. Although there are some hip hop/rap songs that can provide some direction in how to make parts of songs shuffle, I've learned more in this regard from studying jazz, in particular, Art Blakely and the Jazz Messengers.

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

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers - "Moanin'"

January 10, 2011

Beatmaking Skills Prior to DAWs

Taking Short Breaks from Computer; Self-Imposed Refresher Course Helps Rejuvenate and Improve My Creativity


Every other week or so, I work on making new beats without the use of my computer. That is to say, without tracking my beat into Pro Tools, my DAW of choice.

What brought about this decision? Two things. First, I like to revisit the mind frame that I was once in, when I didn't have regular access to, or the convenience of, a computer. Second, and this is perhaps more important, I want my son, Amir Ali Said, to always view the computer as an aid, not necessarily a necessity, to his beatmaking skills.

My son, Amir (now 14), first began seriously watching me make beats when he was 4 years old. Back then, I didn't have a computer...I didn't even have a CD recorder. Nope. I had a cassette recorder, and that's what I used to record my beats to.

Looking back on that time, I realize how much I adjusted my beatmaking style to accommodate how I would be recording my beats. In fact, every new piece of gear that I added to my setup—that was supposed to improve my tracking (recording) process—actually prompted me to change how I made my beats. When I first got a mixing console, a 16-channel Mackie board, I changed up how I modified my bass lines. When I got my first CD recorder, I doubled the time I usually spent on "mixing" my beats. And, finally, when I first got Pro Tools, I tripled the time (if not more) that I spent on "mixing" my beats.

In the past 10 years, I've probably acquired five different mixing consoles, three different versions of Pro Tools and its hardware interfaces, four different CD recorders, and no less than seven pairs of speakers and monitors. And with each of these new acquisitions, I increased the time I spent tracking (recording) my beats, while at the same time, I decreased the time I spent actually making my beats.

Lately, this dilemma has been resonating much more. Particularly, because my son's understanding of, and interest in, beatmaking has grown dramatically—much more faster than it took me to understand certain things. So as Amir becomes more in tune with the art of beatmaking, I'm finding that some of the best things I have to teach him are the many things I learned prior to getting a mixing console, prior to getting a CD recorder, and prior to getting Pro Tools. And although I realize that's it's just plain practical to use a DAW, I specifically, think it's important for him to learn how to protect the imagination and creativity of his musicianship from an over reliance on particular music production tool.

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

December 21, 2010

Notice Anything About Hip Hop/Rap Music Criticism Lately?

Why the Quality Hip Hop/Rap Criticism is on the Decline


It's a precarious time for hip hop/rap music criticism. In recent years, the overall quality of hip hop/rap music criticism has declined so dramatically that highly judgmental, disconnected and non-analytical, or unsubstantiated “glowing” music reviews have become acceptable. By and large, the main metrics of what defines a high quality music review—objective observation of a piece or collection of music on its own merits, its projected target audience(s), it's entertainment value and/or scholarship value as well as decent writing—are largely being ignored. In fact, increasingly these days, music reviews are being guided more by popularity and appeasement than they are by a genuine or contextual analysis of the merits of a given piece or collection of music.

The causes of the current shape of hip hop/rap music criticism are varied. However, I attribute this plunge in the quality of hip hop/rap music criticism mostly to three factors: (1) the shift in coverage focus and decline in writing quality of the larger, more prominent hip hop/rap media outlets; (2) the stampede of new music bloggers; and (3) the revolving influx of new rappers and other recording artists.

Large Scale Hip Hop/Rap Media Outlets and the Quality of Hip Hop/Rap Music Criticism

Widespread massive declines in advertising dollars (and in some cases, payola-like schemes) have prompted many music publications—print and online—to dramatically change course and look for new revenue streams. Necessarily, as with any "for profit" journalistic entity, this has resulted in a series of cost-cutting measures that have directly led to many corners being cut, notably in the area of music criticism.

Although I have long questioned the qualifications of some hip hop/rap music critics (over the past 15 years), as a whole, I've found most to be at least fairly knowledgeable about hip hop/rap music's history and the current themes of the time. But today, coverage at the larger hip hop/rap music publications have shifted more towards news (in some cases, sensationalism and gossip) and away from quality analysis. Furthermore, the once more prominent music/culture publications no longer have the same sort of revolving revenue streams as they perhaps did more than a decade ago.

Thus, this shift in coverage focus, coupled with the large-scale loss of advertising revenue, means that the larger hip hop/rap media outlets can no longer retain the same number of quality writers (i.e. informed, analytical music critics) as they were once able to. Therefore, to fill this void of writers, most of the larger hip hop/rap music publications have resorted (in varying degree) to using pro-bono (for free!) freelance writers and unqualified “interns” (who may be hip hop/rap music fans, but not necessarily always decent writers or persons with solid hip hop/rap music history backgrounds) to review much of the music being released these days.

Strong writing skills aside, this is not to say that a decent knowledge of hip hop/rap music history is the most paramount qualification for a music reviewer. But the reality is, without some fairly strong sense of hip hop/rap music history, particularly of the eras, sounds, and styles that many recording artists routinely reference today, the corresponding—often critical—context is lost. And without solid knowledge of the corresponding context for a piece or collection of music, a reviewer can easily be led to issue a negative slight against that music, for something he or she simply is not aware of or does not understand, or a glowing remark, for fear of not offending or fitting in.

Now, to be fair, seniority still prevails at the larger hip hop/rap media outlets. Indeed, at those publications, most of the high profile music reviews are reserved for the most senior writers and editors, which, in theory, should assure a higher quality of criticism. But that isn't always the case. In fact, as new hip hop/rap projects either move toward or away from complexity and creativity, and as senior writers and editors grapple with the realities of how their media outlets are actually monetized (i.e. how they get paid), the decline in the quality of hip hop/rap music criticism goes mostly unchecked—even among these otherwise elite writers.

Music Bloggers and the Quality of Hip Hop/Rap Music Criticism

The overall quality hip hop/rap music criticism has also declined because of the stampede of new music bloggers. The sheer freedom of the internet has made it more possible than ever before for individuals to publish their own ideas and observations about music (or anything else for that matter). That bloggers (myself included) have been able to do so as an alternative to what the so-called “tastemakers” have to publish is particularly liberating. And to be certain, there are some really terrific (highly knowledgeable) hip hop/rap music bloggers. However, that being said, from my own two year observation of no less than 75 self-described "hip hop/rap music blogs," most "hip hop/rap bloggers" fall into two categories: (1) highly subjective fans (of one sound, style, group, or other); and (2) lower-skilled writers—the latter being the more typical and severe observation.

As a small number of these "indie" music bloggers have seen their own profiles rise (a fact in no way lost on the larger hip hop/rap media outlets), they have increasingly taken to publishing more formal music reviews. The results are mixed. In a small number of cases, these formal reviews represent some of the most lucid and engaging reviews that I have ever read. Unfortunately, however, in most cases, these formal reviews either poorly echo the tone and approach of the larger hip hop/rap media outlets, or they simply collapse under the weight of overzealous subjectivity, disconnected analysis, and/or poor writing. (Please consider the ramifications that occur when larger media outlets see—rightfully so—many of these bloggers as "readership competition.")

The Influx of New Rappers and the Quality of Hip Hop/Rap Music Criticism

Finally, the third factor that has greatly contributed to the overall decline in quality hip hop/rap music criticism is the revolving influx of new rappers. If this influx was characterized by artists who were mostly committed to creativity and originality, perhaps the state of hip hop/rap music criticism wouldn't be quite as precarious as it presently is. But the number of new acts who stand on their own styles (or even unique interpretations of current trends or styles and trends gone past), compared to the number of those acts who openly carbon copy overworked and less-substance based trends, appears to be rather low. And while everything that is "good" doesn't always find its way to the graces of most music reviewers, suffice it to say, not everything that is "bad" isn't always left out! Therefore, if the sheer number of less informed or less qualified music reviewers has increased; and if the number of new rappers has gone up dramatically; and if the filters—whatever those may be—for permitting more coverage of the "good" and blocking the "bad" (subjective as tastes may generally be) have been mostly neutralized, then it's safe to say that the metrics of what should define a high quality music review have been greatly compromised.

What's Next for Hip Hop/Rap Music Criticsm?

As I outlined above: The shift in coverage-focus by the leading hip hop/rap media outlets (and some of the top bloggers); the use of less qualified reviewers (typically, less skilled writers or pro-bono writers and fans turned bloggers who either lack a solid understanding of the history and fundamental aesthetics and priorities of the hip hop/rap music and beatmaking traditions or are ignorant of it, altogether); and the overwhelming revolving influx of new recording artists (some committed to creativity and originality, others not so much) have all contributed to the decline of the overall quality of hip hop/rap music criticism. Can this unfortunate trend be reversed? Perhaps. But without the demand from hip hop/rap music fans, I don’t think it can be reversed in the near-term.

The Fate of the Outlier Bloggers

Again, there are a number of terrific hip hop/rap music bloggers who are publishing some high quality music criticism. I'm confident that they will continue. But as their profiles rise, the lure of larger media outlets (both from hip hop/rap music and other mass-genre sectors) may prove too strong to resist. Therefore, I anticipate that some of the larger music/culture media outlets will absorb the "outlier" bloggers, i.e. the most intelliglbe, engaging, savvy, and/or creative ones, either by bringing those notable blogs—wholesale—into their networks, or by giving those bloggers paid staff, senior writer, and editor positions. If this happens, and I think it's inevitable (indeed, it’s actually already begun), will these bloggers continue to take the lead, effecting a revival of high quality hip hop/rap music criticism? Or will they ceremoniously conform?

If they conform, expect the number of bandwagon schlock-jobs (read ass-kissing covert promos and mainstream protection), masquerading as music reviews to increase. Also, expect the number of dismissive, disconnected, and often misleading "write-ups" to increase as well. But if these outlier bloggers do keep on track, and let's all hope that they do, then we will soon witness one of the most informative and engaging eras in the not-so brief history of hip hop/rap music criticism.

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

October 11, 2010

Beatmaking Is No "Big Mac"

Beatmaking Tradition Prioritizes Creativity Through Challenge, Not Ease; "In-the-Box" Music Process Often Disconnects

By Amir Said (Sa'id)

Earlier this year, when Digidesign (Avid) announced the release of their newly updated Pro Tools Expansion Pack, the "in-the-box" music-creation process seemingly got a booster shot in the arm. To Digidesign's credit, the Pro Tools DAW stands today as the industry standard in the realm of recording music. However, Pro Tools has not been the go-to program for music creation, especially in the case of beatmaking. On the contrary, when it comes to beatmaking, the DAWs that enjoy a premium of support over Pro Tools include Ableton Live, Cubase, and Logic. Thus, it wasn't long before Digidesign (Avid) recognized (rightfully so) that they could further expand and solidify their brand dominance in the DAW spectrum by getting into the virtual instruments game.

Through their partnership with the Advanced Instrument Research group (A.I.R.), Digidesign (Avid) has developed an impressive suite of virtual instruments and tools. In fact, Digidesign says that "having a team within Digidesign dedicated to developing best-of-breed virtual instruments could offer tremendous help and insight in guiding" their effort. In other words, Digidesign combined their in-house efforts with the expertise of an outside party—in this case, A.I.R.—to help them come up with a virtual instrument package that was second to none. But for me the issue isn't about Digidesign's (Avid's) success or failure in the virtual instruments field, or its subsequent impact on the "in-the-box" music process. Instead, my concern is with the effects that making music "in-the-box" has had and could potentially have on the musical process and notions of music creativity, particularly as it relates to the beatmaking tradition of hip hop/rap music.

When beatmaking (hip hop production) first emerged in the early 1970s, it was not seen by many outside of the hip hop/rap tradition as a legitimate musical process.
And unfortunately, even today—in some circles—beatmaking's (hip hop production's) legitimacy as a means for composing music is questioned. But given the scope and impact of hip hop/rap music in the past 36 years, there can be no doubt as to whether or not beatmaking (hip hop production) is indeed a legitimate and complex musical process in its own right. That being said, recent developments in virtual instrument technology have been less about enhancing the musical process and more about merely making music composition easier.

The notion of reducing the musical process down to something that is just "easy" to do is a philosophy that I take—and have always taken—exception with. Contrary to what some gear and music software manufacturers may seem to want consumers to believe, beatmaking is and has been—in its fundamental form—about creativity through challenge, not creativity through ease. That is to so say, the beatmaking tradition of hip hop/rap music was built by beatmakers who valued the pains and joys of creativity, irrespective of how easy their gear allowed them to fully realize this creativity.

Until hip hop/rap music emerged—ushering in a new kind of musician: the "beatmaker"—turntables, DJ mixers, echo boxes, drum machines, and digital samplers were not considered to be "music instruments" at all. And with the advent of beat machine stalwarts like the Akai MPC, the E-Mu SP 1200, and the Ensoniq EPS-16 and ASR-10, beatmakers were able to produce traditional (and non-traditional) musical sounds by using non-traditional music instruments. But by the late 1990s, virtual instrument software programs began to emerge as a viable alternative to the often pricey hardware manifestations that had helped co-wrote hip hop/rap's story for more than two decades.

As the 1990s folded into the 2000s, virtual instrument programs took substantial market share away from their hardware counterparts. But while the hardware stalwarts of the past two decades have seemed to be—in some significant degree—in tune with some important elements of the beatmaking tradition as well as focused on the way in which beatmakers actually make music, the virtual instrument programs have widely proven to be more about making the musical process simply easier, and less about truly establishing and preserving a link to the beatmaking tradition. And therein lies my concerns.

Is the creation of art—in this case, beatmaking and hip hop/rap music—suppose to be primarily a matter of ease? Shouldn't the creation of hip hop/rap music be a matter of one's own reflection, exploration, and attempted execution of both the musical ideas and elements firmly within the beatmaking and hip hop/rap traditions? Moreover, should the means to the realization of one's musical creativity within the hip hop/rap music tradition be so "easy" that there is then a disconnect between the beatmaker and the hip hop/rap music tradition? That is to say, should the means of music creation outweigh the principles of music creativity? Principles of music creativity, I should add, that are well-established by a given music tradition? I certainly do not think so. But I fear that this sort of "microwave," easy-made approach to and notion of music creation disconnects would-be makers of hip hop/rap music from the hip hop/rap music tradition itself.

And to be clear, my objection is not at all to virtual instrument programs, software music production tools, and/or to the process of making music "in-the-box." For even if you use an Akai MPC (or any hardware instrument) you are using that machine's software; therefore, to some degree, you are indeed technically making music "in-the-box." My objection is to the emphasis on the "ease" at which the musical process can be achieved in any music form or tradition. The musical process for beatmaking, or any other music tradition, should never be pitched to the public as something that is "easy" to do, or as something that is merely "a download away." The music compositional process of beatmaking is much more complex, varied, and just plain difficult to learn than virtual instrument programmers have—up until this point—cared to acknowledge or imply.

Finally, it should be noted that virtual instrument programmers have clearly, to some large degree, followed beatmaking's lead. To Albeton's credit, they at least acknowledge this link in their website's information and marketing efforts. There, they go as far as having a section on the site entitled, "For Beat Creators;" indeed showing their respect for the beatmaking (hip hop production) tradition. Yet in their website's info and marketing page for their new Pro Tools Expansion Pack, Digidesign (Avid) advises that: "Whether you like to rock, groove, swing, score, funk out, or jazz it up, the Pro Tools Instrument Expansion Pack gives you a massive sonic palette to get the sounds you’re after..." Noticeably missing from this page are the words "hip hop."

So it would appear that through their use of the code words "groove" and "loops," Digidesign (Avid) is barely even concerned with merely suggesting that their product has any connection with beatmaking or hip hop/rap music, or even that it's suitable for beatmakers to use. For Digidesign to present their Expansion Pack as a tool that is for "rockers," "swingers," "funkers," and "jazz makers," while not at the same time openly and directly linking it—in even some small way—to beatmaking is a farce. But then again, what should you expect from Digidesign (Avid) when they say on their website's Pro Tools Expansion Pack info/release page, "Supersize Your Sound with the New Pro Tools Instrument Expansion Pack."

"Supersize your sound?" Wow...does Digidesign (Avid) think so highly of music creation and the musical process that they deem it necessary to borrow a slogan from fast food giant, McDonald's? I seriously doubt that Digidesign believes that making music is as easy as making a Big Mac. But what troubles me is that there are people (far too many I care to admit) who approach beatmaking as if it is just that easy... I can assure you, it's not.

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

September 23, 2010

Get More Out Of Your Pro Tools Life With Organization

Proper Pro Tools File Maintenance Improves Your Workflow...And Saves You Headaches

By Cus

As a mix engineer, one of the biggest problems that I commonly come across when dealing with Pro Tools sessions is the location of "missing" files. Specifically, the issue is where clients files are saved and to what folders they are sent to when recording. Thus, I wanted I wanted to make a few recommendations to those of you who use Pro Tools as your DAW.

Pro Tools Sessions and Multiple Computers

Unless you plan only to record and mix sessions on one dedicated computer, which for most of my clients is impractical, I recommend that you pay close attention to what I'm about to say: File organization is a must! (And even if you do work from just one computer, I still believe that file organization is a must.)

In any given session, the things that you add or subtract from that session may seem harmless enough. After all, you're doing different tweaks and probably saving as you go. Every time you open this session on your computer, all of your files pop up, whether they are in the correct folders or not. This happens because your computer knows where everything is for that particular session. This will remain a constant for Pro Tools to identify each file for the song and open right up with no problems at all. However, the moment you burn that session to a disc or drive, to be opened on a different computer, the story changes. I can not tell you how many times I've heard, "Where are my files?"

Because the session has been brought to another computer, this new computer doesn't know where the files are for the particular song that you're referencing. So when you open the session on the new computer, you may get blue globs of nothing, in place where your waveforms once stood. And this problem can't be corrected until the actual files from the original source (from the computer where the files initially worked) are retrieved.

Organization Is King

Hence, when doing sessions in your DAW, you should place special attention on organization—from start to finish. First off, the start of a new session should begin with its own folder, and not be intertwined with another session. Give a new session it's own folder, so that it can its own space and avoid so "mixups," which often results missing files. Next, make sure your audio files are clear. When you start a new session in Pro Tools, an 'audio files' folder automatically appears for the session. So make sure that all the files are properly entering this folder. One way to check is to look under 'setups' menu and find 'disk allocation.' This will show you exactly where the files for this particular session are being stored. It will also show you the complete path: from what drive, to what artist, to what project, etc.

And remember, things can get messy when you begin importing audio files from other sessions or from other sources, such as a CD or an alternate drive. This is because a file may exist in one session (e.g. session 1), yet be only "on file" in yet another session (e.g. session 2). One way to ease this pain is to save the session—when opened—in a different manner.

Go under 'files' and 'save session copy in'. (THIS CAN SAVE YOUR LIFE!) When the box pops up, click 'save all audio files' and then name the session with a location for it to go. After Pro Tools finds every file (currently in that particular session) it stores the new session where you've chosen under the name: copy of "whatever the session was called." Now when that session is opened, you will find the exact same session, with all the files. Only difference now, is the 'audio files' folder in that current session folder holds any and all files it had in the session; no matter where they were on the computer or whatever drives they were a part of. Now, you can take this session folder and burn it to disc or save to an external drive to use on another computer.

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

August 11, 2010

Kickstarting Hip Hop/Rap All Over Again

If You Had to Restart Hip Hop/Rap Music, Who Would You Choose?

By Amir Said (Sa'id)

For the past four years or so, talk has been brewing about the need to "take hip hop/rap music back." Although I sympathize (partly) with this sentiment, I can't help but wonder who are the people calling for the "take back," and what would they do, once they took it back? So it got me thinking: If hip hop/rap music was indeed about to be over, and it was up to me (or you) to choose just three DJs, three beatmakers, and three rappers—from any era—to restart it, who would I (you) choose? Well, after some (really) serious thought, here's who I would choose.

Three DJs
Kool DJ Herc (ca. 1973-76)
Grandmaster Flash (ca. 1975-1983)
Afrika Bambaataa (1974-1983)

Three Beatmakers
DJ Marley Marl (ca. 1985-1992)
DJ Premier (ca. 1989-present)
DJ Toomp (ca. 1992-present)

Three Rappers
Grandmaster Caz (ca. 1977-1983)
KRS-One (ca. 1986-1990)
Nas (ca. 1993-1994)


If you had to restart hip hop/rap music, who would you choose?

July 26, 2010

Have You Heard It On The Radio?

Radio's Not "The Radio" Anymore; Choice And Variety Has Done Away With The Old Model

By Amir Said (Sa'id)

In case you haven't noticed, radio broadcasting is increasingly losing its influence over the general public's music listening (and buying) decisions. In his rather organic and illuminating study, author and Wired Magazine Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson notes that "in 1993, Americans spent an average of twenty-three hours and fifteen minutes per week tuned in to the radio;" and that by the spring of 2004, that figure "had dropped to nineteen hours and forty-five minutes" (a 15% decline), bringing traditional radio listenership to a "twenty-seven year low." To be certain, traditional radio listenership continues to spiral downward. In fact, if the current rate of decline simply holds up, 2009 will show an 8% decrease in traditional radio listenership. This means that since 1993, there will have been at least a 25% nosedive in traditional radio listenership—a rather precipitous drop, to say the least.

Where Have All the Traditional Radio Listeners Gone and Why

There are many reasons why radio listenership continues to decline at such a rapid pace. Radio behemoth Clear Channel and its one-size-fits-all radio centralization—what Anderson rightfully regards as Clear Channel's bland homogenization—has indeed played a role. And we can not overlook the fact that the increasing lack of artistry found in the music industry-pushed "hits" has also prodded some music listeners away from the radio. But these factors represent the under card. The main event—if you will—is choice and variety.

Remember when we "heard it on the radio?" Well, yeah, that was back when we really had no choice. Let's remember: Traditional radio represents the old “hit” music model of narrow choice and low variety; no choice or variety meant that you had to listen to the radio and whatever traditional media deemed as a hit. But the web age has truly brought more choice and variety through a myriad of more music listening options. With the expansion and popularity of the internet as well as the advent of the must-have iPod and other MP3 players, many traditional radio listeners peeled away from the radio and moved towards those options that, in effect, allowed them to be their own personal radio programmers.

So Who’s still listening to the radio?

Whether due to unchecked arrogance or denial, broadcast radio culture has failed to see the writing on the wall. Indeed, instead of opening up their programming and shifting to a more variety-based structure, radio stations (particularly in the urban market) are pairing down their playlists, essentially walling them off from the threat of any real variety. So entrenched is this culture that many of the same household radio personalities from 1993 are still on the radio in the same regional markets. This certainly begs the question, How can the very people who have been behind the wheel during the decline in radio listenership still be given the keys to drive broadcast radio towards new horizons? The answer, of course, is: They can't!

In fact, I would argue that many of these held-over radio personalities have been left in place just to cater to those music listeners who have yet to escape the traditional radio programming model. After all, if there is as much as 75% of the once-mighty radio listenership, one can understand why the grand old music industry is still supporting the old radio model. For the music industry—which is seemingly dedicated to bleeding manufactured formulas dry—is always the last to know when something new has emerged, and when something old has died.

(1) Anderson, Chris, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, (New York: Hyperion, 2006), 35.

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.

Your email address:

  • Donate Sidebar

  • BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers

  • Build Your Skills

  • Top 5 Myths About Sampling and Copyright Law

    "Sampling is piracy."
    WRONG! 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."
    WRONG! 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."
    WRONG! 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."
    WRONG! Sampling is an art form that requires technical skill, imagination, and artistic understanding.
    Read more

    "Sampling involves the use of pre-recorded songs only."
    WRONG! 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

  • BeatTips
    Essential Listening

    BeatTips.com is a website dedicated to music education, research, and scholarship. All the music (or music videos) provided on this site is (are) for the purposes of teaching, scholarship, research, and criticism only! NOTE: Under U.S. Code, Section 107 “Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use” of the Copyright Act of1976: “Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching… scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright." (U.S. Code)